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Friday, November 30, 2012

Anyone for shortnin' bread?


 Heard a local radio commentator proclaim his unfamiliarity with shortnin’ bread – he was asking what it was. H-m-m-m, hadn’t he ever heard that familiar tune?

Mammy's little baby loves short'nin', short'nin',
Mammy's little baby loves short'nin' bread

The first version of this traditional plantation song was written by white poet James Whitcomb Riley in 1900. His song, which he collected from East Tennessee, was named "A Short'nin' Bread Song—Pieced Out.” Al Jolson and the Andrews Sisters recorded popular versions of the song. Allan Sherman also did a Jewish-oriented satire, "Mammy's Little Baby loves Matzoh Balls, "substituting "matzo balls" and "Pesach bread" for "shortnin' bread."

For those unfamiliar with this food item, shortening bread is a fried batter bread, the ingredients of which include corn meal, flour, hot water, eggs, baking powder, milk and shortening.. It's a Southern quick bread like cornbread. The term Shortnin' Bread (also spelled "Shortenin' Bread" or "Short'nin' Bread)  implies not much more than a recipe containing fat and flour.

Shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry. The term "shortening" seldom refers to butter but is more closely related to margarine. Originally, shortening was synonymous with lard, "shortening" has come almost exclusively to mean hydrogenated vegetable oil. Crisco, since 2002 owned by the J.M. Smucker Co., is still the most well-known brand of shortening in the US. In Ireland and the UK, Cookeen is a popular brand, while in Australia, Copha is popular, although made primarily from coconut oil.

Here’s a recipe - time to make 30 min; 10 min prep: 
1/2 cup butter, very very soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.    Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the flour a bit at a time until mixed well.
3.    Roll out to 1/2-thickness and cut into "ladyfinger"-like slices. Place on a greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Cool completely. http://www.recipezaar.com/162011

And, if you’re ever in downtown Long Beach, CA., be sure and stop by the Shortnin Bread Bakery or check out their menu at http://www.shortninbreadbakery.com/




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors!


I have been asked to take part in The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors!
I’ve been tagged by Iain Parke (www.facebook.com/iain.parke?fref=ts), Author of Heavy Duty People (http://amzn.to/WsvfPM).

What was the working title of your book?
Actually my latest, Second Time Around, was just released in early November 2012. So that’s the book I’d like to talk about, if that’s OK.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started thinking about how it used to be required for women to wear hats for all occasions and thought writing about a woman and using a particular hat associated with important events in her life might make an interesting story. I even did internet research and collected a variety of hat images to inspire the plot.
But then the story morphed to be about a recently-widowed mature business woman who is suddenly confronted with a man she believes is her first love. Except…he was supposedly killed on his way to propose to her twenty-eight years previously. The story is a romantic/suspense set in Dallas, Texas with the action taking part in the 50s & 70s.

What genre does your book fall under?
I call it a romantic/suspense but it could also fit under the category of women’s fiction. I asked my publisher to catalog it as ‘silver romance’ but she said there wasn’t any such genre.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Susan Sarandon would make a marvelous Dolly Summers and her love interest could easily be filled by Harrison Ford.

To keep the chain going, I’ve tagged five authors so we can all learn and be inspired by each other. They have to answer the questions and pass it on.

Carmen Peone – author of  Heart of Courage http://www.goodreads.com/ Heart_of_Courage
R. Grey Hoover – author of  Kicker http://amzn.to/SpCmbI
Conrad Guest – author of The Cobb Legacy http://amzn.to/S97cFV
Peter Watson Jenkins – author of  How I Died (and what I did next) http://amzn.to/TZPySo
Carol Carroll – author of  Inconclusive Death http://amzn.to/WswmPn

Monday, November 26, 2012

A catchy hook?


Ever wonder if that mass of metal attached to those heavy-duty trucks have a name or purpose? Well, they're a modern day interpretation of a railroad engine's cowcatcher. Cowcatcher is a term that is so outdated in today’s culture that there are few people left who have even the remotest idea of what it refers to.

Also known as the pilot or cattle catcher, a cowcatcher is the device mounted at the front of a locomotive, especially a steam locomotive, to deflect obstacles from the track that might otherwise derail the train. It’s usually a strong inclined frame, usually of wrought-iron bars, at the front of a locomotive designed for clearing the track of obstructions. The shape of the cowcatcher serves to lift any object on the track and push it to the side, out of the way of the locomotive behind it. Not sure if the modern version on trucks would do the same job.

The cowcatcher was invented in 1838 by a British engineer named Charles Babbage. Babbage was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who also originated the concept of a programmable computer.

Interestingly enough, in researching the origin of this word, I came across a curious bit of information, especially for writers, regarding the usage of this word. In the craft of writing,  did you know the opening lines of books, written in such a way as to get the reader’s immediate attention, used to be called a cowcatcher? Nowadays, it’s referred to as the hook.

Following are some examples of effective cowcatchers (or hooks) I found on  http://www.wikihow.com.

“Some men walked straight out of a woman’s dreams. Some qualified as full-on nightmares.” - Obsidian Prey by Jayne Anne Krentz

"I'm sitting on a cold metal slab, and there's blood all over my shirt." - "Between Mom and Jo" by Julie Anne Peters

"Night lay heavily over the forest." - "Sunset" by Erin Hunter

But designing an effective 'cow catcher' is something any writer can learn to do. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of determination—and a very strong desire to see your readers “herded” in the right direction.

Now...aren't you glad you took a moment to read my latest bit of nonsense?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude Day Special


I'm copying the format for this blog from a great writing blog I subscribe to, Live to Write - Write to Live, written by Diane MacKinnon http://www.dianemackinnon.com/


Writer’s List of Gratitude
3 Books I Am Grateful Got Written So I Could Read Them (Okay, not great grammar, but you get me, right?)
The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck
War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk
The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron
3 People Who Support Me As A Writer (Even If Still Have a Day Job..)
My husband
My sisters
My critique group
3 Pieces I’m Glad I Wrote:
Comfrey Chatter - my newsletter about herbs
Twist of Fate, because I wanted to make a cultural statement
Some Write Thoughts, I desire to share the lessons I'd learned
3 Places or Things That Support You As a Writer
decaf coffee and dried fruit trail mix
My little cabin
My morning pages
3 Qualities You Love About Yourself As a Writer 
My determination to complete a task
My insatiable interest in words.
Instinctively knowing when the words are right.

Okay, that’s it. Fill this out as fast as you can and bask in your attitude of gratitude. Doesn’t it feel good?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi...here's my card



Ordered some new business cards for myself from www.vistaprints.com this week. Their ‘free’ offer amounted to a substantial investment, but that’s another story. I’ll just say beware of hidden fees. Anyway, it started me thinking about this convenient means of introducing yourself and what you do.

It’s funny how we use the phrase “calling card” with no idea of where it came from.  I assumed it was a different term for business card, so went looking the history of this social custom.

Calling cards evolved in England and were an essential part of introductions, invitations, and visits. In the 19th and early 20th century, social interaction was a richly cultivated, well-mannered affair. The tool that facilitated these interactions was the calling card. Its purpose is to signify that you visited, and you may find a silver tray at an embassy or officer's home to deposit calling cards. Not until after the Civil did calling cards became a highly ritualized social grace where both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions.

During the 1800′s and early 1900′s the practice of “calling” upon or visiting one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances was a middle and upper class social ritual governed by countless rules and traditions. Central to visiting etiquette was the use of the calling card. The giving and receiving of calling cards developed a very elaborate set of rituals and rules that every gentleman tried to master. In most Victorian homes, in the entry hall was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelain receptacle sat for receiving calling cards.

Leaving cards served as a means of social advancement.  Most afternoon social life was spent making calls, allowing 30 minutes per visit, and leaving a card at each house. There was even a code of communication that evolved. A visitor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person. A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations. A folded lower right corner said goodbye. A folded lower left corner offered condolences. It’s like calling card short hand. 

When the household servants moved out, and Alex Bell’s new-fangled talking machine moved in, the practice and etiquette surrounding the sending and receiving of calling cards suffered a slow death. During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Calling cards were larger than today’s business card, at once more impressive and much simpler in design.

So…how many times in a conversation does someone tell you about their website or their blog, and you swear to check it out, but then can’t remember its name when you get home? A calling card is the answer to all of these situations.  A calling card can come in handy in any social situation in which you want to exchange information with someone. Your calling card should reflect your personality. In our modern society, technology has provided a myriad of ways for a new acquaintance to contact you, and your card should reflect this. Remember, you may use the blank back of the cards to write notes and invite someone to meet up with you again.

Calling cards…a lost art that still has a place in the ‘now’ of today’s society, where technology runs the majority of our lives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Of Butterflies and Space Travel


Stepped out my door in time to catch the visit of two Sulphur butterflies checking out the two pots of  marigolds by my doorstep. Later that day, I stopped to watch a black swallowtail in flight. With nearby pastures showing a covering of frost these chilly morning, I suspect the days are numbered for butterflies this season. In fact, I wondered that there are so many still about with temperatures dropping to freeze level overnight.It will be a less-colorful world when they have all migrated to warmer climates. So much beauty and pleasure-giving...and yet so transient. Watching them reminded me of how fleeting are so many of the lives of much that inhabits the world we share.

Not only this earth, but just consider our universe. Last night my husband watched a documentary about the final space trip to the moon. Just think, this celestial body is only one of millions inhabiting the unlimited space we share. Sure does boggle the mind!

Considering those two disparate thoughts convinces me there is an intelligence beyond the limitations of the human mind. Call it God, call it a Supreme Being...call it by whatever name you feel comfortable with. But there is no way to deny its existence if you stop to consider butterflies and space bodies.

Let me bring you back to earth with a gentle mention of the release of my newest book, Second Time Around. Contact me if you want a signed copy or you can skip over to http://amzn.to/QDRNQyhttp://amzn.to/QDRNQy

and pick up your copy there in either print or digital format.

That done, take time each day when out of doors to pause and acknowledge the miracles that surround you.






Monday, November 12, 2012

Are You A Rocker?



A 6- legged gungstols ( the swedish gungstol means rocking chair) were made between the early 1800's until the mid 1870's


Many years back on a visit to my parents’ home in Conn., I spied the chair hanging from the rafters in my Dad’s garage. Immediately it brought back visions of my Mom rocking the littlest sister. I asked if I could have it and my 
Dad graciously dismantled it to fit in the trunk of my car.

Once home, i called on my husband expertise to reassemble the chair. With a new paint of mint green, it took its prominent space in the new nursery where it eventually got plenty of use.  Now that my kids are grown and with no grandchildren nearby to need its services, It is now collecting dust in the barn’s upper floor. As I rummaged about up there one day last week, seeing it brought back memories and stirred my curiosity about the history of this unusual piece of furniture.

A rocking chair or rocker is a type of chair with two curved bands of wood (also known as rockers attached to the bottom of the legs (one on the left two legs and one on the right two legs)). The chair contacts with the floor at only two points, giving the occupant the ability to rock back and forth by shifting his/her weight or pushing lightly with his/her feet.

Though Benjamin Franklin is thought to be the inventor of the rocking chair there is no historical evidence of this. They began life originally used in gardens and were just ordinary chairs with two rockers at their bottoms. The bow-spindle-backed chair, known as the Windsor Chair, seems to have originated near Windsor castle in England in the early to mid 1700's. These rocking chairs featured a round hoop back, a birdcage (with spindles known for its cage-like appearance), and a comb-back (with comb-shaped head rest).

Historians can only trace the rocking chair's origins to North America during the early 18th century.
The American Windsor rockers were introduced to the American colonies around 1750 and evolved into many different variations. Michael Thonet, a German craftsman, created the first bentwood rocking chair in 1860. This design is distinguished by its graceful shape and its light weight.

President John F. Kennedy made the P&P Chair Company rocker famous. The President was prescribed swimming and use of a rocking chair by his physician in 1955 because the President suffered from lingering back problems. The Kennedy Rocking Chair is shaped, stem-bent and assembled while green according to the original design.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Dead Ringer...really?


Someone sent me this recently and gave me motivated to do a little research.

England is old and small.They started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and reuse the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of about 25 were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.
So,they thought they would tie a string to the person's wrist and lead it through the coffin,up through the ground and tied to a bell.Someone would have to sit there all night and listen for the bell.Hence, if the bell rang, the person on the,"graveyard shift" would know that someone was saved,"saved by the bell" or that he was a "dead ringer"

Although such devices did exist and were occasionally used, those phrases may have had nothing to do with bells being attached to coffins to guard against premature burial.

The Graveyard Shift, or Graveyard Watch, was the name coined for the work shift of the early morning, typically midnight until 8am. The name originated in the USA at the latter end of the 1800s. There's no evidence at all that it had anything directly to do with watching over graveyards. The 'graveyard watch' version of the phrase was normally used by sailors on watch - hardly a group in a position to supervise buried coffins.

Gershom Bradford, in A Glossary of Sea Terms, 1927: "Graveyard watch, the middle watch or 12 to 4 a.m., because of the number of disasters that occur at this time."

Saved by the bell” is boxing slang that came into being in the latter half of the 19th century. A boxer who is in danger of losing a bout can be 'saved' from defeat by the bell that marks the end of a round.

dead ringer” - A ringer is a horse substituted for another of similar appearance in order to defraud the bookies. This word originated in the US horse-racing fraternity at the end of the 19th century. The word is defined for us in a copy of the Manitoba Free Press from October 1882: "A horse that is taken through the country and trotted under a false name and pedigree is called a 'ringer.'" It has since been adopted into the language to mean any very close duplicate. As a verb, 'ring' has long been used to mean 'exchange/substitute' in a variety of situations, most of them illegal.

My thanks once again to http://www.phrases.org.uk/index.html for giving the inside goods on these intriguing turns of speech.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tick...Tock...Time Nicked


I recently heard someone use the expression, “in the nick of time.” I’m familiar with hours, minutes, seconds…and even nanoseconds…but ‘nick of time’? Ol’ curiosity raised its head, sending me to Google to seek the source and meaning of this curious phrase. .

The nick that was being referred to was a notch or small cut and was synonymous with precision. Such notches were used on 'tally' sticks to measure or keep score.

The expressions 'keeping score' and 'keeping tally' derive from this also and so do 'stocks' and 'shares', which refer to the splitting of such sticks (stocks) along their length and sharing the two matching halves as a record of a deal.

To Shakespeare and his contemporaries if someone were 'in (or at, or upon) the (very) nick' they were in the precise place at the precise time. Watches and the strings of musical instruments were adjusted to precise pre-marked nicks to keep them in proper order.

The 'time' in 'the nick of time' is rather superfluous, as nick itself refers to time. The first example of the use of the phrase as we now know it comes in Arthur Day's Festivals, 1615: Even in this nicke of time, this very, very instant.

The English language gives us the opportunity to be 'in' many things - the doldrums, the offing, the pink; we can even be down in the dumps.

My gratitude to  http://www.phrases.org.uk for clearing up this matter for me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cacti of Texas and Other Esoteric Thoughts

Glory of Texas Cactus.
The cactus is typically a resident of the desert or else of habitats where, for one reason or another, the water supply is practically nonexistent at least part of the time. The water problem is directly responsible for the soft interior makeup of the cactus and indirectly responsible for its defensive hard, waxy skin and fascinating array of spines. (Cacti of Texas and neighboring States - Del Weniger)
My original intent for this blog was to be strictly informational regarding the various cacti that call Texas home. Naw! As I typed the previous paragraph, my thoughts took off into another direction.
Namely, the fact that a lack of water supply influenced the formation of the cactus. My subconscious decided I needed to expound on that on a human level. How much is our personality influenced by our surroundings?

My upbringing took place in a less-than-affluent situation. I was the eldest of eight children whose father was the only wage-earner. He earned his living working as a carpenter building submarines. I have sharp memories of the earlier years when we were refused groceries at more than one store because we could not pay our bill.

How this influenced me was to make earning a wage the goal of my life despite me desire to satisfy my curiosity about the world I lived in. Married at what is now considered a young age, family started shortly afterward—the thought or possibility of furthering my education beyond high school never entered my mind.   

Co-incidentally, it was my marriage and subsequent move to my husband’s home state, Texas that fueled my desire to continue to learn. Nothing like being transported to an alien culture to expand the mind. As a result, I have never hesitated to inform myself about something I was interested in which has led to many adventures in my lifetime.

What about you? Can you look back at your life and see how you were affected your actions and reactions?

By the way—the cactus photo above is called Glory of Texas (Echinocactus bicolor var. schottii.) Primarily a Mexican species, it occurs in two widely separated areas in Texas -- Starr and Brewster Counties. With a brilliant fuchsia flower whose petals shine with satiny smoothness and surround a scarlet throat, the Glory of Texas is the brightest, most exotic flowers of any cactus growing in our State.

And that's your botany lesson for today, folks.