Thursday, December 7, 2017

What I Would Change by Anita Davison

One thing I would change which might have altered how things went in my life, is that I would have listened to those voices of my childhood that said I could, and should write. It wasn't a crowd of enthusiastic teachers and mentors, but the one or two spontaneous remarks I could sense were genuine. [My schoolteachers barely knew I existed – when I achieved top marks in an English Language exam, my teacher said, ‘Well that was a surprise’]

I should have asked those early voices why they thought so, or even how I could go about becoming a writer –  but I was brought up in an atmosphere of blending in, never drawing attention to yourself and where the words ‘not for the likes of us.’ still ring down the years.

It might sound like a cop out to say, ‘no one showed me how to do it’ but that’s how it was to feel something is achievable for others but not for me. I didn’t have much of a sense of self-worth, so I didn’t reach for the stars, only the nearest thing. The thought of ‘what if’ was always there, but I had no idea how to turn a spark of ambition that never quite grew into a flame, into a reality.

This was, of course, in the pre-internet days when libraries were sanctums of yellow-paged hardbacks and indexed file cards guarded by stern matrons who believed silence must be maintained at all costs, especially against questions from schoolgirls – so where to start? No, I didn't live in medieval times but compared to today it might seem like it.

So I floundered, toyed, and touched the surface ever so lightly, but never jumped in.

I began writing late and purely to please myself and slowly learned during a process of criticism, editing and reading, that writing is a craft which begins with some talent, but can be acquired and needs to be honed by practice, reading, editing and more practice.

The more I write, the more I realise there is so much more I don’t know about writing – or even what good writing actually is. It's  also not how technically perfect you can turn out a piece of prose; it’s about how you communicate feelings and experiences in a unique voice with which readers can connect.

Photographs of youthful, bright eyed young women bringing out chart-topping novels are everywhere, and although thrilled for them – and I truly am - I cannot help a stir of envy of the many years they have ahead of them to write, inspire and be inspired as their careers and reputations grow.

Or maybe it was meant to take this long to find out these things, that I’m simply a [very] late developer? In which case – regret is pointless.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

One Thing I Would Change by Victoria Chatham

 Each time I’ve started to write this blog, I’ve had to stop and think. What would I change, if I could? I’ve virtually run my life before my eyes and considered many milestones but have come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t change anything. Not. A. Thing.

Do I wish some things could have been different? Yes, for sure. I would have loved to have grown up in one place, instead of moving every year because of my dad’s military service. I would have loved to have had more contact with my cousins instead of the annual visit to my grandmother’s house. I would have loved to have had more opportunities to be with horses.

Not having had those things made me come out of myself and look at what I did have. New homes and schools meant learning about new places and their environs, most of them in South Wales, the most exciting being Pembroke with its castle and the Sunderland flying boats based at Pembroke Dock. 

Spending those summers with my cousins made me appreciate them the more and I got quite inventive about finding people with horses and then helping out where I could – including on the baker’s cart drawn by a chestnut mare called Lizzie. I did the rounds with him on Saturdays and even got a free loaf of bread to take home with me at the end of the day. Although my parents could never understand from where my interest in horses originated, that loaf of bread was always appreciated.

As an adult, I would have preferred to not have two divorces in my personal history, particularly the first one for the effect it had on my children. But what I learned from both of those relationships set me up for a third marriage which, although that husband passed away sixteen years ago, continues to sustain me with so many happy memories. I would also have preferred to not have had breast cancer twice. But because I did, I met many wonderful people and benefitted from them in so many ways. I really cannot imagine what my life would have looked like if I had changed anything along the way. All my life’s experiences have molded me into the person I am today, someone who is healthy, happy, and looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings.

Not long after I came to Canada I heard the author Gail Bowen being interviewed on CBC radio. She commented in the interview that people who lived a varied and exotic life often make the best writers as they had so much material to draw on. I’m not sure if I could say my life has been exotic, but it has certainly been varied so, if Ms Bowen’s comment holds water, then I guess I’ll be writing for a long, long time.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Risalamande, A Traditional Scandinavian Christmas Recipe by A.M.Westerling

My husband is Danish and this is one of the fun little customs we keep going.  

Risalamande - Danish Rice Pudding

1 cup pearl rice
5 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
½ cup slivered almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups whipping cream
Cherry Sauce

Boil rice in milk over low heat 45 minutes. Cool, then add sugar, almonds and almond extract. Whip cream until stiff and fold into rice mixture. Chill. Turn into bowl and top with Cherry Sauce or spoon into individual dessert dishes and top with sauce. Makes about 12 servings.

Cherry Sauce

1 16 ounce can dark sweet cherries.
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Reserve about 1 teaspoon cherry liquid. Turn remaining liquid and cherries into saucepan and heat to boiling. Blend cornstarch with reserved liquid and stir into boiling mixture. Cook and stir until well blended, then cool sauce and chill.

Now here comes the fun part. Place a whole almond in the pudding and whoever finds the whole almond wins a little prize, usually a marzipan pig. As our family has grown, I now use 2 almonds.

This recipe comes from the late 19th century so perhaps was not made during the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Fly Away Snow Goose by Juliet Waldron & John Wisdomkeeper:

Thanksgiving can be tough sometimes, or it can be an utter blast. Some of the most memorable Thanksgivings for me came during the time we were married students, visiting well-heeled relatives of my husband in Gloucester, MA. We became totally irresponsible as soon as we were under the roof of his Aunt and Uncle, all acting like kids again, playing hide and seek in their 30 room Victorian with cousins. Downstairs an epic dinner was being made, and we were off Scot-free if we occasionally passed some time helping in the kitchen, washed/dried dishes, peeled potatoes, sliced apples for pie, or mushrooms and celery for stuffing—whatever weary hand work our elders were sick of. Those times with friends and family were warm, shiny, and are now (in my mind) generally surrounded by a nostalgic golden haze. 

I have come to think of Turkey Day as a kind of late harvest get-together after the crops are mostly in. (Our local exception is the soybeans—now being cut and threshed by giant machinery, producing great clouds of dust, rumbling around the fields.  

When I remember elementary school, I think of an endless series of hand turkeys posted on the cement block walls, of pageants in the auditorium, where they taught us about the first Thanksgiving of the saintly Pilgrims  and their supposed kumbaya moment with the Injuns who had kindly shown them how to survive on these wild shores.

Sadly, all the history I learned later, as I discovered the real scoop on what happened after my ancestors migrated to the “new” world, is some pretty sorry stuff. The acts--some beyond "terrible," that took place during this collision of cultures has taught me plenty of uncomfortable lessons. I’m still learning because privilege can't see itself. Old false narratives require a lot of undoing. 

While writing Fly Away Snow Goose, I learned about the Great Tlicho leader Monfwi. He said that it has become imperative that we learn to “see in two ways” in order for humanity to progress into the future. We must begin to wisely use all the knowledge and skills the people of every nation can bring to the table. The First Nation’s "way" is the wisdom of hunter-gatherers, a way of living with one another and with the earth that we Europeans have been traditionally taught to scorn. 

It seems more than time to deliver on our responsibilities to one another—and to treat the unique biosphere upon which we are ever so privileged to live with respect.

I’ll end with a link to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address to the Natural World, a beautiful and meaningful spiritual thank-you to Mother Nature. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving .

~~Juliet Waldron


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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Recipes of 16th & 17th centuries England by Katherine Pym



17th Century Chef

I don’t cook, well maybe sometimes. I like a pristine kitchen and cooking takes away from that. I don’t hunt through recipe books, but I do take naps when cooking shows are on television. I put the sound down low and the chef's droning takes me to slumber-land almost immediately. What I do find interesting are recipes from earlier centuries. This was a time of exploration. Every season, new items were brought back to England. It was an exciting time.

Bear in mind some of the following recipes include very expensive ingredients and most middling families could not afford them.  I found only one reference in the 1660’s of a cook-stove (range), so not sure if there were many in the field. Most families cooked their dinners in the hearth, bent over until their backs were sore.

So, here we go. Maybe, for those who like to cook/bake, you’ll find a lovely holiday recipe to try:

NOTE: the language is as written nearly 400 years ago but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to read. Also, based on some of the ingredients (some of the quantities boggle the mind), it's a wonder many adults survived past middle age. And some did. In my research, I've seen some adults get quite old, ages 70+.

To Stew a Leg of Lamb the best way:
Slice it and lay it in order in your stewing pan, seasoned with salt and nutmeg, adding a pound of butter, and half a pint of claret, with a handful of sliced dates, and the like quantity of currants, and make the sauce with the yolk of two eggs, a quarter of a pint of verjuice1, and two ounces of sugar. Boil them up and put them to the meat, serving all up hot together.

To make collops2 of veal the best way:
Slice your veal fat and lean, beat half a dozen eggs with salt, grate a nutmeg, and stamp or chop a handful of thyme.  Add a pint of stewing oysters, and stew them together with a pound of sweet butter.  Make anchovy sauce, and strew the dish over with capers, and so serve it up.

To Roast a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters the best way:
Take one not too fat nor too lean, open it in divers places, stuff your oysters in with a little chopped peny-royal3, baste it with butter and claret wine, then serve it up with grated nutmeg, yolks of eggs, ginger, cinnamon, butter and red wine vinegar.

To Stew a Rump of Beef in the best order:
Season it with nutmeg, salt and sugar, lay the bony side downward, slice a dozen shallots, cast in a bunch of rosemary, elder, vinegar and water, of each three pints, suffer it to stew over a gentle fire in a close stew pan two hours, and then with the gravy dish it up with sippits4.

How to Roast a Hare the Best Way:
The hare being flea’d5, lard her with small slips of bacon lard, stick her over with cloves, the ears being stripped and left on, then make a pudding of grated bread, beaten cinnamon, grated nutmeg, currants, cream, sugar and salt.  Make it up with white wine or claret wine, and put it into the belly.  When tying the hare to the spit, roast it by a gentle fire, which done, make sauce of cinnamon, ginger, nutmegs, prunes, grated bread and sugar.  Boil them up to a thickness, and laying the divided pudding on either side of the hare, serve it up with the sauce.

To Roast a fillet of beef
Take a fillet which is the tenderest part of the beef, and lieth in the inner part of the surloyn, cut it as big as you can, broach it, and be careful not to broach it through the best of the meat, roast it leisurely, & baste it with sweet butter, set a dish to save the gravy while it roasts, then prepare sauce for it of good store of parsley, with a few sweet herbs chopp'd smal, the yolks of three or four eggs, sometimes gross pepper minced amongst them with the peel of an orange, and a little onion; boil these together, and put in a little butter, vinegar, gravy, a spoonful of strong broth, and put it to the beef.

To Roast a fillet of beef Otherways.
Sprinkle it with rose-vinegar, claret-wine, elder-vinegar, beaten cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinamon, ginger, coriander-feed, fennil-seed, and salt; beat these things fine, and season the fillet with it then roast it, and baste it with butter, save the gravy, and blow off the fat, serve it with juyce (juice) of orange or lemon, and a little elder-vinegar.

Or thus (To Roast a fillet of beef).
Powder it one night, then stuff it with parsley, tyme, sweet marjoram, beets, spinage, and winter-savory, all picked and minced small, with the yolks of hard eggs mixt amongst some pepper, stuff it and roast it, save the gravy and stew it with the herbs, gravy, as also a little onion, claret wine, and the juyce (juice) of an orange or two; serve it hot on this sauce, with slices of orange on it, lemons, or barberries.

1.      Acid juice from sour or unripe fruit - the lightly fermented juice of unripe grapes or crab apples (lemon juice works too). 
2.      Slices. 
3.      Mint or basil.
4.      Croutons.
5.      Skinned

Many thanks to Robert May The Accomplisht Cook (London: 1660) & Wikicommons, Public Domain.