Mary says Happy New Year! Have a wonderful 2008!
The Bold, the Brave and the Beautiful on The Riverwalk in San Antone, ringing in the New Year!
At 4:00 today, our Conestoga wagon arrived in San Antone...Yee-Ha!
MAMA’S FRUITCAKE: MORE THAN A TRADITION
It's my birthday today. Today I'm sixty-five, and I'd like to share with you a memory from my childhood....
It’s that time again: Autumn, with crisp winds, falling leaves and holiday cooking. Once again, the television comics will dust off their fruitcake jokes, especially the one that declares there’s only one cake, passed from generation to generation. I listen to those jokes and smile indulgently, because to me--as to many people from the South--this delightful concoction of dried fruit, nuts, and a taste of wine is more than just a dessert. Like my Mama’s fruitcakes--her creations weren’t simply a holiday tradition; they were a ritual....
Every Fall, under the trees stretching from my grandfather’s house to the pasture gate, my cousins and I gathered pecans, carefully peeling away the little green jackets that attached the nuts to the tree limbs. Any that were lightweight or had a tiny hole drilled in one side (a sure side of the pecan borer’s presence) were disdainfully cast aside. Only the best went into Mama’s fruitcake. The grown-ups supplied us with nutcrackers, but we all knew that the best way to crack a pecan was with one’s hands. Two pecans were placed on the palm and the hand closed about it in a fist. Then the other hand simply squeezed the fist, and the pressure of the two nuts against each other cracked the shells! Only adults could do this. I can remember my pride the first year I was able to perform this feat!
After being sorted, the nutmeats were stored in a clean Mason jar to await Mama’s return from the grocery store. She would arrive laden with supplies--candied citrus, green and red cherries, all in their hard plastic containers.
Taking a large enameled dishpan bought specifically for this purpose (no mere mixing bowl was big enough), she produced her recipe, worn and tattered and marked with batter stains, its origins and first maker long forgotten. Then, she got out her wooden mixing spoon, announcing “Fruitcake is always best when stirred with a wooden spoon.”
While she was making these preparations, I was busy, also, cutting the nutmeats into small pieces, with a few of the best shaped ones set aside to go on top of the cake. That task finished, I next cut the cherries into halves (again selecting several for the top) . It was also my duty to prepare the cake pan. Making a brown paper cut-out of the center of our angel food cake pan, I carefully brushed paper and the pan’s interior with butter, then dusted both with flour, applying a generous coating of white upon myself, the kitchen table and the floor, as well!
At this point, I was banished from the kitchen. Not that there was anything secret about mixing the ingredients, it was simply that Mama didn’t want to be distracted. It was only after she was finished and ready to pour the cake into the pan, that I was allowed to return.
“Want a taste?” Of course, I nodded enthusiastically, and was given a teaspoon of spicy, fruit-filled cake dough. Then, it was poured into the paper-lined pan and into the oven it went!
Soon, the most wonderful smells wafted through the house. Visitors at the front door remarked on the delicious blend of ginger and cinnamon floating in the air. Darting into the kitchen from time-to-time, I wondered if we should check on the cake, but Mama was adamant: the door remained closed except for the last ten minutes, when cherries and pecan halves were pressed into the top of the cake.
Once an inserted toothpick came away clean, the masterpiece was taken from the oven and set to cool. Afterwards, it was placed on an ornate glass cake plate. To be cut? Of course not! Now, it had to age! (This is where all those old joke originated, I suppose--since fruitcakes usually had wine in them, aging is the best way to bring out the flavor.) With an uncut apple nestled in its center (“to keep it fresh”), the entire cake was wrapped in cheesecloth and set on the sideboard. At Thanksgiving, several thin slices, barely bite-size, would grace the dessert tray beside mincemeat pie and cups of ambrosia, but it wasn’t until Christmas morning that the fruitcake was officially cut. That was when my father brought Mama her Christmas “breakfast”--a thick slice of fruitcake and a glass of frothy, golden egg nog. Once she took the first bite, the entire cake was available to anyone who wanted a piece!Every year when the weather changes, and the calendar tells me that it’s only-so-many days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think of Mama, toiling away in that hot little kitchen, busily mixing that wonderful concoction in that big enameled pan. I’ve tried her recipe many times, but somehow, it never tastes the same. There’s something missing, something that only Mama and those long-ago days could supply--a little bit of Ritual, a little bit of Tradition, and a whole lot of Love!
'Twas the Sunday before Christmas and Mary sat at her computer, wondering what words of wisdom she could give the women on this blog or anyone surfing blogs two days before Christmas.
Some of you have finished your shopping, cleaned and decorated your homes, and are ready for Christmas.
Others are like I am. We still have last minute shopping and will decorate our houses without cleaning them. We know if we wait to clean them, we'll never get to decorate.
Some of our members are going through difficult Christmases.
I remember one of the most stressful years when I barely decorated and my shopping was spasmotic. My daddy had heart by-pass surgery in November of that year. Complications put him back in the hospital in Intensive care in Atlanta over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mama had spend almost every night at the hospital. My parents lived in Macon, Georgia, two hours away. Since I was teaching school I could only make it to the hospital every other day. She and I made a few short trips to K-Mart and Walmart to get things she needed and Christmas supplies. I took her some of mine. Mama literally lived out of her car because she wouldn't leave the hospital for more than a few hours at a time. The nurses brought her pillows and towels and supplies because she slept on available couches and cleaned up in the restrooms.
Mama started decorating the entire area of the Intensive Care waiting room and halls leading to the rooms. She cut out decorations from wrapping paper and put them on the windows. Other women whose loved ones were trapped in their illnesses got into the mood and helped Mama. They put up a small tree.
One woman was there for her daughter who wouldn't be home for Christmas with her small children and husband. Mama spread the word and everyone either brought in clothes and toys for the children or gave money. For a few minutes of the long days, people were taken out of their worry for themselves and their sick family members. They collected enough money for the grandmama whose daughter would be separated from her babies and her husband to buy bus tickets from their home in Tennesee to Atlanta for Christmas day. They had no car.
That Christmas morning I spent a few hours with my daughter, my husband and my in-laws and we did our Santa thing. Then I headed back to the hospital to be with Mama and see Daddy for the short times were were allowed to see him. That was the first year our family didn't have Christmas dinner at Mama's house.
Mama told me how proud the woman with the children was to have them there for Christmas and for them to have a Christmas. Her husband had been too busy working and caring for the children to buy presents. Besides, there had been no money to spare. I heard every detail many times for the next month, until Daddy was able to go home.
That Christmas our best gift came for Valentine's Day. Mama took Daddy home with his oxygen tank.
That was a difficult time for me and for all of us, but my third grade kid was a champ through those months and we had many more unexpected Christmases with my daddy.
Now both parents are gone, but we have so many wonderful memories.
By Pamela Roller
I'm writing this with my box of tissues close by, fighting a nasty head cold. In spite of my sneezing and sniffling, however, I'm really pumped about Christmas. It's my all-time favorite time of year. I get as excited as a little kid.
Was Christmas exciting 400 years ago? Imagine, no new laptops under the tree, no Kindles, iPods, books by fabulous authors, nor the latest in kitchen gadgets. No new car in the driveway with a huge red bow (not that I ever got one of those), no inflatable snowmen in the yard or netted lights around the bushes. Just what did people give as gifts four centuries ago? How did they celebrate? How did they decorate?
And can you imagine Christmas being banned? Let's go back to 17th century England to see what happened.
Through the early 1600s, December 25 was a holy day (holiday), celebrating the birth of Christ. Shops and offices were closed, and people attended special services at church. This day marked the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and over the next eleven days, people went to more church services, and businesses and shops were open for shorter hours. Sounds tame, right? Read on.
Families decorated their homes with ivy and holly and rosemary. Just inside the threshold of a house was hung a woven bough, in the middle of which was placed a small effigy of the Christ child or the holy family, and was blessed by the local priest. Those who visited the house during the Twelve Days of Christmas showed they brought only goodwill with them by a symbolic embrace under this holy bough (this became the hanging of mistletoe in Victorian times). In the spirit of "keeping up with the Joneses," families vied with each other to decorate their boughs more elaborately with gilded nuts, small apples, colorful ribbons and the like.
Where they lived and how much free time and money they could spend determined their degrees of celebrating. Visiting friends and family, eating and drinking, and exchanging presents was the norm. The richer folk gave "boxes" of money to servants, the poor, and various tradesmen. St. Nicholas was not one who gave children presents as he does today, but rather was considered a sort of Master of Ceremonies for community and private celebrations.
And folks got wild during the Twelve Days of Christmas.
People made special food and drink, back then filling up on plum pudding, minced pies, turkey, peacock, goose, swan and beef. Taverns sold huge quantities of their specially brewed Christmas ale. These days were a deliberately permissive period of singing and dancing, eating and drinking to gluttonous bliss, sitting around, playing games, gambling, getting drunk, and having a whole lot of sex. Twelfth night, the last night of the celebration, was marked by even more feasting and frivolous fun.
Alas, toward the mid 1600s, many people, in particular the more Godly, frowned upon this type of Christmas celebration. Too extravagant, they said, too disorderly. And far too immoral. Moreover, Christ’s mass, as they saw Christmas, was encouraged by the Catholic Church and had no biblical justification. Thus, they sought to ban the celebration of Christmas, which they saw as Popish and sinful. The new buzzword was "Christ-tide," where December 25 would be a day of fasting and spending most of the day in worship. Parliament, increasingly supporting Puritan Protestant Oliver Cromwell, ordered people to remember in humiliation those who had, in the past, turned the day into sinful gluttony, "giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights." From about 1647 to 1660—during Cromwell's rule—no one in Great Britain was allowed to celebrate Christmas. Shops were ordered to remain open on December 25, and it was against the law to eat mincemeat pie.
However, traditions are hard to kill, and many people continued to celebrate. Secret religious services marking the birth of Christ continued to be held on December 25. This led to a Christmas civil war, so to speak, in the late 1640s that consisted of sometimes violent confrontations to force shops and businesses to stay open and to prevent public celebrations.
The defeat of Cromwell and the restoration of Charles II led to declaring all legislation of banning the celebration of Christmas null and void. The religious and secular elements of the full Twelve Days of Christmas was restored.
Eat, drink and be merry. Happy holidays!
Pamela Roller is the author of On Silent Wings, a gothic historical romance set in Restoration England. Visit her website at http://www.pamelaroller.com/.
A work-in-progress by Sherry Morris
I hate discovering dead bodies.
I shook my head and slammed on the brakes. Stepping out of the golf cart and onto the smooth flesh colored sand of Cocoa Beach, I wiggled my fingers into a pair of exam gloves and crept toward the corpse. A shiver convulsed up my spine as a fishy dead human stench wafted through the dawn. The sun rose pink on the horizon. Red sky was good luck for sailors or something like that. Not for this guy.
This is so not the way I want to begin my last shift before vacation.
A flock of seagulls screeched and flopped down around the body. I cringed as I tiptoed up to the bloated young man face up in a dress blue United States Navy uniform.
“Sir, do you need some assistance?” Please roll over and puke or something.
I gave him a little nudge in the ribs with my sneaker. He felt squishy. I shuddered. “Hey, buddy, you okay?” Nothing.
I unfastened the gold button on his wet wool collar and placed two of my fingers on his carotid artery. No pulse. He stared past me, brown eyes frozen in a peaceful expression. No, not peaceful. The curl of his lips looked as though he had been up to something mischievous. I lowered my face and put my ear to his nose to listen for breathing as I studied his chest. I didn’t see or feel respirations. Up close, he smelled like bleach.
I struggled to peel open more buttons on the overcoat, loosened his tie and then unbuttoned his white shirt. I exposed his hairy chest and a gold Star of David necklace. I didn’t find the dog tags I was searching for.
“Rest in peace, unknown sailor.”
I said a little prayer for him and pulled off the gloves as I hurried back to the vehicle. Slipping them in the black plastic trash bag, I exhaled, flipped open my cell phone and punched nine on speed dial. I glanced at my watch.
The grouchy voice of Dan the dispatcher answered, “Cocoa Beach Department of Public Works, what is your complaint?”
“It’s Sandra Faire. I’ve got a military floater washed up in front of The Copacabana. He’s dead.”
Within ten minutes, I was surrounded by three hotel security guys in gray trousers and blue blazers; Andres the perpetually hung over Euro-blond lifeguard; Eagle, the hotshot beach patrolman who always startled the sunbathers tearing around the sand in his ATV; old lady Fletcher in the yellow polka dot bikini and matching support hose; six uniformed City of Cocoa Beach cops. And Lt. Hottie DiMattina, homicide.
Okay, so his first name was Frank, and not that he was my type…anymore…but my temperature sure soared whenever he met my gaze. I needed to figure out how to reroute those errant hormones. I was through with hot uber good-looking alpha males. Especially this one. No man of mine answered his phone during a romantic interlude. Just because there was a category five hurricane looming, it was no excuse for him to run off to work and leave me panting on the kitchen table. Well, yeah, there were some other issues. Frank and I weren’t compatible except when we were making out. His kisses sent me to nirvana. Perhaps it’s just as well the hurricane interrupted us. I had nothing to regret.
