New Beginnings

I love autumn.

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I love the back to school season–mostly because I’m only one in the family who doesn’t go back to school every year. I love the smell of the fall, the nip in the air, the fruits and vegetables that reach their peak, the brilliant colors on the trees, the beginning of hockey season.

To me, autumn is more a season of new beginnings than the spring. School is starting, which for teachers means a new crop of students. For students, there are new schools, new friends, new challenges. For athletic teams, the promise of a winning season still looms large, and anything is possible.  Yes, leaves are dying and starting to fall off the trees, but that has its own beauty as well.

This fall, these feelings of new beginnings are particularly strong because my first book is on its way to publication. This brings plenty of new challenges–having to surrender my book baby to the publisher and accept that my editor knows much more than I do about this business, for one. Forcing myself to come out of my introverted shell to market my book is another. I have never been one to toot my own horn, and I am always my own harshest critic. Things are largely out of my hands, which is always hard for a control freak like me, but it’s good. It’s a new beginning I always hoped I’d experience, but never truly expected.

And so as the leaves start to turn and the arguing with my kid over homework begins, I will surrender myself to the the season and let all the new experiences take me where they will.

How do you feel about fall? New beginnings, or end of summer?

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Warm up with a good book and a bowl of soup

Fall is my favorite season. Jeans and sweater weather. I love all the colors on the trees, from sunshine yellow to vibrant red. I love curling up with a good book (romance, of course) in front of the fire. However, autumn doesn’t seem to last too long here in the mountains. Already we have snow on the ground and ice on the roads. And wind gusts that wreak havoc on electrical and telephone lines and Internet service.
Despite the unpredictably of this time of year–or maybe because of it–November is one of my favorite months. For me, it’s a time centered around bright colors, cool temperatures and hot food.
Some of my fellow bloggers have shared a few of their family traditions and favorite autumn recipes with you. So, I’ll add one more.
Here in the Vaughn household, we love soup. There’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of goodness to help battle the dropping temperatures and any illnesses that seem to infiltrate our home this time of year. Also, we’re all busy getting ready for the holidays so time and money are at a premium. Soup is a perfect quick, easy and inexpensive dinner. One of my daughter’s favorites is Chicken Orzo Soup. Make a double-batch and you’ll have leftovers for lunches or some to freeze. This is also a great way to use turkey leftovers following Thanksgiving. Just make Turkey Orzo Soup.

8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked orzo (Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta.)
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken or turkey (cooked)
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, combine broth, thyme, salt and pepper; bring to a boil over high heat.
Add carrots and celery; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until orzo and vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in chicken or turkey; cook until heated through.
Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

Do you like soup? What’s your favorite? I’m always looking for new recipes.
Don’t forget to comment. You’ll be entered into this month’s blog giveaway, a $10 Amazon gift e-card and a copy of Letters from Home, courtesy of Bethanne Strasser.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Thanksgiving Corn Souffle

2013-11-21 07.03.01Like most American families, Thanksgiving at our house revolves around traditions, family and FOOD.

Years ago, when my boys were 3 and 1, I found these adorable “shelf-sitter pilgrims” at a craft fair in San Diego…and for the last 19 years they’ve had a place of honor somewhere in my dining room. They make their appearance each year the day after Halloween and there’s just something oddly comforting in unpacking them. (I know…I’m a sentimental fool.)

Being a history girl, those pilgrims remind me year after year to give thanks for the simple joys that fill our days. Granted, some years there’s more to be thankful for than others…and this year hasn’t been an easy one in our house. Even with the hardships, there is so much to be thankful for as we look around the table.

Another Thanksgiving staple in our house is the Corn Souffle. This was a recipe my small boys gobbled up at a friend’s house the same year the pilgrims came to live with us and has had a place on our holiday table every year since. It’s definitely not a low-cal veggie dish, and that’s probably why all three of my kids love it, but hey, it’s a holiday…indulge!

Corn Souffle

4 12 oz. cans of corn – drained

1 Cup butter

3/4 Cup sugar

2 Tbs flour

2/3 Cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk!)

4 eggs – well beaten

3 tsp baking powder

Heat butter and sugar in a saucepan until melted. Blend in flour and remove from heat. Gradually whisk in milk, add beaten eggs and baking powder. Mix well. Fold in corn. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 uncovered for approximately 40 minutes – should be golden brown on the top. Let settle a few minutes before serving.

*Can be made early in the day and warmed before serving.

What’s the one dish is always on your Thanksgiving table?


About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Make Your Own Traditions with Love

Without getting maudlin or delving too deep, let’s just say my family holiday traditions as a child ran more along the lines of a good Hank Williams, Jr. song. Holidays were just heartbreak all dressed up.

When you meet the right person to share your life with, they make you want to be a better person. Once it happened to me, I realized I could keep blaming the past for the fact that I didn’t like holidays, or I could put on my big girl panties and change it. So every year I forced myself to take the steps to make it better. Reach out. Take a risk. Offer to host a holiday meal. Have a holiday party. Invite everyone to my home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Together we’ve begun to make new traditions and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And I’ve learned it’s okay if they don’t. Those that work will continue.SONY DSC

Between us we have lots of adult kids and a couple grandkids, and due to divorces they’ve had more holidays like mine than happy ones like my partners. So this is the tradition we’ve created. We’ve been doing it for the past several years and now the kids plan for it, look forward to it and best of all pay their own way to come to it. So we kind of figure it must mean something to them too.

We choose a weekend sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That way the actual holidays are free for the other parent/families and we don’t put the kids in the position of going to multiple houses or having to choose. At least one of every person’s favorite foods shows up on the menu at some point during the weekend. We have a reverse scavenger hunt for charity, and while we do get gifts for the little ones, the only gifts we buy adults are small gag gifts for our white elephant gift exchange, which always seems to engender much laughter and mayhem. All of us are in agreement that spending the cash to be together for the weekend is gift enough since we’re spread all over the country.

Honestly, these days I look forward to the holidays. I can’t wait to see everyone. And I’ve finally figured out the whole feed-you-to-death thing. It’s because cooking the food, serving it, enjoying it together is a labor of love. I’ve learned it’s not about the getting, it’s about the giving. About the love you share freely, whether it’s returned or not. I’m still learning. But, I do know it makes my heart happy to share. And if there’s one thing a romance writer knows about, its love, in all its many forms.

So do you love holiday traditions or would you be just fine without them?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Family Traditions and Values – It’s what makes you special.

It’s November! And Thanksgiving is coming soon and then Black Friday hits, and before you know it, Christmas is here and New Year’s will be around the corner… Pretty scary, right? But to me, they’re just holidays that I’ve grown up with and learned to enjoy and appreciate, but technically, I really don’t celebrate them… (Don’t gasp at me!)

For me, I have to say I was pretty lucky to grow up with Asian parents and then I had my American parents, which consisted of my older sister and older brother. They enjoyed making sure we learned about the American culture and celebrating American holidays since we do live in America. As I got older and went through grade school and middle school, I didn’t really understand why I was so different from the other kids. I wanted to be like everyone else, except I had different responsibilities and higher expectations for being my parent’s kid. IMG_0707

Growing up, I never really thought much of traditions. I just got excited that my parents didn’t have to work on holidays, and we got to eat good! They’d cook noodles and rice or put together a hot pot, which consists of savory broth that you cook your vegetables and meat in and eat each morsel as it’s done. All our holidays and family times centered around food (which probably explains why I need a personal trainer or nutritionist to control my relationship with food).

Sundays were our big family dinner days. My parents loved to cook and had taken their passion in food and made it a career by opening their own restaurant when I was nine. And I’ll admit, I took it for granted. Now that it’s been years since I’ve lived home, I hadn’t realized how much love and appreciation of food is ingrained in my culture and values.

Each year, we would go visit our ancestor’s graves and pay our respects. We’ll spend time together to watch Asian dramas, listen to Asian music and have debates on Asian history.

I thank my parents for giving me everything they have, for teaching me of our ways and what makes me special and different from everyone else. I’m culturally well-rounded and speak a different language, which may be more than what most people were given. What they’ve given me and taught me is great, in that I wish and I hope I’ll have the chance to pass down their traditions and values to the next generation. Traditions should never die as it makes a family more unique and special from others.

What are some of your family traditions and values?


About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Winter is Coming…

Winter is coming… that’s the way I view autumn. The summer is over, and winter is on its way. And I don’t like it.

I’m English, and I come from the north of the country in an area known as the Lake District. It’s spectacularly beautiful but very, very wet (think just really big puddles everywhere). And I seem to have spent most of my life heading south in search of the sun.

I now live in the mountains of Southern Spain, but even here, the winters can be cold and throughout November the temperatures drop daily, the nights are getting darker and the days shorter. And I miss the summer.

Nina CroftMy writing reflects my love of summer. I have two books releasing this month, Bittersweet Magic, which came out this week, and Operation Saving Daniel, which releases later in the month. Both stories take place in July. So even my characters love the sun (well, except for the vampires, and they like lovely balmy evenings where they can lay outside counting the stars.)

So November is maybe my least favorite month of the year; there’s no chance of even an Indian summer, the long winter stretches ahead, and I’m English, so I don’t even have Thanksgiving to look forward to.

Lol- I’m sounding miserable! So to counteract my Novemberly miserableness, I’ve decided to stop thinking of what I hate about winter and make a list of all the things I like and can look forward to (and be thankful for!) Here goes:

  • Log fires – yesterday we lit the first fire of the year – I love real fires; there’s something so romantic about curling up in front of the flickering flames…
  • Christmas – who doesn’t love Christmas! And New Year, a chance for a brand new start.
  • Snow – while I live in southern Spain, I also live at around 3300 feet above sea level – it gets cold and we do have snow and it’s beautiful. Also behind us, to the north, is Mulhacen, mainland Spain’s highest mountain. Any day now, we’ll have the first snow and that will stay right into next June/July
  • Long, dark evenings and the chance to watch back-to-back seasons of my favorite TV shows, 24, West Wing, Grey’s Anatomy, Battlestar Gallactica…
  • Horse riding on lovely, crisp, frosty mornings, when the air is clear and the sky is blue and I can see all the way down my mountain to the Mediterranean.

Okay, I’m out of ideas and need help – what are your favorite things about the coming cold season? Comment for a chance to win this month’s giveaway; a $10 Amazon gift E-card and a copy of the fabulous, Letters from Home, courtesy of Bethanne Strasser!

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

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