Wednesday, July 28, 2010

POM Wonderful Pomegranate Jelly

My June/July Taste of Home issue arrived, and I couldn't wait to make one of the recipes I saw: Pomegranate Jelly!

I thought the POM Wonderful pomegranate sorbet I made was pretty tasty.

My husband LOVES POM Wonderful pomegranate juice in his iced tea (especially if I brew a raspberry tea)!

But, this Pomegranate Jelly is, by far, MY favorite use of POM Wonderful's pomegranate juice!

And, sooo easy! No canning involved!

Well, the original recipe called for canning...but, I made freezer jam... easy peasy!

There's something so beautifully satisfying about a row of freshly filled canning jars (or plastic freezer jam jars)! ;-)





Ok, here's the recipe!

POMEGRANATE JELLY

3-1/2 cups POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 pkg (1-3/4 oz) powdered fruit pectin
5 cups sugar

In a dutch oven, combine POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar; return to a full rolling boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat; skim off foam. Ladle hot liquid into clean freezer containers and cool to room temperature.

Let stand for 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 12 months.





Now, to get the full delicious effect of your homemade pomegranate jelly, you MUST bake up a loaf of this fantastic Amish White Bread.

While the bread is slightly warm, slather with plenty of fresh butter and your delicious homemade jelly. Take a bite.

Try not to gasp and drool.

That'll make a very sticky mess.

Now (after you've polished off another slice), get super excited over how easy it was to make pomegranate jelly and think of all of the possibilities! POM Wonderful also makes other delicious 100% juices that could easily be swapped out in this recipe.

How about POM Wonderful blueberry juice?! Or mango? Or cherry?? Oh...I hope freezer jars are still in stock! :-D

Recommend: Oh yummy, YES!

Many thanks to POM Wonderful for sending me a pomegranate care package to try out some summery recipes!

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-)**

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Friday, July 23, 2010

My Shutterfly Experience!

Have you ever wanted to make a photo book?

Have you thought you don't have time or aren't creative enough??

Well, Shutterfly's got your back!



If you've got some favorite pictures, Shutterfly makes photo projects easy! Everything from beautiful photo books, stationery, or other gift items!

Shutterfly has pre-made templates, some designed by some of the top digi-scrappers, to make your book (or Christmas cards or photo gifts) look professional and beautiful. You don't need to know anything about color or design - Shutterfly has made it simple for anyone to do!

After our daughter was born, I put together a special book about her birth. I could have used a template, but I designed the pages myself (with the help of many online tutorials and loads of digital scrapbooking freebies).

Title and last pages:


{im}patiently waiting:


birth day:


our new family:


meeting you:


finally home:


When I finally received my 20-page Shutterfly photo book, it exceeded my expectations. The quality of the book is superb and my daughter will have a treasured keepsake uniquely hers!

As for my son...well, I'm working on his book. I hope I get it done before he's 18. ;-) So far, I love the pages that are done, and I know that my next Shutterfly experience will make me just as happy!

Thank you, Shutterfly!


Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was entered into a Shutterfly giveaway, through sheblogs.org for writing this post. My reviews have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Camille's Meatballs

Recently, a Facebook friend was looking for a good meatball recipe. When my friend Heidi shared this recipe from her Sicilian friend, I immediately printed it out and jotted down on my grocery list the applesauce (yep!) and A1 sauce I'd need.

Real Italian Meatballs
Oh, YUM!!

I grew up on my grandma's delicious sauce and meatballs, but as sad as I am to admit it, I think Camille's will be replacing Grandma's...

These meatballs were absolutely fantastic!!

CAMILLE'S MEATBALLS

• Start cooking sauce (Classico, Tomato and Basil): add salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil

• Throw all of these ingredients in a large bowl:

~1 pound – ground beef
~2 eggs – not scrambled
~1/4 cup – milk
~4 tablespoons – apple sauce
~3/4 tablespoon – parsley
~1 tablespoon – A1A Steak Sauce
~1/4 cup – grated cheese
~1 tablespoon – Italian seasoning

• Mix together – with hands and fingers
• Pour some olive oil (I'm personally a canola oil girl) – keep mixing
• Pour Italian breadcrumbs – pour and mix until the meat is firm enough to make and hold a meatball (shape and roll with hands)
• Place one meatball at a time in sauce
• Cook in sauce (medium to low heat) – for 1 hour
• Remove meatballs and use sauce for pasta!

(You will see that I shaped the meatballs and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets. I also doubled the recipe, which made 56 large 2-3" meatballs.

Real Italian Meatballs
I baked in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Real Italian Meatballs
If I was serving with pasta, I would have cooked them in the sauce - for me, my own combination of crushed and pureed tomatoes and seasonings - but, since I was making the meatballs for meatball subs, I baked them a day ahead of time and then heated them through with some canned Hunts garlic and cheese sauce. YUM!)

Real Italian Meatballs
Camille, Thanks for sharing with Heidi! Heidi, Thanks for sharing with me!! :-D YUMMM!

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swagbucks!

Have you heard of Swagbucks yet?


Search & Win


I have always been a bit leery of different sites that promise rewards in exchange for searching, surveys, etc.

But Swagbucks delivers!

Swagbucks accesses multiple search engines to give you "a richer and more relevant spectrum of results than you would from using any single search engine."

Ok...so what does that mean?

Basically, Swagbucks is just a powerful search engine that randomly rewards you with points (aka Swagbucks or SBs) that you can redeem for a variety of items.

My FAVORITE thing to 'buy' with all of my swagbucks is Amazon gift cards!!

I was just able to save up all of my gift card codes and buy my daughter a beautiful Gotz doll (original makers of American girl) for less than $15!!

Swagbucks also has several ways to increase your chances of snagging those exciting little SBs, like random swagcodes hidden in their blog, toolbar, or facebook fan page.

Another fantastic way to rack up your swagbucks is getting your friends to join! Swagbucks has a fantastic referral program!

Swagbucks will match your friends' winnings for you, up to 1,000 SBs (just through regular searches, not swagcodes or special offers)!!

And...I've yet to receive any spam mail from Swagbucks! Yay, Swagbucks!!

You likely search all the time already; why not get rewarded for doing so?! So, now I am asking you unashamedly to click on my referral link and start swaggin'! ;-)



Search & Win


Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I received no compensation from Swagbucks for this post...I just love 'em! However, the post is shamelessly riddled with my Swagbucks referral link! ;-)**
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Tina's Hot Water Cake

Have you ever visited Heidi over at Tried-and-True Cooking with Heidi? You haven't?! Well, you should! She posts fabulously delicious and easy recipes for the entire family!

On a day that I happened to be craving chocolate (ok, that's any ol' day! lol!), Heidi posted about this cake that one of her coworkers makes. I had all of the ingredients, so I whipped it up.

Oh man, oh man! YUMMM!!

Tina's hot water cake I took the picture before my frosting had time to 'set,' but believe me, I just couldn't wait any longer!

The cake is perfectly moist and chocolate-y. The cake recipe alone is a keeper for a homemade chocolate cake!

And the frosting... oh! Oh! Oh!!! Soooo goooood! Like, making-me-drool-just-thinking-about-it-again GOOD! ;-)

TINA'S HOT WATER CAKE

Sift together:

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 TBSP soda
1 tsp salt

Add & mix:
1 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk (Don't have buttermilk? Don't worry - here's my go-to substitution!)
1 tsp vanilla

Add:
1 egg (I mixed the egg in before I added the boiling water - I didn't want to risk scrambled eggs in my cake!)
1 cup boiling water

Grease 9 x 13 pan. Pour in batter and bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until toothpick stuck in meddle comes out clean.

CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING

1 cup margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 TBSP cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In saucepan, cook and constantly stir margarine, sugar, and milk for two minutes on medium heat. Cool. In a bowl mix cocoa, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat in cooled milk mixture until smooth. Add more milk or powdered sugar if needed. Pour on cake. Heidi's specific note: Wash face to remove the frosting you got on it from licking out the bowl :)

Heidi, Thanks for passing on such fantastic recipes...and thank Tina when you see her! ;-)

Recommend: YES

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Friday, July 9, 2010

CSN Stores Cookware.com: Rachael Ray Pasta Pot Review

I had another opportunity to work with CSN Stores and chose to review this 8-quart pasta pot by Rachael Ray:


Every celebrity seems to come out with their own line of cookware (or other items). I often wonder how much is I-want-it-because-it's-so-and-so's-so-it-must-be-good or I-want-it-because-it-truly-is-a-fantastic-high-quality-item.

Well, I really have no words except, I LOVE my new Rachael Ray pasta pot!!

I think it's fantastic, high quality cookware!

This pot is plenty big enough for any job, cleans up beautifully, and is easy to handle. I LOVE it!

The 8-quart size and oval shape of Rachael Ray's pasta pot fits nicely on my stovetop and will be PERFECT for my garden's corn on the cob! No more struggling to fit corn cobs into a small round pot!! Yay!

At just under $80, the price may seem steep for just one piece of cookware. But, it's quality will last for years and years and become a much-used, how-did-I-live-without-it pot in any cook's kitchen. It already has in mine!

In fact, I love it so much, I've already hinted to my husband (and anyone else who listens) that I'd really love Rachael Ray's 14- (or 10-) piece cookware set.


The only negative I would have is the ORANGE handles. Doesn't really fit in with my decor...but, I know it's Rachael's signature color, and the pros of the pot outweigh the cons of the color.

As for CSNstores.com... you really should check them out! With over 200 online stores, you can find any and every thing from

wheelchairs to jewelry boxes to fantastic lighting options for your home.

I want to thank CSN Stores for giving me an opportunity to work with them again. Customer service is friendly, prompt, and professional -- isn't that what you want every company to be?

Recommend: Both the 8-quart Rachael Ray pasta pot and CSN Stores - YES!

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**

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Hope's Promise by Tammy Barley

Today's FIRST Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Whitaker House (August 3, 2010)

Hope's Promise
is the continuing story of Jessica and Jake from Love's Rescue, book one in the Sierra Chronicles.

Jake wants only to offer protection and love to Jessica, who has suffered and lost so much, but she is becoming silently depressed and bitter over her inability to have a baby. When they discover that a friend of Jessica's family isn't who they thought she was, they face betrayal, danger, and more.

Will Jake and Jessica be able to stand together and trust God for a bright future?

Enjoy your free peek into the book!



Western Nevada Territory

May 1864


“Would you care to rest awhile, Jess?”

Withholding a smile, Jess leaned forward in the saddle as her horse clamored beside Jake’s to the top of the rocky bank. When the ground leveled out, she glanced at the progress of the small herd of Thoroughbred stallions close behind, then tossed a lightly accusing gaze to her husband.

“Rest awhile? Are you coddling me, Bennett?”

In the shadow of his hat brim, Jake’s whisky-brown eyes sparkled at her as he grinned the crooked grin she loved. “No, ma’am, I wouldn’t dare.” He nodded sagely to Taggart and Diaz, the hired men with bandanas pulled up against the rising dust, who wrangled on the opposite side of the herd. “But the boys haven’t stood on their own feet twice since sunup, and they’re looking peaked.”

“Peaked?” Jess looked to the burly, orange-haired Irishman and the sinewy, born-in-the-saddle Spaniard and burst out laughing. “Those two wouldn’t walk to their dinner plates if they could ride!”

The sleek, long-limbed Thoroughbreds continued, heads bobbing, toward the mountains, whistled on by the two cattlemen. From her position riding flank, Jess took in the beauty of white nose blazes and white socks flashing amid the bays, chestnuts, and blacks, framed by the red earth and green pines of the Sierra Nevadas.

