Let’s Celebrate National Pie Day

I found out two days late, that Jan­u­ary 23rd was Nation­al Pie Day. Who knew? But that bit of infor­ma­tion segues right into a sub­ject I want to vis­it. Well, two subjects—pies and moth­ers. Make that four sub­jects. Add books and movies.

Last Sun­day Parade Mag­a­zine includ­ed with our news­pa­per had an arti­cle about an upcom­ing movie called Labor Day. Both the pic­ture (see below) and the sub­ject and title of the arti­cle (Life of Pie) caught my atten­tion. Of course, it’s about pie. Many years ago Joyce May­nard, author of the book of the same name, had spent the sum­mer with her moth­er who was dying of can­cer bak­ing a pie near­ly every day, while her mother’s friends vis­it­ed. She’d rolled out the crust on wax paper, just as she’d learned from her moth­er. That sum­mer inspired her to teach many oth­ers how to make pie. And bak­ing pies inspired her to include a pie-mak­ing scene in her lat­est nov­el, Labor Day.

Pie and a pie-bak­ing moth­er struck a cord with me. My moth­er loved to bake. We always had dessert of some sort, always home­made, usu­al­ly cake or pie more often than cook­ies. We lived on a farm, so we had our own fruit and berries. I espe­cial­ly remem­ber apple pies. After we chil­dren left home, my moth­er con­tin­ued to bake pies. Since she had become dia­bet­ic, she’d bake a small sug­ar-free one for her­self and anoth­er for my dad. Often she’d bake two and give one away. After my father died, Mom still baked. She couldn’t eat all the pies, so she gave them away. A neigh­bor stopped by? Have a pie. Any fam­i­ly activ­i­ty? Bring two pies. A doc­tor appoint­ment? Take a pie for the entire staff to share.

Although I don’t make many pies myself, I learned from my moth­er. She used a board instead of wax paper to roll out the dough. I use a cloth for my rolling sur­face. The author uses wax paper. But we all did one thing the same—use the absolute min­i­mum of cold water when mix­ing the dough. Those mem­o­ries inspire me to see the movie, and def­i­nite­ly to read the book, Labor Day, by Joyce May­nard. (In fact, due to the mar­vels of the inter­net and Kin­dle, I have it already, when a week ago I didn’t even know the book exist­ed.)

Life of Pie-from Parade Magazine

Life of Pie-from Parade Mag­a­zine

The illus­tra­tion with the arti­cle shows the author demon­strat­ing her pie exper­tise to the movie’s stars, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Josh plays an escaped con­vict who hides out in Kate’s house. He makes the pie in the movie. (Kate came to the demon­stra­tion as she want­ed to learn how to bake pies too.) While they baked and ate three pies, author Joyce May­nard found a pie con­nec­tion with actor Josh. His moth­er, who had died young, had also been a bak­er. I too found a con­nec­tion with both of them—a moth­er who baked pies.

On Amazon’s page for Labor Day, I learned more about the book. It is told from the thir­teen-year-old son’s point of view. More infor­ma­tion about Joyce Maynard’s book can be found here. You can read the entire Parade arti­cle here, see a clear­er pic­ture, and even watch a video of Joyce May­nard mak­ing an apple pie. Inci­dent­ly, the movie will open Jan­u­ary 31. And, for a local humor col­umn on the sub­ject, click on Nation­al Pie Day.

Old News That’s Still New

I’ve been busy which is real­ly not a good excuse. Every­one is busy this time of year—the hol­i­days, vis­its, cook­ing, clean­ing, bad colds—and I’ve had them all. Plus, I’ve been pour­ing over the proof of my new book and dis­cov­er­ing lots of things that need to be changed. But I must take time out to write in my blog. And—I’ve found a good subject—the con­tin­u­ing real­iza­tion that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Every Mon­day our local news­pa­per has a col­umn of old news tak­en from papers 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Yes, our news­pa­per has been in busi­ness that long! (Well, the paper’s name has under­gone a few name changes. It’s now a com­bi­na­tion of the two pre­vi­ous ones put out by the same com­pa­ny.) Would you believe the local news 25 years ago was sim­i­lar to one a fel­low mys­tery writer based her first mys­tery on, and inci­dent­ly, start­ed my habit of clip­ping these columns? The author is Sta­cy Juba, and her book is Twen­ty-Five Years Ago Today. Her book cen­tered around an unsolved mur­der. My local arti­cle tells of an unsolved dis­ap­pear­ance of a 15-year old girl who left with a man “well known to her.” Foul play and her death were feared and she is still miss­ing. Sta­cy, are you up for anoth­er plot? Or, since Sta­cy has sev­er­al oth­er books com­plete­ly plot­ted and pub­lished, am I?

Not only was the 50-year-ago news of a huge snow storm with ultra-low tem­per­a­tures one that I remem­ber well, those ultra-low tem­per­a­tures were repeat­ed this year. For­tu­nate­ly, the twelve-foot drifts weren’t. Of course, that affect­ed the annu­al Penn­syl­va­nia Farm Show—both times. In fact, that hap­pens so often, the fre­quent bad, cold weath­er for the same week is referred to as Farm Show Weath­er.

Now, 75 years ago the weath­er wasn’t real­ly men­tioned. That news was from 1939, a year still in the depres­sion that start­ed ten years ear­li­er and wasn’t com­plete­ly erased until the arms build-up to win World War II began after Pearl Har­bor Day on Decem­ber 7, 1941. Local­ly, 21 “relief chislers” had defraud­ed the gov­ern­ment for a total of $1,408. One woman thought the gov­ern­ment knew she had a job. Her hus­band was in jail and she had to walk ten miles to and from her job. Per­son­al­ly, I think I’d have let her keep the $100.10 she was over­paid. (There are cer­tain facts in this sto­ry that remind me of today as well. Can you say “hard times for many?”)

For­tu­nate­ly, the 100-years ago today sto­ry doesn’t remind me of cur­rent events. A man who owned the local store and ran the enclosed post office came down with “the dread­ed” dis­ease of small pox. Not only was his busi­ness estab­lish­ment quar­an­tined and closed, but his entire fam­i­ly was quar­an­tined and two near­by schools were closed for two weeks.

Have you heard any old news late­ly that could have been said about yes­ter­day as well? If my com­ments sec­tion is work­ing, I’d love to hear it.

Does This Look Like Thanksgiving?

A welcoming door

A wel­com­ing door

Thanks­giv­ing is all about fam­i­ly around the fire, turkey with all the trim­mings, bless­ings, falling leaves, and nip­py weath­er, right? Not always. We vis­it­ed our Flori­da daugh­ter and grand­chil­dren.

Florida Sunset

Flori­da Sun­set

We vis­it­ed the beach where our grand­daugh­ter took a fab­u­lous sun­set pic­ture of her moth­er for her class. We ate lots. Daugh­ter and I worked on for­mat­ting the final ver­sion of my new book. (More about that lat­er.) And we dropped grand­son off at col­lege after his break and came home. Okay, he drove, but it was our car.

Yep, we came home, short­ly to see a lit­tle more than nip­py weath­er.

Early December Snow in Pennsylvania

Ear­ly Decem­ber Snow in Penn­syl­va­nia

How was your Thanks­giv­ing? Did you cel­e­brate in the tra­di­tion­al man­ner?

Looks like the com­ment sec­tion is not work­ing again. You may com­ment on the con­tact page. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Too much to do!

It’s a com­mon prob­lem, at least for me. I make plans, sched­ule things — sure I’ll have no prob­lem han­dling it all. Then what hap­pens? I real­ize I have way more than I want to do.

Exer­cise. It’s very good for one, and absolute­ly essen­tial for a writer who spends so much time in front of her com­put­er. There­fore, two morn­ings a week I exer­cise with a class. Great fun, actu­al­ly. Of course, even though it’s only a 45-minute class, it takes me the rest of the morn­ing to actu­al­ly feel like work­ing. Yep, morn­ing gone.

Two morn­ings gone out of a week? No prob­lem. I can han­dle that two-week class on opti­miz­ing Goodreads for authors. Also, I can learn how to post to my mys­tery cri­tique group all over again since we start­ed using Google groups instead of Yahoo groups. (And, that course? Also on a new venue — more to learn.)

Oh, yeah, there’s a few oth­er things. I’m count­ing down the time until my new YA is pub­lished. Work­ing with the artist on the cov­er design now. And, hope­ful­ly those edits I’m doing on the sequel to Yesterday’s Body will be final edits.

Then there’s the arti­cle and the blog post I agreed to do. A month or two ago I spaced them out, too busy in August and Sep­tem­ber. Yep, due this month. Work­ing on it, real­ly I am.

Is there more? Uh-huh. Old­est grand­son get­ting mar­ried. Then the fol­low­ing week youngest daugh­ter and fam­i­ly hav­ing their annu­al, all-day fall par­ty.

I’m sure there’s a book among those I’ve read that would absolute­ly fit this post. But, will I take an after­noon lulling through the shelves, pick­ing the per­fect read to rec­om­mend? Nope, sor­ry, not today. I’m over-sched­uled as it is. I’ll have more time next week — make that next month.

Sailing Blogs to Visit

This week I didn’t post my usu­al arti­cle. Instead, I vis­it­ed Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers with a blog about a sail­ing trip my hus­band and I made in 1989. It was the first big trip we made on our sail­boat. I called it Sail­ing the Dis­mal Swamp Canal to Hur­ri­cane Hugo.

ICW Trip - 1989

ICW Trip — 1989

To see this post, go to this blog site. Of course, with a title that includes a hur­ri­cane name, you might guess what we ran into.

We took many trips between that one and our last big trip some years lat­er. By then we were too old to han­dle lines and dodge swing­ing booms. We had a pow­er cruis­er instead of a sail boat. For that last trip, we were a group of only two boats. I blogged about that last year for Dames of Dia­logue. You can see it at their blog.

Death of a Hot Chick, the mys­tery men­tioned in both blogs was inspired by my sail­ing trips. So too was my ama­teur sleuth, Cyd Den­linger. I blogged about how I chose her before I had a sin­gle book pub­lished. That is on Work­ing Stuffs.

These blog posts, espe­cial­ly the last one I men­tion above, will give you an idea of how a writer’s mind works when she is craft­ing some­one to solve her mys­ter­ies. Enjoy!

Seasonal Thoughts

Sea­son­al? Not as in salt and pep­per or onion flakes. Oh, no. As in, it must be fall because kids went back to school, despite the fact that fall does not offi­cial­ly arrive until lat­er in Sep­tem­ber. So, since it IS fall, Hal­loween must be close behind. How do I know? My local gro­cery store has a full dis­play of Hal­loween Tastykakes. Yum!

Def­i­nite­ly time for spooky thoughts. Ghosts, mag­ic, and spooky para­nor­mal mys­tery books. Yes!

One series of choice for the sea­son is L. L. Bartlett’s Jeff Resnick series. Bartlett (under two oth­er names) writes two of my favorite cozy mys­tery series, but this is more of a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller. Jeff has dreams, or visions, of mur­der. How spooky is that? The first in the series is Mur­der on the Mind. The newest one, Dark Waters, comes out on Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Anoth­er favorite series is Sofie Kelly’s Mag­i­cal Cats mys­tery series. Are those cats real, ghosts, or what? One that I read is Curios­i­ty Thrilled The Cat. The newest one, Final Cat­call, also comes out Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Soon I hope to announce my newest mys­tery, a spooky young adult titled Cher­ish. There are ghosts, time trav­el, and Hal­loween involved in this one.

I keep try­ing to get com­ments active on this post. Maybe this time? Don’t know yet. How­ev­er, com­ments will be open on my Goodreads blog tomor­row.

School is Open — Remember When

Remem­ber when school start­ed the Tues­day or Wednes­day after Labor Day? Remem­ber when you took the kids shop­ping for shoes the week before–so they wouldn’t out­grow their new footwear before school start­ed? Remem­ber when the kids scanned the school lunch menu and decid­ed they pre­ferred a bag lunch from home? And most of all — remem­ber when there were no back­packs that weighed down your child’s young shoul­ders?

Okay, I’m old. Even my kids are old because they can remem­ber it all as well. Now, their kids, that’s a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. They have ipads and smart phones and com­put­ers, as well as books. They might take a class pre­sent­ed on the com­put­er at home. They all return to school in August, some even ear­ly August. (Of course, they do get more or longer vaca­tions dur­ing the year. That may be all to the good, actu­al­ly.) I’ve even read about schools that decide the bag lunch isn’t ade­quate and throw it out. Ah, me. A group of us old ladies got togeth­er a cou­ple of weeks ago and agreed that we wouldn’t want to be rais­ing out chil­dren now.

But, of course, every old gen­er­a­tion looks askance at the young upstarts. Every­thing is new, and they wouldn’t want it any oth­er way. Look at the amaz­ing things our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren are learning–and doing. Even we old fogies are catch­ing up with the times. And, for sure, if our young­sters kept to the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry ways, they’d be com­plete­ly lost in a year or two.

How lost would they be if they start­ed the way I did? Maybe you learned to read from a Dick and Jane book too. I did, and, believe it or not, so did my old­est daugh­ter. I was amazed when she brought her book home to show us. There it was. “See Dick run. See Jane run.” All year long she stud­ied from that book, just as I did. And, at the end of the book and the end of the year came the sto­ry I loved. “Dark Pony.”

So, in hon­or of the past, the book I want to men­tion today is We Play (Read With Dick and Jane) It is even avail­able! (There are oth­ers list­ed, but they are unavail­able.)

I would ask you to add a com­ment, but that isn’t work­ing. Don’t know why. Haven’t fig­ured out how to fix it yet. Hope­ful­ly, next week my com­ments will be back. How­ev­er, you can com­ment on my oth­er pages — don’t know why that is either! You may also vis­it my web­site here. Love to see you.

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!)

News From The Past

Does your news­pa­per pub­lish week­ly reminders of our past? Mine does. One week they tell us what hap­pened 25 and 75 years ago. The next week they give us the lat­est from 50 and 100 years ago. (They’ve been in … Con­tin­ue read­ing