Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Happy Book Day To Me ... The Best of Swans Nest

Woo-hoo! Two years in the making, but at last THE BEST FROM SWANS NEST is now available. It's a companion cookbook for the Lotus Bay Mystery series.

What's been fun for me is giving background information for Kathy Grant and what her inn and food mean to her. If you're a fan of the Lotus Bay Mysteries, and you like to eat, you'll want to add this companion to the series to your ereader. (And yes, it will also be available in print -- hopefully on the same day as the ebook. I'll keep you posted.)

Here's a brief description:

Kathy Grant, owner of the Swans Nest Inn on beautiful Lotus Bay, has collected more than a hundred mouth-watering recipes that she not only offers her B&B guests, but the brides who book their engagement and wedding parties at the inn.

Now you can enjoy the same treats like sweet sausage coffee ring, lots of marvelous muffins, quiche, stuffed mushrooms and many, many more!

Kindle US | Kindle UK | Kindle Worldwide | Nook | Kobo | Apple Books

Monday, May 13, 2019

Save Me From Windows 10

My computer had been ailing for almost a year. It was coughing up blood and I held my hands over my eyes so I didn't have to witness it's slow-and-steady decline. I would turn it on and the monitor would be black. I would pull the plug, wait a few hours, plug it back in, and it would regain conscientiousness--sometimes for a few months, but two weeks ago, it finally expired.

Luckily, I have a laptop. (In fact, the one I typed this on.) It, too, has had problems.  Every time Microsoft does a major update, it would lose conscientiousness. I would have to take the battery out and restart (once as many as 11 times over the course of two hours) to try to bring it back to life. It updated a little over a week ago and suddenly everything about it was different. All new sounds--it even took my wallpaper with it.  And I got an email from Microsoft saying as of January 2020--they wouldn't be updating it. I should have celebrated. Instead, I pulled out my "new" laptop. And did I mention the tiny screen?

Three (or was it four) years ago, I asked my friend Steven to suggest a new laptop. He's an IT guy and he suggested I get an ASUS laptop. Unbeknownst to me, it came loaded with Windows 8. OMG -- it didn't even have a Start Menu and I had no idea how to do ANYTHING on it. I put it back in the box and it sat under my easy chair gathering dust ... until Monday. Caveat: At some point during those years, I had our computer guy upgrade it to Windows 10 because Microsoft was only going to make that upgrade Free until a certain date. And there it sat, quietly gathering dust.

Last Monday, I took it out and decided I needed to learn Windows 10.  This ASUS fooled me. The Start Menu looked very much like Windows 7. YAY. I successfully loaded some software, but didn't really test it. But on this sort of triumph, I went out and bought a desktop computer.

With help from one of my readers (waving to John P), I bought a computer that had lots of speed and loads of gigabytes of storage, . Welcome back big monitor!!!  Only I didn't realize that Dropbox would suddenly dump over 40,000 files onto my (supposedly big) hard drive. Oy -- that took over FOUR HOURS to straighten out (and two online chats with Dropbox).

While that was happening, I tried loading my camera's software, took a few pictures of my cats, and tried to upload them--with NO results. I was online for another two hours trying to figure out how to solve that problem. Apparently some people have had some success, but 90% of Canon owners weren't able to upload their pictures, either. Finally, in  desperation, I called the local camera shop where I got my camera. (Yes, I bought it in a bricks-and-mortar store.) The helpful "Canon Lady" told me, "just take out the photo card, plug it into your computer, and copy/paste those pictures." It's a workaround, but I loved my Canon software that took the pictures, loaded them directly to Dropbox, and labeled the folders by date. That isn't going to happen anymore. (And P.S. the laptop doesn't have a card reader--so I'll have to buy one with a USB.)

Next up, trying to load my label maker software. The computer opened it with open arms. It's even Windows 10 compatible -- EXCEPT IT NO LONGER WORKS. (Another two-hour time sink looking for options. Still haven't figured that out.)

And that's why I'm typing this blog post on my Windows 7 laptop. I KNOW it works. In fact, I've decided to take a few days off from Windows 10 ... unless, of course, this computer starts coughing up blood, too.

Did I mention how much I LOATHE Windows 10?

What was your experience (supposedly) upgrading to Windows 10?

Monday, May 6, 2019

I guess it's an acquired taste

I'm currently researching craft breweries for a book I'm working on. It's fascinating. Not just the production of the beer, which is a lot more complicated than I thought, but all the things that go with it. The tasting room and/or restaurant--and even what's stocked in the (usually small) gift shop. (Seems like T-shirts are a big seller!)

It all sounds great. There's just one thing. I don't like beer. My father never drank it, so it was never in our house. Of course, my brothers (who were much more sociable than me and went out with friends at night ... while I was reading) acquired a taste for beer ... but not me.

There are other things I never acquired a taste for. Wine is one of them. (Tastes like shoe polish remover to me.) There's such a mystique about wine. Think about it:  wine,women, and song. The whole bacchanalia in the Disney film Fantasia. People are always drinking wine and have been doing it for thousands of years. (The go-to drink in ancient Rome. Heck, even Jesus turned water to wine.) I found red wine gives me a headache, and if I'm drinking white wine, I like sweeter varieties. But I'll take whiskey or gin over grape-based wine any day.

I never acquired a taste for coffee, either, although I did try. When I was in college, I figured when I got out of school and went to work in an office, I'd have to drink the stuff. I mean, who had a tea kettle handy? (As someone who worked in offices for more than 25 years, I can tell you: NOBODY.)

So, for three weeks, I drank nothing but coffee. Of course, the swill the school served was dreadful. To this day, I still can't stand the taste of coffee (although I do like the smell of it brewing, especially of freshly ground coffee). I make a pot of coffee for Mr. L every morning. I make myself a pot of tea.

Of course, there are some things I have acquired a taste for:  Olives.  (Kalamata are my favorite.) Asparagus. Lima beans. Then again, I'm really not into fruit. They pick it too early (so it's usually not ripe) and by the time it ripens, it's ready on the outside and rotten on the inside.

So, what's your acquired taste?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Happy Book Day, Ellery Adams

Happy Book Day to my friend Ellery Adams, with her 5th entry of her Book Retreat Mystery series.

Storyton Hall, Virginia, is a paradise for book lovers who come from all over for literary getaways. But manager Jane Steward is temporarily leaving for another renowned resort—in hopes of solving a twist-filled mystery . . .

Jane’s boyfriend is missing, and she thinks she may find him at North Carolina’s historic Biltmore Estate. Officially, she’s there to learn about luxury hotel management, but she’s also prowling around the breathtaking buildings and grounds looking for secret passageways and clues. One of the staff gardeners promises to be helpful . . . that is, until his body turns up in the reading room of his cottage, a book on his lap.

When she finally locates the kidnapped Edwin, his captor insists that she lead him back to Storyton Hall, convinced that it houses Ernest Hemingway’s lost suitcase, stolen from a Paris train station in 1922. But before they can turn up the treasure, the bell may toll for another victim...

Get  your copy now!



Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

My Easter Dessert

The best part of holidays for me is ... the food. It's so enjoyable to share a wonderful meal with friends and/or family, and this year for Easter we're going traditional with a spiral ham, deviled eggs, honeyed carrots, rolls, and at least one more fresh veggie. We'll see what's at the store tomorrow.

But my favorite part of the meal is the dessert.  Okay, I've got a sweet tooth. This year, I'm leaning toward cake. My upcoming book, The Best From Swans Nest, a Lotus Bay Cookbook, has ten cake recipes and five frosting recipes. YUM! I'm leaning toward making spice cake with maple frosting. (That maple frosting also takes great with carrot cake or hummingbird cake. Yum-yum!)

Spice Cake
¼ cup butter or ½ cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup molasses
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC, Gas Mark 4). Butter and lightly flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Cream the butter or shortening and slowly add the two sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then add the milk and molasses, beating thoroughly. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the wet mixture, beating until well blended. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Frost with your favorite cream cheese or buttercream frosting. Also tastes great with maple or caramel frosting, or sift confectioners’ sugar over the top.

