Mamacitas Restaurant. Holler Hola!

Talk about going off topic. But aside from being a good writing exercise, its my moral obligation to shout the love for those who keep me supping salt rimmed margaritas while eating Mexican inspired food with a hint of a Spanish heart.
Judging by the effortless way the staff worked the floor, its hard to believe Mamacitas Restaurant has only be open for a month or so. Located in the heart of Havelock North its given locals plenty to chit chat about.
I’m glad I tuned in. It helped, as the corporate peeps love to spruik, “to manage my expectations.”
If you’re looking to tuck into a plate of belt loosening Tex Mex nacho’s, refried beans infused with artery clogging lard, or a burrito swimming in a pool of cheesy tomato goo, you’re going leave feeling less bloated, but disappointed.
Same goes for the wines. There is no “wine menu”, only a house red and white. This will plummet the spirits of many wine savvy locals who take pride in living in the heart of wine country. At the very least they’ll want, no demand to know, whether the house offering is at least good.
But wine wasn’t on my agenda. The margarita and cerveza (beer) menu was. I started at the top with a classic margarita. The recipe calls for the right balance of tequila, lime and in this case, triple sec. Topped with a rim of salt, I sighed. Damn, it was as good as the bar shelves adorned with an impressive fancy looking line up of tequilas. Next time I’ll order a Patron.
But back to the margaritas. Oh my. By the time I finished my second margarita, I teetered on the brink of ordering a lagerita….no, that’s not a spelling mistake, but a marriage made in tequila cerveza heaven. Imagine a margarita topped with beer. Next time I promised, next time.
At most Mexican restaurants, it takes a good five minutes to get through the first read of the menu. At Mamacita’s, you’ll be done in thirty seconds. It’s tiny. But, in this case size doesn’t matter, quality over quantity of dishes offered does. Tapas style, smaller plates matched with reasonable prices are packed with flavor, and surprisingly generous portions.
Excluding the couple of salad options, there wasn’t much choice for vegetarians or vegans. I hope this will change. And rumor has it, guacamole will soon make its menu debut.
Our chilli prawns were fat, juicy and sensational, spoiled only by the clashing, mayo heavy coleslaw. My boyfriend’s appetite was rendered useless after devouring lip smacking ribs and fried chicken. Even though the chicken deserved more seasoning in the coating, he declared both “really good.” High praise indeed.
It’s hard, but I’m going to forgive my sneaking suspicion that the salsa was out of a can. More like a passata – it was nothing like the fresh zing of tomato and coriander homemade salsa. Tomato season is upon us – so I live in hope.
Thank god I’d just run the Auckland Marathon. I so deserved to eat ten plates of churros. These doughy, sweet, bite sized, crunchy, sugar cinnamon coated treats are highly addictive and impossible to refuse. And, it would have been rude of me not to dunk them into the bowl of rich decadent chocolate. Bliss.
I overheard one diner remark that the chocolate chili lime cake was delish and packed just the right amount of kick.
It’s obvious the team behind Mamacitas have given a lot of thought to creative direction. The end result is lush branding wrapped in a vibrant, fun and welcoming atmosphere. The watchful eyes of Frida Kahlo, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead)  lend a tranquil calm to the frenetic energy and the never-ending comings and goings of people.
Mamacita’s, its busy, buzzing and bloody good. I’m going to return. After all I’ve got my eye on the chicken in mole sauce, but more importantly I have to do my bit to ensure the longevity of margaritas and Mexican food.
Mamacita Restaurant, 12 Havelock Road, Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Tel: 06 877 6200 – No bookings, turn up and hope for a table. If not, wait at the bar. It’s well worth the wait.
PS – This is an unsolicited review. I paid for dinner….no sorry, my boyfriend paid for dinner.

First Draft Edit. Five Things to Ponder.

