Highland Treasure: Off the Beaten Track For Me

Highland Treasure Book CoverThis is truly off the beaten path for me, but I have a good friend, Mary McCall, who happens to be a Romance Writer. This obviously makes me biased toward her books, but I found what she creates through storytelling is beyond my expectations. Mary has two books out in print and they are also available in E-Book form. I am an avid reader, but romance novels are not what I usually read. Having been given a signed copy of Highland Treasure from the author herself, of course I had to read this one.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The story of Leonce and Hope is crafted with attention to an authentic historical backdrop of life in the Scottish Highlands during Medieval times. While I found Hope to be an atypical female of the times, it added so much fun to the story. Hope is definitely a liberated women for her times and that makes her interactions with Leonce all the more fun. It’s not all fun and games though. There are some pretty ugly scenes that occur which propel the story to a realistic pairing of the main characters. I enjoyed the roller coaster ride of fear, laughter, disgust, sorrow and jubilation. When I finished the book I was so proud to know I was a friend of a really good writer.

Even if you’re not a fan of Historical Romance, I highly recommend Mary’s Highland Treasure for the story alone! I believe you will enjoy it!

Just this past May, Mary had another book published. It is Highland Captive. It too is available in paperback as well as E-Book form. I have not had a chance to read it myself, but I know that it is selling VERY well and I do want to read it. Here is the cover…

Highland Captive CoverJust knowing what an enjoyable experience it was reading her first book, I know that Mary once again delivers in this one. Her new publisher has given her glowing feedback on the fast success in the 1st two months of it’s release.

If you’d like to know more about Mary and her books, including one’s in the works, visit her website at www.marymccall.net. Just reading her biography alone will give you insight to the creative writing that she does. Mary also maintains a Blog at http://marymccall.wordpress.com where you can interact with her.

I know some of you will think this post is unabashed promotion for Mary McCall, but I really mean what I’ve written. I knew Mary was a writer, but had never read any of her work until she was published. After I read her work and can say, “ialreadyusedit,” I was so happy to see that she was truly a fantastic and entertaining writer.

Read her books and let me know what you think!

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Free Antivirus

It’s scary out there on the Internet. So many scams, spyware and malware (see my earlier post), phising sites, hackers, and viruses.

There are different programs for different needs and a few that are available as suites that cover almost every security need. I really am not a fan of the suites since they tend to hog system resources, but you really need an antivirus program running to scan everything coming into your computer. If you are in need of a free antivirus solution, then read on…

In this post, I will present the Antivirus I use and trust.

I have been using Avira Antivirus for about 3 years and have not had a virus infection in that time. I had a need for a free antivirus program when I realized how much the yearly subscription rates were with the commercial programs such as Norton, McAfee, Eset, etc. In my research, I discovered Avira and learned that it more often than not was better than the commercial programs at detecting and stopping infections. Better yet, it has a very low rate of false positive detections. Another plus was that it required a minimum of system resources. The best feature was that it is free.

The Avira free edition does have one drawback, but it is a small price to pay for the free superior protection it provides. Once every 24 hours, the program will present a pop-up advertising it’s paid version. It is a simple task, just one click, to close it. I have not found it irritating at all.

Despite the once a day pop-up, I have found that Avira provides all I need in an antivirus program…

- Superior detection rates

- Rare false positive detections

- Minimal system resources

- Free

It’s hard to beat the confidence you’ll feel when Avira is running on your computer. I clean client’s computers that have been infected (usually because they let their commercial software license expire) and always install Avira for them. The bad part is that I don’t get repeat business for virus infections.

If you’ve used Avira, let me and others know your experience in the comments :)

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Wireless Plans are Too Expensive. Try Cricket

Cricket WirlessWireless plans have gone through the roof. I was paying over $130 a month with my old carrier and simply could no longer afford it. Even at that price I had limited daytime minutes and a limited number of “friends and family” numbers I could use for unlimited talk. Something had to change.

After researching, I found that Cricket Wireless offered everything I needed at the lowest cost. I needed a reliable network, a dependable phone, low monthly fees, and no worries about minutes. Cricket met all those needs.

For $35 a month, I have unlimited day/night usage for both local and long distance calling using their PayGo account. That plan also provides unlimited texting. If you obtain a phone that requires a data plan to use advanced features, like web surfing, email and social networking, the cost is only $45 a month.

Payment is easy with multiple options. You can call them and use your credit/debit card, buy a phone card at major retail outlets, or visit a local Cricket store.

To show you all that helped me to make a decision, let me list a few specifics:

- No activation fee

- No contract

- No hidden fees

- Uses CDMA200 1x and 1xEV-DO networks

- Offers a wide variety of phones (one as low as $19.95)

- Unlimited talk and text (including long distance) anytime of the day or night

- Excellent sound and call quality (I’ve used it almost a year and no dropped calls)

I’m truly happy with the service I’m receiving and believe you would be too. If you’re looking for a way to cut your wireless cost, I recommend that you check out Cricket and give them a try. You’ll appreciate the savings!

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Nivea For Men Face Scrub Works for Me

Nivea For Men face scrubNivea For Men is a product I love using. The typical advice about men exfoliating the skin on their face is that we can forgo it since shaving takes care of it anyway. I don’t know about other guys, but I don’t shave around my eyes or forehead. I’m pretty sure you don’t either.

The benefits of this scrub are twofold. It scrubs and exfoliates your face while also preparing your skin for shaving. The scent is great and you really feel the scrubbing. Translate that to, “this scrub feels gritty.” In my opinion, this is a good thing.

After washing my face with this, I feel like my skin is clean all the way down to the bottom of the pores. Now comes the second benefit. As I put the razor to skin, I get a much smoother and closer shave since my beard is clean, hydrated, and standing at attention.

That almost sounds like ad copy, but I assure you that it’s my words and my feelings :)

The Nivea brand is well known and respected. You can be sure it is a quality product. I believe you’ll like it too. You can find a 4-pack through THIS link.

I’d love to hear what you think about Nivea For Men face scrub. Leave a comment and let me hear.

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Security Center 2012 – How to remove it

screenshot of a fake security centerMy neighbor called me earlier this evening saying, “Help, my computer is going crazy.” I rushed over to look for myself and saw that XP Security Center 2012 had installed itself onto her computer. This program (and it variants which have similar names and looks) hijacks your computer and starts flooding your screen with popups that scream, “your computer is infected. Buy me and then you can remove the infections.” The warnings are fake. Even worse is that you can no longer use your web browser. If you do, this nasty piece of spyware will display that your internet is compromised and again scream, “Buy me to fix this.” — DO NOT FALL FOR THIS.

Everyone wants to know how they got infected. This particular program usually comes from innocently visiting a malicious site and installs itself onto your computer without your knowledge or permission. There is a Browser plugin that can warn you about malicious sites before you actually land on their page. This only works for the Firefox browser though. It is Web of Trust (or WOT).

Fortunately, there is a free fix that has worked well for me. You can do an internet search and find articles on manual removal of this nasty program but thanks to some free services available, I have found the following to be the easiest path to removal.


FYI – These steps refer to using anti spyware/anti malware scanners. These are different than Anti Virus scanners. It is best to never have more than one Anti Virus installed at a time as they can cause conflicts with each other, but multiple anti spyware/anti malware programs are fine (just run them one at a time).


1. Reboot the computer into safe mode. (press F8 as the computer boots to Windows to do this.

2. Be sure you are logged in on the administrator account (or an account that has administrative privileges).

3. Perform a system restore to a time before the fake security popups began.

4. Reboot the computer again. You’ll be able to use your web browser this time.

5. Download and install Malwarebytes Anti Malware. (This link is to the free version).

6. Open the program and make sure it has the latest updates. Scan your computer to remove all malware/spyware that it finds.

7. Reboot your computer normally and you should be fine.

While Malwarebytes Anti Malware is a fantastic program, I would still run at least one other spyware scanner just to be sure nothing was missed. Several good free choices are SUPERAntiSpyware and Ad-Aware by Lavasoft. While all the programs I’ve mentioned have free versions which are totally capable of ridding your computer of spyware, they also have paid versions that offer more features. it wouldn’t hurt to look at those additional features and see if they are worth it to you.

I hope you find this solution clear and to the point. Don’t panic if your computer gets infected. It can be fixed!

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The Pizzazz Pizza Oven from Presto

Pizazz Pizza OvenFirst off I must tell you, I am a pizza lover!

I was visiting some friends as they moved into their new house. I couldn’t help but notice an unusual item on their counter. It was the Pizzazz Pizza Oven. It turned out that it had been a housewarming gift. I was intrigued and had to learn more about it. They were very obliging and demonstrated it by cooking a pizza for dinner. It was perfection and I was sold.

Now I was out to find one for myself. it took several weeks, but I finally found one lone box on the shelf of a local retailer. I asked a sales associate why I had not seen it there before. She explained that they rarely got any to place on the shelves and when they did, they sold out almost immediately. I grabbed that last box and went home feeling happy and that I had lucked out.

It has become one of the most used of all my kitchen appliances. This oven sits on your counter top and requires no preheating. It has heating elements above and below the rotating pan. They can be controlled independently and allow perfect cooking of the crust along with making the toppings bubbly hot. You can use it for both fresh and frozen pizzas or to reheat leftovers. It not only cooks, but makes the cooking fun!

Since it is a hard item to find in retail outlets, I suggest that you use the upcoming link from Amazon to get your Pizzazz Pizza Oven. It is in stock and qualifies for free shipping from Amazon.

I am sure you’ll love it and will appreciate not having to preheat your conventional oven for pizzas. It saves time and energy. Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how you like it.

