Chamein Canton Novel Excerpt, Fiction, North of 40 and 50 plus Authors

Love At First Swing Preview-Chapter One

 

The once rolling forest of the Allen-Boggs-Levitt Estates served as an ideal place for a golf course on the North Shore. It had all the things golfers look for, sweeping fairways, gently contoured greens, and sparkling ponds. It was a far cry from the cookie-cutter homes one of the estate’s namesakes, Levitt, built for GI’s returning from World War II.  However, Levitt’s part in the creation of the North Hills Country Club and Golf Course was anything but assembly-line.

The 6730-yards, par 72 golf course’s gorgeous arboreal setting allowed members to enjoy a private island course less than 30 miles from Manhattan. It was there at the 18th hole, where all six feet of fifty-four-year-old Camilla, CJ, Jordan stood impatiently leaning on her club. A fair-skinned woman with freckles, CJ, was a brick house 1970s Commodores style with her long reddish-brown hair, 44-DDD boobs,  curvy girl waistline, and firm round butt. At that moment, the curvaceous CJ’s eyes were set on her best friend and professional golfer, fifty-five-year-old Tyler, T-Shot Mitchell as he circled the hole again.

“Are you going to putt or square dance? You’ve circled the hole five times already.”

“Yeah.” He put his hand up. “I’m lining up the shot.”

 

Although over fifty, Tyler was still blond, toned, and tanned with a six-pack that rivaled men half his age.  In terms of a sport to show off his swimmer’s physique, golf wasn’t on the list. Tyler grew up surfing and boogie boarding with his friends, many of whom were rich beach bums.  Golf entered the picture courtesy of his grandfather. Tyler turned out to be a natural at it.  He competed in amateur events all over California. Then a funny thing happened, wherever he played, there was a spike in female attendance from the amateur circuit to the NCAA. Everyone wanted to be near the golden boy. Tyler became golf’s first real sex symbol when he joined the PGA. His love life and exploits with women rivaled any NFL or NBA player. He dated supermodels, lead actresses, starlets, singers, and performers. He even married a supermodel turned entrepreneur and had one son. The marriage didn’t last. Tyler liked a la carte dating and relationships too much. Although conservative, the PGA overlooked his exploits. Tyler Mitchell’s name increased attendance and ratings.

Luckily for the PGA and Tyler, his good genetic fortune continued, but his fortunes on the green had taken quite a few hits as of late. At first, it wasn’t too bad. He only missed the cut for one tournament the year prior. Yet, after his disappointing performance in the subsequent cuts, he did make, he may have been better off not making the cut in the first place.  He was in a slump and though no one came out and said it, everyone knew it. CJ was the last person he wanted to hear it from, but he knew it was coming.

While Tyler hailed from sunny California, CJ was a Long Island native from Manhasset. Already 6 feet tall by the time she got to junior high school, CJ confidently took auto repair and woodshop instead of home economics. At twelve she knew how to cook, but sewing gave her a headache. Once in high school, she captained the all-male debate team, then led them to four straight statewide and two national titles. Then she went on to hold the distinct honor of being the first and only female practice partner for UCLA’s men’s golf team. She was a man’s woman, but not a tomboy. She’d put on a dress as easily as a pair of jeans, fussed with her hair, and wore makeup, but could still roll with, talk to, and out bluster guys. Yet men continued to baffle CJ when it came to dating and relationships.  A self-professed serial monogamist, she’d broken up with her longtime love a year earlier and wasn’t focused on much else besides business and golf.  All of which meant, she had no intention of going easy on old T-Shot.

Tyler walked around the hole for the sixth time.

“Are you kidding me?!” CJ huffed. “I don’t think I have any chalk with me, but I can give you a red lipstick to use to mark up the grass. Give me a second, I’ll check my bag.”

“Fine.” He huffed. “Point taken.”

Tyler lined up his putt, swung, and it sailed past the hole. “Don’t say anything.” He tapped the ball in.

“That was anticlimactic.”

“You just had to say something, didn’t you?”

“What else could I do. You set yourself up. The only other thing I could say is I’ve seen you sink par 4 holes like this with your eyes closed.”

“You can’t help yourself can you?”

“Yes. I can. However, since you’ve taken to playing like shit lately, it’s becoming a reflex action.” She headed for the golf cart.

“I’m just off today.” He followed behind her.

CJ put the club in her golf bag. “No, an off day happens every so often. You were off for The Palmer Invitational, The Players, Quail Hollow…”

He cut her off. “I did take the green jacket at the Masters. What do you call that?”

“As of lately, a fluke. You’ve got to get it together Man.”

“Not everyone can be as stealthy as you, Priscilla.” He put his bag on the cart.

“I know how to separate personal from professional, especially in golf. If you have both going on in your head while you’re playing, you are sunk.”

 

“Not everyone can turn the ice on in their veins.”

“I don’t have ice in my veins. I keep my shit separate. Maybe that’s something you should aspire to.” CJ climbed into the passenger side.

“I’ll put it on my list of things to do.” He got in the cart. “We didn’t keep score, did we?”

“No, I was merciful for once.” She smiled. “Do you want me to make lunch at your condo?”

Tyler stared out at the course. “No, let’s drop the gear at the condo and have lunch in the club.”

“Works for me. You’re paying, right?”

“Aren’t I always?”

CJ laughed as they drove off.

Being wealthy and from California, Tyler liked anything that reminded him of the west coast and luxury. The Ritz Carlton Residences in North Hills fit the bill perfectly. His 2,000 plus square-foot condo was more than enough room for the bachelor and his usual parade of lovelies he called girlfriends.

CJ walked into the living room with her golf bag. “Where do you want me to put this?”

“Put it against the terrace entrance. I’ll have someone get it and bring it down to your car later when we get back. By the way, this is a full-service condo. You didn’t have to carry it in here.”

She put her bag down. “I’m sure people here keep the staff busy enough without me adding to it. I’ve been carrying this thing since I was a teenager.”

“Speaking of being a teenager, is that why you have that thing in your hair?”

“Oh, good grief. I forgot I put the scrunchie on.” She took it out and tossed her hair. “People find me less intimidating when I look like Gidget.” CJ put it on top of her bag.

Tyler chuckled. “Scrunchie or ribbons, you’re 6 feet tall, CJ you will always be intimidating. There’s a reason I call you Priscilla Amazon Queen of the Fairway.”

“Don’t I know it?” She smirked.

Tyler put his bag next to hers. “You ready to go?”

“Let’s bounce.”

Lunch at the Governor’s Room boasted Michelin-rated food. It served as a banquet hall for larger events, but during the week, dining there for lunch or dinner was a culinary affair. CJ and Tyler took advantage of the warm weather and dined on the patio. A couple of luncheon-size steaks with salad and baked potato was just the thing to satisfy their appetites. Tyler had a beer while CJ stuck to sparkling water.

“The Memorial Tournament is coming up quick.” CJ sipped her water.

“I know. I’ve got a little time to pull it together.”

“You’re going to have to practice a lot and I know that’s not one of your strong suits.”

 

“I’ve grown up a lot since college, CJ.”

“You have, the women you date haven’t.”

“CJ. Really?”

“What? I’m just saying your current le chat du jour, is a black hole when it comes to her need to be the center of attention, especially when it comes to you. She practically demands your full attention.”

“She loves me. It’s nice to be wanted.”

“Being wanted by Alyssa makes the FBI’s ten most wanted list look like an informal invitation.  Something about this girl.” She shook her head.

In the years since he turned forty, the age of the women Tyler dated skewed twenty years younger than him. He thought he was safe dating millennials.  They weren’t into labels, so there’d be no strings. Then he saw tall, blonde, and lithe Alyssa Brummel at a red carpet event. She wore a neck-to-toe nude illusion lace bodysuit and Tyler couldn’t help himself. By the end of the evening, they went home together. A year later and the twenty-four-year-old, trust funder and bonafide Influencer regularly overshared everything, including her relationship with Tyler with her followers and the media.

“You’ve been talking to me about my love life for 20 plus years. Your love life…” he stopped.

CJ had a steak knife in her hand. “You were saying.”

“I can’t even with you.”

She laughed, and then looked up. “What is that?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In the sky. It looks like smoke.”

“Maybe someone’s burning leaves.” He kept eating.

“This is the gold coast part of the North Shore. People don’t burn leaves here.”

He looked up. “The smoke is too dark to be organic.”

CJ’s cell rang. She looked at the caller ID. “It’s Tim.” Hey, Tim. What’s going on?”

“Mom, have you been on Instagram?”

“Really, Tim? This is your mother you’re talking to. Of course, I haven’t been on Instagram. Why?”

“You need to go on it right now.  Is uncle Tyler with you?”

“Yeah. We just played a round of golf and we’re having lunch at the club.”

“He needs to go on Instagram too. It’s Alyssa.”

“What do you mean, it’s Alyssa?” Tyler put his fork down.

“Tim’s saying that we both should go on Instagram to see.” She put the knife down.

Tyler took his phone out.

“Make sure you turn it so I can see.”

“Oh boy, Mom.” Tim groaned.

“I really don’t like the sound of that.”

When Tyler opened Instagram there was a live stream with Alyssa with ablaze and fire trucks behind her. She was ranting and raving.

“What the hell?!” CJ exclaimed.

Tyler watched frozen.

“It’s already gone viral, Mom.” He paused. “Are you there?”

“Yeah. It’s all I can do not to sail off into the atmosphere. “Wait, there are two bags. The bitch set fire to my golf bag.”

“Oh, no,” Tim said quietly. “I’m going to go, Mom. I know you want to talk to Uncle Tyler”

“I may do more than that. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay, Mom.”

Tyler was stunned. “Where did she come from? She wasn’t supposed to be in New York. I spoke to her this morning.”

“She just did the golf equivalent of a burning bed, and you want to talk about when she got here? That’s the hill you want to die on?”

Tyler didn’t know what to say. Soon the whole dining room was focused on the patio.

“Everyone’s looking Tyler.”

“We better get out of here. I have to see what’s happening.”

“You have to see? It’s streaming live.” CJ got up. “I don’t know if you want me near her.”

“We have to be calm. It’s already horrible.”

“She just melted the bag my father gave me for my high school graduation. Thirty-six years I’ve had them and in one afternoon, they’re barbequed. You better hope the fire department got the blaze out. Otherwise, I may throw her shrimp ass on the barbie.” CJ huffed away full speed.

“No, CJ. I’ll make it right. I promise.”

“Bullshit. I’ll do it.” Head full of steam, she charged through the dining room with Tyler right behind her.

“No, we have to calm down and find out what happened.”

CJ stopped dead and turned around. “Please tell me what’s a good reason for setting a fire in front of private property and ranting like a mad cow. It’s stupid and fucked up.”

“Seriously. I will make it right.”

“How? She burned my shit. How are you going to make it better?”

“I’ll get your bag and clubs replaced with the exact same bag.”

“I don’t know if the company that made the bag is still in business. Or do you think that like a Phoenix, the bags will rise from the ashes?”

“You let me handle it.”

“Like you handled her when she showed up at Quail Hollow and trashed that poor woman’s room because she transposed the room numbers?”

The trashed room happened after the first round when Tyler went out for a beer with some fellow golfers and sport’s bloggers. He left his cell in his room.  The next morning as he waited to tee off,  he got the news that not only was Alyssa there, she was angry with him for not returning her calls. She flew in ready for a fight, but she went to the wrong room and furiously destroyed another guest’s belongings. Luckily, her father’s deep pockets compensated the guest for the damages plus suffering. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do the same for the damage to Tyler’s game which swiftly went down the tubes.

“You had to bring that up?”

“Yes. I did. Someone has to put some sense into that head of yours.” She exhaled. “You know what, let’s get going. We, or should I say you, have to see the damage. Thank God, I drove my car here. I’m going home.”

Tyler looked relieved. “I know you’re upset and getting in her face now won’t help anything.”

 

“What it will do is save her life. I was going to murder her on her live stream!” She took a breath. “Are you moving? Let’s go.”

Every set of eyes in the club was on Tyler. He knew this attention was only the beginning. He looked down at his phone. She was still going.   “F my life.”

 

***

In the short time it took to get back condo, the residents’ parking lot was filled with police cars and fire vehicles. Tyler found a space in the secondary parking lot. Knowing it was imperative to get CJ out of there, Tyler flagged down a police officer to guide her out of the parking lot.

“You are one lucky son of a gun.”    CJ scoffed as she hopped into her Range Rover.

“I’m not stupid. I’ve seen your temper.” Tyler closed the car door. “Well, you’re all set to get out of here.”

CJ started the car, then rolled the window down. “I don’t see any handcuffs.     I bet she called her daddy.”

“That’s not fair, CJ.”

“You want to talk about what’s fair? I can still get out of this car and wring her neck.”

“Okay. You got me.”

“I don’t know why I am surprised. Girls like that always skate. You’ll be upset for another 10 minutes or so. Then you’ll move on to the makeup sex.”

“No, I won’t.” Tyler insisted. “You have to forgive people. They’re only human and make mistakes. You know you could do…”

“I could do what?” CJ’s eyes flashed with anger.

“Nothing. I’m sorry.”

“Right. I’ll email you the specs from my bag to replace it. I hope you know Merlin.”

“If I don’t, I’ll make a point to meet him.” He looked over at the officer. “He’s giving you all clear to back out.”

“Thanks.”

Tyler watched CJ drive off, then made his way over to where the action was. As he got closer to his condo, he noticed the placement of the bags. Did she throw them off the terrace? He traced the path with his eyes.  Yes. She threw them off the terrace.  He shook his head then made his way to a fire official.

He tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, are you the fire chief?”

A short, stout man with a ruddy complexion faced him. “Yes. Chief Carlson. You’re Tyler Mitchell.”

“Yes. Where is she? Is she under arrest?”

He pointed. “She’s over there by the property manager. The police are here, but I don’t know what’s happening.”

Tyler looked at the smoldering heap. “Was there any other damage?”

“The fire was pretty much contained to the bags. There’s some damage to the grass, but nothing horrible. Good thing the bags were real, a cheap one would have gone up like a Roman candle. All in all, it could have been worse.”

“Yep. Thanks.” He stepped away. What a parting gift. If she was going to be a firebug, at least the bags were made of good enough material that it only burned the grass, as opposed to burning the whole condo down.  

Tyler nodded as he walked by some of his neighbors. Everyone waved politely, but he could feel residual flames burning through his back when he passed by.  People began to part as he came upon Alyssa, who was in a blue dress with puffy sleeves and a white-collar. She looked like Madeline from the children’s book. All that was missing was a pair of Mary Janes. So, if Alyssa was the schoolgirl, building manager, Harrison Pinter, who was next to her, looked like the headmaster.

“Ty!” She ran up and put her arms around his neck. “I’m sorry.”

“You stopped streaming?”

“Yes. Daddy made a deal.”

“Your father what?”

“Hello, Mr. Mitchell.”

“Harrison. I would say it’s good to see you, but you know.”

“Ms. Brummel telephoned her father and gave me the phone. He offered to compensate us for the damages and the services of his crisis management team to handle the press.”

Tyler looked around. “They must work fast. I don’t see any other cameras here.”

“Apparently so.”

“The powers that be okayed it?”

“Yes. They want it to go away quickly.  I am sorry about the bags, Mr. Mitchell. It could have been worse if they weren’t so well-made.”

“Isn’t that something.”

“I’ll leave you to it. Good day, Ms. Brummel.”

“Yeah.”

Tyler waited a moment. “All I want to know is why.”

Alyssa batted her eyelashes; it was the prelude to her coquettish act. “It’s your fault.”

“I’m sorry. It’s my fault you did all of this. How?”

“You didn’t answer any of my texts this afternoon.”

“I didn’t get any texts.” He took his phone out.

She grabbed it out of his hand. “See. You have a bunch from me.” She fiddled through his phone. “You didn’t remember you put your phone on silent?”

“I always put it on silent if I’m playing golf. You know that. I was going to take it off silent mode after lunch.”

“Yeah. I remembered, but then I got here, and I saw this in the living room.” She held up CJ’s red scrunchie.  “You were here with another woman.”

He shook his head. “That’s CJ’s.”

All the color drained from her face. “CJ’s scrunchie?”

“Yeah. She wore it on the golf course today. She offered to make lunch here, but we had lunch at the club instead.”

Still as pale as a ghost, she seemed to shrink. “The bag belonged to CJ.” She gulped and looked around. “Is she here?”

“She was going to come back. I convinced her to head home and cool down.”

“It was an old bag anyway. It couldn’t have been worth that much.”

“That’s not the point. Her dad gave her that when she graduated. Sentiment adds value. It was custom, like your shoes.” He paused. “We have to do something about this jealous streak of yours. You can’t keep having fits like this. Your followers aren’t substitutes for friends. If you’re mad, make like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and phone a friend, use a lifeline. It doesn’t have to be a poll.”

“My followers are my friends. They have some good advice.”

“What poll said you should start a fire?”

She rolled her eyes. “I was angry. You didn’t communicate.”

“And that was communication?” He pointed to the charred pile.

“I’m going to do something to rectify that right now.” She began to fiddle with his phone.

“What are you doing?”

“Making sure you know when I’m trying to get in touch with you.” Her fingers flew across the screen. “Better.” She put it in his hand. “I gave myself a ringtone of a doorbell. Now you will know when I’m looking for you. And here’s the vibrate button. Use it. It’s quiet, but it buzzes.”

“I guess the problem is solved.”

“That’s right, Baby. Let’s go back in and forget about this. Someone will clean it up.” She kissed him then took his hand.

Alyssa was blind to all the disapproving looks and tut-tutting, but Tyler wasn’t. He was following her like a puppy on a leash. He kept his head low to avoid their gaze.  Just before he went inside, he turned around and saw people with fireproof gloves pulling what was left in the rubble.  I’m sure my pride is in there somewhere. I don’t want to think about how many people saw this live. He sighed and went inside. Before the day was over, there were over 6 million views and counting. Unfortunately for Tyler, even when it was over, it wouldn’t be gone or forgotten.

 

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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

The Thin Grey (Haired) Line in Women’s Fiction

Finding Love over Forty

I’ve been in the publishing industry as a literary agent and an author for a long time. Publishing has gone through changes over time. Some changes have been permanent, while others were essentially transient. It’s still centered around fiction and nonfiction with a host of genres and sub-genres.  Both fiction and nonfiction books are reflective of the times, trends, and movements. Nonfiction books that focused on race and gender, now include titles that cover the Black Lives Matter Movement, transgender issues, and gender identity to name just a few. The same applies to fiction sub-genres in a multitude of categories, I am going to focus on women’s fiction.

Wikipedia defines women’s fiction as an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women’s life experience that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels or women’s rights Books. It is distinct from Women’s writing, which refers to literature written by women. The Women’s Fiction Writers Association says women’s fiction may include romance, or it may not. It could be contemporary or historical and have magical, mystery, thriller, or other elements. What defines a novel as women’s fiction is that the driving force is the protagonist’s journey toward a more fulfilled self.

The wonderful thing about fiction is it allows you to create a world from your mind’s eye. The only limitations are the ones you put on yourself, at least that’s the case when it’s just you and your laptop or notebook. If you are a female author who happens to be north of forty or fifty-plus, then you are in for a fight from the outside.

There is so much talk about age and how it’s just a number. The fact is that your grandparents’ fifty looks nothing like it does today. With good nutrition, skin care, and surgical intervention, in some cases, people are not only living longer, they are looking better than ever. Moreover, the sit in a rocking chair mentality has gone out of the window. You are more likely to find a grandmother in a spin class, and if she does like to knit, today’s north of fifty grandmothers are doing it in between yoga and Pilates. Life north of forty is viewed as an opportunity to make our second acts more exciting and fulfilling.

It’s the reason I am often puzzled by fiction categories for women over forty. First off, a lot of people think romance when you say you’re an author. There’s nothing wrong with being a romance author at all. It’s the most popular category in fiction. Romance novels focus on relationships and romantic love with an emotional and happy ending.  When it comes to stories of love, everyone wants a happy and satisfying end. However, that view or path changes as we get older, and many female authors who are north of forty, fifty, and even sixty-plus reflect that in their writing.

Currently, romances for people over forty are called seasoned romances. Some hold to the happily ever after formula, only with older characters. Why it’s categorized differently when it’s still all about love, is beyond me.  Then there are the seasoned romances where the path to true love isn’t easy. It’s fraught with many of the issues people over forty face when looking for love, or when they are trying to keep romance alive in a relationship. In Shakespeare’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream we’re watching the Athenians pursue love and all its follies, and find The Bard was quite correct to state that the course of true love never did run smooth.  Romances with older characters develop the romance in a nuanced way that reflects their experience and the time in their lives. Situations when one was quick to get angry about and summarily dismiss at thirty-years-old, aren’t looked at in the same way at forty or fifty. In the end, north of forty and fifty characters are looking for love and find it, but the path to get there is different.

Then there is the relatively new genre of chick-lit.  Viewed by some as a derogatory term, it’s loosely defined as literature that appeals mainly to women. (obviously, a man’s idea)  The other definition for chick-lit is a genre fiction which “consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists. What’s not said in this definition is what is usually found when you pitch it to editors. Chick-lit is about women in their twenties and thirties. Anything written with characters over forty is defined as either matron-lit or hen-lit, neither of which particularly flattering. Matron is a term associated with female prison guards or a verb that’s the kiss of death in fashion. Hen conjures up images of women sitting in a room laughing or talking while men refer to their chatter at clucking.  Why can’t women over forty and fifty still be chicks? Writing about mature men isn’t called Prostate-lit or Dick-lit for men who use Viagra. No one would dare do such a thing even though publishing is overwhelmingly female, but it’s still mostly a boys club the further up the chain of command you go.

I started referring to my writing as Still A Chick Lit as I went through my forties to being in my fifties. Life and love are essentially the same, but there’s much change as you age. If you’re single/divorced, the dating pool is considerably smaller and you don’t have the time to take long applications. Everything has to be put on the table rather quickly so you can make the decision if you want to pursue a relationship or not. It comes down to the devil you know or the devil you don’t know. The number of people who get back together after divorce or long-term dating/cohabitating is quite large. I used to wonder about that when I was in my thirties. I couldn’t fathom doing such a thing. If you got rid of a man, you did it for a good reason. He should stay gone, right? Well no. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of being mature, scared, or just tired of the gerbil wheel of dating. Things change and there’s a level of acceptance and communication that you are a little more willing to do to make love work.

The bottom line is grey hair in a book doesn’t mean the story is old. As a matter of fact, you can find a plethora of characters that are made more charming and interesting with age. One of the biggest announcements at the end of 2020 was a Sex and the City re-boot with three of our favorite ladies in New York navigating their lives as women in their fifties with husbands, children, careers, and friendships. What made the series and subsequent movies successful was going on the journey with Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. Age didn’t make them any less interesting. In fact, they became more inspiring as women over forty and fifty began to think about their lives in different ways. Why that won’t happen with books is beyond me, but it’s something that I hope to change.

I hope that you will come with on this journey as an author of Still A Chick-lit and nonfiction passion projects to go on this journey with me

Classic Chocolate Cake recipe from Add A Pinch and adapted by me

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sweet rice, or sorghum flour)

2 cups sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, golden sugar, coconut or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process cocoa or regular unsweetened cocoa)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon espresso powder 

1 cup buttermilk (non-dairy: 1 cup almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice)

1/2 cup vegetable oil canola oil, or melted coconut oil

2 large eggs (1/2 cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)

2 teaspoons vanilla 

1 cup boiling water

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.

For the chocolate cake:

  1. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  2. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter until well combined.
  3. Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Notes

The cake batter will be very thin after adding the boiling water.

Freezer Friendly

Let the baked cake layers cool completely. Wrap them well with plastic wrap and then with foil. Put each layer into a freezer bag and freeze up to 2 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight with wrapping intact. The next day, the layers are ready to fill and frost

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting by Add a Pinch adapted by me

Ingredients

1½ cups butter 3 sticks, softened (vegan butter, margarine)

1 cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch process cocoa or regular unsweetened cocoa powder is fine)

5 cups confectioner’s sugar (Organic confectioner’s sugar, Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

½ cup milk (dairy: whole milk, 2%) (non-dairy: almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk)

2 teaspoons vanilla 

½ teaspoon espresso powder or 1 tablespoon brewed coffee 

Instructions

Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.

Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.

Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.

Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.

If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

1 ½ cups almond milk (soy, rice, or light coconut milk) (dairy: whole milk, 2 %, non-fat milk)

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup white sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, golden sugar, coconut, or raw cane sugar, finely pulsed)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or regular unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Step 1

In small bowl, combine cornstarch and water to form a paste.

Step 2

In large saucepan over medium heat, stir together soy milk, vanilla, sugar, cocoa and cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools. Allow to cool five minutes, then chill in refrigerator until completely cool.

Dairy whipped cream

½ cup whipping or heavy cream, chilled

¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (Organic confectioner’s sugar, Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

In a clean glass or metal bowl, add the heavy cream and cream of tartar.

On medium-high speed whip the cream and slowly sprinkle the sugar in. Continue whipping until soft peaks begin to form. When you run a spoon through the bowl, it should leave a path.

To make the chocolate mousse filling, fold in ½ the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate pudding. Fold until you don’t see any white streaks. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream. You can put it in the fridge for up to 1 day in advance, otherwise, fill the cake right away. Let the filled cake set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Vegan Whipped cream recipe from Minimalist Baker

1 14-ounce can coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk  (do not use cream of coconut, it’s too sweet and won’t work, It’s great for a pina colada)  (I like Whole Foods 365 brand of coconut milk)

1/4 – 3/4 cup organic icing/powdered sugar (Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight (see notes for top brands!), being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid. See notes for more insight / troubleshooting.

The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.

Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies).

Note: if your coconut milk didn’t harden, you probably just got a dud can without the right fat content. In that case, you can try to salvage it with a bit of tapioca flour – 1 to 4 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size)- during the whipping process. That has worked for me several times.

Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla (optional) and powdered sugar (or stevia) and mix until creamy and smooth – about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.

Use immediately or refrigerate – it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it’s chilled. Will keep for up to 1 – 2 weeks!

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie