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, August 30, 2009


CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???? It's been more than a month since I've featured chocolate here at the Café.
Shame on me! Take heart—this week’s recipe is a simple, gooey, divine treat that whips up in seconds and is the perfect finish to just about anything - breakfast, an afternoon nap, a candlelight dinner. You name it, this recipe works! The hardest part is waiting for it to bake.

From my friend, Cheryl—a native Texan and true Southerner. She is charming, oh-so-cute, and a fabulous cook. A girl’s luncheon or evening at her house is never complete without dessert. This is one of my favorites.

Baked Walnut Fudge

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup melted butter (the real stuff)
½ cup flour (yes, that all the flour you need)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup walnuts (pecans work fine too)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients and pour into a 9-inch square pan. Set into a larger pan of hot water, about one inch deep. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Note: This looks like a brownie, but the hot water keeps it soft and fudgy in the center.

Ahhhh. Chocolate! The perfect end to one of your Labor Day Weekend dinners with friends and family. Enjoy.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Here's a section of my garden only a few short months ago. It’s hard to believe the days are already growing shorter. I’m not a fan of heat and humidity and find the end of August tolerable at best. But here we are: the dying days of summer, and I’m feeling in limbo. Today I realized my life the last few months has echoed the season. After a hot season of writing and writing, last week I finished the third round of revisions on my current manuscript. It’s not due until January, but I rely on others to read over it and point out the absurdities so I can have another month or so to revise before handing it over to my editor.

Even while writing, I squeezed in several weekend trips to see family and friends, attended two weddings, and enjoyed visits from the grandkids. Our lives were bursting with activities – things that come with the season. Now the kiddos are back in school, my flower garden is a shambles of deadhead blooms and overgrown lilies and Russian sage. Even the cicadas, whose serenade continues deep into the night, are shedding their summer coats leaving their “pork rind” husks scattered about the patio.

Last night, a gentle breeze blew over, bringing with it a newness to the air. Cool. Dry. A hint of autumn’s promise. It’s time to sweep the dusty cobwebs from the corners of the patio and the nether regions of my brain. My next writing project? I can’t decide, but already several ideas are vying for attention. Perhaps it’s time to take my yellow pad outdoors and scribble the ideas on paper while they’re still fresh. Let the characters who are shouting the loudest, “Pick me! Pick me!” have their say.

Another season on the calendar and in my writing life. You know, I’m glad they coincided. And I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. Maybe I’ll meet you there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Last weekend, my sister, Donna, found this little fella slumped over on a plant stand in her underground garage. Surprised that it was a hummingbird, she took it up to her patio, where she saw that it was alive . . . just barely. Cupping it tenderly in her hand, she held it up to the hummingbird feeder on her patio, pointing its beak into the little yellow flower. Almost at once, its mouth opened with a tiny tongue darting in and out to drink the nectar. It struggled to open its eyes and gulp down more liquid.

Still holding it in her palm, she snapped a couple of pictures, marveling that it sat there contently. A few more trips to the feeder, then it gave a little shudder, ruffled its wings and off it went.

Thanks, Donna, for sharing your pics and the amazing story of the little hummingbird you rescued.

Just in case you’re interested, here are some fast facts about hummingbirds:

• These tiniest of birds are native to the Americas.
• They can hover in mid-air by flapping their wings 12 – 90 times per second.
• They are the only birds that can fly backwards.
• They can fly more than 34 mph.
• They feed on plant nectar and are important flower pollinators.
• They also feed on insects and spiders to balance their sugar diet with protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
• Unlike other birds, hummingbirds drink by using protrusible grooved or trough-like tongues.
• They consume up to five times their body weight in nectar each day.
• They have the highest metabolism of all animals. Can only store enough energy to survive overnight, so they are only hours away from starving to death at any given moment.
• Their heart rates can reach 1,260 beats per minute, but they enter a hibernation-like state (torpor) at night, reducing the need for food.
• Average life span of 3 to 4 years, but one tagged hummingbird lived at least 12 years.
• They are found only in the Americas, from southern Alaska to the tip of South America.
• The typical cup-shaped nest is built by the female who lays two white eggs. Males do not participate in nest building or feeding the young (chicks).
• There are between 325 and 340 species of hummingbirds, half of which can be found in Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador.
• Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli is often depicted as a hummingbird.
• Trinidad and Tobago is known as “the land of the hummingbird” and bears a hummingbird on that nation’s coat of arms, one-cent coin, and its national airline, Caribbean Air.

Hummingbirds are one of my favorite summer delights, and I must admit, I’ve spent many an evening enjoying their visits to our patio feeders. Here’s to simple pleasures and summertime joys!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Used to be, when I read “pesto” as an ingredient in recipes, I skipped over it. I didn’t know what it was – a spice? Something that comes in a little jar in the condiment section of the store? Something from a foreign market?

