I admit it, I came to cooking and baking LATE. Baking, not too late, but cooking LATE. I always liked to bake because I like sweets. Cookies and pies were about the extent of it, but now I like to bake cakes, too. (I made that poppy seed cake with the lime glaze in the picture at right.) I don't do it that often because ... well, once you bake something, it must be eaten, and my eating audience has dwindled to about my husband and brother, and my brother is usually on a diet (one of those crazy ones where you only have 500 calories a day, so you eat a lot of canned veggies and apples. Hmmm...he always loses weight. Maybe I should try that).
I used to brag about how much I DIDN'T like to cook. But then I started writing cozy mysteries, and it's almost a given that you need to include a few recipes. So I started making stuff to test recipes and I found out that I like to tinker with recipes, too.
I had a little time on my hands of late (call it a rest between writing assignments) and I started watching Kitchen Nightmares (with Gordon Ramsey) on Youtube. In just over a week, I'd watched every one available. (Talk about binge watching.) Then I moved on to Hotel Hell. I really liked that one because I got to learn how NOT to run a B&B. And Gordon's cussing? Doesn't bother me a bit. (Hey, I worked in a machine shop for 18 months drilling holes in metal parts for the space shuttle. I've heard it all.)
Yesterday, I watched nearly a whole season of Masterchef Junior (going to watch the finale to see if Addison or Avery wins--go girl power!). What amazed me about that show was the level of skill these kids have. We're talking 8-year-olds who can whip up a serving of duck a l'Orange, bake perfect cream puffs, and cook a perfect medium rare steak, none of which I feel capable of doing. (For one think, I like my steak well done, which would cause the Chef to puke ... and I've heard him do it many times after being served nasty food. Oy, some of those walk-in fridges make you never want to visit a restaurant again).
But, I felt inspired by those kids and decided to make the recipe I've been collecting ingredients for all week.
Pasta With White Beans And Kalamata Olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces uncooked rotini pasta
1 can (about 15 ounces) navy beans
1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup spinach leaves, packed
¼ cup (1 ounce) pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup grated feta cheese
pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt and pepper flakes; set aside. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, drain the beans and tomatoes in a colander. Pour the pasta and cooking water over the beans and tomatoes. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic mixture, olives, spinach, nuts, and basil. Gently toss; blend well. Top with the cheese.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Now, I don't like feta cheese, so I substituted Parmesan; I couldn't find pine nuts, but it tasted great without them. And fresh basil? This is winter in Western NY. Dried worked out just fine. (See what I mean about tinkering with recipes.)
I may not be a Masterchef, but I'm happy when I make a recipe that works and then goes into the dinner rotation. This one's a keeper. And, it's going into my next cookbook (with my changes, of course), "written" by my character, Brenda Stanley.
Care to share a recipe for something you've made recently?
Last week, I went to a store where, just inside the door, I was greeted by a six-foot long mirrored lion--roaring his head off. (I'm calling him "Disco Lion.")
Yesterday, I went to Home Goods for the first time.
WOW -- talk about a store that contains everything you WANT and just about nothing you NEED.
I walked around in awe looking at the china, the pictures, the bedding (even dog bedding), the beautiful coffee (or tea) mugs, throw pillows, soap dishes, lamps -- just EVERYTHING, and I wanted it all (even though I have no where to put it.)
I'd first heard about Home Goods on HGTV. Hosts of the decorating stores would walk in, grab a grocery cart, and start filling them up with neat stuff to decorate the homes they were working on. Just like on TV, women were walking (and blocking) the aisles with shopping carts full of STUFF. There were even a few guys in there doing the same.
Mr. L and I walked around (and I must say he was EXTREMELY PATIENT, as I pulled a "MUM" and looked at everything) in disbelief. While most of the customers were breaking the bank with their purchases, we walked out of there with a new soap dish.
I'm at the point in life where I'm starting to shed stuff, so it's not likely Home Goods is a place I'll return to. But it does make me want some of those gorgeous bone china mugs to drink my morning tea out of.
What's your impression of Home Goods? Would it be a destination place for you?
A couple of years ago, I found a Bossons head at an estate sale. What's a Bosson's head? A picture tells a thousand words, they say. Basically, it's a head made of plaster of Paris (or chalkware). You can read all about them here.
My mother and aunt collect(ed) them, neither of them had/have a huge collection, but they're very interesting and kind of delicate--they chip very easily. Mr. L gave me two for Christmas and wasn't as careful as he might have been. One of them broke after he wrapped it. Luckily, he has a friend who can mend things so that you can't tell they've been broken. (One of our cats chewed the ears off a cat statue Mr. L had given me and his friend was able to repair it so that there was no trace it had been gnawed.)
I've now got five. Women Bossons heads are very rare indeed, and Mr. L bought me a female for Christmas. I wish I could say she was pretty, but she's a fisherman's wife, and she looks it. In fact, not many could be considered "pretty," but they are true-to-life.
Most of my Bossons heads are fishermen (and woman), but I do have a policeman (who was my second head). I've looked at a lot of images online and I think I'd like a Beefeater next. But that can wait. I've still got a birthday and Christmas to go in 2017.
The other day, I was at a thrift shop. Sad to say, I did NOT find a Bossons head, but I did find a small plaster of Paris plaque of a fisherman at the helm. Mr. L said it reminded him of the Glouesster Fisherman statue in Massachusetts.
As you can see, it's rather humble, but sweet. I thought it would make a nice addition to my wee Bossons collection.
Do I really need to find anything else to collect?
Is that going to stop me?
What useless things do you collect?
Just in time for the holidays, I've written a new Blythe Cove manor story you may want to read.
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
All is quiet at Blythe Cove Manor as its proprietress, Blythe Calvert, anticipates a peaceful holiday along with her cat, Martha. But then a taxi pulls up and drops off a troubled, runaway teen looking for a safe haven. Can the magic of Blythe Cove Manor heal this young girl’s aching heart?
After almost four years, the Victoria Square Mysteries has finally continued. Today is publication day for Dead, Bath and Beyond.
Nothing can spoil Katie Bonner’s perfect day of sailing with her friend, lawyer Seth Landers. That is, until she runs into her ex-boss Josh at the marina. As an employer, Josh liked to rock the boat and can still push all Katie’s buttons. After a loud discussion, she’s happy to say good-bye for what she hopes is the last time. And it was. For the next day, Josh is found drowned in a bathtub at Sassy Sally’s B&B on Victoria Square. Who pulled the plug on Josh? When an autopsy proves it was lake and not bath water that killed him, Katie finds herself in over her head, and races to find the killer before her life and business go down the drain.
Hope you'll give Katie's 4th adventure a try!
I love holiday music. I start sneaking it into the daily repertoire a week or two before Thanksgiving, usually playing it on my computer in my office. Of course, my office is connected to Mr. L's office. He doesn't love holiday music as much as I do, although I will admit that our favorite local soft rock station starts playing it the Friday before Thanksgiving 24/7. That gets REALLY tiresome because you're liable to hear the same song 3 times during the day. (We have it on in the kitchen just for background noise.)
In all I must have at least 50 holiday CDs and not all of them get played every year.
Why not share the title of YOUR favorite CD so that many of us can give it a try. It might just become one of my/our favorites, too!
Okay, the usual holiday barrage of catalogs had begun back in September, but I find it really jarring to read about Christmas before the first snow. (Unfortunately, that happened last week. But it rained later and everything melted away before we could get too depressed.)
This, of all years, I'm not nearly ready--or in the mood--for Christmas yet. Wayyyyy too busy. And you know in early December when I am in the holiday mood, they'll be sending me magazines featuring Valentine's Day and St. Paddy's Day recipes.
Now the catalogs I like. I love the t-shirts and signage. They give me ideas for graphics. Like this one I made earlier this week. Isn't Sarge just adorable? Couldn't you just pick him up and smother him with love? I'll be using it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
But getting back to those Christmas issues, I'm going to read them all (and so far four have arrived), but not until at LEAST Thanksgiving. Luckily, I have lots of other reading material (just found a cache of magazines from June and July I'd put aside and forgotten). I see it as delayed gratification.
So how do you feel about the early holiday barrage?
Well, hey--look what I found on Amazon this morning!
Here's the blurb: Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, is in for a surprise when her ne’er-do-well father, John, comes to town—and promptly becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a woman with her own scandalous past. Even Tricia’s faith in the old man is shaken when the Stoneham police break the news that her father is a known con man who has done jail time.
But what about bestselling thriller author Steven Richardson? Is it a coincidence that he arrived for a book signing just before the crime or that the victim was found with a signed copy of his latest bestseller?
From merlot to murder, Tricia is determined to clear the family name before another body shows up and ruins Stoneham’s first—and highly anticipated—wine and jazz festival.
Amazon HC: http://amzn.to/2fcdbxO
Kindle US: http://amzn.to/2er3ZqN
Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/2dFsHSJ
Kindle CA: http://amzn.to/2fca354
Kindle AU: http://amzn.to/2eOgjwW
Kindle Worldwide: http://authl.it/B01MA58VW8
B&N HC: http://bit.ly/2e7acTi
Wrong. Bigger screen, same tiny keyboard. : (
But, I was determined to learn how to use this phone. The first step: getting my number transferred from my old phone to my new phone. Usually my brother does this kind of stuff for me because I'm intimidated by some kinds of technology, but he was busy and I didn't want to wait a week, so I called the company and ... twenty minutes later, success! Okay, now to learn how to use a smart phone.
Read the directions? That doesn't work for me. I have to SEE how its done. Thank goodness there are smart people out there willing to share what they know and make YouTube videos. And they come from all countries in the world. Somebody with an Indian accent taught me the ins and outs of my android phone, while some guy in South Africa and a woman in Australia taught me how to use Instagram.
Yep! I've had an Instagram account for some time now, but my phone camera was so crappy, I was ashamed of the photos. The new phone takes NICE photos ... although still having a bit of trouble uploading. But this new phone anticipates what I'm trying to type and suggests words, so it's a lot easier to write a message than it was with the other phone.
Not only do I have an Instagram account,so do two of my other names. So come on over and follow us. Just click the links below:
Lorraine | LL Bartlett | Lorna Barrett
So, are you intimidated by some technology, too?
CRAFT SHOW SEASON!!! What does that mean to you?
Since my very first book came out in paperback, I've been a vendor at craft shows. Until last year, no one questioned that writing books was a "craft." After nine years of showing at one church craft show, I was told writing was NOT a craft and that I could no longer be a part.
AFTER NINE YEARS.
Of course, I disagreed. As an indie author, not only do I write my books, I format them (with a LOT of help from Mr. L). I art direct. I write the back cover copy, I format them for ebooks, and I do most of the promotion. Nobody can tell me that putting all that work into my end product (I do everything but print the books in my basement) isn't a handmade craft.
They allowed me back into the show.
My first "show" of the season is next week and I'm nervous. I'm going in through the back door. My friend, Eleanor (whom I met when I was a vendor at the local antiques arcade), "bought" one of the school rooms (she has a LOT of crafts (doll dresses, tree ornaments, table decorations) and it was cheaper for her to do that then just buy a lot of spaces. She's "subletting" the rest of the room to other vendors. Will the committee come and tell me I have to leave? We'll see.
Here's my schedule for this "craft show season." If you're in the Rochester, NY area, I'd love to meet you.
OCTOBER 15, 9 am - 3 pm
St. Rita School Craft Sale, 1008 Maple Dr., Webster, NY 14580
NOVEMBER 19, 9 am - 3:30 pm
The Churchmouse Bazaar, Gates Presbyterian Church, 1049 Wegman Road, Rochester, NY 14624
DECEMBER 10, 10am - 4 pm
Greece Olympia School, 1139 Maiden Lane, Greece, NY 14615
I've already started packing up my books. Next up, making goody bags for everyone who makes a purchase (filled with my own and the Cozy Chicks bookmarks, postcards, and buttons). Then next Saturday, I'll pack up the boxes, tables, folding bookshelf, and be on my way. Wish me luck!
What do you like best about craft shows?
BUT ... can you also imagine how sad it would be to live in a world without dessert?
Just think, no cakes, no pies, no cookies, no pastries, no ice cream, no cheesecake, no fruit. It's enough to make you cry! Luckily, that's not the world we live in.
You can go to the grocery store or bakery and indulge yourself and/or your family, or you can take the satisfaction of making dessert yourself.
Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook can help. Katie Bonner, of the Victoria Square Mysteries, has put together a collection of recipes for breakfast, lunch, happy hour (in the form of signature drinks), and dinner -- but most enjoyably, for teatime and dessert.
Pies, cookies, cakes -- you name it, she's made them and collected recipes from friends and fellow merchants on Victoria Square to share with readers and friends.
So maybe just for this one day -- indulge yourself. Make something wonderful for your family. Katie is glad to lend a hand!
So, what's YOUR favorite dessert?
Now here's a holiday I can get behind. I could eat Yorkshire Pudding every day of the week and NEVER get tired of it. (Had some last week as a matter of fact.) Love it, love it, love it!!!
Click this link for an English #recipe -- so you know it's good. (I use drippings when I can -- otherwise olive oil.)
Every year I plant a veggie garden. Some years we have good luck, some years ... not so much. This year Mr. L dislocated his shoulder, and so the veggie garden went in late (in mid-June). I bought plants at the garden center, stuck them in the dirt, and hoped for the best.
The tomatoes have gone absolutely bananas ... but they're only just starting to ripen. If we have a frost, they'll be toast. I bought two spindly pepper plants that did nothing until about a month ago--then they went bananas. Yesterday I picked 5 of them and there are still 5 or 6 small ones that may or may not get much bigger. I'll keep watching the weather and if it looks like a frost, I'll pick everything.
Meanwhile, it was time for Mr. L's recipe for ...
SAUSAGE-STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS
4 medium peppers, with tops cut off and seeded
1 pound seasoned sausage, like Bob Evans hot, bulk, 1 pound roll
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp. oregano
1 cup mozzarella
2 cups (1 small jar) Traditional Italian Sauce
Blanch the pepper bottoms in boiling water for 4 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC, Gas Mark 6). Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, and then add the sausage and cook until well browned, stirring often to separate meat.
Stir the onion and oregano into the skillet and cook until the onion is tender. Now, stir in the cheese.
Arrange the pepper halves, cut-side up, in your baking tray. Spoon the sausage mixture into the pepper halves. Pour the sauce over the filled pepper halves. Halfway through baking, poke the peppers so any extra juice can leak out (makes for less soggy peppers).
Bake 40-45 minutes until the peppers are tender.
And so it's National Homemade Cookie Day! Naturally, I WANT to participate, but then I looked in the mirror and saw the size of my butt and decided I would enjoy the day "virtually" instead of actually eating any cookies. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy it vicariously.
Like working on my Lotus Bay Cookbook. (No title for it yet.)
The real question is -- why work on a project that isn't likely to bring me any money and certainly not many people will buy or read it.
BECAUSE I WANT TO!
There, I said it.
I love cookbooks, and if it was feasible, I'd do a real one -- like Susan Branch's Heart of the Home, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. I can't draw/paint like she can, and adding color photos to an ebook is prohibitively expensive. (Did you know authors get charged per download of our books?) Anyway, it's a fun project and so I putter at it.
I puttered at Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook several years ago and, quite frankly, the sales suck. I'm lucky to sell 5 or 6 a month. But I'm really proud of that little cookbook. The trade paperback edition has little black-and-white clip-art illustrations, some of which were drawn by Mr. L, like the cow to the right. (In the book, the dialog balloon over Bossy's head says "Moo!")
In Recipes To Die For, I included an anecdote to go along with each of the recipes. Surprisingly enough, it was hard. I know the characters pretty well, but I wasn't as familiar with the lesser characters, and having to come up with ideas about their personalities was more difficult than I thought it would be.
My friend Ellery Adams suggested that I start the book with Signature Drinks. Now that was fun. I had to read the entire Mr. Boston Official Bartending Guide (Mr. L collects them and we have at least 4 different editions, some of them pretty old) to find the exact drinks that would go well with the characters' personalities. Conrad Stratton's favorite drink is the Corpse Reviver. (Yes, there really is such a drink!) And Mr. Collier, from Collier's Funeral Home, drinks Zombies (maybe in hopes of keeping those not-quite-dead away from his funeral parlor). See, there's lots of fun stuff stuffed into that little book, which is why it was fun to write.
Anyway, over the summer, I've been puttering on two cookbooks; one for Lotus Bay (and features food that you'd find in a B&B, because that's what Kathy intends to open), and the other for the Jeff Resnick series. That would be mostly Brenda's recipes. It wasn't something I planned, but I noticed that in my books, she make a LOT of soup, so it will feature more soup and dinner recipes.
Okay, so if you've read either of those series, what other recipes to do think Kathy and Brenda should include in their cookbooks?
P.S. I've made all the Booktown Recipes available to readers on my website. Go to the site, look under the Angelica's Recipes drop-down menu, and you can find them from every book in the series. Just click this link.
I've written before about how I like to make graphics. I think they're fun, and usually I do them to either celebrate a National Day of ... or to plug my own or somebody else's books. For instance: Today is National "Talk LIke A Pirate" Day, and I made a graphic for it for the Cozy Chicks.
I've made them for my friends, too.
And, of course, I've made them for myself.
My question to you is ... does seeing these kinds of graphics influence you? Would you be interested in any of the books because of the graphics. I sure hope the answer is yes, but even if it's no, I'll probably still make them because it's fun.
I can't draw. Mr. L laughs hysterically at my attempts, but that's because he CAN draw, and paint, and make funny cartoons, and makes exquisite maps. My creative gifts just don't fit into that category. But, I can put together a graphic using different elements. How many elements do you think there are in the Telenia graphic above? Would it surprise you to know there are 8 different things going on?
Never Underestimate the power of a woman with a loom.
the book cover
the photo of the witch.
the Tales of Telenia logo
my website URL
the black background
I find it fun to put all these elements together. And so I'll ask the question again: do these types of graphics influence you?
And here's a bonus graphic just because it amuses me. (Coming October 15th.)
I must be doing something REALLY wrong when it comes to my book trailer videos and uploading them to Youtube. After two years, the one for A Crafty Killing has EIGHT views. Book Clubbed has over 400, but most of them have less than 100.
One of my readers makes videos of her Dollar Tree hauls, which is how I got started watching them. There are literally HUNDREDS of Dollar Tree Haul videos out there and some of them get THOUSANDS of views. I didn't know this until I subscribed to one Lady's channel because she had a cooking video. (I LOVE cooking videos and watch a lot of them -- usually when I'm supposed to be writing.)
I try to get in and out of the Dollar Tree as fast as possible (because you can drop money like crazy for stuff you really don't need.) I mostly buy padded envelopes, cheaters, and batteries. When my Mum was alive, I'd buy her Ginger Snaps (if they had them--they go FAST. But then Wegmans started carrying them again, so now I can easily get MY ginger snap fix.)
So, what do you think the fascination is with the Dollar Tree?
P.S. If you want to see the Crafty Killing video (which Ellery Adams and I made together) click this link.
My friend Judy once told me, “Always let your mother buy you a present when she wants to – because one day she will be gone.” I wish I’d followed her advice a little more closely. But last week I decided to use a little of the money my mother left me (so far I hadn’t touched a penny) to buy myself a used Alphasmart keyboard.
These were developed to help kids learn to type, but were mostly used by writers. I used to have an Alphasmart but lost the cord to download and don’t know what happened to it. The new-to-me Alphasmart arrived over the weekend and it sure didn’t look used to me, despite the fact it’s probably six years old. (They don’t make them anymore.)
It’s just a keyboard. No Internet. Just to test it out, I wrote 900 words on a short story in about 20 minutes. (It doesn’t hurt if you already know what you want to write. Wish that would happen more often.)
Have you treated yourself to anything lately?
What you may not know is that you can follow your favorite authors via Bookbub. Not only that -- but when they have a new book out, Boobkbub will jog your memory and send you an email telling you ABOUT said book.
As it happens, all my names are registered with Bookbub and I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE it if you would follow me. The thing is -- you can ALSO follow me on Amazon, who will do the same thing (send you a note when a new book comes out). It's a win-win situation for both authors and readers.
To make it easy for you to follow me, I've collected all the links. Please, pretty please, follow me on Bookbub and if you're a Kindle user, on Amazon!
Now, back to writing my next book so that when it's finished Bookbub and Amazon will send you a note.
Do you rely on these book promo services to find out what's new?
My book, Tales of Telenia: STRANDED, is just one of 15 books you could win when you enter a #YoungAdultBack-To-School Book Giveaway. While you’re at it, why not read them on a brand new Amazon #Kindle Fire?
Don't read YA? Maybe your kids or grandkids do!
Enter by September 12th to win a wide selection of Young Adult e-books, a Kindle Fire, or both! Click here for more information on how to increase your odds of winning.Look for the follow-up email to confirm your entry. Good luck!
You can take just about every cake recipe on the planet and make it into a cupcake (or fairy cake, as they call them in the UK--and doesn't that sound enchanting. Wouldn't you just LOVE to eat a fairy cake? Makes you think of fireflies and magic, doesn't it?).
All you have to do is bake the cupcakes at the same temperature called for in the cake recipe, but reduce the baking time by 1/3 to 1/2 the cake's timing (usually 15-20 minutes). Insert a toothpick in the center of the cupcake. If it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.
Here's my favorite spice cake recipe. Why not turn it into cupcakes?
¼ cup (115 grams) butter or ½ cup (1dL) shortening
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (1 dL) dark-brown sugar, packed
½ cup (1 dL) milk
½ cup (1 dL) molasses
2 ¼ cup (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC, Gas Mark 4). Grease or put paper cups in muffin tins. Cream the butter or shortening and slowly add the two sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then add the milk and molasses, beating thoroughly. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the wet mixture, beating until well blended. Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.
Frost with your favorite cream cheese or butter cream frosting. Also tastes great with Maple or Caramel frosting.
Did you notice I'm putting ingredients into grams? I would like my recipes to work for readers and friends around the world. Is this helpful? Let me know -- because I'm working on two new cookbooks and want to make them as reader friendly as possible.
And remember ...
My sister-in-law and her husband lost their 18-year-old cat, Molly, last week. Sisti (as she calls herself) wasn't sure if she should even GET another cat because she worried it might outlive her. But her husband said, "Let's do it." And so here's my nephew, Dickens. Isn't he just adorable??? He's just 8 weeks old and has already stolen all our hearts.
A writers life is a lonely one. I work. A lot. Therefore, I don't have a lot of social time. I haven't spoken to my neighbor Amy in a week. The only people I really see are Mr. L and my brother. I've gone on several writing retreats this summer where I've just stayed in the house and not gone anywhere or spoken to anyone (except on the phone to Mr. L and my brother). My two local girlfriends both work day jobs. Not a lot of time for socializing. (I think it's been two years since we got together. Mostly we chat on Facebook.)
Mr. L goes out to lunch once a month with the guys he used to work with. (I worked with some of them, too.) Mind you, they'e been meeting for OVER TWENTY YEARS. When he comes home, I badger him. Who was there? What did you talk about? Mr. L clams up. "I didn't record the conversations."
If it weren't for the Internet, I don't know what I'd do. I'm lucky that I get to "talk" (okay, type) to the Chicks, to my BFF Jennifer, and many of my readers (mostly on Facebook), many of whom have become friends. (Hi, Amy, Linda, Pam, Geneva, and all the ladies and gents from Lorraine's Perpetual Tea Party.)
And then there's my Thursday morning meetings. (Except we didn't have one yesterday--we had to reschedule for today.) I also belong to another author group known as Storytellers Unlimited. Every week the three of us do a Google Hangout (which is like Skype) and we talk, face-to-face, about BUSINESS.
I can't tell you how much I look forward to these meetings because I get to TALK to someone other than my cats, husband, and brother. We usually meet for about two hours, and talk about our work, and what we'd like to accomplish as a group. One of the ideas we're currently tossing around is holding an event--a luncheon in Western New York for cozy readers. (Doesn't that sound like fun!) You'd think it would be easy to plan such an event. Um...not so much. Inviting 100 friends for lunch is as big an event as putting on a wedding reception. Are we crazy to think about doing this? Maybe. (And be sure to let me know if you think this could be a fun event.)
There are all sorts of things to think about. Table decorations. Door prizes. The menu. The venue! Round tables of eight, or round tables of ten? Transportation. Will we need a microphone? Should we have a keynote speaker? What time of the year should we hold it? Can we find some volunteers to help stuff the goody bags? Should we hold a pizza party the night before for those coming from out of town? Yes--lots of decisions.
So, will we talk about that or our upcoming Winter Magic anthology? (We're on pins and needles waiting to see our cover.) Maybe we'll talk about Shirley's new car (which she picked up yesterday and why we had to reschedule our meeting). Maybe we'll talk about Kelly's cutie-pie granddaughter (she's babysitting her for the summer). Whatever we talk about--it'll be FUN.
The Cozy Chicks will be having a meeting at the end of the month. I'm really looking forward to that, too. We had such fun the last time we did it in January. I'm counting the days.
Do you ever feel the need for conversation?
This summer has been a bust when it comes to junking. Sometimes we only find one or two yard sales. : (
Things didn't look hopeful when Mr. L announced there was only one sale; a bag sale at the local fire hall. They were weeding out the accumulated donations (and boy, where there a LOT of them) for their upcoming auction. The bag sale items were in boxes laid out on benches--maybe 100 or more boxes, and a couple of tables worth of stuff. Inside their rec hall was "the good stuff." The local grocery store donated a huge stack of paper bags, and it was every woman for herself!
Unlike most bag sales (which are usually a buck or two to fill a bag), this one had a tier system. $5 for the first hour, $4 for the next, and so on and so on. Five seemed a bit steep, but it didn't take me long to find some pretty cool stuff. Okay, I got some things like junky earrings (who ever heard of smores earrings?) that came with a pierced earring holder, a Christmas tree skirt, and some jigsaw puzzles, but they weren't the prizes.
First up, I found a couple of Haeger swan vases. Aren't they cute? I already have a couple of swan vases with the same kind of silky glaze, so when I saw these, I knew I had to have them. Like many of the items in the sale, these were donated by an antiques dealer and still had the price on them: $15.
I'm always on the lookout for bone china teacups to give as prizes on my Facebook group page (Lorraine's Perpetual Tea Party -- you can join if you'd like!) I was lucky and found three beauties.
This first one still had the dealers tag on it for $18. It's marked Hammersly, part of the Spode group. I love the shape of the cup. I don't think I have one like that--but I do have a lot of cups with roses on them, so this will be part of my catch-and-release program for one of my lucky readers.
This one is Royal Darwood and features the flowers associated with the Canadian Provinces. What you can see on the left side of the cup is the Prairie Crocus from Manitoba and in the center is the Prarie Lily from Saskatchewan.
This one is Royal Vale made by Ridgway Potteries Ltd.
Then I came to the animal section ... I am an absolute SUCKER for animal figurines. (Really, I have to fight it.) Here's a donkey who got separated from his manger. (He's about ten times bigger in this picture than in real life.)
I saw this little guy and grabbed it fast. It's not for me, but my neighbor, Ian, who is 7 years old. He's nutso-bananas for seals. He knows a lot more about seals than anybody else I know and he wants to be a marine biologist. I think he's going to make it, too. He's a wonderful little boy who is very generous with his hugs.
My mother-in-law had three ducks that looked like this (only nicer). When she went into the nursing home, my sister in law got them (as she should have), But now I have a duck that will remind me of my MIL. (Mr. L, too -- because those ducks were around since he was a kid.)
Look at this gorgeous glass compote. Honestly, do I EVER use anything like this? Not usually, but -- when I went to the public market, I bought bananas. Guess where they will end up? Yes! in this compote with a mountain of Redi wip on the top. (I've got too much on my plate to make homemade whipped cream.) I appreciate glassware a lot more since I read about Susan Branch's collection. (Someone gave her a banana holder as a wedding gift, and that got her started.)
This hand-painted sugar and creamer has a German company on the bottom. Will have to get our my magnifying glass so I can read the name and research them. They're not bone china, but they are pretty.
I got three of these ... ornamental thingys. I have no idea where they're going (yet), probably over a door, but I'll figure it out eventually. They're not old, as they're made of resin, but they look old.
And that was it. (Who could have thought you could GET this much stuff in a paper shopping bag?) As I paid the fireman, he said, "Now wasn't that worth $5?" I had to admit, he was right. Then he said, "Why not come back later?" I figured no way -- I mean, I'd already been through all the boxes, right?
Wrong. Mr. L took me to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants just down the road and on the way home, we stopped at the fire hall once again. By then (about 4 hours later) the boxes really had been emptied, and because the stuff had all been just shoved in, a lot of pretty things (some of them quite old) had been broken. But ... I still managed to find some more treasures.
I saw this Made In Japan couple the first time through and figured somebody would scoop them up. Nope. I looked carefully to make sure they hadn't been broken, and miraculously, they were still in pristine condition--not even a chip on them. They're going to live in my office at our cottage. Just think of how much joy they will have perpetually dancing away the hours while I work on my books and look out at the water when my muse deserts me.
This little etched glass is the sole survivor from a liqueur set. I don't think you could get more than a couple of tiny sips out of it. It stands about 2 inches high. I've tried to imagine my characters drinking out of it -- Angelica could pull it off, as could Katie or Kathy. (Anissa would NOT have the patience.)
I found another cup and saucer, but it's not bone china: it's ironstone. But as one of my FB friends said, she isn't a cup snob and I can't think of anybody who wouldn't want to drink tea out of this pretty cup.
There's no hallmark on the back of this sandwich plate, but I could see myself eating a piece of the zucchini bread I made (and froze) last week on it. What would you serve from it?
And because Mr. L and I are eating a lot of fresh salad (growing my own lettuce and herbs this summer), and it seems like we use less dishes so the dishwasher isn't running as often. So having another salad bowl would be handy. It's not old, but it is pretty. We already used it and made a BIG salad. Yum!
To fill up the bag, I tossed in all the lonely doilies, linen napkins, and hand-embroidered dresser scarfs that nobody wanted. I can't bear to think of the work that went into them being tossed away. It's a very sad thing that very few people today value the work that goes into hand-crafted items. That's why I still have a garage filled with things my Mum and Dad made because I can't sell them for pennies on the dollar.
Look at the sweet daffodil someone embroidered. And even more impressive is the lace/crochet/tatting (?) surround.
So that was my junking for the week (and probably the best of the year). I hope you liked the pictures. What do you look for when you junk?
Here's my blurb for A Final Gift, which is available today. (YAY!)
Will anything heal the pain of a grieving daughter? When a trip meant to be a gift of a weekend trip together turns into a painful solo journey, can the magic of Blythe Cove Manor help heal Jenny Taylor's soul?
It occurs to me that this blurb sounds rather morbid. I should probably work on it more, since it seems like people are turned off by it. While there are poignant moments, there're some quite amusing bits, and a happy ending. (Well, I think so.)
Perhaps after reading this post, you'll give Jenny Taylor (and of course, Blythe Cove Manor) another chance.
You can get it on all ebook formats:
I always love to announce when my friends have new books out -- and today two of them do.
MURDER IN THE SECRET GARDEN by Ellery Adams
There is a hidden garden bordering the grounds of Jane Steward’s book-themed resort—a garden filled with beautiful but deadly plants such as mandrake and nightshade. Tucked away behind ivy-covered walls and accessible only through a single locked door, as described in the pages of Frances Hodges Burnett's classic novel, the garden is of special interest to Jane’s current group of guests, The Medieval Herbalists. But when one of them turns up dead, Jane must discover whether a member of the group has come to Storyton Hall to celebrate their passion for plant lore or to implement a particularly cruel means for murder.
With thousands of books at her disposal, Jane believes she has the proper materials to solve this deadly problem. If she’s wrong, however, she may lose something far more precious than the contents of Storyton’s secret library...
THE CAT, THE KILLER and THE COLLECTOR by Leann Sweeney
Jillian Hart and police chief Tom Stewart are enjoying peaceful, newly wedded bliss in Mercy, South Carolina, until a woman is found wandering the streets one night. She's in her night clothes, disoriented, and carrying a kitten in a tote bag. A search of the woman’s house reveals many more cats, a maze of cardboard boxes—and a dead man.
Although the evidence suggests the frail woman is the killer, Jillian doesn’t believe she’s capable of such a crime. The dead man had many enemies in town, which means finding the real murderer may prove to be its own cat and mouse game...
I love to bake, but I seldom do it. Why? Calories.
I've been reading Susan Branch's Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams. It's a memoir of how she became the unique and famous cookbook author that she is. (I won't admit to you how many times I've read it since it came out in April, either--but it's more than five.)
This book speaks to me on so many levels; as an author, as someone who struggled to become an author (although Suan's book was accepted on her second try--and she never had to go through the whole struggle of finding an agent and 11 years of rejection. And she didn't start at a small press, she went straight to the top). Am I jealous? A little green with envy, but it doesn't pay to be jealous. Everybody has their journey and that's what makes their talent singular.
We have other things in common. We both drink a LOT of tea. We both bought tiny houses as single women, when not many women were doing that. (Although I bought my first house at age 24; she was 34.) She was writing from an early age (her diaries--which is why she is such a good memoirist), and I always had my secret stories, but didn't start writing them down until I was 17. She made people happy through her cooking. I made me happy through baking.
She's sprinkled recipes throughout the book, (Hey, she's primarily a cookbook author, and her recipes are good.) I'm a cookbook author, too (though not nearly as successful). I used to hate to cook, but always enjoyed baking. These days, I'm cooking more (and finally enjoying the process), but not baking as much.
I live in fear of the scale. As you get older, it's so much harder to lose weight. I recently went on a diet and lost six pounds. For our anniversary, Mr. L bought us a cake (and it wasn't THAT big a cake). She shared it, 50/50. I gained 6 pounds and he didn't gain an ounce.
I'm back on the diet.
But today I'm going to bake zucchini bread. My container garden plant gave me two tiny zucchinis and I bought two more at the Public Market. I'm going to allow myself one slice, and then freeze the rest. Mr. L will enjoy it for breakfast in the coming weeks. But you know, I'm getting tired of only having one slice. I feel so demoralized by having to deny myself things I like because of the power of that damned scale.
The fact is, most of my family are diabetics and I'm not. And I want to keep it that way. So I'll just have my one slice. And I'll keep writing about food and eating vicariously. That's the only way I'm going to keep from packing on the pounds.
Have you struggled in this way?
P.S. Here's my zucchini bread recipe (made with unsweetened applesauce for less calories--of course, adding the nuts kind of cancels that out--except walnuts are very healthy. (Yes, they are!)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cup granulated sugar
(or 1 brown sugar + 1 granulated sugar)
2 cups grated zucchini squash
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC, Gas Mark 4). Combine the eggs, applesauce, and sugar until well blended. Stir in the zucchini and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda; stir into zucchini mixture. Stir in chopped nuts. Bake in 2 well-greased loaf pans for 1 hour.
Yield: 28 slices
YAY -- the 7th Jeff Resnick mystery, SHATTERED SPIRITS, is now available.
If it weren’t for bad luck, Jeff Resnick would have no luck at all!
While riding his new racing bike, Jeff is hit by an SUV, an accident which has a cascade effect on his life. He loses his job to a replacement, his girlfriend pressures him to move in, his bank accounts are hacked, and a restless spirit begs for his help—all in less than a week. But it’s soon apparent that his so-called random accident is anything but, and the murder of a close friend has a hobbled Jeff on the run. Can he discover who’s out to destroy his life—and threaten those he loves most?
Coming soon to audio, too! (Read by Steven Barnett.)
Look what sprouted in my compost bucket!
I hope it's a delicata squash. It could be a cucumber, but I don't usually seed my cukes, so crossing fingers it's delicata.
I bought one zucchini plant at the garden store and it's going to have a LOT of blossoms and already has one tiny zucchini.
My lettuce is going great guns. The two largest plants in the middle of this next picture were self-seeded from last year. I planted two different types of lettuce, but they look pretty much alike to me.
Next, all my crops:
I've got green beans on the upper right (which will be wanting to climb any day now) and basil and curly parsley in the bottom right. Still hoping to plant some pea pods for stir fry later this month when I get some help with the veggie patch--and also a couple of tomato plants.
So far, I'm pretty happy with my little container garden.
What are you growing?
After my mother passed away last spring, my very good friends Ellery Adams and Leann Sweeney (former Cozy Chicks) sent me a small magnolia tree in memory of my mother, so that every spring I would find comfort in the pretty blossoms.
It was a brutal winter, but our landscape people thought if the tree was heavily mulched, it would survive. And I'm so pleased to say that it did. Not only did it bloom once (in May), but another branch of it bloomed in June, too, giving me five very pretty pinkish flowers. I'm hoping that next year I'll see double the flowers. : )
But there's also another tree I'm concerned about. A couple of years ago, my mother noticed a small pine "twig" in one of the containers on her back patio where she planted annuals. She figured a squirrel had buried a pine cone in it, which isn't surprising considering squirrels live in the BIG pine tree in her front yard, and every spring they devour the middle of the pine cones (and mostly eating them on the roof and plugging the front down spout with their leftovers. Ahh, nature).
We had to clear out the house last week for the sale, and one of the last things to go was the container with the tree. But now what? I don't have a place for it in my yard. I've got an Ash that will probably succumb to the Emerald Ash Borer, but I'm hoping that won't be for a few more years.
Thanks to the 22,500-gallon pool that occupies way too much real estate, what's left of my backyard is the size of a postage stamp. It's surrounded by arborvitae and a few lilac bushes, but other than that nowhere for a tree that will probably grow to 30 or 40 feet one day.
I'd love to hear suggestions on how to find this little Charlie Brown tree a home from anyone who may have had a similar problem.
Okay, I admit it. I don’t like fruit. You were expecting me to say vegetables, right? I LOVE vegetables. But I don’t think I could choose a favorite. It would be easier for me to choose a veggie I don’t like. On the top of that list would be eggplant. *Shudder* I can’t actually think of another vegetable I loathe. I’m not particularly fond of turnips, but I could eat them (especially in stew--even just a wonderful Veggie stew.
I like to make soup and yesterday made a great pot of turkey neck/veggie soup. Yum-yum. I just threw in every vegetable I had in the fridge, including an onion, a leek, a few carrots, part of a cabbage, garlic, frozen green beans from my garden, and a can of stewed tomatoes. OMG it was good. I froze most of it but I’ll be having soup again for lunch today.
What’s your favorite veggie?
Doesn't everybody love fudge? I rarely eat it though because of the calorie count. The first time I made fudge, I was about 13 and didn't know what a candy thermometer was. We didn't have one, so I winged it. I didn't end up with fudge, I ended up with chocolate-flavored SAND. I felt like Betty Crocker had failed me.
Here's a recipe for peanut butter fudge that doesn't need a candy thermometer and tastes pretty darn good.
1/2 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and milk. Bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over the confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth; pour into an 8x8 inch pan. Chill until firm and cut into 1-inch squares.
Yield: 64 pieces
FULL DISCLOSURE: This post originally ran on The Cozy Chicks Spotlight.
My name is Brenda Stanley. I'm a wife, a mom, a sister-in-law, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a nurse, and that's pretty much how I define myself--at least at this stage of my life. Talk to me in a week and the order might be different.
Most of the time, I lead a pretty nice, quiet (rather boring) life in Buffalo, NY. I'm not from Western New York. I was born in the city of brotherly love (Philadelphia), and lived there for the first twenty five years of my life.
I was a twin, and there were no two sisters closer than me and the other half of my soul, Ruth. (I used to call her Toothie Ruthie--although we were identical and she did NOT have bad teeth. They were exactly like mine, but it drove her nuts and that was the point, right?) We had such fun. Had. She died--hit by a drunk driver when we were twenty-three. That--and the following two years--were the worst of my life. A rushed romance, a fast (and short) marriage to an abuser. I needed to get away from Philly. So I ran away from home and got a job at a think tank outside of Los Angeles. And that's when my life took a dramatic turn for the better. That's where I met my husband.
I never called him by his first name at work. It was either Boss or Dr. Alpert. I never called him boss at home. Uh, we kind of moved in together after a couple of years.
The Boss, er, I mean Richard, thought it would be a good idea if we got married. (He's old fashioned that way.) I loved him. I loved being with him. But married? Been there, done that--wasn't about to go for it again. He asked a lot. I turned him down a lot.
Money at the think tank was getting tight, and they decided to eliminate our little two-person department. So, that job ended and Richard, decided he would like to leave the land of sunshine and move back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York--in JANUARY. (He did consult me, but I could see his mind was pretty much made up.) I knew about winter in the Northeast. Hey, I'm from Philly, but Buffalo winters are different. It's called lake-effect snow and it's brutal. Richard wasn't exactly the most jolly person to be around right about then, either. (Men. Job loss. Ego. The whole deal.) And then one morning, very early ... the phone rang.
It was the NYPD calling to say Richard's half-brother, Jeffy (I always call him that. Drives him nuts) had been brutally mugged and was in a coma. You never saw somebody hop on a plane so fast in your life. I spent a terrible few days alone in that big (COLD), lonely house on my own, wishing I had gone with him; but the furnace guy was coming and somebody had to be there to open the door. I'd met Jeffy exactly twice when he came back to Buffalo to live with us in the house he had occupied for three-plus very unhappy years as a teen, so you can imagine how thrilled he was to be returning. (Not at all.) Nobody likes charity, and he least of all. He was determined to recover and get the hell out. But it didn't happen that way, and life for all of us became very complicated.
You see ... as a consequence of that head injury Jeffy became just a teensy bit psychic. (Oh, yeah, that went over really well with Richard. Not!) But I recognized it. You see, I have a little bit of the second sight myself. (Richard always called them hunches.) So Jeffy and I are kindred spirits. He's someone really special. (Not that he thinks so.) Before the mugging, he was an insurance investigator. Not the kind that looks at banged-up cars or anything--but a trained crime-scene investigator. After his wife was murdered, though, he transferred to the fraud department. Crime scenes no longer interested him.
Jeffy's kind of hard to get to know. He doesn't reveal much about himself. He's quiet--doesn't make waves ... until he gets what I call one of his "episodes." When his psychic insight makes an appearance all hell can break loose, and it didn't take long after he returned to Buffalo for him to start to have some pretty scary visions. Visions that gave him information about a murder. And didn't he feel compelled to find out who did the deed? It wasn't a pretty end. Richard ended up in the hospital--nearly died. Oh, God, what a mess. But ... it brought us all closer. And I kind of changed my mind about the whole marriage thing ,,,
But that was just the beginning of our adventures. Okay, I mostly sit on the sidelines while the dynamic duo do their investigating thing. I did the volunteer thing for a while at a women's health clinic and the local hospital's low-income clinic. I loved the work. I loved the people. But then ... someone decided to stalk me. And wouldn't you know it--my ex-husband showed up on our doorstep about the same time. (My mother gave him my address. *Sigh* I was remarried--why would she think I'd be interested in seeing him?)
What an awful time in our lives ... because I also had a miscarriage. I quit my jobs. The stalker actually broke into our home--oh, it was awful. For a while, I didn't know if I could even live in that house again.
I could go on and on ... but maybe it would just be better if you read about our "adventures." Jeffy kind of keeps an account of things. The first account is known as Murder On The Mind. (And it's FREE in all ebook formats. Click this link for more information.)
Jeffy never looks for trouble--but somehow it always finds him. He's just wrapping up the account of our most recent trials and tribulations. It's called Shattered Spirits. (You can read about it here.)
Okay, it's time for me to get back to keeping the home fires burning. At least ... until the next time Jeffy has one of his episodes, because when they come, we never know what will happen next.
P.S. Feel free to ask any questions about the Alpert-Stanley-Resnick household. I know just about everything that goes on. (Just about.)
Isn't this angel in pink cute? It's one of about six or seven that my Dad carved and she's even happier than me to announce that TITLE WAVE, Booktown #10, is finally available in hardcover, ebook, and (tomorrow) audio.
Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising...
Have you seen the video? You can watch it by clicking this link.
A lot of your questions about why things are the way they are in Tricia's life are answered in this book ... but it's not the end of her story by any means. Read all about it!
I hope you enjoy reading/listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
It was raining cats and dogs on Saturday morning (but I didn't step in a poodle) and after crossing our fingers and venturing out into the gray morning, the few yard sales we saw in the paper weren't open. Mr. L and I were going to lunch and hoped we find one or two on the way back. The skies cleared and the puddles dried up and we made it to three yard sales.
I saw this adorable trivet. Didn't every girl who was ever a scout sing those words? I must admit, though, it was the two adorable kitties that really sold me on the piece. Now to find a place to hang it.
Wow--this picture is actually MUCH bigger than the actual item itself, which measures about three inches high. It's marked CATALINA on the bottom and I know it will look adorable somewhere in my family's cottage.
My next "big" item was this book, Kitchen Junk. The major drawback about buying a used book is that it won't be pristine. This one must have been stored in a damp area. Can you say musty? Still, I had an enjoyable hour looking at all the pictures (and there are a lot) and once I let it sit in a bag with some ground coffee for a week or two, the stink will be gone. You can find it on Amazon by clicking this link.
I also came away with a couple of DVDS:
We already watched The Lake House, which was your basic chick flick. Not bad; a few plot holes big enough to drive a car through, and through most of the movie Sandra Bullock wore that horrible hairdo that looked like she'd attacked it herself with a pair of blunt scissors. Yes, I know that was a fad a few years back, but let's hope it's not one worth repeating. We usually only watch movies on the weekends, so we'll save Cocoon and Cocoon Returns for next weekend.
Lastly, I got these...
The little black poodle is adorable, but the little brown doggy appears to have suffered some painful Beanie Baby abuse (thanks to his missing nose and the poorly done sutures to mend the hole in his face). But, as these doggies are destined to be cat toys for Mr. L's cat, Chester, who likes to drag them around while howling, and then deposit his "kill" at our feet, I'm sure he won't even notice.
And what was the cost of this loot? A mere $6.70. Not a bad afternoon's entertainment. Oh, and we got to see Mr. and Mrs. Duck swimming in a little pond, but I left my phone behind so no pictures of that.
Did you get anything while junking this weekend?
Aren't these pansies gorgeous? They've been my favorite flower ever since I can remember. My mother used to plant them along the walk in our first house and they always looked to cheerful. I only have three pansy plants (so far) this year, and they were self-seeded. Mr. L planted some ice pansies in our garden containers/urns after the other flowers started to wane last summer. I want to get more, NOW--they're just so pretty.
What's your favorite flower?
Three weeks ago, Mr. L had an accident that dislocated his shoulder. In that one instant, our entire summer went on hold. Of course, we didn't know that at the time. We were unloading the car and he had hands full, and I had even more stuff I was lugging, and down he went on the front step.
At first he said he was okay. He just needed to sit down. But then when 20 minutes went by and his arm still hurt, I convinced him to go to Urgent Care. We weren't even halfway there when he said, "I think I need to go to the ER."
Boy, did we luck out. He was immediately given an ER cubicle and within less than an hour we had the verdict. Of course, Mr. L didn't know what it meant, but I did because I'd once written a story with a character who had a dislocated shoulder. He was in agony, but he said, "It hurts," because that's just his way. They knocked him out, put the arm back in the socket and said, "Six to eight weeks--unless you need surgery." (We find out today.)
So the rest of the summer is now on hold. Even the garden, he said.
Whoa! DEAL BREAKER! Okay, we can't put in the annuals we ALWAYS put in around the pool, but there was no way I was going to go the entire summer without flowers.
|My veggie garden. : (|
We're now three weeks behind and our yard is a wreck. By now, Mr. L would have turned over my veggie garden and we would have planted sweet peas, tomatoes, and potatoes. This year it's a weed patch. (BTW, my weed sprayer is NOT filled with herbicide; it's filled with double strength vinegar (available from Amazon). I don't put poison in my garden or on my grass.)
Luckily, our perennials are blooming. We've already had two of the rhododendrons bloom, and now our purple puff balls. (Allium.) Alas, we lost three rhodos and an azalea due to winter. But our clematis is thriving, despite the fact we got rid of our old arbor (where it kinda sorta lived) and built a new one (the white one above) just before Mr. L's accident. My brother helped us (well, me) put the stakes in so it won't blow away (again). (Okay, he did most of the work and I helped.) The clematis voluntarily climbed the fence (which it never did before and we always had to coax it to climb the old arbor) and is doing fabulous. I expect triple the flowers this year.
|The only HEALTHY rhubarb plant in my yard. The rest are tiny.|
My mother had a HUGE stand of rhubarb and after she passed away last summer, I knew that if I didn't relocate some of it, I'd never have rhubarb crisp or chutney ever again. But I think I went to far transplanting it, because her stand is next to nothing this year, and only one of the five plants I relocated has thrived.
The roses aren't doing much of anything yet, but I'm hopeful we'll have something beautiful to look at in the next month or so.
I knew Mr. L (who is a flower nut) would NOT be happy with no annuals, so on our errands Wednesday, I took us (since he can't drive) to two garden centers (calling them nurseries makes me think they'll be babies growing in the dirt) where we bought a bunch of stuff -- if we can't do the garden around the pool, we can at least fill our urns and big pots with flowers. Of course, there were a few stumbling blocks. One of the pots had BEAUTIFUL yellow self-seeded pansies (from last year), and Mr.L wanted me to rip them out for petunias. (I LOVE pansies--much more than I love petunias, so in they stayed. I was, after all, doing all the work!) One of the pots had self-seeded lettuce, too. "Rip it out!" he said. Nope, I just planted the new seeds around them.
|Self-Seeded leaf lettuce.|
So now we at least have flowers in our urns and when we sit in our enclosed porch, we can see the four urns filled with colorful petunias, pinks, nasturtiums.
|Aren't my self-sown yellow pansies GORGEOUS?|
The landscaper we use will come and weed the front and back flower beds (and oy! I had better sell a heck of a lot of books to pay for it), but we will have a tidy yard once again. But I can't wait the 2-3 weeks on their timeline. I will have to weed my veggie patch myself otherwise we won't be eating tomatoes until late October. But it will be a small price to pay.
|Mr. Lonely Zucchini|
Although ... I'm giving up on certain plants because I can't bear it when the groundhogs, bunnies, and other critters eat them. This year I bought a single zucchini plant. We'll see if it will tolerate growing in a container.
Having flowers and enjoying them is a very simple pleasure in life, one I wasn't about to give up no matter what our circumstances.
|More stuff to plant.|
What have you got growing in your garden?
One of my favorite summer activities is heading out for yard sales on Saturday mornings.Today is the BIG sale in Lyons, NY. It's one neighborhood and I try not to miss it. Okay, the last couple of years it hasn't been as good, but they still sell Zweigle's hot dogs (for Mr. L -- and he eats it at 9 am), fried dough (that's for me!), and I get such great stuff. Bracelets, pictures, books--who knows what treasure I'll find!
Yesterday, I stopped at a sale and bought these beauties. Aren't they adorable?
They're only 6 inches tall. I haven't decided where they'll go yet, but I will find the perfect spot for them ... eventually.
Since I no longer have a booth in an antiques co-op, I only buy what I fall in love with. What do YOU look for at yard sales?
My latest story is a bit of a departure for me as it's a police procedural. I hope you'll give it a try.
OFF SCRIPT: It’s 1979. Before cell phones. Before computers. Before the World Wide Web. LA Detectives Robbie Howard and Danny Wallace solve crimes the old fashioned way, by relentless legwork. Multiple deaths on the lot of a movie studio look like your average murder-suicide. At least that’s what someone wants everyone to think. It takes dogged determination for Howard and Wallace to write off a Hollywood killer.
If you like it, I hope you'll consider reviewing OFF SCRIPT on your favorite online review site (or two)!
I guess I'm good at that kind of data collection because I still do it--only now I do it for not only me, but the Cozy Chicks, Ellery Adams, Leann Sweeney, and Mary Kennedy. (No paycheck involved, darn it.)
I handle both snail mail and email. Holy cow, you wouldn't believe how often people move or change their email addresses and forget to tell us. It gets a little pricey when scores of emails bounce and when hundreds of postcards get returned as "return to sender" or "not deliverable as addressed."
In fact, that just happened this week. It was startling to see how much mail came back with and without forwarding addresses--but mostly without.
But surely I could find these people on Facebook to ask them if they've moved, right?
