Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shopping At Outlets

by Karen Rose Smith


Do you shop at outlet stores? 

Last evening I visited the Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg.  There are plenty of stores there from Gertrude Hawk's chocolates to Christmas Tree Hill. But at the end of July I like to shoe shop.  The shoe stores range from Skechers to Bass to Easy Spirit. 


At the end of the summer, the sales are terrific! I found shoes from 50% to 70% off. What I like about the outlet stores is the volume of specialized merchandise in each store.  I usually shop online.  But sometimes it's nice to see merchandise "in person.

I also use these trips to the outlets for research.  I need to clothe and accessorize many characters, especially in my mysteries.  A visit to the Coach or Van Heusen outlet stores help me do that.  There's a terrific leather shop there too that sells jackets to portfolios and brief cases. 


For more practical reasons, I like to spend time in the kitchen shop. I always find something I "need."  The store also has unusual items like a mini grocery cart I can fill with spices for a Christmas gift.  From spatulas to Kitchen Aid mixers, I can see the latest styles and gadgets that my sleuth who loves to cook can use. 

I enjoyed the summer evening so much that I might have to visit the outlets at Rockvale Outlets in Pennsylvania Dutch country in Lancaster where my Daisy's Tea Garden series is set.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DIY or Pay!

I was listening to the radio and this guy said that people get more pleasure from spending money on having things done for them than in buying stuff. I think this means that we feel better about having our house cleaned for us than buying a pair of shoes.

So do you agree? Or would you rather do the work yourself, save the money and use it for something else? I needed to drain the water off my driveway so that it would stop flooding my basement and got a quote of 3500 bucks. Then the plumber came in and said I had a collapsed pipe and that was another 3500.

I made a damn with asphalt for the water and got RootX to unclog my pipes and all for about $200 and saved a cool $6300. But it was a lot of work! And I had the time. If you have a full-time job and cannot squeezed in these big projects you have to pay for them.

My kids work full-time and have cleaning service to keep the place livable and save their marriages. They got tired of spending all weekend doing chores and I so get that. 

So my question to you is, what do you think is a good thing to pay for? House cleaning to save the marriage? Painting the house? Shoveling snow? Picking up the laundry? Cutting the grass? Shoveling the mulch? (This one I did pay for! That stuff is so darn heavy!)Anything electrical or plumbing related?


Or are you a confirmed DIY no matter what?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

YUMMY SEAFOOD

by Maggie Sefton


A replica of one of the the historical ships in the Atlantic Ocean waters right off Virginia's Coast.  

As most of you regular Cozy Chicks Blog Readers and Friends

know, I grew up in Northern Virginia, Arlington to be exact, which is a stone's throw across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  Or, "Back East" as I say to all my Colorado friends and neighbors.    Northern Va/DC/Suburban MD is a mere hour from the huge and gorgeous Chesapeake Bay, which leads right to the Atlantic Ocean.    And I'm still here in Northern VA, escaping that brutal Heat Wave last week by escaping from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned and comfy coffee shops where I kept writing on Kelly Flynn #16 (which will be released next year), to air conditioned cafes to enjoy delicious seafood.  

Ahhhhhhhh, Seafood.  How may I praise thee?  By eating everything in sight whenever I return Back East.  Shrimp,  Crab, Oysters, Scallops, Lobster.   Yum!  Yes, of course I can have seafood back in Colorado.  And I do.  So much fresh fish and seafood and caught earlier that day or the day before and flown right out to some of our great supermarkets like Sprouts.  Love Sprouts.  
 
That's me on the upper deck of a   small ship I was on during a visit to the River house one time.  It was a great day-long cruise out of Reedville, VA and sailed down to Tangier Island farther south off the Virginia coast. I absolutely LOVE being on the water.  :)  


But I am particularly partial to super fresh seafood.  If it wears a shell, wiggles or crawls in the ocean, or hides inside a closed shell that I have to pry open---I will eat it.  Some types like fresh oysters I will eat raw, even though I admit to liking a sprinkle of lemon or a quick dip in some yummy sauce.  Since I'm a Virginian I was used to having fresh seafood and fish (caught that day in the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic).  Trust me, folks.  You get spoiled to super fresh seafood.      

As a Virginian, I was also used to my mother or grandmother making fried oysters.  (I can hear the voice of my former husband now:       "Oh, the horror. . . .the horror." )    Yes, there ARE other delicious ways to enjoy oysters other than raw. folks.  Southern Fried Oysters are delicious.  And something else that's delicious is the super rich Oyster Stew my mother made.  Oh, my.  Was that yummy.  

Scallops are delicious just about any way you want to prepare them.  And one of the very best mussels dishes I ever tasted was years and years ago in Barcelona, Spain.  My goodness, were they delicious.  I've never been able to replicate that. 

Oh, and there's the lowly but delicious crawfish.  One of the best crawfish feasts I ever experienced was ages ago when our oldest daughter Christine was playing Volleyball as a freshman for LSU (Louisiana State University) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Serious Crawfish country.  They held a Crawfish cookout and all-you-can-eat feast to die for.  I can still see the table filled with piles of freshly cooked crawfish which didn't last long because all the players and coaches and parents and grandparents and all manner of relatives simply dug in and enjoyed.  That was something.  


Let's see. . .have I left anything out?  Ohhhh, of course.  Crab!  King Crab.  I absolutely love and adore Crab.  Hate to say it, but in my not-so-humble opinion Lobster is fine, but give me Crab any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  :)  And growing up an hour from the Chesapeake Bay, fresh Crab was there for our enjoyment.  YUM!!   (Have I made you hungry yet?)   



Monday, July 24, 2017

SAY YES. SAY NO. BUT NEVER MAYBE

By Mary Kennedy

     Sometimes I think women are programmed to say "yes." Is it because we're people-pleasers? Why do we think we need to never disappoint anyone? Did we learn this in childhood? How did we get this way (and how can we get over it?)
 
We say "yes" even if we are frazzled...                                    
 
Even if we are already over-scheduled and stressed-out... 
                                                      
 
Is there an answer?
 
Yes!! Help is at hand. The key, I've found, is to have an absolute YES list. Make up a list of three things you REALLY want to accomplish in the next 4 weeks. Join the gym, start making healthier meals, organize your closets, start some craft projects with the kids. It doesn't matter what you have on the list. This is your list,  these are your priorities and nothing should take you away from them.

I would keep the list to three, or not more than four items. And keep it by the phone!! If you carry your cell phone, tape it to the back. Seriously.
 
You need to have this list handy when someone calls you, asking you to take on another task. Unless the task is directly related to one of the items on your absolute yes list, the answer is NO.
 
And please don't feel guilty for saying NO. (Yes, I know you're out of practice and it might take some getting used to)
                                          
  If you feel guilty, it defeats the purpose and you use up a lot of emotional energy. so try not to.
 
Just remember, by saying "NO" to another request, you are saying  "Yes" to yourself. Reminding yourself of this, makes it so much easier.
 
Please try the Absolute Yes list and let me know how it works out for you. Most of my clients really have had good luck with it and I think you will, too..
 
Mary Kennedy

Saturday, July 22, 2017

SPOTLIGHT SATURDAY: LIFE IS BUT A DREAM

By Mary Kennedy                            
 
It's Spotlight Saturday and I'd like to give a little shout-out to my Dream Club Mysteries.
                                                          

 
 
As a psychologist, I spend much of my time listening to my clients talk about their dreams. I always find this part of the session the most fascinating. Sometimes (well, many times!) my clients surprise me.

A client who appeared shy and reticent confided that she was a Broadway star in her dreams. “Really?” I asked. “What was that like for you?”
Flushing with pleasure she admitted that she loved being in the spotlight, that her social anxiety had vanished and she was thrilled by the applause.
                                                         
We chuckled together at her playing a singer in Dream Girls and we theorized about why she had this particular dream at this time in her life. As it turned out, she was facing a stressful situation. As a newly engaged young lady, her fiancĂ© planned to take her clear across the country to meet his large, extended family. There would be dozens of relatives—plus his parents, of course—to meet her for the very first time. She’d been dreading the big family celebration and felt (quite incorrectly) that she would be judged harshly.

