Friday, February 23, 2018

Everybody needs to eat

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

Yesterday, I received the Foodlink annual report. Why would I get this?  Because I send them an annual donation of a certain amount. With the report was a notice saying that I have been added to their Leadership Circle.


I don't take this lightly. I've been very interested in food instability ever since I wrote the third Booktown Mystery, Bookplate Special (which went on to be nominated for the coveted Agatha Award).  While writing it, I mentioned to a friend that I was including Dumpster diving, and she suggested not only that I add a food pantry, but that I talk to her mother who just so happened to run one only a mile from my home.  I hadn't even known the Greece Ecumenical Food Shelf was there. It's not a secret, but it's not all that well known, either.

The idea that senior citizens and children go hungry on a regular basis in my community really hit home.

As part of the Leadership Circle, I can attend special events and receptions, personal tours, breakfast with the leadership team, and insider updates.  I want to make a point of taking advantage of some of these opportunities. Does that mean I will write more about it?  Maybe--maybe not. But I like the fact that I can make an impact in my community.

The sad fact, is that I need to make that impact because these seniors and little kids have no other options than to depend on charity to eat on a regular basis. It's a sobering thought. I feel so lucky that I have never needed these kinds of resources.

But I can remember a time when there was nothing in my house to eat. I'd just bought my first home and money was tight. I went through my fridge, found something in the back of it--scraped off the mold and that was my dinner. (My parents would have been appalled.) I wouldn't want anyone else to have to do that ... but I'm sure it happens every day and not far from where I live a comfortable life.

Have you ever donated to a food pantry?  (If not, I hope you'll consider doing so.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Pasta Favorites

by Karen Rose Smith

What’s your favorite type of pasta? 

While growing up, my mom and grandma introduced me to pasta making—spaghetti, lasagna and ravioli. I tried it once but then decided that buying pasta suited our lifestyle better.  Pasta has always been a comfort food for me.  It reminds me of ravioli-making in my mom’s kitchen, as well as friends and neighbors around the dining room table enjoying a pasta meal together. 

I usually make meat dishes with pasta.  A dietitian told me protein with carbs is the best way to eat because it’s helpful in preventing sugar spikes.  She also surprised me with the news that leftover pasta warmed up has less carbs. 

There are many varieties of pasta these days that not only differ in size and shape but in the ingredients used to make the noodles.  From egg noodles developed only with egg whites to vegetable penne in many colors and lasagna that can be used straight from the box in a crock pot or oven without boiling it, a cook can find a colorful pasta or one to suit dietary needs on the grocery shelf.  

Also in specialty shops, I can find unusual pastas.  I have a friend who often gives me a unique pasta for Christmas.  I’ve received cat face shaped pasta, colorful fettuccini and this year rainbow-like farfalle pasta. 

Last evening I prepared a beef/onion soup with the farfalle pasta.  It made a tasty, even pretty dish that I would serve guests.  

Does your family enjoy pasta?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

You the author

Cozy mysteries have themes. My Cycle Path series is a bike shop owner and in my Consignment Shop series Reagan owns the Prissy Fox consignment shop. There are yarn shops, fabric shops, fudge theme cozies, hairdresser cozies, and on and on.

My question to you is... Is there a theme you’d like to see that you haven’t run across? Or a theme that’s been done but you’d like to have more?

And what about locations? It seems like the south is done to death so is there another location that you’d like to visit in a cozy mystery? A place you visited and thought... this would be an amazing place to set a cozy?

And what about foreign locations? Would you want to see a cozy set in Italy? Spain? France?
And then there’s the age thing. Do you like the main character to be old? Young? Middle aged? And what about gender? Do you like the sleuth to be a gal or are you up to a guy taking it on?

I think a lot of themes are so overdone and locations the same and I have no use for the perfect sleuth who makes no mistakes and is always picture perfect and eats healthy and goes to the gym would rather eat her shoe that snatch a candy bar.

So how do you feel about any of these things? If you were going to write a cozy mystery where would you set it? How old would your main character be? What theme would you use?

Monday, February 19, 2018


by Mary Kennedy                                         

Last week, I wrote I devoted my blog to "cats for emotional support to nursing home residents" and detailed a few of my experiences. If you missed it, you can read it right here. I talked about Lucky (pictured above) and what a wonderful "therapy pet" she was, always calm, quiet and appreciative of any and all attention. And who could resist that cute little face with such an intelligent expression! She was a rock star when I tied a little blue scarf around her neck and took her for visits.

Here is Shadow, another calm cat. I could pick him up and he would immediately snuggle next to me, purring happily.

I hope some of you have been inspired to visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities with your cat (or dog) and here are a few tips I've picked up along the way.

 I learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share with you.
  • Cats can be wonderful therapy animals because they provide a sense of peace and contentment. Lucky knew how to live “in the moment,” and seemed to enjoy every situation she was in. The residents were happy to see her, no matter what she was doing, even if she was just sitting on a windowsill, bird-watching or taking a quick cat nap.
  • Residents love spending time with cats because it gives them a sense of companionship they once had and brings back happy memories.
  • Be mindful that some residents might be allergic to cats and be sure to check with the social worker, activity director or nursing supervisor before bringing a cat onto the unit.
  • Be sure to ask a resident if you may bring your visiting cat into their room. The resident might be in pain, tired, or just having a bad day. Always be respectful of their privacy.
  • Don’t allow the residents to give treats to your cat, unless you have already modified your cat’s diet to allow treats. Weight gain in cats is a serious issue.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. About fifteen minutes is enough time for a cat to visit in a resident’s room. I always would visit the “activity room” at the end of the morning, so everyone would have a chance to enjoy Lucky.
You’ll be surprised how much you’ll look forward to visiting with your therapy cats. It’s a two-way street and you’ll enjoy it as much as the residents. See you next week!!

Mary Kennedy

Friday, February 16, 2018

Parting with the written word

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

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to two newspapers and lots of magazines, and there were bookshelves FULL of wonderful books to dip into. There was always something to read. (Sadly, my brothers didn't take to reading as much as me.)

During high school, I did a lot of extra credit "reading" projects. I would take a couple of magazines with me on babysitting gigs, read them, and then summarize the articles. No wonder I always got an A in English class. I mean, once the kids were in bed I'd be sitting there for hours with nothing to do but read the magazines. (This was in the days before a million TV channels on cable.)

My Mum was a bit of a packrat (which explains why it took me nearly a year to clear out her house), and one of the things she kept was magazines. Is it any wonder I do the same?  But I've been watching all these organization videos on Youtube (like At Home with Nikki and the Messy Minimalist) and one thing they all stress is "magazines have gotta go!" Man, they're ruthless about it!

I mostly collect--er, read home decorating magazines. I currently get English Home, Romantic Homes, Victoria, This Old House, HGTV, Food Network, and Women's World. I used to get a LOT more. Mum used to love to visit Barnes and Noble and their magazine section because she could get a lot of different English magazines.  (My Mum and Dad both came from England.) After she'd read them, she passed them on to me. And because they were so expensive ($8 or $9 each) it felt terrible to throw them away. So I kept them. And kept them. And kept them. Along with most of the other magazines.

Mind you, I wasn't the only one hoarding magazines. When we moved here, we also moved in boxes and boxes of National Geographic that Mr. L had been saving since his first issue. But one year for Christmas, my mother gave me a CD boxed set of all the National Geos from day one until present and Mr. L said, "I can part with the paper copies."  And he did. And now he reads them and puts them in the recycle bin. Um, it's taken me another ten years to get that far.

But, I'm on this purging kick, so last week I started looking at the old issues of these piles and piles of magazines, determined to pull out the articles and recipes that interested me and chuck the rest. A funny thing happened. I wasn't pulling out all that many articles. Why? Because during the intervening years, my taste in home decorating had changed. Suddenly the recycle bin was FULL of just magazines. (And boy are they heavy to haul down to the end of the driveway for the recycling truck.)

There are keepers. I'm not giving up my old copies of Taste of Home magazine. We're talking the years before Readers Digest bought them out. When they were charming. I do have most of the yearbooks of recipes, but I enjoy re-reading the articles. (Um, I have two sets of those. Here and at our cottage.)  So far, I've been unable to part with Victoria magazine--the original version, and the reborn version, which are still very good. But the Teatime, Country Almanacs, and other magazines are history. And I've been able to part with most of the English magazines, too.

Now that those shelves are almost empty, I can put more of my Mum's cookbooks away. They've been sitting on the floor in the living room for more than a year because ... SURPRISE! I find it very hard to part with books, too.  (Hey, I'm an author. I know how much work goes into them!)

Mr. L was quite pleased when I first got on this purging kick. But recently he's hollered, "STOP CLEANING! Go write something."  And so ... this blog post.

What's piling up in your home that you find hard to part with?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes!

by Karen Rose Smith

I’ve enjoyed cooking ever since I watched my mom, grandma and aunts do their magic in the kitchen. I remember the first meal I cooked when I was twelve—meat, potatoes, vegetable and cake for dessert—and how difficult I found the process to have all the food done at the same time! My mother was looking over my shoulder but I gained a new respect for the meals she cooked every day after a long day at school teaching third graders.

When I was a senior in college and sharing an apartment with three other girls, a few times a week I cooked supper for my fiance.  It was a funny situation.  At that time, guys couldn’t visit in our second floor apartment.  So I would serve dinner on the top step!  I often consulted with my mom about recipes and she always had good suggestions.  I also got more creative on my own. 

My mom kept recipe boxes.  Most are hand written recipes but she also included recipes snipped from the newspaper or a magazine.  Those boxes include instructions on how to make everything from basic pasta to lemon-honey syrup.

Every day I’m grateful that I have these boxes that were, in a way, the heart of my mom’s life.  With a pure Italian background, she believed cooking food was showing love.  She passed that belief down to me. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love In Your Life

Okay, today is Valentine’s Day, a day for lovers but not just the couple variety. I’ve always felt V-day is about everyone we love and telling them how I feel.

This opinion hasn’t just come because there is no man in my life to celebrate with but years ago probably when I had my first child. I realized this day celebrated my love for her as well.

So why have a love day? I mean we love those in our loves all the time. So true but this reminds us to tell them. It’s a wakeup call or like getting hit with a pie in the face. Oh, yeah, I really do love all these people and I need to tell them.

In my parents generation saying I Love You didn’t come easy and it doesn’t for a lot of people so with this day you can do something, buy a card, make a special dish, leave a rose that conveys the message for you. And it makes you realize yes you do need to make those you love aware of how you feel and how much you appreciate them.

So here’s to Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate those we love in our lives, the people and pets who make life good for us. Do something to let them know you care and are special to them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Ticket to Ride----At Last!

by Maggie Sefton

Serena and her fellow crew mates at the International Space Station  training center in Russia.  


My NASA Astronaut daughter Serena (Dr. Serena Aunon-Chancellor) has finally gotten her "ticket to ride"----a trip up to the International Space Station (ISS) this coming June as part of Expeditions 56 and 57.  She'll be part of a  3-person team which will include Alexander Gerst of  ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos).

The crew will participate in 250 research investigations during their six-month expedition.  And there will be daily TV coverage on NASA TV as well as on various television stations around the U.S. and worldwide.  There will also be an introductory news conference this Wednesday February 14 Live on NASA TV and streamed on the NASA

Here's a short graph from the NASA website:

"Originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, Auñón-Chancellor earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C, and a doctorate in medicine from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s McGovern Medical School. She was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2009, after coming to NASA in 2006 as a flight surgeon."


As a proud Mom, you can be sure that I will keep  all of you wonderful Cozy Chicks readers and fans updated as the date of the launch draws nearer.  Meanwhile, if you are interested, you can follow news of Serena and the upcoming Missions  Expeditions 56 and 57 by following    

Monday, February 12, 2018


By Mary Kennedy                                               

I’m a writer, a psychologist, and a cat lover. And sometimes the three worlds mix. I created two fictional cats (Barney and Scout in the Dream Club Mysteries) and I have six adorable rescued cats at home. Both my fictional cats and my own fur babies have many traits in common; they spend their days bird-watching, playing and of course, sleeping. I always feel calm, centered and happy when I’m with my cats; there’s something peaceful and comforting about their presence.
When I visited an assisted living facility, I found myself chatting with the residents about animals. Everyone was eager to share stories about their pets and the nurses told me how much they enjoyed weekly visits from a therapy dog. But where were the therapy cats? A social worker admitted that no one had ever suggested it and she seemed surprised that so many of the residents were confirmed cat lovers. If a dog can be a therapy animal, why not a cat? I wondered.
I quickly decided that this was a project I could tackle. The first question I asked myself was this: would any of my own cats work out as a therapy cat? I took a long look at my unruly brood. (I have six indoor cats and two of them are semi-feral). 
One of them, a large orange tabby named Henry, was practically a sociopath until I tamed him. I called him "Gladiator Cat" because he would dash inside the house, eat dinner, terrorize my cats and run back outside. No manners at all! But no worries, all that changed when I kept him in the house all the time and socialized him. He is a changed cat!

 Damian, a black cat, has a sweet personality, but dislikes being picked up and squeals noisily in protest. He loves to explore and wouldn't sit calmly in anyone's lap.

Calpurnia, a stunning calico, is simply too skittish and it’s almost impossible to catch her.  I found her when she was four months old and I’ve never been able to really socialize her. 

I went down the list of the other cats and made an executive decision. Only one of my cats would be suitable; a sweet, mild-mannered female cat I rescued from a vacant lot. Snow white, with an alert, intelligent expression, “Lucky” was one of the most laid-back cats I’ve ever owned. I decided to try her out right away as a “therapy cat.” Admittedly, it would have been better if I could have found a training group for her, but at that time, none existed, so I had to wing it.
I put a bright scarf on her neck and brought her with me the next time I visited. Lucky was a huge hit. I took her in to see the Director of Admissions and she was amazed that Lucky sat quietly next to me on the sofa while we chatted. Once I had the green light, I took her onto the unit. The residents took turns holding her, petting her and telling her what an amazing cat she was. Lucky loved every minute of it. Once I’d broken the ice with Lucky, it opened the door for other cat visitors.
Next Monday, I'll give you some tips on how to do therapy visits with your cat. Stay tuned!

Mary Kennedy

Saturday, February 10, 2018

When it all starts coming together

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

Hi, Kathy Grant here. Just popped in to tell you what I've been up to since the holidays.

In case you didn't hear, that was when the big storm hit, the power went out, and my unfinished, not-ready-for-prime time inn suddenly had to host Christmas dinner. Luckily I installed a big, fat generator, and a good time was had by all--especially me after an impromptu treasure hunt.

Wish an influx of cash, I've been working hard to keep my soon-to-open B&B, Swans Nest, on track. There's lots left to do, but the structural work is pretty much done. Soon it will be time to decorate.

When I bought it, Swans Nest was a wreck, but with the help of my friend and contractor, Anissa Jackson, we've bought it back to life. Part of the fun was going to architectural salvage places trying to match up flooring, tile, and woodwork. When we couldn't do that, Anissa found a way to replicate it. She's worth ten times what I've been able to pay her, but she keeps telling me that Swans Nest is her portfolio piece, and that it will bring her lots of work in the future. 

My BFF, Tori Cannon, has helped when she can, but luckily she's been gainfully employed. In fact, she's been keeping both of us afloat while I've worked on my B&B. She was my college roommate, and we're roommates once again. I live in her house--the one her Gramps sold her for a dollar--and she substitute teaches while she waits for spring to come to reopen Cannon Bait & Tackle. (I don't know how she handles those worms, spikes, and other icky stuff. I sure couldn't!)

But even though it's only February, I'm counting the days until the first weekend in May when I'll be open for business. I hope you'll come and see Swans Nest when I welcome my very first customers.

Until then, keep warm, stay safe, and count the days until Swans Nest opens. I know I will.
The Lotus Bay Mysteries currently contain the stories, Panty Raid, With Baited Breath, and Christmas At Swans Nest. For more information, just click on those titles.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Nobody wants a free copy of my book?

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

Okay, the title of this post is a little misleading, so let me clarify: No LIBRARY wants a free copy of my book?

Earlier this week, I sent out a newsletter to a portion of my readers. (The Booktown list.) In it, I offered a Free copy of the LARGE PRINT edition of my latest book, A Just Clause. (This edition came out in December.)  My publisher was very generous and sent me more books than I need. I would like to see them go to a library.  But only one library asked for it.

I do have some caveats when it comes to giving away these books.

They must be requested by a librarian, or a library volunteer, and they must be mailed to the library itself.

Why?  Too often readers have requested a book, given it to their library, and it never reaches the shelves. Instead, it goes in the Friends of the Library sale and sells for a quarter. Hey, this is a brand new, $32 book!

I admit it, I'm selfish. I want this hardcover book to be read by scores of people, not just one. Maybe it will find me a whole slew of new readers who will go on to read the other books in the series.  (You never know!)

So, any libraries out there who want a copy of A Just Clause in large print?

UPDATE:  All the books have been spoken for.  Thanks!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What Kind Of Mixer Is Your Favorite?

by Karen Rose Smith

I'll admit it.  I don't like change.  But when my thirty year old Sunbeam mixer stopped working, I had to replace it.  My mom had a Kitchen Aid mixer specifically for bread making.  But it was so heavy that my dad had to be around to lift the head, etc.  Did I really want to look at Kitchen Aids after using a Sunbeam for so many years?

My chief complaint with the Sunbeam had always been its hard work for cookie making.  Once I added all the flour, it struggled to finish.  But I really appreciated the Sunbeam bowl.  It was wide enough that adding ingredients during mixing a recipe was easy.  The Kitchen Aid bowls looked difficult.  (I watch several cooking shows and they all use them.)

With arthritis and fibromyalgia, I was worried about lifting the head on the Kitchen Aid.  But I decided to try one with a four quart bowl.  And let's face it, since my favorite color is turquoise, that color sold it!

It took me a few months to get used to the differences.  The deep bowl was the major one.  It had a collar to prevent flour puffing up but I definitely couldn't make that work.  So I learned how to add flour.  Slowly.  What I liked immediately was the lowest speed that let me mix dry ingredients.  The head of the mixer is heavier than I was used to, but it has a smooth glide up.  No matter what batter I'm mixing, the paddle sweeps it all from the depths of the bowl.  For ease in moving the mixer, I set it on a silicone cutting pad that I can easily slide in whatever position I need it.

What I appreciate most about the Kitchen Aid is that I can now mix recipes that I used to have to knead or mix by hand.  The many attachments make even creaming butter a snap.  In the past, I've mixed scone batter by hand.  But I decided to try a new recipe for my second Daisy's Tea Garden mystery in the mixer.  It worked beautifully.

It took me a little while to perfect my technique (translated--not puffing flour everywhere) but now I wouldn't trade my Kitchen Aid for any other mixer. 

Look for Karen's next Daisy Tea Garden mystery (book 2) in June 2018!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Energy...what energy?

Sometimes you really just need to buckle down and get stuff done. But there’s a hitch in the plan: You’re beat. You worked your tail off yesterday, you tossed and turned until 3:00am. Here are a few tricks besides downing a can of RedBull or 5-Hour energy for an instant adrenaline substitute
Don’t think. Blink.
 Eyes glued to a computer screen, focused on your work—or, some silly video about baby animals. But don’t just stare, blink. Every blink is like a “mini nap” that allows for a recharge and subsequent energy boost.
Stop skipping breakfast.
It jumpstarts your body’s functions and give you the energy reserves you need to make it to lunch.
Blast some beats.
There’s a reason why upbeat music is played at gyms—Just listening to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift  or “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen gets you up and going.
Get your feet moving.
along to upbeat music will provide an instant cure for any tiredness. And sing with the radio. Esp when tired in the car. This helps tons to stay away…and a coke and chocolate help too.

Take the stairs. Walking up and down stairs for about 10 minutes—that’s about 30 stories—offers the same level of energy as roughly 4 ounces of coffee or 1 ounce of espresso.  It doesn’t taste as good but you can’t drink coffee all the time…right?
Tap your “thymus.”
This is a new one on me. Yes, the “thymus” is a real thing, and it’s located at the top of your chest, a few inches below your collarbone. Chinese medicine says you can boost your energy levels. To properly tap the thymus, slowly and deeply breath in and out while gently tapping that area for 20 seconds. Do this up to five times per day for instant energy boosts.
Snooze for a few.
Power naps do work but convincing your boss might be another trick.

Don’t let yourself get dehydrated.
Be sure you’re drinking enough water so that you never crave hydration. For women, that amounts to about eight eight-ounce cups per day; for men, it’s ten.
Take an ice-cold shower.
I could never do this but… a mere three minutes spent in cold water can halt sudden tiredness in its tracks. And better yet, if you do it every day, you’ll do wonders against chronic fatigue.
A quick jog.
A walk probably does the same thing. A half an hour per weekday to exercising provides immediate—and long-lasting, if you adopt the practice as a habit—energy boosts. That’s as simple as leaving your desk, running/walking  a mile, and stretching up—and you could fit it all in a typical lunch break.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Who Are You People?"

by Maggie Sefton

Every week I know there are readers who discover our blog for the first time and are unfamiliar with the Cozy Chicks and our books and would like to know more.  For that reason I'm suggesting that an excellent introduction to the Kelly Flynn Mysteries would be a short non-fiction "introduction" to the Cast of Characters entitled "Who Are You People?"   You can find it on Amazon under Maggie Sefton Books for ninety-nine cents.   It's an easy way to see if the Kelly Flynn Mystery characters are people you'd enjoy visiting.   :)  

Monday, February 5, 2018


By Mary Kennedy                             

Who would think that sweet little Henry was a hoarder? He looks thoughtful in this photo, probably pondering his behavior and wishing he could get help for it. (Yeah, right. Just kidding! He doesn't believe he has a problem. He thinks I have a problem because I keep stealing his hoard and putting the items back where they belong!) Just like a cat, isn't it? 

I tried to explain to him that he has a serious disorder. 

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.

And my discussion with Henry? It didn't go well. If you've ever tried to have a serious conversation with a cat, you know the feeling. He listened politely (well, he yawned a few times). And then he walked away, bored with me.


Most people think hoarding look like this.

Obviously, little 12 pound Henry can't hoard to this degree. But he does what he can.
What does he collect? You might be surprised. 

He loves socks. Especially little socks, the kind you wear under sneakers. He doesn't bother matching them.  He just collects one of a kind. (who can understand the mind of a cat)

At first, I thought he choose objects by size. For example, he loves little packages of Kleenex, the kind you carry in your purse.                   

But then he surprised me and I realized he also likes bright, shiny objects. A wristwatch, for example.  

He's also fond of rubber bands, which worries me, because he carries all these items in his teeth and makes a neat pile in the corner of the bedroom. He looks a little sad and puzzled when I dismantle his "stash" and put the items away. I feel like a meanie! Those are his treasures.

What else does he collect?  Hair scrunchies, another favorite! 

Not sure what all these items have in common. But for some reason, Henry is drawn to them. Have you ever come across a cat with a hoarding problem? (Of course, it's not a problem for him, it's a problem for me.) 

If you have any suggestions for Henry (or me!) be sure to chime in.

Mary Kennedy