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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- PATRIOTIC POTATO SALAD

Just in time for Labor Day picnics and barbecues, Cloris offers up one of her great potato salad recipes. This is a favorite of mine and my boys. I’ve turned it into a one-dish meal by adding 2 cups of cooked, diced chicken and serving it over a bed of lettuce with tomato wedges. Enjoy! -- AP

PATRIOTIC POTATO SALAD
(serves 6)

Ingredients:
3 lbs. mixed color small potatoes (sometimes called confetti potatoes)
1 cup diced seedless cucumber
2 hardboiled eggs, grated
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1 T. Swedish style dill mustard
1 T. dried minced onion
1 tsp. paprika

Scrub potatoes and trim away bruises and other imperfections. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fork-tender (approx. 15 minutes.) Drain. Let cool.

Mix cooled potatoes, cucumber, and egg in large bowl. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, onion, and paprika and add to potato mix. Blend all ingredients together. Chill for an hour or two before serving.

Have you ever turned a side dish into a main course by adding ingredients? Let’s hear from you. Anyone who comments this week is entered in a drawing to win a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, August 30, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- SEA SHELL MIRROR

The summer is almost over, and many of you probably vacationed down the shore. (Yes, here in New Jersey we ‘go down the shore’ not ‘to the beach.’) Did you collect sea shells while there? What do you plan to do with them? I’ve seen people display their shells in clear glass bowls and wide mouthed vases, but here’s an easy project for a sea shell mirror. Do it yourself, or do it with your kids, but make sure you work in a well-ventilated area. -- AP


Materials:
sawtooth picture hook and hammer
9-1/2” wooden hexagonal plate (available at craft stores)
6” round mirror
acrylic paint (your choice of color)
acrylic satin varnish
crafter’s cement
assorted sea shells


Directions:
1. Hammer the picture hook to the back of the plate.
2. Apply two coats of paint to front and edges of the wooden plate, allowing paint to dry between coats.
3. Glue the mirror to the center of the plate. Allow to dry thoroughly.
4. Apply a coat of satin varnish to the painted areas of the plate.
5. Arrange sea shells as desired around the rim of the plate. Glue shells in place. Allow to dry thoroughly before hanging.



Our Book Club Friday guest author is giving away a copy of one of her books this week. Don't forget to leave a comment if you want to be entered in the drawing. -- AP

Saturday, August 28, 2010

THIS WEEK'S BOOK WINNER

Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank Sue Ann Jaffarian for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Murder In Vein to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Fricka. If you'd  please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward it to Sue Ann, and she’ll mail your book to you. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, August 27, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR SUE ANN JAFFARIAN

Today’s guest author at Book Club Friday is Sue Ann Jaffarian. is the bestselling author of the award-winning Odelia Grey mystery series.  The first book in this series, Too Big To Miss, has been optioned for TV, while the fifth, Corpse on the Cob, was recently released.  Sue Ann also writes the Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series. The second book in this fun paranormal series, Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini, will be released February 2011.  Coming in September 2010 is Murder In Vein, the first book in Sue Ann’s new vampire mystery series. In addition to writing, Sue Ann is a full-time paralegal for a Los Angeles law firm, and is sought after as a motivational speaker. Visit Sue Ann at her website and her blog.

Sue Ann will be giving away a copy of
Murder in Vein to one lucky blog reader who posts a comment this week. -- AP 

IN DEFENSE OF PLAN B

I recently saw this quote on a poster:

“The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.” – James A. Yorke, Mathematician

My first reaction was to chuckle, then I gave Mr. Yorke’s words the consideration they deserved. 

It’s true, those who are good at Plan B (or Plan C, or Plan D, or even Plan E) do eventually succeed.  Why? Because success is not about having multiple plans, it’s about having persistence and flexibility when your original plan doesn’t go as you had envisioned, or even explodes in your face.

Then I got to thinking about my plans for my writing career.  Originally, I thought I’d simply write my Odelia Grey series and the occasional stand alone novel and my career would soar like an eagle. That was Plan A.  Not that my Odelia Grey series hasn’t done well. It has. But when given the opportunity to write a second series two years ago, I quickly saw the numerous benefits of having two very different mystery series running simultaneously. Enter Plan B – write Odelia Grey and the Ghost of Granny Apples and the occasional stand alone novel.

Okay, now where in my Plan B do you see anything having to do with vampires?  You don’t?  Well, don’t feel bad, because neither do I.  Yet here I am, writing a vampire mystery series, along with the Odelia Grey and Ghost of Granny Apples books.

You see, somewhere along the line, Plan B became Plan C when I realized that now was the right time to write the vampire series kicking around inside my head, even if it meant juggling my already packed schedule.  Yet it wasn’t the right time to shove aside one of my already thriving series. If I wanted to take advantage of my particular twist on the vampire genre and reach my goal of becoming a very successful mystery author, I would have to adapt and roll with the special opportunities that came my way.

