Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, October 31, 2011

Picture This--Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. I always have. Once, when I was a preschooler, I can remember my mother putting me to bed after a night of Trick or Treating and saying to her, "It's all over until next year." I don't remember what she said, but it was probably something like, "You are right." She wasn't one to mess around pointing out that Christmas was coming. She probably also told me not to wish my life away. I decorate my house from top to bottom. My book club met at my house in October and they were very impressed. I felt I had to be honest and admit that I would have done it anyway. I decorate for myself. I don't do it until the first of October and that's hard--but not as hard as listening to Oldest Friend complain when I do it too early. I do admit that I was rushing the season a bit the time I did it in August. My pumpkins rotted. Unlike Christmas decorations, which I will let stick around until New Years, I will take my Halloween pretties down November first. So I thought I would share with you.

The mantle in my living room.

Candles on my coffee table. I keep a crystal pumpkin full of candy corn nearby for eating, since my cats tend to recline in this.

The side table in the dining room. The Guy bought me that fabulous candy bowl when we were first married, so I always fill it full of dark chocolate for him. (I can't abide it.)

Work counter in the kitchen. My mother-in-law made me those festive potholders and an apron to match. After Halloween, I'll leave out the pewter pumpkin and turn the Jack-O-Lantern faces to the wall and--presto!--Thanksgiving decor.

The bar. Ms. Classy gave me that cat plate the year we lost my sweet Bristol cat. We cried. That's a friend--someone who will cry with you over your cat.

Counter in the butler's pantry.

Kitchen window.

Table in my upstairs sitting room. I'll leave the glass pumpkins out until Thanksgiving.

Hall table. That is one scary tree.

Hall bookcase. The jack-o-lantern is wearing a number 12 Alabama football helmet. Stephanie bought it for me a few years ago when Greg McElroy was quarterback so we named it Greg Head. Greg Head will stay out until Alabama plays its last game of the season--hopefully January 9, 2012

What are you doing for Halloween?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Special Agent Kelly McQueen's Pecan Pie

We are very pleased to have Debby Giusti join us again today with a recipe from her upcoming book!

Debby will also announce the winner of a signed copy of her book from yesterday's blog in one of her comments!
Good luck everyone!

From Debby:

I’m back. This time with a yummy recipe that’s perfect for your Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations. But it comes with a warning…

We all know the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent Kelly McQueen, the heroine in THE CAPTAIN'S MISSION, tempted Captain Phil Thibodeaux with her Pecan Pie. Of course, the death of a soldier needed to be investigated, and what looked like friendly fire turned into something much more deadly. While Kelly solved the crime, Phil kept his eye on Kelly and her pie!

Special Agent Kelly McQueen's Pecan Pie


By Debby Giusti

1 cup corn syrup

3 eggs slightly beaten

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

1 cup pecans, halves or chopped

1 unbaked, 9 inch pastry shell

Mix ingredients. Add pecans last. Pour into pastry shell.

Bake 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 30-35 minutes longer.

When pie is done, outer edges of filling should be set and the center slightly soft.

Captain Phil Thibodeaux fell madly in love with Special Agent Kelly McQueen immediately after eating her Pecan Pie.

Be careful when serving...could turn into love at first taste!

THE CAPTAIN'S MISSION, the second book in my Military Investigations series, is in stores now. The first book, THE OFFICER'S SECRET is still available. Both books stand alone and can be read in any order.

Eating Pecan Pie makes the stories even more fun to read!

Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Celebrating Success

We are so happy to welcome our friend Debby Giusti to visit with us here under the tulip tree.  She has a new romantic suspense book in her Military Investigations series this month. 

Debby will be choosing one lucky commenter to win a copy of this newest release, which we will announce on the blog tomorrow!

We hope you will join us to make her feel welcome.

From Debby:

Thanks, ladies, for inviting me to blog today. I’m counting down the months until the Heart of Dixie Readers’ Luncheon. The weekend is so special. I love meeting the wonderful readers and spending time with all of you!

Today, I want to talk about celebrating success. You’ve probably read the quote attributed to Dorothy Parker, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” In my opinion, Dorothy got it right. Most days, the creative process is hard work. Writing a book requires energy and concentration and long stretches of time when we feel tied to our computers.

Even entering a submission in a writing contest takes effort. Printing the pages and ensuring they meet the contest guidelines call for determination and attention to detail. Condensing the full-length storyline into a short synopsis – a requirement for most contest submissions – can be a herculean task that causes us to pull out our hair and beg for mercy.

One solution to counter work overload is to set daily page counts or weekly goals. Breaking large projects into smaller segments provides a way to measure our progress and divide the tasks into manageable portions. Although self-satisfaction should be enough incentive to get the work done, a dangling carrot in the form of a tangible reward helps us stay on task.

Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way, talks about having an Artist’s Date at the completion of a short-term goal or long-term project. Go out to lunch, take a leisurely stroll through a favorite park, hit the mall or the library…do something that rewards the hard work you’ve accomplished.

I finished my tenth book last Saturday in time to send it UPS with a Monday New York City arrival, which was my deadline for turning in the manuscript. Since then, I’ve written four blog posts and have a large book signing in my local area scheduled for tonight. I also need to complete an overview of the next book in my Military Investigations series and write the first chapter this week.

After I get my work done, I’m going on an Artist’s Date. I’ll probably shop at our local Avenues—a street of lovely stores and small eateries—then stop at Starbucks for a caffe latte, low-fat, no whip cream.

Maybe I’ll browse the nearby bookstore for a new read to enjoy over the weekend. Knowing I met my goal will make the time even more enjoyable. I’ll come home refreshed and ready to get back to my computer the following morning.

How do you reward yourself for your hard work? What goals do your set for yourself? Do you have a weekly page quota that allows you to feel successful when completed?

Share a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of my latest Love Inspired Suspense, THE CAPTAIN’S MISSION, book 2 in my Military Investigations Series. (Each book stands alone so the stories do not have to be read in order.)

Wishing you abundant blessings!

Debby Giusti

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Zombie Bookalypse: Story That Never Dies

(Photo courtesy of ZombieSurvivalCourse.com)

Okay, listen here... it's that time of year for ghouls and goblins, ghosts and gore. Yes, it's a mad cap world out there, dear friends, and October is the month to celebrate the rich, colorful traditions of Halloween.

Samhain and All Hallow's Eve, leading up to All Saint's Day. The time of year the world could be taken over with a Zombie apocolypse. Funny isn't it? The oxymoronish title of a History Channel program, Zombie: A Living History. Yes, in my quest to understand everything Zombie, I watched with eagerness as the history of the living dead revealed countless stories of brutality. One such story revealed Zeus' father, Cronus, ate his first five sons so they could not take his throne. Zeus, hidden by his mother, Rhea, at birth, eventually returned to kill Cronus and lead the Titan world into Legend. The first flesh eater?

Dating back to prehistoric times, man learned to surround himself with tomb-like walls in order to protect himself and his clan from danger. Throughout history, from Rome and Vikings, to Huns and disease, man grew to fear what happened to bodies after death. Interesting is the idea that we bury the dead underground, place bodies in tombs, and even arrange corpses carefully so that the undead cannot escape the earthy sarcophagus. Some ancient bodies were ceremonially buried with stones in mouths so the undead could not come back to eat living flesh.

Lots of important lessons on the History Channel. Even a lesson on how to kill the undead. Helpful tip: keep a machete or a sharpened shovel nearby.

For kicks and grins, check out Cracked.com for the 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocolpyse Could Actually Happen.

So after watching the History Channel, I got to pondering... (We all know how dangerous that can be.) In the writing world, how do you vanquish the book that will not die? I'm talking about the undead manuscript. One by one, books like these gather under writer's beds, collecting dust, forgotten on the carpet of neglect. Buried unceremoniously, these zombies disrupt dreams, steal thoughts away from new projects, gum the very tender flesh off the muse until only pulp is left behind. Like a world overrun by a zombie horde, there is always the thought, 'can this book can be saved?'

I've been wondering about this lately. A couple of my books have finaled in contests, but not gone any farther. I've had requests for partials and fulls and great revision suggestions on a particular book. I want to make it sing but when do you ceremoniously bury a book with stones so it can't come back to bite you?

How do you rid your bedroom of the Zombie Bookalypse? Surely a machete could be useful against the paper horde but what would that do to your feather pillows?

How do YOU kill a story that NEVER dies?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is a Slut Going to Be the Next Heroine Protagonist?

Okay, listen here…I have heard just about everything and why am I surprised? We are all writers, some aspiring and some of our lucky friends published. We all share the dream of being a “New York Times Bestseller.” But really, what I have seen lately has disheartened me greatly.

Ira Krasnow, a journalist, blogger on the Huffington Post AND “New York Times Bestselling Author”, has recently published a book called “The Secret Lives of Wives.” The book is a culmination of interviews with two hundred women and over two years of research. In the book, Krasnow talks about how women keep a marriage going. And do you know what? In one chapter, the book states that cheating might be a way to spice up the marriage! She interviewed women who advocate open marriage, swinging and, the time-honored simply cheating. The author states that in her twenty-three year marriage she and her husband have remained monogamous and she doesn’t condone it. Yeah right, this chapter alone has made her newsworthy – being on the “Today” show and having numerous newspaper articles written about this very issue (Sales anyone?). In her defense, she states that new statistics show that eighty percent of men and sixty percent of women would cheat if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. So is cheating the answer to a long marriage? I seriously doubt it. See article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/11/the-secret-lives-of-wives-is-cheating-the-secret-to-a-happy-marriage.html

My major beef with this book is that we, as writers, strive to be published and we work hard at it. Then someone comes along with such drivel and instantly this person will skyrocket to the top of the bestseller lists because of such controversy (watch this book people – it will make the bestseller lists, you just wait and see). And since we write romance, should we consider putting in a little cheating between the heroine and some other guy, just to keep things interesting? I can already hear the screams of outrage and the “no’s!” but would you let me know your opinion on this? Should we keep up with the trends and write the cheating into our stories? I for one do not think so. People want a happy ending (see Jean’s blog yesterday). They want romance and not some slut running around on her boyfriend or husband (who wants to identify with that?). Let me know if you think a “cheating heart” is the next great phase in romance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

And They Lived HEA

I read and enjoy all kinds of genres, but I know without a doubt what brings me back to romance every single time—it's the Happily Ever After.

