Let there be lefsa…and free books

When I married into a family that is half-Swedish and half-Finnish, my world instantly became enriched by food I’d heard mention of but never tasted. One such holiday staple is: LEFSA (which, quite simply, is a potato tortilla). This simple but flavor-packed treat can be eaten with butter or, as my hubby prefers: LOTS of butter then sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. We’ve also tried them with a savoury filling such as scrambled eggs.

My mother-in-law, Mae Salonen, taught me how to make these, but I’ll go on record saying, “She was a better woman/homemaker than me.” I make these every year, but I’m no martyr–I would never attempt this task alone. I enlist the help of my husband.

Recipe: lefsa recipe

And last year, we started passing along the tradition by teaching our daughter-in-law, Ruth, how to make them. The recipe is simple, but the process is…a process. Watch the video and you’ll get an idea. But don’t let our process scare you away from trying this out for yourself. Lefsa is yummy. Really yummy. And the team effort makes it more of an adventure. This year, our eldest granddaughter has expressed an interest in helping. My mother-in-law will smiling down from heaven.

Be warned. Once word gets out that you’re making lefsa, everyone will want in on the action. We had friends drive up from the valley to watch–and sample. This was Ruth’s first time, but she has a deft hand–she’s a natural. So, obviously, even a beginner can master this tag-team cooking adventure. :-)

What are your favorite family treats to make/bake?

Also, I don’t know how many of you are giving/receiving/hoping-Santa-brings-you an eReader for Christmas, but I’m part of a 13-author FREE book giveaway that includes a chance to win $100 gift prize.

13 free book roses

 

Click here: READ to grab any or all of these great books. (Plus, if you’d be so kind as to vote for my HER FOREVER GIFT cover/blurb, you’ll be entered in the contest to win $100 gift card.)

To reach the most people possible, we’ve been accepted for a Thunderclap promotion. Click here to lend your support: THUNDER .

The drawing takes place on Jan. 1, 2015!

Good luck and, since I won’t be blogging again until the day after Christmas, let me wish you the happiest of holiday memory making.

With love and joy!

Deb

It’s Almost Time for… Winter Solstice

winter-solstice

From the cold days to the festive mood that fills the very air, I love this time of year. One of my favorite days is Winter Solstice–the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. This year, Winter Solstice falls on December 21. After that, we can look forward to the return of the light as the days slowly begin to lengthen.

My husband and I like to usher out the darkness and welcome in the light with a Winter Solstice party. We started this annual event about 10 years ago, and we always have such a good time.

Our party this year will be on Saturday night. We invite a whole host of friends from all walks of life, including families with kids. Before long, the dining room table is laden with food. Guests bring side dishes and desserts, and we provide a hot, delicious Honey Baked Ham, hot mulled wine, and other goodies to delight everyone.

Honey Baked Ham

Honey Baked Ham

Such lovely smells! (And oh, that ham bone makes the best split soup in the universe. I’m already salivating. But I digress…)

Hot Mulled Wine in Punch Bowl

Hot Mulled Wine in Punch Bowl

We also light a crackling fire in the fireplace and enjoy the evening for as long as it lasts.

crackle fire

People tell us they enjoy the respite from the Christmas frenzy and the chance to catch up with friends, and so do we.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of the darkest days of the year than with family, friends, food and drink.

Until next time and wishing you the merriest of merries,

Ann

My Holiday Newsletter has gone out, but if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter and you’d like a copy of the latest one, complete with a delicious recipe for chocolate mint brownies, contact me through my website at www.annroth.net .  I’ll send you a copy.

 

Connect with me on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AnnRothAuthorPage
Follow me on Twitter:https://twitter.com/ann_roth
Stop by my website: www.annroth.net
Sign up for my newsletter: http://bit.ly/1zgiKfG

 

A Christmas Craft (Tara Taylor Quinn)

20141208_191543  Would you like to know how to make this cute little guy?  It takes about an hour, uses mostly household items (I guess depending on the household) and costs very little.  He’s a great stocking stuffer, because beneath the cuteness is a candy bar!

