Thursday, June 28, 2012

Overnight Sticky Bun Recipe from Author Sherri Shackelford

Since Author Sherri Shackelford is our guest this week on Making Home Work, I asked her to share one of her favorite recipes with us. All I had to do was glance at this one to know I'll be adding it to my file.

Sherri is giving a copy of her book, Winning the Widows Heart, to one lucky winner at the end of the week. If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, be sure to stop by Sherri Shackelford's Interview and leave a comment.

Overnight Sticky Buns

1 Package Rhoads frozen dinner rolls (I use the 24 count package)
1 stick butter
½ cup brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Box non-instant butterscotch pudding (4-5 oz – the smaller package.)

1. Melt together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pudding.
2. Spray a bread pan or Bundt pan with Cooking Spray.
3. Place frozen rolls in pan evenly.
4. Pour butter mixture over the rolls. Place in a COLD oven.
5. DO NOT TURN ON. Leave overnight.
6. In the morning, turn oven to 350 F. (If the rolls puff over the top of the pan, just squish them back down.)
7. DO NOT PREHEAT OVEN and bake 20 minutes. (Can bake up to 30 min, depending on oven).
8. Turn over on platter. Watch them disappear! These are great for Christmas morning, or any holiday where the kids are out of bed at the crack of dawn!


As someone who's rather challenged in the kitchen (particularly with any recipe involving yeast), I love that the sticky bun dough comes from the store and I don't have to make it myself. I've never seen a sticky bun recipe that calls for instant pudding either, but I can imagine it makes for a really moist topping. Has anyone else tried a recipe like this? It sounds delicious, Sherri! Thanks for sharing.

Now here's a little description about Sherri's debut novel, Winning the Widow's Heart:

When Texas Ranger Jack Elder stormed the isolated Kansas homestead, he expected to find a band of outlaws. Instead, the only occupant is a heavily pregnant woman—and she's just gone into labor. A loner uneasy with emotion, Jack helps deliver widow Elizabeth Cole's baby girl and can't get back on the trail fast enough. The robber and murderer he's after killed one of Jack's own, and he vows to catch the man. But when he returns to check on Elizabeth and her little one, he discovers that she may hold the key to his unsettled past—and his hoped-for future.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Author Sherri Shackelford

Hi Everyone!

I'm excited to introduce you to a very special guest today, Sherri Shackelford. I first mentioned Sherri to you earlier this month, when I told you of her debut novel, Winning the Widow's Heart (which I read and thoroughly enjoyed!). I met Sherri last summer, when both of our novels ended up finaling in the Genesis Contests, and now, a year later, we're both published authors. Oh the fun!

Sherri will be giving a copy of Winning the Widow's Heart to one winner, so be sure to leave a comment below if you're interested in the novel. Now here's a little bit about how Sherri balances her writing time and her family:

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 fifteen years. We have three children: A girl – 12, a boy 11, and another boy 6.

Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?
I actually work part time outside of the home while the kids are in school. I enjoy writing, but right now the habit barely supports itself! When the kids were little, it just made more sense to stay at home with them – the daycare costs were astronomical! Once my youngest went to school, I found a job for a few hours in the afternoon.

Wow! You must be super busy with a part time job plus writing. But I understand what you mean about daycare costing a fortune! Plus it's so nice to stay home with your little ones if you're able.What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?

Time management! That’s always a challenge. In the winter it works out fine, but in the summer I struggle between spending time with the kids and getting work done. Especially this June with the debut of my first novel. It’s been absolutely amazing – but incredibly time consuming.

Winnie Griggs and I put together a writing contract, and we’ve been keeping each other accountable. That helps.

Did you ever get your children involved with your home business? What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with their business?

There’s really no way for them to be involved at this point – writing is such a solitary business. It’s funny, though – my daughter is an avid reader and I can’t even get her to read my book!

Oh goodness, I just know my kids are going to be like that one day! If you're married, what challenges did working from home present to your marriage, and how did you compensate?

My husband has always been amazingly supportive! Earlier this year, I had one of the moments where I thought, “forget this! I’m going back into marketing.” But he talked me down from the corporate ledge and kept me going. I truly owe my publishing contract to him. When life gets busy and I don’t get a chance to write, I get antsy. He can always tell and he’ll grab the kids and take them out for ice cream or a movie so I can get some work done. He’s an amazing man!

He sounds wonderful, and you're so blessed to have such a supportive man behind you. If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

I would have been born with more talent! Nothing takes the place of hard work, of course, but I’d love to be driven AND have talent. You read some authors and you just want to weep – they make it look so effortless.

I know what you mean, Sherri, and I try not to hate those other authors too much. But they do make me a little envious at times. Is it worth it? What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?

Honestly, only my career choice keeps me home! You don’t have to leave the house to write. I don’t think staying at home is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ choice for anybody. There’s only a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ choice for your family. I often think my children would have benefited from the structure of daycare, but they did fine with me. And I’ve almost always had a part time job outside the house. It’s good for me to socialize with other adults – otherwise I lose my social skills!

Oh yes, I can totally relate to the feeling of loosing your social skills when you're home with your kids all day. Thank you for being with us Sherri! Sherri will be back on Thursday to share her Overnight Sticky Bun recipe with us. I don't know about you, but I'm salivating just thinking of that recipe. 

To enter the giveaway, be sure to leave a comment with an email address below. The giveaway will end Saturday, June 30, at midnight. Now here's a little more about Winning the Widow's Heart:

In the Care of the Lawman When Texas Ranger Jack Elder stormed the isolated Kansas homestead, he expected to find a band of outlaws. Instead, the only occupant is a heavily pregnant woman-and she's just gone in to labor. A loner uneasy with emotion, Jack helps deliver widow Elizabeth Cole's baby girl and can't get back on the trail fast enough. The robber and murderer he's after killed one of Jack's own, and he vows to catch the man. But when he returns to check on Elizabeth and her little one, he discovers that she may hold the key to his unsettled past-and his hoped-for future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: The Measure of Katie Calloway

Last fall I eagerly got my hands on a book by a newer author entitled The Measure of Katie Calloway. I read constantly, but despite the large number of books I go through every year, I was especially thrilled about this one book. You see, The Measure of Katie Calloway is set in a historical Michigan logging town, and I live in a present day Michigan logging town.

I was interested to see how the author portrayed not only my home state, but also the logging aspect of the story. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the book. I recommended it to my local library (which is always interested in anything about Michigan's logging and mining past). And furthermore the author, Serena Miller, made me feel like I was there, feeling the snow on my face and smelling the scent of pine needles. I was really fascinated by the old-time logging methods, and even though I live in an area where there's an occasional death due to logging, I didn't realize how much more dangerous old-time logging was.

Beyond the setting of a Michigan logging community, I appreciated the story of an abused woman escaping harm, learning to stand up for herself, and falling in love again. And Miller also created a really unique cast of unforgettable smaller characters that help populate the lumber camp where Katie works as a cook.

Well, fast forward nine months, and The Measure of Katie Calloway is being nominated for a Rita Award (a series of rather prestigious romance awards issued in various categories every summer). So today I'm blogging over at Craftie Ladies of Love Inspired Romance, doing a "book interview." I invite you all to pop on by if you want to learn a little more about the story and it's author.

And now my question for you: Have any of you ever read a novel set in a town you're already familiar with? Did you like it? Did you think the author did a good job of portraying the area and making it interesting for those unfamiliar with the setting?

Have a great weekend! We're happily welcoming Sherri Shackelford for an interview and book giveaway next week, so be looking forward to that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Fathers' Day Tribute

I'm sure most of us have good memories of our fathers. So in honor of Father's Day yesterday, I thought it would be fun to share some of our memories.

There are two things my dad did that I know I will never forget and cherish for as long as I live. First, he taught me now to ride a bike. It's a cliche memory, I know. But I still remember my dad taking me down to the deserted elementary school parking lot at the end of our block and helping me ride around on the hot asphalt.

