Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Recipes for Busy Cooks

 I've posted versions of the poem below before, but the problem - and shaking of heads that goes with it - never goes away. So when this popped up on Facebook this week, it seemed like a good time to give space  again to the peculiarities of the English language. Amusement for English-speakers, agony for those to whom English is a second language.


From Facebook - "I think I'll take another cart."

Grace note: No source given, but definitely not one of our much smaller Florida geckos.

~ * ~


Many, many years ago, when I lived in a shoreline suburb of New Haven called Pine Orchard, our small local market sold sausage-stuffed bread but, alas, they stopped making it long before I moved to Florida. But I have never forgotten how fascinated I was by the idea - and the taste. So all these many years later, I tried to find an easy way to duplicate that bread. The BEST way, of course, is to make the bread from scratch, but there's no way I'm going to take the time to do that, so here is my substitute, poor as it is.



1 loaf of frozen white bread*
½ lb. sausage**
2 green onions, sliced
Fennel seed, to taste (1 tspn - 1 TBspn)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ - 3/4 cup Cheese of your choice - 
            cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella
WARNING:  Allow enough time for the "rising" in Step 3.
1.  Unfreeze loaf by putting it in the refrigerator overnight. 
2.  Shred cheese. Sauté sausage until browned; add green onion, garlic, and fennel seeds. Continue cooking until heated through. Remove from heat; add cheese, stir.
Roll out bread - or spread out by hand - until wide enough to accept stuffing. Spread the stuffing down the middle; close the roll, overlapping the edge. (Brush edge with water for easier closure.)

3.  Spray standard loaf pan. Fit bread inside, overlapped side down. Let dough rise until c. ½-inch above pan (3-6 hours).
4.  Bake in preheated 375° oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn loaf out of pan immediately to cool.
Grace note: Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in microwave. 

*I used Jimmy Dean.
**I used Ready-Dough by Bridgford



 This is a classic recipe that has been around for years. Eye-catching, easy to make, and exceptionally tasty.

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
½ cup water
1 cup shredded cheddar (4 oz.)
2 cans (8 oz.)refrigerated Pillsbury Original Crescent rolls (8 count)

Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, sliced ripe olives, taco sauce, or salsa, as desired.

1.  Heat oven to 375°. Spray 10-12" skillet; cook beef until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning mix and 1/2 cup water. Simmer 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened. In medium bowl, mix beef mixture and cheese.

2.  Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On ungreased large cookie sheet, sheet pan, or baking stone, arrange triangles in a ring so short sides of triangles form a 5-inch circle in the center. Dough will overlap. Dough ring, with tips pointing out, should look like a the sun or a starburst.

3.  Spoon beef mixture onto the broad half of the triangles (the part nearest the center).

4.  Bring the tip of each triangle up over filling, tucking the dough under the bottom layer to secure it. (A table knife helps.) Repeat around ring until filling is enclosed (a small amount of filling will show in gaps between the triangles.) 

5.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5-10 minutes before cutting into serving slices. Serve with lettuce, tomato, etc., on the side.

Special note:  This recipe has the same versatility as Muffin Meals. The stuffing can be varied by using ham & cheese or other cold meats in place of the taco ingredients. Or consider sausage & onion, bacon & cheese. The use of crescent rolls as sandwiches is limited only by your imagination.


Below, another "oldie" - I'd forgotten how tasty this one is.



Grace note:  the recipes I found were for a crowd (what you'd take to a potluck supper), but you can make a lesser amount by cutting up fewer of grapes (color of your choice) & using smaller amounts of the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, & nuts. In fact, some of the re-sealable organic salad toppings available in grocery stores work very well as garnish for grapes.


 Original recipe:

4 lbs. seedless grapes (green, red, or mixed)
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 8 oz. container sour cream
¼ - ½ cup white sugar
1 tspn. vanilla
4 oz. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
2 TBspn. brown sugar (optional)**
1. Wash grapes, allow to dry. Cut in half lengthwise.* 
2.  In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar & vanilla. Add grapes & mix until well blended. 
3.  Sprinkle with half the chopped nuts; mix. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
4.  Just before serving, sprinkle with brown sugar (optional); top with remaining nuts.

*Original recipe does not call for cutting the grapes in half (a tedious chore), but this is how my mother always made grape salad, and I personally find the halves much easier to eat, as well as the fact that the cut grapes better absorb the flavorings.

**Original recipe does not list the brown sugar as optional, but I felt it wasn't needed.

~ * ~


For Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

  For Blair's website, click here.


Coming soon:  Regency Gothic 10 - The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft



Saturday, August 21, 2021

Why Read Romance?



An amazing creation, found on Facebook

Also from Facebook


Although the following is clearly staged, it's truly funny.


 Back to the Most Photogenic Cat Competition:


Buffy & Willow bemoaning their lack of toys

 I'm told Willow (on the right) will dig in the basket until she's found exactly the toy she wants to play with.


Ganesh, giving the kittens competition without even try

~ * ~

Below, a bit of nostalgia—the original article, plus the preface I wrote before including it in Grace's Mosaic Moments. "Why Read Romance" is aimed not only at Romance afficionados but at women who scorn the Romance genre, and at men in general . . . So take a peek, I dare you. 

From May 24, 2014:

Many years ago, the first article I wrote for my website—long before the era of blogs—was entitled "Why Read Romance?" Years later, it was updated for the Blush Blog at Ellora's Cave, and this week I am posting it to Mosaic Moments as something you can wave in front of the noses of all those people, both male and female, who scorn the romance genre. I hope you enjoy it.


 Have you ever had someone glance at the paperback you were reading and declare scornfully, “I never read romance!” Or perhaps you’re an author sitting hopefully at a book-signing, eager to show off your baby, and someone says exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, it’s worse than rude. It’s downright cutting.

But, Romance Lovers, don’t rush out to buy a book cover or turn to reading exclusively on electronic devices (to hide your habit). Hold your head high and know you are among the majority of readers and/or authors in the country. Romance is Big Business, outselling all other genres rolled into one.

 My personal response to those who ask why I write Romance is that I have always liked Happily Ever After endings. There is so much angst in the world, including in my own life, that my inner self absolutely requires a pick-me-up, and that’s what Romance does. It plunges the characters into major conflicts then drags them out again, reassuring us that life can be beautiful—even if we are still struggling to get to that point.

More than a decade ago, I wrote my first version of  “Why Read Romance” (an article posted to my very first website). Through the years I’ve updated it a time or two, but very little of the article you see below has changed. The joys of Romance remain the same, whether we’re indulging in Contemporary Romance, Romantic Mystery/Suspense, Historical Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Futuristic (Romantic SciFi), or any of the other sub-genres of Romance. (Whether you’re reading a 40,000-word novella or a 100,000-word “Mainstream.”)

Men indulge in sports, tinkering with machines, and a variety of other hobbies, to get away from the stresses of daily life. I suggest that women read Romance for the same reason. We find pleasure in it, and it takes our minds off our personal problems. I’d go so far as to say, reading Romance is a prescription for improved mental health!

If you need an argument for the die-hard skeptics, however, let’s take a moment to analyze the situation. Here's how I saw it long ago, and nothing since has changed my mind.                                                      

First of all, whoever said “Love makes the world go round” wasn’t lying. Real Women aren’t afraid to admit it, while so-called Real Men are generally terrified of it. Real Women read Romance because that prized quality called “Heart” lies at the basis of every relationship. We want it, we seek it, we grasp it. We hang on for dear life. For the world would be a cold, dark place with out Love.

 Admittedly, women’s approach to Love could be likened to a rifle. Men . . . well, maybe a shotgun comes closer to the mark. Women like to read about Love. Men would rather do it, thank you very much. Nonetheless, the emotions on both sides of the gender gap are powerful. I would suggest, however, that gentlemen could learn a thing or two from reading Romance.

Big question: Does Love work for everyone? Does it stay new-minted, bright and shiny, dazzling in its intensity?

Probably not. But for many, new love settles into a stronger, more lasting emotion, into warmth, companionship, and respect that lasts a lifetime. Yet women fortunate enough to be part of that relationship still enjoy the nostalgia of reading about those precious first moments, those early days when love was uncertain, agonizing, or downright disastrous. Or when it was a sea of fresh discoveries, exquisite torture of the senses.

And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, live without vivid memories of love’s halcyon days. For them reading Romance provides glimpses of the intense moments they missed  and inspires hope that those special moments are still to come.

For the rest—those who lost their beloved partners through death, divorce, or desertion. For them, reading Romance can bring back the beauty of when Love was new or, like those who never knew Love, inspire hope for the future. Failing all else, reading a book that ends with Happily Ever After can provide pleasure even for those who know Love will not come to them again.

Love—or reading about it—can perk up a day faster than a bowl of ice cream - with fudge topping.

For some reason—probably the eons-long domination of writing by Men, all the so-called Great Romances are tragedies. (As in Romeo & Juliet, Arthur & Guinevere, Tristan & Isolde, not to mention some contemporary novels, mislabeled “romance” and also written by men.) But finally, in the last two decades, women have begun to write the stories they want to read. And now there are thousands of books about women who learned to cope with conflict, come out on the other side of personal difficulties, and do what had to be done to find the right person to share their lives.

