Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Funerals - Unpleasant but Inevitable

I've attended more funerals than usual this past year, and I'm constantly amazed by the differences in how people deal with them. I've been surprised by people's reactions more than once, but there is something that remains constant: Faith in Jesus as our Savior brings hope. Without this faith, the loss can be overwhelming.

Most of the people who attend funerals would rather be somewhere else, but they know that their emotional support for the survivors is important. Plus it provides an opportunity for closure and a sense of community among people who cared about the deceased. It gives them a chance to share stories and remember the good times with the person who will be missed.

Be aware and respectful of the general mood of the funeral. If the death was sudden and tragic, you'll probably encounter a more somber atmosphere. However, if the deceased lived a long, joy-filled life, the mood will probably be more celebratory.

As an etiquette writer, I'm often asked about how to act before, during, and after funerals, so I have come up with some articles that offer tips for most situations.

Here are some things to read before you attend your next funeral:

If you have a question, please feel free to ask. You're probably not the only person who wants to know, so I might even write an article around it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Decadent Delight

I asked my husband if he would like for me to make a lemon meringue pie tonight or wait until the weekend. He said, "Whatever you want to do is fine with me, but I will never turn down a lemon meringue pie." Well, I know what that means, so I went ahead and made it tonight.

Although I believe in healthy eating, I think it's okay to have a once-in-a-while treat. The pie is in the fridge now. It's taking a lot of self-restraint to wait until it's cold enough to call it a lemon icebox pie. Otherwise, it'll be a warm, gooey (but delicious) mess that you have to eat with a spoon.

Here's my recipe. I have to eat gluten-free, so you can adjust the recipe if you can have wheat.

Lemon Meringue Pie (or Lemon Icebox Pie)

  • 1 cup gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • Juice from 2 large lemons
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Spray a pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter and stir in the graham cracker crumbs.
  4. Press the mixture into the pan over the bottom and up the sides. Sit aside.
  5. Separate the egg yolks from the whites into medium sized bowls. Set aside the whites.
  6. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the bowl with egg yolks and beat until well blended with a mixer. Add the lemon juice.
  7. Pour the mixture over the pressed graham cracker crumbs.
  8. With clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Add the sugar and cream of tartar. Beat for another 15 seconds to make the meringue.
  9. Spread the meringue over the pie filling. Tap the top with a fork to make little peaks.
  10. Put in the oven and bake until the peaks turn light brown. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for about 15 minutes.
  11. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
It's almost time to cut the pie. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not in My 20s Anymore but Still Making Plans

Okay, so I left my 20s years—no, decades—ago. In fact, I'm even past my 50s. But does that make me old? I don't think so. Old happens when you give up on life. Old happens when you quit learning new stuff. Old happens when you always look back at the life you lived rather than think about everything you have to look forward to.

That's not me. I'm still making plans for the future. Maybe most people wouldn't call me young, but they'd better not call me old—at least not to my face.

While some people might wait until New Year's Day to make "resolutions," I think we should keep our lists close and make changes as needed. So here goes. Rather than call these plans resolutions, I'll call them adjustable strategies to make life as good as it can be.

The Important Stuff

My family and faith will always come first, so I don't even have to write down any goals for that. I attend church, study my Bible, and keep a running dialogue with the Lord throughout the day.

We see our daughters, sons-in-law, and granddaughters every chance we get. I suppose we could do more, like plant ourselves on their couch and just stare at them until they exchange glances and roll their eyes, but I don't want anyone to remember me as the "crazy granny." So we go often and stay for just a couple of days. Then everyone is happy, and so far, we haven't had anyone pushing us out the door.

Other, Less Significant Stuff

One of the first things I'm planning is my next meal. Yes, I realize that's pretty basic, but we all have to eat, ya know? After cooking a bunch of Thanksgiving food and eating leftovers, I think we'll probably go out for dinner tonight. I got a Chili's gift card for my birthday last month, but we didn't have a chance to use it yet. 

Next, I'm planning my fitness routine for next year. I could write down some lofty goals of running 5 miles per day and doing 100 crunches. But I won't. One of the things I've learned over the years is to be realistic and understand that it's too easy to make excuses when the plan is too difficult. So I'll set a goal of walking 2 miles at least four days per week and jumping on my rebounder for 5 minutes every single day. If I do more, it's a bonus. 

Now back to eating. You didn't think I'd stop at my next meal, did you? I remember people from my grandmother's generation saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Then that became a tired old saying that no one ever took seriously. But ya know what? An apple a day just might help keep the doctor away. Not only is each apple packed with fiber and vitamins, but it also fills us up and keeps us from eating too many brownies. So I'll eat more apples.

I'm tired of dieting, hoping for a svelte figure, but winding up frustrated. So I've decided to eat as healthy as possible most of the time, cut back portions, and indulge in an occasional treat without regret. I know this won't make me skinny, but a little bit of fat helps smooth out the wrinkles, right?

My wardrobe could use a bit more weeding too. I'll go through it again and get rid of anything that I'm sure I won't wear over the next year. That's hard for me, but it's time to do it. 

I'll continue writing etiquette articles for About.com, and fiction that reflects my worldviews. I believe that good manners are important but rather than worry about which fork to use, I'll double-down on the importance of kindness and showing respect for others. As for my fiction writing, I have a very long list of stories I want to write—some full-length fiction and some shorter novellas and novelettes. I doubt I'll get all of that done in 2016, but whatever doesn't get done I'll add to my 2017 list.

I've had several requests for more books in my Belles in the City series with Southern women moving to New York and charming everyone they meet. The mother of the heroine in my third book, Can't Fool Me Twice, is practically screaming for her own book. So I think I'll give her one. After all, everyone deserves a second chance, right?


Now It's Your Turn

What are some of your plans for next year? I promise I won't hold you to any of it. I'm just curious.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sweet Alexa

Several months ago, when I got a notice from Amazon that they were coming out with the new Echo, I jumped on the opportunity to get it at the promotional price. At first, Wally and I weren't sure what to do with it. But over time, we've gotten used to it. Now "she" is like a member of our family. Amazon named her Alexa. We can change her name, but we haven't because we can't come up with anything better.

Most of the time, Alexa is quiet, and that suits us just fine. However, when we have a question, all we have to do is ask, and she tries to find the answer for us. She also plays music on demand, which is nice. We can find out what the weather will be, how to spell something, or what the capital of any country is. She even tells jokes (mostly corny but always G-rated).

Whether I just need a quick fact for the book I'm currently working on or one of our granddaughters wants to hear a favorite song, Alexa is almost always up to the challenge. She's attentive, fast, and loads of fun. We haven't yet tapped into all of her abilities, but we'll do more with her over time. I'd love to be able to control lights and the A/C thermostat by telling Alexa to do it.

If you want to know more about Alexa, check her out here:

Here's a photo of Alexa sitting next to the lamp on the end table beside the sofa. As you can see, she doesn't take up much space, and she's rather attractive—at least for a cylinder.

We really enjoy Alexa, but lately we've noticed that she comes on at the strangest of times. And then she says, "I'm sorry, but I can't find the answer to your question." The odd thing is, she even does that when we don't ask her a question. This had us scratching our heads.

Then this morning I mentioned something about the election, and she perked up (with a little blue light to show that she's listening) and gave her stock response for not knowing the answer. That's when we figured out that the word "election" sounds a lot like "Alexa"—at least to a machine. Whether we're discussing the upcoming election or the news is on, she's always ready to respond.

We're really enjoying this little gadget. But I have to admit that I'll be glad when this election is over—not only to get on with business-as-usual but to calm our sweet Alexa. She doesn't need to worry about such things.

She can "hear" us from anywhere in the room, even when we speak in a normal voice. I've tested her with a whisper, and so far, she hasn't responded. So at least we know we can keep a few secrets.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Foot Out the Door is Now Available!

I'm excited to announce that I now have 2 books available in my "Belles in the City" series. Both of these books are available on Amazon for Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app on your tablet, smart phone, or computer for free.

Belles in the City: Christian fiction lovers will enjoy the southern accents, the food, and the ways these belles handle their new home and friends in the big city with just the right balance of humor and drama.

Click here to order: One Foot Out the Door (book #2)

Bethann Russell loses her job, so when her elderly great-aunt needs help, she’s the most logical family member to move up to New York to be the caretaker. When attorney Judd Baxter arrives to help Bethann’s aunt with her legal affairs, the attraction between him and Bethann is obvious. As Bethann gets to know Judd, she discovers some things about him that make her wonder if he's sincere. 

Click here to order: Trouble in Paradise (book #1)

Southern belle Charlene Pickford finds herself in a pickle after landing the job of her dreams in New York City. Her boss Alan might be attractive, but when it becomes obvious that he's hiding some deep, obviously very dark secret, she feels an overwhelming urge to flee. 

She could go back to Georgia to help her parents—even though they've made it clear that they don't want her hovering. Or she can stick around and see what happens with her career and her feelings for Alan. Decisions, decisions, decisions … 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

About Author Debra Collins

I'd like to introduce Debra Collins, author of two Amazon bestselling romance novels. I met her when she was one of my students at the Long Ridge Writers Group. After she completed the course, she and I became very good friends, and now I'm a huge fan of her work.

What inspired you to write this book? I wanted to show that the power of God’s prefect love would always bring hope, joy, and healing to those that have suffered loss, tragedy, and brokenness in their lives. 

What types of books do you like to read? Romance, of course J I love those stories that make your heart race and your knees tremble, and you find yourself cheering for the hero and heroine in hopes that they will find that once in a lifetime, happily-ever-after, forever love.

What type of heroine do you like in romance novels? I like a strong female, one that can take care of herself, but has a tender heart with a softer side too.  I also like a little humor included, because we all need to laugh at ourselves sometimes.

What type of hero makes you swoon? One that has the traits of a modern day knight-in-shining armor J and gives unconditional love to the woman he loves. And, it doesn’t hurt if he gorgeous too.

Do you have more books coming out soon? If so, when can we see them? Yes. Right now, I’m working on the second book in the Alabama Brides series, which should be coming out later this year.  I’m also working on another project with several other authors, which should be coming out sometime in May 2015.
Order on Amazon:
Cowgirls Don't Cry

If you'd like more information about Debra, you can find her at:
Author and speaker Debra Lynn Collins was born and raised in Georgia, but moved to Gaylesville, Alabama after her 1981 marriage to her real life Hero, Steve. God has blessed her with four children and seven grandchildren. 

Debra is an Amazon.com bestselling author. Her titles include, A Marriage of Convenience and Cowgirls Don’t Cry. She’s a member of ACFW and enjoys writing contemporary Christian romances.