I found the corkscrew!

Months ago, when I went hunting for the corkscrew I was sure resided somewhere in my kitchen, I was horrified by the amount of forgotten equipment I had stuffed into the cupboards in the nearly forty years I have lived in this house. A couple of days ago I finally decided to do something about it—this weekend I would declutter the kitchen. I did about half the kitchen Friday, a little bit more yesterday.

Today I set out to finish the job. I found about fourteen pieces of Pyrex glassware—I don’t remember when I last used any of it, and it’s not staying. I found way more Corningware cookware, in two patterns, than I will even need, but I’m keeping that—sentiment. I found two Comet Rice cookers. Don’t know why I thought I needed two, only keeping one. Two enormous soup pots and two turkey roasters—out. Now there’s plenty of room in that cupboard.

Then I tackled the last cupboard. That’s where I found three toasters, two blenders, and a toaster oven with all its accessories. I found food dishes, combs, and a leash, all belonging to a dog who crossed the Rainbow Bridge several years ago. A large collection of nearly empty boxes of storage bags fell out of a plastic basket.

And way in the back, another plastic basket full of small kitchen gadgets: an egg beater, a garlic press, nut and/or shellfish crackers, apple corers and egg slicers, can openers and ice cream scoops, scissors and Corkscrewspoons and cookie cutters. Something that looks like an oversize garlic press—I think it was meant to crush ice cubes long ago. It belonged to my mother and will probably stay.

And down at the very bottom of the basket, the old wooden corkscrew. The shiny new one I bought to replace it works much better, but I’m still glad I found the old one, in the very back corner of the very last cupboard. I knew it was here somewhere!

Excavating the Kitchen

Several months ago, during a fruitless search for a corkscrew, I realized that I had accumulated forty years or so of mostly unused and unneeded kitchen junk in my cupboards. Recently I picked up a couple of new gadgets designed for people like me, who live alone, don’t cook much, but like the occasional hardboiled egg or baked potato. It’s not a big kitchen, and finding a place to store them, other than on the counter, has thrown me into cleaning out the cupboards.

Years ago, when I was cooking for three, and even baking, I needed a lot of this stuff. I even have some indestructible wedding presents (and I was married in 1969). But what did I ever think I was going to do with the box of knives I just found? Apart from a few cute little specialty knives left over from a cheese-of-the-month club we belonged to thirty years ago, they’re headed out, along with the utility candles in the same box. I have candles that smell good now.

Kitchen 1

I didn’t even remember that I had a George Foreman grill. Minus the drip tray. Or the instructions. Into the out box it goes, along with the microwave sandwich maker (no instructions, and apparently no longer made, since I can’t find instructions on line). Lots of microwave cookery gadgets with no instructions. I think one of them is supposed to make omelets. I’ve never made an omelet in my life. And then there’s the electric rice/vegetable steamer, suitable for feeding a crowd.

Kitchen 2

Cooling racks, muffin tins, pie plates—I haven’t baked anything in more than a decade. Among the large collection of wooden carving boards (I’ve long since switched to plastic) I even found an old fashioned wooden rolling pin! I’m not sure I ever used that. Three sets of mixing bowls. Three lasagna pans. Rusty cookie sheets. At least I’ve found a use for that microwave oven carton I never recycled—instant trash bin.

Kitchen 3

I’ve cleared enough space to stow my new toys and most of the stuff cluttering up the counter. Not much left there now but the microwave oven and the toaster. I’ve hauled two boxes (one of them so heavy that I’ll have to divide it before I try to move it again) out to the garage.

And I’ve only done half the cupboards. Somewhere there are still three or four toasters that did not meet my exacting standards, a blender or two, a couple of crockpots, and a countertop toaster oven. And a LOT of old pots and pans. Maybe tomorrow.

I still haven’t found the old corkscrew. But I have a new one, and a bottle of wine waiting . . .

Writer Wednesday: Secrets of the Desk

WW MayThis month’s Writer Wednesday prompt is “show us your favorite item on your desk,” and my first impulse was toward one of the stuffed animals in my writing alcove (once upon a time the dinette area, which explains the chandelier). The desk is really a six-foot long all-purpose table, the kind with collapsible legs, long enough to hold all my computer equipment (tower, external hard drive, monitor on a stand, keyboard and mouse, and printer). Then there are containers of binder clips and paper clips, a mug of pens and markers, assorted flash drives (six at the moment—remember when they were exotic and very expensive?), scattered business cards, a stapler, stacks of those note pads that come with charity requests, a folder containing the pages from my last critique group meeting, and so forth.


