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Friday, October 7, 2016

Wow! Long time, no post! A monster GIVEAWAY will make it better...

Hello, everybody! I've neglected my poor blog because I'm been directing more energies toward my facebook pages, but I'll rectify that lapse right now with a giveaway!

I'm celebrating FIVE HUNDRED REVIEWS on The Pepper in the Gumbo. Thank everyone who left a review! I really appreciate you taking the time to hit those stars and leave a few words.
And to show my thanks I'm giving away some goodies.
I couldn't decide between Austen...
 Or Louisiana cooking.
And then I thought, "It's MY giveaway. Why not BOTH?"So, here we gooooooo!
 One "I love Darcy tote" bag.
 One set of Emma by Jane Austen refrigerator poetry.
 One copy of Southern Cakes. (I looooove this book.)
And the great granddaddy of giveaway cookbooks-- A copy of River Road Recipes. You can read the description here but it's an amazing collection of Louisiana family recipes from the River Road area. It's the nation's #1 community cookbook, with 650 Cajun and Creole dishes, including the most basic beginner's recipe like "How to Make a Roux". I never get tired of reading through this cookbook!

Enter here and best of luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ballooning time!

Hi, everybody! I've just received the edits for A Star to Steer by and I'm excited to release it at the end of the month!
Our plucky heroine spends most of her time in a big foam cupcake costume. It's one of those stories where someone has an awesome secret identity, except hers isn't so awesome. Coming Oct 31st!
                      And as for us, it's that time of the year. Not grape time, but balloon time.
                                           
                      We get up at 4AM (some of us are more perky at that hour than others),
                                            and drive out to the vineyards or the fields. The major festival is this weekend and there will be launches every morning and then a night festival, but today they were filming a move for an IMAX-type Disney ride. It was an interesting experience because as they filmed, we had to duck and run, or hide behind trees as the camera flew by (on a drone). So, instead of just the usual ground crew tasks, we also had to play hide and seek from the camera. Of course, the little people loved it.
                                        
Usually three balloons this size would take a crew of thirty, but they needed it to be small (because of the camera and not being able to hide that many people) so fifteen people doing the work of thirty was quite a work out.
                                                   
Here, after unrolling, attaching ropes and the top vent, they're opening the envelope, getting the fan running.
 When it all checks out, they attach the basket and light it up. Cue Fall Out Boys, except we try not to light anything on fire, especially ourselves.
 The first one standing up is always a special moment.
 We got good exercise running up and down the hill. The second balloon went up and was tethered.
 The third balloon needed a lot of heat to stay upright and out of the nearby trees, which means it needed more weight before they could safely rise any higher. My older boys had to be "dead weight", haha, but they also had to duck out of the way when the camera flew by. Pretty funny to watch them. They looked like groundhogs, up and down, up and down.
My favorite moment: I was holding  the lead rope (which guides the balloon upright as it's filling). You have to be very strong and run whichever direction at any moment and it might be the only time you ever wished you weighed more than you actually do. 
Anyway, I really wanted a picture of the sunrise and so I asked my ten year old to grab the rope... and he worked like a champ! Right before he slipped and got dragged down the field. Fifty thousand cubic feet of hot air will show you who's the boss. We're still laughing about it. (This is also why you wear leather gloves and all your gear.) 
 
Feel free to stop by my facebook page Pride, Prejudice, Cheese Grits !

Friday, October 2, 2015

Cover reveal, book news and cake!

Hello, everybody! I have a new cover reveal and thought I'd share it here first! I'm so excited about this book because it was so much fun to write... which either means it will be a fatuous piece of junk, or a work of comic genius.  Only time will tell what readers will think!

Coming October 31st!
When this book is released, I'll be running a few giveaways for gift cards and a Kindle fire. Stay tuned!



But in looking forward, it also makes me nostalgic. I found this post from the Yankee Belle Cafe blog and my kids look SO TINY. Even the teens! I thought I'd share it in case anyone wants to make a fall pumpkin cake. :)



So, the post is a retrospective as a bloggy sort of Psalm 148. (It's okay if you don't have it memorized, you can read it here... and then come back!).  Psalm 148
I want to go for one last glorious run through my backyard.
Fresh raspberries. Heaven on earth.
 Squash and zucchini from my friend Barb's garden.
 Piles of cukes from my stepmother's garden. We ate so many cucumbers, I'm surprised we're not green.
 Blueberries from Lampson Blueberries, just twenty minutes from our house, up in the hills. We picked over 150 lbs and they didn't even make it to October. Let's see: 8 people, 3 months, that's approximately 6 pounds of blueberries a month per person in our house. Not very much! Next year, we'll pick more. I say that every year.
Pears from my dad's pear tree. (Like my kettle? Very Pioneer-y.)
Peaches from one of our two peach trees. There were so many that I had to figure out how to freeze them. Ruthy's peach pie is my next project!
Our seedless grapes have finally rebounded from the drought of 2001. Had a wonderful crop this year and about 50 lbs went to a woman who made them into raisins. She bakes panattone for Christmas and ships it all over the US.
Pounds and pounds of perfect plums from my dad's orchard. The tree was so overloaded it was breaking its own branches. We must have picked a hundred pounds. My neighbors started pulling their curtains when they saw us coming with our bags of free plums. You can only eat so many...
Oops, how did this sneak in here?? We're supposed to be praising God's bountiful goodness. But I suppose zucchini bread with walnuts and chocolate chips is worthy of a little praise. :)


We also had bags and bags of our neighbors' goodies because we live in the sort of place that if you're growing it, you better share. It's just good manners. So we've had sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes and apricots, too.
I'm continually in awe of the massive blessings that God showers on us, for no good reason.
He's just that way. And this was a little 'taste' of the way He blesses us out here in ORYGUN.


 (And that pic was taken by Jeff Horner who works at our little hometown paper, the Walla Walla Union Bulletin. The guy is brilliant. Who knows why he lives way out here in podunk east, but we're sure glad he does.)
But as winter closes in, I'll try to remember what Mother Teresa said. "Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."
When the memories of fresh raspberries and pears have faded and I'm staring out my kitchen window at the frost on the dead lawn, I'll just reach out and snag a toddler... and give them some loving. (Like this little dude, watching his cookies bake. He stared at them for a long time before they were 'done'.)
Hey, here's a cute one... And he's holding walnuts. Bonus.

Better yet, I'll snag a tweener or two. Hey, she looks hug-able...

This one is scaring me a bit. Too many ninja movies?
Oh, wait. This one really needs a squeeze. Cranky, naked toddler out of the bath stole her apple slices and then sat his naked tushie on her lap. Check out her face. She's thinking how much her life stinks right now. Long-suffering tweeners. Gotta love 'em.

So, to ease the transition to Fall, we're going to do what we do best. Make a cake!
Oh wait, I'm not good at cake. But I still like to eat cake, so I'll make one anyway. I've picked up a few tips over here on Yankee Belle Cafe, so let's go try them out.
I saw Hershey's has a chocolate cake recipe that didn't look too hard. And it's rated BEGINNER. I'll take that as a good sign...

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cupsall-purpose flour
3/4 cupHERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
· 2 eggs
· 1 cup milk · ( we were out but I used condensed, with some water. Am I just like a pioneer woman or what??)
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
   2 teaspoons vanilla extract
   1 cup boiling water

So, I mixed everything together (really, just like that except for the boiling water and the Hershey's powder, those I mixed separately and then added them) and let Edna do her magic. (Check out that gleaming chrome. Go, baby, go!!)
I think it was Mindy who said to dust the inside with cocoa powder instead of flour. MMMMMM.

And then Missy had a great tutorial on when a toothpick comes out clean it means done. Really clean, not sorta clean, with blobs. THEN she said to let it cool completely before trying to pry it out of the pan. (*lightbulb*)
SUCCESS!!!! And now I stuffed foil in there so the aliens wouldn't mess with its chocolate brain.
No, no, no. I have a plan. and it involves real pumpkin stem. So out I go to the porch...
And mix some frosting until it's just the right shade of.... salmon pink. Whatever. Use your imaginations.
At least the green was okay. And now for the decoration... Because you know I live in a zoo.

Uh-huh. Eat your hearts out, ladies. Multi-colored sprinkles dumped on by a 3 year old.

And check out that shirt. HE's ready for Fall! Even if I'm not.
Even if I'm dreading the six month trek through socks and shoes and jackets and coats and mittens and runny noses and being trapped in the house all day. 
Because it will pass, and we'll have some fun while we wait for spring to come around again.

(My friend Patty Jones' pumpkins, straight from the patch! She sold them on the cheap and donated all proceeds to the Humane Society. She rocks.)
 So, I raise my cake and say a prayer for friends near and far. Because LOVE is a fruit always in season, no matter how long this winter will last.

Until next time! Pop on over to my facebook page at Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits where I have all my new book news!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

End of summer is coming and cookie recipe!

Hello, everybody! I hope your summer is going well! We've been traveling, cooking, sleeping in late, writing, eating, gardening... You know, the best parts of summer! So, a friend gave me a delicious recipe for peanut butter and jelly cookies. I make peanut butter cookies about every three years so i was little skeptical on how great these could be. But she promised they weren't too hard, weren't too sweet, and were perfect right out of the oven. So, we had to try!
(We used our little cookie press on a few. So cute!)
 1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1.2 cups flour

 
 Blend the eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, and peanut butter together. Mix the dry ingredients together, then add to the egg and sugar mixture. Form balls and bake at 350F for six to eight minutes. Any longer and they start to get crispy, which is fine if you want crispy... but these are supposed to be like a PB&J sandwich. 
 When the cookies have cooled a little but are still warm, fill the indentations with jam or jelly. We used our strawberry jelly (from a previous post!). 
 The smelled amazing and tasted even better! A real treat!
 The morning glory in our garden is blooming. I had no idea this was considered a weed in some places! Here, we try to get the seeds started inside in the spring and then carefully transplant them outside. Facebook friends told me they take over the property in some regions and have to be ripped out! 
 And our seedless champagne grapes are ready. Maybe I already posted about it. Well, they're super yummy and I can't post about them enough. Grape season is so short here that we revel in it while it lasts.
 My neighbors zinnias! Really, they just had to be on the post. Too pretty not to share!
 And my polydactyl kitty is helping me with my new book. He's a great content editor! He goes to sleep if it's too boring...
And have to share this funny shot of our other kitty. He was yawning, I swear, but it looks like he's yelling, "M-om! He's TOUCHING ME!" 
I hope everyone has a wonderful last weekend in August! I can't believe it's almost September already!! Summer has just flown by!