Monday, November 16, 2015

Cookbook Giveaway Winners Announced!

All right! Congrats to:

Diane Stanko
Patty Brooks
Ethel Appenzeller
Pamela Wright
Donna Solze and
Marie Garthwaite

Come on down! (If you're not on this list, don't fret ... keep reading. Another chance to win is right around the corner!)

Okay, so maybe you don't need to go anywhere, but you've just won a free copy of my new Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook! 

What you do need to do is to send me your mailing address and I'll get your prize right out to you. You can PM me on Facebook or drop me a line via my website contact page. So happy that you won - I really think you're gonna LOVE this cookbook!

Over 100 recipes requiring less than 20 minutes hands-on prep time, plus lots of great organizing tips, funny foodie stories, suggested menus, and even premade grocery lists to make your culinary life easier.

I want to thank everyone who entered the Cookbook giveaway and remind you that the fat lady hasn't sung yet! It ain't over folks! Stay tuned for another even BIGGER contest beginning on Black Friday (Nov.27). 

Besides more chances to win copies of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, the grand prize will be a Decom-Stress Your Kitchen prize package containing all kinds of goodies (my personal favorites) to help free up your crazy-busy self and enjoy the holidays. Details will be announced right here a few days before Thanksgiving so be sure to subscribe to my blog if you haven't already.

And by the way, BBFF's (Best Blog Friends Forever), I would greatly appreciate your review of any of my books on Amazon or Goodreads - people really read those reviews and you'd be helping me out immensely (assuming you don't mention that you use my book pages to potty train your puppy!).

Wishing all my BBFF's a Thanksgiving full of gratitude to Papa God, great food, and family warmth!


P.S. I'd  LOVE to hear from any of you who try out some of the recipes from my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook for Thanksgiving, like Sweet Potato Dumplings, Carrot-Squash Sensation, or Mudbar Ecstasy to name a few. And hey, be sure to send me a photo if you spatchcock your turkey!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Wee Hours

Whew! I'm dragging. And there's not much I can do about it. Aside from clonking myself over the head with a hammer.

And believe me I've considered it.

About five years ago I asked Papa God for more hours in the day to get things done. He sent me menopause. Now I have half the stinkin' night too.

Insomnia has its good points, I suppose. I sure get a lot done before the sun comes up. Many days I've put in 2-3 hours of work on my writing before most folks get out of bed.

I've witnessed some humdinger sunrises.

I know which streetlights are the best bat hangouts.

Star constellations I never knew existed are now my favorite nightlights.

I've learned there are at least ten shades of quiet.

When you e-mail people at 3 a.m., it's downright shocking how many people write back.

So I'm not alone. There are many of you out there having tea parties in the wee hours. (I'm convinced that phrase was invented by a menopausal woman on a midnight potty run.)

Let me share with you a scripture that gives me comfort in my insomniac affliction: "He awakens me morning by morning. He awakens my ear to hear as a disciple" (Isaiah 50:4-5, NASB).

Makes me wonder if Peter, James, or John were ever awakened from a dead sleep by a grinning Jesus donning his Nike's for a 4 a.m. hike.

At least we're in good company.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cookbook Giveaway

Releases Nov 1
I'm really excited to announce that my long awaited Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook will hit bookstore shelves in a matter of days!

I want you to be as excited as I am, so I'm GIVING AWAY copies!!

If you’ve been following my blog (if not, subscribe now so you won't miss anything), you know there are already contest winners eagerly awaiting the Nov 1 release date for their free copies of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook

Well guess what? You can be a winner too!

All you have to do is promise you’ll post a review on Goodreads and/or Amazon after you get the Cookbook – I trust you to follow through, of course, BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever) – and drop me an e-mail to that effect. (Click on "e-mail") 

Your name will go into the drawing for SIX happy Cookbook winners, to be announced right here on Monday, Nov 16.

You’ll receive your prize in time to enjoy the awesome Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes, and get a hearty chuckle over the funny holiday stories tucked between recipes like this one:

Chuckle Break: Mystery Guest
From the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook

Don't you just hate it when you overcook your holiday turkey? That shriveled up thigh meat shrinks right up their naked little leg bones till it looks like the bird's wearing high-waters.

One day I was grousing about this very thing to my friend Ruth (who could give Rachel Ray a run for her money in a cook-off), and she suggested I spatchcock my next turkey.

"Um... what?" I asked, thoroughly confused. "Shuttlecock my bird? I don't have a badminton racket big enough to whack a sixteen-pound birdie. Will a tennis racket do?"

"No," she replied, trying to keep a straight face at my ignorance. "Spatchcock. It means remove the backbone and flatten out the turkey so it will cook evenly. The skin turns out crispy and the meat perfect. I won't serve turkey any other way."

I truly thought I was being bamboozled, but when I went online and searched "spatchcock," sure enough there was a video of an aproned man de-backboning a turkey then squashing it flat so the poor thing looked like it flew into the front grill of a semitruck.

So maybe I'll give it a try. And then I can tell everyone we're having a special guest for dinner this Thanksgiving - Alfred Spatchcock. 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'd Rather Eat Oatmeal

Floating restaurant in Thailand
My missionary friends Lilli and Rene just got back from Thailand and in honor of the upcoming release of my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, entertained Spouse and me with foodie stories for hours.

In Bankok, they encountered floating markets on wide canals that contained little shoppes and restaurants. The restaurants were quite unique.

Get a load of those squid
Ladies in little skiffs below the platform cooked the food on charcoal and propane grills - shrimp, crab, squid, fish - and passed the plates up to the servers.

My friends didn't know the reasons behind this strange arrangement, but we theorized that maybe in case of fire, they could just shove the skiff out onto the water so not to burn down the entire wooden market.

I know that's why kitchens were often built away from the rest of the house in early America; kitchen fires from wood-burning stoves were rather commonplace and spread too quickly to save the rest of the house.

Fried crickets. Yum, right?

But the most memorable food experience of all was when my friends were served fried crickets. Rene said they're crunchy like chips but have a nasty aftertaste.

Oh. My. Salivating. Glands.

Lilli said she preferred to stay away from any foods that might hop, slide, swim, or squirm off her plate. 

All photos by Rene Palacio
Reminded me of the time Spouse and I traveled to Bavaria and picky me couldn't stomach all the pickled foods (I'm squeamish about vinegar). So I lived off instant oatmeal packets I'd snuck into my luggage from home (just add bottled water, and voila - lunch!).

Come to think of it, I lost 5-lbs on that trip. Maybe I should go to Thailand - I could shed that extra 10-lbs I picked up preparing and tweaking and preparing and tweaking recipes for the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook.

So the moral of this story?

Don't become a missionary (or misson'ry as Lilli says in her lovely South African accent) unless you have an open minded palate or a crate of instant oatmeal.   

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stress-Free Cooking

Look what's hot!  Here's the third video sample of one of the great dishes from my upcoming Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (releasing Nov 1, 2015). Every recipe requires less than 20 minutes hands-on prep time to help decom-stress your life.

You can preorder the cookbook HERE

You're gonna love Cheese-Broccoli Chowder - so easy to make and deliciously rich. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some Day

Fascinating Turkey
We were four old friends sitting together in a restaurant catching up over lunch.

Judie enthralled us with exotic tales of her trip to Turkey, which she had always said she'd take some day, and finally did.

Joy's fork paused halfway to her mouth and she pensively said, "Some day. I just read about a woman who always said that some day she'd wear the beautiful nightgowns she received every Christmas.

But that some day never came. When she died, they were all folded neatly in her closet with the tags still on them."

"My aunt did that too," Nancy chimed in. "She always had the most frayed, worn towels hanging in the bathroom, so we gave her set after set of pretty new towels, which she said she'd use some day. We found them all stacked beneath her bed after she was gone."

A long silent moment passed. Then Joy said, "I think we need to break free of that way of thinking ... putting off the best for some day. Some day is now."

She's right.

Saving the best for some day resonated with me. Maybe I got that from my mother, who always dressed like a ragamuffin when company wasn't coming and saved her good clothes until she outgrew them and never got the chance to wear them.

Or maybe I just fancy myself too plain, practical and pragmatic to eat on the good china. So it sits in the china cabinet untouched year after year collecting dust.

Why do we do that? Why do so many of us limp along, making do with second best or even rags in life? I'm not talking about just nightgowns or towels, but jobs, relationships, personal accomplishments ... so many areas in which we give up trying too soon.

Do we not think we're worthy of something better?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stirred, Not Shaken

Our charred porch

I startled awake from a dead sleep last Sunday afternoon, the word we all dread to hear vibrating through my every molecule.

"Fire!" I heard it again, this time recognizing Chuck's strained voice only a decibel below scream level.

Sitting up and staring dumbly at my surroundings, I groggily realized I was in bed. Then it came back to me - I had been taking a much needed afternoon nap after getting 2 hours of sleep the night before and teaching 9 preschool classes within 3 hours that morning. Ugg. Talk about a lead weight in your head.

What's going on? I thought, still not quite awake. Then I smelled smoke.

I jumped up and ran into the smoke-hazy den, where through the glass porch door, I could see Chuck throwing a bucket of water into the corner. The smoke alarm started screeching. I raced over to the metal porch door, but it was super-heated. Ouch!

Peering through the window onto the porch, I saw glowing embers surrounding a blackened lump that used to be a large potted silk fern. Black soot left a smoke trail up the stucco wall and darkened the white metal ceiling. The floorboards were charred. Chunks of smoldering fiberglass from the four-foot fountain in the corner - the one now sporting a gaping hole in its side - were scattered to the far end of the porch, 30 feet away.

One sizable chunk had adhered itself to a wooden rocking chair leg like one of those cannonball blobs fired at Mr. Incredible on the runway of the secret island computer room. (Now don't tell me you aren't an Elasti-Girl fan - I know you saw that movie!)

We still don't know exactly what happened, but our best guess is that an electrical cord attached to the fountain pump shorted out and somehow caused the potted fern to explode, turning pieces of the fountain into flaming projectiles. By the grace of God (and that is NOT just a flippant expression here), Chuck was home (he usually goes outside to get exercise on Sunday afternoons at that time), sitting in a chair he rarely sits in about as close to the porch as you could get.

He heard the explosion and thought it was a tree falling.(With all the rain we've been getting lately, huge oaks have been falling about every other week.) Then he noticed pretty good sized flames erupting through the glass porch door and started yelling while he ran to grab buckets of water so I would wake up and get the heck out before the house burned down.

Long after Chuck had doused the fire, we were still trembling. What if we hadn't been home when the fern exploded? Two hours earlier or two hours later we would have been gone ... and come back home to a blazing inferno. The entire wooden porch would have ignited quickly, eventually engulfing the house as well. Every single thing we own could be gone. And our sweet little dogs? Can't even go there.

Be still my heart.
This is what a nuked fern looks like.

So you can imagine how immensely grateful we are to Papa God for His mercy and care. I found a new verse I've added to my Life Saver scriptures: "Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken" (Acts 2:25, NIV).

Stirred, yes. Shaken, no. Papa's got our backs.

Now I've just got to figure out how to get the smoke odor out of my sweaters hanging in the closet nearest the porch. I'd really rather not walk around this winter reeking of charred faux fern and molten fiberglass. Ideas, anyone?  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stress-Free Cooking

I'm sooo excited to share this first short video introducing stress-free cooking recipes from my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, releasing online and in bookstores Nov 1. 

Three additional videos are in production and will be released within the next two months. 

Rachael Ray I'm not, but I do enjoy creating quicker, easier ways of doing all things kitchen like she does. I'd love to hear what you think of my videos! (Always open to improvement!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Near Misses

KaBLAM. Whoa.

That was close.

My nose hairs are standing at attention, my skin is crawling and my teeth are tingling like I just bit into a wad of tin foil.

Ever felt like this?

Living in the lightning capital of the world (Tampa area), I experience this nasty sensation more often than I'd like. And since my sister was knocked senseless by lightning when we were kids, I have more than a healthy respect for those silver bolts of destruction. I have fear.

(Don't worry - my sister recovered. Mostly. Except for her strange chia pet hair and that crazy twitch of her left eyebrow that makes her look like Mr. Spock flirting with a Klingon.)

My neighbor had a near miss recently. During a severe thunder storm, a particularly virulent bolt zig-zagged strategically through the thick leafy canopy of a 50-year-old oak about 15 feet from his house, leaving a clean slice mark on the trunk but largely ignoring the tangle of oak branches while exploding its wrath on the much smaller crepe myrtle sheltered beneath the eaves of the house.

It was like the bolt was aiming. It snaked through and around the branches of the massive oak and the roof of the house sheltering the little bush to zero in on its target. Ka-BLOOEY! Big time.

The poor little crepe myrtle looked like it had jumped right out of its bark. Its branches were splintered into small shards, spread all over the front yard.  

You could only survey the damage and shake your head, pondering all the disastrous could haves.

 Near misses. You've had your share too, haven't you? Maybe not with lightning, but something that was so close to calamity, it frightened the bejeebies out of you. How did you react? Did you dwell on the could haves and allow fear to kidnap your heart?

Or did you open your palms toward heaven and thank your Papa God that He protected you yet again?

I actually do both. What about you? I'd love to hear about your experience with near misses.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Double Blessing Contest Winners!

Many thanks to everyone who entered the Double Double Blessings Blessings Contest!

I was very moved by the double blessings from Papa God that you so graciously shared with me and may possibly include some of them in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Daily Devotional I'm now writing (set to release in 2017).

If my editor chooses yours, you'll receive a free copy of the Devo and your name will be included in the book!

And now ... without further ado, I present the six winners in the drawing for a free copy of the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner:

Charmaine Andrews
Pamela Black
Adrianna Fuentes
Kristen Sweat
Ronda Crawford
Karla Hanns

Congrats ladies! Now if you'll just get me your mailing addresses, I'll send your prizes out right away.

Hey BBFF's (Blessed Blog Friends Forever), if you weren't a winner this time, stay tuned for my next great give-away right around the corner.