Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I'm off on two trips over the next few weeks - first to Connecticut for my son's wedding and then on a short cruise to the Bahamas - the attraction, an onboard concert by "Journey.". (I get to babysit.) So I am posting a few recipes I've run into recently that you might want to try while I'm traveling north and east and not keeping to my weekly blog schedule. They are not original, though I've added twists here and there. Just recipes that were a bit unusual and tasty enough to pass along. 

Moroccan Shrimp with Couscous

Original from a recipe in the Orlando Sentinel.

The secret to this one is to collect all your spices ahead of time. (I was shocked to discover my curry powder had disappeared!) Once they're all laid out, the rest is easy. The amount of each spice can, of course, be varied to suit your particular palate.

Grace note: I cut this recipe down by half to two-thirds, making enough for only two meals.

1 tspn paprika
3/4 tspn coarse salt 
½ tspn cumin
½ tspn curry powder
1/8 tspn cayenne pepper
1/8 tspn cinnamon 
½ cup golden raisins or other dried fruit bits
¼ cup water
14 oz. unsalted chicken broth
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/2 pounds peeled & deveined large shrimp*
3/4 cup plain yogurt

*for my smaller version of the recipe, I bought just 8 large shrimp

Mix paprika, salt, cumin, curry powder, cayenne, & cinnamon in a small bowl. In a good size sauce pan, mix 1½ teaspoons of spice mixture, raisins, water & broth; boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover.

Melt butter in pan on medium-high heat. Season shrimp with remaining spice mix. (Tossing in a Baggie works well.) Cook 5 minutes. Spoon couscous on plates. Spoon shrimp and yogurt on top. 
 ~ * ~

Crescent Roll Tart

This is one of those mystery recipes that pop up on Facebook then disappear. The video did a rapid auto run across my screen. When I went back to replay it so I could write down the details, it was gone. I don't know how long I spent looking for it, but it was like it had never been. So with the aid of Riley and Cassidy, I tried to re-create a recipe from a fleeting glimpse. Here's what we came up with.

2 pkg. crescent rolls
c. ½ cup confectioners sugar
1 fresh orange
dried orange zest (from a spice bottle)
c. 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Put the confectioners sugar in a medium bowl. Using a slotted knife, "skin" as many pieces of rind from the fresh orange as you can manage (or desire). Add the fresh zest to the sugar then add some dry zest from a spice bottle (amount is up to you.) Mix.

Separate crescent rolls into triangles. Dip each triangle in the sugar/zest mix. Arrange one package of triangles (approximate - you need to "play it by ear") around the inside edge of a 9" pie plate, overlapping as evenly as possible. (We did it with the "pointed edge" up.) Arrange the remaining triangles to fill in the space in the bottom of the plate, continuing to overlap. Save one triangle to make a rolled "flower" in the center. 

Drizzle c. 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the top. Bake 12-15 minutes at 350°. (Check at 11 minutes.) Tart should be golden brown on top.

Glaze. If desired, tart can be glazed with a mix of confectioners sugar & orange juice or confectioners sugar & water.

Grace note: I suspect this recipe would also work well with lemon zest.
~ * ~

Spaghetti Pie Casserole

From Taste of Home's Back to School cookbook.

So many baked spaghetti recipes call for a 13x9 dish. I found this one a more manageable size for a small household, and there was still enough left over to freeze. Also, it's fast & easy to put together. Not too bland, not too spicy - a lot of classic taste for minimal effort. 

8 oz. spaghetti
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jar (14 oz.) spaghetti sauce
½ tspn salt
¼ tspn pepper
3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) reduced-fat sour cream
3 green onions, chopped
1½ cups (6 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Cook spagehetti according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the beef, onion & garlic over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up beef into crumbles; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce, salt & pepper; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese & sour cream until blended; stir in green onions. In a greased 11x7 baking dish, layer the spaghetti, cream cheese mixture & meat mixture. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake, covered, at 350° for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is bubbly.
~ * ~

From a Nutella recipe book bought in Harrod's in London, July 2015: (the girls & I have tried a number of the recipes & this one got the most raves. Photo is from the cookbook.)

Twelfth Night Tart with Nutella

½ cup Nutella
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
scant 1½ cups ground hazelnuts
2 sheets (1 pkg) ready-rolled puff pastry

Grace note: shelled hazelnuts can be bought online. We got ours from  

Preheat oven to 425°. In a bowl, mix together Nutella, 2 eggs, and ground hazelnuts.

Unroll the first sheet of puff pastry onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Using the back of a tablespoon, carefully spread the pastry with a layer of the Nutella mixture. Leave a 5/8-inch border for joining the two sheets of pastry together more easily. Place a lucky charm or dried broad/fava bean on top of the Nutella mix. (Grace note: This instruction brought us to a screeching halt. We had a Girl Scout thin mint handy, so we used that! The why of this particular instruction has not yet occurred to me. Air flow??)

Unroll the second sheet of pastry and lay it on the first. Join the edges of the two sheets of pastry, pressing them together all around. (The girls were very diligent about this, scorning my simple "press together" for very firm "fluting," as they'd done on pies.)

Brush the whole surface of the galette with egg yolk then use the point of a knife to decorate it with a large criss-cross pattern. Bake for at 425° for 25 minutes.

~ * ~

I did the Nutella recipe above with Riley and Cassidy. And when I finally got an afternoon with Hailey, whose school runs to 4:00 this year, we did the simple monkey bread recipe below. (It's way easier than the bacon bread I make for parties and a great addition to a family supper (or as  a portable snack for a road trip).

Super Simple Cheesy Bubble Loaf

From Pillsbury's Monkey Bread cookbook:

2 pkgs. refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10-pack ea.)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1½ cups (6 oz.) shredded Italian cheese blend

Grace note: I wanted to added bottled bacon pieces, but Hailey vetoed that. For those addicted to bacon, see note at the bottom.*

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Separate biscuits in the first package; cut each into four pieces & place in mixing bowl. Drizzle with one tablespoon of butter - do not be afraid to mix by hand. Place biscuits in bottom of loaf pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Repeat with second tube of biscuits - EXCEPT top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. 

Bake 25-30  minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*The recipe notes that it is easy to change the flavor by using Mexican cheese, or add taco seasoning and/or hot pepper sauce to the butter. Or use chopped ham, salami, or crumbled bacon between the layers of dough.
~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  



Saturday, April 16, 2016


A Moment of Nostalgia

After many years of Steeplechase being available through Ellora's Cave Cotillion line, I was stunned when I got my rights back and began to edit it for indie publication. I wrote that?? Truly, I'd forgotten how far away I'd strayed from the trad Regency style. So far, in fact, that I simply could not write the same book today. It was almost like reading someone's else's work. I laughed, I goggled, I swelled with pride. Frankly, I was absolutely thrilled with it. (I feel I can brag about it because that was totally another "Blair" who wrote it!)

A bit of background:

I began my writing career with serious historical romances like Tarleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride, as well as contemporary Romantic Suspense like Shadowed Paradise and Paradise Burning. And although all were published by one of the early e-publishers, I was having no luck convincing New York that an author could start out writing mainstream instead of making her bones by writing for Harlequin/Silhouette first. And then I went to an RWA convention where the editor for Signet's traditional Regency line (think Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer) indicated she was looking for new authors. And I asked myself, "Can I capture the style, the language, the comedy?" (Everything I'd written was so serious.) But of course I decided I had to try. I mean it was NEW YORK, right?

So I sat down and wrote The Courtesan's Letters, and lo and behold, I got THE CALL. Except Signet's marketing department thought "courtesan" wouldn't play well in the hinterlands and changed the title to the perfectly bland (and erroneous) The Indifferent Earl. It did, however, win "Best Regency of the Year" from Romantic Times magazine and was a Rita nominee. Eventually, when I got my rights back, it once again became The Courtesan's Letters (currently available on Amazon & Smashwords).

