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.

Note: This site uses Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Money guru Sheila Conway is here today with advice on identity theft. -- AP

Identity theft is on the rise, and a prime target is insurance fraud. People steal your identity and insurance information, then have medical procedures done under your name. You don’t discover the fraud until you get a bill for whatever your insurance provider didn’t cover.

Other types of this fraud include doctors billing your insurance company for treatment you never received and pharmacists and nurses using your information to fill prescriptions (usually painkillers) for themselves or others. Your information can also be sold on the black market to people who set up phony clinics and file false medical claims to your insurance provider under your name.

No one is totally immune to a determined identity thief, but thieves go after easy marks. Don’t make yourself an easy mark. One of the best ways to guard yourself against this type of fraud is never give out your insurance card number or other personal information to anyone. It’s bad enough you have to give out this information at doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies. Often, that’s where the thieves first get hold of your information. Just because someone works for a doctor, hospital, or pharmacist, it doesn’t mean that person is ethical and honest.

Treat your insurance card with the same care you do your passport. If it’s stolen, report it immediately. Look closely at your Explanation of Benefits statements when they come. Make sure you recognize the doctor, date of treatment, and tests or procedures done. If not, call your insurance company immediately.

If you ever take part in free screening for blood pressure, diabetes, etc., never give out your insurance or personal information to the screeners. These screenings at pharmacies and street fairs are another prime spot for identity thieves to lurk.

Great advice, Sheila! Readers, p
ost a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week.-- AP

Monday, January 30, 2012


The slow cooker is a working mom’s best friend. How about chicken cacciatore tonight? Cloris has the perfect recipe. -- AP

(serves 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs. chicken parts, skin removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can diced, seasoned tomatoes
1 lb. white mushrooms, sliced
2 lg. onions, chopped
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 lb. package whole grain pasta fettuccine
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken on all sides. Add garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and 1 cup of the broth to the slow cooker. Add chicken. Spoon some of the other ingredients over the chicken. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hrs.

Remove chicken and keep warm. Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, stir cornstarch into remaining broth and mix until smooth. Add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens.

Plate pasta. Place chicken over pasta. Pour tomatoe/mushroom sauce over chicken and pasta. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

And that's what's for dinner at my house tonight. What about yours? Post a comment to enter the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Valentine’s Day is two weeks away. Why not make yourself to some heart-shaped sachets? -- AP

5” x 10” piece lavender felt
fabric marker
4-1/2” heart shaped cookie cutter
6” 1-4” wide ivory satin ribbon
3” x 3” heart-shaped lace medallion
fabric glue
DMC #8 lt. lavender Perle Cotton
embroidery needle
small amount of fiberfill
3 cotton balls
lavender essential oil

1. Using the cookie cutter as a template, draw two hearts on felt and cut out.

2. Glue the lace medallion centered over one felt heart.

3. Fold the ribbon in half and glue cut ends to the top center of the wrong side of the heart.

4. Place a few drops of essential oil on each of the cotton balls and set aside.

5. Using Perle Cotton and beginning at the top center, blanket stitch the two hearts together, stopping before coming all the way around. Stuff a small amount of fiberfill and the cotton balls into the heart, then finish the blanket stitch. 

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


Thanks to all who stopped by this week. Donnell Ann Bell, our BookClub Friday guest, offered a very special giveaway to two readers who posted a comment. The winners were Petite and Polly. Ladies, please send your mailing addresses to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com, and I'll forward them to Donnell.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Donnell Ann Bell is a debut author for Bell Bridge Books and a two-time Golden Heart finalist.  Her romantic suspense novel, The Past Came Hunting was released in September, 2011.  She recently sold another award-winning book to Bell Bridge, currently titled Deadly Recall, as part of a two-book deal to be released late 2012 with a third suspense in 2013. 
Through January you can find The Past Came Hunting at a deep discount for $1.99. at both Amazon Kindle and Kobo readers. 
Read more about Donnell at her website and her two blogs, Get Lost in a Story  and 5 Scribes. 

Donnell is awarding two $10 Amazon or B&N gift cards to our readers today. To learn how you can win, read on. -- AP

About The Past Came Hunting: Fifteen years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder. She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the real thief to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs P.D. Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her son from the past he helped create.

