Monday, September 16, 2019

A SHINING CITY ON A HILL

by Mary Kennedy                                               

                                                                             

"A shining city on a hill" is how Ronald Reagan described Washington and I've always loved that quote. I've been visiting Washington for the past few days and will continue with my blog next Monday. Stay tuned to read about Route 66 next time!

Have a wonderful week, everyone.


Mary

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Spotlight Saturday

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

You know about Victoria Square thanks to the Victoria Square Mysteries. Artisans Alley takes center stage in those books, but the merchants--and their businesses--are just as intriguing. They all have stories to tell ... and that's what the Life on Victoria Square companion series is all about.


   So settle back and really get to know the merchants. Learn about their lives, and how life on Victoria Square affects them. It might just make a profound impression on you, too!

Coming October 4th ... Tea's Off.

With the grand relaunch of Victoria Square’s tea shop, Tealicious, just days away, Nona Fiske decides it’s time to sabotage it and its owner, Katie Bonner. With gossip, innuendo, and outright lies, Nona tries to turn the other merchants on the Square against Katie. But Katie has learned how to deal with people like Nona. Can she kill with kindness?

This story takes place between the Victoria Square mystery novels Yule Be Dead and (the upcoming) Killer Ink.




Friday, September 13, 2019

What about all that plastic?

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

As a society, we use a lot of plastic. I just have to look at my the desk in front of my keyboard and at least 75% of the stuff on it is plastic. For example, pens, the microphone I need for Google Hangouts with writer friends, ChapStick, glue stick, tape dispenser (not to mention the tape in it). Hand cream container, spray bottle (for when the cats chew my cords), notebook covers (I like to use yellow legal pads for a number of things and have at least two on my desk at all times). My phone charging cord, my mouse, the remotes for my stereo and little TV (which I hardly ever use).My checkbook cover. The modem and the router shells are all plastic. And that's just on my desktop. 

If you've seen the heartbreaking photos of sea life entangled and killed by plastic that's floating around in our oceans, then you know we've got a very big problem. Fish and other sea life end up eating plastic and when we eat them, we end up with plastic inside us, too. (Ick!)

What's the answer to our plastic problem is a video produced by Greenpeace and it brings up the complexities of ridding ourselves of plastic. "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world and is located between Hawaii and California. The GPGP covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France." That's a lot of plastic in the ocean--and in one specific spot. It's a big world, and that's not the only place where plastic has accumulated,

What can I, as a person, do to end my consumption of plastic? Well, for one--I'm not buying any more plastic wrap. Sorry, Saran Wrap, yer done. In it's place, I'm trying to (and not always succeeding) use all those plastic containers I already have, and I'm using waxed paper (in bags and in rolls). Also, when I get food (say cookies), I'm keeping them fresh by keeping them in their original (usually plastic) wrap, and using rubber bands to keep the air out and freshness in.

The Dollar Tree is a great store for all kinds of stuff ... but most of it's plastic. I have curtained my visits to the Dollar Tree so I won't be dazzled by cheap stuff that I don't need.

No more buying home decor items at retail. Nope. I'm a thrifter. I've bought most of my faux flowers at yard sales and have decided that there are too many items I can buy used so that I don't contribute to buying "new" plastic household stuff. Need replacement jewel cases for my CDs? (Yes, I still listen to CDs--and HORRORS! Books on (actual) tape!) I buy yard sale replacements.

One of the worst plastic offenders is the "carrier" bags we get at the grocery store. Mr. L and I both have small totes in our cars that (neatly) contain our reusable bags. I even take them to Walmart and Dollar General where I buy my cat food (Nine Lives and Friskies.)

New York State, where I live, is banning them as of March 1st, 2020. It's a good thing, but I will miss them for certain things. (Like picking out the large lumps from the cat box.) When we do end up with carrier bags, they always get double duty. It's rare that a bag will come home from the store and get thrown away. And when we are ready to throw them away, they go into a bigger bag and taken to the grocery store and their recycle bins.

We can all make little changes to how we live that will make us less dependent on plastic. I'd love to hear how you are doing it. Please share in the comment section below.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Finding Neverland

by Karen Rose Smith



Last weekend my husband and I traveled to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater for dinner and a show.  The theater, now in its 33rd year, is located in the heart of Amish country in southeastern Pennsylvania...the setting of my Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mysteries.  The theater seats over 300 and features a full buffet and table seating for the show.

I wasn't familiar with the play, but knew I could expect a masterful performance after having visited the theater earlier in the summer for their production of Camelot.  Having seen Camelot many times before, I was pleasantly surprised at the fresh perspective the company provided for the classic story.

I was aware that Finding Neverland was about Peter Pan, but as a writer, I was particularly able to identify with the writer's block that threatened J. M. Barrie's career.  Now on tour across the U.S., the play is about the famous playwright and his relationship with a widow and her three children who inspired him to create Peter Pan.  It is filled with joy, sorrow, pathos, laughter, wonder and hope.  It is well worth experiencing and difficult to explain the impact it can leave on your psyche.  Parents, children and artists will be able to identify.  

And the dog, who was totally adorable, stole the show more than once!


It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening--good food, a wonderful setting and a great performance.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

JUST DO IT!

Duffy Brown here talking about learning new stuff and one of the ways to do that is learn something new so I took up Mahjongg. I like it but I don’t think it likes me. In case you’re wondering what the heck is Mahjongg is, it’s that game with the tiles. I think I like it because I like the clink of the tiles. It really makes you think that’s for sure. It’s not Bridge thinking....I have no idea how people play Bride. I used to play party Bridge but that was mostly talking about gardens, kids and have you tried that new lipstick that stays on for all eternity. 



Then there was that time I took Italian classes. It wasn’t that the class was so bad but that I was so bad at it. I just stink at languages. I think some people have a language brain and can pick up languages way better than others. I quit the class half way through as I got soooo far behind. When they started conjugating verbs I knew I was way over my head.
I just finished taking two cooking classes. One was terrific the other horrid. Hard to believe that a cooking class can be that bad but it was and I didn’t even bother to bring home the recipes.
Then there was the good cooking class!! It was one of those classes where the chef did the cooking as a demo while we all watched. Usually I like the hands-on cooking classes where we in the class cook the food but this was good in that we got to see how the pros do it. I learned a lot just watching him.
Here is the slowcooker pork shoulder recipe: 4# bone in pork shoulder with s&p browned on all sides. Add coarse chopped onion, celery, carrots, 2 cups red wine, 3 bay leaves and cook for 6 hrs. Yummmmmm!!
I’ve taken Zumba for years and that’s kind of a class as I show up and the instructor take us though the routines to the music, and I’ve gone to makeup parties where you learn your colors and learn how to put on makeup. Let me tell you a makeup brush is the key to good makeup.
I went to CPR class that was really good and scared the heck out of me. I passed put said a prayer when I left of Oh dear Lord, please do not let anyone’s life depend on my ability to perform CPR! I would do it but would be scared spitless.
So what about you? Attend any classes? A good one? One that sucked? Maybe you taught a class? What did you teach?
Here’s to learning new stuff.
Hugs, Duffy 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Looking Back

by Maggie Sefton






I realized I had not mentioned my suspense mystery DEADLY POLITICS in a while.
It's the first in a trilogy.  And our Cozy Chicks Blog attracts new readers and visitors regularly.  So----here's a brief glimpse.


Welcome to Molly Malone’s world----

Politics is a blood sport in Washington, DC, and only the strongest survive.    Like the politicians she’s rubbed shoulders with for a lifetime, Molly Malone is smart and tough and savvy enough to stay out of trouble---most of the time.  However, trouble has a way of finding Molly.

Years ago, Molly Malone was driven from Washington, DC by political back-stabbing, scandals, and personal heartbreak.  But now, circumstances have forced her to start a new life in the one place she swore she’d never return to—the city that broke her heart---and face the ghosts and the enemies from her past.

As the daughter of a respected United States Senator and once the wife of a rising star young Congressman, Molly has seen it all in Washington politics
---the cynics, the sincere, and the schemers. But the brutal murder of her Congressional staffer niece brings Molly up close with Washington’s darker side. “The beautiful monuments and parks are deceiving.  Washington can be ugly.”  How ugly, Molly’s about to find out.  There are other schemers out there who may not have won elections, but are more powerful than the politicians they ensnare.   

Monday, September 9, 2019

THERE REALLY IS AN ENCHANTED LAND

By Mary Kennedy                                                 

When I visited New Mexico last week, I was struck by the picture postcard scenery. Majestic mountains, wide open spaces, skies painted with the whole palette of southwestern colors,  ranging from scarlet and gold to deep violet. And sunsets to rival those in Key West.  Pine trees, desert shrubs and dramatic rock formations have inspired New Mexico artists for centuries.                                                           
                                                                                 
                                                                         

The architecture was so interesting and so different from the styles popular here on the east coast. I loved the adobe houses in sandy colors with their exposed beams and rustic charm.
                                                                                 
                                                                                     



People think of the desert as flat and devoid of plants, but desert plants have their own charm and I love the idea that they are drought resistant. Home owners are encouraged to plant desert type plants in their yards, they are not only beautiful but you rarely have to water them.
                                                                             

                                                                                 


And if you thought the desert landscape was devoid of flowers, think again!

 


A road trip is always an adventure in the southwest, because you'll find an exciting vista around every curve in the road. 

Snow capped mountains were a surprise and reminded me of Switzerland. 

Next week, I'll feature Route 66, a bucket list road trip that has always enticed me!

By Mary Kennedy, happy travels!
                                                                                  
                      

Friday, September 6, 2019

The weather has already turned

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

Here in Western NY, the weather has already turned. The days might be lovely and warm, but when I sit in my enclosed porch in the evening, I can't stay there longer than 6 or 6:30. Why? Because once the sun sinks below the arborvitae that flanks the west side of my yard, the air begins to feel cool and clammy. It used to be this happened in August. With global warming, it's happening 3-4 weeks later, which is okay for personal comfort, but another example that things on this planet are changing. And fast.

I spend a good part of the day in my enclosed porch writing. On Wednesday, I not only had my big sweater on, but I also considered going inside and snagging a lap robe because the temps were in the mid-60s. Yesterday they were in the low 70s, but by 6 I could already feel the cool envelop me and say, "It might be warm inside, but it's also dry."

Another sign of encroaching fall?  It's dark when I get up. Okay, I'm liable to get up anywhere between 4 and 6 am, but the other day it was gloomy (and we had a thunderstorm) and it didn't get really bright until almost 8.  I'll start using my SAD light any day now.

I love my porch. Like I said, I get a lot of writing done out there. But this summer was hot. REALLY HOT, and it was more than a little uncomfortable to sit out there and write. Therefore, I really only had the last four or five weeks to really enjoy the "room." For some reason, I find it really hard to write in my home office, so I will probably end up in our family room that overlooks the pool (which will be closed in just another week). It's just not the same.

How does the end of summer effect your life?


Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Rare Find

by Karen Rose Smith


I was cleaning out drawers this week and found an old copy of Woman's Day magazine which was dated August 1947.  I enjoyed leafing through the magazine.  It brought back memories of products that my parents used as I was growing up.  I also noticed that some things have not changed through the years.  Women have always been interested in fashion, home decorating and food.  The table of contents featured articles and short stories.  Other categories included Needlework, Home Decoration, Fashion and Beauty, Food and other departments such as News and Gossip and the HOW TO section.

I snapped some photos of  some of the articles and ads in this issue.  Do you remember these products?






The needlework section featured an article on Pineapple Crochet.  My grandmother created crocheted items similar to these.



The article in the Home Decoration and Workshop section was titled "Where No One Ever Lived Before."  It showed photos of the upper level of a small barn in Pennsylvania which was transformed into living quarters for three.  It reminded me of the barn that my sleuth, Daisy Swanson, in the Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mystery series, transformed into her house when she moved back to Willow Creek Pennsylvania to start her tea garden business.  She also remodeled the upper floor of her garage into a small living quarters for her daughter Vi, her son-in-law Foster and their son, little Sammy.


The Fashion section featured clothes for the grade-school girl.  The article showed clothes that could be made from patterns and included a coat and a choice of four outfits to be worn with it.  These are clothes that are similar to some of the outfits I wore as a young student.


It's always fun to find reminders of our past and the products and clothes we grew up with.  Do you remember any of the items I found in my vintage issue of Woman's Day?


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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Small Town or City Slicker?






In Braking For Bodies, second book in the Cycle Path mystery seriesEvie Bloomfield’s BFF is accused of murdering her old boss, Peephole Perry. The guy’s a first class sleaze and rag reporter for an LA tabloid, and got his name from peeking into people’s business then blackmailing them. But that’s in LA...or is it? And what is this jerk doing on Mackinac Island? 

Mackinac is a real island, an eight-mile chunk of land where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. When the lakes freeze...or as the islanders call it “the ice makes...there is no ferry, very limited plane service and if the ice is think enough snowmobiles are the way off the place. They run day and night across the frozen lake to the mainland, the safe route where the ice is think marked by the saved Christmas trees.

So the question is, could you live here year-round?

Without cars it’s so quiet and the island is a throwback to the 1800s with vintage baseball, parades for every occasion like the Lilac Festival, Horse Festival, Fudge Festival etc. There’s the town gazebo for live music, dressing for dinner at the Grand Hotel along with high tea, horse drawn carriages with men in top hats and formal attire.

One of the best parts of Mackinac Island is waking up to the clip clop of horses’ hooves on cobblestone. Often the whole island is cocooned in dense fog with the foghorns moaning out in the harbor. If you stay on the island for any time at all you’ll be in the best shape of you life with having to walk everywhere.  And there is nothing like sunset over the Mackinaw Bridge to take your breath away. 

This all sounds amazing to many of us and like a death sentence to others. First off there is no mall! There is no WalM256art, big box store of any sort, no free wifi except at Horn’s bar and the library. Often your cell phone won’t work and you’ll be hanging over the end of the pier to get reception for that oh so important phone call. There are only 500 permanent residents so things get a bit confining and in the winter the way to school is on your snowmobile with the sixty other students.

There are bicycles and horses everywhere and festivals galore such as the Lilac Festival, Fudge Festival, Jazz, Horse, etc. They are all fun and everyone turns out to watch. It’s things like this that brings the whole island together.

So what do you think? Are you an island person or a big city guy or gal? Do you really need that car and mall or do you like the thought of snowmobiling, biking and parking your horse at the curb?

Duffy Brown





Friday, August 30, 2019

The End of Summer = Back to School

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

Okay, summer doesn’t officially end until September 23, but for most of the country, Labor Day marks the end of the summer season.

When I was in school, Labor Day felt like some kind of death knell. Summer was over. School started. Nobody I knew liked going back to school, but I absolutely loathed it. I hated every single day of school, staring with Kindergarten, and some days more than others.  The highlight of my entire school career was the two years I spent in high school with my best friend Lori D. Back in those days, I was known as Lori, too.  “Lorraine” seemed so old-fashioned (and it still does) and I desperately wanted to be cute and thin like she was, and since I couldn’t be either, then at least I could be “Lori Bartlett.” (And incredibly, a two people still think of me that way. And thanks to Facebook, I’m still in contact with both of them. Hi Lori and Lee!)

Just yesterday, I went thrifting with my neighbor and her two boys and I admitted to them that I hated school, and my neighbor’s youngest son (who has the same name as my younger brother) shouted, “YES! She gets it!”

Of course, his mother didn’t want to hear that I hated school, but she also had to concede that a hatred of our educational system still managed to produce a New York Times bestselling author.

Except … that I don’t think I ever learned all that much from public school (besides learning to read and type). Algebra? Forgetabout it. (My favorite subject wasn’t English. Sorry, even now I could not deconstruct a sentence.) All that crap bored me. In fact, I spent a hellulva lot of the hours during my public education daydreaming (and getting in trouble for it). There were stories running through my head and I found it really hard to focus on schoolwork. Mr. L thinks I am probably mildly dyslexic. I had a couple of classes (and teachers, two who were actually married to each other) who encouraged me, but most did not. I fell through the cracks.

And then after high school, I found Star Trek fandom. What I never learned in school, I leaned from wonderful women who mentored me. We met through Star Trek, but it was other fandoms where I first started writing. These wonderful women encouraged me when all I wanted to do was write and didn’t have a clue how to do it. (And I learned even more when I connected with romance writers.)

My neighbor is currently homeschooling her oldest son because traditional high school let him down, and he's doing well. This kid is gifted. He’s a little nutty, but guess what—that’s what sets us creative people apart from the rest of the crowd. If the opportunity to be home schooled had been open to me, I think I would have flourished. Mind you, through high school I still managed to hit honor roll for three of my four years, but I can remember so many times when teachers stomped on my work because it wasn’t “mainstream” enough for them. Excuse me for being pompous, but I’d sure like to shove my NY Times bestselling honors up their butts.

So what’s my point? I’m not at all sure. But my friend’s kid is going to have a lot of options in the future. His parents understand and encourage his creativity. When I look back, so did my parents. When I announced my desire to be a professional writer, my Dad shook his head and said, “Why would you choose one of the hardest jobs in the world?” I had no words. He was only six months away from death when I hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time. He never knew that I hit it five more times or got nominated for an Agatha award.

School is still a sore subject with me. Far too many kids are pushed toward college and saddled with tremendous debt that will shadow them for a decade or more. If I was coming out of high school today, I think I would have considered the construction trade. (I did take wood shop in high school, which was actually quite fun.) Even so, I know I still would have been writing, but I would have had a trade and good-paying job. As it was, I was caught in the pink-collar trap and made crap wages for almost all my traditional working years.

So, where am I today?

Glad that I don’t have to go back to school next Thursday. Instead? I’ll be working on my next novel. And that makes me happy.

How do you feel about your school years?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Cats and Quotes

by Karen Rose Smith



The other day I was doing some research and I came across several websites that featured cat quotes.  Since the sleuths in both of my cozy mystery series (Caprice in Caprice De Luca Home Staging mysteries and Daisy in Daisy's Tea Garden mysteries) have cats, I had to explore the sites.  I was amazed at the number of famous people, many of whom were authors, had their opinions about the feline world.  I  thought it would be fun to take some of the quotes and attach photos of my cats or cats that we pet sat over the past summer.  Enjoy. 


     Charles Dickens

What greater gift than the love of a cat.





Unknown

No home is complete without the pitter patter of kitty feet.





Rod McKuen

Cats have it all: admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.


       

Seanan McGuire

When Rome burned, the emperor's cats still expected to be fed on time.





Tay Hohoff

There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat





Robert Sowthey

A kitten is, in the animal world, what a rosebud is in the garden.

        


Miguel de Cervantes (author, Don Quixote)

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.




Emily Dickinson (poet, Because I could not stop for Death)


Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.




Pam Brown (contemporary New Zealand poet)

One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home.






Walter Savage Landor (author, Imaginary Conversations)


“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”






P.J. O’Rourke (author, Parliament of Whores)


“You can not look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.”





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