November 30, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Tie Your Aprons, Grab Your Spoons, GO!

By Onné Andrews

Holidays with my mother’s family resembled a competitive cook-off. You think Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen is tough? He would never have survived a clan of Irish women with power kitchen tools.

The objective for each holiday was to produce the dish that disappeared the fastest. Needless to say, I never won. The aunts would whisper behind their hands, “What can you expect? The poor lass. Her mother married that German fellow.”

So, of course, I stole all their recipes. Sausage Alfredo Lasagna was developed by my cousin Marie. She made the mistake of refining it while we were flatmates. Now, it’s mine, all mine!

Seriously though, this is the one dish my personal assistants, Pierce and Daniel, demand for Christmas Day. So, my lovelies, if you’re looking to impress your fellow with something other than the usual ham, this is the recipe for you!

Sausage Alfredo Lasagna

½ lb. Sweet Italian Sausage
½ lb. Ground Beef
1 med. Onion, diced

Brown these three together.

9 Lasagna noodles

Prepare noodles according to directions on package, and drain.

3 cups Heavy Cream
4 T Salted Butter
1 Teas. Salt
½ Teas. Garlic Powder
¼ Teas. Pepper
¼ Teas. Oregano
Pinch of Dried Parsley

Heat these ingredients in med. Saucepan until cream just starts to boil.

For Layering, you will also need:

1 pint of cottage cheese
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
1 cup of shredded parmesan

In a 9X13 glass baking dish, spoon in enough cream sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Then layer accordingly:

3 Cooked noodles
1/3 of remaining cream sauce
1/3 of browned meat
1/3 of cottage cheese (approx. 12 teas. drops)
1/3 of mozzarella, sprinkled evenly
1/3 of parmesan, sprinkled evenly

Repeat layers twice.

Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes or until parmesan turns golden and starts to crisp. Let stand for fifteen minutes before serving.

Now for the really good stuff!

1) I’ll be giving away one copy of my latest e-book, Santa’s Gift: Horny Holidays #1, to one lucky commenter of today’s post. Just leave a comment before Midnight, CST, on December 7.

2) I’ll also give away a copy of Santa’s Gift to the winner of the Holiday Cheer NOOK HD.

Excerpt of Santa’s Gift

Sandra tapped her pad as the reindeer team arrowed for downtown Detroit. She winced at the numbers. Motown used to be one of Dad’s biggest stops on Christmas Eve. Now, the city was barely a ghost of itself.

Behind her, Thistledown whistled through her teeth. “This is heartbreaking.”

“Yeah, it sure is.” Sandra set the pad in its holder right before Rudy led the team in a heart-stopping dive. “Everyone got their assignments?”

If Thistledown’s squad answered, the words were ripped from them and tossed with the snowflakes in the air. The reindeer drew the sleigh to a smooth stop on the top of an apartment building.

Rudy stomped his fore hoof. “Okay, ladies, the clock’s ticking.”

Elves scrambled out of the sleigh, each with a bright red sack of toys over her shoulder, and took off in all directions.

Sandra headed for the stairwell. Most of the visits in this building were easy. Despite the horrid conditions, the families in the tenement were doing their best, thankful for the little they had. It was such a pleasure to give the children a little something extra.

All of the visits warmed her heart. All except for the last one.

She double-checked her pad. Jordan Bowman. Four-years-old. Lost his mother Jill to cancer in February. Put his favorite teddy bear in his mom’s coffin to keep her company. His father Scott lost everything paying medical bills before losing his job in the economic downturn. The cases like these broke her heart.

With her token amount of magic, she slipped under the crack of the apartment door. Cockroach feet scurried away in her presence. The combination living room and kitchenette was barely the size of her closet. A sad little tinsel tree sat on top of a small table. One present, wrapped in the comics section of the Free Press, sat next to it. She already knew it was a toy car from the dollar store down the street, the only thing Jordan’s father could afford.

She walked around the tattered couch that had seen better days when her father was a boy. Her fingers automatically pulled the cinnamon brown teddy bear with its jaunty blue bow from her bag and set it next to the car. Hair rose on the back of her neck at the sense of being watched, and she whirled around.

Suspicious dark eyes glittered in the glow from the streetlight outside the one window. Scott Bowman lay on the couch. Jordan, in Superman pajamas, was sound asleep on his father’s chest.

“We don’t have anything to steal,” Scott murmured.

“I’m not stealing anything.” She couldn’t stop looking at him. Jeans encased his long legs in a way that left no doubt they encased an equally muscular ass. Tousled dark hair framed his chiseled features. But it was the eyes that drew her.

Dark circles and jagged lines showed how much his problems and grief had worn him down. The only thing keeping him going was the precious bundle in his arms.

“So I’m dreaming?” He smiled, but the expression was stiff, like he’d almost forgotten how.

“Yes,” She smiled back. Damn, if her body wasn’t echoing her brain’s assessment of his good looks, but it was his protective hold of his son that tugged on her heart.

“You don’t look like any Santa I’ve seen before.”

“I’m the first woman in the family to hold the post.”

Scott swung his feet around and rose. The motion was so smooth and practiced that he must do it often. He settled Jordan on the cushions, pulled a ragged afghan off the back of the couch and covered his son. The boy made a soft, sleepy sound before he snuggled deeper into the warm spot left by his father’s body.

She sucked in a breath as Scott crossed the tiny room. The University of Michigan sweatshirt he wore emphasized his broad chest.

He reached out and picked up the teddy bear. “Is this for Jordan?”


“He put his bear in—”

She took his free hand in hers. “I know. He’s a very special little boy.” They both looked at the sleeping child.

Scott set the bear next to the tiny tree. Something shifted in his expression. He curled one of her blonde ringlets that had escaped its pin around his index finger. “You feel real.”

“Don’t things always feel real while you’re in your dream?” Her question came out in a breathless rush. He was too near, ignited too many feelings in her that she couldn’t deal with. Not tonight of all nights.

He carefully cupped her cheeks. “True. But I wonder how you taste?”

His head dipped and his mouth claimed hers. He tasted of peppermint stick and smelled of sweet dreams. Her lips parted in invitation, and he accepted. His tongue swept hers, and she tentatively returned the touch. It was her first real kiss from a human male. The experience left her weak in the knees.

Her body pressed against his. A thick ridge poked her abdomen, just above her belt. Intellectually, she knew what an erection was, but the actual experience caught her by surprise. She giggled.

Scott pulled back and frowned. “Usually, my dream girl doesn’t giggle while I’m kissing her.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just—I mean, I’ve never—” Good Lord! Could she possibly make any more of a fool of herself?

He stepped back and raked his fingers through his hair. “No, I’m the one who’s sorry. I—I miss…” The confusion on his face matched her own emotions.

Sandra stepped forward and laid her hand on his chest. Muscle rippled beneath her touch. “If only we could have met on a different night…”

“Yeah, if only.” He chuckled, a rueful, sad sound. “I’m getting blown off even in my dreams.”

God, she didn’t want to leave. Instead, she wanted to drag him into the even smaller bedroom and find out how a real human felt. “Go to sleep, Scott Bowman. Things will get better.”

His hand covered hers. “You promise?”

She hesitated. A Santa promising something to a mortal had consequences, but she couldn’t stop herself. “I promise.”


They both whirled to find Jordan sitting up, tiny fists scrubbing at bleary eyes.

She took three steps and knelt beside the couch. “You and your dad need to go back to bed, Jordan.”

“Did you bring me a new mommy?”

The innocent question pierced her heart. She kissed his cheek. “Not tonight, Jordan. Go to sleep so Christmas will come.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He lay down and snuggled under the afghan.

She headed for the door.


She paused and looked back at the sexy, sad man.

“Will I see you again?”

She smiled. “I have a promise to keep, don’t I?” Then she laid her finger to the side of her nose and slid under the apartment door. The only question was how in the world was she going to keep it.

Happy Holidays!

Bug-In With Romance: Cooking with Dried and Canned Food

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

Unlike Skhye Moncrief, who put this blog hop together, I am not much of a Prepper. When hurricane season rolls around, I stock water and one shelf of non-perishable foods. I don’t have a month’s worth of food stashed away, let alone a year’s worth. Come the end of the world, or even life as we know it, I’m a goner.

But I do have an interest in the Old West, wagon trains and pioneer life. I know just enough to get me into trouble (as evident by the invite to participate in this blog hop). I don’t know if I really know enough about cooking with dried food or canned goods, but I do have shelves of resource books. So, I’m willing to give it a try. I turned to my log cabin and pioneer living cookbooks for help. On this subject, they weren’t a lot of help…as they focused more on open flame and fireplace cooking, but I lucked out and found a few recipes.

Now, the trick is having the dried and canned goods on hand, so be sure to stock up on those ahead of time (you have about 3 weeks if the Mayas were right). Oh, looking over these recipes, I’d stock up on sugar too…lots of it!

