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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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Health editor Janice Kerr talks about the germiest place in your kitchen and what you can do about it. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Do you know which item in your kitchen is the #1 breeding ground for all sorts of sickness causing bacteria? It’s your kitchen sponge. And every time you use that sponge to wipe down your kitchen counters, table, or appliances, you’re spreading harmful bacteria.

Ideally, you should dispose of a sponge or kitchen cloth after each use, but that can get very costly and few people do so. How often do you replace your sponge? Not as often as you should, I’m willing to bet. And do you ever disinfect it? Dish soap alone isn’t going to do the trick.

Here are a few tips to keep your sponge from making you and your family sick:
  • Place your sponge in the dishwasher every time you run a cycle.

  • Several times a week, wet the sponge and microwave it for 2 minutes.

  • Replace your sponge every two weeks.

Thanks, Janice. I have to admit, I’m guilty of keeping my kitchen sponges until they start to fall apart. These are good tips for keeping those sponges from making us sick. -- AP

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Food editor Cloris McWerther is back today with a salad recipe that will really keep you cool. -- AP



2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 cups seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into chunks
1 seedless cucumber, sliced thin
3 cups mixed greens
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup slivered almonds

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, wine vinegar, and lime juice. Add watermelon, cucumber, and mixed greens to the bowl and toss. Divide into four portions. Top each with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle on almonds.

Hmm…I’ll bet you could add some cooked shrimp or chicken to this recipe and make it a meal instead of a side dish. What do you think, readers? -- AP

Monday, August 29, 2011


The final seashell craft for the month is the simplest. Make up several in varying sizes to form a grouping of your vacation memories. -- AP


MATERIALS: wooden frame, assorted shells, hot glue gun and glue sticks.

Glue shells in a grouping at one corner of frame or all around frame.

Now, really, can it get any easier than that? -- AP

Sunday, August 28, 2011


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 Mike Orenduff for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Elizabeth. Elizabeth, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward the information to Mike, and he’ll mail the book to you.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Award-winning mystery author Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico from his back yard, a practice frowned upon by his mother. Like his protagonist Hubert Schuze in his Pot Thief mystery series, Mike studied anthropology. He holds a doctorate in mathematical logic and he published a number of works with such scintillating titles as A Partially Truth-Functional Modal Calculus and Are Modal Contexts Referentially Opaque? Mike’s latest Pot Thief mystery is The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier. Read more about Mike and his Pot Thief books at his website. 

Mike has generously offered a copy of  The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP 

Why Do We Read

Like many authors, I became a writer after years of being an avid reader. I read all kinds of books – adventure, historical, travel, suspense, humor, and fantasy. But my favorite was murder mysteries. So when I retired and decided to try my hand at writing, I chose the mystery genre. After all those years of reading, you would think I knew why people read, but I didn’t. I just knew I loved to read, and many of my friends also loved to read. I never asked myself why.

I had been reading mysteries for over fifty years and I taught logic for forty years, so I figured I had the experience and skill to construct great plots. But when I gave my first stories to friends and family to read, they didn’t like them. It was only then that I asked myself why I read. Why anyone reads.

Thinking back on the books I loved the most, I realized they had one thing in common – interesting characters. The adventure books I liked the most were not those that had the wildest adventures; they were the ones with the most interesting adventurer. The travel books I liked the best were not those that dealt with the most exotic locations but with interesting travelers. And my favorite mysteries were those with the most engaging people. And it wasn’t always the protagonist who hooked me on a book. I liked Doyle because I found Dr. Watson such an engaging fellow, not because of Holmes’ stilted deductions. I didn’t like Nero Wolf as a person, but I loved Archie Goodwin, and that was enough to make me read all of Rex Stout’s books.

We read because we like to meet new and interesting people. Even better, we meet them without any of the anxiety and hassle of meeting real people. We don’t have to wear one of those silly “Hi My Name Is” stickers on our shirt. We don’t have to hold up our end of the conversation. We can escape a boor or a dullard by just closing the book and without fear of offending anyone. And we can do all of this in the comfort of our home while wearing pajamas and eating nachos.

I do not intend to imply that all readers are introverts. But even the most gregarious among us can tire of the social scene. Just ask yourself if you’ve ever been at a party and wished you were at home with a good book.

