Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Can You Believe?

by Maggie Sefton



I had hoped to post more  Maria and John wedding photos for my post today.  I wanted to share them with all of you  Cozy Chicks Blog readers and fans and friends.  However, an unexpected glitch occurred, and I wasn't able to receive daughter Christine's wedding photos in time for today's post.  So, I will have to wait until next Tuesday to share them.


Instead, I will simply remind everyone that Kelly Flynn Mystery #16---DYEING UP LOOSE ENDS---will be published and released for sale this coming June.   It's hard to believe that there are sixteen Kelly Flynn adventures for everyone to enjoy.  :)  

Monday, January 22, 2018

A NEW TWIST ON AN OLD TREAT--DATE TRUFFLES!

By Mary Kennedy                                               

                                                                           

Gray, gloomy days here, but a new recipe can always spice things up! I just came across a fun recipe you may enjoy. It's super-easy and it's Date-Walnut Truffles. 

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cup walnuts
2 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup sliced slmonds
3 Tbs almond butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup sunflower seed
1 cup unsweetened coconut (I couldn't find unsweetened and used the regular kind)

Directions:

Add the walnuts, dates and almonds to a food processor and pulse until the nuts are broken and the dates form a sticky paste. Add almond butter and coconut oil and pulse to combine.
Add the sunflower seeds and 1/4 cup of the coconut and pulse until just combined.
Scoop and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Make sure these are tightly molded by rubbing them between the palms of your hands.

Place remaining coconut on plate and roll balls in coconut, pressing to adhere. Place in sealed container until ready to eat.

These make a great hostess gift, everyone loves them! 

Mary Kennedy




Friday, January 19, 2018

I always wanted a Hummel

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

Apple Tree Girl
Back in the 1970s and 80s, Hummels were hot! At every antique or collectibles establishment you went, there they were--and they weren't cheap. In fact, a cheap one might be about $75.

My ex-sister-in-law loved Hummels, and my mother gave her quite a few of them. I no longer recall what quite a few amounted to, but it was more than I ever got--which was nothing.  I hinted very strongly that I would like one, but ... it never happened. (I remember the first one ex-SIL got was the Apple Tree Girl.)

One of the reasons they struck a chord with me is that Mr. L and I worked with a man whose son made them. Yup. He decided at a young age that he loved Hummels and wanted to work for the factory that made them.  So, he learned to speak fluent German, as well as studied his craft in ceramics--and actually got a job there. Of course, all these years later, I have no idea if he's still there, but it was kinda cool -- and his father sure was proud of him.

But back to Hummels and me.

I never had one. Until last week. Mr. L took me to a thrift shop in a rather tony suburb. This shop opened in October but we only found out about it at Christmastime--when it shut down for a couple of weeks, and I didn't get to go until last week. WOW--can you say sticker shock? But then everything in it was good quality stuff. And they had three Hummels for sale.

The resale market for Hummels has gone right down the toilet. In fact, I read an article online about how it's one of the 10 collectibles that essentially has no secondary-market value. (Anything from Franklin mint comes next.)  But that doesn't mean I didn't want a Hummel.  They're incredibly cute.

Two of the Hummels were in the $35 range--and I wasn't going to lay out that kind of dough, but they had a small one for $12 and I decided to splurge. Isn't she cute?

Now this little tyke lives in one of my china cabinets surrounded by Chintz china cups (which have also lost their market value). I finally have my Hummel. And I bought her with money my mother left me after she passed. Thanks, Mum!

What collectibles do you covet, even if they have no real intrinsic value?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stuffing Closet Shelves!

by Karen Rose Smith




Usually I don't think much about closets. Especially my office closet. It holds supplies, prizes for giveaways, research books, and bags of cat food and treats. Back in the 90's, we built a garage onto our house with my office on top and that's when the closet was established.

I love my office.  It's bright, sunny and practical for working on the computer or taping the latest chapter in my mystery or romance.  But the closet...  I stuff it.  I move things around to make room for whatever I need to shove in next. I intend to reorganize it at least once a year, but somehow that time never comes.








This year the time came.  Two of the shelves collapsed!  Paper is heavier than you think.  So I had no choice to clean out and re-organize.  As you can see from the photos, this closet was set up with organizer shelves.  I would never use them again.  In the closets in the rest of the house, we used good old fashioned wood shelves with wood brackets hammered into the walls.  They are strong and hold up for decades.  These shelves...





While I cleaned out, threw out, and decided what was most important to replace in the closet, hubby got out his electric screw driver, found new brackets (they are plastic) and attempted to reinstate order.  The closet now looks like my office closet should.  Will it last?  Doubtful.








I consider the collapse advantageous.  The closet needed a good once over and straightening.  Now it's done.

How often do you clean out closets?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Let the Games Begin...this is a GAME?


I like board games. Knowing I’m a GOT fan...that’s code for Game of Thrones...my daughter gave me Clue Game of Thrones for Christmas. It’s typical Clue with GOT characters and locations. I got to be Tyrian for the night. That was pretty cool as he is my fave character on the series. His motto is: I drink and I know things. What’s not to like.

We also play Murder She Wrote. Another board game that is simple and fun where you actually have to get up and leave the room. You can see there’s a theme with the games I like...mystery.

So I decided this Christmas to up the game thing and try something a little more challenging. I love Clue and GOT Clue and Murder She wrote. You can break out the chips and dip, pour the wine...this Christmas we seemed to be pouring a lot...and just sit back and have fun.

Well then I bought this game Sherlock, The Consulting Detective. I love anything Sherlock but Lord have mercy and pass the prayer book! This game takes board gaming to a whole new level! It is serious gaming!
To give you an idea it took forty-five minutes to read the directions and even then who knew what the heck they were talking about. So, we jumped in.

It was pretty cool as you had to gather clues of who the killer is by reading newspapers...there are actual newspapers to read. Then you follow locations on a map. There are two detailed maps and a phone directory of London listing characters and their addresses. There are characters all over London and police stations as well.

Talk about involved! There was no chip-dipping or wine drinking. The good thing was that we all worked together to solve the mystery. Someone took notes and we all had to think...boy did we have to think! Clues at the morgue, forensics, alibis, time lines, distances, probability. This was the real deal of crime solving!!

I had never played a game like this before. I write mysteries so when I think this hard I get paid for it!! This took gaming to a whole new level. 

So my question to you is have you ever played one of these serious types of games? I did some research and realize there are many of these more serious types of games out there. Battle Star Galactica, Rebellion...I hear this one takes two hour just to read the directions. I don’t have that much wine on hand.  


Are you a serious gamer or are you pass the chips, pour the wine and get out Clue. I wanna be Colonel Mustard.

Hugs, Duffy


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Family Celebration II

by Maggie Sefton



Today and next week I'll be posting more photos of daughter Maria's wedding December 30.  I hope our regular Cozy Chicks Blog readers and fans won't be bored.  I'm pleading Proud Mother of the Bride excuse.  I simply can't help it.  Again, there is nothing happening in my Book World during January, so there's simply no news to report.  :)


To the left, Maria with her hair "done up" with curls.  :)  



 These photos are all from pre-wedding preparations for the Wedding Party.  Next week I hope to have photos that other family took during the wedding reception.  :)   Daughter Serena---to the right---has naturally curly hair so the  hairdresser had a lot to work with.  :)   Bottom photo is at Roxy's home just before we left for the church.


Maria and Roxy above.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

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

By Mary Kennedy



I was so struck by something my exercise instructor said, I decided it would be a great topic for a blog.  She said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." A wonderful quote by Stephen Covey. 

A deceptively simply, insightful piece of advice, but how often do we follow it? How often do we let a goal slip through our fingers because we get pulled in too many directions, distracted by the everyday minutiae of life?  Why can't we keep our eye on the ball, our eye on the prize?               
                                                                                   

But wishing isn't enough. We need strategies.

What if it were possible to follow Stephen Covey's advice, 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.
                                                                  
                                                                         




Here are two tips I give my clients.
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.
I'll give some more hints in future blogs, but I think less is more for the moment. So try to prioritize and keep a Yes list and see how it goes.  (And I'll do the same.) Until next time...

Mary Kennedy

Friday, January 12, 2018

When something doesn't work

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

Back in October, I put my latest Life On Victoria Square story, It's Tutu Much, for pre-order. But oddly enough, readers didn't seem interested in the story. I wondered if it was just the fact that the holidays were coming up, or if it might be the cover.  My beta readers liked the story and they liked the cover. But when it came to debut day, the pre-orders were 2/3 less than the previous three stories.

Something wasn't right.

I kept focusing on the wrong aspect of the story. I kept thinking it was about the children in the dance class, but the more I thought about it, the story is really about their teacher, Dana Milton.

I asked my review crew what they thought, and they were split. Some like the cover, some thought it looked like it was a children's story.  I didn't like hearing the latter, but I had to listen.  Although it's only been 10 days since the story has been out, the sales went right down the toilet. In fact, I've already had a couple of days without a single sale. That's not good.

So yesterday, I asked the members of my Facebook Group (Lorraine's Perpetual Tea Party -- if you haven't joined--why not???) what they thought of the current cover and a dummy cover I put together.  I'm no Photoshop wiz, and I couldn't get the ballet dancer to stay on a colorful background. After a lot of trial and error, I managed to get her on a gray background.

Readers thought the covers were bland. They wanted color. They wanted a proper tutu. They wanted whimsy. They did NOT want a photo on the cover. The original cover didn't mesh with the other covers in the series.

They were right.

However, that didn't tell me what I needed to convey to my cover designer. So, I decided to let her decide what to do. I told her what the readers said, I showed her what I had done, and let her play with it.

I love what she came up with. It's whimsical, it's bright, there's color -- and the ballet and tap shoes say there's more than just one kind of dance being taught in this studio.

Being quickly able to correct something like this is one of the best things about being an indie author.  Had this been a traditionally published story, it would have been stuck with a "bad" cover for eternity. I was able to turn it around in less than two weeks from publication.

Now, see if you're more interested in the story.
 
 Dana Milton opens a dance studio on Victoria Square. Can she teach her students kindness,  respect, and shuffling off to Buffalo, or is it all tutu much?

Kindle | Kindle Worldwide

NookKobo  | iBooks


What do you think?

-----------------------------------------------------

P.S.  On our Cozy Chicks Facebook Group Page, our reader, Zaida Nightingale, has a cooking challenge going on. Every week for the rest of the year, she'll be making a recipe from The Cozy Chicks Kitchen.  Tune in to see what she's making this week!





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thinking About Spring

by Karen Rose Smith


When Pennsylvania is in the middle of ice and snow, I think of Spring!!! Seriously, it's the way I get through the winter.  With my outside time limited, I think of the plants I can start inside. I have two grow lights and heat pads in the basement. (The two strays we care for make use of one in the winter so I have to leave room for them!)






My favorite petunias to grow are Purple Pirouettes and Red Pirouettes.  They are a flashy flower and look beautiful in pots, hanging baskets, or in a protected area in the garden. Sometimes there are variations on the colors in the seed packet and they are happy surprises. But the sun also changes their colors.








Snapdragons also need to be started by the end of January.  Again I have my favorites.  I like unusual ones I can't find in the garden centers or nurseries around Hanover.  We lost one of our garden centers that had the unusual in herbs as well.  What I like about Spring is that we can purchase flowers and herbs from small local businesses. These are Appleblossom Twinny Snapdragons and they make a terrific border flower as well as grow healthily in pots.



 I usually plant profusion zinnias in peat pots in February.  They are a slow grower.  They reach their full potential and beauty with plenty of bushiness in August.  They come in several color varieties--white, yellow, coral, red and pink. These flowers also change hues with the amount of sun they absorb.  Especially the coral ones.



I also grow heirloom tomatoes.  Hubby insists we could buy bushel baskets of them to cook to freeze for winter with less expense, but I prefer knowing that my tomatoes are pesticide free and I can eat the skin!  Nothing is better than using that first lush tomato on a salad or burger.  I like yellow ones for less acid both in cherry tomatoes and larger ones.  I usually choose varieties that can grow into a pound.  That makes cooking and freezing take less time. 


When I ordered seeds in December, I forgot to order marigolds.  But they are a flower that can be planted anytime after mid May.  I start some inside to use in pots since I plant those first.  But last summer, I just put ground in smaller flower pots, sprinkled them with marigold seeds, watered them and put them in sunlight.  They grew into beautiful pots of flowers.


How do you THINK SPRING???

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

High School...loved it or not so much


When my kids went to high school and junior high before that I told them... If you can survive these next six years you can survive anything.


IMHO high school is horrible...unless you’re into sports. High school is sports mania. I have never understood this as team sports are not my thing and watching someone else play a team sport is really not my thing but back to high school and liking it.

Maybe it’s the time of life. Puberty is never a good thing with raging hormones but mostly I don’t much like high school ‘cause the kids are mean. Okay, they are nice to their friends but if you’re not their friend all bets are off.

I asked my son what would he do differently if went back to high school and he said, I’d stand up to the bullies who picked on the other kids. He wasn’t picked on, my son was kind of like the Fonz in high school. And from what I heard he did stand up to bullies I guess he just didn’t do it enough.

My middle daughter hated high school. She was an artsy-fartsy kind of kid and talk about not fitting in, well she was the poster kid for not fitting in. What saved her was that in her senior year she got the heck out of high school at least every afternoon and took college classes at the University of Cincinnati. She saw there was life...a really good life...beyond high school. College is so much better!

My youngest daughter did this too. IMHO again I think kids should be able to get through in 3 years and then go on to college, or take a gap year or whatever. Four years of that torture is enough.


So how was high school for you? Love it, want to burn it to the ground?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Family Celebration I

by Maggie Sefton


Maria and John following the wedding ceremony at Mary Magdalene Anglican Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.  


Last week and weekend, our Family gathered in the Washington, DC area to celebrate
my youngest daughter Maria's wedding to her fiance John.  Maria and John have known each other and worked together in the Defense Department for several years.  They were already friends, and I've always believed those relationships provide some of the best beginnings for marriage.






At left, Maria at her friend Roxy's house in Washington, DC before Roxy drove her and Matron of Honor,  Serena, to the church the morning of the wedding, December 30th.  




Our Family always has a great time whenever we get together,  and this occasion was another opportunity.
This Tuesday and next Tuesday, I'll be sharing photos of the occasion.














This is a great time to share photos.  Frankly, there's nothing happening in my "book world" at the moment.  January is usually a great month for new beginnings and news.  But this year, I completely relaxed into only family activities.  I certainly hope our wonderful Cozy Chicks readers and friends and fans won't be bored.  :)  

Monday, January 8, 2018

THE TRUTH ABOUT NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

By Mary Kennedy                         
                                                                             

Let's face it. New Year's Day is already a memory. But what happened to those lofty resolutions you planned to make? Did you really make them? 

I asked a group of friends to fess up about their resolutions. I should preface this by saying that I've already given up on the whole idea of resolutions, even though I've written articles about them for health publications in the past.
                                                                                
Why do I feel so glum, so pessimistic about them?

Here are a few startling stats.  Only 8 percent of people stick to their resolutions. Most people abandon their resolutions by the end of January! And if you ask them to list their resolutions three months later, they can't even remember them. Ouch. That says a lot.

But getting back to my circle of friends, they finally admitted that their "goals" might be too extreme. One wanted to become a vegan and she's not even a vegetarian. (I urged to take "baby steps." It's hard to change the eating habits of a lifetime and she seems to be a confirmed carnivore.)
                                                                           

Another was going to go for a 3 mile run every single morning before heading out to work. Did it happen? No! The blizzard pummeling us here in the northeast threw a wrench in her plans. Maybe she'll start the "running habit" when the weather improves, or maybe she will have lost interest in it.
Another was going to give up all "bad carbs" forever. Yes, forever.

                                                                              

Forever has a pretty scary sound to it. Why not just limit the amount of bad carbs? Control portion size or save them for special occasions.

Most of my friends' resolutions seem to center on diet and exercise. And they admitted that they make the same resolutions year after year.  

One friend said she was going to give up pasta. All forms of pasta. Yet I know she enjoys a big family meal at her mother-in-law's house every Sunday and home-made pasta is the main dish. Yes, she can nibble at a salad, but will she? Really? She's also sworn off bread, so she can't even have the delicious home-made bread her mother-in-law serves with the meal.
                                                                       

I urged her to think of Sunday dinner as a "treat" day. Something special, something to look forward to. She should be able to enjoy a nice plate of pasta once a week without feeling guilty. All she has to do is think about portion control and not eat pasta the other six days. She admits that pasta is her trigger, her "kryptonite," so she really does have to limit it. One bowl will lead to three, if she's not careful!

How about you? Have you given up on the whole idea of resolutions, as I have, or do you still make a few? I'd love to hear from you!

Mary Kennedy

Friday, January 5, 2018

Hurry April

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

This time last year, Mr. L and I were snowbirds for the first (and possibly last) time.  Of course, the current weather (with temps as low as the 30s) in Clearwater, would have made it rather unpleasant.  When you have cats, rental possibilities aren't that frequent and we were STUCK with a terrible rental house.  (The world's most uncomfortable beds, a house surrounded by millions of LIZARDS, and nightly kitchen visits from palmetto bugs, who usually died overnight -- but not always. That was the house from hell.)

Paid $2 for these three cocktail shakers for Mr. L's collection.
Good things?  HGTV. Publix. The Cricketer English Pub. And thrift shops and yard sales. There were scores of thrift stores near where we lived, and we visited every one. And then eagerly searched the online listing for sales in our area.  We learned Clearwater pretty quick driving around town looking for sales.

Our first weekend there, we went to five yard sales and a rummage sale.  IN JANUARY.  Now that's one part of the Florida lifestyle I could get used to in a hurry. We won't see a yard sale here until at least mid- to late April. *Sigh*

A prize from my holiday FB event.
No doubt about it, I'm a collector of many different items, but I also subscribe to the "catch and release" program. When I had a booth in an antiques arcade, I would buy stuff, live with it for a while, and then sell it. Now ... I mostly give stuff away.

I especially collect teacups and occasionally give them to readers via events on my Facebook. I should give away more of them, but have you seen the weather?  I haven't taken my car out of the garage since before Christmas. I probably won't need gas until at least March. But getting to the PO this time of year is proving to be a problem.

A rummage sale find.
Another problem I have with all this stuff is storing it so I can actually see it. I'd be giving it away. Wayfair had a great sale on storage cabinets back on Black Friday and I thought I had ordered one. But apparently I didn't finish all the steps.  Say goodbye to that cabinet.  They don't stock it anymore. It was perfect for a spot in my basement. Haven't found anything the right size since. Right now most of the teacups and plates are carefully wrapped in paper and sitting in boxes. I don't have x-ray vision, so to find everything, I need to haul them all out and unwrap them. Kind of messy. I need to come up with a new system.

I love cookbooks and last summer I bought more than 24 of them. I sorted through them the other day and today those that didn't make the cut (for one reason or another)  are going to the Friends of the Library bookshop. (When I left Florida, I left another 10-15 of them at my favorite thrift shop so that someone else could enjoy them.) They cost as little as a quarter and as much as a dollar and gave me many hours of pleasure.

If you'd like to see some of my yard sale treasures, you can find them on one of my Pinterest boards.  This one is called (funny enough) "My Yards Sale Finds."

For now, I'm going to start dreaming about the upcoming yard sale season. Maybe I'll write a short story about going to yard sales so I can live vicariously through a character.

What do you look for at yard sales?