Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hip, hip, hoo-ray! Be your own cheerleader by Cynthia Thomason

Some of you already know about my latest misfortune, but for those who don’t, on Sept. 20, while visiting my daughter on her South Carolina farm, I fell through a rotted step and broke both my ankles. Now, mind you, this was after spending two months in the North Carolina mountains, climbing 15 wooden steps every time I went outdoors, and never even getting a splinter. But once at sea level again, I made a complete klutz of myself.

The accident was terrifying for the most part. I couldn’t walk. I was fifty minutes from the nearest hospital in Aiken, South Carolina. I had no way to continue my journey to my home in south Florida. The hospital misdiagnosed my injuries. They were actually worse than first thought and while my daughter kindly offered to drive me back to Fort Lauderdale, we had to stop at an emergency room on I-95 to receive the care I really needed. Once home, I had surgery, one leg healed rather quickly making me more mobile, but my other leg had so many pins and rods that the xray looked like the surgeon was building a tree house in my ankle. But, happy to report, the surgery was a success and I’m getting better every day.

I contemplated weeping my days away on the sofa with a box of tissues and a straw long enough to reach to the kitchen. I deserved to feel depressed and picked on by Fate, didn’t I? But I then realized that only one person could make me feel better about my situation – me! So I allowed my helpful friends to take me shopping, and I decorated my little condo to reflect the glories of Fall, my favorite season. I bought a $20.00 artificial tree from Wal-Mart and covered it in candy corn lights and fall leaves. I filled the house with scented spice candles and watched old sitcoms, avoiding tv dramas. And I read some wonderful romantic comedies by some of my favorite authors.

I expect to be walking without any aids in two or three weeks but in the meantime I’ll keep learning about what makes me happy, and what I can do to end each day with a smile. I’m wondering what you do to cheer yourself. If a good book is part of your depression solution, I ‘d love to know the title.
Thanks, and try reading THIS HERO FOR HIRE. It has some cheer-you-up scenes.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven by Liz Flaherty

        Do you remember that commercial for…something…that said, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven”? It was on TV, oh, a long time ago. I think maybe I remember it in black and white.
          Personally, I never subscribed to that. I thought nothin’ said lovin’ like going out to dinner when I was tired. Or nothin’ satisfied like my beloved cooking while I read. Or maybe nothin’ got the point across like ordering pizza.
          That was before I had grandchildren. And now, to me, nothin’ says lovin’ like filling the cookie jar with things that will put smiles and crumbs on their faces. There’s another part to that little homily, too, a shameless plug part. All of us here are authors for Harlequin’s delicious Heartwarming line and we all know nothin’ says lovin’ like a new Heartwarming book. Go ahead. Take your choice. We’ll wait.
          I’ve become a recipe saver. Not only do I have a ton of cookbooks—a few of which were my grandmother’s—but I print many off the internet and stuff them willy nilly into a binder which I will someday organize. Ahem. Maybe. Here is my favorite new one, fresh from Lauren’s Latest. The only change I make to it is that I bake these for an extra 30 seconds. I hope you like them. Enjoy.

Soft Glazed Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
The perfect sugar cookie for Fall! Sweet, spicy and soft!
yield: 3-4 DOZEN

prep time: 20 MINUTES

cook time: 8 MINUTES

total time: 28 MINUTES
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree {canned pumpkin}
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
for the glaze-
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, stir butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs together until incorporated and smooth. Slowly mix in all dry ingredients until completely incorporated. Scoop onto prepared baking sheet using 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop and flatten to 1/2 inch thick using the bottom of a glass. If the dough is sticking to the glass, press the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar before flattening. Bake 8-9 minutes.
While cookies bake, stir all ingredients together for glaze until smooth.
Once cookies are finished baking, cool 3 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons glaze over each warm cookie. Let glaze harden 2-3 hours before serving. OR eat them warm with lots of runny glaze :)

This delicious recipe brought to you by LAUREN'S LATEST

Monday, October 20, 2014

It Worked For Cinderella by Linda Hope Lee

     I love to hear how people meet their mates. Was the meeting by coincidence? Or by design?
     Some of the stories I have heard include meeting through a common interest. Introduction by a friend or a relative or an online matchmaking service is often a means.
     Attending the same school also brings people together.
     That was how Maryann met Eldon.
     Maryann went to college in the 'forties. As a new freshman, she attended a dance, in those days known as a "mixer."
     "I wasn't going to go," she said, "but my roommate talked me into it. The dance hadn't been underway very long when the bandleader stepped to the mic and told all the men to line up on one side of the room and all the women on the other. I couldn't imagine what that was for, but then he told us women to take off one of our shoes and toss it across the room to the men. Each man was to capture a shoe and find its owner for the next dance.
     "I was wearing a new pair of high heels, red with ribbon bows. I didn't really want to part with one of them but to be a good sport, I pulled off one and gave it a good toss.
     "The place got pretty crazy with the men scrambling first for a shoe and then to find its owner. People were pairing up and dancing, and I was still standing there waiting. I began to worry. Maybe my shoe landed in a corner and no one found it.
     "Then I spotted a man holding my shoe aloft and searching the crowd. "Over here!" I called and waved.
     "'I found you at last,' he said when he reached my side. 'Now we'll see if this glass slipper fits.'
     "I stuck out my foot for him to put on the shoe. 'Okay, Cinderella,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, 'let's dance.'
     "And we did, for the rest of the evening and for years after that. We've had a wonderful life together. I'm so glad I went to that dance!"
     Do you have a first meeting story to share?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Sit-Down with Cynthia Thomason

Today we’re celebrating the release of THIS HERO FOR HIRE

So, Cynthia Thomason, where did you get the idea for this novel? I am a huge political junkie, and I’ve wanted to do a story about a “wild child” heroine who could make life difficult for her politician father. Add in a cowboy/cop assigned to protect her and keep her out of trouble and bingo! The makings of a romance. Plus, my son is into organic farming now, and I figured that would make an interesting subplot. We all want to stay healthy, right? 

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? 
How did I, small town cop, Boone Braddock, get roped into this ticklish assignment?”  For myself, I’d say, “What could be better than a cop/cowboy for a hero?”   

How long did it take you to write?
Close to six months. I had quite a bit of research to do for this story so much of my time was taken up with that.  

What is your favorite scene? 
The opening “meet.” The heroine is saving a truckload of chickens from drowning. She is covered in chicken poop and feathers while opening cage doors. The hero has come to arrest her. He finds out an hour later that this lawbreaker is the woman he is supposed to protect.  

Who was your favorite character and why? 
I suppose Boone is my favorite. He always tries to do the right thing. But he’s only human and suffers bouts of jealousy over his brother who has a family and kids, things Boone wants. He has to fight his attraction to troublemaker Susannah, and his desire conflicts with his ethics.  

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be? 
I’d pick John Cusack to play Boone. I’ve always liked John’s little-boy innocence, almost as if he were saying, “How did I get into this mess?”

I’d pick a blond Emma Stone to play Susannah. There is always some mischief in Emma’s roles.  

Tell us one thing you learned during research. 
Wow, I learned so much about organic farming, pesticides and fertilizers. I can’t say that I’ve become a total convert to organic produce, but I’ve certainly begun to think about changing my ways.

What music would match the mood of this novel? 
Country, of course. “Rock me, Mamma, like a wagon wheel...” Susannah does rock Boone’s world.

This is your 29th book book.  Exactly what does that mean to you? It means I hope each book is a little better than the last. And I hope I keep touching readers with my stories.

What do you plan to work on next? 
I have a book coming out in early 2015. It’s a mother/son plot with an American hero, an injured pilot, thrown in. It’s funny and heartwarming and I hope readers like it. I don’t have a title yet.

What are you reading for pleasure right now? 
Adriana Trigiani’s Brava Valentine. I’ve never been to Italy, but this book transports me there in a most delightful way – an Italian wedding!  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Iced Tea -- Nector for the Time

I have a friend in D.C. that I've known since I graduated from college.  She’s a neo-natal
Credit: Free Images
nurse at the Howard University Hospital.  We met when she was in nursing school.  I’d majored in chemistry and she was having trouble with the subject when I was asked to tutor her.  Our tutoring sessions made us life-long friends.  She spent a lot of time in my apartment and used to say I made the best iced tea in the world.  Of course, I thought she was being facetious since I had very little money and tea bags were the only drink I could afford to buy.  Consequently, there was always tea in my refrigerator.  I didn’t find out until long after I married, had children, and divorced that she actually meant it.

My son also says I make the best tea in the world.  He’s unaware of the comments from my nurse-friend.  But he should know.  He’s seen a lot of the world and drank a lot of tea (his refreshment of choice).  For several days when he was about ten, he watched me make tea, asking questions about how much of this to use and how long to let it boil.  Then one of his friend's parents I ran across in the local grocery store mentioned the tea.  Apparently, my son had gone to her house and made tea for them.  She wanted the recipe.

Tea Plantation
Credit: Free Images
Tea has been a part of human life since the Stone Age.  Yet people in the United States used to only drink it iced in the summer time.  Tea has now become an anytime drink. (In the South, it was always an anytime drink.)  I think my father personally championed this change, since we had iced tea year-round and I grew up in Buffalo, New York.  My father was from South Carolina where tea is a staple.  He didn’t teach me to make it however.  I concocted my own experiments until I came up with something that had people turning their heads like on a television commercial and asking, “Who made this?  It’s really good.”  I will give a little credit to my father for one ingredient although the knowledge came to me indirectly through one of my younger sisters (I have five sisters and a brother.  I’m number two.).  She told me about the baking soda.

Mind you, I didn't start out to develop a tea recipe.  It happened when the coffers were low and I didn’t want to go out in the cold or rain or dark or whatever the reason was at the time to buy the missing ingredients.  So, like any girl scout has been trained (or people who loved watching McGyver build a shopping mall from sand and chewing gum), I went to Plan “B” and used what I had.  And what I had were two regular tea bags and one bag of apple spice tea.  I used to use three regular tea bags and sugar.

Credit: Morguefile
Sun Tea was popular about ten years ago and I tried that, but quickly realized it was only a method of getting people to buy more tea bags and therefore making the tea companies more profits.  Quickly, I dropped that idea.  One reason was the inconvenience.  Sun Tea had to sit in the sun for hours to brew.  I’d have to get it ready and put it outside in the morning before leaving for work.  With all I had to do to get three people up dressed, breakfast prepared and eaten, beds made, and lunches ready (with one kid who is not a morning person), who had time to think about Sun Tea?  And when it was gone, you couldn't make more on the spot.  Plus my kids didn't think it was as good and the kind you boiled on the stove.  So following the path of least resistance, I went back to the tried and true.

In my first romance novel, Under the Sheets, I loaned my heroine the tea recipe.  She owned a restaurant and it was a favorite drink of her patrons.  It was also the defining moment for the hero when he discovers the heroine's secret.  I put the recipe in that book.  And here it is for you.  So, as you sit down to read the next Heartwarming novel, grab a glass of Apple Spice tea and relax.  I hope you like it.

My first Heartwarming novel is Summer at Kendall Farm.  It will be released in January 2015.  I just got the cover and it's wonderful.  The book is available for pre-order.

Apple Spiced Iced Tea

2 regular tea bags (a cheap brand, store brand is fine)
1 apple spice herbal tea bag
Sugar (to taste or optional)
Baking soda (as much as you can pinch between two fingers)
Cold water

Credit: Free Images
Fill a small sauce pan half full of cold water.  Add the three tea bags and bring to a boil.  Boil for two minutes.  Remove from stove and add a pinch of soda (The box keeping your refrigerator fresh is fine to use.  The soda will make the tea bubble to the top of the pan, so be careful.  It will also give the mixture a rich, dark color.)  Fill a half-gallon size pitcher half full of cold water.  Pour tea into a pitcher and stir.  (Discard tea bags.)  Add sugar to taste.  Fill pitcher to top with more cold water.  Serve over ice.

Note:  Do not add lemon.  The strength of the lemon juice will negate the apple spice influence.

Substitutions:  You can substitute any herbal tea you desire and experiment with the flavor.  I've used Orange Spice and Cinnamon Apple Spice with good results.

Shirley Hailstock

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sweetest Day by Amy Vastine

In case you haven't been paying attention, Saturday is Sweetest Day.

Although many consider this a "Hallmark holiday", think it's a fitting celebration for Heartwarming as we are often referred to as "sweet" romance. I am a big fan of anything sweet (in case it wasn't obvious by my apple cake recipe post). But desserts aren't my only object of sweet affection.

Here's my top five list of the sweetest things in no particular order:

1. Long-lasting love
I think there are few things sweeter than a couple who has been together for more years than they can count, yet still show affection. I watched an older gentleman open the car door for his wife, take her hand and walk with her into a restaurant. They shared a meal together, sharing stories and smiles. When they finished, he offered her his arm and she gave him a sweet peck on the cheek. I want to be like that when I grow up ;)

2. Dads and daughters
Dads and really any of their children make me melt. But my nephew and his wife recently welcomed their baby girl into the world and the pictures of Matt and his little Stella make me want to cry. The look of complete adoration on his face is priceless. There's just something about a big, tough guy being turned into mush when you put a baby in his arms!

3. Puppies and kittens
It doesn't matter what species, a baby anything makes me smile. Recently, a friend and I were discussing the difference between cats and dogs (she is a cat-lover and I am a dog-lover) and we both agreed that it doesn't matter what kind of person you are, you can't deny the absolute sweetness of a puppy or a kitten. This led to us exchanging texts with pictures of kittens and puppies to prove our point.

4. Small gestures
Sure every girl dreams about a guy who comes in and sweeps her off her feet with some big romantic gesture, but I love the little things. Sometimes it's just that text that says, "ILY" from my husband that makes my whole day. Or it's when he empties the dishwasher without me even asking (unbelievable, right?) I think it's sweet when my husband invites me to snuggle with him on the couch to watch our favorite TV show. The little things can add up to quite a lot!

5. Protective big brothers
This might just be me, but I have always wanted a big brother. I have two younger brothers and I end up mothering them more than anything. My daughter lucked out and got an older and a younger brother. She may disagree with calling it lucky, but that's another post. For all the teasing her older brother does, he does not tolerate other people teasing his sister. One boy in particular made my daughter feel very bad one day. The next day at school, her six-foot, two years older brother let this boy know he had heard the things that were being said about his sister and he didn't think it was too cool (I swear there was no touching or threats against anyone's life made). Needless to say, my daughter came home the next day quite surprised that the boy who had called her horrible names a couple days earlier was more polite than he had ever been! What I wouldn't have done to have a brother like that growing up!

There you have it. Those are the five things I think are pretty sweet. What about you? What's your sweetest thing?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Season of Change by Lynn Patrick

It’s that time of year again, when those of us up north prepare to say goodbye to our gardens for nearly half the year. After living in the same apartment for three decades, this was both heaven and hell. The garden, which had suffered greatly from a winter that broke records of both cold and snow, was off limits to me. I had lost my delphinium, my largest lavender, a wonderful potted hydrangea, half my salvia, and many other plants were miniature in size. And I could do nothing to replace them.

 The construction crew used the garden to cut wood and tile and covered my remaining plants with dust that kicked up my asthma, forcing me to stay away. And so the summer passed without my being able to read or write outside or to revive my garden. For me, it’s especially sad, because I missed most of the summer. In deep renovation – moving from the second floor apartment of my city 2 flat to the first floor now duplexed with the lower level – I spent those glorious days running interference, not to mention running from box store to box store looking for the exact things I wanted to make the new digs special.

Even so, the garden retained a beauty I still appreciate. And now, with winter coming, and with me cleaning it up and preparing it for a season of change, I am making plans to renovate the garden next spring. More changes that will make the garden even more special.

Houses and gardens aren’t the only things that require renovating. Sometimes careers do, as well. I usually write as Patricia Rosemoor, but I am also half of Lynn Patrick. My writing partner Linda Sweeney and I wrote 23 books together before she stopped writing about fifteen years ago to focus on her academic career as a professor with an adult reading/writing specialty. 

Blossom on harness & lead

 Heartwarming started as an experiment, with some of our previously published books re-edited to meet the wholesome guidelines, including two Lynn Patrick titles – now called Shall We Dance? And The Marriage Assignment. And then we were honored to be asked to write new stories for the line appropriate for every woman, young or old. Lynn Patrick stories are set in the fictional town of Sparrow Lake, Wisconsin – Home to Sparrow Lake, A Forever Home, and, coming in April, 2015, The Long Road Home. 

To bring this season of change full circle, Heather, our heroine in A Forever Home, has taken my love of gardening (and my background as a U of I trained Master Gardener) one step farther. Being a landscaper is the change she has long dreamed of, and I was able to use my knowledge not only of landscaping and plants but of ways to control stormwater by creating a rain garden with native plants to help her create a wonderful plan for the mysterious Flanagan Manor situated on Lake Michigan.

We all have seasons of change in our lives, sometimes quite unexpected. If something unexpected has happened to better your life, we’d love to hear about it.

Visit Lynn Patrick at her Facebook author page.