“Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy”

That song by George Gershwin is the first one I learned as a member of my high school choir. He wrote it the year I was born for his opera “Porgy and Bess.” A Google search brought me Ella Fitzgerald singing this jazz inspired song, which still sounds good today. He wrote so much music in the few years he lived, making me wonder if he knew he would die young. I love listening to “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Late at night on January 3, George’s brother, Ira, read in the New York Tribune that “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto.” That was news to George. Bandleader, Paul Whiteman, twisted George’s arm and asked him to compose a piano score, saying Whiteman’s band would arrange the rest. On a train to Boston to oversee rehearsals for his musical, “Sweet Little Devil,” he worked on the melody. Gershwin completed the two-piano score for Rhapsody in Blue and finished last minute changes to his musical by January 24, when the musical opened in New York.

Since summertime gets really hot in Texas where I live, I make things easy to adapt to the hot weather. I walk early in the morning while it’s shady and cooler. I do yard work an hour or less at a time. Bushes need trimming more often than in Michigan where I used to live, but in Texas I enjoy fewer really cold days in winter and many more days with sunshine. Hawaii’s national flower is the medium-sized yellow hibiscus, but these I pass by on my daily walk are bigger than my outstretched hand.

Back to music – I learned one important thing when my writer’s group, DFW Writer’s Workshop, had a chance to put on several cable TV shows. I can mention the name of a song in your novels, but I cannot quote the lyrics without getting permission from the creator. I get around that by writing about the theme of the song and how it makes the character feel.

Since I mostly prefer classical music, I have to ask other writers what music my characters would like to listen to. What songs do you like to hear?

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A Visit from Vicki Batman

I’ve invited vivacious, sassy Vicki Batman to share some words on my website.

Can you join me for a walk?

I adore Spring. February brought a big snowstorm just when I began looking for signs of flowers. Each day I discover something new and different. I walk my dogs and photograph specimens with my trusty phone–flowers, stems, grass, and dandelions. Dandelions are vital as Jones, my Malti-poo chomps on them. Last year, he ate forty-two, a record tasting. Maybe he needed fiber.

When we bought our current house, I wasn’t familiar with the flowering quince already planted in my front flower bed. Neither was Handsome, who wanted to yank it out. But I talked him out of doing so to see what would happen. What happened was pure delight—masses of salmon-colored blossoms visited by teeny tiny bees. I arrange branches in a vase.

Next comes the bulbs—daffodils, tulips, iris. I’ve never had much luck with daffodils and tulips, which is a shame because I love them. At a house I visit in Colorado, the back garden has masses of daffodils and tulips. Large flowers fill my cupped hands.

My grandmother grew iris. She was generous with her rhizomes, and mom planted deep purple, lavender, and white ones. When Handsome and I moved to our current home, the next-door neighbor told us about their back garden, created by the prior owner, iris specialists. I’m pretty sure a lot of us in this addition were recipients of their irises.

Daylilies look cheerful, come in all colors and sizes of blooms. They are pretty hardy, which is fine by me. I can grow these! Every day is a new day in the daylily bed.

Long ago, I received a catalog from a supplier of antique roses. These were salvaged from dilapidated yards, along fences, wild, free, and hearty. I grow climbers and one with a tiny flower. I also have a large pink rose propagated from one my grandmother grew. I feel so fortunate to have this memory of her and her green thumb.

What is your favorite flower?

What’s blooming at my house? A new book-Temporarily out of Luck, a romantic comedy mystery: Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.

Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone.

Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?

Find loads of fun at: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Luck-Hattie-Cooks-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08T7YSSRJ/

Author bio: Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are full of her hallmark humor, romance, and will delight all readers. She has sold many award-winning and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.

Find Vicki Batman at:

Website: https://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vicki-Batman-sassy-writer-of-sexy-and-funny-fiction-133506590074451/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/  

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4814608.Vicki_Batman/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/vicki-batman    

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Queen Nefertari’s Egypt

Queen Nefertari was the favorite wife of Pharaoh Ramses II. During 1539- 1075 BCE, Egyptian civilization was at its height. Women were considered equal to men. They could own property and own businesses. However, pharaoh’s wives, concubines, and daughters lived in the Royal Women’s Palace, administrated by the male overseer and scribes.

Life in the Royal Women’s Palace was not always harmonious. One of Ramses III’s secondary wives, Queen Tiye wanted her son, Pentawer, to inherit the throne and instigated a plot to kill Ramses III. Injured, he died sixteen days later, but the perpetrators were caught, tried, and many were executed.

Looking attractive was important. Women used kohl, a black powder to outline their eyes. The queen’s name meant beautiful companion. Nefer was often part of a woman’s name. Women wore jewelry according to their prosperity, ranging from shell and earthenware beads to gold. Not only did they wear it for beauty, but as protection from evil influences and to ensure fertility.

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth’s exhibit features a one-tenth scale model of Queen Nefertari’s tomb and life-size decorated pillars similar to ones holding up the roof of the underground tomb discovered by archaeologist, Ernesto Schiaparelli.

Foot-high examples of the shabtis, shaped to resemble the deceased, were common in tombs of rich and poor. Often depicted with tools, they were included to work for the deceased when she emerged into the after-life. Thirty-four shabtis were recovered, but Queen Nefertari’s tomb probably held hundreds before some had been looted.

Floor-to-ceiling paintings show wall decorations.

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Brrr, it was cold, inside and out

When my husband woke me at in the middle of the night, I looked at my digital clock, and it was dark. “It’s 3:00 a.m.,” he said. “The electricity’s out, and it’s cold in the house.” He added a comforter to the bed and we snuggled under the covers until morning.

Of course, when I called to report the outage, they asked for my address, and said it would be fixed as soon as possible. Seeing the whole neighborhood without lights, I figured it would be a while. Since our house was all electric, including the stovetop, we decided to go out for breakfast. Nothing was open, not even the restaurant in a nearby Holiday Inn. Luckily, the nearby Kroger was, so I stocked up.

Back home, I had a rubber hot water bottle and our water heater delivered hot water. It wasn’t enough to make coffee, but sitting in a chair with my bathrobe on, a shawl around my shoulders and an afghan over my legs, I got my feet warm on the hot water bottle until my feet felt damp. Oops, even though I had screwed the cap on tightly, the thing was leaking.


Next, our wonderful neighbor, Joanie and her husband knocked on the door. If we had an electric heater, they would lend us a generator. After they set it up, we attached an extension cord and threaded it under a window. Then we sat together on the couch, holding our feet out toward the tiny heater we’d set on a board. We even connected the generator (lower right side) to the microwave to make coffee.

We talked to our daughter in Fort Worth and found out she had electricity. A friend from Hurst, was already staying with her. Apparently, our whole town was without electricity. We thanked the neighbor for the use of the generator and set out for my daughter’s house with three pounds of ground beef. She had tomato sauce and spaghetti noodles, so I fixed spaghetti and homemade biscuits for us. I had brought along some of my mint frosted brownies, which we ate.


Her roommate, David, was also staying there. The next morning he cooked scrambled eggs with home fries, and we split leftover biscuits and broiled them. We made good use of Diane’s Keurig for coffee, hot chocolate and tea. I called our neighbor behind us, who reported three hours electricity, then nothing. The weather forecast was 3 degrees, almost unheard of for Texas, and it was still snowing, so we decided to stay with Diane another night. When we lived in Michigan, we’d endured cold before, but never went without electricity or heat in the house. Up north, they know how to deal with the cold.

So what did we do away from home. Others watched old movies, including “The Gods Must Be Crazy” and “Man of the House,” about a bachelor guarding five witnesses, typical teenage coeds, who almost drove him crazy. I worked on my laptop, writing on my next book, Searching for Justice. I also read First Family by David Baldacci.

As we headed home on Wednesday, snow still covered much of the roads, and there was ice underneath in places, but the freeways were not bad. Of course, I drove slowly, realizing many Texans were not used to driving in these conditions, but we got home, and there was heat. During a trip to the dentist to get molds made for false teeth for my husband, the most dangerous spot was slippery ice underfoot in the parking lot .

The ice cream in the freezer seemed affected with tinges of frost. I remembered when my mother made ice cream, she had to beat it often, I used the cake mixer and beat our ice cream without thawing it too much. I returned it to the freezer, and later it tasted much better.

Of course, leaving whole areas without power in order to avoid complete power grid failure caused lots of discussion on the news and in the paper. I believe a person on my neighborhood email newsletter figured out the cause. When estimating the electricity need for this winter, the electricity providers took an average of previous years, without including 2011 when there was extreme weather while the Super Bowl was in the DFW area. Since there seemed to be extra capacity this year, they sold power to other states. Wind vanes and generators failed because companies didn’t want to spend extra for wintering precautions. And even a nuclear power generator froze. To add insult to injury, after buying extra power from other states at high prices, the electric providers jacked up people’s electric bills. Seems like more state regulation for electric providers is needed.

And unbelievably, today all I needed to go outside was a sweater. That’s Texas for you.

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The Languages of Love

Everyone wants love. With Valentine’s Day coming soon, I’m reminded of Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, Singles Edition. Each person in a relationship is different when it comes to what makes him or her feel loved.

Do you know which primary love language your friend, parent, child, or significant other one prefers? Discovering this will help you show you care in a way to delight him or her the most.

 My husband and I took a quiz on these, but being married to him for several years, his answers were not too surprising. I have learned what he likes and what doesn’t really mean much to him.

If you know The Five Love languages, you can learn which your friend or loved one prefers and show you care by “speaking” in that language. They are described below, but not in any order of importance. You are more likely to emotionally connect with another and actively give and receive love by discovering and using each other’s love language.

Words of affirmation give another person confidence and make him or her feel good about himself or herself. As a child, don’t you remember how good you felt when your mother or father said you were a good person or praised you for doing something well? Doesn’t hearing, “I’m proud of you,” make you feel warm inside?

Gifts – Why do people feel so happy getting presents at Christmas time? Everyone likes a gift, especially when it is a surprise. However, my husband and one daughter much prefer I ask what they’d like for Christmas or birthday. In a romance novel, when a man showers the heroine with gifts, she feels he really cares. My gift to you is a recipe for Mint Frosted Brownies, the most scrumptious brownie I’ve even tasted. See the recipe below.

Acts of service are welcome, especially if it is a task the person doesn’t enjoy doing or is tired from doing other necessary things. I especially appreciate my husband filling the dishwasher without being asked after I have had a busy, tiring day.

 Quality time deepens a relationship. The two of you talk about things in common, have shared memories and maybe even have an inside joke. As a working mother, I always tried to spend my days off doing something with my children, like taking them to a park.

Touch – “Numerous research projects in the area of child development have come to the same conclusion; babies who are held, hugged, and touched tenderly develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.” Gary Chapman, 5 Love Languages. Even old people in nursing homes feel better when someone touches them.

Before Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to figure out which Love Languages appeal to you, then ask your friend, parent, child, or significant other what he or she likes best. Remembering and using those will definitely enrich your relationship. I’ll be interested in reading what you learned.

Mint Frosted Brownies

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

½ cup margarine (1 stick)

¾ cup baking cocoa

1 cup flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

16 chocolate mint patties or 16 Andies Candies

Beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar (about 2-3 Tablespoons at a time), beating well after each addition. Melt margarine and pour in slowly while beating. (Eggs tend to curdle if heated too quickly.) Sift flour and cocoa together into bowl. Mix well. Add vanilla and mix well, then stir in nuts. Spread in a greased 9X9 pan and bake 40-45 minutes at 325. Remove from oven and add 15 -20 chocolate mint patties. Bake 3 minutes more, then remove from oven and stir to make frosting. Cool to room temperature and cut in 16 pieces.  You can cut them smaller, but they are crumbly and tend to fall apart because they are rich and fudgy. You can omit the nuts and the mint candies, and they still are delicious.

Nutrients (with Andies Candies): 242 Calories, 13 g. fat, 53 mg. cholesterol, 34g. carbohydrate, 28g. sugar, 122 mg. sodium.

(without nuts, you will have 52 less calories and 5 less grams of fat)

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A Tale of Two Brownies

Christmas and New Years Day celebrations were full of good cheer and good food. Perhaps, like me, you picked up a few pounds. But baked chicken, lettuce, and hard-boiled eggs aren’t enough to satisfy you. How about a brownie recipe with less calories. Below is the recipe for Pineapple Brownies, which I developed to put in my new cookbook I’m working on, Delicious Recipes for Heart Patients and Diabetics. My next blog post will have a recipe for really scrumptious, fudgy brownies to make for Valentines Day. (I’ll include the nutrient amounts, but you don’t have to read them.)

Carolyn’s low Calorie Pineapple Brownie

Carolyn’s Pineapple Brownies


1/2 cup baker’s cocoa

½ cup margarine

4 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup Stevia

1 small can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup flour

1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder


Set oven at 325 degrees and grease or spray Pam on an 8 X 11or 9 X 9 pan. Melt the margarine over low heat. Beat the eggs until foamy. Add vanilla. Mix sugar and Stevia. Gradually add that, about 2 tablespoons at a time, to eggs while still beating. Put flour, cocoa, and baking powder in sifter and sift into mixture. Mix in the pineapple and chopped nuts. Add melted margarine and mix well. Spread in pan and bake for 40 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool a little before cutting into 16 pieces.


Calories, 137, Fat, 10g.,  Cholesterol, 53 mg., Carbohydrate, 13g., Sugar, 6g., Sodium, 122 mg.

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New Book

Forgotten Princess, Book 3 of the Cordillera Royals was released on December 1st.

Watch for Holiday with a Royal, Book 4 of the Cordillera Royals coming soon.

I don’t look like anyone in my family. Could I have been adopted and no one told me?

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A different way to celebrate Halloween

As usual, I set out my straw dolls and filled a bowl with wrapped candy. I live on a busy street, and only one kid, the boy next door, showed up. The next day, my husband and I set out with baggies filled with five packages of four kinds of candy. We knocked on two doors across the street. When the parents showed up, we said, “Trick or Treat,” and held out enough bags for the number of kids. Then we knocked on the door to the south of us and handed out four more baggies. Luckily, that didn’t leave much candy, so we finished off a few samples, leaving only four to eat the next day. Hopefully, that won’t do too much damage to our waistlines.

I am getting ready for the release of Forgotten Princess, the next book in my Cordillera Royals Series. Anna Hernandez grew up as part of a family in Texas and discovers she is related to the royal family of Cordillera. But which royal is she most related to? Luckily, she has been invited to play the piano with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra. After that she’ll have a chance to visit the nearby country of Cordillera and find out. Visit Prolific works during November and get a free copy of Pretend Princess, Book One of the Cordillera Royals. Here is the link for The North Texas RWA giveaway: https://claims.prolificworks.com/gg/MRIJ6qBJjGVmJ91KjzP2

The princess steps outside with her favorite dancing partner at a royal ball. 

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About My Amazing Author Friend, Marsha West

Hey, Carolyn. Thanks so much for having me today.

I’m a retired elementary school principal, a former school board member, and theatre arts teacher. I write Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. I live in Texas with my supportive lawyer husband and Charley, our deaf, Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier rescue. Our two daughters presented us with three delightful grandchildren all who live nearby.

The theme of my eight books is always second chances. I have a four-part series titled The Second Chances Series. I believe in Happily Ever Afters. My husband picked up a plaque on a trip to Maine that states my philosophy exactly. Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end. The Heroines and Heroes in my books are in their 40s and 50s with their parents and children often playing supporting roles.

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the North Texas local chapter, NTRWA, Texas Authors, which is where Carolyn and I became friends. I blog weekly and have a monthly newsletter. My books can be found on AMAZON, B & N, KOBO, and iTunes. Print books are also at Indie Lector Stores and Amazon. Blurbs for each of my books with buy links can be found on my website https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/  where you can also sign up for  my NEWSLETTER and BLOG. Contact me at marsha@marsharwest.com , and follow me on https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn https://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest  @Marsharwest

I blog monthly on Word By Word Blog. https://wordbyword.net/category/blog/ https://www.pinterest.com/marsharwest/  https://www.instagram.com/marsharwest

One of the questions Carolyn sent me was: Have you taken a trip to anywhere that is featured in your books?

The answer is a resounding YES. My first book VERMONT ESCAPE began in Texas, but took place mainly in Vermont, specifically Woodstock. We discovered this charming, quintessential New England town on our first trip to New England. The leaves wore a spectacular colorful garb, the breezes were cool. We even had a light snow. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

In point of fact, all of my books have a location focus, including my most recent, TAINTED.  When I was close to finishing the last book in my 4-part series, ACT OF SURVIVAL, I was moaning and groaning to one of my daughters about not knowing where to go next for my next book. She said, “Mom, you love Red River so much, why don’t you set the next one there?” And so that’s what I did. Red River, NM is a place we went during the summers when our daughters were young. When they were in college, and we realized we’d probably not get to hang out with them a lot longer, we asked them where they’d like to go on a family vacation. They both instantly responded Red River.  And so since they’ve been married and now have kids, we’ve continued to make trips there. Of course, because of Covid, we didn’t get to go this past August, which made working on the book really meaningful to me.

 Here’s the blurb: Socialite and philanthropist Elizabeth Hartman needs to start a new    life after divorcing her husband Gerry Richardson who’s gone to federal prison for money laundering, a crime the Feds suspected her of being involved in. Her mother’s family vacation home in Red River, New Mexico offers just the respite she needs. Or does it? 

One too many deaths sent retired Dallas homicide detective and now Marshall Matt Thornton to Red River to seek a less dangerous place to serve. The New Mexico mountains promised to be that refuge until his high school sweetheart Liz Hartman arrives, bringing with her danger to his town and his heart.

Here are the links:

iTunes https://apple.co/32CKYrm

KOBO    https://bit.ly/35JuSys

Amazon https://amzn.to/35WaLgq

B & N https://bit.ly/3kkPXmD

Do you like books with a strong location focus? Love to hear from you. Thanks again for hosting me, Carolyn. 

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Ten tips to improve your life now

  1. Cut calories by substituting artificial sweetener for half the sugar in the recipe. Each teaspoon of sugar removed cuts 7 grams and 28 calories. Most recipes taste the same with this alteration. I prefer Sweet’n Low and Stevia for dishes that will be heated. When you bake with Stevia, adding extra baking powder makes a cake rise higher. Instead of 1 tsp., use 1 1/2 tsp. For cold dishes, you could use Sweet’n Low, Stevia, or Equal.
  2. Cut calories and fat by using 1/3 less of butter, margarine, or sour cream called for in the recipe. Most dishes turn out okay by doing this. For cakes, you may want to add an extra egg white to keep the cake from being dry.
  3. For dessert, eat strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries. They are all low calorie, and blueberries are good for your health. Two servings taste well with 1 Tbs. sugar and 2 packages of Sweet ‘n Low or Equal and 1 or 2 Tbs. whipped topping. Most varieties of whipped topping only have 25 calories for 2 Tbs.
  4. Cook vegetables in the microwave with water and no salt in a covered Corningware or glass dish. Sometimes, all you have to do with the empty dish is rinse it out. You can go do something else while the vegetable cooks without worrying that it will burn. People can add their own salt at the table.
  5. Choose a margarine without trans fat. I like Imperial because it tastes most like butter.
  6. Take a walk every day. It’s good exercise, and helps your body make vitamin D from the sunshine on your skin.
  7. You can bake or chill many versions of pie in a glass pie pan without using a piecrust. I even made pumpkin pie in the microwave that way. This saves work and calories. If you make your own graham cracker crust, you can skip the sugar.
  8. Use your extra time to do one or more of those tasks you have been putting off. You’ll be proud of yourself after you do it.
  9. Learn something new. That will keep life interesting and challenge your brain, which seems to improve brain health.
  10. Read a non-fiction book that challenges you to think or enlightens you about something. Try a fiction book from an author whose books you haven’t read. If you join Kindle Unlimited for about $10 per month, you can read as much or as little as you like of a book, and the author still gets paid. If you don’t have a Kindle, there is a free app for your phone. My Cordillera Royals series is included in Kindle Unlimited, and book 3, Forgotten Princess will be added soon. Or you can find my latest e-book, Romancing the Vet, on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

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