May 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Here we are in the month of May.  Did you ever wonder why they call it “The Merry Month of May?”  It would be reasonable to assume it’s because winter is in the rear-view mirror and flowers are in bloom.  And that, my friends, is not far off.  It’s a poem from a play The Shoemaker’s Holiday written by Thomas Dekker (circa 1590) an Elizabethan poet and pamphleteer.  It was first performed in 1599 by The Admirals Men, also known as The Earl of Nottingham’s Men, considered one of the most important acting troupes of The English Renaissance Theatre.  The play depicts everyday life during the reign of King Henry VI.   Here’s the first verse:

O the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I unto my true love say:
“Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my summer’s queen!

One of the lines mentions “Kiss and Toy” so I’ll just leave the rest to your imagination.  But isn’t it nice to know there was real heated romance way back when?  I guess they don’t call some of the more current romance novels “Boddice Rippers” for nothing!

Getting back to this month.  Mother’s Day is coming.  Do something nice for your mother if she is still here.  And if she isn’t, light a candle and say a prayer.  A mother’s love never dies.  And nobody’s perfect.

I have a few additions to my wildlife family.  An owl named Oliver keeps trying to seduce his girlfriend, Olivia all through the night.  He keeps calling her and she answers but she’s playing hard to get.  Then there’s my new alarm clock, Fred the woodpecker.  He’s up at the crack of dawn doing his jack-hammer thing all day long.

On to book news:  A new anthology has just been released called In Bloom.  It’s a collection of three stories, one by me (Amazing Gracie,) Carolyn Brown (The Mother’s Day Crown), and Lori Foster (Meant to Be.) They are novellas about family and motherhood that will make a wonderful gift and introduce readers to new authors.

Next month the paperback edition of No Way Out will be available.  Some of the comments from the hardcover were “it ended too soon” and “what happened to Elle/Libby?”  It makes me happy when people become attached to the characters so in a forthcoming Sisterhood Novel, Tick Tock we will see the return of Libby, and a few characters from Hidden (Book One of The Lost and Found Series) will also make an appearance.  Many children have imaginary friends and so do I.  LOL.

One more VERY important thing, and VERY close to my heart:  May is National Pet Adoption Month.  Please think about our  furry friends and help give one a furr-ever home.

This month’s contest will be a bundle of my recent favorites including In Bloom.

Thanks for visiting.  Hope you come on by again soon.  Be safe, be well, be kind.

Sincerely,
Fern

May 2022 Recipes

If  you are planning a tea-party I wanted to re-share a traditional menu with you:

Classic afternoon finger sandwiches:
Egg salad
Cucumber & cream cheese
Smoked salmon & cream cheese
Roast Beef
Chicken Salad
Make the sandwiches out of white bread.
Cut the crust off the bread and cut the sandwiches in half at an angle.
Scones, Tea, and Voila!

April 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

Just when you thought things were going to get back to some semblance of normal (even though it seems harder to figure out exactly what “normal” is), people are still losing their homes, livelihood, and their loved ones in Ukraine.  I know the situation is bad for a lot of people all around the world, and my heart breaks every time I turn on the news.  When did we become so uncivilized?  Makes me want to cry.  But I am not going to be a Debbie-Downer and ask that we take a moment to send positive thoughts throughout the world and spread as much loving light as possible.  So remember, when someone at the grocery store is getting on your one last nerve, be thankful.  Be thankful you can put on your pants, shoes, and be able to move about freely.   Never take anything for granted.

According to the calendar it’s officially Spring.  But where?  Even the seasons are a mess.  Many of my beautiful blooms were killed by a frost a week ago, and it’s South Carolina.  I enjoy gardening and it pains me to see lovely azaleas and camellias wilt on the vine.  I hope your gardening efforts are more fruitful.  I may start planting artificial flowers outside.  Just kidding.

This month we have Easter.  Time to color eggs and stuff our faces with chocolate bunnies.  Did you ever wonder how eggs became associated with Easter?  It’s a symbol of new life.  Jesus reborn.  BTW, jelly beans are a symbol of the egg.

Now what about bunnies?  It’s still a bit of a mystery, but it’s thought that since they are prolific little creatures they represent fertility, and fertility is associated with Spring; and it was originated by the Germans who brought the tradition to America in the 1700’s.

Chocolate?  Sometime around 1890, a gentleman named Robert Strohecker made a 5 feet tall chocolate bunny to promote Easter in his drug store in Pennsylvania.  And there you have it!  You will be the best trivia person at the dinner table.

As I mentioned last month, Fear Thy Neighbor, a stand-alone hardcover will be available first week of April.  It’s about a woman, Alison Marshall, who is looking for a place to call home.  She finds something that seems to be is everything she hoped.  But as days turn into weeks, she uncovers a dark side to this supposedly peaceful haven, but something clandestine is lurking among the locals, and once Alison discovers what it is, she faces a stark choice.  It’s intriguing and suspenseful and I don’t want to give any more details away.

We received a lot of entries in last month’s contest so we will be running it again for a signed copy of Fear Thy Neighbor!

Be safe, Be kind.

All the best,
Fern

April 2022 Recipes

Pizza Rustica is one of several Italian Easter pies.  It’s a traditional savory dish and usually takes a day and a half to prepare.  But here is a simpler recipe.

Ingredients – for 2 pies…believe me they will fly out of the kitchen.  It can keep on the counter all day.

Original recipe yields 16 servings

Ingredient Checklist

  • 4 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts, divided
  • 2 (16 ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ pound pepperoni
  • ½ pound sweet capicola (coppa)
  • ½ pound salami
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Press 1 pie crust each into the bottom of two 9-inch pie pans.

Step 2

Mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and eggs together in a large bowl. Roughly chop the pepperoni, sweet capicola and salami; fold in chopped meats. Spoon half the mixture into each of the 2 prepared pie pans.

Step 3

Top each pie with a pie crust, crimping the edges together creating a seal. Brush the top of each pie with egg white.

Step 4

Bake in the preheated oven until crust is golden brown, 45 to 60 minutes.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.


Quick, Easy and Impressive.  You can make the brownies but if you’re tight for time, buy them.

Brownie Trifle

  • 1 lb. brownies – cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1-2 cans whipped cream
  • ½ lb. cherries – if fresh, take out the pits, or use frozen.  Another trick is to buy LUXARDO cherries – they come in a heavy syrup and are the original maraschino cherries.  They’re a little pricey but worth it.
  • 1 cup crushed chocolate chips
  • 6 wide mouth wine glasses, martini glasses (just to be fancy)

Squirt a bit of whipped cream into the bottom of the glass.

Add 2-3 cubes of brownies.

Add 2-3 cherries.

Another squirt of whipped cream.

Repeat until glass is full.  Garnish with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and a cherry on top.

If you want to be even fancier, put a stick of cinnamon just to make it look pretty.

March 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.  Just when you thought things were going to lighten up, the world is faced with another challenge.  I don’t mean to be a Debbie-Downer, but my heart breaks for the people of Ukraine, and anywhere else there is tyranny and injustice.  It’s no surprise aliens don’t want to come here.  Too bad they can’t pick up all the bad guys and whisk them off the planet.  Maybe I should start writing science fiction.  Ha.  Ha.  I have often said if women ruled the world, we wouldn’t have any of this fighting.  Ok.  Maybe a little hair-pulling but women still have a nurturing instinct, at least for now.  So let’s pray – however and to whomever you pray – we can find peaceful coexistence.

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  This year it’s more like a rollercoaster.  One day it’s 70 degrees, the next it’s hovering around 30.  Yep, everything is off kilter, so we need to try even harder to keep our balance.  In a very short time we will see daffodils, tulips, and forsythia’s in bloom bringing us a sense of hope.  I hope!

Next month we have Easter.  Last year I told you how we arrive at Easter Sunday.  Here’s a refresher:

It is the FIRST Sunday after the FIRST Full Moon AFTER the Equinox (equal hours of daylight and dark).  Follow me with the math.  This year The Equinox is March 20th.  The first full moon after the Equinox is April 16.  The first Sunday after that is April 17th.  Voila!  Passover is also on its own calendar and this year it’s the weekend of Easter.  God sure works in mysterious ways.

For book news:  19 Yellow Moon Road is # 9 on the New York Times Best Seller List!

Fear Thy Neighbor, a stand-alone hardcover will be available first week of April.  It’s about a woman, Alison Marshall, who is looking for a place to call home.  She finds a something that seems to be is everything she hoped.  But as days turn into weeks, she uncovers a dark side to this supposedly peaceful haven, but something clandestine is lurking among the locals, and once Alison discovers what it is, she faces a stark choice.  It’s intriguing and suspenseful and I don’t want to give any more details away.  SO…

This months’ contest is a signed copy Fear Thy Neighbor!

I am working on a new novel for next year.  It’s about a chef, a mysterious illness, and a secret past.  While I was writing it, I came across some recipes that I am going to share with you now.

Be well, be safe!  Take care of yourself.

All the best,
Fern

March 2022 Recipes

Cheese Stuffed Corn Cakes

SERVINGS

6 arepas

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups precooked corn meal
  • 2 cups hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon soft butter divided
  • 12 slices mozzarella cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium bowl mix the corn meal, water, salt and ½ the butter. Knead with your hands for about 3 minutes moistening your hands with water as you work.

Form 6 small balls with the dough.

Place each ball between 2 pieces of parchment paper, and with a flat pot cover or rolling pin, flatten to about ⅓ inch thick.  The arepas should be about 5” in diameter.

Add the butter to a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Place the arepas in the pan, and cook about 3 minutes on each side, until a crust forms or until they are golden brown.

Split the arepas using a knife as you would do with an English muffin and stuff with 2 slices of mozzarella cheese.

Place the stuffed arepas back on the skillet over medium high heat and cook 2 minutes on each side or until the cheese is melted and serve immediately.


BIRRIA – Columbian Stew

It’s a little spicey so use your judgement.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 dried chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 dried habanero chile pods, stemmed and seeded
  • water to cover
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 slice onion, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 ½ onions, chopped
  • 3 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into chunks
  • 6 bay leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

Place the dried chiles into a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until chiles are softened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour chile sauce mixture into a blender.  Add garlic, onion slice, pepper, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth.

Layer chopped onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place chuck roast over onions and add bay leaves. Pour the chile sauce on top. Cook on High until beef is tender enough to shred with a fork, about 5 hours.

Remove beef from the sauce. Continue cooking sauce until is reduced, 35 to 45 minutes.  Add beef back in and season with salt.

February 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.  In February of 2021 I wrote about being a year into the pandemic, and now it’s two years!

Last year I wrote about Ground Hog Day and here I go again!  If you recall the movie, it’s about a cynical weatherman who gets trapped in a time loop where he keeps reliving the same day over and over again.  Sound familiar?  But there is a deep message in the story.  If you have the opportunity to do things over, what would you change?  We can’t change the past, but we can make better decisions about the future.  How’s that for an inspiring message from someone who is freezing her pantaloons off in chilly South Carolina?  If there is no such thing as global warming, someone needs to have a chat with Mother Nature because she didn’t get the memo.

Speaking of weather, we had a monster wind storm a few weeks ago that blew all my holiday decorations all over.  Saved me time from putting them away.  LOL.  Now that the Christmas ornaments are gone or packed, I wonder what the cats will destroy this month.

It seems the month of January flew by.  I hear a lot of people saying it’s as if time is moving faster.  It’s true the solar system is hurdling through space, but I wish it were more like the wind blowing through your hair as you tour a stunning countryside in your fabulous Lamborghini, or the sports car of your choice.  Or, perhaps riding on a beautiful horse through hills and valleys.  Just thinking about that kind of freedom makes me feel better.  Even if it’s only for a few minutes.  A-ha!  Maybe I should think about such things more often.  They say 1 minute a day of deep breathing and visualizing something beautiful can lower your blood pressure.  I’m all for that!

We have Valentine’s Day coming up.   I already told the cats “white chocolate, please.”  I leave empty wrappers around to drop hints.  Kidding.  But do you remember those little dye-cut cards we’d send each other in grammar school?  In some ways it was cute, in others it was cruel if you weren’t the recipient of any.  I had a teacher who put everyone’s name in a hat and each kid picked a name.  This way everyone would get at least one card!

And now I am going to do another Ground Hog Day paragraph, because it’s still important to remember.  If no one buys you candy this year, buy some for yourself.  Or buy yourself a new purse.  Treat yourself to something.  Even if it’s simply a walk in a park away from everyone who keeps asking you to do stuff.  We shouldn’t have to wait for other people to do something nice for us.  I am sure most of you have had your hands full for way too long.  A little retail therapy works wonders.  Even if it’s just a new lipstick.

For book news:  19 Yellow Moon Road is # 9 on the New York Times Best Seller List!  I am agape and agog.  This is book # 33 in the series.  I never thought it would have so much traction.  Honestly!  I started writing it because it was the only way I could met out justice in our mixed up world.  I guess a lot of people feel the same way.  It’s so gratifying to see justice served.

This months’ contest is a signed copy of  a new edition of  Southern Comfort in a new format with a new cover.

Be well, be safe!  Take care of yourself.

All the best,
Fern

February 2022 Recipes

Last year I gave you a Pasta Fagioli recipe, but found an easier way to make it in a crock pot. It’s simple and inexpensive.

Pasta Fagioli   (pronounced Pasta Fa-zool)

This is more like a stew.  If you want it more like a soup, see note at the bottom.

Ingredients:
(3) tablespoons of olive oil
(3) cloves large garlic chopped
(1) medium onion chopped
(1) tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or (1) teaspoon dried
(1) teaspoon dried oregano
(1) 14-oz can diced tomatoes
(1) 16 oz. can of tomato sauce (I like Rao’s with basil)
8 oz. vegetable or chicken broth
(2) 8 oz. cans Cannellini Beans (drained and rinsed)
¾ lb. dried (uncooked) small pasta shells (I like the shells because the beans get nestled in them and they hold the sauce better)
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
½ cup dry red wine
Salt and Pepper
Crushed red pepper – optional  (you can put it on later or add to the mix to cook)
Fresh chopped basil – for garnish

Directions:
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil – put it crock pot with the rest:
Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, broth, wine and herbs, Add parmesan cheese and  pasta and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  If it starts to get too thick add a little more broth
Garnish with basil, more grated cheese and crushed pepper.  This will last in the frig for a week and in the freezer for a couple of months

Easy peasy

For soup:
Add 2 chopped carrots and 3 stalks of chopped celery, and 16 oz. of vegetable of chicken stock – follow same directions

Another easy recipe: (I think they call this a “hack” – quick solution?)

Chicken Soup

Ingredients:
½ roasted chicken from the grocery store – take the meat off the bone and set aside
(1) large onion – sliced
(2) cloves garlic – minced
(2) large carrots – cut in chunks
(3) stalks of celery – cut in 1 inch chunks
(3) tablespoons fresh copped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
(1) tablespoon fresh chopped dill (or 2 teaspoons dried)
(4) cups chicken stock
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Add noodles, rice or barley – cook according to instructions or add to soup directly

Directions:
Sauté onion, garlic, carrots, celery until soft
Add chicken stock, herbs and shredded chicken
Simmer for 45 minutes

January 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

This is what I wrote a year ago:

Let me start with wishing everyone a happy, healthy, stress-less 2021.  If you feel like you’ve been living in the spin-cycle of the washing machine, you are not alone.  2020 was a year where you wanted to hide under the bed as we were bombarded with bad news on a daily basis.  So, for this new year’s resolution let’s “resolve” to be strong and kind.  I know it’s hard to be pleasant when your life is in chaos,  but remember you are not alone.  We are all going through this together, even if we are apart.  Hang in there.  I truly believe better days are ahead.

It  doesn’t seem like much has changed, eh?   Feels like life is a hamster wheel or a recurring nightmare.  All I can say is the same things I said before.  Be strong.  Be kind.  Have faith.  And yes, I still believe we can get back to an old normal, because this new normal is kind of stinky.

The cats managed to mangle a few Christmas trees.  They think ornaments are toys.  Next year I may invest in rubber ornaments if they make them.  If they don’t, then someone should!  Based on the stories I heard, most pet owners would buy them for sure!

Once again I want to thank you for all your support last year and the years before.  Your kind words on social media mean a lot to me.  I’m not a big fan of social media because too many people use it in negative ways, so I greatly appreciate positive feedback and spreading a little cheer.

Time to talk books. For those of you who are Sisterhood fans, 19 Yellow Moon Road is on sale now.   If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, have no fear.  There is a lot of back story so you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series. This one was interesting to write because it deals with a very wealthy man who lures young women into a sex slave enterprise.  Sound familiar?  The subject has been in the news lately.  Sometimes I scare myself when I write about things that eventually happen.  Believe me, I do not claim to have any psychic abilities whatsoever.  It just seems to occur from time to time. Too bad I can’t do that with the lottery!  So this month’s contest will be a signed copy of 19 Yellow Moon Road.

No matter where you live, the weather seems to be unpredictable.  We’ve had temperature swings from 65 to 35 degrees in two days.  I worry about the trees and the plants.  They have no idea what’s going on.  Come to think of it, it seems like the weather has the meteorologists perplexed as well.

Let’s hang on to our hats, coats, and pantaloons and face the New Year with as much gusto as possible.  To help with that I am including some comfort food to fuel your soul.

Be well, be safe.  Be kind.  Have fun.

All the best,

Fern

January 2022 Recipes

Easy Minestrone Soup  (Minestrone comes from the Italian word Minestra which means soup!) Easy Soup Soup!

This is a very healthy, hearty soup.  It can keep in the fridge for about a week, and you can freeze it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil – I prefer Italian olive oil (EVOO or Light – up to you)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta (Mezzi Rigatoni or Shells)
  • 1/3 cup teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Sauté the celery and onion in oil and butter until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in the broth, tomato sauce, beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add macaroni; cook, uncovered, 6-8 minutes or until macaroni and vegetables are tender.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

Another hearty stew/soup:

CABBAGE & BEANS     

  • 1 (8 ounce) package dried beans, soaked overnight (or 16 oz canned white beans, drained)
  • ½ pound smoked sausage (or your favorite vegan substitute – sounds like an oxymoron to me) Pepperoni or Chorizo is good for this – set aside a few slices for garnishing
  • 16 oz chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

Directions:

In a large pot, combine the beans, sausage, broth, cabbage and butter.

Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and set a lid on top but leave a crack for steam.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the lid, add the tomatoes and; simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

And if you’re in a cheesy kind of mood:

Grilled cheese sandwiches.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  BTW, did you know you can substitute mayonnaise (the real stuff) instead of butter?  I recently discovered that many diners use it in place of butter.

Grilled Swiss Cheese, Bacon & Tomato – I like it on Rye Bread

Make sure the bacon is cooked first.

*Slather up two slices of bread with either butter or mayo.  Place slathered side down on medium heat in frying pan.

Place 2-3 slices of Swiss cheese on each slice of bread.  When cheese starts to melt top with bacon and a slice of tomato.  Let melt for another minute.  Carefully flip one of the slices over and place on top of the other – cheese meets cheese.   Yummy.

If you want a little tang:
Sourdough bread
Provolone
Cheddar
*Same routine as above substituting cheeses

Even more tang:
Your choice of bread
Monterey Jack
Jalapeno peppers – as much heat as you can stand
*Same routine as above substituting cheese and adding peppers

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