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.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011


Julia Buckley is our Book Club Friday guest today. Julia is a Chicago area writer.  Like her character Madeline Mann, she enjoys food more than she should.  Her first mystery, The Dark Backward, was released in June of 2006 and earned high praise from Crimespree and others; her next book, Madeline Mann, received glowing reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal.  It is now available for the first time on Kindle.  The second Madeline Mann mystery, Lovely, Dark and Deep, will soon be available, as well. Julia is currently at work on a new mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth and English teacher. Visit Julia at her writer’s blog  where she interviews fellow mystery writers and at her website. You can also find Julia blogging at Poe’s Deadly Daughters and Inkspot. -- AP

The Mystery of April 1st and the Joy of Food

Happy April Fools’ Day, everyone!  It seems appropriate to note on a mystery blog that the origin of this holiday is, in fact, a mystery—although there are many theories.  Mention of the 1st of April can be traced all the way back to Chaucer’s Canturbury Tales, but references to the playing of pranks on this day came later. 

The most popular theory, according to this National Geographic article is that the holiday originated in France, which changed to the Roman calendar in the 1500s and no longer celebrated its New Year on the first of April or May, with the dawn of spring.  However, (so the story goes), the country rubes didn’t get word of the change, and so they became the APRIL FOOLS who still celebrated in the old fashioned way.

Whatever its origin, April Fool’s Day is celebrated in many nations.  Some countries suggest that pranks can only be played until noon—after which the prank players become April Fools.  Other countries  (including ours) encourage the silly jokes all day long.  Even the “serious” mediums of government bodies, television programs, newspapers, and websites have joined in the fun with various “prank” announcements over the years.

My own theory is simply that people have always been so giddy with the arrival of spring that they are encouraged to do silly things, and that at some point the term April Fool could have sprung from the idea of spring shenanigans.

May you have some giddy spring fun of your own today!

And since I don’t have a book to offer as a giveaway today, I’d like to share a recipe.  In my book Madeline Mann, Madeline repeatedly asks her German mother to make Rouladen, her favorite since childhood.  Her mother never finds the time—until a frightening event makes her dote on her daughter with home cooking.

This traditional German dinner is made up of onion and bacon-stuffed beef rolls in gravy.  Delicious!  But you’ll need some time for preparation.

German Rouladen, Madeline Mann’s Favorite Dish

  • 8 (4 ounce) pieces round steak, pounded 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (can also add chopped pickles)
  • ½ cup chopped red cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beef broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or as needed)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or, in Madeline’s case, a cup)
  1. Sprinkle the onion, cabbage, paprika, salt, and pepper evenly over the steaks. Lay one slice of bacon on each piece. Roll the steaks jelly-roll style and secure with toothpicks.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook meat on all sides until browned. Add the beef broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the meat rolls. Strain the broth mixture and return liquid to the skillet. Whisk together the cornstarch and 1 cup of water. Slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the skillet, stirring continually until the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the sour cream. Return rolls to the sauce; serve immediately.
  4. Tastes best with German dumplings (spaetzle) or egg noodles.
  5. Madeline prefers a pat of butter on the dumplings.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Julia! Readers if you make Julia’s recipe and like it, she’d love to hear from you. Contact her through her website. -- AP

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Assistant fashion editor Erica Milano gives us a peak at what’s hot for spring. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Do you remember the 70’s? I don’t of course, but I’m sure Anastasia and the rest of the editors here at American Woman do. For those of you who weren’t born yet, like moi, 70’s fashion was all about bell bottom pants, peasant blouses and skirts, and macramé vests. Loud neon colors and wild patterns.

Well gues what? They’re baaaaack! Spring 2011 is all about 70’s retro. Marrakech, Moracco, and India influences will abound, as will bright, vibrant corals, deep pinks, brilliant blues, and vivid turquoises. 
 Maxi dresses and skirts will be must-haves. In pants, forget those skinny jeans. The wide leg is back in both flared styles and bell bottoms. Making its comeback is also the high-waist pant paired with flowing blouses. 

Along with peasant prints and wild prints, stripes will be huge, especially nautically inspired stripes in bright colors and white. You’ll be seeing a lot of them in tops and dresses.