Not exactly. Even if you think you have a unique name -- chances are there are at least 20-30 people with the exact same name. (Last time I looked, there were at least twenty Lorraine Bartletts.)
Another problem? If you message people you aren't somehow connected with (say friends, or friends of friends), your message goes into a mailbox that most people don't know about. (The fact that they keep changing the name of it might be part of the problem.) I know about mine, and do I ever think to look? Nope. Also, if you message too many people you don't know, Facebook will suspend you. I was once locked out for three weeks because I couldn't identify pictures of my friends. Since I have over 3,000 friends, it's not surprising I don't recognize everyone by their faces ... or a picture of their cat, dog, child, or grandchild.
I've put together a list of names of people whose addresses have changed and we have no idea how to find you. After our next newsletter, I'll put together a list of people whose email addresses have bounced (or are deliverable).
So, are you, or someone you know, on the list? You can check it here.
(P.S. This is a private page and only available by the above link.)
Back in March, one of my readers posted a video blog (vlog) talking about making fried rice. I knew back then that I would HAVE to make the "recipe" for myself some-when soon. But first I had to have the main ingredients on hand to do it.
Well, that happened this week. Mr. L and I bought a very nice pork roast last week, but we knew we couldn't eat it right away, so off to the freezer it did go.
We come from families who used to have a big Sunday dinners, so we waited it for Sunday and roasted it. But since I knew we'd have a TON of leftovers,and I remembered Loremil's fried rice recipe, I decided to make a big pot of basmati rice the same day. You see, fried rice "comes good" when the rice has been made the day before.
So, I tossed a cup of rice into two cups of water, brought it to a roiling boil, and let it sit there for three full minutes. Then I turned off the burner, covered the pot, and let it sit for about 45 minutes. (You don't even need to let it sit that long--30 minutes usually does it, but I had other stuff to do.)
Once the rice cooled a bit, I put it in the fridge and forgot about it ... until the next day.
Loremil’s Fried Rice
1 cup basmati rice, cooked and set aside for a day
3 eggs, beaten well
1 large carrot, diced (optional)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Steak seasoning or garlic-pepper seasoning
White pepper (optional)
½ cup diced ham or pork
1½-2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup frozen peas (peas and carrot, or mixed vegetables)
Put day-old cooked (basmati) rice in a big mixing bowl and break up. (Wet your hands before breaking it up or use a spoon.)
Whisk the eggs and cook them in a fry pan with a little vegetable oil. Season with the garlic salt, steak seasoning, and white pepper. When the eggs are half done, turn them over. When thoroughly cooked, cut up into strips or snip with cooking shears.
In another fry pan, add a little vegetable oil and brown the pork or ham until crispy. Add the carrots, onions, and garlic. Stir, but don’t let them burn. Add seasoning to taste. Let the vegetables cook until the onions are translucent but still a little hard.
Add the rice and more seasoning to taste.
Combine the rice, the vegetables, and the eggs. Add the soy sauce. Add the frozen peas and stir.
Lower the heat. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Then raise temp to med-high for 5-6 minutes to brown and crisp everything up.
Serve as a main or side dish.
I've also written sweet romance, women's fiction, and sorta kinda action/adventure/fantasy. The latter would be my Tales of Telenia series.
This week I'm happy to relaunch the series, which has been on hiatus for several years. I kept putting off writing the third book because, let's face it--the first two weren't doing all that well. Why? Is it because they're bad books? I don't think so--and apparently neither do the (extremely) small but vocal audience begging me to write the next book. So it's a series in search of an audience. (And if you can help me find it, I would be truly grateful.)
As part of the releaunch, I decided to get new covers. I also decided that the name of the first book wasn't exactly helping sales. Threshold? What did that mean? To me, it meant that crash-landing on a gray and orange rock known as Telenia meant that my heroine, Amanda Shelton, was on the threshold of a new life. But after talking to my "focus group," I thought STRANDED was a better title (and hope you do, too).
They new covers are up with all the ebook online distributors. Next up, changing the print and audio covers. (For audio, we have to re-record the opening and closing on Stranded. And if you haven't heard Steven Barnett's wonderful performance of Stranded and Journey, you're missing out on something good!)
You can find out about all the books by checking out my website. Click here.
And even if you don't like adventure-fantasy -- please try the sample chapters available on all the ebook retailer sites. You just might like Amanda!
Angelica -- love her or hate her, she's here to stay.
Who? Angelica Miles from the Booktown Mysteries.
When I started the first book, Murder is Binding, I had no idea Angelica was going to show up and be a perpetual thorn in her sister Tricia's side from then on. I thought I had an idea of who Tricia would be, but Angelica continues to not only surprise Tricia, but me, too!
The Miles sisters carry a LOT of baggage. They come across and two pretty straight forward people (except for the fact Tricia seems to stumble over a lot of dead bodies while running her vintage mystery store, Haven't Got a Clue). The issues started and seemed to be on the way to being solved, but then more kept popping up.
Like the secret life Angelica led for many years. The things she'd kept from not only Tricia, but other members of their family.
Tricia always thought of her sister as a bullying narcissist. But that wasn't true at all, and with every book, Tricia's awe in the things her sister can do continues to grow. You see, she always thought she was the "good" sister. These days, she's not so sure.
One of my favorite aspects of Angelica's personality is her love of cooking. She's changed my life. You see, before I started writing the Booktown books, I didn't like to cook. Tricia and I seemed to have a lot in common. Then my editor asked for recipes. Uh-oh!
Let Angelica loose in the kitchen and suddenly she's cooking for friends and family. He desire to feed the world grew to the extent that she felt the need to open a restaurant. But she didn't want it to eat up her whole life -- so Booked for Lunch only serves ... lunch! But even that wasn't enough. She wanted to become a cookbook author. She worked hard and voila! She became a nationally bestselling cookbook author. (All the recipes in all the booktown books are available on my website. You can find one from every book here.)
Now, like Angelica, I find myself chopping carrots, onions ... whatever, and enjoying myself. Something I never had the patience for has suddenly become fun. And I'm cooking from scratch. Yesterday Mr. L and I decided what kind of cake he would like for his upcoming birthday. He said, "you can buy a spice cake mix." I don't think so.
Sometimes when I'm in a fix, I say to myself, "What would Angelica do?" (She's really much, much smarter than me. Well, than just about everyone.) She's got a big ego, but she's also got the biggest heart. t's never more apparent than in the next Booktown Mystery, Title Wave.
Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising...
It comes out on June 14th in hardcover, ebook, and on audio, and is available for preorder now. Click here for links.
What would you like to see Angelica do next?
And then my father passed away and my mother stopped cooking for herself. She would eat a microwaved poached egg and toast, or heat up a frozen fish fillet in the toaster oven, and that was about all. It was up to my brother and me to make sure she was eating something with nutrition. It turns out that my brother is a pretty darn good cook. I needed to step up to the plate.
Something my Mum liked was egg drop soup from the Chinese take-away around the corner. I shudder when I think of that container of greasy goop that passed for egg drop soup. I needed to find a healthier recipe. The one I now use takes about five minutes to make and is practically fat-free. (The time sink is getting the chicken stock up to a boil.)
4 cups chicken broth or stock
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
salt, to taste
2 green onions, (spring onions, scallions) green parts only, thinly sliced
In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the sugar, salt, and the rice wine or dry sherry if using. Cook for about another minute. Remove from the heat. Gradually stir in the egg white, stirring in one direction only. Chopsticks work well for this if you have them. Garnish with the green onion and serve.
Yield: 2-4 servings
I make this for lunch several times a month. It's very low in calorie (I don't even put the sugar in it--instead using more of the rice vinegar).
Do you have a fast, easy recipe you use on a regular basis?