Monday, November 30, 2015

QUILT PIECES ~ Angel's Flight

Angelica and Jack change identities every day during their flight up the Hudson from British held NYC. Angelica still carries pieces of the quilt she'd begun before her abduction, a few patches stored in her capacious dress pocket, and added to along the way, picked up in the unlikeliest places...

 

“Oh! Goodness! Thank-you, Jenneke! I must’ve bundled it up with the shift and skirt, and never even thought about it yesterday.” Angelica reached for her pocket, the straps now dangling from Jenneke’s hand. “What was I thinking?”

“I hope you don’t mind,” the young wife said, “but I looked at your patches. I adore the calico bluebirds! And that bit of Chinese silk is like a spring sky!”

“Yes.” Angelica smiled as she remembered.

Pieces from sophisticated New York, unexpected silk from a jumble at Tarrytown, pieces from some unfortunate person’s trunk in the middle of the uncertainty, terror and passion at the Clove! This quilt, if I live to finish it, will chronicle a time of danger-a time of newborn love.


ANGEL'S FLIGHT
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Turkey, 1964




The first turkey I ever cooked myself was in the year of 1964. I was a young married, an ex- student, as was my husband. We were living in a dismal basement apartment in NYC, with a front window whose view was the back of the building’s garbage cans. Needless to say, we kept the blinds closed. We shared a bathroom with some elder ladies who we never saw, but who, no matter how loudly I scrubbed the tub after using it, would come in as soon as I’d left and wash the entire bathroom all over again. I suppose I can’t blame them, for lots of poor people in the city lived in fear of all manner of dangerous unknowns.

We’d managed to buy the turkey, a small one, although it took some financial planning to get the cash together, as I didn’t have a job. Only my husband, Chris, did.  As a nineteen year old with zero skills, as expected, that didn’t pay much and rent took most of that. As for me, I’d left the hospital I’d been working in back in Philadelphia and come to NYC in order to be with him. Plus, I was violently morning sick—to the 9th degree. I mean, Rosemary, in “Rosemary’s Baby,” had nothing on me. The only things I could reliably keep down were weird cravings: green pea soup, white bread, grapefruit and sardines. Anything else—upchuck! Maybe that’s why the invisible ladies next door were so diligent about scrubbing our shared bathroom.

On the big day we cleaned up our turkey as I’d seen my parents do, slapped it in a big bakeware pan that we’d found in the kitchen, turned the oven to 350 and then walked over to Broadway to see a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were so far uptown that there wasn’t much to see, but there were bands and high school kids from out of town feeling really proud of themselves, and people wrestling with a couple of balloons—my favorite, Dino the dinosaur—being dragged about in the gusty wind. The other big event for me was seeing Fess Parker of Davy Crocket fame, waving and smiling from the back of an open car. Like a zillion children from my generation, he’d been my hero back in the fourth grade.  I’d wept while watching the Walt Disney show the night “Davy” died at the Alamo.

 


 

Now that child’s life seemed incredibly distant. Chris and I looked at each other. We were married, pregnant and close to broke. Whether one or either of us would ever get back to college—and how the heck we would manage it--was still up in the air. Nobody's parents were happy. With all this drama swirling through our minds, the parade, so very pointedly an event for little kids, got old fast.  

 

We turned and walked back through the wind, weak November sun, and grimy uptown streets to our little pad. When we got there, the place was redolent with roast turkey and baked potatoes. The bird made snapping noises as the juice splattered about inside the oven, casting a kind of smoky pall around the kitchen. We decided that this must mean it was cooked. Chris fetched it out, and lo and behold, it was done, all crispy, juices running clear.  I was a little surprised that I was, for the first time in months and all of a sudden—genuinely hungry. It was quite a fine meal, our first Thanksgiving—meat, potatoes, squishy store bread and a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce. Who knew I’d be remembering it fifty-one years later?

~~Juliet Waldron
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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Butterfly Bride~Hand-me-Down Bride's Little Sister



 
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“Waiting for someone, Miss?” A tall, good-looking American swept off his hat in an exaggerated gesture. He had short brown hair, a tanned face, blue eyes, and a neatly trimmed moustache. He wore a yellow waistcoat with a golden pocket watch chain.

“Yes sir.” Elfie hoped the conversation wouldn’t get too complicated. She was afraid her English wasn’t yet up to it. Aunt Ilga, who had brought her from Philadelphia, had just disappeared into the crowded little station house to see if there was any message for them and hadn’t yet returned.

“Well, I’m waiting for someone, too. Perhaps,” the smiling young man leaned closer, “it’s you.”

Elfie had seen him earlier, one of a group of three, who had all come piling out of a buggy with a double-hitch of chestnut geldings. The horses were lathered, so they’d obviously been going fast. They’d arrived in a cloud of dust, practically running down a newsboy who’d been crossing the yard, just as the train had pulled in. They’d looked around a bit, and she’d noticed them just as they’d noticed her. The best looking, the one who had come over, had lifted his hat, but Elfie had turned away, pretending to be distracted by some children who were racing along the platform. 

A moment later, when she turned back, here he was, boldly walking up. She hadn’t been in America long, just a few weeks, but in Philadelphia, she’d seen his like when she’d been out walking with her Aunt Ilga. “A swell,” her Aunt would call him.  Aunt Ilga had warned Elfie about young men like him.

Elfie looked him up and down, trying her best to appear severe, but it was not an easy thing for a willowy girl who was barely eighteen to do.  Besides, she knew she looked pretty, in a green dress and with a darling new hat which sported a curled feather atop her dark brown curls.

“I don’ tink zo.”
 
 
 

“Oh—hahahaha—tink what, you adorable creature?”
 
He leaned in even closer, and Elfie took a few prudent steps back, putting her steamer trunk between them.

 
 
“Come on—tell me your name, Darlin’ and where you want to go. We’ve got plenty of room in the buggy there. Me and my friends will be happy to drive you anywhere you want to go.”
 
***
 
 
 
From a work in progress, Butterfly Bride, the sequel to Hand-me-Down Bride. Elfie arrives in Pennsylvania, and proves to be quite different from her earnest, hard-working older sister Sophie. Instead, Elfie is an impulsive beauty who turns the heads of every young fellow in the Great Valley.



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Saturday, November 7, 2015

~ PUMPKIN CUSTARD "PIE" ~

A Republican tea in Philadelphia and a recipe for those new small fat edible pumpkins. 
 



Betsy heaved a sigh of relief and smoothed her party dress. In the center of the table sat the tea, steaming in a fine English china pot her mother had given her. The surrounding fare was substantial. The guests were obviously enjoying their repast. It was a full-scale affair, a long table covered with savories as well as sweets.

Some, Betsy had made herself, some she had brought in from famous Philadelphia bake shops. From her kitchen had come apple, beef and kidney and pigeon pies, conserves of pears and plums, and loaves of bread.

She knew that to the Philadelphians as well as to the rich southerners, her tea was a simple affair. No roast pig, no pheasant, no songbirds stuffed in pigeons stuffed in ducks stuffed in turkeys. Nor any French cook backstage drowning everything in sauce, such as Mr. Jefferson employed.

Betsy didn’t have money for such luxuries on the slender salary of her public servant husband. Even if she had had, her Dutch housewife’s upbringing wouldn’t have allowed her to ever feel easy with a French cook in the kitchen.

After a little time, she overheard the judgment of Philadelphia society upon the table of Mrs. Secretary of the Treasury.

“Pumpkin custard baked in the pumpkin. How quaint!”

“Yes. Good Lord. I haven’t been intimate with the dish in years.”

“Well, try some. It’s delicious. I’d quite forgotten how good it can be.”
 
A MASTER PASSION
The story of Alexander Hamilton & Elizabeth Schuyler
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here's an 18th Century recipe for Mrs. Hamilton's Pumpkin Custard "Pie," which is made a little chancey without the intense heat of a wood-fired wall oven. My directions will probably be a little eye-ballish to some, but that's the way I learned to cook. I'm a pantser in the kitchen, too, which is why I'll never be a gourmet chef.
 
 Cut the lid from a small pumpkin, the 1-2 lb., such as Baby Bear, Small Sugar, Wee Be Little. Remove the seeds and strings and gently clean. You want meat to be left behind.
 
Place the pumpkin, a TBS of water inside, the top back on, in an oven proof pan, one with sides, like a pie pan, in case of spillage.
 
Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
 
While it's roasting, make a small batch of custard by your favorite recipe, perhaps something like:
 
3 whole eggs
1 cup whipping cream -- or, if you want the lower calorie option, 1 cup of evaporated milk 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. molasses
dash nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon  
1/4 tsp. ginger
 
I'd jigger this recipe around in different ways, depending on the size of the pumpkin cavity. Use more or less spice to your taste. More Molasses would have been preferred by the 18th Century American diner.)
 
Beat the custard together.
 
After 30 minutes, check the pumpkin. (If you've got a couple of smaller pumpkins, this will cook faster, so watch it.) As the pumpkin just yields to a knife, remove the top--careful, it's hot--and gently add the custard--as much as the pumpkin/s will hold. You may place any leftover custard in small glass dishes and cook alongside the roasting pumpkin. 
 
Add another 10 minutes if you don't think it's sufficiently softened. Add the custard. Bake for another 45 minutes and then say a prayer to the oven goddess for the custard to set. Again, if not, just give it a few more minutes.
 
Serve the pumpkin whole at table, scraping some of the pulp to accompany each scoop of custard.
 
 
 
(Downsized from the 5-7 lb. pumpkin original and adapted from Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, William Morrow & Co., 1984)