Blood & Lies: Foods of Ukraine

 Blood & Lies: Foods of Ukraine

My next novel, Blood & Lies,  is set in Ukraine. It’s due out in December of this year. In the book, several Ukrainian dishes the characters share several Ukrainian meals. I thought I would share some of our favorites and some of my preconceived misconceptions.

The first time we visited Ukraine, I expected to find bland, tasteless foods. Was I ever wrong. Ukrainian food is among some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

My family loves flavorful, unique foods and these Ukrainian dishes certainly fulfill that desire.

Borscht, one of the Ukraine staples, is a beet soup. When I first heard of it, I thought it sounded horrible. Then I tasted it. This savory soup is a delight. In the winter, it’s one of my go-to recipes now.

Borscht by Liz West:

Here is a link to the recipe: I tend to modify it by using canned beef stock, shredding the beets and, using olive oil instead of lard or goose fat. The Borscht we had in Kherson, Ukraine had meat in it, so I usually add stew meat.

Golubtsi – Ukrainian cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and beef are one of my family’s favorites.

Golubtsi by Adam Baker:

Here’s the recipe for Golubtsi (sometimes spelled holubtsi):

I don’t modify this recipe much, except the ones we had in Ukraine had a beef broth over them instead of the tomato, so I make that small change to this recipe. My stepson loves these and often asks for them.

We also love Varenyky. From the sour cream dough to the stuffing, everything about them causes the mouth to water just thinking about taking that first bite. By Gary Stevens:
By Gary Stevens:

Here’s the recipe for the dough:

It’s not diet friendly for sure! Once I have mixed the dough, I stuff it with rice and ground meat (because that’s what we had in Ukraine) however, the imagination is the only limit. These tasty little pouches can be stuffed with potatoes, sweet filling, anything you can think of.

Once they are stuffed, I boil them, then lay them out on a cookie sheet, cover them and freeze them for a while. When I’m ready to serve them, I pan fry them until they are brown on each side and warm throughout.

These are only very special occasion foods, and I told the family I refuse to make them unless we have an assembly line because they take so much time and effort.




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Forgotten Children of Ukraine

Forgotten Children of Ukraine

Street Child



There are many street kids in Ukraine. Many of them are orphans of living parents — they prefer the streets to the abuse and neglect at home.

Young children spend many hours wandering the streets and even sleeping in the sewer tunnels.

Sewer TunnelSewer Tunnels Sewer Tunnels

These tunnels have large hot water pipes running through them to supply hot water to apartment buildings, homes, and businesses. The hot water running through the pipes keeps the tunnel warmer so the children spend many nights sleeping on cardboard pallets on top of the pipes.

Due to the damp, dirty conditions, the children are susceptible to communicable diseases like TB.

Ukraine 2007 084 Street Children

In the summertime, the children spend time at the Dnieper River swimming and playing. Some of them beg enough money to take a bus to Crimea. Since it’s a beautiful vacation spot, they are able to get enough money from visitors to buy food.

There are many of these forgotten children throughout Ukraine. Some are orphans, some orphans of living parents. Abuse and neglect cause the children to leave home.

They learn to fade into the background and many people, even those living in Ukraine, don’t realize how pervasive this problem is.

Street Children

Doxa Kids Street Children’s Ministry( based in Odessa, Texas works with a Kherson, Ukraine resident, Galina Kuleshova, to reach the street children and ensure they have food and clothing.

Galina’s heart broke for the street children when she noticed a young man lying on the steps in cold winter. She started to touch him and another child told her he’d already died.

Because of this encounter, Galina has dedicated her life to helping these children. More information about the work Galina does for these children can be found here: Or on Facebook here:

After visiting Kherson with Doxa Kids, our lives were forever changed.

Shortly after we returned, I wrote an article in JPG Magazine about the forgotten children. It has some of the children’s personal stories. The figures quoted in the article were given to us by the people who work with the children.

Please check out the links and keep these children in your prayers.




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A Look At Ukraine

A Look at Ukraine

We love this beautiful country, and before the current tensions between Ukraine and Russia, we visited twice. The first time was with International Cooperating Ministries, and the second trip was with Doxa Kids Street Children’s Ministry.

Street Children

This photo was taken in Kherson, Ukraine. It includes members of the Doxa Kids team, Ukrainian nationals who work with the street children, and street children.











Our time in Ukraine was very special. We made lasting friendships with those who give their lives to help these forgotten children.

Please be in prayer for our friends the children in Kherson. Recently, military equipment has been moving into this city. Our friends are asking for prayer for peace in Ukraine. I would like to add, please pray for protection of the vulnerable street children.

In a future post, I will give more information on these kiddos and the difficulties they face.

Ukraine Cattle Drive

While in Kherson, we saw many unique things…like a small cattle drive down a city street. This gave us all a good laugh. Being from west Texas, most of us of us on the trip are accustomed to seeing cattle, but they are usually behind a fence as we drive down the highway. None of us had ever seen a city street cattle drive. Once the cattle were out of the street, we continued on.




Kvas Truck

We spent much of our time walking around the city. Kvas stands were located in many places and our hosts insisted we sample this odd beverage. It had a yeasty taste, much like uncooked bread. While we didn’t care much for it, our hosts explained that it is believed to be very healthy in Ukraine.



We stayed in a place our hosts called a sanitorium. It had small rooms with a sitting area and it overlooked the Dniper River.


Girls at Elevator

The elevators in the building were very narrow. This is a photo of two of the teens who went with us.






View From our Window

This photo was another view from the room.










Ukraine 2007 010

hese are some of the apartment buildings in Kherson. Many of these are communal buildings left over from the days of the USSR. Families will have a room to themselves, but will share a bathroom and a kitchen with other residents.

Ukraine 2007 086

Some of the street children hanging out in the industrial area of the Dniper River.


Dniper River

The Dniper River – Beach Area






















































On our way from Kherson to Kiev, we stopped at this Armenian restaurant. It looked like a storybook town.








In Kiev we had the opportunity to see some brides and grooms.


Kiev has many beautiful churches. They are very ornate inside and out. They asked that no photos be taken inside the church buildings.

Ukraine 07 326

We had lunch at colorful Ukrainian restaurant in Kiev.







































Ukraine is a beautiful country filled with incredible architecture, history, and culture.

We love the country, and have made lifelong friends there. God has burdened our hearts for the forgotten children in this country and that is why we work with Doxa Kids.

Our love for the country and people led me to set my next novel in this incredible country. Blood & Lies, the third book in the Desert Winds Series, will be released from Desert Breeze Publishing later this year. Much of the story is set in Ukraine.


Out for Blood




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World Book Blog Tour

Carol G HeilmanThank you to Carol Heilman for inviting me to the World Book Blog Tour! Carol is the author of Agnes Hopper’s Bridge to Retirement a charming story about a feisty seventy-year-old widow who becomes the voice the residents in her retirement home.

The World Book Blog Tour asks the following questions:

What am I working: I’m currently in the editing phase of Book 3 in the Desert Winds Series: Blood & Lies. Desert Breeze Publishing will release this novel in December.

Book 4 in the Desert Winds Series: Lies & Alibis is about half completed and will be released sometime next year.

I’m also working on a new series set in the beautiful Big Bend National Park in Texas. The new series doesn’t have a name or a release date yet.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? This one is a little hard to write. My main characters have a Christian world view, but they’re usually damaged. They’ve done something in their past that embarrasses them. I like to think of my suspense novels as culturally relevant. I hope to show them as humans who mess up. Then I take my messy humans and dump them in the midst of a terror-filled roller coaster ride of events.

Why do I write what I do? I love suspense novels. If an author can keep make my heart pound and feel the fear the character feels, they’ve done a great job. I want to entertain people in the same way.

How does my writing process work? I tend to have a particular character in mind, then I will think of a situation where that character would be overwhelmed. Then I start plotting out my story. I do a fairly extensive plot before I start writing, but there are usually some pretty major changes to the plot before I’m finished with the story.

Next stop on the World Book Blog Tour: Elise Phillips

She will have her interview posted on Monday, July 21st. Stop by her blog and learn more about this up and coming writer! You won’t be disappointed.

Elise Phillips

Elise Phillips is a Christian fiction writer who also dabbles in creative non fiction writing. She is currently at work on her first novel as well as a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing. Elise calls Amarillo Texas home, where she resides with an odd collection of animals including a trouble making goat named George. Currently working as a graphic designer, Elise holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness from West Texas A&M University. She is thankful to have been raised in the world of agriculture and horses and was a member of WTAMU’s top ranked Equestrian Team. She is also a proud advocate for the Arthritis Foundation and was featured in their 2011 Annual Report. Elise is excited for the new adventures that writing is bringing into her life and can’t wait to see what will come next.




