I am happy to have as my guest today Author Diana Rubino. She writes Historical Fiction. Be sure to check out her books. Remember books make great gifts. Sit back and enjoy reading about one of the Christmas traditional treats she learned from her grandmother.
Can an Italian sweatshop worker and an Irish cop fall in love on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1894? The answer is a big YES, and once they’re enjoying wedded bliss in their Greenwich Village brownstone, they spend their first Christmas together feasting on her Strufoli! (Italian for honey balls).
In FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET it’s 1894 on New York’s Lower East Side. Irish cop Tom McGlory and Italian immigrant Vita Caputo fall in love despite their different upbringings. They know their love can survive poverty, hatred, and corruption.
Here’s Vita’s Honey Balls recipe:
When my grandparents came from Naples and landed at Ellis Island in the early 1900s they brought many recipes with them, but only in their heads. No one brought cookbooks or recipes along with their possessions. A favorite Christmas treat is Struffoli, better known as Honey Balls. One Christmas when I was a kid, I watched my grandmother make them and scribbled down the ingredients as she sifted and mixed and baked and drizzled. Here’s an accurate recipe in English!
•2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
•1 large lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•1/2 large orange, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•3 tablespoons sugar
•1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
•3 large eggs
•1 tablespoon white wine, such as pinot grigio
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•Canola oil, for frying
•1 cup honey
•1/2 cup sugar
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted (see Cook’s Note)
•Vegetable oil cooking spray
•Sugar sprinkles, for decoration
•Powdered sugar for dusting, optional
For dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 2 cups of flour, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, wine, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture forms into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut each piece into 1/2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip of pastry into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball the size of a hazelnut. Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don’t have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes.). In batches, fry the dough until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. (The rested and quartered dough can also be rolled on a floured work surface into 1/2-inch thick logs and cut into equal-sized 1/2-inch pieces. The dough pieces can then be rolled into small balls and fried as above).
In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the fried dough and hazelnuts and stir until coated in the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan for 2 minutes.
Spray the outside of a small, straight-sided water glass with vegetable oil cooking spray and place in the center of a round platter. Using a spoon or damp hands, arrange struffoli and hazelnuts around the glass to form a wreath shape. Drizzle remaining honey mixture over the struffoli. Allow to set for 2 hours (can be made 1 day in advance). Decorate with sprinkles and dust with powdered sugar.
Remove the glass from the center of the platter and serve.
Note: To toast the hazelnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven 8 to 10 minutes. Cool before using.
Total Time: 4 hr 12 min
Prep: 1 hr 30 min
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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We are approaching one of my favorite holidays. Although this year will be celebrated quite differently for us. No large gatherings of family and friends, but a scaled back version is on tap for us, and for many I know.
To say that 2020 has been one of the strangest years I’ve ever experienced, is an understatement. It started with the loss of several family members, moved on to the pandemic, and added a few wildfires that burned many acres and structures in our state. One fire alone burned more than 195,000 acres. That was only one of eight fires all burning at the same time. The firefighters were heroic trying to save homes while many had their own homes burn to the ground. They definitely belong on my thankful list. They had endless weeks of intense heat and windy conditions that fueled the fires out of control.
All in all, I still have much to be thankful for. I’m alive to utter the words is a great place to start. I have a few friends who have survived the virus and it was no easy road for them. I can stay in touch with family and friends, via the internet, texts, and Zoom. I’ve celebrated birthdays that way too. My own included. (I’ve decided not to add this year to my age since I didn’t get to use much of it.) Thanksgiving will be a Zoom holiday too. Because being careful today, means the possibility of sharing special occasions next year together. That’s where hope comes in. Hope keeps me stable when the circumstances around me say something different.
I’ve learned to wear a mask and be grateful for the small contraption that keeps me and you safe when I wear it. It’s amazing how much I notice peoples eyes now. Their eyes can tell you so much about who they are. They are the window to the soul as they say and they give character to a person’s face. I’ve learned I can see a person’s smile by their eyes even when I can’t see their mouth.
As I sit down this year to give thanks, I want to remember all the wonderful things that have made this time tolerable. Sons who stopped by wearing a mask and sitting six feet away from us. Their way of saying they love us. Add to them grandkids in masks, and friends every week on Zoom. And of course there is the usual reasons for gratitude like food on the table, a roof over my heard, and most importantly the love of my husband. I can say that the year has literally zoomed by. Pardon my pun.
Life is really quite precious. I may be doing it differently right now, but it really is wonderful after all. I’ve found many special moments to celebrate in this year and for that I am thankful. I love these words by L..R. Knost. They express my feelings completely.
Life Is Amazing…And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life…And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.~*~ L.R. Knost ~*~
Every human story is filled with something worth seeing or hearing. Some of those experiences are painless while others are quite painful . But each is in some way priceless. I grow when I can dare to see life through someone else’s eyes. Their experience may be different than mine but worth listening to and understanding.
Writing fiction has been eye opening for me. It allows me to tell the human story in a way that I can envision it while making me more aware of my human connection and the world in which I live. A kind of therapy, if you will, it helps me come to terms with what I see happening around me. Through fictional characters I can deal with tough subjects in a way that is hopefully entertaining, and the story becomes a part of me in the process. When I finish writing a book I’m left with an empty feeling until my characters run off to another adventure and I once again paint a story using words.
Life has not been easy for the whole world lately. Besides the normal trials of life, we have been impacted by a pandemic, hurricanes, and wildfires along with wars, and enough division to last a lifetime.
I have found myself having to take a step back more often to gather my thoughts. I want to see people as more than mere numbers, and to feel empathy for what I see happening around me. When I read this poem it touched me and I hope it touches you too.
I’ll paint you a rainbow to hang on the wall, to brighten your heart when the gray shadows fall, on the canvas of joy outlasting the years, with a soft brush of sweetness to dry all your tears.
I’ll paint you a rainbow with colors of smiles that glow with sincerity over the miles. On a palette of words, I will tenderly blend tones in treasures of sunlight and wind.
I’ll paint the rainbow that reaches so wide, your sighs and your sorrows will vanish inside. And deep in the center of each different hue, a memory fashioned especially for you.
So lift up your eyes, for suspended above, a rainbow designed by the fingers of love…
Poem, ‘I’ll Paint You A Rainbow’ by Grace E.
EasleyPhoto Credit: Rosie Hardy Photography
We spend a lot of time in life hoping and waiting for the quintessential open door, and have no idea how many we have actually walked through to get to where we are.
I’m grateful for the many open doors that I’ve walked through in my life, and the people who I have met behind some of them. Their stories have inspired me more times than I can count. And a few of those chance encounters have changed me.
Life is filled with the stories of people, both true and fiction. Those stories have both challenged and motivated me to be a better person. Some have encouraged me to action while some have simply entertained. To me it was time well spent.
Personally, I believe that their is spark of the divine hidden, often in plan view, in every human and once found it becomes a treasure to inspire us. I find I get to know myself better by listening to the words of others. And when I meet that person who lives their life consistent with their words it provokes powerful emotions within me.
Yes, I’m aware that some doors are nothing more than entry ways or exits. I’ve walked in plenty, and out many with no change at all. Some I’ve merely passed through on my way to somewhere else. But every once in a while, a door is so outside the bounds of normal that it will inspire imagination. That’s how stories are born.
Even in the strangeness of this year the image of this door sent my imagination racing through ideas and possibilities. I’m convinced there’s a story waiting for me behind this door.
Book Review of Key to the Past
Key to the Past is a suspenseful, romantic fantasy about two detectives named Matt Parker and Jessie Reynolds. The eighth book in the Blue Cove Mystery Series, this book opens with Matt and Jessie finding themselves at the center of a murder mystery. The twist? To crack the case, Jessie must travel to a new dimension, while Matt stays in the present to put the rest of the pieces of the case together.
With a compelling story line, relatable characters and mind-bending twists and turns, author, Iona Morrison, has delivered a truly remarkable book. This book is a page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish!
– Review by the Book Excellence Awards
Author interview with Iona Morrison
Tell us about you and your books.
Do you plot or let your story unfold as you write?
I’m not a plotter. I let my characters tell me where they want the story to go. If I go a certain direction contrary to their personalities, they seem to let me know it’s not working. It works best when the lead the way.
Are your characters based on real people? Some are. One is based on a custodian at the church where I worked as an office manager. On the first day I went to work there she told me a story about their church ghost. Her story was the basis of my first book, The Harvest Club. She is in most of the books after she told me you can write me into your book. Melinda is the character lovingly called Red in my books. Sadly, she died before the book was published. Her family loved the book, and I dedicated it in her memory. Radar the bloodhound is in all my books and he is based on a real dog and his handler.
When did you decide to become an author? I came to write later in life. I took a writing class called Breaking into Print. I thought when I started the class that I wanted to write non-fiction, but soon found out I loved writing fiction. The teacher encouraged me to try my hand at writing a novel because my stories had legs. My first attempt at it was The Harvest Club. That was a little over six years ago. My favorite so far is Key To The Past, it’s a blast from my past.
Who is the biggest influence on your writing? My teacher Mary Rosenblum. She had a way of critiquing me while making me laugh the entire time. She was killed in a plane crash two years ago. I miss her and her steady guidance. I still can hear her voice inside my head when I head hop or don’t give it my best shot.
Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp? I do write about subjects that are important to me, like human trafficking, or organ harvesting. But the big take away from each of my books is love always wins.
and to get a little personal…
Who do you see as a heroine in your life? My mother will always be my heroine. She is the one who taught me the love of reading. She also was one of the kindest people I know.
Have you ever found true love? I can answer with an emphatic yes to this question. He was a hippie and I was a straight girl when we met at a protest rally. We went on our first date on April 12, engaged by May 15, and married three months and five days later. His big, blue eyes, and his smile won my heart. I still love him forty-eight years later.
What makes you cry? True stories about people, some happy and some sad. I’m an equal story crier. This pandemic has intensified that.
What makes you laugh? I love to laugh and I’m never quite sure what will set it off. Hanging with family and friends is when it happens most. Sometimes I simply laugh at myself. As the saying goes, ‘blessed are those who can laugh at themselves for they’ll never cease to be entertained’.
Do you laugh at your own jokes? I’m sure I probably do, especially if I found the joke extremely funny. I can’t usually get through telling one to the punch line without breaking down in laughter.
Where can we find you online? Website: http://ionamorrison.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Iona-Morrison-Author-534319506628681/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/ionacrv Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ionammorrison/boards/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/morrison.iona/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8605155.Iona_Morrison Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/iona-morrison Download Key To The Past on Amazon and other online retailers https://www.amazon.com/Iona-Morrison/e/B00N39NJIA?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000
I watched the 2020 graduation ceremony on TV last night. The one takeaway of the night among many highlights was how the pandemic upended this year’s senior class. They missed proms, spring sports, and had no opportunities to have yearbooks signed or hang out with their friends. As a matter of fact, most of us watching could relate, never imagining when 2020 began that we would be watching graduations by video either.
Listening to the speeches got me thinking back to the day when I waited impatiently to hear my name read on graduation day. I don’t remember any of the words spoken or songs sung. They were forgotten quickly. All I wanted at the time was to be done, to get to the family party, and out for a night with my friends. Sadly, outside of ZOOM, this year’s seniors were denied that too.
As hard as it is to believe when your young, life rarely goes as planned but it does often work out for the best. If I could have written a detailed future for myself all those many years ago, I could have never imagined all the places my life would take me. That well ordered plan was limited at best, and would be altered by new dreams, as well as disappointments. I’m often still surprised by where life leads me and the new experiences that await me there. Life is wonderful, sometimes sad, but also curiously fun, and challenging.
Since your senior year ended in such a strange fashion, I can’t begin to imagine what awaits you. Ready or not you are on your way. Not as a child anymore, but new to the whole adult thing, I can only offer the sound advice that was given to me many years ago. Strap yourself in and hold on because life is quite a ride. Enjoy the trip and make your mark. More than ever the world needs your new and fresh ideas.
Social-distancing doesn’t come easy for me but in the face of the unseen enemy racing across our country it is a necessity. I try hard to express my feelings through words every chance I get. For me each day comes with a myriad of different emotions and finding something to be grateful for has helped. Listening to the real human stories in this crisis are the reminder for me of what’s really important. Courage in the face of fear, kindness in the midst of pain, weeping with those who weep; stories that help me maneuver through my world’s changing landscape.
New heroes have risen; doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers; the police, firefighters, and those who pick up the trash. I am grateful for each of them and the jobs they continue to do daily. Staying home seems like such a small thing to do to make their jobs easier.
I find joy in the little things like groceries being delivered and placed outside my door. Taking the trash cans out once a week is nice, especially if I see another person walk by to say hello to. Are there things that I miss? Of course! I miss times with my sons and their families. Grandkids’ hugs are gone for now, but hopefully will return again some time soon. But Zoom is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends and social media too.
I hope that after living during these times that things will not return to the old normal for me. I can see now that normal wasn’t working for so many people in our country. I don’t just want to go back to the way things were and be content. If I do I will have squandered the opportunity to rise and do better; to improve as a human living in a world in dire need of compassion. For now I will try to find the beauty in life whenever it shows up and do my best to pass it on. Having a home and staying there is in itself a blessing.
January 20th, saw the release of my eighth book. I’ll start by saying, the feeling of seeing my name on the cover never gets old. I’ve always dreamed about writing a book, but eight wasn’t even in my wheelhouse. One seemed like an amazing task to me. Especially, as busy as life can get and as fast as time seems to fly by, it’s easy for life to crowd out our dreams.
I started writing later in my life, after raising my three boys, and working beside my husband in the churches that he pastored. Our life had settled into a comfortable routine until circumstances brought several major changes into our lives. The need and desire to reinvent myself grew, and the dream to write a book began to surface again. I’m here to reassure you it’s never too late and an ‘old dog’ can really learn new tricks.
I began an online writing class through the University of Connecticut called Breaking into Print. The coarse took me through the elements of fiction and non-fiction. I thought for sure I would write a non-fiction self-help book of some sort. What I found was that I loved writing fiction. This gal who never watched or read a mystery found herself in a genre where she had never dared to go before. It fit with my personality and who I’ve always been as far back as I can remember. A friend, not long ago, introduced me to her book club as the lady who went from teaching Sunday School to murdering people on paper, which still makes me laugh. I guess she was right on some level.
I was told my stories had legs and the teacher recommended that I try the Novel writing class. So I did. Mary Rosenblum, my teacher, was there for me through the process of writing The Harvest Club. A story idea handed to me by the custodian on a new job when she told me. “You know we have a church ghost here.” My imagination went to work and the element of the paranormal seeped into my mystery. I was off and writing, with Mary Rosenblum instructing me about head hopping, and grammar all the way. My editor will understand what a task that was. My only excuse is, punctuation has changed a bit since I was in school. As for head-hopping I’m trying hard not too.
Mary had a way of encouraging me while slapping me upside my head. She could criticize my writing and have me laughing at the same time. Now that’s a real gift. Encouraged by her, when the book was finished, to query it. She gave me the name of a few publishers. The Wild Rose Press was among them. I will forever be grateful to her. I love my publisher and have had a great experience working with The Wild Rose Press. Mary was killed a few years ago in a plane crash and I still miss her.
I love my latest book Key To The Past. It was a fun one to write and a blast from the past for me. I hope you, my readers will enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
Bullets fly and sparks ignite—as the past and the present collide.
A missing girl’s ghost, an antique key, and an unsolved murder take her on an improbable journey.
With the holidays upon us and a another year coming to a close I’m reminded once again of how quickly time is speeding by. 2019, had its high moments, but it also came with loss, reminding me once again how fleeting time can be. In thinking about my family members and friends that died this year, I realize just how powerful and impactful a single life well-lived can be. They touched areas in my life that I’m still discovering. Missing them is like a constant limp and hole where they used to be.
Every day I’m alive is not a given but a gift. Another chance to get it right. A simple smile or a kind word can brighten a day. Joy can be found wrapped in the ordinary, like relationships, creation, or the peace of the familiar. Laughter is refreshing and tears a necessary release. There are profound moments, down moments, and some silly ones. Some days are filled with awe and an almost magic like quality when life and special events cross paths.
May your holidays be filled with sweet memory making moments and love. To love and be loved is the most precious gift of all. Those who strive to make the world a better place through kind deeds do make a difference. L’Chaim! To Life!