Cooler Climes This January

In Jamaica, it becomes cooler in November and the lower temperatures run through to February. This past year, the weather has been different, for want of a better word. January has been very, very cool and we’ve had repeated “cold fronts”.

It’s a refreshing change and I can’t help wishing it would remain like this for most of the year. Alas, things will grow warmer when March steps in. I imagine that it’s just as cool in Miami since we tend to have the same kind of weather.

Anyhoooo, while I’m sharing how pleasant it’s been, I also want to tell you about a giveaway. Black Odyssey Media and Kensington Publishing are hosting a Goodreads giveaway for my latest book. Be sure to enter for a chance to win one of twenty-five paperback copies. Enter here – https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/382725-flames-of-wrath

Enjoy the rest of your week!

HEARTY SPLIT PEA, BEAN AND BARLEY SOUP

The recent cold weather has put me in a soup-making mood. Here’s one that’s a family favorite. It’s also a great way to use a ham bone left over from a special occasion because you get a main dish with lots of flavor but very little fat. (Bones can also be purchased at shops which specialize in sliced ham.)

If you don’t have a ham bone, you can buy a large ham slice, cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, and use them, along with the small bone, in the soup. Another alternative is to use two pork hocks, although these will make soup saltier.

Note that I’ve combined split peas with beans and barley, which is more interesting than straight split peas.

This soup is even more flavorful when reheated. Individual bowls can be microwaved. For the whole pot, stir carefully during heating to prevent the split peas from sticking to the bottom. If the soup has thickened in the refrigerator, thin with a little water during reheating.

13 cups of water
1 package (16 ounces) split peas, picked over and rinsed
1 meaty ham bone, 1 large ham slice, or 2 pork hocks
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 cup dry navy beans, picked over and rinsed
2 bay leaves
3 beef bouillon cubes, or more as needed
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large celery stalks, including leaves, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

  1. In a large, heavy pot, combine the water with the split peas, ham bone (or pork hocks or meat from the ham slice), barley, and beans. Add the bay leaves, 3 bouillon cubes, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and celery seed. Note that if a ham slice has been used, cut the meat into bite sized pieces before adding to the pot.) Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and lower the heat.
  2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. As the mixture thickens, lower the heat and stir more frequently to prevent the split peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If the soup does not taste robust enough, add one or two more bouillon cubes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. During cooking, periodically skim off any fat from the top of the soup with a large flat spoon and discard. Also check to make sure the soup is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. When the beans are tender, remove and discard the bay leaves. If pork hocks have been used, remove and discard them. Remove and reserve the ham bone, if using. Meanwhile, skim any additional fat off the top of the soup with a large shallow spoon and discard.
  5. If a ham bone has been used, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and return it to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil again. Stir well before serving.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

My latest release is Toran Unbound.

Toran Bladewielder’s life was upended when a battle injury forced him to leave his order — the Holy Defenders of the Gods. It is upended again when he catches a thief pilfering food from the warehouse he is guarding. Although the miscreant turns out to be a beautiful woman, his duty is to hand her over to the authorities.

But when he discovers she is a slave who escaped from a ship in the harbor, his sense of right and wrong urges him to hide her.

Desperate to maintain her freedom, Farah will do anything escape the clutches of her cruel master — even seduce a man whose sexual innocence and moral decency are clear to her.

But as she angles to keep Toran on her side, their relationship heats up. Neither expected to ever find love, yet the intensity between them builds — until Lord Camari’s men find Farah and drag her back to him for punishment. Can Toran rescue her, and is there any way for these unlikely lovers can forge a lasting relationship?

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When You Can’t Remember Names.

I spent more than thirty-five years of my life as a teacher. The first four years were in elementary school where I taught French. Each fall, I had to memorize the names of my students and do it quickly. Young children don’t respond well, to “Hey, you in the blue shirt, turn around.”

The next thirty-one years were spent teaching in a high school setting where we had semesters. So now, each September and each February, I had to memorize almost a hundred names within a week. While it was true there were always kids I knew from the previous year or semester, the fact was that there were generally more new kids than known ones. But it wasn’t only the kids’ names that I needed to remember; it was new custodial staff, new cafeteria workers, new educational assistants, new secretaries, and new teachers. Is it any wonder that I find it hard to recall names now?

This was me thirty years ago. I was 43. Most of my students were under 18. Today, I’m older, but some say I haven’t changed much. The hair may be a different color, the face a little more wrinkled and perhaps a little fuller, but the smile’s the same. Not too many of those thousands of students I taught can say the same. We’ve all aged, but I was an adult when they met me. They weren’t, so having a big, burly, bald-headed man come up to me and say, “Hi, Mrs. Matthews, remember me?” Are you kidding?

The truth is that my mind was a complete blank. I smiled and said, “You look familiar,” but in reality, I hadn’t a clue. Very graciously, he named himself, and the glimmer of familiarity danced around my mind. The truth is that the only kids I remember well were the angels and the helions. Sad, I know, because there were a lot of really nice kids in the middle, too.

But students aren’t the only ones whose names escape me. It also affects friends from my past, be it elementary, secondary, or university years. The boy I crushed on back then, the one with the shoulder-length blond hair, is now heavyset and bald. The football star is a stooped old man who walks with a cane, and the girl who spent hours sunbathing without any skin protection has a face that resembles wrinkled shoe leather.

But, of course, I exaggerate. Many people have aged well and have taken care of themselves. Those are usually easy to recognize, since like me, they haven’t changed all that much, but what happens when I know the person but can’t put a name to the face? I’m embarrassed to admit it. We’ve all been there, and we all have our coping mechanisms, but sadly they don’t always work. If I’m lucky, they’ll walk away, and I’ll be left struggling to recall who the hell they were without them knowing the truth, but sometimes I have to admit defeat and admit that I’ve forgotten their name.

But forgetting names isn’t only a thing of the past. Lately, it seems the moment I meet someone new, I forget the name they’ve given me. I’ve tried the psuch tricks like rpeating the name, using it in conversation, and associating it with time and place, but the truth is, it vanishes and the next time I see them, I ‘ll remeber them, but not their damn names.

So, like it or not, I have begun to say things like, “Hi, how are you? I’m so sorry, but my mind is like a sieve, and I simply can’t recall names these days.” Is it upsetting? A little, but it’s a whole lot easier than pretending I know the name and then using the wrong one. That is humiliating for both of us.

So, how about you? Do you remember names? Do you have a trick to share for doing so? If you do, please share. We can all use a little help remembering.

We’ll chat again next month and Happy Valentine’s Day!

New year, new books. Why not pick up the latest boxed set from the ABB?