The one where I discover The Iron Cupcake! No, silly, not cupcakes made of iron…

Hello Happy Readers and Erstwhile Cupcake Fans!

No…Iron Cupcakes aren’t all about upping your supplement intake. Though, hey, if they make a cupcake vitamin, I’m in!

Iron Cupcake is a baking challenge group who used to meet on the popular Flickr gathering spot. The group closed down over a year ago, but their photos are still up for viewing if you’re interested in taking a peek! Click here. Think of it sort of like the Ironman Triathalon meets Chopped. A traditional Ironman is a challenge to do three arduous things (swimming, biking, running) and on Chopped, they challenge chefs to create appetizers, entrees, and desserts using a basket filled with challenging ingredients (say, like Cheetos, duck, and a vegetable I’m pretty sure was created in a lab somewhere.)

So, on Iron Cupcake, the challenge was to come up with a savory or sweet cupcake recipe using very un-cupcake like ingredients.

Now, before you get worried, no, I did not make up the following recipe myself. Because…we’ll you’ve read this blog, right? So you know I can barely follow someone else’s recipe. You don’t want me experimenting with things like cocoa, bacon, and pimento. Okay, I don’t want me experimenting with that. You simply benefit from my restraint.

However, a whole lotta folks were far, far braver than I, and have gone forth where no baker has gone before. I stumbled across this whole deal while innocently looking for harvest cupcake recipes. This was my effort to provide an offering to the Gods of Autumn in hopes they would please show mercy and make an appearance here in Virginia. SOON. The Indian Summer Gods really need to be asked to leave. And take their swarming hoards of mosquitos with them. Just sayin.

So, in looking over Harvest Cupcake recipes, I discovered there’s a pretty wide interpretation of what constitutes “Harvest” in the minds of America’s bakers out there. But none so interesting as this one. The other reason it caught my eye, was that I was invited out for baked brie last night and had to regretfully decline due to a prior engagement. And I love brie. A lot. Naturally, I am now craving brie. I mean, it’s not my fault. They taunted me with it. And then, today, what do I find? Lo and behold….a cupcake…with brie in it! I am SO not kidding!

And? The Iron Cupcake Challenge is ON! The challenge the month this recipe was posted was to make a cupcake using cheese (and add in a few other interesting ingredients as well. See ingredient list below. And no, I would NOT steer you wrong. Remember, you liked the zucchini cupcakes!) This baker chose brie as her Cheese O’ Choice. Yes, we are officially now BBFF’s. (Best Baker Friends Forevah.) Even though we’ve never met. Bonded by Brie.

I give you…Autumn Harvest Cupcakes!
(And here is the site link for this Iron Cupcake Baker.

Recipe straight from her blog….

AUTUMN HARVEST CUPCAKES (makes 24)

What you’ll need . . .

. . . for the cake part:

1/2 cup canola oil
1-1/3 cups natural sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour (unbleached)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups shredded yellow squash

. . . for the cheese part:

2 rounds of brie (16 ounces in all)
2 tablespoons honey (we’re talking HEAPING tablespoons, here!)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or however much you’d like to add, depending on your love of chocolate)

Method . . .

. . . for the cake part:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, cider, one teaspoon baking powder, and vanilla extract. Beat well with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix until fully incorporated.

Fold the yellow squash into the batter.

Fill the cupcake liners half full – no more, as you’ll need room for the cheese, as well as extra batter to top it with.

Make the cheese mixture (instructions below).

. . . for the cheese part:
Cut off the top (rind) of the cheese rounds and scoop the soft cheese out into a medium-sized bowl.

Add the honey and mix the two together using a fork (until nice and soft).

Feel free to add more honey (or use less) to taste.

Add the chocolate chips.

Drop a teaspoon-ish amount into each cup. I found that once I was finished, I would have liked more cheese in mine, so you may also do the first 12 with 2 teaspoon-ish amounts of cheese, and the next batch without cheese. It’s up to you!

Top each cup with a bit of the remaining batter – until cup is three-quarters full.

Bake for approximately 23 minutes (or between 20-25). Let cool. And eat plain or frost with the following . . .

DARK CHOCOLATE FROSTING

What you’ll need . . .

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (or butter substitute, whichever you prefer)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup Hershey’s “special dark” cocoa
(or whatever dark cocoa you like)
1/2 cup milk (or soy milk — even when I don’t bake vegan, I tend to make it as non-dairy, etc., as possible)

Method . . .
Cream the butter and vanilla together with an electric mixer on low to medium speed.

In a separate bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture until fully integrated. Slowly add the milk to the frosting until you have reached your desired consistency. (You may very well not use all the milk.)

Seriously, right? And, if you ask me, the chocolate is not optional in these. The contrast of the chocolate with the brie and the bread of the cake itself? OMG. But they’re best eaten warm. So you may only want to frost those you’re eating. You’ll have to store the cupcakes and the leftover frosting in a covered container in the fridge, then warm up the cupcakes and add frosting as needed.

Offer these up to the Gods of Autumn and cool, crisp days will be yours. Okay, so maybe not. But you so won’t care.

Now, while I have you in a contemplative brie & chocolate state of anticipated bliss…I want to announce the winner of this week’s Free Stuff Friday Contest! We have TWO winners to help me celebrate launch week of my new Christmas anthology, UNWRAPPED! and the mass market reprint for last year’s holiday anthology, THE NAUGHTY LIST!

Up for grabs are any of the books in the Hot Scot Trilogy, which started with SOME LIKE IT SCOT, followed by OFF KILTER, and wraps up with UNWRAPPED! Or any of the Hamilton Series, which includes three Christmas anthologies: TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT, KISSING SANTA CLAUS and THE NAUGHTY LIST! (Of course, if you’ve already added these to your collection, anything on my website bookshelf can be a happy substitute!)

And….the lucky blog babes are…….Debby Mundy and Pat Brennan!!! Congratulations!! Email me your addresses and book pick to donna@donnakauffman.com and I’ll get your prizes in the mail!

Tune in Monday for more Fall Season MAC…and a new Free Stuff Friday contest! What? You can’t wait until Monday to get in the running to win a book? Well, if you weren’t a winner here this week, don’t despair…I’m running a contest over on my Cakes by the Cup Blog site rightthiseverysecond! So head on over there and enter! (Scroll down to the end of the latest recipe posting for the details.)

Good luck and happy reading (and baking!!)

Happy Hump Day!

So, I’m back to perusing plans for something in a modest ark… I’m beginning to wonder if the rain will ever stop here. It’s like I somehow switched coasts and I’m in Seattle. Only it’s humid and the mosquito situation is now at critical mass. I’m guessing that’s not a problem in Seattle. Isn’t it like…fall? I would like for that to start now please.

In other news, over on DWTS, David Arquette and George’s Ex were in the Bottom 2 last night, and Tom even went so far as to say they were actually the bottom two vote getters and not just random order of elimination, like most weeks. Rounding out the bottom 3 was Chaz...and was I the only one who felt kinda sorry for him when they said he was safe? Lacey was clearly surprised and I think Chaz just smiled through the pain. I’m sure it’s gratifying…but I can’t help but think that another week of grueling rehearsals is so not what his body needs.

End of the night…it’s George’s Ex & Val going home. Given Val’s inability to figure out that he’s no longer on the competitive circuit, but coddling pseudo-celebrities now, I wasn’t sad to see either of them leave. However, given Val also choreographed the opening number featuring all the male dancers on the show? Yeah, please keep him around for more of that. It was also nice seeing Chelsea and Dmitry. Even if I kind of fast forwarded through all the filler. (Hey, Mark Harmon was waiting. C’mon!) Next week we get Emotional Backstory Interpretive Dance. And given the cast this season, that’s gonna be…interesting.

Speaking of NCIS...I am liking how the writers are finally giving Tony a more dimensional character once again. We really haven’t seen this since back in the Jeanne Benoit days, so it’s nice to see. Loved the twist at the end. Did you figure that one out? Good job, writers. Next week we get McGee’s aunt visiting the team…and she’s played by Lily Tomlin! Ha! So, after the sure-to-be wrenching dances of darkness & despair, we can trot over to NCIS and get a few much needed laughs.

Don’t forget to enter this week’s Free Stuff Friday contest to win a copy of my brand spanking new release, UNWRAPPED, or any of the books in the Hot Scot trilogy or Hamilton Series. The entry box is filling up rapidly! See Monday’s post for the entry details.

Then come back here and DISH!!

Season Preview complete…thumbs up. Mostly.

I finished up the last of the Great DVR’d Fall Season Premieres over the weekend. There were some surprises and some disappointments, but mostly it looks like me & my DVR will be having a happy fall and winter together.

Overall, returning series did a pretty good job of keeping the interest going moving forward. Grey’s Anatomy was a better season opener than I expected, but still has some major issues that need resolving to keep my interest. The thing that bugs me, as it always bugs me, is that Derek is an ass. Everyone else can figure out why Meredith does what she does, except the man who loves and married her. Why Derek is always written as the pompous bastard is beyond me. I prefer multi-faceted, with the occasional surprise. The writers give both Karev and Owen this complexity, why not Derek? I loved how Owen worked through it with Christina. Also, I realize they may trying to be mining some empathy and laughs from making Kempner chief resident, but it’s not working for me. Seriously annoying.

Blue Bloods had a great return, though next week moves more into the solid family arena that I enjoy the most. The show has a new show runner now, so there was concern it would turn into a police procedural, and the opener did have a bit more of that than before…so it’s good to see previews for week 2 show more solid family oriented cases returning…even if that means really bad news for Danny.

The Good Wife had a strong return. I was surprised by how they initially played the Grace/Will hookup, but boy did they make up for that in the second half of the opener. Wowza! But all the storylines continued to be compelling and I’m just as In as always.

The Mentalist, however, kind of annoyed me by dragging the Red John story on….still. Kind of like Castle and The Case of Kate’s Dead Mom. Castle for sure has a lot more already going on for it than that, and it was great to see them return to their stock in trade this week with the superhero story. Though I’m still not getting the need for the hardline new chief. It’s fine to make her a ballbuster, but a humorless ballbuster without even any wry humor? No fun. She’s more buzzkill than story enhancing. And the story is still out on Mentalist. Maybe the Patrick Jane character has nothing without the Red John plot to drive him forward. But I’d sure like to find out. Probably my most disappointing premiere. Body of Proof was a close second. Whatever it was that I enjoyed about the Dana Delaney character last season was kind of not gelling in this opener. She needs to get more of a life than just being the victim of everyone else’s choices. With new shows tweaking my interest, some old stand by’s will need to step up or lose their coveted spot in the DVR season pass listing.

One big surprise to me was Harry’s Law.…now with more Mark Valley! (Mmm. Mark Valley.) This show did almost a complete overhaul on the essential premise (operating a shoestring law firm out of an old shoe store) and upgraded it to a more full fledged The Practice kind of show, and they didn’t waste much time explaining how/why that all happened, which was probably just as well. Just roll with it. So I did. Grudgingly. It’s still David E Kelley’s baby and I trust him…so I hung in there even thought my immediate reaction was to say don’t fix what ain’t broken. Except it was good. Really good. I liked all of it, and I realized that I especially liked that they kept the strong parts and cut the clutter. So…you got me, David! You always do.

In reality show news…. Survivor is kind of dragging for me. Brandon is proving to be a bit of a whack-a-doo and isn’t comfortable to watch and none of the other players are really grabbing any spotlight, except Ozzie.

Dancing With the “Stars” seems to have like a billion contestants this season. I watched the second week last night after it taped and the FF button got a lot of use. Was it me or did the evening just never end? It was like…oh, there are still more? I will say that everyone truly gave it their all, and they are all taking it seriously. I appreciated performances from the non-dancers (Carson & Arquette) as much as the “good ones.” It’s interesting to see how the pros are emerging. Kym has taken more a hard line than usual, Derek has softened up a bit, Maks’ little bro Val is fresh off of years dominating the global competition circuit and needs to dial it waaaaay back with his barely capable partner. And Ballas is still being Ballas…which is a shame, because his partner could actually shine a bit more if he’d also dial the spazmodic overkill he delivers to every performance…but we all know that will never happen.

On the good side, there aren’t really any “stars” you love to hate, which I applaud. Even Nancy Grace has turned into more a sorry whining figure than someone of Gosselin level of annoyance. Actually, the ones who annoyed me the most were the judges. Major buzz killers after some charming performances, then pumped up votes for those (ahem, Nancy) who would really be better served by letting us send them home. I truly loved everything about the show closer with JR Martinez and Karina. After a very uneven show, it was such an exuberant, joyful, and exceedingly well performed finale. I was thinking, “well, at least someone on this show can dance! That was fun! I like this show again.”…and then the judges pooped all over it. So I ended the show feeling bummed and deflated. Not exactly a strong recommendation to keep tuning in.

Fortunately, Amazing Race(complete with opening night Phil Eyebrow Porn!) was back and started off straight out of the gate with a strong first leg and a variety of interesting teams. Again, no automatic “can’t stand them” teams, which is great, but will see who surges forward to get my support…and who lags behind. I was glad that the seniors got a bit of a break and made it to the second leg. This is such a phenomenal life opportunity, I hate to see anyone go out on the first leg and not get the chance to experience at least a little more of the race. So kudos to race planners for making the first leg a non-elimination leg….but double kudos for making Leg 2 a double elim! You got your gift….now you have to work to stay in it!

So..all in all, Hawaii 5-0, the NCIS duo, Amazing Race, The Good Wife, and Big Bang Theory did the best job of the returning shows in sucking me right back in and making me feel at home again straight out of the gate. With Castle back in it after it’s second outing.

As for the new shows… I didn’t expect to enjoy Person of Interest. I mean, I wanted to…but it was kind of a quirky, out there premise, and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. So I watched the Saturday repeat. And I liked it a lot more than I thought it would. In part because they make Jim Caviezel’s character so bad ass that I sat right up and paid attention. Me likey bad ass heroes. Especially when they’re convincing. And they look like Jim Caviezel. :) I’ll be back for the second episode. I also gave Prime Suspect a Saturday repeat list slot. I haven’t watched the BBC version with Helen Mirren, so I just came into it as a new show, new premise, etc. Maria Bello certainly does a convincing job of it, and there were small aspects I liked. Like her deputizing the homeless shelter guy to get his cooperation. And the smackdown of her partner’s ex at dinner. But, overall…the jury is still way out on this one for me. I like a strong female heroine, too…a lot. And she is that, in spades. But the premise here is that she has to prove herself to a bunch of misogynistic asshole detectives she now works with. And we’re talking like 1950′s misogynistic. I’m all for rooting for the underdog…but the people she’s proving herself to have to also have some redeeming characteristics, otherwise, why should we care what the hell they think? They’re a bunch of assholes. And if proving herself means she has to get the sh*t kicked out of her every week…well, that’s going to get old, too. So, thumps up for Jim, and sideways for Maria. So far.

My only kinda thumbs off all together I had was for The Gifted Man. Once again, this goes to giving asshole characters depth so you like them, or at least root for them. (See: Alex Karev.) I realize we’re just one episode in, but….I really just didn’t like the lead character. Now, I get that I’m not supposed to, and that he’s going to grow on me. But he needed to grow a whole lot faster. My dance card is pretty full (see: above) and though the premise totally hooked me…the overall casting/writing did not. I was in when he was gruff, etc, then sees an old friend we learn is his ex and you immediately see a slightly human side to the guy…and wooo, even cooler when we find out she was already a ghost that first night he spent time with her. Cool!! But…then it all fell apart for me after that. Yes, he gets pulled into her world of dealing with the underprivileged and yadda yadda, we can see the future for him… But after the initial “awwww” wears off of him being torn up a bit by seeing his ex again…we really don’t think he’d do any better this time around and feel like her leaving him was probably the best idea ever and still would be. And she’s all…moony. And glowy. And, well, smug. All the time, in every scene they have together after The Revelation. Until I didn’t much like her, either. He’s the Guy Who Needs Fixing, and she’s The Woman Who Will Do Just That…except she’s too smug about it, I really don’t care if he’s fixed…and, oh yeah…she’s dead. So, I get it. I really do. And I wanted to love it. But I just really don’t care about the two of them enough.

Okay, because I’m not a DWTS judge, I’m not leaving this with a buzzkill review. So…I will now admit my totally unexpected but utterly shameless guilty pleasure discovery. I wasn’t even going to watch it, but taped it just in case. No, I’m not talking about The Playboy Club. I have less than zero interest in that show. Surprisingly, however, I was totally into Pan Am. Trust me, no one was more surprised than me. But I loved everything about it. From the Mad Men-esque setting, to taking us back to the glamour days when flying in a plane was An Experience, and when stewardesses were…well, stewardesses. And misogynistic men can blame the fact that they are exactly that on the fact that it’s set in a time period when they didn’t know any better. I loved the clothes, the hair, the sets, the flashbacks (and I hate flashbacks), total guilty pleasure, beginning to end. And? It has a surprise super secret spy secondary story line twist. Squee! Seriously, it’s like, if Doris Day was a stewardess spy and Rock Hudson was a handsome pilot. That’s the vibe it had for me. (And why I love watching those old movies.) And why I will watch Pan Am now.

Whew!! Now I can go back to letting stuff pile up on my DVR and watch them marathon style while I’m working on the class projects I teach every week. It was a fun, whirlwind ride though! I’m glad all my fictional pals are back.

Today is Big Release Day! UNWRAPPED is on the stands and available for your downloading pleasure! If you’d like a chance to win a copy (or a copy of any of the books in the Hot Scot of Hamilton Series trilogies…) see Monday’s blog post for the details in how to enter this week’s Free Stuff Friday contest!

Then come back over here and DISH! What were your fave season openers? Did any previous faves lose you? What new shows grabbed you? Spill all !!

Happy Book Launch Week!

Tomorrow is the Big Day!! Yes, I know we’ve been talking cupcakes for awhile now, but tomorrow is when UNWRAPPED hits the stands!!

This wraps up (heh!) the Hot Scot trilogy that began with SOME LIKE IT SCOT (Graham’s story) then continued with OFF KILTER (Roan’s story)….and now you get Shay’s story! Wahoo!!

Publisher’s Weekly gave us a great quote: “This anthology of Christmas-themed romances from three noted authors of the genre offers an abundance of sexual tension.”

Also hitting the stands this week is the mass market version of last year’s Christmas anthology, THE NAUGHTY LIST! If you missed it, that wrapped up a three story novella arc for me, “The Hamilton Series,” that began with TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT, and KISSING SANTA CLAUS. All of those are available in mass market now (and yes, in digital, too!)

And, speaking of digital releases, I’m excited to announce that my two earliest paranormals for Bantam are finally making the transition to digital. THE LEGEND OF THE SORCERER is available as of this week, joining YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND, THE ROYAL HUNTER, and THE CHARM STONE, which are now also in digital. Aaaaaand, coming soon to your Kindle or Nook is (yes, finally!!) THE LEGEND MACKINNON! I don’t have an exact date for that one yet, but I know a lot of readers have been anxiously awaiting that one to go digital for eons now, so I will announce it here as soon as I have an exact date.

So…new book launch week indeed!! I think we should all celebrate with a cupcake! And….free stuff! A Very Special Free Stuff Friday Contest this week! Enter to win a copy of UNWRAPPED, or any of the other books in either the Hot Scot trilogy, or The Hamilton Series! To enter, send an email to donna@donnakauffman.com with “Launch a new book my way!” in the subject line. I will draw TWO names on Friday!! Don’t forget to check the blog to see if you’re a winner!

And with the rain all weekend, I did manage to catch up on the rest of Fall Season Premiere week (while also watching my Steelers barely pull one out over the Peyton-less Colts! Whew!) Tune in tomorrow to hear my rant–er, take– on the season opener of The Good Wife, Amazing Race (Hi Phil!), and Blue Bloods (Hi, Magnum!) along with thoughts on new shows Person of Interest, Gifted Man, and Prime Suspect! Of course, don’t let that stop you from sharing your DISH right now!!!

Oreos & Cheesecake in a Cupcake. Got milk?

So, I totally fell down on the Fall Season Rant Reviewer job last night. I did get Big Bang Theory in and loved it. Only show that makes me laugh out loud…even when I see the joke coming. Love.

But I am making up for the dearth of Morning After Commentary with cupcakes! Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes, to be exact! This is la Martha’s recipe and it’s surprisingly easy to make.

Martha Stewart’s Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes Recipe
Makes 30

Ingredients:
42 cream-filled sandwich cookies
, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature (*Four 8 oz blocks…so you don’t have to do the math)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.

Peel off the wrapper and serve them upside down and you can see the Oreo cookie inside!

Soooo good!!

Okay, now that you’re suitably sugar rushed….let’s giveaway two copies of SUGAR RUSH! Thank you all for entering. Biggest contest I’ve held yet. Blog Babes RULE! The two lucky winners this week are: Jenn Clark & Michele Benard!!!!!! Please send me your mailing addresses at donna@donnakauffman.com and I will get the books out to you!

And don’t forget to check over on Cakes by the Cup Blog to see who won over there!

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Check in Monday for the Final Fall Season Premiere Week Ranting Round-up! And…another contest!!

Opening Week Thursday….the Big Night! Well, other than Monday.

So…last night didn’t quite live up to the Monday-Tuesday Fall Season Opener in my household. I watched Survivor: Week 2 and didn’t feel much improved on my meh attitude from Week 1. Except where Ozzie rocked finding the idol with no clue…even after Probst swore they made it SO much harder to find this season. Right.

Then I slogged through Top Chef: Just Desserts: Week 3 and all that made me do was crave dessert…and for this season to be over already. Also? No Hubert this week. Total bummer.

I was then all ready to dive into X Factor (I had to work up to it…slowly…) Only I just wasn’t ready for Simon. Again. Yet. Which left the only real thing I was looking forward to last night: Harry’s Law. Now with more Mark Valley! Except, by then it was late and I have 300 pages of uncorrected page proofs to get through (for SWEET STUFF! It’s ALMOST HERE!!) And, being the good little author I am…I worked instead.

Okay, okay. So my 25 year old tv finally blew up. And I mean pappapappapapapPOW! with sparks and everything. It was quite a show. Just not the show I had in mind when I got all settled in bed in my jams with my mug o’ chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. And, given it was now after midnight, I didn’t want to trek back down belowstairs and camp out… So, THEN I was a good little author and I worked. But I did work. And I am a good little author. So it all plays. Mostly. :)

But that now means I have even more stuff piled on the DVR already unwatched, heading into the Big Premiere Night tonight. Why is everything on Thursdays? I have a dual DVR and even I can’t tape all the things I want. Fortunately I was saved when I found out that two of the new shows I wanted to check out (Persons of Interest & Prime Suspect) will repeat on Saturday. So I won’t have to miss the season opener’s for my tried and true’s…Big Bang Theory (we get a whole hour!), Grey’s Anatomy, Mentalist, and Project Runway.

Of course, tomorrow is just my Even With Magnum (aka Bluebloods premiere…) so there will be time to fit it all in between then and the grande opening week finale with Amazing Race premiere, and Good Wife, on Sunday! If I don’t sleep. At all. And am a slightly less than good little author. :) I will need to stock up on my Edy’s....

I hope you all have enjoyed premiere week. What was your fave return show? Your fave new show? Are you all liking X Factor? Should I watch? I’m just not feeling it…but then, I haven’t, you know, watched it yet. Fill me in.

Then tune back in tomorrow to find out who wins the two advance copies of SUGAR RUSH!! (What do you mean you haven’t entered yet? Check out Monday’s post already then. HURRY!) Then come on back by and DISH!!

Fall Season: Day Two…so far, so good!

Okay, so right off the bat, DWTS gets it right and sends Ron Metta Artest Pita World Pocket Peace home. Or whatever the heck his name is now. (Hey, I resisted the urge to title this “Heaven’s to Murgatroyd!” Which I’ve been dying to do since I heard that was his pro partner’s last name… Because, I’m dead sure she’s never heard that before.)

Filler Recap: Love Harry Connick, always. Hate the lame DWTS Troupe thing and am sorry to see them bring it back again this season. I get that it takes some of the performance load off the already hard working pro partners, but there are lots of pros that don’t get a partner each season, and frankly I’d rather see Louis or Jonathan make a cameo then some off the wall dude I’ve never heard of. They’re very talented, of course…they just seem really unnecessary.

Loved LMFAO doing Dance Party (did you see Hok in their line up? I so wanted him to do a dance solo!!) And then….as soon as the camera panned back enough to show me….wtf??? Is that Carrie Ann on TOP of the judges table…dancing? WHAT? And then they never really panned over there to show us that not only was Carrie Ann up there shaking her groove thang, but Bruno got up, half stripped, and was going at it, too. I would have PAID for that, camera guy. Come on!!! Well, I’d have PAID if it were Len, but still! What was up with that? I can see Lacey anytime…

Next week? Jive and Quick Step. Which makes me doubly glad that Ron World Metta Peace is gone, because his feet might move on the basketball court, but that would have been Mega World Pita Pocket-sized train wreck right there. I’m still cringing at the thought of several of the remaining contestants tackling either of those dance styles…and I feel for the pros this week. But…I will be tuning in. So, they got me!

In other news, Fall Season: Night 2 featured both NCIS and NCIS:LA worked it! This is my first season of the original NCIS, after a summer of playing eight seasons of catch-up, so I was happy to see it was a Tony-centric storyline that allowed him to show a little range. Having watched all the seasons in a huge, month’s spanding lump, I found I really liked it when they developed his character, during the Jeanne Benoit season, and missed it when they had him go back to full tilt comic relief guy. So this was a truly welcome change. I also love the story concept, and that it wasn’t neatly wrapped up. (Also, hello Scott Wolff! Where have you been? Wherever it was, you didn’t age a DAY!) And we get the late Kate’s doc sister, too! Great start.

NCIS:LA was also good, but a little more draggy to me. I love the whole Callen history mystery, but this was almost too convoluted and scattered. But…I’m still in, there, too. Now, save Hetty, dammit!

Still haven’t caught The New Girl, but am looking forward to maybe adding another comedy to my Big Bang Theory comedy line up of one. I did watch Two and a Half Men and I liked it…will DVR is again. But it’s not Must See for me the way the BBT gang is. Yet. I like Ashton Kutcher (….crickets…I know. I’m the only one who loves the guy. But I do.) So, I’m game to hang for another week or two. Are any of you comedy watchers? I made it through the first season of Modern Family and think it’s some of the smartest comedy writing out there…but I keep falling back off the wagon with them. Too many characters and I don’t get invested in all of them…so I wander off. And, as yet, none of the other sitcom’s make me remember to come back again.

Tonight is Survivor, X Factor, and Harry’s Law. I should be more interested in X Factor, but the commercials are not grabbing me. But then, I don’t watch America’s Got Talent, either, and this strikes me as more that than Idol. Just me? Well, I’ll give it a night and find out. But I could use the DVR space…so I might opt out. What I’m excited about is that over on Harry’s Law, they’re bringing a new regular on this season, and be still my heart, it’s Mark Valley. Yeah. SO good.

Don’t forget to enter this week’s Free Stuff Friday contest (and add an entry to win over on Cakes by the Cup Blog, too!) Three chances to be the first to get your hands on the first Cupcake Club Romance: SUGAR RUSH! I do have them in my hot little hands and Kensington did a gorgeous job with the advance review copies – full color covers and everything! (Normally advance review copies are just plain paper wrapped.) So…scroll to Monday’s post for the entering info and get your email in now!

Then come back over here and DISH! Have you watched Sing Off yet? I love the concept, but it’s still on the DVR, probably till the weekend. What else is Must See for you this week?

Fall Season Opening Night…the good, the bad, and the wuh?

So, THAT, my friends, is the way to launch a fall season. I hope Tuesday through Friday can live up to Monday, is all I’m sayin.’

However, what was most interesting to me, is what really grabbed me the most, and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I waited until this morning to write this blog, because I wanted a little distance past the knee-jerk reactions I had to how the writers on the various shows (that I watch…because, well, it’s my blog) handled the cliff-hangar elements we were left dangling from back in May. And we were left with some doozies. They weren’t always handled as I thought, or might even like, but though they were all handled thoughtfully and fully, I was more surprised at my reaction than anything else.

Case in point….Castle. So, end of last season, Beckett is shot at Montgomery’s funeral, pulling the I love you confession from Castle, who thinks she’s going to die. Now…what I loved? The opening was gritty, intense, in your face and didn’t remotely flinch from the seriousness of that cliffhanger. What I didn’t love? That that gritty, intense, in your face, unflinching approach to handling those very same elements permeated the entire episode. On a purely logical level, I admired the approach, it was the honest way to deal with the set up we’d been handed. It was emotional, compelling, had depth, conflict, all those things you want and love. What it didn’t have…was humor. Now, I get that. If you’re going to stay true to how emotionally wrenching this whole episode is, you can’t be flippant. However, I watch this show, love this show, because of its humor and whimsy, and how they contrast that against the gritty. And, the way the opener was going, it looked like they were not only wrapping up this cliffhanger in a dark and emotional way…but seemingly setting us up for a whole season of it. From the new commander, to the never-ending case of Beckett’s mother (which…honestly, I’m getting tired, really tired…) to the angst with Castle’s daughter… And I wasn’t happy that after the explosive scene between Josh & Castle in the hospital, they exited him later off screen. We were owed that scene. You can’t give us one, then off stage the other, writers.

There was a bit of lightness in the end, and it seems to shift back in that direction next week in the previews…but when they set it up to be this dark, will that then play sincerely? I dunno. So I was left really conflicted. I admired all the storytelling, and the complexity they developed, the final twist what with us knowing that Beckett did, in fact, hear Castle say those big three words, but he thinks she doesn’t remember them. And Castle knowing more about her mother’s case, and purposely steering her clear of it…and out of harms way. All great plot devices… But I kinda missed my peeps here. Across the board. None of them are acting like themselves, due to story construction…and I want my peeps back.

Just me?

So, then over I go to Hawaii 5-0, where we left every single character in some kind of life changing cliffhanger. Now, to be honest, I didn’t expect any of this to be utterly fulfilling or handled particularly intellectually, but then I watch for all the eye candy, from the cast to the setting. And yet…THIS show gave me more of what I wanted than the Castle writers did. Just as much complexity, depth, emotional toil…and shocking, shocking twists…but, in the end, I have MY team back, just the way I like em. So, a far more enjoyable, comfortable hour for me, where I feel like my love for the show is being taken care of and handled just right. I hope the crew from Castle can keep all the great elements they’ve cooked up…but get us back to that enjoyable comfort level, too. Both believably and quickly. A tall order.

In the Reality Division, I kept The Sing Off on DVR for later viewing. I love the show, but I never find myself emotionally invested in it, so I can watch whenever and be happy. I watched Dancing With the Stars instead, mostly to see if I wanted to watch any more of it the rest of the season.

It was a mixed bag, which was not at all a surprise, given the casting. But what was a surprise was that I liked as much of it as I did. Not sure how I feel about the new super-sized ballroom. I get why the show wanted the revamp (can you believe this is the 13th season??) and it certainly warrants room for a bigger audience, but it lost a bit of the intimate feel that was part of what I liked. And yet…I can adjust. To that part.

Here’s my breakdown of the various contestants by categories, starting with:

Give Me More!: Now, caveat, my reactions have NOTHING to do with dancing ability. It may or may not exist in the folks who are in this category. It’s just who I want to see back on my screen next week. And top of that list? OMG Carson Kressley. Who, in fact, does move like Jagger. And also does put, as he says, the C in Caucasian when it comes to dancing. And who cares? Not me. Kitchsy, hilarious, and everything you want from him and more. Giving him Anna Trebunskaya was inspired pairing. I thought I’d love him, but I REALLY love him. The surprise, for me, was that I also really enjoyed David Arquette. Funny, fragile, endearing…and good! Not how I thought I’d feel about him. And it was nice seeing Courtney and daughter Coco cheering him on.

I thought Chaz did a good job, had a lot of fun with it. And I wouldn’t have pegged him as a particularly fun guy given the interviews I’ve seen…so that was new. And nice. Will he last? I think his body will give out. But I appreciated the verve and attack, it was the right way to handle all the intense scrutiny. Also loved JR Martinez , who I knew nothing about prior, and thought he was both lovely and funny and hot.

In the Did a Nice Job, They Can Stay category: Chynna Phillips, who was ethereal and lovely…and who I can’t quite see getting down and dirty in a latin dance…but I’m invested enough to want to find out. Also, Hope and Maks. Not exactly sure why, as Hope didn’t really grab me, but I want to see more.

I Should Care More…But No category: Ricki Lake. I usually like the whole underdog thing, but I was left feeling meh on her. Same goes for The Hills chick. I didn’t think I’d like her, but I ended up just not caring either way. Same with Rob Kardashian. Just…don’t care.

And in the Dear God, Please Make it Stop category…well, it goes without saying that Ron Artest needs to go home and soon. He’s super uncomfortable to watch for me, in every sense. And I can’t believe they gave such a huge ego and hard to manage person to the New Girl. Just wrong across the board. Also? Clooney’s ex the Italian chick. I was looking forward to Mak’s bro, Val, but nothing about this combo was interesting to me. Also…Nancy Grace. Who was pretty much exactly as I imagined…and exactly why I wasn’t going to watch this season. Can we send all three of them home in a clean sweep, Week 1?

All in all, I liked more about it than I didn’t, which was a pleasant surprise. If they can cut the dead weight early on, (see last category) it would at least be a likable show to watch. If not particularly memorable. So…I’m in. For now.

What say you Blog Babes? What did you watch? I still have to go dig up the Two and a Half Men premiere online since my DVR was already doing double duty during that hour. Anyone see it? Any laughs? I gave up on that show seasons ago, but am admittedly interested in seeing how they handle Charlie’s exit and Ashton’s entrance.

Tonight, we have NCIS! I had never watched this before (I know! What is wrong with me???) until my son got me hooked just as the season was ending last May. So I spent the summer catching up on the first 8 seasons. Eight. Seasons. I feel like they’re family now. Like I spent every single day for months with them. Because…I basically did. So I am super excited to get back to “real time” with them and move forward.

Also tonight, NCIS LA, which I’ve watched since its inception. And all I can say, LA writers is…you better bring Hetty back! Body of Proof is also back. And I want to catch The New Girl.

What are you watching? What did I miss??

Also, don’t forget to enter THE Free Stuff Friday contest this week. It’s a good one! See Monday’s post for the details!! Then come back here and DISH!!

THE Free Stuff Friday Contest you’ve all been waiting for!

Yep, the time is finally here! No, I’m not referring to Fall Season TV being back starting this week….though it TOTALLY IS!!! And I’m more ridiculously excited about that than anyone should ever admit in a public forum. Except I just did. So there!

Ahhhh, welcome back to the fold Castle, Hawaii 5-0, Mentalist, NCIS….just to name a few. Be still my heart! Of course, I could have just as easily listed them as Nathan Fillion, Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Simon Baker, Michael Weatherly, and Mark Harmon, but I was trying to at least give the appearance that I cared about the entire cast…. :)

What I AM referring to…is that advance review copies for the first in my brand spankin’ new Cupcake Club Romance series, SUGAR RUSH are on their way to my doorstep, to my hot little hands, even as I type. I know! !!!!!! It’s only been nine long months of waiting. And, of course, I’m going to share!

So…if you want a chance to be the very first person on your block (and pretty much your town, and quite possibly your entire state/province/island/planet) to get to meet and (hopefully!) fall in love with all my favoritest folks ever on Sugarberry Island…then this is YOUR contest!

To enter, send an email to donna@donnakauffman.com with “FINALLY!” in the subject line. I will draw not one, but TWO lucky winners from the stack and announce them this Friday. (Hence the very clever contest name.)

And if you’re the kind of Blog Babe (and of course you are) who likes to give herself every opportunity for good things to happen, then click on over to my Cakes by the Cup Blog and enter there, too! Yes, another chance to win! THREE winners in all!

All I humbly ask in return is that if you win and find yourself falling for Lani, Baxter and the rest of the Cupcake Club crew…that you tell your friends, neighbors, manicurist, grocery bagger, random passersby, and pretty much anyone else who will listen all about it! Flyers, posters, sandwich boards, something in a tasteful hot air balloon? Also welcome.

Not that I’m excited about this series launch or anything. :)

Best of luck to you all!! So…enter already! Then check back in all week here for all the latest (YAY!) in Fall Season MAC you can stand (Morning After Commentary, for those Babes new to the Blogdom here.) And, of course….DISH!

Flood waters, insurance adjusters, and mold. Oh my.

Yeah, it’s been SUCH a fun week here. Except, you know, not. Unless, of course, you love the smell of mold growing in your walls and floor, then it’s a total laugh riot fest!!

So, instead of baking, or going anywhere near my kitchen to do something fun and make yummy smells, I’ve been hanging out with restoration services folks all day. Yeah, it’s about as much fun as it sounds.

BUT! And this is a BIG BUT! (No, not mine!!) I am going to announce the winner of this week’s Free Stuff Friday contest. AND! Announce your very first chance to win an advance copy of the first Cupcake Club Romance…SUGAR RUSH!!!!

Yes, they will be in my greedy little hands next week, and I’ve already posted a contest over on the Cakes by the Cup Blog site. (I had to do something to mitigate the crushing blow of no new recipe this week, didn’t I?)

You’ll get to double your chances next week with the next Free Stuff Friday contest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t trot over to Cakes by the Cup rightthisverysecond and double your chances!

But first….the winner of this week’s Free Stuff Friday contest is……Ruth H!!!! Congratulations, Ruth! Just send your address to me, at donna@donnakauffman.com along with a few title choices (in case I’m out of your first pick) and I will get it on its way to you!

Hope everyone has a great (and dry!) weekend! See you back here next week….with all the delicious new Fall Season Scoop you can stand!! FINALLY!!!