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Crafts

Easy Peppermint Holiday Craft by Amanda Flower

 

 

If you’re like me, you start thinking about the holidays when the children go back to school and you start to think about everything that you have to do to get ready for the December gauntlet. One thing that I respect most about the Amish is their embrace of the simplicity, so this year, that is my focus for the holidays. I have already told my family some of my ideas about how I plan to scale back from what I usually do.

One of those plans is making my decorations easier. Peppermint Christmas trees are quick and easy craft that will brighten up your house, but not take it over this holiday season. If you use tacky glue that doesn’t require a glue gun, it’s a great craft to do with kids. Kids make great helpers. Since I have no children, my cats pitched in. The craft couldn’t be easier and has one simple step. You can add more decorations to your tree if you want. However, I kept my trees simple in the spirit of the Amish.

Supplies:

  1. Styrofoam trees
  2. Peppermint candies
  3. Glue

  Continue reading “Easy Peppermint Holiday Craft by Amanda Flower”

Jane Fonda and Spice Cake by Edwin Hill

Nothing quite says fall to me like a New England fair, and my favorite one of all is the Sandwich Fair in New Hampshire, which takes place every year over Columbus Day Weekend. My uncle lives in Sandwich – where much of my first novel, Little Comfort, takes place – and I’ve been going to the fair for as long as I can remember. One of the most memorable years for me is 1981, when I was eleven.

That year, the whole town was abuzz because filming had completed on the movie version of On Golden Pond, which was shot on Squam Lake, and was due to be released in December. People had stories about seeing Jane Fonda at the local general store, or hearing Katharine Hepburn talking as she walked in the woods. The filmmakers were trying to keep a lid on the location of the lake, which the locals agreed to in theory – except they talked about it all the time. 

I didn’t much care about the movie. What I did care about was my spice cake.

Like most fall fairs in New England, the Sandwich Fair is an agricultural fair, meaning there is sheep shearing and oxen pulls and, yes, bake offs. I proudly baked up a spice cake for the junior competition. So what if it was a tiny bit lopsided and I may have forgotten the ginger when I mixed it up? Who cares if the Tupperware I stored it in tipped over during the drive from Massachusetts? I’d made it. It tasted good. I knew I’d win. Continue reading “Jane Fonda and Spice Cake by Edwin Hill”

Why I Brew Beer By Peter Brandvold

I brew beer for the same reason men and women have been brewing beer since they started pounding on tom-toms and genuflecting before the sun gods—because I like the taste of a good, heady pail of suds. Aside from a little slap ‘n’ tickle on a hot August Saturday night with the radio turned low, you just can’t beat a good beer buzz. It’s almost as much fun as wrestling pterodactyls.

Brewing beer probably wasn’t as enjoyable back when men and women had so many other tasks on their calendars, like killing supper and holding the wolves at bay. It was probably just another damn thing they had to do. A necessary one if they relied on beer because they couldn’t trust their water, as was the case for some civilizations. No, really!

Of course, for me brewing beer is a hobby. Like most hobbies there’s the obligatory explanation that it distracts me from my day job—writing—and helps me relax. That’s a somewhat spurious notion for me, however. I’m one of those rare, enviable schleps who loves his day job. Writing for me is fun and it helps me relax, and there’s the added benefit that the occasional paycheck helps hold the wolves at bay.

I like brewing beer because I relish the complicated simplicity and the long elemental tradition of the age-old task. What is more basic and natural than scooping up a handful of malted oats, giving it a good sniff, drawing that oaty aroma deep into your lungs, then dropping it into the converted meat grinder and churning up the grain so that the bouquet grows even more sweet and lush as the finely ground hulls and kernels separate and drop into the bucket below the funnel spout?

That grainy tang is right out of my fond childhood and teenage memories of late July grain harvests back on my grandfather’s farm in North Dakota. It’s akin to the memory-loaded smells of lilacs in a country cemetery, the greasy tang of old cars, and the Magic Marker and chalk-and-varnish scent of old schoolrooms. (I don’t know what schoolrooms smell like today; do computers have an odor?)

Beer brewing is addictively simple yet complicated. In a nutshell, you grind the grain, add water, stir, boil, throw in some yeast and hops, let sit, and—voila!—you’re in the suds! Take it from me–any idiot who flunked seventh-grade algebra and whose girlfriend had to get him through physics can do it. The complication, and thus the fun, arises when you start experimenting with different grain combinations and hops combinations, different mashing temperatures, and when you decide you want to brew beers from different eras. I love researching old recipes to find out what kind of beer, say, Thomas Jefferson brewed and quaffed. (He added corn to his favorite recipe.) Continue reading “Why I Brew Beer By Peter Brandvold”

Making Imperfect Quilts by Maddie Day

Making Imperfect Quilts

My name is Maddie Day and I’m an amateur quilter. There, I said it! I don’t make elaborate hand-quilted covers. I’m not a perfectionist cutter or seamstress, so sometimes corners don’t line up quite right. But I still think you can make beautiful hand-made gifts for friends and loved ones without spending all your time on it – or at least I can. Because I have books to write, after all.

My latest quilt was for my dear goddaughter’s new baby last fall. Anna and her mother (my best friend) have lived in West Africa. I have, too, and I made Anna’s baby quilt thirty-four years ago. My treasured “cloth bank” is still full of gorgeous fabrics from West Africa, so I put together a pretty, soft cover for little Cosima to cuddle in and play on.

But I “tied it through” as my mother used to call it – I ran embroidery thread at each corner from the top to the bottom and back up, then tied a square knot and clipped off the thread.

I did the same with a high-speed quilt I made for a dear friend who was dying of brain cancer a few years ago. She attended Quaker Meeting with me, and we both lived in Japan long ago. So I found some beautiful, warm Japanese fabrics and made a lap-sized cover with white squares interspersed. Continue reading “Making Imperfect Quilts by Maddie Day”

Making Imperfect Quilts by Maddie Day

My name is Maddie Day and I’m an amateur quilter. There, I said it! I don’t make elaborate hand-quilted covers. I’m not a perfectionist cutter or seamstress, so sometimes corners don’t line up quite right. But I still think you can make beautiful hand-made gifts for friends and loved ones without spending all your time on it – or at least I can. Because I have books to write, after all.

My latest quilt was for my dear goddaughter’s new baby last fall. Anna and her mother (my best friend) have lived in West Africa. I have, too, and I made Anna’s baby quilt thirty-four years ago. My treasured “cloth bank” is still full of gorgeous fabrics from West Africa, so I put together a pretty, soft cover for little Cosima to cuddle in and play on.

But I “tied it through” as my mother used to call it – I ran embroidery thread at each corner from the top to the bottom and back up, then tied a square knot and clipped off the thread.

I did the same with a high-speed quilt I made for a dear friend who was dying of brain cancer a few years ago. She attended Quaker Meeting with me, and we both lived in Japan long ago. So I found some beautiful, warm Japanese fabrics and made a lap-sized cover with white squares interspersed.

I took the white squares to church and had people sign messages to Susan and her husband. I tied that quilt through, too, and got it to her in time to provide some comfort.

My mother, who taught me to sew at a young age, was a master quilter in her retirement, turning out a hundred quilts for family members and charities. She had started a second full-size quilt for me, consulting with me about colors, but a minor stroke left her unable to continue. Continue reading “Making Imperfect Quilts by Maddie Day”

Hobby Blog Post by Jessica Pack

Years ago, writing was my hobby—the creative break I needed from day to day life. Now that writing is my work, I’ve had to find other hobbies to provide the much-needed creative breaks. Rather than finding one thing I put time into and develop, I have instead found dozens of mini-hobbies. The upside of having many hobbies, is that things are always fresh and new. The downside is that I never get very good at any one thing and it never goes quite to plan.

Last summer I went to   my cousin’s house and saw a version of a cinder block patio bench she and her husband had made. Genius! The DIY articles I looked up said that it was a two to four-hour project. My bench took approximately 15 hours. To make it, I purchased twenty-four cinder blocks, six cedar poles, spray paint, and liquid nails. You might notice that there are only twelve cinder blocks in the final product, that’s because I bought the cheaper ones online first and then had to buy the right ones. The twelve sub-par blocks have been put to work in other places around my yard. I also bought untreated (i.e. cheaper) cedar poles because I had some extra stain lying around—guess how long it takes to stain untreated cedar poles? I didn’t even count that time in my final tally. It’s a cool bench though, right? Unfortunately, it’s not very comfortable to sit on, the stock sizes of cushions don’t fit, and since most of my family is short, our feet don’t touch the ground when we sit on it. But it is sturdy, I tell you that.

Next, I stumbled upon cozy cross stitch designs with non-traditional phrases while scrolling Pinterest. Another brilliant idea! I messed up my counting in the upper right-hand corner and had to improvise but forty hours after starting, I had this spectacular piece of handwork. I showed it to a friend once I’d finished and she said that it was really good advice. I was too embarrassed to tell her it was lyrics from “Ice, Ice Baby.” Now it’s displayed in my living room and I watch to see if visitors get it or just think I’m advocating team work and organization.

My most recent hobby is an online vegetarian cooking course. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for a while but I struggle to know what to cook other than cookies, which are, in fact, vegetarian. My family has not enjoyed the bean paste with mushrooms, roasted balsamic yams, or quinoa salads as much as cookies. Fortunately, I have five weeks left in my course so I’m holding out hope that I’m going to be making some pretty amazing vegetarian dishes by the time I finish. Continue reading “Hobby Blog Post by Jessica Pack”

Competing with Coco by V.M. Burns

One of the hobbies I enjoyed when I was younger (and smaller) included competing with my dogs in dog sports. My first poodle, Coco, was an energetic ball of energy. When I got home from work, I used to take her to the park and remove her leash so she could run in circles to take the edge off. Even with thirty minutes of running, I still had to devise other ways to try and tire her out (a tired poodle can’t get into mischief…well, not much anyway). Poodles are retrievers and one of Coco’s favorite games was fetch. After her thirty minute romp at the park, I would toss a stuffed animal down a flight of stairs for her to retrieve. We did this again, and again, and again.

When she was old enough, I took her to puppy kindergarten. In addition to basic training, my instructor introduced us to dog performance events like obedience and agility, and Echo Dog Club. Competition obedience involves taking your dog through a serious of exercises which demonstrate your dog’s ability to follow a set of commands. Gaining qualifying scores earned titles for your dog. Some of the possible titles include Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Utility Dog (UD) and Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) and Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH).

Once Coco had a few basic obedience commands under her belt, we moved on to agility. Agility involves taking your dog through a serious of obstacles. These include things like jumps, tunnels, and a dog walk (an apparatus that resembles a gymnastic balance beam). Successfully qualifying earned titles which included Novice Agility (NA), Open Agility (OA), Open Agility Jumpers (OAJ), Agility Excellent (AX), Master Agility (MA), Master Agility Champion (MACH). Continue reading “Competing with Coco by V.M. Burns”

Moonshine: A Celebration Of America’s Original Rebel Spirit by John Schlimm

White lightning . . . XXX . . . Firewater. 

Whatever you call it, moonshine is America’s original rebel spirit.

This ultimate must-have for aspiring moonshine connoisseurs, boozy history buffs, and party seekers everywhere is a buzz-worthy ride through moonshine’s legendary history. From its roots in the hollows of Appalachia and keeping the good times flowing through Prohibition to its headlining status today as a pop culture icon, Moonshine tells the rip-roaring story of the moonshiners who became folk heroes for the ages and how their batches of XXX endure as the favorite thirst-quencher of millions.

While stirring the rebel in each of us, Moonshine also gives you a bootleg up on hosting get-togethers and parties with a dream stash of 100 recipes for infusions and cocktails using moonshine as a main ingredient—Moonshine Monkey, Dirt Road Colada, Lemongrass & Mint Mojito, Smokey Mountain S’More, and many more. Plus, other fun-starters throughout the book include moonshine-themed playlists and a how-to for throwing an unforgettable moonshiner’s movie night.

Moonshine: A Celebration of America’s Original Rebel Spirit proves once and for all that the best things in life still come in jugs and Mason jars.

Downloadable MOONSHINE Color and Sip Pages!

Print out and color!

BUY NOW!

Little Comfort: A Hester Thursby Mystery by Edwin Hill

Download the Little Comfort Book Club Kit!

 

In a brilliantly twisted debut set among Boston’s elite, Edwin Hill introduces unforgettable sleuth Hester Thursby—and a missing persons case that uncovers a trail of vicious murder . . .

Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.

Sam has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, Sam and Gabe have traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to another. Sam has learned how trusting wealthy people can be—especially the lonely ones—as he expertly manipulates his way into their lives and homes. In Wendy Richards, the beautiful, fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the perfect way to infiltrate the milieu in which he knows he belongs—a world of Brooks Brothers suits, Nantucket summers, and effortless glamour.

As Hester’s investigation closes in on their brutal truth, the bond between Sam and Gabe is tested and Hester unknowingly jeopardizes her own safety. While Gabe has pinned all his desperate hopes of a normal life on Hester, Sam wants her out of the way for good. And Gabe has always done what Sam asks . . .

Advance Praise For Edwin Hill And Little Comfort

“Fast-paced and riveting . . . takes off from the opening pages and never lets up. Don’t miss this can’t-put-down debut.” –Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author

“In his compelling debut, Edwin Hill spins layer upon layer of intrigue as Hester Thursby, in the business of finding people who don’t want to be found, takes on a job that turns out to be far more surprising and dangerous than she bargained for. This smart, complex, and suspenseful New England thriller will keep you turning pages far into the night.” –Jessica Treadway, author of Lacy Eye and How Will I Know You?

“Compellingly plotted and compulsively readable, Little Comfort will leave you a little uncomfortable in the best of ways. Hester Thursby, its powerhouse protagonist, is tough, intriguingly flawed and complex. Edwin Hill’s first effort is certain to be among the year’s best debuts.” –John Keyse-Walker, author of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

“A chilling mix of envy, deceit, and murder. Everyone is lying about something in this tense, stylish debut novel. . . . [It] will have you frantically turning pages until the final, breathless climax.” –Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season

Little Comfort isn’t just the arrival of a fantastic new book, but also marks the emergence of a spectacular writer to watch. This story had me hooked from the first chapter, and my nails bitten to the nub before I was halfway through. Watch out! Little Comfort delivers just what the title promises.” –Bracken MacLeod, author of Stranded and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods

“Spectacular . . . this book is deftly crafted and its terrifying conclusion stayed with me long after I finished reading. Don’t miss this one!” –Maggie Barbieri, author of Once Upon a Lie

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