Archive for the ‘ Tale and Treat ’ Category

A Tale and A Treat When Plans Fail and Other Acts of God’s Love (part 2)

My wonderful husband is still unemployed. That has not changed. We did not plan for him to be jobless. Who does?  But it is an astonishingly frequent event in the lives of those around us today.

 When we talked last year about Jeff going back to school again, the agreement was that his quest for a PhD had to run alongside the other things that we were doing, like working fulltime. However, the doors of the university continue to open as the doors for employment shut. He has been accepted into the program he desired and it even includes a teaching assistant position. If he goes to school part-time and continues to look for a full-time position, it just might work.

Right now we are paying close attention to the movement of the Spirit, reading scripture, praying and praying and praying . . . for His will for our lives.

And now we wait. Wait to see what incredible, or even ordinary, things that God has for us as we step out in faith.

Riley Morgan, in Long Trail Home has lost more than his faith. After returning from war he lost his parents and his fiancé. His dreams did not work out as he planned either.

But how could God have allowed him to lose so much?

Annie Sheffield was many things: a thief, an orphan, a child looking for a home, but she was definitely not blind. Miss Laura Wilcox knew all these things about Annie but she chose to accept her into the Wilcox School for Blind Children anyway. Laura needed the help and Annie needed a home. The only catch was: Annie had to make everyone around her believe she was blind.

Annie became a young woman by the time Riley Morgan came to work at the school, and he grew to admire Annie for her bravery in the face of her disability. His crusty façade began to wear as Riley came to care for the children living there. With little warning, Otis Ramsey swooped into town to announce that the benefactor of the school, Mr. Henry Morrow, has died—and he, Otis Ramsey, was going to shut down the school. They have 30 days to vacate the property he has inherited.

Laura, Annie, Riley and all the children are going to lose their home. They’re devastated.

This situation caused a unique conflict for Annie, after dedicating her heart to God at a tent meeting. Annie feels she must tell the truth. Will the town reject her once the truth is out? What about Riley? Where will she go once the school is closed?

Our plans are often interrupted; they often fail. But, God always has plans and they are often far better than we can imagine. Read how Laura, Annie and Riley live out His plan in Long Trail Home, due out this fall.

A Treat:

I took a poll around the office and many agreed that nothing screams Texas louder than a barbecue recipe. Well, I am going to do you one better with a smoked brisket recipe. I love brisket, it is my favorite cut of meat and when it is prepared properly it is a game changer. I like brisket so much that I consider myself a snob about it. With the help of this website I was able to find a great recipe that seems foolproof.

Texas Smoked Brisket Recipe

1 large untrimmed brisket
1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 Tsp ground coriander
2 Tsp oregano
3 or 4 mesquite wood chunks

Mix the spices, salt, and sugar well, then coat the mixture onto the brisket. Plastic wrap it and let it rest in the fridge overnight if you have time… if not, try to give it at least a couple of hours. And remember, to get that dry rub flavor into the meat on both sides, score the fat on the fatty side. Cut down into the fat far enough to just expose the meat, in a pattern of one inch squares.  Smoke the meat with the mesquite chunks. If you don’t care for mesquite, oak will do a great job. When the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, take the meat off, cover it, and let it rest for thirty minutes to an hour before slicing it across the grain. This final step is very important. It allows the meat to absorb its own juices and will leave you with an extremely tender and flavorful cut of smoky meat. Unfortunately, a smoker is necessary for this delightful dish, so either invest in one or head over to a friend’s house where there is a smoker and offer to make them dinner.



A Tale and a Treat When Plans Fail and Other Acts of God’s Love (Part 1)

Just this morning my husband remanded me that last Christmas I gave him a note which read:

 Now you can THINK about going back to school for your PhD.


This is one of those life-goals Jeff has had for himself—something that he has always wanted. You will find it right at the top of his Bucket List.

