In praise of plums

Our plums on the tree

One of the very special things about an old house is the garden that comes with it.  Our farmhouse is graced with wonderful fruit trees—some of them more than fifty years old, our neighbors tell us. The star is a gnarled old plum tree that each year bears an abundance of superb plums—more than enough for us and for the flocks of birds that also appreciate its fruit. The windfalls are enjoyed by our chickens, horses and little bulls.

Never happier than when picking his birthday plums

A cool, gray wet summer this year meant we didn’t get much bounty from the other fruit trees or the vegetable garden. But the plum tree more than made up for that by giving us hundreds of perfect fruits. My husband has a particular love for the plum tree, it bears fruit around about his birthday in January and he sees the crop as a gift just for him. He’s very possessive of them!

Happy harvest!

Over the last few years, I’ve learned how to save the plums as jams and preserved in jars (though nothing like the perfect preserves I admire made by the experts). I freeze them too, but our electricity supply can be erratic when storms rage through our valley so I don’t like to risk too many in the freezer!

Stewed with vanilla and cinnamon

The family favorite is plums stewed with sugar, a vanilla pod and a cinnamon quill. “Make enough for the whole year, please,” demands my daughter who likes to eat them with muesli and yogurt for breakfast.

Stacked ready to freeze

I did my best to fill her order, with hubby helping to wash and stone and cut (and snack!).  But in spite of our best efforts, work and writing and everything else got in the way and I didn’t quite manage a year’s supply this time. Preserving fruit is hot, hard, time-consuming work! However there is a still a satisfying number of containers stored away in pantry and freezer. And, yes, I confess, I’m guilty of holding open the cupboard doors and gloating over them!

Plum upside down cake - yum!

We have no idea what variety our plums are—we just enjoy them and hope we’ll be enjoying them for years to come…

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Go gadgets!

Some people go crazy for shoes. I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets. Each year, I treat myself to a new one—something quite different to the ones I already have. I allow myself plenty of time to traipse around a kitchenware store, browsing and marveling at all the gadgets I never knew I needed until I chanced upon them.

It juliennes vegetables

My latest acquisition is this gadget for julienning vegetables. Just slide down the carrot and you have fine, even slices.

Aren't those carrots beautiful?

Here is my julienner in action. I’m entranced with it! My husband not so much. He thought it was a vegetable peeler and scraped his fingers trying to peel potatoes with it. Maybe I should have told him about it. Maybe I didn’t want to hear him asking me did I really need it!

This year I did something I usually never do—made a repeat purchase. This nifty quiche tin was last year’s impulse purchase and I used it so often I began to fear what I would do without it.

The perforated base is the secret

The holes in the base make for wonderfully well-cooked pastry in savory or sweet tarts. When I saw one sitting on a 30 percent off table, I pounced on it. Now that I have two residing in my kitchen, I rest easier.

My favorite cheese and caramelized onion tart with thyme from the garden

Okay, so I might have left this particular cheese and caramelized onion tart in the oven a tad too long and the pastry shrank—but my lunch guests (some writer friends) did not complain. We enjoyed talking about our latest works-in-progress—and of course I showed off my tin with the holes in the base and graciously accepted all compliments.

I bought these Mickey Mouse baking measures at Disney World in Orlando some years back at the Romance Writers of America annual convention—the one that got relocated to Florida when Nashville was flooded.

Childish? Heck no!

 

They’re almost too cute to use! But use them I do, as they are American-sized measures, very useful for when I want to cook from American recipes. (The Australian standard measures are slightly different.)

The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, as look what my darling teenage daughter brought home for me last week. For no reason. She just saw them and knew I’d love them. Of course I love them even more because of her thoughtfulness!

A gift from my sweetheart of a daughter

My love for kitchen gadgets is a fickle one. Sometimes the love affair is over all too soon. The favored ones live in the top drawer. Below is a drawer full of discarded toys that didn’t fulfill their potential in one disappointing way or another. Sorry, gadgets, but it’s not you, it’s me!

Oh, and by the way, I go crazy for shoes too…

My hot, hunky new hero!

 

My new contemporary romance e-book Something About Joe is now live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other e-retailers for the special price of $0.99.

Something About Joe is a reissue of my first published novel (then called Mitchell’s Nanny, published by a small independent publisher.

Even years after the novel was published, readers let me know how much they loved that story of a stressed out single mom who falls in love with her toddler’s new nanny—a hot hunk on a Harley who roars into her heart. When a copy went for a surprising sum at a charity auction at a romance reader’s convention, I began to wonder if Joe and Allison’s story might reach a wider, new audience.

First thing I did when I decided to indie publish it as an e-book, was to change the title from Mitchell’s Nanny (an author often doesn’t have a choice of their book title) to Something About Joe. The second was to commission a lovely cover from the mega-talented designer Kim Killion at at Hot Damn Designs. The third was to update some of the details in the book to make it sit happily in 2012.

Something About Joe is already getting some wonderful feedback from readers—and five-star reviews!

Reviewer and blogger Katrina Whittaker says: “I’d give Something About Joe more than 5 stars if I could. It’s a delightful and heartfelt romance between two unlikely people who complement each other to perfection.”

“Joe is every woman’s fantasy man!” says another reader.

My hero Joe Martin is hot, smart, great with kids and an amazing lover. No wonder heroine Allison Bradley has such trouble fighting her attraction to him. These two really have quite a lot to work through before they get their guaranteed romance novel “happy ever after” ending!

Here’s where to find Something About Joe. If you read it and enjoy it, please let me know!

AMAZON

http://www.amazon.com/Something-About-Joe-ebook/dp/B0076WJSSK

BARNES & NOBLE

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/something-about-joe-kandy-shepherd/1109155752

SMASHWORDS

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130749