Friday, May 24, 2013
Cheese straws! I've always liked them and thought of them as a delicacy. Even in Japan, where I grew up, my missionary neighbor from North Carolina, would have a tin of cheese straws as a special treat, shipped over from the U.S.
Recently, I went to Williams-Sonoma at The Streets of Southpoint (a.k.a. Southpoint Mall to most of us in Durham, North Carolina) and met someone who knows a lot more about cheese straws than I do. Ashley Sellars, who resides in the state's coastal town of Beaufort, actually makes cheese straws, using her mother's recipe.
So what is the origin of these thin cheddar cheesy delights that have a hint of spice? Well, first off, most would agree that cheese straws are Southern. (However, if you want to debate that, you are not alone; there's a website that has a whole lot of discussion, basically wondering if the origin of cheese straws involves the British.)
The story told in the South is that a thrifty cook mixed leftover biscuit dough with some cheese, formed it into pencil-shaped strips and baked these strips along with the biscuits. (More on this at The Nibble.) The new items were enjoyed as a snack instead of at meals. Soon the cheese straw was known throughout the U.S. Yes, it became very popular! The most basic recipe for the dough is made with grated cheddar cheese, flour, salt and baking powder, and cut with a pastry wheel into long, narrow strips, hence the form of "straws".
For many Southern hostesses, cheese straws are part of the appetizer tray. Served with coffee, hot tea, lemonade or iced tea on a breezy porch under a magnolia tree creates an ideal scene. Lately, the cheese straw has been served with drinks that have a bit more of a kick. In fact, cheese straws apparently go well with cocktails and are sophisticated enough for even the fanciest party. (They get invited out often!)
There are even a wide-range of varieties these days, some straws are shorter and robust, taking on the shape of a rectangle; others are twisted and made from puff pastry. Some are coin-sized.
Haven't tasted a cheese straw yet? Check out 350 Cheese Straws, Ashley Sellars' website. Tell her I sent ya!
Welcome to my blog, Jo!
I am excited about your recent novel, Beyond the Past (book #2 of the Caney Creek Series). I see you are ready to conduct an interview with one of your characters. Let's listen in.
JO: This interview by me of Jim Callaway takes place in January 1, 1951, in Newton, Tennessee. Jim is the oldest of five Callaway siblings and they turn to him to help and advice. Jim owns and runs a hosiery mill in Newton.
JO: Hello, Mr. Callaway, thank you for meeting with me during your office hours.
JIM: You’re welcome. Please call me Jim.
JO: Happy New Year. Jim, a lot has happened to you since your left the Callaway farm when you were 17.
JIM: Yes, ma’am, it sure has. Some good, some bad.
JO: Please tell me about them.
JIM: I did leave the farm. Poppa treated all us kids unfair and being the oldest, I decided I wouldn’t take it any longer. I hated to leave my brothers and sisters there with my poppa being so mean. And I really hated to leave Momma, but she wouldn’t leave with me. I told myself that the other kids would leave when they got old enough, like I was doing.
JO: Then what happened?
JIM: I did what I set out to do. I got myself to a nearby town, Newton. I got a job at the hosiery mill, had a room all to myself in a widow lady’s house, money in my pocket, and girlfriends. One girlfriend was even the mill owner’s daughter.
JO: Sounds like things really were good for you.
JIM: Yes, ma’am, I thought so but I let everything go to my head. I got arrogant, hard to get along with, didn’t manage my money right. And, mainly, I thought I could do everything on my own, without help from anybody. That’s when I started straying away from God. I was really messed up.
JO: You seem to be a good guy now. How did you get out of your mess?
JIM: My family, my friends, and especially my landlady tried to tell me what all I was doing wrong and how to turn it around. But I wouldn’t listen to them. Till the day one of my girlfriends, Louisa, said I had to pick one of them, that she wasn’t going to share me with Caroline, the mill owner’s daughter. Along about then the Lord started working on me. My conscience wouldn’t let me rest. So I prayed my way back to God and he accepted me. He’d never stopped loving him. It was me that had walked away from Him.
