The Eight Months of Chocolate Takes a Respite

Because it’s too hot! This past week, I received a package from one of my junior-year-abroad friends who had traveled back to Switzerland on business. I knew this because he posted some lovely photos on Facebook, and (of course) I hinted at my favorite Swiss chocolate bar, one that can’t be bought here in the USA.

swiss chocolate bars DV

He’s a good guy, and sent me two! My husband and I dug into the Giandor first, but we’re saving the Frigor. Saving it for what? Christmas? Hey, it’ll be gone by the next blog post.

Anyway, it’s getting too hot for chocolate, isn’t it? The Giandor was a little soft. So take a break! We all know that the Halloween candy will be back on the shelves as soon as the munchkins are back in school this fall. And thus begins another round of the Eight Months of Chocolate. October through May – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, after-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day. Any excuse to sell/buy/consume it. Aren’t you chocolated out by now?

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone
Strawberry Ice Cream Cone

Take a break from chocolate. It’s ice cream season!

And in case you were wondering, I have limited my sugar intake tremendously.


Got Pumpkin?

I’ve been a poor blogger lately, but with good reason – my sixth novel is nearly finished!  I’m down to my last twelve pages of rewrites, and have devoted much of this past summer to that task, so that the book will be out by November. And here we are at the end of September, so what better way to take a break than with some pumpkin talk?

It’s here, it’s seemingly everywhere. Pumpkin-spice (insert brand here). marshmallowsIngredients: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Cornstarch, Dextrose, Water, Gelatin, Contains Less Than 2% of Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1.

OreoIngredients: Sugar, Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid, Palm and/or Canola Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Salt, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Artificial Color (Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Blue 3 Lake), Paprika Oleoresin (Color)WheatsIngredients: Whole grain wheat, sugar, contains 2% or less of brown rice syrup, cinnamon, ginger, gelatin, nutmeg, allspice, annatto extract color, natural flavor, BHT for freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Reduced iron, niacinamide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), zinc oxide, vitamin B12.And how about that pumpkin-spice latte? This is what you might get:

DD pumpkin syrupIngredients: Skim Milk, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Brown Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt.

How about you make your own? Here’s my favorite fall breakfast:

pumpkin smoothie

  • 1/2 banana, frozen (50 cal)
  • 1/2 scoop PLNT protein powder (chocolate or vanilla) (55 cal)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (50 cal)
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (45 cal)
  • pumpkin pie spice (however much you want)

Blend it and love it! Here’s the nutrition information: 200 calories, 5g fat, 27g carb, 12g protein

And the best part? It’s real.


Spinach Pie, Clamcakes, and Pizza Strips

My friend Brea lives in Missouri. She’s never been to Rhode Island. So when I first mentioned a ‘spinach pie’ in written conversation, she thought I meant spanakopita. Now, I do love spanakopita, especially at the Greek Festival every year, but no, the Rhode Island spinach pie is completely different. It’s more of a calzone, stuffed with spinach, garlic, and sometimes black olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.

Another thing my friends across the country might not understand is the Rhode Island clam cake, or clamcake. My friend Jeanette in Texas wasn’t sure what I meant – after all, clams and cake? It’s a fritter, but we don’t call them clam fritters. They’re clam cakes, and they’re meant to be eaten (sometimes dunked) in chowder (the debate over red, white, or clear is for another post). Here’s a recipe in case you want to try making them at home.

Finally, the pizza strip. Everyone knows pizza – and everyone knows there are many varieties and toppings, right? But Rhode Island pizza? Sometimes called party pizza or bakery pizza, you can buy a box of it (sold at room temperature) at the supermarket or a single strip wrapped in plastic from your neighborhood convenience store. It’s bread – focaccia or pizza dough with herbed tomato sauce or paste on top. That’s it. Sometimes a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but it’s not necessary.

Rhode Island pizza strip
Rhode Island pizza strip

So – what’s your pleasure? And Rhode Islanders, past and present – where are your favorites?

Smile and Say…”D” is for DANISH BLUE


I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese! I hope you enjoy these posts!


Danablu sounds like the name of some rock star’s offspring, doesn’t it? It’s a relatively new cheese, in that it was invented in the early 20th century as an alternative to the imported blues (like Roquefort, Stilton, and Gorgonzola). Danish Blue is now available worldwide.

It’s semi-soft, with deep blue-purple streaks, and made from cow’s milk. Bring it to room temperature before you eat it. Yes, the blue is mold. You’re either going to love it or detest it. In a recipe, you can substitute Danish Blue for Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Pairs nicely with a Cabernet wine. Skål!



Smile and Say……”B” is for BRIE


I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese! I hope you enjoy these posts!


Creative Commons/Myrabella
Creative Commons/Myrabella


“B” is for Brie de Melun.

Brie de Melun originated in the region of France known as Seine-et-Marne. Supposedly, it’s the Brie that started it all – all other cheeses known as Brie came about as a result of this one.

Melun map


It’s produced from cow’s milk, and those cows graze in the lush valleys of Seine-et-Marne, enjoying the lovely grasses and flowers of the region. Since they eat so well, they produce exceptional milk.

It pairs well with any of the red wines of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Côtes du Rhône.

BONUS!  Click HERE for a fabulous appetizer made with Brie.


Smile and Say……”A” is for ASIAGO


I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese! In 2012, my theme was authors, poets, essayists, songwriters. That was fun. Last year, my theme was titled “Oh! The Places I’ve Been.” Had a great time doing that one. So what made me choose cheese? I wanted to do something food-related. Thought about chocolate, of course. It’s so Swiss. But so is cheese. I did some research, and cheese won. I hope you enjoy these posts!

“A” is for ASIAGO

It’s Italian. It comes from a cow. And it can be smooth or crumbly, depending on how long it’s aged. A little like Parmesan, but stronger in smell and flavor. And of late, found in everything from pasta to bagels.

There’s a town called Asiago in the northeastern part of Italy (ten o’clock from Venice) – near the equally-tiny towns of Valdobbiadene and Bassano del Grappa. That’s where the original Asiago cheese comes from. What a beautiful place! I want to go. Now.

The next time you savor Asiago cheese, thank the cows who munch on the good clean grasses of the plateau and valley regions for producing such an excellent milk!


The official title for Lent, Quadragesima, is Latin for “forty.” Consider it a forty-day retreat.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, faithful Catholics are “marked” with the sign of the cross. The ashes of burned palms signify that we, as mortal beings, will return to dust one day. The outer person is meaningless in death. Who are you inside?

When I was a kid, it was all about giving something up. Candy, usually, and if we made it through those forty days of Lent, there was a big reward on Easter Sunday: a wicker basket filled with foil-covered chocolate eggs, a big chocolate rabbit, jelly beans. Plenty of sugar.

As a teenager, we shifted gears and started focusing on doing something positive, usually for someone in need. Go visit an old person, make an offering for the poor, be kind to your sister. 🙂

Lent is about sacrifice, but not in the suffering and gloomy sort of way. It’s a way to focus on the inner person by depriving oneself of certain extraneous things. You can make a sacrifice for forty days. And if it hurts a little (sugar, caffeine, cigarettes), you’re allowing that opening your heart to God, to good, is more important then what you’ve given up.

I recall a priest once talking about the tradition of going without meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. “Going without meat does not mean driving to Twin Oaks for the baked stuffed shrimp!” (Okay, local joke, but you get the point).

Here is an excerpt from Pope Francis’s Lenten message: “Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge

Are you in? Are you interested? If you blog, join me as I start my third year of Blogging from A to Z this April. Here’s a link to headquarters. You can sign up here, check out promo videos, ask questions. And if you don’t blog, then you can enjoy reading this one all through April!

In 2012, I did my first A to Z Challenge, and, while a theme isn’t necessary, I wanted one. So two years ago, I blogged about authors, poets, essayists, lyricists. What a blast – but I was exhausted, because I hadn’t planned ahead. And I had already written my début novel ( it was with my editor).

Last year, I chose travel as my theme, naming my blog “Oh! The Places I’ve Been” and I did plan. Smart girl. I’d just released my second novel, so the timing worked.

So what’s the theme this year? Well, I love travel. I love books and music. And I love food. So this year will have a culinary theme, but I don’t want to give away any more just yet. It’ll be fun, trust me! I am planning ahead, choosing my topics for each day in April (except Sundays) and even writing the blog posts ahead of time. Oh, and yes, I am working on my fifth novel, too. All in a day’s work.

What I’ve Read

Wow – not much! I track my reading progress at Goodreads, and apparently I haven’t finished many books in the past couple of months. But it’s understandable, as I published a book in late September and another last week. I have a few books open, though, and hoping to catch up in December.

Chick Lit and Cheer

So what did I read?

  • Merry & Bright, six tales of Christmas cheer by some fabulous women authors. It’s available in digital format from Amazon, for just $2.99 and is a light, easy read.
  • Merry Chick Lit is another anthology of short stories (six of them!) and is only $0.99 for the e-book. PLUS! All proceeds from the sale of this e-book go to Rocking the Road for a Cure, to help women with breast cancer. It’s a buck! Go get your copy.
  • Oxygen, by Carol Cassella, a real-life anesthesiologist. This book was, as I like to say, unputdownable. While I found the story of Dr. Marie Heaton the anesthesiologist gripping, it was the inner story of her fractured relationship with her father that really moved me.
  • Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband, by kc wilder. No, I’m not planning anything! This book was a lot more than I expected. Well-written and captivating, it
    follows Eve Wolcott on a journey of self-discovery. There’s laugh-out-loud comedy, memorable characters, and plenty of delicious sex in this book (definitely for adults). But there’s also a glimpse into Eve’s heart, and the author skillfully lays bare all of Eve’s doubts, fears, and second-guessing.

In fact, I’m joining author kc wilder tomorrow for an afternoon of “Chick Lit and Cheer” at her home in Wakefield. The house is open from 11:30 to 3:30, so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood (message me for address and directions). We’ll have nibbles and noshes (how about a block of chocolate cheddar – yep!) as well as our books, but mostly we’d love to meet you!

I’ll get back to reading in December, but first I’m going to finish beta reading a manuscript for a friend (almost done!) and another for one of my favorite authors (cannot wait!). Then it’s back to four books that I’ve started and bookmarked.

Hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friends. The holiday can be a struggle for some, and I know not everyone feels merry and bright. Take a deep breath and consider what you can do to brighten someone’s day. It will undoubtedly brighten your own, too.


10 Things About Me You May Not Know

A lot of my friends have been playing this “game” on Facebook in the past few days, posting things about themselves that others may or may not know. Someone assigns them a number (usually between five and fourteen), and that’s how many items they list. I chose five for myself, although others suggested eight, or ten, or twelve. Five was hard enough! But since I’m reposting, I’ll add five more here. First, the original five:

5 Things About Me You May Not Know:

  1. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 28. My friend Connie Joyce and I each made a New Year’s resolution that year. She had her ears pierced and I said I’d learn to drive. Up until then, I’d been okay not driving. Well, it was an inconvenience at times. I walked a lot. I chose an apartment close to work. In high school, my mother was involved in a bad car accident with two trailer trucks, and I know it kept me from learning for a long time. Connie’s husband Marty taught me to drive in his Oldsmobile Cutlass. He made me drive through the Hoot ‘n’ Holler Bridge in Central Falls, a narrow pass-through barely wide enough for one car (honk your horn at the blind curve entrance to announce your arrival). By the way, even with my driver’s license, I waited another three years to buy a car.
  2. I chose Music as my college major (piano), until I heard fellow freshman Rosemary Murray play “Rhapsody in Blue.” I was so intimidated I switched my major to Theatre. Then I walked into an Oral Interpretation class and was so intimidated by the students who knew each other well, and they did look at me as if I didn’t belong there. At least that was my perception. So I switched to English. Glad I did – my professors were the best.
  3. My first novel is fiction, as novels are. I did not lose my virginity to a married Swiss banker, bear his child, and give him up for adoption. (But thank you for finding it real enough to think so). All of my books are fiction! Sure, I draw on some personal experiences, but more than that, I draw on emotion.
  4. I went to a psychic in 1992, who asked me repeatedly who ‘James’ was. The only person I could think of was my Uncle Butch. I didn’t meet Jim until February 1994. Actually, I remember bringing with me three photographs that day: three different men. I knew that two of them were not meant for me (she confirmed that, dubbing one of them the true snake he was, dismissing the other one with a shake of her head). When I showed her the third photograph, she laughed and said, “Well, I can see where you’d be smitten with this one. If I were twenty years younger, I’d be smitten, too. But he’ll only make you cry.”
  5. I’m a lot shyer than most people think. And I panic at the thought of walking into a room where I don’t know anyone.

Okay, five more.
  1. Two weeks after I got engaged, I was hit by an eighteen-wheeler on Route 95. I was driving to work, and as my car spun across four lanes, all I could think was, “Finally I get a ring on my finger and now I’m going to die.”
  2. I’m actually not afraid to die. Not ready to go just yet, but also not afraid of what comes after this life. Just hoping there’s still time to mend a few fences. And write a few more books.
  3. I don’t want to be famous. All I want is to write really good books. And if I sell enough books to pay the bills, I’ll be happy. Truly. I enjoy my quiet life.
  4. I will not eat beets, peas, or asparagus. I know, they’re all good for me. I keep thinking I should give beets another try – after all, my experience with them consists of the canned variety. And my sister loved them. With vinegar. Ugh. So maybe I should get some fresh beets and be adult about this thing.
  5. I don’t deserve my husband. He’s one of the kindest, most understanding and compassionate people I’ve ever known. And he puts up with me.

If you comment, give me just ONE thing I probably don’t know about you!