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Friday, May 15, 2015

Cooking With Author Jo Huddleston & a Giveaway!

Happy to have author Jo Huddleston at my blog today!  She's sharing a recipe and her newest novel, Wait For Me.  She is also offering a Kindle giveaway!   Read on . . . 

5 in 1 Salad/Dessert

Mix gently
10 ounces cool whip
1 small package Jell-O dry mix, any flavor
Add: 12 ounces cottage cheese
Add: 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained (whole or in chunks if desired)
1 small can pineapple (crushed or chunks), drained
Mix all together gently, chill overnight, serve in clear bowl to enjoy the color.

BACK COVER BLURB for Wait for Me

Can Julie, an only child raised with privilege and groomed for high society, and Robby, a coal miner’s son, escape the binds of their socioeconomic backgrounds? Set in a coal mining community in West Virginia in the 1950s, can their love survive their cultural boundaries?

This is a tragically beautiful love story of a simple yet deep love between two soul mates, Robby and Julie. The American South’s rigid caste system and her mother demand that Julie chooses to marry an ambitious young man from a prominent and suitable family. Julie counters her mother’s stringent social rules with deception and secrets in order to keep Robby in her life. Can the couple break the shackles of polite society and spend their lives together? Will Julie’s mother ever accept Robby?

You can purchase eBook for Kindle and print copies of Wait for Me at this link.

Also, Jo is offering a free Kindle giveaway of her book.  To enter the giveaway contest, read here:

1) Make sure you are a follower of this blog.  You must be to play.  Then leave a comment below about what you like about West Virginia or what you know about the state.

2) Include your email with your comment so that I can email you if you have won.
3) A winner will be picked by Jo and announced by June 3, 2015.  
4) Have fun!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cooking with The Writing Sisters!

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all my readers!

Today I have two sisters as my guests. They write, and they write books together.  How cool is that?

Here there are with a recipe, as well as their novel, The Shepherd's Song, just released in paperback.


We love to have friends and family gather around the table and so we are always on the lookout for good recipes, especially recipes with a high Wow factor. Sometimes it’s simple comfort food, like a big pan of mac and cheese. Other times it’s something more unusual. Dishes with a little Wow in them make our guests feel special. This year the WOW dish was Brussels sprouts - not just the usual collection of little green balls. This was a full Brussels sprout stalk! Magnificent looking, and delicious too - And much easier to make than you would think. Lot’s of Wow for a small amount of work! And everyone loved it.

1 Brussels sprouts stalk
½ c olive oil
¼ c maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the stalk. Trim off the leaves and the tough shoots poking out from between the sprouts. Trim off a few sprouts from under the stalk so it will sit flat.

Cover with damp paper towel and microwave the damp stalk for 5 minutes including the loose pieces (I had to cut the stalk in two pieces and microwave in two sections).

Put the stalk including the loose sprouts in a roasting pan. Stir the oil and syrup together and baste generously over the sprouts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast at 350 for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Check with a fork to make sure they are tender.

Place the stalks on a long skinny platter and drizzle with the oil and syrup from the pan. Serve with kitchen shears for removing the sprouts.

Looking for some Wow? This might be it.

The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars. They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, was released in paperback April 2015.

You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Grab your copy of The Shepherd’s Song here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Mother Looks at Life on the Corner of Fear and Hope

I remember being normal or something related to it. I recall thinking deep tragedies happened to other people who didn't know how to take care of themselves or trust God enough.  

And then it all changed . . .

A bump.  A three-year-old son with a boo-boo in his neck.  It will be okay. Deep breaths. Chemo. Surgeries. Perhaps the radiation will zap it away.

Certainly his prayers should.  Beside the stain-glass window inside the hospital chapel knelt a little bald-headed boy with his eyes closed.

After he died, I used to check my other children to make sure nothing looked wicked, like cancer. Each fever, cough, peculiar lump, oh, yes, nothing went unnoticed.

My kids have grown, but so have my fears. Driving and owning cars are now part of our lives.  So are small accidents.  Knowing that any crash can be fatal, my prayers increase.

As Mother's Day approaches, I recall being normal once upon a time.  My kids gave me cards made of painted hand prints, signed with chunky crayons. Once I heard about the tragedies other moms experienced, and felt sadness only.  I had the luxury of being tearful for a short while when I heard of the death of someone else's loved one. There was no fear that sorrow would make her home in my parameters.

But that was then. Then I had the ability to bounce back. The agony of pain subsided. I was able to carry on doing my motherly things like looking for missing socks, buying large quantities of diapers, finding mac and cheese on sale, and explaining why we needed to share.

These bad things happen to other people.  Not me.  Not my family.

When I was 36, cancer treatments cost me a child to death.  And as I looked at a woman in the mirror whom I no longer recognized, I thought: Apparently, these kinds of things do happen to my family.

Since then I must confess that I have feared that my other children will die.

And there is nothing I can do.

At a bereaved parents conference where I spoke, one man confessed that he, too, worried.  "What's to say that another child of mine won't die? How can I protect my children from the car accident or the illness?"  

I handed him a tissue and then pulled one out of the box for me.

I have become more strange, not more adept, as the years have progressed. I am no longer a stranger to living with fear.

I often hear people, usually older women, tell me to just trust my kids to God.

"Ladies, " I want to rebuttal.  "I did.  And my Daniel died."

But usually I keep my mouth sealed.  They wouldn't understand.  Some things are not discovered unless you walk in a grieving mother's worn shoes.

Stranded, that's what I've become----somewhere between fear and hope.

"Carl says that you keep all the text messages from us and save them until you see us again," my eldest who was six when Daniel died, told me the other day.  She's twenty-four now.

"Yes. Do you know why?"

"In case something happens to us and those messages are the last correspondence you have with us?"

We both knew that the answer was yes.

Children are on loan to us from God, they say.  From the moment I held my firstborn, I never thought it was a loan. She was mine.  Mine to raise, mine to love, mine to fuss over, read to, and hold.

Every time I hear of a shooting or a car accident or an illness, I know the next time it could affect one of my children.  Random happenings, why should I feel protected or spared?

God, how can I live this way?

The question is redundant. I have, and I will.

Some seasons I am not as wracked by fear.  There are days when I am not living on the edge.   But like the monster under the bed, it is there, always present. Sometimes just a shadow; other nights I can feel the sharp claws.

I also live with hope.  Hope that my children will grow up to be lovely responsible people with hearts of gold who know that they are so loved.  

And always aware that today could be all I get.  Today in all its imperfection, beauty, strength, joy, and uncertainty------like each day, it has obvious and unearthed blessings. 

And each is always worth treasuring.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Making It Real: An All-Day Writing Workshop in North Carolina

I love it when people ask when my next all-day writing workshop will be. These workshops produce so much wonderful discovery, spiritual growth, and encouraging fellowship between those who attend. We eat, share, write, cry, and drink lots of tea and coffee. The meeting room is a large conference room at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina.

So since there is an interest, now there will be a workshop!

This all-day workshop is open to anyone who wants to discover the benefits of writing from heartache. There are many sorrows in life; writing through them brings healing, health and hope! Join us if you are going through or have been through a rough season and want to find helpful ways to pen your anger, lessons learned, frustration, or even joy. Let's be authentic! Let's make it real.

Be sure to sign up today to get the Early Bird Special!

Making It Real:

An All-Day Workshop of

Writing From the Heart

Date: Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time: 9:00 AM to 4 PM

Location: Hampton Inn and Suites

111 Hampton Woods Lane, Raleigh, NC 27607

Phone:(919) 233-1798

Facilitated by Alice J. Wisler

Alice is a bereaved mother, author of six novels, one devotional, a cookbook compiler (in memory of children), freelance writer, social worker, and instructor of many writing through grief workshops. She travels the country presenting her workshops of healing, health and hope.

In addition to having plenty of time to freely write, we'll focus on the following:

*Emotions in writing and how to make them real in our work

*How to write realistic dialogue

*What to leave in, what to keep out of our writing

*Tips for self-critiquing our own work

* Learning from the Greats --- how to write better prose

* Discovering our unique voices in our writing

* How to help others through our tough seasons

A light breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks, will be provided and are included in your workshop fee.

What you need to bring:

*Your own notebook or journal

*A comfortable pen

Click here to: Sign up today!


Friday, April 24, 2015

See why this novel is invited to Japan!

I grew up in classrooms filled with kids and teachers from all over the world. My high school, Canadian Academy, located in Kobe on top of a hill, had a view of the harbor which looked beautiful. My school also had a grassy area where we ate lunch in the warmer months. I recall looking around at my senior friends and noting the countries they represented. Malfrid from Norway, Sophie from France, Jules from Canada (the French region of Quebec), Sangeeta from India and Japan, Nada from Lebanon, Katie from California, USA. We are like a United Nations, I thought.

I know I almost failed algebra. And hated biology. But I never recalled learning anything in history about internment camps for Japanese-Americans during War World II.

I wish I had listened. One of my classmates' mom was in a camp during her youth. But that didn't register in my mind until long after I held my high school diploma.

It would be years later when I felt the need to write about this period of history. It would be when living in another country, at another setting. In North Carolina, I heard my friend Artie Kamiya talk about his mother who had been forced to spend years in a camp in Colorado after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, those of Japanese descent on the West Coast of the U.S. were sent to various camps. Many forced to these camps were American citizens. Most had never even been to Japan.

This shows just has strong fear and prejudice go and how they eat at people's hearts and minds. Americans, born in the United States, had to leave their homes, board trains with one suitcase each, and head to bleak camps where barracks became dwelling places.

I wrote Under the Silk Hibiscus with the help of materials I received from Artie's mom. I was also able to interview Terri Takiguchi, a woman in my church who was sent from her life in California to a camp in Arizona during the war.

And this time I listened. At my computer, I heard the voices of dozens of others as I watched videos about one camp in particular---Heart Mountain in Wyoming. This camp became the setting for my fictional family, Nathan Mori, his siblings, mother, and aunt.

When I got the news that my high school wants me to come to Japan as an alumni author in residence, I couldn't believe it! Even now, most days, I think that I'm still dreaming. It's been since 1988 when I was there last as a teacher of English.

Early next year, I'll be flying to Japan, the country of my birth and childhood. In addition to going on a field trip with ninth graders to Hiroshima, I'll share about being an author and how I researched for my novel. I hear authentic food calling my name, too: Unagi, katsudon, chirashizushi, oyakodomburi, an pan, and of course, green tea ice cream (as pictured below).

I know it will be a most wonderful reunion.

You can read more about Under the Silk Hibiscus here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Recipe for Scones!

I found a delicious recipe for scones. I made them and shared them. Today I want to share the recipe with my readers, so here you are.



2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons fat-free milk
2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine 1/2 cup milk, vanilla, and egg in a bowl. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be soft). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle surface of dough with dried currants. With floured hands, knead 4 times or just until the currants are incorporated.

Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting into, but not through, dough. (This is tricky to do. You can see from my photo above, that I could have cut a bit deeper.) Brush 2 teaspoons milk over surface of dough; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack. Cut scones into wedges. They are moist and delicious!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guest Post: Cooking With Author Trina Matous

Welcome to my blog, Trina! First we have a bit about your books and then a recipe for stollen. Like you, Trina, I associate Christmas with stollen. My mother used to buy one at Christmas when I was a child growing up in Japan. We'd eat it Christmas morning.


The Christian Living Bible Study Series is easy-to-read,will help you understand difficult passages and shed new light on familiar verses. Each chapter includes three sections. The Background gives context for the Bible current chapter. The Overview elaborates on ancient cultural practices, religious customs, and original language words unfamiliar to today’s readers. The Insights offer application to life today as well as thought provoking questions for personal meditation and for small group discussions. As you learn more about the history and purpose of each verse, you will find yourself growing in wisdom and knowledge.

You can read more about the books here at the links on Amazon:
Paul’s Letters
The Epistles

About Trina
Trina has a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry from Ashland theological seminary. She uses her speaking and writing talents to share the Trinity's overwhelming love, grace, mercy, and compassion with those who are lost, hurting, and in need of peace.

Trina's current series, Christian Living Bible Study, is born out of a desire for people to read the Bible regularly and better understand both what they read, as well as how these ancient texts apply to our lives today.


Recipe By Betsy Oppenner
Yield: 1 large or 2 medium loaves

I make Stollen bread at Christmas and love the fruit and almond paste combination. It is great on its own or toasted with butter!


2 cups fruit, dried, mixed, apricots, currents, raisins, craisins, dates
3 tablespoons rum, dark, or orange juice

For the Sponge
1 tablespoon yeast, active dry, or 1 (1/4-ounce) package
1/4 cup water, about 110 degrees F
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup flour, white, unbleached

For the Dough
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace, ground
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
3-4 cup flour, white, unbleached

For the Filling
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
3 tablespoons sugar
3 ounces almond paste

For the Topping
1/2 cup sugar, powdered
1-3 teaspoon cream, heavy, whipping


1. Prepare fruit: Combine the mixed fruit, raisins, and rum. Cover and set aside. Shake or stir the mixture every so often to coat the fruit with the rum.

2. Prepare sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F and add it to the yeast along with the honey and 1 cup flour. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and let rise until light and full of bubbles, about 30 minutes.

3. In the mixer bowl, add the fruit mixture, honey, egg, butter, zest, salt, mace, almonds, and 2 cups of the flour to the sponge. Using the paddle, beat the mixture on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.

4. First rise: Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Shape and fill: Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. For 1 large loaf, roll the dough into a 9 by 13-inch oval. For 2 loaves, divided the dough in half and roll each half into a 7 by 9-inch oval. Brush the melted butter over the top of the oval(s). Between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap, roll 3 ounces almond paste into the lengthwise shape of half the oval. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and carefully lift the bread(s) onto a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet. Press lightly on the folded side to help the loaf keep its shape during rising and baking.

6. Second rise: Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

7. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

8. Bake and cool: Bake for 25 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees F. Immediately remove from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool.

9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. OR drizzle the top lightly with powdered sugar mixed with enough heavy cream to reach the consistency of honey.


This bread freezes nicely for up to 6 months. If freezing it, do not sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. To serve, first thaw the bread, then bake on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Recipe Notes
Long before the Romans occupied parts of Germany, special breads were prepared for the winter solstice that were rich in dried or preserved fruit. Historians have traced Christollen, Christ's stollen, back to about the year 1400 in Dresden, Germany. The first stollen consisted of only flour, oats and water, as required by church doctrine, but without butter and milk, it was quite tasteless. Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht requested of the Pope that the ban on butter and milk during the Advent season be lifted. His Eminence replied in what is known as the famous "butter letter," that milk and butter could be used to bake stollen with a clear conscience and God's blessing for a small fee. Originally stollen was called Striezel or Struzel, which referred to a braided shape -- a large oval folded in half with tapered ends -- said to represent the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothing. Around 1560 it became custom that the bakers of Dresden give their king, the ruler of Saxony, two 36-pound stollens as a Christmas gift. It took eight master bakers and eight journeymen to carry the bread to the palace safely. This custom was continued for almost 200 years. In 1730 Augustus the Strong, the electoral prince of Saxony and the King of Poland, asked the Baker's Guild of Dresden to bake a giant stollen for the farewell dinner of the Zeithain "campement." The 1.8-ton stollen was a true showpiece and fed over 24,000 guests. To commemorate this event, a Stollenfest is held each December in Dresden. The bread for the present-day Stollenfest weighs 2 tons and measures approximately 4 yards long. Each year the stollen is paraded through the market square, then sliced and sold to the public, with the proceeds supporting local charities. Although there is a basic recipe for making the original Dresden Christollen, each master baker, each village and each home has its own secret recipe passed down from one generation to the next. There are probably as many recipes for stollen as there are home bakers. The commercial production of Dresden stollen is carefully licensed and regulated to ensure quality and authenticity. Authentic German stollen is usually sprinkled heavily with confectioners' sugar prior to serving. I personally have never liked this topping and choose to drizzle the tops of my loaves lightly with a simple icing (confectioners' sugar mixed with enough heavy cream to reach the consistency of honey).