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, November 30, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

Ever grate up zucchini for zucchini bread and find that one jumbo zucchini gives you way to much, even for several loaves? Today Cloris has a recipe for zucchini fritters. Quick, easy, and a great side dish to serve with hamburgers or chicken. Plus, they’re far more nutritious than potato pancakes. Enjoy! -- AP

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS
(serves 4)


Ingredients:
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 beaten eggs
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. salt
olive oil

Mix together all ingredients except the olive oil. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Drop zucchini mixture by the tablespoon full into oil. Cook until golden brown on one side. Turn. Cook remaining side.


Yum! Cloris tells me these can be served with applesauce, sour cream, or spaghetti sauce and grated parmesan cheese, depending on your mood and main dish. What do you think, readers? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in this week's drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, November 29, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- MORE CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO CRAFT

Today, more quick-to-make Christmas gift ideas for those of you first starting to think about your crafting projects for the holidays.

*Make drawstring bags from holiday fabric for odd-shaped gifts. Decorate with appliqués or fabric paint. The bags can be used afterwards for travel bags, laundry bags, organizers, or pajama bags, depending on the size.

*Or just make a variety of different size drawstring bags as a gift for a student or someone who travels frequently. Choose a print fabric which reflects the personality of the recipient, perhaps a dinosaur print for a nephew who is studying paleontology, a sports print for your brother-in-law who coaches Little League, or a romantic floral for your cousin who loves Victoriana.

*Giving candy, nuts, gourmet coffee or jam as a gift? Glue a length of gathered fabric or lace around the top edge of a basket and place the items in it.

*For quick and easy ornaments that children can make and give as gifts, cut out basic Christmas shapes from felt, using cookie cutters for patterns. Have the children decorate the shapes with scraps of rickrack, lace, sequins, buttons, yarn, and glitter. Attach a piece of yarn for hanging.

*For the quilter on your gift list, make a pin cushion from a mini-quilt square. Fill with kitty litter, sand, or sawdust. Place in a lace-edged basket with a selection of “fat quarter,” quilting thread, and assorted notions.

*Purchase solid colored stockinet stitch knit caps and duplicate stitch a small design to the front band. Repeat the design at the ends of a matching scarf and the tops of matching mittens or gloves.

*Giving homemade jam as a gift? Cut circles of Christmas print fabric. Trim edges with lace, and tie around the tops of jars with silver or gold ribbon. Add small jingle bells to the ends of the ribbon.

*Sewing a holiday outfit for a special child? Use the fabric scraps to make a matching outfit for the child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal.
 



What kinds of handmade or homemade presents do you give as gifts? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in this week's drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Sunday, November 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 Susanne Alleyn for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of PALACE OF JUSTICE to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Shirley. Shirley, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward the information to Susanne, and she’ll mail your book to you. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, November 26, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR SUSANNE ALLEYN

Our guest author today at Book Club Friday is Susanne Alleyn. Susanne has had an unwholesome fascination with the French Revolution ever since she read the Classics Illustrated comic book version of A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Her debut novel, A FAR BETTER REST, was a reimagining of that story through the eyes of Sydney Carton. She began writing historical mysteries when she found herself creating a plot suggested by a series of murders that had been committed in Paris in the early 1800’s. PALACE OF JUSTICE is the fourth Aristide Ravel novel, set in the middle of the Reign of Terror. You can read more about Susanne and her books at her website.

Susan is offering a copy of
PALACE OF JUSTICE to one lucky person who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP



LOSING MY HEAD OVER HISTORY

“Wow! You write novels!” people sometimes exclaim when they meet me. “What are they about?”

“Well, I, um, write historical mysteries . . .” I reply (they perk up, thinking perhaps of a nice medieval whodunit with a sleuthing nun), “. . . set in the French Revolution.” And then I wait for that familiar, baffled expression to flicker across their faces. Because I know that the next question, or at least the next question that they’re dying to ask me, is probably: “Why do you write about such a grim, violent, horrible period of history as the French Revolution? Yuck!” (Insert thought balloon above the questioner, featuring a crude guillotine, some severed heads, and lots of blood.)

Actually, I write about it because I don’t think it’s horrible--or at least not nearly as horrible as two centuries of overwrought pop fiction (plus Hollywood) have made it seem. I write about the French Revolution because, while I’ll be the first to admit that most of it wasn’t a jolly happy funfest, honestly I think it’s a pretty darn cool era to set a mystery in.

OK, I’m a history geek. And before I was a history geek, I was a theater major and drama geek with a taste for the melodramatic (“passion, bloodshed, desire, and death,” as it says on my home page). So as I grew more and more geeky about history, I found myself inevitably becoming fascinated with periods of history that featured high drama and life-or-death struggles between issues and personalities. (After all, don’t the books on fiction writing all tell us that the essence of good fiction is conflict?)

Let’s face it, most people’s knowledge of the French Revolution begins and ends with A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel, both of which are stupendously exaggerated depictions of the “horrors” of the Revolution (or rather the Terror, in which those large multiple guillotinings featured so prominently in the above novels actually happened for only about eight weeks). I’ll bust some myths here and add that as numbers go, the “horrors” of the Revolution are dwarfed by, oh, massacres in the ancient world, the religious wars and repressions of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and various atrocities in our own dear old twentieth and twenty-first centuries. (Many more people died in a single one of the battles of World War I, or in a few days of the Holocaust, or on 9/11, than were guillotined in Paris between 1792 and 1794.) But ordinary life went on during the Revolution and even the Terror, as it always does.

So there’s much more to the French Revolution than the guillotines, as any Rev fan-girl can tell you. The Revolution, in fact, was viewed by a lot of contemporary witnesses, for at least the first couple of years after the fall of the Bastille, as the greatest event in the history of civilization, and it was really the beginning of our modern world.

Radical ideas like social justice, equality under the law, and representative democracy were not entirely new even then, of course; but when France--the biggest, richest, most intellectually sophisticated, and most powerful country in Europe--started to put such ideas into practice, and shake up the system of absolute monarchy, aristocracy, and privilege that had governed Europe for centuries, everyone had to sit up and pay attention whether they wanted to or not.

But to get back to those dramatic situations and life-or-death struggles that I crave in the midst of a good story . . . naturally there are plenty of them available. Suddenly a whole society was breaking up and re-forming itself, and hundreds of highly educated, incredibly complex, gifted people, who had never before had a say in government because they weren’t aristocrats, were abruptly given the opportunity to take part in running their (big, rich, sophisticated, powerful) country.

Suddenly these people, who would otherwise have probably lived long, dull, comfortable middle-class lives as lawyers and career army officers, were throwing themselves into public life and, eventually, taking complete control--and often losing their freedom and sometimes their lives in the process as the party squabbling heated up (party squabbling--sound familiar?). And some of them, fundamentally decent people, ended up caring so much about their ideals and how they thought the Revolution and the French Republic should be managed that they finally became willing--“for the sake of the Republic’s safety”--to kill anyone who disagreed with them, including their best friends.

Right then. Yes, the French Revolution, on the whole, was no laughing matter. But neither is homicide. And crimes have to be solved even during revolutions and periods of crisis. So that’s why I set my novels in revolutionary Paris, and why my latest mystery, Palace of Justice, is set smack in the middle of the murderous politics--and life-or-death struggles--of the Terror. That’s the rich, fascinating, thought-provoking history that has inspired me to write five novels set in the period. And all that great conflict will undoubtedly provide me with endless stories for future novels.

So what’s not to love about the French Revolution?

Thanks so much, Susanne. I’m sure you’ve made some fans today. I know I certainly would like to read more about the period after reading your post. What about the rest of you out there? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of PALACE OF JUSTICE. And don't forget to check back Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner. -- AP

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! -- NATIONAL DAY OF LISTENING


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Unless you’re not American, and in that case, Happy Thursday! Normally, we’d feature a fashion, beauty, or travel article today, but because it’s Thanksgiving here in the states, the rest of the editors have the day off. Me? I wish! I haven’t had a day off since the not-so-dearly departed hubster cashed in his chips -- permanently -- at a Roulette wheel in Las Vegas. FYI, he was supposed to be at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, Pa. If you want to learn more about that, you’ll have to order a copy of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN by Lois Winston (the chronicler of my story) and wait until it’s release Jan. 1st. Click on the book cover on the sidebar to take advantage of a 32% pre-release discount.

OK, end of sales pitch. What I really want to talk to you about today is tomorrow. Most people know of the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday. That’s the start of the big Christmas shopping season and was so named because traditionally it’s the day that retailers get out of the red and begin to show a profit for the year. Holiday sales can make or break a business.

However, tomorrow is also National Day of Listening. This event was started by National Public Radio’s StoryCorps. It’s meant to encourage people to listen to one another. StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay, calls it, “the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give.”

How many times have you wished you knew more about an elderly relative who is no longer around? Thanksgiving is a time when families get together. Take the opportunity to sit down with your relatives, young and old, to record interviews or stories they might like to share. You’ll be glad you did.

To learn more go to
http://www.nationaldayoflistening.org/ where you’ll find a do-it-yourself guide. You’ll also be able to listen to interviews from the StoryCorps collection and share your own on the Wall of Listening.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Don’t stuff yourself too much. Leave some leftovers for tomorrow. Turkey always tastes better the day after. And don’t forget to post a comment today to be entered in tomorrow’s drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GUEST SAFETY EXPERT K.M. FAWCETT -- BECOME A HARD TARGET

Today we welcome back safety expert K.M. Fawcett with some timely advice on being a “hard target” as opposed to an “easy target” as we head into the holiday shopping season. 

K.M. Fawcett is a Nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Isshinryu Karate. She and her husband Scott own the Tenchi Isshinryu Karate Dojo, located in Lebanon, NJ. K.M. is also a certified women’s self-defense instructor with the FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Program. K.M. 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
www.attackingthepage.wordpress.com. -- AP

BE A HARD TARGET

What do the people in the following scenarios have in common?  A mother exits a store looking at her latest purchase.  A sister stands in the parking lot rummaging through her purse in search of her car keys.  A friend walks, jogs or runs with headphones.  A niece is busy texting her friends.

Each of these people is unaware of her surroundings.  To a predator, they might as well have “Easy Target” written on their foreheads.

Criminals fear two things: being caught and being hurt.  Which is why they look for an easy target in the first place.  Unfortunately, it only takes a predator seconds to zero in on an easy target.  Fortunately, you are not an easy target.  You are a Hard Target because…
 You are aware of your surroundings.
 You walk with your head up and with a purpose.
 You look confident.
 You pay attention to the people around you.
 You make eye contact letting people know you see them, but you don’t stare so as not to challenge them.
 You wear headphones only while exercising at the gym.
• You have your keys in hand when going to your car.

Feel free to share other ways you can be a Hard Target in the comments section.

Stay Safe!

Great advice! Thanks so much for joining us today, K.M. So readers, how else can you make sure you’re a hard target? -- AP

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- CRANBERRY PINEAPPLE RELISH


Just in time for Thanksgiving, Cloris has a quick and easy cranberry pineapple relish dish that the kids can make while you’re busy preparing the rest of the menu. -- AP

CRANBERRY PINEAPPLE RELISH
(serves 8)

Ingredients:
2 cans whole cranberries
1 lg. can crushed pineapple
1 lg. or 2 small cans mandarin oranges
1 cup chopped walnuts

Drain pineapple and oranges. Mix together cranberries and pineapple. Fold in oranges and walnuts. And that’s it!

Wow! Couldn’t be simpler, right? Happy Thanksgiving! -- AP

Monday, November 22, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO CRAFT -- PART 1

Some crafters begin their holiday crafting for the following year as soon as the gift wrap is tossed. The tree is still standing, the wreath is still hanging, and they’re already prowling the aisles of their local craft and needlework shops, gift list in hand.

These are the organized among us. If you fit into this category, all the more power to you. Skip this blog, and go back to the Mother’s Day gift you’re working on for next May.

Most of us find that the holidays sneak up on us without warning. One day it’s ninety-five degrees in the shade, and we’re down the shore, relaxing with a good mystery. Blink, and we find ourselves basting the Thanksgiving turkey!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be offering up a list of suggestions for those of you who want to craft Christmas gifts but don’t get around to doing so until after all the Thanksgiving leftovers are consumed.

*Purchase a panel of holiday fabric. Using fusible web, appliqué individual motifs to purchased solid color fingertip or hand towels; kitchen towels and pot holders; napkins, placemats, and table runners; aprons; sweatshirts; or tote bags. Satin stitch the edges or outline with a tube of fine-line fabric paint.

*Need a gift for a gardener? Glue lace trim around the top edges of a plastic flower pot. Trim a purchased pair of gardening gloves with matching lace. Place the gloves in the pot along with seed packs and a few hand gardening tools.

*Make small sachet bags from scraps of fabric. Stitch gathered lace to the top edge. Trim with ribbon roses, pearl buttons, lace medallions, and beads. Fill the bags with potpourri. Tie closed with satin ribbon.

*Leftover quilted fabric scraps make great baby bibs. Use a purchased bib as a pattern. Finish the neck edge with bias tape, extending the tape for ties. Finish the outer edgew with bias tape or lace. Decorate with iron-on appliqués.

Next week, more quick gift ideas.

Sunday, November 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 M.E. Kemp for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Kathy. Kathy, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward the information to M.E., and she’ll mail your book to you as soon as she receives her author copies. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, November 19, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR M.E. KEMP

Today’s Book Club Friday guest author is M.E. Kemp who writes an historical mystery series with two nosy Puritans as detectives.  Her latest book, DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, will come out on November 20th from L&L Dreamspell, who have also published some of her short stories.  M.E.’s New England roots are strong, going back to 1636 Salem. In 1713 her ancestors settled her home town of Oxford, MA, where she grew up.  She lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with husband Jack and two kitties, Boris and Natasha, who live up to their names.  You can read more about M.E. at her website.

M.E. is offering a copy of DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. The book will be shipped in a few weeks, once she receives her author copies.
-- AP

WHY DO WE LOVE THE BAD BOYS?

From Heathcliff and Mister Rochester to Fonzie and Dexter, we love the bad boys!  We even root for stuck-up Mister Darcy over the congenial bird-witted Mister Bingley.  Why is that, I wonder?  Mister Darcy is at least  handsome, but poor Mister Rochester of Jane Eyre fame is described as dark and unprepossessing and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights is a real brute.  He's described as dark and ugly as a gypsy.  (Note: this is a 19th c. concept -- I think the Romany are quite handsome as a people.)  Even in Georgette Heyer's Regency novels her best heroes are the dark rakes, like Lord Demeril in Heyer's Vanessa.  He's your typical bad boy -- a tall, dark, haggard-looking womanizer and gambler.  Yet our fair heroine loves him.  And is there a female who grew  up watching the television series Happy Days who didn't have a crush on Fonzie in his black leather jacket?  Even Richie had a crush on the Fonze.  Too bad the writers never pursued that line....

A mid-twentieth century critic wrote a best selling book, Love and Death in the American Novel, based on the premise that the dark, seductive woman was always the most interesting character as opposed to the blond twits who fainted at the first moment of crisis.  Fiedler used Cora vs. Alice from Last of the Mohicans to illustrate his theory.  (He also wrote that the greatest love scene in American Literature takes place in a boarding house between two sailors in Moby Dick. Queequeg is certainly dark, being a native of the Fiji Islands, although he's not a Bad Boy.  He's kind and caring and saves the life of Ishmael.)  So maybe Fiedler's theory holds true for men as well.

In a more contemporary tone, just think of bad boy Tom Ripley.  (Matt Damon in the movie, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.)  Ripley is a charming rascal even if he is a murderer.  Then there's television's Tony Soprano.  Tony's a Bad Boy for sure, but who doesn't sympathize with him for his spoiled-brat kids, his nagging wife and his crazy buddy Pauly Walnuts, who even his fellow crew members call a psycho?  That doesn't even include his murderous mother.  Is it any wonder the guy is seeing a psychiatrist?

Maybe it's the element of danger these bad boys bring with them.  Maybe it's the desire to save them -- the love of a good woman and all that.  Maybe the bad boys are just the more interesting characters and it's writers over the years who's fault it is that we are drawn to them.  Even the great poet Milton in his epic Paradise Lost just couldn't help making Satan the strongest character as the Fallen Angel.  What does poor Gabriel have to offer besides his horn?  "The Devil made me do it."

Whatever the reason, we love the Bad Boys.  Let's just keep them at a safe distance -- in books, on television or in the movies.  Bad Boys in real life are not so charming.   

Thanks so much, M.E.! Bad boys certainly are intriguing. What do you think, readers? Do you go for the bad boy or the nice guy? Post a comment to enter the drawing to win a copy of M.E.’s DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER. And don’t forget to stop back tomorrow to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP

Thursday, November 18, 2010

GUEST KELLE Z. RILEY--HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Today we have a guest blogger sitting in for travel editor Serena Brower. Dr. Kelle Z. Riley is a world traveler whose home is wherever loved ones gather.  True to her Gemini nature, she has a real-life duel personality: Ph.D. scientist by day and writer by night.  A 2005 Golden Heart Finalist, her first book—a romantic suspense entitled Dangerous Affairs—was published in 2006.  Kelle believes in the magical power of storytelling to entertain, educate and enthrall both readers and writers of all ages.  When she’s not saving the world’s water supply, or kicking butt in a karate class, she can be found at her computer, spinning tales of love and happily-ever-after. -- AP
  
Hi Anastasia, thank you for inviting me to stop by the blog.  As you know, I'm often flying around the world for business, traveling to exotic places like Bangkok, Singapore, Sweden, Paris and more!  It is nice to "land" here for a few moments to reflect on life.  Maybe some time you'll invite me back and I can tell you about my travels.  Shoppers might enjoy hearing about the night market in Bangkok.  Those in need of some pampering might like to hear about the "fish spa" in Singapore.  But for now, I'm delighting in being home in the USA!

As I sit in a darkened, windowless meeting room today, my thoughts aren’t on project deadlines, profit margins or any of the issues on the corporate agenda.  Although it’s still too early for crooners to remind us “there’s no place like home for the holidays” or to hear the plaintive refrain of “I’ll be home for Christmas” on the radio, my thoughts are already turning to Thanksgiving and “home.”
But in an increasingly mobile world where jetting across continents becomes commonplace and jobs require moves every year of so, where distances between family members are measured in time zones rather than hours, what do we really mean when we say we’re going “home?”
Nostalgia may tell you it’s the house on the block where you grew up, the smell of mom’s special sugar cookies baking, the crunch of fallen leaves and dozens of other images from your childhood.  But those things are memories.  Visiting the old house—even if mom is still baking cookies—won’t turn back the clock and let you relive your childhood.
I believe the longing we feel for “home” is something else.  It’s not a place or a time.  It isn’t even family members gathered together under a single roof to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie.  The longing for home is a longing for connection.  Connection with those closest to us—spouses, children, parents, siblings, even our crazy cousins.  It’s also a longing for a connection to community—neighbors, those who gather at your place of worship, and humankind in general.  Humans are social creatures and we aren’t fulfilled unless we’re part of a community.
What a wonderful time we live in then, when we have so many options for interacting with our loved ones and communities.  If we can’t drive or fly home, we can call, text, check up on social networking sites or even write an old fashioned letter or card (the kind that requires a stamp!).  The possibilities to reach out and include far-flung family and friends are endless. 
There’s just one catch.  To really connect you need to focus on the person you’re reaching out to.  Focus on their voice (if you can hear it) or hold their image and memories of your times together in your mind (if you’re using social networks, texts or letters).  Don’t rush the “conversation” just because our communication devices allow it.  Rather, savor that moment with your loved one like you would savor a fine piece of gourmet chocolate.  Imprint the interaction on your mind, heart and soul.  When you do, faster than you can click your ruby slippers three times, you’ll be home.

Thanks for stopping by, Kelle! And do come back again soon. I’m sure our readers would love to hear about the night market in Bangkok and "fish spa" in Singapore. Remember, readers, post a comment this week to be entered into the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GUEST SAFETY EXPERT K.M. FAWCETT -- "PURSE"ONAL SAFETY

Today we welcome back safety expert K.M. Fawcett with some “purse”onal safety tips. K.M. Fawcett is a Nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Isshinryu Karate. She and her husband Scott own the Tenchi Isshinryu Karate Dojo, located in Lebanon, NJ. K.M. is also a certified women’s self-defense instructor with the FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Program. K.M. 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 www.attackingthepage.wordpress.com. -- AP

“Purse”onal Safety

Keep your purse and wallet safe from theft!

Don’t leave your purse or wallet in your car, in your shopping cart or in your coat when using a coat check or a coat rack.  When trying on clothes or testing products, never leave or set down your purse. When dining, keep your purse on your lap or on the ground between your feet.

Avoid carrying large purses, as they are easier to snatch.

Avoid keeping your wallet in your back pocket, especially in crowds.

Keep your purse held tightly against your body with the flap facing toward you.  Keep it zipped closed.  If you can’t close your purse, it’s time to clean it out.

Carry as little cash as possible. If you must carry a large amount of money, be careful not to let others see it.

You may want to carry a diversionary money fold with several singles covered by one larger bill, such as a twenty.  If someone tries to rob you, throw your diversionary money in one direction and run the other way (toward people if possible.)

Feel free to add your own “purse“onal safety tip in the comments section.

Great advice! Thanks so much for joining us today, K.M. So readers, do you have other “purse”onal safety tips you’d like to share? Post a comment this week to be entered into the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author.-- AP

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- ZUCCHINI CRANBERRY NUT BREAD

Today Cloris has a zucchini bread recipe that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Spread with butter or cream cheese for breakfast, serve with a salad for lunch, or in place of a starch at dinner -- AP

ZUCCHINI CRANBERRY NUT BREAD
(makes 2 loaves)

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
2 cups grated zucchini
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried dried cranberries

Mix all dry ingredients together. Beat eggs, oil, and vanilla together. Blend in zucchini. Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture, blending well. Fold in nuts and cranberries.

Grease two loaf pans. Divide batter between two pans. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thanks, Cloris! Yet another way to get the kids to eat their veggies. 
Remember, readers, post a comment this week to be entered into the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, November 15, 2010

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--BEADED SNOWMAN ORNAMENT



To round out our trio of beaded ornaments, here’s a cute snowman to go with your reindeer and train ornaments. Once again, it’s stitched on cross stitch fabric but with seed beads instead of embroidery floss.

Materials:
6” x 6” 14-ct. red Aida cloth
lt. gold, dk. gold, black, red, white, and dk. green seed beads
beading needle
red sewing thread

Directions:
The beads are stitched onto the fabric with a half-cross stitch. Work across each row using the color bead indicated in the chart. Use white for the snowman’s body, lt. gold for his corncob pipe, dk. gold for his arms, dk. green for his scarf, and black for his eyes, hat, and buttons.



Do you fill your tree with all sorts of ornaments, both handcrafted and store bought? Do you do themed trees? Let's hear from you? Post a comment this week to be entered into the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Sunday, November 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 Chris Roerden for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Anna Phegley. Anna, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward the information to Chris, and she’ll mail your book to you. Happy reading! -- Anastasia

Friday, November 12, 2010

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR CHRIS ROERDEN

Our Book Club Friday guest today is non-fiction author Chris Roerden. Chris is a career editor and writing instructor whose DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY won the Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction Book, became a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity awards, and is a selection of the Writer’s Digest Book Club. DON’T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION is its all-genre edition. Both books offer hundreds of examples to illustrate a writer’s many choices in technique. Authors Chris has edited are published by St. Martin’s Press, Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, Perseverance Press, Intrigue, Rodale, Viking, Walker & Co., and many others. You can read more about her at her website.

Chris has generously offered a copy of DON’T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. Also, for all of you aspiring authors, Chris has some information about a great writing scholarship. Read on. -- AP

If Success is 90% Showing Up, Failure is 50% Lack of Awareness

As you clean out your spam folder, aren’t you continually amazed by the lack of awareness of so many spammers? (Or should I say ignorance?) One subject line I regularly see reads: “Dear Beloved.” The few incredibly special people in my life who’d comprise my own beloved list would never address me as such. Would yours?

“You won!” is another quick clue, especially when the sender bears no resemblance to any contest I might have entered. As for my own recent titles, they won their honors not more than one year after publication (2007 and 2009), and the emailers’ affiliations had always been clear.

My favorite stupid spam subject remains: “2nd Notice Again.” Meaning what? This is my third notice? Or I’m in for a series of the same? The number of spammers with blinders on their brains is awesome, surpassed only by the number of email owners who open this stuff. (Kind of like some unenlightened voters and their uninformed candidates‑‑but this is not the place for politics.)

Are manuscript submissions like spam?

My job as an editor is to help improve an author’s writing and submission skills, and‑‑by extension‑‑enable more readers to enjoy more well-written books. And that brings me to the big R that concerns most writers: rejection. Although I believe that most spam is rejected‑‑at least I hope it is‑‑I know that most manuscripts are.

In publishing, instant rejection is the common fate of the writer whose lack of awareness (or ignorance, or whatever you want to call it) keeps him or her from discovering the simple procedures for preventing a manuscript’s immediate burial in an agent’s or editor’s “no” pile. “Immediate” means not even read. This kind of instant rejection is no different from the tons of unopened spam deleted based solely on a stupid subject line or an unknown “from” name.

The number of writers who spend five years developing one magnum opus but zero minutes researching submission guidelines is staggering. You name it, we’ve received it: single-spacing, all caps, pink paper, and either bulky binders that place three holes precisely where we might be inclined to jot a helpful note to the author‑‑or 500 loose sheets swimming inside a huge box that’s been mummified with so much tape it’s impossible to open, yet sent express.

These and every other basic submission no-no have been written about ad infinitum and made available to any writer who thinks to look for them. The catch is that a hopeful writer would have to think to look.

Are contest entries like spam?

Two years ago I had the honor of serving as a judge on the McCloy-Mystery Writers of America Scholarship Committee under the direction of Erin Hart, author of False Mermaid. The following year I had the additional honor of succeeding Erin when she was ready to hand off the role of committee chair that she’d filled so ably for four years. That’s when I saw the kinds of questions that potential scholarship applicants had been asking. It’s when I saw the kinds of answers Erin had been providing, year after year, with considerable gentleness, patience, and encouragement.

A few of those inquiries were astute and sometimes led to tweaking the application’s wording for greater clarification. For most inquiries, however, the answers were self-evident from a careful reading of the scholarship application form and rules. The catch, of course, is that a hopeful scholarship applicant would have to read all the requirements carefully.

If you’re interested in seeing the frequently asked questions and answers, I compiled these from the files, eliminated many duplicates, and now make them available to all who contact mccloy-mwa@lycos.com with a question about the scholarship. (I also posted the FAQs on my website until I can find a more permanent location for them: http://writersinfo.info. Click “call for submissions.”) No inquirer is identified.

To see the scholarship rules themselves, plus the official application form, please visit http://mysterywriters.org/?q=AwardsPrograms-McCloy. Each year, two scholarships of up to $500 each are awarded to promising mystery writers who wish to enroll in specific classes or workshops to advance their writing ability.

For the past two years that I’ve been committee chair, whenever the annual February 28 deadline approaches and the large packages of submissions begin overflowing the scholarship’s dedicated P.O. box, my first step is to confirm that each submission is complete and accurate.

Sadly, some entries ignore one or more of the published contest rules. And some writing samples are not remotely mystery-related. Not one of these ineligible entries can be seen by our panel of judges.

The only difference between spam and a disqualified scholarship application is that its applicant receives my personal letter of explanation. One reason I chose to write today’s blog on this subject is that I’m saddened by having observed, throughout a 45-year career as an editor and writing instructor, that a good deal of writing is rejected without being read‑‑not because it’s not worthy, but because its hopeful writer has overlooked or ignored the basics.

My second reason is to urge all lovers of mystery to please, please spread the word about the annual McCloy-MWA Scholarship Program, and send serious writers to http://mysterywriters.org/?q=AwardsPrograms-McCloy.

Thanks so much, Chris! I’m sure some of our readers will be interested in applying for the scholarship and after reading your post will be super diligent about following the rules. Remember, readers, if you want a chance to win a copy of DON’T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION, be sure to leave a comment and check back Sunday to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TRAVEL WITH SERENA--GUEST RAYNA VAUSE ON DISNEY WORLD


Travel editor Serena Brower has invited a guest for today’s post. Author Rayna Vause is our go-to gal on all things Disney. If you’re planning a trip to Disney World for the upcoming holidays, she’s got some great suggestions for you. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! I’m thrilled to be here. And thanks to Serena for inviting me.

Have you ever wanted to ride a Segway? From the moment I saw EPCOT Center employees zipping around the park on the futuristic looking vehicle, I was determined to ride one. On this Travel Thursday, I wanted to share a few suggests on some fun things to do at one of my favorite places to go, Disney World. 

Being a huge Disney fan, I make multiple trips to the resort in Florida. I regularly peruse Disney’s website in search of new and fun things to do. After all, Disney World has more to offer then just the rides in the parks. During one of these searches I stumbled across it – The Fort Wilderness Backtrail Tour. Disney once again worked it’s magic and granted my wish. For the price of a ticket (magic isn’t free after all) I could spend three hours cruising around on a Segway. Woohoo!

