Friday, April 29, 2016

Getting to kno you…

Hi Patty Ward. Thanks for doing the interview. Always fun meeting new people. 

-Where do you live now? 
Glen St Mary, Florida (originally from New Jersey)

-Pets? Kids? Hobby?
 2 fur babies – a Basset Hound and a dachshund. No kids. Hobbies are reading, cross stitching, crocheting and knitting.

-Day Job? 
Retired now. Use to work as a manager for a restaurant for 24 years.

-Upcoming plans? 
I am starting a cross stitch project from heaven and earth designs that will be keeping me busy for a while.

-What do you do for fun?
 I love to play video games. Sitting outside watching the birds. I use to enjoy walking on the beach but I am not able to it anymore.

-Do you travel? Got a fav place? 
Don't travel much lately. But do enjoy a day trip to St. Augustine, Fl. I love to try and visualize what the place was like back in the day.

-How did you come to reading mysteries? 
The start of my reading cozy mystery's is by way of my hobby of knitting. I started reading a book called Knit One, Kill Two because it had a knitting theme. And I have enjoy reading mysteries since. I enjoy them because of the "mystery", I like trying to figure them out. Give me a good mystery over a romance book anytime.

-Do you have a fav mystery show? Movie? 
I love watching British mysteries on PBS and Acorn TV. For movies I love the old Margret Rutherford’s Miss Marple.

-Do you have a fav book that you reread from time to time? A Christmas Carol.

-Do you remember the first mystery you read? I remember reading Nancy Drew books when I was a kid. I love the day when the order from Scholastic books came in.

-Is there a character in a book or movie that you’d like to pal around with? This is a hard one to say. There are a few books and movies where I sometimes just close my eyes and wish myself into them.

-Tell us anything else about yourself. We all love meeting new friends. Most people don't know this about me. I am a avid player and fan of World of Warcraft. We get together on raid nights and have fun. Where else would you be able to meet and talk to people from all around the world. I think of myself as the “grandma” of the Horde guild. And the Alliance guild are people who knit and crochet from Ravelry.  I love watching old movies and finding old novels to read. I love making cream puffs (and eating them). I love Basset hounds and dachshunds and would love to get another Basset puppy.  I'm an Anglophile hence the British mysteries. I would love to visit Ireland (my grandmother's home) and maybe Germany where my Mom was from. With this electronic age I miss the old fashion writing to friends. People are so busy letting life go by they don't take the time to enjoy it and share with family and friends.

Fried Rice is Very Nice!

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

Back in March, one of my readers posted a video blog (vlog) talking about making fried rice. I knew back then that I would HAVE to make the "recipe" for myself some-when soon. But first I had to have the main ingredients on hand to do it.

Well, that happened this week. Mr. L and I bought a very nice pork roast last week, but we knew we couldn't eat it right away, so off to the freezer it did go.

We come from families who used to have a big Sunday dinners, so we waited it for Sunday and roasted it. But since I knew we'd have a TON of leftovers,and I remembered Loremil's fried rice recipe, I decided to make a big pot of basmati rice the same day. You see, fried rice "comes good" when the rice has been made the day before.

So, I tossed a cup of rice into two cups of water, brought it to a roiling boil, and let it sit there for three full minutes. Then I turned off the burner, covered the pot, and let it sit for about 45 minutes.  (You don't even need to let it sit that long--30 minutes usually does it, but I had other stuff to do.)

Once the rice cooled a bit, I put it in the fridge and forgot about it ... until the next day.

Loremil’s Fried Rice
1 cup basmati rice, cooked and set aside for a day
3 eggs, beaten well
Vegetable oil
1 large carrot, diced (optional)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Steak seasoning or garlic-pepper seasoning
White pepper (optional)
½ cup diced ham or pork
1½-2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup frozen peas (peas and carrot, or mixed vegetables)

Put day-old cooked (basmati) rice in a big mixing bowl and break up. (Wet your hands before breaking it up or use a spoon.)

Whisk the eggs and cook them in a fry pan with a little vegetable oil. Season with the garlic salt, steak seasoning, and white pepper.  When the eggs are half done, turn them over.  When thoroughly cooked, cut up into strips or snip with cooking shears.

