St. Patrick’s Day holds such a special place in my heart that I simply had to claim today’s spot on the blog for my own.
First and foremost, know that I am 98% Irish. I didn’t have to spit in a cup for Ancestry.com to tell me that, but I did it anyway because I wanted to be able to say it with confidence backed by DNA and science! Hee Hee. The other 2% is some vague Middle European DNA that didn’t even qualify for a specific landmark.
I didn’t need the proof donating my saliva and cheek cells garnered, because like most people have told me my entire life, I have—quote--the map of Ireland stamped on my face—unquote. What that generally means is that I have fair skin peppered with a plethora of freckles, light eyes, and before it went gray at 16, black hair. You might be thinking, shouldn’t that be red hair? Nope. Not all Irish lasses are redheads. I’m what’s often referred to as black Irish, a hat-tip to the black hair and light eyes.
As a child, my Irish born and bred grandmother Bridget, or Bridie as she was known to her family (the folks at Ellis Island Americanized it to Barbara when she arrived at 16) loved to celebrate St. Patrick’s day in a big way. Her apartment would be filled for days with the sweet aroma of the Irish Soda Breads she’d baked with her gnarled arthritic hands and that she gave away to family and friends. I would savor every last crumb because she only made it once a year and I wanted the happiness it gave my taste buds to last long after the 17th was over and gone. Hers was the only corn beef and cabbage dish I’ve ever been able to eat. Every other recipe has failed to live up to the deliciousness of hers. I asked once why this was and she replied, “Because I add an extra dose of love to the pot.”
I stole that line for an upcoming book of mine.
I grew up in New York City, and every year my family and I would attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade the city sponsored and still does to this day. The wearing o' the green made everyone Irish on this special day. When I got older and attended Hunter College/Bellevue School of Nursing, I was honored to march in the parade and hold our school’s banner. I have to admit this was a highlight of my 4 years at the college. The enclosed photo is from the last parade I marched in in 1982. If you start on the left side of the photo, I’m the second one in, with the short curly hair (I was still dying it back to black in those days) glasses, and carnation on my sweater. When I look at this picture now I can see the absolute glee on my face and in my smile to be representing my school on my favorite day of the year.
Another wonderful thing that has always warmed my heart is that my dear mother-in-law came into the world on March 17th. And if ever there was a lass who had the heart and spirit of a leprechaun, it was her. Quick witted and always smiling, she was one of those people you were drawn to in a crowded room, who you just knew was going to make your day better.
In my new series A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN, book 1 -- DEARLY BELOVED -- introduces 93 year old Fiona Bridget Mary Darcy Sullivan O’Dowd Heaven Scallopini, or as she’s simple called, Nanny Fee. Graced with an Irishman’s wit, convoluted logic, and the gift of Blarney, Nanny Fee is the bedrock of the O’Dowd sisters (her granddaughters). If I am ever blessed enough to live to the age of 93, I want to be Fiona. She lives life to the fullest, loves completely and unconditionally, isn’t ashamed to flirt- even at her age - or meddle in the lives of her beloved granddaughters one wit. Nanny Fee was a labor of love for me to create and – as you can probably guess – she’s a composite of my Irish grandmother, my mother-in-law, and all the Daughters of Erin I’ve known throughout my life.
As a little bonus today, I’m sharing my grandmother’s Irish Soda Bread recipe. Remember to add a little extra dose of love to every loaf!
2 ¼ cups all purpose white flour (don’t use wheat!)
¼ cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons BAKING POWDER
½ teaspoon BAKING SODA
pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons of cold butter, cut
1 cup raisins or currants ( raisins are better!!)
1 cup buttermilk
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F
Sift flour into a large bowl and then add sugar, Baking POWDER and Baking SODA and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon. CUT in the butter pieces a few a time until the dough resembles a coarse meal. Add the raisin and then the buttermilk a little at a time. Stir until the dough is moist – not wet.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until most of the stickiness is reduced. ( about 8-10 times)
Form into an oval shape and then take a sharp knife and cut a “cross” crosswise about ¼ of the way through the dough, so it is scored into 4ths, but all still connected in a loaf.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. DO not over bake because it will be “doughy” and tough in the center. Cool for 30 minutes or server warm after 10, with butter, clotted cream, or whipped butter. Actually, I like it naked – just the bread!
Dearly Beloved: A Match Made in Heaven
Colleen O’Dowd manages a thriving bridal business with her sisters in Heaven, New Hampshire. After fleeing Manhattan and her cheating ex-fiancé, Colleen still believes in happily ever afters. But with a demanding business to run, her sisters to look after, and their 93-year-old grandmother to keep out of trouble, she's worried she’ll never find Mr. Right.
Playboy Slade Harrington doesn’t believe in marriage. His father’s six weddings have taught him life is better as an unencumbered single guy. But Slade loves his little sister. He'll do anything for her, including footing the bill for her dream wedding. He doesn’t plan on losing his heart to a smart-mouthed, gorgeous wedding planner, though.
When her ex-fiancé comes back into the picture, Colleen must choose between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now
Dearly Beloved excerpt
I stared at him for a moment, mulling over how I wanted to ask him what I’d been dying to ask since we’d been in my office.
Finally, because there was no other way to get around it but bluntly, I said, “I feel like we need to discuss your father. Come to a decision about where he fits in the wedding.”
When the warmth in his expression shifted to ice, a weaker-willed person might have stopped there. Since I’m not weak and my parents have always told me I have a real problem with knowing when to quit, I pushed on. “It seems to me as if Isabella wants him to be included. Whether in a father-of-the-bride role, or simply as a guest, I really do think she’d like him to attend, but, for whatever reason, she’s reluctant to press you on it.”
Did I say ice? What’s colder than ice? Because whatever it is, that was the expression floating in Slade’s eyes right then as he glared at me.
Warning bells blared in my head, but that thing about me not knowing when to quit? Yeah, it’s real.
“I think Isabella’s afraid of upsetting you if she tells you how she feels or asks your permission. She loves you so much and respects your opinion.”
“You don’t know anything about my sister. Or me.” He lowered his hands from his hips, kept them fisted at his sides. “Or our relationship with our father.”
“True, but I get the sense—”
He barreled over me as if I hadn’t said a word.
“You’ve been hired to do a job, Miss O’Dowd. I suggest you do it and keep your thoughts about my family to yourself. You’re a wedding planner, not a family counselor.” His voice dropped a level, deepening as it became softer. The cadence became clipped, the tone more...lethal.
If this was the way he acted in business, it was a wonder he hadn’t been convicted of corporate homicide yet.
“Look, I’m not asking simply to be nosy,” I said, my voice rising in opposition to his. “I really do have to plan all this out. There’s still the rehearsal and the dinner after it left to deal with. Then there’s the reception seating. Plus, if he is included, I’ll need to make sure he has a room, a tuxedo, and find out if he’s bringing a guest.”
“What aren’t you understanding about this, Miss O’Dowd?” Slade asked, taking a step toward me. If he’d thought to intimidate me with his height, he’d miscalculated. Retreat wasn’t a word in my lexicon. I simply lifted my chin and stared right back at him.
“I understand a lot more than you think, Mr. Harrington. About all sorts of things. Arrogant and pigheaded men included.”
When he continued to stand like a plank of wood in front of me, his mouth turning down and creasing the sides of his jaw, I knew--knew—I should stop.
Peggy Jaeger writes contemporary romances about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all aspects of life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness, and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.