Friday, December 6, 2019

A Perfect Cup of Tea by Karen Rose Smith

by Karen Rose Smith


With the release of MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS, the fourth book in my Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mystery series, my mind has been on all things tea-related.  I can remember as a child having a cup of tea meant boiling some water in a pan on the stove, pouring it into a mug and adding a tea bag.  Tea was often the choice warm beverage on days when I was home from school with a nasty head cold.

But when I embarked on the task of creating a tea-themed focus for a new cozy mystery series and began researching tea and tea rooms, I developed a new-found appreciation for tea.  I was amazed at all the varieties and blends available and the art involved in creating a perfect cup of tea.  There definitely is a tea to satisfy everybody's palette.  
As I began visiting area tea rooms, I was fascinated and curious how each owner was able to supply every guest at a table a different cup of perfectly brewed tea of their choice from an extensive menu.  I was delighted to find on the back of a business card from TranquilaTea Tea Room in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania tips for brewing a perfect cup of tea.  I would like to share those tips with my readers.

Brewing A Perfect Cup Of Tea

  • Bring cold water to a boil
  • Measure 1 tsp loose leaf tea per 6 oz of water
  • Place tea in an infuser or tea filter bag
  • Immerse infuser or tea bag filter into cup or pot filled with boiled water that has cooled slightly  
Water Temperature

205 degrees (F) for black, herbal and rooibos teas
180 degrees (F) for green and white teas

Steeping Times

Green and white teas -- 2 minutes
Black teas -- 3 minutes
Herbal and rooibos teas -- 3 to 5 minutes
For a stronger cup, add more tea leaves.  Do not steep for a longer period of time, as this can lead to a bitter cup!




Now available:

Keith Rebert is homeless with a sad story that includes the death of his wife and medical bills that decimated his finances. Daisy and her friend Jonas Groft meet him through one of Daisy’s employees and offer help. But soon Keith is caught up in a murder investigation. He was supplying the shop Pirated Treasures with antiques, including Gettysburg Battlefield memorabilia. The nephew of the shop’s owner, Barry Storm, was lowballing merchandise that Keith brought in. One day Keith and Barry vehemently argued. Soon after, Barry was found dead, killed with a marble rolling pin that held Keith’s fingerprints. Daisy’s special for the month, cherry tarts, was found spilled on the floor next to him. Keith is the number one suspect.

Keith finds a job on a farm where he can live in a cabin with his daughter Mandy. A friend of Barry’s lived and worked there before the murder, then suddenly moved out. As Daisy finds clues that give insight into Barry’s life and prepares for her daughter’s wedding, she faces danger, verbally battles with the detective on the case, and tries to figure out what part Jonas Groft plays in her life. When she finds the ultimate clue that tells her exactly what Barry Storm was involved in, she almost loses her life. 


MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS on Amazon


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful For A New Release--MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS


I have so many things to be thankful for and I could write about the traditional thanksgiving list of family, friends, health and on and on--all the things that surround me on a daily basis.  Truthfully as I grow older, I reflect on these things every day.  The one thing, as I get wrapped up in my day to day writing chores, that I sometimes forget to appreciate is the fact that I was gifted with the talent of telling stories in the written word and that I was fortunate enough to be able to share my stories with my readers.  So it seems significant that I celebrate my 103rd release this week with the publication of MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS, the fourth in my Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mystery series for Kensington Books.  And today I want to thank my faithful readers through the past twenty-seven years for believing in me and trusting me to produce a story that will warm your hearts and touch your spirit.  I have appreciated all of your kind words and supportive notes through the years.

MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS is a cozy mystery which revolves around Daisy's outreach to a homeless single father and his darling daughter.  I created a yummy cherry tart recipe for this book that is included in the back of the book. 

Pirated Treasures is an antiques shop that also plays a significant
role in the mystery.  Daisy purchases a Burton and Burton Victorian design teapot atop a teacup from the owner of the shop on one of her many visits to the shop while she is gathering clues to solve the murder of the store owner's nephew.  Notice its uniquely-shaped infinity handle.

What could better than a steaming cup of tea, delicious food and delicate china to soften the sometimes terrifying search for a murderer in the community of Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, deep in Amish country!

Here is a little summary of the book which is now available:

Keith Rebert is homeless with a sad story that includes the death of his wife and medical bills that decimated his finances. Daisy and her friend Jonas Groft meet him through one of Daisy’s employees and offer help. But soon Keith is caught up in a murder investigation. He was supplying the shop Pirated Treasures with antiques, including Gettysburg Battlefield memorabilia. The nephew of the shop’s owner, Barry Storm, was lowballing merchandise that Keith brought in. One day Keith and Barry vehemently argued. Soon after, Barry was found dead, killed with a marble rolling pin that held Keith’s fingerprints. Daisy’s special for the month, cherry tarts, was found spilled on the floor next to him. Keith is the number one suspect.

Keith finds a job on a farm where he can live in a cabin with his daughter Mandy. A friend of Barry’s lived and worked there before the murder, then suddenly moved out. As Daisy finds clues that give insight into Barry’s life and prepares for her daughter’s wedding, she faces danger, verbally battles with the detective on the case, and tries to figure out what part Jonas Groft plays in her life. When she finds the ultimate clue that tells her exactly what Barry Storm was involved in, she almost loses her life. 


MURDER WITH CHERRY TARTS on Amazon

Saturday, November 2, 2019

WOOD You Shop Here? by Karen Rose Smith



Recently my husband and I went for a drive through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Since my Daisy's Tea Garden cozy mystery series is set in PA Amish country, I like to take an occasional drive though the area to soak in the Amish way of life which was immediately evident as we veered off the Old Philadelphia Pike onto several side roads that wound through Amish homesteads and farms.  It was a beautiful fall day and the horse-drawn farm equipment was active preparing the fields for winter and next spring's crops. Amish scooter cycles were being maneuvered along the country roads and wash was strung on pulley lines from the houses to the barn roofs.


The Amish operate many of the business establishments along the main route.  I always enjoy shopping in these stores and appreciating the hand crafted quilts, wall hangings, garden ornaments and furniture.

We stopped at a small coffee shop in the town of Intercourse for a quiet lunch.  I enjoyed watching the horse and buggies clopping along the street and the multitude of tourists who were enjoying the shops and outdoor entertainment at Kettle Village, directly across the street.

Sharing the same building as the coffee shop was a furniture store with locally-crafted pieces, many from reclaimed wood.  This shop immediately reminded me of WOODS, the business that is owned and operated by Jonas Groft in my tea garden mysteries.  Daisy often makes the short trek down the main street in Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, the fictional town I created based in historic Lancaster County, to visit Jonas.

Jonas makes many of the pieces featured in his shop, most made from reclaimed wood he often travels to purchase. Sometimes wood is found in old buildings that are being demolished or renovated.  Daisy often observes the chairs lined in cubicles along one wall of the shop, very similar to the display in the store we discovered in Intercourse.  They also featured tabletops which could be mounted on the pedestal bases of your choice, reclaimed wood mantles, and beautiful doors.



Some unusual items also caught my attention.  The shelf planter bicycle would be the perfect addition for a porch or sun room.  There were also many signs made from reclaimed wood, some with just a single word, others with more thought-provoking messages.

 I really enjoyed this visit to a shop that took me to a place that I had created in my imagination and shared on the written page.   I truly felt friendliness, warmth and peace knowing that such places truly do exist.



  *************

Coming in December!

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER



In Pennsylvania’s Amish country, Daisy Swanson has a tea shop to run, a daughter to marry off—and a murder to solve . . .

Daisy’s worried one of her employees at Daisy’s Tea Garden may be in a spot of trouble. Lately Karina’s been loading up on soup and second-day baked goods at the end of her shift—and while the shop’s scrumptious treats may be hard to resist, Daisy suspects there’s more going on, especially since Karina has been seen hanging out in a rundown part of Willow Creek.

Planning her own daughter’s wedding is enough to keep her busy, but Daisy can’t help feeling a protective maternal instinct—and an instinct to investigate. It turns out Karina has been helping a down-on-his luck single dad who’s been making ends meet—barely—by selling antiques at a place called Pirated Treasures.

But when an employee at the antiques store is bludgeoned to death with a marble rolling pin, Karina’s new friend is suspect number one. Though the motives are muddy and steeped in intrigue, Daisy is more than determined to flush the real killer out.




 





Thursday, October 24, 2019

Shelters for Feral and Outside Cats

by Karen Rose Smith


Several years ago, we cared for a yellow tabby stray who came into our yard and seemed to want to stay.  We named him Lancelot because the first time we spotted him, he was protecting a kitten. We got him care and found out he had FIV.  He lasted through the summer. When he first began staying on our property, I wanted a protected place for him to nestle and we bought an igloo.  The following year another yellow tabby came to us.  We named him Sunnybud.  He stayed for three years until his FIV took him.  In the meantime we added more than one shelter for cats who needed cover over the winter.  At times, we had three cats staying warmer.  The thing about cats is that, unless they are bonded--mother and kitties, brother and sister--they each like their own space. They can be territorial. This summer I spruced up this shelter when I cleaned it out. We have turquoise planters and I had leftover paint from a reno project. Cedar Shelter



Some of the shelters have heat pads made for the outdoors.  In those that don't, we use straw.  Blankets and rugs will mildew and stay cold and wet.  In winter, we've found the cats prefer the shelters with the heat pads. No surprise there. The photo I led with is an igloo with straw bales around it to insulate it even more both winter and summer.  Sunnybud preferred being farther away from the house until he began to stay in our patio sunroom. The igloo is equipped with a heat pad.

There are many websites on the internet that have DIY instructions on how to make an inexpensive cat shelter.  ( Link for info on a DIY Shelters ) YouTube also has many DIY clips on building outside shelters.  Some of them use styrofoam coolers and others use store-bought coolers often used for picnic soft drinks. I found these on Etsy and they are called cat pods. These include a heat pad. ( Link to Extreme Weather Heat Pad )Link for Outside Feral Cat Shelters )


Before Sunnybud left us, he introduced a brother and sister duo to our property. My husband named them Bonnie (a dark Tortie) and Clyde (a yellow tabby.) They have been more of a challenge than any others.  It's taken three years to socialize them to a certain extent. They come inside our basement now every afternoon to eat and cuddle up until morning. Then they go out again unless we keep them in for rain or freezing cold. Our basement is their apartment with cat beds and my plant grow heat pad that they use too.  But we still can't touch Bonnie.  I can pet Clyde unless I move my hand too fast or stand up!  We're working on it.  But before we even attempted to feed them inside the basement, they had to become comfortable with our property.  These two had been caught in a TNR program because both their ears were clipped.  I imagine they had a traumatic experience which is the cause of their apprehension around humans.  We added another shelter with a heat pad when they arrived.  I catnipped it and they began using it.  It was a patiently slow process.

This is a feral shelter we have under our deck. Clyde often uses the roof to survey his domain.  He and Bonnie can go inside and then crawl into a loft space that is insulated for warmth. Bonnie and Clyde both stay on our property now both day and night. Feralvilla Shelter


A fellow writer found stray cats on her property. I've often looked at these tubes and she told me the stray cats are using the shelter.  ( Link for Info on the Tube Shelter )


I'm an animal person, especially cats.  We have five inside rescues.  I can't handle seeing felines suffer in the winter.  Hence, the shelters.

Lancelot
Me and Sunnybud
Bonnie and Clyde
Younger Sunnybud


Sunnybud

Sunnybud and Halo before we brought her in.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Celebrating #Tea and Books!


I was honored to be asked to participate in this year's Pennsylvania Tea Festival sponsored by The Rosemary House and Gardens and The Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop.  The event was held in the gardens of The Rosemary House.  It featured entertainment, lectures, vendors and, of course, a full-service tea luncheon.


The literary corner hosted six cozy mystery authors who were scheduled over the two day event to give a short presentation followed by a chat session with readers where the authors could answer questions and sign copies of their books.

Each ticket holder received a tea cup when he/she arrived.  The cup was then used throughout their stay at the festival to taste the tea samples that were offered by the vendors.

The mood of the day was light and cheerful and everybody seemed to enjoy the beautiful weather, browse the tea products and learn more about tea. The chef at Rosemary House even created a pimento spread/cucumber sandwich like the recipe in my recent release, Murder With Cucumber Sandwiches!

I enjoyed the camaraderie with my readers.  Chatting with them reaffirms what I hope to accomplish in my novels and they always give me new perspectives on what my readers like...whether it be shorter chapters, more than one murder or my sleuths' romantic relationships.














My Daisy's Tea Garden Mysteries have opened a whole new venue for promoting my books.  It is so enjoyable to sit with my readers, enjoy tea and tasty treats and interact on a much more intimate level than across a table at a bookstore.  I always feel refreshed and renewed after sharing tea with my readers.
     

*************

Coming in December!

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER


In Pennsylvania’s Amish country, Daisy Swanson has a tea shop to run, a daughter to marry off—and a murder to solve . . .

Daisy’s worried one of her employees at Daisy’s Tea Garden may be in a spot of trouble. Lately Karina’s been loading up on soup and second-day baked goods at the end of her shift—and while the shop’s scrumptious treats may be hard to resist, Daisy suspects there’s more going on, especially since Karina has been seen hanging out in a rundown part of Willow Creek.

Planning her own daughter’s wedding is enough to keep her busy, but Daisy can’t help feeling a protective maternal instinct—and an instinct to investigate. It turns out Karina has been helping a down-on-his luck single dad who’s been making ends meet—barely—by selling antiques at a place called Pirated Treasures.

But when an employee at the antiques store is bludgeoned to death with a marble rolling pin, Karina’s new friend is suspect number one. Though the motives are muddy and steeped in intrigue, Daisy is more than determined to flush the real killer out.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Closet Treasures by #Mystery author Karen Rose Smith




I'm in a cleaning mood!  This week when the sliding door jumped off the track on one of our upstairs' closets, I "suggested" that my husband and I clean out the closet while the doors were off.  What started out as a simple repair turned into a week-long project.  Of course, while the closet was empty, it was the perfect time to paint the walls that were ignored when we recently had the hallway painted.  So we began the process of emptying the shelves, making a "keep" pile, a "donation" pile and a "throwaway" pile.  Then the shelving was removed and the walls were painted.

The "keep" pile had linens and towels that we use on a daily basis, extra light bulbs and extension cords, tools and cleaning supplies.  And then there were the treasures that had been stashed away on the top shelf that I had totally forgotten were there.

First, there were some of my baby clothes as well as our son's -- embroidered kimonos, crocheted baby booties, the receiving blanket we wrapped our son in the day we brought him home from the hospital, the embroidered crib quilt that was used in both of our cribs.  The items brought back many happy memories and, of course, were carefully folded and replaced on the top shelf of the closet.

My mother always had extra linens, towels and dish cloths stored in her hallway linen closet.  When we got married, she went through her stash and gave us many of the unused items to set up housekeeping in our first apartment.  When she passed away, I kept the extras that were still stored in that closet.  I tucked them on the top shelf of our closet and found them when we cleaned it out this week.  I was pleasantly surprised that they were a much higher quality than can be bought today.  I was also shocked at the sticker prices still on the items.  Memories of shopping for these items at Montgomery Ward and J. C. Murphy came flooding back and I was filled with nostalgia. I worked at Montgomery Ward when I was in college.

And there were also other "finds."  Back in the days before we had self-sticking stamps and labels, we had to lick each item before apply it to an envelope.  Mass mailings were facilitated by a gadget with a small water well and a wheel that turned through the water to moisten the stamps.  I also remember using the gadget to wet S&H green stamps before applying them to the books to save for premiums at our local S&H outlet store.  We also used the wheel when wetting the little black corners used to adhere pictures to photo albums or scrap books.

So cleaning out a closet turned out to be a trip down memory lane...to the days when a trip to the local 5 and dime store was an adventure, when handcrafted items added a special touch to an infant's layette and when a dishcloth didn't cost an arm and a leg!




 




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Extending Indoor Space to the Outdoors



I've wanted a canopied porch swing for quite a while.  Arthritis and fibromyalgia sometimes limit where I can go and what I can do.  The past few years my husband kept insisting our patio wasn't big enough to comfortably accommodate a swing.  But...where there's a will, there's a way.  And I set out to find the way.  I enjoy spring, summer and fall as much as I can.  I begin growing flowers and tomatoes from seed in February and March to remind me that spring and spending time in outdoor space is coming.

I searched for the swing I wanted online first, deciding exactly the type I wanted--a three-seater that I could lounge on as well as sit on.  Then with his trusty tape measure in hand, my husband and I went to the patio to figure out if and how it would fit.  He reluctantly agreed to order the swing, hoping that my plan would work.  (He should know after 47 years of marriage that it would!) After my hubby and our neighbor's son worked two hours to assemble the new purchase (the directions said it was supposed to be an easy assembly!), we began moving things around to see the best fit.  I already had several patio pots planted, ready to decorate the space. My goal was to create an outside living space without sacrificing the view or obstructing walking pathways.  Soon I had just what I wanted...a quiet retreat where I could spend sunny mornings either listening to music, editing or writing new material.

Just as you accessorize your indoor spaces with wall groupings, knickknacks, greenery and pillows, you can do the same to add a special homey touch to your outdoor living spaces.  I chose colorful cushions and pillows, potted groupings, and a fountain.  I added the cat doormat hubby received from a friend for Father's Day and I even had a corner that I decorated with colorful stones that are supposed to glow in the dark.  I added my favorite sign and a cat planter.

Now I can spend my spring, summer and fall mornings on the patio with the outdoor cats.  (We've been taking care of two ferals--Bonnie and Clyde--for a few years.)  Hopefully birds chirping, a fountain trickling and the scent of blooming annuals will give me peace of mind and the inspiration to write the next scene in my cozy mystery.


 And if I'm really lucky, I might even spot a deer grazing in the field to the rear of our property.