These are the people we should praise. Forget Romeo and Juliet, who mismanaged things badly and never made it out of their teens. To me, that’s not Romance. I look to Jane and Joe Schmo who survived.  And raised their children to be able to love and be loved. Jane and Joe who paid the Mortgage and Dental Bills. Taxes. College. The next generation’s Weddings.

No wonder Jane wants to put her feet up and settle down with a good Romance! Yes, sometimes we all need reminding of those first bright days of love when Joe wasn’t quite so devoted to golfing, fishing, or couch-potatoing. We open a book . . . and there before us is that marvelous Regency gentleman with his impeccable manners . . . or the dashing and untamed Scottish chieftain. We sigh over that pillar of rugged individualism, the American cowboy. Hunky cops and daring men of the Special Forces. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, and businessmen as well. And we just might get an idea or three about putting Romance back in our lives.

As for the women who say they never read Romance—ah, ladies, you have no idea what you’re missing. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax, and try on a Romance. Who knows, a good Romance just might inspire Mellow where it would do the most good.

The many Romances available range from Short & Sweet to Sexy & Sassy. From Thrillers and Suspense to Vampires, Fairies, and Outer Space. From Comedy to Drama and every nuance in between. But they have one thing in common: a happy ending.

As I always tell people, “There are enough problems in this world. I don’t want to read about them when reading for pleasure. I write books with happy endings and I want to read books with happy endings. These books buoy up my day, my week, my year, my life. No matter how dark the world around me, they keep me going. My heart tells me it’s not all fiction.


  ~ * ~

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

  For Blair's website, click here.


Coming soon:  Regency Gothic 10 - The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Secrets Cover + Photo Gallery

The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle is down to the final chapter or two, and although there's an enormous amount of editing and polishing left, I'm happy to reveal its just-finished cover. Another triumph from Delle Jacobs. 


And because I am so caught up in those final chapters, Mosaic Moments is settling for another Photo Gallery this week.

Prague - found on Facebook

Egret & Onlooker - FB Photo by Maggie Toussaint

Ganesh - still growing

Franklin & Friend - posted by Terry Baber

Sunset - Defuniak Springs (FL)
Photo by Martha Duke Anderson


~ * ~

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

  For Blair's website, click here.


Coming soon:  Regency Gothic 10 - The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Out of the Mist Again


Posted to Facebook by Lynn Miclea

Ganesh - First Birthday - posted to FB by "Mommy" Edith Maxwell

Sunset by Donnell Bell

Also found no Facebook, no attribution:

I before E

Except when your foreign neighbor Keith

receives eight counterfeit sleighs

from feisty caffeinated weightlifters.




As I work on Regency Gothic #10, The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle, I have frequently been reminded of the oddities of being an "out of the mist" author. (And no, I absolutely refuse to be called a "Pantser," even though the origin of the term - a pilot described as "flying by the seat of the pants" - makes perfect sense. As does the expression, "winging it." Nonetheless, "Pantser" makes me grimace, so "Out of the Mist" it is.)

I have blogged on this subject before - again, please see Archives, or for all the topics nicely organized, check out my one work of non-fiction, Making Magic With Words. Today, I'll be revisiting the topic, using some of my most recent experiences as examples.

Why repeat this topic? Because there is so much pressure from the adherents of  "Never begin a book without a 10- to 30-page synopsis," and I want newbie authors to know this is NOT a given. Not everyone writes this way. Really - it's okay to "wing it." Of course, "out of the mist" does not work for everyone anymore that a detailed synopsis works for me. Each author has to find the path that makes sense to them. I simply want to be sure that authors with a more free-flowing mindset (like me) are not discouraged by those who seem to think there is only ONE way - their "right way" to approach a book.


The Secrets of Stonebridge Manor


Gleam in the Eye. I wanted a place I had not previously used as a setting, a bigger challenge with each new book. So off to my stack of maps of England, most particularly one showing each county, which I printed off the Internet many years ago. After much hemming & hawing - and studying the landscape via Google Earth, I settled on Nottingham (not mentioned since Tarleton's Wife, written more than 20 years ago. Next:  what kind of house? Not a problem - I'd been thinking "castle" for some time. But it couldn't be just any kind of castle - how about a castle with a moat? But most moats had been filled in or gone to grass by the early 19th c. So I googled "English castles with a moat." And there it was - a castle on an island in a lake. Wow!

Characters. (The first thing I create after the Gleam in the Eye are my main characters as they are all-important. These are the people who take over my book and craft the story.)

So who would these characters be? Who would live in this castle? Who would arrive as visitors? Should the castle be remote and creepy, in the grand tradition of Gothics, or has that them become a bit overdone? Was our heroine there as a governess or new bride, also in classic Gothic tradition? Well, as most of our readers know, I'm always looking for a new twist, some way to avoid repeating myself. (Which, I admit, is almost impossible when dealing with sinister places like caves and tunnels and dungeons.) Hmm . . . I'd dabbled in a not-so-innocent heroine in The Abominable Major, a Regency Historical. Perhaps a heroine even more outré this time around, as in a former spy, now an unwed mother?

From there, I assembled bit by bit, not the customary lonely and beleaguered heroine, but a heroine surrounded by whole host of characters, both human and other worldly. A heroine who must cope not only with her concerns for her child but for a fallen hero and a steadily rising number of murders. 

When I began writing Secrets, I created only the names of the hero and heroine, her daughter, and a few not-so-nice people in her village. Which meant that, as she approaches the main setting, Castle Stonebridge, I had to sit down with a legal pad and create a list of people she would find there, from its owner, the Earl of Stonebridge, to the butler, housekeeper, cook, footmen, maids, etc. And then there were the supernatural beings she was about to encounter. This was a scribbled list, made up "out of whole cloth," as the saying goes—just tossed off as they popped into my head. (I would, however, refer to this list time and again as the book progressed.) A few chapters later, I had to sit down and create yet another list, this one for all the somewhat dubious guests the earl brings with him when he disrupts the solitude of the hero and heroine with the arrival of a houseparty. (But this is the joy of "winging it"—the fun & games that keep things lively. I would find it tedious to the extreme to figure all this out in advance.)

Plot.  When I began the story, I knew only what we know of all Gothics—someone was going to die, perhaps more than one. How and why remained a mystery. (Truthfully, this is my approach to all my books. After all, if I have no idea "whodunit" until near the end of my book, then it is unlikely any of my readers are going to guess!) Which means my Plot consists of ALL CAP notes I write to myself at the end of each day's work, reminding me where I THINK the story is going next. But truthfully, as my characters develop, they take over the story, deciding what happens. Occasionally, I will plan a scene ahead of time, thinking out possible dialogue, etc. Yet almost inevitably, when I sit down to write that scene—when I get inside my main character's heads—I discover I have been leaping ahead. That, logically, something else must happen first. And a totally unplanned scene rolls off my fingers. There are also times when I absolutely refuse to think about a dramatic scene ahead of time, determined to keep the sense of spontaneity and surprise that I want my readers to feel. 

This has happened over and over again while writing Secrets. For example, when I wrote a scene where the heroine is attempting to allay the fears of houseguests who heard jangling bells in the drawing room and saw a female wraith wafting along beneath the ceiling, I had no intention of adding a Medieval monk, drifting along a foot above the carpet. He simply appeared, as unexpectedly to me as he does to the castle guests. 

However, if I do get an idea whose moment has not yet come—for example, the arrival of a magnificent wardrobe of clothing for our heroine—this gets added to that ALL CAP list so I don't forget it. (The list is carried along from the bottom of one chapter to the next until its moment finally comes.) 

Other bits & pieces I did not plan.

1,  Giving the hero a Point of View (uncommon in Gothics).
2.  Shorter chapters than my usual
3.  More emphasis on Romance than I usually use
4.  More Whodunit and less Threat

As previously stated, I am always searching for something new. Hopefully, despite rather gleefully breaking the rules - again - I think Secrets does that. I can only hope readers will agree with me. At least I have the comfort of feeling fairly confident I won't be accused of writing the "same old, same old."


If you feel the need to write a 20-page synopsis before you begin, then by all means do so. This blog is intended to encourage those who, like me, want to soar unfettered by an outline. Who want to create marvelous characters, then sit back and let them show us our story. From inside their heads, not ours. "Out of the Mist" authors want to be open to unexpected ideas, be surprised by twists and turns we could not possibly imagine before our characters made them happen. 

I am going to end with a repetition of what I've said many times before:  I can hardly wait to get up each morning, go to my computer, and find out what is going to happen to my characters today. If I had to write a complete synopsis before I began, I would know the ending and how we got there, and lose all interest in writing the book.

Yes, Research is important. Plot is important, but creating great Characters tops them all. Authors, let your characters do their stuff. Never be afraid to "wing it."

~ * ~

For a myriad articles on Creating Characters, Point of View, Research, and just about any other writing topic you can imagine, please see the Archives of Grace's Mosaic Moments, or for a complete compilation, organized by topics, see the WRITING section of 

 ~ * ~

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

  For Blair's website, click here.


Coming soon:  Regency Gothic 10 - The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft