Giving Thanks for the Little Things

This week we’re sharing things we are thankful for. I really have nothing to complain about, so I could be extremely brief and simply say I’m thankful for my life the way it is, but that wouldn’t be fair to you. I mean, you’ve gone to the trouble of clicking on this link to read my post, so I should give you something to read, right?

I will tell you about a few things I’m thankful for, and why. This is not your traditional list. I’m thankful for all of those, too, but I’m sure you’ll read essays espousing those written by those with greater credentials than me. So my list is designed to tell you what the holidays are like in our house:

IMG_0344

1. I’m thankful for laps. After a long week of cleaning, cooking, and eating, we like to sit back and watch the football games. It’s a great opportunity for some cuddle time with the little ones. This little guy has his favorite spot – and Grandpa is more than happy to oblige. I’m thankful that they enjoy each other so much.

 

IMG_18122. I’m thankful for TV trays. We’ve never had a separate table for the kids. Usually, the youngest members of the family sit at the table with at least one parent, while the older kids and adults get TV trays. Taking these out means that we have too many people here to fit around the dining room table. And that’s a good thing. One can never have too many kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren at holiday time.

 

IMG_17373. I’m thankful for messes. The fact that we have spilled milk, fizzed up soda pop from shaking the bottles and turkey bones lost in the couch means that we have so much food that we don’t have to worry about hoarding every bite. We’ve been blessed with relative prosperity, and while we’re not wasteful, we’re not going to go hungry if some of it is lost.

 

4. I’m thankful for calendars. They tell me that in exactly four weeks after Thanksgiving we get to gather around again for another holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

Posted in Family, Holiday, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guest:Author Gretchen Archer/Giveaway!

Gretchen Archer, author of the  Davis Way Mysteries

Gretchen Archer, author of the Davis Way Mysteries

It is my great pleasure to have as my guest author Gretchen Archer, the woman behind the Davis Way Crime Series. If you have not read the series, I cannot recommend the stories more highly if you enjoy mystery, intrigue, laughs or just a good story with interesting characters. This is generally a ‘romance’ blog and trust me, there is plenty of  real romance  in Davis’s life.

Let’s get right into hearing from Gretchen herself.

“Double Whammy”, the first book, derives its name from a casino game. In fact, the series around a casino, (or two).
Gretchen, what made you choose this venue for your stories? Do you have a background in casinos? How much research did you have to do,(and how did you do it)?

I knew I wanted to write a mystery series, and I knew I couldn’t stretch cupcakes or cats out for a whole book, much less a series. I chose the casino setting because at the time, there wasn’t a mystery series set in a casino—there are forty now—but nothing out there at all set in a Southern casino. My casino background? My husband took me to Biloxi for my 40th birthday. I was the one with the stroller—two teenage daughters, each brought a friend, and our son wasn’t even a year old. (Yes, I had a baby at 39. I don’t know what I was thinking.) We checked in, my husband took off for the blackjack tables, leaving me at the pool and kiddie arcade with four teenagers and a baby. Happy Birthday to me! DAYS later, feeling sorry for me, my husband passed me $200 and said, “Go to the casino. Relax. Enjoy.” I won $40,000. (Happy Birthday to me!) Now, that will give you a background in casinos. Too, the latest from the American Gaming Association reports there are 71.6 million casino gamblers in the United States, and 61% of them are slot players. That’s a nice setting for a series, a potentially huge audience. Research? Every chance I get. Just say the word.

 

Davis Way, your main character, has a great heart but a flawed background. How did you come up with her?

I wanted a character who led a real life, had mistakes to overcome, and challenges to face.

I love Davis and her family and friends. You have great taste in men! Do you base any of your characters on people in your life?

I get the most of Davis from my middle child, my redhead, who takes a zigzag path to where she’s going, but is so smart and lands on her feet every time. Davis is loosely based on her, and by loosely, I mean my daughter hasn’t been married even once, much less several times. Everyone else in Davis World is purely a figment of my imagination. One of the funniest questions I get, and often, is about Bradley Cole. Am I married to the real life Bradley Cole? HA HA HA!!! I wish!

