Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday News—Congratulations to This Year’s RITA and Golden Heart Finalists!

The Harlequin American Romance authors are thrilled that two of our own are 2009 RITA finalists for Contemporary Series Romance:

Texas Heir by Linda Warren
The Right Mr. Wrong by Cindi Myers
And congratulations to two of my fellow Noodlers! Anne Mallory is a 2009 RITA Finalist for Regency Historical Romance with Three Nights of Sin, and Cynthia J. Eernisse Chase is a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist for Historical Romance with The Other Brother.

Thanks again to everyone who attended my Mad Writer’s Tea Party last week! You made it a special day!

Until next time

Monday, March 30, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This week the Wet Noodle Posse winds up March Madness and “springs forward” into April. We'd love to have you join us!

Monday: Theresa Ragan reminds us “Don't Worry, Be Happy”

Tuesday: Maureen Hardegree offers up “Signs That You Might Be Mad…Or a Writer”

Wednesday: Intro to April’s “Spring Forward” Theme

Thursday: Maureen Hardegree reminds you to “Put a Spring In Your Step”

Friday: Q&A—What’s Your Favorite Sign of Spring, plus April Releases by Noodlers

Until next time,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Winners of the Mad Writer's Tea Party Giveaways!

Thank you all for making yesterday's tea party so much fun! And congratulations to the winners of the random drawing for giveaways. Click here to see the list of prizes, complete with photographs.

If Teapots Could Talk
Diane St. Jacques

polka dot mug & Murchie’s tea

mini tin of Angelwater
Theresa Ragan

mini tin of Philospher’s Brew

mini tin of Casablanca

Dragon Tears (shaped tea)
Terry Odell

Sacred Ember (shaped tea)
Gillian Layne
And as an added bonus, I'm tossing in a copy of my second book.
With This Ring (ebook format).
The winner is Cheryl S.
Congratulatons to all of you!

Winners, please send your name and mailing address in an email to lee-at-leemckenzie-dot-com and I'll send your prize to you.


Until next time,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Mad Writer’s Tea Party—For the Love of Tea Parties

Thank you for stopping by The Mad Writer’s Tea Party. Sit down and let me pour you a cup. One lump or two? Milk or lemon?

I’ve been a fan of tea parties for most of my life. Witness this photo of me from a very, very long time ago, taking tea with my doll, Sweetie Pie, and our stuffed collie.

Yes, this really is me. Little Orphan Annie meets the Campbell’s Soup Kid.

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that’s a lovely Blue Willow china tea set. It’s long gone, but I still have the furniture. Over the years, my children have had numerous tea parties at that table, sometimes with real tea and sometimes with the make-believe kind.

Have you noticed how good imaginary tea can be? I hope you’re enjoying yours now.

When I was a teenager, I started collecting a real set of china.

It’s hopelessly impractical, but it looks so romantic and it’s a perfect tea service, don’t you think? For grown-up tea parties with real tea, of course.

As I wrote these tea blogs, I tried to remember tea parties in various books I’ve read over the years. I didn’t come up with a very long list, but I have to say my all-time favorite is in Anne of Green Gables. Remember the disaster when Anne invited Diana for tea?

“Oh, Marilla, can I use the rosebud spray tea set?"

"No, indeed! The rosebud tea set! Well, what next? You know I never use that except for the minister or the Aids. You'll put down the old brown tea set. But you can open the little yellow crock of cherry preserves. It's time it was being used anyhow—I believe it's beginning to work. And you can cut some fruit cake and have some of the cookies and snaps."

There was also half a bottle of raspberry cordial in the closet and Marilla said they could have that, too. Of course Anne unwittingly gave her friend a bottle of homemade current wine. Diana drank three glassfuls and became completely intoxicated.

For Afternoon Tea, it’s quite common to offer guests a glass of sherry, but usually just one, and a small one at that!

Poor Diana. In the film version, she staggered home and threw up in front of the minister’s wife.

In my first book, The Man for Maggie, it seemed perfectly natural to have a heroine who drank herbal teas and ran a natural spa. I was especially thrilled when the Silk Road tea shop and spa agreed to host my book launch party. Isn't that a beautiful display of teapots?

If you're planning a summer tea party, your guests might enjoy a nice tall frosty glass of iced tea. This one’s delicious.

Green Tea Lemonade

3 parts freshly steeped green tea
1 part lemonade concentrate

Put the ice in a pitcher. Pour the green tea over the ice, add the lemonade concentrate, and stir. Fill those tall, frosty glasses and garnish with a twist of lemon or a spring of mint.
You’ll find a wonderful recipe for Lemonade Concentrate on my website. I much prefer it to the frozen kind from the grocery store.

I’m giving away a variety of my favorite teas today, and most of them are organic teas from Silk Road. To be eligible to win one of these awesome prizes, simply post a comment.

After you've done that, please follow these links to find out about Afternoon Tea on the Harlequin American Romance Authors blog, and some interesting tidbits about exotic teas on the Wet Noodle Posse blog.


Monday, March 23, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

March is winding down, but the madness continues at the Wet Noodle Posse.

Monday: Diane Gaston—Villains: How Much Insanity Is Too Much?

Tuesday: Lee McKenzie—The Mad Writer's Tea Party

Wednesday: Diane Gaston—Heroes: How Much Damage Is Too Much?

Thursday: Delle Jacobs—TBA

Friday: Q&A Day—What Keeps You Sane in the Sometimes Chaotic
Writing Business?
I hope to see you at the tea party tomorrow!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Mad Writer’s Tea Party

I hope you’ve marked The Mad Writer’s Tea Party—Tuesday, March 24—on your calendar! I look forward to “seeing” you at this three-blog event.

Do you know which tea—white or green—has the most antioxidants? Or why some of the world’s best teas are grown high elevations? You’ll find out those things and more, and I'll be sharing some luscious tea recipes.

I also have lots of great giveaways, and I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about them.

Mini Tins of Tea from Silk Road

Angelwater—Tea of Serenity (subtle, sweet and mellow)
ingredients: spearmint leaves, lavender blossoms, rose petals, elder flowers, red clover

Philospher’s Brew—Tea of Enlightenment (luscious and lemony)
ingredients: lemongrass, citrus peel, rosehips, lavender blossoms

Casablanca—Moroccan Oasis (sweet spearmint and intense green tea)
ingredients: Chinese green tea, spearmint leaves

Shaped Teas from Silk Road

Dragon Tears—Tea of Prophecy (jasmine flavour with subtle green tea smoothness)
Hand-tied green tea rolled into the shape of small pearls that unfurl into the shape of a tear. Once the pearls, also known as rosettes, have unfurled, the pattern of the leaves foretell the future.

Sacred Ember—Iignites the Spirit (complex and nectar-like flavor)
A high-altitude Chinese white tea. This handcrafted tea symbolizes inner power and courage. It flowers under water to reveal a flame-colored lily blossom at its center.

If Tea Pots Could Talk
by Muriel Moffat
Copyright 2006, 80 pages. Chapters on “The Art of Making and Taking Tea” and “Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress.” There’s even a recipe section.
A Colorful Polka Dot Mug
and a 12-bag packet of Murchie’s Empress Afternoon Blend—a lovely blend of China, Darjeeling and Ceylon teas.
How can you win one of these wonderful prizes? Simply visit me here at The Writer Side of Life on Tuesday, March 24 and post a tea-related comment. Then follow the links to the Harlequin American Romance Authors and the Wet Noodle Posse blogs. For each comment you post, your name will be entered in the draw. A list of winners will be posted on Wednesday, March 25, here on The Writer Side.

Special thanks to Silk Road for allowing me use their beautiful photographs.

Until next time,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

Yesterday I treated myself to two gerber daisies—to celebrate the first day of spring, and because they made me feel good. The pink and yellow are so cheerful and sunny.

As you can see, I am not the only one at my house with an appreciation for botanicals. Given the chance, my cat Lucy would happily dine on them. So after she posed for this photograph, I moved the vase to a shelf in my office where I can appreciate the flowers, but she can’t eat them.

Sorry, Lucy!

Until next time,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Housework with a Twist of Lemon

Today is the first official day of spring, although I’ve been in spring cleaning mode all month. With any luck I’ll be finished before the first day of summer.

Last Friday, Gillian commented that she loves the scent of citrus in her home. I wonder if she’s tried making her own pot scrubber with half a lemon and a little baking soda?

Yes, it's as easy as it sounds. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut side.

This handy little scrubber is also a great way to clean counters and other surfaces because the baking soda is a mild abrasive, and the lemon cuts through grease and soap scum.

Last weekend I sorted and cleaned all my spice jars and packages—a job that was long overdue. I ended up throwing out a lot of stuff that was as old as the hills, and I had to scratch my head over having two full jars of fennel seeds. I can't imagine what I’ll do with one. Plus I'm not sure why I had them in the first place. Any suggestions for recipes that call for fennel seeds?

Since I was on a roll, I decided to organize the "tupperware” drawer, too. Do you have one of those? I’m not sure why I call it that since I have no tupperware. Anyway, all the storage containers and lids are now married and sitting in neat piles in the drawer. I have no idea how long that will last, but for now it looks good. I also found seven bottoms with no tops, and ten tops with no bottoms. So many divorces in one small tupperware drawer.

Until next time,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Applesauce Cupcakes

On Sunday I was feeling somewhat energetic, so I decided to try a recipe for applesauce cupcakes that I found on the Bake & Shake blog.

BTW, I love this serving plate. Found it years ago at a thrift store. It's melamine and has no markings on the bottom, but I call it my Twister Plate.

I modified the recipe somewhat. First, I omitted the ground cloves because (a) I didn’t have any and (b) I don’t like ground cloves. And I used regular unsweetened applesauce from the grocery store because (a) that's all I could find and (b) I wasn't feeling energetic enough to start from scratch.

The result was delicious.

Applesauce Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice) and soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown and granulated sugars, egg and oil until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and applesauce alternately, beginning and ending with flour, mixing just until flour disappears and batter is a uniform brown. Spoon batter into a lined 12-cup cupcake pan.

Yes, the recipe makes twelve cupcakes. There were only three left when I got around to taking the photo.

Bake for 15 minutes (mine took a few minutes longer) until toothpicks inserted in the middle and edge cupcakes come out clean or with dry crumbs clinging, but no wet batter. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove and cool completely on a rack.

Frost with cream cheese icing, or sift powdered sugar over the top. I made the icing and ended up with twice as much as needed. Next time I’ll try dusting them with powdered sugar.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz Cream Cheese, slightly softened
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Beat the cream cheese and vanilla extract with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the cinnamon. Then gradually add the powdered sugar until you've reached a sweetness and stiffness level you're satisfied with. Frost the cooled cupcakes.


Until next time,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday News

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Are you wearing something green today? I do not have a lot of green clothing, but I will tie on a lovely green and white scarf my daughter gave me.

Be sure to mark your calendar for The Mad Writer's Tea Party on March 24. I’ll be posting tea-related blogs here on The Writer Side of Life, as well as on the Harlequin American Romance Authors and Wet Noodle Posse blogs. You’ll find tips for making and serving a perfect cup of tea, and there’ll be some great prizes! I hope you’ll join me!

And my website has been updated, including a few new photos on the Buzz page.

Until next time,

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

The Wet Noodle Posse’s March Madness continues.

Monday: Maureen Hardegree on Why I Hate St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday: Theresa Ragan asks What Are You Working On?

Wednesday: Karen Potter shares The Simple Benefits of Taking a Deep Breath

Thursday: Merrilllee Whren—TBA

Friday: Q&A Day
Until next time,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Fun—Boots

I love my boots.

Everyone who knows me knows I am not a fashionista. Give me a pair of jeans, an old sweatshirt and a comfy pair of shoes, and I am one happy camper. But when I found these boots on sale—seriously marked down—I could not resist.

I love the yummy chocolate color, the tassled bows at the back, the heels. Being tall is fun!

Until next time,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Baking Soda

Yes, I know it’s Saturday. But Saturday Food for Thought just doesn't have the same alliteration.

Still tackling your spring cleaning? Thinking about tackling it?

