Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter Hummingbird

Cold weather is here and the lights that warm our hummingbird feeder failed. We made it fall a year ago when Thumbelina, a female rufous hummingbird, first showed up. She came every day from November 7 through April 11, then moved on to her summer breeding grounds, possibly in the Northwest. Rufous Hummers have been seen in summer from Oregon to Alaska. 
Map from Cornell's site

They're usually on the West Coast all year, so she's a real wanderer. More and more are seen in the East in winter. They've adapted pretty well to the cold weather.  

When it’s above freezing, she eats insects. We often see her darting back and forth, usually in our holly tree. We know it’s Thumbs because nothing else can change direction in mid flight that way.


They've adapted pretty well to the cold weather.  When it’s above freezing, she eats insects. We often see her darting back and forth, usually in our holly tree. We know it’s Thumbs because nothing else can change direction in mid flight that way.

Christmas tree lights in a plastic tub



The temperature is going down to 15 degrees this week, so we dug out another set of lights and re-rigged her heated feeder. Appropriate for January 6 and the Feast of Lights, don't you think? This is also Epiphany, when the wise men visited the babe in the manger.

Thumbelina, Nov 13
We’ve been watching for her and she came back November 13. Here she was on that bright, sunny day. We didn't attach the lighted container until the first freeze.

When the temperature reaches mid forties, we turn it off as the liquid (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) starts to thicken if too warm.
I managed to get a bad picture of her while ago, so she’s doing well.
Thumbs, Jan 6


The lively and entertaining Shehanne Moore, author of some excellent steamy historical romances, nominated me for the Drum Beat Award. Visit Shehanne's blog! She's funny, nice, generous, and always interesting. 
“This is an award created by Sue Dreamwalker to pass along to bloggers who are sharing posts which are helping show our empathy, Love and Kindness, or who Highlight injustice who beat their own Drum to bring awareness to the world”.
Drum Beat Award

Monday, January 5, 2015

Renown or renowned?

The misuse of renown and renowned is a common error that makes me cringe.
Example of misuse: “was made into an award-winning TV series starring the renown actor Ian McKellan.”

Renown is a noun meaning fame or high repute, as in "an author of great renown." The adjective, meaning well-known or famous, is renowned. The renowned author . . .

If you can substitute fame, the word is renown. If you can substitute famous, the word is renowned.

Ellis, feeling curmudgeonly

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Real Neat Blog Award and Giveaway

1. Put the Real Neat Blog Award logo on your blog.
2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you. That would be me. 
3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

GIVEAWAY: I’ll send one commenter one of my eBooks—your choice of book and recipient (if you want it to be a gift).

My questions were asked by Shehanne Moore, historical romance author and blogger extraordinaire. Thanks, Shehanne, for including me.

QUESTION 1 Where do most visits to your blog come from? United States, Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Belarus, Canada—in that order. Surprising!

QUESTION 2 What is your favourite sport? Watching. I’m a great watcher. I watch any number of things, such as birds, dogs, horses, figure skating, stars, the sky, and when I have the opportunity, moving water (the sea, lakes, streams, creeks).

QUESTION 3 What is your favourite quote? I have several, but one especially from John Stuart Mill: Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
There are many from Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's one I'm fond of.

QUESTION 4 What was your favourite class when still at school? English. I’ve always loved reading and it was a natural. I also loved art, but I soon learned I was a small fish in a very large pond.

QUESTION 5 Anything you had wished to have learned earlier? To follow my dreams. I wish I’d persisted early on and not let life dictate what I did, at least not to the extent of putting everything on hold for many years.

QUESTION 6 What musical instrument have you tried to play? There was a brief--very brief--stint with a violin. Now I play CDs. Definitely better for me and everyone in hearing distance.

QUESTION 7 What has been a special moment for you? Finally, finally getting Prime Target published. That one was hard, but I loved it. And listening to my granddaughter singing Vivaldi’s “Laudamus Te” (on left) and the Flower Duet from Delibes’s Lakmé. Seeing my grandson in Beauty and the Beast and as the Gatekeeper in The Wiz.




I’m nominating Leslie Ann Sartor, whose interesting blog is http://anindieadventure.blogspot.com/ She’s the author of an adventure series and the star light, star bright romance novels. Check them out; they’re good stories and a lot of fun.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tradition!


Stollen, traditional Christmas bread

Christmas in my family has, or had, many traditional activities. Some have gone by the wayside as the family dwindled and we who remain are too far apart to celebrate the season together.  So far, two of my characters like to cook, Claire in Cold Comfort and Madeleine in Prime Target. I prefer cooking in winter, and both of those books are set mostly in cold weather—maybe that’s why they like it.

Fudge, the old-fashioned kind
The scents wafting from a busy kitchen bring back many memories. Baking, which started in November with fruitcakes and didn’t end until Christmas dinner, required help from everyone, Daddy included. He beat the fudge, stirred stiff doughs, and did more than his share of the taste-testing.

Mother made plates of treats for all the service people who came to our house, from the mailman to the trash collectors. She made a range of candies and cakes and filled paper plates, which we tied up in red
Brioche, a bit lopsided
or green tissue paper with a bow. They filled the dining room table, and my sisters and I loved giving them out. I did it for many years, but now I’m doing well to make a few things for friends.

I did try my hand at Brioche, a very eggy bread that reminds me of Challah. Really not my favorite. I’m thinking Stollen next and hoping it’s more to my liking. If so, I’ll give some away.

One thing I can’t give up is Cheese Grits on Christmas morning. We’ve had it for as long as I can remember. 

Oh, Cheese Grits!
Share some of your traditional dishes. Good food is always appealing.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Blustery Day

In Pooh parlance, this is a blustery day--windy, cold, and damp. The first cold day of the season, and my thoughts turn to chili. But that's for tonight. 
For brunch I decided to try Canadian Bannock, a fried bread kind of thing. The recipe came from  Felicity Kates on shehannemoore's blog. Here's the link:

Made the batter. Very wet.

Made the round thing. Still very wet.


Tried to dump it in the hot skillet in one piece. It ended up in several pieces, but it began frying. 


Tried to turn it over, using two spatulas as suggested. Hmmmm. 


Okay, here it is finished. 



This is tasty but holds a lot of the oil (Canola in my case). I think once will be enough for this. To be honest, the more biscuit-like Scottish bannocks I tried were more to my liking. 



 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Research--the story begins




It’s fall here. It seems late. Colors are not spectacular this year; only a few bright leaves recently appeared on our sugar maple. 
Our sugar maple, just beginning to turn

No freezes in Greenville so far, but the first frost is supposed to arrive later this week. It was enough to get us to the mountains for a day. I’m starting a new book, tentatively titled Shallow Grave, that’s set in a fictitious county in North Carolina, and I’m ready to begin some research. I already have an idea for the cover--cart before the horse?--though it may change many times before the book is finished.

Many of the trees there are already bare, but patches of vivid golds and reds still caused us to pull out the cameras. The scenery in western North Carolina always interests me. It’s a land of steep rock faces, streams and waterfalls, and fertile valleys.

Maybe hay under protective cover
 Old barns with their mellow colors or weathered wood and often defunct equipment tell stories of their own. Near one, the bay of hounds from an array of small dog houses tracked our progress. 

A pulled-pork lunch on the patio at Hubba Hubba, a smokehouse in Flat Rock, kept us going all day. I should have taken a picture of the food, but I did get the pink Mandevilla growing up a stone chimney.

An excellent day outside—perfect weather, gorgeous scenery, and lots of information and ideas. I need to go back and talk to some of the law enforcement people in the area, but I have much to go on with.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Scottish Shortbread recipe



I'm posting this by request. It's truly scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. The recipe was given to me by my husband's cousin Mary, a delightful Scottish lady.

MARY AKEHURST’S SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD

Yield:  1/2 cookie sheet

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
2 tablespoons rice flour (or very fine flour)
1/2 cup fruit sugar (very fine sugar)
2 cups flour

Double the amount for a large cookie sheet or just spread over half the sheet. Don’t spread the dough thinly. It should be fairly thick.

Beat butter until creamy. Add flour and work in well. Add sugar and rice flour and work in well. Knead with hands for a minute or two. Then pat into the tin. (I used flour on my hands and on a knife—otherwise the dough sticks to everything.) Mark with tines of a fork. (I had enough trouble without doing that.)

You can also roll mixture out and cut into shapes or leave it whole.
Bake at 275 degrees for about an hour. Small cookies take much less time.