The Booklist starred review of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun – written by the host of this blog – starts with these words: “"Oddball characters, uproariously funny situations, and a heroine with a strong sense of irony.” Not plot. Not mystery. Oddball characters and a heroine with a strong sense of irony. That is why we read.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Mike, and for the mention of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun at the end of your post. We are definitely an oddball group of characters! ;-)  Readers, don't forget to post a comment to be entered into the drawing to win a copy of The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy. Be sure to check back on Sunday to find out if you're the lucky winner.-- AP

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Author Angela Henry took a solo trip to Paris several years ago. Today she offers some common sense travel tips. Angela is the author of the suspense thriller The Paris Secret as well as the Kendra Clayton mystery series. For more info about her and her books, please visit her at her website. -- AP

Paris Pour Un: Tips for Traveling Solo
By Angela Henry

In 2007, I took a solo trip to Paris, France. I was apprehensive about going alone to a foreign country where I barely knew the language.  But I did my homework before I left, discovered some very valuable tips, and had a wonderful time. Here are five things i did to make sure I had a safe trip.

1. Research, Research, Research-Before I left for Paris, I researched the city and its culture and customs. For example, did you know it’s considered rude to enter a shop in Paris and not greet the shopkeeper or to stare at people on the metro? I didn’t. I also researched the area around my hotel for the closest metro stations, restaurants, and ATMs. Doing your research before you leave will go a long way in helping your trip go smoothly.

2. Learn some French-It’s also a good idea to learn some basic French before you go. Fodor’s has a French language page with 150 phrases you can use on your trip. Even if you mangle the French language, the French will appreciate that you’re trying.

3. Don’t look like a tourist – Sweatshirts, tracksuits, and white tennis shoes will instantly mark you as a tourist and a target for pickpockets. Wear comfortable and casual clothes that will help you blend in and not draw attention to yourself. Leave your flashy, valuable jewelry at home. The Paris Escapes website has excellent advice on what to wear while in Paris. http://www.parisescapes.com/paris_wear.html

4.  Make Copies Of Important Documents-Leave your passport in your room. Also, make photocopies of all your important documents and credit cards to keep on hand in case they get lost or stolen.   

5.  Know where to go for help-You are subject to the laws of the country you’re visiting while you are there. If you do your homework on the culture and customs before you arrive, you shouldn’t have any problems. But if by chance you encounter legal trouble, seeking help from your country’s embassy or consulate would be your best bet. Just make sure that you’re aware of their hours and make an appointment.

Check out the following books for more info and have a wonderful trip!

Bon Voyage!

Thanks so much, Angela! Your tips for Paris can be used no matter where we travel and whether we’re going solo, with someone else, or in a group. Readers, have any of you ever been brave enough to travel alone to a foreign country? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Our money guru Sheila Conway is here today with her Top 10 List of  money saving tips. -- AP

1. Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll wind up buying all sorts of junk food your body and your wallet can’t afford.

2. Shop in bulk at warehouse stores.

3. Never buy the first version of any new technology. Version 2.0 will be better and cheaper.

4. Never buy the extended warranty. It’s not cost effective, just a way for the store to make more money off you.

5. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

6. Never believe the salesman. Get everything in writing.

7. Before purchasing items on line, search for discount coupons and free shipping codes.

8. Always keep your receipts. Many stores will no longer accept returns or exchanges without one.

9. Don’t be bullied by a high pressure salesman. Walk away. Fast.

10. If it sounds like it’s too good a deal to be true, it probably is. Let “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) be your slogan.

All sensible advice, Sheila. I'd add try not to go to the supermarket with your husband or kids. You'll wind up spending twice as much! What about you, readers? 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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It’s still beastly hot outside, and no one feels like cooking. So today food editor Cloris McWerther has another tasty, no-cook recipe for dinner. -- AP


2 cans water-packed tuna, drained and broken up
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry dill
1 tablespoon dried, minced onion
1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and torn into bite size pieces
1 cup whole wheat croutons
3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, and onion. Cover and chill 1 hr. Set aside 4 tablespoons of dressing. Combine tuna, celery, apple, cranberries, and lettuce with remaining dressing. In a separate bowl toss the 4 tablespoons of dressing with the lettuce, croutons, and cheese. Divide the salad into four portions and top each with 1/4 of the tuna mixture.

