Here We Go a Wassailing…

The Monches Artisans Holiday Open House is going great, and I’ve met so many nice people interested in what I have to say about Charles Dickens and in my books!

They are loving the Dickensian treats, so even though I’ve posted some of them before, I thought I’d post the recipes again so they’d be easy to find.

shrewburycakes

 

Shrewsbury Cakes

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
extra sugar
Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg, orange peel and vanilla.
Stir in flour and salt to make a stiff dough.
Wrap dough in wax paper. Chill for several hours or overnight.
Roll chilled dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar.
Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Flatten the balls gently with bottom of a small glass.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
gingerbread
Gingerbread

4 oz (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered ginger

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter & flour loaf pan or 9″ square baking pan.

Cream butter, add sugar, and beat until light.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add boiling water and molasses and blend.
In a seperate bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt, and ginger.  Add to the first mixture, and combine thoroughly.
Pour into the pan and bake 35-45 min until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan 5-10 min before turning onto a plate.

 

mincepies

 

Mince Pies

 

Okay, this one was a total cheat on my part. I’d love to try and make my mincemeat by scratch, but haven’t had the chance to try that yet. So instead I used a jar mix. The brand I used was None Such. I used their Brandy and Rum Mincemeat.

So take a mini muffin pan. Use any pie pastry recipe or use those refrigerated roll out pie crusts. Find a smaller circle cookie or biscuit cutter, or you can try a glass that will make circles to fit your mini muffin pan. Grease pans, place a circle of dough in bottom of each cup. Drop in a small spoonful of mincemeat, then cover top with another circle of dough. Here’s the trick. Don’t over fill with the mincemeat! It should look like you don’t really have enough in each cup. The mincemeat will expand when it cooks and it’s super sticky, so if you overfill, they will overflow and all your mince pies will be stuck to the pan when they are done. Also just press the center of the top crust down onto the filling. These are really too small to successfully crimp the edges, although I did give it a bit of try. Cut slits in top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 min. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar once out. I used baker’s super fine sugar, but you can use regular sugar as well. Let cool for just a bit in pan, remove carefully to cool on rack the rest of the way.

 

orange

 

Candied Orange Peel

 

Take 4 large, thick skinned Navel Oranges. With a knife, score the skin into quarters. Peel the skin quarters from the orange. Place the skins in a pot full of water, and boil for 20 min.

Let cool slightly. While still warm, pull one skin at a time from the pot, and scrape all of the white pith of with a knife or spoon. I found a knife worked better, and you have to do so very carefully or the skins will tear. Cut the cleaned skins into strips.

Put 2 cups of sugar, and 1 cup of water in a pot and heat until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour orange strips into pot, and stir until coated. Cover pot and simmer for 45 min.

Once done, take orange strips out of sugar water and spread out on a small grid cooling rack that is set over a cookie sheet to catch the drips. Cool for one hour. then toss strips, a few at a time, in a bowl of additional sugar to coat. Place on wax paper and let sit out overnight to dry.

 

 

Wassail

 

1 gallon apple cider – I prefer fresh.

4 cups orange juice

1 cup lemon juice

24 whole cloves

8 cinnamon sticks

½ tsp. Ground ginger

½ tsp. Ground nutmeg

Put all ingredients into a large pot, heat up to a boil, then turn down and simmer. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes. You can also leave it in a crock pot overnight. Strain out spices. Can be stored in refrigerator. Serve warm.

Prince Harry and the Royal Jewels

We’ve all heard the news stories this week. Prince Harry, being a young person in Las Vegas, stupidly played a game of strip billiards, and the pictures are out there to prove it. So much for the motto, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  I feel bad for Harry, really I do. I know what everyone is saying: he should know better, he has a public persona to live up to, it was an act of stupidity.

Of course it was stupid, that’s part of life. It’s how young people learn. It’s how we all learn. Face it, from the beginning, we learn, not just from rules, lectures, or even common sense. The lessons we learn the best, are learned the hard way. Every toddler can be told “Don’t touch – hot.” but it doesn’t truly become understood until the first time they experience “hot.”

Obviously we hope that in the process of learning, no one places themselves in harm’s way. There are some very dangerous activities that we can only hope the lessons we try to drive home, prevent. I don’t believe in protecting children from all things scary. It can expose them to things you’d rather they didn’t learn by experimentation. I used to let my kids watch Rescue 911. Was it scary? Could it give them nightmares? Was it sometimes gruesome? Yes, but watching a kid lean back on his chair and fall through a glass patio door, or seeing a kid impaled on the knife he was running with, drove a lesson home, a lesson that I didn’t want them to learn the hard way.

So no, we don’t want our children or anyone to learn some lessons by experience. Ever. But we do have to understand that it is okay for them to learn other lessons the hard way, and the behavior of many young people it just that, a learning experience. Every generation goes through it. I’m pretty sure every parent hopes their children don’t do half the things they did when they were young

Of course, when we were young, the threat of doing something stupid was that whatever we did went on our “permanent record.” Right, and just where were all these “permanent records” kept? I’ve thought about it. What stupid teenage act in my past could be dredged up if all the stars align and this writing thing takes off for me? Is there anything in my youthful past I’d need to worry about? Truth be told, if there is some picture of me out there somewhere, acting stupid at a party, the best it could be is a faded, grainy snapshot from a 110 camera. For today’s youth, unfortunately, the threat is real. With HD video and cameras on every cell phone, and the internet, what you do might just be out there for all to see, forever. Now a days, it really does go on your permanent record.

And if you are a prince, it also becomes an international news story.

A friend of a friend?

You know the saying, a friend of a friend of a friend… Or how about the adage that there is only six degrees of separation?  If you really think about it, it just might be true. I’ve certainly had this phenomenon present itself before. Somehow it’s just a bit exciting to think you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone famous.

This week I met the sister of a friend. (That would be only one degree of separation. Or would that be two?)  My friend mentioned that her sister came from Maine, Stephen King land as she put it.

“Really?” I replied.  “I’m a huge fan!” Nothing new or earth shattering in that exchange. I followed that up with “Actually he’s influenced my writing quite a bit.”

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s books since my teens. I love the way his stories keep me at the edge of my seat, not knowing what’s going to happen next. His descriptive style pulls me right into his stories.

In addition, although I’ve read several good books on the craft of writing, I count his book “On Writing” as the one that taught me the most. One of the greatest compliments I can get is when someone tells me one of my stories is Stephen Kingish.

So I really did mean it when I told this sister of a friend that Stephen King has influenced me.

Her response was not what I was expecting.  She told me he was one of her neighbors and sometimes saw him out and about.  My response? “Wow, cool.”  For a writer, sometimes words can escape me. (By the way we would be up to TWO degrees of separation, or maybe that’s three, still respectable either way.)

My friend turned to her sister and said, “Dody here is an author also.”

Okay, so we were talking Stephen King.  I don’t think I could ever comprehend the idea of mentioning my name as an author in conjunction with Stephen King. I laughed and pulled out a bookmark that has all the information for Finding Hope, my website and this blog.

My friend told her I was good. I blushed and told her she could check my book out if she wanted. Then, in what had to be a moment of incredible bravery, or insanity, I handed her a second bookmark and said, “Here, if you bump into your buddy Steve, you can tell him to check me out.”

I know, I can hear you laughing. Me too. But you never know. Just maybe this friend’s sister will actually take that bookmark back to Maine with her, and maybe instead of it getting lost in her suitcase or on her counter she’ll actually have it on her, and just maybe she’ll bump into Mr. King himself.

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll remember the bookmark and give it to him.  And if all the stars align and the world stops rotating on it’s axis, he won’t toss it in the nearest trashcan, or crumple it up and stuff it in his pocket to get destroyed in his washing machine.  And just maybe he’ll decide to check me out and not laugh his butt off at this little author actually doing something so bold as handing one of his neighbors my info.

IF, by chance he gets that far, and actually reads my story, and finds that I may have some future in writing, and takes the time to drop me a note and tell me so, It will all be for naught because I’d probably die on the spot!

But you just never know. Maybe that sister of a friend, who lives in the same neighborhood as Stephen King just might change my life. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery.  I’m somehow thinking the lottery is more likely, but a girl can dream can’t she?

Borrowing

As promised here’s the story that was published one year ago. It may have been my first, but I’m hoping and planning on many others.

Borrowing
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There are friends and then there are real friends. The kind of friends you can depend on to be there through all the highs and lows of your life. My husband and I are lucky enough to have friends such as these. To be honest they started out as my husband’s friends first, I was adopted later.
Jim’s been best buddies with John since they were both five years old. As children they shared in all those adventures that young boys have; building forts, walking the train tracks, riding their bikes. As they got older they got their first jobs together, worked on cars together, and got into trouble together. Over the years their friendship had it’s ups and downs. Their high school graduation night ended in fists, but in the end, they always came back to each other. When they got to adulthood they started dating and eventually found their future wives. In some relationships, that may have added a strain to the friendship, but in this case it didn’t. First John married Sue, and later Jim married me. Sue and I have been mistaken as sisters, which says something about how close our husbands are. There must be something special in a friendship that has lasted almost their entire lives. Instead of two best friends and their wives, we quickly became four best friends.
As close as we are, we’re always borrowing something from one another. There never seems to be a time in which one of us doesn’t have something that belongs to the other. If it’s not some borrowed item, it’s borrowed money. We often go out to dinner or shopping together and to make things easier, we trade off who pays for it. One time we will cover the bill, the next time they will. We’ve been doing this so long, we no longer keep track of what we owe each other, we just figure it all evens out in the end. Sometimes we get to the point of getting the check at a restaurant and say, “It’s our turn, we owe you for something.”
None of us will remember what we owe, or even what it was we owe for, just that it’s our turn. Over the years, we took notice of this habit of one always borrowing from the other. We asked ourselves why that was. In the end we decided it was our way of insuring we would get together again.
We’ve been there for each other as we got married, Jim was John’s Best Man, and John was Jim’s. John and Sue moved away for a time, but the long distance phone call was one of the first as each of our children were born. Once back in the same state, we were there to share the trials of moving and house building and the joys of our children growing, graduating, and getting married. We travel together, and jump in to help with any project. We were there to support them through the loss of a parent, grandparent, brother-in-law, and friend. They were there for us through the loss of a parent.
They played a most important role in our lives. They were always there for us when our disabled and medically fragile son was ill. They didn’t think twice about coming to wait with us in the middle of the night as he underwent emergency surgery. They forced us to go out for a bite to eat after we spent days in his hospital room. They kept us sane during the 16 years of medical crises. They were there to give us support in his final days, and helped to plan his memorial service. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking time in our lives, and they were there for us. I know it was difficult for them. How hard must it be to sit with your friends as they wait for their son to take his last breath? It didn’t matter how hard it was, we weren’t just friends, we were family, we are family. I truly believe there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other, barring the impossible. At a moment’s notice, we we’ll drop everything for each other. Our families have become each others families.
Recently my husband and I were affected by the poor economy. We were forced to sell our dream home. This house was one that my husband, an architect, designed just for us. We built this house ourselves. We didn’t just watch the contractors work, we put our sweat and backs into it as well. It took a year to build. John and Sue were there every step of the way, painting walls, laying tile, hauling rocks, whatever it took.
The process of selling this house has been an emotional one. The equity in that house was to be our nest egg. We were starting over. It’s hard enough to lose your home, another when that home is also one’s livelihood. It’s my husband’s business to design and build houses, now we would be living in someone else’s. First John and Sue were there as moral support. Then they were there to help us pack and move in a hurry as we scrambled to find a place to live. We even traded vehicles for weeks as theirs had a hitch to pull a trailer. They were with us when we looked at houses, and they gave up their weekends to help us transfer our belongings.
On the last day of moving we returned each others cars. But in typical fashion we found John’s sunglasses on our counter. Sometimes the “borrowing” was unintentional. It didn’t matter, as long as one of us had some belonging to the other.
The next morning my husband woke up to realize we had forgotten some large items that were stored outside our former home. Since we had already given John and Sue their van back, we were forced to call first thing in the morning to ask if they had the time to come back and help move the forgotten items. Sue answered the phone. John was in the garage, he had the tire off of the needed van, and was about to start a brake job on it. She stuck her head out the door and yelled “STOP!” No questions asked, John popped the tire back on and came right over.
When it was done and John was about to leave, he grabbed his sunglasses. As he took them Jim said, “I think we all have everything that belongs to each of us.” John said, “Oh no, does that mean we won’t get together anymore?”
We laughed, albeit a bit nervously. As if it really takes borrowing things from each other to make sure we would see each other again. As much as we have been through, it’s silly to think that it’s a simple borrowed item that keeps us together. Yet why did we feel uncomfortable?
After John left, I suddenly remembered something. I looked at Jim and said, “Don’t worry, we still have that DVD I borrowed from Sue.” With an unfounded sense of relief we knew all is as it should be. Our friendship is guaranteed to live another day.