Saturday, October 31, 2009


Oh, my gosh, it's Halloween!  Somehow, Halloween snuck up on me this year, and I'm not prepared at all.  I didn't even think of it while I was writing this post yesterday (Yes, I tend to write my entries ahead of time.)  At least allow me to give a passing nod to the holiday by posting a picture of the decorations I put out back in 2003.  Enjoy. And now down to business.

Here are some more  remedies for flu-fighting that every woman used to have in
 her home disease fighting arsenal.

My mother told me that her mother did things to her when she got sick that I would think twice about recommending.  One was the famous mustard plaster, made of powdered dry mustard mixed with flour and water to make a paste, sandwiched between two pieces of cloth, (I seem to remember my mom telling me that Grandma used brown paper) and applied as a poultice to the chest.  This remedy would open the bronchi, and if you weren’t careful, it’d blister the heck out of your chest, as well. 

My other grandmother liked to ease her breathing with a nice hot toddy, made of hot water, sugar, lemon, and a shot of  whiskey.  And if it didn’t ease her breathing, she didn’t care. Another pleasant immunity booster is elderberry wine.

I was once told that eating orange foods was a good thing to do if you wanted to avoid getting sick, and research has shown that there’s something to this.  We all know about oranges and viatmin C, but sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and orange squash are full of immune boosting beta carotene, besides being  comforting and delicious.

Squash and pumpkin make wonderful soups, and so do yams and sweet potatoes.  But when I was a kid, I thought the very best way to eat a sweet potato was thus:

Wash a sweet potato and poke two or three holes in it.  Bake it in a medium oven (you can wrap it in foil, but I just stick it in there naked) for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato, until it’s very soft.  Take it out - carefully! (After all, it’s a hot potato)  Let it cool enough to handle, then pick it up like a banana, peel back the top and slather with butter, and eat it.  Peel the skin down from the top as you go.  Oh, so yummy.  And if you’re eight years old, this method of potato-eating has the added benefit of being a lot of fun.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cake Walk

So here's the cake I made today for the cake walk at our church's Fall Festival tomorrow. As you can tell, I didn't have a lot of time to do anything fancy, but I decided this one is for the children. It is definitely not for the diabetic! I ate a couple of those Peeps, and I'm walking around like Wile E. Coyote after he ingested earthquake pills. I can't imagine what effect they'd have on people with insulin problems. Instant coma?

Also, I didn't want to make the cake scary looking. I mean, I'm taking it to church, right? However, you might notice a couple of those pumpkin Peeps seem to have head injuries. Okay, I know, they're just heads, but you know what I mean. They also look a little weird, in general. Aren't pumpkins supposed to be round on top? These appear to be almost heart-shaped. It makes me wonder if the Peeps people simply got lazy and used the Valentine's Day mold to make their pumpkins.

Another scary aspect of the cake? The Peep cats are as big as the ghosts. They remind me of a short story I read in elementary school years ago (which no one else has ever heard of). The story was called "Wait 'Til Martin Comes." This man goes into a haunted house on Halloween and all these black cats come in one at a time, each one bigger than the one before it. The first cat always asks, "Shall we do it now?" The others tell him, "No. Wait 'til Martin comes." When the cat the size of a cow comes in, the man jumps up, yells, "Tell Martin I couldn't wait!" and flees the house. For some reason, I found this story hilarious and have remembered it ever since.

Another story I never forgot from either elementary school or high school was "The Scarlet Ibis." This one wasn't funny but was about the relationship between a boy and his mentally challenged brother. It was so sad. I remember trying to hide behind my text book as I couldn't keep the tears from falling.

Do any of you have really obscure stories you've read and never forgotten?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Frighteningly Simple

I worry about the silliest things. While I worry, other people come up with brilliant solutions.
Every October, I make a few caramel apples. I have watched people delight in the creamy, sweet caramel. It is almost always the same. When eating a caramel apple, one eats around the perimeter of the apple, savoring all of the caramel coating, only to be left with big orb of disapointment. There is always much more apple than caramel. To make matters worse, the apple has usally turned brown and mushy on the inside.
This year will be different! I have found instructions for making mini caramel apples. I cannot wait to serve these tiny balls of caramel-coated Halloween fun.
They are very simple to make. A melon-baller is used to cut out little round pieces of apple. The rest of the recipe is not unlike traditional caramel apples. Coatings such as crushed candy, dried fruits, nuts and pretzels can be added. I also plan to dip some in chocolate, white chocolate, and melted peanut-butter chips.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Okay, on my blog, I posted a picture of the costume I wore to Halloween on the Square. Many
people liked it, but nobody knew what it was. If you think you know
what it is, post a comment on my blog. Anyone who guessed correctly yesterday
(comments are dated) had his or her name put into a drawing five
times. Today (10-27-09), I’ll post a detail of the costume and anyone who
guesses correctly on that day gets four chances. The next day, another
detail and correct guesses win three chances. Another day, another
detail. On October 31, a winner will be drawn from any correct guesses.
If there are no correct guesses, I’ll put all INCORRECT guesses into a
drawing. The winner gets a copy of DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, Wolfmont’s 2009 Toys For Tots benefit anthology.

Guess away!


Saturday, October 24, 2009


My books are set in the first decade of the 20th Century, the first of the series in 1912, and the fourth in 1915.  As you can see, Dear Reader,  I am slowly working my way toward the 1918 flu epidemic.  I’ve already begun keeping a file on the epidemic, its effects, the way the government and the U.S population reacted to it.  I’m especially interested in remedies people used to keep from getting the flu, or to ease its course.  The 1918 flu was extraordinarily deadly, as I’m sure you know, but it did have some similarities to our 2009 swine flue.  Both affect mainly healthy young people, both cause a bluish tinge around the lips, both are incredibly infectious.  Of course, our N1H1 is much milder, and even if it weren’t, medical science has advanced exponentially since 1918.

For days, I’ve been planning to write about 20th Century home remedies for the flu in today’s blog, since I would not be surprised if some of them are actually helpful, and besides, it’s fascinating to see what people resorted to.  And then, lo and behold, I received an email this morning from my sister-in-law Dolores on this very topic.  Here is an excerpt:

My Grandmother always baked an onion for a head cold.It loosened the congestion. I had forgotten about it until I read this email (I liked the smell also~)

 In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was this Doctor who visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their families had contracted it and many died. The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in  a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it  under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore keeping the family healthy. 

This email is circulating around the web, and I expect it’s apocryphal, but I was interested because in my research I have found several home remedies that involve onions, and this fits right in.  In fact, all the allium plants - onions, shallots, leeks, especially garlic - have volatile oils that seem to be antibacterial and/or antiviral.

We didn’t have much garlic around the old homestead when I was a kid, but I from what I have read, garlic is truly useful for fighting disease.  Research shows that garlic builds white blood cells, thus boosting immunity.  Besides, it’s delicious.

If you’ve never baked a head of garlic, now is the time.  Trim off the top of the garlic head to expose the cloves, drizzle a little olive oil over it, wrap the head in some foil or place it in a clay or ceramic baking dish.  Bake the head in a hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cloves are very soft.  Squeeze the baked garlic out of the cloves into a small bowl and mash it up with a fork.  At this point you can add oil, herbs, a little salt, whatever appeals.  Or you can just spread the garlic on a cracker like butter and chow down.  Even if you are not a garlic fan, I can assure you that well-baked garlic is infinitely milder than the raw stuff.

And speaking of the raw stuff, remember that Roman gladiators used to chew cloves of raw garlic to make them strong.  You bet it did, in more ways than one.

So, place a few raw, unpeeled onions around the house and chow down on some garlic.  It may help you avoid the flu, if for no other reason than your friends will keep their distance.  And you won’t be bothered by vampires this Halloween, either.

More home flu remedies next week. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Avoiding the Halloween candy snare

First of all, let me apologize for not posting last Friday. I was having a meltdown. From Tuesday afternoon through Thursday night, someone from an ISP in Rugby, England was taking down my website. The entire week was a nightmare.

But enough of that; on to my post.

In years past, I would have bought two or three bags of Halloween candy by now, and our family would have eaten them. I would then buy more to hand out on Halloween and whatever was left over, our family would eat. It's not too much of a problem for the rest of the family. But I'm here alone for much of the day. With the candy. And it calls to me. Especially when I'm having a stressful day.

Fortunately, there was no candy in the house last week when I was having my computer-inspired, tearful, poor-me meltdown. In fact, there has been no Halloween candy in the house at all. I've even found a "free" alternative to candy that won't get our car egged or our windows soaped.

We don't have very many trick-or-treaters, but still, I'm prepared for the ones we do have; and I didn't have to pay anything extra for the treats. Trick-or-treaters may choose from bags of Cheetos or Fritos. Another option would be lemon pudding, but only for four children.

Here's the thing. In September, school started and we had to get back into the swing of lunch packing. At Sam's Club, I bought variety packs of chips. The children each took the chips they preferred to school. Left over were the Cheetos and Fritos. Having this happen a few times, we now have twenty-two bags of chips. The lemon pudding is due to a fad Lianna enjoyed for awhile but then tired of. A four-pack of handi-snacks await the child who enjoys sour treats.

Although I can continue to go down the Halloween candy aisle and smell, I have an excuse not to buy Halloween candy. At least, not until it goes on sell November 1. Then, I'll have to come up with another excuse to remain strong. Maybe some kind, skinny soul will buy up all the good stuff.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Apple Bobbing in the Age of Swine Flu

Later this morning, I will be taking my youngest daughter to get a flu shot. Next week, the rest of the family will be getting their shots. Thus, I have flu on the brain. Just hope I can keep it out of my house!

I am not much of a germ phobe, but apple bobbing has always seemed like a bit of a microbe swap-fest to me. In this season of swine flu fears, I doubt many will be sticking their heads into big wash tubs where others have gone before them. For those who want a neater way to bob, this video shows a clever way to do apple bobbing without sharing germs or getting wet.

Here is a recipe for Apple Bobbing Punch:

Hope al off the Fatal Foodies are having a bountiful, flu-free autumn!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do You NaNo?

National Novel Writing Month (familiarly known as NaNoWriMo) is coming up. Between November 1 and 30, participants attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel. This comes to around 1,670 words a day. That's a lot of writing, and not a lot of editing. But that's the point. You have to learn to--if you're not a writer who already does this--skip over the puzzling bits and just write what comes.

I've looked over rough drafts by a couple of my friends who do this naturally. I'll be reading along, lost in the story, skipping over the rough parts because I know it's a first draft, and I'll come to a set of brackets enclosing words like [metaphor having to do with cats and mice] or [what color are his eyes?]. Or I'll come to a set of double-blank lines with: Need a scene between the sheriff and the librarian about the homeless man with the shiny shoes.

That's what I had to learn how to do last year when I did NaNo. People talk about "winning" NaNo, but it isn't a competition. There are no prizes, and there are no losers. A "winner" is just somebody who knocked out those 50,000 words on a project within those 30 days, but everyone who participates--or even considers participating--is a winner, because those are people who thought about their process. Those are people who challenged themselves or took the difficult first step of even considering challenging themselves to set and meet a goal.

I enjoy spending a whole day messing with one scene or researching a passing reference, but when I NaNo I'll have to set those pleasures aside for the time being. I'll have to write: [June Rose and LeJune have an argument about what to do next, also revealing a secret one of them didn't know about something] or [insert recipe here] or [what kind of flowers are in bloom at this time of year?] Those will be delicious little chocolates to nibble at after the seven-course meal of pounding out the story line is finished. you NaNo? Yes or no?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Did you know...

...that a half pint of raspberries has all the fiber you need for one day?
Not that I need an excuse to scarf down raspberries on a daily basis. Whether by themselves in the morning for breakfast or soaking in champagne for...well...any meal of the day, I do love the raspberries.

Brian used to have conniption fits when I wanted to buy raspberries out of season. He's from Michigan and they evidently fall off trees for free back there. In California, they're a bit more expensive. And I admit, one of the best memories I have of times spent in Michigan are ones going to raspberry and blueberry farms where you pick your own berries for a fraction of the cost of pre-packaged berries out here...and you get exercise too!

I found a jar of my mother-in-law's raspberry jam stuffed back in the freezer a few years ago. It was like finding buried treasure: totally unexpected and worth its weight in gold. If you haven't had homemade raspberry jam, I'm here to tell you it's a treat. The flavor of the berries is in every bite. For me, it was also a taste of nostalgia. I made that jar last as long as I could.

It's just about the end of raspberry season here in California. I just bought a pint of raspberries at our local produce store. 2.99 a pint. I imagine Brian would wince and then tell me how cheap they are in Michigan. To me, 2.99 for a taste of heaven and a bit of nostalgia is well worth the price.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I have a biggie wedding anniversary coming up next month - one of those that ends in a ‘5’.  We had all kinds of plans for some kind of special celebration, but fate intervened, and now that we have the time to make arrangements for a trip or other fabulous outing, it’s almost too late.  Besides,it’s been a long, hard year, and  we’re both pooped (not to mention broke.)  So we’ve decided to do several special things around the Phoenix area all through the month of November.  We’ll see some shows and symphonies.  We’ll check out some Arizona sights - and believe me, if you have to confine your sightseeing to your state of residence, Arizona is a mighty good state to reside in.  And of course, we’ll eat.

I have a friend who, with the family, celebrated her daughter-in-law’s birthday by pulling out all the stops and having dinner at a Phoenix restaurant called “Quiessence”.  Her description of the experience was so mouth-watering that we’ve put Quiessence at the top of our special anniversary eatery list.

Here’s the deal:  Quiessence is one of three restaurants located at The Farm on South Mountain, on the southern edge of Phoenix.  The Farm is actually a working farm, with a pecan grove, raising organic vegetables and herbs, and livestock.  One of the eateries serves only breakfast, one only lunch, and the aforementioned Quiessence does dinner.  Since the Farm raises its own food, the menus at the restaurants is local and totally organic, and at Quiessence, the menu changes every day, depending on what the chef wants to make.  The cuisine is extremely haute and correspondingly expensive.

They offer an a la carte menu, but they also offer something called “the Farmer’s Feast.”  For a c-note per person, the chef will create a six-course meal just for you, and pair each course with an appropriate wine.  You don’t order, you just sit back and wait to see what the waiters bring you, and by all reports, it’s to die for.  

Here’s the problem:  After all of Don’s health issues, he has such a bizarre and restricted diet that I don’t know if one fabulous culinary adventure is in the cards for us.  One can request a vegetarian meal, but can one ask for a low salt veg meal with no beans, tomato sauce, spinach, or eggplant?  And if one could, would one want to eat it?  I think that our gourmet meal will have to be off the a la carte menu, with a lot of fudging, because after all, this is a special occasion.

Sometimes I’m tempted to subscribe to Julia Child’s philosophy and sit down with a big old steak, a glass of gin, and a happy grin on my face. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Corny Fall Fun

I love this time of year. It makes me think of pumpkins, caramel apples, colorful leaves and corn mazes. If you have never been to a corn maze, I highly reccomend it as a good way to spend some time outdoors in the crisp, autumn air.

Last night, my family had the pleasure of attending a perfect little corn maze birthday party for one of my daughter's friends. There was a large field beside the entrance to the maze, where the kids enjoyed a picnic. The children sat on a blanket where they dined on a kid-friendly dinner of hotdogs, cheese sticks, and cinnamon applesauce. Grown-ups liked the dinner, too!

Once the kids had eaten, we all went into the corn maze. As we ventured further into the maze, the corn stalks got taller, and the maze became trickier. Getting lost was half the fun! Luckily, with the help of a corn maze employee, we found the end of the maze.

The maze adventure was followed by a hayride through the woods. Following the hayride, we all headed down to the local Dairy Queen to have yummy ice cream cake.

I cannot think of a more perfect way to do an autumn birthday party. This is a great idea for any child who has a birthday in the fall, or just a group of friends who would like to have a little fun celebrating the season.

Next week, I am looking forward to a corn maze/Mexican food night with my girlfriends. Could I get any more corny?

Here's a link about one of our local corn mazes:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good Me, Bad Me

I’m not supposed to use this free blog to sell stuff, so I’m being bad. But I’m not selling anything for my own sake, so I’m good.

A while back, I announced the happy happenstance that a story I wrote had been accepted into THE GIFT OF MURDER, an anthology of crime stories set during the winter holiday season. All the authors donated our stories, and Wolfmont donates all its net proceeds to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Here, I’ll let publisher Tony Burton tell you all about it:

In case you didn’t know, Wolfmont has, for the last three years, published anthologies of short crime fiction, with the theme of crimes around the winter holiday season. By the sale of those books, we have been able to donate a total of over $6,600 to the Toys for Tots Foundation.

This fourth book will be our largest thus far to help Toys for Tots, with 278 pages of great stories.

The 2009 anthology contains nineteen fantastic stories of winter holiday crime from some very talented and generous authors. Here is the roster:

Stefanie Lazer

Anita Page

Steve Shrott

Herschel Cozine

Our goal in 2008 was to raise at least $3,000 more for these kids, and we made it, overtopping our goal to reach $3,300.

Our goal with THE GIFT OF MURDER is to be able to push our total for the four years up to over $10,000 for Toys for Tots!

We have stories not only of Christmas crime, but Chanukah and Kwanzaa, and some stories that combine all three!

Order from us, contact one of the authors to purchase a copy, or get it through your local bookseller!

Get it from your favorite

independent bookseller!

Or, if you prefer, order from Amazon

Or, you can buy it directly from Wolfmont. I’ll also be selling copies here and there, hither and yon, once place or another.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, “The Spirit of Spadena Street”:

Mama clack-clacked into my home office in those wooden-soled sandals she wears around the house–probably because they make noise. She came hooting and talking without contractions so I’d know it was important, “Oh! LeJune! You will never guess what happened!”

I saved the document I was working on. I knew from long, sad experience I might as well see this thing through. My swivel chair creaked under my weight as I swung around to face her and said, “What happened, Mama?”

“I was outside talking to Chickapoo and her cell phone rang and it was that friend of hers, Louise Janssen that works at the hospital and Louise said Joseph Caltrop just got admitted.”

“No!” That was news. Joseph Caltrop was a friend and neighbor. He was a realtor and the owner of the place we were having our neighborhood Christmas party. “Was it a heart attack, or what?”

With a gleam of great satisfaction that I hadn’t guessed right, Mama said. “No. He had been mugged!

“Oh, my Lord and time! Is he going to be all right?”

“Was it a gang?”

“What I told you is what Chickapoo told me Louise told her.”

“I wonder if Buck knows anything.”

Before I had the whole sentence out, Mama sprinted for the living room, but I flipped open my cell and pulled up Buck’s number.

“I got it!” I called, and heard her faint damn from the hall.

I urge you to buy the book, not for my story, but for the cause. But I hope you like my story. :) These are the characters I’m writing about in this year’s National Novel Writing Month project. The book will be called DOWN AND DIRTY DEATH, and it will have recipes in it--if "recipes" is the word I want. LeJune is not Spadena Street's own Julia Child....


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Books and Food

We've been talking about reviews and reviewers over on the Type M 4 Murder ( blog, and the discussion made me think of a review I received several years ago for my first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.

The review was from a web site called Book Concerns (, a post called “Key Ingredients” by Karyn from Montana, dated June 8, 2006. The post was about a Smithsonian Institution touring exhibit of the same name which was being hosted by several Montana museums. She mentioned an article in a Montana Committee for the Humanities publication in which the author speaks of the “parallel creative processes between cooking and other arts — especially writing.” Karyn went on to say that she has noticed the use of food in more books lately — including mysteries where the sleuth is a chef or a caterer. And now I quote: “…one book I just finished, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming by Donis Casey, has several yummy recipes at the end of the book as well as interesting scenes that have preparing food as a backdrop while farm wife Alafair Tucker attempts to learn who killed the much-hated Harley Day. Casey’s well-constructed mystery is a period piece set in 1912 Oklahoma, and warns at the beginning of the recipe section ‘These are not health foods’. And they sound delicious. The mystery was quite good, too.”

I especially enjoyed the last thought, Karyn, thank you. Cooking and food are important elements of my stories, but when I started my mystery series, I didn't realize how important they were to the readers.  An author friend and I once mused together over lunch that it's amazing how often readers love something about your writing that you never anticipated. For me, I was surprised and gratified at how readers have taken to the recipes and descriptions of the meals in my books. People love to read about food almost as much as they love to eat it.  Just ask any of the contributors to this blog. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Too good not to share

Holly Clegg graciously provided recipes for Dead Pan. Below is one of them. It might brighten up your weekend!

Apple, Brie, and Brown Sugar Pizza (from Holly Clegg's trim&TERRIFIC™ Gulf Coast Favorites cookbook)

Oh my goodness….this is the absolute best!! Imagine a thin crisp crust topped with rich, creamy Brie and cinnamon apples. This pizza could be served for brunch, a snack or a light dessert. It is hard to beat or resist hot out of the oven—even a house full of 20 year old boys were grabbing for another piece. Miniature pizza crusts are a fun way to serve these pizzas.

Makes 8 slices

1 (13.8-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust
4 ounces Brie, rind removed and thinly sliced
1 large baking apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven 450˚F. 2. On top of pizza crust, arrange Brie and apple slices concentrically around crust. In small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, sprinkle over apples. 3. Bake 10–12 minutes or until cheese is melted and apples are tender. Slice, serve.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories 193, Calories from fat (%) 33, Fat (g) 7, Saturated Fat (g) 3, Cholesterol (mg) 14, Sodium (mg) 328, Carbohydrate (g) 26, Dietary Fiber (g) 1, Sugars (g) 10, Protein (g) 6, Diabetic Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 medium-fat meat

Terrific Tidbit: I prefer Granny Smith apples as they are tart and compliment the Brie. Any large, thin round, unbaked pizza crust may be used.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Halloween Coming! Spooky cookies!

I love Halloween food.

For a fun change of pace, how about these cool-looking Tombstone Cookies?

Try the full meal menu here, Witch's fingers and all. Bone Appetit!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What to do with a Bunch of Hotdog Buns

A tailgate party from last weekend has left me with a bunch of leftover hotdog buns. I have since been on a search to find novel uses for hotdog buns. In the past, I have cut the buns into cubes and toasted them to use as crutons.

They also make nice buns for mini-hamburgers. Just cut the hotdog into thirds to accomodate little hamburger patties.

I seached to web to find that this is a common problem due to the fact that may times the number of hotdog buns in a pack does not match number of hotdog weenies in a pack. Anyone who has seen Father of the Bride is sure to remember when Steve Martin's character is caught stealing hotdog buns out of sheer frustration. If you have not seen the movie, Steve Martin's character is completely stressed-out from the strain of planning his daughter's wedding. The breaking point occurs when he feels forced to buy an extra pack of hotdog buns just so he can have enough for each weenie in a pack. His solution is to open up a bag of buns to take only what he needs.

