Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Your Fault - Wendy Coblentz, Author

Tinker Cookies

1/2 lb. butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, add sugar, egg, flavoring and flour. (Measure flour before sifting)  Put dough in a press.  Make cookies and place on an unbuttered cookie sheet.  Bake 5-6 minutes or until light brown.

(These cookies are called "Tinker Cookies" because my great aunt made them every time we'd go to Reno.  Wendy Coblentz)

It's Your Fault - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

I had followed the recommendations from the exercise teacher, physical therapist, yoga instructor, and pain psychologist.  My brain surged into overload with advice.  The therapist whose expertise was human and equine neurofeedback suggested I eliminate dairy, meat, gluten, sugar, and salt form my diet, dismissing my pleas that I would starve.  A practitioner advised using the $75 water pillow for better alignment.  I spent a week of sleepless nights sloshing around on the high seas.  I began to second-guess myself with every move, ranging from how I walked to how I picked up a pencil, always wondering if I was doing anything right.  The lure of alternative medicine was leading me into the bowels of despair.  I felt batted around like a tether ball, dangling in the wind when the game was over - and my back still hurt.

When I picked up this book to read I thought "boy, someone who has the same problem I have - back pain."   Most people either know someone who has a back problem or have the problem themselves.   If you happen to be someone who doesn't have or never have had back problems, there is no way you can fully understand what we go through.   There is, of course, tremendous pain that you have no control over.  Then there is the constant moaning that eventually seems to get on everyone's nerves.  We finally learn to live with our pain but at the expense of our own sanity, which is at times controlled by meds and tears.  Then there are the doctors.  I really believe that one qualification a doctor must have is to experience back pain themselves before proclaiming to understand or treating our problem.

Fortunately for me, and others who read this book, we now have a list of just about every treatment that has been created.  Wendy Coblentz takes us through how every treatment is supposed to work and how it really works.  This book will save you so much money by giving you a choice of what might and might not work for you by following how it worked for the Author.

 It is like a dictionary of back treatments, but it's more than a book of possible medical treatments for the back.  The humor woven throughout gave me another laugh that I could relate to.  The Author's raising of a son brought back memories of my raising a rebellious daughter of my own.   This book is not just for those who have back problems, it's actually for everyone.  I loved it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dead Lake - B J Robinson, Author

Judy's Recipe for Fried Croaker or Other Types of Fish

Crush crackers or use blender (depending upon how much fish, you might need one packet or more)

Put one egg for small amount of fish, two for more in a bowl.

Heat oil in frying pan.

Dip fish in egg and coat with crackers instead of using cornmeal or fish fry.

This is how Judy in Dead Lakes cooks the fish they catch on Dead Lake. Easy and simple. Enjoy. You can use the crackers and egg instead of fish fry for any type of fish.


Dead Lake - Book 1 Dead Lake Mystery Series - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish 

'A lone cypress tree formed an eerie silhouette, but it wasn't the only creepy skeleton rising from Dead Lake.  Judy's eyes took in her surroundings and noticed many bony fingers reaching skyward.  No other boats launched.  She couldn't shake the ominous feeling that snaked through her body.

Judy Knowlton and her husband Jim both enjoyed retirement, but their opinions about fishing differed.  She loved to fish, but she didn't think she needed a boat.  He did.  The red and black Bass Tracker was his pride and joy.  Jim wanted her to go fishing with him on Dead Lake.  She was nervous enough about going in that small fishing boat, let alone on Dead Lake.  Surely nothing good could come of a fishing trip on a lake with a name like that, but she'd do just about anything to please her honey.'

Well, guess what.  Her fears were soon to become true.  Apparently a convict had escaped and was in the area.  Jim didn't seem to be too concerned.  Surely the man wasn't stupid enough to be around this swamp of a lake.  Even when their boat ran out of gas, and they became lost he felt safe.  That is until a small boat with a man who didn't appear to be enjoying himself fishing turned up.  Judy prayed that he was just a local fisherman but from the look on his face, she knew that wasn't the case.

