Archive by Author | Susan Mires

Malicious Mischief – Katy Railroad Mystery Book Review

Malicious Mischief is truly a delightful book. Set in Missouri on the Katy Railroad, it felt like taking a trip back in time. I could feel the rumble of the tracks, hear the train whistle and smell the smoke.

Author Lora Young is a member of the Kansas City West chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers. I have shared many delightful hours with Lora as we carpool to writers meetings. Since she let me read an early manuscript over a year ago, I have loved this story and am so glad she has published it. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

The heroine of Malicious Mischief is Delia Eastman, who is caught between pursuing her own dreams and defending her father.

Rivalry between the steamships and the railroads turn their sleepy Missouri River town into powder keg. Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings Delia face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.
As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. Though he is intelligent and charming, she suspects Endy knows more than he’s telling. Delia reluctantly agrees to partner with him to solve the mystery.

The railroad rivalry provided a fascinating mystery. The romance, however, was what stole my heart. Their banter and the quirky twists of the cozy mystery made this very, very fun. I truly enjoyed this historical novel filled with interesting characters, detailed mystery and superb writing.

It’s available in paperback and Kindle. Click here to purchase Malicious Mischief on Amazon.

One of greatest joys of being a writer is making friends, like Lora and the other writers here at the Pages From Stages blog, as well as our dedicated readers. The other great thing is getting to read their works. Even though our blog here will be taking a bend in rail, I am excited to see what new writing will lie ahead.

Happy reading and God bless you,
~ Susan Mires

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

This is my sister-in-law Cindy’s recipe. It’s a Thanksgiving staple for my family. Familiar green beans get a fresh, tasty makeover that is perfect for a fall day.
beans 2

Sweet and Sour Green Beans and Carrots

Perfect for fall – apples, bacon and onion.

1 quart fresh or canned green beans
1 can sliced carrots (or fresh)
3 to 4 slices bacon
1/2 onion, sliced and diced
1 to 2 apples, cored and diced
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

If beans or carrots are fresh, cook until tender. Fry bacon, then cook onion in the bacon drippings. In stock pot, combine beans, carrots, crumbled baon and cooked onion. Add raw apple, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar. Heat until the apples are tender and mixture is cooked through. May want to add more or less sugar and vingar depending on taste.

I  hope you enjoy Cindy’s recipe!

~ Susan

How a “smoke break” can bust stress

This week we’re sharing “stress busters.”

I learned about a great way to clear my mind from the smokers at the office where I used to work. When they were frustrated with a project, they’d often roll their chair away from the desk and announce, “I’m taking a smoke break.”

One day, the injustice got to me and I muttered, “Why should smokers get a break when I don’t?” I realized there was no reason why I couldn’t take a break, too. So I went outside and instead of breathing in smoke, I got some fresh air into my lungs and walked around the block. I timed it and discovered that it took me less time to walk around the block than for a smoker to finish a cigarette, so I didn’t feel guilty.

I also discovered that a brief time away from my desk – moving my arms and legs, getting fresh air and seeing the scenery – helped me focus once I got back to my computer to write. Each work day, I usually take one or two “smoke breaks.” A young woman in our office actually worked here six months before she realized I am not and never have been a smoker.

Although these little treks around the neighborhood probably need a new name, this is a good habit I’m going to keep.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72~ Susan

Missouri author jelly jars

I’ve gotten started on a rather unusual collection.

jelly

These are jars of jelly purchased during visits to the homes of Missouri writers. On the left is plum jelly from the Laura Ingalls Wilder gift shop in Mansfield, Mo. That’s a nod to her book On the Banks of Plum Creek.

On the right is a jar of huckleberry preserves from Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, Mo. This is in honor of Twain’s unforgettable Huckleberry Finn character. The preserves are absolutely delicious.

My mom loved to make jelly from the wild elderberries, plums and grapes that grew on our farm in Nodaway County. As I look at this collection, I dream just a bit to wonder if someday I’ll be a writer with my own line of jelly.

SusieMires

~ Susie

Book Review: The Insanity of God

Nik Ripken isn’t his real name. The missionary wrote this book under a pseudonym to protect his identity and that of believers around the world who face death and torture by naming the name of Christ.

After reading The Insanity of God my view of the world and of what it means to follow the Lord has been forever altered.

Ripken and his wife served in relief efforts in Somalia in the horrific years of warfare and government overthrow. Ripken said he had learned that hell was the absence of God. And when he stepped into Somalia, where the name of Christ was not uttered and evil given full reign, he felt like he had entered hell.

