Today is Columbus Day. About 4 years ago I wrote a post celebrating the day with lots of fun facts and trivia – you can view it by clicking HERE. So, instead of a repeat, I thought I’d talk about something else.
This past weekend was my hubby’s family’s annual reunion. It’s something we always look forward to. It’s an opportunity for him and all of his siblings and cousins and everyone’s extended families to come together and get reacquainted. Those we’ve lost since the last gathering are remembered and additions through birth, adoption or marriage are joyfully welcomed.
We usually gather mid-morning and visit, look at photos and family memorabilia folks have brought with them, update a large family tree chart and just generally enjoy each others company. Then we have a group meal provided potluck-style by the attendees.
After lunch several of us drive out to visit hubby’s old home place, evoking memories for the adults and nurturing an appreciation of their roots for the younger generation.
All in all, Saturday was a wonderfully lovely day.
Now for the recipe I promised you. I love to experiment with new ideas and combinations of flavors when I cook. For the reunion this year however, I was hampered by the fact that not only did I wait until a few days before to think about what I was going to cook, but doctor’s orders still have me restricted from driving so I had to make do with what was already in the house. The following recipe and accompanying notes will probably give you some insights into how my mind works. Keep in mind that I developed this on the fly and rarely measure so many of the quantities listed are approximate.
Oh, and also keep in mind that I was cooking for a large group gathering (we usually run around 40+ people) – this should be scaled back for smaller groups.
Winnie’s Chicken And Sausage Potluck Pasta
1 pound sausage, diced (I used a skinless smoked sausage because that’s what I had on hand, but I think it would be great with andouille)
Shredded Turkey (I used leftovers of a roasted turkey, pulled from the carcass and frozen in a 1 quart container in it’s own broth)
Dehydrated seasonings (again using what I had in the pantry, you can substitute fresh) as follows:
2 tblsp chives
2 tblsp minced onion
1 tsp celery flakes
½ tsp garlic
3 boxes Pasta Roni (angel hair with herbs)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
I put them in the food processor and give it a couple of quick pulses because I don’t like big chunks, but this step is totally optional.
Also, I like spicy so if I was cooking this just for me I would have used a full can. But since I was cooking this for a mixed crowd, I just used about ½ the can
1 can of small English peas, drained
Black Pepper to taste
Note, most of the ingredients already contain salt so you should taste the finished product before adding more
Brown sausage in a large skillet.
Add dehydrated seasonings along with turkey (with broth). Continue to cook together until liquid has reduced.
Remove meat from pan and set aside.
In the same pan, cook pasta according to package directions, except at the point when the pasta and sauce are added to the liquid, also add rotel.
Once pasta is cooked, add meat, peas and pepper and continue to cook on low heat for ten minutes, stirring frequently and adding liquid as needed.
There you go. Not the most complex or elegant of dishes, but believe it or not, I had several folks come up after the meal and ask for my recipe 🙂
So what about you? Does your family schedule reunions or get togethers? And have you invented any dishes you’d like to share the recipes for?
Since I’ve already done a post on Labor Day history and trivia in a previous post (you can read it HERE ), I thought I’d do something a little different this year – take a look back on my summer.
As you may or may not remember, I had foot surgery back in mid-February. It was a long healing process – 12 weeks where I couldn’t let my foot touch the floor and another 2 weeks where I could walk, but only if I wore a medical boot. This was me at the end of those 14 weeks.
That took me to the end of May. So as summer began I was ready to make up for lost time. I made a trip to my hairdresser – such a relief to get rid of 4 months worth of shagginess! Then we made a trip down to my Mom’s – so good to be able to visit with her and some of my siblings again.
It was also in June that my future daughter-in-law invited me to accompany her and her bridesmaids (which included my daughters) to shop for their dresses. The wedding gown she picked is breath taking and the bridesmaids dresses are lovely and I was very happy I got to tag along and be part of the day.
Another thing I was once more able to do was have all my kids and their families over to my house, which is just what we did to celebrate my husband with a Father’s Day family lunch.
The month of June ended with me dogsitting for my daughter’s sweet and frisky Dean while she and her husband went on vacation. Dean made sure that I got my exercise, no matter how hot it was outside!
July was all about the Romance Writers of America national conference – something I look forward to every year. Preparations included getting my notes together for the workshop I was scheduled to present, making sure I was prepared for the board meeting (I’m currently a member of the RWA board), doing a little shopping and getting my hair and nails done.
But I also began to feel that something was still not quite right with my foot. A visit to my doctor three days before my scheduled departure for Denver confirmed my fears. He told me to resume wearing my medical boot and he scheduled a CT scan for the week after I returned.
