Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trail Food: Grab n Go!

Grab 'n Go!
by Barbara Ouradnik
Our family loves camping and hiking.  Even before our two boys were able to hike on their own, we would load them in a front or back carrier and head out to breathe in the fresh air and startle a few squirrels. Off the beaten path trails made us feel as if we were the first explorers to set foot in some areas (how did that trail marker get there?).  
When the boys were small, we would have to load the backpacks with everything from extra diapers and bottles to Cheerios and pieces of cheese.  As they got older, their tastes became much more discriminating, and fruit leather and fish crackers replaced the cheerios.  
Now that our sons are grown, they pack their own snacks, which have thankfully turned back to healthier choices.  The common thread has always been to pack something portable, nutritious (sometimes a struggle) and easy to eat.  Grab and go snacks provide that little boost of energy when you have just made it up a steep incline, walked around the lake, or to satisfy that ever-present craving for chocolate (that would be me).
Now, I don’t claim to offer any top-secret recipes or unusual concoctions; but below I have listed a couple of long-time favorite snacks that we have found are difficult to stop munching once you get started.
Depending on your area of the country or the tastes you grew up with, you might grab something completely different. My friends in different states are always sharing ideas about things that would never have crossed my mind, and I thought it would be fun to hear some of the different quick snacky-things you pack when you go out on a hike, a picnic, or even on a plane.   

Please join the fun and let us know what you enjoy!

Puppy Chow
This is a “make-ahead and take it with you” snack.  Be sure to bring a tub full!!!

·         9 c. Rice Chex cereal
·         1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
·         ½ c. peanut butter
·         ¼ c. butter
·         1 tsp. vanilla
·         1 ½ c. powdered sugar

Measure the cereal into a large bowl and set aside.
In a 1 quart microwavable bowl, microwave the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter, uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir.  If needed, microwave an additional 30 seconds until the mixture can be stirred smooth.  Be sure not to overcook.
Stir in the vanilla
Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal, stirring until it is evenly coated.
Pour into a 2 gallon re-sealable plastic bag (I prefer to use a large bowl with a lid)
Add powdered sugar.  Seal the bag; shake until the cereal is well coated.
 You can try letting it cool, but there usually isn’t any left at that point.  If there is, store it in an airtight container.
Prep time: 15 minutes 
Makes 18 servings (yeah, right…in my house this is usually consumed by 2 teenagers!)

(Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts)

Our family has differing opinions about the various ingredients to add to this easy-to-make trail mix.  So over the years, it has become “GORPAO” (Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts and/or).  Be creative when making this snack!  We mix up a giant batch to last a whole week of camping.

·         2 c. party peanuts
·         2 c. raisins
·         2 c. plain M&Ms
Stir it up and throw it in a re-sealable bag! 
 It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Other ideas to add:
·         Dried fruit (mango, apricots, cranberries, bananas, etc.)
·         Butterscotch chips
·         Reese’s pieces
·         Granola
·         Mini marshmallows
·         Pretzels

Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Author - Charlene Raddon

My special guest today is Western Historical Romance Author Charlene Raddon. Please read her very interesting post about the history of handbags! One lucky commenter will win a ebook copy of her book To Have and to Hold and a $5 Amazon gift card! Please be sure to leave your contact email in your comment!


