Virus story with happy ending

Newly divorced, Heather McKinley is thrilled to discover she’s finally pregnant. Brilliant CDC researcher, Daniel Whistler, cares about her and consoles her after her miscarriage. Together, they search for the fanatic dispersing the dangerous sterility virus in U.S. cities and on a Caribbean cruise ship, while each hides a secret that may ultimately break them up. (Published in 2018, when this was just a figment of my imagination)

 

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Happy Birthday – differently

Sunday, April 5th, was my husband’s birthday. We planned to go to Edelweiss Restaurant with my two daughters and son-in-law.  Along came the coronavirus – Scratch that idea. My son-in-law volunteered to bring a long table and chairs. We had a card table and plastic chairs we could set up. Luckily, it wasn’t too cold, so we set them up in the driveway. We ordered food delivered from our favorite Italian restaurant, Cafe Sicilia.

Since I had my mother-in-law’s recipe for Boston Cream Pie, I could bake a cake. I searched under “cake” and “pie” with no results. Then I looked under “desserts” and found it.That was the easy part. I beat the eggs whites first with clean beaters, and then beat the yolks and added other ingredients before folding in the whites. Egg whites won’t beat into stiff peaks if there is any grease or yolk on the beaters. The picture shows Jack ready to dive into the cake.

My Pam spray can was almost empty, so I used margarine to grease the pans and sprinkled them with flour. However, I had to use a spatula to get the cakes loose from the pans, which didn’t leave a smooth surface. I tried to flip the cakes and get a smooth top, but they had stuck to the plate. Next I tried to slice each layer into two, but it was hard to get them even.  Oh, well, the cream filling would cover it up. After making the filling, I put the pan in the refrigerator to chill until after I “attended” church – on my computer of course. When I took the filling out, it was too thick to spread, so I had to add milk and stir. Hoping that would make enough filling to cover the ravaged top, I spread it between the layers, but there was only enough for the bottom three layers. Now I know why the recipe said to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. I used lots to cover the top.

Soon after my daughters and son-in-law arrived and set up the table, the food arrived. We enjoyed eating the chicken rollatini, a rigatoni dish, crusty rolls, garlic bread, and salmon with noodles and capers – I thought capers were black, but these were green, plentiful, and as big as peas. They tasted a little like green olives.

When we were ready for cake, we sang “Happy Birthday” to my husband, and I served the cake. After we finished, I cut two sections for my wonderful neighbors on each side who had brought us groceries and toilet paper, and my husband delivered them.

I bet all of us will remember the birthday dinner that was different for the rest of our lives.

 

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Make Blueberry Coffee Cake without my mistake

I had some blueberries and sour cream to use up, because 1 cup containers were hard to find, and I had used half for Swedish Meatballs. So, I tried a new recipe for blueberry coffee cake. The directions called for sprinkling half of a cinnamon-sugar mixture over half the batter and sprinkling the rest on top.

My first mistake was putting more than half in the bundt pan, so when I added the rest of the batter, I had a hard time spreading what was left over the cinnamon-sugar covered batter.  My second mistake was wearing a top with drooping sleeves. It is a wonder, I didn’t get flour or batter on them. I didn’t discover the other problem until I baked the coffee cake, let it cool and turned it upside down to show off the pretty molded form left by my bundt pan. Unfortunately, more than half the cinnamon sugar fell off the cake onto the plate. Now I know why the recipe called for dusting the top with powdered sugar. I have listed the ingredients below with my revised directions. If you use Stevia, I recommended adding 1/2 tsp. baking powder, so cake will rise better. I’ve found cakes made with Splenda or Stevia don’t rise well unless I add a little more baking powder.) If your frozen blueberries are crusted with frost like mine were, rinse them first.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened (Imperial tastes more like butter)

¾ cup sugar (can substitute ¼ cup of Stevia for ¼ cup sugar, but add ½ tsp. baking powder)

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (if you can get it, my store had regular in 2 cup containers)

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3 tablespoons sugar to mix with cinnamon

2 tsp. cinnamon

powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

You can use beaters to soften the butter or margarine in a large bowl. Add sugar and beat until mixed. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Mix flour, baking powder, soda, and salt (I put that in a sifter instead of dirtying another bowl) and then add to mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in berries.

Spray (or grease and flour) a 10-cup tube pan. Spread half the batter in pan. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Spread the rest of the batter over that. Bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Unmold on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Nutrients (for 14 servings) 197 calories, 7 gm. fat, 47 mg. cholesterol, 30 gm. carbohydrates, and 223 mg. sodium.

If you use Stevia, subtract 13 calories and 3 gms. carbohydrate.

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My Wonderful Neighbors

A few days ago, my doorbell rang, and there was my next door neighbor with her son, about twelve years old. They brought in three bags. I found all these groceries plus some bottled water and bananas. When I asked if there was any toilet paper in the bags, she said, “We’ll bring some. And sure enough, back they came with four rolls of toilet paper and two rolls of paper towel.

After thanking them, I made two loaves of banana bread and took one over to their house.

Then Larry, the neighbor across the street, asked if I needed anything. Knowing my twin daughters were coming on Sunday for their birthday dinner, I said I needed milk and sugar.  Next, Ted, the neighbor behind us asked if I needed anything. Looking at my flour canister, I realized I probably didn’t have enough, so I asked him to get flour.

Later, Ted knocked on my back door and said the store was out of flour. I waited until after dinner to make the cake, hoping I wouldn’t have to use brown sugar for it, but Larry came to my door with milk and sugar. Sure enough, I didn’t have enough regular flour and had to add some bread flour to make the cake.

Then Walmart called announcing three prescriptions. Since my husband and I are in the high-risk age group, I was leery of exposing my self to all those shoppers and asked my daughter if she’d pick them up on the way to my house on Sunday. When she agreed, I asked if she had any powdered sugar to make frosting. Luckily, she did and said she’d bring it. I haven’t made egg white frosting in years, because it is tricky to make, so I was glad she had powdered sugar.

At the birthday dinner on Sunday, my other daughter brought some flour. We had Swedish meatballs with gravy, corn pudding, and green bean dish, made with fresh green beans as the store had been out of frozen French style green beans the last time I shopped. The three-layer cake turned out well, and everyone liked it, but I thought it turned out rather dense due to the bread flour being high in gluten.

My husband and I decided we didn’t need any extra calories, so after my daughters and son-in-law left, I divided up the rest of the cake and took it to my wonderful neighbors.

Yesterday, Ted came over with a bag of flour, so I made blueberry coffee cake and took some to the Larry across the street, while my husband took some to Ted and his wife.

I  hope all of you reading this are doing okay. I’m spending my time editing my next book, Forgotten Princess, and reading other romantic suspense novels.

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Hunker down with low calorie banana bread.

This recipe is from my cookbook, There IS Life After Lettuce, which I designed for heart patients and diabetics as my husband has heart problems and my two co-authors, Pepper Durcholz and Alberta Gentry (now deceased) were diabetic. It is also low calorie.

Banana Bread

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup Stevia (I used to use Sugar Twin, but they don’t make it any more)

1/3 cup margarine

1 egg plus 2 egg whites (if not worried about eggs, use 2 whole eggs)

1 tsp. baking soda (add 1/2 tsp. baking powder as dough doesn’t rise as much with Stevia)

2 cups flour

1\4 cup skim milk (or 2 % if you don’t have skim)

3/4 tsp. vinegar

3 ripe bananas mashed (very ripe are best)

1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Blend sugar, Stevia, and margarine. Add eggs and mix well. Sift flour, soda, and baking powder into bowl and stir. Mix milk and vinegar and then add to mixture. Fold in bananas. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees in a greased 9 X 5 loaf pan. I like to line the pan with foil before adding batter. Test with toothpick. When done, let it cool, then cut into 20 slices. Keep in refrigerator as there is not enough sugar to preserve it at room temperature.

If you add 1 cup walnuts, you will add 38 calories and 3.7 gm. fat per slice.

Nutrients per slice 

Calories            108

Fat                       3.6 gm.

Cholesterol        14 mg.

Carbohydrate    17 gm.

Sodium               63 mg.

 

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Celebrating Mardi Gras Kid Style

Last Wednesday at the Village Library, where I tutor, the director, Lola Nelson-Spay, told the kids about Mardi Gras. She mentioned the King Cake, which is traditionally served. A bead, a coin or a tiny baby doll to represent Jesus is usually hidden inside. Whoever gets that piece of cake at a party is king for that day, but is supposed to host the party with another King Cake next year at Mardi Gras. The King Cake originated in France. It’s supposed to draw the three kings to arrive by Epiphany, but the King Cake is served from January 6 (Epiphany) to Febraury 2nd.  In New Orleans, it’s served during Mardi Gras. It’s usually a brioche type coffee cake and is often decorated in colors of the rainbow.

The director had masks and beads for everyone to dress up with, and we all practiced singing, “Oh, when the Saints go marching in.” Then her assistant led the kids outside, and we marched up and down the sidewalk, singing. The children, from 1st grade to 9th grade seemed to enjoy that.

After that the tutors helped the kids with their homework. I got two second graders to help because we were short of tutors that day. Each child got a piece of the King Cake to take home.

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What do they eat in Catalonia?

While writing my next book, Forgotten Princess, I  have been researching what would be served for dinner in Barcelona, where I have set a scene at the mansion of Prince Arturo and Princess Elizabetta. They are part of the royal Santiago family of Cordillera, my imaginary kingdom on the border of France and Spain, but they prefer to live in the Spanish state of Catalonia. Thanks to Food Editor, Amy Schulman, posting on a travel website, I have found out about several dishes served there.

Since the state borders the Mediterranean, seafood is common as a dinner entrée. Suquet de peix, a Catalan fish stew, was invented by fishers to use parts of the catch that weren’t sold that day. It usually includes hake, monkfish, clams and mussels. The stew is often seasoned with saffron, an expensive spice grown in Central Spain, which gives the stew its recognizable red color. In the dinner scene, my heroine, Isabella, is trying to delicately remove bits of mussel from the shell to eat

Escudella i carn d’olla or Escudella, is a soup cooked with meat, vegetables, and pasta or rice. After it is cooked, the meat, sausage, a large meatball, and vegetables (carrots, celery and cabbage) are removed and then served on the side.

Dried cod, sausage, sliced tomatoes, and onions may be served in a salad, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs are included. This might be served with beans.

Mongetes amb botifarra is the Catalan version of sausage and beans. The Botifarra  sausage is typically made of pork.

Canelons is a large tube pasta stuffed with layers of meat and creamy béchamel sauce. I’ve tried making béchamel sauce. It’s tricky to get it the right consistency.

Reading all this is making me hungry. Luckily, I have leftovers from Sunday night’s dinner, corn pudding, zesty green beans with dill seed, basil, bacon bits, and onion, as well as a creamy carrot casserole, made with onion and mayonnaise to serve with leftover pork roast. Unfortunately, the strawberry pie is all gone.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

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Night of Romance at Haltom City Library

As one of twelve romance authors, on Valentine’s Day, I sat at a table with my books on display. I had copies of two books from publishers and five self-published books.  Beside them sat my plate of miniature chocolate croissants I’d made because that is the favorite dish of the heroine in my latest book, Royal Wedding Scoop. Attendees commented on how good they tasted.

I participated on a panel of romantic suspense writers. The librarian asked us questions about how we wrote. Most did not write eight hours a day, but had other tasks to take care of. I’m retired, but also do other things, such as trying out new recipes or creating ones of my own. My husband is a helpful guinea pig and will taste anything. Often he says it’s good, but occasionally he says, “Please don’t make that again.”

Another question was about what weird things we researched. One said she asked an FBI agent a bunch of questions and was surprised when he answered every one, gave her his phone number, and said to call if she had more questions. I told about researching what a person at a funeral home does. In one of my stories, the villain keeps the heroine in the room while he explains what he is doing to a dead body.

Before the book signing, I had finished Amazon’s process of making one of my self-published e-books into print copies. Since I’d worked through the process with a previous book, it had gone rather quickly. Amazon said to wait 72 hours. I waited six days but heard nothing. I checked to be sure no text strayed over the margins. Still nothing from Amazon.

Finally, I sent them an e-mail and got the message I’d put the wrong ISBN on the copyright page. By the time I’d fixed that, I had to pay extra to get my three copies in time for the book signing. I held my breath until they arrived just after noon on February 14th. Now they are all sold so I need to order more.

 

 

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Sweets for Your Sweetheart

Eight bakers assembled in one kitchen on Sunday, February 9th,  to make cookies for Valentine’s Day.  And one was a guy named Andy. I joined my daughters, Helen Elliott, and Diane Williamson with their other friends, Laura, Kimbra, Alicia, and Mandy to make peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cookies, and no-bake chocolate cookies.  The first picture shows the island table loaded with sugar, flour, butter, and a cookie sheet ready to go in the oven. The second picture shows decorated sugar cookies. Mandy was a whiz with the decorating tip, but I squeezed it too hard and got frosting oozing out the top onto my hand, so I let her do the rest. In the third picture, the bakers are assembled around a dining table loaded with various kinds of cookies.

My daughters and I planned to diet until that day, or at least not splurge, but when the aroma filled Diane’s kitchen, we couldn’t help but sample the goodies. We each took home a container of mixed cookies, and Diane will take the rest to the lawyer’s office where she works to share. My husband was glad to see me bring some home. We are trying to be good and only eat one at a time with a cup of coffee.

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HIGH HOPES

It is still winter, but my iris bulbs are shooting leaves up while my yard fairy stands guard. They did not bloom the first year after I planted them, but I have high hopes.

I also have high hopes for my goals. Many people hate making (and keeping) New Year’s resolutions like lose weight, exercise more, and save money. Yes. I need to do all that too, but I’d rather concentrate on goals. They are more energizing. Mine are to finish Forgotten Princess and get it released. I also want to release Holiday with a Royal, which is out with a beta reader.

I learned some interesting things doing research for Forgotten Princess. Barcelona has a varied assortment of specially designed street tiles, some by Antoni Gaudi, and some by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Those and other architects have worked with Casa Escofet, a construction company that won a bid held by the City Hall back in 1916. They’ve been paving Barcelona ever since. Each district of the city has it’s own distinctive tile design. La Rambla, the famous pedestrian walkway with shops, restaurants, and a theater has tiles with a pattern called el vibrazo that makes the pavement look wavy.

                                  La Rambla (2)  Ruta del Modernismo

The tile shown above with a circle design in the middles is one of 115 Flor de Barcelona tiles placed in spots near modernistic buildings. I wish I had known this when I visited that city. The only pattern I noticed was the one in La Rambla, where my husband and I ate paella at a restaurant and drank strong coffee. Later, after visiting Sagrada Familia, also designed by Gaudi, we were glad to find a Starbucks for a more familiar taste.

Sagrada Familia is a church unlike any other. Many statues and fanciful designs are carved into the walls, including a large carved scene of the holy family. Gaudi’s  over-the-top creative designs inspired the American term gaudy, to describe overly flamboyant attire or jewelry.

Work has begun on the final six of the eighteen towers planned.  The tallest of the six spires, the Tower of Jesus Christ will measure over 172 meters and make the Sagrada Família the tallest, religious building in Europe. Chief architect Jordi Fauli said the structure is on track to complete in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudi’s death. I’m betting tour tickets will be scarce then. Below is an image showing how finished building will look.

Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi

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