Just click on the picture and you’ll be taken to my site on the Harlequin web site where I posted step by step pictorial instructions for completing this little guy.  I made the one you see up above for the tutorial.  He’s currently sitting on my desk, tempting me.  I used a Hersey chocolate bar, and I’m a cheap chocolate lover.  Only the Hersey’s milk chocolate with nothing in it for me.  Every day he smiles at me and offers the promise of a sweet treat.  So far, his cuteness has saved him from consumption.

This little guy has brought something else to mind.  Choice.  We always have choice.  Would I rather have a moment of pure pleasure while I consume a piece of chocolate.  Or hours, days, weeks, even years of pleasure looking at his cute face?  Like so many things in life, the momentary pleasure is so tempting.  And yet, once consumed, there is no chance of any more pleasure from this guy.  As I ponder my choice, something else occurs to me…There is pleasure simply in the anticipation of eating him.  Of knowing that he is always there, available to me if I need him.  Once I consume him, that also will be gone.

Much like the Christmas holiday.  We rush and decorate and shop and wrap.  The presents are under the tree and the anticipation of having them opened is like a living being in the room.  Can’t wait.  Can’t wait.  Can’t wait.  It seems to say.  Then the paper is ripped and things are revealed and the Christmas moment is over.

Unless we can learn to sacrifice in the moment pleasures for the more subtle, longer lasting kind.  If those presents become symbols of our love for each other.  And when given, the gifts are gifts of love, then the opening is only the beginning.  If, with each present we give, we commit ourselves, our loyalty, our love to those to whom we give, then the day, week, month after Christmas is the real gift.  We think of the people in our lives with a renewed softness.  A tenderness that allows us to focus on their good qualities first, rather than being irritated by their less stellar moments.  We are more aware of their needs, instead of just our own.  And…hopefully…we act upon our new awareness.

Happy Crafting, Everyone!

Bluff City Murder – Carolyn

Hooray! At last! Bluff City Mysteries, the first Malice in Memphis anthology of short stories, is finally out, and just in time for Christmas. From idea to publication it’s only taken us three years. It should have taken a year at most, but somehow the date kept slipping. It’s available from Amazon in both trade paperback and hard cover editions. Make a great stocking stuffer!

Malice in Memphis is our local mystery writers group. We’re small, but we’re conscientious. The conception for an anthology started as a simple writing exercise. Publication was long on the horizon at that point. Several of our members had never been published. We wanted stories that would be worthy of publication, even if we never actually put out the anthology. We decided that we would make Memphis and its environs the backdrop for our stories of murder and mayhem. Each of us selected a venue where murder could be perpetrated, and off we went.

One of our members, Ann Smith, volunteered to do pen and ink drawings to go along with each story. Let me tell you, Ann is marvelously talented, not only as a writer (she is multi-published), but for her quirky and evocative drawings of such places as Mud Island (yes, Virginia, there is an actual Mud Island).

Let’s face it, writers are not as a rule team players. We work alone, and have our own ideas—thank heaven. So assembling, rewriting, and editing our stories made herding cats look like child’s play. Along the way, we dealt with the development of characters, setting, and structure. We said we wanted a learning experience. Boy, did we get one.

I can’t remember which writer once said that he wrote only novels because he wasn’t a good enough writer to write short stories. That is kinda true. When you have eighty-five thousand words or more, you don’t have to write as tight. In a short story, the reader has to be involved faster. No room for coincidences or sloppy structure. Especially in a mystery short story all the plot points have to dovetail.

Each of us wrote a very different story, and not simply because we were using different locations. I’ve seen that again and again in writing exercises. We give a group a simple sentence or concept, and every one comes up with an entirely different take on the same material. That quirkiness of the mind is what makes us writers. We think weird.

