Monday, May 30, 2011

First Ever Challenge Week!

by Melissa Jagears

All right readers, today we are hosting our first ever Making Home Work Challenge Week! Every fifth Monday, one of our blog contributors is going to challenge you to get something done this week that you've been putting off, if you accept the challenge and complete it within the week, you'll be in the drawing to be the MHW Challenge Week Winner.
What does that mean? Look in our sidebar--You get your very own advertisement spot on Making Home Work that will remain there until the next challenge week.

We'll allow three items in our blog ad spot:
If you have a blog, a website, an etsy page, etc. We'll set you up with a link from here to there to encourage some traffic! We know we'll be checking out your page. You can have two links. And if you make or sell products, a small picture of your typical inventory can be included in your ad.

What if you don't have a website or any of that stuff? Well, we think it would be a grand idea if you either chose a charity and/or a website for someone you know that is a stay-at-home working mom. Give them your traffic!

OK, So on to the Challenge Week Rules:

1. You have to comment on the Challenge Post (this post) either on Monday or Tuesday. You will write in the comment what you are challenging yourself to do--be it to clean a closet, write 3,000 words, finish a quilt, make the call to the insurance company that you've been putting off, fixing your website, etc.

2. On Friday (or before) come back and post that you finished what you set out to do and LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS (put it in a form that a spam robot won't find, like: you AT gmail DOT com.) The combination of the two comments will enter you into the drawing.

3. Then on Saturday, the Challenge hostess will randomly choose a winner from those who posted, accepted, and accomplished their self-set challenge of the week. She'll use the email address in the comment to get the information to put in the ad. No email=Not eligible.

Let the Challenge Begin!

My challenge to myself: I will put away the HUGE stack of bills and paperwork atop my filing cabinet that has accumulated for the last 6 months since my son was born.

What are you going to challenge yourself to do this week? Make sure you comment before Wednesday and leave your email.

*Making Home Work Blog contributors may join in the fun and challenge themselves, but they are not eligible to win.
*Making Home Work reserves the right not to link to non-family-friendly sites.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Recipe for Reminiscing ~ Raisin Pecan Pie

Today would be my Grandmother’s 85th birthday. Her name was Emma and she was a spunky little woman. Her favorite car was a red 1956 Ford Thunderbird. My Grandfather affectionately called her “Chicken”. She was passionately conservative, quietly religious and fiercely loving to her family. She passed away in Jan 2005. Life surely changed for me when Grandma passed on, my Mother became my Grandmother’s generation, I became my Mother’s, and my daughter became mine… scary thought.

My grandmother was not the rotund, apron-clad, cookie bearing type (that was my Aunt Arta) but she had her share of “signature” dishes. We could always count on her delicious mustard potato salad during summer picnics (which she preferred to eat warm!), my Grandfather’s favorite “macaroni & tomatoes” or fried hot dog sandwiches.

Most meals at my Grandmother’s house consisted of take out. Her favorite places were Sonic, KFC and Long John Silver’s. She didn’t go out to eat; she always brought it back home to eat it there. Needless to say, the heritage handed down to me from my Grandmother did not include copious stashes of recipes cards, but I do have a few that I cherish.

Below is my Grandfather’s favorite pie, I remember her making this for him for every special occasion. I left in the antiquated instructions (italicized) because that is part of the charm of this ‘antique’ recipe of hers. She gave me this recipe for my bridal shower. It is hand written in her beautiful penmanship and bears her signature. I keep it put up in a special book, so one day I can hand it down to my daughter, perhaps at her bridal shower.

Raisin-Pecan Pie

1 ½ C seeded raisins
1 ½ C boiling water
1 Tbsp flour
½ C sugar
1 C shopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
1 T lemon juice
1 double crust pastry (boxed or homemade)

Wash raisins carefully. Cook in boiling water for a few minutes, cover & simmer for 30 mins, leave lid on & let cool for 30 mins. Add flour & sugar, mix well; cook a few minutes to thicken. Cool.

Add lemon juice, vanilla & pecans. Pour into pastry shell, cover with pastry. Bake in hot oven 450 degrees F for 30 min. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F for 10 min.

*Personal hint* a thin strip of foil formed around the edge of pie prevents the outer crust from becoming too done.

{This pie can be made gluten free, substitute rice flour for the flour and use a GF pie crust. Top with a crumb type topping and bake as above.}

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write-More Tips for Busy Moms!

Since Ethan arrived in 2009, my long days of writing are over. Unless he's out at the park with Athos on a weekend, and even then, I've got to pick up clothes off the floor, wash diapers, clean the streaks he made off the glass, buy bananas, pick up toys... and so on.

If you're a writer without children and reading this, ENJOY YOUR TIME! Write all you can, because it might end soon.

If you've got a two-year-old like I do, or maybe more than one or two kids, you've got to be extra-creative because they won't just lie on a blanket anymore and play with toys while you happily type away. As we say in the South, "that dog won't hunt!"

Here are some tips that have helped take me through three full-length novels (100,000+ word count each) in ONE YEAR:

1. Shower at night. Then when he sleeps during the day, you can use your time to write rather than dry your hair.

2. Peg at least half of his naptime for writing. Fix it in your mind or write it in an agenda. I don't set an actual time count, because I never know exactly how long Ethan's going to sleep. But I estimate and try to write at least half the time he sleeps. That means about one hour per day, since he only sleeps around two hours. In fact, most of the time I spend Ethan's *entire* naptime writing and clean when he wakes - while he helps me!

