Kiki Lowenstein and the Watermelon Festival, Part II

Part I Recap: In an attempt to repair their friendship, Kiki and Mert decide to take a road trip. But hurt feelings don’t mend easily, and the two women get off to a rocky road start. Here’s the link to Part I   http://joannacampbellslan.com/kiki-lowenstein-and-the-watermelon-festival/

Mert insisted on taking her truck. This made absolutely no sense at all, because I could have easily borrowed Sheila’s white Mercedes sedan, which is a dream of a car for highway driving. Since Sheila’s still in Texas for rehab, her car has been sitting in her garage, coming to life only when Detweiler goes there to turn over the engine. Also, Mert’s truck doesn’t have a back seat, which meant that I could only take a small overnight bag, and it shared the space with my feet. I’m short, but I still needed room for my legs. I thought about complaining, but it seemed pointless. As far as I could tell, Mert had no luggage at all. I couldn’t figure out what she planned to do for clothes, but I climbed in and waved to my family, doing my best to keep a cheerful look on my face.

We drove two miles in total silence. I considered saying, “So this is how it’s going to be? A long weekend and hard feelings?” Instead, I told myself to be nice. I asked, “How’s life, Mert?”

“Fair to middling.”

“Remind me who we’ll be visiting and how this person is related to you?” I focused on the pretty flowers on porches, window boxes, hanging baskets, and lining sidewalks. St. Louis loves to spruce up with the changing seasons, and Webster Groves is (to my mind at least) the prettiest town in the metro area. I particularly like how joyous the geraniums are this time of year. They have a very patriotic look to them as they burst with color right as we come up on the Fourth of July. Even now, four weeks later, the heads were still full of color.

“We gonna see Corva. She ain’t a relative.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure how to follow up on that. Ask open-ended questions, I reminded myself. “How do you know her?”

“We was pen-pals as kids. Stayed in touch all these years. When we could, we’d visit each other. Whoever had the money or the time would do the traveling.”

“Wow. Pen-pals. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of people staying in touch as long as you two have.”

“Yup.”

The sun glinted off the chrome of Mert’s candy-apple red truck. That gave me the perfect excuse to put on my sunglasses. The dark lenses allowed me to study my friend without her knowing it. Mert had aged in the past six months. The crinkles at the edges of her eyes fanned out like spiderwebs. The grooves on either side of her mouth had deepened. She owns a tanning bed and uses it year round because she claims it makes her look younger. I’ve argued it also ages your skin. She disagrees, but the proof was on her face with its leathery surface. I moved my gaze down to her hands. She wears Playtex gloves when she cleans, but for the first time, I noticed how knotted her knuckles were.

Mert was getting old. A lump formed in my throat. I remembered how she had reached out to me when we first met. How she had stood by me when George died. She had been loyal as the day was long until she thought I’d disrespected her brother, Johnny. Sadness crept up on me the way a cat hunts down a sparrow, and when it pounced, I couldn’t breathe.

“Asthma getting to you?” She stared straight ahead. We sat at a stoplight, getting ready to pull onto Highway 40, which is really 64-40 but no one calls it that. The road is the east-west artery that pumps the lifeblood of traffic in and out of St. Louis, only pausing for heart attacks like major wrecks once or twice a month.

“I guess.”

“That time of year, ain’t it?”

“I’ve been thinking about getting allergy shots.”

“Probably should.”

“Where are we staying?”

“Holiday Inn. It’s on the outskirts of town. Probably the nicest place. Got a pool. Did you bring a suit?”

“No.”

“We can stop at a Walmart on the way, and you can pick one up.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a heart-to-heart conversation, but we were making progress. The temperature had changed from chilly to lukewarm. I figured I’d take another stab at learning about Corva. I waited until Mert had smoothly merged into traffic heading east. But before I could speak, my friend glanced up at her rearview mirror. “Look at that, will you? Behind us.”

I twisted in my seat, turning as far as I could despite the tightening of my seatbelt. Out of the left corner of the back window the Arch gleamed like a silver band embracing the cornflower blue sky.

“It’s so, so beautiful!” My heart squeezed tightly in my chest.

“I know. Ain’t it? I guess it’s purely corny, but I always get teary-eyed when I see it. You’d think it would get old—”

“But it never does.”

“Nope.”

There it stood, majestic and proud, a symbol that only our city could claim. An iconic shape, the arch is an example of a weighted catenary, the idealized curve made when you hold a weighted chain or cable upside down, supporting it at each end. The outside consists of 900 tons of stainless steel that the designer, Eero Saarinen intended to catch and reflect the ambient light. Indeed it does, in such a way that the arch also reflects the changing world around it.

“Did you know you can see that there monument for 30 miles?” Mert asked. “But I think this is the best view of all.”

“I do, too,” I said.

And oddly enough, our shared love of the Arch went a long way—30 miles maybe—toward repairing our friendship.

~To be continued~

In Part III, we’ll visit Vincennes, Indiana, vicariously. A heat wave is the least of the problems that the two women face. Somehow they get involved in a crime. (Or did you guess that might happen?)

 

Kiki and the Watermelon Festival

Detweiler smiled at me as I handed him a tall glass of iced tea. “I think you should go.”

I turned from him to our kitchen window.  Summer in St. Louis can be oppressive, and today was no exception. Each morning, moisture condensed on our windows, thanks to the A/C inside and the moist heat outside.  Old washcloths worked well to sop up the liquid and clear the glass so that we could see outside.  The lawn rolled on and on, a thick green carpet, perfect for welcoming bare feet. The happy shrieks of our two older children brought a smile to my face. They loved running through the sprinkler, an activity totally new to our adopted son, but one that my teenaged daughter enjoyed every summer.

“It’s a long drive.” I felt my face scrunch into a frown. “Three and a half hours.”

“Good. That’ll give you two plenty of time to catch up.” Detweiler came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Kiki, you two were friends for a dozen years. I know you miss your relationship with Mert. She’s offering you an olive branch. Take it.”

“Take it and drive all the way to Vincennes, Indiana?” I turned so I could look into my husband’s amazing green eyes. “That’s a long, long branch, isn’t it? Okay, she wants to be friends again. Or does she? Is it possible she needs a co-pilot, and I’m the only person available? Maybe she doesn’t really even want me to go along with her.”

Detweiler leaned in close and kissed me lightly on the lips. “If she didn’t want you to come along, she wouldn’t have invited you. Mert asked you to go with her to Indiana because she wants to spend time with you. Quit being such a cranky pants. Now tell me–what did she say you two would be doing?”

For a second, I opened my mouth to protest. He’d already decided I should go. I still had my doubts. Sure, Mert and I’d been best friends since that fateful day we’d met in the cleaning products aisle in Home Depot. But all that had changed when she blamed me for her brother’s involvement in a shoot-out. Unfortunately, the target for the bullets had been little old me. As much as Mert had loved me, she loved her brother more.

“What are your plans?” Detweiler prompted me. As usual, he smelled of Safeguard soap and light cologne. He wasn’t a guy to soak himself, but he always smelled good.

Resistance was futile. I released the tension in my body and enjoyed the comfort of my husband’s arms. “A watermelon festival. That’s what our plans are. Mert assured me that it’s a major big deal in Vincennes. In fact, the town used to be called The Watermelon Capital of the World.”

Detweiler threw his head back and laughed heartily. “Who knew?”

I agreed. “There you have it. If I decide to accompany my friend, we’ll be driving three and a half hours to gore ourselves on all the watermelon we can eat. Woop-de-do.”

Again Detweiler laughed, but this time the sound was richer. “Lighten up, babe. It’s summertime, and the melons are easy picking. I predict that you and Mert will have a blast.”

“Right.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. In my heart of hearts, I knew he was right. This was my chance to mend fences with Mert. I needed to grab it.

But a three and a half hour drive in a truck for the purpose of eating watermelon? That did not seem very compelling. No, not at all.

~To be continued~

In Part II, we’ll visit Vincennes, Indiana, vicariously. A heat wave is the least of the problems that the two women face. Somehow they get involved in a crime. (Or did you guess that might happen?)

Happy Valentine's Day! (I'm Feeling the Love!)

Hi Joanna,
 
I just wanted you to know that I was so excited to find
out my copy of Shotgun, Wedding, Bells was waiting for me on my kindle when
I went to bed. I had to read “just a little bit.” I am now
starting chapter 45 and forcing myself to stop reading (it is after 1am)
but man oh man that is a tough thing to do! The book is WONDERFUL! It is by
far your best Kiki story ever! I know it is full of tragic circumstances,
but I am totally spellbound and feel like I am in the room with Kiki. You
ROCK Joanna! Fantastic job. I will have to wait to finish it in the
morning, but I couldn’t wait to tell you how great it is and thank you for
writing it. Big hug to you! Happy Valentine’s day to a fantastic author and
someone who feels like a friend. I can’t wait to finish the book!
 
XOXO,
 
Barbara Hackel

 

Crafts to Do When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

By Joanna Campbell
Slan

Snow, snow, snow. The weather report sounds like a broken
record. As I write this, the Boston area is bracing for yet another blizzard-like blast,
adding more flakes to the growing mountains of white fluff.
Even though I now live in Florida, I remember those winter days “up yonder” when we could get out
the front door because the snow was piled up high.  I can still hear the sound of a snow shovel scraping the concrete of our walk. My nose prickles to the smell of the diesel fumes that wafted
over the neighborhood as husbands vroom-vroomed from behind their snow blowers.
And I’ll never forget how my son would send up a cheer at the words, “Snow day!” Meanwhile, I would groan,
wondering, “How am I going to keep him busy?”
So I used these memories in my newest book—Shotgun,
Wedding, Bells
—to create a scene where Kiki Lowenstein’s children are going stir-crazy, thanks to days of inclement weather.
Because Kiki has a criminal to track down, her good friend Laurel helps
out by babysitting Anya Lowenstein (age 13) and Erik Detweiler (age 5). Laurel
is a kid at heart, so she comes up with these terrific ideas for indoor fun:

1.      Snow candy – You need good, clean snow
for this. So the badder the weather, the gooder the treat! Scoop up enough to
fill a cake pan. Stir together ¼ C. butter to 1 C. maple syrup in a sturdy pot.
Bring to a boil, watching constantly. (This is a job for grown-ups, of course!)
After it bubbles for six minutes, pour it over the snow. The candy will harden.
Once it is cool, break it into pieces and enjoy. Alternately, you can use ½ C.
honey and ¼ C. brown sugar for your mix.

 

2.      Newspaper sailboats – Grab some
newspapers out of your recycling bin. Or grab some paper out of your printer. I
could explain it, but instead, go here http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Paper-Boat
and follow the directions! Now fill a bath tub with warm water and sail your
boat.

 

3.      Fashion show – Throw open your closet
doors and invite the kids to play dress up. Be sure to take lots and lots of
photos.
4. Catalog memory album — If you’re like Kiki, you get a zillion mail order catalogs every week. Since the US Postal Service will keep delivering, no matter what the weather deals us, here’s a jiffy way to have fun with those catalogs. (You can also use a magazine in a pinch.) Start with one that isn’t too thick, preferably one with a staple holding in the pages. Glue pages together in sets of two or three to make stronger, less flexible pages. Now cover the pages with scrapbook paper–and use those pages as the base for your layouts! This is perfect for kids because there’s a lot of activity, but it doesn’t need to be precise. They can use a glue stick to add photos, words, or even images they like.
5. Pistachio nut boats (miniatures) — Going nuts? Why not put those shells to good use? You’ll need shells, paper, toothpicks, glue, scissors, markers, acrylic paint and a brush, and buttons. Begin by painting the outside of your boat. (Tip: Tape a piece of masking tape sticky side up to your work surface to hold the shells down.) Now snap your toothpicks in half and paint them. While those pieces are drying, work on your sails. Snip off a corner of your piece of paper so that you have a triangle about 3/4 inch on the longest side–this will be your sail. (Play with these! They should vary according to the size of your empty shell.) Use your markers to add stripes to the sail. Glue the long edge of your sail to your toothpick. Glue the toothpick to the hull of your boat (the painted shell), and finally glue the sailboat to a button or a small piece of balsa wood.
 
6.   Curl up and read as a family — Your children will be more likely to read if they see you doing it! Need a good book? Send an email to my assistant Sally Lippert at SALFL27@att.net and she’ll “gift” you a copy of Ink, Red, Dead for your e-reader.
7.   Plan for better weather–or more of the same! I suggest you pre-order a copy of Shotgun,
Wedding, Bells
, so you have something fun to look forward to. When
the book is released on Valentine’s Day, you’ll get a special treat—along with
this e-book comes a second e-book, your free copy of Tear Down and Die (the
first book in my new Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series with 48 five-star reviews
on Amazon). 
 Meanwhile,
stay safe and stay warm!
Your friend,
Joanna
 
PS Just in case the link to Shotgun, Wedding, Bells doesn’t work, try this:

An Excerpt from Shotgun, Wedding, Bells

(Book
#11 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series)

By

Joanna
Campbell Slan

 

Chapter 1

 

Our wedding day dawned like a scene from a fairy
tale. Frozen rain coated the freshly fallen snow. The glassy surface glistened
like a million tiny diamonds. Icicles hanging from the eaves of our house
formed natural prisms, casting rainbows across the blanket of white. Sunlight
transformed the long dead banks of mums into mounds, like glittering pillows
under a white duvet. The scene before us was beautiful, but treacherously
slick. This overnight winter storm had paralyzed travel throughout the St.
Louis area. All the salt and sand we’d tossed down on the walkways hadn’t done
much good.

Our friend Detective Stan Hadcho guided me along the
flagstones, by means of a good grip on my elbow. He escorted me from the back
door of our house to the gazebo. As we walked, Leighton Haversham, our former
landlord and dear friend, snapped photos so I could make a memory album. That’s
what I do. I’m a scrapbooker and owner of a store called Time in a Bottle.

At the stairs to the gazebo, I stared up into the
smiling faces of the people so dear to me: my newly adopted son, Erik; my
daughter, Anya; Erik’s aunt, Lorraine Lauber; our nanny, Bronwyn Macavity; my
fiancé, Detective Chandler Louis Detweiler; and of course, our animal friends,
my dog Gracie and Lorraine’s dog Paolo. They’d all stood there patiently in the
cold, waiting for me to arrive. Detweiler reached down to take my gloved hand so
I could step up and join him. His eyes were warm with emotion, and his gaze was
steady. Moist clouds of exhalations floated around all our faces, forming
gossamer veils of moisture. As we turned to face Lorraine, who would be
conducting the ceremony, Detweiler wrapped an arm around my waist.

Correction: A small portion of my waist.

At eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I’m the size of
the Goodyear Blimp. Or at least that’s how it feels.

But Detweiler loves me. I’m carrying our baby, and
our other two children are happy and healthy. Even though the overnight storm
was keeping much of our extended family from joining us today, our wedding
would be a joyous event.

Detweiler’s shoulder brushing up against mine, so
strong and solid, augured a good start to the rest of our lives. We stood
side-by-side, exactly the way we intended to go through life, as friends and
lovers.

          “Not too bad for a wedding thrown
together in forty-eight hours,” he whispered in my ear as Lorraine (aka
“Aunt Lori”) opened her prayer book. There was a chuckle in his voice.

I tried not to giggle. Although I have been dreaming
about marrying Detweiler ever since I met him nearly three years ago, this day
was a long time coming. Even though I kept telling myself that a ceremony was
only a formality, deep down I really wanted to wear a wedding band again—as long
as it was his! The legalities of our relationship might not matter much to
Detweiler and me, but they could matter terribly to our two kids and to the
baby who was kicking imaginary field goals inside me. I’d learned the hard way
that the legal system can be your best friend and your worst enemy.

          Initially I’d planned for us to get
married in the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Detweiler and I had even
talked about flying our whole family to Las Vegas and visiting the wedding
chapel inside a Denny’s. The kids would have loved that combination, wedding
bells and pancakes. But my friend Clancy Whitehead reminded me, “You’re
eight months along. They don’t allow women that pregnant on a plane.”

          Oops.

          Who
knew?

          So I’d tabled that project, and made a
notation on my calendar to revisit our wedding plans after December 25th.
I would have hurried through the holiday season and put the idea out of my
head, except for something unsettling that happened to my son.

          My sisters, Amanda and Catherine, had
asked if they could spend a Saturday baking cookies with my kids. Of course, I
said yes. Anya and Erik were delighted. From the big smiles on their faces,
they’d had a wonderful time.

“Look, Mama Kiki,” said Erik, as he offered up a
small shopping bag. Inside were two shoeboxes and two Pringles cans filled with
yummy treats.

“I’ve got one too.” Anya grinned at me. “We’ll have
plenty to share with Aunt Lori and Leighton.” 
After thanking my sisters profusely, I hustled my children out to the
car.

          My mouth began to water as we were
pulling away from the curb of the rental house my sisters share with my mother.
The car’s interior smelled wonderfully of butter, sugar, and vanilla. Now and
then, I caught a whiff of cinnamon.

Sometimes playing chauffeur is a drag, but there’s
an undeniable magic that happens when you’re looking out the front window and
your children are in the back seat. Remember Arthur Godfrey? How he said that
kids say the darnedest things? Something about car rides encourages that.
Especially longish car rides.

We were merging onto the heavy traffic on Highway 40
when Erik explained to me that because Detweiler and I weren’t married, our new
baby would be a “littermate.”

          “A littermate?” I adjusted my
rearview mirror so I could look at him. My son’s solemn face stared back at me.
His chocolate brown eyes, his mocha-colored skin, and his red hair testified to
his biracial heritage. He might not be the child of my womb, but he’s certainly
the child of my heart. From the moment I set eyes on him, I fell in love with
that little boy.

          “A littermate? I don’t understand
what you mean, sweetie.”

          Anya rolled her eyes and explained,
“He means i-l-l-e-g-i-t-i-m-a-t-e.”

          It took me a while to put those
letters into a word. When I did, I nearly drove off the road. “Uh, Erik,
honey? Who was talking to you about the baby being a …littermate?”

          “Grandma Collins,” he said.

          My mother. That paragon of parenthood.

          I gritted my teeth. “That figures.”
Although she didn’t know it, my Mom had just moved one step closer to an
apartment in assisted living. Mom didn’t know it, but the rental house was
going up for sale. My sisters and I had several meetings, trying to decide how
to cope with our aging parent. In the end, we decided to wait until after the
holidays were over.

          Calling my child “illegitimate”
marked a new low, even for her.

          I told myself to shrug it off. To
consider the source. But Anya turned her denim blue eyes on me and said,
“She’s right, Mom.”

          “Don’t worry,” I said.
“Detweiler and I still have plenty of time to tie the knot.”

          Two hours later, the contractions
started.
 
<< To Be Continued >>
 
Pre-order Your Copy Today!
 
 

 

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Editor’s Note: The Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series features a scrapbooking momwhose creativity isn’t limited to papercrafts.

Author’s Note: In the timeline of Kiki’s life this comes right before Handmade, Holiday, Homicide (Book #10)

“I saw this online and bought itfor the store. I thought it appropriate,” said my friend Clancy Whitehead, asshe handed me a wrapped present. In her tailored brown slacks, ivory silkblouse, and camel-colored cardigan, Clancy was the picture of elegance.

Meanwhile, I’m still wearing mymaternity pants with the elastic panels. Although I tell myself that eventuallythe weight will come off, it’ll probably take forever. It seems like I’ve beenpregnant forever, and frankly I’m feeling a little down. That’s probably onereason that Clancy bought me a gift.

My low mood is silly, because Ihave so much to be thankful for. My name is Kiki Lowenstein, and I own Time ina Bottle, a scrapbooking and crafts store in St. Louis. I’m the mother of twoadorable kids and one on the way. In fact, I’m due the second week in January.My other half is a hunky cop, Detective Chad Detweiler. He’s unofficially my fiancé.We plan to get married, as soon as we can find the time.

Life is good, mainly.I was fifteen years younger the last time I was expecting, and I wasn’t workingfull-time, so to say life is “hectic” is an understatement.

Tonight starts the first of our Double-Dip Classes. Likethe old Doublemint Gum commercials, we’re offering not one but two fantasticlearning experiences. I’m excited about the projects I have planned for ourscrapbookers. But I’m also a tad worried, because Iona Lippman has signed upfor both classes. She can be a bit rough around the edges.

“Go on,” prompted Clancy. “Open thegift.”

After my fingers carefully priedapart the pink polka dot tissue paper, I discovered an adorable sign nestledinside: “All our guests please us. Some by their coming, and some by theirgoing.”

“Iona is definitely a ‘goer,'” said Clancy. “You can’tplease her, Kiki. She’ll always find something to complain about. That’s whoshe is. So just relax about the classes tonight and try to have fun. Don’t lether ruin the evening.”

“Thank you,” I told my friend, “foreverything.”

Clancy being Clancy, she gave me a self-satisfied smile.She’s not much of a touchy-feely person, but she’s a wonderful friend.

“You’ve got all your prep done?”she asked. “Anything I can do?”

“I’m fine. First we’re doing the Keepsake Recipe Album. Theassignment was for each scrapbooker to bring in a recipe that her familyenjoys. A main dish. She should also have a photo of the food. Of course, ifthat’s not possible, we’ll work with just the recipe and leave a place on thescrapbook page for the photo. I assume all of them have been in to choose theiralbums?”

“Yes. Iona came in Friday. She doesn’t like the 8- by8-inch size. She also didn’t like the color of the album cover.” Clancy pulledup a chair across from my big desk. Resting her face on her hands, sheshrugged. “I told her you might have suggestions for customizing the cover.”

“I do.”

“What’s the second class?” askedClancy.

“It’s called Tips from InteriorDesigners,” I said, withdrawing my handout from the bottom desk drawer. “Manyinterior designers use a 60-30-10 rule when working with colors. The dominantshade should cover 60 percent of the page, then two other colors would be 30and 10 percent. I’m also showing the scrapbookers how they can ‘translate’ aphoto of an interior design into a scrapbook page layout.”

“Fascinating idea,” said Clancy.”I’m glad I’m staying for the evening.”

“I am too.”

As it happened, Clancy was alifesaver. Two hours later, after listening to Iona complain non-stop about heralbum, I was happy to have someone there to keep me from throttling the woman.Iona started complaining the minute she crossed our threshold. As far as Icould tell, she didn’t even pause to take a breath.

“Not only do I hate everythingabout this album. I don’t want a recipe book full of main courses. My specialtyis dessert.” She pushed my sample album off to one side, as shepouted at me.

I gritted my teeth. “Good. Since Christmas isn’t that far away, your assignment is to bringyour favorite dessert and its recipe.”

“I’ll bring my Red Velvet Cake,” said Lisa Ferguson.

“No way!” shouted Iona. “I have mygreat-great-grandmother’s special Red Velvet Cake recipe. It’s been passed downfrom the oldest daughter to oldest daughter. No one outside the family has everseen it.”

“Whoa!” I spread my hands in what I hope was a placatinggesture. “You can both bring your red velvet recipes. Since these are yourpersonal cookbooks, duplication won’t be a problem.”

“There won’t be any duplication,” sniffed Iona, as shetugged her sleeves over her hands. Her fingers were chaffed and red from thecold. “My family recipe is simply the best. It’s never been copied. Not evenclose.”

“Suit yourself,” said Lisa, as she adjusted her cowl necksweater. The weather had been unseasonably bitter. Most of my customers woreboots and gloves. Lisa was no exception. She’d arrived bundled up in a parka.

By contrast, Iona had worn a lightweight wool coat and kepther bare hands shoved deeply into her pockets. I guess she had heranger to keep her warm.

The two women couldn’t have been more different. Ionabragged about every aspect of her life from her husband’s upcoming retirementplans to her own free time for crafting. Lisa had said nearly nothing. Iona wasin her mid-sixties, and Lisa couldn’t have been more than thirty. Probably inher mid-twenties. While Iona had lots of free time, I knew Lisa came to oursessions straight from work, and she kept checking the time because herbabysitter had to leave promptly at nine.

Usually the age difference is helpful in my classes. Likein the quilting bees of old, women bond and share their experiences. The oldergeneration guides the younger, while the younger imparts an energy andhopefulness that my seniors often have forgotten.

But not this time, and not this group. The age differenceonly seemed to cause more friction.

“Now that we have the matter of next week’s recipessettled,” I said, “Let’s turn our attention to Part Two of our Double-Dip. Ifyou’d open your page kits, you’ll see I’ve already chosen your embellishmentsand paper for this cute scrapbook page. Clancy is passing around a copy of HGTVMagazine with a picture of the room that inspired this page.”

“That does it,” snarled Iona.”Kiki, every layout you do involves expensive embellishments.”

“She’s right,” added anothercustomer, Avery Ailes. “I love scrapbooking but, gosh, it’s so expensive. I’vepriced these embellishments. They aren’t cheap.”

Clancy shot me a look over theheads of our customers. I could read my friend’s thoughts as easily as if she’dspoken to me: “Great…now what?”

**

One week later…

 

“How’s Erik doing?” asked my friend Clancy, asshe handed me the supplies for the second of our Double-Dip Classes.

“He still misses his mother and father, but he’slooking forward to Christmas.”

Back in August, Detweiler and I were shocked to get amessage that he had a son living in California. Later we learned that his firstwife had been pregnant when she ran off and left him. But the boy wasn’tDetweiler’s natural son. Instead, Erik was the child of an affair between hisfirst wife, Gina, and one of Detweiler’s co-workers.

That said, Gina had left specific instructions in her willthat if anything happened to her and her second husband, Van Lauber, that shewanted Detweiler to take her child, Erik, home to live with him. BecauseDetweiler and Gina were still legally married when she gave birth to Erik—and becauseshe put Detweiler’s name on the birth certificate—Erik was legally Detweiler’schild, even though the boy was biracial and not Detweiler’s biological son.

One look at Erik and Detweiler had fallen hopelessly inlove with the child. I felt the same. Now we were doing our best to help thelittle guy get through the grieving process, since he’d lost both his mother,Gina, and his stepfather, Van, in a fatal car accident.

“Erik’s such a cutie pie.” Clancy broke open packages ofsupplies. “He and Anya getting along?”

My daughter had been an only child of thirteen when she learnedthat she would become the big sister to not one, but two boys. In fact, she’d been with me when a sonogram confirmed the baby I was carrying was a boy.

“So far so good. I think she likes being in charge. Shegets that from her grandmother, Sheila.”

My job was to put the pieces in a plastic baggy and slap onour new store label. I was particularly proud of the image—a glass jar filledwith watches and the words “Time in a Bottle”—because I’d created thelogo myself. Since the watches were every color in the rainbow, the logo wentwith everything! That was important because we had customers who loved brightcolors, those who favored pastels, and some who liked neutrals.

Yes, every guest who walked through our doors was unique inevery way, except for one: They all loved saving memories. It was our job tohelp them do just that.

“No sibling rivalry?” Clancy raised an eyebrow.

“They’re adjusting. Erik has bad dreams, as you mightimagine. Anya came up with a dream catcher and hung it over his bed. I have noidea where she got it. Must have ordered it online.”

“Is it working?”

“Seems to be.”

“She’s a smart kid,” said Clancy, as she cast aneye at our big black clock. “T-minus ten minutes and counting.”

As usual, Clancy was dressed as if she stepped out of aTalbot’s catalog. Tonight she was wearing a pink knit top and gray pants. Iwondered how long it would take me to get back into “real” clothes.

“I think the women will like the layout I created forthe dessert page in their cookbook albums, but the secondportion of the evening is bound to be more challenging.” Iona and Avery Ailes had complained about the high cost ofscrapbook layouts. They had dared me to come up with thrifty ways to create andembellish their pages. I’d been working feverishly all week to do just that.

I crossed my fingers that the two women would like what I’ddone. Just then, the door minder rang. In walked Iona, dragging her CropperHopper behind her.

“Showtime,” said Clancy.

One session down and one to go. I had managed to keep Iona and Lisa from duking it out overthe Red Velvet Cake. Iona’s cake really was better. The hints of buttermilk andvanilla were scrumptious. She glowed with pride as we devoured our slices. Lisasaid very little as she went to work diligently on her cookbook page. Maybe herfeelings were hurt.

Time to move on.

“One of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways tosave money on any scrapbook layout is to make your own embellishments. I’mgoing to share a few new ideas for raw materials around your house that you canturn into embellishments. Are you ready?”

The women nodded at me with their pens poised to take notes.

Hang tags from purchases—these I cover withpaper or paint with acrylics before adding stickers or stamping on them. Labels from cans—these can bescanned or used as is. Greetingcards—I carefully cut around the images. Sometimes I use Diamond Glaze anda little glitter to spice them up. Oldchildren’s books—the images in these are adorable. Use ‘as is’ or addDiamond Glaze. Pages from oldbooks—either use these as background paper or cut them into the shapes.They also make great flowers! Fabric—glueit or sew it directly to your paper. Scan or photocopy a design you like. Bottle caps—use them flat sidedown or flat side up. Either way you can add letter stickers. I’ve also coloredthem and used them in a row as a border of dots. Styrofoam trays—wash them, drythem, cut them into shapes, and paint them with acrylics. Gift wrap—can be used asbackground paper or you can select a special image and cut it out. Packaging—I reused the packageof the perfume I got for Christmas. I flattened it and cut it into circles forembellishments.”

