Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Dominique Eastwick in the kitchen whipping up a batch of mouthwatering cookies. Take it away, Dom!

ITALIAN ANISETTE COOKIES

COOKIE DOUGH
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup granulated white sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ cup milk
1 tbsp. anise extract
2 eggs

ICING
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. hot water
1 tsp. anise extract
sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk, extract, and eggs. Mix together until dough is sticky.

Oil fingers and pinch off dough in 1-inch pieces. Roll into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart, flatten top slightly.

Bake 8 minutes.

Blend anise extract and enough hot water to confectioner’s sugar to form a smooth icing. Drizzle or spread across the cooled cookie tops. Add sprinkles for a festive touch.

Brew yourself a nice cup of tea to go with your delicious fresh cookies and then snuggle up with a good book.

When Kalista’s father suffers a stroke just hours before making an important payment on a loan, she rushes to Greece to make amends before the billionaire tycoon swoops in to take the family business. She is convinced if she gives him the check in person, all will be fine and she can return to help her father on his long road to recovery. She did not anticipate Leonidas Karatasos.

This is not the first time Mr. Vidal has missed a payment, but it would be the last. Leonidas would let no one take advantage of him or his family, but when he steps off the boat on his family’s island, his mate is waiting for him check in hand. Kalista Vidal is everything he wanted and nothing he expected.

With the moon rising into the reign of Leo, Leonidas has one month to woo and bond with Kalista, or he must wait until the next Leo cycle. But with the world’s prides convening on the island for the month, he must deal with dangers his mate could never imagine. All the while figuring out how to let his lion out of the bag.

BUY LINKS

Award-Winning author Dominique Eastwick currently calls North Carolina home with her husband, two children, one crazy lab and one lazy cat. Dominique spent much of her early life moving from state to state as a Navy Brat. Because of that, traveling is one of her favorite pastimes. When not writing you can find Dominique with her second love…her camera.

Learn more about Dominique Eastwick on her website, blog, and Amazon author page. Be sure to join her Newsletter for up to the minute info on new releases, contests, and more.

Stay connected on Facebook Twitter, Tublr, and Pinterest.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Easy Vegan Fruit Cake

by

Carol Browne

We Brits love our traditions, especially at Christmas when plum puddings or fruit cakes grace the tables after a hearty meal. Many times the lady of the house serves both cakes. That is a great deal of work for her. In the Browne household we are partial to the fruit cake I’m sharing with you today. I hope you enjoy it.

Easy Vegan Fruit Cake

1½ lbs (675g) mixed sultanas and currants
¾ pint (450ml) water
¼ pint (150ml) vegetable oil
12oz. (350g) 100% self-rising wholemeal flour
2oz. (50g) blanched almonds, chopped
1 tbsp. molasses/black treacle
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
2 tsp. ground mixed spice
3oz. (75g) brown sugar
3 tbsp. sherry or rum (optional)

Preheat oven 150C – 300° F – Mark 2

Grease and line a 7 ½ inch (19cm) round cake tin.

Place all the ingredients (except the sherry) in a basin and beat well until evenly mixed. Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake about two hours or until the cake rises and is firm to the touch. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then spoon sherry over the top and leave in the tin until completely cold.

This cake doesn’t keep for very long. There are two reasons for this! The lack of fat in the recipe is one. The fact that it is delicious and you won’t be able to leave it alone is another. But the cake does freeze extremely well if you do want to save some for another day!

How about curling up with an epic fantasy while your cake is baking?

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shares

A version of caramel corn that is truly the easiest, and most foolproof recipe you’ll ever find by Sharon Ledwith

Package this treat for gifts to friends and neighbors and you’ll be the most popular person on the street. Perfect for hostess gifts too! Tie a bag of caramel corn to a bottle of wine, or fill a decorated mason jar for party favors. The gift-giving possibilities are endless!

Not-Your-Usual Caramel Corn

Photo by Georgia Vagim on Unsplash.com

7 quarts plain popped popcorn
2 cups dry roasted peanuts or cashews or your favorite nuts, optional
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 cup margarine
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250° F (120° C).

Place popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking/roasting pans. Add the peanuts or your choice of nuts (mix’em up if you wish) to the popcorn. Set aside.

Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly.

Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don’t worry too much at this point about getting all of the popcorn coated.

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans and giving them a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the popcorn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces.

Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.

So while the corn is cooling, and maybe you’re doing a few taste tests, why not relax on the couch, and visit the small, tourist town of Fairy Falls, starting with Lost and Found, Book #1 of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls? Just don’t forget the bug spray.

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power, all the while trying to lead a normal life. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey decides that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well.

Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.

BUY LINKS
Amazon KindleAmazon PaperbackBarnes & NobleMirror World Publishing ebookMirror World Publishing Paperback

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

a perfect sweet for the holidays or any time of the year the desire for something sweet and cool strikes your fancy

from

Vonnie Hughes

COCONUT ICE

Taryn Navarro on Unsplash.com

3 breakfast cups (mugs) of white sugar
1 ounce of butter
¾ breakfast cup (mug) of desiccated coconut*
½ breakfast cup (mug) of milk
Pinch of salt
Coloring if wanted

Put all the ingredients, except the coloring, into a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes.

Add coloring.

Beat until thick. This won’t take long, it sets quickly.

Pour into a greased tin and mark into squares.

* Dried coconut may substitute if desiccated isn’t available.

Here is a peek at Vonnie’s latest romantic suspense.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

BLURB:
Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she’s placed in the Unit “New Zealand’s witness protection program” where she’s expected to trust strangers with her life.

It’s psychologist Brand Turner’s job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide “can she trust Brand with her life? 

Please click a vendor’s name to read more from Lethal Refuge The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

When Good Yeast Goes Bad, It’s Time for Dessert!

by

Chris Pavesic

In baking, the primary function of yeast is to make dough rise. By partially consuming the sugars in the flour the natural metabolism of these microorganisms produces carbon dioxide and ethanol that cause an increase in volume during baking.

Yet yeast can get old. If it is exposed to air or humidity, it may not function correctly. Even a bread machine cannot produce a light, fluffy loaf if the yeast has “gone bad.”

But the loaf is still edible, if somewhat “heavy” or “dense.” It might be a bit misshapen, but it generally tastes good. So what can someone do with a lumpy loaf?

Bread puddings are a great way to transform the unfortunate loaf into a delicious dessert. Add some chocolate and fruit and suddenly the lumpy loaf is the star of the meal!

Note: This can also be prepared with a regular loaf of bread, but it won’t provide as much humor.

BREAD PUDDING

5 large eggs
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 loaf of bread (about 10 ounces) cut or torn into 1-inch cubes
1½ cups dried fruit (my family loves blueberries or cherries.)
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Mix eggs, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add handfuls of bread cubes, fruit, and chocolate chips in alternating layers, stirring with each addition.

Now it’s time to get busy. Roll up your sleeves and mix everything together. You want to get some of that flavorful liquid onto every scrap of bread. The mix may seem a little dry. Resist the urge to drown it in more milk or you will end up with a soggy dessert.

Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter. Press the mixture into the pan. If you like a dense, heavy bread pudding, keep pressing until there is no air left. If you prefer yours fluffier, just pile it in and spread it around.

Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes. The top will become a wonderful crunchy brown while the middle stays moist.

Be careful when you remove the pudding from the oven. It’s easy to pick away at the entire dish—whether you are going after a piece of the crusty top, a chewy berry, or a melting chunk of chocolate.

While you indulge in this fantastic dessert, enjoy a brief glimpse into my new novel, Starter Zone.

When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.

Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.

But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world.

Time to play the game.

CHAPTER ONE
As the sun hovers near the horizon, ready to dip below and plunge the world into darkness, the weather changes for the worse. Clouds gather. Peeking out my window and over the outline of rooftops in the distance is what looks like thunderheads moving toward me in the invisible polluted gusts of wind.

I try not to think about the coming storm as I methodically pull on my boots and zip up my jacket. It is supposed to be waterproof, but I would not risk going out in anything above a light drizzle. Water has a way of seeping through even the best defenses. There’s also a lining that’s overly warm for a summer evening. I’m already sweating and the discomfort adds to my nerves.

