Saturday, February 28, 2015

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!

by Mary Kennedy                               
 
                                                    

So much has been written about happiness that I was surprised when a close friend told me she was planning to write a book about it. Not wanting to dampen her enthusiasm,(but hoping to offer a reality check), I asked her if she had done an Amazon search of the topic.  No, it seems she hadn't.  So I did.

Here's what I found. Almost 80,000 books on Amazon contain the word happiness in the title. There are some famous, best-selling books on happiness, including The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin advocates taking pleasure in simple things and has daily, weekly and monthly goals. She sings in the shower, organizes her closets and does projects with her children. And she evaluates the results of her efforts.  Like many of us, she wonders why happiness is so elusive. Could happiness really be as simple as Charlie Brown suggests?
                                                          
                                                             
One thing I've learned from my clinical practice as a psychologist is that money and material possessions don't lead to happiness. Naturally, you need enough to live on, enough to meet your daily needs and to protect your future.  But do we really need tons of possessions?
                                                              
A recent study conducted by Havas Worldwide found that 4 out of 5 people agree with the statement: "I could happily live without most of the things I own." As one of my friends says, "The problem with having a lot of stuff is that you have to take care of a lot of stuff."

Most psychological studies conclude that "experiences" are more valuable than possessions in adding to our happiness. A week-end trip to Williamsburg with the kids is more memorable than a new sofa. Which will they remember years from now? Which will you remember?

And much of happiness is a choice. Yes, some days it's difficult to remember that we can "choose" to have a good day. Tragedy strikes, careers falter, friends disappear. But there's always a glimmer of sunshine there, if we can just dig deep enough to find it.
                                                            
 
Relationships, whether they be with people or pets, contribute greatly to our happiness.  Pets are particularly important for the elderly who may have lost their friends and relatives over the years and feel lonely and isolated. A pet can bring a source a joy and comfort into their lives. When I worked in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, I saw firsthand how happy the residents were when volunteers visited with their companion animals.  It  made their day!                                 
                                       

      So remember to find some happiness in every day, even if it's just a quick nod of gratitude for the friends and loved ones we still have with us. Do you have any tips or strategies for finding happiness in tough times?

Mary Kennedy              

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cover girl!

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

Our girl Betsy had her 18th birthday last October. We felt pretty lucky to still have her, as she's suffered with a number of pretty serious illnesses over the years (including lymphoma, which she beat!).  Last week was the 18th anniversary of our heading to the local (kill) shelter and picking up two four-month old kittens.

(That's Bonnie behind Betsy.  They were cuddled next to the heat run in the kitchen, the warmest place in the house.  Betsy still goes there on a regular basis. We lost our dear Bon-Bon four years ago.)

Recently, I found I own some foreign rights to my Victoria Square books. YAY!  Now readers in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and a few other countries (where I'm not even sure you can download ebooks) will be able to read the books in this series.  But in order to get them there, I needed new covers.


Bonnie and Betsy were the inspiration for Mason and Della, Katie Bonner's two cats.  (Bonnie didn't mind being a stand-in for a boy kitty.  She was pretty laid back.) I sent the cover designer a picture of Betsy so she would know what kind of cat I wanted on the cover. I was shocked and pleased to see that she could actually USE the picture I sent.



For the next cover, I sent the designer my favorite picture of Bonnie and Betsy together, taken just a few months before we lost Bonnie, and she incorporated them both in cover for The Walled Flower. (Betsy was sitting on the little kitty afghan my mother made for her.  Pink really is her color, don't you think?)

When Mr. L sits in a certain chair, Betsy likes to sit with him.  In fact ON him. On his foot.  It looks silly, but--hey--that's what cats do.  (Betsy has always liked to hang off of furniture--so, why not people, too?


As you can see, the designer took that photo and incorporated Betsy into One Hot Murder, too. 

I don't know how much longer I'll get to have my sweet baby girl, but she, and Bonnie, will live on on these covers for many years to come.

I think Betsy will like that.

Amazon UK
Amazon AU

They're also available from iBooks and Kobo (if I could only find the links, I'd share them).

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Hey, did you know the Cozy Chicks are having a Button-Up 'Til Spring Fling? Everyday we're posting pictures taken by some of our Cozy Chickadees with a Cozy Chick button, and asking our readers to caption them.  We'll be announcing the winners on Facebook every Friday and Saturday until March 20th.  Check out the Cozy Chicks Author Page to find who who will win!





Thursday, February 26, 2015

Three generations of chocolate cake







I wanted to share this with you this week. It’s one of those 'what goes around comes around' stories, but it starts with my mother. 


She was an excellent and generous cook and we still share her recipes with joy in our family.  They bring back memories of fun times. One of the simple favorites was her chocolate cake.  To me this was birthday cake. I made many of them and so did my girls, Virginia and Victoria. Everyone knew and loved Gram’s chocolate cake.


While finishing up our latest book, Victoria and I wanted to include the cake as a the base for chocolate tiramisu to include as one of Signora Panetone's recipes at the end of THE MARSH MADNESS. 








But I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. Some things have never shown up after our move. Other times recipes are tucked into one of a hundred cookbooks and only flutter out when you least expect them.


I tore the house apart. No sign of it! Had it been thrown out?  I shook a lot of cookbooks. No luck.

Finally while I was whining to Victoria, the other half of Victoria Abbott, I mentioned my frustration. 


“I have it,” she said. “In that book you made for me when I was a little girl.”


The recipe book was written around the time this picture was taken
Sure enough, in a battered little volume called My Treasured Recipes, I found, in my handwriting, the secret code to Gram’s Chocolate Cake.   





This was done before we used computers to create recipes (or before we could even imagine it!) My handwriting is a family joke, but this seemed reasonably neat. Of course, I wasn’t sure if it called for ¼ cup of milk of 1 ¾ cups of milk.  No wonder I type everything now.


But the point is we had it.  It makes two nice layers (or four if you want to slice them in half horizontally).  



Our chocolate tiramisu was made and the day was saved.  I was surprised and thrilled at how many of the favorite foods of both sides of the family were preserved in this little book. And I’m happy that Victoria kept it.  I hope to share others here on another blog.


We hope that one of these days, this will form part of a family cookbook that we can share with every generation, as there are some terrific young cooks in the gang too.  In the meantime, I’m happy it’s here with me for a while. I still have another layer of it in the freezer in case I need to make an emergency tiramisu. Every time I make it now, I have to thank my mother and my daughter.


What about you?  Do you have a family cookbook? Any family recipes with a bit of history?  Tales of recipes lost or found?  We love food so let's hear it!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I can’t do that…it’s not on the list!

I never seem to get enough done! Yet I feel like I’m running around with my hair on fire. My house is never as clean as I’d like (heck, it’s not clean at all), the laundry piles up for weeks (true confession time), I don’t write enough pages in one day, the oil in the car needs changing...you get the picture.


So I’ve decided to be one of those list people. You know the type they’re the ones who have lists of things to get done every day. There are two reasons for taking up the list challenge... One is that I hope to get more done and the second is that IF I do get something done I can keep track of it and not feel as if I should wear a shirt with Procrastinator written on the front.

This isn’t exactly a brand new idea for me. I mean I do make other lists. Sometimes I actually go to the grocery with a list of things I need. Mostly this is when company’s coming and I’m making something special or I’ve forgotten toilet paper for the seventh time and the toilet situation is dire and I need to really, really remember this time!

And I make lists for leaving the house. Turn back heat, put out garbage, make sure cat is not trapped in the bathroom…


Then there are lists I never use. I have a Christmas card list that I
never use. I never send out cards and have five boxes of Christmas cards in the closet to prove it.

I made a lists of good food to eat each day... Five servings of veggies! Really? I’m lucky I do that in a week. I thought about making a list of cookies to eat each day. That list I could follow and would feel great about checking something off a list for a change. Then there’s the list of daily exercises. I found that one buried under the TV Guide.

The good things about making lists are:
-you get to buy a pretty notebook to write your list in. I really like that. I’m a sucker for cute notebooks
-you get to check things off when you do them. I do like putting a check in a box.
-at the end of the day I know I’ve actually done something...I hope. If not I’ve got that cookie list to fall back on
-and when I do the things on my list I celebrate! I really like the celebrating idea. Refer to the cookie list above. Oreos are the fav celebratory cookie.

So what about you? Are you a list maker? Do you make lists every day? When you go to the grocery store? When you go on vacation? When you watch the grandkids so you don’t leave one in the car. (I had four kids and counted a lot!) Do you thing lists are a good idea or a waste of time?


-



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Movie Time

by Maggie Sefton



This week I thought I'd wrap up the Movie Time segments right before I fly off for
the Northern Virginia, my hometown area, and enjoy my daughter Serena's Bridal Shower that I've arranged for family and friends who live in the area.  The Chef at the wonderful cafe/restaurant where we'll be holding the Shower luncheon and I have been discussing details and going over menu suggestions via email.  I'm really pleased with what we've come up with.  The food will be delicious and the entire event will be a whole lot of fun.  :)    Now----for the Movie Reviews----

BLACK HAT----I really, really enjoyed this film.  Of course,  as you folks have heard me say before, I love action adventure.  And this film defiintely delivered.  It's billed as an action thriller mystery because there are lots of international settings as the hero, who's a super computer internet genius who can figure out the most intricate of codes.  It seems a Super Hacker has compromised a nuclear dam, hacked the NY Stock Exchange and sent soybean prices soaring then drop, losing millions, and basically shown off for every national and international police force out there that he Super Hacker can outsmart them.  That's where the Hero comes in.  He has to figure out the clues Super Hacker leaves to taunt authorities.  Non-stop action and mentally engaging as well, especially if you like international espionage.

WILD----I really enjoyed this movie, too, and it was based on a real person's life and the woman's experience of hiking the Pacific Coast trail.  This movie was every bit as gripping as the international espionage movies because the character (played by Reese Witherspoon) was out there in the wilderness sleeping in the wild, having to keep the campfire going to keep the critters away, and meeting some real people along the way who posed genuine threats to a woman all by herself out there in the woods.  Plus, there were real physical challenges as well.  Really well done.  I recommend it highly.

TAKEN 3-----This is another great action thriller which is also the third---and final---episode in Liam Neesan's (sp?)  espionage movie where he's having to rescue either his daughter or his wife.  This time the rescue involves both, and also an intricate setup by the Villain who wants to protect his criminal activity.  Well, the CIA has to get involved because Liam swears he'll get to the bottom of this plot because it's threatening his family.  Again, non-stop thriller action that delivers.  I recommend it.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM----You have to love this wonderfully silly little storyline about all the museum stuffed and preserved animals and humans and creatures of all kinds coming alive at night and partying all over the museum.  It's a lot of fun and will make you laugh.  Plus, it's a chance to say "goodbye" to one of my favorite comic actors---Robin Williams.  Of course, there he is playing Teddy Roosevelt, sword in hand, yelling "Charge!" as he charges on horseback (or pretends to charge).  It's an endearing portrayal and reminds us all of why so many of us loved Robin Wiliams comic gifts and greatly miss him.  No one can take his place.

Monday, February 23, 2015

WHAT TIME IS IT, MR. CLOCK?

by Kate Collins

The time change is coming! The time change is coming! Yipee!!

Now to set aside enough of that lovely daylight to reset all the clocks in my house, not to mention my watches, which, if laid end to end, could circle my wrist eight times.

I may have a slight timepiece addition. 

Don’t laugh. You might, too. Stop reading right now and go count the clocks in your house. See if yours match mine.

Beside the clocks on my wall oven, microwave, coffee maker, and four clock radios, I also have seven decorative clocks. That makes fourteen. Plus the watches and, well, you see what I mean about resetting clocks. But I still ove my timepieces.

The little mahogany one to the right sat on my husband’s desk at his law office for over thirty years. 

The starburst crystal Waterford clock he gave me as a gift one year. 

The chiming wall clock is the one and only prize I’ve ever won. 


The anniversary clock is self-explanatory and pretty old, and the others I just liked. Note the time in each one as I went from room to room taking photos.



Then there are my watches – some dressy, some playful, some practical, one that was my husband’s that I had the band changed to fit me, and all precious to me in some way.




I fear watches are going out of style, replaced by the ever-present cell phone. Ask someone the time and five times out of ten, s/he’ll check a cell phone. Maybe the solution is a product like the new Apple watch – phone AND watch. Or maybe it’ll just be the next addition to my collection.


How did you do? Are you a timepiece person like me or have you given up the watch in favor of the phone? 

Post a photo of your favorite clock or watch. I’d love to see them.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

So Much Love!

by Leann

Last Valentine's Day the Cozy Chicks hosted a wonderful event celebrating readers and pets. There was much to share and I was so amazed at how much pets mean to so many. We heard many stories of how rescued pets really became the rescuers. We saw pictures, too. Beautiful pictures of wonderful friends--furry, feathered or whatever "skin type" they might be. Those animals are loved!

I'm sharing my latest picture of my new love.

If you know his name--and many of you do--then share it the comment section and you could win these glass coasters.


But I also want to give a prize right now to a wonderful volunteer who fosters cats in California and is a voracious cozy reader. Her name is Lynda Turpin. She has become a wonderful friend of the Cozy Chicks and is just a fine, dedicated and generous person. Lynda, please message me with your snail mail address and I will send out your gift. I think when you go into your "foster room" or head to Petsmart hoping your most current fostered cats will find forever homes, you'll put it on. I'm sure it will collect plenty of cat hair!

Thanks to all who took time out to chat with us last weekend and it was such great fun. You know we'll be doing it again! Don't forget to join The Cozy Chicks Group to hear when we'll be celebrating our readers! You won't want to miss it!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

SUPPORT WORLD SPAY DAY!

   by Mary Kennedy                          
 
 
Check out this basket of cute kittens!  (One of my friends calls it "The Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit") Yes, they're adorable, but will they all have homes?
                                                         
 
Many of you joined the fun at our Cozy Chicks Love Pets Valentine's Day Party last week and it was wonderful see that so many of our readers are also animal lovers. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but please tell everyone you know that "spaying or neutering your pets is likely the best decision you'll ever make on their behalf."
 
World Spay Day on February 24th serves as a reminder that we have a duty to these wonderful animals and to our planet.
 
Every year, there are an estimated 6-8 million animals entering shelters and only half are adopted. The rest are euthanized. This is sad but true.
                                                         
 
There are over 70 million stray cats in the US.  This spring, they will begin to breed, producing millions of kittens and overwhelming the local shelter. (The cat pictured above, Calpurnia, is one of my own rescues. Luckily, she's no longer living outside as a stray. I rescued her, her mother and her daddy from my yard and immediately took them to the vet. No more babies!)
                                                        
 
And spaying and neutering isn't just for dogs and cats, it's also important for rabbits. Did you know that rabbits are the third most relinquished pets at animal shelters? Rabbits can live between 8 and 10 years, producing countless offspring.
 
Please do everything you can to educate your friends and neighbors about the importance of having their pets spayed and neutered. Sometimes a word of encouragement is all they need. If finances are tight, there are many organizations that will provide low cost spay and neuter services in your area. Just call your local shelter for details.
                                                           
 
To end on a happy note, congratulations to Mare Fairchild, who shared our Cozy Chicks Valentine's Day bash!  Mare, please message me with your snail mail address and your cat tote bag will be winging its way to you. Thanks for stopping by!
 
Mary Kennedy