We had to arrive early, a down side since I don’t like mornings. Still we got there almost on time. The staff fitted us with safety helmets, gave us bottles of water, then got us up and running on one of those awesome machines. They spent twenty minutes teaching the group how to maneuver, stop, start, and safely get on and off. Once the lesson ended, off we rolled, gliding along the paths and trails of Fort Wilderness campground. We traveled around a beautiful lake and along shaded tree lined paths. As we went, our guide shared some Disney history and trivia. We even stopped by the stables and met some of the horses. I had a great, but exhausting time. You’d be surprised how sore your legs are after three hours on one of those things!

Perhaps, riding a Segway isn’t your thing. There are a ton of other options that will take you behind the scenes and into the inner workings of the Disney theme parks and resorts. Another great tour I went on was the Backstage Safari at Animal Kingdom. Again, we had to arrive early, but it was worth it. It’s not everyday you get to pet a white rhino or watch an elephant get a bath, but those are just a few of the things you might see and do while visiting the animal pens in the backstage areas of Animal Kingdom. Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park is huge. In fact, it’s actually the largest of the four theme parks. Hence the reason we were driven from area to area because walking was so not an option. This tour is packed with a ton of information. We learned everything from the types of diets the animals are fed to how they are bred to how they are trained to respond to sound cues to leave the attraction and return to their pens. At the end we got our own private ride through Kilimanjaro Safaris and received a unique trading pin and travel mug. I love trading pins so that was a nice little perk for me. 

The creativity and ingenuity used to create this fabulous world is fascinating. Being a frequent traveler to Disney, I like to partake of the multitude of activities that can be found outside of the theme parks away from the crowds and lines. Going behind the scenes and learning how some of magic that surrounds you at Disney is conjured up is such fun. The many tours offered are definitely something worth looking into for your next trip to the House of Mouse.

I love Disney, too! Wish I were there right now. How about the rest of you? Have you been to Disney World or Disneyland? Any other special vacation spots you want to share? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in this week's book givaway from our Friday Book Club Author. -- AP    

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MONEY MATTERS WITH SHEILA--AMERICA RECYCLES DAY, NOV. 15


Sheila is here today to talk about saving our planet, one recyclable at a time. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia!

Here at
American Woman we’re all about going as green as possible. We have but one planet, and we need to keep it as pollution-free as possible for our health and the health of generations to come. We also need to conserve energy as much as possible because gas, oil, and coal are non-renewable resources. At some point, we’re going to run out, and we’re just now beginning to get serious about moving from non-renewable sources of energy to renewable ones such as wind and solar power.

One way to go green and conserve energy is to recycle as much as possible. When you recycle 1 glass bottle, you save enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours or power a computer for 30 minutes. When you recycle 10 beverage cans per week, you save enough energy for 30 hours of TV watching per week. A month of Sunday papers recycled will save 4 trees a year.

November 15
th is America Recycles Day. This is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling in the United States. Help our country go greener by spreading the word. Help save our planet with these three simple steps:

Reduce

  • Choose products with minimal packaging to reduce waste
  • Identify products and practices to reduce waste toxicity
Reuse
  • Use reusable products instead of disposable ones
  • Maintain and repair items you own
  • Reuse bags and containers
  • Consider renting or borrowing rather than buying items you use infrequently 
Recycle
  • Purchase products made from recyclable materials
  • Purchase products that can be recycled after you’ve used them

Not only will these tips help save our natural resources, they’ll save you money. And who among us doesn’t appreciate having a few extra dollars in our pocket at the end of the week?

For more information about America Recycles Day, go to http://americarecyclesday.org.


How right you are, Sheila! So what do you do in the way of recycling or otherwise helping the planet? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in this week's drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

Don’t want to bother with the mess of stuffing a turkey but don’t want to serve boxed stuffing? Cloris suggests you try pumpkin bread pudding this Thanksgiving. -- AP

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING
(serves 8)

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped onions
2 gloves minced garlic
1 stick unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 lg. eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
5 cups day-old French bread broken into 1” pieces

Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Mix together pumpkin and milk. Beat eggs and sugar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Combine sautéed onion/garlic mixture, egg mixture, and pumpkin mixture. Place bread in large bowl. Pour pumpkin mixture over bread. Add walnuts. Mix well. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees 30-45 minutes until mixture sets.

Thanks, Cloris! This sounds like a great change from traditional stuffing, and I don’t have to shove my hand up that turkey! Readers, do you have a favorite stuffing recipe? 
Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in this week's book givaway from our Friday Book Club Author.-- AP