I check the hunting knife strapped to my left leg. It was one of the first weapons purchased for me by my dad back when the sporting goods stores were still open for business. He didn’t think I was ready to handle a handgun at thirteen, but he taught me to shoot a rifle in the open fields by our house, helping me hold the weapon steady until I grew strong enough to support the weight. Now, three years later, I have a handgun, a Ruger semi-automatic, but bullets are scarce and loud noises are problematic. My small ammo stash sits in the bottom of my backpack next to the gun.

Instead of the gun, I carry an extra-light crossbow as my go-to weapon. I can hand-make the bolts so I don’t worry about running out of ammunition and the shot is relatively silent. I carry the spare bolts in a quiver strapped to my right leg. It’s awkward when running, but I can draw the bolts fast when needed.

My little sister, Alby, has loaded her own backpack. I lift it to test the weight and then pull a few things out. I place them in my own pack without comment. I help her position the lighter pack over her shoulders, tightening the straps so that it will stay balanced. She always tries to do more than she should, but I don’t like the way her face has a perpetual pinched, strained look or the deep shadows under her eyes. She looks far older than her seven years. This scares me more than everything else and that fear threatens to register on my face. I force myself to stay calm.

I check her raincoat and boots, making sure everything fits snugly. I help Alby pull up the hood of her coat, tucking in a strand of dark hair that has escaped her ponytail. As frightened as she is, she manages to give me a smile. I smile back, trying to present a brave front. As my dad used to say, “fake it till you make it.” Over the last few years, I’ve been faking confidence more and more often for Alby’s sake.

“Ready to go?” I ask with all the false cheer I can muster in my voice. I take one last glance over the motel room that had served as a temporary home for the last few days, looking for anything that we might have left behind. The room is swept clean. No trace whatsoever that we had ever been there.

Alby nods. “Ready, Cami.”

“If we get separated, remember to keep going north,” I say. “Follow the road till you get to the park, then take the walking paths. No matter what happens, keep going. Stop when you get to the Stone River. I’ll meet you at the bridge in the center of the park where we used to feed the ducks, okay?”

She nods again, looking up at me with those dark eyes so full of trust. I hug her, because if we do get separated, there isn’t much hope we will ever see each other again. I need to keep up the pretense of hope, though, because that’s all we have to keep us going.

Stone River Park is at the very limits of the city and the area surrounding it is relatively unpopulated. I figure that once we are out of the city, our chances of survival will dramatically increase. After reaching the park, we can follow the Stone River north. There’s bound to be deserted houses in the country and less chance that any of the gangs would be interested in the meager pickings outside of the city. We might even be able to find a place to stay before winter.

I crack open the door of our motel room. It is still light enough to stain everything with graying shades of color. The setting sun casts long shadows between the buildings, so I depend more upon my ears to find signs of other humans. I hear no motorcycle engines and no voices, only the wind, blowing and moaning, and the far-off call of a bird. The coming storm appears to have cleared the streets. They are deserted except for empty, crashed vehicles abandoned in every lane.

Alby and I had been lucky to reach the motel a few days ago. The single-story building is on the outskirts of the main town and catered to big rig truck drivers and other traffic from the interstate. I had found the skeleton key in the motel office after climbing in through the bathroom window. Alby and I spent the nights scouring every room for supplies.

No one had broken into it before we got there. Too many other rich targets to go around. But inside each room was a mini-fridge filled with snacks. Even though the electricity had been turned off, the chocolates and small bags of honey-coated nuts were edible. The tiny bottles of alcoholic beverages in each fridge did not seem useful, but I kept a few. They might be helpful in starting a fire someday when we made it outside the city. We even discovered coffee filters and a small bottle of chlorine bleach—a major score for treating our drinking water.

If I hadn’t spent days secretly peering out the dark windows of the motel, I might believe my sister and I were the last two people left on earth. But I know that out there, behind the ruined buildings and boarded-up windows, there are at least a few pairs of eyes whose owners would kill us without a second thought. My eyes flick toward the two bodies hanging from the traffic lights in the nearby intersection. They hadn’t been moved. Good.

The daytime usually belongs to looter-gangs, each with spray-can marked territories in bright displays of color that start on the buildings and drip down toward the pavement. The gangs wear something marked as well, usually a jacket or bandanna that will stand out from a distance. The snipers hole up in their nests and target anyone who encroaches on their gang’s territory. They particularly looked for members of other factions trying to increase their terrain.

