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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Friday, November 15, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--F.M. MEREDITH ON THE INSPIRATION FOR HER CHARACTERS

Marilyn Meredith, who writes the RBPD mystery series as F.M. Meredith, is the author of more than forty published books. She once lived in a small beach town much like Rocky Bluff, and has many relatives and friends in law enforcement. Learn more about Marilyn and her books at her website and blog.

What Inspired the Character(s)
In the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, there are multiple characters who have been in the series since or near the beginning. I’m going to write about the inspiration for a few of them, plus a couple of new ones.

I wrote the first book in this series when my son-in-law became a cop and came to my house every morning after his shift for a cup of coffee. He always shared what had gone on the night before, including tidbits about his co-workers. Of course a lot of what I heard spilled over into my books and the characters who inhabited them.

Detective Doug Milligan has been one of the main characters since the beginning. He was inspired by the police officers I knew at the time—young, married, and with children. Because these men were neighbors and I was friends with their wives, I had some insight into how what was going on in the families affected the job, and what they experienced on the job affected their families. Of course a lot of this became part of other characters.

Officer Gordon Butler has become the favorite of many of my readers. He’s had a rough time of it, both as a police officer and in his private life. He was inspired by one of the local cops who knew all the laws, operated by the book, worked hard, but bad and often humorous things happened to him.

Abel Navarro begins as an officer and becomes a sergeant as time goes on. From Mexican descent, he and some of his family members are loosely based on one of my sons-in-law. No my son-in-law is not a cop, but the dynamics of his large family has provided a lot of inspiration for ongoing characters. 

One of the newer characters is the police chief of the Rocky Bluff P.D., Chandra Taylor. She’s African American and tough. No, I don’t know any female police chief’s, but I have a friend who I see in my mind’s eye when I write about Chief Taylor. My friend once worked in prison as the assistant to the warden. Taylor is like my friend, shaped by the adversities in her life, but intelligent and capable, able to handle most anything--except romance.

Another new character is the daughter of the Rocky Bluff mayor. Kayla Duvall is a teenager who didn’t know her father until her mother, dying of cancer, sent her to live with him. I borrowed her looks from a darling boy who attends our church and who has an African American mom and Anglo dad. Like Kayla, he has blond curly hair.

For many years, I’ve been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association that is made up of many law enforcement officers. Of course I’ve made friends with many of them and some of them have also inspired characters in this series.

Bones in the Attic 
In a small town like Rocky Bluff, personal and professional often overlap, so Detective Doug Milligan is not surprised when his daughter Beth is the one who informs him a body has been discovered.

What is surprising is that the body is in a long-abandoned home that Beth and other students are turning into a haunted house as a fund raiser. The city granted permission for the project as long as it was limited to the downstairs for safety reasons. But one student, Mike Patterson, couldn't resist the temptation to look in the attic.

Detective Milligan stepped carefully a trunk and peered inside. Only a musty unpleasant smell emanated from the contents, not the noxious decomposition odor he'd expected. The skeleton crammed inside was still clothed in the remnants of what may have been pajamas.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

ROMANCE AUTHOR LAVADA DEE OFFERS AN ANTHOLOGY OF SEASONAL SHORT LOVE STORIES

In our continuing series featuring holiday books, we welcome Lavada Dee today, author of The Season of Love: Stories of Living and Loving. Learn more about Lavada and her books at her website. lavadadee.com

I have always been an avid reader, and can’t imagine being without a book. With the holiday rush fast approaching, I find I have less time to read. When I’m reading a full-length novel, and can’t get my nose out of it, I can easily burn dinner, among other things. I’ve found at especially busy times an anthology is better for me. 

 They say to write what you read, so I was inspired to write a collection of short stories. Since I’m especially busy at Christmas time, I set the stories around the holiday season. Life can be stressful during the holidays, and when relationships are in peril, the season can be brutal. These stories feature couples re-finding themselves and restoring love to their lives. The collection is designed so that you can start and finish a story in one sitting. Some of the stories are also available on their own at most online retailers. 

The Season of Love

Bahama Christmas
It has been two years since Maddie’s fiancĂ©’s death, and it’s Christmas, the time of family and couples. She is tired of feeling like the fifth wheel. Solution, a cruise. Santa Claus or maybe the Christmas Angel has a gift in store for her.

