Your Favorite Drink

For years, I would restrict myself to a light whiskey, a girlie drink as they call it, that has the right proportions of lemon juice; warming, floral bourbon; and sweet syrup to deliver a refreshing cocktail that’s neither too cloying nor too biting. Just what I needed to mingle around with a drink in hand.

American vodka

I learned to drink stronger stuff during my business trips to Belarus. Vodka, the typical Russian drink is not for the faint of heart. In the States, I’ve tried vodka diluted with orange juice and ice cubes, and found it too strong for my taste.

In Minsk, I experienced the burning effect of straight, unadulterated Belarusian vodka. When I landed in Minsk, Belarus, to work as the Program Manager of an American-Belarusian project of demilitarization that included refurbishing an analytical laboratory, I discovered that Belarusians can’t function without a bottle of vodka handy.

Belarusian vodka

During our delegation’s first meeting in the historical Hall of Officers, I presented a ten-minute summary of the project. Later an officer brought a bottle of vodka and small glasses, filled the shot glasses and distributed them. The Belarusian general raised his glass in a toast. “Welcome to Belarus. Moy drouk, my friends, I wish you a happy stay in my beautiful country. Na zdorovie. To your health.” Na zdorovie was the second Russian word I learned after Dobroye outroh, good morning.

The men emptied their glasses in one shot. I swallowed a first sip. A colonel laughed. “Let me show you how to drink vodka. One of us makes a toast. You raise your glass and you swallow it all at once. Bottoms up, as you Americans say.”

French vodka and Swedish vodka

The officer filled a second round and the general stood for another toast. “I propose a toast to the success of our joint project in Minsk.”

The men chorused, “Bottoms up.”

I raised my glass, then emptied half of my drink and brought my hand to my throat. I could swear it was on fire.

Waggling his finger, the officer chuckled. “You cheated. You left half the vodka in your glass. With each toast, you’ll get better.” Toasting with vodka became part of my job description.

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States, and 45% in Belarus (or up to 76%). Belarusians drink vodka to celebrate, to keep warm, to treat cough and sore throat. They use it in cooking and pastry. When I got sick during a trip to Minsk, they treated me with six shots of vodka. I fell asleep right away and awakened cured.

In remarks to U.K newspaper The Times, President Lukashenko encouraged citizens to drink vodka (unless working) and visit the sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. Thanks to their heavy drinking of vodka, only 152 people have contracted COVID-19 infections, with no deaths.

I wrote two books set in Belarus:

Allow me to present my new series, LOVE PLANS with three romance novels released in September and October.

Autumn Recipe ~ Stuffed Squash

One of the things I love best about autumn is the variety of apples everywhere as well as the different kinds of squash that come back in season. One of my favorite fall recipes, Stuffed Squash, uses both.

Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 apples (Nice to pick two different kinds. Honeycrisp and Macintosh are my favorites.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts and pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cut the squash in half and trim off the ends so the halves will sit flat. Scoop out the seeds.
  3. Place the squash halves in a baking pan and dot them with oil or butter.
  4. Bake 40 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork.
  5. While the squash is baking, peel the apples, core and cut into small cubes.
  6. Melt the butter in a skillet. Toss in the apples and gently sauté. About one minute. Don’t let the apples get mushy.
  7. Transfer to a large glass bowl.
  8. Chop the cranberries and nuts. Or you can leave them whole if you like bigger pieces. Stir them into the large glass bowl with the apples.
  9. Add the cinnamon and sugar and toss till mixture is coated.
  10. Remove the squash from the oven and drizzle with butter from the skillet.
  11. Fill each squash half with the fruit and nut mixture, warm in the oven for ten minutes, and serve.

 

If you are like me, the season is always right for a Christmas romance—because there is NEVER ENOUGH CHRISTMAS

 

 

Hot Mulled Cider #Recipe by @Donna_Fasano

I love mulled cider. In trying to decide which recipe to use for this post, I was torn between recipes offered by 2 Food Network chefs that I love—Bobby Flay and Ina Garten. I went with Garten’s recipe because I love the flavor and scent of star anise. If you’ve never used this spice, you have got to try it! It smells like a holiday all by itself. I often put a few star anise and few whole cloves into a saucepan of simmering water. This concoction makes my house smell wonderful. Be careful not to let the water evaporate completely or you’ll end up with scorched spices. Now, on to the recipe.

Hot Mulled Cider

By Ina Garten of Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon fresh apple cider
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 star anise

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients into a pot and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until all flavors are combined.
  • Pour into mugs and serve hot.
  • Makes 12 servings.

This month, I’m celebrating fall by putting MOUNTAIN LAUREL on sale for just 99¢ for Kindle readers. This sweet romance is the first book I ever wrote. It won a finalist spot on what was then called The Unpublished RITA Contest (now known as The Golden Heart). Although the book did not win a trophy, editor Tara Gavin of Harlequin bought and published the book. I was so proud!

Mountain Laurel

Links to buy in the Kindle Store:

US  #Ad

UK

Canada

Australia

The sale price is available in all Kindle Stores! Don’t see a link to your store? Search for “Mountain Laurel Donna Fasano” in your Kindle Store. Thank you!

Have you checked out the list of fabulous Authors’ Billboard Authors?

 

A Visit to Vietnam

For most Americans the word Vietnam evokes painful memories, a cherished person gone too soon, and a hateful war we’d rather forget.

Our welcome committee in Nha Trang, Vietnam

I probably would have never visited Vietnam if our cruise ship hadn’t put it on its Far-East itinerary that included five days in China, Beijing and Shanghai, a stop in Okinawa (Japan), a visit to Taiwan, two days in Hong Kong, and two days in Vietnam, before we reached Singapore to fly home.

NHA TRANG is one of Vietnam’s most popular seaside destinations. It offers white-sand beaches, azure and turquoise waters, coconuts palms swaying in the breeze, and gaily painted fishing boats in the harbors of small villages. We took a guided tour to visit the Long Son pagoda, the Reclining Buddha, the Cham Tower complex and a couple of factories.

Long Son pagoda, or White Buddhist Pagoda as called by the locals, is a beautiful Buddhist temple built in the 19th century, on top of Trai Thuy hill. A pair of dragon mosaics stands firmly at the entrance, while lush topiary lines the main grounds.
On the way to the top of Trai Thuy hill, we admired the reclining Buddha statue made of marble. People say that The Reclining Buddha represents the potential that all beings have to release themselves from suffering. The serene and smiling expression of the reclining Buddha statue portrays the compassion and calmness that come with the enlightenment. 
Po Nagar Cham temple complex was built between 8th and 11th centuries by the Cham people who once ruled the central plain of Vietnam. They are renowned for their skills in sculpture and architecture, and left behind a legacy of artifacts and temple settlements not only in Vietnam, but also Cambodia and Thailand.

 

The towers of Po Nagar Cham are square red brick structure with protruding support frames and tapering roofs. Their towers are shrines to different deities. The tallest building, the Po Nagar Kalan, is the most impressive. 
Cri Cambhu, goddess of fertility.
Vietnamese women practicing the art of picture embroidery, at a local workshop for embroidery..

 

A lacquer factory where I bought a gorgeous jewelry box

Our second day in Vietnam was spent in the capital, Ho Chi Minh–or Saigon– a bustling metropolis where bicycles, motorbikes and cars fly down at dizzying speed. We took a walking tour around the downtown.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Independence Palace
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
Pedicab is a special type of transportation for Vietnam. 

Unfortunately I haven’t cruised for two years. Now I spend my time writing. My latest book is released today. I hope you will celebrate with me and enjoy RESCUE PLANS, book 3 of Love Plans Series.

RESCUE PLANS

To forget the drama that shook his life years ago, Captain Rafael Lopez dedicates himself to his career as a helicopter pilot, transporting patients in need of urgent care. His new flight nurse holds his attention with her gorgeous face, sassy mind, and indomitable spirit.

With determination and a lot of guts, Arianna Garcia survives life in the slums, learns to conquer her fears, and fights for herself. Rafael gives her the courage to break from her past. And Arianna is delighted to be Rafael’s flight nurse by day and passionate companion by night. After meeting a few jerks, she doesn’t believe in crazy promises and sex-driven hypocrisy.

Will Rafael discover the skeletons in her closet, gain her trust, and restore her faith in love?

Rescue Plans is book 3 of the Love Plans Series