Lessons From My Grandmothers

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.

 

Wedding Disasters

My new sweet contemporary romance, Lilac Bride, releases next week. 

It’s the story of a couple who gets engaged on Christmas Eve, plan the perfect wedding, then face one disaster after another when it comes to their upcoming nuptials.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about wedding plans gone awry. In-laws wreaking havoc. Grooms so nervous they drink too much the night before and can barely stand up at the wedding. Brides turning into crazed maniacs in the quest to have a picture-perfect wedding.

Cakes falling to the floor. 

Florists accidentally delivering sympathy flowers instead of the wedding bouquet. 

Torn dresses, lost dresses, dresses that don’t fit. 

If you can imagine it, some poor bride or groom has endured it. 

Writing the story made me think of my own glitch-plagued wedding. 

The first hitch in the plans happened when my mom came down with the flu two weeks before my wedding. There were approximately a gazillion tiny buttons that still needed to be sewn on my dress, along with dozens of details that weren’t quite finished. She and I had planned to make the wedding cake together. Only she was sick, and I was up to my eyeballs with work, wedding plans, and the holidays (not my best idea to get married a week before Christmas but it seemed soooooo romantic at the time). My mother-in-law called me at work and informed me her friend was going to make the cake and that’s all there was to it then hung up. Although her take-charge attitude bothered me at the time, I was so glad her friend made the cake for us. It turned out beautifully, and was tasty, too. 

Captain Cavedweller, and several members of both of our families, caught the same bug that Mom had and began dropping like flies. Helping hands were limited as we neared the big day. The friend I’d asked to play the piano for us backed out two days before the wedding. Fortunately, a lovely girl I worked with at the time offered to step in. 

My maid of honor had sent measurements for her dress, since she lived almost eight hours away at the time. Mom made it, and when my dear friend tried it on, it didn’t fit. At all. So Mom stayed up late frantically ripping seams and making adjustments. 

Somehow, we made it to the wedding rehearsal where my soon-to-be sister-in-law jokingly announced I was pregnant (which I wasn’t). CC was angry. I was livid. My parents were simultaneously shocked and appalled.  I remember standing in the foyer of the church and discussing if eloping was still on the table. For months after the wedding whenever we encountered someone from CC’s side of the attendees who didn’t know me well they would give me a strange look, since I obviously wasn’t pregnant, and inquire about the arrival of the baby.

The day of the wedding, things went along fairly smoothly until the ceremony. My uncle was a county judge and we’d asked him to perform the ceremony. Except he got so nervous, he kept calling me by my sister’s name, and he bungled CC’s last name. When he announced the bride and groom at the end of the ceremony, instead of Shanna Hatfield, it came out Shelley Hathaway. Everyone in the crowd gasped in disbelief, which is evident on the video of our wedding. With all the air that was sucked in at that moment, it was lucky some of the decorations weren’t caught up in the vacuum. 

The wedding was held upstairs in an old church. The reception took place in the basement. On the way down the stairs, the heel broke off my never-before-worn satin wedding heels, leaving me to clomp the rest of the way down the stairs to our waiting guests like a peg-legged pirate. 

By the time we left for our honeymoon hours later, it was evident the flu I’d so carefully avoided catching caught up to me. 

I laugh about all the disasters now. When people ask if there is anything I would do differently about my wedding, I always answer the same: “I’d change everything but the groom!” 

 

In Lilac Bride, Kaden and Katherine endure any number of trials and tribulations when it comes to their wedding plans.  One of the many issues that popped up included their invitations. 

I thought you might enjoy reading a little snippet:

Thoughts of her kisses left him so distracted, he almost ran the drone into a tree. He guided it back toward the barn, then noticed Colt riding one of the horses he was training down the driveway. His brother rode out to the mailbox, gathered the mail, then started back. He was halfway to the house when he kicked the horse into a run and raced toward the barn, waving something over his head.

“Kade! Get down here! Hurry!” He could hear the alarm in Colt’s voice, even from his perch on the barn’s widow’s walk.

Kaden landed the drone, gathered his things, then rushed down the narrow staircase. He’d just reached the bottom when Colt burst into the barn.

“It’s so bad, Kade. She’s going to freak.” Colt waved an envelope and what appeared to be an invitation in his face.

“Who’s going to freak?” Kaden asked, setting his things on a workbench. He brushed his hands on his jeans before taking the pristine piece of creamy cardstock in his fingers and looking at a wedding invitation. His and Katherine’s wedding invitation. He knew she’d been able to get the reception address changed at the last minute and paid extra to have the invitations shipped to the guests from the print shop.

Watercolor lilacs swept across the upper left and lower right corners of the invitation, accented with sage-colored leaves and delicate gold edging. An elegant font announced the wedding and invited guests to attend the ceremony and reception. He glanced at the date to make sure it was correct, then looked at his brother. “It looks good.”

Colt appeared shocked. He tapped the card in Kaden’s hand, pointing to the first line of type. “Did you read it, you idiot?”

Kaden’s gaze dropped back to the invitation, and he quickly read each word. His eyes widened as his jaw dropped open.

He glanced up at Colt as trepidation seeped into every fiber of his being. “She is so going to freak.”

~*~

Lilac Bride releases February 25, but you can pre-order your copy today!

~*~

What about you?

Do you have any wedding disaster stories to share?

Post your comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of Lilac Bride!

A Home for the Holidays and a Give Away!

Hi Everyone!

I’m excited to announce that I have a new sweet holiday release.

A Home for the Holidays is the story of a world-traveling engineer who has never had a place to call home, except for during the four years he spent in Holly, Idaho, living with his aunt while attending high school. Jason Regan has no time to celebrate holidays, and no reason to settle down…until a Holly, Idaho judge sentences him to 100 hours of community service at the local animal shelter for a decade-old unpaid parking ticket. Jason is, in effect, sentenced to Christmas. 

Tess Evans is a recovering lawyer who now runs Forever Home animal shelter. She is thrilled to have a new volunteer, even after discovering that it’s the guy she’d crushed on in high school; a guy who had no clue that she was alive until a blabby friend told the world. But Tess will do her best to put her embarrassment behind her to join forces with Jason to empty the shelter by Christmas.

 

 

AMAZON

This series introduces my new small town series Holly, Idaho, so I’m giving away a Holly Jolly Christmas mug to one lucky commentor. 

Here’s an excerpt from my story:

“Hold on!” Tess Evans hung up the phone as her dad attempted to open the door to Forever Home while balancing two cinnamon lattes and carrying his toolbox. Pete Evans had a proclivity for doing things on his own, be it raising three motherless daughters or opening a door with his hands full. He was usually successful, but in this case, he was about to lose a latte.

“Really, Dad?” Tess said as she rescued the top cup of steaming coffee just before it toppled.

“I almost made it.”

Tess took the other cup from him and set it on her desk. Pete set down the other, then jerked his head toward the door leading to the dog kennel area. “Will Lisa be done feeding before her coffee gets cold?”

“Judging from the decibel level, I think she’s almost done.” Morning feeding was always a loud and happy time as the food trolley rolled along the concrete aisle between rows of kennels. But once the dogs had their meals, barking stopped as eating commenced, and the sound level dropped accordingly.

“Why the big smile?” Pete asked as he set down his toolbox.

“I don’t need you today.” Tess was still feeling slightly dazed from the phone call she’d just received from justice court.

“You don’t need me?” Her dad sounded shocked, but Tess read the relief in his gaze. Despite having a very tight schedule on his latest project, he stopped by the shelter every Tuesday morning to spend an hour nailing things back together. The problem with retrofitting an old garage into a new animal shelter was that there were a lot of hidden issues that poked their heads up at the most inopportune times. She and Lisa had painted the place cheerful colors—yellow and aqua—and kept it sparkling clean, but they didn’t have the time or the skillset to deal with loose concrete bolts and flapping siding—the latest ills.

“I have a new warm body.” Which was nothing short of a miracle this time of year when everyone was so busy. There was just one teensy part of that good news that kept Tess from doing a full-on happy dance.

“Cat? Dog? Iguana? No, wait. You said warm body, not cold. Scratch the iguana.”

Tess smiled. “No, Dad. A human. One with building skills. Judge Nelson sentenced a guy to community service and decided that I needed the most help right now. I get him for one hundred hours.”

“One hundred hours?” Pete tipped his chin toward the ceiling as he did a quick mental calculation. “Twelve days? That seems like a healthy sentence.” His eyes narrowed. “What, exactly, did this guy do to earn that much community service?”

“Parking ticket. And it’s twelve and a half days.” Judge Nelson’s assistant had emphasized that the entire sentence was to be served, down to the last hour. No early outs due to holiday bon homie.

Her dad’s eyebrows lifted. “Did he park in the mayor’s reserved space?”

“The ticket is years old. I think Judge Nelson gave him ten hours for each year it wasn’t paid.”

Pete gave a short laugh. “That sounds like something the judge would do. Who is it?”

“Jason Regan.” The instant the name left her mouth, Tess felt her cheeks go warm, and gave herself a mental kick.

You are not the same geeky girl who crushed on the man long ago.

Law school had changed her, given her confidence, leadership abilities…migraines. But if she hadn’t gone, hadn’t buried herself in research and paperwork for eighty hours a week, she wouldn’t have known how happy she was not doing that, or that her true calling was managing the animal shelter her late grandmother had started five years ago to take the pressure off the regional shelter that Holly shared with the nearby town of Everly.

Her dad’s forehead creased. “Must be an out-of-towner.”

“No,” she said in a casual voice. Too casual? “He was a senior during my sophomore year. He left right after high school. Mae Regan is his aunt.” It seemed best to leave out the part about him being her unrequited crush and utterly oblivious to her existence, except for one small incident in the school cafeteria. Oblivious, that is, until gossipy Melissa Braddock had read the signs, guessed the truth, and ratted Tess out to the general school population.

“Just doing you a favor,” Melissa had said when Tess had confronted her in horror after word had gotten back to her. “How else will you get his attention?” The amazing thing was that Melissa really believed she had done Tess a favor.

But Tess would give Jason this—he never treated her differently. Meaning, of course, that he hadn’t given her so much as a side-eye. Her hope was that the news had never reached him, or if it had, he’d brushed it off as so much gossip.

“Jason Regan…” Her dad’s eyebrows drew together. “Oh, yeah. He was the kid with the mean three-pointer.”

“That’s the one.” Tess shooed away her embarrassed teenage self as she confronted her new reality. “He’s mine for one hundred hours, and I intend to get every bit of work out of him that I possibly can.”

Mr. Regan was going to be a terribly busy man, and she was close to betting money that he wasn’t as amazing as she remembered him. Backyards got smaller and all that stuff. She’d probably take one look at him and wonder what the big deal had been.

To enter to win the holiday mug, tell me the place where you most enjoy spending the holidays. Please note that I’ll be on the road tomorrow, but will answer comments when I get back home. I’ll announce the winner on Friday, October 30.

Cheers!

Jeannie