Monthly Archives: October 2011

Saving money on snacks and eating healthy dinners

We have been busy with basketball and it is a lot of work to get healthy snacks for the spectators and have dinner ready, without having to eat at 9 pm.
I found that with a little planning, dinner can be simple, snacks can be cheap and good.
It does take some work, I won’t deny that, most mostly it takes thinking ahead and planning.

This week we were out of the house almost everyday last week.
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Basketball games were exciting….
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(49 was our team)

But….I first found these snack trays at Target that are Ziplock. They have three compartments and seal separately.
I have done a variety of things. I have done homemade granola bars, popcorn, Pumpkin muffins (These were really good. I used fresh pumpkin and no pumpkin seeds, cut down the sugar, and added some chocolate chips on top of some and a little baking powder. The boys loved them!!! I also made them all whole wheat) and peanut butter sandwich squares.

When we went to the pumpkin patch and I made spiced chai cupcakes frosted with candy corn flowers with apples and popcorn to take with us.
It saves me money as it is cheaper to use the ingredients I have at home, even if they are things we don’t always eat, but then when they ask for snacks that are being sold, I don’t have to just say “no”, I have a tasty alternative. They don’t feel deprived and yet, saves me money.

For dinners, I have been using my crock pot a bit more. So far this week, I tried a veggie pasta bake, which was good, but would have been better if we got home an hour or two sooner. A enchilada casserole with salad, which was wonderful, I will be repeating that one. I also did some stew and bread, with the bread dough in the bread machine and I baked it in the oven when I came home. The other meal I did, was all chopped fresh vegetables with some cubed cooked spiced chicken to make these Greek chicken wraps. It went together fast, I just cooked the chicken up and set out the chopped vegetables and it was dinner!!! The store did not have the pitas I wanted, I ran out of time to make them like I usually do and so I ended up using tortillas, but they were good!

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My son grew carrots for the first time this year and he was so excited and shared the tops with the bunny!
They make a good snack too!

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My good friend Bobbi who came to visit! We had fun shopping, running to games, lessons etc.

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My voice took a leave of absence for a day and she helped me with our reading time.

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My sister gave her a hair trim while she was here….

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Loving on little boys before boarding the train….

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One last read…..

Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada sauce:
2 c. water
2 c. beef broth
1 can enchilada sauce
2 T. New mexican chili powder
4 T. cornstarch mixed with a little water.
Bring broth and water with chili powder to a boil. Add enchilada sauce and cornstarch. Stir until slightly thickened, like thin gravy.

Meat filling:
20 oz. ground turkey (or less)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or home cooked ones)
Cook meat and add beans. Add a spoon of sauce, some cumin to taste.

Other:
Grated cheese
Corn tortillas

Spray or grease inside of crockpot. Pour two generous ladles full of sauce on the bottom. Layer corn tortillas, meat filling, sauce, and cheese, ending with lots of sauce and cheese. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. 8 hours was a little long!!!

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Filed under Bargain Dinners, Daily Happenings, Recipes

A Quarter for a Kiss by Mindy Clark

My Review:
I have had a really busy week, but I will just say that when you finish this book series, you will be so sorry that it ended!!! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Quarter for a Kiss

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

With a touch of romance and a strong heroine, A Quarter for a Kiss offers more of the fast-paced and suspenseful inspirational writing found in A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, and A Dime a Dozen. In this fourth book of the Million Dollar Mysteries, Mindy Starns Clark weaves another tale of mystery and God’s touch on the lives of those who seek Him.

As a young widow, Callie Webber finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her growing romance with her employer, Tom Bennett. When their friend and mentor, Eli Gold, is shot, the search for answers as to who and why leads Tom and Callie to the beautiful Virgin Islands. There they face a sinister enemy among the ruins of an old sugar plantation—an enemy who’s willing to do anything to keep his identity secret and the past deeply buried.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929592
ISBN-13: 978-0736929592

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Come on, Callie,” Tom urged. “You can do it. You know how.”

Ignoring the burning in my calves, I kept my gaze on Tom, who had reached the top of the wall almost effortlessly and now waited there for me to join him.

“There’s a grip at two o’clock, up from your right hand about six inches,” he guided, speaking in the low, soothing tones I teasingly called his “rock climbing” voice. Glad for that voice now, I released my handhold and reached upward, my fingers easily finding and grasping the tiny ledge. “Now your foot,” he said. “Slow and easy. You’re almost there.”

As I went I concentrated on all I had learned about rock climbing in the last few weeks. It was Tom’s passion, and we had spent a number of hours practicing on a real rock face while he taught me the basic tricks and techniques. Now we were in an indoor gym, on a simulated rock wall, climbing much higher than we had ever gone in our practice runs. And though I was wearing a safety harness that was roped to the ceiling, that didn’t make it any easier or any less scary—particularly where the wall actually bent outward, pitching me at a difficult angle.

“You are one step away, Cal,” he said, excitement evident in his voice. “Most of the people won’t make it half this far.”

With a final burst of daring, I slid my toes against the next hold and straightened my knees, rising high enough to touch the ceiling at the top of the wall.

“You did it!” Tom cried, and only then did I allow myself to smile and then to laugh.

“I did do it!” I echoed, slapping a high five with Tom and feeling the rush of pleasure and relief he said he experienced every time he finished a challenging climb. Of course, to him “challenging” meant the Red Rocks of Nevada or Half Dome in Yosemite. For me, a big wall in a rock-climbing gym was a pretty good start.

We repelled down together, my legs still feeling shaky once I was on solid ground.

“That was great,” the teenage staffer said as he helped unhook me from the harness. “And to think you were worried. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Not that high and not indoors,” I said.

“Well, you’re a natural.”

“I had a good teacher,” I replied, glancing at Tom, who was busy removing his own harness. He and I had spent the last three weeks together vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, we had enjoyed teaching each other our favorite sports—climbing and canoeing—though I liked to tease him that my hobby was the superior one, because one false move with a canoe paddle wouldn’t exactly plunge a person hundreds of feet to their death. Tom had replied that if one were canoeing above Niagara Falls, that wouldn’t exactly be true, now would it?

As the teenager moved on to help the next set of climbers, Tom gave me an encouraging smile.

“Hey, what did you say this is called?” I asked him, pointing at my visibly wobbling knees. “Sewing legs?”

“Sewing-machine legs,” Tom replied. “A common climbing malady. Come on. You need to rest for a bit.”

He bought us two bottles of water from the snack bar, and then we found a quiet corner and sat on a bench there, leaning back against the wall. I felt thoroughly spent, as if I had pushed every single muscle in my body to its very limit.

I sipped on my water, feeling my pulse slowly return to normal, looking around at the activity that surrounded us. Across the giant room, a new group of climbers was being instructed by a guide while about ten more people waited in line for their turn. In the front window was a giant banner that said “Climb for KFK,” and beside the cash register was a table where pledges and donations were being accepted for “Kamps for Kids,” a charity that provided summer camp scholarships to impoverished children. Instead of a walk­athon, they were calling this event a “climbathon.” I liked the idea as well as the whole atmosphere of the place, from the easy joviality of the people waiting in line to the upbeat encouragement of the instructors who were manning the ropes and providing assistance as needed.

“So what’s up, Callie?” Tom asked. “You haven’t been yourself all morning.”

I shrugged.

“Sorry,” I said. “This is my work mode, I guess. You have to remember, we’re not just here to have fun. We’re on the job, so to speak.”

Tom nodded knowingly and then leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“So how does this happen, exactly?” he asked. “Do you just walk up to the people and say, ‘Hi, here’s a big whopping check’?”

I smiled.

“Oh, sure, that’s usually how it goes. I call that my Big Whopping Check speech.”

“Don’t be hard on me,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done this before.”

I leaned toward him, speaking softly.

“Well, first of all, you have to wait for the proper moment,” I said. “Like just before you’re about to leave.”

“Okay.”

“Second,” I continued, “you have to have the full attention of the correct person. You don’t want to give that whopping check to just anybody.”

“Get the big wig. Got it.”

“Finally, the act of presentation takes a little bit of flair. It’s a huge moment for them. You want to help them enjoy it.”

“I think I understand.”

“You also want to bring them back down to earth a little. I actually do have a short speech I give every time I hand over a grant. I remind the recipient where the money’s coming from and what it’s for. That seems to go over well.”

I felt funny explaining how I did my job to Tom, because he wasn’t just my boyfriend, he was also technically my boss. Though he lived and worked on the other side of the country, far from our actual office, Tom was the kind and generous philanthropist behind the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. I worked for the foundation as the director of research, and basically my job was to investigate nonprofits Tom was interested in and analyze their suitability for grants. If they checked out okay, I then had the pleasure of awarding them grant money. That’s what we were doing here today. For the first time ever, Tom was joining me as I gave a little bit of his money away.

“Hey, Tom! Tom Bennett!” a man cried, interrupting my thoughts.

The fellow bounded toward us, grinning widely. He was tall and wiry, with deep laugh lines in a tanned face, and when he reached us, we stood and the two men shook hands warmly. “You said you might come, but I didn’t believe you.”

“I’m glad I was able to work it out,” Tom replied, smiling.

