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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Sunday, July 31, 2011



3” x 8” blank stencil plastic
X-acto knife
permanent ink marker
repositioning adhesive
rust colored stencil paint
stencil brush
15” x 72” muslin, pre-washed to remove sizing
6” x 45” brown cotton fabric
12” Styrofoam wreath form
masking tape
basic sewing supplies
air or water soluable fabric marker
coping saw
low-temp glue gun

1. Enlarge the hen pattern so that the 4 hens measure a total of 6” in length. Tape pattern centered to underside of plastic stencil sheet making sure bottom of hens are parallel with long edges of stencil material. Using permanent ink marker, trace pattern onto stencil sheet.

2. Carefully cut out hens with X-acto knife.

3.  Apply repositionable adhesive to the back of the stencil. Allow to dry.

4. Fold muslin in half lengthwise. Press crease. Crease will become outer edge of ruffle.

5. Open fabric and tape to flat, covered work surface. Position stencil on fabric, lining up top of stencil with fabric crease.

6.  To stencil, dip the tip of the stencil brush into the stencil paint. Remove excess paint by tapping the brush onto a folded paper towel. Hold the brush perpendicular to the stencil and dab the brush in an up and down motion over the cutout edges of the stencil, working toward center of cut-out.

7. When stenciling is complete, carefully lift the stencil and reposition it. Continue stenciling down the length of the fabric. Allow the paint to dry 24 hours.

8. Heat set the paint by ironing on a cotton setting.

9. Turn under and hem short ends of fabric 1/4”. Fold fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together. Using 1/4” seam allowance, stitch long side of fabric. Turn right side out. Press. Stitch 1” from hemmed edge to form interior ruffle.

10. Measure thickness of wreath (about 6”.) Add 1/4” to this measurement. Divide in half (about 3-1/8”.) Using fabric marker, mark this measurement from stitching for interior ruffle. Sew along marked line.

11. Using a coping saw, slit the wreath on an angle.

12. Slip the fabric covering onto the wreath. Glue the slit together with glue gun. Redistribute gathers, covering the slit in the wreath.

13. Fold bow fabric in half lengthwise. Using 1/4” seam allowance, sew along raw edges, leaving an opening for turning. Turn right side out. Press. Stitch opening closed.

14. Tie fabric into a bow. Pin or glue to wreath, covering the ends of the ruffled wreath.


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 Cricket McRae for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of Wined and Died to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Pearl. Pearl, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Cricket, and she’ll mail the book to you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Today’s Book Club Friday guest is mystery author Cricket McRae. A former resident of the Pacific Northwest where her novels are set, Cricket McRae has always dabbled in the kind of practical home crafts that were once necessary to everyday life. The magical chemistry of making soap, the satisfaction of canning garden produce, and the sensuous side of fiber arts like spinning and knitting are just of few of the reasons these activities have fascinated her since childhood. As a girl she was as much a fan of Nancy Drew as of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so it's no surprise that her contemporary cozy series features a soap maker with a nose for investigation. For more information about Cricket or the Home Crafting Mystery Series, check out www.cricketmcrae.com or her Hearth Cricket blog at www.hearthcricket.com.
Cricket is offering a copy of Wined and Died, her newest release, to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. Check back on Sunday to learn who the winner is. -- AP
I’m so happy to be back at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers!
In my fifth Home Crafting Mystery, Wined and Died, the ancient craft of mead making provides the milieu for mayhem. A dead psychotherapist’s notes indicate a murder is about to occur. It involves the family who owns the Grendel Meadery, and Sophie Mae races to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes. 
Arguably the oldest alcoholic beverage, mead is simply honey wine. It developed independently all over the world and is the national drink of Ethiopia where it is called T’ej. For centuries, mead was the only type of wine in regions where grapes and other wine-making fruits don’t grow.
Of course, at the heart of mead is honey. You can add any number of fruits, spices, herbs, and even grapes to make different varieties of mead, but they all contain honey. Like grapes, the kind of honey used creates the unique flavor of any given mead.
Honey is really pretty amazing. Raw honey, that is. Heat it and you destroy many of its beneficial qualities. Honey is a natural preservative. You can leave it on the shelf for ten years, and it doesn’t go bad, so the idea of pasteurizing it to kill bacteria is a bit nonsensical. Wine made with honey doesn’t require the addition of sulfates or other preservatives. If you avoid wine because even one glass can give you a headache, try mead instead.
Honey is chock full of antioxidants and has a comparatively low glycemic index. Diabetics tolerate honey better than sugar, and it’s been proven to actually lower cholesterol and benefit vascular health.
In two different studies I found, honey was shown to be a more effective cough suppressant for children ages 2-18 than dextromethorphan (which is found in most over-the-counter cough suppressants).
For centuries honey has been used as an antiseptic for the treatment of burns and wounds. It's a humectant, which means it absorbs moisture, so it’s great for treating poison ivy, poison oak and the like. It also contains glucose oxidase, an enzyme which produces hydrogen peroxide when combined with water. No wonder it’s antiseptic! There’s more: An antibacterial antioxidant unique to honey (called pinocembrin) has been proven to inhibit E-coli.
Eating local honey may help allergies, as well, serving as a kind of vaccination against pollen prevalent in the area where it was harvested.
It’s great to eat, but also good for your skin. Mild alphy hydroxy acids in honey make it an effective exfoliant while balancing out oily skin and stimulating the production of collagen. Pretty cool, huh?
Sophie Mae, my amateur sleuth, has a handmade toiletry business, and one of her favorite simple facial cleansers contains honey. Just mix 1 Tablespoon of honey with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons finely ground nuts – almonds are good. Rub the mixture onto your face, leave for a few minutes, and rinse with warm water.
Or, simply add 1/4 cup of honey to your bath water for a luxurious soak!
One quick word of warning though: You should NOT feed honey to children under the age of one, as it may contain a specific form of botulism spore that can cause infant botulism. Honey is safe for children older than twelve months old, though.
I learned so many interesting tidbits as I researched Wined and Died. Thanks for letting me share some of them with your readers, Anastasia!

Thanks for sharing, Cricket. I’m off to mix up that honey cleanser. How about you readers? Comment for a chance to win a copy of Wined and Died. -- AP

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Today we welcome back NY Times bestselling author Caridad Pineiro to talk about one of her favorite places, the Jersey shore. Caridad is the author of over twenty-six paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels and novellas. Her popular THE CALLING vampire series returns in 2012. THE FIFTH KINGDOM, a romantic suspense, was just released, and THE LOST, the first book in her new SIN HUNTERS paranormal romance series arrives in August. Caridad has also written the foreword for OBSESSED: EROTIC ROMANCE FOR WOMEN edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel which will be available in August 2011.  Her popular THE CALLING vampire series returns in 2012, but vampire lovers will enjoy A VAMPIRE FOR CHRISTMAS (October 2011) which includes Caridad's novella, WHEN HERALD ANGELS SING. For more information on Caridad, visit her website.  -- AP

When I created the concept for THE LOST, the first book in my paranormal SIN HUNTERS series, I had no doubt that I wanted to set the book in one of my favorite places:  the Jersey Shore.

I know that by now you’ve probably had a look at the show by that name, but the real Jersey Shore is nothing like that.  It’s one hundred and thirty miles of beaches and towns which each have their unique flavor.

For THE LOST, I chose a stretch of shoreline that runs from the southern town of Sea Girt to the more northern locations of Asbury Park.  In that gap of about ten or so miles, there are several interesting and lovely towns and today I’m going to share some of them with you!

Bradley Beach is a family-friendly area with a non-commercial boardwalk.  That means that you can stroll near the ocean without all the hubbub of rides and shops crowding the beauty of nature.

Here’s a photo of the Bradley Beach Centennial Fountain located along their boardwalk.  You can stroll along here with your family, play a game of mini-golf or maybe bocce. 

Relax and savor the sea air in one of Bradley’s many gazebos or sit and listen to one of the regular free concerts offered at the main gazebo on Fifth Avenue

In THE LOST, the heroine’s family lives in Bradley Beach while she has a nearby condo in lovely Ocean Grove, also known as God’s Little Square Mile.  Ocean Grove was founded in 1869 as a Victorian-era Methodist camp meeting site.  The town is filled with lovely Victorian architecture, a bustling Main Avenue and the unusual tent city in and around the Great Auditorium.

For nightlife along this stretch of the Jersey Shore, the place to go is Asbury Park which is undergoing a renaissance.  New stores and restaurants as well as renovations to the Convention Center and Paramount Theatre are making the Asbury Park boardwalk the place to be at night.  Some areas still require repair, but despite that, they are equally interesting.

I love walking through the shell of the Casino building in the early morning and seeing the grandeur of Asbury Park’s past.  I loved this location so much that a pivotal action scene in the second book in the SIN HUNTER series, THE CLAIMED (May 2012) takes place in the bowels of this old building.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this trip to the Jersey Shore with me and that you’ll take the time to visit some day soon.  All of these towns can be easily reached by car, bus and train and will truly give you a taste of the real Jersey Shore.

Thank you, Caridad! And for those of you unfamiliar with Asbury Park, it's also to home of the Stone Pony where Bruce Springsteen got his start.  Readers, have you ever been to the Jersey shore? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Who has time to exercise? You do, says health editor Janice Kerr, and she’s here today to show you how. -- AP

We’ve become a nation of sofa spuds. Even when we’re not sitting in front of the TV, we’re sitting -- at work and in the car. We Americans sit an average of 54 hours a week. That’s 2-1/4 days of sitting out of every 7 days. Yikes! No wonder obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are higher than ever.

If we got on our feet and moved just an extra hour or two a day, we’d do wonders for our health. So…I can hear you all screaming about how you don’t have time. You most certainly do! And you won’t even have to give up something to achieve those extra hours of being active.

Every time you’re on the phone, walk while you talk. Just walk from room to room. Or walk in place if you’re on the phone at work. If you’re home and have stairs in your house, go up and down a flight or two for good measure. The more you talk, the more walking you’ll get in.

When you do hit the couch in the evening, get up during the commercials. Again, walk in place. Or better yet, jog in place. The average half hour show is only 22 minutes of programming; the average hour long show is about 43 minutes of program. The remaining minutes are filled with commercials. For every hour of television you watch, that’s 16 or 17 minutes of exercise.

Your body will thank you!

Once again, Janice has offered some great advice for staying healthy. How many of you readers will take up the challenge to move more each day? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Monday, July 25, 2011


Food editor Cloris McWerther has another great strawberry recipe for us today. -- AP


serves 4

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. strawberries
1/2 seedless cucumber
3 cups baby spinach
3 oz. goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Whisk together oil, vinegar, and lime juice in a large bowl. Add onion slices and let sit for 10 minutes.

Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Slice cucumber. Add strawberries, cucumber and spinach to bowl. Toss to coat with dressing.

Top salad with crumbled goat cheese.

What a great lunch this would make! Readers, any of you going to try it?  Let's hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free book from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Refer to the materials list and directions from May 23, 2011 to make the basic yarn doll using pastel variegated cotton yarn. Decorate the doll as follows:

sandy blond curly doll hair
5” length 2” wide white gathered eyelet
1/2 yd. 1/8” wide pink satin ribbon
1” pastel flocked teddy bear
2-1/2” mini plastic baby bottle
1-1/2” mini baby rattle
pink colored pencil
tacky glue and glue gun

1. Make doll according to Basic Yarn Doll directions (5/23/11.)

2. Cut 3-4 strands at a time of Curly Hair into 8” lengths. Roll pieces in the palm of your hand to form a kinky ball. Using tacky glue, glue midpoint of hair to head, applying along edge of muslin first, then working in neat, evenly spaced horizontal rows from top of head to back of neck. Untangle when dry and trim to desired length.

3. Using tacky glue, glue 1/2" of a 6” length of pink ribbon to both inside seam edges of eyelet for bonnet ties. Glue eyelet around muslin face for bonnet, keeping all hair behind bonnet and away from face. Glue one curl of hair to forehead inside bonnet. Tie ribbon in bow under neck.

4. Make a bow from remaining ribbon. Glue to forehead curl.

5. Using glue gun, glue baby bottle nipple to mouth area of doll head. Slip rattle onto baby’s left wrist. Wrap arms around body to hold bottle, tucking bear into crook of right arm. Glue in place.

6. Color cheeks with pink pencil.

Check back for more yarn doll variations in future weeks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Today we welcome the writing team of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer to Book Club Friday. Mary and Eric published several short John the Lord Chamberlain stories in mystery anthologies and in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine prior to One For Sorrow, their first novel about John. Eight books have now appeared, most recently Eight For Eternity. John's latest adventure, Nine For The Devil, will be published in March 2012. More details of this series and Mary and Eric’s other fiction can be found on their website. -- AP


It's long been my contention much can be gathered about a person's life and character by observing what's on their bookcase, the contents of their waste basket, handbag, or wallet, and items on the household's shopping list.

Similarly, writers of mystery novels often utilise lists in various nefarious ways.

One of the commonest moves is to hide clues in clear sight in what I term the Poe's Purloined Letter method.

Readers, always examine lists closely.


Well, here are a few examples with titles footnoted to avoid spoilers, so if the description given doesn't ring a bell don't check the title!

In one adventure Sherlock Holmes specifically declares his hope the contents of a pocket "might help me to form a conclusion". As indeed they do, because the list includes three items revealing the intended crime, while others show the motive. (1) In another Holmes adventure the making of certain lists forms part of the plot. (2)

Descriptions of a setting may also serve mysterious purposes.

For example, in an Agatha Christie work the description of a particular room provides two clues in one location: a specific item that will play a role in the solution (though people under a certain age may not immediately grasp its part when it is explained) and the actual arrangement of these items. (3)

Just to be awkward, the clue-as-item-in-a-list method does not always apply.

For example, a Dorothy L. Sayers novel offers a list on which, given the situation described, an expected item does not appear. (4) In another work she carries out a particularly clever bit of business whereby a location is deduced by comparing a list of the original contents of a pocket and an extra item mysteriously found in it later. In the same novel an inventory is
mentioned and one item is somewhat out of the ordinary given its location -- as the author in fact points out to the reader. (5)

So, readers, next time you see a list, take note. Meantime, another useful thing about lists in mysteries is you can also write blogs about them...

Mary R


(1) Silver Blaze
(2) The Stock-Broker's Clerk
(3) The Mysterious Affair At Styles
(4) Five Red Herrings
(5) Both in Murder Must Advertise

Thanks for stopping by today, Mary! I’ll never look at a shopping list the same way again. What about you, readers? -- AP

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling is here today with a snack recipe to keep our skin looking young, beautiful, and wrinkle free. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. According to dermatologist David Colbert, “Skin is a matrix of proteins, water, and fats that need a non-processed food supply for replenishment.” So the next time you have the munchies, grab something that will not only crave your hunger but also help you maintain your skin’s health.

When you were growing up, were you told to stay away from chocolate because it causes acne? Lots of us were, but it turns out that’s an old wives tale. Dark chocolate with 72% or higher cacao content is full of antioxidants that are good for your skin. 

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that helps prevent UV damage. A handful of almonds will supply you with a one-two punch of both vitamin E and the fat your skin needs to stay healthy.

 Then there’s the blueberry, full of both antioxidants and vitamin C, which protects collagen.

So mix up a batch of your own very special, skin protecting snack mix -- equal parts almonds, blueberries (dry or fresh) and dark chocolate chips. Your skin will thank you.

Sounds like a great recipe. Thanks, Nicole! Maybe Cloris can whip us up some chocolate-almond-blueberry muffins. -- AP

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Lois Winston is currently finishing up the third book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries (the books about me.) Some of the story takes place at the Sunnyside of Westfield Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Center. Since many of us have had or will have relatives at a similar facility at some point, health editor Janice Kerr has invited Cathy Strasser to guest blog today about her experiences working at such places.

Cathy is an Occupational Therapist and freelance writer. Her short story “Afterward”, published in the Chrysalis Reader was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize – Best of Small Presses. She has had short stories published in the Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine, r-kv-r-y Quarterly, The Literary Bone, Touched By Wonder Anthology, and was a finalist in the “Family Matters” competition of Glimmer Train Magazine; as well as a two article series in Cabin Life Magazine. Read more about Cathy at her website. -- AP

Whenever I tell someone I work in a nursing home, I get one of two reactions. Either they draw back from me, like it might be catching, or they say, “Really? Why?” Most people seem to think that working in a nursing home – or Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) as it’s more accurately called – is a terribly depressing job. I have to say, I’ve always found it to be just the opposite. I’ve worked as an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and worked in over a dozen nursing homes and with only one exception, they’ve been fun places to work.

Why? That’s easy. The people.

Let’s look at the staff first. Working in a nursing home is not something you do for the money or as a gateway to commercial success. But the people who choose to work in this setting are generally cheerful – there’s a lot of laughter in most of the SNF’s I’ve worked in.  I think it’s because it takes a special kind of person to work there, and those that do, have a pretty high level of job satisfaction. Their work matters; and they know it. The residents become a form of large extended family with warmth and affection on both sides.

Then you have the residents. They’re usually not well, often in pain – mental and/or physical – and they’re dependant on others for most of their basic needs. And yet, in spite of all of this, most residents manage to keep both a sense of humor and a sense of self intact that allows them to form close personal relations with the staff. Even the residents with mild to severe dementia manage to maintain that level of person-to-person contact and affection that is hard to understand for those who haven’t experienced it.

When I set out to write my cozy mystery, it seemed natural to set it in a nursing home. ‘Write what you know’ is excellent advice, and I know the nursing home milieu very well and have almost 30 years of stored anecdotes to support it. In my book “Dr. George and Mr. Hyde”, I had two goals, to write an entertaining mystery, and also, to capture the atmosphere of the places I’ve worked and hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with them.

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Cathy. Readers, have you had experiences with assisted living or skilled nursing facilities? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Monday, July 18, 2011


It’s strawberry time! Have you ever bought a basket of strawberries, only to find they’re bland tasting or worse yet, half spoiled? Food editor Cloris McWerther is here today with all sorts of strawberry tips. -- AP

Anastasia, the key to sweet berries is to buy small to medium ones rather than large ones. Choose strawberries that are firm and a nice bright red color with an even sprinkling of seeds and no dark spots. Don’t wash or hull strawberries until you’re ready to use them.

Here one of my favorite quick and easy strawberry recipes:

Wash, dry, and hull strawberries. Snip the corner of a resealable plastic bag. Fill bag with goat cheese. Pipe cheese into the berries. Sprinkle the top of the cheese with finely chopped almonds.

In my house the strawberries would be devoured before I piped in the goat cheese! What about you readers? Anyone have a favorite strawberry recipe? -- AP

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Keeping with our Christmas in July theme, here's another project for getting a jumpstart on the holidays. -- AP


Refer to the materials list and directions from May 23, 2011 to make the basic yarn doll using red mohair type yarn.

Note: If you prefer a Mrs. Santa doll, don’t tie off the legs, omit the curly beard, and use a pink colored pencil to color cheeks.

Decorate the doll as follows:

white curly doll hair
1 large head red ball straight pin
1/2” white pompom
two 1/4” green pompoms
3/4 yd. white curly chenille
3” x 5” red felt
1/2” x 6” black felt
1/2” x 3/4” yellow felt
1/2” jingle bell
12” x 12” natural hopsack
1/2 yd. 1/8” red/green striped grosgrain ribbon
small amount polyester fiber-fill
1-1/4” gold doll glasses
needle and thread
tacky glue and/or glue gun

1. Make doll according to Basic Yarn Doll directions (5/23/11.)

2. Divide body in half below tied waist for legs with chenille stem as part of one leg. Tie each leg 2-1/2” from end.

3. Cut 3-4 strands at a time of curly doll hair into 8” lengths. Fold pieces in half. Glue midpoint of the hair to head, applying along the edge of muslin first. Then work in neat, evenly spaced horizontal rows from back of the neck up to top of the head. Glue additional hair to face for beard. Untangle and trim to even out the length.

4. Dip red topped pin in glue. Insert in head for mouth.

5. Glue glasses in place over eyes.

6. Using the compass, draw a 5” diameter half circle on the paper. Cut out. Use the paper pattern to cut out hat from red felt.

7. Overlap straight edge of hat 1/4” to form cone. Glue in place. Glue white pompom to top of hat. Glue curly chenille around bottom edge of hat. Glue hat to head.

8. Cut curly chenille into two 2” pieces for wrists and two 4” pieces for legs. Glue around tied ends at legs and wrists.

9. Glue black felt around waist for belt. Cut a small rectangle in center of yellow felt for buckle. Glue to center front of belt.

10. Glue green pompoms to chest above belt.

11. Using a dinner plate as guide, cut a large circle from the hopsack. Sew a gathering stitch around the circle 1/2” from edge. Place fiber-fill in center of circle. Gather thread to form sack. Know in place.

12. Tie grosgrain ribbon around sack, slipping bell onto ribbon before tying bow.

13. Glue arm around sack and sack to side of body.


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 Melinda Wells for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of one of her books to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Rachelkb@gmail.com. Rachel, please email your mailing address, along with which of Melinda's books you'd like, to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, I’ll forward the information to Melinda, and she’ll mail the book to you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Melinda Wells is the mystery pen name of Linda Palmer, a woman who has led a very diverse life. She’s been a wildlife photographer in Africa, a children's photographer in New York City, a writer for a Daytime TV drama, a produced screenwriter, a producer, Vice President of a Hollywood Public Relations firm, and Vice President of TriStar Pictures. (She says that when she works for a company she has to start as a VP because "I don't have the skills to start lower.") To learn more about Linda/Melinda, visit her website

Linda/Melinda is offering a copy of one of her Della Cooks mysteries (winner’s choice) to one of our readers. To enter the drawing, simply post a comment to the blog this week. Don’t forget to check back on Sunday to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP

Hi, I'm Melinda Wells (aka Linda Palmer), currently writing a series of "culinary mysteries" for Berkley Prime Crime. In 2007, after I had completed a series of four mysteries set against the background of a popular Daytime TV drama, my editor asked if I would like to write a series for them set somewhere in the world of food. They wanted each book to include "cooking, recipes, and murder," with ten recipes at the end of each book. She added, "Because this series will be so different from your first, will you use a pen name?"

I love to cook, so I accepted the challenge eagerly and came up with a new set of characters, a new location and a new name, "Melinda Wells." At the time of my editor's request, I had no idea that there was a category called "culinary mysteries." I hadn't read any of them. But, fortunately for me, there are many people who enjoy reading mystery novels that are food-connected. Now that I've read books by some of the  talented writers in this genre, I can understand why it's a popular category.

My series began with KILLER MOUSSE, published in 2008. I enjoy writing them because they combine four of my favorite things in life: friendship, working at a job one loves, mystery stories, and food. The recipes in the book labeled "Della's" are mine. Other recipes come from friends, each of whom I name. The cake featured in DEATH TAKES THE CAKE (2009), was adapted from a recipe sent to me by Myra Morehouse, who had read and enjoyed KILLER MOUSSE. I had to make a few changes in order for it to become Della's cake—she had to enter it in a competition—but I wouldn't have come up with "Della's Orange Dreamsicle Cake" without Myra's generosity in sharing some of her recipes with me.  

My heroine, Della Carmichael, isn't me, but she's the most like me of any character I've ever conceived (except that she's younger and thinner than I am.) She has friends who are dear to her and pets she loves. In fact, the black standard poodle in the series, "Tuffy," is based on my own beloved, now sadly deceased, black standard poodle, Tuffy.

