3 Questions Wednesday with Ellen Andersen

business-card-pictureToday’s guest is my friend and fellow blogger on my personal Small Acts of Kindness blog, Ellen Andersen.

Hi, Ellen! So glad you dropped by. First question:

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

EllenWhat Happens when Women say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst  gave me the impetus to write. For The Write Reason by Mary Beth Whalin is a compilation of multiple authors’ and agents’ experiences encouraging writers to keep writing . Each section is followed by a short Bible study with thought-provoking questions and challenges to tackle.

I love encouraging books! Now…

What secret talents do you have?

Ellen: Whether you’d call them talents or not is up to you, but I love to garden and I love to bake. I’m constantly learning about what grows well in the sun and what likes the shade. Different flowers and plants thrive here than in California where I grew up.  I love watching the plants grow and change over the different seasons. It’s something I’ll never stop learning. I’m happiest when my hands are dirty.

I love to bake too—mostly cookies and quick breads. I bake everything from scratch. That’s what I learned growing up and I still enjoy it. It takes a few minutes longer than using a mix but in my opinion the taste is worth it.

Wow. Bread from scratch sounds delicious! Last question: 

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Ellen: Probably taco salad.  It has lots of ingredients and gives you everything you need for an entire meal. That makes it easy, since you only have to make only one dish. For dessert, I’d likely make apple crisp and serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Sounds like I need to drop by sometimes 🙂 Thanks, Ellen, for being our guest!

business-card-pictureEllen Andersen grew up in California and has lived in Greenville, South Carolina since 2002. She loves to garden. Ellen serves in her church as a Stephen Minister. She can relate to and minister to others who are hurting since she deals with ongoing physical issues of her own. Ellen has published several devotions online at www.christiandevotions.us. Connect with her at www.ellenandersen.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @EllenAndersenSC.

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine

By Karen Jurgens

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

The Maisonette /
Photo courtesy of Nat Comisar

Living in Texas—as I have for just over thirty years—I’ve cultivated a love for spicy food. Whether it’s flavorful Thai or delicious Tex-Mex, all I can say is, “Please pass the salsa and the jalapeño peppers,” and “Yes, I’d love some sweet tea!”

But it wasn’t always that way.

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

One of my matchboxes from the 1970’s. A treasured keepsake.

Ahh, Cincinnati cuisine. There was no place more delicious to spend my growing up years. For me, that was in the late sixties through the seventies when the Queen City boasted three—yes, three—Mobile Travel Guide five-star restaurants out of a total of ten in the entire country. Frequenting eateries like The Gourmet Room, Pigall’s, and The Maisonette was like taking a seat at a dining table in culinary heaven.

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

The Maisonette dining room / photo courtesy of Nat Comisar

The Maisonette earned its coveted Mobile five-star rating for a remarkable forty-one years. Owned by the local Comisar family since 1948, it was most outstanding for its service, ambiance, and cuisine.  Creamy butter on warm French bread, crusty with those oh-so-soft centers, melted in your mouth. Appetizers first, followed by crisp signature salads, hand-tossed with dressings created at our table. Delicate sauces ladled across flaky fish fillets surrounded by potato galettes and portobello mushrooms with spinach were a close tie to dining atop the Eiffel Tower’s Tour d’Argent. I can’t begin to describe the magnificence of the French pastry cart, so I’ll leave those delectable works of culinary art to your imagination. (Want some Maisonette recipes? Click here.)

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

Dessert at the Maisonette /
Photo courtesy of Nat Comisar

Pigall’s offered intimate dining in a quite different setting. Picture a cozy Paris bistro, mirror-lined with  long, red plush benches facing small tables. Its cuisine was superb, yet not too rich for the waistline. Not exactly Steak Frites, but the chef’s filet mignon with potatoes was wonderful. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Within my fond memories of Pigall’s lives one amusing one. I enjoyed many a Saturday lunch there with my mother, who was a regular downtown shopper. Once, after picking up my fork to eat a salad, my hand froze in mid-air. I spied something brown wiggling out of the lettuce and inching across my plate, leaving behind a trail of oil and vinegar. I immediately stifled a screech, alerting the waiter who whisked up my plate without a word and marched to the kitchen. Somehow its replacement didn’t afford me much consolation. But to this day, the story still makes me laugh.


My niece (L), her parents, and a friend at the Gourmet Room in the 70’s.

In my opinion, the Gourmet Room provided a unique dining experience.  Its intimate dining room not only perched on the penthouse level of the old Terrace Hilton Hotel but also showcased a magnificent view of downtown Cincinnati. Henri Guglielmi, the maître’d for twenty years, welcomed and pampered his guests. I remember many pleasant conversations with him as well as the specialties he prepared at our table. Back in the day when Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee were the rage, I loved watching him ready and then light the flaming desserts, resembling an indoor Fourth of July. Tragically, the Gourmet Room’s final maître’d, Walter Herzig, closed the restaurant’s kitchen on July 4, 1992. The express elevator to the twentieth floor has been empty and still ever since.

My memories of these long-ago establishments are as bittersweet as Belgian dark chocolate, and they will forever live in my heart. Although  Cincinnati currently holds claim to some fabulous Mobile four-star restaurants, I still dream of former days. Perhaps over time, the culinary world improves with age, like a very good bottle of Pommard.

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

A table at the Maisonette / Photo courtesy of Nat Comisar

Now for a treat. Please enjoy a special recipe from The Gourmet Room, which Henri Guglielmi personally gave to my family in the 70’s. In English, it’s called, “Veal, My Way.” It would make a spectacular appearance on your holiday table—perhaps this season it may even make an appearance on mine!

In the meantime, I’ll feast on my good memories while I say, “Please pass the tortilla chips and the guacamole,” and “Yes, I’d love more sweet tea!”

Click Here for Veal My Way

Writing Prompt: Make up a story using the picture below.

The Art of Five-Star Cuisine by Karen Jurgens

Waiters in the Maisonette kitchen / photo courtesy of Nat Comisar

A hearty thanks to Nat Comisar, owner of the former Maisonette, for generously sharing his photos from the past.

The Magic of Cooking

By Betty Boyd


Once a upon a time, in a state far away, there was a young girl who could cook almost anything. She could make fried chicken, roasts, and turkey dinners with all the fixings. Also, she baked scrumptious breads, yummy cookies, chocolate cakes, fruit pies, canned vegetables from the family garden, jams, jellies, sauces and other splendid delights.

Alas, now that she is older and widowed, her cooking powers are all but a memory.  You might think she would eat out for every single meal but that is too time consuming and expensive.

No worries. New cooking powers have emerged. These abilities include an array of appliances that perform like magic to cook what is desired. One of these is an airfryer! The airfryer cooks with circulated hot air: steaks, fish, chicken, practically anything.

Not to be outdone, other wonders include a pressure cooker and slow cooker, along with the old standbys: pots and pans, and of course, the stove and oven. These amazing machines give our heroine wonderful abilities that were once out of her reach.

She does not need to follow a recipe; just put the food in, set the time and temperature, and viola, the meal is complete. Here is a link for a good recipe for chili: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/ground-beef-chili



For some of you, this is not cooking, but when your magical powers have gone astray, you need all the help you can get.

Do you have magical cooking powers?  Imagine the possibilities…then tell us about them! Leave a comment below for an extra entry in the Once Upon a Christmas drawing!

3 Questions Wednesday with Ralene Burke


Ralene Burke

It’s my great pleasure to introduce fellow Kentucky writer, Ralene Burke, to 3 Questions Wednesday. Ralene is well-known in the Kentuckiana area, for her work with local and regional ACFW groups. And she has recently added a new role to her many accomplishments–published author.

Welcome, Ralene–here’s our first question:

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Ralene:  Quite recently I went through a period of doubt, struggling with whether or not I was supposed to be a writer, if I really needed to fight for balance, etc. Then I attended Allen Arnold’s workshop at ACFW this year. The workshop was based on his book The Story of WITH. The workshop blew me away. Seriously, life changing. After I got home, I bought the book. And that blew me away even more. Both the workshop and the book were living and creating WITH God–inviting Him to be part of the process, to lead the process.

Through the workshop and the book, I found a new love for writing and a new love for the creating process. I found that working with God freed up so much doubt and fear. It helped me get to that next step in my life and my writing journey.

I also attended Allen Arnold’s workshop and I totally agree with the blown away statement. Now, looking inward…

What secret talents do you have?

Ralene:  I don’t really think I have any secret talents. I homeschool, which many have told me is a talent in and of itself. Ha! I’ve also been told I’m a great encourager, which I totally think the world needs more of.

Absolutely agree. An encouraging word is just another way to show love. I like that. Now, last question, and for some, the most important one–

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Ralene:  Well, I’m not much of a cook, though the crockpot is quickly becoming a familiar friend. However, I’d make you my favorite dish: Bacon, Sweet Potato, and Apple Hash. It’s a family fave and is typically a hit with guests (as long as they like sweet potatoes). In fact, here’s the recipe!sweet-potato-apple-and-bacon-hash

Wonderful! This goes right along with our November theme of The Art of Cooking. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your so busy schedule to talk with us. And I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and many sales to you!


A haven for myths and legends . . . until evil discovers a way in.

bellanokanovelWith evil darkening the mountains to the north, the fairy queen, Fauna, must journey from the island realm of Bellanok to the modern world to find the man the Creator appointed to save their kingdom. A man she has been dreaming of her whole life.

Brian is a down-on-his-luck pastor on the verge of giving up on God. He’s tired and frustrated–a failure. No sooner does he make a decision that jeopardizes his career than an unusual blonde woman shows up and tries to convince him he is some kind of savior.

Fauna must open Brian’s eyes to a different reality, and Brian needs to embrace the haven’s secrets. If neither of them succeeds, Bellanok will succumb to evil and the world will lose all trace of innocence.

[Readers, if you’re interested in more information, here’s an interview with Fauna, the fairy queen: Fauna’s Interview.]

ralene-lr-4Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for a number of freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.