featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS--GUEST AUTHOR JUDY PENZ SHELUK

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic is her latest release and the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website/blog. 

Fore the Love of Golf

This blog series is titled Favorites, Failures & Frustrations, and to be honest, golf can fall into any one of those categories. Just ask Jordan Spieth about his experience at the 2016 Masters Tournament. But for this post, I’m going to concentrate on why golf is one of my favorite ways to spend time.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I’m by no means a great golfer. I seldom play 18 (lack of free time being the main factor). My typical 9-hole score runs anywhere from low 50s to high 50s, with the occasional peek into the high 40s and low 60s. In other words, the only thing consistent about my game is that I’m inconsistent.

None of that matters. Here’s why:

You can wear clothes you’d never otherwise wear. I actually have a black golf skirt with a pink paisley design that I team up with a pink top and matching visor. I have another blue and white paisley skirt. I can’t begin to imagine wearing paisley anywhere else. Or plaid shorts!

You can walk on lush green grass, surrounded by mini-beaches (also known as sand traps and ponds), and even get a bit of arm exercise while you’re at it.

If you belong to a league (I actually belong to two 9-hole ladies leagues), you can meet other golfers from all walks of life. I once golfed with a woman who was getting married for the second time at the age of 87! Naturally, the ceremony was at the golf course.

It’s a great way to network. When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m an author of mystery novels. Yes, I get people who say they don’t read, or they don’t read mysteries, or they have an idea for a book/always wanted to write a book. But golf has also opened up several book club opportunities for me, and quite a few paperback sales.

Golf keeps life in perspective. To quote Bobby Jones, the founder of Augusta National and co-founder of The Masters: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play the ball where it lies.”

Skeletons in the Attic,
Book One in the Marketville Mysteries

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she dfidn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR C. HOPE CLARK

Blue Crabs
C. Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Learn more about Hope and her books at her website.             

Crab, Shrimp, and a New Edisto Beach Mystery

My mind lives at a particular beach, and my body goes there several times a year – Edisto Beach, at the tip of Edisto Island, an hour south of Charleston, South Carolina. Having grown up within a half hour of the beach, it’s in my blood. When I lay eyes on a massive, five-hundred-year-old oak in all its dangling Spanish moss swaying in humidity-laden breezes. . . when I cross a bridge from the mainland to the island and take in the aroma of pluff mud . . . when white egrets and great blue herons coast on warm sea air with nary an effort . . . then I am where my soul needs to be.
Edisto Beach
Edisto Beach is like no other Carolina beach. It’s secluded, almost jungle-like, lacking the neon, franchises, and motels of other beaches that prefer the more commercial flavor. It’s where people cross the McKinley Washington Bridge over the Dawhoo River and leave their worries on the mainland behind them. All of which made for the perfect setting to take my broken character, an ex-big-city detective, freshly widowed with no desire to return to law enforcement. And of course I make crime follow her, or have her the only person able to see it, because, after all, crime doesn’t happen on Edisto. No, ma’am. No, sir.

Echoes of Edisto is book three in a series that coastal South Carolina has come to love, and I almost let Callie Jean Morgan settle in this time and decide she’s found her calling . . . but of course I have to rock those doubts. But that story’s for another time.

When Callie isn’t dealing with the unusual threats that come with island living, she is like everyone else, enjoying the seafood so easily available. And with the easy availability of seafood comes unique and handed-down ways to fix it.

But some folks aren’t into the richer sauces, the fried, or the casserole compilations. Instead they prefer the simple, which is Callie’s preference. Crab and shrimp, mainly, and here are two ways that locals eat these favorites. I’d say they eat these quick-fix dishes because of time constraints, but that’s rarely the issue. Instead, the simplest way to eat seafood is the healthiest and the best tasting, and require nothing special. Plus, you can close your eyes when you taste these recipes, and feel like your feet are in the sand.

Citrus Shrimp

(Measurements below are per person in your party)
1 pound of raw shrimp
2 Tbsp butter
Garlic to taste (don’t feel you have to go lightly here)
Salt to taste (but don’t overdo the salt)
Pepper to taste (optional)
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

Turn on your oven broiler. Put shrimp on a sheet pan and dot with butter. Sprinkle seasonings. Cover shrimp with orange and lemon slices. Broil until shrimp are pink, stirring often.

Now, let’s go to the crab. You can substitute the type of crab used, but blue crabs are common on the Carolina coast. They are pretty but they aren’t big, so feel free to eat several. As with all seafood, great with beer!

Steamed Blue Crab

Can of beer
Same amount of water
Same amount of vinegar (apple cider preferred)
Old Bay seasoning to taste
One to two dozen blue crabs (live, please. Just look the other way when you put them in the pot.)

Put three liquids into a stock pot. Place rack into the pot. Put one layer of crab, layer of seasoning, and repeat. Steam 15 minutes or until the crabs turn deep red.

NOTE: Don’t have Old Bay Seafood Seasoning? Use the following ground spices in amounts that you prefer: bay leaf, dry mustard, pepper, ginger, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and some crushed red pepper flakes.

Echoes of Edisto
Murder came in with the tide . . .

Edisto Island is a paradise where people escape from the mainstream world. Yet for newly sworn-in Edisto Police Chief Callie Jean Morgan, the trouble has just begun . . .

When a rookie officer drowns in a freak crash in the marsh, Callie's instincts tell her it wasn't an accident. As suspects and clues mount, Callie's outlandish mother complicates the investigation, and Callie's longtime friendship with Officer Mike Seabrook takes a turn toward something new—but is shadowed by the unsolved mystery of his wife's death. Everyone's past rises to the surface, entangling with death that cuts to the bone.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEI BEI!

Bei Bei
Who doesn’t like panda’s? They’re adorable! In 1972 two giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were given to the United States as gifts of the Chinese government following then President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China. They arrived at the National Zoo in Washington, DC on April 16, 1972. 

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, 1985
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29880326
    

In return, our government gave the Chinese two musk oxen. We definitely got the better end of the deal.
 
Musk Ox
During their time at the zoo, the two pandas had five cubs but none survived more than a few days. Alas, Ling-Ling died in 1992 at the age of 23, and Hsing-Hsing followed in 1999 at the age of 28.

Since then, the National Zoo has been home to other giant pandas. A year ago today saw the birth of Bei Bei, one of a pair of twins born to Mei Xiang. His father is Tian Tian. Unfortunately, Bei Bei’s twin only survived for four days. Bei Bei, however, has thrived and hopefully will have a long, happy life. Happy birthday, Bei Bei!

Friday, August 19, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR JUDI PHILLIPS

Today we’re joined by author Judi Phillips, here to talk about the re-release of some of her older books. Learn more about Judi and all her books at her website and blog.

Thank you, Anastasia, for inviting me to your blog. I appreciate the opportunity. Really enjoy your books, by the way. (Anastasia offer a huge cyber-grin and says, “Thank you!”)

A bit about me. I grew up in Maine, lived for a few years in Chicago, Illinois and Racine, Wisconsin, then moved to the Twin Cities, St. Paul/Minneapolis, and lived there for 30 years. Deciding I wanted a quieter life, I moved back to a small town in Maine. And then, The Winter of 2014 struck. Too much snow and too much cold! So, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a block away from my son's family. I now get to see my grandchildren most days. Lovin' living in the Southwest.

In February I re-released Secrets, the first book in the Heart to Heat series. It was originally published back in 2002 and written even earlier than that. Needless to say, it needed a bit of updating--as at one point the hero was looking for a phone booth. Remember those? I got the rights back from my publisher, added a couple of scenes, had it re-edited and got a gorgeous new cover.

I got the idea for the story when I was visiting my parents and their camp down around Machias, Maine, sometime in the mid '90s. We were driving back from downtown, passed a house, and Dad commented that so-and-so had been shooting at another guy for messing around with his bait box for lobstering. The idea rumbled around in the back of my head for a while before I actually started writing.

Here's the blurb:

When, Gregg Hollister, a Department of Marine Resources agent, arrives in Robyn Cushman’s hometown of Tide Rock, Maine, undercover, to investigate a growing problem among the lobstermen, there's bound to be trouble. Especially since Robyn’s brother is Gregg's main suspect, and he thinks small towns are boring backwaters.

Secrets abound. Gregg is keeping them from Robyn. Robyn's father tries to keep them from his easily stressed wife. Robyn's sister-in-law is keeping them from her husband. Robyn's partner and best friend has been keeping one for years. And the person guilty of all the incidents, is keeping one from the whole town.

Will secrets tear apart Gregg and Robyn?

I released Whispers in June, the third book in the Heart to Heat series. When Nikki revealed her secret in Secrets, she informed me I needed to tell her story. There were reasons for what she did. Whispers takes place a dozen years after Secrets. It's a reunion, secret baby book (the one trope I vowed I'd never write). I have referred to it over the years as my banker chick, Italian stallion, secret baby, conniving bad guy story. Pretty much sums it up.

I am busy preparing to re-release Ghost of a Chance, first in the Chances Are … series, and Taking a Chance, second in the series, will follow close on it's heels.

Whispers

Nikki Cushman is the new interim President of a small credit union in Portland, Maine. She knows there's bound to be trouble when she discovers Tony D'Angelo is assigned to handle the transition audit. He does not know he is the father of her twelve-year old daughter, Angie. They are forced to work together to investigate issues with some fraudulent accounts. When threats are directed at Nikki and Angie, can Tony and Nikki listen to the whispers in their hearts?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#TRAVEL WITH GUEST AUTHOR ROBIN LOVETT

Robin Lovett enjoys reading and writing about her favorite things: croissants, France, and sexy athletes. It’s no wonder Racing To You, her debut novel, features all three. Learn more about Robin and her books at her website. 

Going to France costs so much money. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to go there to study during graduate school. And now I’m a writer, what better way to travel back, without buying the plane ticket, than to write a novel set in France?

I want to be transported on the pages of a book. To go to the south of France, to smell the pastries in the patisserie, to feel the breeze off the Mediterranean, to watch the seas of the Côte d’Azur sparkle in the sun, and listen to the French language spoken wherever I go.

But even when traveling in person, it’s not always as perfect as one hopes. My first view of the Mediterranean as a student was on an overcast rainy day, and I was decidedly disenchanted. Without the sun, the water was as gray as any river and the rain reminded me so much of home, I wanted to cry. How could this be France? It was miserable, and no one should ever be miserable in France, right?

That wasn’t the only trouble. I left home thinking my French was stellar. I’d studied for years and spent weeks brushing up, but I never counted on how difficult it would be to understand native speakers. I could barely converse with the locals.

Travelling alone, managing the European transit system without anyone’s help—it scared me. I never knew how much I depended on having loved ones and friends nearby until I was in a strange country with everyone I knew across an ocean.

The good news, though, I had plenty of time to learn and experience. It wasn’t a vacation where I had to go home in three days. I had weeks. The sky eventually cleared and when the sun came out… the sea was so blue, it was blinding, and the sun so bright I could feel it warming me from the inside out. I learned to navigate the town, found my favorite places, and studied how to converse with the local people.

It became as idyllic as I imagined, even though, just like any good story with a well-earned happy ending, it wasn’t easy at first. But the good stuff was all the sweeter when it happened. It made me a braver, stronger person and showed me I was more independent than I ever thought I could be.

Writing Racing To You was as cathartic as I’d hoped. I will go back to France someday. But I learned what I miss isn’t just the place, but the amazing things the journey taught me about myself.

Racing to You
Love—the one roadblock they never expected.

Aurelia is living her dream, teaching for a year in the south of France. Except it’s all going wrong. The carefree culture is challenging her academic goals, and her students are so difficult that she wants the unthinkable: to give up and go home.

Meeting Terrence doesn’t help. When he’s not training for the Tour de France, the cocky pro cyclist is flirting with Aurelia, but she didn’t cross an ocean to hook up with an American jock, even if he does have killer dimples and looks hot in spandex.

Until the jock sets out to prove he’s more than mere muscle. He wants to teach her what having fun really means, which could be as dangerous to her structured life as it is to her heart.

As life hits unexpected roadblocks, they turn to one another for support, and flirtation becomes game-changing love. But Terrence is chasing his dream of being the fastest man on two wheels, and she isn’t sure how far he’ll go to win…or how far she’s willing to follow.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

HEALTHY LIVING--GUEST AUTHOR KRISTI ROSE ON #ADD/ADHD

Kristi Rose has been lucky enough to travel the world, but now as a wife and mother, she's resigned to traveling to the grocery store. When she's not practicing as a pediatric occupational therapist she's watching people and wondering about their story. Learn more about Kristi at her website/blog. Today she’s here to discuss a topic that worries many parents: ADD/ADHD.

This school year it's likely one of you will be called into a teacher conference or meeting and told your child has attention problems. Last year, I was the one called in. But I had an advantage.

I'm a pediatric occupational therapist and for most of my eighteen years of experience I've practiced in schools or early intervention (birth to three programs). I've seen the rising rates of kids being called ADD/ADHD, and it's frightening. Even more so that many kids are being misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not telling you NOT to medicate your child. But hope to provide additional information so that you can get to the root of your child's issue and address that—a solution that may not require any medication whatsoever.

When my son's teacher gently introduced the attention issue, I told her I didn't believe her. Is my son a little...quirky. Yep. Does he daydream? You bet. And to make matters worse, he didn't like her or the school. So he wasn't invested. He did finish the year (2nd grade, mind you) on honor roll for the entire year, awarded student of the month, given a best manners and good friend award.  Sorry folks, that's not the hallmark of an ADD/ADHD kid.

But how did I know this? Why didn't I take him to the doctor? What do you do if this happens to you? I'm going to share my years of experience and action plan with you.

My son's school decided recess wasn't necessary. Sometimes they got to go out to play; most times they were given extra computer time or LEGOS for their "recess". Until a child is given a minimum of two recesses a day for 15 minutes or longer (by recess I mean outdoor unstructured play), it's not fair to even consider attention as an issue. Children are NOT getting the essential motor breaks they need for proper development. Is this happening to your child? If so, how can one say there is an attention problem? Everyone would have a hard time with sitting at a desk for 7.5 hours with only breaks to go to lunch, the bathroom, and whatever special they have that day. Where is the child's opportunity to 'reset'?

Let's start with facts:
Because the exact cause remains unknown for ADD/ADHD, how can we assume medication is the correct answer when we often overlook other possible conditions that could be affecting your child's performance? Many that are unaffected by medication.

Here's an example: a child who hasn't fully integrated a primitive reflex may have daily interference of that reflex. One is called MORO—it's the startle reflex. Your child starts the day in a good place but once at school, maybe the bell is very loud or the announcements are drawn out and super loud. This could be startling (MORO) and trigger a child’s flight or fight response. Once this is triggered, the child is at a heighten state of anxiety. Chemicals are released in the brain, and breathing is shallow and rapid. Who can focus when your heart is racing and you have the urge to run? Even worse, most children who experience this have no strategy to get 'out' of that state, much less identify how they feel. This can be addressed with a home program created by an OT but is often mistaken for ADD/ADHD or behavior problems.

Also, did you know that through the age of seven, many of the sign and symptoms of ADD/ADHD are identical to the signs and symptoms of any of the following:
~Vision related learning disorder
~Nutrition/Allergies
~Sensory processing disorder
~Or (my favorite) simply a typically developing nervous system.

I find that interesting, don't you? Yet, our referrals for attention issues are rising.

You are your child's best advocate and I hope you like mysteries because if you get called into a meeting like this or already have, you'll find that there is no easy answer. You'll have to become a detective and try to root out the issue.

In our case, my son has anxiety, which does affect him everyday. He also has a vision issue called Hyperfocus (which doctors are like, "yeah, that's ADD but my vision doctor is like "no, it's not. It's Type A personality), and there's something sensory going on. It's been three years since I noticed these things and we still haven't gotten to the bottom of it. So just know moving forward that this is a long process and that schools have been sued so many times that they progress with hesitation. Sometimes they're afraid to troubleshoot. You can't always count on them.

So, what do you do if you're sitting at a meeting about your child, and this is the discussion at hand? Begin your investigation. Remember, you are looking for root causes because this is serious. Your child's self esteem and academic success are at risk.

Ask your school/teacher:
~Is your child allowed to fidget? (twirl hair, chew pencils etc)
~Are they allowed to stand to do work after sitting for long periods?
~When/what time of the day do you see them the most distracted?
~Do they have friends?
~Are they a good friend?
~Does their desk face where the teacher does most of her lecturing, or is he turned somehow?
~If they get recess, what does it look like? One teacher thought letting kids play on the computer was recess. Nope, sorry. Not the same thing. I hope they are getting more than one recess a day.
~How much computer time do they get? Regardless of what mainstream media might say about computer time, it's affecting your kids. It affects their posture, their vision, and their social skills. 20-minutes a day should be the limit. I have a hard time sticking to that, but I can see the impact when my kids go over. Some kids get angry (like mine). But overall, it could be something as simple as reducing the amount of blinking your child (Hyperfocus) is doing which affects overall attention.
~Do they understand the routine of school or do they feel stressed by it?
~Does your child have anxiety?
~Ask yourself this: To what extend does this 'concern' interfere with you child's ability to be a happy, well-rounded kid? Do they have friends? Are they making good grades? Do they sleep at night? If you find a place where you pause, give it more thought. All kids have their quirks, but to what degree does that quirk affect them? Look at all setting. Do you also see these concerns in different places?

Because this issue is complex, listing everything to consider would be very lengthy. Seek out a pediatrician or developmental pediatrician who is willing to work with you. Make sure they aren't quick to diagnosis and are willing to go on this journey with you. Let me give you some examples of what needs to be considered: what was their birth history, how is their diet, do you have a predictable and steady home life? (No judgment there. We move every few years, and it's hard on my kids, but we have a daily schedule that is very predictable).

Once you have more knowledge from the school and you want to pursue possible intervention-start here:

1. Take your child to have his eyes examined by a certified optometrist of visual disorders (FCOVD). This is a regular eye doctor who can look beyond whether your child can see far or see near, but also how the brain interprets visual information. You can find one in your area (and more information) at this website: http://www.covd.org. Make sure you tell the docotor what the school's concern is. (If you have a kindergartner why not start the school year out right by seeing a COVD doctor? My kids go every year before school. The exams are usually covered under regular eye exams.)

2. Did your child have chronic ear infections? This could impact lots of areas, including attention skills and the sensory system. Consider having an audiology screening/evaluation.

3. Consider having an occupational therapy evaluation. You'll want to look for someone who focuses on sensory processing, preferably trained in the Astronaut Program and visual learning issues. It's not enough for an OT to understand sensory issues, but that addressing them begins with determining if primitive reflexes are still interfering with your child's ability to be as successful as they can be. The well-trained OT can address these issues:

~poor attention
~difficulties interacting with peers and limited play skills
~challenges with transitions or changes in routine
~difficulty communicating (both verbal and non-verbal)
~struggles with sleep, bowel and bladder control, and eating
~trouble following directions
~challenges perceiving and navigating space
poor timing and sequencing of motor skills
difficulties with irritability, mood
~difficulties with regulating their energy level (i.e. too low arousal or hyperactive)
~postural insecurity (fear of heights, playing on playground equipment)
~abnormal responses to various sensory stimuli (sounds, touch, taste, pain)
~poor praxis and motor planning: coming up with an idea, planning, and completing the task
~difficulty responding to sounds and verbal directions

4. Look at your child's diet. Is it balanced? Are there issues with allergies, sleeping, bowel, and food varieties? Consider seeing an allergist. (This is tough one because kids are picky. Please note, my kids have a terrible diet, so I feel your pain).

If you go through these channels, you should, hopefully, have answers and a plan. It won't be a quick fix and likely not an easy one. But, in my opinion, neither is medication. Make sure you work with your school. Tell them what you are doing and why. My dream is that this would become standard practice before kids are given medication, but that can only happen when we share our knowledge.

Good luck. I hope if you find yourself in this situation, I've helped you somehow. Since I don't know you or your child I can only offer these as suggestions. You ultimately decide what's best for your family.

Here are a list of resources that I access frequently:
Vital Links (Sheila Frick) (The blog on her site is a treasure trove of information.)

Articles:

Recommended Books:

Meryton Matchmakers: Lottie Pursues Bill
A Modern Variation of Pride and Prejudice

Pastry chef Lottie Lucas wants more than friendship with her childhood playmate Bill Collins. Despite being a pastor and marital counselor, Bill has never given any serious thought to settling down--but that was before his family and colleagues starting pressuring him. Lottie sees an opportunity to finally move out of the friend zone and recruits her friend, Elizabeth Bennet, to assist.

Part owner of Meryton Matchmakers, Elizabeth is confident her company's personalized services will be the key to bringing Lottie and Bill together. Unfortunately, her sole financial backer is just as sure that computerized matchmaking algorithms are the way of the future and has sent William Darcy to convert Meryton to a fully automated online business. Darcy's algorithm says Lottie and Bill are not a match. Elizabeth must prove she's a better matchmaker than a machine to save her livelihood, and a whole lot of happy ever afters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR LYNETTE SOFRAS AND MINI CHEESE & SPINACH TRIANGLES

A former teacher, Lynette Sofras gave up her career in education a few years ago in order to focus on her writing and thus fulfil her childhood dream. She writes contemporary women's fiction, usually involving romance, and often with suspense or a supernatural twist. Lynette currently lives in an early Victorian cottage (the inspiration for Cocktails and Lies) in a picturesque Surrey village. Learn more about Lynette and her books at her website. 

In my latest story, Cocktails and Lies, Hannah comes across some old letters to her grandmother written before World War II. She later discovers that her grandmother harboured a life-long fascination with the 1920s and 30s—the art deco period, collecting objects d’art and wearing fashions adapted from that era well into the forties and fifties. Hannah imagines her at elegant parties sipping cocktails, laughing and carefree. It was, after all, according to Noël Coward, The Age of Cocktails and Laughter.

These delicious little cheese savories would go down well at any cocktail party and are easy and fun to make.

Mini Cheese and Spinach Triangles

This recipe makes between 30 and 40, depending on the size. Quantities and varieties of cheese can be altered to suit availability or your own tastes. The spinach is also optional.

Ingredients:
8 oz. (220 grams) package of ready-made phyllo (filo) dough
8-10 oz. (250-300 grams) carton cottage cheese
approx. 1 lb. (400 grams) feta cheese, crumbled
1 T. grated Parmesan
2 T. grated strong cheddar
4 oz. (100 grams) frozen leaf spinach, defrosted and squeezed to remove as much liquid as possible and finely chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup cream with 1 tablespoon sifted flour added and well mixed
Grated black pepper

Combine all the cheeses, add the cream and flour mixture and combine well. Sprinkle in the leaf spinach and a good grating of black pepper. Add one beaten egg and mix again.

Cut the sheets of filo pastry into long, equal strips (width approx. 8 cm), brushing each with beaten egg. Place a spoonful of filling on the shorter end and fold over diagonally to form a triangle. Fold the triangle over straight and then diagonally once again. Continue folding over and over, keeping the triangular shape with the filling completely enclosed. Trim or tuck any excess neatly over the finished triangle. The egg wash will help it stick to itself.

Place pies on baking sheets, brush with egg and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until golden in colour, in a moderate oven (325-350°F, 175°C)

Cocktails and Lies
When Hannah’s house is burgled, she gains as much as she loses: she meets Jan, her reserved Dutch neighbour and successful antiques dealer, and Callum, the detective in charge of the case, then finds some hidden letters to her dead grandmother that take her on an emotional journey of discovery.

As Hannah juggles the attentions of the two men now firmly in her life, she works to uncover the secrets of the past, only to find these encroach on the present in unexpected ways.

And then there are the two men in her life, both vying for her attention, both hiding things from her and each other. What does Callum really know about Jan? What is Jan hiding from everyone? And what did her grandmother—whose house it once was—hide from the world?

As if Hannah doesn’t have enough mysteries to solve, her best friend Rachel enlists her help in solving her marital crisis, while her pleasure-seeking mother seems intent on finding her a husband.

With so many skeletons rattling the door of Hannah’s house, can she unravel these mysterious threads and reveal the truth, changing her life forever?

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Fun fact: The song mentioned in the story is ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ written by Noël Coward and Philip Braham. It was recorded by several famous artists over the years, but the version recorded by Suede in 1998 is a personal favourite. You can see on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8s7WFwVlKE.