I turned out five more Regencies over the next few years and evidently polished the style to perfection by Number Seven, Steeplechase. Except . . . Signet closed its Regency line just as it was ready for submission. Which is how Steeplechase ended up being published by a Regency line within Ellora's Cave Blush. Perhaps not the best place for a squeaky clean traditional, but I'm sure most Cotillion authors were like me, grateful for the opportunity to keep publishing our pet genre. By this time, however, the handwriting on the wall was clear, and I wrote only one more trad Regency, Lady of the Lock, before returning to Regency Historicals and contemporary Mystery/Suspense. And then came my Regency Gothic line and my Futuristic/Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. Both of which - on opposite ends of the chronological line - I enjoy immensely. But oh my, as I re-edited Steeplechase, I was struck by nostalgia for that very special genre, trad Regencies.  If you haven't yet read Steeplechase, please take a peek. Both Amazon and Smashwords offer free samples. 

Below please find Delle Jacob's deliciously traditional cover, plus blurb and reviews for Steeplechase (from its previous incarnation).

Harlan Dawnay, Lord Davenham, handsome and dashing heir to an earldom, offers a marriage of convenience to a suitable young lady he scarcely knows, only to discover she has no intention of being ignored in favor of his friends or his mistress.

Lady Sarah Ainsworth, age seventeen, is not yet interested in marriage. She accepts Lord Davenham's offer solely because she secretly admires him and has high hopes for the future. But when Davenham steadfastly ignores his young bride, including not coming to her bed, Sarah embarks on a series of adventures guaranteed to drive any husband wild. From unsuitable friends to unsuitable flirtations, from gambling to calling on Davenham's mistress, Sarah forces him to pay attention. Until one final adventure almost ends their marriage before it's really begun.


I had a great time reading this very engrossing and funny Regency Romance. . . . The author is very well versed with the era and its environs from London to Brighton, and the people and customs as well. This is the kind of Regency that I love to read.

                                                              Maura, Coffee Time Romance

"This novel is filled with witty dialogue and plenty of amusing moments. I found myself laughing out loud several times. I especially loved the interactions between Sarah and Harlan and the interactions between them and their family and friends. This story left me feeling good."

                                                            Christina, Romance Junkies Reviews

"I really loved this book. . . . [It] reminded me of why I started to read romance to begin with. Boy has to get married. Boy then ignores girl. Girl gets back at boy by being as outrageous as possible and leads him for a 'Steeplechase' with all kinds of obstacles in his way to get his attention. Boy realizes that, yes, he does love the girl! And a happy ending. Enjoy!"

                                                           Karen, Ecatromance

~ * ~

Grace Note: Steeplechase is now live on Amazon and Smashwords and should be available in almost all e-book formats by the time this blog is posted.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Copyediting Challenges - 7

Kids flying at Easter afternoon sack races, 2016*
* I made those burlap bags for a birthday party so long ago
 the sides came up to the kids' ears!

Quote of the Week:

According to the morning paper*, some people have been comparing Donald Trump to J. K. Rowling's Voldemort, the villain so terrible he is known as "He Who Must Not Be Named." When hearing this, Rowling responded: "How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad."

The same article goes on to quote House Speaker Paul Ryan in a marvelous contrast to Trump's demagoguery, saying in an address to interns of both political parties . . .

"Instead of playing to your anxieties, we can appeal to your aspirations. We don't resort to scaring you; we dare to inspire you. In a confident America, we aren't afraid to disagree with each other. We don't lock ourselves in an echo chamber, where we take comfort in the dogmas and opinions we already hold. We don't shut down on people—and we don't shut people down. If someone has a bad idea, we tell them why our idea is better. We don't insult them into agreeing with us. We try to persuade them."

*From an Op-ed by Clarence Page in The Orlando Sentinel, April 1, 2016

~ * ~

Tricky, Tricky Italics

I often create my blogs from problems I've encountered while editing, whether in one of my own books or those I edit for other authors. This week the same problems cropped up in both, so it seemed like my blog topic was selected for me. 

Grace Note: The index of the 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is not helpful! 
Except to give us an example of italics used (above) as a line header, to indicate the title of a book, and as emphasis. All uses of italics that present few problems.

The 15th edition index under "Italics" lists all the esoteric uses of italics that most writers never need and completely ignores the common, everyday italic questions for which we all need answers. I'm sure the answers are in there somewhere—ah-ah!—I just tried the index to the 14th edition and there they are!  Whoever wrote the index to the 15th edition needs to go back to indexing school.

Since I've dealt with the use of Italics in previous blogs, I'm going to concentrate this week on the most difficult. Do you, or do you not, use italics for thoughts

Truth is, it depends on the publisher, but very few are still advocating italics for thoughts. The general rule seems to be that introspection - what the scene's primary character is thinking - is written in standard type. But only if it remains in third person. And, as mentioned in my blog on tags, avoid using "he thought" or "she thought" unless absolutely necessary for the sense of the sentence. If at all possible, the introspection should flow well enough that using a tag is not necessary. 


Davenham was trying, Sarah knew he was. Under all that elegant sophistication was a man with a good heart. She would not have married him else. But it was all very lowering. Cutting a dash in a curricle of her own was a long-cherished wish, a notion difficult to give up, even though common sense, combined with a good stiff fright, dictated that she should. Yet what was the point in cutting a dash if one came a cropper in front of the cream of the ton, not to mention the doxies, Cits, and shabby genteels who also had access to Hyde Park’s fashionable late afternoon parade?

Quote from Steeplechase by Blair Bancroft
Example of italics used for emphasis, plus remaining introspection without italics:

Hell and the devil! It was her own fault. The colonel wasn’t a pauper. She didn’t have to be here. Did she? No woman should have to endure what she had these past weeks. It wasn’t right. And now she was one more problem to solve. Bloody, stupid army! If he were in charge at the Horse Guards…
Quote from Colonel Tarleton in Tarleton's Wife.

BUT if your character suddenly makes a statement in first person, italics must be used.  


Ben had to be kidding! No way am I doing that.

The same applies to statements in second person (you).


Because, you ninny, taunted her inner voice, your husband does not wish to be alone with you for all that time.

Quote from Steeplechase
And then there are the really tricky ones, such as the ones where italics simply make sense though you can't quite cite a rule. Direct thought, description of an action, emphasis—who knows? There are simply times when you have to make that subjective decision. Do I or don't I?


Her first thought—Davenham is going to have a fit— for if ever she had seen someone who could be termed a “shabby genteel mushroom,” it was the elder Twitchell. 

A peek toward the beast. An antler hovered within inches of her head. Stroke, stroke. Faster, faster, faster!  

She swallowed, continuing to goggle as it became apparent that a man in sopping wet shirt and pantaloons was just as exposed, if not more so, than a female sea bather. Oh, my!

“Are you all right?” Davenham demanded
       All right? Her husband’s words finally penetrated the fog. 

Grace note: In the passage above, "Oh my" could have gone either way. I chose italics for emphasis. I italicized "All right" because it was silent repetition of something already said.  

Her partners declared her to have the brightest smile and quickest wit in the room. Even though Lady Davenham was subjected to a variety of veiled glances and was the object of whispers behind numerous fans, she was an undoubted triumph. The littlest Ainsworth transformed into a Dasher. Imagine that!  

Grace Note: Italics are used above to indicate words spoken by anonymous people in a crowd.

Quotes from Steeplechase

But was Miss Icy Van Dyne the enemy? Gut reaction, Guerrero. No jumping to conclusions. He closed his eyes, picturing the queen of all she surveyed stalking up the gangplank.

Grace note:  In the passage above, italics are used to indicate exact words the hero is saying to himself.

Quote from Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart (unpublished)

~ * ~

And yes, Steeplechase will be debuting sometime in the next two weeks on Amazon and Smashwords. So naturally, as I did final editing, it was a good source of examples. (Grin) Tarleton's Wife was thrown in there for nostalgia, the last of my books for which I don't have my rights back. (Sigh.)

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.