They were going home.

Jess quieted, but her smile remained. “I couldn’t stop now, Jake. We only have ten miles before we reach the ranch.”

Ten, out of seventeen hundred, she mused, and eight months since she had seen this part of the country. When they left the ranch, they hadn’t been married and she hadn’t been certain she’d ever come back. Even so, she hadn’t forgotten the beauty of the mountains, her love of the ranch in Honey Lake Valley, and her dream to raise horses with the good man beside her.

Jess’s horse stumbled, then recovered. Amid the scattered rocks and fragrant clusters of gray-green sagebrush around them, desert flowers added brilliant splashes of purple, red, and orange. When they left the ranch, the land had been brown, dry from a year of heat and draught. Clearly winter snows and spring rains had come, for now life bloomed everywhere.

Well, almost everywhere. With a twinge of sadness, Jess pressed a gloved hand to the flatness of her stomach.

She and Jake had married in the fall, on one of the most beautiful autumn days God had ever created. As a wedding gift, Jake had given her the herd of Thoroughbreds, which grazed in the Bennetts’ paddock while the pastor stood with them beneath an arch of trees and joined them as husband and wife.

All she had wanted was to give Jake a child in return. And now, it seemed, she was barren.

“What do you suppose they’re thinking, your horses?”

Jess dropped her hand and smiled. “Our horses,” she corrected. “They’re probably wishing they had taken a train instead.”

Jake chuckled, his broad shoulders threatening the seams of his white cotton shirt. “Is that what you wish, Jess? That the transcontinental was nearly finished instead of only beginning?”

“No, I wouldn’t want to be packed into a noisy passenger car any more than you would. I’d rather see the land, be a part of it.”

“Well this land looks as though it’s seen some rain this year.”

“I was just thinking the same.”

“What else were you thinking?”

Jess glanced at him. Since the day they met in Carson City more than a year before, she’d often been startled by how closely he paid attention, how he seemed to know her thoughts. “Mostly I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the ranch,” she evaded. “Ho Chen, Doyle, all the Paiute women, and Two Hands. I wonder how many of the mustangs Lone Wolf was able to breed.”

The Bennett Mountain Ranch. Their ranch. Tickled by the thought, Jess laughed out loud in pure joy.

“Jess?” The curiosity in Jake’s voice pulled her gaze to his.

“We’re going home,” she said, a pleasant tightness in her chest. “I feel . . .” She lifted a hand, uncertain how to describe it. “I feel like a young falcon, about to leap into the wind for the first time.”

He smiled his understanding, then suddenly turned tense, alert. He drew his Remington. An instant later, Taggart and Diaz did the same.

“What—?”

A rock burst on the ground beside Jess. The sharp report of rifle fire echoed across the desert. All at once shots exploded, pelting the road around them with shattered stones and dust plumes. Drawing her own revolver, Jess whipped her mare around and looked past Jake to an outcropping of rocks where rifles barked and gun smoke curled away.

The mare abruptly jerked then reared high, spilling Jess’s hat and tumbling her long braid free. The horse teetered on its hind legs then went over backward.

Pain exploded through Jess’s back and lungs.

Then, darkness.

An image flashed through her mind—the ranch, only not as they left it. Where the workshop, supply shed, and stable had once sat, large black smudges marred the ground. Eerie dread filled her at the vision, and at the realization that though she could see the ranch compound, she heard no wind, no movement, no sound at all.

A flash of daylight, then Jess felt sharp rocks beneath her back and smelled the pungent tang of gun smoke. Pain seared her right arm. Beside her, its neck bearing a bullet hole and spattered with blood, her horse thrashed once more then lay still.

“Jess?!”

Her gaze shifted to the back of Jake’s boots which stood rooted a few feet away, his long legs and broad shoulders tense. Jake had positioned himself and his horse between her and the outcropping. The gunfire had stopped. “I’m all right, Jake. You?”

His hat shifted with his answering nod, but his attention remained fixed on the distant rocks. Finally, he turned and went down on one knee near her hip. “The gunmen are gone.”

“And the Thoroughbreds?”

“Taggart and Diaz just rode after them. They’ll bring them back.” With great care, he leaned over her and felt her ribs, but pain whorled through her side, and she winced and caught her breath. Then winced again. “Anything feel broken, Jess?”

“I don’t believe so, but my ribs hurt when I breathe in.”

He pressed gently on her left side where she indicated, shifted his big hand, then pressed again. “I can’t feel any movement through your corset. I suspect that contraption just saved you from anything worse than bruising. Your ribs will likely hurt for a few weeks, especially when you breathe in, but they should heal fine.” He glanced at the cut on her arm that had begun to burn like fire, then stood and retrieved a bottle of whiskey and a clean bandana from his saddlebag.

With her good arm, Jess carefully pushed herself up, forcing herself not to groan at the pain in her side. Ranchmen never complained, even when shot. She had become one of them, and she wasn’t about to fuss over a little bruising and a cut.

Jake walked a few paces to where her hat had fallen on the other side of the dead horse then hesitantly returned it to her. She pulled it on, sensing his concern for her with the simple gesture, and felt overwhelming relief that he hadn’t been injured in the attack. “Jake, those men couldn’t have been outlaws. They must have been Paiute.”

He looped his horse’s reins around his arm and handed her the folded bandana. “That was my thought as well. If they’d been outlaws, they would have gone after the horses.”

He’d known, Jess realized. That was why she’d seen him fire only warning shots into the ground; she and Jake had friends among the Paiute. Several families worked at their ranch.

“Bands of Paiute have been trying to warn off immigrants for the last few years,” he said, “shooting from the hills along the Lassen Trail and north of Pyramid Lake. Apparently things have gotten worse, and the Paiutes have gotten bolder. You’re wearing britches and your braid was up under your hat. When your hat fell and your braid came free, they took off, so apparently they’re just warning folks away. None of the Paiutes I’ve met have ever killed innocent settlers.”

“But why attack this far south? You’re not the only rancher around here who employs them.”

“I agree; it doesn’t make sense.” Jake looked to where Taggart and Diaz had regained control of the Thoroughbreds less than a mile away. One man rode on either side of the herd, heading toward them at an easy pace to calm the skittish horses. “Let’s see your arm.”

Blood had soaked into the blue flannel shirtsleeve along her forearm, and from the feel of it dripping down her arm and the throbbing pain, she knew it was more than a simple cut.

Something flickered in Jake’s eyes. “You were shot?”

“No, I wasn’t. I must have hit it on a rock when I fell. Come to think of it, I lost my gun.” She briefly scanned the ground for it, but then he eased the sleeve up her arm and she looked away, certain that if she saw the wound, it would hurt more. “How bad is it?”

Jake held her forearm in his hand and gently turned it from side to side. “It’s a gash, but I won’t have to stitch it.”

The cork made a dull thunk as he pulled it from the whiskey bottle. The bottle glugged, then searing liquid ran over her arm with the piercing sting of a branding iron. She drew in her breath. Her ribs screamed.

“Bennett!”

“Do you know you only call me Bennett when you’re put out with me?” He poured again.

Jess hissed through her teeth, then smiled a little at the tease in his deep, mellow voice. “I think it’s a habit.”

“To be put out with me?”

For the sake of her ribs, she fought against a chuckle. “No, to call you Bennett in front of the men.” Jess knew he intentionally kept the conversation light. “If the men hear me call you Jake, it might change your status in their eyes. They don’t need to see you as my husband; they need to see you as their boss.”

“Only on the range, Jess. When the doors close at night, there will only be you and me.”

Jess stiffened as though she’d been struck. He’d wanted to reassure her with his words, she knew, yet it was a painful reminder that she still wasn’t expecting after nearly seven months of marriage. But, she told herself, what mattered most right now was the ranch, and building it with Jake. A quarter of a mile away, Taggart and Diaz had stopped and stood talking together, keeping a casual watch on the desert while the horses grazed. Their horses, hers and Jake’s. Horses which would enable them to be less dependent on cattle for their income, and to be one of the first ranches in the northern Sierras to raise horses to sell. If only . . . Now that they were out of danger, she allowed herself to ponder the odd vision. The cold fear returned, and her knees and legs trembled.

“Jake, I saw something . . . in my mind, when I fell.”

In the shadow of his hat brim, his sun-bronzed face turned thoughtful. Jake corked and set aside the whiskey, took the cloth from her hand, and bound the wound. “What is it that you saw?”

“The ranch compound, except some of the buildings were gone, and two of the corrals,” she recalled. “Only one corral remained. Where they had stood, the ground was black as though barrels of gunpowder had spilled. Seeing it scared me, Jake. I only saw it for a second or two, but in that instant, it felt as real as if I was actually there. Then I opened my eyes and saw the horse beside me, and then you. I think something bad is going to happen.”

Rather than wave away or make excuses for what she’d told him, he remained beside her, elbow on his knee, as he considered. She loved him for always listening to her.

“Has this ever happened before?”

“No. I have felt strongly about the outcome of various events, though, so strongly that I knew what would or wouldn’t happen. A year ago, when Ambrose was listed as missing in the war, I knew my brother wasn’t dead. I knew it.”

“I remember. You also told me last autumn that you believed outlaws would attack the ranch, and then they did.”

“So you believe me?”

“I don’t doubt that you saw what you say you did. Yes, I believe you.” He briefly scanned the foothills; there was no unusual movement among the rocks and sagebrush. “Do you remember my pa’s neighbor, the older lady who walked with two canes?”

“I only met her once, but I remember her.”

“When I was a boy—no more than nine or ten—she hurried over one night in a fluster and told my pa a tornado was coming, no more than an hour out. Almost exactly an hour later, it struck and took out half our corn before it dissipated. Later she told my pa that she occasionally had feelings about such things, and even saw a number of events before they happened. Premonitions, I reckon. I’ve occasionally heard similar about other women, whether or not their husbands had the good sense to listen to them. No, I won’t discount what you’ve told me, Jess.”

“But you don’t believe it.”

“I won’t lie to you, Jess. I’m not sure if I believe it or if I don’t.” He reached over and lightly squeezed her good arm. “Let’s just take things as they come.”

Jess struggled with disappointment, but she was glad Jake had listened. Within hours, they would learn firsthand if what she envisioned had, in fact, happened.

As Jake helped her to her feet, she dearly hoped they would find the ranch to be just as they left it, but she didn’t believe it would be.

##

At Jess’s insistence that she would not ride double due to her injuries any sooner than Jake would in her place, Jake had pulled the saddle, bridle, and gear from Jess’s dead horse and saddled the Thoroughbred stallion he would ride while Jess rode his calmer quarter horse—the only concession she would make.

Jess was more willful and determined than a Chicago storm.

Lord above, he loved that about her.

Unfortunately, it also made his guts churn in agony.

When her horse went over and crushed her beneath, his heart nearly exploded. Then, injured and struggling to rise, the gelding rolled over her again before it thrashed then lay still beside her. Years ago, about twenty miles to the south of where they rode now, his first wife and their baby daughter were on their way to visit family when outlaws attacked and killed them both. He nearly died himself when he discovered their bodies, Olivia’s and Sadie’s. He couldn’t endure losing Jess or seeing her harmed again.

What she had said about a premonition sat like a passel of thorns in his mind. He could work through whatever came, but what about Jess? She had been raised the daughter of a horse breeder in Lexington, Kentucky, and when the Hale family had moved west, she had kept books for his import business. She had not been raised to this life. She was strong and determined now, but what if years of hardships of living and working on a ranch in the wilderness became too much for her as it did for many ranchers’ wives? The fear entered his mind weeks ago when he lost several of their Thoroughbreds to Plains Indians, and the gunmen’s attack—and what she suffered as a result—solidified that fear. Would he eventually lose her?

“Bennett? Your face has turned grim and stiff as iron,” she said. “You’re worried about something. What’s on your mind?”

Rimmed with long, sooty lashes, Jess’s sage-green eyes bore into his as she brushed loose strands of her brown hair from her face. Her soft, rose-red lips revealed she was all woman, though she rode with the ease a man, albeit having a care for an injured side. He and Jess hadn’t been alone a single moment in weeks, even after nightfall, and now her ribs were injured. Though he’d waited with great patience all this time to be alone with her in the ranch house, what he’d had in mind would have to wait until she’d healed. All that mattered was that he keep her safe and give her a horse ranch to replace the one she’d loved and left behind years ago in Kentucky.

He eyed her revolver which was holstered once again in the gun belt at her narrow waist. Seeing to it that she was safe and happy was no small task. Trouble seemed to follow her. That is, when she wasn’t out looking for it.

One of the Thoroughbreds started to break from the herd. Jake changed its mind with a quick wave of the coiled rope in his hand, and forced a new thought into his own mind so he could answer her without dishonesty. “Well, Missus Bennett, I was just hoping there’s been enough rain that the river’s running high again. I plan to sink right into it, boots and all.”

Jess’s rosy lips curved into in a smile. “You’ll rust your spurs.”

“Hardly. After riding for weeks behind this herd amid all the dust they’re raising, my spurs’ll need a good soaking just as much as I will.”

“Perhaps,” she agreed, “but that’s not what turned your jaw to iron, and a muscle in your neck stood out when you glanced at my gun.”

Jake sighed. A dozen or so yards ahead of him and Jess, Taggart and Diaz rode in comfortable silence, their attention on the herd they wrangled. There was little chance they would overhear. Even so, Jake discreetly lowered his voice.

“What’s on my mind is that for the past few years you held your family together despite the war trying to pull you apart, and you were strong for your ma before she died. You didn’t have anyone to depend on but yourself for a long time, and I respect all you did for them. But—”

“But I’m impulsive.”

“No. Courageous.”

Jess blinked. She hadn’t expected that.

“You weren’t born to this life, Jess, and the Almighty must have known you’d need plenty of courage, because He surely gave you a barrelful.” He grinned, then more soberly looked to the bandana he’d knotted as a bandage on her forearm. “I’d just like you to tell me if this life becomes . . . hard for you. I’ll do whatever I can to keep that from happening, even if we have to give up the ranch and move on.”

Her eyes flashed green fire. “Not born to this life? Bennett, do you think I’d rather be dungeoned up in the dank corner of a store tallying rows of numbers than be here with you? And what about Olivia? You married her.”

“Times weren’t hard for Olivia and me. Besides, she was born to this.”

“I grew up in the South amid political stirrings and secessions, and the knowledge that during my lifetime war would come and possibly destroy all I held dear. What would you reply if I had said that to you?”

Jake lifted a shoulder, acknowledging her point. “I probably would have said that trials build character. But I was brought up this way. You and I are different.”

“Look again.” Jess huffed indignantly. “I thought I was the one who fell off a horse and had the sense knocked out of—”

“I don’t want to lose you.”

At his confession, her anger abruptly vanished, and her face held only understanding and love. “Then I’ll be careful not to get ‘lost.’”

Jake returned his attention to their herd. Her words sounded nearly as soothing to his mind as the smooth, Southern accent with which she had spoken them.

Lord above, he loved that about her too.

##

“Hey, boss,” Diaz called over his shoulder to Jake. “Those vacas are on your ranch, but they don’ carry your brand.”

