I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bugs and Brains--It's Halloween Supper!

Do you have a special menu for Halloween? Something quick and easy to eat before trick-or-treating?

In the past, we've had Sand-witches, Chili-willie, and monster-eye pizza. But a few years ago, we tried Bugs and Brains, and the menu has stuck. In fact, Kid #1 has repeatedly requested Brains for dinner, even when it's not Halloween.

Amazing, since its main ingredient is cauliflower.

The Bugs--twice-baked potatoes with shrimp "legs"--are fun and easy to adapt to your family's individual preferences. I make the standard twice-baked potatoes with cheddar and sour cream, and then my kids make them look (and taste) just how they want them to, with olive-slice or ham-cube eyes, carrot-stick antennae, bacon spots, etc.

The Brains portion of the meal proved an excellent way to get my kids to eat cauliflower. You can easily cut the recipe in half (as I do) or adapt it to use frozen cauliflower.

If you're looking for a spooky dinner--or you just want a basic cauliflower casserole--here's my recipe for Halloween Brains.

"Brains" Casserole

8 c. cauliflower florets
4 large eggs
1 c. cottage cheese
1 c. milk
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 c. bread crumbs

Steam cook the cauliflower until tender, about ten minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the cauliflower cools, beat eggs in a large bowl. Then add the cottage cheese, milk, cheeses, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the cauliflower.

Transfer to a greased baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

Voila! Creamy, delicious brains for your little zombies.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook

Zombies are real…and living among us!

Just in time for Halloween, Jeff Kinley’s The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within is a unique book—broken into “Episodes” (fiction) and “Chapters” (nonfiction).  Certain to impact a target audience, the book provides a novel approach to sharing the Gospel by exposing our inner zombie: our sinful nature.

The Episodes tell the story of  Ben Forman and his family, present-day folks whose lives are a lot like ours—job stress, relationship trouble—but with a twist: they’re in constant danger of zombie attack.

The government has set up a special task force to handle zombie containment and research, and local police do all they can to protect citizens. It’s not enough, however, and no one is safe from the undead.

The Episodes at first read like an episode of CSI, so readers should be warned. Blood, brains, and rotten flesh pervade every chapter.  The characters can’t escape zombies, no matter where they go—a fancy restaurant, a store, or a tool shed.

It’s a wonder they ever go outside, and when Ben and his girlfriend choose to enter a pitch-black, half-dug tunnel with no escape route, I knew exactly what was coming. And I didn’t buy it. It reminded me of a gratuitous scene in horror movie, where hapless victims ignore danger for no reason other than to be in a place where the murderer can kill them.

Although I was distracted by the head-hopping and shifts between present and past tense, the episodes always ended on a hook and made me want to read further. The spiritual content is realistic, as the characters are not religious but slowly begin to question and wonder about the “Old Way.” Dan Forman, Ben’s brother, speaks a pivotal line:

“There seems to be something deep down inside us telling us mankind was meant for something better. That this zombie thing wasn’t in the original blueprint, you know?”

The Chapters express the Gospel in a fresh way, comparing our sinful nature to an inner zombie. From Genesis to the Apocalypse, Kinley traces human nature and God’s love and power, urging readers to think about our struggle against sin in a new way. I do not agree with Kinley on each theological point, but I appreciate his bottom line: only by putting our faith and lives into the Savior’s hands can we survive the zombies within.

Due to gore, I don’t think this book is suitable for some readers. There’s definitely a target audience for this book, as evidenced by a youth weekend featuring Kinley as the main speaker, and an Indie “soundtrack” which pays tribute to the book.

But if you’re a fan of things that go bump in the night, or you’re searching for a way to deepen your understanding of our salvation history, it might be worth looking into this book.

I received this book from the publisher for purposes of review. A positive review was not requested or promised.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ten Things...With Author Dina Sleiman

Welcome Dina Sleiman to Tea and a Good Book!
I'm blessed to call Dina--a woman of faith and prayer, a fellow contributor to Inkwell Inspirations, and one smart cookie--a friend. This month her very first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, released from WhiteFire Press. Set in medieval Europe, it's received rave reviews!
Ten Things about Dina:

1) My favorite music is heavy metal and alternative. I’m a regular head banger.

2) I’ve been leading worship dance ministries for the better part of eighteen years.

3) No, my daughter on the cover of my novel is not the result of a teenage pregnancy. I’m actually 41 years old and had her after grad school.

4) My first creative writing project that I remember was a story about a scientifically researched alien from Venus who came to visit a little girl on Earth.

5) I love poetry and try to find sneaky ways to weave it into everything I write.

6) For most of my childhood I attended a “Jesus Movement” type hippy church. I think that explains a lot about me.

7) I was captain of the cheerleading squad in high school and valedictorian of my class. But don’t be too impressed (or annoyed) since there were only 10 people in my grade at my small Christian school.

8) I have two adorable little dogs. One malti-poo and one malti-shi. And I’m not above dressing them in cutsie outfits when they’ll let me.

9) My husband is Lebanese. I actually got caught in a war in Lebanon in 2006, and our family had to be evacuated on a U.S. naval ship.

10) I love the beach. It’s a twenty-five minute drive from my house, but I try to get there once a week when the weather’s nice. I adore the outdoors in general and do a lot of hiking and biking.

More about Dina:

Dina writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors.

Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, is now available at amazon and other online and ebook distributors. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Here's a peek at Dance of the Dandelion:

Love's quest leads her the world over.

Dandelion Dering was born a peasant in the English village of Arun, but her soul yearned for another life, another world. One filled with color and music, with adventure and passion  . . . with more. Haunted by childhood memories, Dandelion determines to find a better existence than the life every peasant in the village contents themselves with. Even if her sweetheart William’s predictions prove true, and her journey leads straight to heartache.

From her sleepy hamlet to the intrigue of castle life, from the heart of London to the adventurous seas, Dandelion flees from the mistakes of her past, always seeking that something, that someone who will satisfy her longings.

Will Dandelion ever find the rhythm to her life's dance . . . or did she leave her chance for true love at home in Arun village?

 Check back for my recommendation of Dina's book soon! (And yes, that really is Dina's daughter on the cover!)