Friday, February 28, 2014

Foodie Friday: Homemade ranch dressing. YUM!

Hot_Dawg I'm trying to get away from processed food.  I'm eating more grains, more veggies (which I love), and limiting what I eat that comes out of a can, box, or bottle.  The latest?  Homemade (low-fat) ranch dressing.  The recipe calls for fresh herbs, but I've made it with dried and it's still pretty tasty.

3/4 cup fat free sour cream
3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
 freshly ground pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 cups 1% low fat buttermilk

In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine the sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, chives, salt, and cracked pepper. Mix well. Stir in the white balsamic vinegar; then buttermilk.  Adjust the seasonings to taste, adding another tablespoon of balsamic vinegar if desired. The flavors will become bolder over time.

Do you have a favorite homemade salad dressing? .

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Will spring ever arrive?

Despite this repeat of Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LONG WINTER, spring must be in the offing. All the stores are selling seed packets. I picked up a few myself!

Because of all the critters, I'm going for container gardening. I've got a deck that gets sunlight most of the day. I've got a bunch of other herbs I'm going to plant, too.

What are you going to plant this year?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Teacup Tuesday: Moms and Daughters...memories of teatime

Thank you to all who wrote a fond memory of teatime. I thought I'd share a few that involve the special bond between mothers and daughters.

"My favorite memory is of my Mother, She loved tea and had two cups every morning. She would have one cup in the afternoon too. I can still see her sitting in my kitchen drinking tea. She lived to the age of 91, so I guess it was a healthy thing to do."
--Diane L., Manchester, CT

"When my daughter was young we would go to the large closet and open it up and choose a "special cup" from our collection.  Many were my grandmothers and mothers.  They collected from auction sales since I was young.  When people would come to visit they would choose their favorite cup.  There are never two the same.  My daughter would choose a different one every time and we would use pretty colored sugar from "Hess's Department Store" and have tiny shortbread cookies, wear vintage hats and discuss clothes and "pretties".   She is turning out to be a wonderful and lovely young woman and I think it all started with a tea party."--Suzie F, Bethlehem, PA

"After a busy Christmas, my adult daughter and I went thrift shopping at a local store that benefits the local hospital. We found beautiful teacups there and bought two cups with matching saucers. That evening after my husband went to bed, my daughter and I had tea in our "new" teacups. My daughter lives in San Francisco so I don't get to see her that often. When we get together we always have tea in the evenings when it's quiet. It's a time that I look forward to and I hope that it will be a happy memory for her as well."
--Suzie S, Santee, CA

"When I was a little girl, my mother would have tea with me. She would give me a cup more than half filled with milk. She called it 'Cambric Tea.' I've always had my tea with milk and sugar."
--Barb W, Skandia, MI

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And The Winners Are!

The (randomly-picked) winner of the Dutchess teacup is Deb L. Her teatime memory was:  "I guess my favorite tea time memory was from high school. I would go with my friend Janet with her to her house after school. She lived near the high school so we wound up at her house instead of mine. Whenever we had a particularly challenging day, her mom would make us both tea and we'd all talk about it. Every time I drink tea I think of Mrs. Richards." 

The winner of the Boneyard Tea sample (courtesy of Latte Da and Betsy Bean) is Debbie B.  I have contacted both winners via email to let you know how you can obtain your winnings!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Next Week's Giveaway

Queen's bone china by Rosina

Teatime is celebrated (in one way or another) all over the world. Where in the world would love to have afternoon tea, and with whom?  Send your answer to contest @  (close up those spaces) and you might win the lovely roses bone china teacup above!  Don't forget, you'll also be in the running for a free tea sample from Latte Da -- two chances to win!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And yet something else to collect ...

I have yet another weakness I have so-far not confessed in 8+ years of blogging.

I love tile. I look forward to going to Home Depot just so I can stand in the tile aisle and gaze upon what's available. I don't dare go into a dedicated tile store for fear of never leaving.

On the most recent Sunday Morning episode, they did a whole segment on azulejo Portuguese tile.  OMG! It was wonderful!

It only occurred to me after watching that episode that I collect them, mostly using them as coasters.  (A little glue, a little felt--and you've got a coaster.) I have them all over my house. I have tile hanging in my office.  I have a tiled mirror in my guest bath.

My favorite is Victorian tile.  But I have a bunch of tiles from Mexico that we bought when we were in the Southwest.
Hmm...I have a lot more tile than I thought.

But it's not practical to really collect it.  So why not have a virtual collection?  So Monday I started a Pinterest board for tile.  So far, I don't have many.  The one to the left is one I found online.  Can you imainge an entire wall of that tile?  It might be a bit much, but boy would it be pretty (and very busy). I guess that's why I like accent tiles in a sea of more mundane ones.  That makes them stick out more, and I think they'd be better appreciated.

Here are a few more I found.

 Isn't that gorgeous? (Is it apparent that I'm a fan of Art Nouveau?)

 A little late for Chinese New Year (and it's the year of the Horse), but stunning.

So, what do you think about decorative tile?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Teacup Tuesday: A Valentine Tea

Today's teacup is a from my from my set of "good" china. I used it just last week. Every Valentine's Day, Mr. L and I have an afternoon tea. It's called Silver Maple by Royal Albert.


 Last week on the blogger version of this blog, Loveamystery asked for a good scone recipe.  Here's one I like and I included it in my cookbook, Recipes To Die For.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, cold
¾ cup milk
1 egg
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped*
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
¼ raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Sift the dry ingredients together. Using a pastry blender (or a fork), cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Beat the milk and egg together. Pour into the dry ingredients, stirring until a dough forms. Add the chopped nuts, combining well. You can use an ice cream scoop to form the scones and place them on an aluminum (or parchment paper) lined baking sheet, or pat the dough into a circle and score with a knife.* Beat the egg yolk with the cold water. Using a pastry brush, glaze each scone with this mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold. (Hot is better! *You can substitute pecans or any other nut you prefer. Pistachios make an interesting scone.)

Yield: 10-12 scones.

(*BTW, I use a scone pan that makes perfect wedge-shaped scones.)

Here's what this year's tea looked like.  (And no, we weren't able to eat it all.  We love leftovers!) Isn't my Valentine orchid gorgeous?

 ~~ And now for the giveaway! ~~

Today's teacup is called Duchess, and isn't it pretty?

How can you win it?  By sending an email to me at contest @ LornaBarrett .com and leaving a tea time memory you wouldn't mind sharing (I won't use last names) with everyone on the blog.  I'll pick a name at random.

But wait! There's more! Betsy Bean from will send a free sample of Boneyard tea to another lucky winner every week.  But you can't win if you don't sign up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fabulous Fiber!

PillsRecently my doctor put me on statins.  I do not like them.  They have side effects.  I repeat:  I do not like them.  But, I want to live a long hand happy life, and if I want to get off of them, it means lifestyle changes. I'll find out in a few weeks what's going on with the cholesterol thing, but I've been actively working to integrate more fiber into my life.  Fiber gets RID of cholesterol.

Green-JuiceI drink a (often disgusting) fiber-rich smoothie for breakfast almost every morning.  (Okay, once a month I have a bagel.  So hit me with a wet noodle.) It contains spinach, cuke, celery, apple, carrot, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and protein powder, plus a generous shake of cinnamon (which is the only thing that makes it palatable).

I do a lot of digging on the Internet and, as I knew, dried beans are rich in fiber. One smoothie recipe said to add them. So guess what's going into today's smoothie? I soaked the beans yesterday, and decided halfway through that, whoa! That's a lot of beans! So we decided to take 3/4 of the beans and bake them.  (The other 1/4 went into the baby crock pot for the smoothie.)

Mr. L's mother used to make THE best lima beans, but she was a "toss this in" kind of cook who never had a recipe.  So Mr. L got a recipe from his sister. I knew it wasn't the one his mother made, because her beans were white, and sister's beans use molasses--but the directions are kinda spotty.

They turned out pretty well.  I skipped the brown sugar, as I'm trying to cut down on sweets, and they tasted just like Grandma Brown's Baked Beans, which is what we were going for.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound bag dried beans (navy or lima) soaked for 8 hours or overnight
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
3 tablespoons molasses
hot water
brown suger (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 300F.  Place the onions on the bottom of a casserole dish.  Add the soaked beans. Mix the salt, mustard, and molasses in a cup measure; fill the cup with hot water and stir until mixed. Pour over the beans and gently mix. Pour more water over the beans until covered. Bake for 6-8 hours, stirring every so often, and covering with more water until the last hour of baking. (You can add the brown sugar at any point.)

They turned out pretty well. The only problem? That's a LOT of beans. But luckily, beans freeze well. I'm going to be actively looking for more bean recipes.  Are you interested?

(Oh, and we're just going to have fake it to figure out how Mr. L's mother made her beans. Makes me feel kinda like a mad scientist!)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Foodie Friday: A Sweet for your Sweetheart

Oh, how I love cake.  It used to be that cookies were my favorite dessert/sweet, but not anymore.  Mind you, I will not turn down an oatmeal cookie (or chocolate chip, peanute butter, snickerdoodles, molasses ... well, you get the drift).

Once upon a time, I even took a cake decorating course.  It did not go well.  Oh, the cakes tasted fine, and I think once or twice I might actually have made an icing rose that sort of (kind of) resembled a flower. But that was years ago.

These days, I stick to mostly unfrosted cakes.  If not, I always make my own frosting, because those tubs of stuff from the supermarket are LOADED with Trans Fats, which are really, REALLY bad for you. (And you HAVE to look at the ingredients to see it, too--they're not going to advertise the fact next to the dough boy.)

One thing that's bad about cake (one?) is a double layer or bundt cake makes a lot, and we're just two (not so tiny) people. That's why I love this recipe. It's just right!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
2¼ cups cake flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest
4 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
5 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour one 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then mix in the lemon peel, poppy seeds and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, In a saucepan over low heat; cook 3/4 cup white sugar and the lemon juice until stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to just warm or to room temperature.
Remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack-place a cookie sheet underneath this rack. Prick the top of the cake several times with a toothpick. Brush the top of the cake with the warm or room temperature syrup, allowing lots of the syrup to run down and soak into the sides and bottom of the cake. Cool slightly in the pan before removing the cake to the wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, wrap the cake in foil or plastic freezer wrap and let the cake rest at least one day before serving to your guests.

(Okay, I'm not very patient.  I've eaten in the same day.  Tastes great.)

What are you baking up for your sweetheart on this Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Paying it forward ... with chocolate!

Today is usually Pet Peeve Thursday where I (or a friend) is given free reign to kvetch.
Not today, because yesterday Mr. L and I were the recipients of a lovely gesture.

We'd gone to the grocery store to stock up on life-sustaining supplies (you know, the usual: cornmeal, gunpowder, ham hocks, and guitar strings).

As the woman in front of us finished her transaction, she turned to Mr. L and handed him a heart-shaped box of Valentine chocolates and said, "Have a happy Valentines Day."
Flabbergasted, Mr. L said, "What?"  And again she said, "Have a happy Valentine's Day," and walked away.

Whoa!  How lovely was that?

Instead of paying it forward with chocolate, we're going to pay it forward with a donation to the local food bank and hope if the recipients don't have a happy Valentine's Day, they'll at least have a happy St. Paddy's day.

How do you pay it forward?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Come on over to a place where we can talk!

Yesterday was the first Teacup Tuesday and it went really well with a lot of discussion. That got me thinking.  I had always wanted to have a dialog with my readers, but never could figure out a way to do it.

BINGO!  Let's Talk Booktown!


Since most of my readers know my Lorna Barrett name best, why not start a community who wants to talk about the books and perhaps what happens behind the scenes.

So today I'm launching a new Facebook Community page called Enjoy The Booktown Mysteries.
I would LOVE it if you'd come and LIKE the page and stick around to ask questions about the series.  Is there anything you want to know about a certain character?  One of the businesses?  Angelica's recipes?  What kind of food Miss Marpl and Sarge eat. Or my writing process. Anything!

I'll be posting pictures and asking questions and we'll just talk. Get to know each other.  Hopefully, have FUN.

So come on over.  Just click this link!

See you there!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teacup Tuesday! Just a part of my collection

It seems like I have a bunch of different "reader' audiences.  Not everyone reads all my books.  Not everyone reads my blog posts.  Not everyone sees my Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter posts.  That's a lot of people to juggle.

Something fun I do on my Lorraine Facebook Author Page is share pictures of teacups.  I have a fascination with English tea and the beautiful china that goes with it.  So I thought for a while I'd share some pictures of my teacup collection.  (Don't get bored, guys--afternoon tea is full of wonderful goodies.)


Unfortunately, I no longer have the first teacup from my collection, which my mother gave to me.  The cleaning lady broke it and my heart.  But this is one of the cups from a set that my grandmother gave me (when I was much too young to appreciate it).  I think it's gorgeous. Sadly, not many of the cups survived the trip from England to the US and I have far more plates and saucers than cups.  Since they're all hand-painted (and slightly different), there's no way to replace those broken cups.  I have seen duplicates of the cup the cleaning lady broke -- however not since she broke it (a year ago). If I ever see it again, I'll certainly buy it for sentimental reasons.

Brown transferware

I am such a sucker for brown transferware; I have loads of pieces of it (all mismatched, all unique, all beautiful).  I admired this cup in an antique shop and my mother bought it for me.  Isn't it lovely?

Queen Victoria

This is my oldest teacup celebrating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It was a Christmas gift from Mr. L.  We'd seen it in an antique shop in Centralia, Washington. I think I stared at the price tag as much as the cup. It was too rich for my blood.  Unbeknownst to me, upon our return home, Mr. L called the shop and bought the cup. It was the favorite gift that Christmas!

These are just a few of the cups in my collection.

I must admit, I am also a teacup hoarder.  I buy them at yard sales to make sure they are loved, and then I find them new homes.  Would there be interest in a teacup giveaway?

Let's talk about it!

Meanwhile, let's make Teacup Tuesday a regular post for a while and see what comes of it.  Maybe I could share some tea recipes, too.  Would you like that?  Let me know.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Food Friday: Winter got you down? Bake a cake!

Hot_DawgI love to bake.  I've been telling Mr. L for weeks, "I feel like baking."  Well, today's the day, and I'm going to make my favorite carrot cake. This cake is GOOD. In fact, it's so good, I don't even put cream cheese frosting on it. Just dust it with a little confectioner's sugar. I like to pretend that it's good for me because it has a veggie in it, but the truth is -- it's decadent!  It's not a cake I bake often because it is so rich, but once in a while it's fun to indulge.

Try it -- you'll like it!

Carrot cakeIngredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil  (can substitute unsweetened applesauce)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice—drained
2 cups grated carrots
1 1/3 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray a Bundt pan with pan spray. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat oil, sugar and eggs at medium speed until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and nuts. Pour into the Bundt pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and completely cool on rack before frosting.

What's your most favorite cake in the entire world???  (Share recipes???)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A slightly different look.

Hey, do you like the new look of my blog?  Just a little update.  I suddenly realized you couldn't see that I had pages attached to the blog.  They're for my Booktown Backlist, my Ebooks, and the good old Book Booster page.  (Maybe now readers will actually visit these pages. How about you?)

It's fun to spruce things up now and then.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First Tuesday = New Releases!

Isn't the first Tuesday of the month exciting?  NEW BOOKS are released.  This month a BUNCH of my friends have new releases.

TrowelTHROW IN THE TROWEL by Kate Collins
Flower Shop owner Abby Knight has just returned from a romantic honeymoon with the man of her dreams. There’s no reason for the bloom to be off the rose just because she and Marco are returning to normal life. But when Marco discovers a skeleton buried in the basement of his bar, it is a bit of a mood killer.

When the body is identified as a carpenter who went missing back in the 1970s, Abby and Marco decide to cultivate the clues to solve the cold case. What could be more romantic? But the deeper they dig, the more desperate the murderer grows. And if Marco and Abby don’t unearth the killer’s identity, they may not live to see their first anniversary.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle | Nook

Books cooks crooksBOOKS COOKS AND CROOKS by Lucy Arlington
Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, is bubbling with excitement for the Taste of the Town festival, and Lila is right in the middle of it all. Along with her coworkers at the Novel Idea Literary Agency, Lila is organizing a grand celebrity chef event, featuring food television's biggest stars, complete with cooking demonstrations, cookbook giveaways, and even a culinary writing contest.

But just as the celebration is about to start, the demo kitchen blows up, taking one of the star cooks with it. With all the explosive egos of the cook’s colleagues, it’s hard to find someone who didn’t have a motive to eliminate the competition. Now Lila will have to scramble to figure out which of her clients is a killer—before someone else gets burned.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle | Nook

Poison at ptaPOISON AT THE PTA by Laura Alden
As the Tarver Elementary School PTA president, Beth Kennedy is always on the go—especially when someone puts murder on the agenda.

Beth has been running nonstop to be the best PTA president, bookstore owner, and single parent ever, which is why her friend Marina is staging an intervention. Beth needs to take a break—and that means letting someone else organize the PTA’s upcoming eightieth-anniversary event.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle | Nook

BeewitchedBEEWITCHED by Hannah Reed
Beekeeper Story Fischer has stocked the shelves of her market, The Wild Clover, in preparation for the influx of produce-crazy tourists about to invade Moraine, Wisconsin. In fact, with the apple cider and caramel apple stand on Main Street and the corn maze out at Country Delight Farm, the whole town is ready for the swarm.

But when a self-proclaimed witch moves into town, the neighbors are all abuzz with questions. Is the quirky newcomer a good witch or a bad one? Story thinks Dyanna Crane is perfectly nice, albeit a little eccentric. But after an entire coven shows up for a new moon ritual—and one of the witches ends up dead in the corn maze—Story must comb through both fact and fiction, before anyone else is murdered under the cover of magic….

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle | Nook

Fatal slipA FATAL SLIP by Meg London
From selling camisoles to solving crimes, the ladies of the Sweet Nothings lingerie shop in Paris, Tennessee, will make this Valentine’s a day to remember…

For Valentine’s Day, Emma Taylor and her aunt Arabella have organized a special evening for men only to shop for their sweethearts in the Sweet Nothings lingerie shop, complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. But when a former valentine shows up, Aunt Arabella is not her usual bubbly self.

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle | Nook

Monday, February 3, 2014

Me? A tissue snob?

Ick--but not as horrible as some boxes.
Yes, I am a tissue snob.  My go-to toss-away hankie is a box of Puff Plus Lotion. Okay, I do have a packet of REAL Kleenex in my purse (thank you , Mr. L, for the stocking stuffer), but my good-to-go tissue is Puffs Plus.

NOT REGULAR PUFFS.  My god, blow your nose with regular Puss and you're likely to inhale a half acre of lint. No, thank you.

But Puffs Plus are soft on your nose (which is especially important if you have a cold) and have no perfumes or dyes. I keep Puffs Pluss in my living room, bedroom, bathroom, office, and we each have boxes in our cars.

My only complaint? Ugly boxes.

Shabby chic puffs-sm
My shabby chic tissue box.
OMG--who is designing the horrible cardboard homes that house this amazing product?  Sorry, but I'ver been reusing my shabby chic floral box and another with irises on it for over eight years because they are pretty and the crappy art on the boxes these past few years has been so butt UGLY.

I take new tissues from the ugly boxes and put them in the pretty boxes.  And I will continue to do so until Procter & Gamble comes up with some nice art on the boxes. (I'm not holding my breath.)

There's just one big flaw with Puffs Plus:  you can't clean your glasses.  Nope.  Don't even try.  The bottom of my shirt does that very well.

What's your favorite brand of tissue, and why?