Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book releases, deadlines and the creeping crud

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I'm going to stand way back while I type this so I don't get anybody sick.
    Everybody gets sick. It's a fact of life. Seasons of life and all that. But you know what makes it worse? When someone rolls their eyes and utters the words "man flu". THEN they get REALLY sick. See, my husband had a cold. After making him tea, soup, and giving lots of sympathy I may just possibly have mentioned how men act like they're dying when they get sick.
  Oooooh. Fatal error. Just like Lady MacBeth. Oh, wait, that was ambition. Hamlet? No, that was his inability to act. Hmmm... not sure who tempted the fates by mocking a sick man, but if there wasn't one, then Shakespeare missed a good morality play.
Now, a bad cold that keeps me huddling under the covers might not matter except I've been waiting impatiently for this coming week because The Pepper in the Gumbo is going free with a Bookbub ad on the 26th!
Just in time because I've been working really hard on a special book called These Sheltering Walls and it's finally ready to be released, so everything is coming together nicely...
... even as the third book, Only Through Love,  emerges as a preorder, too! The only problem is... this COLD. So, while I had plans to make a trifle that I saw on Pinterest (isn't that where all good recipes reside?) I've mostly been in bed. My sweet friend Mindy brought me a honey and cinnamon mix that I added to hot milk and that was lovely. Then she brought wild rice chicken soup and that probably kept me from wasting away to nothingness... but other than that, I've just been huddling under my quilts, clutching the heating pad until today.
  The kids had a great week off from school. We won't talk about the time they had chocolate cake for breakfast (not even kidding), or the time the little guys went to bed without a bath, or how many movies they watched in the past seven days. We'll just be happy we all survived!

Since I have no food to share (except for the recipes in the books), I'll share the poem that I used for the title for the second book.

It's called A Prayer For This House by Louis Untermeyer.

May nothing evil cross this door,
And may ill-fortune never pry
About these windows; may the roar
And rains go by.

Strengthened by faith, the rafters will
Withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
Will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
Touching your lips with holy wine,
Till every casual corner blooms
Into a shrine.

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout
And, though the sheltering walls are thin,
May they be strong to keep hate out
And hold love in.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Special Birthday Parties

Missy Tippens, here. I had the joy of celebrating a special birthday last week with my friend Talitha. If you've read my book Georgia Sweethearts, then you've read about a character I named after my friend--my heroine's dear great aunt named Talitha. :)

Here is my character's namesake.

And she just celebrated her 97th birthday!

Her family threw her a wonderful party at the nursing home. I'm sure Talitha is a fabulous addition to the residents, blessing them with her smiles and thoughtful ways. Even as she packed her home to move into the nursing home last year, she was still volunteering with hospice and at church. She's an amazing, giving woman.

Here's what's left of the cake. I didn't think to take photos until later in the party.

I had to get a photo with the birthday girl!

A wonderful celebration of an amazing woman.

Do you have someone in your life like Talitha, someone who is generous and always doing for others?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back From Alaska!

Well, I'm a day off this week! I have been all week because we got home late Monday and so Tuesday became Monday and oops...

Now it's Thursday (for real!) and I forgot!

But here I am and oh my stars, I just had a week I'll never forget. We went to Alaska, our kids gave us a cruise for Christmas (this is the line you need to repeat to your blessed, grown-up children: "Ruthy's kids gave her a CRUISE for Christmas!"


It was the most amazing experience of my life. Other than having my children, but here's the thing, once you have children, well... you HAVE them and they demand things, need things, want things, deserve things.

Nobody needed a darn thing in Alaska, LOL! Except maybe my credit card.

I can't begin to describe the wonder or the majesty. Of course I will try, because I will most likely set a book or two up there, but it was magical... reverent... glorious.... awe-inspiring.

And seeing the mountaintops begin to crumble and form lush spaces for green valleys below was like watching the Earth change before our eyes.... A real-time image of geological wonder.

I saw bald eagles that flew past us like crows in a cornlot, humpback whales, orcas, (killer whales), sea lions, sea otters and people!


God bless my children for thinking of this because I'd have put it off and put it off and put it off... and then maybe would never get to go.

So that's my recipe for the week: Alaska! And I had baked Alaska, but it really wasn't the baked Alaska I have in a recipe book.... but it was still delicious!

