All posts by Susannah Hardy

Susannah Hardy is a writer of humorous romantic mysteries set in and near the fictional resort village of Bonaparte Bay, New York. You can follow Susannah at www.susannahhardy.com, and on Twitter @SusannahHardy1.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Suze here, wishing you the happiest of St. Patrick’s Days.  Am I Irish? Yup. Some of the names in my family tree are Higgins, McBath, Kearns, and Morrison.  But of course it doesn’t really matter. No matter your background, St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating with the ones you love–even if it means drinking green beer!

Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of www.pdphoto.org.
Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of http://www.pdphoto.org.

So today, in honor of Ireland’s most famous little round thing that grows underground, I thought I’d share a recipe with you. Enjoy!

Suze’s Mashed Potatoes

  • 6 Medium Size Potatoes–My favorite is Yukon Gold, and yes, the type of potato really does make a difference. You want a waxy potato, not a baking potato like a russet.
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or cream cheese (lite versions are fine, but don’t use the fat free stuff–yuck!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and quarter potatoes, rinse with cold water, and place in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fork tender. This will probably take around twenty minutes, but keep checking them. Drain the potatoes immediately–don’t leave them sitting in the hot water or they’ll turn to mush.

Return potatoes to hot saucepan (off the heat). Mash the potatoes with your favorite mashing tool, then add the remaining ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup of milk that you’ve warmed in the microwave along with the butter. Mash everything together, adding more warm milk if necessary to make a creamy consistency.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with more butter and gravy if you have it. This ain’t lo-cal. Get over it, LOL!

Variations:

  • Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese during the hot mashing process
  • Sprinkle cooked potatoes with crumbled bacon and chopped scallions (Bacon? Did somebody say bacon?)
  • Drain a can of corn and mix into potatoes along with ground beef or turkey that has been browned with some finely chopped onion and drained. Place mixture into a casserole dish, cover with shredded cheese, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Leftover potatoes? Place in a saucepan the next day and stir in chicken broth until your desired soup consistency is reached. Season with a bit of thyme and some more freshly ground pepper.

How will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? I’ll leave you with a classic Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields  and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And may you all find your pots of gold!

Funk-ytown

Hey, all. Suze here. Are you digging the new Scribes format? Personally, I love it!

th[1]So I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a couple of weeks now. I’ve got a very long to-do list, and a number of things on it are time critical (including an April 1 deadline to turn in book 2 to Berkley!). Yet I find myself procrastinating on even the simplest of tasks. Really, Suze? You can’t even pick up the phone and make an appointment for a desperately-needed haircut and color? (Okay, I promise to do that as soon as I finish this post)

Is it the weather? We’ve got a couple of feet of snow on the ground here in New England. I’ve never minded the snow or the cold (other than my heating bill), always thought it was beautiful. And since I’m fortunate enough to have a healthy husband and teenaged son, I haven’t had to shovel a single flake this year. But now that I’m working at home, some days I realize at dinnertime that I haven’t even left the house. Not good. Maybe I just need some sun. I vow to get some today, even if it’s not on the Aegean Beach where I’d like to be.

Anyway, my experience with funks is that there are two ways to get out of them. One, you can wait it out. If you’re not clinically depressed and you don’t have some chemical imbalance going on, they do go away eventually. (If you suspect your funk might have some physical origins, do see a health practitioner. Don’t mess around with this stuff, please)

Second, you can de-funk yourself. It’s gonna take some effort to get over the initial hump, but you can do it. Here are my methods for defunkification:

1. Get up a little earlier. If you find that you’re hitting the snooze button too many times, you’re going to be behind all day. I know it’s hard to leave a warm bed in the wintertime, but you can make it easier for yourself by keeping a warm robe and slippers near the bed to make transitioning easier. If you like your coffee first thing in the morning, like I do, set up the coffeepot the night before. If your machine has a timer, even better! It’ll be ready for you when you get to the kitchen, and the aroma may help you roll out of bed. Trust me on this one: you can accomplish a lot first thing in the morning in only an extra fifteen or twenty minutes.

2. Make sure basic housekeeping is under control. Now, everybody has to decide for herself what basic housekeeping is. For me, as long as the beds are made, the dishes are done, and the laundry is more or less caught up, I can live with some dust until I can squeeze in a few minutes with the Swiffer. Other people may have higher housekeeping standards. So determine what the absolute minimum is you need for your mental health, and make sure those things get done. In that extra fifteen or twenty minutes in the morning, you can easily throw in a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. Most things take less time than you think they do.

3. Do you know what you’re making for lunch and dinner? I’ll assume you don’t need to plan out your breakfast since most people eat more or less the same foods (oatmeal, cold cereal, egg, smoothie). But especially if you work outside the house or have school-age kids, you need to think about lunch. And dinner. This is actually a step best performed the night before so you have less to do in the morning. Make a loose meal plan and try to stick to it. You don’t want to come home from work in a panic, staring at unidentifiable frozen lumps in the freezer and hoping for a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to magically appear.

If you’re just getting started on your defunkification, it’s perfectly acceptable to plan to order a pizza or support your local grinder or Chinese take-out shop for dinner. You need some time to get things rolling and you may need to shop for groceries once your loose meal plan for the week is made.

4. Take a shower. Casey touched on this recently in her post on working from home. Shampoo, shave, moisturize, and put on some clean clothes (you know, the laundry you did?) and you’ll feel ready to take on the world.  Being IN a funk doesn’t mean you have to SMELL funky.

5. Make a list. Yeah, I’m an inveterate list-maker. I don’t always DO the stuff on my lists, though, and that’s where I start to get into trouble. I have both a paper list for daily stuff and virtual sticky notes on my computer screen for longer term stuff, like future writing projects, and things like investigating a new cable provider and shopping for a new stove.  But in that extra few minutes in the morning, or while you’re enjoying your first cup of coffee, take some time and look at your list. Determine which of those things is most important that you get done that day.

I recommend adding a couple of less critical tasks to your must-do list (such as making that hair appointment) and, if the tasks require only five or ten minutes, do them first. That’s right, NOT in order of priority or importance. Because the satisfaction of accomplishing even a five minute task (and making a hair appointment is more like a one minute task!) and crossing it off the list gives you confidence and momentum.  And those are the keys to breaking the funk-cycle.

6. Determine the little things that are driving you crazy and add them to your list in a different section. Example: my sock and scarf drawer is a huge, jumbled mess, resulting in my not being able to find the items I want. Or the plastic storage container cupboard is out of control, and avalanches every time the door is opened. See if you can take a few minutes a day to work on these small, nagging things (maybe while you’re waiting for your significant other to get out of the shower, or while dinner is in the oven). Fixing small problems like this is another great way to start feeling good about yourself and your capabilities.

7. Do something for somebody else. No, I don’t mean take on a bunch of extra responsibilities like volunteering to organize and run your town’s winter carnival–that’s the last thing you need right now! But reach out to a friend who’s in a bigger funk than you are. Bake some banana bread and take a loaf over to your elderly neighbor. Drop five bucks into the donation can the school kids are shaking outside the grocery store. Get outside of your own head and think about somebody else. Guaranteed to make you feel better!

8. Finally, eat healthy food (order yourself something healthy along with the take-out, above!) and get a bit of exercise. Seriously, nothing makes you feel better than putting nutritious food into your body and doing something as simple as taking a walk around the block (or around the mall, if the weather is bad). So veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish, lean proteins, and lots of water. And a walk. Keep repeating to yourself that it’s not that hard. It’s not that hard. And eventually, it won’t be.

How about you? When you find yourself slipping into a funk, what are your methods for getting out?

 

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Return to Downton–Part Two

Hello, my darlings! Suze here. What’s new with you? Lots of things going on in Suze-ville. Like, I heard from my editor and the Berkley team is working on my cover! My Greek restaurant series has a new, adorable name: The Georgie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Book 1 will be called Feta Attraction. I’ll be sure to let you know when I have a release date!

In the meantime, my Downton Abbey obsession continues. If you missed my post from a couple of weeks ago, click here.  So here are some more predictions for the characters of DA:

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?
Lady Mary, what’s wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Mrs. Hughes:  Guilt from the lie she told Mr. Bates continues to eat away at her.  So she hatches a plan to exact revenge on Lord Gillingham’s valet. Throwing everyone off the scent by saying she is needed by an elderly aunt suffering from the gout in the Outer Hebrides, Mrs. Hughes steals the estate car and travels to Gillingham’s estate. She lures the valet outside under cover of darkness and promptly dispatches him, stuffing his body into the trunk then driving back to the Abbey.  The next day, she presents Mrs. Patmore with a large amount of ground meat and requests that she make pasties.

Alfred: Fresh from his disappointment at not being accepted into the chef school, Alfred continues to hone his craft in the Downton kitchens.  After catching James kissing Ivy in the scullery, he secretly laces one of the savories (which he whipped up from some of the leftover meat he found in the newfangled refrigerator) with a powerful laxative and offers it to James. But before James can take it from the tray, Molesley swoops in and pops the tainted treat into his mouth. He spends the next few hours in the servants’ loo, lamenting his lowly, not-able-to-get-a-buttling-job state.

Carson: Carson refuses to eat the pasties, having seen what Mrs. Hughes has done. Although he now realizes he loves her passionately, his respect for her is erased and he knows he can no longer stay at Downton. He retires to his room and makes plans for his return to the stage. Working feverishly, in a single night he blocks out the choreography for a new production: The Downton Burlesque Revue.

Cousin Rose. Cousin Rose, desperate for a part in Carson’s show, enlists the aid of the Countess’s new maid (what’s-her-name) and her mad sewing skills to make her a costume–complete with rip-away bodice and a fan made from feathers pinched from the hats of The Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley.  She wows Carson and it’s off to London with the two of them, where they mingle with all the wrong sorts of people. The Downton Burlesque Revue? It’s a smash!

Edith. Jealous, Edith decides she also wants to be in the show, so she steals Rose’s costume and tries it on. However, due to the fact that her midsection is swelling noticeably, she cannot fit into the tights and skirt.  Her cries of anguish can be heard all the way to Germany.

That’s all for now. Do you watch Downton Abbey? What do you think should happen?

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]

Return to Downton

Hey, folks, Suze here. I’m deep in the writer’s cave working on book 2 of my mystery series coming next year from Berkley Prime Crime. I hear that the talented folks at Berkley are working on the cover of book 1 (which has a new name that I like a lot!), so I’m super-excited to see what the art department comes up with. Of course I’ll share when I can.

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]In the meantime, how ’bout that Downton? The season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, in my opinion. But we’ll see what transpires. Here are my predictions:

Robert and Cora. The Earl seems bound and determined to lose Downton, whether through mismanagement, gambling, or stick-in-the-mud-ism. Is it just me, or do both of these characters seem to be getting dumber? I predict more conflict between Robert and his daughter Lady Mary (see below), and I see Cora siding with Mary on most issues. But I certainly wish they’d give him and Cora a more interesting storyline. Send them off on a trip to the Continent to rekindle the spark in their marriage or, even better, to America to visit Cora’s mother.

Lady Mary. Thank goodness she’s stopped moping around the Abbey, pale and wraithlike. Now she can get down to the business of wresting control from her increasingly dotty father. Now, I’m no expert in British succession laws, but I thought Downton was entailed. So how is it that Matthew could leave his half of the estate to Mary? She will become a savvy businesswoman and somehow figure out how to pay the death duties–perhaps by organizing a Downton bachelor auction! Tom and Thomas (really, couldn’t we have given somebody a different name?) should bring in some nice money, depending on the bidder’s orientation.

Lady Edith. Here’s a character who’s become a lot more interesting to me. Not just because she’s become a writer, but because she seems to be leaving Downton behind for the modern world. I liked her better when she was scheming, honestly. But with her beau trying to get German citizenship (uh, might want to rethink that) so he can get a divorce from his insane wife, she’d be better off just shacking up with the guy until she gets preggers (thanks, Casey Wyatt, for that prediction!). Then she’ll be in a real mess, especially when Michael gets arrested for treason. But no matter. There are plenty of unsuitable men out there, ripe for Edith’s plucking.

Bates and Anna. Angry. Can’t talk about this.

Daisy, Ivy, Alfred, Jimmie. Snoresville. Daisy, you can do a lot better than that big clod, Alfred. Let Ivy have him. Once your dead husband’s father dies, you’re going to come into a cute little farm and you’ll be able to make a nice living on your own terms–and there will be a studly neighboring farmer out there for you. Seriously, I’d much rather get a valentine from Mrs. Patmore than either one of those footmen. Count yourself lucky. Or maybe they’ll be in the aforementioned bachelor auction, and you can take your pick!

Isobel Crawley. She needs to quit whining, play with her grandson (in a dignified way, of course), and find a cause or two or three to support. Or find fault with the way little Georgie’s being raised. Or go visit Cora’s mother in America. That should light a fire under her.

Violet, the Dowager Countess. Still my favorite character. Would love to see a little romance in her life. And she could drop a few quid on that bachelor auction!

If you love this era, you’ll love a couple of book series I read religiously: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, about a maid who goes off to become a nurse in the Great War, obtains a college education, and opens her own private investigation company.

And in a more humorous vein, try Her Royal Spyness and the rest of the series by Rhys Bowen. Thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England, the penniless Lady Georgiana secretly cleans houses to make a living and is summoned quite regularly to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mary assigns her various tasks, including keeping an eye on the Queen’s son David and the dreadful American, Wallis Simpson. Part Downton Abbey and part Jeeves and Wooster, these cozy mysteries are just delightful.

What are your predictions for Downton this season? No spoilers, please!

Devilishly Delicious

Hey, all, Suze here. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for you in case you need to bring something to a holiday potluck–Deviled Eggs. They might seem a little bit old-fashioned, but people love them. Bonus? They’re very inexpensive to make. (Let somebody else bring the shrimp, LOL!) This recipe can be easily halved if you don’t have a big crowd. Sorry there’s no picture, but here’s how I do it:

Suze’s Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen medium or large eggs (tip: buy your eggs at least a week in advance and of course keep in the fridge–super-fresh eggs are difficult to peel)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (whatever you have on hand–but I like a spicy brown mustard like Gulden’s)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I like the kind that’s made with olive oil, such as Hellman’s)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (dill pickle relish is also delicious, for a different taste)
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

First, boil the eggs. Here’s how to do it to get a perfectly yellow yolk, with no ugly green ring (that comes from overcooking). Place your eggs in a large saucepan (I use a Dutch oven) and cover with cold water. Turn on the heat, cover the pot, and bring the water up to a boil. Now set a kitchen timer and allow the eggs to boil for 4 minutes (medium eggs) or 6 minutes (large eggs). Remove the pot from the burner, keep the lid on, and leave the eggs sitting in the hot water for 7 minutes (medium eggs) or 9 minutes (large eggs). Do not walk away and forget them! Immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. At this point you can let them cool in the fridge until you are ready to assemble them.

Peel the eggs. To do this, hopefully without damaging the whites, give the egg a firm but gentle tap on the counter to crack the shell. Roll it around in your hand to further break and loosen the shell, then begin to carefully peel the egg. Give the denuded egg a rinse to remove any stray bits of shell, and set it on a paper towel to drain/dry. Repeat till all the eggs are finished.

Slice the eggs. Using a sharp knife, slice the eggs in half lengthwise, popping the yolk out into a separate bowl. Wipe the knife with a paper towel in between to keep your whites looking nice.

Mix the filling. Using a fork, mash up the yolks into a fine crumble. Add the mustard, pickle relish, salt, pepper. Add the mayonnaise, starting with the smallest amount and adding more as needed–you can always add more, but you can’t take it out! Don’t make the mixture too runny, otherwise it won’t stay in the egg. Mix up and taste for seasoning.

Stuff it! Now comes the fun part. Using a decorator doohickey (I have one from Pampered Chef) or a teaspoon and a knife (same way you would make a drop cookie), fill each egg. Not too full, or you may run out of filling before you get to all the eggs. You can always go back and add more at the end.

Decorate. If you want to get extra fancy, you can add a tiny decoration to each egg. Some suggestions are: little sweet gherkin pickles sliced into rounds; sliced pimiento-stuffed olives; a wee sprig of fresh dill; a few (well-drained) capers; an itty-bitty slice of roasted red pepper. Some people like to sprinkle paprika over the eggs for color, but I don’t really care for the raw paprika taste so I don’t do this.

That’s it! What appetizers always make an appearance on your holiday table?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hey folks, Suze here. Happy December! Hope you’re celebrating with friends and family in whatever way is meaningful to you.

We haven’t revealed a secret in a while, so here’s one about me: I’m a big ole baby when it comes to Christmas specials. I always cry at the end. Always. Of course, I have been known to cry at Cialis commercials too–Oh, that poor, poor man! And his wife! *sob* But now they’re happy again! *sobbing more vigorously*.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas specials, in no particular order of loved-ness:

We still love you, Uncle Billy!
We still love you, Uncle Billy!

It’s a Wonderful Life. This one goes without saying. Jimmy Stewart is goofy, charming, and way over the top with his performance of the beleaguered George Bailey. Favorite character? I’m going to go with Clarence Oddbody. And seriously. How long has this movie been around? Sixty-seven years and Uncle Billy still loses the sack of money at the bank every time. And I blat like a baby at the end. Flaming R-r-r-um Punch for everyone!

I'll have some of that eggnog in a Wallyworld cup, please. And a dickie for my sweater!
I’ll have some of that eggnog in a Wallyworld cup, please. And a dickie for my sweater!

Christmas Vacation. I just can’t get enough of the Griswolds. Will Clark get his Christmas bonus? It’s always a nailbiter. Not that I’d really want to have him over for dinner or anything, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone like Eddie to stand up for you and fight for what’s right by kidnapping your cheap and clueless, jelly-of-the-month club-giving boss? My tears during this movie are tears of laughter. Jell-O mold for everyone!

Sing, it kids (and dog!)
Sing, it kids (and dog!)

Charlie Brown Christmas. No list of holiday specials would be complete without the Peanuts gang, dancing and ignoring poor Charlie Brown while he’s trying to direct the Christmas play. Rock on, Snoopy. You’ve got the best display of lights in town. Here, I cry when the pathetic little Christmas tree is transformed by love. Tens and twenties and real estate for everyone!

You're too much!
You’re too much!

Anything by Rankin and Bass. Except The Little Drummer Boy. I’ve always hated that one. But all the ones with Santa are good. Remember when Kris gives the Burgermeister Meisterburger a toy? And when he common-law marries Jessica (shocking, really! No officiant? Are Kris and Jessica living in sin?). Both scenes make me cry. Favorite character has got to be the Heat Miser and all his little Mini-Misers. Ba-dum-ba-dum, ba-a-a-ah-dum! Oh, fine. Here’s a link to the song. Remember you asked for it when you can’t get it out of your head for the next few weeks.

Get in the holiday spirit, man. Seriously.
Get in the holiday spirit, man. Seriously.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My all-time, never-to-be-supplanted favorite. I’m talking about the animated version, not the Jim Carrey movie. Don’t get me started on that one. But when the Grinch saves that sleigh full of tartoofas and stuff–even when it’s clearly impossible for him to do so, the sleigh having slipped way too far off Mount Crumpet–I bawl at his transformation, every time. Rare roast beast and Who Hash for everyone!

How about you? What’s your favorite Christmas show or movie? Feel free to leave quotes or to sing the songs!