A worn down building in Mexico sporting a "For Rent" notice in spanish.Oh, the joys of reading through the first draft of your next book.
It’s a little like looking through a dilapidated old fixer upper of a house, then laying out your hard-earned dosh (that’s kiwi speak for dollars) to buy it, before kissing goodbye the next chunk of your life to the mistress of renovations.
Despite some seriously cringe-worthy moments of “did I really write that” – the first draft of my NaNoWriMo inspired “Love Entwined” is not what I would call truly awful. But, there is no denying, it is definitely in need of a truck load of love and attention.
That’s my way of saying it needs work. And lots of it.
Turning the pages, I find myself thinking…“well, the bones of the story is there – yep at least it’s got good bones.”
How many times have you heard a designer, architect or a “move that bus” TV guy talk about the good bones theory? For some reason, if a house, castle, shed, or whatever else is left standing, isn’t derelict and destined for doomsville, it’s all down to its “good bones.”
With that theory in mind, there is hope for my first draft.
It doesn’t need to be knocked down, totally demolished, and rebuilt into a fantastically spectacular book. Rather, it’s crying out for a good old-fashioned dose of lots of hard out editing work.
With careful and constructive renovations, along with what I hope could only be termed creative flair, the good bones will get meat on them while morphing into a story worth telling. And worthy of my reader’s valuable outlay and time.
Along with the never ending search for spelling mistakes, here’s a list of the top five things I’m paying particular attention to while reading/editing my way through the first draft of Love Entwined.

  1. The Characters. Their development, and the cultivation of their personalities and roles, along with their introduction into the story.
  2. Two timing adjectives. To quote The View Outside blog “they don’t need to travel around in pairs.”
  3. Stripping and peeling back the scenes and dialogue to get to the heart of the matter. That’s a nice way of saying “less is more.” Cut, slash, and toss out what’s not needed.
  4. Emotional connection. Does the emotion and tension resonate and strike a chord without going overboard and sounding too cheesy?
  5. Pace. Is the story crawling along at a snail’s pace, or is it sprinting faster than Usain Bolt blitz’s the 100m?

Magdalena’s e-book Love in the Vines is now available on Amazon Kindle. Love Entwined is the sequel, and is due out early-mid 2013.
Love in the Vines
is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.


My Weekend Essentials

Here’s a few of my fave weekend must-haves. Note, these are in no particular order. What are yours?

weekend essentials 2Are you looking for a relaxing e-read set in the intoxicating world of wine and food? Try my new e-book LOVE IN THE VINES it’s out now on Amazon Kindle.

Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage. Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel best enjoyed with a glass of wine.

LOVE IN THE VINES “a fast-moving, sexy story. You will enjoy reading it. You’ll be asking for a sequel!” 4* Amazon Review

I’m Chuffed. Lisa Day Gives Love in the Vines 4 Stars



LOVE IN THE VINES by Magdalena VandenBerg
Magdalena’s story begins with Carla. Carla suffers from what many woman have experienced the what I called the ‘I need to break out of this rut.’ She does a good job making you understand the needs and emotions at play here. I know because years ago I had those same emotional feelings.
‘Love in the vines’ will carry you along the journey. For some readers her openness might be a tad to real. But isn’t that want a good writer should do. To make you understand and still be a little uneasy.
You can see how Matt’s history has brought him to the point where as the grapes ripened on the vine his attention to Carla blossomed.
You might not make the same choices as Carla and Matt, but you’ll see not only how it can happen but why.
If you are a wine drinker Magdalena throws in an interesting array of wine growing and making facts. So whether you drink Pinot Noir, Syah, or wine from a box. Hold your glass up for ‘Love in the Vines.’

For more on Lisa Day, and to read her views, click here

Thank you Lisa!

Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage. Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food.
LOVE IN THE VINES is Out Now and available to buy US$2.99 on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle device – download Kindle to your PC, Mac or mobile. It’s easy – I did it!

Book Reviews. Scary or Not?

I can tell you straight off the bat, I’m one of those authors who can’t feign nonchalance at receiving book reviews.
First of all I’m immensely appreciative of readers who give their valuable time to read my books. Time is a rare commodity, and considered a luxury for most. Writing a review requires a whole other level of extra time, thought, and effort. And for that, I feel readers and reviewers are all deserving of 5 shining gold stars.
Even those who write and post the dreaded one or two star reviews. Good, or bad the feedback is at times hard to swallow, but it’s always invaluable.
I’ve got to admit getting a review scares the pants off me! My heartbeat races, I don’t breathe while reading it, and if it’s bad, my mood will dive faster than the Dow Jones on a brutal trading day.
In my mind, I can rationalize reviews as a reader’s personal, and informed opinion. I read and write reviews too. I respect that. In my heart however, I’m a sensitive softie who is s still coming to grips with the obvious fact that once the publish button is hit. It’s published. End of.
Ah well, one thing I’m sure of is I’ll never feign nonchalance, I’ll always be grateful to those who read my books. Reviews are like receiving an unexpected bonus. Like getting an extra scoop of ice-cream when you didn’t ask for it.
Here’s my latest LOVE IN THE VINES 4**** Book Review – this one was like getting the ice-cream, and the cherry on top.