I know I do. Every restaurant I go into, every new situation, I am always looking for an interesting way to kill somebody. Pat Potter and I attended a marvelous choral recital in a twelfth century cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, a couple of weeks ago. Before the first song was finished I had noticed half a dozen lovely places to stash an assassin and at least as many methods he could use to get away without being caught. I find it hard to come up with a plot if I don’t bump off somebody first.

And I’m not alone in that.

So, check out Bluff City Mysteries. Give it to all your friends.

We’re already working on an anthology of ghost stories that take place in and around Memphis. Let’s hope we won’t take three years to publication.

Merry Christmas.

Celtic Thunder and Other Things (Pat)

Sorry to be late in blogging today, but the last two days have been whirlwind ones.

I’m trying to finish the first three chapters of my next book.   I knew something was wrong, but just couldn’t figure out what.   I went back to a speech I sometimes make about the elements of a good book.   The first element is always a great first sentence.

I just didn’t have a great first sentence,   But I do have a great critique group and after tossing ideas around I knew exactly what was wrong and how to fix it.   I do love my  group.   We’ve been together for nearly twenty years, through good times and bad and Friday wouldn’t be Friday without having breakfast together.

With that problem solved, I went to a concert fifty miles away.   It was the Celtic Thunder, and if you’ve not seen them on PBS, you are missing something special.   Celtic Thunder is the masculine answer to the Celtic Women, and the singers are  great.   There’s ten of them and together they are spectacularly good and fun.   This was their Christmas show, and “O Holy Night” is particularly powerful.   I had two of their CDs and a third on my ITunes.   I’m now the proud owner of three CDs.    The trip was well worth it.  Check out their Christmas CD if you like male voices with a Celtic twist.

Back home Saturday morning (stayed overnight in Tunnica), I frantically made a casserole for a Christmas luncheon of my mystery writer’s club at 11 a.m.   Between eating and Dirty Santa, we talked about promoting our Memphis murder mysteries anthology.   Each story features a Memphis landmark. If you’re a mystery fan, try the Bluff City Mysteries on Amazon.  There’s a free story available..

So much for the fun stuff.   The new book is calling !!!!

.Have a great week before Christmas.

 

 

Christmas Music

images-3 I have a love-hate relationship with holiday music. I love certain songs, but hate others–particularly the songs that get played over and over and over and…you know what I mean. If the barking dogs begin to bark Jingle Bells, I run out of the store. If Grandma even comes close to getting run over by a reindeer, I have to leave the room. Same with Alvin and the Chipmunks singing anything, several versions of Santa Baby and most anything by Mannheim Steamroller (saturated my brain in the 1980s).

But I love making Playlists for my books, and I had a lot of fun with the one for HER FOREVER GIFT, including a stroll down memory lane. (Anybody remember Dolly Parton’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?)

Here’s the link: PLAYLIST. I don’t seem to be able to make my YouTube embedding function work. Sorry.

What’s your favorite holiday song? By the way, HER FOREVER GIFT is finally FREE on all platforms. Amazon * Kobo * BN  * iTunes

The system failed him, but she never would.

The system failed him, but she never would.

It’s short, sweet and heartwarming. If you read it and enjoy it, I’d so appreciate your kind review (reviews are vital for Amazon and for procuring advertising). Have a great weekend. And enjoy the music of the season.

Deb

Laughter Really Is Great Medicine

laugh!

There is nothing quite like a belly-splitting, eye-watering laugh. I am not often prone to letting go like that, but when it happens… Oh, what a feeling. After I wipe my eyes and catch my breath, I always feel better than I did before.

Even (or maybe especially) when I wasn’t supposed to laugh!

I can still remember the time my husband and I were invited to participate in a two-hour survey. We were told that we would watch a pilot for a new TV show and rate it. We liked the idea, and showed up eager to do our part. The place was packed with adults, and we barely managed to find seats. What we quickly realized was that most of the session involved ads that might air on networks across the country. We were to rate those as well. The ads ran first. Near the end of the session we finally previewed the so-so pilot TV show that never saw the light of day.

Back to those ads. Like everyone else, we were serious about sharing our opinion, which we did by completing a form after each piece aired. Then it happened. An ad that happened to be for deodorant stuck my husband and me as funny.

Picture a dark night and a furious rainstorm. A woman in a raincoat and holding an umbrella stands under a streetlight. A male voice off-camera mentions a certain brand of deodorant. Suddenly she whips out a stick of roll-on deodorant and pretends to apply it under her arm. Wearing a raincoat, in the pouring rain, under the streetlight.

Hilarious!!!  Okay, maybe you had to be there…

We started to giggle. Quietly at first, as no one else seemed to find the ad humorous. We tried to stop… But then, we would glance at each other and continue laughing. Before long, we were howling.

Laughter-1

 Oh, the dirty looks we got! We knew we should behave, which only made what we were doing funnier to us. Finally, we pulled it together and sobered up.

The amazing part of this experience is that I remember it at all. Another time, not long after my mother passed away, our family was sitting around, sharing Mom stories. I don’t remember what was said, but it was something funny enough to have us all in stitches. That time, I laughed so hard that I cried, big, drippy tears. What a great release that turned out to be.

Experts agree that laughing is good for us. http://bit.ly/1ypXAsq

For those so inclined, there are even laughter yoga classes available. http://www.laughteryoga.org/english/club/home

When was the last time you enjoyed a belly-laugh? I would so enjoy hearing about it.

Until next time and wishing you laughter,

Ann

Connect with me on my Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/AnnRothAuthorPage
Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Roth
Stop by my website: www.annroth.net

Homeward Bound (Suzanne Forster)

Just a couple more days way up here in the northwest corner of the country and I’ll be on a plane headed south.  I can’t believe how quickly the days have flown by or how busy I’ve been.  The quiet time that I’d planned to work on a new project didn’t really materialize, but that’s what plane trips are for.  The white noise that puts some people to sleep seems to kick-start my brain, so with any luck I’ll make good use of the 2 ½ hour flight.

I had some incredible experiences this trip.  One was being a rapt audience as my grand daughter performed the song she’s been working on recently.  She wrote the music and the lyrics—and with virtually no self-consciousness, she sang the piece for me and her brother as she accompanied herself on the keyboard.  I had no idea she had that kind of talent.  She’s never played her own music for me before.  I’m so glad she decided to this time.  What a gift she has!  And what a gift she gave me by sharing it with me.

But right now she’s stuck.  The song isn’t quite done and the problem seems to be transitions.  Creativity is such a fascinating thing.  She composes in spurts, which resulted in a song that is essentially three separate sections in two different keys.  It sounds great to me, but she isn’t convinced.  She says that her challenge now is to bring it all together and make it work.  I’m going to be bugging her to do that because I hear something in her work that should be shared with others..

My youngest grandson, Chance, also surprised me with his utter enthusiasm for a lit class he’s taking.  He’s in high school, but taking courses at a local college as part of a special program.  He’s never shown any particular interest in reading, except maybe graphic novels.  Mostly, he’s glued to video games in his spare time, but there was something dramatically different about him as he told me about the stories he’s reading.  His instructor assigned three short stories a week to be read and analyzed, starting with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which is challenging because of Washington Irving’s enormous vocabulary and peculiar syntax.  I remember being lost in the first paragraph!

I asked Chance why they began with one of the most difficult short stories.  He said it was because Irving had helped establish the modern genre of short stories, and his instructor thought they should begin at the beginning.  He then gave me a list of the stories that had impressed him the most and asked me to read them.  He said he was dying to discuss them with someone.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  Was this the same kid who’d played endlessly with Pokemon cards when he was in grade school?  And who couldn’t be dragged from the computer screen and his video games in middle school?  I had to master Pokemon and World of Warcraft just to spend time with him!  Had that kid just given me a reading assignment?

