featuring guest 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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MEATBALLS & SAUCE WITH GUEST AUTHOR ELIZABETH JOHN

Elizabeth John writes sweet contemporary romances and cozy romantic suspense novels. She loves dogs, the beach, and books, of course! Learn more about her and her books at her website

In my book, Judging Joey, Madeline White rarely had a home cooked meal growing up. Her dad had his hands full taking care of her neglectful mother, so Madeline had to fend for herself unless he remembered she was too young to turn on the stove. Macaroni and cheese from a box became the closest thing to real cuisine until she moved in with her elderly aunt and uncle. Her aunt introduced her to a world filled with nutrition, recipes, and family time at the dinner table. Sadly, her aunt passed years later, and Madeline took over the kitchen duties. Uncle Mark could make toast and tea and that was all. His attempts at preparing meals became an inside joke to the two because Madeline had to beg him to let her do all the cooking after one of his ‘Tuna Surprise’ casseroles.

Madeline takes pride in her culinary talents. Just like she prepares her lesson plans for teaching her students, she preps her meals in advance too. Sometimes the meal is elaborate such as her stuffed roasted pork loin. No matter what, each morning she knows what she and her uncle will have for dinner. That is until Laura, her widowed next door neighbor, begins to frequently stop by with her famous hot chili or freshly baked apple pie to whet her uncle’s appetite. Madeline thinks their blossoming relationship is cute and appreciates the diversion from her uncomfortable reunion with Joey O’Neill. When Madeline comes home from a stressful day at work, she is thrilled to find Laura stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce and meatballs.

All the foods cooked in this book are recipes I’ve learned from my mother. My German mother learned how to cook Italian from my father’s sister, who of course, learned from my grandmother. However, my family never said spaghetti sauce. The red paste was called gravy. When the grandchildren were born, calling spaghetti sauce gravy was confusing. The kids insisted gravy was brown. Although, my mother still calls spaghetti sauce gravy, nobody cares since her dish tastes magnifico by any name. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

Meatballs:
1/2 cup of each: ground beef, veal, pork (All beef or a combination is fine, too.)
1 small onion, minced
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
olive oil

Mix together by hand. A large melon scooper will help keep the size of the mixture the same. Use hands to roll into golf-sized balls.

Coat frying pan with olive oil and allow to heat up. Brown meatballs lightly on all sides.

Sauce:
2-3 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
oregano
salt
pepper
fresh basil

Slice garlic. Sauté in olive oil. (Garlic can be removed before serving guests.) Add tomatoes.

Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste, plus several fresh basil leaves.
Let the sauce simmer with the meatballs and continually stir the sauce so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Be careful not to break up the meatballs. The sauce should simmer at least an hour, but the longer, the better.

Serve with al dente pasta.

Judging Joey
Madeline White must return to her hometown to help her uncle, her only family. She gets a job teaching and sees the man who broke her heart back in high school. Then she discovers he’s the school’s Safety Officer and his nephew is her student! Madeline’s determined to clear the air with him and hopes they can be civil to one another. When she builds up the courage for a painful reunion, she is shocked that he doesn’t remember her.

Officer Joey O’Neill is committed to his job, so after the beautiful redhead accuses him of the contrary, he takes offense. When Madeline informs him they’ve met before, he insists she’s mistaken. Although his family wants him to settle down and judges his carefree bachelorhood lifestyle, it doesn’t mean he forgets the people in his life. Past or present.

Like years before, people begin to whisper about her when things go missing in the school. Joey starts to wonder if what they say is true. As the past comes back to haunt Madeline, she struggles with a secret that jeopardizes her job and hopes she can trust Joey. Has he finally out grown being a wise-cracking jock?

Monday, July 6, 2015

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--FAIR TIME IN ARKANSAS WITH GUEST AUTHOR RADINE TREES NEHRING


The War Eagle Craft Fair
Award-winning author Radine Trees Nehring has been writing fiction and non-fiction about the Ozarks since 1985, and her work in English and other languages has been sold around the world. In 2002 her first Ozarks mystery novel appeared. The eighth novel in the series, A Portrait to Die For, is coming soon. Learn more about Radine and her books at her website.
The author at a book signing at the craft fair
"Heigh-ho, come to the (craft) fair." Come, one and all. Fun, and happy purchasing are guaranteed.

October and May are big-time craft fair months in Arkansas. I have often wondered if the Ozarks area of the state (generally--the northern third and north-western sections) doesn't sink a few inches under the weight of all the visitors who come here during fair times. We area in-dwellers know to avoid restaurants and some high-traffic places during fair season, and, if we attend a fair, we go on a weekday before high traffic hits. Even then, there will be large enough crowds to make the experience full of fair-time excitement and color, and tent and wagon food sellers will be open. 

The War Eagle Craft Fair, real setting for my mystery novel, A Fair to Die For, is (so far as I know) the longest continually running craft fair in the United States. First held in 1954 in a field next to the War Eagle River near Rogers, Arkansas, it now draws up to 200,000 visitors each year. They come to view and buy handmade items created and displayed by several hundred artisans from all over the United States, though the largest number of them live and work in the Ozarks. Other states represented include New York, Minnesota, Iowa, Virginia, Texas, California, New Mexico, Alaska, Montana--well, you get the idea.
One of the many craft exhibits
This is a juried fair. In addition to showing quality work, anyone applying for a booth must prove he or she has actually made the items to be displayed and sold, and include photos showing the seller making--whatever--anything from furniture to jewelry. No "Made in China" stickers here. www.wareaglefair.com for more information. (Many of the other area fairs have looser regulations governing what is sold.)

My husband and I have been to many War Eagle fairs, and our home displays items that prove the quality of work done by fair exhibitors. This fair is just one of dozens in the area during October, but its outstanding history of success and the known quality of the work sold there made it an easy choice as a site for much of the action in my novel. Just think of the possibilities for crime! Everything from slick-fingered pickpockets to drug sellers could, hypothetically, stalk the fair.

Carrie's favorite quilt, the cow munching grass
A Fair to Die For was a fairly easy novel to write. Of course, for research, I had to visit the fair one more time. I already had a focus character, Shirley Booth, an Ozarks native who is a quilter and a secondary character in my series, invites my protagonists, Carrie McCrite and Henry King to assist her in her booth at the fair. Add other series characters and a few mysterious and, perhaps, evil people, and you have it--mystery, suspense, horror, and the entertainment of attendance at a real craft fair and several other high-quality entertainment sites in Northwest Arkansas without having to endure any crowds!

See you at the fair?

A Fair to Die For
It’s October, craft fair season in the Ozarks, and Carrie and Henry are helping their friend Shirley sell her quilts and Baby Cuddlys at the War Eagle Craft Fair. After a mysterious cousin with ties to drug dealers appears, danger stalks the fair. When Carrie is abducted by killers following a breakfast at War Eagle Mill, she’s afraid she won’t escape, because—though her aim in life has always been to help others out of problems—no one who can help her knows where she is. “There is no me out there to help me.”

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Friday, July 3, 2015

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CHARMAINE GORDON

Romantic suspense author Charmaine Gordon sits for an interview today. Learn more about Charmaine and her books at her blog. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
As an actor for many years, my last job was on Broadway in a new play. Toward the end of the run, I noticed my voice change. I had trouble speaking. The diagnosis--spasmodic dysphonia to be treated with botox injections forever into the larynx. Thus ended a fine career--a small fish in a big pond since I began in midlife. Creative juices still flowed so without training, I began a story and wrote a book. Amazing what one can do. Undaunted, I began again in my seventies.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Call me lucky. It didn’t take too long before Vanilla Heart Publishing, a small company on the West coast, requested a few chapters and soon my first book, To be Continued, was published. What a kick.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
For me, traditionally published works just fine.

Where do you write?
I have a small office and three cats, cluttered with books, a litter box and the cats take turns sitting on my lap. I often wonder if this is where the name laptop comes from?

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Golden silence is best for me.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I noticed when first writing, I couldn’t help from dropping bits and pieces of my life into the story. My publisher reassured me. “You’re doing just fine,” she said.

Describe your process for naming your character?
Names float across my mind like on a ticker tape. When I need one, it’s right there. I have no explanation.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Some stories have real settings like St. Augustine beach, Florida in several books. More recently, I wrote a series about a fictional town, River’s Edge in upstate, NY where the motto is Kindness to Strangers. Readers have said they’d love to live in a town just like that.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
A half glass of Chardonnay and I’m tap dancing on the table. True story and it’s happened many times on Broadway in clubs after a play or in a local restaurant.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
To Kill A Mocking Bird. What a gorgeous story. The kind, intelligent father raising two chidren, a lawyer defending a black man at a terrible time in history and so much more.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 
He died too young, my high school sweetheart. We never argued, raised a batch of kids and suddenly gone. Do over, my heart screamed for a long time. I survived, married again but he’s still with me. Do over, I still scream.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
When people ignore needs of older folks at the super market, I get very angry. Wait ‘til they get old and need help.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Gluten-free everything, laptop and a really smart hunk.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I raised a batch of kids and when the last one went off to kindergarten I helped my husband full time in our business. No time off for this lady.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
To Kill A Mocking Bird

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Love the city, NYC and going home to peace in the country.

What’s on the horizon for you? 
I write The End and two days later I’m into a new book. Living a long healthy life is a good plan.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
After years of being an Air Force wife, we became civilians and moved to NY. I did a lot of local theater until one day, a professional actor suggested I go to the city and seek an agent. Life changed. My first job was as leg model for Geraldine Ferraro with bodyguards protecting her and her two daughters. That got me my first Union Card. After that came Working Girl where I had fun sharing a hot dog with Harrison Ford after singing Happy Birthday to Melanie Griffith. Anthony Hopkins invited me to lunch in one movie and Michael Douglas shared a moment in Fatal Attraction. I was like a sponge soaking up everything I heard and saw. When I had to kiss the sweet time goodbye because my voice failed, I was ready to write.

Bridging the Gap
Anna Youngblood and James Chandler have problems. His little daughter overheard his ex say she never wanted kids; Anna must make amends for breaking rules of her tribe; he has a serious concussion and she’s pregnant. Can this couple find happiness in River’s Edge?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

WEDDING DRESS HISTORY WITH GUEST AUTHOR AILEEN HARDWOOD

The Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Aileen Harkwood is a Readers’ Crown finalist who lives in the Southern Rockies. The Last Wedding at Drayhome is the prequel to two concurrent series of fantasy romances, Spell Touched and Wedding Spell, due out in September. Learn more about her and her books at her website

Queen Victoria
And the Bride Wore Brown?

Many assume the traditional wedding dress for a bride in the western world has always been white, but that’s because few of us alive today were born early enough to remember differently. Can you imagine a bride in red? Were you a young girl from a wealthy European family during the 19th century, you might have daydreamed about wearing a scarlet gown draped in fur to your nuptials. Historically brides have worn a variety of colors, gray, black, yellow, and yes, brown.

Many assume today’s wedding dresses are white because that is the only color one connects with purity, when in fact blue was originally the color to communicate that virtue and was a popular choice for wedding gowns through the 1800s.

So how did white weddings become the thing? We have Queen Victoria to thank for that. When she wed her beloved Prince Albert 175 years ago, she broke with the royal tradition of wearing a heavy brocade gown embroidered with silver thread and selected one of creamy white satin, trimmed in flounces of Honiton lace. Her goal was to support her country’s cottage lace industry, primarily housed in Honiton and Beer in Devon. Instead of a tiara, she chose a wreath of orange blossoms, a symbol of fertility. Her slippers were of white satin and her veil constructed of additional Honiton lace.
Queen Victoria's Wedding Slippers

Victoria also forever altered the cultural bias toward blue as a symbolic color for purity when a decade following her wedding Godey’s Lady’s Book championed the royal’s choice, “…white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”

While the ton might have been impressed by the Queen’s daring in selecting a color that until that time was often associated with mourning, (yes, white was the color of death!), it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that white became de rigueur across the pond. Here in the U.S. other colors weren’t pushed out until WWII, a century after Victoria’s 1840 wedding to Prince Albert.

Why? Simple economics. White is difficult to keep clean and until modern laundering technologies came along, not to mention the burgeoning prosperity of the mid-20th century, only the wealthiest women could afford to fork over a significant wad of cash for a dress easily ruined by the first wine spill. Instead, wedding dresses were more often a bride’s “best dress,” one she was expected to wear again, gussied up for the day with a bit of lace or a flower or two.

And the bride wore brown. 

MAGICAL WEDDINGS: 15 Enchanting Romances

If you love contemporary wedding romance, enjoy a touch of the paranormal--witches, psychic pets, ghosts--or if your favorite beach read is romantic comedy, historical or military romance, don't miss this engaging boxed set of all stand-alone stories (no cliffhangers) which includes 14 new releases written expressly for this set. Whether real or only in the hearts of the bride and groom, the magic of weddings is undeniable. And irresistible! As these 15 enchanting happily-ever-afters by bestselling and award-winning authors prove. From sweet to spicy, the romances bundled into this set cross time and unite hearts, cast spells of laughter, battle wedding jitters and fight back tears, while weaving love’s hopeful magic throughout 1400 pages.


The story I’ve contributed to Magical Weddings is:

The Last Wedding at Drayhome (Breens Mist Witches)

Never underestimate the power of a witch and warlock in love who have nothing left to lose…

Every witch and warlock in Breens Mist, Oregon has one main talent that guides their destiny. Colleen McColly’s gift is to be caretaker and voice for Drayhome, a magical estate with a mind of its own. Sent under the guise of helping to prepare for a wedding, warlock Terry “Ax” Paxton has orders to evict Colleen, and end Drayhome’s century-plus-reign as the heart and soul of Breens Mist. It’s a duty against which Ax rebels, not just because it’s wrong, but because he and Colleen have a connection of their own, raw, passionate and too many years denied.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LIVING ON A SHOESTRING WITH GUEST AUTHOR LYNETTE SOFRAS

A former English teacher, Lynette Sofras gave up a high level career in education to focus on her writing a few years ago, thus fulfilling her lifelong dream. She mainly writes women fiction, often with suspense and/or a supernatural twist. When not producing novels, she works as an editor and writing tutor at 24houranswers.com. Learn more about Lynette and her books at her website and blog.

It's said that most Americans will experience poverty at some point in their lives, particularly inner city or rural dwellers. What seems almost ludicrous to me is that as the world advances in so many ways, poverty is steadily increasing. In the UK, the dramatic rise in the number of people using food banks is testament to the fact that poverty is no longer a third world issue.

When times are tight, there are numerous ways you can cut back on expenses to save money for essentials. You don't have to starve or live in misery, thanks to food banks and the supermarket price wars. Buying budget brands doesn't always mean sacrificing quality and essential nutrition. In the UK, stores like Lidl and Aldi are forcing competition and the big name supermarkets are having to downprice accordingly. If you don't want to switch loyalties, try switching brands for a month to see how much you can save. Search for offers and money-off vouchers in free magazines or the Internet. Visit markets, boot/garage sales and auction houses to hunt down cheaper alternatives.

Foregoing expensive forms of entertainment for a short while can also help you save pennies. Cut out fancy restaurants and get experimental in the kitchen. Visit museums and libraries and broaden your mind for free or simply get healthy with a walk in the park and perhaps a picnic lunch.

While I've never known real deprivation, I did go through a period of financial hardship when I was bringing up a young child with virtually no support from the father, while putting myself through university and beyond to ensure I could provide for us both in the future. It is perhaps hardly surprising, therefore, that money issues infiltrate some of my novels. In my latest romantic suspense, The Nightclub, two half-sisters, fleeing a pretty dreadful past, find themselves living hand to mouth and surviving only with great difficulty. Money is so tight, they have to live in a squalid flat, shop at charity shops or scavenge for market bargains, and re-use teabags to save pennies. But they have each other, determination and ambition.

The Nightclub
Trying to make a living for her teenage sister and herself, naïve Laura Hamilton accepts a job offer as a hostess at an infamous London nightclub. As she struggles to survive in a world of sex, drugs and corruption, she certainly doesn't expect to find her own knight in shining armour in the club's owner, Julian. But will he really save her from a future as a fallen woman? And is he involved in the criminal organisation that threatens not only her sister's life, but will change her own fate forever?

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CATNIP COOKIES

Catherine the Great
Today is the last day of Adopt-a-Cat Month. If you’re looking for a feline friend, head over to your local animal shelter today. You can share this recipe for Catnip Cookies with your new kitty. Both Anastasia's Mama and Catherine the Great, her white Persian, love these treats.

Catnip Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon catnip
1 lg. egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon honey
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flours and catnip in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, blending well.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4” thickness onto a lightly floured surface. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters. Place cookies on lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for twenty minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool, then store in tightly sealed container.

Want to learn more about Catherine the Great? You’ll find her royal highness strutting around throughout the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Meet her in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the critically acclaimed first book in the series.

Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun
When Anastasia Pollack's husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. She's left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her hateful, cane-wielding Communist mother-in-law. Not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband's secret gambling addiction, and the loan shark who's demanding fifty thousand dollars.

Anastasia's job as crafts editor for a magazine proves no respite when she discovers a dead body glued to her office chair. The victim, fashion editor Marlys Vandenburg, collected enemies and ex-lovers like Jimmy Choos on her ruthless climb to editor-in-chief. But when evidence surfaces of an illicit affair between Marlys and Anastasia's husband, Anastasia becomes the number one suspect.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--WASHI TAPE

Every so often I come across a new craft material that becomes my new favorite. Lately it’s washi tape, a craft material that originated in Japan. You may have seen projects using washi tape on various craft blogs or Pinterest pages. It’s becoming a real obsession, and now I’m one of the obsessed. Why? Because in a matter of seconds and with not a single discernable crafting gene, anyone can create fun, decorative projects from just about anything.

I’m sure you’ve all seen colorful, patterned Duck tape in craft stores and home improvement centers. People have been crafting with Duck tape for several years now, even creating prom dresses and tuxes from the sticky stuff. But crafting with Duck tape, precisely because it’s so sticky, is more difficult to master. Washi tape has none of the drawbacks of Duck tape.

Even though washi tape is made from paper, it’s nearly as strong as Duck tape. This is because it’s made from natural fibers—bamboo or hemp or the barks of the mulberry or gampi trees or the mitsumata shrub.

Washi tape isn’t one of those hard-to-find craft supplies. Many craft supply manufacturers now produce lines of washi tape. I found rolls in 1/2” and 5/8” widths and varying lengths available at Target and several local craft chains.

Washi tape is loved by scrapbookers, but it can be used to decorate just about anything. For my first foray into the world of washi tape, I decided to spruce up some old, boring desk accessories, adding washi tape to some banker’s clips, a stapler, and the galvanized pail I use to hold pens and markers.

What will you decorate with washi tape?