After we were married and had children we both returned to school for more education. Each of us took turns supporting the other. Working more than full-time with two children was a challenge. We tried to keep our priorities straight and we made it through. The PhD continued to be his goal—allowing him to teach more than just adjunct classes at the university. However, this time there seemed to always be a “but.” But we just bought a house. But we are saving for the boy’s education. But your mother is ill. But I’m unemployed . . . and the years marched on. It has taken me more than 10 years to get to this point: the point where I felt I could handle the necessary schedule that I knew it would take. Now we are virtually empty-nesters, I have a job I love, it calls for a demanding schedule anyway and an hour and a half commute every day. No time like the present.

I think Jeff was on the Web December 26th checking out programs. Since both of us were employed and our youngest son was almost finished with his undergraduate degree, it seemed like things were lighting up enough for Jeff to start making some plans to finish his own education. So we continued to pray for God’s blessings on our plans.

That is where I think we went wrong.

Life started to fall apart. The poor economy hit all private schools. They are down by 20% on average. Since most early childhood centers operate on a shoestring anyway a 20% shortfall over a year or more can lead to disaster. His school was holding its own but administration did not want to take the hit of his salary for one more year so they decided to eliminate his position and run the school from their other location. Jeff was no longer going to be employed in the fall.  Perhaps the time was not right after all. Then Jeff’s pickup truck caught on fire and the extra car our youngest son used at college broke down. Suddenly we were a one car family without income to purchase another car. Sound familiar? So many people I know are in similar or worse situations these days.

And we began a new prayer. Lord, our plans never quite work out the way we think that they ought to. We know that you have plans  for us more wonderful than we can imagine. We are hanging on. Show us the way.

Have you been there?

The main character, Riley Morgan, of Long Trail Home has been there. Riley hasn’t heard from his family or his fiancé in more than a year. At the beginning of the third book in the Morgan Family series, Riley returns home from the Civil War in 1865. He left home an innocent, young man of 19 and was returning a war-weary man of 23.  

Riley had plans when he returned home. He planned to apologize to his parents for the foolish words he uttered the last time he saw them, and beg their forgiveness. Then he planned to snatch up the women of his dreams and take her to the altar as fast as he could. He and his bride would settle on his pa’s ranch until they got their own place. This is something he had always wanted. It was right at the top of his Bucket List.

He returned home to find his parent’s ranch burnt and empty. There were two new graves in the family plot. His parent’s crosses joined his younger brother’s on the hillside. Riley’s family was gone.

Riley galloped toward Miranda’s house. Hoping, praying that his fiancé was alive and that she still loved him. He was welcomed into the Cooper’s home only to be told that he has lost Miranda too. She married another man while he was away at war. Devastated he refused to return to his parent’s home,  refused to face the memories. He had no job, no money, and no place to live.

The haggard Riley wandered across The Wilcox School for the Blind looking for work. In some ways he reminded the Headmaster of the girl, Annie, who they accepted into the school seven years earlier. She too, lost her home and family—and presumably her sight. But Annie had a secret.

Riley starts over living in a small room out back of the school. Doing odd jobs, he works for little and begins to let the pieces of his life come back into place.

But how could God have allowed him to lose so much?

Check in next week for the second part of Tale and a Treat.  God assures us that he will not let us stay the way we are regardless of our present condition; he has plans better than we can imagine.



Cornbread is a wonderful addition to chili which we talked about last week. The two really go hand in hand. Just talking about this combination is making me yearn for fall and all of its belly warming food. I like my cornbread with a little kick and I also like to be able to eat it alone as opposed to it being so dry that it can only be used to soak up soup or chili. I add a half can of green chilies to my cornbread recipe which adds a little flavor and a little heat. If you eat a slice warmed with melting butter and a touch of maple syrup it is a great combination of sweet and savory.  You will notice that a skillet is mentioned in the instructions and I will say it really is the way to go. I was just talking to Deb about cornbread and she informed me that she has a skillet that is meant only for her cornbread. That is a special skillet. Check out the recipe here and don’t wait for fall to whip up a batch. 

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup canned creamed corn
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/2 can green chilies, drained

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Butter 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Add creamed corn, butter, egg, and chilies. Stir just until blended. Spoon batter into a skillet.

Bake until edges begin to pull away from skillet sides and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack.


