Travel Is a Gift that Keeps on Giving

Author: Meera, August 28, 2014

Farmette life keeps me close to home these days, but lately I’ve been thinking about some of the places I’ve been in the world and  it occurred to me that travel has inspired and, in many ways, transformed me. It also has broadened my horizons, shaped my worldview, and contributed immeasurably to my sense of well-being.



Ephesus, a few miles from Kusadasi, Turkey holds a great many Greco-Roman ruins like this library

Ephesus, a few miles from Kusadasi,  on Turkey’s turquoise coast, has spectacular ruins like this Greco-Roman library


The nice thing about travel is that it also can nurture your spirit and inform your writing. Since I’ve traveled a bit–something like 29 countries–mostly for pleasure and always on my own dime, I’ve met some wonderful people, tasted some great cuisine and wines, saw fantastic architecture, and learned colorful, cultural tidbits along the way.


Today as I was working on my Henny Penny Farmette  mystery series, I thought about how I’d tasted the organic wines and fresh herbs of Greece, the chocolates of Belgium, honey in England, jams and tea in Ireland and Wales, spices of all kinds in India, wine and cheese in France, shortbread and butter cookies in Scotland, apple strudel all over Switzerland and Austria, and fine olive oil in Italy.


Travel for me is about food, people, and experiences during the journey. So often, in our world of bucket lists and destination travel, we miss the point of the journey. For me, it’s the life on the road that happens on the way to a destination that informs my writing and my worldview.


My first cozy mystery BEELINE TO MURDER draws upon farmette life and deals with beekeeping and honey and pastries, but also ties into the Caribbean. That book will be released October 2015.


My second book in the cozy mystery series focuses on herbs and has a tie-in to Haiti. That book comes out October 2016.


The third book involves the world of artisan chocolate. That book will be released October 2017. To write these books, I draw deeply from the well of experience and tap into my senses. Although the main focus of my novels is about solving a  murder mystery, the stories always involve food and drink–a universal experience involving the senses.


For millennia, people have lived close to the earth, growing their own food, pressing their olives into oil, harvesting honey from their hives, and making their own wine. It’s how many of us choose to live today. That sense of connectedness–resonating across cultures, through centuries–informs my writing most of all.



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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Scottish Shortbread

Author: Meera, September 9, 2013




My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern

My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern


Warm Scottish shortbread and tea are two of the simple pleasures of life.


Scottish shortbread, that buttery biscuitlike treat that Scottish cooks are famous for serving at teatime,  doesn’t require a lot of ingredients; it’s basically flour, butter, and sugar. Of course, the dough can accommodate other additions, for example,  bits of dried fruit, chocolate, caraway seeds, lemon zest, chopped dates, and nuts. I like it best plain.


I have many recipes for shortbread. Some are from magazines or books devoted to the subject of Irish or Scottish culinary traditions or foods of the British Isles, acquired during my travels to the lands of my ancestors, namely, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.


With shortbread, more butter, less flour produces a richer biscuity cookie. It’s helpful to remember the basic 2-4-8 formula, that is: 2 ounces of sugar, 4 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of flour, plus a pinch of salt. Mix together, press into a mold, and bake 45-60 minutes in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven until golden. Dust with sugar.


The following is my favorite recipe, slightly different. It is pictured above. Feel free to add to it your favorite ingredients.




1/2 cup powdered sugar


1/3 cup rice flour


2 cups all-purpose flour


pinch of salt


pinch of baking powder


1  cup unsalted butter





Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit


1. Put dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.


2. Add butter and cut in with a butter cutter or knives until it is thoroughly incorporated into the dough.


3. Knead the dough 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.


4. Divide dough into two, roll into balls, and cover both in plastic wrap.


5. Chill for one hour.


6. Knead the dough balls back together to soften and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.


7. Press into a shortbread mold or cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.


8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or  until the dough is golden and cooked through, if using a mold. For cookies, bake on ungreased baking sheet.


9. Dust, if you like, with fine granulated sugar (also called castor sugar).










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