Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Beauty of our Everyday World . . . and of Reading.

It is no new news that many of us deal with daily depression and anxiety. Those of you who know me personally are aware of my own struggles with these minor disorders--and I've been working to find ways to bring more light, happiness, and meaning to my life.
This past weekend, my husband and I went out for a lovely day together at the Henry Doorly Zoo. We keep a yearly membership to the zoo because we live in downtown Omaha, right close to where so many cultural things are--including the zoo. Going to see the animals is always a therapeutic experience for me. It's relaxing, eye-opening, and even enlightening every visit.

As our stay at the zoo was coming to a close, we were heading through the main building containing the Lozier Imax Theater. We noticed that a move was about to start soon, and seeing as we get free tickets as members, we decided to stick around for the showing.

The movie in question was Backyard Wilderness 3D.

I was expecting the usual array of cute animals interacting with one another in their natural environment. While I certainly did get my fill of that, I also had my eyes opened to so much more.
The story of the movie revolves around an average suburban family in upstate New York going about their day to day lives and how they eventually discover the wonder and beauty of the animals, plants, and wilderness right there in their backyard.

We see cute mice, deer, coyotes, frogs, salamanders, and so much more.

For me, however, it caused me to slow down and remember just how remarkable the day to day, in and out of life, really can be.

With everything that seems to be difficult, hard, or evil in our world, there are equal parts of beauty and goodness that go overlooked day after day--and that is the real evil. Missing the good that is always there.

Nature and all its animals keep growing and changing and adapting and moving without ever once stopping to think about politics, war, crime, or religion. They live their lives and do their part to keep the natural world moving.
So, why should we do anything different?

As the film ever so simply states, "In nature, there is no good and bad." How true that is. Everything strives to thrive, to eat, to live.

As I come back to what I said at the beginning, I deal with daily depression. I wake up staring at the blank white ceiling and often wonder what the point of living is. I get on the computer for work and see post after post of sad, depressing, or downright angering news--both real and contrived. I see people act meanly and spitefully in their comments and opinions when there is no reason to. Chronic illness and sickness only push me down further until I can barely stand it any longer.

Well, the truth is, none of us have to or should wander through life in a haze of constant depression. Instead of looking down we can look up and see the wonders that the world does offer--and choose to stop being afraid.
Finally, finally, I realize what drew me to reading and eventually writing cozy mystery fiction years back. It wasn't only the close relationship with my mother, sitting together and watching Masterpiece Theater Mystery, Miss Marple, Agatha Christine, and Sherlock Holmes. It was also the realization that murder mysteries, despite being about one of the worst crime a human can commit, actually focus light on the best and most beautiful parts of our world and our lives.

All the main characters in cozies are people who find joy in life. Either through cooking, knitting, writing, or any other assortment of daily activities, these women (and sometimes men) know how to love themselves, their family (included fur babies), and life in general. Not even something has scary as murder can remove that from their lives.

Best of all, the crime is always solved and safety restored.
Over the past six or so months, I've struggled to write much of anything, finding it pointless. I often find myself wondering what the point is, if any, to writing these stories. All of the negative comments, thoughts, and opinions from a career full of struggling to defend genre fiction come back and weigh down on me.

Then, as I've had all these thoughts and feelings today, the realization dawned. I write these stories not only to remind myself of the goodness and happiness in the world but to share that with you--the readers. If I can help remind you that life is good, give a moment to relax and unwind, or even just a second to escape a hard day . . . then I realize how important my job actually is.
I don't have to be Jane Austen or even the next Joanne Fluke or Leslie Meier (two favorite authors of mine who inspired me to write) to have my work be meaningful. All I need is readers who buy the books and receive something worthwhile from them in their lives--even if it is small.

And all of that just from watching a cute documentary? Life trully is wonderful! And I hope to remember that each morning I wake up to remind myself there is something lovely worth living for.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Instant" Irish Beef Stew

While my distant Irish roots never carried over very much in my family traditions, St. Patrick's Day has been one of my favorite holidays in recent years--mostly because of all the delicious foods and recipes that come out of Ireland!  One of my favorite things to make every year is this tasty Instant Pot rendition of Irish Beef Stew.

Quick, easy, and delicious, this meal is the perfect addition to any St. Patrick's Day celebration.


  • 1 Package (about 1-2 lbs) Cubed Stewing Beef.
  • 1 White Onion (Diced)
  • 2-3 Carrots (Diced)
  • 2-3 Potatoes (Diced)
  • 1 Vegetable/Herb Flavored Bouillon Cube
  • 2 (28oz) Cans Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Package (1lb) Frozen Peas
  • Garlic Salt (To Taste)
  • Onion Powder (To Taste) 
  • Pepper (To Taste)

  1. Turn Instant Pot onto saute setting. Place cubed stewing beef in the pot and cook until just browned.
  2. Add the onion. Cook until translucent. 
  3. Add the carrots and potatoes and saute for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't stick.
  4. Crumble up the bouillon and stir it in. (You can add the garlic salt, onion powder, and pepper now if you wish. It helps the flavors marry while they cook. Otherwise, add at the end to taste)
  5. Add tomato sauce, water, and peas. Close the Instant Pot and set it to the soup setting (or 30 min).
  6. When the timer is up, release the pressure valve and allow to come down. 
  7. Add any extra garlic salt, onion powder, or pepper to flavor. Serve with Irish Soda Bread! 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Energizing Coffee Peanut Butter Fudge!

Hello, readers! It has been some time since I last posted here on my blog. I'm hoping to change that by updating at least once a week with recipes, book news, or just little insights into my life as a full-time writer.

As many of you know, I love food! (What cozy author doesn't?) I'm always trying to think up new dishes and treats to make. Baking and cooking offer a great break from writing when my brain is just overworked. What better way to restart our engines than with some coffee infused peanut butter fudge?

This is something I whipped up recently when I realized I was out of chocolate in my house. When I saw I had an excess of Peanut Butter, it only made sense to make it into fudge!


  • 1 Stick of Butter (1 Cup)
  • 1 16oz Container of Peanut Butter (about 2 Cups)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tablespoons of Coffee Beans (or grounds)
  • 4-6 Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar (or powdered sugar) depending on your preferred sweetness.
  • Chopped nuts (optional)
  1. In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until it is just liquid. Try not to let it boil. (Alternately, you can do this on the stovetop in a medium sized saucepan on medium to low heat.)
  2. Mix in the peanut butter. Return to the microwave and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute until the mixture is soft and easy to stir.
  3. Add the vanilla to the mixture and stir it in.
  4. In a coffee grinder (or food processor), combine the coffee beans and sugar. Blend on a "fine grind" setting until the sugar looks powdery. (If you are using powdered sugar and preground coffee, you can skip this step. I prefer freshly ground coffee myself.)
  5. Add the coffee/sugar to the peanut butter mixture. Stir until well blended. 
  6. Pour the mixture into a standard bread pan (9x5 inches) lined with parchment paper or buttered along the bottom and sides. (The fudge will come out more easily with the parchment than with just buttering.)
  7. Top with chopped nuts of your choice. I like using pecans.
  8. Freeze for at least an hour. For best results, leave it overnight. 
  9. After it is done setting, cut it into 1-inch squares and store in airtight container in the fridge. If the fudge is left out for more than an hour, it will start to get soft.
For an extra ZING, feel free to add another scoop or two of coffee to the fudge mixture. This may add a slightly bitter flavor, but it compliments the peanuts well.