Monday, May 25, 2020

A little paint might fix that


Lately, I've been following an Instagram page called Indoorsystore. (Full disclosure: I've been watching their YouTube channel for about two years. It's called Knorp and South.) They've recently gone into the business of upcycling used furniture and reselling it. Some of the pieces Megan does are really quite beautiful (like the ones where she adds large floral decals), but some of them are just (IMHO) quiet unattractive. (See the picture at right). But then she sells pieces like that for big bucks, so what do I know?

I've got a project I've been wanting to do for some time. It's a dresser that belonged to my parents. They bought it in the early 1960s and it was part of a "blonde" bedroom set. (I have no idea what happened to the other pieces.) My brother had this dresser when he first got married and he stained it a dark brown. (Ick.) Now it's mine (and has been for many years) and that brown has got to go. But what color should I paint it?

The room where it resides is a calming celadon green. I was thinking maybe I'd paint it yellow to have it make a statement, but then I thought...white goes with EVERYTHING. I had one of my mother's quilted wall hangings above it, but it's not my favorite as the colors rather clashed with the wall color. So, I climbed the step stool and changed it to one that has pastel blues and greens in it, which brightens the whole room.

Back when I was in the collectibles business at an antiques arcade, I bought a forest green corner cabinet for display. When I began writing full-time, I gave up my booth, but not the corner cabinet. I painted it parrot green and it goes nicely in my pastel yellow office.  So I'm wondering if I should do something as bold.

After all these years (maybe 20?) I've got to change the color. Of course, to change it, I need to get some paint and during these scary times, I'm not really willing to go to a big box hardware store. I may just order a can of satin paint off the Internet.

So, what color do you think I should order?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mixing things up



It's Tuesday. I have to look at the calendar or the computer to remind myself what day it is. I also find that I'm forgetting to do stuff I want to do because--SQUIRREL!--I get distracted, which seems pretty easy these days.

Like I was going to post here yesterday, and then...I ended up emptying the cat box and did a few loads of laundry and then it was bedtime. But during those moments between the hauling the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I decided I needed to go back to playing house. By that, I mean doing a better job of cleaning (boo boo hoo! I miss the cleaning ladies who came twice a month to blitz the place), play with my new Dyson (currently still in the box), and get out my spring/summer decorations. But I'm not sure what boxes they are in so...I need to do an inventory. I need to put things away and take other things out. I'm inspired by those French Chateau videos I've been watching (now up to three channels).

If the sun ever comes out, I'll be out in the garden (self-sewn Pansies have suddenly appeared in the urns!!!!!). I need to make every day a red-letter day. Something special needs to happen so that every day isn't just the same.


What would make your day a red-letter day?

Monday, April 13, 2020

I wax poetically on waxed paper


A lot of people don't believe we have a problem with plastic. I don't happen to be among them. For years, I've been trying to cut down my use of plastic, and the worst offender of all is those plastic "carrier" bags from grocery and other retailers. That's why, more than a decade ago, I started using cloth totes. Believe me, back then I was in the minority. Oh yeah, sometimes I'd forget to take them out of the car and settled for the plastic bags, but unless they ripped or had big holes, I'd reuse them. (And still do.)

Back in March, my state (New York) had a ban on them. Unfortunately, because of the corona virus, they are not enforcing it for fear that people won't wash their reusable bags. Well, that's not me. The minute I unpacked my cloth bags, they went straight into the washing machine (even the plastic ones--only they didn't go in the dryer).

Mr. L and I played snowbirds during January, February, and March. Our rental home did not have any plastic wrap. That gave me an opportunity to totally switch to waxed paper. I've been using it (and waxed bags) for about a year now, but I figured when I ran out of the plastic I'd go waxed paper 100% of the time. So, how did I make out?

I'm home now, but still exclusively using waxed paper to wrap stuff (mostly leftovers) in it. It does not cling like plastic. So instead, I bought a bag of rubber bands. Yup, rubber bands are my new best friend for both things wrapped in the paper or the bags.

FUN FACT: The waxed bags I bought came in a white cardboard box that looks like a bakery box. Like it should contain a little cake, or a dozen cookies, or maybe a small a small pie. It gives me a start every time I look at that box. I want that cookie, or cake, or pie ... that isn't there.

I also use reusable plastic containers. I store leftovers in them and I also have a dedicated bag with 3 plastic containers that I take to restaurants. (Oh, I so miss going out to restaurants. And I worry my favorites may go out of business because of this virus--putting good people out of work and crushing the dreams of their owners, workers, and customers.) I've been doing this for well over a year and that means I'm not responsible for using any Styrofoam containers.

Have I totally given up plastic bags? Not exactly. I am still using freezer bags. Waxed paper does not work in the freezer.  But when I empty one of those bags, I use them again. Not necessarily for food storage, but to toss out things that might stink up the trash. Like chicken skin, bones--icky stuff. And I fill them up before tossing. (Oh, and they also work for pet waste.) But my plastic use has dropped by probably 75%. It's a small step, but one I like taking.

Would you consider giving up plastic wrap?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Squash seeds roasting in a hot oven

Welcome to WONDERFUL Wednesday.

Are you baking today? I think instead of baking, I'll be roasting (which is kind of the same thing as the oven is involved.) All last fall, I saved my squash seeds.

Today, I'm going to roast them. (Did I mention we've run out of happy hour snacks?) Once they thaw, I'm going to toss them on a tray with some Wegmans basting oil (OMG it's yummy) a little kosher salt, and cook them until they're done. (I have no idea how long that will take. I'll keep checking on them.) Taking them out of the fridge/freezer gives me a little more room.

I've been rummaging in the freezers and finding stuff I didn't know we had. Like bagels. Clam strips. A single chocolate-chip scone. Wayyyyy more hamburger buns than we need and no burgers. It's like a treasure hunt every time I open the door!

Are your cupboards and freezer a treasure trove you didn't realize you had?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Spring cleaning my yard


Like most everyone else, we are in self-isolation. I feel so bad for the people in large cities because they're stuck in apartments. I live in suburbia. I have a backyard. It finally got warm enough for me to go outside and play in the yard.

By play, I mean work on the garden.

I don't have a great garden. I have perennials that surround our in-ground pool. (We are not pool people. It came with the house. It's there, it would cost more to get rid of it than maintain it; it's staying.) Around here, we wait until Memorial Day to plant annuals. Let's hope by then the worst of this situation is over.

Unfortunately, by the time it got warm enough to go outside, most of my perennials were in the shade where it was too cold to work, so I cut back the rose that was in the sun. Usually I wait until the forsythia blooms to prune the roses, but they are already sprouting leaves, so I figured it was okay to start the job.

While I was out, I also decided to plant my snap peas. They like cooler weather, and hopefully they will grow despite the seeds having been aimed for 2018. I only planted a small area as the package advises planting them every ten days so that you don't get inundated with snap peas all at once. Works for me! If I had some potting soil, I'd start some other plants inside (although my record of transplanting hasn't been all that successful in the past).

I have a LOT of hosta plants, and they got away with me last fall. That is their leaves dropped and I didn't pick them up before the snow fell--and it was early. We had more snow in November and December than we had the rest of the winter. (80 inches--50 of which fell in Nov. & Dec.) If you don't get the hosta leaves up before it gets too warm, they get moldy and disgusting. If it's sunny today, the 10 or so on the north side of my backyard will get taken care of.  : )

We also drained the foot or more of water (mix of melted snow and rain) from the top of the pool cover. Now it's time to remove the leaves that are stuck to the cover. If it doesn't rain for a week or so, it's a lot easier, because they dry out and don't weigh a ton. (Water is heavy!)

It's all a lot of work, but I found myself singing while I did it. I was enjoying it. I was outside in the sunshine for more than an hour before I felt guilty for walking away from my rewrite. But if it's sunny again today, I think I'll play hooky for a little while longer.

What are you doing to fill your suddenly very long days?

Monday, March 30, 2020

I call it attention to detail!

I must admit that since this whole social distancing began, I'm feeling just a tiny bit food obsessed. Twice last week we had "buffet" because we recently made two meals with lots of leftovers (cauliflower curry and corned beef and cabbage). I LOVE leftovers, so making a big batch doesn't bother me, but now that we're in lock-down mode, I decided I should try to figure out how long we can stay home without hitting the grocery store again. We have enough stuff for at least 36 dinners.

How do I know this?

I did an inventory and made a spreadsheet. I attached it to my fridge (with a Mary Engelbreit magnet) and now when we have a meal, we can cross off a line on the spreadsheet. (Last night it was one of 5 packages (of two) hot dogs.)

I must admit, I'm very anal and make a LOT of spreadsheets. They're just so handy to keep track of things. I keep track of my sales, my deductions for taxes, my website hits, etc. The problem is, I'm not good what figuring out what all that data is good for. Some people have analytical minds, I certainly do NOT.

I hope I can get through the entire month of April without hitting the store, but I know we won't want to start drinking our coffee and tea without milk. So far the store hasn't been too full because most people stocked up last week or the week before, but when they all start running out of stuff at the same time, it's going to be bedlam again. And maintaining a 6-foot bubble is hard to do in the grocery store even when you're doing your best. (Ever notice how some people just park in the middle of the aisle so that nobody can get past them.)

BTW, here's a video about sanitizing the food you bring in from the grocery store. Just click this link.

How long do you think you can hold out before you have to hit the grocery store again?

Friday, March 13, 2020

A time for looking back


Coming April 17th, A LOOK BACK, the 8th installment in the Life on Victoria Square companion series to the Victoria Square Mysteries.

Don't you love that cover?  Katie Bonner's hair reminds me of Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. She's one tough lady, and so is Katie. But even tough women are vulnerable at some point.

On the anniversary of her great Aunt Lizzie’s death, Katie Bonner reflects on the course of events that led her to be the custodian of Artisan’s Alley--from the moment her husband took their savings and invested it in a dying business to the death of its founder, Ezra Hilton. And it’s with tears of sadness and joy that Katie contemplates her uncertain future.

This story takes place just before the events in the Victoria Square Mystery (#7) A Murderous Misconception but may be read as a stand-alone introduction to the series.

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

Watch the video on YouTube!



Monday, March 9, 2020

Where do you hang out on the web?

Recently on my Facebook Group (Lorraine's & Lorna's Perpetual Teaparty--feel free to join!), I asked my members (besides Facebook), what social media sites do they most frequent. I was surprised to find the answer was Goodreads.

Here are the stats:

Goodreads     136
Instagram        78
Pinterest           74
Bookbub           65
Twitter               26

I can't say I'm surprised about Twitter--I don't visit it often, but I must admit I was rather shocked by the number who went to Goodreads. Several readers said they used Goodreads to keep track of the books they've read and to find new books from reviews other leave. Sounds good from a reader's perspective.

The reason I don't visit Goodreads often, though, is because I've heard isn't not such a friendly place from an author's perspective. (That it's a little too easy to get trolled.) But, I'm there (under all three of my names) and I even got asked a question the other day. I knew they had that provision, but not many people have asked me a question from Goodreads before. (Anything anybody wants to know? Feel free to leave a comment below.)


How about Pinterest? I must admit I avoid it because it's addictive. Once I start scrolling all those wonderful pins, I can't stop. I need more. And to make it worse, they send me emails with links to the latest dog- and cat-shaming pictures, pictures of broken china jewelry, and Star Trek pix. (Which is a terrible tease, because I don't get CBS All Access and can't watch Picard!) As Gayle and I have a book coming out in May (Victoria Square #7, A Murderous Misconception), I started a new Pinterest board for it. Gayle is so funny. Because one of our characters is behaving badly, she thought we should add a Pizza Rat picture. Go take a look!)

So, what's your favorite social media site and why?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Love those slow-cooker recipes!

I'm on a recipe roll.

Mr. L and I save the newspaper to read in the evenings. After a day at the computer, we just want to chill out with an adult beverage and the paper. We don't read our local paper (OMG--what a disaster), so every day Mr. L goes to the grocery store and picks up the Buffalo News.

The last thing I want to do after relaxing for an hour or so is get up and cook dinner. That's why I love my slow cooker. Toss everything in and six to eight hours later you've got your evening meal read to serve. And one-pot (or crock) meals are a breeze to clean up, too. (Okay, usually the crock soaks overnight and then it gets washed and put away in the morning.)

One of the easiest recipes I make is Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Beans. It literally couldn't be easier.

Ingredients
1 pound smoked turkey kielbasa, cut into coins
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
2 cans (16 ounces each) beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup chicken broth
Pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker and switch it to the "high" setting.  Give it a stir and cover. If using raw onions and peppers, let it cook for 5-6 hours. If using frozen onions and peppers, give them a quick thaw in the microwave. Heat on high for 2 to 3 hours. (Everything is pretty much already cooked, so you're really only heating it up.)

Yield:  6 servings

It doesn't matter what kind of beans you use. I've used just kidney beans, and I've switched it around using cannellini, garbanzo, black-eyed peas, great northern beans--anything I had in the cupboard--and it still turns out great.

Another great thing about this recipe: if you use turkey kielbasa, there's very little fat, it tastes great, and has very few calories.  Win-win!

Have you got any easy-peasy slow cooker recipes you'd like to share?


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Who says leftovers aren't good?


Happy Tuesday. On Sunday, I took out my handy-dandy paring knife and stabbed a 2 lb leg of lamb, filling the holes with garlic. OMG -- it was de-lish. But man, you wouldn't think it would grow overnight in the fridge.

So yesterday, I cut up what was left, divided it (froze half) and made lamb curry from a recipe I got off the Internet. OMG--it was just as good as (but different) than the dinner the night before.  Here's the recipe:

LAMB CURRY
READY IN: 30mins

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons butter
2 -3 cups cubed cooked lamb
1 onion
1 apple, peeled and cored
1 stalk celery
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder
1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup chicken stock
1 can chopped tomato
salt and pepper to taste

•  Using a food processor (if you have one), finely chop the onion, apple, celery and garlic.
•  Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the vegetables until softened but not browned.
•  Stir in the curry powder and thyme; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
•  Stir in the chicken stock and tomatoes; simmer for two minutes.
•  Season with salt and pepper; add more curry powder if desired.
•  For a smooth sauce, puree in the food processor and pour back into the skillet.
•  Add the lamb to the skillet; cover and simmer until the lamb is heated through, about 10 minutes, adding a little more stock if the sauce is too thick.

SERVES: 4

I'm going to use this recipe for roast chicken leftovers, and I'll bet it's just as good. I'm wondering if I could do this in the crock pot. (We shall see!)

We're having "buffet" tonight (which means leftovers) and it'll be a hard choice between the leftover beans and kielbasa, the curry, and quesadilla. I think we're going to have to have buffet for a couple of nights this week. I admit it, I make "big" recipes so that I don't have to cook all that often. I LOVE leftovers. Mr. L wouldn't even eat them when we got married. (You can change husbands, but not very much.)

What's your favorite leftover?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Coming May 8th -- New Victoria Square Mystery

COMING MAY 8th



Ya-hoo! Victoria Square #7, A Murderous Misconception is now available for pre-order.

Katie Bonner loses her lunch—literally—when her social media account serves up a shocking announcement. Her boyfriend Andy’s assistant manager, Erikka, is pregnant, and apparently with his child. And when Erikka turns up dead, the Sheriff turns up the heat on Katie and Andy, certain that one of them is to blame. But Erikka wasn't pregnant after all. Was Erikka's misconception the only way she could conceive of stealing Andy from Katie?

When Katie finds planted evidence, it’s her friend and former detective, Ray, who insists on concealing it. Is it his growing affection for her that causes him to act against his training and code of ethics, or could he be responsible for Erikka’s death? Katie is afraid to find out.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A great start for the day!


Croissants for breakfast? Heavenly!  But I prefer to have chicken salad on a croissant.

How do you like your croissants?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Love me a good SPUD



A few weeks ago, Mr. L and I tried a new-to-us restaurant for lunch. I ordered a Cuban sandwich on our first visit. It wasn't the best I'd tasted. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. Mr. L chose a brisket sandwich and he raved about it. He wanted to go back. Me? Not so much. But before we went last week, I went through the menu at least three times and could not find anything I wanted. The only thing that vaguely interested me was a loaded potato. I love baked potatoes and when I'm at home, I usually only have butter and a lot of fresh-ground black pepper. Because I'm trying to lose weight, I ordered it with the grilled chicken, but without the sour cream and cheese ... but that's mainly because I don't care for sour cream or cheese. (Okay, I'm a bit of a picky eater.)

It was GOOD. So good, that days later, I was still thinking about it. And last week, we went back for our third try. (Mr. L and I go out to lunch twice a week. Yeah, not really a good thing if you're trying to lose weight, but I'm down seven pounds with intermittent fasting, so...it could be worse.)

The bartender messed up my martini (ick--he made it dirty, dumping in olive juice), not a good omen but they replaced it right away. And when it was time to order, I had made up my mind that I would try the potato topped with pulled pork instead of grilled chicken. (Just to try it out, you understand.) But when it came my turn to order I found myself blurting "with prime rib."

Where did that come from?

It's been more than a year since I had prime rib. Besides ground beef in a burger, taco, or a burrito, I'm just not a fan of beef and if I eat it once a month, that's a lot. EXCEPT for prime rib. I really LOVE it, but it's so expensive, we only have it once a year, usually on my Mum's birthday--even though she's been gone for nearly five years. We used to invite her (and Dad) over for supper on her birthday and always served prime rib. (We always had lobster on Dad's birthday.)

OMG -- that loaded potato was even better then the one the week before. The beef was cooked to perfection, and though there wasn't a lot of it, it was the perfect amount and beautifully seasoned.

We're planning on going back this week and guess what I intend to order?

P.S. These pictures don't do it justice. I will have to take a photo the next time we go.

What do you like on your loaded spud?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

No one's talking

Mr. L and I go out on a date for lunch at least once a week and the one thing we notice EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. is that most who go out to eat are seated and immediately whip out their phones. Sometimes they only put the phone down between bites. Last week, we went out to eat and the man and woman (who were older than me) sat down and the man immediately whipped out his phone. I could see them through their entire meal. He was on his phone for nearly the whole time they were there. The only conversation during that 45-minute span was when they were ordering. Otherwise, the woman sat there looking around and not speaking...BECAUSE HER HUSBAND WAS ON THE PHONE.

I expect that kind of behavior from younger people, so it was surprising to see it from an older gentleman.

More than 20 years ago, one of my friends confided to us that she told her husband, "I'm not going out if there will be no conversation between us." He didn't have a phone to whip out, but he was reluctant to speak to her when out. So, they stayed home.

I don't get it.  Mr. L and I have been together for (mumble, mumble) years. In all those years, we have NEVER run out of conversation. We both work from home. We talk all day long (albeit sometimes shouting between our offices--which are connected), but we have never run out of things to say to each other.

I feel sorry for these people. If you have nothing to say to each other--why are you still together?  Go find someone (friend, family member--whatever) to talk to.

What's your opinion on this?

Monday, January 20, 2020

I'm Rocking the Cat

My cat, Poppy, is a rambunctious little girl. Her favorite thing to do is to "flip and flop." She loves to roll around on the rug looking as cute as a button.



Unfortunately, she likes to flip and flop on my lap, too, and it never ends well. But I've finally found a trick to keep that wiggle-worm still. I rock her--like a baby. When I'm at the computer and she jumps onto my lap, I scoop her into my arms and we sit and have a cuddle.  This has turned our mom-and-girl time into a much more pleasant experience for both of us. (When I'm sitting on the couch, Poppy likes me to have an afghan on my lap. She'll liable to sit with me more often when I've got an afghan.)

As it turns out, Poppy likes to watch YouTube videos almost as much as I do. Just this week we've watched episodes of Restaurant Impossible and What's for Tea? (Love What's for Tea? It's about Scottish woman, named Sheryl, who cooks dinner (sharing the recipes) often in a crock pot, or a grocery store haul, and she ends her videos with beautiful shots of Scotland. (I love her!) This is the kind of food I grew up with. (My mother wasn't Scottish, but my Dad was half Scot.) This is the kind of food I want to make.  (Poppy is content with 9 Lives.)

But Poppy isn't just a mama's girl. Lately, she's developed an independent streak. Instead of spending all her time with us in our offices, she's been snoozing on the couch or behind the living room drape. Go figure. But our times together are much more calm (with a lot less biting) than they used to be just because I finally figured out what she needed as opposed to what she wants.

Does your pet require you to adapt to its needs?


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Drink milk on National Milk Day


I like milk. I like whole milk (which tastes like melted ice cream to me--and I rarely have it), 2% milk, and even skim (now called fat-free) milk. Not such a fan of chocolate milk, but I like hot chocolate (made with milk).

I don't like pseudo milk. (Think almond, oatmeal, etc.)
Are you a milk fan?