header image

diane3qlweb

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Thank you for reading this edition, # 34 and many of the editions that preceded it. A special thank-you to everyone—staff, volunteers, docents, visitors, and friends—at the Dali Museum here in St. Petersburg, where I have been a docent for 15 years. They recently welcomed me as a Guest Speaker in the museum theater. Before, during, and after my one-hour presentation on stage “Where do stories come from?” based on my 6 novels and 30+ short stories, (plus many anecdotes), I was treated like a celebrity. Two assistants helped with the microphone and battery pack, filmed the event, took photos of my books, set up a book-signing table in the museum store after the presentation, and even carried my books to the car at the end of the performance. Many employees and volunteers stopped by to wish me the best. They have all been working so hard for the Frida Kahlo Exhibit, but they made time for me and I appreciate it. A special thank-you to Curator of Education, Peter Tush, for overseeing every aspect of the event. Many in the audience were delighted to find out that my most recent novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure, a cold-case missing-person story, set in St. Petersburg, features a scene that takes place at the Dali Museum. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so let me just say that several paintings inspire the heroine to…

Oops. Time to move on and show the book covers.

thetelltaletreasure_sawyer_96dprgb-2

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella MurdersMontauk Cave

 The Tell-Tale Treasure, paperback and e-book, is available on the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing site: www.syppublishing.com

It is also available on Amazon.com as well as Barnes & Noble.com

In addition, Amazon’s author’s page has information about all 6 of my novels. Please go to   https://www.amazon.com/author/dianewsawyer. Visit my web site at   http://www.dianewsawyer.com   Thank you, Roy Baker, friend, web designer, and photographer, for setting up my web site and including my newsletters.    Find me on Facebook as Monica Sawyer (The famous name Diane Sawyer was not available.) https://www.facebook.com/monica.sawyer.50

THIS AND THAT

Today, I would like to include a short-short story I composed a year or so ago on the spot in a writing class here in St. Petersburg (I think ten minutes was allowed). It might shed some light on who is in charge of a story, in this case, the writer of mysteries or her imagination which insists on something different.

“You again?” I asked my muse, Miss Know-It-All, when I awoke this morning. There she was perched on the footboard of my bed, watching me. I sat up and immediately began a series of stretching exercises.

“Of course it’s me,” she said. “You’re stuck in a repetitive mode, but you won’t admit it.”

“I’m not stuck,” I said, giving her a beady-eyed look.  “I love mysteries. I read mysteries. I write mysteries. Why can’t you live with that? Why do you insist on change?”

“Because when you’re with friends, you’re funny. You make people laugh. You should be writing light-hearted comedies, not mysteries. Your heroine Rosie would love to be in a comedy. Who better to write her funny adventures than you? With any luck, one of those female directors will scoop up your work the minute you type in the final period, close your eyes, and laugh out loud at Rosie’s crazy antics.

“You really think so?” I asked and held my elbows on my knees for a count of thirty.

“Yes, it’s a no-brainer. Just describe your real adventures in foreign countries. Those crazy things that happened, the funny things people said to you. Forget all the research in musty old books. Who cares when the Temple of Jackals was built?”

“Jaguars, not jackals, Miss Know-It-All,” I cut in.

“Jackals, jaguars. Same difference.” She waved away my objections.

I laughed. “Why don’t you write it yourself?”

“Well, that’s what I’ve been doing all along. You actually think you’ve been doing them on your own?’ She cackled and slapped her bony knee. “It’s been me, always me, watching you write, you getting all the glory, the book-signing, all of it. I want a few laughs every now and then. Is that too much to ask?”

“No,” I said. “We could give it a try.”

“We?” She smiled. “I knew you’d come around to my way of thinking.”

“So when do we begin?” I asked.

“Right now. I put a few joke books on your desk, to get you in shape.”

“Thanks, Miss Know-It-All. Now go take a nap and let me get some writing done.”

“Okay,” She pointed a gnarled finger at me. “But laugh out loud for me right here and now.”

“Sure,” I said. I stood up, rotated my shoulders, threw back my head, and bellowed with laughter.

“Don’t you feel great?” she asked.

“I do,” I said, surprised, and thought maybe she had the right idea. But as I headed to my desk and computer, I figured out how to get my heroine Rosie out of that small prison room where she was left with no water, no food, no light, no phone, and almost no hope. Her only companions were an old mattress and chair.

Comedy? No way. It’s not for me, I thought. I had people to save, mysteries to solve, satisfaction to enjoy—come hell or high water, or an occasional hold-up, home-invasion, or 911 call to the police as a stranger came through the window. Of course. I snapped my fingers. Just like that, I now knew what do.

Rosie piled the mattress on the chair, reached up and pulled open the air-conditioning grill, crawled inside, inched her way to the next opening, kicked open the grill and jumped down into the darkened living room. When the bad guy came to investigate the noise, she tripped him. She brought him to his knees with a mixture of kung fu and karate, and had him tied up in fifty-two seconds flat. Then she met up with her handsome romantic interest in time for a nightcap at the hottest new nightclub in town.

I sighed. Ah, mystery solved. I’ll stick to mystery and Miss Know-It-All can take the day off and quit nagging me.

TRAVEL + PLUS COOKING DELIGHTS

I am calling this episode “FAST FOOD”

This is not my usual travel news about a foreign country with lots of cultural information to allow you a bird’s-eye view of an unusual place with many details about the cultural heritage. Instead, this is a story set in Orlando, Florida, only two hours away, at my daughter-in-law and son’s home. The reason for the gathering was to celebrate Mother’s Day. Four mothers were present. All 10 of us were related. So, this is perhaps a family story, and the personality of that family when they are together and the unexpected happens. My son Kirk, a college professor, was away in Peru with 3 other engineers, for a project to help the local people. My daughter-in-law, Lin, took on the huge project of entertaining all 10 of us, with help from her two sons (that would be my perfect grandsons, Colin and Cael). She ordered the food at a local Italian restaurant. As we were arriving—my daughter Barrie, son-in-law Lou, and their daughter Sonia (my perfect granddaughter), and Lin’s parents were arriving, Colin and Cael were pulling into the driveway with the food.

Not all of the food. Only some of the food.

It turns out that the owner of the restaurant helped set the food in the back of the van. He moved a broom slightly to make room for the food. Apparently the broom touched the lock and the door was not locked tight. No icon appeared on the dashboard of the car. No unusual noises gave any hint of trouble. The boys took off and headed home. Suddenly, the back door opened, and WHAM! BANG! the pasta flew out of the van and landed in the street! The boys called home and explained to Mom what happened. She explained to the guests.

The guests gathered around and greeted the boys with, “At least the chicken parm is all here! And so is the eggplant parm!” Cheers erupted. Everyone gathered at the stove to boil pots of water for spaghetti and penne. The meal was fantastic and everyone enjoyed themselves.

I love my family. No one panics. No one points a finger of blame. Heck no! “Bon appétit!” and “Bravo!” filled the dining room and we all had a wonderful meal. From now on when I hear or see the words “Fast Food,” this memorable event will surely unfold right before my eyes.

The Mother’s Day cards and presents were nice too!

 

COOKING DELIGHTS

Here’s a lovely salad for a hot summer’s day.

Yellow Rice Salad

Ingredients:

1 8-oz package yellow rice

1 ¼ cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups whole kernel corn (use frozen corn), defrosted

3-5 tablespoons lime juice; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp chili powder

1 red pepper chopped; 2 tomatoes diced; 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Boil rice, according to package directions in water with olive oil.

When rice cools, add remaining ingredients, and stir.

Bon appétit!!

Fondly, Diane

 

 

@ Copyright 2017 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

diane3qlweb

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and a special hello to all of you who came to my book discussion/signings (all six of my novels) this past month at libraries in St. Petersburg and the Holiday Bazaar at the Dali Museum. Many thanks to St. Pete Librarians and Friends of the Library for hosting the events. Thanks too to the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Dali Museum for organizing and presenting the Holiday Bazaar.

For those of you in the area, I will be at the Main Branch Library, 3745 9th Ave. N, in St Petersburg on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 2-4 P.M. The format will be a panel discussion featuring 5 authors: Brian Simpson, Michael Tavon, Nancy Hartwell Enonchong, Mary Hill, and me.  Free Admission, Refreshments served, hosted by Friends of the St. Petersburg Main Library. Burton Hersh (The Education of Edward Kennedy) will be the moderator.

I would like to share with you a review of my most recent novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure. My publisher sent a copy of the novel to Scholars and Rogues, a literary magazine, with book reviews by Jim Booth, PhD. He is a professor of English and Writing at colleges and universities in North Carolina. Here is what he wrote:

thetelltaletreasure_sawyer_96dprgb-2

The Tell-Tale Treasure by Diane Sawyer (image courtesy Southern Yellow Pine Publishing)

Book Review: The Tell-Tale Treasure by Diane Sawyer

The Tell-Tale Treasure is a thriller for which one cannot use the standard descriptions such as fast-paced, edge of your seat, or thrill a minute. That is its most interesting appeal.

Diane Sawyer’s The Tell-Tale Treasure is a bit of an anomaly for a work of its genre.

This is a good thing.

The novel, written in 3rd person limited narration, shifts between characters throughout the work. Most readers will find the two most affecting of these narrations those that shift between Rosie Renard, an antiques dealer whose discoveries reopen a cold case concerning a talented classical musician who plays the erhu, a Chinese instrument similar to the violin.

What Rosie finds, and where that leads her and the police and how all this works out to a successful (for the reader) conclusion is part of the charm of this novel. The pleasure for the reader in The Tell-Tale Treasure is not in its main plot. The pleasure for any astute reader of Sawyer’s novel is in the parts of the novel that offer readers the opportunity to know, really know, her characters, particularly Rosie and the musician mentioned above, the classical musician Ivy Chen.

For me, while the story of Rosie Renard and her struggle to come to terms with the abduction and murder of her cousin Tess is powerful and helps motivate the character and humanizes her, the real attraction of this novel is Ivy Chen. It is the story of her struggle to come to terms with her abduction and captivity. It is also the story of how she uses her intelligence and talent to keep herself alive.

Telling the story of these two remarkable women takes time. And it is to Sawyer’s credit that she does not sacrifice the telling of these women’s stories to the need to hasten her plot or create an unnecessary sense of urgency and suspense. By the end of The Tell-Tale Treasure, readers know and care about Ivy Chen and Rosie Renard. The patience of the reader in accepting a more thoughtful unfolding of the plots of their stories and the depth of their characters makes for a rich read. This enriches the novel and makes Sawyer’s work an example of how what could have been a typical example of the “woman in danger” suspense novel a surprisingly satisfying experience for the reader who desires something more.

#

A note to readers from me, Diane: For your reading pleasure, The Tell-Tale Treasure, paperback and e-book, is available on the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing site: www.syppublishing.com

It is also available on Amazon.com as well as Barnes & Noble.com

In addition, Amazon’s author’s page has information about all 6 of my novels. Please go to https://www.amazon.com/author/dianewsawyer.

Other Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella MurdersMontauk Cave

  • Amazon’s marketing team is busily promoting my five novels, pictured above, in the USA and internationally too, in hard cover, paperback, and e-book editions.
  • Check out my author page at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianewsawyer.
  • Visit my web site at http://www.dianewsawyer.com   Thank you, Roy Baker, friend, web designer, and photographer, for setting up my web site and including all my previous newsletters/blogs.
  • Find me on Facebook as Monica Sawyer (The famous name Diane Sawyer was not available.) My publisher has posted photos of The Tell-Tale Treasure in give-away gift baskets at the Tampa Bay Times Reading Festival in St. Pete, and other photos as well, including one of me on my porch, seeing the book for the first time.

PUNS

  • Why was Cinderella thrown off the basketball team? She ran away from the ball.
  • Where do you find chili beans?  At the North Pole.
  • So, a dyslexic man walks into a bra.
  • Did you hear the one about the optometrist who fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself?

THIS AND THAT

     I’m not the biggest fan of old black and white movies, but recently I watched Turner Classic Movies on TV because the movie choice had the unfamiliar and intriguing title, The Seventh Veil.  I got hooked immediately on the story and enjoyed it very mush. Later, I Googled the title and found out that of all movies made, The Seventh Veil ranks 10th in the number of people who watched it. I don’t recall the exact number, but it’s huge. If you are a classical music enthusiast, you will enjoy the soundtrack since the main character is a concert pianist. Dramatically portrayed is the role of hypnosis and talk-therapy in psychological treatment of a patient. Find the movie and see what you think.

 

ANOTHER THIS AND THAT

     I thought you might enjoy a scattering of sketchy information about Valentine’s Day.  The tradition of a special day for sweethearts may go back to the Roman festival, Lupercalia, in honor of Juno, goddess of women and marriage. The event included a “pairing up” ceremony and was celebrated on June 15th. Or it may be because of the third-century Roman priest, Valentinus, imprisoned for performing weddings for Roman soldiers. The story goes that during his imprisonment, Valentinus healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he sent her a farewell letter signed “Your Valentine.” Flash forward to the 14th century, during the time of Chaucer when courtly love flourished and many traditions arose. The idea of a special day for those in love was well on its way. By the 18th century, lovers presented each other with flowers, confectionery, and greeting cards, known as Valentines.  In Europe, St. Valentine keys are given to children with the hope of warding off epilepsy, (called St. Valentine’s Malady). St. Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates St. Valentine’s Day in July.

Valentine was mentioned in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  The phrase “roses are red” goes back to Edmund Spencer’s verse “Roses are red”…but it continued with “and violets blew, and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew.”

What about now in the United States? At the last count, 3 years ago, 190 million Valentine’s Day cards were purchased. Spending per person per year in the US for Valentine items reached $131.

Let me just say, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone reading this!

Cooking Delights

    I went through my recipe files and came across a recipe which I had labeled “Best Ever Corn Casserole.” I usually serve it at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But why wait until November? Let’s serve it now. It seems too simple and easy to be so good…but it is!

Ingredients:

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

1 can cream-style corn

1 carton 8 ounces carton PLAIN yogurt

1 egg

1 small onion, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together. Bake in a greased 8×8” dish for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy!  Serves 8-10.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,
Diane

@ Copyright 2017 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

diane3qlweb

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and a special hello to all the wonderful staff and authors I’ve met through Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, who published my sixth novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure. It’s a cold-case missing-person story, and my first novel set in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is now available from SYP Publishing, and also amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and e-book editions. If you are in the St. Pete area, you can also find The Tell-Tale Treasure at the Dali Museum Store. Scenes in the novel take place at the Dali Museum and several of Dali’s paintings play a role in the story.

thetelltaletreasure_sawyer_96dprgb-2

Other Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella MurdersMontauk Cave

Currently, you can find me as the featured author on three blogs:
Jackie Minniti’s  www.fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com
Rhett Devane’s  www.Writers4Higher.Blogspot.com
Darrell Laurant’s  https://snowflakesarise.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/the-tell-tale-treasure

A big thank-you to the three bloggers for inviting me to share my ideas with their readers.

If you are in the St. Pete area on Thursday, December 15, find me at the Holiday Bazaar at the Dali Museum (1 Dali Blvd, 5th Avenue SE), from 11-1:30 in the Community Room, and that same day, at the Mirror Lake Library (280 5th St. North) for a book discussion and signing from 2 to 3 o’clock. Many thanks to St. Pete Librarians and Friends of the Library for hosting my book signings.

PUNS

  • I’d tell you a chemistry joke, but I wouldn’t get a reaction.
  • I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.
  • How did I escape Iraq? I ran.
  • I love Wi-Fi so much because we just feel that connection.
  • Geometry shapes my life.
  • After three days of fishing, the musician hoped he would catch a bassoon.
  • Do beginning vampires go to batting practice?
  • And in keeping with the season: Christmas dinner is a place where you can really talk turkey.

THIS AND THAT

Let’s talk about the various names of Santa’s 7th reindeer. In the 1949 song Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer his or her name is Donner. But in most 19th and 20th century reprints of the poem A Visit From St. Nicolas, it’s Donder. Now, for all my friends from SUNY at Albany, an area of the state with a Dutch influence, check this out: On December 23rd, 1823, the Troy Sentinel (Troy is near Albany) referred to reindeers 7 and 8 as Dunder and Blixem (meaning Thunder and Lightning, a popular expletive in 18th and 19th centuries by Dutch-American people). This sounds like something to know if you are preparing to go on Jeopardy or to play Trivial Pursuit.  Years ago, my husband and I were playing Trivial Pursuit, and he was the only one who knew the translation of Dunder and Blixem was Thunder and Lightning. His mother had told him. She had grown up in a household with German parents. You just never know when a foreign language will help you!

TRAVEL

 Who does the most traveling on Christmas Eve? That would be Santa Claus. I wasn’t sure but the Internet confirmed it and Wikipedia gave plenty of backup information. If you liked “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa,” you will love this official site: www.noradsanta.org. For instance, did you know that the North American Aerospace Defense Command has a Santa Tracker so that we can follow Santa’s journey around the world? The Air Forces who defend US airspace track Santa and his reindeer across the world and show his route on a map. Radar indicates Santa as he makes his way south. Satellites high above the earth use infrared sensors that can detect the heat from Rudolf’s bright red nose. Santa cams positioned around the world, used only on December 24th, show Santa as he and his reindeer enter a country and as they leave. The images are downloaded onto the NORAD website so that people around the world can see Santa’s progress. Check out the official site mentioned above, and see for yourself.  The site has a Santa countdown, Santa music, and much more.

A Merry Christmas to all, especially that hard-working long-distance-traveling Santa Claus!

Cooking Delights

Turkey Chili

In case you are looking for ways to use left-over turkey the day after Christmas or are planning ahead to next Thanksgiving, here’s a tasty treat. Lots of ingredients, but the preparation is easy.

Ingredients

2 pounds left-over roasted turkey meat, mostly white but with some dark meat too.

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cups coarsely chopped onions

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 each medium red, yellow, and orange pepper, cored, deveined and coarsely chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon oregano; 3 tablespoons chili powder; 2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 cups canned diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are especially good)

2 cups chicken broth

2 cans (15 oz each) red kidney beans, drained

salt and pepper to taste

shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Preparation

Chop turkey meat into one-inch cubes. Cook in a large pot over high heat for several minutes in 1 Tablespoon olive oil, until lightly browned.

Add all ingredients except chicken broth, tomatoes, and kidney beans to the pot, stirring to combine. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add chicken broth and tomatoes to the pot. Stir. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, simmer for 15 minutes.

Add 2 cans drained kidney beans and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir occasionally.

Serve in bowls. Side dishes: taco chips and salad. You may wish to sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Bon appétit! Stay well and Happy Holidays to one and all!

Fondly,
Diane

me-1

Hello everyone and a belated Happy Halloween. Thank you for downloading my October 2016 newsletter. Notice anything different, like a new photo? It was taken at the South Community Library near my home, to replace the previous photo of me in that sparkly red sweater. Feeling nostalgic, I chose this outfit which I had worn sixteen years ago to the book signing for my very first published novel, The Montauk Mystery. I am thrilled to welcome The Tell-Tale Treasure, my first novel for Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing and my sixth overall.

Here is a link to the SYP Publishing website where you can see the beautiful cover and read the blurb which describes The Tell-Tale Treasure, a cold-case missing-person story, set in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thank you everyone who went to the publisher’s site and pre-ordered a copy of the book.

 

http://www.syppublishing.com/the-tell-tale-treasure

Writing News

thetelltaletreasure_sawyer_96dprgb-2

Two dates to keep in mind if you live in the St. Petersburg area:

Saturday, November 12, 10 AM to 5 PM, I will be at the Times Festival of Reading, at the USF Campus, 140 7th Avenue S, discussing and signing copies of The Tell-Tale Treasure at the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (SYP) booth. The booth area is a wonderful beehive of activity with many publishers, books, and authors. Please visit me there. Meet my publisher, Terri Gerrell, and several SYP authors. Celebrate with us the official launch of my first novel for SYP!  Prizes throughout the afternoon, noon to 4 o’clock. See you there!

Friday, November 18, 1 o’clock, I will be at the South Community Library, 2300 Roy Hanna Drive (it becomes 62nd Avenue South), discussing and signing The Tell-Tale Treasure. This event is open to the public. No invitation is necessary. Bring your friends and neighbors. Prizes! Refreshments! A fun time!

Something to remember:

The Tell-Tale Treasure is available from my publisher at www.syppublishing.com

and at www.amazon.com  and also at www.barnesandnoble.com

 

 Other Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella MurdersMontauk Cave

  • Keep in mind that my first five novels, published by Thomas & Mercer, the Mystery Imprint of Amazon, are available in the USA and many foreign countries too, in hardcover, paperback, and e-book. Happy reading!
  • Check out my Amazon Author Page at com/author/dianewsawyer
  • Visit my web site at http://dianewsawyer.com
  • Find me on my Facebook as Monica Sawyer (the name Diane Sawyer was not available). https://www.facebook.com/monica.sawyer.50?fref=ts

Travel

     I haven’t made time for any travel beyond Florida in recent months. However, I have enjoyed walking in St. Pete, particularly to view all the new murals, many of them clustered within a comfortable walk of each other. The talented muralists definitely enhanced the growing arty look to town. One of the “murals” is painted at a major intersection, adding an unexpected burst of color beneath your feet.

I would encourage you to take walking tours in your own city, elsewhere in your state, or even in another state. I have noticed a recent influx in brochures and magazine articles about the popularity of city tours, some with an “app” available. Apparently people want to know about the early settlers, the history of the area, and interesting folklore. Sometimes there is a specific interest such as the area’s role in a particular war.

Years ago, while living in New York, my family and I took a walking tour in Boston, following a trail of feet painted on the sidewalk, letting us know where to turn. Great fun. Several years ago, my husband and I took the auto-train to Washington DC. Before driving on to Albany NY for a college reunion, we took a bus/walking tour of the city. The bus driver stopped at various sites and we, the busload of passengers, proceeded to walk around the well-known monuments and buildings. Then we got back on the bus and the driver drove the bus to the next stop.  It was a wonderful tour without having to worry about parking a car numerous times in a busy city or needing a map to direct us to the next site. The bus driver even provided cold bottled water between stops. That was a welcome treat since the temperature hit 110 degrees that day. The city was under a Red Alert about the hazardous air and there were warnings about staying indoors in an air-conditioned environment. The bus was air-conditioned, and all went well.

So, consider a walking tour, close to home or elsewhere—on a cool day!

Puns and clever things to make you smile:

…To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

…Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

…Spotted in a safari park: Elephants  Please stay in your car.

…Seen during a conference: For anyone who has children and doesn’t know it, there is a daycare on the first floor.

…Sign in an office: Would the person who took the stepladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken.

…Note in health-food shop window: Closed due to illness.

…Notice on a farmer’s field: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

…Notice in a newspaper: Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers.

…Another notice in a newspaper: Red tape holds up bridges.

 

Cooking Delights

glazed ham loaf

Combine the following ingredients:

2 pounds ground ham, 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, 2 eggs (beaten), a pinch each of salt and pepper, 1 cup evaporated milk. Form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased baking dish, 9×13. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or more, depending on the oven.

To make glaze, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon powdered mustard, and 1/4 cup cider vinegar. Pour over the ham loaf for approximately the final 15 minutes of cooking.

Serve the ham loaf with this delicious wild rice casserole:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup white rice, cooked in 2 cups chicken broth (steamed, boiled, or micro-waved) seasoned with garlic, pepper, parsley, etc.

1 cup fresh snow peas, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces

6 green onions sliced

1 cup trail mix with nuts, seeds, raisins etc.

½ cup orange juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

Early in the day, prepare both rices (making sure all liquid is absorbed), stir together, cool, and store in refrigerator. Later, 10 minutes before serving, heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Add onions and pea pods. Stir for 2 minutes. Add cooked-cooled rice and stir 2 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until heated through. Makes 6-8 servings.

Serve the ham casserole and wild rice casserole with a garden salad.

Bon appétit!    Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter /blog readers. Welcome to my new readers from the St. Petersburg South Community Library, whom I met at the Friends of the Library monthly book sale. Welcome also to my new readers from the Fordham Alumni Chapter who volunteered in the St. Pete community.

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella MurdersMontauk Cave

  • Amazon’s marketing specialists are busily promoting my five novels, pictured above, in the USA and many foreign countries too. Happy reading!
  • Check out my author page at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianesawyer.
  • Visit my web site at  http://dianewsawyer.com   (The middle initial “w” must be included.) Thank you, Roy Baker, friend, web designer, and photographer, for setting up my web site. My previous blog/newsletters are there. The hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions of my novels are available on Amazon, other on-line sites, and also via my web site (by clicking on the photo of the book cover).
  • Newest news: My recently completed novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure, a cold-case missing-person mystery, set in St. Petersburg, FL, is on schedule, advancing through the editing process with my publisher and her staff. Currently the cover is under discussion. Stay tuned for more news in my next newsletter.

This and That

Many of you tell me how much you love puns, so I did a bit of research. The word pun is also known as paronomasia, meaning a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words of similar sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. By the way, the British seem to love the double-entendre. Note the following from Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carrol:

“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “nine the next, and so on.”

“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.

“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”

***The British pronunciation can also make for interesting puns. For example:

I tried to come up with a pun about famous German philosophers, but I Kant.

***Three more puns:

Why do we still have troops in Germany?   To keep the Russians in Czech.

An elephant’s opinion carries a lot of weight.

A horse is a very stable animal.

***I don’t know who did the judging, but on the Internet, these were voted the best puns in the world:

I’ve been reading something very interesting—Stephen Hawking’s latest book about antigravity. I just can’t put it down.

Ancient humans, venturing across the ice bridge to North America, got lost quite often. They found it very hard to keep their Bering Straight.

Travel

In going through my travel folder, looking for a destination to describe, I realized all over again how traveling solo can lead to wonderful friendships. I had traveled in the US with my husband and two young children, later enjoyed many Caribbean cruises with my husband and two trips to France and Italy with my daughter. In 1997 (twenty years ago!) I decided to try solo travel. I signed on to a group tour of Turkey with a travel agency and met the group at the destination, Istanbul. Some in the group, including me, had opted for a 10-day tour; others had booked a longer tour. Back to my travel folder. I came across several postcards from Marj, a writer from California, who always had something interesting to say, and had researched a great deal before arriving in Turkey. She sent me postcards to describe what had occurred on each of the additional days, and explained the picture on the postcard, typically an item from a museum. She wanted me to experience those extra days in Turkey. What a good friend.

A few highlights from the postcards. The group traveled to a region called Capadocia: They stopped at the Sultan Han Caravansaray on the Silk Road. Apparently, the sultan built the Carvansarays about 14 miles apart, a day’s journey by caravan. Travelers could stay 3 days for free, but their goods were taxed; the gate is high enough for a man mounted on a camel to enter; the camels stayed inside in “dorms” with the travelers. One of the postcards showed a magnificent gauntlet attributed to King Midas, known for the “golden touch,” a blessing and a curse, since everything he touched, including people he loved, turned to gold. When Midas begged the gods to free him of the curse, they told him to wash himself in the river until it was gone. Finally, after many washings, he was free. The happy ending, Marj noted, is that the people downstream panned gold for several years.

The group traveled over the mountains to Konya, a region known for the Dervish Order, often referred to as the Whirling Dervishes. Marj pointed out that the whirling was a manifestation of union with God. The right hand faced upward, reaching to the light of God. The Dervishes, the “door openers,” transfer light to those who have fallen away. The music of flute, drum, and a stringed instrument like a zither accompanied them. What surprised the group was that the dancing was sedate and prolonged, not frantic as often described.

Another post card featured a bronze bull statuette, housed in The Museum of Anatolian Civilization. Also on view was a reconstructed Hittite room with bulls’ heads mounted on the walls, and a clay cuneiform tablet from Nefertiti to the Queen of the Hittites as an expression of friendship and an inventory of the gifts that cemented that friendship.

Let me return to the friendships made when traveling solo. My assigned roommate during the Turkey trip was Beth, formerly a professional basketball player, and currently a business executive. We got along very well. She came to visit me and my family in St. Pete and enjoyed the Peru exhibit at the International Museum in downtown St. Pete. When I signed up for a trip to Peru with a travel agency, she decided to join the group and meet me there. That turned into a wonderful trip, especially exploring Machu Picchu and flying over the Nazca Lines. Last year, she and three generations of her family who had been visiting Disney World in Orlando, met my husband and me for lunch in a park in Tampa, before they headed to the airport and home. Photos, Christmas cards, all of that continues. The third person in our little Turkey group was Phoebe, who lives in New York City. We still send Christmas cards and have remained friends. In Turkey, Beth, Phoebe, and I often merged with another little group, headed by Jane and included her friends from home.

One day, several years ago, I received a phone call from someone I didn’t know, named Billie. She was a friend of Jane’s. They, a group of 6, 4 adults and 2 young adults, were taking a trip to Morocco, and one had to back out suddenly with only weeks before the departure date. Would I be interested in filling in? After she explained all the many cultural aspects and the entertainment—tours to restaurants with dinner shows and audience participation, an exciting visit to the edge of the desert for a remarkable extravaganza, including feats of wonder on Arabian stallions, and a specialty dinner served in tents—Billie asked if the trip appealed to me. I said yes, completed all the required arrangements, and later flew to New York where I met the five of them. It turned out to be a great experience in a gorgeous, exotic country. We got along very well and that made the very special trip extra special.

Last, but not least, just a few years ago when I took a “solo” tour to England, I went three days early, stayed at the hotel where the tour group would meet, and treated myself to a visit to the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert museums plus many other wonderful places. When the rest of the group arrived, the “solos” were assigned roommates (or they could remain “solo” if they preferred). My roommate was Evelyn, an experienced traveler, who, as it turned out, lived less than an hour from me in Florida. We had a great time. Several years later, we ran into each other on a cruise through the Panama Canal. She was traveling with her husband and I was traveling with mine. We caught up on what we had been doing and agreed to travel together. Back in Florida, we eventually decided on Guatemala and joined up with a tour group. Another wonderful experience. Another good friend.

I think you’ll agree with me about traveling. The people you meet are as wonderful as the destination. Happy travels!

Cooking Delights

Yellow Rice Salad

Beautiful to look at…Wonderful on a hot summer day…

Just add hamburgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs, or grilled fish.

Ingredients

1 8-oz package yellow rice + amount of water listed on package directions + 2TBS olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp (or more) lime juice

1 package, 15 oz. whole kernel frozen corn, prepared according to package directions

1 can black beans rinsed and drained

Steps # 1 and 2, basic preparation; Step #3, go creative

  1. Place rice, water, and olive oil in pot, bring to a boil, cover, simmer 21-24 minutes.
  2. When all the water is absorbed and the rice is partially cooled, add cumin, lime juice, corn, and black beans. Cool completely and store in refrigerator.
  3. Turn this salad into a colorful dish by adding any of the following to the cooled salad: *1 tsp chili powder, 1 small onion chopped, 1 red pepper chopped, 2 tomatoes diced.

***

Grapefruit Appetizer

This wonderful summer recipe, dating back several years to when we had a grapefruit tree in our yard (before a nasty fruit fungus destroyed it) and we found this creative way to enjoy the fruit: For 4 people, cut 2 grapefruit in half, place them cut-side up on a baking pan, top each of the cut sides with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a spoonful of Cointreau (orange liqueur). Broil for 1-2 minutes or more, checking very closely. Careful, they burn easily. Serve warm.

***

A favorite entrée from those “Grapefruit Days”: Sautéed Chicken with Grapefruit Sauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour; salt and pepper to taste

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied

1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions or shallots, finely chopped

½ cup chicken broth  +  ½ cup fresh grapefruit juice

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

11/2 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 ½ tablespoons dry tarragon)

 

Preparation

Mix flour, salt and pepper.

Dredge butterflied chicken in flour mixture; shake off excess flour.

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Sautee chicken in oil; turn and continue cooking until chicken is cooked completely and is browned on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside; keep warm. Add butter to pan and wait until it melts; add onions and cook 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, grapefruit juice, and mustard to pan; bring to a boil, and stir until chicken pieces stuck to pan are loosened and sauce thickens. Add tarragon and stir 1 more minute. To serve, pour sauce over chicken. Serve with rice, vegetables, and salad.

Bon appétit!

Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2016 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter/blog readers. Welcome to my new readers from St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Bradenton, and Longwood Ranch. I hope all of you enjoy this March-April 2016 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

You might like to know: Amazon’s marketing specialists are busily promoting my five novels, pictured above, in the USA and many foreign countries too. Happy reading!

My author page at Amazon can be found at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianesawyer

My web site address is http://dianewsawyer.com (The middle initial “w” must be included.) Please visit my site, set up by my friend and web designer, Roy Baker. Enjoy his gorgeous photo of a sunset at Lake Maggiore, near my home. All the previous blog/newsletters are there. The hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions of my novels are available on Amazon and other on-line sites. You can even find them via my web site (by clicking on the photo of the book cover). Thank you, Roy!

Newest news: My recently completed novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure, a cold-case missing-person mystery, set in St. Petersburg, FL, is on schedule, advancing through the editing process with my publisher and her staff. I’m betting that readers will root for the heroine, Rosie—and chew their nails and sit on the edge of their seats—as she turns up the heat under that cold case and keeps it sizzling until the final showdown. Two themes running through the story—the power of music and childhood trauma—add emotional impact to the character development and plot. I like to think of this story as a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Stay tuned for more news in my next newsletter.

This and That

Enjoy these puns, guaranteed to make you groan. (Thank you, Peggy.)

• Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’
• I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
• A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’
• The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
• The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
• A backward poet writes inverse.
• In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.
• When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
• If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.
• A vulture carrying two dead raccoons boards an airplane. The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’
• Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, ‘Dam!’

Travel

Usually my travel articles center on trips I took to exotic places, like Morocco, Peru, Croatia, Slovenia, and Turkey, to name a few. This time, I would like to tell you about the city I love, the city where I live, St. Petersburg, Florida, in Pinellas County, on Florida’s West Coast. I think you will agree that with research, determination, and transportation, you can explore your town, and enjoy the experience of being a tourist. Check your local newspaper and the city’s web site and you may find that, like St. Petersburg, you town offers walking tours, bus tours, bike tours, and trolley tours, with a tour guide or driver or group leader who provides the narration, while you simply look and listen as you ride or walk along. Often these tours focus on history, geography, or architecture, or a combination of several. Sometimes, there is a very specific focus, such as St. Petersburg’s bus tour of public art, or a walking tour or bike tour of mural art, which is popping up all over downtown and beyond. (It’s best to Google for a map of mural locations.)

I have taken the public art tour (thank you, Marlys); the trolley tour (with friends and family) that passes by well-known landmarks as the driver/narrator delves into local history, reinforced with amusing anecdotes; and the guided walking tour of downtown historical buildings (with my sister-in-law, Mary Kay). I decided to explore further, by checking out St. Petersburg’s varied styles of architecture, such as Art Deco, Art Moderne, Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Florida Cracker, Mediterranean Revival, Mid-Century Modern, Neoclassical/Classical Revival, Queen Anne/Victorian, and Vernacular. Here’s a sampling of the buildings I saw:

The St. Pete Municipal Utilities Building/City Hall, 175 Fifth Street N. ….Williams Park Bandshell, 330 2nd Ave N. ….Detroit Hotel, 217 Central Avenue….The Dali Museum, One Dali Boulevard….St. Petersburg Historic Post Office/St. Petersburg Open Air Post Office, 76 Fourth Street N. ….Boone House, 601 Fifth Ave. N. ….Pasadena Community Church, 227 70th St. S ….and The Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, 501 5th Av, NE.

Now when I pass by those buildings and others too, I will admire the architectural details and think about the history associated with that particular building and era. I hope you discover interesting information as you explore the town where you live. Bon voyage!

Cooking Delights

Baked Chicken Fingers (serves 4 or more)

Ingredients:
1 ½ pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips, about 1 inch wide
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (place on a plate and add salt and pepper to taste)
1 cup ranch salad dressing, or more if needed (place on a second plate)
¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs and ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (combine&place on third plate)

Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Working with only 2-3 chicken strips at a time (this can be messy, but it’s worth it), proceed as follows: lightly dust chicken strips with flour; dip the chicken strips in ranch dressing (don’t overdo it); coat chicken strips with combined bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; place chicken strips on the prepared baking sheet (don’t crowd them). Now you should have all the chicken strips lined up on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden, turning the chicken strips once with a spatula after 10 minutes. Test for doneness.

The chicken strips go great with corn on the cob, baked beans, carrot and celery sticks, sliced tomatoes, and any other items usually found at a picnic supper.

Bon appétit!

Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2016 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including several I met recently right here in St. Petersburg. I hope all of you enjoy this January-February 2016 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

You might like to know: Amazon’s marketing specialists continue to feature the Kindle version of my five novels in their frequent special promotions. Happy reading!

Also: My author page at Amazon can be found at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianesawyer

And: 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 site, set up by my friend and web designer, Roy Baker. Enjoy 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. You can get to them directly via my web site by clicking on the photo of the book cover. Thank you, Roy!

I can’t wait a minute longer to share my happy news with you: My recently completed novel, The Tell-Tale Treasure, set in St. Petersburg, FL, has been accepted for publication! There’s still much work to do, so it’s too soon to divulge any details!! Okay, okay, okay. It’s a cold-case missing-person mystery, involving a world-renowned musician, with a heroine who will win you over!!! (Exclamation points are so over-the-top, but I couldn’t resist.)

 

This and That

Enjoy these puns, guaranteed to make you groan. (Thank you, Peggy.)

She was only a whisky-maker, but he loved her still.

The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi. (Math and Dali fans, I know you love that “pi” reference.)

I thought I saw an eye-doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from an algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

A hole has been found in the nudist-camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Travel

This is a different kind of travel, more a reminiscence, written in a writing class in a timed writing exercise lasting only about 5 minutes. The prompt was “A Map.” I hope you like it.

In the good old summertime my neighborhood friends and I set out looking for an adventure. No, not just looking. More like imagining an adventure that would spin off from reality and take on a life of its own.

Find a dime on a pathway up the hill and we’d imagine a robbery and a quick getaway in a helicopter with the ill-gotten loot of ten cents.

Or maybe we’d spy a man and woman sitting on the shore near the bay and we’d make up their dialog. He’d say,” Why don’t you kill your husband and run away with me?” She’d say, “Cyanide? Shoot him? I can’t be so cruel.” And he’d say, “Yes, you can. You’re unbearably cruel to me.”

Or a glove. We’d find a glove in the bushes. It was a gardening glove and we’d imagine a body was buried nearby. We were all mystery fans and had a million details we could supply.

So now after many years have passed, I’m planning trip home for a school reunion with my classmates. I would like to buy a map of all the places where we dreamed up stories and tingled with excitement about the adventurous lives we lived vicariously through our invented characters. That map would convince me that a dull and dreary life was the exception. That map would guarantee that even more exciting times were waiting for me down the road.

Yes, I want that map. I would cherish it forever.

 

Cooking Delights

Penne Supremo

This dinner has the well-known lasagna ingredients and offers the same delicious taste, but, with penne and no layering necessary, it’s so much easier. While baking, the sauce blends and seeps into the penne cavities. Truly, one of life’s mysteries! Serve with a salad and Italian bread. (It serves 6 or more, or serves 2 with at least 2 dinners frozen for future enjoyment.)

Ingredients:

1 pound ground sausage, sautéed in fry pan, medium heat, 9 minutes, and drained

1 pound penne pasta, cooked 8 minutes in boiling water, and drained

1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce, heated

1 tbsp. total of mixed spices, such as basil, oregano, onion flakes; 2-3 tbsp. fresh parsley; salt and pepper to taste

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

15 ounces ricotta cheese

4 tbsp. grated parmesan or parmesan & romano cheese

Method:

Place first 4 ingredients in a very large bowl. Stir gently with a wooden spoon so as not to slice the pasta. Add the final 3 ingredients (cheeses) and stir again until thoroughly mixed. Pour into large casserole dish. Bake 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted and entire contents are hot.

Bon appétit!

Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2016 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including several I met recently during a 9-day Caribbean cruise, including Thanksgiving Day. I hope all of you enjoy this November-December 2015 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The latest news: Amazon’s marketing specialists have included the Kindle version of my first 3 novels, The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Tomoka Mystery in their January Kindle Holiday Store Deal in the U.S. market place during the entire month of January 2016. Happy reading!

Additional news: My author page at Amazon can be found at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianesawyer

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

Enjoy these signs that a friend of mine saw while traveling (thank you, Barry):

Outside a secondhand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING – BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?

Notice in health food shop window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS.

Spotted in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS – PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR!

Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR.

Notice in a farmer’s field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.

On a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK!)

 

Travel & Cooking

While visiting the island of Curaçao during the Thanksgiving holidays I came across an article entitled “Thanksgiving in Curaçao” in a newspaper intended for visitors. It said that although Curaçaoans aren’t familiar with grouping together turkeys, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for a meal, they do celebrate a festival called Seú, and the purpose is to give thanks. Seú is celebrated on Easter Monday. Everyone comes to town to watch or participate in the Seú parade. They dress up in traditional clothing (beautiful bright-colored cotton clothing, judging by the photos). The Seú parade began as a thanksgiving celebration for the harvest. The workers, mainly slaves, sang and danced and carried part of the harvest to give thanks to God. An interesting detail: The musical instruments were made from the tools that worked the land. The author of the article notes that The American Thanksgiving shares the purpose of celebrating the harvest, and dates back to the first Thanksgiving celebrated in the New World, in present-day Massachusetts.

Some interesting tidbits: Many people now travel to Curaçao to see the Thanksgiving celebration, especially the parade. Many hotels in Curaçao now offer Thanksgiving dinner to their guests. Americans who live in Curaçao are able to buy turkeys at local supermarkets and can prepare the typical Thanksgiving dinner for themselves, friends, and family. My favorite touch: Pictured in the article were two pies, decorated with leaves and turkeys made from the dough along with the words “Give” on one pie and “Thanks” on the other, also made from dough.

Finally, the article noted that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. The United Kingdom also celebrates with an event called the Harvest Festival. The U.S. celebrates on the fourth Thursday in November.

 

Travel

During the cruise that visited Curaçao, my husband and I also enjoyed Grand Cayman (22 miles long), one of the three Cayman Islands, part of the British Overseas Territory. We had been there before and enjoyed revisiting the waterfront areas, near where the ship docked, and watching the boating activities. (Cuaçao’s motto, as seen on their coat-of-arms says, “He hath founded it upon the seas”). I was hoping to spot several sea turtles, those green creatures which have been around since the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Sea turtles can weigh more than 500 pounds. When they reproduce, beginning at about age 16, they return to the beachfront nesting sites where their mothers and grandmothers gave birth. I didn’t see a single sea turtle. I assume the port is too busy and too dangerous and they prefer quieter more sheltered areas.

I didn’t see a blue iguana either. They are found nowhere else in the world—only Grand Cayman. It is the island’s largest native land animal, about 5 feet long, about 25 pounds, and lives about as long as humans. I read that you can visit the Blue Iguana Recovery Program that inbred iguanas from near-extinction until they increased to about 750 in the wild. I did, however, see photos online. Their shade of blue is just slightly darker and more vivid than sky- blue. Dazzling. Surreal. Eye-catching. There is also something called a Blue Dragon Trail, a series of 15 blue iguanas painted by local artists, set up around Grand Cayman. If you are curious about what these iguana look like, Google “Blue Iguana Recovery Program” or “Images of Grand Cayman Trail of Blue Iguana.” Wikipedia “Blue Iguana” is also a good place to find images. One look, and you will long remember their spiny spines, the wart-like bumps on their faces, their large throat pouches, and muscular bodies. Not exactly adorable, but definitely intriguing.

The other two islands in the group are Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, but they are too small to be visited by large ships. I did find brochures about them and read some interesting information about Little Cayman and iguanas (what else?). About 200 year-round residents live on Little Cayman, whereas 2,000 rock iguanas roam the island. The speed limit is 25 mph and iguanas have the right-of-way on the roads. That is a sight I’d like to see! Cayman Brac, 12 miles long and 2 miles wide, is known for its lighthouse, and the brown booby birds that nest along the Bluffs, the island’s famous cliff formations. No mention of iguanas. Darn!

 

Cooking Delights

During the holidays, I got into a muffin-making mania, baking blueberry muffins and cranberry muffins for breakfast. They were good, but in searching for variety, I came across an all-purpose recipe for muffin batter that you can adapt in many ways. It was given to me years ago. For one dozen muffins:

Ingredients: 2 cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp baking powder; 1 cup milk, ½ cup canola oil, 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs.

Preparation: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray, or line muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl; in a large bowl, beat remaining ingredients at medium speed for 1 minute. Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and beat just until combined. Do not overbeat. Before spooning batter into muffin cups and baking, see variations below.

Here comes the fun part. Stir 1 cup raisins into batter, spoon into cups, and sprinkle rolled oats over the tops of the muffins. Then bake.

Or you can fill the cups only 1/3 of the way up the muffin tin and then add to each muffin 1 tsp of any seedless jelly, such as orange marmalade, and top with more batter and sprinkle with slivered almonds or finely chopped walnuts. Then bake.

Or you can fill muffin cups and simply sprinkle muffin tops with a mix of 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Then bake.

Or come up with your own creative idea.

Finally, bake 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees F. (Tops should spring back when touched.)

Bon appétit!

Diane

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers (including David, a SUNY Albany friend from the past and Barry, a multi-talented artist/photographer/film maker/writer from the St. Pete area). I hope all of you enjoy this September-October 2015 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The very latest news: Amazon has just launched my novels in India. That is great news for me. I have a Dell laptop and frequently speak to the Dell tech team, who live in India. We often chat while waiting for everything to work perfectly. Now I will share my news with them. It is truly a small world after all! As always, Amazon ’s marketing specialists continue their special promotions of my 5 novels. Hooray!
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. The previous blog/newsletters are there. This one and the previous 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

You have my Friend-of-the-Library friend Barry to thank for the Lexophiles which follow.

Lexophile is a word that describes a person who loves words (maybe a play on words is more accurate). Here’s an example, by Barry, from my last newsletter: A dentist and a manicurist married and they fought tooth and nail.

Here are 6 more guaranteed to make you groan:

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

Another This and That

More fun stuff from my friend Barry. This time, signs he saw while traveling:

In an office:
TOILET OUT OF ORDER…PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW.

In a Laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT.

In a London department store:
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS.

In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN.

Travel

Roatan

Tucked away with my travel albums and notes was a brochure about Roatan, a port-of-call which my husband and I visited on a Caribbean cruise several years ago. Roatan, 50 km long and 2-4 km wide, is one of the Bay Islands. All of them belong to Honduras, which is located in Central America, near Guatemala and Nicaragua. Roatan is a popular destination for people who enjoy scuba, diving, and fantastic beaches.

Roatan, once a popular spot for pirates, boasts William Jackson, an English privateer, who with his crew of ne’er-do-wells captured Jamaica in the name of Great Britain. Then there was the notorious Edward “Blackbeard” Teach who frightened his adversaries with his pistols, daggers, cutlass, and his extravagantly long beard plaited into 100 tails twisted with ribbons, turned up about his ears, and lighted with slow-burning hemp! Let’s not forget the infamous British Buccaneer (Go Tampa Bay Bucs!) Henry Morgan, a formidable soldier of fortune. Speaking of fortune, in 1665, Morgan and two other pirates anchored their convoy at Roatan, where they captured 14 ships and 150,000 pesos.

Beginning in the 1960’s industrial fishing in the waters off Roatan and nearby islands became popular and profitable. A single boat could capture 10,000 pounds of lobster in 20 days. By the 1970’s a fleet of 100 shrimp boats and 50 lobster boats could each bring in about 13,000 pounds of lobster or 30,000 pounds of shrimp per voyage. Today the livelihood of the people relies more on tourism than the fishing industry. And the typical food the islanders enjoy doesn’t always come from the sea. Think beans, rice, and tortillas. The morning version is called baleada.

Close your eyes and imagine what Roatan looks like. Tropical trees and palms rising from the green hills…sandy beaches glistening in the dazzling sunlight… mangroves thriving along the shores. That environment is inviting to the whale shark (a shark, not a whale), that is over 50 feet long, and has a gray body covered with white polka-dots! Hummingbirds displaying their dazzling colors—think aqua and purple—are everywhere. Be on the lookout for green iguanas, with tails 3 times the length of their bodies. Typically this iguana reaches a length of 3-4 feet, but a brazen 6-feet long one will sometimes make an appearance! Speaking of size, the area’s largest parrot, called the Yellow Crowned Amazon, can be found only on the Bay Islands.

The history is too long to recount here, and I was going to omit it, but it’s so interesting that I decided to share a few highlights. Some of the people of Roatan, called Garifunas, a seafaring people, can trace their ancestry to the African slaves bound for the New World, who survived a shipwreck near the island of St. Vincent. Hard times, including fierce battles with the British, befell the people who were eventually deported from St. Vincent to Roatan. They intermarried with the native Carib Indians, who were immigrants from South America. As a result, the Garifunas combine the Caribbean farming and fishing traditions with South American and African spirituality, music, and dance. Today the Garifunas inhabit villages in Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, and many have returned to Roatan, particularly to the village of Punta Gorda. Two samples of their speech: Buyty binafi means Hello. Aya means Goodbye.

Happy Travels!

An Interesting Experience

Let me share with you an interesting experience that happened to me recently. I needed to put air in my tires. I’ve never done this before and had no clue what to do. I went to a local gas station where there is a constant buzz of activity at the car wash. Nearby is an air machine that eats up quarters, at the rate of 1 per 4 minutes. (I came prepared with 20 quarters) I surveyed the carwash guys and approached the one who looked the strongest. I meekly asked, “Could you help me put air in my tires, and maybe give me a lesson in how to do it?” He studied me for a minute and I could sense a “no” coming my way.

So, I added details about always trying to be independent and being prepared to do this all by myself next time, etc. etc. and he said, “Okay. I’ll help you. Pull your car as close to the air hose as possible.” At this point he seemed shy, like why is this strange woman approaching me? Then he seemed to like the challenge of being singled out for this task. And so we began. He was amazing, commenting in sing-song Jamaican-English as he went. I held the hose; he flipped it over the roof of the car; I rushed to the other side, grabbed the hose, and lickety-split he finished off tires 3 and 4, making sure that each ended up with 30 pounds, showing me how to do it every step of the way (a real tutorial) and quite pleased with my questions.

Time ran out at the precise moment he finished the fourth tire. Well, I was so impressed, I asked him what his hours and days were so that I could seek him out next time, in case I forget the “how-to” part of the experience. He laughed, as I tipped him, and said, “I don’t work here. I was waiting for them to finish washing my car.” I stammered away about how I was usually culturally sensitive and hope I hadn’t offended him by assuming he worked there. He was very good-natured and recommended the car-wash service, saying it was $20 but they did a great job. I thanked him again and rode off into the sunny day on bouncy tires that brought a smile to my face all the way home. Ain’t life grand? And I say rubbish to the notion, “Don’t speak to strangers.” Heck no, it can turn out to be a wonderful experience.

Cooking Delights

Instead of a recipe, I have decided to devote this space to nutrition, specifically food choices that are good for the brain. The poignant movie “Still Alice” has stuck in my mind and sent me researching ways to fight back against this monster disease, Alzheimers. I’m almost certain that every one of you reading this knows someone, possibly a family member or friend, who has suffered with Alzheimers. Although there apparently is no cure or treatment, current wisdom is that we can try to keep the brain healthy by feeding it the proper diet. How effective is it? Nobody knows, but it might be worth a try to add several items, ideally 3-5, once a day from the following list. If you’re like many people I know, you probably already enjoy many of these items. If not, consider adding them to your diet. Here they are, in alphabetical order, compiled from several sources: avocados, beets, blueberries, broccoli, coffee, dark chocolate, fish, grapes, green tea, kale, olive oil, pomegranates, spinach, and tomatoes.

In the next newsletter, I hope to have tried out a recipe for a sweet potato cake, instead of carrot cake, a favorite for holiday meals. Bon appétit!
Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers and to those who changed email addresses and contacted me with an update. I hope all of you enjoy this July-August 2015 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The very latest news: Amazon’s marketing specialists continue their special promotions of my 5 novels. And that is very good news. 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

You have my friend Barry to thank for both Noah’s Ark and Lexophile which follow.

“Everything I need to know I learned from Noah’s Ark.”

1. Don’t miss the boat.
2. Remember we are all in the same boat.
3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
4. Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
5. Don’t listen to critics. Just get on with the job that needs to be done.
6. Build your future on high ground.
7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
9. When you’re stressed, float a while.
10. Remember, the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic, by professionals.

Lexophile is a word that describes a person who loves words (maybe a play on words is more accurate). Here’s an example: You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish. Another example: To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
I’m going to subject you to 6 in this newsletter and 6 in each of 2 future newsletters.

1. When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.
2. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
3. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A. (my personal favorite)
4. The batteries were given out free of charge.
5. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
6. A will is a dead giveaway.

 

Travel

Gibraltar

Going stir crazy during countless rainy days here in Florida, I went through my travel albums, intending to organize them. Instead, I fell in love all over again with the places I’ve visited, and gave up any thought of ever organizing travel memories. Tucked away with photos and notes about Spain (what a gorgeous, historic, and fascinating country) were my postcards from Gibraltar (a wonderful alternative to photos). Memories flooded back about my visit to Gibraltar, a destination included in my tour of Spain, and I would like to share some of them with you. But first a few facts: Gibraltar, a British colony and fortress, covering only 2.6 square miles, is perched on the Rock of Gibraltar. The populated city area at the foot of the Rock is home to 30,000 Gibraltarians. The Rock, composed of Jurassic limestone, and visible from 62 miles away, forms the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Mediterranean.

The view from the water is impressive as your gaze travels from a point along the 7.5-mile shoreline up rugged rock cliffs which stretch 1,398 feet toward the sky. At night, the buildings of Catalan Bay, a little fishing village on the coast, are lit up and sparkle in the night sky. The street lamps along the village promenade overlooking the bay are bathed in foggy light and give off a spectral glow. Roads that climb the Rock toward the upper area, a nature reserve inhabited mainly by apes (actually wild monkeys), reveal a scattering of lights that cut through the darkness, creating a mysterious effect.

Several modes of transportation can be seen on or near the Rock. Ships anchor in Gibraltar Harbor. A ferry line goes to Tangier, Morocco. Cruise ships choose Gibraltar as a port of call. Locals favor motorcycles for their daily transportation as they zip past some of the 500 different species of flowering plants and olive and pine trees which thrive in the sub-tropical climate.

Opportunities abound for tourists. The one-page leaflet I saved, complete with a map features the following: The Great Siege Tunnels, Moorish Castle, Museum, Cable Car, the Rock Apes (isn’t that a great name for a rock group?) St. Michael’s Cave, Europa Point, the Marinas, City Center, Dolphin Tours, the Convent, Trafalgar Cemetery, the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, Parson’s Lodge, and Shrine of Our Lady of Europe and Museum. As it turned out, I didn’t choose any of them. When we arrived by bus, land traffic approaching the City Center was snarled (drivers, by the way, drive on the right side of the road) and our bus waited in a long line before parking. Time was limited. What I could see on my own outdoors in the fresh air appealed to me and several others in our group, so we chose to wander around, soak up the atmosphere, talk to local people, sample the national dish called calentita (a baked bread-like dish) and appreciate the views from many perspectives. It was a wonderful experience. Those who took the tours raved about them. It was fun hearing about the variety of experiences in such a small place.

Most amazing of all was the opportunity to observe and contemplate the extraordinariness of a world existing on a rock, where a population with a long and diverse history took root; a population whose ethnic origins and cuisine included not only British and Spanish, but also Genovese, Maltese, Portuguese, German, Jewish, Moroccan, and Indian. My conclusion? Gibraltar pointed out why so many of us choose to travel. It is to see a world that at first glance appear so unlike our own, in this case the United States, a vast country with superhighways and wide-open spaces. Yet in retrospect the country we just visited often resembles our world too. In this case, a diverse population and friendly people with a zest for life. That’s reason enough to plan a trip to somewhere we have never been. Happy Travels!

Cooking Delights

I recently discovered a wonderful cook book at a library book sale near where I live. I was hooked when I saw the table of contents and thought about the variety of cooks who read my newsletters. Some of you have told me how much you enjoy the recipes that I include, and you really appreciate the simple ones. So to please you (you know who you are) I looked for REALLY SIMPLE recipes and came up with two.

Super-Easy Coleslaw

Combine a 16-oz package coleslaw; an 8-oz. bottle coleslaw dressing; and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss and serve!

Easy Carrots

1 pound carrots, 1/3 cup golden raisins, ½ cup honey, 2 tbsp. butter or margarine.

Scrape carrots, cut into ½ inch slices, and cook in boiling water 10 minutes. Drain, return carrots to saucepan. Add raisins, honey, and butter. Cook over low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve!

And now for something a bit more complicated: Greek Salad for 8

What makes this particular Greek Salad special is that all the veggies are chopped to approximately the same size, so that they all receive equal amounts of the dressing. It’s delicious! (Make sure to rinse, dry, and remove seeds from all veggies before chopping.) You can substitute your own home-made dressing if you prefer, with olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar or both.

Veggies: I head romaine lettuce; 2 large tomatoes; 3 medium peppers—1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 orange (or 12 mini sweet peppers, mixed colors); 1 red onion; 1 cucumber.

Other ingredients: 1 cup crumbled feta cheese; 1 6-oz can pitted black olives ; as much as needed of a 9-oz bottle of Ken’s olive oil & vinegar light options dressing; salt & pepper to taste;1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp. fresh oregano; 2 squirts of lemon juice.

Directions: Just before serving, combine veggies and cheese in a large bowl. Shake salad dressing and pour over salad; add salt, pepper, dried oregano and lemon juice; toss and serve.

Confession time: Last weekend I served this salad to my family to test it out. Everyone loved it. I put the recipe in my “keeper file.” The next day I discovered that the onion I had chopped and stored in the fridge, had remained in the fridge and never ended up in the salad bowl. So, if you don’t have onions on hand or you don’t like onions, feel free to omit them. I can’t say if the onions would improve the salad or not. There’s something to be said for not messing with success. I’m not going to tempt fate and add onions to any future Greek salads. That’s all I’m saying.

Bon appétit!

Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including several I met recently, friends of friends, at a luncheon. I hope all of you enjoy this May-June 2015 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The very latest news from Amazon: Their marketing specialist recently included my five novels, Kindle version, in a special promo for AARP members via social media. If this is as successful as their previous promotions, I’ll be very happy. Also I’m pleased to say that last month readers in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Mexico read (and apparently enjoyed) my books. Happy reading to one and all!
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. 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

You often hear the expression “armchair traveler” or “armchair adventurer,” suggesting that a reader can enjoy an event or a place from a comfortable chair with a book (or Kindle or Nook etc.) in hand, even though he or she has no direct experience.

My favorite example on the list was “armchair detective.” I know dozens of them, myself included. And who can blame them for wanting to know “who done it” and then figuring it out from all the clues and a dose of intuition without ever leaving their comfortable chair. And, might I add, without ever having taken a course in criminal justice, the pathology of a killer, or even the most effective poisons.

But the expression only tells half the story. Maybe we need something like “traveler- reader,” meaning first you travel to a place and then you read about it. For instance, you had explored the quaint cafes and art studios in the Montmartre section of Paris and then read a wonderful book that was set there. You doubled your pleasure because you remembered the fragrance of the flowers a vendor was selling on the corner from a wheelbarrow, the taste of the wine at a corner café where artists congregated, a sudden downpour that sent you running into a shop where you enjoyed a baguette and chatted with a handsome stranger, or any number of memories that enhance the story you are reading. (Okay, a handsome stranger might not have been in that shop, but it happens so often in novels that it has become a commonly held belief, even a cliche.)

I guess it’s a question of which came first the chicken or the egg. Just recently, thanks to my daughter, I read The Broker by John Grisham, set in Bologna, Italy. Years ago, she and I enjoyed a trip to Italy and one of our favorite cities was Bologna. She was expert at finding a hotel, making reservations for trains, and details like that. My contribution was language. I studied Italian for several weeks before arriving in Italy, and found as many words as possible that resembled French, my second language, hoping to be able to easily recall them. As we traveled around the cities and towns of Italy, we became very aware of the language, gestures, and facial expressions that helped the people communicate. Back to The Broker: an American man with political connections is hiding out in Bologna where he spends hours each day learning Italian with a beautiful translator-teacher. If he gives himself away, that he is an American, he will be shot on the spot by enemies. The novel is filled with Italian words (the English is always given). Thanks to my trip to Italy, I was reading the Italian words (often out loud), and getting swept up in a story that revolved around language. It wouldn’t have been half as much fun, seeing all those Italian words on the page and not knowing how to pronounce them. Bellissimo!

Currently I am reading All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, set in St. Malo, France. My daughter and I had toured France, including the city of St. Malo. We enjoyed a series of comical experiences, basically based on things I told my daughter never to do, like “Don’t leave your luggage unattended,” and “Don’t talk to strangers,” and “Don’t pay for a room until you’ve seen it.” And there we were breaking all those rules and laughing as the unexpected turned out better than what we could possibly have planned. As I read (I’m half-way through) All the Light We Cannot See, I recall many details of the beautiful city of St. Malo that was bombed in World War II and rebuilt. I see the St. Malo I visited decades after the novel takes place. I see the people, les Malouins, smiling, pouring from cafes to fill the cobblestone streets and ramparts of their walled city, and the hearty souls who challenged the swift-rising tides along the walkway to Grand Bré Island. The sights and sounds, the language, the food, the seaside ambience. It all comes back. Then I return to the story of All the Light We Cannot See. It was set decades before I visited it, but the people I met in St. Malo could have been the descendants of people who had survived the war and seen their beloved town rebuilt. Although as I turned each page I feared for the lives of the characters in the book, I was keenly aware that their spirit had survived.

Finally, I am reading Art Nouveau (mainly looking at photographs), by Gabriele Fahr-Becker, a coffee-table book that I bought several days ago at my local library’s book sale. Guess what? As I turned to the architecture section, I relived my mother-daughter visit to Chicago to the home, office, and neighborhood of Frank Lloyd Wright. I progressed through the book to the work of Alfons Mucha and mentally I was back in Prague with two good friends, visiting the artist’s museum and saw not only his works, but also a film about his life. Onward I went in the book, again to Chicago, where my daughter and I saw a special exhibit of Edvard Munch’s work, the most famous being “The Scream.” I could go on and on, but it seems to me that if you read about places you’ve never seen and experiences you’ve never known, you can derive tremendous pleasure. The same is true, I would say, if first you have experiences in a foreign country or an unfamiliar place and then later you read a story set there.

Chicken, egg? Egg, chicken? Six of one, half-dozen of the other?

 

July Fourth

July Fourth, known as Independence Day, celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. Most of the signers actually signed the Declaration on July 2, 1776, and it was approved 2 days later. Only John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed on the 4th.

In 1777 on July 4th, 13 gunshots were fired in a salute once in the morning and once in the evening in Bristol, Rhode Island. And in Philadelphia, there were speeches and prayers, and the ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting. In 1778 near Brunswick, New Jersey, General Washington gave a double ration of rum to his soldiers along with an artillery salute.

he Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814, but didn’t become the official National Anthem until 1931.

Three US presidents died on July 4th: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe.

The Betsy Ross flag has 13 stars in a circle to highlight the equality among the colonies.

Many US cities have incorporated patriotic themes into their names: Libertyville, Iowa; Independence, Missouri; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; Patriot, Indiana; and American Fork, Utah. Hooray for the US of A! (That little shout of pride is from me, first generation American.)

150 million hot dogs will be eaten at July 4th celebrations. Coney Island celebrates with a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

And for all my friends out there with roots and/or ties to Denmark, you might like to know that Denmark celebrates American Independence on July 4th with celebrations.

Happy independence, happy fireworks, happy picnics, happy times with family and friends, and enjoy those hot dogs!

 

Cooking Delights

Hate to clean out the freezer and wonder what’s in those unmarked containers? Me too. This time I found several bags of (easily identifiable) whole cranberries, left over from Thanksgiving. What to do with them? I discovered a quick recipe for cranberry sauce I think you’ll enjoy. Thaw the cranberries and wash them. Grind I cup cranberries in a blender with 1 skinned and cored apple, and 1/2 orange with skin and pits removed (or 2 tablespoons orange juice). Add ½ cup sugar. Stir. Refrigerate. Serve with chicken, turkey, pork, or ham. Delicious, even as a snack with pleasant memories of Thanksgiving rolling through your thoughts.

Pork Chops with Peaches (Serves 2-4)

4 4-oz center-cut boneless pork loin chops
2 tsp light olive oil
2 peaches, each cut into 8 wedges
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup vegetable broth
½ cup white wine
2 tsp butter
2 tsp honey (or light brown sugar)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet (or electric fry pan) to medium-high temp. Coat with oil. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Cook chops 3-5 minutes each side. Remove chops and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Add onions and peaches to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine, loosen any browned pieces of meat, and boil for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and honey (or brown sugar). Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and heat. Add chops to sauce and reheat briefly. Serve with rice or noodles, veggie, and salad.

Bon appétit!

Fondly, Diane

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including several I met recently on an Easter cruise to the Mexican island of Cozumel, with my family. I hope all of you enjoy this March-April 2015 edition.

Fondly,
Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The latest news from Amazon’s marketing specialists: they included the Kindle version of three of my novels in a special promo, and it was a big success. Another bit of news: Amazon just launched the Kindle Unlimited version of all five of my novels in Canada and Mexico. Hooray! 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 except the last one (I can’t keep up with myself). 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

My last newsletter, #21, which told about my trip around the world (remotely) to take care of repairs to my desktop computer and printer, received a large response from readers. Some of you admitted that you laughed out loud. Others wondered if we’re better off or worse off with all the electronics in our life. Two said, “We’re all in the same boat.” One added that, “And the boat is sinking fast.” Well, I have an update to that little essay I entitled “It Takes a Village…and So Much More.” I am naming the update “From Global Tech to Old School.” Here’s what happened.

Let me pick up the story at the point where Keith, the tech guy, finished the job and left my house. I then completed my newsletter and sent it out to all of you. Let me remind you Keith was from Tampa, but he was assigned to my home in St. Petersburg from the main office in Louisiana via additional offices in the Caribbean, to Tampa, on to California, back to Louisiana and overseas to India, before u-turning to Louisiana and ending up in Tampa. So, Keith went on his way. Hours later and I noticed that he had accidentally left behind a very expensive-looking piece of equipment that he had used to fix/remove/repair something or other that was electronic.

Feeling sorry for him and figuring he would have to replace the equipment with his own money, I called the home office of the service center in Louisiana. The contact person who answered told me it was not the company’s practice to have customers get in touch with technicians personally. I explained why I was calling. She allowed the call, but said she would have to make it a 3-person call. You guessed it. I now was transferred to the above list of places from Louisiana, looping here and there, listening to each conversation between my contact person and her contact person on every leg of the trip and ending up in Tampa, without ever setting down my phone. My contact person said this whole experience was “so cute,” hearing a customer and a technician about to actually speak to each other on a telephone. This apparently was a first for her.

I asked Keith if he would like to drive to my house (30-45 minutes) or would he prefer that I mail the piece of equipment to him. He gave me his home address. Next thing you know, I am wrapping the piece of equipment carefully and driving to the post office (When was the last time you went to the post office? Is there even one anywhere near your home?). Then I stood in line, watching the package as it was weighed, stamped, and placed in a large canvas receptacle, with promises from a live person that it would soon be setting out on a road trip to Tampa. Very Old School, but very effective.

Another This and That

Recently I had the delightful experience of taking a Math and Garden Tour at the Dali Museum here in St. Petersburg as part of the ongoing training for docents. We had two excellent teachers, a math professor and a garden expert who related math principles to the plant world. We will incorporate the information into our tours in the galleries and apply it to several of Salvador Dali’s paintings. Why am I telling you this? Because there are many excellent sites that you can Google and be amazed at the math skills of plants!*

Okay, they don’t actually claim to know math. However, judging by pinecones, sunflowers, and strawberries, to name a few–plants have a certain mathematical arrangement of leaves that actually illustrate the Fibonacci Sequence, a special pattern of numbers, named after Leonardo Fibonacci. Why him? In 1202 he looked into how fast rabbits could breed in ideal circumstances. (You might need to know that rabbits are able to mate at the age of 1 month.) He saw a particular pattern in the resulting numbers in the rabbit population: 1,1,2,3,5,8, 13,21,34,55,89 and so on and that allowed him to predict the next number, 144. (Each number combines the previous number, so 1 and 1 equals 2; 2 and 1 equals 3; 3 and 2 equals 5; 5 and 3 equals 8 etc.) The same is true for plants. Just check out the petals of a daisy and you’ll see what Fibonacci was talking about. It doesn’t stop at petals and leaves. Many plants produce new branches in quantities based on the Fibonacci Sequence as well.

So what is going on? The plants are maximizing the amount of sunlight that can get to each leaf by adhering to those principles. It’s all about survival. As for Dali, DaVinci, and many other artists, incorporating the Fibonacci Sequence into their work was an attempt to make the painting as beautiful as possible. Look at their masterpieces and I am sure you will agree.

*I don’t have a degree in math and I know very little about gardening, so I would like to mention the names of several topics that you can Google to learn the facts from experts and see gorgeous examples provided by Mother Nature. (Mother’s Day is coming up soon, so let’s give her special thanks.) Google these: Fibonacci number and spirals in plants; Plant world and Fibonacci Sequence; Fibonacci in Nature by Nikkat Praveen; Images of Fibonacci in Nature. And while you’re at it, check out Fibonacci and those rabbits too.

Don’t be surprised if gardens, parks, and yards suddenly seem more beautiful to you. You may even look at math principles with new interest. Have fun!

Mother’s Day

A few facts: Mother’s Day in the US is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The same is true in Australia, New Zealand, Canada (it’s their most popular festival after Christmas and Valentine’s Day), and India (it’s relatively new there). In Mexico it is celebrated on May 10th. Ireland has chosen the 4th Sunday of Lent. And the UK goes with the 4th Sunday in May. Many celebrate the day the same way we do here in the United States with cards, flowers, a telephone call, a special dinner, and sometimes a special outing, like a picnic. Australia and the United States have a special tradition about wearing a carnation in celebration of their mother. A white carnation indicates that she is deceased and a colored carnation, usually red, means that the person’s mother is alive.

 

Cooking Delights

Chicken Soup

Great for lunch, dinner, or a snack in between meals, you can’t go wrong with chicken soup. However, I did. I set out all the ingredients (or thought I had) only to find out that I didn’t have any chicken broth in the house. Rather than drive to a store, I prepared this recipe in a skillet without broth and served it on dinner plates. My husband and I enjoyed it and I would definitely serve it again. The hearty soup is delicious too. Choices, choices. Chicken soup or chicken skillet dinner. Go for it!

Ingredients

4 cups chicken broth
4 oz. dried medium shell pasta
1 14 ½-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15-16-oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (or more) cooked chicken breast, chopped
1 cup fresh arugula
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped fresh basil
Grated cheese

Preparation (for soup)

In a 4-quart pot, bring broth to boiling. Add pasta and undrained tomatoes. Return to boiling, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir in beans, chicken, arugula, and olive oil. Heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese and basil leaves. Serve in bowls.

Preparation (for skillet dinner). Additional ingredients: onion powder and garlic powder/ or fresh chopped onions, sautéed lightly, and garlic. If you have left-over cooked peas and carrots in the refrigerator, feel free to add them too.

Prepare pasta according to package directions and drain.
In a large skillet, place pasta and tomatoes, beans, chicken, arugula, and olive oil. Heat through. Stir in grated cheese and basil leaves. Heat through again. Season to taste with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. Heat through one final time. Serve on plates. Bon Appétit!

 

Helpful Advice Regarding Identity Theft in Florida

(Even if you don’t live in Florida, you may find this information useful.)

My husband and I have friends, neighbors, and family members who faced tax identity theft this year. Here is an article my husband came upon to help people in the same situation. I am passing it along to you…

The most common type of identity theft is Tax Identity Theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In most cases you don’t know that your data has been compromised until you get a rejection to your tax forms because someone has already filed using your Social Security number. You can expect it will take 6 months to a year to clean up the mess.

The IRS lost an estimated $5.8 billion in fraudulent refund claims in 2013, while blocking about $24 billion in attempts, according to Government Accountability Office reports. What can you do?

Florida is the number one state in the country for tax ID theft. Therefore, the IRS has a pilot program for issuing PINs that includes Floridians. Apply to www.irs.gov for a PIN.

If you are a potential victim because of a stolen purse, data breach, etc., go to the IRS site; file Form 14039, “Identity Theft Affidavit”; and check Box 2.

Do not react to any emails, attachments or phone calls that ask for personal information. No government agency or bank will ever contact you in that manner.

Practice cyber-hygiene. Keep your anti-virus software updated. Change passwords frequently. Don’t dispose of papers containing your personal ID information carelessly.

Fondly,
Diane

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

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

@ Copyright 2015 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, especially those I met at parties to welcome the holiday season. I hope all of you enjoy this November-December 2014 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

For those of you who correspond with me using my email address dsawyer@wans.net please continue to do so. For those who contact me at my tampabayroadrunner email address, please adjust your address books and send all correspondence to dsawyer@wans.net    Thanks!

Don’t forget to check out my website. The address is http://dianewsawyer.com (Please note the letter w between diane and sawyer.) I hope that when you visit the site, you will 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 in St. Petersburg. Thank you, Roy.

My collection of newsletters will be available to you and for those people discovering me on the Internet. On my web site they are called Newsletter Blog. This one, #20, will soon join that collection. As I have done since November, 2012, I will continue to email my newsletters to you, my little group of family, friends, and travel buddies, that has grown to 550 + readers. As always I look forward to your comments in person or via email.

The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions of my 5 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

 There are so many facts about Christmas and all its traditions that I couldn’t do justice to the topic, but I did find one interesting tidbit that I can’t resist sharing: Because of Christmas’ roots in pagan festivals, particularly Saturnalia, it was illegal during the years 1659 to 1681 to celebrate Christmas in Boston. Those who did were subject to fines!

 

Travel

 To enjoy the holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve—especially time with friends and family and added volunteer commitments, I didn’t travel far from home. At least, not geographically, but I definitely traveled to foreign lands and into the workings of the human spirit via four books that I read during the past several months. The first three are all recently released blockbusters, well-received by readers and literary critics, and recommended to me by family and friends. You may be familiar with them too. They are:

Unbroken, the grueling and heart-warming biography of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star and WWII hero who survived 47 days on a raft in waters filled with voracious attacking sharks, followed by 2 ½ years in horrific Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. But it’s so much more than that as Zamperini rises above the hellish world he inhabited to confront the nature of war and, ultimately, to find redemption.

The Goldfinch, a work of fiction by Donna Tart, is told first-person by a teen-age boy, Theo, as he reflects on his life and relationships in New York City, Las Vegas, and Europe, as well as the power of beautiful things (including the painting, The Goldfinch), unrelenting loneliness, and the connections he makes as he struggles through a life that was often out of control.

Wild is a memoir by Cheryl Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with no credit card, very little money, and no experience in long-distance hiking. She ended up on a fulfilling journey of self-discovery, struggling with the loss of her mother and a life that no longer suited her.

Last, but definitely not least, my favorite book of those I read recently is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I found out about it when I noticed his name in the credits of a war movie and looked him up. He, too, is a celebrated author with numerous admirers. The Things They Carried is a series of connected short stories, listed as fiction although based on personal experiences in Vietnam where O’Brien served in the 23rd Infantry Division, third platoon. The setting is as surreal as a Dali painting, the characters are unforgettable, and the narrative is more riveting than anything I’ve read in a long time.

Although the four books took me through Japanese war camps, New York City’s art world, the Pacific Crest Trail, and Vietnam’s vindictive jungle, they shared a common theme: the main characters come to terms with the life they have chosen, or the life that fate and circumstance have thrust upon them. What more can we ask from a book or a journey through life?

 

Cooking Delights

#1   I think you will enjoy this Sweet Potato Casserole. It was my favorite side dish at our Thanksgiving dinner, and it’s easy to make. For advanced cooks looking for a greater challenge, you can choose fresh sweet potatoes, bake them, cool them, peel them, and go for it!

Ingredients

1 can, 1 lb 1 oz, sweet potatoes, drained

1 can peach halves, 15-16 oz, cut into chunks, drained (reserve 1 cup syrup)

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 ½ Tbsp corn starch

2 Tbsp butter

½ tsp cinnamon

½ cup pecan halves

 

Directions

Place sweet potatoes in buttered 9×13 casserole dish.

Place peaches on top of sweet potatoes.

Mix together remaining ingredients (including the cup of syrup) and add pecans; bring to a boil in a saucepan; pour over sweet potatoes and peaches. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

**********

#2 I found this Festive Chicken delight among dozens of recipes tucked into an envelope marked “holiday dishes.” I prepared it last week for dinner and my husband declared it “worthy of serving to company.” I agree. The recommendation was to serve it for Chinese New Year, but I don’t know why. Research however, tells me that Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Thursday, February 19th in 2015. Practice with the recipe now and enjoy it again in February. The recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

1 can, 20 oz pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved

1cup rice, uncooked

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch wide strips

2 Tbsp flour

1Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup red bell peppers, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup sugar snap peas

½ cup Kikkoman sweet & sour dipping sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup toasted cashews

Directions

Chop vegetables and set aside. Measure reserved pineapple juice and add enough water to make 2 cups. Add water-juice liquid to rice. Prepare rice your usual way (boiling on top of stove or in microwave). While the rice cooks, heat oil in fry pan or wok over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with flour and cook in oil until golden brown, turning once, about 5-7 minutes. Add pineapple chunks and chopped vegetables; stir and cook 3 minutes. Add sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, and orange juice. Stir and cook 3 more minutes or until liquids boil. If rice isn’t done, reduce heat in the pan or wok. When rice is done, serve chicken-vegetable-sauce mix over it.

 

Bon appétit! Stay well and Happy Holidays!

Diane

@ Copyright 2014 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

 

 

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers. Welcome to my new readers, including John from my home town of Greenport, Long Island, who recently visited the wonderful Floyd Memorial Library. Welcome also to Kathleen, the talented artist from Tallahassee, my neighbor Laura’s friend. I hope all of you enjoy this October 2014 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

 

The big news is that I now have a web site. The address is http://dianewsawyer.com

Please note the letter w between diane and sawyer. My namesake, the famous newscaster, chose the domain name before I did, so I needed something slightly different. I hope that when you visit the site, you will 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 in St. Petersburg. Early response has been that the web site is user-friendly, packed with information, and very pretty. Thank you, Roy.

My collection of 18 newsletters will be available to you and for those people discovering me on the Internet. On my web site they are called Newsletter Blog. This one, #19, will join that collection soon. As I have done since November, 2012, I will continue to email my newsletters to you, my little group of family and friends and travel buddies that has grown to 500 + readers. As always I look forward to your comments in person or via email. Many of you were delighted to read the original last chapter of The Montauk Mystery, included in the last newsletter, and some of you said you were tempted to go back and read the more romantic ending that made it into print. (It had less about the hero and heroine’s careers and more about their love.) Thank you! Every writer should have readers like you. You are a fun group and apparently sentimental romantics too.

Another bit of good news. Amazon just launched KU (Kindle Unlimited) in Germany and all five of my novels are now available there. Hooray!

The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions 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

I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I belong to a local writer’s group here in St. Pete. Months ago, my friend Cindy invited me to visit them, discuss my novels and the process of writing, and offer them a writing workshop. I loved the group and eventually joined, just to spend time with talented writers, relax, and hear their stories. Our wonderful teacher, Norma, gives us a take-home assignment, a title actually, like A Memorable Picnic, or Everybody Needs a Tribe. The following week we go around the room reading our stories out loud. Would you believe that in our group of about 12, we have a tremendous mix of genres and styles: poetry, essay, comedy, tales from rural Florida, memoir, mystery, and romance. We comment on each other’s work, usually praising it because, well, it is so incredibly praise-worthy.

Then we do a 10-minute timed-writing. What fun and what work. Plots, characters, settings, philosophical musings, whimsy, humor, pathos, and anecdotes furiously emerge on paper or electronic devices as the clock ticks away until we hear Norma say, “One more minute please, and then pens down.”

Several weeks ago, our take-home assignment was called Holding On. I need to mention that during that week, a super moon appeared in the sky. According to Wikipedia, a super moon is “the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth.” Let’s just say it’s a really large moon. As the moon amazed us, sales brochures focused on Halloween which was quickly approaching. Think goblins, witches, and the scary shape-changing villainous creature the Bogeyman, infamous for scaring young children in cultures all around the world. The following week when we read our Holding On stories in class, our usual styles had taken a vacation. Weird stuff took over. We called this bizarre happening The One-Flew-Over-The-Cuckoo’s-Nest Phenomenon. To give you one sampling, I have included, with my apologies, my essay.

 

Holding On

When problems pile up and troubles fly from every direction, many of us say, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” and convince ourselves that there’s always a tiny bit of hope.

I had been holding on to my pillow and that tunnel-image in the middle of the night for as long as I can remember. As time passed, that image became my solace when relatives and friends passed away, when disappointments multiplied, and when random violence threatened the power of reason. But when I was a child, holding on didn’t help at all. Back then the Bogey Man frequently haunted my dreams and threatened to steal into my waking hours. I panicked and admitted my fears about the Bogey Man to an older and much wiser friend. He told me how to break the Bogey Man’s power. “Turn your back on him and he’ll disappear in a puff of smoke,” my friend said and added, “I read that in a book.” He was bluffing. He was as scared as I was and just as powerless.

One night, when I was a teenager and the Bogey Man continued to torment me, I sat up in bed, threw my pillow at the wall, and quit holding on to that speck of light. I didn’t stop believing and trusting in hope. But a speck is too small and simply holding on is too weak a response.

Action is the answer. I stamped my foot and shouted “No!” into the dark night.

But you can do better than that. You know where to find light. Open the curtains, raise the blinds, and let the sunshine flood through the house. Light candles, flick on a flashlight, and turn on all four burners. Stoke the furnace. Throw another log on the fire. Do whatever it takes, but don’t settle for a speck of light. As for that tunnel where the light is coming from, grab a shovel and widen the opening. Better yet, pick up a sledge hammer and break through the walls. Come on! Grab hold of a power drill and blast the roof and flooring to smithereens. Do whatever it takes, but don’t limit the light to one single source.

Two words say it all: Take control.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures, way beyond the passive gesture of turning your back to evil. So as the midnight hour approaches, when the night is blackest, when the moon hides behind mists and clouds, when the stars have all gone to sleep, when owls hoot their question, and when bats flap their wings against your bedroom window, don’t blink and whatever you do, don’t let down your guard.

Wait. Wait. Here it comes…Slowly. And then Gong! Midnight strikes.

On the twelfth gong, the Bogey Man crawls out from under your bed and breathes his cold slimy breath on you. He climbs into bed and plunks down his head on your pillow. Turn your back on him? Impossible. He digs his claws into your flesh, holding you prisoner, and says, “What now, my little sweetie-pie? Do you still believe you control your life?”

Wait. Wait. Wait patiently.

“Give me a kiss and tell me all about it,” the Bogey Man says and turns his hideous face toward you. His bloodshot eyes bore their way toward your heart and your very soul.

Now is your time to act.

Wrench yourself free from his claws. Grab that blowtorch you hid beneath the mattress in preparation for this very moment. Grip it tightly, face him, and show Ole Mister Bogey Man a different light coming from a different tunnel! Show him that yes, oh yes indeed, you do have more control over your life than you ever believed possible.

*****

Travel

My friend Madeleine, who now lives in Pennsylvania, sent me the 1994 Florida Literary Map, a beautiful document which points out that Florida is truly a “Paradise for the Written Word.” I’d like to share some of the information with you from this project, funded by The Florida Center for the Book, the Florida Humanities Council and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.

I’m not surprised at the long list of credentials since the document, folded like a travel map and containing a map of Florida, offers a huge amount of information, including a list of authors, the “Florida Artists Hall of Fame,” and the place famously associated with each of them. Among the many are: George Abbott, Miami Beach.  Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Miami.  Ernest Hemingway, Key West.  Zora Neale Hurston, Eatonville.  John D. MacDonald, Sarasota.  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek.  Tennessee Williams, Key West.  What a great list of authors for all book-lovers, regardless of the state where you live.

Photos and information about authors fill out both sides of the map. Dozens of Florida prize-winning authors (who lived here, were born here, or wrote here), won coveted prizes, such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Newbery Medal, and the National Book Award. Among the many winners are James Michener, Tales of the South Pacific, St. Pete Beach. Edward Albee, Three Tall Women, Coconut Grove.  Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, Sanibel. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, Orange Park. Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, Naples.  Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, St. Augustine Beach.  Several of the authors, such as Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and James Merrill won a coveted prize more than once. This is only a sampling of the authors. Maybe next month, I’ll add more.

I hope the authors inspire your reading…and writing!

 

Cooking Delights

No recipe this time, just some advice. Everyone’s talking about the nutritional advantage of wheat pasta over white pasta. No one bothered to mention that the taste of wheat pasta is great too. So, all I’m saying is that last night my husband and I enjoyed WHEAT penne, sausage and peppers, sautéed eggplant slices, and sliced raw veggies.

Whether you choose white or wheat, Bon appétit!

Stay well and Happy Halloween!

Diane

@ Copyright 2014 by Diane Sawyer. All rights reserved.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers. I hope you enjoy this August/September 2014 edition. In my previous newsletter I mentioned that I’d finished two of the novels in my St. Petersburg Series (The Diamond Murders and The Tell-Tale Treasure) and was making progress on the third, Trouble in Tikal. The progress continues at a pace of its own as I consume myself with the writing, editing, thinking, plotting, and re-organizing. Am I having fun? Yes. Is it easy? No. Would I do this again? Absolutely.

Now, let me tell you what happened about two weeks ago when I hit a snag in the plotline. I decided to take a break, go through my huge stacks of written files, and throw out all the old drafts that had led up to a final manuscript and publication. I carefully looked through each folder to see if anything had gotten mixed in by mistake and could be useful. I think you know where this is going.

First, I found notes and reference material I had gathered about two years ago after enjoying an exhibit with my family at the Tampa Museum of Art. Among the exhibit’s wonderful paintings, several of them American Impressionist works, was a gorgeous seaside scene set on Long Island, not too far from the area where three of my novels (The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Treasures of Montauk Cove) had taken place. Bam! A tiny idea started to form about a novel, another Montauk novel somehow related to its predecessors. I immediately created a nice little file with ideas and a color photo of the painting, and set it aside and hadn’t been able to find it until that file-cleaning day.

Inspired by that long-lost find, I worked through the remaining old drafts and found a folder called “Labels,” the title I had originally chosen for my first novel, The Montauk Mystery. The editors at Avalon loved the story (especially the Montauk Indian info) and accepted the work but suggested a title clearly identifying the work as a mystery to attract fans of that genre. I came up with The Montauk Mystery. They liked it and so did I. Anyway, there I was, poking through the “Labels” folder when I came upon a paper-clipped set of pages called Chapter 19. Quite a surprise since The Montauk Mystery has only 18 chapters.

I read through the chapter and remembered a telephone call from my talented editor at Avalon. She wanted to discuss the ending. She said when the heroine is in the hero’s arms and the mystery is solved, the writer needs to end the story right then and there, leaving the readers happy and satisfied. A first-time novelist, I had separated the heroine and hero for a year to pursue their dreams—Annie as an artist-illustrator favoring Montauk Indian motifs and Matt as a race-car driver. The re-writing, based on the editor’s suggestion combined with the ideas that came to me as I wrote, improved the story tremendously. Just for the fun of it, I decided to include Chapter 19 at the end of this newsletter. If nothing else, it might inspire those of you who are writers, especially in the early stages, to learn from every editor’s critique what you can about structure, character development, story arc, and other “big picture” ideas. Editing to correct run-on sentences, missing commas, and so on is necessary and helpful, but critiquing is something else altogether: a learning experience and a gift. Thank you, Peggy and Elenora, my current critiquing friends.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions are available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading! Repeated from my last Newsletter: Amazon has included my 5 novels in their Kindle Unlimited (KU), a new subscription service which allows customers in the U.S. to freely read as much as they want from over 600,000 Kindle books, all for only $9.99 a month. My contact at Amazon tells me this will expand my readership. Hooray!

 

This and That

Some important dates in September

September 7, Grandparents Day…..

September 13, International Chocolate Day

Star-Spangled Banner composed, 1814

September 21, International Day of Peace

September 26, Native American Day

September 27, Ancestor Appreciation Day

And a day that none of us will ever forget—September 11, 2001

Travel

There’s an old saying that sometimes we have to travel to appreciate the joys of home. The opposite is apparently true too. On a recent family vacation trip to the Ashville, North Carolina area, we stopped along the way to pick up a few groceries for a family meal, featuring chicken fajitas with all the trimmings. On our list, provided by the host and hostess, was a package of Mexican Rice. Here we were in a small town in a local supermarket, but guess what? The rice area was huge with many varieties from around the world. Too many to even name and all sounded very tempting. I thought about stocking up for when I returned home to St. Pete, but didn’t think there would be room in my luggage. The rice, the just add water and simmer type, was delicious. I was only home a day or two when I went to a supermarket here in the city of St. Pete, armed with notebook and pen to record all the types of rice that I had never before noticed. I planned to feature all the info in my Cooking Delights Section of this newsletter. Guess what? The rice choices were white, yellow, and brown.

Cooking Delights

 Back to the chicken fajitas. I don’t own a grill but I loved grilled food when someone else is doing the cooking (and serving). So let me brag about the family cooks and what they served. Corn on the cob…on the grill. Chicken breasts…on the grill…and then diced. Cut-up onions and peppers placed in a special pan and cooked…on the grill. Okay, the rice was prepared stove-top; the chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, corn tortillas and other no-cook items were prepared in the kitchen. And here’s a tip for you: With all the spices that can be spread and sprinkled on Mexican food, HOT, is a word that comes to mind. Aha! Do what these cooks did: serve chunks of icy cold seedless watermelon as a side dish to tame the heat! Muy bueno! Bon appétit!

 

******This is the original ending to The Montauk Mystery that I had sent to my publisher, Avalon. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as good as the more romantic ending that actually appears in The Montauk Mystery where close dancing, high-intensity emotions, and Mother Nature create a super-dreamy moonlit night at the marina. If you have a lot of time on your hands (!!!), check it out of your local library or your personal copy and read the final pages. You just might fall in love with a certain someone all over again!

Chapter 19

“Darn, what bad timing!” Annie exclaimed when she saw the Out of Order sign on the elevator door. Disappointed, and left with no choice, she struggled up the five flights of stairs with her portfolio tucked under her arm, a small bouquet of fresh flowers in one hand, and, in the other, a bag of groceries that contained the makings of an intimate dinner for two.

Once inside the door of her tiny apartment, she set everything down and hurriedly checked her answering machine. No message from Matt. He was supposed to have returned to the United States two days ago. She had expected to hear from him last night. Certainly by now. She flipped through her mail. No telegram either. Had he changed his mind?

Throughout her senior year, Annie had heard from Matt often. He had telephoned frequently and had written at least twice weekly, regardless of the miles and time zones that separated them. He had even sent flowers to celebrate her first big success, the publication of a story that she had illustrated for Kid Time Magazine. He said he’d call as soon as he got home. Why hadn’t he?

She inched off her shoes and flopped on the couch. It felt good to relax her neck and shoulders after spending eight hours bent over the drawing board at Pinewood House. She closed her eyes thinking about the good fortune that had followed her from Grayrocks to Albany to New York City. Her series of Montauk oil paintings, entitled Sun Time and Moon Time, had received recognition beyond her college and had been bought by a collector from the Albany area. But it was her senior writing project, an illustrated book entitled The Montauk Treasures, that had caught the attention of several professors at Albany. Their contacts in New York had led to a book contract, freelance assignments, and her current position as a junior illustrator.

Fortune had indeed smiled on Annie Devane. Until now.

Where was Matt? That old uneasy feeling crawled into the pit of her stomach. She got up and brewed herself a cup of tea, hoping to dilute the churning poisonous doubts. She checked the light on her answering machine one more time. Still nothing. She re-read Matt’s last letter hoping to find something she had missed, perhaps a P.S. that promised he would call on a certain day. Foolish thought, since she had practically memorized the letter. Her eyes lingered on the final paragraph:

The thrill of the racetrack is an old dream that fades away like the morning fog off Big Shell Island. The constant traveling has lost its appeal. I miss you. I miss Grayrocks. There’s a future for me there. I can’t wait to see you after all these months and share my new dream with you. You’re in my thoughts night and day.

Life doesn’t always turn out as expected, Annie told herself. She looked from the small window of her living room to the tall gray building across the alley. She couldn’t see the sky. Lighted windows, not stars, sliced through the blackness of the night. She missed gazing through her bedroom window in Grayrocks at the bands of moonlight that flooded the tops of the apple trees. She longed to breathe in the salty air that mingled with the scent of lilac bushes. More and more she found herself yearning for Grayrocks.

Annie stood in the shower and let the hot water pour over her. A blanket of steam gently wrapped itself around her. She shampooed the city grit from her hair. City life was hard. No Matt or Gram or Sally and Tom, no Café Crowd or familiar faces in the stores, no small-town events where she knew everyone by name. Her career hadn’t lived up to her expectations, either. Maybe she had changed. Writing her own stories and illustrating them had become more appealing than breathing life into other people’s works. As for photography, she’d take country roads and flower-filled fields to glass and chrome skyscrapers any day.

Tension flowed away with the sudsy water. Annie stepped from the shower and toweled herself dry. She turned the dryer on full blast and her shoulder-length hair sprung into curls that framed her heart-shaped face. She wanted to look her best for Matt.

Why hadn’t he called? A year and half had gone by since they’d said goodbye at the Grayrocks Marina. Where was he?

Annie flung the towel over the shower door. She would get some work done. That would take her mind off Matt.

After slipping into casual pants and a T-shirt, Annie sat down at the drawing board in her bedroom. She spread paints on her palette and began illustrating the children’s story she had recently completed. Key scenes sprang to life as Annie’s paints flowed across the pages: The young Montauk girl, Running Deer, helps her father make wampum beads while her mother designs a wampum belt. Running Deer and her parents place the belt in the Montauk’s sacred cave when white men and enemy tribes invade. While hiding in the cave, Running Deer paints the ceiling and walls with pictures of the sacred corn god and goddess. The tribe believes that Running Deer’s paintings bring them good fortune and protect them from their enemies.

Annie took a fresh sheet of paper. She began to paint the peacemakers from the Montauk tribes and the white man’s world. They formed a circle of friendship around the evening fire.

The ringing of the telephone interrupted Annie’s work. It was Matt, she knew it for sure.

“Annie Devane? This is Joseph Revington, Matthew’s father. He asked me to call you. Matt…” His voice cracked.

“What’s wrong?” Fearing the worst, she didn’t wait for an answer. “Has something happened to Matt?”

“I’m afraid so.”

In the single beat of her heart, race cars spun out of control and collided, charred metal hurtled into the flame-filled sky, ambulances screamed toward the burning driver. This couldn’t be happening. Matt, her parents, everyone she’d ever loved dying in a car crash.

“Matt has been badly injured. He’s in Monte Fiore Hospital.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “He’s here in New York City?”

“Yes. He asked me to call. He wants to see you.”

Annie threw on her coat and grabbed the good-luck red scarf and hat she had worn the first time she’d met Matt. She ran down the stairs and burst through the front door into the night air. Snowflakes mingled with the tears that ran down her cheeks. She hailed a taxi and fought off panic as the driver raced through the night toward the hospital.

“Matthew Revington,” she told the nurse on duty.

“Visiting hours are over,” she replied.

“Please, I must see him. He’s asked for me.”

“Your name?”

“Annie Devane.”

The nurse peered at a clipboard and then at Annie. “Room 374. Down the hall, but don’t stay long. The first bullet barely missed his heart.”

“Bullet?” Instinctively, Annie touched the charms on her necklace.

“The second and third tore up his shoulder pretty bad,” the nurse said.

Annie staggered as if physically struck. “But I thought it was a racing accident. What happened?” She gripped the nurse by the arm. “Will he make it?”

“He’s a fighter,” the nurse said. “He’s been moved out of intensive care. We can hope for the best.”

Annie hurried down the hallway and stood motionless at the door to Matt’s room. Fighting back tears, she pushed open the door. Matt lay on the bed, asleep, his handsome face pale and drawn.

Annie’s heart ached. How foolish she’d been. All this time apart. He could have died and she would never have seen him again. She moved a chair to his bedside.

“Matt,” she whispered and took his hand in hers.

His eyelids fluttered.

“Annie…” He tried to sit up, but fell back on the pillow.

Annie smoothed his sweat-drenched hair away from his forehead. “What happened?” she asked.

“I walked into a bank…interrupted a robbery.”

“Thank God you’re alive.” Tears welled in her eyes.

A weak smile played at the corners of his mouth. “I was safer behind the wheel of my car than cashing a check.” He reached up and brushed his fingertips across the three charms on her necklace. “I’ve missed you.”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. She had almost forgotten the warmth of his lips, the feelings that surged through her body whenever they kissed.

The nurse knocked softly on the door. “Time to leave,” she told Annie.

“Visit me every day?” he asked.

She nodded, barely able to speak. “Of course.” Annie kissed him gently on the forehead.

She had her hand on the door handle, ready to leave. She turned to say, “I love you. I want to be with you forever. Drive your racecars, do whatever makes you happy,” but Matt’s eyes were closed and he was sound asleep. She marveled at his handsome profile, the high cheek bones of his Indian forefathers.

“Sweet dreams,” she whispered.

During the next several weeks, Annie never let a day go by without seeing Matt. They talked about everything and anything, but Matt did not bring up their future and Annie was afraid to ask what he expected of her. For the first time since her parents’ deaths, Annie found herself able to confide in someone. All the feelings and emotions that she had bottled up, now spilled out. She felt such a deep and abiding love for Matt that at times she wondered what her life had been like before she met him. There was no denying that she loved him more than ever. Yet as the day of his release from the hospital approached, she grew apprehensive.

Where do we go from here? She wondered. His dreams included Grayrocks. Did they include her? She wanted so much to fit into his world.

 

“Meet me at the marina,” Matt said. He had been recuperating in Grayrocks for several weeks and Annie had visited him each weekend.

“Why the marina?” she asked, curious.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he replied.

 

At the docks, Matt took Annie’s hand and helped her board Island Hoppers. “I want you to meet the new owner of the marina.”

“Who?”

“Me,” Matt said proudly. “Uncle David has decided to give up boats and devote himself fulltime to golf and tennis. He’s buying the East Bay Country Club.”

Annie was speechless.

“I’ve already worked out a loan with the bank. My racing winnings will cover the down payment for the marina. I’ve decided to stay in one spot and Grayrocks is the best place I know. Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached down and picked up a small blanket wrapped around a bundle. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this?” she asked, taking the bundle from him.

“Open it and find out.”

She sat down and carefully rolled back the edges of the blanket. Wampum beads glistened like amethysts and pearls in the moonlight. “Matt, it’s beautiful,” she said, running her fingers over the strings of purple beads with four inserts of white beads.

“It’s a Montauk courtship string,” he said. “Donald thought I might find a use for it. So how about it?”

“How about what?”

“Marrying me and living in Grayrocks,” he said.

“But Matt—” He kissed here. “There are so many obstacles,” she said.

His gaze was steady, his voice sexy. He held her so tight she could hardly breathe. “We could have a good life here, Annie. With your talent, you’ll have more work than you can handle.”

She had only to trust him, to say yes and she’d have exactly what she wanted. “Yes, Matthew Revington. With all my heart, yes. I love you. I’ll marry you.”

She threw her arms around his neck. They held each other close.

“You’ve just made all my dreams come true,” he said, and Annie smiled. Matt had taken her thoughts and spoken them out loud.

© 2000 Diane Sawyer All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers, including several from the Tampa Bay area I met at parties and gatherings. I hope that all of you enjoy this May/June/July 2014 edition, a three-month letter all rolled into one. I apologize for the lengthy delay, but I needed extra time to get caught up with a huge writing project that has taken more hours/days/months/years than I care to admit. The end result will be a series of three novels, each in the 95,000-word range (much longer than my previous novels), all set in St. Petersburg, Florida. The characters, settings, plots, and timelines needed a great deal of concentration, especially when several characters insisted on appearing in two and even all three novels.

Among my favorite characters are two smart highly professional (and hunky) detectives who are funny during break time, but all serious business when the bad guys come calling with murder and mayhem in mind. And then there’s Rosie Renard, the spunky owner of a second-hand shop, Rosie’s Treasures. Rosie doesn’t go looking for trouble, but it has a way of finding her—and she, well, let’s just say she’s determined to do the right thing and has a skill set to die for.

The first two books in the series, after many revisions and much restructuring, are now finished. The third, in the early stages of writing, is moving along, especially now that I’ve figured out the ending! The first, The Diamond Murders, is a fast-paced mainstream mystery with local and international implications. The second, The Tell-Tale Treasure, is a cold-case missing-person mystery involving the abduction of a celebrity. It takes place in St. Pete’s Grand Central District known for its artsy vibe. The third, Trouble in Tikal, is an archaeological mystery. Although it has a strong St. Pete connection, most of the action occurs in Guatemala’s colonial towns, indigenous craft centers, museums, and World Heritage sites where the mighty Maya once flourished among their pyramids, temples, and palaces.

My next mission is to find a publisher who will publish all three mysteries. Fingers crossed! Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

 The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions are available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

News repeated from my last Newsletter: Not all of the people who read my books live in the United States. I am pleased to announce that there are now many readers in the UK, Australia, and Canada. Joining very recently are mystery fans in Mexico, Brazil, China, and Japan. In case you’re wondering, my novels haven’t been translated so everyone is reading them in English. As a former language teacher, I’m impressed.

Newest news: Amazon just notified me that they are including my 5 novels in their Kindle Unlimited(KU), a new subscription service which allows customers in the U.S. to freely read as much as they want from over 600,000 Kindle books, all for only $9.99 a month. Amazon predicts my readership will expand. Hooray!!!

This and That

Some random thoughts on July and summer:

Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes

What would life be like without home grown tomatoes

Only two things that money can’t buy

That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.

John Denver, Home Grown Tomatoes

 

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon

The two most beautiful words in the English language

Henry James

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy and flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. Erma Bombeck

 

Well I’m a–gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler

About workin’ all summer to try an’ earn a dollar.

Every time I call my baby to try to get a date

My boss says, no dice, son, you gotta work late.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do

‘cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues

 

Summertime

And the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.

Oh your daddy’s rich

And your mama’s good lookin’

So hush little baby

Don’t you cry.

