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Archive for March, 2012

Thirteen Medicinal Herbs

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When my husband and I worked and lived in London, we weren’t very far from the Chelsea Physic Garden. In hindsight, I wish we’d visited this historical garden, which was founded by The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673. Next time we make it to London, it’s top of the list.

I picked up a copy of Herbal – The Essential Guide to Herbs for Living by Deni Bown at my local library since one of my characters in the historical I’m working on is gifted with herbs and healing.

Thirteen Herbs: History and Use

1. Dill – comes from the Middle East and has been used since Biblical times. Both the seeds and leaves are used in cooking. Extracts of dill are used for calming and toning the digestive system. It acts as a mild diuretic. Dill is said to increase milk-production in mothers.

2. Horseradish – originally found in south-east Europe to western Asia. Horseradish has been cultivated for around 2000 years. The young leaves are good in salads and on sandwiches. The fresh root can be grated. Horseradish acts as a diuretic and speeds the excretion of toxins in a person with arthritis and gout. I love a mix of creamed horseradish and mayonnaise with hot beetroot. Yum!

3. Arnica – Grows in northern temperate regions and the Arctic. Several species grow in America. It has always been a popular remedy for sprains and bruises, but is no longer taken internally since it’s considered unsafe. Some people are allergic to arnica.

4. Mugwort – I hadn’t heard of this one before but liked the name. It’s one of the nine sacred Druidic herbs believed to protect against evil and poisons. It’s bitter to the taste and is a traditional flavoring for eels and carp. No danger of me eating any!

5. Asparagus – has been cultivated since Egyptian times. I love fresh asparagus, and it always says summer to me. It contains asparagine, which is a strong diuretic and gives the urine a strong odour. It contains an acid that kills roundworms, threadworms and flatworms. Herbalists think of asparagus as a cleansing herb for the liver, bowels and kidneys.

6. Marigold – valued as a medicinal herb, a colourant for fabrics, used in foods and cosmetics since ancient Greek times. The petals can be used in cooking as a cheap version of saffron to colour things such as rice. Marigold is a soothing and healing plant. It’s used to heal dry and cracked skin. It’s also used as an antiseptic for eczema, ulcers, nappy rash. Marigold is often used as a companion plant in vegetable gardens, to help get rid of pests.

7. Camphor Tree – this was unknown in the west prior to the 17th century, but was common in Chinese medicine. It’s used in mothballs. Sometimes used in liniments for joint and muscle pain. In Chinese medicine it’s used for skin diseases and wounds.

8. Limes – are native to Asia. They don’t do well in Mediterranean regions and spread to the West Indies. The essential oil is used in perfumes. Lime juice is often added to medicines in south-east Asia. I like limes in cooking, and can’t wait to try Key lime pie when we visit Miami later this year.

9. Coriander – is one of the world’s oldest herbs, and seeds were found in Egyptian tombs. the leaves and the seeds are used in cooking. It’s one of hubby’s favorite herbs. He seems to put it in everything. The tea made from the bruised seeds relieves indigestion and wind.

10. Echinacea – an important medicinal herb to native Americans. They were used to cure infected wounds, poisonous bites and stings. Echinacea is an immune-system stimulant. Some species are becoming rare because of over-collection.

11. Eucalyptus – native to Australia. The essential oil is used as an antiseptic, expectorant and anti-inflammatory. It’s used in coughs, colds, dental hygiene products as well as liniments and soaps. It has a very distinctive scent.

12. Ginkgo – a tree that grows up to 100ft tall. They’re called a botanical dinosaur because the trees are unchanged from those that lived 200 million years ago. They’re sacred in China and Japan and many are grown near temples. Ginkgo nuts are served roasted in Japanese bars. The nuts are prescribed for asthma, coughs, and incontinence. They contain a substance that improves the blood supply to the brain and is used in senile dementia cases.

13. Liquorice – grows wild in Mediterranean regions and south-west Asia. A different variety also grows in central Asia, China and Japan. Liquorice is mentioned in Assyrian medical texts. Liquorice extracts are added to sweets and baked products, ice cream and chewing gum. Liquorice roots contain glycyrrhizin, that has cortisone-like effects. Excessive intake of liquorice can cause side-effects. Not recommended for pregnant women.

Are any of these familiar to you?

Bushwalking in the Waitakere, Auckland

This year I’m trying to do some of the things I’ve thought about doing for years but haven’t got around to for one reason or another. Last week I took time out from writing to do some bushwalking with author friend Tessa Radley. We joined a group walk that left from Cascade Kauri in the Waitakere. I haven’t really visited this area in the west of Auckland before, but managed to do a creditable job of map reading to the meet area.

We were a small group of seven with varying levels of fitness. Once we left the car park—we were informed three bus loads of kids were due to arrive at any moment for a camp—the bush surrounded us, and it became quiet and peaceful.

This area is known for its kauri trees. Although I’ve seen kauri trees before and have visited the largest one in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta, I haven’t seen a forest of them before. The kauri were prized by settlers for their timber and also the gum they produce. Large forested areas were cleared, but luckily this area was turned into a reserve.

Kauri Tree, Cascade Kauri, Auckland  Cascade Kauri Park, Auckland

The walking tracks come in various levels. Some are easy and suitable for pushchairs while others have huge steps that challenged my long legs and paths full of treacherous roots and mud. We took our time, watching birds and identifying various trees, plants and seeds.

Kauri Tree, Auckland  Waitakere Reservoir, Auckland

After about two hours walking, we reached the Waitakere Reservoir where we took a break for lunch. The view was gorgeous from the bottom of the dam—trees and green as far as the eye could see.

Cascade Kauri, Auckland

Our return walk was via a different route. We were almost back and walking on a flat gravel path when I saw a fantail flitting above our heads. “Look at the fantail,” I said to Tessa. I opened my mouth about to tell her she was really close to the edge of the bank when over she went. I grabbed her daypack and stopped her from rolling further down the bank and hitting her head on the trees, but she sprained her ankle and pulled muscles. A terrible end to a great day, but she assures me she’s all right now and is ready to go on another walk next month.

Do you like bushwalking?

Weapons Training and Winter Formals: A deadly combination!

Check this out! Brinda Berry has a new release. Whisper of Memory is book two in the Whispering Woods series.

Whisper of Memory_By Brinda Berry

 

Whisper of Memory

Weapons training and winter formals… a deadly combination

All Mia ever wanted was to fit in at Whispering Woods High. But being a portal-finder who dates a guy from another dimension sort of makes it hard. A month ago her brother disappeared, and agents from the IIA began policing people’s movements through dimensions. She’d trusted Dr. Bleeker from the local university when he’d told her the IIA were the bad guys. But even a girl with an extraordinary ability to sense things can make mistakes.

Now two people are dead, and as a portal gatekeeper for the IIA, Mia needs to find Dr. Bleeker before he hurts anyone else. And her boyfriend Regulus, an Agent for the IIA, carries secrets of his own. Between learning about weaponry, finding the perfect dress for the winter formal, and catching bad guys, who has time to fit in?

Check out the Whisper of Memory book trailer.

Enter the Whisper of Memory contest (trading cards and a Kindle Touch)

Purchase The Waiting Booth, book 1 Whispering Woods series

Purchase Whisper of Memory, book 2 Whispering Woods series

Before her involvement with the Interdimensional Immigration Authorities (IIA), Mia Taylor had only used weapons in video games. Now, she’s required to protect herself. Which weapon does Mia get to practice? She learns how to throw a knife. What would be your weapon of choice?

My answer: I’d like to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Kicks. Punches. My hands would be lethal weapons. I would also have a very intelligent canine companion who could creep up behind my enemies and nip them on the butt to give me an edge.

What would be your weapon of choice?

A Supernatural Caged City: Enter at your peril!

Kenya WrightKenya Wright always knew she would be famous since the ripe old age of six when she sung the Michael Jackson thriller song in her bathroom mirror. She has tried her hand at many things from enlisting in the Navy for six years as a Persian-Farsi linguist to being a nude model at an art university. However, writing has been the only constant love in her life.

Now Kenya is publishing her first book, Fire Baptized, the urban fantasy novel she always wanted to read. This novel is the first book in a series.

Will she succeed? Of course.

For she has been coined The Urban Fantasy Queen, the Super Iconic Writer of this Age, The Lyrical Genius of Our Generation. Granted, these are all terms coined by her, within the private walls of her bathroom as she still sings the Michael Jackson thriller song.

Kenya Wright currently resides in Miami with her three amazing, overactive children, a supportive, gorgeous husband, and three cool black cats that refuse to stop sleeping on Kenya’s head at night.

1. Welcome, Kenya! Give us an elevator pitch for your book Fire Baptized.

Lanore is a Mixbreed that lives in a supernatural caged city. One night, she stumbles upon a murder and catches the killer’s attention. She spends the rest of the novel trying to discover the murderer’s identity.

2. Describe the sights, sounds and scents we might experience if we were to visit Lanore when she’s with other shifters during a normal day.

Sounds: The caged city is called The Santeria Habitat and is based on the Santeria religion. You’ll hear supernaturals chanting spells, drumming wooden drums shaped like hour glasses, and dancing to salsa music.

Sights: The caged city is divided into five districts. Each district is themed after a Santeria god’s colors and favorite items. In Shango District the buildings are painted in the god Shango’s favorite color orange. Even the hookers strolling around in different shades of orange. His favorite wife is Oshun so the eastern part of his district is in her favorite color, gold.

Scents: If you walk near Linderman’s Blood Factory, you’ll be assaulted by the scent of blood. If you’re lucky enough to travel toward Oshun boulevard, you’ll smell roasted meats and honey cakes.

3. How do you go about developing your characters? Do you normally start with a character or the plot?

I always start with the character and then create the plot.

I have a ten page questionnaire that I fill out for each character. Some of the questions ask about the character’s personality and story goals others are fun and ask things like “what would this character have on their book shelf?” or “what would this character have a nightmare about?”.

4. Is there any part of the writing process that you find particularly challenging and why?

I hate the revision process. I always have to cut away parts of the story. I always wish I could just keep it all, but in the end, information dumps and tedious conversation is boring to the reader.

5. What is it you like about writing urban fantasy, and what advice would you give to an aspiring author wanting to write in this genre?

Urban fantasy allows you to combine three genres together; mystery, fantasy, and romance. I love that I can include all of that into one book.

My advice to other authors is to have as many people as possible read your work before you publish it, and actually listen to what they say, whether you like it or not.

6. What do you like doing besides writing and reading? Is it dangerous?

This is so sad, but as soon as I saw this question I thought… sex. That was the most immediate answer that popped in my mind, so I’m going to go with it.

Hmmmm…. Is the sex dangerous?

Well, it is always with my husband and he’s a pretty careful dude. So I would say no. (Although it was that one time on the roof with a toilet plunger, but…. Just joking. Lol!)

Now a question from Kenya for you:

I am always on the hunt for a great book. I just read Angel Fall which was outstanding. I’m wondering if I could get some good 2012 Indie recommendations.

Fire Baptized Virtual Blog Tour

CONTEST:

Answer Kenya’s question above to go into a draw to win a $10 Amazon.com gift certificate. The prize will be drawn at the conclusion of Kenya’s tour. To increase your chances of winning follow the rest of Kenya’s Virtual blog tour.


Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright Blurb:

Since the 1970’s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans.

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment.

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend Meshach and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention.

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?

See a book trailer for Fire Baptized.

Purchase Fire Baptized

Thirteen Famous New Zealanders

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When I first started traveling most people didn’t know much about my home country. Once the Lord of Rings movies came out everyone suddenly knew more about New Zealand. But there’s more to New Zealand than gorgeous scenery. We have produced some very interesting and famous people. My TT this week is about famous New Zealanders.

Thirteen Famous New Zealanders

1. Sir Peter Blake – sailor and navigator. Famous for his lucky red socks during the America’s Cup campaign. Murdered by river pirates while on an environmental research trip on the Amazon River.

2. Sir Edmund Hillary – mountaineer and explorer. First man, along with Sherpa Tenzing, to climb Mt Everest. Famous for the immortal words, “We knocked the bastard off.” He was born in Tuakau, the same town where I lived and went to school. He is on the NZ $5 note.

3. Peter Jackson – film director and actor. Famous for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

4. Bruce McClaren – famous international motor racing driver, engineer and designer. His name is still used in Formula 1 motor racing to this day. Died while testing one of his cars.

5. Herbert J (Burt) Munro – land speed record holder in his motorcycle. His story is told in the movie The Fastest Indian staring Anthony Hopkins.

6. Kate Sheppard – Women suffragette and responsible for helping women to get the vote in New Zealand. New Zealand women were the first in the world to get the vote. She is on the NZ $10 note.

7. Kiri Te Kanawa – Opera singer. She sang at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding.

8. Ernest Rutherford – Scientist who split the atom. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. He is on the NZ $50 note.

9. Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh – a very good mystery writer.

10. Sir Peter Snell – athlete and gold medal winner at the Rome and Tokyo Olympics. World Record holder.

11. Jane Campion – Film director. Her works include The Piano, which starred a young Anna Pacquin.

12. Jean Batten – Aviator. She set many solo flying records such as first direct flight from England to Auckland in 1936.

13. Sir Truby King – Founder of the Plunket Society for babies in New Zealand. Well known as a health reformer and a Director of Child Welfare. He was the first New Zealander to be given a state funeral.

Extra – Richard Pearse – is said to have flown almost nine months earlier than the Wright Brothers.

Okay quiz time – have you heard of any of these famous New Zealanders?

Sources: Wikipedia, New Zealand in History

A Day in the Life of Eve Fawkner, Cat Burglar in Training

Cat Burglar in Training

Today I’m visiting Romancing the Book where Eve Fawkner, my heroine from Cat Burglar in Training is running the show. There’s also a copy of Cat Burglar in Training up for grabs by one commenter. Here’s the link to Romancing the Book.

A Doggy Tale: Greyfriars Bobby

Most visitors to Edinburgh, Scotland can’t resist this heart-warming tale of a loyal Skye terrier who guarded his master’s grave for fourteen years.

Bobby was the watch dog of John Gray, a police constable in Edinburgh. The pair often took walks to Greyfrairs Place, a coffee house owned by Mr. William Ramsey and were a well known sight. John “Jock” Gray developed tuberculosis and died in Feb 1858.

The funeral took place, and Bobby refused to leave the graveside. Dogs weren’t allowed in the Kirkyard, but Bobby stubbornly remained at his master’s side. Locals took pity on the loyal terrier and started to feed him. They continued looking after the tenacious terrier until he died 14 years later in 1872.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland  Headstone, Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

According to records, Bobby had a stumpy tail that constantly wagged and a courageous character. He didn’t like strangers, yet was devoted to family and his master. Disney made a movie about Greyfriars Bobby, which I remember watching as a child, so I was thrilled to visit his statue and headstone during our visit to Edinburgh.

A truly wonderful story.

Have you seen the Disney version of Greyfriars Bobby? Cartoons aside, what is your favorite Disney movie?

Recipe: Chunky Oat Biscuits

Weekend Cooking Meme

Weekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. On Saturday mornings, publish your post — perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favorite food-related quotes.

Make sure to leave a link, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you’ll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.


Chunky Oat Cookies

This is another new recipe that I’ve tried recently from the 30-Minute Vegetarian by Joanna Farrow. My husband likes this biscuit/cookie because it’s not too sweet. I’m quite fond of them too.

CHUNKY OAT COOKIES

125g/4 oz butter, softened

125g/4 oz caster sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

125g/4 oz porridge oats

4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

150g/5 oz plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

175g/6 oz white chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, oats, sunflower seeds, chocolate then add the flour and baking powder. Mix together.

Place dessertspoonfuls of mixture on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool on the tray for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Shelley’s notes:

1. I also added dried cranberries to mine. You could add raisins or other dried fruit if preferred.

2. If you prefer milk or dark chocolate use that instead of the white chocolate.

3. This biscuit really did take 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

What is the Big Deal With Pinterest?

“Oh, no!” I hear you say. “Not another form of social media to soak up my writing time.”

To be honest that’s what I thought when I first heard about Pinterest, and I turned my back and walked away.

Then, I started to see posts about Pinterest in my blog feeds. I read them. “Okay,” I thought. Maybe this Pinterest would be helpful with the new series I’m percolating in my head. I read the Pinterest posts again and requested an invitation.

Here are some of the articles I found useful:

Pinterest, oh, the potential by Nicole M Miller

A Few More Thoughts on Pinterest by Nicole M Miller

3 Ways Authors Can Use Pinterest Guilt Free by Caitlin Muir at Author Media

Pinterest: 13 Things Authors Should Know by Rachelle Gardner, agent

My experience with Pinterest:

1. The actual joining was very easy. During the sign up stage you tick the subjects you’re interested in and Pinterest automatically sets you up with people (friends) who have common interests.

2. I haven’t bothered searching out people to friend since my main purpose in joining Pinterest is to use it as a source of inspiration while I’m percolating new stories.

3. I set up boards for the heroines in my new series, and it has really helped me to think about facets of their characters.

4. I also set up a board for my blog, and it occurred to me that I could do a board for my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. This is something of a work in progress, but I added a link for the board to my book page as an added extra for readers. Cat Burglar in Training Pinterest board. I included images of elements from the book ranging from ball gowns, cars and jewels to peanut butter. The purpose of these boards is to hopefully direct traffic.

5. I was so pleased with the Cat Burglar in Training board that I also started one for my Middlemarch Mates series.

Shelley Munro's Pinterest Boards

 

Here’s the link to all my boards if you’d like to check them out: Shelley Munro’s boards.

What are your thoughts about Pinterest? Have you succumbed? If so, how are you using Pinterest? Is it for writing purposes?

Do not Steal the Daffodils!

Firstly, I’m visiting Brinda Berry today where I discuss peanut butter, writing and my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. I’m also doing a giveaway.

One of the pubs my husband and I worked in while we lived in London was called the Grosvenor Arms. This was a small pub, on Grosvenor Street, a stones throw from Bond Street and right in the heart of Mayfair.

When I was a kid I loved to play monopoly, so it was a thrill to actually live and walk down some of the streets bearing the familiar names from the childhood game.

Grosvenor Square and the American Embassy were a few minutes down the road. Hubby and I would go for walks, even on days that were a bit nasty to get a breath of fresh air. At that time pubs used to close from 2.00pm to 5.30pm, and we had a few hours off.

Shelley, Grosvenor Square, London

 

London during the winter can be very gray. Not only did all the workers wear black, but the sky and buildings were often a sullen gray color, which was depressing for everyone. I loved the spring when the daffodils would pop out of the ground and bring a touch of sunshine with them.

Now and then, during our walks, hubby and I would “liberate” a few daffodils and take them back to our room to keep in a vase. I liked to enjoy the spring indoors too, and hubby indulged me.

One day, we’d just picked a few daffodils and a policeman walked along the footpath. I quickly hid the daffodils under my coat (see said coat – exhibit A – in the photo). He must have seen us, but luckily ignored our transgression and walked on.

The policeman scared us, since it was an unwritten rule not to pick the flowers. We never stole another daffodil, instead saving our hard-earned pennies to buy a bunch at one of the markets. I still love both daffodils, spring and walking though. Some things never change.

Now, in a totally unrelated subject – I’m on the hunt for a cheesy name for the fictional strip club I’m writing about at present. My mind is blank. Does anyone have a suggestion for a name for my strip club?



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