CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Sizzling hot! That’s what we’re experiencing weatherwise in mid-America. The kind of hot that when you walk outside, your skin melts. Frying-eggs-on-the-sidewalk hot. Firecrackers-in-the-seat-of-your-pants hot. Prickly-pear hot. Anyone relate?

With the heat comes the warning: Stay hydrated. We all know that caffeine, colas, and even alcohol DE-hydrates, so we’re told to drink water. Lots of water. Lots of boring water. Have I got a treat for you! Sassy Water. Cool. Refreshing. Addictive almost.

This simple recipe which you make the night before and let steep all night has zero calories and plenty of great taste. I learned about it from the Rodale book Flat Belly Diet. I hope you like it.


2 liters water (about 8 ½ cups)
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
12 small spearmint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let flavors blend overnight. Drink one pitcher a day.

Me again. I sometimes use ½ a lemon and ½ a lime saving the other half for the next day. Also, I think you could easily use 1 gallon of water w/out doubling the other ingredients and still have a refreshing water. And it’s good for you.

You might even feel like reading a hot new summer romance in the shade of your patio while you sip your sassy water. Or make a gallon or two and take to the lake or on your 4th of July picnic.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - World's Best Scones!

A week or so ago I read The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows). Oh my! Just a delightful book, set in London and on Guernsey, one of the Channel Isles. Written entirely in correspondence, it was an unusual presentation of story, but one which drew me in at once. The year is 1946 and educated me to a fascinating portion of WW II history I was previously unaware of—the German Occupation of Guernsey. I highly recommend this book, and because Potato Peel Pie is not considered all that tasty a recipe, I thought you might prefer to make a batch of scones and curl up with this yummy book.

World's Best Scones!
From Scotland to the Savoy in London to the U.S.
READY IN: 35 Min
Makes 8 scones

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 4 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea sized lumps. Stir in the currants. Mix together 1/2 cup milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well blended. Overworking the dough results in terrible scones!

3. With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2 to 3 inches across, depending on what size you want. Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten lightly. Let the scones barely touch each other. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Let them rest for about 10 minutes.

4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown, not deep brown. Break each scone apart, or slice in half. Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams - or even plain.

Tip: Scones can be reheated if not eaten promptly by wrapping in aluminum foil and heating in oven until heated through or split in half and toasted.

Easy Clotted Cream
"A tasty alternative to the real thing. Heavy cream is lightly sweetened, whipped until stiff, and mixed with a little sour cream for flavor. Serve with scones or fruit."

* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/3 cup sour cream
* 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar


Using a whisk attachment on the mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Remove from mixer, and hand whisk in the sour cream and confectioners' sugar until just combined. Store in refrigerator.

Note: Real clotted cream is not readily available in the US. The best clotted cream is, of course, in Britain, but this should satisfy your taste buds. Just close your eyes and pretend you’re having high tea at the Savoy in London or one of the country hotels that dot the British landscape.

Now for all the purists out there or those who like to learn useful tidbits, I found this explanation about clotted cream.

Clotted cream is a thick yellow cream made by heating unpasteurized cow's milk and then leaving it in shallow pans for several hours. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms 'clots'.

Clotted cream is generally served as part of a cream tea (known as a Devonshire Cream Tea in Devon) on (warm) scones with strawberry or raspberry jam. In Devon, the cream is traditionally used instead of butter, with the jam spread on top of the cream; in Cornwall the jam is spread first because the runny substrate of Cornish clotted cream would make the Devonian method of service impossible to achieve without looking messy.

While there is no doubt of its strong association with South West England, it is not clear whether clotted cream first originated in Devon or Cornwall. While strong claims have been made on behalf of both there is a lack of documentary evidence to support them.

So, what are you reading lately? Anyone read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? What are you waiting for?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


As I went out walking one morning for pleasure,

I spied an old cowpuncher a-ridin’ along.

I cocked my head and smiled in admiration as the tune Daddy sang filled the cab of the pickup truck. The miles whizzed by, gobbled up by the Whoopie, ti-yi-yo, get along you little dogies. I’ve long since forgotten where the road ended, but the pleasure of the ride lingers. Every kid should be so lucky to have a dad swoop her up and carry her off to whatever fancy demanded attention that day.

Daddy was unusual like that, taking me or my sisters off to look at a donkey or pick up a couple of roosters, perhaps scout out a lead for a trade he had in mind. Sometimes I found myself riding shotgun as we went to the weekly livestock sale or holding a shoebox full of day-old chicks to take to the house and keep warm until the entire nest had hatched. Unusual, because in the fifties other dads didn’t involve themselves much in the parenting process, but then, normal conventions held little interest for Daddy, then or now.

continue reading here.

This is the beginning of a story I wrote about my dad in 2001. It was my first published magazine article and appeared in SaddleBaron: Magazine of the West. I've been blessed to have a great dad who taught me a lot of what he knows, and although I'll never be the storyteller he is, I do think I inherited a bit of his take on life - enjoying the moment. So for you, Daddy, Happy Father's Day. You've blessed me with life, a lot of laughs, and a heritage I'm proud of.

In the photo, my sisters and me with Daddy at our son's wedding last summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I noticed the For Sale sign in the yard first. A quaint Tudor with cheerful daffodils and peonies lining the grill work in front of the entrance area. The home is on our daily dog-walking route, and often the elderly couple who lived there would wave from their webbed lawn chairs. During football season, OU and OSU flags stood staunchly side by side. We Oklahomans do like our teams, and this couple obviously showed no favoritism. Or perhaps they had a child or grandchild at each of the universities and lent dual support.

Soon after the realtor sign went up, a string of multicolored flags was strung from the metal grilled entrance angling to the street and a glaring Estate Sale sign was planted near the curb. A touch of sadness washed over me, and I mentioned to Max that I hoped the couple had gone to a lovely retirement home to enjoy their latter days. We discussed whether or not to have a peek, but it didn’t seem right to be pawing through the precious belongings of someone we’d seen, but never bothered to stop and visit with.

Three days into the sale, though, the neighbor across the street from the Tudor had taken advantage of the high traffic in the area and put out their own yard sale items, and I as I drove by, I thought I saw a depression glass pitcher worth looking at, so I stopped. Wrong color on the pitcher although it was the real deal and priced well. Nevertheless, I passed up the bargain and ambled across to the estate sale, where I learned the owners had recently passed away--within two months of each other. I hadn’t known.

I browsed, curious as always about what you can discern about people from their belongings, yet respectful, too. A sort of silent mourning for lives well lived.

In the formal living room, a little band of angels posed on a corner shelf. They made me smile. Throughout the home, well-worn furniture and sagging mattresses told of a long life and perhaps a couple who’d been frugal and not gone in for lavishness. Sparkling crystal glasses above the bar told me they’d taken time to celebrate special occasions or had the gift of hospitality.

In the garage, tables groaned under the weight of old books, Bible commentaries, stubs of pastel drawing pencils in their original boxes, and a stack of Hi-Fi records. The one on top had a smiling John Denver. An interest in art and music and a heart for God’s word endeared them to me.

In a cheery apple green bedroom, I knew a happy little girl had once lived. A child who’d loved animals from the books on the closet shelf: Caring for Your Pet Bird, Pudgy the Beaver, Hamilton the Hamster, Horace The Horse. A four-foot carnival panda leaned listlessly in a nearby stuffed chair.

In one of the bedrooms, I found the gilded bird cage that must have one day housed the pet bird. A Titche’s dress bag graced the closet door. A quick check on the Internet tells me the Dallas-based Titche’s ceased under that name in 1979 when Joske’s became the new owner. I didn’t peek to see what garment hung under the bag. It didn’t seem right, but I knew the lady of the house had style.

In the last bedroom, an ivory wedding gown hung elegantly in a visible spot. The delicate lace, high neck, and waist that dipped in told of a lovely petite bride. I envisioned her smile on the long ago day when she’d walked down the aisle. I wondered why no one had claimed the treasure and was sorry I’d never taken the time to stop and even say hello.

Had they been alone during the sunset of their lives? Would a pot of soup or a friendly visit have made their final days easier to bear? I’ll never know. I only regret that we passed by the Tudor house time after time and never really knew the saints who lived there. A pity.

I spent fifty-four cents on two vintage Little Golden Books. Perhaps they will remind me that someday I, too, will be old.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


As promised, I’ve got a couple of reviews for you today—books by male authors. Just keeping the balance here.

Summer of Light. This book is not a new release (2007, Bethany House), but I’ve just now discovered W. Dale Cramer’s writing and am delighted that I chose this one as my introduction to his fine novels. Mick Brannigan, a construction worker, loses his job when an accident occurs on the “high steel,” and he finds himself playing stay-at-home-dad to his and Layne’s three children. The results are hilarious and poignant, often on the same page. During his tenure, mishaps aplenty occur, a menagerie of animals roam the five-acre lot where the Brannigans live, and Mick discovers passion and purpose in his life. While his wife, Layne, is certain the children will be psychologically scarred . . . if they survive . . . Mick plods along in hopes that the damage to his kids won’t be permanent.

This story was delightful in countless ways, laugh out loud funny at times, and heartwarming to the end. My husband declared Summer of Light his favorite read this year. I couldn’t agree more.

Return Policy (2009, Zondervan) by Michael Snyder has been on my reading list since I first heard it was coming out. I even pre-ordered it, anticipating a rousing follow-up to his debut novel, My Name is Russell Fink. I was not disappointed. Return Policy features quirky (dare I say neurotic?) characters and a plot which follows the three-act structure—Snyder style. Mayhem results with this cast of mismatched, yet sincerely earnest folks. The author brings together the best of the down-on-their-luck characters and weaves an almost believable tale. Along the way you’ll meet a washed-up genre novelist, a single mom with a disabled child, a scraggly homeless man with blank spots on his memory, a priest who runs a mission, and a mysterious family of psychics known as the Grinning Whiteheads. Their intersecting lives makes us all want to be better human beings.

You should definitely add this one to your list of fun summer reads.

A final note here. Both of these books turned out to be flat out funny with a strong thread of discovering who we are meant to be and holding fast to that. While they are certainly inspirational, they give the added value of being highly entertaining as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009


We just returned from a long weekend in the Dallas area, a leisurely trip where we rekindled old friendships, attended the wedding of a gorgeous young bride, and spent hours and hours haunting the old neighborhood and places we loved during the years we lived in the area. As a matter of fact, it's where two of our boys were born, and we still have many friends there who've become like family. Sadly, we don't visit often enough, but as we drove around, we'd have flashes of recognition. So and so lived on that road. Remember when we did this? I wonder what happened to the ones who lived there? Since our boys spent most of their formative years there, the memories flowed like sweet nectar.

Our old house looks good, dwarfed by the maple and pear trees we planted in the front plus the additional trees the new owners have nurtured. The live oak in the back spreads its branches from one side of the yard almost to the other. The gazebo is gone, but the wisteria still rambles across the back and up on the roof. The funniest thing, though, was the fort Max built for the boys more than twenty years ago. A sturdy, two-story structure, our boys would bail from the top of the fort onto the trampoline and catapult into the backyard pool (an above ground, which makes it seem not so dangerous). The fort is now a bright purple and appears to be just as strong as the day it was built. Fun.

And in typical Texas hospitality, the heat and humidity met us at the border when we crossed the Red River. Sweltering heat that penetrates right to the core. A perfect example of why today's Cafe Special was so beloved during those interminably long Texas summers. It was and is Max's favorite summertime dessert, so with Father's Day just around the corner, I'm heading to the store this week to get the ingredients for Lemonade Pie. Tart with just a touch of sweet in the crust. Ice cold and refreshing. There's nothing like it to beat the heat. So here's the version we've come to prefer after experimenting over the years.


1 small can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 large Cool Whip (at least 12 oz.)
3 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 Keebler graham cracker crust, the extra serving size

Blend the thawed lemonade concentrate with the cream cheese using a wire whip. When smooth, fold in the Cool Whip gradually to blend the flavors evenly. When thoroughly mixed, scoop into the graham cracker crust. Freeze until ready to serve. Allow to thaw about half an hour before serving. Best if still slightly frozen. Food coloring may be added if you like. Garnish with a mint leaf or a plump fresh strawberry.

Enjoy. Guaranteed to please the dad in your house. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


So, I’ve been thinking about which I like more . . . male authors or female. Do I choose one over the other? Do I gravitate toward the straightforward, often plot driven books that guys are known for? Or the more character driven, emotional books associated with female authors?

Looking over our bookshelves, there are probably more books by male authors (for simplicity, I’m sticking with novels here, not non-fiction). Both hubby and I tend to find an author we like and read their entire collection. Hence, we have rows of Erle Stanley Gardner (and all the AA Fair titles, too), John D. McDonald, John Grisham, Dick Francis, Rex Stout, Robin Cook . . . are you seeing a pattern here? We enjoy mysteries. On the female side, we have a large collection of Lillian Jackson Braun, Diane Mott Davidson, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich. Again, a lot of mysteries. My conclusion: My reading history is pretty balanced male and female, maybe tipping just a little in favor of male authors.

About eight or ten years ago, I began exploring new areas of fiction—mainstream, Southern fiction, Christian fiction. Again, I would find an author whose voice I liked and read everything on the backlist. Anne Tyler, Jan Karon, Barbara Kingsolver, Billie Letts, Adrianna Trigiani, Alexander McCall Smith, Charles Martin, Frank Peretti, Lisa Samson, Susan Meissner, Rene Gutteridge. Now, I find that the list weighs in a little heavier on the female side. Hmmm.

Matter of fact—in the past 18 months, I’ve read 20 books by male authors, 50 books by female authors. Which ones do I like more?

Answering that would be like deciding between a Café Americano coffee with half and half or a Latte with an extra shot of espresso and a dollop of whipped cream. Child A or Child B? Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? The truth is, I love books! I love reading, learning about new things, getting the beejeebies scared out of me once in a while, lingering over phrases that steal my breath away, and laughing out loud while I’m turning the pages. Male or female? Doesn’t matter as long as it draws me in, tells me a great story, and lingers in my mind long after the last page.

How about you? Who are your favorite authors? Male or female? Why?

After you all chime in, I will be posting a couple of reviews of two recent books I read by male authors. I want to be fair, give them equal time (most of my reviews of late have been of books written by some lovely, gifted gals).

In the meantime, I’m flipping a coin. Will the next novel I read be by a male or female????

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Thanks to Alice Wisler for allowing me to share one of her recipes from her new book, How Sweet It Is. (See previous post where I reviewed this book.) This is a yummy recipe that main character Deena Livingston learned from the chef she worked with back in Atlanta . . . before she landed in the mountains of North Carolina and ended up teaching a challenging group of middle-schoolers to cook. They loved these potatoes, and I think you will, too!

6 baking potatoes (Yukon Gold potatoes are tasty)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp garlic salt!

Peel the potatoes. Cut them into wedges 2 inches wide and about 3 inches long. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold salted water for an hour. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Drain the potatoes and pat with paper towels. Coat them with olive oil. Add the cayenne pepper, garlic salt, and pepper and salt to taste. Spread the mixture on greased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes and turn the potatoes with a spatula. Bake for 15 more minutes or until light brown and crispy. Serve to any hungry middle-school group or gathering.

This sounds like an easy, no-fuss recipe that should make your summer cookouts a breeze. Enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2009




Susan Meissner's Book


I know you will enjoy this book a lot. Thanks to all of you who left comments. I'm sorry you couldn't all win this beautifully written masterpiece. I hope you'll stop by the Cafe again to see what's going on, enjoy the latest in new releases, and who knows? There might be another giveaway soon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


It is my pleasure to bring you How Sweet It Is by Alice Wisler (Bethany House. 2009). This book is a little like taking a walk along a lovely mountain path. There are rocks to watch for, bends in the road that lead to unknown vistas, an incline or two that has to be climbed, but the sights and sounds along the path are delightful. With sparkling writing in a come-follow-me style, the author’s characters weave their way into your heart one page at a time.

How Sweet It Is takes place in the mountains of North Carolina. Junior chef, Deena Livingston inherits and moves into her grandfather’s cabin—a perfect opportunity to get away from her unpleasant memories in Atlanta and start her own cake-decorating business. Before her Kitchen-Aid blender is unpacked, her plans are interrupted and take a new direction. I loved Deena’s aunt, Regina Lorraine, a taciturn but good-hearted woman. Then there’s the plumber who keeps arriving at Deena’s cabin to check her pipes and a social worker who shows up to help with a group of middle-school children, whom Deena’s been drafted to teach how to cook. Mishaps are many, but the fun twists make this terrific summer read not only sweet, but also flavored with just the right amount of spice.

This is Alice Wisler’s second novel, the first being Rain Song, which has the distinction of being a Christy nominee in the Debut Book category this year. If you’ve not read one of Alice’s books, I encourage you to do so. They are delectable.

Monday, June 1, 2009


This is from my good friend Debbie Symons who sends me the most intriguing links and the occasional . . . ahem . . . racy joke. Sorry, friends. This is one of the fun and intriguing things.


The year is 1909.
One hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some statistics from that year. I hope it gives you pause as it did me.

The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!

The average wage in 1909 was 22 cents per hour. 
The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, 
a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.

Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND by the government as 'substandard.'

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death were: Pneumonia and influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart Disease, and Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, 'Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.'

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.