Chocolate Sizzle. Two addictive foods join forces to become one superfood. An explosion of flavor. Bacon meets chocolate. Utopia.
We are looking for recipe testers for Chocolate Sizzle, a collection of recipes that contain both bacon and chocolate—a dangerously addictive combination.
Interested? Here’s some enticing information that will tempt you:
1. The recipes you’ll be testing are revisions of recipes gathered from many different sources.
2. Obviously, we don’t want our recipes to be made public before the cookbook comes out, so you won’t be able to share the recipes – with anyone – no matter how hard they beg!
3. You do not need to be a “professional” or even “expert” to be one of our recipe testers. Just the opposite – We are looking for “regular” people so we can make sure the recipes are clear for anyone.
4. I’m sure plenty of you enjoy innovating and trying new things – but it’s important to remember that to be a recipe tester, you have to be able to follow the recipes exactly. No changes or substitutions are allowed.
5. Testers will have to fill out an evaluation form after trying the recipe – and you’ll need to do it in a timely manner.
6. We need photos taken of your dish as well. Details on taking quality photos will be included with the guidelines we send you.
7. This is not a paid position. We would, however, like to include your name in the book as one of our recipe testers. We would also like to include a quote from you and, if you are willing, a photo of you with the quote.
8. These are not recipes for those on restricted diets.
Sounds good to you? There are a limited number of slots available, so apply today to be a recipe tester.
The middle-aged, directonally-challenged Realtor hopped in her white Buick Century and typed in the address to her destination. Her client, a wealthy young woman with kids in tow, followed her with her silver Lexus to the first home tour. The two-story brick home surrounded by lush landscaping stood tall on a corner lot. Inside, the potential buyer admired the cathedral ceilings, multiple fireplaces, a catwalk, four bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, a spacious kitchen with oak cabinets. She loved it, but still wanted to see the next home.
As the two parties piled into their respective vehicles once again, the Realtor keyed in the second address also located in the same subdivision. They rolled away from the curb and wound their way through the many turns and twists that only subdivisions offer. The real estate agent felt her face flush as the house they had just toured came back into view. She checked the address in her GPS and found she had, indeed, keyed it in correctly, but her GPS continued to direct her toward that first home.
"Turn right on ... " the friendly voice from her gadget directed. And before she could blink, the GPS spoke again, "You have reached your destination."
Apparently the second home was located right around the corner from the first. Her GPS somehow decided the best route was the scenic route.
Okay, yes. That Realtor was me. I am so bad with directions that I become fully dependent on technology or back seat drivers. My husband tells me that there is only a 50/50 chance of turning the wrong way. Unless you are me. Then it increases to 100 percent.
I often picture God looking down at me and shaking his head with a smile when I, once again, turn the wrong direction or do something else that makes me want to hide in a hole for a few thousand years. I've told people "I know God has a sense of humor, because if He didn't, he wouldn't have created me."
But in reality, I know that God is right there beside me in those times. I choose to believe that in my weakness and embarrassing moments, God's grace is sufficient. I am sure He uses those moments for his glory. I just kind of wish He would reveal what He does with those "duh moments" a little more often so it would make me feel a bit better.
2 Corinthians 12:9
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Stress began to dissolve in my garden. The morning sun warmed my face as I drew in the scent of sweet cut grass mixed with perfumed blossoms. A hint of moist, fresh dirt mingled with the other fragrances—preferred aromatherapy for any gardener.
I laid out my Bible, journal and sweet iced tea on the small lawn table, preparing for my time with God. I enjoyed the sense of closeness to God I felt in the garden. The natural peacefulness and tranquility penetrated my spirit, allowing me to toss aside my worries and the “to-do” list and focus on the Creator.
For a moment I admired the bushy variegated leaves of the herbs lining the garden gate—lemon thyme, oregano and chives. My hollyhocks sported their nest of hearty leaves that would eventually support stalks of flowers. The bleeding hearts showcased their whimsical blooms—each peculiar bloom displayed a single white teardrop dripping from the bottom of a pink heart. Two beautiful lilies graced the corner of the garden with their soft pink waxy trumpets. Splashes of purple, yellow and white playfully laced the ground in the form of Johnny jump-ups while pink and salmon impatiens and begonias erupted among them.
God’s beauty exploded around me. Yet, that one particular spot in the garden remained empty. The green metal arbor I erected a month before remained bare. I had prepared the dirt at the base of the trellis for morning glory seeds. My mother always had a dazzling display of morning glories climbing the side of our shed while I was growing up. As I grew older, the pastel trumpets became a reminder to me that God’s mercies are new every morning. I wanted to continue the tradition of waking up to morning glories with God’s gentle reminder whispering His promise to me. I hoped for a trellis heavy with the pink, blue and purple flowers.
My disappointment grew continually when every garden shop I visited informed me they sold out of the seeds. Summer passes too quickly in northern Indiana and I feared my opportunity for adding these beauties to my garden had passed.
I sighed inwardly and turned my thoughts back to prayer. The morning glory issue dimmed in light of all I had to pray for. As a single mom, I prayed for food on the table and to be a godly example to my three young children. I prayed for my church family and the many intense trials some were experiencing. I prayed for continued emotional healing for myself and my kids as it related to the divorce. Sinking into the tranquility and quietness of the garden, I communed with God.
As my intense time of prayer began to wind down, however, the morning glory issue resurfaced. I decided to pray over my dilemma, as petty as it seemed, and asked the Lord to lead me to seeds.
After I finished breathing this final prayer, my eyes were drawn to the empty ground surrounding the trellis. I had kept it raked, weeded and prepared for planting. A new weed had sprouted that I somehow missed earlier. I knelt down to pluck it. The leaves looked familiar. Two butterfly-like leaves supported two smaller heart-shaped leaves. I recognized it almost immediately, but my mind found it difficult to process the reality. This young green sprout was the start of a morning glory vine!
I tried to reason it away. Yet, there hadn’t been a garden in the yard until this year, so it couldn’t have been a dormant seed from years past. And, ironically, it appeared in the very area where I intended to plant morning glories.
A joy welled up inside of me and I smiled at the subtleness of His message. God chose to answer my seemingly unimportant prayer in a precise and incredibly miraculous way. He was letting me know how important I was to Him—and that He was going to do more than meet my needs. He was also going to give me the desires of my heart.
My mid-grade-reader-in-progress provides me with many challenges. But the most difficult challenge for me is deciding and sticking to the Point of View (POV) that is most appropriate for my book.
“Shelter of Last Resort” is a story about Jermaine, a 13-year-old black boy living in the poverty-stricken Ninth Ward of New Orleans, who endures Hurricane Katrina. And I am writing this manuscript in first person.
Think about that a moment. Here I am, a middle-aged white woman from Northern Indiana. Imagine my pain and anxiety while trying to squeeze thoughts, words and experiences into my main character so that they come out sounding like a black boy living in a gang-infested neighborhood.
You have heard of writer’s block. This is similar. But it’s more like writer’s constipation.
I consider flushing the entire project down the commode.
With the prodding of a few of my writing friends, however, I decide the best option is to chew on the foundational fibers of character development. I discovered there are techniques that actually help move things along. Here are the treatments I use to bring Jermaine to life.
That’s how I know I am finally mastering my character’s voice.
Now, if you will excuse me, I must go plunge into my writing.
"This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace," Terry Ebbert, the head of homeland security in New Orleans, bitterly complained. "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." (New York Times, 9/2/05)
As writers we weave our lives into our work. Whether it's subtle or blatant, it’s there.
My work-in-progress, Shelter of Last Resort takes place during Hurricane Katrina. I chose this topic because of the devastation I experienced while working missions in New Orleans after the hurricane. Aside from gutting houses, I also spent time in the evenings playing with the kids at one of the parks. They were a rough bunch. They used language I thought shocking for adults, let alone young kids. They threw rocks at each other. Spit at each other. Made crude remarks and threatened one another. A few in our small missions group, sadly, were so turned off by this disrespect and “wildness” that they did not return the rest of the week to spend time or minister to these precious children.
But these kids craved love. I remember two young girls sitting on a bench braiding each other’s hair, smiling and talking. Another young boy clung to me and was very focused on drawing pictures—one of which I was blessed to be gifted with. A couple of little girls shared my lap while big Bobby Morton (former Notre Dame offensive lineman) presented a Bible story, complete with his unique dramatization. Then the kids flocked around the picnic table for face painting and I watched as they took their paint brushes and completely covered even inch of my son’s head and face in bright colors. He sat there patiently with a big grin on his face, enjoying every minute. And I vividly remember never being without a little hand to hold.
This took place three years after the hurricane. These kids were survivors. And though their little minds couldn’t possibly comprehend everything they had endured, they each had their own survival story. I wondered as I sat there with them how many lost someone they loved. How many lost their homes, their possessions and their beloved pet? How many evacuated and how many stayed behind? What horrors had they seen or experienced?
My heart broke just trying to take it all in.
Jermaine and Cornell, the two main characters in my book, are the embodiment of these children. In addition, I’ve taken my own experience with “survival” and applied it to their situation. I want kids to gain strength from reading Jermaine’s story and feel they can overcome whatever pains and obstacles life puts in their path.
I am in the final stages of writing the book, but it will still have to undergo several editing phases and editor evaluations. I am beginning work on the book proposal, which in itself will easily exceed 25 pages.
I draw my inspiration from a lot of venues. I do a lot of research (articles, videos and books) and read stories from Katrina survivors. One song that still remains a strong inspiration for me is Rascal Flatts’ “Stand.” But my most powerful source of inspiration are those rough, but amazingly strong kids that I had the privilege of spending time playing with in the park during those few hot and sticky evenings in New Orleans.
Shelter of Last Resort originally transpired from my Young Adult Novel Class, taught through Bethel College by Professor Kim Peterson. In addition to writing and editing the first 20,000 words or so of the book, I had to create character profiles and get into my character's head by creating a journal. The journal was an account of bits of Jermaine's life that may or may not be used in the book. It just helped me get a better feel for who Jermaine was and what his life was like so I could apply those characteristics and experiences into the book, usually indirectly. Here is an example of some of those entries.
So much death. Jermaine watched the events unfold on the TV. as if they were taking place around him. The continuous popping of the rifles as both sides sought to slaughter each other. He felt as if the bullets were whipping pas this own ears. Men were dying. When a whizzing bullet blew through the brushes and planted itself into real flesh and blood, the noise sickened him
Yet it was just a movie
The courage of the American soldiers seemed foreign to Jermaine.In the heat of battle, where bullets burned and bombs dismembers, soldiers helped their brothers in need. They protected each other. They tended to the wounded. They stayed focused on their mission.
Jermaine wondered if he could ever be that brave.
“Get that dog outta here!” Jermaine’s mama shouted from the kitchen.
“What’s he doin’ now?” Jermaine’s eyes rolled and he made his way across the livingroom. Suddenly a brown and white blur of fur darted past him and up the stairs.
“Finchley!” he shouted after the dog.
“That’s it! One more time he steals food off the table, he’s out on his butt!”
“Mama, he’s just a pup.”
“I don’t care if he’s a pup or a full-blown dog. He needs to learn him some manner.”
The alarm clock set sounded it weak wake-up call reminding Jermaine that the batteries were low. He tapped the back of the clock and sat up. He rubbed his eyes and slipped out from the covers, making his way down the hall. His mama and little brother Kirk still slept.
After reaching the small kitchen, Jermaine poured cereal into two bowls and sat them at the table. He went to Kyle's bedroom.
“Breakfast,” He mumbled as he nudged his brother awake.
Kyle always woke up easily. He popped out of bed and hustled to the kitchen for breakfast with Jermaine following close behind. Jermaine divided what was left of the milk into the two bowls. Kyle grinned a sleepy grin at his brother and grabbed his spoon.
I've been reading Sheila Walsh's God Has a Dream for Your Life. She talks about broken dreams. We've all had them. Dreams that have shattered, not always due to any fault of our own. The shattering can occur when a marriage fails, a job is lost, a death occurs ... there are countless dream-crushing devices the enemy uses to cause us to lose our way. But our God is the giver of dreams. If one dream is destroyed, God has another one in store for you.
This is a something I've struggled with lately. Finding my dream. I think my dream-crushing devices are multiple. First and foremost, I am a newly established empty nester. I love my children, but always thought that once they were grown, I'd have this glorious independent life that was anything but boring. Instead, I experienced sadness, loneliness and felt quite lost.
This transition period has forced me to seek God. So, I've been asking God diligently, "What is my purpose? What is your dream for my life?"
One of the greatest acts of restoration He's performed in the last month is reestablishing my joy in writing. I haven't felt joy in my writing for a long time. It's been more of a chore. I am so thankful to have this back. To have a focus and a purpose. A "Dream."
I admit, I have more dreams. I don't know if they are all from God just yet. The desire to be married again some day. The desire to travel. The desire to continue work on my family's genealogy and to write historical fiction based on my ancestry. The desire to provide and care for my parents, kids and grandkids when and if necessary. Then there's the dream of owning my own business some day.
My prayer has been that God would fill me with his desires that align with his purpose in my life. I pray He takes away desires that aren't from him. I have a wonderful friend who gently reminded me that God might not necessarily take all of the desires away that would cause me to stray from the path He has set before me. After all, sometimes God uses those to teach us things. But I do pray that He at least gives me strength, guidance and wisdom to follow the right desires that best serve him.
My favorite quote in Sheila's book so far is "When all your dreams have been crushed and your heart is broken, you stand in the perfect place for resurrection."
Don't let the death of a dream leave you hopelessly wandering through life. If you are at this point, where a single dream or a multitude of dreams have been shattered, I pray that you seek God and allow him to resurrect new dreams for you.
Someone was talking to herself in the bathroom at work the other day. And this time it wasn’t me. Boy, was I relieved. Because once I started talking to myself, there was no stopping. And I had a writing project to conquer.
I tend to hear a lot of voices when I am tackling a difficult writing project. For example, just last night I sat down at the computer, cracked my knuckles, and took a deep breath. As I lowered my fingers to type, the dirty dishes from the kitchen began to chatter. I looked toward the kitchen and gave the unclean dinnerware a sideways glance that would’ve sent both Mrs. Potts and Chip clattering into the cupboard.
Lord, help me focus.
After the voices dissipated, I began playing with the first sentence. Then I deleted it. Then I typed it out differently. I deleted it again. I typed, but only halfway. Because halfway through that sentence, my stomach growled. And its demand was very clear and concise.
Of course you must pick your battles. I pulled a chocolate pudding cup from the fridge. I was able to hush the grumbler easily without launching an extensive counterattack.
Lord, help me focus.
I licked the last bit of pudding from my spoon and dove back into my project. Well, I didn’t really dive. It was more like a belly flop. Because as I stared at the half-typed sentence on my screen, I realized I had forgotten what I was going to type. The entire second half of that sentence had evaporated into the lost crevices of my brain (there are a lot of those) and all I could remember about that sentence was that it was going to be a good one.
Back to square one.
Lord, please help me focus!
So now you are wondering “How does this woman ever get anything written?” “Does she have ADD?” “What do her invisible friends think about her hearing voices?”
First, I finally reached the point where I realize I don’t have to be creative. All I have to do is be me. Then my writing finally begins to flow. Second, I may have ADD, but I’ve talked to other writers. We all hear voices. And third, how did you find out about my invisible friends?
I have found techniques that help me keep my focus. Hold my attention. Enter into my own little writer’s world and shut out all distracting voices. Here are some tips.
· Pray. A lot.
· Make your writing desk as comfortable and inviting as possible. Nothing says “write me!” like a spotless desk sporting a glowing computer monitor and a punch-happy keyboard.
· Turn off everything. Except all life support systems, of course. Phones, the t.v., radio, and even the Internet must go.
· Listen to music. OK, I know I just said to turn everything off, but I do sometimes put in music that sets the mood of the scene or time period I am writing. If you use headphones, this lessens the possibility for outside distractions. Some people also use white noise.
· Let people know you are off limits. If you have a family, you can do this several ways. Set time aside on certain days. I know someone who wears a specific hat when he writes so his kids know not to bother him. I also saw a shirt that says “Go away. I’m on a deadline.” Use what works for you.
· Make yourself comfortable. Dress in what feels good. Make sure your hands rest ergonomically on the keyboard. Be sure your chair is comfy. Have your favorite beverage readily available.
· As for household responsibilities, try to set up your office space in a neat, clean area where you don’t have to look at household messes. Or, if the mess isn’t too terribly bad, go ahead and straighten up before sitting down to conquer the writing project.
Remember, it’s okay to hear voices, just so long as you shut them out from time to time. Especially when you are writing. Now, if you start talking back to the voices … well, that’s another blog post.
Never a Duh Moment
Sometimes I feel like I am in God's way. For example, if I forget an appointment or miss a deadline. Or when I place great expectations on myself and fall short. Or when I get lost because my sense of direction falters 98 percent of the time.