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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Post on any blog between Dec 1-15th to be eligible to win a copy of Diane Gaston's holiday story A Twelfth Night Tale in the Regency Anthology MISTLETOE KISSES (Nov 2006)!

By NYT Best Seller Dianna Love

One of the greatest gifts I ever received in December came from last place expected.

Have you ever worked around someone that everyone told you was a grouch, or always cranky, and warned you to avoid this person when you could? I’m going to tell you why you might miss out on something wonderful if you let others form your opinions.

Before I became an author I used to climb over a hundred feet in the air to paint huge portraits, murals, whatever an outdoor advertising company needed. This was before the advent of computer printing on vinyl material that is now used. Master artists were a necessity for producing the outdoor paintings and wall murals. Some companies built large warehouses where they could bring the sign panels inside to be painted since weather affected production schedules.

During the fall one year, I met Charles when I accepted contracts for one company east of Atlanta. l estimated his height at three or four inches over six feet, almost a foot taller than me. He wore short-sleeved button down shirts and slacks on his slender build, soft gray hair cut short, intelligent eyes that had seen over six decades of this world and a stern mouth indicating he was all business. No joking around. I knew the man who owned the company and his staff well since I’d painted for him for many years, but I’d never met Charles until I came inside to knock out an armload of work they needed produced.

I give everyone a chance to be my friend unless they at some point convince me I’m making an unwise investment of energy and time. Upon arriving every morning at the shop, I’d greet the ladies in the office with a “good morning” then do the same with Charles who at first barely nodded and grunted something that could be misconstrued as “morning.” On my way to get lunch, I always asked the ladies and Charles if I could bring them anything back. The girls would take me up on it, but Charles usually had a curt, “no thanks.”

I figured a two word answer was progress, since I’d made up my mind to see if the person behind the stern face was really a sourpuss or not. I’d catch him watching me paint from across the room, but I wouldn’t let on that I saw him. What I came to realize later was that as much as he respected my ability to paint anything any size, he respected my work ethics of arriving by 6am when I lived 60 miles away and painting sometimes three days straight without stopping to hit a deadline the company needed.

I left later than usual for lunch one day and he was the only one in the office. I invited him to have lunch with me. His forehead wrinkled in question as he considered my offer then he shook his head, saying, “I’ve got soup I have to eat.” I had the distinct impression he didn’t particularly want the soup, even though it was probably wonderful since his wife Sue is a terrific cook. I told him, “The heck with soup, let’s go to Ryan’s and eat some real food.” His eyes flared with surprise at insisting then crinkled with humor. I almost had that smile I’d been trying for. He agreed and we road in my pickup truck to lunch that I tried to buy, but Charles was a Southern gentleman who wouldn’t stand for it.

Over the next couple months, I came to know the Charles behind the stern face, the man who had charmed his wife and raised two daughters he taught to be independent women. I found out he and the owner of the company had been close friends for many years and that even though Charles was retired and financially independent, he came in early each morning to work long days to help his friend who needed someone to oversee the paint shop and trucking business since we were located so far from the main office. Charles did not have to work. His was a labor of love. The more I got to know him, the more I admired the man.

We spent a lot of lunches talking about things we enjoyed, like our passion for bass fishing. We talked tackle and good fishing holes. We shared stories of our lives and families. When the holidays rolled around, we hit on the topic of favorite foods. When I told him I loved sweet potatoes, he got excited, telling me he was bringing me a surprise. Right before the Thanksgiving break, he brought me a square aluminum pan filled with what he called the best sweet potato soufflé. He told me it was made by a woman who was more family than housekeeper and had been with his family for many decades.

I took the dish home, baked it as instructed and was convinced on the first bite that I had never tasted a sweet potato casserole-type dish as good. When I saw Charles the following Monday and asked for the recipe he said, “There isn’t one. Our housekeeper just makes it and she doesn’t know how to write it down.” He went on to explain she was very old and grew up during a different era – she never wanted to learn how to read and write. I assure you Charles would have provided a tutor and anything she needed as he felt it was important for women to be self sufficient and educated, no matter if they were his children or not. So I told Charles to go sit down with his housekeeper and write down what she did. He laughed, since no one ever told Charles what to do…but he came back in a week with that recipe.

During that December my husband and I joined Charles and Sue for a meal with their family where Charles got to show off his trophy bass on the wall. Over the months leading up to December as Charles and I went to lunch, I had started including other painters and office staff on some lunches so they would get to know this terrific guy. I count myself fortunate to have gotten to know the real Charles who was so generous of spirit.

He gave me one of my greatest December gifts by becoming my friend.

In the spirit of sharing as he did with me, I give you the famous sweet potato recipe that has been passed down for generations and was never written down until Charles spent a Saturday deciphering the recipe.

The Original Sweet Potato Soufflé
3 large sweet potatoes – sliced ½” thick to cook faster
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. Butter (1 stick)
½ cup whipping cream
1 t. vanilla
Juice from 1 orange squeezed
1 bag large marshmallows (Note – I had a UK friend who hated marshmallows so you can put pecans on top if you want)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Boil potatoes until a fork goes through center easily then drain and mash. Add all ingredients to the potatoes except marshmallows. Whip with electric mixer until smooth. Pour into a large casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes then spread marshmallows across the top. Bake until marshmallows are toasty brown. (Can make this in advance and freeze then cook the day it’s needed.)


Today is a special day for Dianna as she has a new book out. Dianna normally writes romantic thrillers, but this is something a bit different. MIDNIGHT KISS GOODBYE is an urban fantasy that is part of the Dead After Dark anthology (St. Martin’s Press/Dec 2, 2008), which includes stories by #1 NYT best seller Sherrilyn Kenyon and NYT best sellers J.R.Ward and Susan Squires.

For an excerpt on any of her stories and more on NYT best seller Dianna Love visit

So…what unexpected gift did you receive one year?
Share your story with us today.

Stop in tomorrow to find out how to DEAL WITH HOLIDAY STRESS by our own Dr. Deb.

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At 10:36 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

An unexpected gift I received one year was a creche. My husband who isn't religious saw how much I admired a simple olive wood creche in this store not too far from our first apartment, and he bought it for me. Years later, our cat Pumpkin (who died this year)decided she liked the creche, too. The olive wood was much like catnip to her. I'd find her drooling over Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all the time. It'll be interesting to see how our new cats Pixie and Turnip Ann respond!

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Hello, Dianna! Can't wait to read the new book! Loved the last one you did with Sherrilyn! It was good to see you in Birmingham. Ladies, if you ever get tired of my efforts to get published it is all Dianna's fault. I met her at a readers luncheon a number of years ago and she was so enthusiastic and encouraging I decided to pick up writing again after letting it go for years!

A Christmas gift I never really expected was the year after my first foray back into writing. I had a chapter that won in the Avon FanLit Event. It was called Tiger, tiger burning bryght. A very dear friend who was my major cheerleader when the event was going on made the most amazing shadow box of my chapter and gave it to me for Christmas. She had painstakingly recreated the bedroom from my chapter complete with tiger skin rug, purple drapes and candle sticks. All of this was encased in a wood framed glass box that she stained mahogany because I mentioned the mahogany furniture in my chapter. She etched the title and the date of my win on the glass. It sits on my writing desk to remind me that I CAN write. It was so unexpected and just the perfect gift.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

What a great experience, Dianna! I'll have to check with my Mom to see if her sweet potato casserole uses those proportions. :D

Congrats on your anthology!

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Mo -

What an interesting gift. I've never heard that term.

BTW - hope the Nutcracker went well this weekend. For those who don't know, Mo has a very talented daughter who is a ballerina.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Louisa -

Thanks for the sweet words. It was great to see you in B'ham too. We had a fun day.

What a wonderful friend to make a gift that means so much. Great way to stay motivated on those hard writing days.

Great to see you here today.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Hi Esri -

One thing that makes this recipe a little different is the orange juice. I'd never had that in it before.

Thanks for the congrats. I can't wait for your May 2009 release - STOLEN MAGIC (great cover - everyone can check it out at

Mo - Don't you have an online holiday story from your Mossy Creek Series? Where is that? I checked and didn't see it with all your books listed.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

What a wonderful story. It reminded me of a friend I had in grade school. I had moved to a new town and wanted to make friends. At first, I didn't like this girl. She seemed very unfriendly, but over time I got to know her, and she became one of my best friends.

As far as unexpected gifts go, I got one last Christmas from my husband. When we opened our gifts, one of mine was an envelope. When I opened it up, there was a note inside that read, "Tickets to Wimbledon." You should have heard me scream. As an avid tennis player, it was a dream trip. Of course, this was all contingent upon actually being able to get the tickets. They are hard to come by. Fortunately, a friend of my husband's had a friend in England who is a judge at Wimbledon, and he got tickets for us. It was a fabulous experience.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Merrillee -

What a great story about the tickets.

And isn't it nice to end up friends with someone you didn't expect to be friends with?

Good stories.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger ArkieRN said...

Thanks for the recipie. I love sweet potato casserole. It's my very favorite holiday dish.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Years ago when I was in college at SMU, the choir went on tour, staying with local families. Although I had family in Baton Rouge, I stayed with the family assigned to me, and for supper we had sweet potatoes cooked in orange juice. The perfect match with sweet potatoes! I still cook them that way.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Caffey said...

Loved reading your post here. I'm so looking forward to the Urban Fantasy story and all! Hope it becomes a series to look forward to!

I love reading holiday stories! From a time that was so difficult, I've found more joys each year during this time. Friendship is a wonderful gift that has so many memories and keeps adding more, it was beautiful to read your gift you have.

One that I remember is a couple years back, I had surgery in October and a week before Christmas, I had a sudden appendicitis which is hard to know when already dealing with pain! So not yet healed, I had to go through this surgery. I figured I'd be home before Christmas, and I got home just on Christmas eve having to stay longer. I came home to having my two teens then, having put up the small tree we have. Each year I buy a new angel for the tree in memory of my mom. So I'm thinking, I didn't yet get the new angel ornament! I was sad and standing there looking and there where I could see, my son had remembered and asked his dad to get one he picked out. So we didn't miss adding a new angel ornament to the tree! I will remember that gift from them all always!

At 4:00 PM, Blogger robynl said...

that is a truly awesome story; it sure does pay to befriend people and often times one walks away with a great friend.
I have once such friend; she and her 3 kids moved to town last year and there was talk b/c most seemed to know that they were 'welfare' people. I befriended her by starting out offering craft supplies for her oldest daughter who made items to sell and I met them at the Flea Market I was working at at the time. Things progressed and now we are great friends and I just got her a job so now she is off welfare. We help each other often.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

robynl, now THAT is an awesome story. Just think of all your kindness accomplished!


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