From AMRICAN COOKERY by Amelia Simmons, 1796, we are given a recipe to dry peaches:

Take the fairest and ripest peaches, pare them into fair water; take their weight in double refined sugar; of one half make a very thin syrup; then put in your peaches, boiling them till they look clear, then split and stone them (remove the pit); boil them till they are very tender, lay them a draining, take the other half of the sugar, and boil it almost to candy; then put in your peaches, let them lie all night then lay them on a glass and set them in a stove, till they are dry, if they are sugared too much, wipe them with a wet cloth a little.
Now that you have dried peaches, here’s a recipe for using them:

Fried Peach Pies

Combine 5 cups dried peaches, 4 cups sugar, and water to cover. Cook down until tender. Mash peaches with potatoes masher, add sugar, and let cool.

Use a good pastry dough for the crust. Cut the dough about 5 by 8 inches. Place the peaches in each crust fold over and stick edges of crust together. You may have to dampen edges to get them to stick good. Fry till browned in well greased skillet.

Log Cabin Cooking by Barbara Swell has a dried apple recipe:

Dried Sweet Apple Schnitz: Boil either a ham bone or a piece of pork with the desired amount of dried sweet apples and cook until almost tender. Add about one-half as many pared raw potatoes and continue cooking until meat, apples and potatoes are well done.

Schnitz un Knepp – a popular dish with the Pennsylvania Dutch

3 lbs. ham

1 qt. dried apples, soaked in water overnight

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 c. flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg, well beaten

3 tbsp. melted butter

Milk to moisten batter, but keep stiff

Boil ham until soft. Add soaked apples, water in which they were soaked, boil another 1/2 hour. Add sugar. Make dumplings by sifting together the flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and shortening. Drop by spoonfuls into the hot liquid with ham and apples. Cover and cook 18 minutes without lifting lid.

Log Cabin Cooking also has instructions on how to make Leather Britches or dried beans.

Pick your fresh beans and wash them. Snap off the ends if needed. Break the beans in half and run a threaded needle through the middle of each bean. Once you have a string of beans as long as you like, hang it in a dark, cool place, checking on it occasionally to make sure they don’t start to mold. Once dried, you can unstring them and keep them in a muslin sack, or you can keep them strung. To cook the beans, soak them overnight in cold water. Strain off the water and rinse the beans. Cover with water, add some ham and simmer about six hours or until tender.

Preserves or canning is also a good skill to have. But you’ll need to stock up on pectin if you’re going to do jellies. A recipe that might come in handy when the world as we know it ends is Dandelion Jelly…as they should be easy enough to come by.

1 quart dandelion blossoms

2 quarts water

1 pkg. pectin

5 ½ cups sugar

2 tbs orange extract

Pour blossoms into a large saucepan or soup kettle with the water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 4 minutes. Strain through cheese cloth, pressing out 3 cups of dandelion liquid. Return 3 cups of liquid to the kettle. Add pectin and let boil, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in sugar and boil 5 minutes more. Add orange extract. Boil 1 minute. Skim foam from jelly. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

So, since we’ve established I’m not much of a Prepper, for visiting me today and leaving a message, one lucky person will win a copy of OLD PIONEER RECIPES Cookbook (hey, they didn’t have microwaves back then!) and I’ll throw in some surprise romance books for your reading pleasure.

Don’t forget to visit tomorrow’s Bug-in with Romance blogger Tina Gayle at  Tina will be talking about camp cooking…a great subject for when you lose your electricity and your stove stops working!

November 29, 2012

Holiday Cheer - My Christmas Miracle

By: Callie Hutton 
When I was a young girl of about twelve, my grandmother died on Thanksgiving Day. It was a sad time for my family, as you can well imagine. But even sadder was the following Christmas.
My mother’s older sister, my Aunt Rita, was unmarried and had lived her entire life with my grandmother. To say she took the death hard is a major understatement. In fact, the woman lost her hearing for a couple of weeks after the funeral.
Knowing this would be a very hard time for her sister, my mother sent me to her house to help her decorate her Christmas tree. It was two days before Christmas, and apparently my aunt had no interest in the holiday, so I was to cheer her up.
It was a hard afternoon. She cried and told me many stories of my grandmother that I hadn’t heard. But we continued to decorate the tree, and display her treasured crèche she’d had for years. By the time we finished, I was as sad as she. I missed my grandma, and her generous lap she used to sit me on, and the cookies she would sneak me.
After dinner I headed home. It was necessary to take two buses to get back to my house. I took one to a central bus station, and switched buses there to take the one that would drop me near my house.
By the time I arrived at the central bus station, it had grown dark and very cold. As I waited for my bus, I reached into my pocket for my next fare, and it was gone. No money. I rummaged through all my pockets—didn’t carry a purse in those days. Frantic, I searched the ground under me, and followed the path I’d taken from the first bus. Nothing.
People hustled in and out of the bus station. I went inside, got into line and approached the clerk behind the counter. I told him my story, he brushed me off. I guess a stranded little girl two days before Christmas meant nothing to him.
I wandered back outside and watched two of the buses I needed to catch pull in and pull out. Another bus pulled up right in front of me, and the passengers alighted. The last woman off brought tears to my eyes. She looked so much like my grandmother. Oh, I knew it wasn’t her, but she had the same build, the same way of walking, same hairstyle, same sparkling blue eyes. She came to sit beside me on the bench, and smiled at me.
That was all the encouragement I needed. I told her my tale of woe. She immediately pulled a coin purse from her pocket and gave me the needed fare. Then we spent time waiting for my bus, talking about Christmas. She told me I reminded her of her granddaughter who lived far away. I told her about my grandma.
Just as the bus pulled up, she patted my hand and told me my grandma would always be with me, because she was in my heart, and I shouldn’t be sad. I gave her a hug, and broke into goose bumps. She smelled exactly like grandma.
After settling into my seat, I pushed my hands into my pocket, and touched my bus fare. Stunned, I pulled out the coins I’d searched all over for. I swiped the moisture from the bus window to show my new friend I’d found my money. She was gone.
Although I continued to miss my grandmother, after that day I never felt sad. I know she’s always with me. Don’t you think so? 
Note: As some of you know, many of the stories I write for blogs are made up, usually for comedic purposes. This is a true story. 
Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and writing gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head.  She’s had a number of articles and interviews published over the years, and finally decided to put her writing skills to the test and write novels.
            Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband of thirty-six years, two young adult children, and three dogs.
You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter- @CallieHutton, and her home base, Stop by sometime and say hello.
Blurb for Miss Merry’s Christmas: 
England, 1817.  David Worthington, Duke of Penrose dislikes Miss Meredith Chambers, the American governess who accompanied his new wards. He especially detests his attraction to the insufferable woman, and is anxious for her replacement to arrive.  
Merry is thrilled when the Dowager Duchess Penrose hires her as a companion. Now she can stay with her beloved charges. But can she ignore how her heart thumps when the pompous duke gets close?  
Two people determined to ignore each other, despite the pull between them, and the sparks that fly whenever they're together. 
I will give a free download of my 2011 Christmas novella, A Wife by Christmas, to one commenter.
  • Boil 1 cup of butter with 1 cup brown sugar, about 3-5 minutes until it pulls from the sides.
  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with pam. Line the sheet with 1 sleeve of saltines. 
  • Pour the butter/sugar mix on top and bake in a 375° oven for 7 minutes.  Take it out and put 12 oz. bag of Chocolate chips on top and return to oven (oven off) just to melt.
  • Spread the melted chips with a knife. Cool, then put it in the fridge for 3 hours to set. Then crack it up with your hands.
  • DELISH and very addicting

Callie  Where Love Makes You Strong
Follow me on Twitter: @calliehutton

November 28, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Treats for the Sweets

By Kathy Otten
I love the holidays. Once Thanksgiving is over I usually start baking for Christmas. I give gifts of candy and cookies to my coworkers, neighbors and friends. When my kids were younger they helped, and gave home-made treats to their friends. We ate whatever goodies remained. There was one traditional candy though that my family refused to allow me to give away and that was the peanut brittle I made every year. My family loves it and here is the recipe I have made every Christmas for the past thirty years.

Buttery Peanut Brittle

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 cup butter
2 cups peanuts chopped (I never chop mine-too lazy)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in 3 quart saucepan till sugar dissolves. While syrup boils, blend in butter. Stir often after 230°. Add nuts at 280°; stir constantly to hard crack stage 305°. (I suggest using a wooden spoon. Metal ones get hot and the white plastic ones melt, as my daughter discovered when she made some for her boyfriend) Remove from heat. Quickly stir in soda, mixing well. (I usually have the nuts and soda measured and ready ahead of time) Pour onto 2 cookie sheets. Stretch thin by lifting and pulling from edges with forks. (And as good as it looks too eat, do not lick off spoon or fork until cool.  Trust me it is hot and you will burn your lips and tongue and won’t be able to taste the peanut brittle or anything else until it heals.) Loosen from pans as soon as possible. Break up. Makes 2 ½ pounds.

And to get you in the holiday spirit, here is an excerpt from my Victorian Holiday novella, ANOTHER WALTZ.   

The winner of the Nook give-away will also win a PDF copy Another Waltz!

Squinting, Madeline peered around the branches of the large Christmas tree, which filled the back corner of the ballroom. 

Hoping to avoid the prying eyes of Lucille’s guests, Madeline had just stepped through the servants’ door and sidled along the back wall until she’d reached the wide boughs of the twelve foot Douglas Fir.

Red and gold ribbons, strings of popcorn and cranberries, all twined around the tree. Paper angels and cornucopias hung from the many branches. Silver and gold Dresdens in shapes of animals and trains filled the empty spaces, and hand-blown, glass ornaments from Germany had been clipped to the tree, each holding a candle, their tiny flames flickering like stars among the branches. 

She focused her gaze on the blurry rainbow of beautiful gowns swirling across the floor. The gentlemen, austere in their dark tail coats with splotches of white waistcoats and shirts, partnered the perfect complement to the ladies’ finery.

Garland of evergreens, ivy, dried flowers, and red bows festooned the large windows, doorways, and picture frames.

Stringed music floated from the raised platform at the north end of the ballroom to mingle with the laughter and conversation of more than seventy guests.

Pressing her white gloved hands against her waist, she tried to still the fluttering butterflies. Though the taffeta gown had been one of Lucille’s hand-me-downs, Fiona, Lucille’s ladies maid, had spent all her free time remaking the evening dress.

Using the extra yards of blue silk designed to cover an outdated bell-shaped crinoline, Fiona had draped an overskirt then created a pleated underskirt and train. While the skirts on many of the dresses worn tonight had three and four tiers of lace-edged fabric, Fiona had designed Madeline’s dress with one tier, claiming it would make her seem taller and not like an over-stuffed sofa.

Then as soon as Fiona had finished helping Lucille dress, she had come upstairs to Madeline’s room. Working quickly, Fiona lifted the dress over Madeline’s head then pulled back her hair on either side, arranging the thick tresses to create a cluster of
long brown ringlets, which brushed the nape of her neck.

When Madeline had looked in the mirror and seen the beautiful stranger staring back, she forgot she was the awkward, spinster sister of Payton Charles Winthrop the Third. For the first time in her life, Madeline had felt like a princess.
From the other side of the Christmas tree, floated the hushed tones of several women, seated in a few of the many chairs placed around the perimeter of the ballroom.

Madeline glanced down at the shimmering blue fabric of her beautiful new ball gown and smiled, imagining what James would think when he saw her. He would bow and kiss her hand, then with his charming Irish accent he would say, “Will ye honor me with this waltz?

With a graceful swish of fabric, she would take his arm and let him escort her into the center of the room. A hush would fall over the crowd as all eyes turned their way. The Cabots and Lowells would whisper behind their fans, wondering who this

stunning couple was. Gradually the other dancers would move toward the walls until she and James were left to float across the parquet floor in a world that only existed for two. Closing her eyes, she swayed dreamily beside the tree, as the music flowed through her body. 
Do you bake for the holidays? What is your favorite food to give away as a gift? What is your favorite food to receive as a gift.

Happy Holidays!
Kathy Otten

ANOTHER WALTZ NEW RELEASE (Victorian Holiday Novella)

November 27, 2012

Christmas Scents - Christmas Memories

Thanksgiving to Christmas our house has always been filled with aromas of baking.  Spices, chocolate, sweetness.  The counters overflow with baked goods cooling, piled on plates, and carefully layered in airtight containers. The freezer becomes a booby-trapped appliance with bags and containers of goodies shoved in every available space.  

The wonderful smells mingle with pumpkin pie, turkey, ham and at Christmas the tang of pine and cinnamon.  I’ve heard it said smells can trigger memories. Any time I smell the nostril-tingling scent of cinnamon I’m taken back to the two story farm house my parents, siblings, and grandparents lived in when I was young. My grandmother’s claim to fame at Christmas was her cinnamon candy.  Here is the recipe:

Old-fashion Cinnamon Candy

1 pint Karo syrup

2 cups sugar

1 bottle cinnamon oil

6 drops red food coloring

powdered sugar, desired amount for coating



1)      In a sauce pan, bring syrup and sugar to the hard- crack stage—about 300° to 310°.

2)      Add cinnamon oil and food coloring.

3)      Stir quickly and pour into a well greased cookie sheet.

4)      Let candy harden.

5)      Crack into pieces and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

In my Christmas Story, Christmas Redemption, the hero has been in prison for ten years for something he participated in as a young man. When he returns home to confront his father, he finds his mother in her kitchen baking. The smells take him back to his childhood.

Blurb for Christmas Redemption:

Van Donovan returns to Pleasant Valley, Oregon where twelve years earlier as a boy of fifteen he left in handcuffs after standing guard for a bank robbery. He's learned a trade and excelled at it and is ready to prove to his father and the town he can amount to something.

Upon his return he learns the fate of the daughter of an innocent man who died in the robbery crossfire. To make amends he takes her out of the saloon and gives her a job, not realizing she'd been squatting in the very building he'd purchased for his business.

Can two battered hearts find solace or will the past continue to haunt their lives?

The leafless cottonwood trees appeared stark and ominous hovering around the farm house. The two-story structure held pleasant memories. His mother’s cooking and laughter. Would she welcome him back or follow her husband’s lead? His stomach knotted, and he once again wished Tessa were by his side.
A multi-colored mutt ran out of the barn barking. Half-way to the wagon he stopped and looked back toward the barn. A girl of about eight strolled out of the building wrapped in a heavy coat, scarf, and mittens.
“Button. Stop barking,” she said when he stopped the wagon in front of the house. His mother’s eyes stared at him from the child’s face. This was his sister Grace.
“Is your ma or pa home?” he asked uncertain what to do. He wanted to pick her up and hug her, but reasoned she wouldn’t care for a stranger grabbing her.
“Ma’s in the kitchen. Christmas is coming.” She put a hand on the dog’s head.
“It sure is. How about you take me to the house then rustle your ma out of the kitchen so I can talk with her?” He started walking to the familiar front door.
Grace grabbed his hand. “We can’t go in that door. Ma doesn’t like snow on her wool rug.” She tugged him to the back of the house.
Van smiled and allowed his sister to haul him around to the back of the house. The garden patch looked larger. And the cellar which he’d help dig was grown over sprouting pale weeds through the six inches of snow.
Grace pulled the screen door open, then shoved the door into the kitchen. Familiar aromas wafted around Van’s head. He sniffed and savored each spicy nuance.
His ma turned. “Grace, shut the door, I have bread ris—”
Ma was the same other than gray wisps in her dark brown hair. She blinked, and her hands clasped in front of her chest.
“Hello, Ma.”
“Van?” She took a step toward him. He smiled and nodded, and she lunged into his arms, crying.
He hugged her tight as tears burned his eye sockets. His heart, that had been torn in two when he never heard from her, slowly melded back together. “I’ve missed you,” he said, holding on, wishing he had all those years back.
She drew out of his arms and studied him. “My, you turned into one handsome man.” She wiped at the tears on her face with her apron. Then motioned to Grace. “Come say hello to your big brother.” His mother’s smile warmed him like a toasty fire on a cold day.
“My brother? I thought pa said—” Grace stared up at him quizzically.
What scents trigger memories for you? Leave a comment to be entered into the nook HD drawing and for the daily prize.
BUY LINKS FOR CHRISTMAS REDEMPTION:  Amazon             Nook             Smashwords

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

You can learn more about Paty and her books at her blog;  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag.

November 26, 2012

Holiday Memories - Ornaments

By Anne Marie Novark

Several years ago, I bought a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I don't put up a large tree any longer, not since the kids have grown up and moved away. But this little tree is my idea of the perfect tree. I've been collecting Christmas ornaments for the past thirty-five years, and I wanted something to display my very favorites. The little tree is ideal and it gives me a warm fuzzy every time I look at it. I love warm fuzzies . . . especially during the holiday season.

Speaking of warm fuzzies . . .

Here's a recipe for the most delicious, most decadent, most luscious chocolate cake you'll ever put in your mouth. This cake has played a role in several of my books. Chocolate and romance go hand in hand, right? This was one of my grandmother's signature cakes, and she called it a Texas Hot Cocoa Cake. I've since found out that it's also called a Sheet Cake or Sheath Cake. No matter what you call it, it's DELICIOUS!!!

