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Crocheting Skulls by Ginger Bolton


. . . I like to crochet skulls. It all started when I was visiting the Mystery Playground blog and saw the words “Skull Shawl.” And then I saw the picture, and I knew I had to have one of those skull shawls. (For like-minded crocheters out there, here’s the link:

Well, I had to have one of those skulls if my crochet skills were up to it . . .

I thought, I’ll start one, and see how it goes. The only lightweight yarn I had on hand in a sufficient quantity was a lovely dusty rose, so I gamely began crocheting skulls.

One of the nice things about crocheting is that ripping out is very easy. And it’s also easy to restart after you rip out the mistake.

I did a lot of ripping out with that first shawl, but I discovered that I really liked seeing those cute skulls take shape, and if they were a little wonky and misshapen, well, that just made them more realistic.

In addition to the dusty rose shawl, I now have a gray ombre one and a black triangular scarf made of bulkier yarn. I can bunch the scarf around my neck on cold days, and no one will even notice that I’m wearing skulls. I’ve started a shawl in thin white crochet cotton, for summer (ahem) glamor.

Have you ever had so much fun making something that you couldn’t help making another one? And another, and . . . ?

Continue reading “Crocheting Skulls by Ginger Bolton”


Enter to WIN!


Hey everyone…this is Jo:

I’m so excited to share Hannah’s next mystery.  It’s Raspberry Danish Murder, and I’ve been in a baking frenzy to finish it for you.  In honor of the upcoming release, my publisher sent me a gorgeous raspberry pink Kitchen-Aid mixer to match the book.  I’ve been having so much fun making the recipes from the book, including:  Raspberry Danishes, Cherry Chocolate Bar Cookies, Upside Down Pear Coffee Cake, and Chocolate Butterscotch Crunch Cookies, that I wanted one special Hannah fan to get a mixer to match mine.  I twisted my publisher’s arm, and they finally agreed to get one lucky winner one that matched mine.

Now how will we find that one Hannah super fan who will win the raspberry mixer?

I know!  We’ll have a pre-order sweepstakes campaign.  All you have to do is pre-order Raspberry Danish Murder and register your pre-order in the form to be entered.

All the details to enter are below.   Good luck!  I hope you win!  Do be sure to send me pictures of the delicious recipes you’ve made in your new raspberry mixer.

Love you guys.



Readers who pre-order Raspberry Danish Murder before 2/27 are entered into this contest.

* 5 runner up winners receive free copy of Banana Cream Pie Murder (2/18mm) or a copy of Christmas Cake Murder (hardcover 10/18)

* Grand Prize Winner receives this raspberry Kitchen Aid





Easy Centerpieces by Lena Gregory

When Gia Morelli flees New York City and escapes to the outskirts of Central Florida’s Ocala National Forest, she uses the last of her savings to buy a small house and open the All-Day Breakfast Café. Her best friend, Savannah Mills, helps her set up and decorate the café. Before Gia arrives, Savannah makes blue and white gingham curtains, dark blue tablecloths, and cushions with zipper covers for the light-colored wood chairs. She also adds a few strategically placed paintings of local scenery and hangs a hand painted, wooden open/closed sign in the front window. Savannah does an amazing job creating the comfortable feeling of home Gia was striving for.

Unfortunately, Gia doesn’t share Savannah’s creative talents. She’s also out of money, so when it comes time to make centerpieces, she has to come up with something cozy but inexpensive. With very little time left, Gia decides on an easy, inexpensive idea that anyone can make, even her.

Gia loves the beach. Although she hasn’t had much free time since arriving in Florida, she does manage to sneak away for a little while, and when she does, she heads straight for the ocean. She walks along the beach with a bucket in hand, collecting anything she finds that catches her interest; beach glass, seashells, small rocks, twigs, beach grass, driftwood, even a length of old fishing net. After that, she strolls through town and hits up the antique shops, and even the dollar stores, and picks out a variety of glass containers, mason jars, and small candles.

When she gets back to the café, she sifts through all of the interesting things she found on the beach and sorts them into jars. Some jars get candles in the center—of course, she’s careful not to put anything flammable in those. Others get beach grass or twigs sticking out the top. If the jars have no fun decorations on them, she ties a ribbon or a leather cord around them.

When she’s done, she sets a jar in the center of each table, then she creates a setting on the counter behind the register. She spreads a small bit of fishing net on the counter and arranges the jars among pieces of driftwood. With the lights dimmed and the candles lit, her customers can enjoy an intimate setting with their meals.

Continue reading “Easy Centerpieces by Lena Gregory”

Watercolor painting by Karen Rose Smith

After my dad retired, he took up acrylic and watercolor painting. When he passed on, I kept his paints and decided to try my hand at both. I found I enjoyed the watercolor medium best. There is a challenge in using different kinds of paper, combining colors that take on a life of their own when mixed with water, and creating just the right effect. Life got busy back then, and writing took up more and more of my time. I left the art behind for years.

But last year, with my love of cats a major passion, I decided to pick up my brushes again and try feline portraits. For me, the fur is the most difficult aspect. The eyes which are the easiest for me are truly the windows to their souls. Since we have six rescued inside cats (Halo, Paddy, Zoie Joy, Zander, Freya and London) as well as care for two ferals, I’m constantly around cats.  I love them like children.  I have studied them for hours and hours and constantly photographed them.  That helps when trying to catch their expressions, their fur variations and their beauty.

Painting with music or an audio book playing in the background is relaxing. I forget about everything else and focus on the cat or cat photo in front of me. Since family and friends are cat lovers too, the watercolor paintings make wonderful presents.

Continue reading “Watercolor painting by Karen Rose Smith”

The Amish Quilting Circle and Sister’s Day: an idea is born

Where do you get your ideas? is probably one of the most asked questions of authors. Ask a hundred of them and you will get a hundred different answers. And those answers will be different if you ask them the next day. Why? Because ideas are all over. I pull from personal experiences, people I know, people I see, stories I’ve heard loved ones tell, and more.

Most writers are introverts, which makes me something of an odd duck. I’m an extrovert and have no problem talking to people. One of my favorite things to do is get people telling stories and see what comes out. This is no different with the Amish. I am blessed to have Amish friends who live in Lancaster County, and I love to hear them tell their stories. See, most Amish don’t get on the telephone and chat up their friends all afternoon long. Most stories are shared in person. Sisters’ Day, after church, out to supper (yes, my Amish friends love to eat out), and even just an afternoon sitting in the shade while peeling apples or shelling peas.

Sisters’ Day is a wonderful phenomenon where sisters (go figure) get together for all sorts of activities. They can have cookie exchanges, make comfort patches, go shopping, or just sit around and eat and talk.  The Sisters’ Day I got to experience was a canning day. The sisters split the cost of supplies and canned a whole bunch of soup. We all worked together chopping, mixing, boiling, and sealing the jars. And did I say a whole bunch? We canned over eighty quarts of soup!

Sisters’ Day is where I heard about an Amish group of women who had banded together because none could have children. It’s also where I heard about an Amish woman who was trying to adopt two little English girls and the troubles they faced. I heard about a widow who was marrying her husband’s best friend in order to have help taking care of her children. There were tales of Amish men abandoning their wives, Amish wives abandoning their husbands, and a host of other problems that most of us wouldn’t dream the Amish face. Trouble conceiving, fertility treatments, special needs children, dietary problems, husbands and wives losing that honeymoon feeling. It’s all there and more.

I have often said that I take ideas from the “English” world and imagine how the Amish would cope, but The Quilting Circle stories are unique as they came straight from the Amish themselves.

Continue reading “The Amish Quilting Circle and Sister’s Day: an idea is born”

The Missy DuBois Mystery Series by Sandra Bretting

There are several reasons I don’t commit white-collar crime, in addition to the most obvious ones.

First and foremost: I don’t relish the thought of going to jail. Not to mention, it’d damage my moral compass.

Another reason, though, involves the FBI. What would they think if they perused the hard drive on my computer? Its agents would peg me for a wacko…or worse.

Check out my computer’s search history, and you’ll understand my fear. In the last week alone, I’ve researched the shelf life of arsenic, autopsy procedures specific to Louisiana, and the type of Glock officers carry in St. James County Parish.

It’s all part of writing a mystery series and trying to get the details right.  Since I began my career as a journalist—I wrote for publications like the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle—I’ve been trained to ferret out mistakes before they go to press. Continue reading “The Missy DuBois Mystery Series by Sandra Bretting”

The Best of 2016

Quail Veronique by Mary McHugh

Serves six.

6 quails
3 tbsps. flour
2 ½ tsps. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
5 tbsps. butter
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup seedless green grapes
4 tbsps. blanched, sliced almonds

Mix the salt and pepper with the flour.
Dip the quails in the flour, salt, and pepper.
Brown the quails in the butter in a deep skillet.
Add wine, cover, and cook for about fifteen minutes over low heat.
Add grapes and almonds.
Cook until quails are tender, about five minutes.



A Real Maine Clambake by Barbara Ross

People often ask about the inspiration for novels and for me it was when fellow Kensington author Lea Wait (Twisted Threads, Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone) told me her daughter celebrated her wedding reception on a private island where a family ran a Maine clambake. Lea and I are neighbors in Maine (where neighbors means she lives at the other end of the peninsula where I live) and we love to get together to talk books, writing and lobster.

ea’s story marinated for a while before I wrote the first Maine Clambake Mystery, Clammed Up(which takes place, not surprisingly at a wedding). At that point, I’d never been to the real Cabbage Island Clambake where Lea’s daughter’s wedding reception had been held. I wrote the early drafts of Clammed Up over most of a snowy New England winter when the clambake was shut down for the season. I actually think that was a good thing, because it ensured that everything about the Snowden Family Clambake—the family, the island, the tourists—came out of my imagination.


Continue reading “The Best of 2016”

Scrapbooking by Thomasine Rappold

When I’m not writing romance novels or working at my day job, I enjoy working with my hands. I’m no expert at any particular craft or hobby; I don’t knit or sew, and unlike Daisy Lansing, the heroine of The Lady Who Drew Me In, I don’t paint or draw.

My favorite projects involve making something old seem new again.  I have a tendency to hang on to things of sentimental value. When there are memories attached, it’s hard to let go, and my basement is crowded with old furniture I plan to refinish one day, and other items I can’t seem to toss out. These stored treasures include special cards, letters, and various paperwork as well.

Like most proud moms, during my daughters’ childhoods, I’d put away special school papers; award certificates, programs from school plays and science fairs, drawings, and every report card and school photo since kindergarten.  By the time my eldest daughter was a senior (thirteen years ago!) I had a large stack of papers crammed in my hope chest. I knew it was silly to keep it all—I had to get rid of it—it had to go…but where?

Scrapbooking had become popular, so rather than trashing the material, I decided to use what I’d collected to create a book to give to my daughter for her high school graduation. A keepsake that depicted the years of her school life, the years that—to me, anyway—had flown by in a flash.


Continue reading “Scrapbooking by Thomasine Rappold”

Capturing Memories with Digital Scrapbooking by Mae Clair

As a kid, I loved scrapbooking, but fell out of the habit as I got older. There was a period when I was too busy with other things to pause and tuck memories away in a book. Today, I’ll dig out those old scrapbooks with their crinkly pages, magazine clippings and faded photos, and take a stroll down memory lane. I love old photographs, even when they’re yellowed and faded. That’s part of the charm of yesteryear.

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to digital scrapbooking. At first, I had no idea what she was talking about. Scrapbooking I understood, but digital scrapbooking? If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s the creative process of saving treasured memories in a digital format. I’ve since created memory books themed around birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, even holidays. They make lovely keepsakes and gifts, and are fairly easy to do. Continue reading “Capturing Memories with Digital Scrapbooking by Mae Clair”

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