Never Too Old For a Little Youthful Romance

51W4ws6kAIL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite go-to romance novel is one I picked up when I was sixteen. A YA where the main character’s mother is running for President. And, unbelievably, it is still in print. It’s called The President’s Daughter, by Ellen Emerson White.

Sixteen-year-old Meghan Powers likes her life just the way it is. She likes living in Massachusetts. She likes her school. And she has plenty of friends. But all that is about to change. Because Meg’s mother, one of the most prestigious senators in the country, is running for President. And she’s going to win.

This was quickly41yDSB6XK-L._UY250_ followed by White House Autumn:

After ten months of living in the White House, seventeen-year old Meg Powers knew she should be used to the pressures of life in the spotlight―but she wasn’t.

To have a normal relationship with Josh despite intrusions by reporters and secret service agents who followed her everywhere.In addition to the usual senior year worries―college applications and Josh, her first serious boyfriend―Meg had to live up to what was expected from the President’s daughter. She had to suppress her sense of humor and watch the way she dressed and spoke.

Then, just when everything was already so difficult, a shocking attack on her mother makes life in the White House even more impossible. Meg, her father, and her two younger brothers find they must turn to one another for solace and support―while her mother’s life hangs in the balance.

Then, as I was researching for this blog, I found out there are two more books in the series. Two more books I haven’t read. Long Live the Queen and Long May She Reign wrap up the series.

And after the last three weeks, I may need to revisit these books of my childhood. Perhaps a little YA romance is what my battered heart needs to move past a (in the whole scheme of things) rather silly little heartbreak at the hands of an actor I never had the pleasure of knowing. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. Long may my memories of him and the pleasures of youthful romance reign.IMG_0280

imagesWhen I was growing up, Rich’s was the premiere department store in the Atlanta, Georgia area. And while I don’t remember visiting the famous downtown location, I do have vivid memories of shopping at the Cumberland Mall store. But it wasn’t the clothes or the shoes or the household items that held my attention. It was the coconut cake. The world’s best, most delicious, want-to-slap-your-mama-it’s-so-good coconut cake.

Unfortunately, I was hardly out of my childhood when Macy’s took over and the coconut cakes went the way of the Dodo. For years, I searched for a coconut cake that at least somewhat tasted like the original. But, no luck. However, like all truly loved things, really good recipes never really go away. Thanks to the internet, that is.

Because of that wonderful bit of technology, I am able to reveal the best coconut recipe known to man. And just in time for the holidays, too!

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Rich’s Bakeshop Icing

16 servings

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons powdered milk

1/2 cup water (for dissolving milk powder)

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the vegetable shortening, vanilla and salt and cream together until incorporated. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar until it forms a very thick consistency. Dissolve the powdered milk in the water and gradually add, just 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency.

 

Rich’s Bakeshop Yellow Cake

16 servings (three thin 9-inch layers or two thicker 9-inch layers)

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 50-60 minutes

Rich’s always did a three-layer cake, with two layers of coconut filling, but some home cooks don’t have three pans of the same size, so two would work just fine.

Shortening and flour for pans

2 1/4 cups cake flour (if you can’t find cake flour, use White Lily brand all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon powdered milk

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup liquid milk (2 percent or whole)

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pans by lightly greasing with shortening, then dusting with flour. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the powdered milk into the water and mix until dissolved. Combine the liquid milk with the powdered milk/water mixture and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and the sugar until fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add about half the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, and then half the milk mixture, again beating until just incorporated. Repeat this step, adding the remaining flour with the remaining liquid, and beat until just smooth (about 1 minute).

Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowls once or twice during the mixing. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on how many cake pans you use and how full they are. The cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed near the center with your finger. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

 

Rich’s Bakeshop Coconut Cake

16 servings

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 1/2 hours

2 pounds frozen unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 or 3 layers Rich’s Bakeshop Yellow Cake (see recipe)

1 batch Rich’s Bakeshop Icing (see recipe)

In a large bowl, thaw the frozen coconut. Set aside. Take 1 1/2 cups of the coconut and place in a smaller bowl. Combine the water and sugar and pour over this smaller bowl of coconut. This should be very moist but not soupy. Place one layer of the yellow cake on a cake plate and spread with icing. Spoon the moistened coconut over that.

Place the next layer on top and spread with icing, spooning the moistened coconut over it. Continue this process until all your layers are filled; however, don’t put the moist filling on the very top of the last layer, as it will be iced. Next, cover the entire cake with the icing. Make sure to use a thick coating of icing on the cake to eliminate any of the cake showing through.

Take handfuls of the dry, thawed coconut and press the flakes into the icing. You may want to put a tray underneath to catch any coconut that falls as you do this. Continue pressing dry, flaky coconut all over the cake until it is completely covered.

Chill for about one hour to set (it helps the coconut to stay) and then serve.

This Year Under My Tree…

presents-under-the-christmas-treeWhile I am usually the one in the group who wants the newest in technology, this year’s Christmas list is a little heavier in the more antiquated forms of their more modern counterparts.

Coming in number one on the list is a record player.

And of course, if you have the good ol’ turntable, you need a little vinyl to go with it. A little Peter, Paul and Mary with the newest Adele that comes out this week would make a pretty good remix, if you ask me.

Then last but not least, a typewriter. That’s right, the old clickity-clacking, ribbon-winding, bell-ringing typewriter. An Underwood if possible. Perhaps the feel of the keys and the sounds of the strikes will help motivate those uncooperative characters of mine.

So, why the desire to have these old devices as part of my Christmas wishes this year? The answer is quite simple, we need this kind of simplicity in our lives. We need to unplug and reflect. Remember the times when you actually shook hands to seal a deal, spoke to people with respect and manners, and felt safe in the confines of the establishments you visited to make purchases and enjoy a little entertainment. Perhaps if enough people revisited this time, we could finally have what should top the world’s Christmas list… PEACE!

Technically Not a New Release, But…

51MIi4p2YyL._UY250_Okay. So this isn’t technically a new release, but it is one I’ve been waiting MONTHS for. October 6, 2015 marks the first release in the new Harry Potter illustrated issues, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While the story is not new, the illustrations by Jim Kay are. And I can’t wait to see how this artist interprets Britain’s wizarding world. If the ones that have been released as part of the promotion of the new series, the reading public will be in for a treat.

 

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Hagrid!

Bless Her Heart

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “bless her heart”? If I were to place a wager, I’d bet ten to one odds that a picture of a distraught individual surrounded by compassionate-looking females comes to mind. And if it did, you’d be right. But only partly.

For you see, in the South at least, that one phrase covers just about every entry dear Mr. Roget could bind up in one volume.

How could that be, you ask? Quite simply really.

It’s all in the voice, baby. It’s all in the voice.

For example: If you say “bless her heart” while leaning over the casket of a dearly departed community member, you are probably sincerely offering your condolences over the event that caused the demise. However, if it is said while shaking your head and staring at some pretentious young junior leaguer wannabe who has just overturned the entire dessert table at the church social, then you are probably gloating over the fact she’s gotten her comeuppance.

But that’s not the only two tones used with that phrase. There’s a wide expanse of middle ground where one must first discern the nuances of speech pattern and body language before the phrase translates correctly.

For example: If the phrase sounds sincere but is quickly followed by an eye roll from the speaker, then the person who uttered the words truly felt sorry for the person about who the phrase was said. However, she quickly became irritated at herself for feeling sorry for someone who was a born-again idiot to get herself into that situation to begin with.

Then there is the usage as a tool to prod someone out of the irritating state of self-pity when there is nothing to whine about. There’s a definitely talent to sounding just mocking enough to make the whiner come to her senses without wanting to Gibbs slap you in the process.

And, of course, that is not all. However, bless my heart, this blog post is quite long enough as it is. I’ll let you learn the rest of the uses on your own.

Look At What’s Coming!

5133qDK0GNL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve always considered myself an eclectic reader. Sometimes it’s mysteries, sometimes fantasy, sometimes romance, and sometimes things that don’t fall into any particular category. Yet as much as I enjoy a wide variety of all things literary, I have very rarely searched out the newest release. I like to give others a chance to read and offer an opinion before I waste time on something that may not be worth the paper it’s printed on.

However, there are a few authors that completely bypass the wait-and-see-what-everyone-else-thinks route. Fannie Flagg, JK Rowling while she was writing the Harry Potter series, and Jan Karon are three of them. And of them, Jan Karon is the one that has a book release coming up during what may still be considered the summer season:

Over the course of ten Mitford novels, fans have kept a special place in their hearts for Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls.

Now, Father Tim Kavanagh’s adopted son has graduated from vet school and opened his own animal clinic. Since money will be tight for a while, maybe he and Lace Harper, his once and future soul mate, should keep their wedding simple.

So the plan is to eliminate the cost of catering and do potluck. Ought to be fun.

An old friend offers to bring his well-known country band. Gratis.

And once mucked out, the barn works as a perfect venue for seating family and friends.

Piece of cake, right?

In Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon delivers the wedding that millions of Mitford fans have waited for. It’s a June day in the mountains, with more than a few creatures great and small, and you’re invited—because you’re family.

By the way, it’s a pretty casual affair, so come as you are and remember to bring a tissue or two. After all, what’s a good wedding without a good cry?

Come Rain or Come Shine will be releasing on September 22, 2015. And I can’t wait!

 

Don’t forget about our giveaway of Judith Miller’s The Potter’s Lady! Every time you leave a comment any time during the next two weeks, your name will be entered (U.S. only). Drawing closes on July 31 at midnight, central time. A name will be picked by Random.org.

Summer Light Show

fireworks-1404647285rWTFirst comes the whistling shriek. Then a crack. Then the burst of colors. Red. Yellow. Purple. Green. Blue. White. Sometimes appearing one at a time. Sometimes in magnificent mixtures. Sometimes in rhythm with the sounds of nature, others with the rousing strains of an orchestral overture, and still others to the sounds of popular tunes. Occasionally, depending on time and place, the showers of fiery sparks are accompanied by other lights. Beams of green and red that bend and refract to draw pictures against a backdrop of stone. Afterward, smoke and the smell of sulfur lingers on the heated night air and stirs the memories of summer days gone by.

 

And what memories they are. Seated on the hood of my grandparents’ Chevy watching the annual 4th of July display over a local lake when I was small. Then later, when I was older, lasers were added to the mix as I sat on the grassy lawn of an Atlanta-area attraction with my family and watched a memorial come to life. All of these moments spent with family. Enjoyed by all generations. It was, and will always be, my favorite part of summer.

How to Write Like a Plantser

scales_of_justiceWhat? You’ve never met a plantser before? Well, allow me to rectify that situation. My name is Kim, and I am one.

And what, you ask, is a plantser? The answer to that question is quite simple really. A plantser is someone who falls about halfway between a plotter and a pantser. Some of us may be a little more toward the organized left while others may fall more toward the let-it-go-and-see-what-happens right. But either way, we are not truly one or the other.

Take me, for instance. I absolutely abhor outlining. I have since Mrs. Pullen introduce the concept way back in tenth grade. That was the year we learned to write term papers… complete with outline, index cards, footnotes, and all the other lovely stuff that kept one from getting to the good part—the writing. And that intense dislike has carried on for years.

That being said, as I get more and more serious about writing and being published, I realize that I can’t just sit down and let the pencil fly across the paper willy-nilly. If I do, I end up with a sieve. The plot just won’t hold water! And there’s nothing worse than a leaky book. It absolutely ruins the end pages.

So what does an outline hater like me to do? Simple. I compromise.

And to aid in this compromise, I have found two apps that are absolutely priceless. The first is the Aeon Timeline. While I’m not sure if this is available for Windows, it is definitely available for the Mac. And it is wonderful! It allows me to work up a timeline for events and characters, complete with calculating the characters’ ages. This, in turn, keeps those pesky can’t-be-in-two-places-at-the-same-time scenes from happening.

The second app is the Story Planner for the iPad. (Again, I’m not sure if it is available on other tablet/mobile platforms). It is an outlining tool. But the way it is set up lets me outline my way… and there isn’t a bullet point in sight! It allows you to produce scene cards, which is exactly how I think when I’m writing. You see, I’ve always had the ability to come up with a story idea in a matter of seconds, but if I don’t get the idea down while fresh, I forget. And since it takes much longer to flesh out a story than a three-second think, this app gives me a place to jot down the basics. Then later, I can go back and rearrange or add details.

It is also a great app to use as a way to summarize a chapter. That way, you can go back and look to see what all the chapters before have been about without having to read back through them. Kind of like Cliff’s Notes without the spoilers.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll fall closer to either plotter or pantser. But right now, a plantser is who I am. And for my writing process, it is absolutely right.

Gracie: The Siberian Husky Who Isn’t a Dog

Siberian_HuskyI’ve always wanted a husky. Don’t ask me why, but I have. And in 2006, I got one. The only problem is, she doesn’t realize she is a d-o-g. Nope. In her mind, she is 100% human. Right down to the ‘I told you so’ looks she gives when you do something stupid.

And that’s not the only human trait she exhibits. She also indicates her irritation with those of her pack (the genuine humans in the group) by huffing. And she can scowl with the best of them.

But she is also loving. And loyal, And intelligent. And intuitive. In short, she’s the best friend anyone could ask for… whether covered by skin or hair.

An 80s Lady

hintergrund-802When it comes to music, I’m an 80s lady. The 1680s, 1780s, 1880s, 1980s … and several other decades in between and after … all reside side by side on my iPod and in my iTunes account. And which playlist is engaged all depends on the mood I’m in and what I’m working on at the moment.

Take my drive to and from work, for instance. The 80s channel on SiriusXM is usually playing at a moderate level (I am an audiologist after all) while I’m singing along with Toto’s Africa or Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer at a volume level just below annoying. It takes me back to my younger years. Back when the most I had to worry about was if the VCR recorded Scarecrow and Mrs. King while I was sitting in the band section under the Friday night lights. And it is a wonderful release from the stresses of life after forty.

But when I’m writing, especially if a cultured British accent is needed for certain characters, then it is a different kind of 80s Top Forty playing. Pachelbel, Mozart, and Puccini are often topping the charts.

At other times, especially if my writing has taken a dramatically modern and romantic turn, it is back to the present. The sultry tones of Adele followed by the dulcet tones of Josh Groban and Michael Bublé make up just the right mix for those closely intimate moments just before the characters’ bedroom door closes. Or if it is driving action that’s called for, the Mumford and Sons along with Celtic Thunder are the perfect fits.

So as you can see, my music, much like my writing, is far-ranging and quite eclectic. But it is the perfect fit for me. And who knows? Maybe one of these days, in God’s good time, I can list this varied playlist somewhere in the acknowledgements of my very first novel. Until then, I’ll keep plugging in and plotting along.