Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Hit Recipe!

Christmas Greetings from Jill Elizabeth Nelson!

It's the day after our official commemoration of Christ's birth, but the holiday festivities continue. Many of you probably still have Christmas gatherings to attend as families juggle his side, her side, in-laws, and outlaws. My extended family won't make it all together until January 4, so the season does tend to stretch out l-o-n-g, especially with a mid-week Christmas Day.

If you're looking for a simple and yummy dish to bring to your next gathering--one that has broad-spectrum appeal across ages and tastes, here's one that is a must at our family festivities. I warn you, though, that you may have to double or triple the recipe, because the casserole dish does tend to get licked clean!

Scalloped Corn

1 can whole kernel corn
1 can cream style corn
3/4C soda crackers, crushed
1 1/2C milk
1 egg, beaten
2T sugar
2T melted butter
1t salt
1/8t pepper

Topping: 1C soda crackers, crushed, mixed with 2T melted butter

Bake in uncovered casserole dish at 350 degrees for one hour. (For double or tripled recipes, I recommend baking at least 1 hour and fifteen minutes. Longer, if necessary. But be sure to check that the topping is not becoming overly dark.)

New Year's Day is the next official holiday swiftly approaching. With the dawning of 2014, I anticipate the release of Frame Up in January and Shake Down in August from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. Watch for Frame Up in bookstores and stores like Walmart by January 15. Or click here for immediate availability on-line: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00E1V1R88/jillelizabeth-20

Here's the back cover teaser:

CAN SHE TRUST A MYSTERY MAN?

Stranded in a blinding snowstorm, Laurel Adams must pin her hope of survival on a handsome stranger. The single mother and her teen daughter take refuge in his remote Rocky Mountain cabin. But Laurel's anything but safe when she discovers a dead body in her trunk . . . and becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Her rescuer, millionaire David Green, knows what it's like to be accused. Three years ago he was arrested for a crime he didn't commit--an unsolved case that still haunts him. With the clock ticking, can they stop a cold-blooded killer with deadly ties to them both?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

HOLIDAY FRUIT SALAD WITH MINT DRESSING

Holiday Fruit Salad with Mint Dressing:
This is a nice healthy alternative to all the stuff that's at parties this time of year.
(It's always a hit whenever I bring it to gatherings, in any season.)

1 fresh ripe pineapple, cut in 1-in. chunks (You can used canned, if it's well-drained, but
the fresh tastes so much better.) This is the one absolutely necessary ingredient.

All the others are negotiable.

1 or 2 crisp apples, cut in 1-in. chunks (preferably with skin) 
1-2 cups of fresh whole strawberries, washed and hulled
1-2 bananas, cut in 1-in. chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained
2 cups red and/or white seedless grapes, washed and drained
Any other fruit you like: raspberries, blackberries, chunks of peaches, etc.

Stir all the fruit together gently, making sure the juice from the pineapple coats the fruit.
(I cut up and put the bananas in the mixture right before serving.)

You could add chopped pecans or walnuts to this, as well, if you like.

Obviously, the makeup of this salad depends on what's ripe and what's available
at the grocery store and how much you use.

Put this in a pretty bowl and refrigerate until time to serve.



Mint Dressing:


Now take a small carton of sour cream and add one or two tablespoons of
mint jelly. Stir thoroughly until the cream is a nice green color. Put this in another
pretty bowl with a serving spoon and serve it alongside the salad. It makes a delicious,
pretty topping. You could garnish it with a mint leaf for special panache.



Merry Christmas from Ellen Kennedy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Cheer in a Bowl!

Howdy, all. Can you believe Christmas is less than ten days away? Yikes! It seems like a good time to share a family recipe that's easy to make and just screams "It's holiday time!" I hope you enjoy it as much as my family.

Cranberry Fruit Salad

1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 container frozen strawberries, whole (thawed and drained)
1 pkg. frozen raspberries (approx. two cups or so) thawed and drained
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1 tbsp. candied ginger, finely  minced

Combine all in a pretty bowl. Refrigerate overnight. See? Now wasn't that easy? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Are you going to be watching?





Howdy, all. Dana Mentink here and I’m thrilled to announce that my Olympic themed book, Race for the Gold, debuts next month from Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense. I had a blast writing it, because I’ve been fascinated with speed skating since I watched Dan Jansen and Apolo Anton Ohno take the ice. Personally, I don’t like the cold, cannot skate to save my life, and I lack the coordination required to walk and chew gum at the same time. It leaves me in awe of those skaters who can whiz around the ice at nearly 40 miles per hour on 17 inch blades. While writing this book, I was fortunate to have input from Olympic hopeful, long track speed skater Sugar Todd. It was fascinating to hear her tidbits and watch her journey unfold while my protagonists did as well. The Olympic dream is so much more than a mere athletic contest. It is the collective story of hard work, sacrifice, integrity and struggle all rolled up into one shiny package. Will you be watching?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Olympics, the story behind the athletes



Will you be watching when the fanfare starts and the athletes from all over the world come together to compete in the Winter Games? For me, it isn't the athletic performances themselves that draw me in, it's the stories behind the stories, the individual journeys that led these competitors to a worldwide stage. It's what inspired me to write Race for the Gold, a story about two short track speed skaters striving for that elusive spot on the podium. I had plenty to draw from for the novel. I remember watching Apolo Anton Ohno's amazing story unfold over the years. His career faltered, sputtered and nearly died until his single parent father took him to a remote cabin and left him, still a teen, to decide if he wanted to compete or quit. Fortunately for the sport and fans, he decided to grit it out and went on to become the most decorated winter athlete of all time.

Going further back in time, I remember watching speed skater Dan Jansen's heartbreaking ups and downs. At the Calgary Olympics, he was the favorite, but his sister died just hours before his race and he failed to finish any of his heats. Four years later in Albertville, he stumbled and again, did not medal. At the 1994 games in Norway, it seemed he was doomed to fail once more. Another stumble and he was out of his best race, the 500 meters. His last race was the 1000 meters and I remember gasping aloud when he staggered, but this time, he recovered and won, earning a gold medal and carrying his daughter Jane, named after his late sister, for the victory lap.  Like most Americans, I remember stories like Jansen's and Ohno's not because of their speed or skill, but because their triumphs underscore the amazing power of the human spirit. Will I be watching the Winter Games in this year? Absolutely!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ready for the Olympics. Grab your broomsticks!



Sochi? Here we come. Having recently finished an Olympic themed book, I'm looking forward to the big event. The Games are soon to be in full swing featuring a platoon of ferociously determined skaters, the excruciatingly rugged cross country skiers and a sport which I can only describe as… adorable: Curling. Yes, curling dates back to medieval Scotland, and yes, it probably involves more strategy and savvy than any other sport, hence its nickname as “chess on ice” but I cannot help but be completely enchanted by the charming qualities of a sport that utilizes brooms and something called hog lines.
              The Point of the Game: After arduous research,  I  conclude that the goal of the game is to finesse ones sixteen stones closer to the center of the house than the other teams. How hard could it be? Plenty hard. First you’ve got to spray down that lovely smooth ice surface with water droplets to “pebble the ice.” A zambonie driver’s worst nightmare, but necessary to make the hurled stones “curl” in one direction or another.  Then you’ve got your centre line (fancy spelling intentional)  and two other lines charmingly entitled the “hog lines.” Not to be forgotten are the “hacks” which are important  rubbery spots used by the curlers for traction, otherwise you’ve got some poor hapless curler trying to find a toe hold on an iceberg.  Players throw a stone in a graceful sliding movement. Right handers start with the right foot in the left hack and lefties go for the left foot in the right hack. They do the hacky sacky and they turn themselves around. That’s what it’s all about. 

What's your favorite Olympic winter sport? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

A WEDDING TO DYE FOR




Nancy Mehl lives in Festus, Missouri with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fifteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013. The final book in the series, “Unforeseeable,” became available on September 1st.

Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She has a newsletter located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com, and is a part of another blog, The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.

Since this time of the year is so busy and I'm racing toward two deadlines, instead of writing a blog article, I decided to share the first chapter of A WEDDING TO DYE FOR with you. I'm very excited about this book. The third book in my CURL UP AND DYE series, it was supposed to be published a few years ago. Unfortunately, the publisher shut down their cozy mystery line before it saw the light of day. Greenbrier Books has given this series new life, and A WEDDING TO DYE FOR is finally available. My thanks to Greenbrier and to my son, Danny, for his awesome cover design!

Here's a brief synopsis followed by the first chapter. Hope you enjoy it!

A WEDDING TO DYE FOR

Hilde Higgins has planned her wedding to the last detail. The date is set, the church has been reserved, the guests have been invited, and the caterers are standing by. But the one thing Hilde can’t control is the weather. As the wedding party gathers for a rehearsal dinner at the boarding house where Hilde has lived for the past several years, a catastrophic storm hits, coating the town of Eden, Kansas, in several inches of ice. The power is out and the party-goers are stranded without a way to reach the outside world. Their situation becomes even more perilous when Reverend Barney Whittle, a stand-in for Hilde’s pastor who was unable to attend the dinner, is found outside, covered in ice, stiff, and thoroughly dead. His death might have been seen as an unfortunate accident – except for the knife found sticking out of his back.

 
CHAPTER ONE

 “Are you sure this storm is going to miss us?”
 
Adam and I stood on the front porch of the boarding house where I’d lived for two years, our eyes peeled on the sky as we watched ominous black clouds drift toward us.  

“Well, Eden wasn’t exactly mentioned since most people don’t even know it exists,” he answered in a worried tone. “But the weather guy said it would miss the southeast part of Wichita. We’re just southeast of the city, so I assumed…”

“You assumed?” Prickly fingers of fear tickled the back of my neck. “Fourteen people are waiting inside this house, trusting your weather prognostication that the storm will pass us by. If you’re wrong…”

“Look, Hilde. I’m not a weather forecaster.”

“Well then, maybe you shouldn’t play one.”

He made a grunting sound. I grabbed his arm and leaned against him. Not just because of my overwhelming love for the man I would be marrying in two days, but because the temperature outside seemed to be dropping rapidly. “It’s okay, Adam. I’m marrying you for your money anyway, not your forecasting abilities.”

He chuckled. “Either way you’re in trouble. I guess it must be love.”

I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him. “I guess it must be.”

The brokerage firm where Adam worked was having financial difficulties due to the economy. Although no one had been laid off yet, as the junior member, he was afraid the end was near. Nothing specific had been said, but there was a definite undercurrent in the office.

 "I hate waiting around to see if I still have a job,” he said with a sigh. “It’s not fair to you.”

“Don’t be silly. No matter what happens we’ll get through it. Even if you have to move to another brokerage, we’ll be fine. I’m not worried.” 

The partners had been decidedly closed mouth for almost a month. Since Christmas was just a little over two weeks away, Adam felt certain he wouldn’t lose his job until after the first of the year. All three partners had been invited to participate in the wedding and attend our rehearsal dinner. Ominously, only one, Denny Harris, had shown up.  The other two, Clarence Pringle and James Sanders, had declined due to the weather. Or so they said. Adam wasn’t so certain it was the real reason. Perhaps they couldn’t face him, knowing they would be kicking him out soon after we said “I do.”

A couple of Adam’s friends in his volunteer group, Clowns for Christ, had called in to cancel as well. I guess they’d listened to a different forecast. It was beginning to look as if Adam should have done the same.

“So what do you think about this Reverend Whittle guy?” Adam asked, changing the subject. Our pastor, Larry Timm, planned to oversee our actual ceremony and had been invited to the rehearsal dinner, but someone from the church called to say he’d had to rush to the hospital. A member of the church had been in a car accident and the family had requested his presence. Thoughtfully, Larry arranged for someone else to stand in for him tonight. Pastor Larry is a gregarious man who makes everyone around him feel at ease. The man he sent in his place, however, was almost the perfect anti-Larry. Reverend Barney Whittle turned out to be a small, rather odd-looking man who seemed to be uncomfortable in his role as a minister. He wore a clerical collar that appeared to be too tight for his neck, causing him to continually tug at it. And trying to engage him in conversation proved almost impossible. After arriving, Reverend Whittle made a beeline for a chair in the living room and stayed there, ignoring all the other members of the wedding party. However, my mother approved of him right off the bat.

“At least he looks like a pastor,” she sniffed. “And he acts like one. No one would ever call him something as casual as Larry.”

My mother’s church was much more formal than mine. Although we’d agreed to respect each other’s right to make different choices, occasionally, she still fired off snide comments about what she called my “happy, clappy” church.

“I don’t know,” I said to Adam. “I appreciate Larry’s good intentions, but I’m not sure we really needed anyone for the dinner. The actual rehearsal, sure. But tonight? I just don’t get it.”

A gust of wind blew a lock of Adam’s dark brown hair into his eyes. He reached up and brushed it away. “I’m not sure why he’s here either, but my guess is he’ll want to go over stuff we need to know before the actual rehearsal.” He shrugged. “I’m not an expert, you know. I’ve never been married before.”

“If you had a couple of weddings behind you, this process would be a lot easier.”  

He laughed. “Sorry about that. And I hate to bring this up, but when I spoke to my mother a couple of hours ago, she was still complaining about the way we set everything up. She can’t understand why we couldn’t have the rehearsal dinner after the rehearsal tomorrow. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done, according to her.”

I sighed. “I tried to explain to her the other day that our church isn’t available tonight. The Spanish church meets in the sanctuary. And Paula’s got two funeral services tomorrow. One in the afternoon and another in the evening. These are the only arrangements I could come up with so she wouldn’t miss anything and we could get the sanctuary for the rehearsal. Paula is my maid of honor. She has to be at the rehearsal in the morning.”

“Well, my mom is the mother of the groom.”

“I’m aware of that, but we gave her plenty of notice, Adam. She and your father are the ones who decided they wanted to wait until this afternoon to fly out here.”

“I guess their bridge tournament was more important than their son’s wedding.”

I gazed up into his blue eyes. “That’s not fair. When they made that decision, they didn’t realize how difficult it would be to fly into Wichita or that Denver would be hit with a major snow storm. You know they want to be here. They love you.”

“I know,” he said grudgingly. “And you’re right about getting to Wichita by air. My parents have to change planes twice to get here.”

“Flying from almost anywhere to Wichita is tough. Throw in a snowstorm and it only complicates the process.”

“Too bad Gus decided to go out of town and Paula couldn’t get the day off tomorrow,” he said, shaking his head. “We might have been able to move things around when we found out my parents couldn’t get here in time tonight.”

“Well, he’s allowed to go out of town for the holiday. He almost never takes a day off. Running two funeral homes can be exhausting.”

Adam patted my shoulder. “I know, Hilde. I’m sure everything will work out fine. Seems like your mother and my mother are the only people who have problems with our plans. At least with my parents stuck at the airport, our moms won’t have the opportunity to put their heads together. If they did, we might be dealing with a double whammy of disapproval.”

“I may end up being grateful for that snow storm in Colorado.”

Adam grunted. “Well, I still miss my folks. It feels strange, not having them here.”

I squeezed his arm. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have joked about it. I really am sorry they won’t be here for dinner. Why don’t we take them out to eat tomorrow after the rehearsal?”

“That would be nice.” He was silent for a moment. “You did say your mom has several late surgeries scheduled tomorrow afternoon, right?”

I chuckled. “Yes, after the rehearsal she’ll be busy for several hours. We’ll have plenty of time alone with your parents.”

“Thank goodness. Who knew planning a wedding took so much effort?” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ll be glad when we get to the ceremony. And even happier when we leave town for our honeymoon.”

I smiled. “A long weekend at a top notch hotel in Kansas City. Sounds wonderful.”

“Could have been Hawaii,” Adam said, his voice shaking from the cold. “About now that seems like a perfect choice.”

“It’s okay. I understand why you felt you couldn’t be gone from the office that long. I mean, under the circumstances. My mom said she’d send us later, whenever we’re ready to go.”

“It’s a very generous wedding gift. Especially after paying for the wedding.”

I shrugged. “She can afford it.”

“Well, it’s still very nice. She’s spending a lot of money. That’s one of the reasons it bothers me that’s she’s upset.”

“Wait a minute. We went through all these arrangements months ago, and you said you were comfortable with our decisions. Have you changed your mind?”

“No. I just didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to keep everyone else happy. I’m sorry. This is our wedding, and I’m perfectly happy with the way you set it all up.”

The way I set it all up? Who was that tall, dark, handsome man who sat down with me and helped me figure all this out?”

Adam grinned. “Must have been your other boyfriend. I take no responsibility for our wedding plans.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, maybe we should just call the whole thing off.”

“After all this trouble? Nah, might as well go through with it now. I mean, since I already paid for the tux and everything.”

I giggled. “If we didn’t have a house full of family and friends in there, I’d make you sorry you said that.”

“But we do, so I’m safe.” He bent over and kissed me. “Truth is,” he said, his voice husky, “I can hardly wait to walk you down that aisle. I love you, Hilde.”

“I know you do.” I scooted up even closer to him. The wind had begun to pick up and it swept across the porch of the old, blue Victorian-styled boarding house with a fury that took my breath away. His arms tightened around me. “My dad looks miserable, doesn’t he?” I said, my voice muffled by Adam’s thick wool coat.  

“I’m still surprised you let him come.”

“What else could I do?” I said, my teeth beginning to chatter. “He asked for forgiveness for leaving us when I was a kid, and then he cried. As angry as I’ve been at him, I couldn’t turn him away.”

Adam kissed the top of my head. “You could have, but you’re too kind-hearted to hurt anyone. Even him.”

“According to my mother, I’ve ruined the wedding for her by allowing him to be involved. Guess I should have thought it out more carefully. I owed her more consideration.”   

He squeezed me tighter. “You can’t please everyone. I think weddings were created to prove that.”

I laughed. “You’ve got that right.” Another gust of wind forced me to face the inevitable. “I’m freezing. We’ve got to go inside.”

Adam was silent for several seconds before saying, “Are you sure?”

I punched him on the arm. “Yes, I think the bride and groom are integral parts of the rehearsal dinner. Sorry.”

He put his hands on my shoulders and turned me around to face him. “I’m still not sure about your hair, you know. I liked that little bit of personality.”

He was referring to the purple streaks I’d worn in my hair for almost three years. I didn’t go completely natural since my real hair color is a nice cross between dead grass and dirt. My hair was still dark, but the vivid splash of color was gone.

“Funny thing is, I don’t need it,” I said softly. “I know who I am now.”

He kissed me for a long time, and we’d turned to go inside when he stopped in his tracks. “Look, it’s starting to rain.”

I stopped to watch the “rain” begin to fall. “It’s too cold for rain,” I said slowly. “That’s not rain…”

“Oh, no.”

We stood there in horror as torrents of ice poured down from the sky. In what seemed like only seconds, the ground was covered. I grabbed Adam’s hand. “We’ve got to let everyone know. There’s still time…”

He refused to move. “No, there’s not Hilde. It’s too late. Look how fast it’s coming down.”

“We’ve got to tell them anyway.”

He stared at me. “Well, let me do it,” he said, his voice grim. “The look on your face will frighten them to death. You have no ability whatsoever to hide your feelings.”

I nodded. He told the truth. My mother had given up throwing me surprise birthday parties when I was a child. I always figured it out ahead of time and couldn’t convince anyone I was actually shocked when my guests jumped out and yelled “Surprise!” Hopefully, Adam could deliver the bad news in a more calming manner than I could.

We silently headed to the front door, bringing with us an announcement to our waiting family and friends that we would all be here for a while. At this moment, I felt less like an excited bride and more like a prisoner being led away to jail.

A WEDDING TO DYE FOR IS Available at:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Would you like to win an ebook copy of A WEDDING TO DYE FOR? Leave a comment, along with your contact info. I'll draw a winner at the end of the week!