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

Friday, June 29, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY - GUEST AUTHOR RADINE TREES NEHRING


Today we welcome back Radine Trees Nehring to Book Club Friday. For many years Radine's magazine and newspaper features and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the world near her Arkansas home. Now her "Something to Die For" mysteries continue inviting readers into the Ozarks with a blend of travel adventures and down-home amateur sleuthing by active retirees Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Radine's awards include a Macavity nomination, "Best Mystery" from OWFI, the Arkansas Governor's Award for best writing about the state, and the 2010 Silver Falchion from Killer Nashville. Last year she was chosen as an inductee into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Learn more about Radine and her books at her website

Radine is offering a copy of A Fair to Die For to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP

By the Art of Your Mind and Hands

As far back as I can remember, I've admired the results of the crafter's art.

I want to be like you -- I really, really do.

But the work of talented crafters is marvelously executed, elicits gasps of admiration, and is SALEABLE--should any real crafter want to give up her or his beautiful work.

My playmates' mothers sewed, knitted, crocheted while I watched, wondering how my friends could possibly be so casual about what was being produced. I'd have happily worn the tie-under-the-chin knitted hat with it's floppy top tassel.

I did create stuff with my own hands. I had no doll house, so I used sticks to outline rooms on the conveniently threadbare rug of my bedroom, furnishing doll-sized rooms with bits and pieces of family discards that I colored with crayons and shaped into furniture. (Small boxes and spools were special treasures.)

After high school my father decreed secretarial school, not college, but instead I found a job, and eventually managed a year and a half of dorm life.  Many girls there knitted, so I eagerly started on a pair of navy blue socks for my boyfriend. I got as far as half of a lumpy, uneven cuff  before I put yarn, needles, and lump in a drawer, thinking I could always perfect the art of knitting later. ( Many years beyond college I threw the sock cuff and dangling yarn ends into the trash. It took me a while to admit I wasn't a knitter.)

After marriage I returned to college on evenings and weekends. My interest was art, and pottery classes a favorite.  I loved the feel of clay coming alive under my hands and, on the spinning wheel, rising into a bowl or vase. I am pleased (sort of) with pots I made. But they'd never win a prize in an exhibition.
 
Sometimes out of necessity, but most of the time seeking creative outlet, I've cut and sewed, woven and painted.  Results were okay for home display. No prizes anywhere else.

Alas. Crafting with any real skill remains a dream.

So . . . I have now compensated with an explosion of craft fervor.  I set my latest mystery novel at one of the largest (real) craft fairs in the United States.  The War Eagle Craft Fair in Northwest Arkansas was founded in 1954, and currently draws up to two-hundred thousand visitors over its fall run. (October 18-21 this year.)  Crafters and visitors come from all over the United States.  My husband and I have been purchasing visitors many times.

In my imagination, one of the stars of my on-going mystery series has been accepted as an exhibitor at the War Eagle Fair "this year."  Shirley Booth is selling her baby quilts and Baby Cuddlys (name trade marked by Shirley).  Helpers include her best friend, Carrie McCrite, amateur sleuth, and Carrie's husband, Henry King, a retired Kansas City Police Major.  What could go wrong-go wrong-go wrong?

Well, I'll leave that to your imagination and future reading.  BUT, vicariously, I have at last been a real part of a real craft fair, sharing in Shirley's art, enjoying Carrie's selling experiences and interaction with other crafters.  (Even if some might be killers.)

And . . . and . . . the owner of our nearest independent bookstore (Trolley Line, in Rogers, Arkansas) gave me part of her child-oriented window display after Christmas last year!  It was a "Fold and Go" natural wood doll house, which she found at a thrift shop and acquired for $4.50. 

Ah. So I've taken bits of me-time from writing and promoting to repair this extra-tiny doll house and "craft" its furnishings. For example:  The kitchen stove is a tiny block of wood.  Notebook paper re-enforcements are burners, glued-on sequins became control knobs. The oven handle is a bit of bead.  In the bedrooms, bed covers and bolsters were cut from old dress gloves.  Curtains came from used dryer sheets.  You get the idea.

I'm loving every minute of my crafting experience!

Radine, as crafty as I am, I never could master the potter’s wheel. So kudos to you! Readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of A Fair to Die For, post a comment. Don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the winner. -- AP

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TRAVEL WITH SERENA - VACATION DOLLARS & SENSE


Serena is back today with a money-saving tip for those of you booking family vacations. -- AP

Taking your family on a vacation this summer? When you think about the cost of a hotel room, think about breakfast. Look for hotels that provide complimentary breakfasts. Many provide more than just juice, cereal and coffee. I recently stayed in a Springhill Suites, owned by Marriott. Their complimentary breakfast also included scrambled eggs and waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and an assortment of breads and pastries.

Breakfast, even at a fast food restaurant, can cost a family of four at least sixteen dollars. If you head for a pancake house or another restaurant that serves breakfast, expect to pay upwards of ten dollars per person. Over the course of a weeklong vacation, that can add a substantial cost to your trip.

So don’t book the least expensive hotel room until you factor in the cost of breakfast. Often a more expensive hotel that serves a complimentary breakfast will be less expensive in the long run. 



Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE - TIP OF THE DAY


I read an article recently that said guzzling coffee without food to keep you going during the day is like revving the engine of your car with no gas in the tank. Why? Because although it gives you a quick energy boost, it doesn’t provide you with any nutrients. Therefore, you may wind up crashing and burning.

The article recommended that you snack on a handful of nuts (almonds are great!) or try some veggie sticks dipped in hummus along with your java.



Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

COOKING WITH CLORIS - MOCK FRENCH FRIES


Kids love French fries. For that matter, so do most adults, even though we know they’re really not good for us. Next time you have an urge for French fries, try this Mock French Fries recipe from Cloris. -- AP

MOCK FRENCH FRIES
(serves 4)

Ingredients:
8 carrots
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Peel carrots and cut into long thin slices.

Whisk together olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. Pour into large Ziploc bag.

Add carrots to bag. Close bag and shake to coat carrots.

Place carrots on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until carrots turn golden brown.


Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, June 25, 2012

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA - FLEECED BY THE FLEECE


Bunk beds and bedding for "friends"


Last week my home was invaded by some of my favorite people in the entire world. One rainy day eight year old Jack decided he wanted to make bunk beds for two of his “friends.” After the bunk beds were crafted with scraps of wood, we tackled the bedding: mattresses, pillows, and blankets. Since I had some scraps of Polartec, I showed Jack how to make knotted fleece blankets.

The next day Jack had a brilliant idea: he’d make knotted blankets for himself and Chase, his 21 month old brother. I thought this was a great activity. Jack would be able to make the blankets nearly entirely by himself, practicing his cutting skills and his knotting skills. We headed off to the fabric store where he zeroed in on a bolt of Lightning McQueen fleece. We purchased 5 yds. of fabric, 2-1/2 yds. of Lightning McQueen and 2-1/2 yds. of solid red for the backing. 

The blanket in progress

Once home I cut the fabrics into two pieces each, one for Jack and one for Chase. That’s when disaster struck. Remember that old saying about the best laid plans? Remember Murphy’s Law? We were walloped by a double whammy. I’ve used fleece for many projects in the past, everything from costumes to bathrobes to pillows. I’ve never before come across a fleece that left a mountain of fuzzy residue in its wake with each scissor cut. Lightning McQueen’s fuzz covered me, covered Jack, and covered my living room floor. No way could I use this fabric (nearly $70 worth!) to make knotted blankets. This was a fabric that needed all raw edges finished.

Jack with finished, non-fuzzing Lightning McQueen blanket

So there went the great project for Jack. After several minutes of making nasty faces at Lightning McQueen and mentally cursing him out while biting my tongue because I’d never use such language in front of Jack, I came up with a solution. I trimmed the Lightning McQueen fabric three inches shorter in both directions and centered it wrong sides together over the red fleece. Then I folded up the red fabric and pinned it to Lightning McQueen around all four sides, mitering the corners. Using a zigzag stitch, I sewed around the cut edges of the red fabric. Jack got to help by working the sewing machine pedal as I fed the fabric through the machine. Not exactly the project I’d had in mind but still a project.

Moral of the story? If you want to craft a knotted fleece blanket, make sure you buy fleece that doesn’t fuzz off at the raw edges.

Stop back next Monday for directions to make a knotted fleece blanket.

Meanwhile, have you ever had a project that didn't go at all as planned? Let's hear from you. Post a comment for a chance to win a copy of a book by our Book Club Friday guest author.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

THIS WEEK'S BOOK WINNERS

We had two giveaways this week. A huge thank-you to authors Sandra Tooley and Terri Armstrong for joining us at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. On Monday, Sandra offered a print or e-book of either Destiny Kills or one of her other titles. On Friday, Terri offered an e-book of How to Plant a Body. The winner of Sandra's giveaway is Misty Dietz, and the winner of Terri's giveaway is Aureal Williams. Ladies, please email me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com to make arrangements for receiving your books.

Friday, June 22, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR TERRI ANN ARMSTRONG


Today’s Book Club Friday guest is Terri Ann Armstrong, author of the “How To” mystery series. The first book in the series, How To Plant a Body, was released in April. She’s also the author of the “Menacing Trilogy” and an executive editor for Suspense Magazine. To learn more about Terri Ann, visit her website. 

Terri Ann is offering an ebook version of How To Plant a Body to one of our readers who posts a comment this week.  -- AP

A Stitch in Time

As an author, sometimes it’s hard to balance all the things in life that aren’t connected to my current book. When you write, sometimes there is nothing that fulfills you like catering to your passion, which is also true for any passion you have in your life, whether it be, crafts, cooking, traveling, wine tasting, dancing, whatever you covet. My biggest problem is, when the story is moving along and I’m really into it, the characters talk to me and when things like that happen, it’s best to obey otherwise, words, ideas and situations are easily lost. Even when you remember what you wanted to do, it doesn’t quite turn out the way you know it would have if you’d paid attention in the first place.

So now, I do reviews, I’m also an executive editor for Suspense Magazine, a mom, a grandma, a sister and friend. I also have the very day things in life like house cleaning, etc. I often comment I’m so happy I’m no longer married—who’s got the time?

Organization is not so much of a problem anymore. I sometimes cook meals ahead, crock pots are God’s gift to the busy woman, I have more lists and notes to myself you’d think I lived in a commune if you saw all the notes around my house, but it keeps me on track—when I read them of course. There’s the rub. You have to do as the notes tell you so you don’t end up in an empty bathtub, dressed with a bottle of merlot in your hand and your laptop on your knees trying to remember the last time you ate. Now there’s always a chance the wine played a part in your missing the notes, but it had to start somewhere.

So when you find yourself frazzled and forgetting to defrost the chicken or eating pork and beans from the can or you are being serenaded by the dust bunnies camping out underneath your bed, remember, notes, lists and agendas can help you organize so everything you want to accomplish in a day will come to fruition. And you will never again be sticking yourself with a sewing needle while trying to hem your daughter’s prom dress hem while she’s running out the door.

Thanks for joining us today, Terri Ann. I so know where you’re coming from. All those lists do nothing if we forget to check them! How about you, readers? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment, and you could win a copy of How To Plant a Body. Don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the winner. -- AP

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TRAVEL WITH SERENA - FAMILY ROAD TRIP TIPS


School is out and many families are packing up the kids and hitting the road. Here are some tips from travel editor Serena Brower. -- AP

Are we there yet? How many of you have heard that at least a gazillion times? That long car ride to the shore, the mountains, or Grandma’s house can create lots of headaches for mom and dad unless you plan ahead.

If you’re one of the millions of families who doesn’t have a video player built into your car and can’t afford a portable system, it’s wise to think ahead and pack lots of diversions for the kids. After all, how long can anyone play the license plate game? And Punch Buggie will devolve into a backseat brawl within five minutes.

If your kids don’t have their own iPods, invest in one for each child and load it with audio books and their favorite music. The audio books are great for kids who get carsick reading in a moving vehicle.

For kids who like to color and draw, provide a lap desk and a supply of crayons, colored pencils, paper, and coloring books.

Are your kids competitive? Supply a Rubik’s Cube to each and see who can solve the puzzle quickest.

Remember Mad Libs? They’re still around and come in all different themes, including Star Wars.

And don’t forget lots of snacks!



Great tips, Serena! Readers, do you have any to add? Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MONEY MATTERS WITH SHEILA -- SODA TAX?


Last week health editor Janice Kerr gave us tips for reducing our muffin tops. One suggestion she made was to cut out the sugar. We have a triple whammy hitting us in this country right now -- an obesity crisis, a health cost crisis, and an economic crisis. In some ways, the three are related. It’s been suggested we could help kill three birds with one stone by adding a penny an ounce tax on sugar sweetened beverages.

Recent medical studies out of Columbia University and the University of California have estimated that such a tax could prevent nearly 8,000 strokes, 26,000 premature deaths, and 100,000 cases of heart disease, results far less taxing on our bodies, our medical system, and our wallets -- in other words, that triple whammy could morph into a triple win. And all for a few pennies more each week.

Of course, there are those who say people would just turn to other high calorie beverages or drink beverages loaded with artificial sweeteners. The tax would increase the coffers in Washington and maybe offset some of the healthcare costs and help with the deficit, but it would do little to help the obesity problem.

Thanks, Sheila! What about you, readers? How do you weigh in (pun intended) on this issue? Good idea or not? Let’s hear from you. 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

COOKING WITH CLORIS - PICKLED ZUCCHINI POTATO SALAD


Last week Cloris provided a recipe for making pickled vegetables from pickle brine. If you’re planning to pickle some of your zucchini this summer, here’s a recipe you can save for pickled zucchini potato salad. -- AP

PICKLED ZUCCHINI POTATO SALAD
(serves 6)

Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pickled zucchini slices

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain. Cool with cold water. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise when cool.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Pour over potatoes and toss to coat.

Fold in zucchini slices.



Sounds yummy, doesn't it, readers? Perfect for a hot summer day. Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP

Monday, June 18, 2012

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA -- GUEST AUTHOR AND CRAFTER SANDRA TOOLEY


Did you know archery is one of the hottest sports for both boys and girls, thanks to The Hunger Games? Today’s craft project is about making your own bow and arrows.

Award-winning mystery author Sandra Tooley is the creator of the Sam Casey Series and the Chase Dagger Series (written as Lee Driver.) Her Sam Casey Series features a Native American detective with the unique ability to hear the dead speak. Think Medium with a Native American twist. Her Chase Dagger Series includes a shapeshifting young Native American woman. Critics call it MacGuyver meets Dark Angel.

Sandra’s current release is Destiny Kills, the 6th book in the Sam Casey series. Learn more about Sandra and her books at her website. Sandra is offering either a print or e-version of Destiny Kills or any one of her other books to one of our readers who posts a comment. Descriptions and sample chapters can be found on her website. -- AP
  
When I started writing my cross-genre mysteries, it seemed natural for me to include Native American characters.  I’m not Native American but have always had an interest in their history and culture.

Articles in Indian Country Today newspaper were extremely helpful when writing Echoes From the Grave, the fourth in my Sam Casey series.  The killer is using a bow and arrow as the weapon of choice.  The police interview the director at a Native American cultural center in an attempt to discover suspects who might use this method.  The director explains how their ancestors used to make a bow and arrow.

The feathers at the end of the shaft are called fletchings, which are the flight feathers from a hawk.  Oftentimes these feathers are dyed.  Hoof glue and sinew are used to hold the flint in place.  (Flint is used for the arrowhead.)  What takes the most time is the whittling of the wood for the bow.  Deadwood is the best and oak, elm and hickory are just some of the wood that can be used.

The director explains that alternative methods are used today when teaching children in a craft class.  Instead of real feathers, artificial are used.  Instead of flint or stone, plastic arrowheads are incorporated.  And in place of animal tendons for reinforcement, they use nylon string.  Green wood is the easiest to work with because it is more flexible.  Notches are carved at each end of the stick which is where the nylon cord is tied to make the bow.

Three-foot long dry sticks, about one-half inch in diameter, are used as arrows.  (Dowels purchased in a local hardware or craft store work even better.) If you are using sticks, scrape off the bark until the wood is smooth.  The stick can either be whittled to a point or plastic arrowheads can be tied or taped on.  On the opposite end of the stick, a notch should be made.  This is where the arrow will rest against the nylon cord.  Decorative feathers are either glued or wrapped with nylon cord at the end to hold them in place.

These arrows can be made safe by gluing an eraser head onto the tip.

Thanks for joining us today, Sandra! Readers, if you’d like to enter the drawing for a chance to win one of Sandra’s books, leave a comment. And don’t forget to check back on Sunday to see if you’re the winner. -- AP




Sunday, June 17, 2012

THIS WEEK'S BOOK WINNER

Thanks to all who stopped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week and a special thank you to our Book Club Friday guest author Dorothy St. James. The winner of a copy of The Scarlet Pepper is Pamela Beason. Pamela, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, and I'll forward it to Dorothy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY - GUEST AUTHOR DOROTHY ST. JAMES


Our guest today is Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mystery series. She’s a gardener who likes to experiment with new methods and new varieties of plants. Half the time those experiments are complete disasters, but that doesn’t stop her from getting out there the next day to try something new. Dorothy also writes romance as Dorothy McFalls. Visit with her at her website.

Dorothy is offering a copy of The Scarlet Pepper, her latest White House Gardener Mystery to one of our readers. To enter, just leave a comment. -- AP

Character Inspiration

Unlike other writers, where the inspiration for the character came like a gift from the gods or perhaps had lived in their heads for years begging to come out, mine didn’t happen quite that way. My inspiration came via email from an editor I’d worked with. She explained that they wanted to develop a series that built on the success of Julie Hyzy’s wonderful White House Chef Mysteries. Instead of a chef, my editor wanted a gardener.

Was I interested in submitting a proposal? Heck yeah, I was interested. A writer never turns down work. But what happened next, surprisingly, turned this project that wasn’t mine into one that is as near and dear to my heart as if it had been my own idea.

The publisher wanted a heroine in her early 40s who was the organic gardener at the White House and an amateur sleuth. I had the freedom to take that broad outline and make her my own. So I invented Casey Calhoun and made her from my hometown of Charleston, SC. And I made her a new employee at the White House so Casey could discover the ins and outs of Washington, D.C. along with me.

When I started writing the proposal, I quickly discovered that making Casey a busybody with a nose for crime-solving irritated me. When a crime is committed in or around the White House, there are at least three different police agencies, competent agencies, who will respond: the US Park Police, the Secret Service, and the D.C. police force. None of them really needs a gardener butting her nose in where it doesn’t belong.

What I needed to do was give Casey a reason to involve herself in an investigation, even when her help wasn’t welcome. It had to be a compelling reason, something that was so ingrained in her DNA that she couldn’t back down, she couldn’t stop herself from seeing things just a little differently.

I made her see life through the eyes of a frightened child.

To make that happen I gave her a back-story. A dark and checkered past. Until the age of six, she lived with her parents who moved from city to city, always changing names, always changing their stories of who they were. Shady characters came in and out of their lives. Then one day, her father abandoned both her and her mother. A few days later, a gang of armed men searching for her father attacked. Casey survived. Her mother didn’t.

After the tragedy, Casey went to live with her strict, but loving, Grandmother Faye and her two maiden aunts in historic Charleston. Charleston is well known for their beautiful gardens, which also fit well into Casey’s back-story. Over the seasons, Casey watched her grandmother and two maiden aunts, Willow and Alba, working in their elaborate southern garden. Through their dedication to tending their flowers and keen eye for details (one aphid could quickly turn into an infestation,) Casey learned lessons of love, patience, and how to be a super sleuth.

Now that’s a character who will keep me on my literary toes!

And that’s how Casey Calhoun, the free-spirited organic gardener was born. The intrepid sleuth has a talent for sniffing out more than the overuse of fertilizers on the South Lawn. Thanks to her gardening experience and shady past, she has a knack for seeing plots--which have nothing to do with planting and everything to do with murder.

In the first book in the series, Flowerbed of State, Casey stumbles across a plot involving evil bankers.

In the second book, The Scarlet Pepper, which came out in April, it’s the press and the president’s puppy who are causing Casey all sorts of hair-raising trouble as the Fourth of July holiday quickly approaches.

Thanks for joining us today, Dorothy. Your books sound like perfect beach reads. Readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of The Scarlet Pepper, post a comment. -- AP


Thursday, June 14, 2012

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE -- POSTURE TO PREVENT WRINKLES?


Every once in awhile, one of our editors comes across an interesting study. Today Nicole shares one that at first glance has nothing to do with beauty, but she puts a beauty tip spin to it. -- AP



That’s right, Anastasia. I recently came across an article that cited some newly published research about posture. We all know that poor posture can cause body aches and pains. It’s also been linked to joint problems and arthritis. However, according to this new research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, posture also affects your mind. Standing tall with your shoulders back (remember how your mom always told you not to slouch?) makes a person feel more in control and more able to handle stress.

Now here’s the beauty spin: We all know that stress can age us. It shows on our faces. So by practicing good posture, we might just keep those worry lines at bay. Hey, it’s worth a try, right?

Sounds good to me, Nicole, and if it works, think of what you could save on wrinkle creams. Thoughts, readers? 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE -- MUFFIN TOPS


Good grief! Bathing suit season is upon us, and my muffin top is showing. Health editor Janice Kerr offers some tips for flattening my tummy and yours. -- AP

Well, Anastasia, we all know Cloris has never baked a muffin (or anything else for that matter,) you could resist. So it’s no wonder you’ve grown your own muffin top. You need to start eating better. Here’s how:

The first step is to start with foods rich in protein. They build muscle. And don’t forget fiber. Eating lots of fruits, veggies, oats, and beans will help shrink that muffin top. Studies have proven it. And walk away from the sugar!

Here’s a helpful tip -- mix a teaspoon or two of flaxseed into your morning yogurt to keep your pipes from clogging up, but don’t forget to drink extra water.

Glute Bridge

And for heaven’s sake, you need to exercise more. Get off your butt and move. Every morning as soon as you get up, begin your day with the Glute Bridge and the Bird Dog, three sets of eight reps each.

No, not that bird dog. This Bird Dog:
Bird Dog


Gee, Janice, I never took you for such a drill sergeant. But she’s right, readers. I need to change my eating habits and exercise more. That muffin top is only going to get bigger and bigger if I don’t. Anyone willing to join me? Maybe by Labor Day we’ll all have bodies we won’t mind showing off in bathing suits. 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

COOKING WITH CLORIS - PICKLED VEGGIES


I love pickled anything. Pretty soon those of you who don’t have two black thumbs (like me) will begin reaping the rewards of your well-tended gardens. Before that happens, start saving the pickle juice from all those jars of pickles you’re buying to go along with your hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbecued chicken. Cloris has a great way of recycling that juice with some of your garden produce. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia, and it’s such an easy way to create pickled vegetables. All you have to do is slice veggies and add them to the jar of brine. Cherry tomatoes can be added whole. Don’t overfill the jar. You want all the vegetables covered in brine. Screw on the jar lid and refrigerate.

Allow two days for soft vegetables like peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, and onions to pickle. For hard vegetables like carrots, radishes, and cauliflower, leave refrigerated for five days before eating. The pickled veggies should keep for up to a month.



Anyone going to give this a try? I know I will. Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our guest author on Friday. -- AP

Monday, June 11, 2012

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA - YARN DECOUPAGE


School is either already out or about to end. If you’re not a member of the 1% and have the luxury of sending your kids off to summer camp, followed by a family vacation before the start of school in late August/early September, you’re going to be looking for things for them to do. Outdoor activities are great, especially if your community has a swimming pool, but what do you do when those summer rains hit and you don’t want your kids playing video games 24/7? Think crafts! And to help you out, I’m going to feature lots of kid-friendly projects over the next few months. So stock up on some basic crafting supplies, and have fun.

YARN DECOUPAGE

Materials: jars, bottles, and cans in various sizes; scraps of colored or variegated yarn; rubbing alcohol (optional); white acrylic primer (optional); decoupage medium; foam brush

1. If using a glass item, clean the surface with rubbing alcohol. If using a can with images on it, apply a coat of primer and allow to dry completely.

2. Working from the bottom up, apply a coat of decoupage medium to the surface of the container. Wrap yarn tightly around the jar or can. Don’t leave any gaps between the rows of yarn. Working an inch or two at a time will keep the decoupage medium from drying before you finish wrapping the yarn.

3. If using multiple yarns, make sure you begin the next piece where you previous one ended.

4. Once the entire container is wrapped and completely dry, apply a layer of decoupage medium to the yarn.

Option: create dimension by adding additional layers of yarn on over the first layer at different points on the container.

Friday, June 8, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR DOROTHY FRANCIS


Author Dorothy Francis is back makes a return trip to Book Club Friday today. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Short Mystery Fiction Society, Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and the Key West Writer’s Guild. Dorothy’s latest Key West Mystery is Daiquiri Dock Murder. Four books in that series are now available as Kindle ebooks. To learn more about Dorothy, visit her at her website. -- AP 


 My First Steps in the Publishing World

One September many years ago, school was starting WITHOUT ME. I was no longer a student. Or a teacher. I was about to become a stay-at-home mom. Only such women didn’t rate that title back in those days. Housewife was the word. My husband had recently been discharged from the army, and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck. This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school, and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.

I picked up a magazine from a reading table.  The Writer. I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write. I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor. I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to The Saturday Evening Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The American Magazine. I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.
     
And that day in the public library, I learned that people WERE PAID for writing this kind of light verse. Hamm, I thought. I can do that. I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied the market listings that the article mentioned.
      
That night after supper I started writing.
      
“What are you doing?” my husband asked.
     
“Writing a poem,” I replied.
     
He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”
     
“Really?” TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.
     
We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced. That was one of the rules I gleaned from The Writer. Writing on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.
     
So I mailed the quatrain to The American Legion Magazine. In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10. I thought that was the way the writing world worked. You sent something in, and soon you received a check. No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract. No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.
     
I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before the editor changed his mind.
     
My husband’s comment was “hmmmm. Better write them another one.”
     
And so I did. But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from The Wall Street Journal. When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.” Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him. He said, “Hmmm.” Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the Pepper and Salt column. 

Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, giving up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing. But that’s another story.
     
Please let me add that the writing world has changed since I began back in the
1950s. So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract. And now my Five Star Author’s Handbook tells me to promote my own books. The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag. It’s unbecoming. It’s an embarrassment. If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.” I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the published books in my Key West Mystery Series.
     
But that, too, is another story.

Thanks for joining us today, Dorothy, and giving us a glimpse of how it used to be. -- AP

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FASHION WITH TESSA - THE MANLY BEGINNINGS OF THE MAN PURSE


Reader Nina Martin sent us this great infographic on The Evolution of the Bag to share with our readers. Being the technophobe that I am, I had to break it up into sections so that it would be readable. You'll still need to zoom in to read it. If you have problems, click here for the link. Then click on the graphic to enlarge it.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY -- #1 WEIGHT LOSS FOOD

Health editor Janice Kerr came across an interesting study recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to Harvard School of Public Health lead researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., people who ate at least one serving of yogurt a day lost almost a pound every four years. Those who skipped a serving each day gained weight.  The study was run over a twenty year period with nearly 120,000 participants. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

COOKING WITH CLORIS -- GUACAMOLE


It’s outdoor entertaining time, and that means guacamole time. Today Cloris offers up an easy guacamole recipe for your next get-together. -- AP

QUICK ‘N EASY GUACAMOLE
(serves 8)

Ingredients:
4 ripe avocados
1 large ripe tomato, finally chopped
1 medium onion, finally chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons lime juice
tortilla chips

Peel and pit the avocados. Mash in a bowl with lime juice. Mix in tomato, onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Well, what could be easier, right? What’s your favorite party appetizer? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Monday, June 4, 2012

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA -- IS IT ART OR VANDALISM?

One of the latest craft crazes to sweep the world is Yarn Bombing, also known as Yarn Storming, Guerilla Knitting, and Urban Knitting. Although technically illegal, whatever you call it, Yarn Bombing is non-permanent street art installations created by groups of knitting or crochet enthusiasts. Their goal is to personalize sterile public venues. 

Some believe the movement began in 2005 when Magda Sayeg, a Houston boutique owner, decided to craft a custom made cozy for her shop’s door handle. Others believe the movement began in the Netherlands in 2004. Either way, it’s swept around the world since, with the installations becoming more and more sophisticated.








Readers, have any of you come across Yarn Bombing? Or better yet, have any of you participated in a Yarn Bombing? Let's hear from you. -- AP





Friday, June 1, 2012

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR LINDA O. JOHNSTON


Today we welcome author Linda O. Johnston to Book Club Friday. Linda writes across several genres, but the one constant in her writing is that all her books somehow involve animals. Learn more about Linda at her website and the Killer Hobbies blog. -- AP 

When To Seek a Crafty Killer

What do you do when someone you like, and whose work you particularly admire, is accused of murder?

Well, in my new Pet Rescue Mystery Hounds Abound, the third in the series, my protagonist Lauren Vancouver jumps in to try to solve the crime and find out whodunit.

Hounds Abound revolves around Save Them All, a very special pet sanctuary, one where hard-to-adopt pets go to seek wonderful forever homes, but if none is forthcoming those senior or disabled animals can live out their natural lives in wonderful and loving surroundings.  Its founder, Bella Frankovick, is accused of murdering her ex-husband, and Lauren is sure she didn’t do it.   Lauren likes Bella and loves what she is doing to save needy animals, so of course she has to help.

Do places like Save Them All exist?  Yes!  I first heard of a local one near Los Angeles when I was in a local boutique grocery store and one of the people handing out food samples happened to mention it.  Of course my Pet Rescue Mystery mind started focusing on it, I did some research, and the result was Hounds Abound.

Since then, I’ve heard of other wonderful sanctuaries like that.  I volunteer as a dog adoption counselor at a caring, real shelter called Pet Orphans of Southern California.  Occasionally, a pet there has behavior or other issues that make it so difficult to adopt that it is taken lovingly to a new home--a sanctuary where it can live out its days with lots of wonderful care. 

One thing I’m particularly exited about at the moment is that I’m participating in a very real program: Read Humane™.   Berkley Prime Crime is an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.  Penguin has made a substantial donation to the Humane Society of The United States® in support of its Animal Rescue Team, and is also shipping 50,000 books starring furry friends, both dogs and cats, which encourage readers to learn more and donate to the Humane Society and its Animal Rescue Team.  Besides me, participating authors include Rebecca M. Hale, Alison Pace, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly--and I’m especially excited to report that the Read Humane spokesperson is Nora Roberts.  A new version of my first Pet Rescue Mystery Beaglemania has been printed with the special Read Humane seal on the front and information inside.

How about you--would you ever jump in to try to solve a mystery--or would you rather just read about them?

Thanks for joining us today, Linda! -- AP