Saturday, April 30, 2022

What We're Writing Week - Julia Googles

 Julia Spencer-Fleming: I'm still recovering from the good time I had at Malice Domestic, where I brought back not just great memories and a cool "Guest of Honor" tea cup, but also *cue dramatic music* Covid. 

I'm fine; vaxxed and double boosted, my symptoms are identical to a boring head cold. I'm going through Kleenex fast enough to deliver a bump to Kimberly-Clark share prices and I've got a post-nasal-drip sore throat, but I was out yesterday tearing down multiflora rose vines (my lord, those things grow insanely long) and toting in wood for the wood stove, so I can't say it's holding me back. My doctor's office wrote me a scrip for Paxlovid and I'm not supposed to go anywhere until Sunday, which is fine, because I saw more people in four days in DC than I have in the entire period between January 2020 - April 2022. It was so joyfully overwhelming that I may not leave my house until Bouchercon this fall.

I'm not sharing an excerpt, because I wanted to answer an interesting question I got during one of my panels. Or maybe at the Guest of Honor interview? An audience member asked, "What are some of the odd things you've Googled?" and all I could think of in the moment was checking out if breath mints existed in the early 1930s for OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY. (They did! Sen-Sen, just like in the song from The Music Man.)

Of course, we all like to do research by interviewing, or being places in person, but as Debs pointed out yesterday, that's not always possible. Or convenient. You know what is, though? Our friend, Mr. Google. So I thought I would share some of my searches for the current work-in-some-sort-of-progress, AT MIDNIGHT COMES THE CRY.

What's the proper abbreviation for assistant state attorney general?

2008 calendar

Image of front-loader

Sunset times for Hudson Falls New York in December

Location of Applebees near Albany

Is "shacking up" still used as slang for living together?

Most popular boys names in 2000

How many square miles are in the Adirondack State Park?

Tourist camp sites near the High Peaks

White supremacy and the militia movement (this was a LOT of different sites!)

White supremacist signs

Law schools in New York City

What gear do you need for cold weather camping?

Common Chinese last names

NY State laws on prescription opiods

Map of NY State Thruway exits (This I should know by heart, really...)

NY State Park Rangers

NY State Fish and Game Wardens

Popular rifles for hunting game

What's the smallest concealable explosive you can make?

Home made explosives

Mohawk tribal lands in New York

Can eight month old babys walk? (Because believe it or not, despite having had three, I can't remember. Maybe because I had three!)

Santa appearances in the Glens Falls area in December

Can you hotwire a snowmobile?


Can you put together some of my plot lines, dear readers? And what are some of the odder questions you've asked Mr. Google?

Friday, April 29, 2022

What We're Writing--Debs Finds Her Way

DEBORAH CROMBIE: The last time I was up on our What We're Writing week, I said that by the time my next turn rolled around, A KILLING OF INNOCENTS would be finished!

Oh, oops, well, maybe not quite finished... but almost! Only a few days and two chapters to go, the climax and the resolution.

Resolution, now there's a nice word, and for a while I wondered if I would get there. I'd be the first to admit that I wandered and wobbled through the middle of this book, horribly frustrated by not being able to spend time in London doing essential research, much of  which is just walking the city.  A first visit gives me a general feel for a location.  Subsequent trips let me imprint the specifics, moving the characters through their daily lives in the setting. That's when you find all the fun little tidbits; the best coffee shop, the park with the interesting history, the house where a favorite writer lived. It's where the book comes to life.

For this book, I had a couple of weeks in November of 2019. And THAT. WAS.  IT.

But, eventually, I figured things out, and the first thanks in my acknowledgements will go to--Google Street View! I couldn't have done it without you, Google!

Back in the day, before we were smart, I was wedded to my A-Z.

That's pronounced A to Zed, by the way, and it is the definitive London street map book. I even had this mini version that went with me everywhere. Armed with my AZ and my tattered London Bus Route map, I could pretty much conquer London.

But, thankfully for me, technology has moved on, and virtual reality turned out to be my new best friend. I walked my way around Bloomsbury and Soho with cursor and arrows and zoom. Some of the locations were already familiar, of course, but after a while the lines between what was real and what I'd only done or seen virtually started to blur. (Is that madness, or writing fiction?)

Take this little snippet here, where Duncan is following a clue in Soho:

When he reached Old Compton Street, he was glad to see that I Camisa and Son was just as he remembered it. The deli was busy, and as he waited he breathed in the distinctive aroma of the place. Old cheeses. Cured meats. Coffee, fresh bread. And always the undertone of spices, some familiar—basil, fennel, oregano—some elusive. The place had been here a long time, long enough for the scents to seep into the very fabric of it. He wondered if there was even a ‘son’ anymore.

But whoever was in charge, it was an efficient operation, and when his turn came at the counter, his order was filled quickly. With his ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and tomato on focaccia stowed safely in a paper bag and his coffee in a paper cup, he walked back into Old Compton Street. There he hesitated, his face tilted up to the sun. He’d meant to take his lunch back to Holborn, but the day was still fine and he had a better idea.

He rounded the corner into Wardour Street and was soon seated on a bench in St. Anne’s churchyard, watching the pigeons as he ate and trying not to drip roasted tomato on his best suit trousers.

It was only when he’d finished his sandwich and brushed the crumbs from his lap that he checked his messages. He’d missed a text from Gemma. 

I have actually sat on a bench in St. Anne's churchyard. And the deli, I Camisa and Son, is a real place, but I've never been there. It came up on a list of Best Sandwiches in London, it was in exactly the right spot, and Duncan needed lunch. I figured it looked like the wonderful Mr. Christian's deli in Notting Hill, and smelled like Valvona and Crolla, the famous Italian deli just around the corner from where I used to live in Edinburgh.

And now, just reading that, I'm starving. I Camisa and Son is definitely on my list next trip.

Dear REDS, when you are writing, do you sometimes lose track of which things are real and which things you've made up? 

Readers, I'm sure we've all done that with books we love. On my very first visit to London, walking down Piccadilly, I said, "Oh, look, there's Lord Peter's flat!" And I almost expected to hear the notes from the piano drifting from the building. 

What fictional setting has lived up to your expectations in real life?

A KILLING OF INNOCENTS will be released February 7th, 2023.


You can preorder from Amazon here.
And from B&N here

Links to Indies will be coming soon!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Is the Middle in the Cards? @LucyBurdette #whatwerewriting

 LUCY BURDETTE: I’m grinding along in the muddled middle of Key West mystery #13. Before we made our trip from Key West to Connecticut, I screeched to a halt at a scene where Hayley has lunch with her tarot-card-reading pal, Lorenzo. What would he tell her that could help her solve the mystery or sort out some questions in her own life? 

Believe it or not, it always helps me move the plot along if *I* have lunch with my real friend, Ron, the model for Lorenzo. So I did. Here we are, when I ran across him at Mallory Square.

And here's a bit of the scene featuring Hayley with her Lorenzo, from about Chapter 16 or so. I don't have it all worked out, but it's slowly coming together. (The sentence in caps reminds me later to somehow use this more expertly. Suggestions always welcome, of course!) 

I stopped speaking and slumped into my chair. “Are you having any messages from the universe about this mess?” 

I didn’t really expect him to be able to deliver an answer to that. That’s not how his gift worked. But he sometimes had sparks, bits of light that illuminated the path later on. I leaned forward to absorb whatever he said.

My friend cocked his head like a curious bird. “From what you’ve told me, I would want to know who had access to their knife. And who had a previous relationship with the man who died. And who stood to gain the most from his death. Or who became enraged by something he did when he was alive.” LATER REMEMBER A HINT THAT COMES FROM THIS READING

I sat back in my chair again and crumpled my napkin. “Those are excellent questions.” 

“Did you ever watch that cooking show called Rat in the Kitchen? One of the performing chefs is a saboteur, but nobody knows who it is. The person oversalts a competitor’s sauce or exchanges rotten ingredients for fresh, things like that. This reminds me of that. Although no one gets murdered on the show.” Now he looked a little sad. “It’s not only in Key West where those with the most money run the world.”

“You always come through. How are you doing by the way? I didn’t ask you anything about your life.” Belatedly, I noticed the dark circles under his blue eyes.

Those eyes blinked closed and then back open. “You know that Uranus is in my house, and that means a rocky stretch, a lot of disruption. But I’m coming out of it, I am fine.” He paused. “I will be fine.”

Lorenzo believed deeply in the meaning of astrological charts, and what he saw there, reflected his truth. It was often spot on. This reminded me of what my friend Eric the psychologist always told me. The caretakers in this world could appear to be all together emotionally, but the weight of carrying other peoples’ problems could begin to create tiny fissures in their hearts. Emotional stress fractures, to say it another way. It was important for a caretaker to reach out so that someone could care for them, too. Otherwise, the heart might shatter along the lines of those hairline cracks. Lorenzo, like Eric, was a kind person with a big heart whose first impulse was to carry other people forward when they couldn’t move themselves. 

If you’re interested in other posts about Lorenzo, here’s one from Fatal Reservations.

This one was written as Fatal Reservations was published and it follows the development of Lorenzo (and me and Hayley) across the series. 

I'd love to ask you what else you think Lorenzo might tell Hayley, but seeing as you don't know the story, it's hardly a fair question!

Meanwhile, #12, A DISH TO DIE FOR will be out on August 9, but you can certainly pre-order it now

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Rhys is Not Writing

RHYS BOWEN:  I have had to take a break from serious writing this week, dear readers, for a very good reason--or rather two very good reasons. Over the weekend I was at Malice Domestic convention, where I was guest of honor. (along with fellow Jungle Red Julia, who was GOH for the year before. (Both of us a year late as the pandemic put the convention on hiatus for 2 years. And now we willingly shared the spotlight!)

 I hope Julia had as fabulous a time as I did. It was utterly amazing, surreal. My GOH interview was with my dear friend Louise Penny. We had a packed house and at the end I got the longest standing ovation, during which I had to fight back tears. 

Then I had to give a speech at the banquet . In spite of the food being well.. you know, banquet food at its worst, including a steak I simply couldn't cut and instead Louise fed me half her ravioli, it was such a wonderful event. It's always moving and inspiring to see first time Agatha winners overcome with emotion.

I also would have been presented with my Agatha tea pot for last year's win but alas due to pandemic supply chain issues there were no teapots to be had, nor was there my guest-of-honor tea cup.  They will arrive in due time, I'm sure.  The organizers did their best against all odds. Well done.

The convention ended with the Agathas tea party--my favorite as I love tea parties.  And the best thing about the weekend, apart from seeing old and dear friends, was that my daughter and new co-writer Clare was with me to experience it all and be introduced to the mystery community. She commented that she has found her tribe and will be attending every convention from now on!

Then on Monday it was on to the next amazing event: train from DC to New York where I am staying until the Edgars banquet on Thursday (where I am nominated for best novel!!!!!  Amazing)

I'll update you if I win. Not holding my breath.

And next week I have to get back to serious revisions on my new work in progress, called ISLAND OF LOST BOYS. It takes place in Paris in the thirties, London and France in WWII and then Australia after the war. And its more harrowing and dark than anything I have written. But I hope it's good stuff.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

WHAT WE'RE WRITING: Hank has breaking news, a sneak peek, and an experiment!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: A sneak peek at my new book below! But first, breaking news. First, I have been named Guest of Honor at next year’s Malice Domestic convention. SO AMAZING! (Julia and Rhys were this year’s and the year before, and can you imagine that powerhouse duo at the podium this year? So now, they will be able to tell me the secret handshake.) I am still floating.

Second: My new book THE HOUSE GUEST has a cover! YAY! And it will be revealed on Wednesday. So watch for it! All the Reds shepherded me through the decision, of course, and I am incredibly thrilled. If you want to help me reveal it, just email me at and I will give you all the deets.

Also: Do NOT buy HER PERFECT LIFE. Seriously. I mean–not yet. It’s going on sale for a pittance on May 10. And you will hear about it, you can be sure. So get ready to click the buy button.

And! THE HOUSE GUEST advance review copies are being printed right now. Yay. (Gilly Macmillan, who read a bound manuscript, just called it “propulsive, smart, twisty, and impossible to predict”” and “A thriller-lover’s treat!” So, again, yay.)

So the whole thing has been a process, and the other day I looked back at several versions of the manuscript for THE HOUSE GUEST. I keep every day's version, maybe that’s silly, but it’s truly instructive. If you compare the versions, you can really see the thought process, the emergence of character, the appearance of theme and motivation.

So here's an experiment.  First, here's the version of page one that existed in May, 2021. Essentially a year ago.

Then, after that, the current version. Which probably won’t change.

What can you tell about the differences? What do you think?

Version from May 2021

Chapter 1

Ailsa swirled the icy olives in her martini, thinking about division. She stared through the chilled glass at the lighted bottles lined up on the shiny aluminum bar shelves in front of her. Division, as in divorce. Not only the obvious division, hers from Bill, but the division of their property. On her side of the ledger, she was supposed get the mortgage-free Weston house (but not the Osterville cottage), the jewelry, two of the important paintings, gym membership for life, and some other stuff. Money, certainly. The lawyers were discussing it, she’d been told. She jiggled the fragments of disappearing ice. Discussing.

What did Bill get? Besides everything else, he got the friends.

All the friends. Ailsa felt her shoulders sag, calculating the parts of her life now grouped on his side of the ledger. She understood, she did, it was difficult when a couple split. Allegiances were tested. Loyalties strained. She jabbed at the closest green olive with the little plastic stick. She’d have thought some of them, some of the friends at least, would’ve stuck with her.

The music from the speakers in each corner of the Vermillion Hotel’s earnestly chic dark-paneled bar floated down over her, some unrecognizable jazz, all piano and promises, muffling conversations and filling the silences. A couple sat at one end of the bar, knee to knee. On vacation, on business, clandestine. Impossible to tell. At the other end, a sport-coated man, tie loosened, used one finger to fish the maraschino cherry out of his brown drink, popped it into his mouth, and licked his fingers before he went back to scrolling the phone in front of him. 

Written January 2022

Chapter 1

Alyssa swirled the icy olives in her martini, thinking about division. She stared through her chilled glass to the mirrored shelves of multi-colored bottles in front of her at the hotel bar. Division, as in divorce.  Not only the physical division, hers from Bill, but thinking about what would happen after the lawyers finished. They’d already created a ledger of their lives together, then started the financial division. Which would be followed by the devastating subtraction.

Bill had subtracted her from his life, that was easy math. With a lift of his chin and a slam of the front door and a squeal of Mercedes brakes. She’d asked him why he was leaving her, begged to know, yearned to understand. But Bill always got what he wanted, no explanation offered or obligatory. She had done nothing wrong. Zero. That’s what baffled her. Terrified her.

She jiggled the fragments of disappearing ice. Division. The Weston house. The Osterville cottage. The jewelry. Her jewelry. The first editions. The important paintings. Club membership. The silver. Money. The lawyers, human calculators who cared nothing about her, would discuss and divide and then, Bill Macallen would win. Bill always won.

All she’d done for the past eight years was addition. She’d added to their lives, added to their social sphere, organizing and planning as “Bill’s wife,” fulfilling her job to make him comfortable and enviable and the image of benevolent success. She’d more than accepted it, she’d embraced it, and all that came with it. And then, this.

I need a break, he’d told her that day. She pictured that moment, a month ago now, could almost smell him, a seductive mixture of leathery orange-green aftershave and personal power. Bill talking down to her, literally and figuratively, wearing one of his pale blue shirts, elegant yellow tie all loose and careless, khaki pants and loafers. A break! As if his life with her was a video he could casually put on pause while he did other things. What things?

HANK: So again, Reds and readers, what can you tell about the differences? What do you think?

Don’t forget to email me for the cover reveal! And stand by for the wonderful sale on Her Perfect Life.

Monday, April 25, 2022

What we're writing... Hallie introduces a character

HALLIE EPHRON: A character I’m (still) working on for a new novel that I’ve barely begun is an elderly woman (Helen) who runs Spiritualist meetings for people who want to send messages to their dead loved ones, queued up in the astral plain waiting to send messages back. It’s easy for me to understand why people would be seduced by the notion that the dead aren’t gone gone.

I don’t want to make Helen a fraud or a fool. Or silly or clownish. She believes she’s helping people who are dealing with loss reach that most elusive of goals: closure.

So, I’m working and reworking paragraphs that introduce Helen to the reader, trying to take a page from the authors who’ve introduced memorable characters in the pages of their mysteries.

Take Jane Marple, for example. Here’s how Agatha Christie described her in the “The Tuesday Night Club,” the 1927 short story in which she was first introduced:
Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in around the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black lace mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair. She was knitting, something white and fleecy. Her pale blue eyes, benignant and kindly, surveyed her nephew and her nephew’s guests with gentle pleasure.

What’s so cool about this description is that Christie is seducing the reader, at first at least, into writing Miss M off as a ditzy old lady. Which she turns out to be anything but. What is she doing? What she’s best at: watching and listening.

Here’s how Elizabeth George introduces Barbara Havers in A Great Deliverance:
Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers tugged the door of the super’s office shut, walked stiffly past his secretary, and made her way into the corridor. She was white with rage.

God! God, how dare they! She pushed her way past a clerk, not bothering to stop when the folders he was carrying slipped from his grasp and scattered. She marched right through them. Who did they think they were dealing with? Did they think she was so stupid she couldn’t see the ploy? God damn them! God damn them!

She blinked, telling herself that there would be no tears, that she would not cry, that she would not react. The sign LADIES appeared miraculously in front of her and she ducked inside. No one was present. Here, it was cool.

Had it really been so hot in Webberly’s office? Or had it been her outrage? She fumbled at her necktie, jerked it loose, and stumbled over to the basin. The cold water gushed out of the tap beneath her fumbling fingers, sending a spray onto her uniform skirt and across her white blouse. That did it. She looked at herself in the mirror and burst into tears.

“You cow,” she sneered. “You stupid, ugly cow!” She was not a woman easily given to tears, so they were hot and bitter, tasting strange and feeling stranger as they coursed down her cheeks, making unattractive rivulets across what was an extremely plain, extremely pug-like face.

“You’re a real sight, Barbara,” she upbraided her reflection. “You’re an absolute vision!” Sobbing, she twisted away from the basin, resting her head against the cool tile of the wall.
And there you have it, the debut appearances of two of the most irresistible characters in crime fiction. And it’s all those carefully chosen details that bring them to life--Miss Marple listening, in repose; Barbara Havers in high dugeon, mired in self-loathing.

So as I write my Helen, I try not to drive myself crazy by holding myself to standards set by Christie and George. But I am on the hunt for the details that readers will remember, the character doing something that somehow defines her.

I’ve decided I’ll introduce Helen as she prepares to host one of her Spiritualist meetings in her apartment on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone. She’s trying to prepare a welcoming setting for her guests, one in which the’ll be receptive to overtures from the spirit world.

Here’s a bit of what I’m working with:
Shifting to the astral plane from this corporeal midway took some doing. Helen checked the clock as she set out a tub of cheddar cheese spread, Ritz crackers circling it like the ouroboros—a snake eating its own tail: birth and death, a perpetual cycle of renewal.

She poked a dollop of cheese onto her finger and licked it off, probably exceeding her quota of fat and salt for the week. What the heck, you only live once was what her daughter would have said. But Helen was pretty sure that wasn’t so but she knew better than to argue with Caroline. Such a stubbornly closed mind in that one, even if she was a perfectly lovely human being.

I go on, giving Helen a bit of a tremor and occasional heart palpitations. Her apartment has lava lamps on the shelves and photographs she’s taken of her own of aura on the walls. Her jewelry is ancient amber. She lights incense, or maybe dried sage in a more of a native American tradition.

None of the choices are random. And I won’t tell the reader if she’s tall or short, chunky or slim, the color of her hair or eyes, or any of the details of her appearance that a police detective would want to know if she went missing. I want the reader to feel her, not pick her out of a lineup. I have a lot more work to do.

The opening ends with her guests streaming in, every one of them hoping for a message from the astral plain, though one of them is not at all the person they claim to be.

Writers, what do you think about when you write a passage that introduces a main character to your readers; and readers what characters made a lasting impression on you the first time you encountered them on the printed page?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Celebrate Spring with a Blueberry and Lemon Curd Pavlova: Celia Wakefield

 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Once more, ladies and gentlemen, our own Celia Wakefield is here with an elegant, (relatively) easy dessert that will wow your guests and tastes like spring sunshine exploding in your mouth.


Good morning JRW’s and JRR all, it is such a pleasure to be back with you, and my grateful thanks to Julia et al for encouraging me to write more. As I am over my three score and ten, I am a little late to take up fiction or biography but memoir through food is most enjoyable.


I had lots of ideas to talk about but was side tracked by Hanks “Mystery in the Freeza!” The title alone along with the photo was enough to spur my imagination. Hank’s original photo when compared with liver in my own freezer certainly didn’t look anything like blueberries. I mourn with Hank the loss of those precious berries, particularly if she picked them herself. However, while I left it to the Facebook world telling her how to tackle freezing blueberries, not to mention what not to do.  But I have blueberry stories too.


Our first house in Chappaqua had a peculiar structure in the back yard. About 10ft by 10 by 10 with netting surrounding some bushes. I thought to myself, ‘well that’s coming down when we move in’. The previous owners were a pleasant couple who invited us for coffee and pie. This pie was a dark blue purple color like no fruit that I had ever seen in England or anywhere else that I had lived. I took the slice offered and cautiously bit into it. How delightful, so sweet and juicy and tangy and quite different from the berries I was used to eating. I asked what the fruit was and they pointed to the cage in the yard. Blueberries, high bush blueberries and in full fruit as it was summer. OK, we kept the cage but I really didn’t appreciate what we had. I would go in and pick 8 cups for a wonderful Gourmet Magazine recipe I found which Victor loved. Unfortunately that recipe has joined the great lost recipe raft somewhere.

However the opportunity to pick our blueberries turned out to be a most popular offering at local fund raising auctions. I think the top weight picked was twenty plus pounds of fruit. I’m sure I must have frozen some for us probably with the same result as Hank. But it wasn’t until we moved to Maine and bid our bushes goodbye that I really started to appreciate blueberries and what we had in Chappaqua despite the year battle with birds. Maine is a blueberry capital and while I don’t chose to crawl around picking the wild blueberries, we do have wonderful places to pick high bush around where we live.


I bring the blueberries home and freeze them on a cookie sheet. I don’t wash them. Really, most local farms don’t spray the fruits and we have had no problems. Once frozen and  then bagged, (this part is important to do at speed as they defrost very fast,) I’m set for the next step. I think you all make pies, muffins, scones, blueberry loaves and other baked goodies. I like to turn frozen blueberries into smoothies, just with a banana and some yogurt, or make blueberry sauce which is very like making blueberry jelly but you don’t have to get it to a set point (reached by testing its consistency after 20 minutes of hard boiling.) Store it in the fridge and there it is ready to pour over ice cream, pancakes or French toast.


Somehow I found myself hosting a small luncheon party on Easter Day. I needed a meal plan and found that my on-line grocer Big Tree Foods, was offering a par-cooked leg of lamb and some special potato dish and all I had to do is heat them and serve. But what about a dessert? I had saved a lovely article by Dorie Greenspan who has a new blog, xoxo Dorie which is all about baking for which she is famous. The article was about a shop in Paris where she lives part time, which sells only citrus fruits. You must read the article, I was amazed by the splendid choices of fruit. To go with the article, Dorie gave a recipe for lemon curd. I love lemon curd and the recipe looked very easy. Realizing I had not put in a recipe yet, what would be nicer than lemon and blueberries in an Easter dessert. I chose to make a blueberry lemon pavlova. Looking back we had a JRW pavlova recipe on March 28th 2021. You can follow the pavlova recipe for the shell or you can use another recipe for your shell or cake base. I made lemon curd from Dorie Greenspan's recipe as what I loved was its simplicity. And it works.


However I added a little hack. My days of play dough and other doughs are over and the idea of massaging the sugar and lemon zest didn’t appeal. Why not try my Cuisinart? I do encourage you to go to Dorie’s blog, first to look at the glorious photos and also to read her directions. I have put in a cut down version below but the recipe is hers, I am just trying to keep my fingers clean.




- Zest the lemons and combine with 1 1/4C of sugar

I measured the sugar and zested lemon into the Cuisinart bowl.


- Break 4 large eggs into a second bowl.


- Squeeze enough citrus to measure 3/4C

Prepared my citrus using 1 1/2 Meyer lemons, 3 regular lemons, 1/4 cup lime juice. This was squeezed into yet another bowl taking care not to allow pips into the juice.


- Cut 1 stick of softened butter into small cubes.



First whirl the sugar and zest until it’s all incorporated, then pour in the eggs with the processor still going.

The next step involves some dexterity so pour the juice down the funnel and add the butter.

Switch your processor to PULSE and pulse it for a couple of minutes until the mix looks reasonably incorporated. Dorie has great directions.

Pour into a heavy saucepan, whisking all the while until bubbles appears, and suddenly, just like MAGIC, the mix thickens as you remove the pan from the heat and pour into a glass bowl covering with plastic wrap.



Unwrap the pavlova, and spread a layer of lemon curd over the base generously.

Cover with blueberries and whipped cream.

And the moral is don’t toss the bag of mystery food from the bottom of the freezer until you find out if there is really treasure inside it. Hank’s bag - blueberry syrup possibly with some sugar, a little fresh lemon juice and a hit of Gran Marnier, makes a great addition to any dessert.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

If It's my Hotel, This Must be HGTV

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: With apologies to the marvelous 60s comedy, IF IT'S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM; I stole their title because if I'm in a hotel room, there is one thing on the increasingly wide screens in the room: HGTV. 


Readers, I looooove HGTV. I get the HGTV magazine (or as my son calls it, middle-aged mom p*rn.) But I don't have cable, except for the internet - we cut the cord some twenty years ago. So for me, watching the channel is a pleasure reserved for hotels and Carter's Automotive waiting room, where I will sit for three hours waiting for my Honda to be fixed rather than arranging for a ride because Doug Carter has HGTV on. (Know your customers.)


What do I like? Love It or List It, where Realtor David hunts for a dream house for a couple while decorator Hillary races to renovate the place they already own to make it a dream come true. It's particularly amusing since my sister became a Realtor a few years ago - I always thought deciding based on seeing three houses was a bit premature, but now I know just how fictional it really is. There's always a BIG conflict between the couple; he MUST HAVE a man cave and she will DIE without a walk-in closet. They tour houses that look, no lie, 800% better than mine and turn up their noses.


The day my mother died (I promise this isn't a sad story) my girls and I were headed back from the New Jersey that had admitted her. (She had been transiting through Newark Airport when she had her stroke.) We're in shock, sleep-lagged, because we had driven from 1am to 7am to be there, and it we were crawling along the Merritt Parkway on the HOTTEST day of the year when our AC died. Rolling down the windows made it hotter inside the car. We struggled along for another three quaters of an hour when I said, "Not going to do this." 


I navigated off the Parkway as Youngest searched her phone for a hotel, and we too refuge in a deliciously cool Marriott. We all took lukewarm showers and, wrapped in hotel waffle robes, spent the rest of the day watching Beachfront Bargain Hunt and eating take out pizza. Out of a terrible twenty-four hours, its become a memory I cherish (and we still joke about the couple who passed on a gorgeous lakehouse because they were afraid their three-year-old would climb on the built in bookcases.

Househunters International is another fave for all of us, mostly because it features couples who have jobs like "yoga instructor" and "doggie portrait painter" looking for million dollar properties in exotic locales. Are they laundering Russian money? Drug mules? We'll never know. One couple was looking to buy an apartment in one of Brazil's smaller, beautifully colonial cities, and they had just graduated from college, like two years before. FROM COLLEGE. The girls and I stalked their social media to try to figure it out. (Turns out her family had $$$$$.)

My new must-see if Farmhouse Fixer, mostly because the adorably photogenic Jon Knight is as passionate about creaky old New England farmhouses as I am. He had be from the first kitchen demo, where instead of swinging mallets through the existing cabinets - also known as the HGTV money shot - he and his worked carefully removed them so they could be, you know, recycled and reused by someone. I love you, Jon! Please come up to Maine and do a show on my house. I'll start a GoFundMe to raise the necessary $140,000 - $180,000. You guys will all pitch in, right?

How about you, dear readers? Do you HGTV? And do you have a special show you save for those hotel stays?