 The inventory doesn’t even include the cards, certificates, calendar/clock, and assorted keepsakes on the window shelves behind the desk, or the old computer desk to my left, with plants, notebooks, box of charging cables, another box of music CDs, reams of paper, spare toner cartridge, mail rack, and a box of light bulbs (for the chandelier).

Computer
And the stuffed animals: a fat bumble bee watching me from the top of the tower, a small dinosaur on the window shelf, and a cheerful yellow creature of indeterminate species, covered with multi-colored polka dots, supervising from the old desk.

But my favorite little item, I realized as I went through the list, is a small pin-back button, mounted on a binder clip, which has sat near or below my computer monitor for more years than I can remember, through several computers and multiple desks.
Keep Smiling

I have half a dozen other Sandra Boynton buttons pinned to a strip of seam binding hanging from a bulletin board, including the very appropriate “I’m Not Messy, I’m Creative.” But “Keep Smiling” has held a place on my desk for a very long time. Jack probably gave it to me—he liked buttons and funny post it notes and, for that matter, stuffed animals. And heaven knows we managed to Keep Smiling for a lot of years.

To visit the desks of the other Writer Wednesday bloggers, check out the list to your right. And see below for Her Hometown Reporter, a new release from our own KD Fleming, and the schedule of upcoming Writer Wednesday topics.

 

TOBY HENDRICKS HAS THE INSIDE SCOOP ON GINA LAWSON 
HerHometownReporterThe reporter is looking for a story that’ll be his ticket out of his small Georgia town. With her political connections, legal assistant Gina Lawson could help Toby realize his aspirations. Their friendship is just an added bonus, but falling in love isn’t part of his five-year plan.

Gina’s devoted to her family and community, and doesn’t plan to ever leave. Though she finds her favorite reporter maddeningly irresistible, she must guard her heart. But when a betrayal of trust threatens to shatter both their dreams, will Gina and Toby learn that they share the same values after all?

Pick up your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Harlequin!

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Recent Reading: Mystery

I recently came across Robert Goldsborough’s When Archie Met Nero Wolfe on an ebook special, and downloaded it to my Kindle. Back in my voracious mystery-reading days, I read all of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, but I had not read any of Goldsborough’s books (authorized by Stout’s heirs). The idea of a prequel to the long history of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe is enough to tempt any Rex Stout fan.

Archie Meets Nero WolfeAnd the book is lots of fun. Goldsborough captures the flavor of Stout’s novels and includes many of the supporting characters populating Wolfe’s world: Saul Panzer, Orrie Cather and Fred Durkin, Fritz Brenner, Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Stebbins, and of course Wolfe’s Brownstone on West 35th Street.

He also captures the flavor of Wolfe’s New York City in the 1930s: the new Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building under construction, diners, coffee shops, and apartment hotels, as well as the elegant estate that is the site of the kidnapping Wolfe is hired to solve. Goldsborough includes an Author’s Note explaining how he mined Stout’s work for backstory to use in this novel.

When Archie Met Nero Wolfe made me nostalgic for all those great old mysteries (Stout, Christie, Allingham, Marsh, et al). Given the number of unread books on my shelves, it’s probably just as well I no longer have my Nero Wolfe collection. But I do have a DVD set of the Tim Hutton/Maury Chaykin TV series, and I may just have to watch those again.

These days I stay busy enough trying to keep up with my favorite modern mystery writers (Elaine Viets, Spencer Quinn, Marcia Muller and more). One of these is Diane Kelly and her chronicles of Tara Death, Taxes and Hot Pink Leg WarmersHolloway, gun-toting (and all too often firing) Special Agent of the IRS. I’m a couple of books behind on Tara’s adventures (oh, for an extra reading day every week—why did I ever think cutting back my working days would solve this problem?), and I’ve just recently read Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers. Yes, the title pretty much sets the tone.