In “Double Whammy”, the stories and characters are a bit gritty; you really keep us guessing as to whom we can trust. I have to say, I am usually good at seeing what’s coming, so I just love it when a writer can surprise me. One plot twist I would not have seen coming was unfortunately given away on the synopsis on the back cover; I would have been thrilled and caught off-guard. There are other ‘reveals’ including a big one at the beginning of “Double Strike”. Since obviously put great thought into building up to the scenes, does it upset you that the reveals are rather anticlimactic because of the spoilers? (The first one , in the jail, still brought me to tears!)

Huge pet peeve of any writer! You nailed it! Double Strike went out to reviewers months before release date, and of the first ten reviews posted, nine of them gave the big spoiler away. The backcover copy had been carefully written to keep the secret safe, but the secret was out for all to see way before the book was released. You got me on this one, it stings when all the book’s secrets are revealed.

In “Double Dip” things took a slightly different tone, a little lighter but still much personal drama. The returning characters seem warmer, and there is more humor. Had you planned this or did the characters evolve on their own? In other words, did you plot or pants these people?

My characters aren’t plotted or panstered, rather they’re planstered. I leave room for character and relationship changes everywhere—Davis and her mother, her work relationships, and I always let Bianca Sanders surprise (me) everyone. Two characters who don’t see much change, and I don’t suspect they will, are Davis’s ex-ex-husband, Eddie, and his mother (one of my favorite characters to write), Bea Crawford. I also like to keep Davis’s rocks—her father, No Hair, and Richard Sanders—stable forces in her life.

 

Where did you get the idea for Jeremy’s outrageous and constantly changing ties?

No Hair’s tie addiction started to draw attention away from his bald head. I think I wrote him heavily bearded, something I see often on balding men, but I quickly grew tired of writing anything at all about facial hair, so I switched to ever-evolving neckties because they were much more fun.

[My husband has a few Christmas ones I can loan  him.]

How did you choose the name “Davis Way” and the jokes that she must field that are continually plaguing her? And the continual refusal of Bianca to get it right! I have that problem with some people no matter how long I’ve known them or how many times I correct them. Surely you haven’t had that problem yourself.

I was on I-65 South when I passed an exit sign for Pine Apple, which I thought was hilarious. Why wouldn’t it be Pineapple? And I wondered what it would be like to live somewhere that required constant explanation. It would be Double (Whammy, Dip, & Strike) Trouble if you had a confusing name. Thankfully, I don’t have the confusing-name-identity crisis problem often, even though my name isn’t all that common (lots of schnauzers named Gretchen, although we don’t run in the same social circles, so it’s fine), but it has happened to me often enough that I tried to avoid it for my children, who have all but one-syllable names.

 

Now that we know more about your characters, let’s hear more about you, Gretchen!
The floor is open…anything you’d like to share with us about your life?( I hope you know people like Davis’s Daddy, Richard and Bradley.)

I am so boring, but I’ll try. Little knows things about me.
1. I have all my original Nancy Drew books.
2. For my 50th birthday, I got a tattoo.
3. I work out six days a week to ward off writer’s butt.
4. My most prestigious writing award: I won a national essay contest. The subject was “The Stinkiest Pet in America.” MY dog and my essay won. (A year’s supply of canine odor neutralizer. It didn’t work.)
5. I’m from Texas.
6. I do know people like the ones we meet in Davis’s life. My husband is smart, loyal, and competitive like Richard Sanders, and has trouble figuring me out like No Hair. Still, though, I’m not married to Bradley Cole. He’s so perfect he’s almost my hardest character to write.

Thanks for having me, Tonette! I’d love to send one of your readers, who’d like to comment or ask me anything, a signed set of the Davis Way Crime Caper series. Go! (And as always, good luck!)

Gretchen Archer's first four Davis Way Mysteries

Gretchen Archer’s first four Davis Way Mysteries

So, Friends, trust me, if you haven’t  become acquainted with the Davis Way Mysteries, here is your chance…(if you don’t win, please go pick  them up;You’ll thank me.)

