Wicked New England: Spring Outings

Okay, gang, Spring has officially arrived. We all know it takes its sweet time here in New England. But when the weather does finally warm and the last ice is melted, where are your favorite places to wander about and catch glimpses of new life? Where do you like to spy early daffodils and carpets of tulips? See birds building nests? Hear choruses of spring peepers? Smell garden or farm soil being turned to warm in the lengthening days? Finally walk without being totally bundled up in scarves, boots, and ear warmers? Dish about your favorite early spring outing.

Jessie: I love to head for Old Orchard Beach. As soon as I possibly can stand it I peel off my shoes and socks and roll up my pant cuffs in order to walk barefooted along the sand. There is something so wonderful about feeling the sand between your toes after a long, cold winter!

Liz: The beach – any beach! Like Jessie, I feel completely at home with my toes in the sand, and I look so forward to the first visit each year when it’s warm enough to peel off some layers. This really is my happy place.

IMG_3754Edith: I head out to my garden and watch my garlic come up. Not much of an outing, I know, but it’s a marvel every spring to see the crop I planted in the fall pop its green shoots through the hay mulch and start to reach skyward. Getting the rest of the garden ready for planting is a treat, too. We also like to take walks on streets where there are lots of bulbs blooming.

Barb: For the last several years, spring has meant the ritual of opening our house in Maine. Checking out which restaurants and businesses survived the winter, what new places are popping up. Putting out the porch furniture, inspecting the basement and attic for signs of winter “guests.” That’s spring for me.

Sherry: When I lived in Massachusetts I always loved to drive up to Rockport, Massachusetts. It’s an old historic town with lots of shops and stunning scenery! I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves!

Julie: Chalk up another beach goer as soon as I can get there. I also LOVE walking through the Public Gardens in Boston, and watching the morph from winter to spring. As Edith said, it comes late here in New England, but it is greatly cherished by us all.

Readers: What are your favorite spring outings, wherever you live?

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Wicked Wednesday: Marching Out of Step

Edith here, on the Ides of March. But instead of talking about seers’ warnings, assassinations, or the start of civil wars (which Caesar’s killing kicked off), let’s talk about one way in which we have always marched out of step with our peers, with the rest of society, or with our families. I take it as a positive trait when a person is out of the ordinary, but it can also cause problems, even bullying. Sometimes we need a great deal of strength to keep our heads up and march to the drummer we feel led by, not that of everyone around us.

Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Sherry: Thinking over this topic made me realize what a middle of the road person I am. I reached out to some long-time friends to ask them  if they thought there was any way I’d marched out of step with my peers. They had nothing. I’m just a normal, middle-aged woman, who lives in the suburbs, dresses conservatively (other than the occasional animal print), and loves my family and friends. I know, I know, I’m boring. Wait — I married a younger, shorter man — strictly against social norms. There you go.

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Liz: What a great topic. I’ve always been just a bit out of step in so many places – especially my family! We just didn’t see eye to eye on most (important) things. But I find that even in my day job, while I enjoy the people I work with, I seem to think just a bit differently than most other people. Not surprisingly, it’s the few creative folks in the environment toward whom I gravitate. So I’ll blame it on having a creative brain. Or really, maybe I’m just weird?

Edith: I think I’ve pretty much always been a little out of step. I was always the shortest and youngest in my grade (yay, Bob Harris!), and felt a great injustice that I wasn’t asked to carry the books (with the boys) from the book room. As a young adult, I rejected social norms of women’s beauty (all that shaving, all that makeup, all those heels). In some sense I was in step with my (early 1970s) cohort, but pretty much out of step with the rest of society. And I have other examples. But I like Liz’s analysis of blaming it on the creative brain. Or maybe we’re just weird?

Barb: It’s hard to see my own life through any prism that tells me what was usual and what was un. I did what I did. I came to a variety of crossroads and took the path I thought was best based on what I knew at the time. Sometimes I was right, sometimes wrong. My sense is that’s the way it is for most people. I was never consciously swayed by fears or hopes about what other people would think of my choices, but my parents’ very American, very middle-class values are wound tightly around my soul, so I’m sure they play a part. I guess the most unusual thing I’ve ever done is write that novel I kept talking about.

Julie: As I get older I realize that I have chosen my own path for my entire life, though quietly. I have always been a daydreamer, for example, and just assumed everyone else was. Not so, I came to realize. My daydreams, alternate realities, were part of the forming writer’s brain. I work in the arts, and am surrounded by folks who create the beat of life. I’m thrilled to be along for the ride–marching out of step helps me notice who else is in the parade, what the scenery looks like. It also makes me aware of who isn’t keeping up, so I can lend a hand.

Jessie: I found this to be a difficult topic. Painful even. Those who have met me as an adult  may find it difficult to believe, but as a child and a teenager I always felt completely out of step. My family moved very often in my early years and I always felt like an outsider with every new school, each new town. I was excruciatingly shy and found the experience harrowing every single time. I became entirely used to the idea that others belonged and I was foreign. As an adult I have settled down in one place for many years but still find that I often think of myself as an observer on the fringes. Fortunately, a witnessing role on the outskirts is a perfect place for a writer to be!

Edith: I’m sorry to have proposed a painful topic, Jessie. We moved our kids twice to West Africa (but then back to their home town after a year), and I saw how excruciating it was for my shy, introverted son. I’m so pleased you have found your one place now, and that you can use your observer role to such good ends – being a brilliant writer. And I love how we are all different from each other on this topic, and yet have found common ground in our friendship and our writing goals.

Readers: How do you march with the rest of your cohort, your culture, your peers, and where have you struck out on your own path? Has being out of step – or in step – been easy, painful, useful?

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Wicked Wednesday: Marching in Parades

Edith here, with the second of five Wednesdays in March. Today let’s talk about our youthful experiences marching in parades. Were you in marching band in high school, either with an instrument or as part of the pep squad? How about with your Scout troop or sports team? If you never marched in a parade, did you sit on the curb and watch? Do you like to take in the Macy’s or Rose Parades on television as an adult? Dish! Bonus points for a picture or two of you marching.

Liz: I’ve never been a big parade marcher. The one and only time I did – under duress – was when I worked for a chamber of commerce and we had to march in some holiday parade in the freezing cold. Luckily my coworker brought us shots of brandy… That said, I did love watching Mardi Gras parades when I used to visit New Orleans often. I’d much rather watch than participate!

Edith: I marched in my town’s Camellia Parade from my Brownie years through junior high in Girl Scouts, and then in my high school’s drill team.

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I loved putting on the uniform and lining up. (Can you spot me in the front row? Third from right…) As an adult, despite being a pacifist Quaker, I still love watching small town parades with bands marching with military precision, goofy Little League teams in their uniforms, and decorated floats. At Bouchercon in New Orleans last October I had a ball walking in the Second Line parade down a wide boulevard despite the rain – and the the music was definitely not militaristic. I even got a photo with Sara Paretsky at the end!

Jessie: My village holds a Fourth of July parade every year that marches right past my house. It is a small parade with a very short route. In fact, the route is so short the marchers go around twice! Charming!

Barb: The most recent parade I went to was for the opening of the Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s Flag Football Association Tournament. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.) Our friend, author Lucy Burdette was a speaker, along with distance swimmer Diana Nyad. When it came time for the parade, Diana got to ride in the convertible, but Lucy marched behind a sign that said, “Lucy Burdette, Famous Author,” which we, her entourage, found hilarious for some reason. But Lucy was ever the good sport.

Sherry: I love the picture of Lucy! The only time I’ve been in a parade was during college. My sorority made a float with a fraternity. It was a big purple (school color) camera made out of tissue paper stuck in chicken wire. If anyone ever asks you to do that run! A friend and I rode on the float pushing down a button pretending we were taking pictures. It was fun. I have always loved marching bands.

Readers: How do you feel about parades? Love watching them or hate they way they clog up your town’s streets? Have you marched in a parade as an adult or a child? Tell us your story!

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After The Contract

We are looking forward to having three guests — Shari Randall (Feb. 3), Aimee Hix (Feb. 10), and Debra Sennefelder (Feb. 24) —  this month who all have contracts for books, but their books aren’t out yet. They will be talking about their experiences leading up to their books being published. Since all of us have been in the same boat we thought it would be fun to share some of our experiences too.

Jessie: I would say to try to have as much fun with the journey as you possibly can. Releasing a first book involves so many new experiences and it can be a bit overwhelming at times. But it only happens once this way, so taking as much pleasure in it as you can is my best advice.