Go ahead!  Indulge yourself!!!

Texas Hot Cocoa Cake

1 stick oleo
½ c. shortening
1 c. water

Mix these in a small pot and bring to a boil.

¼ c. sour cream
¼ c. milk
1 tsp. baking soda

Mix these together and let sit.

2 c. flour, 2 c. sugar, 4 heaping T. cocoa, pinch of salt.

Mix these in a mixing bowl.  Pour hot liquid over and mix.
Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla and milk mixture, beat
all until smooth.  Pour onto a greased 18X12 cookie sheet.
Bake 20 minutes at 375 F.  Or until toothpick comes out
almost clean.

Hot Cocoa Icing

1 stick oleo
4 heaping T. cocoa
6 T milk

Melt these in a sauce pan; do not boil.

1 box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Combine these with the hot liquid
and beat until smooth; pour hot icing
over hot cake.



Here's something else you might enjoy:

If you're looking for something to read during the hectic holidays, maybe during some downtime or on your lunch hour, check out my Texas Two Steps Christmas short story. It's the perfect length to read when you're rushed for time. I'll be giving three stories away today. Just post a comment and you will be automatically entered in the give-away.


Blake Chambers is the president of the Lone Star Cattle Ranchers Association, and it's time for the Annual Christmas Ball. Blake doesn't know the first thing about organizing a holiday dance. Lucky for him, Melanie Woods does. The sexy Meeting/Events Manager at the Coyote Lake Resort Hotel takes charge and all goes smoothly . . . until Blake's date cancels at the last minute. Melanie can't believe it when the ruggedly handsome rancher asks her to step in and be his escort for the night. In the spirit of the holidays, how can she refuse?


"Then how about it?" Blake asked. "Go with me tonight and be my date. We've worked hard together organizing the dance. You should be there."

It was tempting, but wouldn't going with Blake be mixing business with pleasure? Professional with personal? "I don't have anything to wear," Melanie said, stalling for time.

He held her away from him, keeping his hands on her shoulders, and looked her up and down. Admiration and desire gleamed in his oh-so-blue eyes. "You look great," he said after looking his fill. "Just wear what you've got on."

"No way," she said with a flustered laugh. "The Christmas Ball is a formal affair. I can't wear my work clothes."

"You look beautiful to me." He pulled her against him again and stared down into her eyes. "But then again, you always do." Bending his head, he kissed her.

What could a girl say to such an honest declaration as that? And how long had she dreamed of this moment? Melanie gave it up, draped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

To order a digital copy:

Amazon UK 
  Do you have a favorite ornament, present or past? How do you display it?

Happy Holidays to one and all!!! 

Anne Marie  :)

November 25, 2012

HOLIDAY CHEER - Happy Gainesgiving

by Camryn Rhys

If you love Western romance, you will just adore the Western Escapes line that Decadent Publishing has put together. Some of the most delicious Western romances around are lining up in your e-reader, waiting to sweep you away to the town of Freewill, Wyoming. 

My part of Freewill is the Misbegotten Gaines Ranch, a dude ranch and cow farm run by the Gaines family—one of the oldest families in Freewill. The very first Papa Gaines was a freed Southern slave who worked his way out to Wyoming in the 19th century and befriended the local sheriff. In a lucky hand of poker, he managed to win himself three adjoining ranches. Naturally, the men at the table challenged his abilities, and he proved himself not only to be a good card player, but a solid gunman. In defending his win, he consolidated the three parcels of land together into what he called the Gaines Ranch. His ancestors named it the Misbegotten Gaines Ranch to poke fun at its origins, but tensions always seem to run high on the MGR.
My first book, Misbegotten Gaines, tells the story of Jamie, who tries to run her first trail rides for singles and ends up falling for one of her staff—a big no-no! Book two releases on November 28th and tells the story of Mattie, Jamie’s mother, who is in a land dispute with her brother, Bud, that coincides with Mattie meeting her high school lover. Sparks fly when her ex protects her from her brother.

But in order to find out what happens next, you’ll have to head over to my blog to join the release party. Also, one lucky commenter on this post will win a copy of Vengeful Gaines as soon as it is released. Don’t worry, it won’t bite.  Also, leaving a comment makes you eligible for the nook HD drawing Holiday Cheer authors will give away in January.

Additionally, the third book in the Gaines series should be out in early 2013, and it’s a secret. But just for you, I’ll let it slip: my favorite sensual scene I’ve ever written is in this book. So I hope you enjoy. Meanwhile, sit back, relax, and enjoy Kyle’s secret recipe for keeping all those in-laws sweet over the holidays… Caramel Applesauce.
There’s nothing that screams fall like fruit pie. When I was making pies for the Gaines Thanksgiving this year, I ran across one of my favorite recipes from childhood. My grandma used to make this applesauce and then throw it in a pre-baked pie shell, put some lattice on top, and bake it in a pie. Or, we could eat is over ice cream, or straight from the jar. But it’s the best I’ve ever had. So here I am, passing it on to you. It’s certainly a favorite of Mattie and Will, and a great Fall comfort food.
Kyle’s Caramel Apple Sauce

10 medium apples
4 T. butter
2 T. grape seed oil
1 c. apple cider
½ c. lemon juice
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 T. cinnamon
1½ t. salt
1 c. heavy cream
Peel the apples and cut into slices. I don’t like to cube them, because if I set aside to use for pie filling, I want big chunks of apple. You can always mash it down later. But I really do like the bigger chunks of apple. Just make sure, however you cut them, that they’re all the same size. Squeeze the lemon over them as you peel, just to keep the oxidation away.

In a warmed skillet (medium-high heat), put the butter and oil in just to let the heat element get ready, then add the apples with the lemon juice (and add the rest of the lemon juice if you didn’t use the full ½ cup for oxidizing the apples.
Cook the apples for about five minutes in the cider and juice, then add the sugars, cinnamon, and salt. Cover and simmer for another twenty minutes (if cubed) or twenty-five minutes (if sliced). Test the apples to make sure they’re spiced and sugared the way you like them. Add the cream and stir in well, then let simmer for another two minutes.

Makes a great sauce over ice cream, or a pie filling, or just a great treat. Don’t omit the salt—that’s a temptation in dessert-type items—but salt and lemon really enhance the taste. Hope you enjoy.

Camryn Rhys


It's almost the end of the world. Winter Solstice is right around the corner. Are you ready to survive and thrive?
We're a group of mostly romance authors that are worried about general fox-hole morale when the shit hits the fan. So you've got your bug-out bags packed, your medicine stocked up, your 2 weeks of food stuff hidden in the air-space behind the dry wall in your home (just in case the government shows up to confiscate your horde of food), you've stored away some candles and extra batteries, and you're ready to go. Well, what about Mom's sanity? What about those almost twenty year old daughters hooked on romance novels? What about...How are you planning to while away the boredom in your little safe place? We've got you covered. Win some romance novels and tick off your preparedness checklist with us as we countdown to THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.
Each author will be giving away a paperback copy of her book, a book about her Bug-In subject, or one of her favorite reads. So, stick around to enter to win each day. The blog event is a true blog hop in the sense that it begins with one blog post and moves on each day to another participating author's blog. Each day the hostess will post the link to the next day's blog post and contest. All you do is start today, here, and pop over to the next blog tomorrow.
And don't forget to pop over tomorrow to learn some interesting survival info and enter to win a prize!
Sheree Coleman--Bug-out Bags

November 23, 2012

Holiday Cheer Event is Coming

Chatting with Anna Kathryn presents a HOLIDAY CHEER EVENT. Every day starting November 25 through December 31. 

More than 30 authors will share their holiday memories, traditions, stories and recipes right here on this blog.  Daily prizes, plus win a NOOK HD full of stories donated by the participating authors! 
To enter for a chance to win the nook HD, just leave a comment on the daily blog posts.  The more comments you leave throughout the event, the more chances you have of winning. So stop by daily for Holiday Cheer, recipes and a chance to win prizes! 

Here’s a list of participating authors:

Camryn Rhys
Anne Marie Novark
Paty Jager
Kathy Otten
Callie Hutton
Onne Andrews
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Debby Lee
Paul McDermott
Caroline Clemmons
Linda Carroll-Bradd
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Patricia W. Fischer
Tara Manderino
Carla Rossi
R.T. Wolfe
Debra St. John
Beth Trissel
Tanya Hanson
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Amber Polo
Sarah Hoss
Meg Mims
Cheryl Pierson
Marie Higgins
Sarah McNeal
W. Lynn Chantale
Callie Hutton
Skhye Moncreif
Recipe only
Amber Polo
Talyis Ellison
Caroline Clemmons
Linda Carroll-Bradd
Rebecca Lynn

*If you have a holiday story and want to participate, please contact Anna Kathryn at