The first half of the book describes the couple’s mission in Africa. The harshness and cruelty of this land and a personal tragedy raised many troubling questions for Ripken. The title of the book draws from this experience as he grapples with issues that don’t seem to make sense. He and his wife began to investigate how Christians live out their faith in difficult, seemingly impossible situations. Through the second half of the book, they travel the globe and share the stories of faithful Christians.

These accounts both inspired and shamed me. Often, I have the idea that God’s desire is to “bless” me and I get whiny when it doesn’t come through. Many other believers, though, know much better what Jesus meant when he warned that the world would hate them.

Ripken said he’d been hoping to find a program or procedure to reach Muslims and non-believers. But in the furthest, most dangerous corners of the world, he found a Person: Jesus Christ. And He is at work.

All we have to do is watch the news to see this reality as Christians in the Middle East suffer persecution and death. As their faithfulness is a model for us, may we be faithful to pray for them. And to pray for their persecutors, for the saving name of Jesus to be proclaimed to those who are held captive to sin.

On a personal level, I have come to appreciate afresh the privilege of holding a Bible in my hand and of joining with brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and also put some of my “troubles” into perspective.

I highly recommend The Insanity of God but don’t say I didn’t warn you about how it might rattle your world.
Susie-3994-EditPS 72
~ Susan

What I did this summer

Julane in the barn. Check out the windmill ceiling fan.

Julane in the barn. Check out the windmill ceiling fan.

Summer is a subjective season in adulthood. It is not determined so much by the calendar – since my work schedule is the same year round – but by a state of mind.

This year, I decided I’d take a summer. For the first time in many years, I took a whole week off work. And it wasn’t for a mission trip or a writing conference. And it was wonderful. During the week, I visited my precious Pages from Stages pals in Kansas. Sara showed us a cool barn where we talked about our lives and read from our writing and refreshed our souls. Later in the week, I celebrated my sister Tammy’s 50th birthday with her.

At the Big Daddy Weave concert.

At the Big Daddy Weave concert.

Reviving one of the best traditions from summers of my childhood, I went to Vacation Bible School, studying the Bible with kindergarten and first graders for a week. I took part in a worship service and Big Daddy Weave concert with some friends and 1,000 other believers on the lawn of St. Joseph City Hall.

Dad and I sat in lawn chairs under the shade tree and looked out over the farm. My sister Paula and I took off on a Friday night to Kansas City to pig out on barbecue. My friend Lori and I became frequent visitors to the ice cream parlor. The Fourth of July was a blast at my brother and sister-in-law’s cookout.

Here on the blog, we did a “free wheel” summer where we tossed out the schedule and just wrote about whatever we felt like. I skipped some meetings for the sole reason I didn’t want to sit under flourescent lights on a summer afternoon.

Not just one but two state fairs were on my itinerary – The Missouri State Fair with my job and the Nebraska State Fair with my sister and her family. We even rode the skyline!

My sister and I riding high over the Nebraska State Fair.

My sister and I riding high over the Nebraska State Fair.

It was a summer for big adventures and simple pleasures.

Taking time for summer has made me ready for fall and even anticipating its return.

I think I’ll take a summer every year. How about you?

~Susan

 

This cake is scrumptious and you’ll never believe the secret ingredient!

I’ll just tell you – it’s zucchini. Sorry about the headline, but it seems that’s the way to write headlines now, I see it on every video posted on Facebook.Zucchini cake

So here in late summer, I’m trying to power my way through the garden produce. I have reached my cantaloupe saturation point. I’ve quit picking cucumbers. The freezer is full to the brim of corn and tomatoes. And I’m thinking up reasons to make this cake. Lucky for me, Sunday was my friend Stefanie’s birthday.

And the reason that was lucky was not ONLY because it uses zucchini, but because it tastes absolutely delicious. I don’t know how a green vegetable can make a dessert so wonderful, but it does. This recipe is from the Nodaway County Historical Society’s “Taste of History” cookbook.

Zucchini Spice Cake

1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 heaping c. shredded zucchini
1 c. nuts (optional)

Mix oil and sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.

The original recipe was for a zucchini bread and it would work just as well if you baked it in a loaf pan. This is a great way to use up the larger squash. Leave the skin on when grating. And as the original recipe says, “Pack zucchini in measuring cup as this is what makes this a good, moist cake.” Serve with a side of cantaloupe.

Susie Pink
Thanks for reading today!

~ Susan

 

Mystery Quilt

Cleaning out a closet a few months ago unearthed a mystery. A beautiful one.

I have no idea where this quilt top came from.

I’m not one to forget handmade heirlooms, but this is a mystery I can’t solve. It is made from gorgeous Depression Era fabrics in a Dresden Plate pattern. The plates are appliqued by hand to the squares, then the squares are sewn together by machine. It is a small size, just two blocks wide and five blocks long. Did the mystery quilter plan to make it bigger but something happened?

I suspect this little quilt came to me via my Dad who would have bought it at a farm auction, likely mixed in with some worthless junk.

I’m thinking about finishing this piece with an old pink cotton sheet as the backing so this long-neglected quilt can be complete.

What do you think – should this be quilted or left as is?

~ Susan

The power of a volunteer

Gardening is good for the soul. This year, it has been both challenging and rewarding – but isn’t it every year? We’ve had a lot of rain, producing abundant crops. And weeds.

From one little seed.

From one little seed.

The thing I have learned this year is what volunteer plants can do. While mowing early this summer, I found a little plant growing in the yard near the back step. Since it seemed like a scrappy little thing – and I figured it must be watermelon – I couldn’t bring myself to mow it off, so I cut all around it and let the little plant grow.

And grow it did!

It turned out to be a cantaloupe. This is a single plant that grew from one little seed that fell in the grass last fall. At last count, there were 10 cantaloupe growing on it. I’ve already harvested one and it was delicious.

Patty pan squach

White patty pan squash. They taste great grilled or fixed in the microwave with a little butter.

Something unusual also sprouted from the compost pile. It turned out to be patty pan squash. I got some from the University Extension garden last fall. It’s a yummy little squash that is also adorable.

Never again will I doubt the value of a volunteer!
Susie Pink

Have you ever had a “volunteer” turn into something good?

~ Susan

How I learned to love August

I wrote this several a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorites.

August used to be my absolute most hated month of the whole year.

July was all popsicles, water slides and fireworks, but the moment the calendar turned over, a sense a dread settled in my stomach. A big old circle around a certain date gave full notice that my wild and carefree days were numbered. Literally.

hammock

Destination for August.

Whatever fun could have been wrung out of the fading days of summer were overshadowed by the looming deadline. We still slept late, played games and tried to be as lazy as humanly possible, but it all had a sense of desperation. It wasn’t summer any more, it was August. Hot, stifling and lifeless. In other words: school.

Even the word sounded like coughing up a hairball. August.

After I graduated from college, I turned the calendar over to August and marveled that for the first time in 18 years, there was no drop-dead date circled in red. Then I looked closer. There really wasn’t much of anything on the calendar for August.

And I made the most delightful discovery: August is awesome!

This is the month when schedules slow down and it’s too hot to do anything much beside sip iced tea and read a good book.

The grass gets overtaken by the heat so I only have to mow every other week. Cheery wildflowers bloom with abandon on the side of the road. The hillsides have taken on varying shades of green and yellow and tan, a relief to the eye after the monotonous shade of summer. Sometimes a hint of a cool breeze stirs the air.

Gifts of August.

The garden offers up an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, zucchini and more zucchini. Reruns are the only thing on TV, so you might as well as go outside with a piece of watermelon and spit the seeds over the porch railing while the cicadas drone.

Vacation is over, as is the county fair, Bible school, family reunions, hay baling and the ambitious summer to-do list. Either the projects are done or the list is discarded. This is not a time for starting projects; this is a time for taking naps in front of the fan.

The songs on the radio are all familiar since no one introduces new singles in August. No movies at the theater are must-see, although a cheap movie may be in order just for the sake of sitting in the cool and dark for two hours when the heat index approaches 112.

If I get a burst of energy, I may upload some pictures from summer adventures to Facebook. Then again, why work up a sweat? My wardrobe of choice has dwindled to a pair of denim shorts, a souvenir T-shirt and – when shoes are absolutely necessary – flip flops.

August is that moment at the top of the swing. Your legs pump back and forth, the old chains creak on the swing set and you push forward. Just when you’ve gone as high as you can possibly go, the swing pauses for one magic moment. Your heart swells in your chest as you float in a blue sky. The world stretches out pure and perfect beneath you. Then you catch your breath and fall back and have to start working again.

August is a 31-day pause in the middle of the year for us to rediscover simple pleasures. It is the taste of tree-ripened peaches, wild plums and homemade salsa. It’s not quite summer, it’s not quite fall, it’s just hot and that hammock is calling my name.

The best thing about not being in school is I don’t have to go back to school. I understand the agony teachers and students are experiencing, but this is one month when it’s good to be a grown up. I may just sleep in the first day of school because I can. Because it’s August.

Susie PinkWhat do I have going on in August? Nothing much. What’s so great about August? Nothing much. Which is why it’s so great.

August – love it or hate it?

~Susan