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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

HAPPY LEAP DAY!

Today is Leap Day, a day that comes around only once every four years. The ancient Egyptians figured out that a solar year didn't exactly match up with a calendar year. So every so often an extra day was added to the calendar in order for it to play catch-up with the solar calendar. 

The ancient Romans were the first to add the day onto the end of February, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the Gregorian calendar officially designated every fourth year as a Leap Year, as long as that year was divisible by four but not divisible by 100, unless the year was also divisible by 400. Because of this rule, 1900 was not a Leap Year but 2000 was.

Complicated, isn’t it? And pity the poor Leap Babies, also known as Leaplings, those children born on Leap Day each year. They only get to celebrate their official birthday once every four years. Not to mention if you’re paid an annual salary, you wind up working for free one day every four years.

The tradition of women romantically pursuing men is said to hearken back to ancient Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait for proposals from men. She complained long enough and loud enough that St. Patrick finally set aside February 29th as a day when women were allowed to propose to men.

The tradition was eventually brought over to Scotland, and in 1288 Queen Margaret declared February 29th as a day when women had the right to propose to men.

Both of these stories are most likely apocryphal. St. Bridget and St. Patrick may have met, but Bridget would only have been about ten years old when St. Patrick died, and in 1288 Queen Margaret was five years old.

However, both of these traditions were probably the basis for America’s Sadie Hawkins Day, created by cartoonist Al Capp in his L’il Abner comic strip. Sadie and other women in the town of Dogpatch were literally allowed to run after and capture the men of their dreams one day a year during the Sadie Hawkins Day race. In Dogpatch that day was in November, though, not February 29th. The custom has since made its way into many schools which hold Sadie Hawkins Day dances each year where the girls ask the boys to the dance.

Leap Year also plays a major role in Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Frederic is mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate king until his twenty-first birthday, but poor Frederic is a Leapling, with his twenty-first birthday not occurring until he’s in his eighties. So he must serve another sixty-three years before being able to marry his true love. 

Luckily, today's men and women aren't bound by such archaic rules and customs. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CLEA SIMON

Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of 20 traditional/cozy and pet noir mysteries in the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, Pru Marlowe, and Blackie and Care series. A former journalist, Clea lives in Massachusetts, and although her books are getting darker, they still always include a cat. She’s not sure why. Learn more about Clea and her books at her website. 

My new mystery, The Ninth Life, is a departure for me. For one thing, despite the cat on the cover, this book – the first in a new series – is not a cozy.

For a long time, I’ve been interested in writing something darker. Not a thriller, exactly, and certainly nothing in which people or, heaven forbid, animals are tortured. But moody. Atmospheric. You know, dark. Since all my previous mysteries are cozies – specifically cat cozies – I wasn’t entirely sure what that would mean. Except, of course, that the cat involved would be black.

Now, I’m known for writing “pet noir.” My Pru Marlowe series kicked this off for me with my bad-girl heroine Pru and her even tougher tabby Wallis. But although Pru and Wallis have some real noir characteristics – Pru drinks a bit and enjoys male companionship, and Wallis often alludes to her own shady past – the series is really a light, humorous take on the tough-talking 1940s molls and dolls of true noir crime fiction And my other series mysteries, the Theda Krakow cats ‘n’ crime ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll books and the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries are all firmly on the cozy-amateur sleuth spectrum (Dulcie also has a ghost – a ghost cat, of course – so add in a touch of paranormal).

But what I read is broader. On any given evening, I might opt to visit Venice with Donna Leon or the beleaguered 15th Century England of Arianna Franklin. And I’m quite fond of both the “tartan noir” of Denise Mina, whose contemporary Glasgow can be very harsh, and also Megan Abbott’s nasty girls. And of course everything I read feeds into what I write – we writers are first and foremost readers, after all. So it made sense that I would want to stretch out – to write a little more like the other books I read.

The big question, then, was how? Did I want to tackle social issues like Mina does? Or delve into the mean-girl world of Abbott? Could I write violence or sex? Could I even learn to curse in my writing (I’m afraid in person I have no such restrictions – especially when I’ve stubbed a toe or stepped in a furball.) Could I …? I wasn’t even sure what questions to ask.

I needn’t have worried. Because once I gave myself permission to “go dark,” Blackie appeared. Not only is he a coal-black street cat, a feral who has the scars and ragged ear to prove his toughness, but he’s the narrator of The Ninth Life. He took over, dictating what would happen – and how it would be presented. It helped that he speaks with the diction of a Victorian gentleman – he can describe the most awful events in an almost courtly tone. And, of course, he is devoted to the protection of his human counterpart, the girl Care. Together, they delve into a darker, scarier adventure than any I have yet written. But with Blackie in charge, I feel sure that things will work out fine.

The Ninth Life
Introducing Blackie, an unusual feline hero, and his companion Care in the first of this dark new mystery series.

Three figures, shadowy against the light. That’s all I remember from my past life, as I am dragged, dripping and half-drowned, from the flood. My saviour, a strange, pink-haired girl, is little help. She can barely care for herself, let alone the boy she loves. And although she has sworn to avenge the murder of her mentor, she must first escape the clutches of drug dealers, murderers and thieves. I would repay her kindness if I could. But we are alone in this blighted city – and I am a cat.

The past is an enigma to Blackie, the voice of Clea Simon’s dark new mystery. Combining elements of feline fantasy and cozy whodunit, The Ninth Life introduces this unusual hero and his companion, Care: two small creatures in a nightmarish urban landscape, fighting for their lives, and for the lives and memories of those they love.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

#BEAUTY--ANTI-AGING TIP

Recipe for Young-looking Hands and Décolletage

As we age, we spend lots of time and money fighting the signs of age on our faces. However, few of us ever think about two other areas that give away our age—our hands and our décolletage. Here’s a recipe to keep those areas looking young as well.

Ingredients:
1teaspoon kelp powder
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon yogurt

Mix together above ingredients. Apply to back of hands and décolletage. Allow to sit for ten minutes, then remove with warm, damp cloth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY--FEBRUARY 24TH


Every so often I like to switch things up on the blog, usually when I’m stuck for a topic for the day. That’s when I check to see what sort of interesting facts and trivia I can find about a particular date. February 24th turns out to be the anniversary of quite a few interesting events. Here are a few of them:

On this date…

…in 1786 Wilhelm Grimm, one half of the fairy tale writing duo, was born, eventually giving rise to the creation of Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, and other characters.

…in 1857 Congress received the first shipment of perforated postage stamps.

…in 1874 Honus Wagner was born. His baseball card is now the most valuable collector’s item in the world of sports memorabilia.

…in 1900 the mayor of New York City signed a contract for the construction of New York’s first rapid transit tunnel. The tunnel would link Manhattan and Brooklyn.

…in 1903 Cuba leased Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. for a naval base, which we still use.

…in 1931 Dominic Chianese, the uncle we loved to hate in The Sopranos, was born.

…in 1940 Frances Langford recorded “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Jiminy Cricket became famous for singing it in Pinocchio.

…in 1943 Beatle George Harrison was born. It wasn’t until 1992 that he learned February 24th was his actually birthday. He had previously thought it was February 25th.

…in 1956 Cleveland, Ohio invoked a 1931 law barring people under eighteen from dancing in public without an adult guardian. (And to think, Cleveland is now home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!)

…in 1964 the Beatles made their third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

…in 1981 Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. (In hindsight, maybe she should have turned him down?)

…in 1987 an exploding supernova was discovered in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.

…in 1988 shock rocker Alice Cooper announced he’d run for governor in Arizona as a member of the Wild Party. (He lost.)

…in 1992 Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love were married (another match that didn’t end so well.) 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KIMBRA KASCH AND CIOPINNO


Kimbra Kasch stops by today to give a Killer Cooking Class on Ciopinno. Learn more about Kimbra and her writing at her website. 

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
That’s what little girls are made of.

QUESTION: But what are ladies made of?

ANSWER: It’s a complete mystery. Just like deciding what makes a dynamite dinner or delicious dessert. It’s hard to say.

One person likes chocolate; another wants the tart taste of lemon meringue. So, how do we decide between sweet and savory?

Sometimes the best answer is not to decide at all but instead to have a little bit of both. We do this exact thing when we serve dinner with dessert. If you want to see what I’m talking about, simply follow along on this Killer Cooking Class and learn how to make homemade Ciopinno.

First you might ask: just what is Ciopinno?

Italian fishermen came up with Ciopinno (or Seafood Stew) back in the mid 1800's. It was probably the first potluck. The Fishermen would come home from sea hungry after a hard day on the water, and someone would called out, “Chip in” or “Ciopinno.” Everyone threw a little something they’d caught into the pot, and it became a beautiful blend of seafood.

I begin with a little homemade fettuccine:

Ingredients:
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water

Pile the flour up in a circle, crack the eggs in the center of the flour, and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. After you have the dough formed into a ball, add the water, olive oil and salt. Blend until smooth being careful not to overwork or the dough will become rubbery.

Roll out the dough. Using a pasta machine, work the dough through the rollers until it’s thin. Then run the dough through the cutters to prepare your fettuccine. If you don’t have a pasta machine simply roll the dough up, like you would for a Christmas yule log, and slice the ribbons by hand.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta for 3-5 minutes at a full boil. Strain pasta and cover to keep warm while you make the stew.

Ingredients:
2 pounds of clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 package of mushrooms
2 jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups dry white wine (Chardonney)
Zest and juice of 2 large or 3 small limes
1 cup chopped parsley

Using a small saucepan, sauté onion until clear.

Using a large saucepan, heat olive oil then add garlic, then onions, mushrooms and chile.

Pour in wine. Add zest and juice. Add clams, mussels scallops, and shrimp. Heat 5 minutes, then turn off and cover.

Place a helping of pasta in bowl and pour some of the Cioppini over the top and serve with a side salad.

For dessert serve a store-bought sweet. This is the simple part of the dinner…the dessert. The sexy part is the Cioppini.

Having a dinner that’s sweet and spicy is like reading a story that’s sweet but with a romance woven into the middle, just like The Cats of Cullaby Creek. There’s plenty of mystery stirred into the story because when Savannah meets Kyle, its love at first sight. And why wouldn't it be? He's perfect, as far as she can tell. But Kyle appears whenever things go wrong. Maybe he isn't everything she thought he was. This is another complete mystery until she discovers the water in Cullaby Creek is being bottled and sold as vitamin “infused” water. Mistic Water promises the impossible. And then, like a magical elixir, it delivers. People who drink it feel younger, smarter, faster...healthier. But it doesn’t take long before side effects hit. Literally. The secret has to be in the water…or is it something more? To find out, you’ll want to read the entire delicious story. And, if you do, I’ll want to hear what you think of it. Was it savory enough for you?

The Cats of Cullaby Creek
Savannah meets Kyle and quickly starts to fall for him. And why wouldn't she? He's per-fect, as far as she knows. But when she starts finding dead animals in her yard and hears something scratching at her window, after the sun goes down, she starts to worry. Maybe Kyle isn't everything she thought he was - maybe he's something more.

It's a complete mystery until she discovers something about the water in Cullaby Creek, which is being bottled and sold as Mistical Water. And there’s definitely something mystical about that water, everyone who drinks it begins to change. They are “morphing” or mutating into animals. The secret to the animal they morph into is in the water.


Want a chance to win a free copy? Kimbra is giving one away. Post a comment to enter the drawing she'll be holding.

Monday, February 22, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MARTHA WASHINGTON, NEEDLE ARTIST

Today is George Washington’s birthday. In honor of the day, I thought it would be nice to talk about the woman in his life and her favorite household task—needlework.

Martha Washington was an accomplished needle artist, a skill deemed highly prized in women throughout much of history. In well-to-do households slaves and servants were tasked with the spinning, weaving, and constructing of their own garments and many of the household linens. Hired seamstresses and tailors constructed the finer garments worn by the gentry. However, the ladies of the house created the fine needlework embellishments of lace and embroidery that decorated their own garments and household linens.

Rarely did a day go by that Martha didn’t spend some time on her needlework, either sewing, knitting, or doing embroidery. Her handiwork can be seen throughout Mt. Vernon on chair cushions, footstools, and more. She enjoyed partaking of these pastimes with her daughter, granddaughters, friends, and even her female slaves, often acting as teacher who expected the same precision and attention to detail from others as she gave to her own work.

In 1766, Martha acquired the materials to create a dozen chair bottoms from a London upholsterer.  She spent the next thirty-six years cross-stitching a scallop shell pattern, which she may have designed herself. The above cushion is one of six that can be found at Mount Vernon and is a rare example of Martha’s talent.

Friday, February 19, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR BRENDA B. TAYLOR

Historical romance author Brenda B. Taylor sits for an interview today. Learn more about Brenda and her books at her website.            

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Writing novels has been a life-long ambition. I wrote fiction stories in elementary school, but only after retirement did I complete a novel for publication.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I began a novel after retirement, but it took several years before the finishing touches and the last edits were made. Also, I had to learn the art of writing fiction.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
All of my books are self-published.

Where do you write?
I write sitting on an easy chair beside a large window in my bedroom office. I have a regular office in my house, but very seldom use it for writing.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence is golden for me. Sometimes I play Scottish music when writing about Scotland to put me in a Highland frame of mind.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My novels are based on my family history, but all characters and plots are fictional.

Describe your process for naming your character?
The heroine in the Wades of Crawford County series is named for a sister of my great-grandfather who lived in Cuba, Missouri and died when a young mother. I’ve often wondered about the cause of her death.

Real settings or fictional towns?
The settings for my novels are real places where the characters may have lived.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Flora Vass in A Highland Ruby, is an expert shot with a bow. She saves Gavin’s life, and wins an archery contest. She is quite the character, fighting for the man she loves with all her talents and abilities.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I like to write the first thing in the morning while the sun is coming over the horizon and the birds begin to move around the birdfeeder; however, I can’t put a word on paper until after my first cup of coffee.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
If I could have written any book, I suppose the inspirational historical fiction novel by Janette Oke, When Calls the Heart, is the one I would choose. I enjoy the story of the young teacher settling and finding love on the frontier.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
One regret I have in the business of writing and publishing historical fiction is, I didn’t start sooner.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is someone not keeping their word. I don’t like cover-ups and untruths.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
If stranded on a deserted island I would want a good book, a light to read by, and a source of fresh water. Food is probably available from the land or sea.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I have been fortunate that throughout my working career I’ve been able to do one of the things I most enjoy doing—teaching young children. I suppose if I must choose a ‘worst’ job, it would be as a school secretary. I did that job once, and did not like the constant bookkeeping.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I’ve read so many books, choosing one is very difficult. I loved the book, Hawaii, by James Michener. After reading the novel, my husband and I, along with our daughter and her family, made a trip to Hawaii. We visited a museum and other places where the first missionaries lived. The story came to life, and it was a wonderful experience.

Ocean or mountains?
I’ll take mountains any day. I am not a beach, sand and sun person. My skin is too fragile. Some of the most beautiful memories I have are of the trips to the mountains my husband and I took in our RV.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I’m a country girl for certain. City traffic frightens me. When I do venture to the city, I return home with culture shock. I can’t think in a metropolis with all its distractions. Sitting on my front porch and watching the four or five cars go by is a favorite pastime.

What’s on the horizon for you?
My ambition is to keep writing and publishing those stories running around in my head for as long as possible.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I love writing, publishing, and even promoting my books. I’m so very thankful self-publishing came about so writers like me have a place to get their manuscripts out to readers. We aren’t inhibited by agents, publishing houses with an agenda, and editors. Although editing is a necessary part of the writing process, I still have control over my story.

A Highland Ruby
She must choose between a life of adventure with the man she loves or a settled, secure life with her betrothed. Flora Vass forced Gavin Munro out of her heart and mind until he returned to Scotland after an adventurous five years in the New World. Gavin leaves no doubt he returned to make the bonnie Flora his own and intends to fight for her. Flora's betrothed, Iain MacKay, and Gavin's brother, Chief Andrew Munro, have other plans. Andrew needs her to marry the MacKay and bring peace between the two clans. Iain MacKay desires an heir. War with England looms on the horizon, forcing Flora to make crucial decisions.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

#TRAVEL TO REAL-LIFE GAME OF THRONES LOCATIONS

Castle Ward, Northern Ireland
photo by Ardfern
Jason Biondo is an amateur bodybuilder and a travel junkie who loves to share insightful tips to his fellow health enthusiasts and travelers. He is also a User Interface Developer Consultant and the Founder of Trekeffect. 

9 Breathtaking Real-Life Game of Thrones Locations

Game of Thrones is a phenomenon in the television industry and as far as its ratings are concerned, there are no signs of it slowing down. If you’re wondering where on earth to find the majestic places where the show is filmed, here are the answers.

Castle Ward, Northern Ireland – Winterfell’s Courtyard
The Castle Ward was featured as Winterfell’s courtyard and was used for the scene where King Robert arrived at Winterfell in which they were met by the house of Stark during the first episode. This historic farmyard is a unique 18th century mansion that is famous for its dazzling mix of architectural polishes. It is located on a rolling hillside overlooking the waters of Strangford Lough, Downpatrick. Because of the fame brought about by the television series, the place is now visited daily by many tourists. Game of Thrones tours are widely offered.

City of Dubrovnik, Croatia – King’s Landing
Dubrovnik is the main filming location for the scenes in South of Westeros or primarily the King’s Landing during the second season of the show. As most GOT fans know, this city showcases red-tiled roofs with orange terracotta tiles, large historic stone walls and scenic narrow streets as well as the wild seas. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is truly one of the most historic and fabulous places along the Adriatic Sea.
Lovrijenac Fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Lovrijenac Fortress, Croatia – The Red Keep
Another well-known place is the Red Keep – a place where kings and queens of Westeros rule the Seven Kingdoms. In real-life, this GOT place was filmed in the Fort Lovrjenac, which is also within the city of Dubrovnik. Also known as the Fort of St. Lawrence, it is located outside high walls that are over 50 meters thick to prevent its destruction by enemies. Visitors can climb the 175 stone steps to the impressive beacon to catch a glimpse of the city’s skyline.

Minceta Tower, Croatia – The House of the Undying
Built in 1913 as the highest quadrilateral fort, it is the highest part of Dubrovnik’s walls and gives a magnificent overview of the city. Minceta is often referred to as the most remarkable fort of the city and regarded as the symbol of the place. The scene where Daenerys Targaryen walks around the exterior and has to face unexpected visions in the House of Undying in order to gain knowledge about her future was shot here.
Done Castle, Scotland
photo by Steve Collis
Doune Castle, Scotland – Winterfell
This was the filming location of the show’s pilot episode where the interior served as the festivity area when the royal party arrived. The background of the castle was also used for many scenes in the Winterfell. The castle was rebuilt during the 14th century and served as a hunting lodge for Scottish royalty in the earlier years as well as a house for a widowed queen.

Azure Window, Malta – Wedding Scene
Located on Gozo Island, this natural limestone arch in the sea cliff was seen during Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s wedding. Even before the scene was shown on TV, it had been known as one of the most visited tourist destinations in Malta. Unfortunately, recent reports have suggested that it will collapse in the next few years because the sea is slowly eroding the arch. There are danger signs posted all over the arch.  However, people ignore them to walk across and head to the top for a stunning picture of this well-known place.

Fort Saint Angelo, Malta – The Red Keep Dungeon
Located at the hearth of Grand Harbour (which was used as a military habitation), this prehistoric structure was used by British soldiers and was severely damaged during World War II. The tunnels were used for the scene where Arya was chasing a cat as an assignment from Syrio Forel wherein she overheard a discussion about the possibility of a war.
Dina City Gate, Malta
photo by GFDL
 
Mdina City Gate, Malta – King’s Landing
This was originally the main setting of Game of Thrones, particularly on the first season, but because of logistics issue, it was later replaced by Dubrovnik. It is the old capital of Malta and one of the island’s oldest, strategically located walled cities.  Mdina’s inland setting, red-stoned buildings, and tall gates were the perfect shooting location for the show.

Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland – Kingsroad
The stunning view of beech trees that were perfectly aligned at the side of the streets is the location for the scene when Arya Stark escaped King’s Landing disguised as a young boy. It is considered the longest highway in the Seven Kingdoms, running from King’s Landing to the wall where Arya Stark rides for Castle Black. In real life, the Dark Hedges was created to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to Georgian Mansion. After a couple of centuries, the trees still retain their magnificence and have become one of the most photographed natural sights in Northern Ireland. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

#DECORATING—ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?

Turn on any decorating show these days, and you’ll see a preponderance of orange used in everything from accent walls to throwpillows to bric-a-brac. Orange is the go-to color on Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Love It or List It, and just about every other show on HGTV and the DIY network. More often than not, it’s paired with turquoise. 
Really? Orange and turquoise? I look at that color combination and all I can think of is Howard Johnson’s! Instead of complementing each other, they scream discordance to me. I must be in the minority, though, because these days orange and turquoise are everywhere from the big box stores to the high-end specialty home decor stores.
2016 Colors of the Year--Rose Quartz and Serenity
Interestingly enough, the colors of the year for 2016 are not orange and turquoise. Nor were they the colors of the year for 2015. This year for the first time, the Color Institute chose two colors—Rose Quartz and Serenity. In layman terms that’s baby pink and baby blue. Not exactly orange and turquoise, right?


Last year’s Color of the Year was Marsala, a rich wine color. Again, far removed and a much more sophisticated color than orange.


So why are decorators jumping on the orange bandwagon in opposition to the pronouncements of the Color Institute? I have no idea. All I know is that I’m anxiously awaiting the end of the orange trend. I’m not about to decorate my home like a nursery, but I also refuse to have it looking like a chain restaurant.

How do you feel about orange? And even if you like the color, would you decorate with it and pair it with turquoise?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JO-ANN CARSON AND KILLER SALMON CHOWDER

Growing up, Jo-Ann Carson she dreamed of traveling the world like James Bond, searching for relics like Indiana Jones, and finding true love, so it's no surprise that in her Mata Hari Series she combines elements of adventure, danger and steamy romance. In her Vancouver Blues Series she slides into the realm of Urban Noir and explores the dark side of the city. These  books are mainstream suspense with strong romantic elements and are very-Vancouver. Learn more about Jo-Ann and her books at her website. 

This is a recipe that I learned when I lived up on the Haida Gwaii, a remote and pristine wilderness area of Canada often referred to as the northern Galapagos Islands. In my book, Black Cat Blues it’s served at the local restaurant on Granville Island called The Scuttlebutt.

Smokey’s Killer Salmon Chowder

Ingredients:
a few T. oil
1 medium cooking onion
4-1/4 cups water
2-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (or equivalent) lima beans
2 fresh carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery
4 cooked sliced bacon strips, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups milk
6 T. flour
1 lb. can of salmon (or equivalent fresh)

In a large, deep skillet sauté sliced onion in oil until it’s soft. Add cooked bacon.

Add flour and stir until it cooks. Add 1/4 cup water and stir until it thickens to make roux. Add more water if necessary.

Boil 4 cups of water. Add the roux and stir. Add potatoes, beans, carrots, celery and the fluid from the canned salmon. Add more water if it’s too thick.

Cook twenty minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

Flake salmon with a fork and add to above. Always add fish at the very end of any recipe, because you don’t want to overcook it. This salmon is already cooked. You are just heating it up.

Add milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Serve.

I often garnish this with either shredded mozzarella or shredded cheddar cheese.

Black Cat Blues
A nightmare waits in the alley…

Stabbed in an alley behind the Black Cat Blues bar, private investigator Jimmy Daniels clings to life just long enough to tell Maggy Malone a secret.

Maggy, a curvy, blond, blues singer with a sultry voice and a razor sharp mind is starting her life over after a lousy marriage. Reluctant at first to get involved with a murder, she tells no one the secret.

But when the murderer stalks her, she changes her mind.

Maggy teams up with Jimmy’s brother Logan, a handsome suit with a tidy view of life. They figure out the killer is looking for gold buried on Gabriola Island by the notorious cult-leader Brother XII.

The body count rises. Will Maggy catch him? Or will she be his next victim?
And the lady sings the blues…

Monday, February 15, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--CROSS STITCHED SNOWFLAKE

Sick of winter yet? We still have weeks of the white stuff ahead of us in many parts of the country. However, there’s a certain beauty to snowflakes. That beauty is so fleeting, though. The moment the flake lands on your finger or nose, it disappears into a droplet of water.

Why not capture the beauty of the snowflake for posterity in cross stitch. (Disclaimer, here: I know snowflakes actually have six, not eight points. In cross stitch design, it’s often easier to take a bit of creative liberty.)

Put your own creative liberty to work with this super-easy design. On 14-ct. fabric, the size is just under 4-1/2” x 4-1/2”. Choose a color that matches your décor and have fun!

Friday, February 12, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ROSEMARY MORRIS

Critically acclaimed historical romance author Rosemary Morris loves to research and visit places of historical interest in order to convey the lives and times of the characters in her novels. When she’s not writing or spending time with family and friends, you can find her in her organic garden in South East England where she grows her own herbs, fruit and vegetables. Learn more about Rosemary and her books at her website.

I enjoyed plotting and planning Far Beyond Rubies, my romantic historical novel set in England during the reign of Queen Anne Stuart, 1702-1714. Amongst other things, Far Beyond Rubies was inspired by ancient Indian epics, such as the Mahabharat and the Ramayan, that rival, and in my opinion surpass, the Greek classics. My interest in them led to a four-year retreat in an ashram, where I studied A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s translation and commentary on The Bhagavad Gita, also known as The Gita Govinda, The Song of God.

For a long time, I wanted to write a novel with a hero influenced by his experiences in India, where he was employed by the East India Company. So, another source of inspiration was William Dalyrymple’s acclaimed nonfiction, White Mughals,  “…the romantic and ultimately tragic tale of a passionate love affair that crossed and transcended all the cultural, religious and political boundaries of its time. “

The hero, Gervaise, and the heroine, Juliana, whose tale would not end in tragedy, introduced themselves to me as though they were flesh and blood, not figments of my imagination.  I understood that when Gervaise saw Juliana for the first time, he sensed the love they had once shared, but never before had he thought the Hindu belief in reincarnation was worthy of consideration.

 I asked myself, what effect Gervaise had on Juliana, whose half-brother declared her parents were not married, and that he had inherited Riverside, a great estate?

From the time Juliana met Gervaise and he became her champion, she liked him but could not foresee the future.

Far Beyond Rubies
Set in 1706 during Queen Anne Stuart’s reign, Far Beyond Rubies begins when William, Baron Kemp, Juliana’s half-brother claims she and her young sister, Henrietta, are bastards. Spirited Juliana is determined to prove the allegation is false, and that she is the rightful heiress to Riverside, a great estate.

On his way to deliver a letter to William, Gervaise Seymour sees Juliana for the first time on the grounds of her family estate. The sight of her draws him back to India. When “her form changed to one he knew intimately – but not in this lifetime,” Gervaise knows he would do everything in his power to protect her.

Although Juliana and Gervaise are attracted to each other, they have not been formally introduced and assume they will never meet again. However, when Juliana flees from home, and is on her way to London, she encounters quixotic Gervaise at an inn. Circumstances force Juliana to accept his kind help. After Juliana’s life becomes irrevocably tangled with his, she discovers all is not as it seems. Yet, she cannot believe ill of him for, despite his exotic background, he behaves with scrupulous propriety while trying to help her find evidence to prove she and her sister are legitimate.

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