featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH GUEST AUTHOR LINDA COUSINE

Linda Cousine writes romantic comedy and tells people she holds a master’s degree in menopause and a B.S. in BS. When she isn’t standing in front of the freezer or taking ice baths, she can be found at her computer writing something with the word “Hot.” Learn more about Linda and her books at her website. 

September is National Menopause Awareness Month

First, I’d like to thank the lovely editor Anastasia Pollack for having me today. Truthfully, I would rather have been giving this interview to the other Anna—Anna Wintour—the editor of Vogue, but I’m persona non grata ever since I wrote that article titled “Finger-Licking Good” promoting a new line of potted and flavored lip gloss. Apparently, Ms. Wintour found my article too sexually suggestive for her readers. But any excuse to talk about myself is a good one, so let me formally introduce myself …

I’m Lexi Taylor, former international supermodel-turned-shoe-mogul (it was design shoes, or housewares—the washed-up-model hell where all aging models go to die.) I’m a not-so-fabulous fifty whatever, and my friend-slash-frenemy—depending on the day—Linda Cousine, writes satirical books about me struggling to keep my life, my looks, and my libido on track in the face of impending menopause. Linda likes to say the books are loosely based on her life, but come on, Linda; you were on, what, one measly billboard in L.A.? I was on the cover of every major fashion magazine for over thirty years. And you know what they say … Those who can, do … and those who can’t, write about it.

Linda has dubbed her/my books the Middle-Aged Hottie series. In Hotter than Ever, the first book in the series, I wind up in a menopausal nuthouse after a family intervention convinces me I need some professional help. (I swear it was a total accident that I pinned my husband to the door of the garage with my car and broke his leg. My stiletto was stuck under the accelerator. It was sheer coincidence he had just asked for a divorce and was holding his suitcase in his hand.)

In Too Hot to Hold, Richard and I try to patch things up, but it’s rough going when he moves back in and brings his buddies from his newfound career—pro-wrestling—with him. (I know, right? Pro wrestling? Don’t even get me started.) You don’t know what chaos is until your home is invaded by a gentle giant, a cannonballing midget, and a monkey with a police record. If my hormones weren’t finally on track with the help of all those doctors at Sunnyvale Sanitarium: Home for the Mostly Menopausal, I just may have lost it—again.

And so, in recognition of National Menopause Awareness Month, let me share some menopause facts as presented by www.menopauseawarenessmonth.org 
  • By the year 2030, roughly 1.2 billion women will be suffering from menopause.
  • The average woman will hit menopause around the age of 50.
  • Smoking increases your odds of early menopause.
  • 80% of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes.
  • Caffeine and alcohol can increase the severity of hot flashes.
  • 40% of all women suffer from mood swings caused by hormonal dips.
  • Prior to menopause, women are three times less likely to have a heart attack than men. After menopause, the odds are equal.


Now for the good news!

A Gallup survey done in 1998 reported that 51 percent of American women between the ages of 50 and 65 who have reached menopause said they are more fulfilled and happier than ever. Many treatments are now available to women to help with menopausal symptoms. Both Linda and I are proponents of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and use bioidentical hormones. As all women have different health issues, check with your doctor to see if HRT is right for you.

Menopause is not a disease or a disorder; it’s unavoidable and is perfectly natural. (But so is death, and I’m not ready to give into that yet, either.)

Thank you for letting me share, and remember, ladies … We’re not getting older; we’re getting hotter!

XOXO,

Lexi Taylor

Too Hot to Hold
Lexi Taylor is no stranger to midlife crisis. After all, a menopausal meltdown landed her at the Sunnyvale Sanitarium Home for the Mostly Menopausal for a ninety-day stay. Since finding her sanity there, this former supermodel’s faculties are back on track. She puts family first, and is on the road to patching things up with her ex-husband, Richard, who seems intent on turning up the heat between them.

But when Richard moves back in, he brings his buddies from his pro wrestling career with him—a gentle giant, a cannonballing midget, and a monkey with a police record. Lexi’s Bel Air home has become a regular three-ring-circus. Add a new ex-husband with erratic mood swings, and a questionable vitamin therapy, and Lexi wonders if she’s making the right choice. After a spa weekend with her daughter that turns out to be a visit to a nudist commune, a modeling gig that’s actually an ad for adult diapers, and extortion for a sex video she didn’t know existed, Lexi feels close to losing it—again. But this time, hormones are the least of her worries as Lexi must find a way to keep her family together and save her ex-husband from jeopardizing his health. She faces one of the biggest challenges of her menopausal life: does her past have a place in her future? Or is it time to move on?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR LYNN CAHOON & RISOTTO

USA Today and New York Times, best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho native. If you’d visit the town where she grew up, you’d understand why her mysteries and romance novels focus around the depth and experience of small town life. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi River where her imagination tends to wander. Learn more about Lynn and her books at her website. 

From ala peanut butter sandwich to easy risotto, in one lifetime
Working a full time job and trying to be an author can limit the time you have for other activities in your life. Like cooking dinner. What’s a girl to do? My husband, the cowboy, is good with an occasional meal of Hamburger Helper. (Don’t laugh, it can be dinner in a pinch.) But I get bored with just the meat and potatoes route.

I always shied away from the fancier recipes. Or what I considered fancy. I come from a lower-socio-economic family. Heck, we were poor. Living on a farm, we always had food. Even if it was the mystery meat my mom liked to mix into the spaghetti or meatloaf. Seriously, elk, deer, and bear meat do not taste like beef. Even with a package of dry spaghetti mix to mask the flavors. I could always tell we were having mystery meat by the way she watched me take that first bite.

I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up.

So fast forward, to grown up Lynn. I’ve become a bit of a food snob. Not to the Julia Child level. I couldn’t even stomach making an aspic. But I do love trying recipes and finding new ways to make old favorites. My only challenge is finding the time to cook. I’m sure many readers can relate. With kids to run to practice, or community obligations, it’s hard to find time to play in the kitchen.

Watching several seasons of Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen, I became obsessed with risotto. I poured over online recipe blogs reading different versions and wondering. Would it turn out? Would I like the taste when it did? I made soufflĂ©s once.  Neither I nor the hubby were impressed. On the other hand, I spent a year obsessed with a cheesy grits and sausage recipe I’d found and made my own.

One weekend night, I decided to experiment. When the risotto was done, one taste and I was in love. Since that time, I probably make my version of risotto once a week, especially when I have too many veggies in the fridge.
 
Quick and Easy Risotto

Ingredients:
3-4 cups chicken stock (If you have a day job, like I do, as soon as you get home, put a pot of chicken stock on the stove to warm. If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, boil water and add 3-4 bouillon cubes to make a stock.)

Chop assorted veggies – mushrooms, onions or green onions, asparagus (I usually do the onions pretty fine, but the others can be course chopped or sliced.)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

fresh spinach (optional)

Heat a large skillet and when warm, add a touch of olive oil. SautĂ© the onion and mushrooms until the onion wilts, but doesn’t brown. Then add rice to the skillet. Keep stirring as the rice browns (think Ricearoni) for a minute or two. Then add a ladle or two of the chicken stock. Stir to mix.  Add Asparagus.

Let risotto cook as you prepare your choice of meat for dinner. (Or add a can of chopped clams later on, and this can be a complete meal.) Continue to stir, adding stock when rice appears dry. When the stock is all added, and the rice is creamy, you’re done.  Takes about 30 minutes total.

If you want a veggie boost, add a handful or two of spinach leaves with your last bit of chicken stock. The leaves will wilt into the risotto and give you a nice color and extra nutrients.

Mission to Murder
In the California coastal town of South Cove, history is one of its many tourist attractions—until it becomes deadly…

Jill Gardner, proprietor of Coffee, Books, and More, has discovered that the old stone wall on her property might be a centuries-old mission worthy of being declared a landmark. But Craig Morgan, the obnoxious owner of South Cove’s most popular tourist spot, The Castle, makes it his business to contest her claim. When Morgan is found murdered at The Castle shortly after a heated argument with Jill, even her detective boyfriend has to ask her for an alibi. Jill decides she must find the real murderer to clear her name. But when the killer comes for her, she’ll need to jump from historic preservation to self-preservation …

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Monday, September 1, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--PATRIOTIC TOPIARY

Happy Labor Day! Summer's last hurrah finds us taking the day off to picnic with friends and family. However, I thought I'd offer up a repeat of our very first Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers project from our inaugural blog post May 17, 2010. 

Patriotic Topiary
Materials: metal, wood, or ceramic container or clay pot, approx. 6” x 6” x 6”
15” long 5/8” wooden dowel
6” white Styrofoam® ball
1 yd. 1” wide blue print ribbon
3” x 45” piece blue gingham
scraps of red, white, and blue fabric
floral foam, enough to fit inside container
straight pins
green excelsior
hot glue gun and glue sticks
tacky glue

Note: Use hot glue for all gluing except where tacky glue is indicated.  Model shown made with red glitter metal container purchased from crafts store.

1.  Insert dowel halfway into Styrofoam® ball.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in ball.  Reinsert dowel.

2. Glue floral foam inside container.  Insert dowel into center of floral foam.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in floral foam.  Reinsert dowel.

3.  Apply a thin coat of tacky glue to dowel.  Wrap ribbon around dowel to cover.

4.  Tear fabric into 1-1/2” x 6” strips.  Place two strips wrong sides together and tie a knot at center.

5.  Insert a straight pin into knot.  Dip pin in tacky glue and quickly insert into Styrofoam® ball.  Repeat until ball is completely covered.

6.  Glue excelsor over floral foam inside container.

7.  Tie blue gingham strip around container.

Friday, August 29, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR SANDRA MARSHALL

When romantic suspense author Sandra Marshall needs to take a break from life, she likes to ride with her hubby on his Burgman 400 motor scooter. Nothing relieves stress, like traveling the winding back roads of Missouri. You leave your cares at home and let everything go while you ride through the countryside. Learn more about Sandra and her books at her website.  

Sandra is offering a free e-copy of All Bets Are Off to one lucky person who leaves a comment. If you'd like a chance to win, be sure to include your email address so she can contact you.

Before I tell you about my story, I want to tell you why I wrote All Bets Are Off. Years ago, riverboat casinos were trying to come into our area. There was a real fight for and against allowing them into this region.

I was in favor of them, believing they would be good for the economy by providing jobs and much needed taxes for our schools. Besides, I thought people should have the right to make their own choices whether to gamble or not.

I ended up writing three books called the Riverboat Mysteries, (The Catalyst, Addiction and The Deceived) which highlight my feelings on gambling during the progression from riverboats to grounded casinos. The series culminates with All Bets Are Off.

Even though these stories deal with the gambling industry they are about family. Family is important to me, but every family has secrets, and the Dubois/Madison family, which is the family portrayed in the Riverboat Mysteries, is no exception.

Before you read the blurb below, I must add, I still believe we don't have the right to make choices for everyone, but now I understand the dangers in allowing gambling into our area. We have six gambling casinos in close proximity to us. Would I have changed my vote? No! I still think the same way, and that is we should be allowed to make choices, wrong or right. We just live with the consequences of those choices.

All Bets Are Off
Can a recovering gambling addict bet on a second chance at love?

Ana Torres has dug herself out of her gambling debts and started a business to help others with the same problem. Now she wants to show her soul mate she has changed and win him back.

Jason Gibbs meets his wife at a party and realizes he still loves her even after all she cost him with her gambling addiction. He wants to find out if she has changed, and if she has, he will woo her back.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

FASHION WITH TESSA--GUEST AUTHOR COLLEEN COLLINS AND THE FELONIOUS FASHIONISTA

Colleen Collins is a P.I. and award-winning author who has written several dozen novels in the mystery and romance genres, as well as three nonfiction books on private investigations. She and her attorney-husband write the blog Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, selected by Booklist Online as a “Web Crush of the Week” during its 2014 Mystery Month. Learn more about Colleen and her books at her website

Colleen has generously offered a free Kindle copy of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms to one of our readers who leaves a comment. No Kindle, no problem. Amazon offers free apps for reading on your computer as well as on a variety of mobile devices.

The Felonious Fashionista
My husband and I ran a private investigations agency for a decade, which has since morphed into his criminal law practice where I’m his part-time P.I. Or as I  call myself, his “live-in P.I.”

Occasionally, we’ve had clients give us thank-you gifts for handling their cases, from Starbucks cards to homemade tamales. But the most surprising gift offer was from a client who committed crimes in the high style she also liked to wear.  For this article, I’ll call her the felonious fashionista.

How We Met the Felonious Fashionista
A case came into our office a few years ago, where a man said his sister had been arrested on drug charges, and could our law firm handle her case? We get similar calls every month or so, usually for someone who’s been busted for recreational amounts of illicit drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, Oxycontin. When we asked the particulars of his sister’s charges, he said, “She had ten pounds of heroin packed in the air cleaner of the Mercedes she was driving, and fifty pounds of marijuana in the luggage carrier on top of the car.”

Our jaws dropped.

“Walk like you have three men walking behind you.”
- Oscar de la Renta

Because we were hired quickly after the fashionista had fired another lawyer, we didn’t meet her until her second appearance in court. Imagine our surprise when a Sofia Vergara clone sashayed into the courthouse as if she were prowling a catwalk. She wore insanely high heels, a silk blouse and a front-split skirt that flashed glimpses of her tan, toned thighs. Later we learned she had been a fashion model in a European country.

Other lawyers in the hallway looked like a tableau, frozen as they stared in awe at this beautiful woman, their looks turning to surprise and curiosity as she greeted us warmly. As the three of us walked into the courtroom, she glanced at my husband’s green nylon briefcase decorated with several ink smudges, then at my purse, which is more like an oversized messenger bag as I cram everything into it, from books to my computer.

After the hearing, she took us aside and said she wanted to gift us both with designer luggage briefcases as ours were in serious need of an “upgrade.” Did we like Saint Laurent?  Gucci?

“We like REI,” my husband quipped.

That evening, I found him looking up Gucci briefcases on the internet.

Let’s pause a moment and discuss what this drug smuggler gained from her fashionista ways.

“Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.”
- Kimora Lee

She used her beauty and fashion sense to create a smokescreen behind which she conducted high-level smuggling activities. Although we didn’t know how many other smuggling activities she may have previously conducted or was currently involved in, we do know she drove a new Mercedes, always wore designer labels, wore expensive jewelry and spoke of vacations at pricey resorts.

In our legal case, she must have impressed the judge with her fashion sense because he gave her probation, which she viewed as if it were a charm on a Harry Winston bracelet. In other words, she believed her fashionistaism to be invincible. 

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”
- Alexander McQueen

Our felonious fashionista soon became an escape artist. After her flashy second court appearance, she failed to show up for her next several court-ordered hearings. In fact, she was failing to show up anywhere in life, which led us to believe the fashionista was on the run.

“I don’t think she ever intended to buy us Gucci anything,” I told my husband one day.  “She just said it to make us feel good.”

Which is the unspoken promise of fashion, I suppose.

A Surprise Call About the Fashionista
Almost two years later, we were contacted by a lawyer from the Midwest. “This beautiful woman was stopped by the police who ran an ID on her, but she denies being the individual who had been sentenced to a probationary term in one of your state courthouses. I looked up her court records, and saw that you once represented her. What’s going on?”

My husband explained the whole story, including her being a fugitive from justice in our state as well as an accomplished drug smuggler who used her beauty and fashion sense to derail law enforcement and judges.

The lawyer laughed. “So I shouldn’t believe that she wants to buy me a designer leather briefcase?”

I’ll leave that for you to answer, dear reader.

A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms
by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins (June 2014)
Topics include a history of trials, players in the courtroom, types of lawyers, trial preparation, the steps of criminal and civil trials, articles on crimes and much more.

"This intelligently organized handbook for practicing writers will make you sound like a practicing lawyer. ~Warwick Downing, former DA in Colorado and author of The Widow of Dartmoor, a sequel to Hound of the Baskervilles




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--FOOD SAFETY

They may look pretty under a microscope, but e coli can be deadly.
Several years ago I landed in the hospital for three days, thanks to a serious case of food poisoning. The hospital was never able to determine what had caused the food poisoning. I’m not someone who will eat something that looks or smells bad. But it turns out you can’t always tell if food is contaminated by looking at it or smelling it. “Use by” and “sell by” dates aren’t reliable gauges of determining if foods are safe safe. They focus on quality, not safety. Besides, once the package is opened, all bets are off.

Frozen foods keep indefinitely, but the quality of the food can deteriorate over time. For refrigerated food follow these recommendations. And remember: when in doubt, throw it out.

Eggs: 3-5 weeks for fresh eggs, 1 week for hardboiled

Bacon: 1 week for raw, 4-5 days for cooked

Ground meat: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Hot dogs: 2 weeks if the package is unopened, 1 week if opened

Deli meats: 2 weeks for unopened packages, 3-4 days if opened or for freshly sliced from the deli counter

Meats: 3-5 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Poultry: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Fish/shellfish: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Milk: 2-3 days beyond sell-by date

Prepared deli salads: 3-5 days

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR BARBARA RAFFIN AND SAUSAGE & EGG BISCUITS TO GO

Award winning author Barbara Raffin writes paranormal, contemporary and historical, all containing romance and some with suspense. Her latest book, Finding Home, made the finals of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, Wisconsin Romance Writers' Write Touch Award, and is a BTS eMag's Red Carpet Review nominee for 2014. You'll find Barbara most mornings in her home-based office where her window overlooks the wooded beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website and blog.

I'm currently working on Book Four of my St. John Sibling Series with Book Three, Craving a Hero coming out in October of 2014. This is my first series and I'm having a blast discovering the stories of these five remarkable siblings who grew up living a nomadic lifestyle, yet have stability with parents who created a home for them wherever in the world they lived.

When I was writing Book Two, Finding Home, I realized the St. John Siblings weren't the characters with the big issues. It was the people they fall in love with who each need a healing dose of St. John love. Even in Taming Tess, Book One, which is a modern day Taming of the Shrew story, while big brother contractor Roman St. John may need to loosen up, it's the career minded architect Tess whose father has betrayed her and who needs to learn not all men believe women belong in the bedroom not the boardroom.

Even middle brother Dane St. John, the golden boy action movie star in Craving a Hero, into whose lap all good things fall, needs to learn what it feels like to almost lose something, or rather someone, he truly loves. Yet it's Conservation Officer Kelly Jackson, the love of Dane's life who comes along at the wrong time, who must face down her fear of abandonment in the most emotional book of this series so far.

But, it's Finding Home, set in an old Victorian Farmhouse turned restaurant by the only female St. John sibling, Dixie, that's the perfect focus of this blog. Owner Dixie is as sweet as her homemade cinnamon buns, while Chef Sam Ryan is like the breakfast sandwiches in my recipe: tasty, multi-layered, and a little rough around the edges with a tendency to be eaten on the go.

Sam so badly wants a family, he's willing to do anything the uncle who raised him requests, and Uncle Stuart wants Sam to dig up dirt on Dixie, Sam's cousin's widow, so Uncle Stuart can gain custody of Dixie's son Ben. But, practically from the minute Sam meets Dixie, he knows there's no dirt to dig up and his modus operandi to run from responsibility kicks in.

But Somehow, every time he tries to run, he can't seem to make himself leave Dixie, her family, and her barnyard of cast off animals. Sam not only finds the right family for himself In Finding Home, but this family black sheep even manages to stand up to his uncle and make things right for the woman he's fallen in love with. He even faces down her quartet of protective brothers. Ya gotta love Sam.


As for that breakfast sandwich I liken Sam to… It's as satisfying and yummy as he is.

Sausage Egg Biscuits to Go

Ingredients:
8 pack tube of Pillsbury Biscuit dough (original, flaky, buttermilk, another brand, your choice,)
1 lb. bulk sausage (I use Italian, but you can use whatever kind you like)
2-3 eggs
salt and pepper
a dollop of milk
enough butter or butter substitute to lubricate your pan when frying eggs.

Tip: you can also bake your own biscuits, use croissants, or English muffins

Preheat oven per direction on biscuit container. Bake biscuits according to directions on package. While biscuits are baking, divide bulk sausage into eight thin patties no large than the size of your biscuit. Fry on medium heat.

Split baked biscuits in half. Set cooked sausage patties aside.

Whisk eggs, add dollop of milk, and salt and pepper while butter is melting in 8”-9” frying pan on medium heat. When butter sizzles, pour half the egg mixture into the pan. Add remaining egg. Use spatula to lift edges of egg and tilt pan so some of the uncooked egg slips under the cooking egg. This will help eliminate the hard crust on the frying side (unless you like your eggs like that.) Cut egg into four wedges and flip each wedge to finish cooking. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. It'll still taste great.

Layer a sausage patty on the bottom slice of biscuit, fold egg on top of sausage, and cover with biscuit top. Add optional cheese or a slice of tomato. Use your imagination and create what you like.

Let those biscuits you don't eat immediately cool, wrap the leftover biscuits in paper toweling, and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Reheat 35-45 seconds in a microwave.

Finding Home
When life handed Dixie Rae Carrington lemons, she made lemonade. When life handed Sam Ryan lemons, he ran. Good thing for him he's run head long into love with Dixie, the one woman who can teach him how sweet lemons can be. Now he just has to hope she doesn't find out what really brought him into her life.


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