Monday, November 21, 2016


This recipe has been adapted and refined over the years from the one in the wonderful Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. My copy of this cookbook is now battered and well-used after 34 years of marriage. It was a gift from my future in-laws in 1980, the Christmas I got engaged, and it includes not only many favourite family recipes, but cards and birth announcements and lots of notes and mementoes that have been tucked between the pages over the years.


Because of the amount of expensive chocolate in these cookies, we made them only once a year as Christmas gifts from poor newlyweds. Our tradition is to make the first batch on the day of the annual Toronto Santa Claus parade (around mid-November), to officially kick off our Christmas season. We have always given these cookies as gifts to the people we love most, and we horde the last dozen or so in the freezer for as long into the new year as we can bear to wait.

I hope you enjoy these cookies, and you share them with the ones you love. PLEASE READ THROUGH THE WHOLE RECIPE AND MY NOTES before you bake! If you have any questions about my slightly offbeat methods, please feel free to send me an e-mail at and I’ll answer your questions. This is a double batch recipe—because the more cookies, the merrier! It makes about three dozen.


Preheat oven to approximately 325 F, on a convection setting if possible.

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (plus extra—see notes below) cake and pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Chocolate chips (lots) (I love Ghirardelli chips—buy a mix of milk and 60% dark)
Lindt milk chocolate (I use Lindt Swiss Classic Gold Milk Chocolate, 300 g bar)
Lindt excellence dark chocolate bars (Swiss Classic Gold Surfin, 300 g bar)


Chop the chocolate bars into chunks (do this at room temperature). Chill the chunks in the freezer for at least an hour before baking. (This is so the chocolate won’t burn in the oven).

Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the brown sugar and the white sugar and beat until creamy.
Add the vanilla and the eggs, beat well.

Mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda, and stir into the wet ingredients.

Now this part is a bit finicky—add extra flour until the dough is fairly stiff. You should be able to hold a ball of dough in your hand and have it hold together without being too sticky or greasy, but not dry and crumbly. (My apologies for this part—it works by feel for me. Keep reading, and I’ll explain as we go…)

Add the chocolate to the dough— stir in a handful or two of the chopped Lindt chocolate from the freezer, and a generous amount of the chocolate chips.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, well apart (about a tablespoonful for each—these are rich cookies, so don’t go too big).

You may want to try baking two or three cookies to check the quantity
of flour—if they spread like mad, then add another few spoonfuls of flour to the
dough and mix well. They should spread slightly in the oven, but hold a nice thick, rumpled shape.

Before putting the cookies into the oven, stud the top of each raw cookie with more frozen chocolate chunks (and extra nuts if you’re using them). This makes them look beautiful, utterly magical, and irresistibly delicious. This is why you freeze the chocolate first—so it doesn’t burn. From frozen it simply melts a bit.

BAKING NOTES: Bake the cookies for 7-10 minutes, until they’re lightly browned but still soft. I have made this recipe in Toronto, Ottawa, and here in Calgary. Each oven and each city’s altitude meant making a slight adjustment to time and temperature. The perfect time and temperature here in Alberta is 335 F for 7 ½ minutes. The Joy of Cooking recommends 375F for 10 minutes, but my version has some extra sugar in the recipe, and all that chocolate, so watch carefully that the cookies don’t burn! I make mine so they’re slightly soft and cake-like in the middle, but if you prefer them crispy, then bake them a little longer, or leave out the extra flour and let them spread.  


Take them off the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Careful—the molten chocolate is HOT!!

Enjoy warm or frozen—they’ll keep several months in the freezer.


The basic dough lends itself to all kinds of creative possibilities. These are some of our favourite combinations:

• Lindt White Chocolate chunks and pecans

• White chocolate and dried cherries

• Dark chocolate chips and lemon zest

• Candied almonds or other nuts

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 2016

Kanata Kipper Cotton Cornwall

May 21, 2004 —May 11, 2016

Someone once reminded me to 'live the dash', that line between our birthday and the day of our death to the fullest. Kipper lived his dash with gusto, joy and love. 
May 2016
Me, Having fun at the Museum of the Highwood in High River Alberta

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Gift for Readers: Malcolm MacGillivray and The Fairies


This is a scene (a story) I cut from the final manuscript for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS. There’s been a terrible fire in the village, and the Clan MacGillivray has come to take shelter in Craigleith Castle. Lady Alanna McNabb volunteers to tell the children a story to keep them calm and out from underfoot. This is the story I wrote for her to tell, a fairy tale within my Highland Christmas fairy tale. Enjoy!


Alanna McNabb settled a dozen children on the settees and chairs and on the rug before the fire in the library. Nessa the pig took her place among them and went to sleep, curled on the hearth like a beloved dog
“Why don’t you tell a tale, lass?” Donal said. “They’ve heard all of mine.”

Alanna looked at the children. Their eyes were fixed on her expectantly. “Then I shall tell you a story that I heard when I was a child. It’s one of my favorite tales at Christmastide.”

“Is it a true story?” one boy asked.

Alanna smiled. “Of course it is. All the best tales are true,” she promised. “As long as you believe in magic, that is. Do you?”

The youngest children nodded, their eyes wide, but the older ones looked skeptical. “Close your eyes, and try your hardest to believe,” she told them, and began the story.

“Once there was a lad named Malcolm McNa—,” she began. “Malcolm MacGillivray, that is,” she corrected her tale for her MacGillivray audience. “And he believed in magic. Malcolm needed a Christmas gift for his true love, a pretty lass named Catriona, but he had no coin to buy her a ring. He decided to go up into the hills and ask the fairy folk for a favor. He left home on a bright sunny morning, after his chores were done, and took the path that wound up into the high peaks. He’d gone hardly any way at all when he heard a dreadful cry coming from a stand of trees, and he hurried along to see what the matter was. He found a magnificent stag cornered by a pack of wolves, about to die. Malcolm used his walking staff and his sling to chase the wolves away. He ran his hand over the stag’s broad flank, and wrapped a scrap of his plaid over the worst of the breast’s injuries, and gave the creature water to drink from his own flask.

“Thank you,” the stag said. “You came along at the perfect moment. Another minute or two, and—” He shuddered. “So where are you going on this snowy morn?”

“I’m off to see the fairies to ask a boon,” Malcolm replied.

“Then I will help you, in return for your kindness,” the stag said. “The fairies will ask you a riddle. If you cannot answer, they will turn you to stone. They will ask you what the very best Christmas present is.”

Malcolm stroked his chin and considered. Many ideas came into his head, but he wondered if any were right enough to please the fairies. “What is the right answer?” he asked the stag.

The magnificent beast shook his head. “That I cannot tell you. You must look into your own heart to find the answer. But be warned: The fairies will try to trick you and keep you, even before you’ve had a chance to make your reply. You have a handsome face, and fine manners, and will make a good companion for the fairy queen.”

Malcolm though of his Catriona, her fine sparkling eyes, as clear as a loch in summer time, her sweet smile that made him feel as if he’d drunk a whole cask of the finest whisky. He couldn’t turn back now. “There’s danger, surely, but still I must go ahead with my plan,” he told the stag.

The beast nodded. “Then tie a thread from the hem of your plaid to my antler. When you are ready to leave the fairy queen’s castle, tug on the thread, and it will guide you safe back here again.”

So Malcolm tied the thread to the stag’s antler and set off up the mountain. It wasn’t long until he met the fairy folk, and they spun him and poked him, and bundled him off to their castle to meet heir queen.

The fairy castle stood on a silver cloud, and could only be reached by crossing a bridge made of stars. There was a long staircase, and the great doors at the top of the steps were three times as tall as a man, and five times as wide. Colored lights danced around him like curious children as the fairies led Malcolm inside.

The great throne room was carved out of a crystal, set with precious jewels. It took Malcolm’s breath away, for he’d never seen anything so grand before. At the far end of the room sat a lady on a throne, the second most beautiful lady Malcolm had ever seen, since the most beautiful was his own sweet Catriona.

“Why have you come here?” the queen asked, her voice soft as a melody.

“I’ve come to ask a boon. I want a ring of gold if it should please your majesty to give it to me” Malcolm said.

Now the queen was imagining that ring around her own finger as she looked at the braw, handsome Highlander before her. She smiled, certain that a clansman—even a MacGillivray—would never be able to guess the answer to her riddle.

“Tell me, Malcolm MacGillivray—what is the best Christmas gift of all? Is it gold, or jewels, or riches beyond counting?”

“I’ll need a moment to think,” Malcolm said, for he knew any of those things would make fine Christmas gifts indeed.

The queen pointed at the window, and cast a spell on the world outside. Snow began to fall, grew thicker, and soon blotted out the distant hills and valleys until the world was entirely white. “I will give you until the snow piles up against the foot of my tower to answer the question,” she said pleasantly enough. “Until then, eat, drink and enjoy all the pleasures of my castle.”

She clapped her hands, and an army of servants appeared at once, each one bearing rich garments, plaids woven of shining silver and gold threads, shot through with rainbows, rich velvets, and shimmering silks. Malcolm shook his head. “No thank you. There is no cloth so fine as my own MacGillivray plaid,” he said. The servants bearing the garments instantly disappeared in a puff of green smoke.

They were replaced by a hundred men carrying coffers filled to the brim with rubies, golden brooches, pearls the size of pigeon’s eggs, sapphires, and emeralds. Malcolm was near dazzled by the display, but he turned away. “The gold of the hills, the blue of the sky in summer, the green of the hills of my own homeland shine brighter than jewels for me,” he said. Those servants vanished as well, in a puff of purple smoke.

Malcolm cast a glance at the window, and saw that the snow had reached the foot of the stairs that led up to the tower, and was piling up quickly. He still had no idea how to answer the queen’s question. More servants appeared, bearing dish after dish of tempting delicacies to eat and drink. There was every kind of fish from the seas, roasts of beef, partridge, and hare, and pies made of fruit so sweet and plump it could make you cry with the pleasure of tasting it. Malcolm’s mouth watered, and his stomach rumbled, but he said, “‘Tis not so fine a feast as the simple porridge my mother makes at our own hearth.”

The queen turned three shades of red with anger. She waved her hand, and her fine gown was instantly transformed to one finer still, silk and satin and velvet, and she was decked with jewels from the top of her head to her dainty feet. “You will soon forget your mother’s hearth, Malcolm MacGillivray, for the snow has reached the foot of the tower. You must give me the answer now, or remain here forever.

Malcolm tilted his head and smiled at her. “I think I can answer you well enough now, your majesty,” he said. He looked around the room, and back at the lovely lady. “The finest gift of Christmas is to be home and happy with the folk you love most in the world, hand in hand with your own true love.”

He was right, of course, but the queen grew angry, and drew herself up, taller and taller, until she filled the room. “I shall keep you anyway,” she said, waving her hand again. “I shall draw a mist over your eyes, make you forget everyone you love, save for me. You shall be my Christmas gift.”

She reached out to touch his forehead, to make him forget, but quick as you please Malcolm tugged on the thread at the hem of his kilt, and rushed down the stairs, following the bright line of thread through the snowstorm. The fairy queen rushed after him, crying out, but Malcolm hurried onward, sliding over the snow, faster and faster. Still she stayed right on his heels. At last, Malcolm rounded a hill, and there stood the stag before him.

At the sight of the queen, the stag transformed himself in a puff of silver smoke, and when Malcolm looked again, the beast was gone, and in his place stood a man arrayed in gold, with a fine crown upon his brow. He raised a bow, and shot an arrow into the queen’s breast, instead of blood, there was ice, and the snow gathered around her, swirling her higher and higher until her disappeared into the sky, never to be seen again. The sun came out, and sparkled on the new fallen snow.

Malcolm looked at the stag king in astonishment. “Thank you for your help, Malcolm MacGillivray. I was the true king of the fairies once. The false queen asked me the riddle put to you, but I foolishly forgot the answer. She turned me into a stag until the answer could be revealed by one of kind heart and true character. You have broken the spell, and returned me and my folk to our true forms. He raised his hands, and all around them, the trees and rocks woke, and became fairy lads and lasses again. The true queen, a lady as lovely and sweet as Catriona herself, glided over to stand beside her king.

“You shall have your gold ring,” the king said, “and all manner of good things to take to your family for Christmas.” And so Malcolm MacGillivray returned home with the gold ring in his pocket, and he placed it on his Catriona’s finger on Christmas morning, and there was a fine feast, and all were merry for many days after.

Alanna looked at the wide eyes of her audience. Even the older children were enthralled by the tale. The children sighed, satisfied, and settled down to sleep, crowding around Nessa and Donal, who was already fast asleep.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This post originally appeared on Blue Rose Romance, August 27, 2014:


Tell me, dear reader, do you think you could fall in love with someone without being able to see them? What if it was someone you’d met before, and didn’t like in the least—could you change your mind by sound, or touch, or scent?

Allow me to introduce Stephen Ives, the hero in WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES. He’s honest, gentle, kind, and charming. As a diplomat and soldier, he has learned to use first impressions to make decisions about people and situations. He’s been trained to observe, and he’s used to being in charge. Without the honor and his ability to see, he has nothing left. Nothing. Nada. He’s completely broken.

Do I hate him? Not at all—I adore Stephen, and I think he deserves the best.
I’m not really mean—I rescue injured birds in my garden, even take spiders and icky bugs safely outside and release them when I find them in my house. I truly have a very soft heart, so please bear with me.

I’ve found that in the case of people who are set in their ways, who are very sure of themselves and are smugly content with their life just as it is, sometimes it takes a huge catastrophe to shake them out of their complacency and bring out the gentler, kinder qualities they already possess.

So I took a perfectly charming gentleman, sent him into one of the most brutal battles in history, wounded him horrendously, and tossed him back on the heroine’s doorstep. He already had a broken heart before the battle even started, poor thing, but I added blindness and even took away his honor when I had him accused of terrible crimes, including theft and cowardice. Worse, everyone he knows deserts him. I left him in languishing in the care of the one woman on earth he truly doesn’t like. Surely it can’t get any worse than that!

Of course it can! What if the loathed Lady Delphine St. James touched you gently in your blindness, mopped your brow, soothed your pain, quieted your nightmares, and did everything necessary to nurse you, all without a word of distaste? What if she was the only person willing to be honest with you, to describe the world to you, to be your eyes and your guide through the darkness, and to treat you as a man instead of an invalid? And how would you feel about her when she bullied and tricked you into action, appeared cruel in her methods until you finally understand that she’s using every ounce of her strength to help you? Could you fall in love with her then?

Now some of this meanness of mine comes from the fact that I am truly as blind as a bat, dear reader. Take away my powerful contact lenses, and the glasses that go on top of those for reading and driving, and I am mere points from legal blindness. As my prescriptions increased year after year when I was a teenager, I was afraid I’d eventually lose my sight entirely. I thought a lot in those days about how it would feel to lose the ability to see nature, or color, of the faces of the people I love. Thankfully, my vision has continued to be correctable, and I am very, very grateful for that. I will see my daughter as a bride someday, and look into the faces of my grandchildren, and see my husband’s smile long into my old age.

But back to Stephen, who unlike me must learn to depend on his other senses. Imagine how frightened he’d be! Gradually, though he’s surly and depressed and in pain, he comes to know Delphine by the sound of her footsteps, to be able to read her emotions in the tone of her voice. He begins to live for the scent of her perfume and the touch of her hand. He discovers she’s witty and intelligent when they talk or read together, and he feels her strength as she guides him along the paths in the garden he can no longer see. Her kisses are sensual explorations of taste and touch.

Ah, but you had to know any author as mean as me has yet more torment in store for Delphine and Stephen, don’t you? A lady like Delphine is bound to have other suitors, and family pressure to marry someone better than a blind and accused coward. I wondered what Stephen would do to avoid losing her. Would he betray his own sense of honor to keep her by his side, or do the right thing and let her go? And if she fled from him, betrayed, and chose the arms of another man, what would Stephen do to win her back, to prove to her that he truly is WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES? And don’t think an author like me—and any heroine worth the name would make it easy for him!

Well, perhaps in the end I’m not so mean after all. Until the next book, that is.

I hope you enjoy WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES! I love hearing from readers. 
 You can drop me a line by e-mail at, or on Facebook at Or visit my website at

Monday, September 1, 2014

An exclusive excerpt from WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES 

This post originally appeared on the Historical Romance On The Beach Facebook Tea Party on August 26, 2014

Welcome to tea! Let me pour you a cup of Earl Grey, and offer you a scone—with extra cream, of course—and some fresh raspberries from my garden. Does a summer evening get any better than this?

Isn’t it a little bit sad when summer comes to an end? I prefer to see it as a new beginning—I love these last, perfect days, and watching the summer turn golden and slip into fall.

I am delighted to announce that today is the official release day for WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES! It’s now available everywhere, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Stephen and Delphine’s story. He was one of the most challenging heroes I’ve ever written—stiff and formal, blind and wounded, and stuck with the company of a woman he dislikes. But love changes everything, and everyone, and Stephen is no exception.

Here’s another short, exclusive excerpt just for you, dear reader, to enjoy with your tea…

Stephen would have fallen if she hadn’t caught him. He felt the fragile frame of her body propped under his until he found his balance. God, she was so delicate—he’d crush her if he landed on her. She was feminine and warm too, and she slipped her arm around his waist, and held him safe, and he knew that she would not let him fall. There was determination in every inch of her. “This way,” she said, her voice breathy with effort. “Take the next step.”
He could smell the fragrance of her hair, remembered the dark gloss of it adorned with daisies. If he buried his face in it now, would it still smell of flowers? He walked forward, taking a shuffling step each time she did. His ribs hurt with every indrawn breath, his arm ached, and he felt weak and afraid. Her hip was pressed to his, and she waited for him to set the pace. “A few more steps,” she whispered.
“Where am I going?” he asked.
“Your bedchamber is in the salon off the library. Turn a little to your right.”
“My bedchamber, my lady?” he strove for a light tone, charm, but there was sweat trickling into his eyes from the effort of walking even such a short distance.
At last she clasped his hand, stretched it out, and he gripped instinctively, felt the soft wool of a blanket, the edge of the mattress. He turned, and carefully sat down. She let him go and stepped back. He felt cold where her body had touched his.
“There,” she said, breathless. “Rest now. Shall I read to you again tomorrow?”
He swallowed, and nodded. He didn’t want her to leave him. He wanted to draw her into his arms and hold her, feel the breath in her body, know he was still alive. Instead he stayed where he was, unmoving, and stared into the darkness.
“Then I shall see you in the library at ten o’clock, after breakfast.” She did not press him back against the pillow, or tuck him under the blankets.
“I’ll be ready,” he said. He listened to her retreat across the wooden floor, her steps light and swift, and imagined a deer or a colt. The door shut, and he felt as if another level of darkness had been added to the first with her departure.

For more excerpts, buy links, and information about the other books in the Temberlay series, please visit my website, at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This is Clive (left) and Emma, also known as The Bookends. We adopted these siblings three years ago, and they are devoted to each other. Doesn't Emma have the face of a literary critic? Clive looks like Max from the children's cartoon Max and Ruby. 

This is me, with an advance copy of HOW TO DECEIVE A DUKE. Nothing is more exciting than getting that first printed copy in the mail from my lovely editor!

A photo taken by my son Griffin, me at my desk on a cold December day (2013)

An advance print copy of ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN (Summer 2014)