Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Happy Birthday Edgar Allen Poe

Tomorrow is Edgar Allan Poe's 208th birthday. In celebration of Poe's birthday, we've got wonderful videos here of famous people reading some of Poe's most loved works. And don't forget to come back tomorrow when we'll have a special Poe Valentine's craft that I bet you won't find on any other blog.

Here is author Neil Gaiman reading "The Raven":

Here's Ligeia, read by Vincent Price:

Here's The Black Cat read by Christopher Lee:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Snuggle Up For Movies at Home Night

With storms brewing outside it is the perfect time to catch up on your at home movie watching. Our family did way more of this than usual over the holidays and we found so many excellent movies that we enjoyed that I had to share. 

Our first pick is Genius, the story of the author Tom Wolfe and his editor at Simon & Schuster, Max Perkins. Jude Law plays Wolfe and Colin Firth plays Perkins. This is an enthralling movie the Perkins-Wolfe bromance as they edited Of Time and The River. Perkins also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and both are portrayed briefly in the movie. We found this on HBO. 

Here's a clip:

Our second pick is Denial, starring Rachel Weiss as University Professor Deborah Lipstadt. Based on a true story, this movie depicts Lipstadt as she defends herself against a defamation suit in the UK after she calls a Holocaust denier a name in a book. That this trial even happened is totally amazing. The movie is immersive and thought provoking. This was on pay per view.

Here is the trailer:

Our special mention is Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy as a CIA analyst who goes into the field when her partner, also played by Jude Law, disappears. This one has been out since 2015 and we covered it when it first hit the theaters, but it was so fun, I thought it was worth mentioning again in case you hadn't seen it. It is as light as the other two movies are serious. This was on HBO.

Here is the trailer:

Have you enjoyed at movie at home lately? If so, let us know. It's so much easier to find gold through recommendations from friends. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Masterpiece Mystery! Motive for Murder Board Game

Kerry Hammond is here today to show us another way to enjoy Masterpiece Mystery! with a wonderful game inspired by the series and the Edward Gorey opening. 

I am a big fan of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! and all of its shows, such as Granchester, Sherlock and Father Brown. It’s one of the only programs where I won’t fast forward through the intro because I like to watch the animated Edward Gorey art with all of his creepy characters. I recently found out that there was a Masterpiece Mystery! board game and I just had to have it. It’s called Motive for Murder, and here’s how it works.

"In 30-90 minutes
1-5 sleuths find
The motive for murder."

- Creator Bruce Glassco

As with most mysteries, it starts with a body. One of the 22 suspect tiles is randomly chosen and placed in the center of the board. This is the body that has been found. Players then interrogate all of the suspects to determine who might have had a motive to commit the murder.

There are 5 games and they get more involved and harder as you move from 1 to 5. Each higher game level introduces a new element, such as a second dead body, motive cards, detectives and second interviews. Points are earned for interviews and the player with the highest score is the winner.

Since there are five versions of the game, you have the choice of starting with the easiest, No. 1, or jumping ahead to a more difficult, full game version. In each, players use interview cubes to interrogate suspects and score motive points.

The cards all have beautifully drawn pictures by Edward Gorey and creative character profiles.

One of the coolest things about this game is that there is a solitaire version for players who want to play alone. Whether you’re trying to stimulate your little grey cells or practicing to better defeat future opponents, this is another great way to enjoy the game.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tea Time Excerpt with Laura Childs

There is nothing better on a cold winter afternoon than cozying up with a great book and a hot cup of tea, so every Sunday this winter we are running book excerpts with a suggested tea. 

Today we have an excerpt from the latest from Laura Childs, Egg Drop Dead. Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life, she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

I've selected Twinings Winter Spice to go with Laura's book. There's always a little spice when the Cackleberry Club is around, so I thought this would be the perfect match. 

Chapter 2

Ignoring the anxious cries and bellows of the cows, Suzanne dashed back through the barn and out into the sunlight. Skidding wildly in the gravel, she pawed open her car door and flung herself inside. Bam. Her door locks clicked down hard. Then she fumbled her key into the ignition, gripped her steering wheel, and cranked the engine hard until it whined in protest.

In full panic mode, her teeth chattering so hard she was afraid she’d pop a filling, Suzanne hesitated for a second and looked around. And saw . . . absolutely nothing. There were no other people, no other cars. So what was the best thing, the smartest thing, for her to do in a situation like this?
Her heart still hammering inside her chest, she squirmed wildly in the driver’s seat, trying to make sure a maniac wasn’t about to leap at her with a shrieking, clattering chain saw. When none showed up, Suzanne pulled her cell phone from her purse and dialed the Law Enforcement Center in Kindred.

Marilyn Grabowski, the 911 dispatcher, came on the line immediately. “Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”
“Get me Sheriff Doogie!” Suzanne hollered. “I need Sheriff Doogie right away!”

But Marilyn needed a little more information than that.
Still babbling with fear, Suzanne tried to explain the situation. “This is Suzanne Dietz. I’m out here at Mike Mullen’s place on Country Trail. And Mike’s been . . . well, I’m pretty sure that he’s been killed. Stabbed, I think. Murdered in cold blood!”

Marilyn, who’d honed her calming skills as a first-grade teacher years ago, knew exactly what to do.

“First things first,” Marilyn said. “You get out of there, Suzanne. Do you hear me? Your life could be in danger, too.”
Suzanne nodded wildly into the phone. “Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Sure.”

“I mean it, Suzanne. Drive back to the main road and wait there until someone shows up. I’m alerting Deputy Driscoll right now. Sending him directly out your way. It won’t be long. Five minutes at the most.”

“We need Sheriff Doogie, too,” Suzanne stuttered. “You gotta send Doogie.”

“I’m putting in a call to him,” Marilyn said. “But I know he’s just getting out of a county board meeting.”


“Get out of there now, Suzanne, and don’t take any chances. Help is on the way.”

Suzanne was just about to throw her car in gear when she decided to make another call. She had that particular number on speed dial, so she hit it and waited. Hung on tight.
Sam was on the line in a matter of seconds.

“I have a problem,” Suzanne said.

“Tell me.” Sam was used to calls without long preambles. He was a doctor, after all.

Suzanne stammered out pretty much what she’d told the dispatcher, and then Sam told her pretty much what the dispatcher had told her. Get out of there fast. Don’t take any chances. Wait for help to arrive.

Suzanne, being a self-confessed contrarian, hung up and thought about this for exactly thirty seconds. Then she did the complete opposite of what she’d been instructed. After a careful look around the farmyard (to be sure the fire-breathing maniac with the chainsaw still wasn’t coming after her), she switched off her engine. Then she kicked open the driver’s side door and stepped back out.

A bright golden sun still lasered down. A light breeze kicked up bits of dust and leaves and spun then toward a low pen where a trio of woolly sheep peeked out at her. Over near the farmhouse, a birdbath pattered. The scene looked normal enough. On the other hand . . .

Clenching her jaw, Suzanne studied the farmhouse and worried. Was Mike’s wife, Claudia, at home? Did she need help? Was somebody inside with her right now, holding a butcher knife to her throat?

Slowly, cautiously, as if she were picking her way across a bed of hot coals, Suzanne walked to the house. She climbed the three creaking stairs that led to the small back porch and stared at the screen door.

Now what? Well . . . maybe just pound on the door and see if Claudia’s in there.

Suzanne knocked on the door and waited. Nothing. She knocked again, a little harder this time, causing the door to rattle in its frame. It terrified her to think that Claudia might be lying on the kitchen floor, facedown in a pool of her own blood.

That single, horrifying thought compelled her to take action. She reached down, turned the doorknob, and gingerly pulled the door open a tentative couple of inches.

“Claudia,” Suzanne called out. “Are you in here?” She waited, hearing nothing but the pounding of her own heart and the rush of blood churning in her ears. She called out again. “Claudia?” Then, feeling a little bolder, said, “Anybody home?”

Opening the door wider, Suzanne gazed into the Mullen’s tidy little farm kitchen. She saw a silver coffeepot sitting on the Hotpoint range, a plate and coffee cup resting next to the sink. Nothing looked out of order. And yet . . .

Her curiosity amped to a frantic level, Suzanne was about to step inside the kitchen. Then she checked herself. No, don’t do this, she decided. Don’t risk it.

She backed away and closed the screen door soundlessly. Feeling nervous and edgy, she knew she’d completely overstepped her boundaries. This was so not a good idea, she admonished herself as she hurried back to her car. She should have followed Marilyn’s instructions—and Sam’s—right to the letter.

With one hand resting on the handle of her car door, Suzanne paused and looked around once more. Nothing felt out of place. And yet . . . everything had changed. Mike was dead. The cows were frantic. And she was standing here, gazing around as if it were any old stupid Tuesday on a sunny October morning.

No, Suzanne told herself, what she was really doing was looking around, studying the area, to see if there was some kind of clue or takeaway. After all, she’d been the first one to stumble upon the crime scene.

Correction, I’m actually not the first one. Those honors would go to Mike’s killer.

Beyond the dairy barn, a stand of trees was aflame in red, gold, and amber. The sky was a rich blue, that pure, unfiltered blue that materializes only on rare autumn days when the atmosphere throbs with electricity and it seems like you can peer all the way up to the very edge of outer space.
Suzanne knew she’d better drive herself out to the main road immediately. The sheriff and his deputies would be roaring in any second and . . . wait a minute. She blinked. What was that?

Her eyes had caught a brief hint of movement way off in the distance. What was it exactly? A tree branch swaying in the wind? She scanned the distance, trying to pull it all into tighter focus. No, it looked almost like someone’s head and shoulders. Was that a person standing way out there in the woods? No, now there wasn’t any movement at all, so it must be some kind of scarecrow.

Suzanne glanced away, already making up her mind that it was a scarecrow devised to scare off scavenging birds. Then she hesitated.

Wait a minute. A scarecrow in a cow pasture?

Something about that scenario didn’t quite compute. She looked down at her toes, frowned, and then glanced back up, deciding it might be worth her while to take a second, more careful look. But the figure had disappeared. It was gone, just like that. Poof.

Egg Drop Dead is a great read. Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries - set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries - set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

The excerpt was provided by the publisher. The tea is all mine, mine, mine. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fun Book Ends

Since I've been in an organizing mood lately, I thought I'd share these fun bookends I found at a little store on the web called AEROHome. I love this whale of a tail set. 

These little white puppies are also adorable.

And so are the poodles.

And these bunnies will help you read up for Easter.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Killer Punch: Drinks with Reads

Amy Korman is our guest this Friday on Drinks with Reads helping us learn how to make Killer Punch to match her book by the same name. Amy is a former senior editor and staff writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and author of Frommer's Philadelphia and the Amish Country. She has written for Town & Country, House Beautiful,Men's Health and Cosmopolitan. 

In Killer Punch, antiques dealer/sleuth Kristin Clark is—as usual—hoping to bring more customers through the door of her small-town shop, The Striped Awning. After all, she’s got her basset hound Waffles to feed, plus the pack of mutts for which she’s currently dog-sitting.

The answer? A potent cocktail, of course, according to her nosy best friend Bootsie, who shows up with ice, punch bowl, and lots of Paul Masson Peach Brandy to create...  Killer Punch, the eponymous cocktail in the third book in the Killer Wasps series from Witness Impulse/HarperCollins.

Of course, alcohol's always a viable solution in the fictionalized village of leafy Bryn Mawr, PA! 

This version of Killer Punch is loosely based on a classic Philadelphia libation known as Fish House Punch. Serves 2.


2 ounce peach brandy
2 ounces dark rum
4 ounces simple syrup
Juice of half a lemon, plus lemon slices
Splash of orange juice
Stir or shake, and serve over ice (best enjoyed in antique stemware or a highball glass inherited from a favorite aunt)

About the Book:

In Killer Punch, Kristin's friends-Holly, Sophie, and Bootsie-have been busy party-planning for the annual Tomato Show at the country club, and plotting to beat long-time nemesis, Eula, in the tennis tournament. 

But when a prominent pastoral painting, a key piece of d├ęcor for the big event, disappears from the Club, everyone's a suspect, and Kristin and her friends start sleuthing. Could the annoying Eula have stolen the pricey painting? And, is Eula violating Tomato Show rules by growing her Early Girls in the unbeatable New Jersey soil?

Meanwhile, their village is an uproar about an unsightly new Mega Wine Mart slotted to go up in a local forest (though everyone's excited about the cheap booze). And will July be the month their decorator buddy Joe finally proposes to Sophie--if she can get her Guccis back from her shoe-stealing ex, and finish her divorce? The Killer Wasps are on the case!

Twitter: @killermysteries

Thursday, January 12, 2017

NCIS New Orleans Baseball Hat Cake

This Thursday our craft is a baking project that we’ve paired with one of our favorite television shows.

Our creative baker, Lorraine Masonheimer, explains the concept behind her creation: The cake is inspired by NCIS New Orleans. The NCIS team wears navy blue baseball hats with white NCIS lettering above the bill. The fleur de lis is deeply ingrained in Louisiana’s history and the purple, yellow and green color combination honors the tradition of Mardi Gras. Rum is added to the cake and frosting as a nod to the part rum played in New Orleans’ history. In a traditional King cake, the baby hidden inside symbolizes luck and prosperity. In the NCIS New Orleans cake, the skeleton replaces the baby and symbolizes the homicide investigations of each episode. If desired, the person that finds the skeleton gets to create a mystery-themed dessert for the next party.

Materials for Cake Top:
Fleur de lis, 2
Gold pearl bead string (optional)
Glue dots

Wooden skewer, 4”

STEP 1: Create the Cake Top
To create the Fleur de Lis for the top of the NCIS New Orleans baseball hat cake, make a color copy of a fleur de lis or print a royalty free copy from Clip Art Best. Using scissors or an x-acto knife cut out two fleur de lis and set aside. To separate the gold pearl bead string, cut the wrapping tape from the stem. Wrap three gold pearl beads to a wooden skewer and remove excess wire using scissors or wire cutters. Turn the images face down and place a generous amount of glue dots onto the center and edges of the fleur de lis. Place one fleur de lis face down and glue the beaded wooden skewer to the center of the image. Place the second fleur de lis face up directly over the first fleur de lis. Press along the center and edges to firmly attach to the wooden skewer.  Set aside.

Fat Daddio’s Hemisphere pan, 10”
Heating core
Cookie sheet                   
Cake mix & ingredients, 3 boxes of your choice
Blue frosting, 2 tubs
Blue, black & red food paste
White icing tube with tip #5/dots
Tuaca liqueur (vanilla/orange)
Captain Morgan Rum
Cooking spray
Plastic skeleton
Fleur de lis wooden skewer
16” cardboard cake circle

STEP 2: Create the Cake
Set oven 300 degrees. Coat the hemisphere pan and cookie sheet with cooking spray. Combine one cake mix, water, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl.

For a touch of New Orleans flavor, if desired, add 1 tablespoon of Tuaca liqueur and 1 tablespoon of rum. Beat according to package directions. Pour batter into hemisphere pan. Repeat using the second box of cake mix and pour into the hemisphere pan.

Fill the center of the heat core to 2/3 full. Place the heat core into the center of the hemisphere pan. 

Place the pan into the middle of the oven and bake for 80 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Combine the third box of cake mix and pour batter into a cookie sheet.

Set the oven to 325 degrees and place the cookie sheet on the center rack, bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
STEP 3: Create the Frosting
Place two tubs of prepared blue frosting into a mixing bowl. Combine .5 oz. of blue food paste, .25 oz. of black food paste and 10 drops of red food paste into the blue frosting. Mix and adjust food paste until the frosting is a dark navy blue.

If desired, add 1 tablespoon of rum to the frosting and mix until combined. When the cakes are done, cool for 20 minutes in the pans. Remove the heat core from the hemisphere cake. Remove the cake from the center of the heat core. 

STEP 4: Assemble the Cake
Turn the cake out onto a 16” cardboard circle and cool completely, about 1 hour.

Placing an NCIS New Orleans twist on the Kings Cake, place a plastic skeleton into the hole created by the heat core. Fill the hole using the cake baked inside the heat core. Press down to create a smooth dome for the top of the hat.

Turn the cookie sheet cake out onto parchment paper and cool completely, about 1 hour. Using a 5-5 ½” bowl, cut a circle into the sheet cake. Cut the circle in half.  

Place the half circle next to the hemisphere cake to form the bill of the baseball hat.

Spread the navy blue frosting evenly over the dome of the cake using a spatula.  Use upward strokes to create the structure of a baseball hat.  Make a decorative swirl at the top of the hat.
Frost the bill of the baseball hat using the spatula to form a sharp edge. 

STEP 5: Finishing Touches
Place the decorative tip #5 (dots) onto the tube of white icing. To center NCIS, begin forming the C and I onto the front of the baseball hat using dots to form the letters. Write the N and S to complete the acronym NCIS.

Insert the Fleur de lis cake top at the center of the top of the dome.

Serve, see who finds the skeleton and enjoy.