At that point I paused. “Any questions?”

“And if we don’t have access to a copier or acomputer,” asked Avery. “Then what do we do?”

“Use the tape transfer method. Rub packing tape overthe image. Soak the image in warm water. Peel away the paper. Ta-da!”

But my excitement proved short-lived because Iona shrieked,”Who took my Red Velvet Cake recipe? It’s missing! Who took it? Someonestole it from me!”

“Calm down,” I said, making placating motionswith my hands. “It has to be around here somewhere, Iona. You know howthings get covered up by papers. Or they get swept off the table inadvertently.Let’s not go accusing anyone of mischief.”

With that bold pronouncement of myfaith in human beings, and scrapbookers in particular, I put myself in aticklish spot. The burden of finding her recipe card now rested squarely on myshoulders.

For the next thirty minutes, wetore the class area apart. All of the classmates participated in the treasurehunt. We went through piles of paper, one sheet at time. We looked in thecopier. We opened the paper bags I had taped to each cropper’s work space. Ieven got down on my hands and knees and crawled around on the floor. When therecipe card didn’t show up, I expanded our search area. When I bought Time in aBottle, we didn’t have enough space for our classes. The display shelves tookup all the available room. To make enough space for our sessions, I’d put thosesame display shelves on wheels so they could be rolled to one side. Now, Irolled the shelves this way and that, scouring the store for the missing 3- by5-inch card.

“You don’t understand,” said Iona, with a hitchin her voice. “That recipe has been in my family for generations. We’vepassed it down from mother to daughter. I can’t go home without it. I justcan’t!”

She started howling with misery,while her friend Avery Ailes patted her consolingly on the shoulder.

Clancy sidled over to me and whisperedin my ear, “You can’t win. You realize that, don’t you? If you search eachof our customers for the card, you’re admitting someone probably took it. Ifyou don’t, you’re letting someone walk away with Iona’s recipe. Either way,people are going to be mad at you. They’ll talk about this, and they’ll take itout on the store.”

My friend was right. And I had noidea what to do next.

“How about if I share a fewthrifty ideas for albums?” I said, in an overly perky voice. “Let’sgive ourselves time to think. Maybe the recipe will show up. In fact, I’ll evenoffer a sweetener. The person who finds the recipe will get a $50 giftcertificate to the store.”

Yes, it was a lot of money, but Iwas desperate to save my store’s reputation. The potential bribe worked. Thewomen all took their seats and listened intently.

“We all know how expensivealbums can be,” I said. “And normally I’d be the last persondiscouraging you from buying a pricey album to showcase your prized familyphotos.”

At that, my customers chuckled.

The sound relaxed me just a little,and I continued, “Sometimes you aren’t scrapbooking to create an heirloom.In the immortal words of that wise woman Cyndi Lauper, ‘Girls just want to havefun,’ right? Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean you need an expensive binderfor your layouts.”

“There are a lot of other waysyou can collect and display your photos.” I described and displayed manyexamples. “A child’s board book—use sandpaper to scuff up the shinypages. That’ll make gluing new paper over them much easier. Catalogs and magazines—gluetogether four or five thin pages, cover these with nice paper, and decoratethem. Paper bags—stackfour lunch bags on top of each other, alternating the open side. Fold them inhalf. Open them up to reveal the fold line. Stitch them together at the foldline. Fabric—Cut pieces ofpre-washed cotton fabric in a 12- by 12-inch size or larger. Stack them and sewthem together down one of the edges. Cover that edge with bias binding. Glueyour photos directly onto the material. Toiletpaper roll cones—flatten them, stack them, and punch holes in one of theshort ends. Thread them together with ribbon or a metal ring clip. Each conecan act as a page or a pocket. Ringbinders—buy a package of 8- by 11-inch page protectors and treat the ringbinders like you would any other album. Drinkcoasters—punch a hole in them and attach them to each other pearlnecklace-style with twine, or ribbon or metal rings. Either cover the coasterswith paper or paint them with gesso.”

I paused to see how my ideas weregoing over. My customers were frantically taking notes. The samples I’d puttogether were being examined with great enthusiasm. Maybe the entire eveningwasn’t going to be a bust after all.

But how was I going to find thatmissing recipe? Right then, the front door swung open.

“Don’t look now, but the cavalry has finallyarrived,” said Clancy, and in walked my fiancé, Detective Chad Detweiler.

The scrapbookers seemed willing, so we took a break. Asthey got up from their chairs, I noticed that Lisa Ferguson hesitated.

Could she be hiding something?

But that didn’t make sense.

She had her own Red Velvet Cake recipe. Why would she takeIona’s?

While the women crowded around the food table, I motionedmy husband over to Lisa’s things.

Trying to act casual, I said, “We’ve been working on arecipe album. Lisa? You don’t mind if I show Detweiler yours, do you?”

She froze like a deer when your headlights hit it.

“Uh…no.” Her words didn’t match her body language.

I opened the album and went through it page by page. When Igot to the Red Velvet Cake recipe, I withdrew it and studied it. That’s when Irealized what was wrong.

“Lisa? I think you accidentally glued your recipe cardto Iona’s card,” I said, peeling the two apart. “Iona? Here’s yourmissing recipe.”

Detweiler winked at me. “Good work.”

To my horror, Lisa started crying. “This is all yourfault, Iona. I did it for your daughter-in-law Bethany. She and I have beenfriends for years. Why couldn’t you do the decent thing and share your recipewith her? Your son Mason is leaving Texas and going off to Afghanistan. AllBethany wanted was to make him one of his mother’s famous red velvet cakesbefore he goes. But would you share the recipe with her? No. You’re mean!”

All my scrapbookers turned on Iona.

“Is that true?” asked Avery. “You wouldn’tlet your own daughter-in-law have a copy of your recipe?”

Iona sniffed. “It’s for the women in my family only!”

“Iona!” said one of the other scrapbookers.”How could you?”

A fat tear dripped down the woman’s cheek. “Now that Isee how all of you feel, I realize…I was wrong. That silly recipe doesn’tmatter that much, does it?”

We looked at her and shook our heads no.

“Kiki? Would you make copies of it for everybody?”Iona shoved the card into my hand.

“I’ll be glad to.”

“Since she’s in such a generous mood, see if you canbring a couple of slices home with you tonight. I’m thinking I’d like to sitdown with my wife after dinner and have a dessert,” said Detweiler, andthen he kissed my neck and added, “or two.”

 

 

~ The End ~


Although Ilona didn’t want to share her Red Velvet Cake Recipe, I was fortunatethat three of my readers shared these yummy concoctions. Many thanks to allthree!

Joanna

**

Carrie Wolfgang’s (Iona’s) Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients:

1 ½ C. Sugar

2 C. Cooking oil

2 Eggs

1 Tsp. Vinegar

2 Oz. Red Food Coloring

2 ½ C. Flour

1 Tsp. Baking soda

1 Tsp. Salt

3 T. Cocoa

1 C. Buttermilk

2 Tsp. Vanilla

Directions:

1.Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightlyflour two 9 inch layer pans.

2.Cream together sugar and oil.

3.Add eggs and beat well. Add vinegar and foodcoloring. Beat well.