I’m not sure when I discovered pesto as being one of those divine little “additions” that makes taste buds dance with joy. Whenever it was, I’ve since become a devoted fan. It helps if you have a little spot in your garden to grow a few basil plants (sweet basil) so you have a ready supply. Then you can whip up a fresh batch of pesto throughout the summer.


2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil (prefer extra virgin)
¼ cup pine nuts (or walnuts or pecans)
½ cup Parmesan, grated

Combine garlic, salt, and oil in a food processor until smooth. Add the basil, nuts, and Parmesan until desired consistency (I prefer it slightly coarse).

That’s it – you’re ready to go with your favorite recipe.

So . . . just what do you use it in?

BRUSCHETTA – Top toasted rounds of French bread with a teaspoon of pesto. Add chopped tomato and a bit of green onion. Yummy appetizer or addition to any Italian meal.

SANDWICH SPREAD – Can be used as is or mixed with a bit of mayo or Dijon mustard for an interesting flavor to any summertime sandwich.

PASTA SALAD – Use in place of part of the oil or dressing for a burst of flavor.

SOUPS and STEWS – Have the taste of fresh pesto year round by freezing prepared pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out into a zip lock bag to extend freezer life. Use one or two cubes of pesto into marinara or spaghetti sauce, vegetable soups, jambalayas, or crock pot meals. Easy and saves finding fresh herbs in the winter.
Note: Omit Parmesan when making pesto to freeze.

That’s it! Thanks for stopping by the café. Are there any “foreign-sounding” or “weird” foods you’ve come across that turned out to be one of your favorites? I’d be happy to give them a try.

Monday, August 17, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Allison's Perfect Guacamole

This week's special comes from my daughter-in-law, Allison. Born and raised in Orange County, CA, she's been an avocado / guacamole aficionado since the cradle. Her dad (waving to Jan!) had an avocado tree in his yard as a kid. Talk about heaven on earth.

I, on the other hand, grew up a thousand miles from California and only knew that avocados were bumpy, black, scary-looking things with ginormous, slimy seeds. Not that I didn't enjoy guacamole in our favorite Mexican restaurants - I did, but all my home attempts at recreating the dish didn't measure up . . . until Allison came along and shared her recipe.

Now, guacamole's not so scary - and we enjoy it often. I think you will too.


2 large avocadoes, ripened

1 cup fresh tomato, chopped

4 or 5 chopped green onions

A few sprigs of chopped cilantro

Juice of one large lime

Scoop avocado from shell with a spoon. Add lime juice and mash with a fork (a few lumps okay). Add chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Thanks, Allison!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

SAY WHAT? Historical Tidbits on Language and Tradition

My thanks to my good friend, Debbie, who sends me all kinds of mesmerizing, worthwhile emails. This one's a keeper. Ever wonder where some of our unusual phrases and traditions came from? Take a step back to 1500 and read on . . .

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell . .. . Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the 
Babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip an d fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) o n floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer...

There now, don't you feel smarter??

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Language is a peculiar and yet magical way that we communicate ideas, tell stories, persuade others, and learn vast amounts of both trivial and essential knowledge. Since the first grade when I mispronounced “Nancy” in my reader—I said Nancky—I’ve been on a mission to conquer this world of words. I love finding a new word or phrase that dances off the page in perfect resonance to what’s happening in a story. I even have a few pet phrases I use from time to time in my own writing.

Recently my critique partner commented on a couple of them that were unfamiliar to her. Both were things I’ve heard all my life and wrote them without thinking, but it got me thinking about whether I had used them in the precise manner I intended. So I did a quick Google search for their origin and meanings.

She didn’t know up from sic ‘em.


She doesn’t know sic ‘em

She doesn’t know sic ‘em twice

. . .here from sic ‘em

. . . sic ‘em from come here

. . . sic ‘em from go get ‘em.

The term is more common in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, thus falling in to the colloquial category. The meanings vary slightly—some derogatory, some just a casual description of a person who knows nothing, has diminished capacity, is a dunderhead or ignorant, sometimes used to describe an unresponsive or shiftless person. The term probably originated from people who owned dogs that wouldn’t follow commands, hence the ignorant connotation. Similar to saying a person doesn’t know beans or is dumber than a box of hammers.

Since the person I referred to in my manuscript is mentally incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s and I don’t want to assign a derogatory quality to her, I will probably choose another term that evokes a more sympathetic tone.

Vim and Vinegar—another phrase I used that gave my critique buddy pause. This is a common malapropism which is the combination of two different phrases that result in unintentional humor or the wrong context. The term comes from mixing the phrases vim and vigor and pi$$ and vinegar. Vim was a cleaning powder created in Liverpool, England; vigor, of course, means vitality or energy. The pi$$ and vinegar denotes some sort of extra kick. Combined into vim and vinegar, it means spirited, vigorous, maybe a bit of contrast. Which is the meaning I was going for in my recent manuscript as I describe two characters who are quite different, but are married and give off an adventurous energy. They are spunky and endearing, so I will probably keep the description.

Fine as frog hair. A term my dad is fond of saying when asked how he is. I like the irony of this phrase which means “I’m in good health and all is well.” It just has a more colorful ring than the usual Just fine, don’t you think?

I swan. During the edit phase of my upcoming novel, Chasing Lilacs, my editor asked what this term meant. Some people use it as a euphemism for I swear and is commonly heard in the South, where perhaps a genteel person wouldn’t swear, so they use a more accepted word. It also is used to denote surprise as is goodness gracious! or oh my Gosh! Another variation is I swanee or Swanee River, again seeming to be a euphemism.

These phrases flit about in my head, and I want to use them to give color and verisimilitude to my prose. I owe it to my characters to be true to them, and I owe it to my readers to transport them into the fictitious world I’ve created. But with that, I have a responsibility as an author to use colloquialisms, etc. correctly. I don’t take it lightly.

Oh! I just thought of another one. When I was a teenager and someone asked a question to which the obvious answer was yes, we would say Does a chicken have lips? We thought this was hilarious. Nowadays, the equivalent is the annoying, unoriginal Duh??

So that’s my language lesson for today. Have you heard any of these phrases before? Or used them? What colloquialisms, euphemisms, or malapropisms have you encountered or used to spice up your writing?

Monday, August 10, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - My Sister Donna's Special Salsa

I just returned from a mini-reunion of sorts. Some California relatives ventured to Oklahoma (and my dad's house) so on Saturday, some of the local kinfolk joined us. My sisters were there and one of my boys and two grandsons. All in all, a very fun day. Everyone helped out with either the cooking or making some of our favorite dishes. My sister, Donna, made her famous salsa. I'd forgotten just how good it was, and thought it would be a tasty recipe to have here at the Cafe today. The only other thing you need is a bag of tortilla chips and the desire to sit around the table with family and friends.


1 large can diced tomatoes, with liquid

2 small cans diced green chiles

1 can “El Pato” – bright yellow can (This is the secret sauce)

1 bunch chopped green onion

1 fistful chopped cilantro

1 – 3 tsp. black pepper, depending how spicy you like your salsa

1 clove garlic, crushed

Pinch of oregano

Mix all together. Chill and serve.

Makes about 3 pints.

During the summer when you can get "good" homegrown tomatoes at produce stands and farmers' markets, you can use those instead of the canned ones for an even fresher taste. A hint from Donna. When testing to see if you have enough spice, use a tortilla chip for tasting. The salt from the chip will give the salsa a balanced taste. This has been a family favorite for a long time, and here at the cafe, we're all family. Grab a bag of tortilla chips and join the fun.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm the featured reviewer at CHRISTIAN FICTION ONLINE MAGAZINE

Good News! I'm the featured reviewer in this month's Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can read my review here. While on the site, you might want to check out other book reviews and the many fine articles by other authors, publishers, and agents. There's a wide range of topics on writing craft, industry news and business, and some that are just plain fun. Hope you'll check it out.

My thanks to Michelle Sutton, editor of CFOM, for the opportunity to be in the mag. She's doing a great job!

Monday, August 3, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Savory Oyster Crackers

We’re still in the too-hot-to-be-cooking mode here, so this week’s special is another simple, no-fuss treat compliments of my sister, Marsha. She comes up with some unique and delicious recipes—perhaps from her Bunko pals, who definitely know good eats and how to have fun. Savory Oyster Crackers go great with iced cold drinks or lemonade and are a great addition to the buffet table at parties. Why not have enjoy them in place of popcorn while watching a video? And they're a great on-the-go snack to take in the car since you fix it, shake it, and store it in a zip-lock bag.


1 bag plain oyster crackers (Store brand is fine and cheaper)

1 packet Ranch Dip/Dressing Mix, dry

½ to ¾ cup canola oil

¼ to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on your taste

(Hint: save the leftover packets from Pizza Hut—always fresh!)

Mix oil, ranch dressing mix, and pepper flakes with a wire whisk. Pour over oyster crackers which have been placed in a large zip-lock bag. Seal. Shake to coat crackers thoroughly. Serve after letting flavors blend for a couple of hours or overnight.

Addiction Warning: You may not be able to stop eating them after your first handful, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For variety you might substitute or add garlic powder, cumin, or parmesan, but really, the basic recipe is tasty on its own.

Thanks, Marsha, for the recipe. Tell me, when are you going to invite me to Bunko??? To the rest of you, stay cool, and remember—treats are on me at the Café, and while you're here, if something’s on your mind, I like to hear it.