Saturday, November 8, 2014

A PILGRIMAGE TO THE WW1 BATTLEFIELDS - MARGARET TANNER


REMEMBRANCE DAY - A TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN OF WW1

At 11a.m. on the 11th November, 1918, an Armistice was signed and the guns fell silent. The Great War had ended but the repercussions would be felt for years.

If you get the chance, please buy a red poppy and wear it proudly, in memory of the fallen.

Australia was a small country in 1914, with a population of less than 4 million, yet we sent over 300,000 men to the front, Gallipoli in Turkey, Egypt, France and Belgium.  More than 60,000 of our soldiers lie on Gallipoli or in the beautiful cemeteries of France and Belgium, 12,000 miles from home.

Our pilgrimage commenced in Amiens where we were met by our guide who runs tours of the French and Belgium battlefields. He has a wealth of knowledge regarding the battlefields. Using war time maps, he was able to point to within a hundred yards, where my grandfather’s cousin was seriously wounded near the village of Hermes in 1917. Chills ran down my spine, I felt as if a hand was gripping me from the grave. Unfortunately, this relative died of his wounds, leaving a wife and two small children behind.  He is buried in the war cemetery at Rouen, and we were elated but sad when we found his grave.

We visited large cemeteries where hundreds of white headstones stood amongst green lawns with pretty flowers nodding their heads between the graves.

At Thiepval we saw a monument with thousands of names engraved on it, for English soldiers who fell in the area but have no known grave. One of the most memorable monument wasn’t very big.  It was at Fromelles, a bronze statue of an Aussie soldier carrying his wounded mate. 

The battle for Fromelles was fought on the 19th and 20th July 1916, Australia had 5,500 casualties the British 1,500.  For over 90 years no-one knew the fate of nearly 300 of these soldiers, but there had been rumours for many years of mass graves in the area, and it was only after a tenacious campaign waged for years by an Australian school teacher that the authorities finally acted, and four mass graves were discovered about three years after our visit. 250 soldiers have now been laid to rest in separate graves in a new Commonwealth war cemetery.  Of the 250 bodies, nearly half have so far been identified by name using DNA volunteered by relatives, but the authorities are still hoping that more soldiers will eventually be identified.

At Beaumont-Hamel is the Newfoundland Memorial, a giant bronze caribou monument, the caribou being the 1st Newfoundland Regiment’s emblem. The losses here were horrific. During one of the most costly days of the 1916 campaign, the 1st Newfoundland regiment lost three-quarters of its soldiers in less than half an hour.

On the 28th May, 1918, the 1st American Division attacked Cantigny and took the village against overwhelming odds.

The men of the various American regiments who fell in the battles of 1917-18, are buried in a large American Cemetery at Bony (Aisne) on the Somme.

There is a lovely chapel there and staff at the visitor centre were very nice and showed us around. They were surprised at our interest, because they said that sadly not many Americans visited there. Those who came to France always went to the Normandy beaches. Hopefully, with the Centenary of the 1st World War, this will be rectified and Americans in greater numbers will now come to pay homage to their heroes who fell on the Western Front.

In the Belgium city of Ypres is a soaring stone archway at an entrance to the town. The Menin Gate memorial to the Missing has etched into its walls the names of 50,000 thousand British and other Commonwealth soldiers who served in the region but have no known graves. Even after all these years, they still play the last post every evening as a mark of respect for the fallen.

The largest Commonwealth War cemetery is Tyne Cot with over 12,000 graves in it. More than half the headstones have no name. They bear the inscription “Known Only To God.

We visited large war cemeteries here and beautiful and sad as they were, the most touching was a small cemetery near Passchendale with only a handful of white headstones. Night was falling as we passed through this cemetery, and as we stopped to read the inscription on an eighteen year old soldier’s grave, we whispered that someone from home had come to visit him. When we turned and walked away through the misty rain, all we could leave behind for him was our tears and a red poppy.

Find Margaret Tanner's WWI Centenary Edition and her other titles here: http://www.bookswelove.net/tanner.php






Friday, November 7, 2014

Play Day by Tia Dani


 Yesterday Tia and Dani (us) decided to take a day off from writing and play. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Olive Garden and sipped on the wine of the day. We can still taste the sparkling wine, it was so good–name of the wine unfortunately forgotten.
 It was about then we noticed that one of Tia's false eyelashes was coming loose. This was her first attempt to wear them and she seemed to really be having issues. Dani, being the eyelash expert that she is, suggested it might be a good idea for her to buy another pair and instantly decided a trip to the closest Wal-Mart should be the next stop. Besides she wanted to drive her new car. (More on this subject at a later date.)
 Once at Wal-Mart, as we entered the store, the wonderful aroma of cinnamon surrounded us with heady delight. The spicy smell was awesome and all thoughts of eyelashes went on hold as we searched the area for the smell, sniffing up and down the aisles. We finally found the source–in a bin high up on a wall above our heads. Cinnamon pine cones galore. You know the ones, they are around every holiday, bundled in a mesh wrapper and fills the house with glorious cinnamon?
We had to have them, or a candle, or at least something that would give off the cinnamon fragrance. That sent us on another search – find the perfect cinnamon gift for ourselves. Besides, we decided, there is so much that makes fall such a wonderful time. Cooler days, spectacular colors, hearty soups, crusty breads, and pumpkin pie. We've gained weight just thinking about what is to come.
 Yes, we did remember the eyelashes after Tia discovered a 20 dollar bill in the pocket of her jeans. What an unexpected find. Now she had money to get her eyelashes PLUS something cinnamon. We both decided on cinnamon sticks.
It was a good day of shopping.
Since we're talking about shopping. It's time to think about all the grocery shopping to be done for Thanksgiving. We came across this recipe for the yummy Tiramisu we enjoyed today. We're gonna give it a try.


This is a copycat recipe from the book, America's Most Wanted Recipes, by Ron Douglas. We're going to make it and see if it tastes like the one we had for dessert.
                   
                 Olive Garden Tiramisu

1 store-bought 10 to12 inch sponge cake (about 3 inches high)
11/2 tablespoons brewed strong brewed coffee (or instant espresso)
11/2 tablespoons brandy or rum
11/2 pounds cream cheese or mascarpone cheese, softened
1 to 11/2 cups superfine or confectioners' sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1  Cut across the middle of the sponge cake, forming 2 layers, each about 1 ½ inches high.
2.     Blend the coffee and brandy. Sprinkle enough of the mixture over the bottom half of the cake to flavor it strongly. Don't moisten the cake too much, or it may collapse on serving.
3.     Beat the cheese and 1 cup of the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved and the cheese is light and spreadable. Test for sweetness during beating, adding more sugar if needed.
4.     Spread the cut surface of the bottom layer with half of the cheese mixture.
5.     Replace the second layer and top with the remaining cheese mixture.
6.     Sprinkle the top liberally with sifted cocoa.
7.     Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.
               Makes one 10 to 12 inch 2 layer cake  


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family and remember every opportunity that comes your way can bring exciting blessings.

Find Tia Dani's Time Travel romance at  http://bookswelove.net/tiadani.php

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's a Southern Thing by Gail Roughton

Hey, y’all!  Well, Thanksgiving’s near and this Thanksgiving’s really special at my house.  My youngest child is coming home.  He hasn’t been home since September, 2013.  He’s a Navy Corpsman and his specialty training is Field Medic for the Marines.  Because Lord knows he wouldn’t pick something safe like pharmacy or x-ray or lab tech or anything like that.  So this Thanksgiving I’m pulling out all stops.  And the highlight of Thanksgiving (food that is, people are the real highlight of Thanksgiving, we all know that) at our house is dressing. My family loves dressing.  One particular type of dressing.  Miss Emma’s dressing. 

Miss Emma – and please be advised that in the South, all ladies not your mother or your aunt who are some years older than you are addressed as “Miss”, just as all men not your Daddy or your uncle who are some years older than you are addressed as “Mr.” – was the office mother of the Macon, Georgia law firm of where I’ve worked for twenty-one years.  When I first met Miss Emma, she was a very young and spry 74.  In fact, she drove a stick shift and listened to a rock station on the radio.  I helped spearhead a special birthday celebration for her 75th birthday.  And 85th, 90th , and 91st.   At every one of those birthday celebrations, I gave the same toast, a quote from the Wizard of Oz to the Tin Man:  “Hearts are not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” 

Miss Emma was a true Southern lady with a strict work ethic and enough love to encompass the world, including every person who ever set foot through the firm doors, whether attorney, bookkeeping staff, paralegal, secretary, law clerk, receptionist, runner, copy clerk.   And pretty much everybody else she ever met.  Her heart was big enough to hold all of us and have plenty of room for newcomers.

Not one for excess sentimentality, she showed her love in concrete ways. Like cooking.   And believe me when I tell you this – Miss Emma could cook.   The break room was fragrant with the smells of fresh baking more mornings than not. Her pound cakes were legendary.  I can still smell the long pans of peach cobbler, baked that morning and still streaming steam.  In the afternoons, a block of cream cheese sometimes took up duty by a plate of crackers and an open jar of her homemade green pepper jelly.  That’s a southern thang, y’all.  Cream cheese and pepper jelly.

She’d collected her recipes years before into a big black notebook, divided into categories by divider tabs. One of my friends made a copy of that notebook when Miss Emma finally retired for good at 92, as well as one for herself and one for me.  Melody made a copy of her copy and gave it to my daughter as a wedding present.  She inscribed it “From Melody and Miss Emma.  She’d want you to have it.”  Her church had the recipes printed in a book and sold them with proceeds going to one of Miss Emma’s special Church projects, but  we prefer our own copies of the original wherein we can still see the notes in her own handwriting:  “Very good”; “Bake at 425 instead of 400”; “Add ½ cup of butter rather than ¼”. 

And so without further ado, because I get teary-eyed when I remember Miss Emma, I present Miss Emma’s Southern Cornbread Dressing, exactly as she wrote it, which is to say, as if she was standing over your shoulder telling you exactly what to do.  It’s the only dressing I make.

SOUTHERN CORNBREAD DRESSING
(With Turkey or Hen) – Serves about 8

2 cups crumbled stale cornbread
2 to 2-1/2 cups crumbled dry white bread (such as leftover biscuits or rolls – biscuits are better)
1 onion chopped fine
2 or 3 stalks of celery chopped fine (about ½ to ¾ cup)
½ stick melted butter or margarine
3 eggs, beaten slightly
4 to 5 cups turkey or chicken stock (after skimming off the grease –see note below)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
(**Gail’s addition:  1 ½ tsp. sage)

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix breads, stock, beaten eggs and seasonings.  In the meantime, in a shallow frying pan, melt the butter/margarine and partially cook the onion and celery till it is just limp; then add the whole bit to the first mixture and stir well. This should be soft and runny, about the consistency of cake batter or very thick soup – this is the secret of good dressing, as it will dry out as it cooks.  After you make this a few times, you will be able to tell about the consistency.  Use a shallow pan for baking – a 9 x 13 size, or two smaller sizes – as this should be a rather thin layer.  I grease the pan with butter first.  After about 15 to 20 minutes, I take a cooking fork and run through it and sort of stir it up and then let it continue baking about another 15 to 20 minutes.  Or, you can leave it alone and let it bake smooth – then cut into squares.  Of course, you must have giblet gravy with this.  If you don’t know how to do that, I will be glad to tell you if you will give me a call. (Note from Gail:  That’s Miss Emma talkin’, not me.  I’m not chopping and boiling giblets and have not a clue how to make giblet gravy.  The store-bought turkey gravy works just fine for me.)

NOTE:  As to the stock, I always pour the stock up after baking a turkey or after cooking the giblets (neck, gizzard, heart and liver) and let it get cold in the refrigerator and remove the fat from the top.  Then I put that in the freezer to save to make dressing and gravy the next time I bake a turkey.  Otherwise, you have the problem of baking your turkey ahead of time and not having time to prepare the stock.  It really is too greasy if you don’t remove the fat.  (Note from Gail:  Cans of chicken broth work well also.)

For Oyster Dressing:  Simply add up to a cup of chopped oysters to the batter before baking.


If you don’t mind eating dressing and gravy two times in a row, it’s nice to bake only half of the above and put the balance in the refrigerator and bake it fresh the next day.  Or you can half the whole thing to begin with. (Note from Gail:  Or in the case of my family, you can double it.)

Find Gail Roughton's Country Justice and all her titles here: http://bookswelove.net/roughton.php

 


Monday, November 3, 2014

A Sweet Potato Thanksgiving by Jamie Hill



November is a good time to reflect on things for which we’re thankful. Thanksgiving dinner is something I’ve always taken for granted, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to understand that not everyone is so fortunate to have a big, bountiful meal. (I hope that those of us who do get to partake will keep the less fortunate in mind and donate as we’re able to our local food pantries.)



Canadian Thanksgiving has passed, but we’re just gearing up for it here in the states. Thanksgiving seems to me sort of a forgotten holiday, sandwiched in between two others that are much more fun for children. For many adults, Thanksgiving boils down gathering together whatever family and friends you can and enjoying a big meal and lots of leftovers.



In my family we go the traditional route with turkey, potatoes and gravy, and sage dressing (cooked in a separate dish, never in the bird.) My favorite vegetable is green bean casserole and my second favorite is a sweet potato casserole topped with brown sugar and pecans. It tastes more like pumpkin than sweet potatoes and is sweet enough to be a dessert, but we serve it right along with the meal. Homemade rolls round out the first course and pumpkin pie with whipped topping comes out about an hour after dinner has settled.



If I’ve kept up with the pots and pans as I went along it’s just a matter of loading plates directly into the dishwasher and finding enough plastic containers (with lids that fit) for the leftovers. They’re piled in the front of the fridge because just a few hours later we’ll drag everything back out for a repeat of the same meal in the evening.



Friday noon we’re still eating turkey but by that night, we usually order pizza because we’re ready for a change. On the weekend, the leftovers are either consumed or frozen because we’re all tired of them by that point.



Once Thanksgiving weekend has past it’s full speed ahead to Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho! But we’ll talk about next month. For now, I’m making my grocery shopping list and checking it twice. If I close my eyes I can smell Thanksgiving dinner cooking already.



Please enjoy our family’s sweet potato casserole recipe, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!





Sweet Potato Casserole


2 pounds sweet potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 eggs (beaten)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all above ingredients with electric mixer and pour into buttered 9 x 9 casserole dish.


Topping:

3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup soft margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans


Mix topping ingredients together and pour over top of sweet potatoes.  Bake 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. For sweeter taste, double topping ingredients.

  


Find Jamie Hill's titles including her latest release, Pieces of the Past, here: http://bookswelove.net/jamiehill.php












Circumstantial Evidence by Gail Roughton


A writer’s done a good day’s work when the characters have gotten themselves into or out of some sort of convoluted situation, whether humorous, dangerous, nightmarish, or ridiculous. It’s what we do. 

     We create worlds of action, adventure, and danger. We plop our characters squarely in the middle of it and watch them squirm their way out of situations we’d love or hate to get ourselves into and out of but never will. And why not? We’re safe at our little keyboards; there aren’t any repercussions for us. Or are there? Because our most valuable tool, the one essential thing modern writers can’t function without—could be our Judas. Our betrayer. Think about it. Over the past years, how many trials have featured the defendant’s computer as one of the star witnesses? 
Unless you’re a computer whiz yourself, you don’t know how to wipe your computer’s memory, now do you? I don’t mean clear out the recent browsing history - occasionally even I remember to do that.  I mean clear the “innards” of your computer, where, the experts tell us, our entire online life is recorded. Forever. Unless you’ve got one of those wiping devices from the CIA, of course.  I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have a lot of those high tech luxuries on my shelf and I’m pretty sure they have folks who could backtrack it through the servers anyway.
What I do have is a browsing history guaranteed to send me away for life were I the suspect in an horrendous crime being prosecuted by any fairly competent District Attorney. And if somebody wanted to frame me—well, they’d just have a field day. In the course of building the backgrounds of my books, in creating that believability that grabs a reader and makes them believe the unbelievable, I’ve set myself up. Big-time. Especially if anything ever happens to my husband.
Even a cursory glance at my browser shows that I know how to obtain a marriage license 24/7 in Vegas, and where to go to use it. I know where prostitution’s legal in Nevada, and where it isn’t. And it isn’t legal in Las Vegas, who’d have thought? 
I’ve got a general knowledge of Voodoo and its hierarchy of spirits, as well as Hoodoo (which isn’t the same thing, by the way). I’ve checked out the quality, weight, and street value of various controlled substances, and the styles and types of different handguns and the damages each can inflict. 
I know the Temple of Isis at Pompeii (yes, Pompeii, not Egypt) was excavated in 1764. I know golems are creatures made of sand, from Jewish mythology, who carry out their makers’ bidding.
I mean, any prosecutor could convince a jury I offed my husband by means of a golem armed with a .357 Magnum and powered by astral projection, hid his body in a mausoleum, ran away to Vegas, opened a brothel, and founded a black magic coven.

Or maybe they’d say I ran away to Daytona Bike Week with an outlaw biker, and currently serve as second-in-command for a big sprawling drug cartel. Or—well, there’s just no end to it. If you’d like to see the results of all this web-crawling, hop on over to my web-blog, http://gailroughton.blogspot.com where you can view the final results of all this incriminating research. None of my books would have been possible without it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d better go make sure my husband took his vitamins. I do believe it might be in my best interests to keep him healthy. 


Eighteenth Century Laundry Day

by Kathy Fischer-Brown In my last post I discussed some of the more fascinating aspects of researching and writing historical fict...