Posted in Home

Lightening Up, Letting Go

by Debra Landwehr Engle

20200109_Engle stack of books

When I was writing Twenty, I thought about what I’d do if I were Meg, the main character. How would I spend my next twenty days if I thought they might be my last twenty days?

One of the first things that came to mind? Clean my closets.

Well, not just my closets. My drawers. My office. The storage room. The garage. The attic. The kitchen. The laundry room. The glove compartment in my SUV.

And not just clean, but clear out. De-clutter. Let go.

I’m definitely not the only one to think this way. In fact, as I finished writing Twenty, I Googled this question: What would you do if you only had a few days to live? Almost every respondent mentioned getting rid of stuff.

Bag it all up and take it to Goodwill. Donate it to a local shelter. Set up a bonfire in the backyard and burn it. Somehow, some way, release the attachments to physical things.

I’d like to think I could do that without an ultimate deadline. Maybe I could use the same technique my older sister and I employed when we were little. When our bedroom needed cleaning (which was all the time), we played a game of Concentration.

We’d lay out 52 cards face down and then turn over two at a time to see if they matched. If they did, we had to put away the same number of items as the number on the cards. If we turned over two sixes, we had to put away six items. (Notice we didn’t add the two cards together and put away twelve items. The games went on for a looong time.)

Since my sister and I loved playing cards and didn’t love cleaning, this was a creative solution. But, of course, by the next day, we were stepping over tennis shoes and Tiger Beat magazines all over again.

Today, when I look around at the stacks of books, folders and notes in my office, I remember that I’ve never been a “place for everything and everything in its place” kind of person. That’s why I’m summoning help.

20200109_Engle basket

In a couple of weeks, a young woman who has started a de-cluttering business will come to our house with a single goal: To companion me out of the chaos and into a new world of clean surfaces and streamlined shelves.

When I see her car turn into our driveway, I may run to meet her and roll out a red carpet for her to walk on. She’s that much of a celebrity to me.

It’s not that I can’t get organized. The sweaters and blouses in our bedroom closet are arranged in color groupings. The spices in my kitchen cupboard line up alphabetically. Boxes of tissue, paper towels and toilet paper share a dedicated shelf in the hall closet.

But in the lower level of our home, where my desk drawers and storeroom reside, the problem is simple. Too. Much. Stuff.

Actually, though, it’s more than that.

Too. Many. Decisions.

It’s easy to shelve paper products together and throw out the empty boxes when the tissues are gone. There’s no emotional attachment to those consumable goods.

But that’s not the case with the greeting cards from friends, family and readers that spill out of a basket on my desk. And the basket itself? I carried it home from a trip to Africa. How could I part with that?

Almost everything in my office and storeroom carries emotion, memories, potential. If I pick up any random item and ask the excellent Marie Kondo question, “Does this bring me joy?” the answer is almost always yes.

So that’s why Madison, my celebrity of an organizer, will soon become my BFF. She will be my ultimate deadline.

Like Meg, I will go through every piece of paper, every outdated skirt and blouse, every Halloween decoration that sits in my office even though we just celebrated the New Year. Unlike Meg, I will have a different motivation—not the possibility that I’m living my last days, but that I could live all my days better.

How much do I need to do this? The answer showed up in a dream I had last night, in which a man was interviewing me over the phone. He asked me the most essential question: “What’s your name?”

In the dream, I told him my first name. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember my last. So I went flying around my office, searching for one of my books so I could see the name on the cover.

I couldn’t find one. Why?

Too. Much. Stuff.

I figure when stuff gets in the way of your identity, it’s time to make a change. Lighten the load. Remove the stacks of resistance.

I know this will make space for new possibilities, just as it did for my friend Diane, who believes that de-cluttering her home paved the way for her to meet the man who is now her husband. Old energy out. New energy in.

Madison may think she’ll be teaching me new techniques for tossing and storing my stuff. But there’s more to it than that.

She’ll be showing me a better way to live. No card game required.


TwentyAt age fifty-five, Meg’s life is too filled with loss for her to remember what magic feels like. All she has left is a yard brimming with plants that are wilting in the scorching Iowa summer—and a bone-deep feeling that she’s through with living.

Meg has something else too: a bottle of mysterious pills, given to her years ago by an empathetic doctor. He promised that they would offer her dying mother a quick, painless end in exactly twenty days. Though her mother never needed them, Meg does. But a strange thing happens after Meg swallows the little green pearls . . .

Now that she’s decided to leave this world, Meg is rediscovering the joy in it. She sheds everything she no longer needs—possessions, regrets, guilt—and reconnects with those she cares for. Finally confronting the depth of her grief, she’s learning that love runs deeper still. But is it too late to choose to stay?

Posted in Home

Cooking With Lavender (Recipe Included!)

by Donna Kauffman
alternative aroma aromatherapy aromatic
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

While writing the Blue Hollow Falls series, I’ve enjoyed bringing in a wide variety of commercial business elements to the stories, all true to life up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia I call home. From wineries to artist enclaves, it’s been such a pleasure to research and learn even more about my home area.

In Under a Firefly Moon, heroine Cheyenne McCafferty is one of four women who own and run a lavender farm. Most fun research ever! The farm was first introduced to the series in the book, Lavender Blue, but readers can dive in at any point, as each story stands alone.

In researching all things lavender, one of the most fun and unexpected turns was learning to cook and bake with lavender. I am more a baker than a cook, so I was immediately drawn to things like lavender-lemon cupcakes, and lavender scones. As my research continued, however, I learned that lavender is also widely used in savory dishes. Who knew? So, I thought I’d share one of my new favorite savory dishes with you today, along with information on how to know which kind of lavender to use when cooking.

WHAT KIND OF LAVENDER IS EDIBLE & SAFE FOR USE IN COOKING?

Only one kind of lavender is considered edible. Lavandula angustifolia, commonly known as English Lavender (though it is not native to England, but the Mediterranean) is a sweet-smelling lavender, a favorite for cooking, essential oils, and potpourri.

However, you need to make sure you purchase “culinary grade” lavender for your cooking and baking recipes. This is lavender that has been grown, harvested, and prepared for edible consumption. (As opposed to, say, potpourri, which is lavender that has likely been treated with oils, and other non-edible elements.)

Now on to the recipe!

ROASTED LAVENDER POTATOES

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut scrubbed (but not peeled!) potatoes into bite-size pieces. I prefer Red Potatoes, but New Potatoes would also work. Cut as many as needed to fill your preferred baking dish in a single layer.
  • In large mixing bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil to coat. Start with a few tablespoons of oil. Add more as needed until potatoes are coated.
  • Add Kosher salt and Black Pepper to taste. Add lavender. Then toss until potatoes are coated.
  • Spread in the baking dish in a single layer.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Toss potatoes after 15 minutes so they brown evenly.
  • Potatoes are done when the inside is soft and easily breaks apart with a fork.

I hope you give this fast and fun recipe a try! It’s wonderful any time of year with roasted chicken and a freshly tossed salad. (There are also great roasted lavender chicken recipes out there, too!)

And I hope you’ll also visit my little mountain town of Blue Hollow Falls and fall in love with the people, the places, and yes, maybe a certain lavender farm and the women who run it.

Happy cooking and happy reading!

~ Donna


Under a Firefly MoonBlue Hollow Falls may be a small Blue Ridge Mountain town, but it’s big on love—and second chances . . .

When former barrel racer Cheyenne McCafferty left the circuit, she left her past behind too. Now, as part owner of Lavender Blue farm, she’s content rescuing and rehabbing horses, and growing a new business. She’s only got one regret: letting go of Wyatt Reed. When he professed his love, she was too young and foolish to know her heart. After that he disappeared. But when his beloved horse turns up on the auction block, Chey makes a bid and wins more than she bargained for . . .

Chey believed she was ready to face Wyatt again, to explain herself. But seeing the man he’s become, she’s unsure. Gone is the quiet, gentle boy she knew. In his place is a rugged, confident adventurer who’s seen the world. Yet the longer Wyatt sticks around, the clearer it is that the feelings of their youth aren’t so easily dismissed now that they’re adults. In fact, the timing may be just right to make the dreams they’ve shared under a firefly moon come true . . .

Posted in Home

Learning to Love The Hike

by Lynn Cahoon
person wearing red jacket walking on wooden bridge
Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Hi, I’m Lynn Cahoon and the author of A FIELD GUIDE TO HOMICIDE.  I’m like a lot of authors you meet. We love books. We love talking about the books we’re reading. And maybe it’s just me, but I’m just a little chubby from the time I sit on my butt writing as well as the taste testing new recipes for the back of the books.

Exercise is always on my mind and my to do list, but sometimes, it gets moved to the next day. The one thing I do love is walking or hiking. For me, walking is hooking up with a co-worker (or the dogs) and taking a stroll around the community. Or heading out to one of the walking paths my hometown has available on the levee or on river road.

I’m from Idaho, so hiking is talked a lot about with the people you meet. And there are hiking groups and trails available ranging in destinations from high desert to mountain waterfalls.

Hiking, which is what Seth’s taking the writers from this month’s retreat on, is a little different. Typically, it’s not a flat, paved surface. Its mountain or even urban trails that you’re going to stay on for a few hours, rather than minutes. Hiking takes longer than a walk. And you need to take supplies with you.  Backpack with compass, water, treats (granola bars and or cookies and some sort of nuts), and if you’re really serious, an extra pair of sock, just in case your fee get wet or you rub a blister on your ankle due to your new hiking boots.

The best thing about hiking is the scenery. I love getting on a trail and being able to stop and shoot a few pictures to remember the trip.  I know my usually inactive body will thank me for the workout (after a day or so where I feel every muscle in my body.) And it’s a great social activity. New to the area?  Join a local hiking group and see your new town through all new vantage points.

You don’t have to head to a local outdoor store and buy all the newest and greatest accessories. But you need a comfortable pair of shoes, sunglasses and a hat, and a light jacket just in case you find a rain cloud. (Or the rain cloud finds you.)

And the most important thing to take with you on your walk? A new paperback. You never know when you’re going to be stranded in a mountain cabin looking for something to read while you wait to be rescued.

In fact, it’s always a great idea to carry a book! You never know when you’re going to need something to pass the time.


A Field Guide To HomicideCat Latimer and her writer’s retreat group go on a hiking trip—but a murderer has been lurking off the beaten path . . .

Cat’s sweetheart, Seth, is going all out on an outing into the local mountains—for the benefit of the writing group Cat’s hosting at her Colorado B&B. But when they try to identify some plant and animal life, they find death instead. The body belongs to a man with a gold claim a few miles away. Instead of striking it rich, he’s been struck down.

To his surprise, Seth recognizes the victim from his military days—and up to now believed he’d already died during his last tour of duty. Now Cat has to solve this mystery before the killer takes a hike . . .

Posted in Home

Why Do We Love A Rogue?

by Anna Bradley
white feather quill pen
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

A rogue by any other name—rascal, scoundrel, rake, cad—would still be as lovable. Writers would still write his story, readers would still swoon over him, and our favorite heroines would still fall madly in love with him. The charming, playful rogue has been a mainstay of historical romance ever since Fabio—he of the flowing hair and transparent shirts—graced the covers of our favorite Regency-era romances. He’s stood the test of time, but what is it about the charming rogue that keeps us falling for him over and over again?

The Original, Unattainable, Irresistible Bad Boy

Let’s face it—romance readers love their unruly heroes. The more unmanageable he is, the harder we fall for him. We may not refer to all of our favorite bad boys as rogues—for some romance readers he’s a billionaire dominant, a shape-shifting wolf or a sexy firefighter, and for others he’s a military alpha with an attitude or a motorcycle club hottie—but whatever we call him, he’s still a wicked bad boy wrapped up in a sexy as sin package with a devil-may-care attitude and a deliciously questionable past.

The Lure of the Unattainable

Our favorite rogue didn’t earn his scandalous reputations by resisting temptation. The rogue has a salacious past, and he’s likely left a string of broken hearts in his wake. A truly cautious lady would think twice before accepting his hand for a dance, but let the virtuous among us be warned: there’s nothing more tempting to a lady than an unattainable gentleman, and the rogue tends to see those ladies who are resistant to his charms as equally irresistible challenges. For the feisty heroine, the rogue is the only gentleman in the ballroom worth bringing to heel.

The Temptation of Chaos

A rogue doesn’t play by the rules, and who doesn’t love a rebel? While his wild antics may occasionally cause us to fall into an unladylike temper, the truth is we can never be sure what a rogue will do next, and we like it that way. Oh, we may occasionally be required to deliver him a stern lecture on the necessity for proper behavior, but we’d be dreadfully disappointed if he followed our every command. Any lady of spirit relishes not always knowing quite what will come next, because she knows she’s equal to the task. The rogue is exciting, unpredictable, and he’ll whisk you away on adventures you’ll never forget.

Your Bedchamber is his Playground

As scandalized as we may be by the rumors of our rogue’s past conquests, there is an upside to all that wicked behavior he’s so shamelessly indulged in. Your bedchamber is his new favorite playground, and the rogue knows his way around your anatomy. He has, after all, had his share of practice bringing a lady pleasure. Yes, he has a sinful past, but that’s the point—it’s his past. We all have one, after all, but now he’s yours, you’re going to reap the rewards of his years of amorous experience.

His Heart is Pure Gold

There’s a reason rogues aren’t the villains of the story. It’s true our rogue may not always behave as a perfect gentleman ought to do, but despite his occasional lapse in propriety and a tendency toward cockiness, a rogue is never mean-spirited or intentionally cruel. Indeed, he’s just the opposite. His playfulness and charm, his gallantry and humor attract the ladies to him like moths to a flame, but while he may have a mischievous twinkle in his devastating blue eyes and sweeping seduction on his mind, under that muscular chest beats a heart of pure gold.

Once He’s Yours, He’s Yours Forever

In the end, this is the ultimate reason we love a rogue, isn’t it? He’s sown enough wild oats to know his true love when he finds her. The lady who challenges his mind, who refuses to fall into his arms or at his feet, the lady who drives him made with desire—once he becomes hers, he will always be hers. His devotion and loyalty may be hard-won, but they are absolute. Your rogue may have romanced every widow in London and whispered sweet-nothings into the ears of dozens of panting debutantes, but once your rogue finds you, his true love, you’ll hold his restless heart in the palm of your dainty hand.

Thus, is the allure of the gentlemanly—or, if we’re lucky, the not-so-gentlemanly rogue. May he be waiting between the pages of your next romantic read, ready to steal your breath, and your heart.


For the Sake of a Scottish Rake by Anna BradleyAfter a sheltered upbringing, Lady Lucinda Sutcliffe is finally embarking on her first season, eager to experience everything she’s missed. When Lucy realizes that her uncle plans to quickly marry her off in exchange for a slice of her fortune, she begs a favor of a new acquaintance, Ciaran Ramsey. If Lucy remains single until she turns twenty-one, she—and her money—will be out of her uncle’s power. All the charming Scot needs to do is woo her for six weeks, and then jilt her . . .

The Ramseys don’t need the scandal of a false engagement attached to their name. But Lucy’s older suitor is both distasteful and dangerous, and Ciaran can’t allow his lovely friend to be forced to marry such a man. And besides, the more time Ciaran spends with his new “betrothed,” the more their ruse begins to feel very much like the real thing. Passion like this is impossible to feign, but how much is a rogue willing to risk for love?. . .

Posted in Home

Living The Dream

by Stacy Finz
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Photo by Stacy Finz

Two years ago, my husband and I bought the dream: a cabin on a lake in California’s beautiful Gold Country. It wasn’t anything I ever thought I could have. But for years I fantasized and spent a lot of downtime on Realtor.com—time I should’ve been writing.

And then I saw it. The listing looked perfect. A serene, private lake and five acres only a two-hour drive from our permanent home. After much cajoling, I persuaded my husband to look at the property and we fell in love.  Yes, the house needed a lot of updating and as it turned out, all new windows and a deck replacement. But despite the work and money, it is my happy place.

And the inspiration for the Dry Creek Ranch series.

The area, wedged between Grass Valley and Auburn, is home to large cattle spreads, big, old barns, and views of the Sierra foothills that go on forever. Staring out the car window on the drive, the series came to me as fluidly as the region’s rolling hills. A ranch, three gorgeous cousins and what it means to hold onto something you love—the underlying theme in all three books in the series.

I like to write stories where the world I build is as much the protagonist as the hero and heroine. And I sought to make Dry Creek Ranch come alive. The 500-acre spread is Cash, Jace and Sawyer’s grandfather’s legacy to them. Preserving it is as much a labor of love as it is a way for them to honor their late grandfather, a man they loved.

I borrowed generously from my cabin’s surroundings. And while the ranch is in Mill County, a fictional place, my characters visit Grass Valley and Auburn frequently. I stole the title for the series and the ranch from one of the roads near my cabin. And the big ranch house where Jace and his sons live is fashioned after the homes that dot the landscape in the Sierra.

Every weekend when we visit the cabin, I’m filled with inspiration. And stories. Everything from the rustic countryside and the deer grazing in my yard to the cowboys on horseback and the pickup trucks filled to brimming with hay touch my imagination. Some would call it art imitating life. I call it, living in one of my novels.


Cowboy Tough by Stacy FinzFive hundred acres of gorgeous California land is a life-changer for cousins Cash, Jace, and Sawyer—and a surprising chance for each of them to find a game-changing love . . .

Sheriff Jace Dalton’s plate is piled high even before he discovers a stranded motorist just a few miles from his home. With two lively young boys to raise, a challenging reelection to win, and a hefty tax bill due on the ranch, all he wants at the end of the day is a shower and a cold beer. But the woman in the packed SUV clearly needs his help—and though she’s a stranger, Jace finds himself wanting to turn her haunted look into a smile. . .

Fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Charlotte Holcomb thought she’d escaped before she lost everything, but more heartache was to come. Now, sidetracked by a brewing storm, Charlotte has to trust the handsome sheriff. Just one night, she tells herself, before she’s on her way again. But when gentle Jace and his kids offer the kind of sanctuary she never imagined possible, it’s hard to say goodbye. Soon the two wary strangers are becoming friends, and longing to open their hearts to more—if they can move beyond the pain of their pasts . . .

Posted in Home

A New Decade With Familiar Faces

By Lisa Jackson
turned off macbook pro near a cup of coffee
Photo by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.com

It’s January!

A time for new beginnings and thoughts of the coming year.  As always, I’ve vowed that I’ll clean the closets, get more exercise, arrange my spice drawer, throw out the shoes I haven’t worn since the 80s, lose weight and organize my photos that aren’t digital.  The ones of my kids, like, 35 years ago.  Hmm.   And at the top of the list?  Having fun with friends and family!

This year I plan to finish the next Nikki Gillette novel set in Savannah, Georgia (one of my fave cities!)   fortunately, I’ve got that story line approved and the book itself is started, if barely.  I also plan to tackle the next Montoya/Bentz novel as a story with those New Orleans detectives is looong overdue.  If my plans stay on track  (the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise) those books will be available in 2021 and possibly 2022 (Hopefully sooner!)  I’ll keep you posted at lisajackson.com.  After a month-long vacation over the holidays, I’m eager to reconnect with the characters.    To mix things up—work and pleasure–Ken and I plan to visit both Savannah and New Orleans this coming year.  It will be great to soak up the wonderful atmosphere and history of both of these lovely cities.

Also, Nancy Bush and I have plotted out a joint novel where my detective from Grizzly Falls, Montana, Selena Alvarez collides with Nan’s detective September Rafferty in a bizarre murder case set in Oregon.  Sister Nan and I are excited to write that one in between our individual projects.   It should be fun!

Meanwhile, I’m trying to juggle life, fun and writing those thrillers that have been niggling at the back of my brain for years.  Looking forward to it all.

Here’s to a great 2020 to all of your and yours!


Unspoken reviseThe More You Know

The envelope delivered to Shelby Cole’s Seattle home contains no return address, just a photograph of a little girl. Shelby knows at once that this is the daughter she was told died at birth. And in that moment, Shelby knows something else: she needs to go back to Bad Luck, Texas.

The More You Tell

She’s not the only one coming home. A long-ago killing is in the news again following recanted testimony. A violent nightmare from Shelby’s past has been set free. And she can’t shake a suspicion that someone is baiting her, luring her back here for their own ends.

The More There Is To Fear

Shelby’s search for answers is met with stonewalling and hostility. Her only ally is a figure from her past—someone she has every reason not to trust. And in the midst of dark family revelations she uncovers a terrifying scheme of revenge. Because some secrets, once spoken, can never be forgotten—or forgiven . . .

Posted in Cooking, Home

A Fern Michaels’ Favorite

CUT AND RUN author Fern Michaels shared her favorite Linguine with Clam Sauce recipe for everyone to try at home!

garlic on red and white gingham textile
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb linguine
  • 4 dozen little neck clams—rinsed; keep in the shell
  • Loaf of Italian bread for dipping
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 can of clams
  • 8oz bottled clam juice
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2, 8oz cans crushed tomatoes (optional)
  • Dash of salt—season to taste
  • Crushed red pepper (according to taste and heat)

Instructions: Pasta

  1. Boil pasta according to package instructions
  2. Sauté garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until slightly brown. Do not overcook.
  3. In large saucepan at medium heat, add:
  4. 2 tablespoons parsley
  5. 8 oz bottled clam juice
  6. Can of clams
  7. 2 cups dry white wine
  8. Sautéed garlic
  9. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  10. (tomatoes if desired)

Instructions: Clams

  1. Steam clams until they open
  2. Pour entire mixture over pasta
  3. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, if desired

 

Cut and Run HC COMPTHE 30TH SISTERHOOD NOVEL

The Sisterhood: a group of women from all walks of life bound by friendship and a quest for justice. Armed with vast resources, top-notch expertise, and a loyal network of allies around the globe, the Sisterhood will not rest until every wrong is made right.

It’s been three months since Countess Annie de Silva slipped away from her home before dawn, leaving a cryptic note and no clue as to her destination. That’s an eternity for friends as devoted as the Sisterhood. Now they’re desperate to ensure that their founding member is alive and well, and that means tracking her down—wherever in the world she might be.

Posted in Home

Planning A Bookish NYE By Lynn Cahoon

photo of fireworks display
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

As an introvert, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be the one waiting in Time Square with an adult diaper on waiting for the ball to drop. Not that there’s anything wrong with those types, it’s just not my type of party crowd. And since I was just in Times Square on a Thursday night, I know I couldn’t breathe on a holiday night.

Instead, I’m planning a book themed NYE’s party this year.  First, I’m inviting my friends who love to read to come over on a night NOT NYE but around the same time.  We’ll do prime rib as the main course and potluck the salads, sides, and desserts.

But the main part of the party will be a book exchange. Each guest will bring five of their most loved books in 2019. Paper copies.  We’ll set these books out in the living room on a large table and after everyone’s there, we’ll do a round robin of table visits. You can pick one book and as you hold it up, the book bringer will tell you why the book hit their must read list.

We’ll do this in rounds until the books are back in the bags each guest brought and then we’ll eat. I’m pretty sure most of my friends will disappear quickly after dinner since they have new reads waiting for them to dive in, but if they stay around, we’ll put on a book related movie – like You’ve Got Mail or The Jane Austin Book Club or a book turned into a movie and talk about all the ways the book was better.

At the end of the party, we’ll all be ready for a few months of winter with our TBR pile already built.

So, if you were invited, what is one book you’d have to bring to this year’s party?

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 . . .

Posted in Cooking, Home

Drunk Santa Fudge Recipe

By Fern Michaels

Back in my day, we used to call this Dipsey Doodle Fudge. My  kids tell me I need to “get with It’ as it is now called Drunk Santa Fudge. Regardless of what you want to call it, here it is. I gotta say, it’s pretty darn good and it makes you happy. 

pexels-photo-728461.jpeg
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups of white chocolate chips
  2. 8 cups of confectioner sugar
  3. 1 cup of vodka or gin
  4. Colored sprinkles (optional)

Directions:

  1. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. (Cut the parchment paper a little bigger so you can “lift” out the candy.)
  2. Microwave chocolate chips for 70 to 90 seconds. Check and stir till melted.
  3. Whisk the vodka/gin and confectioner sugar in a large bowl. It should look like cake frosting when you’re done.
  4. And melted chocolate to bowl and stir well. You need to do this quick and fast because the chocolate tends to harden quickly. Pour mixture into lined baking pan.
  5. (This is when you use the sprinkles if you chose to use them.)
  6. Let the fudge stand for about an hour. Lift out of pan and cut into whatever shape you want. The recipe will yield about 50 one inch pieces. (I cut mine bigger so my yield is about 30.)

Note—If you feel the candy is too soft, refrigerate till it is the consistency you want.

Another note—Do not eat too much. It kind of sneaks up on you, if you know what I mean.

Happy eating!


Cut and Run HC COMPTHE 30TH SISTERHOOD NOVEL

The Sisterhood: a group of women from all walks of life bound by friendship and a quest for justice. Armed with vast resources, top-notch expertise, and a loyal network of allies around the globe, the Sisterhood will not rest until every wrong is made right.

It’s been three months since Countess Annie de Silva slipped away from her home before dawn, leaving a cryptic note and no clue as to her destination. That’s an eternity for friends as devoted as the Sisterhood. Now they’re desperate to ensure that their founding member is alive and well, and that means tracking her down—wherever in the world she might be.

Posted in Home

5 Tips to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

Make a New Year’s resolution to be more honest, and use these 5 tips from Judi Ketteler, the author of a new book about the power of honesty, to help you stick with it.Would-I-Lie-to-You_f2f3f7

Looking for a different kind of New Year’s resolution? Well, if you’ve caught yourself saying, “It’s like the truth doesn’t even matter anymore!” or “Everyone is so dishonest,” it might be time to turn the lens inward and focus on your own honesty. Not only can it improve your relationships and help you feel less internal conflict when sticky situations arise, concentrating on your own honesty is a wonderful way to create positive change in an increasingly dishonest world.

Making a resolution to be more honest doesn’t mean telling everyone what you think all the time, or abandoning social niceties. What it does mean is cultivating awareness about the decisions you’re making regarding honesty. Here are 5 ways to help you get started with your resolution to be more honest—and then stick with.

  1. Write down your lies

When I resolved to be more honest a few years ago, the first thing I did was open a Google document, title it “honesty journal,” and start writing down my honesty choices throughout the day. I was overwhelmed by how much I hadn’t noticed, how many rote answers I was giving to questions my children asked, what I was posting on social media, and how many times I fudged little things here and there—things that didn’t necessarily matter, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them.

The benefit of writing something down is that it helps you reflect on it at least five times. First, you have the experience, perhaps during a conversation or digital exchange with someone. Two, you make a note in your brain that you’re going to write about it in your journal. Three, you write it down in your journal. Four, you re-read what you’ve written in your journal after you write it. Five, you think about it again when you reflect on what you wrote that day. Then, if you’re like me, you re-read the entry several times and continue to think about it in the days and weeks that follow. Before you know it, you may have reflected on a situation more than a dozen times—a situation that before would have slipped by with barely an acknowledgment. This is how awareness of your honesty choices can build.

  1. Stop worrying that honesty will be terrible

I admit, the thought of being honest with people scared me at first. But more often than not, it was a positive experience rather than a negative one, and I was often surprised at how freeing it felt. As it turns out, that’s a common experience.

As part of a research study, Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, asked people to predict how it would feel to be honest in all encounters, with everyone, for three days. People dreaded it, predicting it would be miserable and most likely ruin their relationships if they couldn’t use lies to cover up awkward situations. But you know what? They were wrong. Honesty actually made them feel more connected in their relationships. They feared rejection, but in many cases, found liberation.