Paint tags don’t show up well after dark, though, so the gangs have started leaving their victims as warnings to others not to encroach on their holding. These bodies have been hanging undisturbed in the intersection for several days, indicating a lack of activity in the area. I can only hope that the gangs have moved inward, toward the center of the city and more supply-rich targets.

No one is ever going to catch the murderers, or the ones who strung up the bodies like macabre trophies, and put them in jail. They’ll just go on and do it again and again. Like animals in the jungle—except that animals are not cruel.

We were lucky to go unmolested by the local gangs. Heaven knows we don’t look like we have much of anything, and we don’t look threatening, but that will only last for so long. Someday someone will try to kill us, possibly for no other reason than wanting to watch us die. The whole world, it seems, is at war, and no one is on my side except Alby. We only have each other.

A streak of lightning splits the sky almost directly overhead, making me wince. It is followed by a heavy clap of thunder. As frightening as it is, the bad weather is to our advantage. No one wants to be caught outside in the rain. Everyone is more afraid of fresh, untreated water and what it can do than they are of each other. But I believe we can make it out of the area and to shelter before the rain poses any danger.

In fact, I’m betting our lives on it.

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The ever-interesting Ryan Jo Summers bringing us her Homemade Alphabet Soup and a sweet, southern romance of forgiveness & second chances, love & fun kids, Rainbows in the Moonlight. Be sure to get your copy today!

Koda Jacobs urgently needs a nanny–right now. Fresh from prison, Dalton Clayton needs a job–and just about anything will do.

Divine Intervention steps in and tosses Koda and Dalton together. Koda struggles with the conflicts of her impulsive decision to leave her babies with an unknown, convicted felon. That just can’t be wise, can it? But she can’t help but see how quickly the children bonded to him and trust him. Or the reassuring sense that this is just right. Meanwhile, Dalton stumbles through the spills and thrills of two young children, and his growing interest in their mother. A chance meeting brings him back to his estranged family as well.

Over time mutual attraction forms between Koda and Dalton as the bond between Dalton and the children deepens. A sweet, southern romance full of forgiveness, second chances, and fun kids.

Koda Jacobs is a widow, a single mother of two young children. She has a mama with Alzheimer’s disease, and a full time job outside the home. She tries to cook good, nutritious meals and spend quality “table time” with her children. Except it’s hard. So she relies on quick recipes she can make from scratch, with a few modernized shortcuts. One example is Homemade Alphabet Soup. Perfect for a chilly night when time is short. And like most busy moms, Koda likes recipes that items can be subbed if she is out of something without requiring a run to the store. This one takes a mere 30 minutes or less.

1 Lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 quarts tomato juice
1 can (15 oz) mixed vegetables, un-drained–or frozen equivalent
1 Cup water
2 Beef bullion cubes or 2 tsp. bullion granules
1 Cup alphabet pasta or small pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In large saucepan, cook ground beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add tomato juice, vegetables, water and bullion; bring to a boil. Add pasta.
2. Cook uncovered, for 6-8 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper.
Yield: 10-12 servings, (2 3/4 quarts)
* Can also be topped with shredded cheese or sour cream dollop and chives, etc.
* If there is no small pasta on hand, substitute instant rice or quick cooking barley.
Nutritional Facts 1 cup: 148 calories, 4g fat (2g saturated fat), 19mg cholesterol, 858mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 2g fiber), 10g protein.

Source: Taste of Home Ground Beef Cookbook 1999

Excerpt:

Finally she reached her road, then her driveway. Pulse racing, she parked and approached the front door. Swinging it open, the utter quietness greeted her and made her pulse sky rocket. The house was never quiet when she returned with Mandy in charge. It was noisy with the kids playing or fighting. The television would be blaring or the radio cranked. Or else they’d be out in the yard, drop what they were doing, and race to meet her.

Now, the eerie silence chilled her as blood roared in her ears. Goosebumps popped up along her arms. She reached for her cell phone. That still, calm quietness persisted, telling her to go slow. Huffing a breath, she replaced the cell phone. She could still call 9-1-1 in thirty seconds when no one answered her greeting.

