Holiday Events as Research

It’s easy to feel guilty about not writing over the holidays. We’re overwhelmed with festive meal preparations, gift shopping, out-of-town guests, and myriad social activities. Yet everything we do can be considered fodder for the imagination. Be observant, note the characters around you, and describe your surroundings in your head. One of these items might prick your story brain and inspire a scene later on.

Holiday Events as Research

As an example, I recently strolled through the Longwood Festival. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon Judy’s Dolls, a site I’d looked up online as research for Star Tangled Murder, #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, interviews a suspect at her boutique doll store. I modeled some of the descriptions on what I’d read online. It was delightful to step inside this Victorian house to see the actual shop and meet the proprietor. As Marla has a son, and I have a grandson, I’d wondered if they had gifts for boys. And yes, they did. I bought a couple of items and put them away for Hanukkah.

 

Next, we strolled the lanes of tents and admired the craft items for sale. I found a unique handmade trivet and bought one as I’m always needing them for dinner parties.

 

Then we came upon a hat vendor. Having seen one before at the Apopka festival, I was reminded of a scene just like this one in Star Tangled Murder. Marla attends a July Fourth town festival where she encounters a hat lady. The woman shares gossip about one of the murder suspects.

      

This is why as a writer, we should not discount our experiences even if it seems like we are not writing. Everything we do becomes potential research for our books.

 

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Favorite Fall Recipes

With the holidays rapidly approaching, you’ll be thinking about menu items for your festive dinners. These items are some favorites of mine, aside from the traditional roast turkey meal. Personally, I look forward to the leftovers more than anything. These are dishes you can try on other nights or add them to your holiday menu.

Fall Recipes

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

This soup serves as a starter dish for a dinner party or can be a meal in itself with a salad on the side. It’s perfect for chilly fall evenings.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
1 pound peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 carrot, sliced
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses
1 cup half-and-half

Directions

Melt butter over medium heat in large soup pot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Then add squash and carrots. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add spices and cook until vegetables start to caramelize. Add chicken broth and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and discard thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. (It can be frozen at this stage.) Stir in molasses to blend. Add half-and-half and mix to combine. Ladle into individual bowls and serve hot.

If frozen, defrost gradually and then reheat in large pot. Stir in molasses and half-and-half and serve as above.

TURKEY TENDERLOINS

 I love roast turkey same as anyone, but this is an alternative if you don’t feel like roasting a whole bird or even making a boneless breast of turkey. You can slice the tenderloins into serving sizes and make a nice presentation with the sauce. If the liquids get absorbed during cooking and the tenderloins aren’t done, add more broth.

Turkey Tenderloins

Ingredients

2 lb. turkey tenderloins
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup chicken broth
½ tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. light rum

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown turkey on both sides in melted butter in large skillet. Remove tenderloins from pan and place into greased baking dish. Deglaze pan with chicken broth and pour drippings over turkey. Sprinkle with thyme. In a separate bowl, combine molasses and rum. Spoon over tenderloins. Bake turkey in oven uncovered for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Slice and serve warm. Makes 6-8 servings.

RITZ CRACKER DRESSING

I use the terms ‘stuffing’ and ‘dressing’ interchangeably. However, if you want to be technical, stuffing is a seasoned mixture of bread, vegetables, and oil or butter that is stuffed inside poultry. Dressing is cooked in a separate dish on the side. In the South, cornbread dressings are popular. This recipe is inherited from my mother.

 Ingredients

3 or more rolls of Ritz Crackers
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
8 oz. container chopped onions
8 oz. container chopped celery
6 oz. matchstick carrots
Garlic powder
Salt
White wine (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumple crackers into a large bowl. Add eggs, mix, and set aside. In a frypan, sauté chopped onions and celery in olive oil until wilted. Add to crackers along with grated carrots. Sprinkle in salt and garlic powder to taste. If you want to moisten the mixture further, add some white wine. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

SWEET POTATOES WITH MARSHMALLOWS

You all have your favorite sweet potato recipes for the holidays, and here’s mine. It’s quick and easy, which is how I like to cook. For a larger crowd, add extra cans of potatoes.

Ingredients

(2) 40-oz. can sweet potatoes or yams
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup light corn syrup
1 bag mini marshmallows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain and mash potatoes and put into large bowl. Stir in melted butter and corn syrup. Pour into greased 9x13x2 inch baking dish. Sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake 20 minutes or so, until dish is heated through. Remove when marshmallows are lightly browned. Serves 8 to 10.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Personally, I prefer jellied cranberry sauce and buy the cans for expediency. This recipe is easy if you want a healthier version.

Ingredients

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 cup water

Directions

In a medium pot, mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until cranberries are softened. Cool and store in refrigerator until served. Makes 2 cups.

PUMPKIN MOUSSE

This is a light dessert if you want an alternative to pumpkin pie.

Ingredients

 1 ½ cups fat free milk
1 oz. package sugar free instant butterscotch pudding mix
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup fat free whipped topping
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Whisk milk and pudding mix in large bowl for two minutes. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Add to the pudding mixture. Gently fold in whipped topping until blended. Spoon into individual dessert cups. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4 to 6.

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For more recipes, check out A Bad Hair Day Cookbook available at most online bookstores. With 160+ recipes, plus anecdotes and cooking tips offered by savvy sleuth Marla Vail, this award-winning title will become a handy reference guide for quick and easy meals.

Deals and Steals

Booklover’s Bench Giveaway – Last Day!
Enter Here to win a free book at Booklover’s Bench.

BB Nov 2022 Contest

Author Interviews with Nancy J. Cohen

Nov. 17 – George Cramer’s site – https://gdcramer.com/2022/11/17/nancy-j-cohen-look-out-for-bad-hair-days/

Nov. 8 – Feed my Reads at https://timetofeedmyreads.blogspot.com/2022/11/nancy-j-cohen-interview.html

On Sale

The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Sets are on sale at Kobo for 30% off in Canada, U.S., U.K., Australia, & New Zealand. Use promo code 30NOV at checkout. Get started on this humorous cozy mystery series now! Don’t own a Kobo device? Download their free app. https://www.kobo.com/us/en/series/the-bad-hair-day-mysteries-box-set

Box Sets

DEAD ROOTS, my Thanksgiving mystery with ghosts, is on sale at Amazon. A haunted hotel with secret passages & paranormal experts provides the scare factor over Thanksgiving weekend at Marla’s family reunion. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PZBYD1P/

Dead Roots

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my online friends. I am thankful for your follows and comments throughout the year. Your feedback and support are immensely important to me, and I just want to take this time to let you know how very much I appreciate each one of you.

Turkey

Here is wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday,

Nancy

Turkey Tetrazzini

Ingredients

16 oz. spaghetti or vermicelli
2 cups cooked roast turkey or 8 oz. package Perdue carved turkey breast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
12 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
10.5 oz. can Healthy Choice cream of mushroom soup
12 oz. package frozen mixed vegetables
4 oz. jar diced pimento, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Paprika

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Sauté onion, green pepper, and mushrooms until wilted. Meanwhile, cut turkey into bite-size pieces and put into a large bowl along with cooked spaghetti. Mix in onion, green pepper, and mushrooms, plus mushroom soup, mixed vegetables, pimento, cheddar cheese, white wine, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well to blend.

Pour mixture into greased 10x14x2 inch baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and paprika on top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through. Serves 6 to 8.

 

If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will

Our kids don’t often get time off from work to come home for Thanksgiving. This year, we are looking forward to having them here for a home cooked meal. Eagerly awaiting their visit, we decided to get a new Samsung stainless steel, French door refrigerator. Our beige one was years old and didn’t even have a water filter. A new one would be healthier with filtered water and would match the other appliances we have already replaced.

The delivery was scheduled for last Saturday, while I was at a bridal shower with my cousins.

Cousins Shower

We had a great time, and I drove home anticipating seeing our beautiful new Samsung refrigerator, assuming all had gone well with my husband in charge.

And here’s where things went afoul. He said the freezer temperature, set at 0 degrees, wasn’t dropping. It was staying steady around 68. Bad news.

By now it was dark out. I snatched the phone and called customer service for the Best Buy extended warranty. After ascertaining the appliance wasn’t in demo mode (where it lights up for store display but the cooling apparatus doesn’t work), the agent scheduled service for Tuesday morning.

Tuesday! This was an emergency. A brand new appliance wasn’t working properly, and it’s before a holiday. I have not bought a turkey for Thanksgiving yet. I dare not buy one until this problem is diagnosed. I have to tell you that we were disappointed in this delayed response.

thanksgiving

The green beans that were in the freezer defrosted and I tossed them out. Regarding all the appetizers I’d planned to serve our kids, we have cooked them and are eating them as we go–mini quiches, spinach and cheese stuffed mushrooms, parmesan potatoes and more. Thankfully, I hadn’t kept any large meat packages in the freezer.

Frozen Food

As for Thanksgiving, I’m afraid to get a turkey until the serviceman gives his verdict. I also want him to check the refrigeration unit to make sure that part is adequately cooling. I stuck a couple of wine bottles in there and they got cold, so hopefully that section is okay. Still, if we need a replacement, who knows when they’ll schedule it to arrive. After installation, it takes 24 hours for the appliance to get up to speed. I think I’d wait until after Thanksgiving so we don’t lose the stuff in the top section.

So after he tells me what’s what on Tuesday, I will either buy a fresh turkey, if any are left, or an already cooked turkey breast. We are fortunate to have one of those mini refrigerators in our laundry room, crammed with all our perishables from the old fridge. I could possibly make room for the poultry but not much else. As for the green bean casserole, I’ll get the beans from Winn Dixie on Thursday morning if available. I have the sweet potato ingredients and can make that from scratch on Thursday too. But then, where to put the leftovers?

We are unsettled by this disruption to our routine, not like after a hurricane when you might expect a power failure. You don’t expect a new machine to have a major failure. The Best Buy warranty service should have sent someone out immediately this morning instead of making us wait. Keep watch here, and I’ll let you know the outcome in the Comments section.

Hey, I can count this as one of my holiday disasters. The only other time something bad happened was when the dog ate my broccoli cheese casserole prior to a family gathering.

We’ll eat out if we have to for the rest of the weekend. Being together is what matters.

I hope YOUR Thanksgiving is a joyous one! And I thank each and every one of you for following my blog and supporting my work.

 

 

Thanksgiving Weekend

How was your Thanksgiving and Black Friday? Here I am at the salon, trying a new hairdo in preparation for the holiday. Usually my stylist uses a curling iron but this time she tried rollers.

Salon Rollers

Turkey Day arrives, and I get my main dish ready to put in the oven.

P1020115 (800x600)   turkey (800x600)

Several hours later, it’s done. Maybe it didn’t brown as well as I’d like on the sides, but the thermometer tells me the inside is cooked.

Turkey Cooked

Our table is set. We’re having a quiet holiday this year, which means we can relax and enjoy each other’s company in private. The guys watch sports on TV until it’s time to eat. We’re having traditional fare of roast turkey with gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, broccoli cheese casserole, and jellied cranberry sauce. No stuffing; our kids don’t like it. Pumpkin pie from Costco and homemade brownies for dessert.

P1020118 (800x600)

Our stomachs are satisfied and our blood is suffused with sufficient fat and sugar content for the rest of the month. We go to bed in anticipation of the shopping frenzy on Friday.

In the morning, we head to Sawgrass Mills Mall. We find parking in a relatively unpopulated area that we favor and stride toward the doors. Sales beckon, and we emerge a few hours later carrying packages. I bought a new pair of NYDJ black jeans at Nordstrom Rack for half the price of what I’d pay for them in the department stores. Worn out, we went home for a nap.

Today we may go to a park or do spot shopping but we’re not looking for anything in particular. I’ve already bought some of my holiday gifts and would rather go back to the stores on a regular weekday. Tonight we’ll take a break from turkey leftovers and dine out at a favorite restaurant.

Tomorrow is my birthday. That means brunch and a happy day spent with family, the best gift in the world.

Gifts

What’s your plan for the rest of the weekend? Any new recipes to share?

Home for the Holidays

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

With Thanksgiving and the Holidays approaching rapidly, now is the time to straighten your house and clean out the clutter before festooning your living room with decorations and welcoming your guests.            

                                     

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Dust Collectors: Make a list of all the items you want to get rid of in terms of furniture, memorabilia, paintings, and knickknacks sitting idly on your shelves. Write down descriptions and the prices you’d like to receive. If necessary, take digital photos. Then decide if you want to put them on eBay or Craigslist, have a yard sale, sell them on consignment at a local auction house, or donate them to a charity.

2. Photos, Slides, and VHS Tapes: Consider converting these into digital format. Re the photos, do you want to scan them onto a DVD, upload them to online storage, or scrapbook them into an album? It’s easier to sort your photos first by subject and then tackle one album at a time. Now’s the time to throw out duplicates and blurry pictures. Clear your drawers for other uses and save your heirs the job of sorting through this stuff later. Label the photos as you sort them. And how about slides and family videos of your early vacations or of the kids? Photo shops and places like Costco will convert your slides and VHS tapes onto DVD. Pay the price then toss the slides and tapes that take up too much room. Or buy a machine that will convert VHS to DVD in your home.

3. Clothing, Shoes, Handbags: Sift through your closet with a ruthless hand. Collect any clothing you haven’t worn in years and accessories you no longer favor. Donate them to a charity or hold a yard sale.

4. Files: Try to clear out those mounds of papers that collect everywhere. Tackle one pile at a time. Throw out items that are no longer relevant. File papers you want to keep for reference. Take care of things that need immediate attention. You’ll feel better when your home office or kitchen counter is more organized.

5. Stuff That Doesn’t Belong To You: What do you do about all the items in drawers and boxes that belong to your adult kids or spouse? Can you toss them without permission? If the item has any meaning to your loved one, don’t touch it. You wouldn’t like it if someone threw out your treasures, even if they held value to no one else. Remember the command: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. On the other hand, if you find a lot of old papers or letters, toys or tools, etc. that likely no one would miss, why not box the stuff and tell the owner you intend to toss the items. You’re giving him or her the option of sorting through them first. This makes the task less overwhelming by dividing it into small bundles to attack at a time.

6. Prepare For Company: Now that your house looks neater, and you’re ready to get out the decorations, there’s one more thing you have to do. Polish the Silver. Here’s a handy tip on getting your silver bright and shiny with little effort.   

SILVER POLISH SHORTCUT

Put the stopper in your kitchen sink drain. Line the sink with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Fill the basin with warm water. Dissolve 1/4 cup each salt and baking soda in water. Put in silver pieces. Let sit for a few minutes, then rotate. Sprinkle in more salt and baking soda as needed. When tarnish is gone, remove the item onto a clean towel and dry. If you wish, rub off stubborn spots with your favorite silver paste, rinse, and then buff with a dry cloth.