Judy and Jim can't seem to get rid of this man who turns out to be as slippery as an eel.  He is captured and tied up by the man they met who goes by the name Swamp Rat only to find his way lose.  He defeats the police every time they come close to capturing him.  He knows the swamp like the back of his hand and why not?  He actually grew up there with his moonshine producing dad and a brother before being sent to prison.  The biggest question in Judy's mind is why is he so attracted to her property.  That too was something she was about to find out the hard way.

This book is filled with suspense, a few giggles, and a lot of page turning.  This is book one of the series, and I can't wait to read book two


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vanishing Trail - The Taking of Jonathan Bishop - Stephen Kosa, Author

Kalamata-Balsamic Chicken with Feta
(A favorite dish of Author Stephen Kosa)

·         4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
·         1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
·         Cooking spray
·         1 cup grape tomatoes, halved 
·         16 pitted kalamata olives, halved
·         3 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette
·         3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
       2 tablespoons small basil leaves 

Sprinkle chicken evenly with pepper.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Cook chicken 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter; keep warm.  While chicken cooks, combine tomatoes, olives, and vinaigrette in a medium bowl.  Add tomato mixture to pan; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until tomatoes soften. Spoon over chicken. Top evenly with cheese and basil.

Vanishing Trail - The Taking of Jonathan Bishop - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

His rocking slowed slightly as his mind drifted.  He could still see her, running vigorously along the sandy beach, just paces ahead of her pursuer.  Her feet churned heavily in the thick sand as she struggled to pull ahead.  she gasped for breath while her heart pounded fiercely - her freedom just strides away.  She was young and athletic, but ultimately no match for the swift moves of the former wide receiver from Wisconsin.  with a burst of power he closed the gap between them.  It was inevitable.  He reached for her and with one fluid motion cradled her in his arms as they spilled gently to the ground.  "You run pretty fast for an attorney," she said with a thick Spanish accent, giggling and gasping for breath.  "You're not so bad yourself for a stodgy old museum curator."

A contented silence ensured as they watch the sun slide into the ocean like a giant orange ball melting into a mirror.  He would never forget that day in Peru.  It was a magical day - a day of life, a day of hope, a day of promise.  It was the beginning of their life together, the life they had both dreamed about.  But like so many dreams, reality was certain to trickle in.

He slipped the photograph back into his shirt pocket and headed inside to bed  Tomorrow would bring another long day in court - another act in the seemingly endless theatrical production.

Attorney Jake Bishop's mind seldom strays from his beautiful wife Blanca who had died in a car accident in her home country of Peru while on an archaeological trip.  She left his heart with a void but not before giving him a precious son they named Jonathan after his best friend Professor Jonathan Albright.

Jake's life was drifting along until fate hit again with someone taking his son.  Jake vowed to find him and after months of hopes that didn't pan out he felt that he would never hold his son again.   After the death of Professor Albright and the letter he left, Jake found a new hope that sent him right back where his journey began... Peru.  But not in search for his son but for the possibility that Blanca just might be alive. 

This book is a hard one to put down.  It combines romance, mystery and the black market.  I held my breath in hopes that the woman the Professor wrote about in his letter to Jake would turn out to be his wife.  I crossed my fingers while hoping that he or the FBI would find Jonathan.  And then there was Jake's old girlfriend Maggie from years back who still had strong feelings for him.  That brought questions that I couldn't wait to find answers to.  Will it have a happy ending?  Will the woman be Blanca?  Will they ever find Jonathan?  Will Jake even make it out of Peru alive?   I have to say that the ending of this book took me by surprise, as I think it will you.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Sand Bluff Murders - C. M. Albrecht, Author

(A Jonas favorite
1 lb. ground beef.
1/2 lb. ground pork.
One chopped onion.
Quarter or half each of a green pepper and a red pepper, chopped.
At least one good stalk of chopped celery.
Up to half a cup of olive oil.
I brown all this and set aside.

In a separate pan I simmer broth. Prefer beef, but chicken stock will do. You can create your own or buy liquid stock or use as a last resort, bouillon cubes, etc. About a quart of this.

In this stock as it simmers, add, a bay leaf.
2 Tsp.  anise seed (not star anise).
4 Tsp. fine basil (or you can chop your own fresh basil, which takes more),
One good-size head of garlic, chopped a bit,
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar,
1/4 cup sugar.
2 Tsp.  dry mustard

Simmer broth 1/2 hour.

Open a can of diced tomatoes. Drain liquid into broth. Give the tomatoes a little chop, or if you can, get the smaller chopped tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the beef and continue to cook slowly.

Strain the broth into the beef mixture and add tomato paste. Probably at least three small cans. You can adjust the thickness of the sauce with a can or so of tomato sauce and/or more tomato paste to get the right consistency.

Let this sauce gently simmer for another half hour, stirring occasionally.

Pour over hot spaghetti or rigatoni , etc., and top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

The Sand Bluff Murders - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

"A corpse?" I smiled.  Like a dead body?  Oh yeah!  I was supposed to take this seriously?  Only thing people killed around Sand Bluff were lots of bottles of beer and the occasional careless cat that got in the way of a speeding pickup.  I checked out the town's reputation before I ever applied for the job.  This was supposed to be a cool job with a badge, easy money and a little authority in a small town where nothing ever happens - that's what I signed on for.  Okay, let him have his little joke.  Maybe this was a sort of initiation or something.

Cheif Castillo stroked his mustache and smiled grimly.  "our Officer Ackers didn't even know the guy was dead.  Officer Ackers thought the stiff was just drunk.  He dragged the body to his patrol car and brought him in to sober up."  Chief Castillo splayed both dark hands on the desk.  "In doing so of course he totally f... up the scene and manhandled the body, so I'd say you've got your work cut out for you."  "My work?  Are you saying this is a homicide?" 

Jonas McCleary was hired on with the Sand Bluff police department as the Chief Detective.  Actually he was the only detective.  Actually they had never had a detective before.  Now that he has been on the job just three days, they have their first murder in 20 years.  Way to go Jonas!  Well, how hard can a murder in a small town be to solve?  Turns out it was pretty difficult, especially when two more bodies turn up. 

Author C. M. Albrecht has written what I call an enjoyable 'light-hearted' murder mystery that includes a little humor and a lot of questions without so much gore and strong language.  As hard as I tried to determine who the guilty person was I just about had it near the end but still couldn't connect them with all three murders.  This book will keep you in suspense and keep you guessing.  I really enjoy this Author's style of writing. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Critical Element - John L. Betcher, Author

Fresh Sweet Salsa
(A Beck Special)

3 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including seeds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)

Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.


The Critical Element - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Rodney slid back in the chair, his hands gripping the armrests.  he cracked his neck to both sides before beginning his tale.  "It was yesterday afternoon," he said.  "Sunday...and I was out on the John Deere checking my fields, you know...and all of a sudden I hear this sound.  It was a kinda weird sound, you know?"  "It was kinda like whoosh-thud...tumble, tumble, tumble," he said.  "So I got up and looked toward the sound."   ..."something was knocking down my corn"... "This thing, whatever it was, knocked down maybe thirty or forty feet of head-high corn stalks, in a straight line," he continued.  "I saw the last ones go down."  He clapped one flattened hand downward onto the other.  "Then all was quiet." 

..."I stand up straight and look around," he said, "my wrench hand at the ready.  But there's no sign of man nor beast." ... So I stoop down and start pawing through the grass and then...just when I'm about to give up, the back of my hand hits something big and solid in the grass."  ..."I decided to give the thing a kick with my boot."  "And voila,... there it was."  "It was a meteor!"

Rodney Holton was a local farmer known in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for his flim-flammery, so when he recited his story to Attorney James Becker, Beck had his doubts as to how much was true and how much wasn't.  And to assure his belief he and his wife Beth decided to pay a visit to Rodney's farm where he displayed his 'meteor' and charged $20.00 per person to view.  Yep, Rodney was up to his old tricks again.  The taped off area that contained burned grass and what appeared to be a bowling ball dug into the ground didn't quite fit the story he had relayed to Beck.  Yet there was something that just didn't ring quite right that had Beck believing there might be a bit more to Rodney's story.  When the FBI turns up looking for the meteor, Beck's feelings proved true.   What didn't quite fit was the finding of Hoof and Mouth Disease that were found in Rodney's cattle.  This strain appeared to be found only in the South African tribal farming area, so how did it get to the US.  And what is its connection with the meteor? 

The answers to these questions plus, lead Beck and the FBI to suspect North Korea has a hand in at least one part of the mystery.  Their beliefs are reinforced when the meteor turns up missing and is found to have been in the presence of a Korean man who was found dead with traces of a fluffy, white powder that is such a favorite of terrorists world-wide - Anthrax.  After a search of the man's work place Beck and agent Costa discover half of the powder found had been mixed with another white substance.  What was missing was the other half of undiluted powder that could kill thousands if placed in the right venue. 

I've read everything John L. Betcher has written and every time I think he can't get any better.  Well he does.  The Critical Element is by far his best in the James Becker series.  I can't wait to see what Beck will do next.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Means to an End - Elizabeth Romero, Author

The word  lagniappe is a Louisiana term which means a small extra gift. This recipe is my lagniappe to you. Hope you enjoy this Cajun favorite - Elizabeth Romero
  • 2 pounds shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound small peeled shrimp
  • 2 cups lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons self rising flour
  • 2 quarts chicken or seafood stock
  • 2 large onions diced
  • 1 small head of garlic minced
  • 1 large bell pepper diced ribs removed
  • 1 rib of celery diced
  • 2 pounds of sliced okra fresh or frozen
  • I can Rotel tomatoes mild or spicy as you like
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons file’
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning to taste I add a tablespoon and then re-season when finished if I need more
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • cooked rice enough for at least one cup of cooked rice per person ( maybe more if you are Cajun)
  1. Place enough oil to season in the bottom of heavy pan.. add okra and cook on medium stir as necessary to keep from sticking..cook until sliminess is not visible Do not burn
  2. Add remaining vegetables and stir well continue sautéing until slightly brown
  3. Add seasonings ,bay leaf and stock
  4. Stir and scrape all bits from the bottom of the pan
  5. Add the small shrimp these will incorporate into the broth and disappear but give the strong seafood flavor needed cook for about one hour on medium ..while this is cooking do step 6
  6. Put remaining oil in a skillet bring to medium heat add the flour stir constantly until it is the color of peanut butter remove from heat immediately This is called roux
  7. Allow the roux cool off until the oil separates then remove the excess oil
  8. Spoon roux into the pot with the stock and other ingredients this will foam a bit but don’t worry cook on med high watching closely until foam subsides
  9. Add shrimp and cook on med /low for another ½ hour then add crab and cook for another 15 minutes
  10. Taste for seasoning and add to taste
  11. Add parsley and stir gently
  12. Place a scoop of rice in a bowl and ladle gumbo over rice
Footnote: Some say you can’t do Gumbo with roux and okra. Well my family did and after you try this you will agree. If you have questions go to my email…
Means to an End - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
Just as she was wrapping it around her, her stepfather appeared there in the doorway.  She almost screamed because he startled her so.  He had seen her naked before but not this way, only when he would sneak into her room in the dark.  She slapped her hand to her mouth to keep from crying out as he slowly leaned back on the door that separated her form the hall.  "What...what are you doing in here?  Momma will hear you," she said.  "That ole cow won't hear a thing.  She done took a couple of her little pills and she is snoring up a storm.  It is just you and me. "  She suddenly realized that he was cold sober.  She tried to reach for the doorknob, but he caught her arm.  He was scary when he wad drunk but not as quick.  Somehow this was different, and it was worse knowing he was in complete control now.  He pulled her near him and said, "You know we could be good friends if you weren't so uppity.  I've been feeding the three of you since me and your momma came to Carolina.  I reason you owe me a good time once in a while."
Ashby, her twin brother Danny and her mother Marie Boudreaux were sent to their own living hell when Ashby's grandfather sent her mother off to marry, not the twin's father, but Garrett Devereaux when he found she was pregnant with the twins.  He made them leave New Orleans and sent them to a rundown home with forty acres of land that he had won in a horse race many years before.  And he did this just to save face in the community. 
Garrett, who required Ashby and Danny to call him Poppa, were in for the abuse that only a monster like Garrett could inflict.  His hobby seemed to be getting drunk and then giving the kids and their mother a good beating.  Danny finally had enough and ran away, Ashby assumed to New Orleans so she was left to protect herself.  Her mother, who should have taken steps to keep her children safe spent most of her time popping pills and sleeping.  So now at the age of 17 Garrett has added another abuse to his list...  Sexual.   
Following Ashby as she deals with not just Garrett but also the 'popular girls' at school who added their own abuse through calling her names and passing rumors, gave me a feeling of heartbreak and pain that a child like Ashby must go through just to survive.  From what happens to Garrett to Ashby's chance of escape I had a hard time not reading just one more page and then just one more page in hopes that she would find some relief in her life.  The events that take place through her survival makes this one of the most unforgettable books I've read in some time and I'm happy to say that there are at least 2 more books that will allow me to spend even more time with Ashby and her life.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Convenient Marriage - Maggie Tideswell, Author

Mini Chocolate Kahlua Pots
(A Maggie Tideswell Special)

100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
150 ml single cream
2tablespoons Kahlua liqueur
4 glasses or ramekins

Place chocolate in a large bowl.
Heat cream just until it comes to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate and leave to stand.
Whisk until smooth, then add the Kahlua.
Spoon into the glasses/ramekins.
Leave in the fridge for 1 hour
Serve with crème fraiche and top with a coffee bean.

Convenient Marriage – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

‘Joshua skimmed down the page, not registering what he was reading, when a tiny advert squashed between Lost and Found and Obituaries jumped to his attention.  It simply read:

Husband needed.
Call Holly Turnbull 021 768 9223
No pranks please

Joshua read it a second time before he scrubbed both hands over his face, his elbows crumpling the newspaper on the table.  What was the world coming to, if women had to resort to dailies to get them a man?  he wondered.  Would this poor, misguided soul even want the kind of man who was like to respond to this silly ad?...  Surely this Holly woman didn’t think she was going to get a bona fide offer of marriage from this tiny advert, did she?... He waited for his laptop to boot up, then typed ‘Holly Turnbull’… Holly turned out to be a journalist and not bad to look at either.  He was impressed, even though it seemed odd that a woman like her would advertise for a husband.  Oh, well, each one to her own.  She would do nicely in his newly formed plan.’

Joshua Jordan has found a way to push Nicole, his fiancée of four years, into making the final commitment by scheduling a wedding.  He will give her an ultimatum of time and if she doesn’t find it within herself to meet the deadline, he will take this Holly woman up on her marriage proposal for just long enough to bring Nicole to her senses. 

Holly Turnbull didn’t actually place the ad for a husband in the daily paper, her three best friends and roommates did.  Holly’s ex-husband Donald has refused to allow her to see their two boys for long enough.  The girls believe that with a husband, Donald will have no excuses for not allowing her to see the boys.  The girls also believe Donald’s wife Gwen is the one that is really behind him not allowing Holly to see her kids.  So when the marriage proposal comes in from Joshua Jordan, Holly sees that this just might be the answers to her problems with Donald.  But with the proposal comes something that no one would have guessed... Moragh.  Moragh is a spirit from the past who starts sending Holly messages demanding that she ‘tell her story’ and to her surprise, the story starts at the very home belonging to Joshua.

This book has it all… murder, mystery, love, hate, ghosts, spells and the supernatural.  The tale is so twisted that you think you have it all figured out only to find that you’re wrong.  The characters are strong and if you believe in ghosts, very believable.  I really didn’t want this book to end but to just keep on going.  Convenient Marriage is a very entertaining book.  I loved it.

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