Purses, pouches, or bags have been used since humans first found a need to carry precious items with them. Egyptian hieroglyphs show men wearing purses around the waist, and the Bible specifically identifies Judas Iscariot as a purse carrier.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, bags were attached to the most vital feature of medieval garb: the girdle, along with rosaries, Book of Hours, pomanders (scented oranges), chatelaines (a clasp or chain to suspend keys, etc.), even daggers. Women favored ornate drawstring purses known as “hamondeys” or “tasques”. Men used purses known as “chaneries” for gaming or for holding food for falcons.
During the Elizabethan era, women’s skirts expanded to enormous proportions and small medieval girdle purses became lost among huge amounts of fabric. Rather than wear girdle pouches outside on a belt, women chose to wear them under their skirts. Men wore leather pockets (called “bagges”) inside their breeches. Large satchel-like leather or cloth bags were sometimes worn by peasants or travelers, diagonally across the body.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the more visible bags were rejected and long embroidered drawstring purses were hidden under skirts and breeches instead, while some people wanted them to be conspicuous, for use as decorative containers for gifts, money, perfume, or jewels. Toward the end of the 17th century, purses became increasingly sophisticated, changing from simple drawstring designs to more complex shapes and materials.
Following the French Revolution, narrow, high-waisted dresses became popular, leaving no room beneath for pockets. Consequently, purses, in the form of “reticules” or “indispensables” as the English called them, came into use, showing that women had become dependent upon handbags. The French parodied the women who carried the delicate bags that resembled previously hidden pockets as “ridicules”.
Victorian era developments in science and industry provided a vast array of styles and fabrics women could coordinate with their outfits. Though pockets returned in the 1840s, women continued to carry purses and spend an enormous amount of time embroidering them to show off for potential husbands, often including the date and their own initials in the designs. Chatelaines attached to the waist belt with a decorated clasp remained popular.
The railroad brought about a revolution in the use of bags. As more people traveled by train professional luggage makers turned the skills of horse travel into those for train travel, and soon the term “handbag” emerged to describe these new hand-held luggage bags. Many of the top names of today's handbags started as luggage makers (whereas, previously made purses and pouches were made by dressmakers). Hermes bags were founded in 1837, a harness and saddle maker. Loius Vuitton was a luggage packer for the Parisian rich. Modern handbag designs still allude to luggage with pockets, fastenings, frames, locks, and keys.
Early in the 20th century handbags became much more than just hand-held luggage. Women could choose from small reticules, Dorothy bags (now called dotty or marriage bags) with matching robes, muffs, and fitted leather bags with attached telescopic opera glasses and folding fans. Working women used larger handbags, such as the Boulevard bag, leather shopping bags, and even briefcases worn around the shoulder.
After WWI, the long constricting layers and rigid corseting women wore disappeared. Perhaps the most important development during this period was the “pochette,” a type of handle-less clutch, often decorated with dazzling geometric and jazz motifs, worn tucked under arms to give an air of nonchalant youth. Rules for color coordination grew lax and novelty bags, such as doll bags (dressed exactly like the wearer), became popular. The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923 inspired purses reflecting exotic motifs.
Today, purse designs continue to fluctuate, and always will. What sort of purses do you remember using when you were young? In the 1950s I had a pink and white, square plastic purse I loved. I wonder whatever became of it. If I owned that purse now, it would probably be worth a pretty penny.

About Charlene:

Charlene first serious writing attempt came in 1980 when she awoke one morning from an unusually vivid and compelling dream. Deciding that dream needed to be made into a book, she dug out an old portable typewriter and went to work. That book never sold, but her second one, Tender Touch, became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent. Soon after, she signed a three book contract with Kensington Books. Five of Charlene's western historical romances were published between 1994 and 1999: Taming Jenna, Tender Touch (1994 Golden Heart Finalist under the title Brianna), Forever Mine (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist), To Have and To Hold Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); and writing as Rachel Summers, The Scent of Roses. Forever Mine and Tender Touch are available as e-books and after January 24, To Have and To Hold will be as well.
When not writing, Charlene loves to travel, crochet, needlepoint, research genealogy, scrapbook, and dye Ukrainian eggs.

You can purchase To Have and to Hold on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

RELEASE DAY for Teton Sunrise

It's here! 

Teton Sunrise is now available on Amazon! It should be available at Barnes & Noble and iBooks within a couple of weeks. Paperback to follow soon after.....
Thank you to everyone who emailed me, connected with me on facebook, and left comments here on the blog. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Author - Darrel Day

Please help me welcome my guest this week, Suspense author Darrel Day! Please tell us a little about yourself and your books.

My name is Darrel Day and I am the published author of four Suspense novels. They are available in both print and ebook format. The novels are titled Abduction, Penance {the long awaited sequel to Abduction}, Until Death Do We Meet, and Into the Abyss. I have also published a Sci-fi titled Ice Changers and a short story novel which is a collection of four of my own stories titled Four Short Story of Suspense. I have finished the third segment of a six part series from The Witches of the Forest series titled Salem Village; A Queens Journey
 I am the singer/lyrics writer of over 100 songs and have produced a CD titled "SimplyD" that includes 13 of my favorite songs.

How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?

 The research I do depends on my personal knowledge of the subject I am writing about. Many of my novels contain forensics and other medical subjects. I want to be as accurate for my readers as possible and will spend an ample amount of time researching and learning about the subject. I use search engines as well as books I have purchased that help me gain more knowledge about the issues I write about or include in my novels.

Why did you decide to write Suspense thrillers and Sci-fi? What is the appeal? 

 Suspense has always been an interest of mine because of the intense feeling one gets when anticipation is brewing.There is an excitement that I felt every time I read a great suspense novel and I wanted to share that feeling with others. The Sci-fi side of writing is the open door it leaves for the writer. I am no longer limited to the "make sure its real" issue. The sky is the limit and the universe can be anything you want it to be. For someone with a totally wide open imagination like mine, it is truly the "cats meow."

  What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?

 The best comment I ever received was "one day, the whole world will know who Darrel Day is." It really doesn't get bigger than that. The worst or weirdest was "And someone sleeps beside you every night, knowing you write these stories?" I smiled and simply said "Yep."

Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?

  My writing style comes from the way I see the world around me. I watch people and follow their ways of talking and interacting with people. I never plan a story out and know as little about what the next page will tell as the reader does. Even I find myself surprised at times when a story will suddenly take an unexpected twist. When I sit down to write, I look at the last paragraph and continue on.

Can you tell us a little about your current work? Is there a story behind the story?

 I am currently putting together my second novel containing four of my short stories. It will be 4 stories and 28 chapters with 7 chapters per story. The title has not yet been set to it.

What sets your heroine apart from all the other women in your hero’s life? Why is she perfect for him?

 The woman that is with the man in my novels is always strong in spirit. I don't care to read about a woman that is afraid to breathe without a man. Women today have found their courage and strength and I applaud that. The men in my novels are normally strong willed and so the match up is perfect. I think it makes for sparks and fire.
 Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

 I think that every writer has felt the "Oh My God" of sitting down and having their mind go blank. When that happens, I go find other things to do and often while working on a hobby or perhaps even fishing, inspiration finds its way to me. I will also sit and write about nothing in my personal journal and find an idea as I am. Walking the woods near my home or around the lake is a great place to find inspiration.

Describe a favorite scene in your current novel?

The heroine realizes that the man she loves is about to die. She has pushed him away so many times and now, she knows she loves him. She suddenly finds a strength in her that she didn't know she possessed. The fight that erupts from her is so powerful. Though she may not be able to save him from becoming a human sacrifice, she will die trying.

What else do you have in store for your readers?

I will be adding another segment to the Witches of the Forest series very soon. I think that the story has built into a write that makes it page turning worthy. I will be spending the next several months working with a client, writing her story of abuse, near death and how she rose above it all to survive. It was an extremely publicized story and trial and I am honored to have been asked to write her story. We will be meeting in February to discuss in depth her story. The story will require extensive research and much thought.

 I will also be starting a series {possibly a novel} on Vampires and the creatures that dwell in our darkest thoughts. I will keep you informed on my journeys. 

 Book signings coming up soon also so it looks to be a Very busy Winter and Springtime for me.

If you are looking for my novels please follow the urls I have set here for you. Thank you for reading this and thank you Peggy for the opportunity to share.

  Sincerely, Darrel Day 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Teton Sunrise Chapter One

First of all, a Happy Valentine's Day to all my romance readers out there. For over a month, I was hoping that I could get Teton Sunrise done in time to be published by Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, I did not quite make that deadline. 
I can announce, however, that the release for the book will be sometime next week. I am not firm on the exact date, because my last two book releases didn't go off as scheduled due to glitches at Amazon. So, for this release, I will announce when the book actually goes live. 
In the meantime, as a Valentine's gift, I present to you the entire Chapter One. If you need a refresher, I recommend reading the prologue, which I posted here quite a while ago.

St Charles, Missouri 1828

“You did what?”
Evelyn Lewis spun around on her heels so quickly she nearly lost her balance. The wooden ladle in her hand dropped to the ground with a dull thud, splattering brown gravy and vegetables on her dress and over the floorboards. Ignoring the mess, she stared at the man who stood across the room. Her eyes widened in shocked disbelief.
“Why would you do such a thing, Henry?” Evelyn’s voice rose almost to a shrill screech. She stepped away from the hearth, and stormed toward her brother. How dare he bring such news without proper warning, or even discussing it with her first? Henry Lewis raised his hands in front of his chest as if he was about to fend off a formidable adversary, and took a step back.
“Now don’t get all riled, Evie. I’m doing this for you,” Henry said, squaring his shoulders and standing his ground. 
“For me?” Evelyn held her fists to her hips, and glared at her brother, standing only inches from him. She leaned forward. “How is a marriage to Charlie Richardson going to benefit me?” she demanded.
Henry tentatively placed a hand on her shoulder, and his lips rose in, what looked like, an uneasy smile. He inhaled a deep breath.
“Listen to me, Evie,” he said calmly. “I’ve had several requests for your hand in marriage over the last few months. We’ve known Charlie since we were children. He’s always been smitten with you. He seemed like the best choice to me.”
“Well I refuse to marry him,” Evelyn snorted. She shot her brother a narrow-eyed look. “You know I detest him. Ever since that time he pushed me into the creek when I was eleven years old, do you remember?” She poked a finger in her brother’s chest, her other hand balled in a tight fist at her hip. “Why, if it hadn’t been for . . .” Her voice trailed off, and she stared wide-eyed at Henry. She’d almost spoken his name. Her shoulders slumped, and she lowered her gaze to the ground. Tears threatened behind her eyes, and she blinked to curb the flow. After everything that loathsome man had done, why did every thought of him bring tears to her eyes?
Because he murdered your parents! Alexander Walker murdered your parents, and all you want to remember is the eighteen-year-old boy you fancied yourself in love with as a na├»ve young girl.  
It was the last memory she had of him; the day Alex and Henry laughed at her as she ran from the barn to the house, completely humiliated. He had left that day to venture into the unknown wilderness beyond the Missouri. A year had gone by, and she clung to the hope that he would return. Two years had passed, and no one had neither seen nor heard from him. After the third year, even Henry had suggested that savages might have killed Alex.
Evelyn was well aware of Charlie Richardson’s infatuation with her. He’d often tried to talk to her when he saw her in town, and he’d stopped by the farm for one obscure reason or another. To keep him at arm’s length, she had pretended to show an interest in several other young men who came calling. None of them held her attention for long. One dark-haired, blue-eyed quiet boy continued to creep into her mind. But that was before . . .
Evelyn had first noticed Alexander Walker as more than just her brother’s best friend that day when she returned from carrying a basket of her mother’s eggs to a neighbor’s house. Charlie Richardson had spotted her on the trail along the creek between the two properties, and followed her. Relentlessly, he’d called her freckle face and made rude comments about the fact that she was thin and lanky, and hadn’t started filling out in the chest like some of the other girls her age had done. She’d tried to ignore his taunts, and pretend indifference, but he had continued until she couldn’t stand it anymore. Turning around quickly, she’d barely taken notice of his stunned expression before her fist connected with his nose.
