A New Year Brings New Stories

Sally with her second book Foxglove Squirrel Saves The Day! Illustrated by Barbara Warwick

Looking Ahead in 2022

A new year brings ideas for new stories! Every author hopes this is true. As we begin 2022 with high cases of Covid, I am following up on my goals to complete the Fairy Hollow Chronicles series.

This Spring, the third book in the series will be published called The Fairy Hollow Gold Treasure Adventure. Another adventure story for all the characters in Fairy Hollow introducing some new ones as well. How would you feel if you found an old treasure map? Would you try to find the treasure on your own or get help? Have you ever spoken to a real life pirate before? Can pirates be kind or are they all mean and interested only in treasure? Is Foxglove Squirrel about to uncover the truth? These are some questions that will be answered in the book.

Book 1 Fairy Hollow Chronicles by Sally de la Rue Browne Illustrated by Barbara Warwick

New Ideas

Three lovely ladies in England before WW2. My Mother is the lady on the left.

Many books have been written about WW2 and some are quite popular right now such as the Rose Code and Code Name Helene. These are all fabulous stories. My idea for the next book is about my mother’s experiences working for a club in London for Canadian soldiers. It was called The Beaver Club but will be The Maple Leaf Club for my story. Few people know that the Canadians were looked after in this club with food, help with travel around London using the underground and buses, reading newspapers, and getting health and lodging advice. It will be a fascinating story especially with a murder and a visit from Royalty! It’s hard to imagine a club without cell phones, computers and big screen TVs as we have today. The club was unique in London because soldiers could get pancakes with real maple syrup which became their Canadian experience away from home.

A Canadian soldier getting advice at the club.
Reading newspapers at the club.

Writing It Down

It’s always challenging to come up with a wonderful story to entertain the reader. I hope to have this book about the club finished by the end of 2022.

Food For Thought

Chocolate Cake

Another book that is in the works is a cookbook with food safety practices. Here is a chocolate cake which is my recipe made with spelt flour. With my background in public health, I’m well aware of the need for safe practices when preparing food. Fortunately, cakes don’t present much of a risk except too many calories unless you want to eat raw cake batter! Flour can contain E.coli which is destroyed by cooking. It’s now not a good idea to taste raw cookie or cake batter for that reason due to the risk of food poisoning.

Writing Updates

The writer's desk
The blank page is a challenging start!

These ideas for new story lines are a challenging beginning to the new year! I will write more in future posts.

Best wishes to everyone for a better 2022!

5 Tips for Christmas Turkey Safety

The Importance of Safe Turkey Preparation

Christmas table setting

As we have another Christmas with the pandemic, it is still very important to follow safe preparation practices for your Christmas turkey. The risk of foodborne illness is always present. By following these 5 tips, your Christmas meal will be safely prepared.

Turkey Preparation

As everyone knows, remember to always wash hands with warm or hot water and soap before, during and after preparing and serving the turkey.

Turkey in the raw

Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination must be avoided. For example, do not use the same knife and cutting board to handle the raw and then cooked turkey. The contamination of the raw blood and juices to the cooked turkey via the knife and board can result in bacterial growth and cause a foodborne illness.

Christmas Tree

Safe Defrosting

Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator or cold water but never at room temperature. I once had a group of hockey parents who decided to defrost their turkeys for the team Christmas party on the ice rink overnight! The turkeys were then cooked and served at their banquet the next day. Unfortunately, 33 parents and children became ill because the turkeys were improperly defrosted.

Christmas Breakfast

How To Stuff Properly

Stuffing tastes delicious, but can act like a sponge inside a raw turkey and soak up blood and bacteria allowing for bacterial growth. Either place stuffing into the turkey immediately before going into the oven or cook the stuffing separately.

Cooked turkey

Cook To The Correct Temperature

Cook the turkeys internally to 74C 165F and check with a thermometer placed in the center of the bird.

Appetizers

After the Meal

After the meal, cut up the turkey into smaller portions and cool quickly before refrigerating.

Christmas Tea

Don’t Forget!

Lastly, don’t leave the cooked turkey in the oven overnight. One of my students did this and was not happy to learn that the turkey had to be thrown out as it had been in the Danger Zone for too many hours!

Have a wonderful Christmas meal by following these 5 food safety tips.

Christmas Teapots

Travel Memories: Mykonos, Greece

A Popular Greek Island

Windmill on Mykonos

Another Greek island stop on the cruise was to Mykonos. The main town is called Mykonos too.

A Town By The Sea

Mykonos is a lovely town with some buildings and restaurants up to the water’s edge. It is nicknamed “The Island of Winds” due to the very strong winds which blow across the island which we experienced.

The cruise ship in the distance.

Greek Dining

We were able to sit outside and enjoy some Greek food while almost on the water.

