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, May 31, 2011

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE


Even though summer is right around the corner, we still get those cool rainy days every so often. Days just perfect for grilled cheese. But what Cloris has to offer today is not your mama’s grilled cheese. -- AP

GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE
Ingredients:
sourdough bread, sliced (two per sandwich)
Swedish style mustard
Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
deli sliced sharp white cheddar
fresh baby spinach
cooked bacon (3 slices per sandwich)
butter

Spread mustard on slices of bread. Layer cheese, apple slices, spinach, and bacon between slices of bread.

Spread a thin layer of butter on top and bottom slices of bread. Grill until cheese melts and bread is golden brown.

Trust me, you’ll never go back to plain American cheese and white bread once you’ve savored this gourmet grilled cheese sandwich! -- AP

Monday, May 30, 2011

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- VICTORIAN LADY YARN DOLL


Refer to the materials list and directions from May 23, 2011 to make the basic yarn doll using a mohair type rose colored yarn. Decorate the doll as follows:

Materials:
sandy blond curly doll hair
4” doll hat
3” ecru lace fan
five 1/4” mauve ribbon roses
1/2 yd. 1/8” wide mauve satin ribbon
6” length 1” wide ecru lace
1/2 yd. 3/4" wide ecru lace
needle and thread
small amount baby’s breath
pink colored pencil or blush
scissors
tacky glue

1. Make doll according to Basic Yarn Doll directions (5/23/11.)

2. Cut 3-4 strands at a time of curly doll hair twice the desired length of hair. Glue midpoint of the hair to head, applying along the edge of muslin first. Then work in neat, evenly spaced horizontal rows from back of the neck up to top of the head. Untangle and trim to even out the length.

3. Cut 1” lace into three 2” pieces. Fold two pieces in half lengthwise. Using needle and thread, gather at folded edge. Tie one around each wrist.

4. Using needle and thread, gather remaining piece of 2” lace along one long edge. Glue under neck for jabot.

5. Glue a ribbon rose to top of jabot and at each cuff.

6. Glue hat to head. Glue 1/8” ribbon around hat, tying ends at center back. Glue baby’s breath and two ribbon roses to front of hat slightly off-center.

7. Glue fan to front of doll. Glue arms over fan.

8. Cut 3/4” lace into three 6” pieces. Tie each into a bow. Glue to bottom of “skirt.”

9. Color cheeks with pink pencil or blush.

Check back for more yarn doll variations in future weeks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

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 Loni Emmert for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Lights! Camera! Action! to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Kellie M. Rix. Kellie, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Loni, and she’ll mail the book to you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR LONI EMMERT


Today’s mystery author guest is Loni Emmert. Loni has worked in entertainment for thirty years but had an itch to write fiction—specifically mysteries with a strong romantic edge.  To hone her craft she joined writing groups Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. Drawing from her experience Lights! Camera! Murder! is her second published mystery. She is a Southern California native and also writes articles on writing and related topics. Learn more about Loni at her website

Loni is giving away a copy of Lights! Camera! Murder! to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP

Hollywood and Vine. Mann’s Chinese Theater. Pacific Coast Highway. Paramount Pictures. The Walk of Fame. Capitol Records. Sunset Boulevard. The Hollywood Sign. These are just a few of the famous sights that I am privileged to enjoy daily and some of them inspired me to write Lights! Camera! Murder! a murder mystery that takes place on the set of a soap opera. I think part of the fun of writing is bringing interesting locations to the attention of the reader.  Personally, I know that when choosing a book I definitely look for unusual settings that I have not had the opportunity to visit. That way I get to learn about a new place and travel vicariously along with the characters.

Because I work in Hollywood and know the town intimately, I was able to bring to life some famous settings for my characters to visit, though some names of locations were changed to protect the innocent. An example is my fictional movie studio, Olympus Studios that I created from my experiences with two real studios, one of which I worked at a few years ago. I kept Barney’s Beanery—a restaurant famous for having celebrity diners such as Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin as regulars during their heyday—the same as my characters enjoyed a meal there.

