Monday, December 5, 2011

Take the Plunge!

Today I’m welcoming author and literary agent Linda Glaz, whose Kindle edition of Polar Bear Plunge is available starting today from White Rose Publishing. Linda’s fascinating background could be a novel in itself! She is an Air Force veteran, soccer nut, karate instructor and theatre buff, in addition to being an agent with Hartline Literary. Read on to learn a little bit more about Linda and her novel, and as always, LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF POLAR BEAR PLUNGE.

Congratulations to Lynda Schab, who won a copy of Thyme for Love by leaving a comment on the previous post.

Synopsis of Polar Bear Plunge:

Brice Taylor might not be on Aleni Callan's Christmas list, but she finds him under her tree anyway.

Nurse Aleni Callan's anger toward God is fueled when Brice Taylor enters her life. Not only does Brice have no regard for his own life—as evidenced by the concussion and hypothermia he suffers after participating in the Polar Bear Plunge—he escaped the war in Afghanistan and lived to tell his story in a bestselling book, while her precious husband was killed.

But little does Aleni know that God’s will can be orchestrated in all kinds of ways…sometimes through a meddling but loveable mother-in-law who conspires with Brice and Aleni’s son, Tyler, to force her from a lonely, bitter life.

Q. Linda, what inspired you to write this story?

A. I have to laugh, because this was a love offering. My oldest daughter, who is a nurse, always wanted me to write about an nurse named Aleni. When White Rose sent out the word that they wanted Christmas novellas, the story just fell into place (with a nurse named Aleni)!

Q. Did you have any particular challenges along the way?

A. Honestly, this was the easiest book to write of any I’ve done. And with the wonderful crit partners I have, that made it even easier.

Q. What message do you hope will resonate in reader’s hearts after reading it?

A. That life does go on if we give it a chance. No matter HOW difficult the future looks.

Q. Will we be seeing these characters in future books?

A. I’m hoping to do a Valentine’s Day or another holiday themed book with some of the characters here.

Q. Where can readers purchase Polar Bear Plunge?

A. White Rose Publishing and Amazon. And during the month of the December, it’s only one dollar.

Q. Tell us about the apple pie recipe that follows.

A. We just had it again for Thanksgiving and it was yummy! I always eat too much of it. My mom always taught me that good apple pie has different kinds of apples and that gives it the tart/sweet combination that makes the pie taste so good.


2 cups flour
3/4 cup Swiftning (this includes animal fat, but you can substitute 2 Tbs. of
butter for 2 Tbs. of the vegetable shortening instead.)
2 Tbs. sugar
Approx. 1/4 cup ice cold water (you might need a bit more)

Cut flour and fat with two knives until coarse. Add water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the dough pulls away from the edges. Roll into a ball. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
Roll into very thin crust and line a pie plate. Reserve the rest for the top.

Good apple pie needs different varieties of apples for full flavor.

8-10 medium-sized apples of different varieties. Try:
Macintosh, Spies, Empire, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonathans, and Ida Reds.
These are all good for pie, use at least 3 kinds.
Slice very thin and mix with:
1-1/2 cups white sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. I like 1 ½)
1 scant tsp. of cinnamon—no nutmeg!!!
3 rounded Tbs. flour

In the bottom of the pie pan, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar over the bottom crust. This helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy. Pour in the apples until they form a mound in the middle. You should have a 2-3” peak of apples when you are done. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter in pieces. Roll and place top crust. Pinch edges or add a decorative edge if you like. Cut lots of slits in the crust and bake 15 min. at 425 degrees on a lower rack. Then switch to 375 degrees for 35-40 min. Will be golden brown. You can spray water over and sprinkle lightly with sugar the last 15 minutes if you want a glaze. Allow to cool to lukewarm before serving.
Optional: You can also spoon some slightly diluted caramel (I use Kraft caramels melted with
a bit of milk) over the top about 10 min. before it's done and then sprinkle with all kinds of
chopped nuts. Finish baking. That is to die for!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thyme for Love!

Congratulations to fellow writer Pamela S. Meyers, who’s debut novel, Thyme for Love, was recently released by OakTara. This romance with a twist of murder mystery is set in one of my favorite places, the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin area, which happens to be where Pam grew up. Here’s a quick blurb about the book: When April Love signs on to be an in-house chef at an old mansion in Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, she has no idea that her former fiancé, Marc Thorne, works there. It doesn’t take long for the old magnetism to recharge, but April can tell there’s something he’s reluctant to reveal. When their boss is killed, Marc is accused of the murder. Read on to learn more about the book and author, and…LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THYME FOR LOVE!

ALSO…Congratulations to Laury Hubrich, who won a copy of Mind Over Madi by leaving a comment on the previous post.

One of the lessons we writers learn from the get-go is “write what you know.” Now that doesn’t mean we can’t delve deep into our imaginations, it simply means we should pepper in people, places, bits of dialogue, images, and experiences from our life to add color and realism to our books. Pam did that in a big way with her character, April Love, who is a chef. Pam loves to cook (making her a perfect guest on Taste the World), and was raised in the area where her book is set. I don’t know if she ever had a hotty like Marc Thorne in her life, but we’ll let Pam keep that mystery to herself.

Q: Thanks for joining us, Pam. I love the combination of romance and mystery in Thyme for Love. Can you tell us a little more about it?

A: April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. When her Aunt Kitty hears of a in-house chef position for a non-profit organization housed in a lakeshore mansion next door, April returns to Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, where she’d spent many summers growing up, to apply for the job. When she discovers her former fiancé Marc Thorne working there, she wonders if this position was really God’s intention for her. After all, Marc all but left her standing at the altar to chase his own dreams in California. It doesn’t take long to realize Marc is hiding secrets and despite returning feelings for the man, April determines she will not make the same mistake as she did eight years earlier. But when their boss is found dead and Marc is framed for his murder, April has no choice but to turn sleuth to keep Marc from being accused of a murder he didn’t commit.

Q: What inspired you to write this story and use the Lake Geneva setting?

A: I’ve always loved romance and mysteries, and decided to write a story that married the two elements together. I grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and have always been fascinated by the many 20th Century mansions that dot the lake’s shoreline. I toyed with the idea of setting the story in one of those homes, but decided to create a smaller lake and village just to the east of Lake Geneva to gain more freedom with some of the details of the story and its characters. I loved having the area located close enough to Lake Geneva that April and Marc could go there for a meal at one of the actual restaurants there. I also gave them backgrounds that involve working on Geneva Lake as many college students do during the summer months.

Q. Will there be a sequel to Thyme for Love?

A. I’m so glad you asked. Thyme for Love is part of a three-book series called On the Road to Love. Books 2 and 3 involved April and Marc, and both are set in Canoga Lake. In Book 2, Love Will Find a Way, April moves into an old Victorian home with plans to turn it into a restaurant and catering business. It isn’t long before a discovery made while they are renovating the home threatens to hijack plans for the grand opening. In Book three, Love’s Reward, April and Marc’s wedding plans are in full swing, until it becomes apparent there is someone who doesn’t want them to marry.

Q: Will we be seeing other books from you in the near future?

A. Oh yes. I’m very excited about Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, coming out in June 2012 from Summerside Press. It’s a 1933 historical romance, and I had a blast researching for the story.

Q. When you aren’t writing, what fills your days?

A. I volunteer at my church in the multicultural ministry, helping Japanese women learn to speak English and lead a women’s small group Bible study. I’m also chapter president of my local ACFW chapter which meets monthly. Also, I enjoy reading (surprise, surprise) and movies.
I love to cook and find new ways of making things. You’ll find an adaptation of a recipe someone gave me called Chicken George at the back of Thyme for Love. The original recipe involved canned soup. Very tasty, but no trained chef would use canned soup in a recipe, so I set out to break it down and compose a healthier recipe from scratch. I thought it turned out well, but what would my friends say? I served it at my women's Bible study Christmas dinner and everyone raved about it. I loved having April prepare it in the novel, and look forward to experimenting with more recipes for the sequels.

Pam was kind enough to share her Chicken George recipe so we can all give it a try. Thank you, Pam – it sounds delicious!

Pam’s Revised Chicken George

6 boneless chicken breasts, split
8 oz. sliced Swiss cheese
10 oz. sliced Baby Bellas (mini portabella mushrooms)
1 medium chopped onion
1-1/4 cup Sour Cream (non or low fat)
1-1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
½ Cup regular sherry (not cooking sherry)

Saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil. In medium bowl mix sour cream and chicken broth (I used an electric hand-held blender tool) until blended and smooth. Add mushrooms, onions and sherry to sour cream mixture. Mix together.

Arrange chicken breasts on bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Layer Swiss cheese over chicken.

Mix herb stuffing mix with Smart Balance (I use that in place of butter or margarine). Layer over cheese.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove cover and bake additional ½ hour.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mind Over Madi

Congratulations to Donna Winters, who won a copy of THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS!

I am excited to feature my good friend and awesome crit partner Lynda Schab today. Lynda and I have been travelling the rocky road of writing together for a couple of years now. We first met at an American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference and soon had the same agent. When I responded to Lynda’s request for a critique partner, I never knew the writing relationship would quickly blossom into a friendship…but I’m grateful that it did. Now I get to celebrate with her as she launches her debut novel, the first in a 3-book series, MIND OVER MADI. Here’s the Amazon link:

So come and meet the fabulous Lynda Schab, and…


Q. Lynda, we crazy writers seem to have this driving need to put the stories in our heads down on paper. When and how did you get started?

A. I’ve always loved to read, which seems to be a precursor for all writers. I don’t remember exactly when I picked up a pen and started to write, but I remember writing a story in 6th grade called The Summer I Went to Honolulu (no, I’d never been there – and still haven’t!), complete with caricature drawings. I moved on to writing plays for my cousins and me to perform for our parents, then tried my hand at poetry. In high school, it was all about poetry – some of it was pretty good, but some was very, very bad. I still love to write poetry, but prefer to create funny, rhyming poems for retirement parties, milestone birthdays, bridal or baby showers, and other fun occasions.

Now that I know that, I expect my very own Lynda poem next birthday.

Q. What was the first thing you ever had published?

A. Besides a little blurb in a high school newsletter, my first professionally published works were greeting cards for Blue Mountain Arts.

Q. Who has encouraged you most on your writing journey?

A. Definitely my mom.

Awww…I thought it was me. But I guess there’s no trumping Mom.

A. (continued) Mom has always believed in me and encouraged me in my gift. Professionally, one of my greatest cheerleaders has been Deb Porter, administrator for From the moment I joined FaithWriters in 2004, Deb spoke blessings and positivity into my life and motivated me more than she’ll probably ever know. Another organization that has blessed me so much is ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Joining was the best thing I’ve done for my writing career. The members, many of them published authors, have served as mentors to me and some have become fabulous friends.

Q. What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

A. Favorite: The creative process. Thinking a story through from beginning to end and then seeing my vision come to life through the characters and situations I create.

Least favorite: Definitely the self discipline it requires. Time management is something I’ve always struggled with. Making myself sit down and focus when I know the basement needs cleaning, laundry is piling up, my office needs to be organized, or I want to watch the episode of Survivor I missed the night before is my biggest challenge.

Q. Okay, now for the big question: What is Mind over Madi about?

A. Madi McCall is a 38-year-old mom of three whose insecurities are destroying her marriage. When she suspects her husband Rich is cheating with the mother of one of his fourth grade students, she kicks him out of the house and he moves in with his bachelor brother. Madi is then forced to take a deeper look at herself and her insecurities. She does this with the help of a counselor, her best friend Sylvie, and a few cartons of Edy’s Dibs. At a 20-year get-together with former high school classmates, Madi runs into “the other woman” and things come to a head. It’s a lighthearted story about taking a true look at ourselves and accepting God’s grace when we think and do dumb things.

Q. On the cover photo, Madi is wearing a tiara. What is the significance in that?

A. Madi’s therapist challenges her to think of herself as a princess – the daughter of the King. Madi has never thought of herself this way, and throughout the story, there are references to various Disney princesses as Madi tries to figure out which one she most relates to. I had fun with the theme, even giving “the other woman” the fairy tale-ish name of Fawn Witchburn.

Q. As a Christian writer, I know you want your stories to touch reader’s hearts with a message. What do you want readers to take away from Madi’s story?

A. An understanding of just how infinite God’s love is. That no matter what we’ve done, God will never stop pursuing our hearts or desiring a relationship with us. His mercies are new every morning and His grace covers our weaknesses, our mistakes, our ignorance.

Thanks, Lynda. Great answers – I expected nothing less! I’m sure you’ll have many readers looking forward to the next two books in the series: MADILY IN LOVE and SYLVIE AND GOLD.
How can readers connect with you?

My website address is I also have a blog with various writing and reading-related material at You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynda is the mother of 18-year old Zach and 14-year-old Lyndsey, and has been married to her husband Rob for over 23 years. Today she’s sharing one of her family’s favorite recipes, which is mentioned in MIND OVER MADI and is included in an eBook titled NOVEL MORSELS – a cookbook featuring recipes from 65 Christian Fiction authors, based on their books/characters.

Here’s the link to purchase the eBook, and here’s a little secret…USE THE CODE LYNDASCHAB TO GET THE BOOK FOR FREE!!

Excerpt from MIND OVER MADI:
I feel like Mother Hubbard. My cupboards are almost completely bare. But wait—an unopened box of mostaccioli pasta and a jar of sauce sit side-by-side on my cupboard shelf. My mostaccioli rocks, if I do say so myself. I got the recipe a long time ago from a magazine and I tweaked it a bit, perfecting it over the years. It’s the one homemade dish I make that I’m actually proud of. Okay, to be honest, it’s pretty much the only homemade dish I ever make. My family loves it. Then again, from the way Max shot down my offer to make a mostaccioli dinner for Sam sometime, I’m thinking perhaps it’s not quite as scrumptious as I’ve convinced myself.

My recipe that's featured in Novel Morsels (and Mind over Madi):

Madi's Mean Mostaccioli

1 pkg. (16 oz.) mostaccioli pasta
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 t. pepper
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 jar (28-32 oz.) Spaghetti sauce
1 can (11 oz.) Cheddar Cheese soup
3 cups (12 oz.) Shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown ground beef and drain.

Prepare pasta, as directed on package. While pasta's boiling, add seasonings, spaghetti sauce and soup to ground beef.

Simmer until pasta is ready. Drain pasta.

Combine ground beef mixture, pasta, and 2 cups mozzarella in large (3-4 qt.) baking bowl or casserole dish.

Mix well. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese, if desired, on top. Bake 40 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Embrace the Spirit

Ornaments, trees, and gift wrap already fill the aisles of all the department stores. Do you ever feel like the hustle and bustle of Christmas distracts you from the amazing miracle of Christ’s birth? Sometimes I just feel deluged with shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, and shopping some more. And then…I go to Christmas service, and let myself get enveloped in God’s love—a love that sees beyond my sins and flaws, washes away my past, gives me hope and a future. Last year, I had the opportunity to write a story for The Spirit of Christmas anthology, with a forward by Debbie Macomber, just recently released by St. Martin’s Press. If you think you'll be needing some Christmas Spirit in the months ahead, the kind based in LOVE, not gifts; PEACE, not chaotic shopping trips; HOPE, not stress, check it out.



My story, "Christmas Rainbow," begins in 1964 and reflects the changes in our Sicilian family through the decades, as we married, had children, and blossomed into a multi-cultural family with different backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and perspectives, but strong in our conviction to love one another, as Jesus said to do. His command had no “small print,” no caveats regarding skin color or country of origin. Just “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Mine is one of 42 short stories in the book. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

China--Country of Contrasts

I just finished reading Patti Lacy’s fourth novel, RECLAIMING LILY, which is partially set in China. I truly believe it’s her best one yet! The book was just released Oct. 1 by Bethany House, and I had the privilege of reviewing it for Here is the link to the review.



Patti is graciously stopping by Taste the World today to share some thoughts on China, Reclaiming Lily, and her writing in general.

Q. Patti, your plots encompass family secrets, fractured families, segregation, and illness. Do you see an "author's theme" developing through your work?

A. God gifted me a career verse, Romans 8:28, as a theme for my “Spanning Seas and Secrets” novels. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Dear ones, He will work for your good even in the throes of abandonment. Rape. Rejection. Miscarriage. Fatal disease.

Q. In researching Reclaiming Lily, you traveled to China. Do you claim any social, business, or cultural ties to that country?

A. In 1987-1988, my parents taught English in China via the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. YEARS later, God whispered, “Write Reclaiming Lily,” which tells the story of a brave Chinese doctor who just HAPPENS to be Mom’s physician. Can you believe God’s ways? To capture China on paper, I just HAD to go. In May 2010, China unfolded in a BEAUTIFUL way. A soulmate friend who’s a Chinese national guided me to areas rarely seen by Westerners. I explored the complexities and incongruities of this great land.

My passport proves I spent 17 days in a glorious land. I spanned over 15,000 miles, drank gallons of green tea, dined on food rivaling Europe’s gastronomic delights, tiptoed through courtyards where emperors lived, amid their 8,000 buildings and countless servants.

Contrasts abound: Women rinse clothes in a stream swollen with garbage. Women dressed haute couture stroll by. Mercedes limos swerve past rickshacks. Post-modern, neon-lit skyscrapers tower over timeless hutongs (walled neighborhoods) fueled by propane, most with no running water or modern bathroom facilities. My heart found the rhythm of these neighborhoods where we sat on stoops and shared drinks and food with locals. Though I inhaled China books (over 20), the great lady blew to smithereens my every preconception.

Q. How was the street food?

A. We survived (THRIVED) on street food. Locals who saw us eyeing their entrees waved us onto compact stools and said, “Dig in!” Chopsticks tweezed food into six mouths, then back to a communal platter. Never ate better. Never felt better. Since Chinese only eat right-handed, I was a CELEBRITY…and lost eight Midwestern-winter-gained pounds while gobbling stinky tofu, chicken stomach and feet, quail eggs, dumplings stuffed with wild mountain greens, and a dizzying number of delicious veggies and fruits.

Q. Other thoughts on China?

A. China is a ginormous place. But Oh. My. Her beauty swept me away.
Did I gain admittance to orphanages? Interview one who’d relinquished hold on a beloved child? No. Yet if I got it right, China and its people infuse every page of Reclaiming Lily.

China. Kinda like life. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.
Oh, China, I do not know you. But I love you.

Thanks, Patti. And what would a “Taste the World” author interview be without a recipe? Here’s a Chinese recipe that Patti sent to share.

Black Pepper Chicken

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, about 8 oz. (cut into thin strips)
1 onion (sliced)
1 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (use 1 tablespoon to marinate the chicken)
1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
2 tablespoons oil

Marinate the chicken strips with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for 10 minutes.
Heat up a wok and add cooking oil. When the cooking oil is hot, add the sliced onions and quickly stir-fry until aromatic and follow by the bell pepper and black pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute and add in the chicken strips. Continue to stir-fry until the chicken is cooked. Add in soy sauce, Maggi sauce, and sugar. Continue to stir-fry until the onions are caramelized. Dish out and serve hot.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kickin' Back in Kenosha

My blog has taken a 3-month hiatus (maybe it was travelling the world) as I’ve pursued some writing goals and prepared my next travel show. Now I’m back and it’s back, so let me tell you about a fun little stop we made on our way to the Dells this summer. But first, I must announce the cookbook winner, chosen from those who left comments on the previous post.

Congratulations, Tammie Shaw! You have won the Beef, Pork, and Lamb Cookbook, composed of recipes by various chefs. And since you waited sooooo long to find out, you’ll get a little something extra, too.


Today’s destination: Kenosha, WI, which actually is not on the way to the Dells from my Chicago suburb, but was worth the extra travel time. We chose Kenosha for two reasons: 1. They have a diner there that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (more on that below); and 2. My next travel show is Taste of the Midwest, and I needed photos of Kenosha’s Civil War Museum. Now we have another reason to return to Kenosha: Tenuta’s Italian Grocery and Deli. Love it!

So, for all you Food Network fans out there, here’s the scoop on FRANK’S DINER, located at 508 58th St. Unless you were specifically looking, you would drive right by it. Small front, a few tables along the sidewalk, nothing to catch your eye. But inside…pure delectable deliciousness. Their claim to fame is the “garbage plate” – a sumptuous combination of hashbrowns, green peppers, onions, jalapenos, eggs, and choice of meat and a variety of veggies. Prices run from $6.50 to $10.50, depending on the ingredients and whether you choose half or full size. Half is normally more than enough for a man-size appetite. Other signature items include cinnamon swirl French toast and a chili and cheddar omelet. We ordered a deep fried Twinkie, just for kicks. Yech. Enough said. Expect a long wait if you go on a weekend, but also expect the unexpected.

CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND LAKEFRONT, 5400 First Ave. – The best description comes for their own website: “Through state-of-the-art museum technology, life-size dioramas, and interactive engaging exhibits, visitors travel back in history to the social, political and economic influences that contributed to the Civil War.” Across from the museum is a huge flea market and craft fair, which I believe runs every Friday throughout the summer. Across the street, the beautiful lakefront, complete with lighthouse, beach, and rocks for climbing or resting on as you gaze at the water.

TENUTA'S – Even before entering the store, you’ll know you’ve found a gem. In nice weather, the outside café is open, with menu items like eggplant sandwiches and Tenuta’s hom
emade Italian sausage. Inside, Italian food galore…and more! First, the piano player greets you with old-time music and a corny joke as you enter. That alone is priceless. As you proceed, you’ll find entire aisles of pasta, olives, giardiniera, and a huge variety of imported olive oils (the good stuff). And the delli, mama mia! Not only fresh meats and cheeses, but fresh cannolis and a plethora of other rich, gooey desserts. That doesn’t begin to cover it, so check it out for yourself if you get the chance. Here’s their website:

If you go to Kenosha, don’t miss the OUTLET MALL, which is technically in Pleasant Prairie, but close enough. All in all, a great place for a day or weekend trip.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

High Above

I hope you all enjoy this post by fellow writer Beth Dumey who recently found herself immersed in the dramatic beauty of the northwest.


As a Midwesterner, I seldom get to stand in the shadows of mountains. After a recent trip to Seattle and Vancouver, I’ve been pondering how I might view God differently if I lived in the midst of these gaping wonders.

In Seattle, on clear days, Mount Rainier casts a powerful presence over the city. White-capped and majestic, it is a guidepost for both travelers and natives.
“Can you see Mount Rainier today?” passersby ask as they crook their necks toward the sky. When they catch a glimpse of its outline in the distance, their faces relax into an appreciating “Ahhh…”

A few hours north, Vancouver is buffeted by mountains and one of the most familiar is Grouse Mountain, rising 4,100 feet above the city. A sky ride carries the curious and dedicated (skiers, that is) up to a clearing near the top. Adrenaline junkies looking for a challenge can choose the Grouse Grind instead, foregoing the gondola and hiking the distance. Either way, the view is as compelling as it is humbling. Self-importance dissolves at the foot of towering pine trees and prominent peaks jutting into heaven. The air is thinner. The bears, in their natural habitat, reign.
Perched on a mountainside, a mere speck along a tangle of untamed wildlife and uninhibited tree growth, it seems much easier to understand the sovereignty of God; His mighty power evident all around. Bigger than the breadth of a mountain, higher than the most skyward summit, He is stronger and more capable than all of the creation He spoke into being.

I travel to the mountains because it comforts me. In their shadows, I become smaller and God becomes much bigger. As I look up, I am embraced by the beauty, the grandeur, the fierceness of His presence. With a deep breath, I exhale.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Midwest Flower Power

The Midwest may not have Hawaii’s orchids or Holland’s famous tulip fields, but in my backyard, everything’s coming up daisies…and lilies! I bought these “Crazy Daisies” from a flower catalog a few years back and they are the hardiest and most prolific flowers I’ve ever grown. Just thought I’d share them with all of you.

The flower pots on my deck are having a banner year as well, with a colorful variety of flora chosen by my daughter and me in the spring. Looking at them makes me smile. I hope they bring you a smile as well.

Thank you to all who read and/or commented on my interview with Lynda Schab. The winner of the cookbook drawing from the previous post is:

Congratulations, Jill. You won Sensational Vegetable Recipes - a step-by-step cookbook full of beautiful food photos!

I'll be heading off to the Wisconsin Dells soon for the annual mother/daughter/sister getaway, and will post another little taste of the world late next week!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Bright Star in Michigan

Among Michigan’s many treasures is my friend and critique partner, LYNDA SCHAB, who just signed a contract for her debut novel, Mind Over Madi. Lynda’s book, to be released by Oak Tara Publishing, will be the first in a 3-book chic-lit series.


For most writers, the road to publication is loooong and bumpy. See what Lynda has to say about her writing journey and her first book.


What have you learned through this writing journey?

LS - Oh, wow. The biggest thing I've learned is patience. The path to publication is long and winding. There have been so many times I've wondered why God wasn't making things happen faster. I've wanted to rush things along. I've even been tempted to quit because of frustration. But, looking back, every tiny victory, every narrow door that opened, was a necessary step that directly led me to where I am now. Not that I've arrived, of course. I have a loooong way to go, but I've learned that God's timing is rarely my own.

Can we get a sneak peak at the plot?

LS - Here's a little "back cover blurb" I've put together:
All men cheat. At least, that’s what Madi’s mother has always told her. That fact is confirmed when Madi suspects her husband of having an affair with the mother of one of his 4th grade students. When, in a heated moment, Madi asks him to leave and he complies, Madi is forced to deal with her issues. Issues she has tried to avoid. Issues of love and trust that trail back to her childhood. Will counseling, a determination to not turn out like her bitter and unforgiving mother, and an emotional confrontation with the “other woman” help Madi to realize there is Someone who always has her on His mind, even when it seems she’s lost her own?

How much of Lynda is in Madi?

LS - Probably too much! To be honest, Madi's story is (very loosely) based on my own. I've certainly experienced my share of insecurities for some of the same reasons Madi has. Also, like Madi, I constantly have a battle going on in my mind, I have a sarcastic sense of humor, and I'm addicted to computer games and chocolate.

My hope is that Mind over Madi will offer women a real yet humorous look at how our insecurities can affect our relationships with family, friends, and God. I also hope this story will leave readers with a knowledge and assurance that God loves us. That grace abounds, despite our weaknesses, our past mistakes or, as Madi would say, out moron-ness.

Release date?

LS - I wish I knew. The contract has been signed and I'm waiting for the editor to contact me with all of the juicy details. Can't be soon enough for me!

As a Michigan native, can you share with us some great places to visit in your home state?

LS - I know I'm biased, but Michigan is the most beautiful state in America. There are so many options...Perhaps the most recognizable tourist spot is Mackinac Island, described as the natural theme park of America. It's historic, relaxing, and gorgeous. We went last year as a family and can't wait to go back.

An interesting fact about Michigan is that we have more than 11,000 inland lakes. At any given point in Michigan, you are never more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. A few remarkable beaches can be found in Grand Haven, Ludington, Traverse City, and Holland - which also boasts wonderful Dutch heritage. There's also South Haven, where Mind over Madi is set. South Haven is a huge tourist draw because of its beaches and recreational harbor.

How about a favorite recipe?

LS - I have tons of favorite recipes and they all belong to restaurants. I'll admit I don't cook a lot (nor do I enjoy it all that much), but I try to cook something edible so we can sit down together as a family at least once a week. My family's favorite recipe is not-so-creatively titled, Chicken Casserole, but I have to say it is delicious. Plus, it makes a ton so there are usually left-overs, which is nice. I also make this dish for large family gatherings and it always gets rave reviews.


5-6 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
16 oz. macaroni noodles, cooked and drained
Steamed / cooked carrots
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
3 T. Margarine
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Prepare macaroni and drain. In saucepan, melt margarine. Add soup, milk and cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Combine macaroni, cheese mixture, chicken, carrots, salt and pepper. Pour into a 3-quart casserole dish (I use the Pampered Chef big stone bowl). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Thank you, Lynda! I can’t wait to see Mind Over Madi in print.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Michigan's Treasure

Saugatuck – with a name like that, how can it be anything but great? We visited Saugatuck, Michigan a couple of years ago on our annual Mother’s Day trip, which never actually takes place on Mother’s Day. Let me explain. Each year, my sister and I give my mother a two-night trip as her Mother’s Day gift. Our challenge is to find places that are within a 4-hour drive of the Chicago area. After we’d been to Lake Geneva, Galena and Amish Acres in Indiana, I remembered a friend raving about Saugatuck.

A little Internet research led me to the Beachway Resort and Hotel. Loved the name -- loved the location even more. Beachway is situated between downtown Saugatuck and Lake Michigan, overlooking the Saugatuck Harbor, where you can board the only hand-cranked chain ferry in the U.S. It only takes about 15 minutes to cross the Harbor into charming downtown Saugatuck, where quaint shops, art galleries and a variety of restaurants await.

For beach lovers like me, there’s something even better about staying at the Beachway (and I quote from the Beachway site) “it is the closest hotel to Lake Michigan's award-winning Oval Beach.”

What makes Oval Beach award winning? Check it out, and you won’t wonder for another minute. This Lake Michigan stretch of sand feels and looks like the most beautiful Florida beach you can imagine. Endless miles of sand and water, a sand dune high enough to experience panoramic views of Saugatuck and the shimmering waters of Lake Michigan. And no…Beachway did not pay me for this blog. And no…it’s not the Taj Mahal of hotels. Just a nice, clean family-run resort/hotel with a fantastic, family-friendly vacation or a great place for a couple’s or friends’ getaway. There are many other great places to stay in Saugatuck, as well. Check them out at

Nothing says Michigan like cherries. Check out this delicious pie recipe.

Star-Spangled Cherry Pie with Crumble Topping

• 4 c. tart cherries, frozen or fresh
• 1 c. granulated sugar
• 3 T. quick-cooking tapioca
• 1/2 t. almond extract
• Pastry for one-crust 9-inch pie
• 2 T. butter or margarine

Crumble Topping:
• 1/2 c. butter, softened
• 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
• 1 c. flour

In a medium bowl, combine cherries, sugar, tapioca and almond extract and mix well (it is not necessary to thaw frozen cherries before using). Let cherry mix stand for 15 minutes.
Line a nine-inch pie plate with pastry and fill with cherry mixture. Dot with 2 Tbs. butter.

To make crumble topping, combine 1/2 c. soft butter, brown sugar and flour in a small bowl and mix until crumbly. Top cherry filling with crumble topping and bake in preheated 400° oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Note: Two cans (16 oz. each) well-drained unsweetened tart cherries can be substituted for frozen or fresh cherries.

Tip: If freezing your own cherries, arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet after pitting. Freeze until solid to prevent cherries from clumping together, then bag.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vineyards, Mountains and Seascapes

Part 2 of my Adventures in Sicily will focus on the dramatically beautiful scenery of this Mediterranean island. Imagine mountains, mountains everywhere, dominated by the largest volcano in Europe – Mt. Etna. In between were hillsides dotted with sheep and spring wildflowers, rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, farms, endless vineyards, and groves of olive, almond, lemon and blood orange trees. (Photo at right shows an almond tree branch.) In the Trapani region, I got to see a combination manmade/Godmade wonder – the salt flats.

I’ll start with the seaside village of Cefalu and move southward. Notice the village’s rocky coast and gorgeous color of the water. At right, Cefalu’s lovely beach, with waterfront houses in the background.

Moving south, we go to Erice, the mountaintop village mentioned in the previous blog. A winding road led us to the Erice.

By the way, if you visit Sicily, aim for spring or autumn. Summer temps easily hover over a hundred degrees (sometimes nearing 120). Not pleasant conditions for exploring!

In Segesta, I took pics of the flora and fauna around the famous Temple of Segesta. The cactus seen here grows in abundance throughout Sicily, sometimes on the roofs of farm buildings!

Vineyards aplenty! In spring they look rather naked, having not yet emerged from winter hibernation. By fall these fields will be thick with leafy vines and heavy with grapes. Sicily’s fertile soil makes it one of the foremost areas for growing wine grapes.
Sheep! Gotta love ‘em! We had to stop our tour van as a shepherd lead his flock across a country road.

I’ll conclude with this view of the Ionian Sea, taken from the Greek Theater in Taormina. More about the Greek Theater and Taormina in my final Sicily post, along with Mt. Etna, the salt flats and the Valley of Temples.

Today’s recipe:
This traditional and delectable Sicilian dessert consists of a crispy pastry shell filled with sweetened ricotta cheese. The ends are often dipped in crushed pistachios or shaved chocolate. In Sicily, the shells are usually displayed empty on bakery shelves, then filled upon request. The Palermo bakery in the photo at right was an exception.
You can make your own shells, but it’s a lot easier to buy them at an Italian bakery and use the following recipe to fill them.
Cannoli Filling

2 pounds of drained ricotta cheese
1 ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients together until well blended and smooth. Fill a piping bag with the filling. Pipe each shell full with the filling. For extra flavor, dip each end of the cannoli into crushed pistachio nuts or shaved semi-sweet chocolate. Dust with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunny Sicily and Book Winner

Just returned from an amazing week in Sicily with my sister, Patt, where breathtaking beauty, both natural and manmade, filled my busy days. Before I launch into Sicily, however; I want to thank everyone who stopped by to read Patti Lacy’s interview.

The winner of Patti’s recent release, The Rhythm of Secrets, is ANN LEE MILLER.

Congratulations, Ann! Please send me your snail mail address at

Back to the trip. As the plane descended, an island of mountains rose from the sea. Finally, all the books and Google images were about to become reality. The first couple of days were spent in Palermo, Sicily’s capital, where everyone drives teeny cars or motorcycles inches apart from each other, miraculously avoiding accidents. Traffic signs are viewed as mere suggestions. Note to self: never, ever drive in Palermo. For this reason and many others, I was happy to have a tour guide, and happier still that our group numbered only six.

Our hotel faced an apartment building from which laundry hung from every banister, just like you’d imagine. Couldn’t resist snapping a few shots.

While staying in Palermo, we visited two cathedrals in the Monreale area, built by the Normans who conquered Sicily when it was occupied by the Greeks. The Greeks had built enormous temples to their gods, which the Christian Normans destroyed. The used some of the pillars and other parts to build churches, decorated with magnificent mosaics and statues. Walking into these cathedrals filled me with awe and a sense of peace. Photos could never truly reflect the wonder of these masterpieces.

Our first lunch on our own served as an interesting lesson in Sicilian dining. On the plus side: meals are beyond delicious, made with fresh ingredients, colorful, masterfully seasoned. Desserts: Mama Mia! Creative and vibrant, rich with ricotta, mascarpone, almonds, pistachios and fruit, often artfully decorated with marzipan. Wonderfully decadent! On the flip side, you are charged a sitting fee (usually $2 or $3 per person, depending on the location) and always charged for water, which is room temperature. Waiters tend to leave you alone once the meal is served, so if you need anything….oh well.

If you visit Sicily, don’t miss a visit to Erice, a mountaintop village with an amazing view of the coast and a castle dedicated to Venus, as well as a lovely church. Narrow winding streets are lined with artsy shops selling ceramics, souvenirs and more. A quaint square (piazza) is surrounded by cafés and pastry shops with tempting cannoli shells waiting to be filled upon request. A visit to Erice transports you to another world, another time. Put it on your bucket list.
That’s probably enough on Sicily for one post. Stay tuned for a few more sights, tastes and photos, along with a recipe, next week.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Women's Secrets Unveiled

Before I head off to Sicily, I'd like to introduce you to my great friend and mentor -- one of God's amazing blessings in my life! (Stay tuned for Sicily pics in 10 days.)

Got a secret? Who doesn’t? Author Patti Lacy knows us women have pretty interesting stories tucked away in our pasts. And some, as she has found, make great novels…with a little embellishment, of course.


Patti launched her writing career with a trip to Ireland to research a friend’s story. The result? An Irishwoman’s Tale, released in 2008. Next it was on to Louisiana, a trip that produced What the Bayou Saw. She travelled to China for Reclaiming Lily, to be released in October. But let’s talk about the here and now. Patti’s newest title, The Rhythm of Secrets, was released in January. Look for my review of this excellent read coming soon to In the meantime, here's a synopsis:

Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame. After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions. Inspired by a true story, THE RHYTHM OF SECRETS intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.

Welcome Patti! First, I have to say I devoured The Rhythm of Secrets from cover to cover and loved every word. What did you do and where did you go to research this one?

Susan, I spanned the world—through the real-life story of Sandy Sperrazza, which I read in the Chicago Tribune. Then I let my fingers do the dialing—God got me in touch with octogenarian N’Awlins gardeners, a fireman, a tour guide—all kinds of folks chipped in on this one. Did I mention doctors? Nurses? Car aficionados? My coup de grace came when a local ISU professor, of Thai birth, plopped himself into my story and practically coauthored the chapters set over in Southeast Asia. Susan, it really does, at least in my case, take a village to support an author! You can just glance at my acknowledgments and see what I’m talkin’ about!

Here’s something I’ve always wanted to know about a Patti Lacy book: How much fact vs. fiction? And how do you decide?

The story just kinda writes itself. I start with that snippet of a story that captures my mind—in this case a mother, holding her baby just that one time—for the length of a cab ride—and see if I can fit other “narratives,” either from other real-life people, from my own past, or just little floating gray brain imaginations! What kind of feedback have you received from the women whose stories you’ve told? They all still talk to me!!!! Actually, at least two of them would rather not read the books. Isn’t that kinda weird? They say the memories are just too painful.

Can we get a sneak peek at the plot of Reclaiming Lily?

Two women. Two cultures. One child. When a deadly disease strikes the Wang family, Harvard graduate Dr. Kai Chang must alert Lily, the sister Kai left on orphanage steps nine years earlier. Standing in her way is Gloria Powell, a Fort Worth pastor's wife who distrusts Kai and thinks her entry into Lily's life will send the troubled seventeen-year-old over the precipice of teenaged angst. A Texas-sized tornado whirls about the meeting place of the Changs and Powells as tempers and cultures collide. Can Kai, Gloria, and Joy reconcile their differences, surrender their dreams, and allow God to implement a plan that provides supernatural, unbelievable joy?

What’s next on the Patti Lacy horizon?

I’m working on a series set in my home town, Normal, Illinois, the first book tentatively titled Below Normal. A church friend inspired my fifth and sixth books. Stay tuned for more!

Do you have a Thai recipe to share with Taste the World readers?

Can you believe that the day I’m working on these questions, we are going to Thai House, which we consider one of Bloomington-Normal’s best restaurants. I LOVE their papaya salad, their soups—really, all of their dishes. We eat family style and share good eats so at least three or four tastes whet our appetites for exotic and tasty! If you’re a novice in the world of Thai cuisine, start off with Pad Thai. You CANNOT go wrong. Pad Thai can be made vegetarian, with chicken, or with shrimp. We like shrimp best!


Prep Time: 30 minutes -- SERVES 4


16 oz. Thai rice noodles (linguini width)

2 cups raw or cooked shrimp, shells removed

2 shallots (OR 1/2 cup purple onion), finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 fresh red chilies (or as much as you like!), finely sliced

1 egg

2 cups bean sprouts

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper (OR substitute black pepper)

6 green onions, sliced finely

1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro

1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, ground or chopped

2-3 Tbsp. oil for stir-frying (coconut, peanut, corn, sunflower, or canola are all good)

3 Tbsp. chicken stock

Wedges of lime for serving

PAD THAI SAUCE: 2 Tbsp. tamarind paste (available at Asian/Indian food stores) · 1/2 cup hot water · 4 Tbsp. fish sauce (available in tall bottles at Asian food stores) · 1-3 tsp. chili sauce (to taste), OR 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed chili · 3 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar

Preparation: 1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then remove from heat. Dunk in the rice noodles. Soak the noodles until soft enough to eat, but still firm and a little "crunchy". Drain and rinse the noodles thoroughly with cold water. Set aside. Tip:Avoid over-softening the noodles at this point, as they will be fried later, and you want them to turn out chewy, not soggy. 2. In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the tamarind paste in the hot water. Then add the other Pad Thai Sauce ingredients (fish sauce, chili, and brown sugar). Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add as much or as little chili sauce as you prefer, but don't skimp on the sugar - it is needed to balance out the sourness of the tamarind. Set aside. 3. Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. oil and swirl around, then add the shallots, garlic, and chili. Stir-fry 1 minute. 4. Add the shrimp plus 2-3 Tbsp. chicken stock. Stir-fry 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and plump. (If using cooked shrimp, only stir-fry 1 minute.) 5. Push ingredients aside, making room in the center of your wok/pan. Add another 1 Tbsp. oil, then crack in the egg. Stir-fry to scramble (30 seconds to 1 minute). 6. Add the drained noodles and drizzle over the pad thai sauce. Use 2 utensils and a gentle "tossing" motion to combine everything together (like tossing a salad). Keep the heat between medium and medium-high - you want your pan hot enough to cook the noodles, but not so hot that the noodles burns. Stir-fry 4-5 minutes. 7. Add the bean sprouts and continue stir-frying 1 more minute, or until noodles are chewy-delicious and a little bit sticky. 8. Remove from heat and taste-test, adding more fish sauce until desired taste is achieved (I usually add another 1-2 Tbsp). 9. Sprinkle over the white pepper, onion, coriander, and peanuts, and garnish with lime wedges (these should be squeezed over before eating). Toss one more time and serve. Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side if desired. ENJOY!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alluring Aruba Part II

Come and experience more of Aruba, where you’ll discover a windmill, the island nation’s natural wonders and a sanctuary for some adorable hooved natives.

De Oude Molen is an old windmill first built in 1804 in Holland, then shipped to Aruba in pieces. It was later reconstructed and features a decent restaurant—moderately priced--that specializes in continental dining.

The once popular Natural Bridge, unfortunately, is no more. This unusual phenomenon collapsed in September, 2005 (too many tourists, me thinks), but its remains are still interesting to see. The bridge was a formation of coral limestone cut out by years of pounding surf, and spanned more than 100 feet.

The Cura di Tortuga is a secret (yeah, right), hidden Natural Pool on the windward coast. It is surrounded by rocks and some of Aruba's most rugged terrain – definitely off the beaten path, making it even more worthwhile. Many come here to dive from the rock cliffs into the protected pool of ocean water.

And finally…The Donkey Sanctuary! Is this guy cute or what??? The non-profit sanctuary was founded in 1997 and is run by volunteers. Their mission: Save the Donkeys! Although not originally native to Aruba, they have existed there for 500 years, starting out as a primary form of transportation. The Donkey Sanctuary is located just northwest of the Natural Pool.

Like fish? Here’s another recipe from Aruba:

2 pounds fresh, firm, boneless, white-flesh fish fillet
1 quart water
1 tablespoon salt
1 celery stalk, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 tablespoons margarine
1/4 teaspoon annatto powder (can usually be found in the Mexican foods section of the grocery store. Also known as Achiote powder. Can substitute turmeric. I think paprika would also suffice.)
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, boil fish in salted water for 20 minutes. Remove fish and flake. Saute celery, bell pepper, onion and basil leaves in margarine for 3 minutes, stirring. Add flaked fish and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in annatto powder and freshly ground pepper.