Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Cooking with Fire, Part IV

Does anyone do cookouts any more? Can a childhood be complete without a messy, gooey dessert cooked in the hot coals of a campfire? Remember these?


For each s’more:
1 large marshmallow
milk chocolate squares
2 graham crackers
Place a chocolate square on a graham cracker. Toast a marshmallow over a campfire till the center is squishy. Put the marshmallow on the chocolate on the graham cracker, cover with the other graham cracker, and remove the stick from the marshmallow. Let it sit for about half a minute, till the marshmallow melts the chocolate. Eat it!

S’mores may be the classic campfire concoction, but banana boats have always been my favorite.

Banana Boats

1 banana (not peeled)
mini marshmallows
milk chocolate squares or a handful of chocolate chips
Peel banana down one side and cut a wedge into it. Place marshmallows and chocolate squares into the wedge, cover with peel, and wrap the entire banana in aluminum foil. Put into coals for about 5 minutes. Eat it with a spoon!

Enjoy the ooey gooey goodness!

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Nature Notes

This is a complete departure from my Harlequin American Romance Authors blog post yesterday. This poem is attributed to Juliana Berners, who lived in St. Albans (England) in the 15th century and is thought to have been the prioress of Sopwell Priory.

In the early 1400s I’m sure this was a seriously informative piece. These days it’s also sure to make readers smile.

More about the Hare: Why the Hare Voids Its Dung Standing Up, and Makes Pellets of It

“Yet, master, I would know, if you’ll lend me your wit,
Why the hare voids dung standing and makes pellets of it,
When all other hunted beasts, game
Void standing or squatting, as we can see.”
“That I can surely tell thee,” the master answered then,
“Why the hare stands and makes pellets, as is known to men.
He stands because his body is so full of suet,
And he makes pellets, men say, because of all his fat.
And he crouches on his hocks when he lets it go—
No other game does that, as far as men know.”
“How many beasts void standing, I would fain find out,
And also I would learn, how many of them squat?”
“To tell you that,” said the master, “is a job done easily.
All beasts that bear suet, and stand upright, you must see,
Let their scat fall when they stand, you may be sure of that,
And other beasts—the squatting kind—get rid of it when they squat.”
So matter-of-fact. I love it!

Berner's work was compiled in The Book of St. Albans, a treatise on hunting published in 1486. She is also thought to be the author of The Booke of haukynge, huntyng and fysshyng, with all necessary properties and medicines that are to be kept. You can read it here in its entirety. It’s believed to be the first book about fishing ever written, which would also make it the first written by a woman.

Don't you find this fascinating? I do!

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday News—Nature Notes

One of my favorite books—The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady—is the topic of my blog today with the Harlequin American Romance Authors. I hope you’ll stop by and say hello!

And tomorrow, right here on The Writer Side, I’ll share another poem—this one from the Middle Ages. I guarantee it'll make you smile.

Until next time,

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This is The Posse’s last week of posts on the Isn’t It Romantic? theme. Hope you’ll join us!

Monday: Diane Gaston talks about “Writing a Romantic Scene from Real Life”

Tuesday: Theresa Ragan tells us “It's the Little Things That Count”

Wednesday: Dr. Debra Holland—topic TBA

Thursday: Guest blogger Karen Anders with “Three Tips for Making a Love Scene Sizzle”

Friday: Q&A Day—How Do You Keep the Romantic Tension Going in a Story?
Next month our theme is March Madness. Be sure to join us as we address all things maddeningly green, from shamrocks to beer!

Until next time,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Happily Ever After Just Fiction?

That’s the title of a panel discussion I took part in on February 11, sponsored by the Greater Vancouver Chapter of RWA and the Vancouver Public Library. In honor of Valentine’s Day, of course.

Sitting on the panel were Kate Austin, me, and Kaylea Cross...

...and our moderator was Susan Lyons.

We had a great turnout and the audience had lots of questions for us. Much of the discussion centered on the writing process, which, it turns out, is very different for me, Kate and Kaylea. The underlying message, especially for new writers, is to be patient and develop your own process rather than try to emulate someone else’s.

Leanne Karella and Kay Gregory greeted guests at the information/book sale table.

Congratulations to Lisa, winner of my “Afternoon Tea with Lee” gift bag. Lisa received an autographed copy of The Man for Maggie, a mug, a package of my favorite tea, some shortbread cookies, and lots of chocolate!

Thanks to everyone who joined us, and special thanks to the staff at the Vancouver Public Library for hosting us and making everyone feel so welcome.

Until next time,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Cooking with Fire, Part III

Do you fondue? I think it’s a fun and social way to dine. Every family should have a fondue pot...or two!

A surprising number of foods lend themselves to fondue cooking. One of my favorites is garlic French bread. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and so tasty!

Garlic French Bread for Fondue

French bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 36)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon water
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and stir in the melted butter, water and garlic. Dip the bread cubes into the egg mixture, then roll the cubes in Parmesan cheese. Set the prepared bread cubes on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To fondue: spear a bread cube with a fondue fork and cook in hot (375°F, 190°C) cooking oil. When it’s crisp and golden, it’s done! Yum!

Chocolate fondue is another favorite, although the first time I tried it was a complete disaster. I put the chocolate mixture in the oil fondue pot, lit the burner, and it immediately got too hot, and the ingredients separated and started to burn.

Now I know that a chocolate fondue pot should be ceramic, not metal, and only needs a small tealight candle to keep it warm. Favorite things to dip: strawberries, banana and pineapple chunks, ladyfingers and shortbread cookies.

Chocolate Fondue

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur (optional)
Melt the chocolate in the microwave on medium for 2 to 3 minutes, or in a saucepan on the stove over medium low heat. Add the whipping cream and stir until blended. Mix in the liqueur, pour the mixture into a ceramic fondue pot and keep it warm.

Hint: if you omit the liqueur, you can replace it with 3 tablespoons of whipping cream.

Kirsch, a cherry-flavored liqueur, is a popular addition to chocolate fondue. I’d like to try it some day, but it’s expensive and I can’t find it in small bottles. And other than occasionally using a couple of spoonfuls in fondue, I can’t image what else I’d do with a liqueur that sounds suspiciously like cough syrup.

So, do you fondue? Any favorite recipes you’d like to share?

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shakespeare on Love

In high school I had an English lit teacher who loved Shakespeare. We studied this sonnet—possibly Shakespeare’s best known—and it has been one of my favorites ever since.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

~ William Shakespeare

In a nutshell, he’s saying true lasts forever. Except he says it so much better!

I also love Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, especially Twelfth Night. Have you seen the 1996 film version, with Ben Kingsley as Feste? I’ve always loved the young-woman-posing-a-man plot and it’s so well done in this play. Which is why it’s so timeless. Another great version was the teen film, She’s the Man (2006). The two together make a great double feature!

Until next time,

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

February’s Isn't It Romantic? theme continues. Here’s what the Wet Noodle Posse has in store for you this week.

Monday: MJ Fredrick talks about some of the Best On-Screen Kisses

Tuesday: Join Delle Jacobs for After the Ball: The Other Side of Romance

Wednesday: Join guest blogger and Superromance author Darlene Gardner for a chat about Unconventional Heroes

Thursday: Merrillee Whren shares Romantic Stories from Real Life

Friday: Q&A Day
Until next time,

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Shrimp Flambee

I’m continuing this month’s cooking-with-fire theme by sharing my favorite Valentine’s Day dinner recipe.

Did you know that licorice is an aphrodisiac? The combination of fennel and Pernod make this prawn-and-pasta dish a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner for two. Enjoy!

1 small package of your favorite pasta
20 raw jumbo shrimp
2 tablespoons butter
half a fennel bulb, thinly sliced
pinch of salt
1/3 cup Pernod
1/3 cup white wine
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Timing is everything with this recipe. It's a good idea to prepare everything in advance, including having the table set and the candles lit, and time the pasta to finish cooking when the shrimp are ready.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet (medium-high heat) and sauté the fennel and salt until the fennel is tendercrisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

In the same skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Lightly sauté the shrimp until pink and opaque, about 3 minutes.

Now comes the fun part!

Turn down the lights, add the Pernod and carefully ignite it, and gently shake the pan until the flame goes out, about 30 seconds.

Drain the pasta and put in two warmed pasta bowls. Spoon the fennel over the pasta. Arrange the shrimp over the fennel. They're the perfect color and shape to make hearts shapes, so have some fun with this!

Add the white wine to the pan, bring to boil and let it boil about 1 minute. Add lemon juice. Drizzle over the shrimp and pasta. Serve.

Hint #1: Do not overcook the shrimp. If they’re precooked (already pink), reduce the cooking time to about 1 minute.

Hint #2: Don't substitute Sambuca for the Pernod. It's way too sweet.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Do I Love Thee?

This just might be the most familiar love poem of all time.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A writing teacher once told me that with poetry, you have to make every word count. The opening lines of this poem have become the lexicon of love and romance, and it's hard to imagine anyone having not heard them. They also serve as an excellent example of what that teacher told her students.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning led what many might consider a romantic life—courted by a fellow poet, living in Italy, working as a prolific and highly respected writer. What we believe about her life may be true or it may simply be a romantic ideal that's been created over time. Either way, that romance is captured in the timelessness of her work.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday News

Planning something special for Valentine’s Day? Today I’m blogging with the Wet Noodle Posse about candlelight dinners. I hope you’ll drop by and share your tips for planning a romantic dinner.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at the Vancouver Public Library and I would love to see you if you’re in the area.

Is Happily Ever After Just Fiction?
Wednesday February 11
7:00 pm–9:00 pm

Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch
Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level
Central Library
350 West Georgia Street

Writers are often asked where their ideas come from, and how those ideas get turned into novels. Join three dynamic local authors as they discuss where they find their inspiration and how it impacts their writing process. This presentation will appeal both to writers and to readers who are interested in how authors travel from idea to finished novel.

Panelists: Kate Austin, Kaylea Cross and Lee McKenzie
And just in time for Valentine’s Day, four new Harlequin American Romances are released today. You won’t want to miss them!

Once a Law Man
by Lisa Childs

The Secret Agent’s Surprises
by Tina Leonard

One Upon a Valentine’s
Holly Jacobs

The Man She Married
Ann DeFee

Happy reading!

Until next time,

Monday, February 9, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Isn't It Romantic? Here’s what the Wet Noodle Posse has in store for you this week.

Monday: Maureen Hardegree—The Most Romantic Gesture Ever

Tuesday: Lee McKenzie—Dinner by Candlelight

Wednesday: Karen Potter—Making the Most of the Romantic Gesture

Thursday: Priscilla Kissinger—Mood Music

Friday: Q&A Day
Until next time,

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In the Company of Writers and Friends

Not many things can top a day spent in the company of other writers. Yesterday was one of those un-top-able days. The Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America held its annual Valentine’s luncheon and awards ceremony, and a fabulous time was had by all. We chatted and laughed and celebrated each other’s successes and achievements as we dined on grilled salmon and a luscious dessert of chocolate terrine and brandied strawberries. Yes, it was every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Chapter president Daniela Hewson, ever gracious, shared a few words with us.

And here we all are!

(l. to r.) Solveig McLaren, Meg Fraser, Ros Villers, Susan Lyons, Tara, Laurie McLoughlin, Shereen Vedam, Pat Huntley (foreground)

(l. to r.) Alice Valdal, Jo Beverley, Mimi Barbour, Reggi Allder, Daniela Hewson, (standing) Jane Wallace, Kathleen Lawless, Lorhainne Ekelund

(l. to r.) Terry McBride, Rachel Goldsworthy, Allison Gillard

Keynote speaker Jo Beverley, resplendent in red, shared some of her amazing experiences in the wonderful and sometimes wild and wacky world of publishing.

Achievements were applauded and awards were presented.

VIC presents a First Step Award to members who have taken that first in publishing by completing a first manuscript and submitting it to an editor or agent. Alice Valdal presented the awards to this year’s recipients: Daniela Hewson, Mimi Barbour and Terry McBride. Congratulations!

Lorhainne Ekelund received a Stepping Stone for her sale to Wild Rose Press. Lorhainne, I hope you’ll drop by and tell us more about your sale.

Jo Beverley, Susan Lyons and I received Feather awards for publishing achievements. It’s always nice to have a feather your cap, and these gorgeous peacock feathers have been carved into actual writing quills. Thanks to Rachel Goldsworthy for organizing this.

Alice Valdal proudly displays the celebrated VIVA (Vancouver Island Volunteer Award) for her dedicated service to the chapter. The list of Alice’s contributions is too long to post here, but suffice to say that this award is most well deserved.

Susan Lyons, this year’s luncheon coordinator, did an outstanding job of organizing a very special day. Here she is with Daniela, receiving a small token of thanks from the chapter.

An altogether wonderful day in the company of writers and friends.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Cooking with Fire, Part I

This Christmas my family received a pair of hot stone grills as a gift. They’re for tabletop cooking, and each grill consists of a flat piece of actual stone, a stainless steel stand, and two refillable burners, like the ones you’d use under a fondue pot. Last weekend was our first foray into hot stone grilling, and everyone declared it a success!

The stones and stands go into a 450-degree oven for fifteen or twenty minutes, then they need to be transferred to the table. The grills are quite heavy and at this point they’re very hot, so have to be handled with care.

We grilled strips of rib eye steak in a balsamic-rosemary marinade, garlic lime prawns, veggie kabobs and asparagus spears.

We steamed the asparagus for a couple of minutes, then lightly brushed it with olive oil and lemon juice before grilling. How’s this for mouth-watering yumminess?

Hot stone grilling is fun and social, and it's an economical alternative to going to a restaurant for a special occasion. We’ll definitely get more use out of our grills. I’m on the lookout for new ideas and recipes so if you have any, please share!

Until next time,

PS: As today’s title implies, there’ll be more cooking with fire this month. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Love's Like a Red, Red Rose

I’ve read several versions of this poem by Robert Burns and have no idea which is the original, but I’m not sure it matters. It was written more than two hundred years ago and, as love poems go, I think it’s a classic.

A Red, Red Rose

O, my love's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my love's like a melody
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love!
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Tho' it ware ten thousand mile.

~ Robert Burns

And I will love thee still, my dear, While the sands o' life shall run.

Don't you love that line? Writers always search for a fresh new way to say something like “until the end of time.” Burns achieved it with "the sands o' life."

He even looks like a romantic poet, don’t you think?


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday News—Upcoming Appearances

Romance writers and readers celebrate love every day, but we pull out all the stops for Valentine's Day! This year is no exception.

On Saturday, February 7 I'll be attending a Valentine's Luncheon hosted by the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America®.

Next week I will join two other romance authors for a panel discussion at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, BC. If you're in the area, I'd love to see you.

Is Happily Ever After Just Fiction?
Wednesday February 11
7:00 pm–9:00 pm

Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch
Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level
Central Library
350 West Georgia Street

Writers are often asked where their ideas come from, and how those ideas get turned into novels. Join three dynamic local authors as they discuss where they find their inspiration and how it impacts their writing process. This presentation will appeal both to writers and to readers who are interested in how authors travel from idea to finished novel.
Panelists: Kate Austin, Kaylea Cross and Lee McKenzie

Until next time,

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Isn’t it romantic? That’s the Posse’s theme for February, and there's plenty of love to go around. I hope you'll join us.

Monday: Maureen Hardegree introduces the Isn't It Romantic? theme

Tuesday: Terry McLaughlin shares her Favorite Romantic Films

Wednesday: Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills talks about her Favorite TV Couples

Thursday: Maureen Hardegree on Three Things Not to Do on Valentine's Day for Clueless Husbands

Friday: Q&A Day and February Noodler New Releases

Until next time,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Fun—The Month of Love

Ah, February! I’ll be celebrating love and romance all month and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite old love poems, a couple of recipes to spice up your life, and lots of other little tidbits.