Saturday, December 30, 2017

The wine glasses

Confession - we live in France, and hardly ever drink wine. My husband and I have water, soda, fruit juice, the occasional hard cider or beer - and wine only on special occasions. So when Chrsitmas was coming and he family was going to descend upon us "en masse", we looked into our dish cupboard and sighed. We have been living with the free mustard glasses for twenty years now. I think the last cups I bought were from Ikea, and they were plastic so the kids couldn't break them. That should give you an idea of how old our cups are. We decided to go to a discount shop and buy dishes.

We needed twelve shallow ironstone bowls. Plain, heavy, serviceable, and cheap. They were 75 cents a bowl - perfect for my thrifty Scottish soul.
Then we took two boxes of six wine glasses. The box was on sale for 6€ for 6 glasses. gerfect. Again, balm for my stingy  thrifty soul.

The glasses looked very nice on the box, but when we unpacked them, they turned out to be incredibly fragile. The glass was so thin it was like paper, and the stem was long and skinny. It felt like it would snap in in your fingers. We hardly dared touch them. Carefully I rinced them off and dried them and put them in the cupboard. When we set the table, with the heavy, plain while ironstone bowls and fragile, delicate wine glasses, it did look pretty. And to my amazement, no one broke a single glass. We toasted Very Carefully.

Then, after dinner, I looked at the wine glasses and said, "You are going in the dishwasher. If you break, I won't cry. I won't need wine glasses for another twenty years, so it's make it - or break, guys."  I put them in the machine, and wonder of wonders - my machine has little clips to hold the stems in place while they wash - and even more amazingly - they came out sparkling clean - and intact! So I have twelve wine glasses that match, and twelve matching ironstone bowls, and I even have twelve matching water glasses, because my husband was all for tossing out our mustard glassses.

The mustard glasses - all 20 of them - were adopted by Alex & Sara for their new apartment.
The wine glasses take up a whole section of my dish cupboard!
We use the white bowls nearly every day, since I make so much soup, and since there is so much leftover couscous from Christmas dinnner!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ruby Tuesday

It's Tuesday, so that song popped into my head. It's my last day of vacation, so I elected to be a vegetable and sit on the couch all day. With some exceptions. I walked the dog twice. I went shopping. I walked to the bakery to get bread. I made homemade vegatable soup with  chunk of cabbage left over in the fridge (and carrots, a potato, an onion, and a turnip...) I added a dash of hot pepper flakes and a bouillion cube (beef broth) and that is dinner. (With the fresh bread). It's calm here today. The weather is blustery but not rainy. The kids are not here. The tree is blinking and there are three candles flickering on the shelf (gift from my SIL - candles that run on batteries, look and feel like real wax, and can change color!)

We spent an hour shelling walnuts for my cake recipe while watching Sherlock Holmes. Now there is "The Bodyguard" on, and my husband is asking me (rhetorically - I have no idea) why Whitney Houston committed suicide. "She had everything!" he says, shaking his head. "What a voice. What a waste." I admit that it was tragic, and go back to reading a restaurant critic who wrote about his dismal experience at the Georges V in Paris - He said it was depressingly bad. It cost 600€ for a meal for 2 people. At that price, I would be depressed too. Suicidal, actually. Are there people who can afford to spend that on one meal? I don't even spend that much on a while month's grocery shopping - and that includes veggies for a wonderful, creamy, tasty soup.

Recipe for a wonderful, creamy, tasty soup:

4 carrots, 1 potato, 1 turnip, 1 onion, A wedge of green or white cabbage, 2 bouillion cubes or a quart of rich beef broth, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, 2 dollops cream.

Chop and cook the vegetables (except for the cabbage) in butter until they start to brown slightly. Add the broth and cook for ten minutes, covered. Slice the cabbage into strips and add the cabbage to the veggies and cover tightly. Cook until all the vegetables are very tender (about 40 minutes). Let cool in the broth, then puree in a blender. Add the pepper flakes and cream. Reheat and serve nice and hot with a fresh baguette, sweet butter, and cheese. We have Vacherin.

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According to Wikipedia, it is a soft, rich, seasonal cheese made from cow's milk in France, usually in villages of the Jura region. It is traditionally made in the winter months when the cows come down from Alpage (mountain pastures) and there is not enough milk to make Comté cheese.And when the cows are kept undercover & fed exclusively on Hay & not fresh grass. It is marketed in round boxes of various diameters made of spruce.The strips of spruce are harvested by specialists called "sanglier". It is often served warmed in its original packaging and eaten like fondue.

For dinner, I heated it up, and we dipped pieces of fresh baguette into it. A new favorite is born! And to make everything perfect, we have ice cream left over from our Christmas dinner - so desert was homemade sweet chestnut ice cream with candied chestnuts.

Bon Appetite!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A decade ago - December distilled

Here is December 2007 distilled in three blog posts - ten years later, I look back in wonder. The kids were ten years younger - so was I! 
Dec 2007- Deck the Halls! 

The tree glitters, the house is decked with boughs of pine and swaths of ribbon, and there are oranges in the bowl on the table.
My daughter is feeling much better today – – thanks so much for the well wishes.
I have finished the shopping, the cards are sent, the house is fairly clean, the stockings are hung, and it’s still icy, cold, and clear outside. White frost is sparkling on the trees and ground, beckoning Auguste to escape and go for a dash through the woods.
A couple days ago I got a letter from someone who read my book ‘Time for Alexander’. He was quite indignant at the liberties I took with the historical part of the story. I wondered how to reply. (And if I should reply) Finally I sent a note saying that it was a fiction book, and should be taken as thus. (After all, there’s a modern woman zipping through time to interview Alexander the Great and getting mistaken for Persephone – I’d have thought that the fiction part was pretty well established…) I wonder if I did the right thing though. I suppose this means he won’t be reading the rest of the series.
Surreal Holidays
My daughter just looked at me and said, “John Lennon is the only member of the Beatles that’s still alive, right mom?”
So far, my holidays have been surreal.
Today we woke up and the water pipes were frozen. I went into the shed and sure enough, the workers had forgotten to put the insulation back on the pipes. So, several hot towels and newspaper and a hair dryer later, we have water again. I have to go find where the workers put the insulation and tuck it all back in, but it’s cold out there.
The temperatures will rise a little this week, but will plunge again next week. I love the cold when it’s sunny out, and so far we’ve had glorious weather – bright, sunny, and cold.
My daughter is sick – the school called yesterday and sent us into a panic. The school nurse thought she might have menigitis.
So yesterday I’m in church listening to the children’s choir for the private school in Montfort (Gorgeous church, Unesco site) and the cell phone rings, and it’s my husband with the news about my daughter. I leave right in the middle of ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ and sprint for the car. I was with my friend Andrea, so she had to drop me off. We rushed her to the doctor, who reassured me. It’s just a gastirc flu. Causes headaches, muscle aches, and nausea. Poor kid is once again in bed (well, with the TV on, big fluffy pillows, and room service…) I do hate getting scared like that though.
Auguste is escaping again. (he goes through stages) Now he’s learned to climb the stone wall on the right side of our garden. (Strange sight, a dachshund taking a flying leap at the wall, then gripping and scrabbling over it.) It would be funnier if I weren’t so worried he’d get hit by a car once outside the garden. Silly dog.
Gabriele, I got the French version of the Deryni series, I didn’t even check to see if it was in English. It’s by Pocket books, so maybe they have a series in German? I know most of my German friends prefer to read books that are written in English in English. I’m always amazed at how well my German friends speak English.
I wish I came from a country with an educational system that thought learning a foreign language was important…
Twilight of the Books
According to the New Yorker – it is the “Twilight of the Books” time, supported by statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“…In 1982, 56.9 per cent of Americans had read a work of creative literature in the previous twelve months. The proportion fell to fifty-four per cent in 1992, and to 46.7 per cent in 2002. Last month, the N.E.A. released a follow-up report, “To Read or Not to Read,” which showed correlations between the decline of reading and social phenomena as diverse as income disparity, exercise, and voting. In his introduction, the N.E.A. chairman, Dana Gioia, wrote, “Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.””
Book sales have stagnated, even fallen, in the past few years, dropping from “8.27 books per person in 2001 to 7.93 in 2006.”
As a reader, I’m stunned to learn that only 46.7 per cent of Americans have read a work of creative literature (poem, short story, novel) in 2002. (N.E.A. statistics). But the average American’s household budget for books was 126$ in 2005, and the price of books as well as the cost of living having risen, I imagine that the number is even lower today.
What can be done about the death of reading? It’s true that TV and computer games have pushed books aside, but we shouldn’t let this happen without a struggle. What good can come of letting reading be phased out? The army general in me has already made up plans to ban televisision after 8pm, and install reading time instead “Unless there’s a really good film or documentary on,” says the hedonist in me. The army general huffs but usually looses to the hedonist. 
Last week I finished reading the Pullman trilogy (I’d only read the first book – seeing the film made me want to finish the series, and I really enjoyed it.)
Now I’m back in Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni books, because I bought them for my neice, and I thought I’d quick read them before I wrapped them up. (Is this a Christmas faux pas, I wonder? It is, however, a family tradiction…) I am very careful not to fold the pages or crease the spine…lol.
My daughter is actually looking forward to reading Moliere’s “Le Malade Imaginaire” over the holidays. I’m going to read two new mystery books I bought, plus the book I won from Linda Winfree and that I’m looking forward to reading as well.
Back to the article, it says that “Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be explained but the fact that we read at all. “The act of reading is not natural,” Maryanne Wolf writes in “Proust and the Squid”” Which is interesting.
It also states that, “There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century.”
Anyhow, reading the article in the New Yorker was interesting, here’s a link if you’d like to take a look. I especially liked the replies of the illiterate peasants in a 1930’s study.
Still begging for a pony
My daughter (despite being told that NO she cannot have a horse) is still begging me.
Here are 3 things my kids have asked me for Christmas that they never got:
A flying carpet.
“But Mom, it does so exist! We saw it in that film – Aladin! Don’t you remember?”
Sebastian, 7 yrs. old. Absolutely convinced that there were magic carpets, and that I didn’t want to give him one because I was afraid he’d fall off.
“I promise, I’ll hold on tight! I won’t go too far!”
He kept this up for THREE weeks. I finally gave him the prayer rug my uncle had brought me back from the first Gulf war from Kuwait. Sebi sat on the rug and tried to make it fly for hours. Anyone catching sight of him would have been amazed at how devout this little boy was, kneeling on his prayer rug, facing the open window.
An equine. A little shetland pony. A pony. A donkey. A small horse. A horse.
My daughter has grown from pony to horse, but she still begs. The answer is still No, No, No. NO!
A cell phone.
“But Mom, I can’t keep using the pay phone at the school. There’s always a long line of kids there, and I have to wait to call you. If I don’t have to wait, I can call you sooner, and you won’t have to spend as much time in the car.” (Yes Alex, this was you, darling. You’re in college now, so you can probably catch the mistake.)
Update: This was written in December 2007. In 2011, we bought our daughter a pony. Alex eventually got his cellphone. But Sebi still hasn’t gotten a flying carpet. Sometimes you never get what you want! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Interview with an author: The Remains in the Pond by Ann Swann

Today I'm welcoming Ann Swann, a writer with a a penchant for murder! (Romantic suspense, to be exact!) Hello Ann! Please introduce yourself, and tell us how you became a writer:

Ann: Hi, My name is Ann Swann. I write romantic suspense, ghost stories, and contemporary fiction. I also write speculative fiction from time to time. My new novel is THE REMAINS IN THE POND, it recently won a cover contest – isn’t that cover awesome? When I’m not writing, I like to hike the trails around our town (we live in the deserts of West Texas), go to movies and concerts with my hubby, and play outside with my darling grandchildren. I also love watching crime TV shows and speculative shows like Stranger Things on Netflix.

Me: I love Stranger Things too! What inspires you most? 

Ann: People inspire me. Their actions, how they treat each other, and their dialogue. I love to watch people out in public. But I base a lot of my characters on my family members, friends, and frenemies. If they didn’t want me to write about them, they should have acted better. I always tell them if they think I’m writing about them, then I probably am.

What were your favorite books when you were young, and what are your favorite books right now?

I loved animal stories when I was young, The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Silver Chief, Dog of the North, The Call of the Wild, Night of the White Deer . . . I could go on and on. Nowadays I read a little bit of everything. I love romantic suspense (naturally), but I also love YA like The Hunger Games or novels by Sara Dessen and Nicolas Sparks. I also read anything by Stephen King simply because he got his hooks in me when I was young and now I’m addicted.

Tell us about your book - who is the main character, is there a villain, and what do want readers to know about this story?
THE REMAINS IN THE POND is about a girl named Gabi (I named her after a woman who won a contest on my last blog tour. The antagonist, Rose, was also a winning reader) who has all her dreams dashed on prom night when her year-long-crush (Matt) has a car wreck and winds up in a coma. As if that weren’t bad enough, his jealous cousin, Rose, (who is in love with him), lures Gabi to the old pond under the guise that Matt is out of the hospital and wants to see her. Lies, lies, lies. Things do not go well at the pond.

Gabi leaves town and makes a new life for herself, but when she has to return for a funeral, she is charged with murder because of the remains found in the pond.

The Remains in the Pond
by Ann Swann
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
Senior prom is the happiest night of Gabi’s life. Her crush has just revealed that he is every bit as infatuated with her as she is with him. When he has a car wreck and is transported to the hospital in a coma, Gabi feels as if she’s taken a knife to the heart. But his jealous cousin, Rose, sees her chance to give the knife an even harder twist. She convinces Gabi to meet her at a local parking spot outside town. It's a night that will change several lives forever. One of the girls will return, and one will become known as the remains in the pond.

Excerpt Three:

I didn’t see Matt anywhere. There weren’t any vehicles in the gravel lot. I parked but didn’t roll down the windows. Something felt wrong. The night began to feel as opaque as the murky water. If Matt wanted to see me, where was he?

Backing up, I shined my headlights a different direction, then I made a small tight circle and lit up the entire parking area a little at a time. Low mesquites and spindly live oaks bordered one side of the lot. It was the sort of foliage that loved a little water now and then but thrived just as well without it. I saw neither Matt nor Rose.

After a few minutes, I pulled out of the lot and circled the pond as far as I could go. The gravel road didn’t loop around the entire thing, only about three quarters of the way, and then you were forced to turn around in the only remaining wide spot unless you wanted to get out and have a picnic beneath the single stand of oaks tall enough to give good shade.

Of course I didn’t need any shade now. And I really didn’t want to get out of the car. This seemed too weird. I put the car in reverse and executed a careful turnaround. When my headlights picked out the figure at the edge of the water, I inhaled sharply. It was not what I expected to find.

I rolled down my window. “Rose?” I called. “Is that you?”

A branch cracked, a shadow moved, and panic slid between my ribs like a blade. The figure turned toward my headlights, definitely female. She wore her long hair lose and flowing. Under the moonlight, I couldn’t be certain if the woman’s hair was red or light brown.

What are you doing here?” No answer. “Where’s Matt?” I tried to keep my voice steady, to show her I wasn’t afraid. I put the car in PARK and opened my door tentatively, putting one foot on the ground.

She stared into my headlights, one hand shielding her eyes like a sailor looking for land, and then, like a flash, she ran straight at me. Straight toward my little Honda with the window rolled down. Her hair flew out behind her and it was all so surreal that for a moment, I simply sat there, paralyzed. Then she raised her right hand above her head. In her grip, I caught a glimpse of silver.