My husband Al and myself sitting outside at Mykonos restaurant.

We had some Greek appetizers which included olives and hummous of course!

Hummous

They also brought us olives, bread and tsatziki.

Appetizers

We had to try the cappucino!

Cappucino

Greek Octopus

One thing we didn’t try was the octopus! This one was sitting outside on the bar all ready to go!

It was a fun day in Mykonos and well worth the visit.

Dining by the sea.
Mykonos Pottery showing the famous windmills.

I look forward to returning there again in the future.

Narrow streets in Mykonos.

Travel Memories: Santorini, Greece

A Trip to Santorini

How To Get There

Santorini is a beautiful Greek Island and was very popular with tourists when I visited on a cruise stop a few years ago.

Once the ship docks, there are two ways to get up the hill.

The first way is by cable car which is a steep ride up to the top with amazing views.

Cable Car up hill

The second way is to take a donkey ride or walk up the steps which takes a while. The donkeys must know the route by memory as they constantly walk up and down the steep slope.

Donkeys and tourists walking up the steep slope to the top.

I chose the cable car because it was fast and also a fun way to quickly get to the top.

Donkeys waiting on steps in shade.

A Special Greek Island

Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, around 200 kilometers from the mainland of Greece.

It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, and is a remnant of a volcanic caldera. A caldera is a caldron-like hollow which forms shortly after the magma chamber empties in a volcanic eruption. The walls of the volcano cave in resulting in the cauldron-like appearance of the island. It can also be considered a crater though it looks more like a giant sinkhole structure due to the eruption and the build-up of magma over time.

The Churches

The principal city in Santorini is Fira. The building is done in the cycladic style where the white buildings are built like an amphitheatre on the hillside. The blue domed churches really stand out against the white buildings built with narrow pathways between them. The churches were my favourite part of Santorini because they are so beautiful and I had never seen anything like them before.

A Return to Santorini

When it is safe to travel again internationally, it will be wonderful to go back to Greece and re-visit this amazing island with the beautiful views.

A church dome.

Back To School Lunch Safety

Safely Prepared Lunches Are Important

I always get asked questions on children’s school lunches. Parents ask if lunches are not refrigerated, how can they be safe? Of course, most of us attended school and didn’t have insulated lunch boxes or ice gel packs and did not become ill. However, there are some steps to take that will help reduce the risk of food poisoning and provide a safe lunch.

Here are safety tips for parents:

Temperature Control

** When preparing sandwiches, use either frozen bread or refrigerate the night before. Otherwise, pack with cold drinks, a frozen juice box or an ice pack in an insulated lunch box and that will keep food cool enough until lunch time.

Sandwich

** Remind children to throw away perishable leftovers and recycle packaging when possible. Use individual containers and don’t re-use food packaging as this increases the risk of cross-contamination. As allergies are an increasing concern with children, any re-used packaging could contain an allergen, eg. peanut butter, which can be placed onto another food, eg. cheese, causing an allergic reaction.

** Wash all fruits and vegetables with tap water and then dry with paper towel before adding to the lunch box.

** Insulated bottles can also be used to keep hot food out of the temperature danger zone. Fill the bottle first with boiling water, empty and fill with the hot food.

Sandwich & Salad

** Most importantly, wash your hands before preparing your child’s lunch.

Stay on the Right Track

School lunches safety prepared will help children start back to school safely and ensure a great start to the new school year!

Food Safety Makes Sense

In my former career, I was a public health inspector/environmental health officer and ran my own business called Enviro-Food Consulting. I trained a large number of restaurant and foodservice workers on food safety techniques. One of my future projects is a blog book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.

As we are still in the pandemic, the public forgets that food poisoning cases also are still happening and are preventable. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.

The Attitudes of Food Service Workers

I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. The most interesting point to remember is that food safety is not treated seriously. Working in a restaurant is thought of as just another job. Management is not always supportive. If workers notice that management doesn’t take an interest in them, they are not concerned about food safety. That means sanitizing isn’t done carefully, hands are wiped not washed, and dirty cloths are not replaced. Now that the next wave of the pandemic may be upon us, sanitizing still needs to be taken seriously.

Cappucino

Food Prepared & Purchased in A Typical Day

If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or nowadays may enjoy a takeout item including drinks such as coffee. We all forget how much we depend on the food supply chain to provide us with safe food to eat which won’t make us ill. Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported as symptoms tend to mimic the flu.

Breakfast Egg Sandwich

Consider The Following Points

For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider the following points?

  1. How old is the egg that was used in the ingredients of the sandwich?

2. Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?

3. Was the egg cooked properly to the correct temperature?

4. Was there any cross-contamination with other menu items being prepared on the grill or at the same time?

Food Handler Washing Hands
  1. Was the handwashing done properly not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot and cold water are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated hand basin to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
  2. Was the work area sanitized? This should be done with an approved sanitizer in a spray bottle and clean cloth. If the cloth is dirty, contaminants will be spread around the surfaces.
  3. Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
  4. Is the purchased sandwich hot, lukewarm or even cold? Uneven temperatures mean the food is in the Danger Zone where various food poisoning organisms can grow.

Do You Still Want to Eat the Egg Sandwich?

After thinking about all these points, do you still want to eat the egg sandwich?

Food safety affects us all though we take this for granted even in the pandemic! Food safety does make sense.

More Breakfast Food

6 Tips for Summer Food Safety

How To Stay Safe This Summer & Prevent Food Poisoning

Now that summer is here, more of us will be camping, having a barbeque and preparing picnic food.

Since restrictions and social distancing have eased, an outdoor picnic is a great way to meet up and share food. However, this is a time when food poisoning can increase due to leaving hazardous foods out on the picnic table in the hot sun therefore allowing bacteria to grow.

Summer Salad

6 Tips You Can Follow This Summer

Remember the mantra Keep Cold Foods Cold. Foods such as potato, greek and caesar’s salads need to be kept cold at 4 C or 40 F. Do not leave these salads sitting out in the hot sunshine for hours as they will be in the Danger Zone where organisms can grow.

Keep Cold Foods Cold & Use A Cooler When Grocery Shopping

Greek Summer Salad

If you are purchasing foods ahead of time at the grocery store or supermarket, place the frozen or cold foods inside a cooler containing ice packs or ice gels in your car. This will help maintain a constant cold temperature for your products until you are home or at your picnic or campsite.

Raw Food Storage

Skewers Ready for the Barbeque

Raw foods such as hamburger meat should be double wrapped and placed in the cooler as well so as not to leak on other foods. Raw meat juices or blood can easily cross-contaminate. If you have cooked products such as hamburgers or hot dogs, keep them in separate closed containers so as not to become cross-contaminated with raw juices if stored together in the cooler.

Barbequing

Barbequing is very popular in the summer months. When cooking hamburgers, always remember to keep the raw meats separate from the cooked burgers. Do not place the cooked burgers back on the plate used for the raw meats as cross-contamination will occur. Use separate utensils for the raw meats and the cooked hamburgers. Never eat under-cooked or raw hamburgers as bacteria such as E-coli can cause food poisoning.

Barbeque
A summer favourite of a burger and salad.

Recycling Plastic Utensils & Take-out Containers

When using plastic utensils and take-out containers, remember that these can be recycled. Covid is mainly spread through aerosols so the single service items can still be recycled. Better yet, take your re-usable dishes with you when camping or having a picnic and wash them later using hot soapy water.

Handwashing

Handwashing

Most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands and/or use the hand sanitizer before, during and after preparing and serving food. It is extremely important to be vigilant on this practice as it will reduce the spread of Covid as well as prevent food poisoning organisms from making you ill. If you are ill or experiencing symptoms, do not prepare the picnic foods.

Have A Safe Food Summer!

As we face a summer with many festivals and events cancelled, picnics, barbeques and camping in the great outdoors will provide us with outdoor dining and fun with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.

Children’s Books

In this pandemic, children have had their lives affected in many different ways. Whether it was doing school on-line or missing school field trips or being exposed to Covid, many have spent a large proportion of their time on-line. Children’s books are meant to challenge their imaginations and provide stories they can relate to.

Illustrations Are Important

Illustration from Shirley Hughes children’s book The Nursery Collection

As a children’s book author, I know how important it is to have illustrations with the story. The story comes alive when children can see the characters which ignites their curiosity. Movies and videos for kids don’t always allow them to use their imaginations. Imagination is a powerful tool and helps the child create or use their mind to imagine what could be or what the characters could do.

Writer’s Tool Kit

Writers of children’s books really need to appeal to children and can do so by challenging their imagination and use of descriptive words. Books can have simple wording or use more complex phrases again to challenge the child’s mind. One useful tool for the children’s book author is the use of colorful illustrations. Children are fascinated by different color images. In the story above, the child is not just walking down a path but is wearing bright-colored shoes, pink overalls, with flowers, her pet dog and cat, her doll and last of all her baby brother all in the same scene. There is a lot going on in this scene. The reader can discuss with the child when reading the book together which is what the author had in mind.

Stories That Children Can Relate To

Rupert Bear in his famous yearly annual for children

Happy Endings

Children like stories with happy endings. With Rupert, children can look at the world of adventure and fun through different animals who are dressed in brightly colored clothing. These animals would not be like this in real life. However, the characters are helpful to children to think about the world they live in and their friends and family in a different light. They will want to join Rupert and his friends on adventures too!