Gretchen is giving a full autographed set of  the first three Davis Way Mysteries, [Double Whammy, Double Dip, Double Strike]!

Leave a question or a comment for Gretchen,(who doesn’t sound boring at all). We’ll run the contest until Thanksgiving Day and on my Friday post, (Nov.28th), I will announce and contact the winner.

 I thank Gretchen Archer for granting this fan this interview and  the very generous giveaway.

Any comment? Anything you’d like to ask Gretchen?

[Added note: you have had a number of people come in to read  and leave a comment on Facebook.Won't you please take a moment to comment here? Thank you.]

Posted in authors, Book Reviews, Books, Family, GIveaways/Contest, Guest, inspiration, Life, protagonists, Random thoughts, romance, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Boxed Set Bargain – Screwball Comedies

By Jeff Salter

TWO full-length screwball romantic comedies for only $3.99
Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold
          &
Scratching the Seven Month Itch

AmandaMooreOrLess-BoxedSet

A new boxed-set of my two screwball comedies has been released by Dingbat Publishing. For a reduced price, you can have BOTH of the existing novels in the series, “Amanda Moore or Less”.
I should warn you: prepare to laugh.
[Digital formats only at this price, but paperbacks also available separately.]
Oh, and if you’re wondering: these novels are rated ‘PG’ so even your Aunt Tillie can read them!

http://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Moore-Less-Two-Book-Boxed-ebook/dp/B00P54AKJ2/ref=la_B00D4F1YTE_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415032697&sr=1-11

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Swoony

With all the stuff going on here at home, I got my days mixed up. It just does not feel like a Wednesday. I don’t exactly know what Wednesday feels like but this feels more like Tuesday. You know where the work week only has one day under it’s belt and there are four more to go. That is how today feels. Since this is a free week I am going to write about the Swoony Awards.

I was over on Goodreads and was looking around. I had just finished voting for the books of the year awards (editors choice). I only voted for books or authors that I had heard of. I even had help from the wee ones about what to vote for since some books they like were nominated.

After voting I looked around and found the Swoony Awards. This is a reader’s choice award. I found that Love Overcomes is on that list. It is in desperate need of votes. The book has only been out for 2 weeks and I do not have a fan base at all since this is my first book. It is still excited just to see that my little book is nominated for a Swoony.

If you want you can check out all the book that have been nominated. I saw that Wendy Knight has a book on the list as well as a few other authors that I know. AND if you are feeling generous you could always give my book a vote ;)

Swoony Awards

Last I knew Love Overcomes was number 64

LOVE-OVERCOMES-cover

Here is the blurb for Love Overcomes and the buy links. In case you want to read it.

Single mother Arabella Mackenzie never imagined that going to California with her sister Clara would have such a huge impact on her life. Since the end of a disastrous relationship, Arabella has been wary of wanting or needing anyone other than her family. But when she meets hunky actor, Jeremy Fowlis, she begins to have feelings for a man for the first time since her three year old son was born. Now, she needs to try to overcome her past and learn to trust again.

Jeremy is not used to women who don’t want to date him, or at least show him off to their friends – he is an in-demand actor, after all. He is tired of the shallow, avaricious attention that he gets from the public, but when he meets intelligent, cautious Arabella, she doesn’t even know his name. Arabella’s grounded beauty captivates him instantly, but, he is wary of getting involved with a single mother with a complicated past.

Can Arabella and Jeremy both overcome their doubts and fears in order to find love?

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

I hope everyone has a great Wednesday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Music Hath Charms…

We have another free week, and as I said last month I’d like to feature some of the groups of people in my life. This time I’d like to introduce you to some of the musical groups in which I have the privilege of performing.

I’ve mentioned that my area of study is music. Most people assume that means I perform, but my focus was on music education, and I spent twenty-eight years teaching elementary students how to read and perform music, and the last nine years have been spent teaching future teachers how to incorporate music into their academic curriculums. While I did a fair share of performing in high school and college, that took a back seat to raising kids, especially since I continued to work full time while my daughters were young.

