Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Editing Disaster


MASKS

Three new fabrics have been added to the Mask Array, plus a new "button" that makes the elastic loops adjustable (at long last). For photos, see below. For details on the other masks available, click here.





My latest Regency Gothic, coming soon (c. 8/6/20)

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EDITING DISASTER

As everyone who reads my blog knows, I have been harping on self-editing since 2011. Needless to say, I consider myself an expert on the subject. But I recently I got my comeuppance, one of the most humbling and embarrassing experiences of my life. I have been considering a spin-off series from my Regency Warrior books, most particularly from characters in The Lady Takes a Risk and The Abominable Major. But after somewhere around thirty Regencies, I needed to re-visit these two books in order to get plot, characters, and timeline straight. So . . .

I downloaded both books to my Kindle and began to read. I chortled over Lady—it had been long enough since I wrote it that it was almost like reading someone else's book, and I'd forgotten it has a lot of humorous moments. And then I began The Abominable Major.  Almost instant shock. I frowned, started taking notes. By the time I got to the fourth scribbled page of missing words or other odd glitches, I was frantically thinking back, trying to puzzle out what happened.

My standard editing routine:  1) edit after each chapter; 2) edit again after each 5 chapters: 3) edit from the top; 4) repeat edit from the top; 5) if I've made a number of revisions in the second run-thru, I do a third edit from the top. After that it's 1) a code check in Word Perfect; 2) transfer to Microsoft Word; 3) codes on, a last edit from the top.

Even after all that, a few mistakes will still get through, but not many. Yet Major was riddled with errors - fourteen pages of notes, to be exact. So what happened? (I don't deny some of the errors were mine - I made the disastrous mistake of not re-reading Lady before I began Major, a direct sequel, which meant that the continuity errors were mine. Aargh!

With my pride sorely wounded, I went back to the manuscript I uploaded to Amazon . . . and couldn't find it. Oops. There was an earlier copy in Word Perfect and what I thought was an up-to-date backup on G drive, but nothing in "My Documents." That's when a vague memory came back. Ever since I moved to Longwood, there have been unexplained power glitches—middle of the day, perfect weather—a blink, a click, the computer shuts itself off. The microwave clock keeps going. The oven clock has to be reset. Every. Darn. Time. And, of course, the computer has to be rebooted—everything new on the page gone forever. I do give credit to Lenovo that my machine powers back up every time, no matter how rudely it was shut off, but . . . !

And, finally, I recalled that is what happened when I had the entire final version of The Abominable Major open. Beyond that, I have no idea where the fault lies. Did I resurrect from G drive a manuscript a couple of edits back? Did the power glitch itself rip away the latest edits? Or . . . I've tried to recall anything that might have distracted me from proper editing, and come up with zilch. So, for whatever the reason this manuscript went astray, I have uploaded a revised version of The Abominable Major, which will be on sale at 99¢ through the end of August. (Online vendors include Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple & Kobo.) I also offer my abject apologies for the far-less-than-perfect manuscript uploaded July 20, 2019.

MORALS OF THIS TALE.  
1.  Never write a sequel without a close read of the book that came before it! 
2.  If any kind of power glitch rears its ugly head—whether in Draft or Final Copy—do not take it for granted that your manuscript survived unscathed.
3.  Never get so complacent you don't do that last run-through you absolutely, positively do not want to do. 
4.  Never forget that just when you think you know it all, editing can turn around and stab you in the back.


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Mask Feathers

Mask Hearts

Mask Pink Flowers

 
The new sliding "button" that makes the elastic adjustable

~ * ~
 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.


 
For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Isolation Break

Lake Apopka, north shore - 7/19/2020

Customarily, we celebrate my birthday by Susie and the grandgirls taking me out to lunch, almost inevitably at a restaurant where we can order Baked Brie. Alas, this year . . .

When Susie asked me what I wanted to do, it didn't take long to think of an alternative. I've been wanting to go on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive ever since it was inaugurated back in 2015, and after being cooped up at home, staring at four walls since March, a scenic drive sounded really good. Despite summer being the poorest time to view wildlife, we saw a huge number of ducks, plus bunches of babies not more than 4" long. Also, multiple heron, egret, anhinga; one hawk, a raccoon, two alligators, and countless concentric circles in the canals, where fish were jumping up to grab insects. 






A bit of background on the wildlife drive:  It seems that way back at the beginning of WWII, the north shore of Lake Apopka (Florida's second largest lake) was drained to create farm land to grow crops for the war effort. To do this, a criss-cross of levees was built, and it's along those levees that the Wildlife Drive now runs. The "farm land" has long since returned to swamp - except for a sod farm we saw just as we exited - and there is only a short section where part of the lake itself can be seen. But the canals and swamps teem with life, and I'd love to return in cooler weather when far more creatures should be out and about.


Our second gator sighting of the afternoon

Volunteers brave the heat to welcome visitors, hand out maps, and explain about the Audio Tour available via your cellphone. To me, the most surprising bit of information was that a million pounds of fish are taken from Lake Apopka each year. Warning:  if you're interested in this or any other wildlife tour, be sure to search for the website and check the hours. For example, the Lake Apopka drive is open only on weekends. (It's free, by the way.)

So . . . if, like so many of us, you're not taking that vacation, not eating out; you're attending church online, maybe ordering your groceries delivered, consider taking a scenic drive. So many people had that idea last Sunday afternoon that the Speed Limit of 10mph was frequently reduced to somewhere around 3mph! Seriously, it's safe, it's scenic, it's a break from four walls. If you don't know where your nearest scenic drive is, I bet Google can find it for you.

Below, a few more photos taken by Susie and Grace:







Selfie by Susie, wearing her mask on her head; Me, looking silly






The sod farm with rolling irrigation racks in the background

So, do it! Ease the stress by taking a scenic drive.


For those who would like to know about the 
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, click here.

~ * ~

Coming soon - c. 8/6/20
~ * ~
 

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.


For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Covid Risk Chart




Cassidy's cousin Lionel made this cake for our would-be fighter pilot.

Grace note:  Cassidy took her first flight with her father when she was about seven. When I asked how she liked it, she thought about it a moment and said, "I liked lunch." (Obviously, flying has grown on her since then.)



My daughter took this photo 7/18/20 at a house appraisal



Grace note:  Not surprisingly, I'm a Cancer.
 
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COVID RISK CHART


Below is a summary of an article by Iliana Limón Romero in the Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, July 12, 2020. Since the number of Covid cases in the U. S. is skyrocketing and this list of risky activities seems to make sense, I am postponing the blog I'd planned for today and posting the list in its place.

Attribution:  "The Texas Medical Association put together a chart to help people assess the risk of everyday activities based on survey responses from a group of physicians. Their recommendations assume anyone doing these activities is following coronavirus prevention best practices that include wearing masks or face coverings, washing hands frequently and practicing social distancing." 

Risks are listed from Low to High.

Lowest Risk:

1. Opening mail. (Wash hands afterward.)

2. Restaurant take-out, pumping gas, playing tennis, camping

3. Grocery shopping; going for a walk, run, or bike ride with others; playing golf

4.  Staying at a hotel for two nights, sitting in a doctor's waiting room, going to a library or museum, eating outside at a restaurant, walking in a busy downtown, spending an hour at a playground

Medium Risk:

5.  Having dinner in someone else's house, attending a backyard barbecue, going to the beach, shopping at a mall

6.  Sending kids to school, camp, or daycare; working a week in an office building; swimming in a public pool; visiting an elderly relative or friend in their home

Medium High Risk:

7.  Going to a hair salon or barbershop, eating inside in a restaurant, attending a wedding or funeral, traveling by plane, playing basketball, playing football, hugging or shaking hands when greeting a friend

8.  Eating at a buffet, working out at a gym, going to an amusement park, going to a movie theater

Highest Risk:

9.  Attending a large music concert, going to a sports stadium, attending a religious service with 500+ people, going to a bar

Grace note:  Personally, I would lower that 500+ to a LOT less! 

~ * ~
 
 Coming Soon: THE VICAR'S DAUGHTER
a Regency Gothic

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.


For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Diving, Recipes & Face Shields



About to dive 27' down in the Gulf of Mexico

She did it! Found a big shark's tooth on the first try.
And a remarkable amount of other stuff. Guess the diving lessons were worth it.


On the way to Suwanee
Off on mini vacation plus work trip - fixing up the Suwanee house for sale
 (To think, Kylo was a little pup just 7 months ago.)



COMFORT FOOD

 I suspect many of us have taken refuge in "comfort foods," old favorites we might have turned our backs on in the rush toward the Mediterranean, Keto, and other "healthy choices" of the moment. In my case, I developed a yen for Tapioca. No, not that stuff they sell in the dairy department but made-from-scratch Tapioca Pudding, which can be a real treat. 

But what did I discover? Oh no! Kraft was no longer making the Minute Tapioca I had known all my life. After considerable thought - and being shocked by the prices placed on the last boxes on Amazon - I decided that perhaps it was the classic recipe for Fluffy Tapioca that caused the Kraft Tapioca demise. For their Fluffy Tapioca recipe contains egg white meringue (uncooked), and Kraft likely had a whole host of lawyers advising against putting out a product that used raw egg white. Thus putting paid to one of the great taste treats of the world. Sigh. 

So I saved my last empty box and typed up both the "Tapioca Pudding" and the "Fluffy Tapioca Cream" recipes, and saved them to my Recipes file. I also recorded for posterity Kraft's classic Fruit Pie recipes, for how can you possibly make a good fruit pie with tapioca??? 

And then I was faced with What Next? I turned up my nose at the alleged tapioca granules now offered by Publix. (I mean, they were in a plastic bag!) After searching Amazon, I ordered a 5-pack (at least the tapioca was in proper cardboard). Giving the new supplier the benefit of the doubt, I followed the instructions to the letter. The tapioca had the texture of rubber, and tasted only slightly better.

So it was back to the Kraft recipes I had so carefully saved. I had always used the Fluffy Tapioca recipe, but this time - for a better comparison to the "rubber" recipe - I made the simpler recipe - plain old "Tapioca Pudding." And guess what, the new tapioca was suddenly palatable. More than palatable, it was maybe 75-80% as good as Fluffy Tapioca. Thank goodness! I was not to be deprived of my tapioca fix. (And in Kraft's "Tapioca Pudding" recipe, both egg yolk and egg white are cooked.)

Frankly, fear of Salmonella aside, when I have time to get out the electric beater and turn egg white into meringue, the Fluffy Tapioca is by far the tastiest recipe. It can compete with ice cream any day. I make sure I buy high quality eggs and have never had a problem.




Below are all three recipes from the now defunct Kraft Minute Tapioca Pudding box:  Regular, Fluffy, and Fruit Pie.

Tapioca Pudding

1 egg
2-3/4 cups milk*
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBsp Minute tapioca
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk egg & milk in medium saucepan until blended. Stir in sugar & tapioca. Let stand 5 minutes.

Bring to full boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred), on medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Cool 20 min. Stir. Serve warm or cold. Keep refrigerated. Makes 6 ½-cup servings.

*It's okay to use Lactaid.




Fluffy Tapioca Pudding

1 egg, separated
6 TBsp sugar, divided**
3 TBsp Minute tapioca
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix tapioca, milk, egg yolk & 3 TBspn sugar in medium sauce. Let stand 5 minutes.

Beat egg white on high speed in small bowl until foamy. Gradually add 3 TBsp sugar ** continue beating until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Bring tapioca mix to full boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add egg white mix; stir until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Cool 20 min. Stir. Serve warm or cold. Keep refrigerated. Makes 6 servings.

**I reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons in the tapioca mix, two in the egg white.

Grace note:   Taste can be varied by using ½ tsp. almond (or other) flavoring. By swirling jam or chocolate sauce into the still-warm tapioca. Or simply be creative.



 FRUIT PIE

Tapioca is an essential ingredient in any fruit pie, as it helps absorb the berry juices and keeps the pie from being a soggy mess.  Below are the suggestions from the Kraft Tapioca box, but they are adaptable to any variety of fruit.

6 cups sliced apples, 2 TBspns tapioca, 3/4 cup sugar. Flavor with ½ tspn ground cinnamon &/or ground nutmeg

4 cups blueberries, ¼ cup tapioca, 1 cup sugar. Flavor with 1 TBspn lemon juice, 1/8 tspn cinnamon

Grace note:  You can also use frozen berries. Just be sure they are well thawed & drained.



IMPORTANT ADDENDUM - FACE SHIELDS

Although I've made somewhere around 250 masks over the last few months, I find it difficult to wear one. (I do, of course, but I suffer.) Therefore, I was delighted to see an ad on Facebook for an inexpensive Face Shield. Even for a package of 5, the cost is reasonable (because the product attaches to a ball cap). So I'm recommending InstaShield, a product out of Missouri. For more information, click here.

~ * ~
 Coming Soon: THE VICAR'S DAUGHTER
a Regency Gothic

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Giving Thanks


To view mask pics or place an order



On Thursday morning (6/25/20), I woke to the following headline in the Orlando Sentinel:

 Hospitilizations hit new high

Not at all what I wanted to see, but not a surprise. It was something I'd feared since the too-early re-opening of our state and a sudden drop in mask orders signaled that all too many people equated re-opening with "back to normal." Sigh. Florida moved rapidly ahead to Phase 2 of its re-opening. Then Phase 3, which included re-opening bars. And . . . well, I won't sully your eyes with the appropriate expression for what happened next. The Orlando area is far better off than the Miami area, but we are home to one of the largest universities in the country ( in MY county, alas), and partying exploded, followed by the virus. My county, which had been relatively quiet, Covid-wise, tripled its cases in 10 days. A disease only for the aged? Guess not. 

Note:  on Friday the governor finally conceded we had a problem and ordered all bars closed. Too little, too late.

Meanwhile, for something more uplifting—though with a sharp bite—my son passed along a remarkable new video by The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks). It is extremely well done, with photos dating back to the Suffragette movement at the turn of the 20th century. I heartily recommend you take the time to watch "March, March." For video, click here.
Scroll down to window with video triangle.

And from my daring daughter and grandgirls, Riley and Cassidy - on their "digging" adventures in the Carolinas . . .


 
Digging in South Carolina

 
Dug out of that vast pile of reddish dirt




















More crystals dug by hand




















 

Crysocolla - purchased in gem shop
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As for myself, I attempt to do my bit—staying home, making masks, posting cautions to Facebook, never forgetting to ask God to save us from ourselves—but for this week's blog I decided it was time to list my thanks for the things that have gone right. And surprisingly, as I thought about it, I realized it's a remarkably long list.

I admit, however, that isolation is easier for writers—we're natural-born hermits—but nonetheless, I hope you'll all take a moment to think about what's good in your life instead of what's bad.


I give thanks for . . .

My family. My son and daughter both called me on March 16, urging me to isolate, and with only a few exceptions, I have. (After six weeks, my daughter also provided the first break - a birthday party with only close family that gave me a chance to see my grandgirls again.)

My writing. Thank God this challenge is not a hurricane. I have my computer, my legal pads, my pens and pencils. My wits stay sharp.

Squeak. What would I do without my constant companion, feisty as she is? She cuddles, she purrs, she follows me around. She bites, she scratches, brings in lizards, snakes, moles . . . But she's my buddy, my best friend.

My choir family.  We don't know when we'll be able to sing together again, but we keep in touch every Wednesday night (our rehearsal time) via Zoom. It's been a big help. What a miracle to be able to see and hear each other as if we were in the same room.

My church.  Struggling along with YouTube services and then dealt a low blow when lightning took out all the lights in the altar area AND silenced the organ. Took three weeks to restore the lights - organ now functioning on only half its pipes (a circuit board has to be rebuilt). Nonetheless, the services continued, even when there was only candlelight and a piano. I've forgotten whose motto this is, but "We persevere" definitely applies to Longwood's Church of the Resurrection.

The "little" things.  Like one of my first mask customers, who left me a huge container of disinfectant wipes (something that was impossible to find at that time, and still is). Where she got them, I'll never know, but I am immensely grateful. As I am for the many little kindnesses shown me, by friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers (on the few times I've been out and about).

Facebook. I have never appreciated FB more than now when I am cut off from all my "live" friends. No matter the many criticisms made about FB, it has been wonderful to be able to stay in touch with friends in the U.S. and on far-distant shores (all of us suffering similar problems in this trying time).

Publix Delivery. I am constantly amazed by being able to order online and have my groceries delivered to my door in less than two hours. Yes, I can't always get exactly what I wanted, but heck, I remember rationing during WWII. So, no complaints.

Jo-Ann Curbside Service. Jo-Ann Fabrics were pioneers in mask-making, offering free fabric, how-to videos when most people had not yet adjusted to the fact we were entering a whole new world. Jo-Ann's was also among the pioneers in Curbside Pickup. Just order & pay online, wait for an email that your order is ready, drive to the store, phone to say you're there, and someone comes out and hands you the bag with your order. Love it. How else would I have acquired all the supplies I needed for making masks? Or yarn, now that I'm back to making shawls again.

Staples. A writer also needs supplies. Paper, ink cartridges, etc. Staples has waved Minimum Order requirements for free delivery. Just order online and within a day or two, your order is dropped at your door.

Walgreen's.  A hearty thank-you to Walgreen's for making it possible to pick up various store items at the Prescription Drive-Thru window.

Restaurants. I haven't taken as much advantage of restaurant "Order online, Pickup curbside"  as I should have to help support them through this crisis, but the times I did - at Outback and Chili's - it was marvelously efficient. (And yummy.)

Fast-food Restaurants.  Through thick and thin, these have remained open, most finding more careful ways to take your money and give you your food. (Taco Bell the best at this.) I am truly grateful for them being there, giving me a break from preparing food for one, night after night.

People who wear masks.  I meet all the criteria for those "most susceptible" to Covid-19. But there are times I really have to go out. Thank you, thank you to all those caring enough to wear masks when in public, no matter how uncomfortable. And to those who practice social distancing. Why anyone—anyone, including those in government—would think they have the right to spread their germs to someone else is beyond my imagination. As my father used to say:  "Your freedom ends where the other fellow's nose begins."  If you're not wearing a mask when out and about, you are saying:  "I don't give a damn about anybody but myself."

Electricity.  Having been without power after a number of hurricanes (in both Connecticut & Florida), I am grateful to Duke Energy and to Spectrum for keeping my lights, my stove, my refrigerator, my TV, my computer running. In addition to being able to write, I am particularly grateful for my Roku access to Acorn (PBS).

I know I've failed to list many things I should, but the above is enough to remind me that even in these difficult times, life isn't all bad. Try listing your "thanks." Hopefully, it will bring a bit of light into the gloom.


~ * ~

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.


 
For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.

 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)