Sunday, January 25, 2015

INSPIRING HISTORICAL ROMANCE FROM BETHANY HOUSE BOOKS--the spirit of the past leads to hope for the future

A Matter of Heart (Lone Star Brides, #3)

A young woman born into Texas wealth and privilege seeks to resolve a "Matter of Heart" in the third and concluding book in author Tracie Peterson's "Lone Star Brides" series. Jessica Atherton had anticipated marriage with the man who had won her heart, but when he chose another, she was left feeling adrift and unsure of herself. Her enjoyment of the finer things of life is in conflict with nagging insights that there may be more to life than creature comforts and leisure. Two very different young gentlemen soon come into her life, but only one can find the key to unlock her heart. Will it be Harrison Gable, a lawyer whose success leads to greater ambitions? Or will it be Austin Todd, a former Secret Service agent now working with the Texas Rangers? As Jess learns more about both Harrison and Gable, she learns much about herself, and more and more, she seeks true faith. Both men have claimed her attention, but only one man will claim her love and share her future. "A Matter of Heart" is a lovely conclusion to a very worthwhile inspirational historical romance series from author Tracie Peterson.

Review Copy Gratis Bethany House Books

Steadfast Heart (Brides of Seattle, #1)

Set in Seattle, Washington in the late 1800's, "Steadfast Heart" is Book One in author Tracie Peterson's "Brides of Seattle" series. Lenore Fulcher is a lovely young woman of privilege. Her father, a successful operator of a freight business, determines to see his daughter make a suitable marriage. Lenore, however believes in true love, and she rebels against her father's intention to marry her off to one of his business partners--a man many years her senior. Lenore's friend, Abrianna, is the ward of Miriam Madison, who owns the building where the freight business is housed. Mrs. Madison runs a bridal school on the second floor of the building, where Lenore often spends time with her friend. An unexpected arrival from Chicago, lawyer Kolbein Booth, brings along with him elements of mystery and excitement, and he just may be the answer to Lenore's prayers. Seeking his missing sister, Greta, Kolbein is greatly disappointed not to find her at the bridal school, the destination she had mentioned in the note she had written. As Abrianna and Lenore help Kolbein look for Greta, a spark of attraction flares Lenore and Kolbein. Could the search to find a missing loved one lead to a new love and a bright and happy future for Lenore and Kolbein? Will steadfast faith keep true the steadfast heart?

Review Copy Gratis Bethany House Books

Love Unexpected (Beacons of Hope, #1)

With its ruggedly beautiful setting, compelling time frame, and appealing characterizations, "Love Unexpected" is a winning start to author Jody Hedlund's "Beacons of Hope" series. Like some many other families driven from Ireland by the great famine, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, had struggled to survive. Seeking a new life in America, they found work in the fisheries of Mackinac Island, Michigan. Taking a chance on a better future, they board a steamboat bound for Detroit. When pirates loot the ship and sink it, Emma and Ryan are rescued by Patrick Garraty, the keeper of nearby Presque Isle Lighthouse. A man of faith, Patrick's size and strength are gentled by his kindness. Recently widowed by the accidental death of his wife, Delia, Patrick must find someone to help him care for his young son, Josiah, or he will have to forfeit his job as lightkeeper. While Emma's brother has quickly found work and lodging, Emma's future is quite uncertain. Fate plays its hand through the wisdom of a traveling preacher, Holy Bill, who knows Patrick's story and sees Emma as the answer to his prayers. Emma has always wanted a home and family of her own, and Patrick and his son seem like her chance to follow her dreams. A quick marriage between them leads to a growing friendship and attraction. Little Josiah, only two years old, soon accepts Emma as his "Mamma". However, Patrick has painful secrets from his past--secrets which come back to haunt him and threaten his hopes of happiness with Emma and the new family life they have made. Can Patrick and Emma find their way clear to a real and lasting love with faith as their guiding light? Will forgiveness, both of self and others, grant them the peace and joyful existence they seek? An involving storyline with added elements of fascinating history makes "Love Unexpected" a real pleasure for fans of Inspirational Historical Romance.

Review Copy Gratis Bethany House Books

 A Bride in Store (Unexpected Brides #2)

Eager to meet her groom and begin her new life, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell leaves her home in Pennsylvania to travel to the small western town of Salt Flats, Kansas a week earlier than expected. An unfortunate and untimely choice, as her train is robbed, and she is roughed-up and relieved of her dowry. Needing medical attention when arrives in Salt Flats, her injuries are tended by Will Stanton, a store owner who hopes to become a doctor. When it becomes clear that Eliza is the mail-order bride of Will's business partner in the Men's Emporium, Axel Langston, Will feels compelled to offer assistance to Eliza while Axel is out of town. Her business sense proves to be acute, and she becomes "A Bride in Store", waiting for the return of her fiancé in author Melissa Jagears engaging and entertaining inspirational historical romance. As they work together and wait for Axel's return, a friendship with a longing for something more begins to grown between Eliza and Will. When Axel finally reappears, his first meeting with Eliza is awkward and not what she had imagined. Seeing that Eliza is a boon to his business, Axel quickly pushes forward their nuptials. However, Axel is a far more complex and cunning man than anyone suspected. The depth of his deceptions will have far-reaching consequences, and it will take a leap of faith and great personal growth for Eliza and Will to overcome their tribulations. Out of all they must endure and overcome, can true love find its way? Is a happy future to be theirs to keep? A well-written inspirational historical romance featuring compelling characters and an involving story line.

Review Copy Gratis Bethany House Books

Thursday, January 8, 2015

ELVIS 80TH Birthday Tribute--true story of my mother's moment of a lifetime

August 16, 1977 will always be remembered as the day that Elvis Presley died. No one could ever replace Elvis, and no one could ever take his place in my mother's heart. Here is the true story of how my mother's sacrifice for me led to her moment of a lifetime.

January 8, 1935 is the birth date of one of the most incredible entertainers who ever lived--Elvis Presley. It's hard to believe that Elvis would now be 80 years old, and it's even harder to believe that over forty years have passed since I saw him in concert in Roanoke, VA, a popular stop throughout his concert career. Even though I was in one of the "high altitude" seats in the civic center, the power, passion, and potency of this magnificent performer could barely be contained by the walls of the structure. It was April 11, 1972, and I was thirteen years old. I have been a fan of Elvis since I was old enough to recognize him on TV. During my growing up years, I never missed an "Elvis movie" at our local theater. At the time of this performance, Elvis was 37 years old, and he was in his prime. Mercy!

It was only natural that I would adore Elvis. My Mama was one of the all-time greatest Elvis fans who ever drew a breath. She was so well known as his fan that even casual acquaintances would bring back souvenirs from Graceland and give them to her for her collection. When a series of Elvis collectible dolls became available at one of our local stores, I almost lost my life making sure that I got one for Mama, but I will save that story for another day. I have written numerous articles and commentaries about Elvis, and I definitely have an "Elvis book" inside my soul. However, my greatest story is the one about Mama and Elvis, and how her sacrifice for me resulted in her ultimate reward.

A very good friend and coworker of my mother's had obtained four tickets for the concert, and she wanted Mama to join her and her two sisters in attending the show. Well, of course Mama was thrilled, but she didn't want to go without me, so the five of us went with only four tickets. We squeezed together into the coworker's dark blue VW Beetle, and off we went, with Mama sure that somehow things would work out so that all of us would see Elvis. I am five-feet-ten, and so were Mama's friend and her sisters. Mama was the shrimp at five-feet-five. We were like sardines in a can, but what an adventure!

When we got to the civic center, there was no way to obtain a fifth seat anywhere for the concert, and Mama would not allow me to miss seeing Elvis. She asked for the keys to the car and said she would wait on us, and that she would probably be able to hear some of the concert outside the building. I did not want to see the show without Mama, and I felt tremendously guilty about being inside while she was outside waiting. In fact, I kept saying how bad I felt until our friends told me in a nice way to "shut up". I was also very worried about Mama being out there somewhere on her own. I should have never underestimated my mother. She said all along that things would work out, and they couldn't have worked out better if they had been planned with meticulous detail. When we left Mama inside the entrance of the civic center, she didn't immediately try to go back to the car. She decided to call home and let my grandparents know that we made it okay, and so she went and closed herself up in the phone booth to make the call. When she came out of the booth, everyone was gone and the doors were locked. All of the civic center people had gone into the show so they wouldn't miss Elvis, and they had locked Mama in the building! She couldn't find anyone to help her, so she followed everyone else's lead and went inside to the show. No one stopped her or asked her what she was doing, so she walked straight down to the stage area and watched the whole concert from ten feet away from the stage. She was able to describe the color of Elvis' eyes, count all of his rings and admire the detail work of his jumpsuit and cape. All the while that I was up in the rafters making everyone miserable, Mama was front and center having the time of her life! I will never forget the weird, almost other-worldly sensation of going through the inner doors when the show let out and hearing Mama call me from behind. Behind? She was in the parking lot all by herself, possibly in peril--wasn't she? No, she wasn't! I finally turned around, and there she was behind me in the crowd, waving madly. Her face was lit from within, and she looked like a kid who caught the real Santa Claus placing presents under the tree. Mama sacrificed her concert seat for me, and she ended up with the best seat in the house! I don't know if you believe in miracles, but as for me and Mama, we believed.

Mama worked at our local hospital for over thirty years. The original hospital had an old-fashioned "plug-in" switchboard, of which Mama was the master. The day that Elvis died, August 16, 1977, Mama was working the switchboard as part of her duties as an admissions clerk. The hospital was flooded with calls, and the switchboard was lit up and humming. Most of the calls were for Mama. When Elvis died, she was the first person that many people thought of, and they called to check on her and offer their condolences. It took me a while to reach her, and then we shared our disbelief. In fact, she was one of the people who didn't believe that Elvis was really dead, and as long as Mama lived, he lived in her heart. I like to believe that when she passed away, she was met at the gates of Heaven by a man dressed all in white--a white jumpsuit, that is. What beautiful music they make! Mama on the keyboard, and Elvis singing Gospel with all his might.

Have you ever made a sacrifice for someone and unexpectedly received much more in return? Has someone made such a sacrifice for you? Do you believe in your inner voice? Have you ever followed your inner voice when no one else believed in your intuition? Do you have some new authors and titles that you can't wait to explore in the new year? What is the upcoming book or book series that you most anticipate? To start you off with some food for thought and great reads, I am sharing Mama's recipes and some "Elvis-themed" books.

FIT FOR A KING is my favorite of all my "Elvis" books. This book is overflowing with recipes, photos, inside information and wonderful, sweet memories. FIT FOR A KING was put together with thoughtfulness and sincerity. So many of the other books about Elvis are just an excuse to use his name and image. If you like music, food, nostalgia, and most of all, Elvis himself, then you will truly appreciate FIT FOR A KING. Review >>>

GRACELAND'S TABLE is filled with amazing personal stories, beautiful photos, touching and humorous insights, and an astounding variety of recipes. The food is fabulous--ranging from down-home good cookin' to creative culinary delights! I am Southern to the bone. I have loved Elvis since I was a little girl. For almost 50 years, I lived with a legendary Elvis fan--my Mama! "Graceland's Table" proudly resides among my collection of Elvis memorabilia. Good cookin' tonight!!! Review >>>

EXPOSURE: This fun and involving romantic suspense story from Susan Andersen features a hunky hero with a hook--that's right, one hand and one hook. Sheriff Elvis Donnelly (we need more heroes named Elvis) is six-feet-six of solid muscle with laser-blue eyes and thick, dark hair. He also has a metal hook in place of one hand, and an angry, jagged scar on his handsome face. Review >>>

ELVIS BY THE PRESLEYS  reveals life at Graceland like never before. We witness the arc of his love affair with Priscilla; Elvis as a father to his adored Lisa Marie; his obsessions and passions; and the strength of his musical legacy, which continues unabated to this day. There are Christmas cards here, too; contracts and invoices; selections from Lisa Marie’s childhood scrapbook; and even a picture of the champagne bottle (signed) from Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding." Read more >>>

"When George Klein was an eighth grader at Humes High, he couldn’t have known how important the new kid with the guitar—the boy named Elvis—would later become in his life. But from the first time GK (as he was nicknamed by Elvis) heard this kid sing, he knew that Elvis Presley was someone extraordinary. During Elvis’s rise to fame and throughout the wild swirl of his remarkable life, Klein was a steady presence and one of Elvis’s closest and most loyal friends until his untimely death in 1977." Read more >>>

Butter-Fried Chicken

one whole chicken, cut into fryer pieces
one to two sticks real butter
salt & pepper
poultry seasoning

In a large ziploc bag, add about one cup flour with a good shake of salt & pepper and a pinch of poultry seasoning. Add chicken pieces a few at a time and shake in sealed bag to coat well. Repeat until all chicken pieces are well-coated. Save any leftover flour mixture to make pan gravy. In a large (10 inch), deep cast iron skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken pieces and cook until crispy brown on bottom. Turn chicken pieces and cook until well-done and golden, crispy brown. Arrange chicken pieces on serving platter. While skillet is hot, brown leftover flour in grease (add extra flour if needed). Carefully add enough cold water (be careful of hot grease splatters) to make gravy. Stir gravy continuously until smooth and thick. If needed, add extra seasoning to taste.

Mama's Summer Salad

one red ripe tomato
one yellow ripe tomato
one cucumber
one bell pepper
one onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light cooking oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cut vegetables into bite-sized chunks and mix together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar with vinegar. Blend in oil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and stir well. Cover and chill. Flavor improves overnight. Stir salad well before serving.

Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing

one two-layer size butter-flavored yellow cake mix
Prepare cake mix as directed for two cake layers. Bake and allow to cool.

2 c. white granulated sugar
2 c. brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 sm. can evaporated milk plus a small amount of milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk (pour evaporated milk in a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with whole milk). Place in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook to the soft ball stage. Add vanilla extract. Cool and beat until creamy. Spread quickly over cooled cake.

Mom's Cole Slaw

1 c. mayonnaise
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
Stir together all ingredients. Cover; chill. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

To make slaw:
Shred one small head fresh green cabbage and place in a medium glass bowl. Finely shred several carrots and add to cabbage. Stir to combine. Add one small green pepper and one small onion, both finely chopped. Stir to combine. Add dressing to slaw mixture and stir to mix well. Cover tightly and chill overnight. Stir well before serving.

Lemon-Lime Poke Cake

one 2-layer size lemon cake mix
Prepare cake mix as directed for 13x9 inch pan. Bake cake and allow to completely cool.
one small box lime gelatin
one cup boiling water

whipped topping frosting:
1 c. milk
1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1 (8 oz.) container non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

Blend milk and instant pudding. When partially set and beginning to thicken, fold in whipped topping. Ready to spread in a few minutes.

In a small bowl, combine lime gelatin and boiling water. Stir until well dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. With the handle tip of a wooden spoon, evenly poke holes down through the baked and cooled sheet cake. Pour the lime gelatin liquid evenly over the surface of the cake, using all of the liquid. Frost immediately with whipped topping frosting and store loosely covered in refrigerator. Better when chilled overnight.

Betty's Baked Beans

1 large can of pork & beans (or 2 16oz cans)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup of ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
couple of shakes of hot sauce
dash of salt & pepper
6 slices bacon

Add all ingredients to a greased baking dish and stir together (with the exception of the bacon). Place bacon strips over the top of the beans and bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. (Beans are ready when the bacon is completely cooked)

Comfort-Food Hamburger Steak & Gravy

one pound lean ground beef
salt & pepper
one onion, rough-chopped
one green pepper, rough-chopped
3 tbsp. butter
Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
pinch of sugar

Season ground beef with salt & pepper and form into patties. Melt butter over medium-low heat and add beef patties. Cook until well done, turning once. After patties are done, remove from pan and place on a plate. Add a few tablespoons of flour to hot grease in skillet and stir until browned. Carefully add about two cups cold water, stirring continuously. Add a couple of shakes Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper to taste, and just a pinch of sugar. Stir and add in onions and peppers. Carefully add patties to gravy in skillet. Reduce heat to low and simmer until onions and peppers are softened. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles.

Shredded Carrot Salad with Raisins

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup mayonnaise, or to taste
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
chopped peanuts for topping

Put grated carrots in a large bowl; toss with remaining ingredients, except. Chill thoroughly. Top with chopped peanuts before serving.

Waldorf Salad

2 cups cubed apples, unpeeled (use firm, slightly tart apples)
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup mayonnaise

In a large bowl, combine fruit and nuts; mix lightly. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Blend in mayonnaise. Pour dressing over salad and stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least until well-chilled.

Quick Kraut

one 1 lb can chopped sauerkraut
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp caraway seed
1 chopped unpeeled cored apple

Empty sauerkraut into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until apple is cooked down, stirring occasionally.

Canned Ham with Sweet & Tangy Glaze

one 5 lb canned ham
whole cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp prepared yellow or brown mustard

Score top of ham and stud with whole cloves. Bake per package directions. Prepare glaze by combining sugar, juice, and mustard in a small bowl. During last 15 minutes of baking, pour glaze evenly over ham. Bake until done, spooning glaze up over ham. Allow ham to cool, spooning up glaze to coat ham.

Company Corn Casserole

1 sm. onion, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1 stick butter
1 (16 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (16 oz.) can cream style corn
1 (6 3/4 oz.) box corn muffin mix
3 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Saute onion, green pepper in butter over low heat. Allow to cool until just warm. In a medium bowl, combine sauteed mixture (including butter), kernel corn, creamed corn, muffin mix,eggs, and sour cream. Mix well. Pour into a greased 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes Bake until puffy and lightly browned.

Savory Southern-Style Green Beans & Potatoes

1/2 lb. bacon, uncooked, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 cups (approximately) of fresh or frozen cut green beans,
2 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, medium-diced
Chicken stock, to cover
1 tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

If using fresh green beans, remove the ends and snap in half or cut; rinse and set aside. Add the bacon directly into a large saucepan and cook over low heat until it begins to brown. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. If using fresh or frozen beans, saute them in the cooked bacon and onion for a bit first, and then add the potatoes to the beans. Pour over enough chicken broth to cover. Add sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let them low for 20 minutes, or until potatoes and beans are tender.

Sweet Potato Pie

1 (9 inch deep-dish) unbaked pastry shell
1 lb. (2 med.) yams or sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled**
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixer bowl, mash yams with butter. Add remaining ingredients except pastry shell and eggs. Beat until mixture is smooth and well blended. Stir in eggs. Pour into prepared pastry shell. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool. Serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

**TIP: 1 (16 or 17 oz.) can sweet potatoes or yams, drained, can be substituted for fresh. Melt butter. Proceed as above.

Black-Eyed Peas with Ham

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained well
1/2 piece smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
hot sauce to taste

Cook celery and onions with 1/4 each tsp salt and pepper in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 cup water and simmer 3 minutes. Add peas and ham and simmer, covered, just until heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with hot sauce to taste.

Baked Stewed Tomatoes

2 (15 oz) cans sliced stewed tomatoes (with celery & onion)
2 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups bread cubes (the drier the bread, the better)
1 stick butter, sliced

Butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour in stewed tomatoes. Sprinkle evenly with sugar. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Evenly spread bread cubes over top of tomatoes. Place butter slices evenly spread out over bread cubes. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until tomatoes are bubbly, and bread is well toasted. Check after 20 minutes, and watch to make sure bread doesn't burn.

Gran's Mac & Cheese

Comfort food from Gran herself : )

Boil 16oz elbow macaroni in large pan of salted water until slightly undercooked. Drain pasta quickly so that it will not continue to cook in hot water. Butter a 13in by 9in baking pan. Layer pasta with at least 16oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (sharper the better). Feel free to be very cheesey! Pour one pint of half-and-half or heavy cream over pasta and cheese. Add some whole milk if needed to bring liquid to top of pasta and cheese. Dot with slices of real butter and a very light sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper. Liberally top off with grated Parmesan cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let Mac & Cheese set in covered pan for 10 minutes before serving.