Thursday, February 21, 2019

Think Spring on a Winter's Day

by Karen Rose Smith


This morning I woke to a blanket of white over the deck off of my office and on the landscape beyond.  While the picture was beautiful, I am so looking forward to spring with its warmer temperatures and budding plants. 


As a matter of fact, just earlier this week I had spotted daffodils sprouting along a walkway in the backyard.  I felt hopeful and excited at this first sign of spring.  I hurried to the side of the house where I had planted a pussy willow bush a few years ago.  While not fully budding, I saw signs of growth that would soon be the first spring decorations brought inside from the garden.

I have also been feeling a touch of spring as I tend to the seedlings I planted a few weeks ago in the basement.  The petunias have now grown their second set of leaves and I have started to transplant them into larger peat pots.  They are under grow lights on seedling heat pads.  Each day I transplant a few more and water the trays.  They have to be started in January so that I can plant them mid May.  Soon I will be starting heirloom tomato seeds so they will be ready to plant in the garden after Memorial Day.   



With seedlings and potting soil, a surprise is never out of the question.  Occasionally a weed or sprouts of grass pop up alongside the seedlings.  But this year, one of the pots produced a much larger seedling that spiked my curiosity.  I left the young plant in the peat pot and it has grown quite a bit larger than my other petunia seeds.  I suspect it is a vine plant such as a cucumber, pumpkin or zucchini, but what still puzzles me is that the petunia seeds were tiny little dots and the vegetable seeds are much larger.  I would have noticed the difference when I planted the seeds. 


Where did the seed come from and what unexpected plant am I growing in my basement?  Any ideas?

I have gardens inside to nurture because the thought of petunias and tomatoes bring me the promise of spring.



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It’s Their Day!!

Hi, Duffy Brown here chatting about National Love Your Pet Day.








Could there be a more fun day? Not if you own a pet. I read a poll the other day that said 85% of people consider their pet a member of the family. I so get this. What I don’t get is what the heck the other fifteen percent think of their pet.
When you take on a pet it’s a commitment to bring them into your life. And they bring you into theirs. It’s magic. We don’t speak the same language…though I swear Dr. Watson and Spooky understand every word I say. And I sure understand when they want food, for me to open the door so they can go onto the porch, and when something is wrong like “I can see the bottom of my food bowl, mom. Armageddon is eminent.”
My cats are with me when I write, sleep, eat. Pixel would lap milk from my cereal bowl on one side and I’d be eating cereal out of the other. Some of you are totally grossed out by this and maybe I am too just a little bit, but that’s just the way things were with Pixel.
I think this total love of pets, at least for the amazing 85% of us, is why we love pets in our cozies. My Consignment Shop Mysteries would not be the same without BW...that’s Bruce Wills the canine version...the adorable black and white pup Reagan rescued from under the dilapidated porch of her Victorian house in Savannah.
BW is a part of Reagan’s life. He’s there when solving cases, helps with the takedown of the bad guys, afraid when Reagan’s afraid and always willing to share a sugar cookie.
So here’s to National Love Your Pet Day. If you have a pet in your life, you are indeed blessed.
Hugs, Duffy   

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I Need Suggestions

by Maggie Sefton





Hi, there, Everyone.  Today I'm writing to ask your help.  You all know that my daughter Maria married a wonderful man named John who shares joint custody with his former wife of their three minor children----Johnny 13, Emma 9, and Allie now 7.

Well, I need suggestions for 7-year old Allie's birthday present, and I wanted to choose a children's storybook.  Maria and John say that she likes sea animals, cheetahs, and loves mermaids. They also say her reading has gotten much better this year and she's reading a lot.  The last books I bought for both Allie and Emma were in December for the holidays and were collections of old Nursery Rhymes and fables and stories from Richard Scary.  All four of my daughters loved those old stories and read the books  until they were just about threadbare.  But I don't see any of those now in the bookstores.  

Folks----I really could use your suggestions.  Sea animals, cheetahs, mermaids? Any ideas?   Please email any suggestions to maggie@maggiesefton.com.

Monday, February 18, 2019

DOES READING FICTION MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON?

By Mary Kennedy
                                                                         

My trusty 8 ball says, "Signs point to yes." Book lovers will be happy to know that a new psychological study indicates that reading fiction really does raise our emotional IQ, makes us a little kinder, a little more empathic, more sensitive to others.  Reading non-fiction, by the way, doesn't do this. Only fiction offers this.

You already know this, you say? I think we really do know it intuitively, but it's nice to have some scientific back up for our beliefs. Most of us give a contented sigh when we finish a really good novel. We feel we've entered into another world for a brief time, encountered fascinating new characters, shared their joys and sorrows and can rejoice in their ultimate triumph. 
                                                                           

Many of us read several novels a month, eager to experience that joyful feeling again and again. People read pages on the subway, on the train, while enjoying a cup of tea in a cafe or a quick lunch under an umbrella table. Nothing like a book to let us give up our cares for a few moments and enter into a different world of fantasy and delight. 
                                                                          

Barack Obama once said, "when I think about how I understand my role as citizen...the most important stuff I've learned I think I've learned from novels."


If cats could read novels, I''m sure they would! 

                                                                              

And if they could write them, even better!! Think of the stories they could tell!! 

                                                                         

So the next time you want to spend time enjoying a novel, rest assured that you are doing "a good thing." And enjoy, enjoy! 

Happy reading, always, Mary Kennedy

Friday, February 15, 2019

Polly-Wally Doodle

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


A few years ago, I had never read an issue of Woman's World, a weekly magazine. Then my publisher put a small plug for one of my Booktown Mysteries in it. I bought that copy and thought--wow, with that circulation, I'm sure to have a gazillion sales. Ha! No uptick in sales. I don't even think I read the magazine.

Fast forward 4-5 years and an author group I'm part of decided to poll readers to see what magazines they read most often. I was astounded to see that Woman's World came up first--by a long shot. So, 18 months ago, I decided to see what the attraction was. I was at our summer cottage and went into town to get the Rochester newspaper, but the grocery store was sold out. I went to Dollar General to get envelopes (because I had to mail a contract to my agent) and at the checkout were copies of Women's World. On impulse, I bought one. I read it from cover to cover that night. The next week, I bought another.  And the next week, yet another.  After about a month, I bought a subscription. because there were so many features I enjoyed, like the mini mystery and mini romance. And it amuses me how every cover boasts some kind of diet, but also some kind of stunningly fattening confection. (Go figure!)

So what does this have to do with anything?

Last week's issue had a one-paragraph article about doodling. If you doodle, you're an artist.

I don't doodle. But my mother did. When she'd be talking on the phone, she'd draw women's faces on the back of envelopes, on white space on the newspaper. Whenever she'd doodle, it was always women's faces. I wish I'd asked her why, but it was just a thing Mum did.  When I was going through her things, I found a lot of them.  I cut them out and saved a bunch of them.

I think she was influenced by paper dolls. She used to make her own when she was a kid. I doubt she ever had more than one or two toys in her entire life, so paper dolls were what she had to play with--and nothing glossy and commercially made. She used to cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls that came out of McCall's magazine and give them to me. I remember her buying me paper dolls (Barbie, for one). She could buy paper doll books from Dover. I think she had one for Audrey Hepburn as My Fair Lady, and I know she had a bunch of Shirley Temple paper doll books (as well as Princess Diana). Not that she cut them out or played with them. She just liked to look at them.

So when I saw that article about doodling and creativity it just brought her back to me so vividly. She wasn't a writer, but she was a voracious reader. (She sewed, she knitted, and could do just about every craft.) She instilled in me a love of reading. She introduced me to mysteries. She only had a 9th grade education (kids left school at 14 in England in those days), but she was so well-read my father always said she had the equivalent of four university degrees.  I don't doubt that. No matter what problem I had, I could always call her up and ask her advice. And although she wasn't a good money manager herself, she gave the best advice. I became a saver because of her (and my Dad).

I had one of those "lady heads" among the papers on my desk for the last couple of years and now it seems to have disappeared. I'm going to go through that big box of papers in my guest room (which still has way too many of her possessions that I still haven't been able to part with) and when I find one of those lady heads, I'm going to frame it and hang it over my computer desk to remind me of her and her doodling.

Do you have a fond memory of someone you've lost?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Valentine Tradition

by Karen Rose Smith






Many couples have Valentine's Day traditions and my husband and I are no exception.  We have been married for 47 years and we've followed our tradition for 46 of those years.  We leave each other little mementos the seven days before Valentine's Day.  It started like this.




After our son was born, I had post-partum depression, though no one was diagnosing it or treating it all those years ago.   I was 22 and had never been around infants.  At the hospital, the nurse put the baby in my arms and left.  Young mothers were supposed to know what to do.  My husband was a great support and totally involved with the care of our child.  He was way ahead of his time!  But motherhood was a life-changing event and hormones that took a while to settle down caused the "baby blues" to take hold.







That year, my husband started our tradition.  The seven days before Valentine's Day, he left me a card, a candy bar with a love note, a rose, a poem or a trinket he felt would bring me a smile.  Those little caring mementos surrounded me with love.  No, they didn't fix the post-partum depression.  But they gave me his loving support to hold onto while I waded through it.

The following year, I left him mementos too--tucked a note into his wallet to find at work, cooked a favorite supper, found something to give him that would make him smile.  We do this every year.  It brings back memories and makes new ones.  This year, all my gifts were accompanied with a cat-themed card...and most of the gifts were cat-related...with the exception of the chocolate-covered Oreo!



  


Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Real Deal

Hi Everyone, Duffy Brown here. Happy day-before Valentine’s Day. To celebrate and to take a trip to Mackinac Island when it’s not covered in ice in snow as it is now, this week from 2/14-2/21 the Kindle version of Tandem Demise is on sale for .99





“Do you think he’s dead or just dead drunk?” I asked Fiona as the two of us stood alone on the freight dock with thick night fog swirling around us. We were staring at a guy prone on the pier with a Champagne bottle clutched in his arms.
    Shivering as much from the breeze off Lake Huron as our situation I grabbed Fiona’s hand as we shuffled a little closer. “He’s staring back at us and not in a Hey come have a drink with me kind of way.”
    “And there’s blood, a lot of it. How doses this keep happening to you?” Fiona wanted to know. “Mackinac’s a little island but guess what, you come across yet another body!”
     “Hold on a minute, stop right there. Forget the youpart about the bodies. Okay, the first one was mine I’ll give you that, but the last one was definitely a we body.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Warm and Sunny Gulf Coast of Florida

by Maggie Sefton





Here are some photos of the beach area at Saint Pete's Beach taken from one of my favorite early evening spots----Spinner's Rooftop Dining at the Grand Plaza Hotel.  Marvelous views from all of the 360 degrees circular windows which encased the entire rooftop dining room on the 12th floor.  









Earlier, I had mentioned to all of you Cozy Chicks Blog readers and friends that I had missed my best chance to snag a February cruise.  So, last week I decided to grab some marvelous warm and sunny weather on the always welcoming and inviting West Coast of Florida, right on the Gulf of Mexico at Saint Pete's Beach.  And, my-oh-my, was that a great choice.


