Barbara O'Neal's 5 Do's and a Do-Over

DELICIOUS BOOK ALERT! Yep, that's right-we've found another great book about food.  We don't know if it's just a trend or we just love reading about carbs since we deprive ourselves of them, but either way we have another novel that we think you'll devour! That's why we were crazy excited when Barbara O'Neal agreed to share her 5 Do's and a Do-Over with us.  Her latest, How to Bake a Perfect Life: A Novel, is a sweet story that we highly recommend you indulge in!  We spent a rainy Sunday curled up reading it and think that you'll love it too! And the icing on the cake?  Her 5 Do's and a Do-Over were just as delectable as her novel.

Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona’s bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She’s one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother’s rambling Victorian and everything she’s worked so hard to build.

When Ramona’s soldier son-in-law is wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia’s thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she’s being dumped again—this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.

Ramona relies upon a special set of tools—patience, persistence, and the reliability of a good recipe—when rebellious Katie arrives. And as she relives her own history of difficult choices, Ramona shares her love of baking with the troubled girl. Slowly, Katie begins to find self-acceptance and a place to call home. And when a man from her past returns to offer a second chance at love, Ramona discovers that even the best recipe tastes better when you add time, care, and a few secret ingredients of your own.

Are you dying to read it now? Well, good thing we have ___ copies to give away!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners on Sunday, March 27th after 6pm EST.  Good Luck.  And quick reminder:  All of our giveaways are for US/Canada residents only.  So sorry to our lovely readers outside of those countries-we still got mad love for ya!


1. Take a chance on something that seems impossible.  Write a novel, maybe, or throw your heart into a crumbling old house and try to save it from the wrecking ball.  When my boys were small and we were poor, I fell in love with an old house down the street. It was empty, maybe abandoned, and I could see into the light falling across the stairway, and upstairs was a big room with a bay window beneath the high pointed eaves.  Every morning, I walked by and it whispered to me.  Somehow, with no money whatsoever, we ended up buying it and spending years and years renovating one thing and then another.  There was a ghost in the garden, who befriended my cats, and it was her ancient globe lilies and giant roses that grew out of the rock hard dirt in the backyard.  (I am convinced she is the one who called me to save her house.) My children grew up with torn up floors and ancient bathrooms and sheetrock tape, the two of them crammed together in one bedroom so I could have the tiny office downstairs for work.  It was a house of great love, and although it never became This Old House, all gleaming and perfectly restored, we saved it from the wrecking ball.

2. Make friends and tend your female relationships. I was lucky enough to grow up in a female-centric world, where my grandmother reined as matriarch, with my mother, my aunts, and my sisters all swirling around a world that had a few men, like pepper for seasoing, but not many.  And while I love the company of men (and myself had two sons I adore), the relationships that sustain us over time are the ones we forge with other women.  A good friend makes you laugh, keeps you honest, listens on the other end of the phone for three hours when you have a broken heart.  The thing I hear from some readers, however, is “how do I make friends when I’m not in school/work for myself/have retired?”   Lots of ways—join a book club, find an agreeable spiritual center, take up a new kind of exercise.  Then reach out and be friendly to others.  This is a very simple part of the plan, and very scary for some people.  What if they are rejected? You might well be.  But sometimes, you won’t be, and then you might meet someone who will be a friend.

3. Volunteer somewhere. Anywhere. It helps the world for you to put your hands into solving problems, but it also helps you to be a more grateful and thoughtful person.  It’s amazing to me how much angst and fury an afternoon at the soup kitchen can ease.  Go where you feel you might make a difference.  A woman I know is a court-appointed advocate for children in the court system.  Another likes the women’s shelter and I have a bunch of friends who volunteer for dog and cat rescue groups and the Humane Society.  I like serving food at the local spiritual community, predictably.  You are busy, I get that, but do it anyway.

4. Take the time to make things beautiful when you can. One of my friends is so good at this—everything she does is beautiful. She’ll take the time to scatter some rose petals over a buffet, or serve hard boiled eggs in egg cups.   I’m never quite as talented as I’d like on this, but I notice how much pleasure it gives me when I do. So try it.  Serve your canned chicken noodle soup in a pretty bowl you picked up at Goodwill, with a cloth napkin.  Grow a pot of petunias or a geranium in a pot on your front step, or buy flowers at the grocery store and put them on a vase in your kitchen or beside your bed, or even on the back of the toilet.  Take the time to add a pretty bracelet to your workaday outfit. Fold a note on pretty paper and stick it in a child’s lunch box.  Cut the sandwich in half and add a slice of orange to the plate. The world might be crazy, but you can make some sanity right in this very minute with small gestures of beauty.

5. Make time to learn new things. The brain loves to grow.  It just does.  Give it material by taking up new pursuits.   Maybe you’ve always wanted to sew or take great photos or grow corn or make stained glass. Do it! Take up an instrument, study a language, read about the lands you want to visit and make paper plans to go there.   If you find you’re not enjoying it, dump that pursuit and move on.  Easy! (You might make a new friend, too.)  Last year, I studied cello for awhile and studied Spanish (ongoing). This year, I’m planning an urban farm for my backyard and having a blast.  (This week, I built frames out of PVC pipe for my grow lights. Me! I did it myself!  It’s true that the ends were crooked because I couldn’t figure out how to cut them straight, but they were stuck into elbows and joints so it didn’t matter anyway.)


Do not regret your life or spend time wishing you could change things.  Forgive yourself and others the best you can and keep moving forward. We are who we are because of who we’ve been, and you are pretty amazing just as you are.  Just ask P!nk.

Thanks so much Barbara! xoxo, L&L

To read more about Barbara, head on over to her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter!