Saturday, April 25, 2015

YORKSHIRE SCONES--A VINTAGE TREAT

by Mary Kennedy                                
 
 
Yorkshire is known for its beautiful countryside, amazing views and rustic stone walls. And if you're looking for some first-rate comfort food, I'd like to suggest a treat from my British mother-in-law. Yorkshire scones. They are delicious and possibly addictive. She hosted a family "tea" when I first visited the UK and graciously gave me the recipe. Platters of these fresh-from-the-oven scones appeared at the tea party and were immediately gobbled up.
                                                           
 
The recipe is super-easy and I bet you have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.
 
Ingredients
 
·         3 cups flour (regular, all-purpose flour)
·         1 tablespoon baking powder
·         1 cup (2 sticks) butter, let butter soften at room temperature
·         1/4 cup sugar
·         3 eggs
·         1/3 cup of milk—I actually use a little more than this. I start with 1/3 cup and then add a little more, a tablespoon at a time. No more than ½ cup milk total. I couldn’t get the dough to hold together with the 1/3 cup amount listed in the recipe.
·         1/2 cup sultanas (I use a mix of raisins, craisins and chopped dates. Whatever  I happen to have)
 
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour and baking powder.   I don’t have a sifter, I just use a mesh strainer and tap it.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar, beating until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the flour mixture and the milk. Sprinkle the raisins/dates, etc over the dough and gently fold them in.
 Drop by “mounds” on a baking sheet. You can sprinkle them with a couple of tablespoons of sugar, if you like.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Note: I tried rolling these out and using a cookie cutter, and they weren’t as good. I think I handled the dough too much and it made it tough. The original “drop” recipe is all you need.
 
                                                               
 
 My mother-in-law served these with butter and home-made peach jam. The scones freeze really well (assuming there are any left over to freeze!) Good luck, and I hope you enjoy them.
 
Mary Kennedy

 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bling!

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

I never gave a flying fig for clothes. (You won't find any designer togs in my closet.) But in the last few years, I've started wearing jewelry. (Again, you won't find anything worth half a mil in my jewelry box.)



I've always been a sucker for rings and wear them on all eight fingers. Currently, the count is 13, and mostly silver with 2 aberrations; of those 13, six were made by my Dad. two silver, four stainless steel. (My buckle ring belonged to my great-grandmother.)

Lately, I've been buying bracelets. Usually I get them at yard sales, but Ive bought a few from the gift shop of a fantastic independent hotel that has a marvelous restaurant. The most I've paid for a bracelet was $16--and was extremely upset when my wrist turned green!

Mr. L bought these pretty bangles and gave them to me for my last birthday.  He found them in the Smithsonian catalog. Aren't they pretty?

Last summer, I bought a bunch of necklaces; beads, mostly. Red, blue, purple, black. A few years back, Ellery gave me a gorgeous necklace of jet beads. It's one of my favorites. Another favorite is a heart-shaped pendant Mr. L gave me for Christmas. It's made of silver and broken china.  (You can wear it as a pin, too.)

What kind of bling do you like to wear?




Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ten ingredients I can’t do without in the kitchen




Uh oh.  I know how Old Mother Hubbard feels: this week the cupboard was bare. Recently we had a bit of drama around here and got behind on our regular shopping. By the end of the week, the fridge was looking lonely. The pantry had a lonely echo. Even though I had lots of pasta, canned goods and spices, I realized that the small things we count on to make a quick and tasty meal were … well, nowhere to be found.   There was hardly a recipe or technique that didn’t call for one or more of them.  

We try not to eat prepared foods and make an effort to minimize salt and sugar. We use our favorites to ramp up flavor. We’ve gotten used to eating this way and made-from-scratch may take a bit longer, but it’s better value and better for us. In fact, we have a dozen meals we could whip up in less time that it would take the pizza delivery guy to get here. 

 In a tip of the hat to the truth, I will admit that I do have my take out and fast food faves, but that’s a different blog post entirely!

So here are the top ten for us:

Lemons – we use them in many dishes savory and sweet. The zest perks up baking and the juice is a friend to chicken, pork and veggies



Green onions – we love their flavor, lightly cooked or au naturel. and parsley – thanks, Parsley, for the hint of color and that perky taste in salads, veggies and anything sautéed.  





With Dijon mustard (and its cousin old-fashioned grainy): a little goes a long way, but we love traveling with it.


  

Thyme – my favorite herb, fresh and dried finds its way into many meals. We love the aroma and the price is right.


Garlic – seen here hiding shyly in its keep fresh container 




Extra virgin olive oil – one stop shopping for us for everything except high-heat cooking.



Maple syrup – this is a local product that can improve salad dressing, ice cream, icing, marinades. 

 

Chicken stock (we freeze it in muffin tins – ½ cup each) - it's not too photogenic!

Peppers – red, yellow or green!  Salad sautees and snacks



For some reason, I’m hungry now.  But before I chow down, what are your necessary kitchen ingredients and favorite tastes? We do come here to share, my friends.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The best time of your life...


Duffy Brown here and my daughter just turned the big 4-0. We did the dinner out thing and presents and cupcakes and sang but when we got ready to go home I turned to her and said... Emily, the forties are best years of your life! I wasn’t just being supportive because she’s getting older I meant it.

Here’s the thing

When you are in your twenties you’re thrilled your crush finally asked you out, you have no idea what a 401K is, you got the job of your dreams and a week later hate it. Every time you open the mail there’s a wedding/shower/bachelorette invitation or maybe all three and you don’t have a date and can’t afford a new dress.

Your bestie just broke up with her guy, you just broke up with your guy, your just married and hate your in-laws, new apartment, found out your pregnant and thinking what the heck have I done!

The twenties are indecision, deciding and deciding wrong, or deciding right and wondering is this all there is for the next ninety years?

Personally I wouldn’t be twenty again for all the tea in China.

Then there’s the thirties. Life is more meaningful, more established, more fulfilling, more stable.  You have fewer fights, cry less and make fewer bad decisions. You have less fun because life is more predictable and less spur-of-the-moment because you have a real job, a house a car and maybe a kid.
The kid thing is the real life-changer. You trade independence for craziness and no sleep and the five minute shower. You have everything you dreamed of those nights coming home from a bar when no one asked for your number, crying yourself to sleep because you felt so alone. In fact, you never feel alone and what you once prayed for sometimes feels  like a curse.
Most days are a blur of alarm, kids, shower, kids, breakfast (maybe), coffee (definitely), kids, car, road rage, kids singing "Wheels on the Bus," daycare, work, work, lunch (at your desk), dinner, bath time, bedtime, TV, glass of wine (much-needed), sleep (interrupted by to-do-list, kid crying, partner snoring, etc.)

Then there’s the forties! The best part of being forty-
something is that you finally feel comfortable in your own skin. You know who you are and you’re good with it. You’re calmer about challenges and function better in relationships. You look better than you did when you were twenty ‘cause you got more money to join the gym, buy clothes and the kids are sleeping through the night. 

You’re quicker to say I'm sorry, slower to linger in spaces that feed you, and generally liberated from 80 percent of the shoulda-woulda-couldas that dominated your life before. You are who you and that’s just fine.


So, what do you think? Did I tell Emily the truth? Are the forties your best years of your life? 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't Miss This Movie

by Maggie Sefton


I know I posted about recent movies not that long ago, but I really wanted to mention the movie I saw this past Saturday evening.  WOMAN IN GOLD is a wonderful and True Life story of one woman's fight to have her rightful family property returned to her years and years after it was stolen from her family in pre-World War II  Vienna, Austria.   DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE.

Maria Altmann grew up in a successful and wealthy home in Vienna during those years preceding World War II.  She was close to her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose painting by the famous artist Gustav Klimt, hung in their family home.  She and her family even managed to celebrate her wedding to an accomplished young tenor opera singer, despite the sight of Nazi Stormtroopers marching in the streets below their windows.  Unfortunately, since Maria's family were wealthy Jewish Austrians, the Nazis began slowly tightening the noose of control they established in Vienna.  Maria and her young husband were able to escape with the help of friends, but her parents did not.  And the art-filled Vienna apartment was stripped bare of its artistic  treasures.   Helen Mirren portrays Maria Altmann.

The "Woman in Gold" as the Austrians referred to the painting became the "Mona Lisa of Austria."  And this movie details the struggle Maria and her young American lawyer engaged in over a period of many years to seek justice-----and have the painting returned to Maria's family.  It is a WONDERFUL film, and I wish every young person and Millenial could see this film.  I sense their knowledge of World history, particularly of that period leading up to World War II, isn't that extensive.  This film presents real-life world history in a riveting and fascinating movie.  A painless way to learn about an important period of history.   I'm a big believer in that old adage:  "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."



On a side note----many readers and bloggers have asked for a picture of me during the wedding in my
"Fire Engine Red" dress.  All of the photos I posted last week were ones I took, so naturally I didn't take a photo of myself.  :)   So, I asked my daughters if they had a photo on their phones, and yes----Maria found one.  :)   So, I'm posting it here.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

TO BE (DONATED) OR NOT TO BE? THAT IS THE QUESTION.


I have a hard time letting go of things. Whether they be clothes, art work, books, shoes, or just coffee cups, I somehow become attached emotionally.  It takes a lot of effort combined with a lack of storage space to make me part with my belongings.



It’s not that I don’t want to donate and let others enjoy nice things, it’s that there is such sentiment behind them that I feel sad letting them go. Not everything, naturally.  But I was going through my closet to purge it of winter clothes and  discovered several dress jackets and blouses that I haven’t worn in years.  Why did I keep them when I passed them right by each time I was looking for a dressy outfit? Because they weren’t in style. But my husband had chosen many of them with or for me and that was a huge reason why I couldn’t release them.

I did, however, suck it up and finally made a significant pile of many of those precious articles of clothing to go to my church’s resale shop. And now there’s room in my closet for new things! It’s a win/win situation. 

When I downsized, I had to get rid of a cabinet full of mismatched coffee mugs collected over the years. Each one had meaning but I simply didn’t need them all or want to store them. So out most of them went.

Same with bookshelves full of hardback books that my husband and I had collected. Many weren’t my tastes but they were beautiful volumes that he and I loved. I ended up donating them to the local library for their book sale, keeping just a handful of classics that I couldn’t bear to part with.

I am by no means a pack rat. In fact, I’m the opposite of that. I have only a few well chosen–but sentimental items on display in my house and my cabinets and closets are models of organization. So I don’t understand why I make such sentimental attachment to belongings. In my rational mind, I know they are just “things” and don’t really matter. And yet some things” do matter, says my emotional mind.

I should ask my Cozy Chick buddy Mary Kennedy to explain. Mary is a forensic psychologist and usually has wisdom to share.


Are you that way about your belongings? Do you hold onto your things or are you a “one year and done” buyer?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We Need a Special Holiday for Eugene!

by Leann

Political candidates for an election more than a year and a half from now are announcing they are running and I'm unsure if it's just me, but are we already seeing political ads? Ads that are mean-spirited and filled with half truths? I believe we are. The late night comedians are already on it, so I think so.

First of all, we need to have a holiday honoring the person who invented the "mute" button for the TV. You have probably never heard of him, but from the small amount of research I did, it was a man named Eugene Polley of the Zenith Radio Corporation. He is credited with creating the first wireless TV remote that could turn off the sound on the television.

Never in all the years that I have used a remote control have I ever exercised my right to shut people up as much as I do during the way-too-long political season. Those expensive ads are annoying at the very least but it's come to the point that we are listening to lies being delivered as truth--or perhaps we always have. What would happen if they used that campaign money to actually get something done? The congress is getting NOTHING done, so we need a new system.

The candidates could have their same old fundraisers but rather than spend millions on false advertising they would use the money raised to fix bridges and roads, maybe repair buildings that are so old they collapse and kill people. They could build new schools and re-fund libraries so they can afford the newest technology. We could watch newscasters (real newscasters, not celebrities) report on what each candidate was doing with the money they raised. Helping the poor? Funding research to cure a horrible disease?

When it's all over and we've watched each candidate actually DO something, then we can vote on who we thought did the best job and helped the country the most. Yes, I'm a dreamer. So that mute button will be put to work yet again. Sigh.

What about you? What are you thoughts on how we can change a very broken system? Any ideas? I don't know about you, but I'm tired of people talking and talking not doing anything.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

THE MAIN THING IS TO KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING

by Mary Kennedy                            
                                                            
 
I was so struck by this quote from Stephen Covey, I decided to write a blog about it. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. What if it were possible to do this, every single day?
 
Think of all the obstacles you could eliminate.  No more procrastination, no more second guessing yourself, no more false starts, no more wasted time. You wouldn't be at loose ends when you start your day because you would have a blueprint right in front of you. It would be simple. No more dithering about, wondering what to do. You would just do THE MAIN THING.
 
 
How would you "operationalize" this concept? (to use another Stephen Covey term). Here are a few hints I've shared with my clients when they've  asked for help with setting and accomplishing their goals.
 
1. Prioritize. This is a snap, now that you know you are going to be focusing on "the main thing," no matter what it is. It doesn't matter whether it's writing a novel, following through with a daily exercise plan or organizing your paperwork. Prioritizing--or keeping your eye on the prize--will pay off big-time.
 