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Finally Banish Clutter

I know there’s a book for everything under the sun and I laugh at some of the “Dummies” series I’ve seen but this one caught my eye. You see, I have a clutter problem myself.

I am happy to report that I’ve made major strides. I have only 1 room and 1 closet left to rid of clutter. This book is so convenient in that it is an eBook that you download right away. The author, Mimi Tanner, has a readable style of writing and very quickly gets to the point of her techniques.

For an enjoyable, productive, and inexpensive read, Click Here!

Follow Mimi’s advice and you’ll no longer have to dread the doorbell ringing to announce unexpected guest. If you know what I mean, then GET the book.

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This Post has GONE TO THE DOGS

Chikn Biscuit Dog TreatsDogs are family members of many households so I decided to include a post about my FAVORITE dog treats. Now don’t think I eat them … this is definitely for the dogs :)

Waggin’ Train has NOT endorsed or solicited this post!

My dog is a picky eater. He is even more picky about treats. When he was a puppy he seemed to only like the really expensive ones. Plain rawhide would sit on the floor and never be touched. He was truly eating me out of house and home with treats. His treat consumption is not high. He gets about 4 a day and only after going outside to do his “business.” Even this amount was still expensive.

Thankfully, I found Waggin’ Trail brand treats one day at the Dollar Store. I bought a package of  Western Grill Assorted Dog Treats to test out since it had a variety of the companies treats. My dog LOVED all of them. I couldn’t believe the value and felt I had run into a goldmine of savings. This is why I wanted to put a spotlight on them. If you visit their website at Waggin’ Train, you’ll see that they really care about dogs. There is an excellent guide on feeding treats to dogs of different sizes. There are also resources for dog owners including dog adoption and social skills. I personally enjoyed reading about the companies Team Members under the “About” tab.

Don’t let your dog eat you out of house and home. Give these treats a try and I’m sure you’ll be glad. So will your dog. As for me, happy dog=happy owner.

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Now THIS is Alarming

Emerson Alarm ClockA necessary evil in my opinion but an item I cannot do without. The humble alarm clock. It may be humble but some thought needs to go into selecting one. This was the one for me. I had an earlier model and it still works great. I replaced it for just one reason. This clock sets itself automatically for Daylight Savings Time (DST). The older one did too. The older one was unaware of the new dates to change the time which were altered in 2007…this one has the new date system programmed into it.

Of course the clock has all the regular features you’d expect like dual alarms, choice of buzzer or radio or both, weekday and weekend alarm presets, snooze and so on, so I’d like to focus on the features that SOLD me.

- SmartSet Technology … This clock remains set to the correct time. If the power goes out, it will set itself correctly when the power comes back on. This was a MAJOR plus.

- Large display. I can read the time from across the room … even without my glasses!

- Motion detection. You can dim (or turn off and on) the display with the wave of your hand. The snooze button is there but can be activated with a wave of the hand. The motion detector requires you to wave your hand right in front of the clock so that movement in bed does not have any effect on it.

- Automatic DST Adjustment. Any clock I don’t have to manually set in spring and fall is a BIG bonus for me.

In my love/hate relationship with alarm clocks, I found that the Emerson Alarm Clock allows me to lean a bit more towards the love side. The SmartSet Technology and the large display are especially appreciated. Check it out yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did!

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Have you seen Mechanical Turk?

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a web service that can make you some extra side money. I ran across it several months ago but didn’t really put a long look until about 2 weeks ago. In those 2 weeks, I actually have earned $56 which I successfully had electronically transferred into my personal checking account.

You will not become rich with Mechanical Turk, but you really can make some side cash with it. Signing up at Mechanical Turk is completely free. Once you have an account you are able to browse the jobs offered. Jobs are called HITs (Human Intelligent Task) and you get paid for any HIT you complete. Once you have accumulated at least $10, you can transfer the funds to your bank or accept them as Amazon Gift cards. I actually found a $10 HIT for completing a 15 minute survey and…YES…I did get paid. So far, I’ve completed 196 HITS and not one has been rejected.

I will warn you that there are some HITS that feel scammish (is that a word?) and I refuse to accept the job offer. I do not accept HITS that want me to provide personal information like my email, home address, or phone number. Most of the ones I accept to do are surveys from Universities and other schools. They tend to pay $0.50 to $3.00. Your common sense will let you figure out which ones to participate in.

My bottom line take on Mechanical Turk is that it cost NO money and does make you a few dollars. A few things to remember are:

- Pay is generally less than minimum wage (but not for all HITS)

- You only do HITS that you choose

- The money earn is real (I’ve personally tested that)

- Don’t expect this to make you a fortune

- Many of the HITS are actually fun to complete

- Many of the HITS are tedious

- The service is available 24/7

Only you can decide if you like working with Mechanical Turk but I’ve found it to be an OK way to make a few extra bucks…and who doesn’t like that? Go on, give them a try.

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