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Find Your Vision for 2020! By Lynn Cahoon

Create your very own magical 2020 by crafting a vision board!

art art materials brush color
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every year, I pull out a small poster size piece of cardboard.  Then I grab a bunch of magazines, some scissors, a glue stick and some colored markers.  Curled up on the recliner, with a Harry Potter marathon going in the background, I create my vision board.

There’s a little big of magic in this process so bear with me.

First, I page through the magazines, cutting out pictures that call to me. I’m always looking for numbers so I can cut and paste the new year on the finished product. But what else I cut is always a surprise to me. Cars, people, houses, planes, salad bowls, quotes, it can be these things or others that make the first cut.

When I have what I assume is enough, I throw away the used magazines and pull out my blank canvas. (I tried using actual canvas for this but regular glue doesn’t make the pictures stick. Of course, you could use decoupage glue, but for now, I’ll stay with cardboard.

Then I take the larger pieces I want to use and make a background. Then another round of pictures, then another. When you’re done, there should be no cardboard showing. Finally, I add 2020 either in cut numbers or marker.

It’s now time to interpret your vision. What do each mini scene mean? How does it relate to your goals? How does it relate to your business? To your personal goals?

This is also a fun exercise to do with four or five of your closest friends. And a pitcher of mimosas and some coffee cake. If you hold your get together the week between Christmas and New Year’s, you’ll have plenty of time to use the 2020 vision board to build strong goals and make the year amazing.

Have you done vision boards before?

 
Have A Deadly New Year by Lynn CahoonChef Angie Turner of The County Seat—Idaho’s finest farm-to-table restaurant—is preparing a private dinner in the mountains during ski season, but the trip’s about to go downhill . . .

It’s a rockin’ New Year for Angie and her crew as they cater a bash for a famous band—and as a bonus, they’ll get to stay at the singer’s Sun Valley house for a whole week once the party’s over. But there are hints of discord, and the event hits a sour note when one of the musicians is found with a drumstick in his chest.

Is this a case of creative differences turned lethal or is there another motive at play? Angie’s jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire as she and her fellow foodies try to solve the case before the killer comes out for an encore . . .

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Knit & Nibble Cozy Hands Fingerless Gloves Pattern

This pattern can also be found in Peggy Ehrhart’s cozy mystery, Silent Knit, Deadly Knit, coming 10/29/2019

Materials

90 yards of medium-weight yarn

1 pair of size 8 knitting needles (though you could use 7 or 9)

1 yarn needle

Gauge

4 stitches to the inch

This pattern makes fingerless gloves that fit a woman’s rather large hands.

Directions

  1. Cast on 28 stitches, using either the slip-knot cast-on process or the “long tail” process. If you are adjusting the size, the number of stitches you cast on must be an even number, and preferably a multiple of 4. If it’s a multiple of 4, the joint where one edge of your ribbing meets the other after you sew your gloves up will look nicer.
  2. Knit 2, purl 2, until the end of the row, ending with purl 2 unless you have changed the number of cast on stitches to a number that is not a multiple of 4.
  3. If you ended last row on purl 2 begin with knit 2, if you ended row 1 with knit 2 begin with purl 2. Continue the row in the knit 2 purl 2 pattern.
  4. Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have 1 to 2 inches of ribbing.
  5. Continue in stockinette stitch, knitting on right side rows and purling on wrong side rows, for 18 rows. At this point you will begin creating the hole for the thumb, but if your work does not measure long enough to reach your thumb continue knitting until it is long enough. End on a purl side row.
  6. Knit 4, cast off 4, knit the rest of the row.
  7. Purl the next row until you reach the cast off stitches. Cast on 4 stitches using the slip-knot process, then continue purling for the rest of the row.
  8. Continue in stockinette stitch, knitting on right side rows and purling on wrong side rows, for 1.5 inches. Measure the progress of the glove against your hand at this point and continue in stockinette if the work does not measure to the base of your fingers.
  9. Cast off and leave a long tail.
  10. For the other glove you will knit as you did the first with one exception. Instead of making the hole for the thumb by knitting 4 and then casting off 4 you will knit the row until the last 8 stitches, cast off 4 and then knit 4.
  11. To sew the gloves up fold each glove so that the right sides are facing each other and the wrong sides are facing out. Thread your yarn needle with the yarn tail left from your cast off. To make a neat seam, use an overcast stitch and catch only the outer loops along each side. Continue until each glove is fully sewn up, thread your needle through a loop in your yarn to make a knot, and hide the yarn tail in the seam.

 

 

This pattern is included in Peggy Ehrhart’s cozy mystery, Silent Knit, Deadly Knit, the newest title in the Knit & Nibble series, coming 10/29/2019!

https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/37987

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A Dickens of a Christmas

As the world begins its transformation into a winter wonderland, coupled with twinkling colorful lights in the night and the soft sounds of Christmas carols pumped through every speaker you pass by, it’s easy to become caught up in the commercialism of the season that we see around us today. For most, it’s become a busy nerve-racking time. Between the shopping, social gatherings, decorating, cooking, and baking, we tend to get frantic and stressed in our attempts to make everything as perfect as the images advertised on television, social media, and in magazines portraying the ideal Christmas.

That’s when it’s time to stop, take a look around, and remember why you are doing what you’re doing to make this a special day. Even though the true spirit of Christmas has somehow become lost in all the marketing and promotion of the season, the frenzy we experience is our internal battle over achieving that perfection while at the same time attempting to hang onto traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. Traditions that took their inspiration from a world not filled with the commercialism of the season that we see today but were based on long-standing customs that made a reemergence in Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol. A story that since its release in December 1843 revolutionized Christmas in its time and inspired many of the holiday traditions we still follow today.

When Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, it was a bleak period in Victorian history. Great Britain was undergoing an industrial revolution and the church had deemed many of the old seasonal celebrations as pagan rituals. Work houses were plentiful and so was poverty. Dickens lamented over the loss of long-standing celebrations that once existed and yearned for those lost times. In writing his book, he brought back the memories of forgotten customs like Christmas caroling in the streets, feasting, dancing, games, but most importantly to him, spending time with loved ones and friends. Dickens also pointed out the importance of remembering those less fortunate and helping others through charitable donations especially during the holidays.

A Christmas Carol literally generated a rebirth of Christmas during those dark times and once again embraced celebration, music, the singing of carols, lighting candles, displaying brightly decorated trees, and feasting. All with a strong emphasis on family and goodwill toward men.  Even the expression and custom of wishing others a “Merry Christmas” can be traced back to the famous story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Charles Dickens inspired several other traditions of Christmas that we still follow today, and it’s our longing to recapture and hang onto those that often finds us at odds with what Christmas turns many of us into: Ebenezer Scrooge. So flip to the ending of the book and take a deep breath like Scrooge did and allow that sense of magic and wonder that is truly the spirit of the season into your heart. Continue to embrace those long-established customs that are the glue binding families together and forego chasing the image of the advertisers’ ideal Christmas scene.

Through the frenzy of the season, keep the most important thing close to your heart. It’s about family and friends coming together in celebration of the magic of the season and what it really means. Allow not only the sights and sounds of the holidays to influence you but also the aromas. Keep in mind that scents can stir memories and create a link to our pasts. In Murder in the First Edition, a story that is based around the discovery and mysterious disappearance of a first edition copy of A Christmas Carol, there is a moment when Addie catches a whiff of a Christmas apple-spiced punch, similar to one her grandmother used to make. The fragrance stirs warm memories and for a moment, Addie is taken back, in her mind and heart, to Christmases past that were filled by her loving family gathered together in celebration of the season. Her grandmother’s punch is inspired by an old English recipe perhaps even one similar to what Dickens himself may have raised a cup of in a toast during his family Christmas gatherings. Continue reading “A Dickens of a Christmas”

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My Unusual Favorite Hobby by Heather Day Gilbert

 

It didn’t take long for my kids to realize their mom was NOT like other moms, because their mom liked to unwind by playing video games. My son can still remember when he was a little boy, watching me play Halo with the guys (and losing, except the brief moments I was able to commandeer a tank). My girls would recall how I worked my way through puzzles in various Tomb Raider games, and my youngest now (she’s five!) sees me playing video games in my free time, too.

WHY would I play video games to unwind, you might ask? A couple of reasons spring to mind. When I was younger, my brothers and I would spend hours trying to beat Zork and Zelda games. It was quality time, staying up past our bedtime, trying to figure out puzzles. Now that I’m older (and a mom and author), I don’t have as much time to play puzzle games, so I enjoy games I can pop into and play a round or three, then pop back out of (such as Black Ops). Besides bringing back a sense of nostalgia, video games help me disconnect my ever-whirring author brain. I can step OUT of my fictional worlds, away from my made-up characters (who, let’s face it, reside in my head), and focus on beating an enemy, with or without online teammates. I’ve found it’s impossible to brainstorm while I’m gaming. 😉

Of course, my love of gaming worked its way into my mystery series, as well. Belinda Blake (of the Exotic Pet-Sitter series with Lyrical Press) doesn’t just sit exotic pets (a ball python, wolves, and homing pigeons, to name a few), but she also does video game reviews on the side. NO, Belinda is NOT me—she happens to be an excellent gamer girl. I’d never claim to be amazing (just ask my son, who was BEATING me at Halo before he even hit ten years old).

If you are a video gamer, you’ll probably enjoy the retro game references in the Exotic Pet-Sitter series, and if you aren’t, you’ll still get a clearer view of what makes a gamer girl tick. Regardless, you’ll get up close and personal with exotic pets and hang out with Belinda as she comes face to face with killers who are as well-hidden as snakes in the grass.

Author Bio:

Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn’t done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers. Find out more on HeatherDayGilbert.com.

 

 

Exotic pet-sitter Belinda Blake is nervous about her new job at the White Pine Wolf Preserve, but it turns out that the care and feeding of wild carnivores may be the least dangerous part of the gig . . .

Pet-sitter Belinda Blake is no stranger to dealing with wild animals, but she’s wary when the owner of the Greenwich, Connecticut, preserve asks her to help out with her “fluffy darlings.” Her caution seems justified on her very first day, when she discovers a tour guide—dead, bloodied, and surrounded by wolves in the enclosure.

Was it death by predator or something more sinister? The body count rises, but something’s not adding up. As she gets to know the rescued wolves and wolf-dog hybrids better, Belinda realizes that her human colleagues are not above suspicion. With help from her own “pack”—her pregnant sister, Red the chauffeur/bodyguard, and hunky farmer Jonas—Belinda is hot on the killer’s tail, but if she doesn’t find him soon, he’ll do more than muzzle her to keep the truth from escaping.

Praise for Belinda Blake and The Snake in the Grass

“A humorous series debut with exotic pets and a zany cast of characters. Gilbert’s cozy will make you smile.” —Amanda Flower, USA Today bestselling author of Premeditated Peppermint

“Cozy fans will root for pet-sitter Belinda Blake as she unravels this cleverly-crafted mystery in a delightfully-deadly new series by Heather Day Gilbert.” —Elizabeth Spann Craig, author of the bestselling Myrtle Clover Mysteries

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HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies

Stock up on cozy mysteries by all of your favorite authors at Barnes & Noble’s #CozyMysteryBonanza! http://bit.ly/2m2laCx

 

Fall has arrived here where I live in the Pacific Northwest, and the trees have already started turning lovely colors. The bright reds and oranges provide a nice contrast to the dark green foliage of all the Douglas firs and cedars in our area. Another odd sign that the weather is changing here is the sudden appearance of spider webs everywhere. While I’m not a fan of creepy crawlies, the webs are quite striking when they’re covered in dew and sparkling in the sun.

I wanted to share one of my favorite cookie recipes with you for a couple of reasons. The first is that my amateur sleuth, Abby McCree, loves to bake cookies of all kinds. She draws a lot of comfort from baking whenever she’s feeling stressed, but she also loves to share her creations with all of her friends. She and I have that in common.

The second reason is that I’ve been making this same cookie since I was a little girl. My mom and I always made cookies together using a Mirro Cookie Press. I still use the same kind of old-style press that she had and think of her whenever I make these, a type of cream cheese spritz cookie. They are light, crispy, and especially tasty. I made this batch in fall colors, using orange sugar crystals with a spot of green to look like pumpkins.

I hope you’ll give the recipe a try—they always meet with rave reviews when I share them with friends and family.

Happy Halloween!

Alexis

HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies)

  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Continue reading “HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies”

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The Unexpected Farmer By Amanda Flower

Because a lot of my novels are involve Amish characters, I spend a lot of time writing about farms and farmers, but I’m not a farmer. I never had any plans to be a farmer. However, two years ago a friend needed help with his farm, and I loved his vision. Instead of a traditional farm, he is creating a habitat farm where birds, bees, butterflies, and animals can live and rest. It’s not only a peaceful place but a place that will help the more traditional farmers around him by keeping the pollinators, which farmers need for their crops, in the area healthy.

When I heard his plans, I offered to help and found I loved it. I love being outside and working on the land, planting things and watching them grow. This year, we installed a new small barn and bluebird houses. One of the three bird houses has bluebird eggs, and the eggs should hatch any day now. I cannot wait to see the baby chicks, and I will be sure to share photos on my Facebook page. Continue reading “The Unexpected Farmer By Amanda Flower”

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Has New Claim to Flame By Christin Brecher

EXTRA, EXTRA:  AUTHOR TRIES CANDLE-MAKING

Stella Wright, the hero detective in my series, the Nantucket Candle Maker Mysteries, was born to make candles.

I was born to buy them.  That is, until I met her.

After spending time with Stella during early days of the series, I became eager to try her craft.  She has that effect on people.  Stella worked at the island’s Whaling Museum during high school and was drawn to Nantucket’s production from whale oils of the whitest and brightest candles, which lit the finest homes around the world in the late 17th / early 18th centuries. As a youngster, she also helped her mother run a small perfume shop on town’s Center Street, now the location of her own store, the Wick & Flame.  These days, she crafts beautifully colored and uniquely scented candles I wish we could all enjoy.

Inspired by this multi-talented woman, I discovered Keap, a small candle company based out of Brooklyn which runs workshops at their headquarters. When I arrived for an evening class, I joined a group of enthusiasts of different ages, skills and backgrounds, including a young couple on a date (hope those two made it because that was a cute date.)  Everyone wore a smile, which grew wider when we were offered wine and pastries. Continue reading “Has New Claim to Flame By Christin Brecher”

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Spring Shopping by Kathleen Bridge

I love vintage shopping and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love it in the summer. I love it in the fall. I love it in the winter. But I especially love it in the Spring. Shopping for antiques and vintage is something my mother and I have been doing for decades. So, when I called Mom up and said it was time to go to our favorite outdoor market at our favorite shop in Melbourne, Florida, she was all for it.

The weather was perfect. Temperatures in the mid-70s, just a few clouds in the sky, and a light breeze off the Indian River Lagoon. Once a month the shop does an outdoor market, bringing in new vendors that fill the parking lot. This would be their first spring market of the season. And yes, even in Florida, we shop for seasonal items to decorate our cozy domiciles. The shop itself sells items that fulfil both my mom’s and my taste. Mom is into primitive Americana and I’m a fan of vintage, shabby, well-worn, rustic, and unusual—one-of-a-king things I can put in my small cottage by the sea.

My mother collects nineteenth-century wooden butter molds and I collect nineteenth-century cloth books on poetry, history, natural sciences, and fiction. Continue reading “Spring Shopping by Kathleen Bridge”

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Trash or Treasure by Carlene O’Connor

I grew up in Ohio, in a family of four. My grandparents on both sides also lived in Ohio and it was about a four-hour drive (felt like forever to us) in either direction to visit them. These long drives were before iPods and iPads and DVD players in cars. My father didn’t even like to play music. It was either boring news, silence, or arguments. My sister and I were left with books, playing I Spy, or SEE ABOVE: (Arguments). On the trip to my father’s parents in Ashtabula Ohio, there were two things we looked forward to on the ride. One was McDonald’s half-way through, (double cheeseburger, large fries, vanilla shake) and the other was just before we turned on the road to my grandparents’ house. It was a large white barn set off the road with a giant sign: TRASH OR TREASURES.

Trash or Treasures was basically a large flea market in a barn. Filled with dusty shelves and old items, for me it was truly like being on an adventure in search of treasure. I loved getting lost in the dark over-sized barn, searching the shelves for a bit of magic, something that sparked or spoke to me, pawing through glass bottles, and door knobs, and old photographs of strangers. Continue reading “Trash or Treasure by Carlene O’Connor”

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Baking Shows Unleashed My Inner Cake Boss by Ellery Adams

I love baking shows. There’s something so satisfying about having dinner and then settling down on the sofa to watch professional or amateur chefs battle it out on Chopped, The Great British Bake Off, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Master Chef, Cupcake Wars, and Worst Cooks in America.

I remember the first time I tried to make one of Mary Berry’s cakes. I’d seen an episode of The Great British Bake Off featuring Mary’s Victoria Sandwich, and after reading countless literary references to the Victoria Sandwich and Victoria Sponge, I was dying to try my hand at one.

I made the cake. It was tasty. When I made it for the second time, I put my own spin on it. I used lemon cake because I thought it would go nicely with the raspberry jam. After that, I used homemade strawberry buttercream instead of jam. I figured that it was my duty as an American to tinker with a traditional British dessert (insert wink).

Next, I focused on Paul Hollywood’s bread. Using his recipes meant learning to translate grams into ounces, the meaning of strong flour, and learning that bicarbonate of soda is baking soda and that caster sugar is granulated sugar.  I began baking bread. It filled the house with such incredible aromas that I thought I’d never stop.

I didn’t exactly stop, but I was sidetracked by another show. This time, it was Nailed It! After my family watched the first episode, my daughter turned to me and said, “Let’s make everything they make.” I thought this was a crazy and wonderful idea.

The two of us started with the pigs in the hot tub cake and continued baking every weekend afterward. We gave away all the cakes and received just as much joy out of sharing the love and the sugar as we did baking together.

Continue reading “Baking Shows Unleashed My Inner Cake Boss by Ellery Adams”