Friday, November 26, 2010

Folk Friday: Sugar and spice and something nice

I had my second monthly weigh-in at Curves yesterday, the first since recording my baseline. Five pounds down and five inches lost. Not bad, considering I really haven’t been dieting. Slow and steady wins the race. Now, as long as I don’t undo the progress over Christmas! But I don’t intend to forego the pleasures of the season. I just have to remember that one small piece of Mom’s cranberry pudding – with a little less rich cream sauce (sigh) – is enough.

Fortunately, there are delicious deserts that are actually healthy. Here’s a recipe for one. I find that this custard has all the yum factor of pumpkin pie, without the calories of pastry. Hey, pumpkin is a vegetable! The maple syrup gives it character, and the crystallized ginger on top adds zing.



1 1/2 c milk
4 eggs
¾ c maple syrup
¾ c pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt

Heat milk until steaming, not boiling. Whip eggs and syrup together until smooth. Whip milk into egg mixture slowly, stirring to avoid cooking eggs. Add pumpkin, spices and salt Mix until smooth, then pour into 6 custard cups. Skim foam if any. Place custards in a pan, put in pre-heated oven, then pour boiling water into the pan until it reaches half-way up the custard cups. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 min or until set. Serve warm or cold, with whipped cream and grated crystallized ginger on top.

As for this week’s music selection, the word about this has been going around. It’s far from folk, but I couldn’t resist including it. It epitomizes the spirit of the season. Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Folk Friday, and 'Tis Almost the Season

November winding down and December almost upon us. The flood of Christmas advertising has begun. I find that the older I get, the less interest I have in the Christmas rush. There are no children in our family to buy for, and we’ve agreed to forego drawing names for stockings this year. I’m looking forward to a simplified holiday season.

I’ve always loved Christmas rituals – decorating the tree, baking, carols, parties with friends and family. We’ll be celebrating with my parents, and it will have extra meaning this year after my father’s health scare earlier in the fall. He’s fully recovered from his surgery now, and we can’t be thankful enough.

I haven’t yet included a Christmas scene in one of my books, but I’d like to some day. Perhaps I will in Shattered – a Christmas a few years after the Explosion, when Liam and Alice are enjoying their HEA. A couple of years ago, I did write a Christmas carol for Beth and Trey from McShannon’s Chance –I’ll post it a little closer to the day. I find it easy to picture them celebrating in their cabin, with a candle-lit tree, home-made ornaments and gifts for their four children (If you haven’t noticed, my imagination carries me away sometimes.) Chelle, the oldest, is dark like Trey, but with her mother’s blue eyes. She has Beth’s independent streak and wants to study art in Europe. The second, Michael, is tall and rangy like his father, but he’s blond like his grandfather Colin. He’s the dreamer in the family and wants to go to sea. The next, Ethan, has his mother’s red hair and freckles, and so does the youngest, Abby. They’re both children of Trey’s heart, as attached to the ranch and the horses as he is. I have a few chapters of a WIP that takes the family forward fifteen years, when young Chelle is getting headstrong and has a crush on Nate Munroe’s son, who is a chip off the old block. Maybe someday.

We might be getting a dusting of snow tomorrow, the first of the season. I like snow. I’d much prefer a white Christmas to the endless November that sometimes passes as winter in Nova Scotia. Time for comfort food recipes, brisk walks with the Terrible Tollers and lots of writing. And for Folk Friday, here’s an old favourite ‘comfort tune’ – John Denver’s Song of Wyoming. The simplicity and poetry of this one always get to me, and the video is very easy on the eye. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Passionate characters in fiction and life

Model writing postcards, Carl Larsson, 1906

Tomorrow night, I’m scheduled to do a workshop at a local senior’s centre on “passion in our lives”. I’ll be talking about my characters from McShannon’s Chance – about Beth’s passion for painting, Trey’s passion for Thoroughbreds, and their passion for each other. It’s got me thinking about the many meanings of ‘passion’ and how it applies to the characters I write.

In real life, we’re all attracted to people who have passion in their lives, whether for their work, their family, an art or an idea. For me, the same is true in fiction. Characters draw me in and hold me if they come across as passionate people.

Sometimes that passion can be in the form of hate. Think of Moby Dick. Sometimes it’s a passion for justice, as in many classic Westerns. It can be a passion for freedom, as with Cat in Judith James’ Highland Rebel. For my Beth, it’s her art; for Martin Rainnie in McShannon’s Heart and Alice O’Neill in Shattered, it’s music. These are the things I latch on to when I’m getting to know my characters.

In some romance novels, the sexual passion between the hero and heroine is not just the main element, it seems like the only element. And some of these are still great stories, but they have to be extremely well done. So far, I’ve tried to give at least one of my main characters another passion as well. I just find it easier to know them and write them that way.

I’m really looking forward to the session last night. I’m sure the audience will have some great stories to tell about the things and people they’ve been passionate about in their lives. Who knows, I may come up with a few new story ideas. People of blogland, what do you think? Is it important to you that fictional characters live with passion?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem

‘Dona nobis pacem’ means ‘grant us peace’. It’s the slogan of the annual Blog Blast for Peace, which takes place today, November 4.

I found out about this event from RWA chapter mate and blogger extraordinaire Julia Smith. It’s an opportunity for bloggers all over the world to raise their voices for peace. Participants post about peace on their blogs and fly a peace globe for the day.

There’s nothing I can say about peace that hasn’t already been said, so I’ve chosen a series of quotes on the subject. I hope you find them inspiring. I’ll leave you with Vince Gill’s version of ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth”.

War does not determine who is right - only who is left. ~Bertrand Russell

It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~Author unknown, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, "Mother, what was war?" ~Eve Merriam

The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking... the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. ~Albert Einstein

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations. ~David Friedman

"There are no atheists in foxholes" isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes. ~James Morrow

Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter

If we do not end war - war will end us. Everybody says that, millions of people believe it, and nobody does anything. ~H.G. Wells, Things to Come (the "film story"), Part III, adapted from his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come, spoken by the character John Cabal (Thanks Bill!)

A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~German Proverb

The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living. ~Omar Bradley

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world. ~Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, 1864

Everyone's a pacifist between wars. It's like being a vegetarian between meals. ~Colman McCarthy

Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both. ~Abraham Flexner

Draft beer, not people. ~Attributed to Bob Dylan

The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today. ~John F. Kennedy

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. ~Ernest Hemingway

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. ~Jeanette Rankin

You are not going to get peace with millions of armed men. The chariot of peace cannot advance over a road littered with cannon. ~David Lloyd George

Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come. ~Carl Sandburg

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. ~José Narosky

We kind o' thought Christ went agin war an' pillage. ~James Russell Lowell

If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war. ~Pentagon official explaining why the U.S. military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy.... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~Sir George Porter, quoted in The Observer, 26 August 1973

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. ~Voltaire, War