JO: I’m sure glad you got all the bad stuff straightened out.
JIM: That’s not all the bad stuff. At Christmas, Caroline just vanished out of town. She was in college near Atlanta. All my letters to her came back. I didn’t know where she was or why she left. That was about the time Louisa said I had to choose between Caroline and her. Caroline being gone without an explanation and not letting me know where she was, helped me to make up my mind. Louisa and I married.
JO: Were you and Louisa happy together?
JIM: Oh, yes. Yes, we were happy! We had a baby girl. We named her Lynn. That was Louisa’s middle name. Then when Momma and Poppa died with pneumonia that came down from the Carolinas, my baby sister, Emmajean, wouldn’t let anybody else hold her except me. Louisa and I brought her home with us. My other sister, Shirley Ann, married Henry Frank Stevens and they took my two brothers to live with them on Henry Frank’s folks’ farm.
JO: Jim, I’m sorry you lost your parents. After that though it seems things were looking up.
JIM: Maybe it looks that way. But when Lynn was two years old Louisa died of pneumonia . . . . I’m telling you, that was the worst time of my whole life. I wanted God to take me on with Louisa but I knew I had to raise Lynn. I couldn’t have done that without the help of Louisa’s sister, Callie, my sister, and my landlady, Mrs. Hall. My little sister, my baby, and I lived on at Mrs. Hall’s. She put us up in two rooms, side by side.
JO: As you said, that was the worst of your times. Can you please tell me about the good times you’ve had?
JIM: Okay. When the mill owner and his wife were killed in a car accident, their wills left me the mill and their home. You see, for some reason, when Caroline left, her parents disowned her. She never returned. They left everything to me. I own the mill now.
JO: Is that about it for the good things that have happened to you?
JIM: One more thing—I found Caroline and my son.
JO: Are you looking forward to 1951?
JIM: I really was because I wanted to work things out with Caroline and our children, James and Lynn. But on January 1, Emmajean, my baby sister, telephoned me from Atlanta, in some legal trouble.
JO: Why did she telephone you? Did she think you could help her way down in Atlanta?
JIM: Well, to answer your first question, she and I were very close growing up. When our parents died I was the only one she wanted to comfort her. She came to live with my wife and me when she was just a young teenager. As for your second question, she left Newton as soon as she graduated from high school. We haven’t seen much of her for the last 12 years. I’m thinking she must not have any friends down there and when she got into trouble, she naturally called me to help her.
JO: What kind of trouble is she in?
JIM: Well, it’s some kind of trouble with drugs and a friend of hers. I had a lawyer in Atlanta get to her as soon as he could and then I left for Atlanta myself. I’m going back down there tomorrow for her arraignment and I’ll probably know more.
JO: So, as soon as you get Emmajean’s problem taken care of, you can devote your time to Caroline and your children?
JIM: Well, no, not really. My best friend, Arthur, has a son who’s a senior in high school and he’s giving his dad a lot of trouble. Arthur needs my help too even if it is just moral support. So I’m staying close for him and going back and forth to Atlanta to see Emmajean.
JO: That doesn’t leave you much time for your personal plans, does it?
JIM: No, it certainly doesn’t. I’m torn among here and Atlanta and Knoxville, where Caroline lives and the children go to school.
JO: How long do you think it will be before Emmajean and Arthur won’t need your help?
JIM: I really don’t know.
JO: Can’t you put your own personal wishes first for a while?
JIM: I won’t turn my back on my baby sister and my best friend!
JO: Please excuse me, I didn’t mean to offend you.
JIM: I apologize for speaking harsh to you. It’s just that I’m going in so many directions. When I’m in Atlanta, I need to be here for Arthur. Then when I’m here for Arthur and running my mill, I need to be in Knoxville for my children and Caroline. I want to be with Caroline and my children.
