Bullrider Sean O’Connell’s life is perfect, or it was until his partying lifestyle affects his riding ability. Now he’s ended the season too broke to leave the Northwest for the warm southern rodeos. When a wild night with his buddies gets out of hand, he wakes up naked, staring into the angry eyes of a strange woman. His infallible O’Connell charm gets him nowhere with the dark-haired beauty. It’s obvious she’s not his usual good-time girl, so why can’t he forget her?
Catherine Silvera finds a waterlogged, unconscious cowboy freezing to death in front of her uncle’s Sugarwater Bar. She saves his life—then runs faster than a jackrabbit with a coyote on its tail. Any man who makes his living rodeoing is bad news, especially if he thinks partying is part of the competition. He’s everything she doesn’t want in a man, yet she shake her attraction to the rugged cowboy.
As part of The 12 Days of Christmas celebration, Stephanie donated a PB copy of Sugarwater Ranch with a keychain to the prize list. Click HEREfor this and many more random drawings. To follow the celebration, find a new recipe, pick up a holiday decorating or shopping tip, click HERE.
About the Author
Born and raised in Boise, Idaho to city parents, I was a horse lover from the day I first watched My Friend Flicka.
I began writing after I read a rodeo romance in which the romance was good, but the rodeo and horse information was so wrong…. I thought, how hard can it be to write a book? Five years and thousands of hours of study and writing, I know how hard it is. Writing well is just as hard to do well as it is to do anything well.
I write Contemporary Rodeo Romance with a touch of magic. It’s Romance with a Rodeo flair.
Tonight, Christmas Eve, I’m spending with my one of my besties and her husband. We will have a delightful Pinot noir, to go with our Christmas tacos, because we agreed on nothing too massive this year (we overdid it at Thanksgiving, and then we were in food comas for the rest of the night).
The kids will open a present. I’ll prepare my Christmas cinnamon rolls for tomorrow morning.
I still won’t have a cocktail.
That being said, here is my wine recommendation: Bradley Vineyards Pinot Noir. It’s a small Oregon vineyard, but if you can get it, it’s totally worth it. We’re going to drive through next year, just so we can pick up some more (they won’t ship here, which is a crying shame).
My husband, way back when, grew up on the land that is the vineyard. But that’s not why I’m recommending it. I’m recommending it because it really is THAT GOOD.
Give American cake artist Genevieve Haywood a picture of anything, and she’ll turn it into a sweet and decadent creation. She’s not going to let hard work or competition stop her from opening her dream business. But when she’s hired as the cake artist for her cousin’s wedding in France, she never expected to run into the French fashion designer who broke her heart fifteen years ago.
Roman Duchaine is done with living life in the fast lane. Tired of being in the haute couture spotlight, he’s moved back to the small French village where he was born and raised.
Roman’s ready to settle down and have a family until the lost love of his life arrives for his cousin’s wedding. Seeing her reminds him just how devastating falling in love can be.
Their fragile truce is meant to last through the wedding, yet every second together makes their attraction and long-buried feelings undeniable. But old habits and hurts die hard, and while Roman is ready to weave their lives together, Genevieve can’t afford to lose herself in his shadow.
Favorite Christmas Tradition… Oh, this one is easy. This is the day we cut down our tree.
The family and I wake up slowly… around ten o’clock we pile into my husband’s truck with some coffee and hot cocoa and drive north. We stop at “our” truck stop and buy a permit to cut the tree, and usually get some snacks (it never matters if I pack lunch and all sorts of snacks; we always wind up with more). Then we go to wherever it is that we will cut down our tree.
Most years, we go up to a certain reservoir with some friends of ours and their kids. The kids play in the mud/snow, and the adults cut down the tree. This year, we went out on our own, and found a nice little copse of trees. The kids pick out the tree, and husband will cut it down. Then we’ll hike back to the truck, have some snacks, water and more coffee, and head back into town.
I love the smell of the trees, the bite of wind on my face. I loved where we went this year, because it wasn’t far from a nice gravel road, and therefore, I felt like we wouldn’t get stuck (there have been some years when it’s been a little dicey.)
When we come home, I’ll make lunch of leftover Thanksgiving spread (that I then turn into sandwiches) while the kids/husband take out the Christmas decorations. Then husband will help put up the Christmas lights, and then the kids and I will decorate my crazy tree. I love it.
