Category: Julie Benson

Nature’s Meteorologists

My grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa

As I’ve said a time or six dozen, my maternal grandparents were Iowa dairy farmers. My grandfather was a short, stoic German man who possessed a loud voice and strong opinions. Getting to know him and earn his respect wasn’t always easy, as my husband, Kevin discovered.

My Grandpa Walter saw my husband as a city kid who knew nothing of farm life. (Which was true.) As a child someone shared an animal proverb with Kevin. When a cat washes behind its ear rain is on the way. On one visit, Kevin noted one of my grandmother’s barn cats washing behind its ear, and shared the weather prediction with my grandfather. My grandfather naturally thought this city kid couldn’t know what he was talking about. A while later, Kevin set off to pick up my mother a hour or so away and asked my grandfather to ride shotgun. On their way back to the farm, the skies opened up. Not only did it rain, it poured. One of those driving rains that makes it difficult to see when driving.

That day proved to be a turning point for my husband and grandfather. Kevin showed my grandfather he knew something about his world, and my grandfather developed a new respect for my husband. From that day on until the day my grandfather died, cats washing behind the ears predicting rain became a running joke between them.

Farmers and ranchers often looked to animals for indications of the weather, and reliance on these methods isn’t as silly as it sounds. While people might not have known when creating the proverbs, now science often explains the animals’ behaviors. For example, cats ears may be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure causing them to wash behind them when rain is coming.

Just for fun and to hopefully make your smile, here are some other animal proverbs from the Farmer’s Almanac.

  • If a cat sits with its back to a fire or sleeps with all four paws tucked under, bad weather is coming.
  • When a cat licks its fur against the grain, prepare for a hailstorm.
  • When a cat sneezes, rains is on the way.

 

But cats aren’t the only animal meteorologists…

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather should be fair. If it stands with its tail to the east, the weather will turn bad.
  • When a dog eats grass or sheep turn into the wind, expect rain. (Based on how often my dogs eat grass, I should be building an ark, so I’m not a big believer in this one! ?)
  • If a bull leads the cows to pasture, bet on rain. But if the ladies lead the bull, the weather is uncertain.
  • The more brown a wooly bear caterpillar, the milder the winter.
  • (This one isn’t super practical since it requires a
  •  tape measure. I can’t see many farmers measuring mole holes! ?) If the mole hole is 2 ½ feet deep, expect severe weather. If it’s 2 feet deep, it won’t be as severe, and 1 foot deep indicates a mild winter.
  • When pigs gather leaves and straw in the fall, prepare for a cold winter.
  • Fat rabbits in October and November indicate a long, cold winter.
  • Bats flying late at night mean fair weather.
  • Wolves howl more before a storm.
  • Predict the temperature by counting a cricket’s chirps.
  • Hornets building their nests high in a tree means a snowy winter.
  • Cows laying under a tree in the morning means rain is on the way.

And from the plants:

  • When leaves “turn their back to you” and curl somewhat, watch out for rain.

To be entered in today’s giveaway for the Live Happy sink soap mate, a llama car air freshener and a copy of A Cure for the Vet, leave a comment on your weather proverb.

 

Updated: June 3, 2020 — 6:36 am

Fall off that horse and come on in!

In 2018, I wrote on western, and particularly Texas, sayings. Then all of you commented with others I hadn’t heard. You had me laughing pretty much all day. My favorite came from fellow filly, Pam Crooks. “He’s foolish enough not to realize he shouldn’t jump a barbed wire fence naked.”

Pam’s saying reminded me of my four Wishing Texas Series heroes, because that’s the kind of friends they are. When one is being a jerk, the others call him on it. As my heroes aren’t traditional cowboys riding on the ranch, I often add western or Texas sayings to add to their western character. I had to find a way to use Pam’s saying. I’m writing Book 4 now, To Marry A Texas Cowboy, and Zane’s best friend says to him, “I suppose you think jumping a barbed wire fence naked is a good idea too.”

As I sat to write today’s post, I realized I needed a laugh. With everything going on in the world, I figured you could too. So, here are some sayings I found but didn’t have space for last time. I hope they make you smile and maybe even chuckle.

Might was well. Can’t dance, never could sing, and it’s too wet to plow.

So crooked you can’t tell from his tracks if he’s coming or going.

If I say a hen dips snuff, you can look under her wing for the can.

He’d argue with a wooden Indian.

He’s the only hell his mama ever raised.

He may not be a chicken, but he has his henhouse ways.

So dry the trees are bribing the dogs.

Better to keep your mouth shut and seem a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

He’s got a big hole in his screen door.

She’s two sandwiches short of a picnic.

He always draws the best bull.

He could sit on the fence and the birds would feed him.

My newest foster Bella, to make you smile!

If a trip around the world cost a dollar, I couldn’t get to the Oklahoma line.

He’d steal his mama’s egg money.

He could talk the gate off its hinges.

She speaks ten words a second, with gusts to fifty.

You were too hard to raise to take chances.

Anytime you happen to pass my house, I’d sure appreciate it.

You smell like you want to be left alone.

If brains were leather, he couldn’t saddle a flea.

He couldn’t hit the floor if he fell out of bed.

Looks like he was pulled through a knothole backwards.

There’s two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.

To be entered in today’s random drawing for the scarf, car air freshener and a copy of Home On the Ranch: Colorado Rescue, leave a comment about your favorite western saying. If you don’t have a favorite, tell me which saying above spoke to you the most. Thanks for sliding off and letting your saddle cool while you spent some time with me today. Stay safe until the next time we meet around the corral. 

 

 

Updated: April 8, 2020 — 9:26 am

These Boot Are Made For Giving!

After the Civil War, the boots cowboys were wearing weren’t cutting the muster on the job. While accounts differ whether this occurred in Kansas or Texas, most agree a cowboy went into a shoemaker asking for changes to the day’s boot style. Each feature the smart cowboy asked for fixed a problem. The pointed toe made it easier for him to get his foot in the stirrup. The taller shaft served the purpose of protecting his leg from mesquite tree thorns, barbed wire, snakes and other dangers. The bigger, thicker heel kept his foot from coming out of the stirrup. The boot’s tough leather protected a cowboy’s ankle from being bruised by the wooden stirrup.

The cowboy changed his footwear his footwear because it wasn’t working. A lot of my stories deal with something not working in my hero and/or heroine’s life. Sometimes they know they need to make a change. Sometimes not. Sometimes life forces them to make a change when it’s the last thing they want. But still, my characters tug on their boots, put one foot in front of the other, whether they’re happy about it or not, and walk toward the future.

In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, both AJ Quinn and Grace Henry are forced to make a change in their lives, and neither is very happy about it. Grace is laid off and her best friend talks her into coming to Texas to manage her bed and breakfast. AJ is undercover for the FBI taking the recently vacant job as chief of police to catch a forger. Both vow working in Wishing, Texas, is temporary. They know where they want their lives to go and this isn’t what they had in mind.

Their meeting is one of my favorites. Grace is driving into town and her breaks give out. She rear ends AJ’s truck. AJ tries to tell Grace who he is, but she won’t let him get the words out, instead saying they should exchange insurance info, call a tow truck and be on their way. AJ lists the reasons to call the police, her insurance company may require a police report, debris needs to be cleared from the road, and someone needs to divert traffic until their vehicles are moved. When Grace still resists, AJ asks if there’s a reason she doesn’t want the police called. Grace responds that all the police will do is complicate the issue and small-town police will be even worse about it. Talk about an awkward first meeting! I love when my characters dig themselves into a hole and refuse to put down the shovel!

Another thing I love to do is have the hero or heroine give a gift to the other during the story. Though they may not realize it at the time, the gift is a big turning point in their relationship. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, Grace is a New York city girl. AJ tells Grace she can’t keep running around in flip-flops and gives her a box. What does AJ give her? What else? A pair of cowboy boots she admired!

I’m going to admit something…I love shoes and I love boots even more. I have four pairs of cowboy boots I wear in the winter and various open toe ankle boots I wear in the winter. Stop by today and leave a comment about your favorite footwear to be entered to win a signed copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a pair of boot socks. 

Updated: March 26, 2020 — 9:34 am

Wishing Wells and Various Lucky Charms

As I took pictures of my foster Kimber for a St. Patrick Day’s post, I started thinking about “lucky” items. I love horseshoes. I pick up pennies I find. “Find a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.” I’ve always wished on the first star I see in the night sky. I throw coins in fountains. I’ve never found a 4-leaf clover, but if I had, I’d have kept it. Considering all that it’s not surprising that when I wanted to add something special to my fictional east Texas town, I chose a wishing well. But I’ve never thought about how the wishing well lore started.

Deciding to fix that, I did some research. The lore started because of man’s natural obsession with water. Since without water we humans are toast, water has been a major concern since we burst onto the scene. Many ancient cultures viewed underground springs as sacred gifts. In appreciation, people dropped tokens for the gods into the water. Wells or well houses built around water sources to protect them became gathering places. Germanic tribes believed spirits who liked to intervene in humans’ lives inhabited these waters, and if someone voiced a wish or hope, the spirits might grant the wish. Someone could increase the chances of the wish being granted by dropping a coin or small token in the well. And it turns out poor Odin, Thor’s father, lost his eye because water deity Mimir, who lived in and guarded the Well of Wisdom, demanded his right eye as payment for a drink. The legend says his right eye was thrown in the well for others to know there was a price for the well’s wisdom.

When I created my well, I wanted a twist so I made my well persnickety, only granting wishes made for someone else. I created a legend which started with two sisters, Anne and Alice. The short version is, after the Civil War when Anne’s husband failed to return, she became despondent and took to her bed. Alice, not knowing what else to do, stood at the family well, her tears dropping into the water as she tossed in a coin. She wished for her brother-in-law to return to the family who loved and needed him. Two days later, Sam returned, and the town’s legend was born.

I’ve had fun starting each book with a wish for the hero or heroine and weaving references to the well through the stories. In To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s sister Aubrey turns to the wishing well when she’s concerned he’s marrying the wrong woman. Book 2, To Catch A Texas Cowboy, opens with Ty making a wish for his best friend AJ Quinn. In To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my latest release in the Wishing Texas Series, Cheyenne Whitten’s sister Sheridan wishes for her to receive help with her health issues.

But like Odin, a price is demanded before the wish is granted. My hero and heroine must survive trials, struggles and conflict, often caused or exaggerated by what or rather who fate has decided possesses the answer to their loved one’s wish. Yup, my well enjoys stirring up lives and causing trouble before answering those wishes. Because just like in real life as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.”

Today’s giveaway is a horseshoe and a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy. This book contains my favorite wish so far. It’s my favorite mainly because it’s done in such a guy fashion. You’ll have to read the story to find out what Ty wishes for AJ. To be entered in the random drawing leave a comment about your favorite lucky charm or item to wish on. 

Updated: March 3, 2020 — 9:29 pm

To Tame A Texas Cowboy — Available Now

She poked at her cereal but couldn’t bring herself to eat over fear her stomach would protest. “How bad was last night’s? Was there anything involved other than major drooling?”

Please don’t let me have had any truly embarrassing loss of body functions in front of Mr. Tall, Dreamy and Intelligent.

“Nah, it wasn’t bad. I’m a vet. I’ve had dogs pee on me and cows shit on my boots. But the worst was when a horse kicked me in vet school. I got knocked flat on my ass and landed in a pile of horse dung in front of the entire class.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle and appreciate his effort to put her at ease. “Now that’s embarrassing.”

“You got that right, and it got worse when everyone in class started calling me shit kicker. Try living that nickname down.”

“No, thanks. You win the embarrassment sweepstakes.”

But only because it appeared her seizure last night had been mild.

“I don’t know how I got lucky enough to keep my corps buddies from finding out about it. I guess the separate worlds thing.”

“Ty doesn’t know about this alias?” When Cooper shook his head, she continued. “I can feel the power pulsing through my veins thinking of the possibilities. A barrel racing horse needs a lot of vet care. You know, I’m thinking we could cut a deal for my silence.”

His blue eyes darkened to a shade near cobalt. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as a blackmailer.”

“Not unless I’m in a real spot.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Not now, but I’m filing the information away just in case.”

“Smart woman.”

His comment shattered her playful mood. What would Cooper think if he discovered the truth, that she’d never graduated from high school, but earned a GED a couple years later?

“I should apologize for showing up last night. Aubrey and I were talking, and she suggested we come see you. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but…” Her voice trailed off. “There’s nothing else to say, except I’m the adventurous type, and it sometimes gets me into trouble.”

“I say we forget about last night. I wasn’t at my best either, and truth be told, I owe you an apology, too.”

“No, you don’t. I put you in an awkward position, asking for help to short cut the process. I’m not exactly proud of that, but in my defense, I’d had a long day with my mom, and I was pretty desperate.”

The sound of scratching against glass pulled their attention to the patio door a few feet away. The tri-colored dog and shepherd from last night stood peering inside. “I’d wondered where they were.”

When Cooper let the dogs in, Rowdy stayed with Cooper, but Penny made a beeline for Cheyenne and parked herself at her feet. “Did she push me onto the couch right before I blacked out?”

“Yup.”

Cheyenne glanced in the living room and the reality of what could’ve happened washed over her, making her tremble. “With the coffee table and end tables there, if not for Penny, I probably would’ve hit something when I fell.” Cheyenne leaned over and cupped the animal’s face between her hands. “I owe you a big thank you. You saved me another huge bump to the head or worse.” She turned to Cooper. “I wonder what made her do that.”

“She sensed you were going to have a seizure.”

“I knew service dogs could help keep someone safe once a seizure started, but I didn’t know they could sense before one started.”

“Opinions differ, but I’m a firm believer some can. Could be they sense something in a person’s behavior, or it’s possible their sense of smell is so keen, they detect a chemical change before the seizure hits. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick up on their natural alerting behaviors. A dog could nip at a person, bark like crazy in a way that’s different from its normal bark, or—”

“She whines and paws at a person.”

Cooper nodded. “A thought occurred to me last night.” He explained about a product he was working on.

Something about an app and a thing a person wore like a watch that went along with a device a dog was trained to press when an alarm sounded. That alerted a seizure patient’s emergency contact or EMS. The whole thing sounded odd and Cheyenne couldn’t understand how it would help. In fact, she was only half listening when Aubrey burst out of the bedroom. “Cheyenne, where are you? We’ve got a problem.”

Rowdy barked. Penny slid closer to Cheyenne and shoved her nose under her palm. “It’s okay, girl.” She patted the dog’s head while she called out to tell Aubrey she was in the kitchen.

Her friend rushed toward her, blonde hair tangled around her face, her clothes rumbled and cockeyed from sleep. Panic flared in her eyes. “I just talked to my mom. When yours couldn’t reach you this morning, she showed up at my apartment, and when you weren’t there, your hysterical mother called mine trying to find you. I told her where we were, but you should call her.”

Foreboding twisted Cheyenne’s stomach into a huge knot. “How bad is it?”

Before Aubrey answered, her phone rang again. “What now, Mom?” She paused to listen. “Tell her Cheyenne’s fine, and get her to call them back.”

 Call who back? Cheyenne wrapped her arms around her stomach to keep from shaking. What had her mother done now? Her mind refused to consider the possibilities. She glanced at Aubrey, whose skin had paled to a shade above zombie gray. This was bad.

When Aubrey ended the call, Cheyenne said, “What’s my mom done? Called out the national guard?”

“Close. She called the College Station police.”

To be entered to win today’s giveaway, leave a comment about an embarrassing moment like Cheyenne experienced above with her mother. One random person will win a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy, book 2 in my Wishing Texas series and the soup mug. 

Book 3 in the series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy is available now. Click here to order.

 

Updated: February 4, 2020 — 9:20 pm

Musings From A Budding Optimist

2020 is off and running for me with a big event. Tomorrow To Tame A Texas Cowboy is released! 

I’m also starting out the new year with a shiny new outlook thanks to some advice I received. 

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter teaches us something. I also believe the simplest action sometimes has a profound impact. That’s what I discovered when I entered Maxine’s Uptown Boutique, in Pitman, New Jersey and met Jinger Cahill. What she told me changed my outlook. Today, I’m passing on her wisdom.

