Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Visit my little container garden

Look what sprouted in my compost bucket!


I hope it's a delicata squash. It could be a cucumber, but I don't usually seed my cukes, so crossing fingers it's delicata.

I bought one zucchini plant at the garden store and it's going to have a LOT of blossoms and already has one tiny zucchini.

Zucchini w arrow

My lettuce is going great guns.  The two largest plants in the middle of this next picture were self-seeded from last year. I planted two different types of lettuce, but they look pretty much alike to me.


Next, all my crops:

Container crop

I've got green beans on the upper right (which will be wanting to climb any day now) and basil and curly parsley in the bottom right. Still hoping to plant some pea pods for stir fry later this month when I get some help with the veggie patch--and also a couple of tomato plants.
So far, I'm pretty happy with my little container garden.

What are you growing?

Monday, June 20, 2016

A promise I must keep

After my mother passed away last spring, my very good friends Ellery Adams and Leann Sweeney (former Cozy Chicks) sent me a small magnolia tree in memory of my mother, so that every spring I would find comfort in the pretty blossoms.

It was a brutal winter, but our landscape people thought if the tree was heavily mulched, it would survive. And I'm so pleased to say that it did. Not only did it bloom once (in May), but another branch of it bloomed in June, too, giving me five very pretty pinkish flowers.  I'm hoping that next year I'll see double the flowers. : )

But there's also another tree I'm concerned about. A couple of years ago, my mother noticed a small pine "twig" in one of the containers on her back patio where she planted annuals. She figured a squirrel had buried a pine cone in it, which isn't surprising considering squirrels live in the BIG pine tree in her front yard, and every spring they devour the middle of the pine cones (and mostly eating them on the roof and plugging the front down spout with their leftovers. Ahh, nature).

My Mum decided to nurture the little twig. One of the last things we talked about before she left her home forever to go to hospice was that little tree in the container. She wanted me to promise her that I wouldn't let anyone yank it out and kill it. She knew she was dying, but she wanted that little tree to live on after her.

We had to clear out the house last week for the sale, and one of the last things to go was the container with the tree. But now what? I don't have a place for it in my yard. I've got an Ash that will probably succumb to the Emerald Ash Borer, but I'm hoping that won't be for a few more years.

Thanks to the 22,500-gallon pool that occupies way too much real estate, what's left of my backyard is the size of a postage stamp. It's surrounded by arborvitae and a few lilac bushes, but other than that nowhere for a tree that will probably grow to 30 or 40 feet one day.

I'd love to hear suggestions on how to find this little Charlie Brown tree a home from anyone who may have had a similar problem.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Veggies for everyone!

Okay, I admit it. I don’t like fruit. You were expecting me to say vegetables, right? I LOVE vegetables. But I don’t think I could choose a favorite. It would be easier for me to choose a veggie I don’t like. On the top of that list would be eggplant. *Shudder*  I can’t actually think of another vegetable I loathe. I’m not particularly fond of turnips, but I could eat them (especially in stew--even just a wonderful Veggie stew.

I like to make soup and yesterday made a great pot of turkey neck/veggie soup. Yum-yum. I just threw in every vegetable I had in the fridge, including an onion, a leek, a few carrots, part of a cabbage, garlic, frozen green beans from my garden, and a can of stewed tomatoes. OMG it was good. I froze most of it but I’ll be having soup again for lunch today.

What’s your favorite veggie?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why not apply it straight to your thighs?

6-16 National Fudge Day

Doesn't everybody love fudge? I rarely eat it though because of the calorie count. The first time I made fudge, I was about 13 and didn't know what a candy thermometer was. We didn't have one, so I winged it. I didn't end up with fudge, I ended up with chocolate-flavored SAND. I felt like Betty Crocker had failed me.

Here's a recipe for peanut butter fudge that doesn't need a candy thermometer and tastes pretty darn good.

Peanut butter fudge1/2 cup butter
 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and milk. Bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over the confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth; pour into an 8x8 inch pan. Chill until firm and cut into 1-inch squares.

Yield: 64 pieces

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

In the Spotlight: Brenda Stanley

FULL DISCLOSURE: This post original ran on The Cozy Chicks Spotlight.

My name is Brenda Stanley. I'm a wife, a mom, a sister-in-law, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a nurse, and that's pretty much how I define myself--at least at this stage of my life. Talk to me in a week and the order might be different.

Most of the time, I lead a pretty nice, quiet (rather boring) life in Buffalo, NY. I'm not from Western New York. I was born in the city of brotherly love (Philadelphia), and lived there for the first twenty five years of my life.

I was a twin, and there were no two sisters closer than me and the other half of my soul, Ruth. (I used to call her Toothie Ruthie--although we were identical and she did NOT have bad teeth. They were exactly like mine, but it drove her nuts and that was the point, right?) We had such fun. Had. She died--hit by a drunk driver when we were twenty-three. That--and the following two years--were the worst of my life. A rushed romance, a fast (and short) marriage to an abuser. I needed to get away from Philly. So I ran away from home and got a job at a think tank outside of Los Angeles.  And that's when my life took a dramatic turn for the better. That's where I met my husband.

Of course, he wasn't my husband right away. In fact, he was my boss.  I know, I know--you should never get involved with your boss, but he was such a nice guy. I admit; it was me who pursued him. He'd been unlucky in love--and more than once--so he wasn't looking for someone to warm his bed. I called him "Boss."  (It drove him nuts. Do you see a pattern here?)  Hey, Boss!  Here're those files you needed.  Hey, Boss did you remember to eat today?  Hey, Boss, aren't these the cutest shoes you've ever seen? (Insert image of him rolling his eyes at that. He's just not into shoes.)

I never called him by his first name at work. It was either Boss or Dr. Alpert. I never called him boss at home. Uh, we kind of moved in together after a couple of years.

That was the best job ... but there were drawbacks. The biggest being my mother. She didn't like my significant other. He wasn't the right color. I didn't tell her we'd moved in, but it got back to her. (Thank you older sister, Evelyn, for spilling the beans.) My mama didn't speak to me for nine years--but that's another story, too.

The Boss, er, I mean Richard, thought it would be a good idea if we got married. (He's old fashioned that way.) I loved him. I loved being with him. But married?  Been there, done that--wasn't about to go for it again. He asked a lot. I turned him down a lot.

Money at the think tank was getting tight, and they decided to eliminate our little two-person department. So, that job ended and Richard, decided he would like to leave the land of sunshine and move back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York--in JANUARY. (He did consult me, but I could see his mind was pretty much made up.)  I knew about winter in the Northeast. Hey, I'm from Philly, but Buffalo winters are different. It's called lake-effect snow and it's brutal. Richard wasn't exactly the most jolly person to be around right about then, either. (Men. Job loss. Ego. The whole deal.) And then one morning, very early ... the phone rang.

It was the NYPD calling to say Richard's half-brother, Jeffy (I always call him that. Drives him nuts) had been brutally mugged and was in a coma. You never saw somebody hop on a plane so fast in your life. I spent a terrible few days alone in that big (COLD), lonely house on my own, wishing I had gone with him; but the furnace guy was coming and somebody had to be there to open the door. I'd met Jeffy exactly twice when he came back to Buffalo to live with us in the house he had occupied for three-plus very unhappy years as a teen, so you can imagine how thrilled he was to be returning. (Not at all.)  Nobody likes charity, and he least of all. He was determined to recover and get the hell out. But it didn't happen that way, and life for all of us became very complicated.

You see ... as a consequence of that head injury Jeffy became just a teensy bit psychic.  (Oh, yeah, that went over really well with Richard. Not!) But I recognized it. You see, I have a little bit of the second sight myself. (Richard always called them hunches.) So Jeffy and I are kindred spirits. He's someone really special. (Not that he thinks so.) Before the mugging, he was an insurance investigator. Not the kind that looks at banged-up cars or anything--but a trained crime-scene investigator. After his wife was murdered, though, he transferred to the fraud department. Crime scenes no longer interested him.

Jeffy's kind of hard to get to know. He doesn't reveal much about himself. He's quiet--doesn't make waves ... until he gets what I call one of his "episodes." When his psychic insight makes an appearance all hell can break loose, and it didn't take long after he returned to Buffalo for him to start to have some pretty scary visions. Visions that gave him information about a murder. And didn't he feel compelled to find out who did the deed? It wasn't a pretty end. Richard ended up in the hospital--nearly died. Oh, God, what a mess. But ... it brought us all closer. And I kind of changed my mind about the whole marriage thing ,,,

But that was just the beginning of our adventures. Okay, I mostly sit on the sidelines while the dynamic duo do their investigating thing. I did the volunteer thing for a while at a women's health clinic and the local hospital's low-income clinic. I loved the work. I loved the people. But then ... someone decided to stalk me. And wouldn't you know it--my ex-husband showed up on our doorstep about the same time. (My mother gave him my address. *Sigh* I was remarried--why would she think I'd be interested in seeing him?)

What an awful time in our lives ... because I also had a miscarriage.  I quit my jobs. The stalker actually broke into our home--oh, it was awful. For a while, I didn't know if I could even live in that house again.

I could go on and on ... but maybe it would just be better if you read about our "adventures." Jeffy kind of keeps an account of things. The first account is known as Murder On The Mind. (And it's FREE in all ebook formats. Click this link for more information.)

Jeffy never looks for trouble--but somehow it always finds him. He's just wrapping up the account of our most recent trials and tribulations. It's called Shattered Spirits. (You can read about it here.)

Okay, it's time for me to get back to keeping the home fires burning. At least ... until the next time Jeffy has one of his episodes, because when they come, we never know what will happen next.

P.S. Feel free to ask any questions about the Alpert-Stanley-Resnick household. I know just about everything that goes on. (Just about.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Announcing: TITLE WAVE

Angels announce Title Wave

Isn't this angel in pink cute?  It's one of about six or seven that my Dad carved and she's even happier than me to announce that TITLE WAVE, Booktown #10, is finally available in hardcover, ebook, and (tomorrow) audio.

Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising...

Have you seen the video?  You can watch it by clicking this link.

A lot of your questions about why things are the way they are in Tricia's life are answered in this book ... but it's not the end of her story by any means. Read all about it!

In Print: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Chapters
Book Depository | Indie Bound

Ebook:  Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Audio: Audible | Amazon | iTunes | Tantor (CDs)

I hope you enjoy reading/listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Junking: Cheap Entertainment

It was raining cats and dogs on Saturday morning (but I didn't step in a poodle) and after crossing our fingers and venturing out into the gray morning, the few yard sales we saw in the paper weren't open. Mr. L and I were going to lunch and hoped we find one or two on the way back. The skies cleared and the puddles dried up and we made it to three yard sales.

Make new friends

I saw this adorable trivet. Didn't every girl who was ever a scout sing those words? I must admit, though, it was the two adorable kitties that really sold me on the piece. Now to find a place to hang it.

Tiny fry pan

Wow--this picture is actually MUCH bigger than the actual item itself, which measures about three inches high. It's marked CATALINA on the bottom and I know it will look adorable somewhere in my family's cottage.

Kitchen junk

My next "big" item was this book, Kitchen Junk. The major drawback about buying a used book is that it won't be pristine. This one must have been stored in a damp area.  Can you say musty?  Still, I had an enjoyable hour looking at all the pictures (and there are a lot) and once I let it sit in a bag with some ground coffee for a week or two, the stink will be gone.  You can find it on Amazon by clicking this link.

I also came away with a couple of DVDS:

We already watched The Lake House, which was your basic chick flick. Not bad; a few plot holes big enough to drive a car through, and through most of the movie Sandra Bullock wore that horrible hairdo that looked like she'd attacked it herself with a pair of blunt scissors.  Yes, I know that was a fad a few years back, but let's hope it's not one worth repeating. We usually only watch movies on the weekends, so we'll save Cocoon and Cocoon Returns for next weekend. They'll go into the catch an release program (I'll find them a home by giving them away or letting my neighbor have them for her next yard sale.)

Lastly, I got these...


The little black poodle is adorable, but the little brown doggy appears to have suffered some painful Beanie Baby abuse (thanks to his missing nose and the poorly done sutures to mend the hole in his face). But, as these doggies are destined to be cat toys for Mr. L's cat, Chester, who likes to drag them around while howling, and then deposit his "kill" at our feet, I'm sure he won't even notice.

And what was the cost of this loot?  A mere $6.70. Not a bad afternoon's entertainment.  Oh, and we got to see Mr. and Mrs. Duck swimming in a little pond, but I left my phone behind so no pictures of that.

Did you get anything while junking this weekend?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Their cheerful little faces

Aren't these pansies gorgeous? They've been my favorite flower ever since I can remember. My mother used to plant them along the walk in our first house and they always looked to cheerful. I only have three pansy plants (so far) this year, and they were self-seeded. Mr. L planted some ice pansies in our garden containers/urns after the other flowers started to wane last summer. I want to get more NOW--they're just so pretty.

What's your favorite flower?

Monday, June 6, 2016

A year without a garden? Impossible!

Three weeks ago this coming Monday, Mr. L had an accident that dislocated his shoulder. In that one instant, our entire summer went on hold.  Of course, we didn't know that at the time. We were unloading the car and he had hands full, and I had even more stuff I was lugging, and down he went on the front step.

At first he said he was okay. He just needed to sit down. But then when 20 minutes went by and his arm still hurt, I convinced him to go to Urgent Care. We weren't even halfway there when he said, "I think I need to go to the ER."

Boy, did we luck out. He was immediately given an ER cubicle and within less than an hour we had the verdict. Of course, Mr. L didn't know what it meant, but I did because I'd once written a story with a character who had a dislocated shoulder.  He was in agony, but he said, "It hurts," because that's just his way. They knocked him out, put the arm back in the socket and said, "Six to eight weeks--unless you need surgery." (We find out today.)

So the rest of the summer is now on hold. Even the garden, he said.

Whoa! DEAL BREAKER!  Okay, we can't put in the annuals we ALWAYS put in around the pool, but there was no way I was going to go the entire summer without flowers.

My veggie garden.  : (
We're now three weeks behind and our yard is a wreck. By now, Mr. L would have turned over my veggie garden and we would have planted sweet peas, tomatoes, and potatoes.  This year it's a weed patch. (BTW, my weed sprayer is NOT filled with herbicide; it's filled with double strength vinegar (available from Amazon). I don't put poison in my garden or on my grass.)

Luckily, our perennials are blooming. We've already had two of the rhododendrons bloom, and now our purple puff balls. (Allium.) Alas, we lost three rhodos and an azalea due to winter. But our clematis is thriving, despite the fact we got rid of our old arbor (where it kinda sorta lived) and built a new one (the white one above) just before Mr. L's accident.  My brother helped us (well, me) put the stakes in so it won't blow away (again). (Okay, he did most of the work and I helped.) The clematis voluntarily climbed the fence (which it never did before and we always had to coax it to climb the old arbor) and is doing fabulous. I expect triple the flowers this year.

The only HEALTHY rhubarb plant in my yard. The rest are tiny.
My mother had a HUGE stand of rhubarb and after she passed away last summer, I knew that if I didn't relocate some of it, I'd never have rhubarb crisp or chutney ever again. But I think I went to far transplanting it, because her stand is next to nothing this year, and only one of the five plants I relocated has thrived.

The roses aren't doing much of anything yet, but I'm hopeful we'll have something beautiful to look at in the next month or so.

I knew Mr. L (who is a flower nut) would NOT be happy with no annuals, so on our errands Wednesday, I took us (since he can't drive) to two garden centers (calling them nurseries makes me think they'll be babies growing in the dirt) where we bought a bunch of stuff -- if we can't do the garden around the pool, we can at least fill our urns and big pots with flowers. Of course, there were a few stumbling blocks.  One of the pots had BEAUTIFUL yellow self-seeded pansies (from last year), and Mr.L wanted me to rip them out for petunias. (I LOVE pansies--much more than I love petunias, so in they stayed. I was, after all, doing all the work!)  One of the pots had self-seeded lettuce, too. "Rip it out!" he said. Nope, I just planted the new seeds around them.

Self-Seeded leaf lettuce.
So now we at least have flowers in our urns and when we sit in our enclosed porch, we can see the four urns filled with colorful petunias, pinks, nasturtiums.

Aren't my self-sown yellow pansies GORGEOUS?
The landscaper we use will come and weed the front and back flower beds (and oy! I had better sell a heck of a lot of books to pay for it), but we will have a tidy yard once again. But I can't wait the 2-3 weeks on their timeline. I will have to weed my veggie patch myself otherwise we won't be eating tomatoes until late October. But it will be a small price to pay.

Mr. Lonely Zucchini
Although ... I'm giving up on certain plants because I can't bear it when the groundhogs, bunnies, and other critters eat them. This year I bought a single zucchini plant. We'll see if it will tolerate growing in a container.

Having flowers and enjoying them is a very simple pleasure in life, one I wasn't about to give up no matter what our circumstances.

More stuff to plant.
What have you got growing in your garden?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A junking I will go!

One of my favorite summer activities is heading out for yard sales on Saturday mornings.Today is the BIG sale in Lyons, NY. It's one neighborhood and I try not to miss it. Okay, the last couple of years it hasn't been as good, but they still sell Zweigle's hot dogs (for Mr. L -- and he eats it at 9 am), fried dough (that's for me!), and I get such great stuff. (Like bracelets, pictures, and books.)

Yesterday, I stopped at a sale and bought these beauties. Aren't they adorable?

They're only 6 inches tall. I haven't decided where they'll go yet, but I will find the perfect spot for them ... eventually. Since I no longer have a booth in an antiques co-op, I only buy what I fall in love with.

What do YOU look for at yard sales?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Getting my hands dirty

Plant crop

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."
--Luther Burbank
I'm getting a late start, but we WILL have a garden this year. Cosmos are among my favorites. What do you have growing in your garden?