Category: Holiday Fun

Red, White and Blue…Pie!

When I was younger and visited my Grandma Walter on their northeastern Iowa farm, I always pestered her to teach me something. She taught me how to crochet and to make cream puffs. (I posted her recipe in a blog a while ago.) She had a huge garden where she grew potatoes, green beans, onions and I can’t remember what all else. While I didn’t inherit her green thumb despite her tutoring, I did receive her love of growing things. Every spring I plant a garden. This year I have high hopes since I’ve gone to a raised garden to keep out the dogs and the bunnies!

My grandmother also taught me to sew. I refined that skill during home economics. It’s amazing how much money I’ve saved because I could sew bed skirts, window treatments and my children’s Halloween costumes. Okay, the later didn’t really save money as much as it allowed me to create exactly what they wanted. 🙂

It saddens me when I hear how children say their middle and high school schedules are too full to take Skills for Living, what my generation knew as home ec. My youngest took the class in middle school, and we both enjoyed it. Together we shopped for the fleece material for the pajama bottoms he sewed. He made a lot of the recipes he learned in the class for us. But the best part was, he became an expert pie maker!

Every Fourth of July he and I make what we call a Red, White and Blue pie. The basic recipe is the strawberry pie recipe from his Skills for Living class. The blue comes from adding blueberries and the white is whipped cream. Today just in time for the Fourth, I’m sharing the recipe with you.

STRAWBERRY PIE

Crust:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Measure 1C flour and 1/2 tsp of salt into a bowl. Cut in 1/3 C shortening with a pastry blender until shortening particles are pea sized. Add 4 TBS of ice water. Form into a ball. Roll from the center out until crust is pan sized. Fold edges under and crimp. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

 

Filling:

Clean 1-2 pints of strawberries.

In a saucepan, mix 1 1/2 C sugar (I use slightly less) with 1/3 C cornstarch. Add 1 1/2 C water and mix completely. Cook mixture, stirring constantly until it’s thick and translucent.

Filling when finished cooking before adding jello.

Remove from heat and add 3 oz. package of strawberry jello. Put some of cooled glaze in bottom of the crust. Add berries and continue covering them with glaze. Refrigerate and serve topped with whipped cream.

NOTE:  Add blueberries and make you have a Red, White and Blue Pie!

Giveaway:  Leave a comment sharing your favorite Fourth of July food or tradition to be entered in the drawing for a signed copy of A Cure For the Vet and a cactus T-shirt from my favorite shop, Rustic Ranch

 

 

Updated: July 2, 2019 — 3:06 pm

Dressing for Independence Day (plus a giveaway)

Nothing puts me in a patriotic frame of mind more than seeing bunting proudly displayed on homes and businesses. In fact, I recently took a trip to Honey Grove, TX, the setting for my most recent release, More Than Words Can Say, and I saw this house.

Not only was this a gorgeous Victorian-era home restored to its former glory, but it was a patriotic home as well. It was only the middle of June, but they already had their bunting on display for all to appreciate and enjoy. I knew I had to take a photo because a key turning point in my story centers around a 4th of July Parade in Honey Grove.

Abigail and her sister Rosalind have decorated their bakery with red-white-and-blue bunting and paper festooning in keeping with the holiday festivities, but in addition to decorating their portion of the town square, they decide to decorate themselves as well. Rosalind (a young beauty) has been chosen at the very last minute to be Honey Grove’s Queen Bee and is to be featured in the parade. Despite the late notice, Rosalind agrees to participate so that she can promote the bakery by handing out honey-glazed biscuits to parade goers. Thankfully, Rosalind is handy with a needle.

Here’s a scene from our hero’s point of view. Like most men, Zach has grown impatient waiting on his wife and her sister to appear . . .

The door opened. Zach spun around at the sound of the hinges.

“It’s about t—” The complaint died on his tongue as his wife stepped through the doorway. She’d abandoned her work apron and changed her dark blue shirtwaist for a white lacy confection with a pleated front that highlighted her abundant curves. She’d tied a red sash around her waist that set off her blue skirt with patriotic flair and had somehow folded a scrap of leftover paper festooning from the shop’s decorations into a circle thing that looked remarkably like a flower. It sat pinned it to her blouse like a brooch. Not only that, but she’d magically woven red ribbon through the braid on her head, a ribbon he was certain hadn’t been there when they’d been working side-by-side that morning.