I think Cloris has another winner here. What do you think, readers? 
Post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP

Monday, August 22, 2011


Continuing our seashell theme, this week’s craft is super simple and would make a great hostess gift if you’re invited to a friend or family member’s seaside vacation home. Make a dozen or so and keep them on hand for whenever needed. A set of three in a basket makes for a perfect gift.-- AP

MATERIALS: small glass jars with screw-on lids (available at craft stores,) hot glue gun and glue sticks, decorative shells, bath crystals or beads.

1. Glue a couple of shells to the jar lid. 

2. Fill the jar with bath crystals or beads.

If you’d like to make your own bath salts, here’s an easy recipe:


MATERIALS: 3 cups Epsom salts, 2 cups sea salt, 1/2 ounce essential oil, 1 cup baking soda (optional -- baking soda will soften the skin and condition the water), wire whisk, air tight glass containers (such as Mason jars).

1. Whisk salts together well in a glass or metal bowl. 

2. Add essential oil and continue to whisk together. 

3. Whisk in baking soda, if desired. 

4. Spoon into jars. Seal tightly.
That’s all there is to it! How much simpler can you get? Actually, even simpler. Watch for next week’s shell craft to see what I mean. Meanwhile, post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week.-- AP

Friday, August 19, 2011


Today we welcome Melissa Bourbon, the author of the new A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series. Pleating for Mercy, the first book in the series, was released earlier this month. Melissa, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, is also the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series, the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox, and the author of two romantic suspense novels to be released in 2012. She also works as the marketing director for a publisher. Read more about Melissa at her website. -- AP-- AP

I’m so happy to be at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers today, and especially glad to be sharing a little about Pleating for Mercy.  It was released about 2 weeks ago, hit the Barnes & Noble mass market mystery list at #14, and hit Bookscan’s list at #19!  I couldn’t be more thrilled!!

This book is for anybody who loves cozy mysteries, dressmaking, sewing, and/or anything crafty to read.

As I was thinking about visiting here, I got to thinking about why I write mysteries.  All I could come up with is that they are close to my heart.  Okay, truthfully, books of any kind are close to my heart, but mysteries, in particular.  The mystery can be large or small.  It can be the central focus of the story, or play a supporting role.  It really doesn’t matter to me the scope of the mystery elements, as long as it’s there in one way, shape, or form.

My love of mysteries started, like most young girls of a certain age--ehem, we don’t need to talk about age, now, do we?--with Nancy Drew.  From there I graduated straight to Agatha Christie.  I have a distinct memory of going with my mom to our town’s library so she could check out the last Hercule Poirot novel, Curtain.  She was crushed that it was to be Poirot’s last, and her love of these book intrigued me enough to start reading them.

I spent almost all of my high school lunches in one classroom or another reading.

Now, I should say that I’m a light-weight when it comes to these things.  Horror movies and books are not for me.  I threw Silence of the Lambs across the room once or twice while reading it, and I cover my eyes during certain parts of Dexter (though he and the show are morbidly fascinating and I LOVE it).

But I love the deduction. 

So, of course, I when my passion for writing grew until it couldn’t be denied, it was no surprise that it manifested itself in the form of mysteries.  I began with the Lola Cruz Mystery series, published initially with St. Martin’s Minotaur, and moving soon to a new publisher with the next 3 books in the series.

Then I wrote 2 romantic suspense, which, of course, have strong mystery elements in them.  They’re based on Mexican legends, and these will be coming out sometime next year.

Finally, my cozies, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL, have brought me full circle to the kind of mysteries I love the most.  They are small town, feel good whodunits.  They are like comfort food.  They just make me want to curl up in front of a fire and escape into the town of Bliss (if only we weren’t on our 40 something day of 100+ degree weather). 

Mystery, mystery, mystery.  The characters.  The communities.  The crime.  The puzzle.  The deductions.  The justice.  All of it makes for such a satisfying read.

I’m particularly lucky to now be part of a dynamic publishing group.  I’m the marketing director for the new boutique publisher, Entangled Publishing.  Here, I get to help market so many books, some of them romantic suspense or mystery, many of them paranormal, urban fantasy, and sci-fi, most of them with some strands of mystery and romance elements in them.  There’s no better job, and it has been so exciting to be part of something like this from the get-go. 

I’d like to know what everyone loves most about mysteries, and how heavy the mystery element needs to be in books you read. 

Thanks for joining us today, Melissa! Readers, anyone want to chime in and answer Melissa’s question? -- AP

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Today we welcome author and guest traveler Jeanne Matthews whose mystery, Bones of Contention, takes place in the land of Oz. (No, not Dorothy’s Oz, the other one.)  You can read more about Jeanne and her books at her website, but for now, she’s going to take us on a virtual trip to Australia. -- AP

Ayers Rock
Australians have dubbed their remarkable “Down Under” continent the Land of Oz, and in many ways, traveling through the diverse and surreal landscapes does feel like an Over-the-Rainbow experience.  

I found the Northern Territory, also known as “The Top End” or “Never Never Land” to be the weirdest and most wonderful part of the country.  It occupies twenty percent of the continent but contains only one percent of the population.  Its barren center, famed for the mystical Uluru (Ayers Rock), is a vast desert of red rocks and red soil.  The Outback is studded with eerie canyons, incongruous valleys of palms, gnarled coolabahs, and the fantastical boab trees that look as if God had planted them upside-down. 

Australian Outback
By contrast, the coastal northeast is a wetland, a National Heritage Site that is home to numerous Aboriginal tribes.  Some 750 species of birds flit about through the tropical rain forest – parrots, rosellas, lorikeets, and cockatoos – and the forest teems with creatures that seem to belong to a bygone age.   

Boab Tree
Indigenous tribes have inhabited this place for over 50,000 years and the Territory offers the best opportunity to experience a bit of the native culture.  Aboriginal customs and beliefs, although not written until recently, have been passed down orally from generation to generation.  In their belief system, the past co-exists with the present and the future, and they continue to communicate with the ancestors who created the land and receive inspiration from their ancient wisdom.  Much of this inspiration is reflected in the totemic art rendered by local artists. 

I became so fascinated by the Territory’s unearthly beauties, the colorful Aussie lingo called Strine, and the ambience of Aboriginal mythology that I set my first novel, Bones of Contention, there.  I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Thanks so much for making Australia come alive for us, Jeanne. Readers, any of you ever been to Australia? Or is it on your Must-See list? -- AP  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Health editor Janice Kerr is here today with some exciting news for insomia sufferers. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you tired. Research has shown that if you dim your lights between dusk and bedtime, your body will produce melatonin up to an hour and a half sooner than if you keep your lights bright. This could reduce your risk of insomnia. And as an added bonus, it may also reduce your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

So more candlelit dinners? What do you think readers? Any of you suffer from insomnia? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Guest foodie Kate Gallison, aka Irene Fleming, takes over for Cloris today and offers the following recipe for your delectation. Her novel about early Hollywood, THE BRINK OF FAME, comes out today. Visit Kate/Irene at her website to learn more about her and her books. -- AP

When the film industry first set up shop in Hollywood, the moguls liked to lunch on dishes their mothers used to make. Louis B. Mayer gave the chef at his studio commissary his mother's recipe for chicken soup. Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures might well have been responsible for what Basil Rathbone is eating here between takes of The Court Jester (1955) while Angela Lansbury nibbles her hamburger.


Preheat oven to 350.

Put in a large bowl:

1 1/2 lbs ground chuck
1 c finely chopped onions
3/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs
3/4 t thyme
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Knead with hands until well blended.  Place in loaf pan, mounding the top. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes more. Slice and serve to passing film stars, if any. Or consume while watching The Court Jester, a really funny Danny Kaye costume flick.

Thanks for sharing, Kate. The Court Jester is one of my favorite movies. Have any of you readers seen it? It's perfect for when you need a good laugh. -- AP

Monday, August 15, 2011


I love making topiaries. I think they’re a very versatile decorative element for any time of year. Today I’m going to show you how to make a seashell topiary from some of those shells you collected at on your summer seaside trip. -- AP

MATERIALS: 2-1/2” diameter clay pot, 6” Styrofoam cone, small piece of floral foam, 5” length 1/4” dowel, primer and white spray paint, ball of white twine, assorted small shells, assorted small white and translucent flat buttons, hot glue gun and glue sticks, tacky glue, 2 sequin pins.

1. Paint the clay pot with primer, then white paint, allowing paint to dry between coats.

2. Apply vertical rows of tacky glue to the cone.

3. Pin the end of the twine to the bottom of the cone. Begin wrapping twine around cone, working from bottom to top. When you come to the top of the cone, cut excess and pin end.

4. Beginning at the bottom edge and working in horizontal rows, attach shells to cone with hot glue. Vary the direction of the shells, overlapping some.

5. Glue buttons randomly around shells in open spaces but leave some spaces uncovered for variety.

6. Glue buttons around the lip of the clay pot.

7. Glue floral foam into pot. Glue dowel into center of floral foam.

8. Place cone centered over pot and lower onto dowel. Remove cone from dowel. Fill hole in cone with tacky glue. Replace cone over dowel.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


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 Kate Gallison/Irene Fleming for being our Book Club Friday guest and offering a copy of The Brink of Fame to one of our readers who posted a comment this week. The winner this week is Cathy Shouse. Cathy, please email your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I’ll forward the information to Kate, and she’ll mail the book to you.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Kate Gallison has been at various times a store clerk, a bill collector, a computer programmer, a technical writer and a museum docent. As Kate Gallison, her writing credits include three private eye novels and five traditional mysteries. Under the name of Irene Fleming, she writes a series about silent movie production in the early twentieth century. THE BRINK OF FAME will be released this coming Tuesday. Visit Kate/Irene at her website to learn more about her and her books. 

Kate is offering a copy of THE BRINK OF FAME to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. Be sure to check back on Sunday to find out who has won. -- AP

Irene Fleming and The Brink of Fame
First of all, thanks to Anastasia for offering me a platform on Killer Crafts.
It's been my experience throughout a long career of writing that the stuff I invent is more attractive to readers than the truth I tell them. Still I try to be truthful. I think of myself, most of us think of ourselves, as Artistes with a capital A. We may be successful in the eyes of the crass material world, or we may be failures, but if we respect ourselves, we adhere to our visions and we try to tell the truth. In order to do this effectively we make things up.
As for me, I'm a middle-class half-Canadian, brought up never to make a scene or talk about my private life in public.  As an Artiste, however, I'm free to blat about anything I like, as long as I cast it in the form of fiction.
To further protect my privacy I started writing under the name of Irene Fleming. Irene's first book was all about early film making. Called The Edge of Ruin, it was packed solidly with historical research, not only about film making in New Jersey and Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Trust, but also about the wild labor movement of the time, left-wing politics, the smell of the Hudson River.  What did I know about any of this stuff, aside from what I read? Nothing. The critics loved it. Publishers Weekly loved it.
At the end of The Edge of Ruin it became clear that the marriage of the plucky protagonist and her neglectful husband was on shaky ground. In the next book Emily and Adam were going to have to break up. Here was a chance to go back and visit a place in my head that I had kept sealed for thirty years, a really ugly place; here was a chance, perhaps, to wring a few laughs out of it.
I wrote the book, calling it The Brink of Fame. The marriage fails. Emily and Adam break up. In the course of dealing with this she has to solve a crime, but, hey, I'm a crime writer; my publisher and my readers are expecting a crime novel. I threw a crime into the stew and tried to keep it relevant.
Publishers Weekly hated it. Harriet Klausner hated it, for God's sake. The story of the plucky heroine abandoned by her husband, betrayed, humiliated, impoverished, her professional competence shaken, and how she works her way back from that, was not what they were looking for. They wanted, I guess, to go on the set and ogle the Hollywood movie stars. Or maybe they wanted a tighter murder mystery.
Not me. I love that little book. (You might love it, too.) When the first copy came in the mail last week I unwrapped it and held it the way you unwrap your newborn infant. I experienced pangs of guilt for paying the smallest attention to the slighting remarks of Publishers Weekly. I said to myself, I have to have a party for this sweet little book. It will take place at the Lambertville Free Public Library next Tuesday, August 16, which is the official release date, between 7 and 9 PM. Drop by if you're in the neighborhood. There will be wine and cheese.

Best of luck with the new book, Kate. Readers, if you’d like to see for yourself whether PW and Harriet are wrong, post a comment to enter the drawing for a free copy of The Brink of Fame. -- AP

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling talked about taming the Frizz Monster in a previous post. Today she’s back with another solution to frizzy hair. -- AP

Recognize the person in the photo above? That’s Jennifer Lopez, recently named the world’s most beautiful woman. And she’s wearing her hair in a bun. The bun is a very versatile hairstyle and one that’s great for when you don’t want to have to think about how your hair is holding up in summer’s humidity or when you need to wash your hair but don’t have time. Buns go everywhere from morning to late at night. You can wear a bun to exercise class, to the opera, and everywhere in-between.

Pretty much anything goes with a bun. It can be sleek and severe or loose and messy. Worn on the side, at the nape of the neck, or high on the head as seen in the photos above.

There’s really only one style to avoid when creating a bun -- the Princess Leia bun.

Buns are also great for working moms pressed for time in the morning! Thanks, Nicole. Readers, post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from this week's Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Few of us have the bucks to redecorate, yet who among us hasn’t grown bored with the status quo? Decorating editor Jeanie Sims has some quick fixes to bring new life to old rooms on the cheap. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. We grow so used to seeing things in our homes that we actually stop noticing them. So my first suggestion is to relocate various items, either within a room or by moving them from room to room.

Try switching around the artwork and photos throughout your house. Instead of hanging all your artwork and photographs, layer some of them by propping them on a chest or table placed up against a wall, overlapping the frames slightly.

Top of tall bookcase used to display eclectic teapot collection
Next, think of your bookcases as more than just shelves for books, and think of those books as pieces of art to be displayed. Organize books by color. Stack some instead of shelving them all upright, and place collectibles on top of and between the books. Don’t forget the top of the bookcase. Even a tall one can be used as a display area. Paint the back wall of the bookcase in a contrasting color or wallpaper it.

Lamps will look brand new with the purchase of new lampshades. Buy inexpensive ones and add your own decorative touch by gluing gimp or beading around the perimeter.

Sofa or chair looking worn? Drape a fabric shawl over the back of it and add a few inexpensive throw pillows.

Throw pillows looking a bit worn or dated? Make inexpensive slipcovers for them by purchasing remnants at the fabric store. Make several for each pillow and switch them up for the changing seasons or for holidays.
Love the look of fresh flowers but can’t afford to fill your house with them weekly? Collect fallen branches from trees. Spray paint them white or in colors that complement your room. Fill a glass vase with them. Or fill a bowl with pine cones or sea shells and use as a table centerpiece.

Great ideas, Jeanie! And I especially love the ones that don’t cost anything. What about you, readers? Do you have any quick and easy decorating ideas to share? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from this week's Book Club Friday guest author.  -- AP

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We’re into the dog days of summer, and it’s almost too hot to eat, let alone cook. So today food editor Cloris McWerther has a peach and grape chicken salad that requires no oven or stove. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia. The trick to this dish is buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. Most supermarkets sell these at such reasonable prices that it hardly pays to buy a chicken and cook it yourself.

serves 4

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon dry dill
4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 large peaches, diced
1 cup seedless red grapes
1/4 cup pistachios
romaine lettuce

Whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice, and dill. Fold in chicken, peaches, grapes and pistachios. Cover and chill for at least 1 hr. Divide into 4 portions and serve over lettuce leaves.

Now that’s what I call an easy dinner! Thanks, Cloris. Readers, what do you think? Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from this week's Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP

Monday, August 8, 2011


BREAKING NEWS: This evening at 7pm eastern time, Lois Winston, the author who writes about my life, will be part of an author mystery panel on Giovanni Gelati's GZONE blogspot radio show. The panel will also include fellow Midnight Ink authors Beth Groundwater, Alice Loweecey, and Sebastian Stuart. You can listen to the show live or go to the website and listen to the archived broadcast later. 
Now back to our regularly scheduled Monday craft. -- AP
For many of us, summertime means trips down the shore (if you live in New Jersey) or to the beach (if you live in other parts of the country.) No matter what you call it, though, you’ll probably come home with bags of seashells. So what do you do with all those shells once you get home? Instead of dumping them on a shelf or in a closet, use them in craft projects. Over the next few weeks, I’ll show you how to make all sorts of shell crafts to create lasting memories of that summer seaside trip. -- AP


Materials: 6” flat Styrofoam wreath, 3 yds. 7/8” wide flat white lace, 5” 3/8” wide white ribbon, 3/4” white plastic hanging ring, tacky glue, hot glue gun and glue sticks, assorted shells,

1. Wrap the lace around the wreath, overlapping and pulling the lace taught as you wrap. Wrap until the wreath is covered. Trim excess lace and glue end at back.

2. Thread ribbon through hanging ring. Fold ribbon in half and glue cut edges together. Glue ends of ribbon to back of wreath, securing with several sequin pins.

3. Hot glue shells to front of wreath over lace, varying the direction and size of shells.

Look for more simple shell crafts in the weeks to come. -- AP