Thursday, April 13, 2017

Despite the caterpillars ....

Monarch-18140_1920First of all, I don't like bugs. But even I can't dislike Monarch butterflies. They're just so pretty. Nice Halloween colors, and look pretty so pretty when they visit my garden.

But the Monarchs are endangered, so I'm going to do my part to try to keep the species alive. How will I do that? By adding milkweed plants to my yard.

I can remember seeing milkweed plants as a kid, and people didn't like them seeding up their yards and yanked them out, maybe not knowing how important they were to the Monarchs. I also remember seeing the (icky) Monarch caterpillars as a kid, but I haven't seen one in probably thirty years.

But where do you get milkweed?  Finding seeds was just a google search away. So I ordered some--150 seeds for $1.95 and no shipping. That's way too many seeds for just me, so I'm going to share them with my neighbor's children. They raise preying mantis, so I figured if they like bugs, they probably would like to help out the Monarchs.

I probably will be grossed out by the caterpillars, but ... I want to see more monarchs. So -- milkweed is in my future.

Are you interested in helping the Monarchs?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

There's some of me in everything I write


One of the fun things about writing is you can incorporate tiny pieces of your life into your stories.

There was a time when I hated to shop. (Yeah, sounds weird now.) Of course, I still hate to shop for certain things. (Like clothes. No matter what I buy, I always look like a barrel. Yeah, hate clothes shopping.) One of the reason I became a vendor at an antiques and crafts arcade was because I loved to shop there. I was furnishing our home and they had the best stuff! That's about the time I also started to go junking (which sounds a lot cooler than saying I went to yard sales).

You can get all kinds of GOOD stuff at yard sales.  I was recently in Florida, and they have yard sales ALL YEAR LONG! (Imagine that!!!!!) Mr. L collects cocktail shakers. I found these three shakers for $2 -- TWO BUCKS!!! (Love that the left and middle one are etched. I figure the one on the left is from the 1950s; the other two are much newer, but were unique enough that he wanted to add them to his collection.)

But (as usual) I digress.

I'm working on my second Life on Victoria Square story (A companion series to go with The Victoria Square Mysteries) featuring a minor character who has shown up in a couple of the Victoria Square Mysteries. We're talking a walk-on character who never even had a line of dialogue. But she stuck in my mind and I knew she had a story to tell ... I just didn't know what it was until this week, that is. She didn't even have a name. They just referred to her as "the woman who never pays more than a buck for anything." And what's her claim to fame?  A rose made of crepe paper. I'm having fun describing all the treasures she's picked up while shopping at Artisans Alley and I hope my readers will enjoy getting to know her, too.

The first Life on Victoria Square story goes on sale on today. It's called CARVING OUT A PATH, and features Ray Davenport, the cranky police detective who clashed with Katie in the first three novels.

A young shoplifter not only swipes a couple of hand-carved figurines from Ray Davenport, owner of Victoria Square’s Wood U gift shop, but barrels into and injures Katie Bonner, manager of Artisans Alley. Upon his escape, the police are called, but before the ink is dry on the report, the boy’s grandmother drags the would-be thief back to return the purloined items. She’s got an agenda and great expectations. Can Ray come through in a pinch?


Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

I have plans to write about all the merchants on Victoria Square.

(P.S. So happy my cover designer could add three of my Dad's carvings to the cover.  Aren't the Santas adorable?  At the end of the story, I added the Story BEHIND the Story to tell readers about those carvings.)

I hope you'll give Ray (and later Iris) a chance!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Coming Attractions: Gladiolas



Yesterday, Mr. L and I got our taxes done. Not fun. (Especially since we owe.) So, to cheer ourselves up, we went to the garden store.

Oh, it was WONDERFUL! The big greenhouse doors were open and you walked in and all the spring flowers were in bloom. It smelled heavenly.

On my list to get was gladiola bulbs. My mother always grew gladiolas and I came to love them as much as her. The lady at the store said, "We don't have many. Nobody wants them anymore." I felt so sad for the gladiolas that I bought three bags. She said to wait until Memorial Day to plant them, but with global warming, I don't think I need to wait that long. I can't wait to get really going in the garden.

I know a lot of you in warmer climates have your gardens up and going. Tell us what's blooming!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Coming soon!

Theres’s good (and some bad) news for my Victoria Square readers. First, due to personal considerations, Laurie Cass will not be working with me on the next two books. (Yes, at least two more!) which makes me sad. But I'll be teaming up with another well-known cozy mystery author to write the next two books (and--cross your fingers--possibly beyond). I need to wait for her to ink the contract before I can announce her name, but I'm looking forward to working with her.

And now for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!





I've started a companion series called Life on Victoria Square. Every couple of months, I'll be putting out a new Victoria Square story featuring the merchants on Victoria Square, as well as some of the events they celebrate. The first story, available April 11th, features Ray Davenport, the former homicide detective turned shopkeeper.


A young shoplifter not only swipes a couple of hand-carved figurines from Ray Davenport, owner of Victoria Square's Wood U gift shop, but barrels into and injures Katie Bonner, manager of Artisans Alley. Upon his escape, the police are called, but before the ink is dry on the report, the boy's grandmother drags the would-be thief back to return the purloined items. She's got an agenda and great expectations. Can Ray come through in a pinch?

PREORDER NOW!

Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide | Nook | Smashwords

Coming soon to iBooks and Kobo!

Read more about the series by clicking this link. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A few of my treasures

One of the things I enjoy most about the summer and early fall is going junking on a Saturday morning with Mr. L. Since he's a mapmaker, he knows where he's going, and I just look at the scenery between our jaunts to yard sales and thrift stores.

Now that it's winter, it's the thrift stores that have me coming back. The truth is, I don't enjoy going to thrift stores as much as yard sales because their prices are a lot higher (which is understandable; they've got overhead). But this time of year, it's either thrift stores or NOTHING.
I have a few favorites, and even though times are lean (because A) I'm cheap, and B) do I really need more stuff?), I only buy stuff I think I will actually use or can find a good home for. Take this pretty cup. That was a find. It'snot bone china (which is what I collect), but I'm pretty sure I can find a home for this Made In Japan cup, which I estimate to be 50+ years old and with no chips. The doily was a dime--A DIME!  The store must have really wanted to get rid of them. There was a whole basket of them for a dime each.

Of course, I have a doily problem. I look at all the work that went into them, and can't bear to leave them behind, especially if I think nobody will love them. This creates a problem when you have tubs and tubs of doilies. It's come to the point where I'm going to have to do something about them. Maybe open an Etsy store? But that takes a lot of time. Time I could be writing (or otherwise known as gainfully employed). I'm going to pull a Scarlett O'Hara and "think about it another day."

What I got on another foray was a tiny jewelry box for a buck that's covered with sweet angels. Isn't it adorable?

The top opens, and it's got a little drawer.  The truth is, I really don't need a new-to-me jewelry box ... at least at home, but I thought it might look cute at our family's summer cottage. I have a jewelry box there (a yard sale find), but it's not nearly as cute and ... who says they have to live in the same room?
Here's another shot of it open with a few of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

When entering a shop, I'm often asked ... what are you looking for?  I'm first drawn to dishes, not that I buy many. But I recently acquired a brown transferware bowl (which I was too lazy to photograph). I love brown transferware, and it's not as common (or at least that's my experience) as one might think. I'm also drawn to jewelry ... bracelets in particular. I must have acquired 20 bracelets in the past few years. They don't take up a lot of room, and that's one reason why I like them.

So, what is it you're looking for when the "thrill of the hunt" overtakes you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Another Teacup Tuesday Treasure


Don't you just love this beautiful teacup from my Pinterest collection? What I like about it is the squareness of both the cup and saucer. Couldn't you just imagine drinking a nice cup of tea out of this, and washing down a freshly baked scone or tart?  (Say yes!!!)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Men luck out


I eat a healthy breakfast at least 6 days of the week (usually 7--and it's usually green juice). Mr. L eats whatever he wants and NEVER gains an ounce. I just look at the pound cake and gain weight.


It's pretty obvious what our cat Fred's choice is when it comes to breakfast.



 What did you have for breakfast this morning (and I'll bet you enjoyed it ore than I did).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A terrific teacup!


Hey, it's TEACUP TUESDAY, and isn't this peacock motif cup and saucer by Lomonosov adorable? It's something I'm sure Katie Bonner, from The Victoria Square Mysteries, would love to drink from and own.

http://bit.ly/1QuziWD

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Brain Hurts Thanks To Website Woes

Over the years, I've learned just enough HTML code to be dangerous. I can update certain things on my website, and I recently learned how to embed a PDF. (If you go to my Lorraine site, on the From Katie's Kitchen page, you can download a couple of Katie's recipe cards.)

About six weeks ago, I was informed that the company that has hosted my website(s) since day one (and we're talking more than a decade), was going out of business. I've leaved in dread ever since then because I knew it was going to be a GIGANTIC pain in the patootie. And guess what. It is.

First, I contacted my website designer. We've been going back and forth about new hosting faculties while we talked about refreshing the look of at least two of my sites. Today was the day she said she was ready for the sites to be moved. (She's backed up everything and is ready to move forward.)

Gulp. That means it's my turn to figure things out.  So on Thursday, I spent over three hours talking with a prospective new host, the old host, and the people that take care of my domain names. And. I'm. Not. Done. Yet.

By the time I got through all that, it was Happy Hour and brother did I need a couple of strong belts.  Friday, I called the new hosting guy (a fellow name of Gene) and once I give him my authorization codes, he said he will "take care of the rest."  Whew, thoguth I was rescued because thinking about all that rigmarole made my brain hurt!

So, bright and early Friday morning I emailed Gene all my information to get the website shift in motion, including my phone number because that was going to be a LOT faster than doing on their website on my own.

Then I waited.

I only had one errand planned for the day, but it was to be a fun one.

Three hours later, I figured I wait until after lunch.  Sure -- I had HOURS left when I could run my errand.

And I waited.

By 4 pm, I'd gotten a little tire of waiting. I emailed Gene.  "Hey, are we going to do this today?"

No answer.

My goal is to call the company at the crack of dawn and see if somebody else will help me with this shift. I was told this company had good customer service.  So far, I'm not seeing it. But I'll give them another chance. ONE more chance.

But the good news is, my site will be moved. I'm getting a great 3-year rate (less than I paid for one year with the old host), and my website(s) will be refreshed.  I'm starting with my Lorraine site.  Here's a sneak peak.


So what do you think?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

It happens just about every other night

Cat vomitThere ought to be an Olympic event for pet owners leaping out of bed in the middle of the night, scooping up their pet, and saving the rug from barf.

TWICE last night I was awakened by the sound of retching and rescued first my duvet, and then the rug. Of course, the duvet was saved, but the rug by the bed wasn't so lucky. (And I stepped in it when I came back to clean up the mess at FOUR AM. I was awakened for the 2nd time at 6:46 am when the other one decided it was hairball time. Whew! Saved the rug that time.

So, how many of you could compete in this Olympic sport?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From Biker Chick to Short Order Cook

Who is Noreen Darby?

If you've read With Baited Breath, the first Lotus Bay Mystery novel, you know that Noreen is part-owner of The Bay Bay, which is right next door to the wreck of a house Kathy Grant wants to turn into a B&B.

Noreen was an office worker who rode a motorcycle. (Although, she's not into tatts, so don't ask if she has any.)  She met Paul Darby, owner of the bar, on a Poker Run, and it was love at first sight. She traded in her job and now she'd the short-order cook at the bar.

Wow, what a change. She went from filing papers to flipping burgers. From eight hours a day to whatever it took to keep the customers happy, and since the bar also takes in fishermen (they've got two rooms to let), she's also in charge of keeping those rooms clean and ready for the next guest.

She liked her life, but it got better when she met Tori Cannon, her BFF Kathy, and Tori's childhood friend, Anissa. What do they all have in common? Being business owners .... or at least they have that goal in mind.

It was Noreen who held out the hand of friendship.

“It’s a tough life. Not only do I cook, but I keep the rooms clean, too. And let me tell you, some of our guests are real pigs—and they’re not all men.”

“I hear you,” Kathy said, taking a sip of her neglected drink. The ice had melted, leaving it watery. “We’re starting with the bait shop. We’ll scrub the outside walls and start painting it tomorrow.”

“We’ve got a power washer. We’d be glad to loan it to you guys.”

“That’s very generous of you. I’ll take you up on it. Thanks.”

“Anything to help out Herb,” Noreen said. “I’ll be back in the kitchen about eight in the morning. Knock on the door and you can pick it up then.”

That was the beginning.

So you can see that Noreen is a real sweetheart.

I'm currently figuring out the next adventure for these entrepreneurial ladies, including fleshing out Noreen's character.  What do you think? Should she have a funny hobby? Collect something strange? Knit sweaters for birds with no feathers?  Come on--share your ideas.

And if you haven't read the book, you can:



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Monday, February 13, 2017

The hostess with the mostest--Kathy Grant will do it


In WITH BAITED BREATH, Tori Cannon asks her BFF, Kathy Grant (both of whom are in their late 20s), "Why aren't we married?"

Kathy answers: "Because nobody asked?" But then she added, “What if instead of me getting married, my destiny is to give other women the wedding of their dreams at my B and B?”

Ever since I wrote that line, I've been thinking about Kathy's dream weddings ... or more correctly, wedding (and other) showers. I may have to wait until the third novel for her to get a chance to throw one of those showers and/or a wedding, but that hasn't stopped me from doing research. From party games to party food and decorations, I've been downloading suggestions and inspirational pictures.
Why am I fascinated with wedding showers? Because my own was nearly a debacle. It was very small, and the person who threw it for me (and who is no longer in my life) did nothing to prepare for it. I asked my sister-in-law, who was supposed to be helping what the plans were.

"She bought a small cake."

"Any decorations?"

SIL shook her head.

"Cookies? Punch? Coffee?"

Again, SIL (who has never hosted any kind of gathering before or in the years since) shook her head.

I knew I was going to be embarrassed, but what could I do? It was the day of the party.  I picked up my mother at her house and on the drive to the shower, tearfully told her the so-called plans.
Well, she wasn't going to stand for that and directed me to divert to the nearest Wegmans. She marched in, bought dozens of rolls, pounds of cold cuts, cartons of potato and macaroni salad, and I can't remember all what else, but the car was nearly full. When we arrived at the party, she quietly walked into the kitchen, handed over the makings for a nice lunch, and without a word, came and sat down in the living room.  The shower went on, the guests had a lovely lunch, Person-X took full credit for the spread, and my mother never said a word. I was too embarrassed to say anything, either, but I thanked my mother profusely then and in the years that followed.
That won't happen to any of Kathy's guests. She'll have fabulous food, delicious drinks, and plenty of party games. If you'd like to see some of the pictures of the food she'll serve, and the decorations she'll hang, you can visit my Pinterest board for Bridal Showers at Swans Nest. Just click this link.

Do you have a story (funny, sad, or in between) to share about a shower?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On the Breakfast Menu


Mmm-- delicious poppy seed bread (cake?) from the local Polish store. Of course, that's Mr. L's breakfast. Me? I'm having my usually green (vegetable) goop. 


Who do you think had the better breakfast?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

TEACUP TUESDAY


Boil some water, take out some teabags, and have a nice cuppa tea.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Inspired by a child


Poppyseed cake with lime glaze that I made.
I admit it, I came to cooking and baking LATE.. Baking, not too late, but cooking LATE.

I always liked to bake because I like sweets. Cookies and pies were about the extent of it, but now I like to bake cakes, too. I don't do it that often because ... well, once you bake something, it must be eaten, and my eating audience has dwindled to about my husband and brother, and my brother is usually on a diet (one of those crazy ones where you only have 500 calories a day, so you eat a lot of canned veggies and apples.  Hmmm...he always loses weight. Maybe I should try that).

I used to brag about how much I DIDN'T like to cook. But then I started writing cozy mysteries, and it's almost a given that you need to include a few recipes. So I started making stuff to test recipes and I found out that I like to tinker with recipes, too.

I had a little time on my hands of late (call it a rest between writing assignments) and I started watching Kitchen Nightmares (with Gordon Ramsey) on Youtube. In just over a week, I'd watched every one available. (Talk about binge watching.) Then I moved on to Hotel Hell. I really liked that one because I got to learn how NOT to run a B&B. And Gordon's cussing? Doesn't bother me a bit. (Hey, I worked in a machine shop for 18 months drilling holes in metal parts for the space shuttle. I've heard it all.)

Yesterday, I watched nearly a whole season of Masterchef Junior (going to watch the finale to see if Addison or Avery wins--go girl power!). What amazed me about that show was the level of skill these kids have. We're talking 8-year-olds who can whip up a serving of duck a l'Orange, bake perfect cream puffs, and cook a perfect medium rare steak, none of which I feel capable of doing.  (For one think, I like my steak well done, which would cause the Chef to puke ... and I've heard him do it many times after being served nasty food. Oy, some of those walk-in fridges make you never want to visit a restaurant again).

But, I felt inspired by those kids and decided to make the recipe I've been collecting ingredients for all week.

Pasta With White Beans And Kalamata Olives
Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces uncooked rotini pasta
1 can (about 15 ounces) navy beans
1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup spinach leaves, packed
¼ cup (1 ounce) pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup grated feta cheese
pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt and pepper flakes; set aside.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, drain the beans and tomatoes in a colander. Pour the pasta and cooking water over the beans and tomatoes. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic mixture, olives, spinach, nuts, and basil. Gently toss; blend well.  Top with the cheese.

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

Now, I don't like feta cheese, so I substituted Parmesan; I couldn't find pine nuts, but it tasted great without them. And fresh basil?  This is winter in Western NY. Dried worked out just fine. (See what I mean about tinkering with recipes.)

I may not be a Masterchef, but I'm happy when I make a recipe that works and then goes into the dinner rotation.  This one's a keeper.  And, it's going into my next cookbook (with my changes, of course), "written" by my character, Brenda Stanley.

Care to share a recipe for something you've made recently?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It's all just so beautiful!

Yesterday, I went to a store where, just inside the door,  I was greeted by a six-foot long mirrored lion--roaring his head off. (I'm calling him "Disco Lion.")

Yesterday, I went to Home Goods for the first time.

WOW -- talk about a store that contains everything you WANT and just about nothing you NEED.

I walked around in awe looking at the china, the pictures, the bedding (even dog bedding), the beautiful coffee (or tea) mugs, throw pillows, soap dishes, lamps -- just EVERYTHING, and I wanted it all (even though I have no where to put it.)

I'd first heard about Home Goods on HGTV. Hosts of the decorating stores would walk in, grab a grocery cart, and start filling them up with neat stuff to decorate the homes they were working on.  Just like on TV, women were walking (and blocking) the aisles with shopping carts full of STUFF. There were even a few guys in there doing the same.

Mr. L and I walked around (and I must say he was EXTREMELY PATIENT, as I pulled a "MUM" and looked at everything) in disbelief. While most of the customers were breaking the bank with their purchases, we walked out of there with a new soap dish.

I'm at the point in life where I'm starting to shed stuff, so it's not likely Home Goods is a place I'll return to. But it does make me want some of those gorgeous bone china mugs to drink my morning tea out of.

What's your impression of Home Goods? Would it be a destination place for you?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Do I really need something else to collect?

 A couple of years ago, I found a Bossons head at an estate sale.  What's a Bosson's head?  A picture tells a thousand words, they say. Basically, it's a head made of plaster of Paris (or chalkware).  You can read all about them here.

My mother and aunt collect(ed) them, neither of them had/have a huge collection, but they're very interesting and kind of delicate--they chip very easily.  Mr. L gave me two for Christmas and wasn't as careful as he might have been. One of them broke after he wrapped it. Luckily, he has a friend who can mend things so that you can't tell they've been broken.  (One of our cats chewed the ears off a cat statue Mr. L had given me and his friend was able to repair it so that there was no trace it had been gnawed.)

I've now got five. Women Bossons heads are very rare indeed, and Mr. L bought me a female for Christmas. I wish I could say she was pretty, but she's a fisherman's wife, and she looks it. In fact, not many could be considered "pretty," but they are true-to-life.

Most of my Bossons heads are fishermen (and woman), but I do have a policeman (who was my second head). I've looked at a lot of images online and I think I'd like a Beefeater next. But that can wait. I've still got a birthday and Christmas to go in 2017.

The other day, I was at a thrift shop. Sad to say, I did NOT find a Bossons head, but I did find a small plaster of Paris plaque of a fisherman at the helm. Mr. L said it reminded him of the Glouesster Fisherman statue in Massachusetts.

As you can see, it's rather humble, but sweet. I thought it would make a nice addition to my wee Bossons collection.

Do I really need to find anything else to collect?

Nope.

Is that going to stop me?

Nope.

What useless things do you collect?