How do they KNOW that?
Hi, everyone! I’m excited to be here. Thanks to Lois Winston for the invitation because this blog is right up my craft-deprived alley. Currently, I’m looking for centerpiece advice for my son’s and his fiancé’s rehearsal dinner. It’s fun, but I sure could use some advice. The event will be held at a Mexican restaurant (so think Hispanic atmosphere). We’ll come back to this later <g>.

Right now, I’d like to talk about the crafty killer part of this blog. When I’m not involved with wedding plans, I write novels. I’m a huge fan of mystery/suspense and, as such, I read books, watch Law & Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Harry’s Law and more. 

But, while I enjoy these programs, I confess, I’m intimidated. I find myself curling up in a fetal position, thinking HOW DO THEY KNOW THAT? I’ll never be able to make my book sound as authentic as all these programs with high-paid experts at their disposal. Plus, I’m no spring chick anymore, I’ve got a wedding to help pay for; I can’t go back to school! I should give up right now.

Sorry. I love writing too much. So what can I do? Uncurl from my fetal position for one--that never helped anybody. Next, pick up the phone, call my local law enforcement, and request a ride-along. It’s a taxpayer’s prerogative, and if you can pass a background check, law enforcement agencies are happy to let citizens –er--ride-along. After all, it benefits them, too. It gives citizens an eye witness account and even helps LEO recruit volunteers. Did you know you can request a ride-along with the fire department, too? Both are fantastic opportunities.

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, ride-alongs are a learning adventure. Have you ever been on a ride-along or considered going on one? Let’s chat. Next, if any of you have centerpiece ideas? I’d love to hear about them. I’ll award two $10-gift certificates to either Amazon or B&N, one to a commenter about ride-alongs, and one, to a crafty person who helps me with my centerpieces.

Thanks, Donnell! What a generous offer! So, readers, any ideas for Donnell on her centerpiece dilemma? Any thoughts on ride-alongs? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling offers some advice for people with sensitive skin. -- AP

Sensitive skin is often even more sensitive in winter. To avoid irritants, buy lotions, moisturizers, cleansers, and make-up without scents. However, be aware that “unscented” products often contain scents to neutralize the scent of the product. These masking agents can also be irritating. To make sure you’re buying something truly fragrance-free, look for “fragrance free” on the label, not “unscented.”

A great tip, Nicole! Thanks for sharing. 
Our Book Club Friday guest this week has a very special treat for our readers. Be sure to stop by on Friday to find out what it is. -- AP-- AP

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Did you receive a new flat-screen TV or computer monitor for Christmas? Be careful how you clean it! Never use glass cleaners on flat-screens. Over time the alcohol and ammonia in glass cleaners will etch into the screens and cloud the plastic coatings on high-def panels.

There are specific products sold for cleaning flat-screens, but they’re expensive, and you can do just as good a job without spending a lot. Here’s how:

To remove streaks and smudges, gently swipe a very slightly damp microfiber cloth across the screen. Repeat with a dry microfiber cloth.

For more stubborn grime, such as toddler handprints, moisten a cloth with equal parts distilled white vinegar and water.

Make sure you dust the screens on a regular basis, again using a microfiber cloth. You can reduce static that attracts dust by swiping the screen once a month with a used dryer sheet. Don’t use a fresh sheet. It will leave residue.

And most importantly, never spray any cleaning product directly onto the screen.

Our Book Club Friday guest this week has a very special treat for our readers. Be sure to stop by on Friday to find out what it is. -- AP

Monday, January 23, 2012


I love Portobello mushrooms. They’re a perfect meat substitute when you want something other than meatballs or sausage with your pasta. Cloris has a great mushroom pasta recipe to share today. -- AP

(serves 4)

1 pkg. whole grain spaghetti
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups Portobello mushrooms, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups fresh baby spinach
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Rinse. Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Cook the onions and garlic until the onions are soft. Add the wine and cook approximately 5 minutes until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 6 or 7 minutes.

Add the parsley, lemon juice, and spinach. Saute for another minute until the spinach wilts. Add the pasta. Heat through.

Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese after plating.

Trust me, you won’t miss the meat in this dish! Meanwhile, o
ur Book Club Friday guest this week has a very special treat for our readers. Be sure to stop by on Friday to find out what it is. -- AP

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Why carry your lunch to work in a paper bag? This lacy tote is a snap to make and an elegant way to carry your tuna fish sandwich. Or make a larger one for a reusable shopping bag. The blank canvas totes come in a variety of sizes and are available at craft stores. -- AP

9” x 11” natural canvas tote
3/4-yd. 2” wide gathered natural Cluny lace
3/4-yd. 7/8” wide flat natural Cluny lace
7 assorted 2” natural lace medallions
assorted white, clear, and natural buttons in varying sizes
fabric glue
gem glue
air-soluble fabric marker

1. Using the fabric marker, draw two perpendicular lines 2” from center of tote.

2. Cut the flat Cluny lace into two equal pieces. Using the fabric glue, glue the flat edge of each piece to the outside of each line, lining up the top edge with the top of the tote and wrapping the bottom edge around to the bottom of the tote.

3. Using the fabric glue, glue the gathered Cluny lace to the top edge of the tote, overlapping cut ends at center back.

4. Using the fabric glue, glue the lace medallions randomly onto the tote, two on either side and three in the middle section.

5. Using the gem glue, glue the buttons randomly around the lace medallions.

Our Book Club Friday guest this week has a very special treat for our readers. Be sure to stop by on Friday to find out what it is. -- AP


Thanks to all who stopped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week and a special thanks to Susan Santangelo for being our Book Club Friday guest author. The winner of Susan's two baby boomer mysteries and the Retirement Can Be Murder socks is Mau. Mau, please send your mailing address to me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com so I can forward it to Susan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Our guest today is mystery author Susan Santangelo. Susan has been a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. She now writes the Baby Boomer Mysteries. A portion of the sales from this series is donated to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a non-profit organization based in Connecticut which Susan founded in 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer herself. Read more about Susan and her books at her website

Susan is offering a copies of Retirement Can Be Murder and Moving Can Be Murder, along with a pair of Retirement Can Be Murder socks, to one of our readers. To enter the drawing, post a comment to the blog, and remember to check back on Sunday to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP

“Danger! Men doing laundry.”

That’s a sign hanging in the home of a friend of mine with a recently retired husband, and there’s a whole lotta truth in it!

When I started writing the Baby Boomer mysteries, I wanted to showcase the emotional impact of the aging process on Boomers. The series features Carol Andrews and her Beloved Husband Jim as they travel along life’s highway toward their twilight years. With one dead body thrown in.  Each book in the series (there are a total of 7 planned) is told from the wife’s perspective – big surprise there – and are written in the first person.

But the series didn’t start out that way.

The original premise was for my husband, who is also a writer, and me to co-author the books. I already had the first book title in mind: Retirement Can Be Murder. One chapter would be told from the wife’s point of view, the next from the husband’s, etc. Truthfully, my husband (My Personal Beloved) was thinking about retirement himself, and I was desperate to find something for us to do together besides learning to play golf. Plus, I didn’t want him interfering with the way I’d been (successfully) running our household for the past 40 years.      

I wrote the first chapter and showed it to him. He said, “That’s really cute. Write the second chapter.” And so on. And so on. Meanwhile, I was leaving breaks in between my chapters for his, while also trying to develop the plot line. By the time I got to Chapter 5 and he had written nothing, I finally asked him what his plan was. And he admitted he wasn’t into the project. “You write it,” he said, “and I’ll critique it.”

Huh?? As if!

I came up with a tag-line, which I use under each book title, “Every wife has a story.”  I’m realizing more and more, as I do book signings and talks, how true that is. Wives all over the country are identifying with the series. Many have shared their own (hilarious) stories of living with a retired husband. And several have asked me if Retirement Can Be Murder is a “How To” book, or if the wife kills the husband. Or vice versa. And these women were serious!

Hmm. Maybe at the end of the series. Or not.  

Thanks for joining us today, Susan! Readers, Susan says “every wife has a story.” Isn’t that the truth! Post a comment to enter the drawing for copies of Susan’s two books and a pair of Retirement Can Be Murder socks. -- AP

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Winter means dry skin. Beauty editor Nicole Emmerling is here today with some tips for keeping your skin moist and healthy throughout the winter. -- AP

Winter can wreak havoc on exposed skin, Anastasia. Cold temperatures cause skin to chafe. So my first tip is pretty much a no-brainer: cover as much exposed skin as possible when you venture outside.

Because winter is also cold and flu season, we all tend to wash our hands more often. This is great for keeping germs at bay, but it also tends to dry out our hands. To counter the drying effect of all that hand washing, use hand cream after each washing. Use moisturizers that contain natural products such as avocado oil and camellia seed oil. If your hands are extra dry, apply cream before bed and wear a lightweight pair of gloves while sleeping.

The same can be done for your feet. (Except wear socks!) And speaking of feet, wash dry, cracked heels with warm water and sea salts to remove the dead skin.

Avoid hot baths, showers, and saunas. Lukewarm water is best.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, no matter how cold it is outside. Sunlight reflects off snow and ice, intensifying the sun’s radiation.

Use a home humidifier to counter the drying effects of your home heating system.

Hydrate from the inside by drinking an adequate amount of water each day, and cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Both work against your skin.

Exercise! Staying in shape helps skin stay healthy.

Thanks, Nicole! All great tips, except for the caffeine. There’s no way I can get through my day without it. I’ll just have to drink more water to compensate. What about you, readers? Post a comment to enter the drawing for books plus a special gift from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


From time to time we feature tips and tidbits are editors come across. Food editor Cloris McWerther and health editor Janice Kerr have banded together to find healthy cooking tips for us. -- AP

Who doesn’t like rich foods? Of course, rich foods are not good for our health. They clog our arteries and raise our cholesterol. Small changes can add up to huge results if you substitute low-fat and fat-free ingredient for high-fat ones when you cook. Your taste buds won’t suffer, and your body will thank you.

Here’s today’s healthy cooking tip:

Substitute low-fat or fat-free yogurt when soup, sauce, and dip recipes call for sour cream or mayonnaise. For thicker sauces, stir 2 teaspoons of flour per cup of yogurt into the yogurt before cooking to prevent curdling.

I do love my sour cream, but I’m going to give this a try. What about the rest of you? 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for books plus a special gift from our Book Club Friday author this week.-- AP

Monday, January 16, 2012


For the last two weeks Cloris has shared some of her comfort food recipes that are perfect for cold winter days. Today, another. -- AP

(makes 4 sandwiches)

1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey mustard
8 slices multi-grain whole wheat bread
12 slices ham
4 thick slices mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup fresh spinach
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Cook the onion in olive oil until the onion carmelizes (about 10 minutes.)

Spread mustard over each slice of bread. Place 3 slices of ham on each of four slices of bread. Divide the onions into four portions. Place one portion on top of each sandwich. Divide the spinach into four portions and place a portion on each sandwich. Cover each with a slice of cheese, then the remaining four slices of bread.

Spread half the butter on top of each of the sandwiches.  Place in hot frying pan or griddle, butter side down and cook until bread browns. Spread remaining butter on top slice of bread, then flip and continue cooking until cheese melts and second slice of bread browns.

What a great idea for Saturday lunch! I’d add a cup of tomato soup. What about you? 
Post a comment to enter the drawing for books plus a special gift from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As I’ve mentioned many times, there are all different types of crafters, and many crafts take little or no talent. Then there are the crafts that take a special kind of talent, but employs a skill that doesn’t involve a glue gun or an embroidery needle. Some crafters work with beads, some with clay, some with paint, and some with…LEGOs.

Bet you never thought of those little colored bricks as a craft, did you? But why not? Creating with LEGOs is still creating. Crafting is crafting, no matter what the medium.
Over Christmas Lois Winston (the author who writes those books about me,) visited family in Georgia. While reading the newspaper one morning, she learned about a Lego exhibit at a Honda dealer in Roswell, a town about an hour north of Atlanta. Being a fan of LEGOs, she had to check out the exhibit. So the entire family piled into the car and drove over to Honda Carland.

Once there, they found a 15 foot tall cityscape made from over half a million LEGOs with 1500 LEGO figures, including Santa Claus and characters from Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter. The cityscape was created by Harry Nijenkamp and his son Austin, and they estimate it took over 500 hours to complete. Along with the skyscrapers and an amphitheater, there’s an oriental garden and a DragonCon parade that weaves through the city streets. 
Photos by James Barker
So the next time you’re thinking about crafts, don’t forget to think a bit outside the box. Anyone can craft. And with any medium.

Post a comment to enter the drawing for books plus a special gift from our Book Club Friday author this week. -- AP

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Nancy J. Cohen is our Book Club Friday guest today. In her newest mystery, Shear Murder, a wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table. Nancy is currently on a blog tour and will be giving away a copy of Shear Murder, along with a set of Paua shell jewelry, at the end of the tour. To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment at any of the blogs on the tour. You can find the tour schedule and learn more about Nancy at her website. -- AP

Character Quirks by Nancy J. Cohen

You’d think wedding preparations would keep a bride busy, but not so for Marla Shore, my hairdresser sleuth. She has a gazillion things to do to get ready for her nuptials that are several weeks away in Shear Murder, the latest title in my Bad Hair Day mystery series. Besides running her own salon, prepping for the grand opening of her new day spa, and packing for her move into a new house with her fiancé, Marla has last minute wedding details to surmount.

In the midst of this chaos, she’s a bridesmaid in her friend Jill’s ceremony. Imagine Marla’s horror when she discovers the matron of honor’s dead body at the reception. This launches her into another murder investigation just when she can’t spare the time.

One of the suspects she interviews is the victim’s husband. He owns a clock repair shop and has been accused of paying more attention to his timepieces than to his dead wife. Having fun with secondary characters is something I like to do, and I was delighted to explore this obscure art.

When’s the last time you had a watch fixed? Did you wonder how the person got their training? Where they went to school for this skill? We have a cuckoo clock in our house that once needed repair. Thankfully, there is a shop in town that does this work. It’s like entering a time machine to step inside. The musty smell and the repetitive tick-tocks ringing in your ears herald a bygone era.

Let’s listen in on my heroine’s conversation with the suspect as she interviews him in his house.

Marla sniffed at a hint of tobacco, like from a pipe or cigar. “What kind of work do you do?”

His challenging gaze met hers. “I own a clock repair shop. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve always had a fascination with time pieces. We fix everything from watches to chime and cuckoo clocks to antique long case models. Those are especially beautiful in mahogany.”

From the passion lacing his voice, she could tell he truly enjoyed his occupation. “How you do train for that type of job?”

“I studied Horology in Pennsylvania.”


“Horology. It’s the study of time, timekeepers
meaning clocks and watchesand timekeeping. I’m certified as a master clockmaker and master watchmaker.”

Her ears picked up the sound of clocks ticking. She followed their direction to a wall unit displaying several models. “That’s a nice collection. Are they antiques?” She knew nothing about the subject. Her clocks at home were either battery run or digital, certainly unlike these decorative objects.

“Those are my vintage Atmos clocks.” Scott beamed proudly. “All of these have a mercury motor. It’s inside the round box behind the movement. The motor transforms thermal energy into mechanical energy, which the clock movement uses to drive the balance and display the time. The Atmos clock consumes sixty times less energy than a wrist watch.”

Cool, huh? Although most people today don’t think of them as such, clocks can be decorative objects. Next time you’re in a neighbor’s house, note what type of timepieces they have on display. An interesting clock may reflect their personality. And when you’re reading a story, consider how a character tells time. Does he use his cell phone or wear a wrist watch? It is quirks like these that reveal clues about people.

What is unique and interesting about you that might reveal an insight into your personality?

Thanks for joining us today, Nancy! -- AP

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Flamenco dress made from junk mail

If you’re a frequent visitor to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, you know that we’re always trying to reuse, recycle, and repurpose. On a recent trip to Atlanta, fashion editor Erica Milano discovered a fashion collection that takes our mantra to exquisite heights. And she found it displayed in nine cases throughout the International Concourse E of the Atlanta airport.

Youth Eco-Dress made by 2,000 children out of recycled office paper

The exhibit is called Recycled Runway and is a collection of eighteen couture fashions made from re-purposed trash by Santa Fe artist and environmental educator Nancy Judd. Nancy believes that “waste does not exist, only wasted recourses,” and she proves it with her “trashique” fashions. Each piece is inspired by vintage designs and created from discarded and reclaimed materials such as a faux fur coat constructed of endless loops of cassette tape and a flamenco inspired dress made from junk mail crafted into origami, then sewn together.

Glass evening gown made from 12,000 pieces of recycled crushed glass

Erica snapped a few photos before she had to catch her flight. To see all the designs in the exhibit visit www.RecycleRunway.com/ATL

So tell us what you think of these, readers. You could win a copy of the book being offered by Friday's guest author. -- AP

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Health editor Janice Kerr came across an interesting study recently. If you drink diet soda to cut down on calories, you’re going to want to read this. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia. Personally, I always think it’s quite funny when I see people ordering Big Macs, supersized fries, and a diet Coke, but that’s kind of beside the point. A nearly ten year long study from the University of Texas Health Science Center found that older people who consumed two or more diet sodas a day had spare tires and muffin tops six times greater than people who didn’t drink diet soda.

No one knows for sure why. It could be something in artificial sweeteners that makes us retain body fat, or like those people ordering the Big Macs and supersized fries, they think the calorie they save from ordering a diet soda will counterbalance the calories in their food.

Want to lose weight? Try cutting out the diet sodas and drink water instead. Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to find a healthy substitute for the Big Macs and supersized fries.

Good advice, Janice! And if nothing else, you’ll be able to cheat with a few Christmas cookies. 
;-) -- AP

Monday, January 9, 2012


Keeping with our comfort food theme for January, today Cloris offers a spin on the traditional cheesy garlic bread by adding a secret ingredient. -- AP

(serves 6-8)

1 loaf crusty Italian bread
6 slices bacon
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 stick butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Cook bacon. Allow to cool. Cut into small pieces.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Slice bread. Place on non-stick baking sheets. Spoon butter/garlic mixture over slices. Top with shredded cheese. Sprinkle with bacon.

Bake in 400 degree pre-heated oven until cheese melts and browns slightly (approximately 15 minutes.)

Wouldn’t this be perfect with tomato bisque for lunch or dinner? How about for your Superbowl party? -- AP

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Yesterday was the official release date of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries about yours truly. Last week I featured directions for making a basic yarn doll. Today I'm featuring a way to turn that basic yarn doll into a lovely Victorian lass. 

If you'd like directions for making a mop doll, you'll find them in Death By Killer Mop Doll, and if you'd like a chance to win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll, post a comment to this blog or any of the blogs on author Lois Winston's January blog tour. You'll find the complete schedule on the sidebar to the right. -- AP

Refer to the materials list and directions from last Monday to make the basic yarn doll using a mohair type rose colored yarn. Decorate the doll as follows: 

sandy blond curly doll hair
4” doll hat
3” ecru lace fan
five 1/4” mauve ribbon roses
1/2 yd. 1/8” wide mauve satin ribbon
6” length 1” wide ecru lace
1/2 yd. 3/4" wide ecru lace
needle and thread
small amount baby’s breath
pink colored pencil or blush
tacky glue

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

2. Cut 3-4 strands at a time of curly doll hair twice the desired length of hair. 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. Untangle and trim to even out the length.

3. Cut 1” lace into three 2” pieces. Fold two pieces in half lengthwise. Using needle and thread, gather at folded edge. Tie one around each wrist.

4. Using needle and thread, gather remaining piece of 2” lace along one long edge. Glue under neck for jabot.

5. Glue a ribbon rose to top of jabot and at each cuff.

6. Glue hat to head. Glue 1/8” ribbon around hat, tying ends at center back. Glue baby’s breath and two ribbon roses to front of hat slightly off-center.

7. Glue fan to front of doll. Glue arms over fan.

8. Cut 3/4” lace into three 6” pieces. Tie each into a bow. Glue to bottom of “skirt.”

9. Color cheeks with pink pencil or blush.

Remember, post a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Death By Killer Mop Doll. -- AP

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Our guest today is author J.J. Murphy who writes the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries, in which Dorothy Parker drinks, quips, smokes—and solves the occasional murder. Learn more about J.J. at his website and on Facebook. -- AP

The Roaring 20s Are Roaring Back

Ain’t we got fun—again? The Jazz Age is coming back into style. Have you seen 1920s-inspired cloche hats in the stores? Or watched the Prohibition-era gangsters and bootleggers of “Boardwalk Empire” on TV? Have you noticed the latest flapper-style fashions from New York designers? Or, perhaps you’ve heard that “The Great Gatsby” will return, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role?

Flapper Joan Crawford
Americans are rediscovering a fascination for the decade that gave us the tin lizzy, the speakeasy and the Charleston. This era also gave birth to the Algonquin Round Table. This was a group of witty writers and editors who gathered together daily for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, and included such literary wits as Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. They’re now known primarily for such quips as Mrs. Parker’s phrase, “Men seldom make passes at a girl who wears glasses,” or Mr. Benchley’s “Let’s get you out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini.”

These two are also the main characters in The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries, a fictional series that finds the clever Mrs. Parker as a wisecracking sleuth and the faithful Mr. Benchley as her lackadaisical sidekick. (In the first book in the series, MURDER YOUR DARLINGS, Dorothy Parker has to prove the innocence of young William Faulkner when a dead body is found beneath the Algonquin Round Table. In the recently released second book, YOU MIGHT AS WELL DIE, Dorothy must enlist magician Harry Houdini to determine why an unlikable artist seemingly committed suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.)

With all the talk of the Jazz Age these days, you might need some help interpreting it. So, here’s a short list of some Roaring 20s terms:
• “bee’s knees” – terrific
• “bum’s rush” – getting kicked out
• “ducky” – great
• “get in a lather” – become angry
• “joint” – nightclub or speakeasy
• “on the up and up” – honest
• “snort” – a shot of whiskey
• “vamp” – a seductive woman
• “whoopee” – having fun (and/or having sex)

So, if you have a snort with a vamp at some joint, don’t get in a lather for getting the bum’s rush when they find out she’s not on the up and up.

Thanks for joining us today, J.J. I've always been a fan of Dorothy Parker. What about you, readers? -- AP

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Guest blogger Katie Brind'Amour is back today with some tips for starting out the new year by eating your way to healthier skin. -- AP

Eating Right can Protect Your Skin
While many people know that eating certain foods can improve mood, trim your waist, and affect your energy levels, it may be a lesser known fact that eating right can protect your skin from the inside out.  I recently moved to not-so-sunny Columbus from sunny-everyday Phoenix, and I must admit, my skincare concerns are a bit different in this part of the country.  Instead of worrying about a daily sunburn (yes, even in December!), I’m worried about ashy winter skin and a dull complexion.  Oh, how the Midwest has changed me!

Thankfully, nature has been good to us in this realm, as in many others.  There are a variety of things you can put into your body to keep your skin looking great, naturally, safely, and on a regular basis – no expensive creams or serums required. 

Munch and sip your way to healthier skin with the foods below.
For starters, swap your Diet coke for some green tea.  The antioxidants help your skin protect itself from ultraviolet rays while repairing DNA damage.  In addition, the zero calorie hydration you will get from regularly sipping this healthy tea will keep your skin more moisturized and brilliant.  Bonus: you can apply it directly to your skin if you prefer to take your tea topically!

Yogurt or other sources of low-fat dairy are essential to healthy skin.  Not only are the protein and calcium essential for a healthy diet, but the Vitamin A that dairy is filled with is also critical for your skin’s elasticity and firmness.  Vitamin A helps your skin produce and protect its collagen, which builds the structure of your skin and can help keep your skin elastic and resilient.  For an awesome combo, try adding berries to your yogurt to get a boost from the fruity antioxidants that will help fight ultraviolet ray damage.

Chow down on some salmon.  The healthy fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and other fish, nuts, and vegetable oils (like olive oil) can help reduce inflammation, protect skin from some amounts of sun exposure, and boost your immune system.  Salmon in particular contains astaxanthin, an antioxidant that may fight sagging and wrinkles.  Olive oil, which is high in healthy fats, can also work as a topical skin relief ointment when applied to mild dermatitis.  If you prefer to get your healthy fats from nuts, try Brazil nuts – their selenium can boost your immune system and their Vitamin E can improve circulation, giving your skin a healthy glow. 

Little green fruits are your friends, so grab a kiwi.  This potent and tangy fruit is chock full of Vitamin C (even more so than most citrus fruits!) and can help protect the collagen in your skin by building and repairing connective tissues, such as your skin. 

Whole grains, which are healthy for a number of reasons, can help boost your skin’s immunity and general resiliency and health.  Not only are grains high in fiber and a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, but they also provide plenty of important B vitamins for your skin, such as folate, niacin, and rutin.  They also contain skin-saving micronutrients such as zinc and magnesium, which can boost your skin’s overall health.

Spice things up with turmeric.  A wildly popular spice in India and many areas of the Middle East, turmeric is a potent source of curcumin, which may help prevent the growth of squamous cell carcinomas, a dangerous and increasingly common form of skin cancer.  Yes, this should have been a regular ingredient in my cooking in Phoenix.  The antioxidants in this miracle spice also reduce inflammation and protect your skin cells from damage caused by the sun and other factors. 

Is there anything dark chocolate can’t do?  In my last guest post, I was thrilled to report the positive impact dark chocolate can have on mood and mild symptoms of depression; now I am just as excited to report that in addition to mental health benefits, dark chocolate can protect your skin!  Not only can the topical application of cocoa butter serve as an emollient that preserves your skin’s moisture and elasticity, but eating dark chocolate can protect your skin from sun damage and promote blood vessel health.  This in turn boosts oxygen flow to your skin, creating a healthy glow. 

Eat Up, Already!
Is there anything more glorious than learning that you can eat your way to a beautiful complexion and healthy, glowing skin?  I think not.  Even though I am a notorious failure at regularly wearing sunscreen, I can at least boast a diligent adherence to the skincare regimen of eating dark chocolate.  I wonder if there is an exponential effect, wherein the more I eat, the better my skin gets…maybe I will give it a try.  I figure as long as I occasionally trade it out with some yogurt, berries, nuts, or kiwi, it’s OK to experiment!

Thanks, Katie! I'm off to scarf down some guilt-free dark chocolate! -- AP

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Remember Forest Gump saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates.”? Well, it turns out that life is more like a shoelace. Health editor Janice Kerr explains why today. -- AP

That’s right, Anastasia. Life is like a shoelace according to scientists studying telomeres. And before you all start scratching your heads, telomeres are the stretches of DNA sequences at the  end of our chromosomes. Think of them as the little plastic ends that keep your shoelaces from fraying. When you lose that little plastic end piece, your shoelaces start to fray and unravel. In the same way telomeres keep your DNA sequences from fraying, which can cause genetic damage that often leads to cancer, other diseases, and even death.

As we age, our cells divide, thus shortening our telomeres. If our telomeres get too short, the cell can’t divide, and it will die. Older people will generally have shorter telomeres than younger people, but there’s lots of variation within age groups. It’s this variation that can determine the likelihood of age-related diseases and longevity. One study of people 60 and older determined that those with the shortest telomeres died an average of 4.8 years sooner than those with the longest telomeres.

So far scientists have no way of making our telomeres longer. However, there may be ways to slow down the rate of shrinkage. If they sound familiar, it’s because they’re the same recommendations many doctors already give for maintaining our health. So here’s yet another reason to follow their advice: to save our telomeres.

1. Eat more fish and nuts. One study found that people with diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids had less telomere shortening.

2. Get more sun or take more vitamin D. Another study determined that women with the most vitamin D in their blood had the longest telomeres.

3. Eat foods rich in vitamin C and E. Vitamins C and E are high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals. Free radicals harm telomeres.

4. Reduce the stress in your life any way you can, whether it’s by meditating, deep breathing, lifestyle changes, or even seeing a therapist. Several studies have found that women with high levels of stress hormones have telomeres that represent ten additional years of aging.

5. Exercise. Research has found people with severe stress such as PTSD, victims of childhood abuse, etc. all had poorer immune system health and shorter telomeres in their white blood cells. The study showed that vigorous exercise at least three times a week short-circuited the telomere shrinkage in these people.

Readers, save your telomeres to live longer. I’m off to run a few laps around the block right now. What about you? -- AP