3. Write early in the morning. I find my creative juices flow better if I start writing before he wakes up (I know, it's hard... Ethan sometimes wakes up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., and we are TIRED!). But the reason for early writing is two-fold: 1) Your mind is less cluttered from stuff ("Don't put the shoe in the toilet!") and 2) you can continue to plot and think of story details, even lines, while you do your daily work. More often than not I find my lines fixing themselves, or the breakthrough I need in plot, while I'm changing diapers or standing over a pot of spaghetti. (Just preferably not at the same time).

4. A side note: This also works for Bible readings, too! I like to read and pray quickly in the early morning, if I can get up before Ethan wakes up, or if not, as soon as he takes his morning nap. Then write. Then you can have both of them flowing in your veins the rest of the day. Or until he drops a basting brush down inside his bed, and you forget everything else. (This actually happened).

5. Try to stay up and write at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. My mind is pretty much shot at this point, but the more I sit there, there are still a few ideas that sneak into my brain. Athos and I like to end weekdays by sitting on the sofa together, he with his international politics book and me with my laptop. If nothing else, reading over what I've written during the day, or brainstorming for titles (this is how all my titles "Southern Fried Sushi" happened, in a beat-up spiral notebook). Just a little focus can get a few last gasps out of your tired brain.

6. Write something - anything! Even if you can't write the novel you're currently working on, write something. Journal. Write down a recipe. Do some writing exercises from a writing craft book like "The Art of War," an absolute wonder book. Create lists of suitable names and last names for characters, or a bank to choose from - like "Mennonite names" and "Redneck names," both real examples open in my laptop right now. See? You're already thinking it: So what if there was a redneck Mennonite? What would he be called? Would he wear suspenders? What if he was out plowing his field, looking for love and his lost heifer, and...

7. If you're too tired to write, and I understand this (Ethan's first year was EXHAUSTING), then read. Read books in your genre, or a genre you'd like to write, and then think/write about what you liked and didn't like. What you could use in your own books, like a well-developed character, a verb tense, a style, a... something. Or read a good craft book like "The Art of War."

8. Don't get distracted by email. Try to write with the Internet OFF or you'll probably just morph over into Facebook and forget what on earth you were trying to work on, and did she write back yet? Do you think she's read your post? And what was the name of that actress on...? (Are you believing me yet?)

9. Snatch bits and pieces of time to write - while your child is in the bath, while you're in the car riding to the in-laws' house, or sitting in the empty conference room waiting for your students to arrive before you teach a class. WRITE! Open your laptop, reach for your writing notebook, or grab a sheet of paper and start putting down paragraphs or ideas. No place for a laptop? Then brainstorm titles on a piece of paper (all the titles for my "Southern Fried Sushi" books came this way), or plot out your next book chapter by chapter. Write ABOUT your book as if explaining it to someone else, and watch the unsolved twists suddenly straighten themselves out. And if you've got no pen or paper, THINK through the plots while staring out the car window or stirring that spaghetti. You'll be surprised how much you can invent/create/fix just by focusing your thoughts on what you're writing (or want to write)!

10. Incorporate a "down time" into your kids' afternoon or morning - in addition to his nap. Ethan sleeps late in the morning, so I've built a one-hour rest time into his afternoon schedule - rest for him, and rest for me! He doesn't sleep, but he plays his crib or bed quietly with toys while the microwave timer goes for one hour. (Older kids could just stay quietly in their rooms). We worked with this gradually from little up using the "blanket time" method, starting with five minutes, with some gentle reinforcement and rewards for obeying. Now he actually looks forward to his quiet time and is cranky if he doesn't get it. And what do I do while he's playing quietly with tractors? Go in my room, shut the door, and WRITE!

Happy writing!

Jennifer Rogers Spinola is an ESL teacher and author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series - her first book released this October! Jenny lives in Brasilia, Brazil, with her husband and two-year-old son, Ethan, and has a sore throat, a mess in the kitchen, and burned sausages in the fridge. Today's net writing time? An astounding three hours. See more of Jenny's crazy life at and click on BLOG!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Who could work on a day like today?

I need to write.
I need to write a short story entitled For Simon. I need to write a novel, Another Child. I need to write this blog, about work.

I've long been above average at many things. I need to excel at one. I need to pour everything into something. I have decided that that something is writing. But today? Ugh.

I need to edit, submit, publish Trying To Love You. I need to schedule signings and package gifts of Two Sides of Wilde & My Daughter Still. I need to work. Just not today.

I need to finish The Senator's Daughters. I need to collect all my poetry and decide if so many varied ramblings can be in one collection.

I need to get in a car and drive to Joplin, Missouri. But I guess not today.

Today, or yesterday rather, a tornado all but destroyed Joplin, Missouri. It's an hour and a half away, but that's close around here. Today my cousin was rescued from the rubble and taken to the hospital there. Today we waited. She is ok. My Aunt & Uncle sat in Freeman Hospital, waiting and wondering about their young daughter's fate. I have been there.

Today is supposed to be my blog on work. This was scheduled months ago, when today should have been a typical Monday in a typical May. I have been thinking ahead to this blog, thinking about focus, about cutting the fat and writing every day. Had I written it ahead and scheduled it, I wouldn't have even thought of it, today.

I do need to write. I do need to cut back on anything that isn't writing, frankly. Today I am thankful to have that choice. I am thankful for my daughter, my family, my friends.

Well, I wrote my blog. I did write some on For Simon, and I must do the same tomorrow, because I can.

