Posted in Crafts, Creativity, Home

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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Happy Places by Carol J. Perry

 

“So come with me where dreams are born,

And time is never planned.

Just think of happy things

and your heart will fly on wings,

forever in Never Never Land.”

 Peter Pan

Carol Perry, Gulfport

One of my go-to cozy blogs had a recent piece on the ways we writers choose to “recharge our batteries.” A varied and interesting assortment of ideas were offered ranging from hotels to hot tubs; pets to pedicures. All of them sounded good to me. Sometimes—actually fairly often—taking time away from the computer to do something for a little while that makes us happy will give a quick charge to those unpredictable creative batteries. Whether it’s something as simple as petting a soft cat or relaxing in a bubble bath; having a pampering pink-toed pedicure or a weekend at a Holiday Inn Express–just like the lost boys in Peter Pan, we can take a break and go to a “Happy Place.”

In my Witch City Mystery series, one of my heroine Lee Barrett’s  happy places is the home where she was raised in the magical city of Salem. Massachusetts—the house on Winter Street. One of the great pleasures in writing fiction is the ability we writers have to move people, things and places around in time and space. That house on Winter Street in Salem is such a place.

When I was a little girl, growing up in Salem, my friend Judy Adams lived on Winter Street in that very same house. (Well, almost. the same. In my stories  I’ve  had to move a few rooms around and I added a top floor.)  I loved going to Judy’s house. There was a beautiful wide oak staircase with a smooth bannister for sliding. Judy’s family had a real formal dining room with a long table and fresh flowers. Judy’s room had a four-poster bed and wide cushioned window seats and a fireplace. The house on Winter Street was, in fact, one of my own earliest happy places. I’ve since taken great pleasure in giving that house to my fictional friend, Lee Barrett. Continue reading “Happy Places by Carol J. Perry”

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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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Leaving Clues In Plain Sight by Andrea Penrose

One of the really fun parts about writing a mystery is creating the tantalizing little clues that challenge readers—along with my amateur sleuths, Lady Charlotte and Lord Wrexford—to piece together the puzzle and figure out who the villain is. So, I thought I’d give you an exclusive inside peek at one of the key clues in MURDER AT KENSINGTON PALACE!

The book is set in Regency England—it’s the era of Jane Austen, and in the fancy London neighborhood where Wrexford lives, it’s a world of fancy mansions and glittering ballrooms. The ladies are aswirl in gowns of sumptuous silk and satin, while the gentlemen are equally eye-catching in  their evening finery. And that sparked one of those wonderful writerly Aha! moments. In thinking about all the gorgeous fashions, I found myself inspired to use an item of clothing as a telltale clue of the cunning killer’s identity.

 

However, rather than use a lady’s handkerchief or fichu, I decided to pick something from the wardrobe of a fancy gentleman. Here’s another little secret—the gentlemen of the Regency were just as fashion-conscious as the ladies. Perhaps even more so! You think it’s modern hipsters who invented the skinny jean to show off their muscled legs? Ha! Regency cavalry officers were known to put on their leather riding breeches, then sit in a bath tub of hot water so that when they got out, the pants would dry and shrink to a skin-tight fit! Talk about fashionistas!

However, I didn’t choose leather pants. I chose a hat. (As you see in the fashionplates here, a hat was de rigueur for topping off a gentleman’s fancy outfit.) And like a lady’s bonnet, a gentleman’s hat came in a vast array of different styles. High, low, curly-brimmed, flat-brimmed, military shakos . . . the choices were endless.

So, how did I choose which style to use? I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s take a sneak peek at a snippet from the scene where Lady Charlotte gets her first clue about the hat! (She’s taken two young urchin brothers named Hawk and Raven under her wing, and they now live with her. Clever and streetwise, the boys are helping her search for information to help solve a string of shocking murders. And in questioning the street people around the scenes of the crimes, they make an important discovery.)

“It’s you and your drawings I learned from, m’lady,” said Hawk in a rush. “Y’know, look for the little details—you’re always saying it’s the small bits and bobs that help piece together the truth.”

Charlotte sucked in a breath. She had used the aphorism to explain to the boys why gathering so much seemingly meaningless information was important for her work. Apparently, the boy had taken her words to heart.

She stared down at the grubby piece of paper, which was still clutched in his hand. “And you’ve found one of those bits and bobs?”

“Oiy. When Mary mentioned the cov wuz wearing a hat, Hawk thought to draw a sketch,” interjected Raven. “And Mary gabbled ‘nay’ and ‘yea’ until he got the shape right.”

Charlotte realized her heart had started to thump against her ribs. “May I see it?”

Hawk solemnly unfolded the paper and slid it across the desktop.

Unclenching her fingers, she drew it closer and took a long moment to study the penciled image.

The boy had a real knack for drawing. The lines were quick and simple, yet he had captured the curl of the sides and the jaunty dip of the brim at the back and front. Charlotte recognized the style—it had a name, though she couldn’t recall it—as being popular, but not at the pinnacle of fashion.

Distinctive, but not too distinctive.

“You think it might help in catching the killer?” asked Hawk.

“Yes,” replied Charlotte, still staring at the image. “I think it might help a great deal.”

Could the hat be the key the key to tracking down the killer? Charlotte is eager to show the sketch to Wrexford, and get his opinion.

Unclenching her hands, Charlotte looked down and started smoothing a crease from her skirts. As she did so, her fingers brushed up against paper. Hawk’s drawing, had slipped from the cushions to become tangled in the folds of sprigged muslin. Continue reading “Leaving Clues In Plain Sight by Andrea Penrose”

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Why I Love Writing Cozy Mysteries

I’ve heard it said that cozy mysteries are constraining. These criticisms are then followed by a clarion call for authors to “push the boundaries” of the cozy mystery envelope to bring the subgenre into the twenty-first century. But, the things that some might consider constraining are probably the main reasons I like writing cozy mysteries. In order to understand the complaints, you must first understand what cozy mysteries are.

So, what is a cozy mystery? Cozies are mysteries that almost always feature an amateur sleuth in a small community. They also do not have excessive violence, no explicit sex and no bad language. Let’s start with the amateur sleuth. Not being a member of law enforcement, I find using an amateur sleuth to be a major benefit. I don’t have to understand police procedures since an amateur isn’t bound by any of those rules. My amateur sleuth can (and usually does) make mistakes and gets into situations that can create interesting problems. Setting cozies in small communities helps to limit the pool of suspects, which is another positive. Readers can focus on the main characters in the story rather than several million possible entities that can be a factor in larger areas.  No excessive violence is another plus in my opinion. Even though, I write murder mysteries, I will admit to being a bit squeamish when it comes to the reality of murder. I much rather gloss over the gory details and get straight down to finding clues and figuring out whodunit. No bad language is probably one of the most fun “constraints” in cozy mysteries. Rather than spewing out expletives commonly used by sailors, I view this as an opportunity for creativity. It forces me to look for creative ways for my characters to voice their frustrations. Some of my solutions are quite humorous. And, no sex? Well, there’s nothing in the cozy mystery rulebook that says cozy characters can’t have sex. We just can’t write the scene.

As a cozy mystery reader as well as a writer, I feel the guidelines help set reader expectations. Readers know what to expect when they pick up a cozy mystery, and as a reader I appreciate not being surprised with graphic descriptions of violent crime scenes that will give me nightmares and keep me awake all night. I’ve received letters from readers ranging from ten to well into their nineties. It definitely makes me happy to share my love of mysteries with people from different age groups.

 

Lilly Echosby just witnessed a murder on a pet cam. Or did she?

When a last-minute opportunity arises to accompany her boss to an art auction in Atlanta, Lilly throws some money at the problem of where to board her toy poodle Aggie (short for Agatha Christie). Posh Pet Haven offers the most luxurious canine accommodations in all of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The place even provides pet cams so anxious owners can check in on their pampered pooches.

But when Lilly tries to take a peek at her poodle, she gets a terrible shock—she witnesses what she’s sure is a murder. She thinks the victim may be the wealthy co-owner of Pet Haven. The police follow her lead but find no body, no evidence of a crime, and no video record. Starting to feel like the dog owner who cried wolf, Lilly decides to go undercover to catch a killer who may be hiding in plain sight . . .

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The Taste of Fall by Allyson Charles

When I was invited to contribute a story to The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice, I was very excited. Not only because the stories centered around Halloween, one of the best holidays of the year, but because it allowed me to write about my favorite season. When I think of fall, I think of cozy cardigans, spiced lattes, and apple pie. Crisp fallen leaves and reading before the fire. In short, I think of hygge.

If you haven’t read Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness or The Little Book of Hygge, you might not have heard of hygge. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word meaning a mood of coziness and a feeling of well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. In 2016, the Collins English dictionary named hygge as runner-up for word of the year.

So what are some ways to practice hygge? When autumn rolls around, I pull out the quilt I’ve been working on—for years now—and snuggle up on the sofa and sew away. I think I’ve given up hope of ever actually completing it, but the act of stitching the pieces together is an act of zen for me, the end product not nearly as important as the journey.

Or I pull on a pair of reading socks and a soft sweater and find a reading nook to lose myself in a book for the afternoon.

Or bake a delicious apple pie or chocolate-chip scones which I may or may not share, depending on whether I want to spread the hygge, or keep it all to myself. Continue reading “The Taste of Fall by Allyson Charles”

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My Quilt by Elizabeth Hardinger

My maternal grandmother, Lizzie Frans (1900-1993), was an artist with a needle. She crocheted, tatted, appliqued, embroidered, quilted, and, of course, mended. She had four daughters and eighteen grandchildren, and she made baby quilts and wedding quilts for all of us, for our children, and for many others besides. I have no idea how many quilts she made altogether – hundreds, at least.

For my twelfth birthday, she made me a 1961 Kansas Centennial quilt, a wonderful keepsake. Entirely of her own design, it features outline-embroidered motifs of historical and current (1961) people, events, and objects.

The quilt top has a center panel of nine squares, each containing a centered image embroidered on unbleached muslin: a buffalo; the official “Midway USA” image of the centennial (a perfectly perfect example of Mid-Century Modern meets modest Midwestern boosterism); a meadowlark (the offical state bird) perched on a sunflower (the state flower); another sunflower; another wheat stalk paired with another sunflower; a tipi; a Native man in chief regalia standing next to a cowboy on horseback; and a covered wagon with two oxen hitched up. I don’t know where she got these images. She probably drew some of them and took others from coloring books, a favorite source of hers. Continue reading “My Quilt by Elizabeth Hardinger”

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The Care And Feeding Of An Author By Alexandra Ivy

I’m not sure how it happened, but this year marks my twentieth anniversary as a published author. Sometimes it feels as if I got ‘the call’ yesterday, and other times I feel very, very old. Not because my enthusiasm for writing has dimmed. There is nothing that will ever mar my joy in creating stories and sharing them with others. It’s pure magic. But as I age (not always gracefully) I’ve suddenly realized just how quickly the days pass us by. It’s amazing. One moment I was getting married and having children, and the next my sons had moved out and my husband is discussing the R word…retirement. Yikes.

So this year I’ve promised myself that I would stop and smell the roses. Not slow down, I have way too many stories rattling around my head to do that, but I’m giving myself permission to enjoy the moment.

As wives, mothers, workers, and care-givers to our families, we are constantly pulled in a hundred directions. It’s far too easy to let our own needs slide, and to push ourselves until we have nothing left to give. Now I’m make a conscious effort to take off an afternoon and bake bread, or work in my garden, or just snuggle on the couch with my dog. I read books and take long walks. And the one thing I’ve discovered, is that my self-care has improved everything about my life, including my writing. When I’m sitting in front of a computer too long, I start to feel as if I’m grinding out the words. It’s much easier to work through plot problems or sharpen a witty exchange between characters when I’m pulling weeds or soaking in a bubble bath. And if I don’t get as many words written in a day as I wanted, I no longer beat myself up. Instead, I remind myself of all the wonderful things I accomplished and pour a glass of wine. Continue reading “The Care And Feeding Of An Author By Alexandra Ivy”

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Flip-flops as summer door décor . . . by Linda Reilly

Flip-flop weather is upon us, and this year I discovered another use for the fun, fanciful footwear. Early this season, I was visiting someone at a local nursing home when I spotted the most adorable decoration hanging on the door of someone’s office. Using a pair of flip-flops, a cluster of faux flowers, and a beaded necklace (as a hanger), someone had created a whimsical summer door hanging.

It was perfect, I realized, for my local crafts club’s monthly project. A frugal bunch, we’re always looking for ideas that are gentle to our purses! Also, since none of us has any real sewing skills, a simple project is the kind we look for. This particular craft was one that I knew we could create from dollar store items. Plus, I love dollar store flip-flops! Continue reading “Flip-flops as summer door décor . . . by Linda Reilly”