Once my children were on their own and I retired from full-time teaching, I had more time for doing things I enjoy. I realized I missed making music. I hadn’t given it up entirely, but it took up far too little of my time. I played in the church orchestra once or twice a year, and since I kept up my musicians’ union dues I would get a call once or twice a year to fill in somewhere. But each time that happened I would have to spend a week or more “getting into shape” so that I wouldn’t sound terrible.

A few years ago I decided to join a local community band. They needed an oboe player and they didn’t require an audition to get in, so I showed up. And then I returned again the next week, and the next week. This is my third year playing in that group.

Once I started getting more confident, a strange thing happened. I got an email asking me to play on a regular basis in one of the two community orchestras. Of course I agreed, and now I’m playing all the wonderful pieces of orchestral literature I love to listen to. And then a few months ago I was asked to fill in for another community orchestra for their concert last Saturday. I was thrilled to do this, even though it meant being on the road three evenings a week – I was back doing something I love. Besides, this second orchestra gave me the opportunity to play under the direction of a conductor I’ve known and respected for years.

So in the space of three years I’ve gone from playing two to three times a year to playing three times a week. On Monday evenings I ZCB Octdrive about twenty miles southwest to play in the Zeeland Community Band. We play all year long and in lots of different venues – church picnics, senior care facilities, outdoors in the park, and last week we performed a Veterans Day Concert in a senior center. This is a picture of us at the Pumpkinfest in October. What a great experience.

 

On Tuesday Calvin_Novevenings for the last few weeks I drove fifteen miles east to play in the Calvin College Community Symphony. We had a concert this past Saturday and I had so much fun! I asked my daughter to take some pictures of us in their beautiful Fine Arts Center. I sincerely hope they call me to fill in again!

PattyOn Wednesday evenings I drive about twelve miles to downtown Grand Rapids and play in the Kent Philharmonic Orchestra. We had a Halloween concert for which we had to dress up – I made myself a grim reaper costume, using my oboe as the handle for my scythe. Next month we’ll have another concert in which two high school musicians will be featured. Again, I really enjoy this group and the challenges the music gives me.

So that’s my musical life right now. How does it relate to my writing? I think it helps me in several ways. Being among several different groups of people gives me more material – the more people I see and observe, the more ideas I get for things that could happen! And reading and performing music helps to keep my mind active, not to mention my body – sometimes I have to park a good distance away from the rehearsal area, so I get my exercise walking there. I’m so glad I don’t play a large instrument!

Have you ever given up a favorite hobby and then tried to pick it up again?

A shared love of music is what brings together the two main characters of my regency novella, Love’s Refrain:

LovesRefrain_500x750Lady Laura Montgomery would much rather spend her summer at the family estate, but instead she must act as her stepsister’s chaperone for the London season. She takes solace in her poetry books and in her love of music. They’re all she has to comfort her as she once again faces the one man who stole her heart ten years ago.

Andrew Bradford, Earl of Covington, needs an heir, but he’s not looking for love. His mother has made her selection, but he can’t help being drawn to the girl’s chaperone. Can he hope to make a match based on more than beauty and suitability?

Love’s Refrain is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook outlets.

Posted in Hobbies, inspiration, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Times I Dropped the Ball, er, Cake

The question of the week is: Have you ever had a recipe turn out badly? My first reaction was, “Of course! You can’t cook as much as I have without having had flops.” But you know what? I haven’t had very many real disasters.

I don’t know how to say with without coming across as smug; I ’m not. I guess I’m just an intuitive cook and have no problem making scrambled eggs out of an omelet that was untimely flipped. I can usually foresee trouble and change a recipe and idea in mid-prep if need be.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a cake fall. But that has more often than not been because someone stomped through the kitchen at a critical time.(I had a lousy relative who did it on purpose more than once.)

A fallen cake AFTER baking is another story!

When I was a young woman my family had my brother-in-law’s boss and family over for dinner. The boss and his wife were very friendly and very helpful to my brother-in-law and my sister. My mother did most of the cooking and I made a Bundt cake for dessert…and broke it while trying to plate it. I salvaged it, sliced it and arranged it artistically on a fancy plate .The boss’ wife even commented on the presentation.

It looked like I had gotten away with it, and would have, too, had my sister not made the story of my accident the night’s “entertainment”.

Another time was what should have been a routine order for a cake at my bakery. Fortunately, the customer ordered it for her father’s birthday a day early. I called to remind her that we were going to close, but I didn’t reach her. I had to leave a voice message and I had no idea if she would hear it in time. Just before we wanted to leave, I slid the cake from the case to get it into a box and I still don’t know how it happened, it broke…just as the woman walked in the door!
I in extra early the next morning to duplicate the cake and I gave her a discount for the inconvenience.

Thank Heaven, she had a sense humor.

I did have one slip-up, foodwise, there. Our place was also a restaurant. My niece, (and co-owner), and I were making Sunday dinner, which was a weekly dine-in and carry-out success. For whatever reason, I got way too much parsley into the potatoes we were making and they ended up quite green. Jennifer has never let me live down the time I managed to turn “Parsley Potatoes” into “Parsley With Potatoes”.

The only big, glaring, bother-me-forever disasters both occurred when I tried to please my priest’s Sicilian mother. Sts. Lorenzo and  Martha, the patron saints of cooks,  were not with me when  it came to cooking for that lady.

The woman was well into her nineties and very set in her ways. I offered to make Christmas Eve dinner for the both, and I was to have it at his mother’s in the late afternoon, so that Father could eat well but lightly long before the evening services.

I realized I was a fool.

I mean, gee, I didn’t have enough to do on Christmas Eve? So I grabbed expensive, pre-shredded Parmesan for the promised Pasta Alfredo, instead of grating it myself. (If you only know the dry, fine Parmesan that is most often used in the U.S., please try some REAL Parmesan.) What I didn’t know at the time was that pre-shredded cheese is coated to prevent it from sticking together…which also prevents it from melting smoothly. Alfredo sauce has to be made just before it is served, so I had no time to get new cheese and no matter what I tried, I could not stop it from being lumpy. At least, it tasted good, but I got “LOOKS” looks and a huff or two from Mrs. A.
Being transplanted to the middle of Kentucky as we both were, we found East Coast favorites and Italian food hard to come by, and the elderly lady dearly missed cannoli, which are a Sicilian favorite. I never had them, so I should have known better than to try.

My mother’s family is from north of Rome. Perugino chocolates and Torrone, (light nougat candy), were our Italian sweets of choice, especially at the holidays. I also will still try to find a panetone even now at Christmas; it’s like a sweet bread with citron. (Oddly, these were usually brought to my mother by her Welsh brother-in-law.). Our people opt for less creamy, more basic goodies like pizzelle and biscotti. My grandmother used to make what she called something that sounded like cosignioli that most people call “struffuli”. They are the little pastries you see piled into a pine-tree shape and covered in honey, or sometimes, spun syrup. I haven’t had them since I was very young.

Even the frappe, (fried sweet dough crisps) and Crema di Signora made by my cousins was a very rare indulgence.(It is REAL Tiramisu, with real ladyfingers, whipped cream and homemade crema, which is much like Bavarian Cream. I shudder when I see a trifle dish anymore because I know someone is going to use Twinkies or Little Debbies, Cool Whip and instant vanilla pudding to put together an abomination akin to expecting the finest wine and getting flat diet soda.)

So I went forty-five miles to the closest Italian store and I found a form to make my own cannoli shells, because I enjoy doing things from scratch. But for the first try, I went ahead and bought premade shells, thinking I’d master one step at a time.

I researched fillings and found that to make it correctly, it was a couple of day process. Because I had to I use cheesecloth to drain the ricotta. I hand grated fresh lemon zest, I painstakingly put all the ingredients together.

The report? Father quoted his mother: “Where did she get that recipe?”

If you don’t know the subtleties of Italian women’s put-downs, that was a real zinger.

I gave away the cannoli form.

When Father asked if I could make another treat his mother sorely missed, Boston Cream Pie ,I was thrilled to be able to inform him that they recently became available at a grocery store in town. I dodged that bullet and never tried to make another thing for the lady, although we remained friends.

