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


1 tsp. cocoa

6 packages of Sweet ‘n Low

1/2 cup cold water

½ cup 2% milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract or flavoring


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


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


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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Virus story with happy ending

Newly divorced, Heather McKinley is thrilled to discover she’s finally pregnant. Brilliant CDC researcher, Daniel Whistler, cares about her and consoles her after her miscarriage. Together, they search for the fanatic dispersing the dangerous sterility virus in U.S. cities and on a Caribbean cruise ship, while each hides a secret that may ultimately break them up. (Published in 2018, when this was just a figment of my imagination)


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Happy Birthday – differently

Sunday, April 5th, was my husband’s birthday. We planned to go to Edelweiss Restaurant with my two daughters and son-in-law.  Along came the coronavirus – Scratch that idea. My son-in-law volunteered to bring a long table and chairs. We had a card table and plastic chairs we could set up. Luckily, it wasn’t too cold, so we set them up in the driveway. We ordered food delivered from our favorite Italian restaurant, Cafe Sicilia.

Since I had my mother-in-law’s recipe for Boston Cream Pie, I could bake a cake. I searched under “cake” and “pie” with no results. Then I looked under “desserts” and found it.That was the easy part. I beat the eggs whites first with clean beaters, and then beat the yolks and added other ingredients before folding in the whites. Egg whites won’t beat into stiff peaks if there is any grease or yolk on the beaters. The picture shows Jack ready to dive into the cake.

My Pam spray can was almost empty, so I used margarine to grease the pans and sprinkled them with flour. However, I had to use a spatula to get the cakes loose from the pans, which didn’t leave a smooth surface. I tried to flip the cakes and get a smooth top, but they had stuck to the plate. Next I tried to slice each layer into two, but it was hard to get them even.  Oh, well, the cream filling would cover it up. After making the filling, I put the pan in the refrigerator to chill until after I “attended” church – on my computer of course. When I took the filling out, it was too thick to spread, so I had to add milk and stir. Hoping that would make enough filling to cover the ravaged top, I spread it between the layers, but there was only enough for the bottom three layers. Now I know why the recipe said to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. I used lots to cover the top.

Soon after my daughters and son-in-law arrived and set up the table, the food arrived. We enjoyed eating the chicken rollatini, a rigatoni dish, crusty rolls, garlic bread, and salmon with noodles and capers – I thought capers were black, but these were green, plentiful, and as big as peas. They tasted a little like green olives.

When we were ready for cake, we sang “Happy Birthday” to my husband, and I served the cake. After we finished, I cut two sections for my wonderful neighbors on each side who had brought us groceries and toilet paper, and my husband delivered them.

I bet all of us will remember the birthday dinner that was different for the rest of our lives.


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Make Blueberry Coffee Cake without my mistake

I had some blueberries and sour cream to use up, because 1 cup containers were hard to find, and I had used half for Swedish Meatballs. So, I tried a new recipe for blueberry coffee cake. The directions called for sprinkling half of a cinnamon-sugar mixture over half the batter and sprinkling the rest on top.

My first mistake was putting more than half in the bundt pan, so when I added the rest of the batter, I had a hard time spreading what was left over the cinnamon-sugar covered batter.  My second mistake was wearing a top with drooping sleeves. It is a wonder, I didn’t get flour or batter on them. I didn’t discover the other problem until I baked the coffee cake, let it cool and turned it upside down to show off the pretty molded form left by my bundt pan. Unfortunately, more than half the cinnamon sugar fell off the cake onto the plate. Now I know why the recipe called for dusting the top with powdered sugar. I have listed the ingredients below with my revised directions. If you use Stevia, I recommended adding 1/2 tsp. baking powder, so cake will rise better. I’ve found cakes made with Splenda or Stevia don’t rise well unless I add a little more baking powder.) If your frozen blueberries are crusted with frost like mine were, rinse them first.


1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened (Imperial tastes more like butter)

¾ cup sugar (can substitute ¼ cup of Stevia for ¼ cup sugar, but add ½ tsp. baking powder)

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (if you can get it, my store had regular in 2 cup containers)

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3 tablespoons sugar to mix with cinnamon

2 tsp. cinnamon

powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350.

You can use beaters to soften the butter or margarine in a large bowl. Add sugar and beat until mixed. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Mix flour, baking powder, soda, and salt (I put that in a sifter instead of dirtying another bowl) and then add to mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in berries.

Spray (or grease and flour) a 10-cup tube pan. Spread half the batter in pan. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Spread the rest of the batter over that. Bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Unmold on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Nutrients (for 14 servings) 197 calories, 7 gm. fat, 47 mg. cholesterol, 30 gm. carbohydrates, and 223 mg. sodium.

If you use Stevia, subtract 13 calories and 3 gms. carbohydrate.

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My Wonderful Neighbors

A few days ago, my doorbell rang, and there was my next door neighbor with her son, about twelve years old. They brought in three bags. I found all these groceries plus some bottled water and bananas. When I asked if there was any toilet paper in the bags, she said, “We’ll bring some. And sure enough, back they came with four rolls of toilet paper and two rolls of paper towel.

After thanking them, I made two loaves of banana bread and took one over to their house.

Then Larry, the neighbor across the street, asked if I needed anything. Knowing my twin daughters were coming on Sunday for their birthday dinner, I said I needed milk and sugar.  Next, Ted, the neighbor behind us asked if I needed anything. Looking at my flour canister, I realized I probably didn’t have enough, so I asked him to get flour.

Later, Ted knocked on my back door and said the store was out of flour. I waited until after dinner to make the cake, hoping I wouldn’t have to use brown sugar for it, but Larry came to my door with milk and sugar. Sure enough, I didn’t have enough regular flour and had to add some bread flour to make the cake.

Then Walmart called announcing three prescriptions. Since my husband and I are in the high-risk age group, I was leery of exposing my self to all those shoppers and asked my daughter if she’d pick them up on the way to my house on Sunday. When she agreed, I asked if she had any powdered sugar to make frosting. Luckily, she did and said she’d bring it. I haven’t made egg white frosting in years, because it is tricky to make, so I was glad she had powdered sugar.

At the birthday dinner on Sunday, my other daughter brought some flour. We had Swedish meatballs with gravy, corn pudding, and green bean dish, made with fresh green beans as the store had been out of frozen French style green beans the last time I shopped. The three-layer cake turned out well, and everyone liked it, but I thought it turned out rather dense due to the bread flour being high in gluten.

My husband and I decided we didn’t need any extra calories, so after my daughters and son-in-law left, I divided up the rest of the cake and took it to my wonderful neighbors.

Yesterday, Ted came over with a bag of flour, so I made blueberry coffee cake and took some to the Larry across the street, while my husband took some to Ted and his wife.

I  hope all of you reading this are doing okay. I’m spending my time editing my next book, Forgotten Princess, and reading other romantic suspense novels.

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