Monday, February 20, 2017

MY MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS, PART ONE

By Mary Kennedy                        
                                                          
 
A friend and I were chatting over mimosas about a colleague's "embarrassing moment." I told my friend I was relieved that I didn't have any (at least none that came to mind.)
 
Since my friend has a steel trap mind, she immediately dug up (in excruciating detail) some of the most embarrassing moments in my life.
 
Here are a couple of her favorites. I'll give you more on next Monday's blog, so stay tuned.
 
Remember the time you thought your editor was calling you an idiot?
Whoa! Did that really happen? Yes, it did. I was writing my 34th middle grade novel for Scholastic and I received the copy edits by snail mail (yes, this was in the days before digital manuscripts and books). I opened it to see a piece of white paper on top with the words: "How dumb can you get!" scrawled across it. Oh no. I had a wonderful relationship with this editor. What could have gone wrong? I tried calling her, but it was after five pm on a Friday and the office was closed. I stewed about it all week-end, making myself (and everyone around me) miserable.
                                                          
 
 At 8:00 am Monday morning, the phone rang. It was my editor! She was calling to make sure I had received the copy-edits. And she sounded positively cheerful.  I managed to say "yes," and then there was a deathly pause. "Well," she said finally, "how do you like the new title?"
                
New title? I felt like the governor had called with a reprieve. HOW DUMB CAN YOU GET! was the new title of my Scholastic middle grade novel. In my paranoid, panicked moment, I hadn't even thought of that possibility. I was sure she was commenting on my mental abilities!
 
Remember the time you went to Manhattan and those yuppie guys thought you were panhandling?
 
Oh, lordy, yes, how could I forget? I drove into the city for the day to meet with my editor down in the Village.  I was wearing a writer's version of "business casual," and was dressed in a sweater, jeans, a faux suede jacket and some tan boots.  As I passed Washington Square, I saw a parking spot. A parking spot in Manhattan? Was it a mirage? I drove like a maniac around the block and zipped into the space, counting my blessings. And then...reality struck. I had credit cards and bills, but no change. Nothing!  How could I feed the parking meter?                                     
                                                              
 
And then I was saved--or so I thought. A group of businessmen was emerging from a trendy restaurant, probably after enjoying a three martini lunch. I pulled out a couple of bills from my purse and strode up to them.
 
"Excuse me, do you have any change?"
 
Maybe they didn't see the money in my outstretched hand. One of the yuppie guys brushed me aside was a snide, "Get a job!" and they all laughed.
 
"Get a job?" OMG, did they think I was a panhandler? All I wanted was change for the meter, for heaven's sake.  And even though I was dressed casually, I didn't think I could be mistaken for a bag lady.
 
At that very moment, a young woman wearing a college T-shirt came up to me. "Here," she said, pushing some quarters into my hand. "I can't believe the way those jerks treated you." I explained what had happened and tried to give her $5.00.
 
"No, my treat," she said with a sweet smile. "I wouldn't want you to think all New Yorkers are like that. Most of us are pretty nice." With that and a quick wave, she was gone.
 
I was still seething--and somewhat embarrassed--at being mistaken for a beggar, but it did give me a funny story to tell over lunch.
 
How about you? Do you have an embarrassing moment you'd like to share?
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, February 17, 2017

Website Woes: My Brain Hurts

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Over the years, I've learned just enough HTML code to be dangerous. I can update certain things on my website, and I recently learned how to embed a PDF. (If you go to my Lorraine site, on the From Katie's Kitchen page, you can download a couple of Katie's recipe cards.)

About six weeks ago, I was informed that the company that has hosted my website(s) since day one (and we're talking more than a decade), was going out of business. I've leaved in dread ever since then because I knew it was going to be a GIGANTIC pain in the patootie. And guess what. It is.

First, I contacted my website designer. We've been going back and forth about new hosting faculties while we talked about refreshing the look of at least two of my sites. Today was the day she said she was ready for the sites to be moved. (She's backed up everything and is ready to move forward.)

Gulp. That means it's my turn to figure things out.  So I spent over three hours today talking with a prospective new host, the old host, and the people that take care of my domain names. And. I'm. Not. Done. Yet.

By the time I got through all that, it was Happy Hour and brother did I need a couple of strong belts.  Tomorrow, I'll call the new hosting guy (real nice fellow name of Gene) and once I give him my authorization codes, he said he will "take care of the rest."  Whew. I sure hope so, because after all this rigmarole, my brain hurts!

But the good news is, my site will be moved. I'm getting a great 3-year rate (less than I paid for one year with the old host), and my website(s) will be refreshed.  I'm starting with my Lorraine site.  Here's a sneak peak.


So what do you think?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Word Games, Paper or App?

by Karen Rose Smith



Ever since I was a kid, I've enjoyed word games--Scrabble and Boggle were favorites.  Even when our son was small, we played those games with friends who visited for the evening. Crossword puzzles were in the mix too as well as word Scramble daily in the local newspaper. Then Sudoku came along and I could never get into that one but my husband did. He and I like different types of word games.


As our son grew up and started his career, our interests changed.  Writing took up all my time and as a teacher, my husband didn't seem to have time for word games either.  I would buy him a Word Search magazine or Word Seek for plane trips or vacations.


Then the electronic age took over the world!  I didn't have a smart phone for quite a while but I did have an IPAD.  A friend suggested the Words With Friends app and my husband found Word Streak.  I started playing those when commercials came on TV or while I was waiting for an appointment.  Now I play them about once a day.  My day doesn't seem complete without them and that's probably because I've been playing with the same players for quite a while.  One of them lives in Australia and we've been playing at least three years.  Sometimes we chat.  Another is a bicyclist who does bicycle fundraisers for diabetes.  We've been playing for a few years too and are friends on Facebook.  The apps open a different world than the magazines.





We still have the magazines around the house to pick up when the inclination hits. I was surprised to learn that this February my most recent cozy mystery--SHADES OF WRATH was chosen for an ad in all three magazines--Word Search, Word Seeks and Sudoku!  I was delighted.


Do You Prefer Magazine Word Games or App Word Games???

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thanks a Ton!!

Hi, Duffy Brown here talking about saying Thanks! 

Some things are a dying art or maybe more of a tradition that we really shouldn’t let die. One of those IMHO is the Thank You note and Jimmy Fallon does a really kickass job of this.

We all need to say thanks and sometimes it should be more than just an email or text. When my kids were around thirteen I bought them note stationery with their initials embossed on the front in hopes that would get them to write more. Yeah right. It takes more than stationery. I found that “you are not watching TV or getting dessert till you write that note!” worked much better.

Yet I think most of those cards wound up in the trash when they moved out of the house but they do write notes more than I thought. I guess something rubbed off more than their love of desserts.

I do write a few Thank You notes once in a while. Not as many as I should. I have cute note cards that are scenes of books and libraries.

There are a lot of people I should say Thanks to that I don’t. I do remember the mail-gal at Christmas, Thank You for brining my mail to the door when there’s a lot of it. Thank You to the garbage guys who take away all the mess in my house, Thank You to the plumber who showed up on time and stopped the stupid toilet from running and killing my sleep.

So what about you? Who would you like to Thank? Someone or maybe something??? 



I’d like to Thank my dishwasher for saving me from dish-pan hands, my washing machine for getting things bright and white, and my Dyson vacuum who has saved my back from lugging heavy vacuums up the steps.  


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

World Traveler

by Maggie Sefton



I don't know if any of you folks have checked into that CNN series hosted by Anthony Bourdain or not, but I have.  It's half travel and exploring different cultures show with a healthy dollop of food and local cafes show.  The show's host Anthony Bourdain, I find to be low-key and well-informed as well as an experienced world traveler.

I first checked into the show at the beginning of this year when there was a succession of shows on
various world cities and the foods and cafes there as well as the people and the various cultures.  Bourdain is a charming guide and has a devilish sense of humor which I find enjoyable.

I'm usually not a regular fan of cooking shows on television, having been exposed to all that years and years ago.  Boy, was I ever.  I was one of those early Julia Child fans and had her cookbook and went through a French Chef phase.    I've always enjoyed cooking and had a wonderful decade (yes, a decade) of immersing myself (and my very willing family) into one fascinating world cuisine after another.  What fun!   

We were living in West Lafayette, Indiana, then while my husband was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University.  Purdue was and still is a wonderful university, and we were there during that decade where there was a great deal of university/community involvement.  And one of the groups I participated in offered all sorts of university family events.  One of the most enjoyable  was the International Cooking Group which sampled various world cuisines through marvelous faculty dinners.  Lots of yummy food as well as recipes.

That seems to be a period of time that existed for a few years then, poof!  It was gone---lost in the midst of peoples' careers and involvement taking over any free time that was available for simple things like those events.  Do any of you remember similar groups or events that you encountered years ago that are no more?  Share with us, please.  Were any of you also Julia Child fans?  

Monday, February 13, 2017

MALL WALKING? YES! BUT WATCH OUT FOR THE FOOD COURT.

By Mary Kennedy 
                                                          
 
When the weather gets chilly, a lot of my friends take to walking at the local Mall. It's safe, convenient, and if you go early, you can escape the crowds of shoppers. It's a great way to get in a little exercise and socialize during these dreary winter months. 
 
But danger lurks in those delectable food items around every corner. With the addictive scent of Cinnabon in the air, it's a real test of will power to get through the Mall without packing on the calories.
 
Here's a fun fact that will strengthen your resolve.
 
One Cinnabon is 880 calories, and 37 grams of fat. Whoa! How much "mall walking" would you have to do to burn off those calories? 
                                                         
 
Here's the answer.  (And it's a not-so-fun fact.) A 160-pound person walking at a pace of 3 miles per hour burns 85 calories per mile and 255 calories per hour.  That means you would have to walk for more than three hours (!) and you still wouldn't burn off the calories in a single Cinnabon. Unless you are seriously addicted to Cinnabons, it may not be worth it.
 
Other Mall food is tempting, but you need to know the facts.
 
Those delish pretzels at Auntie Anne's? Sadly, the Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel is 470 calories. Assuming you can eat just one!
 
                                                   

If you've a hankering for pizza, beware. Even half of a thin crust margherita pizza at California Pizza Kitchen is 665 calories.


It's lunch time and you're craving a cheeseburger and fries. And look, you're right in front of Five Guys, who arguably might have the best French fries in town. But stop and think. A Five Guys cheeseburger (with no fries!) is 840 calories and 55 grams of fat. Yowsers! That's a lot of walking. And you just might weaken and order the fries with it. (not that you don't have any will power, just sayin') It's easy to give in to temptation.



Are you supposed to deprive yourself of these treats forever? Heck, no! Just don't make "indulging" a regular thing. Save it for a special occasion and enjoy every bite.

Happy and walking and eating! Mary Kennedy

Saturday, February 11, 2017

More than just a friendly face

Today's spotlight is on ... Noreen Darby.

Who?

If you've read With Baited Breath, the first Lotus Bay Mystery novel, you know that Noreen is part-owner of The Bay Bay, which is right next door to the wreck of a house Kathy Grant wants to turn into a B&B.

Noreen was an office worker who rode a motorcycle. (Although, she's not into tatts, so don't ask if she has any.)  She met Paul Darby, owner of the bar, on a Poker Run, and it was love at first sight. She traded in her job and now she'd the short-order cook at the bar.

Wow, what a change. She went from filing papers to flipping burgers. From eight hours a day to whatever it took to keep the customers happy, and since the bar also takes in fishermen (they've got two rooms to let), she's also in charge of keeping those rooms clean and ready for the next guest.

She liked her life, but it got better when she met Tori Cannon, her BFF Kathy, and Tori's childhood friend, Anissa. What do they all have in common? Being business owners .... or at least they have that goal in mind.

It was Noreen who held out the hand of friendship.

“It’s a tough life. Not only do I cook, but I keep the rooms clean, too. And let me tell you, some of our guests are real pigs—and they’re not all men.”

“I hear you,” Kathy said, taking a sip of her neglected drink. The ice had melted, leaving it watery. “We’re starting with the bait shop. We’ll scrub the outside walls and start painting it tomorrow.”

“We’ve got a power washer. We’d be glad to loan it to you guys.”

“That’s very generous of you. I’ll take you up on it. Thanks.”

“Anything to help out Herb,” Noreen said. “I’ll be back in the kitchen about eight in the morning. Knock on the door and you can pick it up then.”

That was the beginning.

So you can see that Noreen is a real sweetheart.

I'm currently figuring out the next adventure for these entrepreneurial ladies, including fleshing out Noreen's character.  What do you think? Should she have a funny hobby? Collect something strange? Knit sweaters for birds with no feathers?  Come on--share your ideas.

And if you haven't read the book, you can:



Trade Paperback:  Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books A Million

Ebooks:  Kindle US ~ Kindle Worldwide ~ Nook ~ Kobo ~ iBooks


Friday, February 10, 2017

Never a Bride?

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

In WITH BAITED BREATH, Tori Cannon asks her BFF, Kathy Grant (both of whom are in their late 20s), "Why aren't we married?"

Kathy answers: "Because nobody asked?" But then she added, “What if instead of me getting married, my destiny is to give other women the wedding of their dreams at my B and B?”

Ever since I wrote that line, I've been thinking about Kathy's dream weddings ... or more correctly, wedding (and other) showers. I may have to wait until the third novel for her to get a chance to throw one of those showers and/or a wedding, but that hasn't stopped me from doing research. From party games to party food and decorations, I've been downloading suggestions and inspirational pictures.

Why am I fascinated with wedding showers? Because my own was nearly a debacle. It was very small, and the person who threw it for me (and who is no longer in my life) did nothing to prepare for it. I asked my sister-in-law, who was supposed to be helping what the plans were.

"She bought a small cake."

"Any decorations?"

SIL shook her head.

"Cookies? Punch? Coffee?"

Again, SIL (who has never hosted any kind of gathering before or in the years since) shook her head.

I knew I was going to be embarrassed, but what could I do? It was the day of the party.  I picked up my mother at her house and on the drive to the shower, tearfully told her the so-called plans.

Well, she wasn't going to stand for that and directed me to divert to the nearest Wegmans. She marched in, bought dozens of rolls, pounds of cold cuts, cartons of potato and macaroni salad, and I can't remember all what else, but the car was nearly full. When we arrived at the party, she quietly walked into the kitchen, handed over the makings for a nice lunch, and without a word, came and sat down in the living room.  The shower went on, the guests had a lovely lunch, Person-X took full credit for the spread, and my mother never said a word. I was too embarrassed to say anything, either, but I thanked my mother profusely then and in the years that followed.

That won't happen to any of Kathy's guests. She'll have fabulous food, delicious drinks, and plenty of party games. If you'd like to see some of the pictures of the food she'll serve, and the decorations she'll hang, you can visit my Pinterest board for Bridal Showers at Swans Nest. Just click this link.

Do you have a story (funny, sad, or in between) to share about a shower?


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Decorating for Valentine's Day

by Karen Rose Smith


I like to decorate for Valentine's Day because it's one of my favorite holidays.  My husband and I have celebrated it together since our college days and our 45 year marriage.  In the middle of a Pennsylvania winter, pink, red and white brighten up inside and outside.  That let-down after the holidays doesn't seem so bad when I have another holiday to look forward to.

I always begin with the door since that can cheer up others too.  The flag is next.



Inside, I find bargains on flowers from the grocery store that always give some cheer to any room.

















Even the cats enjoy the holiday when I pull out Valentine's Day throws for the bed.  (I keep throws on top of the spread so I can wash them often.)  Walmart has been having holiday throws for $2.50 since summer.  The cats like their softness and I like the color.





I probably had so much fun writing a Valentine's Day mystery because of my fondness for the holiday.  My sleuth, Caprice De Luca, is a home stager who uses unique themes for high end clients when she stages their home to sell.  In GILT BY ASSOCIATION, her theme Hearts and Flowers fit the home perfectly.  It was already decorated in "pretty" mixed with "elegant"--lace curtains, gilt-edged mirrors, heart-shaped pillows and damask covered furniture. In addition, her client was a gardener and grew her own flowers.  GILT BY ASSOCIATION has a murder mystery to solve along with a touch of romance mixed in.







Do You Decorate for Valentine's Day???

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It Ain’t just a TV anymore


How did things change so much? I’m old but I’m not that old!


I can remember our first TV. It was B&W and I thought Howdy Doody was the best show ever. I still have a thing for marionettes.

Then came color TV. Wow. That was amazing. I remember seeing Disney Land when they opened it. It was live and in color and the most amazing thing ever. The color TV weighted more than I did and took three guys to bring the thing in the house and then they put an antenna on the roof!

As for records we did the 33 1/3 and 66 LPs. We got a new stereo with a big cabinet and putting on the record was neat. You could ever put on a stack. The best part was the covers! The LP jackets were and still are fantastic! Total works of art. I can still see the Beatles’ covers. Loved ‘em.

Now we have cable, Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu and the ton of other TV things out there that you can put on your TV other than just the regular stations.

I have Apple TV and Netflix and thinking of getting Hulu. I just signed up for something called Spotify so I don’t need my CDs any longer and I’m really thinking of getting rid of my “regular” NBC, CBS etc.

With Apple TV I do mostly Netflix and if I want news there’s CBS news etc. I very seldom watch the regular channels. The commercials drive me nuts and then I miss the beginning of a show and coming in the middle is never fun.

It’s amazing how much things have changed and for the better. The pictures are better, the sound is better, the size is so much better.

So what about you? Are you a cable person? Netflix? Spotify? Do you miss the old days or are they just that...old.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another Winner---VICTORIA

by Maggie Sefton



You folks know how much I enjoyed the PBS series "Downton Abbey."  I have actually
lost count of all the PBS Masterpiece Theatre productions I have loved.   Years and years worth.  So, naturally I made it a point to start watching the new PBS series that started only a few weeks ago on the life of Great Britain's Queen Victoria.  She had a very long reign on the British throne during a fascinating time in history, and by many accounts was the "most powerful woman in the world," as described by PBS.  The actress Jenna Coleman portrays the young Victoria.  This is a wonderful productions, true to all the quality standards that PBS series are known for.  Also, the supporting cast is excellent, especially Rufus Sewell who plays Lord Melbourne, a close friend and advisor as well as an influential Prime Minister.  Even if you've never tried a PBS historical drama before, you might want to check out this.  "Victoria" is definitely a jewel.


Some movies I've seen recently (I took a break last weekend) are also well-worth checking out:  ARRIVAL is an excellent story that focuses on the communication problems with a totally alien life-form when a large space ship suddenly appears suspended over many populated cities around the world.  This has an intelligent script that is engaging as well as supremely entertaining.

HIDDEN FIGURES is a wonderful true story about several of the most important female mathematicians who contributed to NASA's early space exploration, especially including the astronauts, like John Glenn, who was the first to orbit the earth in one of our early spacecraft.

SING is a hilarious and totally enjoyable animated feature about various animals in one cosmopolitan city who enter a singing competition.  This movie is laugh-out-loud funny.  Believe me, you won't regret seeing it.

PASSENGERS is another outer space oriented film, but this one focuses on two human passengers in a future time who wake up early from their scheduled "deep sleep" designed to keep them asleep until they arrive at the planet which is several decades ahead in scheduled travel time.  This is another thoughtful script which explores the shock and challenge encountered by the man and woman passengers who have to discover how to handle the shock of their early awakening.

Totally entertaining movies, folks.  Check into them and try them out if you are so inclined.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2017

BREAKING UP (WITH BOOKS) IS HARD TO DO.

By Mary Kennedy 
                                                        
 
 
In a probably ill-fated effort to declutter, I decided to pack up some books for the AAUW annual book sale. The AAUW is a worthy cause and promotes scholarships for women.  Donating a few boxes of books seems like an easy way to contribute. Or does it?
 
I've suddenly become attached to books I haven't glanced at in years. I don't recall when (or why) I bought them, and they've gathered dust over the years. So why the sudden sentimentality?
 
                                   
 
Some (like the cookbooks above) are vintage (or they seem to be.). I decide to take them out of the box--I have a friend who collects old cookbooks and I bet she'd like these. 
 
                                                         
 
Some are reference books. I hate to part with these, but I already have three Spanish dictionaries. I decide to give away two of them, but in the meantime, I find a French phrase book that has slipped into the box.
                                                           
 
I just can't part with it. The next time I'm at my favorite Paris cafe, I might want to order a chocolate croissant and I can't remember if you say, "crossiant au chocolat,"  or"crossiant de chocolat." So I flip through my trusty French phrase book to check. Okay, problem solved.  It's "crossiant au chocolat." Whew! That was a close one. I decide I better keep the French phrase book after all. You never know!
 
Some language books don't make the cut and I decide to donate them. Was I really planning to learn to "read and write" Chinese characters? I don't even remember buying this. No worries, someone else will enjoy it. 
                                               
                                                       
 
Some books are classics, the kind you want to read again. But I can always get these on the Kindle so "Anna" goes into the box for AAUW.
                                                      
 
After a solid forty-five minutes, I haven't made as much progress as I'd hoped.  I find myself fascinated by map books. I hesitate. I can find maps online, right? And do I really need a topographical map of Argentina? I decide to donate the map books.
                                                            
 
Well, the "donate" box is only 1/3 full and I'm wasting too much time dilly-dallying  over each book. How about you? Do you find it hard to part with a book? Even when you know you can find it on the Kindle? Or am I just a secret hoarder? Please chime in with your thoughts.
 
                                                            
 
By Mary Kennedy