4.Sift flour, soda, salt and cocoa together.

5.Add flour/soda/salt/cocoa mixture tosugar/oil/egg/vinegar/food coloring, alternating with buttermilk and stirringwell after each addition.

6.Add vanilla and beat well.

7.Pour into greased and floured pans. Bake for30-35 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 Stick of Butter (roomtemperature)

8 Oz. Cream Cheese (roomtemperature)

2 Tsp. Vanilla

1 Lb. Sifted PowderedSugar

1 C. Chopped Walnuts

Directions:

1.Cream butter and cream cheese together.

2.Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix well.

3.Stir in nuts and spread on cake layers.

Special thanks to CarrieWolfgang of Novel Destination-Used Book Emporium for sharing her recipe.

Visit her at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Novel-Destination/141350359287827?sk=photos_stream&ref=page_internal

**

Fay Zerbolio’s Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

½ C. Margarine or butter

1 ½ C. White Sugar

1 Egg, beaten

4 T. Cocoa

1 Tsp. Red food coloring

2 T. Strong, hot coffee

2 C. Cake flour

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Baking soda

1 C. Buttermilk

1 Tsp. Vanilla

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flourtwo 9-inch cake pans.

2.Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten egg.Combine cocoa, food coloring and coffee. Add to mixture and mix well.

3.Sift soda, salt, and flour together. Add flourmixture and milk alternately to chocolate mixture. Add vanilla. Pour into pansand bake for 20-25 minutes.

Icing Ingredients:

3 Squares bakingchocolate

3 T. Butter

5 T. Milk, scalded

2 C. Powdered sugar

¼ Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Vanilla

½ to 1 C. Chopped nuts

Directions:

Melt chocolate andbutter together over low heat. Pour hot milk over sugar, stir to dissolve. Addsalt, chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat till thick. Add nuts. Frost cake.

Special thanks to FayZerbolio of the Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis.  Visit them athttp://miniaturemuseum.org/

**

Karan Flanscha’s $200 Cake (Red Velvet Cake)

Ingredients:

2-3 T. Powdered cocoa

1 oz. Bottle of red foodcoloring

½ C. Crisco

1 ½ C. White Sugar

2 Whole Eggs

2 ¼ C. Cake flour

1 Scant tsp. salt

1 C. Buttermilk

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 tsp. Vinegar

1 tsp. Baking soda

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flourtwo 9-inch baking pans.

2.Mix cocoa powder with red food coloring. Refillfood coloring bottle with water and add to cocoa/food coloring mix. Mix well.

3.Cream Crisco and white sugar. Add 2 eggs andcocoa mixture. Mix well.

4.Stir together three times: cake flour and salt.

5.Using mixer on low speed, add dry ingredientsalternately with buttermilk to cocoa mixture. Add vanilla.

6.Fold in by hand: vinegar and baking soda. Mixwell. Pour into pans.

7.Bake for about 30 minutes.

 

Icing ingredients:

1.White frosting from a can

2.½ Tsp. Peppermint flavoring

Directions:

Mix frosting andflavoring. Ice the cooled cake layers.

**

Excerpt from Kicked to the Curb (Book #2 in the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series)

By Joanna Campbell Slan

From the press packet —
The Treasure Chest Philosophy: Even the humblest items (aka “trash”), despite
their origins or their prior usage, have value.
Chapter 1
Mid-January
7:45
a.m. on Thursday
The
Treasure Chest in downtown Stuart, Florida
~Cara~
“We’ve got a problem,”
said Detective Lou Murray, of the Stuart Police Department. His bulk filled the
threshold of the back door to my store, The Treasure Chest. With the bright sun
behind him, I couldn’t see his expression, but the tone of his voice was
ominous.
             “What’s up, Lou?”
The big cop has gotten
into the habit of dropping by most mornings. He claims this is part of an
initiative to make police presence more visual in our picturesque downtown.
But I know better.
Lou is head over heels
in love with Skye Blue, my friend and part-time employee. She’s also my tenant,
renting one of the two apartments upstairs, while I live in the other, its
mirror-image twin. I glanced over to see that Skye was busy in the sink,
bonking around a couple of mugs and the water carafe for the coffee maker.
Drying her hands, Skye
hugged me. “How’d you sleep?”
            I
did a so-so motion with my fingers.
            “Cara?
I need ten minutes of your time,” said Lou. As he spoke, he only glanced at me.
He kept looking out the window of my back door.
“Right now? My dog
needs to go outside, and I haven’t had my morning jolt of java. I am not fully
human until I have my coffee.”
“Right now,” said Lou,
firmly. “I need you to look at a car parked behind your grandfather’s gas
station.”
“Let me guess. Today’s
the day they start jackhammering that old pavement around the Gas E Bait,
right? And the car is in the way? Just tow it,” I said. “That’ll teach the
owner a lesson.”
“Not that simple.” Lou
frowned as he ran a hand through his cropped hair.
Chapter
2
~Cara~
“I’ll take Jack,” said
Skye, reaching for my rescue pup and tucking the white Chihuahua under her arm.
She, Lou, and I had made it to the back stoop when MJ Austin pulled up in her
pink Cadillac.
            “Morning,”
said MJ. She is a full-time employee of The Treasure Chest, a real find because
she used to work for the previous owner.
 “Good morning,” I said to her. “Lou wants me
to take a gander at the car parked behind Poppy’s gas station.”
“Shouldn’t be there,”
said MJ.
“Right,” Lou muttered.
We had just crossed the
alley that separates the parking spaces behind my store from the parking spaces
behind the gas station when a truck pulled up, a black Ford F150. A tall man in
an orange tee shirt stepped out of it. Sunlight glinted gold on his hair, a
long surfer cut that brushed his collar. His eyes were a mystery behind his
Wayfarer sunglasses. He glanced at us and then toward the parked Toyota.
 “And you are?” Lou asked the newcomer.
“Jason Robbins. Project
manager for Fill Up and Go corporate.”
 “Detective Lou Murray and this is Cara Mia
Delgatto,” said Lou, flashing his badge. Skye and MJ hung back a few paces.
 “You’re exactly as your grandfather described
you,” Jason said to me. He smelled of sandalwood and soap as he shook my hand.
“Cara, have you ever
seen this car before?” Lou asked, as he used his hand to shade his eyes against
the morning sun. “Take your time looking it over. But don’t touch it.”
I stared at a rusty
Toyota with balding tires.
“Why don’t you just run
the plates?” I wondered.
“Answer my question,
please,” said Lou.
The vehicle looked
familiar. I took two steps to the left, blinked in the glare of the sunlight,
and looked closer. The giveaway was a dog-earred paper sign sitting in the back
window. It said SHORELINE NEWS.
“I’m pretty sure that
car belongs to Kathy Simmons. She’s a reporter for the Shoreline News. Her
roommate has been calling the store for three days. She says Kathy’s been
missing. Is that true?”
 Lou didn’t answer my question. Instead, he
frowned. “Anything else that helps you identify the owner?”
I moved even with the
rear passenger door. A rotten breeze had kicked up from the ocean. A lot of
dead fish must have rolled up with the tide.
Cupping my hands over
my face to block out the bright light, I stared inside the car. A plastic food
storage container rested on the back passenger seat. Next to it was a white
shopping bag.
“That’s definitely
one of my new shopping bags,” I called over my shoulder to Lou. Skye and
MJ stood a few feet away from him. MJ had her arms crossed over her chest. Skye
was shuffling her feet. Neither looked happy.
I continued,
“Kathy bought a picture from me the night of our media event. I put her
purchase inside a bag like that one. MJ packed up leftovers for Kathy to take
home. The container looked like the one on the seat. It was late at night and
raining when I walked Kathy to her car, so I didn’t get a really good look, but
I’m almost positive this is her vehicle.”
“Let me make sure I’ve
got this straight,” said Lou, and his frown deepened. “Four days ago, Kathy
Simmons attended your media event.”
“Right. We invited all
members of the local media to come and preview our Old Florida Photo Gallery
exhibit. Served them food. Gave them press packets. Let them wander around the
store. Answered their questions. Kathy Simmons came on behalf of the Shoreline
News. Her editor came too, but he left early.”
“Had you ever met her
before?”
“No.”
“Tell me about the
event,” said Lou.
“It started at seven in
the evening and ended at eight. A dozen reporters came. I gave a little spiel
about our mission to recycle things and be creative with found objects. I
showed them old black and white photos we’d framed and mounted in refurbished
frames. The three of us—MJ, Skye, and I—played hostess.”
“What was Kathy Simmons
wearing?”
That was easy. “A weird
vinyl raincoat printed like newspapers. Oh, and a headscarf. Before we went
outside, she pulled the scarf out of her pocket to cover her hair. It was
raining on Monday night.”
“What else can you tell
me?” he asked in a serious tone. “What happened immediately before you two
walked to her car?”
“What do you mean?” I
couldn’t hide my surprise.
“Is it true there was
an altercation?”
“W-w-what?  How do you know that?” My mouth went dry.
Skye was studying the
pavement. Her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Let me summarize,”
said Lou. “You had an event for reporters. Kathy Simmons came. You two had
words. You walked her to her car—and now she’s been missing for three days. Is
that right? Today her car shows up in a space behind your grandfather’s gas
station.”
 “U-u-uh,” I stuttered, trying to think of what
to say.
Skye shook her head
sadly. She mouthed one word at me, “Sorry.”
MJ rolled her eyes.
“Cara, quit answering his questions and call a lawyer.”
 “Y-y-you can’t seriously be suggesting that I
had anything to do with Kathy’s disappearance!” I looked from Lou to the Toyota
and back to him. “You’ve found her car. She has to be around here somewhere.”
“Maybe,” said Lou.
 Jason crossed his arms over his chest and
studied me solemnly.
“Ladies, go back to
your store,” said Lou. “Cara, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Why? First you drag me
out here. Then you accuse me. Now you want me to go inside and wait? I am not
your puppet, Lou.”
There it was, the
terrible temper that’s gotten me in trouble my whole life. I should have turned
around and left Lou to it. But after the grilling he’d given me, the last thing
I wanted was to follow his suggestion.
Lou reached inside the
pocket of his navy blue blazer for a pair of latex gloves. “Have it your way.”
The detective moved
closer to the trunk. The top was slightly ajar; the locking mechanism hadn’t
caught.
Pulling an ink pen from
his pocket, Lou tucked it under the hood of the trunk and lifted. It opened
with a squeal of surrender. A foul stench rolled out.   
Involuntarily, Lou took
a step backwards. When he moved, I could see inside the trunk.
Kathy Simmons stared at
me with dull, dead eyes.