My thoughts and prayers go to the community of Joplin, Missouri,their families and friends and the citizens and emergency responders working to put their lives together again.~

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by Melissa Jagears

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If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken Divine

  • 1 lb Chicken (can use breasts, tenderloins, canned chicken, dark meat, whatever your preferences are)
  • 8 oz Reduced Fat Sour Cream
  • 2 cans Cream of Celery soup

The first step in making this dish depends on what kind of chicken you decide to use. My family prefers to use chicken breasts, which we cut into bite-sized pieces and then sauté. However, you can use baked chicken or canned chicken...just make sure that with whatever kind you use that it's fully cooked by the time you combine it with the sauce.

To make the sauce:

Combine the sour cream and the cans of soup in a mixing bowl. After stirring to make sure the sauce is mixed well, transfer to a pot and place on medium heat on the stove.

Once the sauce has heated (make sure it doesn’t start boiling!), add the chicken directly into the pot. Allow chicken and sauce to simmer together on low heat for about 5-7 minutes.

When we have this dish for dinner, we make brown rice to go along with it, putting the chicken and sauce directly on top of the rice.

And be sure and save the leftovers if you have some. I personally think it’s even yummier the next day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Review - A Prayer to Our Father

By Doula Brandi

A Prayer to Our Father ~ Hebrew Origins of the Lord’s Prayer by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson

Put on your comfy “traveling” clothes; grab a cup of tea and sit back to enjoy this adventure from the comfort of your own easy chair. This book chronicles the discoveries of two very different men. One is a Karaite Jew Nehemia Gordon, who lives in Israel. The other is an ordained Methodist minister from the US, Keith Johnson. Johnson relates his divine experience in meeting Gordon and starting out on this journey.

The differences of these two men are shared in the pages of the book; one is a self proclaimed white man and the other an African American. One has an extensive background and understanding in the Jewish faith and culture. The other is drawn to the ancient roots of his Christian faith through Divine Intervention.

These men put aside their differences and focus on the two things that unite them; God the Father, and the ancient Hebrew that forms the basis of the two respective faiths.

Gordon and Johnson alternate chapters in the book sharing from their own perspectives. I really enjoyed Gordon’s technical expertise in the Hebrew language, which can be quite confusing to the novice; he relates it in an understandable manner. I’m intrigued with foreign languages and am always interested in learning something new, especially about one so central to our understanding of Scripture. Johnson brings a fresh perspective that resonates with the Christian faith. There is a mutual respect between the two men; the concept of “dwelling together in unity” comes alive through the pages of A Prayer to Our Father.

The book has two major sections, the first focuses on the journey through the land of Israel, the second goes through the Lord’s Prayer, line by line. Each line is given in Hebrew & English and an in depth explanation follows. Although the differences are slight, the smallest word can make all the differences in the understanding of the whole text.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the ancient roots of the “Avinu” or Lord’s Prayer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Encouragement for Mothers and Daughters

by Naomi Rawlings

I wrote this piece a few months ago. It's based on a true story. Yes, it's a little longer than my usual post length, but I trust you enjoy it.

Hidden Treasures
Being grownup isn’t always fun. My nine-year-old brain came to that realization on a crisp spring morning as I shrank deeper into my coat and hunched my back against the wind.
Before today, I had never been allowed on one of Grandma and Mom’s walks.
“It’s too far.”
“You’re not old enough.”
“You’ll be bored.”
The refusals varied little. I had begged to come today, certain some secret of womanhood would be revealed on the walks Mom took with Grandma whenever we came to visit.
After two minutes, I understood what the walks were about. Gossip.
Grandma’s voice prattled endlessly. “Now this man here goes to Florida every winter, and the man in the house up ahead lost his wife last summer. She’d had cancer and—”
“Can we turn around?” I shivered, gooseflesh creeping over my arms.
“I walk down to the road and back every day.” Grandma didn’t glance at me, just pumped her arms harder and launched into the life story of the widow who lived in the little white cottage to our left.
I stared down the long, straight road, barely able to discern where a second road teed into it. “That’s too far!”
My mom sent me a look, the kind of mother-daughter look that expresses a conversation in a fraction of a second. This one said, Naomi, I warned you it would be a long walk. We don’t see Grandma and Grandpa that often. Enjoy this time, and don’t be disrespectful.
I turned my head so Mom wouldn’t see me roll my eyes. “Can we at least slow down? My legs hurt.”
“Got to keep moving. Good exercise.”
I glared at Grandma. Why had I wanted to even come on this endless walk? So what if my younger brother and sister were still too little to join us? So what if this was the first time I’d seen Grandma since Christmas? Better to be fishing with Grandpa.
I stared at the ground, watching my scuffed tennis shoes stumble over dirt on the shoulder of the chipped road. A reddish rock caught my attention. I kicked it, stopped, then stooped to pick it up.
“Naomi, quit dawdling!”
Rock in hand, I raced ahead to Mom. “I got a rock, see.” I held it out for inspection then stuffed it in my pocket.
“Now these people here raise puppies.” Grandma gestured toward a yard with a little fenced square containing two doghouses. But no pups greeted us as we passed.
My gaze drifted back to the ground. Something shiny glinted despite the overcast sky. I crouched beside it and dug in the dirt where it was wedged.
“Naomi! Don’t make me call you again!”
“Mom, wait. I found something.” I freed a gold band from the earth and stared for a moment, mesmerized by the sparkling stone in its center. “It’s a ring! I found a diamond ring!”
I raced to Mom, who had by some miracle convinced Grandma to stop walking.
“I’m sure it’s not real, honey,” she said as I dropped the treasure into her palm.
“It is, Mom. I know it is.” My legs suddenly reenergized, I started jumping.
Mom sent me a sympathetic smile that faded as she studied the ring.
“Well,” Grandma elbowed me aside and peered over Mom’s shoulder. “It’s fake, isn’t it?”
“I think it’s authentic.” Mom’s eyes moved from the ring to me and back.
I grinned. “Put it on. You can have it.”
Mom slipped it into her pocket instead.
My treasure was real. The police verified the value of the ring then held it at the stationhouse for ninety days. When no one came to claim it, they returned it to my mom. She wore it on her left hand, a replacement for the engagement ring she’d lost giving me a bath when I was a baby. As eldest daughter, I now had part in the special symbol of my parents’ love the ring represented.
The ring stayed on my mom’s finger as I grew older, a silent witness to my high school plays, graduation, college years, and wedding. An ever-present reminder of the walk I’d been too bored to appreciate.
One summer day, I trailed Mom into the assisted living facility where Grandma had moved. Of the three of us, I now lived far away, nearly six hundred miles.
“Coming will mean a lot to her.” Mom led the way to her room.
Grandma opened the door before we knocked. We laughed and hugged, smiles splitting my soft face and Grandma’s parchment-like skin.
“Let’s walk outside.” Grandma coughed, a subtle reminder of her emphysema. “You get old sitting around a place like this.”
Her back hunched forward with age this time, rather than mine hunching with cold. She limped slightly and tugged the neckline of her shirt even though it wasn’t hot. “My neighbor next door’s moving into a nursing home next week.”
Grandma looked at me and waited. Was I supposed to say something? Respond to her gossip in one way or another?
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mom answered. I mouthed Mom a “thanks.” “What about your neighbor on the other side, Florence?”
“Florence. Well, her son . . .”
I let Grandma’s words flow over me, the idle chatter bringing back memories of that long ago day, and I noticed how Grandma now struggled to walk a fraction of the distance she had once trekked daily.
We passed an elderly lady sitting in her wheelchair. “Her grandson’s a musician. Lives all the way in New York City.” Grandma took my hand and held it. “Doesn’t come to visit, though.”
Wanting to share the moment with Mom as well, I glanced her way. Her ring, a treasure cherished for two decades, caught my eye as it glinted in the evening sun. I slipped my hand into my mom’s and felt the worn band press against my skin.
Three mothers, three daughters, hand in hand. A different kind of treasure. One I hadn’t understood on our first walk but understood too well this time.
The value of the moment wasn’t in the gossip, the pace of the walk, the location, the weather, or even the ring. The value was in all of them. In the time spent with my mother and her mother.
The treasure was the memories.
A summa cum laude graduate with an English Education degree, Naomi Rawlings has been writing inspirational romance for over two years. Her latest completed manuscript, Her Journey’s End, recently finaled in the 2011 Genesis Contest. Naomi lives in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula with her two young boys and her wonderful husband, who pastors a small church.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Congratulations to Contributor Naomi Rawlings

Naomi finaled in the prestigious ACFW Genesis Contest in the historical romance category. It will be a long wait until September to see if we might have a winner on our hands! Great job, Naomi.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal Packets

by Melissa Jagears

I am a cereal eater and cereal costs way too much! So I ventured into making instant oatmeal packets for myself, they are super easy to make too! I bought some little tupperware containers to place them in,so they are ready for me to add milk to and pop in the microwave in the morning.

Instant Oatmeal Base

3 cups instant oats

Blend or food process 1 cup of oats until powdery. Take snack sized ziplocs or small containers (makes about 8 packets) and put in each 1/4 cup instant oats, 2 T powdered instant oats and one shake of salt from the salt shaker.

Put in add-ins for each packet for the flavor you desire.

Spice - 1 T brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash of nutmeg
(For a Maple and brown sugar, add a glug of Maple syrup to this one after it's been microwaved.)
Banana Nut - 1 T brown sugar, 1 T chopped nuts, 1 T chopped dehydrated bananas
Fruit and Cream - 1 T sugar, 1 T chopped dehydrated fruit, 1 T powdered cream
Apple Cinnamon - 1 T brown sugar, 2 T chopped dehydrated apples, 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pumpkin Spice - 1 T brown sugar, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Cinnamon Bun - 1T powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and either 2T creamer or microwave with some half and half in exchange for some of the milk.

To make to eat, put mix and 3/4 cup milk in bowl and stir. Heat for about 2 min. in microwave. (My hubby doesn't think these taste well with plain water, so at work he puts in 2 spoons of creamer.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Interview with Author and Blog Contributor Mandy Goff: Work

Hello. We're back again today for the second half of our interview with one of our new blog contributors, Mandy Goff. Mandy is the author of The Blackmailed Bride, a February release with Love Inspired Historical.

Thanks for coming back again today, Mandy. What jobs have you attempted while working at home? What are the pros and cons of these jobs? Would you do them again?

For about a year, I was a pretty dedicated freelance copywriter and editor. The money was decent, and the work was fairly easy…but it was also mind-numbingly dull. I wrote more articles on insurance and investing than I care to remember. I think I can safely say that I’d prefer not to have to go back to that!

Writing articles on insurance and investment doesn’t appeal to me either. How do you balance the demands of work and family?

Sometimes I’m not sure! I rely a lot on my husband for help, and I’ve made the commitment to myself and my family that if they need me—no matter what’s going on in my writing world—they come first.

That sounds like a good mindset. How do you entertain your children while working at home?
I’m a big proponent of the all-day-nap (just kidding!). For the most part, when I’m working, my daughter self-entertains. She’ll teach her imaginary class, or make pretend dinner for her restaurant, or doctor invisible patients. (She’s decided she wants to be a doctor-teacher-baker-cat when she grows up).

Cute! Your little girl sounds adorable. How do you arrange the physical space in your house so you have a place to work?

Not very well at all. I don’t have an office at home, so I crash with the laptop wherever there’s a place to sit down. Sometimes that’s the kitchen table, sometimes the couch, or sometimes the bed.

I keep telling myself I need a home office area where I always write. Um . . . hasn’t happened yet. Do you have a schedule and always work at the same time every day, or is your work time random and haphazard? Why?

Definitely haphazard. I try to stick to a schedule, simply because I only have so much free time once I get off work. But for the most part, I have to work when creativity strikes…and unfortunately, sometimes that is the middle of the night.

Hmmm . . . I’m feeling sleepy just reading this. What's your favorite aspect of working from home?

Still getting to be around my daughter, even if I’m busy working. Just being near her makes me smile!

I always like money savings tips. What do you do to save money?

I’m an avid couponer. It’s like a game to see how much money I can save every week by combining store sales and coupons.

Thanks so much for taking time to be with us today, Mandy. We look forward to Mandy sharing a recipe with us next Friday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with Author and Blog Contributor Mandy Goff: Family

Hello everybody. Today I want to introduce you to one of our new blog contributors, Mandy Goff. Mandy is the author of The Blackmailed Bride, an inspirational Regency romance published by Love Inspired Historical. After graduating cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in English from North Greenville University, she followed God's call to write fiction that uplifts and entertains. She resides in Greenville, SC, with her husband and three-old-year daughter. Her second novel is expected from Love Inspired Historical in 2012.

Tell me a bit about your family. How many children do you have, and if they still live at home, how old are they?
My husband and I have been married for almost six years, and we have a three-year-old daughter.

Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?
I’ve always had a full-time job in addition to working from home.

Wow. That must keep you really busy. I can't imagine handling all that. What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?
It’s definitely the fact that I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with my daughter as I’d like. It seems like there’s always some kind of work to be done, even if I’m between projects, so I have to juggle work and play time…which is much harder than it sounds. I think one of the biggest things I deal with personally is my feeling of guilt over having to split my time.

Sometimes I deal with those feelings of guilt as well, jut trying to balance writing and family. What challenges do working from home present to your marriage, and how do you compensate?
I think I’m really fortunate because my husband is really supportive of my writing career. He works a full-time job as well, but he’s always willing to come home and help pick up the slack around the house so I can work. That being said, it is difficult when I’m under deadline to find time to spend with each other. That’s something I’ve had to make a concerted effort at doing.

I think all writers have extremely supportive husbands. We have to. Then nature of writing demands it of our poor hubbys. If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
I definitely would have changed writing drafts that never worked… In all honesty though, I can’t think of one particular thing I would have changed, mostly because I’m fairly content with where I’ve ended up now.

In lieu of sharing a favorite recipe, I've asked Mandy to share her story of getting the manuscript acceptance phone call from Love Inspired Historical. It made me laugh, and I think you'll really enjoy it.

I was at work when I got “the call.” The phone rang, and I realized it was New York calling (yes, I had memorized the NYC area code for just such an occasion!) Then, I immediately started crying. A lot. So much so that my coworker was looking at me like I’d just gotten word my dog had died.

I managed to garble through my tears that I thought (didn’t know for sure, because I still hadn’t answered the phone) my editor was calling. I then explained that editors rarely call unless they are offering to buy. I’m not entirely sure, but I think she might have started crying then too.

At some point, I started thinking I was hyperventilating. My work buddy was trying to get me to answer the phone, but I was too busy making “I can’t breathe” motions.

I finally caught my breath.

The editor had left a message telling me to call back because she had good news. I cried some more.

At this point, I’d managed to draw quite a bit of attention, and my coworkers started coming up to make sure I wasn’t having some kind of nervous breakdown. Once they realized what was going on, everyone yelled at me to call her back. My boss ran to the bathroom and then shoved a bunch of tissues at me so I could “dry up and call!”

I did. And even then I was unable to have a conversation…I had to ask if I could call back once I got a hold of myself. To my editor’s credit, this request didn’t seem to surprise her. She was very gracious and understanding.
Thinking back on it, I sometimes wish I’d been a little more composed (or a lot more as the case may be). But I definitely can’t complain that the first “call” wasn’t memorable!
I just want to add that The Blackmailed Bride is a hilarious yet serious story. I read it and loved it. Here's a bit about the book:

The despicable Baron Finley is the last man Lady Olivia Fairfax would want as her husband, but what choice does she have? He holds the secret to a family scandal, and she must bow to his blackmail or see herself and her brother publicly disgraced. Steeling her resolve—and shielding her heart—Olivia is prepared to do her duty to her family…until Nicholas Stuart, the Marquess of Huntsford, complicates her plans. Nick is brave, honorable, infuriatingly attractive and unshakably determined to protect Olivia—even from herself. He won't let Olivia sacrifice her happiness for any price. Instead, he'll teach her to follow her heart…and pray that it leads her straight to him.
Right now, Mandy is working on revisions for her second novel with Love Inspired Historical. This novel will release in early 2012. If you'd like to learn more about Mandy, you can visit her at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

by Melissa Jagears

The Rules of Life

Don't Make me Come up There! Quiet moments for busy moms.

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is ~by Desirea Packard~

In honor of Mother's Day!

 I am a step parent to two children. One is 20 and will be getting married in July, and one is 18 and will be graduating from high school in a few weeks. I met these two children when they were 8 and 10. Being a stay at home mom to my child plus these two before I had my own has been rewarding. Being a step parent can be hard especially when there are other personalities involved. I always hoped that I was doing right by them and setting standards for them that I would expect from my own children, but you just never know.

Saturday  my oldest daughter Michelle graduated from college and in the midst of all of that she still remembered that Sunday was Mother's Day. I didn't expect her to do anything, after all I am just her step mom. The card she gave me really hit home to how much of an influence I really have had in her life.

It says You're someone who knows that "family" is the people you love in your life. You're someone whose "motherly ways" have meant the world to me.

After I stopped crying I realized that I have done a good job. You do the best to teach your children the right ways and hope that they take the right path and that they learn from their mistakes. You fight your own battles and learn from your own mistakes, so that when they grow up into adults they don't have to fight the same ones. Family has always been very important in my own up bringing and I always tried to set the example for my children so that they would know, no matter what, your family is always there for you. I know that she understands that. I know that she considers me as much a mom as she does her own mom.

So as parents, step parents or whatever you are to small children who will grow up and be young adults and leave to start their own lives, just remember, that just because you might think you are not setting an example or impacting their lives, you are. There are many things to teach your children, but knowing that I have taught her that family is important and relationships that you build are important lets me know that home is where her heart is and hopefully when she has her own children she will pass along the things that are important in her life to her children.

Loving your children is easy (sometimes). Teaching them to take the right path isn't always. You do the best you can do and pray for them and hope that they will be the adults you have always hoped. But knowing that you accomplished to teach them even a few things to take along with them is rewarding.

So love your children, hug your children, kiss them. Before long (for some of us) they will be gone and grown up. Teach them what is important to you. Pray for them, and leave the rest in God's hands.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms. Being a mom is the most challenging and rewarding job there is. Embrace it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Book

by Melissa Jagears

The Brand Within: The Power of Branding from Birth to the Boardroom

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Giveaway Winner......

is Karen Riekeman. Congratulations. Enjoy your book.

Thanks Vickie for your insight and generous giveaway.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chocolate-Raspberry Bread Pudding

by Jenny Rogers Spinola

OK, I've never been a fan of bread pudding, but this was really good. And when I discovered I could use ALL THE LEFTOVER BREAD we had in the freezer or fridge, including stale hot dog buns, hamburger buns, and whole-wheat slices, and they came out beautifully delicious, I was hooked.

I made this particular recipe on Valentine's Day--which also happens to be our wedding anniversary. Sigh... :)

And it was fabulous. We scraped the baking dish clean. And of course, Ethan loved helping with every step. So here's how to make it:


4 cups cubed bread (stale is actually best, and anything you find in your fridge works - hotdog or hamburger buns or slices). Just check for mold first!!!
2 eggs
1/2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chocolate chips* (We used a bar of dark chocolate cut up into tiny squares, since we don't have chocolate chips in Brazil)
several teaspoons raspberry jam

First, make the creamy pudding sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together milk and eggs, then add sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Now tear the bread into bite-sized pieces in a large bowl.

When all the bread is torn, pour over the milk mixture and gently turn with a spoon until bread is completely and evenly penetrated with the milk.

Add chocolate chips, or if using bar chocolate, cut the bar into tiny squares and add to the bowl. Turn several times with the spoon to mix, reserving a few extra chocolate chips for the top.

Turn everything into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with a few extra chocolate chips. Spoon on the raspberry jam in small clumps, turning the bread pudding mixture over slightly with a spoon to let some raspberry jam under the top.

Bake one hour or until the custard has set.

This is good served warm, and it reheats well on low power in the microwave.

Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in Brasilia, Brazil with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and two-year-old son, Ethan. She teaches ESL private classes and is the author of the "Southern Fried Sushi" series with Barbour Books (first book released in October!) Jenny is an advocate for adoption and loves the outdoors, and has previously served as a missionary to Japan.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview with Vickie McDonough: Work

by Melissa Jagears

This is day two with Vickie McDonough.

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 23 books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Awards. Vickie and her husband live in Oklahoma. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a feisty five-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, and traveling.

Thank you for the insights on Monday on working with children while working at home. Now, I'm interested in what kind of things you did. I know that you did other things before you became an author. What jobs have you attempted while working at home?

Delivered Thrifty Nickel newspapers, worked as the nursery director at my church, balanced checkbooks for friends for a small fee, and started a Weekly Reader type company for Christian schools. Don’t know if this counts, but I also worked for a day-care where I could take the boys with me. The pros are that those jobs allowed me to be with my children, to make needed income for my family, and gave me a job with some flexibility.

Sure it counts. I take my baby with me to do the finance paperwork at my church, then I got set up on a remote desktop, so I can do some of it at home--so very nice. Your checkbook job for a small fee is making me think of possibilities. I'm strange, but I enjoy balancing my checkbook, hence my church asking me to help with theirs. Hmmmm.
How do you balance the demands of work and family?

I won’t lie. It definitely helps to not have small children any more. I don’t know as I balanced the demands all that well when my boys were younger. I tried to stay organized and to make the kids help, but I was often tired and frustrated and ended up doing things myself just to get them done. I probably could have been tougher, but that’s hindsight. Being organized and having structure is key to balancing work with family, but don’t forget to have fun, too.

Makes me feel good to hear I'm not the only one struggling. How do you entertain your children while working at home?

I no longer have to be concerned about this, but my boys read a lot of books, played outside with friends as they got older, and okay, I’ll admit, they watched some tv.

Are there times you wish you worked outside of the home?

Actually, yes, there are. Writing books may sound glamorous but it’s a lot of hard work. I mainly write in my living room, so it’s distracting when my husband or one of the boys is banging around in the kitchen or some other room. I work long hours to finish my books by their deadlines, and I sometimes think it would be nice to go to a job somewhere else, work, then come home and relax, but I love the flexibility of working from home.

How do you deal with those feelings?

I don’t pay much attention to those feelings to get an outside job. They usually come when I’m tired and on a tight deadline. In spite of the hard work, there are lots of good things about being a writer. I get to travel some—and it’s often a tax-deductable trip for research or to a conference, I’ve met and even become friends with many of my favorite Christian authors, and it’s really cool to see a book I’ve written in stores and to know that I’ve been obedient to God’s call on my life.

How do you arrange the physical space in your house so you have a place to work?

Well, I have an office upstairs, but after injuring my knee, I mostly write in the living room in my recliner.

Do you have a schedule and always work at the same time every day, or is your work time random and haphazard?

I usually write later in the morning and early afternoon. I get up and tend to things around the house and answer important emails then start writing. Some days, though, I have so much to do that I never get to the writing part, which is why I often have to scramble to finish by deadline. I believe there’s a word for that which starts with a P.

Would that word be, "Procrastination"? Because, I don't have problems with that, nope, no way, not at all the reason why I'm just fiddling with my blogs instead of writing the kissing scene my critique partner is anxious to read. ;P
What's your favorite aspect of working from home?

Being able to work in my jammies.

I personally like the fact that if I forget to put on deodorant or brush my teeth-- since I was too focused on diapers, feedings, etc. --then I haven't offended any coworkers. Maybe I've offended the four year old....but she's yet to voice complaint.
I always like money savings tips. What do you do to save money?

My husband has been laid off several times over the past couple of years, so when that happens, we stop spending. We go on don’t-eat-out, don’t-go-to-a-movie, and don’t-go-shopping mode. I’m more careful about what I buy at the grocery store and try to limit my driving. It’s hard but it does make a difference.

Many years ago, when we had to go on no spending mode, I'd make big paper signs to swap out on the front door to remind us, like: "Say No to Spending," "Don't Buy Anything...Ever," or "Read my lips: No New Spending." I got a kick out of trying to make something so limiting fun.
Any other words of wisdom you would like to share that you haven’t mentioned in the questions above?

Raising children is not an easy job, and when you throw in the element of working from home, the difficulties go up exponentially. But many people do both—and do them well. I guess if I have one word of advice, it’s don’t ignore your own needs. Find time to do what you love most—to do what refreshes you. For some gals, that’s finding a quiet spot to read or journal or play computers games, for someone else, that may be meeting the girls for lunch. Make time whatever recharges your battery, because you’re the one at the wheel, and if you’re not steering straight, everybody is in trouble.

Sounds like some good advice. There are days I feel like just staring at the wall because I feel like I just can't do it anymore, maybe I'll try to schedule in some more of those battery recharging sessions.
Before you go, can you tell us what you are working on right now?

I’m working on a book called Long Trail Home. It’s part of a unique project that I’m doing with two other authors, Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin. We’re each writing two books in a six-book series by Moody Publishers called Texas Trails: A Morgan Family series. The saga covers 50 years of the Morgan family, from the mid 1840s to the 1890s. The first three books release this fall.

Sounds like a very interesting book project. Readers, don't forget to go visit her website: and find a book you'd like to read. She has handfuls of them and has been sweet enough to offer one random winner his/her choice. Come back and leave your email and book choice in the comment section to be placed in the drawing. Thanks so much,Vickie, for your tips and encouragement.

God bless! And thanks for having me as a guest.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interview with Vickie McDonough: Home

by Melissa Jagears

Today, our guest is Vickie McDonough.

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 23 books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Awards. Vickie and her husband live in Oklahoma. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a feisty five-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, and traveling.

Thank you, Vickie, for agreeing to interview with me! I've read several of your books and enjoyed them very much and am glad you are here to share what you've done in the past staying home with your children and working. I'm excited to hear what you have to say.

Readers, Vickie has been gracious enough to offer one randomly drawn commenter a book of their choice from off her website! Leave your EMAIL ADDRESS and BOOK CHOICE in the comments either today or on Wednesday's post. (You'll want to come back and hear what business tips she has for us on Wedns.)
She's willing to send to US and Canada residents only please.

Tell me a bit about your family. How many children do you have, and if they still live at home, how old are they?

I’ve been married 35 years to a sweet computer geek. We have four grown sons. The oldest is married, and he and his wife have given us a feisty granddaughter. The three younger boys are still with us—kind of, sort of. One lives with us all the time—can’t seem to get him to move out even though he’s plenty old enough to. The youngest is a sophomore in college but generally comes home on the weekends and during the summer. My #3 son is in the National Guard and is currently on his third deployment. He’s been to Iraq twice, but he’s now serving in Egypt. He’s still trying to finish college and lives with us when he’s not deployed.

Ay yi yi, Four boys. My four year old daughter trashes the house, I'm a bit scared of how much damage my baby boy is going to do. Can't imagine what four boys would do!
Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?

I used to work outside the home when the boys were younger, but I hated leaving them. Their dad worked long hours, so it was hard to coordinate my working hours with him being home. It seemed the easiest answer was to work from home. I ended up getting several part-time jobs, some that allowed me to take the boys with me, and I even tried stating a home business for a time.

What was the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?

Home and family came first, so finding the time to actually work was often hard. Between sports and homeschooling the kids and church activities, extra time was hard to come by, but that’s something you have to deal with when you work from home.

I know how that is. Right now, I'm struggling with my priorities, especially when business activities become overwhelming.
Did you ever get your children involved with your home business?

Yes, I did on several occasions. One time I delivered Thrift Nickel newspapers with a baby and a 3- and 5-year-old in the car. My oldest son helped count the papers while the middle son entertained the baby piled up the return papers. It was a bit crazy at times, especially when the baby wasn’t happy, but we managed and made some extra cash too.

My four year old would love the counting job--for a few minutes anyway.
What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with their business?

• Give them specific duties within their age capabilities
• Be structured and organized so that you have set hours and the children know when they start work and when they get to stop
• Pay or reward them a little if you can and encourage them to be good stewards with their money
• If you have a home office, have a special play area where younger children can be close and see you but not be underfoot
• Most of all, be flexible and patient

I'm working on the flexible and patient thing right now, and working on the setting specific hours, I think that's something I need to do for my daughter who likes routine.
What challenges did working from home present to your marriage?

Probably the biggest challenge to working from home when it relates to my husband was that I was often tired out after dealing with the boys and working too. I didn’t cook fancy meals and the house often was messy. We didn’t have much alone time. Things probably wouldn’t have worked out so well if I hadn’t had such a kind and understanding husband. He’s a big encourager too and has been my biggest cheerleader as I began down the writing path and seeking publication.

Don't even look at my house right now! :) I'm as lucky as you with the hubby cheerleader. That boy thinks there is nothing I can't do, he's so sweet.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

That’s a hard question. Yes, most certainly, I’d do some things differently. I would encourage my husband to make different career choices which might have enabled me to stay home and not have to worry about bringing in extra income. As my boys got older, I didn’t feel qualified to keep teaching them because they were super smart. We didn’t have online schools like there are now. I wanted my boys to attend Christian school, but that would mean leaving my baby with a sitter, and I couldn’t do that. I do have regrets, but what parent doesn’t?

I've already started wracking up my regrets, but I've gotten the advice, "It'll happen; don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and work on being better in the future."
Along the same lines of getting to start over, What would you do the same?

Given the same situation, I’d probably done about the same thing. I tried to be industrious, but was limited in my abilities. I used the skills I had and did the best I could, and guess what, my boys all turned out pretty good. One is a restaurant manager married to a bank branch manager, one is making a career working at Walgreens (still working on getting that changed since this boy is a computer whiz), one is a soldier currently stationed in Egypt, and the youngest is in the honor’s program at his college studying electrical engineering. I want to encourage you moms with little children that there is life after kids. Hang in there and do the best you can, and rely on God to strengthen you and to give you wisdom.

I needed that encouragement, it does feel like my life right now is solely picking up after my tornado children.
Would you say staying home and attempting to work was worth it?

I guess it depends on what’s important to you. I didn’t want to have someone else raising my boys while I worked. I understand that some families have to do that, and I’m not putting them down. Two of my boys were very strong-willed and needed more attention to keep them focused so they weren’t always getting in trouble. We had plenty of hard times, but yeah, it was worth it.

What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?

Now, I’m at the point where I could get an outside job, but I choose not to. I babysit my five-year-old granddaughter several days after school while her parents work. I’m also primary caregiver to my 81-year-old mom whose is a partial invalid, and I do all her errands, shopping, and take her lunch several times a week, besides fixing her dinners. Working from home allows to do those special things, as well as to have the freedom to have lunch with friends once in a while.

Can you share your favorite easy recipe?

Yes, but it’s not one of those sugarless kind.

Good, because I like the sugar-filled kind.

When I was young, we often went to my Aunt Mildred’s house for dinner. My grandma and grandpa lived with her, so it was the place the family would hang out. Aunt Mildred made this yummy dessert that I called “pink stuff.” It remains one of my family’s favorites.

Aunt Mildred’s Ice Box Cake
1 small pkg. strawberry Jello
3/4 cup boiling water
Scant 1/2 cup sugar

Mix well. Cool a little.

1 small can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Scant 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Fold in 3/4th of a small or medium container of Cool Whip.(Leave final 1/4th to smooth over the top when done)

Line an oblong cake pan with vanilla wafers. Top with a layer of sliced bananas. (You can add as many as you like – about 3 - 4 medium bananas) Spoon on Jello mixture and even out across the top. Spread on remaining Cool Whip to make top pretty.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated. Serves 12 – 16 people.

Note: When getting supplies for this recipe, please note the Cool Whip, bananas, and vanilla wafers listed in the body of the recipe.

That sounds yummy. I love strawberry and banana desserts.
All right, readers, make sure you come back on Wednesday and read more about how she deals with working at home.

And go visit her website: and find a book you'd like to read. She has handfuls of them and has been sweet enough to offer one random winner his/her choice. Come back and leave your email and book choice to be placed in the drawing.

This is her newest one, check it out while you're looking around. (I'm currently reading this one, I'm on chapter 2 at the moment.) Or click on the book to go straight to Amazon.

Finally a Bride
Jacqueline Davis, a reporter for the Lookout Ledger, is bent on nabbing her story at any cost. When Noah Jeffers comes to Lookout as the temporary pastor, Jack suspects there may be something hidden behind his shepherding ways. Soon though, Jack becomes attracted to the new pastor despite her initial hesitation. But as she uncovers the truth, will the story cost her too much? Will she reveal what she’s found, or keep it hidden to protect newfound love?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

by Melissa Jagears

Today We Are Rich

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.