Last weekend I cleaned out the freezer. That was interesting.

For the actual cleaning part, I used about one-quarter cup of baking soda in a quart of warm water. Especially great for appliances because the baking soda is mildly abrasive, it’s easy to rinse out, and it’s a great deodorizer. Not that my freezer needed a deodorizer...ahem...but it does get that fridgy smell. I’m sure you know what I mean. I use this baking soda-and-water mixture to clean the microwave, too.

This winter I tried hiring a housekeeper, but it didn’t work out. For starters, she used an industrial degreaser on absolutely everything. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the world’s greatest housekeeper, but I’m not the worst, either. This degreaser was supposed to be diluted with water—one part degreaser to 30 parts water—and she used it full strength. Without wearing gloves, which can’t be healthy. And it had a revolting smell—one online reviewer described it as mixture of licorice and vomit—that lingered for days.

Not long after the housekeeper left, I used the microwave. Make that, tried to use it. She had used this degreaser inside the microwave and hadn’t rinsed it. Can’t remember what I was heating, but it had to be thrown out. I even thought I’d have to get a new microwave, but after washing it with baking soda and warm water—every day for a week—I finally got rid of the smell.

This weekend I plan to tackle the inside of the fridge.

Note to self: buy more baking soda.

Until next time,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weird Beer, and It Isn't All Green

That's what I'm blogging about with the Wet Noodle Posse today.

Drop by and join me for a pint!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday News

Wow! Another busy week!

Be sure to drop by Barbar Vey’s Beyond Her Book blog this week and take part in the fun as she celebrates her second anniversary with Publishers’ Weekly. Post a comment to eligible for some great gifts, including a cyber gift basket that the Harlequin American Romance Authors are giving away this FRIDAY.

Tomorrow, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, I’ll be blogging about beer over at the Wet Noodle Posse. I’ll be serving up some weird ones and I promise none of them will be green, so come on by and join me for a cyber pint!

Also coming up this week—an interview with Harlequin American Romance author, Michele Dunaway on Thursday, March 12.

On March 24 I’m hosting The Mad Writer’s Tea Party. I’ll be posting tea-related blogs with the Harlequin American Authors, the Wet Noodle Posse, and here on The Writer Side of Life. There'll be tips for brewing a perfect cup of tea, a discussion about exotic teas, great prizes, and more!

And last but not least, the newest Harlequin American Romances are on shelves today.

The Sheriff of Horseshoe
by Linda Warren

The Triplets’ Rodeo Man
by Tina Leonard

Twins for the Teacher
by Michele Dunaway

Ooh, Baby!
by Ann Roth

Happy reading!


Monday, March 9, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

March Madness continues with:

Monday: Dr. Debra Holland—“Lord of the Dance”

Tuesday: Terry McLaughlin—“Embracing Eccentricities”

Wednesday: Lee McKenzie—“Weird Beer, and It Isn’t All Green”

Thursday: Maureen Hardegree—“Daylight Savings Time: Exactly What Are We Saving?”

Friday: Q&A topic—How Does a Writer Keep a Reader Sympathetic to a Mad Character?
Yes, that’s me blogging on Wednesday. I hope you’ll join me over at the Wet Noodle Posse. The first round’s on me.

Until next time,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Fun—A New Word

Salmagundi. I just heard this word for the first time this week, and I’ve fallen in love with it. How has it escaped my lexicon for so long?

Salmagundi is a noun that means mixture, medley, hodge podge. Wikipedia says the word “is derived from the French word salmigondis, which means disparate assembly of things, ideas or people, forming an incoherent whole.”

Remember the nursery rhyme, “Solomon Grundy”? That name is thought to have come from salmagundi.

Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end of
Solomon Grundy.
Of course I googled salmagundi and learned there’s a British musical duo by this name, an art centre in Manhattan, a dish eaten by pirates (seriously...see the description below) and a delightful antique shop called Salmagundi West, located at 321 Cordova Street West, in Vancouver, BC’s historic and now somewhat quirky Gastown neighborhood. I’ve never been to this store but it’s now at the top of my must-see list next time I visit Vancouver.

