Monday, January 23, 2017


DEBORAH CROMBIE: We all know what HYGGE is, right? The word is Danish, and supposedly there is no direct English translation. But "a quality of coziness that engenders contentment and a feeling of well-being" supposedly comes close.

So how do you pronounce this wonderful term? Hue-gah? Hoo-gay? Hue-guh? No one seems quite sure about this, either. But no matter how you say it, HYGGE has spawned hundreds of books and magazine articles and decorating trends. The Danes came up with the concept because they have very long dark winters and they needed to find a way to make those dark days fun instead of going out and burying themselves en mass in snow drifts or drinking themselves to death. So they concentrated on fuzzy hand-knitted socks and crackling fires and perfect pots of tea, and on candle-lit homey gatherings of friends and family around home-cooked pots of stew. (Do they use Le Creuset in Denmark, I wonder?)  Then, they throw in READING. Now that sound pretty hard to beat, and just the ticket for those of us who are feeling a bit battered by this last year.

Of course, it occurs to me that I have been making perfect pots of tea for years, and that I already have fuzzy socks, and that there are few things I love more than reading in front of the fire, or warm cozy dinners with family, or drinking wine in my kitchen with my very best friends gathered together.  But apparently the secret to HYGGE is that you should do those things consciously, with appreciation for the moment.

Debs with fire, fuzzy socks, candle, and her furry friend, Chewbacca.
REDS, do you practice HYGGE?

INGRID THOFT: YES!!  How could I not, with a name like mine?  One of my nephews refers to his sweats and p.j.s as his "cozies," and the whole family has adopted the term.  I like getting into my cozies and curling up on the couch with a good book.  Even though I have the Danish blood, I think my husband taught me about coziness and a feeling of contentment more than anyone else.  I grew up with an inclination to always be productive, but early on in our relationship, he showed me the value of slowing down and recharging one's batteries.  I think a lot of cultures do it better compared to Americans when it comes to self-care and creating a sense of community.  I'm all for productivity, but much can be gained from taking it easy when given the chance.  Also, aren't the Danes one of the happiest groups of people on the planet?  Perhaps they're on to something.

Do you know how much I love Ingrid's photo???

HALLIE EPHRON: HYGGE? I'd never heard the term, but "slowing down to smell the roses" and being content in the moment and indulging in friends and good food and staying warm... high priorities for me. All year 'round. My favorite winter clothing: silky long underwear -- not the waffle weave cotton stuff that bunches up in your pant legs and armpits. That thin extra layer really works, and there are brands like Cuddle Duds that aren't expensive and feel great.

And I confess I'm into warm winter socks in a big way and sometimes, when it's really cold, I wear my Uggs boots around the house. They weren't cheap but one of the best investments I ever made... five+ years ago.

My favorite cozy activity does not involve friends... a hot bath. The original bathtub in our 1920s house is large and has a sloped end and I can submerge everything but my knees.  Mmmmmm.

Hallie's UGGs and fuzzy socks
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Jonathan and I say it all the time: Cozy! We have two cozy chairs--and either one may be occupied by either of us so we don't have "my" chair--and sweatpants and fleece tops and fuzzy blankets and watch some great movie with wine. Kidding me? Fabulous.
Also!  Jonathan makes coffee for me every morning. When I hear the sound of the spoon stirring in the milk, I know this seems silly, but I think, wow, I'm lucky.
I have fuzzy slippers, I admit, and Uggs? Are perfect. (Except if it rains.)
And how about that moment when you first get into bed, and the comforter and pillows are all puffy?

Hank--or Jonathan's--cozy chair

RHYS BOWEN: I am not a winter person! If I had my way I'd hibernate and wake up in March. I know this is wimpy because California winters are not harsh, but usually I escape to Arizona and this year John's health issues are keeping us in very wet and windy Marin County. So for the first time in ages I'm having to create my Hygge (I'd guess it's hooguh). I do love my Uggs. Brought them back from Australia in the days when I went back and forth all the time to my parents and now wear them in the house all the time (my, but they hold up well!).

Candles. I love candles on winter evenings and I've kept up some of the sparkly little lights. And I'm knitting scarves and I love mulled wine. And I'm making lots of soup. I'm lucky enough that two of my children live nearby and I really enjoy impromptu visits from them. And going to movies and having lunch with friends. I think we need lots of contact with people we care about to get us through the dark time of year! 

LUCY BURDETTE: Wish we all lived closer and could do Hygge together (not Hallie's bathtub though!) Of course in Key West, we don't have too much chilly weather. But when I am in a chilly patch, I have a very nice fleece blanket that I like for lying on the couch to watch TV. And animals help too! Especially a purring cat on my lap. They are having a cold snap in LA, where my sweet granddaughter Dorothea agrees
with the cat notion. (She has two kitties, this is Zuma.)

Julia practicing ultra-hygge
 DEBS: Oh, I am with Hallie on the bath. And with Hank on the puffy down comforter when you snuggle into bed at night. And candles and soup and friends for wine, and purring (or snoring, as the case may be) animals. I don't have to mention how I feel about tea... I make a perfect pot with a perfect cup every single morning, and it is a highlight of my day. You can't get much more HYGGE than that. Although I would certainly try. (Maybe we are transplanted Danes, although Ingrid gets first claim!) But what do the Danes do in the summer??

READERS, how about you? Are you into the cozy Danish HYGGE thing?

P.S. I love everyone's houses. How fun to see them!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sometimes We March

LUCY BURDETTE: Always, always, we are thinking of writing and books and food and friends and family--including you, our beloved readers. But sometimes we have to take a day off to express our feelings about democracy and our hopes for our country. And so we march. 

We march for our daughters and our granddaughters and our mothers and our sisters at heart--and our brothers and fathers and husbands, too. We march for our earth, our wild places and animals. We march for those who don't look like us but are part of our one human family. We march because our diversity is one of our country's greatest strengths. We march because we are ever hopeful that love will always trump hate. 

From Julia in Maine...

Hallie reporting from the Boston common...

Susan Hubbard in New York City...

Jenn McKinlay in Phoenix...

Lucy Burdette in Key West...

Ingrid in Seattle...

Lucy's niece in LA (crowd of 200,000)...

Hallie's daughters in DC...

...where you could also find Julia's husband Ross and The Smithie.

Lucy's sister Susan Cerulean with her husband Dr. Jeff Chanton in Tallahassee...

PS. We marched for all of you! xoxox The Jungle Red Writers and friends

And a few late entries from our friends...

Edith Maxwell in Boston...

Dana Cameron in DC...

Sandy and Sandy in DC...

Maribeth in Hartford...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Book Addicts, Part Two

Grace Koshida's paperbacks only!
LUCY BURDETTE: We had so much fun talking about books on Monday that I asked Jungle Red Writer readers to share photos of their to-be-read piles. And they did! Enjoy the view...

Joan Emerson's got some work to do-two rows deep!

Hank Ryan is always on the cutting edge!
Grace Koshida's hardcover stash

Kathy Reel part 1

Kathy Reel part 2

Kathy better get reading!

Mary Garrett's cozy book nook!

Margaret Title loves her craft books!

Richard Robinson the two above! Last book read: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Current reading: Ten Years Beyond Baker Street by Cay Van Ash.
Next up: The Mistletoe Murder by P. D. James

Diana Todd, parts 1 and 2!

Pat Dupuy, Library books first!
Add caption

Pat Dupuy, we're waiting!

Deborah Crombie TBR January!!

And most unusual book case/bunk bed, Mark Baker
Alicia Collins was the winner of Krista Davis's MISSION IMPAWSIBLE. The book is on its way!

And the winner of Leslie Karst's A MEASURE OF MURDER is Libby Dodd!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Come to the Table: Recipes For a More Perfect Union

 LUCY BURDETTE: I'm delighted to bring Leslie Karst back to the Reds--I loved her first culinary mystery and I'm salivating to read the second. When she chose inauguration day as the date for her post, I had some misgivings...but I love the idea of the country coming together over food. See what you think...and we'd like to hear your suggestions about healing the rifts in our country too!

LESLIE KARST: Today is inauguration day and across the country emotions are running high.

But they are not merely elevated: Right now—more than at any time since the 1960s—those emotions seem to be at polar opposites, with half the population experiencing euphoric ecstasy, the other half misery and despair. Whether you support our new president or not, one thing that cannot be disputed is that we have become a nation divided.

can the hamburger heal our nation’s divide?

And this makes me sad. Because I believe that we, as a country, are truly more connected than we are divided. The culture we share runs deep, whether we’re from Macon, Georgia or from San Francisco, California. But largely as a result of this bitter, divisive election we’ve just experienced—and the compounding effects of social, print, and televised media—we have come out of the event focused on our differences, rather than our similarities.

I’ve therefore been pondering the question, what can we do to heal this division? How do we encourage one another to instead focus once more on those customs and traditions which connect us, unite us, as Americans?

united we stand

Let me mention here that mystery readers and writers seem to be one group of people who, though we run the gamut of the political spectrum, are nevertheless united by our love of crimes, clues, clever sleuths, and the spinning of a good yarn. And this sense of solidarity across party lines is one of the things I love most about our community. But for the rest of the country, how can we heal this rift?

Well, I write culinary cozy mysteries, so my thoughts are never far from food and cooking. Not surprisingly, then, it came to me that what we eat connects us as a nation, perhaps more than any other activity. San Franciscans adore southern barbecue and Georgians love sourdough bread. And Americans across the country—no matter our race, religion, political party, sexual orientation, or cultural background—sit down together each Thanksgiving to share turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and pumpkin pie.

(Okay, so there may be some disagreement over whether it should be green beans sautéed in olive oil and garlic or green bean casserole topped with fried onions, but that’s the kind of spat I can live with.)

It has long been my belief that coming together at mealtimes to sip some wine, swap stories, and learn what’s been going on in each others’ lives, is an essential part of what it is that makes us human. From the time of the stone age, early Homo Sapiens would gather about the communal fire each night for safety, stories, and food. And although this now often takes the form of a pizza night in front of the TV, we still find comfort in our shared breaking of bread.

So here’s my idea: Form an online group (such as a community Facebook page) called “COME TO THE TABLE: RECIPES FOR A MORE PERFECT UNION.” Readers would submit stories, photos, and recipes demonstrating how much we share as a nation, and recounting incidents or events when people of different cultures have come together and were united by food, drink, or cooking.

It’s my hope that in this way, not only would folks get to read some uplifting stories online about unity as opposed to divisiveness, but the page would also bring together people of divergent cultures and beliefs.

An example: The time my wife, Robin, and I spent the evening in a Navajo bar in some tiny town in New Mexico. We were the only women and only white people in the bar and got some pretty strange looks when we walked in, but it was the only place around where we could watch the World Series. After a few minutes we went next door to McDonalds and brought a Big Mac back for the bartender. Almost immediately the tension in the bar dissipated and all the patrons wanted to come chat us up. It ended up being one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had.

So what do you readers think of the idea? Would you participate in an online forum or Facebook page like this? Please comment below to let me know!

[I should note that I personally don’t have the time right now to create and maintain such an online space, but I hereby throw the idea out there for anyone who wants to take the idea and run with it!]

Leslie and her publisher are offering a copy of A MEASURE OF MURDER to one lucky commenter today--don't forget to leave your email!

A MEASURE OF MURDER, the second book in the Sally Solari culinary mystery series, will be released February 7, 2017 (Crooked Lane Books):

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard—and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally's back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin, set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

“Engaging characters, terrific writing, and a savory blend of musical and culinary erudition...polymath Karst sauces her plot without masking its flavor. And she’s a dab hand with the red herrings.” Publishers Weekly starred review

Leslie Karst is the author of the Sally Solari culinary mystery series, published by Crooked Lane Books (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder). The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie has degrees in English literature, law, and culinary arts. After graduating from Stanford Law School, she worked for twenty years as a research and appellate attorney before turning to mystery writing. Leslie now spends her days cooking, gardening, cycling, singing alto in the local community chorus, and of course writing. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix, Ziggy, split their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawai’i. Visit her online at and at .