Monday, October 20, 2014

Which Is Smarter -- Dog or Cat?



By Kate Collins

Nothing like starting a heated debate. Sorry. I couldn’t resist, especially because we're celebrating National Cat Month at the Cozy Chicks and because I read a fascinating article* on cat vs. dog intelligence. I’m betting that you feel one way or the other based on whether you’re a dog person or cat person. If you have both types of pet, you still may favor one over the other. We'll just see about that.

To be honest, because dogs and cats are two different species, it’s not really fair to compare them. According to Psychology Today: “Dogs are designed to be more efficient runners while cats have better ability at manipulating things with their paws. Thus a test that involved pulling strings or operating levers would tend to favor a cat, while a test involving moving from place to place, where speed is a measure of performance, would favor a dog.

If you judge by number of neurons in the brain, then cats win. They have 300 million neurons in their cerebral cortex, the area responsible for processing, problem solving and perception, while dogs have 160 million.

However, if you judge by  the “Encephalization Quotient” (EQ) a tool to compare intelligence and brain weight in relation to an animal’s body size, then dogs win because social animals (dogs) tend to have higher EQs than solitary animals (cats.) Because dogs have had to learn over time to interact with humans, they have had to develop more problem solving and communication skills.

The fact that dogs can sort objects into categories (demonstrating abstract thought) and can tell what people are thinking are indicators of their intelligence. Yet researchers have shown that cats can be trained to do similarly impressive feats, like distinguish between different quantities of objects and follow pointing gestures (like dogs).

Oxford University researchers believe that dogs are becoming progressively more intelligent because of the demands of humans, while cats have stayed mostly the same. “At the risk of starting another argument, these data may explain why we never hear about such things as a ‘seeing eye cat,’ ‘police cat’ or ‘search and rescue cat.’”

To be fair, however, they admit that it wasn’t easy to get the cats to display their talents. In the case of distinguishing between different quantities… this is an ability that fish also possess, and the researchers said it was far “easier to work with fish than cats.”  That made me laugh because it’s so true. Maybe cats have the same abilities but just aren’t in the right mood to display them. Ever.

Another interesting item: “The research also showed cats and dogs can solve simple puzzles to get food, but when the puzzle is unsolvable, dogs will look to humans for help, whereas cats will keep trying,” Isn’t that the truth?

Charles Darwin wraps up this discussion nicely:  ‘Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.’  Basically then, all species that stay healthy, remain numerous and avoid extinction are equally intelligent.

Does that end the debate?



*Dr. Becker’s Oct 17, 2014 newsletter (Mercola.com)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Forget Much?

by Leann

It's been one of those weeks and I am blaming it on the deadline stress. A book near completion but not quite there yet is about the worst thing for me. It messes with my brain. The plot's on my mind constantly as I try to bring all the mystery threads together to finish.

So what happens? I forget things.I lose things. I went to the doctor and had one thing I wanted to ask her about in particular. Never mentioned it. Didn't even realize I hadn't mentioned it until the next day. I have to travel quite a distance to get there and the drive takes a toll. I get fatigued and that only triples the non-thinking thing. And, I realized I'd lost my credit card--I assumed at the gas station--when I went to pay. Oy, what a pain! Called my husband, he cancelled it and then I got a call after I left the doctor's office that they found it in the bathroom. Great. Too late.

Then I got lost trying to find Whole Foods--I'd figure I would go there since it seemed fairly close to the doc's office. Then got lost again trying to find my way back to
the road that would take me home. GPS and Suri were NO help whatsoever. When I queried Suri with "Where is Whole Foods?" from the Trader Joes parking lot where GPS took me twice, she said, "You are very close." Thanks. I knew that. As I said, I found the store, but I drove around various parking lots before, bingo--I asked another human being. Next time I think I'll try that approach first.

Then, I hadn't taken my thyroid medicine because the doctor wanted to see what my lab values were without taking the med right before the test. Did I remember to take it when I got home? That would be no. And boy did THAT screw me up even more. I fell asleep on the couch sitting up at 8 o'clock. One of those drooling, neck crinking naps that doesn't do a body good. And then I couldn't sleep that night.

The following day was no better. I still couldn't think straight and though I remembered my medicine, I forgot Marlowe's seizure med until it was 4 hours late. That's not good but thank goodness he didn't seem bothered at all. He was fine, but I worried and watched him like a hawk all day.

I am recovering from being an idiot for several days but still not finished with The Book That Will Not End. But I'm close. Very close. As long as I don't have any more no good, very bad days. But just in case, I'm keeping the following list on my computer. I believe I need it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Favorite Fall Supper--Soup and Pizza!

by Mary Kennedy                      
                                                       
 
Yes, I know the usual combo is soup and a sandwich, or soup and a salad, but this is an easy dinner that really hits the spot on chilly nights. Both the tomato soup and pizza are home-made (of course!) and this is the kind of thing you might find on the menu at Oldies But Goodies. (the candy store-café in my Dream Club Mysteries.)
 
Let's start with the soup. This isn't the time to be counting calories, by the way. As a famous TV chef says, "Where's the butter?" This a great recipe for creamy tomato soup and everyone I know loves it. Here goes.
 
Dice an onion and cook till transparent in 6 tablespoons of butter. Next add two 14 oz cans diced tomatoes,
   
                                                        
 
One 46 oz bottle of tomato juice.
                                                         
 
 
Now add 3 tablespoons of sugar. You need the sugar because tomatoes tend to be acidic. You can even use a little more than 3 tablespoons of sugar if you wish.
Next, add one or two tablespoons of chicken base (I use Better Than Bouillon Low Sodium Chicken base. You can find it in the soup aisle, it comes in a small jar).  
                                                       
Add some pepper. Bring almost to a boil. Add 12 oz heavy cream. I have substituted Half and Half for the heavy cream and it was very good. Some people add half a cup of white wine or sherry at this point but you don't have to.
                                                          
 
Now add chopped parsley and basil to taste. I use a lot of fresh parsley and basil because I like the taste. And voila! You have delicious home-made tomato soup that will serve 4-6 people.
 
And now my favorite one-serving (yes, you can eat the whole thing!) pizza.
Start with a Pita Bread. I use "Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pita Bread," but there are several other brands.  Choose something high-fiber if you can.                                                       
 
Here's what I use for the topping. I start by spreading 1/4 cup of sauce on the pita--it can be spaghetti sauce, it can be tomato sauce, either home-made or from a jar, whatever strikes your fancy.
                                                          
Now the toppings: I chop up one piece of light string cheese and one wedge of Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese.  I sprinkle this on top of the sauce. Obviously, if you have some other types of cheeses sitting in the fridge (like mozzarella) and you want to use them up, go with them.
                                                         
Then you can get creative. I usually add two tablespoons of chopped tomato and I often add sautéed red or green peppers and mushrooms. The toppings are up to you, add what you like. One of my friends adds "vegan pepperoni" and it's delish.  If you have some roasted veggies left over from last night's dinner, add those. Next sprinkle a tiny amount of parmesan cheese on top.                                              
                                                       
 
I always add fresh basil at this point because I love basil. (and I grow it indoors and outdoors, all year round).
Pop the pita in the pre-heated oven on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick coating. It will cook in 10-12 minutes. (see, I told you it would be easy!) It's delicious and best of all, it makes just ONE serving and you can eat the whole thing ("mine, all mine!")
                                                          
 
I hope you've enjoyed this look at my favorite Fall supper and will give the recipes a try. Happy cooking!
 
 
Mary Kennedy
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gotta love those audiobooks!

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

Yesterday I got the good word that A Fatal Chapter will appear as an audiobook the same day as the print and ebook editions.  A Fatal Chapter will be the 9th Booktown Mystery, and will be published on June 2, 2015.  (The Good News:  I've seen the cover and it's gorgeous.  The Bad News: I haven't been given permission to show it off yet.)

Everyone keeps saying that AUDIO IS THE NEXT BIG THING.  I'd like to believe it.  Why?  Because I currently have 11 books out in audio. (And another one in production.)  The entire Booktown Mystery series is available in audio as are the first three Jeff Resnick Mysteries.  (Even as I type this, the next book in the series, Cheated By Death, is being recorded for audio.)

Why do I love audiobooks?  Because they make boring tasks easier to handle.  Things like ...





and




and




and


But I'm not the only Chick with audio books.  Leann's Yellow Rose and Cats In Trouble series are on Audio.  Mary's Talk Radio series is on audio.  Mary Jane's/Victoria Abbott's Book Collectors series is on audio, too!  And Ellery's Book Resort Mysteries have just been sold to audio, too.

So if you're an audiophile, there are a lot of cozy mysteries out there on audio you can listen to.

Where do you listen to audiobooks?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The gift of a golden day






We are in mid-October.  The weather is one degree off an all-time high for this date in our part of the world. There is still some brilliant red and orange foliage in our vicinity. Golden leaves are drifting from our black walnut trees to the ground, but the air is warm enough for a lunch outside and a pleasant walk. The last morning glory has vanished, but there’s a stubborn rose to make us smile.



The squirrels are in a joyous frenzy. The dogs are caught up in that too.  Someday, they’ll learn to climb trees too. They are convinced of it. In the meantime, they are enjoying a walk through crunchy leaves in the neighborhood.


Our summer clothing has all been backed away, but this afternoon, there’s no hint of cold winds, naked trees to come, or snow.  It’s a wonderful gift and one of those surprising moments that makes me realize how lucky I am to be a writer working in my own home. In the days before I was able to work at home bumping off the unwary for fun and occasional profit, I had quite interesting jobs in libraries, government departments and associations. I was always glad to go to work, except on these rare golden days in the fall.  It was the only time I ached to be free to simply mouse around outside, free of schedules, meetings and indoor traps. 

Spotted on our walk - too neat to be ours!


Now I have deadlines, commitments, much to keep me busy, but on this golden day, I can take some ‘required reading’ for the book I’m working on and peruse it outside. A stroll around the block with three little dogs will be just the ticket to free up my mind to get over a sticky plot situation.  

Today is the best sort of day to be a writer. I’ve been feeling flashes of happiness.  And if I have to work at nine o’clock tonight, well, that will be a small price to pay.  We know we'll be raking leaves again this week, but for today, it's time to relax. 


What about you? What kind of day brings you happiness?  Are there some when you simply have to step outside to experience what the world has to offer?   Let’s hear it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The October 2014 Report


* * * * * * * * * *
Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report: October 2014. This month we have two recently released new series for your reading pleasure and three mentions that are getting rave reviews. Enjoy!
* * * * * * * * * *


Lost Under a Ladder by Linda O. Johnson
Series: Superstition #1
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Is it Luck? Or is it Destiny?

Rory Chasen never thought superstitions were real—until her beloved fiancé is killed after walking under a ladder. To find closure and the truth about superstitions, Rory takes her dog Pluckie to a town called Destiny, where superstitious beliefs are a way of life.

Rory’s visit to Destiny takes an unexpected turn when Pluckie saves Martha, the owner of the Lucky Dog Boutique. While Martha recovers, Rory reluctantly agrees to manage the pet shop for her. But when Martha becomes the prime suspect in the local bookshop owner’s murder, Rory can’t believe that the sweet old woman would do it. Convinced the real killer is still roaming Destiny’s streets, Rory resolves to crack the case before Martha’s luck runs out.
Do you believe in superstitions? In this new series by Linda O Johnston, she takes us to Destiny, California to see if the rumors are true. What we find is a charming and delightful tale featuring Rory and her furry friend Pluckie who plays a pivotal role in this light and fresh whodunit. The author did a great job in setting up the scenes where a murderer hides in plain sight and I enjoyed watching it all come together. With a likable cast and the idiosyncrasies and uniqueness of this small town is a perfect fit to this entertaining series.

Visit Linda at www.lindaojohnston.com



Finding Sky by Susan O’Brien
Series: Nicki Valentine #1
Publisher: Henery Press
She’s a parent. She’s (almost) a P.I. No one gets on your case like mom. Suburban widow and P.I. in training Nicki Valentine can barely keep track of her two kids, never mind anyone else. But when her best friend’s adoption plan is jeopardized by the young birth mother’s disappearance, Nicki is persuaded to help. Nearly everyone else believes the teenager ran away, but Nicki trusts her BFF’s judgment, and the feeling is mutual.

The case leads where few moms go (teen parties, gang shootings) and places they can’t avoid (preschool parties, OB-GYNs’ offices). Nicki has everything to lose and much to gain — including the attention of her unnervingly hot P.I. instructor. Thankfully, Nicki is armed with her pesky conscience, occasional babysitters, a fully stocked minivan, and nature’s best defense system: women’s intuition.
From the start, Susan O’Brien fresh new drama pulled me in immediately and quickly became a page-turner, as I had to know it was going to end and boy was it worth the wait in this pleasantly appealing debut novel. This was a good mystery that kept me busy sifting through the clues as I followed the twists and turns that the author presented to deter my own sleuthing. Surrounded by a diverse cast of characters and engaging dialogue, this was a very enjoyable read and I can’t wait to see what new exciting cases await Nicki Valentine.

Visit Susan at www.skywritingsusan.com



The Question of the Missing Head by E. J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen
Series: Asperger #1
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Samuel Hoenig answers questions for a living. And as a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, his unique personality helps him ferret out almost any answer there is. But his latest question is a rather odd one—who stole a preserved head from the Garden State Cryonics Institute?

Arriving at the scene of the crime accompanied by his new colleague, Ms. Washburn, Samuel finds that what started out as a theft has escalated to murder. With suspects and motives emerging at a rapid rate, one final question remains—can Samuel’s powers of deduction uncover a killer in the face of overwhelming odds?
Visit Jeff at www.jeffcohenbooks.com and E.J. at www.ejcopperman.com



Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James
Series: Southern Sisters #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
New York Times bestselling author Miranda James returns to Athena, Mississippi, with an all-new mystery featuring Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, two snoopy sisters who are always ready to lend a helping hand. But when a stressed socialite brings murder right to their doorstep, even they have trouble maintaining their Southern hospitality.

With the Mississippi sun beating down, An’gel and Dickce are taking a break to cool off and pet sit their friend Charlie Harris’s cat, Diesel, when their former sorority sister, Rosabelle Sultan, shows up at their door unexpectedly, with her ne’er-do-well adult children not far behind.

Rosabelle’s selfish offspring are desperate to discover what’s in her will, and it soon becomes clear that one of them would kill to get their hands on the inheritance. Suddenly caught up in a deadly tangle of duplicitous suspects and deep-fried motives, it will take all of the sisters’ Southern charm to catch a decidedly ill-mannered killer.
Visit Miranda (Dean) James at www.catinthestacks.com



Off Kilter by Hannah Reed
Series: Scottish Highlands #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
National bestselling author Hannah Reed brings mystery lovers the first in a brand-new series, in which a young writer finds herself swept up in a murder amidst the glens and lochs of the Scottish Highlands.

After the recent death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, thirty-something Eden Elliott is seriously in need of a fresh start. At the urging of her best friend, bestselling author Ami Pederson, Eden decides to embark on an open-ended trip to the picturesque village of Glenkillen in the Scottish Highlands, to do some hands-on research for a book of her own. But almost as soon as Eden arrives in the quaint town, she gets caught up in a very real drama.

The town’s sheep shearer is found murdered—clipped with his own shears—and the locals suspect Vicki MacBride, an outsider whose father’s recent death left her the surprise heir to his lucrative sheep farm. Eden refuses to believe the affable heiress is a murderer, but can she prove that someone is out to frame her new friend before she finds herself on the receiving end of more shear terror?
Visit Hannah at www.queenbeemystery.com

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Who Are You People?

by Maggie Sefton


WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?  Characters from the NYTimes Bestselling Kelly Flynn Knitting Mysteries:  A Closer Look.

That's the title of the new "E-Short" Ebook selection I just put up on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and other major Ebook retailers.  Since the 12th book in the Kelly Flynn mysteries was released last June---YARN OVER MURDER---I decided it was a good time to provide a guide to the cast of  characters in the mysteries, which has grown considerably since the very first mystery--KNIT ONE, KILL TWO--when Kelly Flynn returned to her childhood home of Fort Connor, Colorado.  I thought readers who are new to the series would appreciate some "deep background."  

Over the years that I've been writing about Kelly and her world, I've been fascinated at how some characters appeared in an early book, played their role, and then matter-of-factly announced that they had no intention of leaving the scene.  Instead, they planned to become part of the regular cast and crew.  Curt Stackhouse was the first to announce he wasn't about to "ride off into the sunset" at the end of KNIT ONE, KILL TWO.  No, no.  He was staying.  Jayleen Swinson did the very same thing in the second book, NEEDLED TO DEATH.

By the way-----in case you're wondering----characters don't ask.  They demand.  Period.   Yeah, yeah.  I know.  We novelists are terminally weird.  All sorts of characters live inside our heads, and then they demand to be on the page.   What can I say?   It comes with the territory.

And that's why I wrote the guide to the characters.  Then----followed that up by writing a Short Short Story featuring the cast and crew of the Kelly Flynn Knitting Mysteries.  HALLOWEEN SCARE will be released online on Ebooks at the start of Halloween week near the end of October.  This E-Short developed from a scene that appeared one day and wouldn't go away.  I thought for a moment that perhaps it was meant to be part of a regular Kelly Flynn mystery.  But then, I realized that it wouldn't really fit.  Instead, it was a simple self-contained scene in the lives of the folks that show up at the House of Lambspun.  You can find out more when I post about that story on October 28th on the Cozy Chicks Blog.

Meanwhile, if anyone you know is curious about "Kelly World," they can find out more by reading WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?   I really searched for a cover photo that would work, but most photos were of real people.  And then, I saw the photo above with the "vector people."  I love it.  But then, I am terminally weird, you know.  :)  I was reminded to include links:  www.amazon.com   and  
www.barnesandnoble.com  

Monday, October 13, 2014

WHY ARE WE CELEBRATING COLUMBUS DAY AGAIN??

by Kate Collins


For your entertainment and in honor of Columbus Day, which the US has celebrated since 1937, I did a little research  -- and came away scratching my head. Because in fact there's not much of a reason to honor Señor Columbus.

First of all, he was not the first to believe his ship wouldn't fall off the end of the ocean. Most educated Europeans of his time already knew the world was round.

Second, a number of other explorers landed on the continent before Chris did. He actually bumped into it while trying to reach the East Indies, which is why it is believed he called the native Americans "Indians." He didn't even know this great big continent existed. A geography scholar he was not.

Third, he wanted to enslave the natives and actually took some back to Spain with him, where they were displayed on the streets of Barcelona and Seville.

So whose idea was this holiday anyway? And why do we keep celebrating it? Or do we? Bankers no longer get it off. Do you?

Here are what some famous people had to say about the man, courtesy of Maria Vultaggio, vultaggio@ibtimes.com.

“Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered.  I myself would say that it had merely been detected.” -- Oscar Wilde

“Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by posterity because he was the last to discover America.” -- James Joyce

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” -- Stephen Hawking

“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’” -- Vine Deloria Jr.

“If Columbus had an advisory committee, he would probably still be at the dock.” -- Arthur Goldberg

AND MY FAVORITE: “America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.” -- Oscar Wilde

My question to you is, should we keep honoring this explorer or should we give the distinction to a true American hero? And who would you pick for that?

Enjoy your holiday!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's National Cat Month and Mine Won't Let Me Forget

by Leann

October is National Cat Month and I have two cats who won't let me forget--and of course the fictional ones are meowing in my head, too. But of course, every second of every minute of every hour of every day is Caturday, but I believe the cats got together to make sure they had a celebration worthy of them.

So, I thought I'd share with you pics of the cats who have owned me for the last twenty years. Three of them have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and I miss them so, but they all lived a good long time.

Starting with the youngest and still with us, we have Marlowe named after Philip Marlowe. He's an epileptic kitty with other neurological issues but we love him no matter what. He does have those eyes in his favor. Love his sweet face and the way he fights every day to stay with us. What a little tough guy!


Next is Wexford, who is three and named after Inspector Wexford in Ruth Rendell's  long-running British mystery series. Wexford is a scaredy cat but he loves his new home. A lot of bird watching is going on this cat month. He's also very affectionate and definitely a momma's boy.

Simone is my grandkitty, so he doesn't live with me but a friend and I rescued him. He was trying to survive outside after having been declawed. Not a good thing for him, but so lucky for my daughter and son-in-law who adore him. He's Persian and has had heart and kidney issues but manages to pull through every crisis, We don't know how old he is, but I'd say older than 10 by now since he's having dental problems, too.

Archie Goodwin was a baby I rescued him from a grocery store parking lot on a roasting hot day in Texas 16 years ago. He was already FIV positive, but lived to be 14. When that Christmas tree skirt came out every year, he was the first to claim it. Such a handsome boy!


Agatha Christie was a tiny exotic shorthair who I felt was being abused by a person who showed cats. She had ear mites that took two years for me to clear up and was covered in fleas. What kind of a breeder allows that to happen? I called her Aggie the toy hog. She was diabetic and developed an untreatable abscess on a kidney and died when she was 16. The diabetes was hard to deal with because she was so small, only 5 pounds full grown. She loved to sit next to me every day while I was writing.

Last but not least, my beloved Indigo. How I adored that mischievous smarty pants. She was struck by an aggressive cancer when she was 17 and so, a kitty who had never been sick a day in her life, was gone within two weeks. I kept her home and was with her when she took her last breath. She and all the rest of these babies will live in my heart forever, so National Cat Month at my house is for all of them.

Feel free to tell me about your fur friends and share pictures. After all, National Cat Month only comes around every day!



Saturday, October 11, 2014

ARE TELEMARKETERS DRIVING YOU CRAZY?

By Mary Kennedy
 

 Are telemarketers driving you crazy? Calling at all hours of the day and night, interrupting meals...
...interrupting your work, your play, your quiet time, your family time?
I'm sure the answer is a resounding YES.

But don't despair. I have a solution for you. First of all, you can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry.

But this is just the start. And I haven't found the Do Not Call registry particularly helpful. I have signed up repeatedly and still the calls continue. So what to do?
 
Easy. You fight back!!  How do you fight back? You write to the sponsors!! This is the only approach I've found effective. You can google the name of the offending caller and find out which organizations are paying this company to harass you. Then choose half a dozen of their clients, go to each website and hit the "contact us" button. If possible, choose someone in fund-raising or media relations. They're more likely to take your request seriously. The last thing they want to do is turn off potential donors.
 
A few hints about your e-mail. Be polite. (even if you have to grit your teeth) After all, I'm sure some of these non-profits have no idea about the tactics these companies are using.
 
 Be clear and specific. Mention that you are being called several times a day, even though you are registered with the national Do Not Call List. Tell them that you have requested your name be removed from their "call" list and yet they call you repeatedly. Be sure to stress the fact that this constitutes harassment and that this makes it much less likely you will ever contribute to their organization. (If you are currently a contributor, so much the better.)                                                    
 
Start out your e-mail by saying, "I am a contributor to _____ and agree with your mission." (if you really are) If not, see below.
                                                      
 
Start by getting right to the point. "I wanted to alert you about the harassing, parasitic telemarketing practices of XXX, who poses as a fund-raising company for organizations like your. XXX keeps calling us several times a day despite our repeated requests that they take our number off their lists. XXX's shoddy business ethics and total disregard for the people they keep harassing are working against your very own interests. We're certainly put off supporting your organization in any way. If you intend to run an effective fundraising campaign, with donors devoted to your cause, we strongly recommend that you do so without XXX's counter-productive input. My phone number is XXXX and I would like you to ask XXX to take me off their call list. Maybe they will listen to you (you pay them), they will not listen to me. Thank you."
 
Try this and I think you will be pleased!!All the non-profits I wrote to contacted me and apologized. And they guaranteed that my name would be placed on a "master" do not call list with this dreadful telemarketing company. Persistence pays off. I no longer get these infuriating calls. I hope this strategy works for you and you have a happy, quiet home life once more.
                                               
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, October 10, 2014

Winging it in the kitchen

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

Yesterday morning the phone rang at 8:15.  It's almost NEVER a good thing when the phone rings that early, but yesterday it was my brother asking if I wanted to go with him to the Public Market.  Did I?  You bet!

So, he picked me up and we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. (Remind me never to go to the Public Market BEFORE 9 a.m.)  But we got there okay, and then the fun began.  Veggies are sooooo much cheaper there than at the grocery store, so I often go bananas.  I knew I wanted to make potato leek soup for lunch, so leeks and potatoes were the first things on my mental list.  But I also bought acorn squash (50¢ each--how can you go wrong?), delicota squash, broccoli, scallions, and a cider doughnut for Mr. L. (My brother said, "He expects it." Okay.)  My carrier bag was so heavy, I thought my arm would stretch another 4-5 inches before we got back to the car and off we went for home.  (Traffic was STILL jammed up southbound, but we flew northbound without a hitch.)


I made the soup for lunch (click this link and scroll down to find the recipe), and then decided since I had more than half a roast chicken left--and had bought wayyyy too many leeks--that I'd make a chicken and leek pie for supper.

I've never made one before, but I'd had some at a pub in England the last time we went.  So I hopped on the Internet and started looking for recipes.  One had peas, one used mostly onions, some wanted you to boil a chicken first.  Uh-uh.  I printed out one of the recipes, but I didn't use it. I decided instead to wing it.  I sauteed the leeks in butter, then decided to use the leftover soup as the base for my gravy.  I added some salt and pepper, let it cook down a bit, then added the chicken.  Next up, I tossed the whole she-bang into casserole dishes.  One for us, and one for my Mum.

Since supper was more than five hours away, I put them in the fridge to cool, then later put on the crust.

I popped it into the oven (400F) for about 45 minutes, and we were ready to eat.  I'd also got some Cohen's Seeded Rye Bread at the Public Market, and that was all we needed.  (I chose to cut out maple leaves for decoration because Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving. Why not celebrate a little early?)



OMG -- I've made a few good chicken pies in my day, but this was the best!  So the next time I buy too many leeks (and it could probably happen in the upcoming weeks), I know what I'm going to make.

Do you like leeks?  Have any good recipes to share?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Now that feels a lot better!





Happy sigh. Now that looks and feels a lot better!  What does? Well, my bookcase does. Our house is full of bookcases, some orderly, some chaotic, but the one that matters (aside from the cookbook and gardening collections) is the one in my office.  

 This is where my reference books are, where the signed mysteries written by my friends reside, where the record of my own work sits.  It’s full of books that mean something to me, books that are useful, and books that I plan to reread someday. 






The trouble was that when we moved for medical reasons two years ago, someone else packed my books, as I was at the hospital helping my husband. Then when my office shelves went up, someone unpacked them for me. I will not name names.  But the problem was that titles were not where a person might expect to find them.  As a lapsed librarian, this bothered me. As a former bookseller, it bothered me even more.  As an author in a hurry, it drove me nuts.  Oh sure, I know the internet is full of information, but I still like to get mine from books. I became frustrated when I was writing a comic mystery play this summer and couldn’t find my very few, but extremely useful, books on writing plays. 
 


More than missing out on the right book with the right info, I felt that some books were like old friends. I just wanted to visit them from time to time. But where were they?  Not where they belonged, for sure. 

So this week with the launch out of the way, the synopsis for the next book delivered, the deadline for the book itself still comfortably in the future, I was able to find the time to put things in order.  I don’t mean cataloged or even in alphabetical order. Nor do I mean organized by height or color. All I want is for my books to be sitting on a shelf with other books on the same or similar topics.    

In my office, every book has a reason to be there. I remember when I bought some of them, back when I was starting to write. Others were gifts or books that changed my life in some way. The Agatha Christie reference books, the Dorothy L. Sayers novels and the collection of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries are earning their keep in the book collector series. Others are books on organizing from the days of my Charlotte Adams organizing mysteries. 



There are guides, maps and Italian phrase books from the trip to Italy to research The Dead Don’t Get Out Much, my fifth Camilla MacPhee mystery.



 A few titles deal with ADD, but don’t let me get distracted. 
If you are writing mysteries, you need to find out about the strangest things, for instance: How to Cheat at Everything, a goldmine for the book collector mysteries as is Caring For Books and Documents, a British Museum publication. There are three baby name books, all well-thumbed. I love them because they give the meanings of each name and also the most popular names for boys and for girls for each decade, in the USA, in the UK and in Canada.  It’s so important not to have an eighty year old Candee! 



One of the wonderful things that came out of the reorganizing was locating books that I’d been looking for or missing. I was thrilled to find The Ugly Dachshund, a gift from a friend who knew I loved wiener dogs. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. I keep buying copies to give away. Then I turned up Anne of Green Gables, a gift when I finished fourth grade.

The book  I find most irresistible? Nuttall’s Bijou Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language, not quite four inches high, a treasure from my husband. 


There I am, rambling on about the books I am so fond of.  Consider that you’ve had a close call that I don’t mention them all, because I could go on.  But enough about me and my shelves, what’s on your bookshelf that brings you laughter and tears or brings back memories?  Are you organized or serendipitous?  I know I’m going to love your answers!