So we explored the idea that this particular dream had given her the chance to “rehearse” being the center of attention. The situation her mind created—starring in a Broadway show—was much bigger than anything she would encounter in real life. But our minds do that when we sleep. They shift through all the story possibilities and come up with something that is often more “over the top” than the real life situation the dreamer is facing.
She was so dazzled by her “Broadway show dream” that she wished she would have it again. I noticed she appeared more relaxed and outgoing than usual. When I asked her if she still felt the same trepidation about meeting her finance’s family, she smiled and said, “Well, I guess there’s  always the possibility they will like me.”  The story ended happily. Her visit went amazingly well, she had no anxiety and made a hit with her in-laws.
                                                        


In any case, it’s fun to explore our dreams and what they really mean, as the characters in the Dream Club do. The members like to think that they are uncovering clues to solving murders in Savannah and they seem to have had some success. They combine intuition with solid sleuthing skills and some dream work. But do clues from their dreams really solve crimes? Is it luck, or coincidence or a combination of the two?  I leave it to the reader to decide.
By the way, NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, the first of the Dream Club Mysteries is on sale on Kindle right now for only $2.99. A great way to start this fun cozy series.   https://www.amazon.com/Nightmares-Can-Be-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00IOE4MS0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499009165&sr=1-1&keywords=nightmares+can+be+murder       
                                                             
          
 
Happy reading, everyone!


Friday, July 21, 2017

My Dad's Sweaters

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

Even though it's summer, I still wear sweaters ... a lot. First, the house is often cold because of the air conditioning. Mr. L likes it around 72. I could be happier at 75, but ... I just put on a sweater.

I have a LOT of sweaters. My Mum was into machine knitting and made a LOT of them. I have a couple I wear on REALLY cold days because they are really long (I think she must have made them extra-long), and ... I couldn't bear to part with them when she died.

When my Dad passed away almost nine years ago (how can he have been gone that long already????), Mum started wearing his sweaters. He had quite a collection and most of them came from England. Marks and Spencer to be exact. I'm sure my mother picked them out for him while they were on their frequent trips "back home" in England. He wore them from the 1970s through the early 90s and then for some reason stopped. (Maybe because he gained too much weight?)

Anyway, a couple of them hung in my mother's big walk-in closet. She had anemia and was cold 24/7, so she often wore three layers in the summer. Turtleneck, sweatshirt, sweater. I'd come over in the summer and it would be broiling in the house and she'd think it was just fine.

After she passed away, it was my job to clean out the house. I gave away nearly all her clothes, and she'd already done that for Dad, but hanging in the closet were two of his sweaters. I found even more packed away in a suitcase. In all, I think I kept at least ten sweaters. And I wear them. My favorite is one of Dad's. It's navy blue and it's got moth holes. They're tiny and don't detract from the cardigan's warmth. There were two green ones, which are in excellent shape, and they are HEAVY. I didn't wear them last winter, but I will this year.

I love those sweaters. They're a tangible remembrance of both my parents.

One winter day not long after Dad died, I visited my Mum on a snowy day. I was COLD. She handed me a polar fleece jacket that belonged to my Dad and said, "Take this. And when you're sad (I was crying every day back then, and I can be reduced to tears in a heartbeat when I think of either of them now) and when you're sad, wear this and wrap your arms around yourself and it'll be a hug from your Dad.

On a day when things don't go right, I put on that jacket or his sweater and give myself a hug. It's not as good as the read thing, but it'll do.

Are you sentimental about certain items of clothing?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Epilogue Is Like A Dessert

by Karen Rose Smith



I came from an Italian heritage of sitting around the table—talking, laughing and arguing—and making each meal at my grandmother's house an event. Dessert was always a meal extender whether it was cannoli for Christmas, fried dough balls dipped in honey for Easter or Sunday dinner chocolate cake. Dessert gave us extra time to sit at the table and enjoy each other's company. My mother followed the tradition. She was a third grade teacher. Often she would bake layer cake or sponge cake in the morning before we caught the school bus! We'd either use it that night or freeze it for dinner with company on the weekend. Just as she served a salad and crunchy bread every night for dinner, she would serve dessert.

I've followed my mother's and grandmother's traditions because I like to cook. When my son was small, we baked and sold fruit breads at craft fairs. I entered cooking contests. He helped me make at least a dozen different kinds of cookies for Christmas to give away. Each meal was topped with something home-made. Now, of course, life and diets have changed. Fruit is often our dessert of choice. But once in a while, besides for company, I bake desserts for us because we need something special to remind us of traditions I'll never forget.

For me as a novelist, an epilogue is like dessert. Epilogues extend the story. They tell you where the characters have gone and what they've accomplished after the murder mystery and the romantic angst is over! The epilogue is the icing on the cake or the creme fraiche on the blueberry bread. When I spend an entire book with my characters, I don't want to leave them. I want to know what their everyday lives are about after extraordinary circumstances have ended. So my books usually have epilogues. I hope you enjoy these extensions into my sleuth and hero and heroines lives...and enjoy them as much as a dessert!

Speaking of desserts...

My sleuth Caprice De Luca also likes to cook (along with home staging, taking in strays and finding them homes, and wearing retro fashion.)  In DEADLY DECOR, her neighbor encourages her to pick fresh blueberries and this bread is what I and Caprice created.  I hope you enjoy it!


CAPRICE'S BLUEBERRY VANILLA PECAN BREAD

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 teaspoons imitation vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (1 1/2%)
2 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, de-stemmed, washed and well-drained.  (I put a paper towel in a bowl and let them roll around on that before adding to batter.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees  Grease and flour two 8 1/2 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans.

Beat all ingredients except nuts and fruit in mixer bowl (scraping bowl often) on mix or blend until batter is smooth...1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in nuts by hand and then fold in blueberries.




Pour even amounts into 2 pans.  Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It’s hot everywhere!

 Savannah gets a bum wrap for the summer with everyone saying how hot it is and how humid and don’t you dare go to Savannah in the summer as it’s just terrible.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of hooey. Here are ten great reasons to visit Savannah in the summer.

First off you’re never far from the water and that in it self is a mighty big plus. There’s a breeze and just looking at the wet makes you feel cool and if you get too hot you just jump right on in.

Second because of all that there water you can do whatever floats your boat. You can rent one of your own or just hop on board someone else’s.
Third there’s the beach. I ask you, is there anything more fun than play in sand? You can build with it or play on it and when you get too hot there’s that there water to jump right on in.

Then there’s the food!! Oh, Honey, the food! Down-home Southern cooking to the ever-present pralines, you won’t go home hungry. In the summer, it’s water-to-table coastal cuisine that takes top billing and should be at the top of your to-do list. A cool treat goes a long way in a Savannah summer, which may explain why Leopold’s Ice Cream has been doing such good business since
1919.

And Savannah comes highly recommended. Before he hit the big time. Sixty years ago, Elvis Presley shook his hips at a Savannah audience for the first time.

And they there’s the night life. Savannah doesn’t hide from its well-earned reputation as America’s most haunted city — and ghost tours help bring these legends to life. If you don’t believe in ghosts when you come you will when you leave.


And then there’s Slow-vannah to consider. You don’t have to be in a hurry to see Savannah. It’s the perfect place to stroll past the red-brick mansions and wrought-iron fences of Jones Street or the boutiques and galleries in City Market.

There’re plenty of other reasons to come to Savannah in the summer and with a little luck you won’t come across any of those pesky bodies that Reagan and I keep running into. You all have a great summer now, ya’ hear.












Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Home With Family

by Maggie Sefton



Daughter Christine and family at granddaughter Natale's high school graduation a little over a year ago.  



Hello, Everyone!  I'm still here in Northern Virginia visiting old friends and family presently in Vienna, Virginia, that lovely suburban area not that far from Washington, D.C. as well as the surrounding area.  Last week I was able to visit with youngest daughter Maria and her family and over the weekend I visited daughter Christine and family plus  daughter Melissa who is normally in Manhattan.   It's so great to be around everyone.



Daughters Maria and Melissa cooking last Christmas in my friend Diane's beautiful kitchen.  

Melissa is starting the process of actually moving from her Upper West Side, New York City apartment to Northern Virginia.  After fifteen years---yes, 15---of living in Manhattan and enjoying it, Melissa has begun to miss the opportunities to be with family more than than she was enjoying Manhattan.  We all change, don't we?  What we might have enjoyed doing fifteen or even ten years ago may no longer seem enjoyable anymore. . .or, not enjoyable enough to make up for missing the closeness of family.  


Astronaut daughter Serena preparing for  NASA underwater training a year or so ago.

Frankly, I willingly admit I love, love, LOVE being able to give my daughters and grandchildren real hugs whenever I return to visit my old hometown area of Northern Virginia.  Oh. . .and sons-in-law, too.  Don't want to forget them.  :)  I have GREAT sons-in-law.  Not bragging or anything.   

I started my visit on July 5th by staying with my dear childhood friends Diane and her husband Les in Vienna, Virginia.  Tons of memories are recounted, for sure.  Along with all the new and exciting things on everyone's horizons.  We all need new challenges, don't we?

I'm curious, Cozy Chicks Readers and Friends.  Are any of you living apart from most of your family or close friends?  

Monday, July 17, 2017

SUMMER HARVEST CUBAN STEW

By Mary Kennedy 
                                                          
 
This is a wonderful summer recipe and I found it on Anthony Bourdain's show.  It's vegetarian and it wasn't even one of his regular recipes.
 
While visiting in Cuba, he was invited to dinner and the main dish was pork (very popular in Cuba, he said) along with this stew served over rice. The hostess said her daughter was vegetarian and she always kept a big pot of stew on hand for her.                 
 
I tried it and loved it. I made it in the crockpot, and you'll have to guess at the amounts. The main thing is to use all your summer vegetables.
 
I started with about 4 cups of veggie broth (I like the low sodium "Better than Bouillon" kind.)                           
                                                     
 
Then I add chopped zucchini, tomatoes (I'll use canned tomatoes in the winter, but now I'll use fresh), carrots, corn, a cooked, diced sweet potato (to give it some thickness and texture) and raw spinach. I just let it cook down in the crock pot for a few hours.
 
                                                         
The trick, of course, is to use whatever you like. One of my friends makes this every week and adds finely shredded raw cabbage and sweet peppers.
 
This freezes really well and I think I like it better on the second day. Another friends always summer yellow squash, as well as zucchini and she adds a can of tomato soup while it simmers in the crock pot for the last hour.
 
And a touch of Worcestshire sauce is good (just a touch, don't forget, it's VERY salty). And I put in bunches of fresh parsley and freshly ground black pepper. You can add a tiny bit of red pepper flakes for heat, if you like things a little spicy.
 
This is my once-a-week "go-to" recipe and I'm trying to stock the freezer with as many pints of this as I can. I know I'll be glad to have this over the long cold winter.
 
Hope you give this a try!! Bon appetit!
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 14, 2017

What am I doing wrong?

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

Everybody always says that I get good stuff at yard/garage sales. I've had quite a few successes with fun things like teacups, teapots, tea paraphernalia, hand-painted dishes, etc.

Here's a cup I got on Sunday when I happened across a sale in my neighborhood. Got it for a buck.






One of my readers said, "I sure would love to go to a garage sale you have." She would have had that opportunity yesterday except ... it got rained out.  My Mum's neighbor and I have been planning to have a sale for weeks.  For the past two weekends the weathermen said, "40-60% chance of rain" and guess what?  GORGEOUS WEATHER both weekends. So we didn't believe them when they said, "40-60% chance of rain" for yesterday. Wouldn't you know -- it POURED.  Neighbor had to haul her stuff in after only 15 minutes. I had all my stuff in my garage, but after two hours and only a few "customers" I gave up. It's supposed to be 80% chance of rain tomorrow. I don't think I'm going to bother to open. And I don't want to open on Saturday when the weather is supposed to be beautiful because I want to go to a community sale.

Mr. L (who didn't want a garage sale to begin with) is such a great guy. He said, "Keep everything up until next week and try again." (I moved everything around so that he could part his car in the garage and I'll park mine outside.)

But getting back to the sale,  I had the last of the stuff from my Mum's estate--mostly kitchen stuff--in the sale. (I'd been saving it in case my brother bought a condo then he wouldn't have to buy all new kitchen stuff. I don't think that's going to happen because Florida has a LOT of bugs and my Sister-In-Law said, "I'm not going where there are A LOT OF BUGS." Having been to Florida and stayed for a while, I know just how terrifying finding a Palmetto bug next to your bed can be.)

And guess what sold?  My Mum's kitchen stuff. Not the vinyl records, not the DVDs, certainly not the books (not many--I have a real problem parting with books) and not much of anything that was mine. There's good stuff out there, most of which came from my "catch-and-release" program. I bought stuff at sales thinking I could use it and then found I had no place for it. Like that pretty scallop suncatcher. Or the shabby chic roses print. (I actually had two the same and decided to part with one.) Or the lace runners and tablecloths (also duplicates).

Mr. L turned out to be the big winner. He collected old license plates, but when an antiques dealer asked to buy them, he said yes. He would have given them away for Free if I hadn't been there to negotiate. We're talking some (in very good condition) from 1913. (Mr. L doesn't like to haggle.) He made enough money on those license plates for us to have a 2-martini lunch tomorrow.

What did I sell so far? An ornamental shelf (another couldn't find a home for it item), print cartridges for two different printers my cats broke that I had to toss, and a bar of sandalwood soap (it was a three-pack of soaps and sandalwood wasn't my favorite). A grand total of $4 in 2.5 hours.

So I'll be back in the garage soon hoping to find new homes for my old stuff. And if not ... there's always Goodwill.

What's on your treasure list when you hunt for bargains?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why I Began A Hobby In Photography

by Karen Rose Smith




I'm always looking for inspiration. When I'm inspired, writing flows more easily. My interest in photography began with pictures I took on research trips to remember everything about the settings.  It wasn't difficult to take beautiful pictures of the Red Rocks in Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon as well as the sage, columbine, jack rabbits and big horn rams in Wyoming and Montana.  I even managed a photo of a black bear!  Back home, those photos became my screen savers because they brought back memories and helped me add details to my manuscripts I might not have remembered otherwise.



I began taking lots of photos when my BFF visited with her daughter and when close friends visited with their children. Instead of just having the pictures for memories, I ordered prints and for two years filled albums for each of them for a different kind of personal Christmas present they could treasure.



We had two inside cats at that time and I always enjoyed trying to capture their antics.  Now we have four inside felines and two feral strays we are working on socializing.  Most of my photos these days are of all of my cat babies.








In my reader newsletter, I insert photos of our cats, of our gardens, and of the dishes I cook.  That way when a reader asks me about a recipe in my mysteries, I also have a photo to accompany it. I also began shooting photos for my blog and Facebook.  One of my past times is gardening.  Over the years my husband and I have planted seasonal perennials and annuals to keep color blooming from spring through fall.  I usually begin the season with photos of my daffodils, hyacinths and then roses. Soon I found that our hummingbird garden helped me actually take photos of hummingbirds if I was patient.  Butterflies on zinnias were easy to capture.


Memories are precious.  Taking pictures helps me hold onto them as long as possible.  I can honestly say each picture I take enhances my writing because I note that bee on a sunflower, realize the infinite shades of green in my gardens, appreciate the crystalline blue of the sky, the ruff of fur around a cat's neck, a quirky smile on a child.  Seeing and saving photos and filling my mind with the beauty all around me aids the creative process daily and adds richness to my life.





P.S. I use a Cannon Powershot to take almost all of my photos.