Changing plans doesn’t always mean your prior plan burst into flames. Sometimes we have to change plans simply because new choices present themselves. In those circumstances, it would be easy to say, “No thanks, I’m fine with Plan A.” Had I said that, I wouldn’t have known the joy of writing about ghosts or the fun of writing about vampires.  And my writing career would not be as steadily growing upward as it is now.

Although we’re trained to think of Plan A as the top of the heap – the ideal golden first choice – when it comes to career tactics, Plan B isn’t always a step down. Neither is Plan C.  Subsequent  altered plans can turn out to be the best and most successful of the bunch. At least I feel that way about my decision to chuck my original design for my career and revise my plans.

When Murder In Vein, the first book in my new Fang-in-Cheek mystery series, comes out in September 2010, remember, it was never in my master plan. It was an add-on. A glorious Plan C.  Makes me drool to think what opportunities Plan D may offer, if and when it presents itself.

So when faced with your own Plan B, be open and ready to embrace it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Plan A failed, just that Plan A wasn’t the road you were meant to travel.

Thanks for stopping by, Sue Ann! So what do you think, readers? Any of you moved on to Plan B? I certainly have, but you’ll have to wait to Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun comes out to learn why. And believe me, it’s not pretty! Let’s hear from you. Remember, post a comment to be entered to win a copy of Sue Ann’s Murder in Vein. -- AP

Thursday, August 26, 2010

FASHION WITH ERICA -- FALL FASHION TRENDS

Assistant fashion editor Erica Milano is back today with some of the hot trends you’ll see in fashion this fall. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! I know it’s still August and probably 90 degrees in the shade wherever you’re reading this, but in only a few weeks you’ll be dragging those sweaters out of the closet and heading off to the mall to spruce up your wardrobe for the cold months ahead.

In fashion everything old is new again, and that’s so true for this year. Military fashion will be all the rage throughout the autumn and into the winter, but this is not your mother’s or even your big sister’s military inspired clothes. I’m not talking about those overly decorated military fashions of yesterday inspired by the Georgian and Victorian periods. Today’s military fashion takes its inspiration from the 20
th century. Styles will be functional and understated.

Some of the trends you’ll be seeing in stores are lots and lots of army green, some navy blue, military style jackets (especially leather aviator jackets,) and shearling used to accentuate collars and adorn boots. And speaking of boots, the hottest trend in boots will be the over-the-knee and thigh-high styles.

Thanks to pauperdom, I’ll be making due with what’s in my closet, but thanks for the trends report, Erica. I’m sure many of our readers will be sporting new military garb in offices throughout the country. Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MONEY MATTERS WITH SHEILA CONWAY--YARD SALE SAVVY

One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure. Sheila Conway, American Woman’s Go-To Money Saving Guru talks today about how to pull off a successful yard sale. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. As you all probably know by now, decorating editor Jeanie Sims is our yard sale queen. Jeanie loves hunting through yard sales to find all sorts of discards she can turn into useful treasures. If you’re one of those people who would make Jeanie drool if you let her loose in your basement, attic, and/or garage, why not put all that stuff you no longer use up for sale and reap the cash benefits?

Yard sale season is in full swing. Like Jeanie, many of your neighbors spend their Saturday mornings traveling around from one yard sale to the next. It only takes a little bit of work to entice them to fill your coffers while cleaning out your piles of unwanted clutter.

Here are some tips for having a successful yard sale.

*Display the items you have for sale in such a way that they entice people to take a closer look. Make sure everything is clean and set out on tables and benches.

*People will drive by without stopping if they see you’re only trying to get rid of what amounts to trash. Don’t offer dirty or broken items.

*Make sure all electronics are in working order. Have an extension cord and/or batteries handy so items can be tested.

*Display items either by category or price. All housewares together, all electronics together, etc. Or a $1 table, a $3 table, a $5 table, etc.

*Mark prices on all items. If someone has to ask about price, that person might walk away instead of asking.

*Don’t overprice items. You’re having a yard sale, not opening a designer consignment shop. All items should be at least 50% off their original price.

*Be willing to negotiate. Remember, accepting a few dollars less for an item you don’t need or want is better than not selling that item at all. You’ll only have to haul it back into your home or trash it.

*If items aren’t selling, don’t be afraid to drop the prices. Again, if you don’t sell it, you have to keep it or trash it. Isn’t it better to sell something on the cheap than not at all?

*Make sure you have lots of change. You don’t want to lose a sale for a $2 item because the prospective buyer only has a twenty dollar bill and you’ve run out of change.

*Get the word out. The night before the sale post signs in strategic spots around the neighborhood where drivers will see them. Use poster board and thick marker. Write a very big, bold
SALE and an arrow pointing the way. Add address, date, and times below. The morning before your sale, post it on Craigslist.

*Plan to get up early to haul everything out and set up. Die-hard yard sale devotees often show up well before the start time. You want everything set up before they start arriving.


