Diane Sawyer, Blog #21, January-February 2015

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including several I met recently at the Raptor Fest (think birds!) at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve here in St. Petersburg, Florida. I hope all of you enjoy this January-February 2015 edition.

Fondly,
Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The latest news, this time from Amazon’s marketing specialists: they have included the Kindle version of my second novel, The Montauk Steps, in their latest promo, hoping readers will discover a new favorite. Hooray! As an incentive, they have reduced the price from $3.99 to $1.99 until March 11. Happy Reading!

Previous news: My web site address is http://dianewsawyer.com (Note that the middle initial “w” must be included to avoid confusion with Diane Sawyer, the newscaster.)

Please visit my web site and share my enthusiasm for my friend Roy Baker and his expertise in setting up everything and including his gorgeous photo of a sunset at Lake Maggiore, near my home. All the previous blog/newsletters are there and this one will soon join them. The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions of my novels are available on Amazon and other on-line sites—and you can even get to them directly via my web site by clicking on the photo of the book cover. That Roy, my web designer, is so clever. Happy Reading!

This and That

It Takes a Village…and So Much More

My desktop computer was dying a slow death after a productive eight-year life span and was being nursed along with repairs and tune-ups at a local shop. I decided to prepare for the inevitable and supplement/replace the desktop with a laptop. That meant going wireless and having our home energy supplier come to the house and make all kinds of changes that involved the TV, DVD, phones, computer, and printer. For me, this meant learning how to work everything without blowing up the house, but soon everything was under control.

Next step? I investigated laptops. My daughter-in-law (thank you, Lin) helped me order the perfect laptop to suit me. It arrived a few days later. Lin came to the house twice to set up everything, including making adjustments to my wireless printer. She made sure I could get started and patiently pointed out the major things I needed to know. Quite a change from Vista to Window 8, but I made progress over the next several weeks.

When I hit a snag involving sending attachments, a volunteer at the local library (thank you, Barry {he and I are Friends of the South Branch Library}) showed me what I needed to know. So far, I agree it takes a village, basically friends, family, and acquaintances from the community, meaning, in my case, St. Petersburg, and stretching beyond that to Orlando, and Tampa, to keep me computer-literate and computer-ready.

However, I ran into a major problem when the printer, which services both computers, stubbornly refused to print. Now I needed to go beyond the village and enter the global world of remote assistance. I called my computer support contact—I’m not sure where he was geographically, but I think it was the Philippines. He transferred me to the advanced team, in India. All went well and my tech guy began fixing everything. To do so, he asked my permission to take over the mouse and do what needed to be done. I had seen Lin do this, so I felt confident. My tech guy told me to relax, sit back, and let him fix everything. I was dazzled by all that was happening on the screen…so dazzled that I forgot my promise not to touch any part of the computer while he worked. I let my instincts take over. I gripped the mouse. The tech’s melodious voice said, “Please relinquish your mouse,” and I obeyed, feeling like I was in a surreal world.

In no time all was complete, the tech guy and I said our fond farewells and I happily went back to work on my laptop. Several days later I decided to transfer some additional files from the desktop to the laptop via a flash drive. No problem. But weeks later, the screen on the desktop went black. I called the company with which I have a warrantee. They had me call their main office support service, which was located in Louisiana. A technician from Louisiana called me later that day. Unable to fix the computer remotely, he put me in touch with their appointment setting team, also in Louisiana. That led to my being assigned a case manager in New Orleans who contacted their new office in the Caribbean. That person set up an appointment for me with a tech guy from Tampa. He arrived at my house the following day, diagnosed the problem, and ordered the part which was delivered to my doorstep two days later. I called the main office to let them know the part had arrived, and I was transferred to California. The rep in California contacted Louisiana and set up an appointment for the Tampa tech to return to my house the following morning and install the part. He arrived several hours ago and the old desktop computer is up and running. Mission completed.

My computers and I have been traveling the world without ever leaving my home. We’ve gone from a village to the global community. What next?

 

Travel

Recently I went through notes that I had taken during my travels several years ago to England, Scotland, and Wales. I found some random bits of information from a tour guide in Scotland that I think you will enjoy.

**He told us that in Scotland there are 3 decisions that a court of law may hand down: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. Over the years the “not proven” option had often been interpreted to mean that you can quite easily get away with a crime in Scotland. Have you ever heard the expression “getting away Scot free”? Now you know where it came from. Or so I thought. However, I looked up the expression and found out that to many people “Scot free” means not paying taxes and it comes from the Old Norse word ‘skot’ meaning contribution.

**Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,
How does your garden grow?” Our guide said this nursery rhyme refers to Mary Queen of Scots, but he didn’t elaborate. I looked up the nursery rhyme and found a variety of interpretations.

First the rhyme:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle sells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

“How does your garden grow” may mean Mary’s reign over her realm.
“Silver bells” could refer to Catholic cathedral bells and possibly Mary’s Catholic beliefs.

Another possibility is the elaborate decoration on her dresses.
“Cockle shells” is an insinuation that her husband wasn’t faithful. Another possibility is a criticism of her love of exotic foods, such as cockles.

“Pretty bells all in a row” means her ladies-in-waiting… or her executions of Protestants.

According to our guide, there were many legends about Mary Queen of Scotts and everything happened in threes. She was married three times. She sought 3 crowns: Scotland, France, and England. She was buried 3 times. The axman swung the axe 3 times to kill her.

I found this in my research: Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1587, also known as Mary Stuart and Mary 1, Queen of Scotland, was the legitimate daughter of James V of Scotland, and heir to the throne (thus the crown of Scotland). As for the other two crowns, she was the dowager queen of France (having been married at one time to Francis, the Dauphin, the eldest son of the then King of France, Henri II) when her marriage to Lord Darnley (1565) gave her a claim to the English throne. Elizabeth I imprisoned her in England after 1568 and signed the warrant under which she was executed for treason in 1587. If you have a few spare minutes, check out the facts and legends surrounding Mary Queen of Scots’ life, especially during her final years. It reads like a mystery novel.

Another random bit of information from our guide was that the French words “Marie est malade,” meaning “Mary is sick” formed the basis of the word “marmalade.” I researched that too and apparently Mary made a preserve from Spanish oranges and called it “marmalade.” Mary, who spoke French, attributed the word “marmalade” to her former cook who wanted to tempt her appetite when she was sick. “Marie est malade,” her cook muttered over and over, pacing the floor, hoping to invent something to cure her. And thus was born the word “marmalade.” There are many theories about the veracity of that little anecdote.

Anyway, the trip to Scotland was fantastic and the guide regaled our group with information that may or may not have had a basis in truth, but it certainly added to the lore of Scotland. It’s easy to see that “after the fact” when the people are no longer available for comment, everyone suddenly finds a political or religious or social significance to events that occurred or supposedly occurred long, long ago. Isn’t history fun??

 

Cooking Delights

Several years ago my grandson Cael asked me to submit a recipe for a cookbook that his school was preparing. I came up with the following delight, which will feed a hungry family of four. It’s a winner and so is Cael! Be aware that, if you make the meatballs from scratch, consider making them a day in advance to cut down the cooking time as the dinner hour approaches. I am not including a recipe for meatballs, because you probably have a favorite of your own, but seasonings, bread crumbs, and an egg are good additions.

Tortellini, Veggies, and Meatballs

Ingredients
1 cup each coarsely chopped onion and red pepper
2 cups mushrooms, halved
2 cups zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ½ inch thick slices
2 cups canned diced tomatoes with liquid
Salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian seasoning to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 9-oz package cheese-filled tortellini
½ cup each water and dry red wine
½ cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1 ½ pound meat balls, baked in oven, drained to remove oil, and finished off by simmering along with 2 cups (jarred) spaghetti sauce in a pot on top of the stove.
*As mentioned above, consider making the meatballs the day before and storing in the refrigerator overnight (in the spaghetti sauce). Heat thoroughly before adding to the wok/skillet.

Preparation

In a wok or very large skillet, cook onion, red pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini in hot oil 5 minutes. Stir in canned tomatoes with liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 10 minutes, covered. Drop in hot meatballs (and any sauce clinging to them) and stir thoroughly. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with crusty bread and tossed salad. A glass of red wine might be nice too. Leftovers (if there are any) are excellent!

Bon Appétit!

Diane

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