I’ve been so caught up in finishing a book, everything has sort of stacked up on the desk. I looked up the other day, blinked like a ground hog and realized I’ve got a bunch of events coming up soon and I didn’t have any of the particulars nailed down. Like airline flights, hotels, rental cars, the sort of details that my lazy-ass assistant never gets to. Oh, wait, that’s me having to get up an hour early to get it all done–so you can understand why it just sort of doesn’t–get done that is. And with the first trip starting, well, like today, I really needed to get my *&^$ together.
What really motivated me was listening to NPR, the 5:00 news and the 10:00 news all issuing dire warnings about less flights, more costs and book now, (and yes, I am a bit of a news junkie), so I finally roused the assistant to get up early and get it all together. She was a little caustic about the whole thing, but luckily the rest of the house was still asleep not to have to listen to her grumbling.
What I hadn’t realized is that I had been a busy girl saying “yes” to just about everything that came my way. I don’t normally do that, and for years have had to be very discerning about what I did considering the difficulties of leaving the family behind. Yet there was the evidence in my little mail folder called “Es Events.” Reader’s Luncheon in Portland? Yes! PLA in Minneapolis? Wouldn’t miss it for the world. BookExpo in Los Angeles? Well, why not? RWA in SF? You had me at San. Oh, and then there are the two library programs locally that I am doing on Jane Austen. Crikey! What was I thinking? Just look at my Events page if you don’t believe me.
So I got busy on Expedia, on Amtrak.com, and Disney.com. Don’t even ask about the later. Apparently one cannot go to Los Angeles and not take the entire family. I didn’t see them queuing up in my office for the little jaunt this week to Minneapolis–covered as it is in snow. But I saw that as a good excuse to go buy two skeins of Malabrigo wool and make a new hat and mittens. As for RWA, I had to not only get myself organized, but Mr. Boyle as well. You see, he’s coming to RWA to give a talk with me, so I had to get his flights arranged as well. Yes, the hero husband is coming to RWA. Please don’t swamp him for autographs or gush over him, it really goes to his head, and I would like him to fit into the hotel elevator.
So far so good. The other part of trips is getting the promo pieces together. With a deadline looming and my office overflowing with
crap, er promo, I ended up dangling a new set of Legos in front of one of the little heroes if he’d stuff bags. I tell you, I wish my assistant was so easily motivated because the little dude was a champ. Here are part of the 60 bags that are going with me to Minneapolis. My packing list this trip is rather easy: Suitcase full of swag and not much else. If you run into me the third day of the trip and my clothes look like a wreck, well, you’ll know why.
Someone asked me just today if I ever get nervous speaking to so many people, and I said no. I’m usually so relieved to be done with all the details (the childcare, the laundry, flights, airport transportation, the shopping, the makeup that I never can find, what knitting, books, and work to take with me, is my phone charged, iPod charged, batteries in the camera, emergency numbers all laid out, groceries stocked) that I just sigh with relief and get up there. For 25 minutes no one wants anything from me but to make them laugh. Of course the librarians in Minneapolis may be surprised–my talk is slated for 8:30 in the morning, which equates to 6:30 AM Seattle time. I don’t know about any of you, but I am rarely funny at 6:30 in morning.
No, wait, I’ve got a better idea. I think I’ll send the assistant. She’s barely had anything to do lately.
P.S. Drop by tomorrow as I have news about a really cool contest someone is having over the next month. Drop by, get all the details, so you can enter early.
Now that used to mean getting myself down to the nearest pub and . . . well, singing a lot of Irish songs into the night. And perhaps imbibing in a pint or two. (Kit, this is the point where you don’t snort your coffee all over your keyboard, nor do you comment.) But life is so very different now. This year it has turned into discovering my Irish roots in another way: Discovering the most authenticate and perfect recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
This all started about a week ago when my son’s teacher put out a call for parents to volunteer to make Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day for the kids to take over to the retirement home across the street from his school. They go over there on holidays, take the residents cookies and such and visit with them and sing them songs. I gamely raised my hand and volunteered and then panicked a bit. Sure, I’m a good part Irish, but I’ve never made soda bread in my life.
So I did what any American-Irish would do. I went in search of my roots. Via O’Google. And found two likely recipes. The contenders were: Martha Stewart’s Recipe and Simply Recipes. Thus began the Boyle Irish Soda Bread Test kitchen.
Of course, as ancient tradition dictates, I got out my O’Kitchen Aid mixer and my Cuisanart. Essential for that authentic taste. The differences you will note in the recipes is the volume of eggs, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. And in Martha’s, she makes that addition of the caraway seeds. Hmm. Since I knew one of the test eaters would probably stick his little nose in the air if he heard the word caraway, I made the Simply Recipe version early in the week. The test eaters devoured it. The loaf turned out wonderful. Sorry no pictures. Like I said, devoured.
What I also discovered is that soda bread traverses all meals. Makes awesome toast in the morning. A nice hearty slice goes well with your lunch salad. And warm from the oven and sliced, it makes a nice addition to dinner. We Irish are a clever bunch, if I do say so myself.
So on Sunday, with St. Patrick’s day just 24 hours away, I had to get serious. First into the oven was the Martha version.
And it came out with this really disappointing crust and, well, really heavy. Look at it up there–it looks so pale and lackluster. Even the addition of butter on the crust before baking didn’t make it brown nicely. I think with the extra eggs and butter and sugar, it makes it just too darn heavy. Dense. Now I know it is supposed to be somewhat dense, but this is verging on concrete. The caraway seeds add a nice flavor, but it just wasn’t that homey loaf I was looking for.
So back to the Simply recipe. And I turned out two loaves (without the mixer. Yes, I did it by hand.) and instead of baking them in a heavy duty cast iron skillet I used a heavy duty cookie sheet. So here we have before:
Hearty crust. Not too dense. Comes together easily. Oh, yes. We have a winner. So however you get your Irish on this year, I hope your day is green and full of good cheer, and hopefully with a slice of soda bread. Look, I’ve done all the hard work for you. And would someone please pass the butter before my slice cools down.
I’m brushing up on my Jane Austen because I am speaking on her in April at my local libraries (in conjunction with the PBS Masterpiece airings of all the movies) and I ran across this. I found it rather vexing that anyone would find it intolerable to watch all six hours of P&P. Really, why would you have friends like that?
So I have to ask, did any of those sound familiar to you? Seeing that I was called “Lizzy” as a child, I don’t find it odd at all that one would want to be called that. But I suppose if your name was Kit or Mary or Haven it might be viewed as slightly odd to suddenly want to be called Lizzy. But then again maybe not, if it were Mr. Darcy following it up with a, “Ah, there you are, my dear sweet Elizabeth.”
Well, a girl can dream.
BTW, Happy Birthday, Kit. A day late.
I totally forgot to post a cover of Sophia Nash’s book, The Kiss, for everyone to see. And it is such a great cover, I can’t believe I forgot to share. Mea Culpa and my apologies! And if you click on it, you can go right to Sophia’s page and read an excerpt!
And if Sophia snubs it me for it, I deserve it.
This week I am turning over the Monday morning duties to my good friend, Sophia Nash. Sophia has graciously offered to helm the blog today and tell you all about her new book, The Kiss, which hits the shelves tomorrow. I love Sophia’s books, which are lush, wonderful stories, and I like Sophia because she makes me laugh.
EB: The Kiss received a Top Pick from Romantic Times and is an All About Romance Desert Isle Keeper, congratulations. What drew you to writing this story of unrequited love?
Sophia: I had always wanted to write a book about unrequited love because it’s almost universally experienced by everyone at one point or another. Is there a more difficult sort of love? And what if the person afflicted was a lady of courage and strong character but who was unwilling to declare her love for fifteen years because he is her best friend? Can you imagine the intensity of the moment when she finally tells him? Can you imagine her happiness when the hero pulls her into his arms and kisses her? That was the premise of The Kiss.
EB: You use Cornwall as the backdrop for your books. What makes that your favorite setting?
Sophia: Cornwall is one of the most startlingly beautiful places in earth. The windswept cliffs echo stories of love lost and love found. And there is such history there. The Kiss is set in Helston, Cornwall on a fictitious estate. But the prominent landmark, Loe Pool, does indeed exist. It was once an ocean inlet until a shingle bar formed naturally transforming it into the largest lake in Cornwall. It’s a sanctuary for many birds, and yes, even otters! But I shall hint that the next book in the series, will move to London and further north.
EB: Oh, thanks for the great pictures. I’m adding Cornwall to my long list of “must visits”. So we share a love of England, but the Regency as well. On the Enter the Era page at your website, you have a Regency lexicon, which is a “must visit”, but do you have any other favorite Regency interests you want to share with us?
Sophia: Fanology! Who knew opening and closing a fan could be so dangerous? Here is a fictitious situation to illustrate a few gestures and their meanings taken from 1791 “Fanology” by Charles Francis Badini.
Say a lady spots a handsome gentleman across the ballroom staring at her. She touches the tip of her fan with a finger indicating “I wish to speak to you.” Or she may twirl her fan in her left hand to indicate, “We are being watched.” He glances toward the garden and disappears. When she spies him in the shadows there she is too nervous to speak so instead she presses a half closed fan to her hips, suggesting “you may kiss me.” And if she is very bold, she might even place her fan near her heart, meaning “I love you.” Is this not better than text messaging “want 2 hook up”?
EB: If someone wants to reach you or read an excerpt from The Kiss or A Dangerous Beauty (which I understand is also up for an RT award, so again congratulations!) where can they find you on the web?
Sophia: I always like to hear from readers who can reach me via www.sophianash.com. But I regularly hang with the hilarious gang at Romance Novel Television and avonauthors.com. If you want to see me make a fool of myself riding a mechanical bull or make inane comments a la Joan Rivers during the RITA awards, you can check it out at www.romancenovel.tv. And don’t miss the best interview ever with Elizabeth herself who has promised to teach me how to cable stitch this summer!
EB: Sophia, thanks for dropping by! Questions for Sophia anyone?
And no, I am not talking about the election. And not even the fact that it is President’s Day. I’m talking about the Presidential Madness that has enveloped my nine year old son. He lives and breathes presidents like most boys do baseball players, hockey stars or soccer icons. It was a horrible shock when I had to tell him, “Sorry, honey, no there are not Presidential Trading Cards.”
I mean really, who wants to end up with a collection of Millard Fillmores?
No, in our house it is all about the presidents. Presidential biographies. (Who knew rough and tumble Andrew Jackson had running water installed in the White House?) Presidential landmarks. (Any guesses who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? And that I am the worst mother in the world for not including this in our trip to NYC last fall.) Presidential exhibits, such as the current exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry here in Seattle. I had to promise in blood that I would take him during his Spring Break. No Disneyland for this kid–we are off to see Lincoln’s actual stovepipe hat. I believe that beats Thunder Mountain any day.
Nothing like being the go-to guy in the third grade on all matters presidential. Even his teachers defer to him. If I sound a little proud, believe me I am. I discovered my love of history by reading biographies when I was nine. Clara Barton, Florence Nightengale, Harriet Tubman, Nellie Bly. We should all have our heroes as we grow up. People who distinguished themselves and offer us a glimpse into what an ordinary person can do or become. Even Andrew Jackson. Because who doesn’t like their politics and politicians to be clean?
Who were your heroes growing up?
English Invasion. Read all about it. And this time there will be no dumping the stuff in the harbor, not at this price. But make sure you scroll through the comments to see what SFC of Manchester had to say about our generally barbarous treatment of tea. I had to laugh. Hope you do too!
I know, I’m supposed to wax poetic about this week because I am a romance writer. It is rather like carrying the standard in this business. Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s trot the local romance writers out of their caves, dress them in red and have them go on and on about the power of love. Gads, I think I am going to choke on my box of chocolates.
It’s not that I am against romance. Or Valentine’s Day–because any day where a man actually feels compelled to act on his guilt of not being romantic enough the rest of the year, is cause for celebration, especially when it involves diamonds or roses, preferably in that order. It’s the trotting out the romance writers that bothers me. Like I have some insider’s advantage that makes me an expert on the subject of love. Believe me, most days I am just lucky to get my knitting straight . . .
Now I have to interrupt this blog to explain why it sort of ends right there. I had this entire, wonderful blog about the event at Maple Valley written, and then one of the little
shits, aka little heroes, decided to turn off the router, and when I went to save the blog, I lost it into the ether. Okay, I am not feeling the love at this moment. And it was a great blog. Sigh. Suffice it to say, I explained how I feel about doing public events until I get there, surrounded by friends and readers and good buddies and rediscover the love that is writing romance. You would have shed a tear at the end of it. I did. And that was before I discovered the technical difficulties. So instead, here are the pics and to each and every one of you, I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.
And if you happen to see me on the news for selling my child on eBay, please come and be one of my jurors. I know you all will understand my pain.
Read Christina Arbini’s blog yesterday and spent a good thirty minutes afterward laughing my ashes off. Go check it out.