A Tale and A Treat

A Tale:

Family Reunions Take Time

Every year I make a pilgrimage to Upper Michigan for a reunion with my Husband’s side of our family. And, every year the participants change. Some of our members are unable to make the trip anymore due to health issues. Some are too busy. Some are broke. Some have a rotation with their other relatives and this is “not the year” to visit with us. So, every year is a new dynamic.

This summer was no different. My husband’s eldest brother was unable to make the voyage and since he is the patriarch, and the funniest of his seven siblings, David K. was sorely missed.

This year we did have an addition to our party. I’ve been married to my husband, the very same man, for 28 years, and this is the first time I have ever laid my eyes on our great-nephew’s face; for the first time I had the privilege of getting to know the grandson of my brother-in-law, Daniel, his wife, and their five year-old daughter. My pilgrimage only took about five to six hours to drive by car. Their journey from California took a few flights across the country and a rental car—plus, of course, time.

My husband’s last memory of Daniel was as a baby stretched out on the dining room table with a cloth diaper underneath him and one on top as he was being changed. Sometime in life choices and circumstances can cause family members to drift apart, add to that many years of maturing, and decades can fly by between reunions.

In the second title in the Texas Trail series, Captive Trail, the Morgan family longs for a reunion that in the end involves flights (on horseback), nuns, shotguns, life circumstance, and is many years waiting. The story opens when Taabe Waipu flees from her Comanche village on the eve of her wedding. She sets her course for the south on a horse she stole from her dowry. She heads home—even though she doesn’t know exactly where that is or who she really belongs to.

Ned Bright spots a lifeless body by the side of the road as he delivers letters, packages and people for The Butterfield Overland Mail Company: a white woman in native clothing. He delivers the injured Taabe and his unusual passengers, a group of Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station near Fort Chadbourne.

Traumatized, weak, dehydrated, and feverish, Tabbe recuperates at the mission while Ned and the Sisters try to find the family she was kidnapped from as a child. She lives in constant fear that the braves will return to take her back to her Comanche village before she can remember her Christian name and the dangerous language she drove out of her memory. 

Just as she is set to reunite with her family, the brave she was destined to marry descends upon the mission with shotguns and torches. Tabbe must make a choice. Give up and return to the native village or risk the lives of her friends, Ned and the Sisters. The nuns pray. Shots are fired, torches are thrown, and at least one person is caught in the fight.

Captive Trail is filled with adventure against the backdrop of Texas history. More information is to come from the author, Susan Page Davis. So, keep checking our blog as the launch in September draws near.


A Treat:

When I think of Texas, I think of chili and barbecue, but mostly chili. Man, do I have a phenomenal recipe for chili. I use ground turkey, black beans, plenty of mushrooms, and a can of spicy Rotel for added flavor. I love chili in the fall and winter. As much as I hate to admit it, fall is right around the corner. It is such a great 1 pot meal.


1 ½ lbs ground turkey

1/8 cup chili powder, or more to taste

2 tbsp tomato paste

1-2 red peppers, chopped

1-2 green peppers, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 carton mushrooms, chopped

1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 14.5 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes with chilies)

1 14.5 oz can tomato puree

1 14.5 oz cans tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups brown rice, unprepared

Sour cream

Cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Directions: Brown the ground turkey in a Dutch oven with the chili powder and tomato paste. Add the chopped vegetables and then the tomatoes, puree, and sauce. Add the beans, and let the entire dish simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. While the chili is simmering, prepare your rice by following the directions on the bag.  When the rice is done and the chili is warmed through start serving it up by scooping rice into a bowl and topping it with chili. From there, add cheddar cheese and sour cream. I don’t even use a spoon, I just use tortilla chips to eat the whole bowl.

Enjoy this recipe as the weather starts to inevitably cool. Maybe enjoy it while you are reading the latest book in the Texas Trails series.


God’s Providence, A Sprained Ankle, and German Emigration in Texas (part 1)

My life has been filled with surprises lately–not all welcome ones either, like a sprained  ankle. 

