Hobby Reads

Because everyone's hobby is having fun!



The Hope Chest that Inspired Hope Chest Of Dreams by Lisa Jones Baker

When I was a little girl, my mother’s hope chest fascinated me.  Not because it was fancy; it’s not, but rather because of what loomed inside.  Her wedding veil.  Love letters from my father.  Grandmother’s special linens.  What intrigued me most was that my father made it himself and presented it to her just before they married.  The beloved possession rests upstairs beneath the wall quilt of my great grandmother’s beautiful, ornate, delicate handkerchiefs that were sewn together by my great aunt, June.

Intrigued, I researched the origin of the hope chest, aka Hope for Marriage, and learned that the pieces, constructed from different types of wood and often lined with cedar to protect the contents from insects, fungus, and moths, are often referred to as dowry chests.  Typically, they’re used to store special things such as linens, quilts, and china that are handed down in the family.  Single girls are, many times, gifted a hope chest before marriage.

Hope chests are routinely placed at the foot of the bed and have existed since the times of pharos.  In fact, Egyptians used them for storing valuable documents during long, treacherous, oceanic voyages.  But to me, my mother’s hope chest carries what only dreams are made of.  Something mystical and intangible.

It’s a rare, blessed treasure that prompts my imaginative mind to wander back to the days when my parents fell in love and had no idea how many times their children’s and great-grand children’s fingers would touch the heirloom.  My mother’s hope chest will be passed down to me, and I will place their wedding picture on top while the beloved quilt with its own compelling stories looms in the distance.

In my HOPE CHEST OF DREAMS series, Rebecca, Annie, and Rachel will experience their own stories with William, Levi, and Jarred.  And eventually, their hope chests constructed carefully and artfully by creative genius Old Sam, will be filled with great symbols of love that they will cherish and pass down to their daughters.  To me, these characters and stories are personal, a natural inspiration and connection to my mother’s hope chest.

My parents aren’t rich, but what they have, money can’t touch.  And the sentimental piece constructed by my father over fifty-nine years ago plays its own special role in my parent’s forever journey of true love as well as their nearly six decades of marriage that continues on earth as long as they both live and will pick up when they join in heaven.  And maybe someday, a couple in our family will treasure the hope chest over fifty-nine years, and inherit my parents’ abounding Christian love and happiness that’s a wondrous, generous, rare blessing from our Creator.


Three young Amish women, each gifted with a hand-carved hope chest, find that one by one, with patience and faith, their most blessed dreams for the future can come true…

Annie Mast and Levi Miller were best friends until his father was shunned by the church. Now, ten years later, Levi has returned to Arthur, Illinois, for a brief visit, and he and Annie discover their bond is as strong as ever. Spending as much time together as possible, Annie finds herself dreaming of a future with Levi. And Levi is soon dreaming of building a home on a beautiful local hillside—to live in with Annie. Yet their longings are unlikely to become reality…

Levi is part of the English world, and while Annie cannot see herself there, she knows she must reveal her heart’s truth to him. And Levi, strongly reminded of his Amish roots, knows he must heal the bitterness of the past. And together, with love on their side, they just may find their way to an answered prayer…

Joanne Fluke on TOUR!

Tuesday February 28, 2017 @ 6:00 pm
4014 N Goldwater Blvd # 101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251-4344

Thursday March 2, 2017 @ 6pm
6101 Frisco Square Blvd
Frisco, TX 75034

Friday March 3, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
7700 West Northwest Hwy
Dallas, TX 75225

Saturday March 4, 2017 @ 12pm
9015 Grand Ave
North Richland Hills, TX 76180

Monday March 6, 2017 @7:00 pm
Sanibel Public Library
770 Dunlop Rd.
Sanibel, FL 33957

Wednesday March 8, 2017 @ 6:30pm
2342 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005 Continue reading “Joanne Fluke on TOUR!”

The Festivals in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series by Janet Finsilver

My series takes place in Redwood Cove, a small fictitious town based on Mendocino, California, on the Pacific coast in the northern part of the state. Because of Mendocino’s remote location and the twisty roads a visitor needs to travel to get there, the community offers a wide array of events and festivals to attract tourists.

I’ve woven one these into each of my books. In Murder at Redwood Cove my affair is called A Taste of Chocolate and Wine Festival, although A Taste of Chocolate, Wine, and Ale is the name of the actual happening. Huge tents are set up and numerous tables are filled with—you guessed it—chocolate, wine, and ale!

The last one I attended had many beautiful and delicious artisan candies and cookies. It wasn’t all sweets, however. There were also entrees and side dishes using chocolate in the recipes. The area is known for its wine, and there were many to choose from. For those who preferred ale, that was available as well.

In addition to the food and drink, local businesses donated items for a raffle. Different bands played throughout the day. People could sit or dance as they enjoyed the afternoon. At the most recent one, the money raised went to the Mendocino Art Center.

Whales migrate past the area so Mendocino hosts a Whale Festival in honor of the giant aquatic mammals. Whale Frolic in Murder at the Mansion is based on this event. The morning starts with chowder sampling. The doors of the Crown Hall built in 1901 are flung open and people flood in. One side of the room is lined with tables holding huge pots of steaming soup. Representatives from the local restaurants donating the chowder ladle samples for attendees. The opposite side of the room has many tables with local crafts and other items for sale. Continue reading “The Festivals in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series by Janet Finsilver”

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”

Walking with Whales by Mary Feliz

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has been called the Serengeti of the sea for its wealth of diverse wildlife. Keeping up with migrating birds, sea mammals, and changes in the beaches, waves, and vegetation is a full-time job hundreds of biologists, geologists, and other experts.

For me, it’s a hobby that never gets old. Every day it looks different, from the colors of the ocean to the hues of the sky and the direction and speed of the wind. Varying migration patterns and tides mean I never know from day to day what birds or mammals I might spot.  It keeps me flipping through my bird books to identify species I didn’t even know lived in North America. (I’d always thought of an ibis as a two-dimensional bird that lived on the walls of Egyptian tombs. Turns out they’re three-dimensional, live among us, and have an odd croaking voice that sounds as if they’re made of wood.)

There’s so much to absorb and learn that it keeps me humble and awestruck. But never so much as the day I ventured out for a quick walk on the sand, planning to spend a mere fifteen minutes.

It was late afternoon. A storm was approaching from well off the coast. The hills of Monterey were dark, but the sun highlighted the spray of the waves on a relatively flat sea. Something drew my attention across the bay. I saw what I feared was a plume of smoke and my heart sank. After a devastating fire in the Ventana Wilderness had burned for months, how could there be anything left in Monterey County to burn?

But then I saw another plume, another, and a fourth, in the distinctive heart-shaped pattern that says, “a gray whale is breathing here.”  I was loath to turn my back on them, and walked until I ran out of beach.

In case I hadn’t noticed, they began to breach — outdoing one another with huge leaps followed by the echoing sound of their bodies slapping the water.  No one quite knows why whales and other sea creatures breach. Theories abound. Are they ridding their bodies of parasites? Communicating? Showing off? Or having fun? Scientists aren’t sure but this pod of about a dozen looked to be enjoying themselves.

Monterey is one stop on the gray whales’ long migration from Alaska, their summer habitat, to Baja California where they spend the winter and birth their calves. The Monterey Canyon makes the bay extraordinarily deep just off the coast, allowing the whales to venture safely very close to land.

My ability to identify various species of birds, sea slugs, and shells is improving since my move to this area a few months ago. And I have the utmost admiration for birders who know avian habits well enough to anticipate behavior and snap pictures or identify rare species at great distances.

But I identified a whale species from several hundred yards away, without binoculars. And I felt honored. Birders, eat your hearts out.

What had been a frustrating day flipped on end and I walked nearly six miles in an effort to keep the whales in sight. It’s hard to feel anything but exhilarated when a dozen forty-five-foot mammals signal “I love you” repeatedly from the ocean’s depths.

Gray Whale Monterey Bay. Photo by Sanctuary Cruises.


Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.

Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancée is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.

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”

Gerry Bartlett Likes it Spicy

I’m going to admit to something shameful. I was once a gourmet cook. Now I rarely cook at all. You see, I used to be part of a gourmet club with my husband and three other couples. We met monthly for years. Each month the host couple would pick a country and prepare the main course. The other couples would provide the side dishes, soup, salad, dessert and wines. I learned a lot about the food of other countries. We sat at the dinner table for hours, eating and drinking. It was a big deal. When we hosted a Japanese dinner, my husband made special short legs for our dining room table and we all sat on the floor on pillows. That’s when I began to consider myself a kind of gourmet cook. Oh, yes, I was pretty proud of myself.

Time has passed. Two of the couples divorced and that ended the club. We always said we should have made a cookbook from all the recipes we used over the years. Of course we didn’t. But what we did do was gather cookbooks. And I got hooked. I love cookbooks. I love reading them, looking at the pictures and trying out recipes. I could tell just by going over the recipe whether I’d like how it would turn out. Those of you who are cooks know what I mean. Ingredients are everything. A great mix of them will turn out well. An off combination? I won’t even give it a shot. Hey, this sounds like some of the books I’ve read or decided not to read. Continue reading “Gerry Bartlett Likes it Spicy”

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”

Unconventional Brides by K.M. Jackson

Those that know me know me and my writing know that I have an intense love for love, but what may be an oddity for a romance author, I’m not all that much of a romantic, at least not in the traditional sense.

I have a huge fondness for all the quirks and mishaps that happen on the way to finding one’s true love and seeing the joy in the everyday humor of life. I also have a deep appreciation for complicated heroes and what some may call, “prickly” heroines that tend to thumb their noses at hearts, flowers and waiting on prince charming to whisk them away on his massive steed. Ahem, I’ll just leave that right there.

Something else that’s pretty well known about me is my near obsession with pop culture and television. Over years, many of them growing up in New York as a latchkey kid, I found endless solace in daytime and nighttime dramas and sitcoms and still do in today’s television shows and non-stop internet news. That said, it was both television and the internet which gave me quite a bit of inspiration for my new Unconventional Brides Series. Continue reading “Unconventional Brides by K.M. Jackson”

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