Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebrating "Spinster's Folly"

I'm so excited! Here is my very first book review! (There's even a recipe!)

Marsha Ward. Spinster’s Folly- Book Four: The Owen Family Saga. Westward Books, Payson, Arizona, USA. 2012. 152 pp.

I don’t know how many times I’ve delved into reading a highly acclaimed series only to never finish reading more than the first book.  All too often, the sequels just don’t live up to the expectations set up from the beginning. Or, the sequels spend so much time rehashing over the background story, I get bored and give up. Not so with award winning author Marsha Ward’s Owen Family Saga.  Her first novel, Man from Shenandoah elicited a 5 hanky emotional response from this reader. (I was angry for days when Marsha let one of my favorite characters die!) She had me hooked enough to take a chance on her subsequent books and she did not disappoint me.

 Marsha Ward has woven yet another adventurous tale in Spinster’s Folly.  This fourth book in the Owen Family Saga takes the reader on Maria Owen’s magnificent journey of love, forgiveness, patience, and overcoming the odds.  Marsha deals with the trauma of abuse and manipulation in a bold, yet sensitive manner. Here’s a synopsis of this gritty tale:

“Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely than wedded bliss. Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor's son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie's mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers. This fourth book in the Owen Family Saga is infused with potent heart and intense grit.”

Marsha’s fellow Western authors agree with me:
“With a great sense of time and place, crackerjack dialogue and rich characters, Marsha Ward delivers Spinster's Folly, a romance, Western and historical novel rolled into one—and one fun read.”
~Johnny D. Boggs, six-time Spur Award-winning author of Camp Ford and Legacy of a Lawman

On a personal note, and since my blog posts generally involve food, and wedding and anniversaries always involve loads of family favorites, I asked Marsha about  the Owen family's favorite foods. 

“Beans and tortillas were introduced to Jessie Bingham in a small New Mexico town in Trail of Storms. Throughout their post-war days, the Owen family ate a lot of corn meal mush/fried mush. Here's a recipe: (Thanks Marsha!)

Corn Meal Mush 
First, you have to make the corn meal mush:

3 1/2 cups water, divided
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups corn meal

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Mix corn meal with the remaining water in a small bowl.

Add corn meal mixture slowly to boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened.

This would be served in a bowl or on a tin plate. If they had milk, it would perhaps accompany the mush. If not, they'd eat it plain.

To make fried mush:

Prepare as above. Pour into 8 x 4-inch or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; refrigerate for about 1 hour or until set. Remove from pan; cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Fry slices in lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 mnutes on each side or until lightly browned.

Marsha shared some other interesting comments about the way the Owen family ate. “Once they got more settled and perhaps butchered a cow, or had wild game, they could make stew or roast the meat on a spit over an open fire or in a fireplace. They had not yet gotten to the stage of having an iron stove. Marie craves bread made with wheat. She's looking forward to the Bates's wheat harvest.”

Me: I'd have to say I'm kind of partial to my modern appliances - like refrigerators and ovens! I don't know if I could handle eating corn mush day in an day out. (shiver!) Marsha, what is your favorite food?

“My favorite food? There are so many. Among frontier foods, I like beef stew, greens from the garden, and eggs gathered warm from beneath the hen.”

Me: What kind of wedding cake did you have?

Marsha: “I had a spice cake. It was very much a do-it-myself wedding reception. I made my own dress, made the wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres except for my bouquet, planned and bought the frappe' punch makings, and would probably have mixed it if I could have (I'm such a control freak!). And it was beautiful. My dad built a lattice-work arch as the background for the wedding party.”

Mmmmm...Spice cake.

Me:  And such a beautiful bride! Marsha, you are mega talented! I loved getting to know and your characters a little better!
The new Marsha Ward with her parents on her wedding day.

 Join Marsha Ward November 10, 2012 – from 10:00am to 6:00pm for her Facebook Event (and celebration of her own wedding anniversary) where she is giving away super prizes in honor of her new novel. One of the prizes is Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards! (Did someone mention chocolate? Where? Where?)

You know you want to be there!!!! Hugs~

OH...You really want to read these, too. The first three books in the Owens Family Saga:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Catching Up and Starting Again

In the words of a dear friend, the past nine months have been filled with "magnificent chaos." Just before my last post, Doug's company laid him off. Let's just say they were not the only engineering firm laying off employees. Since I already accidently hit the Post button, I will give a brief summary and then come back and fill in the blanks later this week. How's that for keeping you hanging? Actually, most of you already know the gritty details, but just in case, here ya go.

End of January - April: Doug was laid off. After 60 days and still no job, we let our landlord know that we would not be able to close on the house in August after all. But the Smith's kindly let us know that we were welcome to continue renting the house until the kids got out of school. It would work out perfect for them since they were moving back to Utah and would just move back into their home.

End of May, 2012 - as we moved out the front door, the Smith's were moving in the back door. Still no job and with no job, no one wants to risk signing a lease with us. I don't blame them one bit! What to do? We still hoped to stay in Utah County. The kids were thriving there. The offers from friends to stay in their homes humbled me. We felt the best course was to set up our tent trailer in Becky(Soug's sister) and David Brooke's driveway. They live in a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bath house, but we all made things work -- thanks to the Texaco Station down the road that opened at 6:00am!

I don't know if I have ever been more terrified than that first week in the trailer when a big wind storm hit. As the wind buffeted the trailer and twigs and branches fell all around us during the night, I kept singing "When Faith Endures" over and over again: "I will not doubt, I will not fear; God's love and strength are always near." I finally fell asleep, and we were well protected.

I met Becky's sweet friend Jusun. She taught us how to make kimchee. I blogged about it on and I'll try to link it here later. Jusun and Becky showed me what it really means to serve as Christ served. I love those women.

July 2012 - A friend contacted me on Facebook about a possible job for Doug in Oregon. Long story short, Doug was offered the job, but the very first day there, Doug had a horrible feeling come over him and he felt very strongly that we needed to head back to Arizona -- so he packed up the car and headed south, not knowing how or where he would find work. He called Ron Neal as he drove down the coast. Ron told him he was glad he called and that he could put a plan together and have a job for Doug by the time he arrived in Arizona. The day after Doug pulled into Kenny's driveway, he started working for Edkey, a charter school organization run by Ron.

I spent a great deal of energy being angry about this whole thing until I realized that I was angry because I was so stinking scared. I focused on the love I have for my eternal companion and the blessings we enjoy as an eternal family unit. I am grateful for the covenants I have made and for the blessing of being married to an honest, God fearing man who honors his priesthood and cares for his family. He listened to a prompting and we both knew that there is a reason for coming to Arizona.

So...I moved Levi and Micaela down to AZ just two days before school started on August 8th. Micaela was a good sport about starting school on her birthday...again. We are living with our oldest son, Kenny, and his wife Aprlilynne and their children.

Yesterday, my mother shared the frustrating news that her blood work indicates that her cancer has returned. I am very grateful that we are close by and can be a support to my parents. The timing of all this just confirms in my mind that we are where God wants us to be right now.

Another perk -- Aprilynne asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig for her. She has been following a primal/paleo type of eating and wanted to know if I would be willing to let her be in charge of everything I ate for 2 weeks. If I did okay, she would go until Thanksgiving. I opted in since I was trying to train for my first 10K (another post that I will link here.) Let's just say I feel fabulous. I finished strong, if slow, and lost 8.5 pounds in just 16 days. More to come on that...lots of interesting blogs to link to and recipes to share. I just can't seem to get away from the food theme on this blog.

Tomorrow I will be reviewing a new novel by my dear friend Marsha Ward! And yes, there will be food -- I can't think of a more fun way to get this blog rolling again!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pear Heaven

The concept of time intrigues me. So much of what we do is based on how much or how little time we perceive we have. In elementary school, I used to watch the second hand of the clock quiver as it ticked off each moment until the final bell to freedom rang. An invitation to a birthday party meant an entire week of watching seconds, minutes and hours drag by. And a year -- what child doesn't feel like a birthday or Christmas is a lifetime away and is never going to arrive?

Every year however, those moments have grown closer and closer together. At first, the change was imperceptible. Now time flies by so quickly that I catch myself missing hours and days and wondering what in the world I did with all that time.

Take this blog, for instance. I could have sworn I posted just a couple of weeks ago, well, a month ago anyway. But no...three months have come and gone. Obviously I survived the invasion of the apples, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and the birth of a new grandchild (# 16!). Last week Doug was laid off from his job and now new adventures lie ahead. Just like when I was a child, time slows down as I anticipate Doug hearing from potential employers. (Don't they know we are waiting?) On the other hand, time also seems to slip through my fingers as we struggle to find enough hours in the day to find other ways to meet our financial obligations.  I started thinking about eternity and wondering why, if in the next life I get to experience unlimited time, I feel so constrained by time in this one. (Does that make any sense at all?) I have more thoughts about that...but since you are probably already bored, I'll switch to what got me back on the blogging horse.


I know...weird. It's not pear season here. Obviously it is somewhere, because last Saturday I came home from running errands with Doug to discover that we had been gifted with an entire box of over ripe Bosc pears. They smelled heavenly. They were very ripe...too ripe to can, but I knew there had to be something I could do with them. I searched the internet for ideas and inventoried my pantry and food storage to see what I had on hand, since no job means no money to run out for extras! I found jars and new lids, sugar, cinnamon, half a box of oranges that needed attention, flour, eggs, oil...and a few other mainstays in the house. (Hooray for food storage and being prepared!) On the internet I found dozens of yummy ideas for pear upside-down cake, puddings, sauces, flan...all incredibly tempting. Two recipes stood out because 1) they were simple and 2) because I had everything on hand to make them! I mentioned them on Face Book and several people requested I here they are! I forgot to write down the sources...yikes!...but I also tweaked the recipes to fit my family's tastes. Here are my versions of:

Pear Butter

2 quarts pear pulp (20 - 25 pears)
4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Quarter and core about 20 - 25 pears. Place them in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, place a lid on the pot and cook the pears until they are soft -- stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching. When the pears are soft, let cool for a little bit, then press through a food mill or sieve. Measure the pulp into a large pot and add the remaining ingredients. Cook this mixture, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until it thickens. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, place lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath. (about 10 minutes/pint or 1/2 pint.) Super yummy on toast, waffles, crepes, oatmeal, pork chops....MMMMMM!

Pear Bread - okay...I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this one. But my bathroom scale will tell you just how much I can't resist nibbling (okay...snarfing) this bread!

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pear sauce (just peel, core and "blenderize" a couple of pears)
3 eggs
2 cups of sugar (yeah, if you are diabetic, I would stay far away from this recipe!)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
zest of one lemon (actually, I forgot to put this in..and never noticed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups finely chopped up pears.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare 2 loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat your wet ingredients together. In a medium bowl sift the flour with the other dry ingredients and  mix with a wire whisk. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and gently fold together. Add the chopped pears and and gently fold those in. (oh..and you can add a cup of chopped nuts if you like.)
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans. You can sprinkle the top of the batter with cinnamon and sugar if you like, but it is already super sweet. Either will be great!
Bake for 60 - 70 minutes. Test at the 60 minute mark. Touch the top of the loaf. If it is firm and springs back a little, it is done. You don't want it too dry, but you don't want to under bake it either. You can also do the tooth pick trick. If the toothpick comes out clean after inserting into the middle of the bread, the bread is done. (I find this sometimes results in over cooking as the bread is quite moist.) Remove from pans and let cool. you know why Bosc pears are wrapped in paper? I had no idea! The skin of the Bosc pear is very sensitive to skin oils and bruises easily. Keep them wrapped in the paper and they last longer! 

Just in case you are so enchanted by my writing that you can't stand the thought of leaving, I have another story about "time."
My friend and mentor Stephanie Fleming expressed her frustrations the other day about balancing career and family and asked me how I dealt with it when my children were little. I shared my experience and pointed out that I was very young and had several children in quick succession, so I didn't have time to focus on my "career." That night, when I told my husband about our discussion, he asked - too sincerely--
"Well, did you tell her we didn't have computers back then?" 
I almost choked.
I feel so old now.
 Enjoy your pears!!!