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Love, Honor, & Hope



8 Authors. 8 Labors of Love. One Fantastic Cause.
Publication Date: June 24, 2014 
Genre: Romance Anthology

Find out more at:

The Authors and their Stories

Jennifer Theriot, Out of the Box Awakening
Swept from her perfect paper-doll life in Houston, Olivia finds herself in Chicago, alone, betrayed, and far from home. Ash is the man who has everything—everything except healing from the losses of a lifetime. What happens when the married woman and the sexy handsome widower are thrown together by fate?

Aubree Lane, Early One Morning

Stuck in San Diego, dealing with unreasonable clients and babysitting Marissa’s kids, a jealous Annie Harper catches the red-eye out of LAX wanting to intercept Terence and foil her best friend’s plans. This envious act uncovers a scandalous affair, and in that one pivotal moment, none of their lives would ever be the same.
Jennifer Yarbrough, Lost and Found 
A tragic accident changes Olivia Porter’s life in ways no woman should experience. With the help of a friend she tries to pick up the pieces and suddenly Cash Kingston appears giving her one more chance at happiness…will she take the chance or keep hiding from pain?
Diane Rinella, Scary Modsters 
While under the influence of insomnia-impaired judgment, Rosalyn summons Rock ‘n Roll deity Peter Lane back from the dead. Not only does he spin her hormones into a frenzy, Peter is also the precarious puzzle piece that brings sense into her world. When Niles learns that he can overcome his life-long challenge by helping Peter avenge his death, how far will he go to secure Rosalyn’s heart?
Kelly Cozzone,  Tropical Dreams 
Tropical Dreams is a tale of love, murder and conspiracy. Can Tiana Alexander overcome her past to learn to love again? Can David Murphy let go of the demons who haunt him. Can they face the future together or will life finally take its toll and their lives?
Linda Lee Williams, Sisters of the Night
Can there be a happily ever after for Emaline Hoffbrau, Juliana Slater and Gretchen Eberhardt, three modern-day vampire women?
Cherime MacFarlane, Heart of the Hunter
Leda is a teacher just out of school, who has not had time for love. Jay takes her by surprise, a soft spoken slightly broken man who lives with only his dog, for company. Leda sees something in Jay she needs to pursue. She should stay away from Jay. But can she? Who is the hunter and who is the hunted?
Sammie J, Piece of Heaven

Aaron Calnan has seen enough of the horrors of war. Now, Aaron finds himself immersed in a world where humans work within the realms of the paranormal, where Werewolves and Vampires become friends and Fae like to kick your ass. One encounter changes everything and Aaron finds his life turned upside down. Will he finally find his own piece of heaven?

Find this amazing anthology on Amazon and Barnes&Noble!

*All proceeds will benefit The United States War Veteran’s PTSD Foundation*






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Along The Watchtower – Review

Along the WatchtowerAlong the Watchtower – Review



A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare.  Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities.  The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse–and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde.  His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission–a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory–and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.


Let me first say, fantasy is not my usual genre. My usual genres are suspense and mysteries. However, I did enjoy Along the Watchtower. It’s quite different from other fantasy novels I’ve read.

While serving in Iraq, an IED explodes and leaves Lt. Freddie Williams injured. The story starts off fast-paced with a great deal of tension as we see, from Freddie’s point of view, the explosion and the immediate aftermath. As Freddie slips into unconsciousness, we fall into an alternate reality where he is a prince and must save the kingdom.

As the story progresses, the two worlds intertwine and Freddie begins to find answers to the real world in his fantasy.

The story unfolded and I really liked Freddie and Becky. As a former nurse who dealt with quite a few veterans over the years, Freddie is realistically portrayed, and Becky’s empathy her patients was spot-on.

I enjoyed the story, but much of it revolved around the game World of Warcraft which I’ve never played or even seen. The references to the game were quite frequent and did throw me out of the story a little, but it could be my age. After all, Freddie is a young man, and I think it’s a popular game for the younger crowd.

There were quite a few references to “the goddess” which I didn’t really understand. It may be something from the game, but as someone who usually reviews Christian fiction, this was a little jolting. Of course, the author did not categorize his novel as Christian fiction, so this is not something I would count against the story.