He introduced his friend as Mitch Heckman, owner of the gym and co-organizer of the event. I told Mitch how impressed I was with the gym and with the climbathon concept.

“Most of the credit goes to my wife,” Mitch said, shaking my hand. “I’m just glad we could use the gym to help out a good cause.”

“Have you raised much?” Tom asked.

“Our goal for today was twenty-five thousand dollars,” Mitch said. “You can see how we’re doing on that poster over there.”

He pointed to a drawing of a mountain with a zero at the bottom, amounts written up the side, and $25,000 at the top. Sadly, it had only been colored in about half of the way up—and the event would be over in another hour or two.

“Of course, we had a pretty big learning curve in putting the whole thing together,” Mitch said. “I’m sure we can make up the difference with some bake sales or car washes or something. We’ll get there eventually. Mai pen rai, huh?”

“Yeah, mai pen rai.”

They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Mitch was called up to the front. After he was gone, Tom explained to me their acquaintance, that they had met a few months ago while mountain climbing—specifically, while scaling the limestone cliffs off of Rai Ley Beach in the Krabi Province of Thailand. Tom had been working hard in Singapore and had taken a weekend off to visit the nearby mountain-climbers’ mecca, where he met Mitch atop one of the peaks after a particularly challenging climb. As the two men rested, they talked, and it turned out that they were both avid climbers and eager to explore an unfrequented jungle crag nearby. Together they had hired a guide and ended up having an incredible day of climbing. Though the two men hadn’t seen each other since, they had been in touch off and on ever since via e-mail.

“What were you saying to each other just now? My pen…”

“Mai pen rai,” Tom replied. “That’s Thai for ‘no problem’ or ‘never mind.’ The guides say it to encourage you while you’re climbing, kind of like ‘you can do it.’ ‘Don’t worry.’ Mai pen rai.”

“Does Mitch know about the foundation?”

“Nope. He thinks I’m just another rock jock.”

“He’s in for a nice surprise, then,” I said. “This is fun, giving a grant to someone who never even applied for one.”

This wasn’t our usual mode for doing business, that was for sure. But this particular charity was so new—and the amount we were donating so relatively small—that the investigation hadn’t been all that complicated. Since KFK had never applied for a grant from us, I hadn’t really had the authority to go in and do an extensive investigation. But they did belong to several good nonprofit watchdog groups, so I had felt confident doing the research from our vacation home in North Carolina, mostly over the internet and on the phone with the foundation’s accounting whiz, Harriet, the day before.

“Anyway, now you’ll finally have the pleasure of making a donation live and in person,” I added. “Something I’ve only been bugging you to do for two years.”

“Almost three years now,” he corrected. “And, yes, I’m hoping this might shut you up for good.”

“Oh, you want me to shut up, do you?” I asked. “What about—”

He silenced me with a finger against my lips, which he allowed to linger there.

“No,” he whispered, gazing a moment at my mouth. “Don’t ever stop talking to me. I want to listen to you forever.”

We looked into each other’s eyes as everything else in the room blurred into the background. My legs shivered again, but not from climbing this time.

“We need to get going,” Tom said gruffly, standing and then helping me to my feet. I squeezed his hand, and then we separated into the men’s and women’s locker areas to get cleaned up.

After a shower I dressed quickly in a pair of black slacks and a soft blue knit shirt. I towel-dried my short hair, combed it out, and took a moment to put on some lipstick and a touch of mascara.

As I looked in the mirror, ready to leave, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. In a few short hours Tom and I would go our separate ways, boarding two different flights to head toward our homes on opposite coasts—him to California and me to Maryland. For three glorious weeks we had done nothing more than shut out the rest of the world and spend time together, but we couldn’t hide out and play forever. Our work and other responsibilities awaited us, and as one week had turned into two and then to three, we had already stretched the length of our available time to the very max. Soon our idyllic vacation together would officially be over, and Tom and I would be back to our long-distance romance as usual.

Slinging my bag onto my shoulder, I decided to take this day moment-by-moment. Despite the difficulty of parting, we still had a job to do. We still had a grant to give out.

I emerged from the locker room to find Tom also showered and dressed, standing nearby and squinting toward the front of the room. He had in his hand a check from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, dated today and made out to the charity, though the amount had been left blank.

“Callie, can you read that figure?” he asked. “I need the exact amount they’ve raised so far.”

I walked a little closer and then came back to report that they were up to $11,043. Quick with numbers, Tom didn’t even hesitate before he filled out the check for $23,957.

“That’s ten thousand more than they need to bring them to their goal,” I said after doing the math in my head, not surprised one bit by his generosity.

“Yeah, but it’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

He tried to put the check in my hand, but I pushed it back.

“No, you don’t,” I said. “Enjoy the moment.”

Carrying our bags, Tom and I walked to the front of the gym, where his friend Mitch was chatting with a woman that I assumed was his wife. We were introduced, and I liked her firm handshake and the way she looked me directly in the eye. She thanked us for coming and then moved on to speak with someone else.

“We’re going to head out,” Tom said to Mitch, “but I wanted to give you a check first. I talked my company into making a small grant.”

Of course, the way Tom had said it, you’d never know that it was his company, nor his money—nor that he was using “small” as a relative term. Mitch took the folded check without looking at it.

“Listen, buddy, every bit helps. Thank you so much, and thanks for coming.”

The two men shook hands, and then Mitch shook my hand as well. We said goodbye, and Tom and I departed, walking silently through the packed parking lot toward our rental car.

“You were right, Callie,” he said nonchalantly, pressing a button on his key chain to unlock the car. “Giving away the money in person really is kind of fun.”

I was about to reply when we heard Mitch calling Tom’s name. We turned to see the man running toward us, breathless, his eyes filled with disbelief.

“I don’t understand,” he gasped, holding up the check. “This is so much. Is it some kind of joke?”

“No joke, Mitch,” Tom said. “We’re affiliated with the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. That’s a grant.”

“A grant?”

“Yeah, we give them out all the time. Callie, what is it you like to say when you give grants to people?”

I smiled.

“Basically,” I said, going into my spiel, “we want you to know that the best way you can say thanks is to take that money and use it to further your mission. The foundation believes strongly in what you’re trying to accomplish, and we just wanted to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

To my surprise, Mitch’s eyes filled with tears.

“Your generosity leaves me speechless,” he said finally. “Won’t you come back inside? Let me tell my wife. She’ll be so excited. Maybe we can get a picture for the newsletter or the website or something.”

I looked at Tom, but he seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

“Mitch,” I said, “we really prefer to do this in a discreet manner. Just tell Jill that the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation gives the money with love and with God’s blessings. We’d rather not receive any individual recognition.”

Bewildered, he looked back down at the check.

“And you promise this isn’t a joke?” he tried one more time.

“No joke,” Tom laughed. “I give you my word, buddy. It’s for real.”

With a final sincere thanks, Mitch turned and headed back to the building. We stood there and watched until he went inside and the door closed behind him.

On impulse, I turned and threw my arms around Tom’s neck. Startled, after a moment he hugged me back.

“You are such a good man,” I whispered, feeling absolutely, utterly, and completely in love.

He laughed, pulling me in tightly for an embrace.

“Wow,” he replied. “This giving-away-money thing gets better all the time.”

Knowing the clock was ticking closer toward our flight times, we managed to pull apart and get into the car. He started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, driving toward the airport.

We were quiet as we went, both lost in our own thoughts. As we wove our way through traffic, I considered our relationship and the long and winding path my life had taken since my husband’s death. This coming summer would mark four years since Bryan was killed, and in one way it seemed like yesterday, and in another it seemed like decades ago. My husband had been my first true love, the sweetheart I had met at 16 and married at 25. We’d had four wonderful years together as husband and wife, but that had all come crashing to an end that fateful day when we went water-skiing and Bryan was hit by a speedboat. The boat’s driver went to prison for manslaughter, but I also went into a sort of prison myself—a self-imposed prison of mourning, of loneliness.

Only in the last six months had I allowed myself to consider the possibility that there might be life for me beyond my husband’s death. Tom and I had developed a good, strong friendship through our many work-related conversations over the phone, and then, slowly, that friendship had started taking on other dimensions. We finally met in person last fall, when Tom received word that I had been hurt in an investigation and raced halfway around the world to be by my side and make certain I was all right. We had spent a mere 12 hours together—just long enough to begin falling in love—and then we were forced to endure a four-month separation while he went back to Singapore on important business and I healed from my injuries and continued my work with his foundation in the U.S.

Then three weeks ago, in the very heart of spring, we had been joyously reunited. Showing up in a hot air balloon, Tom had swept me away to a gorgeous vacation spot in the North Carolina mountains, where we planned to stay a week or so and give ourselves the opportunity to see if our relationship really could work face-to-face. What we had found was that we were so compatible, so comfortable, and so suddenly and deeply in love that it was nearly impossible to end our vacation and return to our regular lives.

Now, however, our time together had come to an end.

“There’s the car rental return,” Tom said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. He followed the signs and turned into the lot, but instead of heading straight to the busy rental return area, he veered over to an empty parking spot nestled behind a big truck. He put the car in park but left the motor running.