Determined to find the silver lining, I posted this picture, saying that it had definitely lightened my suitcase to only have to pack left shoes!
Despite having to wear the boot, I had a great time at the conference in Denver. My agent, the fabulous Michelle Grajkowski, along with her associate Cori Deyoe, invited all their clients who were at the conference to tour the fabulous Molly Brown House Museum with them. The place was a fabulous step back in time and I learned a lot of things I hadn’t previously known about this remarkable woman.
The rest of the conference went equally well. While there were some things I couldn’t do – no dance party for me – I focused on the things I could do. The workshop Renee Ryan and I presented was well attended and well received. I had opportunities to visit with several editors I’d targeted, my agent and I had a productive career planning session and I was able to meet all of my volunteer obligations. But one of my favorite parts of the conference is getting to spend time with friends, some of whom I only get to see this one time a year. Here are pics of just a few of those friends I reconnected with this year.
Three days after I got home from the conference I was back in the doctor’s office listening to the results of the CT scan. It seems one of the metal screws they inserted in February had shifted and was causing problems that only another surgery could correct. A week later it was done and I was back in a post-op cast with strict instructions not to let my right foot so much as touch the floor. This time I was a little more prepared for the process, but cabin fever is what it is. The only time I get out of the house these days is to visit the doctor. On the bright side, I’m enjoying being able to being able to do a lot more reading guilt free 🙂
Since my surgery I’ve gone through two more casts. The doctor lets me pick my cast color so I tend to pick colors that make me happy. I think my next one will be a bright blue 🙂
However, there was a wedding shower scheduled for my son and his fiancee down at my Mom’s (a 5 hour drive from me) that I was determined not to miss. So my three daughters agreed to drive me down in my van and get me there. It meant packing up my wheelchair, knee scooter and assorted other paraphenalia, and setting up the van so I could sit with my foot propped off the floor for the entire trip. Here’s what the back of my van looked like for an overnight trip.
But it was well worth it! The shower was lovely, the guests were all family so it was great having a chance to visit. Here’s a picture of the happy couple along with the cake my very talented sister made for them.
So that was what my summer was like.
How about you? Did you take a fun vacation or stay-cation? Have any memorable moments?
Leave a comment and I’ll pick one person to win their chice of any book in my backlist.
After I turned in my last book, Once Upon A Texas Christmas (just a little over a year ago), I took a bit of a sabbatical from writing. The line I wrote seventeen books for was closing and I was also a bit burned out from writing 2 books a year for the previous four years (I’m not a fast writer so this was a ‘stretch’ pace for me).
So I was at a crossroads of sorts. I took some time thinking about where I wanted to go next, free from the constraints of any specific publisher guidelines. I eventually came up with ideas for several multi-book series I could get excited about and worked up some details to hand over to my agent so she could begin shopping them around to publishers.
That done, I figured while I waited I now had time to explore another path that had captured my interest, that of indie-publishing. I had several books from my days with Dorchester’s Leisure Books line that were published in the 2001-2005 time frame, long before the eBook revolution and that had gone out of print more than a dozen years ago and I figured reworking one of those and indie-publishing it would be a good way to ease myself into that scary-to-me world. So I went to work, getting ready to do just that.
And boy has it been a learning experience. Revising the book was the fun part. I’d forgotten just how much I loved those early books. Revisiting the characters and worlds from my early writing days has been an absolute joy. But now I’ deep into the business side of the process – hiring a good editor, figuring out cover design options, creating a back cover blurb, forming an LLC, obtaining ISBNs, etc., etc. It’s been a steep learning curve (and I’m not through it yet!) but hopefully next time will be a little easier.
Anyway, if things go as planned, this first book, which I’m titling The Unexpected Bride, will release in late fall. And today I thought I’d whet your appetite with an excerpt.
The set up for this story – Elthia Sinclare has travelled from Massachusetts to Texas in answer to an ad for a temporary job as governess. Caleb Tanner placed an ad for a mail-order bride. This is the scene where our heroine realizes there has been a terrible mistake:
“Mr. Tanner, we need to talk.”
The lying, scheming blackguard glanced back from his position at the stove, a scowl of irritation on his face. Then his expression changed as something in her demeanor caught his attention.
“What’s happened?” he asked, handing a plate to one of the children.
Zoe slipped into the room behind her, but Elthia kept her gaze focused on Mr. Tanner. She stood stiffly, fighting the urge to back away as he approached. “Exactly why did you bring me here?”
His scowl returned as he rubbed the back of his neck. “What do you mean? This is my home. Where else would I take you?”