  1. Embrace the idea of being direct but kind

So often, we conflate expressing what we truly need or telling someone that we’re not interested with rudeness, so we spin little stories or drop hints instead of just saying the thing we want to say. Through focusing more closely on my interactions with people, I saw how often I did this. In her book, You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships, Deborah Tannen talks about the tendency women sometimes have to use indirect communication, or talking around things. (She gives the example of saying, “This pace is kind of fast for me” to her friend who was hiking too fast. Her friend simply responded, “This pace is fine,” and didn’t slow down. Tannen should have just said, “Please slow down.”)

Kindness is an important value for me. But so is truth. While they are sometimes at odds with each other (see the next tip), just as often, they’re not actually at odds with one another. You can say what you mean without turning into an obnoxious, insensitive fool. The magic phrase that has changed my life is, “Not for me, thank you.” Can you come to my event? Not for me, thank you. Do you want to join our email list? Not for me, thank you.

  1. Practice the sidestep

As you’re focusing on being more honest, inevitably, you will run into situations where complete honesty is not the right answer. Let’s say a friend notices you eying her new purse and she begins gushing about how much she loves it. If you don’t love the purse—like maybe you actually hate it and do not understand why anyone would pay $250 for such an ugly sack—telling her that would make you a jerk. That honesty simply isn’t needed.

But what if she asks you directly, “Don’t you just love it?” That’s where the sidestep comes in, which is a concept Lizzie Post, great-great-grandchild of etiquette queen Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute, explained to me. With a sidestep, you focus on keeping the interaction positive, while still saying true statements, like “It looks like it will hold everything you need,” or even a more general positive statement, such as “I love it when I buy something new I really like” or “I love having a new purse.”

  1. Let your friends and family members catch honesty from you

One of the best parts of focusing on honesty is that people around you tend to notice, and it rubs off on them in a good way. In fact, I suggest that you explicitly tell people you are focused on being more honest. Not only does this help you stay more accountable, it makes others start paying attention, too. You quickly become “the honesty person,” and others want to follow suit.

Also, as a parent to two kids, ages 9 and 11, focusing on honesty helped me be more present and more fully engaged when they asked me hard questions. Knowing that I would do my best to answer their questions honestly helped them trust me even more. It gave them courage to talk to me about things, as well as a framework for their own honesty choices.

Take your honesty journey one day at a time. If you have an honesty fail—which you inevitably will—take a deep breath and correct it when you have the opportunity. While some days will be challenging, you will find that you can more easily avoid the landmines that tend to clutter our conversations. And the relief and freedom that comes with no longer pretending and getting caught up in everyone else’s dishonesty is its own reward.

 


 

Would I lie to you_HCWe all want the truth, don’t we? In fact, we demand it. We divorce spouses who withhold it. We insist our children practice it. We’re hurt when our friends don’t divulge it. We’re incensed by politicians who invent it. But when it comes to our own behavior, how often do we transgress? Out of diplomacy, kindness, sympathy, and privacy we don’t always tell the truth. Yet we often barely notice. So, what happens when we do notice? When we truly focus on the decisions we’re making around honesty? When we view our entire life through the lens of honesty?

Award-winning journalist and New York Times contributor Judi Ketteler looked at her Facebook page and saw a content mother, a generous friend and sister, a good daughter, and a wife with a happy marriage. It wasn’t quite the whole story though. In thinking about all the truths she wasn’t revealing, Judi realized that the line between truth and deception was beginning to blur. How often had she herself paltered, exaggerated, concealed, side-stepped, or spun the truth? To answer that question, Judi started her “Honesty Journal.” She set out to get to the bottom of her complicated relationship with honesty and confronted her perennial fear of speaking the truth in social situations, among friends, in the workplace, with her kids—and finally, inside her complicated marriage. Blending her personal journey with the latest research into the psychology of deception, Would I Lie to You? is a timely consideration of the joys and pains of truth in a world that seems committed to lying.