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.

Holiday Blog Hop Starting December 11th

Holiday Blog Hop

Blog Hop begins December 11th. Click on the graphic above for a schedule and list of giveaways, including a $60 Amazon gift card.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MONEY MATTERS WITH SHEILA--DON'T TOSS THAT CARPET!

Uh-oh!
(Photo by Simona Nováková)

Last week Janice offered some advice for preventing cat hairballs. Keeping with the pet theme, let’s talk today about that other pet problem that has plagued all us pet owners from time to time—accidents. It’s bad enough when Puss in Boots or Snoopy piddles on the linoleum, but it’s ten times worse when the accident occurs on carpeting. A hundred times worse when it’s wall-to-wall carpeting because the urine seeps down into the padding. Shampoo as much as you want, you’re not going to get that smell out once it’s trapped in the carpet padding. Many a homeowner has had to replace carpeting thanks to her pet’s lack of bladder control. But wait! Before you spend hundreds of dollars on new carpeting, try this trick:

Fill a syringe with white vinegar, and inject the vinegar through the carpet into the carpet pad. Make sure you hit all the smelly areas. The vinegar should neutralize the urine, eliminate the odor, and save you from having to replace your carpet. Unless that carpet is  orange shag from the 1970's. In that case, you might want to go ahead and replace it. ;-)


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JENNA RUTLAND AND TACO DIP


Jenna Rutland’s days are spent working as a medical transcriptionist, but her nights are filled writing contemporary romance—stories of love, laughter and happily ever after.
Learn more about Jenna at to her website.--AP  

In my latest release, Just for the Summer, Dani Sullivan has several reasons for visiting Lake Bliss. The one I’ll focus on today is her need to spend the summer completing a cookbook she’s writing. The townspeople take it upon themselves to not only offer her their unusual recipes for possible inclusion in the book, but they have plenty of ideas for book titles. And sometimes, their ideas are a bit…creative!

I think we can all agree that food has become much more than simply fuel for our bodies. How many of us only eat for that reason? Certainly not me!

After growing up in a family of incredible cooks, it's no surprise that I found my love of the kitchen. And while I haven't always been successful with my meals (my family would love to tell you the story of my green chicken, or the hamburger and rice dish that even the garbage disposal wouldn't eat), I always have fun while cooking.

So what's the draw of food? I think food helps people connect with each other; it brings us together. Whether it's a grandmother baking cookies with her grandchildren, a husband and wife discussing their workday while preparing dinner, or a man gazing at his date across the table, food has a way of bonding us with each other.

From a good home-cooked meal to an elaborate feast, people use food as entertainment. Big, open kitchens are popular where people can cook with friends gathered around. It's not only about the meal but the atmosphere. Opening your home and your kitchen is an expression of love, not only for cooking but for the people you invite.

I've noticed an increase in the last few years of food coming into play in fiction. I like reading about a couple on their first date, enjoying their dinner and each other, or a man cooking for a woman that he'd like to get to know better. And what reader doesn't love to find a new recipe in the back of a book?

So whether you're reading a good book while stirring a pot on the stove or you're thinking about how much you loved the characters in the book you just finished reading, there's no better combination than food and fiction!

The recipe I’ve included in my post here has been in my family for as long as I can remember. Nobody even knows where it came from or who first made it. But it’s delicious—and a bit unique—and I’ve never shared it before, so please enjoy!

Taco Dip

Ingredients:
2 pkgs 8 oz. cream cheese
1 carton of small curd cottage cheese
Bunch of green onions, chopped
Head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
Large tomato or several smaller tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Bottle of salsa
Taco chips

Combine cream cheese and cottage cheese in a bowl using a hand mixture until well blended. Transfer mixture to serving platter and spread evenly. Top with green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and salsa. Serve with taco chips. This recipe is versatile. Ingredients can be added/subtracted based on your tastes. Enjoy!

Just for the Summer

His temptation. Her secret. Their summer.

Dani Sullivan has come to Lake Bliss to write her latest cookbook and take a breather. After the year she’s had, she deserves a summer retreat to reevaluate priorities and make peace with past decisions. But from the moment single dad and sheriff Matt Reagan shows up, she has a hard time convincing herself that a life away from Lake Bliss could beat the life she might have here.

Recently divorced Matt is ready for a new relationship, but he doesn’t want short-term—his son needs permanence, and so does Matt’s heart. Unfortunately, it’s the smart-mouthed and sinfully sexy Ms. Sullivan who catches his eye. But when Matt learns Dani’s secrets, will he still want her to stay? Or will her chance for love last just for the summer?



Monday, July 29, 2013

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HOLIDAY SOCK ORNAMENT


Holiday Sock Ornament

Whether we get holes in them, or the washing machine eats them, we wind up with mate-less socks. And for some reason most of us hold onto them, hoping that eventually the singleton will find itself a new mate and once again become a pair. It rarely happens. So why not take those mismatched socks and turn them into ornaments? Here’s a quick and easy project to do just that for our last Christmas in July project this month.

Materials:
3” Styrofoam® foam balls, holiday sock, 12” length 1/8” wide satin ribbon, wooden skewer or chopstick, tacky glue, straight pins, scissors

1. Using the chopstick or skewer, poke a 1/4” wide hole at the top and bottom on foam ball.

2. Cut the toe off the sock. Slip the sock over the foam ball so that approximately 1/2” of sock extends below the bottom hole of the ball.

3. Fill hole with tacky glue. Using the skewer or chopstick, push cut end of sock into the hole. If necessary, pin the sock to the ball until the glue dries.

4. Cut the other end of the sock so that 1/2” of fabric extends beyond the top hole of the ball. Secure the fabric in the hole in the same manner.

5. Knot cut ends of ribbon together. Cover knot and cut ends with tacky glue. Using skewer or chopstick, force knot and cut ends through top hole. Allow glue to dry before hanging ornament.

Friday, July 26, 2013

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR RACHEL KALL


Our Book Club Friday guest today is Rachel Kall who enjoys writing spicy and suspenseful stories to keep readers guessing. Learn more about her at her website. – AP 

As Americans, I think we are all fascinated by the legal system. Just look at how many highly popular legal TV shows there are for us to choose from on all of the networks. From the traditional shows like Law & Order, to my current personal favorite The Good Wife—we all love our legal dramas.

Why do we love these legal TV shows so much? I think it’s because of the high drama and intense situations. Everyone enjoys unraveling a mystery. Examining the evidence. Determining guilt or innocence. Being inside a courtroom. The search for justice.

I thought long and hard about writing a book with a law firm setting. In some ways, it would be easier to write since I have experience in that world. But on the other hand, the real world practice of law and the fictional world of law are two totally different things. I wanted to be able to give readers a taste of the big law firm world without all the boring baggage that comes from the day to day life of being an attorney.

Writing this book was exciting because I got to push the boundaries, be creative, and step out of the box. That’s the wonderful thing about fiction. I took my experiences as a baseline of knowledge, then departed from that. Often times I veered off greatly from the real world. And to me, that’s what makes it exciting.

My debut romantic suspense, Legally Undercover, delves into the life of Alex Popov. She’s a senior associate struggling to make partner at a high-powered law firm in Washington, DC. Her entire life is consumed with that one goal. Until the day when she meets the mysterious Pedro Martín who makes her question everything she knows about her client, the FBI, and love. Alex is forced to make life-altering choices that could threaten her career and ultimately her life.

When she is approached by her client about a top secret investigation, she immediately sees it as an opportunity to prove herself. But that chance is challenged when the FBI gets involved and reveals the truth. Alex refuses to accept the FBI’s version of events and seeks out her own answers. That decision endangers her life and her heart.

What is your favorite legal TV show or novel? Why do you love it?

Legally Undercover
Attorney Alex Popov’s dream of partnership is put to the test when she’s pulled into a top-secret investigation involving arms dealers and one of her clients, Rodrigues Capital. The only good part about her association with the secretive organization is her client contact, Pedro Martín. She’s drawn to him, but he’s hiding something.

When Jacob shows up as a new attorney at Alex’s firm, it’s clear Pedro isn’t the only one with secrets. As Alex tries to determine Jacob’s true identity, she’s drawn closer to Pedro and deeper into the mystery of Rodrigues Capital and its shadowy networks.

Everyone has an agenda. In a world of lies, where no one is what they seem, Alex puts everything—even her dreams of partnership—on the line for love.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE--WRINKLE PREVENTION


We’re in the middle of summer. Are you slathering on the sun block? Nothing causes wrinkles like the sun (smoking is a close second.) If you want to stay looking young longer (not to mention preventing skin cancer,) you need to prevent all those harmful UV rays from attacking your skin. Hats and staying under an umbrella at the beach won’t do the job. Even keeping to the shade won’t totally protect you. UV rays can reflect off water, sand, rocks, buildings, and cars. They can even penetrate through your clothing. So make sure you’re using a broad spectrum sun block and reapply periodically while outside. And don’t forget your lips!

Another way to fight wrinkles is to eat foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants strengthen your skin and can help ward off aging. You can find antioxidants in foods rich in beta-carotene, lycopene, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein. There are many foods that contain these antioxidants such as avocados, apples, carrots, apricots, watermelon, cherry tomatoes, fish, and walnuts. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--HAIRBALLS

Photo by Wieke de Rijk

The Healthy Living segment of our blog is all about ways for people to stay healthy or become healthy. However, I recently came across a great tip for those of you who have cats as pets and thought I’d pass it along.

Nothing grosses me out more than coming across a hairball my cat upchucked. Those of you who have cats know what I’m talking about, right? Yuck! So here’s a tip to prevent hairballs:

If you drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over your cat’s food, any hair she’s swallowed will easily pass through her digestive system. Give it a try. What do you have to lose other than another hairball deposited in your favorite pair of shoes?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KATHRYN BARRETT & RATATOUILLE RECIPE


Kathryn Barrett reluctantly put aside childhood dreams of becoming an author and took a more practical approach, majoring in Business Administration in college. But after marrying an Air Force officer, she realized a career in high finance didn’t suit an itinerant lifestyle. She happily returned to her first love, writing stories that feature larger-than-life characters, family relationships, and of course, a happy ending. Learn more about Kathryn and her books at her website. – AP 

Have you ever found a hobby that you become passionate about? I have—and now I have enough cross-stitched cats to remind myself not to get too carried away.

In my novel Temptation, the protagonist, Laura Hayes, plants a garden, and in the process finds inner peace, a sense of purpose, and more zucchini than she can give away.

Sound familiar? The problem with vegetable gardens is an abundance of vegetables, at least during certain weeks. I’m not lucky enough to have a vegetable garden where I live, but I do have friends who share their bounty with me. There’s something magical about fresh-picked vegetables. The taste of supermarket veg just isn’t the same.

Laura, being a novice gardener, ends up with lots of zucchini and eggplant, and a meddlesome mother who visits (and tries to put the kibosh on Laura’s burgeoning relationship—but that’s another story!). Laura uses her bounty to make ratatouille for her mother—a perfect way to consume an excess of garden produce.

Ratatouille is one of my favorite ways to cook eggplant, and this method of roasting the vegetables is ridiculously easy. My only advice is, if you wish to make more than four servings, use a bigger pan or even two pans, since the vegetables start out rather large and shrink during the roasting process.

Bon appétit!

Roasted Ratatouille

Ingredients:
1 red onion
1 eggplant (no need to peel)
1 zucchini
1 red or orange pepper
about 20 cherry tomatoes, or a similar amount of regular tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon each: dried rosemary, thyme, oregano
olive oil (about ¼ cup)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves, for serving
Pre-heat oven to 350F.
Cut all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. In a large baking dish or baking pan, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. (It’s a good idea to spray first with cooking spray, for easier clean-up.)
Place the vegetables in the dish and pour more olive oil over the top, tossing the vegetables until they’re more or less coated with olive oil.
Sprinkle the dried herbs on top. (I often use herbes de provence, which is a combination of several dried herbs.) Cover with aluminum foil.
Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes, stirring about half way through. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes, until the vegetables are beginning to turn brown and are softened.
Serve with more olive oil and fresh basil or other herbs, salt and pepper, and a good red wine.
Temptation
Laura Hayes has been acting since she was in diapers, and acting up almost as long. When she moves to Pennsylvania’s Amish country to film her next movie, she discovers there’s more to life than a pair of Jimmy Choos and a Marie Claire cover.
Intrigued by the Amish simplicity, she’s soon putting in a garden, dodging earthworms and garter snakes. And when her neighbor turns out to be the local heartthrob as well as a talented furniture maker, she realizes that what’s missing from her life might be the love of a good man—not to mention the perfect heirloom tomato.
Jacob is trying hard not to question the teachings of his Amish faith, despite a desire to create furniture that looks like it belongs in a museum rather than the local tourist shop. As his attraction for his neighbor grows, so do his doubts, until he’s forced to face Temptation.



Monday, July 22, 2013

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ELEGANT YO-YO CHRISTMAS TREE TOTE


Elegant Yo-yo Christmas Tree Tote

Yo-yo crafts are the craft featured in Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. In keeping with our Christmas in July theme this month, here are directions for making an elegant Christmas tree tote that can also double as a gift bag.

Materials:
13” x 13” black canvas tote bag, 1/4-yd. green plaid lightweight cotton fabric, scrap of brown print lightweight cotton fabric, compass, lightweight cardboard or card stock, scissors, pencil, sewing needle, quilting thread, 7 antique looking gold buttons each 5/8”-3/4”, fabric glue

Directions:
1. Using the compass, draw a 4” circle and a 5” circle on the cardboard or card stock. Cut out the circles.

2. Using the cardboard circles as templates, trace a 4” circle on the brown fabric and six 5” circles on the green plaid fabric. Cut out circles.

3. For each yo-yo, hold the fabric circle with the wrong side facing you. Fold 1/4” of the raw edge toward the wrong side of the fabric. Using the quilting thread, begin the first stitch underneath the fold of the hem to hide the knot, then sew a running stitch around the circle. When you reach your starting point, and the circle is completely hemmed, pull the thread tight to gather the fabric. Smooth and flatten the yo-yo so the hole is in the center. This is the right side of your yo-yo.

4. Sew a button in the center of each yo-yo.

5. Arrange yo-yos to form Christmas tree on front of tote (see photo.) Glue yo-yos in place. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CATHY PERKINS


Joining us today is author Cathy Perkins. Cathy writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters' lives. Her suspense writing lurks behind a financial day-job, where she learned firsthand the camouflage, hide in plain sight, skills employed by her villains. Learn more about Cathy and her books at her website. – AP  

Characters

Thanks for letting me visit with you today at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killer.  Along with celebrating the release of For Love or Money, my amateur sleuth/romantic mystery from Entangled Publishing, I've been thinking a lot about character this week. You always have such great characters here on your blog!

In fiction, characters who resonate with readers have staying power. I'm a huge mystery reader and series abound in this genre. These long running series feature some of my favorites – Jack Reacher, Jane Rizzoli, Eve Dallas, Harry Bosch, Stephanie Bond, Joe Pike, Lou Boldt, Tess Monaghan, Bobbie Faye Sumrall. I could go on forever, but I also love the stand-alone characters from authors such as Kristan Higgins and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

And who can forget the ensemble cast from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters? As each team member took turns stepping into the spotlight, the rest of the crew were on hand to lend support. We got to see what happened next to each couple, while following a new developing relationship. (And were carried along as they saved the world or at least some portion of it.)

I think my favorite characters resonate because we see ourselves in them. There are heroes (Harry Potter), villains (Lord Voldemort) and anti-heroes (Snape), for example. And maybe there's a tiny bit of each one of them in us.

So a great hero has flaws. A great villain has strengths. Just like real people.

Stories can be action adventures, capers, romances or dystopian trilogies, but for me, a story is ultimately about character. When we read characters who resonate with us, who make us want to be brave, who make us fearful, who bring out the best--or the worst--of our personalities, we have engaged with the story on an intimate level. We're part of the story, not observers.

It feels odd to mention my books in the same post as my favorite authors. I look back to my first book (which thankfully only a handful of people read before it went to live under the bed with the dust bunnies) and see how much I've learned. In the next heartbeat, I turn to my favorite authors and strive to learn even more! But one of the things that's made me happy with For Love or Money has been reader notes and comments about how much they love the characters—Holly's the woman next door; JC, the guy down the street. Real people they can relate to, the kind they'd meet for Happy Hour at the local winery, to play Bunco, or any of the other ways we hang out with friends. They relate to how passionate each is about their job, their goals—and each other.

The mystery has twists and the chemistry between Holly and JC was a riot to write, but relating to the characters already has readers asking when the next book in the series will be released.

As an author, I'm humbled. And working on craft so the next book will be even better. :)
Who's your favorite character and why?

For Love or Money

When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body while hiking, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. The verdict is murder—and Holly is the prime suspect. Of course, the fact that the infinitely sexy—and very pissed off—cop threatening to arrest her is JC Dimitrak, who just happens to be Holly’s jilted ex-fiancé, doesn’t help matters.

To protect her future, her business...and her heart...the intrepid forensic accountant must use all her considerable investigative skills to follow the money through an intricate web of shadow companies, while staying one step ahead of her ex-fiancé. She better solve the case before the real killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass...and the next dead body found beside the river is Holly’s.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

FACHION WITH TESSA--NECKLACE TANGLE


Every woman has had this problem at one time or another—the knotted necklace chain. Here are two tips for untangling the tangled mess.

First, try sprinkling the knot with baby powder. This should help loosen the knot. Then you can use a pin or needle to finish unknotting the chain.

If the baby powder doesn’t work for you, try applying a bit of olive oil or mineral oil to your fingers, then rubbing your fingers over the knot. Clean the oil off your fingers, then try unknotting with a pin or needle.

Make sure you wash the chain with soap and water afterwards and dry thoroughly with a lint-free cloth.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

DECORATING WITH JEANIE--BUTTONS


Those of you who follow this blog know that Anastasia loves to use buttons in her crafts. Just do a search on the blog, and you’ll find quite a few button projects. However, buttons can have other, more practical, uses and not just for keeping your clothes secured. Here’s one of my favorites:

Not all of us are lucky enough to have several bathrooms in our home. Many of us have to share a bathroom with one, two, or even more family members. Few of us buy different colored towels for each member of the family. We buy colors that coordinate with our bathroom decor, and that’s usually no more than two colors, if not just one. And that means your husband or one of your kids often grabs the wrong towel. Sound familiar?

To cut down on towel confusion, assign each member of the family a color. Sew a button of that color on the corner of each person’s towel, and you’ve solved the problem.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR JENNIFER SHIRK & CINNAMON DOUGHNUT MUFFINS


One of the biggest food crazes in New York right now is the cronut, a combination croissant and donut. People wait in lines for hours each morning to snag one of the few baked each day. Today we’re joined by Jennifer Shirk, an award-winning sweet romance author who offers up her own variation of a similar treat—a combination donut and muffin. Learn more about Jennifer and her books at her website. – AP 


Food and Romance: two great things in one book!

I'm what my friends call a bit of a "foodie." I cook a lot and experiment with recipes all the time. One of the things I'm known to do is try a new recipe outwhen I invite people over for a party or dinner. (I've never had a disaster yet!)

So it was only natural to want to add my love of food into one of my recent books, KISSING KENDALL.  In that  book I made Kendall a bakery owner. (Yum!) But I wanted her to be known for something special. I needed to do some research, so I went to a great source: The Food Network.

I watched a lot of my favorite shows to get some good bakery ideas, but then I caught The Best Thing I Ever Ate and saw the DOUGHNUT MUFFIN. It looked so yummy with all that sugar and cinnamon on top that I had to try it out.

Well, those muffins were a hit in the Shirk household!

 My editor liked the recipe, too, and suggested I tinker with it and make it my own. I did, and we included it at the end of my book for readers who wanted to try it as well.

As a romance reader, I'm already happy I'm reading a book, but I personally love it even more when authors include recipes with them. 

Why?

1) You KNOW the author made it or tried it so it's guaranteed to be good.

2) I discover new recipes that way.

3)It's a great way to interact with readers. People actually started posting on Facebook and Twitter to tell me that they made the recipe and loved it.

Have you tried any recipes in books you've read? Do you watch the Food Network? If so, what is your favorite show?

Kendall's Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins
Makes about 8 to 12 muffins

Muffin Ingredients:
1 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c oil
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
3/4 c milk

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 c melted butter
1/3 c sugar
1 TBsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate larger bowl, combine oil, vanilla, sugar, egg, and milk.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix just until all combined.

Spoon the batter into prepared muffins tins--either a lightly greased muffin tin or line with paper or silicone muffin cups. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

While muffins are baking, prepare your topping. Melt butter in one bowl and mix cinnamon and sugar in another.

Remove muffins from pan while still hot. Dip muffins in melted butter. Then roll muffins in sugar mixture. Serve warm or cool on rack.

Store for a day or so at room temperature. (if they last that long!)

Enjoy!

Kissing Kendall
Kendall Grisbaum is finally taking charge of her life—pouring her heart into opening a new bakery business and even allowing her best friend Georgie to play matchmaker for her. Trouble is, the one guy she secretly wants is Georgie’s older brother, Brad.

Brad can’t seem to get his little sister’s best friend out of his mind. He and Kendall used to be close friends, too, though they drifted apart years ago. But as a local policeman, Brad can’t help but play protector, looking out for Kendall. And when he offers to help her renovate her new bakery space on the side, their attraction flares back to life.

Amid the temptation of doughnut muffins and blueberry cobbler, a new temptation draws them both closer. Can two friends take a chance on love when it means risking everything?