the blog of Anastasia Pollack, crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth
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.
journalist, and former attorney, Jon Dalton lives in Southwest Florida with his
wife (the novelist Tymber Dalton), Kiwi the dog, several cats intent on world
domination, and Sheldon the wonder tortoise. Learn more about Jon and his books
at his website.
Departure from tradition in
As a non-native Floridian (still a tried and true Buckeye) who’s lived
in this state for the past thirty-some years, adjusting to the lack of snow and
bone-chilling temperatures took some time.
That said, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas when you have the sun
shining and temps in the high seventies or eighties. But when the sun goes down
and darkness begins to fall, I can behold a Christmas wonderland outside my
You see, Floridians are no different that anyone else when it comes to
decorating for Christmas, and some of us tend to take that further than others.
Yes, I’m one of those.
Nov. 1 is the magic day for me. Down come the few Halloween decorations
around the house, and out come the tubs labeled “outside lights.” The yard gets
mowed one final time, weeds around the shrubbery are weed whacked, and the area
around the carport gets cleared.
Following a project plan developed over the years, the outside
decorating proceeds with every tree, shrub and fence bedecked with festive
lights. Then comes the placement of the myriad wire and grape animals, along
with the three lit trees, and a cloth Frosty the Snowman.
Lastly, the inflatables take a place of honor in the front yard. The
collection has grown to a dozen or more of these including Santa, snowmen,
Hello Kitty (for my wife), Snoopy, penguins — you get the picture.
This is all made possible by my wife, who, after seeing the display grow
and experiencing temporary power outages, steered me to these outside external
thingamabobs that are connected to the electrical panel. Voila! No more
The other magic behind this is the myriad extension cords and power
strips situated throughout the yard to make it all happen.
The target date is always Thanksgiving night. When darkness falls, I
plug in the eight extension cords and an ordinary yard transforms into what I
can only describe as a magical scene.
In years past, I’ve used a music box to create a dancing light show, but
alas, the music box died this year, so I had to settle for a more mundane,
static display. Bad weather this year has also grounded the inflatables on many
So, most nights from Thanksgiving through December, this wondrous scene
is on display with the final night being New Year’s Day. That’s the other part
of my new tradition. New Year’s Day is the final night absolutely, and on Jan.
2, back out come the tubs and everything gets packed up for another year.
I suppose in a way, going all out on my holiday decorations isn’t
unusual as I can remember my father, when I was a child, hanging a string of
lights across the front of our house. I vividly remember standing on the
ground, holding the strands of lights, while he was up on the ladder stapling
then to the house (can we say Clark Griswold?). Thus, I think I can safely say
that I came by my all-out decorating honestly.
Ultimately, I look upon this decorating tradition as my way of sharing
the joy of the holiday season with others. And sharing, treating others with
kindness, is what Christmas is all about with me.
And that leads me to Dancing under
the Mistletoe. Under another pen name, I write sweet romances typically set
at Christmas. But I wanted a mystery set at Christmas involving my detective,
Wolf Mallory. And thinking about the local VA facility in Tampa, the idea of
the murder of a member of a VA support group evolved and the book was born with
Wolf finding closure for a grieving family.
Best wishes for the New Year!
Dancing Under the Mistletoe
A Wolf Mallory Mystery
Wolf Mallory thinks life is going to settle down now that he’s proven
Vicky wasn’t guilty of murder. Unfortunately, Wolf’s friend Vinnie volunteers
him yet again to take a look at a case. And with the holidays approaching, Wolf
gives in, hoping to bring a little closure to a murder victim’s family. But
when even the police don’t have any leads, Wolf wonders how he’s going to pull
a Christmas miracle out of his bag of tricks.
Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided
to begin a life of crime in her Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion
for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her
business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for
Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently
resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.
Learn more about her and her series at her website.
A Guide to ‘Setting’ up a Cozy
I’ve loved to write as long as I can remember. One of the biggest
hurdles for me to jump over is setting. I always look to authors like the late
great Sue Grafton, as she spun amazing roads both literally and figuratively
throughout her novels. Sara Paretsky personifies Chicago in her V.I. Warshawski
novels. Chaucer’s pilgrimage in the springtime to visit Beckett’s shrine in Canterbury gives life to the setting. So, why do I always find myself
staring at a page full of words that round out characters, create sensory
details, and advance the plot but have little pebbles worth of information on the
When I first set out to write a cozy series, I held back for the longest
time. Why? You guessed it: setting fears! I understood the need to create a
cozy little village that entices readers to feel they live in that setting as
they read the book. Talk about giving me the nervous sweats. How would I ever
be able to do this when I struggle with the setting?
I’ve never been huge into fantasy as a reader. I’ve always leaned toward
mystery first with English Literature a quick second (I was an English Lit
major in my undergrad years and taught English Literature to HS students for
two decades, so…).
When I got serious about writing that cozy mystery, I decided to visit
the fantasy section of my local library where I grabbed several books with maps
in them. I found a quiet little cubbyhole in the corner of the library to study
those maps and took some detailed notes. Next, I went and found a globe and
circled it for a bit. I always have my handy-dandy journal with me wherever I
go, so I got that puppy out and began jotting down some notes on mapping out a
world, a town, a street, down to a room.
I made lists. From those lists, I created descriptions using sensory
details. I looked up places online and realized (and duh, I was an educator
after all so I should have known this) that I learn best visually.Seeing those maps first, then writing,
helped me so much. Looking at actual pictures of exact places online or
searching for places based off of detailed terms I created in my head, gave me
more of a visual to work from. I now had
a strategy for writing setting.
So, off I went, back home to my office with my seven cat staff to begin
developing The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series, which is set in Leavensport, Ohio. This
is a fictional village, but I live in Ohio in a small village myself.Leavensportis partially modeled after the village I
live in, but a lot of visual research also went into creating my little world.
I found several pictures that I studied and spent hours free-writing, trying to
get the right spots in the correct places to be able to help me write this
fourteen book series.
Once I did all that, I created a really bad map online.It was truly horrible to look at, but
fun to make. So, after putting that atrocity in my first book, my editor kindly
said: “Having a map is a great idea, but
why don’t you have a professional set it up for you?”
Um….yes, that would be good. Writers, don’t ever think you don’t need an
editor. I was so proud and puffed up from my research and time I committed to
making the crappymap that I couldn’t really see (or smell) how crappy it was.So, I got a professional who made me a black and white copy
for e-books and a colored map for my website and blog interviews like this one.
It is beautiful. I do love it. I love all the names I’ve come up with for the
village, and I look forward to murdering
people in just about every place in town—on the page that is!
Pineapple Upside Down Murder
A Cast Iron Skillet Mystery, Book 1
Introducing Jolie Tucker, an introverted yet passionate restaurant
co-owner of Cast Iron Creations, who, at her best friend Ava’s request, steps
out of her comfort zone, which leads her into the shade of a killer in the
small, cozy village of Leavensport, Ohio.The victim is the village’s beloved Ellie Siler who runs the village
sweet spot, Chocolate Capers.Jolie finds her grandma Opal is a prime suspect and goes on a search for
answer only to find out that her family’s secret recipes may not belong to the
Tucker family at all.Jolie’s job,
family, and livelihood are all on the line. The answers are assuredly lethal.
is the USA Today bestselling author of a dozen thrillers and mysteries. Originally from
the UK, he resides in California with his American wife, Julie, a longhaired
dachshund, six cats, five chickens, a few dozen tropical fish and several
thousand bees. Learn more about Simon and his books at his website.
I suppose my fondest Christmas memory was my first
Christmas with my longhaired dachshund Max. It was 1981. I was thirteen, and it
was his first Christmas. As someone new to this Christmas thing, he was quite
excited to see the tree go up and the house get decorated.
However, the week before Christmas, he didn’t cover
himself in glory. My mum had finished baking a Christmas fruitcake. She was
letting it cool on the kitchen table so she could add marzipan and icing later.
I wandered into the kitchen at some point to find this eight-month-old
dachshund puppy had managed to hop onto a chair, then climb onto the table, and
was now chowing down on the cake. This cake, which was still warm, was easily 5
lbs. or so and he was about 3 lbs. into it. He stopped eating, stared at me and wagged his tail guiltily.
I called out to my mum with the news. She told me not to tell tales (somewhat
of a thing for me) but I said no, no, scout’s honor. My mum came out to see the
carnage. I thought, along with Max, that he was going to get a walloping, but
my mum said his punishment would come in about 6-8 hours when nature had taken
Max made up for his indiscretion on Christmas
morning. I guess our excitement of opening presents infected Max. As we tore
the wrapping off our gifts, Max joined in. We stopped unwrapping our presents
and let Max do it for us. If we showed him the corner where to start, he would
carefully strip the paper off. We might not have had any Christmas cake in 1981,
but that dog turned Christmas morning into a joyous occasion.
Max is long gone, but the memory of that morning has
never left me.
An Aidy Westlake Mystery, Book
Christmas has gone sideways for racecar driver, Aidy
Westlake. Aidy’s grandfather, Steve, was just putting the finishing touches on
a classic Ford GT40 he was restoring for a British millionaire when it was
stolen from his workshop. They quickly establish that the supercar was stolen
to order and is in now in Moldova in the hands of the notorious gangster,
Lupul. There’s a wrinkle. The police in Moldova don’t care. The theft of a rich
man’s toy doesn’t rank high on their priorities. The client’s ultimatum is simple—cover
his one million pound loss or recover the car by Christmas Day. With the threat
of financial ruin hanging over his grandfather’s head, Aidy’s crew has only one
option—steal the car back.
(We don't generally post new blogs on weekends, but we just couldn't turn down a request for a spot by the author of a fellow crafting sleuth, and the weekend was all we had available.)
National bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan has had five stories in
the New York Times’ Bestselling
Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She’s also won the Daphne du Maurier Award of
Excellence for Literary Fiction. The author of nearly 40 books, Joanna lives on
Jupiter Island in Florida. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
A Season of Creativity
(and a Beach Escape for Only 99
The four female characters in my Second Chance Series hope for a second
chance at love and life. MJ Austin, Skye Blue, and Honora McAfee all work for
Cara Mia Delgatto in a store called The Treasure Chest, a décor shop that
features upcycled, recycled, and repurposed goods. Because Cara Mia has a very
tight budget, she and her employees are always looking for ways to turn simple
items into desirable, one-of-a- kind pieces of merchandise. For me as an author
that adds a fun challenge to each of my books, since I have to come up with
cool trash-to-treasure ideas as well.
For example, later this week I’ll be decorating a Christmas tree made
from pieces of driftwood I found on the beach. A friend drilled a hole through
the pieces and threaded them onto a dowel, putting the large pieces of wood at
the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. I plan to hang empty quail’s
eggshells from the limbs, along with garlands of paper beads and ornaments of
seashells. These are all items that Cara Mia might sell in her store.
My biggest creative project this year has been a dollhouse for the
annual Creatin’ Contest run by Miniatures.com. I’ve been working on my entry
for nearly a year. Not surprisingly, Honora is also a miniaturist. Like me, she
creates one-of-a-kind dollhouses. Both of us make all the pieces for our house s
by hand, including any dolls we use.
Here’s a picture of Amelia T. Byrd, the owner of the dollhouse I’ve
made. She’s only five inches tall. I sculpted her from clay. Her hair came from
a lock of my dog’s tail. (No animals were hurt while making this project. I
promise!) Can you see the tiny bird perched on her finger?
If you like reading about women’s friendships, if you like a sweet
romance along with your mysteries, and if you like crafts, I think you’ll enjoy
my Second Chance Series. Right now I’ve put Book #1—Second Chance at Love—on sale for only 99 cents. Since the series is set in Florida, it might just be
the perfect mental escape you’ll need this holiday season.
Second Chance at Love
(Previously published as Tear Down
and Die, Book #1 in the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series)
At sixteen while on vacation in Florida, Cara Mia Delgatto lost her
heart to Cooper Rivers. But her interfering parents didn’t approve. They moved
Cara away from the Sunshine State and cut off all communication between the two
In an act of rebellion, Cara makes a nearly fatal mistake—and almost
destroys both her family and their business. To make up for her rash behavior,
Cara spends the next twenty years of her life being “a good girl,” working in
her family restaurant.
When her parents die within six months of each other, Cara decides to
take a road trip and visit her son at University of Miami. On a whim, she buys
a vacant building in Florida and opens a trash-to-treasure décor store. She
believes with all her heart in second chances…but then Cooper Rivers walks back
into her life. Can Cara and Cooper rekindle the love they felt that magic
summer so long ago?
Best-selling author Theresa
Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations, and secret societies back to
life in her visionary fiction. Learn more about her books and short stories at
My favorite Christmas
tradition as a child was the Moravian Christmas Eve Candlelight and Love Feast
service. I was raised in a small Protestant church with the oldest history
starting way back in 1415 in Prague with Czech national hero Jan Hus. It’s a
long story how we ended up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but that’s where I
Each Christmas Eve, I looked
forward to the special service of music, treats, and candles. After a few hymns
and the reading of the Christmas story, the Love Feast began. The doors to the
side of the pulpit would open and out would come the women dressed in crisp,
white aprons, carrying baskets of buns, each decorated with a big ‘M’ standing
for Moravian. After the buns were passed from hand to hand down the pews, the
men came out carrying trays of white mugs filled with sweet coffee. It was the
only time I was allowed to drink coffee as a child, plus we were eating in
church. We listened to the choir sing and enjoyed our little communal meal.
Then my favorite part came toward
the end when the beeswax candles decorated with red crepe paper at the bottom
were carried out on trays and passed to the congregants. The lights in the
sanctuary were dimmed and the only light was the big Moravian star hanging in
the front. These stars began in a geometry class in one of the German
settlements in Neisky in the mid-1800s. The one we hung at home had 26 points,
but the star in our church was bigger and had many more. It was glorious.
I sat in breathless
anticipation until I received my candle. I immediately put it up to my nose and
took a deep breath of the best beeswax you’ve ever smelled. Once everyone had a
candle, the server lit the minister’s candle, then that light went to other
servers who lit the candles of the first person in each pew. The light was
passed until each person’s candle was lit. The sanctuary grew lighter until it
was filled with the golden glow of candlelight. Then we sang the final hymn and
on the last stanza, we held our candles in the air.
Each year a child led the
congregation in a hymn called “Morning Star.” The child sings the first two
lines, then everyone sings it back. Everyone sings the chorus. One year, I was
picked to sing. Mother bought me a beautiful green velvet dress with little red
roses on the bodice. I remember holding up my candle and singing, “Morning
Star, O cheering sight. Ere thou camst, how dark earth’s night.” My favorite
As an adult, I discovered
the Moravians had taught mysticism in the 1740s. I was fascinated. The
teachings echoed metaphysical ideas I’d studied in Vedanta and then in Western
Mystery schools. After a good deal of research, I wrote a novel about it called
The Star Family. This novel ends with
a Christmas Eve Love Feast and Candlelight service.
The Star Family
A secret spiritual group, a recurring dream, a
400-year-old ritual that must be completed before it is too late
Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an
energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this
grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re
Award-winning historical mystery author P.A. De Voe
is an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She
has written several books and short stories featuring the Ming Dynasty. Learn
more about P.A. and her books at her website.
China is a highly diverse
country whose diversity can be broken down in various ways, for example, by
region (north, south, west), province, or language. Deadly Relations, A Ming Dynasty Mystery is a late fourteenth
century story set in the southeastern province of Jiangxi in the market town of
While my Jian is fictional,
I wanted it to reflect important characteristics of southern villages and towns
and which I could use in developing the characters and plot line of my new Ming
Dynasty Mysteries series. First, the majority, if not all, of the residents
belonged to only one or two patrilineal clans. That is, the families were all directly
related to one another through the father’s line. When women married, they
married out of their patrilineal home and moved to their husband’s family’s house
in another village. Therefore, all of the married women would normally be from
other villages or towns. As a result of this living arrangement, the husband
had lots of family around him, and the wife had no one around her from her own
natal family. Another consequence of this pattern, intended or not, was that most
women transferred their identity, loyalty, and attachment to the husband’s
family and its interests. I pursue this idea in Deadly Relations, looking at both the positives and negatives that
can arise from such a situation.
In Deadly Relations there are two main clans: the Gao and Xin. The Gao
clan is the dominant clan; they have the most members, prestige, and control of
the town. My protagonist Hong Shu-chang’s mother was a member of the Xin clan,
the secondary clan in the village. Because Jian is a market town, however, there
would also be non-Gao and Xin living in Jian. They would be immigrants and
traders. The normal, everyday Chinese wanted to remain in their home area (the
emperor also wanted this!) but famine or war would drive them away in search of
economic survival. Nevertheless, no matter how long they stayed in Jian, they were
always considered outsiders.
These tight vs. loose
networks (i.e., men vs. women, clan members vs. outsiders) allows for
interesting dynamics in character development.
Another issue related to
north-south differences, is how schooling is treated. Although the emperor
encouraged his magistrates to set up public schools for boys, in the south most
boys received their education through clan-based schools. A clan-based school
was set up and run by a specific clan for its members only. At the death of
Hong Shu-chang’s father, his mother’s brother offered him a job as teacher in Jian’s
Xin clan school. All of his students are cousins who can trace their family
line to a common ancestor.
