Gluten PunishmentHi, I’m Toni. My day starts very early. There used to be this funny commercial on television where the donut maker got up in the middle of the night and practically slept walked to the bakery to make the donuts. Yes, I think of that some days when I stumble out the door at the crack of dawn. But for the most part I’m okay with getting up so early. There’s something wonderful about the deep quiet of the middle of the night when the sky is filled with too many stars to count. You have the only car on the road and even the birds haven’t woken up yet to fill the air with their morning chorus. Getting up and going to work by 3 a.m. makes you feel like you know a secret everyone else sleeps through.

I usually get to my bakery, “Baker’s Treat” by 3:30 or 4 a.m. I turn on all the lights and lock the door behind me. It might sound a little paranoid, but I check all the closets and restrooms to ensure I’m alone in the bakery. I don’t know if that stems from my years in Chicago or if I’m simply paranoid. I’d like to think I’m prudent and safety conscious instead of paranoid and silly. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Once I’m certain I’m alone in the locked bakery, I’d wash my hands, make the first pot of coffee, and pull the dough out of the fridge. You see I make up the yeast dough the night before to give it a chance for extra lift. There’s nothing worse than dough that hasn’t been given enough room to rise.

After that my day goes quick. I bake, manage the counter, take orders, make endless pots of coffee and visit with my regulars. The best part about a small town is everyone knows everyone. Even though I grew up in Oiltop, I’d spent ten years in Chicago. So the community still sees me as an outsider. It doesn’t help my case that I cook wheat-free in the middle of wheat country. I think some of the town’s people are coming around to the idea that you can have tasty baked goods that aren’t made with wheat. But it’s an uphill battle. Small town people tend to be stuck in their ways.

The final bakery chores are making the morning dough and putting it in the fridge. Then I clean up the front and the kitchen.

I usually drag myself back to the homestead after 9 p.m. My feet hurt my uniform of black slacks and white tee-shirt smells of sugar and yeast. There are parts of my fly-away red hair that are stiff with something – probably glaze. More times than I can count I arrive home to visitors – usually my Grandma Ruth and her boyfriend Bill. Sometimes my good friend Tasha and her son Kip would be there. You see, I inherited the family homestead – a four story Victorian with three floors of bedrooms and countless bathrooms. My friend Tasha wants me to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. I might consider it if I had time. But for now I’m too busy building my bakery business to even consider doing anything else. Besides my mom’s last will left the homestead to me with the caveat that I let any family member crash at the Homestead anytime.

Sounds simple, right? Except that I have 52 first cousins and some of them have been married multiple times. All of them have multiple children. So basically my house is a family Inn where I pay the bills and make repairs while the rest of the family gets to stay for free.

I refuse to complain. I’m of the firm belief that when life hands you lemons, you make lemon margaritas and celebrate the best you can. I have an endless supply of family. Hopefully soon I’ll have the same amount of friends.

That’s a typical day in my life. Now your turn, when life gives you lemons, do you rim your lemon margaritas with salt or sugar?

Thanks to Penguin, I have one (1) copy of GLUTEN FOR PUNISHMENT to give away. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. Contest ends May 9; US entries only per publisher’s request.

You can read more about Toni in Gluten For Punishment, the first book in the new “Baker’s Treat” mystery series.

Meet the author
Best known for writing “…strong stubborn heroes and plucky heroines who aren’t afraid to go toe to toe with them,”(Shelley Mosley, Booklist Magazine), Nancy J. Parra has ten published books. Recently, You Gotta Read Reviews wrote “The mind is a devil’s playground in Nancy J. Parra’s (latest book) Dream Man. Throw in politics and a race for the Presidency, romance and a ton of suspense and what you have is a roller coaster ride that straps you in and won’t let go. Wonderful and one you need to read. ”The Counterfeit Bride was named one of the top ten romances of 2011 by Booklist Magazine.

You can visit Nancy on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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