In fact, when Mrs. A. passed away a few years later, (at very close to 100), a mutual friend who Father put in charge of her casual belongings gave her Italian cookbook to me. It probably contains a recipe for cannoli….I never bothered to look.

 

I may not get back to your comments right away, as I will be chaperoning a 6th grade field trip. I’ll have six 11-12 yr old boys in my charge. . .I’ll be lucky to get back at all!

Posted in Family, Friendship, Holiday, Life, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Not What I Expected

Cooking is not as easy as it looks

By Jeff Salter

Our topic this week deals with meals (or dishes) which turned out badly. Well, I’m at a slight disadvantage because I hardly bake at all and my notion of “cooking” is to open a package and toss the contents in the microwave.

But as a warm-up to this topic let me explain that – with food – I tend to be overly-literal at times. For example, in the late 1970s – when I was handed my first example of a “fruit roll-up” – I sniffed it, found the aroma pleasing, and took a big bite. Or tried to. Nobody told me they rolled it up with a sheet of 3-mil plastic coating! Very chewy.

And here’s an example of my occasional disconnect between appearance and reality: One day – also in the late 1970s – I came home from work and saw a large tray of delicious-looking cookies. It was Christmas season and I could tell from their shapes that these were holiday cookies. Gingerbread? Sugar Cookie? Couldn’t say for sure.

Didn’t matter. They looked yummy. So I snatched one. Hmm. Very hard, VERY salty. Texture seemed all wrong. Oh well, I figured Denise just messed up that batch… and I had no intention of complaining.

But later that evening, she must have noticed the missing piece because she asked, “Did you enjoy that cookie?”

Ever the gentleman, I replied, “It was okay. Would’ve been better if I’d gotten one still warm from the oven.”

Remember, I had not intended to complain… but she pressed me with more questions. Finally, I said, “Well, it was too stiff and way too salty.” I wondered if I’d hurt her feelings, but suddenly she began laughing. “What’s so funny?” I asked.

She brought over another cookie and inserted a wire hook into the top. “There are ORNAMENTS,” she said, placing it on the Christmas tree. “They aren’t for eating!”

Well, that’s pretty sneaky — making stuff look like cookies and leaving them on a plate!

My Pitiful Meal

Okay, of all the pitiful meals or dishes I’ve actually prepared, here’s probably the winner. [Interestingly, this is also from the late 1970s.]

I forget where Denise was, but I was evidently home alone. I thought I’d give her a pleasant surprise and make supper for when she returned.

Back then, my culinary portfolio was even more limited than it is now, so I selected Sloppy Joes as the evening’s fare. I had all the ingredients: ground beef, buns, a can of SJ mix, and a skillet. I scanned the instructions, which confirmed I was set. I like simple meals with limited steps, and this example had only two: “add one pound of ground beef to one can of SJ mix; stir/simmer.”

Cool, I thought. Easy-peasy. So I opened the can, dumped the goop and ground beef into the skillet… and stirred/simmered.

Shortly, Denise returned home. She seemed pleased I had begun supper — but also appeared skeptical. Then she peered around my shoulder. “What are you making?” she asked.

“Sloppy Joes,” I exclaimed proudly.

“Any problems?” she asked, peering closer.

“Uh, no… don’t think so,” I replied. In truth, the stuff in the skillet did not look right, but I couldn’t figure out why. “Everything’s in there,” I affirmed, “but something seems to be missing.”

Denise took the wooden spoon from my hand and dabbed it here and there in the skillet. “Did you brown the meat before you added the SJ mix?”

“What do you mean brown the meat?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was an alien. “You’re supposed to brown the meat first. You have to cook it.”

“Well, why didn’t they say so?” I whined, having figured that heat plus skillet equaled cooking. “Everybody always assumes you already know the first three steps of everything.”

Needless to say, having dumped raw hamburger on top of the SJ mix — I had upset the order of the universe. We tossed it and she set about to make supper according to Hoyle.

Question:

What meals or dishes have YOU messed up? What happened? Why?

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