Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Time!

by Leann

Many of you may know I am a TV junkie. Crime dramas, of course. Always crime shows or singing competitions. Throw in So You Think You Can Dance and I am in heaven. The new season is upon us and tonight I am looking forward to The
Good Wife. I have watched every episode since the beginning and think the acting and writing is superb. I wasn't too thrilled with the "surprise" last year since Josh Charles is one of my favorite actors, but that's the way it goes in show business. They come and they go--and they don't ask us whether it's okay!

I did catch the pilot for the new show The Mysteries of Laura and found it entertaining but this past summer the best "funny" cop show for me was Taxi Brooklyn. Just a great show that I hope will return since it ended with a ginormous cliff hanger.

What I am looking forward to in the next couple weeks? Castle of course! What happened to him? Will they get married? I rarely remember the ending from a show last season and appreciate the "recaps," but I remember that ending very clearly. It's been a long summer, Mr. Castle, and you better be okay or they'll have to rename the show.
weeks?

The Blacklist (adore James Spader) is another favorite and right before it, The
Voice. For me, there isn't a competition show besides the aforementioned SYTYCD that even comes close to being so much fun. Funny, intelligent and filled with talent. Love it!

Elementary, Person of Interest, all the NCIS's, Criminal Minds, Bones ... as you can tell if there's even a hint of mystery I'll watch it. I am also looking forward to a couple new shows: How to Get Away With Murder and Scorpion. Some of you may remember a very intelligent crime show a few years back called Numbers. I'm hoping Scorpion is along those lines.

I've missed a few, I know. I've been madly setting up my DVR to record many of these since I am on deadline and television is a huge way for me to procrastinate. But I try to use it now as a reward. "Leann, if you write this many pages, you can watch this show." Yes, I do bargain with myself! I just like to be told stories as well as write them. That seems normal for a book lover, right?

What about you? Any shows you're looking forward to this season? And how do you think the whole Castle thing will work out?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

THE MYTH OF THE BRADY BUNCH

by Mary Kennedy


Remember the theme song? "Here's the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls." The Brady Bunch was a wildly popular TV show from1969 to 1974. Every week, we'd gather around the television to see what the happy clan was up to and watch as they magically solved any squabbles and remained just "one big happy family."
                                                         

Carol Brady was the perfect step-mom. Endlessly patient, caring and sensitive, she managed to run a pretty chaotic household and make it all look easy.

Of course she had help--Alice! If only every family could have such a devoted housekeeper.                   
                                                        

And then there was Mike, the dad. The perfect father in so many ways, a guy who never lost his temper and always had time for the kids.

                                                          

The perfect blended family! But this was television and real life is quite different. When you have biological children, step-children, ex-husbands and ex-wives thrown into the mix, things can get out of control very quickly. You not only have a blended family, you have an "extended" family to deal with.

As a psychologist in private practice, I've seen many "blended families" and understand both the joys and challenges they present. Here are a few points to consider.

*It's a whole new game plan as everyone adjusts to the "new normal." Few of the old rules apply, new allegiances are formed, kids jockey for position and if you're not careful, your fragile alliance can collapse completely. Best to set some ground rules from the start, and remember, this is a trying time for everyone, both parents and kids.
                                                          

*Jealousies and resentments are bound to occur, it's best to address them immediately. Some changes are inevitable. A young girl who used to have her own bedroom might have to share with a new stepsister, household chores might increase (since most people can't afford full-time help like Alice) and some of the children might have to transfer to a new school district. Any disruption in the system is bound to cause distress and so many changes at once can surely be overwhelming. It helps to acquire the "we're-all-in-this-together mindset," and remember that things will eventually smooth out and a new dynamic will form.

* Try to establish new rituals, new family nights, ways to bond. Sometimes the parents forget that even if "their" relationship has grown and evolved over time, the children feel as though this new arrangement has been thrust upon them and they resent it.
                                                         

*Try not to show favoritism. This is perhaps the toughest challenge of all. Each parent wants to make sure that his/her kids get their share. It's helpful to take a step back and look at each child as an individual. Try to learn about them, their special interests, their likes and dislikes, their quirks. And do your best to bond with them.

I've come across a wonderful short story that deals with these issues, "Married with Stepchildren," by Tonya Thomas. It's a fictionalized account of one woman's experience with blended families.  If you find yourself part of a blended family, try your best to adapt to the situation with humor, grace and empathy. Remember, this is going to be a challenge for everyone and you're not alone.

Mary Kennedy






Friday, September 19, 2014

Social Media and me, er ... us!

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

A couple of weeks ago, Leann suggested that we might want to try out Tumblr.  My reaction was, "Yeah, great. Let's do it.  ... Uh, what is it?"

According to Wikipedia, "Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social networking website. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users' blogs, as well as make their blogs private. Much of the website's features are accessed from the "dashboard" interface, where the option to post content and posts of followed blogs appear."

Leann's mentioned her son-in-law's twice-monthly podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. She told me how Tumblr helped find them an audience. 

Well, I figured ... why not try it!

So, not only are Leann and I up there, but so are the Chicks and Ellery, too.

Great.  Wonderful.  Now what do we do?

Well, we're posting.  Why do we want to use Tumblr?  A lot of people don't like Facebook.  Tumblr is another way we can communicate with our readers.  The problem is ... how do we find our readers on Tumblr?

Well, I guess that's what my post today is all about.  Why not come over and take a look at our mini blogs and see what you think.  I'll give you the links again ... just click on our names and take a look.  Maybe you'd like to join in the fun.  We'll be happy to follow you, too!

Lorraine  |  Leann  |  Ellery  |  The Cozy Chicks


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I can't help it. It's my face!



 By Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott and her eyebrows

You hope your children and grandchildren inherit your good points and not your less than sterling qualities. You really do.  But it’s not going that way for me and mine.  

Today I was warned that the latest child in our large and ever expanding  family has inherited my raised eyebrows, widely considered to be weapons of mass destruction.



Known as The Look or The Eyebrow, this facial fur has struck fear into many hearts for a lot of years now, not that there's anything wrong with that in my humble opinion..

However, here are some commonly overheard comments about my eyebrows from my daughters:   

Look out, we have lift-off. Run!

When her eyebrows hit the hairline, make yourself scarce.

I think Mom’s eyebrows might be on the back of her head now.  That can't be good.

Or the latest: Is there such a thing as Irritable Eyebrow Syndrome?

Very funny,  I don’t think I’m all that scary, I mean, if you toe the line. 

But then I received these pictures of baby Ella, my great-grandaughter  who is usually sunny with the happiest disposition,  I appears she has perfected The Look.  Let me tell you, it gave me something to think about.

Here, she's really working it!

The message is clearly:  Mummy, you’d better hop to it. 

For some reason, this inspired great hilarity around our family. Not sure I fully understand, but wanted to share.

So is there an expression, facial or verbal, that gets things going in your family? Let’s hear it. Don’t let me be all alone here, my friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Hype


The best endorsement is word of mouth. Someone says hey, this movie it terrific...and then it’s not. Or this restaurant is fantastic and it sucks. Or you need to stay here on vacation then wish you were home in your own bed watching TV.

Some things live up to the hype and others don’t even come close. Here are some things that IMO really do measure up and I recommend them one-hundred percent.

The Grand Canyon does not disappoint. You’ve heard about it forever and everyone says it’s fantastic, and guess what...you get there and it is all that and more!

Niagara Falls is the same way. I’ve never heard anyone say its just water over some rocks.
Paris never disappoints and neither does Yosemite National Park or Old Faithful. Holy cow, grandma! 
 
Grandkids don’t disappoint. If I knew how great they were I would have had them first. Pets don’t disappoint. They love you no matter if you are in your PJs till noon, don’t brush your teeth and if you get fired and your honey dumps you

A book that doesn’t disappoint are Gone With the Wind. I known, I know, it’s long and descriptive as all get out. But read it and you are in the South fighting the Civil War.

Suri doesn’t disappoint. That girl has gotten me to more places. Bless you, Suri, I’m writing you into the will.

On the other hand there are things that don’t live up to the hype. Top of the list are big weddings. So much stress, angst, fussing and even fighting and still you are no more married than if you eloped to City Hall.

Growing Up probably heads the list on not living up to the hype. You grow up then wonder what the heck was I thinking? Same for believing in Santa, we all need to believe in a guy who flies through the sky and gives us presents.

Movies that do not live up to the hype are anything Star Wars after the first three and anything part two and three. 

Okay that’s my list of some of the things that do and do NOT live up to the hype. What is your list? What have you heard is fantastic and then it was. What have you heard that is fantastic and then it sucked.

Let me know and I’ll give away two Geared for the Grave tote bags.
Hugs, Duffy





Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me. . ."

by Maggie Sefton

(This photo is my mom in her mid-40's.  The photo below was taken last year.)


Most of you will recognize the title of my post today is taken from that old Beatles song where the rest of the lyric  goes  “. . . . When I’m sixty-four.”

Well, my mother is a good deal past sixty-four.   (So are the two remaining Beatles, to tell the truth).  Mom celebrated her 94th birthday this last May.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I wonder how many of us will make it to 94.  My mom is in really good shape for her age.  She has no major diseases, especially the Big Three:  Heart disease, Diabetes, and Emphysema from smoking.  She’s in a wheelchair now only because in the Spring and Summer of 2011, the arthritis in her knees finally got too painful for her to use the walker---and she always refused knee surgery. 

So----my mom went from Independent Living into what’s referred to as a Skilled Care facility.  The term “nursing home” isn’t used anymore.  Here in Fort Collins, Colorado, we’re fortunate to have excellent facilities for all levels of care, including that 2nd level usually referred to as Assisted Living.  Often patients are admitted to those facilities to heal and rehab from  injuries like broken arms/legs and various surgeries.

Columbine West Healthcare is the Skilled Care facility where my mom is, and the level of care is WONDERFUL.  I cannot praise it enough.  Of course, it’s 24/7, around the clock, real honest-to-God nurses on duty.  J  Plus, scores of Nurses Aides, female and male, all over the place----wheeling residents from their rooms to the various activities and/or entertainments that are scheduled each day.  

Doggies on leashes with owners attached stroll down the hall to visit residents.  Cats visit as well, but not every cat likes to be paraded around rooms.  So, they have special ones who are super tolerant.  Jake is the kitty who visits monthly.  My mom says he “looks bored.”  J   He probably
is, but he’s a good sport.  I brought my black shorthair breed Border Collie/Black Lab  Katy to visit last week.  She’s very friendly and sociable and loves to make “new friends.”  And my mom just laughs out loud---belly laughs---when Katy puts her little black front paws in Mom’s lap and reaches over to lick under Mom’s chin.  Katy does that several times.  I tell my mom that’s a “pack kiss.”  Since dogs evolved from wolves who are pack animals, the licking beneath chins is their version of kissing and affection. J

I’m grateful beyond belief that my mom is in such a wonderful facility.  I never worry whenever I’m traveling.  They literally hover over their residents.  They all have the little oxygen things in their noses when they sleep at night.  None of them will slip away from sleep apnea, that’s for sure.  My mom is very fortunate that her pension and my step-father’s pension cover almost all of the expenses, and her savings cover the rest.  These healthcare facilities are far from cheap, folks.  Oh, no.  And I figure very few of my generation---Baby Boomers—will be able to afford it.   I tell my mom that she deserves it.  She worked over 30 years in the Civil Service in Washington, DC, when the salaries were nothing to write home about.  She was also frugal and saved.  She was a product of the Great Depression, and that left a lasting impression on the Greatest Generation.  They learned well.   Our generation---not so much.  I fear we will see far too many elderly sleeping under bridges and wrapped in blankets in city doorways.   I’m an optimist by nature, but this subject is a serious one.  And, worrisome.

I would be interested in your thoughts.   Are you fortunate enough to have a pension?  Or a financial plan?   Or, just hoping to win the lottery?   

Monday, September 15, 2014

The September 2014 Report


* * * * * * * * * *
Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report: September 2014. This month we have three recently released new series for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons
Series: Chocolate Covered #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Best friends Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell are celebrating the sweet rewards of their combined bookstore and chocolate shop by hosting the Great Fudge Cook-off during the town’s Memorial Day weekend Arts Festival. But success turns bittersweet when Main Street’s portrait photographer is found dead in their store, poisoned by Michelle’s signature truffles.

As suspicion mounts against Michelle, her sales begin to crumble and her career seems whipped. With Erica by her side, Michelle must pick through an assortment of suspects before the future of their dream store melts away…
I enjoyed this tantalizing sweet whodunit that whetted my appetite for chocolate and murder. With a scattered list of suspects, it was easy to succumb to the early clues but once the story moved forward, the killer’s identity inch closer as suspect after suspect were alibied. The author did a good job in presenting a well-fermented drama that was easy to follow with the perfect backdrop of a bookstore and chocolates. There’s a backstory between Erica and Bobby that I can’t wait to read more about and the possibility of a romance blooms for our heroine. Boasting a lovable cast of characters and engaging dialogue, this delectable treat is a welcomed addition to the cozy genre. Bonus chocolaty recipes are included.

Visit Kathy at www.kathyaarons.com


Fat Cat At Large by Janet Cantrell
Series: Fat Cat #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
The jig is up for Chase’s adorable plus-size cat, Quincy. His new vet says “diet”—that means no more cherry cheesecake bars. From now on he gets low-calorie kibble only. But one taste of the stuff is all it takes to drive him in search of better things. Quincy’s escape is the last thing Chase needs after the nasty run-in she has with underhanded business rival Gabe Naughtly.

Chase tracks Quincy down in a neighbor’s kitchen, where he’s devouring a meatloaf, unaware of the much more serious crime he’s stumbled upon. Gabe’s corpse is lying on the kitchen floor, and when Chase is discovered at the murder scene, she becomes suspect number one. Now, with a little help from her friends—both human and feline—she’ll have to catch the real killer or wind up behind bars that aren’t so sweet.
This was a fun read that kept my interest from beginning to end. The mystery was teasingly adventurous from the suspects, to the interaction between the cast and to the frequent surprise mentions of fictional characters from cozy series that I read. I love the way the story flowed and the comfortable tone that created a lovely atmosphere as the story moved forward. Chase is great character and I would like to know more about her and Anna and Julie. Quincy adds a dash of excitement with his escapes and discoveries in this debut novel. I look forward to more good times and murder with the next book in this delightfully appealing series. Recipes for both human and furry friends are included.

Visit Janet at www.janetcantrell.com


Caught Dead Handed by Carol J. Perry
Series: Witch City #1
Publisher: Kensington
Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it's home. This October she's returned to her hometown--where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives--to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH-TV. But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies. It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.

Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she's using as a prop, she wonders if she might really have psychic abilities. To make things even spookier, it's starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch--especially when O'Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own. With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer--or her career as a psychic may be very short lived. . .
This was a fun book to read that was filled with suspense and intrigue. Is she or is she not? That’s the question I had as I followed the actions set forth by Lee as well as the clues in drama that was hard to put down. The author did a great job in the presentation of this novel, where nothing is as it seems and until you got closer to the end, did I suspect what I thought I knew. I Lee is a great heroine as is her aunt Ibby. The addition of O’Ryan and Pete rounded out the cast that supported them. Boasting engaging dialogue and the perfect background setting of Salem, MA and Halloween, this was a very enjoyable read and I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderfully crafted series.

Visit Carol at www.caroljperry.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Favorite Season

by Leann


There are many reasons I love autumn and it probably goes back to my
childhood. I loved school and returning to the comfort of learning and friends and even awful school lunches.

The weather suits me well, the new TV season begins and all the cliffhangers I have completely forgotten about will be resolved--and I will have trouble remembering how the characters got into their predicaments. There's college sports
again. I love college football and basketball and have been eagerly following my favorite teams--who are all off to a great start.

The leaves here in South Carolina turn and in NY I always enjoyed the richness of the fall landscape. In South Texas we didn't have the pleasure, but now I feel lucky I can look forward to vibrant golds and reds along the rural roads. Peaches at the roadside stands are replaced by apples. Right now honey crisps are in but next? I'm not sure.

But most of all it's the food. Pumpkin comes to mind first, perhaps because I had
my first (and it won't be my last) Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard. Absolutely the best blizzard ever. I could eat pumpkin-something every day and never get tired of it. I've been pinning all sorts of recipes on Pinterest now that I actually have a decent oven and stove. Cooking has become a joy again rather than a terrible challenge. I have counter space and working appliances!

The first cold snap will have me pulling out the chili
powder and cumin to make chili. And the bread machine will get get some action and ... okay. I'm hungry now. A few of my favorite recipes are in the Cozy Chicks Kitchen. Do you have your copy? But I will digging through boxes looking for my other cookbooks, too. I am a collector and I have missed those books these last two years.

What do you love best about fall? Or is there another season you prefer?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR LIFE ON HOLD?

by Mary Kennedy 


I call it the "When-Then" syndrome and it affects people from all walks of life. How do I know this? I see it in my clients (I'm a clinical psychologist), I see it in my friends and worst of all, I see it in myself!

Here's how the When-Then syndrome works. Think of a goal, something you really want to accomplish. But instead of setting a reasonable deadline (a goal without a deadline is just a fantasy, by the way. Something nice to dream about, but it will never happen.)

Now, you're all excited about accomplishing this goal. But...instead of getting to work on it right away, you pick another event (way off in the hazy future) and you decide that you can't get started on your goal until the other event takes place. It's completely irrational, but you cling to the idea anway.

For example, are you guilty of using any of the When-Then's listed below?
                                                     
When I lose ten pounds, then I'll buy a bathing suit. Reality check. You may never lose those ten pounds or at least not in the forseeable future. What are you going to do, avoid the beach altogether? You don't have to have a body like a Victoria's Secret model to have a good time at the shore.
                                                       
 
When things slow down at work, then 'll get started on an exercise program. Trust me, things may never slow down at work, in fact, they may get even more busy. Reality check. Time is ticking by, you are more out of shape than ever with no realistic plans to do anything about it.
                                                     

When the kids are back to school, then I'll have some time to myself and I can organize the closets. When the kids are back to school and the house is quiet, you may have no desire to clean the closets! You may relish the time to yourself and prefer to enjoy a good book. (preferably a cozy mystery). Reality check. There is never an ideal time to clean closets. Just pencil it in on the calendar and do it!                

When I move, then I can really get started on my novel. Reality check. This is called "the geographical solution" in psych circles. Some people have the mistaken notion that their lives will instantly get better if they move to a different city. Reality check. Life doesn't work that way. Remember that line in the Billy Joel song, "Piano Man." The narrator says, "I know I could be a movie star if I just could get out of this place." If years go by and you are still clinging to the belief that everything will be different if you move, trust me, it won't. People are like turtles, we bring our shells with us.
                                                       
When I find the right person to make me happy, then my sadness and crying spells will disappear. This is probably the most insidious "When- Then" of all because it is always a mistake to entrust your happiness to another person. Happiness has to come from within, and if you feel hopelessly sad or depressed, please talk to a trusted friend or a licensed mental health professional. Reality check. You can learn to be happy on your own. It's not only advisable, it's essential. Seven out of ten women over the age of 65 live alone, and yes, most of them are happy!

                                                         
 
Watch out for the "When-then's" in your conversation and in your self-talk. Nip them in the bud. Life is to be lived, right now, right here!! As Doris Day said in her famous song, "The future's not ours to see, que cera, que cera."
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, September 12, 2014

End of summer recipe

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

According to the calendar, there's still just over a week of summer left. According to the weather, fall is here.

So are the tomatoes--FINALLY.  We planted them earlier this year in hopes of being able to eat them earlier.  The only one who got to do that was Mr. Groundhog.  Apparently he didn't like the pickings on the farm behind us and has been dining on not only our tomatoes, but on our neighbor's tomatoes, too!  And the tomatoes aren't that good this year, no doubt due to the wet summer.  They seem to start to rot before they're thoroughly ripe.  So ... we're cutting out the bad bits and eating them anyway.

And why is it they all ripen at the same time? Now we have a glut. We've been eating a lot of them with seasoned rice vinegar, or just with salt and pepper, but here's a recipe that uses a lot of tomatoes at one time: Panzanella (otherwise known as Italian Bread Salad).



Ingredients
1 pound two-day old country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2 cubes
1 cup red onion, diced
12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
fresh basil sprigs
salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss bread, tomatoes, onion and shredded basil leaves until well mixed. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad and toss to mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Decorate sprigs of fresh basil.

Instead of plain olive oil, I used Wegmans basting oil (which has garlic and other herbs--that mostly seem to be parsley; it's de-lish!).  Haven't got a red onion?  A sweet onion will do.  We had a basil calamity earlier this summer (drown by a rainstorm and then I didn't know the planter where I was growing it was full so it didn't get emptied for almost a week), but it bounced back.  I love basil so I added about 20 basil leaves.  Didn't hurt the salad one bit.

Have you got any recipes to use up tomatoes?