Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Top O' the Mornin' to Ya by Leigh Riker



My goodness, I just looked up and it’s March! I’ve been on deadline, time has obviously gotten away from me, and now it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. This is  my little Belleek cottage and a shillelagh:



In my twenties, living and working in New York City, I never managed to see the annual parade on Fifth Avenue. Yet I do have, in part, an Irish heritage and I’ve always liked the holiday. So, one St. Patrick’s Day evening then, my friend Marie and I set out to, um, celebrate.

A while later, in honor of the occasion, Marie decided we needed to find a loaf of Irish soda bread. I’d never had any and was only lukewarm about the idea. However, a sense of adventure prevailed and, full of good cheer, we set out to scour Manhattan for a likely bakery that was still open.

Marie’s Irish heritage showed in her dark hair and blue eyes. She had a tall, slim model’s figure—and in fact, was the house model for a small fashion brand in midtown. Marie had a definite sense of style but not much money (none of us did in our “salad days,” but, hey, we didn’t care. We were living in New York!). For work, she bought a Dior white silk blouse and black skirt that must have cost the earth. It was better, she claimed, to own one terrific ensemble than a dozen lesser pieces. The original Investment Dressing, I guess. And she always did look like a million bucks.

That night we finally found some Irish soda bread somewhere, but by then that wasn’t even the point. We had such fun during the search that I’ve never forgotten that night. Here's a recipe:



Right now I’m all in for St. Patrick’s Day again—maybe some cupcakes this year with green frosting? And I’ll certainly remember to say, “Thanks for the memory, Marie.” For her, and for you all, this is a traditional Irish blessing:



About that deadline I mentioned: I just turned in the third book of my Kansas Cowboys series! The first, The Reluctant Rancher, is available now; and the second book, Last Chance Cowboy, will come out in May. Wait until you see that cover!! I’m in love with it or, rather, the cowboy modeled after Scott Eastwood.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (in advance)! Do you celebrate? And if so, how?


31 comments:

  1. Hi Leigh! I celebrated St. Patrick's Day more during my college years than I do know. Somehow, the thought of drinking green beer isn't as appealing. :) Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. Hey, Jill! The cupcakes are as far as I go too these days. Back then, adult beverages were part of that celebration.

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  2. Hi Leigh! I love, love, love St. Patrick's Day! A naughty leprechaun used to visit my classroom and play tricks all week long then we' celebrate with green milk and pistachio pudding. It was so much fun. Now I teach at a year round school and we are on spring break during St. Paddy's Day. It's just not the same.

    I'm very Irish, although until about five years ago I didn't know how much. My grandfather used to tell me stories about his grandparents coming to America on a ship from Holland. So I grew up thinking we were Dutch. Then when I started doing our genealogy, I discovered that they were actually from Ireland and the ship stopped in Holland before coming on to America.
    Happy St. Paddy's Day! Slainte!

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    1. I know, this holiday is fun. Love your story about your ancestor and the ship. My husband's family came from Holland in the 1600s. Sure glad they did 😉. I had my DNA tested, thinking I was part Native American (not, it turned out) as well as Irish but the largest percentage is apparently Scandinavian. Surprise.

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  3. Hey, Leigh. I won't say we celebrate, but we do like the Irish heritage. The name Flaherty can be seen on (and in) more than one drinking establishment on either side of the pond. :-) That night in NYC sounds like a great memory. Did you like the soda bread?

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    1. Couldn't be more Irish than Flaherty! Can't say I loved the soda bread but it is easy to make and it definitely made that memory. Should try it again rather than the cupcakes. No, maybe both 😌. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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  4. I liked your story about Marie, Leigh, and your first intro to soda bread. I remember the year I turned 21 and could legally drink. I was in university and very excited about going out to drink green beer on St.Patrick's day. I didn't really like beer anyway and the green colour really put me off. But I still like to make soda bread! Make those cupcakes!!

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    1. Thanks, Janice. Ah, yes, green beer. Ugh. That didn't appeal then and certainly not now. But there was a real spirit of enthusiasm all over NY that night and every year on that day. A rolling party!

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  5. I like Irish Soda bread. My mom used to make it, but now I buy it at Safeway and it's only available during March. It makes great toast. Leigh, looking forward to your May book. Love those cowboys.

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    1. Thanks, Roz. Hope you like the new book. Wow, soda bread's available at the supermarket? I'll have to look here. Or try making a loaf myself. I do love to bake bread.

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  6. I haven't had Irish Soda Bread in years. Thanks for the recipe. Despite having the last name of Forsythe (the 'e' on the end apparently makes it Irish instead of Scottish), I don't know much about my Irish heritage. That might be because my family arrived here in the 1740's and the Forsythes were too busy trying to make a living to wax nostalgic about the Emerald Isle. I really want to visit Ireland someday, though.

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    1. Oh, so do I, Patricia. I need to track down where my relatives were in Ireland first before planning a trip. We wanted to take my mother in law there but her health failed before we could do so. Her family name was Doyle. I have a MacFarland which, like Forsythe, may be Irish rather than Scottish? Fascinating stuff--like a mystery.

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  7. What a fun memory. Sounds like quite a St. Patrick's Day adventure.

    I'm not sure how much Irish might be in my family tree. When I was in elementary school and asked my grandmother where our famiy came from, she said "Alabama, I think." Some day, I'll have to dig into it.

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    1. That's funny, Beth. Guess you'll have to dig a bit deeper than Alabama. So cute.

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  8. What a great memory! I have really fond memories of my starving artist days, too. It's like a right of passage! :)

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. And I wouldn't change those years for anything. Lots of adventures then.

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  9. Love this story, Leigh! I can just see you and your friend prowling around NYC searching for soda bread. I tried to make it once and it was a disaster. You've inspired me to try again. My mom always made corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. I have no idea if this is truly an Irish dish but I always looked forward to it. I've got some Irish in me, too, from my paternal grandmother and Ireland is on my bucket list.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. That was fun and we met some real characters along the way. Good luck with the bread. I will have to eat my whole loaf because my husband is gluten sensitive. Ah, corned beef and cabbage--with potatoes? That's stick to the ribs food. My mom made that too.

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  10. What a fun post, Leigh. I love the story, too! For some reason, St. Patrick's Day always sneaks up on me. I think I celebrated it officially only one year while I was in university, but I enjoy all the excitement around it, as it does seem to be a big thing in Toronto.

    Congratulations on meeting your deadline, and I am glad to hear there will be a third book in your series!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kate. Now to wait for revisions. There is something very happy about this holiday, even for people with no Irish ancestors.

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  11. Woohoo! A soda bread recipe! I see some baking in my future!! Thanks for the great post, Leigh. <3

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    1. Anna, I can't guarantee this recipe but it is easy enough for me. I like to bake but don't much now because of the gluten thing. Glad you liked this post.

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  12. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Always a fun day.

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  13. The same to you, Tara! Congratulations on your new book!!

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  14. Hi, Leigh!
    We celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a vengeance. My Irish Soda Bread is probably not as good as yours and quite frankly in the past few years, there is a baker here that does a better job than I ever did. We do the whole thing. Corned beef brisket, cabbage, glazed carrots. Mint chocolate pie with Bailey's...I know...it's a stretch but it's good. I have my mother's Irish coffee cups that are too darling, and load them up with lots of real whipped cream. Never from a can. I make shamrock cookies, green beer, green wine....buy the shamrocks for the table. Belles of Ireland with white roses. And on and on. March here at the bottom of Lake Michigan is SOOO unbearably gloomy with grey and charcoal colored skies most of the month that St. Patrick's Day brings this breath of fresh air, a reason for a party and lots of friends together. Thanks for this great post. I can't find my grandpa's shillelagh, but it's here somewhere! And congrats on bringing us another book in the series!

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  15. Hi, Catherine! I hear you about the gloomy February weather. Right now gearing up for big storms. I love your celebration of St. Patrick's Day! Wow, you go all out. My shillelagh is part of a modest collection of Belleek from my mother in law. Thanks for the congratulations on the new book. Oh, and that pie with Bailey's sounds inspired. Yum.

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  16. One of my favorite vacations was to Ireland. It's such a beautiful country and the people were so wonderful. I would go back in a heartbeat.

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    1. Let's all go, then. Writers' retreat!

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  17. Hello, May release date friend! This year, I'm celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Irish soda bread, a hearty stew or shepherd's pie, and a Guinness chocolate cake. I'm 1/4 Irish, so I will milk it for all it's worth :) Congrats on the new book!

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    1. Hey, Laurie! (Waving) I love shepherd's pie! The chocolate cake sounds perfect. Congrats on your book too.

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