He couldn’t stop talking about the stories.  He made them—and the class he was taking—sound so intriguing I wished I could take it with him.

So, now I have homework to do, stories to find and read so my grandson and I can have a conversation that’s a little more in my ballpark than Pokemon and video games.  I can hardly wait!

Suzanne

Lots of News Today (Pat)

Fellow blogger Carolyn and I just returned from Europe after a great trip and a not-so-great trip home.    We both have a massive case of jet leg so please excuse any incoherence you find here.   I always find traveling TO someplace fun.   The return trip, though, is the pits.   Our homeward journey started at 3:30 a.m. in the morning in Nuemburg.   We took a crowded small plane from there to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Detroit where we went through customs, then to Memphis.   We were mentally dead and so, of course, we couldn’t find my car in Memphis’ very large parking lot.   We were wandering like two lost and exhausted souls in a vast, dark and pedestrian free lot for what seemed like hours before rescue by an airport employe.

The highlight of the trip was attending a performance the Lippizzaners, the dancing white horses of the Spanish Riding School.   We had the best seats in the house.  We could almost touch the horses by reaching out.   (I think Carolyn, the horse expert of the two of us, will have more to day tomorrow.)    Then that same day we attended the opera in Vienna’s great opera hall.    And then there were all the wonderful Christmas market with their hot wine, hot nuts and sausages.

Good news awaited on my return.   First, an antholog of mystery stories written by members of my Memphis mystery writers group, is finally on Amazon.   We’ve been working on it for nearly two years and found a publisher.   Each story is based on a Memphis landmark.   Mine was the Peabody Hotel, a historical hotel kknown for its march of the ducks to and from a fountain in tne middle of the hotel.   I killed my agent in its elevator.   (Note, I love my past and current agent).    Other landmarks are a historical plantation house, a Cinderella Carriage popular n Memphis streets, our historic cemetery, etc.    Titled “Bluff City Mysteries”, it is available in electronic and hardcover from Amazon.   The e-version is only $2.99.

I also found an email comtaining the covers of three of my Scottish trilogies.    First published by Bantam, they will be e-published by Open Road March 2nd, and the covers are spectacular. .  I’m having difficulty to converting them over here, but hope to have the problem solved by next week.

In the meantime, I’ve started the third in the Covenant Falls series and I’m contracted for the fourth.   I love this town and am so excited to continue visiting it.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

 

12 books of Christmas

Good merry Friday to you all!

We put up our tree last Sunday and unboxed all the holiday “stuff” we’ve collected over the years. That includes books.

STORYBROADS 12514

I have two traditions that I started when my children were babies: a new ornament (usually dated) for each child and one new Christmas book for the family.

Many of those dated ornaments went to each child when they started decorating their own Christmas trees, but, coincidentally, they started having children so I could continue both traditions with my grands.

Storybroads blog 12514 tree

This year, as I watched my granddaughters exclaim over the treasured, well-remembered ornaments, which I let them hang on the tree while I sat back and watched–what a treat!–I felt a pang of bittersweet awareness of time passing. Soon, I’d be boxing up their dated ornaments to give them to hang on trees of their own.

The books provide an interesting dilemma of their own. The girls are turning into avid readers. The books I’ve accumulated since my eldest granddaughter’s birth eleven years ago were age-appropriate at the time. They’re still sweet and charming, but some are too young (I will save them for my newest grandbaby who is scheduled to arrive early next year). I need to step up to a new level of holiday book–and I don’t have any idea what to pick.

Can you suggest any holiday books in the 7-12 year range?

Do you have holiday traditions that you’ve seen change and adapt to your family’s needs?

I’d love to hear from you. I’ll pick two names to receive an e-copy of my sweet holiday novella, MY CHRISTMAS ANGEL.

DEB_Angel72dpi(1600x2560)-1