“Affairsville” 4**** Amazon Review of LOVE IN THE VINES
Carla is bored with her marriage. Looking for something to do during the day – her husband is at work and her children are at school -she takes a job as a clerk at a local winery.
Mat is the vintner. Divorced, introverted, fascinated by his wine, he seldom pays attention to other people, but, on Carla’s first day at work, attraction is immediate; sparks fly between them.
The reader knows what will happen next! We watch as Carla takes each step, first baby steps, then larger ones, on the road to what she calls “Affairsville.” A novice at adultery, she makes “rookie mistakes,” and her husband begins to suspect that something is amiss.
Love in the Vines chronicles the all too familiar story of a woman who seeks excitement outside of her marriage, the feelings she has, the compromises she makes, the rationalizations she concocts to explain and to justify her behavior.
We wonder how far Carla will go and whether she will actually reach Affairsville. Will Mat continue to pursue Carla; will he tire of the chase; or will he go off-course when he meets her husband? We wonder whether her husband will see through Carla’s stories, and how he will react if he does. Will this a fling, or something more?
The story captures your attention in the beginning, and you won’t want to stop reading. It is a fast-moving, sexy story. You will enjoy reading it, and you’ll be asking for a sequel!

For the love of Chardonnay.

Wine, one sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise and taste.”
~ John Milton (1608-74)

Another fantastic weekend is on our doorstep. And if you are anything like me, it’s a great time to relax and unwind while enjoying a glass or two of your favorite wine.
Carla, our LOVE IN THE VINES Leading Lady likes nothing better than to drink a cool glass of Chardonnay.

Here’s an excerpt from Love in the Vines, Chapter 10, Chardonnay and Oysters where we discover Carla’s Chardonnay crush.

…..Studying the wine list, Matt was earnestly deliberately over the choices. I overhead you talking with the girls at work about your love affair with Chardonnay. They’ve got a number of great one’s listed here. How about we start with my Chardonnay?’ Chuckling he added, ‘even if it means that I’ll have to buy one of my own wines at restaurant prices! Then, for comparison we can move on to a French Chardonnay. I see they have a couple of beautiful delicate Pouilly-Fuissé (Pu-Yee Fwee-Say) wines here from Southern Burgundy. These are made entirely from Chardonnay fruit and they will be amazing to drink.’

Never one to miss an opportunity to drink a Chardonnay, I told Matt how my relationship with this wine dated back a few years. ‘For every great one I’ve had the pleasure to drink, I’ve also suffered through my fair share of this wine masquerading as a paint stripper.


So, paint-strippers aside, here’s a few reasons why Carla loves nothing more than chilling on a Saturday afternoon with a cool, crisp glass of Chardonnay.

  • Zing! Aroma’s of pink grapefruit, citrus blossom, and nectarine complement the sharp contrast of spicy lemon and green apple.
  • The surprise of a lingering hint of hazelnut.
  • While some Chardonnays pack a big, bold and buttery punch. Carla prefers her’s understated; rich and buttery with a hint of oak.
  • The exotic French Connection. The birthplace of Chardonnay is Burgundy in France.
  • Back in 2008 when Chardonnay sales slumped in Britain, blame the Bridget Jones Effect
  • Or, as this blogger laments: Did Kath and Kim kill Chardonnay?
  • Either way, Carla defied trends, a bottle or two of “Chardie” always was top of her weekly shopping list.

Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance e-book set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Out Now $2.99 on Amazon Kindle.
Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines.
Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

Love in the Vines Characters. Introducing our Leading Lady, Carla.

Name: Carla
Occupation: Administration Assistant
Status: Married with two children
Likes: Chardonnay, desserts, gym workouts, and spin cycle classes. Clothes are a constant work in progress.
Dislikes: Early morning alarms, Saturday morning children sports, Brussels Sprouts and Oysters

Favorite Quote: “Time stands still for no one.”

It was only a matter of time before his smouldering gaze would snap me out of the resignation that I was never going to be a domestic goddess.

Now feeling like a full-time appliance, it was plug me in and I’ll do it, with one day repeating into the next. I never felt on top of that ever-present laundry pile. It was always crying out to be washed, folded and put away.

Married to my childhood sweetheart, I’ve been busy as a stay at home Mom, raising our two boisterous and totally loveable children.

Truthfully? I’m bored witless by domestic routine, and I’m desperately wanting to return to work.

I couldn’t believe it when serendipity knocked and the door to a job at a local prestigious winery opened.

Very soon life as I once knew drained like an empty wine glass. Only to be refilled by the irresistible lure of the man with the green eyes.

Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance e-book set in the intoxicating world of wine and food.
Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.
LOVE IN THE VINES. Out Now for US$2.99 on Amazon Kindle.

“…I enjoyed the way the story unfolded against the romantic backdrop of a winery with realistically drawn characters. Definitely a story of the easy drinking variety, perhaps a merlot! A great read for summer…” Amazon Review from a reader in New Zealand.

If you already have your copy of LOVE IN THE VINES, thanks! Honest reviews are always welcome.

More about Matt. Occupation. Winemaker.

Introducing Matt, the lead male character in LOVE IN THE VINES,
Name:  Matt
Profession:  Winemaker
Loves:  Wine, Love, Coffee and Food. Designer jeans and t-shirts.
Traits: Driven, Obsessive, Private and Selfish
Detests: Over-chilled wine, team
Favorite Wines: Châteauneuf du Pape, Syrah (Shiraz), Viognier (Vee-on-nay) and French Champagne
Must drink beer: Coopers Ale

Best described in three words: Lover. Of wine.

Matt, a former hard-to-please advertising agency executive, who has since turned his back on the corporate world in pursuit of his true passion.

Now an award winning, gifted winemaker, his moodiness and arrogance is despised by some, and pulls like magnetic attraction for others.

Likes to complain about his workload, and is unable to function without his morning coffee. One cup is never enough.

Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food.
Out now on Amazon Kindle – click here to buy your copy (if you have, thank you very much!)

…..”I enjoyed the way the story unfolded against the romantic backdrop of a winery with realistically drawn characters. Definitely a story of the easy drinking variety, perhaps a merlot! A great read for summer.” Amazon Review

Love in the Vines. First Amazon Review.

Nervous? You betcha! (did I just write that?).
As a newbie author, I haven’t mastered the art of not obsessing over when my first book review will be posted. I wouldn’t recommend the waiting, as part of any anti-aging routine.
The anticipation, is just as bad as the wait.
Almost one month to the day after LOVE IN THE VINES hit the virtual bookshelves, a reader has taken the time to post a review on Amazon. I’m absolutely chuffed and grateful. Time is a precious commodity.
Now, as much as I’d love to bleat, being a New Zealander, home to 64 million sheep, I can try to make that unique sound, a 5***** shiner, it’s not.
Rather, it’s a very credible, spot-on, and honest 3*** review.
Sure, the higher numbers make for a better marketing story, and believe you me I’ll be out there spruiking mine one day soon, but today, here’s my first ever sparkly dazzling 3*** review to share.
Ok, for all of you who have moved on from Merlot, I’m thinking Mitchell Pritchard from Modern Family ….I’m going to confess. I love Merlot.
Love in the Vines. E-Book Out Now on Amazon Kindle.
For peeps living in the Southern Hemisphere it’s…”a great read for summer.” For those rugging up for fall, autumn and winter Love in the Vines is a perfect fireside read and a warming accompaniment to any glass of wine.
Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

Remember, no Kindle device, no worries. Download Kindle to your PC, Mac, Mobile and Tablet. Click here for links.

LOVE IN THE VINES. Getting to know our winemaker, Matt.

This week I’m going to introduce the main characters from my new book LOVE IN THE VINES. A contemporary romance e-book set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Yum!
Just in case you’ve missed my earlier blogs, here’s a little teaser about Matt, our handsome, yet moody winemaker.
Leaving behind the city lights, casual late night flings, and the shattered remains of his marriage all Matt yearned for was a peaceful life spent among the fruit laden vines sipping his own award winning wines.

With the ink now dry on his divorce papers, the last thing Matt wanted was to fall in love again…
Reaching over to touch the grapes, Matt said with a shy yet knowing smile. ‘Sugar, sunlight, alchemy; I like to think of it as chemistry and magic conspiring together and, with a lot of love, nurturing and attention, it is all that these little ones need.

LOVE IN THE VINES is Out Now on Amazon Kindle. Only $2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle Device. Don’t worry. Simply download Kindle to your PC or Mac. Click here for more info.