The other thing I remember is him singing the hymn "How Great Thou Art" to me whenever I was upset or having trouble falling asleep. This memory brings a really big smile to my face. My father can't sing for anything, but I think those were the first song lyrics I ever learned.

As I watched my little boys with their daddy today, I wondered what memories my husband was forging with them even now. Things I don't even realize that my boys will cherish when they grow older.

So what about you? Are you watching your children make great memories with their daddy? Or do you have any great memories of your father? Share them in the comment section below. And here's a little video I found on YouTube that seems to encapsulate my sentiments towards Father's Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summertime Blues

School is ending across the country, and with it, wails of distress from parents as they scramble for ways to fill their children’s time during the hot, sticky days of summer. I’ve heard numerous parents express dismay at the end of school, and have felt in the minority that I don’t feel as miserable as they do about having my children around all the time.

For families with both parents working, or for single parent households, I can well understand the need to find adequate childcare or camps in the summer. But for families that have one parent at home, summer is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children—and it doesn’t have to mean you are responsible for entertaining them day in and day out.

Fighting chants of “I’m bored,” or “I don’t know what to do,” or “I have nothing to do,” can be downright exhausting if you hear those or similar phrases as soon as your little darlings wake in the morning. But do not despair! I have a solution that, if followed to the letter, will ensure a summer filled with innovation and inspiration, all with just a little bit of work on your part.

First, draw up a list of things your child or children can do on their own. This can be as simple as play with a certain toy or read a book. Tailor it to the age of your child. Write down as many things as you can think of that require a minimum (read barely any) assistance from you. Type it up and label it “Things to Do When You’re Bored” or something equally catchy.

Note: Your summer will go smoother if you limit electronic screen time (TV and video/DVD watching, computer, and hand-held electronic games, etc.). Studies have shown—and, if you have ever interrupted a child involved in one of those activities—that screen time is highly addictive. Better to encourage your children in other pursuits in their leisure time. This is not a popular view, I know, but I think you’ll find it’s worth the hassle to get your kids disconnected for most of the summer.

Second, write down a list of extra chores not included in the daily or weekly list for your children. Cut into slips of paper with one chore on each slip, fold and place into a jar or other container and label “Chore Jar.”

Third, on the first day of summer vacation, sit down your kids after breakfast and hand them the “Things to Do When You’re Bored” list. Tell them that this is what they can do when they’re feeling bored or have nothing to do. Inform them that if anyone utters the words “I’m bored,” or “I have nothing to do,” or any variation thereof, that child picks a chore to do from the Chore Jar. That chore must be completed immediately to the parent’s satisfaction. Failure to do so will result in being confined to his or her room for the rest of the day and to bed after supper. This is called “making them an offer they can’t refuse.”

Fourth, follow through. When I introduced this last summer to my two older girls, they immediately said they were bored to see what kind of chores were in the Chore Jar. After completing a particular onerous task, I didn’t hear “I’m bored,” the entire summer.

For those of you who need ideas, my booklet Boredom Busters has dozens of ideas for children, as well as some chore ideas for the Chore Jar. Boredom Busters is available on Kindle and Smashwords (for the Nook, iPad, and other e-reader devices, as well as in a PDF) for only 99 cents. Leave a comment under this post for a chance to win a copy of the Boredom Busters.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Home Decorating Tips

 As a mom living on a shoestring budget and constantly taking care of two little boys, my days are usually filled with simply trying to keep the house clean and picked up. On top of that, our house is a bit of a fixer upper. So for the first three years we lived in it, I hadn't put much thought into decorating. I mean, I just wanted some trim on the windows and doors for all my cupboards. Who cared about putting something on the wall?

But over the past year, our house has really started to come together, slowly getting a theme that encompasses both furniture and decorations. Here's three easy principles to follow:

1. Decide on a theme. 
We have a bit of a north woods  theme at our house, which only makes sense as we live in the middle of northern woods and my husband tries his hand at making rustic log furniture every once in a while. So when I spotted an area rug with some moose and fish and cabins and leaves on it for under $100 a year and a half ago, I got it. And then when I found a little rug with a moose on it to go in front of our sink a couple months later, you can bet I got that as well.

Anytime I acquire something for our house, I make sure it fits our theme. If it looks rustic and is reasonably priced, I pick it up. And after a couple years of slowly collecting rustic things, I'm starting to put together a theme for our house.

2. Stick to a few base colors.
My husband and I decided way back when we first got married that we both like tans and greens and other earth tones. (Can I just pause for a moment and recommend that you talk to your husband before you decide on a color scheme for your house? He has to live in it too, and he probably doesn't want pink and butter yellow in every room.) So in general, whenever we acquire a piece of furniture, we make sure it's earth-toned.

We bought our forest green couch long before I ever found our tan colored moose and cabin rug, but when I put two things together purchased three years apart from each other, they look as if they were bought together in a showroom.

3. Pick a couple basic wood types.

When you begin to pick out furniture, I suggest you pick one or two woods that you like and run with them. Now unless you build a completely new house, you probably won't be able to pick all the wood in your home. But work with the choices you can make, and then in a decade or so, as that hardwood floor wears out or the trim around your windows needs to be replaced, you can switch to your preferred wood type. My husband and I like white pine and white cedar. (If we need to use a hardwood, because sometimes you do, we choose hickory.) This gives everything a sense of continuity.

We have a cedar log bench in our entryway and a cedar log end table by our couch and a cedar log dinning table in our kitchen. And the cedar furniture matches the cedar trim along our windows and the knotty pine on our cupboards. Though we haven't gotten around to getting a bedroom set with a matching head and foot board and a dresser or two, when the time comes you can bet we'll be using some cedar logs, and probably some pine.

So there you have it, three principles that should help some of you moms out there. Now I'm curious about the rest of you. Does anyone have some simple decorating tips that have worked in your own homes?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Spotlight--Historical Romance Titles for June (Part 2)

 In keeping with our book introductions this week, I've got two more novels to tell you about from Love Inspired Historical. Last time I introduced you to Winning the Widow's Heart by Sherri Shackelford and A Baby Between Them by Winnie Griggs. Now today I've got details about two novels set in England. The first is A Proper Companion by Louise M. Gouge:

With her father's death, Anna Newfield loses everything—her home, her inheritance and her future. Her only piece of good fortune is a job offer from wounded major Edmond Grenville, whose mother requires a companion. The Dowager Lady Greystone is controlling and unwelcoming, but Anna can enjoy Edmond's company, even if she knows the aristocratic war hero could never return her love.

Even amid the glittering ballrooms of London, nothing glows brighter for Edmond than Anna's gentle courage. Loving her means going against his family's rigid command. Yet how can he walk away, when his heart may have found its true companion?

I don't know about you, but the title Dowager Lady of Greystone makes me think of the dowager countess on Downton Abbey. What a hoot! I sincerely hope the dowager in A Proper Companion is every bit as entertaining as the dowager in Downton Abbey.

The second book for today is The Baron's Governess Bride by Debra Hale.

(Now I just want to pause right here and say: Doesn't that title make you think of the Sound of Music? Okay, granted the setting is a century or so before Sound of Music and a couple of countries away. But still, wasn't the von Trapp dad a baron? And he marries his governess, right? Goodness, even the cover of the book makes me think of that picnic scene in Sound of Music where Maria's teaching the von Trapp kids to sing!)

Here's what the back cover of the book has to say : 

Lord Steadwell's three motherless daughters were heartbroken when their last governess ran off to elope. In her dowdy cap and spectacles, Grace Ellerby seems an ideal replacement—a nurturing, intelligent woman uninterested in marriage. No wonder Rupert doesn't recognize Grace as the golden-haired vision at a masked ball, who slips away before midnight….

Frightened by the unwanted attentions of previous employers, Grace resolved to hide her beauty…and her growing feelings for Rupert. One enchanted evening—and a sweet, breathtaking kiss—changes everything. For with Grace's three adorable charges playing fairy godmother, Rupert may discover his happy ending is closer than he thinks.

Well, now that I read the cover wording, it makes me think of Cinderella.  I've got a good mind to read the book just so I can figure out if it's at all like either story!

So there you have it, all four books releasing from Love Inspired Historical in June 2012. These books cover everything from the American West to Regency England, so whatever your reading preferences, I trust you'll be able to find a book to your liking from this group. 

Has any read one or more of these books yet? I've started Winning the Widow's Heart, but haven't had the chance to read very much of it yet. And I'm wishing each of you wonderful blog readers lots of extra reading time over the weekend!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Spotlight--Historical Romance Titles for June (Part 1)

It's the beginning of the month again. (Can you all believe it? It seems like 2012 has been flying by at bullet speed in our household.) But a new month means it's time for me to introduce you to the new novels from my publisher. I'm super excited about one novel in particular, Winning the Widows Heart by Sherri Shackleford.

This novel is special to me because about this time last year, Sherri and I both finaled in the Genesis Contest, a rather prestigious contest for unpublished inspirational writers. Finaling in a contest like Genesis allows agents and editors the chance to read your material and often opens up the doors to publication. Well, this was the case for both Sherri and I, as we were finalist in the same contest and then both went on to sell our stories to Love Inspired Historical. My debut novel, Sanctuary for a Lady, released in April. And now it's June, and Sherri's debut novel, Winning the Widow's Heart is releasing. How fun is that!

When Texas Ranger Jack Elder stormed the isolated Kansas homestead, he expected to find a band of outlaws. Instead, the only occupant is a heavily pregnant woman—and she's just gone into labor. A loner uneasy with emotion, Jack helps deliver widow Elizabeth Cole's baby girl and can't get back on the trail fast enough. The robber and murderer he's after killed one of Jack's own, and he vows to catch the man. But when he returns to check on Elizabeth and her little one, he discovers that she may hold the key to his unsettled past—and his hoped-for future.

I must admit, last year Sherri and I traded contest entries so we could each see what the other had written. I was amazed by Sherri's writing and hooked into the story right from the beginning. I'm going to give you just a sneak peek of the opening two lines of Winning the Widow's Heart:

A shrill scream from inside the homestead split the frosty air.

Jack Elder flattened his back against the cabin's rough-hewn logs, his Smith & Wesson drawn. Icy fear twisted in his gut. He couldn't think about the woman inside, couldn't let himself imagine what had ripped that tortured sound from her.

See? Now doesn't that book look good? I can't wait to start this novel, and am hoping to do so later in the week. Congrats on the release of Winning the Widow's Heart, Sherri!!!

Next I want to introduce you to A Baby Between Them by Winnie Griggs. A Baby Between Them is the third and final book in the Irish Brides miniseries. I've been sharing this series with you for the past two months. This book goes along with The Wedding Journey and Mistaken Bride, and the series is about three sisters who journey from Ireland to the United States in the mid 1800s and all find love. Here's what the back cover of A Baby Between Them says:

For two months, Nora Murphy has cared for the abandoned infant she found on their Boston-bound ship. Settled now in Faith Glen, Nora tells herself she's happy. She has little Grace, and a good job as housekeeper to Sheriff Cameron Long. She doesn't need anything more—not the big family she always wanted, or Cam's love….

A traumatic childhood closed Cam off to any dreams of family life. Yet somehow his lovely housekeeper and her child have opened his heart again. When the unthinkable occurs, it will take all their faith to reach a new future together.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm excited about both these novels. It's nice to see a satisfying conclusion to the Irish Brides trilogy, and I'm super thrilled to see my friend Sherri's debut novel release!

Now I'm wondering about the rest of you. Do you have any fun books on your reading list? Are any of you planning to read all three books of the Irish Brides miniseries? And what about Sherri's book? Doesn't that look like a fun one, especially for those of you who love westerns?

I'll be back on Thursday to introduce you to the next two books releasing this month. In the meantime, enjoy your week.