My Top Three Favorite Tea-Time Recipes

Tea time. For many years, it was a special occasion when I traveled to England and had tea at Harrods or for a bridal shower. But when my children were about four or five and we were beginning to homeschool, I started serving tea in the afternoon with a little snack. Sometimes, I used store-bought cookies or made pretzels or little sandwiches. It was an opportune time to reinforce manners (still is!). I shared poems and art books with my children, and often we listened to classical music. They loved it. Seriously, even my son loved it. What boy doesn’t like food? Now, that they’re older, we don’t have time for tea every day, but we try to have it at least once a week. It’s a great way for us to come together and share about our day, to talk about books we’re reading, to discuss what activities are coming up on our schedule. Time together is precious, and tea-time is a delicious time for us to share, not only good food but our hearts. Here are three of my favorite recipes:

Scones! There is nothing better on a cold afternoon than hot tea (Earl Grey or Yorkshire) and scones. My hint: add a little extra heavy cream…or maybe a little more. It keeps the scones nice and moist. On the side, serve butter at room temperature, mixed with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar. This is a great way to great your kids after school. It’s fun to sit around and chat about our day.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes! Let me just say one word: YUM! Child-tested, these cupcakes were a huge hit! You can serve these with hot tea or iced tea, depending on the weather.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

These are my kids’ favorite scones. I love to make these in the summer with fresh blueberries. Again, my hint: add a little extra heavy cream. Serve with iced tea or lemonade.

Exciting News for FORGIVEN!

This week, I was informed that PLAIN FEAR: FORGIVEN had been chosen for a special promotion by Barnes and Noble. It goes on sale today as a NOOK book.

Samuel Fisher committed a sin of biblical proportions—he killed his own brother, Jacob. Samuel’s guilt overwhelms him as he struggles to understand the choices Jacob made which led to his death. Haunted by doubts and questions, Samuel starts down the same dark path of destruction. In the gripping final battle between hunters and vampires, Samuel must choose where his loyalties lie. The decisions he makes not only threaten the lives of those he loves, but determine if he will ultimately be forgiven.

You can read a preview here.

Reviews:

“An unlikely, yet fresh idea that completely works, thanks to her ability to blend the genres in a tasteful manner.” – RT Book Reviews –

“A richly detailed and atmospheric tale of suspense.” – Library Journal –

I hope you’ll help me make PLAIN FEAR: FORGIVEN a big success during this special promotion! Thanks for all your support!

Giveaway: To celebrate this promotion, leave a comment below and I’ll draw a name of a winner to receive the paperback copy of PLAIN FEAR: FORSAKEN and PLAIN FEAR: FORBIDDEN, the first two books in the series. I’ll draw a name on Monday, April 7th.

April Fools’ Cat

My father-in-law was a cat magnet. He loved them, and they loved him. He also loved to laugh. So, it’s fitting that we got our sweet Sawyer from him.

Here’s my father-in-law, Glenn, with my daughter and my sister-in-law when he came to see Annie a few months before the “incident”.

As I said, cats adored Glenn and came from far and wide to live with him. So it was not surprising that another cat had adopted him. However, he thought this particular cat was a male. So he did not rush to get it fixed. But lo and behold on April Fool’s Day, this ‘male’ cat delivered kittens.

Aren’t they adorable? Well, a couple of weeks after Glenn discovered his error and these adorable kittens, he had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. My husband raced to Kansas City to be with his father. Unfortunately, Glenn did not recover and passed away. As we were making arrangements for the funeral, my husband told me about the kittens and asked if we could keep one. Well, what could I say? Of course! So when we went up for the funeral, my daughter picked out a kitten for us and a kitten for my sister. They were still too young to leave their mother, so we anxiously awaited their arrival to our house in May.

They had not had much human contact because of Glenn’s hospitalization, so they huddled together. We had thought to name our kitten, the orange/blond one ‘Glenda’ after both Glenn and one of our favorite books/movies–The Wizard of Oz. But the day we took them to the vet to get checked out, we discovered that orangey kittens are 95% male. And so, we quickly changed Glenda’s name to Sawyer, after one of our favorite characters on the TV show LOST.

The pretty gray one, my sister kept, and she named her Scout.

Now here they are all grown up!

April Fools’ Day is bittersweet, as I think of sweet and wonderful Glenn, but it’s also joyous in that we have an adorable cat. Sawyer is so lovable. Our sorrow will end one day when we are all united in heaven, but until then we will remember Glenn and his sweet gift, Sawyer.

A New but Old Book!

I’ve been tackling a big fear over the past few weeks and months, and that is figuring out this ebook pubbing thing. Oh my! I am not tech-saavy. So it took a lot for me to figure it all out. But with God’s help and many sweet friends’ advising, I did it.

