Holidays

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04 Mar Exelauno Day

Many years ago (gulp), the professor who was my advisor for my undergrad honors thesis was a classics man, and it was from him that I learned that March 4th was “Exelauno Day,” in that “Exelauno” more or less means “March forth!” in Latin.

 

 

Cressie, however, clearly doesn’t feel like marching forth anywhere. It’s kind of chilly today and I don’t blame her. However, this picture shows clearly where her name came from—the white crescent-shaped mark on her hindquarters.

 

I don’t feel much like marching forth, either, but I must. Forward…

 

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01 Jan Hello, 2017

 

 

Happy New Year! Or as the Broadcasting Legend™ would say, “Kala Podariko,” or “Happy First Foot!” Cressie was our first-foot this year, which is only right, as she is the happiest, most light-hearted and fortunate of creatures, despite her great age and serious health issues. Bless you, little freckle-pawed Cress. Every day’s a gift.

 

Boudin, of course, was right behind her.

 

We’re expecting great things from you, 2017. Don’t disappoint us!

 

 

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29 Feb You Want Us to What?

Cressie n Boo

 

Seeing as how it’s Leap Day and everything, I thought I’d coax Cressie and Boo to leap for the camera. I even offered cookies. Above you see their response.

 

It’s rare enough to get a picture of the two of them together, so I guess I’ll have to settle for that. Boo’s in front, Cressie’s behind him. Both of them are doing well, and that’s worth a leap of my own.

 

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

 

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20 Jun Father’s Day is Forever, Too

FathersDay

 

I love leafing back through ancient (well, not that ancient, but still) family scrapbooks. Here, for Father’s Day, is my own handsome father front and center, on my very first Father’s Day. (This series of pictures was actually taken in May of that year, but we’ll fudge a month and call it Father’s Day.)

 

Hats appear to have been a guys’ thing in our family, with my father in his smart fedora and my brother in his rakish tam. My beautiful young mother, meanwhile, is rocking her polka dots (she must have kept that dress for a long time, because I actually remember it) and me scrunching up my infant face in the sunlight, swathed in a fringed (and almost certainly hand-knitted, probably by a doting grandmother) baby blanket.

 

It must have been a cold May that year, because everyone is wearing coats!

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10 May Mother’s Day is Forever

Family 7-4-49

 

My mother’s been gone since 2010, and I miss her every day. Here’s a throwback-Mother’s-Day snapshot (taken when my baby sister was just three months old) of my beautiful young mother, my stalwart father, my older brother and me. I do not look very happy about the whole picture-taking production! Clearly I was already developing my lifelong camera-phobia.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to you, dear Mother.

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05 Apr Easter Bonnets

Easter Bonnets

Happy Easter! Christos Anesti, for the Greek side of the family!

 

I suppose this picture belongs on a #TBT Throwback Thursday post, but I found myself thinking of it today, and so dug it out of one of my scrapbooks. It is, of course, my sister Barb and me one Easter morning when we were girls. I remember that cotton shirtwaist dress—it was pale pink. Note the correct (!) white gloves and crescent-shaped flower hat, which was almost more like a headband. I don’t remember Barb’s outfit, so perhaps she will have to chime in to tell us what color it was.

 

I was probably twelve or thirteen here, which means Barb would have been nine or ten. (We’re now pretty much exactly the same height.) We’re standing in our little side yard along Logan Street. Yes, I think it’s quite all right to have #TBT pictures whether it’s Thursday or not!

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15 Mar Ides of March

First Bouquet

They warned my mother to beware the Ides of March, but (brave woman) she went ahead and had me anyway. My mother and my best friend, all through the long years of her life.

 

This picture, though, is about my father. Somewhere he conceived the romantic notion (so I guess I come by my own romantic notions legitimately) that he should be the first man to send his daughter flowers. So this rosebud with its now-fragile paper lace and silky ribbon was delivered to the hospital nursery with the accompanying card. Fortunately my mother saved it, and now here it is, many years later, pressed and tucked away in one of my many scrapbooks.

 

We had mince pie yesterday for Pi Day, and I have a perfectly gorgeous chocolate mini-cake (bigger than a cupcake, but not as big as a whole layer cake) for my birthday candles later today. At this rate, I’m going to have to work in extra exercise and no sweets for the rest of the month! But it will be so worth it…

 

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11 May Mother’s Day 2014

Mother's Day 1947

It was Mother’s Day 1947. In those days (gulp) taking pictures was a rarer and more formal thing. Someone (my father? My grandfather?) lined up the women of the family for a snapshot with fourteen-month-old me in my beautiful young mother’s arms. I don’t remember it, of course–not even the enormous sunbonnet. Can you imagine putting something like that on a toddler today?

 

Left to right, my paternal grandmother Elizabeth Schroeder Gross (I’m named for her, although that’s a story in itself), my aunt Margaret Gross Paugh, me, my dear dear mother Margaret Fleming Gross (to whom The Flower Reader is dedicated), and my maternal grandmother Bonnie Otto Fleming. Bonnie’s real name was “Bonnalynn”–one has to wonder where that came from, as she was born in 1887. But her mother’s name was Margaret Roxanne Landers, so perhaps a penchant for fanciful names ran in the family. In any case, she herself hated “Bonnalynn” and called herself “Bonnie.” but I loved it and always thought that if I were ever fortunate enough to have a daughter of my own (which I’m not, alas) I’d name her “Bonnalynn.”

 

Perhaps one day there will be a “Bonnalynn” in a book….

 

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14 Feb What Better Valentine’s Day Treat?

The mass-market edition of The Flower Reader is being released today in the UK. Thrilling adventure, high romance, and exquisite flowers—it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! If you’re in the UK, check Tesco or W.H. Smith’s, or order online.

Cressie loves The Flower Reader!

Cressie says, “It’s delicious for reading in bed. If your ears are long enough (like mine), it’s perfect for ear-draping. I give it five cookies. No, six! Maybe seven? Please?”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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06 Jan Happy Epiphany!

labefana

I’ve just finished writing a chapter set in the midst of sixteenth-century Florentine court revels for the Epiphany, also called Twelfth Night. In medieval and Renaissance times, gift-giving was associated with the Epiphany and not with Christmas day. And in Italy, children received gifts (if they were good—they got lumps of coal if they were bad) from la Befana, pictured at right.

La Befana, so the story goes, was an old woman whose greatest joy in life was keeping her cottage spic-and-span. She was in the midst of her sweeping when the Magi knocked on her door and invited her to join them as they searched for the Christ Child. She refused, being determined to finish her housework.

Later she regretted her decision, and with her broom she set out to catch up with the Magi and offer her own gifts to the Christ Child. To this day she is still looking for them, riding on her broom, and on the eve of Epiphany (in Italian “la Epifania” and “la Befana” are related words, and often used interchangeably) she gives her gifts to good children.

And of course since any hint of a cookie recipe always gets my attention, her traditional gifts are cookies called befanini. There are hundreds of different recipes out there, most of which seem to be pretty basic sugar-and-butter cookies spiced with anise and orange peel, occasionally spiked with rum or sambuca, and decorated with colored sprinkles. Here’s an easy one, and here’s a traditional one.

Buona Befana!

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01 Jan Kalo Podariko!

Happy First-Foot, as the Greeks say, for 2011! The beautiful sixteenth-century chopines above are Venetian, made of leather, silk and wood, and are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For an intriguing short essay on chopines, visit the Met here.

I am not making resolutions as such this year. Instead, I’ve been inspired by this wonderful post on one of my favorite websites, She Writes, about simply deciding what to take with one on the journey into the new year, and what to leave behind:

You CAN Take It With You by Tayari Jones

Cressie is continuing to heal. The Silver Casket is continuing to flourish, day by day. Time is continuing to count itself down to the debut of The Second Duchess on March 1st. All I can do is be thankful for all the good things in my life.

Happy happy 2011 to everyone!

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27 Nov Saturday I-8

Saturday almost got away from me again. (I know, it makes it sound rather like a restive filly.) Anyway, there’s not much to report for this past week—the Broadcasting Legend™ and I had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. Both our families are so far-flung—from Washington state to Nashville to Illinois and Indiana. And it was a little difficult for me to face the first Thanksgiving without my dear mother—so many of the traditions and recipes I’ve always cherished were hers. Next year I will pick up the threads again.

I worked on The Silver Casket through the week. I have a wonderful, detailed outline (I am an outliner down to the ground), but in one scene the story just took the bit in its teeth (to continue my equine references) and surprised me with a scene utterly unlike anything in the outline. It accomplished the same thing in the end, but the process was not at all what I had expected. I do love those moments.

Good news this week—I’ve been invited to speak at the Historical Novel Society’s 2011 conference next summer, on the “Debut Novelists” panel. I’m thrilled. The conference is going to be in San Diego, June 17-19, 2011, and I can’t wait. It will be my first conference! One of the author guests of honor is Cecelia Holland, one of my own favorite historical novelists of all time, and who read the manuscript of The Second Duchess and gave it a terrific endorsement. I am only afraid I’ll be reduced to fan-girl babbling.

A cold front has come through and our seventy-degree weather is a thing of the past—it’s even getting down below freezing overnight. The beagles follow the patches of sunlight around the house. Here is Boo, all warm and comfy on our guest-room bed. You can see how he rumpled up the pillow and coverlet to make himself a perfect sunshiny nest:

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30 Oct Saturday Round Robin I-4

The contest is over! Thank you so much, everyone who commented… I’m delighted that there were many new visitors to the blog, all with such terrific comments about Deanna Raybourn’s wonderful new Dark Road to Darjeeling. The winner will be announced on Monday.

The cover of The Second Duchess is now up on Amazon. Yay! Hope the rest of the bookstore sites will follow soon.

And speaking of covers—here’s the gorgeous cover of the German edition, titled Die Zweite Herzogin and scheduled for next spring. The piece of fine art that Rowohlt used is actually a portrait of an Italian lady, said to be Barbara’s mother-in-law Renée of France, by a Flemish painter named Pieter de Kempeneer, also known as Pedro Campaña. I love her earrings and wish I had a pair just like them! I am very fortunate in both my covers, and have my fingers crossed that someday there will be more.

Portraits are surprising sometimes. I’ve been collecting portraits of the historical characters who will appear in The Silver Casket, and was truly amazed when I found this one. It’s of Andrew Leslie, the fifth Earl of Rothes, who is the head of my heroine Rinette’s branch of the Leslies. Now if I just started describing a sixteen-century gentleman like this—light brown hair cut very short on the sides of his head and apparently moussed into a sort of pouf on top, clean-shaven with only a thin Douglas-Fairbanks-y moustache—no one would believe me. Yet here is the portrait, leaping to life off the page. History is pretty amazing sometimes.

What I’m reading: A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. I’m kind of struggling with it. Also The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I’ve also had my issues with. I’ve just been kind of stressed and cranky lately, although I’m much better now. More about that later. Heh. Next up, at last (because I’ve really been looking forward to it), The White Garden by Stephanie Barron.

Our little town is having our trick-or-treating tonight, so am looking forward to hordes of darling little trick-or-treaters. We live within walking distance of a very fine elementary school, and so our neighborhood teems with adorable tykes. The doggies always go crazy on trick-or-treat night, and may have to be shut in the laundry room to keep them from slipping out or jumping up to play and scaring the tiniest ghaisties and bogles.

Ran across this quote recently: “What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is the collection of books. –Thomas Carlyle.

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17 Mar Lucky January

Lucky St. Patrick’s Day news! NAL has moved the release date of The Second Duchess up by one month, so it will now make its debut in January 2011. Somehow that seems so much sooner than February 2011!

We readers all get book cards and book gift certificates for Christmas, right? So when you hit the bookstores in January with your Christmas book-buying booty, keep The Second Duchess in mind. And don’t worry—I’ll remind you again. Heh. Probably more than once.

And as for St. Patrick’s Day luck, well, I come from a long line of McConnells on my dear mother’s side. Sláinte!

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26 Nov Happy Thanksgiving!

A Puritan Mother. Long before the invention of baby monitors, pop-up wipes and Pampers.My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they were not far behind on one of the voyages of the Abigail, which sailed from London April to July 1635, arriving in Massachusetts Bay. Henry Collins, my ninth great-grandfather, a starchmaker (all those ruffs and caps had to be starched by someone, you know) from Stepney, Middlesex, brought his wife Ann and his three young children Henry, John and Margery. I’m descended from John (who was only three at the time of the voyage), through the Motts, Rhodeses, Sarjents, McConnells and Flemings.

So although they weren’t Pilgrims but ordinary Puritan tradesmen, here’s to the Collins family, who sailed to the New World and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Here’s to Ann Collins, who undertook a two-month-plus voyage across the Atlantic in cramped shipboard quarters with three children, ages five, three and two! Men may have gotten all the credit for bravery in those days, but a woman who could manage that is a woman I’m proud to be descended from.

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to everyone—because even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a holiday, it’s always good to be thankful.

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06 Jun National Doughnut Day (A Day Late, but Who’s Counting?)

Sprinkles! My favorites!This morning at the crack of dawn (well, not quite, but almost) a little boy rang our doorbell and delivered a box of doughnuts. Why, you ask? Well, a couple of weeks ago that same little boy worked his little-boy wiles on the Broadcasting Legend™ and convinced him to buy a box of doughnuts for some sort of school fund-raising project. (We live a few blocks from an elementary school and the neighborhood is awash in cute kids selling stuff.) Why doughnuts? Because yesterday was National Doughnut Day. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National Doughnut Day. The things you learn from second-graders!

Where did the word “doughnut” come from? Well, according to my beloved Online Etymology Dictionary, it was first recorded about 1809 by Washington Irving, who took a break from managing the first viral book-marketing campaign to describe them as “balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or ‘olykoeks.’” So clearly the first doughnuts were hole-less, and actually resembled nuts. And hog’s fat. Yum.

I’ll take Krispy Kremes, thank you.

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05 Jan A Real Monday at Last

After two holiday weeks (and I do love the holidays, but still) of not knowing for certain what day it was at any given moment, I am now firmly anchored again. It’s Monday. As Pippa sings in Mr. Browning’s famous poem/play Pippa Passes, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

I think I need to put together a fantasy writers group of men, too. Robert Browning, of course. Algernon Charles Swinburne (swoon). E.F. Benson, author of the glorious Lucia books. Who else?

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01 Jan Open House

On New Year’s Day we have an open house from noonish to whenever people stop dropping by. It always features mimosas, one of the Broadcasting Legend™’s justly famed baked hams, and plates and plates of home-baked cookies. People bring family members, children (from grown-up college students home on break to heart-melting six-month-old twins) and pets to play with Cressie and Boo. The men play with the traditional toy train (a toy train will have all adult males down on the floor in five seconds flat—try it). A good time is had by all.

Today was no exception.

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31 Dec Καλό Ποδαρικο!

First FootKalo Podariko, or Happy First-Foot!

The Broadcasting Legend™ occasionally teaches me snippets of Greek, and this is a traditional greeting for New Year’s Eve. As in other countries around the world (notably Scotland, which figures in my own heritage), the first person to set foot in one’s house in a new year can bring either good or bad luck.

The custom goes that immediately after the stroke of midnight, all the lights in the house are turned off and everyone goes outside. Then a particularly lucky person, often the youngest child, steps back into the house. Right foot first, please! All other family members then follow, also entering with the right foot, and all the lights are re-lighted for the new year.

May we all be blessed by good luck in 2009!

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