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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR KATHY BENNETT

Bestselling author Kathy Bennett served twenty-nine years with the Los Angeles Police Department – eight as a civilian employee and twenty-one years as a sworn police officer. While most of her career was spent in a patrol car, she’s also been a Firearms Instructor at the LAPD Academy, a crime analyst in the “War Room,” a Field Training Officer, a Senior Lead Officer, and worked undercover in various assignments. Kathy was honored to be named Officer of the Year in 1997. Law enforcement personnel laud Kathy's authentic stories of crime and suspense for 'getting it right.' Learn more about Kathy and her books at her website

You'd think with it being Halloween that I'd have some amazing craft item or horror story to share. But the truth of the matter is that while I love to do crafts, I haven't had time to do many projects in recent years—unless you want to count my books. My books aren't horror stories, but some of the situations the characters find themselves in certainly make their lives miserable.

Many of the characters I've created in my books are awfully crafty, but not in the paper mâché, or quilting kind of way. You might think of criminals as being crafty to get away with their crimes, but what about their victims, the good guys and gals? Can they be crafty, too?

They certainly can – especially if the circumstances are right. For example, in A Deadly Blessing, the first book in my Detective Maddie Divine suspense series, brainiac teenager Tiffany Truesdale, the daughter of the governor of California, wants to live the unmonitored and carefree life of her friends. Tiffany crafts a plan to have her attractive friends enlist the help of her bodyguards to find a fictitious dropped diamond ring. The ruse works; Tiffany is able to slip away from the bodyguards who constantly hover over her. Rejoining her friends at a wild party, Tiffany is kidnapped by a gangster pimp who turns young girls out to be prostitutes. Fortunately, her captor, Drejohn, doesn't follow politics and therefore doesn't realize he's got the 'first daughter' of California in his clutches.

Tiffany knows it's only a matter of time before she's made to have sex for money. She begins formulating a plan to get away. Her first big goal…find a phone. When she's left alone in a pool changing room, she goes through clothing, looking for a phone. She's discovered by Tank, one of Drejohn's most deadly cohorts. Tank is like an animal going after Tiffany who locks herself in a bathroom. By the end of the incident, thanks to some convincing self-inflicted injuries and a carefully crafted story made up by Tiffany, Drejohn is looking at his pal Tank as a possible traitor.

Later in the story, Tiffany needs to save one of her fellow abductees from being forced to put on a live sex show. With the clock ticking down, Tiffany makes her way secretly through the house, gathering items that she thinks might come in handy in a rescue mission of her friend. She later uses nail polish remover and discarded tabloid magazines to start a fire that not only gets her friend temporarily off the hook, but affords relief to some of the other captive girls as well.

When Tiffany realizes her kidnapping is breaking news in the media, she has to devise a way to disable the televisions in the compound. She doesn't want Drejohn to know he's holding the daughter of the governor. Enlisting the aid of her friend, the young helper is almost hanged while kicking over the compound's satellite dish, but the mission is accomplished. The small victory doesn't matter because the two girls are hustled into a car to go 'work' in Los Angeles. Luckily, the cops have a crafty plan of their own to rescue the girls.

Obviously, I don't want to give away how the story turns out, but you can see that being clever isn't limited to crooks. Victims and cops can also be crafty—when they have to be.

I didn't intend this blog post to be a Halloween horror story, but if you're the parent of a young daughter, beware…after peeking into Tiffany's adventure, you may have a nightmare or two tonight.

A Deadly Denial
Someone is killing cops in Los Angeles. Detective Maddie Divine is assigned to the elite Robbery Homicide Division to join the hunt for the cop killer. With officers being murdered every few days, the suspect list grows longer as secrets, deceit, and denials are uncovered. 

Maddie Divine – Maddie's keeping a secret and if her co-workers knew, they'd put her in a padded cell and give her a rubber gun. Meanwhile, her former partner, Cash McCool, has some explaining to do. But will she accept his justification for his actions? 

Cash McCool – He and Maddie were on the brink of a relationship. What drove him away, and how does he react when he and Maddie are assigned to track the cop killer together? 

Rex Rango – Why can't this newlywed cop say no to a female deputy chief and stay out of her bed? He thinks he's gotten away with his betrayal, but he's wrong. 

Jill Rango – Two months after her wedding, personal and professional scandals have Jill fighting to hang on to her husband and her badge. When one of her secrets is exposed, she's suddenly on the short-list for a murder rap. 

Holly Banks – Married to an older man, Holly has manipulated men all her life. As her list of lies increase, the LAPD's suspicions grow that Holly is involved in something a lot more serious than artful string-pulling. Holly says she's innocent…but is she telling the truth? 

Edison Watts – The early-morning radio 'shock-jock' fans the flames of alleged police corruption, while protecting his reputation, king-sized ego, and secrets of his own. Will his whole empire be lost as a result of one drunken mistake? 

Jacqueline Girrard – After turning in a key piece of incriminating evidence in a murder investigation, the statuesque stunner sets her sights on Maddie's partner. Will the easy-going detective jeopardize the investigation by falling victim to Jacqueline's charms? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE--PUFFY EYE REMEDY

Photo by Deiter Paas
Do you suffer from puffy eyes? There are many serums available for those who suffer from this malady, but they can be quite expensive. Before spending a fortune, first try this natural remedy:

Soak cold potato slices in cold green tea. Apply to eyes for ten minutes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DECORATING WITH JEANIE--HALLOWEEN HOMES

Did you decorate your home for Halloween this year? Americans now spend more money on Halloween than any other holiday except Christmas. The National Retail Federation has estimated that Americans will spend $7.4 billion on Halloween this year. Yes, that's BILLION--with a B! And that includes $350 million on costumes for petsThis is a fairly recent phenomenon. Twenty or thirty years ago you’d rarely see the exterior of a home covered in orange cobwebs or giant glitter spiders, ghouls, and ghosts. Today they abound, along with witches, tombstones, orange lights, and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

The other day I took a walk through my neighborhood and was somewhat astonished by the minimalist bent this year’s Halloween decorating had taken. I’m used to my neighbors going all out, competing with one another for the most over-the-top extreme Halloween house on the block. Not this year.

During my one-hour walk I came across only one lawn cemetery. Understatement seems to be the theme this year with some homes only wrapping porch columns in cornstalks and others only tying a scarecrow to a light post. However, the most minimalist décor I came across was the house with two lone mini-pumpkins perched on the stair railing columns. You may have to squint to see them. I have to wonder why they even bothered.


What about you? Do you decorate for Halloween? Do you prefer to put up more generic autumn decorations such as wreaths made of red and gold leaves? Or do you just wait until after Thanksgiving and decorate for Christmas?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--COCONUT CREAM PIE WITH GUEST AUTHOR IRENE PETERSON

photo by Stacy Spensley
Irene Peterson is a true Jersey Girl who loves going down the shore, Godzilla and her family, not necessarily in that order. Writing isn't something she wants to do, it is something she has to do. You can read more about her on her blog and website.

It’s autumn, my favorite season. Born in autumn, married in autumn, first kid in autumn…Halloween in autumn. Auspiciously wonderful time of year for me.

My new novella, Dead Meat, takes place in Charleston, SC in the end of October. They really celebrate the holiday well in Charleston and it was the perfect time for my hero Jim Ryan to go there to vanquish the vampire that has been causing death and horror in the city. He’s been called by the Reverend Jenkins who suspects evil-doing but really doesn’t believe in vampires…not completely. The Rev does get to change his mind, but only after his wife Abertha actually comes into contact with the undead.

Abertha is a lovely preacher’s wife who can really, really cook. She feeds Jim, the lignarius(fixer in Latin)some home cooking that makes him wonder how the South lost the war if their women could cook like this. While she makes a wicked coconut cake, I don’t know how to make a coconut cake, but I have in my possession a treasured old family recipe for coconut cream pie that has long been a carefully guarded secret.

When I told my husband that I was going to give it up to Lois and her readers, he, well, let’s just say he wasn’t happy about it. So if you make this pie, please give full credit not to me, but to Great Aunt Lee Shaw in heaven…a wonderful cook and baker who is probably upset with me now for publishing this. (The spelling of coconut is hers.)

Aunt Lee’s Cocoanut Cream Pie
1 baked, cooled pie shell
1 small package cocoanut—toast in medium oven, mixing occasionally
1 tablespoon gelatin
1-1/2 cups milk
3 eggs (separated)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold milk. Heat rest of milk to scalding over boiling water. Beat egg yolks and salt, then slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Return to double boiler and cook until mixture coats spoon. Stir gelatin in until it dissolves. Chill until it begins to congeal. Beat egg whites until stiff, adding sugar gradually. Beat in milk mixture and flavoring. Fold in whipped cream, pour into pie shell, cover with cocoanut. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Dead Meat
Seen any vampires lately?  No?  That's because Jim Ryan, the lignarius, is on the job. He's been doing just fine, dispatching the undead all over the country, until...well, until he falls in love. Now the concentration necessary for his job is compromised by daydreams of the very alive twin sister of his last adventure in Dead Dreams. If he doesn't snap out of it, he'll be Dead Meat.



Monday, October 27, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR AND NEEDLEPOINTER VICKI BATMAN

Like some of her characters, award-winning author Vicki Batman has worked a wide variety of jobs—everything from a lifeguard to a ride attendant at an amusement part to store clerk to administrative assistant in an international real estate firm to general “do anything gal” at a financial services firm. These jobs have given her plenty of material for her writing. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if?” Learn more about Vicki and her writing at her blog.

I Can do That!
Several years ago, my mom and I were perusing the clearance rack at Hobby Lobby and found needlepoint Stitch and Zip eyeglass cases. Despite having never stitched needlepoint in my life, I bought two with the thought, I can do that!

I did those cases in the basic stitch and when my girlfriend wanted to try advanced classes, I learned fancy stitching. However, I’ve stuck with painted canvases in the basic stitch, sorta like a paint by numbers thingy.

For my new daughter-in-law, I needlepointed this stocking:

For myself, I made the handbag shown at the top of this blog post.

Like most writers, some real life creeps into my writing. My heroine from Temporarily Employed, Hattie Cooks, carries handbags, and I love handbags. She drives a Wrangler, and I’ve owned many a Jeep. When Hattie checks out Allan Wellborn’s apartment, what does she find? Here’s a sneak peek:

A. Wellborn’s apartment appeared to be the same as other guys' with great emphasis on the television. His had evolved into a huge, 3D flat screen. His media equipment had been stored on a store-bought shelving unit, instead of crammed onto a cinder block and plank shelf or tottering precariously on a microwave rolling cart.

I assessed the other areas and noticed a dark chocolate leather couch, end tables which matched a coffee table, ceramic lamps, remotes, et cetera. Most likely, his mom had assisted in picking the furniture as his stuff looked too coordinated. And my suspicions were confirmed when I found the needlepoint pillows she’d crafted laying about.

No visible stains or smells were anywhere. No underwear tossed about. The kitchen looked clean with wooden barstools pushed to the peninsula. His computer desk, placed in the dining area, looked well organized. Books and papers were piled in neat stacks. Gratefully, I didn’t see his gun lying around, which led me to the relieving conclusion he had no plans to shoot me tonight.

Yep, there’s needlepoint. LOL. Surely, there’s something you like to make—cooking, sewing, papier maché. So are you crafty?

Temporarily Employed
New Job. New Love. And Murder.
Hattie Cook's dream job is down the toilet and her new SUV violated. Desperate for cash to cover the basic necessities of rent and food, she takes a temporary job at Buy Rite Insurance Company where she uncovers an embezzling scam tied to the death of a former employee--the very one she replaced. The last thing she wants is to clash with By-the-Book Detective Wellborn, no matter how much he makes her heart pound.


