Friday, December 15, 2017

Is this a story we want children to see?

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

Every year Mr. L and I watch a DVD of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I've seen it every year since I was 9. I can recite almost all the dialogue. And you know what? It's NOT a heartwarming tale. Not at all.

No sooner had Rudolph been born when his own father body shamed him. Even Santa put in his two cents, and that wouldn't be the first time. The body (or nose) shaming went on at the Reindeer Games. When they found out about Rudolph's "non-conformity," not only did the other yearlings laugh and tease Rudolph, but the adult coach (Comet) was the one to proclaim that "We won't let Rudolph play in any reindeer games." Even Santa gets in the act, telling Donner "You should be ashamed!" Ashamed because his son has a (so-called) birth defect?  Santa of all people???

Thinking he's found a friend in Clarice,  Rudolph is verbally accosted by her father, who says, "No doe of mine is going to be seen with a red-nosed reindeer." (I told you I knew all the dialogue.)

Nor is Rudolph the only character to be bullied. Hermie (or Herbie ... it seems like he's called both names) is mocked for aspiring to be a dentist, and is threatened with his job. ("Finish the job, or you're FIRED.")

Poor Rudolph and Hermie weren't even good enough for the Island of Misfit Toys.

The one redeeming character is Yukon Cornelius ("Ta-da! In person!") Although a bit of a blow-hard, he only has Rudolph's and Hermie's welfare at heart.

It isn't until Santa needs Rudolph to light the way on a stormy Christmas Eve that the residents of Christmastown decide to accept Rudolph for who he is. And the head elf decides he will allow Hermie to practice dentistry. (I hope Hermie pulled all that elf's teeth, too.) Of course, maybe Santa is so grumpy because Mrs. Claus feeds him such unappealing food.  (Even gray apples???)

Is this the kind of story children should be watching?

And don't get me started on the song "Baby It's Cold Outside," where the loutish host isn't listening when his woman guest tells him (more than once) "The answer is No!"

Despite the terrible story line, Mr. L and I did indeed watch Rudolph this week. But this time we watched it a la MST3K (Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000). We made sarcastic remarks about the characters and how mean they were and found new joy in Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.  I highly recommend it.

What other holiday specials cause you to cringe?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Enhancing Decor with Christmas Decorations

by Karen Rose Smith

When you decorate for Christmas, do you put your usual table and shelf decorations away? Or do you incorporate Christmas cheer into your regular decor?

Since we have six inside cats, I keep their antics in mind when I decorate for the holidays.  No strings, no ribbon, no live plants, nothing that they could eat that would hurt them. We have two kittens who chew!

We only were pet parents to two cats when we found our "wall" tree.  It's half a tree!  It lights up and we can use our favorite ornaments.  But it is high enough off the floor that kitties can't climb it.

Both our living room and my office have a Southwestern theme.  I like to use brightly colored balls, crystal vases, and flameless candles for much of my decorating.  They coordinate with everything. The candles are on timers so I don't even have to remember to turn them on!

I pretty much leave wall decorations alone.  If I can replace one easily with something Christmassy, I do that.  Our son created this card holder for us and it brightens up the space.  I usually let the kitty Christmas cards peek over the top of the pockets.  For some reason, friends mostly send those!

I'd love to hear about how you decorate for the holidays.  Do you go all out?  Or do you subtly include holiday expressions into your existing decor? One of our kittens, Freya, wanted to be in the middle of decorating, adding a challenge and fun to the process.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fun With Words!

Got these from a dear friend.  (our kids are married so I think that makes us co-parent inlays) Elaine Lakso 

Had to share!

Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a phrase is unexpected (Winston Churchill loved them.)
These are so much fun and for sure finding a way into my books! I can just see Auntie KiKi or Evie spouting such things.

1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you.... but it's still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up.... we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

9. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
10. In filling out an application, where it says, "In case of emergency, notify...." I answered, "a doctor."
11. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
12. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

13. I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.
14. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
15. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
16. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
17. I'm supposed to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder for me to find one now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


by Maggie Sefton

I apologize to all you wonderful Cozy Chicks Blog readers and fans for my missing post this morning.  The cause was a weird combination of an attempted early morning appointment, a sudden breakdown in the garage door opener---try getting your car out of the garage through a closed and inoperable door----and a deluge of family emails and conversations about the upcoming December  wedding back in Northern Virginia on December 30.  I will return next Tuesday with updates on how I'm doing on holiday preparations.  Hint:  I haven't even started making my fudge yet.  Meanwhile, I'm posting a pretty holiday photo.  :)

