Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Back in the Day…

It’s getting to the holidays and we start thinking about traditions and times past. I just love places that seem to take me back in time. Places that when I walk the streets and go into the homes I almost feel part of another era…except then my cell phone goes off and ruins the whole thing.
Some of the obvious and really neat-time travel places that maybe you’ve visited are:
Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is America's Hometown, the oldest community in New England and, of course, the site of the first Thanksgiving. There is a replica of what the pilgrim settlement looked like in 1627, right down to characters walking around speaking in the appropriate dialect. And no visit is complete without Plymouth Rock.
Williamsburg, Virginia. That’s been restored to right down to 17th-century ships and a Native American village to tour
French Quarter, New Orleans Where many of the homes
have centuries-old ironwork and courtyards and we can’t forget the yummy French treats to try along the way.
I hear Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is absolutely spiritual and you can actually feel the soldiers there and almost see President Abraham Lincoln giving his address.
Downtown Savannah, Georgia has a National Historic Landmark District and is a prime example of old-time Southern architecture. Stroll the cobblestone streets and see the intricate ironwork of mansions restored to the original pink, green, red, and blue of the 18th century.
My daughter up in New York just visited. Sleepy Hollow, New York. It’s the site of the 1790s tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving and dates back to the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s.
I live in Milford, Ohio, and we have a section called Old
Milford. Many of the shops and buildings are from the 1800s and before. We have our own Mystery Library in a building that was actually part of the mill in the ford of the stream. So neat.

So what about you? Is there a fav place you’ve visited and felt like you were back in time? Or maybe there is part of your town that is old and historic that you love to pieces?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lots To Be Thankful For

by Maggie Sefton

I wish all of our Cozy Chicks Blog readers and fans a very Happy Thanksgiving this
Thursday.  I hope you get a chance to enjoy and savor your favorite Turkey Day foods and savories.  On the right is a pecan pie, one of my favorite holiday treats.

I also hope you will have the opportunity to be with good friends and or family.  I'm fortunate in that two of my dearest childhood friends are still in my life.  Both sisters, Nancy and Diane, and I grew up together in Arlington, Virginia.  Their house was diagonally across the street from mine.  When my mother and grandmother and I moved into that house from Richmond, Virginia, I had just turned six years old.  Nancy was five years old and Diane was four.   I'll be spending the days before and after Thanksgiving at Diane and her husband's home in Vienna, Virginia, west of Arlington.  Nancy and her husband Tom also live in Vienna.  So they will join us.  My daughter Melissa will also travel from New York City to join us as well, and that makes it extra special.

Granddaughter Natale and her teammates from James Madison H.S. in Vienna, Virginia are holding the trophy they won as this year's Virginia State Volleyball Champions.  They beat Kellam H.S. in Virginia Beach last Tuesday and on Friday night in Richmond they sealed the deal by beating Langley H.S. in a very tight and tough championship game.  Go Warhawks!!  

I've spent several Thanksgivings with my dear childhood friends, and I always like to make
my Southern Pecan Pie in addition to the standard favorite Pumpkin Pie for the family feast.  You can find my recipe in our Cozy Chicks Cookbook, which is chock full of fantastic recipes for entrees, casseroles, salads, veggies, and baked goods as well as really yummy desserts.  All of them contributed by our Cozy Chicks.  This is a marvelous cookbook.  And----it would make a great holiday gift.  :)  Enjoy the holiday, everyone!  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Where's Kate?

Oops!  Bad weather makes for bad internet connections ... and that's what happened to Kate's post for today.  We're crossing our fingers that it'll be back on wayyyyy before next Monday, so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Week of Gratitude

by Leann

The world is in turmoil as we approach Thanksgiving week. I have been unable to leave CNN for long--unless I switch to MSNBC. I check the news. I want these horrible issues resolved. But the problems are complex--too complicated for an easy fix. Lives have been lost and people are afraid.

