Sneak peek, first chapter of Merry Manager, River’s End Ranch

Happy Friday! I was late getting this to Kirsten to add to the back of Baker’s Bob, so am sharing the first chapter of Wade’s story, Merry Manager, here if you’d like to check it out. This will release on Monday, April 24. Hope you enjoy!  

Chapter 1

“You’re more tense than usual. Rough day?” Maddie Johnson asked as she worked to loosen up one of the many knots in Wade Weston’s neck, back, and shoulders.

Wade sighed. “No worse than usual. It has been crazy lately. Lots going on with all the Christmas events and holiday parties.”

“It’s so special here at Christmas, though. Seems like it gets bigger every year,” Maddie said.

“It does. We’re fully booked through New Year’s Day but the phones are still ringing off the hook with people wanting to make a reservation. And just before I came here, I got a call from our Old West town Santa that he’s not sure if he’ll make it in tomorrow. Says he feels like he’s coming down with something. Which means you might see me in a Santa suit.”

Maddie laughed as she rubbed more lotion onto her palms and then worked it into his shoulders. The warmth of her hands felt wonderful and he slowly felt some of his tension dissipate. He always walked out of a session with Maddie feeling refreshed and calm. Maddie managed the spa and was the best masseuse they had on staff at River’s End Ranch. She was also a very good friend. He’d known Maddie, and her eight-year-old daughter Vivian for years. 

“But enough of my whining. How are you doing? How’s Vivian?”

“She’s great.” Maddie’s voice softened when she spoke about her daughter and even though Wade couldn’t see it, he could tell by her tone that there was a smile on her face. “She announced this morning over breakfast that she and Sadie’s daughter, Violet, are officially best friends.”

“Everyone needs a best friend.”

“That’s true.”

Wade thought he detected a hint of sadness in her reply. “How’s your day going so far?” he asked gently.

Maddie sighed. “It’s fine. I’m still always a little sad on this date. It’s the five year anniversary of when Tim died. He was my best friend.”

“I’m sorry. I know it must be hard. I still miss him, too. Wade had been Tim’s best man when he and Maddie got married. 

“I’m actually doing much better. It’s just when these dates roll around—birthdays, anniversaries, holidays—there’s always a little emptiness.”

Maddie finished his back and shoulders and turned her attention to his feet. Something about the way she pushed and pulled and kneaded his feet seemed to relax him more than anything else. He always came close to drifting off to sleep by the time she finished massaging his feet.

“Okay, you’re all set, Wade. I hope that helped,” Maddie said softly as she draped the crisp cotton sheet over his feet, signaling that their time together had come to an end.

“That hour always goes by too fast,” Wade lamented.

“I think that’s a compliment,” Maddie said with a laugh. “Although you did cancel our last two sessions. I was starting to worry a bit.”

“I’m sorry. I hated to cancel. It’s just been so insane lately. It’s not always easy to get away.”

Maddie nodded. “I know. But that’s all the more reason why it’s so important. It’s a really good stress reliever. Seems like it does you good.”

Wade smiled. “Oh, it definitely does. I always look forward to coming in.” A little too much, if he was being honest with himself. Maddie gave a great massage, but he looked forward to seeing and talking to her as much as the massage itself. He’d been sorry to cancel the last few times and found himself missing their sessions.

He had to keep reminding himself that Maddie was off-limits, though, for multiple reasons. He wasn’t convinced that she was ready to be with anyone else. Even though Tim was gone, it still felt sort of wrong, since they’d been such close friends. And, of course, Wade was also her boss, which turned a tempting idea into a really bad one.

“Let’s book your next three appointments now, so you won’t have to think about it. It will just be on your calendar,” Maddie suggested.

“Sounds good, set me up.”

While Wade was at the spa on his lunch break, his right hand assistant, Bernie, who was extremely efficient and capable, had put half a dozen sticky notes on his computer—all needing his urgent attention. She smiled when he walked in. “It’s been wild. Check your computer and let me know if you have any questions.”

Lily, the resort’s event planner, shared the office with Bernie, and waved as he walked into his connecting office and sat down to get to work. He’d felt so relaxed when he left the spa, but now as he scrolled through his email and reviewed the sticky notes, he felt a tightness spread across his back and chest. There were so many urgent issues that he wasn’t sure what to tackle first.

As general manager of the ranch, he oversaw all areas of the business. His five siblings all helped in their different areas of interest, but he was involved in everything and though he loved it, the workload lately was often overwhelming. Today’s issues were all urgent.

The zoning commission had questions about a permit they needed to begin construction for the kids’ corral. There was a leak in the kitchen ceiling that was getting worse and needed immediate attention. The fish that was supposed to be delivered the next day for a holiday party wasn’t available due to some issues with the supplier.

It was one thing after another and then the last one had him shaking his head, wondering what else could possible go wrong. The sick Santa he’d talked to earlier had already called and left a message that he wasn’t going to make it in for the rest of the week as he was certain he had strep throat, even though he hadn’t yet seen a doctor.

Wade took a deep breath and pressed his hands against his temples to calm a sudden, pounding headache.  His phone rang and he saw it was his mother. He debated answering it as there was no such thing as a five-minute call with his mother. But what if something was wrong?

His parents were traveling the country in an RV and even though they were hundreds of miles away, they still managed to somehow know everything that was going on at the ranch and just about every time they called, it was with a new project. Wade didn’t have an ounce of energy left for anything new. But he didn’t want to put the conversation off either. Easier to deal with it and move on.

“Hi, Mom. How’s it going?”

“Hi honey! I’m so sorry that we won’t be with you all for Christmas this year, but the Blizzard couldn’t have picked a better place to need some repairs. The Florida sunshine is just lovely.”

The running family joke was that his parents couldn’t get home because they were stuck in a blizzard—which was the name of their RV. It had been almost a year since they’d started their cross-country adventure. They were having a ball traveling all over the country but they were also newly retired and having a little bit of a hard time letting go. His mother’s recent projects that had needed his immediate attention included the new barn building for big catering parties and special events and the kids’ corral, for onsite daycare.

“I have a new project I think you’re going to be really excited about….” His mother rambled on about her newest great idea while Wade stared at his stack of sticky notes and mentally prioritized what needed his attention first. When he hung up the phone, he worked his way through the list and once everything was taken care of, except finding a new replacement Santa, he stood up to get a cup of coffee and walked into the office that Bernie and Lily shared. Lily was on the phone and Bernie looked at him with concern as he leaned against the doorway and put one hand to his head. The headache was back and worse than before, and the tightness in his chest was so strong, it was hard to get a breath.

“Wade, are you all right?”

“I think so. I’ve just been having the strangest tightness across my chest. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

He felt himself try to smile as everything went black and he could faintly hear Bernie’s panicked voice as his legs buckled.

“Lily, call 911. Wade looks like he’s having a heart attack…” 

~~~

If you’d like an email alert when Wade releases, please click here.

To see all the books in the series, click here.

Gluten-Free Sausage Stuffing recipe

gluten free stuffing

I hope you all gluten free stuffinghad a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. I spent it with my sister and twin nieces and it was a relaxing, fattening day. One of the dishes I made was my grandmother’s sausage stuffing–but since both my sister and I are eating gluten and dairy-free these days, I had to modify it a bit. People seemed to like it and she asked me for the recipe, which years ago my grandmother wrote down–the regular version. I adapted it to make it gluten and dairy-free, and since my sister asked for the recipe, I thought I’d type it up and share it here as well because it really is good, and it’s hard to find good gluten-dairy free recipes. You can easily make it the regular way by substituting your favorite bread.

This pic is this year’s Christmas tree…I went smaller and easier, and am loving it. I actually put this up before Thanksgiving. 🙂

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

Gluten and Dairy-Free Sausage Stuffing

I loaf Udi’s white bread, crusts mostly trimmed off. ( I left on about a third)

I loaf Three Bakers, Ancient Grains bread, also mostly trimmed. (You could do all Udi’s if you prefer white)

2 eggs, beaten

1 pound roll Jimmy Dean bulk sausage

1 large onion, minced

4 large stalks of celery, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 box Bell’s seasoning

Heat oven to 375

In large skillet, over medium heat, saute onion and celery in oil until soft. Add sausage and brown well. While that is cooking, toast half the bread, and chop it all into small pieces.  In large bowl, add bread and toss with the bell’s seasoning. Pour the browned sausage, onion and celery over the bread along with any oil/fat. Mix well. Add the two eggs and stir until thoroughly mixed. Press stuffing into a 9 x 12 or similar sized casserole dish, cover loosely with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes until top of stuffing is lightly browned.  enjoy!

 

New Release! Veterinarian’s Vacation, River’s End Ranch Series

Back in May, I went to a writer’s conference in Chicago and met up with several good friends. One of them, Kirsten Osbourne, casually said one night at dinner, “Would you ladies be interestveterinariansvacation-1ed in writing a series together?  I was thinking a ranch somewhere out west, six siblings, meddling parents…..that kind of thing.”        It took Cindy Caldwell and I about two seconds to say “Of course!”

The three of us had organized a much larger project last year at this time, as we all write historicals. That was the American Mail-Order Brides series and had 45 authors and 50 books, one for each state. If you want to check those out, you can see them all in order here.

For this project, we wanted to go smaller and release multiple books each. We invited Caroline Lee and Amelia Adams to join us and the first book in the series, Kirsten’s Short-Order Sheriff released October 10. My book, Veterinarians Vacation, came next, followed by Amelia’s Accidental Agent, Caroline’s Whitewater Wooing and finally, on Monday, Cindy’s Honest Horseman. The books are standalone romances, but characters do make appearances from book to book and it’s a fun, family focused world at a gorgeous resort in Idaho. My next one will be out December 5, Charming Chef.

Veterinarian’s Vacation is a second chance romance, featuring two veterinarians–Jake and Jess, who is a cousin of the six Weston siblings and grew up on the ranch with them. This was a very fun book to write, and these are sweet romances.

Find out more here–Veterinarian’s Vacation

 

Diet Update and Coming Soon–Winter in Ireland

winterI haven’t posted much this past month on my diet progress. You can probably guess why. I’m a bit stalled, stuck at 143, though I did flirt with 142 for a day or two. I went on vacation in May, to Chicago for a writer’s conference and mini-vacation and had a wonderful time. But the calorie counting stopped and there was more wine than usual. The good news is that I didn’t gain. I’m getting ready to head out on my big vacation of the year next week, am off to London with my sister and twin nieces, who are about to graduate from high school. They’ve all been before, but it’s my first time and am really looking forward to it. There will be a high tea, or two. Gluten-free of course! Back on track after that. I’m half-way to my goal. 🙂

In Book News, I have several  new books coming soon. First up is Winter in Ireland, which is book 5 in my contemporary western series. You can read more about that here, and sign up for an email alert when it releases if you like. Click here.

Nashville Dreams

After that is Nashville Dreams. My soapy saga that I like to think of as “True love torn apart by amnesia and an evil billionaire with political ambitions.” Click here to read more.

After that, is another historical romance, a new contemporary western series with several of my favorite authors that should be really fun, and a new mystery/suspense novel that I am so excited to start on. This was inspired by a real life news story that happened about a year ago and when I first heard about it I thought, “what a cool idea for a book…” My favorite suspense authors include Harlan Coben, Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter. I don’t think mine will be too dark….but you never know. 🙂

Week 6, Weigh-in. What’s working and what’s not

fresh lobsterI almost titled this post, “The Wine Problem”. Because it was an issue for me this week. I should have been down several pounds. I flirted with 143 again, briefly, before three days of wine got in the way. I know this. I know that having wine more than once or twice a week, stalls weight loss. Yet, I went out three nights in a row this week and had wine each time. The wine itself isn’t bad as I can sort of plan for it. But, it has a tendency to lead to fuzzy food portion judgement. It’s easy to control meals when I make them. When I’m out somewhere and someone keeps topping off my glass of prosecco, it’s hard to track how many calories I’ve had. It’s even harder to say no to the most delicious, super moist chocolate birthday cake when someone sets a plate in front of me.

But, I tried. I had two bites, then passed to plate to a friend to finish it off. I didn’t end the week at 143 or lower like I’d hoped. But, it could have been worse. I was down a pound, so 144. I have to limit going out, or at least having wine or my weight is going to see-saw, down a few pounds during the week, back on over the weekend. I don’t want that to happen. However…..this coming week, I am giving myself a little bit of a pass. My goal is to not gain weight. I’m going on a mini-vacation, to Chicago with three of my favorite writer friends and I can’t behave the whole time. Chicago is known as a foodie town, and I am me. Just being realistic.  I know that some wine will be happening. 🙂

So, enough of my bad behavior. What is working on this diet? Here’s the plan I’ve been following and it is working as long as I don’t deviate too much. I use the Myfitnesspal app to track what I eat and the nutrition. This helps me to make better choices. I’m mostly having fresh fruit for breakfast, either cantaloupe or honey dew melons. Both are high in potassium, and vitamins A and C.  Trying to have one starch a day, either potato of some kind or rice. Lots of lean protein like chicken and fish. I’m also trying to mix it up so I have different proteins, like chicken one day, seafood the next. Lots of salad and fresh veggies, and good fats like avocado and nuts (but not too many as I don’t need to deal with The Walnut Problem again. Wine twice a week and 30 minutes of cardio at least 5x a week. Trying to drink more water and less coffee. I am bad about that.

Today, had cantaloupe, a small serving of Vietnamese shaking beef and rice and am heading to a clambake soon where I will be having lobster, and yes, wine. 🙂

If you are dieting, how is it going? Any good tips you’d like to share?

Since I may have tortured some of you with that picture of fresh lobster meat, here’s my favorite recipe for what I like to do with it.

Lazy Lobster Casserole

One pound of fresh lobster

One stick of butter

One sleeve of Ritz crackers (or Townhouse)

drizzle of sherry…optional

sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Melt half the butter and crush the crackers to crumbs. Mix the melted butter and crumbs together, then stir in the lobster. Put in a casserole dish, top with chunks of the rest of the butter and drizzle of sherry if you are using it (maybe a tablespoon or so).  Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes just until lightly browned. Serve with chopped fresh parsley. This is how lazy-man lobster is made in many Cape Cod restaurants that I’ve worked in. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Losing 20 pounds, My new favorite ‘fast food’ lunch

This is now one of mAmy's Organic Split Pea Soupy new favorite lunches. My sister had told me that the Amy’s soups were good, but I was skeptical. How good could they really be? I’ve never been that impressed with any canned soups. But I happened to see that Amy’s Organic soups were on sale, so I grabbed a can to try it out. I love split pea soup, and am kind of picky about it, so my expectations were low. Plus, this is a vegetarian version, no ham, but I was surprised by how good it was. I tend to be hungriest at lunch time, so just the soup wouldn’t be enough to fill me.

But I had some leftover grilled salmon that I added and that was delicious. Another time, it was rotisserie chicken. So, a filling lunch, high in fiber, and protein and low in fat for under 400 calories. This particular one is also low in sodium, which is often an issue with canned soups. It’s a good option when you want something fast and have some leftovers to use up. I’ve also had it without extra protein add-ins on days when I know I’m going out to dinner and want to save those extra calories.

Diet is still going well. I’m hoping to be down at least a pound again tomorrow. Clothes are starting to feel looser. Have been walking for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week and want to add in weights next week. Will weigh-in and report results tomorrow. 🙂

 

 

Week 5 weigh-in, The Walnut Problem

I wasn’t terribly surprised by this week’s weigh-in. I got off to a great start and was doing so well that I broke my rule to weigh myself once a week and hopped on the scale the next day. I was down another pound!  and was all excited for a big drop this week, like maybe to 141.

But then walnuts happened. My biggest diet issue has always been portion control. I want more of the things I like. And I really like walnuts. They are supposed to be a great diet help, full of good things like Omega 3’s and a good source of fat that helps you feel full and keeps you from snacking. Unless you snack on more walnuts.

The problem began with a bad estimation on size. And truthfully, there was a niggle of doubt in my mind all along that I was fooling myself. A tablespoon of walnuts has about 50 calories. There are four tablespoons in a quarter cup and that’s 200 calories. The walnut problem is that my eyeballed tablespoon maybe been closer to a quarter cup. Walnuts are big and so is my appetite.

But, if I have four tablespoons of walnuts in a day, no big deal. I can track in those 200 calories. The problem is when I might be counting quarter cups as tablespoons, so my tracking could be off by 600-700 calories a day and that will stall or even sabotage weight loss.

I started this week aThe-Wedding-Photo-Kindlet 144, dropped to 143 and weighed in this morning at 145. So, I am officially up a pound this week. And kind of feel like I lost two weeks because now it will take me another week to get back to 144. Sigh. I also didn’t exercise much this week.So, back on track now. Exercising and limiting the walnut consumption.

Oh and I released a new book! So, that is a bright spot in the week. People seem to be really liking it so far! It’s a novella, and is just $1.99 on Amazon. It’s a friends to lovers sweet romance set in San Francisco and Big Sky, MT.

Click here to read more on Amazon. 

 

 

Day 32, lose 20 pounds. One month results and best soup ever.

Spring MinestroneThe good news, after one month, my GERD symptoms are much better and I lost 9 pounds. I am averaging about 1.5-2 pounds a week and am counting calories by using the MyFitnessPal app. One thing I really like about the app is that it also keeps a running tab on where you are with your daily nutrition, so I can see if I’m low on protein or too high on sugar.

I’m finding that by adjusting what I eat during the day to try and come close to the recommendations for protein, fat, carbs, etc, that I’m feeling good and have lots of energy!

I’m also eating more fruit than I used to, which is doing nice things for my skin and hair because of all the Vitamin A and C. Cantaloupe is my favorite breakfast. Today I had mango. Also eating a lot of eggs, leafy salads, lean chicken, and seafood. I’ve cut back on starchy stuff, except for sweet potatoes, which are my new favorite thing and I’ve developed a fondness for rice as it has a calming effect on a cranky stomach.

One of my favorite new recipes that I tried this month was a Plated recipe, the meal delivery service that sends all the ingredients to make different meals. I will make this one again. It’s a wonderful vegetable soup, a Spring Minestrone. It’s full of goodness, with a vegetable stock base and a secret ingredient stirred in at the end that gives a burst of flavor–pesto!  Also, they suggest serving with parmesan crisps on the side. I skipped that because of the cheese, but made for my neighbor, Judy, and she gave a big thumbs up. She crumbled them into her soup like a crouton.

Spring Minestrone, adapted  from Plated.

parmesan crisps

8 oz leeks

6 oz escarole

6 oz asparagus

1/8 oz fresh chives

1 can white beans

1 cup slice onion or pearl onions

16 oz vegetable stock

1 cup peas

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

2 tablespoons pesto

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups water

salt/pepper

parchment paper

Heat oven to 375.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add oil. When it shimmers add onions, sliced leeks and cut asparagus (I cut into one inch pieces). Season w/salt and pepper, and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add beans, stir and cook another minute or two.

While soup is cooking, put sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Drop the parmesan in four piles and spread evenly. Pop in the oven and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until browned. Take out and remove from paper with a spatula and set aside to cool.

Add stock, water, and escarole. Increase heat to high and bring to boil then reduce to medium and simmer for about 6 minutes. Add peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in pesto and serve with parmesan crisps.

Hope your week gets off to a great start!

`Pam

Day 22, Losing 20 pounds, 3rd Weigh-in and Chocolate Raspberry ‘ice-cream’

Chocolate Raspberry 'ice-cream'Happy Friday! I haven’t blogged for a few days because I haven’t had anything interesting to share. But I did experiment last night with my favorite ice cream recipe. It’s dairy-free as it’s just made from bananas, plus whatever flavors you want to add.  It’s hard to imagine if you haven’t had this, how good it is and how crazy similar the texture and mouthfeel is to regular ice-cream. I love it.  Especially this new flavor….chocolate raspberry.

It’s super easy to make. Slice three bananas into quarter inch thick slices, lay flat in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze for a few hours. Then toss into your food processor with a half teaspoon of vanilla, two heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of raspberry jam. That’s it. Process and watch it turn into a bunch of crumbly bits and then eventually form a creamy mass. I usually have to stop a few times and push it down off the sides. When it’s nice and creamy…..it’s done, and it’s so good. Makes 3 servings, each just over 100 calories or so.

Oh, and today was my Friday weigh-in. I lost 1.5 more pounds, so am down to 145.5. I tend to get stuck around this weight, so I am happy with that loss and hoping it continues down next week. I’ve been walking at least 30 minutes on the treadmill every day and went out to dinner twice this week with friends and had wine both times. But, I’ve been tracking everything, so I ate lightly for breakfast and lunch both days to save the calories for dinner.

Hope you have a great weekend!

~Pam

 

Day 18, Losing 20 pounds, Honey Mustard Chicken

Happy Patriot’s Day….for those who celebrate, which is mostly Massachusetts, Maine and Wisconsin. It’s also when the Boston Marathon is held. So, it was a nice day off for me and the first warm, sunny day we have had in weeks. I spent it relaxing and driving around town in search of the perfect tiny table for a friend’s beach cottage, patriots daydropping her son off at golf lessons and hitting a sale at Old Navy. You can never have too many white t-shirts. 🙂

We had dinner at Chili’s with the kids, and I splurged a little on a glass of chardonnay and had some chips and salsa and guacamole. Dinner was a salad with grilled chicken and ranch dressing. So good.

But lunch is what I really want to tell you about. Honey mustard chicken that was phenomenal….like crazy good and you need to make it ASAP. The key is letting it marinade for an hour, then cooking covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10 to let it brown. It makes the most moist and flavorful chicken with a juicy sauce. This is going to be a staple and it’s ridiculously easy.

I mixed one tablespoon of honey, with two tablespoons of dijon mustard, then dredged two 4 ounce boneless chicken breasts in it, covering both sides completely, then placed on a sheet of tin foil, poured the rest of the mustard mix over the top and then drew the sides and top over the chicken and pinched it shut. I let it sit in the fridge for an hour, then threw it in the oven, still closed up, for about 20 minutes on 375, then opened the foil completely and let it cook another 10 minutes. You have to try it to understand. It’s that good and virtually fat-free. 🙂

Today was a vacation day, so there was no walking and no squats.