Brrr, it was cold, inside and out

When my husband woke me at in the middle of the night, I looked at my digital clock, and it was dark. “It’s 3:00 a.m.,” he said. “The electricity’s out, and it’s cold in the house.” He added a comforter to the bed and we snuggled under the covers until morning.

Of course, when I called to report the outage, they asked for my address, and said it would be fixed as soon as possible. Seeing the whole neighborhood without lights, I figured it would be a while. Since our house was all electric, including the stovetop, we decided to go out for breakfast. Nothing was open, not even the restaurant in a nearby Holiday Inn. Luckily, the nearby Kroger was, so I stocked up.

Back home, I had a rubber hot water bottle and our water heater delivered hot water. It wasn’t enough to make coffee, but sitting in a chair with my bathrobe on, a shawl around my shoulders and an afghan over my legs, I got my feet warm on the hot water bottle until my feet felt damp. Oops, even though I had screwed the cap on tightly, the thing was leaking.

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Next, our wonderful neighbor, Joanie and her husband knocked on the door. If we had an electric heater, they would lend us a generator. After they set it up, we attached an extension cord and threaded it under a window. Then we sat together on the couch, holding our feet out toward the tiny heater we’d set on a board. We even connected the generator (lower right side) to the microwave to make coffee.

We talked to our daughter in Fort Worth and found out she had electricity. A friend from Hurst, was already staying with her. Apparently, our whole town was without electricity. We thanked the neighbor for the use of the generator and set out for my daughter’s house with three pounds of ground beef. She had tomato sauce and spaghetti noodles, so I fixed spaghetti and homemade biscuits for us. I had brought along some of my mint frosted brownies, which we ate.

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Her roommate, David, was also staying there. The next morning he cooked scrambled eggs with home fries, and we split leftover biscuits and broiled them. We made good use of Diane’s Keurig for coffee, hot chocolate and tea. I called our neighbor behind us, who reported three hours electricity, then nothing. The weather forecast was 3 degrees, almost unheard of for Texas, and it was still snowing, so we decided to stay with Diane another night. When we lived in Michigan, we’d endured cold before, but never went without electricity or heat in the house. Up north, they know how to deal with the cold.

So what did we do away from home. Others watched old movies, including “The Gods Must Be Crazy” and “Man of the House,” about a bachelor guarding five witnesses, typical teenage coeds, who almost drove him crazy. I worked on my laptop, writing on my next book, Searching for Justice. I also read First Family by David Baldacci.

As we headed home on Wednesday, snow still covered much of the roads, and there was ice underneath in places, but the freeways were not bad. Of course, I drove slowly, realizing many Texans were not used to driving in these conditions, but we got home, and there was heat. During a trip to the dentist to get molds made for false teeth for my husband, the most dangerous spot was slippery ice underfoot in the parking lot .

The ice cream in the freezer seemed affected with tinges of frost. I remembered when my mother made ice cream, she had to beat it often, I used the cake mixer and beat our ice cream without thawing it too much. I returned it to the freezer, and later it tasted much better.

Of course, leaving whole areas without power in order to avoid complete power grid failure caused lots of discussion on the news and in the paper. I believe a person on my neighborhood email newsletter figured out the cause. When estimating the electricity need for this winter, the electricity providers took an average of previous years, without including 2011 when there was extreme weather while the Super Bowl was in the DFW area. Since there seemed to be extra capacity this year, they sold power to other states. Wind vanes and generators failed because companies didn’t want to spend extra for wintering precautions. And even a nuclear power generator froze. To add insult to injury, after buying extra power from other states at high prices, the electric providers jacked up people’s electric bills. Seems like more state regulation for electric providers is needed.

And unbelievably, today all I needed to go outside was a sweater. That’s Texas for you.

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The Languages of Love

Everyone wants love. With Valentine’s Day coming soon, I’m reminded of Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, Singles Edition. Each person in a relationship is different when it comes to what makes him or her feel loved.

Do you know which primary love language your friend, parent, child, or significant other one prefers? Discovering this will help you show you care in a way to delight him or her the most.

 My husband and I took a quiz on these, but being married to him for several years, his answers were not too surprising. I have learned what he likes and what doesn’t really mean much to him.

