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, March 31, 2013


Has your child ever had to make a family tree as a homework assignment? Was it a painstaking process for both of you? Ashley Kerkovich joins us today with some tips on how to approach such assignments. Even if your child doesn’t have to construct a family tree for school, this is a family project you might want to undertake on your own. Of course, you’ll want to make yours a good deal simpler than the one shown of Ludwig Herzog and his descendants.

Ashley Kerkovich writes about family, history, parenting and teaching. Her best work can be found at www.topeducationdegrees.org.-- AP

How to Inspire Children to Trace Their Family Ancestry
Do you know where your family comes from? Perhaps you don't because you've never traced your family tree. If you do know your history from a family tree, you might wonder why it's important to have your children do their own. Well, they might find information that you didn't know about, and doing so will really give them a connection to their past. How exactly can you make children want to indulge in this hobby? Read on to find out!

Make It Fun
If you make tracing the family history sound like a homework assignment, you're not going to inspire anyone to partake in the task. Ask them exciting and engaging questions such as, "Do you know where your great-great grandmother was born?" If the answer is no, introduce a family tree as a way to find out the answers.

Start with Basics
While tracing the family history back hundreds of years is possible, doing so is quite overwhelming for children. Start with the basic building blocks. Show them what a family tree looks like and then ask them to put together one with the people who they do know. This family tree would include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and perhaps another generation back if the child knows of the relatives. Once the foundations have been laid down, parents and children can work together to learn more about their families.

Do It Together
As mentioned earlier, tracing a family history is not necessarily an easy task. Work with your child to help him or her construct the family tree. Tell your child that you will use tools in which he or she is interested. For example, take book worms to the library or to a local historical site to conduct research on individuals who have lived in the area. If your child loves to play on the computer, utilize the famous Ancestry.com to find out where your relatives came from. Help children understand the process, and show them how to navigate the website. You could also search old newspapers and magazines, either online or in person, to see if a relative's name ever appeared in any of these publications.

Inspire with Trips
Tell your child that there will be some trips in store if he or she can find the family history. Visit places that had meaning to your ancestors. If your ancestors came over from Russia or Mexico, you don't necessarily need to plan a trip across the world if funds and time do not allow for it. However, you could plan a trip to the town in which your ancestors lived when they first arrived in the country, or if you have German blood in you, you could head to Amish country. Another exciting tourist attraction for people interested in history is Ellis Island, the place where so many European immigrants arrived. Children can tour the facility and then look out to the Statue of Liberty.

Getting a child, especially a child who is largely uninterested in history and the past, to trace the family tree is tough. However, you just need to think like your child to make this a less stressful undertaking. Know your child's interests and use those interests as tools for discovery. Offer rewards and trips for discovering more information once your child has completed some initial steps.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


A little Easter humor from the Pollack household. All I can think of is Elmer Fudd singing, "Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit!" Happy Easter, everyone! -- Anastasia

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Author Diana Rubino has a passion for history. She writes biographical novels with no fictional characters. Her latest work is Give Us Liberty, the story of Martha Washington as told by her favorite servant, her slave Oney Judge. Today Diana talks about her passion for Abraham Lincoln. Read more about her and her books at her website and blog. – AP

A Necessary End 
Abraham Lincoln has fascinated me since I was eight years old. I don’t know what got me started, but it might’ve been a book which I still have, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, written in 1895. When I was in 3rd grade, in the mid-60’s (which shows how long I’ve been a Lincoln nut), my teacher asked us to bring a book to school from home for Show & Tell. My mother suggested I bring this Lincoln book, which even in 1966 was in bad shape—yellowed, stiffened strips of Scotch tape barely held the covers to the spine.

With the wisdom of an 8-year-old that sadly, all of us outgrow, I demurred, saying, “This old book? She’ll think we’re poor!” My mother corrected me: “No, she’ll think we’re rich. Books like this are rare.” Then she proceeded to tape it up some more. Those 47-year-old Scotch tape fragments adhere to the book’s spine and pages to this day. The teacher, Miss Cohen, was duly impressed.

I still treasure that book to this day, and it’s one of many on my “Lincoln shelf” which holds books about our murdered president, his wife Mary, his assassin John Wilkes Booth and his family, the “Mad Booths of Maryland” and the conspirators who faced the gallows or years of hard labor because Booth, their charismatic leader, sucked these poor impressionable souls into his insane plot.

After writing eight historicals set in England and New York City, I decided to indulge my passion for Lincoln-lore. I began researching in depth about Lincoln’s life, his presidency, his role in the Civil War, and Booth’s plans to first kidnap him, then to assassinate him.

A Necessary End combined two genres I’m passionate about—history and paranormal. I joined The Surratt Society, based in Maryland, and attended their conferences and tours. Through the Surratt Society, I met several Lincoln/Booth/Civil War experts. One lady I’ll never forget meeting is Marjorie “Peg” Page, who by all accounts except definitive DNA testing, is John Wilkes Booth’s great granddaughter.

My trips to Lincoln's home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois, Gettysburg, Ford’s Theater, and the house he died in, Petersen House, brought me close to Mr. Lincoln’s spirit. My travels also acquainted me with Booth’s brother Edwin, the most famous actor of his time, and his unconventional family.  A recording of Edwin’s voice reciting Shakespeare on one of Edison’s wax cylinders still exists.

My paranormal experience includes investigations at several haunted homes, restaurants and graveyards. I investigate with a group from Merrimack, NH, led by CC Carole. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve received responses to my questions with my dowsing rods. Wishing I had my recorder with me, I made a ghost laugh at the Jumel Mansion in Harlem, New York City, (see the story and photos on my blog)

Tragically, we’ll never hear Abraham Lincoln’s voice. But his spirit lives on. In my book, which is fiction—but we all know that novels are fictionalized truths—I gave Booth what was coming to him. He got his justice in real life, but in A Necessary End, he also got the paranormal twist he deserves.

And I enjoyed sticking it to him!

I paralleled the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar in this story because in the play, Caesar was known as a tyrant to the Senators, who feared losing their power, as Booth feared losing the Confederacy. Booth always considered Lincoln the tyrant, hence his proclamation, “sic simper tyrannis” (be it ever to tyrants) when he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln.

Caesar’s Senators, Brutus and Cassius among them, conspired to stab Caesar to death on an appointed day. Booth recruited a group of like-minded disciples to aid him in his insane plot, at first to kidnap Lincoln, then to kill him.

By day, Booth was a Confederate spy and courier, taking dangerous missions so that his beloved South could fight the North in the war that tore the nation in two. But in this story, an even darker secret plagues himhe believes he’s the reincarnation of Brutus, the man who slew the tyrant Caesar, and Booth’s destiny in this life is to murder the tyrant who’s ravaged the South—Abraham Lincoln. In obeying the spirit of Brutus, Booth devises a plot to assassinate the tyrant.

I wrote the book as a paranormal instead of a straight historical novel  because spirituality was extremely popular in 1865 and all throughout Victorian times. Mary Lincoln was a staunch spiritualist. So stricken with grief after the deaths of her boys Willie and Eddie, she hired mediums such as Nettie Maynard to visit the White House and hold séances in attempts to contact her sons from beyond the grave.

The extent of séances, table-tapping, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and otherworldly activities in this era fit perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. We could never enter Booth’s head, but his insane behavior begs the question: was he truly haunted by a spirit who drove him to his heinous act that changed history forever?

When actor John Wilkes Booth, under the guise of seeking spiritual advice, visits the President's medium to gather information about Lincoln's habits in order to kidnap him, a malevolent spirit begins to haunt and torment him, driving him to the brink of insanity. A mysterious coin also appears out of nowhere, and returns every time Booth tries to discard it. Each return of the bloodthirsty Roman coin brings increasingly terrifying events and eerie hauntings. In the midst of these strange visitations, Booth falls in love with Alice Grey, a beautiful actress who's hired by the government to spy on him. She’s torn between her love for Booth and her duty to protect the President from assassination.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The Sunshine Award is a lovely sunny flower that bloggers give to other “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”

The other day Kath Marsh, who writes the Letters from Earth blog, bestowed a Sunshine Award on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Thanks so much, Kath!

As with most awards, the Sunshine Award comes with a few simple rules:

(1) Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.
(2) Do the Q&A below
(3) Pass on the award to 10-12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.

Here are my answers to the questions:

Favorite Color: Black (a pear-shaped, middle-aged girl’s best friend)

Favorite Animal: Ralph, the Shakespeare quoting parrot

Favorite Number: Seventeen. Don’t ask me why. For some reason seventeen always comes to mind first, like when I’m juggling seventeen things at once, which I do constantly.

Favorite Non-alcoholic Drink: Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. Did I mention coffee?

Facebook or Twitter: Who has time for either? I certainly don’t. Thanks to a certain sadistic author, I’m too busy trying to dig my way out of the debt-ridden back-story she created for me.

Your Passion: Finding ways to get out of the messes that sadistic author writes me into. (Think Lois will kill me when she reads this? No way! She’d have to come up with a brand new series.)

Giving or Getting Presents: Giving. Shopping for others is so much more fun than shopping for myself. At least it used to be, back before author Lois Winston yanked me out of my comfortable middle-class life.

Favorite Day: The day I win the lottery, which, unfortunately, hasn’t occurred yet. :-(

Favorite Flowers: All except lilacs which I’m deathly allergic to.

Finally, these are the 10 fantastic bloggers I'm tagging for this award. Check them out:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


If you’re like millions of others, one of your New Year’s resolutions was to lose weight. Have you? Here’s a handy tip to help you burn more calories with very little effort. 

We’ve all heard that drinking a glass of water before each meal fills us up and helps keep us from overeating. One recent study also found that 16 ounces of water increased metabolism by 30%. But here’s where it gets really interesting—cold water increased metabolism even more. So drop a few ice cubes in that glass of water to burn, baby, burn—calories, that is.

Monday, March 25, 2013


The calendar might say it's spring, but it's still feeling like winter. Casseroles are a winter staple. Here’s a recipe for a penne casserole that will fill you up without filling you out.

Penne Casserole
serves four


1 lb. ground turkey
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushroom
2 cloves garlic, minced
25 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
olive oil
2 cups penne
1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Prepare penne according to package directions. While penne is cooking, brown onions in oil. Add mushrooms and garlic, then ground turkey, cooking until turkey is no longer pink.

Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce into a 10” x 10” casserole, coating the bottom completely. Combine the remainder of the spaghetti sauce with the turkey.

Drain cooked penne and pour into casserole dish. Spoon turkey over penne. Sprinkle cheeses over top. Back at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until cheese browns. Serve with choice of vegetable or salad.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Craft this beaded box as an Easter gift for a young girl, get a jump on a Mother’s Day gift, or treat yourself to this cute box for storing tiny treasures. The sample was made with a 2-3/4” x 4-3/4” box, but you can choose any size, depending on what you want to store in it. I went with a basically monochromatic palette with a few pops of color, but this box would also look great in a combination of pastel colors or even rainbow hues. -- AP

Beaded Trinket Box
Papier maché box, primer, acrylic paint in your choice of color, foam brush, piece of scrap paper at least the size of the lid dimension, pencil, assorted decorative buttons and glass seed beads in your choice of color(s), jewelry glue, fabric glue, ribbon and decorative trims

1. Trace the lid onto the scrap paper.

2. Prime the box and lid. Allow to dry.

3. Paint the box in your choice of color, applying two coats. Allow to dry between coats.

4. While paint is drying, arrange the buttons on the template you’ve drawn on the paper. Play around with the buttons until you have a pleasing assemblage.

5. Using fabric glue, glue ribbon or lace trim around edge of lid.

6. Apply liberal layer of jewelry glue to top of lid. Place buttons one by one on the lid, following the template you’ve created. Sprinkle seed beads over the lid to fill in areas between buttons. Allow glue to dry for several hours before moving the lid.


Thanks to all who stopped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week and a special thanks to our guest authors. Author Annie Adams visited us on Wednesday and offered a copy of The Final Arrangement to one of our readers who left a comment. The winner is Lynn Holt. Lynn, please contact me at anastasiapollack@gmail.com so that I can put you in touch with Annie.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


L.J. Charles realized her dream of writing novels seven years ago and hasn't looked back. She is of mixed Irish and Italian heritage, grew up with a love of mysteries, and a soft spot for romance. It's no wonder her Everly Gray adventure series was created with mixed genres, and has two male characters in leading roles—one Italian and one Irish. Learn more about L.J. at her website and blog. -- AP

A Touch of Betrayal is the fourth book in the Everly Gray series. Prior to this story, Everly and her significant other, Mitchell Hunt, have been featured as main characters. In A Touch of Betrayal the 'other man' in Everly's life steps between them, and puts her trust in their friendship to the test.

Tynan Pierce was born from black Irish stock, and has the bordering-on-black hair and azure eyes to prove it. He graces the pages of Everly's adventures with a fondness for fading into invisibility, and for answering important questions with inscrutable, incomprehensible syllables. For all of his adult life, Pierce has been involved in military and special ops occupations and has honed his skills to perfection.

He has three rules for living:
1. Watch your back.
2. Silence saves lives.
3. Love hard and fast. Then long and slow.

What he hasn't done: anything domestic. Today he's breaking the mold to share his favorite bread recipe with you. Simple, fast, and suited to a man without a known address, the recipe produces a tasty loaf with only three ingredients.

1 – 12 ounce can beer (Pierce prefers a solid amber.)
2 cups self-rising flour
3 Tablespoons sugar

Mix sugar and flour. Then pour in beer and mix lightly. It will foam up, so don’t be alarmed or try to slurp off the suds. You need ‘em in the bread! Bake at 375F in a metal pan or 350F in a glass pan for about 30 to 45 minutes. Glass tends to take the full 45 minutes.

Note: Pierce has a standing offer of a passionate, er, kiss for Kelsey Browning in gratitude for teaching him how to make the bread. Readers are welcome to visit her website for more information because Tynan Pierce doesn't kiss and tell.

To learn more about Pierce, I invite you to discover the Everly Gray Adventure series.

A Touch of Betrayal
Bored, restless, and ever curious, Everly Gray schedules a week off from her personal coaching business, takes her ESP fingers out of protective custody, and begins to explore the remains of her parents' property. It's time for her to track their killers and bring them to justice.

That's the plan. Until one of her so-called friends (Tynan Pierce) kidnaps her for an impromptu trip to Hawaii, and she discovers the pain of betrayal.

Before he married Everly, Mitchell Hunt made a bargain with the devil—and lost. When he shows up in Hawaii to make things right, danger follows him, and escalates when a rogue government agent, and a militant psychopath with her gang of minions vie for control of Everly and her healing gifts.

Mitch's betrayal has put Everly's life in danger and flips their relationship to the other side of romance, where there's no way back—or is there?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


BB Cream

Have you discovered BB cream yet? What are you waiting for? BB cream has become a working woman’s best friend, a one-and-done product that eliminates the need for many other skin care products.

BB is short for “blemish” or “beauty” balm. Think it’s only a tinted moisturizer? Think again. BB cream is an all-in-one skin hydrator, primer, foundation, and sunscreen. Some BB creams also contain caffeine and antioxidants that will help tighten and rejuvenate your skin.

BB creams are now available from many cosmetic manufacturers. You’re bound to find one that best suits both your skin and your budget.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Annie Adams is the author of The Final Arrangement, book one in The Flower Shop Mystery series. When not writing she can be found teaching workshops to authors about the business of being a writer, or arranging flowers and delivering them in her own Zombie Delivery Van. Today Annie visits us to discuss using flowers to decorate your home. Learn more about Annie at her website.

Annie is offering either a paperback or e-copy of The Final Arrangement to one of our readers who posts a comment. Please make sure you either leave an email address with your comment or check back on Sunday to see if you’re the winner. We can’t get your book to you if we have no way of contacting you. -- AP

The Final Arrangement is the first in The Flower Shop Mystery Series, where you will find our heroine, Quincy McKay working away in her flower shop. Following are some things she would like to pass on about using flowers in your home.

Flowers are beautiful, they smell nice, and they are used to mark special occasions. Too expensive to keep around the house…right?


Even a single bloom has the power to make an emotional impact in your life as soon as you see it, not to mention what the aroma can do to balance hormones and improve your overall well being. And, a single flower can cost as little as a dollar or two.
Did you know it’s been proven flowers have an impact on your emotions? At Rutgers University, a team of researchers performed a 10-month study of responses of research participants to receiving flowers. They found the following:

1. Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed "true" or "excited" smiles upon receiving flowers, demonstrating extraordinary delight and gratitude. This reaction was universal, occurring in all age groups.

2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Specifically, study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.

3. Flowers make intimate connections. The presence of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends.

I always recommend visiting your local florist to find out what’s in season and to see some fantastic ideas for what you can do with flowers. There are several economical and long lasting blooms such as alstromeria, carnations and chrysanthemums that come in hot, vibrant colors sure to warm up a gloomy winter room.

Carnations and mums were once the lowly forgotten flowers of design, but they’ve made a big-time comeback in party design at places like the Oscars, Oprah’s parties, and more.

Besides using longer-lasting varieties, there are tricks to extending the life of flowers. Make sure you keep the water clean by changing it daily. If you receive a packet of flower food with your purchase, it is imperative you read the directions on the back of the packet and follow the measurements to the letter. Studies have shown that dosing flower food improperly can actually be worse for the flowers than not using any food at all. So keep the home remedies like sugar, soda pop, aspirin, pennies and whatever else you may have heard of, out of the vase.

Give the stems a fresh cut just before placing them in clean water. Lastly, keep your flowers cool. This is the most important step in my opinion. Optimal temperature for flowers is generally 38-42 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of us don't have a flower cooler in our homes, so the next best place is a cool area in the house.  

It only takes one flower to lift your mood and stave off the effects of depression, so stop and pick up an affordable bouquet, even if it’s from the local grocery store. Flowers are calorie-free, drug-free and guilt-free sources of happiness that don't have to break the bank.

The Vulture is dead.

The body of Quincy McKay’s nemesis and biggest competitor in the floral business has just been discovered in a casket at the mortuary, complete with flowers on the lid.

Derrick Gibbons, aka The Vulture, stole all of Quincy’s funeral business, and now she’s on a mission to get it back. But there’s a problem—Quincy is now the main suspect in The Vulture’s murder.

Armed with only her Zombie delivery van, good intentions, and the business card of a handsome cop named Alex, she must find the killer, save the flower shop, and keep from ending up in the next casket. If she can dodge burning bushes, the plague of a polygamist ex, and her mother's Mormon Mafia Spy Network, her life with Alex and her shop could become the perfect arrangement.

Monday, March 18, 2013


How would we ever get through winter without hot, hearty soups? Serve this one with a hot loaf of French bread for a stick-to-your-ribs meal. Added bonus—because it’s made with fat-free broth and milk and low-fat cheese, you can eat as much of it as you like without packing on the calories.

Broccoli, Cheese, and Potato Soup

2 small onions
2 carrots
1 celery stalk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
32 oz. fat free chicken broth
2 cups fat free milk
2 medium potatoes, peeled
2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
4 ounces low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Dice onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes.

Melt butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Sauté onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in butter on low heat. Add flour and salt, stirring until smooth.

Add chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Cover and cook on low until potatoes are soft. Remove cover and add broccoli. Heat through.

Add cheddar, stirring well until cheese melts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Here’s a cute little Easter bunny to add to a child’s Easter basket. Or make several and add one at each place setting for Easter dinner.

Easter Egg Bunny

2-1/2” Styrofoam® egg, scraps of pastel print calico fabrics, pinking shears, ruler, pencil or fabric marker, tacky glue and jewelry glue, foam brush, 2-1/2” white or straw doll hat, two 5mm wiggle eyes, two 5mm white pompoms, 3mm pink pompom, scraps of white and pink felt, scrap of cardboard

1. Using the ruler and pencil or fabric marker, draw 3/4” squares on fabric scraps. Cut out squares with pinking shears. You’ll need approximately 30 squares to cover the egg.

2. Water down the tacky glue to a consistency that will be easy to spread with the foam brush. Working one fabric square at a time, glue squares to egg, overlapping edges. Cover egg completely with fabric squares. Allow to dry.

3. Print out patterns to 1-1/2" in height. Using pattern, cut out feet from cardboard. Glue a piece of white felt to cardboard. Allow to dry. Trim felt to cardboard.

4. Using pattern, cut out two white felt ears and two pink felt ears. Glue a pink ear to a white ear. Allow to dry. Apply small amount of glue to bottom of pink ear. Fold ears in half at bottom edge. Allow to dry.

5. Glue hat to top of egg. Glue an ear to each side of hat.

6. Glue on eyes (using jewelry glue) and pompoms as shown in photo. Make a small bow from ribbon and glue to egg as shown.

7. Glue bottom of egg to feet.