George Gershwin, Summertime

 

Travel

I haven’t traveled beyond Tampa Bay since my last newsletter, but there is always the option of reading a great book with a foreign setting. So here’s some good news: The April 2014 issue of the wonderful magazine National Geographic Traveler contains an article by George W. Stone entitled “Around the World in 80 Books.” The main idea is that certain books evoke such an incredible sense of place that you, the reader, will feel not only that you have actually traveled there but also that you have experienced everything the author describes. With each book Stone chooses, he includes a brief summary that will definitely entice you to read it. Many of his choices are considered page-turners, not that they are necessarily mysteries, just that they are so well-written you can’t put them down.

I hope you can somehow obtain a copy of the magazine through a library, book store, or the Internet. Stone’s suggested books will allow you to travel the world without ever leaving your armchair, hammock, tree house, or other favorite spot where you read, and imagine, and dream. Some of his examples are Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (America); The Quiet American by Graham Greene (French Indochina, now Vietnam); The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Sweden); The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (The Belgian Congo); Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (Mount Everest), and Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel(Mexico).

 

Cooking Delights

Cook once—Enjoy 4 Dinners and 1 Lunch

No recipes are included so let your imagination soar!

Remove gizzards, neck, and all other icky stuff from 4 whole fresh chickens, each weighing about 2 ½ pounds. Rinse and pat dry. Rub with olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper, onion flakes, parsley, and garlic powder. Place 2 chickens in one baking pan and 2 chickens in another. Cover loosely with foil.

Cook in 375-degree preheated oven until done, about 3 hours. Roll back foil for the final 45 minutes. When completely done (drumsticks will be loose and move easily)remove the pans from the oven and allow the chickens to rest until cool enough to handle. Reserve juices.

To make the job easier, set aside the wings and legs. Also set aside several slices of white meat. Cut the remaining chicken into chunks. Discard skin and bones. Place the chunks in a freezer bag and when cool, store in freezer. Repeat with the remaining 3 chickens. Place all the wings in a freezer bag; place all the legs in another freezer bag; and place all the white-meat slices in yet another bag.

Divide broth into fourths, place in freezer bags, and freeze when cool.

Once everything is stored in the freezer your work is done.

Now comes the fun, fast, easy, and delicious part. You have 4 dinners and 1 lunch waiting for you in the freezer. Each can be prepared in about 15 minutes once the chicken and broth are thawed (and fat is removed and discarded from broth). Here are the 4 dinners I made (each served my husband and me for dinner and also for lunch the next day). Pick and choose and maybe substitute one of your favorites.

  • Chicken à la king: sauté lots of chopped carrots, red and/or orange peppers, celery, and onions. During the last 5 minutes add a cup of defrosted peas and the cut-up chicken; combine broth with milk and thicken with flour for sauce. Serve over noodles.
  • Oriental chicken: briefly sauté snow peas, mushrooms, red and/or orange peppers, celery, and onions; add cut-up chicken; add broth and soy sauce and thicken with cornstarch. Serve with rice.
  • Mexican Chicken: Sauté chopped onions and fresh tomatoes in skillet. Add chicken and stir until heated through. Meanwhile prepare yellow rice, black beans, and corn on the cob. Serve with a side of salsa.
  • Chicken noodle soup. Serve it with chicken club sandwiches, made with the slices of white meat plus lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and cheese slices.
  • As for all the legs and wings-bake them or sauté them with barbecue sauce and serve for lunch.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

 

 

 

 

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers, including several from the Dali Museum and local art galleries, here in St. Pete. I hope that all of you enjoy this March-April 2014 edition.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions are available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

New News: Not all of the people who read my books live in the United States. I am pleased to announce that there are now many readers in the UK, Australia, and Canada. Joining very recently are mystery fans in Mexico, Brazil, China, and Japan. In case you’re wondering, my novels haven’t been translated so everyone is reading them in English. As a former language teacher, I’m impressed.

 This and That

Let’s take a look at some interesting things we say about the weather in March, April, May, and June. We’re all familiar with “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” But J. Fletcher, author of the play “Wife for a Month,” written in the mid-1600s has this to say: “I would choose March, for I would come in like a lion.”… “But you’d go out like a lamb when you went to a hanging.”

Here’s some practical advice:

A dry March and a wet May?

Fill barns and bays with corn and hay.

 

For a touch of whimsy: If April showers bring May flowers, then what do May flowers bring? Answer: June bugs. Another answer: Pilgrims!

Here’s an interesting way to help predict the weather:

As it rains in March so it rains in June.

In 1557, hoping to encourage patience, Thomas Tusser wrote:

Sweet April showers

Do spring May flowers

Let’s not forget the first four lines of Chaucer’s prologue to “The Canterbury Tales”…

When April with his flowers sweet with fruit

The drought of March has pierced unto the root

And bathed each vein with liquor that has power

To generate therein and sire the flower

And finally here’s something to ponder regarding March weather’s lions and lambs (and its possible carry-over to human traits):

Lions are usually considered the king of beasts because they are predators and they reign at the top of the food chain. What can we say about lambs? Meek and mild, they follow the herd and are an easy prey for predators.

Travel

 In my last newsletter, I shared with you a look at Guatemala’s archaeological wonders, including the temples, pyramids, ball courts, stone animal figures, and residences. This time, I’d like to describe the villages and populated areas our group visited and the rural highlands we drove through. For many of us the highlight was seeing the Guatemalan people going about their daily life planting, harvesting, caring for animals, cooking, praying in church, fishing, transporting goods to and from the market, walking to school, carving mahogany animals, creating colorful glass-beaded birds, and weaving fabric.

One Sunday we explored the town of Chichicastenango, known for its unbelievably huge and colorful marketplace with 4,000 stalls featuring every imaginable product grown or handmade in Guatemala. In addition to the market there were restaurants with waiters dressed in their regional finest and the Church of Santo Tomás with its beautiful exterior and interior that drew crowds onto the steep steps. From there we drove to our hotel overlooking Lake Atitlán, famous for its beauty and three volcanoes all in a row.

From our hotel balconies the volcanoes appeared so close together that they seemed to touch; and they appeared so near to us that they could have been rising up from the shore, a short distance away. Twelve villages dot the shoreline of the lake, each with its own distinctive legends (Leyendas Populares).

In the morning we took a launch across the lake to the village of Santiago Atitlán, known particularly for its woven fabrics, but also for wood carvings and jewelry. We climbed the steep cobblestone streets that led from the lake up the hillside and through the village. We stopped every few feet to shop, or simply enjoy the ambience, or see a demonstration of weaving or beading. We were amazed at the demonstration by a local woman who made the intriguing regional-style hat from a long strip of fabric that, using both hands, she continually wound around and around the base of her hat while it was on her head.

Earlier I mentioned the folk legends of this area. The particular legend of this village, Santiago Atitlán, centers on “Maximón,” who is also known as Saint Simón, a folk saint, who is said to appear in the dreams of believers. A few details: Dressed in colorful clothing and adorned with garlands of flowers, the effigy of Maximón is a mixture of the Mayan god Mam and influences from Spanish Catholicism. He is a bully who must not be angered, rather than a god. His effigy and altar attract worshippers of his cult during Holy Week. They bring him flowers, cigars, spirits, and other gifts. When the effigy’s clothing is washed, the water is saved and distributed as holy water. During the Carnival rituals, Maximón has replaced Judas.

Many in our travel group as well as visitors from around the world love the beautiful town of Antigua, a Spanish colonial gem, not far from Guatemala City, that we visited near the end of our trip. Many of the people of Antigua wear modern clothing and speak Spanish, not a Mayan dialect. Many commute daily by bus from their “bedroom communities” to downtown Antigua, about twenty minutes away. As we approached the city, our guide Estuardo told us that “Antigua’s beauty is behind its doors.” We soon saw what he meant as we passed through a bedroom community. The buildings are flush with the sidewalk and the sidewalk touches the cobblestone street. From our bus, we could only glimpse the beauty inside when a resident happened to open a door…and then shut it all too soon.

However, once we got off the bus near downtown Antigua, we truly saw the beauty Estuardo had mentioned. We entered many of the large colonial homes that had been converted to hotels and shops. We could wander through at our leisure and enjoy the grandeur of hand-hewn wooden beams, gardens, fountains, stucco walls, and wrought-iron gates. Restaurants and shops were everywhere with their doors wide open and their beauty on display. The exteriors were beautiful too. Strict codes permit only certain colors in order to avoid sharp visual contrasts, and only one-story new construction is allowed. A long white government building with a row of dramatic arches dominated the central square. It dated back to when the Spanish ruled the area, a time when only people born in Spain were allowed to enter the building.

Antigua is home to twenty-eight churches dating back to the colonial days. Estuardo told us that people often said there was a church on every corner. When we stepped inside the first church, La Merced, an amazing sight greeted us. The statues, there were many and several were close enough to touch, wore velvet robes decorated with delicate glass beads that sparkled in the subdued light. The statues of La Merced are known for their tender faces and sweet expressions and it’s a well-deserved reputation. The statues seem life-like, approachable, and appealing. As we left the church we heard the familiar sound of flute music which seemed to float through the air on gentle breezes everywhere in Antigua.

Antigua is a UNESCO site and preservation is vital. We saw an area where UNESCO is working as a result of an earthquake (7.3) that, in the brief span of three minutes, toppled large sections of a church and scattered them. We walked among the large chunks of fallen columns, arches, and other architectural remnants, many protected from the weather by make-shift aluminum roofing. With help from computers, UNESCO workers hope to restore the church to its original glory with all the pillars and details in the proper place and order.

In sharp contrast to the beauty and charm of Antigua, are industrial-entrepreneurial areas along the highways near the border. We passed by a six-mile stretch where shops buzzed with the sounds of machinery and old American school buses lined the street. The seats had been removed and stacked on top of the bus, leaving room inside for used washing machines, other appliances, and even small cars. The workmen, wearing jeans and T-shirts, repair and then sell the re-conditioned products. Other shops dealt in engines, car windows, batteries, radiators, and hubcaps. There were car-washing places, brick-making places, and trucks—big trucks and small trucks and every size in-between—everywhere!

How different that area was from the northern highlands, where quiet reigned supreme and the natural beauty of the country prevailed. Estuardo, a very intelligent and often philosophical man, mentioned that to call Guatemala a poor country is somewhat judgmental and doesn’t tell the whole story. The soil is rich enough that the people can grow their own food and the lakes are healthy enough to provide them with fish. However, depending on the season and unpredictable weather conditions, many areas suffer from an inadequate water supply. The local government is helping by delivering water and providing large reservoir tanks to store it. The tanks are placed in the family’s yard or on the roof of their home.

Some of the farmers have tried using fertilizer to maximize their crop production, but the spill-off went down to the lakes and produced an algae crust, causing the fish to die. The government insisted that no chemicals be used and suggested instead compost and animal “deposits.” However, pesticides are still in use. The banana crop suffered a black blight, but that problem was resolved by wrapping plastic bags around the bananas on the trees. Lending a futuristic other-worldly look to the terrain, the bags are visible from the narrow roads and close enough to touch. Apparently a greenhouse effect occurred and the bananas turned out larger and prettier.

On a very positive note, in the hotels where we stayed we met many kind-hearted individuals, missionary groups, and outreach groups from the United States and other countries that have come to help the people of Guatemala. Many return every year, bringing needed supplies and comfort. One couple in our group brought Frisbees and other fun items to an elementary school and many of us went along and played with the children. That was an unexpected and unforgettable part of our trip. Earthquakes have taken their toll, leaving many shattered families and countless orphans. The individuals and groups of people we met are working with them. Several had even moved to Guatemala to teach. While driving through the highlands we saw first-hand the work of technical missions that are helping the people with fish farming and irrigation techniques, to name two projects. There isn’t space enough to really do justice to the spirit of volunteerism that we found thriving in Guatemala.

The impression I would like to leave you with is that Guatemala is a destination that offers memories to last a lifetime and much to think about.

 

Cooking Delights

Apricot Chicken

This recipe is one of the oldest in my collection and definitely fits the “Fast and easy” category. It’s a

6-ingredient recipe that cooks can choose when they are pressed for time…and are willing to give up natural ingredients and settle for prepared products.

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp each garlic powder and pepper

8 ounces apricot jam (or jelly)

6 ounces Russian dressing

1 package dry onion soup

 

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken with pepper and garlic powder and place in a large pan or casserole dish suitable for the oven.

Mix together the Russian dressing, soup mix, and apricot jam. Pour the mix over the chicken and bake for one hour. (Depending on your oven, you may wish to tent loosely with foil after 30 minutes if the sauce sticks.)

Serve with rice, vegetable, and tossed salad.

An alternative (and fancy) method is to butterfly the chicken breasts and sauté in a skillet coated with olive oil and heated. You may need to do this in batches, 2 minutes per side. Then continue with recipe above and possibly reduce cooking time by 10 minutes. To be REALLY fancy, pour several tablespoons of water into the skillet after you finish sautéing the chicken, scrape up all the pieces of chicken that stuck to the pan, and add the liquid to the mix that you are going to pour over the chicken.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and thank you for your kind comments. Greetings and welcome to all of my new readers, including the 15 I met recently in Guatemala.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

 

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

By the way, I set out for Guatemala hoping to find the inspiration for a novel, featuring a fictional heroine I have named Rosie. With luck on my side, I found it! I now look forward to pulling together ideas from my notes written “on the spot,” that draw from geography, history, archaeology, the tour guide’s detailed knowledge, research materials, along with anecdotes and humor that can’t be found in any research books. Then, of course, comes the hard part: creating an exciting plot with a beginning, middle, and end, all of which takes place within several days in Guatemala.

 

This and That

 Some interesting things about the month of February.

  • Many of us associate February 14th with St. Valentine’s

Day and with love. But one particular February 14th doesn’t fit in: the St. Valentine Day’s Massacre in Chicago in 1929 when mob members associated with Bugs Moran, Al Capone’s rival, died execution-style at the hands of four unknown perpetrators.

  • Anglo-Saxons called February Solmonath (mud month) and

Kale-monath (cabbage month).

  • February took its name from the Latin word februum, meaning purification, a ritual that took place at that time of year.
  • In Shakespeare’s day, February was known as Feverell.
  • February is avocado and banana month.
  • February 2 is Paul Bunyan Day.
  • February 20 is Love Your Pet Day.
  • In the United States and Canada the whole month of

February celebrates Black History.

  • Groundhog Dad is celebrated February 2 in the US and

Canada.

  • February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day.

 

Travel

I’d like to share with you the highlights of the eleven-day tour I took throughout Guatemala with a small group of well-seasoned adventurous travelers. But first, a few facts to help set the scene. Guatemala, meaning “Land of the Forests,” is often called “The Heart of the Mayan World,” and “The Land of Eternal Spring.” Guatemala, about the size of Tennessee, is the largest of the Central American countries. Belize, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras are its neighbors. The population of about 11 million is 56 % Spanish descent and 44 % Mayan descent, with 21 indigenous populations. The languages spoken are Spanish, Garifuna, and 21 Maya languages, including Quiché, Cakchiqul, Kekchi, Mam, and Xinca. (Qui is pronounced KEE; X is pronounced SH.) The religion is Roman Catholic and Maya–Catholic. Among the more than 5,000 (!) archaeological sites in Guatemala, several have been restored and are very popular with tourists-Tikal*, Yaxhá, and Quiriguá* to name three included on the tour, plus Copan*, in nearby Honduras.(*= UNESCO World Heritage Monuments.) I’m going to focus on the archaeological sites for this newsletter. For the March edition I’ll describe what our group saw and did during the other days.

Our trip really began in earnest on the second day with a wake-up call at 4 o’clock A.M. for a departure in a small commercial plane. Away we went the 16 of us, our tour director, Estuardo, and two pilots, into the foggy yonder toward the town of Flores, in the highlands of northern Guatemala. From there we traveled by van to Yaxhá, meaning “green-blue water,” our first Maya ceremonial site. The third largest site of Maya ruins in Guatemala, it boasts 1400 monuments, including ballcourts, the North Acropolis, residential and religious sites, and temple 216, which is over 90 feet high (talk about the WOW factor!). What a wild welcome we received from the aptly named howler monkeys, shrieking and shaking branches from their perches in the leafy canopy far above us. Macaws, the national bird of Guatemala, flew from tree to tree and landed on branches at eye-level near us, showing off their brilliant colors and posing for photos.

We couldn’t wait to explore the dazzling site. “Explore” has many meanings, including hiking over rugged terrain containing slippery slopes and a sprawling web of tree roots, thick as boa constrictors that seemed to have slithered in every direction before coming to a standstill. This type of trek meant leaving every non-essential item in the van. Carrying only a water bottle and camera (for me a notebook and pen instead of a camera)and possibly a small backpack left our hands free to grab hold of rocks and branches.

Once we reached the actual site, we were rewarded with the fun of climbing the pyramids, residences, and other structures—and imagining what life was like when the Maya civilization flourished and its people, possibly in ceremonial regalia, stood in the very places where we now stood. Estuardo (fluent in 5 languages, a former physics and math teacher, and a darned nice guy with fascinating information) told us that when the structures were built they were painted in vivid colors, but now the paint was gone. We were left in a monochromatic world with only random traces of color. However, it was possible to imagine a rainbow of colors as multihued birds flew by, the sky showed hints of lavender then turned deep blue, and the rays of the yellow sun shone down on mighty Yaxhá, turning the grass and leaves vibrant green.

Estuardo led us to the ballcourt, consisting of two parallel sloped walls along the sides of the field. The fields apparently came in sizes, small to accommodate only 1-2 players per team or as large as a football field for as many as 11 players. The rubber ball used in the game weighed about 8 pounds and was hard and solid enough to cause injuries. The players wore protective gear, such as stone or wooden yokes, headdresses or helmets, cotton pads on the elbows and knees, and heavy belts or yokes probably of leather worn around the waist. Some yokes weighed as much as 50 pounds and were worn around the hips so that the player could effectively return the hard rubber ball. We know all this because protective gear was found in court ruins and the burial places of ballplayers.

Here’s a ghoulish detail (I’m thinking maybe a Halloween story could come from this.) Ornaments hanging from the players’ belts might have been skulls, trophy heads taken in battle. Moving on (I avoided saying moving ahead), the ball was bounced off the player’s elbows, hips, knees or head. Using hands was illegal. There’s some debate as to the purpose of the stone circles or hoops attached to the side walls, but we do know that the ball wasn’t allowed to touch the ground. We can see in engravings that the heads of players were chopped off with obsidian blades, but we don’t know if the sacrificial death was a punishment for the loser or an honor for the winner.

The Mayan myth of the Hero Twins is an intriguing interpretation of the game. The story goes that the twins battled the gods of death who inhabited the underworld, Xibalba, by playing a ball game. The twins won, rose to heaven, and became the sun and the moon. Symbolically the ball represents the moon and the sun, whereas the court represents the earth. During the game, the ball must not touch the court. Such an interpretation indicates that the ball game may be an extension of the Maya religion and it probably shows the importance of the sun and its nighttime twin the moon.

Estuardo told us that the ballplayers arrived in elaborate eye-catching costumes topped off with impressive feathered headdresses. He left us to ponder if the ballgame was truly a game. Or possibly was it a battle of life and death to settle disputes? Or perhaps it was a ceremony about the sun and not a sport at all. But since betting was incredibly popular at the event, so popular that people went into debt and even ended up in slavery, it could be the obvious, a sport.

That same afternoon we drove over challenging roads and then went by launch to Topoxté which occupies several islands clustered in Yaxhá Lake. We hiked along a trail through the forest to visit Mayan structures dating from 900 to 1200 A.D. Workers using ropes to ascend the pyramids were removing the fungus and vegetation encroaching upon the steep cement steps. Tough work by anyone’s standards and Mother Nature, apparently eager to reclaim her forest, was fighting them every inch and step of the way.

The following day, we arrived at spectacular Tikal, meaning “Hole of Water” in Yutec language. Tikal is considered the most powerful kingdom of the ancient Maya, who reigned there from about 600 BC to 869 AD. Dazzled by the sheer size and number of the structures located in the 222-square-mile park, we followed Estuardo to the most famous ones. Let me give you their names (aren’t they just perfect for a mystery novel??): the Lost-World Complex; the Palace of the Windows; the Pyramid of the Great Jaguar; the Pyramid of the Masks; the Palace of the Nobles; and the highest of all the Maya pyramids, Pyramid IV, offering a panoramic view of all the structures and the jungle.

Wild turkey (real, live, contemporary turkey, not fabrications of our imagination) with iridescent blue, red, and purple feathers and strange little yellow-orange nodules that looked like corn kernels sitting on top of their heads strutted around the grounds. At moments like that, it was easy to question whether you’re seeing something real or something as surreal as the subject matter of a Salvador Dali painting.

Quiriguá, a Maya site considered small because it has only 21 monuments and occupies a relatively tiny area, appealed to me because, by all accounts, it contains some of the finest stone carvings in the entire Maya world. Situated along the Motagua River, Quiriguá consists primarily of a flat grassy plain, surrounded by banana plantations. Almost immediately we came upon 12 stelae, each an upright carved or inscribed stone slab decorated with figures or inscriptions used for commemorative purposes, usually relating to the king. Estuardo, who could read the long panels of stunning glyphic text (top to bottom, left to right) filled in information about the king who was being celebrated on the stone. He, Estuardo, not the king, taught us how to decipher the dating/number system, a very complicated process.

Try to imagine this (or find images online). At Quiriguá each stela was carved from a single block of red sandstone. The tallest one stands 35’ high, is 5’ wide, 5’ thick, and weighs over 60 tons. It is the largest ever quarried by the ancient Maya and the tallest stone monumental sculpture ever erected in the New World. Each of these ancient stelae is protected from the elements by a deeply pitched thatched roof supported by four poles, one at each corner. This creates an intriguing mix of a complicated message in stone housed in a simple dwelling.

Estuardo explained that the tallest stela, not far from where we were standing, tilted and eventually fell, but didn’t break. Later, when it was raised with a winch and steel cables, it fell and this time it broke into two pieces. It was repaired and is still standing in all its eye-popping glory. Here’s a mystery without an answer: The Maya had no metal tools (they used jade and obsidian for carving stone), no wheeled carts, and no beasts of burden, so how were they able to move these gigantic stones from a nearby quarry through the forests to this plain? Hmmmm.

Besides the stelae, there are boulders, some probably serving as altars, sculpted into mythological animals called zoomorphs (my new favorite word), dating from the late eighth century. It’s easy to spot toads, jaguars, crocodiles and birds of prey among the creations. One multi-ton boulder was sculpted into a formidable half-crocodile and half-mountain-beast. There is a jaguar-like creature clenching a human head in its jaws, possibly the king’s head. One interpretation is that the jaguar kills off the old king and gives birth to the new king. Another zoomorph shows a ruler sitting cross-legged in the open mouth of a fierce monster. The jaguar, by the way, was the protector of the military and the jaguar is known for its ability to crush bones, including skull bones, with its teeth. Just thought you’d like to know that.

My favorite zoomorph was nicknamed “The Great Turtle” by an archaeologist and was covered with carved figures and glyphs. Estuardo explained that the turtle demonstrated the Maya concept of the sun’s journey. The sun started at the turtle’s head, traveled across the back to the tail where it dropped down. The waiting jaguar pounced, swallowed the sun whole, carried it through the netherworld beneath the turtle, and finally headed up toward the turtle’s head. There the jaguar spit out the sun, which then began its journey all over again across the turtle’s back.

Not surprisingly the jaguar is black and yellow, black for the darkness of the night and yellow for the brightness of the sun. This may help us to understand why in the Maya world when the sun didn’t come out in the morning, the people feared for their crops and perhaps their very existence. They put on jaguar masks and jaguar skins and performed rituals trying to force the sun to come out. (That could explain why today people in northern climates leave the snow and ice and head here to Florida. We call them “Snow birds.” They often call themselves “Sun worshippers.” Just a thought.)

Our final Maya complex was Copán, in nearby Honduras. This is a huge site with temples, palaces, plazas, residences, and an amphitheater amounting to a whopping 4509 structures in all. Everywhere we walked we saw mighty ceiba trees, with spikes that looked like jaguar teeth. The tree, sacred to the Maya because of its power and spirit, was believed to connect the underground (the roots of the tree) to heaven (the canopy of the tree). Today, towering above us, the ceiba seemed to be holding the ancient structures, above and below ground, in its grip and nearly smothering them. Time may be running out to save the structures. There are currently 4000 mounds waiting for money from the Honduras government to excavate them. Meanwhile the trees, so to speak, are gaining ground.

Our local guide, a delightful young woman, stopped along the way to show us drains that the Mayans had built throughout their complex. “Today everything in the country is flooding, except Copán,” she said and with a touch of pride added, “We need Mayan engineers.”

She led us to a pyramid named Rosalinda, containing the tombs of kings, one on top of the other, and the tomb of a woman (discovered in 1989). Our guide said it was conjectured that the woman’s husband the king died, their baby boy was too young to rule so the wife ruled “as queen.”

The most unusual structure of all was Temple 11, discovered in 1891. It has a Hieroglyphic Stairway. There are 63 steps displaying 2000 glyphs, currently being scanned in 3D, and six or so statues perched on the steps. A long line of 16 rulers presided over Copán. The greatest of them, 18-Rabbit, was defeated by the military of Quiriguá. He was captured, fed magic mushrooms, placed on an altar in the grand plaza in Quiriguá, and sacrificed to the cheers of thousands of spectators. Their method of sacrifice, complete with an executioner, went like this: cut the victim in many places with an obsidian blade, catch the blood in shells, add herbs to the blood, and fire up the concoction that will send up clouds of swirling smoke.

Curious about the names of the other kings, I compiled a list of those mentioned at the various Mayan sites. They seem to reveal important aspects of the Mayan world. For instance there was Moon Jaguar, Smoke Skull, Cauac Sky; and Fire burning Sky Lightning God, known to the Maya as K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yoat; and Yax K’uk Mó meaning First Quetzal Macaw.

I hoped you enjoyed this taste of Guatemala’s archaeological wonders. Speaking of taste, please read on.

 

Cooking Delights

Guatemalan Chicken Soup

Sopa de Tortilla

Ingredients:

8 oz. cubed skinless, boneless chicken breast

1/2 oz. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder or minced garlic

1/4 tsp ground cumin

28-30 oz. chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)

1 cup each chopped onion; a mix of chopped red, orange and yellow peppers; frozen or fresh corn off the cob; chopped or crushed tomatoes or chunky salsa

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

a large handful of corn tortilla chips crushed (or an equivalent amount of real corn tortillas cut in matchstick strips)

possible addition: one cup black beans, drained

 

Preparation:

Cook and stir chicken in oil in a large pot for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add and stir in garlic and cumin. Add all remaining ingredients (except tortilla chips/strips). Simmer for 25 minutes. Add tortilla chips/strips and simmer for 5 minutes. Some people like to top off the soup with a tablespoon of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, but I never saw that in Guatemala.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and thank you for your kind comments. Greetings and welcome to new readers. Happy January, 2014, to one and all. Here’s to a new year of health, happiness, and fun!

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

I will be trying something new during my trip to Guatemala, February 9-19. Traveling with pen and notebook while sightseeing with a tour group of 16, I hope to be inspired by something exciting—a mistaken identity, an unusual treasure, an unexpected turn of events, an intriguing festival, a secret tucked into an old book—something that would set in motion my next mystery. The fictional heroine, Rosie, is well-formed in my mind. She’s fun, inquisitive, and intuitive. She doesn’t go looking for trouble but it often finds her. We’ll see how things go for Rosie on this trip. I hope to have something to report in my February newsletter.

 

This and That

 Some interesting things about the month of January.

  • President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
  • The Anglo-Saxons called the first month “Wolfmonth” because wolves came into the villages in winter in search of food. Legend says that Charlemagne called it “Wintarmanuth.”
  • The Czechs call January “leden,” meaning ice month.
  • The official flower for January is the snowdrop, but the carnation is also mentioned.
  • In America, January is “National Soup Month.”
  • In America, January 4 is designated National Short People Day and also National Spaghetti Day.

 

Travel

Many of you wrote to tell me that you enjoyed the mother-daughter trip to France taken from my journal, “Travel Tales,” subtitled “The Adventures of Barrie and Mom in France,” written in 1995. That adventure took place in Paris and was entitled “Evening Descends on Ile de la Cité.” I decided to include another “adventure,” this time from the Old City of St. Malo, located on the English Channel in northwestern France. This excerpt is called “A Day Among the Malouins.”

My daughter, Barrie, and I had read about the Mardi-Gras atmosphere “within the walls” of the Old City of St. Malo, the crowds pouring from cafés to fill the cobblestone streets and ramparts, and the hearty souls who challenged the swift-rising tides along the walkway to Grand Bré Island.

None of this activity was evident as we hurried from the St. Malo train station on the northern coast of France through the deserted early-morning streets “outside the walls” searching for our budget guidebook’s recommendation: Hôtel le Neptune. After a few wrong turns and some local assistance—one shopkeeper thumbed through a directory of street names, another called his aunt for directions—we arrived at Neptune’s doorstep.

The lone customer, a dapper gentleman sipping coffee at the bar, looked up from his newspaper. “Visitors,” he called out, and Madame, the proprietress, bustled from the back room.

“I’m booked solid for the week,” she said in French.

Disappointment flickered across Barrie’s face.

“Could you recommend a hotel?” I asked in French. “Something similar to your establishment: clean, charming, and suitable for our limited budget?”

“I’ll make a few calls,” Madame said and disappeared into the back room. Her cheery voice rippled through greetings, inquiries, and ended with three magic words: “Bon…Bon…Bon.” She poked her head into the doorway, scanning us from head to toe, and said into the receiver, “Two pleasant Americans dressed in sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirts.”

Madame returned. “You have your choice of two rooms at the Hôtel de l’Artimon.” She spread out a street map, and traced our route with her fingertip. She nodded toward the gentleman at the bar. “Monsieur Gérard is a native, a Malouin. He’ll step outside and point you in the right direction.” Monsieur Gérard smiled, pleased to be of service. “This way, my dear ladies in distress,” he said. He ushered us to the street, unlocked the doors to a car, and said gallantly, “Allow me to escort you.”

Monsieur Gérard, who enjoyed honking the horn and rounding corners on two wheels, recounted St. Malo’s distinguished history as a ship-building center. “Hôtel de l’Artimon, straight ahead,” he said and explained that “artimon” meant a ship’s mizzenmast.” He pointed toward the Artimon, nestled among a row of narrow, four-story hotels, only blocks away from their taller beach-front neighbors.

Barrie and I entered the lobby/restaurant/bar, and the young proprietor greeted us in French. “Ah, the American ladies. I’ve been expecting you.” He checked his watch. “You rise before the sun. My guests in all 16 rooms are still sleeping.”

Reading our consternation as we juggled our luggage, he said, “No problem. Take the room, sight unseen. Surprises are fun.” He smiled. “I’ll keep my eye on your bags, and have them moved to your room later.” Such kindness triggered my New-York-honed suspicious mind.

We chose the less expensive room and decided to splurge the difference on lunch. The proprietor offered “the use of the facilities” at the rear of the lobby. The hallway was shadowy; the facilities, tiny. Our elbows and knees banged into the walls as we maneuvered our bags and changed into lighter clothing. Lurid tales of abduction and white slavery careened through my mind.

Nibbling fresh-baked bread, Barrie and I walked along the sidewalk that bordered the miles of brown-sand beach. Cool sea breezes wafted across the granite peninsula on which St. Malo’s Old City had been built. To our left rose a string of hotels and the casino where gamblers played a game, something like roulette, called “broule.” Somewhere ahead, the Old City lay hidden, its walls shrouded in mist.

Barrie laughed. “Mom, do you realize you’re breaking all your rules?” She rattled off: “Never accept rides from strangers. Don’t pay for a room until you’ve seen it. Lock your luggage in your room. Avoid poorly lit restrooms.”

“Very funny,” I replied scooting after her into the pea-soup-thick fog.

“Look!” Barrie shouted pointing toward the water’s edge. Magically, two chestnut horses broke through the fog. Manes flying, they raced into the wind, pulling a buggy and its two passengers. As suddenly as they had emerged, they disappeared into the mists, only to reappear seconds later. Barrie grabbed her zoom camera and shot two pictures. “Did we imagine that?” she asked, incredulous.

Before I could answer, the chiseled granite walls of the Old City materialized. Above us, partially concealed in the swirling mists, towered miles of ramparts dating from the Middle Ages.

We entered the Old City beneath the archway of Porte St-Vincent. The cobblestone street led us to Chateaubriand Square named after the Malouin writer who fostered Romanticism. Sleepy-eyes people enjoyed their morning coffee beneath colorful awnings and umbrellas. Artists, jewelry makers, woodcarvers, and other craftspeople set out their wares. Shopkeepers opened their doors. Hotel guests appeared at their balcony windows. Bit by bit, St. Malo stirred in the fresh morning air.

We sat on a stone bench in front of Café de la Licorne (Unicorn) and listened to three musicians warming up their instruments: a harp, a dulcimer, and a piccolo. Beautiful, lilting Celtic melodies floated on the breeze. I closed my eyes. Memories surfaced: nostalgic tunes my Irish relatives sang, mysterious-sounding Gaelic words, my mother’s stories of keening winds when sailors were lost at sea.

The fog began to lift and crowds streamed through Porte St-Vincent. Skipping the tourist attractions, Barrie and I climbed the stone stairs to the serpentine path along the ramparts. Masons had continually restored them, enabling walkers to circle the entire city and descend at various intervals. On one side, below us, several children built sand castles or swam while others jumped on a trampoline. Braving the waves, teenagers raced toward the diving platform. Sunbathing adults snoozed.

“They’ll wake up soon,” Barrie commented. “The water’s rising very fast.”

A Malouin woman tugged Barrie’s elbow and nodded toward the incoming tide. “Soon the hungry sea will swallow the beach.”

I asked, “Is there time for us to walk to Grand Bré Island?”

The woman shrugged. “Try your luck. But we Malouins, we do not tempt the ravenous waves. We tell them: Bon appétit! And we hurry toward high ground.”

On the other side, from our vantage point, we saw symmetrical stone apartment buildings sharing the streets with quaint shops and tiny restaurants. Besides the usual boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pasty shops) there were creperies, serving crepes; mouleries, offering mussels; and couscousseries, preparing the Moroccan pasta, couscous. Looking at the architectural details of the buildings—many dated from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries—we found it hard to believe that eighty per cent of the city had been destroyed by bombing raids during World War II. This seamless blend of original, restored, and new was a tribute to Malouin determination.

(At this point, for brevity’s sake, I’m going to skip through the next several pages where we watched the street performers and enjoyed the specialties—large, thin, buckwheat crepes called galettes, and mussels served with French fries—the dish was called moules frites. I will continue the story where we headed back to our hotel, passing by rows of bikes and motorcycles.)

Waves nibbled the shoreline. Whitecaps flashed in the moonlight. Peace and quiet reigned beyond the walls.

“Good evening, American ladies,” the bartender at our hotel greeted us. He handed us the key to our room and another to the bathroom. “Everything is ready and waiting for you.”

Barrie and I climbed the steep, winding stairway. The lights, on a timer, relegated each floor to darkness as our feet touched the next landing. Barrie whispered over her shoulder, “I feel sorry for whoever carried our bags up these stairs.”

I replied, “Tomorrow, let’s tie the sheets together and lower our bags from the window.”

“What sheets?” Barrie asked.

“What window?” I ventured, and we both laughed.

Huffing and puffing, we arrived at our doorway. Barrie whispered, “How did they ever get the furniture up here?” Our eyes locked. Were two sleeping bags and a bare light bulb waiting for us? With trepidation, Barrie turned the key in the lock and fumbled for the light switch.

“Wow! This is small,” Barrie said. “But cute.”

Tucked under the deeply slanted eaves, were two beds, a sink, a chair, an armoire, and our bags.

Barrie hopped gingerly onto a bed and pushed open the gable widow.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. I climbed up. Side by side, we gazed at the starry sky. The moonlight glinted off the black water. Foghorns groaned in the distance.

We reminisced about the wonderful day. We recalled the chestnut horses that had magically appeared in the mists.

Barrie turned toward the sea. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see silver unicorns prancing in the surf,” she murmured.

“Or mermaids riding the waves,” I added.

Later as we drifted into sleep, I knew we would dream about adventurous Malouins and their Celtic ancestors.

 

Cooking Delights

Pasta Grandisosa

This is not your typical Italian pasta dish. Two ingredients set it apart from the usual combination of ingredients. Don’t say “Oh no,” when I tell you the two ingredients are orange juice and chicken broth. Mama mia! It’s true. It’s blasphemy, but try it! You’ll like it! Maybe even love it! So will your guests. This is a big meal, serving 8-10. Leftovers, if there are any, can be frozen.

Ingredients:

1 package, 16 oz penne pasta

1 small onion, chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

48 oz marinara sauce (from jars—classico style if possible)

28 oz fresh mild Italian sausage links, sliced in rounds (like pennies); small meatballs can be substituted

1 cup fresh orange juice

3/4 cup chicken broth

1-2 medium red peppers chopped

salt, pepper, garlic salt to taste

1 cup fresh torn basil leaves

8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced or coarsely grated

 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside. In Dutch oven, sauté sausage rounds 10 minutes in hot olive oil, stirring often.(If substituting meatballs, cook them thoroughly.) Add onion and red pepper(s)to hot oil and sauté 5 minutes more. Add pasta sauce, orange juice, chicken broth, and more salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Turn up heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in pasta and basil.

CAREFULLY transfer all of that to a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish. Place dish, uncovered on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet (to catch any spills). Top with cheese, covering with cheese slices or sprinkling with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with salad, crusty bread, and if you really want to go all out, serve with fresh spinach, steamed and drained. Wine would be nice!

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and thank you for your kind comments. This is such a busy season with limited time to read or write that I decided to combine the November and December newsletters. I’ll be back on track with a monthly edition in January 2014. That’s the first time I’ve written the actual numbers of the approaching year. Let’s hope it’s a good one that grants all our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our country.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

 Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

THIS WEEK AMAZON SENT ME SOME VERY EXCITING NEWS THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU:

My novel, The Treasures of Montauk Cove, is now included in Amazon’s Local Deals Mobile App from December 13, 2013, through January 9, 2014. Customers who have the App will be able to redeem the offer to buy the Kindle version of The Treasures of Montauk Cove for 99 cents. If you have the App, you might wish to check out the offer. I don’t have a Kindle so I can’t be of any help to you, but good luck and happy reading.

 

This and That

A few things to think about at this time of year:

November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.

Emily Dickinson.

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.

Oliver Herford

 

The gardening season officially begins on January first and ends on December 31st.   Marie Huston

 

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is grey

I went for a walk

On a winter’s day

I’d be safe and warm

If I was in L.A.

California dreamin’

On such a winter’s day

The Mamas and The Papas

 

Travel

In the summer of 1995, my daughter Barrie and I took a mother-daughter trip to France. I turned our experiences and impressions into a journal, calling it Travel Tales, with the sub-title The Adventures of Barrie and Mom in France. I hope you enjoy this episode, which took place near the end of our very first day. It’s called

“Evening Descends on Ile de la Cité”

On this sultry Paris evening the Latin Quarter bustled with students bent forward beneath the weight of their backpacks. Couples strolling toward the banks of the Seine stopped to enjoy a moment of passion, then several minutes more. Parents with toddlers riding on their shoulders joked with parents pushing babies in strollers. And tourists like my daughter Barrie and me, guide books in hand, meandered through the crowds emerging from cafes, bookstores, and hotels. We’d all come to the Ile de la Cité, the island located between the elegant Right Bank and the vivacious Left Bank, drawn to Notre Dame and her timeless mystique.

For Barrie and me, Day One of our mother-daughter vacation in France had turned into a roller-coaster ride. There were a few “downs,” (a bomb scare in the metro, a poor exchange rate, our luggage weighing more than we remembered) offset by numerous “ups” (friendly people, inexpensive hotels, a bargain museum pass). We arrived at Notre Dame at 8 o’clock, wondering what the evening held in store for us.

In the shadow of the gothic cathedral, Barrie and I crossed Parvis Square. We checked out the wares of vendors who sold soda, beer, and bottled water to accompany loaves of crusty bread stuffed with camembert or gruyère cheese. A teenager with blue spiky hair and a ring in his nose brushed past us. He pointed to a croque-monsieur, a scrumptious sandwich grilled to golden perfection with ham on the inside and cheese on the outside. “Eeez zee verrrr-ree best,” he confided. We ordered and debated whether he came from Brooklyn or the Bronx.

Savoring every morsel of our sandwiches, we turned toward the street scenes unfolding around us. With quick charcoal swirls and dashes, a caricaturist captured a fidgety child’s impish grin, crinkled eyes, and unruly cowlicks. The proud papa applauded the masterpiece, rolled it up, and tucked it under his arm. Roving entrepreneurs held up miniature Notre Dames and Eiffel Towers. Other merchants, stationed beside spindly-legged tables, displayed souvenir plates and mugs and plastic gargoyles dangling from key chains.

A mime, dressed in traditional black and white, mesmerized a group of curious children. With a red carnation pulled from behind his ear, he beckoned them toward the cathedral. The children, with their shoulders scrunched up to their ears and their eyes wide with wonder, tip-toed after him. They turned toward their parents for approval and clapped their hands over their mouths to stifle their laugher.

A clown wearing a shimmering striped suit dumped out a pile of fruit from the pointed hat that covered his cotton-candy hair. He began to juggle apples, oranges, lemons, and bananas. His foot pumped a lever attached to a drum. As a drum roll resounded, he caught the apple in his mouth and bit off a chunk. He rinsed his hands in a bucket of water. When he dumped the bucket on top of a man’s head, confetti rained down. The man’s family laughed.

An organ grinder with a squeaky voice serenaded his donkey. The animal brayed loudly. It nodded its head, shook the wreaths of paper flowers festooned around its neck, and sauntered away with an old-fashioned wooden cart in tow. The passengers, a young boy and girl, giggled and waved.

Barrie and I approached Notre-Dame’s three magnificent doors. To the left, the Portal to the Virgin depicted Mary’s heavenly coronation along with the signs of the zodiac. The Last Judgment, the Resurrection, and the Weighing of Souls occupied the center door. To the right, the portal of Saint Anne featured the Virgin holding the holy child.

I nudged Barrie. “You never sat that still when you were a baby.” Barrie rolled her eyes. Before she could drag out each letter of “Mom,” I pointed to the famous rose window above the three doors. “It’s 31 feet in diameter,” I quoted from our guide book. Barrie noted that the Crusaders had prayed inside the cathedral and that Napoleon had been crowned Emperor there. Feeling the tug of history, we gazed at Notre Dame’s ancient stones, the silent witnesses to countless events.

“This is paradise,” Barrie marveled.

“And you’re my angel,” I replied, taken with the moment.

“This really is paradise,” Barrie explained, pointing to the parvis, the church square. “This square,” she quoted, “represented paradise to the medieval audiences who watched actors perform mystery plays, right here in front of the cathedral. The word parvis comes from the word paradise. Isn’t that cool?”

“Definitely cool,” I agreed.

We turned toward the grinding, grating sounds behind us. A group of street skaters had begun to entertain a gathering crowd. With swift strides, they dove down the street, crouched, careened off their makeshift ramp, and soared into the air before the open-mouthed spectators. A bare-chested daredevil with protective pads on his knees and elbows, hurdled off the ramp, flew high, swung his knees to the left, his arms to the right, and sat for a split second on a cushion of air. He landed, fingers spread ready to break the fall which never happened, then skated away. One after another, the two-dozen skaters lined up, hand in hand, and saluted the spectators. Bursting forward, the skaters shot in and out of a maze of squashed soda cans, clipping a few cans which spun into the air then clattered to the ground. At breakneck speed, they whipped back to the ramp and dropped hands. Seconds apart, elbows pumping hard, knees and head bent low, they raced to the ramp. They executed no-holds-barred leaps embellished with twists and turns and say-your-last-prayers expressions. Like jack rabbits, they scurried out of the way just as the next jumper crashed onto the pavement. When the last had landed and we could breathe again, these French charmers passed the hat and collected their hard-earned francs.

The sky shimmered and turned violet, then gray. Lights began to flicker. Barrie and I lined up beneath the Bat-O-Bus sign for a ride on the double-decker Parisian boat, the bateau-parisien. We boarded and chose our seats on the top deck which promised the best view. A guide’s lyrical voice greeted us as our boat veered away from the guay toward the middle of the river. In several languages the guide narrated the history of the well-known landmarks that we passed by.

Darkness descended and the boat glided beneath the Seine’s bridges. One bridge flaunted golden statues that reached for the sky. We glided along the dark waters. Picnickers at the river’s edge gathered up the remnants of their meal. Barges tied to the river wall displayed motor bikes, laundry, and tables peeking through the branches of potted trees. The people remained below deck behind Venetian blinds or curtains. Traffic hummed in the distance.

Our boat returned to Notre Dame. Darkness settled in. Silence reigned among the passengers, as if mere words would spoil the impression. Slowly, as if in a trance, Barrie and I exited. Before heading away, we gazed at Notre Dame’s majestic façade, her flying buttresses, her statues, and her stained-glass windows.

Glad we had chosen a hotel in the area, we promised to pass by the magnificent cathedral every day.

“This has been one of the best days of my life,” Barrie said.

“For me, too,” I replied.

She kissed me on the cheek. “There’s no one else I’d rather have traveled with.”

“Me either.”

I hugged this beautiful young woman by my side. My daughter. My best friend. My adventurous travel buddy. The sweet light of my life.

Standing there before Notre Dame, the heart and soul of Paris, I couldn’t resist the urge to thank God for my many blessings.

************

 

Cooking Delights

Three-Way Crock Pot Chicken

serves 6-8

My neighbors, B and C, gave me a recipe for Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken, an all-time favorite of theirs. It is delicious! The second time, I made minor changes and omitted the barbecue sauce. If you are a barbecue fan, add the barbecue sauce, call the dish Barbecue Chicken, and serve it with rice or pasta. If barbecue is not your thing, omit the barbecue sauce and call it Chicken Cacciatore, and serve it with rice or pasta. For something different, omit the rice or pasta and serve the Chicken Cacciatore over thick slices of peeled boiled potatoes and call it Chicken Cacciatore Irish Style. Good things come in threes, including this recipe. Enjoy this easy and delicious dish, ideal for family dinners or company. Thank you, neighbors!

 

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, filleted so that you

end up with 12 thin breasts

3-4 tablespoons flour for dredging

cooking spray

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season the olive oil

28 oz of canned diced tomatoes, undrained

3-4 cups chopped pepper (red, yellow, orange), onion,

celery, and carrots

(maybe ½ cup honey barbecue sauce {see above})

{maybe rice; maybe pasta; maybe potatoes {see above})

 

Preparation:

  • Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in frying pan. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour on both sides, shake off excess flour, and cook in hot oil for 2-3 minutes each side. Place in crock pot in layers.
  • Add more oil and spices if necessary to fry pan and sauté vegetables, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. Add to crock pot, layered over the chicken.
  • Pour canned diced tomatoes and juice into fry pan and stir, dislodging any cooked-on pieces of chicken or vegetables into the juices. Pour over chicken and vegetables in crock pot.
  • Cook on High for one hour and then on Low for 4 hours. Serve with rice, pasta, or potatoes. Remember: Variety is the spice of life. Bon appétit!

 

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends.

A belated Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and thank you for your kind comments. Welcome to my new friends from the Thursday Morning Writers’ Group and to the reading enthusiasts I met at the Tampa Bay Times Reading Festival.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading!

 

This and That

To celebrate October, here’s a brief look at how Halloween is celebrated in various countries around the world. (Regrettably, there’s only room for a small sampling.)The USA and Canada top the list for the highest level of popularity of Halloween celebrations, decorations, and candy. Ireland gets a special place of honor on the list because the holiday originated in Ireland. (Did you know that? My Irish mother never told me that, but the Internet says it’s so.) Like their ancestors, the Celts, today’s Irish light bonfires on the hillsides. The children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating, but there are several other lesser-known traditions too. They play the snap-apple game, trying to bite into an apple hanging from a string (something like bobbing for an apple in a tub but without the messy water spilled all over the floor). The wee Irish lads and lasses have fun with their neighbors as they play knock-a-dolly. They knock on a neighbor’s door and run and hide before the neighbors can open the door. (Fun for the kids, but are the neighbors laughing?) Then there’s the traditional food, barnbrack, a fruitcake that contains a muslin-wrapped treat baked in the cake. The treat supposedly predicts the future. A bit of straw, for instance, is known to guarantee a profitable year. A ring predicts a wedding.

Welcoming home the souls of dead relatives plays a large part in Halloween traditions. Austrians leave bread, water and a lighted lamp to welcome them back to earth. The Belgians light candles in their memory. The Chinese, who call the Halloween festival Teng Chieh, leave food and water in front of photographs of their dearly departed and light bonfires and lanterns to light their way home. The Japanese celebrate the Obon Festival, similar to Halloween, (also known as Matsui or Urabon) in July or August. They hang bright red lanterns everywhere. They also light candles, place them in lanterns, and set them afloat on rivers and seas. In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, Halloween is a three-day holiday known as Dia de los Muertos, a joyous time meant to remember departed friends and family. In Sweden, Halloween is called Alla Helgons Dag and lasts from October 31 until November 6. The Friday before All Saint’s Day is a vacation day for Sweden’s school-age children.

 

Travel

Your enthusiastic emails tell me you love to travel. If or when that’s not possible, you like to read about travel. Good! This month, as promised, I will continue with Eastern Europe, a region that I visited via a bus tour several years ago with two good friends, Marce and Sharon. The last day that we were in Budapest, there was enough free time to take an optional trip with our guide Kili to Szentendre (senTENdray), a colony of artists, painters, and sculptors, situated 20 miles from Budapest on the Danube. Originally the Serbs fleeing from the Turks in the 17th century inhabited this town. Today there are museums, galleries, and workshops along the winding, hilly cobblestone streets.

Our group of about 20 visited a small Serbian Orthodox Church that is now a museum, enjoyed cake and coffee at a sidewalk café, and saw countless shops filled with handcrafts and souvenirs, lining one long street. Best of all was the work by internationally renowned artist and sculptress Margit Kovacs (1902-1977), who combined modern and traditional elements in her work. Her ceramics, clay, and other distinctive works rest on tables and shelves or hang in the ten rooms of her beautiful Baroque home-museum. The former salt house dating from the eighteenth century has white-washed plastered walls, small front windows with grilles, a magnificently arched gateway, and a tranquil garden that encourages meditation. In the basement and a wing her works inspired by religion are on display.

Some of my favorite works highlight Kovacs’ interest in showing girls and women involved in daily village activities: “Fishermen’s Wives” (sorrowful women dressed all in brown with scarves pulled tight against the wind, wring their hands and look out to sea); “Lace-Veiled Girls”; “Mother With Child”; and “Dressing the Bride.” This artistic, unique town, a must-see, was very popular with the group. Be advised: If you are ever in the Budapest area and decide to visit Szentendre to visit the Margit Kovacs Home-Museum, lines form to see her magnificent collection and you may have to wait.

*****

I’d like to end the Budapest part of the trip with an amusing anecdote. We traveled along the famous scenic Danube Bend drive and arrived at our hotel in Budapest, quite far from the center of town. Marce, Sharon and I checked into our apartment—yes, apartment, not room—consisting of master bedroom with king-size bed, bath, kitchen, and living room with a sofa that contained a pull-out bed. A problem arose when we tried to release the bed. It took the three of us on our hands and knees, tugging, pulling, pushing, working up a sweat, but we finally did it. We then called the front desk and asked room service to provide extra towels and a cot. The funniest event of our entire trip then unfolded when two young Hungarian women with carrot-colored hair arrived at our door and dragged a cot into the room.

Their exaggerated facial expressions, which were meant to convey what their language could not, reminded me of rubber-faced big-eyed Lucille Ball and Ethel Mertz in the famous episode where they worked in a candy factory. Like Lucille and Ethel, these two maids wore loose smocks. Their pockets overflowed with spray bottles, cleaning cloths, packets of soap and shampoo and numerous other treasures. One of them spoke some English; the other didn’t know a single word.

We pointed at the sofa and explained in words and then with pantomime the struggle we had gone through. They quickly approached the sofa and snapped it shut in 30 seconds with the mere touch of an index finger and moved the cot beyond the sofa near the window. When we said with panicky voices, “No, please leave the sofa open for us,” we said and acted out the aerobic routine we had gone through to open it. They looked at each like we were escapees from an asylum and snapped it back open. Again, they accomplished this feat in 30 seconds. But the bed took up most of the floor space, so we acted out “Please move the sofa-bed to the side of the room.” Without hesitation, they snapped it shut, moved it, and snapped it open as if they were completing a military maneuver.

They checked a notepad and peered into our bathroom. There quickly followed spurts of the dramatic mysterious-sounding Hungarian language, which is neither a Romance nor an Indo-European language, but is related to Finnish and Estonian. We were fluent in neither. We replied in English and pantomime explaining or trying to explain the lack of towels. We counted to three on our fingers, pointed to the three of us, and pointed at the two towels. “Aha!” They counted on three fingers in Hungarian and pointed to the three of us, rattling off strange-sounding words, the equivalent we figured of our “one, two, three.”

In a flurry of activity, nodding of heads, and rapid sentences in Hungarian, the two women sprang to action. Towels appeared, linens popped out of drawers we hadn’t noticed, and before the dust had settled they had our room in perfect order and breezed out the door, chattering away and laughing. The last I saw of “Ethel Mertz” was the high-heeled open-toed open-heeled sneaker of her right foot going out the door. Marce, Sharon, and I collapsed on the cot and sofa and laughed ourselves silly.

 

Cooking Delights

Easy Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

****

2 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups (a 15-oz can) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup vegetable oil

****

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if using frozen, drain any ice that has formed or the bread will lack firmness)

Preparation:

  • Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine the next 4 ingredients in a small mixing bowl; beat just until blended.
  • Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture; stir just until moistened.
  • Fold in cranberries.
  • Spoon batter into the 2 prepared loaf pans.
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 55 to 60 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Bon appétit!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello! This newsletter comes to you with special good wishes for a wonderful autumn. Here, in Florida, the weather seems remarkably similar to the long hot days of summer. However, many of you live in foreign countries and cold climates “up north,” and will notice the seasonal changes. Go ahead, rake up those colorful leaves, put on jackets, enjoy bonfires and mugs of hot chocolate, and think of us walking barefoot along sandy beaches. Wherever you are, enjoy yourselves! Last, but not least, welcome to my six new readers. You know who you are.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. (Amazon reports a temporary production delay of the paperbacks.)

 

This and That

Instead of a separate “this and that,” I extended the travel section to include anecdotes and historical information that I think you’ll like.

 

Travel

Your emails tell me that you love to travel. And if or when that’s not possible, you like to read about travel. Good! This month I have chosen Eastern Europe, which I visited via a bus tour several years ago with two good friends, Marce and Sharon. The trip was organized around an interesting mix of information and sightseeing offered by our guide while on the road; local guides during our city walking tours; independent sightseeing during our free time; and extra tours for a nominal fee to visit out-of-the-way places. I am including the many names for a region and a bit of history for a specific reason: to show the tremendous and tumultuous geographic and historic changes that occurred in this area at the conclusion of World War I. There is an old saying in the region that goes “A man lived in the same house all his life. He never moved, but he lived in seven different countries.” Another saying goes like this: “I went to Vienna over the weekend,” a friend said. His friend asked, “Is it still is Austria?”

The tour, entitled “Imperial Jewels,” referring to the four capital cities of Prague (capital of the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia), Vienna (capital of Austria), Budapest (capital of Hungary), and Bratislava (capital of Slovakia), took us on an 800-mile journey by bus through four countries, each with its own currency. Our group was composed of 43 people from America, England, Australia, and Canada, and all were experienced travelers. We began in Prague, passing through the Southern Bohemia countryside (Bohemia was once a region of Czechoslovakia and formerly a kingdom and province of Austria-Hungary*), to Cesky Krumlov, located in the province of Moravia (formerly a province of Austria, now part of the Czech Republic), onward to Vienna with a stop at Esztergom (on the current border of Hungary and Slovakia), to Budapest, before turning north to Bratislava, passing through Brno located in the Czech Republic, and returning to Prague.

(*A bit of information: Austria-Hungary was a former monarchy/empire in central Europe, broken up at the end of World War I. The modern-day states that have emerged from its territories are Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and parts of Serbia, Italy, Romania, Montenegro, Poland, and Ukraine.)((I added information from online sources and reference books to the information I gathered during the trip from guides and guidebooks. Any errors are mine, not theirs. Also, accents not available on my computer have been omitted from several foreign words. Spelling variations may occur because of the variety of sources I utilized.))

With free time in Prague on our very first day (the third trip for Sharon, but the first for Marce and me) we visited the city with trolley tickets purchased at our hotel. What a great day! Prague is a charming city with bridges, waterside restaurants, cobblestone streets, an intriguing Astronomical Clock in the town square, even a Salvador Dali Museum, and many bustling cafés surrounding the town square. There is a young, artistic, free-spirited vibe that energizes the city.

In a quaint shop filled with local articles, I chose a small pretty box to add to my collection at home. The picture on it was a replica of a painting by Alphonse Mucha, the leading artist of the area. I had never heard of him, but I wanted to see more of his work. So this purchase led us to the Mucha Museum, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. There was a movie in English about Mucha’s life, followed by a visit to several stunning galleries filled with his huge paintings in the Art Nouveau style, frequently featuring the French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

On day four, we left Prague and rode through the beautiful Southern Bohemian countryside, as green as the landscape of Ireland, into Moravia. There we made a two-hour stop at Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World and Cultural Heritage Site on the banks of the Vlatava River. In retrospect, this was perhaps the prettiest spot of the entire trip. After lunch we walked from the center of town to the castle, the second largest in the Czech Republic. As we looked over the side of the entrance-bridge, way below us bears played in a gully and lumbered from one side of the entrance-bridge to the other. A surreal experience!

Talking to other travelers is always fun. At the time we were on this trip, “The Queen” was a popular movie and two English women wanted our opinion as to how it was received in America. We gave it rave reviews, especially the performance by Helen Mirren. One of the English women commented, “Although Helen Mirren was wonderful, it was the Queen herself, not Helen, who deserved the Academy Award.” The other English woman concluded, “It wasn’t really acting. It was merely imitating.” The next morning at breakfast one of the English women looked out the window and treated us to a bit of humor about the unpredictable weather in her country. “The sun is shining. Better bring your coats and umbrellas.”

Day 5 we spent in Vienna, one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Renata, our local guide, a petite blond who wore black pants and a chartreuse jacket, described everything we saw by bus and on foot and brought in many anecdotes to enliven her talk. There was Imperial Vienna and the dazzling Royal Ring of golden palaces now used for administrative purposes. Modern Vienna stands side by side with Imperial Vienna and is immaculate with shady streets. We saw the house where Strauss once lived. It is now a McDonalds with the balcony of Strauss’ apartment still intact!

Some of the sightseeing highlights were the State Opera, Parliament, Town Hall, Heroes’ Square, and the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We learned several interesting facts: the Austrian Empire once had 50 million people. The Vienna Woods surround Vienna. Vienna is divided into 27 districts. There are many styles of architecture in Vienna: neo-classical style for Parliament; neo-(Flemish) Gothic City Hall; neo-(French)Gothic Votive Church. Our daily guide Mario called the style of the buildings in this elegant quarter “historicism,” meaning, he said, inspired by previous civilizations.

A few fun things we learned about the royalty. Maria Theresa, Empress of the Hapsburg Empire, reigned for 40 years. She had 16 children, 11 of them girls. Because she married off her daughters to European royalty, she was referred to as the “Mother-in-law of Europe.” Another Empress, Princess Elizabeth, called SiSi, who married at 17, didn’t like the pomp of royal life. Preferring to spend her time on physical fitness, she had exercise rings installed in a doorway where she “worked out.”

That evening, Marce, Sharon and I chose an optional tour and attended the Straus and Mozart Concert at the magnificent Hofburg, under the baton of the Wiener Hofburg Orchester conductor Gert Hofbauer. We sat on velvet upholstered chairs and enjoyed the orchestra and six very talented opera singers—four women and two men dressed in gorgeous costumes. Many comedy routines, obviously intended for tourists, rounded out the evening. It was wonderful, with everything from romantic duos to the comic precision of the anvil “concerto/symphony” during which the anvil player nearly struck the conductor’s finger (presumably as rehearsed!).

***I plan to include more about this trip next month, including the art of explaining that you need help when you don’t know the language (and they don’t speak a Romance language or any language you learned in school). TIP: Start exercising your hands and practicing your facial expressions before you hop on the airplane. ***

 

Cooking Delights

Make-Believe Caviar Appetizers

Every now and then there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to prepare time-consuming hors d’oeuvres for your guests. So here, with no apologies, is a very fast recipe with only four ingredients.

Ingredients:

6 English muffins, sliced in half (with help from a fork to

preserve the nooks and crannies)

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

a small handful of pitted black olives, cut

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

 

Preparation:

Toast muffins in oven until lightly browned. Or if you dare, place them under the broiler and keep checking on them so they don’t burn.

Mix all ingredients except English muffins. Spoon the mixture evenly over English muffin halves. Cook in oven at 350 degrees until bubbly. Cut in quarters and serve.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

 

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello! This newsletter comes to you with special good wishes as you enjoy the last day of August. The US daily weather map has shown that on many days Florida, where many of you live, was not the hottest state in the nation. Okay, maybe the most humid, but not the hottest. For today and Labor Day, which is coming up soon, think picnics (indoors or outdoors), cool drinks, and fun times with family and friends. Above all, don’t make Labor Day laborious!

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. (Amazon reports a temporary production delay of the paperbacks.)

 

This and That

Here are the ten interesting facts about cats that I promised you as a follow-up to the travel article about the city of York’s famous Cat Trail.

  • The Egyptian Mau is probably the oldest breed of cat.
  • In the original Italian version of Cinderella, the benevolent fairy godmother figure was a cat.
  • The first cartoon cat was Felix the Cat in 1919.
  • The largest known litter ever produced was 19 kittens. 15 survived.
  • The biggest wildcat today is the Siberian Tiger. It can be more than 12 feet long and weigh up to 700 pounds.
  • The most popular pedigreed cat is the Persian cat, followed by the Main Coon cat and the Siamese cat.
  • A cat’s nose pad is ridged with a unique pattern, just like the fingerprint of a human.
  • The technical term for a cat’s hairball is a “bezoar.” (Impress your friends with that one!)
  • Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed. Did you know that 90% of humans are right-handed? (A big hello to my many lefty friends and family members!!!)
  • There are more than 500 million domestic cats in the world.
  • Cats are North America’s most popular pets. There are 73 million cats compared to 63 million dogs.
  • A cat can jump up 5 times its own height in a single bound.
  • According to Hebrew legend, Noah prayed to God for help protecting all the food he stored on the ark from being eaten by rats. God’s response? God made the lion sneeze, and out popped a cat!

 

Travel

Many of you enjoyed last month’s piece about Morocco with all its exotic sights, sounds, aromas. This time, I would like to share with you a short essay I wrote after a Caribbean cruise several years ago. Even now the words help me recall a sweet memory of a special person…

 

Shielding our eyes from the bright Caribbean sun, my husband and I descended the gangway of the Ruby Princess to Roseau, the capital city of Dominica (doh-muh-NEEK-uh). Many passengers were lining up for bus tours to the island’s rainforests, waterfalls, and diving sites. We opted instead for a leisurely walk around town by ourselves and conversations with the local people.

We had learned from previous visits that Dominica, named by Christopher Columbus for Sunday, the day of the week he’d arrived there, is slower-paced and less commercial than many of the Caribbean islands. Conversations are welcomed. Discussion and story-telling are art forms. Time spent talking is time well spent.

A five-minute walk took us to our favorite stop, the marketplace. The merchants invited us to visit their booths, nestled beneath a roof of umbrellas, awnings, and the leafy branches of ficus trees. What a feast for the senses. Lilting speech, a mix of English and French Creole… Tables overflowing with handcrafted wood carvings, basketwork, and jewelry… Colorful print dresses hanging from branches… Wind chimes jingling… Exotic aromas escaping from spice packets.

Many conversations and many topics later, we came to the last booth, beneath a sprawling ficus tree.

“Welcome to my shady spot. I am Marie,” said the petite woman with pinned-up braids. “Please take a look,” she said, sweeping her hand across the table. She smoothed her white blouse and dark skirt printed with crimson heliconia flowers.

I commented on the pretty necklace of stones that she’d painted aqua.

“It is not a stone, Madame,” Marie said politely. “It is the calabash.”

“I don’t have any idea what that is,” I admitted.

“I think it’s a fruit,” my husband, the crossword puzzle fan, said. “But I’m not sure what it looks like.”

“I will show you the calabash,” Marie said enthusiastically. She rifled through a bag of her colorful goods, nestled among the gnarly ficus roots.

“See?” She held up a beige hollowed-out object, larger than her hand, shaped like a turtle shell.

“It is a fruit,” she said. “You eat it when the skin is still green and young. You make things from it when the skin is brown.” She smiled a warm friendly smile. “I love the calabash.”

She pressed the fruit to her heart. “It means everything to me. When I was a little girl, my father gave a calabash to me and to each of my brothers and sisters. The calabash comes in many sizes. My older sister’s calabash was bigger than mine. My younger sister’s was smaller.”

She offered it to us. We took turns holding it as Marie continued, “Our father cooked our dinner in a pot and scooped it into our calabash. It is like a bowl. When we were thirsty, our father poured water into our calabash and we drank. It is like a cup.”

A far-away look in Marie’s eyes told me she was remembering the past.

“Our father cut two holes in a large calabash, tied a rope through the holes, and dipped it into the river. He collected water and poured it into our calabash. It is like a bucket.”

She smiled. “He give us everything we need. He give us the calabash.”

I was taken by Marie’s respect and love for her father. “I would like to hear more about you and your father,” I said, running my fingertips across the smooth calabash shell.

Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “Sometimes I was a bad girl.” She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle her laughter. “One day my sister and I played, doing silly things. I balanced a calabash on my head and walked quickly across the stones in the river.”

She extended her hands out from her sides like a tightrope walker. “My foot slipped. The calabash fell and broke. I was ashamed to tell my father what I had done. But he saw my face and he knew. He said, ‘Do not worry. We have many calabash.’ He took one from high on the tree. He cut it in half with one stroke of his machete and scooped out the inside. He placed it over a cooking fire to dry it and purify it.”

She sighed. “I had a new calabash and I was so happy.”

My husband and I thanked Marie for sharing the story with us and said our goodbyes. We left the marketplace and spent the rest of the morning visiting the Anglican Church, the State House and the House of Assembly, the Fort Young Hotel (with historic stories dating from its days as a British fort), the visitor center, and the public library, where the shutters were folded back and warm breezes wafted through the wide-open windows that had no glass panes or screens. We heard stories in those places too. But it is Marie’s reminiscences that are etched in my memory of Dominica.

Marie knew for certain what many daughters and sons from around the world may doubt throughout their entire lives. Her father loved her very much. She has proof of his love. She has a calabash that even to this day she keeps among her prized possessions.

 

Cooking Delights

Do you remember when everybody ate everything? Now with low-salt, no dairy, lactose intolerance, vegetarian, fruitarian, low-carbs, organic, and other dietary preferences, it’s hard to find a dish that will please everyone. Well, consider this choice, Healthy Salad, which is delicious, nutritious, and crowd-pleasing. Supposedly it serves 20, but I think 10 people can finish it off with no problem.
Ingredients:

1 pound package yellow rice, cooked and cooled

1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained

1 red pepper diced

1 cup chopped scallions

1 10-oz package frozen green peas, thawed

1 15-oz can cut corn, drained

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup extra-light olive oil

juice of 2 limes

 

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients, and season to taste with salt (or salt substitute), pepper, and more lime juice. Refrigerate several hours or, preferably, overnight. Serves 20.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello everyone. I hope you enjoy this newsletter, which is arriving late because I was vacationing with family and friends in the mountains of North Carolina beyond the reach of the Internet.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

I recently received the news that the Kindle editions of The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Tomoka Mystery are now available on Amazon and other on-line sites. With the addition of these three titles, all five of my mysteries are now available as e-books. Hooray! By the way, Amazon released them on my birthday. How special is that!

 

This and That

Do you remember last month’s item, which featured famous sayings and their lesser-known follow-up lines? For instance, “Curiosity killed the cat…but satisfaction brought it back.” One of my readers, you know who you are, added this hilarious example to the list:

“Talk is cheap…It takes money to buy whiskey!”

For this month’s “This and That” (and a lead-in to the lengthy travel section), I’d like to share several proverbs and sayings I’ve gathered while exploring the world. This Irish proverb is well known: “May the road rise up to greet you. May the wind be at your back.” This Mexican proverb is probably familiar too: “Tell me who you travel with, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Lesser known are these proverbs I discovered while visiting Morocco.

  • Bread is sacred. Respect it. If you see a piece in the street, pick it up and set it aside. At the table, pass it hand to hand to you brother; never toss it to him.
  • After lunch, rest awhile; after dinner, walk a mile.

 

Travel

Many of you enjoyed last month’s piece about the city of York, England, and encouraged me to include more travel pieces. Thank you. This time, I’ve chosen a small-group bus tour of Morocco. All of this came about when I received a telephone call from a friend of two fun-loving sisters I had met on a bus tour of Turkey. The three of them were part of a group of six friends with all their plans made for a trip to Morocco, but one friend had dropped out due to illness, and they hoped I could fill in for her and meet them in New York City a week later and fly to Casablanca, Morocco. Whew! I checked my calendar, briefly discussed the idea with my husband, and said “yes!”

As I made arrangements and packed, doubts about this spontaneous trip sprung up like palm trees around an oasis. I didn’t know anything about four of the people I’d be traveling with. And what did I know about Morocco? Suddenly I remembered a gritty old black and white movie from my childhood where a spy slithered through Tangier’s twisting alleyways and gasped, “Take me to the Kasbah,” as he collapsed in a pool of blood and his trembling hand reached for the dagger poking from his back. But what would the real Morocco offer? Guidebooks revealed that many diverse cultures had shaped Moroccan customs. But I had little time to ponder the mystery or history of Morocco.

My flight from Tampa arrived in New York, I met my new traveling friends, realized I couldn’t have chosen a better group (I called them “My Southern Belles”) and then it was Goodbye North America and Hello North Africa! Throughout the trip I jotted down impressions and expanded upon them when I returned home. Here are excerpts from an eyes-wide-open view of a fascinating country and the trip that began at Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport. There we were greeted by our guide, Mustapha; our driver, Abderrahim; and our baggage handler, Salah. We exchanged dollars for dirhams, caught glimpses of international travelers wearing their native dress and headgear, and heard a diversity of languages. We boarded our tour bus and met our tour mates, who had traveled from Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

Here we are midway into our third day…

The next leg of our trip brought us to Meknes, the Moroccan Versailles, and the Sultan’s Palace where 50,000 slaves, 500 wives, and 1500 servants once served the king’s every wish. Famous for its wines, Meknes has many elegant restaurants, but our group chose a simple lunch in a boulangerie, where we savored Moroccan-style pizza on flatbread, quiche with béchamel sauce, and Moroccan pastries dipped in honey and sprinkled with nuts, and of course the Moroccan specialty, mint tea. We were still full from last night’s dinner of harira, a vegetable soup thickened with chickpeas; tajine, a chicken entrée baked and served in an earthenware dish with a volcanic-shaped dome; and a desert of fresh pomegranates.

Late that afternoon, we arrived at the town of Voloubilis, known for its extensive Roman ruins. We climbed the rocky path to a summit overlooking lush valleys filled with a lavender haze and wandered through the remains of the once thriving city. As the wind whistled through the cypress trees, we saw Roman baths, private homes with mosaic-tile floors depicting dolphins, Hercules, Neptune, and Bacchus’s tryst with a nubile maiden beneath the watchful gaze of Cupid. We wandered past a badly charred oven used to bake bread and a one-room “factory,” where workers had pressed olives, and as shadows lengthened we stood before the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla. The sun, a fiery red ball with a shimmering orange aura, floated over the distant hilltops, dropped through the archway, and disappeared into a black velvety void. A magical moment that will forever define for us the colors of sunset.

We drove through rolling hillsides along an unlighted two-lane road, occasionally catching sight of another bus. Black feathery clouds slid across the moon, our only beacon of light, giving us the surreal impression that we were on an alien planet, far from the stars and setting sun of Voloubilis. We arrived in the royal city of Fez, often compared to Florence, Italy. A brief glimpse revealed the contrast in architecture between La Ville Nouvelle, the New City, built by the French, and the ancient imperial city.

Could tomorrow possibly surpass this incredible day?

(Now we are in the city of Fez, the cultural heart of Morocco, known for handcraft items and markets. I would add “dazzling with wonderful sights, sounds, aromas, and colors.)

Yellah!”…Our local guide Abdul cried, urging us to pick up the pace as we stepped back in time and entered the mysterious world of the medina, the ancient quarter, known for its open-air markets, called souks. The tangle of narrow streets of slippery stones led us past vendors’ stalls. They overflowed with apples, nougat candy, goats’ heads, live chickens, and kaftans, as well as pointy-toed leather slippers (usually yellow, as vivid as the sun) called babouches, which sat next to spices, leather wallets, and woven baskets, which were stacked near figs, dates, and skewers of lamb. Dazzling colors were everywhere, especially when the wool dyers with their arms and clothes stained red, blue, and green, dipped yarn into huge vats, poured the tinted water into the street, and hung the strands out to dry.

(Here on day 6 is the gorgeous city of Marrakech, Capital of the Sultans, the gateway to the desert…)

What a wonderland of swaying palms, broad avenues, and gardens that showcased the dazzling buildings of shrimp, rose, and terra cotta hues. Cars, bikes, and motorbikes roared past mules pulling carts. Pedestrians, many balancing packages on their heads or children in slings on their backs, hurried along with the traffic. Downtown, we parked near the palace and royal gardens, ablaze with red and pink roses. Mustapha, our tour guide, led us to the Museum of Moroccan handcrafts. The building itself was a jewel with tiles, archways, and beautiful carved doors, surrounding a courtyard with fragrant mandarin orange trees, hibiscus, and pomegranate trees, filled with chirping birds. Glass cases displayed Berber jewelry, dazzling silver pieces embedded with coral, agate, amber and turquoise.

That evening we went by bus to a show, billed as “Fantaisie de Marrakech.” It took place at a desert complex of turrets, towers, minarets, called Chez Ali, a reference to Ali Baba’s palace. Along with 2,000 other visitors (!) we walked through receiving lines of dancers in sparkling costumes and headed for the dinner show held in enormous tents. Sitting cross-legged on cushions, we dined on several kinds of tajine and enjoyed the talented dancers, drummers, and musicians. Then came the big spectacle performed in a huge field next to our tents. Horseback riders raced forward, shooting their rifles into the star-filled sky. They galloped around and then returned, one by one, passing by us. We gasped and applauded as they flung themselves over, under, and alongside their Arabian stallions. A memorable evening!

{You might be interested to know that I wrote a children’s story set in Morocco, entitled “The Yellow Slippers.” It was published in Cricket, a leading children’s magazine.}

 

Cooking Delights
Curried Rice

Ingredients (serves 6) (goes great with chicken or pork)

1 Tbsp cooking oil; 1 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 bay leaves

1 tsp(or more) curry powder; 1/2 tsp (or more) chili powder

1 cup white rice; 2 Tbsp raisins

1/2 tsp salt; 2 cups water; 1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup shredded carrot;1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot (or use an electric wok). Add onions, bay leaves, curry powder and chili powder. Stir continually for 5 minutes.

Stir UNCOOKED rice, raisins and salt into onion mixture, and continue stirring for one minute. CAREFULLY add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in peas and shredded carrots. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes more or until heated through. Remove bay leaves. Sprinkle with nuts. Serve. Bon appétit!

 

Have a wonderful August. Sorry I didn’t include the ten facts about cats, as promised in the last newsletter. I’ll save that fun for next time.

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello everyone, old friends and new and family too.

Thank you one and all for reading the previous newsletters. I hope you enjoy this one.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Reviewers have chosen to describe my novels with these words: romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, a mystery served with a taste of history, archeological mysteries, a fun read, a blend of fact and fiction, and a page-turner.

Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle editions are available at Amazon and other online sites. I’d like to thank the publishers, editors, and staff at Avalon Books, Worldwide Mysteries, and Amazon Publishing for their encouragement and support. And a special “Thank you” goes out to everyone who has read my novels.

 

This and That

Did you know that many famous sayings have a follow-up line that isn’t so well known? For instance, many of us have heard the words “Curiosity killed the cat.”

But the meaning is changed completely with the second line.

Curiosity killed the cat

But satisfaction brought it back.

Here’s a well-known saying: “A woman’s work is never done.”

The follow-up line adds a cute she-said he-said banter.

A woman’s work is never done,

And a man’s work is never fun.

There’s the popular theory, “You can drag a horse to the river, but you can’t make it drink.” This addition (Sorry it doesn’t rhyme)changes the meaning.

You can drag a horse to the river, but you can’t

make it drink.

Yes you can if you salt its oats.

 

Travel

Last year while I was traveling with a tour group through England, we stopped in the city of York to visit a centuries-old area of quaint shops and narrow cobblestone streets called The Shambles. A sign in a glass shop advertised handmade Lucky Cat figurines, available in twelve brilliant colors matching the lucky gem stones of each month.

I asked the shopkeeper about the significance of the figurines. He said they were to honor the cat statues that had helped York survive the plague and other diseases spread by rats and mice. He explained that cat statues had been perched on York buildings for centuries, possibly dating back to the Middle Ages. Apparently even a statue of a cat was capable of scaring away rats and mice.

The shopkeeper reminded me that cats are known to bring good luck and are, themselves, lucky because they always land on their feet when they fall, even from high rooftops. At the mention of “rooftops,” he offered me a brochure which described the Fabulous York Cat Trail that began outside his door and meandered throughout the city. A map showed the location of the famous sixteen cat statues.

Intrigued and with maps in hand, several of us from the tour group set out to find the cats. They were visible from the street. With their realistic coats of black, white, gray, and orange and the variety of their natural poses, they appeared real. Perched atop buildings or lurking in unexpected places like a village clock or lamppost, they had one thing in common. They all seemed to be peering down at the street blow, ready to pounce.

Cat number 1 turned out to be a carved cat, not a statue. Cat number 3 sat on the roofline of a building and was stalking a pigeon statue. Cat number 8 clung to an old fashioned gas-style street lamp. Cat number 11 sat on a former grocer’s building, where once there had been nine cats, representing the nine lives that cats reportedly have. Even with a full day in York, we couldn’t have found all sixteen cats. The directions telling how to proceed from one place to the next were mind-boggling.

For instance, “Turn left under the stone arch into the Snickleway which leads onto Whi-ma-whop-magate to find the first two cats.” And this: “A central cat can be found on Walmgate which is a continuation of Fossgate. Fossgate is to be found by turning left at the bottom of the Shambles and then right where the Army and Navy store is located.”

You see the problem. This wasn’t your basic turn right on First Street North and proceed three blocks to Third Avenue.

Our search for cats took us through the twisting streets past charming shops with roofs that nearly met over our heads. We would never have ended up there without the brochure nor would we have learned the history of many of the buildings from the local shopkeepers as they wrapped our purchases. Maybe The York Cat Trail was a clever marketing strategy, but it was also a fun way to learn history and meet people.

(Coming next month, ten interesting facts about cats.) Here’s an example to pique your interest: A commemorative tower was built in Scotland for a cat named Towser, who caught nearly 30,000 mice in her lifetime!

 

Cooking Delights

Apparently the world is divided into two groups of people. Those who love beets and those who don’t. You know who you are. This month’s recipe is for…drum roll please.

Carrot and Beet Cake.

Ingredients

3 egg yolks

3/4 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tbsp hot water

1 cup all-purpose white flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup raw beets, finely chopped

2 cups carrots, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 egg whites

 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round metal pan.
  • Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and fold them into the first mixture.
  • Add chopped beets, carrots, and nuts. Stir well.
  • In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently add to batter.
  • Pour batter into cake pan and bake about 50 minutes. (Careful. The batter fills the pan.) Remove from the oven.
  • Cool the cake. Remove from the pan. Ice with vanilla icing. Serves 8-10.
  • Bon appétit. Enjoy!

 

Variations

Bake the cake in a square pan. When cool, ice with a thin glaze or icing and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts. Cut the cake into squares and serve as a holiday bread or a healthy breakfast treat. Think of the carrot and beet cake as first cousin of pumpkin cranberry bread.

Happy Fourth of July!

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the readers of the previous six newsletters and newcomers too. And a special welcome to all of you who emailed me about your experiences at the Boston Marathon. Thank you one and all and Happy Reading!!

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

I am including this item from last month’s newsletter: I am pleased to announce that the final phase of the publication of my five novels by Amazon Publishers will soon be complete. As of now, the two most recent novels, The Cinderella Murders and The Treasures of Montauk Cove, are available in all three formats: Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle. The earlier three, The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Tomoka Mystery, already available in Hardcover, are scheduled for release in Kindle format on May 21 and in Paperback format on July 23. Happy reading!

I am adding this update:

Amazon Publishers emailed me that the release dates have been slightly delayed because of the three-day Memorial Day holiday (and I suspect the overwhelming popularity of the Kindle format). The new release dates are May 28 and July 28 or shortly thereafter. Thank you for your patience.

***

I hope to encourage you writers out there to submit your work to a contest. It’s a good way to challenge your skills. Following is an essay that I entered in the Library Memories Contest in 1995 in St. Petersburg. The word count was limited to 250 words, a difficult task if you like to tell a story with an appealing protagonist, plus a beginning, middle, and end. At the awards ceremony at the Main Branch Library, E.C. Ayres, author of the Tony Lowell mysteries, read each of the five winning essays, working his way toward number one. They were so good, I figured I didn’t stand a chance. And then he was reading mine, the First Place winner. It was a small but important win to me at that early stage in my writing career.

When you finish, close your eyes and let your mind wander back to your first library experience. Bon voyage, memory travelers. Enjoy the ride!

 

Library Memories by Diane Sawyer

“Please call me Anne spelled with an e. A—n—n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.”

With this request, Anne of Green Gables, a freckled-faced orphan with glossy red braids, captivated me. Her imaginative vocabulary turned avenues into White Ways of Delight and ponds into Lakes of Shining Water. To Anne, things weren’t good. They were radiantly lovely.

I had discovered Anne in the Greenport Public Library on July 18th, at 9:08 in the morning. It was my tenth birthday. Wearing my brand-new watch with a pink band, I charged up the cement steps eager to use my very own library card which had arrived in the previous day’s mail.

I immediately spied a “Young Heroines” sign bobbing in front of the windows over the display table. Rejecting the tried and true Cherry Ames, Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, I selected Anne of Green Gables. The book jacket portrayed a flinty-eyed girl with a quaint hat, a checkered pinafore, and an old-fashioned carpetbag. I read the first page. Mesmerized, I curled up in the window seat and followed Anne into her world.

Hours later, my stomach growled in anticipation of a pink-frosted birthday cake. I signed out the book and raced home with Anne pressed to my heart. At 11:36, as the sun shimmered in a puffy-cloud sky, I decided that my life would overflow not with good days, but with radiantly lovely days.

 

Travel

Sometimes you don’t have to travel very far from home to have an interesting or amusing experience.

Several months ago the docents from the Dali Museum visited the Duncan McClellan Gallery in St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District. I was among them. What a fantastic sight: an old tomato packing plant turned into a combination residence and dazzling art gallery, with large outdoor decks lined with comfortable furniture, and numerous fruit-trees planted throughout the yard.

I went back recently to check out the addition of a hot shop in an outdoor area where glass blowers were creating amazing vases. Returning to the gallery, I stood in awe of all the works on display by a variety of glass artists. The colorful objects displayed on white pedestals glistened in the late afternoon sunlight entering through the roll-up doors. The objects were close enough to touch by the crowds of people walking by. I overheard a conversation between two people who were conjecturing about the insurance costs for such fragile works.

Unable to resist the appeal and uniqueness of the gallery, I began envisioning a novel taking place here. Movies and novels about the theft of paintings stolen from museums and cash and jewelry stolen from vaults flashed through my mind. But the theft of fragile glass works from a warehouse gallery? That was different. I said to several friends who were also enjoying the beauty on display, “This would be a great setting for my next mystery novel.” One of them said, “I can see it now.” She spread her hands out as if opening a curtain and said slowly and dramatically, “Murder in the Studio…or maybe…Murder in the Gallery.”

“I was thinking more of a theft,” I replied.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said with a wry grin, glancing at all of the one-of-a-kind priceless items, “but I bet they’d rather have a murder than a theft.”

 

Wednesday a friend and I set out on a two-hour walk in the park. We ran into a fitness coach/friend who told us two jokes. Fitness fans out there, prepare to laugh.

A woman said that many people call their bathroom “the john,” but she called hers “the jim.” That way, she could say, “I begin every day with a visit to the jim.”

That same woman wanted to know if “running late” counted as a fitness exercise.

 

This and That

Many of you responded that you enjoyed a previous newsletter where I reported a conversation that took place in a convenience store where a man asked the sales clerk about rubber gloves. You appreciated the humor of everyday situations. Here’s another one you might like.

Last Sunday, around noon, I went to the local Subway Sandwich Shop to order a foot-long sandwich that my husband and I would split for lunch. There was only one person in line, a well-dressed woman who had just been to church and had come by for four foot-long sandwiches to go. She wanted three sandwiches on white bread, and one on whole wheat. All this information was shared with the server in the first minute. She then ordered each sandwich to her exacting specifications, indicating who the sandwich was for, treating the server and me to a description of the personality of each member of her family. Her instructions to the server went something like this:

“On that one,” she pointed to the fourth sandwich, “for my husband, only ham, cheese, and mustard. That’s his usual and he doesn’t want any changes. He won’t touch vegetables. He doesn’t like surprises, so no salad dressing, and don’t even think about toasting the sandwich. He’ll only say, ‘I don’t like fancy stuff.’ No, don’t add olives or pickles, he’ll just pick them off and throw them away. Now, my older son is like my husband, but he has a larger appetite. So pile on the ham, cheese, and mustard. But here’s where he’s his own man. He’s crazy about hot peppers. Load them on. Fire extinguisher optional.”

She chuckled at her own little joke. “Now, my sandwich is healthy. Mine’s the one on whole wheat bread. Let’s layer on the tomatoes, green peppers, spinach, lettuce, red onions, and I’ll take turkey, no cheese. I’m watching my cholesterol and my weight. I’m trying to get down to my high school size before the next class reunion.” She pointed to the remaining sandwich. “Now my younger son is like me. He likes vegetables, so load up on those. But he’s like my husband too. So he’ll have double meat. You better add extra mustard. My husband says I spoil him.” She threw up her hands and laughed. “What choice do I have? He’s nineteen, but he’s still my baby.”

She left and it was my turn. Before I knew what was happening, I had fallen under that woman’s spell. My order went something like this: “Whole wheat bread. My husband and I eat healthy. Please wrap the ham separately and put it on the side. I don’t like the ham touching the vegetables. I don’t eat much meat, but my husband loves ham.

Fresh vegetables too. He grew up on a farm. On and on I went with details and suddenly realized that I was describing my husband and myself as much as the sandwich. It’s always good to laugh at yourself and this was one of those times.

 

Cooking Delights

Easy Slow Cooker Meatball Dinner

Step One (the meatballs)

Combine and mix well the ingredients from your favorite meatball recipe, such as two pounds of ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, ketchup, chopped onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley. Do not add Italian spices, such as oregano. Add a tablespoon each of Worcestershire and soy sauce. Shape into meatballs and bake in a shallow baking pan in the oven at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a slow cooker.

Step Two (the sauce)

Combine the following ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

1 can (16 oz) whole-berry cranberry sauce

1 bottle (12 oz) chili sauce

1 tablespoon each prepared mustard and brown sugar

Step Three (putting it all together)

Pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours. Serve over noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. Serve with a salad and vegetable. Stand back and listen to the raves!

 

Until next month, be happy, stay well, and enjoy life.

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hi everyone,

Welcome once again to the readers of the previous five newsletters. And welcome aboard to the people I met during a recent cruise to Key West; Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Guatemala. Thank you one and all, and happy reading.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing news

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

I am pleased to announce that the final phase of the publication of my five novels by Amazon Publishers will soon be complete. As of now, the two most recent novels, The Cinderella Murders and The Treasures of Montauk Cove, are available in all three formats: Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle. The earlier three—The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Tomoka Mystery, already available in hardcover, are scheduled for release in Kindle format on May 21 and in paperback format on July 23. Happy reading!

Travel

In a previous newsletter, we traveled the world (at Epcot) without leaving the United States. Here’s a new twist on that idea. You can see much of the USA without leaving home and prepare meals that celebrate those places. Come on! Have fun in the kitchen and try several of the following:

Alaska King Crab…Baked Alaska…Boston Baked Beans…

Boston Cream Pie…Brunswick (Georgia) Stew…Buffalo Wings…California Roll…Catalina Dressing…Charleston Red Rice…Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza…Coney Island Hot

Dog…Denver Omelet…Florida Oranges…Georgia Peaches…

Hershey Chocolate…Idaho Potatoes…Kansas City Ribs…

Kentucky Fried Chicken…Key Lime Pie(The Florida Keys)…

Louisiana Hot Sauce…Maine Lobster…Manhattan Clam Chowder…Maryland Crab Cake…Mississippi Mud Pie… Monterey Jack Cheese…New England Clam Chowder…New York Strip Steak…New York-Style Cheesecake…Omaha Steak… Philadelphia Cream Cheese…Philly Cheese Steak…St. Louis Ribs…St. Louis-Style Barbecue…Texas Chili…Texas Toast…Thousand Island Dressing…Virginia Ham…Virginia Peanut…Washington Apples…Wisconsin Cheese.

 

Cooking Delights in a Slow Cooker: Chicken Cordon Bleu

serves 4, 4 oz each serving

Ingredients

4 large chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless

4 slices deli ham; 4 slices Swiss cheese

3 tablespoons flour; 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste; fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil

1/2 can cream of celery soup, undiluted

1/2 package dry vegetable soup mix. (Lipton’s or Knorr’s)

1 chicken bouillon cube; 1/2 cup boiling water

 

Preparation

  • Pound chicken to 1/8 inch thickness. Place 1 slice ham and 1 slice cheese on each breast. Roll up, tuck in ends, and fasten tightly with a toothpick to prevent the cheese from seeping out.
  • Combine flour, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; place on a dish. Coat chicken thoroughly. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
  • Brown chicken in hot oil in a large skillet, at medium heat.
  • Carefully place browned chicken in a slow cooker.
  • Dissolve chicken bouillon in boiling water. Combine both soups with bouillon. Stir. Pour over chicken.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and discard all toothpicks. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with rice. Bon appétit.

Cooking Tip: Freeze the remaining half of both soups in a plastic bag for the next time you prepare this dinner.

Did you know? “Cordon bleu” means “blue ribbon,” as in first place or highest award. Switzerland claims first culinary mention of “cordon bleu” in the 1940’s for a dish made with schnitzel filled with cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Chicken “cordon bleu” was first mentioned in a 1967 NY Times article.

 

This and That

I have set aside my usual “This and That” amusing anecdote to recall the recent bombings in Boston. Many of you have a connection to that city or area. Either you lived there, or went to school there, or visited that area as a tourist, or a family member or friend or you yourself have run the Boston Marathon or been a spectator, and some of you or your loved ones were there this year.

So many authors, columnists, reporters, and commentators focused on common themes in their observations about the Boston Marathon bombings. They praised the brave, selfless people who rushed forward to help the wounded, not knowing if more bombs would explode at any moment. They noted that the bombers underestimated the spunk and resilience of the Boston people. They underscored the American spirit that was center stage for the world to see during this horrific attack. And they predicted that the bombers’ names will soon be forgotten; the Boston Marathon, almost a rite of spring, will take place next year as it has for so many years; and the American people will continue to show that they live by the words “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

I would like to add my prayers to yours and to those that have been sent from around the world to offer condolences to the victims and their families and to offer gratitude to the courageous responders.

Fondly,

Diane

Diane Sawyer Portrait

 

Hi everyone,

Welcome back and a belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you enjoy my fifth newsletter, the March 2013 edition. Thanks for your emails. I appreciate them and you. Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing

 

People often ask me if authors have any input about the design of the covers on their novels. Here is my experience. The editors at Avalon welcomed suggestions from their authors, but I declined because I lack artistic ability. Although I was very pleased with the covers their illustrators designed for the first three novels, I regretted that I hadn’t challenged myself and become involved. So for my fourth novel, The Cinderella Murders, I made minor suggestions and the illustrator incorporated them.

Inspired, I became more creative with my fifth novel, The Treasures of Montauk Cove. I suggested red, white, and blue, the colors of the American and French flags to highlight the connection between the two countries in the story. I recommended penmanship reminiscent of the Declaration of Independence to harmonize with the events referred to in the novel. The illustrator worked those ideas into the background and emphasized the plot by featuring a wine bottle rolling in with the tide. I liked that because when the heroine found that bottle, the story was set in motion and her curiosity then propelled the plot. I enjoyed the collaborative spirit and appreciated the illustrator’s talent in pulling everything together. Now I often think maybe we should judge a book by its cover.

Following are the covers of the hardcover edition, published by Avalon.

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

     When World Wide Mysteries and Amazon Publishing published the paperback editions of my books, they created variations of the covers. They are gorgeous too! For example, here is The Montauk Steps, hardcover (Avalon), which gives the appearance of a beach seen through a camera lens (the heroine is a photo-journalist). The paperback edition (World Wide Mysteries) (see page 3 below) emphasizes the rocky steps, mysterious surroundings, and a red object which plays a key role in the story. I can’t wait to see the covers that will be created for my future novels.

 Montauk Steps                    Montauk Steps L

Travel

Last month’s travel news, “Around the world in two days,” brought an interesting email from a reader. She wrote that she liked the idea of seeing the world without ever leaving home. That got me thinking about the “armchair travelers” who love to read about far-away places, even though they may never have the opportunity to visit them. Movies are capable of that too. Many people comfortably escape to foreign lands as they enjoy popcorn and soda in their own home or in a movie theater.

I have come up with a purely subjective list of wonderful movies set in foreign places. If you’ve seen them, the list may inspire you to see them again or try ones you’ve never seen before. With help from a list of Academy Award best-picture movies, here are those I think you’ll enjoy. I emphasized older movies, because the recent ones are probably still fresh in your mind. Happy viewing, happy reading, and “Bon Voyage!”

  • Africa: Invictus, 2009; Out of Africa, 1985; Zulu, 1964. Lawrence of Arabia, And a special favorite of mine: Nowhere in Africa, 2003, Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, subtitles.
  • Australia: Australia, 2008; Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1976. Also I’d like to recommend a non-fiction book, The Fatal Shore, the epic of Australia’s founding, by Robert Hughes.
  • China: The Last Emperor, 1987.
  • England: Tom Jones, 1963; The King’s Speech, 2010; Shakespeare in Love, 1998; Miniver, 1942.
  • France: Chocolat, 2000; An American in Paris, 1951; The French Connection, 1971.
  • Japan: Empire of the Sun, 1987. Lost in Translation, 2003.
  • India: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2011; Slumdog Millionaire, 2008; A Passage to India, 1984.
  • Ireland: Ryan’s Daughter, 1970: The Quiet Man, 1952.
  • Italy: Two Women, 1961; The Talented Mr. Ripley, 1999; Roman Holiday, 1953.
  • Scotland: Braveheart, 1995.
  • Wales: How Green Was My Valley, 1941.

Creative Cooking

Tired of the same old salads? Try ruby red grapefruit salad. It’s different and delicious and pretty too.

Ingredients:

2 ruby red grapefruit

1 large head frisée lettuce (or any curly-leaf lettuce)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

2 scallions (3” of green left on), thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method: Section grapefruit. Discard pith and peel. Save sections and juice. Make a vinaigrette of 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk constantly, slowly drizzling in the olive oil and continue whisking until slightly thickened. Reserve. Place the chopped frisée in a large bowl. Add the grapefruit sections, scallions, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 3 tablespoons of reserved vinaigrette. Arrange the walnuts on top of the salad and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley. Bon appétit!

 

This and that

Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world—and in many different ways? Here’s a very small sampling culled from hundreds of possibilities.

  • The island of Montserrat, called the Emerald Island of the Caribbean, was founded by Irish refugees from the nearby islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis. On Montserrat, St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday.
  • In Florence, Italy, there is “Fiesta Irlandes,” a celebration which lasts for ten days and features an Italian style potato soup, smoked salmon, beef soaked in Guinness, and huge amounts of stout.
  • In Moscow, Russia, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade includes numerous floats, marching bands, and…Cossack horsemen.
  • In Oslo, Norway, St. Patrick has a red-bearded chauffeur who drives him about in a horse and cart.
  • In Tokyo, Japan, Irish and Japanese flags line Omotesando Avenue for the big parade.
  • Seattle, Washington, devotes an entire week to St. Patrick’s Day festivities, including the painting of a green strip down the center of Fourth Avenue.
  • Tampa, Florida, tinted the Hillsboro River green.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada, includes a classic car show in their festivities. (I was expecting Elvis!)
  • And my personal favorite? The celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana, includes Irish dancing, a parade with jazz bands and float riders who toss strings of beads along with cabbages and potatoes to the spectators.

 

 

I will leave you with the following thought.

May your blessing outnumber the shamrocks that grow,

And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hi everyone,

Welcome back and a belated Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you enjoy my fourth newsletter, the February 2013 edition. Thank you, one and all, long-time friends and new friends, for your comments on the previous three newsletters. Once again I will share highlights with you about my books/writing, recent travels, recipes, along with “This and That.”

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

 

Writing

     Many of you who are writers have asked how to improve your skills. In a previous newsletter I included advice that I’d often heard and considered helpful: attend writing classes and lectures, join a writers’ group, write every day, read great authors, and have confidence in yourself. Here’s an additional idea, based on a recent personal experience: Wherever you are, listen to how “real” people talk; watch their expressions and body language; and involve all five senses as you take in the surroundings. Then one day, pull those special moments from your memory or journal and write a winning scene!

Let me tell you about my experience. Yesterday, I pulled up to a store that offers everything from paper plates, baby diapers and cleaning supplies to batteries, paint brushes, and motor oil. Every customer who arrived at the store seemed to be in the middle of a project at home, like washing windows or replacing AC filters. Apparently they had run out of an item and rushed in to buy it. I was at the cash register checking out index cards.

The bell over the front door jangled, and a great big guy wearing jeans, T-shirt, and baseball cap rushed in. He called out in a booming voice to the cashier, “Where are your rubber gloves at?”

Without missing a beat, she said, “Mine are at my house in the cabinet under my kitchen sink. The ones you want are in Aisle Two, in the back.”

Everyone in the store enjoyed the verbal exchange. That little scene might appear in one of my future novels. How can I resist? It has comedy; a cute plot; great characters; a slice-of-life feel; snappy dialog; and possibly more than meets the eye (see the next paragraph).

Driving home I thought about the feisty cashier. She had told me she’d worked at the store for eleven years. I suspect she has stored up a supply of one-liners and tosses them at her customers at just the right moment. By amusing herself and them, she staves off boredom. How smart she is! No watching the clock, no wishing the day would end, no wishing she were somewhere else. No. She cleverly turned herself into the writer, director, actor, and audience of her own comedy show.

I plan to stop in that store again to see what she comes up with next. I might even inquire about rubber gloves to see if she has a variation on her previous response.

 

For my new friends, here are the covers of my five novels, available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions at Amazon.com and other sites.

Montauk Mystery  Montauk Steps  Tomoka Mystery  Cinderella Murders  Montauk Cave

 

Cooking Delights: Chicken Tarragon

Among my collection of chicken recipes this one is my favorite. Besides the delicate taste, I like that it can be made a day in advance. I hope you enjoy it.

For eight people, lightly brown eight skinless boneless chicken breasts in butter in a frying pan. Put chicken in large baking dish and cover with sauce (see below) and then cover with plastic wrap. Let sit overnight in fridge.

Sauce: In 2 tablespoons butter, sauté 1 small onion chopped fine, garlic powder to taste, 1 stalk of celery chopped fine, 1 cup fresh mushrooms chopped fine, and 2 tablespoons flour (scattered over butter and quickly stirred in to avoid lumps and/or burning). Then add 1 cup white sauterne wine, 1 cup water with 2 dissolved chicken bouillon cubes (or 1 cup chicken broth), 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp dried tarragon, and 2 tsp dried parsley. (If you prefer fresh tarragon and parsley, adjust amounts 3 to 1; 3 tsp fresh tarragon and 6 tsp fresh parsley.)

Bake: 90 minutes at 375 degrees, covered with foil. Baste occasionally. Uncover. Thicken with flour if necessary before serving. (To guarantee a smooth sauce, mix flour with water thoroughly before adding.) Bon appétit!

 

 This and That

   A friend from Connecticut told me about Letterboxing, a pastime craze that originated in England, and now it’s catching on across America. If you love the outdoors plus the fun of a treasure hunt and exploring new places, and the challenge of code-cracking and following clues, along with an artistic ability to create a personalized rubber stamp, then this may be an activity for you. If not, there’s always the fun of learning something new.

Basically someone hides a small box in the woods, under leaves or a rock, or possibly in a public building, or just about anywhere. He or she then posts clues to the location on a Letterboxing web site. As a Letterboxer, your mission is to search web sites for areas near you where Letterboxes are hidden, and then obtain a list of clues to help you find the Letterbox. Knowledge about reading maps and tracking coordinates is a big help. So are work gloves, long pants, and a compass.

Once you meet with success and find a Letterbox, you have the fun of stamping your find in your personal log book and in the Letterbox’s log too. Besides trying to find a Letterbox, you can hide one and give clues to its location on the web site. You may hear from people who found it and they may have an intriguing tale to tell.

There are numerous sites about Letterboxing, many with good photos. The sites can provide everything you need to know to get started. I haven’t tried it yet, but it has a certain mysterious appeal. One final thought. There are Letterboxing bumper stickers, Letterboxing gear, and much more. Letterboxing is on its way!

 

Travel News

Around the World in Two Days

     This month I traveled by train, boat, car, balloon, spaceship, and safari truck during visits to The United States, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and various places in Africa. When the trip was over I enjoyed a fireworks spectacle that took place over a lake. Among the many food items I enjoyed throughout the two days were specialties from Bavaria and China. I had the chance to speak French and Spanish, as well as English.

Okay, you guessed it! I never left Florida. I spent two days at Disney’s Epcot and Animal Kingdom, stayed at a Disney hotel, and rode a Disney bus to and from the destinations. When you live in Florida as I do, you occasionally, say once every ten years or so, just pretend you’re one of the millions of visitors who come to Florida for a vacation.

Bon voyage!

« Older Entries