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.

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories

Moon madness by Kate Hardy

kate hardy sept 2015 1200pxSome of you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with the moon. There’s usually a moonlight scene in my books (my favourite is one of my Modern Heats, taking place on a volcano – because, well, that’s two obsessions at once). Apparently my parents used to have to shine a torch outside my window when I was tiny so I could say goodnight to the moon, otherwise I wouldn’t go to sleep!

Last night was the supermoon. It was too cloudy to see it last night, but this morning it was just glorious. I had to take my daughter into college really early for a sixth form trip to London, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into the kitchen was the bright light streaming in…

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It lit our way into the city, and this beautiful enormous moon was in front of me all the way home. I usually take the dog out before sunrise anyway, but this time I took my proper camera rather than just the phone and hopped over a ditch or two (poor dog thought I’d gone barmy). And I got the shot I was hoping for, reflected in the trout lake.

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As the sun started to rise, the moon turned pink. Now, I’ve always wanted to do one of those massive moon shots but have never quite managed it before. Today I ended up with two shots I’m so, so pleased with. (That streak across the moon is a cloud, by the way.)

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The book I’m writing now is set in the summer, so I’m not quite going to be able to get away with using these in a scene. But watch out for future books 😉

Did you see the supermoon? Do you have a pic to share? I’d love to see it!

 

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets, Quirky Stories, Reading, The Writing Life

My No Blog Blog

This is my “No Blog Because I Forgot to Blog” blog. It was on my calendar, I got the reminders, knew it was coming up. Yet, every time I saw one of those pop-up 49674273reminders, I thought to myself, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Well, here it is, half-way through my blog day, and I still haven’t done it.

 

Why? Because I get distracted. Or, too busy. Because I have other things to do. Maybe I just want to take a nap, instead. Whatever the reason, here I am at the last minute, unprepared. But life is like that in a lot of ways, isn’t it? Insurance payment coming up and you know you need to pay it, but you’re not in the mood right now, so tomorrow… Oops, it’s five days later and you’re writing your “I Forgot to Pay” blog. Your father-in-law’s birthday is coming up and you keep putting off buying that card, then suddenly you’re writing that “Why my 01d6bb7057b53f54559383a6203e330fFather-In-Law Hates me” blog.

Life is full of distractions. Some we create for ourselves. Some are created for us. Of course, in my case, some are created by my cat at the exact moment I want to write. She knows. She always knows. But, I allow it, because I want to be distracted. I want that few minutes of purring in my ear, that few minutes of putting off what I know I need to do. I need that distraction. I really do, because life closes in. It surrounds us. We multi-task nowadays (even though some experts say there’s no such thing.) We let ourselves get caught up in things that waste our time. For me, Facebook. Sometimes up to an hour a day, complaining about it every second it holds me hostage. There used to be a time, in that spare hour, when I’d read, or play the piano, or even write (before I was a writer.) All pleasant things. Distractions, perhaps,  but ways to enrich me as I was being distracted.

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Now though, people accept their distractions for what most of them are – a time suck, a waste of true enjoyment or productivity. They count on their distractions to move them from place to place. In some cases, even motivate them. I’m bored—play a game. I’m sick of doing what I’m doing—go to social media of your choice. I need to call my mother—go eat a taco. In a way, we plan these distractions, and while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, we let them consume us. And, not in a good way, especially when they start to take over.

For a writer, a distraction can be fatal for a deadline. For a doctor, it can be fatal for a patient. So, it makes me wonder, where has our attention span gone? I know where mine goes. Cats, research, chatting with friends. But, only in moderation (except for, apparently, when it comes to writing my blog). I plan distractions in my daily routine because the body, as well as the mind needs them. The truth is, you can’t stay focused all the time. Sometimes you have to let down. I get that. But what I don’t get is how our distractions have become almost as important as the task-at-hand. I shouldn’t let my cat anywhere near me when I’m writing. I know that, but I still do it. Then ask myself, why?

Personally, I think it’s because we’re losing the concept of self-discipline. The grandmother who raised me was all about that. In her iron-fisted, little German body, she had more self-discipline than any ten people (put together) I know today. But, she came from a different era, where a distraction for her meant a meal might not get served (and there was no calling out for pizza), or a bath might not get taken (because there was no hot tap water and a warm bath came from water heated on a wood stove.) For me, the worst that can happen if I get distracted is that I do call out for that pizza, or I just hop in the shower later on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe the distractions we face are a generational thing. Perhaps earlier generation distractions had bigger consequences? I don’t know, but it makes sense. Especially on those nights when I invite all my grown kids to dinner and see them distracted from eating because they’re tied up with their phones. The consequences of that – cold food which can be reheated in the microwave.20170224_192732_resized

Maybe it’s time to measure our distractions. Get off the phone, read a book. Get off the social media, go outside and take a walk. Get off the game, call your mother. Distractions are allowed, but they need to be re-defined into something that benefits us. Talking on the phone throughout an entire family meal never has, and never will. It’s simple, really. Choose our distractions wisely. Choose them so they’re beneficial, not detrimental. That’s all I’m saying.

Except, cats. Cats can always be a distraction. Just ask my three. They’re the distraction experts.

My book, Saved by Doctor Dreamy, came out the first of June. It’s available in all the usual places. It’s all about the wild jungles in Costa Rica where the wrong distraction can cost you your life. Or, your true love.

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As always, wishing you health and happiness.

DD

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

Moving and Cornfields and…Snakes? Oh My!

We are in the process of moving into a new house in the country. On five glorious acres. Okay, so it’s not a vast estate by most standards, but when your old house has a garden the size of a postage stamp, it seems huge. And exciting. And like a scene out of The Sound of Music.

So a funny thing happened on my way to the country. This girl didn’t think things through completely. I mean, I am so thrilled to be able to have real egg-laying chickens. But then a friend cautioned me to make sure the chicken coop was secure against predators.

Okay sure. Predators. Like foxes and raccoons and other poultry-loving critters, right? No big deal.

But there are a few other creatures that evidently like to munch on eggs. I mean, they really like eggs. So if you know me, you know that I am not afraid of most animals and insects. I mean a grizzly bear might stop me in my tracks, but spiders? Or bees? Nope. Not afraid.

Until someone said the word sssssssssssnnnnnaaaa… <clears throat> Okay, let’s try that again. Until someone said the word sn…sn…sna… Snake! There, I said it.

I am terrified of things that squirm around on their bellies and lie in wait behind logs. Our new house has a huge barn (for the horses, right?). And it’s surrounded by acres and acres of the most beautiful cornfields imaginable. When this friend first used the dreaded “s” word (which I won’t attempt to say again), it was in reference to those cornfields. Because my husband mentioned wanting a pool. And this dear friend warned him that we might find things floating in the pool. Because of the cornfields, which you can see in the picture below.

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The back of the house with its adjacent cornfield

Snakes. Why didn’t I think of this possibility before we signed on the dotted line? Because the place is beautiful and private, with a long gravel lane leading to the house. And green pastures on either side of it. So I will do my best to remember that those belly surfers are more afraid of me than I am of them. Oh wait. That’s not true. Because the very thought of them paralyzes me.

So that’s my sad tale. Don’t get me wrong, this house is a dream come true. Really, I can’t wait to move in and make it home. Every dream has its hiccup, right? So that’s my hiccup. Is there something that scares the bejeebers out of you? Sharks? Slugs? Things that go bump in the night? I’d love to hear what makes you squirm and shudder. Just so I know I’m not alone!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories

Reunited By Their Pregnancy Surprise

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I decided to write Reunited By Their Pregnancy Surprise for a very special reason. It uses the amnesia trope and some of you may already know, that my own parents had their very own amnesia story.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to write such a story. It had such personal significance to me, but I also knew a lot of people don’t actually like amnesia stories!

So, it was a risk. But one I wanted to take.

Years and years ago, when my Mum and Dad were engaged to be married, my Dad was in the army, the Sherwood Foresters (no prizes for guessing which city I was made in!) He got stationed abroad a lot – Malaysia, Cyprus, Ireland. But it was in Singapore, when he was driving a water truck through the jungle, that it overturned and he received a significant head injury.

Dad woke up in hospital, not knowing his name, how old he was, who he was or even where he was. The padre in the hospital went through his uniform pockets and found a love letter that my Mum had written to him, just the week before. So the padre then wrote to my Mum, telling her what had happened and that my Dad would be flown back to England and she and his family would have the job of re-educating my Dad.

I’m sure you can imagine my Mum’s distress. She and my Dad had fallen in love, but he now didn’t know who she was! Could she get him to fall in love with her all over again?

Happily (and obviously, because I am alive) she managed this task. My parents have now been married 53 years, have four children and five grandchildren and to this day, my Dad still doesn’t have any memories of his childhood.

It was hard to come up with a completely different story, whilst also documenting the angst the grief of such an accident and how it can affect two people and those around them. That it DOES happen. It’s a trope, for a reason.

I do hope you’ll be able to check it out. It has a lot of my heart in it.

So tell me your favourite trope and WHY?

Louisa Heaton’s next title is out in July, Their Double Baby Gift9780373215423

Can two and two – really make four?

Widower Corporal Matt Galloway came to London Grace Hospital for his tiny daughter. But he finds himself facing a barrel of emotions on meeting beautiful Dr Brooke Bailey—his late wife’s best friend and single mum to her own baby girl.

Brooke can’t believe Matt is her new boss. But the feelings she has for him are even more troublesome. Brooke swore to raise her baby alone, but loving father Matt melts her heart and Brooke starts to hope…could they really make one big happy family, after all?

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

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? Dianne Drake

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

DD

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February 1, 2017

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

PEOPLE-WATCHING by Dianne Drake

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.

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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.

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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…

DD