Thursday, May 23, 2019

Rhubarb Anyone?


by Karen Rose Smith


Do you like rhubarb?  

Even if you don't think you like rhubarb, you would change your mind if you visited The Rhubarb Festival at the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, right in the center of beautiful Lancaster County Amish country.

My husband and I were driving through Intercourse last year around this time doing research for my Daisy's Tea Garden mystery series which is set in a fictional town of Willow Creek, between York and Lancaster.  We came upon The Rhubarb Festival which was in full swing that weekend.  We had such an enjoyable time that we marked our calendars to return this year.  

Although there was a slight threat of rain, the sun managed to dominate and I enjoyed driving through the towns of Bird In Hand and Intercourse, trying to soak in the ambiance of the towns and surrounding Amish homesteads.  The simplicity of the Amish lifestyle mixed with the beauty of the meticulously-kept yards, the pristine gardens, the horse and buggies, the clothes lines strung from the house to the barn was impressive.  It was so easy to become re-energized to begin my next mystery set in this area.  
The festival itself offered something for everyone--from horse and buggy rides, to whoopee pie making contests, to center-stage entertainment, to delicious food much of which included rhubarb.  After a quick snack of ice cream (no, it wasn't rhubarb flavored!) in homemade waffle cones, we made our rounds to the outside stands and permanent businesses many of which featured local merchandise.  
One of my favorite stands was operated by a lady who made and sold clothespin dolls.  Her wares included cat and dog dolls, clown dolls, seasonal dolls and, of course, Amish dolls.  I included the idea for these as children's treats at a special tea Daisy runs for kids and their parents.  This will be included in MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS, December.


I also enjoyed the Kitchen Kettle food store which featured pickles, sauces, salsas, jams and baked goods.  Samples were available for tasting.  I think I tried each flavored pickle and liked the sweet dill best. We left with a jar of our favorite peach salsa and baked goods.    





After we left the festival, we stopped at several more stand-alone establishments which featured Amish quilts and handmade furniture.  It was inspiring to appreciate the fine stitching in the quilts and the expert crafting of the furniture pieces.  As we took our exit from the Old Philadelphia Pike on to the main highway, it gave me pause to know that another way of life that featured simplicity and hard work existed so close to the urban world we are so accustomed to be a part of.

So now, it's back to work on my next Daisy's Tea Garden mystery where I will attempt to intertwine some of the Amish lifestyle with the mystery and the tea garden setting.   


MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES, the third book in the series will be released on May 28, 2019.  The book is now available for pre-order.





Wednesday, May 22, 2019

They crazy things we buy.



Duffy Brown here!! A little crazy but here.
Okay, I did it. Made the impulse purchase that I just couldn’t resist. Not that this is my first Just Have To Have Itpurchase but it’s probably my craziest.
Yep, here he is. Meet Sherlock Bear. I tried to justify it in that yes, I do write mysteries, my license plates on my cars are Sherlok 1 and Sherlok 2, I love Sherlock Holmes and in my bio I state that while other teens wanted to take Brad Pitt to the prom I wanted to take Sherlock Holmes.
And then there’s the eternal question of what dead person would you like to have a conversation with. For me it’s Sherlock Holmes of course. Okay, I get that the guy is really a fictional character but to me he was/is not that. Somewhere in my brain I think of him as real. I love this character. Love that he is a bit off the mark, so darn smart and is at peace with who he is. 
My kind of guy. Definitely my kind of character.
So, you see where I’m coming from! I just had to buy Sherlock Bear. Right now he’s in my spare bedroom but I intend to take Sherlock Bear, all seven feet of his handsomeness, on the road with me.
I have a Two Dames Mystery weekend in October and Sherlock Bear will be there to greet one and all. What a photo opp, right!!!
So my question to you today is... What impulse buy did you make? Did you regret it? Love it all the more? Or was it one of those What the heck was I thinking purchases? 

excerpt from Tandem Demise...
“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.

Monday, May 20, 2019

MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL?

By Mary Kennedy                                       
Are you a morning person or a night owl? And does it really matter? New studies reveal that not only our mood and productivity but even our health can be affected by work and sleep patterns.

Most of us do find a "happy place" during the day when we're the most productive. Some of us love to greet the dawn with a brisk run, a hot shower or a turn on the exercise bike before leaving for work.                                                                     
  
Others find this incomprehensible and can barely stagger to the kitchen for morning coffee before feeling half alive.                                             
                                                                              

Some of us of course, (about 4% ) require very little sleep and manage to be productive on 3 or 4 hours sleep.

 Danielle Steel revealed that she often works straight through on her first draft of a new book and can work for  22 hours at a stretch without feeling fatigued. She has food brought in to her and feels energized as she becomes more and more engrossed in her story. This strategy (although exhausting) has put her at the top of the best-selling charts again and again.
                                                                                

A new study shows that if you want to determine what time of day is your "downtime," when all systems seem to crash, here's what you do. Take your sleep pattern, say it's 8 hours, from 10 pm to 6 am. Now take the midpoint, that would be 2 am. Advance that 12 hours forward to 2 pm, and that is the time of day when fatigue hits. Try the experiment yourself, I found it to be accurate.


Happy productivity! Mary Kennedy

Friday, May 17, 2019

More Green For Me

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

When Earth Day rolled around last month, I started thinking about how much waste goes into my garbage tote.  Mind you, I've been trying to adopt more green ways.

Earlier this year, I decided I needed to cut down on my use of paper towel.  It so happens, my mother bought a lot of washcloths at yard sales for our family's cottage. I decided there were way too many stuffed into a drawer and I took them home and washed them to use in my kitchen. (I wrote about it on this post back in January.)

Since then, I figure we're using half the paper towel we used to. (Have not yet trained Mr. L to reach for these washcloths.) We used to go through at least a roll a week...now it's take two weeks and a few days. There are still a few things I use paper towel for, but not just to dry my hands, etc. (That's what the tea towels are for, and boy have I got a lot of them, too.)

But last month I had leftovers to put away and reached for the cling wrap. Then I stopped. Plastic is forever. I need to stop using so much plastic. So instead, I opened my cupboard and looked for a plastic container to put the leftovers in. Yes, it means washing another item, but water can be filtered and used again. Plastic stays in the landfill for hundred (if not thousands) of years.

Of course, there were a LOT of containers without lids. So a few days later, I hauled everything out of the cupboards and matched them up. Wow--I have a lot of them. But it's been two weeks and I haven't used any cling wrap.

And one of the reasons for that is ... wax paper. Okay, it's a lot more fragile, but it will degrade in a landfill. In addition to the wax paper wrapped around tomatoes and other items (with a rubber band around it to keep the air out), I also bought waxed paper bags. I bought a big box and they are smaller than I would like, but they are still very useful.

It's been more than two weeks and I haven't touched the cling wrap. Luckily, I was running low on it and probably won't buy any more.

Next up: going through my linen napkins, washing them, and using them instead of paper napkins.  I will look for colored ones at yard sales, because ... you know, spaghetti and curry stains.

What are you doing to go just a little bit greener?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Special Offer--Book 2 Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mystery series

by Karen Rose Smith


As a special offer in advance of the publication of my newest Daisy's Tea Garden mystery MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES, Kensington Books has arranged a sale on the second book in the series MURDER WITH CINNAMON SCONES.  Today only, Thursday May 16, MURDER WITH CINNAMON SCONES will be a Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99.  

Here’s a blurb for MURDER WITH CINNAMON SCONES (which includes a recipe for the scones): 

Daisy Swanson and her Aunt Iris run a delightful shop in Pennsylvania’s Amish country with an emphasis on tasty teas and treats—but murder is not so sweet . . .
 
As local merchants unite to attract tourists for a much anticipated weekend quilting event, business is sure to spill over into eateries like Daisy’s Tea Garden. Gorgeous craftwork is hanging everywhere—but among the quilts, potholders, and placemats, one gallery owner is wrapped up in some dangerous affairs . . .
 
Reese Masemer had been dating one of Daisy’s employees, Tessa, an artist, though their last interaction was as strained as a cup of loose leaf tea. Now Reese has been found dead near a covered bridge where Tessa’s been practicing her sketches. She’s the obvious suspect, but Daisy’s learning that there were some major secrets in Reese’s background, and several of his relationships were infused with resentment. To save Tessa, she’ll have to find out who’s tainted this quaint little town with murder . . .


Set in beautiful Lancaster County Pennsylvania, both books offer a blend of the Amish lifestyle with the ambiance of Daisy's tea garden in nearby Willow Creek.





MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES, the third book in the series will be released on May 28, 2019.  The book is now available for pre-order.





Wednesday, May 15, 2019

You bought me what!!!

Hi, Duffy Brown here. 


There are unusual gifts that you get and wonder Really?? You know that feeling, the one where you say Thank You!! What a terrific gift, I’ll think of you when ever time I use/see/wear it.
And then you think to yourself...What the heck is this!
I just got one of these gifts for Mother’s Day. I need to say first off that I’m afraid of heights. In all fairness it’s not the fear of planes but of being up in the air next to a two-thousand foot drop-off. I get really spooked when there is nothing between me and...nothing.
So this Mother’s Day imagine my surprise when my daughter gave me a necklace with a biplane charm. Cute to be sure and should have been one big clue was what was to come because—
You guess it. My daughter, Ann, gave me a ride in a biplane for Mother’s Day. I love them to be sure. Who doesn’t love biplanes. Think Snoopy and the Red Barron. Adorable, right!
And biplanes are like a convertible in the sky. And you get to wear a neat helmet giving testimony to true helmet hair.
At first I didn’t know what to expect but when you take off and leave the ground behind it is the most amazing experience ever. I reall mean it. Nothing compares.
Okay, I know you’ve probably flown in a jet but this is entirely different. First off no flight attendant is yammering at you about safety and you actually get to think about the flying aspect of going up, up, up.
Things get smaller and your world get bigger. It is the most amazing thing ever!!! It is what flying is supposed to be. Flying jets gets you where you need to be. Flying a biplane is becoming one with the sky and the pure joy of not being earth-bound.
If you have never flown in a small plane, taken a balloon ride, ridden in a glider etc DO! It is truly an experience of a lifetime and makes you realize just what the Wright brothers had in mind when they invented the airplane in the first place.
Here’s to the unusual gifts that you thought What the heck! They truly are the best gifts ever.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Random Thoughts and Paying Attention

by Maggie Sefton


I'm Back East in my hometown area of Northern Virginia, where it's chilly and grey one day and warm and sunny the next.  Having grown up here I'm used to this kind of back-and-forth weather.  That's why I pack accordingly.

This past Sunday I spent the afternoon of Mother's Day at my oldest daughter Christine's home in Vienna, Virginia.  My two grandsons were traveling out of state, but my two granddaughters, Natale and AnaSofia were there.  (Christine used the Italian spelling of both girls' names when they were born).  My wonderful, Salt-of-the-Earth Hoosier son-in-law, Tim,  was doing his favorite weekend activity---working on one of their cars, their 2001 model Bullitt.  He had already dutifully spread both front and back yards with grass seed.

I no longer do any "heavy duty" yard work.  Or, climb up on ladders to clean gutters.  Nope.  I still remember being two steps from the top of my fold-out metal step-ladder one Autumn day, cleaning the dead leaves from the gutters of my Colorado home.  I was  stretching to reach all the leaves, when my Inner Guide sent a simple block of thought into my head.   It said:  "Don't do this again."  That was it.  That was all.

But I paid attention.  I've learned over a lifetime to always pay attention to what I call "inner guidance."  It knows something I don't know, and----it's always right.  Whenever I've ignored the advice, I've made a mistake.  Or, something happens that messes up my plans.  So, I Pay Attention.

Do any of you Cozy Chicks Blog Readers and Friends relate to this admittedly weird example?  I think most of us get little jabs of "inner direction."  Some of us ignore it.  Others pay attention and adjust their activities accordingly.

I know, I know. . . some of you are probably thinking "Metaphysical Maggie" is out of the closet again.  :)   Don't worry.  She's harmless.  Simply weird.  Let me know your thoughts on either one of my Facebook pages----Maggie Sefton or Maggie Sefton Author.  I'm curious if you've had similar experiences.    




Monday, May 13, 2019

SPEED READING OR SAVORING EACH WORD?

By Mary Kennedy                                             

A friend of mine, headed to grad school, is taking a speed reading course and I thought it might be an interesting topic for a blog. She's been in the workforce for over 30 years and felt a bit intimidated at heading back to school. (I don't know why, because she's a voracious reader and has a fantastic memory. I'm sure she'll be wildly successful.)

In her case, she'll be learning to speed read non-fiction (textbooks and research material). She told me that the average person reads between 200 and 400 words a minute and that with training, we can all do much better.

Here's the thing. I read mostly fiction and the idea of speed reading just doesn't appeal to me. I like to savor each word, each paragraph. Does that make me unusual? I don't think so. I love books, cherish them and don't want to race through them. When I finish a book, I long for more! I hope there is a sequel. That's why I love to read series. 

There is always another release to enjoy. Lorna Barrett's Booktown Mysteries is one of my fave series.          


Warren Buffet once said that the secret of his success was that he read 500 pages a day. Wow. Impressive. His goal was to read 200 books a year.

At first it sounded impossible, but let's break down the numbers, The average non-fiction book is about 50,000 words. That's ten million words for 200 books. If you're reading at 400 words a minute, you could achieve your goal of reading 200 books a year in a little over 400 hours.

You'd just have to commit to reading an hour a day for 365 and doubling up on some days.

Does the idea appeal to you? I have mixed feelings, but then, I'm not headed back to grad school.

Happy reading, everyone!

Mary Kennedy

Saturday, May 11, 2019

I Hate Windows 10

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

My computer had been ailing for almost a year. It was coughing up blood and I held my hands over my eyes so I didn't have to witness it's slow-and-steady decline. I would turn it on and the monitor would be black. I would pull the plug, wait a few hours, plug it back in, and it would regain conscientiousness--sometimes for a few months, but two weeks ago, it finally expired.

Luckily, I have a laptop. (In fact, the one I'm typing this on.) It, too, has had problems.  Every time Microsoft does a major update, it would lose conscientiousness. I would have to take the battery out and restart (once as many as 11 times over the course of two hours) to try to bring it back to life. It updated a little over a week ago and suddenly everything I seemed to know about it was different. All new sounds--it even took my wallpaper with it.  And I got an email from Microsoft saying as of January 2020--they wouldn't be updating it. I should have celebrated. Instead, I pulled out my "new" laptop. And did I mention the tiny screen?

Three (or was it four) years ago, I asked my friend Steven to suggest a new laptop. He's an IT guy and he suggested I get an ASUS laptop. Unbeknownst to me, it came loaded with Windows 8. OMG -- it didn't even have a Start Menu and I had no idea how to do ANYTHING on it. I put it back in the box and it sat under my easy chair gathering dust ... until Monday. Caveat: At some point during those years, I had our computer guy upgrade it to Windows 10 because Microsoft was only going to make that upgrade Free until a certain date. And there it sat, quietly gathering dust.

Monday, I took it out and decided I needed to learn Windows 10.  This ASUS fooled me. The Start Menu looked very much like Windows 7. YAY. I successfully loaded some software, but didn't really test it. But on this sort of triumph, I went out and bought a desktop computer.

With help from one of my readers (waving to John P), I bought a computer that had lots of speed and loads of gigabytes of storage, I bought the computer. Welcome back big monitor!!!  Only I didn't realize that Dropbox would suddenly dump over 40,000 files onto my (supposedly big) hard drive. Oy -- that took over FOUR HOURS to straighten out (and two online chats with Dropbox).

While that was happening, I tried loading my camera's software, took a few pictures of my cats, and tried to upload them--with NO results. I was online for another two hours trying to figure out how to solve that problem. Apparently some people have had some success, but 90% of Canon owners weren't able to upload their pictures, either. Finally, in  desperation, I called the camera shop where I got my camera. (Yes, I bought it in a bricks-and-mortar store.) The helpful "Canon Lady" told me, "just take out the photo card and copy paste those pictures." It's a workaround, but I loved my Canon software that took the pictures, loaded them directly to Dropbox, and labeled the folders by date. That isn't going to happen anymore. 

Next up, trying to load my label maker software. The computer opened it with open arms. It's even Windows 10 compatible -- EXCEPT IT NO LONGER WORKS. (Another two-hour time sink looking for options.)

And that's why I'm typing this blog post on my Windows 7 laptop. I KNOW it works. In fact, I've decided to take a few days off from Windows 10 ... unless, of course, this computer starts coughing up blood, too.

Did I mention how much I LOATHE Windows 10?

What was your experience (supposedly) upgrading to Windows 10?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Afternoon Fright!

by Karen Rose Smith


I was thrilled to be invited to participate in a panel discussion hosted by Mechanicsburg Mystery Book Store, a unique local bookstore that deals only with mystery books.  The store is located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Deb Beamer, the owner, features a year-round series of programs to the delight of her faithful mystery-reader clientele.  The events feature both local and nationally recognized mystery writers.  The format varies with each event from the panel discussion I participated in, to a mystery movie, to a culinary event featuring recipes from mystery books. 
 
The first Afternoon Fright! panel was moderated by mystery writer Matty Dalrymple who expertly asked questions of me and my fellow panelist, Sherry Knowlton.  I represented the cozy faction of mystery writing while Sherry shared her experience as a writer of suspense mysteries.  Interestingly, even though our genres were slightly different, we shared many of the same writing and research techniques.

After the formal panel, the audience was invited to participate by commenting on the information Sherry and I had shared and by asking additional questions.  It is always so interesting and helpful to get readers perception on how a mystery should end, if it should be part of a continuing series or even if there should be more than one murder to solve.     



The panel event was followed with refreshments and a book signing of all three authors' books.  It was fun talking with avid mystery readers who have read and enjoyed our books.



Although there was one reader we apparently bored to death! 





Wednesday, May 8, 2019

How do you know it’s spring in Savannah

Hi, Everyone.
Duffy Brown here.
 


Savannah is like another character in the Consignment Shop Mysteriesand spring the very best time of all to visit. It starts around the first part of March when it’s still a little cool then builds to downright hot in May. The tulips and daffodils appear first, followed by the pink, white, purple and blue azaleas as big as a bus then come the white magnolias the size of a dinner plate. The whole city looks like a Van Gogh painting and smells better than the perfume counter at Macy’s.
But that’s not the only way you can tell its spring in Savannah. Here are a few other observations that are just a little unique:
-The first day of deer season is a holiday.
-You switch from heat to A/C in the same day.
-You hear, “Hey, y’all, watch this!” as daddy starts the mower and you pray those won’t be his last words.
-You know if it grows, it sticks; if it crawls, it bites. Summer’s a comin’
-You help grandma with puttin’ in her tomato and okra garden.
-You start planning your vacation around the state festivals named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal.
-You send out invites for the family reunions.
-You make room in the freezer for the other white meat called catfish.
-You know to keep an eye out for the 10,000 known types of spiders in the South, plus some no one has ever seen before.
-You know there are 5,000 types of snakes on Earth and 4,998 live real close by
-You take granddaddy’s shotgun out for a run. 
-You think turn signals will give away your next move to the big sale to get a new sundress.
-You work in your garden till it’s too dark to see
This is how you can tell it’s spring in Savannah but what about where you live? How can you tell it’s spring in your neck of the woods?  Happy Spring…
Hugs, Duffy Brown

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Cuppa Memories

by Maggie Sefton



Lorraine's recent post stirred some memories awake.  We'll start with the tea/coffee memories.  My father was born in Ireland and grew up in England, so he was definitely a tea drinker.  Strong, black English tea.  I can still remember my father stirring the loose tea leaves as they swirled when he poured the boiling hot water from the tea kettle into the glass pot.  My father always made the tea strong---black and strong.  I won't repeat what he called "weak" tea, but it involves a kitty cat.   Yes, my father was a very naughty Irishman.  :)

Apparently I had my very first taste of hot tea when I was just a babe in arms---six or seven months old.  My mother told me  I was crying a lot with teething pain----and I remember how much my children cried with teething.  She said that my father went to the kitchen, brewed up a weaker pot of hot tea, put some in a baby bottle and a lot of milk and sugar, tested the temperature on his wrist, and offered me the bottle.  She said I drank it all down in gulps then blissfully fell asleep and slept for hours.     And I've been blissfully drinking hot tea ever since.  

When I was a teenager, I decided to try drinking my hot tea without any cream.   My father was horrified and teased me by saying I was becoming  a Russian.  :D   In those days I was very shy, so my "tea revolt" was the extent of my teenage rebellion.

As for coffee----I simply did not like the taste.  It tasted bitter to me.  My mother drank coffee rather than tea, so I always remember the smell of brewing coffee in the house and enjoyed it.  I never understood how something that smelled so good could taste so bitter.  After many years, I had to learn how to drink strong coffee when I needed to stay awake late at night and write fiction after all my family went to bed.  Three nights a week I deliberately made a pot of strong Espresso coffee in one of the little coffee pots which make 3 demi tasse cups of espresso.  And I would drink all three demi tasse cups which guaranteed 3 to 4 hours of "awake time."  Actually, I enjoyed the taste of the strong espresso with sugar.  For some reason espresso coffee had a better flavor to my taste buds than the much weaker American coffee (nowadays---coffee shop coffee).  Thankfully, many coffee shops make much better coffee than what was available many years ago.

As for wine and beer----I confess to loving several vintages of fine wines, mostly semi-dry whites like my beloved Vouvray from the Loire Valley of France.  One day, readers will get a chance to read about Vouvray whenever my Musketeer swashbuckler novel becomes an Indie-pubbed novel.  :)  And, as for beer----I never drank it.  American beer always tasted bitter to me.  But I did like the very dark Stout beers like Guinness.   Then, the wonderful Craft Brewing of Beer came on the scene.   And in my lovely city of Fort Collins, Colorado, the very best Amber Ale appeared.  Fat Tire Ale from New Belgium Brewing.  If you enjoy beer or ale you should definitely give the craft beers a try.  There are so many on the American scene now.  

Monday, May 6, 2019

REDISCOVERING LOST BOOKS

By Mary Kennedy                                           

Doing a massive clean out/organization and came across some wonderful books I thought I'd lost.
Some were classics I've had forever, like Anne of Green Gables and some were current books I'd bought and then misplaced. (Yes, I'm no organizational genius and frequently buy things, stash them away and forget they're even there!) 

Finding books is always a treat. Some books were part of a series and I came across the one book I'd missed. Aha! Reading the "lost" book made the other books a richer experience. 
                                                                       

Some books I'd been holding onto for sentimental reasons like The Cat That Walked by Himself. My father bought me this when I was a child. Always loved it, still do! 
                                                                              

Interestingly, sometimes I found two or three copies of the same book. I'd enjoyed a book so much, I'd bought copies for friends, and neglected to send them. (my bad!)
                                                                         
                                                                                                
Some were books I meant to read but seemed too daunting at the time. It's hard to get engrossed in Advanced French Grammar,for example, even though I'd planned to spend 15 minutes a day on it. And my bargain table "Beginning Spanish" which came complete with book and CD.

How about you? Do you ever discover "lost" books when you're tidying up?

Happy reading everyone, Mary Kennedy