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Friday, August 30, 2013

Jack the Ripper in St Louis -- and a Contest!

Note: "Fedora Amis" is a long-time friend of mine. I read Jack the Ripper in St. Louis a while back and loved it! You will, too. Here we learn about Fedora and her love for all things old and cool! -- Joanna

 By Fedora Amis

Ads from the past...

Call me strange, but I like to read newspaper advertisements--from 1897.  For a mere three cents, I can paper shop to my heart’s content.  A fine pair of Storm Queen winter boots cost $1.37.  I could buy a living room sofa for $7.75 or have my hernia repaired for under $20.

With no Truth in Advertising laws,  companies offered miracle products. One boasted it would cure a cold in a single day.  Dr. Dromgule’s Female Bitters promised to cure any and every female complaint. These nostrums didn’t really cure anything, but the consumer would feel better after taking a big swig. Most contained equal amounts of molasses, water and whiskey.

Fedora Amis loves reading and writing about the past.

Recipes for cosmetics...

Before Revlon and Maybelline, ladies had to make their own cosmetics. Here are two recipes--which I beg you never to use.

     For women’s hair: Was no oftener than every three weeks using egg yolk and cold water.

     For men’s baldness: Rub scalp with parafin. Stay away from fire.

     For the lady’s  face: Wash face seldom, and then with milk or salad oil.  Sleep with cloth soaked in strong lead lotion laid across the nose.   

     Thank heavens we now know that lead collects in the body.  Lead poisoning leads to pain, confusion, headache, seizures, coma and death. Suffering for beauty may be one thing--but this is definitely going too far.

Dangers lurked...

With no pure food or drug laws, candy makers used arsenic to color their confections green Morphine was the key ingredient used to calm tots in Winslow’s Baby Syrup and Kopp’s Baby Friend. I’ll bet it worked wonders on fussy babies--and opened many to lives of addiction. Drugstores sold paregoric and other opiates over the counter--as they did a variety of poisons.

The late Victorian era was a time when the earliest child labor laws reduced the working day for children under twelve years of age to a mere 10 hours a day. Smoke from coal-fired factories so blackened the air that buildings near the riverfront had to use artificial light at high noon even on a sunny day.  Local streets were flowing or rutted mud for three-fourths of every year. Shopgirls made 6 cents an hour. Trousers were called “unwhisperables.” Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, invented cornflakes in 1896 because he believed that a bland diet would reduce unhealthy sexual desire. 

I revel in the delicious irony of those times. Atlanta druggist John Pemberton cooked up a blend of cocaine and Kola nut in 1886. He called it the great National Temperance Drink. Substitute addiction to cocaine for addiction to liquor--what a concept! That’s why I love to read old newspapers.

I like nothing better than to discover odd bits of pop culture from the 19th century and to use them in writing my humorous Victorian whodunits


"Fedora Amis," author of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis, is the winner of the Mayhaven Award for fiction, now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers.

Visit Fedora's website at and follow her on Facebook at

Also online is a new interview


Fedora has kindly agreed to give away one copy of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis to a lucky commenter. Add your comment and we'll choose a winner! 


You have until Sunday, September 8 at midnight to make a comment. We'll choose one lucky commenter at random. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 9.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Highway by CJ Box -- Win Your Copy!

Note: Every Wednesday, Sally and I hope to feature a book that one of us is reading--or a piece from my own writing. We'll also be giving away a book or two or a box of them!

Purchased at Murder on the Beach, Delray Beach, FL

I will never ever stop at a truck stop again. Nope. No way. Not after reading THE HIGHWAY by CJ Box. And what's so weird is that I've met CJ--we were guests at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego--and he seemed like such a sweet man. How could he have thought up such a horrifying plot?


I guess there was a lot of angst brewing under that big cowboy hat.


When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them. The girls--and their car--simply disappear.

Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety. Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, to conduct a search, he begins the drive south to the girls' last known location. As Cody makes his way to the lonely stretch of Montana highway where they were missing, Cassie discovers that Gracie and Danielle Sullivan aren't the first girls who have disappeared in this area. This majestic landscape is tha hunting ground for a killer who viciousness is outmatched only by his intelligence. And he might not be working alone.

Time is running out for Gracie and Danielle. Can Cassie overcome her doubts and lack of experience and use her innate skill? Can Cody Hoyt battle his own demons and stop this killer before another victim vanishes on THE HIGHWAY?


Tell us what book scared the bejeebers out of you! You have until midnight, Sunday, September 1. We'll use the random number generator and pick a commenter to win Joanna's autographed copy of THE HIGHWAY. (I think there's a smudge of blueberry jam on one page and one corner is dented because I was juggling too much stuff and dropped the book. Otherwise, it's pristine!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Nurse Is In! An Introduction to Sally

By Sally Lippert

Who are you?

How many identities do you have? Most of us women have multiple identities--and we aren't talking "the many faces of Eve" or Sybil. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends. But many of us also have a professional identity.

My primary identity has always been as a nurse. 

Remember the Candy Stripers? I was one! I loved it so much that I decided to become a real, live nurse. 

I started working in critical care, and then after watching three family members pass peacefully at home, I decided to change to hospice care. It really is a 24/7 job because everyone comes to you for medical advice. The diversity of end-of-life experiences is fascinating. It was by far the most rewarding portion of my career!

Despite all those years of caring for others, I neglected to think of my own health as a priority. And that's a lesson I want to share with all of you. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first, or we won't be around to care for others. When our whole identity is being a caregiver, it's hard to imagine ourselves being on the receiving end.

Women and heart disease...

Women tend to ignore the symptoms of heart disease. I know I did! And that's why heart disease is the #1 cause of death for us. 

Why is heart disease killing so many of us women? 

1. Because we ignore the I did. We're so busy taking care of other people that we put ourselves last.

2. Because our vessels are smaller, we become complacent about indigestion, nagging back discomfort between the shoulder blades, and pressure in the chest. These are all symptoms of heart problems.

3. And because our pain tolerance is higher, we let things go too long. We suffer more than we should. After all, most of us have gone through labor and delivery, and so we've experienced pain "up close and personal." 

Men are more dramatic with their symptoms like  the sensation of an “elephant on their chests” and profuse sweating. 

Most doctors tend to ignore women who complain of vague symptoms--and our symptoms usually are vague! It took me multiple physicians, tests and practically begging doctors to recognize that I am not a hypochondriac. Unfortunately by the time I received proper treatment, my declining heart function left me unable to return to my identity as a nurse.

A new identity...and benefits to you!

Now Joanna is helping me find a new identity as I adjust to my physical limitations. This is how I have become Joanna’s Virtual Assistant because she allows me to help her as my health permits. Plus I get to read all the books I can, which never happened before.

Every Tuesday, I will blog about a health issue (can’t let all the nursing knowledge go to waste, can I?) Let me know if there is a topic you would like to hear about and I will write about it, along with answering your comments.

I am looking forward to my new identity -- and to getting to know all of you better!

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Turn One Plastic Baggy into Three Baggies

Sometimes I don't want to waste an entire plastic baggy on a small amount of stuff. But I still want to separate out my small crafting items. I've learned a simple way to divide one baggy into multiples.

Time it takes:

Shoot, how do I know? (Okay...)
About five minutes or less.


* "ziplock" (press to seal) baggies
* tape (I prefer clear packing tape, but you can also use duct tape or masking tape. The width should be 2 or 3 inches.)
* personal paper trimmer and/or scissors


1. Start by flattening out your baggy. I slipped a piece of newspaper into my baggy to make it easier for you to follow what I'm doing. That said, it's MUCH easier to cut your baggy if you insert a piece of newspaper or waste paper as I've done here, because it gives the limp baggy some shape.

2. Now use your Fiskars personal paper trimmer--you do own one, don't you?--and position the bag to cut it. TIP: You will snuggle the top of the bag, with the "zipper," up against the guiding edge of the trimmer. TIP: Start your cut from the "zipper" down, NOT from the thin edge of the baggy up. If you start from the "zipper" down, the rest of the bag won't bunch up. NOTE: You could also use scissors. If you do, be careful!

Note that the green "zipper" is flush against the top edge of the trimmer. 

3. Cut the baggy into two or more smaller baggies. Remember--Take the blade up to the top of the baggy, by the "zipper" and cut down to the thinnest part of the baggy.

4. You'll now have two or three smaller baggies--but their sides aren't sealed! Hey, we can fix that...
Cut pieces of tape as long or longer than your baggy (measuring from the "zipper" to the bottom). Set these aside. You'll need one piece of tape for each open side. So, for three baggies, you'd need four pieces of tape. I used masking tape here so you could see what I was doing.

5. Attach the tape to an open side of a baggy--BUT position the tape so that it's half on the open and half off the open side. See below...

Notice that the tape is half on and half off the open side of the baggy. In other words, if the tape is 3 inches wide, 1 1/2 inches of the tape is stuck to the baggy and 1 1/2 inches is unattached to anything!
6. Flip your small baggy over. Fold the extra overhanging portion of the tape over to seal the other side of the baggy.

7. Press the two sides of the tape together to make sure you get a good seal. If the tape overhangs your new baggy, trim it--but be careful not to cut into the plastic baggy.

The tape is folded over to seal the open edge of the small, new baggy.
8. If you chose to cut the baggy into three smaller baggies, you now have two more baggies to seal up. One (the baggy cut from the middle) will be open on both the right and left sides. Tape both those sides closed.

Here are your three baggies--the one cut from the left, the middle one with two formerly open sides, and the right one (which is flipped over in this photo).

9. And here's the big question...what will you put in your baggies?

On the left, I have plastic "leather" and a seashell, in the middle are bells, and on the right are charms. These baggies were "sealed" with clear packing tape. At the top of the picture, you can see the baggies I made and "sealed" with masking tape. I prefer the clear tape because the entire bag is then see-through.

So tell me, what's in your baggy?

Sally and I want to know!

How cute is this? Two emery boards in the package, but we LOVE the graphics most of all

We'll send these darling emery boards to the person with the coolest answer! 

You have until Sunday September 1 at midnight to answer...and we'll post the winner on Monday!