Food, Family and Holidays

One of my favorite things about holidays is all the good eats. I enjoy food. A little too much, but whatever. This past week in hot and sunny Arizona was no different. We partook in our share of wonderful meals while we were gone, home cooked and restaurant style.

It was so nice to sit on the patio at my in-laws winter home after a record-breaking cold winter back in Canada. They went all out for us, as usual. We ate lots of wonderful meals outside, during the day with the hummingbirds, or in the warm evening air. We were thoroughly spoiled. I didn’t lift a finger. I almost feel guilty about that…

February and March 2014 014

I was lucky enough to tag along with my mother-in-law on her community group’s spring fling lunch at the Arizona Culinary Institute. (See, totally spoiled.) The company was delightful and the food was delicious. Lovely setting and the food was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. From the Sweet Chili Shrimp appetizer to the sea bass main course to the out-of-this-world chocolate cake.

February and March 2014 020

 

Grandpa and Grandma spent an evening with their granddaughter dining on her favorite food of cheeseburgers and hotdogs and Jack and I treated ourselves to an evening out at SOL Mexican Cocina restaurant. A little bit of Baja California served in the desert. Oh sweet mercy, it was delicious. Bonus, I enjoyed with the best margarita EVER. If you love tequila this is the place for you! 60 artisan tequilas. No wonderful my margarita was extra yummy. Definitely recommend this one!

February and March 2014 054

We also ate at a place called Wally’s American Pub and Grill which was served great food. Also, recommend. And a fabulous pizza place that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me. But when I get it I’ll add it in!

Food and family make for a wonderful combination. Especially when someone else is doing the cooking. Now it’s time to detox. Have a favorite meal you’ve eaten lately? Any restaurant recommends?

If you feel like sharing...

A Little Wine. And…A Little More Wine.

Besides confessions, you know what else is good for the soul? Wine. Unfortunately, the more you drink the more you might have to confess. Ah, the circle of life. And why we practice moderation in all things.

Right?

Um…yeah…Right.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”  Paulo CoelhoBrida

Paulo Coelho wrote one of my favorite books, The Alchemist, so I figure his characters know what they’re talking about.

“it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”  Kenny Chesney

A Kenny Chesney song makes an appearance in almost every one of my playlists.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” Ernest Hemingway

See what I mean? Wine is a sensory thing!

To that end I thought I’d share a couple of my new favorite whites with you. They are blends and I’m lovin’ the blends right now.

Apothic White is a blend that combines Chardonnay, Riesling and Moscato to create a luscious, vibrant wine. Intense flavors of peach, pineapple, honey and vanilla. (Their words, not mine.)

Bear Flag, Soft White Blend. Muscat of Alexandria, Symphony, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, French Columbard. Ooh-la-luscious. (Again, their words, not mine.)

So, pull up a chair and enjoy!

Happy Hump Day! Feel free to share your favorite wine of the moment. I’m always up for trying new wines.

If you feel like sharing...

Tuesday’s Table: The Scent of Cinnamon

cCinnamon Toast was a treat my Mom would make on those extra-cold winter nights. Chances are the smell of buttered toast sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon found me either hiding with a book or hunkered down in front of the television. Time to put down Anne of Green Gables or taken a break from watching Little House on the Prairie and go to the kitchen to investigate. There’s also a chance Mom might have found me studying Charlie’s Angels instead of math.

I bet everyone has a cinnamon story of their own. These days I enjoy it swirled on top of my Chai Tea Lattes. It’s amazing what a barrista can do with foam and cinnamon. But it’s the scent that takes me back to the cozy feeling of being safe and warm.

My mind is on those kinds of details these days. I’m putting the final touches on my work-in-progress. This next pass through is about adding those little details, channeling the five senses, imagining a specific experience and describing it on paper.

A little like cinnamon toast, it’s about mixing the exotic with the everyday.

FYI: That’s not all cinnamon has going for it. It’s also good for your health and useful in lowering blood sugar levels and increasing alertness. There are a bunch of other benefits but I’ll leave that for you to explore.

But just in case you’re interested here are some yummy ways to consume cinnamon. Besides the most delicious of way of all which is a cinnamon bun smeared with cream cheese icing. Because you don’t even want to know how many calories are in one of those bad boys. Or perhaps this is one of those cases where denial isn’t a good thing. You may enjoy rolling up the rim to win at Tim Horton’s but adding a glazed cinnamon roll will cost you 340 calories. Yikes.

  • Instead add a tablespoon to your pancake batter.
  • Stir 1/2 teaspoon into plain yogurt. Add the same amount of maple syrup.
  • Sprinkle over sweet potatoes or carrots. Add to thick curry flavored soups.
  • Add to chicken stews, grilled chicken or pork.
  • Coat 2 cups of raw nuts with a mix of 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and roast at 350F for 15 minutes.
  • Use a couple of shakes in your favorite smoothie.

Go ahead, eat tree bark.

Remember Big Red Gum? Enjoy Hot Tamales? What’s your favorite cinnamon flavored treat?

If you feel like sharing...

Manic Monday

It’s the second last Monday of August. How did that happen? Harvest is in full swing here on the prairies. Wheat being one of our staple crops with the first attempts at planting dating back to 1753. Stats like that one always make me smile. When I was a little girl I remember thinking everyone’s grandparents had come from somewhere else. Mine were immigrants to this country by way of Poland, Norway and Sweden. It wasn’t until I started school and began learning about the long and rich history of our First Nations people and that of the first European settlers coming later at the beginning of the 18th century that I realized how new our roots were to Canada.

My romantic suspense novel, Backlash, takes places in the month of September. My fictional setting of Aspen Lake, being a resort town located at the foot of the scenic Moose Mountains, would still be surrounded by farmland. Frost is on the ground in the morning. Days are still warm. Nights are filled with stars.

I love to savor the approach of autumn. Warm enough to enjoy the beach during the day and cool enough for backyard fires in the evening. The air smells different. It’s heavy with dust of harvest, the scent of ripening fruit, and the bittersweet smell of brand new back-to-school supplies. We’re mixing the daytime summer fashions of shorts and flip-flops by adding jeans and light jackets to our evenings.

And let’s not forget the stars. So bright. A startling reminder of the vastness of the universe. With the sun setting earlier we have more time to enjoy them. I never fail to look up and wonder what others in past centuries have thought about as they gazed up at the same stars.

What is your favorite part about this time of the year?

I’ll sign off with this is a snippet from page 97 of Backlash. It’s early evening in the middle of September. Chase, Lily and Jason were involved in a incident earlier in the day. Lily is waiting for Chase to come by and let her know what’s happening.

Lily led Mike out onto her front steps and lifted her face up to catch the leftover heat from the setting sun. It didn’t help. The bone deep chill remained. She rubbed her arms, wishing for a sweater.

She wondered where Chase was and why he’d sent an emissary. “So, he’s with his aunt?”

 Here’s What Reviewers Are Saying About Backlash!

5 Stars

“Chase and Lily are made for each other; they complement each other so well.”

“The description of the enforcer was so vivid that it seemed that I could actually envision the soulless enforcer in front of me.”

CozyReader at The Romance Reviews

4 Stars

Ms. Good sure spins a tale of deceit and a trail of clues that lead right to a climax I never imagined.
Need some suspense to keep you up long into the night? Why not giveBacklash a chance. Immerse yourself in the strong sense of right and wrong, with a great cast of characters.

Sunflower at Long and Short Reviews

 A Rating

Add to that, this book is fabulous on the suspense side. Lots of high-stakes danger, really evil bad guys (super-creepy spider tattoo guy), and it kept me guessing how the author was going to resolve it all till the very end. Overall this was a fabulous book and definitely one that reminds me why I LOVE to read! Perfect entertainment and escape!

Christi Snow at Smitten With Reading

 5 Stars

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW… could i say WOW anymore? You bet! I don’t have time to write my full review now, BUT if you enjoy romantic suspense with killer sexual tension and a smokingly HOT yet tortured lead, then y’all need to read this!!

Sheryl on Goodreads

If you feel like sharing...

Imagine That

Imagery takes a person, place, or thing and puts them in context for the reader. It aids us in getting to know an unfamiliar character by giving us, the reader, the sense of walking around in someone else’s shoes.  Not only through sight and sound, but what she tastes, touches, and smells. By using the senses you can create a clear and specific image, a certain tone or mood. It’s in the use of strong verbs and specific nouns and enhancing the right, not every, detail.

When I think of imagery, I think of this passage. I can picture that mass herd of caribou as a living entity as it swarms and moves over the land. I can feel the tiredness of the couple as they try to keep up day after day. It speaks to me and it paints that picture we writers strive to create for our readers.

 “And they came in waves. Streams of animals pouring like some liquid over the hilltops, expanding, contracting, spreading across ridge crests and passes. We followed for as long as we could each day, were overtaken when we camped for the night, and dragged our leaden limbs out of frosted sleeping bags in the mornings, to start a day of trying to keep up, all over again.” -Karsten Heuer from first weeks “Being Caribou”

So, I’m reminded that as I revise it’s not simply a tree but a specific kind of tree. Perhaps it’s a ripped Grateful Dead t-shirt instead of a shirt. It’s the corner of East Hastings Street and Gore Avenue not down the street. It may be a gun, but it’s also a specific make and model. That guy is not simply homeless. He’s called Chain Man for the ropes of chains looped around his neck. It’s his job to carry those chains, day in and day out, on the streets of Eastside Vancouver. Rain or shine, like a mail carrier with his bag of mail.

Be the image ugly or beautiful, the trick is to have it appear natural and in character. Not simply a niffy sounding descriptor, but true to my voice and style as a writer. There is no need to bedazzle the reader with my genius and clever hand with literary devices. They are useful only in their ability to help enhance the reality of the situation. Kind of like how we use salt and pepper to season a plate of food. We don’t need to pour them over every morsel. We taste first and see where it can be used to improve the favor using a delicate shake or one twist of the grinder.

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding–

Riding–riding–

The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door

 Do you have a favorite author with a talent for imagery? A movie you’re willing to watch over and over again for the scenery? (Mine’s Pride and Prejudice) What’s your best loves literary device?

If you feel like sharing...

What Scent Attracts You?

I love perfume. You’d think I’d have a particular scent that I wear. But at the moment I’m scent free. In fact, I haven’t worn perfume for some time. Unless Pledge counts, or Pine-Sol.  I didn’t worry about spritzing on perfume to do arts and crafts or car pool. Also, there were so many scent free places that it hardly seemed worth it. But, gosh, I’m finding that I miss the sense of comfort and beauty that comes from dabbing on your favorite perfume. Maybe because I shy away from any other kind of scented product, I miss having a much loved perfume. Or two.

 

In my twenties Opium was one of my favorites.

A legendary fragrance for the woman who adores Yves Saint Laurent. An oriental and spicy harmony. Sheer sensuality, a voluptuous, provocative and controversial fragrance with notes of Mandarin, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley and Vanilla.

The other was Cinnabar.

Cinnabar Perfume by Estee Lauder, Launched by the design house of estee lauder in 1978, cinnabar is classified as a refined, subtle, oriental fragrance. This feminine scent possesses a blend of incense, flowers, spice and amber. It is recommended for evening wear.

Then I had children and I don’t know…things changed. Something about that time in my life changed what scents I was attracted to and suddenly my favorites didn’t have the desired effect. Hum. Maybe my hormone levels altered my skin’s chemistry. I don’t know. Now, years later, I’m back in the market for perfume.

Choosing a perfume might seem like a daunting decision given the range of choices. But this is one choice that’s completely visceral. While so many of our choices are governed by reason, it’s refreshing to have to make a choice that is purely emotional. Governed by nothing more than, “I don’t know why, but I love it!”

Perfumes have ‘families’. You can start by deciding what family attracts you. Maybe you’re target family has more of a Florals personality – feminine and fun-loving. Could be, like me, you’re drawn to those Orientals scents – exotic and mysterious. Then there’s Fresh and Clean – invigorating and dynamic. Citrus makes me think summer and sunny days – fresh squeezed and sharp. Woody – a power scent – mossy with shades of romantic.

Keep in mind this is not a decision to be hurried. You can’t smell a strip of scented paper and decide it’s the one for you. Or pick one because you fell in love with the packaging. Don’t you adore those pretty bottles? Not to mention the commercials. They’re enough to make you run out on the spot and buy it. Risque, sexy, romantic, bold – perfume commercials definitely invite a reaction.

No. You need to test it out on your skin. Decide on a ‘family’ and start sampling. Note that perfumes have top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Top notes last for the first 5 minutes to half an hour, by then the  middle notes of the perfume’s ‘family’ emerge. Finally base notes show themselves. They give the scent weight or holding power. So dab a little on your skin in a couple of different places and wait it out. We all know about pulse points.

Smell equals memory. Our ability to remember a smell is greater than our ability to remember what we’ve seen. Whether it’s your grandmother’s perchance for Chanel No. 5 or her chocolate chip cookies, those scents pull you in, bring back memories. Memories are how we pick the right family fragrance, choose what attracts us. So why not choose a perfume to help create memories.

A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.  Christian Dior

So how about it? Do you wear perfume? What’s your signature fragrance? Or do you prefer to go sans scent? How about a favorite memory centered around smell? What scents attract you?

 

If you feel like sharing...