The weather was fantastic and temps were in the 80's, so I was outside every day-----


Relaxing on a chaise lounge beside the lovely outdoor swimming pool, or Relaxing on another chaise lounge beneath a shady palm tree, or Relaxing on a chaise lounge. . . well, you get the picture.  The key word is Relaxing.    Reading and Relaxing.    :)






Monday, February 11, 2019

CONFESSIONS OF A PACK RAT

By Mary Kennedy                                           

I confess, I'm a pack rat. Is there a 12 step program for me? I hope so. It's not as bad as the TV show Hoarders. At least that's what I tell myself. There aren't any coffee grinds, egg shells or rotten TV dinners in the mess, just a proliferation of papers, magazines and clippings that I can't seem to part with.
                                                                                   
                         


Apparently I'm not alone in my addiction to paper and clippings. Is it a "writerly" thing? I'm not sure. A friend helped me go through "my stash" the other day and laughed when she saw my treasures. "Really, Mary," she said, through gales of laughter, "do you need a Havana street map from 1984? I think there is still an embargo on tourism in Cuba."

"Well, yes," I told her. "But you never know...someday...I may need that map."

"Oh for heaven's sake," she retorted, "buy another one." Then she tossed it in the "throw away"pile.



"And all these recipes," she went on. "It would take a lifetime to make then and there must be 50 chicken recipes there. I thought you were a vegan!" 
                                                                              

"Well, yes, but that one is for chicken spaghetti, and I can make it with vegan chicken strips. I saw some in the supermarket the other day."

"Yes, but will you actually buy them? Vegan chicken strips? They don't even sound appealing."

Hmm. She had a point. I'd passed them a dozen times and never was tempted to buy them. It just seems easier to leave out some meat/fish/chicken items than buy substitutes.

"And don't say you could make it without the chicken," she said, reading my mind. "I have that recipe and it calls for a LOT of cheese. As a vegan, you won't be able to eat that either. And don't tell me you're going to buy soy cheese. It's like trying to melt rubber bands."

I hate to admit it but my friend was right. I was keeping tons of travel brochures, recipes and decorating ideas that I would never use.

My friend picked up a Good Housekeeping clipping from 1990. "Stenciling?" she said archly. "Really, Mary, this is so out of your skill set it's ridiculous. And who stencils anymore?"
                                                                     

And it ended up in the garbage bin.

Hmm. Maybe we all need a friend to help us wade through our "treasures" and decide that most of them aren't really worth keeping. 

What do you think? Do you hold on to things that have outlived their usefulness?

By Mary Kennedy

Friday, February 8, 2019

Eat Well For Less

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

I don't like American reality TV shows. There, I said it. They're just too scripted and full of drama. I may be wrong, but British reality shows seem a lot more real to me.

It seems like every few months I find another show on YouTube to binge on.  Last month, it was Bad Tenants, Rogue Landlords. (Its original title was Bad Tenants, Scum Landlords. I guess they had to change it.)  Over the 40+ episodes, I got to feel like Paul and Chris were chums, helping people with really bad tenants get back their properties. (And there were more than a couple of scary moments that I'm sure were NOT scripted.)

This week, I found a new show to have playing in the background while I do mundane things like pair socks and fold towels:  Eat Well For Less.  This show features two guys (Gregg and Chris) who watch people shop, confront them at the register, and then go to their homes and swap out bad-for-you and expensive food for lower calorie and cheaper (similar) products.

Unfortunately, there aren't many episodes available on YouTube so I'll be looking for something new next week, but I've quite enjoyed the episodes I was able to see.

What I like best is that most of the families eat a LOT of processed food -- mostly because they think they don't have the time or were never taught to cook. I like the cooking portions best. They don't give the recipes, but you can find them online. (There are a few I want to try -- like vegetable croquettes, where you take all the dodgy veggies out of your fridge, chop or cut into ribbons, add a little flour, some garlic, and a couple of eggs, and fry them in a little oil. I can see me making that in the summer when the garden is over-producing. The Rosted Caluiflower with Romesco Sauce sounds good, too.

After watching those shows, it really made me want to get in the kitchen and cook. Unfortunately, I didn't have most of the ingredients for the dishes they made. (Like coconut oil, plain yogurt, etc.) I'm going to have to hit the grocery store and stock up on some of these ingredients.

Any suggestions on what British show I should try to watch next?


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Memories and Picture Galleries

by Karen Rose Smith



Caprice De Luca, the sleuth in my Caprice De Luca Home Staging mystery series is always looking for meaningful ways to decorate the houses she stages.  She has to keep personal mementos at a minimum when decorating for clients to sell their homes.  But when she operated her own decorating business, she loved to incorporate personal touches throughout the spaces she created.  Picture galleries, one such personal touch, can make your home decor warm and cozy.  Surrounding yourself with family photos and other memorable items makes your home's ambiance uniquely personal and unlike anyone else's.  Mixing personal items with catalog items from online retailers can make your home feel styled, yet a part of your life's story. Photo groupings help keep memories of times past alive.     

Photo collages are always part of my own decorating schemes.  I might hang a grouping of photos next to a hutch, tying together the furnishings in the room with the wall decorations. 


I also enjoy galleries of pictures of my cats.  One Christmas, my son gifted me with a  framed collage of my senior cats.  I positioned it over my computer next to a collage that I created of wolves from a local wolf sanctuary that I love to visit.  Notice the tie-in of the animal theme with the horses on the clock.  Often functional items like a clock can effectively be camouflaged in a themed picture grouping.


A single framed collage can nicely fill a small space.  This collage hangs next to my desk and reminds me of special times from my youth with my mother and father.


My living room has a southwestern ambiance so I incorporated suede frames of our trip to the grand canyon next to a gourd vase, Indian pottery and a drum light with a rawhide shade. 


I filled a dark hallway corner with some of my father's paintings and added a flameless candle lantern to the grouping.  The candle is on a timer, so every night the hallway is brightened by its glow and is reflected in the glass-covered artwork.
 

And sometimes a single picture says it all!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

And where do you live??

Hi, Duffy Brown here. I set my Cycle Path series on Mackinac Island and many readers want to know more about the island and what its like to live there.

 So here are a few tips.


 You know you live on Mackinac Island,,,
... if you’ve ever gotten frostbitten and sunburned in the same week. (though truth be told this could be Cincinnati too)
... if you can identify an Ohio accent.
…if you don’t need car insurance
…if a fender bender is a two-bike crash
... if you learned to pilot a boat before the training wheels were off your bike.
... if you point at the palm of your right hand when telling people where you live
... if "Down South" means Toledo.
... if a Big Mac is something you can drive across.
... if you have no problem spelling Mackinac Island.
... if you have as many Canadian coins in your pockets as American ones.
... if the trees in your backyard have spigots.
... if you know that a place called "Kalamazoo" really exists.
... if you bake with "soda" and drink "pop".
... if you know what a pastie is.
... if you know how to play Euchre.
... if fudge and bicycles remind you of  home sweet home.
... if you can name all 5 of the Great Lakes, and point to their locations around your left and right hands.
... if you know that Pontiac and Cadillac are cities.
... if you can actually pronounce Ypsilanti.
... if you own only three spices - salt, pepper and ketchup.
... if you design your Halloween costumes to fit over a snowsuit.
... if you keep track of the miles you put on your snow blower.
... if you think everyone from the city has an accent.
... if you think sexy lingerie is tube socks and a flannel nightie.
... if your snow blower gets stuck on the roof.
…if you save your Christmas tree to help mark the path across a frozen lake for the snow mobiles
... if summer takes place the second week of July 
... if you find -20F a little chilly. 
... if the kids drive to school in a snow mobile.
... if you know the 4 seasons: Winter, Still Winter, Almost Winter, and Yesterday was summer.
... if you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by.
... you know the day the horses get off the ferry and return to the island
... if you have worn shorts and a coat at the same time.
... if you often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
... if you see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings.)
... if down South to you means Ohio.
... if you go out to a fish fry every Friday.
…if the whole town is 500 people strong
... if you know what a Yooper is.
... if you know that UP is a place, not a direction.
... if you know it's possible to live in a thumb.