Friday, August 1, 2014

Well Read, Then Dead and Batidos

Today first time author, Terrie Farley Moran joins us for Friday Reads with Drinks. Comment at the end to win a pair of Well Read, Then Dead book earrings...

Hi, my name is Terrie Farley Moran  and I am so happy to be here to tell you a little bit about my soon-to-be-released cozy mystery and to share recipes for some fabulous drinks called batidos.

Well Read, Then Dead is the first novel in the Read ’Em and Eat series and is due out next week. Here is a bit of a “taste.”
Nestled in the barrier islands of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Fort Myers Beach is home to Mary “Sassy” Cabot and Bridget Mayfield—owners of the bookstore café, Read ’Em and Eat. But when they’re not dishing about books or serving up scones, Sassy and Bridgy are keeping tabs on hard-boiled murder.

Read ’Em and Eat is known for its delicious breakfast and lunch treats, along with quite a colorful clientele. If it’s not Rowena Gustavson loudly debating the merits of the current book club selection, it’s Miss Augusta Maddox lecturing tourists on rumors of sunken treasure among the islands. It’s no wonder Sassy’s favorite is Delia Batson, a regular at the Emily Dickinson table. Augusta’s cousin and best friend Delia is painfully shy—which makes the news of her murder all the more shocking.

Of course the café is home to lots of delicious food but we don’t discover the most enticing drink recipe until we visit Miguel Guerra at home and his aunt Caridad is busy making batidos, because she is sure that the calcium will help heal Miguel’s broken leg.

 Similar to milkshakes, the key ingredient is sweetened condensed milk, which is super thick and super sweet. You can use any fruit to make a batido—papaya, mango and passion fruit are extremely popular. I think the drinks are sweet enough when made with fruit or juice and the sweetened condensed milk, but you may wish to add sugar or honey to taste. Here are my family favorites:

Batido Morir Soñando (made by grandson Billy)
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup crushed ice

Batido de Piña
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 cup fresh cut pineapple
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup crushed ice

Batido de Mora (made by granddaughter Katie)
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 cup fresh blackberries
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup crushed ice

All batidos are made exactly the same way. Just leave the crushed ice on the side, put everything else in a blender and run until the drink is smooth. Toss in the crushed ice and blend until the drink becomes thick and slushy. Serve immediately.

You can find Well Read, Then Dead at 
Independent bookstores everywhereAmazon and Barnes and Noble.

We're giving away these special Well Read, Then Dead earrings in our first ever Friday Reads with Drinks giveaway. Just comment below to enter. US residents only. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crafty Thursdays - Old Watch Photo Ornaments & Giveaway

Crafty Thursdays is preparing for Christmas by doing crafts every Thursday this month leaving you plenty of time to make them well in advance of the holiday. Today we are dismantling old decrepit pocket watches to make photo Christmas ornaments. Don't forget to comment below to get a chance to have the photo ornament for your very own....

You don't actually have to put a photo of Benedict Cumberbatch playing Sherlock Holmes in a Santa Hat in your ornament but you may want to consider it. 


- Old pocket watches - eBay and flea markets are your best
sources. Not every pocket watch works, so you may want to get an eBay lot if you can find a good price. 
-  Gorilla Glue - the official glue of Mystery Playground - mostly because it's tough, dries fast and it won't glue my fingers together
- Silver Ribbon or Red RicRac - depends on your mood
- Small pliers or tweezers

Step One:
Open your watch. You can do this by finding the groove on the side and prying it open. The knob on the top will provide resistance, so I pull it off, if possible, or unscrew it.

Step Two:
Pull out the insides. Your tweezers or pliers should help you with this. Each watch is different, so be creative. The watch doesn't work anymore, so just get it out of there.

Step Three:
Once your watch contents are removed, save them for next week's very cool craft. Wash the inside and outside of the glass or plastic top as much as possible. This is now your photo receptacle. 

Step Four:
Select your photo and cut it to match the shape of your watch.

Step Five:
Put your circle cut photo inside the watch. Put a little stuffing behind it. 

Don't forget to comment below for your chance to own this fabulous antique watch photo ornament from Mystery Playground. US residents only. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Secret Russian Edition of Doctor Zhivago

The book above looks so harmless and unassuming. It looks that something that would have been self-published in ancient pre-book times. It wasn't self published, it was secretly published in Russian by the CIA and it's a copy Dr. Zhivago. 

The book is in Seattle right now at the Pacific Science Center near the Space Needle in a wonderful exhibit for spy lovers called, Spy: The Secret World of Espionage. It's there until September 1.

It seems that during the Cold War, the book was used as a tool to undermine the Soviet Union. According to the museum, the CIA printed Russian language books so the author Boris Pasternak could win the Nobel Prize for literature. And according to this Washington Post article, the CIA also printed the books because the novel made excellent propaganda. 

Here's what it said in the museum...

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the movie. If you've never seen it, go get it right now and start watching.  

This Spy Exhibit was so fabulous and full, we will be covering it here for the next few days, so come on back. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: Maxwell Blues

Kerry Hammond reviews Maxwell Street Blues today...

Jules Landau is a private detective in Chicago. To say he comes from a well known family is a bit of an understatement. His grandfather was a well known Chicago criminal, and his father has just been released from prison. Jules’ main bread and butter cases as an investigator have not, to date, included investigating murder. As the story opens, however, he is hired to investigate his first murder. To complicate matters, his client is his newly released father, and the murdered man is an old friend.

Charles Snook, aka Snooky, was a long time friend of Jules. He wasn’t just a great friend, though, he also ran a bookkeeping business. Oh yeah, and he cleaned money for mobsters. As Jules begins to investigate Snooky’s murder, he comes across a lot of possible suspects, including a beautiful and unusual tattoo artist, a crooked cop, and a lot of mobsters who benefitted from Snooky’s fancy accounting.

Maxwell Street Blues is the first in the Jules Landau Mystery series. I’d call it a modern day hard-boiled meets noir novel. Poor Jules is a glutton for punishment as he searches for the truth, and I couldn’t help but picture him as a 21st century Sam Spade. I say 21st century because let’s face it, the man has a cat. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that he owns a cat makes him that much more likeable and puts the reader squarely on his side. Jules is not your typical love ‘em and leave ‘em male, either. He’s got a conscience and a heart and I really enjoyed following him through his investigation.

Another thing to the author’s credit is that he manages to take you into the heart of Chicago, while following a private detective as he investigates a murder of a money launderer. Yet I couldn’t place my finger on one clichéd phrase that came out of Landau’s mouth. The reader can’t help but expect to hear the word “dame,” but don’t hold your breath. This author knows how to write a great story in the spirit of the master hard-boiled detective novels, with a modern day twist.

Monday, July 28, 2014

SPY: The Secret World of Espionage

SPY: The Secret World of Espionage is a special exhibit on the history of spying at Seattle's Pacific Science Center.  It's filled with real artifacts used by spies around the world. It includes everything from the axe that killed Leon Trotsky to a piece of the Berlin wall to a pellet gun disguised as umbrella. These artifacts are real, but many of them look like they belong in an episode of 60s TV show GET SMART

The gun, dubbed the Assassination Umbrella, shot ricin pellets. It was used by a Soviet agent to kill a Bulgarian  
defector in London. It certainly looks like it could have been the inspiration behind umbrella gun used by Batman nemesis, The Penguin. 

Here's a piece of the Berlin Wall and the flag flown from Check Point Charlie. 

This child's toy was used to get a microdot lens across a border by the KGB. The theory was that a child's toy would be less likely to be searched. 

These are secret cufflinks that a KGB double agent and a CIA agent who never met could use to identify one another.  Of course it would only work if the cufflinks weren't intercepted...

Here's a miniature tape recorder...

This exhibit is at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. It's right next door to the Space Needle. If you're in Seattle it's definitely worth a visit.  This exhibit was so great, we'll have another post this Wednesday and next Monday. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Well Read, Then Dead

Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran is the first book in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series (available August 5, 2014).

I picked up Well Read, Then Dead having read several of Terrie Farley Moran’s short crime stories and curious about how she would handle the longer format. Immediately, I was drawn into the world of Sassy Cabot and Bridget Mayfield and their bookstore and bakery, Read ’Em and Eat in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. I went to Florida [mumble] years ago, but I’ve never been to Fort Myers Beach, but this book definitely made me want to visit!
It’s not just the scenery one wants to visit reading Ms. Moran’s book. Her characters are amusing and lively, described clearly without overly many tedious details. Take Judge Harcroft, who spends his mornings at the Read ’Em and Eat and being, well, somewhat annoying, especially to the Books Before Breakfast Club.

You can read the rest here: 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jo Ann is at Comic Con

Once again, Jo Ann Gaglione is at Comic Con and I'm not. 

Basically I have two choices: 
1) Be jealous of her and don't post her photos, 
2) Be jealous of her, post her photos and buy her a drink when she's back. 

I picked option #2. 

Let's start with the Jiminy Cricket encounter with Once Upon A Time's Raphael Sbarge

Mind you, he's not just a cricket. Raphael has been in everything: Castle, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, Dexter, Rizzoli & Isles, CSI, Young & The Restless, Prison Break, I could go on and on and on. 

He's also on the new TNT show, Murder in the First, but really, the most important moment of his career was when he took this photo with Jo Ann Gaglione, Christine Churro Saldana and the adorable pink and bow clad, Riley Doeland. You can never go to Comic Con too early. Trust Riley on this. So adorable. 

But I digress...

Let's talk about Comic Con Security. 

It's tight. 

Super tight.

This is Mindy Sterling who played Frau Farbissina in Austin Powers holding Riley. Riley as you can see in this photo is dressed as Super Girl.  

Next we have a demon fighter named Constantine. This show looks to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Fabio.