Brava, ship chefs and bakers!

Notice that we're in shirts. We had to take our light jackets off about 9:30 in the morning... we prepped for winter and had a great week of 70-75 degrees and sun! They assured us this wasn't typical, but we were okay with it! This is by "Emerald Lake" a lake that looks like a Caribbean shoreline because it used to be ocean. (and yes, it's in the mountains). The coloring is what happens when crushed sea shells mix with silt and form the lake bed. Gorgeous, right? It was frozen solid last week. :)

Timing is everything!

It's so good to be back, but I was crazy delighted for this chance to see something just extraordinarily different. Is this a busman's holiday, do you think? When the northern girl goes farther north for a cruise?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

When you don't have a garden, garden anyway!

It's that weird time at the farmers markets here.  Between cold weather veggies and too early for tomatoes, green beans and all the things I really look forward to during the summer.

It's a weird time at my house too. I can't put in flowers or veggies this year because of a huge remodel we are taking on. So, I'm spending my time back in WWII England and reading about British Victory gardens. I knew plenty about what was going on in the USA but not in England. 

My grandparents, actually my grandfather, had the green thumb and his victory garden grew well. When I was little, he was still out there on the acre and a half, planting. I loved my grandfather's garden. Spent so much time there, accidently spearing potatoes, avoiding Black Widow spiders in the corn, and picking zinnias. My grandfather's garden was so special I commissioned paintings made from the memories I have.

We really regret not having our own family farm to take the grandkidlets to see. So we take the grandkidlets down the road to the local farm and produce stand.

And I might try making a chair garden like this one I saw at a local antique fair. But I don't know that I could replicate the beauty of this one. I'm having not-buying remorse.

So, do you have a garden, veggie or flower? Have you tried to garden and failed? Or had great success with containers? Do you rely on the local farm near by for educating the children in your life?  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Revisiting a Favorite Warm Weather Dish

Spring is still springing here in Texas, as evidenced by the flooding rains we've had in recent weeks. After a five year drought, I am happy to say that many of our lakes now full and the grass is greener than its been in years. And I haven't had to turn on the sprinkler once.

Best of all, I once again have fresh basil growing on my patio. You know what that means. Soon, I'll be able to enjoy one of my favorite dishes whenever I want.

Typically, a caprese salad is a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese topped with a tomato slice and a basil leaf, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with some coarse ground black pepper. However, there are times when I want to make a meal of this amazing combination.

First, we need some yummy tomatoes. Like these campari tomatoes. Very tasty.
Chop three or four of those babies and tossed them together with some cubed fresh mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is the kind that comes in a ball, not a brick. Very soft with a mild flavor.
Then we'll add some chopped basil, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Toss it all up and voila!
A light and refreshing lunch that's not only easy, but oh so delicious.
I may have to fix this sooner than later, because my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

What's your favorite warm weather dish?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reveling in Amish Quilts!

If you remember last week, I shared a rerun recipe because I was on the road. I'm still on the road this week, but I thought you'd like to see a little bit of what I'm doing.

On Tuesday, I was with my aunts. If you've read "A Mother for His Children," you'll recognize their names: Martha, Waneta and Nancy. Mary was also there - not one of the sisters, but an in-law who is a blessing to the family and my Uncle Jim...and providentially missed growing up in that crazy family :)

Uncle, aunts and a neighbor in their younger days.

On this trip to Middlebury, Indiana (the heart of Indiana's Amish Country), the aunts and I spent some time at The Quilt Shop @ Essenhaus. If you love quilts - especially Amish quilts - this is the place to go!

The proprietor, Roz, was very helpful as we all poured over the antique quilts Nancy and Mary had brought. She helped Nancy choose two of hers to sell in the shop as consignments.

After oohing and aahing over the antique quilts (sorry, no pictures - I was too busy oohing and aahing - but I wish I had taken some!), we browsed through the shop.

Beautiful quilts hang from the rafters of the shop. These are locally made and quilted. And yes, by hand. Gorgeous!

Smaller items like wall hangings are also offered for sale.

Roz and her crew also carry a full line of quilting supplies.

It was a fabulous visit, and made me wish I still had time for quilting!


If you're ever in the Middlebury/Shipshewana area, be sure to stop by Roz's shop. Or you can visit on-line!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lynn Huggins Blackburn's debut book and a great recipe!

Hi everybody! The Fresh Pioneer here and I have a special guest with us today. Lynn Huggins Blackburn is releasing her FIRST BOOK in a few weeks! It's called Covert Justice. 

Doesn't it look amazing?? Here's the blurb:
When a woman drags Blake Harrison out of his wrecked car, he knows the mysterious stranger has saved his life. But more shocking than the hit-and-run is the news that a crime cartel has infiltrated his factory. There's a fortune to be made by tampering with the factory's products…but only if Blake is out of the way. Undercover FBI agent Heidi Zimmerman has two goals—catch the criminals in the act, and keep Blake alive. Falling for the single dad and his adorable daughter isn't in the plan. But everything changes when an abduction leaves Heidi face-to-face with a killer, revealing the danger that's been hiding in plain sight all along…

And here's the beautiful Lynn, and a little about herself. (We always love to meet our hostess before we dive into the food! And what a delicious recipe she has for us! )

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, releases June 2015. You can follow her real life happily ever after on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at

So, now I'm turning the cafe over to Lynn! 

Thanks for having me here today!
I’m excited to be with you to talk about food, although I must say that writing this post has convinced me to stick with fiction. I would make a horrible food blogger. I’m way too messy in the kitchen when I cook!


I’ve always enjoyed food.
Probably more than I should.

When I was a kid, the contents of my lunchbox could bring joy or dismay.
Oreos – Yes!
Doritos – Fabulous! Orange fingertips were cool!
PB&J – Great! No reason to complain about a classic.
Ham sandwiches – Fine.

But there was one lunch box regular that I’m sorry to say never made me smile.

Tuna fish.

It made my lunchbox smell like, well, fish. And it always left my bread soggy.
I don’t do soggy.

My feelings about tuna fish were so ingrained that I avoided the stuff for many years.

Two things changed my mind about it:

1.     I found some fun things to add to it that amped up the flavor. (Getting over my childhood distaste of onions helped…)
2.     I quit trying to eat it as a sandwich. I rarely eat bread these days. (I love it – it doesn’t love me).  And it turns out that it wasn’t really the tuna I didn’t like. It was the soggy bread that I had to gingerly peel away from the still soft bread in order to eat the sandwich.

As a busy mom of three, I don’t have time to fix fancy meals for lunch. I’m lucky if I get to eat lunch sitting down! So tuna salad has become one of my favorite quick meals. I can make up a big batch on the weekend and then I’ve got lunch prepared for several days. A bowlful of lettuce topped with a big spoonful of tuna salad, maybe a few slices of tomato, and I’ve got a healthy and filling lunch that will keep me running until supper!

I never make it exactly the same way, but I have a handful of ingredients that usually find their way in there:
Celery – chopped small for crunch and color (I guess it add flavor, but that’s not why I use it!)
Nuts – leave these out if you’re allergic. I like to mix it up. Pecans, walnuts, almonds – whatever I have in the pantry is fair game.
Something sweet – Diced apples (I like fuji or jazz) or Apple-Juice sweetened craisins are my favorites.
Something savory – Onion (red, white, sweet, scallions – I use whatever I have on hand). Sometimes I use diced dill pickles. My mom always used sweet pickle relish, but I rarely have it. If you’ve got some, try it!
Salt & pepper
Mayo, and sometimes a little squirt of mustard!
Here are my three favorite flavor combinations. 

The Classic – Tuna, dill pickle, celery, onion, mayo, mustard, salt, pepper.
The Waldorf – Tuna, apple, celery, walnuts, onion, mayo, salt, pepper.
The Family Favorite – Tuna, craisins, celery, walnuts, onion, mayo, salt, pepper.

I may never be asked back to the Yankee-Belle Café, given that this isn’t a real recipe, but here you go.


1.     Pick your favorite combo.
2.     Open your tuna.
3.     Dump it in a bowl and break up any chunks.
4.     Add your ingredients until it looks right.
5.     Mix in as much mayo as you need.
6.     Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Thank you again for having me here today!

Virginia here again and YES, you are welcome back anytime!! I love tuna and my whole family does, too. We can't wait to try these. :)