“Hello?” she called out, moving along the hallway to the living room. “Is anyone here?” She cast about, searching for evidence to tell the police. Both back packs lay on the floor. Terry’s school work was stacked on the table. A sparkle caught her eye. Ruthie’s red sparkly shoes peeked out from the full curtain.

A rush of breath left her feeling weak as she swept the curtain aside, revealing Ruthie glaring up at her.

“Mommy, we’re playing hide-and-seek. He’ll find me if I don’t re-hide.” She stoutly tugged the curtain back in place.

Re-hide? Hide and seek? She watched the drape settle back, with just the tips of her red sparkly sneakers extending. About to cover them, she heard footsteps. Looking up, Dalton came into the room.

“Okay, ready or not, here I come.” Seeing her, he slammed to a halt, color flooding his face. He jabbed his hands in the pockets of his faded jeans and rocked backward. “Hi. We’re, um, playing hide and seek.”

She nodded, a bit distracted by the sight of his obvious embarrassment. “So that explains why I don’t see the kids.” What else could she say? “How’d it go today?”

He lifted a shoulder in a shrug, looking around the room. “Okay. Ruthie creamed me in Candyland. Terry’s homework is all done. They’ve had something to eat and the kitchen is cleaned up.” He paused, looking around harder. “And now I’m supposed to find them. Somewhere.”

She smothered her smile. It sounded like it went well. She had to admit, she was impressed. And thoughtful. Mandy didn’t always clean up after meals. And Terry might sometimes still have homework for her to help with. Mandy tried but Koda guessed she hadn’t been the best student when in school. Terry said she tended to give up too soon on things like math and science. And Dalton’s perplexed expression slowly lit a fuse inside her that had long been extinguished.

“Are they supposed to be just in here? Or anywhere in the house?” She knew the rules usually changed with each game they played. He shrugged, as if not sure himself.

“Ah-ha! Got ya!” Striding to the window, he pulled back the curtain, smiling down at Ruthie’s frown. “Hello there.”

“How’d you find me? Was it Mommy?”

He blinked. “No, I just got lucky. Now let’s go find your brother.” He extended his hand and she automatically reached for it. Watching them marching off, something slammed in Koda’s heart. Dropping her purse, she sank to the sofa, hand pressed to her fluttering chest. It felt like wings of a caged bird, desperate to fly.

“Ruthie,” she called, clearing her throat. “What are the rules? Where can you hide?”

“Terry said we got to stay here in the living room.”

Dalton shot her an appreciate glance, warming her all over. Still holding Ruthie’s hand he stopped. “Okay, I give. Where are you at, Buddy?”

Buddy? He just called Terry Buddy? A thud sounded, making everyone look at the closet near the hallway. The door swung open and Terry tumbled out, landing in a pile of assorted toys, umbrellas, and a bunch of stuff she’d forgotten about.

“No fair, Terry! You didn’t say we could hide inside stuff.”

He stood up, dusting himself off. “Well duh, Ruthie. Think about it. Hide and seek.”

Koda bit back a groan. Dalton knelt at his side, pushing stuff back inside. “Great spot, Buddy. Good thinking. Ruthie, now you’ll know for next time, right?”

“Can we play again?”

Dalton shot a look at Koda. “Now that your mama’s home, I should go.”

“Tomorrow?”

Chuckling, he tipped her nose with his finger, then stood up, turning to Koda. She jumped to her feet. “We never discussed your payment.” She cleared her throat again. “Would you prefer daily or weekly? It seems you survived your first day so I assume you are open to the rest of the week?” Not only did he survive, clearly better than she had, he seemed to have created a firm bond with the kids. They clustered around him, not ready to say good-bye.

“Daily is fine. If that’s not a problem for you.”

Color touched his cheeks again. The man sure could blush easily. She reached for her pocketbook. “Not at all.” She handed out the bills, glad she’d gone to the ATM at lunchtime. He held her hand a moment, the heat searing her skin. An intensity darkened his brown eyes, making her breath race away like a fluttering bird, finally freed.

“There’s something I’d like to talk to you about if I could. Alone.”

She licked her lips, nervous at his somber tone. “Sure. Kids, stay here a minute.” She motioned him out toward the porch.

“Are you coming back tomorrow, Dalton?”

He smiled, and then looked over to Koda. “I sure hope so.”

Her heart raced ahead, caught on the ache in his voice. What could he want to talk about that would affect him coming back? He was incredible with the kids. Far better than she had assumed. She led him back outside, heart thumping. Realizing he had stopped following, she looked back, then smiled. He stood, hands back in his pockets, staring at her favorite painting. The silent angst on his face knocked at her heart. This, at least, she understood.

A full three feet wide, and almost as high, it was an imposing piece of art. A mountain scene, a dark and stormy night, with a semi-truck barreling down the steep mountain road. Hard, merciless rain fell, pummeling the rig. White lightning sliced through the black sky. A driver peered out, anxiety lining his face. Headlights swept the rocky grade, illuminating the storm’s fierce onslaught. How many times had she felt like she were caught in the same storm?

The saving grace was the superimposed white-robed, bearded man painted over the top of the truck and trailer, pointing the way, calmly and steadily guiding the driver safely down the mountainside. A light penetrated the darkness, illuminating the way to safety. The plaque beneath simply read ‘Fear not, I am with thee.’ Those words never failed to calm her racing fears.

Dalton’s lips moved, as he read the words slowly to himself. Yes, she understood. Stepping to Dalton, she rested a hand gently on his shoulder, noting when he jumped a little.

“It’s Isaiah.”

He looked over at her, blush touching his face again. “Sorry, I’m not familiar with his work.”

“No, it’s from the book of Isaiah. In the Bible. He was a prophet in the Old Testament. I don’t know who painted the picture. But it’s very powerful, isn’t it? Now was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”

By the way– this painting is real. We had one hanging on our wall when I was growing up, complete with Isaiah quote plaque. It’s been lost over many moves and us kids growing up. I am not sure what happened to it, but would dearly love to get another copy of it someday.

Bio:


Ryan Jo Summers writes mashed romances. Sweet love stories that include any combination of contemporary theme: Christian, humor, mystery, paranormal, shape shifting, suspense, or time travel. She writes non-fiction pieces for various magazines. In addition to a full time job, and a full time writing career, she also has a pet sitting business. She comes from a family of wordsmiths, with members who have been song writers and poets.

In her limited free time, she likes to read, escape to the wilderness and rivers, visit with friends and family, or just hang with her pets. She enjoys chess, crafts, painting, poetry, and word find puzzles. She lives in a century-old mountain cottage in North Carolina with a menagerie of rescued animals and way too many house plants.

My social media links:

Website Blog Facebook Twitter

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest appetizer

Cheese Ball Pumpkin

by

HL Carpenter

October is National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.

Cheese Ball Pumpkin

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
Paprika
The stem of a green bell pepper

Place all of the cheese in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.

When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).

Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.

With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.

Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.

To add even more fun to the party, discuss a good book. We suggest our young adult novel.

Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of financial fraud. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As accusations and innuendos pile up, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.

EXCERPT
A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.

Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…

Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. “Don’t you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?”

I should have known Stenny wouldn’t traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn’t his style. He’d use his phone.

My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete’s chest. “Quit calling me that. Don’t you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?”

“I took the night off.” He peered at me. “Why are you crying?”

“None of your business!” Then, as his words sank in, I asked, “Why’d you take the night off? Is Gus okay?”

“Gramps is the same as he always is.” Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. “I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We’re going to help, in whatever way we can.” His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.

“That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too.”

“Yeah.” Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. “Where’s the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?”

My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. “Stenny’s not a jerk-off, and he’s probably at the tree house, where I left him.”

“How nice to know he’ll stay where you tell him to. At least you won’t need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France.” Pete narrowed his eyes. “The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven’t noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?”

I didn’t need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn’t paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny’s doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.

“Thanks, Pete. That’s a good idea.”

“I have them occasionally.” He gestured with the flashlight. “The path’s this way.”

We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.

“Nightingale,” Pete said.

We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway’s open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house’s white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.

I smiled despite my worries. “I love how pretty our house is at night.”

Pete shut the flashlight off. “I’ll send you pictures while you’re enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off.”

I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. “He’s headed for the house! I have to warn Dad.”

BUY LINKS

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: