Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

From THE COZY CHICKS to our friends and readers: we are thankful for you!

May you all have a wonderful day, full of blessings to be thankful for and, of course, delicious things to eat and fabulous books to read - wherever you live.  We know that outside North America, this isn't a perhaps a holiday, but we hope it's wonderful day anyway.  The Canadians have already celebrated but some, ahem, might celebrate a bit more today. 

Please let us know what you are thankful for today and how you celebrate!




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mackinac Island

With Geared for the Grave out Dec 2,

I thought I’d give you a tour of Mackinac Island, and to help things along here’s a map of the place.

Mackinac is an eight-mile-around chunk of land where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron and is a throwback to the turn of the century...and I’m not talking the twentieth century.
You get there by ferry. No motorized vehicles, scant WiFi and cell service, two golf 9-hole golf courses, and 18 fudge shops. Holy cow!

I used all the streets, stores and a lot of the people who own and run the stores on the island in Geared for the Grave. I added some of my own shops to suit the story but the rest of the places like the grocery, the newspaper, blacksmith shop, medical center are for real.

The island is made of the bluffs and the town. The bluffs have huge Victorian houses (SeeFar) referred to as cottages that are nothing like where Red Riding Hood met the wolf and way more like where the Rockefellers hang out. The bluffs overlook the town that consists of two streets, Main Street and Market.

There are two directions on the island...up and down and down is waaay easier!

There is no Wal-Mart but there is Doud’s Market the oldest family-owned grocery in the US and probably one of the cutest and well stocked. They even have a place in the back where you can get a slice and a cup of soup. Delish! (and wait till you see what happens there in Geared for the Grave!)

There is a police station that is in the Town Hall that also houses the courthouse. Very efficient!

The Grand Hotel is a short trot up Cadotte. The front porch is two-football fields long...the longest porch in the world. All 385 rooms are different and themed. Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, lots of US Presidents and even Vladimir Putin have stayed at The Grand. You must “dress” for dinner and High Tea is scrumptious!

The Governor’s House is stone and clapboard and overlooks the lakes. You can take tours when Mr. Governor is not home hanging out in his jammies.

The Pink Pony is a bar as is the Mustang Lounge right off Main Street. The Stang is the watering hole for locals and has amazing fried green beans...veggies my way! Mustang named after a prop airplane and not the horse. It has a neat jukebox, a big yellow propeller on the wall and euchre tournaments. Euchre is a big deal on the island.

In keeping with the turn of turn-of-the-century theme there is Fort Mackinac where they fire the cannon...scaring the crap out of the tourists...when they raise and lower the flag. And, yes, everyone stops, faces the fort and puts hands over hearts. Very moving.

The Blacksmith Shop is on Market complete with forge and anvil and lots of hammering. The Yacht Club is on Main Street overlooking the harbor.

There are well over a hundred horses on the island to get people and stuff around. They are taken off the island via ferry in October and brought back in the spring. Bicycles are a way of life and all over the place.  Yes, this is how your luggage gets to your hotel!

When the ice “makes” there is an Ice Bridge to the mainland that the islanders take snowmobiles across...brave people...the “safe path” marked with their Christmas trees.  

There are 500 fulltime residents on the island, they have their own Island School and the winters are not for the namby-pambies of this world. The island has a ton of festivals...Lilac, Jazz, Fudge, Horse, etc. that are always packed full of fun.

Mackinac is a family island, an escape and the best place ever to kill someone off and ditch the body! Hope you have a great time visiting in Geared for the Grave. And remember...what happens on Mackinac stays on Mackinac.
  

Hugs,
Duffy Brown

Geared For the Grave
First book in the Cycle Path Mysteries
Berkley Prime Crime
December 2, 2014
www.DuffyBrown.com








Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

by Maggie Sefton



Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for a lot of us.  Maybe because the focus is on Food, Food, Food!  Moist, juicy roast turkey, scrumptious gravy, fluffy mashed potatoes and/or sweet potatoes in all variations (believe me, I've cooked a lot of different sweet potato recipes over the years), cranberry sauce, either sliced or freshly cooked cranberry sauce (I used to make my own special sauce, letting the cranberries and sugar mixture sit for two days before cooking), and different variations of green vegetables to add a little extra color and flavor.  :)  And we can't forget the stuffing or dressing as some call it.  I love to add freshly rubbed sage to the celery,  onion, butter, and beaten egg to the bread crumbs.  

And, then, there are the pies.  Homemade pumpkin pie, of course.  I like a nice spicy pie with extra cinnamon.  And don't forget another all-time favorite (my personal choice) is Pecan Pie.  I have my own "to-die-for" recipe for Southern Pecan Pie---guaranteed to put pounds on you.    Our family loved to add a Nouveau Beaujolais to the meal as well.  Those lovely, light wines usually become available right before
Thanksgiving every year.  Great timing!

Add to the main meal all the different types of appetizers for family and friends to nibble on while the turkey is roasting, and there's plenty to cook.  As my four daughters grew up, I would show them how to cook the various parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  That way they each learned how to prepare all the favorite foods.   And they are all wonderful cooks now.  :)

Over the years, I've gotten to gradually switch from Chief Chef of the Thanksgiving Feast to being one of the hungry guests.  A participating guest, actually.  No matter which daughter's home I visit for Thanksgiving, they all want me to make my Southern Pecan Pie.   As I said earlier----it is To Die For Good.  :)

What's your favorite part of the Thanksgiving Feast?  


Monday, November 24, 2014

THANKSGIVING SIMPLE

by Kate Collins



I used to wear myself out cooking at Thanksgiving. I prepared for days, pre-cooking what I could, squeezing in cleaning the house, making sure I had enough seating space, drinks for everyone, getting the turkey in the oven early, basting, cutting up mounds of potatoes, etc. etc. So that by the time I finally sat down with the family, I was too tired to enjoy the food.

Then there was the massive clean up. By the time I went to bed, I was so crabby, I wasn't fit to live with.

Not any more. With age comes wisdom, I suppose. Now I make it easy on myself. I still have a crowd coming, but I order the turkey already roasted. It comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing so all I have to do is put it in the oven and, by popular demand, make my fabulous All Purpose Gravy, which everyone prefers to the full fat version ( the recipe is in our cookbook, The Cozy Chicks Kitchen). Other family members bring the side dishes and desserts. My job is to coordinate the ovens, set the tables, and eat.

Whew! What a difference. I don't dread Thanksgiving anymore. I can talk to people when they arrive. I can sleep in and not have to rise at the crack of dawn. It's a whole new world.

How is your Thanksgiving? Do you love it or dread it? What do you do to make it more enjoyable?

I wish all of you a very happy holiday.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

You're Accusing Me of What?

by Leann

I don't pay much attention to negative Amazon reviews anymore. People often have a bone to pick and I accept that as part of the business of writing books that might not appeal to everyone. And we all have different taste and may read a book and love it when someone else might hate it. But the most recent 2 star review really took me by surprise.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to identify the race of our characters. They would just be people and that's that. But when you write a series set in the deep South, where racism is still going strong in some places, I wanted to show that my little fictional world is all inclusive. And if I didn't mention that some characters were black or Asian or Muslim or Hispanic, most readers would assume they are Caucasian. That's just how it goes.

But I have been taken to task by a reader because I identified the ethnicity of certain characters--in a book that has a subplot about how racism was hardly spoken of less than half a century ago in many small towns and that this racism caused great damage to certain characters in the book I wrote. In short, this "reviewer" basically implied I was a racist. This hurts. I am nothing of the kind. I had a huge epiphany when I took a graduate sociologist class called Minorities in America way back when. It changed my world view. So, in my attempt to show that my fictional creation is all inclusive, I was pretty much accused of being racist. (And, guess what? Many books are racist by their lack of inclusion of minorities.) I guess I just can't win.

And by the way, in her "review," I was accused of "racial profiling." According to the ACLU, the definition of racial profiling is this: "Racial Profiling" refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. First of all, I am not law enforcement by any means and second of all, I would never, ever do such a thing. And yet, not only is my work being criticized, so is my character.

Let me say, however, that I support the right of any reader to criticize as they see fit. I just wonder if that person knows that after I read that particular review, I cried. But, I doubt they will understand because they have no idea who I am or what I stand for. It was a very sad day for me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CATS and COZY SPOTS

by Mary Kennedy                        
 
A cat will always find a cozy spot to relax, and I'd like to take you on a quick tour of where my cats like to hang out. My sun porch is a popular place; it's heated and air conditioned and has glass from the floor to the ceiling on three sides. Half of the sun porch is pictured above, and the other half is below. The sun porch is usually filled with cat toys, blankets and eight cat beds. Did I tidy it up for the photo? Heck, yeah!!  
                                                                                             
                                                            
  
 There's even a tin cat out there as a mascot.
 
 
The sun porch has cool Italian tiles to lie on, and here's Shadow, relaxing but looking slightly suspicious.(Not sure why.) He's either a little camera shy, or he's thinking, "You're going to get my fur trimmed like a lion? Seriously?  I thought we've already been through all this! Everyone preferred the natural look--they even voted on it." Okay, okay, Shadow, you're safe for the winter months. Go natural, see if I care.

                                                         

                                                        
Sometimes a cat might prefer to relax in a laundry basket with a purple blanket, looking regal. That's King Siggy, holding court. We humans are his loyal subjects.                                           
  
Or sometimes the warm sun is just so relaxing, a cat has to drift off to dreamland. I call this Siggy's "Wasting away in Margaritaville" photo.  Don't worry, no alcohol was consumed for this picture.
  

  Pricey cats beds are nice (trust me, I've bought several of them) but sometimes you just can't beat a cardboard box. It doesn't matter if it's three sizes too small.
 
                                                           
This is Fur-Face, just waking up from a nap. She looks like she's ready for some mischief, or maybe that's just her natural expression. She decides to check out the sun porch with her Daddy, Clyde.
                                                               
 

Clyde was enjoying a quick nap on the sun porch, but he's always ready to stare out at the back yard with his daughter, Fur-Face, Who knows, a squirrel or chipmunk might be wandering by. Exciting times!   
                                                         
 
Plus, it's always good to spend some quality time with Dad and learn a few important life lessons. ("Never eat the special diet dry food from the vet. If you hold out long enough, they will open a can of the delicious wet food that you love.")   This is a good time to just chill and watch the squirrels and birds in the backyard.                     
                                     
                                                       

We let the backyard go "natural" so the cats can pretend they're in a woodland. Plenty of wildlife to watch including deer, raccoon and the occasional fox (don't worry, all 8 cats are indoor cats.)
                                                     

I have a nice little herb garden growing outdoors and I bring in fresh mint and catnip for the cats to devour. They love to chew on fresh mint, and best of all, it gets rid of "tuna breath." Well, mostly. Try to breathe through your mouth and you won't notice their cat breath as much.
                                                         

One of my friends built a "Catio" instead of a glassed in porch, and her cats love it! It's too bad I couldn't send my cats over for a "play date," but somehow cats just don't *do* play dates like dogs do.

Sometimes the cats disagree about what they want to do.  It can be a beautiful sunny day out and some cats prefer to stay inside and watch bird videos on TV. (Even though I've warned them too much TV will rot their brains!) They're seriously addicted to bird and fish videos.
                                                          
 
  Momma Eliza finally got into the act and brought Fur-face out to the porch with her for a mother-daughter chat.  I tried to eavesdrop but they immediately clammed up. What were they talking about? Life, love, relationships? No idea.
                     

                                                     

 
Where else do the cats like to hang out? Well, there's a nice front porch, but since my cats are all indoor cats, they just glimpse it from the bay window in the living room. Occasionally squirrels clamber up on the wooden bench and peer inside, to taunt them.

Some people take their cats for walks in a stroller. I've resisted the idea of buying a cat stroller, partly because my husband has convinced me that people will think I'm insane. But honestly, I think they're cute!  For now, the jury is out on cat strollers. I also wonder how safe they are. With the adrenaline pumping, would a cat be able to burst through the mesh and escape from the stroller? I'm just not sure. And I wouldn't want to put it to the test.
                                                        

     
Thanks for taking this little tour with me. I'm so sorry my 8 cats seemed to scatter to the wind when they saw the camera! Next time, I'll try to round them so you can really get a glimpse of them. By the way, what do you think of the cat in the stroller? Do you think he's happy, or just tolerating it?

Mary Kennedy
                                                   

Friday, November 21, 2014

Warm up with the Cozy Chicks!

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

I feel like I dodged a VERY big bullet this week.  Why?  Because when my parents came to this country, they chose Rochester, NY instead of Buffalo.  Have you seen some of the pictures of that horrific snowstorm?



But the people of Buffalo are made of strong stuff ... and also have a sense of humor.



and my favorite ...

 


The Cozy Chicks have a way for you to escape from winter's worst ... our books!  So settle down with a cozy mystery, a warm throw, a cup of cocoa (or a glass of wine) and a cat or dog by your side.

 
Click this link for the list of titles!  Happy reading!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

My new-found reasons not to whine about winter




 



Many years ago, I was a young teacher and very excited about the first snow fall of the year. I was thoroughly squashed by one of the older teachers.  Winter, apparently, was not something to be celebrated or enjoyed.  Silly me, I kept on having fun.  But over the years, winter has started to bother me.  Probably because of endless long commutes in minus thirty weather. Perhaps because of freezing rain and the resulting fender benders. Maybe it’s too many years of salt-stained boots, missing single gloves, fogged up car windows. Maybe it’s once too often at the self-serve gas station when it’s minus twenty-seven and there’s only two drops of gas left in the tank. Lots of reasons, but never mind. This year, I said to myself, either get a grip or move somewhere warm.  Of course, this is where the family is and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like hurricane season any more than winter.  Don’t like being too hot either, but that’s another post.


So here are some of my reasons to not whine about winter (and as the season wears on for five months, let’s see if I can manage it!)
It can be beautiful!  




There’s something magical about a bright blue sky,  brilliant white snow swirling around.
You never know what you’ll find when you look out your window. Last year it was men in trees. Here are some shots of what the tree removal guys who were endlessly entertaining, although I wouldn't want that job. Still,it was part of winter fun for us. They claimed to love their jobs.



You don't see these guys griping about the weather, although I could sympathize if they did!





There’s something so wonderful about curling up with a book, and a cozy throw, perhaps by a fireplace, when it’s cold and dreary outside.  It’s great to read and snooze in the sun in a lounger on the deck in summer, but honestly, this is better. 


You get to wear sweaters!  I love sweaters – but for half the year, they’re too darn hot. On that list we can add knee-high lined boots and puffy coats.  All good.   And there's some great warm clothing for certain short-legged pets too! 



And then there’s knitting: it’s less of a warm-weather activity. Lots of fun with baby hats, sweaters and scarves around here.  

 

Then there’s all that great winter food: soups and stews and lovely aromatic meals cooking for hours. Noit to mention hot chocolate!  


In the night, of course, you can snuggle under the blankets.  Okay, skip over this if you have hot flashes. You can just stand outside for a bit in the winter. That sure has helped me!

The geese will be gone somewhere else.  Ho ho ho.   The snow tires are on the car, the winter clothing has been unpacked!  The boots have had their waterproof spray. Now we just need to find a better supply of the seeds that the cardinals love and the squirrels don't.

Of course, being a writer, I can just stay home and enjoy it.  Maybe that gives me an unfair advantage. I might never have written this in the years I ventured out to the day job in the dark winter mornings. 

Now, it’s your turn. Winter fun? Or winter none?  What do you love and what do you hate? All tips gratefully received.