Thursday, November 15, 2012

Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, etc. etc.

I don't know how many names these lusious cookies have.  I do know, however, that my Grandmother gave my mother the recipe for them and they have been a family favorite for many years; especially at Christmas.  They are super simple to make. Here is my recipe:

1 cup butter
  1. Beat butter and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well.
  3. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. You want the cookies to be set, but not browned.
  4. Once baked, roll while still hot in confectioners' sugar until coated. Let cool. Lightly dust with more confectioners' sugar.
Today's post is not really about Russian Tea cakes.  It is about Lemon Russian Tea Cakes.  Can you imagine????  I never heard of them, so out came the thinking cap, and here's what I came up with: 
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon butter
  1. Beat butter and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well.
  3. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and flatten with the bottom of a glass.  They should resemble the size and thickness of an Orea cookie.  Bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. You want the cookies to be set, but not browned.
  4. Once baked, roll while still hot in confectioners' sugar until coated. Let cool. Lightly dust with more confectioners' sugar.

Either recipe makes approimately 30 cookies.  You can put them very close together on the cookie sheet because they don't rise or spread out.  Soooooo yummy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

If Horses Had Feathers and Pigs Could Fly has just broken all sales records ever!  We, at Thistlewood Publishing are ecstatic!

If you want autographed books by Christmas, get your orders in early!  www.thistlewoodpublishing.com

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Interview with Children’s Author Gail Westover

Book Give-Away Oct 8 - 15: To win a children’s book, If Horses Had Feathers and Pigs Could Fly or Mrs. Mouse's Garden Party in Giggleswick Village, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. For an additional entry, post this contest. Choose which book you would like. U.S. and Canada.

Gail Westover has a little secret. Today the secret will be revealed. Gail is author Tika Newman. For the past seven years, she’s hidden under this name. You see, Gail is an online Backgammon Tourney Director for GammonSite. She’s been hosting tourneys for almost nine years. Everyone knows her as Tika, so writing under that name seemed the logical thing to do. Gail is also the owner and operator of Thistlewood Publishing, since its conception in 2008. She is the author of The Eyes of Innocence series and a historical novel called For the Love of Anne.

Welcome back to my blog, Gail. You are the author of the popular series The Eyes of Innocence, which is about a girl growing up with psychic abilities and the power to heal. I read it and was very impressed with the story. You have now turned to children’s books. Please tell us about your books.

Thank you so much, Linda. I’m happy to be invited back. As grandmother to two large, and five little ones, they’ve reminded me of some things that we tend to forget as we grow older and adult things get in the way. One is to laugh with joy and wild abandon. I’ve also relearned to notice the small things, like a butterfly flitting across my yard and landing on one of my flowers. I appreciate the squeal of laughter as the kids go barreling down a slide or jump into the lake. Basically, they’ve taught me not only how to love them with every fiber of my being, but also to enjoy my life again. Yes, I still work seven days a week, but it’s more fun now.

Mrs. Mouse’s Garden Party in Giggleswick Village is the first book of the Giggleswick Village series. The book teaches children that it’s ok to be themselves and to make the best out of a plan that goes wrong. Each book will teach life’s early lessons. The next book will be about bullying.

If Horses Had Feathers and Pigs Could Fly sounds silly, and that’s a good thing, because the entire book is silly. Kids laugh as they learn to use their imagination, when they read about the horse that has wings, the duck that flies upside down, and the little boy who is on the ground squinting his eyes at them. It’s a wonderful “feel good book” and is perfect for bedtime because it leaves them with happy thoughts that will encourage pleasant dreams.

Compared to novels, I assume Children’s stories are simple. Is this true?

If you write only novels, you would think that statement is correct, but it is not. The stories may be short, but we have at least eighteen months in the first Giggleswick Village book.

What kind of research did you have to do?

As of yet, I have not had a whole lot of research, but that will change with the bullying book. I did search online for a silly name. Giggleswick Village is a real place in North Yorkshire, England. The minute I saw the name, I knew it was perfect. The illustrations were hand drawn by a very talented woman in New Zealand. Coordinating and designing the characters took a very long time because the characters in this first book will probably be in every Giggleswick book to come. We had to keep merchandising in mind, as well as coloring books, puzzles, and some other things. The other difficult thing was that the mouse is modeled after my real life best friend, who really is a nurse, loves the color pink, is incredibly polite, kind to everyone, etc. The animal characters? They’re all my grandchildren.

Thanks to these two children’s books, Thistlewood Publishing had its best month ever. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Congratulations! That’s wonderful. And I really love the name Giggleswick. By the way, I love it when authors add real life situations to their stories. Do you ever put real experiences in your books?

I haven’t done it yet in the children’s books, but in The Eyes of Innocence series, yes. The deer in the woods, the snapping turtle, and some other things were true life experiences.

Thank you, Gail, for this fun interview. Your books sound fascinating. To learn more about these books, visit http://www.thistlewoodpublishing.com. However, if you want Gail’s autograph, you must order your book from her website.

Monday, September 10, 2012


        I'm sorry to say that after twelve years of faithful service, my stove that came with the lake house has gone to that great junk pile in the sky.  I wanted to say a few words, but Bob refused.  Sheesh.  Not very nice.  Anyway, we got a great new self-cleaning stove at Lowe's.  Bob negotiated a good deal, as it was in the scratch and dent aisle.  Either we're going blind or there isn't a mark on it. 

        I think I overdid because the boys were coming for the weekend.  I made a Hershey chocolate cake with cream cheese icing.  I frosted it like a giant moon cookie, half dark and half white.  I made a loaf of white bread for sandwiches, a loaf of raisin cinnamon swirl bread with cream cheese icing, a big pan of cinnamon raisin rolls, and a large bowl of pasta salad.

        Later on, we were in the kitchen and I heard loud buzzing, cracking and snapping.  I turned around and one burner on the stove was throwing sparks as if someone was welding.  Sparks were going in all different directions.  It looked as if someone lit a firecracker on top of my stove!  Needless to say, I nearly ran Bob over.  Poor Tyler spilled every bit of food out of his dish, because he had been eating when it happened.  Weird though.  I don't know how he did it, because the dish is weighted on the bottom and doesn't tip.  Anyway, all the food was in a pile in front of his dish.  Joey was nowhere to be found.   Bob said it was like every wife and dog for himself because we ran so fast.  He had been standing in front of the refrigerator when I pushed him out of my way.  HA HA.  I was saying "Don't stop!  Don't stop!"  He told me later he'd never moved in the first place.  That's where he was the entire time.  I thought he ran too.
                                                (CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE)
        So, no stove?  This was dinner.  The European peasant bread is one of our faves.  See that cheese?  Somebody with a lot of talent or too much time on their hands did that.  Really, it only took a few minutes and it was fun.  Lattice cheese on a chef's salad.  Who'd a thunk it?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Facebook: Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, post links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I'd post a picture, but too tired to get up at the moment.  Today was a "spend every moment in the kitchen, or (*sigh) doing dishes" day.  I've done 2 1/2 batches of dishes so far, and even Bob did 1.  Still a lot to go.  I made chicken soup for Bud (a friend who is ill), 3 loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread, chicken and biscuits, and cinnamon rolls (Yes, made them again).  I'll be sharing with Joanne, Alice and Jerry, too.  We had the chicken and biscuits for dinner.  I'll keep some of the cinnamon rolls and 1 loaf of the bread, the rest will be going to our friends.  I use my favorite white bread recipe for the rolls and cinnamon swirl bread.  I wish you could  have a sniff of my kitchen.  Just don't look!  hehe

OK, I couldn't help myself.  I took pictures of the food.  HA HA, the only messy thing you can see is a paper plate under the bread to catch the excess icing.  I wish these pictures were scratch and sniff.

OMG, I want to make mararoni salad now. 

Poll:  Do you think I'm insane?
Yes ___              No ____           Probably ____

Friday, August 24, 2012



A few weeks ago, in broad daylight, a black bear ran in front of our car.  When you live in the country, you're apt to see almost anything. While driving home from a meeting at River Read Books in Binghamton, we pulled onto the dirt road that leads to our lake. At the end of a driveway, Bob pointed out a sign that reads, "FREE ROOSTERS." Almost immediately, he said, "Look, there goes one now." It was running helter skelter across someone's yard, and of course we laughed.

We wondered why someone would have an excess of roosters. Bob's guess is that they bought chicks that were supposed to be hens. I'm thinking they decided to try their luck at raising their own baby chicks from eggs that their hens laid. Hmm, it might be dangerous to visit these people. Maybe these roosters are guard attack roosters. Or maybe there is a cock fight at any given moment, and the family has been amassing unsavory fans and gamblers.

What's your guess?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Our sale is a big hit.  People are loving their instant 15% rebate and so happy with all the free goodies they're getting.  We recently sold eight books to one person.  She commented in FaceBook later, that her daughter was getting married in October, and most of the books were gifts for the children that will be participating in the wedding.  How wonderfully creative!  After buying eight books, just imagine all the free goodies she received and can pass on to the children!
Tomorrow we meet again with River Read Books, in Binghamton.  We hope to introduce our children's line in this awesome shop :)

Bye for now :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


     For those of you who have followed my blog for years, you know that I've never commented or recommended a product, but you all know what an avid cook I am.  Today I just can't help myself.  These are the Progressive International silicone gripper tongs.  They are available in 9" and 12" length.  For kitchen use, removing waffles from a waffle iron, cooking bacon, removing corn on the cob or potatoes out of boiling water, the 9" ones are fine, but for outside bbq?  Bob uses the 12".  (I make him.  You all remember when he singed the hair off his forearm when bbqing, right?  He's safe now.  LOL)

     Seriously, these tongs are fantastic, and we use them daily.  Their grip is phenomenal and nothing slips out of them.  Until I bought the longer ones, Bob was using the 9" on the grills and could easily turn a heavy rack of ribs. He uses these on the gas grill, the smoker and charcoal grill. Since we bbq 6 days out of 7 in the summer, let me say that we are getting our money's worth.  They have thicker stainless steel handles and wide ridged silicone grippers that  are safe to use on my hard anodized pots and pans. The tongs are dishwasher and high heat safe.  Storage is simple, the locking mechanism on the handles actually works and doesn't pop open every time I bump them.  Since I'm currently lacking counter space, I lock them before I set them down.  It takes a nano-second and keeps them out of my way.

     The ONLY problem I ever had with these tongs was created by my husband.  Often, when I went to get them out of the drawer, they were gone!  Yep, he had them outside at the grill.  So, there was only one thing to do.  I ordered three more.  Now we'll have two at the lake and two at home.  A happy home calls  for two sets of Progressive International gripper tongs.  The tongs are available at amazon.com, sears.com, surlatable.com and many other retailers.

My uses:  Removing
hot bagels from the toaster oven                                       Turning bacon or sausage
baked potatoes from the oven                                           Great to take spaghetti out of the bowl
waffles form the waffle iron                                                Salad tongs
                                                Ideal for serving hot foods

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh, Summer Peaches


A delicious light peach dessert that has just enough sugar to bring out the natural sweetness of the peaches without overpowering them.  So fresh tasting.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

  • 7 - 8 fresh peaches                                             
  • 3 Tbsp white sugar                        
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar                          
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg     
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch 

      ·         1 cup all-purpose flour
·         3 Tbsp white sugar
·         3 Tbsp brown sugar
·         1 level teaspoon baking powder
·         Dash of salt
·         6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
·         1/4 cup boiling water

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Over an ungreased 2 or 3 quart baking dish, peel and slice the peaches.  You want to enjoy every drop of that delicious juice.  Add 3 Tbsp white sugar, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir, and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, - 3 Tbsp white sugar, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water.
  4. Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of cobbler top over them. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture on top. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.                       8/15/2012, BY GAIL WESTOVER

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Thistlewood Publishing is having its first ever sale.  In honor of our best month ever, we would like to offer you a 15% discount on all our books, sitewide.  Make your purchase as usual, and get an instant rebate.  We'll take care of it, no annoying rebate forms to fill out.

Stock up now for gifts, or for yourself.  No limit.  Go to www.thistlewoodpublishing.com

Monday, August 6, 2012

Do you really want to read another boring Author blog?

I thought not!  People have asked me why I don't often write about Thistlewood Publishing, my publishing business or my books.  Answer?  Because, I work seven days a week.  This blog is not work for me, rather its a few minutes to escape work and write something fun and talk to my fans and friends.  Another very good reason is that I am not one to follow the pack and do what everybody else does.  That's not me.  So, if you want to read about an author that completed a new Chapter, or edited all day, or has writer's block, or spent two hours researching how to lose thirty unsightly pounds in three days, you probably ought to stop reading right here. 

If, however, you want to take your chances, keep coming back to this blog.  You are apt to read about almost anything.  I love to talk about my gardening, silly things that happened, and of course the new recipes I've created.  This blog is about daily events, not books.  I will share photos, some of my new recipes and lots of silly stories.  Normally, the only time I mention of of our books is when we release a new one.  So on the whole, you are pretty safe coming back here.

Now, to make a liar out of myself, I do have ONE teeny little piece of Thistlewood Publishing news.  My very first children's book, Mrs. Mouse's Garden Party in Giggleswick Village has broken every sales record since Thistlewood Publishing opened.  Teachers, a children's therapist, parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents have purchased this book.  I'm in Author Heaven! (not a real place.  I just made that up).  ((I know, not funny))

Alright, back to business.  Today's bit of Gail Westover (aka Tika Newman) news is geared toward every gardner that loves to compost.   Don't spend twenty or thirty dollars buying an indoor counter-top kitchen container for  the little bits and pieces you want to compost so you don't have to run outside ten times a day.  I am a BIG fan of green living and organic gardening.  This is my way of putting kitchen veggie and fruit trash to good use.  Get yourself one of these:
                                  It's FREE!!!  Did she say FREE?  Yessssssssss

Buy yourself a 2 pound container of coffee.  Make your coffee, drink it, and save the container with the lid ( I really prefer the brand with the handle, as it makes it super easy to pull it in and out of the cupboard under the sink).  I keep a plastic bag in it cover the scraps with the excess bag, then put the cover on.  Once it begins getting full, pull the bag over the scraps and then push down a little.  For Tika sakes, don't touch it with your hands!  Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.   It will give you another day or two before you have to empty it.  Yep, green AND lazy.
There is NEVER an odor.  I use a fresh plastic bag every time I empty it, nd give it a quick rinse with the last of the dishwater before I drain it.  Boy, talk about going green.  A re-use for old,  nasty, cold, dishwater.  Yucko.

If you have never composted, be sure to add other things besides fruit and veggie scraps.  NEVER put meat, bones, OR seeds in your compost.  Meat rots and will smell.  Bones will hurt if you step on them while barefooted, not to mention that you'll have every dog in the neighborhood digging in your garden.  Seeds will sprout and make a mess of your flower or vegetable beds.

Make sure to add grass clippings, leaves, and an occasional  bit of newspaper, paper towel, napkin, etc.  A few things I don't like to add are corn cobs and egg  shells.  They take a long time to decompose.

I have a big black composter outside,  and close to my kitchen door, so I actually use the thing.  If you compost on the ground, turn it over every few  weeks  to make sure it's well aerated.  If you're having a dry summer, wet it with the garden hose once in a while.  It helps break down the scraps.  An occasional shovel-full of  dirt is also beneficial.

ok, that's all I know about composting.  There's a lot more info online.  Search for "How to compost"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Tika's Apple Banana Walnut Muffins (or bread)

  Moist and delicious. A favorite with scrambled eggs and juice, a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.
 What is pictured is smaller muffins than you might make, but had young kids over and they can't
 often eat a large muffin.

1/3 cup Crisco
2/3 cup sugar
Beat til fluffy (about 3-4 min, scraping bowl twice)
 ½ cup mashed banana
1 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp room temp butter                                                   
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup oatmeal
3 Tbp sour milk **
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Dashes salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix well.
 Add flour last and mix only until incorporated.
1 cup flour
Stir in ½ cup chopped nuts
**(In a small cup or bowl, 2 ½ Tbsp milk, ½ Tbsp white vinegar, add to cup, stir, set aside for 10-20 min)
Stir in ½ cup of any of the optional ingredients listed below:
OPTIONAL:  I love dates in this recipe. You can also add an assortment of dried cranberries, raisins, chopped fresh cranberries, raisins, chopped apples. Add some chocolate chips if you must, just don’t tell me about it.
Greased pans or cupcake papers,      350*        
 Small muffins as pictured, bake for 16-18 minutes, Yield 20-21 muffins  
Normal sized muffins about 20 min, Yield: 18 muffins
Bread I have to guess, but I’d say 40-50 min.  Toothpick test it to be sure.
Pssssssst.  Don’t tell anyone, but this is actually a pretty healthy snack/treat.  Lots of good oatmeal and fruit.  I tell the little ones that they’re cupcakes.  They’re so moist and delicious, that they don’t miss the icing.  They didn’t even ask where it is.  Not one of them is impressed that I made the recipe up, but they just think the muffins are delicious and sometimes want a second one.  I make them small because sometimes the little ones get bored and can’t eat a whole muffin.  At the moment, David and Steffen almost 5 and 6 1/2, are running through the house with a second muffin that they “stole” from the kitchen.  Steffen is yelling, “These cupcakes are delicious!”
Boy, I love lying to kids for their own good.  Does a grandma’s heart good.                   7-24-2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ANOTHER NEW RELEASE!                ISBN 978-0-9853600-0-9
Yes, I have been super busy, working on my children's books.  If Horses Had Feathers and Pigs Could Fly is the latest release.  It certainly sounds like a silly book!  What better for a silly title, then silly rhymes and a silly storyline???  Why, that's what I thought, too.  If Horses Had Feathers and Pigs Could Fly has been the favorite of my grandson Steffen for months now; even before the very talented Me'ven Zabat completed the illustrations.  He's loved to squint his eye, wave at the animals, tell the horse to come back and get him, and of course laugh at the upside down duck ever since this book was just a dim light in my head.  Now that it's complete and ready for purchase, I see that he wasn't the only one that loves this book. 

If you're looking for a quick, fun, and very entertaining  book to make your kids smile, this is the one.  It's available signed on our website www.thistlewoodpublishing.com    It's available unsigned at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com or any online bookseller of your choice.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

At long last . . .

The first Giggleswick Village book is finally released. It's been a long eighteen months of writing, designing, editing, cover layout, etc. We couldn't be more pleased with the results. Mrs. Mouse's Garden Party in Giggleswick Village is now available.

Mrs. Mouse goes all out planning a perfect garden party, and it gets rained out. She is upset that the party must move indoors, but everyone has a wonderful time.

This interactive brilliantly illustrated book teaches little ones to look for the silver lining, even when things don't go as planned. Mrs. Mouse reminds children to use their manners and be kind to others. It is sure to become a favorite book to be read over and over again.

This is the first book in a series of stories that will reinforce life's early lessons, as well as build comprehension skills. Look for more Giggleswick Village books coming soon!

Mrs. Mouse's Garden Party in Giggleswick Village is dedicated to the real Mrs. Mouse and my seven grandchildren. The book was a total surprise to all of them. Yes, somehow we successfully managed to keep it a secret until the completion of the book. I wrote this one under my own name, for a change. Regarding my pen name Tika Newman, Tika was my beloved Siamese cat's name. She's gone, but not forgotten. Newman is my maiden name. Tika is in the book as Mrs. Mouse's best friend, showing little ones that even a cat and a pink mouse can put aside their differences, and be friends. There are subtle lessons like that one, as well as more major ones throughout the story.

Last week I read the book to one of my grandson's nursery schools (25 students and 5 teachers. They all loved it! On Tuesday, I read the book to another grandson's kindergarten friends. That time we had 65 kids and 6 teachers. The boys especially loved Steffen the monkey and the girls were all crazy over Mrs. Mouse. One of the teachers purchased four copies of the book and donated them to all the kindergarten teachers. Thank you Miss Quick!

The next book will be about bullying. We believe you can't start teaching this to children soon enough. We are researching it now and will begin putting the book together as soon as possible.

As always, contact me at tika1@frontier.com or on our website www.thistlewoodpublishing.com to purchase autographed copies. Unsigned copies are now available through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and practically every online bookseller. Your local bookseller will be happy to order one for you if you'd rather not purchase online.

Toodles for now!

Gail Westover aka Tika Newman

Friday, January 27, 2012


It's been a long few months since I've posted last. What with moving, the holidays and working, there never seems to be enough time.

The biggest news is that Thistlewood Publishing is now publishing children's books. The pixie book, The Amazing Adventure of Amber and April has been well received. We couldn't be more pleased. Stay tuned for lots more children's books, as well as two more full length novels coming soon.

Some future titles for children:
If Horses Had Feathers
Monster Under My Bed
Mrs. Mouse
If I Were a Monkey
Who Tooted?
. . . and more!
You can check out our website at www.thistlewoodpublishing.com and if you want to join our mailing list, please do so while you're browsing :)

Take care and think spring!