FAQs, Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories

The Truth About Pumpkins

10-12 blog top photoOnce upon a time, there was this cute, somewhat round orange thing attached to a vine, sitting out in the field. Then later, it became the craze, and even the madness of certain segments of society. But, that’s moving too far ahead in the story. So, let’s take it back to 1584, when French explorer Jacques Cartier, who was skipping his way merrily through the St. Lawrence region of North America (aka Canada), reported finding fields of gros melons which, in the English language, translates to big melons. This is when the story gets a little tricky and Google Translate gets confused. The name pumpkin actually originated from the Greek word for large melon which is pepon. Pepon was changed by the French into pompon (who knows why?) then the English changed pompon to pumpion (again, who knows why?) Anyway, after the name was bandied about for a while, American colonists had to get in on the act, so they changed the perfectly good pumpion into pumpkin.

10-12 blog1By that time, the poor little orange thing said, “Enough!” So, what was thought to be an exclusive North American or Canadian or Upper New York vine that sprouted orange globes (even though seeds were discovered that could have put the pepon-pumpion-pumpkin in Mexico as early as 7000 B.C.) was finally, and somewhat unfirmly, established as a North American fruit. Or, squash. Or, melon. Or, placemats (as the indigenous North American populations used them.)

This is where I could skip ahead to where pumpkins turned into latte and the stuffing for certain popular sandwich cookies, but that leaves out a lot of history. Like the origins of the pumpkin pie, when the early colonists sliced off the pumpkin 10-12 blog carvingtop, removed the seeds, and then filled the hollow cavity with milk, spices and honey then baked it in the hot ashes of a dying fire. Or how the traditional turnip and potato jack-o-lanterns gave way to the big orange thing when Stingy Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could pay for his drinks at the local pub.

The Devil, being who he was, liked that type of shenanigan, so he did what Jack asked of him. But Jack decided to keep the money for himself and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Score one for Jack. Except, being basically a stupid man, he eventually freed the Devil, 10-12 blog vintage devilunder the condition that Mr. D would leave Jack alone for a year, and in that year, not claim Jack’s soul if he died. Well, that turned out pretty good for Jack, so in another year he decided to try more trickery on the big D, who was, apparently too dumb to know better when Jack asked him to climb a tree and pick him some fruit. But while the D guy was up that tree picking away, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree so that the D dude couldn’t come down until he promised Jack he wouldn’t  bother him for ten more years.10-12 blog devil umpkin

Sadly, Jack died shortly after his deal, but he wasn’t allowed into heaven because he was judged to be as unsavory as his D buddy was. But, Jack’s D buddy wouldn’t let him go to the warm place either, and instead banished him into the dark of night with only a burning coal, otherwise known as an emblem of hellfire, to light his way. But because that coal was too hot to handle, 10-12 blog coalJack put it in a carved-out turnip (or potato if that’s your carb of choice. Or, if you’re British, the ever-popular beet was also Jack-approved) and he’s been wandering the Earth with his root vegetable ever since, at first calling himself, Jack of the Lantern. But as many of us do, he took on a pseudonym –  Jack O’ Lantern.10-12 blog turnip

Then, of course, when he reached America carrying his rather small tool, the Americans, as only they would do, decided that larger was definitely better. And that’s how Jack went from toting around a fairly lightweight turnip/potato/beet to a rather heavy and awkward pumpkin. 

10-12 blog vintage hlloween pumpkin

Now that we know the absolute truth about the origins of the pumpkin and the Jack O’ Lantern, let’s look at what years of research has taught us about the pumpkin:

– Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
– Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
– The heaviest pumpkin in its original form weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz.10-12 blog pumpkin flower
– Pumpkin flowers are edible.
– The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
– The pumpkin spice latte drink made popular by a certain famous coffee chain 10-12 blog pumpkin lattedidn’t contain actual pumpkin pulp until 2015, but now it boasts the exact measure of a tad bit of pulp. Also, in a good year, this drink generates $80 million in sales. Oh, and those sought-after sandwich cookies with tasty pumpkin spice filling – no pumpkin in those whatsoever.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. My new book, SECOND CHANCE WITH HER ARMY DOC, out now, has no pumpkin in it either. Not in reference, not in a sample of the actual fruit, vegetable or whatever the heck it is. Why? Because this author doesn’t like pumpkin. But, I like my book, so please have a look at a story about what it takes for a lost love to be found again. And I don’t mean pumpkin love.

