I love scones anytime of year but especially as the weather turns cool. It was in the upper 40s on my walk this morning! That’ll be a treasured high before too long. Here’s a recipe for scones in case you missed it when I’ve shared it in the past. Enjoy!
A Recipe for English Scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar (less or more to taste)
¾ cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten with ¼ teaspoon water
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease a baking sheet with butter and dust lightly with flour.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Using your hands, cut butter pieces into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal (may also use a pastry cutter).
Mix beaten egg and milk together in a small bowl.
Make a small well in the butter-flour mixture and add the egg-milk mixture. Stir gently, just until moist. Do not overmix.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until the dough holds together. Pat dough (don’t roll with a pin) into a circle about one-inch thick. Cut into 8 triangles and place on the baking sheet. (An alternative is to cut the dough with a two-inch biscuit cutter.)
Brush the scones with egg-water mixture prior to baking (optional).
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve scones with clotted cream and jam or marmalade of your choice.
I’m sometimes asked if Hollywood has ever approached me to do a movie based on my Sharpe & Donovan series about my FBI agents, Irish priest and whiskey expert, their families and friends and one elusive English art thief. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Jewel thieves and art thieves are a perennial source of entertainment on the big screen. They’re usually suave and good-looking, and they often do the right thing in the end. Most of the time they even see that it’s right! Here are few favorites:
To Catch A Thief (1955). Cary Grant plays reformed cat burglar opposite Grace Kelly in this classic romantic thriller.
Topkapi (1964) stars Maximillian Schell, Peter Ustinov and Melina Mercouri in this heist movie featuring a dagger stolen from the opulent Topkapi Palace, former Istanbul home to Ottoman sultans.
Entrapment (1999). The inimitable Sean Connery is a professional art thief going up against investigator Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The Thomas Crown Affair has two versions. In 1968 with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway and in 1999 with Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo. Both are great fun but which is cooler?
Gambit also has two versions. The original in 1966 is with Michael Caine and Shirley McClaine. Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz star in the 2012 version. Alan Rickman, one of my favorites, also appears.
The Art of the Steal (2013) features Kurt Russell as Crunch Calhoun, an art thief who pulls the old gang together for one last heist. I had to include it for the thief’s name alone!
The first week a book goes on sale is always an exciting one for me. This week I’m celebrating the release of LIAR’S KEY, my latest Sharpe & Donovan novel. FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan take on an FBI legend, a mysterious antiquities specialist and a brazen art thief in this story of murder, blackmail and greed. I’m thrilled with the praise LIAR’S KEY is receiving from reviewers and readers.
An “intense, edge-of-your-seat whirlwind..” Booklist
“…insanely sensational …engaging, complex, unforgettable…”
RT Book Reviews
A “suspenseful, fast-moving thriller…” Reader to Reader
“…a richly atmospheric, beautifully drawn tale…”
And here’s a gorgeous downloadable PDF.
Now it’s off to celebrate the start of September with a peach cobbler and a batch of ratatouille made with local veggies.
Happy August! We love local fresh-picked raspberries this time of year. We even have a few in our yard. A family favorite recipe is fresh raspberry pie. Our little grandson has celiac disease, and we’re delighted this fantastic recipe is naturally gluten-free if a gluten-free crust is used.
Here’s the recipe:
Bake a one-crust pie shell using recipe of your choice.
Wash and let dry 1 qt. of fresh raspberries. Simmer together 2/3 cup water and 1 cup of the berries for about 3 minutes. Blend 1 c. sugar and 3 Tbsp. cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water and added to the boiling berries and water. Stirring constantly, boil for one minute and then let cool.
Spread cooled pie shell with cream cheese (about 1/2 cup) and add the fresh uncooked berries (about 3 cups). Pour cooked mixture onto berries. Refrigerate pie for about 2 hours, until firm.
Serve with whipped cream (we use unsweetened cream with a touch of vanilla) or vanilla ice cream.
Our daughter loved the pie I made a couple of weeks ago, she took a picture of it. We used a gluten-free pie crust. It’s super-buttery and came out great.
Summer is a great time to go for a drive in the country. GPS can take some of the adventure out of it, but only if we let it. Here’s a country road in the English Cotswolds, where my fictional English art thief, Oliver York, has a farm. He plays a prominent role in KEEPER’S REACH, out in paperback in late July, and in LIAR’S KEY, my latest Sharpe & Donovan novel, available in late August.
Hello from Scotland! Joe and I picked a warm, sunny week to be here. Not a drop of rain has fallen on us since we arrived early on May 31. My raincoat hasn’t been out of my suitcase. No complaints.
Given our hectic April and May, we didn’t have time to arrange for tours or set up a tight itinerary. Not that we would have, anyway. We like to allow for serendipity when we travel, but we did crack open our Scotland guidebook at breakfast upon arrival in Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra). A visit to the castle that looms over the city, popping into the iconic department store Harvey Nichols and wandering in the Royal Botanic Garden (above) were some of the great ways we dealt with jet lag and got a taste for this fascinating, historic city.
After Edinburgh, it was up to Pitlochry and visits to such places as Queen’s View (above), Soldier’s Leap, Blair Castle and Edradour distillery and several awe-inspiring walks through the Scottish countryside. I’ve been taking notes for research and letting my mind wander…mostly letting my mind wander. For me, a change of scenery every now and again is a great way to recharge creatively, mentally and physically. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Scotland or Ireland. I remember in the dead of a Vermont winter when I had small children and couldn’t pick up and go, I’d sometimes tune in to a Magnum, P.I., rerun, fire up the wood stove and pretend I was in Hawaii. Hey, it worked!
We head to Ireland next, for a writing retreat and a bit of a break. Our son, Zack, will be joining us. An Irish whiskey tasting is a must, don’t you think? 🙂
Have a great day,
Windows with views
Some writers prefer a blank wall when they’re writing, but I love to write by a window with a view. Maybe it’s because as a kid I’d write while up in a tree! Regardless, here are some real-life windows with tempting views.
Here’s a window looking gout on a Cotswolds stone wall.
Here’s a window looking out on an Irish horse farm.
Here’s a window looking out on the grounds of beautiful Ashford Castle in Ireland.
I’d write with these views. Really! 🙂
Have a great day,
After a couple of weeks away helping my daughter with her new baby, I’m back home in Vermont, writing and running almost every day. My route is greening up with new leaves on the trees and fresh grass, and the flowers of a northern New England May are coming into bloom. We’ll have lilacs before too long! The new layer of cow manure on the fields can be a bit hard to take for a gasping runner, but I’ve learned to cover my mouth.
Sometimes I think about a work in progress when I run. I don’t try to, it just happens. For the most part, though, I listen to a podcast during the first couple of miles of warm-up and then simply tune into my surroundings. The sounds of the river, the stream, the birds, the smells of grass, flowers, mud and, yes, cow manure.
I started running again last year after a long hiatus. In a burst of New Year’s energy and optimism, I’d signed up for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon here in Vermont. It’s held the first Sunday in June and it seemed like a good idea in December. But I couldn’t just show up on race day expecting to run 13.1 miles. So, in January, I started training by running for a minute.
That’s right. A minute.
As a writer, I’m tuned in to the power of incremental progress. A novel starts with Page 1, Chapter 1. Over the next eight weeks, I turned my one minute of running into 30 minutes. Not bad but it still wasn’t 13.1 miles. Next step was to dive into a 12-week novice half-marathon training program. There were setbacks with weather, injuries, illness, ice and heat, but I kept at it right up until race day.
I’d never run a race much less a half-marathon. I had no idea what I was doing but everyone else did! I got through it, finishing without collapsing, my modest goal for the day. In the process of those months, I discovered I love to run. When I hit hurdles with a work-in-progress, I remember how my one minute in mid-January turned into 13.1 miles on June 7. Sometimes we just have to keep going, one step at a time.
I know, technically it’s spring. It just doesn’t feel that way today on our hilltop in northern New England! We have a fire in the woodstove on this damp, chilly day. We love to travel this time of year and have enjoyed wandering through the English Cotswolds and along quiet Irish lanes. The photo with me in my orange Irish coat was taken a couple of years ago on a spring walk on the Iveragh Peninsula on the southwest Irish coast. What a stunning day that was! I swear I remember every step.
I love to let my mind wander as I wander, but best of all is to be fully present, aware of the breeze, the drops of rain on a blossom, the smell of wet grass…all of which nourish this writer’s soul. Below is a photo of the English Cotswolds on one of our spring visits. I can see Oliver York, a recurring eccentric character in my Sharpe & Donovan series, walking past this wall, but I swear I was only thinking about the stunning scenery when I was there.
Happy spring wherever you are!
I love spring in Ireland, and this walk on the southwest coast is so peaceful and beautiful. Walking is good for my creative soul!