JO: I hope Caroline understands the quandary you’re in.
JIM: I think sometimes she does but the situation I’m in also tries her patience.
JO: Is Caroline a patient person?
JIM: I’ll probably be finding out how patient she is before too long.
About Jo . . .
Jo Huddleston's debut novel, That Summer, released in December 2012 as the first book in The Caney Creek Series. Huddleston holds a B.A. degree with honors from Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and is a member of their Literary Hall of Fame. She earned a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Professional membership: American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).
About Beyond the Past
Emmajean Callaway’s life in Atlanta plummets from bad to worse. Can big brother, Jim, lead her back to the family who loves her and also hold the imploding Callaway family together? Jim Callaway looks forward to 1951 and the chance to forge a relationship with Caroline after twenty years apart. He’s sidetracked when his sister and his best friend need his help. His baby sister, Emmajean, skids into jail on drug charges in Atlanta. The ordeal of incarceration and trial diminishes her and she needs rescuing, not only physically but spiritually. She struggles toward recovery and restoration with her lawyer’s help as he champions her inside and outside the courtroom. Jim’s nephew Art is one step ahead of the truant officer, wrecks his car, and officials suspect alcohol is involved. Art awaits his fate at the hands of the juvenile court judge. Jim and Caroline continue their bumpy journey as they seek realization of their dreams, wondering if they really can overcome obstacles to their being together after so many years.
Order a copy
You can order a copy of Beyond the Past by going to this link. You can also enter to win a signed print copy below because Jo has offered to give a copy to one winner!
Here are the rules to enter the giveaway:
1) You must follow this blog (If you are already a follower, great. If not, scroll up and follow at the FOLLOW THIS BLOG section on the right of this post.)
2) You must leave a comment with your email included
3) You must have a U.S.A. mailing address
Answer this question: What is your favorite cake? (There is a wedding cake in this novel, so going with the cake theme, leave a comment telling about your favorite cake.)
Contest ends June 4th!
Thanks for joining in to play!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
"Recall as often as you wish, a happy memory never wears out." ~ Libbie Fudim
I am putting the finishing touches on my third cookbook of memories, Memories Around the Table. This is an exciting time!
Many have submitted recipes and memories for my book and I am beyond grateful. This cookbook, like my others, will hold the wonderful memories of those we can no longer share a meal with. But the memories make us smile and when we remember, we are grateful that each person who is no longer with us, is still part of our heartfelt memories. As Thomas Campbell said, "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."
I must admit that I do get hungry as I read about cakes, cookies, breads and meats. I keep a tissue nearby; these remembrances connected with the recipes grab at my bereaved mother's heart.
I will continue to post updates here about my cookbook as it goes through the production stages. It heads to the printer on Friday.
Thanks to all who have made donations in memory of their loved ones for the project. You are much appreciated!
Monday, April 29, 2013
I will be facilitating three workshops this spring/summer on writing.
Write to Create will be held in Raleigh, NC at the Comfort Inn near Crabtree Mall on June 15 and is for all writers who want to learn the nuts and bolts of not just the craft, but of the industry. We will be spending time talking about writing query letters that sell and proposals for non-fiction books as well as how to obtain an agent. If you are interested in self-publishing a book, we will learn the steps needed to take to do that. Read more here.
Writing to a Healthier You! will be held at the Hampton Inn in Norcross, GA on June 22. Fellow bereaved mom, author and counselor, Mary Jane Cronin, will be teaching this workshop on grief-writing with me. We'll share how effective writing can be and exercises to make your writing time beneficial. Register here.
Journey through Life's Losses will be on July 27 at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh, NC and will focus on writing through many of life's losses. We'll dive into the emotions that expand from grief and talk about how instrumental writing is for health, hope and healing as we create many works of prose and poetry.
Sign up today.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Shortly after Daniel died, a co-worker of my husband's gave us a book. The book was accounts of local parents who had lost children in various ways. One of the women shared how she lost a son 40 years ago to neuroblastoma, the same cancer Daniel had. According to her bio, she lived in nearby Raleigh. I looked her up in the phone book and called her. I'll never forget the feeling of calling a stranger to tell her about the death of my son. Would she think I was crazy? Too forward? I didn't care; I needed to connect with someone who had had a child die. Plus, her story was touching and from her written words, she seemed kind.
When she answered the phone, I told her what had happened to me. We were both excited that we'd found each other through a book. "Thank you for calling me," she said at the end of our conversation. She invited me to her house for lunch. We got together many times after that and became friends. She listened to my questions. Not only was she kind, she was living proof that life could go on for me.
I share this to say that I feel any time after the death of a child is an okay time to send a book or a gift. When the idea was birthed to send donated copies of my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning , to the families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people asked, "When is the best time to send your books? Should we wait a few weeks? Months?"
I say, go for it now. The bereaved parent may be like I was and delve right into the book (I tended to gravitate toward books written by other bereaved parents as opposed to those written by the theologians, although I was gifted with both). Or the particular parent may not be able to read or want to read anything for a while. Every parent is different. But there is no harm in sending a book right away.
Perhaps it would help if we recognized a couple of things about grief. When a child first dies, it is devastating beyond words. Months later, it is still devastating. Sometimes the later months are even worse than the onset of the moment when the news is delivered that he has died. Reality kicks in---he is not coming back. He is not backpacking in the Appalachian mountains, he is not away at camp. He is not at college. He is not napping in his crib. He is not, he is not, he is not, is not, is not . . .
He is dead.
The truth is, friends, this parental bereavement journey continues for the rest of the parent's life. Yes, that's thirty, forty or even seventy years. It is not going away.
So when to send a book? Any time. Let your message be: "I care for you. I want to do something." If you send my book, send it with a note sort of like this: "Here is a book my friend wrote after the death of her four-year-old son. I wanted you to have it."
Unfortunately no book will "fix" a bereaved parent. But books can help. Books can become comforting companions. "We read to know that we are not alone," wrote C.S. Lewis.
The hosts of the recent radio show I was on (one a bereaved mother and one a bereaved sibling) said many books written about the death of a child are either all about the situation (acknowledging emotions, etc.) and nothing about God or all about God and little about the situation. The hosts commented that Getting Out of Bed in the Morning is a mixture of both emotions faced when a child dies and God. I feel that books that gloss over the overwhelming emotions and get right to "how God has a better plan" provide a disservice to grief and loss. Grief needs to be brought to the surface, as ugly and uncomfortable as it might make us feel.
No one knows why children die. No one should pretend to have the answers. God of Mystery is a chapter in my book that deals with the not knowing why. In spite of not knowing, I do know faith is trusting even when the path is bleak and the winds knock you down. Faith is not easy. Trite responses and Band-aids do not give me comfort. But I do know that I need God on this journey and I need to trust that Daniel resides in Heaven with Him.
If you'd like to order a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, please head over to Amazon.
Autographed copies can be ordered from my Rivers of Life Gift Shop.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
As most of you know, back in December, the idea came about to send copies of my book on loss and grief, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning , to those who had lost loved ones from the horrendous Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT. Books were donated at a very generous level (even my publisher donated a large amount) and I was able to send 106 autographed copies to a church in Sandy Hook. Personalized notes for the families of the victims were also included with 26 of the books.
A few weeks after sending the two heavy boxes, I called the church to make sure that the books arrived; they had.
Last week I received a hand-written thank-you note which reads:
In the midst of our tragedy in Sandy Hook, your thoughtfulness was truly appreciated. Your gift was a symbol of comfort to our community in the face of great loss. We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers; you have already touched us profoundly.
With deep thanks in Christ,
The People and Staff of Newtown United Methodist Church
I want to thank each of you who were involved in making this comfort project a success. I hope the books are meaningful and helpful to many.
"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me." Psalm 3:5
If you'd like to order a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning in either Kindle or print, click here.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
What makes a good writing workshop? (A guest blog at Chip MacGregor's blog posted on 3/27/13)
Thinking about that first all-day writing workshop I was paid to speak at still makes me cringe. I don’t know how the organizer found out about me, but she invited me to speak, and made me sound really good in the glossy colored brochures she printed. This workshop was going to draw a crowd. We might have to add more chairs to the hotel’s conference room.
What a disappointment when the day before the event, she was begging people to come, even letting them in for free. These people had no idea who I was and the big bucks the organizer was charging was too much for those she had targeted. I know that in the end, the only big thing about the workshop was that she lost big money.
But that experience taught me. Ten years later as I set out to conduct my own all-day writing workshops, I had that first workshop experience in mind. I focused on what the organizer had done right and especially on what she had done wrong. They say bad experience is a good teacher—or something like that. Some thoughts on creating a good workshop…
Plan in advance – Don’t think of an idea and then have a workshop the next Saturday. Plan at least three to four months ahead. A Saturday far from any holiday is good. Avoid the Christmas or New Year season. Ask potential attendees to choose between two or three dates that suit them best. Spend hours working on all aspects of the workshop. Will you serve lunch? Snacks? Coffee?
Book a choice location – This should be easily accessible. Where I live, I like the Hampton Inn and Suites in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a variety of reasons from the inviting lounge to the cushioned chairs in the conference room to the mints they place in bowls at each table to the outdoor garden where attendees can write during one of the silent sessions. Don’t select a location without first checking it out and asking yourself if the participants will appreciate it.
Advertise – This doesn’t have to cost a lot. Craigslist, Facebook, your own website, and blogs are obvious places to promote your upcoming event. You can guest post on other’s sites by providing an informative article on whatever your workshop is about. Target groups that can benefit most from your workshop. My workshops are for those experiencing heartache in their lives, so I post at parental bereavement groups and within my own circle of friends who have lost a child as I have.
The right price – You need to make some money. Even if you love facilitating writing workshops, there is nothing wrong with earning money. In fact, if you are going to look at facilitating workshops on a regular basis, you need to take something home and not just break even. Look around to see what others are charging for what you are offering and price accordingly.
Agenda – The titles of your sessions need to speak to the needs of the people attending. Often the thing that convinces someone to attend is the specific titles you’ll be offering in your workshop. As well as making the day full of value for each attendee, be sure to allow time for potty breaks and snacks. (I like to have plenty of dishes of chocolate because I feel chocolate always bring out creativity.)
Be open – Flexibility, I tell myself. Which is more important: To get through every detail of my outline or to allow for conversation during my presentation? I often tailor the last segment of my workshop to make sure I meet the needs of the attendees. Some are interested in getting their work published, while others only want to write for healing and hope for themselves. My last Journey through Life’s Losses workshop went overtime due to the many questions the attendees had for me about how to get published. That’s when I went home and created another all-day workshop, solely for writers desiring to sell.
Prayer – You may not agree with this, but in my area of expertise I’ve found that spending time praying over those registered for a workshop is vital. Each day before the event, I pray that their goals for attending the workshop will be met. Of course, if you are going to serve a catered lunch, you might want to pray that the food arrives on time!
I love the gift of writing and how it can be used to unleash the gravity of anguish and sorrow. I would be thrilled to hold a writing workshop at least once a month. Every day I remind myself that I think I’ve got a great idea, and I want to share it with others. I feel I was born to conduct workshops, and perhaps one day those doors will open. Right now, I am grateful for the four or five events I conduct a year.
~Alice J. Wisler is the award-winning author of five inspirational novels, two cookbooks and one devotional. She’s represented by the MacGregor Literary Agency. Read more about her Journey through Life’s Losses and Write to Create (brand new for aspiring writers) workshops at her website. http://www.alicewisler.com