We didn’t have anything in common. I was 23, he was 40. Nearly a generation apart. I didn’t like cops. They were all paranoid, manipulative drama kings. Well, the ones in my family tree were. I guess my preconceived notions of the whole profession had put a damper on my seeing him in a brighter light.
Hottie was dressed in a black tee shirt, way too tight. I could see his abs and the ripple of his deltoids. He wore a badge on a chain around his neck, a service weapon and handcuffs tucked into the rear of his form fitting Levis.
He swaggered down and looked over the deceased as the tide lapped the sailor’s mucky dress shoes. Frank paced off an area for the uniforms to seal the crime scene. Hotel security assisted, offering hot pink umbrellas to shove into the sand to wrap the yellow police tape around.
Forensics and the coroner arrived and got to work. Frank had a long conversation with the lifeguard then shook his head, scribbled on a notepad, ducked under the police tape and made a beeline for me.
I leaned casually against the lifeguard stand, twisting an errant strand of pale hair around my finger, determined not to let his deep testosterone voice move me.
He rubbed his clean shaven chin. “You discover this one?”
I sucked in a deep breath, trying not to remember his erotic whispers.
“Did you discover the body?” he repeated.
“Anyone in the area at the time?”
I looked into his smoldering brown eyes and shook my head.
“How long ago?”
I checked my watch. “About forty-five minutes now. I called in the find at six-thirteen.”
“Did you notice any footprints around the body before you approached it?”
Shoot, I’d been through this enough times now to know to check the crime scene. I huffed. “Sorry, I forgot to look…”
He frowned and gave me that you’ve disappointed me again look. “Did you disturb anything?”
“I unbuttoned him with gloves on. He was all buttoned up to his chin. I felt his carotid artery. I couldn’t find his dog tags. Oh…and I kicked him in the ribs.”
“Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary on the beach in the last twenty-four hours?”
I shook my head. This was why I hated discovering dead bodies. It forced me to collide with the most inappropriate man for me in the universe. I didn’t want things to get stirred up again.
“Do you know him from anywhere?” he asked.
I shook again, exaggeratedly slow with a wide-eyed expression.
“Thank you, Miss Faire. I’ll be in touch.”
And with that formal tone, he strutted over to the hotel security kibitzing near my golf cart.
I smoothed my shirt down over my derriere as I passed them. They were discussing the evangelical Christian service held last night in The Copacabana ballroom. Pastor Eugene Donaldson was a modern thinking feel-good preacher, very popular with the locals and tourists alike.
I chimed in, “The sailor was Jewish. There is a Star of David around his neck. He wouldn’t have attended.”
Frank rolled his eyes and glared at me.
I hated when he did that. Just because I wasn’t a cop didn’t mean I couldn’t solve crimes…or figure out which leads were dead ends.
I climbed back into the golf cart and waved to Andres, the lifeguard. He was good looking if you liked suntanned Euro-blonds without muscles. I didn’t. I didn’t like his accent either. Germans always sounded mean. I was through with handsome European accented guys too. Not that I’d actually dated any, but I used to have wicked teen crushes on a couple of British rockers until they had the gall to marry to super models.
I went on about my job, puttering down the beach, stopping to pick up a piece of petrified palm trunk, a glass grape juice bottle and a deflated football. I plucked them with a mechanical snatcher device. I don’t know if it has an official name but I called mine Monkey. After two years at this job, I was pretty efficient. I could do it all from the driver’s seat. Snatch and then drop it into the trash bag and go along my jolly way.
The theme to “The Pink Panther” jazzed from my shorts. I stopped and dug my phone out. Mom’s picture was on the caller ID. I inhaled and answered. “Hi, Mom.”
“Sandra, are you still intending to climb aboard that train of fools?”
“They aren’t fools, Mom. They’re very nice people.”
She sobbed, “You’re being kidnapped by that cult and I’ll never see my baby again.” She launched into one of her motherly speeches about how everything I do is inappropriate.
Mom was so disappointed in me. My four brothers were cops working under my dad, the police commissioner, and me, her youngest child, toiled as a sanitation engineer and public relations specialist for the Department of Public Works. Translation: I picked garbage off the beach and told tourists where the public restrooms were located. At least the uniform was cute. Short red shorts and a nice white tee with a departmental seal on the left boob.
What Mom didn’t know about me was by day I collected garbage but by night I was an infamous cozy mystery author. I wrote under the pen name Dixie London. And I didn’t have a thing published and no prospects. I didn’t even have more than almost a first chapter written. Okay, so I was more like an infamous mystery author wannabee. But I had fun. I belonged to the Global Order of Scribes, pronounced “goose” for short. The international convention was going on in Morocco this week.
Rosemary Donaldson, wife of televangelist Eugene Donaldson, was the president of our local chapter. I couldn’t stand her, the snobby fakey flake. She arranged to have a little conference of sorts aboard three private railcars hooked onto the back of her husband’s crusade train, hooked onto the back of a regular Amtrak passenger train.
Of course, I could set my feelings for her aside and grace the authors with my presence long enough for a two week free vacation aboard the private rail cars. The Donaldson’s were wealthy, so I knew this would be a first class to-do. The Agatha Christie birthday shindigs she hosted at her mansion were always loaded with fat shrimp and a mimosa fountain. Maids and cabbage roses everywhere you turned in her gaudy museum. Even the ceilings were painted with rose murals. Last time I tucked two pieces of her toilet paper into my pocket to show Mom. It was printed in full color, embossed and scented with roses. Mom wasn’t impressed. She told me it would cause bladder infections.
“Mom—Mom—Mom!” I finally got her to stop ranting. “I told you, it’s not a cult. I’m not going as one of the devout followers of Pastor Donaldson. Rosemary invited our mystery readers book club to tag along. We’ll be segregated from the fanatics. We have our own private cars and we’ll be reading and discussing books…and knitting.
Mom loved knitting, so I just threw that in.
“Un-hunh. A couple of the ladies are involved in the knit-a-scarf-for-a-serviceman charity. We’ll be knitting up a storm for those brave Americans.” I was great at making things up.
“Oh, well why didn’t you tell me? What time do we leave? I’ll need to finish the laundry—“
“No!” I cleared my throat. “No, Mom. You can’t go. The train is already filled to capacity. You needed to reserve a compartment ahead of time.”
“Nonsense. I’ll bunk-in with you.”
“No can do. I have a roommate. Gracie.”
“Oh…Gracie. How is she? Is her father recuperating nicely?”
Gracie was the only friend I had who Mom approved of.
“Gracie and her father are doing just fine. I’ll let them know you asked about them. I gotta go, Mom. Got to finish my shift.”
“Come see me before you leave.”
Yeah, right. So she can jump in the backseat and stow away. “I’ll try. Gotta run. Bye.” I closed my phone.
I drove along the beach. Two guys were knee deep in the surf, fishing. An early jogger trotted by. I smacked my forehead and took my foot off the gas. If Lieutenant Hottie had any follow up questions for me, I wouldn’t be available. I should have told him I’d be leaving on the GOOS Express late this afternoon. Could this be a dilemma? He didn’t tell me not to leave town or anything. And I only discovered the body, I wasn’t technically a witness or suspect or anything. And besides, it was just a routine death investigation. I was confident the autopsy would show he drowned.
The sailor probably was on shore leave, rented a speed boat with his buddies, got drunk and fell overboard. Yeah, that’s it. He seemed really happy by the smirk frozen on his face. I ought to open a detective agency. And I could hire my writing pals as operatives. An all woman force. Nobody would suspect us of spying on them. We’d make a killing. I giggled at my pun.
I looped around and did a U-turn. Time to stop by the dumpster and check in with Dan.
A crowd of tourists had gathered at the crime scene as the police carted off the corpse. I sighed. Great, they were eating donuts and drinking Starbucks. More trash for me to collect later on.
Frank stood down along the shoreline, running his fingers through his short dark hair. Perhaps I should stop off and let him know I’d be leaving town. I slowed down and threw my hand up. He didn’t notice me, so I kept going. I decided to call him from the train.
Part of me was relieved not to have to talk to him face-to-face. If Lieutenant Hottie were to make a late night visit, to discuss the case, I wouldn’t be home to answer the door…inappropriately dressed.
* * *
I checked in at the Orlando Amtrak station and then dragged my huge rolling black duffle outside. Missing one wheel, it fought me the whole way. I set my little hard plastic cooler on top of it and looked around the platform.
The crusaders wore primary and pastel colored leisure suits and dresses. The African and Asian-Americans carried off the style well enough. However, the European-Americans, who had baked thousands of hours in the Florida sun, resembled shriveled dates. I couldn’t help but giggle at the Red Hat ladies swathed in purple. They were positively pruney.
Rosemary Donaldson waved me down to the rear of the train. My tummy jittered with excitement. And hunger. I couldn’t wait to gobble the fancy food. I took a deep breath and plodded through the throng of elderly passengers.
“Hi, Rosemary.” We fake kissed both cheeks.
I tried not to cough from the perfume haze engulfing the raven haired, liposuctioned, botoxed pastor’s wife dressed in white boots, over-the-knee socks and ruffled miniskirt. She had the body for the outfit, but at her age and considering her husband’s holy profession, jail bait tart was not a good look.
In her high-pitched nasally voice, she said, “We can board any minute now. Here’s our itinerary.” She offered me a rose colored pocket folder with a thick stack of papers inside. I let go of my suitcase handle and accepted it. The suitcase plopped down onto the concrete with a resonating thud. I squatted to pick it up.
Rosemary said, “Sandra, I’m so glad you talked your mother into joining us.”
I shut my eyes tight, scrunched up my face and clenched my fists, hoping I hadn’t heard correctly. Before I stood, I asked, “Pardon? What did you say?”
“Your momma stopped by my house this morning, with a footlocker full of yarn and knitting needles. She volunteered to teach the crusaders to knit.”
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I did it! Years of post pregnancy yo-yo dieting is no more. I finally deduced what I needed to do to spur my metabolism to reset every time I hit a dieting plateau. Eat carbohydrates for a few days. Not chips and cookies and ice cream. Well, a few. But mainly fruit, much missed breads and whole wheat pasta at the Olive Garden.
I can lose weight on a low carbohydrate diet for about three weeks. Then I go up a pound and get stuck. If I’m sure I’m really stuck (the scale won’t budge down for two weeks), then I take a mini-carb holiday and go right back on induction (Dr. Atkins term for limiting your carboydrate intake to less than 20 per day).
I then lose the two to three pounds I gained from the plateau and eating carbs; and more weight effortlessly drops off afterward.
I began this diet at 155 pounds, squeezed into a size 14 on March 5, 2007. I took most of the summer off, I wanted to enjoy myself. Then I began again in late August. On November 5, 2007, exactly 8 months from the day I began, I was 30 pounds lighter! I’ve returned to a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) for my 5′ tall frame. I now weigh 125 pounds and am comfortable in a size 6. I never thought this could happen again. I’m 44 years old. I even feel ten years younger. I’m trotting down the steps. Sitting Indian style. Setting my librarian glasses aside and wearing contacts more often. And buying a whole new wardrobe from QVC.
Did I work out compulsively like the folks on The Biggest Loser? Absolutely not! I did walk an awful lot the first few months. I wanted to get into better shape to do Disneyworld. But since August, my only deliberate form of exercising has been my daily housework. Yes, I do a lot. But what else would I fill my days with while the kids and hubby aren’t around? Napping on the sofa. Playing solitaire. Surfing the web. It feels fabulous, fairytale-ish to be thin and have a clean, welcoming home.
I do take daily nutritional supplements. The Nature’s Code Vitamin System from QVC plus the Nature’s Code Fish Oil. I swallow seven pills every morning. It is not a weight loss product. It is just a good all-around vitamin and mineral supplement. I took the list of ingredients to my nurse practitioner before I began and she approved it wholeheartedly. I feel like I have more energy when I’m on them, and I’m sleeping better. With the exception of two weeks when I had run out, I have not had so much as a cold. I feel they are enhancing my immune system.
If I can lose thirty pounds in eight months, think what you can do!
Oh, I highly recommend the free Diet Tracker module from My Yahoo. Once you set it up, don’t ever delete it! I’m so glad I kept mine:
|Edit your Diet Tracker|| |
|To start, enter your start and goal weights and the dates of your diet. Then, come back and enter your weigh-in dates and weight to see your progress. Be sure to click Finished when you’re done.|
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The house I grew up i was a very, old place with fireplaces in every room.
When I was eight, I asked my mother if I could hang up a stocking as
I'd read about in THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. She was talking on the
phone at the time and nodded absently, so I got out one of my
knee-high socks and went into the parlour to do so. When she heard
the hammering, she decided she'd better check what was happening. I'd
gotten a regular-sized nail and was driving it into the wooden mantle
of the fireplace. It left a very large hole in the mantle and while
Mother was dismayed at the time and tried to cover it with wood-filler
and new paint, it was always there. Later, however, I heard her
recounting the story to a friend while laughing, "...and I walked in
and she was pounding this GIGANTIC nail into the mantle...!" I decided
she wasn't TOO angry. After that, I used thumbtacks to hold up my
stocking. I'm not sure if that's the same time the fire in the
fireplace melted the chocolate cherries Santa put in my stocking or
not. The candy made a lovely, brown puddle of goo on the hearth as
it melted and dripped through the toe of the sock. The smell of
burned chocolate permeated the parlour for weeks. From that
experience, I learned to remove my stocking from the mantle before
lighting the fire!
Underdead is a finalist in the mystery category. For those of you who might have missed it, here's the back cover blurb of Underdead:
Science teacher Jo Gartner thinks teaching geology to hormonal pre-teens is deadly... until she is bitten by an inept vampire and becomes UNDERDEAD--all the problems of being a vampire, none of the perks.
When she finds a body on her classroom floor with teeth marks in his neck, she must figure out "whodunnit" before her Underdead secret gets out. But she's running out of time. The detective in charge of the case is dogging her every move, her vampire traits are evolving in new and embarrassing ways, and someone wants Jo dead...the traditional way!
Since ebooks are instant gratification (so quick to get a hold of!), here's a reasonably easy and very versitale cookie recipe:
Any Way You Want Them Shortbread Squares
Preheat oven to 375 (F)
Grease a jelly roll pan (or a cookie sheet about 9x15. If you don't have either, see below)
1/2 lb butter
1 egg, separated
1 tsp vanilla
and at least one of the following toppings: 1 c. pecans, a couple crunced up toffee candy bars, candy canes, chocoate covered nuts, fruit jam...whatever you want. It's all good.
Here's what you do:
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla and pinch of salt. Mix in flour.
Pat into pan. That sounds easy but what you really do is smear it over the cookie sheet in a thin layer. Last time I made it, my hands were cold and it stuck to them. I resolved this by putting clean plastic bags (I was out of disposable plastic gloves) over my hands and smearing that way. Worked wonderfully and I will do it next time. You can certainly smear it in whatever size pan you want.
Beat the egg white slightly and brush a litte over the dough. I actually smear it on with my plastic covered fingers. You won't use more than a little of it. All you need is a thin layer. It helps make it shiny and brown and probably helps the nuts stick if you use them.
Now, here's the fun part.
1. If you're using raw nuts, stick them on before baking. Bake 16-18 min, until lightly browned.
2. If you're using another topping, bake until the dough is lightly browned, 14-16 min, pull out, spread the crushed candy bars, candy canes, jam (my mother loves this with blueberry jam--it's like a thumbprint cookie only waaay better and easier) or whatever you want to put on it and put back into the oven for a little longer until the dough is light brown and the topping has melted onto the dough.
Cool in pan, cut into squares and place on pretty plate--or break off chunks and eat them off a paper towel.
Whatever you do, enjoy them with a good book. Now that's a holiday tradition I can get into.
Joining us to day is Ms. Anny Cook. Anny, tell us about your current project.
At the moment, I have two. One is a ménage titled The Kama Sutra Lovers. The “actions” are based on random drawings from a Kama Sutra deck of cards. Hmmm. Enough about that one. The other is tentatively titled Love at Last. It’s the next book in the
2. Do you think a writer needs an agent?
For myself, I don’t think so. I don’t have one and I’m not looking for one as I’m not interested in publishing for a
3. Does music beckon your muse?
It depends on the day. Some days I write with the minimal boost. Other days, I could definitely use something to put me in the mood. When I worked on my Christmas book, I listened to Christmas carols.
4. If so, what type of music?
Usually, I prefer writing to Josh Groban’s music. Many of his songs are in Italian or Spanish which means that I can enjoy his voice without the words interfering with my writing. I find that if I listen to a singer in English, the words get stuck in my head and I end up typing the song! Not productive at all.
5. What’s your preference: getting a tooth pulled or writing a synopsis?
Oh, writing the synopsis. Anesthesia doesn’t work well on me so getting a tooth pulled is a real pain. The synopsis doesn’t bother me too much. I spent a lot of time in school summarizing books and stories, so a synopsis is pretty similar, isn’t it? I think it’s a scary word. Try using the word summarize instead.
6. What books of yours are currently for sale and where can a reader buy them?
Oh, wow! Well, First of all, the Mystic Valley series is all for sale: Dancer’s Delight from Cerridwen Press, Everything Lovers Can Know, Traveller’s Refuge, and Cherished Destinies are all from Ellora’s Cave. And the first Flowers of Camelot book, Chrysanthemum is also for sale from Ellora’s Cave. The second one, Honeysuckle will be available January 30th. And my first book in the Ardent Angels series, Winter Hearts will be available December 12th from Ellora’s Cave.
Traditions have changed in my family.
I've never prepared Christmas dinner. Our parents lived in the town where we grew up. After we married we returned home for every holiday. When my ex husband's parents were alive, we had Christmas breakfast at their house. Santa visited my daughter, Danielle, there before we had breakfast and opened gifts with my Ex's brother and his family. Then we'd head across town to my parent's house for dinner and more gift exchanging with my parents and my brother and sister and their families. Both houses had loads of laughter and fun.
I tried to make changes by having Santa come to my house, but that meant we had to get up early enough to do Santa, then hurry two hours or more to do the Christmas breakfast thing as usual. We returned to the old way because my mother-in-law liked to see us open our presents and Danielle's Santa.
When my father-in-law passed away, we still followed the same game plan, but when my mother-in-law died my sister-in-law took over the Christmas breakfast. We were back to letting Santa come to our house. We had to pack Santa so Danielle could get a good look at her new stuff. My Ex and Danielle liked the traditions we had started. We still had a late lunch with my family and the kids' honeys.
Once Danielle graduated from college and got an apartment we no longer did the Santa thing at my house, but once again took our Santa to the Christmas breakfast. I missed the Santa at my house thing, but Danielle and her daddy were fine with the change. We still had turkey and lots of fun and noise with my family later.
When Daddy died Mama changed the tradition from turkey dinner to a seafood feast with shrimp and crab legs and such. We still had breakfast with the in-laws.
Mama died before the next Christmas, so my brother welcomed us at his house and we had "seafood" from Mama's freezer. More changed because my husband and I separated. I was no longer expected at his brother's house. Two traditions changed for me. Danielle still went with her dad for the tradition she'd had for so long.
My sister-in-law became our Christmas turkey cooker.
When my daughter married we started another tradition. Her mother-in-law and I share the kids, who alternate Christmas and Thanksgiving with each of us. Now they have to split the holidays here with her dad's family and mine.
Traditions will change again when my daughter has kids. Will she want to give up Christmas breakfast? Will she and her husband continue to alternate holidays and parents?
by Pamela Roller
These soap crayons are easy to make and safe for children to use in the bathtub. What better way to have fun and get clean at the same time?
1 C soap flakes (such as Dri-Pak Soap Flakes)
¼ C hot water
Place soap flakes in a bowl and add warm water, a teaspoon at a time, stirring constantly. The mixture will be extremely thick and hard to stir. Spoon some of the soap into each of several small bowls and color each separately, adding the color by drops until the soap has the consistency of a very thick paste. Gently press spoonfuls of the paste into your molds (i.e., plastic ice cube trays). Set the molds aside at room temperature to harden (may take up to two days). Makes 20 crayons.
Keep soap out of children's eyes.
Pamela Roller is the author of On Silent Wings, a gothic historical romance set in Restoration England. Visit her website at http://www.pamelaroller.com/.©Pamela Roller
by Pamela Roller
This year, instead of the Christmas newsletter my husband and I put off until the last anguishing minute, we're trying something simple yet classy--a visual and auditory statement of our year that's free and fast. Yes, fast--it can take less than thirty minutes to put together and send out.
If you dread writing the annual Christmas letter, or grit your teeth every time you open the mailbox because you know you'll have to sit and read someone else's, perhaps you'd like to make a photo story. Perhaps you'd like to recommend a photo story to your friends.
All you need are the digital photos you've taken throughout the year and an easy program, and your friends will take joy in watching your year in splendid visual imagery. Best of all, creating a photo story is absolutely free because you can send it as an attachment in an e-mail. Much, much better than e-cards (rather tacky) and snail mail (rather expensive), a photo story is a personal way to say, "I'm thinking of you."
Follow these easy steps to make your photo story:
Download Microsoft Photostory.
Follow the simple directions. Add your digital pictures, move them around, and add text and music.
Be sure to save, save, save the project. When finished, click to e-mail it to friends (in Microsoft Outlook), or set it as an attachment for other e-mail programs.
Pamela Roller is the author of On Silent Wings, a gothic historical romance set in Restoration England. Visit her website at http://www.pamelaroller.com/.
(When Mankind at last admits that vampires exist, the Undead are imprisoned in internment camps on various worlds throughout the galaxy. After two of the prisoners are killed by silver nitrate injected into their plasma transfusions, Katherine Dalia of the Abidon-7 Police Force investigates. She asks Christopher Landless, leader of the Albidon vampires to assist her, and when he refuses, she has him taken from the compound to the local police station for questioning....)
"Hello, Mr. Landless." She was quiet and serious, refusing to respond to his humor.
"Lovely place," Kit looked around the room. "Who's your interior decorator? No Spies, no eavesdropping devices, soundproof paneling--this place is really private, isn't it?"
"And you won't answer me here any more than you would at the Compound, will you?"
"Sorry." He shook his head, making the blond tail of hair swing. "I would if I had an answer--"
"Is it the Station? You don't like being inside a Precinct Center, do you?"
"Well--it is just another type of prison, isn't it?"
"What if I take you somewhere that won't remind you of jails or incarceration?"
"And where might that be?" he asked with a smile.
Kit's smile faded. "Are you serious?"
"What do you think?"
Opening the door, she stepped out into the hall, looked around and gestured for him to follow.
Kit didn't move. "You could get into trouble for doing this--taking me out of the Precinct without permission."
When she didn't answer, he went on, "You could be in worse trouble being alone with me. Away from here...."
She came back inside, caught his arm, and pulled him into the hall, and silently, Kit went with her.
Before he realized it, he and Katherine Dalia were speeding away from the Police Station, into a night ablaze with color and life.
"Please," he said quietly, "drive slowly. I'd like to savor this..." and she slackened the acceleration of the vehicle, watching out of the corner of her eye as he leaned back and took a deep breath and turned his attention to the scenes outside the window, the blue eyes bright.
When she landed the car in front of the apartment building, he got out and docilely followed her inside, still without speaking.
On the second landing, she slid the key-card into the latch of a corner apartment and the door swung open.
Quickly, she went inside, leaving Kit standing in the hallway.
He started after her, and stopped suddenly as if running against an invisible barrier.
She looked back. "Well?"
He made an apologetic gesture. "I have to be invited in, remember? I can't cross your threshold without your permission."
"Nonsense! You came into the building with me!"
He shook his head. "The lobby's public, anyone can enter that. This--" he nodded through the open door, "--is private."
For a moment, she hesitated, and Kit went on, "Think carefully before you say it. Once I'm inside, I'll be able to come and go whenever I wish."
That brought a quick smile. "You'll have to get out of the Compound first!" She gestured impatiently, "Oh, come on in!" and Kit stepped across the doorsill and directly into the living room.
Quickly, she caught his hands and pulled off the wristcuffs, dropping them on the sofa.
He looked around, thinking he should make some comment.
It was a large room, furnished with pieces made of genuine wood--antiques, it appeared--nothing under eighty years old. Sofa, tables, a desk--very delicate, very beautiful--just like its owner.
"Well, this is-- very nice."
His attention was immediately caught by a large painting hanging over a table set between two bay windows through which the lights of Albidon glittered.
"Van Gogh's Sunflowers?" He looked back at her. "Somehow you don't strike me as the type to like Van Gogh."
"And what type is that?" she wanted to know.
He shrugged. "Daring.... Given to flights of imagination.... Impassioned...."
She laughed. "Shows how much you don't know."
Kit took a step toward her. "Are you passionate, Lieutenant Dalia?"
She moved backward, bumping against a chair, "That's my secret, Mr. Landless," looking at it and back at him in sudden embarrassment, in which there was a trace of panic.
"Call me Kit." He smiled, wanting to put her at ease, not certain how to do it.
It had been so long since he'd talked to a female who wasn't an Undead, so long since he'd created idle chatter or attempted even a mild flirtation.
"We may as well be on first-name terms if we're going to be working together. Though I don't know how much work we'll be doing, since I still maintain I have nothing pertinent to tell you." He looked back at the painting again. "And I'll call you Kate."
"My name is Katherine...." she began.
"Nay, 'tis Sweet Kate.... ‘Plain Kate and bonnie Kate, the prettiest Kate in all Christendom, Kate of my consolation--’"
"Taming of the Shrew--" she acknowledged the quote, "you weren't a contemporary of Shakespeare, were you?"
He laughed slightly.
"I'm not that old! I missed the Bard by about two centuries...." His voice trailed away as he studied the picture. "Poor Vincent.... So talented, so doomed." He looked over his shoulder at her. "He would use those paints with their poisonous bases...."
"Did you know him?"
Kit shook his head. "He was too erratic for me. I try to stay away from the unhinged.... I knew his brother Theo, though. A very conscientious man, concerned about his brother's welfare--and worried because he could do nothing to thwart his madness...."
"That's just a copy, of course," she said quickly.
That made him laugh. "I didn't think it was the original. I'm assuming police officers still aren't paid the highest wages!"
"The real painting was destroyed fifty-five years ago, in a museum fire--"
Kit sighed and shook his head. Another masterpiece gone. So many had perished in Terra's last land war....
"Oh, well," he tried to make it casual, not wanting her to know how the loss of one more bit of beauty from the galaxy affected him. "Sic transit gloria...."
He stopped, turning back to face her.
She was taking off the uniform jacket--underneath it, she wore a soft white sweater, very feminine and very non-regulation--and pressing a sensor on the closet door, saying as it slid open, "Can I get you a drink?" voice immediately trailing away as she remembered what she was talking to. "I mean...."
Kit smiled slightly, letting a leer enter his voice. "Once upon a time, Lieutenant, you would have been the drink!"
She stepped back as the door shut, leaning against it. "If you're trying to frighten me, you're succeeding."
"Frighten? You?" His voice was genuinely surprised. "I thought you were the fearless policewoman--afraid of nothing and no man!"
"The uniform's fearless, not the woman inside it," she told him, "but you're not really a man, are you?"
He thought about that. "No, I guess technically, I'm not."
"Then," a slight shrug, "what do I have to fear?"
The blue eyes held hers a moment.
There was a long awkward silence while Kit looked around again.
"I see you have a computer. PC?" He walked over to the desk, bending to look at the terminal. "No...TIU--aha! Total Information at the fingertips! Able to access anything the Council Information Service houses."
She looked surprised. "You're familiar with the FIS?"
"Certainly! We Undead try to keep up with current technology." He placed a hand on the keyboard, seeing her stiffen slightly. “I’ve often wondered why they still have keyboards, since audio-control was invented.”
Afraid he would harm her precious terminal?
"Just because most of us were created centuries ago doesn't mean we've kept our mentalities in the past!"
He allowed irony to enter his voice. "Of course, lately, there's been little chance to learn-- So you can access anything the Department has in its files from here?"
He moved his hand and she relaxed. "Yes, that way, I don't have to run down to the station every time I need some information. I just come in here and--"
Kit touched one of the keys.
Immediately the screen lit up, revealing a series of entries.
"I-I was just checking a file...." Quickly, Katherine pushed past him, hovering over the keyboard. “Computer, close file!“
The screen went blank.
"You didn't save it," Kit commented, almost accusingly.
"I-It wasn't anything important." As she straightened, he thought that her face held an expression of relief.
Katherine looked away.
"I-I haven't had dinner. If you don't mind, we can talk in the kitchen while I prepare something." She gestured toward a door across the room. "It won't take long."
She led the way through the swinging door, asking belatedly, "It won't bother you to watch me eat, will it?"
"Not as much as it would bother you to watch me!" came the answer.
She paused slightly, glancing back at him and Kit shrugged apologetically.
"Sorry. The Undead are pretty blunt, Kate. We say what we think. You'd better get used to that!" He followed her into the kitchen, adding, "And don't worry about me. I was fed last night...." and smiled slightly as he saw her shoulders stiffen.
He leaned against a counter, looking around the room with interest while she searched the refrigeration unit for the ingredients for a salad.
It was a fairly large room, with a window set in the opposite wall, a pair of chairs and a table against it so that the diners could look out while they ate.
She probably sat there with her morning coffee--or whatever Breathers drank these days--watching the sun shine over the rooftops. Perhaps someone sat with her, smiling over his own cup at her, eyes holding her brown ones.
For some reason, he didn't like that idea.
The refrigeration unit was built into the cabinets, as were the microwave and dishwasher. The counters were bare of dishes or clutter, except for several open jars containing bouquets of dried herbs. Near the door, hung a chain of peppers on a ceramic hook and next to them....
She looked up at his gasp, asking quickly, "What is it?"
He was standing with his back to the herb hooks, one hand covering his eyes, "Please.... Would you mind removing that...?" and gestured weakly at the long rope of garlic hanging beside the peppers.
"Sorry." She pulled them from the hook and tossed the rope into the refrigerator.
Kit turned with a sigh. "Thank you."
Katherine took a head of Arcanian endive out of the unit and set it on the table. "I thought that was just a superstition."
She began to tear it into small pieces.
"Sometimes old superstitions hold truth. I don't do too well with sage and basil, either."
He fell silent and Katherine concentrated on the food before her, picking up the knife to slice the thick red tamarind tomato.
She seemed ill at ease, he thought, handling the knife awkwardly and his admonition, "Careful, don't cut your fingers," only seemed to make it worse. Twice she dropped the utensil, once actually knocked the tomato onto the floor, where it struck with a soft, squishy sound, leaving a smear of seeds as she stooped to pick it up with a murmured apology.
She cut the slices into quarters and asked, without looking up, "Would you hand me that salt cellar, please?" and he picked up the little plasticon container and held it out to her.
Katherine reached for it.
Their fingers touched, and she looked up at him, eyes abruptly meeting his.
The salt cellar fell from her fingers to the floor, bouncing, striking her foot.
Quickly, she bent and picked it up, turning back to the table, shaking it determinedly. Then she stood there a moment, holding it tightly, before slamming it down on the table.
"Stop it! Just stop it!"
Kit stared at her as if she'd thrown it at him. "Stop what?"
"What?" He didn't understand. "What am I doing?"
"It isn't going to work!"
"What are you talking about?"
What the Hell is going on?
She whirled to stare at him. "You may think that you're irresistible to women, but I'm not interested--"
"Kate, I assure you--"
"Just because you can conquer other females with y-your a-animal magnetism, don't think that--"
"I swear, I wasn't--"
"--if anything, you don't attract me at all. I don't like your clothes and I don't like the way you look! It's-it's....
"It's what?" Kit demanded quickly.
She hesitated slightly.
The words trailed away weakly.
"So you don't like the way I look. Or my clothes." He thought about that. It had never occurred to him she might actually be bothered by his appearance. No other Breather had even mentioned that he was objectionable. "What specifically bothers you? Maybe I can change it."
She regarded him steadily, before saying with a rush, "All that leather. Isn't it just a little primitive to wear the hide of an animal?"
He brushed one hand against the shoulder of her wool sweater, soft Cashmere, imported from Terra.
"No more than it is to wear the woven hair of one."
She moved slightly, dodging his hand, and Kit said quickly, "Well, since the only thing I can do about my clothes is to remove them--and I'm certain you wouldn't like that,” he gave her a fleeting but wicked smile and she flushed slightly, "I guess you'll just have to put up with looking at them! What else? My looks--? You think I'm ugly?"
"Ugly!" She rolled her eyes slightly and looked away. "That's a laugh! You know very well how handsome you are--"
"I assure you I don't, Kate," he said it so quietly she was startled. "I haven't seen my own face since Seventeen Ninety-four."
"A person wouldn't joke about such a thing, would he? I don't know if I've grown older, or if--like the legends say--I still appear as I did the day I died."
"I don't believe it!"
She seized his wrist, pulling him out of the kitchen and down a short hallway, "There's a mirror in the bedroom," and Kit went with her, not protesting, enjoying the warmth of her hand upon his chill flesh, noting she seemed unaware of the difference in their body temperatures.
The door was open.
She pulled Kit inside, stopping in front of a large dresser with an antique, gold-framed mirror hanging above it, and leaned forward, staring into the glass.
In it was reflected the room, its furniture, and her own face, eyes wide and startled.
Kit wasn't visible.
"Didn't you know we haven't an image?" he asked, almost sadly. "I think the Chief should have made you read a little on the Kindred before you took this case."
He peered at the glass, hands resting against the dresser top.
"I've heard that if an Undead concentrates hard enough, he can actually sustain an image for a few seconds.... “
The pale hands clenched into fists.
"...though I've never...actually...tried it...."
Abruptly, the blue eyes seemed to go blank and he closed them, taking a deep breath.
Slowly, a faint second shape wavered beside hers. A man's head and shoulders, totally transparent, but recognizable--square chin, straight nose, high cheekbones, all surrounded by a mass of ash-pale hair....
Kit opened his eyes--the ones in the silvered glass seemed to glow.
"Well?" she asked anxiously. "Have you changed any?"
"No," his words were soft. "It's as I remember myself."
He leaned forward, stroking one hand down his cheek, touching his chin. "Just as I remember...."
The movement broke his concentration. Immediately, his image faded, the eyes disappearing last, gazing almost sadly into his own before winking out.
Shakily, Kit turned and surveyed the room. He was panting slightly, the effort of bringing his image into being momentarily draining him.
"That's a pretty big bed," he said quickly, to keep her from realizing how much seeing himself again had affected him or what an effort it had been. "Do you sleep in it alone?"
She flushed and walked out, "That's none of your business." heels making an angry tapping on the tiled hallway.
He started after her.
By the time he reached the kitchen, she was busily, almost frantically, arranging the lettuce and tomato in the salad bowl.
He said, "Why don't I just wait in the living room until you finish?"
"All right," she answered. Too eagerly, he thought. "I won't be long."
He was already out of sight.
"I have some music chips--" she called.
"--and a piano," he finished for her, voice coming from the other side of the living room. "A beauty, too!"
"Do you play?" Why did she keep trying to talk to him as if he were simply another human?
"A little. May I?"
Anything to keep him out there while she ate. She couldn't bear to have those blue eyes watching her while she forked food into her mouth.
She expected to hear an amateurish pounding on the keys but to her surprise, the Moonlight Sonata floated through the door, played with a quiet but intense sadness that made her stop with the fork halfway to her mouth.
She bolted the food, dropped the salad bowl into the sink and fairly burst into the living room.
Kit was seated at the piano, head tilted back, eyes shut, a look of sheer pleasure on his face. As she walked over to him, he opened his eyes and smiled at her and Katherine smiled back.
She couldn't help it. He looked so happy.
She waited, leaning against the piano until he'd finished, and as the last note died away, applauded quickly.
"That was beautiful."
Kit didn't answer, just touched the keys again, sliding his fingers over them so lightly not a note was struck. "Beethoven was a very talented man."
"I suppose you're going to tell me you knew him?"
"We both studied with the same Master--Haydn. He wanted me to become a concert pianist but I didn't dare. It would have meant drawing attention to myself and I couldn't risk that."
"That's a pity." She caught one hand, lifting it to touch his fingers. It looked pallid in hers, alabaster-translucent next to her living flesh, though Katherine didn't seem to notice. "You definitely have a pianist's hands!"
"Thief's hands, Kate!" He pulled it from her grasp, resting it on the keys again, trying to ignore the quiver that went through him at her touch. "Made to lift purses and hold a pistol--though it's been many lifetimes now since I've done either!"
Almost unconsciously, his fingers began to move again, softly playing another tune, Chopin's Waltz in A-Minor.
"I liked Chopin a lot better. At least he wasn't so stubborn! Papa Haydn called Beethoven the Grand Mogul!"
"Beethoven was so--" he laughed slightly, "--Teutonic! I remember the first time I saw him. He was a child, and his bastard of a father had gotten drunk and given him a beating because he’d made some silly little mistake during a performance. That’s why he went deaf, because of being beaten about the head so much.“
He stopped playing, remembering what he‘d said to the little boy who had huddled on the bed, sobbing quietly.
“If you wish, I’ll make him pay for mistreating you. I’ll make certain he never hurts you again!“
The boy had considered that, then sadly shaken his head.
“No--he’s my father. If you kill him--“ for he’d quickly realized what Kit would do, “--there’ll be no one to care for my brother and me. We need him.”
Kit had never appeared to the boy again, made certain that he and the adult Beethoven never met, but he kept an eye on the youngster until he’d become able to care for himself.
“I was there when he gave that wonderful performance in Eighteen-Fifteen. By then, he was almost totally deaf. The audience gave him a standing ovation and someone had to turn him around so he could see how they were applauding him. The legend is that the orchestra wasn’t watching him but the first violin and following its lead.”
He shrugged, “I don’t know--I just closed my eyes and listened to the music," and looked down at the keys, striking a chord. "It was very sad--the incident, not the music."
“But I think my favorite of them all was Wulfie-- Mozart.”
“You called him Wulfie?”
“All his friends did.” He laughed slightly. “Oh, he was a real party animal, especially while he was living in Leipzig--play all night and sleep all day and still be able to compose such masterpieces!”
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I didn't intend to frighten you with my morbid reminiscences."
"It's not that," she protested. "It's just--the thought that I'm actually talking to someone who's seen Beethoven, a-and…partied…with Mozart. I-it's eerie!"
That made him laugh, a little ruefully. "How do you think I feel?"
She smiled, too. "You ought to write your memoirs. They'd be a best-seller!"
He joined in the sudden whimsy her mind suggested. "Who'd believe it?"
"Well, no one could refute it, could they?"
"That's for sure!" He ended the piece with a flourish, struck a series of triplets in a quick jazz rhythm and stood up. "And now-- If you've dined, Mistress Kate, shall we get to work?"