If you know The Five Love languages, you can learn which your friend or loved one prefers and show you care by “speaking” in that language. They are described below, but not in any order of importance. You are more likely to emotionally connect with another and actively give and receive love by discovering and using each other’s love language.

Words of affirmation give another person confidence and make him or her feel good about himself or herself. As a child, don’t you remember how good you felt when your mother or father said you were a good person or praised you for doing something well? Doesn’t hearing, “I’m proud of you,” make you feel warm inside?

Gifts – Why do people feel so happy getting presents at Christmas time? Everyone likes a gift, especially when it is a surprise. However, my husband and one daughter much prefer I ask what they’d like for Christmas or birthday. In a romance novel, when a man showers the heroine with gifts, she feels he really cares. My gift to you is a recipe for Mint Frosted Brownies, the most scrumptious brownie I’ve even tasted. See the recipe below.

Acts of service are welcome, especially if it is a task the person doesn’t enjoy doing or is tired from doing other necessary things. I especially appreciate my husband filling the dishwasher without being asked after I have had a busy, tiring day.

 Quality time deepens a relationship. The two of you talk about things in common, have shared memories and maybe even have an inside joke. As a working mother, I always tried to spend my days off doing something with my children, like taking them to a park.

Touch – “Numerous research projects in the area of child development have come to the same conclusion; babies who are held, hugged, and touched tenderly develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.” Gary Chapman, 5 Love Languages. Even old people in nursing homes feel better when someone touches them.

Before Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to figure out which Love Languages appeal to you, then ask your friend, parent, child, or significant other what he or she likes best. Remembering and using those will definitely enrich your relationship. I’ll be interested in reading what you learned.

Mint Frosted Brownies

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

½ cup margarine (1 stick)

¾ cup baking cocoa

1 cup flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

16 chocolate mint patties or 16 Andies Candies

Beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar (about 2-3 Tablespoons at a time), beating well after each addition. Melt margarine and pour in slowly while beating. (Eggs tend to curdle if heated too quickly.) Sift flour and cocoa together into bowl. Mix well. Add vanilla and mix well, then stir in nuts. Spread in a greased 9X9 pan and bake 40-45 minutes at 325. Remove from oven and add 15 -20 chocolate mint patties. Bake 3 minutes more, then remove from oven and stir to make frosting. Cool to room temperature and cut in 16 pieces.  You can cut them smaller, but they are crumbly and tend to fall apart because they are rich and fudgy. You can omit the nuts and the mint candies, and they still are delicious.

Nutrients (with Andies Candies): 242 Calories, 13 g. fat, 53 mg. cholesterol, 34g. carbohydrate, 28g. sugar, 122 mg. sodium.

(without nuts, you will have 52 less calories and 5 less grams of fat)

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A Tale of Two Brownies

Christmas and New Years Day celebrations were full of good cheer and good food. Perhaps, like me, you picked up a few pounds. But baked chicken, lettuce, and hard-boiled eggs aren’t enough to satisfy you. How about a brownie recipe with less calories. Below is the recipe for Pineapple Brownies, which I developed to put in my new cookbook I’m working on, Delicious Recipes for Heart Patients and Diabetics. My next blog post will have a recipe for really scrumptious, fudgy brownies to make for Valentines Day. (I’ll include the nutrient amounts, but you don’t have to read them.)

Carolyn’s low Calorie Pineapple Brownie

Carolyn’s Pineapple Brownies

Ingredients

1/2 cup baker’s cocoa

½ cup margarine

4 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup Stevia

1 small can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup flour

1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

Directions

Set oven at 325 degrees and grease or spray Pam on an 8 X 11or 9 X 9 pan. Melt the margarine over low heat. Beat the eggs until foamy. Add vanilla. Mix sugar and Stevia. Gradually add that, about 2 tablespoons at a time, to eggs while still beating. Put flour, cocoa, and baking powder in sifter and sift into mixture. Mix in the pineapple and chopped nuts. Add melted margarine and mix well. Spread in pan and bake for 40 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool a little before cutting into 16 pieces.

Nutrients

Calories, 137, Fat, 10g.,  Cholesterol, 53 mg., Carbohydrate, 13g., Sugar, 6g., Sodium, 122 mg.

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New Book

Forgotten Princess, Book 3 of the Cordillera Royals was released on December 1st.

Watch for Holiday with a Royal, Book 4 of the Cordillera Royals coming soon.

I don’t look like anyone in my family. Could I have been adopted and no one told me?

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A different way to celebrate Halloween

As usual, I set out my straw dolls and filled a bowl with wrapped candy. I live on a busy street, and only one kid, the boy next door, showed up. The next day, my husband and I set out with baggies filled with five packages of four kinds of candy. We knocked on two doors across the street. When the parents showed up, we said, “Trick or Treat,” and held out enough bags for the number of kids. Then we knocked on the door to the south of us and handed out four more baggies. Luckily, that didn’t leave much candy, so we finished off a few samples, leaving only four to eat the next day. Hopefully, that won’t do too much damage to our waistlines.

I am getting ready for the release of Forgotten Princess, the next book in my Cordillera Royals Series. Anna Hernandez grew up as part of a family in Texas and discovers she is related to the royal family of Cordillera. But which royal is she most related to? Luckily, she has been invited to play the piano with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra. After that she’ll have a chance to visit the nearby country of Cordillera and find out. Visit Prolific works during November and get a free copy of Pretend Princess, Book One of the Cordillera Royals. Here is the link for The North Texas RWA giveaway: https://claims.prolificworks.com/gg/MRIJ6qBJjGVmJ91KjzP2

The princess steps outside with her favorite dancing partner at a royal ball. 

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About My Amazing Author Friend, Marsha West

Hey, Carolyn. Thanks so much for having me today.

I’m a retired elementary school principal, a former school board member, and theatre arts teacher. I write Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. I live in Texas with my supportive lawyer husband and Charley, our deaf, Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier rescue. Our two daughters presented us with three delightful grandchildren all who live nearby.

The theme of my eight books is always second chances. I have a four-part series titled The Second Chances Series. I believe in Happily Ever Afters. My husband picked up a plaque on a trip to Maine that states my philosophy exactly. Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end. The Heroines and Heroes in my books are in their 40s and 50s with their parents and children often playing supporting roles.

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the North Texas local chapter, NTRWA, Texas Authors, which is where Carolyn and I became friends. I blog weekly and have a monthly newsletter. My books can be found on AMAZON, B & N, KOBO, and iTunes. Print books are also at Indie Lector Stores and Amazon. Blurbs for each of my books with buy links can be found on my website https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/  where you can also sign up for  my NEWSLETTER and BLOG. Contact me at marsha@marsharwest.com , and follow me on https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn https://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest  @Marsharwest

I blog monthly on Word By Word Blog. https://wordbyword.net/category/blog/ https://www.pinterest.com/marsharwest/  https://www.instagram.com/marsharwest

One of the questions Carolyn sent me was: Have you taken a trip to anywhere that is featured in your books?

The answer is a resounding YES. My first book VERMONT ESCAPE began in Texas, but took place mainly in Vermont, specifically Woodstock. We discovered this charming, quintessential New England town on our first trip to New England. The leaves wore a spectacular colorful garb, the breezes were cool. We even had a light snow. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

In point of fact, all of my books have a location focus, including my most recent, TAINTED.  When I was close to finishing the last book in my 4-part series, ACT OF SURVIVAL, I was moaning and groaning to one of my daughters about not knowing where to go next for my next book. She said, “Mom, you love Red River so much, why don’t you set the next one there?” And so that’s what I did. Red River, NM is a place we went during the summers when our daughters were young. When they were in college, and we realized we’d probably not get to hang out with them a lot longer, we asked them where they’d like to go on a family vacation. They both instantly responded Red River.  And so since they’ve been married and now have kids, we’ve continued to make trips there. Of course, because of Covid, we didn’t get to go this past August, which made working on the book really meaningful to me.

 Here’s the blurb: Socialite and philanthropist Elizabeth Hartman needs to start a new    life after divorcing her husband Gerry Richardson who’s gone to federal prison for money laundering, a crime the Feds suspected her of being involved in. Her mother’s family vacation home in Red River, New Mexico offers just the respite she needs. Or does it? 

One too many deaths sent retired Dallas homicide detective and now Marshall Matt Thornton to Red River to seek a less dangerous place to serve. The New Mexico mountains promised to be that refuge until his high school sweetheart Liz Hartman arrives, bringing with her danger to his town and his heart.

Here are the links:

iTunes https://apple.co/32CKYrm

KOBO    https://bit.ly/35JuSys

Amazon https://amzn.to/35WaLgq

B & N https://bit.ly/3kkPXmD

Do you like books with a strong location focus? Love to hear from you. Thanks again for hosting me, Carolyn. 

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Ten tips to improve your life now

  1. Cut calories by substituting artificial sweetener for half the sugar in the recipe. Each teaspoon of sugar removed cuts 7 grams and 28 calories. Most recipes taste the same with this alteration. I prefer Sweet’n Low and Stevia for dishes that will be heated. When you bake with Stevia, adding extra baking powder makes a cake rise higher. Instead of 1 tsp., use 1 1/2 tsp. For cold dishes, you could use Sweet’n Low, Stevia, or Equal.
  2. Cut calories and fat by using 1/3 less of butter, margarine, or sour cream called for in the recipe. Most dishes turn out okay by doing this. For cakes, you may want to add an extra egg white to keep the cake from being dry.
  3. For dessert, eat strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries. They are all low calorie, and blueberries are good for your health. Two servings taste well with 1 Tbs. sugar and 2 packages of Sweet ‘n Low or Equal and 1 or 2 Tbs. whipped topping. Most varieties of whipped topping only have 25 calories for 2 Tbs.
  4. Cook vegetables in the microwave with water and no salt in a covered Corningware or glass dish. Sometimes, all you have to do with the empty dish is rinse it out. You can go do something else while the vegetable cooks without worrying that it will burn. People can add their own salt at the table.
  5. Choose a margarine without trans fat. I like Imperial because it tastes most like butter.
  6. Take a walk every day. It’s good exercise, and helps your body make vitamin D from the sunshine on your skin.
  7. You can bake or chill many versions of pie in a glass pie pan without using a piecrust. I even made pumpkin pie in the microwave that way. This saves work and calories. If you make your own graham cracker crust, you can skip the sugar.
  8. Use your extra time to do one or more of those tasks you have been putting off. You’ll be proud of yourself after you do it.
  9. Learn something new. That will keep life interesting and challenge your brain, which seems to improve brain health.
  10. Read a non-fiction book that challenges you to think or enlightens you about something. Try a fiction book from an author whose books you haven’t read. If you join Kindle Unlimited for about $10 per month, you can read as much or as little as you like of a book, and the author still gets paid. If you don’t have a Kindle, there is a free app for your phone. My Cordillera Royals series is included in Kindle Unlimited, and book 3, Forgotten Princess will be added soon. Or you can find my latest e-book, Romancing the Vet, on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

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Fall Treats and a Reminder

Don’t forget, you can receive Romancing the Vet at a bargain price of $.99, pre-order from ibooks (Apple), Kobo, or Barnes & Noble before September 26th.

https://books2read.com/u/mBGEGD (Universal link)

Plan to attend the Launch Party for Romancing the Vet on Thursday, September 24th, from 5-8 Central Daylight Time. Answer a question or enter a comment for a prize.

Fall Treats

Fall is here, according to the calendar, but in Texas it’s only down to the 70s. Time for hot cocoa and chili. However, my recipe for chili is not true Texas chili because it has beans, but I like the hearty flavor I get when I include beans.

Below are my recipes for chili and hot chocolate – in case you haven’t any packages on hand or want a cup with less calories, but do have baking cocoa on hand.

Low Calorie Hot Chocolate made from scratch

Ingredients

1 tsp. cocoa

6 packages of Sweet ‘n Low

1/2 cup cold water

½ cup 2% milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract or flavoring

Directions

Mix cocoa, Sweet ‘n Low and a small amount of water (about ¼ cup) well. Add the rest of the water, and microwave for one minute. Mix in the milk and microwave for another minute. Add ½ tsp. vanilla and stir.

Nutrients for one cup

Calories – 85

Fat – 2.7g

Carbohydrates – 7g. includes 6 g. sugar

Carolyn’s Hearty Chili

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef (or ½ lb. if calorie conscious)

1 – 15 ounce can Hunt’s Tomato Sauce

1 can Ranch Style Beans

¼ cup catsup

Salt and pepper to taste

One slice of process cheese for each bowl – optional

Directions

Brown the ground beef. As soon as there’s enough fat released to fry the onions, add them. When beef is browned and onions look tender, drain the grease, and add tomato sauce, catsup, and beans. Cook until everything is hot. Pour into bowls. Tear cheese into smaller pieces and stir into each bowl. Serves 4.

Nutrients per serving using one pound of ground beef

Calories – 556

Fat – 20 g.

Carbohydrates – 29 g.

Nutrients per serving using ½ pound ground beef

Calories – 412

Fat – 10 g.

Carbohydrates – 29 g.

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A Dangerous Surprise and a Nice Place to Visit

In my next book, Romancing the Vet, my heroine, Amanda, picks up a retired racing greyhound to foster at a vet’s office close to the Mexican border, but something doesn’t seem right with the dog. Unfortunately, when she gets home, the only vet in town is her ex-boyfriend. She takes the greyhound to his office, and Dr. Thomas Whistler discovers drugs sewn inside the dog’s belly. From then on, Amanda, Thomas, and the dog are kept on the run.

I researched this and found out drug dealers smuggle drugs in many puppies that way, and the poor animals often don’t live long. However, some in Columbia were rescued, had the drugs removed, and survived. One grew up to be a good drug sniffer for the police.

Hoping for a relaxing, safe trip, Thomas, takes Amanda to Enchanted Rock, a piece of the earth’s core that has been pushed up above the surface. Made of pink granite, it sometimes expands or contracts at night. After hearing those sounds, area Native Americans called it Enchanted Rock. However, after Thomas and Amanda return to Dallas, they have to dodge the dangerous men again.

To receive Romancing the Vet at a bargain price of $.99, pre-order from ibooks (Apple), Kobo, or Barnes & Noble before September 26th.

https://books2read.com/u/mBGEGD (Universal link)

Plan to attend the Launch Party for Romancing the Vet on Thursday, September 24th, from 5-8 Central Daylight Time. Answer a question or enter a comment for a prize.

 

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Cooking with and without the Instant Pot

Like so many of you, I have time on my hands. Instead of doing those odd jobs I keep putting off, I’ve been trying new recipes, most from Taste of Home magazine. Those are recipes from homemakers all over the U.S., often their favorite recipes they have served many times.

I love being able to put stuff in the pot right after lunch and leave it to cook. Sometimes they turn out wonderful, and sometimes I could just as well have cooked them on the stove, like the one with ground beef, onions, Bush’s Baked Beans, and butter beans. Actually, I used frozen peas instead of butter beans because hubby does not care for those. Usually, the meat is done and tender, but the vegetables need to be boiled on the stove to get them done in a hurry. Most of the dishes end up with lots of gravy. I guess I’ll have to buy some rice, which I’ve been trying to avoid on a low-carb diet, to use up all the mushrooms and gravy left over from a chicken dish. Or maybe I will use it in a recipe that calls for chicken broth.

One of my favorite soups is cauliflower soup made in my red copper pot, using 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped, a cup of sliced carrots, a can of corn, a can of evaporated milk, 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 2 cups water and chopped cauliflower. I usually add more regular milk. It makes enough for two people for four lunches. Best of all, the soup has lots of vegetables in it instead of just a few floating around. After eating it, I feel like I actually had a meal.

I have tried three recipes for lime pie, but only liked the Fluffy Key Lime Pie from Taste of Home, which uses:

  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 package (0.3 ounce) sugar-free lime gelatin
  • 2 cartons (6 ounces each) Key lime yogurt
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
  •   1 graham cracker crust (6 ounces)

See tasteofhome.com or mix lime gelatin with boiling water. Cool a little, then mix in rest of stuff and chill. This would be good with or without the graham cracker crust.

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