To buy your copy of Kicked to the Curb, go to http://tinyurl.com/kttcurb  Or visit Joanna’s page on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/JoannaSlan

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher (Part 3)

By Joanna Campbell Slan


Editor’s Note: In Parts 1 and 2, Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers brought in one of their favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet cake—and now Iona’s recipe has gone missing! To make matters worse, Kiki’s customers have also challenged her come up with thrifty ways to scrapbook. Kiki has her hands full with this group. You can read Part 1 here http://tinyurl.com/pennypinchpart1 and Part 2 here http://tinyurl.com/pennyp2

Iona threw up her hands and kept screaming. “Where’s my red velvet cake recipe? Who took it? Someone stole it from me!”

“Calm down,” I said, making placating motions with my hands. “It has to be around here somewhere, Iona. You know how things get covered up by papers. Or they get swept off the table inadvertently. Let’s not go accusing anyone of mischief.”

With that bold pronouncement of my faith in human beings, and scrapbookers in particular, I put myself in a ticklish spot. The burden of finding her recipe card now rested squarely on my shoulders.
For the next 30 minutes, we tore the class area apart. All of the classmates participated in the treasure hunt. We went through piles of paper, one sheet at time. We looked in the copier. We opened the paper bags I had taped to each cropper’s work space. I even got down on my hands and knees and crawled around on the floor. When the recipe card didn’t show up, I expanded our search area. When I bought Time in a Bottle, we didn’t have enough space for our classes. The display shelves took up all the available room. To make enough space for our sessions, I’d put those same display shelves on wheels so they could be rolled to one side. Now, I rolled the shelves this way and that, scouring the store for the missing 3- by 5-inch card.

“You don’t understand,” said Iona, with a hitch in her voice. “That recipe has been in my family for generations. We’ve passed it down from mother to daughter. I can’t go home without it. I just can’t!”
She started howling with misery, while her friend Avery Ailes patted her consolingly on the shoulder.
Clancy sidled over to me and whispered in my ear, “You can’t win. You realize that, don’t you? If you search each of our customers for the card, you’re admitting someone probably took it. If you don’t, you’re letting someone walk away with Iona’s recipe. Either way, people are going to be mad at you. They’ll talk about this, and they’ll take it out on the store.”

My friend was right. And I had no idea what to do next.

“How about if I share a few thrifty ideas for albums?” I said, in an overly perky voice. “Let’s give ourselves time to think. Maybe the recipe will show up. In fact, I’ll even offer a sweetener. The person who finds the recipe will get a $50 gift certificate to the store.”

Yes, it was a lot of money, but I was desperate to save my store’s reputation. The potential bribe worked. The women all took their seats and listened intently.

“We all know how expensive albums can be,” I said. “And normally I’d be the last person discouraging you from buying a pricey album to showcase your prized family photos.”
At that, my customers chuckled.

The sound relaxed me just a little, and I continued, “Sometimes you aren’t scrapbooking to create an heirloom. In the immortal words of that wise woman Cyndi Lauper, ‘Girls just want to have fun,’ right? Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean you need an expensive binder for your layouts.”

“There are a lot of other ways you can collect and display your photos.” I described and displayed many examples. “A child’s board book—use sandpaper to scuff up the shiny pages. That’ll make gluing new paper over them much easier. Catalogs and magazines—glue together 4 or 5 thin pages, cover these with nice paper, and decorate them. Paper bags—stack four lunch bags on top of each other, alternating the open side. Fold them in half. Open them up to reveal the fold line. Stitch them together at the fold line. Fabric—Cut pieces of pre-washed cotton fabric in a 12- by 12-inch size or larger. Stack them and sew them together down one of the edges. Cover that edge with bias binding. Glue your photos directly onto the material. Toilet paper roll cones—flatten them, stack them, and punch holes in one of the short ends. Thread them together with ribbon or a metal ring clip. Each cone can act as a page or a pocket. Ring binders—buy a package of 8- by 11-inch page protectors and treat the ring binders like you would any other album. Drink coasters—punch a hole in them and attach them to each other pearl necklace-style with twine, or ribbon or metal rings. Either cover the coasters with paper or paint them with gesso.”

I paused to see how my ideas were going over. My customers were frantically taking notes. The samples I’d put together were being examined with great enthusiasm. Maybe the entire evening wasn’t going to be a bust after all.

But how was I going to find that missing recipe? Right then, the front door swung open.

“Don’t look now, but the cavalry has finally arrived,” said Clancy, and in walked my fiancé, Detective Chad Detweiler.

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out the final installment of this short story in the winter issue of Chicagoland Scrapbooker and on this blog. Can Detective Detweiler figure out who swiped Iona’s family recipe? And can he do it without making all the scrapbookers mad at Kiki? What makes that recipe so fabulous anyway? We have a fabulous red velvet cake recipe to share with you!


Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, featuring a scrapbooking mom. To see a list of all of Joanna’s books and short stories, go to http://tinyurl.com/JoannaSlan. Follow her on Facebook for more great crafting ideas at www.facebook.com/JoannaCampbellSlan.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve been re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things for the authors’ book club I belong to. The book was my choice. It’s almost guaranteed to spark a lively debate for many reasons. I find myself intrigued by the way that Alma, the main character, can find beauty and wonder in the world around her.

It is, I think, a talent well-worth having. To see past the broken, the ugly, and the dirty, and to find pockets of wonder. Perhaps it’s a form of gratitude. Instead of taking the world for granted, it’s an opportunity to appreciate the moment.

I try to do this in my books, leaving a trail of literary bread crumbs for the reader to follow. It’s my way of sharing what has given me joy.  Because owning a Great Dane is out of the question for me at this juncture, I gave one to Kiki Lowenstein. Because I love turning trash into treasure, I assigned that job to Cara Mia Delgatto. Because I like to look like a lady (even if I don’t behave like one!), I told Clancy that she has to be a Jackie Kennedy clone. The list goes on and on.

This morning, I was thinking about my favorite things, things that have or should become part of my books. What would you add to the list?

* blue patterned china
* sunrises
* miniatures
* ferns
* my Paris coffee mug
* my color printer
* my notebook computer
* our blue bedspreads
* Jax, my puppy
* Jax’s toy, Foxie
* Hibiscus
* the beach
* thunderstorms
* a good book
* peanut butter
* fresh cherries
* the walk to my mailbox
* tissue paper
* greeting cards
* my comfy pajamas
* lavender the fragrance
* sandalwood

Okay, it’s not all inclusive, but I think I’ll stop and work on Kicked to the Curb, a book I love writing, but one that’s been through TONS of rewriting!

Tell me about your favorite things!

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher: Part 2

By
Joanna Campbell Slan
Editor’s Note: In Part 1, Kiki
Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class
called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers will be bringing one of their
favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an
8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a bit of friction in the group because
Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet
cake. Furthermore, two of Kiki’s customers have also challenged her come up
with inexpensive scrapbook embellishments. Can Kiki keep everybody happy? 



(You
can read Part 1 at
http://www.chicagolandscrapbooker.com/kiki-lowenstein-and-penny-pincher-part-i/   Or you can read it by scrolling down to one of my earlier posts at 
http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/2014/05/kiki-lowenstein-and-penny-pincher-part-i.html )



“How’s Baby Ty doing?” asked my
friend Clancy, as she handed me the supplies for the second of our Double-Dip
Classes.
“Fat and sassy,” I said. My job was
to put the pieces in a plastic baggy and slap on our new store label. I was
particularly proud of the image—a glass jar filled with watches and the words
“Time in a Bottle”—because I’d created the logo myself. Since the
watches were every color in the rainbow, the logo went with everything! That
was important because we had customers who loved bright colors, those who
favored pastels, and some who liked neutrals.
Yes, every guest who walked through our doors
was unique in every way, except for one: They all loved saving memories. It was
our job to help them do just that.
“And his older siblings?” Clancy
raised an eyebrow.
She was asking about my 13-year-old daughter
Anya and her brother, 5-year-old Erik.
“They’re adjusting. The other night when
Ty was crying, Erik suggested we send him back to the hospital to get fixed.
Anya had her grandmother take her to a drugstore where she bought a pair of
silicone earplugs. I think it was more for effect than to really block out the
noise.”
“She’s a smart kid,” said Clancy,
as she cast an eye at our big black clock. “T-minus ten minutes and
counting.”
As usual, Clancy was dressed as if she
stepped out of a Talbot’s catalog. Tonight she was wearing a pink knit top and
gray pants. I’d given just birth last month and was still wearing maternity
clothes. Tyler was a healthy and happy boy, so I tried not to let my squishy
shape bother me. I also ignored the frequent splotches of baby spit-up that
appeared on my shoulders.
“I think the women will like the layout
I created for the dessert page in their cookbook albums,” I said,
“but the second portion of the evening is bound to be more
challenging.”
Iona and Avery Ailes had complained about the
high cost of scrapbook layouts. They had dared me to come up with thrifty ways
to create and embellish their pages. I’d been working feverishly all week to do
just that.
I crossed my fingers that the two women would
like what I’d done. Just then, the door minder rang. In walked Iona, dragging
her Cropper Hopper behind her.
“Showtime,” said Clancy.
< > < > < >
One session down and one to go. I had managed to
keep Iona and Lisa from duking it out over the Red Velvet Cake. Iona’s cake
really was better. The hints of cinnamon and vanilla were scrumptious.
She glowed with pride as we devoured our slices. Lisa said very little as she
went to work diligently on her cookbook page. Maybe her feelings were hurt.
Time to move on.
“One of the quickest, easiest and
cheapest ways to save money on any scrapbook layout is to make your own
embellishments. I’m going to share a few new ideas for raw materials around
your house that you can turn into embellishments. Are you ready?”
The women nodded at me with their pens poised
to take notes.
Hang tags from purchases—these I
cover with paper or paint with acrylics before adding stickers or stamping on
them. Labels from cans—these can be scanned or used as is. Greeting
cards
—I carefully cut around the images. Sometimes I use Diamond Glaze and
a little glitter to spice them up. Old children’s books—the images in
these are adorable. Use ‘as is’ or add Diamond Glaze. Pages from old books—either
use these as background paper or cut them into the shapes. They also make great
flowers! Fabric—glue it or sew it directly to your paper. Scan or
photocopy a design you like. Bottle caps—use them flat side down or flat
side up. Either way you can add letter stickers. I’ve also colored them and
used them in a row as a border of dots. Styrofoam trays—wash them, dry
them, cut them into shapes, and paint them with acrylics. Gift wrap—can
be used as background paper or you can select a special image and cut it out. Packaging—I
reused the package of the perfume I got for Christmas. I flattened it and cut
it into circles for embellishments.”
At that point I paused. “Any
questions?”
“And if we don’t have access to a copier
or a computer,” asked Avery. “Then what do we do?”
“Use the tape transfer method. Rub
packing tape over the image. Soak the image in warm water. Peel away the paper.
Ta-da!”
But my excitement proved short-lived because
Iona shrieked, “Who took my Red Velvet Cake recipe? It’s missing!”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for Part
3!
Editor’s note:To read Part 1,  scroll down to earlier posts, or go to http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/2014/05/kiki-lowenstein-and-penny-pincher-part-i.html

 

Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the
Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, featuring a scrapbooking mom. To see a list of
all of Joanna’s books, go to
http://tinyurl.com/JoannaSlan. To enjoy another
free Kiki short story, send an email to
holidaygift@JCSlan.com.