featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR MEG BELLAMY

Along with her husband, her family and her books, language and travel are Meg Bellamy’s passions—along with cooking, baking, knitting and quilting. It’s a good thing Meg loves to travel, since she lives in the gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area, but her daughter’s settled in New Jersey and her son’s in England—talk about Frequent Flying! Between flights this long-time language teacher writes contemporary romance, both of the traditional and the women’s fiction type. Learn more about Meg and her books at her website

Chocolate and Honey and my Sweetie, Oh My
Chocolate. Does just reading the name bring a smile to your lips?

For me, “chocolate” conjures up delights, pleasure, romance and, oh yes, a few pesky calories. I consider chocolate an essential food group. Chocolate has been a reliable treat—to eat, to drink, and to gaze at arrayed in a sumptuous candy box.

So imagine my bewilderment when I met the delightful man who is now my second (and last!) husband—and discovered that he’s a chocophobe. Chocophobe. I didn’t even know there were any people of that persuasion. He’s not even the only one in the world, though I think there aren’t many with that proclivity.

When I brought him to meet my parents and told Mom that he hates chocolate, she panicked. “What am I going to feed him?” A prodigious cook and baker, she managed to come up with plenty.

So how did he become a chocophobe? According to his family legends, at age six he had a prescription medicine that had a “chocolate flavor.” Must have been really awful.

I, on the other hand, hate honey—an opinion that earns me raised eyebrows in some circles. In my family of origin, honey was the take-it-or-else remedy for colds, etc. To this day, my brother and I turn green at the prospect of ingesting the stuff.

Is there a pattern here?

Despite the fact that I hold my nose as I put the ingredients together, I do make a honey cake with an ingredient list that includes coffee and cocoa. My daughter asked who in my household is willing to eat that cake. Both DH and I enjoy it—I can only guess it’s because the ingredients combine and then cancel each other out.

My love for chocolate inspired one of my books, Divorce by Chocolate.

Divorce by Chocolate
While she makes sweets, her partner cheats…

Diana Lambert seems to have it all—a loving husband, a successful business and a gorgeous home. Then, on returning from a business trip, she finds her husband and trusted assistant playing house. Even worse, they’ve planned a coup to remove her from Goddess Goodies, the business built from her dreams—and her family’s recipes.

Devastated, Diana is ready to drown herself in hot fudge and sorrow when her inner goddess spurs her not to let her talents go to waste. She rolls up her sleeves, unleashes the goddess within and starts cooking up a recipe for getting even through the best means—success. Her life’s sweet treats aren’t confined to the kitchen, as she discovers with the support and love of her sister, her friends and one very special guy.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

TRAVEL WITH SERENA--GUEST AUTHOR LYNN CRAIN AND VIENNA

Lynn Crain lives the dream by writing books of various genres but all with a touch of romance. Her latest adventure has taken her to Vienna, Austria with her husband as he works at his dream job. Today Lynn shares a little bit of that beautiful city with us via some lovely photos.

Learn more about Lynn at her website and her A Writer In Vienna blog

Schonnbrunn Garten
Local fountain in Vienna side street
Lipizzaner mares and foals in Burggarten

A Viennese Christmas, A Taste of Vienna--Book 1
Sign language interpreter, Amanda Kranz, wants to find her soul mate but fears her chance has past due to the death of her childhood sweetheart. Finding sexy historian Henry Jager during an outing in her new home of Vienna, Austria, may have been a stroke of luck. When his ex-fiancée shows up just as their relationship starts to sizzle, Amanda must decide if standing up for what she really wants will give her lifetime happiness. Or will she be destined to spend her life alone?
           

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--COCONUT, THE NEW KALE?

photo by Tom Woodward
Is coconut the new miracle health food? Every year it seems there’s a new “super” food being touted. Lately it’s coconut. It’s everywhere. There’s coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut water, and of course, shredded coconut. Coconut apparently is the new kale.

Recent research shows that coconut is good for you from head-to-toe. According to the research, coconut can help prevent obesity by speeding up metabolism. It can improve heart health by providing the right type of fatty acids. It’s high in dietary fiber. Coconut can regulate your blood sugar, reduce your craving for sweets, improve your digestion, and give you a quick energy boost.

Some claim coconut has anti-aging properties. It can prevent hair damage, moisturize your skin, and act as a sunscreen.

Coconut can help you lose weight, and even make your brain function better. Other claim coconut has healing properties and aids and supports our immune system functions.

Is this all hype or fact? Lots of foods once touted as being good for us have later been found to be not so good. However, coconut has no trans-fats and is gluten-free. And one thing is certain, populations that eat lots of coconut are some of the healthiest people in the world.

Besides, coconut tastes good, and how many things that taste good are also good for us?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JACQUIE BIGGAR & PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

Jacquie Biggar knew from the time she was twelve years old, that she wanted one day to be a writer. But she grew up, got married, raised a family and left her writing urges to simmer in the background unattended. Now she’s ready to take up the writing reins and see how far she can travel. Learn more about Jacquie and her writing at her website

Fifteen years ago I was waitressing in small local café in our hometown of Edson Alberta, Canada. One day the owner, a family friend, announced she had to give up the restaurant due to bad knees. I went home, talked it over with DH, and next thing you know, we were the proud owners of the Bluejay Café.

Only problem was, I didn’t know how to cook! I mean I could cook, but my nickname was Hamburger Helper Queen. That should tell you something right there. Thank God I had my mom, who stayed by my side, and taught me how to do everything from making soup stock to gravy, to desserts. I would’ve been lost without her.

Those were some of the longest days of my life. Between learning the kitchen, trying to figure out the menus, and print them myself. Configuring the till to accept the proper tax amounts, finding the right staff (one of THE most important components of a successful restaurant,) setting up accounts with suppliers, and oh yeah, the books, oy!

Not to mention a young daughter and a hubby that put in long hours of his own and expected a good meal on the table when he arrived home. But I learned. And I’m proud to say we turned that café into one of the most popular places in town. I was even noticed by a couple of food critics traveling the province who featured us in their book, The Food Lover’s Trail Guide to Alberta, an honor for sure.

One of the most popular desserts we made was bread pudding. Then one day I thought, why not kick this up a notch? Hence the creation of Pumpkin Bread Pudding. My book, Tidal Falls, centers largely on a local café, Grits and Grace, kind of catchy, don’t you think?


Grace’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:
Assorted bread cubes (I save my crusts of white, brown and cinnamon raisin, then rip them into bite size pieces.)
handful of raisins
6-8 large eggs
4 cups sugar
cinnamon
shake of salt
1 can pumpkin puree
milk, approximately 1 litre
margarine
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Fill Dutch oven with mixed bread cubes and raisins.

In a separate large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon and shake of salt. Add pumpkin puree. Mix. Slowly add milk until mixture is loose. Pour mix over bread and stir, should be soupy—not too loose, though—just so you see the liquid through the bread. If not, add a couple more eggs and milk blended together to the mix. When you have a nice consistency sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon and small dollops of margarine over the top.

Bake 60-90 minutes. Top will gain a nice crunchy golden look. Take a knife and spread the center apart to tell if done. Drizzle some of your favorite caramel sundae sauce over the top and enjoy.

Tidal Falls
Sara Reed is on the run from an abusive ex who happens to have ties to a Mexican cartel. Mistakenly thinking she and her daughter would be safer if she had some kind of leverage, she takes a copy of some valuable files, files that make her a target.
Nick Kelley is an ex-marine trying to find his place now that his career is over due to injuries suffered from an IED. When the two of them meet in the pretty little town of Tidal Falls, the experience is explosive.

Monday, September 15, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--CROSS STITCHED SNOWMAN


It's never to early to start thinking about Christmas crafts. This counted cross stitch snowman is 2-5/8" x 3-1/2" when stitched on 14-ct. fabric. (click pattern to enlarge.)


Friday, September 12, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR SHANNON BAKER

Shannon Baker is the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year and the author of the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, which includes Tainted Mountain, a 2013 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award finalist, Broken Trust, and Tattered Legacy, slated for a March 2105 release. Learn more about Shannon and her books at her website

Fact versus Fiction

I am not the kind of writer who can make up whole worlds from my imagination. My plots always come from real stuff, the cool facts I read about. For instance, when I moved to Flagstaff and found out about the controversy to pump manmade snow on the San Francisco Peaks—land sacred to 12 tribes—I had to write a story about it

I needed a protagonist in the center of the storm who had everything at stake. That turned out to be Nora Abbott, owner of the ski resort. Driven, insecure, timid and ferocious in equal measure, Nora sprang onto the pages.

