Warm and tasty cabbage tomato soup

Ingredients:

Half a green cabbage (sliced into thin strips), 3 or 4 very ripe tomatoes (cut up) or a can of tomatoes, can of corn, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, garlic (1 clove, diced, or a spoonful of powdered garlic), half a cup of red wine (optional, but it gives a nice flavor), about a quart of broth (I use vegetable broth, but you can use chicken, beef, or veal).

In a large pot, melt butter or heat vegetable oil, add the sliced cabbage and cubed tomatoes. Stir and cook evenly for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, garlic, and oregano and stir. Cook for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften. Carefully pour in 1 cup of broth. Stir the ingredients. Once the soup starts to bubble, add the rest of the broth. Stir the ingredients to evenly cook the vegetables, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. It should simmer and bubble, but not too much. If using canned tomatoes, add a teaspoon of sugar.

Ater the cabbage is softened to noodle-like texture, and the tomatoes are mush, add the corn kernels. Cook for a few minutes and turn off the heat.

Allow the soup to simmer for 10 more minutes, then turn off heat and allow to sit. Serve hot with fresh bread & some cheese such as a goat cheese, a blue cheese, or even a brie.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to make a Big Splash at a book conference

Having been to many conferences, I have (from experience) seen with (my own eyes) what makes for a big Splash. So if you want to make a Big Splash (from herein known as *BS) you should do as these authors** have done:

10 Ways to Make a Big Splash (*BS) at a book conference! 

1) Run after literary agents. Follow them everywhere. Hassle agents in the bathroom about submissions – slide the darn thing right under the door of their stall if they insist on acting coy.

2) Carry a huge, sloppy, manuscript around and beg people to read it. Better still, if you can carry two or three of these around in canvas bags slung over your shoulders, that’s effective too. Follow agents around like a pack horse whinnying your pitch.

3) Make sure your “look” for the conference is eye-catching. Sequins, expanses of bare skin, feather boas (the kind that shed floaty feathers are the best) and a huge hat and/or lots of jewelry will set you apart.

4) Wear a long necklace with clips and put all your cards and bookmarks on it. Pull them off and hand them to Everyone you meet. Make sure your nametag is particularly flashy.

5) When you put your cards and bookmarks on the promo tables, make sure to sweep everyone else’s promo shit aside. When it’s your turn to man your publisher’s table, idem. Push everyone else’s promotional material aside and set yours front and center. If anything falls on the floor, ignore it.

6) Chase after the male models screaming ‘I want your BABY!’

7) Don’t forget to tell everyone that Your book is the only good one out there – the rest is just trash. Badmouth your fellow authors.

8) Hang out at the bar & drink cosmos until your see triple, and make sure you flirt with everyone. Falling off your bar stool gets you noticed as well.

9) Badmouth your agent, your publisher, or your editor (thank you, Kate, for reminding me of this one!)

10) Run up a tab at the bar, and “forget” to pay it. Empty the fridge in your room. Leave it to your roommates to sort it out.

If you do all these things, I promise that people will be talking about your *BS for years to come.

**N.B. I have actually seen all of these things happen at conferences!

Still Writing & rambling

Still writing. Not done with the mystery book yet. Is getting to the exciting part. Bodies left and right now. Killer getting carried away.
I was wondering if I wasn’t taking out some frustration on my characters. Sort of a therapy. Maim and kill with words and take out imaginary characters instead of losing one’s temper and driving over the neighbor’s cat who insists that your front garden is the only place it can pee.

Actually I don’t have a problem with the neighbor’s cat since it mysteriously disappeared a few months ago.

No, I’m making up stories again. The poor thing died of old age and obesity. I kept it out of my garden by shutting my front gate – it was too fat to leap up over the wall. My neighbors have a wonderful gourmet restaurant and the cat obviously got the leftovers.

In the village next door, there was another restaurant. It closed after two people were discovered buried in the back garden. A couple. Rumor has it that the man found his wife with another man. And that is what I heard for ages, until I found out from a policeman what really happened. Supposedly the couple were gypsies and had been blackmailing the owner for quite some time. Finally he snapped, shot them, and buried them in the garden.
How many people had dinner in the restaurant while the couple rotted in the ground? I never ate there – when we moved here that was already old news. It took me a while to find out the true story.
Even older news was the story of the man who lived in Gambais and he would go to Paris on the train, find a woman to come clean his house, kill her, and incinerate her in his oven. He’s a famous French serial killer. They caught him because of the train tickets. A ticket to and from Paris, and just one ticket from Paris. A one way trip for some poor cleaning woman. That affair, heavily covered by newspapers at the time, was easy to verify. But people living in the village are not eager to talk about the affair. Not unusual – it must bring the property values down quite a bit…

In Houdan, not far away, another mystery was recently solved. A hundred years ago, a woman had been accused of putting arsenic in her husband’s meal and poisoning him. His body tested positive for arsenic. So did her children, her mother in law, and everyone in the house. She was put on trial and convicted of murder and attempted murder of over fifteen people. She died in prison. About a hundred years later, a scientist and historian, curious about the affair and about the unusual geographical nature of the area, convinced the town to let him exhume and test the people in the cemetery. Turns out nearly everyone was full of arsenic. The ground water, it turns out, is poisoned. A sort of natural arsenic spring. The woman was declared innocent posthumously, but most people still talk about the ‘Houdan poisoner’.

I like the fact that people prefer to think of the woman as guilty. It’s more exciting, and besides, she’s dead poor thing and can’t defend herself. I wondered about other historical reputations, like that of the infamous Tokyo Rose, who was also acquited of spying, and yet still retains her reputation. Does history ever tell the truth? What about the princes in the tower? Did Richard kill them?
I think so. But there are people who disagree with that, saying that history has distorted the facts.
Since it’s obvious that even history that’s only a few yers old (the man who killed the couple in his restaurant) and a hundred years old (the poisoner from Houdan) can be twisted, imagine what many centuries of propaganda can do? I suppose we’ll never find out what happened to the two princes in the tower.

I have to stop…

…Reading the news in the morning. It ruins my entire day sometimes.

Decided to clean house and finish wrapping presents. My daughter counted the presents under the tree. Wanted to know why she only had 1.
(I’ve hidden the rest. This is called torturing your child.)
“Because we’re only giving you one present this year. But don’t worry. You’ll love the book..I mean present.”

“One book?” (Outraged tone of voice.)

“Did I say book? Ignore it. Forget what I said. Christmas is all about the birth of Christ, not presents. In order to become more Christian this year, I’ve decided to forego presents. Too commercial.”

“What?! What about the presents the three kings gave to Jesus. Shouldn’t I get at least three presents?”

“Well, if you insist. I don’t know where I’ll get the myrhh though. Insense is easy, and I suppose I have an old gold ring somewhere I can wrap up.”

Daughter narrows eyes. “I was thinking more along the lines of a pony, and a new saddle blanket.”

“Forget it. Gold, insense, and mryhh.”

“I’ve decided to become Jewish. That way I get eight presents.”

“You have to know how to speak Hebrew. Can you speak Hebrew? No? Well, no Hannukka presents. Sorry.”

“How about we become Muslims and celebrate Eid ul-Adha? OK?”

“You know that calls for sacrificing the family’s best domestic animal. Do you want us to have to kill Auguste?”

“That’s not for dogs! It’s for sheep, goats, or cows!”

“Or ponies. Maybe you can get a pony for Christmas and we can sacrifice it for Eid ul-Adha?”

“Stop teasing me!” (howls)

(Kids have no sense of humor.)
Actually, neither do religeous fanatics so I’d better stop here. Never fear, we won’t sacrifice Auguste – he’s too young and too small, for one thing. Hannukka is already over (I hope my Jewish friends had a happy Hannukka) and so we’ll just have to stick with celebrating Christmas. Somehow I have to convince my daughter that the poor and meek will inherit the earth, and when that happens, we’ll have all the ponies and horses she’ll need.
🙂

My daughter (despite being told that NO she cannot have a horse) is still begging me.
Here are 3 things my kids have asked me for Christmas that they never got:
A flying carpet.
“But Mom, it does so exist! We saw it in that film – Aladin! Don’t you remember?”
Sebastian, 7 yrs. old. Absolutely convinced that there were magic carpets, and that I didn’t want to give him one because I was afraid he’d fall off.
“I promise, I’ll hold on tight! I won’t go too far!”
He kept this up for THREE weeks. I finally gave him the prayer rug my uncle had brought me back from the first Gulf war from Kuwait. Sebi sat on the rug and tried to make it fly for hours. Anyone catching sight of him would have been amazed at how devout this little boy was, kneeling on his prayer rug, facing the open window.
An equine.
A little shetland pony.
A pony.
A donkey.
A small horse.
A horse.
My daughter has grown from pony to horse, but she still begs. The answer is still
No,
No,
No.
NO!
A cell phone.
“But Mom, I can’t keep using the pay phone at the school. There’s always a long line of kids there, and I have to wait to call you. If I don’t have to wait, I can call you sooner, and you won’t have to spend as much time in the car.” (Yes Alex, this was you, darling. You’re in college now, so you can probably catch the mistake.)
Update: This was written in December 2007. In 2011, we bought our daughter a pony. Alex eventually got his cellphone. But Sebi still hasn’t gotten a flying carpet. Sometimes you never get what you want! 

And for all my friends for this holiday season:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Fe11OlMiz8

What’s in a name?

A rose is a rose – so the saying goes. But is a blog a blog? My blog is like a patchwork – slices of my life, my past, and things I see and read. I rant sometimes about politics (not often, I’m afraid) and about injustice. And last night, I was confronted with an injustice that took my breath – er, blog – away. Yes, my blog was suspended. Apparently there is a rule against hosting book tours on WordPress, so I will now cease to present books written by other people. WordPress used the example of Samantha Winston, which was unfortunate, Samantha  being “moi”, so I wrote a note and kindly pointed that out. I don’t know if they will recant, so until I get things perfectly clear (what exactly can I post – can I review books? Can I show off my new covers?) Will anyone come back to my blog if they don’t have new books to glom – well, I know that my blog is mostly about my life, my crazy kids, my polo playing husband, and my very silly dogs. Auguste must have ESP – he just poked his head up and wagged his tail – and recipes. And my garden. My golf. My love of chocolate. And today it’s my earache! Yes, I have an earache. I stayed up until 2 am last night arguing with WordPress people, who were kind enough to revise their opinion (however with warnings! Do Not Promote Book Tours, like for Samantha Winston’s “A Polo Passion”!) I told them Samantha was me, her books are my books, and sorry about the others. I. Didn’t. Know. (the terms of service are not precise). I’ve had an earache since Sunday, today I’m on antibiotics, after running to the doctor because I thought it was mumps (my neck is all sore and swollen.) (Stef says he can’t see it. But it feels all swollen!) The dr said I could only get mumps once and that I had an ear infection. Oh, woe is me. WordPress won’t let me promote Samantha, and I’m half deaf. And I must rush because I’m late for work! It seems we are in too much of a hurry to slow down and smell the roses!cropped-roses.jpg

Fairy Lust by Samantha Winston

J Smith

Have a sexy holiday read – Fairy Lust the Elfsong Trilogy together for the first time!

only 0.99$ or free with Kindle Unlimited!

Elf Song 

Though he is in great demand at the court, Branagh, the Nutcracker Prince, has sought no mate and found no one to fill his needs.

Melflouise Fairnight, once an archer in the elf militia, now a kitchen maid in the palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy wanted only to catch a glimpse of the secretive Nutcracker Prince. She never dreamed he’d desire her, or that his loving could free the elf song she’d kept caged since her husband’s death.

Their unexpected passion forces Branagh to make a terrible choice, between his kingdom and his woman.

Llewellyn’s Song

In the land of Hivernia, the whispers of war have grown louder. At the request of his king and in order to save his people, Llewellyn, a forest elf, goes to the far north seeking Frostbone, the ice-demon king. But on the way he finds Tamara, a wounded D’ark T’uath, one of the women warriors of the hidden valley. Proud and untamed, these women have no use for men…but Tamara finds herself falling in love with the tall, one-eyed elf who rescues her.

Tamara and Llewellyn have to learn acceptance of each other’s beliefs in order to join forces and warn Hivernia of impending war.

Merlin’s Song

War! If she hears the word once more, Kyla is going to scream. Not only is she locked up in a stuffy castle far from the glitter and glamour of the fairy court, she has nothing to do all day but perfect her potions. Then Merlin, an elf, arrives on a secret mission to the Southern Isles.

Intent on adventure, Kyla stows away on board Merlin’s ship. But before she goes she gives Merlin a dose of her love potion and inadvertently takes some herself. Now she’s madly in love with an insufferable elf, and to top it off she’s putting his whole mission in jeopardy.

~ * * * * * ~

Fairy Lust

Excerpt Elf Song:  

Melle hardly felt her feet as they walked to his room. While Branagh tossed his clothes into his bag, she found her clothes and put them on—her best dress and her mother’s fringed shawl and her archer moccasins, relics of a past life. Dressed, she hesitated. If she ran away now he might stay and claim his rightful place. She had no right taking that away from him. She put her hand on the doorknob.

Will you leave me, Melle?” She whirled around. Branagh’s eyes flashed at her. “Well? Will you run away from me?”

Lifting her chin, she met his brooding gaze. “Not if you tell me you love me. You’ve said you wanted me, and that you’re taking me with you. But do you love me, Branagh? I need to know, because when we cross the threshold, I want to be bound by more than just infatuation and misfortune.”

Fortune’s fools,” Branagh said, his low voice a shivering caress. “Is that all we are? I think not.” He knelt at her feet and took her hand. “Melflouise Fairnight, I love you. I long to hear your elf song again, each night and day of my existence. Will you stay by my side, Melle?”

Excerpt Llewelwyn’s Song

The next day dawned cold and bright. Tamara woke and stretched. She’d done it. There was no going back. She waited for a minute, motionless, afraid to think too far ahead. But there was no sense of impending doom, rather, she felt a strange lightness in her bones, as if invisible chains had been shed. Her body felt both sore and supple. Her back had healed. Her health had returned. And she was so hungry she could eat a behemoth. She poked Llewellyn.

Husband. Go fetch me something to eat. I’m starving.”

He raised his head and his one good eye stared at her with a mixture of emotions she couldn’t put name to. Mostly disbelief, she thought.

Excuse me?”

What part didn’t you understand? I’m hungry!”

He raised his eyebrow. “No, not that part. Why did you call me husband?”

Well, here it was. The moment she’d both feared and hoped for. “Because you are my husband now. In my tribe, a d’ark t’uath is considered married once she loses her virginity. Usually we marry between ourselves, but the tradition is inviolate. We made love. I was a virgin. You are my husband.”

There was an awkward silence. His smile seemed to last longer than a smile should. The muscles on his face hardened, but his good eye gave nothing away. “Did you know this when you decided to make love to me?”

Yes.”

And you made love to me anyway. You made your own decision.” He was speaking more to himself than to her, so she didn’t answer. He sat still, staring over her shoulder.

She didn’t like his silence. She sat up and pushed him. “Out of bed. Food.”

Excerpt Merlin’s Song:

Merlin had just started toward the stables when a huge fanfare of trumpets sounded. He clapped his hands over his ears. What was it with the Southern Isles and loud noise? They seemed to revel in revelry—and the more earsplitting, the better.

Then Lord Fontaine arrived, dressed in a foppish coat of scarlet and pink trimmed with pearls and diamonds. He rang a silver bell and everyone turned to him in hushed expectation.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming tonight to the Presentation Fête. The glorious Kyla, my new concubine, will be introduced to all of you.” With a flourish, Lord Fontaine rang his bell again and servants arrived, carrying a palanquin. The palanquin was curtained. As the crowd held its breath, Lord Fontaine pulled the curtain aside. And there was Kyla. She was stark naked, bound with silken ropes, and looked absolutely furious.

Merlin missed his footing and nearly fell. Only grabbing on to a portly guest saved him. He must be drunker than he thought. He was having hallucinations of Kyla bound and gagged. He peered closer. No, it was real. She was being led out of the palanquin now by four servants, and she wasn’t making things easy for anyone. Even tied hand and foot she managed to kick one servant in the balls and another got a knee in the chin and fell over backward. By Mistral, she was a dirty fighter! How could he have ever thought her a soft, spoiled fairy brat? He grinned as she clamped both of her legs around the palanquin’s frame and refused to let go. Now there was a spirited lass!

But what did they want with her? He frowned as they muscled her onto a large table set up in the middle of the garden and tied her down.

~ * * * * * ~
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Model Madness

A day on a location shoot –  the Bahamas – 1982 .  We’re shooting sweaters for a German magazine. In the Bahamas. Sweaters. Think about it. 

4:30 am – the alarm goes off. Stagger into the shower. Dress in loose shorts, baggy tee shirt. Go down the hallway to the makeup artist’s room where I sit and wait for hair and makeup. There is a thermos of tea on the counter, I drink some before the makeup artist starts, because once she does I won’t be able to eat or drink anything for a while. No breakfast yet –  nothing is open. We’re staying at the Club Med – there is a cafeteria style restaurant that opens at 7 am, but we’ll already be on the road. We have to start shooting when the sun comes up. Hairdresser comes in late and has obviously been up all night. He doesn’t look good. Pours himself a tea – sees it’s tea and not coffee, swears, dumps cup into the garbage. Looks at the models sitting in our chairs. There are three of us. The makeup artist has put on our foundation and powder, and is working on my eyes. The other girls are reading magazines.  We have been there since 5 am; it is now nearly 6 and the art director pokes her head into the room.  “Leaving in fifteen minutes,” she announces. The hairdresser swears again and grabs a curling iron from his bag, plugs it in, and starts brushing one of the model’s hair. She winces, but doesn’t say anything. The makeup artist finishes my makeup and starts on the the third girl. The hairdresser is now busy crimping the first girl’s hair, rolling it in tight coils with his curling iron  and pinning all the curls with bobby pins in order to brush it out last minute. In ten minutes, he’s done. He looks at me (I have short, straight hair) and he makes a face. The art director comes in and claps his hands. “Let’s go!” she yells. We grab our bags. In the days before cellphones, we didn’t have much to carry: wallet, sun glasses, a hat, tissues, hairbrush, address book (a real book with paper pages!) sometimes a camera, and a book or magazine for reading. We pile into a minibus that is already packed with the photographer’s equipment. The makeup artist has her case, the hairdresser has his bag. We squeeze in. Next to the driver, in the front seat, is the photographer. There is a hierarchy to the shoots. Front seat photographer. The next seats are taken by the art director and the stylist. Then comes the makeup artist, the hair dresser, and in the very back are the models. The assistant photographer arrives at a run. There is no room for him – but he crams in anyhow, shoving the hairdresser into a corner. The door slams shut – we zoom off.

Half an hour later, we arrive at the location. The models are herded to a bench where we sit while the makeup artist adds finishing touches and while the hairdresser opens his case and takes out some curlers. He starts to put curlers in my short hair. He is pulling hard, rolling up my hair, then putting hair pins in to hold it tight. He keeps stabbing me with the hair pins. I ask him to be careful. He ignores me. He stabs me again. I cry “Ouch!” That does it. He jumps back, then yells at me. “Shut up!” Surprised, I  try to defuse the situation. “Look, just be more careful, that’s all. You’re hurting me.”  He throws his brush down on the ground and says, “That does it. I’m finished with you. I’m not touching you again, do you hear me? You can do your own hair. I’m not going to bother with you.”  

I’m gaping at him, and I feel my cheeks get red. The photographer has worked with me before. He just shrugs when the hairdresser goes to him to complain. “Her hair is fine the way it is,” he says. The hair dresser is furious that I didn’t get fired on the spot. I want to make peace, but for the remaining five days we’re on location, he won’t even speak to me. The makeup artist is super nice to me. She can’t stand the hairdresser, she confides to me. The art director doesn’t care either. As long as the photographer is happy, she’s happy. The photographer is happy – I’m the first one up in the morning, I don’t drink, don’t go out at night, don’t take drugs. One model goes out every night. She’s wasted most mornings. The other model is homesick and cries a lot. She’s my roommate, and I tell her stories about growing up in St. Thomas every night so she can fall asleep. She’s Dutch. A big girl, with a round, baby face.

On the third day, the photographer tells the model who goes out at night that she’s going to be sent back home if she comes in with dark circles around her eyes once more.  He’s serious. She apologizes. Says she’s met the love of her life at the nightclub. The rest of the shoot goes smoothly, except for the hairdresser’s tiff with me. We wake up at 4:30, we work until 11, then we break for lunch. We nap afterwards, because we start work again at 3 pm and finish when it’s dark. Then we have dinner and go to bed early, because at 4:30, our alarms go off. It’s beautiful in the Bahamas, but we don’t see much of it. We stay in the shade, don’t go to the beach, because the slightest sun tan, the slightest pink nose, is a disaster. No marks on the skin – no bathing suit mark, tan, sunburn. We stay indoors. On the last day, I take my Dutch roommate out to the beach. We slather sunscreen on ourselves and swim in the surf. We stay exactly half an hour, then run back indoors. Are our noses pink? We each bought a shell necklace from a beach vendor. a souvenir from the Bahamas.

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Me on the beach in the Bahamas with another model – 1982. The necklace vendor took our picture for us. We were happy to pose for him.

Our plane is late. We boarded, but it doesn’t taken off. A problem with the radio, we’re told. Another hour goes by – we disembark and are loaded onto another plane. Everyone is in a hurry. We all have connecting flights to other places – from Miami I’m going to Paris. So are the photographer, his assistant, and the art director. The other two models are going to Milan. The makeup artist is going to London. The hairdresser to New York. When we get to Miami, we’re all in a tearing hurry. The luggage arrives, and one suitcase is open and its contents scattered over the carousel – it’s the hairdresser’s suitcase – it has broken open. We all help pick everything up. The models, the art director, even the assistant and the photographer. We pick up the pins, the clothes, the brushes, the curlers – even though we’re all late for our flights. Despite everything, we stay and help out. Because you never know who your next shoot will be with – and if I have to work with this hairdresser again,  he’ll be nicer to me next time. I drop a handful of hairpins in his outstretched hand, and he gives me an apologetic smile.

 

 

Swimsuits in the winter, coats in the summer

The pictures a model takes come out months later – half the time I forgot when and where the pictures would come out, and I didn’t collect my magazine photos. The pictures I have left come from one of the books I had (there were three at the Agency – I don’t know where they are now, probably in the trash). What I knew from the beginning was how ephemeral a model’s job was. I would pose for a picture that would be looked at in a few months, sit on someone’s coffee table for a week, then end up in the trash. So, I never made it a point to look for my photos or keep them. I don’t regret much – I look back at the photos and they don’t mean anything to me – it’s like it’s someone else, and I’m even a little jealous of this person’t slenderness – where did this person go? Her bones are hiding somewhere in my body, but she’s no longer there. I think it must be worse for an actor – there you are walking, talking and laughing – and it’s no longer you. You moved on – but the image stayed the same… Continue reading

Every single germ in Europe

Did I mention the fact that I catch everything that goes around? It got worse when I arrived in Europe. Apparently, your body gets used to the germs in your country. Leave it, and you are open season to every new contagion you meet – and I met a lot. There were days I was so dazed by fever I hardly knew where I was. That I had still not replaced my glasses, and navigated in a blur, didn’t help. Picture me on the metro, squinting desperately at the walls, trying to read what station I was in. Or standing under the street sign and peering up – is that a B or a D? I didn’t speak French, but my first words were: “Where is  ____?” and “Left and Right.” “Straight on” in French sounds just like “Right”, so if someone told me to go straight on, I’d hang a right, and they would have to run after me (if they were nice). So I wandered around in a fog, usually with a dreadfully congested chest, sore throat, and migraine. It was April, and I had a shoot for the cover of a magazine. The photographer took us to a house in the country with an outdoor pool, and that is where I spent an hour – in the freezing water, in the pale April sunshine, jumping and splashing to keep warm – and of course, I caught bronchitis. Continue reading