Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, by Bethany Turner

Chef Hadley Beckett’s cooking show is all sweet Southern charm. Chef Max Cavanagh’s show, To the Max, perpetuates his hot-tempered, bad-boy reputation. When they’re the two finalists on a cooking competition show?

Hide the knives.

Weeks after his end-of-competition meltdown, Max gets out of rehab / anger management to find his popularity shot. To get back on the air, he’s forced to work alongside Hadley, who never wants to see him again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hilarious story. Between the on-camera personas, the backstage maneuvering, and the minefield of personal feelings and career aspirations–not to mention the droolworthy dishes the chefs keep whipping up–author Bethany Turner kept me laughing and turning pages.

The book is available from Amazon and other retailers. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for this Great Weekend Read!

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Unflagging Loyalty

This gallery contains 24 photos.

Guess what: Today, March 2, is Texas Independence Day. That day in 1836 is when Texas declared independence from Mexico and became its own republic. About ten years later it became the 28th state in the Union, but some of … Continue reading

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Texans On Ice

Tuesday morning, I woke up early and checked the weather on my phone. The temperature read “-0”. In other words, negative zero degrees F. “Negative zero? What does that even mean? Is it, like, colder than regular zero?”

What a drag. We’d been in a deep freeze for five days already. One of the two tankless-water-heater intake lines had frozen so we had no hot water at that end of the house.

Brent, concerned about sensor batteries, moved two of our bikes inside from the garage. Then a retro one with old, vulnerable tires. Before I knew it, all the rest of them had slipped indoors. We had to ooch sideways to sit at the breakfast table.

Two inches of ice encrusted the swimming pool. Rolling blackouts kept us guessing (unlike some friends and family, our outages have been fairly short with a couple of hours in between). Only about four inches of snow had fallen, but swirling wind had piled it a foot deep– right in front of the garage door.

I mean, we were okay–we had food, water, and heat–but kept busy trying to stay ahead of everything. Instead of going out through the patio door and letting all that 12-degree air inside, we took to exiting via the garage, which stayed above 40 degrees. This saved a lot of heat. Brent dubbed it “the airlock.”

First Brent, then I spent part of the midmorning shoveling snow. This was actually kind of fun.

As long as, you know, I never have to do it again.

Late that afternoon, Brent took a hair dryer and extension cord to warm up the water line. About the time he collected and hooked everything up and removed the cover from the water heater, the electricity shut off.

Meanwhile, I’d started dinner. In one pan, my lucky special barbecue beans simmered. The electricity shut off just as I pulled the griddle out to cook the burgers.

Fortunately, I knew the old-school way to light the gas stove with a match. Too bad I couldn’t turn on the vent fan. I decided NOT to grill the onion slices I’d cut earlier.

I’d flipped the burgers and was slicing a tomato when Brent asked me for an old towel to use as extra insulation for the water heater, since he had the cover off anyway. “Sure, I’ve got a couple upstairs.” I ran up to my stash and came back with a suitably faded, scruffy towel, which he took outside.

Back to the stove to check… wait, that smells like– Sure enough, a bit of smoke drifted above the griddle, right through the splash cover. “Oh crud…” I hustled that skillet out to the garage like I was a bouncer and it was a 13-year-old who’d sneaked into a nightclub.

Too late. The nearest smoke alarm gave a couple of experimental whoops and then launched into its earsplitting tirade. Great. How do I turn it off? I’d run into a similar problem before and was not optimistic, even if a tall enough ladder had been handy.

I left the slightly charred beef patties (griddle and all) in the garage and went back in, covering my ears. No way to hush the stupid alarm until the smoke dissipates. But how, with no vent fan?

Desperate, I opened the patio door and swung it back and forth, fanning that 12-degree air right into my own kitchen.

So much for the airlock.

Moments later, the smoke alarm blared less urgently, then tapered off to a few last whoops.

Blessed quiet. The Monty Python skit was over. Wisely, I refrained from asking, “What else could possibly go wrong?”

Please don’t think I’m complaining. In fact, I had to laugh at the comedy of errors. After all, we at least had power most of the time and weren’t in any real hardship. So many people all over the state are still in serious danger. And we couldn’t get out to do anything for anyone. We can only check on our family and friends via phone, and pray.

But eventually this deep freeze will thaw and it’ll feel like Texas again. I am hopeful.

We even got to eat our hyper-well-done hamburgers.

I’d love to hear your stories or comments. There’s room for you in the box at bottom of screen.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Hearts on Pilgrimage: Poems and Prayers, by Jody L. Collins


Jody L. Collins, my friend and fellow writer, knows how to listen.

She listens to people.
She listens to God.
And she listens to nature.

A poet at heart, Jody spent years reading and absorbing inspiration from the work of dozens of fine poets. Along the way, she blended their inspiration with her other listenings into a body of original poetry. Universal music in her own voice.

In this book, Hearts on Pilgrimage: Poems and Prayers, she has collected her poems and organized them into phases or seasons. Read through these pieces, maybe straight through from first page to last. Or browse the titles–the lovely, the whimsical, the no-nonsense–to see what catches your fancy. “Thresh Hold,” perhaps? or “Gossamer Faith,” or “Steps to Picking Raspberries.”

Most importantly, take time to enjoy, to savor each one.

To listen.

Hearts on Pilgrimage: Poems and Prayers is available from Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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What I Learned from the Grandkids’ Visit

December found our son and his wife, now that they’re back in the US, bringing their young children for a wonderful Christmas visit. We all had a great time talking, reading stories, clambering around at a local playground, enjoying Christmas specials, and watching the children unwrap an unconscionable number of presents (grandparents gotta spoil ’em a little, right?)

I learned a lot over the ten days or so they were with us…

Our sweet daughter-in-law’s love language is “baked goods.” We all benefitted from this.

On a related note, glitter may not ever sweep up, but sprinkles can be tamed with due effort.

From high-chair level, little cheese cubes bounce 30% farther than little apple cubes.

Ripe banana chunks don’t bounce at all.

Q: How do you know whether a two-and-a-half-year-old and his 1-year-old brother are competing for Mom’s attention?
A: Yes.

The box is just as much fun as the toy. (Wait… everyone already knows that)

Lace curtains are perfect for a grandma’s office, where you only need to filter the sunlight. They are less than optimal when you add a Pack & Play and a one-year-old who needs a nap.

Even the most elegant High Tea may require a plastic tablecloth.

No earthly joy compares to seeing your grandchildren’s excitement over their new gifts.

When the world’s fastest preschooler gets on a scooter, high-visibility clothing is a must.

We’re super thankful to have the rowdy little crew–and their patient, fun-loving parents–in the same part of the country with us for a while.

And now that I’ve caught my breath and come out of my sugar coma, I’d like to wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and a slightly-less-belated Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading!

Jan

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All Oppression Shall Cease

In church on a December Sunday, we sang the beloved carol “O Holy Night.” One line in the second verse really got me thinking:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,

And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

Wow. In His name. All oppression? How awesome is that?

Yeah, but… how’re we doing so far?

Not so awesome. Yes, Christians often get mocked, intimidated, or silenced. Some experience official pressure to violate their own conscience. We don’t like it. We want this oppression to cease.

But that goes both ways. If you want all oppression to cease, then
Do Not Oppress Anyone.

Those of us who claim the name of Jesus have some soul-searching to do. I doubt many American Christians are holding slaves or unlawfully seizing our neighbors’ property. But we must also make sure we don’t…

> Mock, intimidate, silence, or punish anyone whose race, beliefs, gender, or opinions differ from our own
> Force immigrating refugees back into danger
> Interfere with anyone’s right to campaign for the candidate they choose
> Force anyone else to violate his or her own conscience
> Shun or boycott someone for telling the truth

I believe that line in the Christmas carol comes from Jesus’ first recorded sermon, in Luke’s gospel. He addressed the synagogue by reading from the prophecy of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed…”

Then he told the people that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Everything was fine until he pointed out that God loves other people besides the Jews.

That’s when the whole crowd tried to lynch him.

I guess the question is–When Jesus teaches us to love one another and treat everyone with respect because God loves those who are different from us…

Do we follow his example?

Or would we rather lynch him?

I welcome your comments in the “Your Turn…” box below.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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