Jess peered at the herd of eighteen or twenty cows grazing about an acre’s length distant. Diaz was right. Instead of Jake’s sideways B brand with the flat side down, each red-and-white hide bore a circle with an M in the center. They leisurely enjoyed the Bennett Ranch’s bunchgrass as if they’d always called the place home.

The nearest ranch was located so far from their own that Jess had never seen another brand within a mile of the compound. That uncomfortable realization, coupled with the fact that none of their ranchmen, mustangs, or cattle were in sight, fueled her apprehension.

Something was very wrong.

The men whistled the Thoroughbreds on, and finally, over the tops of the sagebrush, the ranch buildings came into view. The massive stable should have been the first building they saw. It was gone, and no smaller structures that had once huddled beside it remained to block their view of the barn.

Jess felt rather than saw Jake tense beside her.

The Paiute village that had stretched along the riverbank lay dismantled and scattered, as if the wigwams had been forcibly torn apart and the branches dragged beyond the outskirts of the camp.

Taggart and Diaz exchanged troubled glances, but drove the horses the final distance into the compound.

Where the workshop, supply shed, and stable had once sat, large black smudges marred the ground. Only one of three corrals that Jake had built remained.

In silence Jake, Taggart, and Diaz guided the stallions into the sole corral, and, having a care for her ribs, Jess closed and latched the gate.

The men stepped to the ground then tied their reins over the top rail of the corral. While Taggart and Diaz began to unload and unsaddle their horses, Jake gently lifted her down.

Like the hired men, Jess untied her saddlebags and set them aside then loosened the cinch strap. Though the buildings that had stood on the east end of the compound had been destroyed, the barn to the north and the smithy and cookhouse to the immediate west of it seemed to be in good condition, though no inviting, fragrant smoke rose from the cookhouse chimney. South and west of the cookhouse, the bunkhouse lay low and long as it always had, and south of that—between her and the initial slope that led up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains that she loved—rose the pine logs that formed the two stories of the ranch house. Its wide front window, brown with dust, would benefit from cleaning, and the porch and its two steps looked weathered and in need of repair.

By all appearances, the ranch had been deserted, except that to the west, beyond the bunkhouse, the garden had been planted, and beyond it, on what had been their property, someone had built a new house.

The silence shattered with the loud metallic cock of a shotgun.

All of them spun toward the ranch house.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741097
ISBN-13: 978-1603741095

MY THOUGHTS:

Hope's Promise wasn't my favorite book. I read book one, Love's Rescue, and I think I was 'done' with the story before I could begin book two. I really couldn't put my finger on it. The stories were good enough. There was plenty of action and excitement. The detail of ranch life and descriptions of the mountains and other surroundings were great.

I think I finally realized that Jessica just rubbed me the wrong way. She was a very strong character - but, to me, I found her too strong-willed and stubborn for me to 'cozy' up to. Even though Jessica, no doubt, suffered more than most people, she seemed selfish and disrespectful to Jake, which turned me off.

Despite that, I'd still recommend Tammy's Sierra Chronicles to those who enjoy prairie/ranch-type books.

***Special thanks to Tammy and Whitaker House, through FIRST, for sending me a review copy.***

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mmmm! Blackberries!

Ok, first I have to admit that I'm not sure our berries are blackberries or black raspberries?

Either way, last year, we had recently moved to this house and by the time I knew there were berry bushes, the birds had picked the bushes clean.

I was determined NOT to miss the picking window this year!

My kids had such fun picking the tiny little blackberries. They did a really great job, too! They knew to watch for the thorns and my 2-year old was the best at knowing only to pick the blackest berries.


We didn't get many - about a cupful.


I decided to make a little blackberry sauce to go over some vanilla ice cream! Perfect summer dessert!

In a saucepan, place cleaned berries. For every cup of berries, sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir to combine.


Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Lower heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until berries have softened and sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.


Strain seeds if desired. Serve warm or cold, over ice cream or cake or whatever you imagine!


YUMMY!

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