Me: I love the blurb and excerpt, and can't wait to read the book! 
Can you share a favorite recipe or life hack – perhaps something that is connected to your book?

Ann: Strange you should ask … I can share a firehouse recipe from my sweet hubby, Dude, who used to be a fire fighter. Take a can of Eagle Brand sweetened, condensed, milk, remove the paper label, and put the unopened can in a sturdy pan of water (enough to cover the can of milk), bring to a boil and then turn down to medium. Cook on stovetop for three hours. When you open the can you have caramel. Spoon into a graham cracker crust, cool in the fridge, and then top with Cool Whip when you’re ready to serve. It’s creamy and delicious. This has been a dessert staple at our house forever. I actually use this recipe in my next book, a steamy romance that is in progress.

Me - Oh my, that sounds delicious! I will definitely give it a try! Anything else you'd like to add? 

Ann: Watch for my two new YA books to come out soon!

Thank you for being a guest on my blog! 
Ann:  Thank you for letting me ramble.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Ann has been a writer since junior high school, but to pay the bills she’s waited tables,
delivered newspapers, cleaned other people's houses, taught school, and even had a short
stint as a secretary in a rock-n-roll radio station. She also worked as a 911 operator and a
police dispatcher.

Ann’s stories began to win awards in her college days. Since then she’s published novels,
novellas, and short stories. But even if no one ever bought another book, Ann wouldn’t stop
writing. For her it’s the cathartic pause in a sometimes-crazy world. Most of the time, it even
keeps her sane.

Twitter: @ann_swann


Ann Swann will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I doubt, therefore I am…a writer

I read an interesting article about Patrick Viera that got me thinking. Patrick is a football player (soccer to us Yanks) who has been playing since about 1996 with a top rate club in England, Arsenal. His coach wrote a book about him entitled ‘Viera’. I didn’t read the book, but part of it is excerpted in the Guardian. Anyhow, his captain says this about him:
“The trophies Patrick won with France obviously gave him a lot of confidence. But he’s a guy who always has self-doubts. I like the type of self-doubt he has because it produces some very positive questioning. It’s not the sort that paralyses you during a game, instead it leads to a process of reflection which makes you self-critical. Patrick always analysed his performance with great lucidity.”
That struck a chord with me, because so many writers doubt themselves. They are terribly insecure about their writing. I think it’s important to take that self doubt and turn it into something a bit more positive. Instead of giving up,  persevere, and instead of letting the doubt paralyse you (I do this sometimes, I think ‘this isn’t right, I can’t go on!’) try, instead, to turn it into a constructive questioning session between you and your book.
Me: “Why am I stuck at this point?”
Book: “Either you have a problem with the character, or you’re just losing sight of the main goal. Try writing three more pages and see how that goes.”
Me: “The character can’t do what I need him to do.”
Book: “Go back and make sure you’ve given him the ability. Maybe you left something out! Or, perhaps he won’t do it, because it’s not helping him resolve the conflict in the story. Check your conflict.”
Me: “The plot is getting too complex, I’ll never be able to keep all the threads straight.”
Book: “Either make an outline now and take care of all the plot lines, or get rid of the ones that don’t advance the story. Is that part helping or hindering?
This especially strikes me as important because I’m in the middle of line-editing books right now (something no one does anymore). It’s frustrating and fastidious – and it makes me want to crawl under my covers and never come out again. It makes me doubt my ability as an author.
So, full of self-doubt, I examine each sentence and think: “Is that sentence making the story go forward? Is it at least helping the characters get to where they have to go?” And when I doubt, I usually leave it out. AND: Just because it’s pretty writing, doesn’t mean you have to leave it in. Poetry can go somewhere else. If I start swooning over my words, chances are they should probably be cut out.
Try to keep track of overused words. Get rid of clichés wherever possible. Go easy on adverbs! Words that keep coming back to haunt me: “a bit”, terribly, pale, (I think pale must be one of my all-time favorite overused word), just, then, only…
(Just then he walked through the door. She saw him and turned a bit pale.)
And remember: When in doubt leave it out! (But don’t give up – we need writers!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Me and my big mouth

I was always a hot-head. I can remember getting a black eye because I yelled at a bully who threw my friend’s bike on the ground. I told him what I thought of him, he punched me in the face. I never liked physical fights – I’m too small and not very coordinated – but I won’t back down. If someone wants to use violence, it doesn’t scare me. In fact, it usually makes me more determined. I screamed at one of the best polo players in the world the day he hit his horse with a mallet. And when he yelled back, I yelled louder. (Years later, we actually laughed about it – but at the time, believe me, it wasn’t funny.) People were running over to pull me away, and I was telling him in no uncertain terms that if I saw that again I was calling the ASPCA. So that’s me. I get a little crazy sometimes. My husband knows this. My family knows this. I can’t stand by and watch while someone gets bullied, or an animal is hurt, or if I see an injustice. 
This was supposed to be a funny post. But I got distracted. I somehow found myself over on an ultra right-wing website, and mentioned that I didn't think his tax reform was good the the country - you'd have thought I'd suggested we all kill puppies - the people went beserk. It's interesting getting attacked by alt-righters – I noted that there are very few of them that can actually argue. They start name-calling and swearing. I ask for facts. That stumps them. They can only quote Trump, which means the level is pretty low. Maybe it’s mean of me to go tease them. I certainly won’t make any freinds, and someone has already threatened to boycott all my books (I’m not sure he’d be able to understand them – The Promise, for example, is for age 10 and up…that may be way over his head.) But I’m not over there to sell books. I’m over there to see if I can shoot some arrows of real news into the cesspool of rightwing propaganda. (And the effect, I’m sure, will be exactly the same as if they were real arrows and a real cesspool…)
But let’s not lose hope. I’ll keep on being a loud-mouthed, opinionated pain in the ass. I like being a pain. And if I get a few black eyes, well, so what. I can take it. Trump and his ilk are horrifying, but they won’t be there forever. The altright will sink back into its cesspool. I’ll stick up for you, if you have my back. And buy a couple of my books, because seeing my name on a best-seller list will really piss them off. How’s that for a sale’s pitch?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Where did time go?

Where did time go?

I have twins — did I mention that? They are fraternal twins & nothing alike; one is calm, the other excitable; one can sit still for hours and the other never stops moving; one eats everything on his plate, his brother picks everything apart and won’t touch vegetables, meat, fish, cheese…; but they are strangely similar as well. They fell in love at the same time; one with a delicate, petite brunette, the other with a tall, willowy redhead. I wonder where time went. When they were little, I could never imagine them as gown-ups with families and jobs. Where did the time go? The world, so they say, is flying through the universe at mind-boggling speeds, shooting off into space as if fired from a cannon, dragging time with it like the tail of a comet.
When they were born, three months premature, I could not imagine them grown up. I could barely imagine them as normal, chubby, babbling babies because they were so tiny and weak. When they came home, each weighing barely 4 pounds, they slept in the same bassinet, curled up together like fern fronds, their hands so small they fit on my thumbnail. After months, years even, they started to catch up to their age. Time was all it took, and lots of care, and love, with a fierceness that would catch me by surprise. I never thought that children were not like baby birds, hatching from eggs, growing in a nest. They were vines, growing from your belly, with tendrils wrapped around your throat, heart, stomach, hands, arms…so much a part of me that I could feel their pains and joys as if they came from my mind.
An image: the twins running towards me, one hand outstretched, the other behind their back. Three years old. Standing in front of me, panting, eyes brilliant, cheeks flushed, “A surprise for you, Mommy!” and whipping out hands clutching bare stems — the red poppy petals had fallen off in the race. Their joyous laughter dissolving into tears. “They were so beautiful!”
They are still in my heart — these bare green stems clutched in your small fists, along with your smiles and your tears.
Time marches on. We move from England to Argentina to the States and back to France. One of the twins looks at me one day and says, “We’re known all over the world!” Yes, especially after a lost tooth in front of a full stadium prompted the announcer to ask the spectators to help look for it….or when, on the first day of school, the door jammed and the teacher had to call a repairman to come, and parents and children gathered around to shout encouragement at the door. Afterwards, people would stop me on the street and say, “Was it your son trapped in the bathroom?” And the time they killed Halloween
And still time slides by, marked by the giant snowball on the golfcourse that didn’t melt until April, the trip to Rome, the stint as a fireman (4 years!), the university, and the first and second apartments, the jobs, the voyages, and, yes, now the analogy rings true — the birds stretch their wings and fly. I watch, from the ground, as they circle above me. The sky is very blue — like me, somehow. Blue, and joyous at the same time.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas, Star Wars, Foie Gras!

Well, another holiday season is whooshing don't realize how little vacation you have until you're in the middle of it and suddenly you realize in two days you're going to be back on your office chair, staring at the computer screen, with the telephone ringing off the hook and a pile of mail on your desk. But we're not there yet, thank goodness. In fact, I still have this week to work - and vacation will start on Friday!

Let's hit fast forward, and see what the holidays will bring.  Saturday, on the 23rd, will be our traditional Christmas dinner with my in-laws. This year, I get to host the party at our apartment. Then everyone will scatter, with the children heading to spend xmas with their partners' families. On Christmas day, I want to see the new Star Wars film. I don't have very high hopes, but I do want to know something - when will movie villains just look and dress like normal people? (Seriously - we know you're evil Dude, you're wearing a long black robe and you have a mask on.)

This year, I'll be making my foie gras in the microwave again! I'm going to get the liver tomorrow, so it will be ready. And dinner this year is couscous - not turkey. Hurrah for no cooking!

foie grasFoie gras is like paté that has won the lottery. It is rich, and smooth, and totally delicious. I make mine every year with my boss, Jean Pierre, so here is the recipe:
  1. 1 foie gras (duck preferably), uncooked. Lay it on a large plate that will fit in your microwave oven and devein it. This is not easy - you have to first divide the liver in two, then, with the back of a butter knife, gently tease out the veins from both sides. Some livers have very few and some are just full - you never know what you'll get. Make sure you get them out though, they are stringy and tough. Try to leave the liver intact as possible, but it's not a problem if you end up destroying it searching for veins - it goes into a terrine in the end anyhow.
  2. Salt - and this is important - the measure is 12 grams for each kilo of liver. So a regular half-pound liver will take 6 grams of salt. (One teaspoon is 5 grams) Mix the salt with some pepper to taste, and a teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle he salt mixture all over the liver. Then pour about a half a cup of sweet white wine, (or red or white Port wine) over the liver, cover with cling film and leave to marinate for a couple hours (or overnight).
  3. Remove the cling film and put in the microwave oven set on "defrost" or the lowest setting for 3 minutes. Remove  and carefully tip the plate to drain off the excess liquid (there may be a lot).  Put back in the oven and cook again for 3 minutes. Drain again if there is a lot of liquid.
  4. This is where you turn the liver over and cook once more for 3 minutes. This time, do not drain. Carefully tip the liver (by now it is practically liquified) into a terrine. Cover with cling film and put a weight on it. This will press the liver into a nice form and make the fat rise to the top. Refrigerate for at least 3 days.
  5. Take out of the fridge, slice and spread on toast - sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea-salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy! You can use farmhouse loaf, white bread, whole grain bread, baguette, walnut bread, or my personal favorite - fig bread!
Note: if you cannot get a foie gras, don't try this with regular goose or duck livers. Instead, check out my chicken liver paté recipe:

1 lb chicken livers, celery, onion, bay leaf, butter, some all spice, salt, pepper and a dash of Cognac.  I fry the onions in butter, boil the chicken livers with the celery and pepper until cooked through, then I strain the livers and put them in the blender with the Cognac. I add the butter, and my secret is to add some cream to make it less dry, and that’s it. It’s delicious on toast or baguette.
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ecological me

I mentioned trying to be more ecologically-minded in my last post - but sending Christmas cards isn't the only thing I'm thinking of changing. Here are my efforts: Turn off the electricity – including unplugging all the "thingys that work even when they are turned off" things. Turning the heat down, onlyturning it on in the room we're actually in, and making sure it’s off at night and when we leave the apartment. Using my legs and bike as much as possible. Buying local produce, (OK, not coffee – or chocolate. Mea culpa.) Eating less red meat, and less meat in general. We recycle plastic, paper and glass. I try not to buy new clothes, favoring thrift shop stuff (new clothes are very polluting), I like to read ebooks (ink- chemicals! paper – dead trees!) I know it’s not perfect, and it’s not very much, but I am trying. And trying to be a better, more ecological person.
The weather is very wet - no snow yet here, just sheets of rain. I'm waiting for my bathroom cieling to start leaking again. Here is a photo taken by my daughter in Paris on the Alexander III bridge near the Grande Palace. The bridge is a fabulous art-nouveau, rococo extravaganza of sculptures and lights. But maybe the lights should become solar power LEDs?

Friday, December 15, 2017

One Too by Sherrie Cron

One Too
by Sherrie Cronin

GENRE: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Telepathy creates as many problems as it solves, as most of the members of the secret organization x0 would admit. When new member Lola discovers another group of telepaths with a completely different approach, those problems multiply at the speed of thought.

Soon, Lola’s family and friends are in danger. Lucky for her, she’s not your average budding psychic. Each person with whom she is close has a special gift of their own. That’s good, because it’s going to take every power they possess to keep this other group from succeeding with their plan to eradicate x0.


Exclusive Excerpt:

The way your mom describes how you see the future, it is so cool. Please. Touch me first. I want to know what’s going to happen to me.” Xuha made one of his exaggerated comic faces, this time a look of amplified eagerness.

Ariel directed a fierce look of annoyance at her mother.

We are in the middle of a crisis here,” her mom responded. “So we’ve now got a ‘no secrets’ policy in this house. I’ve told everyone everything I know because we have to work together.”

That will not be possible,” the blind Irish man said from the place where he had settled in on the couch.

Lola looked at this man named Cillian more closely. He was a tall, unusually attractive man in his mid-forties, with a rich brogue and the demeanor of someone of wealth and importance. He spoke like he was accustomed to being listened to.

I beg your pardon?” Lola said as politely as she could.

Ariel will need to be selective about what she tells you. It’s a pity that you chose to share her feyness with this entire group, but she and I will find ways to manage that damage. She needs to check with me before she says anything.”

Lola reminded herself that she was tired. Hungry. Under a lot of stress. And not used to strangers in her own house telling her what to do. She tried to soften her voice before she spoke, but she didn’t do a very good job of it.

Ariel is my daughter and she will do no such thing. Her entire family is in danger and needs her help. What she does or doesn’t do is not your concern. I’m not even sure why you are here, but you may stay if and only if you don’t think it is your prerogative to tell us what to do.”

The rest of the room went silent.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sherrie grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to study journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer.

She published her first science fiction short story long ago, and then waited a lot of tables while she looked for inspiration for the next story. When it finally came, it declared to her that it had to be whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.

The boyfriend, who she had apparently long since married, asked her to calm down and explained that in a fit of practicality she had gone back to school and gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news, according to Mr. Cronin, was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well-paying The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.

Apparently she was now Mrs. Cronin, and the further good news was that they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though to be honest that is where a lot of the money had gone. Even better news was that Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted, encouraging sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. "It's about time," were his exact words.

Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had already managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie's head for decades. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a six book collection. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She's been wide awake ever since, and writing away.

Author Social Media Links
Twitter: @cinnabar01

Sherrie will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Voices of Cancer by Lynda Wolters

  This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions . Lynda Wolters will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a ra...