“Maybe we should say our goodbyes here,” he told me, “instead of out in the middle of the busy airport.”

I nodded, surprised when my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I didn’t want to say goodbye at all. Tom’s cell phone began ringing from his gym bag, but we ignored it.

“Callie, have I told you that the past three weeks have been the happiest weeks of my life?”

The ringing stopped. In the quiet of the car, I held on to his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

“They have been incredible,” I replied. There were many, many moments we had shared that I would relive in my mind in the coming days. “I don’t know if I have the strength to say goodbye to you or not.”

Tom reached up and smoothed a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Such tenderness was in his gaze that I thought it might break my heart.

“Callie, I have something for you,” he whispered. He started to reach into his pocket, and I swallowed hard, wondering what it could be. Then his phone began to ring again.

“You better see who it is,” I said, sighing. “It might be important.”

By the time he got the phone out from his gym bag, the call had been disconnected. Tom was pressing buttons, trying to see who had called, when my phone started ringing from my purse. I dug it out, surprised to see that the number on my screen matched the number that had just called his.

“Hello?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Callie?” a woman’s voice cried from very far away. “Is that you?”

“This is Callie,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Stella,” the voice said. “Stella Gold.”

I put my hand over the phone and mouthed to Tom, It’s Eli’s wife.

Eli Gold was my mentor, a friend of Tom’s, and the person responsible for bringing the two of us together.

“Stella?” I asked, trying to picture a woman I didn’t know very well at the other end of the line. I had met her the day she married my dear friend Eli, but she and I had not really spoken since, except for those times when I called their house and she had been the one to answer the phone. “What’s up?”

“Oh, Callie, I’m so glad I finally reached you. I need you. I need your help. I need Tom Bennett, also, if you know how to reach him.”

“What is it?” I asked, my heart surging.

“It’s Eli,” she sobbed. “He’s in the hospital.”

“In the hospital?”

“Callie, he’s been shot.”

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Filed under Book Reviews

A Dime a dozen by Mindy Starns Clark

My Review:
I love Mindy’s mysteries!!! All of her books are heart pounding action with a twist of humor! If you start reading this series you will not be able to stop until you are done! I read the whole series a couple of years ago and they were ones that you remember.
Want a fun mystery? Look for this author!
-Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Dime a Dozen

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Fast-paced and inspirational, The Million Dollar Mystery series is from bestselling author Mindy Starns Clark.

Attorney Callie Webber investigates nonprofit organizations for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation and awards the best of them grants up to a million dollars. In this series, Callie comes across a mystery she must solve using her skills as a former private investigator. A young widow, Callie finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her relationship with her employer, Tom.

In book number three of The Million Dollar Mystery series, Callie suddenly finds herself involved in the life of a young wife and mother whose husband has disappeared…possibly the victim of foul play.

Callie has come to the beautiful Smoky Mountains hoping to award a million-dollar grant to the charity set up in the woman’s late husband’s honor. But in the search for a missing migrant worker, a body is discovered, which puts the grant on hold and her new romance with her mysterious boss in peril. Trusting in God, Callie forges steadily ahead through a mire of clues that lead her deeper and deeper into danger.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929584
ISBN-13: 978-0736929585

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I’d never been part of a sting before. Sure, I’d blown the whistle on some defrauders in the past, and I had seen more than one person arrested because of felonious deeds I had brought to light. But this time was different. This time the crime was still in the process of being committed. Worse than that, most of the people at this party were involved.

I stood near French doors that led to the patio, holding a soda in my hand and looking out through the glass at the pool sparkling in the cool March afternoon. Behind the pool was a small lawn dotted here and there with ornamental groupings of shrubbery and plants, all surrounded by a high, thick hedge. I knew that a team of cops was on the other side of that hedge, ready to enter from every direction as soon as I gave the signal.

“Callie, would you like a hamburger? Maybe a hot dog?”

My hostess appeared in front of me bearing a platter of raw meat shaped into patties, and I assumed she was on her way back outside to the grill. My eyes focused on the marbled beef, and then at her expectant face. She was the very picture of charm and hospitality. Oh, and theft.

“No, thank you,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”

Her hands were full, so I opened the door to let her out. Music poured into the house, compliments of large speakers mounted under the eaves.

“You should come too,” she urged loudly as she handed the platter off to her husband, Skipper. “It’s a gorgeous day.”

“In a while, perhaps,” I said as I let the door fall shut between us. She turned her attention to a group of guests near the pool, and as she worked the crowd I thought, You don’t want me to go outside, Winnie. The last thing you want me to do is go outside.

I glanced at my watch, wondering how much longer this would take. The police had instructed me to wait until all of the elements had fallen into place, and so far that hadn’t happened. The tension was getting to me, so I set my glass on a nearby countertop and made my way through the small crowd in the kitchen to the upstairs bathroom. I needed to be alone, to catch my breath, to make a call.

Once I was locked inside, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number of the police captain. He knew it was me and that I couldn’t say much on my end for fear of being overheard.

“Looks like things are moving along as expected,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Have they brought out the hamburgers yet?”

“Oh, yes. Everything’s in full swing.”

He chuckled into the phone.

“I hope they’re enjoying it while they can,” he said.

“They seem to be.”

“We’re all set on our end. Soon as the guy shows up, we’ll text you.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“You found the garage?” he asked.

“Yep.”

“Empty?”

“Except for the boxes in the freezer.”

“Perfect. Simply perfect. Hang in there, kid. We’re on the homestretch.”

I hung up the phone and slid it into my pocket, wondering if all would go off as planned. There were so many elements coming into play here, and it was important that they close in at the moment when we could nab the greatest number of guilty parties. I shook my head, marveling at the situation I now found myself in. This wasn’t how I usually spent my Saturday afternoons!

As the Director of Research for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, my job was to investigate charitable organizations in order to verify their suitability for a grant. I had come here to get a closer look at Dinner Time, a food bank and soup kitchen for the homeless in a suburb of San Francisco. I had gone “undercover” by posing as a volunteer to get a good look at the organization from the inside. Almost immediately, however, I realized there was something stinky in the sauce. Dinner Time may have been providing food to the homeless, but it was also providing a handy second income to its founders and many of its employees by way of food donations that were ending up in places other than on Dinner Time’s tables.

Even this party was an appalling, blatant display of theft, and, according to my source, they had similar such events every few months. From the chips and hamburgers to the condiments, most of the food being consumed here today had actually been donated to the charity, intended for the poor. Instead, our hosts had simply loaded many of the boxes into their cars and driven the food home for this impromptu party. Any minute now a local food supplier would show up and collect his share of the take, which was waiting for him in the garage. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, much of the donated food this time was marked, from the codes printed on the bottom of the mustard bottles to the labels on the frozen steaks in the freezer.

A knock on the bathroom door startled me from my thoughts.

“Just a minute,” I called, and then I washed my hands in the sink and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. My own image still surprised me sometimes. Four months ago I had gone from having long hair to short, from wearing my hair in a tight chignon at the back of my neck to having just enough length to frame my face and touch at my collar. I liked the new look, both because of the years it seemed to take from my features and the way it worked with my usual attire of suits and dresses. I’d spent this week in more casual clothes, however, and today was no exception. I had on jeans and a lightly knit tan shirt, and I felt I looked the part I was playing—that of a woman interested in some simple volunteer work at the local soup kitchen. Little did they know that I was something much more threatening: an investigator with a mission to ferret out the bad guys in the nonprofit world and bring them all to justice!

I opened the bathroom door and found a familiar face waiting to get in, an employee of Dinner Time named Clement Jackson.

“Oh, hey, Callie,” he said, “I didn’t realize that was you in there.”

“No problem.”

I moved out of the way so that he could pass me and go into the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him, I made my way back downstairs to the kitchen.

Clement was such a dear man, a tireless worker who served full time at the food bank for a salary so low I didn’t know how he managed to make ends meet. He wasn’t aware that I knew his salary rate or anything about him beyond facts he had mentioned to me in casual conversation. He had told me about his lovely wife of 36 years, his five grown children, his eight grandchildren. But the scope of my investigation had included all of the employees and volunteers of Dinner Time, so I also knew his address, his work record, and much more. In the end, he had turned out to be one of only three people connected to the center who apparently weren’t involved in the theft of the food.

I was so glad, because it confirmed what I had felt to be true about him all week, that he was a wonderful person with a true heart for charity. His personal side mission was to collect and distribute free used books to all of the children who came to the food bank and, whenever he had time, to sit and read to them and encourage them to read more for themselves.

“Reading can get you through some mighty tough spots,” I had heard him say more than once this week. “Even if your feet can’t always go somewhere else, your mind sure can.” Poor Clement was going to be stunned when this sting came together, for he believed most people were motivated by the same altruism and good faith he himself possessed.

“Callie, can I get you something to drink?”

This time, Winnie’s husband, Skipper, was playing the host, walking toward me with a newly filled ice bucket.

“No, thanks,” I replied. “My drink’s right over here.”

As if to prove it, I walked to the spot where I had left my soda, picked it up, and swirled the liquid. Skipper’s very presence made me so nervous I didn’t dare speak for fear I would begin to babble. Unfortunately, he persisted.

“How about a little ice then,” he said, using the tongs to load up my drink with ice. Holding my tongue, I watched as he clunked square cubes into the glass I was holding in front of me.

“So what do you think of our weather here in California?” he asked. “Winnie said you just recently moved here, right?”

Actually, I hadn’t told her that. What I had said was that I had never lived in California before, implying, I guess, that I lived here now. It was the kind of half-truth that going undercover necessitated and the very reason I hated playing a role. As a Christian, lying was hard for me to rationalize, even when the ends seemed to justify the means.

“It’s certainly a beautiful day today!” I said, glancing toward the window. I was desperately trying to think of some other sort of socially acceptable patter when I was saved by the bell—or the ring, to be exact, because Skipper’s cell phone began ringing from his hip pocket.

With a smile, he thrust the ice bucket at me, extricated the phone, and turned it on.

“Skipper here,” he said amiably, winking at me as he did so.

Clutching the ice in front of me, I took a step back, wondering if I could seize the moment and get away before his conversation was finished. Unfortunately, it seemed to last all of about 15 seconds. He said, “Yep. Okay. See ya,” and then hung up the phone.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you, Callie?” he asked smoothly, slipping the phone back into his pocket.

“Of course.”

I held the ice bucket toward him, but he didn’t take it.

“Um, could you bring that ice out to Winnie?” he asked. “I need to get something from the garage.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked down the hall. I stood there for a moment, knowing I couldn’t do as he had requested without taking a step outside myself. Instead, I passed the bucket off to someone else who was heading that way. As the door fell shut behind him, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket. I moved away from the crowd and went into the empty dining room. Holding my breath, I whipped out my phone, pushed the button, and looked at the screen. As expected, it was a text from the captain: Our guy just turned into the driveway. Give it about two minutes and then take a peek in the garage.

Okay, I texted back.

I then pocketed my phone, glanced at my watch, and waited, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest. For an absurd moment, I wondered if there was any hidden firepower here, if perhaps Skipper and Winnie kept a Colt .45 tucked in the nearest flowerpot or something. Just because their crimes of theft were of a nonviolent nature didn’t mean they didn’t know how to defend themselves when push came to shove. As it was about to.

At one minute, forty-three seconds, I heard my name called from the other room. I looked through the doorway to see Clement just coming down the stairs on the other side of the kitchen. Clement, who could be in the line of fire if things went down in a nasty way. Clement, who was heading toward me with a genial smile, eager to start a chat just when it was time for me to move.

“I need a favor!” I said urgently, walking forward to meet him. “I can’t find my contact lens. I’m afraid it came out in the bathroom. Do you think you could go back up and look for me? Check all over the floor, the sink, you know.”

“Well, I’ll try, Callie,” he said, nodding his head, the tightly curled gray hair a sharp contrast to his brown skin. “But my eyesight’s not so good myself. Come up and we’ll look for it together.”

I glanced at my watch. Two and a half minutes.

“You go on up,” I said. “I’ll be there in just a bit.”

“Okay.”

“And, listen, if you can’t find it, at least stay there and guard the door until I get there. I don’t want someone else stepping on it and breaking it.”

“All right.”

He dutifully trudged back up the stairs as I slipped from the kitchen, walking toward the long side hall Skipper had gone down less than three minutes before. I reached the door of the garage at the end, put my hand on the knob, and turned it.

The door swung open to reveal Skipper and another man lifting boxes into the open trunk of a black Cadillac. Both men looked up to see me, their faces about as guilty as two boys caught dipping their fingers in the peanut butter.

In a way, that’s exactly what they were doing.

The men recovered quickly. Both put the boxes into the trunk, but the man I didn’t know turned and stepped away where I couldn’t see his face. Skipper, on the other hand, took a step toward me, putting on a wide, fake smile.

“Can I help you, Callie?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was looking for some more soda. Maybe root beer?”

“There’s nothing like that out here,” he replied. “Try the pantry, off the kitchen.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, returning his fake smile before stepping back out of the garage and pulling the door shut.

I turned on my heel and walked up the hall with my heartbeat pounding loudly in my head. Despite the chatter and confusion around me, I made straight for the French doors, opened them, and stepped outside. This was my signal to the police who were in hiding on the other side of the hedge, watching the party, waiting to pounce. Once on the patio, I simply kept walking through the loud music, heading around the pool and toward the backyard.

“Callie, can I help you with something?” I heard Winnie call after me.

Suddenly, before I could reply, there were shouts and screams and the sight of at least 20 police officers descending on the partygoers on the patio. I heard the words “freeze” and “raid” and “you have the right to remain silent.” Once I finally turned around and looked at the scene, all I could do was pray that Clement was safe, that the cops had apprehended the men in the garage before anyone could do anything stupid.

I waited at the back of the yard until I saw the captain come to the kitchen door and give the “all clear” signal to the cops outside. Breathing a great big sigh of relief, I headed toward the house, allowing myself to be herded into the corner of the patio where they were sorting everyone out. Counting heads, I realized they had managed to nab almost every single person who was on the list of those who had either stolen food or accepted food they knew was stolen. The cops didn’t single me out but merely pointed me in the direction of the innocent parties, the few standing near the garden shed who hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on.

Eventually, Clement was sent out from the house to join us. I gave him a big hug, certainly much bigger than our seemingly casual acquaintance would allow. Obviously shaken, he hugged me back even tighter.

When the police told us we were free to leave, I stuck with Clement, offering to take him home. In somewhat of a daze, he accepted that offer. Sitting in the passenger seat of my rental car, he stared blankly ahead as I drove toward his house and gently tried to explain all that he had just seen.

By the time we reached his house, he was still quite shaken. He invited me inside and I accepted, eager to see him safely delivered into the arms of his wife.

She wasn’t home, however, so I insisted that he call one of his children, perhaps Trey, since I knew he lived right down the street and could be here in a matter of minutes. While we waited, I heated some water on the stove for tea and essentially made myself at home in the kitchen. The house was small but tidy, and everything was easy to find in the neatly organized cabinets. As the water began to bubble on the stove, Clement took a seat at the table, silent, his expression blank. As I was setting his tea in front of him, Trey burst through the door, concern evident on his face.

“Pop?”

Short but muscular, with his father’s coffee-colored skin and deep brown eyes, Trey was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, both of which were covered with spatters of blue.

“We were painting the baby’s room,” he added, sounding breathless, looking from me to his father. “What’s going on?”

Clement didn’t answer, so I introduced myself and tried to explain the situation as best I could. The place where Clement worked, I said, had been busted for fraud and theft. Clement was in the clear, but he had been fairly traumatized by the whole event.

“And who are you, exactly?” Trey asked, looking at me as if this were all my fault. In a way, it was.

“My name is Callie Webber,” I said, carrying over two more cups of tea and taking a seat at the table. “I’m a private investigator.”

Clement turned toward me, his face suddenly registering disbelief rather than shock.

“You’re a what?   ” he asked.

“A private investigator.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was old enough to get certified in the state of Virginia,” I said. “I’m also a lawyer. I work for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation out of Washington, DC.”

Clement shook his head, as if to shake off the confusion. Before he could launch into more questions, I continued.

“I live in Maryland now,” I explained, “and I just came to California to investigate Dinner Time on behalf of my employer. Dinner Time had requested a grant, and it’s my job to verify eligibility.”

“You don’t even live here?” Clement asked me, still incredulous. “You mean you’ve been pretending all week?”

“I’m sorry, Clement,” I said. “Sometimes that’s the only way I can really see what’s going on.”

Trey slid into the seat across from me, ignoring the tea I had put there for him.

“So what happened today?” he asked. “I’m still confused.”

“In the course of the investigation of Dinner Time, I uncovered fraud, theft, tax evasion, distribution of stolen property, you name it. I took that information to the police, only to learn that they already knew about it and that they were very close to making some arrests. We worked together on a sting operation, and today we caught most of the guilty parties red-handed.”

“I can’t believe they were stealing food,” Clement said, shaking his head sadly.

“I always told you there was something slick about that Skipper person,” Trey said to his father. “‘Skipper and Winnie,’ good grief. Sounds like a pair of Barbie dolls.”

“Will Dinner Time have to close down?” Clement asked.

“Probably,” I answered. “Even if someone were to try to keep the place up and running, I doubt it would be able to stay open for very long. Between the bad publicity and the incarcerated principals, I think it’ll soon fold. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” Clement said. “I’m sorry I was so blind, so stupid.”

Trey put a reassuring hand on his father’s arm.

“C’mon, Pop,” he said. “You couldn’t know. You were just doing your job.”

“Oh, yeah, my job,” Clement said. “Guess I’m out of a job now.”

“We’ll find you something,” Trey said. “Maybe Tanisha can get you on over at the grocery store.”

“I liked working at a nonprofit,” Clement said, shaking his head. “I liked feeling that my efforts were making just a little difference in the world.”

I reached into my pocket, grasping the familiar square of paper there. I pulled it out and set it on the table in front of me, still folded in half.

“I’d like to talk to you about that,” I said. “And I’m glad Trey is here, because this would involve him too.”

Both men looked at me, their faces somber.