As always, wishing you health and happiness, and a recipe for Toasted Pumpkin Seeds if that’s your thing:10-12 blog seeds
– 1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
– 2 teaspoons melted butter
– 1 pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees  F (150 degrees C).
2. Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.
3. Makes 6 servings. Nutrition per serving: 83 calories; 4.5 g fat; 8.6 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 4 mg cholesterol; 12 mg sodium.


Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations

Another Year…



I hardly feel 34, but I’m all that and then some. What’s 34 in my life, though, is my marriage. I don’t come from a family of hugely successful marriages, and those that did make it as long as mine has were bumpy. But then, all marriages have bumps. Mine certainly does. Eating is one of them. I’m as picky as it gets when it comes to food. Joel will eat anything that’s put in front of him with the exception of liver. Funny thing is, I love liver. But I gave it up when I got married because what’s the point in cooking something nobody in the family likes? It wasn’t a big compromise. I mean, liver is just liver. Right? pexels-photo-925330

The bigger thing here is the compromise. Occasionally, Joel will take me to a restaurant that serves liver if I promise never, ever to cook it again. That’s what 34 years gets you—a nice restaurant meal of beef liver while your husband sits at another table so as not to gag over your food choice.

But, 34 years is about more than a culinary compromise. It’s about ignoring the quirks. Joel overlooks my little OCD compulsions, like needing to have everything around me put in its proper place, while I overlook the fact that, after 34 years, he still can’t find his car keys. Or his phone. Or his glasses. “Dianne, do you know where I put my…” Funny thing is, I usually do know. pexels-photo-256273His inconsistency is part of my consistency. It’s not the theme of the love stories I write, but I’ll bet if you could project 34 years into any one of my happily-ever-afters, there will be a few “Do you know where I put my glasses, keys, wallet, dentures, watch, phone, pants, shoes or whatever?” That’s also what 34 years gets you. And it’s not a bad thing, to be honest. Especially in my family, where 34 years is almost an impossibility.

34 years also brings with it the peace of mind that the future isn’t so imposing or unknown when your husband, wife, partner or companion is taking that journey with you. Your likes are much more the same after so many years. Or, at least, if they’re not, you’ve learned to smile and endure. Your goals are more aligned. Your expectations have turned into a parallel journey, rather then two separate ones struggling to meet somewhere along the way. And, there’s comfort. Knowing that if you forget to take your twenty pills every night before you go to bed he will bring them to you is comforting. So is the snore that wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you he’s there. pexels-photo-212269

But, after 34 years, is there still excitement? Sure. Maybe it’s not always the breathless anticipation you felt when you were a newlywed, but there’s something to be said about the excitement of stumbling upon a winery you’ve never hear of and discovering it has a wine you both love or finding that secret little patch of morel mushrooms and making plans to return to that very same spot next year. basket-515186_1280What 34 years brings you is the hope that, at 35 years, your morels will still be your little secret, and that your kids will all come home every Wednesday night for dinner. And for those among your family or friends who didn’t work hard to achieve 34—and yes, it’s hard work—they’ll never know what they’ve missed. So, as Joel and I head into 35, we’ll celebrate by having dinner at the same restaurant we’ve had our anniversary dinner at for at least the past decade. I’ll order the same thing (not liver) I always order, and he’ll complain because they discontinued his favorite beer the way he complains about that every year. beer-2695358__340[1]34 years is good. It’s not one of the “special” numbers you celebrate. No one will throw you a party. But then, who needs a party anyway? In all the ways that count, 34 years has been the real party.

Happy anniversary, Joel! The first 34 have been great!


By the way, I have a book coming out in August. It’s all about a couple who will definitely make it to 34 years, and go beyond that. Check it out!


Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Heritage Lost

I rely on the internet for information. A lot. More than I should. That was brought home to me when I opened a cabinet door I rarely use and saw a familiar sight: my mom’s handwriting peeking out of an old wooden recipe box.