2. Remember to keep an absolute YES list by the phone.  This is an important adjunct to place to Covey's strategy.  If someone calls you with a request (no matter how tempting or worthwhile), you simply must decline...unless it fits in with THE MAIN THING. You can't let yourself be distracted if you are serious about concentrating on the main thing. Say yes to things connected to the main thing, say no to everything else. Yes, I know personal emergencies come up and life takes some twists and turns, but for the most part, your day is predictable. How you spend your time is up to you. At least your "free" time.
 
3.You should feel a sense of peace and calm descend on you. Now that you have a goal and a road map, there should be less stress, less chaos in your life. A burden has been lifted. Your focus today is simple: just do the main thing! Everything else is a distraction. When you fall into bed at night, you should feel a sense of accomplishment. You are one day closer to your goal. Why? Because you did the main thing.
 
4. There are loads of other tips in Covey's books. Start the day by doing the hardest task, divide a task into do-able pieces, take short breaks to reward yourself, etc.
                                                         
 
But nothing compares to his concept of the MAIN THING. I hope you write down what you want to accomplish and ask yourself if you are *really* making it a priority in your life. Is it really the main thing? Or are you frittering away your time watching TV, chatting with friends, or spending too much time on social media?  This is a time for total honesty. Try it and let me know how it works out!
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, April 17, 2015

Make it before the weather gets too hot!

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

Doesn't everybody like comfort food?  Mr. L and I like certain dishes at certain times of the year. In winter, we love his meatloaf and my toad in the hole. (Which has been called many other things; pigs in a blanket; sausage and Yorkshire pudding; Zeppelins on a cloud ....) Soon we'll be giving up these cold weather favorites for our favorite summer dishes. (Actually, we eat it in the summer, too--but usually only on rainy days.)

It's easy, and only has 5-6 ingredients.

1 cup flour
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
10 - 12 breakfast sausage links (or whatever kind of sausage you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil (if needed)

In a small mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and stir.  Gradually whisk in the milk, then the eggs (1 by 1) until the ingredients are mixed.  Let rest it at least half an hour to an hour at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 410F.

In an iron skillet, brown the sausage.   These days, sausage doesn't have a lot of fat, and you need fat for the batter to puff up. I add about two tablespoons to the pan while browning the sausage. Turn up the heat under the sausage so that the oil splatters (I always wear an apron). When the oil is hot, you're ready to add the batter.  You HAVE to do this quickly.  Pour the batter over the sausage and get that pan into the oven PDQ; if you don't, the batter won't puff up.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.  Serve from the skillet (and it will be hot -- so you might want to use two potholders wrapped around the handle to get it out of the oven).

It will feed 4, but usually the two of us scarf it up.  For some reason, we always serve it with peas.


What's your favorite comfort food?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Please welcome the honeymooners!


 Well, sort of!  When I looked out the window at the little clump of crocus on our bare patch of brown lawn after five months of white stuff, my heart leaped. 


By Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott





The ducks were back!  The happy couple waddled along, into our overflowing drainage ditch and up toward the little patch of crocus.  Judging from their body language, they're still head over webbed feet over each other.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that it's the same happy pair that spent the spring with us last year. 



Of course, I was supposed to be working on The Hammett Hex, our fifth book collector mystery, but the ducks took over my thoughts. Who can concentrate with love in the air?

Love is in the air!

They were kind of interested in me, although I must have seemed fairly deranged, crawling over the damp hibernating grass with the camera in one hand, tossing bits of Ryvita.  There were no takers.

My hubby tried to entice them with lettuce, but I remembered from last year that they were too fancy for that.

We'll see what we can find for them tomorrow. It sure did make my day to see these sweet little mallards on the move.  They did get within eight feet of the front door. Last year they tried to walk in to the surprise of Daisy the Dachshund.



They meandered off when my neighbor's ancient cat (Mousie) teetered over to rub his white fur on my black pants. The joke's on him. These aren't my good pants. They're my 'crawling after the ducks to get a photo' pants.  

I'm looking forward to tomorrow and sooner or later, maybe some fluffy little ones swimming after mum and dad.  

What about you? Signs of spring in your area?  Any ducks? Other returning friends?  What do you feed them?  If you live in an area without our kind of spring, what is happening? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The April 2015 Report


* * * * * * * * * *
Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report: April 2015. This month we have two recently released new series for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio
Series: Book Club #1
Publisher: Obsidian
Amy-Faye Johnson’s book club, the Readaholics, enjoys guessing whodunit in mysteries like The Maltese Falcon. But when a murder happens in their midst, they discover that solving crimes is harder that reading about them.

Amy-Faye has always loved her idyllic Rocky Mountain town of Heaven, Colorado. Her event-planning business is thriving, her fellow book-obsessed Readaholics are great, and her parents live only a few blocks away. But lately her hometown has felt a little less heavenly. First, she agrees to plan a wedding without realizing the groom is her ex-boyfriend. Then, Ivy, one of her fellow Readaholics, dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances.

The police rule Ivy’s death a suicide by poisoning, but Amy-Faye and the remaining Readaholics suspect foul play. Amy-Faye soon discovers that Ivy was hiding dangerous secrets—and making deadly enemies. Taking a page from her favorite literary sleuths, Amy-Faye is determined to find the real killer and close the book on this case. But finding the truth could spell her own ending.
This was a very enjoyable debut novel featuring Amy-Faye and her friends. When a friend dies unexpectedly, Amy-Faye does not believe that it was a case of suicide, but rather murder and it is her strong conviction that forces the handsome detective to look more into her friend’s death. The author did a great job in presenting this evenly paced mystery that quickly became a page-turner as the unfolding drama was hard to put down. The ensemble cast of characters, each with their own unique style, meshed wonderfully in their efforts to help Amy-Faye and her pursuit of finding the truth. This was a good mystery and I enjoyed how it all played out with the apprehension of the killer. Amy-Faye is very likable and I applauded at the action she took towards one of the event she was hosting. This is a welcomed addition to the cozy genre and I look forward to more adventures with Amy-Faye and her friends.

You can visit Laura at www.lauradisilverio.com




Threads of Deceit by Mae Fox and Jan Fields
Series: Vineyard Quilt #1
Publisher: Annie’s
Former antiquities bounty hunter, Julie Ellis, is on the run, trying to stay one stiletto step ahead of her past. She accepts a position as manager of the Quilt Haus Inn in Missouri wine country, thinking it the perfect place to keep a low profile and start a new, less-dangerous career. It is—until Daniel Franklin walks through the door and asks for a room.

Daniel claims he’s come to Straussberg in search of a famous sunken ship that he believes is buried in a nearby farm field. Julie finds the handsome historian’s story odd at best, but when a dead body is discovered at the proposed dig site, it becomes clear somebody else believes the theory and doesn’t want the ship or its secrets exposed. Who in the town would possibly care about the old shipwreck? As frightening things start to happen at the inn—all seemingly connected to the hunt for the missing ship—Julie and her quilting friends must unearth the truth before someone else is buried.
I like it. More than a sunken ship is discovered when a dead body is found and seeking some excitement Julie plays amateur sleuth and uncovers a whole lot of holes let to be dug up. I love the writing style and the comfortable tone in this whodunit that was enjoyable. The author has a way with the written word that let me play along with the characters. The mystery was good as it kept me closely watching all the action as one-by-one the suspect list was narrowed to a few with some twists that caught me unawares. Julie is very likable as is her BFF Hannah. She is surrounded by Millie who may have sporadic appearances, Shirley who I adore, Inga who just needed the right moment and of course I hope we get to see more of Daniel. This was a fun read and I can’t wait to read the next book in this delightfully charming debut series. Bonus quilt pattern is included.

You can visit Jan at www.janfields.com



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Full On" Texas Wedding. . . Full On Fun!

by Maggie Sefton


What a wonderful wedding!  Daughter Serena and new husband Jeff arranged  all sorts of great ranch activities for both families, and we were all there to celebrate the event.  What Fun!  Lots of happy and friendly relatives on both sides enjoying the great spring weather at Jeff's aunt/uncles's ranch in the Hill Country of Texas.  Beautiful tree-filled setting, and the weather cooperated.  Serena wanted an overcast day but no rain.  That way everyone's makeup wouldn't melt.  :)


There was delicious Texas Barbeque and music from a great group of Texas musicians who played all sorts of favorites.  Plus the talented fiddler played Serena's choice of Wedding processional----Ashokan Farewell.  Hauntingly beautiful.  We all had a wonderful time.  Here are some photos-----




                                                                                   

Bridesmaids----









          




                                                                                             
                                Beautiful setting amidst the trees-------



                                                                      

                                                                                    






                 --------a great Country Band & fantastic fiddler!















                                                                                                                                                        
          ---------Bride and Groom  :)