Friday, August 18, 2017

The Best Quiche in the World

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

For years, I was able to enjoy the very best quiche in the world at The Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, NY. It was a quiche like I'd never had before. About 4 inches high with a thick custard center, and usually with asparagus. OMG -- it was good.  And then ... one day, they stopped making it that way. What a bummer. : (

I recently got this very pretty Mikasa quiche pan at a yard sale and that made me determined to try my hand at a from-scratch quiche.  (My mother used to make them all the time back in the 80s and 90s.)

I've been looking for a recipe like that for years, and one of my readers gave me one she thought might fit the bill.  I assembled my ingredients and I figured I was good to go.



My first attempt tasted good, but wasn't at all tall.  (Very pretty pan--but too small. I ended up making omelets with the leftover egg and cream mixture.)




On Tuesday, I was all set to make a tall quiche. I bought a springform pan at a yard sale and it was at least an inch taller than the last.  One tiny problem.  I (again) decided to add mushrooms to the recipe (because I like them) and like Julia Child liked to say, "don't crowd the mushrooms." So while I was browning the crust, I was paying more attention to the mushrooms and ... (BTW, my smoke alarms work really, REALLY well!)


I ended up having a salad for supper that night. (Oh well, at least it had a lot less calories!)

Went a little overboard on the Swiss cheese.  Grated 3 times what I needed.

So Wednesday, I decided to try again.  But this time, even though I rolled the crust thinner, it didn't "take" in the pan. It shrunk. I put in as much of the cream and egg mixture as I could but ... (you got it, I'll be having an omelet for breakfast today). It tasted good, but no thick, creamy custard.


It was taller, but not by much.

I'm now in search for a taller, yet smaller (in diameter) springform pan. I'm determined to replicate that quiche if I have to eat a dozen of them to do it.

Have you ever had a frustrating recipe that just wouldn't work out?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cats, Fall and Shelters

by Karen Rose Smith


It's that time of year to think about shelters for outside stray cats.  We've been feeding a feral stray sibling pair since fall of 2015. They came running into our yard with their ears clipped so I knew they had been neutered and spayed.  When they began coming regularly, I decided to attempt to socialize them.  Hubby dubbed them Bonnie and Clyde because they ran together.  

The socialization process has been exceedingly slow.  Two years later, they come regularly for wet food twice a day.  Clyde stays around our property most of the time.  But Bonnie is flighty and goes off on her own to be reunited with him at times during the day.  I don't know where she goes.  We tried confining them in the basement one night when Clyde's paw seemed to be hurting, but they ran out like the devil was chasing them the next day and didn't return for a few more days.  They were even wary about eating.  The thing about ferals is that they want to retain their independence.  

However, last year, as soon as cold weather started, they came in for the evening meal, we shut the door and they stayed.  That was huge progress.  They continued to do that through spring and the first part of summer.  Now Bonnie is flighty again.  Some nights she doesn't show up.  Those nights Clyde usual comes inside by himself or watches for her all night.

Clyde especially will rub against my legs at mealtime. Now and then if I don't move too fast, he'll let me pet him.  But they are still not ready to be handled. We've taken care of strays before.  It's not easy to "let go" and give them freedom but that's how they are happiest.  

The best scenario this year would be to let Bonnie and Clyde stay in the basement on terrifically cold or bad weather nights.  But as you know, cats don't often cooperate with humans' intentions.  So what my husband and I are going to do is give them options.  Hopefully they'll choose one or two.


We have a patio sunroom that we keep open throughout the year. For winter, we put a shelter and a heated bed inside in one area, a heated pad in another.


 ExtremeWeatherHeatPad 

I lay thermal heat pads on the furniture in the sunroom.  Outside over the years we've added different types of shelters.  Those closest to the house have low wattage heat pads inside.  Among them are an igloo and cedar shelters. If you'd like to consider making a shelter yourself from a cooler, here is a link.  


Ally Cat Allies has pages of prebuilt and DIY shelters to examine, many with instructions. 

AlleyCatAlliesShelters

One caution about multi cat shelters. Feral and stray cats don't usually like to share.  Our sibling pair might be an exception.  But roaming loners like their own spot to stay safe, rather than sharing a shelter.  And sometimes a stray would prefer to have the whole property to himself or herself.



We use straw bales as buffers and protection for the shelters against the elements.  When the flowers are gone and plants don't provide much cover, the bales are also useful on the patio to break the wind. 



Straw is the preferred bedding if the shelter doesn't have a heat pad. Hay, used as animal feed, gets soggy. Straw is sturdier than hay, usually a golden color. Moisture rolls off of it rather than sinking in. Towels and carpet become damp and mildew.  Cats can nest in straw and it keeps them warm with their body heat. 

Also important in winter are heated water bowls. We notice the strays drink more water in winter than summer because it's harder to find a water supply.  Here is one option we use but many kinds and brands are available.


Keeping these stray fur babies safe is a challenge. Hopefully they'll take advantage of our hospitality.

******************


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dead goes better with Champagne

Hi, Evie Bloomfield here from the Cycle Path mysteries.

Well summer is in full swing here on Mackinac Island and that’s terrific if you don’t count the guy dead at the end of the pier next to a bottle of primo Champagne. And to top it off our police chief, Nate Sutter knows the guy.

Nate says he doesn’t but the look on Nate’s face when the saw the body was more than who’s this. It was more like Yikes!

The thing with Nate is that he used to be a Detroit cop and was working undercover right before he came to the island. But no one seems to know undercover what? No one can tie bows, hang bunting, arrange flowers, and suggest an event menu like Nate.

These are definitely not the usual requirements for police duty in Detroit or anywhere else. So what was this undercover work Nate was doing back in Detroit? And who is the dead guy at the pier. And how in the world does expensive Champagne play into all this?


Right now Nate’s passing the whole thing off as someone who imbibed and slipped and fell and knocked his head against the pier. I don’t think so. There’s way more to his dead person than just drunken stroll off the boat.

So my question to you all is, do you like Champagne? When was the last time you drank it and was it a special occasion? I’ll give away three lighted pens and note pad from the answers.
Have a good summer.
Hugs, Evie

Tandem Demise
November, 2017
Cycle Path Mystery series


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Deadly Politics

by Maggie Sefton








For those of you who like more suspense than an amateur sleuth cozy mystery provides, you may want to take a look at the first in my 3-book Suspense series---
DEADLY POLITICS.  It's available in ebooks from Amazon as well as BN.com and other E-retalers.  Here's a short preview below.



As a senator’s daughter and the widow of a congressman who died tragically, Molly Malone was driven from Washington, D.C. by political backstabbing, scandals, and threats — as well as personal heartbreak. 

When the accounting job she was promised falls through, Molly reluctantly agrees to to return to Washington and work as a consultant for a senator. Days after learning that her niece, Karen, is intimately involved with a congressional chief of staff — and that Karen had discovered suspicious campaign contributions — Molly finds her niece shot to death. Investigating further puts Molly in the crosshairs of a shadowy group that’s orchestrating a political plot . . . and killing anyone who gets in the way.

Monday, August 14, 2017

ALL DAY SOUP POT! THREE HEALTHY, LOW-CALORIE RECIPES.

By Mary Kennedy                     
                                                       
        
I hope everyone is enjoying all the wonderful summer vegetables that are sprouting in your garden (or a neighbor's garden). At times, the abundance of tomatoes, corn and zucchini can be a bit overwhelming.

Here's a suggestion that works for me.  Get out the crockpot (mine is so elderly, it looks exactly like the one on the kitchen counter in the Americans. a TV show set in the 1980's). It doesn't have a timer, it doesn't have a liner you can take out, but I love it.
                                                     

Start with a basic broth.  You can make your own, or use "Better than Bouillon," the low sodium variety. Make about a quart.
                                                       
 
This will make a clear vegetable soup like the one pictured at the top of this blog. Add a generous selection of carrots, corn, zucchini, cabbage (you can use a package of coleslaw if you don't want to bother cutting up a cabbage). You can add potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, peas, whatever you have on hand.  Now throw in a handful of fresh parsley and just let all the veggies get acquainted with each other. I let it simmer for hours, scooping out a cup from time to time when I want a snack.
 
If you want a more "tomato based" soup, just add some tomato paste, a small can of crushed tomatoes, or even tomato juice or a little bit of spaghetti sauce.  Fresh basil is a nice addition. You can also add beans--any kind, especially white beans, black beans or kidney beans that will give some protein to the soup. (endamame is good, too).          
                                                      
 
Some people prefer cream soup, and that's easy too. Simply pour a quart of chicken or veggie broth in the crockpot, add some pureed cooked carrots (cream of carrot soup, add a little curry powder) or pureed cooked broccoli (cream of broccoli soup) and an 8 ounce package of cream cheese.  Whatever you like. You can also add all three ingredients to the blender (it will probably take two batches in the blender) and then pour it in the crockpot.
 
If you want to use mixed veggies, instead of carrot or broccoli, here's what I do.  I use one quart of chicken broth, one 8 package of cream cheese and two packages of cooked mixed vegetables from 2 packages of frozen vegetables.  It will look like the photo below. And don't forget the parsley. (I used the boxes of mixed vegetables in the winter, but in the summer, I prefer to use fresh. I never measure the fresh veggies, but keep the "two boxes of frozen vegetables, cooked," in mind to gauge the amount.) The cream soup version will look like the picture below.
                                                       
 
You'd be surprised at how often you'll stop and have a nourishing cup of soup throughout the day. It really fills you up and has relatively few calories. Add some home-made croutons, just chop up a baguette, toss with a little olive oil (or olive oil spray by Pam) and cook at 400 on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Delish and so much better than the ones you buy. You can buy stale French bread, sourdough bread, etc at the supermarket and that's perfect for croutons (and half price!).
                                                    

Bon appetit! Mary Kennedy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Part Of The Pattern

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

A writer never knows when inspiration is going to hit. Sometimes you get it from reading something in a newspaper (yes, I STILL read (and highly enjoy) newspapers, both the local rag and USA Today), or hearing something on the radio, or reading a book.

What? Isn't that plagiarism? No, not when it's just a sentence. And that sentence was written by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Michaels. In fact, it was her romantic suspense novels (with a paranormal thread) that inspired me to write my Jeff Resnick Mysteries.

Authors do variations on a theme all the time. My friend Pat Ryan did a variation on Hitchcock's film, Rear Window, with one of her historical romances. There have been scores of take-offs based on the work of Jane Austen, etc. (Pride and Prejudice with zombies, for instance.)

I've been wrestling with how to continue Jeff's story arc after the devastating events in the most recent novel, Shattered Spirits. I often reread my favorite books and about three weeks ago I reread Ms. Michaels' book The Dancing Floor. In it, one of the characters tells another: "You're a part of the pattern." I got stuck on that one paragraph and that sentence, and reread it several times. I kept thinking about it over and over again and that got me inspired to tell Jeff's story--how he became a part of the pattern. And, truthfully, until I started writing the story, I had no clue there actually was a pattern.

I knew there wasn't a novel in this tale, so decided to make it a bridge story. By dealing with the subject of Jeff and Richard starting their own business, they are free to jump right into a case in the next novel. Whew! Big relief.  Of course, what that case may be--I have no clue. I have two other books to write before I can deal with that, but that lets me start noodling, and there's where the story will come from; my subconscious

So, Jeff has a mini-mystery and readers have a new (longish) short story to read. And, of course, it's called A PART OF THE PATTERN. It'll be available September 18th from all ebook distributors.  Here's the description:

.Jeff Resnick finds himself drawn to solving crimes. His brother, Richard, thinks that could be the basis of a paying business. Reluctantly, Jeff agrees, and their first case is about a a child who vanished more than two decades before. Meanwhile, Jeff bumps into an acquaintance whose history is very similar to that of the missing girl. Is it coincidence or is there a pattern that links him to her and his future? 

Kindle | Kindle Worldwide | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

If you've been missing Jeff, get ready for your next fix!

Friday, August 11, 2017

When your neighbor moves ...

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

We moved into our home 24 years ago. At that time, the next-door neighbors had teenage boys. In the summer, they would be out in the driveway from about seven in the evening (along with a host of their friends) until after midnight playing basketball.  Okay, it's not that noisy a game, but back then we didn't have air conditioning, so we (who are early-to-bed early-to-rise people) would be kept awake with the doink, doink, doink of the basketball hitting the driveway right outside our bedroom window for hours (and hours and hours) on end.  (And you thought I had no idea about that until I wrote Shooting Hoops in my Jeff Resnick coming-of-age short story collection Evolution: Jeff Resnick's Backstory.)

Two years after we moved in, that family moved out--and the house was bought by a couple of empty-nesters who had relocated from down state when the husband got a job here in Rha-cha-cha. The wife moved her baby grand piano in and gave lessons for the the next twenty years. We often heard her (muffled, yet exceptional) playing.

They were very nice, if aloof (and so, admittedly, were we) neighbors. They had some odd habits, like Mr. N (for neighbor) would often cut his grass in November AFTER dark, in the driving snow.  Every year (except this one) they grew a number of tomato plants on the south side of their house, but never once harvested any. (What's with that?) They poured tons of toxic chemicals onto their grass, but often had the worst lawn on the street. (We have the second worst, but at least it's green--because I learned at an early age that poison on your grass causes cancer on your dog's feet, and any other animal (or bird) who walks across it or eats its bounty.

Two years ago, we noticed that Mrs. N was not looking well. Apparently she didn't go to the doctor for it wasn't until a year later that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and three weeks later died. We were very sad. Never again would we see her cheerful smile. Never again would we hear her playing the piano. Mr. N told Mr. L (my guy) that he intended to sell the house and move back to where they came from (down state), but month after month went by and nothing happened, so we figured (and hoped) maybe he would stay.

And then Thursday, a moving van showed up and took away a bunch of furniture (probably for storage). Maybe their son (who had returned about 10 years ago) was going to finally move out on his own. But, no. Yesterday, late in the day, a FOR SALE sign went up in the yard.

Okay. So what does this mean? You never know what kind of neighbors you're going to get. And on a street like ours (where there are mostly retirees and its BLESSEDLY QUIET) you really hope it will be more quiet neighbors. I sold my mother's house last June (2016) and her neighbors were fearful, too. The older woman who bought it seemed like a very nice, quiet retired lady and her neighbors on both sides were happy. Until she decided to chop down every living thing around the house, exposing her neighbors not only to the people on the street behind them, but also to the noise on that very busy street--and the expressway another block away. Suddenly I'm persona non-grata for selling the house to a person who apparently didn't care if she was bombarded by noise from the east.

So, who will we get as neighbors?  I don't care what color or creed people are as long as they are QUIET! Will that happen?  We'll just have to wait to find out.

Do you have a neighbor-moving horror story?




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Meet Zander and Freya, Our New Feline Rescues

by Karen Rose Smith



We never expected to enlarge our feline family.  Really.  We already had four inside cats, Halo, Paddy, Zoie and London, and two strays--Bonnie and Clyde--who want their independence.  They come into the basement for shelter and safety at night.  I can pet Clyde while he's eating but not Bonnie. They're still easily spooked after 2 years.

Ebbie

At the start of our marriage 46 years ago we adopted one cat and then added another.  They were our companions for 17 years.  For many years after that, we were cat parents to 1 cat who had thyroid disease, Kasie. However, I found a kitten on a friend's farm who was sick.  I instantly bonded with her. We brought Ebbie home and when we lost Kasie a few months later, we adopted Ebbie's half sister, London. 


London 
That was it, we thought.  After all, we were getting older. But after my husband retired from teaching, we found a kitten in our back yard and named her Zoie Joy.  Then a pregnant stray made her way to us.  We nursed Halo through pregnancy and delivery of 3 kittens. We found homes for 2 but included Halo and her first born, Paddy, into our family.  I unexpectedly lost Ebbie my soulmate cat to heart disease during that time. 
Bonnie and Clyde




For three years, the four--London, Zoie, Halo and Paddy were it.  London is kept separated from the others because she is blind (stage 3 kidney disease.). 

Then, however, a few weeks ago a dear friend rescued six kittens from under a porch.  They were about a month old.  My husband knew it would be a mistake to go visit them.  Depending on how you look at it, he was right.  It's not easy to find homes for kittens.  I fell in love with a black puffball and we decided after she'd spent more time with her siblings we'd take her home.  We've always adopted females.  Nevertheless, my friend was having trouble finding homes for the last three.  On our second visit, my husband held a cute little grey and white puffball who was male. The black one and he were a bonded pair.  Over the years I've learned 2 cats are better than one. They play, have less anxiety when we're away, and just seem more content. 



So....a week ago we brought home Zander, grey and white, and Freya who is all black.  During the last year, I decided my husband and I need to make new memories that bring us joy.  It's easy to return to nostalgia, to the years when our son was small and wish the past was in the present.  Although kittens take energy and work--these babies didn't know how to eat from a dish--they bring us laughter and joy everyday.  We already love them dearly.  


Zander and Freya

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Best Saga Ever!

Okay, I’m a Game of Thrones fan. Yep, one of those crazies who watch the clock on Sunday night, get all comfy on the couch and turn on the TV at 9:00 and dive into the next episode to see what’s going on in the Seven Kingdoms of King’s Landing, Winterfell, Westros and the like. I don’t answer the phone or take a break of any kind even though it’s HBO and I can pause the action and rejoin later.

Yes, I’m truly addicted. Get all excited when I see the opening which is brilliant and just love watching. And the music...love the music. Yep, I need therapy but best I can tell so do a lot of others out there.

I can’t remember any other show I’ve been this ga-ga over. I loved West Wing. Wouldn’t miss an episode no matter what but even that at the end got tiresome.

Not GOT! It ramps up the action, the steaks, the vulnerability of the characters. GOT this is no-holds-bared show. Main lovable
characters get killed off, fave pets get murdered, people suffer, good guys don’t always win. It’s a got a mission that’s going to get worse before it gets better and its great seeing how the characters adapt.

And so many of the characters are powerful women!! One of my fave parts! They don’t stand around blabbing about how their man did them wrong but they are the generals and leaders and are in charge of the battles and governing. They are the best! GOT is great for women’s image. Girl power on steroids!

And all this and I’m not a fantasy or Sifi fan at all. I mean this show has dragons and magic potions and priestesses and bad queens and all the things that make fantasy a great read for some but not me...except now. I’m all in on this one. Even a queen riding her dragon into battle is a thrill for someone who is not into dragons at all.

So my question to you is, is there...has there ever been...a TV show you were obsessed with? One you left a party early to go home and see even though you could get it on demand to see it later? A show where everyone knew not to bother mom or dad when their show was on? Have you ever been obsesses over a TV show the way I am with GOT?


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do You Like Political Suspense?

by Maggie Sefton





We mystery readers read a diverse selection of books---Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Suspense, Detective fiction, Historical fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance.  The elements of good story-telling are the same throughout all the genres of fiction.  And as mystery writers, we also get a LOT of different stories to tell.  Today I'm highlighting the first book in my 3-book Molly Malone Mystery Suspense series----DEADLY POLITICS.  Below, I've included the backcover description.  I hope some of you give it a try.  It's available in tradepaper and E-books, of course.

Welcome to Molly Malone’s world----

Politics is a blood sport in Washington, DC, and only the strongest survive.    Like the politicians she’s rubbed shoulders with for a lifetime, Molly Malone is smart and tough and savvy enough to stay out of trouble---most of the time.  However, trouble has a way of finding Molly.

Years ago, Molly Malone was driven from Washington, DC by political back-stabbing, scandals, and personal heartbreak.  But now, circumstances have forced her to start a new life in the one place she swore she’d never return to—the city that broke her heart---and face the ghosts and the enemies from her past.

As the daughter of a respected United States Senator and once the wife of a rising star young Congressman, Molly has seen it all in Washington politics
---the cynics, the sincere, and the schemers.  But the brutal murder of her Congressional staffer niece brings Molly up close with Washington’s darker side.  “The beautiful monuments and parks are deceiving.  Washington can be ugly.”  How ugly, Molly’s about to find out.  There are other schemers out there who may not have won elections, but are more powerful than the politicians they ensnare.