Yield:  6 to 8 servings

Maple Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Place the softened butter in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 30 to 40 seconds until whipped. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Sift the confectioner’s sugar into the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 30 to 40 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the brown sugar and maple syrup. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the walnuts until just until mixed and spread on the cooled cake.

Yield: 3 cups

THE BEST FROM SWANS NEST arrives on May 14th. Pre-order your copy now!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Happy Book Day To Me!

It's always a fun day when you have a new book drop. Today, Foul Weather Friends, my 5th Tale From Blythe Cove Manor, is available. Check it out!

Alone and suddenly single, Teagan Tate's visit to Martha’s Vineyard for a previously planned 
couples weekend leaves her feeling more of a third wheel.  And when the last ferry off the island 
is cancelled, she finds herself stranded in the middle of a nor’easter. Will the magic of Blythe 
Cove Manor and the kindness of two strangers help her find a new and happier life path?

Friday, April 5, 2019


 They say that a major contributor to global warming is (ahem) cattle farts. Well, in this house there are no cows/steers.

There are kittens. Kittens who fart. Kittens who take great DELIGHT in farting while they are on my lap. Oh, yeah -- they save it up for me. Mr. L laughs because they never fart on him.

Of course, we could change their diet. I know people who have fed their cats the same kibble every day, every meal of their lives. Uh-uh. I'd kill myself if I could only eat one thing for every meal.

Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing the girls, but our boys had definite ideas about what they'd eat. Fred was a tuna boy. Chester preferred shrimp (which Fred wouldn't touch). They preferred fishy food over the other canned foods. The girls gobble everything, which is why Emma has lost her kitten look--she's growing like a weed. (Poppy ... not so much, probably because her sister tries to steal her food. Emma is part piglet.) They do get kibble with their meals for their teeth and urinary tract health.

So ... do your pets pass gas?

(Look at that innocent face. "I didn't fart. I promise, Mum." Yeah, right.)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Get your copy!

Out this week, the first Ghostly Fashionista Mystery, DESIGNS ON MURDER, by my Victoria Square co-author Gayle Leeson. I had the pleasure of reading the book to write the back cover blurb for this charming book. Here's a brief description...

Amanda Tucker is excited about opening her fashion design studio in Shops On Main, a charming old building in historic Abingdon, Virginia. She didn't realize a ghost came with the property! But soon Maxine "Max" Englebright, a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark Tinsley, a web designer with a know-it-all attitude who also rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office. Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" and fellow small business owners is his killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--the ghostly fashionista can't end up the killer's next victim!

Order from:

Paperback:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Coming April 12th

Alone and suddenly single, Teagan Tate's visit to Martha’s Vineyard for a previously planned couples weekend leaves her feeling more of a third wheel.  And when the last ferry off the island is cancelled, she finds herself stranded in the middle of a nor’easter. Will the magic of Blythe Cove Manor and the kindness of two strangers help her find a new and happier life path?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Teacup Tuesday once again

There are lots of great places in Stoneham, NH to take tea. Of course, the nicest is The Brookview Inn, but you can grab a cuppa at Booked for Lunch, the Bookshelf Diner, and even at the local pub, The Dog-Eared Page.

What's in your cup today?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Not just to wash my hands

I like soap. When I was a little girl, my next-door neighbor used to bring back all the little cakes of soap from her business trips and vacations. I was fascinated by all the different wrappings.  I had an extra Barbie doll case where I stored all these wonderful little soaps. I also remember swiping a British Rail soap for my collection when I was ... cough cough ... we won't go into how long ago that was.

Anyway, I'm still fascinated by soap. I've even considered making it ... but I have so many other things on my plate, I'm leaving that to the experts.

I often buy sample sizes because I like the wrapping or the scent. I currently have enough soup to bathe most of Western NY. Part of that is because I have a big glass jar that sits on my bathroom vanity and is filled with Yardley Oatmeal and Almond soaps.  (The jar will hold at least ten bars.)  My mother told me that the old soap lasts longer than new soap.  Is that true? I don't know, but I rotate the soap when the jar is half empty and I stock up.

Right now I'm using a sample soap that's got olive oil in it.  Stacked up in waiting are soaps that smell like lilac, lemon, and goodness knows what. I stayed in a hotel in Ottawa once that had apricot-scented glycerine soap. Wow -- I liked that a lot. So for a year or two, I bought a bunch of glycerine soaps because they give you nice, soft skin. I bought this little square of black current & olive butter soap last summer and have hesitated to use it. It smells wonderful, but I just love the packaging and don't want to lose it.

I had a very nice soap I opened in January that had a nice scent, but I noticed that the more I used it, the less it lathered. So I googled "my soap doesn't lather" and found out that ... for a soap to work, it really doesn't need to lather all that much. Something about dirt and the surface tension ratio of soap to water. It sounded reasonable, but I chucked it because I like more lather than it was giving me.

And then there are those foaming soaps. My hairdresser gave me one for Christmas and I like the foam, but the Cherry Chill scent was overpowering for me.  I think it will live in my powder room. I like "bar" soaps best.

So, what's your favorite soap?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019

Adding a little spice to my life

Some of you might remember that I love Indian food. I like spicy food (either Indian or Mexican), too.  But ... I'm not fond of Indian or Mexican restaurants.  A) Most Indian restaurants have a buffet. They food is good but ... not spicy (because many Americans seem pretty timid about spices) and B) Most buffets aren't hot.  Not talking spicy here, talking temperature.  It seems like there must be a shortage of sterno under the "warming" trays. And C) They don't have good bars. I don't want to pay $7 for a lousy martini.  (There, I said it.)

So ... the answer?

Make the food myself.  I've got a few Indian recipes that I make over and over again, but I've decided I want to do more. I'd like to make at least one new recipe a week. My only real problem is that I usually don't have the ingredients on hand, so this is going to take some planning. It's not so much the spices--I've got them and use them a lot, mostly for breakfasts and lunches (yup, I put curry powder in my omelets--garlic and cumin, too).  It's things like plain yogurt and coconut milk.

So, in my quest for new-to-me food (and I'm not adverse to eating more vegetarian, either), here's the first recipe I made. And since there are only two of us, it made a HUGE amount of leftovers.

Easy One-Pot Cauliflower Curry Recipe
1 medium cauliflower head cut into florets
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 cups white onions,  chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
4 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups diced tomato with the juice from the can
2 cups green peas — frozen or fresh (optional)
 ¾ cups coconut milk from the can — not carton coconut milk
cooked rise

In a large pot, add 2 cups of water and place a steamer in the bottom.
Bring the water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets in the steamer basket, cover the pot, and steam for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the steamer basket (with the cauliflower) from the pot and let the cauliflower cool down for 5 minutes. Set aside. (Discard water.)

Return the pot  to the stove and add oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are tender (3 to 5 minutes) Add the cumin, coriander, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine everything. Add the tomatoes, green peas (if using) and stir in the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and add the cauliflower back to the pot. Cook everything together for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Serve over cooked rice.

Yield:  6 to 8 servings

Truthfully, I upped the curry and garlic, and next time I make it, I'll put in some cayenne in for heat. I also opted not to add the peas, but I think I will next time (only I might only put in 1 cup).

And how was it?

Terrific.  And it made a LOT. (Guess what I'll be having for lunch for the next few days.)

What new recipe have you made for yourself and/or your family?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Wanna win a tote bag?

Would you like to win one of my tote bags and a goody bag filled with bookmarks, postcards, and stickers, too? Well, this is your opportunity!

I’m looking to add 200 readers to my newsletter mailing list before April 1st (no fooling)! But please, don’t enter if you plan to unsubscribe the first time I send out a newsletter. I’m looking to add those who actually read my books and/or want to find out what I’m doing in addition to my social media posts.

All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. But wait—there’s a catch. You HAVE to double-opt in. (That means you either get a pop-up to confirm your entry or an email you must click on.) Without that double opt in, your entry won’t count.

There will be TEN prizes, so you’ve got a good chance of winning.

Here’s the link: http://oi.vresp.com?fid=aee11a8d64

This contest is for new sign-ups only.

Thanks for joining!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Our neighbors have DOGS!

About 14 months ago, new neighbors moved in.

They had dogs. Rather big dogs.


When I was five, I got bitten by a wire fox terrier who was just as big as me when he charged and knocked me down. Since then, I've been wary about "big" dogs.

I love dogs. Little dogs. My parents had scotches and Westies and they were pretty much sweet little dogs. Mac (the Scottie and their first) was our favorite, but their last dog, Jessie, was also a sweetheart, and in between was Buddy, who was a joy to walk. I would love to have a dog--preferably a small poodle mix. Supposedly, poodles don't smell when they get wet. But -- Mr. L isn't a dog person. He once was, but I converted him to being a cat person, and now he doesn't want to look back. *Sigh*

And so our neighbors have these largish dogs. We thought that might be a problem, but it turns out it hasn't. Their yard wasn't fenced when we moved in, and the chain-link fence we had wasn't up to code. Mind you, it was grandfathered in, but since the new neighbors also had children--one of whom was only three, we decided to upgrade our fence. Oooba-dooba -- that was a headache, and incredibly expensive. Even worse, they said they could do the fence in one day. They didn't. So there was our in-ground pool EXPOSED for more than 24 hours and there was a small child next door. (The dogs had been going out on leashes for their outdoor visits.) Finally the fence was in, but the gate was not. I'm a born worrier, so that was another headache. Finally, the gate and fence were finished. And a few weeks later, the neighbors finished off fencing their yard on both sides of the house.  Looks very nice.

That's when they started letting their dogs loose in the yard, and since then we have had hours of entertainment.

These are very quiet dogs. So when we hear them bark, we know they mean business.  Usually there's a squirrel (or some other animal) on the other side of the big fence at the back of their yard, which the previous owner put in as a wind break. When we hear them bark, we usually look out the window. Yup--one of them has barked to say, "We're cold! Let us in." Sure enough, a few seconds later, the back door opens and dogs go inside with their tales wagging incredibly fast.  Sometimes we see them wrestling in the snow. The other day, I was clearing the driveway and one of them (Lucy) came bounding up to the fence to warn me not to intrude on her territory. I told her, "Good dog!" She kind of blinked and said, "Oh, okay" and then ran back to play with her pack-mate.

Next time I get a chance to talk to the neighbors, I'm going to ask if it would be okay for me to give them dog biscuits. I'd like to make friends with them.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of one of our new kittens, Poppy. Isn't she adorable? (Um, for some reason she thinks she can help me write. She also likes to sit on my mouse which is uncomfortable for both of us.) It's okay if Mr. L has become a cat person. It really is.

Are you a dog or cat (or other animal) person?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

It's National Oreo Day!

You can bet that there are Oreos in the cupboard in Tori's kitchen. Kathy, of course, will grudgingly eat one, but she's a cookie baker. There are 41 cookie recipes in The Best From Swans Nest

What's your favorite commercially made cookie and your favorite homemade cookie?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Kathy's cookbook THE BEST OF SWANS NEST will be available on May 14th. Pre-order now!

Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle Worldwide


Apple Books

Monday, February 25, 2019

Our New Kittens: The Whole Story

It's been almost a year since Mr. L and I had cats.  We lost our boys last March, 12 days apart, and were devastated. We weren't ready for kitties for a long time. In fact, although we had looked at a number of cats and kitten (21 in one day) we didn't find our forever furbabies, and truthfully we really weren't ready. Unfortunately, our boys had developed a bad habit of marking their territory. It was only the last year of their lives that this happened, but the damage was done.  We pulled the carpet and had to repair the floor. The carpet to the back door was also marked. (We've yet to address that situation.)

Last weekend, we were determined to find kitties. The local Humane Society had been sending me 4 or 5 emails a day saying they were overwhelmed with cats and kittens.  So, we kitten-proofed portions of the house and on Saturday went to find some. Only ... when we got to Lollipop Farm, not only was there only one cat available, but there was a mob of people looking to adopt cats. They had a "Valentine's Day Special" and had slashed the price of cat adoption and had already "moved" 25 cats during the three hours they had been open. We were crushed. (I cried.)

So I posted my frustration on Facebook and one of my readers, who happens to be a kitty foster Mom, send me a message. We went back and forth and arranged to meet Mooch-Mooch and Sepi. (*Shudder* Who came up with those names? Foster Mom strongly encouraged me to change them -- which was a no brainer.)

It was kind of funny. The pet store has no dedicated "meeting room" to get to know cats, so we had to gather in the store's (very clean) bathroom. Kind of like a clandestine drug deal. Of course, they captured our hearts in just about an instant. They were a little younger than we had planned on (but not by much, they're 13 weeks old), and they came home with us.  We named them Pippa and Poppy.

They were TERRIFIED. Why not? We were two GIANT strangers. The first night, they ran around for about an hour, and we put them in the laundry room (out came the baby gates once again) and decided to let them get acclimated to that room first. They'll be staying there at night for a few weeks until we introduce them to the whole house.

Yesterday, they spent the day with us in our connecting offices and it sounded like a herd of elephants were racing around. They have a LOT of energy. And like all teenagers, they are HUNGRY all the time! They didn't get tuckered out until last afternoon. We have a rambling ranch house and we  thought we'd let them run around last night, but they were terrified by all that open space. (They really are very little girls.) So back into the laundry room they went, and they were pretty fine about that. Tonight we're going to introduce them to another "confined environment" to see how they do.

Foster Mom warned me I might not get much word done with kittens in our offices.

She was right.

But there have been more smiles in this house in the past few days hours than there have been for eleven months. I'd say that was a pretty good outcome.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Chill out -- It's National Margarita Day!

Happy National Margarita Day!  Happy Happy Hour.
What's your favorite flavor?

You'll get only The Best From Swans Nest

Woo-hoo! Two years in the making, but at last THE BEST FROM SWANS NEST is now available for pre-order. It's a companion cookbook for the Lotus Bay Mystery series.

What's been fun for me is giving background information for Kathy Grant and what her inn and food mean to her. If you're a fan of the Lotus Bay Mysteries, and you like to eat, you'll want to add this companion to the series to your ereader. (And yes, it will also be available in print -- hopefully on the same day as the ebook. I'll keep you posted.)

Here's a brief description:

Kathy Grant, owner of the Swans Nest Inn on beautiful Lotus Bay, has collected more than a hundred mouth-watering recipes that she not only offers her B&B guests, but the brides who book their engagement and wedding parties at the inn.

Now you can enjoy the same treats like sweet sausage coffee ring, lots of marvelous muffins, quiche, stuffed mushrooms and many, many more!

Kindle US | Kindle UK | Kindle Worldwide | Nook | Kobo | Apple Books

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

Are you a doodler?

A few years ago, I had never read an issue of Woman's World, a weekly magazine. Then my publisher put a small plug for one of my Booktown Mysteries in it. I bought that copy and thought--wow, with that circulation, I'm sure to have a gazillion sales. Ha! No uptick in sales. I don't even think I read the magazine.

Fast forward 4-5 years and an author group I'm part of decided to poll readers to see what magazines they read most often. I was astounded to see that Woman's World came up first--by a long shot. So, 18 months ago, I decided to see what the attraction was. I was at our summer cottage and went into town to get the Rochester newspaper, but the grocery store was sold out. I went to Dollar General to get envelopes (because I had to mail a contract to my agent) and at the checkout were copies of Women's World. On impulse, I bought one. I read it from cover to cover that night. The next week, I bought another.  And the next week, yet another.  After about a month, I bought a subscription. because there were so many features I enjoyed, like the mini mystery and mini romance. And it amuses me how every cover boasts some kind of diet, but also some kind of stunningly fattening confection. (Go figure!)

So what does this have to do with anything?

Last week's issue had a one-paragraph article about doodling. If you doodle, you're an artist.

I don't doodle. But my mother did. When she'd be talking on the phone, she'd draw women's faces on the back of envelopes, on white space on the newspaper. Whenever she'd doodle, it was always women's faces. I wish I'd asked her why, but it was just a thing Mum did.  When I was going through her things, I found a lot of them.  I cut them out and saved a bunch of them.

I think she was influenced by paper dolls. She used to make her own when she was a kid. I doubt she ever had more than one or two toys in her entire life, so paper dolls were what she had to play with--and nothing glossy and commercially made. She used to cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls that came out of McCall's magazine and give them to me. I remember her buying me paper dolls (Barbie, for one). She could buy paper doll books from Dover. I think she had one for Audrey Hepburn as My Fair Lady, and I know she had a bunch of Shirley Temple paper doll books (as well as Princess Diana). Not that she cut them out or played with them. She just liked to look at them.

So when I saw that article about doodling and creativity it just brought her back to me so vividly. She wasn't a writer, but she was a voracious reader. (She sewed, she knitted, and could do just about every craft.) She instilled in me a love of reading. She introduced me to mysteries. She only had a 9th grade education (kids left school at 14 in England in those days), but she was so well-read my father always said she had the equivalent of four university degrees.  I don't doubt that. No matter what problem I had, I could always call her up and ask her advice. And although she wasn't a good money manager herself, she gave the best advice. I became a saver because of her (and my Dad).

I had one of those "lady heads" among the papers on my desk for the last couple of years and now it seems to have disappeared. I'm going to go through that big box of papers in my guest room (which still has way too many of her possessions that I still haven't been able to part with) and when I find one of those lady heads, I'm going to frame it and hang it over my computer desk to remind me of her and her doodling.

Do you have a fond memory of someone you've lost?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Like to laugh? You'll love this book!

So happy for my friend Mary Kennedy and celebrating the re-boot of STAY TUNED FOR MURDER, the third book in her Talk Radio Mystery series. If you've never tried this series, it's very funny. It's got a dog--Pugsley, and some whacky characters who will steal your heart. (First book in the series is DEAD AIR). Check it out!

Dr. Maggie Walsh's radio show has been getting a boost in ratings ever since Madame Chantal, who claims to talk to the dead, started her regular guest appearances. But when two women are killed after a seance, it's up to Maggie to catch the culprit before she, too, winds up on the other side...

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hooked on British Reality Shows

I don't like American reality TV shows. There, I said it. They're just too scripted and full of drama. I may be wrong, but British reality shows seem a lot more real to me.

It seems like every few months I find another show on YouTube to binge on.  Last month, it was Bad Tenants, Rogue Landlords. (Its original title was Bad Tenants, Scum Landlords. I guess they had to change it.)  Over the 40+ episodes, I got to feel like Paul and Chris were chums, helping people with really bad tenants get back their properties. (And there were more than a couple of scary moments that I'm sure were NOT scripted.)

This week, I found a new show to have playing in the background while I do mundane things like pair socks and fold towels:  Eat Well For Less.  This show features two guys (Gregg and Chris) who watch people shop, confront them at the register, and then go to their homes and swap out bad-for-you and expensive food for lower calorie and cheaper (similar) products.

Unfortunately, there aren't many episodes available on YouTube so I'll be looking for something new next week, but I've quite enjoyed the episodes I was able to see.

What I like best is that most of the families eat a LOT of processed food -- mostly because they think they don't have the time or were never taught to cook. I like the cooking portions best. They don't give the recipes, but you can find them online. (There are a few I want to try -- like vegetable croquettes, where you take all the dodgy veggies out of your fridge, chop or cut into ribbons, add a little flour, some garlic, and a couple of eggs, and fry them in a little oil. I can see me making that in the summer when the garden is over-producing. The Rosted Caluiflower with Romesco Sauce sounds good, too.

After watching those shows, it really made me want to get in the kitchen and cook. Unfortunately, I didn't have most of the ingredients for the dishes they made. (Like coconut oil, plain yogurt, etc.) I'm going to have to hit the grocery store and stock up on some of these ingredients.

Any suggestions on what British show I should try to watch next?