Category Archives: Lifestyle

Short commentary about everyday life

YIKES! IT’S HERE AGAIN…

christmas04

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday, fellow readers. Hope you had a hale and healthy year and are looking forward to another one.

What better time for good wishes than Christmas Eve? I cannot believe how fast this past year has gone. I’m hoping Santa put ointment and Band-Aids under the tree for all of the cuts and bruises the past year has visited on me.

Still, DH and I have been lucky. No major health issues. When you get down to basics, that is the most important part of our lives. From what I’ve seen of life in general, without good health, nothing else is much good either.

One major event for us this past year was an automobile upgrade. My 10-year-old car was badly battered after years of sitting in the parking lot where I work at my real job. DH’s old pickup had gone beyond reasonable repair. So we donated the pickup to charity and traded the car in on an SUV. Now we’re a one-car outfit. Silly me, I thought scaling back to one vehicle would save money on insurance. Wrong. The insurance premium on the new rig is higher than it was on both older vehicles. <Sigh>

AnnaJeffrey_TheCattleman800I released Book #2 of the “Sons of Texas” trilogy, THE CATTLEMAN. It’s now for sale at all of the online retailers as an e-book. If you would prefer a print copy, one is available from Amazon.

I did a blog tour to kick it off and raffled a new Kindle Fire for people who visited the various blogs. I was unfamiliar with any of the book blogs where I was a guest. I had no idea there were so many. I felt like I had been living under a rock!

The ever-changing publishing landscape is just that—ever-changing. Amazon sort of yanked the rug from under self-publishing authors with its new subscription service. It’s like Netflix for books. Good deal for readers, not quite as good for authors. I don’t know how many readers have joined, but authors are grumbling and some are starting to bail. Hopefully, it will sort itself out soon.

I put only one book into it, mostly as an experiment. Given the experience I’m having, I’m glad one book is all that’s there. AnnaJeffrey_CallisterBundle3D_200When its term expires, I’ll be taking it out. So if you’ve joined Kindle Unlimited, it’s part of their monthly package. Or if you are not a member of KU and want to read three of my Anna Jeffrey books for a discounted price, check out THE CALLISTER BOOKS. It’s a bundle that includes THE LOVE OF A COWBOY, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER and THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN….

The bundle is $6.99 at Amazon. That’s $2.33 per book. After its term in KU expires, I’ll be putting it for sale with other online retailers as well.

I have a steamy novella underway. MIRANDA’S MAN. AnnaJeffrey_MirandasMan_200 I hope to be releasing it within the next few months. Here’s the cover. Let me know what you think.

And I will soon be starting Book #3 of the “Sons of Texas” trilogy, THE HORSEMAN. No cover yet. This book will be about Troy and the woman who finally captures his heart, Chloe. I will also wind up the Lockhart family story. I have the last chapter in my head, but I haven’t come up with the first chapters yet. Oh, well. I suppose backward is good as long as you come out at the right place in the end.

Enjoy the holiday, everyone.

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A BRAVE NEW WORLD…

Happy New YearHappy New Year, Everyone….Hope 2014 brings you nothing but good news and good fortune. Hope you get lots of opportunities to read great books.

Thanks to all of you who came by and said hello to Caroline Clemmons and Kathy Ivan.

An Internet Imbroglio:

The Christmas season apparently set new records for online shopping and created a heck of a bottleneck at UPS and FedEx. It also brought us the largest credit card theft in history at Target.

And Internet shopping brought us this:  This isn’t a new story, but there was a new blurb about it a few days ago on the news. A lady bought and paid for items on an Internet site, but never received them. When she tried to contact the site, she was unable to have a conversation with a human and got no response from the site. Angry and frustrated, she went online somewhere and posted negative comments about the site.

A few months later, she received an email informing her she had been fined $3,500 for making inappropriate comments in violation of an agreement she signed at the time of the purchase.

She refused to pay the fine, so the site turned her over to a collection agency that harassed her unmercifully. So now she’s suing the site for exactly how much I don’t know, but I’m interested in knowing if she wins.

She never did get what she ordered.

I read somewhere a long time ago that if someone posted on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter negative comments about a company’s product, the company could sue. Don’t know if that’s true, but if you had a bad experience with Internet shopping and feel distraught enough to say something about it, where else should you say it but online? If someone really rips you off and you can’t find a human, what do you do? Is her case going to set a precedent that a customer cannot make a negative comment about a product without fearing reprisal or lawsuit?

As I listened to this story, the hundreds, even thousands, of the negative comments that get posted on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or other book selling sites about books flew into my mind. It’s really the same thing, isn’t it? The books, even e-books, are a retail product bought from a retail site.  ….. When I think about all of the tacky and even mean things that have been said online about my books over the years, I have to wonder if I can sue somebody.  :-\

The Internet has really set us to navigating uncharted waters and there’s much more to come.

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BOOK NEWS:

I’m up to Chapter 17 in THE CATTLEMAN. I had intended to release this book in June, but about a hundred things interfered. Now I’m just hoping to release it before June of 2014.

AnnaJeffrey_CallisterBundle3D_200I’ve posted two 3-book bundles on Amazon. THE CALLISTER BOOKS, which includes THE LOVE OF A COWBOY, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER and THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN; and THE WEST TEXAS SERIES, which includes SWEET WATER, SALVATION, TEXAS and SWEET RETURN. All of these are contemporary romances set in West Texas.AnnaJeffrey_WestTexas3DBundle_200px

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COUNTERFEIT HONEY? WTF?…

A few days back, I caught a headline about one of the largest food frauds in the history of the country. (See link at the bottom of this post to read about it.)

A headline like that just naturally catches my eye since one of my concerns in life has become the safety of the food we are forced to buy because none other is available to us.

And lo and behold, when I read further, the subject product is one of my favorites: HONEY!

Honey in honeycombs

Honey in honeycombs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A German company with offices in Chicago has been marketing all over the world honey that is imported from China and contains chemicals banned in the US. (Big surprise, huh?) Who knew honey was imported?

The company figured out how to avoid USDA red tape by routing it through other countries and bringing it into the US as a product of some different country. Also there’s honey that has been diluted with syrup or water, honey that is contaminated with various other chemicals and the list goes on. This product might not make it to our dinner tables, but it might show up in other manufactured foods that have honey as an ingredient, i.e., cereals, baking goods, etc.

A couple of people have gone to jail over this, a relief, I guess.

I’ve been worried for a while about honey bees dying off for some unknown reason. Despite the environmentalist groups proclaiming that bees are dying from various chemicals that are applied to plants, that isn’t the biggest reason the bees are disappearing. It has finally been concluded that the bees have been attacked by a virus and no one knows what to do about it.

Not good news. Honey is good for everything. And it tastes good. But even if you are not a honey-lover, you have to be concerned about the disappearance of the bees because without them, pollination necessary for growing plants that produce food becomes an issue.

For a while now, because I understand there’s a shortage, I’ve been clenching my jaw and paying $9.00 for a quart bottle of honey. And that is by no means the most expensive. Like everything we eat, the price of just keep going up.

I’ve taken comfort in the labels that boast “Product of the USA” and “U.S. Grade A 100% Pure Honey” and “Source Verified.”  ….. But what do those labels mean, really? Marketing itself is so fraudulent, I can’t help but wonder what kind of gyrations someone has gone through to be able to make those claims. I’m sure all of the honey is combined in one big pot before it’s bottled, so is it possible that a bad batch gets combined with the good batches?

You won’t have any trouble convincing me that it is. What I mourn is that even if says it’s 100% pure and safe, I will never be able to consume honey again without wondering about it. All I can say is, if you buy honey, folks, check the label.

And now, on to books news. AnnaJeffrey_OurRedHotRomance_Audio3

OUR RED HOT ROMANCE IS LEAVING ME BLUE by Dixie Cash is now available as an audio book at www.audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes at a reasonable price. The narrator—her name is Holly Adams—does a great job. You can listen on your MP3 player, your tablet or your phone. Of course, you can still buy the print book at Amazon. Here’s the blurb:

“Ghost busting! Not the usual gig for the Domestic Equalizers, Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin. Their forte is cheating husbands and wives and significant others. “Don’t get mad, get even” is their motto.

That is, until they meet Justin Sadler. He’s trying to come to terms with the passing of his dearly beloved Rachel. Except that now he’s not sure she has passed. Either she’s trying to communicate with him from the other side or somebody is trying to drive him crazy. Who else to find the answer to an off-beat question than the offbeat detectives, The Domestic Equalizers?

Knowing little about ghostly activities, their solution is to recommend that Justin hire an out-of-town psychic. He skeptically agrees and the fun begins. No one expected the medium from El Paso to be young and beautiful and sweet as pecan pie. No one expected her to call up a few ghosts from Edwina’s past. But it all turns out in the end. Justin and the El Paso mentalist live happily ever after ad the Domestic Equalizers add the solution to another off-the-wall mystery to their resume.”

It’s funny, I don’t care who you are. 🙂

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WHEN “WHY” IS THE BIGGEST WORD IN MY VOCABULARY…

Kyle

As most of the country has probably heard by now, ex-Navy SEAL and American hero Chris Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield,  were murdered by an ex-marine at a gun range here in Texas.

He also wrote a bestselling book, “American Sniper,” about his war experiences. If anyone wants to read of a sincere love of country, I urge you to read his book.

I did not know him, yet I felt like I became close to him through reading his autobiography. It’s weird how his book touched me. I can’t describe it. And my husband 9780062238863_p0_v1_s260x420feels the same. I guess it’s that six degrees of separation thing. At one time before he joined the Navy, he worked on a ranch in the county where I live and I know a couple of people who went to high school with him.

Besides being a war hero, he was a good and caring man with the courage of his convictions. Apparently many people loved him and looked up to him. He was the very definition of leadership.

He was in the Navy ten years. Did four tours in Iraq. He was in the midst of the worst of it–Falluja and Ramadi and saved thousands of American lives. He was wounded twice. Known as the “Devil of Ramadi,” he had a price on his head. After surviving all of that, he left the Navy because he had been away from his wife and two small kids so much.

Now, after being home only a few years, he’s been murdered. He deserved better. He deserved to spend time with his family who loved him. His wife and kids deserved his company and influence on their lives. All of us need and feel the loss of a seldom-seen hero of his caliber.

CHRIS KYLE, American Hero

CHRIS KYLE, American Hero

I’ve seen stunning irony a few times in my life. It’s something that always leaves me reeling. His death is such a supreme example of it. I’ll be weeks getting my head around it. I cannot even describe the hurt I feel. My heart is broken I mourn him as if he were one of my own. And I mourn his friend.

For anyone who’s interested, he will be memorialized at Dallas Cowboy Stadium on Monday, February 11th. There are numerous websites and groups collecting for his family and for the family of his friend, Chad Littlefield.

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THE REAL HEROES

THE REAL HEROES

I watched the movie Act of Valor last week. This is the movie that was made starring Navy SEALs. The plot—dealing with worldwide narco-traffickers—was woven around the SEALs doing what SEALs do. Amazing physical feats, bravery and fearlessness, dedication and selflessness, efficiency and organization you can’t believe. And clean-cut good guys to boot.

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

It was rated R for violence. But then, war is violent.

The critics gave it 2 stars, whining that the SEALs couldn’t act. Well, duh.They aren’t actors. Even so, I thought they did a decent job. But then, I’m biased in favor of the SEALs. It doesn’t even need to be said that the critics and actors have never seen and will never see the day they could do what the SEALs do.

Task Force K-Bar SEALs at one of the entrances...

Task Force K-Bar SEALs at one of the entrances to the Zhawar Kili cave complex (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought it was great. Just as entertaining as any of the action flicks that are phony. And it was reality-based. I don’t know how anyone could watch it and not feel a prideful swelling in the chest. It’s amazing to know that we have men and women this smart and this capable and this self-sacrificing serving in our military.

Of course, the special operations forces are not the only heroes in our military. As far as I’m concerned, each and every one of our volunteer army is a hero. I’ve met very few that I can’t respect and admire. All of you who have sons and daughters and spouses and even cousins serving should be very proud.

The movie is for sale now. If you buy it, part of the purchase price goes to fund a homeland support group. So give it some thought.

US Navy SEAL students

US Navy SEAL students (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

On a side note, my Anna Jeffrey mainstream romance novel, THE LOVE OF A COWBOY will be a free download in Amazon‘s Kindle Store for 5 days, starting Friday, the 15th. So if you haven’t read it and want to, you can do it for free. You don’t have to have a Kindle. I think you can download an Amazon app to most e-readers, through which you can then download books from Amazon. You can also download it to your computer.

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LEST WE FORGET…

Happy Memorial Day, everyone…..One thing we do not want to forget on this opening summer holiday is the reason for the day. We want to remember that it’s more than the opening of summer or the end of school or a long weekend at the lake.

When I was a kid, my grandparents called it “Decoration Day.” In the tiny community where they lived, there was no one to look after the only cemetery. In a showing of respect for those who had passed on, volunteers hoed weeds, repaired fences, pruned trees and did anything else that was needed to make the cemetery looked cared for. And some honored their own loved ones by decorating their graves.

This custom wasn’t confined to where my grandparents lived. It did and still does take place all over the country. Unfortunately, however, to a great degree, we’ve gotten away from it. These days, too many of us don’t have time or are too far away. And there are a hell of a lot of us who don’t even know what Memorial Day is about. That’s sad.

In these days when we’re losing or have lost so many of our young men and women to causes that no longer seem worthwhile, let’s don’t forget them. There’s a famous quote and I’ve been searching for the origin all week, but haven’t found it. It says, “All gave some, but some gave all.” Let’s don’t forget that either.

On another topic, I’m making a few changes to the blog. Some you might have noticed, some you might not have.

You might have noticed the book list is missing. I had this great slide show through a site called http://www.slide.com. Around the first of the year, they announced they would be taking their site down at the end of March and we who had slide shows created through them should do something different.

So far, I haven’t found a user-friendly site on which I can create a slide show that WordPress will accept. WordPress recommend a site and I put together a slide show there. But then WordPress rejected it and continues to reject it. I can’t figure out how to get past their rejection.… Like everything in the computer world, if you aren’t a guru, anything you do has a steep learning curve. Did I say I’m not a guru?

The other thing you might notice is a link in the right-hand column to The Anna Jeffrey Times. This is a baby newspaper. It features headlines and a few articles about current events. I would like to give it its own page in the blog so that you don’t have to leave the blog to glance at it, but so far, WordPress hasn’t let me do that either. I suspect it can be done and I hope to eventually figure it out.

The last thing I’ve done is put the archives in a drop-down box. It’s all still there, so if there’s a past blog you want to view, you can find it by using the drop-down box.

mappa_blog

Blog Map 😦

“Figuring it out” is how I have to approach everything I do on the computer. I’ve owned a computer of some kind for twenty-five years, so you’d think I’d be smarter, wouldn’t you?

But I’m nothing, if not determined. Eventually I’ll get that book list back up there as a slide show and eventually I’ll get The Anna Jeffrey Times on its own page.

Meanwhile, while I struggle with it, if any of you *are* gurus and want to make some suggestions, I’m certainly receptive.

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A RANT ABOUT CELL PHONES…

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

About a million words have been spoken and written about what cell phones are doing to us, i.e., giving us brain cancer, making us unable to communicate verbally, walling us off from each other, yada, yada, yada…..

Something happened recently that made me start to think more about this. I was in a parking lot, walking from my car into a store. I was walking along with car bumpers close by on my right side. Directly ahead of me was a guy walking toward me, deeply absorbed in texting.

I could go no farther to the right without running into car bumpers. “He sees me,” I told myself and continued my path. He came closer and closer and never looked up, so he simply ran into me and almost knocked me off my feet. I couldn’t believe it. He had feet and feet of space where he could have gone to his right, but he was oblivious to it and oblivious to me. His arm hit my shoulder and he looked up at me as if I had just landed from Mars. He didn’t hurt me, but he jostled me. And he didn’t even have the decency to apologize.

I work with a young man who is on his phone every minute of every day—texting, Facebooking, shopping, messaging or whatever else he does on the phone. Even when I’m trying to talk to him, he’s only listening with one ear. His eyes are glued to his phone screen. Why management doesn’t land on him, I don’t know, because he behaves that way not just to me, but to everybody.

I work with a young woman who keeps her cell phone hidden, but who has FaceBook open at all times and constantly refers to it.

I work with yet another one who plays gambling games all day long, even while we’re at lunch and trying to have a simple conversation.

When I walk into the break room, almost every person there is texting or doing something on the phone. Nobody even says hello anymore.

I have another acquaintance who pulls her cell phone from her pocket or purse every few minutes to check for something. It’s impossible to have an uninterrupted conversation with her. I never have her full attention.

I have yet another friend who weaves from lane to lane while driving while she’s either trying to get the phone out of her purse or trying to punch in a number or read a text. At least, I haven’t seen her text while driving, but she might do that. I no longer know, because I’ve quit riding with her.

Person using cell phone while driving.

Person using cell phone while driving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SMS: Text Messaging Gets Redesigned

Just last week, I heard a young woman talk about dropping her cell phone in a cup of Coke when she was texting while she was driving on a major highway.

I’ve seen two teenage girls standing a foot from each other and texting each other.

These days, you hardly see a young person who doesn’t have a cell phone in his or her hand. Only older people have them in holders attached to their belts or secured in their purses. But they still have them with them. Even if you’re on welfare, the government will provide you with a cell phone, and it isn’t just *any* cell phone. It’s an iPhone or an Android if you want it.

So do any of you recall the days when if the phone rang at your home and you weren’t there to answer it, you simply were not home? And if the caller wanted to talk to you about something important, he or she would call you back when you were at home? Do you remember the days when we didn’t have voice mail?

Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобил...

Mobile phone evolution

When I was in the real estate business, I had “Call Waiting.” But I hated it. I thought nothing was ruder than abandoning the person or person with whom I was talking to answer the phone. But, for some reason, it was a tool I thought I needed.

Angel with mobile phone

Angel with mobile phone (Photo credit: Akbar Sim (terribly busy))

So now that we’re to the place where almost no one (and I mean no one) is without a cell phone, especially if one is under 25 years old, where are we really? We’ve exponentially compounded rudeness. We’ve almost eliminated verbal communication. We’re encouraging young people, who are already easily distracted, to have the attention span of a gnat.

And I could go on and on. Am I just an old fuddy-duddy who can’t adapt to the times?

What comes of all of this? Does anybody know?

By the way, for you who are interested, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER will be a free download on Amazon on the 17th and 18th. You can download it to your Kindle, your computer, your iPad, your iPhone or most other devices if you get the Amazon app. I don’t, however, think you’ll be able to get the Amazon app on Nook, but I don’t know for sure. So if you want to read it for free, there you go.  🙂

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TOO MUCH INFORMATION…

A segment of a social network

The density of a social network. This should scare all of us.

I’ve noticed a few authors expressing political and even religious views on Facebook and other social networks. This has probably always gone on, but I just spotted it lately. Perhaps the political season is bringing opinions out of the woodwork. I wonder about the wisdom of doing this by someone who wants to sell books.

One poster I’m thinking of is an author whose books I’ve liked. But after reading her posts about various topics, I find that I don’t like her. So I will probably not buy any more of her books.

An author’s stock-in-trade is his voice. I’ve always contended that you can’t create voice. You can become a skilled grammarian, you can possess a broad vocabulary, you can be an expert at structuring interesting and complex sentences, but the one thing you have no control over is voice. It manifests itself in an author’s writing without him even knowing it. I believe that happens because it’s a tacit expression of an author’s true personality. Sort of like a deeply embedded sub-plot.

So when an author mixes voice over which he has no control, with strong vocal opinion, an image emerges. And it might not be an image a reader particularly likes, especially if an author unwittingly steps on someone’s toes. That’s bad news for most authors. This is not the same as giving a book character negative traits to show who he or she is.

I’m thinking that if someone is so in love with his own words that he just can’t contain himself, perhaps he should initiate a blog. And use another name rather than the name he wants to sell books under. Just a thought.

No one has stronger personal opinions than I do. But being a naturally over-cautious person, I’m very careful about what I say on the social networks. I try to be a diplomat and keep my comments as innocuous as possible. The last thing I want to do is alienate a potential reader with some dumb thing I spouted that’s important to no one but me.

I don’t even criticize books I don’t enjoy. And there are many. Believe me, more than half the books I start to read I never finish because I just can’t stay interested long enough to last for 300 pages. I subscribe to the notion that if I can’t say something positive in a public forum, I don’t say anything at all.

Nor do I often endorse books I do like, although I give very brief opinions of them in my newsletter. (By the way, if you want to get on my monthly newsletter mailing list, just go to my Web site and sign up for the Yahoo group. www.annajeffrey.com )

Having said all of that, fellow-bloggers, I want you to know that I am not wishy-washy. If you and I are having a personal, private conversation, I’ll most likely express my true opinion, come hell or high water.

So I bring this up because I have a question: Am I wrong about this? How do you feel when you read one of your favorite author’s comments that would have been better left unsaid, or at least reserved for another venue? Does it change your opinion of the author or his work?

Just wondering…

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HELLO! I’m Back….

It’s almost over and somehow I’ve survived. the madness.  Now I can get back to blogging and writing. I’ve been pulled in so many directions the past two or three weeks I’ve hardly had time for anything but work and sleep.
I’ve mentioned many times that in my childhood, we had no access to entertainment as kids know it today. But we did have books. Lots and lots of books of all kinds and our reading was unrestricted.
Lying around from somewhere was an old book of poetry and prose. From that tome, I read many of the Victorian classics, including the one I’m sharing with you below. CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE WORKHOUSE by George R. Sims. This is a melodramatic offering in the same vein as “The Face on the Barroom Floorby Hugh Antoine d’Arcy and The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. It paints a vivid slice-of-life picture of Victorian England and reminds us why so many found their way to America.
I’ve re-read this poem many times through the years. I’m sharing it with you today as a Christmas gift. It’s a reminder of how lucky we are. It’s a long poem, but it reads quickly. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to win the battle with WordPress in separating the stanzas. If it helps reading it, there are 8 lines per stanza.
CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE WORKHOUSE

It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.
And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They’ve paid for — with the rates.
Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their “Thank’ee kindly, mum’s!'”
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
“Great God!” he cries, “but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!”
The guardians gazed in horror,
The master’s face went white;
“Did a pauper refuse the pudding?”
“Could their ears believe aright?”
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.
But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose ‘mid silence grim,
For the others had ceased to chatter
And trembled in every limb.
He looked at the guardians’ ladies,
Then, eyeing their lords, he said,
“I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:
“Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dark, unhallowed graves.”
“He’s drunk!” said the workhouse master,
“Or else he’s mad and raves.”
“Not drunk or mad,” cried the pauper,
“But only a haunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture’s feast.
“I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won’t be dragged away;
Just let me have the fit out,
It’s only on Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey on my burning brain;
I’ll tell you the rest in a whisper —
I swear I won’t shout again.
“Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how paupers
The season of Christmas spend;.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watched the captured beast.
Here’s why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.
“Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You’re doing a noble action
With the parish’s meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors —
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above me,
My Nance was killed by you!
‘Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish —
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.
“I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for the woman who’d loved me
Through fifty years of life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief,
That ‘the House’ was open to us,
But they wouldn’t give ‘out relief’.
“I slunk to the filthy alley —
‘Twas a cold, raw Christmas Eve —
And the bakers’ shops were open,
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together,
Holding my head awry,
So I came to her empty-handed
And mournfully told her why.
“Then I told her the house was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
And up in her rags she sat,
Crying, ‘Bide the Christmas here, John,
We’ve never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger —
The other would break my heart.’
“All through that eve I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord and weeping,
Till my lips were salt as brine;
I asked her once if she hungered,
And as she answered ‘No’ ,
T’he moon shone in at the window,
Set in a wreath of snow.
“Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling’s eyes
The faraway look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went.
For she raved of our home in Devon,
Where our happiest years were spent.
“And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more.
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo’d by the Devon shore;
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, ‘Give me a crust — I’m famished —
For the love of God!’ she groaned.
“I rushed from the room like a madman
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying, ‘Food for a dying woman!’
And the answer came, ‘Too late.’
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street
And tore from the mongrel’s clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.
“Back through the filthy byways!
Back through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush;
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill.
For there, in the silv’ry moonlight,
My Nance lay, cold and still.
“Up to the blackened ceiling,
The sunken eyes were cast —
I knew on those lips, all bloodless,
My name had been the last;
She called for her absent husband —
O God! had I but known! —
Had called in vain, and, in anguish,
Had died in that den — alone.
“Yes, there, in a land of plenty,
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
For a loaf of the parish bread;
At yonder gate, last Christmas,
I craved for a human life,
You, who would feed us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!”
‘There, get ye gone to your dinners,
Don’t mind me in the least,
Think of the happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day.”

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The Holidays Have Landed…

And so has holiday food. The weather turned cold, we got a little rain, so the Christmas spirit finally hit me. I even got out and did a little shopping.

I also did a little baking. I made one of my favorite cookies and loaded them up with white chocolate chips, dried cherries and fresh pecans. I thought that sounded festive. They turned out fine.   …..  The price of dried cherries and this year’s fresh pecans just about left me gasping, but then you’ve heard me whine about the price of food before. I calculate those cookies must have cost more than 50-cents apiece to make. And they aren’t very big cookies, either.  😦

 

After that, I took a recipe for one of Emeril’s cakes off the Food Channel website and made it. It’s called Chocolate Swirl Bundt Cake with Nutty Topping. It’s a fluffy marble cake accented with praline liqueur and fresh pecans pieces. I haven’t tried a piece of it yet, but the recipe sounded so good, I know it will be larruping. Emeril’s receipe called for walnuts and walnut liqueur, but I had fresh pecans on hand rather than walnuts, so I rushed to the liquor store and bought the praline liqueur  stuff. If you want the recipe, you can go here:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/search/delegate.do?fnSearchString=bundt+cakes&fnSearchType=site

 

If you make it with the walnut liqueur as he recommends, let me know how it turns out.

(On a side note, that praline liqueur is very good on ice cream.) 🙂

(On another side note, I read somewhere that chocolate is going to nearly double in price in 2012! That is pure evil!)

I will probably make more cookies. I always do. So how about you? What are you baking for the holidays?

****

When my daughter comes to visit, we always make things. This year she brought a recipe called Chocolate Eclair Icebox Dessert. Believe it or not, this is kind of low-cal. And it’s so light, delicious and easy, you don’t feel guilty if you have more than one piece. Guilt-free. That’s the ticket. So here’s the recipe.

CHOCOLATE ECLAIR ICEBOX DESSERT

22-1/2 sheets low-fat honey graham crackers (enough to make 2 or 3 layers in a 9×13 pan), 3 cups fat-free milk, 2 (3.4 oz.) packages vanilla or cheesecake instant pudding mix, 1 (8-oz.) pkg. reduced fat cream cheese at room temperature, 1 (8-oz.) tub frozen light cook whip, thawed

Arrange graham cracker sheets to cover the bottom of 13×9 pan coated with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups milk, pudding mix and cream cheese and beat at low speed 1 minute, or until thick. Fold in shipped topping. Spread half the pudding mixture over graham crackers and top with another layer of graham cracker sheets. Repeat with the remaining pudding mixture and another layer of graham crackers. (You can cut out the middle layer of graham crackers if you like.)

TOPPING

1/4 cup fat-free milk, 2 tbsp. margarine or butter, softened, 2 tbsp. honey, 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted, 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar (We doubled the topping.)

Combine 1/4 cup milk, softened butter, honey and melted chocolate in medium bowl. Beat well with mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat well. Spread chocolate over graham crackers. Cover dessert and chill 4 hours. Make sure your cover doesn’t touch the chocolate topping. It’s okay to leave it uncovered if necessary.

There you go. Let me know how you like it.

 

 

 

 

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