A Divorce For Christmas 
Unable to get pregnant, Lori Harper is taking getting there to a new level. With How-To books in hand, she has become a woman with a mission. With ‘things’ down to the clinical, Brad is feeling anything but amorous. In fact he has had enough of the command performances and wants out.

The Age of Love
Ariana doesn’t know how she let it happen, but she’s fallen in love with Joel, who is eight years younger than she is. The relationship is complicated by the fact that Joel’s mother is Ariana’s best friend. Joel presses for marriage, but Ariana can’t bring herself to come out with their relationship. The only solution Ariana see’s is breaking off with Joel. He isn’t giving up on them and sets about bringing their relationship out in the open.

No Perfect Marriage
When Kade gets a call in the middle night from his wife, saying their teenage son is in jail, he knows he needs to take a position. The marriage is over, so they need to make it official. But first they need to get Josh home, and to do this they need to present a united family image to the judge. Is the house big enough for both of them, and can they live together until after the holidays?

Spontaneous Love
Leah and Dean Coogan feel that their marriage is in trouble but can’t seem to stop the downward spiral. Leah’s solution is to make everything perfect for Dean. The perfect house, perfect meals, perfect everything. The harder she works, the more Dean feels left out. She doesn’t hear him when he tries to explain that he wants her to do things with him, not for him. 

Thank you for the opportunity to blog on your site today, Anastasia. Wishing you and all your readers happy reading now and throughout the holidays. 

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

AUTHOR GINA DANNA ON REGENCY AND VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS

USAToday bestselling author, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers she finally found time to write her own historical romantic novels. Learn more about Gina and her books at her website. 

Celebrating the Holidays – Regency style
As the holidays approach today, in the 21st century, now is when we rev-up for all the festivities. We moan Christmas decorations arriving in the stores prior to Halloween (and in some, at the end of August!), but by November, we anxiously prepare for getting through Thanksgiving to put up our Christmas tree, decorate our homes, and shop for the perfect gift! Soon, sleigh bells will be ringing as buildings blink their holiday lights at night. Ah, tradition!

But truly, this version of the holidays is not that old. Christmas as a commercial celebration did not swing into gear until the late 19th century, well past the Regency era. Yes, I can hear you asking didn’t they celebrate during Jane Austen’s time? Yes, but be prepared for anything other than the Hallmark movies.

During the Regency era and before, Christmas time was celebrating the birth of the Christ child. Often times, mass was a midnight affair, with families going en masse to it with an early fancy breakfast afterward. Churches that did not have the midnight service, offered an early morning affair, elaborate on music and jubilation on Mary and Joseph’s expected child. Again, a large breakfast was held afterward.

But wait – what about presents and the Christmas tree? The tree itself was part of the Germanic culture celebration – the Tannenbaum tree, introduced to the English (and then American) society when Queen Victorian married Prince Edward, who was of Germanic descent. 

Originally, Queen Victoria had a small evergreen on a table, like a centerpiece, lit with candles on the limbs. These candles, hung with a weighted stand so as to balance it, were lit Christmas morning, prior to the children coming to breakfast. A bucket of sand stood nearby in case there was an accident. As to the gifts, originally these were more for the children. Not toys, per se, but candies, an orange (which was particularly prized, since it was not in season), stockings, and a doll or model horse. These were hung, unwrapped, on the tree. So the scene must have been spectacular, even though short-lived.

Also, keep in mind, Christmas celebrations continued for the next twelve days with parties and merriment. There were balls and visits to neighbors. In the New World, oftentimes (during the Victorian era for sure), these twelve days were frequently the times when slaves were given ‘freedom’ from chores, to be with their families. The making of the Yuletide log was a point of reference to this practice, for as long as it burned, slaves had free time, so when they were sent to find the Yuletide log, they looked for the greenish stump, since green wood smoldered longer.

For our Regency period, this was also the time of house parties, where guests stayed for a week or longer. At these parties there were dances, fancy dinners, parlor games, and hunts. A fun time for all! And if true love was discovered, it was the greatest gift of them all! Merry Christmas!

A Merry Wicked Christmas
Lady Marina Lockhart's dreams of her upcoming Season debut are squashed by her father's news of an arranged marriage. An unexpected invitation to attend a country Christmas house party with her cousin carries the improbable hope of meeting a gentleman who will save her.

After a disastrous engagement, Phineas Carrollton, the Marquis of Huntington, buries himself in the affairs of running his country estate but begrudgingly agrees to host his sister's Christmas festivities. When he meets the lovely Lady Marina, his dismal mood is swept away by a passion he believed was dead inside him.

A sudden snowstorm strands Phineas and Marina at a hidden cottage, but her hopes of marriage vanish when he weaves a story concealing their time together, shattering her heart and dreams to save her from a loveless match, for she has fallen for the dashing Marquis. She obeys her father's summons to return to London for the wedding, holding in her heart the cherished memory of Phineas, a flame for the bleak years of marriage she faces. Unable to deny that Marina has ignited his heart, Phineas refuses to believe that she loves anyone but him. His headlong rush to London to stop the wedding will be only the beginning of his challenge.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST COOKBOOK AUTHOR ELIZA CROSS & PUMPKIN CRUNCH CHEESECAKE

It’s all about pumpkin this time of year, isn’t it? Today award-winning cookbook author Eliza Cross joins us to share a recipe from Pumpkin It Up!, her cookbook featuring all things pumpkin. Eliza has authored eleven additional cookbooks and three nonfiction books and is currently working on her first novel. Learn more about Eliza and her books at her website and blog

About the Recipe
This is a fun dessert to bring to a holiday gathering as an alternative (or in addition) to traditional pumpkin pie. It’s a cross between a cheesecake and a pie with five layers of goodness: a crispy shortbread base, a light pumpkin cheesecake filling, a tangy vanilla sour cream layer and a topping of crunchy toffee. The final flourish? A drizzle of caramel sauce, because you only live once. 

I developed this recipe for my cookbook Pumpkin It Up! (Gibbs Smith, Publisher), which has 75 sweet and savory recipes using pumpkin. The preparation is easy, but I suggest you begin the day before you plan to serve it so you have ample time for baking and chilling. 

The Crust
Crumbled shortbread cookies form the base of this dessert. The crumbs are combined with melted butter, and I like to use salted butter for that delightful sweet-salty flavor combination. You can also substitute crumbled graham crackers for a more traditional crust, or crushed gingersnaps if you prefer a spicier flavor.

The Two-part Filling
The first layer of filling is made of cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar and spices, blended and whipped until light and creamy. After baking, it’s topped with a sweetened vanilla sour cream layer. 

The Toffee Topping and an Inspired Mistake
Chopped toffee bits form the next crunchy layer. You can use Heath bits that come in the bag, or get Heath or Skor bars and chop them in fine pieces. For pure toffee flavor, you can buy Werther’s Original Caramel Hard Candies and smash them with a hammer or rolling pin into small bits. (Smashing hard candy has the added benefit of helping relieve stress.) 

My original vision for this dessert was that when you cut it, you’d discover the ribbon of toffee inside. When the food stylist prepared the recipe to be photographed, however, she accidentally sprinkled the toffee bits on top. Her photo was so pretty that we decided to change the recipe rather than re-shoot the photo. 

Caramel Sauce
You can use your favorite caramel ice cream topping, or you can be especially decadent and use authentic Dulce de Leche, which you can find right near the sweetened condensed milk in the grocery store. It’s thick, so you’ll probably need to warm it before drizzling. 
Shall we start cooking? Here’s the recipe:

Pumkin Crunch Cheesecake
1 3/4 cups crushed shortbread cookies
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 can (15 ounces) or 1 7/8 cups cooked pumpkin puree
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toffee bits
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 7 minutes (do not allow to brown). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin, milk, eggs, cornstarch, cinnamon, and ginger; beat well. Pour into crust. Bake until edge is set but center still moves slightly, about 60 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla; mix well. Spread over warm cheesecake and sprinkle with the toffee bits. Return to the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until filling is firm. Remove springform pan side and drizzle with caramel topping just before serving. Makes 10 servings.

Pumpkin It Up!
There’s more to pumpkin than lattes and pies, so Pumpkin It Up! is here to help you discover sweet and savory ways to pumpkin up every meal. With both traditional favorites and unexpected twists, these recipes will please even the pickiest of pumpkin eaters. Stock your spice rack with Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice, keep breakfast classic with Pumpkin Pancakes, liven up dinner with Pumpkin Tortilla Soup, and tempt yourself with Pumpkin Tiramisu for dessert. Whatever your pumpkin craving is, you’re covered!

Recipe excerpt from Pumkin It Up! by Eliza Cross. Photography by Susan Barnson Hayward. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

BECAUSE TODAY IS VETERANS DAY...


On this Veterans Day we'd like to take the opportunity to thank all the men and women who currently serve in the Armed Forces, working diligently to keep us safe, as well as those who once served, and the families of all. We greatly appreciate the sacrifices you make and have made on our behalf.

Friday, November 8, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--CHARACTER INTERVIEW WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR'S SYDNEY RILEY

Today we sit down for a chat with Sydney Riley from mystery author Jeannette de Beauvoir’s Provincetown Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Very much like it is now, minus the dead bodies, of course. That only started happening when she decided to write about me… hey, you don’t think they’re connected, do you?

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I live in an incredibly diverse community, made up of a lot of smaller intersecting communities. I like that I’m able to fit in—even if only at the fringes—with most of them. I have friends who are artists, fishermen, actors, club owners… I don’t make assumptions about people and I think that makes for a much more harmonious life.

What do you like least about yourself?
Mostly it’s my reliance on sarcasm to get me through awkward situations. The more stressed I am, the more I’m snarky. Oddly enough, people around me seem to find that off-putting.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Do you have about an hour for me to list them all? Dodging bullets in the Gropius house. Diving off the pier in October and nearly dying of hypothermia. Finding a skeleton hidden in a wall. Every single book she has me up to something most people would never experience in their lifetime. Every. Single. Book.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Yeah, did you pick up on that? I’d love to just show up somewhere and not find a body or get drawn into a mystery. I want her to transfer me to a science fiction series where I can have some fun on other planets. Then again, she’d just have me solving some extraterrestrial murder, wouldn’t she?

What is your greatest fear?
My boyfriend Ali works for ICE in the human trafficking department, and he’s often undercover. I worry about that a lot—about him getting discovered, maybe tortured, definitely killed. These people play for high stakes.


What makes you happy?
I get to wake up every morning in a perfect postcard of a place. I can start my days with a walk on the beach. I spend time all day around people I genuinely care about. Living this life? That’s what makes me happy.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Honestly, who wouldn’t want a little rewrite here and there? I think I’d be nicer to Ali when I first met him. The circumstances were strange and adversarial, but I didn’t need to be as nasty as I was. But that worked out in the end. If I could write my mother’s voice out of my head, that would be pretty cool.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
That has to be Adrienne, the inn’s diva chef. I always think of her like that, too: Adrienne-the-inn’s-diva-chef. That says it all, doesn’t it? What Adrienne wants, Adrienne gets. Of course people travel from literally all over the world, they come here specifically to eat her food, her creations, so she really is a culinary rock star. I just wish she weren’t so completely aware of that all the time!

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Mirela. She’s my best friend. She came here from Bulgaria for a summer job and stayed. Provincetown’s an art colony, and she’s become a very sought-after artist. She loves what she does, and it shows. She loves everything—food, wine, music, sunshine. She’s just a very happy person. She takes life as it comes.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Her name is Jeannette de Beauvoir and logically enough she’s at www.jeannettedebeauvoir.com. She’s also all over social media. I don’t know when she finds time to write.

What's next for you?
Once I recover from this year’s Holly Folly celebration (when I literally trip over a body!) I’m going to visit Ali in Boston for a while. I gather there might be something untoward happening at the Provincetown International Film Festival next spring… Jeannette mentioned something about matinee murders. I’ll have to see what she’s talking about.

A Fatal Folly
A Provincetown Mystery, book 5

Holly Folly is approaching, and Sydney Riley is feeling far from festive. She hasn’t heard from her boyfriend in weeks, a mysterious stranger has crashed into her beloved “little green car,” and, in a moment of temporary insanity, she’s invited her parents for the holidays. She’s convinced things could not possibly get worse—until she stumbles over a body at the lighting of the lobster pot Christmas tree. 

As if this is not enough, when a gold coin and nameplate of a missing fishing boat are discovered, she’s asked to investigate the unsolved mystery of a murdered fisherman. While Provincetown is aglow with holiday lights and events, Sydney, Provincetown’s unofficial sleuth, is in the dark but determined to uncover the motive for both murders.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

AUTHOR CAROLINE CLEMMONS EXPLAINS MAPS (NOT THE KIND THAT TAKE YOU FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER!)

Today we're joined by bestselling and award-winning author of romance, time travel, and mystery, Caroline Clemmons, here to talk about her two recent holiday MAP projects. Don't know what a MAP is? Read on to find out. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Recently I have joined several multi-author projects (MAPs). In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, that’s when several authors each a book within the guidelines of the series organizer. Each book is a stand-alone but reading the entire series enhances the pleasure.  I’ve enjoyed these MAPs and want to share two with you today.

Melody
Angel Creek Christmas Brides, Book 7

This series is set just after the Civil War when most of Charleston, South Carolina was in ruins and no marriageable young men were to be found. The year before—the fall after the war—five women answered an advertisement for mail-order brides to a small Montana town. That turned out well and many of the remaining bachelors prevailed upon the brides to recruit more Southern Belles to come to Angel Creek. Six more agree to travel there by train to St. Louis, then by riverboat up the Missouri River, then by stage to Angel Creek.

These young women knew each other from school before the war and have remained friends. Melody Fraser is twenty-two and fears remaining a spinster. In addition, she has threats against her fueled by vicious rumors. She is happy to escape Charleston’s destruction and peril for a chance at life in a place untouched by the war. The problem is, she might have stretched the truth a tiny bit. 

Nicholas Walker is the new doctor in Angel Creek. He has big, big plans for his clinic and practice as the town grows. He is very efficient and expects to combine a skilled nurse with a wife.  When he learns Melody has only nursed an elderly grandmother, he feels cheated. 

They’re in for adventure and excitement. But, will the two grow fond of one another before Christmas or will they apply for an annulment?


Christmas Wishes: Wishes Do Come True
Available for pre-order now and releasing November 13th, this is a limited-time offer of only .99 cents for a 15-author box set comprised of all new stories. With a combination of historical and contemporary stories set in small town Hopeful, Colorado and ranging from sweet to sensual, there’s something for everyone’s taste. 

Legend says the wishing well in the center of Hopeful makes wishes come true if the wish is made under a full moon. What could making a wish hurt? 

Be careful what you wish for!

My story is the first one, Winter Wish. Serena Winters longs for a man who makes her feel loved. She yearns for her own home and children. Until a couple of months ago she had nursed her mother, who had consumption. She lives with her aunt and uncle above their mercantile store. In spite of what her aunt says about wishes being foolish, Serena wishes for a special man.

Brent Adams slips into town hoping no one saw him deliver the load he’d packed in on his mule. He has to wait in Hopeful until he receives funds from the bank. When he meets Serena, he longs to take her with him when he leaves town. But, what will she think when she learns his secrets?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

TWO CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES ARE BETTER THAN ONE

Do you know what day it is? It’s forty-nine days until Christmas. Can you believe it? Have you started your Christmas shopping? What about your Christmas reading? This time of year many readers like to curl up with seasonal books. And what goes better with Christmas than a little murder? At least if you’re a fan of cozy mysteries.

Lois Winston, that devious author who’s always getting me involved with killers and dead bodies, now has two books that keep me from kicking back and enjoying the holidays. You’d think she’d give me a break, at least on Christmas, right? No such luck for this reluctant amateur sleuth. However, you can kill two proverbial birds with one stone. (Note the murder mystery-appropriate metaphor.) Those books about me make great holiday gifts for anyone on your list who enjoys a little murder with their egg nog and gingerbread. 

And don’t forget to give yourself a cozy murder or two for the holidays!

Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

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Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHERRY ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

Yes, another zucchini recipe—this time for cherry muffins—because the little zucchini plant that could kept going strong all summer and my freezer is brimming with zucchini baked goods that will last through the winter. The addition of applesauce and sour cream make these muffins extremely light and moist.

Cherry Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini, laid loosely in cup and not packed (don’t wring out)
1 cup fresh or frozen pitted dark cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 12-muffin tin with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.

To a large bowl, add the first six ingredients, whisking to combine.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Reserving about 2 T., add dry mixture to bowl with wet mixture, stirring to combine. 

Add cherries, applesauce, and zucchini to the bowl with reserved dry mixture. Stir to combine with other ingredients.

Divide batter evenly into muffin tin cups. Back 20-25 minutes or until top spring back and toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean.

Allow to cool 15 minutes before removing from tin and placing on wire rack to continue to cool.

Monday, November 4, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON TALKS ABOUT ART BEING IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

There’s an old maxim that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The same can be said of art. When I was in college, I attended many Manhattan gallery openings. Some were beyond absurd, as far as I was concerned, like the one consisting of a piece of masking tape running down the center of the wooden floor of one room. Nothing else. To me, this was a case of the emperor having no clothes, but the gallery owner obviously thought it was an excellent example of minimalist art.

One exhibit I attended consisted of large squares of mirror placed on the gallery floor. The mirrors were then hammered and the glass left on the floor in its fractured state. A mound of dirt was then dumped onto the glass.

Was it art? I didn’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong, given that one of the objects of art is to evoke emotional reaction in the observer. I certainly reacted to the pieces, even though my reactions were decidedly negative. 

Maybe that’s why the curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased one of those broken mirror and dirt piles for the museum—to evoke emotion, whether positive or negative. I couldn’t find a photo of that “sculpture,” but the photo above is another by the artist from a different series where he didn’t first break the mirrors.

Recently my husband and I took a cruise to New England and Canada. Anastasia wrote about it in a post last month.

This particular ship featured framed artwork in many of their elevators. It’s unusual to find artwork in elevators. Most of the time people stand awkwardly facing forward, avoiding eye contact—not to mention conversation—with the strangers occupying the remainder of the limited floor space. However, the artwork in these elevators definitely got my fellow cruisers talking—and laughing.

I’ve always enjoyed the whimsical and comical, whether in art or music or literature. Maybe that's why I write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries with characters who are a bit outside the box. 

Anyway, these altered images of animals were definitely whimsical. Is it art? I’m voting yes on these, but it’s really up to each of us to decide.

Meanwhile, they'll probably show up in one of Anastasia's future adventures. I wonder what she'll think of that!


Friday, November 1, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR DEBBIE DE LOUISE ENTERS THE REALM OF HORROR

Debbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library. Her novels include four books in her Cobble Cove mystery series, a romantic comedy novella, a paranormal romance, and two standalone mysteries. And now she’s dabbling in horror. Learn more about Debbie and her books at her website/blog

The Value of Knowledge
My horror story, Knowledge is Power, is about a witch whose spell to bring back her dead cat goes terribly awry. The witch, Margaret Goodley, is also a librarian. Since she has knowledge of both librarianship and witchcraft, she believes she is powerful but learns the hard way that knowledge alone may not be enough to grant what she desires.

The saying “Knowledge is Power” was coined by Frances Bacon in the late sixteenth century. Bacon was regarded as the father of scientific methods of inquiry. In my story, besides telling a horror tale, I wanted to demonstrate that knowledge, used in the wrong way, can render one powerless rather than powerful which is what happens to Goodley.

When we look at successful people, not all of them have earned college degrees. Many have gathered knowledge without going to school, such as those who have “street smarts.” Society offers less monetary compensation to most educators and artists than it does to those with less schooling such as star athletes and certain trade workers like plumbers. This is because knowledge can’t be measured by schooling alone. Talent and hard work with a bit of fate combined with knowledge can create a powerful and successful person. But no matter how hard you study, if you don’t take advantage of the knowledge you’ve assimilated, you won’t get far. 

Poor Margaret Goodley thought her spells were magic and her library books the answer to everything. She never bothered to consider the consequences of the power she conjured through them.

Knowledge is Power
On the one-month anniversary of the death of her beloved cat, Librarian Margaret Goodley uses her excellent research skills to cast a spell to bring Bluebell back to life. Unfortunately, there are unexpected consequences when two other women who have lost their own loved ones on the same day interrupt the ceremony.

Knowledge is Power, while telling a lesson, is also a great Halloween story. It’s free from October 29 through November 1 on Amazon and permafree for KindleUnlimited.