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The Little Black Dress

The subject of clothes has been on my mind recently, since I often think of clothing during the polishing stage of a manuscript. I’m working on Seized & Seduced (Jannike’s story) and Jannike has spent most of the story wearing the same blue tunic and black trews with boots. She does have a set of lacy red lingerie that she picked up during her vacation on Earth, but that’s it when it comes to the clothing stakes. I’ve been thinking she needs an occasion to wear a little black dress.

In Captured & Seduced the women of the Indy get new dresses to wear to a ball. Here’s a short excerpt to give you an idea of what I’m dealing with when it comes to Jannike.

The gowns were the same style although different colors to suit their complexions. They required a base garment beneath to yank in their waists and force their breasts upward.

“What was Ry thinking?” Jannike wheezed. “I can’t breathe. How the devil do I fight in this?”

“I don’t believe you’re meant to fight,” Mogens said in his dry way. “It’s a ball. You’re meant to dance.”

“We can always poke out eyes with our fingernails,” Kaya said cheerfully.

“Or stomp on people’s feet,” Camryn added. “Although maybe one look at our hands will do the trick.” She held them up for inspection. “I scrubbed for half an hour and couldn’t remove the dirt.”

“True. My fingernails might work.” Jannike lifted the skirts of her long hunter green gown to inspect one shoe. “The shoes don’t look robust enough for kicking. I’ll need to stick to stomping.” She scratched the back of her neck, unused to the ornate hairstyle as much as the unaccustomed finery.

“This is a dance,” Ry said sternly from the doorway of the hotel room they’d rented. “There won’t be any need to fight.”

It’s said Coco Chanel was the instigator of the little black dress. In 1926 one of her designs for a simple black dress appeared in Vogue. Vogue said the dress would become a staple in every woman’s wardrobe—a black dress that would fit every occasion and make a woman feel good about herself. Something classic that a woman could dress up or down.

Karl Lagerfeld famously said, “One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a Little Black Dress.”

Follow Shelley Munro’s board Little Black Dress on Pinterest.

I have a Pinterest board for Little Black Dresses, but the truth is I don’t have one of my own. When I was younger, I didn’t suit black. Now that I’m a little older, my skin tones have changed and I do sometimes wear black. I’m on the lookout for a little black dress and maybe one day I’ll find one I adore.

Do you own a little black dress?

The Amazing Onion Mum

Hubby and I went out for lunch with the family to a cafe that overlooked the water. A really pretty spot to while away a Sunday afternoon. Hubby’s brother is a regular at this cafe, and he ordered something called an onion mum. I’d seen the sign in the cafe advertising them and the fact that the cafe had sold 80,033 (plus one more after our order), but I had no idea what they were.

Onion Mum

Behold! This is the onion mum. The onion is sliced, bread-crumbed and deep fried. A warm dip was placed inside. The final verdict – yummy.

Here is a video that shows the method for making an onion mum. It seems that the dish has varying names – onion blossom, onion flower, blooming onion and onion mum (short for chrysanthemum)

Have you eaten or made an onion mum?

Puppy Tales and Newsletters

Bella Bone

The other morning we took Bella for her walk. We usually come across the “regular” walkers and say good morning.

This particular morning, Bella was off the lead and we met up with a local lady and her dog, which is a tiny thing. Bella is about three times bigger. This little dog is long-haired and you can scarcely see his face because he’s all hair. When he runs he looks like a flag fluttering in the wind. Whenever I see him, I put Bella back on the lead because she can be a bit of a bully with smaller dogs. Anyway, hubby said, “Leave her off the lead today.”

Bella behaved beautifully. The little dog just stood there with his nose lifted in the air while Bella sniffed him. She circled the little dog once, and then to my horror, Bella lifted her leg ready to pee on him.

I shouted, “Bella!” and she stopped at my horrified shriek, giving me an affronted look. I started laughing, and luckily, the lady thought it was funny too.

It’s obvious Bella subscribes to the dog rules: If you can’t eat it or play with it then you should pee on it!

Author newsletters:

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research about author discoverability and newsletters recently. Many of the “experts” suggest a pop-up for a newsletter signup, one that appears the second someone clicks onto a site. I find them annoying and usually click away from the site.

What do you think about pop-up ads on a website or blog?

Dreams of Africa…

Kenya is a country of color. There’s the red of Masai warriors, the purple of the Jacaranda trees, which were in flower when we were there, the pink of flamingos en masse, the green of the mountains, the mishmash of brightness at the markets and the dry expanse of the National Parks.

Some of my favorite all-time memories occurred in Kenya.

Black Cab, Nairobi, Kenya

We hired a black taxi cab to visit the giraffe reserve and Karen Blixen’s house.

Hubby Feeding Giraffes

Browns and ginger are prevalent here! Hubby feeding the giraffes.

Shelley Feeding a Giraffe

More browns with a touch of red. Me feeding a giraffe. Check out that tongue!

Karen Blixen House

The greens of the gardens and trees and the sienna of the brick. Karen Blixen’s house!

Handsome Masaii Men

The red of the apparel. Handsome Masai men!

Pink flamingos

Pink flamingos!

Lion Snooze

Brown and green. A pride of lions having a midday snooze.

As I said, Kenya holds lots of great memories for me. I can still feel the rasp of that giraffe’s tongue. They were amazing and it was the coolest thing seeing different types of giraffes. I’ve had a thing for giraffes ever since.

What is one fun memory from your past that has really stuck with you?

Ice Blocks and Electrical Goods

We’ve had another hot day here in New Zealand. The weather people keep saying it’s going to rain but it hasn’t happened yet. Bella has taken to sleeping on the tiles at the front door (which is generally open) or she sleeps upside down with all her legs sticking in the air.

Bella and her ice block

In the middle of the day we’ve been giving her an ice block to help her cool down. I blogged about ice blocks for dogs a few years ago. You can find the dog ice block post here.

My sister murders electrical appliances. It’s becoming a family joke. She’ll purchase a phone or a television or a computer and something goes wrong with it. The battery dies, it blows up or mysteriously stops working. She’s never rough with her gadgets, but for some reason they whimper and die after living at her house.

Last year my husband purchased a new iPad, and he gave his old one to my sister. She hadn’t used it until this week when her Android tablet stopped charging without warning.

She rang me up and said, “My tablet has stopped working. I’ve charged the ipad. That seems to be working, and I’ve turned it on but now I can’t turn it off. How do I turn it off?”

I said, “You push the off button.”,

“I’ve done that.”

“Oh,” I said, and I was thinking her electrical voodoo has struck again. “Well, you can let it turn off on its own.”

“All I want is a gadget to read my books on,” my sister said.

So I talked her through how to delete hubby’s books and get her books onto the iPad. The next problem was a wi-fi connection because that isn’t working either at my sister’s place. I tell you – she’s hell on anything related to a gadget or appliance. Their phone is very unpredictable too!

Today she rang me to let me know she’d managed to download all her books. The off button still wasn’t working but the ipad flicks off after five minutes. She’s a happy camper.

We’ve decided I need to write a character who suffers from the same malady as my sister, and I think I have just the heroine. I feel sorry for her now! Smile

Do you have problems like my sister with gadgets? Do you know anyone else with the same problem?

Revive Raw Salad

I visited one of the Revive restaurants in Auckland last week and had this salad as part of my lunch. It was delicious. On my arrival home, I checked the Revive cookbook I had and was delighted to find the recipe for the salad I’d enjoyed so much.

Revive Raw Salad

Ingredients:

2 medium beetroot

4 carrots

1/2 cup sultanas

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

fresh mint to garnish

Orange Dressing:

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons honey

juice of 1 orange

 

Method:

1. Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour on some boiling water.

2. Grate the carrot and the beetroot.

3. Mix all the dressing ingredients together.

4. Drain the water off the sultanas. Add these plus the sunflower seeds to the carrot/beetroot mix.

5. Pour over the dressing, combine and serve.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. I think when I make this recipe again I’ll replace the orange with lemon because I like a less sweet flavor.

2. I reduced the amount of honey and salt in my dressing.

Do you have a favorite salad recipe?

Captain Cook’s Cottage

During our recent visit to Melbourne, Australia we visited Captain Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy Gardens. This cottage, built in 1755,  is the oldest building in Australia, and although it is called Captain Cook’s cottage, the building was actually owned by his parents. It is thought that James Cook did spend some time there during his holidays.

The cottage originally stood in Yorkshire, and when it came up for sale in 1934 Sir Russell Grimwade purchased the building. The brick cottage was dismantled, each brick labeled and shipped to Australia. On arrival, the cottage was reassembled.

These days the cottage is a tourist attraction with the rooms furnished in a typical style. The cottage is surrounded by a cottage garden containing flowers and vegetables.

Cooks Cottage Notice

Cooks Cottage

The cute exterior.

Cottage Garden

Part of the cottage garden.

Cooks Cottage Lounge

Ground floor interior. Lounge room.

Cook Cottage Bedroom

Parents’ bedroom, off the lounge. At night the curtains would be pulled for privacy.

About Captain Cook

Click to enlarge.

Cook Brass

A brass of  Cook, out in the garden

Captain Cook is an important part of New Zealand and Australian history. He visited New Zealand three times, charted much of our coast line and named many of the coastal landmarks. He also discovered and charted the Australian east coast and named it New South Wales.

If you’re ever in Melbourne Cook’s cottage is an interesting place to visit. I recommend it. Smile 

Do you enjoy visiting historical houses? Do you have a favorite?

Egypt: Worthy of a Painting!

We visited Egypt quite a few years ago now and had a brilliant time. Egypt is a country full of fascinating history. Mummies. I gravitate to them in museums! But I was also taken by the scenery. The Nile, which is like a backbone, provides a lifeline for the people living along its banks. They rely on the water in the river to irrigate their crops and to feed their animals.

There is a distinct band of green on both sides of the river. Farther away, the dryness of the desert takes over. It makes for an interesting photo—one of big contrasts.

Cruising the Nile, Egypt 

This is the view we saw from our boat as we sailed down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. Isn’t it amazing? Almost like a painting, but I can assure you this is real.

I have a new release – a boxed set of my contemporary romances called Ain’t Misbehaving.

ShelleyMunro_Ain'tMisbehaving3D_200px

The boxed set contains:

Lovers at Last

One Night of Misbehavior

Blindside

Fringe Benefits

Wild Child

So far this set is available at All Romance ebooks. It should be available at other online retailers very soon.

Have you been to Egypt? Do mummies fascinate you? And a question about boxed sets – do you read all the books contained in a boxed set or do you just read the ones that interest you?

The Otago Peninsula – World Famous!

On Christmas day we spent time in Port Chalmers. The sail away was beautiful with fine weather – very different from the last time we were there when the peninsula was covered with fog and visibility was nil!

The scenery was gorgeous – blue skies and this group of people cheering and waving as the cruise ship sailed past.

Farewell_PortChalmers

This is me seeing the sights and waving back…

Shelley_PortChalmers

You get an idea of the scenery. New Zealand really is pretty. I hope you all get an opportunity to visit one day.

The Otago peninsula is special because it’s the only mainland colony of the Royal Albatross. Hubby took some awesome long range photos of the albatross on their nesting sites.

Albatros Colony

An albatross flies for long distances across the seas and oceans, but they always return to the same place and the same partner. Isn’t that romantic?

Albatros Love

A matched pair…yes, I think that’s romantic. Smile

At the farthest point of the peninsula there is a lighthouse, shown below.

Lighthouse

The endangered yellow-eyed penguin also makes its home on the Otago peninsula, although we didn’t see any of those.

Is New Zealand on your bucket list? As me some questions or tell me where you’d like to visit first when you come.

Recipe: Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Dip

I made this recipe for my husband’s birthday last week. It was a trial of a new recipe, and the end result was delicious.

Blue Cheese Caramelised Onion Dip

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Dip

This recipe was taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Italian cookbook. As usual, I didn’t have the right ingredients to hand, so I improvised.

Ingredients:

20 grams (3/4 ounce) butter

1 large brown onion – diced roughly

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

90 grams (3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

3/4 cup (180 grams) creme fraiche

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Method:

1. Melt the butter and cook the onion until softened.

2. Add the brown sugar and the vinegar to the onion and continue to cook over a low heat until the onion begins to caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes.

3. Add the crumbled cheese and the creme fraiche and stir until the mixture is smooth.

4. Cool and refrigerate until well-chilled.

5. Stir in the parsley and serve with corn chips, crackers or your favorite savory biscuits.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. I substituted thick Greek yoghurt (low fat) for the creme fraiche.

2. My onion was on the small side, so I reduced both the sugar and vinegar to 1 tablespoon each.

3. I added a little extra blue cheese since I adore the stuff.

Conclusion: This recipe is a keeper! Do you have a favorite dip recipe that you make on a regular basis?