~Cozy Customs~

Favorites recipes, family traditions, holiday or vacation fun!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Author LoRee Peery shares an Anniversary Vacation Memory!

 ~Author LoRee Peery~

Anniversary Vacation

Bill and I were married on July 27, 1974. We began our life together without a whole lot of money, so our honeymoon was a two-week camping trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota.
Many days before our wedding, we were blasted with a Nebraska heat index of 100-plus degrees. The temps in the Hills dropped into the fifties most nights, so we were thankful for sleeping bags. I wish I had pictures, but we didn’t have a camera at the time.

Our big car was a pale green 1968 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors. We pulled a silver trailer with a pop-up tent. To this day, we talk about some of the campgrounds we entered, driving down, down, to a mountain creek, only to leave again because of the objectionable-looking campers already there. Many nights, our lullabies came from the roar of motorcycles, since the rally in Sturgis is the first week of August.

A bright memory from our return trip occurred at Ft. Robinson in northwestern Nebraska. A green ragweed, not yet turned into a tumbleweed, began to shake near our tent. Then, little, by little, it descended into the earth. When it was underground, tiny clawed paws filled in the hole.
Forty years later, our adult children planned a big party at our acreage. We were blessed with tolerable weather and the presence of forty family members. I do have a camera and treasure the two scrapbook keepsakes from July and August, 2014.

I’d always wanted to see Nashville, and was thrilled when the RWA conference was scheduled at the Gaylord Opry Resort a few years back. It flooded. The venue was changed. Bill knew how disappointed I was.

God is good, and worked it out…
I fell in love with the TV show Nashville and put visiting the city on my bucket list. In 2014, we agreed to take our fortieth anniversary trip to Nashville. We decided to camp at Opry Resort KOA, in a cabin.

Our first vacation foray was to the historic town of Franklin, where a Blue Grass Festival was being held. Along the way, my niece and her husband were delightful tour guides. Highlights included Leiper’s Fort, Loveless Café, and a bit of twisty drive along the Natchez Trace. Along the way, I snapped a picture of The Bluebird Café.

The night of our anniversary we were treated to a lightning storm, and fell asleep to thundering rain. We sat bolt upright at a nearby crack and knew the strike was near. Upon awakening, half the tree in front of our cabin lay stretched across the neighboring porch.


Our gift to one another was a bus tour. Our driver hit Music Row and pointed out multiple highlights. The tour included the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, and Gaylord Opry Resort. We spent the next day at Bell Meade Plantation.
I want to go back.

Thank you Loree and congratulations on 40 years of marriage!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Best Selling Author Gail Pallotta Shares a Favorite Vacation Memory!

Best Selling Author Gail Pallotta Shares a Favorite Vacation Memory!

Staying Somewhere on Ocracoke

One 1960’s summer I made a trip to Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, in the Outer Banks with my father, mother, grandparents and two sisters.

From one vacation to the next my father dreamed of beaches. We knew he’d head to our destination like he had it on missile lock. When he awakened us at three o’clock in the morning the day we left, we dressed comfortably in shorts. My two younger sisters sported raccoon type circles under their eyes. Grandma’s thinning white hair frizzed, and my good-natured grandfather, completely bald at sixty-eight, donned an undershirt with Bermuda shorts. We shot out to the car, left our home at the foothills of the North Carolina Mountains, and stopped only a few times. We even combined our lunch of crackers with a gas station break. Daylight waned when we reached the ferry to take us to Ocracoke. Father drove the car onto it, and we tumbled out and stretched our legs.

“Ah, this is the life.” Father clasped his hands behind his neck, leaned backward and took a deep breath. “Smell that sea air.”

Mother turned toward him. “Where did you say we were staying?”

“Somewhere on Ocracoke.”

My mother’s brow wrinkled into a deep frown. “You did make reservations, didn’t you?”

“No, very few people vacation here. There’s no demand for rooms.”

My mother gasped, and the horror I saw on her face chilled my tired bones. However, in minutes we piled in the car and drove off the ferry. It appeared Father was right. High, sandy dunes lined the highways, scrub brush dotting the sides of it. Miles of blue ocean lay on either side of us. In the distance, a lighthouse, the only sign of life, loomed like a lonely skyscraper. Three small, light brown ponies galloped onto the stretch of beach between the dunes and the waves rolling to our right. We past the next large mound, and there it sat—a traditional two story house with only one parking space left. Father slammed on his brakes and pulled in it.

Mother leaned forward and peered out the windshield. “I hope we can get a room.”

“Oh, I’m sure we can.” Father hopped out of the car and charged into the building with us following.
By the time I entered the foyer he’d disappeared down a long hallway. My grandmother ran her hand on the intricate wall paneling. “Only a fancy hotel would have woodwork this fine. I bet we’re not dressed to be here.”

Mother fanned her face. “It’s nice, but they don’t seem to have air conditioning.” She sighed. “Well, I guess we won’t complain about that. We’re lucky to find somewhere out here in this isolated place with no reservations. What’s keeping him anyway?” She proceeded down the hall with us behind her.
We walked into a large dining room. People wearing long gowns and tuxedoes seated at an elongated table unfolded white linen napkins.

Grandma cut her dark brown eyes at Mother. “I told you we weren’t dressed for this fancy hotel.”

One of the men rose from his seat and strolled to us.

“Do you have any rooms left?” Father’s usual steady, almost stern voice, sounded weak.

“I’m sorry, sir. This is a private home. We’ve just seated our guests for dinner. Let me escort you to the entrance.”

Learn more about Gail and her books on her web site

Check out Gail's recent novel!

Jack Greenthumb finds romance in Fairwilde Kingdom—a different day—a different girl. Then a cruel mystery begins. Dad’s beaten, the family farm destroyed and Jack’s true love, Gwendolyn Bante, kidnapped. Jack’s undercover operation reveals Gwenie’s a captive atop a mountain accessible only by helicopter. Reaching her is a dangerous expedition even for a champion rock climber like Jack. However, a Greenthumb Acres employee plants a miraculous seed from Heaven for the rescue. Suspense mounts as Jack scales the perilous cliff to face a brute and a treacherous descent in this retelling of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

A Little About Gail~~

Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She’s been a Sunday school teacher, a swim-team coordinator and an after-school literary instructor. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book, Stopped Cold, was a best-seller on All Romance eBooks, finished fourth in the Preditors and Editors readers’ poll, and was a finalist for the 2013 Grace Awards. She’s published short stories in “Splickety” magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Coming soon: Barely above Water from Prism Book Group. Visit Gail’s web site at http://www.gailpallotta.com. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Award Winning Author Carole Browne Shares Vacation Tips and a Great Family Recipe!

 Author Carole Brown


Oceans and Beaches. Old world tours. Museums and Concerts. National parks and Fun escapes. Camping and Hiking. Spending time with family is priceless. It might sound trite or old, but nevertheless, it’s so true!

Since our sons have grown up, we’ve learned to appreciate the time we get to spend with them, their families and friends. Am I making it sound all rosy and cozy?

Well it isn’t. Here are a few things we’ve learned through trial and error, time, experience and vacations with family:

Ÿ  Give in.  To have a successful and fun vacation with your grown up kids, don’t be afraid to give in. They have their own lives now, especially when they have families,  their own set of “rules,” and their own way of thinking. We taught them to be responsible and to think on their own (I hope so!), so when touring the museum doesn’t appeal to them and they’d rather visit a comedy show, go with the flow. If it’s totally against the grain, then what’s wrong with going separate ways for an evening or day? When they choose to eat at a fast food restaurant rather than enjoy a good meal in a fancier place, grin and bear it. Vacations only last for a few days or weeks.
Ÿ  Be ready to adjust. This might seem like the same as above, but it’s a little different. My sons are still night owls, and though I usually stay up pretty late, my hubby likes to head to bed at a decent hour. But when you are one who likes organization and have each vacation day drawn up in an orderly fashion--hour by hour--prepare to be disappointed at best and frustrated at worse. Realize that all will not happen as or when you want. Be prepared with special times and things to do on your own. Go relax in a sandy beach chair. Enjoy an early morning breakfast at that diner you wanted to try. Fish. Take a walk. Read.
Ÿ  Separate. Yeah. Don’t spend every minute together. Acknowledge and encourage their time alone, either as individuals or as a family. This can be a time when you, by yourself or with your companion, can do a really special thing by YOURselves. Appreciate that. Accept it. Whether you have a romantic evening, sit in a hot tub or view the stars, whether you sign up for a park forest walk in the dark or a helicopter flight to view the city, it’s YOUR time to be alone. Enjoy.
Ÿ  Don’t overbook. Everyone needs downtime, and especially when you have children. Spend an evening with no plans, relaxing, playing games, riding a bike, or whatever pops into your head. Most of all, have a restful hour or time so that you’ll be refreshed for the next phase of your vacation.
Ÿ  Have fun! Don’t be afraid to experience new things. Capture lots of pics for your scrapbooks and photo albums. Share laughter, make memories, and be willing to stretch not only your ideas but your imagination.

Family times are priceless. Cherish them while you can.

This dessert is easy, quick and delicious. We especially enjoy it during summertime, but holidays are great times to serve it too.

Strawberry Wonder Dessert

Sponge cake (home made or store bought)
Strawberry gel
Cool whip (light if you prefer)

Prepare cake (I like to bake my own, but you can also use a store bought, ready made one)

Once cool, tear cake into bite sized pieces in a large glass rectangular casserole dish.

Lightly combine 2/3 of the cool whip with the sponge cake pieces. Press down lightly all over till surface is fairly smooth.

Layer strawberry gel onto of the cake/cool whip mixture base. Spread evenly.

Wash and clean strawberries. Drain. Slice strawberries into halves or quarters (depending on how big of bites you like). Drop strawberry pieces onto of gel and press in lightly. Reserve a few for decoration.

Add remaining cool whip. Swirl the cool whip on top of the gel but don’t worry about it if the gel and cool whip combine. It will give it a lovely pink color!

Add reserved strawberry pieces for decoration as you wish.

Place in fridge for an hour.
Enjoy and be prepared for it to vanish quickly! 

With Music in Their Heart Blurb:

Angry at being rejected for military service, Minister Tyrell Walker accepts the call to serve as a civilian spy within his own country. Across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, a spy working for a foreign country is stealing secret plans for newly developed ammunition to be used in the war. According to his FBI cousin, this spy favors pink stationery giving strong indications that a woman is involved.

He’s instructed to obtain a room in the Rayner Boarding House run by the lovely, spunky red-haired Emma Jaine Rayner. Sparks of jealousy and love fly between them immediately even as they battle suspicions that one or the other is not on the up and up.

While Tyrell searches for the murdering spy who reaches even into the boarding home, Emma Jaine struggles with an annoying renter, a worried father (who could be involved in this spy thing), and two younger sisters who are very different but just as strong willed as she is.

As Tyrell works to keep his double life a secret and locate the traitor, he refuses to believe that Emma Jaine could be involved even when he sees a red-haired woman in the arms of another man. Could the handsome and svelte banker who’s also determined to win Emma Jaine’s hand for marriage, be the dangerous man he’s looking for? Is the trouble-making renter who hassles Emma Jaine serving as a flunky? Worse, is Papa Rayner so worried about his finances and keeping his girls in the style they’re used to, that he’ll stoop to espionage?

Will their love survive the danger and personal issues that arise to hinder the path of true love?

With Music in Their Heart

 Brown not only has her award winning (Nominated for an Epic Award, RWA International Digital Awards finalist in Inspiration, Laurel Award finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now, but a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel.

November, 2013, the first book in her mystery series, Hog Insane, released. It’s a fun, lighthearted novel introducing the characters, Denton and Alex Davies. Look for the second book, Bat Crazy, late 2014 winter.

Released November 1, 2014, is the first book in a new WWII romantic suspense series: With Music In Their Hearts. Three red-headed sisters. Three spies. Three stories.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here:

I also am part of several other blogs:
Barn Door Book Loft: http://www.barndoorbookloft.net/

Monday, March 30, 2015

Author Dianne J. Wilson shares a Delightful family recipe! ~~No-bake Triangular Cheesecake~~

Cozy Customs welcomes Author Dianne J. Wilson. Weaving invisible into words. Writer, Dancer, wife and mom; shares an awesome family recipe!

 Author Dianne J. Wilson


This recipe is a no-bake cheesecake that is so simple and yet looks ultra impressive. It was one of my Mom's favourite recipes, and even though she's no longer with us, I've carried on making it for special occasions. I do have one huge issue with this recipe - there are never any leftovers!  

You'll need:
125g margarine
1/2 cup of castor sugar
1 egg yellow
2 tsps vanilla essence
250g plain cream cheese
24 Tennis biscuits (square, coconut tea biscuits)
125g chocolate - white, milk or dark, your choice
Cherries (optional)

1. Cream margarine and castor sugar.
2. Add egg yellow.
3. Add vanilla.
4. Fold in cream cheese.
5. Place 4 x 3 tennis biscuits to create a rectangle on tin foil (aluminium foil)
6. Smear half the cream cheese filling on the biscuits.
7. Put a row of cherries down the middle.
8. Smear the other half of the filling over.
9. Using the foil, pull into a triangle shape. The middle row of biscuits will be the base, the two outside rows lift up to form the sides. Refrigerate.
10. Once firm, melt chocolate in a double boiler and pour over.

I hope your family will enjoy this as much as mine does!

Book Blurb: Isobel is on the hunt for her missing muse. What she finds instead is an abandoned toddler who is sunburned and close to death. Dr Liam Brigham keeps little Mia alive, but needs Isobel to save the girl from a far greater danger-a killer with an agenda for kidnapping. With Mia's life next in line, Isobel and Liam have to put aside their differences, face their past and throw their trust at the only One able to save.
Pelican/Harborlight publishing. Releasing June 2015.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Check out my guest blog:


Check out an exclusive Soul Inspirationz interview with Annslee Urban and enter the 

giveaway for a copy of either SMOKY MOUNTAIN INVESTIGATION or BROKEN 

SILENCE - ELEVEN COPIES to be won - contest open to entrants WORLDWIDE

Enter and Win!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jennifer Slattery Author of Soul-Stirring Fiction Offers Some Great Parenting Advise For Parents With Teens!

Author Jennifer Slattery
Reaching Our Teens
It’s the one job I most want to excel in and yet the one responsibility I mess up most. But when it all goes well, when, by the grace of God I manage my emotions and hold my tongue, it’s beautiful. Bonding. Healing.

Moms, I don’t think I’m alone in this. Nothing tugs at our hearts quite like our kids, and it’s that intense tug that often does us in. For me, most of my less than grace-filled reactions are usually rooted in fear. And when I’m in that hyper-alert fearful state, I tend to react… before I think.

It was a Sunday night, and my husband I had just returned from an overnight away—our teenage daughter’s first night home alone.  Well, sort of alone. She had a friend over. This trip felt pretty monumental. With our daughter leaving for college next fall, this step of independence only served to remind us of how much she’s grown and how short our time with her truly is.

And I was giggly-excited, thinking about how her night might have gone with her friend. Did they feel like roommates? Did they enjoy their freedom and having the house all to themselves? I had so many questions I wanted to ask our daughter, but it appeared I’d have to wait. By the time we made it home, she’d already left for church. Youth group followed, keeping her out until almost nine.

Needless to say, by the time she returned, she was more than a little tired. But even so, I expected her to come in our room, sit on our bed, and tell us all about her first semi-adult experience. The response I got? Aloof. Maybe even a little snotty. Could I even say rude?

It started out with a simple question and ended with her walking away, not having answered.

My husband waved it off as no big deal, but the more I thought about our interchange, the more upset I became. How ungrateful, I thought. We’ve given her so much, and this is how she responds after having had this new experience of freedom?

Though in truth, I was frightened. I felt like I’d lost my daughter’s respect. Like she felt she no longer had to listen to me. If you have a teen, you know how frightening that can be. So, fueled by the anxiety only a mom can work into a frenzy, I sent her a text explaining my feelings.

Her response: I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.

I paused, read it again. No excuses? No anger? Just a simple, “I’m sorry”?

Something felt… not right, so I got out of bed and went downstairs to her room. And I simply sat on her bed. To listen, because I sensed there was much more going on with her than an unanswered question.

I was right. Before long, she was in tears, sharing all her fears and insecurities. That overnight that made my husband and I more acutely aware of our daughter’s impeding departure? It’d done the same for her, making adulthood all the more real. And she wasn’t sure she was ready. I rubbed her back, let her know her feelings were normal and that she’d do great. Soon, what could’ve turned into a major argument, dividing a wedge between us—at a time when she really needed me—turned into a wonderful, heart-to-heart, bonding moment.

As I walked back upstairs, I was reminded of the need to resist surface level parenting, making assumptions about behavior without taking the time to reach the heart. And thanking God for His gentle guiding Spirit and the knowledge that I’ll never have to parent alone. 

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently on sale at Amazon for under $4 (print and kindle version)! You can get that here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery-ebook/dp/B00MMRRCZU/

When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

You can buy a copy here:

On Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel-jennifer-slattery/1120694122?ean=9781596694231

On CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel/jennifer-slattery/9781596694231/pd/694231

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Author Michelle Griep's talks about the Essentials of Character Building!

Essentials of Character Building
Guest post by Michelle Griep

No matter the genre, every story has characters. Otherwise, you'd be writing a phone directory. Hold on. Bad analogy. I know plenty of characters in a phonebook, and who uses a phonebook anymore anyway?

As I was saying, sans phonebooks, characters are the main ingredients in a story recipe. There are lots of tricks to jazz up a memorable character, but EVERY character needs some basics . . .

What's makes your character scream like a little girl? Centipedes? The IRS? The threat of an alien probe shoved up their—wait a minute. I'm scaring myself. And that, my friends, is the point. Everyone is afraid of something. Identify what your character is afraid of so you can use that fear to ramp up the tension.

I'm not talking six-pack abs here, though in the case of your hero, that's never a bad idea. Think about what skills your character possesses. Is he a crazy freak with nunchucks? Can she hit a raccoon in the eyeball with a slingshot from fifty yards away? Maybe this character has x-ray vision and can see into people's souls. Whatever. Give them something to work with.

Nobody is flawless, so make sure your character isn't either. Not even your super stud that rushes in to save the day and the damsel in distress in one fell swoop. This can be something as small as an inability to balance a checkbook, or you can create a whopper of a wart like a gambling habit using stolen money copped from nuns.

A Secret
Yo. Buddy. Step a little closer. No, closer. I’ve got a juicy secret for you. Are you leaning toward the screen? That's because you want to know what I've got hidden. Secrets are like big, plump nightcrawlers wriggling on a hook, irresistible to the literary fish. Characters with secrets reel in a reader.

Everybody wants something. A brand-spanking-new Tesla. A mutton lettuce tomato sandwich. The stupid hangnail on your thumb to go away. Your character wants something as well. What is it?

Great characters have lots of layers, and the best kind are those at odds with each other. Example: show a heroine battling insecurity on the inside while acting and speaking with careless arrogance on the outside. The more complexity, the better. Your characters are human after all. Okay, so maybe they’re not real humans. But living, breathing people are reading your story, and that’s who your characters must relate to.

A compelling character needs a cause about which they are passionate, usually one that involves justice. Not that they have to be over-the-top, protest-sign waving hippies. Just give them an issue they care deeply about.

Make sure to incorporate these building blocks next time you construct a character and you'll be well on your way to making him or her memorable in a reader's mind.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.