Sally with her children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles illustrated by Barbie Warwick

The Best Part

By making children’s books colorful, interesting, challenging and fun to read, children are off to a great start in the world of books. They will enjoy reading as they get older and venture into longer books with no illustrations. Most importantly, children’s books help children begin their journey into language which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

What Is The Inspiration for a Character in a Book?

What is the inspiration for a character when writing a book? Inspiration can take many forms and ends up providing the author with characters that can be used in the book being written.

Inspiration Helps Authors with Book Titles

What Inspires the Name of a Character?

When I first started thinking of ideas for my children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, I took inspiration from my own children to create the characters. My daughter loved fairies when she was very young so that provided me with the idea for four fairies. Adventures are always fun when you are a child so the idea that the fairies had to go on an adventure was born. Then, the names came easily as I chose names of her friends from elementary school.

Characters from the Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Christy, Katie, Megan & Lizzie

What Should Characters Wear?

Authors need to describe their characters. In The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, the four fairies are tiny so it was easy to have them dressed in ballerina tutus with their hair in buns. Ballerinas always wear buns. Young girls who take ballet enjoy wearing the tutus and having their hair in buns. The mayor in the book needed to be in a suit as he means business. The idea for the toad came from various stories I read as a child and also the toad character fits the mayor character perfectly.

My mother dining out with friends in Vancouver – What could they be talking about and how do they know each other?
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Fairies dressed as ballerinas.

Photographs

Ideas for other books that I am writing came from photographs. Sometimes a photograph can inspire an author to write a story based on what might be happening in that photo. The photos from WW2 in England are an inspiration and ask me to write about what the young men and women in the photos are laughing about, worried about, thinking about and how the war affected them. As the daughter of parents who went through WW2, I am intrigued to include in my book these points to round out my characters.

My mother and her friend in 1935 – A photograph for inspiration – What is going on in this photo?

Inspiration is the Summary of Many Ideas

The inspiration for characters in a book comes from everything including family, friends, photos, artwork, current fashion, and the author’s imagination. By using all these ideas, the characters come to life which makes enjoyable reading for all of us.

Tips For Summer Food Safety:

How To Stay Safe This Summer & Prevent Food Poisoning

Summer is Almost Here!

Now that summer is almost here, more of us will be camping, having a barbeque and preparing picnic food.

With restrictions and social distancing still in place, an outdoor picnic is a great way to meet up and share food. However, this is a time when food poisoning can increase due to leaving hazardous foods out on the picnic table in the hot sun therefore allowing bacteria to grow.

Salad

Tips You Can Follow This Summer:

Remember the mantra Keep Cold Foods Cold. Foods such as potato salad and caesar’s salad need to be kept cold at 4 C or 40 F. Do not leave these salads sitting out in the hot sunshine for hours as they will be in the Danger Zone where organisms can grow.

Keep Cold Foods Cold & Use A Cooler When Grocery Shopping

Greek Summer Salad

If you are purchasing foods ahead of time at the grocery store or supermarket, place the frozen or cold foods inside a cooler containing ice packs or ice gels in your car. This will help maintain a constant cold temperature for your products until you are home or at your picnic or campsite.

Raw Food Storage

Raw foods such as hamburger meat should be double wrapped and placed in the cooler as well so as not to leak on other foods. Raw meat juices or blood can easily cross-contaminate. If you have cooked products such as hamburgers or hot dogs, keep them in separate closed containers so as not to become cross-contaminated with raw juices if stored together in the cooler.

Skewers ready to barbeque

Barbequing

Barbequing is very popular in the summer months. When cooking hamburgers, always remember to keep the raw meats separate from the cooked burgers. Do not place the cooked burgers back on the plate used for the raw meats as cross contamination will occur. Use separate utensils for the raw meats and the cooked hamburgers. Never eat under-cooked or raw hamburgers as bacteria such as Ecoli can cause food poisoning.

Barbeque
A summer favourite of burger and salad.

Recycling Plastic Utensils & Take-out Containers

When using plastic utensils and take-out containers, remember that these can be recycled. Covid is mainly spread through aerosols so the single service items can still be recycled. Better yet, take your re-usable dishes with you when camping or having a picnic and wash them later using hot soapy water.

Handwashing

Most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands and/or use the hand sanitizer before, during and after preparing and serving food. It is extremely important to be vigilant on this practice as it will reduce the spread of covid as well as prevent food poisoning organisms from making you ill. If you are ill or experiencing symptoms, do not prepare the picnic foods.

Have a Safe Food Summer!

As we face a summer with many events cancelled, picnics, barbeques and camping in the great outdoors will provide us with outdoor dining and safe distancing with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.