By setting my story in Hollywood I hope to give readers that have never had a chance to roam around Tinsel Town a bit of the celebrity experience.

In my first book, The Leaf Peeper Murders, the locale I selected was small town New Hampshire, again a fictional town, modeled after a real village that I had visited several times. The amazingly beautiful fall foliage becames the colorful backdrop for two murders, and I hope, brought some New England feeling to readers.

One of the most important aspects of a story is the setting. The location of the story itself becomes a character and can add rich texture and color to the plot. One of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun, might not have delighted me so if it took place somewhere else. The images of Tuscany were a vivid vehicle to transport the viewer to another place. In fact, the villa itself is quite a character that brings many challenges to the main character. While the story itself is important, the surrounding scenery of the story is just as important, creating a unique ambiance for the characters to react to and grow from.

Loni, thanks for joining us today. I’m sure many of my readers will be running out to pick up a copy of Lights! Camera! Murder! but before you do, readers, post a comment. You could be the lucky person who wins a copy. Don’t forget to check back on Sunday to see if you are. -- AP

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE-- THE PERFECT MAKE-UP MATCH

If you’re pinching pennies like I am, you probably can’t afford department store cosmetics any more. But how do you keep from wasting money by buying the wrong shade? Today beauty editor Nicole Emmerling comes to the rescue. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia! Have I got a secret for you! Department store cosmetic counters will let you try before you buy, but that’s not the case when you buy your cosmetics at one of the big box stores such as Target or any of the drug store chains.

So here’s what you do --

Go to your favorite department store and sample shades until you find what you want. Remember the product name and color. Don’t feel guilty about not purchasing anything. People sample without buying all the time.

When you get home, go onto Beauty Matchmaker at the L’Oreal website
. Select the cosmetics category, then the brand you chose,  the product, and the shade. The website will generate the equivalent L’Oreal color for you.

Prefer Cover Girl products? Go to the Cover Girl website
 to find the right Cover Girl shade to match the department store brand.

Wow! What a great tip, Nicole! Thanks for sharing. Readers, do you have any beauty tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY--WHICH OLIVE OIL IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Do you know the difference between the various types of olive oils and when to use them? I’ll be the first to admit that I stand in front of the olive oil selections and scratch my head. Should I always use EVOO because it’s the healthiest, or are there times when another variety of olive oil is preferable? Food editor Cloris McWerther and health editor Janice Kerr team up today to tell all. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Ever hear of the Mediterranean diet? People who adhere to it have a lower risk of heart disease. That’s because their diets are rich in olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that keeps HDL or good cholesterol high and LDL or bad cholesterol low. Extra virgin olive oil is best for your health because it’s highest in phenols.

Olive oil is derived from pressing the oil from ripe olives. There are different pressing methods which account for the different types of olive oil. Cold pressed olive oil is oil extracted without the means of heat or chemicals. Estate olive oils refer to oil made from olives of a single farm. Unfiltered olive oil is oil that wasn’t siphoned through filters to remove sediment.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Extra-virgin olive oil is taken from the first pressing of the olive. It has less than 1% acidity and must be extracted through mechanical means without the use of any chemicals. This is the most flavorful of olive oils, but it should be used in dishes that don’t require high heat because of its low smoke point. Use it in salad dressings and marinades. Add it to sauces. Use it in place of butter, drizzled over crusty bread, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cooked vegetables. If you choose to sauté or fry with extra virgin olive oil, do so with medium heat only.

Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is also from the first pressing with only mechanical means, but it can have acidity levels of up to 2%. Use this variety for sautéing, pan-frying, or broiling. It can also be used as a condiment or for baking bread.

Olive Oil After the olives are pressed the first time, more oil can be extracted using a combination of heat, pressure, and chemicals. This produces the more refined olive oil. The acidity is higher, as is the smoke point, which is about 410 degrees. This makes it ideal for high heat cooking such as frying.

Lite Olive Oil Because of its high smoke point, this oil can be used with any type of high-heat cooking method. Use it in place of butter or other oils when baking. The subtle flavor won’t overpower the flavor of the baked goods. When using for baking, substitute three tablespoons of mild or light olive oil for a quarter cup of butter or margarine.

Thank you Cloris and Janice! Now I won’t feel like such a dimwit the next time I’m in the oil aisle. -- AP

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- PIE CRUST PINWHEEL DANISH


Need a quick and easy dessert in a hurry? Try Cloris’s pie crust pinwheels. -- AP

PIE CRUST PINWHEEL DANISH
Ingredients:
1/2 cup all fruit jam, your choice of flavor
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans
1 package refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts per package)
2 tablespoons sugar

Sprinkle half the sugar over a clean work surface. Unroll the pie crust and press one crust over the sugar, pressing gently so sugar adheres to crust.

Spread half the fruit evenly over the top of the pie crust. Sprinkle half the nuts over the fruit spread.

Starting at one end, roll the dough into a tight log. Trim the ends. Cut log into 1” pieces. Repeat for remaining ingredients.

Place the pinwheels 2” apart with ends standing up on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes until dough turns golden brown. Transfer pinwheels to a cooling rack.

Even if you’re all thumbs in the kitchen, you can make these yummy treats. Enjoy! -- AP

Monday, May 23, 2011

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--BASIC YARN DOLL


BASIC 12” YARN DOLL DIRECTIONS

Yarn dolls can be used as ornaments, tree toppers, garlands, wreath decorations, package decorations, centerpieces, shower gifts, wall and door hangings, and much more. 

Today we have the directions for the basic yarn doll. Next week and in weeks to come you'll find directions for taking the basic yarn doll and adding hair, clothing, and accessories for a variety of different looks.

Materials:
2” Dylite (smooth) craft foam ball
52 strands 18” lengths of 4-ply yarn
13 strands 10” lengths of 4-ply yarn
2-3/4” x 2-3/4” piece of muslin
8” chenille stem that matches yarn color
2 blue or black glass head straight pins
circle template or compass
yardstick
scissors
tacky glue


1. Place 50 of the 18” lengths of yarn on a flat surface with ends even. Using one additional 18” piece, tie the yarn into a bundle at the mid-point for the body.


2. Using the circle template or compass, draw a 2-3/4” circle on the muslin. Cut out. Make 1/4” deep cuts around the perimeter of the circle.

3. Glue the muslin to the craft foam ball.

4. Poke a hole in the bottom of the craft foam ball for neck. Place some glue on the end of the chenille stem and insert it into the hole.


5. Wrap the chenille stem once around the tied center of the body so that the body touches the craft foam ball head. Hold in place with a small amount of glue. Allow the remainder of the chenille stem to hang in the center of the yarn body.


6. Braid 12 pieces of the 10” long yarn for arms. Tie at each end with half the remaining piece of 10” yarn.


7. Place the braid centered inside the yarn body. Tie the body under the arms with the remaining 18” length of yarn.


8. Dip the straight pins in a small amount of glue. Insert into the head for eyes.

Check back next Monday for directions on personalizing your yarn doll.

Friday, May 20, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR MISA RAMIREZ


Multi-published author Misa Ramirez, who also writes under the pseudonym Melissa Bourbon, is our Book Club Friday guest today. Misa teaches creative writing at Southern Methodist university-Cape as well as online and has contributed to The Writer’s Guide to ePublishing. Learn more about Misa at her website. You can also find Misa stripping down characters at The Naked Hero, giving away free books at Books on the House, and writing about Killer Characters. Find Misa's books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. -- AP
The Inspiration Behind A Deadly Curse

Inspiration is all around us, and as a writer, I never know when it will strike…or how long after I’ll apply that inspiration to a novel.  This is true whether I’m writing my Lola Cruz Mysteries, my new Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, or my romantic suspenses (A Deadly Curse, available now, or A Deadly Sacrifice, coming in late May). My ideas usually stem from something I’ve read, heard about , or have in my memory banks. From there, it develops, often requiring research to flesh it out.
This was especially true when it came to writing A Deadly Curse. It’s based on the legend of la Llorona. My husband, Carlos, grew up hearing the tale. His parents, tias, and tios, and every other adult around, would tell the kids the story of the Crying Woman. Their purpose? To frighten them enough so they wouldn’t wander off alone.
La Llorona was the Mexican boogyman. I first learned about the legend of the Crying Woman after I met Carlos (we’ve now been married 20 years and have five children, so la Llorona has been part of my consciousness for a long time).
We’d go camping with his brothers and sisters and their spouses, sit around the campfire, and invariably, the stories would begin.
Before long, a low, haunting sound would float through the air. La Llorona. It was as if the ghost was right there, her wails drifting up from the banks of the river through the trees, circling around us as we huddled together.
It didn’t take long to figure out that it was my husband making the haunting sounds, but the legend itself was spooky and stayed with me from the first time I heard the story. A woman kills her children by drowning them in the river. After she realizes what she’s done, she drowns herself. Legend has it that the woman has been haunting riverbanks ever since, looking for her children. Kids are warned to stay away from the rivers so la Llorona doesn’t steal them, thinking they are hers. Creepy. Yet fascinating.
Slowly, the idea of la Llorona being the central element in a romantic suspense plot began formulating in my mind.  Before too long, it took hold completely and I began plotting A Deadly Curse.  But I needed to learn more about la Llorona.
Where did the legend start and why did she drown her children? These things, I figured, would inspire my plot. Little did I know that the legend of la Llorona was far more complex than I’d ever imagined.
What I learned was that there are actually four different stories behind the legend. My husband’s family knew only one of them. Everyone I’ve talked to since then has only known one, or possibly two different versions. No one has known all four of the stories.
The woman in each story was called something different: La Ramera (the harlot), La Bruja (the witch), La Virgin (the virgin), La Sirena (the siren). Needless to say, learning about the four different stories sent my plot in a new direction. The knowledge created new opportunities and obstacles for my characters.
My research into la Llorona opened doors for me, helping me take A Deadly Curse in fascinating directions I couldn’t have created if I’d tried.
I’m so proud of this book, thrilled to have used a piece of a culture I love, and I hope all of you will enjoy it, as well.  I’d love to hear from you.
The legend of la Llorona was new to me. What about the rest of you? Had you heard of it? If so, which version were you familiar with? Let's hear from you. -- AP

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TRAVEL SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY


Travel editor Serena Brower is here today with a travel safety tip for staying in hotels and motels. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Have you ever stayed in a motel or hotel where you worried about how secure the locks on your door were? Many hotels have those safety bars you swing into place after locking the door, but many motels don’t.

To make your hotel or motel room door more secure, use an inexpensive rubber doorstop under the doors. Keep a few in the pocket of your suitcase so you’re never without one.

Excellent tip, Serena! Thanks for sharing. Readers, do you have any travel tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

HEALTH TIP OF THE DAY--IS THERE AN ALLERGEN IN THE HOUSE?


It’s spring, and many of us have lived with puffy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats ever since the buds started popping outside. But did you know there are allergy triggers hiding in your home all year round? Health editor Janice Kerr is here today to tell us about one you probably never thought of and how to deal with it. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! For those of you with young children or teenage girls who fill there rooms with stuffed animals, did you know that those stuffed animals harbor millions of dust mites? Yuck, right? Dust mites are one of the most common allergens.

So what do you do? No one expects you to toss out your toddler’s favorite teddy and risk a lifetime of shrink visits. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Put teddy in the freezer for 24 hours every two weeks to kill those nasty critters. If even 24 hours are too long to be teddyless, You can run teddy through the washing machine in 140 degree water. Both freezing and hot water will kill dust mites.

Thanks, Janice! Wish I’d known about this back when my kids were little. -- AP

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

COOKING WITH CLORIS--SWEET 'N SOUR TURKEY MEATBALLS

I love dinners that cook themselves. Cloris has one today that’s about as easy as it gets. Just defrost the meatballs and pineapple in the fridge overnight. -- AP

SWEET ‘N SOUR TURKEY MEATBALLS
(serves 4)
Ingredients:
2 lbs. frozen, pre-cooked turkey meatballs, defrosted
2 cups frozen pineapple, defrosted
8 carrots, peeled and halved
1 cup cranberry jam
1 can (14.5 - 16 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Place meatballs, pineapple, and carrots in a slow cooker. Add tomatoes. Mix together jam, broth, and barbecue sauce. Pour over meat and vegetables. Cook on low 8-10 hrs.

Serves 4.
Serve this over cous cous, minute brown rice, or bow tie noodles and you’ve got dinner. Readers, what’s for dinner at your house tonight? -- AP

Monday, May 16, 2011

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- PATRIOTIC TOPIARY REDUX


This week marks our 1 year anniversary at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. In honor of that I’m repeating the first craft project that debuted the blog because I’m sure many of you never saw it. For those of you who don’t want a patriotic themed topiary, this design can be worked in any color scheme. Enjoy! -- AP

Materials:
metal, wood or ceramic container or pot, approx. 6” x 6” x 6”
15” long 5/8” wooden dowel
6” white Styrofoam® ball
1 yd. 1” wide blue print ribbon
3” x 45” piece blue gingham
scraps of red, white, and blue fabric
floral foam, enough to fit inside container
straight pins
green excelsior
hot glue gun and glue sticks
tacky glue

Note: Use hot glue for all gluing except where tacky glue is indicated.  Model shown made with red glitter metal container purchased from crafts store.

1.  Insert dowel halfway into Styrofoam® ball.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in ball.  Reinsert dowel.

2. Glue floral foam inside container.  Insert dowel into center of floral foam.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in floral foam.  Reinsert dowel.

3.  Apply a thin coat of tacky glue to dowel.  Wrap ribbon around dowel to cover.

4.  Tear fabric into 1-1/2” x 6” strips.  Place two strips wrong sides together and tie a knot at center.

5.  Insert a straight pin into knot.  Dip pin in tacky glue and quickly insert into Styrofoam® ball.  Repeat until ball is completely covered.

6.  Glue excelsor over floral foam inside container.

7.  Tie blue gingham strip around container.

Friday, May 13, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR PEG HERRING


Today we welcome Peg Herring as our Book Club Friday guest author. Peg lives and writes mysteries in northern Lower Michigan. Of her paranormal mystery, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, critic Sam Millar (New York Journal of Books) says: “Ms. Herring’s story-telling ability…is genuinely impressive. Masterfully, she takes your conscious mind out of your own world and guides you into the atmospheric surrealism of The Dead Detective Agency, smoothly and expertly, with page-turning ease. The story and writing proceed at a furious, breathtaking pace, and when we finally come to the end of our voyage, it’s with deep regret, as if saying bon voyage to a dear friend we have known and loved for years.”

Learn more about Peg by visiting her website. -- AP

READ WHAT I SAY

I have a friend who has never been able to forget (forgive?) that I did not like the Andrew Greeley book she gave me.

I once had the parent of a student insist I read THE STAND. She was visibly unhappy when I finally admitted I had not finished the book.

I was a little offended when my sister returned my copy of THE POISONWOOD BIBLE with wrinkled nose. “Not my kind of thing.”

What is it about reading that makes us want others to get the same thrill we get from a book? I don’t expect my sister to wear clothes like mine. My friend does not expect me to order the same food when we lunch together. And the Stephen King-loving parent would not expect that we agree on what color a person should paint her living room.

Here are some things that I believe cause disagreement about what is a good book:
Personality -- Some of us like romance; others want action. Some like a lot of setting or character description or gore; some don’t.

Time of life -- My choice of books has changed over the years. While mystery remains a constant, I paired it with biographies for a while, historical novels for years, and recently, nonfiction (quantum mechanics—Can you believe it?) Many books I once loved now seem thin or wordy or contrived.

Mood -- There are books I was in the mood for on a particular day. I might have owned the book for ages, but then the time to read it came along. THE BOY WHO COULD MAKE HIMSELF DISAPPEAR was one such book. Loved it; probably would never read it again.

Education level -- Without being snobbish, it must be said that education changes a person’s view of what’s worth reading. I recently enjoyed a book on brain research, but I couldn’t help but notice that the doctor who wrote it needed a ghost writer! I’m now enjoying Louis Bayard’s THE PALE BLUE EYE, because he cleverly inserts little Poe things that delight me but might slip past someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time with Eddie.

Outlook on life -- Friends tell me this or that author is brilliant, so I try their work. If it hasn’t got my slant on life, i.e., that good guys win, even in some small way; that life is serious but not to be taken seriously; and that there are good people in the world, I probably won’t enjoy it. I know there’s an audience for noir. It just isn’t me.

There. Some of why we can’t always agree on a favorite book. Reading is so darned personal that we react in ways we often don’t even recognize. That’s why, if you don’t like my books, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person (even if I’m tempted to think so.)

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Peg, and for a very interesting post. Taste is very subjective. We often forget that. -- AP


Thursday, May 12, 2011

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE-- DIY BEAUTY RECIPES

Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling has some DIY beauty tips for us today, and just wait till you hear what the main ingredient is! -- AP

Anastasia, last week you offered a tip for adding coffee to chocolate dessert recipes. That got me thinking about some beauty uses I’ve come across for coffee grounds.

You can make a great body scrub by mixing 1-1/2 cups leftover coffee grounds with enough olive oil so that mixture isn’t dry and crumbly, about 1/4 cup. While in the shower, rub the coffee grounds over your body, then rinse. You’ll exfoliate and soften your skin at the same time! Add a couple of drops of essential oils for an added bit of aroma therapy.

Got cellulite? Vigorously rub coffee grounds on those spots when you shower. Supposedly, the stimulant in the coffee breaks down fat deposits in those areas. I don’t know if this is fact or fiction, but it’s worth a try for those of you with cellulite.

Want a new twist on an herbal body wrap? Rub fresh unbrewed coffee grounds over your body, then wrap your body in plastic wrap (not your face!.) Put on a heavy robe or sweat suit. Sit in a warm place like a steamy bathroom for an hour. Some people claim you can actually lose up to 10 inches all over your body by doing this. I'm rather skeptical about this one as I don't see how the coffee grounds will stay on your skin as you try to wrap yourself, not to mention how you'd lose inches, but if any of you are daring enough to give it a try, let us know if it works. Maybe you lose inches by sweating off water weight, but you'd probably just put it all back on, and wouldn't you sweat just as much without the coffee grounds?

Finally, for those of you still foolish enough to bake in the sun to acquire a tan, here's a tip for replenishing that tan as it begins to fade. Rub coffee grounds on your body and leave for 30 minutes. Or sponge room temperature brewed coffee on your skin. Don’t rinse for 20-30 minutes. Maybe this one will also work to darken untanned skin, saving you from all those harmful rays. Again, if you're daring enough to try it, let us know how it works.

Hmm…losing 10” in an hour with coffee? I wonder if it does work. What about the rest of you? Anyone else think they’ll try any of these DIY ideas? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

EAT WHAT YOU WANT DAY


Do you know what today is? Health editor Janice Kerr does. Keep reading. You’ll be glad you did. -- AP

It seems like there’s a holiday for everything lately. Today is no exception. It’s Eat What You Want Day, a day to reward yourself for being so diligent in your healthful eating habits and exercise routines. This holiday was created by Thomas and Ruth Roy. They sell herbs and e-cards and come up with quirky holidays like Eat What You Want Day. As quirky holidays go, this one is pretty cool and so much more appetizing than some of the other holidays they’ve established, like Return of the Slugs Day, which falls later in the month.

So go ahead. Take the day off. Splurge! But remember, it’s one day and one day only. Going off the health wagon one day of the year isn’t going to make a difference in the greater scheme of things, as long as you don’t have food allergies or any other medical reasons to stay away from certain foods.

Tomorrow it’s back to getting in shape for those bathing suit days that are fast approaching. Just remember, it’s Eat What You Want Day, not Pig Out Day. Watch those portions. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow it’s back to salads and the treadmill.

So readers, what will you treat yourself to today? -- AP

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUILT-FREE LASAGNA


Who doesn’t love lasagna? But don’t you feel guilty afterwards? All those calories! All that fat! Well, food editor Cloris McWerther has come to the rescue of lasagna lovers everywhere with her Guilt-Free Lasagna recipe. She uses chicken sausage, zucchini, fat-free ricotta, and part-skim mozzarella. All the taste, none of the guilt! Manga! -- AP

GUILT-FREE LASAGNA
Ingredients
12 oz. package spinach/cheese chicken sausage, chopped
3/4 cup of chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups diced zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
25 oz. jar 3 cheese pasta sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
3 cups of fat-free ricotta cheese.
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 egg
2-1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1-1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Soak lasagna noodles in hot tap water for 15 minutes. While noodles are soaking, brown sausage, onions, garlic, zucchini, and Italian seasoning in olive oil.

Whisk egg in mixing bowl. Blend in ricotta cheese and nutmeg.

Spread 1/2 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9” x 13” lasagna pan. Add remaining sauce to the sausage mixture.

Remove the lasagna noodles from water. Shake off excess water from noodles. Lay 6 noodles in pan over sauce layer. Spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese over the ricotta layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella layer. Spread half the meat sauce over the cheese layer. Add remaining layer of noodles. Spread the remaining ricotta mixture over the noodles. Spread 1 cup of the mozzarella, then 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the ricotta. Spread the last layer of meat sauce on the cheeses. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses on top.

Cover the pan with foil. Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking uncovered for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for approximately 15 minutes before serving.

Who’s running right out to the supermarket to pick up the ingredients to make this tonight? -- AP

Monday, May 9, 2011

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA-- YO-YO SPRING TOPIARY


YO-YO SPRING TOPIARY
Celebrate spring with this easy-to-make yo-yo topiary.
Supplies:
cardboard
compass
scissors
1/4 yd. print fabric
fabric pen
quilting thread
sewing needle
five pink 5/8” buttons
3” diameter wooden embroidery hoop
8” length 3/16” diameter dowel
floral tape
2 green silk leaves
2” x 2” x 3” piece floral foam
3” x 4” clay pot
small amount green excelsior
glue gun and glue sticks

Using the compass, draw a 5” diameter circle on the cardboard. Cut out the circle.

Using the cardboard circle as a template, draw five circles on the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the circles.

With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, fold the edge over 1/4". Using a running stitch, sew around the entire circle close to the fold line. Pull the thread tightly so the fabric cinches up to form a yo-yo. Flatten and shape the yo-yo. Run the needle through the center back. Now stitch a button over the center of each hole.

Hot glue one end of the dowel into the screw opening of the embroidery hoop (see diagram.) Allow to dry.

Wrap floral tape around dowel, securing silk leaves as you wind tape. Don’t worry that top of dowel where glued into hoop isn’t covered.

Glue one yo-yo to the bottom of the hoop, covering screw. Glue the remaining yo-yo’s around the hoop as shown in the photo with the yo-yo’s overlapping each other slightly.

Glue the floral foam into the pot so that it fits snugly and foam isn’t visible over the top edge. If necessary, trim foam to fit.

Glue dowel into center of floral foam. Glue excelsior over floral foam.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

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 Vicki Delany for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Among the Departed to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Jeffrey Barbieri. Jeffrey, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Vicki, and she’ll mail the book to you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR VICKI DELANY


Today we welcome Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most prolific crime writers. Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of psychological suspense such as Scare the Light Away and Burden of Memory, to the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the British Columbia Interior, including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Negative Image, to a light-hearted historical series, Gold Digger and Gold Fever, set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.

Among the Departed, the fifth book in the Constable Molly Smith series has just been released.  Library Journal gave the book a starred review saying, “Her exceptional ability to create characters, both realistic and sometimes creepy, makes this another terrific addition to her outstanding body of work.”

Visit Vicki at her blog and Facebook and follow her on twitter @vickidelany.

Vicki will be giving away a copy of
Among the Departed to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP


Four cops, Two paramedics, One Mystery Writer

That's how many people it took to wake one man up to go to work.

After I’d published two novels of standalone suspense with Poisoned Pen Press, my editor, Barbara Peters, and I decided it was time to try a series.  I knew right away that I wanted to write the type of series I like most to read: the traditional British-type police procedurals.

But first, I had one problem: I have no experience in law enforcement whatsoever.  I used to be a systems analyst at a bank. Not a lot of gun battles or drunk-and-disorderlies in that job. We didn’t even have a jail in the office basement.

I knew that if I was to create a reasonably realistic police series, I would need some help.

I’ve been very lucky, and there are now five novels in the Constable Molly Smith series set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, Canada.

Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found police officers to be more than helpful in talking to me about the ins and outs of their job.  I have a detective constable who enjoys answering all my questions and will look things up, or ask the department lawyer, if he doesn’t know the answer to any one of them.  I’ve toured police stations, met many officers, been out on ride-alongs and walk-alongs, talked to the dog handler and met his dog, been to watch in-service training, been to the firearms training course (where they didn’t let me touch a weapon, you’ll be pleased to hear).

I’ve had some really boring nights, too.  As I try to explain when the nice officer assigned to take me out apologizes because nothing at all happened, if I want to see a gun battle or a bank robbery in progress, I’ll watch TV.  It’s the everyday details of the ordinary cop’s job that I’m interested in seeing first hand, that I want to give veracity to the books. The protagonist of the Constable Molly Smith series is young, green, a bit naïve.  When the series begins, in In the Shadow of the Glacier, she is still on probation.  She walks the beat on a Saturday afternoon, attends fender-benders, throws drunks into the drunk tank, tells people to empty out their cans of beer, helps confused old ladies cross the street, answers domestic disturbances, and stands outside crime scenes not letting anyone in.   

This is the detail of day-to-day policing I’m trying to get right for my books. That as well as the way the officers relate to each other, the jokes they tell, how they balance families and young children, how they train (or not.) My books are about murder and kidnapping and tragedy, yes, but they are also about people and relationships. 

One thing I'm learning from the ride-alongs I've been on over the past three years, is that there can be a lot of humor in a cop’s job. It's a tough, often unpleasant, job and they put their lives on the line every day. But boy, do they get a good laugh some times.

Recently, the car I was in was called to a home where a man wasn't answering the door to his friend who had come to take him to work. It was the usual time and the usual routine, and the friend was worried because the man had a medical condition. He had hammered on the door, tried to peer in windows, even climbed a tree to get a peek inside. But no answer and no movement.

One of the handsome officers I've had the pleasure of
of meeting while doing my research.
When we got there, the officer banged on the door, and bellowed, and peered in windows, and banged and bellowed again. He called for an ambulance. Reinforcements arrived, including the sergeant. Someone crouched down and yelled into the cat door. (And took a sniff - ug). Eventually there were four cops, two paramedics, and one mystery writer gathered at the top of a rickety set of stairs leading to the upstairs apartment. Permission to knock down the door was given, the door was kicked in, and everyone rushed in. Everyone, that is, save said mystery writer, who hung behind not wanting to see anything yucky. Then I heard a shout, "XX, what are you doing still in bed? Aren't you going to work?"

So I also wandered into the apartment to have a look.

Yup, the guy was tucked up in bed. Didn't feel like going to work, didn't bother phoning in, and didn't particularly want to get up and open the door.  Out we all trooped, one mystery writer, two paramedics, four cops, leaving XX in bed and a broken door swinging on its hinges.

I’ve also learned things I’ve decided not to incorporate into my books.  For example, it is the norm in most U.S. police K9 units for the dog to live in the house with the officer; in Canada they follow the RCMP model in which the dog lives in a kennel outside the house. I decided in this situation I’d go for atmosphere and color rather than veracity and so I let Norman, my RCMP dog, stretch out on the rug beside the fireplace.  Sometimes the story has to come first.

It is, in fact, precisely while Norman is snoozing on the carpet at the beginning of Among the Departed, the fifth book in the series, that he gets a call to search for a little boy lost in the mountain wilderness.

Thanks for joining us today, Vicki! Readers, don't forget to post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Among the Departed. Check back Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner. -- AP