I wanted Rhett to come back. I wanted Romeo and Juliet to run away to Paris. I wanted Jenny Cavalleri Barrett to live. I wanted Daisy and Jay Gatsby to—well, I don't know what. Daisy didn't deserve anything. I guess I wanted someone to love Jay for who he was and not all his silk shirts. And just once, I'd like the Great Pumpkin to visit Linus in his sincere pumpkin patch.

Yet, I love all those stories. Recently, I was reading a wonderfully written book that I knew wasn't going to end well and I found myself thinking of what I was going to read next—the book that I knew would get me some surefire joy. I loved the book, but I knew when I finished I needed something that would make me laugh and cry, but—most of all—smile at the end.

Do you read different genres? What's your favorite?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lynn Raye Harris' Jambalaya

Gang, I am really sorry!  I posted this recipe and didn't include the second page.  Many thanks to Jean for catching it.  I have corrected the problem. 

Here is a recipe from the fabulous Lynn Raye Harris. 

In my latest book, The Man With the Money, Cara Taylor is from New Orleans, so I could definitely see her making jambalaya for her hero!

I’ve made jambalaya the hard way (peeling tomatoes) and the easy way (using canned tomatoes). I like the easy way better. Basically, jambalaya is a mix of rice, tomatoes, seasonings, and whatever meat you have handy. I’ve made it with chicken, ham, sausage, and even shrimp. This is the basic version with sausage, but you could toss in another meat if you want variety!

Easy Jambalaya

1/4 cup olive oil (this is probably not exact, as I eyeball it)

1 large chopped onion

2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped celery (optional)

1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice

(1 can spicy Rotel tomatoes are optional)

1 lb Andouille sausage, hot (can substitute smoked sausage)

2 cups long grain rice

2 to 3 cans beef broth

1/2 cup chopped green onions

Chopped parsley (to taste)

Cajun seasoning (Zatarains, Slap ya Mama, etc)

Red pepper flakes

Saute onion, garlic, and celery on medium-high in olive oil until translucent. (Best to use a Dutch oven to cook in because the rice will expand. Unless you have a huge skillet.) Add chopped sausage, cook for a few minutes to heat through. Add 2 cups rice. Stir frequently. You only want to let the rice brown just a tiny bit. Add tomatoes with juice.

(If you’ve chosen to use the Rotel, add those too.) If you’ve used hot Cajun sausage, no need for seasoning or pepper flakes.

If you’ve used smoked sausage, you’ll want to season to taste. Start slowly, because you can add more as you add the beef broth. Add enough beef broth to cover everything. Turn heat down to simmer, place lid on pot and let rice steam. You’ll have to check from time to time to see if you need more broth (don’t let the rice burn!). Stir and add broth and seasonings as necessary. Once the rice is tender and the broth cooked down, turn off the heat and add the chopped green onions and parsley. Stir. Serve with crusty French bread and wine or beer!

You’ll notice I don’t use salt. You can, but I don’t think you’ll need it when using canned tomatoes. They already have enough sodium to lift the blood pressure. *g*

And that’s it! Very easy, really. I hope you enjoy!

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. You can learn more about Lynn and her books at http://www.lynnrayeharris.com/. You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLynnRayeHarris

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Man with the Money

We are so excited to have the fabulous Lynn Raye Harris blogging with us today and sharing her recipe tomorow!  We have scheduled this blog to work with the release of her newest book not realizing at the time that Lynn would be out of the country in London when the blog occured.  (Lucky her!) Lynn plans to make an appearance at some point today, if possible.

Please, join us in welcoming Lynn Raye Harris visit with us under the tulip tree:

I’ve written twelve books for Harlequin since I sold in 2008, but this book marks my first time being asked to participate in an editor-driven continuity. Basically, what happens is that the editors brainstorm a set of stories that are connected in some way and then ask the authors to write them. The Notorious Wolfes (called Bad Blood in the UK) are a family of eight siblings – seven brothers and one sister. They had a crazy father. Seriously, the dude was awful. Check out this gorgeous video trailer that Harlequin made to promote the series.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to rush right out and read them all! Scandal, secrets, bad boys. Yum!

My brother, Jack Wolfe, is a loner. He’s also a risk-taker, and he usually gets what he wants. He likes high-stakes card games, though the rush he gets from them is only temporary.

Until he meets Cara Taylor, the croupier who deals him his latest winning hand. Cara has issues of her own. She’s trying to take care of her family back home in New Orleans, and her boss wants her to throw the game she’s dealing.

Things don’t quite go as expected, of course, and Jack and Cara suddenly find themselves on the run across France. I had fun writing this story. It was a challenge to write to someone else’s predetermined plot, but I still had a lot of freedom within the framework. I’m proud of the story that resulted! I loved Jack, and I thought Cara was a worthy heroine for him. I hope you’ll agree!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Jack…Red-Hot. Renegade. Restless.

Notorious gambler Jack no longer gets a buzz from the risks he takes at the card table. In fact it bores him. Until one night he wins more than he ever bargained for…

His prize is stunning Cara Taylor – she might be down on her luck but she certainly doesn’t need rescuing by a card-shark like Jack! Now she’s stuck with him she doesn’t know whether to love him or loathe him.

One lucky commenter today will get a signed copy of The Man With the Money!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ghost Radar

Ah! October, the month of everything scary, creepy. Fun times with the macabre. Thrills with decorations, costumes and the occasional joke. Who wouldn't impressed? From the small child to the doubting adult, there is much to ponder about All Hallow's Eve.

I know for a fact that Halloween is one of Jean's favorite times of the year. The blog thread this week is a prime example and fitting tribute for the end of the month. I've not been fortunate to have seen a ghost as some of our posters have, but I've definitely felt odd sensations, heard my name being called and so forth. Of course, being an intelligent adult, my first course of action is to debunk the experiences like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International.

A funny thing happened to me this week, however. When I got to work, a couple of the guys were checking out an ap on their iphone called Ghost Radar. Apparently, this ap is free on the net. Download it and watch the scope cycle before you, catching unknown specters within your field of vision or a certain distance away.

Not only does this meter calculate where the specters are in your vicinity, it names them. Charles haunts our breakroom and something named Dark lingers in the hallway. The PRO Shop department is riddled with activity as is the back room, according to the scan. Our Ops team hears activity while working in the wee hours of the morning every day.

Do spirits of Native American Indians walk our halls? Could these be Civil War soldiers killed in battle? Settlers who died from sickness or mishap? Like Poltergeist, I'm inclined to wonder if our store wasn't built upon unknown graves.

Whatever the case, I'm thinking Ghost Radar is an uber cool device. Dare I use it at home where #2 claims to have seen three people standing in her doorway? Stay tuned...

What do you think about Ghost Radar and would you be interested in using it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Resident Ghost

After Jean’s blog yesterday, I have been thinking of all the times I have truly been scared in my life and, you know, it hasn’t been that many. Oh there have been health scares and emotional scares but nothing on the order of being so afraid that I have to cover my head with the sheets, afraid to look out into the darkness of my bedroom.

I have lived in this house for nearly thirteen years and have never been afraid to be alone here. My husband works odd hours and frequently I have been here without any one except the dogs and cats. I probably should be afraid because I have a ghost who shares this house with us.

We built this house and no one has ever lived in it before us. The land where it’s built used to be farmed and to the knowledge of the old-timers around here, there has never been a house on this spot. I have no clue why he just showed up one day but he did. I say “he” because I have caught glimpses of him moving back and forth from my husband’s closet to my closet or moving down the back hallway in the middle of the night. He’s short, like me and slight of build, usually dressed in older clothes, maybe the early 1900’s. If he notices that I see him, he simply dissolves. The first few times I happen to see him I thought I was imagining it, then I actually came face-to-face with him in my bedroom. He wore a shocked expression and simply faded into my husband’s closet. The Doberman and one of the cats immediately went into the closet, both of them growling. The cat stayed there all night, refusing to budge one inch. I finally removed the cat and promised the little guy that the cat didn’t mean anything (sounds a bit crazy writing this but I do talk to him).

Most people enter this house unnoticed by him. He makes no move against people, seemingly content to simply wander. He bothers no one except for my new housekeeper. The first time she entered the study and I was explaining what I wanted her to do in there, dusting etc., a book from across the room came flying off the shelf and hit her squarely in the back. We both looked at each other, surprised, and quickly left the room. She still refuses to go into the study to this day. I grumble at him for making me dust all those books.

I have also noticed that he seems to get agitated if there is conflict in the house. If I have an argument with my husband you can bet your last dollar that something of mine is going to end up missing the next day if I started the argument. If my husband started it, he loses something. I guess the little guy doesn’t like drama. We laugh about it but it can be quite annoying. The last thing he took was all of my eyeliner pencils. Odd things to take but he did. It was exasperating when I started to put on my make-up and they weren’t there. I patiently explained to empty air that we aren’t mad, just having a discussion. Usually, within a couple of weeks, things that were taken will come back but not in the place where they belong (I have bought all new eyeliner pencils because the old ones haven’t appeared yet; I’m still waiting). One particular incident that I still think about is the back of an earring that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It is very unusual and ornate. I was putting the earrings on in a hurry and dropped it. I know where the dang thing hit and bent over to pick it up but it wasn’t there. I searched and searched but no earring back. My husband and I continued to search, even emptying the vacuum cleaner bag after we vacuumed the entire area. Nothing. About two months later I was getting dressed and walked into the bedroom. There sitting in the middle of my dresser was the earring back. It hadn’t been there a few minutes before. I profusely thanked the little guy for returning it; thankful that I didn’t have to have one made to match the other earring back.

A lot of people ask my why I don’t ask him to leave or force him to leave. Well, he isn’t bothering anyone except for the little items, like keys or make-up that he takes. Why would I? I find the whole thing interesting.

Do you believe in ghosts? What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced, paranormal or not? Would you be afraid to share a house with a ghost?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Things That Go Bump on the Page

In spite of the fact that my book club is made up of a bunch of rule followers, we don't have a lot of rules. I know people who belong to the "two classics, one current bestseller, don't come to drink if you haven't read the book" kind of book club. That's not us. We just make a list in December for the new year of what strikes our fancy.

But we do like for our October book to fit with the season. Last year we read Blood Born by Linda Howard and Linda Winstead Jones. We had planned to read the sequel this month, but, as happens in the world of publishing, its release was moved back. So in August, we had to make a decision quick.

Precious to the rescue. "The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice," she said. That was fine with me. I'd read it before, maybe fifteen years ago. In fact, I'd read, and liked, the entire Mayfair Witches series.

Trouble was, though I knew the gist of the story, I couldn't remember the details. This is unusual for me, as I love details and hold them dear. So I began to reread.

Soon, I discovered why I didn't remember the fine points of the story. I think I blocked it out because it scared me so bad. I don't remember being scared when I read it before but I must have been because I became terrified the second go round. I was so scared I could only read a little at a time, so I did not finish before book club met. I learned I was not alone. No one had finished and it had scared everyone. In fact, we plan to finish the discussion next month and put off Catcher In the Rye until January.

How rational is that? The only book that scared me more was Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I couldn't finish it. I didn't even consider watching the movie.

Ever had a book or movie scare you so much you couldn’t finish?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Recipe Friday--Buffalo Chicken Cheese Dip

I wish someone would tell me why this is called Buffalo. There is no buffalo in it. Though, when I was in Atlanta at Moonlight and Magnolias I ate at a place that had buffalo. I did not get it. I wasn't really opposed to it, but I got fish. I almost always get fish. I'll even eat a fish stick.

Anyway, this is a good game day dip. The first time I had it was when Dr. Great Smile brought it to the beach.


  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar Marzetti's blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce, mild
  • 1 8-oz.pkg. cream cheese softened
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)

Boil chicken until tender and chop finely. Mix together dressing and Buffalo sauce. Use Tabasco sauce to fire it up to your desire. Spread cream cheese in a 9x13 baking dish. Mix chicken with dressing. Then pour over chicken mixture over cream cheese evenly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with corn chips.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Clubs, Good Idea or Bad?

I have been giving some thought to the subject of book clubs.  I have been in book clubs in years past and even started one when I lived in Tuscumbia.  I have generally felt that my book clubs were a very positive experiences. 

Pantster and I are currently working on a series of stories that has a group of women who are in a book club.  Book club is where they all meet and share what is going on in their lives.  Of course, like many book clubs it is really more of a "Lets get together to eat, drink and talk about life--oh, and we sometimes read a book. "  This summer when we pitched our book we had someone  say that she thought  that things like book clubs and knitting clubs might be heading toward being cliched.

Pantster and I tried to think of some other reason that our southern gals would be getting together. We thought about a lot of different things like a cooking club, poker night, or even a shooting club where they all went the the range to practice their shooting.  At the end of the day, we decided that our characters wanted a book club so we let them stay in one. 

My question to you all is, do you think book clubs and clubs like them have become over used and trite or do you still enjoy reading about the adventures of people in them?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Legends of the Fall

Fall is what it is, legends and all. (Cue Sleepy Hollow, Halloween & Thanksgiving)

The obvious and most notable change during autumn can be found in trees, old, new, Maple or Oak. Whatever genus, the colorful display never ceases to amaze. One can perfectly understand why Leaf Watching is so popular in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

Here in Alabama, we take whatever pleasure we can get. Some seasons we're treated to a magestic display. Most of the time, we see leaves on the trees and then we don't. They're gone in a wink, floating on the breeze. No one likes to rake them up, but the piles are oh! so fun to jump on when the raking is done.

There's also nothing like walking on leaves in the woods. Brittle and noisy beneath adventurous feet, the world is a different place when a carpet of spent leaves covers the ground.

Leaves are symbolic of life. They wither and die only to be reborn in a fresh new display every spring, shielding heads from the heat of the day in summer or bracing against storms which pop up unannounced. Trees are a testament of time, patience and endurance. Like families do, branches spread out to cluster and build the canopy that protects the main stem.

As the years come and go, people are like seasons. Mankind goes through the same sort of metamorphosis. For many, Fall is a favorite time of life. Here children are grown, life settles down and couples share time alone for the first time in many, many years (unless your mother moves in). For me, Fall is Football, sweaters, boots, Burnt Sienna, Pumpkins, Spice, Cider, Hot Chocolate, everything that whispers winter is on its way. It's time to slow down, to take stock in the joys of life and remember to be thankful to God, those you love and those who've helped you get from Spring to Summer and Fall.

Julie Andrews sang about her favorite things in The Sound of Music. What are your favorite things about fall? What thrills you as winter approaches?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Casper - the Friendly Horse

When Allah created the horse, he said to the wind, 'I will that a creature proceed from thee. Condense thyself.' And the wind condensed itself, and the result was the horse. -- King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, 1948

Nothing in the world is as beautiful as a horse running in the wind, free just as God or Allah made him. I have always loved horses since I was old enough to follow them around in the pasture and scare my mother to death. Their form and their beauty is noble and wondrous. Nothing can compare.

Even the ugliest of horses has his merit. Meet Casper, the friendly horse.

Poor Casper, when looks were being given out, he must have been hiding behind the door. A purebred Appaloosa, he is what is called tick-seeded because of the gray dots under his white hair. He’s a tad overweight and doesn’t like to move too quickly. But when God was handing out good dispositions, this horse got a double helping. Gentle and patient, he is the only horse we own that I feel comfortable letting non-horse people ride. He seems to understand that he has a job to do – teach these people to love horses.

Casper joined our family about three years ago. His previous owner, sure that he was foundered, had made the decision to have poor Casper euthanized. He was being boarded with us and I had grown to love his gentle, easy nature. When I heard what was to be his fate, I immediately offered money for him which was gladly accepted. I was left with a lame horse but I didn’t think he was beyond redemption. Foundered means that the blood supply to the coffin bone in the hoof has been compromised and the bone turns causing the hoof to drop off from the leg. (Barbaro was put down because he foundered after breaking his leg in the Preakness). A horse this kind surely deserved a chance. The old saying - One white foot, buy a horse; two white feet, try a horse; three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, do without him – wasn’t even being considered by me. Casper has four white hooves but I couldn’t do without him. White hooves are not as strong as black ones and can cause the horse a lot of trouble. I had his hooves x-rayed and the coffin bones were fine – no founder. After a year of corrective shoeing, Casper could run and cavort with the other horses in the pasture.

If you look closely at him you can see that early in his life he suffered some sort of severe trauma to his neck.

The vet seems to think that a stallion must have grabbed him by the neck, leaving some serious indentations. Those dips are deep but he doesn’t care. Casper isn’t worried about being a beauty. He only worries about when he is going to eat again or get his head rubbed.

So you see, Casper has had some tribulations in his life but he has kept a good outlook. A gentle soul. When I noticed the other day that there were some small lesions in his right eye, I immediately called the vet. There are so many infections that can blind a horse; I knew treatment was imperative. I never expected the vet to examine the horse and then give me the LOOK. I’ve seen that before - three times before three horses died. I bit my bottom lip and asked what the vet thought these were. Squamous cell carcinoma. This is a cancer that is common in Appaloosas, especially white ones. Only a biopsy could tell if this was what Casper had. I set up the biopsy for today, Tuesday October 11th. The results won’t be back for a few days. If it is cancer, they will remove the eye. If it hasn’t spread, Casper may be all right. If it has metastasized, he will only live around a year or so. I dread the results.

As I sit and wait for the boys to take him to the vet, I wonder why I do this to myself. Why do I have pets? But, a wiser person than me said something one time that makes me glad that I saved Casper – Without knowing him, I would never have known his love. So today, please remember Casper – he deserves it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Too Much Stuff

I was sitting there trying, and mostly failing, to understand the shirts in the Signals catalog. I gave up. Understanding those shirts is like trying to get the jokes written on the whiteboard on the Big Bang Theory. I never will. The Guy, Godson's Mom, and Godson's Dad are science people and they laugh their fannies off, but I've taught them to stop trying to explain whiteboard jokes to me. Some things are better left elusive and I am not a whiteboard kind of person. Though I could be. There are three in this house. Three. Nobody needs that many whiteboards.

Nobody needs half the stuff we have. I grew up with a woman who couldn't stand a lot of stuff. We had one stapler and two pairs of scissors—one for fabric and one for paper. We had one pencil sharpener. For a long time we only had one Magic Marker at a time—black. She finally gave in and let us have a red one too. There were no whiteboards. Of course, I don't think whiteboards existed back then. My niece is just like my mother. Can't stand a lot of stuff. Sold her girls' Madam Alexander dolls in a yard sale when they got too old for them. I feel the pain. My mother gave away Barbie and Ken. She asked me first and I said yes, but, at 14, how was to know what they'd be worth?

I don't think there was as much stuff back then. Certainly not as many choices.

This is what I remember being available:

  • Cheese: Velveeta, American, cheddar, Swiss, bleu, and parmesan in a green shaker can.
  • Laundry detergent (which we called washing powder): Tide, Cheer, and Ivory Snow.
  • Coffee: Maxwell House, Eight O'clock, and Luzianne (which my mother disdained.)
  • Salad dressing: French, 1000 Island, Bleu Cheese, Green Goddess.. There must have been Italian but I don’t remember it at my house.
  • Bread: White and Rye.
  • Shampoo: Breck, Prell, and Head and Shoulders.
  • Soap: Dial, Lava, Ivory, Camay.

Not that I'm saying it was better then. No. I like a lot of choices. I like cheese with names I can't pronounce. But, Sometimes, when I'm trying to buy steak sauce, my head starts spinning. In the days when there was only A-1 and Heinz 57, it was hard to make a mistake. Picking a steak sauce is a lot of responsibility these days.

Are you overwhelmed by choices and stuff?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Recipe Firday--White Chicken Chili

I am so grateful that we finally have football weather to go with football season. As soon as there is the least bit of nip in the air, I think of chili, so I made this earlier this week. It was just as good as I remembered. I got the recipe from new Harlequin Desire author and fabulous cook, Andrea Laurence. You should sash shay over to her Facebook fan page and like her.
( https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/AuthorAndreaLaurence) There is a lot to like about her. Her first book, What Lies Beneath, will be out next April so you'll have to wait a bit to see what a great writer she is. But meanwhile, you can have her chili.

This recipe makes a lot and you won't be sorry. As good as it is in a bowl with some cornbread, it makes great nachos. And it freezes nicely.

Roll Tide, Roll.

White Chicken Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 C water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground oregano
4 cans (15 oz) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 cans (14 oz) white corn
2 cans (4.5 oz) green chilies, chopped
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
3 T lime juice

Garnishes – lime wedges, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc.

Sauté onion in olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium high heat 7 minutes; add garlic, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of water and next 5 ingredients.

Place two cans of beans in a food processor; add broth and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Stir bean puree, remaining 2 cans of beans, corn and chilies into mixture in the pot.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add cooked, shredded chicken. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Stir in lime juice just before serving.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Health Tips???

I am in the midst of suffering with a fall cold.  I have been to the doctor who was very understanding and prescribed some really, really good medicine but I can't quite seem to shake the cough and general yucky feeling.

Of course, as we all know life must go on, including the blog.  I am excited that this month we will have guest bloggers Lynn Raye Harris on Thursday, the 20th and she will share a recipe for Recipe Friday on the 21st.  Then Debbie Giusti will visit with us on the 27th and share a recipe on Friday the 28th.  I heard the rumor that she was going to share a pie recipe.  Pie is one of my favorite food groups so I am hoping the rumor is correct. 

Okay, so now back to the topic of the day...health tips....Do you have any tips for me on getting over an old fashioned cold?  Or at least getting through the days with one?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Four Weeks In

There are good things about post neck surgery I rather enjoy. For instance, for 3 weeks I couldn't pick up anything heavier than a dinner plate and everyone fluttered around me reminding me of that fact. I'm now at the 4 week stage, so I can lift heavier things like a clothes basket while I'm doing laundry. Not bad!

I attended the Moonlight & Magnolia Conference where peeps Tricia Mills and Kimberly Lang won Maggie Awards. (Congrats, ladies!) Though I'm embarrassed to say I missed the ceremony because I was in my room trying to get my neck to relax from all the many wonderful workshops I attended. Pooh!

Back to the real world this week. Today, I tried to vacuum. Got much of the lower floor done before my neck started throbbing. Apparently, one uses more muscles in the neck than imagined. Took a break and laid down to relax. Okay, vacuuming is out for now. Woo-hoo for me!! A good thing! Something I can tell my hubby I'm not ready for yet. (Pirate!)

Mom pitched in and finished vacuuming for me. Yay!

So the lesson learned this week?

I still have a way to go and I'm sure there will be more steps in which I can better gauge my recovery. But the great thing is my pain is gone and the writing is flowing freely for the first time in two years. Gotta love modern medicine and the miracles the Lord grants us!

I always say a day shouldn't go by that nothing is learned. What have you learned this past week? Or is there anything particular you'd like to learn?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Magficent Local Cathedral

Last Sunday my husband and I were on break from travelling to the Plains so we decided to resume our local tours of area attractions. I grew up in this area and had heard boys back in high school talk about Cathedral Caverns. At that time the place was privately owned and not open to the public. These boys used to go help the owner and in return got to explore the cave. I had never been and, since the State of Alabama now owns it, I wanted to go see the park and take the tour.

