I've been trying different homemade bread recipes for a while, but have really struggled with it being too dense. A friend, who has figured out how to make some fantastic wheat bread, helped me with some changes to my recipe. Monday, I took her suggestions and was thrilled when I pulled a loaf out of the oven that looked perfect! I'm so excited to finally have a fluffy, homemade bread to make for my family!
I've also been canning, but it's mostly spaghetti sauce and different kinds of beans (especially pinto and black). I've been wanting to learn how to can some other food as well so we bought twenty pounds of tomatoes, twenty pounds of apples, and forty pounds of potatoes.
We started out the week with tomatoes. The kids and I washed all twenty pounds of them and went through the process, resulting in canning the tomato sauce in pints. It took a lot longer than I expected it to, but we had fun and it was a great learning experience.
Yesterday, we tackled the apples. By the time we got through the weekend, we had fifteen pounds of them. We ended up with six quarts of regular applesauce and one quart of spiced applesauce. Yum!
At this point, I'm going to wait until Monday to can diced tomatoes. I think I need a break. lol
I'm really excited to be a part of the cover reveal for Tamie Dearen's upcoming release, A Rose in Bloom. I love a great romantic comedy and what a beautiful, eye-catching cover!
A Rose In Bloom, a serial romantic comedy by Tamie Dearen, is available to read at no charge on the blogsite for a limited time. The beautiful cover was designed by the multi-talented Victorine Lieske. The completed book will be available soon on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks!
Like all books written by Tamie Dearen, this is a Clean Indie Read!
Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story by Marianne Sciucco
What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn’t remember your name?
A nursing facility is everyone's solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband Jack can't bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings. However, after nine years of selfless caregiving complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home. With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility. But on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days and he is unable to follow through. Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future. In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.
What inspired you to write a book about Alzheimer’s?
One day at work as a hospital case manager, I met a fascinating couple who were in their 80’s. She was a lovely woman, so pretty, and had Alzheimer’s. I’d ask her a question and she’d try to answer, but then say, “Oh, I’m so mixed up,” and laugh, quite charming. Her husband was frail, an amiable sort of guy, and devoted to her. My job was to assist with the discharge plan, which was for her to go to a local nursing home for rehab (she’d broken her pelvis) the next day. I discussed the arrangements with her and her husband. Their son was also present, and he told me to make sure his parents didn’t leave the hospital without him; he planned to drive them to the nursing home and assist with the admissions process. Later on, I couldn’t stop thinking about that couple, wondering what would happen if they left the hospital without their son. Where would they go? What would they do? Thus, the seeds of Blue Hydrangeas were sown, my wild writer’s imagination took off, and the story began to grow.
I worked on this book eleven years. It sounds crazy, I know, but after I finished what I thought was the final draft and sent it out into the literary market place with no takers, I continued to tweak it, cutting scenes, adding others. In the midst of all this, I developed repetitive strain injuries from an inappropriate computer workstation at my job, and everything just stopped. I could no longer write. I put everything aside for a couple of years. But the story haunted me, and when I was able to I continued to revise and rework the manuscript. Two years ago a friend suggested I publish on Kindle and I figured I had nothing to lose. It took me a year to prepare and publish the book. My book is unique because there aren’t many novels about Alzheimer’s, although 5.5 million people are suffering from it right now.
An interview with Marianne Sciucco, author of Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story
Here’s an excerpt from Blue Hydrangeas. Sara has had an accident and is in the hospital.
After dining on the cafeteria’s daily special, Jack returned to his wife, now sleeping peacefully, her face devoid of any stress. Jack stared at her for a long while, seeing vestiges of a young Sara, remembering the first time he had seen her fifty-seven years ago. Sara was nineteen, a blue-eyed beauty with rich auburn hair and tiny freckles splashed across her tiny nose. The face he saw now was older and well seasoned, but at seventy-six she was still a beauty.
The auburn hair had turned snow white and covered her shoulders like a silken shawl. Her blue eyes still sparkled like jewels, but now tiny lines framed them. He smiled, thinking of how she lamented those wrinkles, blaming herself, a redhead living her life in the sun. She had taken care, but her love for the outdoors, the ocean, and her gardens had gotten the better of her. Jack thought the wrinkles added character, a testament to a life well lived.
Her hands, though, revealed the most about her. Once as soft as rose petals, they had become calloused and worn by her life’s work. As a commercial artist, she had dipped them into oil paint and turpentine for decades. And, when her hands were not commanding a paintbrush they had dug deep into the earth, creating a spectacular garden that reaped awards from gardening groups throughout New England.
Jack loved those hands, and held both of them in his own. Over the years, he had lavished her with exquisite jewelry, but these days she wore one simple gold band on her wedding finger, delicately inscribed with the words: “Always, my love. Jack.” He stroked the ring, gazing at her with a mixture of love and grief. The last nine years had been tough and promised to get tougher. He sensed change, and loss, and death ahead and it filled him with fear deeper than he had ever known. The realization that one of them would die, would leave the other, paralyzed him. How could he live without her? What would she do without him?
“Oh, Sara,” he whispered, a catch in his throat. Tears formed in his eyes and he brushed them away. He did not know whom he pitied more: Sara or himself.
He pulled away from her bedside and went home to call their son.
Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a BookWorks Book of the Week, a Reader’s Favorite, and winner of IndieReCon’s Best Indie Novel Award. A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and, when not writing, works as a campus nurse at a community college. She loves books, the beach, and craft beer, and especially enjoys the three of them together.
Blue Hydrangeas is available in paperback, audiobook and ebook at these and other online booksellers.
Barnes and Noble
From the author of The Land Uncharted comes the second book in the Uncharted series, Uncharted Redemption. Written like a historical, set like a scifi, and filled with romance, Uncharted Redemption continues this suspenseful story of life in a hidden land.
Title: Uncharted Redemption
Author: Keely Brooke Keith
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Edenbrooke Press
Description: Levi Colburn, resentful of his father, haunted by his mother’s tragic death, and pained by his love for the unattainable Mandy Foster, breaks from the Land’s tradition and begins to build a life of his own. When rebels tear through the village of Good Springs, Levi vows to deliver justice and restore the woman he loves. As tradition stands in the way of redemption and threats from the outside world begin to appear, Levi must learn his greatest battles cannot be fought with his fists. Romantic, suspenseful, and filled with adventure, Uncharted Redemption weaves dramatic new layers into life in the Land.
Barnes and Noble
Pre-order signed paperbacks: Uncharted Redemption
Add Uncharted Redemption to your shelf on: Goodreads, Shelfari, FictFact, and LibraryThing
Have your ebook of Uncharted Redemption signed via Authorgraph
Uncharted Redemption is the second book in the Uncharted series. If you haven’t read The Land Uncharted, it’s best to start here: The Land Uncharted
Keely is a bass guitarist and lives on a hilltop south of Nashville. When she isn’t writing stories or playing bass, Keely enjoys dancing, having coffee with friends, and sifting through vintage books at antique stores.
Recipe: Homemade Flour Tortillas
Due to some health issues in our family, we have been eating low-sodium foods for a while now. I searched for recipes to make homemade tortillas because 13-15% of the daily value of sodium per tortilla bought at the store seemed like a lot.
I found this recipe somewhere, jotted it down, and have loved it ever since. I can't tell you where I first found it, so if someone recognizes it, please let me know and I'll be sure to give proper credit for the recipe.
I will tell you that it took some practice for me - probably six batches - before they started turning out the way I wanted them to. I'm going to pass along some tips that will hopefully help you to make a batch that is just right the first time. :-)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt *
6 tablespoons coconut oil (or you can use lard or vegetable shortening)
1 1/4 cups warm water
* I eliminate salt altogether when I make these and they turn out great
In a large bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the coconut oil (or alternative). If you have a pastry cutter/blender, then use that. Otherwise, you can do what I do and use your hands. Mix it all really well - you're going to eventually make it so the ingredients cling together a bit and hold a slight form when squeezed in your hand.
If it crumbles, you do not have the shortening mixed in well. If it turns into a hard clump, you need more flour. With the amounts above, I've not had trouble with either, though.
Add the water all at once and mix the dough quickly by hand until the dough forms a mass. It starts out really sticky. Work the dough in the bowl, moving it around the sides to pick up any flour remaining in the bowl.
Knead the dough by folding it in half, pushing it down, and folding again. If it stays too sticky, you can sprinkle some extra flour on it. It usually takes about a dozen folds or so to form a soft dough that is no longer sticky.
Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle flour liberally on the surface you plan to use. I choose a large cutting board so I can move it around just because it makes things easier. Divide the dough into fourths. Then divide each of those into three pieces. Form them into a ball and place on the floured surfaced, creating a total of twelve dough balls.
Cover them with plastic wrap and let them sit for 15 minutes. The original recipe did not call for that and I found them very difficult to roll out. They would spring back and it was frustrating. If you let them sit for 15 minutes, they are a breeze to work with.
Put a skillet on your stove and set the heat for medium. While that's heating up, you can roll out your first tortilla. Yes - that rolling pin you see in the picture is from a Play-Doh set. I love it and have yet to find another I like better for tortillas, even with one of the handles broken off. LOL
Now, you're making these by hand so you can't expect perfectly round tortillas. But if you start rolling from the center out in each direction, you can get pretty close. And trust me, you'll want to sprinkle flour liberally on the surface beneath your tortilla before you roll these out or you'll have a really hard time picking them up.
Once you have it rolled out, go ahead and pick it up. If you've used enough flour underneath, you shouldn't have too hard of a time. The faster you pick it up, the less time it has for the shape to change as it's stretched. Lay it in the skillet.
At this point, go ahead and roll out another tortilla while the first side is cooking.
You'll know it's time to flip the tortilla when you see large bubbles starting to form on the side facing you. When that happens, flip the tortilla (they don't stick, except for maybe the first one, and that's rare). Cook on the other side just as long (and feel free take peeks at the underside to make sure it isn't overcooking). When you feel like it's done, place it on a plate and toss the next tortilla in the skillet.
That's all there is to it! You'll get faster and more confident as you make them. And don't worry - occasionally one will get burned. It happens to me. With two dogs and two kids running around, I almost always have one tortilla that gets left on the skillet way too long. The dogs usually get to eat it, and I'm starting to wonder if they conspire to distract me to make sure that's the case every time. LOL
Feel free to post any questions you might have. Once you make these, you won't want to buy them from the store again. These are, by far, our favorite tortillas and even the kids look forward to eating them.
DREAMTHIEF by Tamara Grantham
We are pleased to reveal the official cover for Dreamthief by Tamara Grantham. This book is amazing on the inside and now the outside is just as awesome! We can't wait to hear what you think of the cover. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2015
GENRE: Fantasy Romance
SERIES: Fairy World MD
PUBLISHER: Crimson Tree Publishing
LEARN MORE ABOUT:
Visiting Faythander, a fairy world, is a nasty business. Forget the fairies and unicorns, most people come back with lost memories and mental problems. Olive Kennedy knows. She's the therapist who treats patients suffering from Faythander's side effects. She may have an emotionless mother and an apathetic boyfriend, but she takes pride in her job. She's never failed to cure a client—until now.
Traveling back to Faythander wasn't on Olive's to-do list. But she has no choice. The fate of both Earth and Fairy depends on her ability to stop an evil being called the Dreamthief. Saving the world, she can handle. Falling in love—not so much. Now, she'll have to decide between her heart and the future of an entire planet. As if battling the forces of evil wasn't complicated enough…
Dreamthief is the first book in the Fairy World MD series.
Add Dreamthief to your Goodreads TBR List.
ABOUT TAMARA GRANTHAM:
Tamara Grantham was born and raised in Southeast Texas. She comes from a family of writers. She took her first writing class from her uncle Larry Franklin, who worked as an author and literary agent at the time. At the age of fifteen, she received her first acceptance letter. Her uncle wrote, “Thank you for letting me read your short story, The Quest for the Spear. I enjoyed it very much, and see that you have a talent that can be developed.” In his Writing Fiction class, he challenged each of his students (which consisted of her two sisters and cousins) to write a novel. The challenge seemed daunting at the time, so daunting that she didn’t do it.
Despite her uncle’s praise, writing was not a part of her life until the age of 28, after she was married with three small children. She read a book called Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. While she loved the novel, the thought occurred to her that she, too, had characters and stories in her head that were just as creative.
The standing challenge from her uncle, made fourteen years earlier, finally became a reality. She wrote her first novel in one month. After that, she wrote five more books and several short stories and novellas. In 2013, she signed her first contract with former writing mentor, and New York Times-bestselling author, William Bernhardt, to contribute to his Shine series. The novellas are about young girls with unusual abilities. In November 2014, almost four years to the day that she finished her first book, she signed with Crimson Tree Publishing (the adult imprint of Clean Teen Publishing) for her novel Dreamthief.
While she’s not writing, and sometimes while she is, she raises four (soon to be five!) beautiful children, ages one to ten. She lives in Galveston, Texas with her husband and kids, one cat and one dog. Her husband David is her biggest support. For the past ten years he has been in training to become a surgeon. She frequently picks his brain for the sake of her stories, a habit she hopes he’ll forgive.
CHECK OUT MORE FROM CRIMSON TREE PUBLISHING:
I was interviewed!
Debbie Brown, author of the Amethyst Eyes series, interviewed me for her blog! Thank you, Debbie!
If you're unfamiliar with Debbie, you really need to check out her work. I read the first book in the Amethyst Eyes series and enjoyed it very much. I'm currently reading the second book. If you enjoy science fiction, then you definitely need to check these books out.
Find her books on Amazon and be sure to browse her blog as well.
Ushering in the New Year
I hope you all are having a great start to 2015!
We had an icy start with some incredibly cold weather and freezing rain. I think the kids were about to go crazy being stuck in the house for four solid days. Even the blades of grass - as you can see in the photo above, had layers upon layers of ice on them. When the sun finally came out and shone through the ice as it melted everything, it really was beautiful. I'll admit, though, I'll be fine if we don't see any more icy weather like that for the rest of the winter.
The new year was an exciting one with the release of Finding Peace on January 3rd. 340 digital copies of the book were sold in the first three days - a completely humbling experience. I want to send a big thank you to each and every person who bought a copy. I truly hope you enjoy Tuck and Laurie's story.
Now that the holidays are gone and we're into 2015, I'll be starting on the second book in the Love's Compass series this week. I'm currently in the process of outlining the story and doing some research. For those that are curious, this second book will be Lexi's story.
I hope you all find 2015 to be filled with adventure.
God bless you and your family in this new year.
Here's the conclusion of the excerpt I posted on my blog yesterday. Finding Peace is available pre-sale now, and will be released tomorrow. I hope you enjoy the first book in my Love's Compass series!
Laurie’s arms dropped to her sides and she pierced Kentucky with a glare. She turned on a heel and went inside the studio behind her. He followed at a distance and stopped just inside.
He watched her shrug on a dark green jacket. Hair hung to the middle of her back, the ringlets tangled together in a mess of copper red.
He stared at her eyes. They were so green, they reminded him of jade.
“My jacket’s on. Let’s go.”
He moved out of her way as her shoulder brushed his chest. He raised an eyebrow. If she was this frigid with the guy who was here to help, then it was a good thing the person who broke into her car was long gone. Kentucky might have been called in to investigate a homicide instead.
Black boots that looked tiny compared to his own carried her around the car to the passenger side. She gestured to the broken window and buried her hands in her pockets.
Kentucky reached for a small camera in his coat and took a few photos before pulling on the handle. The car door yielded with a creak and he leaned inside.
His gaze swept over the faded seat covers, the stained floorboards, and landed on the dash.
“That’s odd, the stereo is still here. It’s usually the first thing they take.” He stood up again. Laurie was watching him. “If you had nothing stashed in the car, what was the point?”
She shrugged. “They checked the trunk, too. It’s an old car. Probably wasn’t worth their time.”
“Maybe.” He examined the trunk and made a few more notes. “At this point, all you can do is make a claim with your insurance company to get the window repaired.”
At his words, a look of defeat crossed her face.
“What is it?”
“I have liability only.”
He gave her a nod. He remembered when Capturing the Moments Photography had opened up about six months ago. He had even commented to his partner about how the area of town was an unusual place for a business like that. Looking at Laurie’s car, he assumed she was here because it was all she could afford.
He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “We will investigate this. If we can find the guy who did it, we’ll let you know. I’m sorry there’s not much else I can do.”
The light from the studio reflected in her eyes. The frown on her face softened as she kicked one of the car’s tires with the toe of a boot.
His eyes were drawn to her mouth as she worried her lower lip with her teeth.
“Do you have any trash bags?”
Her brows came together. “What?”
“If you have a trash bag and some packing tape, I’ll help you cover up that window.”
Her pretty eyes opened wide and she blinked at him as if she were seeing him for the first time.
“Um. Yeah. I do.”
Without another word, she disappeared into her studio. As he waited for her to return, Kentucky wondered about Laurie Blake. Her emotions seemed measured and she certainly was a woman of few words. But he had seen vulnerability – even if it was only for a moment.
She came back with the materials he needed. Together, they sealed off the broken window. When they were finished, he nodded towards her place. “It’s getting colder out here and you have to be half frozen. You should go in for the night. I’ll file all of this first thing in the morning.”
He half expected her to argue with him. Instead, she took the tape back from him and jabbed a thumb at her car. “Thanks for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” He withdrew a card from his wallet and handed it to her. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
Their fingers brushed as she plucked the card from his hand. The warmth he felt at the touch surprised him.
Without looking at the card, she slipped it into her jacket pocket. She walked to the door and turned slightly towards him again.
The light lit her face and he admired the smattering of freckles across her nose. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
She shrugged her shoulders, copper curls falling forward to frame her delicate face. “It is what it is.”
While we're waiting for the January 3rd release of Finding Peace, I thought I would share an except from the first chapter. You'll find a continuation of this tomorrow in another blog post, so be sure to check back!
Finding Peace - Chapter One
Laurie Blake fumbled to fasten the buttons on her jacket. When she was finished, she plunged her stiff hands into the welcome warmth of the pockets. It was January in north Texas and cold weather was to be expected. But these exceptionally low temperatures almost made her want to dig out her gloves. Almost.
Each breath turned into a puff of fog that preceded her down the street. She chose her steps carefully to avoid the uneven sections of pavement.
Walking the two buildings between Daisy Belle’s Diner and the apartment above her photography studio, she was glad she chose a small bowl of vegetable beef soup for dinner. It would help keep her warm until she got home.
The evening sky bore hints of orange as the sun readied for bed. Perfect timing. She hated to be out after dark.
The neighborhood wasn’t in the best part of town. And that was an understatement. Most of the buildings were in dire need of a fresh coat of paint and the storefront for Capturing the Moment Photography was no exception. She was thankful that at least her building didn’t sport any of the paint tags many of the others did.
Her eyes flitted to her dusty-looking Honda Accord before turning towards the door of her place. Something snagged her attention and her head whipped back around, eyes quickly honing in on the trunk. It wasn’t latched. Thinking little of it, she went to shut it completely and that’s when she noticed that the passenger side window had been broken.
A groan came from her throat as she stood and stared at the damage. Tears gathered in her eyes.
This was fantastic. Just what she needed – to pay for repairs to her car. Because there was nothing else to use her limited funds on.
Shoulders slumped, Laurie unlocked the door to her studio, turned the lights on, and stepped inside. She pulled a cheap cell phone out of her pocket and dialed the police station. After reporting the damage, she was told to expect an officer to stop by.
Many of the portraits on the walls of her studio smiled at her. However, not even the photo of the cherub-faced baby sitting in a flower pot could lighten her mood.
By the time a truck pulled up in front of her place almost an hour later, the tears had disappeared. She stopped her swift pacing and looked past the reflection of herself in the window as an exceptionally tall man got out of a black truck.
She stepped out into the cold air, leaving her jacket hanging on a chair inside. Arms crossed in front of her, she watched as the man approached her. He wore the two-toned blue Kitner Police Department uniform which included a heavy coat. At over six feet tall, he was the definition of confidence.
He gave her a nod. “Hello, Ma’am. I was told that a car had been broken into. Was it you who made that call?”
“Yes, it was.”
He looked like he was expecting her to say something else. She raised an eyebrow at him.
The officer cleared his throat and reached for a small notebook in one of his coat pockets. He pulled it out along with a pen and flipped open to a blank page.
“I’m Officer Chandler. Can I have your name?”
“Is it your car that has been damaged?”
She gave him her contact information and answered a few other questions before he motioned to the car.
“Laurie, I would like you to show me the damage and make a list of anything that might be missing from your car.”
“Nothing was stolen.”
“You already went through everything?” His brown eyes looked surprised and she realized that they were the exact same shade as the close-cropped hair on his head.
“I don’t keep anything in my car. I know what part of town I live in.”
Officer Chandler’s eyes went to her crossed arms. She had been rubbing them to keep warm and stopped immediately under his gaze.
“You should go inside and get a coat. This could take a few minutes.”
~ To be continued in tomorrow's blog post ~