What’s On the Menu?

What's On the MenuHow many times have you been writing brilliantly without pause only to stumble over the correct spelling of the word hors d’ouevre? I have to check every time I use it. This time, however, it was pad thai that sent me to the Internet not so much for a spell check but to verify whether or not the ‘T’ in thai was capitalized.

My search led me to UC Style: How to capitalize, spell, punctuate food, culinary terms, where I found the answer to the pad thai question. This is perfect for an author who loves to feed her characters (Edible Fiction). I’m definitely stocking my Writing Toolbox with this important contribution to The Weight of Words.

I hope you will find this site as helpful as I did.

Bon appetite!

The Sweet Side of Bitter

The Sweet Side of Bitter 3John Welles and his two best friends, Sam Feldman and Claude Willoughby, formed a strong friendship during their two years of pre-med studies. By 1927, when they began studying medicine in earnest, they were inseparable despite the differences in their personalities. It was their closeness that allowed John to pick up on the problems with Claude’s family life that his friend tried to keep hidden. After the boys naively crossed the line by interfering with Claude’s father’s private business, the once subtle problems exploded to the surface. John felt powerless to help Claude.

Worsening the issue was J.D. Willoughby, Claude’s Father, who infuriated John by maintaining a polished veneer on the situation in an effort to keep up appearances. J.D. Willoughby was the type of man who didn’t even flinch when he realized John and Sam overheard him yelling threats at Claude. Instead, he ushered Claude’s friends to the kitchen, treating them like ignorant children and distracting them with freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

The Sweet Side of Bitter 2

The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene. The sinfully rich, delicious baked good is a cut above a regular cinnamon roll with the inclusion of bourbon, golden raisins, and Zante currants; it’s just the sort of dessert J.D. Willoughby would expect to be served in his home. They are so luscious, I hesitated to attach them to such a despicable character. I trust J.D’s reputation won’t negatively influence your opinion of the recipe.


Willoughby Family Recipe for Cinnamon Rolls


2 ¼ t yeast (1 – ¼ oz. package)

½ c warm water (110° – 120° F)

½ c scalded milk

¼ c sugar (I used raw)

⅓ c unsalted butter, melted

1 t sea salt

1 egg

1 t pure vanilla extract

3 ½ – 4 c flour


½ c unsalted butter, melted

¾ c sugar (I used raw)

2 T cinnamon

2 T bourbon

1 t vanilla

¼ c golden raisins

¼ c Zante currants

½ c finely chopped walnuts

Butter and sugar to prepare a 9 X 13 baking dish


4 T unsalted butter, melted

2 c powdered sugar

1 t vanilla

3 – 6 T freshly squeezed and strained orange juice

1 t orange zest

The Sweet Side of Bitter

In a small glass bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the scalded milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, vanilla, and egg. Add two cups of flour and mix until it is smooth. Add the yeast/water mixture. Add another 1 ½ cups of flour until the dough is easy to handle. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 – 10 minutes. This is where you may need to add the additional ½ c of flour a little at a time as you knead. The dough should not be overly sticky on your hands. Place in a large, well-greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Place the golden raisins, Zante currants, bourbon, and vanilla in a small glass bowl. Toss the fruit to coat with the liquid, cover, and set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out on a floured surface into a 15 X 10-inch rectangle. Spread half of the melted butter on the surface of the dough. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough. Sprinkle the raisin/currant/bourbon mixture and any remaining liquid over the dough. Sprinkle the walnuts over the dough. Begin with the 15-inch side and roll up the dough. Seal the long edge by pinching shut. Prepare a 9 X 13-inch baking dish by buttering the bottom and sprinkling it with sugar until coated. Cut the rolled up dough into 12 slices and place evenly in the buttered/sugared baking dish spiraled side up. Brush the sides and tops of the slices with the remaining melted butter. Let rise until double, approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the rolls for 30 minutes or until nicely browned. While the rolls are cooling, mix the melted butter, vanilla, orange zest, and powdered sugar with 3 T of orange juice. Stir until smooth, adding 1 T of juice at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Drizzle the glaze over the slightly warm rolls.

Serve immediately. These reheat well in the microwave for 10 – 15 seconds.

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 12

Writer's Soul 12Today’s Writer’s Soul blog post is going to be a bit like tap dancing on a landmine.  Per the suggestion in Page After Page, I’m going to explore my parent’s influence on my writing life. When I first read the exercise, I thought to myself, “There isn’t enough red wine in the entire world to make me do this, especially when both parents follow my blog.” Yet here we are.

I don’t believe either of my parents ever aspired to be writers, although I do remember mom jotting down an occasional poem during my childhood. That’s okay because neither resisted the idea of writing or being an artist of any kind.

The funny thing is I don’t really consider either of them to be readers. Well, not on the same level that I hoard and consume books anyway. Mom admits that she came to pleasure reading as an adult when she read The Wind in the Willows. This still surprises me because she was always reading to me and my brother when we were little. In fact, I credit Mom with instilling in me a love for books as I mentioned before.  (My Love Affair With Books)

I only remember my Dad reading Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days and John Irving’s The World According to Garp. Otherwise, my only memories of Dad reading were the gigantic manuals and/or books he studied when testing to make rank on the police force.

To what degree did my parents influence my writing? Mom is extremely creative in areas of decorating, cooking, hosting, and crafting. Perhaps I’m drawing on these genes when I write. From Dad I learned that whatever I do should be done well and completed. I mention the completion aspect because he has always complained that Mom has thousands of dollars of unfinished crafts and too many tea sets. I think Dad doesn’t understand that creativity is ongoing.

Both of my parents are hard workers, and while Dad would probably say that he did what he wanted to in life, Mom would wistfully admit that there were things she would have liked to have done and didn’t. I know she wanted to own a bed and breakfast or tearoom.  Her dreaming is what prompts me to keep writing even when things seem hopeless and the self-doubts arise. Dad’s successful career causes me to worry about making money at writing. I believe this stems from the fact that he conveyed to me and my brother the need to get jobs that supported ourselves but didn’t necessarily allow us to follow our dreams. This is the type of influence one would expect from a provider.

With these perspectives on working and following dreams in mind, I am better able to understand why I vacillate between the thoughts of “Will I make any money at this or am I just chasing a pipe dream” and “I really want to write and be published more than any other creative endeavor.” There’s a lot of pressure that comes with such thoughts, but as an adult, I’ll own them.

If Mom and Dad aren’t the driving force behind my writing, who is? The first people to come to mind are the countless writers behind the Little Golden Books Mom bought for me. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and L.M. Montgomery float to the surface of my memory. I could go on forever listing all of the authors and books I discovered through the years, but I’ll just say that my love of writing was birthed from my love of reading an excellent story.

What makes a great story? Great words. I admit, I’ve been caught reading with my lips moving, but if people would step closer and lean in, they would hear me reading softly to myself. When a passage is well written, it begs to be read aloud. My friend, Eleni Byrnes, would understand my obsession with words. She keeps a notebook of words she likes as she comes across them. It’s why she writes so well.

So, I’ll start with Eleni in my writing family tree and make her a sister. I’ll add Billie Letts and Wally Lamb as grandparents because they are excellent story tellers, and I’m all about the story. Isabel Allende will be my exotic aunt, and David Mitchell and David Liss my quirky cousins. Tim Gautreaux and Charles Frazier are favorite uncles.

Again, there are too many brilliant authors who have influenced my writing, so I’ll direct you to my Authors I Admire board on Pinterest and Goodreads to see who they are. Together, they make up my writing family tree and neighborhood.

I encourage everyone to explore who influences their writing or chosen art form. You’ll discover an extended family you never even knew you had.

Write Happy!

Woman in Gold – Movie Review

I’m not a fan of Ryan Reynolds especially after watching the disaster that was The Green Lantern and some piece of tripe he starred in with Jason Bateman. In fact, I don’t care for his acting at all, and I’m being generous when I call it acting. Helen Mirren, on the other hand, is brilliant, fabulous, and classy even if the movie she stars in is horrible and disintegrates around her.

When I saw that Ryan Reynolds had been graciously cast opposite Helen Mirren in the movie Woman in Gold, I cringed wondering if even she could carry the dead weight of Reynold’s flat acting and bleating voice. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she didn’t have to.

Woman in GoldWoman in Gold tells the story of Maria Altmann, a young Jewish woman who fled Austria with her husband during World War II. Sixty years after her forced exile, Maria seeks the help of Attorney Randy Schoenberg to reclaim the famous Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. Maria and Randy take the battle all the way to the US Supreme Court with a slowly building intensity that often left me clenching my teeth as I awaited the outcome of each painful step. I won’t spoil the ending, but rather, I’ll say this is one movie that should not be missed.

What I will focus on is the impression the movie left upon me. It is hard to imagine a regime so evil that it would perfect the practice of hatred to the level that the Nazis did. And yet, one can hardly turn on the news or surf the Internet without seeing this same type of barbarism taking place today all over the world. God forgive us that we are allowing it to happen again.

Equally chilling is the arrogance and indifference with which these acts of terror are met. Of course, it is absolutely criminal that personal property is stolen, but more important are the lives that are being destroyed. As Helen Mirren portraying Maria Altmann said regarding the restitution of the stolen art, it will not bring them back. Still, it is a small step toward acknowledging and righting the wrongs committed.

Then the problem becomes how do we stop the crimes that are occurring now as we make restitution for the past while preventing the evil from raising its ugly head in our future? I believe the answer lies within each person on a daily basis. What will you chose to do today? Acts of good or deeds of evil?

Woman in Gold 2

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