Detective Allan Charles Wellborn has secretly adored Hattie all his life. When the police determine there's more to the death of a former Buy Rite employee, he steps in to lead the investigation. Overly dedicated, always perfect, he puts his job first, even if doing so ultimately hurts the one he loves. Can the killer be found before Hattie's time is up?

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Friday, October 24, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR HEATHER BOYD

Bestselling, Australian author Heather Boyd spends her days (and spare hours of the night) conjuring up new ways to get her characters into mischief. She writes sizzling Regency historical romances, publishing over twenty novels and shorter works. Learn more about Heather at her website. Today she sits down with us for an interview.

Tell us about yourself.
Greetings. I’m Heather Boyd, a regency historical romance author, indie published, and sole female in a testosterone fueled household. (Even the cat is male.) I love old books, old furniture and houses and research -- Regency era, of course.

Do you have any phobias?
Spiders and snakes, which is stupid considering I live in Australia where you can’t step out your front door without being attacked by one. Just kidding. They wait until the second step.

Which mythological creature are you most like?
I wasn’t sure what to say for this but my eldest son just shouted out, “Dragon.” I’m concerned. No one disagreed with him.

What is the story of your first kiss?
Married twenty-two years, two kids, and I’ve never been kissed. OK, I can see you’re not buying that one. I also think writing sizzling Regency romance might have also been a bit of a giveaway that I’m not that innocent. OK, here we go…. Back in the mists of time I adored this amazing boy, and I fell head over heels. We were only ten but I just knew he was the oneso, dear reader, I ended up married to him. True story.

What inspires you to write?
The better question would be what doesn’t. I’m very lucky so far. Story ideas are plentiful (and equally distracting.) I had a new one over the weekend, actually, when I should have been taking a writing break. That’s sort of how it goes for me. I stop working and a new idea springs up. Since I’ve already got several stories on the go now, it’s going into the “when I have time” folder.

Keepsake
I’ve got a story to tell youThe Marquess of Taverham married young and fast with his eye firmly on his bride’s dowry as the means to repair the family fortunes for the next generation. Too late he discovered his new wife wasn’t going to make achieving all of his dreams that easy. What happens when the bride comes back in Keepsake, Book 5 in the Distinguished Rogues series?



Thursday, October 23, 2014

BEAUTY WITH NICOLE--DIY BEAUTY PRODUCTS WITH GUEST AUTHOR MAIA CHANCE

Maia Chance writes historical mysteries that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She’s the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, will be released in November. Learn more about Maia and her books at her website. 

The Craftiest of Them All

“Never wash your hair with anything you'd hesitate to eat or drink.”—Miss Piggy

I am so excited to be guest-posting here, and one of the reasons is the craft element of Lois’s wonderful books and blog.

Ophelia Flax, the heroine in my first mystery release, Snow White Red-Handed, is a Victorian-era variety actress who knows her way around a theatrical case. And since the story revolves around the fairy tale Snow White, beauty is a constant motif. In researching this book, I got to indulge my fascination with bygone beauty practices, and I’d like to share some you can make—craftily, if you will—today. (Yes, your kitchen will look traumatized. But in a FUN way.)

Lips
Most lip salves from the nineteenth century included spermaceti, which comes from a sperm whale’s head (yep: Moby Dick lip balm). But I did find one recipe that you could make at home, if your Chap-Stick gets lost. This is from Florence Hartley’s 1872 The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette:

“A dessert spoonful of salad oil in a saucer, hold it over a candle, and drop melted wax over it till the oil is thinly covered, when they are incorporated, pour it into boxes.”

Mm-kay. Seems like it could work. Just remember to let the flaming wax/oil cool before anointing yourself.

Pimples
We STILL haven’t cured the Common Pimple. Sigh.

In 1899’s The Woman Beautiful: A Practical Treatise, Ella Adelia Fletcher warns that “a too-vivid imagination, the reading of unhealthful books, anything that encourages unnatural flushing or excitement, —all these things may cause pimples.”

