Friday, December 19, 2014

By Cook or by Crook by Maya Corrigan

I was fortunate to receive an Advanced Reader Copy from Maya Corrigan of By Cook or by Crook. It's the first book in a new series.

From the Cover:
Haunted by the car accident that ended her career as a cookbook publicist, Val Deniston has traded in the chaos of New York City for a quieter life near the Chesapeake Bay. Living with her curmudgeonly grandfather in the tourist town of Bayport is hardly glamorous, but she enjoys working at the Cool Down Cafe at the local fitness club and finally has time to work on her long-planned cookbook. But when one of the club's patrons is found dead, she'll have to cook up a scheme to find the killer.

My thoughts:
First of all, receiving the free copy didn't influence my review.
Maya Corrigan is a winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense and I can see why. She kept me guessing throughout the book and took me on many twists and turns. This is a five ingredient mystery: Five suspects, five ingredient recipes and five clues. I loved Val's grandpa, he's a great character. Often when lots of characters are thrown in, I get easily confused, but I didn't find that to be the case in Ms. Corrigan's mystery. Having recipes in the back is a big plus. All in all it was a good read, and well plotted - I'll look out for more Maya Corrigan's books.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Westside Crochet Group

The ladies of the Benbrook Westside Crochet Group delivered  over 100 lapghans to the residents at Lake Lodge Nursing Home last weekend.
We meet once a month to crochet and put together lapghans which are delivered to a local nursing home during the weeks before Christmas.

There were lots of smiling faces from the residents snuggled in their brightly colored blankets, lapghans and shawls.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Children's Books by Ann Summerville

Many of you know that this year I've put aside writing cozy mysteries, and inspired by my grandchildren, have written a few children's books. So far two have been published. 

A Home for Sam
(based on the story of the good Samaritan)
Sam didn't like cats but his dad had taught him to love everyone, even when they weren't nice to him. So when a cat fell from a tree, Sam went to rescue her and through his kindness found what he'd always wanted - a home.

Daisy’s Lost Brother
(Based on the story of the prodigal son)
Daisy loved her family and always helped her mom and dad. But Daisy’s brother was lazy. He wouldn’t help his family collect nuts for the winter or keep their nest clean. But one day Tim left home and Daisy wondered how her mom and dad could still love him.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Murder in Moscow by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Before writer and crime solver, Richard Castle hit the television screen, there was Jessica Fletcher in the Murder She Wrote series. Like Castle, whose book was published after the series became a success, the Murder She Wrote books by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain became popular. Unlike Heat Wave in which the author is shown only as Richard Castle (a fictional character) and the ghostwriter's name is not mentioned, the Murder She Wrote Series does give credit to Donald Bain.

Murder in Moscow:
Best selling mystery writer Jessica Fletcher is embarking on the trip of a lifetime. The first stop is Washington, D.C. and a series of lavish receptions, culminating in a meeting with the President. Then it's on to Russia where Jessica and several publishing colleagues are on a mission to help their Russian counterparts build a publishing industry.
But her dream trip threatens to turn into a nightmare. First, a mysterious man approaches her with a dubious request, and his corpse is found by the Jefferson Memorial. Once Jessica reaches Moscow, things go from bad to worse, when she witnesses a horrifying crime, a man is murdered during dinner and Jessica is kidnapped. She doesn't know who to trust.

My thoughts:
This was very much like the series (you can almost hear Angela Lansbury speaking) and although there are some tense moments, it doesn't come across as a nail biting, action packed situation. As with anything involving Russian espionage, the plot was confusing and never really explained. This was written in the 90s not long after the Cold War had ended and Russia was struggling with crime and a government that was faltering in its efforts to bring democracy to the country.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mystery Author P.D. James

Mystery author P.D. James died this month at the age of 94. Her first book was published while she was in her 40s. At the time she was working full time, looking after two children and supporting a sick husband. The Queen, in 1991, gave her the title of Baroness.  P.D. James continued to write late in her life. She wrote her books by hand and then passed them on to her secretary to type the manuscripts.

I think I'm trying to write a realistic novel and murder is uniquely horrible, and I think this shock of finding the bodies is important, really. The reader should feel it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Food Expiration Dates - When to Discard Food

Dr. Oz always has something interesting on his show and yesterday it was about food expiration dates. He clarified some of the terminology.

Best Use By Date: This is for the stores and is more about taste. The producers feel that after this date the food may lose some of its flavor.

Expiration Date: Again this is more for the stores and is about taste not whether a food has gone "bad"

Packed on Day: This is simply the day the package was put in a box.

Sell by: Another message for the store to assure the taste and flavor is good

Best used by: The flavor may change after this date or possibly become discolored but doesn't mean it isn't good to eat.

Be more careful with baby formula though. Although after the expiration date the formula is still okay to use, some of the nutrients may go down.

Cans can be used 2-5 years after post date.
Pasta lasts at least 2 years.

Dairy and Meat
Milk you can use 2-3 days after the expiration date (do a taste and smell test). Store at the back of the fridge and not in the door.
Eggs you can use 3-5 weeks after purchase. Store in the back on the fridge, not in the door.
Poultry - Use 1-2 days after you buy it but can store 9-12 months in the freezer.
Meat - 3-5 days - store 9-12 months in freezer

Where to store food
How long to store food in the fridge
Expiration Dates - When to toss food out

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

Once a year, our local YMCA has a fund raiser and sells used books for next to nothing (3 for $1) and Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews was one I picked up. It's definitely a light read, but a nice story of a young woman who, as a Washington lobbyist, is a fish out of water in a small Georgia town.
The book has been referred to as Southern Chic Lit and I must admit I did skip quite a few pages where it just didn't hold my interest. FBI agents saying "you go girl" didn't seem realistic to me. The 400+ pages could have been condensed quite a bit.
You can read Goodreads reviews here

From the cover:
After her boss is caught in a political scandal, fledgling Washington lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father's offer to help turn Birdsong - a fading Victorian mansion he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia - into a real estate cash cow. But Birdsong turn out to be a moldering Pepto-Bismol-pink dump with duct-taped windows, a driveway full of junk, and a grumpy distant relation who's claiming squatter's rights. Stuck in a tiny town where everyone seems to know her business, Dempsey grits her teeth and rolls up her sleeves, and begins her journey back to the last place she ever expected: home. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

RIP Sarah

Our sweet cat Sarah passed away yesterday. She was with us for 17 years and will be sadly missed. It's hard to say goodbye to pets, especially when your children grew up with them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

West Side Crochet Group

The West Side Crochet Group meets on the second Thursday of each month at the Benbrook YMCA where they kindly let us use a room. All year we share patterns, enjoy company of fellow crocheters and make lapghans (lap sized blankets). But our November meeting is special because we bring the finished products and these are then distributed as Christmas presents to residents at local nursing homes. There were several tables full of the lapghans in November and I believe we accumulated well over a hundred to distribute. We also collected $12 from each member to donate to the Step Up for Kids campaign as a thank you to the YMCA for allowing us to use a room. If you live in or near Benbrook Texas and want to help, stop by the second Thursday of the month or if you have yarn you would like to donate, please bring that too.
Well done ladies, lots of beautiful blankets that are sure to be appreciated.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter

If you're a fan of the Inspector Morse series and the offshoot Inspector Lewis series with settings around Oxford you'll also enjoy the original books by Colin Dexter which the series were based on. Last Bus to Woodstock is the first of the Morse books. Colin Dexter, has won many awards for his novels and in 2000 was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

From the cover:
The death of Sylvia Kaye figured dramatically in Thursday afternoon's edition of the Oxford Mail.
By Friday evening Inspector Morse had informed the nation that the police were looking for a dangerous man - facing charges of willful murder, sexual assault and rape.
But as the obvious leads fade into twilight and darkness, Morse becomes more and more convinced that passion holds the key . . .

This is a book that will keep your attention from beginning to end. How different life was in the 70s without cell phones and with the only way to deliver messages was
by mail carrier.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

Before Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes had written other screenplays (Gosford Park) and true to his theme of British class comparisons, his novel Snobs is a modern day look at class conscious England. The book shows a present day look at nobility and titled Brits and their upper class "club" along with many little insights.

For instance:
When you don't know someone brought up in conversation you say "I've met them once but they probably won't remember me."
This is an acceptable lie as the person you are speaking to knows immediately that you have never met the person being discussed.

When seated at a dining table you speak first to the person on your left. When the courses change you turn to the person on your right.

Never gush over someone's wealth although when observing something amazing and expensive it's acceptable to say "How simply lovely."

When three Englishmen meet, it doesn't take them long to devise a rule where a fourth person can't be included in their "club."

From the Cover:
Edith Lavery, an English blond with large eyes and nice manners, is the daughter of an accountant and his social-climbing wife. When Charles, the Earl Broughton, falls in love with her, Edith accepts his proposal of marriage. But is she in love with Charles - or with his wealth, his position and all that goes with it?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Standard Time

Image result for clock imageIt was on November 18, 1883 that all U.S. railroads set their clocks to use the same standard time. Before then each railroad set their clocks to the time of the railroad's major city. There may have been a difference of over 20 minutes between these and getting connections was frustrating for passengers. Travelling in a train from New York might mean you would arrive at 1:55, but the 2 o'clock train from another part of the country might actually leave at 2:20 New York time. To avoid confusion with a.m. and p.m. a 24 hour clock was eventually adopted.
Time Zones before 1883 were not used and even within the same state there could be 2 minutes or more difference between towns.

The International Meridian Conference at Washington DC, USA, adopted a proposal in October 1884. The proposal stated that the prime meridian for longitude and timekeeping should be one that passes through the centre of the transit instrument at the Greenwich Observatory in the United Kingdom (UK). The conference therefore established the Greenwich Meridian as the prime meridian and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the world’s time standard.  The international 24-hour time-zone system grew from this, in which all zones referred back to GMT on the prime meridian.
The main factors that favored Greenwich as the site of the prime meridian were:
  • Britain had more shipping and ships using the Greenwich Meridian than the rest of the world put together (at the time). The British Nautical Almanac started these charts in 1767.
  • The Greenwich Observatory produced data of the highest quality for a long time.