Thursday, June 20, 2019

Extending Indoor Space to the Outdoors

by Karen Rose Smith

I've wanted a canopied porch swing for quite a while.  Arthritis and fibromyalgia sometimes limit where I can go and what I can do.  The past few years my husband kept insisting our patio wasn't big enough to comfortably accommodate a swing.  But...where there's a will, there's a way.  And I set out to find the way.  I enjoy spring, summer and fall as much as I can.  I begin growing flowers and tomatoes from seed in February and March to remind me that spring and spending time in outdoor space is coming.

I searched for the swing I wanted online first, deciding exactly the type I wanted--a three-seater that I could lounge on as well as sit on.  Then with his trusty tape measure in hand, my husband and I went to the patio to figure out if and how it would fit.  He reluctantly agreed to order the swing, hoping that my plan would work.  (He should know after 47 years of marriage that it would!) After my hubby and our neighbor's son worked two hours to assemble the new purchase (the directions said it was supposed to be an easy assembly!), we began moving things around to see the best fit.  I already had several patio pots planted, ready to decorate the space. My goal was to create an outside living space without sacrificing the view or obstructing walking pathways.  Soon I had just what I wanted...a quiet retreat where I could spend sunny mornings either listening to music, editing or writing new material.

Just as you accessorize your indoor spaces with wall groupings, knickknacks, greenery and pillows, you can do the same to add a special homey touch to your outdoor living spaces.  I chose colorful cushions and pillows, potted groupings, and a fountain.  I added the cat doormat hubby received from a friend for Father's Day and I even had a corner that I decorated with colorful stones that are supposed to glow in the dark.  I added my favorite sign and a cat planter.

Now I can spend my spring, summer and fall mornings on the patio with the outdoor cats.  (We've been taking care of two ferals--Bonnie and Clyde--for a few years.)  Hopefully birds chirping, a fountain trickling and the scent of blooming annuals will give me peace of mind and the inspiration to write the next scene in my cozy mystery.

 And if I'm really lucky, I might even spot a deer grazing in the field to the rear of our property.   

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Grillin’ in Savannah

What’s on Your Grill
Reagan Summerside here and Auntie KiKi’s frettin’ something fierce. She and Uncle Putter are having their annual summer barbecue and KiKi knows what’s coming and not one bit happy about it. 
Barbecue Routine
1) KiKi buys the food, invites the guests, prays for sun.
2) KiKi sets the tables, makes the deviled eggs, pimento chess appetizers, sweet tea and mac and cheese, green beans with salt pork and a nice cocoanut cake.
3) KiKi prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces she’s conjured up, and takes it to Uncle Putter who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand. 
Here comes the important part:
More routine....
5) KiKi organizes the plates and cutlery and makes sure the guests have drinks and food.
6) KiKi comes out to tell Uncle Putter that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.
Important again:

More routine.....
8) KiKi prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces and brings them to the table.
9) After eating, KiKi clears the table and does the dishes.
And most important of all:
10) Everyone PRAISES Uncle Putter for have such a fine party and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.
11) Uncle Putter tells good boy jokes and swills whiskey. 
12) Uncle Putter asks KiKi how she enjoyed his party and, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women....
I’m afraid this year Uncle Putter will wind up with his putter smashed right over his head. 
What are barbecues like in your neck of the woods? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

An Easy Way to Look Back

by Maggie Sefton

For those of you who are new to our Cozy Chicks Blog, you may not be familiar with all of The Cozy Chicks earlier books.  All of the Chicks have written a LOT of books, folks.    Mysteries, Suspense, some set in the future, Historicals, even light-hearted comedy.  We really have something for every reader's taste.  And most of us have been writing fiction for many years----so, we have a lot of books out there.  

For those of you who are focused on my Kelly Flynn Mysteries (16 mysteries in total), you might be interested in the beginnings of Kelly's adventures----and all the characters who have "walked onstage" along the way.  If you are curious, then you might want to check out a short non-fiction piece I wrote several years ago that introduced all the characters who had appeared on the pages up to that point.  It's entitled  "Who Are You People?"  You can find it on Amazon.  Enjoy!   

Monday, June 17, 2019


By Mary Kennedy                                       

Caring for (and entertaining) a grand-dog isn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The cats, of course, probably have other opinions.                
Calpurnia, for example, seems a bit uncertain (and dismayed) by the new arrival. "Hey, who's the new guy and why's he eating my food?" Her three fellow cats declined to be interviewed for this blog. 

Yogi is playing it cool, befriending neighborhood dogs and trying to keep everyone happy.
 He's met a couple of girl dogs who greet him every day and share occasional doggie kisses. 

It's all gone to his head. This is Yogi, sitting on the front porch, waiting for the girl dogs to text him and invite him on their morning walk. He's already had breakfast and is ready to start his day. He also joins them on their evening walk. Two highlights of his day.


One advantage of having a dog (even a temporary "guest" dog) is that it certainly increases your step count for the day. Yogi is walked at least three times a day, and is usually tuckered out by the time we get home. Here he is, taking one of the cats' beds on the sun porch, but no one seems to mind. 

I've hesitated to take him on longer walks because he's an older dog and tends to get tired.  A couple of days ago, I had to carry him home at least 5 or 6 blocks. For a little dog, he was pretty hefty. It was like carrying one of those medicine balls in the gym. Maybe he'll build up his stamina and I can take him to a couple of local parks. I've decided not to take him to the dog park because some of the dogs are pretty rowdy and he's used to being with humans.

All in all, it's been a great experience, and it's been fun to spoil him with treats and attention. I'm already planning his next visit!

By Mary Kennedy

Friday, June 14, 2019

Smile: It might change someone's life

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

It's been four years and a day since my mother passed away. Cancer is a very nasty disease. Her cancer was melanoma. She was very careful about being the sun. Unfortunately, it wasn't the sun that caused her cancer. That cancer runs in our family (and yeah, it scares me).

Shortly after she died, Amazon sent me an email about Amazon Smile. I decided to choose the Melanoma Research Foundation as my charity.  There are treatments we weren't told about. The same treatment former president Jimmy Carter received and has given him another 4 years of life. (Go, Jimmy!) Had we known about that treatment, you better believe I would have pursued it. But we weren't told. The oncologist told my mother she would be better off skipping all treatment because "at your age, do you want to die suffering from useless radiation treatments, or die in peace?" My mother die not die in peace.

That phrase, "Never piss off an author: she may kill you off in a future book" is true.  Yes, I killed that doctor in one of my books. She was evil and she died a horrible fictional death. So there.

Where does this lead?

If you shop on Amazon, perhaps you'll consider shopping through AmazonSmile. Choose the charity of your heart. It costs you nothing, and it might change someone's life. Nearly $10,000 has already been donated to MRF. Their research has saved lives.

Help save more lives.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Kittens Turn Two

by Karen Rose Smith

Two summers ago on a hot summer afternoon, my husband received a call on his cell phone from a friend who had just found six kittens under her parents' front porch.  She was calling for advice on how to handle the kittens.  She had rescued two of the litter but it took another day before she could coax the others close enough to scoop them up and take them to safety.  She took the six kittens home and sheltered them in her basement, despite the fact that she was allergic to cats.  She also helped her father capture the mother cat to have her spayed.

Then began the arduous task of finding forever homes for the kittens.  My friend appeared quite smitten with one of the first rescues--a black longish-hair sweetie she had named Freya.  The other standout in the litter was the second rescue--a long-haired gray and white male.  Her young son named him Mr. Hat.

My husband's first big mistake was telling me about the phone call.  His second mistake was taking me to visit the kittens.  I hadn't exactly voiced my thoughts out loud, but I was planning to adopt Freya.  But as I sat in my friend's living room cuddling the little black bundle, my husband seemed taken with Mr. Hat.  By the time we left, we had agreed to take both of the kittens.  After all, they had just been taken from their mother, so how could we separate these two who seemed to have formed a bond?

The past two years have been filled with snarls of disapproval from our three senior cats, hours of playful banter with each other, and much laughter as we watched the antics of the newest members of our furry family.  The kittens have grown into beautiful felines.  Zander (formerly Mr. Hat) is striking in his demeanor and has become my best buddy.  Freya is a unique character who loves to be snuggled on her own terms.   They both have become cherished members of our family and are a constant presence on my social media pages.  And quite possibly they will join Zoie Joy, Paddington and Halo as "characters" in one of my mysteries.


Zoie Joy and Zander


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Summer YUM fast and easy!

Hi, summer foodies! Duffy Brown here!
One of my fave summer veggies is Corn on the Cob! Okay, I know it gets stuck in my teeth but homegrown corn is the best. Personally I live the yellow and white kernels mixed together. It give just the perfect flavor mix and so sweet and so tender and it’s pretty!
The part I hate about corn on the cob is shucking it. So I found this great tip. Nuke the corn in husk for 4 minutes, cut blunt end off corn, wrap pointy end in a towel and shake the corn. Guess what! The corn comes out silk free and done to perfection. Just add salt and pepper and you’re in!
Here’s a little video on just how to do it. And it shows how to do it for a group if you have more than one ear of corn at a time. You can boil for 10 min and do the same technique.
 If you want to blacken it on the grill for a few minutes you can do that for a bit of that delish grilled flavor. Nothing looks more summer than corn on the cob that’s been passed over the grill for a bit of charred look.
Add sliced watermelon and serve up some iced tea and bingo, instant summer.
So what is your fave summer veggie? Got a fave way to prepare it? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Colorado Wool Market

by Maggie Sefton

This past weekend was the wonderful Colorado Wool Market, held in that beautiful little mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, and right next to the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park.  Weather was lovely June springtime.  Tons of summer visitors were already visiting Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park for summer vacations.  So----it was a very busy weekend.

Not only were there vendors with booths and displays of every kind of fiber that exists, but there were also exhibition stalls with various fiber-bearing sheep, alpaca, vicuna, llamas---everything.  Here are some of those great faces.   :)  


Monday, June 10, 2019


By Mary Kennedy                                                 

Ah, the long lazy days of summer. Okay, for many of us, they're not so long and they're definitely not lazy. But there is something special about summer; the tranquil breezes, the blooming flowers, the sweet perfume in the air, that makes us want to try new experiences and explore untraveled paths. By the way, this Eiffel Tower photo above was taken by my son.

Speaking of untraveled paths, this is Alecks, who is bi-lingual, exploring Death Valley. But you don't have to go far afield to start a new adventure and learn a new language.

There are so many ways to teach yourself a second (or third!) language. The most obvious way, of course, is through books and DVDs.
If you're motivated and the diligent type, you can set up your own study schedule and tackle whatever language appeals to you. You can even enlist the help of a friend who will be a "study buddy" for you. That's good for accountability and important for those times when you really don't feel like tackling French verbs.

Some people like to learn online at their own pace and there are loads of possibilities, both free and inexpensive.

Some people prefer the interaction with a group either in a structured class, offered by your local community college or learning institute.

Or if you like a more informal approach, you can try Meet Up and connect with people who want to learn the same language you do. 
One of my favorite online sites is French Word a Day by Kristin Espinasse. She delivers wonderful photos about her life in the south of France with a vocabulary section at the end. Her posts are always entertaining, insightful and make you want to hop on a plane for Provence.  I've been following her blog since she started it in 2002 and find it very helpful. It's fun and a painless way to stay "au courant" with French slang.

You can sign up for it right here. I look forward to every one of her posts.

Duo Lingo is also a fun experience and makes vocabulary and grammar almost painless. A series of tests and buzzers guides you through both beginner and advanced language studies. You'll find an amazing selection of languages and it takes only a few minutes a day. The secret is consistency. Don't slack off!

Choose whatever learning method suits your style and pretty soon, you'll be chatting away like a world traveler.

So whatever you choose, make a vow to start today and stick with it. You'll be surprised at how much fun you'll have and how enjoyable your foreign travel will be. 

Bon voyage! Mary Kennedy

Friday, June 7, 2019

When your character won't talk

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

I'll admit it. I've been struggling. The character I love above all the ones I've ever created is Jeff Resnick. He's been with me for a very long, long time. I tested him out in fan fiction (back in the day I was writing that), not once, but twice. So when I was sure I knew his history, I began writing the Jeff Resnick Mysteries.

I had planned to write a book for Jeff and his brother, Richard, during the first quarter of this year. But the thing is ... Jeff wasn't talking to me. He's got a lot on his plate and he just isn't ready to share that with me. It has both confused and confounded me.  I know him better than anybody on the planet and I cannot figure out where he's coming from.

I 'd given myself from January until the end of May to write his latest adventure and I've barely scratched 7,000 words.

My plan was to start writing Booktown #14 as of June 1st, only I didn't know that I would be slapped with the copy edit for Victoria Square #6 (Murder Ink)  just two days before that.  So, I spent four days going over that copy edit and began Booktown #14 on Tuesday. Holy cow! If Jeff wasn't willing to talk to me, Tricia has been a complete blabbermouth. No sooner did I start to think about the next (and possibly last) Booktown Mystery than Tricia started dictating what I should write. The ideas seemed to flow like lava spewing from a volcano. In 48 hours, I had written more than 5,000 words an had ideas for at least 50% of the book.

So now I'm feeling lost and hurt. Jeff has been with me for a lot longer than Tricia. Why is he holding back?

Yeah, I know it sounds stupid. Jeff and Tricia are fictional characters, but they also speak to me. I'm sure I'm not the only author who feels this way about her characters. So, Tricia and I will be spending the summer together. And my Victoria Square co-author, Gayle Leeson, and I will be spending time with Katie Bonner and her crew of vendors, friends, and (possible) lovers during that same timeframe. I can only hope Jeff will get over his baggage and soon start talking to me again, because I need to reconnect to him like I would a long-lost relative or friend.

In the meantime, I'll just keep plugging along and hope that Jeff gets over whatever  is bugging him and wonder if it isn't MY baggage that's keeping me from writing about his.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Cats and a Special Bookstore

by Karen Rose Smith

Last weekend, I was pleased and excited to spend Saturday afternoon at Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, Pennsylvania,  meeting readers and signing copies of my new release MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES.  Cupboard Maker is one of my favorite bookstores because it features two of my passions...books and cats.  Located in a warehouse-type building in Enola, (near Harrisburg), the store carries a large selection (90,000 to 100,000 titles) of general stock hardbacks and paperbacks...both new and used.  The outside walls of the building are painted to resemble a giant bookshelf, featuring both classics and works by local authors.  I was honored to have my MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES cover added to the "shelf."


Cupboard Maker is also the home of two bookstore cats--Squeekie and Annika--who interact with store patrons or just snuggle up on a bookshelf somewhere in the store.  Michelle also fosters two or three felines who are in need of "furever" homes.  So every time I visit, there are new occupants in the adoption cage.  This visit I met Tyler, a long-haired ginger, and Archie, a white and ginger short hair who had just arrived in the store. It's not unusual to see one of the felines walking on the catwalks above the bookshelves around the store. 


Archie's cage sits beneath the catwalk lined with
photos of felines who were previously adopted. 
Fellow cozy author Misty Simon and I greeted guests as they arrived.  Conversations at the signing table varied from books to cats, from the publishing industry to favorite authors.  Squeekie even joined the chat for a while.   Everyone seemed to leave with a stack of new reads and, of course, the satisfaction of having interacted with one of the store's resident felines.  Following store policy, some even left written messages on the shelves about their experience.

This was truly an enjoyable afternoon of chatting and sharing with friends (old and new) and interacting with some adorable felines.  If only I could have tucked Tyler or Archie in my tote bag when I left.  But I think my husband would have noticed!