Just to clarify, pimples are NOT caused by the mercury, hydrochloric acid, and Borax that are included in Fletcher’s pimple ointment recipes; pimples are caused by unwholesome books. Guess I’m due for a breakout.

Lola Montez, a famous courtesan and actress, wrote The Arts of Beauty in 1858. It’s probably my very favorite nineteenth century beauty manual. It even has hints for gentlemen, including advising them to smack their lips while eating! Montez includes this complexion-wash receipt you can try at home:

“…the most remarkable wash for the face which I have ever known, and which is said to have been known to the beauties of the court of Charles II. . . . take a small piece of the gum benzoin and boil it in spirits of wine till it becomes a rich tincture. . . . it will render the skin clear and brilliant. It is also an excellent remedy for spots, freckles, pimples, and eruptions.”

Now, before you say this can’t be whipped up at home: you CAN buy chunks of gum benzoin on Etsy! It’s a fragrant resin from trees. Benzoin reportedly makes your lips nice and rosy, too.

Nails
Mrs. Ellet’s recipe for whitening the nails includes “diluted sulphuric acid” and “tincture of myrrh”, ingredients that may alarm and/or mystify beauty-seekers nowadays. (The New Cyclopaedia of Domestic Economy by Mrs. E.F. Ellet, 1872.)

But what about that passage in Madame Bovary, in which Emma spends “fourteen francs in one month on lemons with which to bleach her fingernails”? Do-able, right?

Hair
Not advisable: Mrs. Ellet, provides this concoction for strengthening and thickening the hair: “Skim the fat from the top of calves’ feet while boiling; mix with a teaspoon of rum, shake together. Apply night and morning.”

All together now: Ewwwwwwww.

Advisable: According to Victoria Sherrow’s Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History (2006), it has long been thought that rosemary is beneficial for the scalp and for hair growth. Here’s what to do:

Bring 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary in 4 cups of water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. When it’s cool, remove the sprigs and use it as your final hair rinse.

Easy!

What’s fascinating is that the creepy chemicals and toxins we complain about in our beauty potions nowadays are nothing new. The American or European lady on the mid-to-late nineteenth century had a prettiness arsenal that was just as noxious, and in the case of mercury, arsenic, and lead, arguably worse. The major difference was that women mixed up their own concoctions with ingredients purchased at an apothecary’s shop and borrowed from the kitchen pantry.

So much for that tired old cliché about women’s beauty being all about cunning and deception. It’s craftiness, people.

Snow White Red-Handed, a Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery
Miss Ophelia Flax is a Victorian actress who knows all about making quick changes and even quicker exits. But to solve a fairy-tale crime in the haunted Black Forest, she’ll need more than a bit of charm…

1867: After being fired from her latest variety hall engagement, Ophelia acts her way into a lady’s maid position for a crass American millionaire. But when her new job whisks her off to a foreboding castle straight out of a Grimm tale, she begins to wonder if her fast-talking ways might have been too hasty. The vast grounds contain the suspected remains of Snow White’s cottage, along with a disturbing dwarf skeleton. And when her millionaire boss turns up dead—poisoned by an apple—the fantastic setting turns into a once upon a crime scene.

To keep from rising to the top of the suspect list, Ophelia fights through a bramble of elegant lies, sinister folklore, and priceless treasure, with only a dashing but mysterious scholar as her ally. And as the clock ticks towards midnight, she’ll have to break a cunning killer’s spell before her own time runs out…

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--DEBUNKING BREAST CANCER MYTHS


When I was in my pre-teens, a neighbor died of breast cancer. It was my first introduction to the disease. My mother told me the neighbor had gotten breast cancer when a wooden hanger fell from a shelf in the closet and hit her in the breast.

Twenty years ago a friend stopped using antiperspirant because she’d read that it causes cancer.

Last week I read a newspaper article about a study that was done on the relationship between underwire bras and cancer. Conclusion: there is none.

Breast cancer myths still exist.

So because it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m here today to debunk some of the more prevalent myths and old wives tales you may have heard from relatives or read about in the Internet. News flash! Not everything on the Internet is true!

1. You will NOT get cancer from drinking coffee or any other form of caffeine.

2. Trauma to the breast does NOT cause cancer.

3. Antiperspirants do NOT cause cancer.

4. Having an abortion does NOT cause cancer.

5. Wearing an underwire bra does NOT cause cancer.

6. Hair dye and relaxers do NOT cause cancer. 

Now do yourself and your loved ones a favor and make your annual mammogram appointment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--COCKTAILS, CENSORSHIP, & THE GOLDEN AGE OF MOVIES WITH AUTHOR SHEILA YORK

After a long career in radio and TV, Sheila York began writing novels combining her love of history, mysteries, and the movies. Set in post-war Hollywood, her series features screenwriter/amateur sleuth Lauren Atwill (and her lover, private detective Peter Winslow) chasing killers in the Great Golden Age of Film. You can read or listen to more about Lauren and No Broken Hearts at her website. 

Getting Crafty with the Code
Hollywood was different in the 1940s. Not less greedy, venal, or cutthroat underneath, but it had a near-flawless veneer of sophistication, class, and glamour, created and maintained by a symbiotic relationship between studio publicity teams and mainstream magazine and newspaper publishing. The surface was illusion. But it was gorgeous.

Onscreen, it was every bit as hard to get beneath the surface. The magic we recall so fondly from the Great Golden Age of Film was crafted under censorship. Strict censorship. Hollywood studios adopted the rules known as the Production Code in reaction to local censor boards, religious groups, and individual citizens who found films of the silent era and the early 1930s too sexual and violent, a threat to family life, and a bad influence on youth. The Code governed the morals of American movies throughout the Golden Age.

“No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it.” This is the first tenet of the Code. I’m not kidding. And neither were the Code administrators. Your movie’s shooting script and the film’s final cut had to be approved by the Production Code office or there was no movie.

When she’s not catching killers, my heroine Lauren writes film scripts, and I remain in awe of how screenwriters (and directors) managed to still present adult themes, even if it had to be subtle. 

In a subplot in No Broken Hearts, Lauren is assigned to turn a scandalous novel into a film. So, let me give you a quick taste of crafting under the Code, with just three of the many restrictions Lauren has to work with (or around.)

1. Crime cannot pay. Lawbreakers must be punished. Crime and criminals can never be appealing. And you can never “teach methods of crime.” In the original script for the classic Double Indemnity, Fred MacMurray warned Barbara Stanwyck, the schemer with whom he’s plotting murder, to “put some gloves on” before handling the insurance contract they need her husband to sign. The Code considered that to be advice to criminals and in the film, he says only, “Be careful.”

2. Sex. Adultery cannot be excused or justified. “Low forms” of relationships cannot be presented as acceptable. And even between married couples, “[L]ustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures” are all forbidden because they might arouse “dangerous emotions on the part of the immature, the young or the criminal classes.”


3. Drinking. Booze is forbidden unless essential to the plot, and then only in moderation. This led to films like The Big Clock and To Have and Have Not having a lot of action in bars where hardly anyone actually drinks!

When you watch a film from the Golden Age, think about how the screenwriters, performers and directors cleverly made implicit what they were forbidden to make explicit.

Here are five of my favorites for you to get started:

The Big Clock (1948) – The bar scenes and how they handle the mistress role.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – Sexual trouble between the middle-aged married couple; a good girl falls for a married man and gets him(!)

The Lady Eve (1941) – Wow, that stateroom scene is steamy! Yet Stanwyck’s on a lounge while Fonda’s sitting on the floor the whole time.

Notorious (1946) – The drinking, the illicit sex. Note how Grant and Bergman manage to hold a kiss without breaking the Code in that balcony scene.

To Have and Have Not (44) – How they handle the Bacall role (a lady who has been living, shall we say, by her wits); also the lack of actual drinking. 

Personally, after trying to write a script without running afoul of the Code, I’d probably be looking for a drink. And I’d actually drink it.

They had some prodigious drinkers in the 1940s, and a good host/hostess was judged by the bar. Guests might want their booze straight – bourbon, Scotch, blended whiskeys and rye – or they might want a cocktail – a Manhattan, Gimlet, Singapore Sling, Jack Rose, Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins or its cousin, the Gin Fizz. 

But we don’t stock bars like we used to.

So, when we were creating a signature cocktail for the launch party for No Broken Hearts, I wanted one that was simple, wouldn’t require the purchase of exotic liqueurs, and would come out right every time.

The Broken Heart
2 parts gin
1 part grenadine
1 part vermouth rosso
1 part pomegranate juice
1/4 to 1/2 part Campari, to taste (It’s a Broken Heart. You need at least a hint of bitterness at the end.)

Place ingredients in a shaker with a good handful of ice cubes. Shake gently just till the cold begins to hurt the hand at the bottom of the shaker (a bartender’s trick for knowing when a drink’s properly chilled). Strain into martini glasses. Garnish with a half strawberry, its core cut out to form a broken heart. [If you don’t have a shaker, stir ingredients with the cubes in a tall glass or small pitcher till well chilled.]

Just like a real broken heart, this one packs a wallop, so don’t mix up a batch if anybody’s going to drive. Stay home and watch a Golden Age film!

No Broken Hearts
Once a promising talent, screenwriter Lauren Atwill is now relegated to doctoring other writers’ work, anonymously. Finally she gets her shot at remaking her career, bringing a scandalous novel to the screen, a sensational tale of betrayal, corruption, and a vicious killing. Then fiction turns into real life. Lauren finds a beautiful young actress brutally murdered and her leading man stained with blood. Then she discovers just how far the studio and even the police will go to cover up the killing and protect a star.
If she won’t lie, her career is over. And maybe her life.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--SOCK SNOWMAN

Sock Snowman

Materials: white adult athletic sock, child’s patterned sock, 1/2” pompom, five 5/8” black buttons, orange fabric marker, 1 yd. twine, fiberfill, needle and white thread, jewelry glue and fabric glue or glue gun.

1. Stuff the white sock with fiberfill. Run a gathering stitch around end of cuff, pulling tightly to secure.
2. Tie thread around sock in two places to divide the snowman into three sections.

3. Cut six 9” pieces of twine. Knot one end. Braid twine. Knot end.

4. Using fabric glue or glue gun, glue twine arms centered to back of snowman between top and middle section.

5. Cut patterned sock 4”-6” from edge of cuff (depending on how long a hat you want.) Turn inside out. Run a gathering stitch around cut edge and secure. Turn right side out. Using fabric glue or glue gun, glue pompom over gathered end. Place sock on gathered end of snowman.

6. Using jewelry glue or glue gun, glue two button eyes below hat and three vertically down middle section of snowman.

7. Draw carrot nose with orange fabric marker. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CONNIE ARCHER

Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of three Soup Lover’s Mysteries with a fourth due out in March. Learn more about Connie and her books at her website. Today Connie joins us to talk about one of her favorite holidays. 

Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays . . . there’s something about the season, the cooler air, the pumpkins, the red and gold of the trees and the macabre decorations of witches, skeletons, cobwebs and headstones that delights me. Horror films, ghost stories, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides are just some of the things that mark this season. Costume stores have cropped up everywhere. In fact, in my neighborhood there’s one that’s open all year, just in case you have the urge to don some crazy gear for no good reason at all!

Hallowe’en, a contraction of Hallows Even or All Hallows Eve, is closely related to the Celtic Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). The Celts of the British Isles and Northern Europe celebrated this Druidic festival for thousands of years when the sun reached the fifteenth degree of Scorpio. It was the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In our century, this position of the sun actually occurs on November 7th.

At this time, those spirits must be comforted with offerings of food and drink to ensure the tribe and their livestock survived the winter. Wearing costumes of animal heads and skins, the people of the tribe attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. At a deeper level, these rites were observed in order to make contact with the spirits of the departed who were considered sources of guidance rather than sources of dread. Druid priests built bonfires and the community gathered to burn crops as sacrifices to their deities. At the end of the celebration, they re-lit the fire of their hearths from the sacred bonfire in the belief that this would protect them during the coming winter.

Carved Turnip

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Mass immigration from the British Isles and Europe during the 19th century popularized the rituals we now know today. Immigrants brought their varied All Hallows Eve customs and a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. In Ireland and Scotland, the turnip had traditionally been carved during Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the pumpkin, which was larger, softer and much easier to carve.

The American tradition of trick-or-treating most likely dates back to early All Souls Day rites in England during which poor citizens would beg for food and be given “soul cakes” in return for a promise to pray for the family's dead relatives. The soul cakes to the poor replaced the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. This practice, “going a-souling” was eventually done by children who would visit houses in the neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

Samhain was a time for divination, and apples were often used to tell the future. An unmarried girl would peel an apple in one long strip and cast the peel over her shoulder. The peel was believed to reveal the initial of her future husband. Another practice involved cutting an apple into nine pieces while sitting before a mirror in a room lit by only one candle. Turning away from the mirror, the individual would eat eight pieces of the apple, ask a question and throw the ninth piece over his or her shoulder. The mirror would then display an image responding to the question.

But what is it about this date – October 31st? The eve of November 1? Or the time period when the sun reaches the fifteenth degree of Scorpio? It’s not the shortest day of the year; it’s not actually a time of harvest, yet so many cultures throughout the centuries acknowledge this night and day as significant.

In Poland, people are told to pray out loud as they walk through the forests so the souls of the dead might find comfort. In 19th century rural England, families gathered to burn straw on a pitchfork while kneeling in a circle to pray for the souls of the dead until the flames went out. In Spain, special pastries known as the “bones of the holy” are put on the graves of the churchyard. In Finland, visitors to cemeteries on All Hallows Eve light votive candles, referred to as the sea of light. Totenfest or Totensonntag is celebrated in some Protestant churches on this day. Kalan Gwav, also known as Allantide, is a pagan Cornish festival traditionally celebrated on this night. The Mexican Day of the Dead is marked by gathering to pray for the dead and bringing favorite foods of the departed to their graves. On the Isle of Man, Hop-tu-Naa, a Celtic festival, is observed. And in Scandinavian countries, a Norse ceremony called Alfablót involves sacrificing to the elves, meaning nature spirits or spirits of dead ancestors.  
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Could it be that the Druids were right? That among the stars are doorways to other dimensions including the land of the spirits? That on a certain night the veil between this world and the other thins, allowing spirits to warm themselves at the hearths of the living, and for those who are prepared, to make the journey safely to the other side?

Samhain or Halloween will be upon us soon. This is a time to complete the old and prepare for the new in our lives. Consider the last twelve months. If there are matters unresolved, now is the time to complete them and begin to look forward to the new year.

And don’t forget your pets. Here’s a Samhain ritual designed to honor the spirits of both wild and domestic animals: [http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/ht/Animals_Samhain.htm]

Happy Halloween!

A Roux of Revenge
Snowflake, Vermont, is known for its skiing in winter—and its soup all year round, thanks to Lucky Jamieson’s By the Spoonful. Autumn brings golden leaves, pumpkin rice soup, the annual Harvest Festival…and murder.

Lucky’s soup shop is busier than usual this October, with groups of itinerant travelers in town to work the Harvest Festival. One newcomer seems to take a particular interest in Lucky’s young waitress Janie, spying on her from across the street. Is the stranger stalking Janie?

After an unidentified man is found murdered in a van by the side of the road, simmering suspicions about the travelers are brought to a boil. But when Janie is put in harm’s way, Lucky must join forces with the travelers to turn up the heat on a killer…

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