It’s Fig Canning Time in the South

One thing about canning figs, is that you have to do it on their schedule.  Not yours.  The figs this year are giving out a bumper crop, and the dh decided to pick seven gallons.  You have that right, seven gallons.  When I arrived home on Thursday afternoon at four p.m. he was cutting off the tops.  Now mind you, I was leaving the next morning to go to Monroe to watch the Miss Louisiana Contest as I had two granddaughters there.  One was in the Miss Louisiana Contest, and the seven-year-old was a princess and would be on stage as well.

I hadn’t figured on the figs.

The dh had three gallon bags ready to put the cleaned figs in and thought I could can them when I arrived back home on Sunday.  First, there was no way that you could have stored the figs in the fridge.  There wasn’t nearly enough room.  (What was he thinking, he had seven gallons!)  They filled my huge roaster, and a huge cooking pot.  I threw them in the two pots, added a cup of water and seven pounds of sugar to each and let them cook.  For eight hours.

Eight hours.

It’s a good thing I still had to pack and do other things to get ready for my trip.

At one in the morning I was putting figs into jars.  We ended up with thirteen quarts and almost one pint that I put in the fridge.

I’m not really complaining, as I love figs.  There is nothing like four or five of the sweet darlings next to the eggs, grits and bacon for breakfast.  Then there is crispy fried bacon on a biscuit with a couple of figs, and you have heaven in your hand.

There’s a great recipe for strawberry fig preserves, which calls for three cups of mashed figs, three cups of sugar and two boxes of strawberry jello cooked for ten minutes or so, and you’d swear that there were real strawberries in that jar.

Not to mention the fig cake, or fig tea cookies.

The only thing is…you have to can them when they are ready.  The window lasts maybe a week or two, if the rain doesn’t spoil them.  Yes, we generally have lots of rain when the figs go ripe.  So, we grab that chance to can figs, because if you miss it, you can’t buy canned figs at Wal-Mart.

The small granddaughter came home with a trophy almost as tall as herself for being a princess.  The Miss Louisiana contestant didn’t come out, but she’s a winner in our book.  Plus, she won scholarship money to assist her in college.

The past month has been busy as The Devil Has Dimples was on a blog tour, the reviewers gave it either five or four stars, leaves, and I think it even received some ‘paws’…if you want a ‘fun’ read, try it out.  It’s listed at all the fine eBook distributors.

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Memories

My Dad was a farmer, as was his father. They both rose early morning and retired early evening. Long years of hard work kept them both going physically and mentally.

Though I didn’t know my Dad well, he was loved. He and my Mom divorced when I was around five, I think. I didn’t see him again until I was about eleven or twelve, the year escapes me. I can never remember him saying I Love You, but he always cried when he, or we, left. So I know he cared.

My brother and I visited the farm, which was down the hill from my Grandfather’s home, several times during summer or fall, and I have many memories stored. My two older brothers lived with my Dad and taught us a lot about country living. Once when I was maybe thirteen, I tried making pancakes for breakfast. Lord! Who knew there was plain flour?  The pancakes were some of the best rubber money could buy. Needless to say, no one ever asked me to make pancakes again. 🙂 Other things that made an impression were a smokehouse, a salt box, a cold, cold spring, and snakes. I loved the spring and its cold water, but hated going because there might be a snake or two around.

My Grandfather owned a sawmill. He built my Grandmother a beautiful large home on top of a hill overlooking fields of cattle with a mountain in the background. I used to love sitting on the wrap-a-round porch where a nice breeze kept me cool. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more quiet or gentle man. So I guess that’s where my Dad got his quiet manner. Off the kitchen was a cool cellar filled with home-canned goods. There was a huge fireplace in the kitchen, for warmth and cooking. The wood cooking stove, for some reason, always fascinated me. He also had bee hives. He amazed me gathering honey in five gallon buckets. Oh, was the honey ever good on hot buttered biscuits.

A few years ago, before my father passed, we were at my brother’s place in the mountains for a family reunion. All of a sudden gunshots rang out. My brother said, oh, that’s just Dad shooting a snake. We all went to the creek that ran between my two brother’s places, to see the snake. It was a copperhead! I always watch my step now when I visit.

Whether we spent a lifetime with our father, or only at special times, there’s a bond that forms. Memories that can’t be erased and those make Father’s Day special.