My second favorite Christmas tradition is, late on Christmas Eve, after the kids have opened their presents and we’ve helped Santa put together any of the toys that need putting together, husband and I will sit down, have a glass of wine, and watch While You Were Sleeping. Well, except for that one Christmas, when Santa left us in charge of putting together my daughter’s play kitchen, which took until 3 in the morning. We skipped that year. I really felt like Santa owed us one that time. 🙂
Welcome! First, let me remind you to enter the rafflecopter to win some fabulous prizes!
Now, let’s welcome Cynthia Gail (see, I always start with the exciting stuff first).
She’s the author of Winter’s Magic, which I have read, and I loved. And y’all know I don’t often offer free endorsements. (Oh, and look, I figured out the problem with the pictures. It’s that my Mac loves me, and my PC hates me)
Owner of La Bella Vita, a five-star day spa nestled in the affluent suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee, Beth Sergeant knows her elite clientele first hand. She attended their private schools. She was even engaged, although briefly, to one of their most recognized bachelors. But she never fit in to their social-elite world.
After losing his parents to a car accident at a young age, Nick Chester was raised by his grandfather, the wealthiest man in Nashville. When he chooses to socialize, he has a never-ending list of exclusive events and beautiful women vying for his attention. Yet he never lets himself forget that everyone has an agenda.
Beth can’t resist Nick’s charm and accepts an invitation to dinner, despite her deep-seated insecurities. She proves she’s nothing like other women Nick’s dated and learns to trust him in return. But just as the last of their resistance crumbles and true love is within reach, challenges from Nick’s past threaten to destroy everything and force Beth to reveal her most guarded secret.
So, favorite Christmas song.
When I saw this theme, I just about had a conniption fit. I turned to husband and said, “Am I a grinch? I don’t like Christmas music! Oh no, I’m a grinch. All these years, and I’m a grinch. A grinch with children. And I’m ruining their holidays because I don’t like Christmassy things!” (Except my tree. I really do love my tree. Other forms a decoration? Meh.)
It’s true enough that I put a red light district in my mother’s Christmas Village when I was 17, and I kept one in my own Christmas Village when I got one. Actually, last year, a dragon perched on top of the castle (courtesy of my son… He put the dragon there, and I left it, because, well, it was awesome), all my son’s storm troopers were coming out of the now traditional red-light district (which we call the “emergency district” because it’s right next to the police station, and my children have no idea what a red light district is, and I’m not going to tell them), and Darth Vader had a battle with Luke Skywalker in the town square. I thought it was the most fabulous Christmas Village ever.
But I digress.
I thought about it. A lot. Then I came to the conclusion that I actually do like Little Drummer Boy, and I like Stille Nacht, though that’s mostly because I know all the German words. But then, as I was bemoaning the fact that I am a grinch raising children, and ruining the holidays for all time, husband pointed out that I actually really like Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You, even though I’m not an MC fan (it could be because I love, love, love the movie Love, Actually). And no Christmas is complete without Feed the World, maybe because it’s from the 80s, maybe because it has Bono from U2, and maybe because it’s an emo enough Christmas song to appeal to my inner grinchiness.
Then husband pointed out the following: the last three nights when he’s come home, the kids and I have been singing Christmas carols really loudly and really off key as I make dinner. Maybe I’m not a total grinch, after all.
Becca Huntley’s produced the Lyndale Park Player’s over-the-top Christmas pageant for ten years. The beloved Minneapolis tradition is the theatre’s main fundraiser. But this year’s production is almost canceled when their director disappears into rehab at the last minute. Good thing his directing partner steps in to save the day. Except for the minor fact that he hates everything about Christmas.
Jack Whittaker wiped the Twin Cities off his shoe with his graduation tassel and never looked back. But duty compels him to fulfill Tyler’s promise to direct the show. Even though it means working side-by-side with Becca, the girl he always wanted, lost to Ty, but never forgot.
It’ll take more than a few handfuls of tinsel to soften Jack’s heart toward Becca’s favorite holiday. Steamy kisses that melt the snow right off his boots are a step in the right direction. They’ll both discover that Christmas is about making each other’s dreams come true. But will doing so destroy their chance at a happily-ever-after together?
I adore my Christmas tree. Every year, I really want it to look like this:
Instead, it looks like… well, my tree.
17 years ago, when I first got married, I had precisely one ornament, a decorated egg that I bought in Prague two years before (I was shocked my mother let me have it, even though I bought it for me… I mean, I bought her one, too, but… The egg is pretty awesome).
Over the years, I’ve bought other ornaments, from various trips we went on Disneyland ornaments? Check. Ornaments from that trip we took (pre-kids) to Mexico? Check. And every single ornament made by my children through the years. Including all the ones that are held together with scotch tape, glue and popsicle sticks.
I love my tree. Half the time, it’s a bit scraggly (seven years of drought will do that to trees, and if I’m going to have a real tree, it’s going to be one I cut myself). The decorations are crazy, but I love them. Every memory of my family is contained on that single tree, in that one space.
I have an ornament that is a recording of my son telling a knock-knock joke when he wasn’t even two.
I have an ornament for when I was expecting my daughter, and one that holds her first Christmas pictures.
I have ornaments of all their little handprints, and the ones they colored. Including the ones my son colored, and that boy hates to color, so it’s not… um… his best work.
Best thing ever, my scraggly, crazily decorated tree. I wouldn’t trade it for the most perfect tree ever. Not in a million.
Olivia promises to fulfill her dying husband’s wish – to scatter his ashes around the world. Wading through grief and depression, she journeys to a remote orphanage in Uganda. Living amongst the children in their threadbare surroundings, she vows to fight for the children’s lives as she begins to fight for her own. While Olivia develops a passion for humanitarian work, the lonely director of the orphanage develops a simmering passion for her.
Just as time begins to heal the wounds of Olivia’s fragile heart, her world is shattered when she is involved in a violent encounter with an armed rebel group in the picturesque mountains of Uganda. Olivia flees to the safety of Rwanda, where she learns the truth of her husband’s unimaginable betrayal.
As Olivia hovers on the brink of an emotional collapse, her broken soul is reawakened with a startling new love – but her life is about to take another dramatic turn as she struggles to survive in a region left torn apart by civil war. It will take every ounce of Olivia’s courage to hang on to those she loves the most but it may come at a great cost to all of them.
Okay, okay, so I do like Sandra Bullock, and I’ve always enjoyed Bill Pullman… and Peter Gallagher has awesome eyebrows. I mean, sure, they’re super heavy and dark, but so were mine before I discovered the joys of wax. At least he has two of them, right?
However, even if this movie didn’t star Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, I would love it.
Every year at Christmas, I make mashed potatoes. Every year, after his first bite, Husband says, “These mashed potatoes are so creamy.” And that gets us started on an entire Cesar Romero riff that lasts a good five minutes.
It also started the whole “leaning” conversation with the husband. And the snarky comments of “I know karate.” Because even though the kids haven’t seen this movie, both of them will randomly spout off, in a New York-style accent, “I know karate.” Boy child will even punctuate this with some sort of twirling jump-kick thing that looks pretty good if it’s not badly executed.
Alas, the last time he tried it, I thought he pulled his groin. There were tears and ice and Motrin. And maybe some wine for the old mom.
In any case, after the mashed potato comments, after the kids are in bed, and after we have put together all the things that need putting together, Husband and I will sit together and watch this movie on Christmas eve. It’s my favorite part of the entire day.
Kasey Blakely doesn’t know that her date is anything more than incredibly hot. It’s after things have moved past friendship, that she learns her new lover is also slated to be her partner in a corporate merger. He knew it all along withholding his identity to have her.
Self-assured, future CEO, Kasey Blakely stumbles into Joshua Crawford, leaving her breathless and momentarily senseless. Taken with her, he learns she’s more than just a beautiful woman, she’s slated to be his partner in a corporate merger. Never feeling as smitten or intrigued, he’ll do anything to have her, including, not revealing his last name. After a passionate exchange and the prospect he could lose her, does he come clean with his identity. Always confident, Kasey, struggles with her growing love for a man who has claimed her heart and changed her world, but should be forbidden. She’s all in…then all out. Despite the warnings not to mix business with pleasure, Kasey and Joshua risk it all. Committing to return to California with Joshua, Kasey’s world unravels. Were her fears right, or can they manage the MERGER of their hearts and their future partnership?
Ah, dessert, elusive dessert. Dessert has always been the bane of my existence. Mostly because I love it so, so much. I love baked goods, but I never really made them. Let’s just say that I learned to cook at a young age as a survival skill, but baking seemed beyond me (probably because, like Lemony Snicket, there was a series of unfortunate (baking) events. Though these incidents did fuel my love of firefighters. They’d all show up in their turnouts, and I would hide somewhere with a good view while someone explained about the rolls. Or the bread. Or the popcorn. Or how the back wall of the kitchen just happened to catch on fire. Twice. And I swear, by all that it good, that I wasn’t the one doing this. I have my own baking mishaps, but the fire department never came to those).
In any case, I was a box cake, buy it at the store, kind of girl.
And then I became allergic to eggs. My first baking episode post diagnosis looked like this:
Yes, that is an actual picture of a real cake I sort of made. I keep it because it’s both funny AND sad, which always makes for a great story. Apparently, without eggs (and using a baking soda egg replacer), a box cake will turn into, at the slightest touch, chocolate dust. This was five years ago, for my son’s second birthday. And yes, I squished it together with a mixture of willpower, upper air strength, and frosting. It held together long enough to take this picture, sing Happy Birthday, and look at it sideways. And then, it was frosting-covered chocolate dust.
It was horrible (tasted OK, as I recall, but it wasn’t pretty. Boy child didn’t seem to care, but then, he’s boy child. He’s not picky, unless it’s green).
In any case, shortly thereafter, I discovered that I also have celiac disease, so welcome to a wheat-free lifestyle. At the time, I thought I’d never eat dessert again. It was depressing.
I discovered, after a while, and reading many, many blogs, that I can bake. It’s just a matter of being creative. And using pumpkin. I’m an expert on using pumpkin these days.
So, here is my recipe (and yes, it’s pumpkin.). It’s an adapted version of one that I found in Sunset magazine. The original is a two layer cake, but it was too much, and everyone felt over-full and sugar comaed (yes, I just made up a word) afterward.
Gluten free praline pumpkin cake
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c butter
3 tbsp plus 3/4 c whipping cream
1 c chopped pecans (this I kept, because, well, pecans are fabulous)
2 flax eggs (to make a flax egg, combine 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water. Normally, recipes call for three, but I find that with pumpkin recipes, it needs to be thicker, or you’ll never get it cooked through)
1 c granulated sugar (because this cake is so stinking sweet)
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c flour (I had a mixture of 1/2 c gluten free all purpose baking mix, and 1/2 c sorghum flour. The all purpose tends to be made with garbanzo bean flour, which in baked goods isn’t awesome unless you really overdo the sugar. Sorghum is sweet and delicious, but doesn’t rise very well without some complicated mixture involving arrowroot and tapioca and xanthan gum–all of which I have, and have made before, but it’s complicated, and I didn’t want to have to think too hard on Thanksgiving. So here you go)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or you can make your own with ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Which I did this year because I ran out on THANKSGIVING DAY, but I added ground cloves because I like cloves. If you don’t, just leave it out).
1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 c powdered sugar
So… Now that you have all the ingredients, here’s what you do with them:
Preheat over to 350 degrees
Butter one 9 inch cake pan and line with parchment.
Over low heat, mix the butter, 3 tbsp whipping cream and brown sugar together until melted and blended. Pour the mixture into the pan and sprinkle with most of the pecans (reserve some for the topping)
In a bowl, mix the flax eggs, granulated sugar and oil until well blended. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients (omit the powdered sugar; that’s for the frosting)
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet stuff (I’m being totally specific here… I harp on my students all day for using non-specific language, and here I go, doing the exact same thing). Pour the batter into the pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. At higher elevations, decrease the heat and extend the cooking time. It just works better. i’m not at a high elevation, but I cook as though I am because it just seems to work better for me. I think I live at that funky “in-between” elevation. Let it cool in the pan for a bit, then invert onto racks and remove pans and paper. Let cool completely.
For the frosting (topping), take your remaining whipping cream and the powdered sugar and mix until soft peaks form. Once the cake is completely cooled, then you can put the cream on top. Top that with the remaining pecans.
It is a pretty cake, and it tastes fantastic, even for people who are accustomed to wheat cakes with eggs (which are admittedly a whole lot easier to bake). This cake came out super moist, and sure, my cakes don’t rise like a normal cake, but it was delicious. This is very, very rich, though, so you only need a small piece to be satisfied. I’ll admit, I wondered if Husband’s blood sugar would ever be normal again.
I wish I’d taken a picture. But since I don’t Instagram my successes (only my dismal failures), I didn’t take one.
This week’s questions are from Ronnie Allen! Let’s get to it.
1. When do you decide that you’ve done enough editing and changes would now be making it different, not better? So it’s the time to submit.
That’s a good question. I’m never certain it’s “done enough.” The only time I don’t feel the need to tinker with a project is after it’s been published, and even then, I find errors and things I should change. It’s one of the reasons why I have a problem with reading my stuff after it’s done. I can always think of something I could have done better, or done differently.
I guess what that means is that I’m a terrible person to ask this question of. I tinker until the darn thing is published, and then I generally wish I had tinkered a little bit more.
2. When and how do you accept change advice by rejection letters and critique partners?
It depends on the advice. When a publisher gives me advice–especially when they’re rejecting me–I generally take it unless it would change the overall tone of the story. After all, they’re saying they don’t want it, but they took the time to give me advice on what could be done to make it better. That sort of advice always deserves a second look. The only time I disregarded this advice was when I wrote an urban fantasy, and the publisher asked me to re-write the entire thing as a YA, focused around a single scene in the story (that didn’t even have the main characters in it, since they were both adults). That’s not asking for rewrites or giving me advice about how to make THIS story better; that’s asking me to write and submit something completely different. I ignored that advice, though I’ll admit, the story she wanted would make a nice, gritty NA.
As for changes suggested by critique partners? Well, it depends on the changes. Most of the time, I listen to what people tell me. If it would change the entire storyline, well, no, I won’t change that. But if it’s a change to make it flow more logically, then sure, I’ll look at reworking chapters or scenes or sentences to make it work. I think it’s important to listen to what everyone says with an open heart, but to remember that the work is yours. Take the advice that is useful, and disregard the rest. At the same time, I think it’s important to remember not to view your words as so precious you refuse to part with them or make changes. No one’s work is so good that they couldn’t use and editor, and no one’s story is so perfect it can’t use improvement.
3. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your day or do you create your day around your writing?
Gads, that’s a hard question. Work days generally look something like this:
6:00am: Wake up. Check Facebook. Try to think of something witty to say, something engaging and interesting and awesome. Usually fail. I might settle for silly.
6:30: Get out of bed and into the shower.
7:00: I’m READY! Oh wait, my hair’s still wet.
7:15: Ah, hell. That’s good enough. It looks the same regardless of the effort I put into it anyway.
7:30: Do dishes, throw something into the crock pot for dinner, make lunches, feed kids.
8:15: Leave for work. Hopefully, the homework was done and checked the night before, otherwise I’m checking it in my office at work. And none of us like that.
8:30-4:30: Work. If I’m lucky, and ate lunch sitting at my computer, I got it all done. If I’m unlucky, I’ll be writing IEPs at midnight. Again.
5:00: Arrive at outside client’s house or a kid activity. It depends on the day.
6:15-6:30. Home. Throw down backpacks and eat. Unless it’s Cub Scout night, in which case the boy and the hubs grab it to go, and head out the door. Or, the kids might have swimming after we see the outside client, in which case we go there instead, and get home around 7:00.
7:00: Check homework.
7:15: Tell the boy he has to do it over, because it’s super messy.
7:45: Tell him he can type it, because it’s just getting worse.
8:00: Everyone to bed. Husband and I chop the vegetables for the next day, if we’re on top of things. Afterwards, I’ll break out the laptop. Get distracted by the piles of laundry. Maybe start a load.
9:00: Girl child complains she can’t sleep.
9:10: I put in headphones and start to write.
9:45: Oh, look, the siren call of Facebook!
10:00: Just this one tweet, and then I’ll get to it.
10:15-12:00: I’m writing! If it’s going well, I might go until 2:00am. Which, by the way, is insane. Don’t do that.
Non-work days often look this:
6:00 Wake up. OH MY GOD, I’M SO TIRED! Oh wait, it’s Saturday. **Snore**
6:30: Boy child walks in, wearing (if I’m lucky) pajamas and a Darth Vader mask. “Mom, can I watch a show?”
Me: “Bananas are on the counter. Don’t forget to do your flamenco dancing. And beware the octopus.”
Boy child, breathing heavily: “Right on, my son. I’ll watch Star Wars. Oh, and Mom?”
Me: “I need to give the unicorn a bath.”
Boy Child, in his best Vader voice: “Uh huh. I am your father.”
Because I am asleep, I can’t explain the physical impossibility of this, but whatever. His father, who is awake during this whole exchange, thinks it’s hysterical, and won’t ruin the moment with things like logic.
7:00: Wake up again. Why am I singing The March of the Sith? Go back to sleep.
7:15: Children walk in: “Mom, we’re hungry. Can we eat chocolate for breakfast?”
Me: “The dog barks at midnight. Are you wearing underwear?”
Girl Child: “Chewey, that means yes. You are wearing underwear, aren’t you?”
Boy Child: “Mostly.”
Girl Child: “Good enough. Come on, let’s go before she wakes up.”
Me: “Wha?” **Snore**
8:00: I get up for real this time. Am miffed because all of my chocolate is missing, and Chewey looks like Poirot, with his giant chocolate mustache. I make breakfast anyway. I make pumpkin pancakes. Unfortunately, everyone wants eggs and toast.
8:30: Do dishes, and contemplate doing more chores.
I usually get the opportunity to write until about 11:00, when I have to take the Girl Child to Girl Scouts. But then I get to sit in the library at the university and write for two solid hours. It’s lovely.
2:30-6:00 Is family time.
6:30: Daddy time and a movie. I write while hanging on the couch with the children.
8:30-????: We all head upstairs to bed. I put in headphones and write until I fall asleep at the computer. The two pages of eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee will have to be rewritten, but hey, it works for now.
That’s it for me! (I say “that’s it!” like I wrote some short little ditty instead of the multi-page manifesto that is actually vaguely embarrassing. Or would be, if I had any sense of shame left)
Since you’ve had enough of me, why not head over and see what Josie Malone has to say?
So here was our recipe challenge: one meal, start to finish, in 15 minutes. Those of you who follow my blog routinely know I have celiac disease, which is really more fun than one person can possibly stand, and therefore can’t eat gluten. This, combined with my food allergies, generally makes quick cooking harder than it has to be. Which is probably a good thing, since husband is diabetic–so the big batch of spaghetti is out the window (not that I haven’t done it, but I have to have another plan for Hubs and me).
In any case, there are a few things that I can do quickly. Most of my meals are all about ease, but 30 minutes is generally how long it takes.
So what to do for a complete meal, including dessert, in 15 minutes? I have two options.
Homemade fudge (we call it ghetto fudge in my house–I’ve even made it in the trailer, and it’s a huge hit. I honestly have no idea why)
Instant pizza crust (because I’m also allergic to eggs, I have to make my own, which totally ruins the 15 minute thing, but I generally have a home made crust in the fridge for weeknights). Pillsbury makes some good crusts, and even makes a gluten free crusts (but, alas, not egg free). Jarred spaghetti sauce (I use Classico, but you can use whatever you want) Pre-sliced buffalo mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Take the pizza crust out of the packaging** and place the pizza crust on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Use whatever’s clean.***
Use as much of the spaghetti sauce as you feel is necessary. I like sauce, so I use a lot, but if you don’t…then don’t. Reserve the remaining sauce for dipping.
Put as much or as little of the pre-sliced buffalo mozzarella on the pizza as you want, and fill in the gaps between slices with basil. If I’m in a rush, I don’t even bother to tear the leaves; I just set them down whole.
Bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown
** Taking the items out of the containers probably sounds obvious, but you never know. I knew someone who once cooked an entire turkey without unwrapping it… it was messy. And a health hazard. And gross. But the fire department came, along with cute firefighters, so there is that. That part was fun, because I got all the benefits of having cute firefighters, but it wasn’t me who did it, so I didn’t have the embarrassment, either.
*** If you want a crisper crust, bake for 7-9 minutes before you put any toppings on it.
While the pizza is cooking, make the fudge (this is so easy, it’s embarrassing).
One package of semi sweet chocolate chips One can sweetened condensed milk
In a large, microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and the condensed milk. Put in the microwave for two minutes. Stir the mixture, put in the microwave for another two minutes. This usually achieves desired smoothness for me. If it doesn’t for you, stir again and put it in for another minute.
When it comes out of the microwave, be sure to smooth the chocolate down.
Since we’re in a time pinch, you’re then going to put this in a FREEZER safe bowl (generally, Pyrex does just fine between the two venues, but you know your cookware best), and throw it in the freezer to set until it’s time to eat. If you want to be all fancy and have single (large) servings of fudge, you can put the melted concoction into a muffin tin that you’ve sprayed with PAM, and put that in the freezer. The kids do like having their individual servings of fudge in their lunches the next day, and I can lord it over them if they argue or get in trouble… “NO FUDGE FOR YOU!”
Ah, the salad, the easiest of all.
One bag salad
Package of tomatoes
Put these ingredients into a bowl and combine. If you have any leftover mozzarella cheese, you can throw that in, too.
By this time, the pizza is done, so you just let it cool for a couple of minutes, slice it up, and you’re done. While you’re eating, the fudge is setting, and it’s totally done and set by the time you’re ready for dessert!
So that’s meal number one. Because husband is diabetic, we don’t actually get pizza all that often. So, more often than not, a simple meal for us will look like this:
Fudge for the kids/Sugar free chocolate for the hubs.
berries of your choice (I like strawberries and blueberries). Hull and slice the strawberries, pick out the bad blueberries and throw them on the salad.
Cheese of your choice (personally, i prefer gorgonzola or goat cheese with fruit, but it’s totally up to you). Because crumbles may contain gluten, I just get a large piece and crumble it myself.
Pre-cooked sliced chicken (from the deli counter) or canned chicken (I keep several cans on hand for things like chicken salad sandwiches, big salad, and chili (or tortilla soup). It just makes life easier, and really, no one in my house knows the difference)
Blue cheese vinaigrette (I can’t recall the brand right now, but it’s delightful).
Then I combine it all together, and we’re ready to go!
So there you have it. Two different option for dinner. I hope you like them!
Sorry for the last post, where I was a grumpy gus. I’m over myself now.
So, to spare you from my maudlin-ness (I’m pretty certain this is NOT a word, but that’s okay. I’m alright making up words), I will now tell you a totally true and completely accurate story about my children.
Actually people, what’s really sad is that I am not making any of this up.
Back several years ago, we took our kids to get baptized at the Lutheran Church we were attending. At the time, Monkey was having these monster fits–she’d scream her head off like a crazy person for hours. Hours. And no, that’s not poetic license. I start shaking and rocking just remembering it.
So anyway, there we are, sitting in church, waiting to go up to the baptismal font. it was summer time, and the sky was dark with a rather freakish summer storm, and it was so stinking hot outside that you could see the heat rising off the asphalt just outside the door. Monkey was throwing a fit about something; I don’t even remember what. There she was, in her white, eyelet lace dress, throwing herself on the floor and shrieking like a banshee. No, really. I was surprised that the windows didn’t shatter.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack. The power went off. The air conditioner died. Monkey abruptly stopped wailing to look around. And no, she wasn’t upset. A couple of old ladies screamed, by my two-year-old? She was totally fine with it, like, “Oh, what was that?”
I turned to M. “Did the church just get struck by lightning?”
M said, “I don’t know, but she stopped screaming,” as if that was the important thing. Because I was thinking, Of course. Why wouldn’t lightning strike the church now? Of course.
Chewey took that moment to begin wailing in my arms. M was the one who had been wrangling the slippery eel that was Monkey. Seriously, who knew a little kid could be so slippery? When Monk was little, it was like wrangling an octopus, all arms and legs and no bones, and I swear she had more than four limbs. In fact, I’m pretty certain she looked a bit like this:
M and I exchanged a look. You know, the parent look. The one that says, “I’m so sorry we’re in this together, but hey, we’re in this together!”
Then he said, “My mother always said my child would be the antichrist. Hi five.”
We high-fived, because if you can’t laugh at it, it will break you. (And in this case, “it” can mean anything. Mother-in-law issues? Yup, “it” can be that. Trouble with a boss? Yes, “it” can be that, too. Unexpected STDs… Uh, no. Sorry, you’re on your own there)
“If this is a sign, one of them will spontaneously combust.” I looked down at my shirt, and my flailing son, who was so upset that he dribbled snot all down the front of my blouse. “I like this shirt. Putting out flames will ruin it, if Chewey doesn’t do it first.”
M laughed, like he always does when I think I’m being funny.
I am happy to report that the rest of the baptism went without incident. Sure, Monkey asked for cake through the whole thing (hey, she was two, and we bribe when we have to), but that worked out. She got her cake without throwing another fit. And Chewey finally stopped screaming when the lady holding him accidentally clocked him on the head walking through a door, so there is that.
So the next time you look at your little bundles of joy, just remember, it could be worse. Lightning could strike the church.
Welcome back to Romance Weekly. I accidentally took the week off last week–time sort of got away from me. It does that. If you’re here, hopefully you came from Kim Handysides.
Let’s get started!
Have you always written Romance?
Yup. I’m dabbling outside my comfort zone of romance, but romance is what I love to write, and I don’t see myself writing anything else for long. And, even if it’s not strictly romance, everything I write has strong romantic elements.
2. How do you deal with critiques about the romance genre?
I’ll admit, it used to bother me. It used to sting when my family–not the hub, who has always been outrageously supportive–would ask, “When are you going to write something good?” Or, the other question, “When will you write something people will actually read?” Or, even better, “I will never read anything you write. Romance is trash.”
Of all the published books in the whole entire world, the romance genre holds the largest market share. More romance books are read than any other genre. Romance readers can be voracious, reading hundreds of books per year. Any author thanks their lucky stars for readers like that.
But, I don’t say any of that. I merely smile and nod. That’s all you can do with the people who don’t like romance. Just as no one is going to make me want to read a cozy mystery, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. The people who want to denigrate romance as a genre, who think it’s unimportant, who don’t think it’s any good, well… they’re not reading it.
I have read romance novels that have made me laugh out loud, and I’ve read others that have made me cry. And just because it’s not packaged as literary fiction doesn’t mean it’s not well-written or that it’s not important. Genres are merely a device created by people who needed to know how to shelve books. In reality, there is only nonfiction and fiction–genres exist to make a book seller’s life easier. Marketers and publicists and publishers have made literary fiction somehow more important than other genres, as if the only beauty in the whole world is encapsulated within the pages of either the classics or literary fiction (and, truth be told, some of it is beautiful and thought-provoking).
But, just as some of the romance books I’ve read are drivel, I’ve read some pretty crummy literary fiction, too. And just as some literary fiction is beautiful, there is lyricism in romance, too, and beauty in the prose.
Not only that, but there is something inexplicably compelling about a romance, about the love two people have for one another. When I need to escape from my real life, I open a romance novel. In the world of romance, I get the happy ending so many people never get. I’ll get insurmountable odds that somehow, miraculously, a couple can overcome. And maybe it gives me hope that tomorrow can be better, and the mountain I have to climb seems just a little bit smaller.
Romance novels are about hope.
So, when I hear about someone criticizing someone else for reading romance novels, I think about how small, how sad they must be. We hear so much about how everything moves so fast, how everyone stares at their smart phones and doesn’t connect. But romance is all about finding that human connection. It seems, on it’s most basic level, that anyone who would criticize someone else for wanting to read about hope, about romantic love, is disconnected. And that’s just sad to me.
I get not everyone wants to read a romance novel. I’m cool with that. A lot of my friends read only nonfiction, and I’m cool with that, too. But just because I like romance novels doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent enough to enjoy other genres, too. I do. I just prefer the hope I get from a romance novel, I prefer to think about the connections we make to one another.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care what other people read. And, in a kinder, gentler world, no one would care what I read, either. In that world, all fiction is equally important.
3. What’s the one thing about our genre you’d like people to know?
As I said above, I think romance is important. I don’t think reading a romance novel gives women unrealistic expectations for our own lives. I don’t expect my husband to constantly declare his undying love for me–I suspect that would get old after awhile, and I’m just enough of a cynic to think he was lying to me if he did it too often. Or, really, ever.
That conversation would go something like this:
Him: “You are my sun and my moon. I love everything about you. I think you are perfect. We are one, you and I.”
Me: “You’ve said something like that three times today. Are you having a stroke?”
Him: “No. You move me. Without you, I am a mere shell of a man, incomplete and desolate.”
Me: “Did you just find out you’re dying?”
Him: “Of course not. The very thought of shaking off this mortal coil without you by my side makes me want to weep with despair. Our love is strong enough that we can transcend anything.”
Me: “OH MY GOD WHO DID YOU SLEEP WITH?”
So, it’s probably a good thing that he doesn’t do that.
In any case, however, reading romance isn’t about reading about sex (though I will admit that I enjoy that, too), it’s about that connection between two people. Because even though my husband doesn’t tell me that I am his sun and his moon, I suspect, somewhere in his heart, I probably am.
Every time I read a romance novel, I feel that little spark of hope, and I remember that connection I have with him. It’s not about bodice rippers or naked men (again, I like those, too); it’s about that connection that, as humans, most of us are hardwired to seek out. We crave it. We want it. And, in the end, that need for a connection with other human beings is so strong, so ingrained in our DNA, that we are broken without it.
And if that’s not important, then I don’t know what is.
I’ve talked your ear off enough for one day. Why not check out Katherine Givens? See what she has to say…
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