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! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Super catch up post... and a new release coming soon!

Hello, everybody! I'm recently back from a vacation and I was so excited to go camping. No, I don't usually love camping but I've fallen in love with cast iron cooking and I was dying to try some recipes.  Let's just say nobody starved but we sure were glad to get back to civilization. I don't mean the picture below. That's where we live. 
Sort of civilized.
                                          Sort of not when it's 106 and above! (Someone asked me if this was real temp or heat index. I don't know what that means. It's the temperature. I guess in some areas the temperature isn't really the temperature but much hotter? Yuck. I'll stick with our 100-110F in the summer.)
 I love vacations. I really do. I like planning and plotting and packing and getting the kids all prepped with studying the sights we'll see. But then by the time we come home, we all feel like this.
 So, after a good twelve hours (no, it doesn't really take that long but we wandered a bit to get there  and small people have small bladders, so lots of stops) we made it to our first destination, a campground on the coast, way down south, nearly to California. (I love these shoes. My friend sent them to me from Texas because they're teal. ha! My favorite color.)
I already talked about the yurt, so here is our cast iron cooking action. Waffles, a sandwich, a pan heating for hashbrowns, and a hot dog. (Can't remember who was eating a hot dog for breakfast. Probably the picky eater of the bunch.) The kids loved cooking their own food but it did require a lot of supervision. We didn't want anyone branded.
My mom has a home on the coast a few hours from there and she brought us this cast iron oven and these berries from their property. YUMMY. So glad they weren't in Arizona! But like us, with the summer heat you look for cooler climes. (This shot is of blueberries, marionberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a gold raspberry hybrid.)
And that recipe worked! It was absolutely delicious! Berry buckle for the win.
We spent the first week in the camp, on Eel Lake, with the Dunes in the other direction. There's a whole long story about getting lost there at sunset but I won't bore you with that.
( I had my own pictures but... well... that story is coming up)
Let me just say... never separate! Even if a five year old is discovered to be holding only one of his shoes and you let the faster people walk ahead because the five year old holding your hand is slower and it's really lovely with the frogs croaking and the sun setting and the breeze on your sunburn. There's a reason people die in the Sahara and a reason you do not take three hours to stop wandering and start yelling.  Enough said. Moving on!
After that, I told my husband I needed a day to sit on the beach and drink coffee while the kids played in the tide pools. So I did. He, of course, scaled the cliffs and I pretended not to notice (and worry).
Living in the land of tumbleweeds and 100F temps, I forgot how normal it is to see rhododendrons and other water-loving plants just growing naturally. And moss. And ferns. It was a feast for the eyes. Ahhhh.
Our town has a few big trees in the main park. But in the forest they're everywhere. The kids get a kick out of them every time.
Speaking of flora, we had to stop at the Darlingtonia Preserve. (That link is the wiki article. So interesting.) My kids think I'm crazy but I keep insisting these carnivorous cobra lilies are cool. I mean, giant pitcher plants that are only found in a few places in the world? YES, we have to stop and look! Also, they remind me of Little Shop of Horrors, so they make me smile.
We tried to throw in a few kids but they fought back.
So, we finally said good bye to the yurt (some of us were more happy than others) and headed up the coast to Florence. There's a seafood chain there called Mo's.
It's loud, crowded and full of tourists. And we love it.
Remember we'd been living off  s'mores and grilled cheese sandwiches...
Slumgullion was like food from heaven. We were ALL SO HAPPY not to be camping. OK, maybe the little kids would have preferred marshmallows for lunch but the rest of us were thrilled.
There are a lot of commercial fisherman, right alongside some funny people who dock their pirate boats. I've never wanted a pirate ship, but it's apparently a thing. We met the sweetest older couple who sold their home after retirement and... built a pirate ship to sail up and down the coast. Funny!
Once we made it to the beach house, we hit the farmer's markets. Wow, these onions are much bigger than ours. But not as sweet.
I was loving civilization but my hair wasn't loving the humidity. Good thing I brought my hairdressers! They're spendy, but worth it.
We met up with some friends and they took us crabbing. We caught lots of crabs... and none were big enough to keep. Which was probably good since I don't think my kids would have eaten them anyway. but it was super fun and ended with ice cream!
At low tide we walked down and gathered mussels for paella (recipe in the link, it's delicious!) We also found a purple starfish! The last few years there haven't been any starfish because of a virus that swept the coast so we were thrilled to see them on the rocks!
We also steamed at enjoyed them straight, but you can imagine a few of the kids preferred hot dogs. And that was fine as long as I didn't have to build a fire! (Unless it was on the beach. Then I was up for it.)

We also went clamming but I don't have any pictures of that because at this point, I fell into Yaquina Bay. It wasn't too bad. Nice and warm. I decided to go with it and swim toward the bank until I realized MY PHONE was in my pocket. Ah well... Luckily I'd been sending pictures to a private album on facebook so I had a few. 

We thought we might travel up north even farther after the week in the beach house but I was tired. Actually, I wanted to come home after two days. I missed my desk, my coffee just the way I like it, my kitchen. I've become a homebody. Even though the yurt was doable and the beach house (we've been there before) was lovely.... it's just not home. The kids are already planning the next trip (maybe to Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Calgary?) but I'm content in my little town... even if it is 90F at 8AM. 
 Until next time!

My newest release, These Sheltering Walls!

This is my newest book.... 

Coming July 30th, Only Through Love!