Friday, October 29, 2010

Uncle George's Birthday Soup

My husband's cousin, Jan, is a great cook. I always look forward to what she is going to bring to a family gathering. Her mom, Gladys, and dad, George, are no longer with us, but they always opened their home at Thanksgiving. It was so much fun as we'd have people even in the bedrooms! (Lots, and lots of people.)

One year Aunt Lola got out the family films and we watched Grandpa Small and his gang butcher hogs! (Ewww.) I was pregnant with our first child, Jordan, so the next week when I went to my doctor's appointment, he asked me about my Thanksgiving. I think he said an extra prayer for me ("what kind of family has that girl gotten into??") LOL.

Here's Jan's dad's requested soup for his birthday. It's really yummo.

1 package of California Vegetable Soup Mix
2 cubes of chicken bouillon
4 C. water

Cook until vegetables are tender.

Add 2 pounds of Velveeta Cheese.

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of celery soup
1 package of hash browns with onions (cook until browned and tender and add to soup)

Warm until Velveeta is melted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blog Check Up!

Sometimes blogs get into a blog-rut. I'm looking to post more regularly, but I need some direction. Why do you come to this blog? To the right you will see a poll. I would love some suggestions. Would you like to see more book reviews? More writing-related posts? Interviews with authors? More recipes? Recipe book reviews? (ha, I DO have a lot of recipe books, but maybe you just want links to recipes to try?) Maybe you'd like a chance to see a critique?

Whatever it is, I want to know.

Maybe the time for this blog is over and it's time to retire?

Take the poll to the right and help me out. And be sure to leave a comment if you have a suggestion or email me at crystalATcrystallainemillerDOTcom with your thoughts.

Will await my friends' thoughts!

Crystal hard at work

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Italian Vegetable Soup

This soup is super yummy on a cold day. You'll find yourself eating more than one bowl!

Italian Vegetable Soup
1 lb. Italian sausage  (my husband is picky and so you can use hamburger sauteed with garlic)
1 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 C. beef broth
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. dry red wine (or you can add another 1/2 c. water if you prefer)
2 c. chopped tomatoes
1 c. thinly sliced carrots
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
3 TBS. chopped fresh parsley

Fry sausage; drain. Combine other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer 15 minutes or more. Or cook in your crockpot on low for several hours.

Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Eat with garlic bread and a fresh salad!

I Need Some Help!

I've been going through a time where I am restyling my life---writing and personhood. While I focus on my writing and on my spiritual journey, I also am trying to be comfortable in my choices of my environment and even the clothes that I wear. (Yes, though I live in a house full of guys, I'm still a female.)

If you are interested in giving some opinions on color analysis, please drop by my personal blog. If you are signed up to follow that blog and leave a comment (with your contact email,) I'll enter you to win Lora Alexander's book, Color Revival. If you are in the public domain (writer, speaker,) you may be interested in getting your own analysis from Lora Alexander over at Pretty Your World. The links are on my Crystal Laine Miller blog.

Today is Part 1 of my Color Analysis. Should be fun, if nothing else!

Go to Crystal Laine Miller.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Recipe:Imy's Honey Cookies

Imogene Small Miller, "Notch" Baby
My mother-in-law, Imy, is one of the best people on earth. She's been very good to me in the nearly 30 years I've been married to her son (who was born when she was 40!) She's 93 and while some things have slowed her down, she is still a great cook. She talks about how when she was 4-years-old and one of her 8 siblings was born (she's the oldest,) her dad got out a box for her stand on and taught her to make breakfast. She's been cooking with the gas ever since! (Figuratively speaking.) For years she was the head cook at a school, too.

She has so many recipes, but my family adores these cookies. They never fail to be eaten in sometimes a matter of hours. They are an oft-requested recipe and I'm going to share it now with you. You'll want to add these to your Christmas cookies and they'll be a hit. My aunt says her granddaughter doesn't eat much, but she'll eat these cookies!

Imy's Honey Cookies

Bake at 350 degrees
12-15 minutes
Makes several dozen
1 inch balls

½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup honey
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 ½ cups sifted flour
4 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar, blend in honey. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients; add. Chill several hours in fridge before baking. Scoop by tablespoon (or teaspoon--you decide)roll into a ball. Roll cookies in sugar before baking.

~Crystal Laine Miller

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking of Speaking

Crystal Laine Miller at her first speaking engagement (Imitating Bub Pope.)
You're a writer. If you haven't been asked to speak yet,eventually you will. If you haven't been published yet,now is the time to consider how you will handle public events and publicity surrounding your book.

At the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis this year I met author Jim Rubart in person for the first time.We'd had some correspondence on email due to ACFW business. If you haven't checked out his site for promotion and speaking, then you simply must. His fiction book, Rooms, has garnered all sorts of honors and awards, appeared on bestseller lists, but he's also a speaker, marketing consultant and has a company called Barefoot Marketing. Also check out his list of topics on his web site--topics on which he'll speak. He's done some workshops with our own Tiffany Colter and with agent Chip MacGregor that you may wish to look into taking.

*Think about this for yourself: on what topics would you be willing to speak?

Now here's what's funny about meeting Jim. Somehow he was under the impression from my emails that I am an extrovert. A-living-out-loud kind of person. Someone like Colleen Coble. But I am an introvert. This doesn't mean I'm shy, but it does mean I need more preparation and I need recovery time after a speaking engagement.  I'm more likely to not say anything until I've thought it through. I may be somewhat on the line between extrovert and introvert as this was not true when I was teaching in school every day. I could sometimes teach off the top of my head because I was passionate about and knew my topics.If you are an introvert, then this is from where you can draw your topics--the ones you are passionate about and know well.

Here are some practical things from my speaking experiences:

1. Have water nearby. (Preferably with some lemon in it.) Don't drink
caffeine drinks prior. (For two reasons!*Ask me by email.)

2. Have your handouts stacked according to presentation and marked in your
outline (if you use one) when to distribute. It's best to enlist someone to
disperse these as you continue to speak, so if you do that, make sure you give
some time to get these to your audience because this will distract, anyway, from
what you are saying. Also, if you can, disperse prior to the speaking and
then indicate about when they will need this, if at all.

3. Prior to speaking, make sure people can hear you. If you have a
microphone, it would be good to do a test. Don't walk in front of the amp/speakers with the microphone, if you have one/them, because some systems squawk when you do that. Ouch!

4. Don't grip the podium if you have one. (ha) Relax. These are just people you are talking to about things you are passionate about, right?

5. Try to make eye contact with those in the audience. Don't just look in one spot. Try not to take it personally if someone is not looking at you. There are such people who are auditory learners and won't necessarily be looking at you, but will be paying attention.Kinesthetic learners may be fiddling with things, too.There might be someone who is asleep (I had this happen to me when I spoke to high school students.) Think positively and don't take credit for that person taking a nap....

6. Occasionally ask questions where the audience has to participate--like
"how many of you," "raise your hands," that sort of thing, because it engages
your audience.
But don't use it so often that it loses it effectiveness or
gets to be distracting (like, they are counting how many times you say it. )Also, watch repeated phrases like "as such" or "you know what I mean?" or any other phrase that gets distracting--unless it has a point,of course.If all of a sudden a bunch in the back row jumps up and yells "Yes! Score!" then they're probably either listening to a game on their iPhone or you just broke your own personal record for saying, "As such."

7.No matter how serious the topic, start off with a little humor (if
to set yourself and others at ease. Then, set the tone with some sort of anecdote.Choose carefully.If you are afraid it will be offensive, do reconsider.

8. Make your own notes about how a favorite speaker presents himself. You
can always learn from a speaker who holds YOU in the palm of his hand. I was struck during the elections here in the U.S. by the various candidates and how they spoke. I think the way two in particular presented their material certainly swayed their audiences, even if you don't agree with the message.

9. Always, always take into account your audience, their point of view and
what your purpose is.
Just like in writing!

10. Don't look down too much because your voice goes wherever you are
If you are constantly looking down as you speak, your voice goes down into your notes, not out to the audience. If you have a microphone, make sure you speak into it, but try not to "breathe" into it. If you have to cough, take your mouth away from the mike.

11. Wear something comfortable (if it cuts off your air, you will be sorry! ha)but also choose a color that enhances your appearance and personal coloring.People get focused on your appearance and can be distracted by the weirdest things, like your hair sticking up or that you're wearing orange. Color also influences what the audience will think of you and your message. I have written articles about this. Colors convey a message, too. If you have a friend there, have that friend make sure that you don't have underwear static-clinging to your skirt or that your slip is dangling around your ankles. (Men, you know what to check....)

I am by NO means an expert and I certainly could use more experience and tips on speaking. I like how fiction authors are offering topics to speak on to groups who ask them to speak. I think you will sell more books if you offer the audience more than just your fiction. Doc Hensley told us that you need to establish your expertise in order to garner attention to your work. (That probably gets into "branding.")

Also, I think it's nice to give "gifts" to your audience--plenty of bookmarks, or similar type things. Some speakers pass baskets of chocolate or candy.It's always nice to have a "door prize,"too. (Your book, for example.)

What kinds of advice do you have for us when it comes to speaking? What has worked for you?

Here's a story you can use if you want for that ice-breaking humor :  
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his laptop.

The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. 

Why? Because even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

~Crystal Laine Miller

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn

Under a Maui MoonUnder a Maui Moon by Robin Gunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Empty-nesters Carissa and Richard should be coming into a wonderful place in their marriage, but counselor Richard's explosive clientele threaten Carissa. When she loses her longtime job on top of tensions with Richard and his devotion to his job, her retiring boss offers use of his house in Maui and she jumps at the chance to go--alone.

Gunn weaves a tale of marriage on the rocks and distancing from God in the Hawaiian paradise with endearing characters. Each chapter begins with a verse written in Native Hawaiian and in English, which adds much to to the setting. Reading this story, I was overcome with hope and could almost feel the breezes and smell the pineapple. I love how Gunn tucked in the history while developing well-written dialogue and characters. It is a story that kept me guessing as to how it would resolve and one I recommend.

Published review in Church Libraries Journal, Fall 2010, by Crystal Laine Miller.

Reprinted with permission.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

The Silent GovernessThe Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Olivia Keene flees her parents' home with scant money, a letter of introduction, and fear of her future after bashing her father over the head when she finds him choking her mother to death. In 1815 England few opportunities await the school teacher. After a series of dangerous events ending at Brightwell Court, which leaves Olivia temporarily speechless, she accidently overhears a conversation between Lord Edward Stanton Bradley and his father, the Earl. When the Lord realizes she could ruin him, he hires her as first an under nurse to the children in his care, and then as a governess. Her mysterious past and his cloaked future as they become drawn to each other threaten to unravel them both.

Full of tension and twists, this romance has plenty of mystery. It became one of my favorite historical romances this year. I highly recommend it if you love this genre.

REPRINTED with permission from Church Libraries, Summer 2010

Reviewed by Crystal Laine Miller

View all my reviews

Monday, October 04, 2010

A Door County Christmas on When I Was Just a Kid Blog!

Chance for this book if you comment on When I Was Just a Kid blog!

Today Becky Melby’s interview went up  on When I Was Just a Kid blog, and only ONE person commented who is eligible for the book, A Door County Christmas (so far! )

You still have time to leave comments on all four interviews this week—start with Becky’s and move on to Rachael Phillips’ on Tuesday, then Eileen Key’s on Wednesday and finally Cynthia Ruchti’s on Thursday.

Also, Cynthia reminded me that you can interact with the characters from A Door County Christmas on their web site— . Complete with photos!

Come by and share your Christmas memories or just enjoy the authors’ –and then comment for a chance to win their book. It’s perfect for a gift or to read for a treat for yourself. The Clearing where the authors stayed is so beautiful! Maybe you’d like to visit Door County, Wisconsin, too. If the winner comments on all four blog interviews, I’ll also send that person who wins, a bonus Christmas treat!
The Clearing, Where Authors of A Door County Christmas Stayed

If you don't want to read the book, you could give it as a gift! So, it's a win-win situation. (And it's a really good book. I loved it.)

Crystal Laine Miller
What Was It Like When You Were Just a Kid?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rooms by James L. Rubart

By James L. Rubart
B and H, ISBN 978-0-8054-4888-7, PB, 400 pages, $14.99.

Software genius tycoon Micah Taylor gets a 25-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew, along with a house built for him in the last six months along the Oregon coast. Despite Micah's trauma as a nine-year-old, which occurred on the beach where the house is, he leaves his Seattle business more and more to spend time there. He meets Sarah and Rick there, who both become close friends and who have deep faith, which Micah left behind in college and still resists. The house becomes a healing place for the deep wounds in his soul, and his uncle seems to have built this house based on the places within his soul.

Many people compare this book to The Shack, but it is well-written and  biblically-based sound. Recommend it to men, as well as women and teens. Unique and riveting.

Reviewed by Crystal Laine Miller
Reprinted from Church Libraries, Summer 2010. Used with permission.

I write reviews for Church Libraries Journal, a magazine for church librarians, members of the Evangelical Church Library Association. I'm given 150 words to sum up what I know about the book and what I think about the book. I might add that this book had me thinking a long time after I closed the book and typed my review to be sent off. I certainly will read the next books that James Rubart writes. His speculative genre is long a favorite of mine, as well as his craft being superb. Don't miss this book.

About the book and the author:

About Rooms:
On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out.

Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way.

But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny

Available in all major bookstores and online. (Check out Jim's books here, more to come.)

About Jim in Jim's Words:

I love God, my wife, my boys, writing, speaking, playing guitar, and golf, in that order. And I dabble in photography.

(Check out his photography on his web sites and blog.)

Jim writes a blog, too! 
Check it out!