I imagine Abigail and her sister dressed a bit like this. Abby with a red ribbon at her waist and a patriotic paper flower brooch. Rosalind in a fancier white dress with leftover red-white-and-blue bunting draped over her hips and bustled at the back.

“Isn’t she stunning?” Abigail asked as she turned her face away from him.

She? He only saw Abigail.

However, when Abigail gestured behind her, Zach finally noticed Rosalind stepping into the hall. She didn’t make his heart pound like Abby did, but he had to admit she was a right fine looking female. They must have taken curling tongs to her hair, for it hung in blonde ringlets down her nape in a way that reminded him of the fancy women in New York who used to bring donation baskets to the orphanage at Christmas.

Her clothes were much fancier than her sister’s, too. All white and frilly. She’d taken some of the bunting fabric and fashioned an overskirt that draped down her front and pulled up into a big bow at the back. She wore a straw hat decorated with more of those red, white, and blue paper flower things.

For someone who’d known for less than twenty-four hours that she was going to be the star attraction of the Fourth of July parade, she’d done an impressive job of improvising a patriotic ensemble that would no doubt put Sophia Longfellow to shame.

Abigail shot him a look that felt remarkably like a kick to the shin. Obviously, she expected him to say something. And not to her.

He smiled at Rosie. “I’ve never seen a prettier Lady Liberty.”

Abby beamed at him, making him stand a little taller since he’d somehow managed not to stick his foot in his mouth. Then she took her sister’s hand. “You’re beautiful, Rosalind. No one deserves the title of Honey Grove’s Queen Bee more than you.”

Abigail and Rosalind might not have been dressed quite like the lady on this vintage Victorian postcard, but they were creative in using what they had to create festive and patriotic ensembles.

I don’t have too many patriotic ensembles myself, but when the time is right I have been know to pair red, white, and blue items from my closet in new and interesting ways.

What is your favorite way to decorate either your home or yourself for the 4th of July?

Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of More Than Words Can Say and see what disaster befalls Abigail during that fateful parade.

Warning! Tim McGraw will make you cry.

For those of you who lived through the Vietnam War, you’ll remember the violence and discontent from our country’s involvement.  As crazy as it sounds, many Americans blamed our soldiers for being there, and their suffering and the terrible things they witnessed made no difference to those back home.  The soldiers were shunned and rebuked upon their return to US soil.  They were made to be the enemy when they were, in truth, fighting to help keep us all free, something everyone should have appreciated more than they did.

Nowadays, thankfully, the tide has turned, and the men and women in our military are honored and revered, as they should be.  Patriotism is surging.  The flag once again flies with respect.  Who can keep a dry eye while watching a news clip of a soldier dad returning home to surprise his child?

One of the ways to show our patriotism is through songs and videos.  Yesterday, my sister-filly, Cheryl Pierson, wrote an excellent blog with many examples of patriotic songs, and our readers loved chiming in.

Funny how great minds think alike.

Tim McGraw is one of my top three country singers, and I’m sharing his popular video for “If You’re Reading This.”

During our Special Event week celebrating patriotism, please enjoy.  And be sure to grab a Kleenex.

Updated: June 24, 2019 — 4:24 pm

THE TOP ‘MOST PATRIOTIC’ COUNTRY SONGS–WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE? by CHERYL PIERSON

 

Summer seems like the most patriotic time of the year in general, doesn’t it? We kick off the summer months with Memorial Day in May. Poppies are worn in remembrance of veterans on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day in November.

On June 6, we are reminded of the sacrifices made on a faraway beach in Normandy that resulted in many deaths in WWII, but turned the tide for the Allies and helped us gain victory. June 14th is Flag Day, a fine “tune up” for our huge 4th of July celebration that’s right around the corner.

Is anyone more patriotic than a cowboy? I don’t think so!  So many country and western songs have been written through the years that are a tribute to not only our troops, but to first responders, and to all the “regular” American people who love our country.

Here is my list of top country and western patriotic songs, compiled from several on the internet—all different, but all wonderful—and all with one thing in common: our love for our country. These are in no particular order. I don’t know how anyone could choose one over the other since they all are products of excellent songwriting and musicianship—and heartfelt sentiments about America! And goodness knows, I didn’t list them all here—no room! Like I said, there are a lot of patriots in the country music field, and a huge number of songs to listen to in order to get in the patriotic spirit of things! I’ve included the youtube links in case you want to pop over and give these a listen!

This first one is an odd one, but I just love it. It was recorded by David Ball, who didn’t have that many hits, but this one will stay in your memory when you hear it for the very first time. I get chills every single time I hear it.  A young man buys a ’66 Corvette and discovers a letter in the glove box “My name is Private Andrew Malone, and if you’re reading this I didn’t make it home…” Which always makes me think about so many young men who could have written this following line…“For every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true…”  It’s called RIDING WITH PRIVATE MALONE and it has a very twisty ending you’re sure to love!

 

https://youtu.be/v5dyHPX8Cos

 

Probably the most recognized country song that many call our “unofficial” American anthem was written and performed by Lee GreenwoodGOD BLESS THE U.S.A. Written in 1983, it’s become synonymous with patriotism, and is loved by countless Americans, whether they are typical country and western fans or not. Its simple message is one that grabs you and holds on, and I have to admit, that even after nearly 40 years of hearing it, I still get teary! “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me—so I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, for there ain’t no doubt I love this land—God Bless the U.S.A.!”

 

https://youtu.be/yH61hFsma24

 

Another “oldie but goodie” is Merle Haggard’s THE FIGHTIN’ SIDE OF ME, written in 1970. Oh, goodness. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard my husband play and sing that back when we used to have our band…fond memories, and it was a song that was a frequent request, whether we lived in West Virginia or here in Oklahoma. “If you don’t love it, leave it, let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’—when you’re runnin’ down my country, hoss, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me…” I love the sentiment of this song. In true “Merle” fashion, he’s saying that we can disagree on things without trashing our country. I think everyone in the audiences we played to knew the words to this song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIxBmyRQlwQ

 

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TURNING? is not a “patriotic” song in the way we’d normally think of one, but it was not written during normal times. Penned by Alan Jackson in 2002 after the horrific events of  9/11/01, this song is packed with emotion and validates the many thoughts and feelings that Americans went through during the aftermath of that day. Each chorus of this song ends with the reminder that God’s greatest gift to us is love—even though we were going through some horrendous times. This song was nothing short of a masterpiece that drew Americans together, gave us hope, and let us know we were not alone in our feelings.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNsfx_4k-JA

 

In 1974, Johnny Cash wrote RAGGED OLD FLAG, a recitation about all the incidents that happened to “the ragged old flag” that hangs in a little town’s courthouse square as told to a town newcomer by one of the old men who lives there. “She’s been through the fire before, and she can take a whole lot more…on second thought, I guess I do like to brag, cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KqrjeScLSI

8TH OF NOVEMBER, another patriotic song written about the Vietnam war, is performed by Big and Rich. It is the true story of a terrible battle in which the 173rd Airborne was engaged. That day, 48 Americans died with very few survivors when they were ambushed by 1200 Viet Cong. “With the fire rainin’ down and the hell all around there were few men left standin’ that day…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozpdBvB0hek

 

 

 

There are countless others, in case you want to put together a country and western playlist for your big Independence Day shindig! Take a look!

SOME GAVE ALL by Billy Ray Cyrus

LETTERS FROM HOME by John Michael Montgomery

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? by Darryl Worley

IF YOU’RE READING THIS by Tim McGraw

HOME by Dierks Bentley

I DRIVE YOUR TRUCK by Lee Brice

FOR YOU by Keith Urban

IT’S AMERICA by Rodney Atkins

FLYOVER STATES by Jason Aldean

COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE (THE ANGRY AMERICAN) by Toby Keith

WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES AND THE EAGLE FLY by Aaron Tippin

AMERICAN SOLDIER by Toby Keith

THE BALLAD OF IRA HAYES by Johnny Cash

This isn’t all of them, either! Hope you all have a very happy 4th of July with family, friends, and loved ones. What’s your favorite country and western patriotic song, and why? It’s hard to pick just one!  

The Simplest Gift

I think my love of the west and cowboys grew out of my love for my grandparents’ Iowa farm. I loved that place. I did a lot of thinking and dreaming there. I also learned a lot, mainly from my grandmother. The older I get the more I appreciate what I learned from her. She was an incredibly strong woman, but she possessed a quiet strength. She worked the farm and raised six children. I always thought her the most patient person I knew. She never had a cross word for anyone, and I can count on one hand the number of times she lost her temper.

My grandmother always made time for me and my endless questions. Such a simple gift, her time and attention, and yet, such an important one. And I had a lot of questions about whatever she was doing, whether it be gardening, crocheting, sewing or cooking. All of which I still enjoy doing today.

One day when she was making one of my two favorite treats, cream puffs–the other was her angle food cake with fresh strawberries–I asked questions and wrote down what she told me. Because of my curiosity, I have my grandmother’s recipe for cream puffs.

For a holiday gift, I’m sharing her recipe with you.

Cream Puffs

½ C butter

½ tsp salt

1 C water

1 C sifted flour

4 eggs

Combine butter, salt and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to a hard boil. Remove from heat and dump in flour all at once. Stir until the mixture sticks together in a ball and leaves the edges of the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until egg has been completely absorbed. Drop by tablespoonful, heaping in the middle, on greased baking sheet with 3 inches between each. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 10 minutes. Do not open oven during baking or cream puffs could 

collapse.

Filling:

Mix together—

4 Tablespoons sugar

2 egg yolks (beaten)

1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons milk

 

In a heavy saucepan, bring 1 C milk to a boil. Stir in above mixture. Reduce heat and cook until thick. When cool combine with ½ pint whipped heavy cream.

Leave a comment about your favorite holiday treat and be entered to win a cup and plate set along with a copy of Family Ties. May 2019 be filled with many wonders and joys for you and your family, and remember, of all the gifts you can give, the best is your time and attention. 

Updated: January 2, 2019 — 8:59 am

Holiday Fever with a New Historical Release Today!

Are you enjoying our week of Holiday Fever? 

I hope you had a fabulous Christmas full of love, joy, and loads of fun (and goodies – goodies are so important)! 

I adore the holiday season. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes – the magic that dances in the air and the hope lingering around each corner. 

In fact, I love the season so much (and my readers), I hustled to write one more Christmas novel and release it before the end of the year. 

So here it is! A brand new historical romance releasing today. 

I hope you’ll take a look! 

 

He needs a holiday miracle. . .

She’s prepared to deliver one

Claire Baker does nothing halfway. She makes it a point to follow her heart, even when it leads her to a small Eastern Oregon town to stay with relatives. In truth, she loves Hardman and the people there. Which is why she wants a recluse she met in the woods and his adorable daughter to join in the community holiday celebrations. The more time they spend together, the more she realizes she’s fallen hopelessly in love with both of them.

All Grayson Carter wants is to be left alone. That’s why he built his cabin in the middle of more than a thousand acres of woods, seeking to disappear from the world and keep his daughter, Maddie, safe.  Then a beautiful interloper appears and becomes quite determined in her efforts of drawing him back into the land of the living. As she brings him and Maddie Christmas cheer, he realizes falling in love with her could be the best and worst thing he’s ever done.

With Christmas fast approaching, a mystery to be solved, and old-fashioned holiday fun, this sweet historical romance will fill your heart with the joys of the season.
The Christmas Melody, available now on Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/ya2sk7tr

 

 

 
The Hardman Holidays series is a full of fun characters who celebrate the holidays in a big way in their small town of Hardman, Oregon.

 

 The Christmas Bargain ( Book 1) — As owner and manager of the Hardman bank, Luke Granger is a man of responsibility and integrity in teh small 1890s Eastern Oregon town. When he calls in a long overdue loan, Luke finds himself reluctantly accepting a bargain in lieu of payment from the shiftless farmer who barters his daughter to settle his debt.

http://tinyurl.com/y8pldruv

 The Christmas Token ( Book 2) — Determined to escape an unwelcome suitor, Ginny Granger flees to her brother’s home in Eastern Oregon for the holiday season. Returning to the community where she spent her childhood years, she plans to relax and enjoy a peaceful visit. Not expecting to encounter the boy she once loved, her exile proves to be anything but restful. (99¢ today!) 

http://amzn.com/B00GU2BYBQ

Happy Holidays from my heart to yours! 

The Golden Age of Christmas Music

The 1940s and 50s has been called the golden age of Christmas music, and for good reason.  White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland and Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer are just some of the treasures that came out of this period.

Following World War II people were ready for messages of hope and change, and song writers were only too eager to comply.   

Some of the greatest Christmas hits have fascinating and even funny stories behind them.  Silver Bells, written in 1950, is one of them. 

Inspired by the number of different kinds of bells heard at Christmas, the songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evan decided to write a song about them. 

They called the song Tinkle Bells.  After they finished writing the lyrics, they played it for Evan’s wife and were shocked then she almost fell off the couch laughing. 

She then explained that the song might make people think more of the bathroom than Christmas. The two men didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about until she explained that mothers used the word “tinkle” to get their youngsters to use the toilet.

The two men wisely changed the song title to Silver Bells.

Jay and Ray weren’t the only songwriters saved from making a mistake. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote Have yourself a Merry, Little Christmas for Judy Garland to sing on screen.

What they hadn’t counted on was Judy rejecting their song and threatening to walk off the set unless the lyrics were changed. In the original song, they’d written that the two lovers might never see each other again.  Have yourself a Merry Christmas/it may be your last/next year we’ll be living in the past.

Judy knew that wasn’t the message that people wanted to hear in times of war. She sent the song back for a rewrite. Though Martin and Blane were convinced it was a mistake, they gave the song more upbeat lyrics and scored a hit.

Another hit was inspired by a parade. Gene Autry had been invited to be a special guest at the Hollywood Christmas parade.

Fearing that his prewar career success was behind him, he was delighted to be greeted by thousands of screaming youngsters.  It seemed he had not been forgotten.

However, Gene soon learned his mistake. The children weren’t screaming for him. They were screaming for the man behind him.

“Look, Ma,” one boy yelled.  “Here comes Santa Claus.”

Gene Autry had been upstaged, and his worst fears had been realized. The screaming children had no idea who he was.  Later, he recounted the incident to his composer friend, Oakley Halderman.

Halderman laughed.  “Sounds like a song to me.”

The two men worked on the song together. Here Comes Santa Claus became Autry’s first hit in a decade, and helped to relaunch his career.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is The Little Drummer Boy.  What is your favorite?

“This book charms.” -Publishers Weekly

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Updated: December 15, 2018 — 8:51 am

Why Heavenly Cowboys Couldn’t Celebrate Christmas

 

 

Why Heavenly Cowboys Couldn’t

Celebrate Christmas

 

Cowboys corralled in Heaven pulled

All kinds of vexin’ things,

Like tippin’ halos crooked-like

And ropin’ angels’ wings.

They’re so well known for cuttin’ up

Since back when time began,

For no one’s pulled shenanigans

The way that cowboys can.

No, cowboys didn’t get high marks

In God’s reported word

While they were ratin’ risin’ stars-

Too many tales were heard

Of cowboys playin’ naughty tricks,

Upsetting schedulin’s,

And gettin’ Angels so upset-

God said, “We’ll clip those wings.

That cowboys use to horse around

We’ll have them guard the gate.

The night of our blessed happening

While we all celebrate.

They won’t have time to hatch their schemes

To upset this event.

On Christmas Eve, they’ll have no part –

And maybe – they’ll repent.

As shepherds herded sheep that night

And knelt in starlit fields,

The cowboys learned the penalities

That cowboy teasin’ yields.

While Angels’ voices sang of the Birth,

And glow lit up the skies,

Sad cowboys only got to hear

The angels lullabies

And that’s how Heaven evened score

For tricks those cowboys played; 

They didn’t get to join in praise

When the world knelt down and prayed. 

                                              By Marianna Logan McNeil

 

Thank you to the late multi-award-winning poet and friend, Marianna Logan McNeil, of Petticoats and Pistols who gave this poem to the Fillies before her passing. 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

                                      

Updated: December 23, 2018 — 10:58 am

Merry Cowboy Christmas

Christmas is such a wonderful time to be together with family and share in healthy doses of love and laughter. My empty nest is back to peak capacity with my college student kiddos back home, and this mama is loving it! We have a puzzle going that my daughter and I work on together. We play board games nearly every night. Now if I could just find time to wrap all the gifts stuffed in my closet.

You know what I need? I need a cowboy hero to ride to my rescue and wrangle all those stray gifts, brand ’em with paper and bows, and herd them under the tree. Maybe what I need is this guy:

I don’t write for Harlequin, but I have to admit, this ad made me smile.

And with Christmas right around the corner, I have a great virtual stocking stuffer idea for you.

The Christmas Heirloom is on sale for only $2.99 for the e-book version at all major retailers through the end of December. Stuff your own stocking with a little Christmas cheer or surprise a friend with an e-gift. All you need is their email address to send them a copy.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Book

  • So if you could borrow a cowboy Christmas hero for the day, what would you have him do?

Merry Christmas!