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Archive for November, 2012

MichelAngelo’s David

Florence, River Arno

A view of Florence and the Arno River. Love the buildings.

4FlorenceP1080417

I spent ages staring at David when we visited The Accademia in Florence. I viewed him from all angles. Michelangelo’s David is beautiful to look at even though he’s out of proportion.

Michelangelo carved David out of a single block of marble from the Carrara mountains. The marble was gifted to him. David is continually monitored because the leg bearing most of his weight is a weak point and one day he’ll break.

I really like him.

What do you think?

Tipperary – You’ve Come a Long Way!

Tipperary Ireland

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this sign during our visit to Ireland. Do you remember the wartime song – It’s A Long Way to Tipperary? This is the place they were singing about. It was green and quiet. I loved exploring Ireland. It felt like home because parts of the country reminded me of New Zealand.

And a random question for you – do you have Irish ancestry? I do on my father’s side of the family.

Vegetarian Recipe: Carrot and Mushroom Loaf

Last week I mentioned a surplus of carrots in our vegetable plot. Some of them had turned woody, although they were fine when grated. Right, I thought. It’s time to make a carrot and mushroom loaf. As it happened we had visitors for dinner. They were all carnivores, but they enjoyed a slice of loaf on the side. This recipe comes from Alison Holst’s Meals Without Meat book, which is a good basic reference for beginners.

Carrot and Mushroom Loaf

My loaf differs in that I added extra mushrooms. I love mushrooms in everything!

Carrot and Mushroom Loaf

Ingredients:

1 medium onion

1 – 2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons oil

a good handful of mushrooms (200 grams) I used about 12 button mushrooms

1 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

black pepper

3 cups grated carrot

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used fresh since that’s all I had on hand)

1/2 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

Topping:

2 Tablespoons dry breadcrumbs (used fresh again)

2 Tablespoons grated cheese

paprika

Method:

  1. Chop the onion and garlic finely and cook in the oil until soft.
  2. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until softened.
  3. Place these in a bowl and add the basil, thyme, salt, pepper, grated carrot, breadcrumbs, grated cheese.
  4. Beat the eggs and milk together and add to bowl. Mix well.
  5. Place in a well greased tin and smooth out. I usually line my tin with baking paper.
  6. Sprinkle the topping ingredients – breadcrumbs, cheese and paprika – on top of loaf.
  7. Cover tin with foil and bake at 180C (350F) for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes.

Notes:

  1. I used fresh bread crumbs rather than dried ones and it didn’t seem to matter.
  2. My oven cooks quickly so I didn’t cook my loaf as long as the recipe said. The cooked loaf should be firm in the center when pressed with your fingers.
  3. I served my loaf with green vegetables and a baked potato.
  4. This loaf also tastes good cold and served with salad.
  5. This is an excellent recipe for disguising vegetables when trying to please fussy eaters! Winking smile
Shopping at the Grand Bazaar

These boots caught my eye during a wander through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. I think they’d be perfect for winter. Pretty and comfortable.

Istanbul Bazaar

What do you think? Would they work with your wardrobe?

A Visit to the Barcelona Market

I love markets. The vibrant colors. The different products. The scents and the whole tactile experience. The little samples stallholders hand out. The freshness of it all.

Barcelona has a brilliant market, just off La Rambla, the wide thoroughfare in the central city. In the mornings, it’s the domain of locals who stop by to fill their shopping carts with fresh produce or who linger at one of the stalls serving coffee and food. During the afternoon the market teams with tourists. It’s the time for snacks of fresh fruit, tapas, and lots of visitors, like me, take photos.

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Do you like markets too? Do you have a favorite?

Doing The Pisa Dance

Most tourists who visit Pisa can’t resist taking a photo that looks as if they’re holding up the leaning tower or pushing it over. We have some of those photos from our last visit. During this visit we couldn’t resist taking photos of people taking photos.

I give you…

The Pisa Dance!

The Pisa Dance

Gargoyles. I have a fascination with them, especially since they’re not common in New Zealand. Their purpose is to shoot water off a roof and away from the side of a building. In other words, a gargoyle is a fancy water spout.

They’re quite common on churches throughout England and Europe. My fascination means I’m always gawking up at the carvings and strange figures decorating the old buildings. Here are two we saw on the cathedral in Pisa.

Gargoyle Pisa Pisa_gargoyles

The bottom one isn’t a true gargoyle, but it’s certainly interesting with his sly expression and his tail.

Do you think gargoyles (i.e. gargoyle shapeshifters) make good heroes in romance novels? Or do you find the idea of a stone man a bit icky?

Comfort Food Recipe — Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This week the weather has been cool here in New Zealand, and when I checked out the contents of our fridge, I decided to turn to comfort food – vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” ~ Oscar Wilde

This recipe comes from Alison Holst’s Meals Without Meat and I’ve given it my own twist.

Recipe:

Filling

2 large onions

2 Tablespoons of butter or oil

1 red or green capsicum

8 button mushrooms. (I used some brown mushrooms too)

3 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vegetable stock

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

2 Tablespoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon soya sauce

1 1/2 water

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 can of kidney beans 440 grams

Topping

6 potatoes medium size

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup grated cheese

milk

1. Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water. Once cooked drain, add butter, a dash of milk and mash. Add half of the grated cheese.

2. Dice the onions and slice the mushrooms and fry in the oil/butter until golden brown. Add the sliced capsicum then add the flour. Stir until the flour has browned slightly. Add the stock, basil, oregano, paprika, parsley and soya sauce. Add the water and tomato paste and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the kidney beans. Check the seasoning and add salt to taste. Place in a baking dish.

3. Spread the mashed potato over the top and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

4. Cook in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes at 180 C/350 F. The top should be golden brown.

5. Serve with green vegetables such as brussel sprouts, beans, peas or broccoli and a nice glass of wine Winking smile

What comfort foods do you turn to when the weather turns cool?

13 Things That Inspired JL Hilton to Write the Stellarnet Series

I’d like to welcome my guest today—J.L. Hilton. J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012). Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at JLHilton.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART. Over to JL!

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13 Things That Inspired JL Hilton to Write the Stellarnet Series

I didn’t plan to write a novel. Before May 2009, I devoted most of my time to homeschooling my children, volunteering, and designing jewelry. But thirteen things bubbled in the cauldron of my noggin and coalesced into Stellarnet Rebel, the first book of the Stellarnet Series, and from there came the sequel, Stellarnet Prince, released this week by Carina Press.

1) All five seasons of Babylon 5. G’kar is my most-est best-est favorite-est character ever. Just when you think he couldn’t get any more awesome than busting out of his chains after being tortured and losing an eye, he also helps King Fricking Arthur fight off a gang of space thugs.

2) I’m a Browncoat – a fan of Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly and the movie Serenity. In 2006, I coordinated the first charity screening of Serenityin my city, as part of the Can’t Stop the Serenity (http://www.cantstoptheserenity.com/) program to benefit Equality Now. I’ve been involved in the event ever since, and this year am a global sponsor. (http://www.cantstoptheserenity.com/sponsors/)

3) Technology. I love the Internet, smartphones and video games.

4) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. One of my favorite books of all time. I also listen to the musical. A lot.

5) Deadwood is another favorite TV show. I sometimes refer to Asteria Colony in my books as a “cyber Deadwood” on the edge of settled space, populated with criminals, outcasts, Net whores and obsessive online gamers (substitute those for the 19th century opium addicts, I reckon).

6) V for Vendetta. The character V is one of several inspirations for Duin, the titular character inStellarnet Rebel. (I could probably make a whole ‘nother list of thirteen inspirations for Duin, including Ben Franklin, Doc Brown, Madeye Moody and the crazy Irishman from Braveheart.)

7) My aliens known as Glin are based on dolphins. The first time I saw dolphins in real life was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. They made me cry, they were so beautiful. Some biologists think that they were land critters who returned to the water, and that idea fascinated me. Also, like the Glin, dolphins have incredible hearing and natural healing abilities.

8) The BBC miniseries North and South, based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel.

9) The first season of the BBC Robin HoodTV series. This, along with North and South, led to Richard Armitage being one of the inspirations for my Stellarnet character Belloc, and Lucy Griffiths being an inspiration for the heroine, Genevieve O’Riordan.

10) Twilight – in a sort of backwards way. While thrilled for everyone who enjoys paranormal romance, it’s just not my thing and I’m sick of hearing about vampires. I began writing the Stellarnet Series as much for myself as for readers – a this is what I want to read sort of thing.

11) Traditional Irish music. A study of Irish culture, history and politics has been a life-long hobby of mine.

12) Alex Steffen’s article “Science Fiction, Futurism and the Failure of the Will to Imagine.” (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/001065.html) He quotes author Bruce Sterling: "There’s still plenty of space opera out there, with heroes running around in galactic Disneylands, but almost no one is addressing the nature of the 21st Century, or putting together, like, genuinely novel visions of life in the year 2050."

13) Finally, in May 2009, I awoke from a dream in which an interstellar news blogger met an alien freedom-fighter in the center of a space colony. From that one dream, I had a whole story that wanted to get out of my head.

Have you ever had an amazing dream, or one that seemed real? "I’ll sleep on it" is a common expression. Do you ever solve problems or get ideas in your dreams?


2012-jen

Promo info

Author website: www.JLHilton.com
Book website: www.StellarnetSeries.com
Publisher website: www.CarinaPress.com
Buy link: http://www.StellarnetSeries.com/shop/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/J.L.Hilton.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorJLHilton
deviantART: http://jlhilton.deviantart.com/
Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5344538.J_L_Hilton


Stellarnet

Blurb:

An otherworldly love. Human blogger Genny O’Riordan shares two alien lovers: Duin, a leader of the Uprising, and Belloc, the only surviving member of the reviled Glin royal family. Their relationship has inspired millions of followers–and incited vicious anti-alien attacks.

 
A planet at risk. A Stellarnet obsessed with all things alien brings kidnappers, sex traffickers and environmental exploitation to Glin. Without weapons or communications technology, the planet cannot be defended. Glin will be ravaged and raided until nothing remains.

A struggle for truth. On Earth, Duin discovers a secret that could spur another rebellion, while on Glin, Belloc’s true identity could endanger their family and everything they’ve fought for. Have the Glin found true allies in humanity, or an even more deadly foe?

Purchase Stellarnet Rebel

JL is running a contest. Fill out the rafflecopter below to enter the draw.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Look at that Tower. It’s Leaning!

Pisa_1

When you’re growing up you hear about the leaning tower in Pisa. You’ve probably seen pictures of the bell tower, but actually walking through the archway and seeing it in person is a “wow” moment. We’ve visited before when we were in our early twenties, yet it was just as magical seeing it again.

Pisa

The buildings are (from left to right) Baptistry, Cathedral, Bell Tower. The land on which they’re built is unstable and the bell tower started to lean as soon as it was built in 1173. This visit we didn’t have time to climb the tower, which is 294 steps, but last time we did puff our way to the top. At the time there were no railings and I worried about slipping on the marble and falling off the edge. The distinct tilt added to the sensation of unease!

Pisa_Shelley 

And here’s another photo of me standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Our visit took place early in the morning and there weren’t many people. By the time we left the crowds were starting to arrive and the rain was coming down. The young boys selling umbrellas made a killing. We’re the proud owners of a souvenir Pisa umbrella. We had a fun visit.

Eze–Exploring a French Medieval Village

The pretty medieval village of Eze in France is a bustling place. While in the past people chose to live in this isolated village, these days it’s full of tourists. They scurry down the narrow, cobblestone lanes, explore the myriad art galleries and linger in the restaurants and bars. I know because I was one of them!

Eze_FranceEze_France Eze_ArtistGalleries Eze_narrow streets 

The village seems to cling to the top of the hill and reminded me of an eagle’s eyrie. Impractical, I thought, but the truth is the high elevation gave the locals warning and protection from pirates who struck up and down the coast.

We traveled from Monaco via bus, along winding, narrow roads that barely seemed wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other. A warning to those who don’t like heights – make sure to take an aisle seat on the bus. For those who don’t mind, the views are incredible.

Besides shopping, there’s a church to explore plus the remains of a castle at the very top of the village. The bare ground around the ruins has been planted with cacti and succulents. It’s a pleasant place to wander and admire the view.

Eze_view from succulent gardens

Eze_Shelley

After exploring, we relaxed with a glass of wine and snacked on olives drizzled with a basil-flavored olive oil. Delicious! The perfect end to a lovely day.