“I’m talking about what role it is you expect me to fulfill?” She watched him closely, looking for some sign of guilt or duplicity. “Mrs. Johnston called me your helpmeet and referred to you Tanners as my ‘new family’. Just now, Dr. Adams did the same.”
Elthia clasped her hands to prevent their trembling. Had this man lured her to his home under false pretenses? She was completely at his mercy here. The isolated location and the shadowy approach of dusk suddenly took on a sinister feel. Sometimes having a vivid imagination was more of a curse than a blessing.
She had to remain calm, to think, to keep him from seeing her fear.
Mr. Tanner, however, looked more harried than threatening. Maybe Zoe had misread the situation. Dear God please–-
“I’m sorry that your role as a mail-order bride is public knowledge, if that’s what this is all about. It’s hard to keep secrets in a community like Foxberry.”
“Mail-order bride!” Elthia almost choked on the words. Heaven help her, this nightmare kept getting more unbelievable.
His scowl returned. “Miss Sinclare, stop the hysterics, please. I know the kids’ illness was unexpected, but surely—”
“There’s been a mistake, a dreadful, terrible mistake.”
His eyes narrowed. Then he looked at the children who watched the grown-ups with wide-eyed interest. “Let’s move this discussion to the parlor, shall we?”
He nodded to the two older children. “Zoe and Peter, you help the others with their supper please.” Then he took Elthia’s arm and all but pulled her out of the room.
As soon as they reached the parlor, he released her, as if touching her were distasteful. His next words were all the more intimidating for their softness. “Backing out already? So much for all that talk about honoring commitments.” His expression branded her as beneath contempt. “I should have known a pampered bit of high-class fluff wouldn’t have a notion about honor or responsibility.”
Elthia shook her head, confused and defensive. “No, no, you don’t understand. I came here to fill the post of governess, not to be someone’s mail-order bride.”
The sound he made was suspiciously like a snort. “Foxberry has a great school. Why would I waste money on a governess?”
“But that’s what you advertised for. I read the file myself.” A spurt of anger momentarily replaced her fear. “How dare you misrepresent yourself in such a way! You took advantage of Mrs. Pembroke and of me. It’s vile and probably illegal. I have half a mind to find the local sheriff and have you arrested.”
Mr. Tanner wasn’t intimidated. “I didnot misrepresent anything. I made it very clear to the agency exactly what I was looking for. If you paid any attention at all to my post there’s no way you could be confused about any of this.”
She drew in a breath as he pointed a finger, stopping just short of poking her chest.
His frown turned contemptuous. “If this is some ploy to get out of the contract and still be able to hold your head up, don’t bother. A weak, spoiled, lady with a tendency to run away from her troubles might be the last thing I want for the kids or myself, but I warned you earlier, no backing out once the kids met you.”
“How dare you! Why I—”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your voice down,” he interrupted. “There’s no point in upsetting the kids.”
He straightened. “I don’t have time for this posturing. If you’re not going to help, at least stay out of the way. In the meantime, before you try that ‘I didn’t know what I was getting into’ story again, you should reread that contract you signed.”
Elthia watched him stalk out of the room. Slumping, she steadied herself with a hand to a chair. The long day and its emotional ups and downs had taken its toll. She suddenly felt too exhausted to think straight. Maybe her father was right. Maybe she was too helpless, too naïve, to make her own decisions.
How had this happened? Was Mr. Tanner a villain or had there been a terrible mix-up with the paperwork at the agency?
Of course. He’d told her to reread the contract and that’s just what she’d do, and then force him to do the same. She wasn’t her father’s daughter for nothing. She’d read that sheet of paper very carefully before signing it. It was an employment contract for a temporary teaching assignment, nothing more.
Feeling her energy rebound, she hurried into the hall. Her copy lay somewhere in her luggage, but he still had the one she’d given him. “Mr. Tanner, just a minute please.” Stepping into the kitchen, she ran smack into his rock-solid chest.
He placed a hand on both of her arms, steadying her before stepping back a pace. “Well, Miss Sinclare, what is it now?”
Elthia’s cheeks heated but she held onto what dignity she could. Pushing her glasses up on her nose, she managed to keep her gaze locked to his as she held out a hand. “The contract, sir. I’d like to see your copy of it if I may.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And just what do you expect that to prove?” Then he scowled. “I warn you, don’t try to tear it up.”
She raised her chin. “Why would I want to tear it up? It’s the proof I need to support my story. It states quite clearly that the position I accepted was that of governess.”
“Does it now?”
Elthia frowned impatiently. “Yes, of course it does. You read it there at Whistling Oak. Surely you remember what it said. There was nothing at all vague about the terms.”
“I agree, it spells things out in very plain language.” He strode out of the room and she followed him as far as the foot of the stairs. It only took seconds for him to return and hand her the document.
Elthia, itching to rub the I’m-only-doing-this-to-humor-you expression from his face, unfolded it and skimmed it.
Then she blinked.
She read it twice. Where had this contract come from? It most definitely was not the document she’d read so carefully before signing. Someone had switched papers, but when and how? They’d hardly been out of her sight since she’d signed them.
It must have been Mr. Tanner. He’d somehow substituted the document she’d handed him for this one. Her gaze frantically turned to the bottom of the contract and she got another shock.
It couldn’t be!
There was her name, penned in her own handwriting. Alongside it was the signature of Louella Pembroke. It must be a forgery, but it was such a good one even she couldn’t tell the difference.
How dare he try to coerce her this way. She shook the document under his nose. “How did you do this?”
“Do what?” He looked more puzzled than guilty.
“Forge my signature so perfectly. Did you trace it? And where’s the real contract?”
His jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed at her accusation. “Don’t you think you’re carrying this charade a bit far?”
“Don’t think you can intimidate me with that oh so superior tone. I have my own copy of the contract.”
She turned and all but fled upstairs. If he thought he could bully her with this elaborate act he was very much mistaken. It took her a several minutes, but she finally located her copy in the larger of her trunks.
Marching back down the stairs, she found Mr. Tanner still standing where she’d left him, though now the lamps in the hall were lit against the encroaching darkness.
She waved the paper triumphantly. “This is the document I signed, not that substitute you’re trying to fob off on me.”
With the air of an adult humoring a child, the infuriating Mr. Tanner plucked it from her fingers, pulled the contract out of the sealed envelope and looked it over quickly.
After reading it, he shrugged and handed it back to her. “I won’t argue with you on that score. But I don’t rightly see how it differs from the one I looked at earlier.”
Her hands starting to tremble, Elthia took the contract and forced her eyes to focus on the print. He was right, it was identical to the one he’d handed her a few minutes earlier.
A very simple, very binding, marriage contract.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek. And stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted on my progress 🙂
I’ve just recently returned from a week long family vacation to Arizona where we had an absolute blast. There were twelve members in our group, though we didn’t all travel together. Me, my husband and two of our kids flew together into Flagstaff. My oldest daughter and her husband flew into with plans to drive to the Grand Canyon from there. And my youngest daughter and her extended family (a group of 6) decided to drive and make several stops along the way. All through the week our groups came together in a very fluid way, different combinations breaking off on different days to do things of particular interest to them. But by mid-week we were all together at Bright Angel Lodge on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. For about half the group it was their first time to view this awesome wonder in person and they were blown away by the views. For the rest of us, revisiting the place had almost as big an impact as seeing it for the first time.
Anyway, I thought I’d give you all a little taste of what we experienced by sharing just some of the many pictures we took.
Flagstaff was our home base for this trip. Our first full day there, we took the scenic drive from Flagstaff to Sedona, stopping at several points along the way to admire the scenery and take pictures.
When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to take a trip out to the nearby Lowell Observatory. We were lucky in that there was a cloudless sky and we were able to get clear views of the sun, moon, Saturn and Jupiter through the many telescopes they had set out. Seeing the actual rings of Saturn as well as the pencil dot moons was VERY cool.
The next day we all headed out to the Grand Canyon Notional Park. Six of us decided to take the two hour train ride out of nearby Williams to get there. Williams is a fun place right on Route 66. They are set up to entertain tourists and there are fun little Wild West shows at the train station you can watch while waiting on departure time. The train ride itself was fun (it was my first time on a train) and as you can see from the photo below it was quite comfy 🙂
We spent two days at the park itself, staying in cabins at the wonderful Bright Angel Lodge which is located right on the south rim itself.
Our first day there we just enjoyed the area around the lodge and got the lay of the land. Our second day, we all headed in different directions. Four of our group decided to hike down into the canyon along the Bright Angel Trail (it goes without saying I wasn’t one of their number!).
The rest of us went on various exploration trips. Hubby and I saw both the Desert View Watchtower and Hermit’s Rest, two structures designed in the early twentieth century by Mary Colter, one of the few females architects of her time.
We also stopped at a lot of the viewing sights along the way. At one particular spot hubby spotted a rock formation that resembled a human profile. I took a photo of it – can you make it out? We also spotted several elk along the roadside and folks in our group managed to get photos of two of them.
After two days at the Grand Canyon, we headed out, again splitting into two groups, those that were driving the whole way started home, the rest of us headed back to Flagstaff. Along the way, though, we visited a wildlife park called Bearizona. There were lots of different kinds of animals there – mountain goats, buffalo, wolves and more – but my favorites were the bears. And we got photos of two especially enterprising ones that found a way to cool off.
Our last day out we revisited Sedona for a jeep tour of the area. It was a teeth-rattling bumpy ride but so worth it for the views. Here is a picture our driver took of the four of us.
When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to cap off our vacation with a trip to the Snowbowl. It’s a ski lift that operates in the off season to take tourists up to the top of the peak. It’s a thirty minute ride that carries you up to an ear-popping elevation of 11,500 feet.
And then it was time to head home.
As I said it was a wonderful vacation, one that will make me smile whenever I remember it.
What about you? Have you ever visited this part of our country? And do you have a favorite vacation you look back on fondly?
Hi, Winnie Griggs here. Just a few days ago I attended the Barbara Vey Readers Appreciation event and I’m still jazzed about what a fabulous time I had! This event does a wonderful job of focusing on and celebrating the readers, that marvelous class of people that we authors are so indebted to and enjoy getting to know better. There were 60 authors in attendance and over 420 readers, and getting all of those folks together in one room, well that was definitely a party in the making!
Today I thought I’d share a little of the fun I had with a pictorial post – (and keep reading for info on a giveaway!).
I got in Thursday evening and had a chance to decompress from a long travel day by mingling with the other authors who were also early arrivals. And, as often happens at these events, I had one of those great serendipitous, out-of-the-blue moments. I was chatting with the fabulous Tina DeSalvo and we discovered that we grew up in the same town, only a few miles from each other and graduated from the same high school (though several years apart). So I traveled all the way to Milwaukee to find a neighbor from my small south Louisiana hometown.
Then on Friday, a group of five authors – myself, Holly Jacobs, Sharon Sala, Liz Talley and Lenora Worth – sponsored an early bird event for those attendees who arrived early and were looking for something fun to do. It was a book title bingo game and we were all a little anxious to see how it would go over. It actually surpassed all our expectations! We had nearly 250 in attendance and from all accounts, everyone had a grand time! Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the event itself, but here are a few of the ‘getting ready’ shots.
Here is the giveaway table, holding lots of goodies for our attendees to grab. There was also a second table filled with books and tote bags, provided courtesy of our publisher, Harlequin. Those posters in the background were also provided by the folks at Harlequin and if you look closely you’ll get an early peak at the cover for my upcoming Sept. release, Texas Cinderella.
Here is a closer look at three of the covers along with fellow bingo mavens, Liz and Lenora.
And Here is a shot of the five of us kicking off the event.
Later that evening was the official kick off which was a Meet and Greet. The authors were asked to come up, one by one, introduce themselves, then pull a question from a jar and answer it. It was a bit nerve-wracking waiting to see what question you’d get, but I got lucky. Mine was ‘what author, other than those present, would you like to collaborate on a book with?’ My answer was the indomitable Maggie Osborne whose releases were on my auto-buy list and whose books I devoured as soon as I bought them. I still mourn the fact that she retired from writing.
Below is a picture of half of the author group, nervously waiting for their turn ‘at bat’
The next morning was the main event, the Saturday luncheon. Each author hosts a table that includes seven readers and the decorations and giveaways are marvelous to behold – it’s become informally known as table wars. My theme was Booklovers and here is a view of my table before the doors opened.
Just before the doors opened, we all gathered for an author group photo. (Can you spot me in the crowd?)
Then the doors opened and here is a shot of the fabulous ladies who sat at my table.
The luncheon was followed by a booksigning. Here is a shot of me with Jennifer, one of the lovely ladies I’m friends with online but don’t get to see in person very often.
There were fun and games later that evening, but I was having too much fun to get any pictures of that, I’m sorry to say.
The next morning there was a breakfast where again the readers selected an author to sit with, and while it was more low key than the luncheon, it was still a great opportunity to meet and visit with some wonderful readers.
And of course I couldn’t leave without getting a picture of me and the lady responsible for pulling this fabulous event together, Barbara Vey herself!
So there’s a very quick recap of a fabulous weekend.
And to celebrate, I have an extra one of those little Booklover bags I gave away at the luncheon and I would be happy to give it to one of you, along with the book of your choice from my backlist.
Simply leave a comment telling me if you’ve ever been to a reader luncheon and what you enjoyed most about it.
If you haven’t been to one, what would make it a can’t miss experience for you?