Costumes are always part of the TTP signing near Halloween. Last year, Nora dressed as a cowgirl but I’m not really into costumes. I said I’d dress as what I am, a cranky publicist. Kat kindly made me a button that said just that. I was very happy.
So I thought I might use The Cranky Publicist moniker from time to time to answer questions or address comments, starting with this:
For nearly 11 years, I’ve watched trends in reader questions come and go. Usually the top three are:
- Can you add another book to the [fill in the blank] series?
- Why do we have to wait so long for the next book [In Death or trilogy]?
- The dread In Death baby question (applied to nearly every character except Anna Whitney and Sheila Feeney).
But the question currently trending with a bullet (as Billboard magazine used to say) is:
Can you share your recipe?
For soup (after a Nora-at-home blog) or pancakes, bread, stew (after reading a book). Most recently it’s for Mr. Mira’s Hot Chocolate.
Nora and I have explained quite a bit that she doesn’t actually have the recipes she creates in books. She imagines food as the characters would create them and charts the ingredients, some of the prep, usually amid conversation that’s propelling the story.
But still there are the requests — pleading, straightforward, sarcastic — to share a recipe so a reader can really feel like she/he is living in the book.
In the seven days since Brotherhood in Death hit the shelves, the Mr. Mira Hot Chocolate requests have escalated to the point where I decided to refresh my memory of the scene. I grabbed the book, a notebook and started reading chapter 6 when Dennis first puts a pot on top of a pot, then adds chocolate.
Ok, I thought, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Wrote that down.
He puts a bowl into the freezer, to Eve’s confusion. Ahh, I thought, the cold bowl for homemade whipped cream. (Side note for those interested: Nora and I have long discussed how homemade whipped cream is both delicious and easy to make.)
Eve questions, Dennis answers and as he does, he adds milk to the melted chocolate. Then puts a bean in a bowl and crushes with a wooden dowel. I’m going to go with vanilla on that one, which he adds with sugar to the milk.
Then he gets the frozen bowl, pours cream in it, adds some sugar and then beats it until — to Eve’s utter amazement — he has whipped cream.
I finished the scene and thought — OK we have the process, not the amounts. What would I do if I were curious about that?
I googled “double boiler hot chocolate recipe” and there were five immediate results — the first was pretty much the same steps I’d read.
(Which set this Cranky Publicist to wondering if I somehow am magic with the Google searches or if people really just want things handed to them. That’s an entirely different post.)
If you’re itching to try your hand at creating something akin to Dennis Mira’s Hot Chocolate here are a couple fun ways to do it. But really, the best part is that you can take the basic recipe and add dark chocolate or a little chili or some mint or coffee — to make it suit your tastes to a T.
Fancy-Ass Hot Chocolate via A Cozy Kitchen (this recipe has the chocolate going into the milk instead of Dennis’ method).
This one just has chocolate added to hot milk: Ina Garten Hot Chocolate Recipe
Belgian Hot Chocolate (via David Lebovitz)
Since there may be questions on other techniques, you might enjoy these two links:
How to make Whipped Cream via The Kitch’n blog
I woke to about sixteen inches and still coming hard. BW had put out his dad’s old, kitschy snowman snow gauge, so I could basically judge the amount without using my old standard, a yardstick.
I talk myself into a workout. No reason I can’t step outside, walk two feet to the gym. I put on my Uggs for the trip. BW’s cleared the path again, so no big. After my righteous workout, I’m grateful for the boots. Path has a good two or three inches on it again. I can hear all you boot nerds saying “wear real boots for winter from shoesfella.com!” but I dont care.
Note from Laura: even the strongest of friendships benefit from opposing points of view. This is NOT how I will spend Super Bowl Sunday — but I know plenty of people whose plans concur with Nora’s.
I don’t watch football–not even the Big Game. A couple days ago my granddaughter quizzed me on basic rules and scoring, certain because I don’t watch it I wouldn’t know. It surprised her I did.
I know how the game works (mostly), but it’s not my game. I like baseball. I like baseball a whole bunch. And oddly enough, I like sports movies, and the sport doesn’t matter.
In any case, my husband watches football, and he’s been gearing up for today. Part of that was getting some heavy lifting done yesterday–for both of us. Moving a zillion books from one space to another is a major undertaking. I’ve had my copies in this area for decades–and I’ve written a bunch ‘o books. But the newly selected area will serve better–once we get it done.
We worked until we both decided, jeez, that’s enough for the day. Then, most excellent timing wise, enjoyed a visit with our oldest grandson who didn’t want to go with the rest of his family on an outing. Fun for us.
But today is another day.
No hauling, so I got a workout in, then rolled up my sleeves. I promised my football guy ham and potato soup–which I’ll enjoy as well. We won’t enjoy it together. He’ll be down in the family room shouting at the TV, and I expect to be reading–and maybe giving myself a facial. He will come up and excitedly tell me plays or the score–he’s got his annual bet going with his pal. I’ll make mouth noises, then go back to my book–or by that time it might be a movie.
Maybe I’ll pull out my DVD of The Natural–hey, spring training’s right around the corner.
But I’m starting my holiday Sunday early, with my book in the library. I expect to finish it, then hit my TBR pile. And that equals Super Day for me.
For those of you–like Laura–who love football, enjoy the big game–and the commercials! For those–like me–who don’t, have fun with whatever you’re doing instead.
I’ve got a book calling my name.
I’ve decided not to feel guilty that my own purging hasn’t been as thorough and systematic as Nora’s. In fact, I assuaged my guilt by deciding to read The Liar (out in April) and telling my husband I was working all weekend. ~Laura
I’m hoping the week will be as productive as the weekend before it.
Purging moving right along. We tackled the Laundry Room–or as it has become: The Dumping Ground.
I made him watch a “how to” video about tidying up, I recalled this video after wseeing an ad for those domestic cleaners Bournemouth & Poole on TV. Just to get him on the right track.
I really hate that, but at least there’s satisfaction after spending a couple hours getting rid of stuff that has no business in there. Had to enlist BW on this one as most of the stuff that had no business in there ended up there by his hands. Why, I had to ask him, is this ancient computer monitor in here, under the shelves were I keep kitchen tools and such that are needed but used rarely?
He couldn’t say, but out it went, along with two old DVD players and other assorted electronics that had passed their prime. All will now be given away or recycled. And best, they’re out of my space.
Fortunately, once we started, he was as happy as I was to move things out, put the room back in order. And best of all, it’s done.
I tackled my office alone, and had to ask myself a variation of what I asked BW. What is this doing in here? More satisfaction as my office hasn’t been this clean in a year. So I’ll start this work week in a good space.
I made us both happy on Sunday and put together a big pot of tortilla soup. Nice, as we’ll have leftovers on this snowy Monday, and I can stay at my desk a bit longer without worrying about what’s for dinner.
Wherever you are, and whatever’s outside your window, I hope you had a satisfying weekend. And are ready for the start of a new week. I’m thinking of this Monday as a fresh page. Now let’s see what gets written on it.
Nora sends a weekend post card from her favorite place — Home. ~Laura
This was a busy one around here. We’re repurposing two areas–shifting them, and since one is my sub-office where we’ve stored all my books, and the other is my closet, this entails much tubbing, boxing, purging, hauling. Both areas are up a set of stairs, so it involves a lot of climbing.
We’d earmarked this weekend for the major work here, but we took a pause on that Saturday as my oldest grandson had a basketball game.
Watching a bunch of 10 and 11-year old boys race around a court, dribbling, passing, shooting is enormous fun–and when one is yours, exhausting. And really exhilarating when your boy scores a basket and makes a key steal. Our guys won, which is great, but the very best was the big, beaming grin on Logan’s face when we saw him after the game.
At least we came home cheerful to face a solid three hours of work. I believe my Fitbit registered 50 sets of stairs by the end of it. Though my new closet space still needs some tweaking–ordered more shoe and boot boxes–it’s in pretty good shape. And the new storage area won’t be my problem!
Purging the closet will net my pals plenty. I’ve already sent out an SOS for us to get together soon and tear through the small mountain of bags we hauled out.
I did a little of that tweaking on Sunday, and will do more yet, but had set that cold winter day aside mostly for the kitchen. I finally got the Thanksgiving turkey carcass out of the freezer to make turkey noodle soup. BW’s particularly fond of pretzel bread, so I added that to the menu. When he came in from manly outdoor chores, I got another big, beaming grin when he saw the rolls cooling on the rack. Good deal all around.
Somewhere between chopping vegetables for the soup and punching down dough, my granddaughter popped in. She’s still afraid to change her own earrings (we’ll work on this) and has decided I’m the only one who can do it. So we did that–and I bought a load of Girl Scout cookies from her. That netted me one more happy face for my weekend.
The closet shift has delayed my full-house purge, but I hit the utility closet while I was chained to the kitchen, so can now check my kitchen off the purge and organize list.
With BW mired in football, I had myself a nice bowl of soup, some quiet and a book to end the weekend.
Today, after all that hauling and climbing, I’m looking forward to sitting on my butt and writing. I hope you all had a weekend with some happy faces, and can do what makes you smile through the week.
I moved from North Carolina to Maryland in 2014 and for the first time in a decade was able to make the New Year’s festivities at Nora’s house. Thanks to the affordable long distance movers I was able to save money and join the festivities. Since I could, I pitched in a little too.
A quick note about the food. Nora and I cook exactly the same way: you check a basic recipe for a guideline, then tuck it away and play with the ingredients. So there won’t be any sharing of recipes but if something strikes your fancy we encourage you to use The Google and find something that you can make yours for years to come. Happy New Year! ~Laura
In our house we actually welcome the new with the old. Traditions, friends, family. We’ve been hosting an open house on New Year’s Day for at least 20 years. When you pack your house with people, you’d better pack it with plenty of food and drink.
So New Year’s Eve is a day spent in the kitchen. But luckily for me, I spend that with friends and family, too.
This year my oldest granddaughter, Kayla, expanded her role. I’ve passed on the family bread pudding recipe and duties to her for years now, and added the wonder of chocolate trifle this time around.
One of my favorite moments was the wonder and delight of a 12-year-old girl that whipped cream could be made from a little container that looks like milk! And this almost teenager wasn’t too old or dignified to turn down licking the whisk afterward.
One of my staples is deviled eggs, and their popularity means I make three dozen. It’s not so bad making three dozen when someone else peels them! Thanks Laura and Sarah.
I bake two big-ass whole hams with pineapple glaze BW slices for sandwiches. I make huge amounts of sides like red beans and rice, pasta salad, a winter fruit salad, spiced shrimp, meatballs. I double the recipe for what I think of as the icky green bean casserole, and there’s never any left.
When the wondrous Kat arrived I put her in charge of chopping and slicing veggies for the crudite. And being Kat, she fashioned a few decorative veggies for accents. So clever, my best girl.
Lots and lots of food cooked, stirred, baked, whipped. But the best part is that lovely little female circle, and the genuine delight of my Kayla in being part of it. She got ginger ale as a beverage for all the hard work. The adults got champagne, well earned.
The next morning there’s more to do–with my boy Jason and BW doing a lot of manly hauling and cooler filling and bringing up dishes already prepped from the downstairs fridge. And Kayla, Kat and I (then Laura who came early to help) making what needs to be made on the day of, reheating what’s done, setting things up and out.
We open from one to whenever. By two the house is full of people, and it’s amazing how often trays and bowls need refreshing. Something in the air this year, a happy something, as there’s such good, strong energy (and good, strong appetites) through every room in the house–and packs of people in every room. Kids in the pool, or playing Wii with great noise in the family room, people snuggled into the library or crowded in the kitchen, sprawled around the living room.
I’ll add not a spoonful of Kayla’s trifle or bread pudding remained.
My oldest brother and his lovely wife are serious bakers. He’s brought my mother’s pound cake, tubs of biscotti and his truly amazing peppermint patties. (I’m seriously tempted to stuff the peppermint patties away for myself, but I resist. Happy New Year all who benefited.
Cute moment to share. My boy Logan comes up with one of his pals. Pal has water in his ear from swimming. Logan often has this issue, so I have drops that deal with it. Fix pal’s ear, and off they go. About two hours later, Logan’s back with all four of the pals who came with him. Water in ears. So I have a line of ten-year-old boys in the bathroom waiting for their turn for drops. Boy steps up, tips head, drops go in, wait for it, hand boy a paper guest towel. Next?
A fun, busy, noisy first day of the year–and considering how much food was involved an astonishing lack of left-overs. Lots of laughter, lots of hugs, lots of memories. (And today despite Jason and Kat pitching in after the party, lots of clean up.)
Good friends, family and good food. It’s a fine way to welcome a new year. I hope all of you were able to ring out and ring in with as much pleasure.