There were no schools for
girls in either the north or the south. If they received any education, it was
through home schooling. Shu-chang’s female counterpart, Xin Xiang-hua, is
highly educated as a woman’s doctor because her medical family trained her
through home schooling and an apprenticeship with her own grandmother. This
professional training was highly unusual for girls. However, it did happen.
Xiang-hua is based on a real, historical woman’s doctor who lived during the
I invite you to take a trip
to Jiangxi province in southern China during the late 1300s. Read Deadly Relations, where history and
Deadly Relations, A Ming Dynasty Mystery
As Hong Shu-chang struggles
to move out of poverty, his father and uncle are murdered. Facing destitution,
yet determined to find their killers, he takes a position as teacher in a
nearby town where he meets Xiang-hua, the enigmatic local women’s doctor. Soon,
a burned-out warehouse and two more mysterious deaths lead to his teaming up
with Xiang-hua, and together they delve into the dark side of the town and its
families, endangering both their reputations and lives.
Christmas! Just the mention of the
word evokes images of snow and family togetherness and a decorated tree and
presents... Some people don't like Christmas for reasons of their own, but I
love Christmas because of all the happy memories involved.
When I was a child the entire
family - aunts, uncles, cousins of several generations - would gather for
Christmas day at my grandparents' house in a small town in North Texas. The
house was built in the 1880s and was very cold, but we didn't care. Each family
had had their 'tree' as we called presents and Santa in their own home, either
on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, then all would trek up to the
family home. My grandmother didn't decorate beyond a tree - usually a small one
set on a table in the corner of the seldom-used parlor. One year it was made of
blue net, which was very strange.
We had presents, but not very many
and not very grand. Usually the children under 10 or so got presents from
everyone, but the rest drew names. We weren't a wealthy family, at least not in
money. What I remember most fondly, though, is not the presents - I cherish the
memories of love and fun and togetherness... and the food. Especially the food.
Every family brought a dish and
the old round table from the 1840s in the kitchen (which is now my breakfast
table) couldn't hold it all, so the dishes spread out over the counters and
stove. My mother made superb pies and always took six or eight - and none of
them ever came home. Our cuisine was ample, but basically simple. Ambrosia
salad. Green bean casserole. Several kinds of stuffing. Corn, either plain or
in casserole, sometimes both. Turkey. Ham. Occasionally a roast. Sweet potatoes
- yes, with pineapple and marshmallows. Green peas and pearl onions. Irish potatoes
cooked in several ways. Sometimes fried okra, freshly cooked just before we
started to eat. And of course, iced tea to drink. There was no alcohol of any
kind at any gathering at my grandparents' house.
We had the tree first, all of us
oohing and aahing over everyone's gifts no matter what they were, and then we
migrated to the kitchen. Dinner usually lasted most of the day. After the first
heaping plateful we would all sit around, talking primarily - ours was a
'talking' family - while our dinner 'settled,' then we would mosey back to the
kitchen for a little snack. Sometimes several times.
So many children today miss the
wonderful experience of an extended family. We did not. My grandparents'
siblings came to dinner, and sometimes some of their children if they were in
town. Some members brought friends who would have no place else to go.
Boyfriends and girlfriends were welcome. My grandmother's sister had died in
the Spanish influenza epidemic right after World War I, but her widower - and
his second wife! - came to our Christmas regularly, and were very welcome. I
was nearly grown before I figured out that neither of them was a blood
There were games, too. We children
spent hours playing cards or Chinese checkers on an ancient board that had been
my grandfather's as a boy. Sometimes the men played gin rummy. The women
talked. If the weather was nice, we children would run off our energy playing
games outside, either in the yard or in the old barn on the back of the
When it finally got into late
afternoon, the women would go into the kitchen; some would clean up while
others divided the leftovers (usually enough for two meals for a family - I
said there was a lot!) so each group would have some to take home. No leftovers
since have ever tasted so good.
Lois asked for a photograph
germane to my post, but there isn't one. Few of us had cameras, and if there
were pictures made, I don't know of any that have survived. It's a pity, but
the images in my heart can never fade. So - I must ask you to use your
imagination to picture the scene; a Norman Rockwell-type image would do nicely,
because it was just that lovely.
My grandparents' generation is
gone now, as is my parents'. I am now the oldest on both sides of my family - a
fact that never ceases to astonish me. The old house was sold long ago, and the
younger generations have scattered across the world. Which is the way of
things, and is perhaps good, because there is no way we could ever recapture
that feeling of wonder, of family, of hope, of love.
By the way, my Christmas release
this year is a tasty little novella of murder and mayhem called Killing Harvey, where on Christmas
morning the most unpleasant family member was discovered stabbed. And
garrotted. And possibly poisoned. It's sort of a funny story. However - please
rest assured that my family was nothing like that one!
It was a killer Christmas…
By all accounts it should have
been a perfect holiday. A beautiful, elegant house. Rebecca’s future relatives
all together, talking happily about her upcoming Christmas afternoon wedding to
Peter. A gorgeous tree surrounded by presents. A Christmas-card perfect
But the snowfall turned into a
freak blizzard, trapping Rebecca and Peter in with his family. Then, once the
house was completely isolated and no one could enter or leave, the most
obnoxious member of the family is found stabbed. And garroted. And perhaps
poisoned. Who really killed Harvey… and how?
Can Rebecca solve this murder?
More importantly, does she really want to?
Carola Dunn was born and grew up in England but has
lived in the US for the past 50 years or so. In spite of this, almost all her
books are set in England, including twenty-three mysteries in the 1920’s era
Daisy Dalrymple series, four Cornish Mysteries set around 1970, thirty-two
Regency novels, and four collections of Regency novellas. Learn more about
Carola and her books at her website.
Trifle is an English dessert
dating from 1598 (first citation in print according to the OED). At that time
the word referred to a mixture of cream boiled with other ingredients, more
like what we call a “fool” today. By 1755, it was much like what we know today
as trifle. My Aunt Margery (actually a second cousin a few time removed) used
to make trifle for the holidays. I don't have her recipe, and in fact, I don't
use a recipe at all, but this is how I make it yearly for Christmas Eve dinner
I have to say, the first time I brought it on Christmas Eve,
it was looked at askance by a few who aren't into desserts--but they are the
ones who came back for more!
Ingredients – exact quantities are unimportant—guidelines below
Plain cake—I've used angel
food from a mix, and bakery pound cake, but the most popular was homemade
sponge cake that was actually a complete failure—the two layers each came out
about 3/8” thick. For some things you really have to follow the recipe!
Raspberries—I freeze my own
every summer, but this is one time frozen work better, because they have lots
of juice.(Some people use
jam/jelly or jelly/jello, unsatisfactory in my opinion, or soak the cake in
sherry, which I don't care for.)
Custard—I use Bird's Custard
Powder, but vanilla pudding is more or less equivalent.
Whipped cream—Here I'm
really fussy. Spray can cream does NOT work. Even grocery store whipping cream,
which usually comes full of thickeners such as carrageen, is not that great. I
use heavy cream (unadulterated) from a local dairy, or Trader Joe has an
excellent heavy cream. If you love whipped cream, you probably have your own
Glacé cherries for
decoration—or fresh raspberries if available.
Trifle is attractive in a
glass bowl, but any bowl—preferably flat-bottomed—works well. The bowl in the
photos is 6-1/4” x 3-1/4” deep. I made two roughly the same size using about ¾
of a small pound cake, a 12 oz bag of frozen raspberries, a pint of custard,
and a ½ pint of cream. It would be enough for 6 or 8 people. Or it can be made
in individual glasses such as sundae glasses.
Place slices of cake about
1” to 1½” deep in bottom of small bowl or 2 to 2½ in large bowl. I fill in gaps
with scraps of cake.
Pour juice from bag more or
less evenly over cake to soak in. Distribute berries in an even layer on top.
Make custard or pudding.
Cool slightly (so it doesn't cook the berries) and pour on top before it
Whip cream till really
stiff—beyond stiff peaks (but don't let it turn into butter!) unless you're
going to serve the trifle immediately and you know there won't be any left
over. Even with the best cream, stiff peaks will weep after a few hours. Good
cream doesn't need any flavouring. If you have to use grocery store whipping
cream, you might want to flavour it with a spoonful of powdered sugar and/or a
drop of vanilla.
Spread on top of cooled
Serve with a large spoon (a
cake server doesn't work well), preferably in glass bowls.
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace
A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, Book 23
April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young
cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that
her children's nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to
make a day of it―bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter
Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong
when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy
goes to look for her, she doesn't find her nanny but instead the body of
another woman dressed in a nanny's uniform.
Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet
another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace
and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble
across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete
When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can't remember what happened after
leaving the twins in the nurserymaid's care. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief
Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the
investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children's own injured
nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of
the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why
the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny.