Archive for the 'Health and Well-Being' Category


Thanksgiving Work Blesses the Giver and Receiver

Author: Meera, November 25, 2016

 

A trifle makes an elegant staple among Thanksgiving desserts when someone is looking for an alternative to pie

Even in the wrong bowl, a trifle makes an elegant offering among Thanksgiving pies

 

 

On Thanksgiving, our family is usually grouped in the kitchen working our magic on individual dishes for our communal feast. But this year, things were different. My daughter is recovering from emergency surgery and her hubby has been trying to get over a bout of pneumonia. Their twin daughters had just come home from college, so when my daughter asked me if I would mind planning and shopping for the whole meal and then cooking it, I jumped at the chance.

 

My enthusiasm was not dampened by the fact that I was working on a new book and writing it against a “slam” deadline. Though this deadline is tighter than usual, I enjoy the topic, so it’s not really work. Ah, but there are other things to do as well.  With the cold weather and the rain, I’m keeping a close eye on my plants, chickens, and bees. Still, Thanksgiving offered me a break from the norm. My daughter asked me to help make this holiday special and I wasn’t about to let her down. As it turns out, serving as the family chef lightened my heart and gave me the opportunity to be mindful of each special moment in our Thanksgiving day.

 

 

There is always a passion for pecan pie in our family

There is always a passion for pecan pie in our family

 

 

Although I intended to do the cooking myself and had already baked the pumpkin and pecan pies and had whipped up a layered trifle for dessert, I asked my beautiful, brilliant granddaughters for help. There were sweet potatoes to peel, green beans to prepare, cornbread to be made, herbs to chop, and the turkey to be stuffed and cooked.

 

By two o’clock, the table was set, the food laid out, and the feast begun. We offered thanks for our blessings and asked for God’s grace on others and especially family members who hadn’t made the trip this time. Then, we made a special request for good health. The twins and I had used natural ingredients imbued with love for our food offerings and so believed that our gifts would put their mom and dad on the road to health in no time.

 

Today–Black Friday–I’m back to writing my book and feeling confident about the direction I’m going as well as the hours and minutes I have left to get there. And honestly, I’d rather be writing than shopping.

 

 

Our pumpkin pies feature leaves made from pie dough, brushed with egg, and sprinkled with sugar before baking

Our pumpkin pies feature leaves made from pate brisee dough, brushed with egg, and sprinkled with sugar before baking; they’re attached after the pie is baked.

 

 

Tonight, we’re going to eat leftovers with the addition of a simple winter salad–seeds from a ripe pomegranate, sections of a tangerine or two, slices of blood orange and a ripe pear tossed into some fresh greens along with small chunks of goat cheese and walnuts–drizzled with a toasted sesame dressing. And best of all, I can pluck most of the fruit walking around the farmette after I check on the plants, the bees, and the chickens. There’s work to do–plenty of it. But the way I see it, I’m honored to do work that blesses both the giver and the receiver.

 

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Enjoy reading about farming topics? Check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE  (both in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).

 

These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. For more info, click on the links under the pictures.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Holiday Mandelbrot

Author: Meera, December 20, 2015

Before my husband passed away at 46 from complications after a heart transplant, he used to accompany our son and his boy scout troop to Dodge Ridge for an annual ski trip (depending on the snow levels). The mandelbrot (twice-baked biscotti) I packed for them was always a hit, and each year the scouts would request it.

 

Making this biscotti has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year. I usually make several batches, dividing the dough into equal size balls first and then molding them into logs for baking. Mandelbrot is a Yiddish word, meaning almond bread (“mandel” for almond, “brot” for bread).

 

 

Mandelbrot in a festive holiday box on on a pretty plate makes gift-giving easy

Mandelbrot served on a festive holiday plate or in a tissue-lined box makes a welcome gift

 

 

 

The pieces should be stored in an airtight container for gift-giving or for parsing out over the holidays with a hot cup of tea or mulled wine (my favorite mulled wine recipe relies on a ratio of 6-2-1 of claret, cider, and orange juice, plus honey and spices and citrus peel).

 

Our Family Favorite Mandelbrot

 

 

Ingredients:

 

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

dash of salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (alternatively: pecans or walnuts)

 

 

 

The logs should be evenly spaced on the oiled cookie sheet

The logs should be evenly spaced on the oiled cookie sheet

 

 

Directions:

 

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Spray oil over a baking sheet.

Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla, and almond flavoring in the large bowl of an electric mixer.

Add flour, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds, and nuts and blend well.

Divide the dough into three equal balls.

Roll each ball in your hands to make a long roll, the length of the cookie sheet.

Repeat the process with the remaining two balls.

Place the three rolls at least 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet (they’ll expand and flatten slightly during the baking).

Bake for 20 minutes (the rolls will appear golden brown)

Remove from heat and let cool while you make the topping.

 

 

Cinnamon sugar topping will give the biscotti its sweetness

Cinnamon sugar topping will give the biscotti its sweetness

 

Topping:

 

Whisk together 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon until thoroughly blended.

Sprinkle the rolls with the cinnamon-sugar topping.

Return the biscotti to the oven for approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove and let cool.

Make 2-inch wide slashes on the diagonal.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container.

 

 

 

For more delicious recipes, farming tips, and a cozy whodunnit, check out my newest novel, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online and brick-and-mortar stores.

 

 

The book cover for my debut novel, the first in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series
The first cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series by Meera Lester, from Kensington Books

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Author: Meera, November 26, 2015

Up at seven o’clock today meant I caught the sunrise while letting the chickens out of the hen house to forage around the farmette in frigid temperatures.

 

 

Basted turkey is ready to slice

Basted turkey is ready to slice

 

 

I got a good head start on prepping the turkey today. I popped it into the oven by 7:30 a.m. before starting the other side dishes like cornbread stuffing, butternut squash with cranberries and cinnamon-spiced nuts, and the other vegetable and appetizers.

 

 

The pumpkin pie is made. I only have to make homemade whipped cream for a dollop on top. Last night, I whipped out two versions of cranberry relish–the traditional stove-top relish and the other made with fresh cranberries.

 

 

Cubes of butternut squash with dried cranberries and cinnamon-spiced almonds

Cubes of butternut squash with dried cranberries and cinnamon-spiced almonds and just a hint of honey for a little sweetness

 

 

 

The fresh cranberry relish was exceedingly easy to make–two small pippin apples and an orange right from my backyard tree, plus three cups of freshly washed cranberries. I washed the apple and orange, cored the apple and removed the seeds from the orange. Then I just pulsed everything together in a food processor, poured it all into a glass jar and put it in the fridge.

 

 

So all the food goes into the car around lunchtime. We’ll serve it at my daughter’s home where the rest of our family will gather together to give thanks for our blessings. We’ll pray for those far from home and those without a home and the less fortunate on our planet.

 

 

Some have ordered my novel,  A BEELINE TO MURDER, for me to sign. I’ll give them jars of lavender honey as a thank you.

 

 

God bless you, my readers. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

For more tips on farming and beekeeping, plus delicious recipes, check out my newest mystery–A BEELINE TO MURDER. See, http://tinyurl.com/p8d6owd

 

 

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Re-Cap of the Mini-Maker Faire at Barnes & Noble

Author: Meera, November 10, 2015

My fingers still smell like French perfume lavender and rosemary from all the organza sachet bags I helped customers fill as a giveaway during the three day Mini-maker event this past weekend. Hosted by the Walnut Creek Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the event was a huge success for the store, the customers, and participating authors.

 

 

I wore an apron bearing my book cover while I helped stuff bags with lavender and rosemary

I wore an apron bearing the image of my book cover while I helped stuff bags with lavender and rosemary

 

 

All the signed copies of A BEELINE TO MURDER sold out and only a few unsigned copies are left. I gave away close to 100 organza bags and special embroidered bags I made for the event. Thank you citizens of the East Bay!

 

 

I met a lovely eleven-year-old boy who wrote novels. We exchanged email addresses and he’s already sent me his first two. I’ve promised to read and send him comments. All the while he was talking to me, I kept thinking “boy, did I get a late start writing.”

 

 

Another lovely customer bought the book for her mother back in North Carolina because winters on the other coast can be harsh, and a lover of mysteries can’t have too many on hand when the storms hit.

 

 

Ready to prepare some sachets and sell and sign a book

Ready to prepare some sachets and sell and sign a book

 

 

 

The mother of a Girl Scout  invited me to do a presentation before their troop in early spring. I love the organization and will give it my best shot at the end of February or early March. It’ll be a chance to talk to the girls about writing books as a career, making things from nature, and having the courage to follow your heart (as I did when I established my farmette).

 

 

I enjoyed explaining to a darling Asian girl, while her parents looked on, the differences between wasps and honeybees. It was a great point of departure into a long conversation. We all became fast friends. She danced away holding her little bag of herbs beneath her nose.

 

 

In all, I had a great time. I think the store was pleased with all the “makers” who participated. And I’d do it again.

 

 

Meera Lester's debut novel (release date 9/29/2015)

Meera Lester’s debut novel (release date 9/29/2015)

 

 

A BEELINE TO MURDER is available through your local Barnes & Noble stores as well as online at BarnesandNoble.com. Books make wonderful holiday gifts and foster the pleasure of reading.