Even the proprietors seem to be a perfect fit with the store’s salmagundi. [Lee uses new word in a sentence for the first time.]

Special thanks to Jasmine at Pike/Pine Street Fashion in Seattle for allowing me to use her photograph of Salmagundi West.

You’re not likely to see a recipe for salmagundi in my Friday Food for Thought posts, though, and here’s why.

"A cook might include as the basis of his salmagundi any or all of the following: turtle meat, fish, pork, chicken, corned beef, ham, duck and pigeon. The meats would be roasted, chopped into chunks and marinated in spiced wine, then combined with cabbage, anchovies, pickled herring, mangoes, hard-boiled eggs, palm hearts, onions, olives, grapes and any other pickled vegetables that were available. The whole would then be highly seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and mustard seed and doused with oil and vinegar—and served with drafts of beer and rum." (From The Pirates by Douglas Botting)
Avast, me hearties. Ahoy, maties. Argh.

Sorry...none of those apply to this concoction, but they’re the only pirate words I know. One thing’s for sure. You’d need the beer and rum, and plenty of it, to wash down a plateful of salmagundi!

Until next time,

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Food for Thought—Vinegar

It’s March, and some of us are starting to think about spring cleaning, so this month’s Friday Food for Thought "recipes" are for homemade cleaning products. Starting with vinegar, which is surely one of the most versatile household products ever.

For an all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer, mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Great for windows, counter tops, etc.

If you have a mold problem in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room, wipe surfaces with undiluted vinegar.

Wipe cutting boards with vinegar to help eliminate bacteria.

Vinegar is an effective weed killer. Simply spray undiluted vinegar on weeds, but be careful to not spray other plants because vinegar will kill them, too. Very useful for getting rid of the weeds that grow in the cracks of a sidewalk, along the edge of a driveway, etc.
And just in case spring cleaning is making you feel overwhelmed, take a look at this "Hall of Shame" photo. Has anyone seen the vinegar? LOL, I am sooooo glad I don't have to tackle that!

And is it just me, or are the insides of the cupboards completely empty?

Have you already started spring cleaning? Do you have any suggestions for using vinegar instead of commercial cleaners? I’d love to hear them. Believe me, when it comes to cleaning, I need all the help I can get!

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday News—March Has Arrived!

Which means spring can’t be far off, right?

March is already shaping up to be a busy month. Here’s what I have for you so far.

Be sure to check out this month’s author interviews on the Harlequin American Romance Authors blog.

Holly Jacobs—March 6
Michele Dunaway—March 12
Barbara Vey is throwing an anniversary party to celebrate two years with Publishers’ Weekly. Drop by Barbara's Beyond Her Book blog from March 9 to 14 to take part in the fun and to be eligible for some great gifts, including a cyber gift basket from the Harlequin American Romance Authors. You'll find the official invitation here.

On March 11, in honor of St. Paddy’s Day, please join me at the Wet Noodle Posse for a cyber pint of beer. I’ll be serving up some weird ones, and I promise none of them will be green!

And on March 24 I’m hosting The Mad Writer’s Tea Party. I’ll be posting tea-related blogs with the Harlequin American Authors, the Wet Noodle Posse, and here on The Writer Side. I’ll have tips on brewing a perfect cup of tea, a discussion about exotic teas, and I’ll be giving away some great prizes!

What did I tell you? There’s lots happening! I think we've all come down with a case of spring fever!

Until next time,

Monday, March 2, 2009

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

It’s March Madness month over at the Wet Noodle Posse! Join the Noodlers for a whole lot of mad crazy fun, starting this week with:

Monday: Introduction to March Madness—Maureen Hardegree

Tuesday: Four Leaf Clovers: Are You Feeling Lucky?—Maureen Hardegree

Wednesday: Spring Cleaning for the Home and More—Trish Milburn

Thursday: Tips for Surviving March Madness—Maureen Hardegree

Friday: Q&A Day (What’s Your Favorite Movie Featuring Irish Characters?) and March releases by Noodlers
I am seriously looking forward to Trish’s post on spring cleaning. I need all the help I can get!

Until next time,