This time around, Tara is after mortgage fraud by day and moonlighting in a strip club by night—no, as a bookkeeper. And her romance with fellow agent Nick Pratt is heating up nicely. Kelly manages to hit me with at least one scene in each book that has me laughing out loud (to the disapproval of my cat). In this book that scene involves Tara’s partner Eddie Bardin and a Vietnamese grandma with OCD and a hand-held vacuum cleaner. Tara’s friend Alicia and DEA Agent Christina Marquez are back, too.

Another current mystery author on my auto-buy list is Joan Hess. Her latest Claire Malloy mystery is Pride V. Prejudice. When a prosecutor with a grudge against Claire’s husband rejects her for jury service, Pride V Prejudicebehaving like a total jerk in the process, Claire decides to investigate the murder in question, for no good reason beyond embarrassing the prosecutor. As usual, she finds herself dealing with more complications than she expected, and her mother-in-law, whom she has never met, is arriving for a visit in three days. This time around Claire deals with aging hippies, organic farmers, and a four-year-old witness with a zombie obsession.

Told with Hess’ usual mixture of humor and mystery, Pride V. Prejudice is a fun read and a welcome addition to the Claire Malloy series, which I’ve been enjoying (and keeping) since it began in 1986 (when hard cover mysteries cost $12.95!).

What mystery solvers live on your keeper shelves?

The Debut of Writer Wednesdays

A few weeks ago a group Firebirds (2012 Golden Heart finalists) decided to get together for a year-long blog party: one Wednesday a month we’ll all write on the same topic, a bit of show-and-tell about our lives. To start off this month, we’re writing about weddings, in honor of Firebird sister Kat Cantrell’s double release of wedding-themed stories. To visit the rest of my blogging sisters, see the Writer Wednesday Blogs list on the right, and check out Kat’s new books and the schedule of future posts below.

Wedding+Day.no+border

April’s theme is Tell us a highlight of your wedding day. The highlight of mine was probably that it came together at all, when and where it did.

When Jack and I decided to spend Christmas of 1969 in the suburbs of Miami with my parents, we weren’t planning (if you could even call our vague talk on the subject planning) to get married until the following summer, when Jack would graduate from Florida State and move to New Orleans, where I was attending grad school at Tulane. But as soon as my mother heard that idea, she decided we should get married right away, so she’d be sure to be there. (She wasn’t far off on that—some years later my brother was married by a justice of the peace in the Lafayette Parish Courthouse; my parents and I were not there.)

So we bowed to the inevitable, arriving shortly before Christmas and marrying on the evening of the 29th. My mother made me a dress (dark green and very short), Jack found a suit somewhere, and my parents’ back fence neighbors, who owned a small bakery, made us a cake. The church was still decorated for Christmas, all red and green. My best friend, Claudia, was home from Brooklyn for the holidays, as were several of my college buddies. Jack found an acquaintance to act as best man (I think his name was Paul, but I’d have to dig out the paperwork to be sure). My brother, who was about sixteen at the time, was the altar boy.

I lost Jack in 2002, but to this day I have a yellowed clipping on one of my bulletin boards: The success of a marriage is inversely proportional to the amount spent on the wedding. Worked for us, for thirty three years.

 

FROM EX TO ETERNITY:
Bride: Cara, wedding dress designer
Marital Status: Jilted at the altar
Action Required: Revenge on the runaway groom
From Ex To EternityTwo years after waiting at the altar for Keith Mitchell, Cara isn’t ready to meet him again, much less work with him as the consultant on her bridal fashion show! For his part, a misunderstanding sent him running, but now that he knows the truth, and they’re spending long days working together, he wants her back in his bed. Will Cara use their passion to gain the ultimate revenge? Let the newlywed games begin.

Buy Links:  Amazon   B&N   |   Apple   |   Kobo  |   Google

FROM FAKE TO FOREVER
Bride: Meredith, soon-to-be co-owner, wedding dress business
Marital Status: Victim, Vegas wedding mix-up
Action Required: Divorce, ASAP
From Fake to ForeverAfter one night of tequila and sex, their impromptu Vegas wedding shouldn’t be valid. But Meredith Chandler-Harris just discovered she’s still tied to irresistible businessman Jason Lynhurst. She needs out of their marriage, but to become his company’s new CEO, he needs her as a bride. Let the newlywed games begin.

Buy Links:  Amazon   |   B&N   |   Apple   |   Kobo  |   Google

 

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Cheryl Bolen’s Duchess By Mistake

Lady Elizabeth Upton is on a mission of charity, hoping to find a home for the widow and child of a soldier killed in the Peninsular War, when a series of accidents leads her into a very compromising situation involving a tub of bath water and the Duke of Aldridge.

Duchess By MistakeAs the daughter of a marquess, she has a position in society to uphold; she can’t laugh away such an embarrassing incident. But she has no intention of being forced into a loveless marriage, either, even if she did once have a girlhood crush on Philip Ponsby long before he became a duke.

Aldridge, just returned from several years abroad, has vague ideas of providing his family with an heir, but this isn’t quite what he had planned. However, Elizabeth would make a suitable wife, and she is the sister of his oldest friend. Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all.

So begins one of Cheryl Bolen’s favorite story lines, the marriage of convenience. Both Elizabeth and Philip have their duties to family and society to meet, and an agreeable marriage, if not a love match, seems the best way to handle the problem.

But what happens when these two people begin to fall in love, each convinced that the other does not feel the same? What happens when the young officer who once courted Elizabeth but left without offering for her hand returns from the war, and when Aldridge’s one-time Italian mistress shows up in London?

Duchess By Mistake is populated with likable supporting characters, a couple of budding secondary romances, and interesting historical background, as Elizabeth campaigns for war widows and orphans while Aldridge takes his newly-claimed seat in the House of Lords (and his less public work at the Foreign Office) to heart.

Lady By ChanceThis book is the second in the House of Haverstock series, a follow-up to Bolen’s Lady By Chance (the story of Elizabeth’s brother Charles and his wife), but it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. If you enjoy emotional but non-graphic Regency romance, you will want to read Duchess By Mistake.

Recent Reading: Science Fiction

I’ve been a steady reader of science fiction for decades, since the days when the “Age of Wonder” could be defined as Twelve, and most of the writers and readers were male. That has changed, happily, and these days science fiction is no longer a male bastion. It has, in fact, expanded to include science fiction romance and/or romantic science fiction, and these two books could tip into either of those categories.

Gunpowder AlchemyJeannie Lin’s Gunpowder Alchemy, the story of Jin Soling, once the daughter of privilege, now struggling to care for her eight-year-old brother and opium-addicted mother, takes place in an alternate China in 1850. The coastal ports of the Empire are full of Westerners with their steam-driven ships airships and weapons, while Chinese technology is powered by gunpowder.

Soling’s two-day journey to the provincial capital, where she hopes to sell the last treasure left by her engineer father, goes horribly awry, sending her on weeks-long journeys to the port cities and the open sea, and to meetings with Westerners and one-time colleagues of her disgraced father, including Chen Chang-wei, the man to whom she was promised at the age of ten. The betrothal was dissolved long ago, but Soling and Chang-wei become friends, and perhaps more, as he helps her find her way back to her family in the face of pirates and rebels. The background of Western invasion, the opium trade, and rebellion within the Empire is very much a part of Soling’s story, as is her independence as an apprentice physician.

Gunpowder Alchemy is a departure from Jeannie Lin’s historical romance novels set in 9th century Tang China, and an enjoyable twist on the steampunk genre. A brief excerpt of Soling’s next adventure, Clockwork Samurai, is included. I’ll definitely be watching for it.

Echo 8, by Sharon Lynn Fisher, is set in a near-future version of Seattle, not quite ours but very close. Tess Caufield is a parapsychologist with Seattle Psi, Ross McGinnis is an FBI agent assigned as her Echo 8bodyguard, and Jake Parker is a captive Echo, a person displaced from an alternate Earth nearly destroyed by a asteroid. The FBI is involved because the Echoes, not all of them captive, are dangerous, energy vampires needing to feed on native humans to survive.

As Tess and Ross delve deeper into the mysterious appearances—and disappearances—of the Echoes and their victims, the dangers mount on both personal and wider levels, while some of the Echoes hit shockingly close to home. Fisher draws a vivid picture of Tess’ Seattle and the parallel ruined Earth, and had me rooting for her characters.

I can also recommend Fisher’s previous books, Ghost Planet and The Ophelia Prophecy; all three are completely different stand alone science fiction romance novels.

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