Sherry: After the jumping around and champagne popping ended, panic set in. What had I gotten myself in? I start envisioning empty launch parties, bad reviews, trolls, the series being dropped before it hit publication. In other words the wild imagination that makes it possible to write took a very dark turn. I took some deep breaths and started reaching out to my author friends for help and support. The Wickeds are my safety net and lifeboat. Find yours!

Barb: You will find yourself lost in a strange land. Traditional publishing is like no business you’ve ever been in. And no one will explain it to you, since most people who work in it have done so since college and to them, everything they do seems, “normal.” Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even though when you do, you’ll be able to hear the sighs of impatience on the other end of the line or e-mail. And as Sherry says, ask your writer friends.

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Part of Edith’s book two guest post schedule from May, 2014

Edith: All of the above! Plus, try to stay organized. I reached out ahead of time and requested guest blog posts around the time of my release, and was even invited to do a few. I felt like I was going to lose track of them all, so I created a Word table, a kind of spreadsheet. I listed each blog, the blog topic, the due date, the sent date, and the release date. It helped so much to see the schedule and know I wasn’t dropping the ball somewhere. Then for the second book I already had a list of friendly bloggers.

Julie: Great advice on this feed! I’m going to add advice that Hank Phillippi Ryan gave me–enjoy every moment of this journey. We tend to hit a goal post and immediately move it down the field. Instead stop, and say “I did this.” You will never be a first time published author again. Enjoy the journey.

Liz: Love all of this advice – especially the celebrating of your accomplishments. You’ll only have one first book, so enjoy it to the fullest. Take pride in everything you’ve done, enjoy the company of fellow writers and don’t be so focused on getting to the next place/book/success that you don’t stop and appreciate the moment.

Readers: What advice have you given people when they embark on a new journey?

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Surprising Recipes for New Years Eve

By Julie, resolute in Somerville

wicked-happy-new-yearA few year’s ago I had a dinner party themed around disgusting yet delicious recipes. Since I grew up in the 60’s, I had a lot of recipes to choose from, and will mention a couple below. Wickeds, what is a disgusting sounding yet delicious tasting recipe you’d like to share with our readers?

I’ll start. Cocktail Meatballs. In a crock pot combine frozen meatballs, a jar of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce. Put it on warm, and walk away. DELISH.

Here’s another one, courtesy of my friend Helen. A jello salad no one hates:

1 can of 8.25 oz crushed pineapple
3 oz. pkg of raspberry jello
16 oz can of whole cranberry sauce
1 tsp grated orange peel (I think this is optional)
11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup whipped cream

Drain pineapple and save the syrup. Add enough boiling water to make 1 cup. Dissolve jello in hot water. Add 1 cup cold water. Stir in the cranberry sauce and orange peel (if desired).Chill until partially set (about 2 hours). Fold in oranges and pineapple. Fold in cream. Pour into 6 cup mold. Return to refrigerator to finish setting.

One more–fudge made with Fluff. You know, the recipe on the side of the jar? So. Good.

Edith: I tend to avoid packaged foods almost completely (well, except for Cape
Cod potato chips – I swear they have crack in them…). But for a party dip, you just can’t go wrong with dried onion soup mixed into full-fat sour cream. And here’s another version. I thought it was my sister’s secret recipe, until I read it on the back of the Knorr’s soup packet. It’s not disgusting, per se, but just don’t read the sodium content.

Spinach Dipfinishef-dip

Mix up and chill 1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled and squeezed dry, 1 container (16 oz.) sour cream, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp dill weed, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and 1 package Knorr dried vegetable soup mix. You can fill a hollowed-out a loaf of sourdough and use the chunks of bread and veggies to dip, or just serve in a bowl.

I also make Can’t Fail Fudge – which uses mini marshmallows instead of Fluff (got that family recipe from my older sister, too). Truly can’t fail!

Liz: Ok, so who wants to eat healthy on New Year’s, right? Well, maybe New Year’s Day, if you’re starting a new resolution. Either way, you’ll like this healthy twist on green bean casserole from my go-to recipe girl, Kris Carr. Some of it might sound a little strange, and if you’re allergic to nuts don’t try it (it’s baked in cashew cream) – but really, it’s amazing!

Sherry: I have a chocolate sauce that uses marshmallows. When I tried to explain this to a large group of people from other countries who were dining with us, they didn’t know what marshmallows were. I got out the bag and passed them around. They all thought the marshmallows were disgusting.

Edith: So funny, Sherry! I can believe it.

Jessie: Our New Year’s Eve tradition involves oil fondue which is no longer fashionable, but I don’t think of it as disgusting. We fire up a slew of pots filled with peanut oil, melted cheese or even chocolate if the group is interested. People sit around talking and cooking bits of vegetables and meat for hours on end. We dip pound cake and fruit in the chocolate for dessert. Some of my favorite meals have involved this retro favorite. In fact, we are planning to host a fondue party tonight!

mcwborschtjello-300x225Barb: Every Christmas my family makes a beet jello mold ring. We call it “borscht jello” and serve it with sour cream. I know, I know, it sounds disgusting, but it is delicious and the pretty red rings looks so pretty and Christmas-y on a bed of greens. (Actually, this is a terrible photo. It looks way better than that.)

All of us: May you have a happy, healthy, cozy New Year!

Readers: Any disgusting sounding yet delicious tasting recipes in your collection? Any dish you’ve eaten out that surprised you when you learned the ingredients?

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A Santa Bonanza!

Look what Santa brought, dear Reader! The Wickeds’ 2016 books. Of course, 2017 will bring many more by all of us, so please stay tuned.

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Thank you for being part of our Wicked Cozy community. We value your comments and company, and have so enjoyed getting to know you over these years.

Whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t), we wish you a quiet cozy time of family, good food, and most important, reading!

Wicked Shadows of Christmas Past

Friends, today we are sharing memories of Christmas past.

Sherry: I was just a bit over two and a half in the photo below. My sister sits behind me. The first picture is before our presents were open and the second after. I think the mixer and bowl is still at my mom’s house. I loved dolls and that little piano. You can also see a doll house behind the rocking horse. We adored it. I think this might have been at my grandparent’s farm in Missouri and the rocking horse was for my cousin.

Edith: I know somewhere in the morass I have a pic or two of me as a little kid at Christmas but I have no idea where. So this one, from Christmas Eve 1992, will suffice. Husband at the time (him with hair), me (with brown hair), and adorable sons Allan and John David in the pajamas I sewed for them, complete with night caps. They LOVED those night caps! My grandmother always sewed us new nightgowns for Christmas. We got to open one gift on Christmas Eve and it was always hers, so I was passing on a family tradition.

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Barb: This is my son, Rob, age five, and my daughter, Kate, age two-and-a-half, dressed up for their first time at the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite. I wanted to take Rob, who I thought was old enough, but my husband bought four tickets, including Kate. I was mad. The tickets were expensive, and I wanted to see the ballet. “You’re the one walking the floor with her in the lobby!” I said. There was some drama before we left. Kate had decided that to go to something fancy like this, ladies required a pocketbook, so she was bringing her bright yellow Fisher-Price one along. The plastic powder compact was in it, but not the powder puff! She ended up bringing a cloth diaper along and dabbing her nose with it throughout the performance. Needless to say, I was entirely wrong, and she sat, rapt, through the entire performance (with a bribe of Junior Mints at intermission). Rob slept through the second act.

It all became a tradition, and we went for many, many years. Always with the Junior Mints and always with Rob sleeping through the second act. One year, I was enough of a donor to the Boston Ballet that we got invited to a dress rehearsal–of only the second act. I thought, at last, Rob will see it! But, true to form, he slept through that, too.

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Jessie: I am lucky enough to be the custodian of a vintage tree topper that my great grandparents bought for their own tree sometime in the middle of the last century. Every year it is the last item to be added to our Christmas tree. It is a rite of passage for our kids to reach an age when they entrusted with the task of placing it upon the tree. This is a photo taken last year of my son Theo doing the honors.

 

 

Hennrikus family 1994Julie: In 1995, maybe it was 1994, my sister Kristen and I lived in Charlestown, MA. Our youngest sister came up to visit with our parents, and her boyfriend Glenn. It was the first time we met Glenn, who became a member of the family in 1997. Anyway, I got the family tickets to the Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre. I gave the visitors the orchestra seats, and Kristen and I sat back in the mezzanine. The Revels are a wonderful tradition, part of which is the end of the first act where the lead player (then the founder John Langstaff) comes into the audience, hands someone the end of a scarf, and leads them into a Lord of the Dance conga line. He grabbed my father first, and Dad brought up the rest of the family. For as long as I live, I will never forget my future brother-in-law getting up and dancing with my family. This picture is from a dinner at our place later that night.

Friends, any memories of Christmas or holiday past you’d like to share?

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