I'm happy spending every day writing about Della and her friends, getting them into—and eventually out of—trouble. And finding new ways for people to murder one another. Personally, I don't like gore—I don't want people to suffer—so my victims are dispatched quickly. The fun I have is with the relationships among the characters, and discovering how Della will solve the mystery and expose the killer.

PIE A LA MURDER, the fourth book in the series, just released. At the moment I'm working on writing book # 5, which will be published in 2012.

To read the first chapters of the first four books—to have a "taste," so to speak—please go to my web site: www.lindapalmermysteries.com. Go to "Book Previews," and click on the book covers. While you're there, I'd like to have you see the two dogs and the cat who are blessings in my life.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Linda. Readers, would you like a copy of one of Linda’s Della Cooks mysteries? Post a comment to enter the drawing. And don’t forget to check back on Sunday to find out if you’ve won. -- AP

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Our guest traveler today is author Sharon Garner. Sharon lives in Pennsylvania, but her heart is divided between Hawaii and England. Pele’s Tears is her fifth published novel and is available through Amazon, B&N, and other online venues, as well as bookstores and libraries. To read the first chapter, visit Sharon's website. -- AP

I hope readers will hear the drum-heavy theme song of Hawaii Five-0 and “Book ’em, Danno” when they read Pele’s Tears, a romantic suspense set on a flower farm on Kauai. Hawaii is “in” with the retooling of the popular TV series.

Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and is known as The Garden Isle because of its plant-loving climate. Elvis’s film Blue Hawaii was filmed here. Every direction you turn on Kauai, there’s something to see.

The North Shore is the Na Pali coast. All roads end on either side of 17 miles of what I call “folding closet door” rippled valleys and summits, accessible only by boat or helicopter.

The East Side, the Coconut Coast, is famous for Hawaii’s only navigable river. You can cruise the Wailua River to the famous Fern Grotto.

Lihue, the island’s capital, is in the southeast area. North of the city is the breathtaking 80-foot Wailua Falls, famous for its morning rainbows.

The South Shore has Spouting Horn blowhole, surf forced up through a hole in the lava rock, Hawaii’s version of Old Faithful.

On the West Side you’ll find Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, colorful and awe-inspiring.

I created Lehua Valley on Kauai to suit my story’s needs. I gave the valley mini-climates, especially along its slopes, where the altitude would be right to grow anthuriums and coffee trees.

I had fun with the Hawaiian versions of names. I used my name, Kalana (Sharon), and my late father-in-law’s name, Keneke (Kenneth), for two supporting characters. A black cat named Aumoe, Hawaiian for Midnight, has a peace treaty with the valley’s celebate wild rooster, The Colonel.

Other things Hawaiian that play parts in the story are various hulas; a love chant; Polynesian navigation via the star Arcturus, known as Hokule‘a, Star of Joy in Hawaiian; and, of course, Madame Pele herself. In the love chant, she visits Kauai, only to fall in love.

Pele’s Tears’ story of love and danger begins off screen with a marriage between a New England sea captain and a lovely Hawaiian woman. The good captain is the reason Pele’s Tears came into the Kahoa family. In the present, the trio of hidden gems threaten Dante and Lani—yet help them acknowledge and explore their love.

Sharon K. Garner

Thank you, Sharon! Hawaii is definitely on my must see list for sometime in the future. What about you readers? Have a hankering to go to Hawaii or some other tropical locale? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Health editor Janice Kerr is here today with a tip that will make you healthy inside and out. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! By now everyone should know that basking in the sun to get a tan is NOT healthy. Neither are using tanning beds. Both can give you skin cancer. If you don’t know that, you’ve probably been living on the moon all your life.

And have you ever tried tanning products? Most people I know who have used them wound up with either orange skin or uneven streaks and stripes. Unless you can afford a professional spray tan, it’s almost impossible to apply tanning solutions evenly.

So why not eat your way to a great tan? Red, yellow, orange, and dark green fruits and veggies -- like bell peppers, carrots, spinach, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries -- contain carotenoids which are absorbed into your skin. Eating them can give you a safe, all-natural golden glow or what some people have called a “veggie tan.”

What’s more, besides the fact that eating more fruits and veggies will help you lose weight, the carotenoids boost your body’s immune function and protect your skin from UV damage. So try to eat 2-1/2 cups of colorful fruits and veggies a day for a healthier you -- inside and out.

Thanks, Janice! Who knew, right readers? What do you think? Let's hear from you. Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP

Monday, July 11, 2011


Food editor Cloris McWerther is once again checking out colleges with her daughter. In her stead today we have author Caridad Pineiro stepping in to offer a thirst-quenching treat. Caridad is the NY Times bestselling author of over twenty-six paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels and novellas. Her popular THE CALLING vampire series returns in 2012. THE FIFTH KINGDOM, a romantic suspense, was just released, and THE LOST, the first book in her new SIN HUNTERS paranormal romance series arrives in August. Caridad has also written the foreword for OBSESSED: EROTIC ROMANCE FOR WOMEN edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel which will be available in August 2011.  Her popular THE CALLING vampire series returns in 2012, but vampire lovers will enjoy A VAMPIRE FOR CHRISTMAS (October 2011) which includes Caridad's novella, WHEN HERALD ANGELS SING. For more information on Caridad, visit her website.  -- AP

First of all, thank you so much for having me here, Anastasia.  I just love all your helpful hints and am so honored to be able to share my humble recipe for sangria.

Sangria is a popular wine punch served throughout Portugal, Spain and Latin America.  It’s usually made with an inexpensive wine, some other alcoholic beverage, like brandy, and in some recipes, a sparkling soda or seltzer.

In THE FIFTH KINGDOM, my hero and heroine are in Mexico City posing as an engaged couple in order to draw out members of a terrorist group.  Their ploy requires that they spend some time lounging around a luxury hotel while acting like a couple-in-love and that includes sharing some tasty beverages poolside.  In the heat of a Mexico City day or during a hot summer night, sangria is a delightful way to cool off. I’ve been playing with the recipe and have created this refreshing variation on the traditional mix.

Feel free to try out some variations like adding some pears to the mix, using white wine or even substituting prosecco or champagne for the sparkling apple cider.  When choosing the fruits, stick to what’s in season for the best results and make sure the fruit is ripe.  For a tropical taste, substitute pineapple and mangos.  For some additional recipes, you can visit http://www.sangriasecrets.com/.

Caridad’s Sweet and Sexy Sangria


1 bottle red wine (a Malbec, Rioja, Tempranillo, Cabernet or Pinot Noir will do. Maipe Malbec and Folie à Deax’s Menage a Trois red wine are good choices and sub $10 at Costco)
1/2 bottle Chilled Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider (or any other sparkling cider)
2 oranges
1 apple, cubed
1 cup frozen strawberries (freezing them helps keep the sangria chilled without watering it down)
1/2 cup grapes
1 cup brandy (cherry brandy really helps the fruity flavor pop!)

  • Peel oranges. Cut into eighths and then cut the eighths in half. Cut grapes in half. Cut frozen strawberries in half.
  • Place fruit into a pitcher and add the wine and brandy. Let fruit and wine macerate for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator. If you can wait longer before serving, the flavors will be better.
  • When you are ready to serve, add chilled sparkling cider to fruit and wine mixture.
  • Remove some fruit from this mix and place in individual wine glasses. Pour wine/cider mixture into the wine glass and serve.
  • Decorate the edge of the wine glass with a slice of orange or a fresh strawberry.
What I like about this mix is that you get the extra fruitiness and sweetness with the addition of the cider and brandy and you don’t have to add sugar to get that.

Some recipes call for lemon in the mix and also don’t ask you to peel the citrus, but I find that the lemon and the peels make the mix too acidic.  If you find that the mix is not sweet enough, feel free to add some sugar or make a simple syrup and add it to the mix.

Boy, does that recipe ever sound fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing it with us today, Caridad. Readers, what do you think? Post a comment to enter the drawing for a free book from our Friday Book Club guest author this week. -- AP