Monday, May 3, 2021
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Bringing out her first book in 2011, Barbara was soon well on her way to becoming a full fledged author of mystery novels. This would also see her producing the much loved ‘Vintage Toyshop Mystery’ series of novels too. Not just writing murder mysteries, though, she is also known to inject an element of romance into her stories too.
Previously working as an English and science teach in high-school, she is also known to go under the name of Beverly Allen as well. With a number of other passions, including crafts and cooking, she is always keeping herself busy.
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Oh yeah. We want this stuff gone.
Friday, April 30, 2021
Mother’s Day & Mother-Daughter Banquets = Jell-O Salads
Do you attend a mother-daughter banquet around Mother’s Day? Did you when you were young?
The banquet I remember happened each spring in my Barneveld, Wisconsin K-12 school gymnasium. Moms and daughters in new clothes and shoes brought all manner of casseroles and desserts that filled many six-foot tables.
A common item was Jell-O salad. In my recently re-issued short novel, A Moonstone Wedding, Margie puts her favorite gelatin “salad” on the menu for her wedding.
My Australian editor had never heard of a Jell-O “salad” or encasing chopped vegetables within gelatin. In Australia they call Jell-O “gelatine” or “jelly.” (Old cookbooks in the U.S. refer to “jelly,” too.)
One of my mother’s favorite salads was lime Jell-O with chopped carrots and celery. She put the mixture in a cake pan or bowl. Mom served this with mayonnaise on the side—if you wanted to be fancy.
The mother-daughter banquets of my youth would have maybe a half-dozen Jell-O salads, some with fruit. Strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows in strawberry gelatin created a common version. Other cooks mixed vanilla ice cream with strawberry gelatin and berries to create a tasty, pastel-pink molded dessert.
My Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, copyright 1950 (second edition), which I received after a relative died, has several recipes for “molded gelatin salad” and “Molded Garden Salad.” The latter includes thinly sliced radishes, green onions, cucumbers, celery, and raw cauliflowerets.
Old cookbooks recommended molded fruit salads as fancy menu items for weddings, cocktail and card parties, and holidays. A “Tomato Jelly Salad”—made by putting gelatin salad inside a carved-out tomato half—was on Thanksgiving menus. Today, many holiday tables would not be complete without cranberry molds.
Gelatin made from boiling bones goes back to Medieval times. Skip ahead to 1897 and a cough-syrup maker patented the brand name “Jell-O.” By 1902 the instant powder we all know soared in sales.
Lime Jell-O was introduced in the 1930s and became the rage. And although mixing in celery and veggies became the norm, when Jell-O tried to introduce “celery” and “mixed veggies” and “Italian salad” flavors in the 1960s, they bombed.
HASTY WINE GELETIN
(adapted from The American Woman’s Cookbook, 1944,
edited by Ruth Berolzheimer)
2 packages lemon-flavored or orange-flavored gelatin
3.5 cups hot water
½ cup Madeira wine or ¼ cup sherry wine
Instructions: Dissolve gelatin in the hot water thoroughly. Add the wine. Pour in molds that have been rinsed in cold water. (The cold-water rinse helps so the gelatin doesn’t stick to the mold.) Cool 2 or 3 hours or more until “solid” or “jiggly.” Serve with whipped cream. Garnish with grated orange peel on top of the whipped cream. (Orange-flavored gelatin combines well with Madeira.)
Christine wants to know . . .
What is your favorite Jell-O salad or memory?
Have you attended a mother-daughter banquet? Like my character Margie, have you encountered Jell-O salads at weddings?
Please leave your answers for Christine in the comment section.
Christine DeSmet is the author of The Moonstone Wedding (re-issued Spring 2021, Mischief in Moonstone Mystery Series set in a small town on Lake Superior). She also writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, Wisconsin, including the recent Deadly Fudge Divas (2020) and forthcoming in 2021, Undercover Fudge.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.
Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there's more to this case than meets the eye. Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.
On Writing What You Know
By Laurie Cass
Every writer I’ve ever known has a complicated love-hate relationship with research. I am no exception. In my hazy fantasy future, when I’ve retired from my day job, I’ll have time for the research I want to do. I’ll dive deep into the pre-Revolutionary War era, because someday I’d love to write historical mysteries set in that time. And I’ll immerse myself in the world of funeral homes, because that’s what it will take to get a handle on a book idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for years. And I’ll spend time traveling, because I have an unfinished manuscript that takes place in a fascinating location, but I can’t finish it until I spend time there.
But until that fantasy comes reality, what I mostly do is avoid writing anything that requires research. “Write what you know,” is one of the most basic lessons of writing, and I take that lesson to heart every time I turn to the keyboard. However, my interpretation of that rule sometimes comes out as an inverse: Don’t write about stuff you don’t know anything about.
How does this manifest itself? One prime example is cars. I know very little about the things, other than that I have to put gas in mine when it yells at me and that, every few months, I have to convince my husband to change its oil. Consequently, I rarely identify vehicle makes and models in my books.
Another example is how the poor victims in my books are killed. I know basically nothing about poison and even less about guns. Ergo, if any of my victims are killed that way, you won’t find much detail about the exact methodology.
And then there are the physical descriptions. For better or worse, I do not typically notice what people are wearing. Or their haircuts. Or what jewelry they might have on. And so Minnie, my main character, doesn’t tend to notice things like that, either. [This actually saves me a lot of time. Because if Minnie did notice that stuff, I’d have to keep track of it all, and do I really want to do that? I do not.]
What was that writing rule? “Write what you know”?Exactly.
With every book I read in the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries, I more and more want to drive a bookmobile, with my Chiweenie, Emma as my copilot. Of course, I would prefer not to run across any dead bodies.
CHECKING OUT CRIME was a fast moving mystery that grabbed me at the start. Each time I thought Winnie was on the right track, she hit another bump in the road. Each twist and turn, hill and valley left me lost as to whodunit.
Each new volume shows the growth in author Laurie Cass’ writing. Not that she wasn’t good from the start! I can just see subtle changes that have added so much to her storytelling. She’s who knows what she’s doing, and knows what her readers love.CHECKING OUT CRIME is the purrfect (Yes, I did the purrfect thing, as I am sure I have done before. But come on!) addition to this delightful series.
Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and to date she still lives there with her family. From her own descriptions she never took up writing early but after moving jobs she felt unchallenged and not too mightily motivated by her responsibilities and decided to try something more challenging, writing was that challenge. In her research before she seriously started her career in writing, she says that she read a ton of books on the art of writing but one sentence spurred her on to actually go through with her dream of writing, “what’s it going to be, reasons or results?” she says that that particular phrase struck such a cord with her that she decided to seriously immerse herself in her writing. She says that the possibility of dying without doing what she really wanted which was writing made her make up her mind and a few years later she was published.
Congratulations on your new book
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Could there be a connection to other recent events in town, like tampering with the costume of a local mascot? Jane isn’t sure, but after someone serves a second course of murder, the kitchen must be closed and the killer must be found . . .
Vincent van Dough focaccia is being touted on Instagram as the best thing since sliced bread. By strategically placing chives, olives, and yellow peppers to look like poppies and sunflowers, bakers create a mouthwatering masterpiece in the style of the great postimpressionist painter. At Yeast of Eden, where bread making has always been an art, they’re baking their own version for the school district’s Spring Fling.
But one person won’t be tasting the Mexican bakery’s latest specialty. Ambitious school board president Nessa Renchrik has been murdered. Like the rest of this close-knit community, Ivy is shocked. But she’s just as surprised to discover her beau—restaurateur Miguel Baptista—had his own fling with Nessa back in the day and now the police have this half-baked notion he might have killed her. It’s up to Ivy, her boss Olaya Solis, and eighty-six-years-young Penelope Branford to separate the wheat from the chaff to determine who the real culprit is . . .
Mia Malone has opened a catering business in Magic Springs, Idaho, putting both her culinary expertise and her gift for spellcasting to good use. But it’ll take more than witchcraft to make a murderer disappear behind bars…
Mia Malone has landed a lucrative and convenient gig, catering a reunion at the old school that’s become her new business headquarters. The town swirls with rumors that St. Catherine’s Preparatory is haunted, but there’s one living visitor that Mia wasn’t expecting—her mother. Theresa Malone stepped away from the magic that runs in Mia’s family, much to the annoyance of Mia’s grandmother. Soon Mia has to deal with more than personal drama when Robin Hanover, the head of the reunion committee, is murdered in one of the classrooms.
Robin had a history as a mean girl. Could one of her old enemies have been nursing a grudge all this time? Or is the culprit even closer to home? Mia will need the help of her magic, her wits, and her family to figure out the truth—before she gets schooled by a clever killer…
In A Tale of Two Cookies, a cozy mystery from Eve Calder, it’s nothing but sugar and spice at The Cookie House, but elsewhere on Coral Cay everything isn’t so nice.
Pastry chef Kate McGuire is loving life on the laid-back island of Coral Cay, Florida. As junior partner in a bakery renowned for luscious desserts—especially her cookies—life is pretty sweet. So when an old friend arrives and announces a spur-of-the-moment beach wedding, that’s just the icing on the wedding cake.
But the groom vanishes right as a television crew descends on the town to film a hot, new realty show. Is there a connection? Is her friend Desiree somehow involved? Or did groom Judson simply get cold feet? The bride and groom were paired better than warm cookies and cold milk, so Kate doesn’t buy it.
As the show’s cast runs amok on the island and the investigation into Judson’s disappearance heats up, Kate and her pal Maxi, along with town dog Oliver, will brave the rambunctious world of reality TV and a wedding weekend gone awry, in an all-out effort to find the missing groom.
Although baby showers aren’t an Amish tradition, Bailey King wants to celebrate Emily Keim’s forthcoming bundle of joy. It’s the least she can do for her hardworking assistant at Swissmen Sweets, especially with Emily being estranged from her siblings. Everyone in Harvest, Ohio has gathered at the town gazebo—decked out in lemon-themed décor to add some of Emily’s favorite flavor to the festivities—including Juliet Brook, Jethro the Pig, and in a last-minute invite, Emily’s sister Esther Esh.
But Esther isn’t the only surprise guest. A mysterious Amish woman confronts Emily claiming to know about her secret shame—the child she had as a teenager who was given up for adoption. The stranger vanishes before Bailey could find out who she was and if she knew what happened to Emily’s first baby. Later that evening, the woman reappears—dead in Esh Family Pretzels, with a threatening letter written by Esther found on her body.
Emily knows her sister is not a murderer and convinces Bailey to help clear Esther’s name and put the squeeze on the real killer . . .
Crystal Cove is buzzing with the launch of its fifth annual Art and Wine Festival, when local wineries are paired with local artists to show off their latest creations. Jenna’s thrilled to be showing one of her own amateur paintings at the fair, but her excitement quickly fades when an up-and-coming artist is murdered. What’s more, all the evidence points to a good friend of Jenna’s as the culprit, and she’ll have to use all her wits to prove his innocence before he paints himself into a corner.
Certain that her friend is being framed, Jenna tries to blend in as she starts digging into an array of colorful suspects, including a tech guru with a penchant for stalking women, the mayor’s wayward son, and an older art instructor who might have been closer to the victim than anyone would have guessed. Jenna will have to wine and dine her way through all the clues before she can see the full picture and put the real killer behind bars—all the while avoiding her own brush with death . . .
Includes tantalizing recipes!
Ex-New Yorker and local diner owner Gia Morelli is still getting used to the sweltering Florida sun. But this summer she’ll have to deal with a more dangerous kind of heat—when she’s hot on the trail of another murderer . . .
Summer in Boggy Creek has arrived, and Gia’s best friend, successful real estate agent Savannah, is getting hitched. Now she’s enlisted Gia’s sleuthing talents in a desperate search for the perfect wedding dress. But when Savannah mysteriously vanishes after showing a mansion to a bigwig client, Gia investigates the house Savannah was trying to sell. The first clue she finds is Savannah’s car in the driveway. Inside the house, they stumble on Savannah’s potential buyer—dead. Someone had apparently closed the deal—with a two by four full of nails to the client’s head. Soon afterward, a woman’s body is fished from the lake near the same house. The townsfolk are now sweating bullets over the murders, and the heat comes down on poor Gia to find her missing friend, and track down the killer .
Reformed gangster Jack Robinson is working hard to bolster his image in Gilded Age New York City society as he prepares to become a new father. But when Hayden Norcross, the man who nearly ruined his wife, is shot in cold blood, Jack knows the police will soon come knocking on his door. Frank Malloy has to agree—things don’t look good for Jack. But surely a man as unlikeable as Hayden had more than a few enemies. And it’s soon clear that plenty of the upper echelon as well as the denizens of the most squalid areas of the city seem to have hated him.
Sarah and Frank have their work cut out for them. As the daughter of the elite Decker family, Sarah has access to the social circles Hayden frequented, and the more she learns about his horrific treatment of women, the more disturbed she becomes. And as Frank investigates, he finds that Hayden had a host of unsavory habits that may have hastened his demise. But who finally killed him? Sarah and Frank must put the pieces together quickly before time runs out and Jack’s hard-won new life and family are ripped apart.
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