Monday, December 11, 2017


By Mary Kennedy                                       
This is the view from my backyard today. As you can see, most of our backyard is trees (no grass, no shrubs) and I leave it natural.  Leafy green in the summer and bare, snowy branches in the winter.                
It makes a nice scene (if you're warm and cozy, looking outdoors, holding a nice cup of tea) but things can be tough if you're an outdoor "critter."
Here are a few tips to help your wildlife friends get through the winter. In this photo, the raccoon family is eating some dried cat food. They also like veggies, greens and just about anything. I put out a little "buffet" for them each night and they gobble it up by morning.
A good bird feeder is a must. We experimented with several until we found one that was squirrel-proof. (Don't worry, we feed our bushy-tailed friends separately, they don't go hungry!)
You can even make a home-made one with a hanger and some orange slices.                                     
There are all different types and you have to experiment.

Going back to the squirrels, they love nuts and any kind of dried fruit and raisins. And of course, corn cobs. You can buy them in big bags at hardware stores.
. I still remember the cashier at Lowe's looking at me in amazement, saying, "How in the world do you cook these things?" When I explained that I bought them for the squirrels, she took a step back (as if such insanity could be catching) and said to a fellow cashier, "Well, now I've heard it all. This woman feeds squirrels!" (In a tone that suggested I must be pretty squirrely myself.)    
Bowls of water are important as my friend, Lynda Turpin suggested. Karen Rose Smith, a fellow Cozy Chick suggested heated water bowls, which is an excellent ideas.  If you're following the Cozy Chicks, you know that all of us are big-time animal lovers and are always trading ideas back and forth.
If you have a Christmas tree you want to discard, please consider making a "wildlife shelter" out of it. Just put it in your backyard, and squirrels, rabbits and raccoons will be grateful for their "house."  You can throw some branches on top for additional protection.
Hope you try these simple tips so your outdoor critters can prosper and survive the winter!
By Mary Kennedy


Friday, December 8, 2017

The Hostess with the Mostest?

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

It's been quite a long time since Mr. L and I entertained people other than family. We used to host a holiday party every years, but that kind of petered out. But next week we'll be hosing our neighbors for a get-together.

Wow. I'd forgotten how much work that can be. I'm going to have to CLEAN the house. The cleaning ladies will com on Monday, but our guests will be coming 4 days later. With cats, there's always a lot of crud. Puke. Litter. Yeah, they may be the only self-cleaning things in the house, but they make a lot of mess.  Chester litters the house with the toys he "kills" several times a day. (Oy, those hunter victory cries can make your hair stand on end,)

I don't know what my neighbors kids drink. Do they drink Pop? If so, what kind? What kind of toppings do they like on pizza?  How can the kids (8 and 13) be entertained while the grown-ups enjoy adult beverages? (Ironically, I came across a pool cue this week while poking around in a dark corner of the basement, but we have no pool table. That thing has been lurking in the dark for the 23 years we've lived here!

I will finally get to do some baking. I LOVE to bake, but seldom have anyone to bake and if I did it would just be us eating the stuff and ... CALORIES. So I don't bake nearly as often as I would like. I've decided to do two different cookies (shortbread and cut-out cookies...and my brother loves cut-outs, so I will freeze some for him for Christmas Day) and I've been hankering to make chocolate truffles. Honestly, I'd debating about making WHISKEY chocolate truffles and just regular chocolate truffles. Mr. L and I like the whiskey version (in honor of our late co-worker, Jean, who was absolutely famous for her Bourbon Balls (only, unlike my character Jeff, who enjoys bourbon--I don't. I'm a blended Canadian whiskey drinker myself and would use my favorite Black Velvet for the booze.)

I've already bought two bags of holiday (red and green) M&Ms -- because, hey, M&Ms. And why not send her children back home all hyped up with sugar, right? (That's a joke.) And, OH! What if we were forced to eat those leftovers?

Of course, I will make my mother's famous "pink" dip. (She got the recipe out of the TV guide one December back in the early 1960s -- and the ad was sponsored by the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV show.) With the dip we'll have chips and carrots and celery (the latter two are for me).
That's probably enough food. If I'm lucky, my Christmas cactus will be in full bloom by them. (Yesterday two blooms opened with at least 7 or eight more on that plant, and the other plant (the GINORMOUS one) has at least 5-6 to come, too. The big one hasn't bloomed in about five years, so this is HUGE!

So, I have my work cut out for me.  But before next Friday rolls around, I'm hosing a day-long holiday open house on my Facebook group page and you are invited. I'll have two guests (Cozy Chick emeritus Ellery Adams, and current Cozy Chick Mary Kennedy), plus there will be hourly goody-bag giveaways and other good stuff. It should be a fun day -- and if you are so inclined, I hope you'll join in. Just click this link. You can join the group or just visit sometime during the day. Everybody is welcome! Click this link!

Now, what's in store for you for entertaining this holiday season?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

by Karen Rose Smith


Just what do those words mean to you?

For me they invoke many feelings.

When I was in kindergarten, more eons ago than you probably remember, there was an evening social for parents, kids and teachers.  What stands out in my memory is one of the parents--a man as smooth a singer as Bing Crosby or Michael Buble--singing White Christmas. That was my first memory of the song, one that became a ballad to listen to every Christmas.

White Christmas also calls up childhood memories when I wished for snow on Christmas Eve.  Why?  Because that pristine white conveyed the message that something awesome was about to happen.  Family lived close and snow simply meant putting chains on the tires to get where we wanted to go.  Snow meant that maybe on Christmas Day after dinner me and my cousins could build a snowman.

Moving forward a bit, I wished for a little snow on Christmas Eve but not much because my parents wouldn't be able to drive to our house to watch our son open his presents or listen to him chatter about Santa eating the cookies he left out for St. Nick the night before.  White Christmas evokes recollections of Christmas concerts, carol sings and midnight Mass.

Now...  White Christmas means watching the movie at least once in the days leading up to the holiday, tearing up at those last scenes when the generals' men stand to acknowledge him, when the romances end the way they were meant to.  It means baking cookies and breads like my mom and grandma used to.  But the words "white Christmas" also mean family having problems flying, delays, a possible postponement of holiday celebrations with friends who drive farther than the next neighborhood.  Nevertheless, every year we adjust.  This year we might have to use Skype.  Even so--

White Christmas will always mean something special, something magical, something inspiring that nothing else can match.

Share your "White Christmas" memories and have a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Board you or not so much.

During the holidays our family like most spend more time together. We do the usual talking etc but we also play games. We drag out the board games more at Christmas than the other season.

Believe it or not we play Murder She Wrote. Yeah, there really is such a game and it’s not too bad. We also drag out Clue at some point and if there’s a crowd we do this thing called Tripoli. 

It’s so much fun for six or seven. It’s a board and cards and moves fast. I’ve been playing Tripoli since I was about eight with my parents and aunts and uncles and now I play with my own family.

This year I bought a new game that got a lot of good reviews,
The Castles of Burgundy. If it falls flat we can always play our old standby gin rummy.

This brings up the idea of cards? Do you still play cards? Canasta? Poker? Bridge? Hearts? What is your favorite card game? Do you have a group you play with?

I did Bridge for a bit but unless you really want to concentrate on the game you can really tick off your partner when you trump his ace.

So are you a gamer? Board games that is or cards. Or do you do all your gaming online these days?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Family Meals

by Maggie Sefton

Hi, Everyone-----I'll be heading back to Colorado tomorrow, but this has been a great trip back to my old hometown Northern VA.  Lots of Family and Friends activities.  Also, lots of great food, like last night.  All of us (and there are a lot of "us")  went out to dinner at a great new restaurant in the popular Tyson's Corners area of a large Northern Virginia shopping and commercial area.  I had a wonderful, simply wonderful, Crab Soup and some yummy appetizers which totally worked for dinner for me.

I'm sure many of you are experimenting with meals, too.  I think a lot of us no longer eat the heavier dinner menu that once was the norm for American families.  Have you been experimenting with the "traditional" dinner, too?   Share with us.  

Monday, December 4, 2017


By Mary Kennedy                              
This is the time to get out the soup pot and make a great dinner with roasted winter veggies. This soup is nourishing, surprisingly filling and at 90 calories a serving, surprisingly low-cal.

 2 cups butternut squash cut into 1-inch chunks (about half of a medium squash). I buy the squash already peeled and chopped into chunks. So much easier!
 1 cup peeled carrots cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 medium carrots)
1 cup peeled parsnip cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 large parsnip)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. chopped garlic (I use minced garlic, comes in a jar)
4 cups vegetable broth-I like the "Better than Bouillon" paste low sodium version. You can find it in the soup aisle.
1 cup fat-free milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Evenly distribute squash, carrots, and parsnip on the baking sheet, and sprinkle with pepper.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Flip veggies. Bake until softened and browned, about 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, place flour in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water, and whisk to dissolve.

Spray a large pot with nonstick spray and bring to medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion until browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Carefully add broth and flour mixture to the pot. Cook and stir until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Transfer half of the soup to a blender. Add milk, and half of the roasted veggies. Puree until smooth.

Return pureed mixture to the pot, along with remaining roasted veggies.

Return to medium-high heat. Cook and stir until hot and well mixed, about 2 minutes.

Hope you try this, it's really delish!
Mary Kennedy

Friday, December 1, 2017

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

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

Due to complicated circumstances, Mr. L and I took our Christmas tree down early last year. A LOT earlier than we normally do, so this year, I decided to put our tree up early so we could enjoy it longer. I started on Monday, but here it is Friday and it's STILL not totally decorated.  (I like to take my time.)

It's always a joy to open the boxes of ornaments and decide what to put up. I say that because here it is five days later and we still haven't opened two of the (VERY LARGE) boxes and the tree is just about full. (How did that happen?) I thought I might share a few of them with you.

I recently wrote the 4th installment of the Life On Victoria Square series, It's Tutu Much, which revolves around a dance studio on Victoria Square.

My mother collected a bunch of ballerinas to put on or under her Christmas tree. These two beauties were always under the tree. I think my mother liked them because my niece was a dancer. In fact, she danced right through high school, when a lot of other girls might have made fun of her (I know when I was in high school the bullies taunted the girls who still went for tap and ballet).

I wasn't a dancer. I loved to dance, but I remember at age 4 being forced to go to dance school and some of the other (younger) girls just didn't pay attention to the teacher who instructed us to dance to "I'm a Little Eskimo." I clearly remember telling my father, "That's just stupid and I won't do it." They took me to the recital and said, "Don't you wish you'd stuck with it?" and I said in no uncertain terms, "NO!"

Still, I now wish I had stuck with it. (Perhaps it was because I so love the book Step Ball Change by Jeanne Ray, a story about a woman with a dance studio--and how her daughter's engagement changed the entire family.) And did I mention how much I love to watch videos of people tap dancing?

And I have a "tutu" story about one of my Mum's ornaments, too.  She bought this little angel (right) at a yard sale. But, OH!, she was nekked!  My Mum thought that just wasn't right, so she took a bit of netting and made her a tutu.  Isn't she just adorable?  I know she was one of my Mum's favorites, even though she cost less than a buck. I wish my Mum could have read my story, It's Tutu Much (which will be available on January 2nd).

I don't have a lot of ornaments that remind me of my books, but since I started writing the Lotus Bay Mysteries, I've been looking for swans.  I found two, and they now don my tree.  One is sort of a stained-glass ornament, and the other is a carved wooden (white) swan. I love them both, and they remind me of my short story, Christmas at Swans Nest (set on Lotus Bay). If you haven't read the "series," but you like Christmas, you can read this and it will stand alone.

I've got lots of other cool ornaments, like this little white flat cat I got at a yard sale. It was painted onto a stone. Wow--I wish I had that kind of talent. How did someone see that there was a cat that could emerge from a piece of slate? Cool, huh?

And then there's the flying cat angel. I had never seen anything like it when my Mum and I went to a gift shop in Brockport, NY one cold November weekend. They were (maybe still are) famous for offering their customers home-baked cookies and punch on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (what's now known as Small Business Saturday). I remember
my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I looked at the price tag--TWENTY-FIVE BUCKS--but my mother said, "If you'd like it, I will buy it for you." I initially balked at the price tag, but then remembered what my friend Judy told me years before. "If your mother wants to buy you something, LET HER. Because (and Judy learned this through bitter experience) one day she won't be there." And now my Mum is gone, and I'm so glad I let her buy that little kitty for me because it's now one of my most treasured Christmas tree ornaments.Years later, I saw knockoffs in plastic for less than $5. But mine still has the original tag on it and is not only signed by the artist, but is so much prettier than any knock off.

These are just a few of the ornaments on my tree.

Have you got a special ornament that comes with a story? If so, please feel free to share it in the comments below.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Easy Lemon Pepper Cod Recipe from SLAY BELLS RING

by Karen Rose Smith

My Italian background is ever so evident around the holidays.  My family was always about serving meals to relatives and friends along with baked goods.  A traditional dish for this time of year is fish.  For SLAY BELLS RING, I created an easy Lemon Pepper Cod recipe that is perfect for family...or friends.  I hope you enjoy it!

Lemon Pepper Cod

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup Panko
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of garlic powder
1 pound fresh cod cut into 4 pieces
1 egg

Mix together Panko, lemon pepper, salt and garlic powder in a medium-sized bowl.  Beat egg in a small bowl with a fork. Dip cod pieces in the egg then dip into the dry mixture to coat both sides.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pass the Potato Chips...or not?

The Great Junk-food Smack-down

I’ve read the articles, listed to my doc go on and on about nutrition, listed to my kids preach at me about what I should eat but sometimes I just want a real cookie. Or hot dog. Or bag of chips. Not some fat-free, soy-based health food in disguise. Blah!

So at great peril I set out to find the best-tasting genuine junk food. 

After chowing down on 20 packages of goodies (and probably around 10,000 calories), and deciding that picking up extra Zumba classes was worth it I came up with a list.

Doritos! The cheesy chips are a Super Bowl party staple and a solid companion to a PB & J. The classic nacho flavor will forever reign as a snack-time favorite, but the best part is the collection of flavors like Cool Ranch, All Nighter Cheeseburger and Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch.

And then there’s Snickers!!!!! Holy crap! I am such a Snickers fan. It’s the number one candy bar with more than 15 million bars being produced every single day. That's a whole lot of peanuts — 99 tons of them, to be exact. Pass the Snickers!

And then there’s pork rinds. Not my personal fav but hey if it’s junk food I’m a fan. Take the fatty skin of a pig and fry it in yet more fat. The hot-oil bath balloons the rinds to more than five times their original size. Pork rinds have no carbs and top the charts in protein, making them hardly a junk food in my book.

French Fries! And IMO the best of the best is Mickey-Ds. There's something magical about those golden tubers extending from the bright red McDonald’s fry box.

Though cops in particular get a bad rap for their doughnut consumption, this form of fried dough is loved everywhere. Glazed or topped with sugar, sometimes filled with jam or custard, their most iconic shape is the round ring (though the holes themselves are really great). Despite the number of American chains like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme, Canada actually has more doughnut shops per capita than any other country. Yea, Canada!

Moon Pies! A Southern treat!! They come in chocolate, vanilla and banana, and are such a Southern staple that since 2008, Mobile, Ala., has dropped a 12-ft. mechanical moon pie to ring in the New Year!

There are few experiences more American than finding your fingers covered in sticky orange dust, the inevitable result of a cheesy-puff snack attack. Cheese puffs are a puffed-corn snack that also comes in ball and curls. Most famous are Cheetos featuring Chester Cheetah, the cheesiest cartoon cat of all time.

Of course there is the all-time fav junk food…cookies and chocolate chip is the king of cookies…or Oreo! Bring on the milk!

As much as we love it, pepperoni pizza is junk. Delicious, greasy, gooey junk. The grain is enriched, the cheese is piled on and the meat is highly processed. It's easy to see how pizza takes a turn from health food to junk food. But hey, I’m so not complaining.  A beer and pepperoni pizza! Bring it on.

Okay, these are my favs…what’s yours? When you gotta have junk what do you splurge on?

Off to Zumba! Oink!
Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


by Maggie Sefton

These past two weeks I've been adding new scenes to Kelly Flynn #16 which will be published next June in 2018 .   Here's an early look at the cover for DYEING UP LOOSE ENDS.

Monday, November 27, 2017


By Mary Kennedy           

It's that time of year! Cocktail parties, dinners, family events. And you know you'd like to bring something home-made, but what? It has to be fast, easy and delicious. How about making something yourself--a touch of love from your very own kitchen? Here are a couple of possibilities.

Swedish pecans.


1 stick of butter
2 egg whites, unbeaten
1 cup sugar
pinch of sale
one pound of unsalted pecan halves

Cut the butter in chunks and melt in jelly roll pan in 325 degree oven. Mix egg whites, sugar and salt. Stir in pecans. Spread evenly in the melted butter.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool before storing in a glass jar or tin. You can use Mason Jars...

Or use cute little festive jars that you decorate youself.

Another delicious possibility is chocolate marshmallow bark. Super easy and everyone loves it


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp butter
3 cups mini marshmallows


Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with heavy duty tinfoil (or just two sheets of regular tinfoil. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over low heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows. Spread in pan and chill for one hour. Cut into 12 pieces.

Hope you try these!! Happy holidays, Mary Kennedy