25 April, 2014

Fiction Friday: In Search of a Job.

A couple of months ago I received a letter from an agent I'd queried.  She began by telling me how much she enjoyed my writing and my voice.  I was elated.  Then she proceeded to tell me that she was passing on my manuscript because she didn't feel she could sell it in the current cozy market because the protagonist wasn't original enough.

Okay, my protag is a caterer ----point taken.  But culinary cozies sell, right? I don't particularly want to change her occupation, but I'm open to suggestions--as long as I don't have to go back to school to learn the profession myself.

The agent's comment got me thinking and I did some research on cozies and the occupations/hobbies represented.  The list is exhaustive:
  • Accountant, Financial Advisor, & Investment Banker
  • Actor & Actress
  • Anthropologist or Archaeologist
  • Antiquing
  • Attorney/Judge/D.A.
  • Author
  • Backpacking/Camping
  • Bed & Breakfast, Boarding House, Hotel Owner
  • Bookstore Owner, Publisher, Illustrator 
  • Camper/Backpacker
  • Candle Making
  • Card Player (Poker, Bridge, Gambling, & Card Games)
  • Coffeehouse and Tea Shop Owner
  • Crafter (Quilter, Beader, Scrapbook-er, Decoupager, Card Maker)
  • Crossword Puzzle Editor
  • Dancer
  • Doll/Teddy Bear Maker/Collector/Seller
  • Dollhouse Miniatures Collector
  • Foodie (Chef, Caterer, Cook, Baker,  Cheese maker, Butcher)
  • Gardener/Farmer
  • Genealogist
  • Golfer/Golf Pro
  • Home Repair Expert/Enthusiast
  • House Keeper, Cleaner, Maid
  • Interior Design
  • Journalists
  • Laundromat Owner
  • Librarian
  • Medical Field Practitioner (doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist, psychiatrist, herbalist, apothecary, ambulance driver, medical fraud investigator, medical examiner, deputy coroner, forensic pathologist, forensic anthropologist, forensic sculptor, hospital patient representative, forensic psychiatrist, meal delivery program director, undertaker, alternative healer, naturopathic doctor)
  • Musician
  • NASCAR Enthusiast
  • Needlework/Needlecraft/Knitting Shop Owner/Enthusiast
  • Pet Lover
  • Photographer
  • Private Investigator
  • Professional Organizer
  • Quilter
  • Realtor
  • Religious (Priest, Nun, Wife of Pastor, Pastor, Rabbi, Rabbi' Wives, Shaker)
  • Soap Maker
  • Stay-at-Home Mom &/or Housewife AND Stay at Home Dad &/or Househusband
  • Sudoku Champion/Creator
  • Teachers
  • Tour Guide / Cruise Ship Employee
  • Veterinarian
  • Wedding Planner
  • Witch/Ghost/Vampire
So here's my question: what occupation is not represented in cozies that you'd like to read about? Leave a comment and let me know.

15 April, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Rosemary for Remembrance and Bread

"As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language."
Sir Thomas More

Rosemary holds a special place in my heart, perhaps because I graduated from Rosemary Hall, or maybe because it is such a beautiful, versatile herb.

A native Mediterranean herb, Rosemary was worn by ancient Greeks to improve memory. Just picture Socrates’ and Plato’s students, cramming for exams, with wreaths of rosemary around their heads and necks.

The wonderful smell of rosemary is often associated with good food and great times. But it could just as easily be associated with good health. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks. In addition, rosemary has been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration. Maybe the Greeks were on to something!

According to my mystery’s white witch, Felicity, for magical use, burn rosemary to rid a home of negative energy, or as an incense while you meditate. Hang bundles on your front door to keep harmful people, like burglars, from entering, or mix with juniper berries and burn in a sickroom to promote healthy recovery. In spellwork, rosemary can be used as a substitute for other herbs such as frankincense.

Whenever possible, choose fresh rosemary over dried. It’s simple to grow in your garden or window, and lasts a long time. It’s a gorgeous ornamental to add to container gardens, as well.

Buttermilk Rosemary Bread

1 1/2 Packages Active Dry Yeast
1 cup Warm Water -- 105-115 degrees F.
1 cup Cultured Buttermilk
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Fresh Rosemary Leaves -- finely chopped
4 tsp Salt
6 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
Yellow Cornmeal -- for baking sheets
Coarse Salt -- for sprinkling
In the bowl of an electric mixer stir yeast into warm water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, oil, rosemary and salt and mix until blended well. Add flour gradually, beating slowly until incorporated, and with a dough hook, knead dough on low speed for 3 minutes. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Put dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

On a floured surface turn dough out and cut in half. Shape each half into a round and put on an oiled baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover loaves with a dampened towel and let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

With a serrated knife, gently cut surface of loaves in the shape of a large asterisk and sprinkle tops with coarse salt. Bake loaves in middle of oven, spraying oven occasionally with water during first 15 minutes, until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped, about 55 minutes. Transfer loaves to rack to cool completely.
Yield: 2

"Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled."

01 April, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Sage for health & prosperity

"How can a man die who has sage in his garden?"
(12th Century proverb)

Sage, or Salvia Officinalis to give it its proper name, is one of my favourite herbs. 

I never liked sausage, hated the taste which I found out was sage. But that was dried sage, not fresh. If you've never tasted fresh sage, you've missed out in life.

The name “sage” comes from the Latin verb salveo, meaning “to heal.” This testifies to common sage’s ancient reputation as a healer and life-prolonger. Folklore maintains that when sage flourishes in a garden, the owner’s business will prosper, but when it withers, their business will fail.

Herbalists treasure the herb for its antiseptic and astringent properties, prescribing it for coughs, epilepsy, lethargy, and to cleanse the blood. Sage tea is useful for treating sore throats, mouth ulcers, and laryngitis. Fresh sage leaves rubbed on the teeth are said to clean and whiten them and strengthen the gums, and the tea is recommended as a mouthwash. Sage tea is also recommended to be drunk for colds (add some lemon juice and chopped lemon rind when the leaves are steeping) and for upset stomach due to overconsumption of rich or fatty foods.

In witchcraft, as my character Felicity could tell you, rosemary is a powerful guardian, and a
protector of woman.  This wonderful herb is widely used to bring good dreams, keep marriage
faithful and the home peaceful, and for brewing up cleansing and beautifying baths.  Rosemary is
also known as Compass Weed, Dew of the Sea, Elf Leaf, Guardrobe, Incensier, Polar Plant, and Sea
Dew.  Rosemary is considered masculine, and is associated with the Sun and the element of Fire.

Garden sage lends a smoky, earthy flavor and aroma to a wide range of dishes. Try sage with beans, dried peas, and lentils; cheeses (if you make your own cheese, sage and garlic make a nice addition; sage and chives are tasty baked into cheese biscuits or mixed with cheese spreads); cornbread and polentas; and meats such as bacon, ham, liver, pork, rabbit, and sausages.
Personally, I love the combination of squash and sage.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce
  • 1 lb fresh pumpkin ravioli (I like the Trader Joe brand)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 amaretti cookies
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add fresh ravioli and cook according to package directions.

While water boils, in a small saute pan, melt the stick of butter over low heat.

When butter just begins to sizzle and brown, tear the fresh sage leaves into the pan and
fry for 20-30 seconds. Remove butter sauce from the heat and grate in the nutmeg.

Drain pasta and place in a deep platter. Pour butter sauce over the ravioli.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and toasted hazel nuts (if using). Grate the amaretti cookies
over the dish and serve immediately.

Serves 4