Friday, December 30, 2011

Bee Good

Beekeeper crop

When Wined and Died came out last July, I guest posted on Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers about many of the benefits of honey.

As it happens, Lois Winston will be guest posting here on Hearth Cricket next Tuesday, which got me to thinking about that post and checking my supply of local honey.

Then, less than an hour later I stumbled across Honey, Nature’s Golden Healer by Gloria Havenhand at the library. Literally stumbled, as the community college library I frequent is taking advantage of the holiday break to renovate parts of the facility, and things are in disarray. It doesn’t help that I’m a total klutz somewhat uncoordinated, either.


510tzTI5hrL._SL500_AA300_ Havenhand is a beekeeper (naturally), and her book is chock full of interesting bits about bees, honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and beeswax. She provides yummy looking recipes – and the photos are simply gorgeous.

Yes, once again I’m thinking about making this top-bar hive and giving bee keeping a go next spring. Because it’s winter now, and I can imagine all the things I really don’t have time to do. This year, I’ll have even less time than usual. Still, let a girl dream, eh? 

One of the things that struck me as I read the book is how unique honey is. Havenhand says,

“Honey only comes from honeybees – nobody has been able to invent or develop a machine (or the materials) to manufacture honey – and for them honey-making is an industrial process that mocks the modest attempts at industry plied by man. The raw material, nectar, is gathered laboriously from thousands upon thousands of flowers. Bees are an enviable workforce: they can work nearly 24 hours a day and swear unswerving allegiance to their “boss,” the queen bee. They ask for nothing in return except their tiny food collections.”

As much as I’d learned about honey’s amazing antibacterial and healing properties when researching Wined and Died, Havenhand provides even more therapeutic uses, including:

  • Taking honey with calcium supplements to increase the body’s calcium uptake
  • Taking 2-3 teaspoonfuls to counteract water retention
  • Combining honey with cinnamon and propolis to fight arthritis
  • Using borage honey specifically to regulate blood pressure
  • Taking honey before bed to battle insomnia and wake up refreshed since the glucose stored in the liver regulates blood sugar overnight
  • Taking honey before bed to ease leg cramps
  • Mixing honey into warm milk to calm the nerves and battle depression

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. She also talks about bee sting therapy, preserving with honey, and even using it to heal wounds on trees.

I’m so glad I tripped onto this book!

(And yes, that’s me in the beekeeping suit above, courtesy of our apiary-owning friends who let K and me help with the harvest one year.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deer Tree

blue tree Last evening a car pulled up in front of our house. Another soon followed, and then a third. Watching them surreptitiously from between the window shades in the breakfast nook, I wondered what was up. I didn’t recognize any of the cars or the people in them.

Were they all really gathered to look at the Whoville tree lit up in the front yard? The day after Christmas? Talk about a slow news day. Then one car aimed its headlights right at the tree. Hardly the traditional way to view holiday lights.

Of course, they weren’t looking at the lights. Five little mule deer had set up station in the glistening snow around the 30-foot tree. Two muscular bucks and three delicate does in a boy-girl-boy, ring-around-the-rosie stance, watching the humans watching them as the LEDs on the fir faded from blue to green and back to blue again.

green tree Then, with no discernable reason, the deer flicked their tails in unison and bounded like springs across the street, over a low fence, and into the neighbor’s pasture. The spectators’ tires crunched on frozen slush, and darkness returned to the street.

I looked up and saw a bright thumbnail of the moon coyly curled around nearby Venus. The rest of the moon was a strangely visible black circle, a dark palette awaiting the waxing moonlight in the coming weeks to accompany the gradual increase of daylight as the new year marches toward us, full of potential.

Nose tingling from the cold, I slipped back inside to the crackling fire and the smells of braising pork chops and bread hot out of the oven.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!


Sophie Mae loves fiber arts, and the witches in the Magical Bakery Mysteries love a good solstice celebration. So how could I resist the cartoon above? Not to mention that we’re expecting snow and temps in the teens tonight. Fire or no fire, dancing naked outdoors sounds like a really bad idea.

Today is my day over at Inkspot, where I’ve written about characters refusing to do what I ask them to. Stop by and say hey if you get the chance!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thinking Ahead

snow day

Gifts have been bought, wrapped and sent. We’ve donated three flocks of chickens and three flocks of ducks to Heifer International in the names of friends and family. The prime rib is on order, and will arrive in time to dry age in the fridge for three days before spending all of Christmas afternoon in a low oven. In lieu of a tree, our annual “festive cone of light” shines in the window. It’s a 3-ft. grapevine cone covered with multi-colored globe lights. The 30-ft. blue fir in the front yard sports LED lights which slowly change from blue to green and back again. A single ball of red lights hangs among them like a giant, ripe fruit. It is a tree straight out of Whoville.

Tiny snowflakes are falling outside. The fire is crackling on the grate. A cup of strong Irish tea sits at my elbow. An afternoon of writing awaits.

I’ve reviewed and returned the copy edits for for Brownies and Broomsticks. I played with recipes until I was happy with the two slated to appear in the back of the book. Work is progressing on the new Cricket McRae/Bailey Cates website, which will feature one-stop shopping for information on all my books, schedule, etc., and I’ve begun preparing for the release on May 1, 2012.

I’m plugging away on the second Magical Bakery Mystery, in the flow and hitting my page quotas. It’s due to the publisher in March.

My sixth Home Crafting Mystery is with the publisher. All along I’ve been calling it Digging Up Darla (and that’s how it’s listed in the front of Wined and Died), but the marketing department likes A Deadly Row to Hoe better. So that’s officially the new title, and I learned it will hit the shelves in November of 2012. My fabulous cover artist at Midnight Ink is working on a brand new style of cover for this one. The other covers will likely change to the new style as the books go back to print. I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with!

Tonight I’ll be meeting with the Old Town Writing Group to eat sushi and talk about writing goals for the next year. Since writing is such a huge part of my life, I’ve had to think about personal goals, too.

I’ve worked in the stress-filled corporate world, surrounded by an aura of anxiety and fake deadlines and emergency. I very deliberately left it behind, not without risk. My world now is about story and language, peopled with characters I love spending time with. 

My primary goal for 2012 is to never lose sight of how lucky I am, and to remember that dreams are worth pursuing.

A bit vague? Yes – but the impetus for all the other goals that follow. Mostly they have to do with managing my writing time better, preparing for the surprises that always crop up and wreak havoc upon carefully planned schedules, getting out of my own way, playing more and worrying less.

Care to share any of your goals for the upcoming year?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Playing Footsie

spa foot

It’s a busy time of year, but you can still be nice to your feet this season. All but one of the recipes below use common kitchen ingredients and don’t take much time. The last recipe is for the solid lotion bar Sophie Mae makes in Lye in Wait.

Soothing: Mix together one part apple cider vinegar to two parts plain yogurt. Rub all over feet, leave for five minutes and rinse.

Refreshing: Combine equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water and massage into your feet for five minutes before taking a bath or shower.

For dry feet: Mix a Tablespoon of bran with three Tablespoons of very strong chamomile tea. Rub into feet for five minutes, rinse and moisturize.

Or -- dry foot vinaigrette: Shake together equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and olive oil in a jar, and massage into the soles of your feet.

Cracked toenails: Wheat germ oil is great for cracked toenails. Rub it in at night and cover with socks.

And finally, another way to sooth dry feet is to use Sophie Mae’s solid lotion bar. To make one, melt together two ounces each of beeswax, solid cocoa butter and solid coconut oil and pour the mixture into something relatively bar-shaped. I use a one-cup measuring cup when making a single serving (so to speak). Allow to cool and unmold either by freezing and tapping the bar out onto the counter or by running the mold under hot water and allowing the bar to slide out.

You’ll have to go to a health food store to find solid cocoa butter and a craft store for beeswax (or order them online). Solid coconut oil can be found in the baking section of most chain grocery stores.

If you use non-deodorized cocoa butter, the white-chocolate scent combines wonderfully with the smell of the coconut oil. Mmm…

Happy Hoofing!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Cover, New Name

Introducing the newly minted cover of the first Magical Bakery Mystery, Brownies and Broomsticks.

brownies_broomsticks (1)

Penguin requested that I use a pseudonym for the series, and I chose the name Bailey Cates.

Soon there will be a dual Cricket/Bailey website with information on both of my mystery series. Bizango Websites for Writers is designing it, and I’ll let you know when it’s ready for viewing (and feedback). In the meantime, here’s a little information about the book from the back cover:

Katie Lightfoot’s tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah’s quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

In the Honeybee Bakery – named after Lucy’s orange tabby – Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren’t just tasty – Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

But when a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and the few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy will stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben’s name and find the real killer…

Brownies and Broomsticks will release from Penguin/NAL in May of 2012, and is already available for preorder from Amazon.

Be assured that I’m still writing the Home Crafting Mysteries for Midnight ink/Llewellyn. They have the sixth in that series in hand. As I’ve mentioned on Hearth Cricket before, the working title is Digging Up Darla. When I get cover art and release date information I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week Link: Normal School Writing Contest


The Normal School literary magazine is accepting entries in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the third annual Normal Prize until February 12, 2012. One winner in each category will receive $1000 and publication. Check out the contest guidelines here.

Good luck!