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MY POLISH-CANADIAN hubby, Ed Piwowarczyk, has been hard at work today chopping lamb and veg for his signature Irish Stew for tomorrow's dinner.

And I've made my Irish-Canadian mother's traditional March 17 dessert: lime Jello.

Here is Ed's Irish Stew recipe:

3 pounds lamb shoulder, cubed;

3 parsnips, peeled and sliced;

6 stalks celery, cut into slices;

1 half-pound of peeled white pearl onions;

1 cup pearl barley;

1 pound white mushrooms;

1 12-ounce can Guinness stout;

2 cups beef broth;

1/2 tsp. black pepper;

1/4 tsp. thyme;

1 cup half-and-half;

4 minced garlic cloves.

Brown the meat in a little oil. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips and celery, and saute. Add the Guinness, beef stock and barley, and cook over medium heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Stir occasionally.

There are no cubed potatoes in Ed's stew. That’s because we'll eat it over mashed potatoes.

After dinner, we’ll watch The Quiet Man.

Beo fada agus rathúil!

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TODAY, my cheque arrived.

Thanks to the Canada Council for the Art's Public Lending Right Program, I am one of 18,247 Canadian creators with works in Canadian public libraries to receive a payment this year. This support is in compensation for free public use of our work. We view PLR payments as an essential part of our annual income. And we look forward to them every February!

Writers, translators, illustrators, narrators, photographers and editors can all sign up for the program.

More than 30 countries around the world have PLR programs. Canada's was established in 1986.

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A YEAR OF MEMORABLE reading has come to a close. Most of my leisure reading this year—surprise, surprise—were works of crime fiction. With a few exceptions, however, such as Bobbi French’s The Good Women of Safe Harbour. Writing with wit and compassion, French tells the story of Frances Delaney, a Newfoundland house cleaner, who compiles a bucket list for her final days.

Another enjoyable non-mystery was The Paris Mistress by former journalist Bruce Gates. A fun, racy read, Gates’s debut novel is set in Paris in the Jazz Age.

My favourite read of the year, of course, was Standing in the Shadows, the late Peter Robinson’s 28th and final Inspector Alan Banks mystery. In was released this past April, six months after its author’s death. Reading Standing in the Shadows was a bittersweet farewell to old and dear friends: Robinson, the author, and Inspector Banks.

I encountered a few new-to-me crime writers in 2023, including Angela Marsons. This prolific British crime writer has released no less than 20 mysteries in her Detective Kim Stone series since 2015. Many thanks to Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore’s Marian Misters for introducing me to her books with Silent Scream.

Anthony Bidulka is an established Canadian mystery writer, probably best known for his eight-book Russell Quant series. This year he released Livingsky, the first installment in his new Merry Bell series, featuring a transgendered woman sleuth. Livingsky was a fun read, and I’m looking forward to Merry’s next adventure.

Gail Bowen’s The Legacy is an important 2023 release that I didn’t read this year. Bowen’s 22nd Joanne Kilbourn mystery came out in late October, and in the mad scramble leading up to Christmas, I didn’t have time to even purchase it. The Legacy tops my to-do reading for January. And Gail tells me that the 23rd Joanne installment will be out soon!

Here are my enjoyable reads for 2023—in alphabetical order of their authors’ surnames. Many are new releases, some are fairly recent, and a few, such as The Question of Max by Amanda Cross (the late Carolyn Heilbrun), go all the way back to 1976.

·         Kate Atkinson, Big Sky

·         Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog

·         Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News?

·         Linwood Barclay, Look Both Ways

·         Belinda Bauer, The Beautiful Dead

·         Belinda Bauer, The Facts of Life and Death

·         Anthony Bidulka, Livingsky

·         M.H. Callway, Snake Oil and Other Tales

·         Brenda Chapman, Blind Date

·         Brenda Chapman, When Last Seen

·         H&A Christensen, Stealing John Hancock

·         Ann Cleeves, The Raging Storm

·         M.C. Craven, The Botanist

·         Amanda Cross, The Question of Max

·         Joy Fielding, The Bad Daughter

·         Barbara Fradkin, Wreck Bay

·         S.M. Freedman, The Day She Died

·         Bobbi French, The Good Women of Safe Harbour

·         Bruce Gates, The Paris Mistress

·         Daphne Greer, Finding Grace

·         Maureen Jennings, Cold Snap

·         Angela Marsons, Silent Scream

·         Kate Morton, Homecoming

·         Peter Robinson, Standing in the Shadows

·         S.J. Rozan, In This Rain

·         S. J. Rozan, Paper Son

·         Minette Walters, Disordered Minds

·         Ruth Ware, The Death of Mrs. Westaway

·         Ruth Ware, The It Girl

·         Ruth Ware, Zero Days

·         Danee Wilson, Murder at San Miguel

·         Iona Whishaw, A Killer in King’s Cove

·         Iona Whishaw, Death in a Darkening Mist

·         Iona Whishaw, An Old, Cold Grave


Looking forward to many more good reads in 2024!

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