I noticed several areas that had typos or other mistakes, but all in all, I enjoyed the story. There is some foul language in the book, so readers who are offended by that, may want to avoid it. However, it doesn’t contain the sexual innuendo and blatant sexual escapades that fill so many books nowadays.

If you enjoy a more serious novel with a  bent towards fantasy, you will enjoy Along the Watchtower.


A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

Author: David Litwack
Publication Date: June 13, 2013
Genre: ContemporaryFantasy (13+)

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heartmay be his only way back from Hell.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  iBooks  |  Kobo


The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. His novels include: There Comes a ProphetAlong the Watchtower, and the newly released The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.
David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Newsletter



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Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

After living in west Texas all of my life, I recently visited Big Bend for the first time. The park is enormous, beautiful, and rugged. And deadly.

However, most of those who die in the park come unprepared for the desert. While Big Bend has an abundance of wildlife and plant life, it is a desert. In the summer temperatures soar and water isn’t easily found.

Big Bend

My husband and I visited Big Bend National Park in February. The temperature reached into the mid-eighties. The next day, the highs were in forties, and as we left our hotel, we saw snow flurries. These drastic changes and incredibly hot temperatures in late spring through early fall catch many visitors unaware.

Big Bend

The plants were just starting to bloom when we were there. I snapped a shot of these Bluebonnets growing on the side of the road.


As we left the park, I got a couple of shots of deer. I had to snap quickly or I would’ve missed them.

DeerYou have to look closely to see him, but I snapped it from the side of the road as he took off.

While we were in the park, I bought Death in Big Bend by Laurence Parent. It has seventeen case studies of people who’ve perished or been rescued in Big Bend.

While reading this true book, the idea for a novel came to mind. I’m currently plotting a series of books set in this great park. I hope it intrigues you as much a Big Bend intrigues me.


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Blog Hop

My friend Jackie Layton asked me to join her a blog hop. She’s an incredibly talented winner and is one of the Genesis contest semi-finalists this year. As the judging for the contest continues, I’m rooting for Jackie’s novel to move through the rounds. I would love to see “Genesis Winner” in her tagline in the near future!

Check out her blog: Jackie’s Back Porch



Jackie Layton and her sweet husband

Jackie asked me four questions about my writing:

  • What am I working on?

I’m on Blood & Lies a romantic suspense novel set in my hometown of Odessa, Texas.

When a home health nurse discovers two dead bodies in her patient’s home, the killer sets his sights on silencing her – forever.

  • How does my work differ from others?

In several ways. I always have a Border collie or an Aussie in my books, and several people have told me that my storyline is more intense than many other Christian writers. It tends to draw non-Christian readers and Christian readers looking for a high-degree of realism.

While I don’t have extremely vulgar language in my books, you might see a “darn” or “crap” uttered by a character – depending on the character and the situation.

  • Why do I write what I write?

I’ve been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. Most of the books I read are suspense/thriller. If I can keep my readers turning the page, their hearts hammering, and wondering what happens next, I’ve done my job. I write what I love to read. Once, I tried to write a sweet love story with no murder or mayhem. It was ho-hum, and I kept trying to insert some suspense…so I turned it into a suspense novel and was much happier with it.

  • How does my writing process work?

When I started writing, I just sat down and wrote. I meandered away from the story to the point it was a mess. So I started plotting and over the years, I’ve learned the more I plot, the stronger the story. I may change it as I go, but at least I have a blue print.

I’ve also started using Scrivener so as I write, I have all of my research and notes at hand. Organization is important in my writing, and Scrivener has helped me become more organized.

When I first begin plotting, I start with my characters. I do a complete character interview with all of the main characters, then I do a mini-profile for secondary characters. I include photos of my characters in Scrivener so I have a picture of what I want that person to look like.

Next, I do a setting profile for each of the settings. I have pictures of towns, buildings, cars, etc.

Once I have my characters and settings, I begin plotting the story. Then the fun part starts: I get to write the story! And then I revise it multiple times.

That’s more than you ever wanted to know about me! Let me introduce you to several of my author friends. These talented women have novels out that will keep you turning the pages.

Naomi Musch

Naomi Musch TrevelyanCoverArt72dpi

Naomi writes from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and husband Jeff live as epically as God allows on a ramshackle farm where they spend quality time with their children and grandchildren. Amidst it, she writes novels about imperfect people who are finding hope and faith to overcome their struggles.

In non-fiction venues, Naomi spent five years as a staff writer for the EPA award-winning Midwestern Christian newspaper, Living Stones News, telling true-life stories of changed lives. She has also written dozens of magazine and internet articles for the purpose of encouraging homeschooling families and young writers.

She invites readers to say hello and find out more about her books, passions, and other writing venues at or to look her up on Facebook (Naomi Musch – Author) and Twitter (NMusch).

Kelly Liberto


Kelly Liberto is a romantic suspense writer. She is also a Genesis Contest semi-finalist, and as the books continue through the judging process, I hope to see Genesis winner in her tagline!

Her current novel deals with some tough subjects and is a page turner. Visit her website:

Nike Chillemi

Harmful Intent Nike Chillemi

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine.

Nike is a multi-published author. Her Sanctuary Point series will keep the readers turning pages. Most recently, she’s started a new series the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes Series of novels.

BJ Robinson

BJ Robinson

Top 100 Amazon Bestselling Author, B. J. Robinson, is an award-winning, multi-published author with four traditionally published novels as well as independently published short stories, novellas, and novels. River Oaks Plantation, her first full-length indie, has been on Amazon’s bestselling Christian historical novel list as well as the Civil War list. River Oaks Plantation won an Indie Award and was a top three finalist in the Grace Awards for 2013 in the historical romance category. The novel was showcased in Southern Writers Magazine as a Must Read. She won an award through the Florida Writers Association, first prize in fiction-writing competition at Southeastern Louisiana University for a short story that was published in their literary magazine, Gambit, and a novella won an indie award. She has also won numerous editors’ choice awards for poetry, had poems published, articles published, and her short story ran on the front page of a local newspaper three weeks as a serial.

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Then Versus Than

Confused sign

Then Versus Than

When trying to decide whether to use “then” or “than” does it leave you as confused as this sign? I hope we can clear up the differences between “then” and “than” with this quick tip.

THEN: According to the dictionary here is the definition:

As an adverb:

  • A point in time – For example: Back THEN clothing styles were very modest.
  • Immediately or soon after – For example: Sandra stopped screaming, THEN started again.
  • Next in the order of time – For example: Joe went to the store THEN to dinner.
  • At the same time – For example: At first, her eyes looked blue, THEN green.
  • Next in order of place – For example: The winners of the Golden Goose writer competition were: 1st place – Joe, 2nd place Sue, THEN 3rd place Grady.

As an adjective:

  • being; being such; existing or being at the time indicated – For example: The THEN president of ACFW.

As a noun:

  • At a certain point of time – For example: Andrew hasn’t been back to Sue’s house since THEN.


THAN: According to the dictionary here is the definition:

A conjunction:

  • Introduces a second member of unequal comparison. For example: Judith is a better writer THAN I am.
  • Introduces an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, etc. – For example: Texas has less restrictive gun laws THAN California
  • Introduces the rejected choice in expressions of preference – For example: I would rather write THAN watch television.
  • Except – For example: I had no other choice THAN to withdraw from the writing competition.
  • When –

To drill things down to the quick tip, then is used to show time. Next, after, in a series, etc., and than is used to compare. I hope this not-so-quick tip helps clarify whether to use THEN or THAN.

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Couple Versus Couple Of

I’ve noticed in quite a few books I’ve read, the couple versus couple of conundrum has confounded many excellent writers. In fact, one best-selling author never gets this right. I think the way we speak has much to do with us writing it incorrectly. We often say: couplea and run it together or leave off the “of” in speech, but if we do it incorrectly in writing, it will throw some readers out of the story. I hope these quick tips and rules will help you keep it straight!

The rules below are from Kathy Ide, editor extraordinaire and grammar/punctuation guru.



Use “couple” alone when it’s used as noun. For example: “Allen and Jenna make such a cute couple.” Anytime “couple” is used as a noun, it  stands alone.

Couple of Horses

However, when couple is used as a modifier, you must add “of” . For example: “I saw a couple of horses in the field next to my house.” It is never “a couple horses” and should always be “a couple of horses.”

Next time you plop down in front of your keyboard and begin writing the next NYT Best Seller, keep this quick tip in mind. Couple is a noun or a modifier. If it’s a noun it stands alone, if it’s a modifier, it must have it’s partner “of”.



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