In my research about the tribes involved, I stumbled across the Hopi. Suddenly, my book took off in a whole new direction that lent itself to a mystery series. My Hopi research turned up so many intriguing aspects of their history, culture, and beliefs I couldn’t address even a fraction in one book. So I was excited when I was offered a three-book deal. Tainted Mountain delves into the Hopi prophesies and explains a little bit about their ceremonies. It introduces kachinas and their role in Hopi lives.

For Broken Trust, I wanted to focus on a different aspect of Hopi’s connection with the world. Hopi are concerned about end times. According to Hopi beliefs, we now live in the fourth world and we’ve just about messed it up so badly we’re approaching the end of this world and emergence to the fifth world. Sad news for most of us, since not very many will survive to start the fifth world.

In Broken Trust, Nora returns to her favorite place, Boulder, and lands a job at an environmental trust. (Coincidently, I also moved back to Boulder while I was working on this book.) But all is not as it seems. The trust is a hotbed of conflict and corruption. Nearly a half million dollars is missing and Nora’s predecessor is murdered.

Nora’s mother pops onto the scene with her own drama. She is determined to hook Nora up with handsome Cole Huntsman. Cole has been waiting for a year to let Nora get over the death of her husband and the traumatic events in Flagstaff, but he’s ready to start a relationship with her. In the meantime, with the help of quirky staffers at the Trust and an Ecuadorian hunk, Nora uncovers a plot that could destroy one of the most pristine locations on the planet. 

And how, you might or might not be asking, is such monumental destruction possible? That was the really fun part for me. I got to research conspiracy theories surrounding HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research) and using weather as a weapon of mass destruction. This stuff is scary/interesting. I spent hours watching Jessie Ventura and others present the case that the shadowy Powers That Be are planning to control our minds/kill us all/wreak havoc on the environment. I dabbled in learning a little (very little) about Tesla towers and the potential for sustainable energy.

When I sold Tainted Mountain I was happy and proud of my new baby. We all know the analogies of writing and publishing books to having babies. I don’t know if anyone else felt this way, but when I was expecting my second baby, I worried I’d never be able to love it as much as I loved my first one. And even though I’d planned and wanted the baby with all my heart, part of me was jealous it would come between me and my firstborn. Weird, I know. But I kind of had the same misgivings about creating a series and wondering if I’d love the second book as much as the first.

The book is here and, just as it was with my kids, I do love book two as much! I learned a lot between book one and two and even more between two and three. It turns out I like writing a series and I’m glad Nora got to live on.

What about you? What is the most interesting or fun fact you learned while reading fiction?

Broken Trust
Nora moves to Boulder and  lands a job as an accountant at an environmental non-profit. But the trust is rife with deceit and corruption. Nearly half a million dollars is missing and one person has already been killed for knowing too much. Complicating matters are Nora's uninvited visitors: her mother, Cole Huntsman, and a Hopi kachina that technically doesn't exist. As the body count climbs, Nora races to stop a deadly plot to decimate one of the planet's greatest natural resources.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

PAYING MY RESPECTS...

On the evening of May 17th I had the honor of touring the 9/11 Memorial Museum before it opened to the public the following week. I wasn’t sure at first whether I wanted to attend. The wounds of that fateful day thirteen years ago will never heal. It’s hard enough dealing with the memories when confronted by them on television. It’s quite another thing to stand at Ground Zero on the spot where so much of the horror occurred and even more difficult to enter the memorial building and confront the faces of all who were lost that day.

However, another part of me needed to be there. After all, this is more than just a museum; it’s a memorial to both the victims of the most horrific terrorist attack ever to occur on our homeland and to the brave police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty that day. In the end I went out of a need to pay my respects.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is built on hallowed ground within steps of the two reflecting pools that mark the footprints of the two original World Trade Center towers. The walls that surround each reflecting pool are inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives that day. The impact is powerful, sobering, and gut wrenching.

From the moment I entered the building I was struck by the solemnity and reverence of the place. Much care has been taken to present the exhibits in a way that demonstrates you’ve entered a space that is a memorial. The atmosphere is subdued and respectful but at the same time even more powerful, more sobering, and more gut wrenching than the reflecting pools.

As difficult as it was to stand inches from the portraits of those who lost their lives, and the artifacts that survived the attack and view the various tributes created in response to that day, in the end I was glad I had the chance to pay my respects.