And I know Anastasia is going to love this -- both macramé and crochet will be seen everywhere. Look for them in accessories, especially lacy scarves and jewelry. Beads will also be a hot must-have in accessories, in everything from bags and wallets to oversized necklaces in those hot bright colors I mentioned.

Finally, let’s talk about footwear. Platforms and wedges are what every fashionista will be wearing, along with simple canvas sneakers and metallic ballet flats, which look great paired with those maxi skirts and dresses.

Hey, Erica, I was a little kid back in the seventies! But I have watched Saturday Night Fever a time or two. I just hope you won’t be telling us to go out to buy pet rocks, lava lamps, and black velvet paintings! And thankfully, you didn’t mention leisure suits. That’s one fashion trend that should never come back!

What do you think about these new-for-spring styles, readers? Let’s hear from you.
-- AP


Money guru Sheila Conway is back today with ways to keep food lasting longer in the fridge. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Do you often have to toss fruits and veggies because they’ve gone bad before you had a chance to use them? The trick to keeping fresh foods fresh longer is to know how to store them.

Berries should never be washed before storing in the refrigerator. Wash them just before eating or cooking.

Lemons and limes will keep at room temperatures for a week. If you want them to last longer, place them in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They’ll last 2-3 weeks.

Apples should never be stored at room temperature for more than a day or two. Keep them in a sealed plastic bag, to which you’ve added a tablespoon of water, in your crisper drawer, and they’ll last up to 4 weeks.

Store bananas at room temperature, but if they ripen quicker than you can use them, just toss the ripened bananas into the fridge. The skins will turn black, but the bananas will stay ripe.

Keep fresh mushrooms in the refrigerator, first placing them in a brown paper bag covered with a damp paper towel.

Wrap fresh herbs in a dry paper towel. Place in a sealed plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer.

Nuts stored in the freezer will keep longer and shell easier.

Great tips, Sheila! I hate having to throw out food. Readers, do you have other tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


There’s nothing like homemade soup on a cold winter’s day. Today Cloris offers you her mushroom soup recipe, one of my favorites. Just don't ask about calories! -- AP

2 lbs. mushrooms
2 qts. chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
1-1//2 sticks butter
12 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk
4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons sherry

Clean mushrooms and chop into very fine pieces. Simmer mushrooms and onions in broth for 30 minutes.

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and whisk until blended.

Bring milk to boil. Add milk to butter/flour mixture, whisking together until smooth. Add cream.

Add milk mixture to broth. Add salt. Add sherry just before serving.

I suppose you can use skim milk for the whole milk and whole milk for the cream, but it just won’t be the same. Cloris says sometimes you just have to forget about the calories and enjoy. This is definitely one of those times. -- AP

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Peter Cottontail is on the way. So for the next several Mondays, I’ll be showcasing Easter egg crafts. But these are not crafts made from real eggs. I never saw the sense in spending hours to decorate real eggs, only to have them cracked open and eaten. It’s like all those reality TV baking shows that showcase wedding cakes that sell for thousands of dollars. The cakes are beautiful, and I really admire the artistry, but give me a break! Five grand for something that’s going to get cut up and devoured? Some people obviously have too much money. I can think of many other uses for five grand.

So here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers you’ll find Easter eggs that will last from year to year. Make a dozen or so and toss them into a basket or bowl for a centerpiece. But first today, directions for making an Easter egg place card holder.

Don’t need place card holders? Just make the button covered Easter eggs.

1-7/8” x 2-1/2” Styrofoam egg
3/4” wood spool
1-1/4” paper clip
2” length of 1/4” wood dowel
acrylic paint (your choice of color(s)
assorted small pastel and white buttons
tacky glue
paint brush
colored paper for name card

1. Paint the spool as desired. Allow to dry.

2. Glue one end of the dowel into the spool and the other end into the bottom center of the egg. Glue the paper clip into the top center of the egg, leaving 3/4” extending out the top. Allow glue to dry.

3. Glue assorted small buttons to egg.

4.  Print out guests’ names on colored paper. Trim to approximately 1” x 2”. Insert into paper clip.


Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank Candace Dempsey for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Murder in Italy to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Irene. Irene, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Candace, and she’ll mail the book to you. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011


We normally showcase fiction on Book Club Fridays, generally mystery, thrillers, or suspense. Today we have true-crime author Candace Dempsey, the award-winning Italian-American author of the MURDER IN ITALY: The Shocking Slaying of a British Student, the Accused American Girl, and an International Scandal. Candace has reported on the Kercher/Knox case for CNN Headline News, KOMO TV and Italian television. MURDER IN ITALY grew out of her true crime blog, which has attracted worldwide attention. It's hosted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and has been featured on Newsweek.com and CNN Anderson Cooper 360.
Candace has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and decades of newspaper and magazine experience. She has been a magazine editor (Alaska Airlines Magazine), a newspaper editor (the Argus) and an editor, writer and producer for MSN, as well as a freelance travel writer. Her adventure tales appear in Travelers’ Tales A Woman’s Passion For Travel, Solo: On Her Own Adventure (Seal Press), Gifts of the Wild (Seal Press) and other anthologies.  She is the former editor/producer of MSN Underwire.com, a women's website that Newsweek called "cheeky, nicely written, fun" and The New York Times saluted for "serious sisterhood." Candace has covered travel, women's issues, business and other topics for numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Phoenix, Puget Sound Business Journal, Art & Antiques, Passionfruit and Adventure Journal.

You can read more about Candace at her website, and if you’d like to read MURDER IN ITALY, post a comment today or tomorrow. You could be the lucky winner of the copy Candace is giving away. -- AP

Why Make Up Amanda Knox Whoppers?
Short of covering Angelina Jolie, I can’t imagine a more paparazzi-perfect writing job than penning MURDER IN ITALY, my true crime book about the sensational Amanda Knox case. She’s the U.S. college student from Seattle, convicted of killing her British roommate.

Each time Amanda shows up for court in Italy, the flash bulbs pop. She can’t chop off her hair, as she did last summer, without causing international headlines. Every story dwells on her looks. She’s fat, she’s thin, she’s pale, she’s tanned. She has a cold sore on her lip.

Meanwhile the beautiful twenty-three-year old, who rides from Capanne Prison to court in a cramped metal cage inside a police van, becomes more unreal. Since reporters aren’t allowed to interview Amanda, I captured her journey from honor student to convicted killer through her own words, pulled from diaries, Facebook, MySpace, court statements, and videos. Whatever bits and pieces of the real Amanda that I could find. I did the same for the victim, Meredith Kercher. The cover of MURDER IN ITALY recreates her last walk home across the cobblestones.

Amanda’s parents say she was horrified when she recently reached the pinnacle of reverse fame. A Lifetime movie (“Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial in Italy”) based on her arrest and three-year imprisonment, starring blonde starlet Hayden Panettiere (who looks like her and did a pretty good job). I found 27 fact errors (like showing her giggling at a prayer vigil she didn’t attend), which I would’ve considered semi-hilarious and so Hollywood if Amanda’s case weren’t on appeal and these errors weren’t so prejudicial.

Why make anything up? That’s what I kept wondering. The prosecutor from Central Casting (a chubby, pipe-smoking man later convicted of abuse of office) claimed Amanda had stabbed her roommate to death with a kitchen knife during a “drug-fueled sex game gone wrong.” The alleged co-conspirators: Raffaele Sollecito, Amanda’s Italian ex-boyfriend of six days; drifter Rudy Guede, a man she’d met only once and Raffaele didn’t even know. 

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini blamed the crime on everything from Halloween to satanic rituals, from Manga comic books to the Celtic New Year and messy housekeeping. In the end, the prosecution admitted it had no motive, claiming the trio did the murder just for kicks. They all claim to be innocent.

If you can’t concoct a cocktail esplosivo from those ingredients without fakery, then you don’t recognize a fabulous story when you see one. For me, the excitement came in trying to figure out what really happened, in doing that detective work. For what is more elusive and unbelievable than the truth, especially during a show trial?

I adore Agatha Christie and have read everything Patricia Highsmith ever wrote. But the Knox case never required fictionalization, although many news stories came close. I loved being in court, digging into documents, interviewing the big players on both sides, meeting Amanda’s friends and family members. I started covering the case from the start on my seattlepi.com blog and will keep going until the final appeal.

I’m an Italian-American journalist and I spent three years traveling back and forth from Seattle (Amanda’s hometown, where I’m based) to Italy to cover this once-in-a-century case. My ultra-wise Penguin editor, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, said I had enough material for eight books. I still regret the juicy nuggets we had to cut because Shannon, who usually edits mystery books, said they were “tangential to the plot.” 

What’s that you say? How can real life have a plot? I wondered this myself, before I learned how to weave a real-life murder mystery from the actual facts

Truth isn’t just stranger than fiction. In MURDER IN ITALY, it’s every bit as fascinating.

Thanks, Candace! I’ve been following the case since the beginning and have been amazed by the ineptness of the Italian prosecution and their court system. I have my fingers crossed that Amanda wins her appeal and look forward to reading your book. What about the rest of you readers? Post a comment for a chance to win MURDER IN ITALY. -- AP


Assistant fashion editor Erica Milano has a cool storage tip for us today. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! How many of you have dealt with necklace chain tangle? You know what I mean. All those fine chains that no matter how carefully you lay them out in your jewelry box or drawer somehow manage to get all tangled up in each other. It’s almost as if there’s an evil necklace elf who sneaks into our jewelry boxes when we’re not looking and deliberately tangles and knots together all our chains.

Well, here’s a great tip for ridding yourself of that evil elf. Feed each necklace chain through a drinking straw and fasten before storing. Voila! No more tangles.

Great suggestion, Erica! I tried this, and it really works. Readers, if you have a tip you think others would be interested in, why not share it with us? 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for a chance to win a book from our Friday Book Club guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Health editor Janice Kerr jumps on the cool tips bandwagon this week with a quick hot pack or ice pack from your kitchen staples. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! We all get aches and pains that often find us reaching for the heating pad or filling a plastic bag with ice cubes. But heating pads confine us to sitting near an outlet, sometimes in an uncomfortable position if we can’t find an extension cord, and ice cube filled plastic bags invariably leak. Next time you need a hot pad or ice pack, grab a box of rice instead.

Yes, I said rice.

Fill a clean white tube sock with a cup of uncooked rice. Tie the sock tightly shut with some string or yarn. Microwave on high for a minute. Check the temperature. If you want the sock hotter, continue microwaving ten seconds at a time until the desired heat is reached. Apply to the ache.

For ice packs, keep a rice-filled sock in a plastic bag in the freezer. Remove the sock from the bag whenever you need an ice pack. Return the sock to the freezer when through.

I don’t know about you, readers, but I’m off to fill a sock. My shoulder is killing me! Thanks, Janice! 

Post a comment to enter the drawing for a chance to win a book from our Friday Book Club guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Chicken is a mainstay in our home because it’s relatively inexpensive and good for you, especially if you don’t fry it! Today Cloris serves up a chicken breast recipe that my family loves. -- AP

(serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 glove garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 - 16 oz.) diced tomatoes
4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 dried cranberries

Brown chicken in olive oil, approximately 4 minutes per side. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook a minute longer. Add tomatoes, apricots, and cranberries and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered approximately 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until sauce is desired consistency.

Thanks, Cloris! I know our readers will enjoy this dish. Readers, what’s for dinner at your house tonight? Post a comment to enter the drawing for a chance to win a book from our Friday Book Club guest author. -- AP

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Spool dolls were traditionally made for babies. Their jiggling and rattling kept many an infant amused for hours. Today spool dolls can be used as a home dec element or as a wearable. Use them as necklaces, pins, plant pokes, kitchen magnets, shade pulls, or package decorations. They also make a great party activity for little girls.

Materials3/4” wood spool for body
ten 1/2” wood spools for arms and legs (3 each for legs, 2 each for arms)
16mm wood bead for head
four 10mm wood beads for hands and feet
heavy duty jute cord
7” of 2” wide ruffled trim
7” of 1-1/2” wide gathered Cluny lace
small amount of Spanish moss
mini ribbon rose
miniature straw hat to fit head
blue and pink paint
small paint brush
needle and thread
tacky glue or glue gun

Cut two 12” pieces of jute. Knot one end of each. Thread feet and legs onto each individual piece, then thread body onto both pieces. Thread arms and hands onto individual pieces of jute. Knot ends at hands. Trim.

Glue head to body over jute. Allow to dry.

Using the wooden point of the paint brush, dip point into paint and dot onto head, using blue for eyes and a slightly larger dot of pink for the mouth.

With gathered edges together and right sides facing up, baste lace to ruffled trim. Gather and tie to back of doll.

Glue Spanish moss to top of head for hair. Glue straw hat over head. Glue ribbon rose to front of dress under head.

Cute, right? And so easy to make. What would you use a spool doll for? Let’s hear from you. -- AP


Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank CJ Lyons for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Critical Condition to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Janet. Janet, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to CJ, and she’ll mail the book to you. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today at Book Club Friday we’re happy to have back author CJ Lyons. As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about.  In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. 

Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. 

Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, URGENT CARE and CRITICAL CONDITION) is available now.  Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich.  You can learn more at CJ's blog and for free reads, "Like" her at http://www.facebook.com/CJLyonsBestsellingThrillerAuthor -- AP

CJ Lyons

Would you say no to Erin Brockovich?

I couldn't -- in fact, I could barely suppress a squee of fan-girl delight when I learned that Erin not only enjoyed my medical thrillers but that she'd chosen me as co-author of her new suspense series.

When we spoke -- well, she talked, I could barely string words together, I was so excited! -- she said that she enjoyed my strong female protagonists and how they let nothing stand in their way of doing what was right. Turns out we both feel the same way about our fiction -- heavy on the characters and their relationships, light on the plot devices, and as fast-paced as possible.  

During that first conversation we began to talk about our personal life-views and philosophies and I mentioned how the entire reason I write what I call "Thrillers with Heart" is because of my belief that we are each our own hero. And Erin finished my sentence for me--because she shares the same viewpoint!

Of course we gave our main character, AJ Palladino, that life philosophy as well. Only for AJ it gets her into a lot of trouble along the way!

It was easy to develop AJ Palladino (her name kinda says it all, doesn't it?) as a real "people's champion" like both Erin and myself (as a pediatric ER physician, I specialized in child advocacy). But what should our first novel be about?  

A few weeks earlier I'd traveled to teach a writing workshop and my flight had taken me over the Appalachian Mountains. Being from central Pennsylvania, I'm no stranger to strip mining, but this was my first time seeing the ravages of mountain top removal mining up close.  

I wept. Yes, tough, ER doc me, not bothered by blood, guts, or gore--and I actually was crying!

Staring out the plane's window, my stomach lurched, my very soul fought for balance as I looked down on the man-made travesty that had once been beautiful, life-sustaining mountains. It was so very wrong on so many levels that it made me physically ill.

I shared this with Erin. She had also seen the destruction first-hand and thought mountain top removal mining was a fight worthy of our protagonist. And so, ROCK BOTTOM was born.

But I think what became important about ROCK BOTTOM, even though it was inspired by the passion Erin and I felt about mountain top removal mining and the damage it does to the people of Appalachia, was that at its heart, it's really the story of an adult child returning home and learning the true meaning of family.

And haven't we all shared that experience? Coming home and realizing that it's not the "home" we've fantasized about while we were out in the "real" world?

Of course, AJ's homecoming also involved murder and mayhem!

What kind of homecoming surprises have you had?

Share your story in the comments and you'll be entered to win a copy of the finale of my Angels of Mercy series, CRITICAL CONDITION.

Thanks for reading,

Okay, readers, let’s hear from you. I can tell you from personal experience that CRITICAL CONDITION is a fabulous read, and I can’t wait to crack open my copy of ROCK BOTTOM. -- AP

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling has some tips today for caring for and extending the life of your make-up brushes. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Many of us have moved away from cosmetic wedges and are now using brushes to apply everything from foundation to powder to lipstick to liner and shadow. Good make-up brushes can be pricey, so you want to treat them with care. If you don’t, you’ll be replacing them often.

Here are some tips that will help extend the life of those brushes:

For brushes where you change color often (eye shadow, liner, and lip brushes), you’re going to need to remove the color after each use. The easiest way to do this is to place a moist paper towel in the palm of your hand. With the brush in your other hand, twirl the brush around the paper towel until you’ve removed all the color. Place the brush on a clean towel to dry.

With repeated use, bacteria and oils will build up on make-up brushes. To sanitize your brushes use a make-up brush cleaner every week or two. Follow the directions on the brush cleaner.

Every few months you want to give your brushes a deeper cleansing. Wet the bristles with warm water and massage a small amount of your face cleanser into a lather. Swish the brushes around in warm water to rinse off the cleanser. Use your fingers to squeeze out any excess water from the bristles and reshape them. Place on a clean towel to dry.

Hmm…sounds quite similar to the way I care for my watercolor brushes. Thanks, Nicole! Readers, do you have any similar tips you’d like to share with us? Let’s hear from you! Post a comment to win a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP


Our money guru Sheila Conway is always looking for ways to save you money. Today she has one that saves both money and the planet. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Ever notice that when you need to buy cleaning products, your grocery bill skyrockets? And once you’ve bought those products, you have to deal with the noxious fumes and odors when you use them. More and more companies are coming out with green cleaning products, but often at a premium price.

Did you know you can do much of your cleaning for pennies with items you have right in your refrigerator? Take the humble lemon, for instance. Squeeze half a lemon into a bowl filled with two cups of water. Add the squeezed half to the bowl, and place the bowl in your dirty microwave. Microwave on high for 5 - 10 minutes. Let the bowl stay in the closed microwave for another 5 minutes. Open the door and wipe the inside of your microwave clean with a sponge or towel.

What a great suggestion! Thanks, Sheila! And I’ll bet your kitchen and microwave smell lemony fresh afterwards, too. Readers, do you have any money-saving or cleaning tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


With St. Patrick’s Day only days away, Cloris has an Irish Whiskey Cake to help you celebrate. Word of warning, though: This cake is for grown-ups only. -- AP


2-1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 shortening
1 cup milk
4 ounces whiskey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Butter and lightly flour a bundt pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, 1-1/4 cups of sugar, baking powder, salt, and dry pudding mix. Cream 1/2 stick butter and shortening together. Beat in 1 ounce of whiskey, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, beating at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Fold in nuts. Pour into bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes.

Melt together remaining butter, whiskey, and sugar. Spoon mixture over hot cake. Let cake sit in pan for 2 hours. Remove cake from pan and refrigerate.

Now that’s a cake for celebrating the Irish in all of us! Thanks, Cloris. Remember, readers, keep this cake away from the kids. -- AP

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I love to cross stitch!  I wish I had time to cross stitch more often, but it’s kind of hard to squeeze in a few relaxing hours of stitching when there always seems to be something else that needs doing -- like figuring out how to pay off dead hubby’s loan shark.  Someday I may be able to get back to my favorite pastime and wile away the hours with a piece of linen, a tapestry needle, and all those gorgeous DMC floss colors.  In the meantime, I’ve got some cross stitching tips to share with those of you who do manage to squeeze in some cross stitching time from time to time.

*Don’t throw away small scraps of cross stitch fabrics. Keep them handy to make ornaments, bookmarks, covered buttons, jewelry, and magnets. For jewelry and magnets, coat the finished stitching with fabric stiffener and mount to a pin back or magnet when dry.
*When stitching on dark colored fabric, place a white pillowcase on your lap or wear a white skirt or pants. This will enable you to see the holes of the fabric more clearly.

*Separate your different sized tapestry needles by sticking them into scraps of the proper count fabric. That way it’s easy to find the right size needle for every project.

*When stitching on perforated paper, use shorter lengths of floss and a slightly looser tension. This will keep the perforated paper from accidentally tearing.

*Have you ever accidentally stained a favorite blouse or other piece of clothing and couldn’t get the stain out? Instead of discarding the garment, why not stitch a design such as a flower, heart, monogram, or butterfly over the spot using waste canvas? Just look through your pattern books to find a design that will fit. You may want to stitch the design in several places on the garment to give added interest. This technique also works well for stained children’s clothing you want to pass down to younger siblings.

*Clear plastic storage boxes are terrific for storing cross stitch fabric. Purchase one for each of the different count sizes you have, and label the ends of the boxes for quick reference.

*Cardboard magazine holders are ideal for storing cross stitch books. Label the ends of the holders and separate the books and leaflets by subject, such as Christmas designs, children’s designs, florals, etc.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP


Thanks to all who stopped by this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. We hope you'll come back often and also tell your friends about us. We have lots of exciting posts and guests planned for the months ahead. I’d also like to thank Carola Dunn for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Requiem for a Mezzo to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Pat Dale. Pat, please email your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Carola, and she’ll mail the book to you. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Our guest today at Book Club Friday is multi-published mystery author Carola Dunn. Carola writes the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in 1920s England, and the Cornish mysteries set in the 1960s in Cornwall. She has also written 32 Regencies. You can read more about Carola at her blog and websiteToday Carola talks about killers and how they come in all shapes and sizes. Carola is also offering a copy of Requiem for a Mezzo to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP

Killers come in all shapes and sizes. Having just finished writing the 20th mystery in my Daisy Dalrymple series, I'm constantly looking for new variations.

For a start, I prefer the word "killer" to "murderer." Not all homicides are murder. Some of the unnatural deaths in my books involve assault not intended to cause death, accident, self-defence, or defence of others. This allows some of my killers to be sympathetic characters. In turn this allows Daisy to hold—and act on—a different view of Justice from that of her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, who's sworn to uphold the Law.

They haven't yet quite reached the point where they want to kill each other! 

Of course, some of my killer characters commit deliberate murder. Their motives ring the changes on the basics: greed, jealousy, fear, revenge, anger. They are male and female, young and old, rich and poor. Some are crafty (pun intended); some are not too bright and are not arrested immediately more through luck than cleverness. They are otherwise pleasant people who would probably never kill again if they weren't caught, and unpleasant people who are a danger to society.

But however desperate for new twists, I don't create homicidal maniacs. I'm just not really interested in someone who kills for pleasure, or from an irresistible impulse to kill. I prefer to explore the motive(s) of a person who feels he or she has a compelling reason that we can understand, even if we can't imagine ever taking it to the lengths of murder. 

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Carola! Readers, if you'd like a chance to win Requiem for a Mezzo, leave a comment, and be sure to check back on Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner. -- AP


Assistant fashion editor Erica Milano is back today with another fashion trend and a few tips she got from yours truly. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia. Metal studs are no longer just for dog collars and bikers. They’ve become the embellishment of choice for many designers. You’ll find them on everything from jeans to jackets to belts to purses to shoes and more this year.

However, most of us can’t afford designer stud duds. So what’s a fashion conscious girl to do? Head for the crafts store! I learned this little trick from our very own crafts editor here at
American Woman, Anastasia Pollack. The other day Anastasia took a look at some studded samples that came into the office, rolled her eyes at the price tags, and proceeded to clue me into the Secret of the Crafting Sisterhood -- DIY!

Love those studs? Just head over to your local crafts store and purchase a variety of studs and a stud setter (sometimes called rivets or prongs.) You’ll find them in the jewelry-making aisle. There are even iron-on varieties. Both come with simple, easy-to-follow directions. For those items you want to decorate where you can’t use a setter or an iron, purchase jewelry glue. With a few dollars and a few hours of your time, you can update your existing wardrobe and accessories to one of today’s hottest trends. And no one has to know those fab shoes aren’t crafted by Jimmy Choo.

Thanks, Erica. I just hope I haven’t created a monster. Readers, you should see our office. Erica has become a studding mad woman! We may need to gather the other editors for a stud intervention. How do you feel about studs? Wooden, fashion, or otherwise. Post a comment to be entered in this week's drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Every once in awhile one of our editors comes across a great tip that really doesn’t fall neatly into any of our editorial areas. Still, we’d like to pass along the information to our readers. So from time to time we’re going to step our of our expected roles to give you cool tips about “other stuff.” Today decorating editor Jeanie Sims has something to offer. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Have you ever packed or unpacked a shipping carton and had to deal with those maddening foam packing peanuts? They drive you nuts the way they stick to your hands and clothing, don’t they? I’m no scientist, but I think it has something to do with static electricity.

Well, what’s the secret to avoiding static on your clothes from the dryer? Fabric softener sheets, of course. So the next time before you pack or unpack a carton containing foam peanuts, wipe your hands with a fabric softener dryer sheet. It will keep the peanuts from clinging to your hands.

What a great suggestion! Thanks, Jeanie! I’m forever fighting with packing peanuts. Readers, if you have a tip you think others would be interested in, why not share it with us? 
Post a comment to be entered in this week's drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP