Mystery Unscramble Giveaway

I’ve teamed up with 10 other mystery authors to bring you a Mystery Unscramble Giveaway–both a contest and a word game. (Mystery readers love word games, right?) For each author’s name you correctly unscramble, you’ll get one chance to win that author’s book, plus one chance to win the grand prize package of all eleven […]

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Back Home Again

    We’re back home in Texas after a cool couple of weeks in the southern Rockies of New Mexico. We love it there, with wonderful views of the clouds spilling over the mountains and cattle grazing in the valley below. It’s a long drive–almost 12 hours–but we have audio books to listen to and […]

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Appetizers & Snacks

            Stuffed Mushrooms For parties, prepare, stuff, and refrigerate ahead of time. But don’t bake until you’re ready to serve. I bake a batch, serve them, and put another tray in the oven. 1 pound fresh mushrooms 6 tablespoons butter, divided 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 1 egg, beaten 1/2 […]

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Breakfast and Brunch

                McQuaid’s Breakfast Burritos There are many variations on this popular recipe, which is a basic breakfast wrapped in your favorite tortilla. We make these for the freezer and microwave for breakfast-on-the-go. Since it’s McQuaid’s favorite breakfast, it appears in many of China’s mysteries. Saves time in the […]

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Drinks

                    Xocolātl (Spicy Hot Chocolate, Aztec Style) Cacao plants were first cultivated in Mesoamerica some three to four thousand years ago. The Olmec people ground cacao’s dried, fermented seeds into a paste and mixed with water to make a chocolate drink known as xocolātl. To make […]

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Breads, Biscuits, Bagels and Such

  Mesquite Cornmeal Muffins You can purchase mesquite flour online, if you can’t find it locally. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a mesquite tree in the neighborhood, see if you can find enough ripe beans to grind into mesquite meal. Go here to read about my adventure with mesquite meal and to check […]

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Soups, Stew, and Chili

                  Bill’s Favorite Italian Sausage Stew We like to make this super stew with a spicy Italian or Italian-spiced turkey sausage. Cooking for a crowd? This recipe is infinitely expandable, infinitely variable. Serve with hot herb bread and a salad for a satisfying meal. 1 pound sausage, […]

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Veggies

              Roast Vegetables with Garlic and Herbs If you spread the veggies in a thin layer, they will be crisper. The homemade onion soup mix gives them an extra flavor boost and reduces the need for salt. 5 carrots, scrubbed (peel if necessary) and chopped 5 ribs celery, washed […]

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Main Dishes

                    Pork Tenderloin with Herb Rub The USDA now advises us to cook pork to an internal temperature of 145°F, then allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes. The lower temperature makes for a more juicy, tender meat. I use a cast-iron skillet to brown […]

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Desserts

                  Orange-Rosemary Apple Pie Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream. Pastry for a 9” 2-crust pie 6-7 cups peeled and sliced apples (I like Granny Smith) 2 sprigs rosemary 1/2 cup orange juice 1/2 cup white sugar 1 teaspoon flour 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon […]

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BookScapes: Review of THE FIVE, by Hallie Rubenhold

Exceptional research underpins this riveting study of the five victims of Jack the Ripper. These are well-told stories of women’s lives in mid-to-late 1800s, converging in the Whitechapel slums of London in the summer and early autumn of 1888. Rubenhold’s book is a much-needed corrective, staying away from the murderer and the murders but focusing […]

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New Mexico Sunflowers

It’s late summer here in the New Mexico mountains, almost autumn, and the meadows are filled with the rich gold of sunflowers, accentuated by tall spires of mullein. We’ll be here another week or so, enjoying the warm days and crisp, cool nights–a big change from the uncomfortable heat and humidity back in Texas. The […]

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BookScapes: Briefly 08/29/2019

Briefly, two true crime narratives about the current challenge of keeping libraries safe as the value of their special collections skyrockets and criminal collectors look to them as a source of valuable goodies. Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library, by Travis McDade, is the  fascinating story of […]

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BookScapes: True Crime Addict

I’ve been intrigued by true crime since the publication of In Cold Blood in 1966. I’ve watched the genre evolve from its beginnings in books about the crimes (sensational, usually gory), the criminal (usually gruesome), and the cops that investigate the crimes and catch (or don’t) the criminals. True Crime Addict, by James Renner, belongs in the latest […]

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BookScapes: The Gown

Jennifer Robson has chosen a winning subject for her fifth novel, a story about the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown and the transformative role it plays in the lives of three women: Ann Hughes, an embroiderer in the London workroom of designer Norman Hartnell; Ann’s co-worker, Miriam Dassin, a French emigre and Holocaust survivor; […]

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Mesquite Season in the Hill Country

It’s mesquite bean season here at Meadow Knoll, and as usual, our honey mesquite trees are loaded. These were a prized native food, rich in plant protein, calcium. potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. The beans were usually ground into flour and baked as a flat cake or mixed with venison and smoked or dried as […]

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BookScapes: Briefly 08/07/19

Every now and then, I happen on a book I really like, but which bothers me. Recently, I’ve happened on two books, both excellent, that bother me in the same interesting way. Here they are, briefly. Once Upon a Time: A True Tale of Memory, Murder and the Law  by Harry N. MacLean This book […]

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BookScapes: The Last Stone

I write crime fiction, so I read a lot of true crime. I often find the genre difficult, but it’s fascinating at the same time, especially as it has evolved over the last couple of decades. Recently, one of my author colleagues (Leia Francisco) made a distinction between “liking” a book and “appreciating” it. We […]

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LifeScapes: Button Bush and a Major Chicken Event

The button bushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis) that grow along our little creek are in full bloom just now, their round, highly symmetrical blossoms delighting the bees, hummingbirds and butterflies–especially the giant swallowtails, no doubt graduated from the larvae that completely stripped my dill this spring. No problem, though.  I plant much more dill than I need. […]

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Bookscapes: The Pink Suit

I’ve added something new to my new website: a blog called BookScapes. It will include what I’m thinking these days about books, the writing process, and the publishing/book industry. It will also include reviews of books I’m reading or (if they’re still worth thinking about), books I’ve read in the past. I plan to repost […]

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BookScapes: The Real Lolita

Now that the new website is organized and functioning, I’m planning to add something new: reviews of books I’m reading or (if they’re still worth thinking about), books I’ve read in the past. I’m a voracious reader of all kinds of books: genre fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction, and I’ve been reviewing books here and there […]

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Mustard

It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. —Luke 13:9 Most commentators agree that the mustard Jesus refers to in these passages is the ordinary black […]

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Wormwood

But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. —Proverbs 5:4 He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood… —Lamentations 3:15 Bitter-tasting wormwood appears frequently in Scripture as a symbol of repentance, punishment, and suffering. The general term “wormwood” refers to a number of plants belonging to […]

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Thistles, Thorns, and Nettles

And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. —Isaiah 34:13 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? —Matthew 7:16 Thistles—thorny weeds that thrive in uncultivated […]

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Saffron

Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense… —Song of Solomon 4:14 Today, we recognize Solomon’s saffron as our own familiar fall-blooming crocus (Crocus sativus). In spring, much of the Holy Land is bright with the white, pink, purple, blue, or orange-yellow flowers of over a dozen different kinds of crocus, several […]

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Rue

Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.. —Luke 11:42 Ordinary garden rue (Ruta graveolens) is the plant referred to in Luke. This shrubby, multi-stemmed perennial […]

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Sunflowers: In Bloom This Week

                Every year, the sunflowers bloom along our lane, as dependable as the sun itself. This native sunflower is Helianthus annuus–native, that is, to the Americas, although it has now traveled around the planet. The Americans who were here before us used every part of the sunflower. They […]

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Nigella

Doth he not cast abroad the fitches and scatter the cumin?…For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cumin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cumin with a rod. —Isaiah 28:25 & 27 There has been a great deal […]

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Rose

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. —Isaiah 35:1 The desert “rose” of Isaiah 35:1, according to Biblical scholars, is most likely the Bunchflower daffodil or narcissus. (The original text uses the Hebrew word for “bulb.”) Known to botanists as Narcissus […]

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Mint

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.—Luke 11:42 The ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans used mint far more often than we do, both in […]

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Cumin

When he has leveled its surface, does he not scatter dill, sow cumin, and put in wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and emmer [awned wheat] as the border?–Isaiah 28:25 Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is the same plant that many people grow in their gardens today. It is an annual member of the […]

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Onions, Garlics, and Leeks

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. —Numbers 11:5 The virtues of the three most familiar of the Allium family—onions, garlic, and leeks—were well known in Biblical days. Onions and leeks were said to grow wild in […]

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Flax

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands…she layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. —Proverbs 31:13 Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is the oldest known of textile fibers. It was used in the Holy Land for clothing, towels (John 13:4-5), napkins (John 11:44), girdles and undergarments (Isaiah 3:23 […]

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Dill

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law. —Matthew 23:23 The word “anise” in this verse refers to dill (Anethum graveolens), which like coriander, is a member of the Parsley family. It was used in Biblical times […]

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Coriander

..And it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. —Exodus 16:31 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdellium. —Numbers 11:7 These verses refer to the seed of the coriander plant, Coriandrum sativum. Coriander is a white- or […]

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Castor Bean

And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd […]

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Bitter Herbs

And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. —Exodus 12:8 The “bitter herbs” of Exodus were likely plants such as lettuce, endive, chicory, dandelion, watercress, and sorrel, which were eaten as a salad with the Paschal lamb and unleavened bread at […]

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Bay Laurel

 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. —Psalms 37:35 The sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) grows in dense thickets in the Palestinian mountains. It retains its leathery, aromatic leaves and looks green and prosperous all year long. For the Psalmist, the “green bay tree” was a symbol […]

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Anemone

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. —Luke 12: 27- 28 Most authorities now regard the Palestine anemone, Anemone cornaria, as the famous “lily of the […]

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Apricot

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit therof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. —Genesis 3:6 It has […]

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