 

 

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Here’s to Reconnecting with Old Friends

Author: Meera, October 23, 2015
Seated is Paula Munier, literary agent with Talcott-Notch. L to R: Meera Lester, Indi Zeleny, and John Waters.

Seated is Paula Munier, literary agent with Talcott-Notch who sold my book, A BEELINE TO MURDER. L to R: Meera Lester, Indi Zeleny, and John Waters.

 

 

 

How many years of continuous relationship have you had with your oldest friends? Mine go back to 1983 when my then husband Steve and I established Writers Connection, a Bay Area organization for writers. It was a place to connect with publishing professionals and writing teachers. One of the people I connected with back then has long been a friend and now she’s my literary agent.

 

Paula Munier flew from the Boston area to the West Coast to conduct a writers retreat in Pacific Grove. A couple of my Scribe Tribe friends and I drove down the California coast to meet her for a lovely lunch and a walk on the beach. It turned into an impromptu book signing for me as I had packed a few copies of my debut novel, A BEELINE TO MURDER, in my tote bag.

 

We had a lovely visit, sharing dreams of writing goals, projects, and new books and authors we love.

 

The October weather could not have been more beautiful. The Pacific Ocean sparkled blue as ever, matching the sky. The fog had moved back to the horizon, and the afternoon was warm and balmy. What a perfect day to reconnect with old friends. I hope they walk the rest of this life with me as joyful, healthy, and intellectually inspiring as they all are now.

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Finding Time for Everything

Author: Meera, October 4, 2015

Anyone who keeps bees and chickens, maintains an orchard, and grows their own food will tell you that the work never stops. There’s always something to do. For me, the challenge is finding time now to clean and waterproof sheds, do the fall cleanup, feed my bees, clean the chicken house, pull out the tomato vines, and well, you get the idea.

 

 

 

tomatoes

 

 

 

 

For me, the past week and the coming week have been so packed with deadlines and fulfilling contractual obligations to my publisher and promotional outlets, that I’ve found very little time available to do anything but keep my promises. But I don’t mind. I am loving the journey of getting my first of three cozy mysteries launched.

 

 

 

 

My debut novel, the first in a series of three cozy mysteries set on the Henny Penny Farmette

The first novel in my cozy mysteries is set on my Henny Penny Farmette and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere

 

 

 

Today, I’m taking two hours to empty out the six-by-six foot garden shed. So far, I’ve found a dead rat and two dead mice amid all the garden items, tools, and building materials in that shed.

 

A small rainstorm blew through last night and caught me unprepared. I’d left boxes outside and had to leap from bed and dash out into the pelting rain to get items indoors. Then, just as I finally put my head against my pillow and listened the wind howling through the eucalyptus trees out back, a skunk crossed under my open bedroom window.

 

You guessed it. That foul-smelling skunk spray really put the kibosh on drifting off to dreamland. But once I fell asleep, it was deep and restful–so important to a creative mind. But as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning, I harbored hope to have more energy today than yesterday and more time. I’m guessing you know what I mean.

 

Check out the reviews for A Beeline to Murder at: http://www.amazon.com/Beeline-Murder-Henny-Farmette-Mystery/dp/161773909X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443997291&sr=1-1&keywords=Meera+Lester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-Free Granola Recipe in GRAND Magazine

Author: Meera, September 1, 2015

Months ago, I played around with some gluten-free recipes after a family member was diagnosed as having a gluten intolerance. Today, the Sept/Oct issue of GRAND magazine, edited by my friend and writing colleague Susan Reynolds, comes out with my recipe for homemade gluten-free granola.

 

 

Homemade granola equates to cheaper and better control over ingredients

Homemade granola equates to lower cost and better control over ingredients

 

 

If you have a family member with gluten intolerance, give this granola a try. It’s great as a breakfast food but also as a snack. The best part about making homemade granola  is that you can add to it all the nutritious items that YOU love.

 

Another benefit is that you’ll be saving money. If you love granola like I do, you know what the good stuff costs.

 

This granola can be made in small quantities, but you won’t want to because it doesn’t stay around too long. My advice is to make a few batches and store them in airtight containers. I like to eat it with lactose-free milk, but it also tastes great with almond milk as well. Enjoy.

 

Here’s the GRAND magazine link to the recipe: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/grand/20150910_v3/index.php#/17

 

 

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Backyard Fruit Compote

Author: Meera, July 1, 2015

Who feels like eating when the shorts and sandals weather has turned hot enough to warrant wearing bikini bottoms and thin cotton T-shirt for doing your household chores? Bring on the cool summer salads.

 

When the temperatures hit 105 on the farmette yesterday, we opted for a simple supper of cold chicken, orzo with Italian vinegar and oil dressing, and cold potato salad.

