Me, You, and a Sunday’s Rendezvous!

What are you doing Sunday afternoon?  Not sure?  Well, do I have a deal for you. Have plans?  Cancel them; I have a better idea.

Come to the Bedford Public Library at 1323 K Street.  I will be there from 1:30 – 3:00, ground level, for a book signing.  I will have my two books available:

Acts of Courage, a young adult historical fiction novel that is perfect for grades four and up (and by ‘up’ I mean adults!).  You don’t want to miss out on this book.  Read with me and you will go on a journey with the feisty and funny main character, Fen.  He not only experiences history, but he also begins to deal with his learning disability, dyslexia.  It is set in Indiana and is a perfect read as we are in our bicentennial year.

Also available will be my young adult fantasy, Rats, Pumpkins, and Other Rumors, which is an eclectic take on classic fairy tale characters you thought you knew.  Visit some of your favorites, but be prepared to see them in a new light as they regale you with their real stories.  You will also meet some new friends along the way.  (Hint, Tommy is my favorite!)

I will have some coloring pages on hand that go with some scenes from Acts of Courage, created by the talented Marcus Ramos.  Warning: the kids may have to fight the adults for the crayons. Coloring is the new knitting!

Come join me.  I have already checked the weather.  Not too chilly to get out and it’s too early to work in the yard, so no excuses. See you there!

Soup-er Bowl

This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. Whoop! Whoop! Grid iron, pigskin, helmets, um, grass and, uh…oh, cleats and…

Forget it; I can’t do it. Yes, I know that Super Bowl Sunday is coming, but only because that gives my family another excuse to get together and graze. We really don’t need an excuse. Heck, we celebrate Flag Day, Ground Hog’s Day, Friday’s, and the list goes on and on. We get together in the kitchen even when there is no event coming up because that is just what we do.

Make no mistake; most of the members of my family are heavily into sports. Just not this chick. I don’t know what happened to me but I somehow missed that gene when my composition was being ‘composed’. I got nothing! Well, nothing that has to do with the love of sports, apart from the Chicago Cubs, of course, but I can still celebrate with the best of them.

Hence my recipe I would like to share with you, our Soup-er Bowl for Super Bowl Sunday. This beauty was given to me from my cousin, Jill Green, and we have enjoyed it so much that I wanted to let you in on the deliciousness. Grab some crusty bread and a spoon and get ready to partake and enjoy!

Tortilla Soup

*Bear Creek Tortilla Soup Mix

*large container chicken broth

Mix these two ingredients in a large pan over medium heat.

Sauté two garlic bulbs and a small onion diced very fine. Cool and add to the soup mixture.

Add to the soup mixture:

*1 can diced tomatoes

*1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies

(Note***** I add these two to the blender so they are smoother)

*1 can of black beans rinsed

*1 cup of Pace chunky salsa

*cilantro leaves, but these are up to your taste. Personally, I leave them out.

*the juice of 1 or 2 limes

*1 rotisserie chicken, cut into small, bite-sized pieces

(Note****you can add water to the soup if you feel that it is too thick)

Simmer until hot.

Yum.

Happy Eating, and enjoy the game (and the soup)!

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The Season of Magic

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Well, the elves have been busy in the kitchen of the Horner house this December. We start stocking up on ingredients in November and roll up our sleeves early in December. The kitchen stays warm with the heat from the oven that stays lit on baking days. I wear more powdered sugar on my T shirt than actually makes it to the bowl, and I must have been over-zealous when I was beating the chocolate fudge as I found about six ounces of chocolate in my hair later that night. But, it all part of the process!

My mother began this tradition of mass baking so that we could make up trays of goodies. It was her way of saying “Thank you, we appreciate all you do and who you are.” I began to help more as the years went by and the pans became too heavy for her to lift, or the fudge was too thick for her to beat as well as she used to. I had no idea how much…muchness…went into her trays. The more I took over, the more I saw it as a chore, a laborious task to undertake in an already busy time. I would give a long-suffering sigh and wearily roll up my sleeves, dragging my feet as I entered the kitchen.

But let me tell you, there is magic in what she does. When I thumb through her old cookbooks, like my favorite Gold Medal Jubilee, with recipes spanning from 1880 ~ 1955, the memories of Christmases Past waft through my mind as sweetly as the baking smells waft from the ever-busy oven. The magic of giving your best blossoms like a spring flower as each tray is handed out and you can see the pleasure on faces of friends and family.

My mother reminds me of The Little Drummer Boy; she has always given her best by whatever means she had. May we always be reminded of the importance of thinking of others, and touched with the spirit of giving and love this Christmas and always.

Merry Christmas from the Horner family!  I have included two of the recipes that we use for our trays, and one is from the beloved Gold Medal book. I hope you try them and enjoy them as much as we do. Love and peace…and check your hair for chocolate!

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Jubilee Jumbles (1955)

½ cup soft shortening

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup undiluted evaporated milk or thick sour cream (I use sour cream)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ¾ cups sifted Gold Medal Flour

½ tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugars, eggs. Stir in sour cream, vanilla. Sift together flour, soda, salt, and stir in. Blend in walnuts. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart on greased baking sheet. Bake about 10 min., until delicately browned. Frost with Burn butter Glaze (recipe below). Makes about 4 dozen.

Burnt Butter Glaze

Heat 2 tbsp. butter until golden brown. Beat in until smooth 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar and 14 cup undiluted evaporated milk.

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Texas Millionaires (the turtle-like candies)

1 ~ 14 oz. package caramels, unwrapped

2 T butter or margarine

2 T water

3 cups chopped pecans

Wilton milk chocolate dipping chocolate wafers. I start with one package

 

Cook first three ingredients in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in pecan bits. Cool in pan five minutes.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased was paper. Chill one hour or freeze twenty minutes until firm.

Heat water over a double broiler. Remove from heat. Melt milk chocolate discs in double broiler, stirring until smooth. Dip caramel candies into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip; place on lightly greased was paper. Let stand until firm. Yield: 4 dozen

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What Are Your Bomblingers and Flimzingers?

The Christmas trees that adorn living rooms all around the globe are as varied and telling as the people who gather around them.  Each one is intentional and brimming with its own story. I find that an intriguing fact.  Well, let’s be honest.  I find everything about Christmas intriguing or I wouldn’t own several books that explain the origins of various traditions associated with Christmas, as well as the video The History of Christmas which finds its way into my VCR each year.  Yes, that is correct.  VCR.

 

Some houses present theme trees or trees with only certain colors.  Some are strictly organic and have only handmade and homespun ornaments or items from nature.  There are those that tell the story of ‘we are here because we had to do it’ and they wear only the stingiest of adornments.  Upside down trees, white, black, or brushed by a rotating color wheel.  The options march on and on, bearing the “jingtinglers” and “whohoopers” (from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) of each person’s fancy.

 

I thought I would share some of my jingtinglers and whohoopers from my family’s tree.  True to form, it reflects the nature of my family. Ornaments that date from the 30’s and the 50’s (some still in their original boxes.  I know this to be a true statement because I get caught each year trying to hastily stuff them into the nearest box and move on).  Ornaments that are chipped here or cracked there, but patched and held together with hard work and promise.  A mishmash of lights of all colors.  Some of the lights are steady and still while others are chasing and changing, but if you wait patiently enough, they will shine beautifully.

 

My mother has kept each ornament that we as children would make, no matter how hideous, and they hang just as proudly next to ornaments that were purchased from a store.  As a matter of fact, my daughter and niece will move things around to make sure their creations are front and center.  Tara’s is a snowman who only has one leg and Ashley’s is the ‘traditional’ Christmas banana.  She claims it is the moon, and we let her tell this each year, but we know it looks like a banana.

 

What are your stories?  How are you represented on your trees?  People love to gaze at Christmas trees.  I wonder what stories they will read on yours?

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Imbroglios and Kerfuffles? Why Not?

Imbroglios and Kerfuffles? Why Not?

Well, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The turkey is lying in state in the freezer and the shelves are bursting with the assorted items that go into the dishes and bowls of goodness for the meal.

This is the time of year when a lot of people slow down a bit before the brisker pace of the Christmas season, and they reflect upon their year, their families, and their lives in general. I am no exception. I, too, take stock of my little existence in the greater world, and this is what I have found.

Let’s face it. My life has taken a path that has been a tad rocky. Not the cushiest, nor one that, when I was a child and I had my hand hovering over the box brimming with all of life’s choices, made my eyes light up and I would take my fat finger and point, crying with delight, “There! That one! That is the life for me!”

Again, I am no exception. A glimpse into most families’ living rooms would get a snapshot of bickering here, illness there, sadness sprinkled over some, financial problems…the list is endless. But it is within this list that I find a crucial point. It’s the ‘stuff’ that can sometimes make or break you. And if it ‘makes’ you, then God bless you, because He has.

When I look over my shoulder at the past, I see so much. Wonderful, loving, complex, and always, always, a plethora of imbroglios and kerfuffles, time after time of extremely complicated situations and mass confusion.

I maintain that it is because of, not in spite of, these hiccups in life that I feel so much happiness and love. Honestly, if some of this stuff that has gone down hasn’t killed my happy factor, then I think I am good to go. I believe that it is the bumps and the messy stains in life that bring out the fighter, the comforter, the problem-solver, or the compassion in each of  us, as each situation demands.

I will look around the Thanksgiving table this year, as I always do. My eyes will pass over the chairs of the loved ones who are no longer with us, and sure, I will get that lump that I always fight that threatens to choke me. But if I keep looking, I will see glimpses of those same loved ones in the face of this one, or in the mannerisms of another, or that cheeky smile come out on several faces, and I will know that they are still with us, indeed.

And all of this will make me happy and sad all at once, and I will be overwhelmed by the love I have for this life, warts and all. And I will try; I swear I will try, as I near exhaustion and someone complains, not to act upon my inner desire to dip some of their faces in the mashed potatoes as that glow fades. God bless us all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Goats, Books, and Bears…Oh, My!

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Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a superstitious, throw-salt-over-my-shoulder kind of girl. Usually. But I am telling you now, if one more freaky thing of chance happens this month, all bets are off and I am avoiding ladders, black cats, and indoor umbrellas!

 

If any of you have seen Back to the Future II, the 1989 sequel to the popular movie Back to the Future, or if you have tapped into social media the last few weeks, you are probably familiar with the movie’s prediction that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in 2015. You may also have heard that the Cubs are playing the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, October 9, 2015, for the first of a best-of-five dance to see who will win the…you guessed it. The 2015 World Series. For the Cubs, this rarely happens. How rare? How about not winning a pennant since October 6, 1945, the day the Cubs were cursed by a disgruntled bar owner who was told to remove his goat from the stands because it smelled bad. He had purchased the goat a ticket and everything, according to goat/Cub lore! The Cubs fan left, but not before cursing the team from winning another Series.

 

Now I am not one to spread rumors or consort with conjecture, but, uh…well, we haven’t. Yet.

 

Now, let’s take my father, the late Jack Horner (yes, before we go on, that really was his name). He was the son of an entire family of Cub fans. As an adult, he and his group of friends spent a week in Arizona each spring during Cubs’ spring training. He bought my sister and me Cubs pennants to put in our rooms, with the instruction to, “Salute it each morning!” I think, for many of us, being a fan of a certain team is a family tradition, passed down from generation to generation. I know that is true in my family. So this die-hard Cub’s fan had an October birthday. Let’s see, when could that be? You guessed it; October 6.

 

Lastly, my first novel, Acts of Courage, a young adult historical fiction piece, was just published, first as an e-book and soon to come out in paperback. It goes without saying that between those pages lay months and months of writing and blood, sweat, and tears. To say I am is an understatement, but I want to leave you with this…the publication date of my novel is…wait for it…October 6, 2015.

 

I don’t know if the movie is right, the goat has given up, or Dad and Harry Caray had some pull Upstairs, but all of this greatness has my head spinning. I had better close for now. I have a toy stuffed red bird upstairs that has its name all over this straight pin I am holding…Go Cubs!

Ice cream bread? Curious, indeed.

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So, my mother’s friend was visiting with us last week when he happened to mention something that really caught my attention. Ice cream bread.  I was both sickened and oddly drawn to the idea.

 Of course, I initially envisioned a soggy slab of bread swimming in a scoop of the melted swill, all messily encased in a bread pan and roughly shoved into the oven.  Not the case.  I began to investigate this curiosity, and I find that I have become semi-crazed with this new sensation.

 Two ingredients.  Two cups of ice cream and one and one-half cups of self-rising flour.  That intrigues me.  So does the fact that you can peruse the ice cream shelves, imagining the scents of endless varieties of flavors wafting from your oven.

 I have, in one week, tried Hagen Daaz’s Pineapple Coconut and their Artisan Chocolate Caramelized Oat, and Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, to which I added a pinch of salt and a handful of mini-chocolate chips.  Pretty sure I am still licking my lips over that one.

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 The way I look at it, I have a couple of options.  Either I hit it big cranking out these oddly intriguing little loaves of curious flavors, or I could end of looking like one the 1970’s SNL characters from the big-butted Widette family.

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Have you tried ice cream bread yet?