In another fry pan, add a little vegetable oil and brown the pork or ham until crispy.  Add the carrots, onions, and garlic. Stir, but don’t let them burn. Add seasoning to taste. Let the vegetables cook until the onions are translucent but still a little hard.

Add the rice and more seasoning to taste.

Combine the rice, the vegetables, and the eggs. Add the soy sauce.  Add the frozen peas and stir.

Lower the heat.  Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Then raise temp to med-high for 5-6 minutes to brown and crisp everything up.

Serve as a main or side dish.

I must admit, this was the BEST fried rice I've ever eaten in my life (and I've eaten a lot), and I think it was because I may have put a tad more garlic in it than most restaurants use.

Okay, it's a little fussy to make, but the results will be well worth it.

If you'd like to see Loremil make this dish, just click this link to see her video.

What's your favorite "ethnic" recipe?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A soleful conversation (aka it's all about the shoes)

By Victoria Abbott aka Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini

You know we love hats, but we also love shoes.  It must be in the genes, because Victoria and MJ both have a weakness for footwear of all types.

MJ’s heels are lower than they used to be, but she’s still committed to them for certain. 

True story from MJ: ‘back in the day’ when pointy-toes stilettos were first in vogue, I had a snazzy pair of four-inch heels in navy blue. As a person who was five-feet tall on a good day, they worked for me. I felt fabulous in them.  One night, I got separated from my friends and ended up walking a mile and a half home late at night. I was followed and then chased by a guy in a black pick-up truck for blocks, past the deserted park, past the empty railway tracks, diagonally across the lawn of the Anglican (Episcopal) church and past the church hall.

The truck followed me right across the church lawn!  I barely made it the two more houses until my home which, because it was the good old days, was not locked. I got in the door, slid gasping to the floor with my heart hammering and, through the glass in the door, I watched the truck speed off.

Only then did I take off my shoes.  The moral of this story is: I will not give up heels for anything.  And yes, aside from the shoes, I’ve used those emotions and physical reactions in my writing. Hammering hearts are a real thing!  So is gasping for breath.  This also showed me two other things:  safe places are not always safe: the park, the church AND you don’t know what you can do until you have to.   Many of my shoes are very old, but I sure wish I still had those four-inch heels to look at!
True confession:  my heels are getting lower (thank you kitten heels) and sandals and slippers are my great friends in the day. And Victoria and I both fell for the comfy red boots below.  But I still like to get dressed up. That's why I picked the teal suede heels above.
Victoria, being younger as daughters tend to be, has plenty of time to wear heels but she loves boots and sneakers and … well everything.   

Victoria's new favorite shoes: lacy leather sneakers - sooo comfy

Victoria also has a story to share too: some years ago, she had a foot injury (the horror!) and had to see the doctor.  Here's Victoria: "The doctor said that I would have to wear open topped shoes until my foot healed.  I pointed to the shoes I’d worn and asked, ‘Oh, like my Mary Janes?’. He gave me the strangest look, then slowly asked me if I named all my shoes.

Well, why  not?

We’ve put in some of our faves like this one from a book launch (where we don’t always get to the end of the event before we’ve slipped out of them!  

Victoria and MJ at the launch for The Marsh Madness

Come on over and talk shoes.  Put up your feet!  Are you heels or no heels?  Do you have any funny stories? Are you a shoe lover or couldn’t you care less?  We love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Duffy Brown’s Spruce for Spring.

It’s that time of year when I look around and think this house needs a spiff bad. I need to get rid of the grime of winter and add something fresh and new. I’m no Martha Stewart so I go with the idea of anything has got to look better than this! If it’s just clean it will be a huge improvement.

My first project was my fireplace. This is a huge deal in that once the paint is on there is no going back! You can repaint a wall or cabinets but redo the curtains but once the paint is on brick it’s there for keeps. 

I forgot to take a pic of my fireplace before but this is pretty close to what it looked like.

My fireplace looked good forty years ago but now it was just mostly dingy orange and dated. I got one of those brick paint kits ‘cause I didn’t want a strictly painted look but more of a tumbled stone look.

I looked online and there were instructions on how you could do this on your own but like I said I’m no Martha I went with the kit. I used this thing called brick anew. It’s five stages, took a few hours but it worked. Here’s the finished project.

You put a base coat down then add four more colors so it gives shades and shadows. I watched  a ton of youtube videos to get some ideas and it was time well spend. I found out what works and does’t and avoid mistakes I so would have made!

Today I’m trying some paint called Annie Slone’s Chalk Paint to spiff some furniture. I’ll talk about that next week. Wish me luck.

Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Springtime Visit Back Home

by Maggie Sefton

One of the lovely Azalea bushes which bloom every Spring at what I call the River House back in the Metro DC area and environs.  

By now all of you folks know that my original "hometown" area is Northern Virginia in the DC Metro Area.  I grew up in Arlington, Virginia, literally a "stone's throw" across the Potomac from Washington, DC.  Well, I'm baaaaaaaack!

Yes, I was up early in Fort Collins, CO Monday morning and drove off to a park 'n ride lot where I caught the airport shuttle to Denver International Airport.  A nonstop flight took me right to Dulles
International Airport where I arrived to sunny skies and beautiful Spring weather----exactly like what I left in Denver.  :)

Wisteria blooming on the back yard arbor at my friend Nancy's lovely home in Vienna, Virginia. Nancy and Diane are  the "sister friends" I grew up with in Arlington, VA.

After a quick car rental and drive into Vienna, Virginia, I headed right for the old favorite shopping center in downtown Vienna.  That's where I stopped in one of the "special" Alcoholic Beverage Control stores in the shopping center, I picked a smooth aged Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey which would be perfect "Sippin' Whiskey."  :)  You see, I am staying with my old childhood friends and also brought them some Special Recipe Caramels.  So, why not sip an aged
Kentucky Sipping Whiskey while sampling the rich creamy Caramels?

My apologies to those of you folks who are TeeTotalers or Abstainers.  Some of us are a bit more….ah,  decadent, shall we say?     You folks can substitute a rich Eggnog to sip with your caramels.  :)  Whichever beverage you choose, may you enjoy the moment.  :)   

More azaleas at the River house last spring

As for the above reference to the "ABC" store --- Alcoholic Beverage Control  ---- Virginia is one of those states that exercises extra "controls" on the sale of what's called "hard" liquors.  They cannot be sold separately in liquor stores along with wines and beers and other "hard" liquors like Vodka and Rum.  In Colorado, our liquor stores do exactly that----they sell beers and wines plus Vodka, Rum, and a great variety of Whiskey.   How does your state handle sales of alcoholic beverages?    

Monday, April 25, 2016


By Mary Kennedy

A guess I've always had an idealized view of mice.  Some people see a pest, but I see a small, furry creature who loves to snack, requires very little upkeep and generally adds a note of cheer to the house. I keep thinking of Stuart Little, so cute and endearing.

So when I learned that we had a mouse in our basement, I immediately named him Timothy.  Okay, he's not a movie star mouse but he is cute.
And I have no idea how he took up residence in the basement. I heard him snacking one day, eating from a dish of dry cat food. In case you're wondering how any mouse could survive in a household of six indoor cats, just remember that only one cat is allowed in the basement. An older, geriatric cat who has zero interest in Timothy. Oliver spotted Timothy eating his dry food, yawned and walked away.
Of course, the immediate problem is: what to do about Timothy? My plan was to let him live out his little mouse life in the basement and come and go as he pleased. He must have access to the outside because he disappears for hours at a time.
I planned on treating him to a buffet of foods he would enjoy...
And I toyed with the idea of buying him an exercise wheel...
My husband has a different plan. He bought a Have a Heart trap, baited it with peanut butter and hoped to capture Timothy and put him outside. But Timothy was too wily. He ate the peanut butter and evaded the trap. So my husband bought another humane trap.  This one seems more elaborate, but once again, Timothy outwitted it!  But my question is: why should we trap Timothy at all?                    
My husband tried to persuade me that Timothy probably had a family waiting for him and would be happier rejoining them in the woods.  He also hoped to convince me that if we kept Timothy, we might end up with Timothy's whole family moving into our basement! We'd be overrun with mice! Is this a realistic fear? I have no idea, but people tell me it is.

 So at the moment, we have a dĂ©tente. Timothy has managed to evade two traps (after snatching the food.). As far as being overrun with mice, I have to confess that Timothy brought a smaller mouse to dine with him. A girlfriend, perhaps?  A sibling? Who knows.
 In case you're wondering, I never did buy that exercise wheel. Wiser heads prevailed and convinced me that I was making it WAY too attractive for Timothy to live here. The weather is finally getting warm and sunny here in the northeast and I figure Timothy will be moving outside full-time. I haven't seen his girlfriend lately, so maybe it was a casual relationship. A spring fling.
I'll keep you posted on Timothy's story. Will he return when the weather gets cold in October? I don't even know how long a mouse lives. Will he tell his relatives about the B and B I seem to be running? If you have any ideas on "The Timothy Problem," I would welcome your advice.
Mary Kennedy

Saturday, April 23, 2016


By Mary Kennedy                
Hi everyone! Taylor Blake from the Dream Club Mysteries here. (I'm the sensible sister who holds an MBA, Ali is the flighty, creative one!)

Okay, true confession time. At first I was skeptical about my sister Ali’s enthusiasm for dream interpretation. After all, I'm the analytical type, always cool and rational. Ali is more impulsive, emotional and willing to explore new ideas. I came to Savannah to help save her vintage candy store, not get involved with New Age hocus-pocus! (or so I thought.)

A lot of people ask me if the Dream Club members really solve crimes. And if so, how do we do it?  I can understand their skepticism. After all, I was a non-believer too. Here's the straight scoop.                                                     

 We look for clues in their dreams that relate to murders happening in Savannah. Sometimes the clue is hard to find. It might be symbolic and elusive. Often, it involves a clue that the police didn’t notice. It could be a hint about a suspect’s character, a chance comment, a suspicious element found at the crime scene.

 In A PREMONITION OF MURDER, Abigail Marchand, a wealthy Southern recluse, has a disturbing dream about her own death. A premonition, you might say. She invites her good friends the Harper sisters over for lunch at her estate along with the two of us. Abigail tells us about her dream and all of us immediately try to put her mind at rest. 

A dream can mean many things, we tell her.  Images of darkness and water closing over her are certainly troubling, but there may not portend death. Sadly, Abigail’s premonition comes true the very next day when she's found dead at the foot of the stairs in her mansion.
This is the third release in the Dream Club Mysteries. Along with the Savannah setting, the series features a fun, retro candy shop called Oldies But Goodies. My sister and I run the shop, which includes a cafĂ© and we love trying out new recipes to serve at Dream Club meetings. Stop by and match wits with the Dream Club as you find yourself wrapped up in murder, Southern style.

And tell me about your dreams, I'd love to hear them!!

Happy reading and sweet dreams from Mary Kennedy

Friday, April 22, 2016

Break out the spade and get that garden in shape!

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

I like to grow veggies.  Flowers are pretty, but there's something very satisfying about eating what you grow. And, yes, I do know you can eat some flowers ... but they're rather like a garnish. Nothing like topping a spud you've grown with butter or sour cream. A pansy on my potato? No, thanks.

This year I'm going to try spuds YET again. (Never have been very successful.) And I'm going to try to grow just TWO zucchini plants. I don't want to end up like Earl and Opal Pickles.

I'm going to grow them from seed, so this weekend is the weekend.

We should have already planted our sugar snap peas, but ... it was cold and then hot and then cold and we were busy.

I always grow green beans, and this year I'm going to sand them. Yup. I read where scarring or nicking seeds will help them germinate faster. I watched a couple of Youtube videos about scarring and using sandpaper to do it. Usually I soak them, but that doesn't seem to work all that well, although better than just sticking them in the ground and hoping for the best.

Last year I did lettuce in a container and we had gorgeous leaf lettuce for the entire summer. I'm doing that again, too. And of course, tomatoes.

My worst enemies? Ground hogs and bunnies.  Yes, I know they need to eat, too, but we have an entire FARM behind us where they have a number of crops they can eat, but where do they choose to dine?  MY VEGGIE PATCH.

What are you growing this year?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?  Victoria and I thought you might like a peek behind the scenes at some of the writer’s craft of picking names.

Names are such an important part of any story.  They’re a blessing, a pleasure and a chore for the author.  Speaking as a reader, I hate it when characters in the same book have similar names or several names beginning with the same letter. I once started a novel where seven characters had  names beginning with A on the first three pages (Anne, Annie, Alice, Andy, Amelia, Amy etc)   I don’t know what happened on page 4 because I didn’t get that far.

We don’t really begin to love a character until we’ve settled on the right name, often there have been many changes during early drafts. Once the final name choice is made, then we’re in good shape, and the character can begin to develop as an individual. We even care a lot about the pets. In the Charlotte Adams mysteries, the rescued dachshunds were a lot like Daisy and Lily, but I named them for Canadian chocolates, Truffle and Sweet Marie.  The names suited.

I am struggling in my latest Camilla MacPhee book because it’s set in Cape Breton, a scenic island off the coast of Nova Scotia and the place I was born. Plus our Lorraine spent her honeymoon there!  The island looks a lot like Scotland and was settled by Scots in the 1700's.  Many people there not only have the same first names, but also the same last name.  

 More than half the population is proud to be MacDonald!  In life they can work it out, but it will be a challenge keeping them separate and yet sounding authentic in a book. There was also an old-fashioned custom for girls to have been named for their fathers or uncles: Camilla’s sisters are Edwina, Alexa and Donalda might be typical. 

For every book I’ve done, and those that Victoria and I have  written, there’s been an alphabetized list of names first and last laid out to help make the decisions.  These alphabetical lists helped simplify things and we hope to make it easier for the reader to know who each person is and to be able to distinguish people of the same age and type.

Names not only identify a person, but they give the reader an idea about that character’s age, ethnicity and possibly more.  Camilla MacPhee’s eightysomething sidekick is Mrs. Violet Parnell, a name that fits her demographic.  Meanwhile in the book collector mysteries, Vera Van Alst is nearing sixty and the ageless cook is Signora Fiammetta Panetone.  If Vera and Violet had been in the same series, one would have been changed.   We think the names do the right job.

In the Camilla MacPhee books, Ray Deveau’s daughters are Ashley and Brittany.  Those names were chosen to tell you roughly how old they are and that they’re from an English speaking family.  They have the cadence of that culture.  Ray is Acadian French from Cape Breton, so I wanted his name (Raymond) to be pronounced either in the English or the French way and his friend Sgt. Leonard Mombourquette’s name works the same way.  

Of course in the book collector mysteries Jordan has hot and cold running relatives: all Irish crooks:  We won’t run out of names for the Kellys soon, with Mick, Lucky, Kev, Danny, Dennis and Billy all making appearances.  There are plenty more in the back pocket!  

Jordan’s friends Lance and Tiffany sound like their generation as does Jordan herself, although Vera likes to complain that it’s a man’s name.  What would she have thought of MacKenzie or Madison?
We liked the name Jordan for our protagonist because it is youthful and stylish, and yet has substance.
I am always on the lookout for new names or unusual names and so is Victoria: the obits are a great source for me.  Book signings are another. I love it when I find a reader with a name that’s new to me.  

We've come up with a whole new set of relatives in The Hammett Hex and that challenged our name finding too.  We used some close to home.

Finally, there are the ‘bibles’:  while you can check out the popular names on line, for years we’ve relied on The Treasury of North American BABY NAMES.  Despite the title, it also has a great section on names from the UK and Canadian names and lists of the most popular boys and girls names (by country) at different points in time.  We also love Anne Geddes Baby Names, which gives their meanings and is beautifully illustrated.   If we were looking to name a young child (real or fictional) we would look to new sources. 

So that’s a bit of background: so do you have strong feelings about names in books or real life? Things you love or things you hate?  You know that you can always speak your mind here. Let’s hear it!