The ICRS conference this week was the perfect time to launch River North Fiction, Moody Publisher’s new line. We didn’t receive the necessary legal approval to use our logo until late, so tight timing threatened to derail our plans. At the last minute–I mean VERY last minute–we completed our cute press  packets and shipped them overnight to the convention hotel with 15 minutes to spare.

I was all set. Flights were made. Check. Hotel reservations made. Check. Last-minute meetings with agents, authors and press contacts made and confirmed. Check and check. Bags packed. Check. One quart-sized ziplock bag filled with travel-sized containers of my favorite lotions, hair products, and cosmetics ready for security. Check, check and double check.

My husband and I kissed goodbye at O’Hare airport and I was officially launched on my trip to Atlanta with every hope for a successful convention.

Or so it would seem.

Unscathed through ticketing and security, I set off for the gate. With time for breakfast, I planned to fly out in the morning, drop my bags at the hotel and arrive  on the convention floor in plenty of time to make my first meeting just after lunch. The airline staff announced the boarding for the first set of passengers. They began to assemble at the counter in an organized fashion. And they stood there. Waiting. Without warning the sun dimmed; the skies grew dark; lighting cracked so loudly it was audible over the hum of jet engines; cosmic force winds drove pelting water against the windows. The plane outside at the end of the gangplank disappeared. Then the gangplank vanished and with it so did my hopes of flying out of Chicago.

Almost as fast as it arrived the storm subsided. The gangplank and plane became visible once more but the force of the storm changed the course of the day. My flight was canceled; long lines quickly formed once again around the ticket counter. I lost all hope of flying out by 3:00pm. The whole day was spent standing in line trying to get a flight out and canceling and rescheduling the meetings it took days to arrange. Tomorrow I would try again.

 Things were definitely off to a rough start.

 So too for one of our heroines in the new fiction series Texas Trails, about Texas history in the 1800’s and five generations of a family named Morgan.

 In the first title, Lone Star Trail, Wande Fleischer, along with her parents and siblings left their home in Germany. All they had was a cart full of their belongings and hope. Hope for a new start. Hope for promised land free for then to farm. Hope for marriage to Wande’s fiancé who traveled before her to establish their home. Hope for all their children to have a prosperous future.

 However, in 1845, Wande was greeted in Victoria, Texas with torrential rain. Her beloved sister perished the first few days after landing. Now their cart was stuck in the middle of the dirt road as she sunk knee deep in mud and fought the temptation to raise her fist in defiance to the God who brought them there and the wagon that passed without helping.

 Jud Morgan had no interest in helping any of the German immigrants flooding the countryside. Not even if they looked rather helpless with their belongings strewn all over the road. He wished they would go back to where they came from.  He wanted nothing to do with them.

 However, Jud’s compassionate mother took pity on the Fleischer family and offered them a place to stay–leaving Jud to face his fear, anger, and prejudice.

 A good rain can also bring in some unexpected blessings along with a change of plans including a sprained ankle. More on Tuesday.


In honor of our Texas Trails Series coming out in August I took to Twitter and Facebok to figure out what the ideal Southern dessert is and I decided to make a traditional peach cobbler. It was a hit here at the office! I put it out and less than 30 minutes later the dish was clean! I have now been reassured by one coworker that they will eat anything I bake. I am a recipe kind of girl when it comes to baking. There is too much of a science involved for me to take any detours.

I used a recipe from Paula Deen the Southern Belle herself Paula’s Peach Cobbler . For those of you who know Ms. Deen, there is no need to fear the amount of butter in this recipe. I would say it qualifies as average. The trickiest part of this dessert was defnitely the peeling of the peaches. It was worth it though for their sweet juiciness as opposed to canned peaches. I truly feel that the fresh peaches made all the difference in the world for this cobbler. The other key that Paula stresses is being sure to use self-rising flour. She is right, don’t even mess around with anything other than the self-rising in this recipe. We will branch out as this six book series is released and maybe try a chili, barbecue sauce, baked beans, oh, cornbread, technically we can do anything. Send us your thoughts on a great Texas recipe we should try out as we continue to discuss the Texas Trails Series