Monthly Archives: May 2015

Happy Memorial Day! (with recipes)

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial Day in the U.S. is all about honoring the men and women in our armed forces, past and present. And most especially we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

There are no words sufficient to express our gratitude!

Memorial Day is also the unofficial kickoff of the summer season. Children’s laughter rings out; splashing noises can be heard coming from neighbors’ pools (or your own); the air is redolent with delectable odors from backyard barbecues.

We decided that this year we’d share some of our favorite (and easy) summer recipes. We’re going to take you from cocktails to dessert. But since the desserts need a little time, either in the oven or the fridge, we’ll start with those.

July2012-063-1024x768First up: red, white and blue strawberries! (from Kathy Owen)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of strawberries, washed and blotted dry
  • 12oz pkg of white chocolate chips
  • blue decorating sugar, poured into a small bowl

Directions:

Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Melt chips in microwave, according to package directions (you may need to stir in between cycles and add more time) until smooth.  Dip strawberries 2/3 of the way into the melted chocolate, then 1/3 of the way into the blue sugar.  Place on foil.  Put the tray in the fridge for about 2 hours, or until chocolate hardens.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) It’s really important to dry the strawberries thoroughly before dipping; otherwise, the chocolate won’t stick to them very well.

2) Don’t make ahead; plan to use them that day.  The strawberries will start releasing water, which will get into the sugar’s blue dye and create a drippy mess.  (They still taste good, though!)

Our other dessert: Grandma Weiss’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (from Kirsten Weiss, of course)

strawberry rhubarb pieIngredients:

Crust:
1 ½ cups flour
1 TBSP Sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water
1 tsp grated lemon peel
½ cup unsalted butter

Filling:
1 ½ pints sliced strawberries
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP tapioca

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
For pie crust: Mix flour, sugar, salt, ice water and grated lemon. Cut in butter (or use fingers), until dough is mealy. Roll out 2/3 of the dough to line the pie pan. Refrigerate remaining dough, which will be used for lattice.
Mix strawberries, diced rhubarb, sugar, kirsch, and tapioca. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Roll out remaining dough and cut into strips for lattice. Fill pie with strawberry-rhubarb mix and top with lattice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until crust is golden.

And now that the desserts are setting up or baking, it’s time for cocktails!!

a margarita, with lime

(photo by Akke Monasso, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimdia Commons)

Vinnie Hansen offers up her main character’s favorite drink recipe: Carol Sabala’s Margaritas

Put lots of ice cubes in a container for mixing. Coat the rims of margarita glasses with fresh lime juice and dip in salt (ground sea salt preferred.) Fill the glasses with ice cubes.
In the mixing container add to the ice cubes:

● 3 oz. of Hornitos Tequila Sauza (or higher shelf)
● 3 oz. of Controy (This is the secret ingredient, a Mexican orange liquor that I’ve never found in the U.S. A good Triple Sec is a fair substitute.)
● 1 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake or stir and pour over the ice in the glasses.

Guacamole_y_nachos pub domain wiki

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

These are potent, so enjoy with plenty of chips and guacamole!

The best guacamole is simply smashed avocados, a dollop of your favorite salsa, and a squirt of lime. Some folks might need to add salt and pepper. That’s it. NO MAYO!

Okay, before you have that second margarita, you’d better stir up this side dish, which needs to chill for a while.

Shannon Esposito’s Summer Orzo Salad recipe:

orzo salad

(photo by Vegan Feast Catering, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Common)

Ingredients:

-1 cup of orzo
-1 cup of baby peas or edamame
-1 diced red pepper
-1 diced green pepper
-handful cherry tomatoes halved
-2 TBSP lemon juice
-2 tsp olive oil
-sea salt/pepper to taste
-fresh cilantro (I use cilantro but you could use dill, basil or rosemary instead)

Directions:
-Cook orzo for 5-6 minutes in boiling water
-Add all other ingredients and mix well

Like revenge, this is a dish best served cold. 😉

Okay, is your stomach growling about now? Mine is!

Our main dish comes from my husband, since I, like my main character Kate Huntington, am not the world’s best cook. Tom makes the best hamburgers (and steaks) I’ve ever tasted, even in restaurants!

His secret is the seasonings, and it’s really quite simple (although they don’t taste nearly as good when I make them; I hope you have better luck duplicating his touch).

Tom’s Best Hamburgers Ever

Ingredients:

● 1 lb. Lean ground beef
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Hamburger seasoning (sub their Steak seasoning for steaks)
● Morton’s Season All
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Barbecue seasoning
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Mesquite seasoning

hamburger

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Directions:

Form ground beef into 4 patties. Place them on a preheated grill. Sprinkle a moderate amount of Hamburger seasoning and Season All on the top of each patty. Sprinkle Mesquite and Barbecue seasoning on each with a lighter touch. Immediately flip burgers over and sprinkle the seasonings on the other side. Cook to desired level of doneness, turning frequently.

Grab a bun and your favorite condiments and dig in!

What’s your favorite summer recipe?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the entire group. We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

How Random!

by Kassandra Lamb

How often we use this phrase! It’s come to mean that something is illogical. The word random also might be defined as scattered, something with no pattern, no rhyme or reason.

Rodin's The Thinker (photo by Andrew Horne, public domain, Wikimedia)

Rodin’s The Thinker (photo by Andrew Horne, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

But there truly is such a thing as a random thinker. This is one end of a continuum that is part of a theory developed by a dude named Anthony F. Gregorc, Ph.D. The other end is sequential.

(There is another continuum in his model of how humans think — concrete vs. abstract. More on that in another post.)

Sequentials tend to think in a linear fashion. They are very good at following step-by-step instructions, and they tend to be organized. What we think of as logical or analytical is essentially sequential thinking.

Random thinkers are more intuitive. While they tend to frustrate the bejesus out of sequentials, they have their shining moments. Often they are more creative and come up with novel solutions to problems.

They not only think outside the box, most of the time they can’t even find the box. To say they are messy is an understatement. Indeed, the quickest way to tell if someone is a random vs. a sequential is to look at their personal spaces–their desks, offices and bedrooms. Do these places look like a bomb just went off? If so, the person is probably a random thinker.

My study--not totally neat, but I know what is in each pile, and you can see the floor!

My study–not totally neat, but I know what is in each pile, and you can find the floor!

Now that doesn’t mean that sequentials are always stick-up-their-butts neatniks. But if you ask a sequential where something is, they can probably tell you which pile it’s in. If they say the don’t know, the item is truly lost.

With randoms, they almost always say they don’t know where it is. They have no conscious memory of where they put it, nor any “logical” organization to their piles of stuff. But they are indeed organized, in their own intuitive way.

My husband is a hardcore random. His study in our house is almost impossible to walk around in. There are papers and books piled everywhere, on all flat surfaces including the floor.

By contrast, my husband's random study.

By contrast, my husband’s random study. (Yes, that is a bottle of window cleaner on the floor; I’ve no idea why it’s there.)

If I ask him where some piece of paper is, he will tell me he has no clue. But then he will go looking and almost every time, he’ll come up with it within ten to twenty minutes. On some intuitive level, he knows where it is.

So why has random vs. sequential thinking been on my mind lately? Because I’ve been trying to figure out how these two thinking styles relate to two other phenomena. One is whether or not people finish what they start. That was actually the blog post I set out to write, then decided I needed to explore randomness first. So more on that subject in a couple weeks.

The other connection I’ve been pondering is with creativity. Theoretically randoms are more creative. But I’m very much a sequential thinker, and I’m a writer.

(By the way, this theory of random vs. sequential thinking has replaced the old right brain/left brain theory. The latter didn’t hold up well under scientific scrutiny. While certain intellectual functions tend to be centered in one hemisphere of the brain or the other, individuals do not seem to routinely have a more active right or left brain.)

a brain full of computer circuit boards

A sequential’s brain–just kidding 😉 (by Gengiskanhg CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common)

But they do seem to fit into the patterns of random or sequential thinkers, or somewhere in between (keep in mind, this is a continuum).

Amongst writers, we also have a continuum of writing styles: plotters vs. pantsers. Plotters are very organized and plan out their story before they start to write. They do character sketches and outline the key plot points. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. A story idea occurs to them, and they just sit down and write.

I fall a little bit in between (a plantser?) but I lean much more toward pantsing than plotting. This is very strange to me since I am so hardcore sequential and organized in the rest of my life. But I find with writing, that if I plan a story too meticulously I lose interest before I’ve gotten it written. So I just sit down and write and see where that takes me.

My husband, on the other hand, realizes that some things need to be planned–teaching, for example. For his classes, he writes out a fairly detailed lesson plan. But because I am more naturally organized, I can get away with a fairly loose outline of what I want to cover when I teach a class.

So I’m curious about the relationship here between plotting/pantsing and random/sequential. I’d like to take a little informal survey.

Based on this limited description, do you think you are more random or sequential? And how do you approach the demands of your job, do you plan it carefully or wing it? Writers in particular, I’d love to hear how random vs. sequential thinking correlates with plotting vs. pantsing.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist and college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

What We Put Our Mothers Through… Even Before We Were Born

by Kassandra Lamb

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share with you all some tidbits from two small booklets I found amongst my mother’s mementos after she passed away. I’m not real sure why she chose to keep them, perhaps for their comic value.

One booklet’s title is “Instructions for Expectant Mothers” and its pages are quite yellowed (circa 1948 when my brother was born). The other is called “Information for Obstetric Patients” and is not quite as yellowed (circa 1952 when I was born). Here are some of the pearls of wisdom doctors dispensed to their pregnant patients in the 1940’s to 1950’s:

Clothing:
“After the fourth month, all garments should hang from the shoulders, not from the waist. Specially designed garments will make your condition less conspicuous.”

THEN! (photo by by Bundesarchiv Bild,  CC-BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

THEN! (photo by by Bundesarchiv Bild, CC-BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Not real sure how a tent with sleeves makes one less conspicuous but… (and don’t ask me why the woman is playing a clarinet in this picture; I have no clue).

 

 

 

NOW! (photo by Montse PB CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

NOW! (photo by Montse PB CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

More words of wisdom about one’s attire when pregnant:

“...If you have never worn a corset, you may not need one during pregnancy, especially first pregnancy. If you have any discomfort due to lack of support, you should wear a corset.

Wait a minute! Waistbands are verboten but it’s okay to wear one of these…

A maternity corset

A maternity corset (seriously, I’m not making this up!)

Sexual Intercourse:
“Sexual intercourse is permitted during the first 7 months of pregnancy, except during the time when menstruation would normally occur.”
(my emphasis)

Say what? Why in the world would you not be able to have sex during the time when you would normally have a period if you were not pregnant? This is in both booklets, with no explanation given. *scratches head*

Travel:
“Many women wish to know if they may travel to various out-of-town places. The answer is no, and if you go, you must be entirely responsible…Automobile rides on smooth streets and roads are permissible, but you should not make long tours even under the best of circumstances… It is not advisable for you to drive a car after the fourth month.”
(again, my emphasis)

“…you must be entirely responsible” – apparently doctors worried about malpractice suits even then.

Hey Lady, you better get out behind that wheel if you're over 4 months pregnant! (image from Dorothy Levitt's front piece to The Woman and The Car)

Hey Lady, you better get out from behind that wheel if you’re over 4 months pregnant! (image from Dorothy Levitt’s frontpiece to The Woman and The Car)

Gee, Mom, I’m really sorry about all that I put you through. In addition to those hours of labor, 2 a.m. feedings and rebellious teenage years, you had to wear a corset while pregnant with me, couldn’t drive, and still had to keep track of your periods even when you weren’t having them, so you’d know when you weren’t supposed to make whoopee.

Thanks for all the sacrifices you made for me!

(Btw, I seriously doubt my mother did any of those things.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, young and old and in between!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Is It About The WHODUNNIT Or The WHO? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m in editing hell at the moment, so I thought it would be a good time to offer up an encore presentation of a previous post. Indeed, this was the very first post I wrote here on the misterio press blog.

64px-Fingerprint_(PSF)Is it the whodunnit or the who?

In the last afternoon session at a mystery writers’ conference, I was drifting a bit as the long day was catching up with me, when the presenter’s statement jolted me wide awake.

“Mysteries are not about the mystery. They’re about the characters.”

My first thought: Say what?
Second thought: Dang, he’s right.

“Two weeks after the reader has finished a mystery,” the presenter continued, “they’ve forgotten most of the plot. But if it was a good story, they remember the characters.”

I knew, as a mystery reader, that this rang true.

But why is it true? my inquisitive, analytical little mind asked. I’m not sure I have the definitive answer to that question, but here are my thoughts.

People walking on sidewalk

photo by Linda Bartlett, public domain, Wikimedia Commons

We are surrounded by two things every day. One, we are surrounded by ordinary people–butchers, bakers and candlestick makers (maybe not so many of them anymore), doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs (yes, I actually do know an Indian chief).

Two, unfortunately in American society today, we are also surrounded by violence.

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, which hovers around #12 on the list of worst crime cities in the country (after the recent riots, it may make it back into the top ten). When in Maryland visiting friends and family, my husband and I refer to the local Baltimore news broadcast as the “litany of murders.”

Okay, before you decide to click over to some less depressing blog, I am going to lighten up here.

So why in the world are murder mysteries and thrillers in the top three genres in fiction? (And they’ve been there for a long time!)

Cover of Black Mask magazine featuring the Maltese Falcon

Sept, 1929 issue of Black Mask magazine

Why do we turn to murder–that depressing, gruesome thing we hear about every night on the evening news–when we want to relax and be entertained?

Because we, as ordinary people, are fascinated by the idea of extraordinary things happening to other ordinary people like us. We want to see how the characters deal with the murder. If we find the characters engaging, if we can relate to them, then we are hooked.

When the everyday-person, could-be-you- or-me protagonist in a mystery is brave and daring, we are empowered. When s/he is scared, we swallow a lump in our own throats. When s/he is sad, our eyes tear up.

We project ourselves into these ordinary people who are struggling with out-of-the-ordinary situations. We are proud of their successes, mournful for their losses, terrified by the risks they must take, and relieved beyond measure when they are okay in the end.

We can experience these emotions and live through these experiences vicariously, without the real-life repercussions of such events. And often we grow a little and are strengthened, as the characters we have become immersed in are challenged and must grow or die.

In the past, when people have asked me why I love to read mysteries, I have said, “Because they are as far away from my own life as I can get. They are great escapes.” This is true, since I’m not in the habit of stumbling over dead bodies.

But I now realize that this statement is not the whole truth. I love mysteries because they are about people like me, but in situations unlike those I normally encounter in daily life. I love to see how these people (i.e., me) deal with the challenges of extraordinary events.

These are my thoughts. What are yours? Why do you love mysteries? Do you agree or disagree that they are mainly about the characters?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )