Remembering Mom

Yesterday I read about a woman who just turned 100. It was a lovely article in my newspaper with a headline of, “This healthy 100-year-old runs on coffee.” She sounds like a humdinger. She likes to sing at home and with the group Sweet Adelines. She helps her niece with crossword puzzles. She likes to keep busy. “I don’t sit and rock half the day, oh no,” she said.

The lady reminds me of my mom, who lived until May 31st of this year. She was 103. She, too, liked to keep busy. At eighteen, Mom was a city girl who married a railroad man who turned into a farmer. She followed her man from Washington to Missouri and back to Washington. Dad wanted home-made bread, so she baked bread. She cooked dinner for haying crews. And pies. Oh, the pies she baked. In later years a trip to the doctor or dentist was an occasion to bake as she always took a pie along.

I remember Mom as the farm wife. One time some animal was killing our free-range chickens. Mom sat in the field with a rifle, waiting. A feral dog arrived and she dropped him with a chicken in its mouth that ran away. But Mom had an independent streak. One year she decided that, just because Dad was a very active Grange member, she didn’t have to be. However, she missed it and returned. She actually later ended up as Master (that’s club president). But that independent streak went one step farther. When Dad retired, she did too. No more home-baked bread!

Mom loved to read. I remember when she had a copy of Forever Amber hidden in her room. (It was the scandalous novel of the time.) And she wrote. She was my inspiration. But while I write mysteries, she wrote poetry. I remember a long saga she could recite and sometimes amended. More often she wrote poems as gifts to friends on special occasions. She played the piano. Once she accompanied the soloist at a wedding. She often played piano at Grange meetings and whenever anyone wanted to sing at home.

Mom's 100th Birthday

Mom’s 100th Birthday

There was a party for Mom’s 100th birthday where she lived. Since I lived across the continent from her, I wasn’t there that day, but my sister-in-law was. Mom received cards and ate cake (hers was sugar-free). Mom believed in walking for health. At the farm she measured with a tape measure, then walked that route until her goal was reached. At her assisted living home she walked the length of the hall twice a day. I remember Mom drinking coffee like the woman in the article, but her daily regimen included walking and drinking milk. It served her well.

Good bye Mom. We loved you.

I like to include book recommendations in each post. Two from my library are Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates and there was an old woman by Hallie Ephron. Neither one is a cozy mystery. The article referenced above can be seen here.


Wow! Chefs to World Leaders Eat Here?

Can you believe that chefs to world leaders dined in a barn, sitting on benches at long wooden tables decorated with flowers in canning jars? They ate, and even raved over simple dishes like salad with red beet eggs, chicken croquettes, pot roast, mashed potatoes with brown butter, succotash, and fresh raspberries. They will take ideas back to their own countries to serve in palaces in England, Thailand, Sweden, and Monaco. The back-to-nature foods prepared in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania, and served by Amish women and children may appear on tables in the White House, and in the homes of world leaders from Germany, Gabon, China, France, and many other nations.

It was a meeting of the Club des Chefs des Chefs, an exclusive group of chefs to world leaders. Each year they meet in a different host country. This year they came to America and first dined in Washington, Maryland, and New York before visiting the barn in East Lampeter, Pennsylvania.

My words can’t tell you all there is to this story. I’ve attached a link of a video and a slide show of the meal in progress, plus the newspaper write-up. (It’s here.)

Does this story that includes the chef to our president make you think of mystery books? It does me—but then practically everything makes me think of a good mystery read. In fact, this article makes me think of two series, and I just happen to have a few of those books in my library.

You have to know that one series is the White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy. When Buffalo West Wing  was published in 2011, Olivia Paras is billed was the first female head White House chef. Of course the plot involved a supply of the presidential children’s favorite—spicy Buffalo wings. And Olivia gets in Dutch because she won’t let the kids touch the wings.

Speaking of Dutch, the Amish people mentioned in the article reminds me of more mysteries. They are the books included in the Pennsylvania Dutch series by Tamar Myers. One of her titles is The Crepes of Wrath. Magdalena Yoder discovers that a bad batch of crepes can lead to murder. There are several crepes recipes included, not one of them is fatal. Magdalena is not Amish, but of another plain sect. (“Plain” is the term some use, and to the “English” as the Amish call others, “plain” can refer to Amish, Mennonite, and others.)

I page through recipes in mystery books and get ideas (I’m often an innovative cook). Both series include recipes. My own mysteries include people who love food, love to talk about it, love to prepare and eat it, but I haven’t added recipes in the pages of my books. I’ve tried another approach. I place recipes and pictures on my website along with an excerpt from the scene that presented the dish. (Those recipes are here.)

Do you like mysteries that include recipes? I’d love to see your comments about food in mysteries, or your favorite series. (I love to find series new to me!)

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make connections. Sometimes the connection is between a newspaper article and a story I’ve read. Sometimes it’s between a whispered confidence and a past event. Sometimes, such as this time, the connection is between two mystery series by two different authors.

Besides the Irish cop connection, these series are cozy, historic, and by authors I’ve actually met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the early 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve murders. Both include a good bit of accurate historic detail.

I met Victoria Thompson a few years ago at a conference where I bought one of her Gaslight Mystery books. I’ve been buying, and reading them ever since. However, I began reading the Molly Murphy Mysteries before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same elevator at the Malice Domestic Conference this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mysteries.

Now that I’ve mentioned the similarities between the two series, let me tell you the differences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mysteries, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becoming a midwife. She married and was a young widow when the series begins. Among the real historic issues involved in the mysteries are medical problems, including those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the poverty of so many of New York’s citizens of the time. One among the continuing characters is Sarah’s neighbor, an extremely superstitions woman who sees signs of danger if a crow flies by, or almost anything else. Sarah has the advantage of knowing the wealthy people, old friends from her former life, and especially her mother to help in learning things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Malloy, welcomes any help Sarah can provide. The two are attracted to each other, but so far, have too many other things going on to do much about it.

Molly Murphy, the heroine of the Molly Murphy Mysteries, arrived in New York from Ireland, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for protecting herself. She takes a job at a detective agency. When the detective is killed, she takes over the role of detective. Throughout the series, Molly meets historic people such as Harry Houdini and Nellie Bly. Her neighbors are two flamboyant women who introduce Molly to their well-known friends, so many historic events contribute to the mysteries. Daniel Sullivan, the Irish cop, does not welcome help from Molly on his cases, nor does he want to hear about her detective work that may be connected to his. However, their personal relationship advances from romance, to distance, to rejection, then back, and to marriage.

Do you like to make connections such as this? Do you know of any other mysteries that could be connected in some tenuous fashion? Let me know below in the comments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a couple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Victoria Thompson’s Amazon author page is here. A recent Facebook entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Amazon author page is here. Her Twitter account is here.