We loaded up and headed for Grant, Alabama, a small town just north of Guntersville. Some of my friends had been recommending a little diner there, Mime’s, so we decided to eat lunch early then continue on our way to the caves. The diner is on the main road that runs through Grant and is just before DAR School if you are headed north. It’s located in a small house that you might miss if you aren’t looking for it. We pulled into the tiny parking lot at eleven (it opens at ten on Sundays) and went inside. The interior is kind of over-done with murals but it was clean and pleasant. The menu consists of three meats, about twelve vegetables and three desserts. You get to order one meat, three vegetables and one dessert. I ordered the fried chicken, squash casserole, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese (I know, starch overload) and banana pudding. I can honestly say that this was the best fried chicken I have had in a long time. It tasted like my grandmother’s, which meant they had to have soaked the chicken in buttermilk before flouring it. The vegetables were good. All in all, it was a lovely little country restaurant with good soul food. I would recommend it to any of you if you get the chance to head to Grant.

Finished with lunch, we continued on our journey. Just up the road is DAR School. We stopped at the scenic overlook in front of the school and snapped this picture.

It was a beautiful, almost-fall day and the beauty berries were gorgeous. As we stood there, the chimes at the school were playing old-time gospel songs like the kind I grew up singing in a backwoods Baptist church. It made me very nostalgic and I wanted to stay to hear others but we had to get to the caverns.

Cathedral Caverns was about seven miles north of Grant, down a winding road. It has a beautiful little gift shop/snack area in front of the cave opening.

We bought our tickets ($12 for adults) and waited until the next tour (each tour lasts about an hour and a half). Be sure to time your arrival accordingly because the tours start at 10:00 am and are run every two hours. We missed the twelve o’clock tour and had to wait for the next one at 2 pm. In the meantime, I walked around the tiny gift shop and looked at the rocks and displays. I ended up buying some crystals and a moonstone. Don’t know why, but rocks (not just diamonds) appeal to me.

At 2:00, our guide appeared and led us down the trail to the opening of the cave. He said that this is the largest opening of any cave in the United States which is being operated for tours. The outer portion of the cave was used by early Native Americans (8,000 years ago) as a central area for hunting. A little deeper in the mouth of the cave, artifacts have been discovered that date to the Civil War. He said that local legend had deserters from both armies hiding out in the caves at that time.

We entered the double gates and started our descent. It was kind of dark and there was water in places on the sidewalk so be sure to wear good walking shoes (no sandals because you will get wet). Our guide said because of the construction of the walkways, the natural ponds in the cave were disrupted so artificial ones had to be built. It seems that caves, to continue “living”, have to have plentiful water sources. Just before you enter the back part of the cave, the State has erected glass doors that are closed to keep the moisture inside. Humidity inside the cave is great and my hair immediately began to fall and straighten.

The first structure we came to was “Goliath”, a huge column standing in the middle of a pond of water. I believe the guide said it was the largest column found in any cave.

The crack in the base was caused by the earthquake in the 1800’s, the one that caused the Mississippi to flow backward.

We passed the frozen river that was a marvel to see. It was a huge wall of flowstone caused by constantly running water over the face of the stones.

I snapped a picture of this stalagmite which, to me, resembled Santa Claus with a cane.

We finally entered the area that gave the cave its name – The Cathedral Room. The two columns at its entrance are magnificent.

There are so many beautiful stalagmites and stalactites in that area. It really is a marvel to see and experience.

The tour ended at the back of the cave to the point where walkways have been built. The guide said that the cave went back another mile and there were many more beautiful rooms which are not accessible to the public. However, there is something called “The Wild Tour” which lasts about six hours and you can scramble and climb the rocks to get to those rooms. It’s tempting…

Have you ever been spelunking? It never appealed to me before (I hate closed places and the dark) but this place definitely inspired me. To what, I don’t know, maybe insanity if I consider that tour. Tell me about any of the caves you’ve visited. Or better yet, tell me a new adventure to go on that is local. Maybe I’ll drag you along for the ride!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recipe Friday on Monday Or How I Erred

Okay, so I just left one little part out. I have a reason. I was getting ready to go to Moonlight and Magnolias, a wonderful writers' conference sponsored by the Georgia Romance Writers' chapter of RWA. It was Wednesday. I was flying by the seat of my pants. Then I thought, "Recipe Friday! Oh, no!" Kathy was also going to M&M. I almost called Cheryl or Stephanie to do the recipe but I decided I could do it quick and move on.

Which I did. Quick doesn't always equal okay. When I got back, I had an email from a confused Cheryl. So I am reposing Friday's recipe, with the correction in bold. Actually, this works out. I am way too sleepy to blog about what I was going to blog about.

Apologies and Cheers!

Amaretto Punch

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1 (46 ounce) can unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1 (12 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
  • 1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 cups Amaretto
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract

Make a simple syrup by combining sugar and boiling water. Cool, mix with other ingredients, and put in quart containers or plastic freezer bags Freeze. Take out at needed and let stand at room temperature until slushy.