Monday, May 20, 2024

Cicadas Everywhere

Well, it's been 17 years since the last cicada invasion, and they're back again. Actually, there are usually a few every year (maybe they've lost their way or their little cicada clocks don't work properly). The two summers before this one, there was actually a decent smattering of them, but this year is the big one. I live in the area of Brood XIX, and fortunately not in that small overlap area of my state where two broods (a 17-year and a 13-year) are emerging the same year. That would be both amazing and crazy insane, just for the noise alone.

I've been seeing their holes for weeks now. They begin digging holes early and then wait until the ground is warm enough before they emerge, but in my area, they only started showing their big red eyes during the past few days.  They're not at full strength yet, and the noise is still relatively low, but already they're making themselves known. 

With holes in my garden where I just planted dahlias:


I find them or their shells on the garden fencing, on the garage siding, on the trees, and climbing a shepherds hook.



They also seem to love clinging to and leaving their shells on the lily-of-the-valley plants along the driveway. Today I found one with those unmistakable red eyes inside one of the tomato cages.

And, of course, they're a bit noisy. In this clip, you can hear birds, but also a bit of cicada chatter. It will get noisier as more and more of them emerge.
Still, they're good food for the birds. In the past, once they really got thick, we had seagulls flying in to eat them, and I'm outside Chicago. Not exactly seagull country. 

And despite the fact that their somewhat awkward flights sometimes end up in collisions with people (my husband had one dive bomb his head and another one get down his shirt the other day), they're harmless and easy to flick away. I almost feel sorry for them. What a life, spending 17 years underground developing and then a brief (very brief) trip to the surface to (hopefully) mate. But so many of them spend all those years getting ready and then end up smashed by cars or feet or eaten by birds or animals before they even get to make it to the finish line. We end up sweeping their remains into big heaps and then they're gone again until the next time, seventeen years from now. Amazing and weird.

And noisy. Did I mention how noisy they are? I did. I'm sure I'll do it again. Because they are. Really. Noisy.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy whatever book you're into this week!

Best,

Myrna







Monday, May 13, 2024

Recent Updates Regarding My Books

Just a quick heads up. Not long ago I dropped the price of my books.  So now books that were $3.99 are $2.99, those that were $4.99 are $3.99 and the $5.99 book (Angel Eyes) is $4.99.

Note: This does not apply to any of my books still being published by Harlequin Books (Harper). I have no control over the pricing of those.


I also updated the cover for Rescue My Heart. Here's the new one with the link to the page where you can find a more detailed description as well as a number of the places where it is available.



Have a great day and happy reading!

Myrna



Friday, May 10, 2024

What I'm Reading Now

I'm on a bit of a T. J. Klune kick right now. His characters just draw me in. A relative gave me a copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea and when I finally got around to reading it, I just couldn't put it down. Now I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel. 

Here's the description of the book.
A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
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Now, I'm on to Under the Whispering Door, and I don't want it to end.


And here's the description for this book:
Welcome to Charon's Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.


When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.
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Klune's books are really out of the ordinary, and (at least for these two), there's a heavy element of the paranormal. Also, the character development is wonderful (yes, I know, I already said that. I can't say it enough). 

Have a wonderful day reading whatever you happen to be reading. Enjoy!

Myrna







Monday, May 6, 2024

Dahlias I Have Known and Loved and Tried to Keep Alive

So, a few years ago (7 years ago), back when I had a bit more space, my husband and I were walking through our local Home Depot and on an impulse bought some dahlia tubers. I knew nothing of dahlias at the time, but I planted them, and when they finally bloomed, they were very pretty.

Dahlias 2017

The next year, I planted some different ones. 
Dahlias 2018
They were nice, but...you have to wait a long time for dahlias to bloom, and some of them barely come into flower before the weather turns cold. Also, I had no luck overwintering them. I live in zone 5B, and since dahlias are originally from Mexico, they don't care for the cold. You have to dig them up, pack them away with the right temperature and in the right medium, so that when spring comes, your tubers haven't either dried out or rotted, and you also need to make sure that they have eyes to generate new plants. I decided to take a break.

Fast forward a couple of years and I decided to get back in the game. I ordered some tubers, planted some in pots this time and had moderate success. (Still no success at overwintering, though).
Dahlias 2021

The next year I opted to skip the hardware store tubers (often they would be in groups with no way of identifying the individual plants) and ordered dahlias from two places, one a company in Oregon whose reputation preceded them, and one that was local (just trying to help a fellow Midwesterner) where the owner took a bunch of orders and money, got overwhelmed and apparently couldn't manage the influx of orders by people ready to garden (this was while Covid was still going on), and then just closed up shop and disappeared. Okay, lesson learned. I received the orders from the company in Oregon (Swann Island Dahlias) and planted my tubers. Yay! Success, more dahlias than ever (and a bit more showy), but I still didn't manage to overwinter them. Despite checking them religiously during the winter, I had a problem. My garage was unheated, so too cold, and my basement seemed to be too warm. I was storing them in individual paper bags in a box, and that didn't work well.
Dahlias 2022
Last year (2023) I had the biggest group of dahlias ever. I stuck to Swann Island Dahlias, except for one flower (Labyrinth), because by the time I decided that I wanted that one, Swann Island had sold out of them and I had to find another seller. 



Dahlias 2023


So here we are in 2024 and I'm almost ready to plant again. What have I learned? Well, it's important to stake them, because they're very tall, and the wind will break them. And stake them when you plant, because if you wait, you won't know where the tubers are underground and it would be easy to spear one of them. Because I have a squirrel and rabbit problem, I do cage most of mine, but not all. That proved to be a problem last year when a squirrel ate a potted one down to the ground. Hopefully, that won't happen again. 

Also...drumroll...last fall I did something different when I was storing the tubers for the winter. I shook the loose dirt off of the tubers I dug up, put each one in a labeled quart Ziploc bag (leaving the top open halfway or a bit more). Then I put as many of the Ziplocs as I could fit into a cardboard box that I stored off the ground beneath my laundry tubs as close to the outside (colder wall) as I could get. The ones that wouldn't fit in the box went (also in individual Ziplocs) in a bucket in an out of the way place as close as possible to an outside wall. Then I checked them every two to three weeks. And with the exception of one mother tuber that started to rot and I quickly tossed in order to save the remaining tubers, every one of the tubers made it through the winter. A few weeks ago I brought the bags upstairs and put them in a box near a window, and they're all sprouting. Hopefully, they'll all survive and thrive once they're planted. 

But...I (assuming they would die like they have every year) had already ordered a dozen tubers last fall, so now I have dahlia tubers coming out of my ears and it's going to be a tight fit (I'm giving a few of them to family). Still, I'm happy. I'm learning, and hopefully this will be a great dahlia year. 

To be continued...

Best Wishes,

Myrna









 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Are You a Fan of Historical Mysteries?

I've always had eclectic tastes in reading material. Obviously, Romance has been my chief interest, but I've delved into a number of other genres, and I have a pretty extensive library of nonfiction books. The one area I haven't yet warmed up to is horror, and until recently I was rather lukewarm on mysteries. But for the past few years, I've really gotten into historical mysteries. There's just something fascinating and exciting about a mystery where the person trying to solve a crime doesn't have access to modern technology to aid them. So with that in mind I'll just mention a few of my favorite historical mystery series.

The Sebastian St. Cyr series by C. S. Harris. The books take place primarily in Regency England, and the main character, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, begins the series (19 books so far) by being accused of a murder himself.


Ashley Gardner (who is also Jennifer Ashley) also has a Regency mystery series, the Captain Lacey series. The main character is a retired military officer who likes to see justice carried out.

The Below Stairs Kat Holloway mysteries are also by Jennifer Ashley. Kat Holloway is a young cook employed in a Victorian Mansion who, (with her friend Daniel McAdam), solves mysteries.


I love the fact that there are a number of books in each series, so that I always have a new one to look forward to.

Happy Reading!

Myrna







Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Wow, Can It Really Be 2024?

When last I posted, it was to say that I was reverting the blog back to my old title myrnamackenzie.blogspot. Since then, there have been some changes, so if you still have the old myrnamackenzie.com url in hand, that will now work to get you here, too. My other website is now found at https://myrnamackenzie.wixsite.com/myrna-mackenzie. Needless to say, I need to update a great deal on both sites.

Here in Illinois, we're awaiting the arrival of the 17 year cicadas with their beady red eyes and incessant noise (and mess, as they die and leave the husks of their bodies attached to trees and piling up on the ground). Fortunately, they're harmless, except to young trees and shrubs. For that, we have netting. Here's a look at what's blooming in my yard (we're having an early spring). I hope all is well with everyone out there (if anyone even sees this).

Honeysuckle

Pink Champagne Clematis

And, of course, lilacs (we have a lot of them).

Best Wishes,

Myrna




Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Blog Title Changing

Just a note that I'm letting this blog revert to its original Blogger title, myrnamackenzie.blogspot.com. My sincere apologies to anyone who was still following this blog (although I have shamelessly neglected it). I'm not yet sure what the future of the blog will be, but you can still reach me at my website, myrnamackenzie.com or at the email address shown on the Website & Email link.

Happy reading to all!

Myrna


Monday, August 16, 2021

Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Tribute to Online Recipe Websites

Remember when we used to buy cookbooks? Maybe you still do, but I've culled the ones I own and narrowed my collection down to one or two, and now I spend (waste?) a lot of time looking up recipes on the internet. I have a lot of printed out recipes, but the nice thing is that if something doesn't work out that great, I just throw the printout in the recycling bin. If it works, I put a star at the top and put it in my pocket folder of favorites. I especially like the websites that do the math for me when I want to reduce the number of people a recipe feeds (and sure, I could do it myself--and I have/do--buy sometimes I'm just lazy).

Sometimes I just like to look at dessert blogs, because so many of them are downright gorgeous. Here's one I once had a couple of posts about. The author stopped posting a few years ago, but there are still a lot of super pretty dessert recipes there. I'm using this image even though I used it here long ago, because I asked and received permission from the owner of the raspberri cupcakes website (and also because it's just such a beautiful cake). I highly recommend roaming around the website. So many gorgeous desserts!

Another choice if you're looking for pretty desserts to just window shop for or to actually bake is The Cake Blog. Also Liv for Cake, Sally's Baking Addiction or Chelsweets, among others.

And of course there's always YouTube for tons of recipes and cooking videos I could watch all day. Like this one for a microwave brownie.
Or this one with all kinds of intriguing and decorative desserts (not sure all the instructions are there, but it's fun to watch).
Of course, some days (most days) I have to actually get to business and find recipes to cook for dinner, and I often turn to the internet for those recipes, too. I have a folder full of great ones I've found and tested, but that's a story for another day. Enjoy looking at (and making?) desserts!



Friday, August 13, 2021

Notes from a Lazy Baker

I've never been much of a baker. For one thing, it takes time I'd rather devote to other things. Also...I'm just not that good at it. Plus, I definitely have a sweet tooth, so I'm not one of those people who can bake a chocolate cake and then not eat it, so it usually seems best to simply stay away from cake. Even when my children were growing up, I didn't bake all that much, even though I sometimes felt that I should be "that mom," the one who did it all. Instead, we bonded over things other than chocolate cake. (Have I mentioned just how much I love chocolate cake)?

But during the past year and a half (or so), I've had to become the baker. I'm not the only one in the house with a sweet tooth, and I haven't wanted to visit crowded bakeries, so I came up with a simple plan for a lazy baker. Create baked goods that don't take much effort.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

One of my favorite baked items is a pie that even someone who doesn't like making pie crust can manage. Now I could just buy premade pie crusts, but I didn't want to spend the money, so I cheated a bit. I use this super easy, can't fail, you-can-make-it-in-minutes and not even get your hands dirty oil-based pie crust for the bottom. Seriously, only four ingredients, and since it's oil-based, there's no cutting in of butter. You mix it up in a couple of minutes, roll it out between two pieces of waxed paper, peel one off and then, placing the pie pan upside down over the crust, plop it in the pan and then peel the other piece of waxed paper off. Voila! Then I  use a refrigerated store-bought crust for the lattice top (because the oil-based one is too difficult to cut in strips). Toss in a can or two of filling (before the top crust, of course) and in short order, we have pie. Easy as...well, you know, and I get two pies out of one box of refrigerated pie crusts. Here's the link to the pie recipe. Obviously, I halve it for my purposes.


Another favorite easy-to-make is blueberry bread. This recipe comes together quickly. Other than rinsing, drying and flouring (lightly) the blueberries, it's pretty much a "throw everything in a bowl, mix, put in a pan and bake" recipe. (By the way, the images on this page are not of my results. Nor are they from the recipe's page).
Here's the link to the easy blueberry bread recipe (I love the fact that there are so many blueberries in this quick-bread).


When I make brownies, I use a boxed mix and then I substitute melted butter for the oil and milk for the water. It just makes them taste a bit more homemade, but doesn't really add any time or effort to the baking.

And last of all, I have a chocolate cake recipe that I've been making for  years. I'd love to credit the creator, but seriously, I pulled it from a local newspaper clipping over 40 years ago, and I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it's easy. Just toss a bunch of things together, put it in a pan and then sprinkle nuts, chocolate chips and a little sugar on top. Easy, not overly sweet and it satisfies the chocolate lovers around here. Here's the link (that's actually me. I posted this online on the Chickens in the Road website years ago and then forgot about it. There are other, similar recipes online, but the topping amounts are slightly different, so I'll stick with the old tried and true).

And there you go. I have other recipes, but none as easy as these. When I'm in a rush, these are my go-to sweets. They go great with coffee or tea and a good book.

Now, I'm off to pull an apple pie from the oven. Have a great day!

Happy baking and reading!