June, Brides & Books

June Bride

June Bride: Cliche?

Not me. I was not a cliché June bride. I wanted to get married in April and ended up with a September wedding. So what’s my point? I’m wondering how the June Bride cliché is perpetuated in spite of all the complexities of life.  Sure, Bride Magazine has a special feature for June weddings. There’s even an entire magazine called June Bride. But how do people get around the shortage of chapels? And who plans their wedding based on the month of the year anyway? Don’t we base our wedding dates around the circumstances of our lives rather than the other way around? People can’t possibly be so fixated on the photo op of a perfect June day—can they?

I may not have ended up with a June wedding in real life—probably because I missed that issue of Bride Magazine—but my heroines are another story. (Yes, I do treat the heroines in my novels as if they were my girlfriends. They are like my BFFs –as if I were still the kid with imaginary friends.) Roxanne, the heroine in my latest release, Playing the Game, may end up with a June wedding and she’s the least likely candidate to be called a cliché. She’s more like a Scarlet O’Hara type than a Cinderella, but without the Civil War and the southern accent. She rescues sick children instead of gentile family members. A June wedding for Roxanne is all pure circumstance. I swear I didn’t plan it. As the story concludes, the NBA finals have just been played in mid-June and her romance with the MVP is either over, or they jump into the relationship all the way. You know what happens. It’s easy to imagine a June wedding after turning the last page of the novel. Maybe I should write that epilogue. (For Roxanne’s sake, of course. It’ll be fun picking out a wedding dress with her…)

Playing The Game

No Cliche, but a June Wedding Anyway?

What about you and your BFFs? Did you say to your real—or imaginary—BFF, “I dreamed of being a June bride all my life so I’m getting married in June. I don’t care if my lease is up in May and my maid of honor’s baby is due in July.” Did you plan life around your wedding date or did you choose your wedding date according to your life’s schedule?

For more information about Playing the Game and other Stephanie Queen novels, visit the website www.StephanieQueen.com.  Follow me on twitter @StephanieQueen and my Stephanie Queen Facebook page.

Dad and his books

On June 17 we celebrated Father’s Day.

On June 14, I always remember my Dad. It would have been his birthday. If he was still around. But he’s been gone many years ago.

He was a quiet, kind, intellectual man, always busy at his desk, writing.

When I was a little girl, I could never understand why he wrote so much, and when I asked, he’d say he was correcting his students’ assays. I thought his students had too much homework. Or sometimes he composed books, not fun books I could read but very serious, boring for me, literary critiques of famous dead authors. At other times, he’d be looking in the air, thinking and then scribbling, erasing, and re–writing. And I knew it was a poem for my mother. Dad wrote a whole book of poems about my mother’s beautiful eyes, telling her she was his princess and he was her knight.

 When I told him, I, too, wanted a poem, he read those he’d written especially for me. At six, I was so proud to show my whole class two of my very own poems. Except my friends didn’t understand the words. I didn’t either, but I loved their sound. Almost like music.

As I grew up, I admired him so much and wanted to write like him, but he insisted I should go into a scientific career. After my early retirement as a chemist, I gave in to the urge of writing romance. I inherited from Dad his love of books, his writing talent, and his ability to read fast.

 If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with passion.

#43 Free in Kindle Store;  #5 in Kindle eBooks > Humor ; #12 in Kindle Store > Romance > Contemporary

When Greek billionaire Stefano decides to demolish the dilapidated villa inherited from his grandmother, the American co-owner refuses to sell his shares and sends his attorney—and pretty granddaughter—to contest the demolition. To check out the opposition before he faces her at the hearing, Stefano meets her incognito and convinces her to take a sunset ride on his yacht. Sparks fly and passion sizzles during a memorable night.

In court, Ashley is in for a nasty surprise about her handsome Greek god and Stefano is about to lose the only woman who’s ever touched his heart. Will Stefano be able to convince Ashley he’s not the enemy anymore?

 

Myth, Magic, and finding Midsummer Joy

Today is Litha, the Summer Solstice. It is that time of year when the sun reaches its zenith, the longest day of the year. It is a celebration of light, fecundity and the abundance of summer. I look forward to these long days of light all year and when they are here celebrate!

This past weekend my husband and I attended the Scottish Highland Games in Chicago. This was our second games of the year, something we celebrate together every year with our extended Scottish family. Since it was so close to Father’s Day, that was just an added bonus. We saw a World Record set in the weight toss for height (56lb. weight tossed with one hand over a bar 18ft 11inches high). Truly an amazing feat of athleticism. Pure masculine power, raw and beautiful to behold.

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How does any of this tie into our Father’s Day theme? Well after eight posts on this topic so far this month, you’ll have to bear with me as I tie it up. Today, Midsummer, is very special. It is associated with the sun, male energy and all that is bright and beautiful about the male aspect. So I say thanks to all the males in my life. Fathers, brothers, sons, and most importantly those we call lover and husband. I am thankful for the many men in my life who make it better every day with their strength, their love and their masculine grace. I am blessed to watch the honorable path the men I love, both living and those who have gone before, have blazed through their lives. Further, I am happy to travel it with them. So instead of saying Happy Father’s Day, I will say: here’s a cheer for the best in men everywhere.

Midsummer is a time full of myth and magic and joyous celebration of the earth and her gifts. We celebrate the sun, the masculine, and also the feminine as the sun enters Cancer – a water sign. I love this part. Today is a day for water magic. It is a time to celebrate holy streams and sacred wells, giving offerings of coins or pins in Celtic mysticism. Chalice well is located in Glastonbury and has been a sacred place for Christians and Pagans for more than a millenia. Joseph of Arimathea was said to have traveled there. Its sacred springs are associated with the grail legend and are said to be healing in nature.

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I write about sacred springs, myth and magic in Fighting Fate, my latest stand a lone romance in the Dojo Chronicles. I love Glastonbury Tor. The land there and the sacred waters, sing with energy. It truly is a magical place I wanted to celebrate. So, I fictionalized it and put it in a romance that celebrates not only strong femininity, but also the fierce loving heart of a man sworn to protect it. I love Fighting Fate, and I hope you will too.

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Shakespeare wrote about Midsummer magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, That Scottish Play, and in The Tempest. The themes of magic and celebrating all the abundance summer has to offer are not new. They are eternal. So here’s to summer. Here’s to the festivals, the music, the plants and to all you hold sacred. Here’s to celebrating the masculine aspect of nature as we enjoy the longest day of the year. And here’s to holding the magic of summer in your heart.

Happy Midsummer!

Leigh Morgan

http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Fate-Dojo-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B008B8PXFA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1340196821&sr=8-3&keywords=leigh+morgan

Grandpa’s Love Story


Grandma, Dad and Grandpa

I’m so grateful for the wonderful dad I had growing up, and the fantastic grandfather he is now. I could write volumes in appreciation of everything he’s done for me. But today I’m writing about his father—my grandfather.

Grandpa passed away when I was eighteen. As a kid, I wasn’t close to him, although I saw him at every birthday party and holiday celebration. Back then I didn’t care all that much; what could I have in common with an old guy, anyway?

A few years after he died I read his memoir, and came to realize that the old guy was young once, not so different from me. He wrote about his early life in the tiny town of Williamsburg, Ontario, from his childhood until he began courting my grandmother in 1933. It was the last part of this story that most captivated me. I never thought of Grandpa as a sensitive soul, but his recollections of meeting my grandmother reveal a timid boy who admired a young lady across the classroom but was too shy to speak to her.

As fate would have it, the two were paired on a church debating team. He describes the evening she came to his house to compare notes: “I was extremely nervous and jittery, never before having played host to a young lady even for such a prosaic purpose. Added to that, the only quiet place to be had for our conference was my bedroom (door open of course) but the mere presence of the bed made me, and possibly her, very bashful.”

Destiny intervened once again when she took a job at a bed and breakfast on his street. “From then on, I looked for any opportunity, without becoming such a pest as to get her fired, to try to establish cordial relations with this girl … I was able to talk briefly and bashfully with her during her off-duty time in the evening twilight hours on the front veranda …” Finally he plucked up the nerve to ask her to accompany him to a movie. I was most touched by the very last paragraph of the memoir: “There was no time (nor indeed money) for a snack or a soda after the show … but the evening was nevertheless a huge success by any standard, especially the bus ride home and the walk back in the soft summer night! So much so that, as long as she lived, I never had, nor wanted, another girl.”

I think he intended to write more, but never got the chance before he died. It tugs at my heartstrings to think of him losing his cherished wife when she was only 43, a decade before I was born.

Reading Grandpa’s memoir allowed me to get to know him a little better; like me he had a romantic side, and perhaps a passion for expressing himself through writing. I hope someday I’ll find the time to write my own memoir for my future grandchildren.

In the meantime … my newest book, Where the Heart Lies, is now available on Amazon.

Seeing his former fiancée for the first time in over a decade, Clay McAdam can’t help but wonder why he ever let her go – especially now that he believes she secretly had his child. Years ago his desire for a life of travel and adventure tore them apart, but now Clay wants nothing more than to settle down and focus on family.

The last thing Jordan Lewis expected was for Clay to walk back into her life after eleven years, accusing her of keeping his child from him. But there’s more to the story than he knows, and as Jordan finds herself falling for Clay once again, she fears that telling him the whole truth will mean losing him a second time.

Check out my other books at www.susanrhughes.weebly.com

With Thanks to the Great Men in My Life

I sometimes think girls are shaped more by their father’s influence in their lives than they are by their mothers. From our fathers we get our perception of ourselves, our belief in what we can or cannot do, and most of all, we get our example of what a husband and father should be. We often marry men just like Dad, or try to. Sometimes we’re wrong and the men we choose are only like Dad in small ways, but not where it counts. Or if Dad was a poor example, we end up repeating that mistake in our own marriages.

ImageI was one of the lucky ones. My dad was a quiet man who was totally devoted to my mother. He worked hard, he had a college degree, he did his best to give us everything we wanted and needed. I know I disappointed him at times in my life, but if he were still alive today, he’d be thrilled to see me finally reaching for my dreams. He always believed in me, no matter what I was trying to do. He helped as much as he was able. But I didn’t seriously start pursuing a writing career until two years after he passed away. I regret that I didn’t start sooner, but his death was part of what gave me the push I needed to get started.

My father-in-law was another big influence on my life.Image

Though short in stature, he was bigger than life. He grew up poor, working harder than any man I’ve ever known up until he died at the age of 83. He never slowed down. He loved his kids and grandkids, bragged on them every chance he got, and passed on a lot of wisdom that my children still quote. His life was never an easy one, but he never complained, never looked for an easy way out, never dreamed of winning the lottery so he could retire. He lived to work and he worked to live. He established traditions that gave my children an anchor in life.

I’ve been lucky in love. Image

I met my husband when I was 17 years old. The minute I met him, I knew he was the one I was supposed to marry. That was 39 1/2 years ago and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He’s a lot like my dad in that he’s mostly quiet, but he’s a lot like his dad, too. He’s worked hard all his life, pouring concrete with his dad for forty years until the economy, and the construction industry, crashed. But he brushed himself off and went into the photography business until my writing career allowed him to retire last November. Like my father-in-law, my husband didn’t just sit down and stop working, though. He’s been busy every day around our acreage, clearing trees and brush, tearing down fences, keeping the 2 acres around the house mowed, building me a quiet and peaceful flower garden to enjoy on pretty days.

When I start writing a book, I don’t consciously decide that the father in this one will be like my dad, or the one in that book will be like my father-in-law, or the hero will be like my husband. But I find my heroes and their dads almost always have some of the same qualities as the men in my life. They have honor, they have integrity, they have values and principals. And they always have unconditional love because I don’t know anything else.

As Father’s Day approaches, if you still have your Dad, let him know how much you appreciate him. Let him know you love him. Let him know what a strong influence he’s been on your life. Because I can tell you from experience, the time you have is never enough.

I’ve temporarily reduced the price of Blame it on Texas to $0.99 to introduce readers to the Lone Star Cowboys series and in honor of Father’s Day. The book is set in a fictional version of my father’s home town, the town where most of his family still lives–as they have since the 1800’s. Image

Logan Tanner returns to Morris Springs, Texas, to help care for his father after he has a stroke. Logan hates West Texas for what it did to his mother, but he’s there for his father albeit reluctantly at first. But when Megan Flynn bursts into his life, Logan learns to appreciate what his father tried so hard to teach him and to forgive what he didn’t understand. He learns what it means to be a part of a family and of a small, close-knit community. And he learns that love means more than just another responsibility.

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Blame it on Texas is especially dear to my heart because it features my dog, Blue–the best dog ever. Blue was put to sleep yesterday and I hope he’s now running through green fields with my Dad and my father-in-law. I miss them all.