Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Brach's Pick-A-Mix Candy

Do you remember Brach's Pick-A-Mix candy displays at the grocery store?  I loved these as a little girl.   Here's an ad, probably early 1970's vintage:

You got a little paper bag, like the one in the ad, and filled it with an assortment of your favorite candies.  It was weighed at the checkout.

My favorite of the Brach's candies were the Nougats.  I haven't had these in years!
I also really liked the Neapolitan candies.  They reminded me of my favorite three stripe coconut candy bars.
My Mom or Dad must have liked these Royals, because we always had some of these in the Brach's bag.
Do you remember these Brach's assorted candies?  Which ones were your favorites?

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander

Today I'm excited to share the cover of A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander, the second book in the Bakeshop Mystery series. This book releases June 30, 2015 by St. Martins Press.

Welcome to Torte--a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for…

It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon--'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler. It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bake shop by competing in The Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake. The prize is $25,000. But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough. Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered--death by buttercream. What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set. Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why? Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

Don't miss out on book one, Meet Your Baker, available now!

About the Author:

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find her on Twitter | Facebook

Triple chocolate brownie mix
Oregon Chai tea
Custom handmade coasters and napkins
Signed copy of Meet Your Baker
Signed Advanced Reader copy of A Batter of Life and Death 
Open to US only
Ends April 9, 2015

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Book Spotlight, Interview, and Giveaway: Harvest of Blessings


The tranquil little town of Willow Ridge is facing a startling challenge.
Wealthy Nora Glick Landwehr is determined to make it her home again-and put her past to rest. Cast out by her own family, Nora can't reconcile with Old Amish ways or her strict father. But she'll do anything to help her community embrace the future . . . and make amends to the daughter she had to give up. She certainly has no time for her reckless new neighbor Luke Hooley. They disagree about almost everything. And how can she trust him if he always seems to believe the worst about her? Somehow, though, his unexpected support and passionate heart are helping her find her own way in faith. And Nora will discover that even in the face of insidious lies and unyielding judgment, God creates unexpected chances for forgiveness-and love.


As Miriam pulled seven loaves of bread from the oven early Saturday morning, she savored the silence of the Sweet Seasons kitchen. This time before her partner Naomi Brenneman and her waitresses arrived was always her chance to think things through, and the past twenty-four hours had given her quite a lot to consider.

Lord, I hope You'll hold Nora and Lizzie and Wilma and Millie in Your healin' hands, she prayed as she measured flour for the day's pie crusts. And I hope You'll open Gabe and Atlee's hearts, as well. But Your will be done.

Miriam chuckled, at herself mostly. It seemed that telling God what to do
rather than asking Him was an easy habit to fall into. Her visit with Nora
yesterday, followed by the unfortunate scene with Gabe in the dining room, had made her think a lot about whether some of the Old Order ways came more from men's insistence on control than from consulting God about the right way to handle their childrens' mistakes. In some districts, expressing such an idea out loud might be considered reason for requiring a member to repent. But that didn't stop a lot of Plain women from wondering if things couldn't be different. Kinder. More loving.

"Miriam, when I die and go to heaven, please God, I believe it'll smell a
whole lot like your kitchen," came a voice through her open window.

Miriam laughed. "Tom Hostetler, I believe you're beggin' for a sample," she called out. "My stars, I can't think you've already milked your cows."

"I get up earlier when I've got a lot on my mind."

"Jah, I know all about that." As the bishop walked in, Miriam gestured
toward a tall stool near her work area. "And between you, me, and this
countertop, my heart's achin' for the Glick women. Every one of them had their lives turned upside down sixteen years ago when Gabe sent Nora away, and now they're goin' through it again."

Tom smiled ruefully. "I knew you'd see it that way, just as I could've
predicted Gabe's reaction when Nora asked for his forgiveness," he murmured. "That's where the fish bone gets caught in my throat. She did ask. And her father flat-out refused to even give her the time of day."

"And then there was Hiram, appearin' from outta nowhere to get right in the thick of it," Miriam said with a grimace. She passed Tom a serrated bread knife and went to the refrigerator for a stick of butter. "Somebody's gotta see if this bread's fit to eat. Might as well be us."

Tom chuckled and selected the round, golden-brown loaf nearest him. "How much do ya recall from all those years ago?" he asked as he positioned the knife on the bread. "Hiram was the bishop then, and Gabe and I were preachers, with your Jesse servin' as our deacon."

"It was all so hush-hush. Nora'd already been gone a week or so before I realized it," Miriam replied in a far-away voice. "Wilma looked like she'd been hit by a truck, and wouldn't-couldn't-let on about the details Gabe forbade her to discuss. So we were left to assume that Nora was pregnant. Then, when Atlee and Lizzie suddenly had a red-headed baby-as newlyweds, without her bein' pregnant-that pretty much told the tale."

"Gabe insisted that the less folks knew, the less they could gossip-and
other girls wouldn't follow Nora's sinful path." He slathered butter on a
generous slice of dense, grainy bread and handed it to Miriam. "And while Hiram and Jesse and I went along with that age-old strategy, I wondered what would become of Nora . . . how she would ever join the church or reunite with her family."

He paused to close his eyes over a big bite of bread. "But I was the
youngster-hadn't been a preacher very long, so I didn't make waves," he went on. "Eventually the whole episode faded away, and Millie grew up as Atlee and Lizzie's child."

"Well, our days of sweepin' it under the rug are over. Mmmm," Miriam
murmured as she took a big bite of the warm bread. "Your fresh butter almost turns this bread into dessert, Tom."

"Nah, it's your way of puttin' the ingredients together that makes it
special," the bishop insisted.

What was your childhood like?

I was raised an only child, and I was the only grandchild/great-grandchild in my family, so I spent most of my time surrounded by adults. I behaved accordingly. While everyone loved me ceaselessly, that doesn't mean I got away with much mischief or got out of doing household chores, etc. In that era, my mom was constantly being told not to have just one kid because I would surely grow up to be maladjusted, spoiled, unable to share, self-centered-so my parents went out of their way to make sure I became none of those things!

I got sent to my room and also spanked when I was a kid, and I don't believe my precious little psyche was warped because of it. I was held accountable for my actions-praised when I did well and punished when I did wrong. My parents told me early on they would never buy me a car or a house, so I had to earn everything myself. Those were valuable lessons that I feel are sadly absent from our society today.

I loved school and did well. I was an avid reader from the get-go and
anything concerned with language arts (even foreign languages) came easily to me. Not so the math. I recall many an evening I spent in tears,
especially once I got into algebra, when Dad was trying to help me with that and not having much luck.

I grew up with a dog-got a collie pup for Christmas when I was 9 and had Fluff until 2 weeks before I began my first teaching job! We moved to a small acreage when I was in 6th grade, and rented out our pasture/small stable shed to a couple of folks with horses, so I learned how to ride them.

We also had a large garden there, so I spent many a summer hour with my butt in the air picking green beans, tomatoes, peas, onions, etc. My
great-grandmother pressure canned our green beans and tomatoes for us (my mom worked as a secretary by then) until Mom took it over and I learned how to can by default. Still do it. I don't like green beans any other way, and my husband the farm boy doesn't, either.

We knew from the time I was in grade school that I should aspire to college, and I did-neither of my parents went beyond high school, so this was a big deal at that time in my family. My mom went back to work when I was in second grade-another unpopular choice in that era, but for her it was the right one. And because she had an income, I had piano and organ lessons and got my jack-o-lantern smile fixed. It was my job to follow the list she left me and put supper in the oven after school, so that's also how I learned to cook!

Is your life anything like it was two years ago?

My day-to-day life has been very similar for the past three years, what with having to keep up with writing two Amish series. If you go back to the year before that, in 2010, my husband took a new job in St. Paul MN and we moved from Jefferson City MO, where we'd lived for more than twenty years. That was a major change in many ways!

It was one thing to put our home on the market and hunt for another one, and find all new stores, doctors, etc. It was another thing altogether to leave behind our longtime friends and have to find a new church and make new friends. Neal, of course, had an automatic new world of colleagues-some he'd known for years-but I work in a home office with just our dog, Ramona, for company, so it's more of an effort for me to get out and meet people.

I'm glad I've gotten past that "stranger in a strange land" stage. We know most of the folks in our town home complex now, and I'm a dedicated choir member and have joined two local writing groups.

What have you got coming out soon for us to watch for?

As you're following this blog/review tour for my book EMMA BLOOMS AT LAST, which I've written as Naomi King, I also have a story in AN AMISH CHRISTMAS QUILT, which goes along with the series I write as Charlotte Hubbard (my real name). The story's called "A Willow Ridge Christmas Pageant"-lots of cute little kids and chuckles in this one.

Next up will be the 5th book of my Seasons of the Heart Amish series,
HARVEST OF BLESSINGS, which comes out in February, 2015.

EMMA BLOOMS AT LAST is the final book of my Home at Cedar Creek/One Big Happy Family Amish series-but that's not "all she wrote"! A spin-off series set in Willow Ridge will follow the Seasons of the Heart series, keeping the characters everyone loves but shifting the focus to the Nora you'll meet in HARVEST OF BLESSINGS as she opens her Plain consignment shop, Simple Gifts.  That's the name of the series, too-Simple Gifts.

To keep up with all these upcoming titles, I hope you'll check my website, You can sign up for my newsletter at the bottom left of the homepage to be sure you know when each new book will come out.

Thanks so much for your interest in my stories. I hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as I've loved writing them.


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