I pulled the box down and opened the lid, and I was swept away on a wave of nostalgia. My mom has been gone for almost sixteen years and yet seeing her handwriting was so…her. I recognized it immediately. And it made me think. Have I done that for my children? Will they be able to one day look at something like a recipe and see the essence of who I was? recipes

I don’t know. And that makes me sad. If I want to find a recipe nowadays, my first instinct isn’t to go to that treasured box. Instead, I go online and try to find the best of the best of that recipe. How many positive reviews has it gotten? What hints do the reviewers give for making the recipe even better?

And once I’ve made that recipe, I’d be hard-pressed to be able to find it again. How have I come to this point and why? Maybe because I think it’s faster. But what about future generations of my family? Am I losing something in the process?

It could be that it’s time for me to slow down and leave a trail of breadcrumbs so that my children can find their way back to me. Don’t they deserve the same bits and pieces like the ones my mom left me?

I think they do. So I’m going to start thinking a little more about the way I do things. And hopefully one day, my kids will find a treasured recipe or a journal or a photo album that contains my handwriting.

Do you have a special way of passing something down to your kids or relatives? I would love to hear it. Or maybe there’s a special recipe you’d like to share. This is the perfect place! I’m taking notes.

Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories, The Writing Life


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAValentine’s Day is one of those days where true love takes over, and all things chocolate, flowers, cards, romantic dinners and gifts are on our minds. Well, most of our minds. I could do without the chocolate and my cats eat my flowers. But I do love gifts and romantic dinners. Have you ever wondered, though, what Valentine’s Day is all about?

It’s said that this festival for lovers had its origin with Emperor Claudius II, who didn’t want Roman men to marry during wartime because marriage distracted them from their killing. Bishop Valentine, an Anglican and a right romantic gent, went against Claud’s wishes and performed secret weddings. For that, Valentine was jailed. While there, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “from your Valentine.” He got caught, and was beheaded the next day–on February 14, sometime near the year 270.

Cupids were a popular theme for a Victorian Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t until the 14th century, though, that the date February 14 became linked to romantic intentions, largely thanks to the tradition of courtly love, which abounded in the circles of Geoffrey Chaucer. Still, it took another 4 centuries before the day became about gifts, and candy and all those other things we typically think about.

And just an aside here–about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. Whether or not it’s true, the first Valentine’s Day card may have been a love letter from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Makes sense, considering Charles was a Frenchman and France is noted for its romantic traditions. Oh, and in case you’re interested, teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets. But don’t feel sorry for poor Fido and Fluffy, who come in last in cards, because they get 3% of all the Valentine’s gifts given. Not bad for a loved one who has a wet nose.

Speaking of love letters, every Valentine’s Day, the city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. But Verona isn’t the only place where letters or notes are popular. In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine, then write that name in a heart-shaped note and pin it on their sleeve for everyone to see–especially the one whose name was on the note. Hence, the phrase:  “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” It’s still a tradition in South Africa, today and, in some cases, it’s how South African men learn of their secret admirers.

Forget-me-nots were one of the most popular Victorian expressions of love.

But South Africa isn’t the only country with a unique Valentine’s Day tradition. In South Korea, the gift-giving commences on February 14th, with the women in the wooing mood when they give their men chocolates, candies and flowers. The guys return the woo on March 14th with a little one-upping by adding lavish gifts to the giving of chocolate, candies and flowers. Not to be outdone, however, in Italian tradition, young, unmarried girls wake up before dawn to spot their future husbands, believing that the first man they OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsee on Valentine’s Day will be the one they will marry within a year. Of course, if that doesn’t happen, they have a back-up plan to help them save face, where they simply say, “Well, at least he looks like the man I’ll marry.” That plan runs a distant second to actually marrying the guy, but it’s something to hang on to. Back-up plans like that one are good though, and sticking with Italy, their next back-up plan is to come Valentine-calling with Baci Perugina in hand. It’s a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped with a romantic quote.

Yes, chocolate… Everybody loves it, including the Brazilians who go a-courting with it, as well. But not on February 14, because it’s too close to Carnival. So they hold off their lovefest until June 12, when they celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” And yep, chocolates, along with flowers and cards, music festivals and performances.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, why chocolates? Why not licorice, or cinnamon red hearts? Honestly, nothing spells romance better than a gummy worm, don’t you think? But, we have chocolate, and it’s been hanging in as the lovers’ favorite since the early 1800s. Back then, though, it wasn’t a romantic thing. Doctors prescribed it to their female patients to help relieve those certain symptoms associated with that special time of the month. It calmed them down, so it was said. Of course, so did those vibrator treatments those wacky doctors were giving out, personally, in their offices, back then. A vibrator AND chocolate…must have calmed m’lady right down into a perfect bliss. Oh, and about chocolate–Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s, and more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of pure, silky ecstasy are sold for Valentine’s Day any given year.

Cards, love notes, chocolates…isn’t it romantic? Actually, word romance wasn’t associated with the romance we know. It was originally a Latin adverb for Romanicus meaning “of the Roman style.” You know, when in Rome… The Romans considered themselves a chivalrous people, and their earliest tales of romance were actually stories of chivalric adventures. public-domain-images-vintage-postcards-valentine-victorian-1900s0075It wasn’t, until the late 17th century that the chivalric adventures turned more to the romantic escapades we know today. Probably had something to do with the hunk on the cover of a romance novel one of the ladies of the day was reading. She took one look at his bare chest, his long flowing hair, his well-muscled arms, his steely thighs…well, you know what I’m getting at.

Being the proper lady that she was, though, she surely hankered for the gift of a red rose from her true love, since chocolates weren’t around yet. Which is just another way to transition into why red roses have become the traditional Valentine’s flower. First, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. That’s as good a reason as any. But there’s more… red roses are also considered the love flower because red stands for strong romantic feelings, blood and fire, passion, desire, heat, longing, lust, sexuality…it’s a pretty long, self-explanatory list. Or, in other words, red just works.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So does the Welsh tradition of giving a love spoon for Valentine’s day. Only, it’s not exactly Valentine’s Day. It’s the celebration of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. The hand-carved spoons were given as token of affection for the women they loved, and different patterns were carved into these spoons, including horseshoes for good luck; wheels to symbolize support; and keys for the keys to a man’s heart. Often, spoons given to lovers had two handles intertwining to form one. Interestingly enough, this tradition of giving spoons known as “spooning” makes it especially fitting when two handles intertwine. We all know what comes of that!


So, before I end this history lesson, let me leave you with a few more romantic traditions, like an old one in the Netherlands where prospective couples were put in separate sacks in the same bed to sleep together, but not allowed to engage in any premarital hanky-panky. Talk about tough love. Then there was that time during Italian Renaissance when the gentlemen would give their lady loves erotically-inscribed belts which would both remind them of their chastity while at the same time inciting them to horniness. Also, there’s that old, popular stand-by called the bridesworth, which went beyond the offering of the dowry, but could include acts of humiliation or entertainment such as chariot racing, singing, dancing and grueling interviews with the bride’s family. Often, a bridesworth could last for an entire year. And finally–the eating of the haggis every day, from Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day, for a year, to prove a man’s worth to his lady love. Actually, I just made that one up. But it sort of fits in doesn’t it?

There are so many kinds of wacky, wonderful, strange and romantic ways to celebrate your love, and that’s something I try to capture in my books. The different ways we go about it. To each his own, as they say. For some, Valentine’s Day is an expression for every day of the year. For a dear friend, it’s the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates her husband can find. My grandfather always gave my grandmother red carnations for Valentine’s Day, and my grandmother always gave me a fresh, brand new five-dollar bill straight from the bank. For me, personally, Valentine’s Day is all about the thought, not the deed. Deeds are nice, but in end, I’ll take the thought any day. So what about you? Are you doing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsomething special for Valentine’s Day? Gifts? Chocolates? A romantic dinner? Staying home together in your jammies, eating popcorn and watching a romantic movie? Or a scary one that’ll make you cuddle up?

Whatever your Valentine’s Day will be about, I hope it’s everything you wish for. It’s only one day of the year, so enjoy (unless you take up that haggis thing, then it’s for a whole year!).

And now…promo time. My latest, The Nurse and the Single Dad came out on the 1st. It’s available in all the usual places. That’s it. No more promo, no more wacky Valentine’s traditions like the one where, in 19th century rural Austria, an eligible lass would keep an apple slice crammed in her armpits during an entire evening of dance. At the end of the evening, she would give her used fruit to the guy she fancied. If the feeling was mutual, he’d wolf it right down, which sounds like true love to me. I know the old saying is something about the apple of his eye, but the apple of her armpit? Okay. I’m really done now. Promise.

Until next time, wishing you health & happiness.


February 1, 2017




Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories, The Writing Life


My husband and I went to the state fair a few days ago. We go every year, and it’s always fun. And, we do the same thing every year, it never varies. We start out splitting a ribeye sandwich from the beef barn, then we visit the Family Arts building displaying homecraft, photographs and antiques. At the antiques display we compare what’s on exhibit with what we have at home and always decide ours our better, that we should enter the antiques competition with some of our collection next year. Then at the photographs, we always play “Which one do you like best?” at each individual display. After which, I try to convince my husband to enter some of his photography someday.

My State Fair Antiques Entry in 2013

Eventually, we go outside, split an order of fried cheese, get a lemon shake-up, and go to the agricultural building where we see the bonsai display, the orchid competition, the prize-winners from the various vegetable competitions, gourds, honey, and stacked-can sculpture. Next, we split a corn dog. Then come a couple of  university educational displays, a look at the giant cheese sculpture, a funnel cake, pigs, horses, sheep, cows, another lemon shake-up, ending with one of the fair’s deep-fried delicacies (this year Oreos and Reeses Cups) and that brings our day to a close. We’re tired, our bellies are full, and we’ve had a great time.

Of all our regular activities though, I think the one I enjoy the most is people-watching. It’s fun to sit back and observe, and wonder where they’re going when they pass by, what are they thinking, what is their story? I like to attach my own stories to some of these people. One small group – possibly grandmother, daughter and son – passed me four times within the span of twenty minutes as I sat in the shade and sipped a drink. They scurried by, turned around, scurried back, turned around, scurried by again, then scurried back. To me, they were looking for something. But what? The biggest pig at the state fair? The best grilled giant turkey leg? In my matticusind, they were looking for the best value for their limited money. Perhaps they were going to split one terribly expensive ribeye steak sandwich three ways, or they were looking for a lemon shake-up stand that served slightly larger portions than the other stands because all they could afford was one drink to share. A tragedy had befallen them recently, left them very poor, but they scrimped and saved to have this one special day at the fair, one day to get away from their everyday lives and problems, and while they couldn’t afford to spend much, they weren’t going to let that ruin their day. They had each other, the sacrifices it took to get them to the fair were forgotten, and they were having the best day they’d had in a long, long time. In my mind, their story had a beautiful happily-ever-after ending because of the pure joy they found in being there, together, as a family.

Then there was the big burly man, pushing his baby daughter in a carriage. He had tattoos everywhere, was shaved bald, looked pretty ominous overall, but I saw the tender expression on his face when he looked at his daughter, and that said it all. To me, he became the single father hero I like to write about. Victim of a tragic divorce, a cheating wife, or death. The man who gives up his life to take care of his child. The man who doesn’t know a thing about raising children but blunders his way through it to become the best possible dad ever. Someone who lovingly makes the sacrifices and is eager to face each and every new day because he is a daddy, and daddyhood now defines him. This big, burly guy didn’t look like the typical hero in my books, but he was the hero in every aspect of the word and in my story, he met the perfect woman, maybe even at the fair, had many more children, and had found a happiness he’d never known could exist for him.

So, state fair is over for me for another year. And next year, I think I will enter a few of my antiques in the antiques competition. Next year, I think we’ll enter one of my husband’s beautiful photos in the photograph competition, as well. We’ll also have a corn dog, fried cheese, and a funnel cake. Next year, I’ll also sit back and observe the people, and make up stories about them. It’s a great way to stretch the writer’s mind!resized crowd
Do you go to a fair of any sort? Or a park, or a shopping mall, or a restaurant where you can observe the people and make up stories? Have you ever used one of those stories in your own writing?

Until next time, wishing you health and happiness…






Foods We Love

My Two Favorite Summer Movies, 2014

by Lynne Marshall
I realize that summer is the time for blockbusters in the USA, but I basically skipped all of them after the second Captain America movie back in May. I did see a few unmemorable movies this summer, some very interesting stories in other movies, but I can’t quite say I loved them, and then two movies that I adored.
Chef and The Hundred-Foot Journey







Interesting that both movies involve food and have a romance. Two of my favorite things! And yes, the cooking scenes were inspirational, but what impressed me the most was the passion for cooking shared by both of the main characters in these movies. Like being an artist takes a certain kind of brain and training, world-class cooking not only requires a chef devoted to his craft, but one also possessing a natural knack for flavors and tastes that enhance each other, along with the nerve to take risks and push culinary limits.


The characters in both of these movies seemed to live and breathe food and all of its possibilities. I believed completely that both of them would die if cooking was taken away from them. The need to create exquisite dishes came from their souls.
If you haven’t seen either of these movies yet, I highly recommend them.

Now it’s your turn – what movie would you recommend for me?
I love just about every kind of movie including comedies, dramas, adventures and Science Fiction. However, I draw the line at raunchy immature humor – i.e. every movie Seth Rogan has ever been in.

Before I go, I’d like to share the cover for the Christmas anthology I’ll be in at M&B, isn’t it pretty?

Christmas by Request

Foods We Love

Eating my way around France and new books by Fiona Lowe

For those of you who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, you may not know, but I’ve just spent 3 weeks in France. (Big wave to Fake Frenchie, sorry we didn’t get to the north). The weather was lousy but we accepted that because the country is amazing and we had THE BEST time including a week in Paris and cycling 300 km from Toulouse to the Mediterranean.

I could show you photos of splendid buildings and beautiful scenery but I’ve decided to hit  you with food! The French do food so well and we ate ourselves silly and loved every minute of it. We stumbled on some amazing restaurants with sensational food and lovely wines, but even at an average restaurant, the food was good and the presentation perfect.

So here’s Fiona’s pictorial guide to what she ate in France…..

The real deal!
French Onion Soup; the real deal!
coq au vin
Coq au Vin loaded with flavour
Triple chocolate. C’est magnifique!

The French LOVE Nutella crepes and I confess to eating one or two wrapped in white paper from a street stall…
Fromage! France produces more types of cheese than days of the year!
Cassoulet..the famous dish of beans, sausage and duck from Castlenaudary
Cassoulet..the famous dish of beans, sausage and duck from Castlenaudary
Lunch on the bike path.
Chaud Chocolat with style!
Hearty Alsace Food with BIG German influence
Wine from one of our favourite restaurants on the whole trip in Narbonne. Here I had mussels with aioli cooked on a wood fire. Divine!
Wine from one of our favourite restaurants on the whole trip in Narbonne. Here I had mussels with aioli cooked on a wood fire. Divine!
Entrecote! My husband ate this wherever he could with or without sauce

DSCF2472 DSCF2414 DSCF2469

Moet & Chandon. Need I say more!
Need I say more!

So there you have it. Oh, and I will throw in one scenery shot…one of my faves!

The Canal du Midi in autumn and me & my bike.
The Canal du Midi in autumn and me & my bike.

Do you have food memories of a vacation/holiday you’d like to share?

I’ve come home just in time to launch a new medical romance and a short story!

gold coast angels UK

Bundle of Trouble

is a stand-alone book as well asgold coast angels being the third story in the Gold Coast Angels series. Life has dealt both Luke and Chloe a really raw deal and neither believe they can or deserve happiness again. It was a tough story to write but I loved giving two wonderful people the “happy ever after” they deserve! If you live in the USA, you can grab a physical copy from Harlequin.com and you can buy the eBook just about everywhere!  In the UK, it’s on shelf from November 1st and in Australia & NZ Nov 15th or on-line tomorrow! Or you can buy it as a duo with the final story in the series written by the very talented Amy Andrews.

I also have a short story out, One The Road Again. At 12,500 words,  It’s the OnTheRoadAgainCoverEmailperfect length to read just before turning out the light. Loosely based on the big bike ride I did last year, it’s a reunion story between two doctors. You can grab it from Smashwords (all formats), Amazon and hopefully soon from everywhere else for the super price of 99 cents!

For a complete list of my back list books click here

I put out a newsletter with new releases and if you wish to join the list, head over to my website to sign up. I promise I won’t bombard you.

For those of you who celebrate Halloween, have a spooky one!

Fiona xx

Foods We Love, Quirky Stories, Travels Around the World

Acquiring a taste for…

It’s an acquired taste.

How many times have we heard that expression? When I say it, it’s usually in reference to something I don’t much care for (like beets). Sometimes you really are able to acquire a taste for something, and sometimes not. I’m still working on the beets!

I was reminded of this the other day when I was piling green peppers onto a fajita, and my husband commented that he remembered when I couldn’t stand the smell of peppers. It’s true. My best friend from childhood lived with us for a while when my husband was in graduate school. She used to try to sneak little bits of green pepper into the meals she cooked. The second I walked into the house, I would smell those suckers and cringe. Yet I credit her with desensitizing me to peppers, which I now love. So yes, for me, green peppers were an acquired taste. Judging from the ratio of peppers to meat in my fajitas, I’m now a fan. Taste acquired.

Living in a country other than my own has been a learning experience. We once hosted

Acquiring a taste for tacos!
Acquiring a taste for tacos!

a Mexican-style meal for a group of dear Brazilian friends. If you look closely at the picture, you can see little note cards on the wall that tell how to construct a taco, burrito or a fajita and explains what guacamole and sour cream are (things that Brazilians don’t normally eat). In fact, guacamole was a very different taste for our friends, who normally eat avocados in sweet dishes. One of our friends told me she likes to sprinkle sugar on a slice of ripe avocado and eat it for breakfast. So to have them mashed and served in a savory dish took some getting used to—just like eating them in desserts has been new for me.

One taste I have definitely acquired is bacalhau (a variety of dishes made from dried

Tina with friends at the "House of Bacalhau" restaurant in Brazil
Tina with friends at the “House of Bacalhau” restaurant in Brazil

salted codfish), which I learned to eat and prepare while living in Portugal. Brazilians also serve bacalhau from time to time, especially at Easter. The first time I tried a bite, I detested it. It’s salty and tastes strongly of fish. It’s said the Portuguese have 365 ways to prepare bacalhau, one for each day of the year. It’s true. I have a cookbook to prove it! The second time I tried bacalhau, it wasn’t as terrible as I remembered. But the day I helped a dear friend prepare it was the day I fell in love with bacalhau. It’s a long, labor-intensive process which involves soaking the fish for a couple of days in the refrigerator in order to rehydrate it and remove the excess salt. And you don’t just shove it in the fridge and forget about it. You have to change out the water several times. Then you boil the fish. Then you let it cool and take off the skin and pick out hundreds of bones (some of which are tiny—and are incredibly hard to remove, since your hands become slippery within minutes). Finally the bacalhau is ready to use in whatever dish you’re making. You have to truly love someone to make bacalhau for them. I still fix a small casserole dish of Bacalhau com Natas (codfish in cream sauce) every Christmas. And I still love it. Taste acquired!

What about you? Are there any tastes you’ve acquired over the years? It might not even be for a certain food, it could be a book. Is there a genre you didn’t expect to like but now can’t devour fast enough? I’m currently having a love affair with YA (young adult) books that are written in first-person. One of my daughters has gotten me hooked on Meg Cabot. In fact, this particular daughter is coming home from college in a few days, and she called and said, “Guess what? I’m bringing a new Meg Cabot book with me. We can fight over it.” 😉 Taste acquired!

Foods We Love, Holiday Celebrations

What a Week! by Fiona Lowe

Have you looked at the calendar for this week? It’s a biggie for events. Actually, it started last week with Chinese New Year and yesterday in Melbourne, the mighty dragon came out to celebrate the Year of the Snake. Did you know that Australia has THE biggest dragon and due to the cultural revolution and China losing so much cultural heritage, Chinese now come to Australia to learn how to do the dragon dance!

But Chinese New Year was so last week 😉 and I’m talking about this week. It’s busy! It features Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Tuesday) and Valentine’s Day, 48 hours apart. I’m going to leave VD day alone as I am sure Dianne will probably want to chat about it.