For me, I am trying to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a country where even silly politicians can say ridiculous things and they have every right to say them. I also have the right to disagree. The "Free World" means something very frightening to those who have lashed out with violence and hate over and over. Freedom is threatening to them and yet for me, it the best part of living in this country.

I am also fortunate to have finished writing my 13th novel. I am lucky to have a loving family that includes even my amazing fur friends. I am happy to live where I do, with nature all around me. I choose not to focus on the negative but will always be grateful I still have a brain capable of absorbing and learning. Opinions are not facts. Hate is all consuming. No God is better than any other or worse than any other. God is a way of making sense of what can never really be known. For some,that is too scary to bear, so they lash out and leave destruction and blood in their wake. In this time where families come together, tolerance, understanding and knowledge can happen. Conversation can be enlightening.

Words matter. Use your words this Thanksgiving and be grateful that you can without fear of reprisal. That's what it means to be free.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


By Mary Kennedy                 
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your To-Do list? Now that the holidays are almost up us, are things spiraling out of control and your patience and vitality are at a low ebb?
If you can relate to the paragraph above, I need to warn you that something deadly is lurking on the horizon. It's called Procrastination and it's appealing, seductive and invariably makes matters worse.
Why do we procrastinate when we're feeling stressed-out and overwhelmed by our to-do list? It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Why make things tougher on ourselves by stalling, delaying, putting off till tomorrow what we should be doing today? Wouldn't our natural inclination be to get started and get finished as quickly as we can?
Sadly, no. We often procrastinate and sometimes we don't even know why. We get caught up in a negative mind-set and the idea of doing the dreaded task becomes more and more attractive as time goes by.  Have you ever put off writing a difficult letter to someone? Settling a billing dispute with a doctor's office? Doing a 4 hour online training for your job? I'm sure you can relate! The longer you put it off, the more daunting the task becomes. Stress levels spiral almost out of control and nothing gets done.
Here are a few reasons we tend to procrastinate. Can you identify with them?
The task is boring, dull and not at all appealing. Let's face it. Who wants to pay a stack of bills when a yummy movie awaits on Netflix?
Fear of doing a bad job. That end-of-year work report should be well within your capabilities (after all, you've written one every year for the past six years) but maybe you're afraid you'll mess up on this one. Rumors of "down-sizing" are floating around and you can't afford to make a mistake. Your job might be on the line.
You're so stressed out, you've lost sight of your priorities. It's vitally important that you get quotes from contractors about home renovations--after all, you want to put your home on the market and make a nice profit, but instead you flee to the kitchen to do some holiday baking. Really? Cooking and baking can certainly be fun, productive and relaxing but is that really where you should spend your time right now? Making those phone calls and getting those quotes is more important. If you think cookies are more important, you're not thinking clearly!
You're so disorganized, you can't even find the paper work to start the dreaded task.

    You have too many tempting distractions, Netflix, Candy Crush, etc. You can't focus on the task at hand because there are too many tempting alternatives.  Voice mail, iPad, texting, e-mail, movies, video games and more.  There are electronic temptations everywhere.                                 
You have no time management skills. You need to get your ducks in a row.
 There are some easy fixes for these problems and I'm going to tackle them in next Saturday's blog. Never fear, help is on the way!

Mary Kennedy                   

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cheers from my pub!

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

Most of the stuff on the backbar was presents from friends and family.
When Mr. L and I moved into our house, he thought he might like to have a pub in the finished basement.  I was fine with that. Building the bar was a family affair.  Mr. L designed it, and my Dad and brother built it. Mr. L researched the brass rails (the most expensive part of the bar, which also sports a thick, solid oak top) to replicate something he'd seen on a trip we'd taken to Dublin.

On our travels, we've picked up stuff to decorate the bar, which is an eclectic mix of things from the Southwest, and a LOT of stuff from England.  (Yup, I found the cricket bat at a boot sale.)

We've got pictures of the Queen (including one Mr. L took of her in her limo many years ago in Toronto), horse brass, pictures of Scotland; pictures of England; a dart board, a whiskey poster from Dublin, stuff from Portsmouth Dockyard, a souvenir from our visit to the Queen's (former) royal yacht, the Britannia, and other cool stuff.

You can't live in Western New York without having some kind of shrine to the Buffalo Bills.  Not only does Mr. L hail from Buffalo, but so does my character, Jeff Resnick.

When the cold wind blows and the snow is drifting outside, we spend our winter/weekend evenings in our cozy pub.

This week, I did an update down there. While cleaning out my Mum's house, I found a lot of cool pictures and other stuff to add to our collection of things, including a picture of my Dad with the band he played in before he married my Mum. I thought these pictures (that I knew no one else would want) would look nice down there. (BTW, That's Mr. L with Michael Jordan at the 21 Club many years ago.)  I even hung my parents' wedding picture, which used to hang in their bedroom. On top of the china cabinet is a small selection of my collection of elephants. The china cabinet holds Mr. L's collection of cocktail shakers.  All in all, it looks pretty darn nice.  And, BTW, the barn wood walls were made from the previous owner's grandfather's actual barn, which had been dismantled from somewhere up near Malone, NY.  We opted not to change it.

We like it. I hope you do, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts.

Join me today for some delicious coffee cake and a chat about my new most magic discovery. That would be coconut oil.  Perhaps I am the last person in the world to learn about the amazing properties of this yummy smelling and satisfyingly greasy substance. I’d been hearing about it and decided to check.  The Internet is full of articles like: One hundred and nine uses for coconut oil.   And I mean full of them.  

Lots of people use it for cooking, as a substitute for cooking oil, and as a substitute for milk, or butter.  This also seemed worth checking out. Sometimes you have to make something for a person with a dairy allergy.  
But I didn’t need the Internet. I just had to listen to my daughter, Victoria, and my friend Nancy C. to come up with a bunch.  Surely this can’t be all true, I thought, as I arrived home with my new jar of coconut oil.  It looks just like shortening, but it smells rather heavenly. 

I will spare you the photos of me using coconut oil to remove eye makeup and stubborn mascara. Not a pretty sight with any product. Same thing with using it to shave legs. After all, you may be reading this over breakfast and we wouldn’t want to ruin that. 

Both Victoria and Nancy assured me that combining coconut oil and brown sugar makes a very effective and wonderfully fragrant body scrub.  Again, no pix.  Believe me, I will be trying it, because I’m sure it will work. I can tell you it makes a dandy hand cream, face cleanser and face cream. 

I had a great time with my first jar of coconut oil.  Despite my experiments (96 uses still to go), I seem to have a full jar. That’s because you use so little. 

But all that talk of brown sugar and coconut oil made me think about my favorite coffee cake. Why not try that and substitute the coconut for melted butter in the cake base?  

The results were terrific and I’ll share them with you today.  I think if you needed to make it for someone with a dairy allergy, you could substitute shortening or oil for the butter, and coconut for the milk.  Maybe one of you will give me a tip about that.

This cake always smells delicious, but the coconut kicks that aroma up a notch.  I know you hate it when I talk cakes and don't give the recipes, so here it is.

Favorite Streusel Coffee Cake


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted coconut oil (30 seconds in microwave) substituted for 1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

In small mixing bowl, combine topping ingredients. Blend until crumbly. Set aside.
Sift 1 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt into a bowl. 
In a larger bowl, beat together beaten egg, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup melted coconut oil. Add milk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and mix well.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan.
Sprinkle topping crumb mixture evenly over top of cake batter.
Bake at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tests done.
Cool in pan on wire rack.
Cut coffee cake into squares. It’s best when still warm!

Enjoy!  And when you’re done, if you have tips to offer on what else to do with that giant jar of coconut oil now on my shelf, this would be a good time to share them.  I know I can always count on you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Do You YouTube?

YouTube is the best! 

Yeah, there are a ton of cat videos and vacation videos out there...probably too many out there...that we all look at from time to time then wonder how can I get those ten wasted minutes back. But there are some really good videos out there too.

I’ve seen some great book trailers and movie trailers posted and YouTube is a terrific place to catch up with friends and a party you missed.

But for me the best thing YouTube has going for it is the How To aspect.

YouTube is how I get things done that I never thought I could do. I don’t know how I ever got along without YouTube.

When I needed to know how to change the line on my weedeater...YouTube. I sat down with my weedeater and followed along with the handsome dude.

When the switch broke on my rangehood I could have called the repair guy, paid more than the cost of the rangehood and gotten the thing repaired. Instead I turned to YouTube and found out how to do it myself. And it worked!!!!!!

This latest time the dishwasher latch broke locking my dishes inside. Good Grief! The first thing I thought was that my house is falling down around my ears because things are always going kaput. But then I stopped whining...the other kind of wine helped with this...and turned to YouTube.

I plugged in How to fix door latch and bingo there it was. It told me how to get the &^%%$ door open and how to order the parts I needed. I took my computer down to the kitchen so I could follow the steps one by one, pause the video to figure things out and it worked!!! This time I saved a $90 service call plus the cost of fixing the blasted thing!

When I want to find out what’s going on in Savannah or on Mackinac Island I go to YouTube. Last year I took a “live”
snowmobile trip across a frozen Lake Michigan all the way up to the Grand Hotel! What a blast! Sure made me want to do it for real and maybe this year I’ll shoot a YouTube video of me on that snowmobile.

So what about you? Have you YouTubed lately?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Taking It Easy

by Maggie Sefton

This is Grayson, grandson Matthew's new dog.  Beautiful smokey gray pit bull.  And a sweetie.  He was turned into the shelter as a puppy with one eye injured and unable to see.  

I have been taking it easy since the start of November.  Of course, I've been flying
back East, staying with old friends, going to four Madison H.S. volleyball games last week here in Northern Virginia where daughter Christine and family live, then driving down to the river house a block from the Potomac River (40 miles east of Fredericksburg) on Sunday.  That's taking it easier for me.  :)

Granddaughter Natale #13 and fellow teammate blocking at the net.  

This year with my 95 year old mother's decline and final passing and burial has been pretty hectic.  Frankly, more than hectic.  It's been stressful.  I had to miss my normal late June date to finish, revise, and submit the current Kelly Flynn mystery.  First time I had ever missed a deadline.  My editor was totally understanding and granted me extra time into October, which I greatly appreciated and finished Kelly Flynn #14  and submitted it to my editor.   

I've told friends that I was totally unprepared for how my mother's decline and death would affect me.  I posted here on Cozy Chicks that Mom was "going on her own terms."  And she did.  And I was there with her through the end.  Still. . . I don't think we are aware how the eventual loss of our mothers will affect us.  Fellow Cozy Chick Lorraine Bartlett has also shared how much her mother's passing this year affected her.

Grayson and Christine's family's new 11-month old puppy, Wrigley, a Rottweiler-French Mastiff mix.

So . . .I naturally chose to be with friends and family for the holidays.  That's why I'm here in Virginia and will be having Thanksgiving with old friends back up in Northern Virginia in Vienna.  Right now, I'm relaxing----not writing a word, fiction or otherwise.  Surrounded by
woods and deer and great neighbors next door.

And I couldn't resist this photo of Serena's and Jeff's doggies French Mastiff Boss and Dachsund Oscar (with the photo red eyes).  :)  

Next week I'll make my favorite Pecan Pie and drive up from "the river" to join friends.   I'll also post the recipe.  Meanwhile, I'm including more doggie photos.  They're family too.  Ohhh, and another volleyball photo for good measure.  Tomorrow, the first round of State Championship games are in Virginia Beach.  Wish James Madison H.S. "good luck."  :)  I'll be riding down with the family to watch.    

Monday, November 16, 2015


by Kate Collins

Surreal experience number one: Walking down the hallway at our hotel in Canada and seeing "MUM'S THE WORD Production Office" on the door. On the next door was, "MUM'S THE WORD Art Department."

Surreal experience number two: Parked in front of the hotel was a green Kia Soul minivan with BLOOMERS FLOWER SHOP and a large rose on the sides and back.

In town, a narrow shop with a big bay display window and brick walls had a sign over it that said BLOOMERS FLOWER SHOP. A cop car pulled up with the NEW CHAPEL Police Department logo on it. A cop got out. He wore a jacket with a patch that said the same thing. He was a "real" figment of my imagination.

Inside the shop, Abby was putting together a floral arrangement, answering the phone, "Bloomers Flower Shop. How may I help you?" She had on an apron that said Bloomers on the pocket. You can see me wearing it in the photo. (By the way, it's not that I'm really short, I'm 5'4". It's just that I'm standing next to a very tall actor.)

Honestly, I felt like I was in an alternate universe, where my imagination had taken control, built a town, and populated it with people I had created.  What a mind-blowing experience.

I spent two days on the set and gained an immense amount of respect for the hard work that goes into producing a TV show. It took me, one person, nine months to write the story, one editor to polish it, one publisher to put it out. It took a village to turn that book into reality.

Everyone, from the executive producer  to the actors, extras, stylists, set designers, camera crew, lighting people, sound people, and more, treated me with respect -- and I returned the compliment, because I was awed by the entire process. All those people crammed into a small shop -- an art gallery that became a flower shop for a week -- each busy with his/her own job, the entire room humming like bees in a hive.

They worked long hours on the set, from their morning call until often late in the evening. And yet they seemed to have boundless energy. The feeling in the room was uplifting and positive.

I, and the others, are still sworn to secrecy about the project, although I think we will be able to name the actors soon. So let me just say that I went in with some trepidation. I'd heard stories of how characters often got changed and endings rewritten. But that didn't happen here. My plot stayed exactly as I wrote it. And the actors captured my characters so well, I started calling them by the names I had given them.

I can't wait to introduce them to you. I know that when you watch MUM'S THE WORD you will be as happy with them as I am. Please, God, let that be soon because I am bursting at the seams.

I had a wonderful time on the set, but I know now that's not the life for me. I love creating stories, and I need my alone time. But I wouldn't have passed up this opportunity to see my book come to life for the world. I look forward to welcoming you to MUM'S THE WORD, the TV movie, too.

I will write more next week, hopefully with all the information about air date, time, and the amazing cast.

Have a great week.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


By Mary Kennedy

Since Veteran's Day was this week, I'd like run a piece I wrote for Publisher's Weekly.

I'd never met Lt. Col. Lisa Schieferstein, yet I was intrigued by her story.
I knew Lisa was half a world away, doing a tough job in a gritty, remote location. As the garrison commander of the 389th "Renegades" division in Iraq, she was stationed at a desert outpost, with 90 soldiers under her command. The heat was appalling, the conditions were rugged, and danger was ever present.                          
Even though my life is incredibly cushy by comparison (a nice psychology practice in Delaware, a second career as a mystery novelist), when I saw a photo of Lisa—in full body armor—visiting a one-room Iraqi schoolhouse to bring books to the children, I knew right away we had something in common: a love of books.               
We began to e-mail each other, and I got a glimpse of her day-to-day life. When I learned that the 389th was a sustainment division, offering food and snacks to American convoys passing through, I decided to send boxes of books and homemade goodies every two weeks.
Then Carolyn Hart, author of 44 mysteries, heard about the project and made an interesting offer: "Let me send 20 pounds of coffee, snacks, and books to celebrate the publication of Laughed 'Til He Died. It's the 20th release in my Death on Demand series, and this would be a nice way to commemorate the event."

But it didn't stop there. We received such a positive response from the Renegades that we kept going. We had to—the soldiers said they loved these boxes from home.
Bestselling author Caridad Pineiro, who writes paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels, said to me, "As an immigrant to this country, I value the liberties in America every day. I try to regularly help our soldiers as they protect our nation. Whether it's sending books, candy, or basic necessities, I know those small things mean the world to them."
Other writers heard about the project and joined us. Kate Collins, J.B. Stanley, Julie Hyzy, Beth Ciotta, and Robin Burcell are just a few writers who donated autographed books and food. Jill Cesa-Teneyck, Lisa's best friend, insisted on sending a dozen copies of my own mystery, Dead Air, to the Renegades.                                  
In the end, we sent more than 200 pounds of home-baked sweets and books to Iraq. I sent some healthy choices (like tuna fish and salted nuts) but the hands-down favorite was my home-made Kahlua brownies. (I'll be glad to share the recipe if anyone wants it, just message me on FB) A baked "pecan and cereal squares" snack was another popular item. It's like a sweet version of Chex Mix with corn syrup and nuts and both these treats travel well.
What did the military think about the project? Kim Adams, SOS Military Liaison and an Air Force spouse in Honolulu, said, "As a veteran of the first Gulf War, I know firsthand what difference mail makes to deployed personnel.... But that war was short-term, and our troops came home. Today, our military personnel are facing longer and repeated deployments. While e-mail and Skype are available, nothing can replace the warmth of a personal letter, the excitement of a care package, and the thrill of receiving books hand-selected by readers who support our deployed personnel."
As Janet Evanovich told me, "If Stephanie Plum could meet the Renegades, she'd give them a high-five and say, 'Well done!'"
I wish everyone reading this piece could adopt a soldier and send books, candy, snacks, and, sure, homemade cookies or brownies. It's easy to do and it really means the world to our brave men and women in the military forces.                                                    
Mary Kennedy

Friday, November 13, 2015

My kingdom for some decent chutney!

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

Okay, I admit it. I like chutney.  It's wonderful on pork (roasted, ham sandwiches--yum yum). But I don't like mango chutney, and that's about all you can get around here.

One of our local grocery chains used to carry the Canadian line of President's Choice food products. (The name always puzzled me, since Canada doesn't have a president; they have a prime minister -- and hunky newly elected one, too!) I used to shop there a LOT just to get the wonderful (can you say more "English") types of products. My favorite:  President's Choice Peach Chutney.

I could wax poetically about how wonderful, flavorful, and terrific this product is ... but that wouldn't do it justice. You'd have to taste it to believe it.

I can get that peach chutney if I cross the border, but as that's a 90-minute trip and a hassle involving passports and x-rays (at the US side), etc. Unless I have another reason to go to Canada, peach chutney isn't enough. I bought four jars in 2014 but I ate it all and here we are in 2015 and I have no more peach chutney. I could buy a jar of Branston Pickle, but it's kind of crunchie and has a harsh tang to it.

Could I make chutney?  Of course.  I have a wonderful recipe for rhubarb chutney (which I shared in The Cozy Chicks Kitchen), and is made with rhubarb and apples and is as marvelous as peach chutney. One problem; it's not rhubarb season.  (Although this summer I planted about 10 plants around my yard. I'll probably be drowning in the stuff next spring and have to start searching for new recipes.)

Right now I'm (gak!) using up the two jars of mango chutney my mother had in her pantry ... but I don't like it.  I may go look for an apple chutney recipe to bridge the gap, but on an English or Canadian website. (I don't think Americans really get chutney.)

So for now I'll just have to gaze at my wonderful picture of President's Choice Peach Chutney and start planning my next trip to Canada.

Is there some kind of condiment that you like and find hard to get?