So here it is!

This book originally was published through Silhouette Romance as Are You My Daddy? and it won the Readers Choice Award. I so loved that book, so I enjoyed updating it and getting it ready for the ebook world.

Rancher Joe Rawlins was nobody’s daddy, but ever since five-year-old Cody took a spill at the rodeo, the little cowpoke was convinced Joe was his father! To avoid upsetting the boy, Joe agreed to play daddy – and then discovered he’d also become the “husband” of beautiful, vulnerable Marty Thomas who distrusted cowboys like her ex-husband who shirked their responsibilities. To his astonishment, Joe found he was getting good at this new job – and the look of love in his pretend family’s eyes was becoming all too real. Could happily-ever-afters happen in real life?

I would love to give a copy away to a reader. So if you would like a chance to win, tell me some fear you have conquered in the comments. I’ll choose a winner tomorrow (Friday) morning.

If you can’t wait, then you can purchase the book on Amazon.

Paw Prints on My Heart

She looked at me. Helplessly. Pleadingly.

I was driving down the highway on the way to my folks’ farm when I saw a furry lump in the middle of the road. And just before I zoomed past, she looked at me. Those eyes haunted me. I had to go back.

Of course, I had two young children (ages 3 and 4) and three dogs. So I drove on to my parents’ house to drop off the dogs and get my mother’s help. My mom is a huge animal advocate, so she didn’t hesitate when I told her the situation. She grabbed her cat carrier and off we went.

The traffic was very heavy as it was about five in the evening. Huge eighteen wheelers sped along the two lane highway. The cat was still lying there. And still alive. I thought we’d never be able to cross the one lane to get to her. But suddenly, the traffic disappeared. My mom, such a hero, didn’t hesitate. She raced to the middle of the highway and scooped up the little cat. Carefully we placed her in the cat carrier and drove her to town to the vet.

We named her Hershey, because she had dark chocolate-brown fur with white spots. She sort of looked like a S’more with chocolate and marshmallow all mixed together. One chocolate spot was at her mouth and looked like she’d been eating chocolate. We couldn’t keep her because I’m allergic to cats, as is my husband, so we left her at the vet’s, so they could better care for her concussion and badly injured front leg. After a few days, without any success in finding her a loving home, we had to bring her home to my parents’ house. Her injured leg had a serious infection. She wasn’t eating well. And we discovered she was pregnant as she gave birth to one kitten at the vet’s. But the kitten didn’t survive. The vet said the kitten was born 10 days early, which usually means they can’t survive.

Of course as soon as we brought her to my mom’s house and settled her in the laundry room–ta-da–she delivered two more kittens. One of which, I had to actually deliver. Oh boy! What a night that was! So began our journey of trying to save these little kittens. We had to feed them every hour, even through the night. One, sadly, didn’t survive. But one did. We named her Miracle.

Eventually, Momma cat had surgery to remove her injured leg, and she came to live with us. Yes, even though we were allergic. And amazingly, we weren’t allergic to Miracle. Hershey’s milk came in 8 weeks after delivery, after Miracle had been weaned and was eating solid foods.

Most of the first year, Hershey stayed under my dining room table. Each night, when I would finally sit down, she would come to me and sit in my lap. She was the sweetest cat. She had the loudest purr. She helped me teach my children that every life is precious and worth fighting for. For five years, Hershey had a safe place to live. She passed away too soon, and I was heartbroken to lose her.

It’s been several years now since we lost Hershey. Over Christmas, I made a memory shadow box for her. I got the idea from my niece who made us memory boxes for our two sweet dogs when they passed away.

You can get a shadow frame at most craft stores. I used the fancy paper most use for photo albums. No cutting required. It’s a lovely way to remember our sweet pets that have placed their paw print on our hearts.

Have you had a pet to leave their paw print on your heart? Have you created a memorial of some kind to honor them?

Foolish According to Whom?

I was ten. That’s the only excuse I can give. I honestly don’t know this many years later what I was thinking, but I looked in the mirror one day and decided I hated my eyebrows. They were too bushy, or so I thought. This was not during Brooke Shields‘ meteoric rise to stardom. Again, for some unknown reason, I didn’t ask my mother what I should do to fix this horrible defect. This was way, way, way before computers, so I couldn’t Google an answer. Instead, I grabbed a razor. Yep. You guessed it. I shaved off part of my eyebrow. At least it wasn’t all of my eyebrow. I figured out after only part of my eyebrow disappeared that it might not be a good idea after all. Well, believe me, I felt pretty foolish, especially over the six weeks it took for my eyebrow to grow back.

Then there was the day at school when I was in third grade. Mrs. Hudson was reading Little House on the Prairie, right after lunch. While she read, we were allowed to doodle at our desks. I had this new nifty hair comb. My best friend had bought it for me when she went to Galveston on vacation. It was shaped like a fish, and the combs were like the bones, so they stuck out on both sides. Well, that day it was rainy and my curls had fallen. The travesty! So while I listened to the story, I wrapped my hair around the fish comb, hoping it would curl my hair. Wrong again. How would you like to be in third grade, with half a day left, and a yellow fish comb stuck in your hair?

It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last time I’ve made a fool of myself.

Just in case, you think these two events were flukes, I’ll share about the time in sixth grade when I sprayed red paint in my face. Yep. And no, it was an accident. Thankfully, it did wash off. But it didn’t erase the embarrassment I felt.

Of course there are many different ways to make a fool of yourself. As I read the headlines these days about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, I wonder if they are embarrassed by their antics. Maybe one day they will be. Even though I’m happy I’ve never been arrested or twerked in public, I am not immune to doing stupid things. I’m thankful, my embarrassing moments weren’t plastered all over the internet or put my life in danger. Hopefully, Miley and Justin will return to their faith, mature and gain wisdom. I hope there are Godly folks in their lives who can speak the truth to them. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to shrug off those foolish moments and keep them safely tucked away. (Believe me, there are many of those moments I’m not about to share on the internet!) Maybe I’ve gotten used to embarrassing myself. Or maybe (and I hope this is the reason) I’ve simply learned that one’s outward appearance isn’t as important as one’s inner beauty.

Is that something some elderly person came up with to make those of us growing older feel better? Maybe. But then again, Peter tells us God’s opinion in his epistle: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:3-4)

As I am getting of an age that I don’t look the way I used to, I reflect on my grandfather’s words more and more: “Pretty is as pretty does.” I truly believe my grandfather was right. I have been blessed to know some amazing women in my life. Not all of them were Angelina Jolie beautiful. But they were beautiful nonetheless. And their inner beauty was something to behold as they served God, loved their families, and cared for others. You see, there are some ways in which the world might perceive us as being foolish but which brings glory to God.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looked at by friends and family who didn’t understand our decision to homeschool. God led us to that decision for our family. It doesn’t always make sense to the world. But we’re not doing it to please the world.

Shakespeare said, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Frankly, the world will never understand Christians and the choices we make for Him. King Solomon said, “Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?” (Proverbs 17:16) The world’s wisdom is not the same as the Lord’s. It is better to risk everything, even making a fool of oneself, for God’s glory than to seek the things of this world.

Unfortunately, I’m still apparently making a fool of myself at least occasionally. In light of the Super Bowl game yesterday (Congrats to the Seahawks!), there is no explanation for this picture of me.

So how have you made a fool of yourself? And how are you letting your inner beauty shine through?

Coffee or Tea?

Some days, serious questions demand answers. Now, I’m a gal who loves her coffee. Ever since I went to college, I have my coffee. Every day. Seriously, each morning I start with a gigantic cup. I’m talking one of those cups that looks like half a pot. And that’s just the start. I love to sit in a coffee shop and write on my laptop. I frankly don’t care if my coffee is hot or cold. Often, I’ll sit down with a big cup of coffee and start writing, then I forget about the coffee and the next time I take a sip it’s cold. But that’s okay. I don’t mind at all.

Now, most of my friends are either coffee people or tea folk. I’m not talking the sweet iced tea most southerners drink with their barbecue. Most folks don’t usually fall on both sides of that proverbial fence. They like one or the other. Coffee or tea.

But the other day, I realized I am both. Is that weird?

When did my coffee devotion wane? I think maybe the first time, I started to stray was when I went to London and had high tea. When my kids were little, we started having tea parties in the afternoon, just little snacks and lemonade, even though we called it ‘tea.’ In the afternoons now, I prefer a spot of tea to coffee. Is that sacrilegious? Truly, there is not much better than tea with scones, muffins, and little finger sandwiches.

Then I realized the reason for my two loves. It makes perfect sense. Coffee accompanies my writer self. Together, the two go hand in hand. I need that jolt of caffeine in the morning to greet my manuscript and get to work. However, tea seems to be paired with reading. I love to sip tea and read. When my kids were little and we had tea together, we’d read poetry or a short story. Oh how I miss those days! Anyway, tea and books. Perfection.

So, what do you prefer? Coffee or tea? French roast or Earl Grey?

Blown away!

Some new reviews have been coming in and have blown my socks off. Thankfully, it’s summer! Here’s one of the latest reviews of Plain Fear: Forgiven.

Inspirational fiction author Leanna Ellis was thinking a long way out of the box when she created the Plain Fear series. A paranormal series based on the simplistic lifestyle of the Amish, combined with the haunting elegance of vampires. Her vision resounded with both paranormal romance and inspirational readers with this ultimate tale of good vs. evil. The final book in the series, Plain Fear: Forgiven concludes this ground breaking series and blends the two genres so masterfully that it is hard to tell which one the book actually fits into. An amazing finale to a very charismatic and suspenseful series!

Leanna Ellis has long been a favorite of mine in the inspirational fiction genre. Being a fan of paranormal writing as well, I was extremely excited to see where Ellis would take this Amish/Vampire romance. I was certainly not disappointed. Plain Fear is a series that redefines what readers might consider inspirational. Even though some of the characters are “undead” these books still have the same underlying issues that any inspirational novel might have: good vs. evil, faith vs. unbelief, love vs. hate and even redemption vs. eternal loss. Ellis has done something many readers may not have thought possible. She has used characters and ideas that many in the inspirational community would consider taboo, to show the power of love and of God. Well done!

Plain Fear: Forgiven is the final book in the Plain Fear series. It wraps up the complete circle of the series, going from being utterly forsaken to being forgiven. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they watch the hero, Samuel struggle against the dark side of his nature, which would lead him down the same path his brother Jacob succumbed to. But they will also see his determination to live up to the tenets of his faith. This book not only has the elements of good and evil but it is also filled with suspense and romance, giving the reader a very complex story that will stick with them for a long time.

Ellis’ portrayal of the Amish is done with a deft hand. She does not make the simple lifestyle of the Amish people into something evil by adding the vampire element. She still shows these people as people of faith and understanding. Who often stand in the gap between the materialistic world and the a world of simple pleasures and meaning that has fallen by the wayside. She shows the faith and love of this remarkable group of people with grace, while showing the dark, seductive side of life through the eyes of her vampire characters. The stark contrast is amazing to see brought out in the pages of this book and the others in the series.

I can honestly say that after reading this series I have reflected more about my own life and faith. Samuel shows that even those who believe they are on a righteous path have to make tough decisions and must live with the consequences of each decision they make. Even though this series may not be in the inspirational market, I think it holds true value in that arena as well as the paranormal market. If you haven’t read this series… What are you waiting for?

I’m giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! That’s the highest praise I can give…

Deb’s Bookbag

Elvis Week

Can you believe Elvis has been gone 36 years and folks still flock to Graceland every year to celebrate his life and music? It’s true. They do. What’s up with that?

Now please don’t get me wrong. I love me some Rock-a-Hula music. And I’ve been to Graceland. For research.

Life has taught me that folks do all sorts of weird things that I’ll never understand. Like bungee jumping. Or riding that teacup ride at Disney World. Or entering a contest to see how many hotdogs they could cram down their throats in a minute. Sorry. I will never get that! It’s just not me.

But I’m sure there are things I do that other folks don’t get either. Like writing books. Or homeschooling my kids. Or putting up with my crazy labradoodle, aka the Hilo Monster.

This is Hilo kissing my best friend, Dorothy Love. Thankfully, Dorothy understands my love for this crazy dog.

Anyway, we all do crazy things. And sometimes we recognize them as crazy and sometimes not. I was talking with my kids last week and the topic of Justin Beiber came up. Thankfully, my teen daughter never really got into that phase. She couldn’t believe that kids were weeping at his concert. “Why?” she asked. “They were excited,” I tried to explain. She didn’t get it. (and I’m kind of glad!)

It all comes down to worship. We worship different things. Yes, some of us worship God. But some of us also worship food or hot cars or chicks or whatever floats our boat. Sometimes we realize what we’re doing and other times we don’t. It’s simply what we’re spending all of our time and focus on. Sometimes that’s Elvis (or substitute any other singer here) singing “Hound Dog” over and over and over. Did you do that as a kid? Listen to the same song over and over over? Okay, maybe it was just me. Other times it’s on fashion…or the best chocolate chip cookie recipe….or making my house as nice as my neighbor’s…or even botoxing all the wrinkles out of our faces.

Trust me, I’m not pointing fingers, I have plenty of things in my own life that trip me up and get me off track. I am a God-worshipper. However, sometimes my focus gets skewed and I am not as focused on God as I should be. I want to be a David–who worshipped God with abandon. I want to be like the woman who poured perfume on Jesus–pouring out my life for Him. I want to be like Job–even in the hard times, the painful times praising God for who He is.

What about you? What are you worshipping these days?

By the way, this topic is what I wrote about in my book, Elvis Takes a Back Seat.