Horrified at what she’d done, even as her insides filled with self-satisfaction, Evelyn had spun on her heels and ran toward home. Charlie had caught up with her quickly, and grabbed her by the arm. She was no match for his larger size, and he had dragged her to the creek’s edge, then forcefully shoved her into the cold water. Alex Walker had appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Charlie by the shirt collar. With seemingly effortless ease, Alex had hauled Charlie away from the creek bank, and slammed his own fist into Charlie’s face. Blood spurted everywhere, and Charlie held his hands over his face while he ran off. To this day, his nose was a different shape than it had been before Alex hit him.
Alex had reached for her hand, and pulled Evelyn from the water. She remembered staring up into those blue eyes of his, and her youthful heart had fluttered in her chest. He hadn’t said a word to her, and turned to disappear into the thicket just as quickly as he had appeared. Evelyn stared quietly after him that day, lost for words for the first time in her life.
“Evie, are you listening?” Henry’s voice, and a gentle shake on her arm brought her back to her senses. She sniffed, and blinked again.
“There’s more I need to tell you,” he said tentatively. He ran a hand across his lower jaw; a sure sign that he was nervous about something. “But I think you’d better sit down first.”
Evelyn’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. She still wasn’t done discussing that she wouldn’t marry Charlie, and by the look on his face, Henry wanted to present her with more bad news.
Henry held her elbow and guided her to one of the wooden chairs at the table in front of the hearth. She allowed him to pull the chair out for her, then sat and folded her hands in her lap. Seconds later, she rested them on top of the table. After Henry was seated across from her, she squared her shoulders and sat up straight.
“So, what else have you to tell me? I’ll listen, but the matter of my marriage to Charlie is still not settled.”
Henry cleared his throat, and shifted his weight in the chair. He stared at his hands resting on the table for a moment, then inhaled a deep breath and met her eyes.
“I sold the farm to him.” He paused, then clarified, “To Charlie.”
“You what?” Evelyn sprang from her seat so quickly, the chair toppled over behind her. She braced her hands on the table and leaned forward. If steam came from her ears, she wouldn’t be surprised. Heat rose up her cheeks as it always did when she was angry.
“This is my home, Henry. This was Ma and Pa’s home. It’s your home. How could you sell it? We’re not destitute.” Tears of anger welled up in her eyes, and her brother’s face blurred.
“And it will remain your home, Evie.”
“I will not marry Charles Richardson,” she stated heatedly, and stomped her foot. Her hands fisted in front of her, and she resisting the urge to strike out and hit something.
Henry stood from his chair. “You have no choice, Evie. He will be here in the morning to claim his property, and to take you to the church to wed you.” His palm swiped across his forehead.
Evelyn sucked in a deep breath. She stared across the table at her brother as if she was seeing him for the first time. Her heart slammed against her ribs, and a sinking feeling swept over her. This was really happening. Henry’s face showed no hint that he was merely joking with her.
“What about you? What are you going to do, Henry?” she finally asked, her voice lifeless. Her gaze dropped to the ground. Henry was her legal guardian. He had every right to choose a husband for her. She never thought her brother would pick the man she would marry, especially not without asking her first. She and Henry had always been close. The fact that he took matters of such importance into his own hands hurt deeply.
Henry stepped around the table, and stood before her. He touched a hand to her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Evie,” he said softly. “Perhaps in time you’ll come to understand that I have your best interest in mind. Charlie will be a good husband. He will protect you and take care of you.”
Evelyn ducked around him to avoid his touch. “I wish you would have consulted me on this matter.” She turned on her heel to face him. “Why wouldn’t you allow me to pick my own husband?”
“You haven’t been interested in anyone, Evie,” Henry said, moving to the hearth. He stared into the dying flames of the fire. “Every suitor who has come around, you’ve repelled. You’re nineteen years old. It’s time you married.”
Evelyn was about to argue that she had no desire to marry, least of all a man who sparked no desire or warm feelings in her. Before she could speak, Henry turned to her and stared through narrowed eyelids.
“You can’t still be holding on to your childish fantasies about Alex, can you?” he asked. “After what he did?” His jaw muscles tightened, his eyes cold.
Evelyn straightened her back. “Of course not. How could you think such a thing? I just haven’t found the man I wish to marry.” She glanced away from his perusing eye.
“Evie.” Henry spoke her name slowly. He waited until she made eye contact with him. “Alexander Walker is not the boy you remember. The quiet youth has turned into a savage.” He spoke the words almost viciously. “It’s no surprise, either. Look at his father, and how violent he was. The man killed his own wife. Alex has always had it in him to become just as ruthless, and I’ll wager that the wilderness has made him ten times more so.”
“I have no thoughts or feelings other than hatred and loathing for Alexander Walker, you can rest assured of that.” Evelyn spat his name as if it was poison on her tongue.
“He was my best friend,” Henry said as if to himself. He stared at Evelyn, his eyes unfocused. “He was my best friend, and he murdered . . . Ma and Pa in cold blood.” His voice cracked. Evelyn moved quickly across the space that separated her from her brother. She placed a comforting hand on his arm, the tears falling freely down her cheeks.
“I held Pa in my arms while he gasped his last breath, Evie.” The horrible memory was clearly written on Henry’s face. “If Charlie hadn’t come along when he did, and shot at the damn bastard while he ran like a coward, Alex might have killed me, too.”
“I know,” Evelyn whispered, and wrapped her arms around her brother’s waist. He held her tightly, a shudder passing through his body. Right now, she couldn’t be mad at him for what he had done. Right now, her brother needed consoling. The death of their parents had shaken him badly, as it had her, six months ago. Evelyn was still not completely clear on the events that had transpired that fateful day.
At her mother’s request, Evelyn had stayed the week with an elderly friend of the family whose husband had taken ill. While the woman tended to her husband, Evelyn cooked for her, and took care of basic chores around the house. Charlie had sent a boy with a message for her to come home straight away; that something horrible had happened. She’d found her parents dead, her mother’s throat slashed with a knife, and her brother hovering like a little child over their dead father.
Apparently, Henry had already gone to the fields with the team of mules while his father finished some work in the barn. No one had seen nor heard from Alexander Walker in nearly six years.
At about the same time, Charlie had come to pick up a piece of harness that Evelyn’s father helped him repair. According to Charlie, Alex came charging out of the house and headed straight for him. Luckily, he carried his hunting rifle with him. Raising the rifle, he had shot Alex in the chest, but the shot must not have killed him, for he ran off into the woods, and once again disappeared. The sound of gunshot had alerted Henry, who came back from the fields in time to hear his father’s final gasp for air.
Evelyn eased her hold around her brother’s waist. “Without the farm, what are you going to do?” she asked again.
Henry took a step back. He gripped her upper arms. Staring intently into her eyes, his facial muscles hard, he said, “I’m going after the bastard who killed our folks.”
A quiet gasp escaped Evelyn’s throat. Her eyes grew wide with disbelief. “You can’t go after him, Henry. He’ll kill you. You know nothing about the wilderness.”
“He has to be brought to justice, Evie,” Henry said, his fingers biting almost painfully into her skin. “I’m going to make him pay for what he did.”
“I can’t lose you, too,” Evelyn pleaded. “Don’t do this, Henry. How will you even find him?”
“I’ve hired some men to take me up the Missouri into what’s known as the Yellowstone country. These men know the wilderness. They’ll help me find him.”
“When?” Evelyn asked, her voice uncharacteristically shaky.
“I leave at first light.”
A sudden feeling of the world spinning and turning upside down came over her. In a matter of a few short minutes, her life was no longer her own, and she had lost everything she still held dear to her heart.