Interview with Stefanie Gouviea

Several weeks ago I put out a call for readers to share their hobbies with all of us as we all continue to spend more time at home than in previous years. Several people responded with their favorite pastimes, and I’m thrilled to share my interview with reader Stefanie Gouviea.

Welcome, Stefanie!

First, tell us what your hobbies are.

I like to read, paint and make homemade candles.

How did you get interested in them?

I only recently became interested in reading when I learned about the “Cozy Mystery” genre, and now I’m hooked. I became interested in making candles because I like to make things with essential oils and I wanted to make more homemade gifts, so this year I decided to make candles for everyone and I really enjoy it. I became interested in painting because I have attended a few paint nights in the past and found them very therapeutic, but since COVID they’ve been cancelled, so I had to figure out a way to still paint even though I am not a professional artist.

A great way to display tea cups and saucers

How did you learn to do them?

I learned how to make candles through Pinterest (love Pinterest), I reviewed a few different recipes and articles until I found one that resonated with me, then I came up with the idea to make teacup candles and looked up some ideas on Pinterest. The paintings I am doing now I discovered through Facebook events, this artist does live tutorials and records them, or you can just buy the recording and follow along like I did so I could take my time and pause as much as I needed to. This was the first time I’ve ever used a recorded tutorial to paint since my previous experience was in person paint nights.

How long did it take you to become proficient?

I don’t think that I am proficient in painting at this time, but I have added additional tutorials to try and suspect I will get better as I keep practicing. I became more proficient in candle making after making several test candles using different types and amounts of oils. I still don’t add color to them, but they smell good.

Do you have certain times when you prefer to paint and certain times when you prefer to make candles?

Not really, I generally prefer to do them on the weekends because I am too tired to focus during the week at the end of my workday. It breaks up my weekend nicely, especially since we can’t really go anywhere.

What special equipment do you need to paint and make candles?

The tutorials I use for painting only require us to have paints, paint brushes and either a canvas or multimedia paper. The artist teaches you how to mix colors and blend, so you don’t need extra equipment. For candle making you need, wax (I use soy wax flakes), a kitchen scale, essential or fragrance oils if you want them scented, a heat safe measuring cup or tin for candle making (I use a tin), a pot with water (candle making uses a double boiler method), wicks and a candle holder/container. Most wax kits online come with wicks, so I didn’t have to worry about that and you can get creative with the candle holders.

Do you have a favorite painting? Would you be willing to share a photo of it?

I’ve only done two paintings so far, but the one I like the most is titled, “Midnight Snowman” and I will share a picture of it.

Isn’t this adorable??

How about a favorite candle scent/color? Do you have photos you can share?

I don’t add color to mine because I feel like it doesn’t burn right when I do, and I don’t have a favorite scent since I like all of them for the most part, but if I had to choose, I’d say the fruity ones smell the best (strawberry, mango, honeydew melon, cucumber melon). Yes, I can share two pictures of two types of teacup candles I made.

I love the see-through cup.

Does anyone in your family help you with projects?

No, I prefer to do these projects alone. Although, I think my husband is going to do a painting with me one night, so I’m looking forward to that.

Is there any hobby you’ve tried to do but either didn’t like it or it just didn’t work out?

I’ve tried watercolor painting and jewelry making, but I didn’t like either one.


Thanks so much for sharing your interests, Stefanie. It was a pleasure hosting you here this week.

Until next time,

Amy

Interview with the Pooper Scooper

My guest this week is Elaine Faber, author of The Black Cat Mysteries, the Mrs. Odbody Mystery Adventures, and now, her newest release, The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain. I’ve read and enjoyed the book, featuring protagonists Lou (short for Lulu Jane) Shoemaker and Nate Darling (I haven’t had time to review it yet, but I will). I thought it would be fun to have Elaine interview Lou and Nate so you can get to know them a little.

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by [Elaine Faber]

Welcome, Elaine, Lou, and Nate!