So Shrove Tuesday. Or Fat Tuesday.  Why?

It dates back to early Christian times and according to a variety of sources, the name Shrove Tuesday comes from the custom of ringing the “shriving bell” to summon the people to church to be “shriven” – that is, to confess their sins at the beginning of Lent.

Lent is a time of self-discipline and denial. Throughout the 40 days of Lent, people are called to fasting and prayer. However, the week preceding Lent has become a time of merrymaking, culminating on Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday.

At this time, certain foods were/are given up for the duration of Lent, such as eggs, milk, meat and rich buttery dishes. On Shrove Tuesday, families eat up all the rich foods left in their pantries. One way they use up the eggs, milk and fats in the house is to add flour to make special pancakes! Hence the name, Pancake Tuesday.

mardigras floatOf course down in South America and up in New Orleans,  they celebrate with Mardi Gras. A week of merrymaking before Fat Tuesday.

An author mate of mine is there right now AND she got to ride on a float and throw out all those beaded necklaces. I am very jealous. The closest I have got to Mardi Gras was the museum across the river from the old town of New Orleans.

My sons are always keen to celebrate Pancake Tuesday so I whip up some savoury pancakes and then follow them with dessert pancakes.

Looking for ideas? Savoury Pancakes & dessert pancakes

Over dinner we talk about what we’re giving up for Lent.  We’re not a religious family but when you look at the world’s poverty we are a privileged one and despite my boys sometimes thinking they are hard done by, they are not so I think it is a great idea to give something up for six weeks and learn from a bit of self restraint and self-discipline. That said, I gave up wine once for Lent and I learned from that..choose something else 😉

So do you make pancakes on pancake Tuesday? Do you give up something for Lent?

Book Stuff? Check out my website! Also up until Sunday Feb 10th midnight USA time, Boomerang Bride is available as a free download at  Barnes and Noble

Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories, Travels Around the World

Two Chickens and a Thanksgiving Dinner (and other tales of woe)

Thanksgiving Chickens

Most readers of this blog know that North Americans celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. A successful Thanksgiving dinner normally involves three Es: Enormous quantities of food, Eccentric family members, and Elaborate desserts.

My husband and I have lived outside of the United States for more Thanksgivings than we have inside our own country. I’ve learned a thing or two about planning during that time:

  1. Really think about where you live. Turkeys are not available year round in every country.
  2. Concoctions such as pumpkin (or sweet potato) pie may elicit frowns of confusion from some of your guests.
  3. Sometimes there will be no translation for words such as cranberry in your host country. Have a photo and a sample handy, just in case.
  4. Go back to rule number one: Turkeys are not available year round in every country.

And now we come to my particular tale of woe (which may be repeated this year, since I have yet to find a turkey to roast).

The first year we lived in Portugal, I sent my husband out to the supermarket to buy a turkey. We’d invited some dear Portuguese friends to come over and celebrate with us, and I was busy baking pies and prepping the house for company. About two hours later, my hubby came back with a worried look on his face. He dumped out his grocery bag, and there lay two…chickens.

Not large chickens, mind you—normal-sized fryers.

I blinked at him. “What’s this?”

“They don’t have turkeys.” My husband backed up a pace or two. Did I mention he’s a smart guy?

“Who doesn’t have turkeys?”

“Anyone. There is not one turkey in this whole city.”

What? That couldn’t be. I peered inside one of the chickens. It was tiny. How on earth was I going to get enough stuffing inside those birds to feed ten people?

To make a long story short, my husband was right. There were no turkeys. I found out later, you had to order one a month in advance—something I should have realized.

So my guests arrived, and we had these two poor little chickens on a platter with stuffing spooned around them. I stammered out an apology, explaining what had happened. My friend looked at me with a huge smile. “That’s okay, we like chicken better anyway.”

What could have been a disaster ended up being a wonderful meal with some truly gracious and now-dear friends. And every year, at Thanksgiving, she sends me a note that starts off: Remember those two chickens you served for Thanksgiving? And she ends the letter with a picture of the pumpkin pie she now makes every year.

How about you? Any cooking oopsies that have ended up not being the disaster you feared (or maybe it was)?