A Book on Every Bed

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Last week I read an article about a new Christmas tradition. It’s called A Book on Every Bed, invented by Amy “Ask Amy” Dickinson. She began the project because her mother was a reader, writer and educator and to promote literacy. She admits she “stole” the idea from an author who talked about his childhood Christmases and how he received a book from Santa every year. Personally, I don’t think she really stole anything. She took something one family did and shared it with the world.

This is how it works. You wrap a book, and Santa places it on your child’s bed after they’re asleep. They wake up Christmas morning to find it. It’s a great way to encourage reading. If you have a reluctant reader it could be the jump start they need.

This could turn into a fun activity for yourself, too. There are so many great children’s books to choose from, you could have fun searching the classics or try a holiday-themed one. Of course kids love animals and sports, too. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’d like to take this project a step further. Wrap a book for anyone and leave it on their bed from Santa. Buy their favorite genre or get them started on reading. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a surprise from Santa.

And if you’re dealing with adults, you wouldn’t have to sneak in their room and place the book on the bed when they are sleeping. You could do it before they go to bed on Christmas Eve (or any time during the holidays). Wouldn’t you love to come into your room and find a present on your pillow? You open it up to find a great book. Then hop into bed and start reading.

Let’s help Amy get this tradition going. If you like the idea, pass it along.

And remember the ability to read is a gift. Don’t let it go unused.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

 

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To Love a Scotsman

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If you read my blog, you’re aware I’m reading the Outlander series. Time traveler Claire meets Jamie the Scottish Highlander in the 1700s.  I’ve also read other historical novels with a Scotsman as a lead character for comparison.

Here are the things I’ve learned about these men.

They always wear their plaid. It involves much draping around the body with a brooch as a finishing touch. Taking it off is much easier. Just loosen the pin and the entire outfit falls to the floor. Very convenient.

Speaking of convenience, the plaid can be used as a sleeping bag and even wrap up two people for warmth and comfort. Also, since the kilt is made a certain way, when nature calls just lift the skirt. (P.S. No underwear.)

The men love to say “verra” a lot. I think you can figure out it means very. The word pops up a lot as I read. I sometimes find myself slipping and using the word when I speak.

The Scots are either dark-haired, handsome and strong or red-haired, handsome and strong. What’s not to like?

They speak Gaelic. I’ve tried to phonetically sound it out as I read but finally stumble over the words until I, hopefully, get to the translation. The women in the book are usually English so they have no idea what their man is saying. They usually think it’s something quite romantic or complimentary. He could be telling her, “I’m going out to shoot a deer and I’ll be back in time for supper. After that you can help me skin and prepare the animal.”She nods, smiles and fawns all over him because it sounds so wonderful. He leaves thinking he has a pretty awesome wife.

The men end up using their dirk in some way. Now, it’s not what you’re thinking. A dirk is a knife they carry at all times. It may be used when fighting to defend oneself or kill food for dinner. It comes in verra handy.

So how could you not love a Scotsman? He is a perfect heroic figure for a romance novel or a historical book. And as you can see, I’ve learned a lot. Reading can take you so many places. I’ve enjoyed meeting-and loving-these Scotsmen.

How Much is Too Much?

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I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. It’s about time travel and since I write about the same thing–time travel–I wanted to know how the master approached it.

When I picked the book up from the library, the first thing I noticed was the size of the book. I’m not a fast reader, as I’ve said before, so I worried I wouldn’t finish before the return date. I hesitated to look at the last page and see the number.

  1. Yep, that’s right. 862 pages. When I see 450 I cringe. Now I had two weeks to read the book and get it back to the library. Renewing wasn’t an option. In a few days, I’d be going on vacation.

This was my first Stephen King book. As you know, if you read my blog, I’m not a fan of horror or scary writing. I watched the TV series, Under the Dome, (based on a Stephen King novel) and liked that show very much. Not all his stories are scary. Besides, this story is based on a real life event and about time travel so I was pretty sure no horror would be involved.

I can proudly say I’ve made it to page 624. And the book isn’t due for three more days. All my free time will be dedicated to finishing the book. It’s a very good book, hard to put down.

I can’t compare this book to King’s other novels or his writing style. But I can say this about 11/22/63. The author’s into minute details and did his research. I’m learning a lot about the late fifties and early sixties. I couldn’t wait to see how he set up his rules for time travel. There needs to be rules in every good time travel book. He didn’t disappoint.

Let’s get back to the real reason I’m writing this post today. The book had over 800 pages. If I didn’t really want to read this book, I may have passed. How many times have you done the same thing?

So does it matter how many pages a book is? Would too many pages stop you from reading a book? What if it’s a bestseller or famous author? Then would you read it? So many questions. So many pages. What would you do?

To Finish or Not to Finish, That is the Question

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I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

I love Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but don’t know exactly what he meant by that quote. Did he just want you to read for the sake of reading? Or give the book a chance?

I think if you don’t like a book and gave it a fighting chance, say fifty pages, it’s okay to give up. Not every book is for everybody.

I found this quote interesting because I also review books and will admit I couldn’t finish some. As an author, I’d prefer that method over a less than stellar review. Forcing yourself to read is like being back in school. Reading should be for pleasure. When I taught, I felt the library was one of the places children could choose. I didn’t have to tell them what to read. They could start a book and put it down if it wasn’t for them. They’d have another chance the next week to find something new.

So what do you think? What did Roald Dahl mean in his quote? Do you agree or not? I’d love to hear from you.

Speed Readers

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To all those fast readers out there, I’m in awe of you. I’m not one of you. I hope I don’t sound jealous, but I would like to know how you do it. I know many people who have full-time jobs, houses to run, kids to care for and write on the side. And after all that, they have time to read.

Please tell me your secret? Do you skim? Skip pages? Read the first line of each paragraph? I’ve tried those methods and end up going back and rereading again!

I met a fifteen year old girl who read 2 books in less than four hours and was already on her third. She told me she skims over certain words like a, an, the. I could see myself hunting these words down instead. She said there’s a test on line to see how fast you can read. I’m too afraid to take it.

Book reviewers, I don‘t know how you do it. You read and review countless books. If I read two a month, I’m ecstatic!

If anyone wants to share your secret, I’m open to suggestions. I want to read more. I really do. Except when it takes up the better part of my day. I want to have time to write. I have to squeeze all the chores in. In fact, I should be grocery shopping right now. How do you do it?

I guess I should accept I’ll always be a slow reader. But to those of you who aren’t and demolish book after book you have my admiration. So many books, so little time. I guess I better get started.

Comfort Food 103

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Frozen. It was a popular word last year. So popular that my publisher wanted to name a winter anthology after it. The theme of the book is winter and that’s what gave me the idea to ask some of the authors of Frozen-the Anthology for their best winter comfort food.

We’ve had a giant snowstorm sweep across the U.S. in the past few days. People from Chicago all the way to New York City are affected. It could be a great time to make the following comfort dessert as sent in by my author friend, Charmaine Pauls.

Charmaine wanted to share her comfort food recipe even as she enjoys the summer weather in the southern hemisphere. She is a fellow Melange author and also one of the authors of Frozen: The Anthology. You may want to whip up some pudding and curl up with a short story from Frozen.

I will turn the blog over to Charmaine now.


Malva Pudding – a traditional South African dessert

Every South African knows Malva pudding. It’s a traditional dessert served warm with custard or ice cream. My grandmother used to make this on Sundays, and it’s still a favorite of my mom. I like to serve it after a winter meal to our Chilean friends. Everyone who tastes this, always asks for the recipe. You can read more about this and other South African food favorites in the humorous historical short story, The Grayton Christmas Supper Contest, in the anthology, A Holiday to Remember.

Jakoba’s Malva Pudding (serves 6)

250ml cake flour

250ml sugar

20ml butter

1 egg

20ml apricot jam

250ml milk

5ml bicarbonate of soda

5ml apple cider vinegar

Cream butter and sugar until light and mix with egg and apricot jam. Sift dry ingredients together. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in vinegar. Mix egg and vinegar mixture with dry ingredients, adding milk little by little. Add salt. Pour into an oven dish and bake 35 minutes at 360°F. In the meantime, prepare the syrup.

250ml cream

5ml vanilla essence

125ml butter

250ml water

500ml sugar

Boil everything together, and pour over pudding as soon as it is removed from the oven. Prick the pudding with a toothpick before sauce is poured over for better absorption. Serve with vanilla ice cream while warm.

Charmaine 009

Book link:

Frozen Anthology

http://bit.ly/holiday2remember

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www.charmainepauls.com 

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Comfort Food 102

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Winter storms are headed for the Eastern coast of the U.S. Two feet of snow are predicted. I hope my good author friend, Tara Fox Hall, is making her favorite comfort food recipe in preparation for the bad weather!

Salt-Rising Bread, Tara-Fox-Hall-style

Step 1:

  • Cook 12-20 potatoes in a large pot in unsalted water until tender. Use the potatoes to make something else, like potato salad or mashed potatoes. What you want is the potato water.
  • Measure out how much you have into measuring cups. Don’t worry about potato-y remnants floating in the water – that’s a good thing. For each recipe of bread you will make, you will need 5 cups of potato water, total. You can add some plain water to make additional recipes (like adding two cups if you have only eight, so you can do a double recipe). You can also freeze this water if you need the potatoes now but don’t have time to make the bread.

Ingredient list:

5 C potato water (see Step #1 above)

2 packages active dry yeast or equivalent                              2 Tb + 1/2 C sugar

7-8 ½ C flour                                                                                  ¼ cup cooking oil

2 tsp salt

Step 2:

  • Combine 1 C of the potato water, the yeast, the 2Tb sugar, and ½ cup flour in a bowl and let stand covered. Within a half hour, the mixture should be bubbly and have a nice “head” on it, like a mug of beer. This step depends on how many potatoes you use.*
  • Stir in the rest of the potato water (4 C) and ½ C sugar. Let stand again for another half hour, until the same thing happens – a nice head of foamy yeastiness.
  • Mix oil, flour, and salt ingredients together with yeast mixture to make a moderately stiff dough.
  • Let rise until double, but be careful it does not spill over the edges!.
  • Punch dough down. Pour into bread loaf pans or a cake pan, or whatever is handy (original recipe says to use a large 12 x 5 ½” metal dishpan. I have tried all ways, including making rolls, and it does not affect the taste – its up to you how you intend to serve it!)
  • Bake 50-55 min. at 375 deg. or until done (this is for normal bread pans – please adjust depending on what container you are using. Rolls will be more like 20 min, and a huge pan more like 6-70 min.) .
  • 1 recipe will make 4-5 med. loaves. This bread will freeze well, also.

*This is a variation on the original recipe, as I neither like to wait 24 hrs. for the dough’s initial rise, nor feel the need to keep starter in the fridge J But this bread can be made with only 4 potatoes, just bear in mind that the resulting potato water will be much less rich, and need to rise with the yeast overnight, minimum.

tarafoxhall Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

Find Tara here – Melange Books

And here new short story – AmazonThe Oath - Caroline

I thought Tara’s bread would go great with my “Light” Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Gingered Pumpkin Soup

Yield: 8 servings
Recipe adapted from Midwest Living

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp light butter
  • 2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin
  • 2 (14 oz) cans low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pepitas and brown sugar, as garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir in pumpkin, chicken broth, milk, maple syrup and ginger.
  2. Bring pumpkin mixture just to a boil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Garnish with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a sprinkling of brown sugar, enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Serving Size: 1 cup • Calories: 85 • Fat: 0.9 g • Carbs: 16.6 g • Fiber: 3.5 g • Protein: 1.9 g • WW Points+: 2 pts

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Love historical romance? This stand alone Waiting for Dusk novel is soon to be released.

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