Questions for Lou

How did you come to own a sewer truck called The Pooper Scooper? This was my husband’s business, but he died in a car crash a little over two years ago. I had to learn the business, get a Waste Management license, and learn to drive a stick shift pretty quickly. In a rural community like Lockleer Mountain, the homes have wells and septic tanks. With all the bells and whistles on the sewer truck, it wasn’t too hard to learn how to operate and clean septic tanks. It may not be a very ladylike occupation, but it keeps the roof over my head and my two cats in Kitty Crunchies. We make it work.

How familiar are you with the Native American reservation near Lockleer Mountain? I know many of the Native Americans and many are my customers. Chief White Feather has been a family friend for years. He told us the legend of the Spirit Woman when we were children. The story line includes a Pow-Wow on the reservation where a shocking event occurs. He also told us that a White Man was selling drugs to his teenagers and if the tribe caught him first, we’d never see him again! Oh my!

As a recent widow, how did you know the time was right to seek love again? I’m only twenty-three. As much as I loved my husband, Steven, life goes on. As it happens, I’ve also known Deputy Nate Darling for years. He was my husband’s best friend and helped me following my husband’s death. When his sister disappeared three months ago following a motor vehicle accident, I was able to help him grieve. We grew closer with our shared grief, and friendship turned to love.

Do you think the Spirit Woman is a real person or just a legend? When our troubles began, folks started to see the mountain lion and glimpses of a woman, sightings that resulted in helpful circumstances. We all know the legend of the Spirit Woman coming to help the community, and with the recent unrest in town, it’s not hard to believe she came to lend a hand. When strange gifts from the forest begin to turn up in my friend’s yard, questions arise. Is the Spirit Woman leaving the items, or is someone from town playing tricks?

Questions for Deputy Sheriff Nate Darling

As a deputy sheriff, are you concerned about the community unrest regarding the government’s plans to build an undisclosed facility and infrastructure near Lockleer Mountain?  Recent news of a mysterious government facility being built nearby, with a big box store and a housing tract has the town in an uproar. The merchants fear the competition will ruin them, and what will happen to the charm of our small town? Threats have been made. I have to take them seriously, but how can we fight the government, already moving forward with their plans without even consulting the city fathers?

How do you feel knowing that someone in town is selling drugs to the teens on the reservation? As if we didn’t have enough problems, my heart sank when White Feather announced drugs being sold on the reservation. I told the sheriff I wished I had about 90 days of vacation time on the books, which I don’t.

Do you believe in the Spirit Woman, or is the mysterious woman in the woods with the mountain lion really your sister, Suzanna? We’ve searched the mountain high and low for three months since Suzanna’s disappearance. I’ve seen the mountain lion and glimpses of the woman. I’m sure it’s Suzanna, suffering from amnesia. I’ve heard the legend of the Spirit Woman, but spirits don’t leave footprints. On the other hand, how could Suzanna survive for three months in the forest…with a mountain lion? Friends say it’s not Suzanna. So, does that mean they think a Native American spirit has become real? What am I do believe?

I guess for the answers to these and other questions, you’ll have to read the book. The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain is available in e-book and paperback at Amazon.  http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh

Elaine’s Bio

Elaine Faber lives in Elk Grove with her husband and four feline companions. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publishers and Artists. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Elk Grove. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines, have won multiple awards in various short story contests, and are included in at least 16 anthologies. She leads a critique groups in the Sacramento area.

Elaine’s Mrs. Odboddy and Black Cat Mystery series’ have won top awards with Northern California Publishers and Authors annual writers’ contests. Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary and All Things Cat, an anthology of cat stories, won 2018 and 2019 Certificates of Excellence with Cat Writers’ Association. Elaine enjoys speaking at public author venues and clubs sharing highlights of her novels and her writing experience. She is currently working on two fiction novels to be published in 2021 and 2022.

Elaine’s Books

Black Cat Mysteries: With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Black Cat helps solve mysteries and crimes. Partially narrated by Black Cat, much of the story comes from a cat’s often humorous and poignant point of view.

Mrs. Odboddy Mystery/Adventures: Elderly, eccentric Mrs. Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. She believes war-time conspiracies and spies abound in her home town. Follow her antics in these hysterical, historical novels as a self-appointed hometown warrior exposes malcontents, dissidents and Nazi spies…even when she’s wrong.

The Spirit Woman Mystery/Paranormal/Adventures

The Native Americans believe the legendary Spirit Woman ‘protects the community.’ When Govt. demands create social unrest in a small mountain town, and drugs threaten the lives of their youth, the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion come to their aid.

Black Cat’s Legacy: http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer: http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel: http://tinyurl.com/y4eohe5n

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary  (NCPA Cover and Interior Design Silver award 2019): http://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

All Things Cat (anthology of short stories): http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot (NCPA 1st Fiction 2017): http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier (NCPA 3rd Cover and Design 2018): http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv    

Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger (NCPA 2nd Fiction 2019): http://tinyurl.com/yx72fcpx

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain: http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh

Thanks to all my guests today!

Until next time,

Amy

Working Without Play?

Do you have a hobby?

Something you love to do in your spare time? Something you have a passion for? Something you love to share with other people?

I have lots of hobbies. I know I’ve mentioned here on the blog that I’ve recently taken up quilling, which is the art of paper filigree. I’m still an amateur, but I love to do it and I find it relaxing and a great way to let my mind wander. I also like to do counted cross-stitch, a hobby I’ve had since I was young. And you all know I love to read and cook. I also love to make gift tags.

There are other things I love to do, too, but these are some of my favorite ways to spend free time.

What do you love to do?

I’d love to spotlight some of my readers’ hobbies. Do you paint? Draw? Write poetry? Swim? Do Pilates? Play the ukelele? Do you do some other cool thing that I haven’t even thought of?

This year I’d love to start a series of blog posts about hobbies. We all learned in 2020 that having a hobby not only helped pass the time when we might have been out doing other things, but it could also mean the difference between happiness and depression.

It doesn’t have to be something that costs a cent. It doesn’t have to be something that requires a membership or a bunch of fancy equipment. All that a hobby requires is that it’s something you can do in your spare time that makes you happy.

Once a month, I’d like to write about a reader’s favorite hobby. If you’d like me to interview you, that would be great. If you don’t want me to mention your name but still want to introduce people to your favorite hobby, also great.

My hope is to introduce readers to things they might never have tried.

Will you join me? I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know in the comments below or email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and tell me about your favorite things to do!

I’ll leave you with some photos of quilling projects I’ve done since August, when I started the craft.

Until next time,

Amy

Book Blogs to Follow…

…because we don’t have enough to do.

This week I’m going to keep it short because we’re all busy. But I do want to share four bookish blogs that I think you’ll love. My advice? Bookmark them and come back to them when things aren’t so hectic, because it’s fun to browse through their pages and find all kinds of great books and great authors.

And so here they are, in alphabetical order:

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Blur, Blurred, Book, Book Pages

A Blue Million Books

This is author Amy Metz’s blog. She doesn’t do book reviews, but she features tons of interviews, guest blogs, book spotlights, excerpts, and more from a huge number of authors. You’re very likely to find something to tickle your fancy on this blog. Amy is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mysteries, and I can tell you they’re excellent. So while you’re looking for your next favorite author at A Blue Million Books, check out Amy’s books, too!

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Christmas, December, Background

2. Aunt Sairy’s Book Reviews

I came across this fairly new blog recently when Sarah, the owner of the blog, reviewed my book The Worst Noel in such a way that brought tears to my eyes. It’s that beautiful (click here to read the review for yourself). All of Sarah’s reviews are heartfelt, honest, and thorough without containing any spoilers. Sarah reads and reviews mostly cozy mysteries, so if you’re looking for a good cozy to read, you’re bound to find one on her blog. And bonus: you get a behind-the-scenes look at life with her dog, Havoc, who sounds like a big, cuddly bear.

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Cocoa, Whipped Cream, Cookies, Read

3. Discovery

A treasure trove of bookish delights begun by the folks at Reedsy, this site includes a blog (under the
“Blog” tab) with such posts as “45 Best True Crime Books of All Time,” “30 Best Memoirs of the Last Century,” and “The Essential Guide to Reading the Sherlock Holmes Books,” among many other topics. But it also includes (under the “Discover” tab) a gazillion books that you can search by genre, keyword, and/or date added to the site.

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Winter, Snow, Landscape, Book Hut, Cold

4. Dru’s Book Musings

Dru Ann Love, as her name suggests, is a beloved member of the mystery community. She’s an avid reader who also quilts, writes poetry, and works full-time. How she manages to blog the way she does, I have no idea. But I’m glad she does, because there’s always something new to discover on her site. She features new releases, cover reveals, her own reviews, and the “Day in the Life” series of guest posts (written by the characters in upcoming books!!).

I hope you’ll take some time to peruse all these blogs. They’re great fun for me to browse, and I always come away from them with a list of new books and authors I’d love to learn more about.

Do you have a favorite book blog you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Until next time, wishing all of you a merry Christmas,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for December

This is my final recipe post for 2020 and I’m going all-out with a holiday baking edition. So no matter what holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate, gather your ingredients and get ready to make some delicious goodies to share this season.

***

Peanut Crisp Bars

(with thanks to my mom)

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1 c. peanut butter

2 c. crispy rice cereal

1/2 c. butter

1/4 c. brown sugar, packed

1 T. milk

1/2 t. vanilla

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and a dash of salt. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanut butter and then stir in cereal. Pat mixture evenly into a greased 8×8″ or a 9×9″ square pan.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add milk and vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Spread butter mixture over cereal mixture; chill. Cut into bars.

***

Cherry Bonbon Cookies

(with thanks to my dad)

For the cookies:

1 1/2 c. flour

1/8 t. salt

1/2 c. butter, softened

3/4 c. powdered sugar

2 T. milk

1 t. vanilla

24 maraschino cherries, drained well and patted dry

For the glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar

1 T. butter, melted

2 T. maraschino cherry juice

additional powdered sugar

Make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add milk and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well blended.

Divide dough into 24 portions. Shape each portion around a cherry, forming a ball. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a baking rack.

Make the glaze:

Combine 1 c. powdered sugar, butter, and cherry juice until smooth and a little runny. Add more cherry juice if too thick.

Drizzle glaze over cookies; dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

***

Coconut-Macadamia Nut Bars

Bottom layer:

1 c. flour

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, softened

Top layer:

1 c. packed brown sugar

2 T. flour

1/2 t. baking powder

1 1/2 c. shredded coconut

1 t. vanilla

1 c. diced macadamia nuts

2 eggs

Combine ingredients for bottom layer in a medium bowl. Beat well and press into 9×9″ pan. Bake for 12 minutes.

Mix ingredients for top layer until well-blended. Spread mixture over hot bottom layer and bake for another 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. If you don’t already subscribe to my newsletter, click here! Every month I include a bonus recipe in the newsletter, along with news and deals!

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday in November, and time for some good news to take you into December with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month was brought to my attention by my friend Carol Thompson and is great news for anyone interested in keeping our marine habitats clean, but it’s especially exciting for me because the story comes from Ocean City, New Jersey, which is just a few miles from my home.

The story is about a program to incubate shellfish, and in particular clams, for the dual purpose of cleansing the ecosystem in the bay waters of the Atlantic Ocean and of building “habitat castles” that will help protect the low-lying barrier island from flooding. The incubator is also used to teach local students about shoreline ecosystems and marine management.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Lizbeth Hartz, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Roshan Radhakrishnan. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

A Hidden Gem

As many of you know, I have been working (forever, it feels like) on Book 2 in the Libraries of the World Mystery Series. In the first book, Trudy’s Diary, protagonist Daisy Carruthers uses collections from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to solve the mysteries. In Book 2, Dutch Treat, Daisy has taken a sabbatical from Global Human Rights Journal in Washington to work for one semester as an associate professor at a small college in New York City. As you might expect, the New York Public Library collections play a key role in this book.

I’ve done a great deal of research for Dutch Treat and a lot of that research has been about the main branch of the New York Public Library (the one on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street).

But the New York Public Library has more than just the main branch. In fact, it has 88 branches. And many of these are old—old enough to have been heated with coal in the early part of the twentieth century.

And how do you think the heating system worked when the library was closed?

Easy. Custodians were employed to keep the heating systems running overnight and on weekends. Those custodians and their families lived in apartments on the top floor of each library.

How cool would it be to live in a library??

This week, I’m sharing an article from Atlas Obscura that highlights one of the old custodian apartments: the one from Fort Washington. There are some interesting photos and some anecdotes from people who remember the custodians who took care of the libraries.

Enjoy!

Click here to be redirected to the article.

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for October

It’s the first Tuesday in October! This year is going so fast, quarantines and lockdowns notwithstanding.

The three recipes I’ve chosen for this month are perfect for fall: they’re full of warm flavor, they’re great comfort foods, and everyone loves them.

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Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. canned pumpkin (you can use homemade pureed pumpkin, if you prefer)

1/2 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. water

2 eggs

1 2/3 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. cinnamon

3/4 t. salt

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. ground cloves

Optional: 1/2 c. each chopped nuts and/or raisins/dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients (through eggs); beat well. In a separate medium bowl, whisk remaining ingredients. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat on medium speed until well-blended. Stir in optional ingredients, if desired.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Begin checking bread at 65 minutes.

***

Pasta Fagioli (with thanks to my mother)

1 T. olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce

1/2 t. dried oregano

basil to taste

1 16-oz. can cannellini or white kidney beans

2 c. chicken broth (can use vegetable broth for vegetarian or vegan soup)

black pepper

1 c. (or more) pasta, depending on how much pasta you like in your soup (I use elbows or ditalini)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir once or twice, adding about a tablespoon of water if vegetables are sticking, then cover pot and simmer 5 minutes more until vegetables are very tender (mixture at this point is like the consistency of mush).

Add can of tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, dried oregano, and basil to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. Add black pepper to taste, white beans, and chicken or vegetable broth. If you’d like thicker soup, you can either use an immersion blender until some of the soup is pureed or simply mash some of the beans against the side of the pot. Simmer for ten minutes. Add pasta and simmer for 10 minutes.

***

Angel Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 c. butter

1 pkg. dry Italian salad dressing mix (I use Good Seasons)

1 can golden mushroom soup

1/2 c. white wine

4 oz. onion and chive cream cheese

cooked angel hair pasta

Grease a slow cooker. Place chicken on the bottom.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add Italian dressing mix, soup, wine, and cream cheese. Stir well and pour over chicken.

Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over cooked pasta.

Enjoy!

***

If you have any recipes you’d like to share, please email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll be happy to include them in a future post!

Until next time,

Amy

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

 

It’s the last Friday in September, and time for some good news to take you into October with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month was brought to my attention by Carol Thompson and is great news for everyone, but especially interesting for those of us who live near the ocean.

It’s about an experiment to reseed the ocean floor with sea grass off the coast of England. The process was carried out successfully in the Chesapeake Bay here in the United States and the scientists who made it happen are now working with teams in Europe and Australia to foster far-reaching sea grass restoration. Sea grass, I learned, has huge potential in the fight against global warming and is an important habitat for fish and other sea creatures. I highly encourage you to read the article.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Eric Lahti, Shilpa Garg, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Sylvia Stein, and Peter Nena. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!