Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Interview: Phyllis Newsom from The Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livia J. Washburn

One of the things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving is the wonderful opportunity I had to interview Phyllis Newsom, star of The Fresh Baked mystery series!  The latest book in the series, The Gingerbread Bump-Off, is available in stores now.  I recently finished reading the book, and I loved it!

The action starts when Phyllis agrees to feature her home in the annual Jingle Bell Tour of Homes.  She spends hours decorating the house for Christmas, but before the guests arrive someone is attacked right on her doorstep.  You won't want to put this book down as Phyllis and her friends canvas the neighborhood, trying to determine who had it out for Weatherford's latest victim, all while trying to prepare for Christmas and a Christmas Eve bridal shower!  

I rate this book 5 out of 5 CozyUps!  Read on for my interview with Phyllis.  A big thank you to Livia J. Washburn for "introducing" me to Texas's most famous sleuth!

CozyUpBlog:  Hi Phyllis, welcome to the CozyUpBlog! We are delighted to be speaking with you today.

Phyllis:  Thank you so much for having me here.  I really enjoy reading the blog.

CUB: CozyUpBlog is all about celebrating the seasons.  What is your favorite season and why?

Phyllis: The whole time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably my favorite not only because of all the good food associated with both holidays but also because it's the time of year when family and friends come together more.  There's nothing I like more than spending time with all the people I love.

CUB: In The Gingerbread Bump-Off your home is being featured in Weatherford, Texas’, annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes.  That sounds like a fun holiday tradition- can you tell us about it?

Phyllis: Well, it's a considerable amount of work for the people who decorate their homes and open them for the tour, I've discovered.  But it's worth it when you see people's eyes light up with enjoyment, especially the children.  I think when it comes to Christmas lights and decorations, we're all sort of children at heart.

CUB: Gingerbread takes place during Christmastime.  You live with two of your best friends, Eve and Carolyn.  Which one of them has the most Christmas cheer?

Phyllis:  Oh, that puts me on the spot!  I think they both have a lot of Christmas cheer, they just express it in different ways.  Eve is all about the shopping and the hustle and bustle of the season, while Carolyn tends to enjoy the cooking and the quieter, more reflective times.  But they both love Christmas.

CUB: You and Carolyn love to enter baking competitions, but they often end in murder.  Would your son, who happens to be a police officer, ever ask you to stop competing?

Phyllis:  I hope not!  I think Mike knows that all those things were just coincidences.  Honestly, there's no reason why someone should wind up being murdered every time I enter a baking contest, now is there?
CUB: Speaking of protective men, your romance with Sam, one of the tenants in your home, seems to be heating up faster than a Christmas cookie in the oven.  How are things with him?

Phyllis:  Sam is a wonderful man, and I certainly enjoy spending time with him.  (A lady should always be discreet about such things.)

CUB:  Phyllis, thank you so much for coming by and answering all of our questions!  The Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livia J. Washburn is available at all major booksellers.  Click here to buy your copy now from Amazon.com.

The Gingerbread Bump-Off is just one of six books in the popular Fresh Baked Mystery series.  I have read each and every book in the series and I highly recommend them all.  I am listing the books in the series below, according to their season (not the order in which they were published). 

·         Read The Pumpkin Muffin Murders this Thanksgiving- it’s sure to put you in the mood for turkey and stuffing

                  The Christmas Cookie Killer is best read at Christmastime, and includes Phyllis’ mouthwatering recipe for lime sugar cookies

·         In Killer Crab Cakes Phyllis and her friends go to the shore to look after her cousin’s Bed & Breakfast, only to find a body on the pier!

·         Murder by the Slice is the perfect fall read, involving mayhem at a local school carnival

·         A Peach of a Murder takes place during the peach picking season, when it’s boiling hot in Texas!

A very special thank you to Phyllis Newsom and especially to Livia J. Washburn, who was very helpful in setting up this interview :)  Happy reading everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Dose of Cuteness: Dog in Snow Boots!

We've all heard of Puss in Boots, but what about Dog in Boots?  

Snow booties for dogs aren't anything new; people have been using them for years to protect their pup's paws from frostbite and the harsh salt and chemicals spread on roadways during snowstorms.  My dog, Pumpkin, has never used them, but the dog below has a pair.  Watch and see this chihuahua's hilarious reaction to his fancy new footwear.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Recipe: Delicious Fall Pear & Blue Cheese Pizza with Almonds

I love cooking with pears, especially in the fall when there are so many different, freshly picked varieties available in my supermarket's produce section.  One of my favorite things to make is a delicious, yet simple, pear and blue cheese pizza.  It only takes about 20 minutes to make (from start to finish!)  and it's so good that I bet you can't have just one piece.  

Here's what you'll need:

     - 1 thin crust refrigerated pizza dough (I use Pillsbury's)
     - 1 tablespoon of butter
     - 1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese
     - 2 pears (you're choice.  I like to use Bartlett pears because they're nice and juicy)
     - a container of crumbled blue cheese
     - apple cider (optional)
     - sliced or slivered almonds (optional but delicious)


     1.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Unwrap pizza dough and roll it out so that it takes up the entire cookie sheet. 

     2.  Melt one tablespoon of butter in the microwave.  Then brush it all over the dough.  Your dough should have a slight buttery sheen (but shouldn't be dripping in pools of butter).

Yummmm butter!

     3.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the buttered pizza dough.

     4.  Peel the skin off of the pears.  Then slice them into thin pieces.  Place the pear pieces in a bowl with lemon juice or (optional but delicious!) apple cider.  Toss the pears around in the lemon juice or cider, then add the pear to your pizza.  If you used cider, drizzle the cider at the bottom of your pear bowl all over the pizza (no more than 1/4 cup). 

Sliced pears swimming in cider

     5.  Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese over top of pizza.  I like a lot, so for me the more the merrier!

Look at that yummy cider swirl!

     6.  Optional (but highly recommended): Sprinkle top of pizza with sliced or slivered almonds.

     7.  Cook pizza according to the directions on your refrigerated pizza dough.  (Note: my pizza dough calls for pre-baking the dough but I don't do this.  I simply extend the cooking time by a few minutes.)  Remove from oven when edges start turn turn brown.

Bubbling pizza, half pear & blue cheese, half regular cheese.
     8.  Enjoy!  

Note: I have done this pizza many different ways.  I have used walnuts and other kinds of nuts, but have found almonds to be the tastiest.  I have also made it with caramelized onions, which was delicious (but obviously more time consuming).  Feel free to experiment and make this recipe your own!

Spotted: Holiday & Christmas Dog T-Shirts in Target's Dollar Section

What's even better than a Christmas present all wrapped up under the tree?  Your dog, all wrapped up in his holiday finest, of course!  As you all know, I love involving my dog Pumpkin in the holidays, and Christmas is right around the corner.  I won't be pouring eggnog in his bowl, but I will be dressing him in these adorable doggy t-shirts from Target's dollar section.  How cute are they?

Santa's Little Yelper, Cookie Taster, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, Let it Snow, Property of North Pole, Let it Snow, Bah Hum Bug
They're made of cotton, come in sizes x-small through medium, and at $2.50 each you can't beat the price.  The two hooded shirts on the bottom left of my picture close in the front with velcro.  All the others are a standard t-shirt that you slip on over you dog's head. 

There's also an elf costume, a few tees for your "snow" and "candy cane" princess, and some "Ugly Christmas Sweaters."  There may be even more, but this is what I saw.  Adorable!

Here's Pumpkin, posing very seriously for a treat in his "Cookie Taster" t-shirt.  I think this one might be my favorite.

Head over to the dollar section at your local Target to find these adorable shirts.  You may have to dig through the bins a bit to find them.  My store had just put them out and was already running low on the larger sizes, so don't wait too long.

Happy shopping!

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this post. I purchased these doggy t-shirts with my own money.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Funniest Cat & Dog Halloween Costumes, 2011

Halloween was a few days ago, but I couldn't let it pass without showing you these adorable pictures. Here they are, the very best dog and cat costumes I came across this Halloween.  I dare you not to laugh!

Poor Fluffy was attacked by a lobster on her way to the spice rack. (via omgkitty.com)

What?  Do I have something on my face?

So, did you smile?  Told you so!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cozy Mystery Review: Liver Let Die by Liz Lipperman

I love a good cozy mystery, especially one that involves food and includes recipes.  That's why I was eager to read Liver Let Die by Liz Lipperman, when it came out in October.  This book is the first in the new "Clueless Cook" mystery series and, as far as I know, the first book for this author.

Synopsis: After following her boyfriend to Dallas, only to be dumped and humiliated, Jordan McAllister moves to a small town in Texas, too embarrassed to return home.  She takes a job writing personal ads at a local newspaper, with dreams of one day writing the paper's sports column.  When she's asked to fill in for the paper's culinary reporter, Jordan takes on the challenge.  So what if she doesn't know foie gras from chicken and can barely make grilled cheese?  Anything is better than writing the personals.  Jordan's first assignment is to review a fancy steakhouse, which seemed easy enough until her waiter is found dead outside her apartment building later that night.  Had he been coming to see her?  Why?  Before long Jordan is embroiled in a murder investigation that leads to break ins, smashing people over the head with cornbread pans, meeting a cute but mysterious newcomer to town, and even having a showdown with some hungry, feral hogs.  

Review: I found myself really enjoying this book.  I liked Jordan, as well as her friends; the quirky, yet lovable, neighbors who live in her apartment building.  The book starts off strong, then drags slightly for a chapter or two before really ramping up the action.  There are multiple murders to solve, all while Jordan struggles to create articles for the "Kitchen Kupboard" section of the newspaper (providing the reader with some comic relief!)  About halfway in, when the action really gets started, you won't be able to put this book down.  The storyline is unique, as are the dangerous situations Jordan gets herself into (I bet you've never seen wild hogs and foie gras used in a murder mystery before!)  You may think you see the ending coming, but you'll never guess the complexity of it all.  I look forward to reading the next book in this series and visiting Ranchero, TX, again.

My rating: 4 out of 5 "cozyups"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving Thanks? EveryDay with Rachael Ray Magazine Double Bills Subscribers for November Issue

If you subscribe to Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, you might remember the enclosure letter that came with your November issue a couple weeks ago.  Didn't pay attention to the enclosure?  Neither did I.  Assuming it was a renewal offer, I tossed it in the trash.

That will teach me.  It turns out the innocuous letter actually contained some important information.  Namely, the fact that Every Day's November issue is so exciting that it will count as TWO issues for subscribers.  Was your subscription set to end in February?  Now you can kiss it goodbye in January instead.

According to the magazine: 
"This edition is so big, in fact, that we are treating it as a special issue that will count toward two of your subscriber issues, so the duration of your subscription will be adjusted accordingly. We hope you will agree that it is well worth it.”
Sorry Rach, but I don't agree.  My October issue was 152 pages.  November's is 176.  Hardly big enough to constitute a one month reduction in my subscription, if you ask me.  I also don't like being told, after already paying for a one years subscription, that it's actually only going to last for eleven months. 

What can you do about it?  Call Every Day (1-800-217-6630) and tell them you'd like your subscription readjusted.  They'll do it without a problem- my phone call took all of two minutes.  

November is all about giving thanks.  I still love you RR, but maybe you should be counting your blessings, instead of double counting your reader's Thanksgiving issue.
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