My heroine, Cheyenne Whitten, a barrel racer, is definitely an optimist. For me, that sometimes proved difficult. My strength has been seeing possible pitfalls in situations. Because of that, I never would’ve called myself an optimist and have tried to change that. I’ve heard “it’s how you look at something” before. It’s the old the glass is half-full, not half-empty idea, but I’ve struggled to put those words into practice.

Jinger taught me what I give voice to, I give power to and attract more of. When I said I struggled with negativity, the universe heard, “Hey, I love negativity! Give me more!” As I’m writing, the vision of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors saying “Feed me, Seymour” popped into my head! 🙂 

Over the years, people have told me not to worry. I’ve been given what I call the Frozen advice—Let it go.  I’ve been told not to get my panties in a bunch. I thought it was great advice, but wondered how to accomplish it? How do I rewire my brain? Then Jinger shared a quote from Mother Teresa. “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” The light bulb went off. My brain screamed, “I understand it now!” Instead of concentrating on what not to do, I needed to give my brain something else to focus on! The way for me to fend off those emotions was to work on being more positive.

I’ve never been a big believer in affirmations. Imagine Natalie Wood’s character, Susan in Miracle on 34th Street. When she doesn’t find the gift she asked Santa for under the tree, in the car on the way home she mutters, “I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” That was me when I tried Jinger’s affirmation, and like Susan, I received a surprise.

“Great I Am, White Light of Truth (you can tailor to your own beliefs), only good will come to me. Only good will go from me. So be it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Those few words reframed my thinking. They remind me to stay positive. When I slide back into old ways, they remind me to look at the flip side of a situation and to focus on what I can do, rather than what I shouldn’t.

If what I’ve shared resonates with you, great. If not, file it away. Someone you meet may need to hear it one day. Whichever the case, thank you for being here today, and I wish you a blessed 2020 full of possibilities. 

I have two giveaways today. One person will receive the Chakra bracelet from Jinger’s shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique. Another will receive the Goldstone bracelet, and both will receive a copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the random drawing leave a comment about the best or most impactful advice you’ve received. 

Click here to buy a copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. Click here to like and follow Jinger’s shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique on Facebook.  

Updated: January 7, 2020 — 9:13 pm

My Blessings and a Cover Reveal!

As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I find myself with a long list of blessings. I’ll share a few with you.

I’m thankful for my good health and those who’ve made it possible. I’m grateful for my family, particularly my boys who have grown into young men I’m incredibly proud of. I’m ecstatic the universe sent Kim, my partner in crime as my dear husband calls her, into our lives. I’m grateful beyond measure for meeting Jinger Cahill when I wandered into her shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique in Glassboro, New Jersey. Jinger’s wisdom and insight has changed my outlook on life in ways I never imagined. She might even make an optimist out of me! (Check back in January 8, 2020. I think sharing what Jinger’s taught me will make a perfect New Year blog!) I’m thankful to two dear friends, Lori Halligan and Jennifer Jacobson, who continue to be there for me through life’s ups and downs. Everyone should be so blessed to have two such caring, beautiful women in their lives. I’m beholden to the staff at Starbucks, Custer and 15th and their steadfast support that the words will in fact come. Lastly, but certain=ly not least, ’m thankful for my loyal readers who’ve been with me on this crazy writing journey, and I’m pleased to share the cover and release date for the next book in my Wishing Texas Series.                                                                          

To Tame A Texas Cowboy coming January 9, 2020!

Click here to pre-order.

Here’s the back cover copy.

They want different things, but they just might need each other

Dennis’s beloved service dog, Penny Lane,

Barrel racer Cheyenne Whitten returns to Wishing, Texas, after an injury, determined to recuperate and return to the rodeo circuit. But living with her over-protective mother only adds to Cheyenne’s problems. Desperate to move out and reclaim her independence, Cheyenne believes a service dog is the answer. That is, until she learns the waiting list for one is up to five years.

Having lost his fiancée two years ago, Cooper Abbott wants to run his veterinarian clinic and rebuild his life. A calm, stable, uneventful life. Then Cheyenne shows up asking for help getting a service dog, and Cooper finds he can’t refuse the feisty redhead.

Cheyenne and Cooper insist a relationship is the last thing they want. Cheyenne is focused on her health and returning to the rodeo. Cooper’s heart is still raw from loss. But it could be they’re exactly what each other needs.

Every book I write is a labor of love and a book of my heart. If they weren’t, I couldn’t write them, but the labor for To Tame A Texas Cowboy was more difficult than most. Because of that, receiving the cover and a release date has been doubly sweet. Another thing that makes this book extra poignant for me is the fact that while I was writing it, Dennis Pisarski who helped inspire the idea, lost his dear Penny Lane. I hope looking down from heaven she’s honored by the character I created. 

As we all prepare for our Thanksgiving feast, leave a comment about your favorite Thanksgiving food (other than turkey!) to be entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of
To Catch A Texas Cowboy, the holiday wine glass and snowman/stocking ornament. Thank you again for being part of my thankful list and stopping by to chat. May your Thanksgiving be full of blessings.

To sign up for my newsletter click here and scroll down. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: November 27, 2019 — 9:33 am

Happy Cabbage Night!

I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.

Now on to Halloween…

I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.

In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.

Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.

Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!

Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.

However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.

Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.

Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.

Updated: October 30, 2019 — 8:31 am

I Invited a Friend to the Corral–Ann Roth!

This month Harlequin has re-released my novel The Rancher and the Vet and Ann Roth’s Montana Vet in a two in one book entitled A Cure for the Vet available in Wal-Mart and on Amazon. In honor of that, I’m doing something special. Today, you’re getting two blogs in one because Ann Roth has joined me to chat about her book.

From Ann:

My novel, Montana Vet, is actually book 3 of my Prosperity, Montana, miniseries. Books 1 and 2 will be out in January, in another 2 in 1 release. No worries—I wrote the books as stand-alone stories featuring siblings. They don’t have to be read in order.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of Montana Vet.

Veterinarian Seth Pettit has been AWOL from Prosperity for some time. Now he’s come home… with a fourteen-year-old girl in tow.

I have a soft spot in my heart for foster kids. I feel the same tenderness and concern for abandoned and abused dogs, which is one reason I felt compelled to create heroine Emily Miles, who shares my sentiments and has founded a shelter for these animals. The other reason, of course, is that she’s the perfect match for Seth Pettit—even though neither of them is looking for romance.

How Seth and Emily get together and fall in love is a story you don’t want to miss!

A little about me:

My genre is contemporary romance. I love happy endings, don’t you? Especially when two characters are so right for each other, but don’t know it.

To date, I have published over 35 novels, and several short stories and novellas, both through New York publishers and as an indie author.

For a list of my novels and to sign up for my newsletter, click here to visit my website. I love to hear from readers! Email me at ann@annroth.net and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

From Julie:

Like Ann’s story, The Rancher and the Vet, features a veterinarian, but mine is the heroine, Avery McAlister. The hero is her first love, Reed Montgomery who returns to Estes Park to become a surrogate parent to his teenage niece.

I love writing old flame stories because there’s instant conflict, chemistry and sexual tension when they step on the page. But that wasn’t the only reason I enjoyed this story. Another was because I could have animals cause trouble throughout the book. Thor, Reed’s niece’s pet chihuahua, does his best to give Reed a proper welcome, complete with leaving him “presents.”

Tito available for adoption with Cody’s Friends Rescue

But I had the most fun with scenes between Reed and his niece. Making a bachelor caring for a teenage girl was more fun than should be legal. Talk about torturing a hero! One of my favorite scenes is when Reed takes Jess shopping for a school dance. Now that’s a man’s worst nightmare come to life. Thankfully for Reed when he’s in over his head, Avery comes to his rescue. At one point, I couldn’t get Avery and Reed alone without them sacrificing their pride. I groused that I wished I could lock them in a closet together. Thankfully Reed’s niece was happy to comply…

Thanks again to Ann Roth for joining me in the corral today. Since Ann’s book is set in Montana and mine is in Colorado, we want to know your favorite ranch location. Two randomly chosen commentators receive a copy of A Cure for the Vet. One signed by Ann and one by me. So, let’s hear what you think. If you could have a ranch anywhere, where would it be?

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Updated: August 28, 2019 — 12:38 pm

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