If only his character could have found the following uses for extra buns, he might not have been forced to take it so far:

-Split hotdog buns make the perfect base for garlic breadsticks.

-The texture works for bread pudding.

-French toast sticks

-Buns for mini-meatball subs

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cozies and Food

When I attended Left Coast Crime, I was on a panel where the subject matter was what constituted a cozy. All of the authors involved had definite ideas on the subject; not all in complete harmony with one another, but close enough for government work (having worked four years for the IRS, I think I can use that expression with impunity). An amateur sleuth is a must, light on the explicit sexuality, heavy on atmosphere, setting and eccentric characters, and (for me, at least) humor an absolute necessity, along with lots of descriptions of food, clothes and scenery. In fact, for me the quintessential cozy (while admittedly not a mystery) is GONE WITH THE WIND. I can't read that book without wanting to eat like a horse, buy new clothes or, depending on my budget, breaking out my sewing machine and seeing what I can whip up with drapery fabric.

Good cozies have the same affect on me: I find myself wanting to take up whatever hobby might be part of the book, fighting the desire to eat three times as much as normal (curse you, Diane Mott Davidson!) and having witty banter with unusually sexy cops.

In MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon, there is enough hot chocolate, freshly baked cookies and other culinary treats to grant me cozy status without the prerequisite romantic relationship between my heroine and one of the cops on the case. I've never dated a policeman (although I WAS benevolently stalked by an ex-boyfriend turned sheriff's deputy) and had no real life experience to give the relationship any semblance of believability. Besides, there are enough of those relationships in mystery novels and I didn't feel I had anything original to add to the mix.

Maureen (my best friend and co-founder of the real life theater troupe Murder for Hire) and I were both enamored with the hard-boiled film noir of the '30s, '40s and '50s. We loved the pulp magazines with covers featuring lantern-jawed gumshoes, molls and dames in sexy red dresses, thugs and villains of various nationalities heavy on the racial clichés. What we didn’t love back in the day was taste of alcohol (we're both dedicated winos…er…oenopiles now). So we sublimated our desire to follow in the footsteps of the hard-drinking guys and dolls in the world of noir with enough cocoa and hot chocolate to make 17th century Spanish nobility and Aztecs priests envious. We were, however, mortally offended when one of our MFH actors asked why we didn't put mini-marshmallows in our hot chocolate. That would be sissified, we told him. Logic didn't enter into our viewpoint on the subject.

We also put away mass quantities of chocolate chip cookies, fudge (the old-fashioned kind where you have to cook it on the stove forever and drop test a dollop into water to see if it's set) and donuts to challenge the hardiest of metabolisms. Ours were pretty hardy back in the day; we bought and fit into vintage '30s and '40s clothes with nary a pinch around the waistline. 24 inches. Sigh…I once had a 24-inch waistline. 7 inches larger than Scarlett's vaunted 17 inch waistline, but I had neither a corset nor a Mammy to lace me into one every day.

Maureen and I were very innocent and fearless when we started Murder for Hire. If we had experienced a murder during one of our shows I've no doubt we would have reacted with the same combination of naïve bumbling and chocolate fueled determination as Connie and Daphne do in MFH: The Peruvian Pigeon, the fictionalized and cozy re-imagining of our youth.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

If You Didn't Grow Up Eating It, It's Ethnic Food

Don and I went out to lunch with a friend today to a Middle Eastern Restaurant.  Middle Eastern is high on my list of delectable cuisines.

My husband and I were both born and raised in Oklahoma, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, and our friend Nan is from Indiana.  As the three of us sampled and compared the wonderful flavors and spices in each other’s dishes, oohing and aahing, Nan mentioned that when she was growing up, she never ate food of any ethnicity besides her own.  No Chinese, no Mexican, no Italian, just homegrown middle-American.  

We Oklahomans had to admit that we had the same experience.  I clearly remember the first Mexican restaurant I ever ate in.  It was a privately owned establishment in downtown Tulsa.  The food was spectacular, and like nothing I had ever eaten before.  In Don’s hometown of Enid, OK, he remembers the opening of a “Chinese” place called Three Towers.  I put Chinese in quotes because they mostly offered American diner food, maybe some chow mein and egg rolls.

I was in high school when the first pizza place I ever saw opened just down the street from my house.  Shakey’s Pizza.  I loved it, and it made me deathly ill every time I ate it.  I was a sixteen when a Taco Bell went in close to my high school.  Shakey’s and Taco Bell meant ethnic food to me until I was in college.  In fact, I never ate a bagel until 1984.  They were simply unavailable Way Out West until modern times.

One may think that the three of us simply lived out in the culinary wasteland during our formative years, and in fact, had we been in NYC,  LA, Chicago, or San Francisco, it would have been a different story.  But it’s hard for people to remember that until very recently, the world used to be a much bigger place than it is now, and if you didn’t have an Italian neighborhood in your community, you didn’t get the chance to eat Italian.

And now when I take that first bite of a spectacularly spicy curry, I mourn the fact I was cheated out of years of the joy of Indian food in my youth. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sam's Bittersweet Samples

My husband and I went to Sam's Club last night to get groceries. Being a Thursday, I didn't think there would be many samples offered. There weren't as many as are available on the weekends, but there were plenty.

On the plus side, Sam's Club gives me the opportunity to have a taste of something I normally wouldn't try. For instance, last night I had a bite of caramel apple pie with pecans. It was really good. It was a taste rather than an entire slice of pie; and knowing no one else in the family would eat it, I was able to leave the pie in the store.

The samples also give me an opportunity to taste new products before deciding whether or not to buy. After sampling Fuze and frozen chicken quesadillas, I've become a regular customer of these products.

On the negative side, I've wound up sampling items I was "sure" the entire family would love only to have to toss it when no one cared for it. This happens even when we try something and enjoy it in the store. Why is that? Is it that we were hungry when we tasted the sample and, therefore, it seemed better than it actually was? Or is it that some things are simply better in bite-sized samples than they are as a meal?

Maybe I should just wear blinders when I go to Sam's. Or maybe I should try and not buy...unless something is really, really good. :-p

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now You Can Have Your Food - And Wear It Too

Now you can enjoy your food in a new way. You can enjoy it anywhere - without calories!

I've long admired the work of polymer clay artists who have a knack for making miniature food that is not only perfect for the dollhouse, but is wearable, too!

How fun to wear hot dog earrings or PetitPlat's fun layer cake or tart earrings, or rings with little cupcakes? There's even a fun breakfast plate necklace by KishCrafts on

Well I didn't realize the trend was popular enough beyond the dollhouse collecting crowd to warrant its own book! (Here's a clue: do a search for miniature food jewelry on Etsy and over 2,000 items come up!)

POLYMER CLAY COOKBOOK: Tiny Food Jewelry to Whip Up and Wear by Jessica and Susan Partain (Watson-Guptill Oct. 20, 2009) includes instructions to make 20 tiny, deliciously realistic food charms. The "cookbook-style" book is said to be aimed at the "beginning miniaturist chef," though I'm not sure if the pieces are exact to dollhouse scale, but I'm sure those skilled with clay can scale down the sizes if needed.

The "recipes" are grouped by category: fruits, breakfast, lunch and dinner, sweets and snacks, and holiday foods. Each recipe has a list of "ingredients," step-by-step directions with photographs, and suggested variations. Finished pieces are shown as a particular jewelry item, but readers can adapt the item to whatever jewelry item they choose. The book also includes a real recipe in each chapter.

The book seems like a good addition to your miniature food library beside the "standard" miniature food clay books such as MINIATURE FOOD DISPLAYS by Sue Heaser and the new MINIATURE FOOD MASTERCLASS by Angie Scarr.