“In the course of my investigation,” I continued, “I had to check into everybody’s background. Including yours, Clement. Your life story paints a picture of a good man, a steady reliable worker who knows the value of a dollar.”

“That’s my dad,” Trey said suspiciously. “But what are you getting at?”

“Well, I’ve watched you this week reading to the children down at the food bank, Clement. I’ve heard you talk about the benefits of reading, of being read to. I want you to think about starting a charity of your own. Something that lets you go around and give away books and have regular reading times with homeless children.”

“Like a bookmobile?” Clement asked.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Or maybe you could get some space in the recreation center or a homeless shelter or another food bank. Somewhere that you could set up a little reading corner filled with books and beanbag chairs and stuffed animals. It’s not hard to get people to donate children’s books to a charity. You could provide reading times, give the books to the children who seem to want them, encourage their parents to read with them…”

I let my voice trail off, seeing that a spark was lighting up behind Clement’s eyes.

“What do I have to do with this?” Trey asked.

“Your father told me that you’re an accountant,” I said. “Maybe you can help him get started and then keep the books for him.”

“Well, yeah, I could do that.”

“And I understand your sister is a graphic artist? Maybe she could put together some brochures and promotional materials. You’d be surprised how many resources are available, usually right at your own fingertips.”

I looked at Trey and then at Clement, surprised to see the fire quickly fading from the older man’s eyes.

“As good as our intentions may be,” he said, shaking his head, “There’s one thing standing in the way. I can’t afford it.”

I smiled, fingering the square of paper in front of me.

“Well, then let me take it a step further,” I said. “My job allows me a certain amount of leeway with small monetary grants. What would you think if I gave you a check to get started? You could get yourself incorporated as a nonprofit, file for federal tax exemption, and cover your basic start-up costs. Once you’ve got that tax exemption, I would encourage you to fill out a grant application from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation for a much larger amount of money. We believe strongly in what you could accomplish, Clement, and we would like to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

I sat back, thinking that in the two and a half years I had worked for the foundation, this was the first time I had to talk someone into taking our money!

“Still, I don’t see how it would work,” Trey said. “He’d need at least a thousand dollars just to get set up.”

“How does five thousand sound?” I asked, unfolding the check and handing it to them. It was already made out to Clement Jackson, who picked it up and studied it as if it were a ticket to somewhere important. “And, like I said, once you’ve got that tax exemption and your policies and procedures in place, you can apply to us for more. I have a feeling we’ll be very generous as long as you can show you’ve got a good business plan.”

The two men looked at each other and grinned, and not for the first time I wished my boss, Tom, the philanthropist behind all J.O.S.H.U.A. grants, could be here to witness their joy. Tom was half a world away right now, and though later I would recount this entire scene for him over the phone, it still made me sad that he wasn’t here experiencing it for himself.

Then again, he never was. Tom always donated anonymously through the foundation and then enjoyed the moment of presentation vicariously through me. I was happy to recreate every word, every detail, but I had never understood why he chose to remain so removed from the whole process.

Of course, he and I talked frequently during every investigation, and in fact it was the time we spent on the phone that had allowed us to become friends and then eventually something much more than friends. Four months ago, after several years of a phone-only relationship, Tom and I had finally been able to meet face-to-face.

At the time, he had been out of the country for his work, but he had surprised me by flying back to the States and showing up at my home. We had spent exactly 12 hours together—12 amazing hours that I had relived again and again in my memories ever since—and then he had to leave, returning to Singapore and the urgent business that awaited him.

Now, four months later, Tom was still in Singapore, though his business there was quickly drawing to a close and soon he would be coming home for good. His home was in California and mine was in Maryland, but our plan was to meet somewhere between the two in exactly seven days at some quiet place where we would finally, finally be able to spend some real quality time together—time getting to know each other even better, time exploring the possibilities of a relationship that had gone from friendship to something much more in the space of one 12-hour visit. I was already counting the minutes until we could be together again, knowing that once he returned, a new chapter in my life would begin in earnest. Tom was handling the logistics of our reunion, and my primary concern was to wrap up my next investigation by the following Sunday, because I didn’t want work or anything else to detract from the time we were going to spend together.

Clement spoke, snapping me out of my thoughts and back to the moment at hand.

“I’ve been praying for something like this for quite a while,” he was saying, looking at his son, and I realized there were tears in his eyes. “For so long,” he repeated, blinking. “I didn’t think the Lord was hearing me. But He was. Because He sent me an angel.”

I held up one hand to stop him, emotion surging in my heart as well.

“Now, don’t—”

“I’m not kidding, girl. You are an angel. A very generous angel.”

“So you’ll take the money and start your own charity?” I asked.

“Oh, thank You, Lord,” he said, grinning up toward the ceiling. Then he looked back at me. “Yes, Callie. Yes. Most definitely yes.”

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Menu

Tuesday:Spicy noodles with vegetables …I might put some meat in it.
Wednesday: Fried rice with broccoli, apples and spice cupcakes
Thursday: Shepherd’s pie (in crockpot)
Friday: Mini pizzas, salad
Saturday: Cabbage rolls, potatoes and salad, pumpkin bread
Sunday: Popcorn, quick breads with PB, leftovers
Monday: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, salad, bread

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Filed under Bargain Dinners

The “What’s for Dinner” solution by Kathi Lipp

The What’s for dinner? Solution
By Kathi Lipp
Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

For many people, dread turns to panic about 4 pm. What is for dinner? It is the question of the hour, or even of the ages! Some people find themselves making last minute runs to the grocery store or drive through, while others who cannot afford to, end up with late night dinners of food that everyone seems to complain about.

Ms. Lipp has a great and simple way for laying out detailed instructions how to cook for your family in many different ways.
-Save Money- no more last minute pizza delivery
-Save time- with bulk shopping and cooking
-Save your sanity- forget the last minute scramble to dinner
She discusses stocking your pantry and being able to cook from it for last minute guests, as well as learning to cook if this is not your forte.
This book is one every busy mom will enjoy. It is a short book, only 200 pages long, chock full of easy recipes, tips and guidelines to streamline your kitchen as a busy homeschool mom, working mother or whatever your lot in life may be.
I especially enjoyed the lists of basics that she recommended you have in your pantry and freezer, organizing a small kitchen and what is essential, and what is not.
I gleaned so many good tips that I hope to put into practice! I found that even if I think I have already been using many of these tips, they were great reminders and helped me to want to put them into practice!

This book is published by Harvest House Publishers and retails for $12.99

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The “What’s for Dinner?” Solution

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938370
ISBN-13: 978-0736938372

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Girl Meets Kitchen, or Not

Necessarily a Love Story

“Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how;
it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.”

Georges Blanc, from Ma Cuisine des Saisons

I was not the kind of kid who grew up at my mom’s knee, helping her chop carrots for Sunday night’s chicken soup. I never really helped with any meal preparation, preferring to turn my attention in the kitchen to baking. There was always some social event with friends or a youth group party where I needed to bring brownies. The one memorable time I tried to make instant potatoes? Instead of the specified one-quarter tablespoon of salt, I used a quarter cup salt. That incident happened over twenty-five years ago, and I have yet to stop hearing about it from my loving and encouraging family.

Suffice to say, I was a bit ill-prepared for the cooking adventures that lay ahead as I lived on my own for the first time. And to complicate matters? My first apartment was in Uji, Japan, approximately seven thousand miles from my mother’s loving embrace and her pot-roast recipe (as if I could afford beef in Japan).

The recipe cards were stacked against me. No cooking skills to speak of, living in a foreign land where most of the time I couldn’t identify what I was eating much less figure out how it was prepared, a kitchen the size of my coat closet back home, and an oven so small it made me long for the Easy-Bake one of my childhood.

I was terrified going to the supermarket without an escort and a translator. I didn’t speak the language (as a short-term missionary teaching conversational English, speaking Japanese was actually a disadvantage in my job), and as unfamiliar as I was with food shopping in the U.S., shopping in Uji was like watching a foreign movie without subtitles and then having to write a paper on the plot.

Oh, and eating out? So not an option. While my cooking skills were limited, my food budget was near nonexistent.

A few things were easy to recognize. The bread in Japan was amazing. It was buttery and flaky and perfect. And there was some really lovely cheese and ham. So, for the first three months of exploring this exotic new culture, I ate ham and cheese sandwiches every single night for dinner.

As I started to get to know some of my students and coworkers better, I had this urge to invite them over to hang out with me. But I had a sneaking suspicion they would want to be fed. I knew that my students would love some authentic American dishes. The question was, Who would I get to cook them?

Another short-term missionary, Diana, had a cookbook called More-With-Less. This wonderful little book produced by the Mennonite community had tons of recipes that used simple ingredients most cooks would have in their kitchen. While I didn’t have a lot of pantry staples in my four-story walk-up, I was now armed with a grocery list as well as an English-to-Japanese dictionary for my trips to the store.

I started to look for simple things I could make: salads, sandwiches, curries, and mini-pizzas out of English muffins and ketchup. (I promise, my culinary skills and taste have gotten better over the years.) As I grew braver in all things cuisine, I started to ask my mom to send some of my favorite recipes from back home.

In fact, when I threw a Christmas celebration with my friend Spenser in my micro-sized apartment, we managed to make a fondue-potless version of my mom’s Pizza Fondue. Shopping for the ingredients proved challenging, even for Spenser who spoke near-fluent Japanese. After several attempts to translate cornstarch into the native language (One would think corn + starch = cornstarch, right? Wrong. It’s pronounced korunstarcha.), we headed back to my kitchen and made one of the best meals I have ever eaten—lots of tomato sauce, some ground beef, loads of cheese, and just the right amount of korunstarcha.

Pizza Fondue
(Connie Richerson)

½ lb. ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 10½-oz. cans pizza sauce (I use marinara sauce)

1 T. cornstarch (or korunstarcha, if you prefer)

1½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 loaf French bread

Brown the ground beef and onion; drain. Put meat, sauce, cornstarch, and spices in fondue pot. When cooked and bubbly, add cheese. Spear crusty French bread cubes, then dip and swirl in fondue. This is also delicious with breadsticks. Serves 4 to 6.

From that point on, I was hooked on collecting my favorite recipes. I bought my own copy of More-With-Less when I got back to the States, and when I got married a few months later, I received my very first copy of everyone’s favorite red-and-white-plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with every recipe an emerging home cook could want.

I think most of us home cooks have a similar story to tell. OK, you probably didn’t have your first significant cooking experience in Uji, Japan, but I bet the first few times you got dinner on the table all on your own, you might as well have been in a different country.

Maybe your mom had you peeling potatoes before you could walk. Maybe you have a rich heritage of recipes passed down from your grandmother. None of our cooking histories are going to look the same, but we do have one thing in common: We all need to get dinner on the table.

I am not a professional cook. Tom Colicchio will never be critiquing my braised kale and chocolate with bacon foam on Top Chef. But over the past twenty years I have put dinner on the table almost every single night. And while my family still likes a pizza from the neighborhood shop, our kids who have left home really look forward to coming back for a home-cooked meal.

That is all the reward I need.

Why This Book?

So, you discovered my deep dark secret—I’m not a professional chef. I don’t have my own show on Food Network, my own brand of spatulas, and I’m not going to be appearing on any morning show making a frittata for Kathie Lee Gifford.

Still, I’m required to feed our large family almost daily. So when I come across a cookbook, I have an unnatural need to own it. I’m always looking for new recipes to keep dinner interesting at our house. I have an entire bookshelf in my kitchen for my ever-growing collection.

But to be honest with you, most of the money I’ve spent on those cookbooks could have been better spent on a good set of knives or a heavy iron skillet.

I have found that most cookbooks are aimed at the fantasy life many of us aspire to—entertaining regularly, having unusual and exotic ingredients on hand, and hours and hours in the kitchen to create these masterpieces, from scratch.

And then there is my reality. Yes, sometimes I like to spend a Saturday afternoon cooking up a big feast for friends and family. But most days? I want to get a delicious, healthy meal on the table quickly.

My test when I’m purchasing new cookbooks? I flip to a half dozen or so recipes throughout the book and ask myself, Can I imagine cooking this recipe in the next couple of weeks? If most of the recipes fail the test, the book stays at the store.

I want the reality. I want dinner on the table every night without being seduced by pictures of stylist-arranged food that—let’s be honest—I’m never going to prepare.

While those books offer up a lot of grilled-chicken-in-a-peanut-sauce-in-the-sky dreams, I need some reality. It’s not just about the recipe; it’s about all the aspects of getting dinner on the table.

By the end of this book, my hope for you is that you will be able to:

save time, money, and energy when it comes to
preparing meals
have less stress when it comes to shopping
get your kitchen prepared for battle
learn some stress-free ways to get dinner on the table
get out of your cooking rut
This book is all about the process, the how of getting dinner on the table. It reflects the collective wisdom of hundreds of women who don’t have prep cooks or a crew of interns trying out new recipes. We are the women who spend a significant part of our days thinking about, shopping for, and preparing dinner. And all these wise, wonderful women are going to show you a better way to get dinner on the table no matter what your cooking background or skill level.

This is the book I wish I’d had when I first started cooking, as well as when I was raising my brood of pint-sized food critics.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of recipes. We all love to find that one recipe that is going to become a family favorite! But this book has much more than that. My hope is that you will be able to use the recipes you already have, the ones in this book, and the new ones you find along the way to set a big, bountiful table for your family.

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Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Hart

My Review:
When Mary Lynn is injured running, and has a miraculous experience that bewilders her. She is drawn towards church and learning more about the Lord, but she finds her husband has different goals.
Praying for her husband to come to a faith in God, she is shocked when prayers are answered, but in a way she did not expect. Jackson is all or nothing when it comes to life and when it begins to effect their social life, she starts to wonder if this is even what she wants.
This fiction book is very different than just a light reading book, it appears to be, if you judged the book by the cover. It hits some very real life issues that can effect even the strongest families. Infidelity, teen drug abuse and even religious extremism. I really enjoyed this book! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Sunrise on the Battery

Thomas Nelson (October 11, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

With a B.A. in English Literature from Hollins University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, Hart serves as an inspirational speaker and creative writing instructor at conferences, retreats, schools, libraries and churches across the country, and she is the recipient of two national teaching
awards from Scholastic, Inc. and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. She lives with her husband, composer Edward Hart, and their family in Charleston.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

She wanted her husband to attend the town’s society-driven church.

God answered her prayer in a radical way.

An emptiness dogs Mary Lynn Scoville. But it shouldn’t. After all, she’s achieved what few believed possible. Born in the rural south, she has reached the pinnacle of worldly success in Charleston, South Carolina. Married to a handsome real estate developer and mother to three accomplished daughters, Mary Lynn is one Debutante Society invitation away from truly having it all. And yet, it remains—an emptiness that no shopping trip, European vacation, or social calendar can fill.

When a surprise encounter leads her to newfound faith, Mary Lynn longs to share it with her husband. But Jackson wrote God off long ago. Mary Lynn prays for him on Christmas Eve…and her husband undergoes a life-altering, Damascus Road experience. As Jackson begins to take the implications of the Gospel literally, Mary Lynn feels increasingly isolated from her husband…and betrayed by God. She only wanted Jackson beside her at church on Sunday mornings, not some Jesus freak who evangelizes prostitutes and invites the homeless to tea.

While her husband commits social suicide and the life they worked so hard for crumbles around them, Mary Lynn wonders if their marriage can survive. Or if perhaps there really is a more abundant life that Jackson has discovered, richer than any she’s ever dreamed of.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 11, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595542000
ISBN-13: 978-1595542007

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mary Lynn Scoville

December 24, 2009

It was the morning before Christmas, and Mary Lynn was preparing for her sunrise jog around the tip of the Charleston Peninsula. She stretched her thighs and calves in the gray light of her piazza, then bounded out of her South Battery home, traveling west toward the coast guard station like she did every morning as part of her effort to “finally get back in shape” since her fortieth birthday, six short months ago.

By the time she reached Tradd Street, the gray had turned to a soft, creamy light, and she hung a left and rounded the corner onto Murray Boulevard where she traced the west tip of the peninsula as buoys bobbed in the churning water of the harbor and pelicans—beak first, wings pulled tight against their large prehistoric bodies—dove for breakfast in a thrilling kind of free fall.

At her husband Jackson’s strong suggestion, she stayed clear of the darkened cars parked along the edge of the waterway leading up to White Point Gardens. Unseemly characters gathered along the water’s edge at night and often fell asleep there, not to mention the handful of homeless folks who made their berths on park benches. There had been a murder in one of the cars last year as well as a rape, but the light was too high in the sky for any of that now. As her friend from her bluegrass days, Scottie Truluck, boldly proclaimed the day after someone broke into her house and took off with her laptop and her sterling silver tea set, you couldn’t let fear get in the way of your city life.

Mary Lynn hit her stride, as usual, at the High Battery as a lone sailboat with little blinking white Christmas lights encircling its mast pushed through the choppy water. She felt her heart rate rising and she became conscious of her breathing, so she attempted to take her mind off of her workout and the pounding of the pavement on her knees by going through her to-do list for the day as she passed the Carolina Yacht Club where Jackson had been offered a membership after his second time through the application process. Hot dog! An invitation to join this exclusive, tight-knit club was a kind of proof that they had been officially accepted by Charleston society. Not an easy feat in this historic southern city that, after two brutal wars and a depression that stretched on for half a century, had good reason to be wary of outsiders. Of course, they both knew they had Mark Waters—an older friend with hometown ties—to thank for this and many of the doors that had been opened to them.

Still, Mark didn’t run the entire city (especially not the old-Charleston set) no matter how deep his pockets, and the yacht club membership meant that they had finally passed some sort of insider’s test after their move to the city ten years ago. And that, along with the invitation Mary Lynn received last year to join the Charlestowne Garden Club and another to serve as chairman of the board of the old and prestigious Peninsula Day School, made her feel like this truly was their home. Their real home. She smiled even as she panted. She and Jackson, two country bumpkins from Meggett, South Carolina, were somehow making their way into Charleston society. Who’d have ever thunk it?

But that wasn’t even the primary goal for Jackson, who was the sharpest, most focused man Mary Lynn had ever known. The real goal for him (and he had written it down and asked her to put it in her jewelry box in an envelope marked “family mission statement”) was to give their three girls the life he and Mary Lynn never had. This meant a top-rate education, exposure and immersion in the fine arts, and frequent opportunities to see the big wide world beyond the Carolina lowcountry or the United States for that matter.

“Not just education, baby—cultivation,” he would say as they lay side by side in their four-poster antique bed purchased on King Street for a pretty penny, Jackson resting some classic novel he should have read in high school on his chest. Then Mary Lynn would look up from the Post and Courier or Southern Living or lately, the little black leather Bible Scottie had given her after the birthday luncheon meltdown, and smile.

Every time Mary Lynn and Jackson discussed their children, she had an image of her husband tilling the soil of their daughters’ minds and dropping down the little seeds like he did every spring growing up on his daddy’s farm. “Just like the tomaters, darlin’,” he’d say in his exaggerated country accent. “Only now it is little intellects that will one day be big as cantaloupes!”

A pretty lofty mission. But a worthy one, Mary Lynn supposed. Though sometimes she grew nervous that he rode the girls too hard with their school work and over scheduled them with extracurricular activities—strings lessons, writing workshops, ballet, and foreign language. They sure didn’t have much time to lollygag or linger or strike out on an adventure as she had as a child roaming the corn fields on her uncle’s farm, climbing trees, building forts, or spending the night in a sleeping bag beneath a blanket of stars. Despite her mama’s missteps and mean old Mrs. Gustafson, who made sure the whole town knew every little detail about them, Mary Lynn had a sanctuary on her uncle’s farm. Much of her childhood she was ignorantly blissful of all the trouble and the gossip that surrounded her family as she played hide-and-seek in the corn husks with her mama, running fast through the papery leaves that gently slapped her face. Then crouching down as she heard the sweet voice of her only parent call, “Ready or not, here I come!”

But Mary Lynn had to acknowledge the fruit of Jackson’s labors. Thanks to his staying after them, the girls were well on their way to mastering a stringed instrument and they could carry on a conversation (and for their oldest, read a novel) in French and Spanish. Imagine!

Who would have guessed the upward turn their lives would take after Jackson’s daddy’s death revealed the little real estate gems up and down the South Carolina coast he had inherited from a great uncle? The timing was right and Jackson had been shrewd. He turned to Mark Waters, who showed him just how to go about it. This was in the early ’90s, well before the economic downturn, and Jackson sold each piece of property for five and even ten times what his great uncle had paid for it. Then he bought more land, bought several low-end housing projects Mark introduced him to, invested in some of Mark’s big commercial and condo development ventures, and did the same year-in and year-out for more than a decade as the market soared.

“Boy, you picked wisely,” Mama had said the first time she came to visit them at their new home on South Battery. She narrowed her eyes and looked up at Mary Lynn. “’Course I thought Mark was going to gnash his teeth when he got a gander at the skinny farm boy you had fallen for.”

“Mama, Mark was married by that point.”

“Not that nuptials ever meant much to the Waters clan.” She winked, then shook her head. Mary Lynn guessed her mama was thinking of her own engagement to Mark’s father, who had proposed after she ran his office for years. They never did make it to the altar. “But you saw something in Jackson no one else took the time to see, smart girl.” Then she walked carefully over to the portrait of some eighteenth-century British gentleman that their decorator had insisted they purchase for the foyer, rubbed the corner of its gilded frame, and shook her head in disbelief before turning back. “You saw the man in the boy, didn’t you?”

Mary Lynn had smiled. Then she walked over and kissed her mama’s made-up cheek. It felt cool like putty.

“I was just lucky, Mama.” And that was the truth. Jackson was the only boy in town she ever dated, though Mark Waters had told her more than once he’d wait for her to grow up. Of course, she wasn’t surprised that he didn’t.

Her mama had nodded her head as she walked into the foyer and rested her hand on the grand staircase’s large pineapple finial. Then she gazed up the three flights of intricately trimmed hardwood stairs, clucked her tongue, and said, “Everybody gets lucky sometimes, I reckon.”

Now if Jackson stuck with Mark and played it right, he might not have to work for the rest of his life, and he and Mary Lynn would leave a pretty penny to their girls someday. With financial security and intellects as big as cantaloupes, what more could their daughters need?

But back to the to-do list. Mary Lynn still had a few presents to wrap, and she needed to polish the silver serving pieces for the “show and tell” tea party they had hosted every Christmas afternoon for the last eight years. Jackson, who had taken up the cello a few years ago, was trying to get their three daughters to perform a movement from a Haydn string quartet (Opus 20, no. 4 in D major, second movement to be exact), and he had played the slow and somber piece on the CD player so many times over the last month that Mary Lynn found that she was waking up from her sleep with the notes resounding in her head.

She’d never really known of Haydn; she never knew a lick about classical music until they moved to Charleston and started going to the symphony and the Spoleto Festival events. Eventually they became supporters of the symphony and the College of Charleston’s music department, and now she found she could recognize a few pieces by ear, though in all honesty, she always daydreamed when she went to a concert. Sometimes it would be over, the audience would be standing for their ovation, and she’d be lost in thought about shelling butter beans on the back porch with Aunt Josey or sitting by Uncle Dale in the rocking chairs as he tuned his mandolin before they started in on “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” with him singing low and Mary Lynn singing the dissonant high lonesome sound while she twirled and twirled around. Uncle Dale said she had a voice that was pure sugar and more moves than a croker sack full of eels. And once when Mark Waters and his daddy, Cecil, were over, Cecil teared up over the singing and the twirling and then insisted on underwriting voice and guitar lessons from a famous country music writer who had settled in Charleston. Mary Lynn and her mother drove the fifty minutes into town for the next seven years until she graduated with two offers: one from her guitar instructor to join his newly formed bluegrass band as the lead singer, and an academic scholarship to USC-Beaufort. Since she was smart enough even then to know that an eighteen-year-old girl didn’t need to be traveling in a band, and since Jackson had proposed on bended knee, she did what felt right to her heart: she chose the scholarship and married her sweetheart.

But on those mornings when she dropped the kids off at school and had to run a few errands, she turned back to the radio station she grew up listening to, an old blend of rock ‘n’ roll and country and bluegrass, and tapped along to Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or the Stanley Brothers as she drove through the historic streets with her windows rolled up as if she were in her own secret time capsule, transporting herself back to when she was thirteen, dancing and twirling with her mama to “Return to Sender” on the screened porch as Aunt Josey and Uncle Dale clapped and laughed.

Catherine and Lilla, Mary Lynn’s oldest girls, both played violin, and Casey, the baby by five years, played the viola. Their family quartet sounded all right, except for the cello, which made an occasional alley cat screech when Jackson came at it a little off angle. She imagined they’d be practicing all day to get it right for tomorrow’s performance.

The sun was beginning to warm Mary Lynn’s back when she turned from East Bay Street onto Broad where she planned to sprint all-out to Meeting Street, then stop and walk briskly home the rest of the way, her hands raised and clasped behind her head, her heart pounding, then slowing moment by moment as the brisk air chilled her sweaty body to the bone. What a way to wake up! She loved it. And she had shed twelve of the fifteen pounds she had been trying to get rid of since her big birthday.

But this morning, just after she bounded at full speed across Church Street and back onto the uneven sidewalk of Broad Street, the front tip of her left running shoe caught for a split second in a crooked old grate so that when she slammed her right foot down and lunged at a sharp angle to keep herself from somersaulting, she heard a tear just below the back of her knee and a pain blasted through her calf as though she had been shot at close range.

“Agh!” she screamed, falling hard on her side and grasping the back of her right leg.

She knew what had happened, and she wasn’t sure if it was her knowledge or the pain that was causing the intense wave of nausea. She spit and attempted to will her stomach to settle down as her aching muscle throbbed.

The injury, she was sure, was tennis leg, a rupture of the calf muscle on the inside of the leg. She had suffered the same kind of tear in the same place two other times before. Once when Scottie had taken her to a Joni Mitchell concert in Atlanta and she had danced a little too hard to “California,” and just two years ago, when she was standing on the top of her living room sofa, hanging a new set of silk drapes hours before hosting a Parents Guild luncheon.

Mary Lynn put her forehead on her knee and ground her teeth. The stones from the old sidewalk were cool beneath her legs, and a chill worked its way up her spine. At best, she would spend the next ten days on crutches icing down her leg every few hours. And then another six weeks in physical therapy. Or worse, she would have to undergo surgery—something Dr. Powell had warned her about after her last rupture. “Surgery means no bearing weight for four months,” he had said, looking over his tortoise shell bifocals at her. “So be cautious, Mary Lynn.”

The street was quiet on this early Thursday morning. No one was around to gawk or help her up, and she started to weep—more from the frustration, from the time she would lose in the days and weeks to come, and from the stupid grate that no one in the city had bothered to right in maybe one hundred years than from the pain that seemed to compound itself with every new beat of her heart.

She put her clammy palms on the sidewalk and rotated her body over to her left side toward the entry way of the Spencer Art Gallery, and then she slowly felt her way up the side of the stone building until she was upright. She would have to walk on her tippy toes until she flagged someone down or found an open store where she could use the phone to call Jackson.

Mary Lynn swung her head back and forth in an effort to shake off the stars she was seeing. She walked a good block, carefully, on the balls of her feet to the corner of Meeting and Broad singing “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” by Elvis just to keep herself going. When she rounded the corner where St. Michael’s Episcopal Church stood, she spotted Roy Summerall, the rector, chatting animatedly to a familiar-looking man who leaned against a parked taxi cab, steam rising from his coffee mug.

She recognized the man as soon as he glanced in her direction. It was Craig MacPherson, Alyssa’s father. (Alyssa was one of Catherine’s best friends.) He had lost his job as a real estate appraiser during the recent economic crisis, and he was forced to pull Alyssa out of the Peninsula Day School, the private school Mary Lynn’s daughters attended. Now she could see that the rumor she heard was true. He was driving a cab to make ends meet.

Then just as she relaxed the balls of her feet after her favorite line in the chorus—“Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse . . .”—in her relief over finding some folks she knew could help her, the pain shot through her leg, worse than before, and she leaned forward and vomited all over the base of the large white church column closest to Broad Street.

The men must have heard her retching. By the time she looked back up again, wincing and straining to get upright and back on her tip toes, they were by her side, gently placing her arms around their shoulders.

“You all right, Mary Lynn?” Reverend Summerall asked. She had been attending his church with Scottie every now and then, and she had met him once briefly at a Downtown Neighborhood Association gathering awhile back, but she was sort of surprised that he remembered her name.

She pulled her arm back around, wiped her mouth with the back of her fleece jacket, then placed it on his shoulder again. “Tennis leg.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I tore a muscle in my calf. It’s happened to me before.”

The men made a quick plan to carry her to the cab.

“On three,” Craig MacPherson said, and after he called out the numbers, she felt them lift her up and carefully scurry her down the sidewalk before setting her gently in the backseat of Craig’s taxi.

“Let’s get you home,” Craig said.

“Wait.” Roy put his hand on her shoulder and uttered a quick prayer. She couldn’t make out the words, but that didn’t matter. She had no problem with prayers. In fact, she was starting to like them. She’d been going with Scottie to a women’s prayer group at the church every Wednesday afternoon for almost two years now, and she had become downright used to listening to folks pray out loud for one another’s needs, though she’d never had the nerve to join in.

“Thank you.” She looked up and swiveled her head back and forth to meet both sets of sympathetic eyes. “I’ll be okay.” And then to Roy, “Sorry to leave a mess on your portico.”

The priest smiled. “Don’t worry about that. Just take care of yourself. I’ll check in on you later.”

Mary Lynn nodded, and Craig gently closed the cab door and walked around to the driver’s side. She was surprised by how clean the car was. It smelled like soap and maybe gardenias? Some sort of flower, anyway. And when she looked up to see Craig’s picture and license displayed on the visor, she noticed a drawing that Alyssa must have made for him. It was of the steeple of St. Michael’s with the sun shining through the second tier balcony. The one with the handsome arches. Then she saw the girl’s name inscribed in the far right corner.

Sitting down felt much better, and Mary Lynn was astonished by how much the pain receded when she took weight off of her leg. She needed to get ice on her calf as soon as she got home, and she would have to elevate her leg (up higher than her heart as she recalled) to stop the ache. That was how she would spend the whole afternoon—her leg in a pillow with a rope tied to the ceiling beam. That and calling all of the guests to cancel tomorrow’s tea.

But she felt so much better at this moment. Whew. Sitting down in the back of the clean cab with the bright sunlight shooting through the windows, she felt relief. As if, for a moment anyway, it had never happened.

As they turned off of Meeting Street onto South Battery, she could see her historic white clapboard home in the distance, particularly grand in its Christmas décor—fresh garland around the doorway and piazza rail, two magnolia-leaf wreaths with large gold bows on each piazza door, and even a little red berry wreath around the head of the statue in the center of the fountain in the side garden. That had been Casey’s idea, and it added a little whimsy to the decorations, Mary Lynn thought. To her it made the house wink to the passersby as if to say, There are children who live here! It’s not a just a photo from Architectural Digest. See? Every time Mary Lynn saw it, she grinned.

As Craig went around to help her out of the car, she turned to face him and still did not feel the pain. He took out his cell phone. “Should I call Jackson to meet us down here?”

“No,” she said. “He’s probably on his morning walk and I’m sure the girls are still asleep.” She reached out her hand. “If you help me out, I can make it in on the balls of my feet.”

Like Mary Lynn, Jackson had a morning ritual—walking their black Labrador, Mac, up King Street to Caviar & Bananas, munching on a scone and an espresso, reading the New York Times, preparing for a meeting with Mark or mapping out the day, the week, or the month—depending on how exuberant he was—and walking briskly home. Sometimes she ran into him a block from their house on her way home from her morning run. He usually brought something back to her—a muffin or a strawberry dipped in chocolate, which she discreetly gave to Anarosa, the housekeeper, to take home to her little boys. And now that the girls were out of school for the holiday, he brought something for them as well. Casey always enjoyed her treat, but the older girls were watching their weight and they, too, gave their treat to Anarosa.

When Craig leaned forward, she put her arm around his shoulder and let him hoist her up on her tippy toes. Then she took a step forward on the balls of her feet, still leaning on him, and she didn’t feel any pain. She took another step. Nothing. Her calf felt normal. She almost put her heels down, but she was afraid to.

When a horn from a driver stuck behind the recycling truck blasted just yards ahead, she was so startled, she leaned back and was forced to put her heel on the sidewalk.

The pain behind the back of her knee was not there.

She looked up at Craig. Her eyebrows furrowed. She rubbed the back of her leg. No tenderness. Nothing. What in the world?

“Hurt bad?” he said. He shook his head in an effort to commiserate. Then he stepped back and leaned forward with his hands on his knees to give her a little space. Maybe he thought she might get sick again.

She looked up at him. Had she dreamed the whole thing? No. She had heard her muscle rip. She had felt the shot of pain. It had happened to her two other times in her life, and she knew precisely what it was.

She decided not to answer Craig. It was just so strange. After a few seconds he lifted out his hand and she leaned into it expecting the pain to kick in, but it didn’t. Once she was on the piazza, she thanked him and he headed back to his cab. Then she unlocked the door, walked in the house with her heels firmly planted on the hardwood floor.

Was she fine?

She shook her right leg out. She walked. She did a few lunges, then jumped up and down several times, which caused Mac to bark and run into the foyer where he stopped, stared, and tilted his head as if he were as confused as she was.

Had Reverend Summerall’s prayer been answered?

“How was your run?” Jackson handed her a chocolate croissant in a waxy little bag. He was back sooner than she expected.

How many calories in a chocolate croissant? Way too many for a gal beating back a middle-age paunch in the midst of the holiday season. And how was her run? Well, she wanted to tell him the whole story, but something held her back. He had made it clear since she started going to church with Scottie that he had no interest in religion. He wasn’t going to stop her. It didn’t bother him that she went. He just didn’t want her to expect him to follow along with all of that. He had a mission, after all, and he was focused.

He cocked his head. “Your jog all right, baby?”

She looked into his bright green eyes. They blinked slowly. It was the first time they had made eye contact today.

“Amazing,” she finally said. She smiled and lovingly squeezed his shoulder. Then she gently accepted the little waxy bag and headed to the pantry where Anarosa kept her purse.

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Love on the Line by Deanne Gist

My Review:
Deanne Gist’s books are always fun!! This one is no exception! I love the history in this one on the telephone operators. I felt a little frustrated at the way women were treated then, there was not as many rights that they had.
This is a fun read, one to curl up in the winter with!

Enter to win an iPad2 & RSVP for Facebook Party on 11/8!

Blog Post:

Deeanne is thrilled to introduce Georgie and Luke to the word in her latest novel, Love on the Line. To celebrate Deeanne’s publisher, Bethany House, is hosting the Love on the Line iPad2 giveaway an Author Chat on Facebook! Enter today and follow the link below to RSVP for Deeanne’s rip-roarin’ Facebook Party!

One fortunate winner will receive: 

  • A Brand New iPad2 
  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist 

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at Deeanne’s Author Chat Facebook Party. Deeanne will be wrapping up the Love on the Line celebration by chatting with friends new and old! So grab your copy of Love on the Line (it’s okay if you don’t have one yet- you might could win one!) and join Deeanne on the evening of November 8th for a rip roaring book chat, a little trivia and lots of giveaways (books, and Amazon, iTunes & Starbucks gift certificates)!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends. Hope to see you on the 8th!

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Along Wooded Paths

Go to the Facebook Party and enter to win the book and fun prizes!!

Along Wooded Paths Party

This is the second book in Tricia Goyer’s book series set in Northwest MT.
If Amish books are not your cup of tea, this one is a bit different. This story will help you to see an inside look of some of the turmoil that would face an Amish girl who is struggling with questioning some of her beliefs, an attraction to an outsider, and dealing with hard family issues.
Check out the Facebook party and enter to win!

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