 

strawberries lg em

 

 

With nectarines and peaches ripening now on our trees, blueberries finally sweet enough to eat, and strawberries  available at our local farmers’ market, what could be better for a dessert on a hot summer’s evening than a fruit compote.

 

 

Desert Gold peaches are ready to eat in May but buds are swelling and showing color now

Peaches, ready to eat now, are widely available at local farmers’ markets

 

 

 

Recipe for Backyard Fruit Compote

 

Gather the fruit, including nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and melon.

 

Wash, and slice the nectarines, peaches, plums, and strawberries.

 

If including melon in the compote, scoop the melon into ball shapes using a melon baller or cut pieces of  melon into cubes.

 

Peel and slice the kiwi.

 

Toss all into a bowl, adding the blueberries.

 

Sprinkle lightly with a scented sugar, or a super fine sugar, or honey.

 

Or, make a dressing: mix together 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1/4 cup of honey, 1 teaspoon of orange zest, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger. Pour over the fruit. Chill for about 1 hour and add springs of mint before serving.

 

 

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Hot, Hot, Hot . . . and Getting Hotter

Author: Meera, June 30, 2015

Is this the new norm? If I had any doubts that the planet was heating, I have abandoned them in the face of sweltering heat expected today.  Bay Area forecasters predict the thermometer to climb to 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some of the inland valleys around the San Francisco Bay.

 

 

 

Orchids love heat, maybe that's what I should be growing now

Orchids love heat

 

 

 

On the farmette, the heat will top out at 104 degrees. While breezes from the Delta in the late afternoon blow through, what we need is cool, moist fog. Breezes today will be like having a fan in a sauna.

 

 

No doubt about it, this heat is unseasonably warm here for any day in June. Not so, in Death Valley, an area of the state below sea level in California’s Mojave Desert. It holds the North American record for the hottest day on Earth.

 

 

In Death Valley, 125 degrees Fahrenheit is nothing to sneeze at. Back in 1913 in Furnace Creek, the center of Death Valley mining operations and ancestral home of the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, the temperature climbed to 134 degrees.

 

 

To date, that 134 degree-temperature is the record for North American heat. As a species, we humans might have to think about how much heat we can stand, because it just might be the new norm. See, http://www.history.com/news/the-hottest-day-on-earth-100-years-ago

 

 

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The weather cooperated, so we gathered for snacks in the garden

The backyard and farmhouse patio bathed in morning sunlight

 

 

Each day on my farmette starts with chores involving plants and animals . . . and writing. The latter might seem a bit strange until you understand that my farmette–with its organic heirloom vegetables, eggs, and honey–has evolved into a brand that includes my forthcoming Henny Penny Farmette novels. It’s business. I have to write three novels in three years. I’ve already written two.

 

 

Like any business that involves regular tasks for keeping the enterprise thriving, my farmette novels require a daily commitment to writing. Excellence in my writing endeavors is just as important to me as the quality of my Henny Penny Farmette jams, honey, eggs, and this blog.

 

 

 

Chickens are part of the farmette landscape

Chickens are an integral part of the farmette landscape

 

 

I rise early,  at 4:00 AM, to get a jump on my day. The roosters start crowing around that hour, but the sleepy hens remain on the roost until daylight. I like to stroll outside, see the edges of the black sky turning lighter at the eastern horizon, observe the position of the moon and stars, feel the cool predawn air on my face, and notice the silent vapor of fog receding like gray shroud being tugged upon.

 

 

I enjoy the scent of pine and orange blossoms (when the trees are in bloom), and take note of the occasional spritzing of a skunk or cat marking its territory while out prowling. These observations become notes in my journal.

 

 

 

At bedtime and when I awaken during the night, I practice yoga nidra, a state of deep relaxation and lucid dreaming. Often, though, the lucidity may be nudged aside as sleep and dreams in which I am not aware of my physical environment take over. Still, I sometimes work through problems in my life or my stories and awaken with a solution . . . sometimes, but not always.

 

 

 

A pretty corner of the garden on the farmette

A pretty corner of the garden on the farmette

 

 

During the morning hours before sunrise, following a good night’s sleep, I feel sharpest and most in tune with nature and my deepest, inner Self.  One of my favorite writers John O’Donohue observed the profound and numinous presence of nature and wrote in his book Anam Cara:  “Landscape is not all external, some has crept inside the soul. Human presence is infused with landscape.”

 

 

The Henny Penny Farmette landscape has echoes from the past in it. I’ve re-created my grandmother’s farm garden where I spent happy hours of my childhood. But also, I’ve got my own personal stamp on this landscape. It’s a lot of work, but I embrace the daily chores and the discipline needed to keep the farmette and a book series going. It’s an ongoing journey to a new horizon.

 

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