Hmm...maybe I need to root through my attic. Thanks, Sheila! What about the rest of you? Anyone ever had a yard sale? How did it go? Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- SEAFOOD PASTA

It’s not always hot and sunny throughout the summer. Today Cloris offers up a quick seafood pasta dish that’s great for when we have one of those cooler, rainy days. -- AP

SEAFOOD PASTA

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh or frozen scallops
1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can red clam sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 box whole wheat pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

(serves 4-6)



Note: If using frozen seafood, defrost before cooking.

In medium saucepan, combine clam sauce, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Heat through. At the same time cook pasta according to package directions.

While sauce and pasta are cooking, sauté scallops, shrimp, and garlic in olive oil. Add sauce. Drain pasta and add to seafood mix, tossing to mix. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serve this dish with crusty Italian bread and a Cesar salad.

Now that’s a drool-worthy dinner and so easy even Mama and Lucille couldn’t screw it up -- unless they set the kitchen on fire! What types of pasta dishes do you like? Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, August 23, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--7 SEWING MACHINE TIPS

Today I thought I'd share with you a few of my sewing machine tips.

1. If you use a portable sewing machine, place a carpet sample under the machine to eliminate vibrations as you sew. You can find these at any carpet store, often for free.

2. Prevent your foot pedal from sliding around by attaching a piece of anti-slop rug backing to the bottom of the pedal.

3. Keep a spray bottle filled with water near your sewing machine to remove fabric marks made by water-soluble marking pens.

4. Attach a self-adhesive magnetic strip across the front of your sewing machine to hold needles and pins as you sew.

5. Buy a can of “air” at your local camera shop. Use it to clean your bobbin case and around the feed dog.

6. Mascara brushes are wonderful for cleaning your sewing machine. Just make sure the brush is a clean, unused one!

7. Attach a small plastic bag to the side of your sewing machine to hold clipped threads as you work.

Got a favorite sewing tip you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. Everyone who posts a comment this week is entered in a drawing to win a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

THIS WEEK'S BOOK WINNER

Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank Linda Kupecek for being our Book Club Friday guest author and for offering a copy of Deadly Dues to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Anne Walradt. Anne, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, August 20, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR LINDA KUPECEK

Our Book Club Friday guest author today is Linda Kupecek. Linda’s debut mystery, Deadly Dues, the first in the Lulu Malone mysteries series, was launched in February 2010. (Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2Ti5XfF378). Linda has graciously offered a copy of Deadly Dues to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. Linda is also the author of Rebel Women: Achievements Beyond the Ordinary (Heritage House Group, 2003) The Rebel Cook: Entertaining Advice for the Clueless (TouchWood Editions, 2006) and Fiction and Folly for the Festive Season (Heritage House Group, 2006.) Read more about Linda at www.lindakupecek.com. -- AP

Many thanks to Anastasia for inviting me to party on her blog. I would love to spend time with Anastasia and her crazy, quasi-aristocratic family. I am a crazy collector of many things, and also happen to be a writer of mysteries, which leads me to believe a fun time could be had by all.

In my debut mystery, Deadly Dues (TouchWood Editions 2010) unlikely sleuth Lulu Malone, the former star of hugely successful dog food commercials, along with her overweight sheepdog Horatio, has fallen on hard times. So, okay, maybe the classically trained actor stumbles across a few dead bodies. That doesn’t stop her from shopping for shoes. Let’s get our priorities straight.

In Deadly Dues, poor Lulu, with dimples, curves, and charm galore, stumbles from murder to murder, trying to solve the mystery, while snagging deals at high end shoe shops and thrift stores. Hey, we all want to have fun. Thrift store shopping is so underrated. And, for Lulu,  it is a great antidote to murder.

 In the meantime, Lulu riffs on the life of the artist. I have been an actor in my first career, and I know how tough it is to balance the high minded hopes of one’s youth with the reality of the biz. As in, in what life did you hope that you could simultaneously play Juliet, Desdemona, Medea and Grandma Moses, all in one rep season?

Okay, let’s get even more real. How on earth do we actors survive a children’s school tour through the north of Canada and Alaska, where the kiddies throw everything in their arsenal at us while we are onstage emoting our little hearts out, without laughing about it years later? Or film shoots where the horse decides it is going do what it is going to do, which involves lots of doodoo, and the poor actor just tries to deliver a performance malgre tout. Every profession has war stories. I think actors have the best ones.

It seems to me that we all need a good laugh, and if I can manage to create a few laughs here and there, I figure it has been a good day. The other option is grabbing a babushka (my family is eastern European) and sobbing uncontrollably into it regarding the huge injustices of the world, the working poor, the starving, and most importantly, the brilliant authors whose books need to be read by the multitudes.

Lulu is a survivor. Sometimes she has to pull a few dimples here and there, and as readers will discover, she swings a mean Birkenstock, but for the most part, she is a pacifist, who just wants another gig, and enough money to buy dog food for Horatio, that big lummox of a freeloader, and chardonnay for herself. She also wants a renewed career, and is constantly brainstorming on ways in which to do this.

Lulu is a collector of sorts, in an ad hoc sort of way. Not like me at all. I am a serious, even demented collector, some might say, after viewing my home. I am a past president of a collectors club. I was once a collectibles columnist, and that was tremendous fun. Writing about what you love is always a holiday.

Shoes were a natural fit for Deadly Dues. (Not that I have a lot of pairs. I recently whittled my stash down to only 95 pairs or so, which is not so bad, considering what I once had. This, of course, is one of the challenges of collecting, always refining from quantity to quality, while considering range of design and era.)

My next mystery, which I should be writing right now this very minute, instead of doodling on this very pleasurable riff for Anastasia’s blog, is Trashing the Trailer (which in this case, is a makeup trailer,) and I am finding it fun to fit in as many references to makeup as possible. I am not a collector of makeup, but it can be an obsession for many women (and cross dressers, let’s be open minded here,) so I am ready to have fun with it.

I am a collector of vintage and antique jewelry. So far, I have not written a mystery focused on this, but hey, just give me a few moments alone with a nice piece of early Trifari and who knows what I might come up with?

Vintage and antique buttons are one of my passions. I have a reasonable (although certainly not museum quality) collection, and I constantly defer to my more knowledgeable colleagues in this area. Something that drives me batty is when somebody with limited information and research professes to be an expert in an area of collecting. I try to know my limitations and am always eager to learn, especially from my fellow collectors at the National Button Society, who are awe inspiring in their knowledge, and who suitably reduce me to humility when I attend The National Button Show. Having said that, it won’t stop me from writing a mystery set in the world of antique buttons some day. I have a screenplay, set in the world of button collecting,  in development with a major Canadian production company, so who knows where that may lead?

Collectors tend to be somewhat obsessed. I can say that with impunity, because I am on the same trail, tracking down the best of the best at garage sales, flea markets, auctions, antique shows. I have done a lengthy stint as an antiques dealer and suppose at some point I might try my hand at a mystery in that genre, even though others have already done that successfully.

But, hey, I say, we should always try our luck. If every time somebody else was hugely successful, and the rest of us said, “Well, no point in trying”, well, would any of us get anything done?

I notice that previous posts on this delightful blog have had tips on various craft topics, so, for what it’s worth, here is a very basic and non-definitive guide to cleaning buttons.

Sounds somewhat batty, I know, but I think a lot of us (if we are reading this blog) have gone to a garage sale and come across a huge box of totally grungy buttons. No clue on how to identify them. Don’t know how to fix them up.

First of all, if you want to identify them, get thee to your nearest library, or bookstore, which will no doubt have a nice array of button books. The best one for the basics is Button Button Identification and Price Guide  by Peggy Anne Osborne. This is the beginning collector’s bible. I still use it when working on a new stash of buttons, when I am stumped.

Once you have a vague idea of what’s what, here’s how to clean up the nasty mess (and let’s face it, if a bunch of buttons have been hanging around in a tin for fifty years, they may have a heck of a lot of history but also a huge amount of dirt.)

Pearl (also known as Mother of Pearl or Shell): wipe with a soft, damp cloth. I soak them briefly, because I am a bad girl and like to get everything clean, but the best is to quickly wipe them with a cloth. Then dry them on terry towel.
        
Glass: you can soak them in water if they are really dirty, but it also works to wipe them well with a soft damp cloth.

Metal: Wipe them with a dry cloth. There is a very good metal cleaner (I think it is called Wenol) which also works. You can use other gentle cleaners, but you have to be scrupulous not to damage the design (For example, if you have a fine old Victorian opera button, do you really want to erase the art in pursuit of cleanliness? And if you don’t know what an opera button is, that is another very good reason to get Peggy Anne Osborne’s book, so you can be ENLIGHTENED, teehee.)

Celluloid: don’t put them in water. You will just have a smelly mess and be very sorry. This is an early plastic and the best you can do is to wipe them quickly with a slightly damp cloth. The smell is distinctive. Some say it is slightly fishy. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that once you know it, you never forget it. And don’t want to smell it a lot. Just open an old tin of buttons that hasn’t seen the light of day in maybe forty years, and the smell will knock you back a few feet.

Bakelite: same deal, just wipe it, never soak it. It has a very distinctive smell. Described as burning rubber, but go figure, I have never been able to figure it out. Finally, one night, it was like a revelation, I was experimenting with Bakelite buttons, and I smelled something. I don’t know what it was, but I finally knew it was Bakelite and from that day on, I knew Bakelite. Anyway, just give it a quick wipe and for Pete’s sake, don’t do anything fancy with it.

There are so many other types of buttons but these are the basics. Not that my words are definitive. If you want definitive, go to the National Button Society’s website, www.nationalbuttonsociety.org where people really know what they are talking about.

What is wonderful about Anastasia’s blog is that when people can find a way to meld their personal passion with writing, it is a win-win situation. Thank you for inviting me, Anastasia. What fun this was. I now want to dive into a huge bin of unidentified buttons and frolic madly. However, I have a book to write.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Linda, and for sharing such an entertaining post with all our readers. For those of you who would love to read about Lulu, Linda is giving away a copy of Deadly Dues. All you have to do is post a comment this week to be eligible. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see who the winner is. -- AP

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE--10 TIPS TO A BETTER DIY MANICURE

As you all know by now, I have zilch in the way of disposable income. One of the first things that went bye-bye was my weekly nail appointment. I know with the economy being what it is, many of you have also had to cut back on or give up that luxury altogether. For that reason, I’ve asked Nicole drops by today to offer some tips on manicures and pedicures for those of us now doing our own. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. Here are a few tips I’ve culled from various nail techs:

1. Always buff nails after filing.

2. Before applying polish, make sure you swipe your nails with a nail polish remover soaked cotton ball to remove any excess oils or soap on the nails. Oil and soap left on nails causes polish to peel.

3. Never shake your polish bottle. This causes air bubbles to form in the polish. Instead, roll the bottle between your palms.

4. Always apply thin layers of polish. Use a basecoat first. Then two thin layers of polish, waiting a few minutes between each coat. Finish with a thin layer of top coat.

5. To apply polish, first stroke the brush down the center of the nail, then along each side.

6. Applying polish to the edge, underneath the tip of the nail will help prevent chipping.

7. Are your nails yellow or stained? Try a drop of lemon or lavender oil on each nail, then buff out the stains.

8. Don’t cut your cuticles. Cuticles protect the nail bed. Push the cuticle back with a cotton covered orange stick.

9. Apply a thin layer of topcoat to your manicure every morning to keep your polish from chipping.

10. Always wear rubber gloves when doing housework or gardening to protect your manicure.

Thanks for the great tips, Nicole! Maybe our readers have tips of their own they’d like to share. Let’s hear from you. 
Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author.-- AP

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DECORATING WITH JEANIE -- DEVIL'S DIP STICK

Here at American Woman magazine, we don’t have a gardening editor. That’s because Trimedia, our parent company has several magazines exclusively devoted to gardening. What we do have is our resident Earth Mother, decorating editor Jeanie Sims. Today Jeanie steps out of the decorating world and rants about something familiar to all suburban home owners. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! You know that saying in the Bible about the meek inheriting the Earth? As we say in New Jersey, fuggedaboutit. If my yard is any indication, the Earth will be inherited by rabbits, squirrels, weeds, and Devil’s Dip Stick.

Even though all the trees on my property, save one, have died and been removed or come down in storms  over past few years, my yard is still Squirrel Mecca. They come from miles around to feast on my garden. Nothing stops them. As for the rabbits, they’ve built an entire city under my back deck. What the squirrels don’t find tasty, the rabbits do. And once again, absolutely nothing I do to evict them works. They’re so fearless, that you can walk right up to them, and they won’t veer from their nibbling.

Then there are the weeds. I spend hours weeding (and wondering why I bother because the weeds never have time to choke the plants since the rabbits and squirrels are eating all of them!) only to have the darned things reappear the next day. Of course it doesn’t help that the people who moved in next door do absolutely nothing to maintain their yard, and all their weed seeds are constantly blowing over onto my property. Seems to me, if you want to own a home, you have an obligation to keep that home and its surrounding yard properly maintained. If not, buy a condo and pay HOA fees to have someone else do it for you.

But of all the problems I am facing this summer, the worst is the Devil’s Dip Stick. Never heard of it? Devil’s Dip Stick is a mushroom that looks like an inflamed male member (see photo.) I kid you not. It’s even got white balls growing under the soil, not to mention brown ooze spilling forth from the top. And it seems to love my flower and vegetable beds. I believe the invasion started last year with a batch of tainted mulch containing the fungus spores. As careful as I am digging them up, to avoid spreading more spores, the more persistent the little buggers are. It’s enough to make this Earth Mother yearn for an apartment in the city.

And if you know Jeanie, that’s something. She hates concrete and highrises! Thanks for the rant, Jeanie. I’m sure many of our readers can commiserate with you. So how about it? What’s your worst yard nemesis? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- MARGARITA CHICKEN

Cloris offers another one of her great chicken recipes today, perfect for when the supermarket has legs and wings on sale. Personally, I think it goes best with an icy cold Margarita (I like mine one the rocks with salt), but it tastes just as delicious with any beverage -- alcoholic or otherwise. Don’t want to heat up the chicken? Cook the chicken outdoors on your grill. -- AP

MARGARITA CHICKEN
(serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
4 lbs. cut up chicken
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 T. Swedish style mustard dill sauce
dried chopped onion
garlic powder
salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in baking dish.

Combine barbecue sauce, lime juice, and mustard dill sauce. Baste over chicken. Sprinkle with dried chopped onion, garlic powder, and salt.

Bake an hour and 15 minutes.

Do you have a favorite way to prepare chicken? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, August 16, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--PLASTIC CANVAS PICTURE FRAME MAGNET



You’re stuck in the house on a rainy day with children or grandchildren climbing the walls because they have nothing to do. Why not teach them to stitch? Here’s a very easy beginner plastic canvas project that children as young as 6 years old will have no trouble mastering, and you probably have materials left over from other project lying around the house that you’ll be able to use. For very young children, an adult should cut out the plastic canvas. You may also want to let the child practice stitching on a scrap of plastic canvas before beginning the project. -- AP

PLASTIC CANVAS PICTURE FRAME MAGNET

Materials: 25 bars x 25 bars of 7-hole clear plastic canvas; permanent ink marker; pink, blue, and white worsted weight yarn or your choice of any three colors; #16 tapestry needle; 3-3/4” x 3-3/4” cardboard; double-sided, acid-free tape; 1/2-yd. 3/4” wide white gathered eyelet; 3” magnetic strip; 2” x 2” photo; scissors; tacky glue.

1. (Note: for very young children, adult should cut out the plastic canvas.) Following the chart and using the marker, draw the inside line onto the plastic canvas. Cut out the inside square, cutting up to but not into the drawn line. Remove the marker with a dry tissue.

2. Following the chart, stitch the design in Continental stitch.

3. Fill in the uncharted areas of the background with white yarn.

4. Overcast the interior and exterior edges in white yarn.

5. Using double-sided the tape, secure the photo to the center of the cardboard.

6. Glue the eyelet to the back edge of the stitched frame, beginning at bottom center and overlapping ends. (Hint: Use spring-type clothespins to hold eyelet in place while drying.)

7. Glue the cardboard to the back of the stitching with the photo showing through the cut-out square.

8. Attach the magnet strip to the back of the cardboard.

How do you keep your kids or grandkids occupied on rainy days? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be eligible for a free book this week from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Saturday, August 14, 2010

THIS WEEK'S BOOK WINNER

Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank Archie Monday for being our Book Club Friday guest and author Lauren Carr for offering a copy of It's Murder, My Son to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is vikkibakus. If you'd  please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward it to Lauren, and she’ll mail your book to you. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, August 13, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR LAUREN CARR

Dear Readers, I regret to inform you that our much anticipated visit from the great Robin Spencer had been cancelled due to her unexpected death this spring. The author of eighty-seven murder mysteries, most of them best sellers, plays, and movies, Robin was the undisputed American Queen of Mystery. She will be greatly missed all over the world by her fans. However, her assistant, Archie Monday, was kind enough to visit to tell us about what has been happening at Robin’s estate on the shores of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland since her long lost son Mac Faraday moved in.
You can read more about the goings-on at Deep Creek Lake from author Lauren Carr at her website http://laurencarr.webs.com/ and blog http://writerlaurencarr.blogspot.com/. Lauren is also offering a copy of It’s Murder, My Son to one lucky reader who posts a comment to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week. -- AP


Thank you,
Anastasia, for letting me fill Robin’s very big shoes--and I don’t mean that literally! But, after working as her editor and research assistant for over a decade, I knew that Robin wouldn’t have it any other way. Robin was like a mother to me and she’d want her fans to know what has been going on at Spencer Manor.
Most of you are probably surprised to find out that Robin Spencer even had a son. He was the Spencer family’s deep dark secret. While Robin was in high school, she and her first love had a baby together. Her folks forced her to put the baby up for adoption and shipped her off to college. Meanwhile, her first love, Patrick O’Callaghan, got married and went on to become Spencer’s police chief. I only found out about it a few years ago when Robin asked me to find her son for her.
I found him in less than three weeks. If there’s a record of something anywhere in cyberspace, I’ll find it. That’s what I do.
Would you believe it? The baby of the world’s most famous murder mystery writer had grown up to become a top-notch homicide detective. It has to be in the genes.
I don’t think any of Robin Spencer’s fans were as surprised to find out that she had a baby out of wedlock as Mac Faraday.
After twenty years of marriage, Mac’s wife had left him for an assistant district attorney who used his influence to get Mac taken to the cleaners in his divorced. She got everything! So lawyers were not Mac’s favorite people.
Robin’s lawyer was finally able to catch up with Mac on the day his divorce became final to inform him that he had inherited an estate worth two-hundred-and seventy million dollars, give or take a million. That includes Spencer Manor here on the Point on Deep Creek Lake. But Robin had stipulated that I get to continue living in the guest house on her estate as long as I want. I guess you might say I came with the house.
His ex-wife’s loss is my gain. (Oh! Did I really say that?)
Mac is still trying to settle into life at Spencer Manor.  I could tell the first day that he wasn’t going to be your average millionaire playboy rubbing elbows on the golf course at the Spencer Inn. For example, he’s been trying to hire a housekeeper and cook, but so far he’s had no luck. He had one likely candidate, but she ran screaming from the house when Gnarly, Robin’s German shepherd, dragged a dismembered head with a bullet hole in it into the living room.
Spencer’s police chief, an idiot appointed by the town council after Pat O’Callaghan died, assumed it belonged to Katrina Singleton’s killer and closed her case as a murder-suicide.
Well, having investigated well over a hundred murder cases during his career as a homicide detective, Mac was shocked to see a case closed so fast without any investigation. And when the police chief got snooty after Officer David O’Callaghan, Mac’s half-brother, pointed out evidence that didn’t fit with a murder-suicide—Well, the game got afoot really fast!
Who’s Katrina Singleton? Katrina was our next door neighbor. She was found in the family room with her throat crushed the day after the Valentine’s Day blizzard.
No one could understand Katrina’s murder. Her first husband had been killed less than two years before she was murdered. He had been attacked and killed up at Abigail’s Rock. Katrina swore that the killer was a disgruntled client of hers from Washington, but he had an alibi. Months turned into years and Katrina said that her stalker was still after her, but no one could ever catch him.
Then, the blizzard hit Deep Creek Lake on Valentine’s Day. Katrina was dead and Gnarly, her German shepherd, almost died trying to protect her.
Robin saved Gnarly and adopted him. Mac and Robin’s dog got off to a rocky start when Gnarly tried to kill Mac when they first met, but they get along okay now, as long as Mac doesn’t try to sit in Gnarly’s love seat.
Well, I’m running out of time, and I would love to tell you how, with the help of Robin’s journal, this retired cop put all his detective skills to work to pick up where the local police had left off to follow the clues to Katrina’s killer.  But I guess you’re going to have to find that out for yourself. Order your copy of It’s Murder, My Son by author Lauren Carr today.

Thanks for the lowdown, Archie. And thank you, Lauren for offering a copy of It’s Murder, My Son to one of our readers this week. Remember, if you want to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of It’s Murder, My Son, post a comment to the blog. -- AP

Thursday, August 12, 2010

FASHION WITH ERICA -- TOP 10 WARDROBE BASICS



Assistant fashion editor Erica Milano is back with us today to weigh in on those items that are a must-have for any woman. Somehow I don’t think my craft smock is going to make her Top Ten List. -- AP

No, Anastasia, I’m afraid not. Most women have no need for kangaroo pockets. Although, I know we’re both grateful for that smock. If anyone wants to know why, they’ll have to wait until
Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun is released in January.

But back to wardrobe basics…many fashion gurus have devised Top Ten Lists. No two are alike. Today I’d like to give you my Top Ten List of Wardrobe Basics, culled from listening to the experts over the years and deciding when they made sense for the average woman and when they didn’t.

1. Basic Black Dress -- This is timeless. You can dress it up or dress it down, depending on the event. No woman should ever be without a little black dress.

2. Black Dress Pants -- Good for work, good for after work cocktails or dinner. Why black? It’s slimming and versatile. Like the basic black dress, you can make it work for any event by switching out tops and accessories.

3. A dress skirt -- Whether it’s a pencil skirt or another style, every woman should have one skirt that will work for multiple occasions. Black is a good color but gray will do, and choose the style that best flatters your figure.

4. White tailored shirt -- Again, a timeless staple of any woman’s wardrobe. Pair it with dress pants, skirts, or jeans, over a T-shirt or under a blazer.

5. A pair of well-fitting jeans -- And I don’t mean the ones you use for raking leaves and doing housework. Don’t wear them to the office or the theater, but paired with the right top, shoes, and accessories, a good pair of jeans will work for many other events.

6. A blazer -- Buy one in a neutral color. Blazers can be worn over dresses, with skirts, dress pants, or jeans.

7. A pair of khaki pants -- Like the dress pants and jeans, khakis are versatile enough that they can be dressed up or down with the right tops and accessories.

8. A suit -- Every woman needs at least one suit in her closet. Black, navy, or gray works best. A good suit will see you through most of life’s events from job interviews to business meetings, conferences, formal luncheons, and of course, the occasional funeral. You can also break the suit up to wear the jacket with jeans or slacks and the skirt with a sweater set.

9. A gray cashmere sweater -- Another classic and it will go well with any of the other items in your basic wardrobe.

10. Accessories -- This is how you take your basic wardrobe items and make them work for you, no matter the occasion. The right scarf, belt, hat, or piece of costume jewelry will make a statement, whether you want that statement to say classic, conservative, fun, hip, or funky.

Thanks, Erica! Great advice, as usual.
So…has Erica left anything out that you feel essential to your wardrobe? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in our free book giveaway from our Book Club Friday guest author.
 -- AP  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GUEST KATHY FAWCETT, SELF-DEFENSE INSTRUCTOR: PLAN TO PARTY SAFE (PART 2)

As promised, Kathy Fawcett from Attacking the Page is back with us today for Part 2 of her Plan to Party Safe tips. Kathy has recently advanced to Nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Isshinryu Karate and co-owns The Tenchi Isshinryu Karate Dojo, located in Lebanon, NJ, with her husband Scott. She is also a certified women’s self-defense instructor with the FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Program. Kathy writes paranormal romances and loves kick butt heroes and heroines. When not writing novels or teaching karate, you can find her blogging about martial arts and writing action at Attacking the Page. Welcome, Kathy! -- AP

PLAN TO PARTY SAFE, Part 2

This post is a continuation from my safety tips of the week. When going out to a party, club or bar, be sure you make a plan before you leave home.  If your plan changes, have a back up plan in mind.

PLAN A:  Know how much you're going to drink before going out.  If you are going through your drinks faster than you anticipated, try

PLAN B: Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks.  No one needs to know your second and fourth vodka and tonics are only tonics.  Or that you filled up your beer bottle with water.

PLAN A:  Drink only from bottles or cans you have opened or have watched the bartender pour.  Don't accept drinks that are in punch bowls or other open containers.  Never accept drinks from strangers or people you don’t absolutely trust with your life.  If you didn't see what went into your glass, assume anything can be in it.  Your nonalcoholic drink could be spiked with alcohol.  Your alcoholic drink could be laced with drugs.  And consider this, even if it isn't drugged, the guy buying you a drink may think you now owe him something in return.

PLAN B: Get help immediately from someone you trust with your life if...
                Your drink tastes bitter, is unusually salty, has a strange color, odor or has foam or residue on the surface.  Makers of Rohypnol (“roofies”) changed the formula so when dissolved in liquid, the pill produces a blueish-green dye.  Clear drinks turn  blue, beer turns green and dark drinks turn murky. BE AWARE however, that many date rape drugs are colorless, odorless, tasteless and can dissolve quickly in liquid.
                You begin to feel usually drunk for the amount of alcohol you've consumed.
                You feel dizzy, nauseous, drowsy, "out of it," or hallucinate.
                Your girlfriend acts in the above manner.  (Remember you've already made a buddy plan to watch out for each other!)
You or she may have been drugged and may only be alert for a moment longer.

PLAN A: Don't leave your drink unattended.  If you leave to go to the restroom, the dance floor or to make a phone call, then

PLAN B: throw out that drink when you return.  You can always buy yourself another one.

Party Smart and Stay Safe!

More great safe partying advice, Kathy! Thanks so much for sharing. Anyone have something to share or add? If you post a comment this week, you're entered in our drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS--CREAM CHEESE AND YOGURT CRAB DIP

Cloris is back today with another great dip, perfect for summertime entertaining. And because it’s made in part with yogurt, you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging. -- AP

CREAM CHEESE AND YOGURT CRAB DIP
Ingredients:
1 can crab, drained
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. Greek plain yogurt
1 T. milk
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dill

Beat cream cheese, yogurt, garlic, dill, and milk until blended. Add crab and blend well. Chill at least 2 hrs. Serve with crackers or spread on bagel chips. This dip also works well as a baked potato topper.

Thanks, Cloris! So who’s going to try this yummy crab dip? Let's hear from you. Everyone who posts a comment this week is entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author -- AP

Monday, August 9, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--KIDS STAMPING PARTY

The next time you’re planning a child’s birthday party, think about doing some rubber stamping. This popular craft is a great way to have fun with your child as you prepare for the party and provides great entertainment at the party, too.

Shopping Trip:
Begin by making a trip to the paper goods store. Purchase plain white paper plates, cups, napkins, party hats, goody bags, paper placemats, a paper tablecloth, crepe paper streamers and balloons.

Next, it’s a trip to the crafts store where the birthday child can choose rubber stamps in a party theme. You will also need a selection of stamp pads in various colors (make sure you purchase waterproof, non-toxic ink for decorating the plates and cups; all other ink can be washable but should still be non-toxic), blank note cards with matching envelopes, heavy white paper, fine line markers (again, waterproof and non-toxic for the cups and plates) or colored pencils, and an invitation rubber stamp.

Decide from the various party activities below, and purchase supplies for each.


Invitations:
Using the blank note cards, have your child stamp and decorate the outside of each card and envelope. Use the invitation stamp on the inside of the card. Write in the party information.


Party Prep:
Set aside some time a few days before the party for your child to stamp and color the paper goods. When coloring the napkins, tablecloth, and streamers, make sure the child works lightly to avoid tearing the paper.

Cut heavy white paper to 3” x 4” with pinking shears to make place cards. Fold in half to 1-1/2” x 4”. Stamp and decorate. Write the guest’s name next to the stamped image.

For stamping the balloons you’ll need to use acrylic paint. Make a stamp pad by adding paint evenly to a moistened piece of felt. Blow the balloon up halfway. Hold it steady on a flat surface while your child stamps the image. Continue Blowing the balloon up. Tie with string. Allow the balloon to dry completely. Deflate until party day.


Party Day:
When the guests arrive, have each child stamp and decorate his own party bag, hat, and name tag.

Purchase Fun Buttons or a badge maker for name tags. Let the children stamp and decorate the pre-cut paper circles and add their names before assembling the buttons.

Stickers, bookmarks, and jigsaw puzzles are all great projects to make. You can buy puzzle blanks at your local crafts store. Purchase white stickers in assorted sizes and shapes from an office supply store. Make bookmark blanks by cutting heavy white paper 1-1/2” x 6”. Punch a hole in the top of each. Tie ribbons through the holes after the children have stamped and decorated the bookmarks.

When the party is over, the children will have had an enjoyable time and go home with great party favors.


What types of kids parties have you hosted? Let's hear from you. Post a comment this week to be entered in our Book Club Friday book drawing for a free book from our guest author. -- AP