Sunday, August 25, 2013

Patricia Cornwell - One of My Favorite Authors

Patricia Cornwell
The book that started
my liking for the
 Kay Scarpetta character.
    I have been in a book-reading mode lately. While dusting a while back, I stopped to peruse my collection of books by Patricia Cornwell. I have been a fan of hers since being introduced to her first book, "Postmortem," back in 1990 by a friend and co-worker. As I sat on the floor dusting the area with Cornwell's books, I recalled how I couldn't wait until one of her books was published and when it was available in the bookstores, I'd rush down, buy it and devour it from front to back - in one sitting.
     As the years passed, I was not as in tune to when her books came out. But, when Steve and I would stop at Barnes and Noble at the Jantzen Beach shopping center in Portland, I would look through the Bargain Books section where I would pick up one or two of them.  I would buy them, take them home and set them aside, telling myself I would read them one day. 
    In my job, I read a lot of words :-) so when I get home from work, reading is one of the last things on my mind and that saddens me. Instead, I veg out in front of the TV, getting whisked away into another time so to speak.  I enjoy the shows we watch - "Pawn Stars," "Storage Hunters," "Rizzoli and Isles," "Burn Notice," "The Bridge," "Under the Dome," "Major Crimes," "Suits," "Perception," ... and the list goes on - but since dusting off the Patricia Cornwell books, a nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me I need to read more. So ... over the past few weeks I have been working on getting back into it. After all, books can take me "away" just as easily as watching TV.
    Even though hubby and I still "veg" out in front of the TV while eating dinner, it doesn't occupy all my moments from the time I get home from work until it is bedtime. First on the agenda - when the weather cooperates (which it has for weeks now) - is to change clothes and head outside to sit on the patio or in the yard for an hour or so to decompress. With a favorite beverage on the table between our chairs, we talk about our day, pet the cat, watch the deer if they come into the yard, listen to the birds chirp, oggle at the butterflies and dragonflies and  enjoy each other's company. Then it's back in the house to prepare dinner and relax in front of the TV. About an hour before "bedtime," we head into the bedroom and read. :-)
    On a recent week off, I read the 492-page "The Scarpetta Factor." It was great - as is usual with books by Patricia Cornwell. I started "Blow Fly" and finished it yesterday. It was another 400-plus page book. And last night, I began "Trace."
   Of the 21 books in the Kay Scarpetta series, I have all but three of them - "Port Mortuary," "The Bone Bed" and "Dust," which is scheduled to come out in November of this year. I am not as far behind as I had thought in reading the books in the series. Of the 18 I have, I have four left to read. 
    In addition, Cornwell wrote three books in the Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series. I am happy to say I have read them. I also read the two she has in the Win Garano series. 

    For those of you who have not heard about Patricia Cornwell, she was born in 1956 and began her career in 1979 as a crime reporter for the Charlotte Observer. She worked for the medical examiner's office in Virginia as a technical writer and computer analyst, and volunteered to work with the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department.
    Her character, Kay Scarpetta is a medical examiner, who solves crimes and loves to cook.
    Cornwell also wrote two books with recipes from the series, one is called "Food to Die For" and contains recipes from Scarpetta's kitchen. The other is called "Scarpetta's Winter Table," and is an intimate look at how the main characters in the Scarpetta series celebrate the week between Christmas and New Year's with recipes such as Pete Marino's "Cause of Death Egg Nog," Lucy Farinelli's "Felonious Cookies," Scarpetta's "Holiday Pizza," "Bad Mood Pasta Primavera," "Childhood Key Lime Pie" and more.
     Cornwell wrote a biography of Ruth Bell Graham, who was her friend; and a non-fiction work, "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Cased Closed," a "self-financed search for evidence to support the theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper," notes several websites including
    To read more about Cornwell, her work and her life, visit her official website at
    Below is a list of her books I found on Wikipedia in their appropriate "series" and in the order they were published. I highly recommend reading them.

Kay Scarpetta series
    1. "Postmortem" (1990).
    2. "Body of Evidence" (1991).
    3. "All That Remains" (1992).
Coming out November 2013
    4. "Cruel and Unusual" (1993).
    5. "The Body Farm" (1994).                                                        
    6. "From Potter's Field" (1995).
    7. "Cause of Death" (1996).
    8. "Unnatural Exposure" (1997).
    9. "Point of Origin" (1998).
   10. "Black Notice" (1999).
   11. "The Last Precinct" (2000).
   12. "Blow Fly" (2003).
   13. "Trace" (2004).
   14. "Predator" (2005).
   15. "Book of the Dead" (2007)
   16. "Scarpetta" (2008).
   17. "The Scarpetta Factor" (2009).
   18. "Port Mortuary" (2010).
   19. "Red Mist" (2011).
   20. "The Bone Bed" (2012).
   21. "Dust" (November 2013).

Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series
    1. "Hornet's Nest" (1997).
    2. "Southern Cross" (1999).
    3. "Isle of Dogs" (2001).

Win Garano series
    1. "At Risk" (2006).
    2. "The Front" (2008).

Children's book
    1. "Life's Little Fable" (1999).

    1. "A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1983).
    2. "Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1997 update of "A Time for Remembering").
    3. "Scarpetta's Winter Table" (1998).
    4. "Food to Die For: Secrets from Scarpetta's Kitchen" (2002).
    5. "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed" (2002).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Using herbs and vegetables in homemade 'beauty' products

    The fall 2013 issue of "Herb Quarterly" arrived in the mail the other day. I love, love, love this magazine and have subscribed to it off and on for many, many years. The fall issue is number 136. Wish I had them all ...
Herb Quarterly
     Anyway, I couldn't wait to open it and devour every word. This is a magazine I can sit down and read cover to cover. It always contains tons of wonderful information. 
    My husband, Steve and I, enjoy reading. We have been known to spend an entire weekend day in bed reading, only getting up long enough to use the bathroom or get a bite to eat. We still read, but I don't read as much at home as in the past.
    In my job as Community Editor at the local newspaper, I read and write nearly the entire day. My food column, "On the Table," appears in the newspaper every other week. I spend a number of hours reading up on whatever that week's topic is going to be. When I get home from work, I usually don't want to read another word, but lately, we decided to head to bed an hour earlier than normal and spend that hour reading. And, I must say, I am certainly enjoying it.
    Back to the "Herb Quarterly." If you are not familiar with it, I recommend buying an issue. It costs $5.99, but if you like it, a subscription is $19.97 for one year, which is four issues - winter, spring, summer and fall. 
    Healing Children with Herbs, Herbs for Digestion, Elderberry: 2013 Herb of the Year, DIY Herb Oils for the Home, Transitional Gardening, A Vegan Holiday Table and Herb and Veggie Beauty are the featured articles.
    Regular features include Medicine Chest, Herbal Healthwatch, Herbalist's Notebook and The Organic Gardener, among others.
    One article I particularly enjoyed reading was "Herb and Veggie Beauty" by Janice Cox. Janice, a regular contributor to the magazine, lives in Medford, Ore.

    Janice is the author of "Natural Beauty at Home," "Natural Beauty for All Seasons," "Natural Beauty Beauty from the Garden." 
I own this book. :-)
    According to her website, her passion for home beauty started out of necessity ... natural bath and beauty products were hard to come by ... and it was an easy way to save time and money.
     "Get her book and you'll never look at fruit the same way again," notes the Times Picayune newspaper. "You'll also never pay high department store prices for creams and lotions that can be made simply and cheaply at home."
    For more on Janice, visit her website
    Now, on to the "Herb Quarterly" article.
    Because vegetables have an earthy scent, Janice notes that pairing them with fresh herbs improves the vegetable fragrance in recipes. She recommends leaving the peels and skins on the vegetables when using them in the recipes.
    Here are some of the recipes from the article.

    Fresh Carrot and Clary Sage Mask
       1 fresh carrot, grated (approximately 1/2 cup)
       1 tablespoon fresh chopped clary sage
       1 tablespoon white kaolin clay
       1 tablespoon pure honey

   Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 4 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.

   Janice notes that carrots are rich in vitamin A. Fresh carrots and carrot juice have antiseptic qualities, and clary sage soothes, cleanses and adds moisture to dry complexions. Look for the clay, also called white China clay, in a health food or natural food store.

    Sweet Potato Facial Mask with Chamomile
       1/2 cup fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
       1 tablespoon fresh chamomile or 2 teaspoons dried chamomile tea
       1 egg

    Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 2 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Looks good enough to eat.
    Sweet potatoes - and regular potatoes - are an old folk-medicine remedy for cleansing skin and removing surface impurities, Janice writes in the article. They help with blemishes and eczema. Chamomile is calming and contains antibacterial properties useful for keeping a clean and clear complexion.

    I just whipped up a batch of this mask and put it on my face and neck, strategically avoiding where my reading glasses sit. The timer is on and I'm enjoying a glass of Kona Koko Brown beer. Let's hope the sweet potatoes don't turn my skin orange. 
    Timer went off. Rinsed my face in warm water, then cool water, then patted it dry. It feels soft and smooth. No discoloration. Will try it again tomorrow and for the next few days and see what happens. :-)

     Corn Oil Cold Cream
       1/2 cup borax powder
       1/4 cup distilled or filtered water
       1/2 cup corn oil (or vegetable, soy or canola oil)
       2 tablespoons beeswax

    In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the borax in the water and set aside. In another glass measuring cup, mix together the oil and beeswax. Place the glass cup in a pan on the stove with 2 inches of water, making a water bath. Gently heat the oil-wax mixture until the wax begins to melt (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
    When the wax is melted, place the cup with the water and borax mixture in the water bath and heat until hot (do not boil). You want both mixtures to roughly be the same temperature.
   Add the hot water mixture to the oil blend to make the cream. You can do this by hand-stirring constantly, but a blender makes the process much easier and produces a well-blended cream. Place the oil mixture in a blender and turn on slow speed. Pour the hot water in a slow, steady stream and then process the cream on high. Spoon the cream into a clean container and let cool completely. You may want to stir one more time as the cream cools.
    Yield: 8 ounces.
    To use: Massage a small amount of the rich cream into dry skin spots. To use as a makeup remover, massage into your skin, then wipe off with a soft cotton tissue or cloth. 

    I read this recipe to hubby Steve and he wants me to make it for him to use. :-) 

    Cleansing Tomato-Parsley Hair Rinse
       1 cup fresh tomato juice
       1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
       1 cup pure water
       1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

    Place all ingredients in a blender and process until well-blended. Strain out the solids and pour into a clean container.
    Yield: 16 ounces.
    To use: After shampooing, pour the rinse over your hair and massage well into your scalp. Let sit for a minute or two, then rinse with the coolest water you can stand.

    Janice writes, "This cleansing rinse gets hair looking fresh and smelling sweet. Tomato juice is the classic cure for removing harsh smells, such as campfire smoke, from your hair. Parsley also naturally cleanses and deodorizes. This rinse will deep clean the scalp keeping it healthy and promoting new hair growth."

   This next recipe is such a good idea. The benefit of a loofah to scrub the skin with the soap "built in."

    Loofah Slice Soap Bars
       2 bars of natural soap such as glycerin or castile, chopped
       1 tablespoon water
       4 slices dried loofah sponge

    Find a small pan or plastic dish to use as a soap mold that's approximately the size of the loofah slice (muffin tins and candy molds work well). Place the loofah slices inside the molds.
    In a double boiler place the chopped soap and water and heat gently until the soap begins to melt. Remove from heat and continue to stir the soap until it's completely melted. Spoon the melted soap inside the loofah slice molds and allow to cool completely until hard.
    Remove from molds and trim the soaps with a sharp knife.
    Yield: 8 ounces, 3-4 bars of soap.
    To use: Enjoy as you would any bar of soap, but do not use on your face or other sensitive skin areas as it may be too harsh. 

Loofah growing on a fence. It does resemble a cucumber.
    And, did you know that you can grow your own loofah? I did not. Here is what Janice says: "... the loofah sponges available in bath and body shops are actually vegetables." Amazing, right? Well ... to me it is. The loofah belongs to a family of plants that includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squashes and are the most closely related to the cucumber in appearance and growing habits.

Dried loofah.
    Janice notes that seeds - and sometimes the starter plants - are available at garden centers. Though I have never looked, I wonder if they are available locally. We have a lot of gardening businesses in our area. And, of course, they are available from online seed catalogs. 
    She writes that loofahs like to climb so they should be planted next to a fence or a trellis. A ripe loofah has a dark yellow or brown outer skin that needs to be removed. She notes that you need to "clean the inner 'skeletons,' removing all seeds. Then let it dry in the sun.

    Janice also offers several easy ways to use vegetables on the skin and hair.
    Artichoke hearts blended with a bit of lemon juice conditions the hair before shampooing and is an effective treatment for dandruff or flaky scalps.
    Blend chick peas and garbanzo beans with a little honey or olive oil to make a protein-rich and soothing facial mask. This is good for people with dry or sensitive skin.
   Lettuce juice is a good skin toner. It also soothes skin that has been sunburned.
   Mashed and cooked parsnips can be used on the feet and hands to help brittle nails and dry, rough skin.
    Use potato slices to reduce under-eye puffiness. Lie down and place a freshly cut slice on each closed eyelid. Leave them there for 5 to 10 minutes.
    Lastly, tomato juice can be used as a skin tonic and toner. Janice writes that it restores acidity to people who have oily skin.

          I think I've done enough writing for today ... two posts in one day. Wow! And that's after not posting for nearly a year. Shame on me.

Nighty night and sweet dreams. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Houseplants ... and how they clean the air

     My houseplants have needed transplanting for quite some time. Honestly ... I am embarrassed to admit many of them have been in the same pots for, umm ... years. Yikes! I water them, so I'm not that bad, right? Who am I kidding? I have been neglectful - and I am sorry.
     During a recent week off from work, I bit the bullet ... no, I grabbed the shovel and decided I must take the time to do the dirty deed. Over the course of two afternoons - apparently I like to take my time. :-) - I hauled them out one by one and transplanted them under the shade of the apple trees in the back yard.
     After giving 20 of my 35 houseplants a new pot to live in with fresh dirt and water, I quit - only because I ran out of potting soil and was too lazy to run to the store to buy more. It's OK, though, the other 15 were re-potted not that long ago, so they are not quite ready to be transplanted. I will purchase more potting soil on the way home from work one of these days so I will be prepared when those plants are ready for a new home - uh, pot.
     And since I was transplanting them, I may as well clean the leaves right? You bet! I meticulously wiped each plant's leaves with a clean wet cloth, which made me think of the days when I slathered mayonnaise on the leaves and wiped it off, leaving a beautiful shine. Was that really a good idea? Probably not - and, needless to say, I only did that a few times before discovering a spray-on product that made the leaves sparkle. I am sure that product in the long run was not good for the plants either.
     Oops! Getting off track. I will not diverge the amount of time I spent cleaning the leaves, partly because I didn't keep track :-), but considering how long it took me to transplant, it was hours and hours. 
     The roots were a tangled mess. How could I let that happen? I carefully untangled the roots and trimmed them. One plant's roots were at least 18 inches long. Poor things. They were circled around the inside of the pot with nowhere to go.
     Afterward, I gave each one a shower with the garden hose. Oh, how they loved that. I should have taken pictures, but that never crossed my mind. 
     I love houseplants - and yes, I know I need to take better care of them. Besides the ones at home, I have 18 in my work space at the newspaper. They add character to a room - or to a work area. :-) Their shapes can be a perfect compliment to a piece of furniture or fill a void.
     But most importantly is what they can do for the indoor air quality of our homes. I have a clipping on the bulletin board in our home office titled "Plants That Clean the Air." It is from the March 1993 issue of "Success" magazine. No, that is not a typo. It is from March 1993 - I've been hanging on to that for more than 20 years!
   The lead-in to the lists of plants reads like this:
    "According to Haworth Inc., you don't need an expensive machine to cure your office of 'sick building' air. The noxious chemicals that accumulate in a workplace can be absorbed the same way most smog gets cleaned up - by green plants. The following is a list of plants and the toxins they're best at absorbing:"
     Oh, by the way,  Haworth Inc. "designs and manufactures adaptable workspaces, including raised floors, movable walls, systems furniture, seating, storage and wood casegoods," according to Wikipedia.
     I did a quick search on the Internet for the 10 best plants to clean the air and came up with tons of good information, most notably from the Mother Nature Network, English Gardens, This Old House, Sustainable Baby Steps, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Naturopathic Thoughts.
'Dracaena deremnsis'
     Dr. B.C. "Bill" Wolverton, an environmental scientist working in the late 1960s with the U.S. military to clean up environmental disasters left by biological warfare centers discovered at a test center in Florida that swamp plants "were actually elmininating Agent Orange, which had entered the local waters through government testing near Eglin Air Force base," states the website.
     He spent two decades doing studies discovering  "which plants could remove toxic chemicals from the air for use in space stations," notes
     The top plants on his list are mass cane (dracaena massangeana), pot mum (Chrysantheum morifolium), Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonil), warnecki (dracaena deremnsis "warneckei") and the ficus (ficus benjamina)

     And here is what is on the magazine clipping:
     TOXINS AND THEIR SOURCES                                             PLANTS THAT EAT THEM
     Formaldyde - foam insulation, plywood, particle                    Boston fern, chrysanthemum,
     board, pressed wood products, grocery bags, waxed            Janet Craig dracaena, areca
     papers, facial tissues, paper towels, water repellents,            palm, ficus benjamina, peace
     fire retardants, cigarette smoke, natural gas, kerosene,         lily and corn plant.
     and adhesive binders in floor coverings. 

     Xylene - solvents, lacquers, dyes and rubber cement.           dwarf date palm, dracaena
                                                                                                        marginata, corn plant and                                                                                                                       peace lily.

     Benzene - inks, oils, plastics, rubber, dyes                             bamboo palm, snake plant,
                                                                                                        English ivy, warnecki, Janet                                                                                                                   Craig, chrysantheum,                                                                                                     gerbera
                                                                                                        daisy, dracaena marginata and
                                                                                                        peace lily.

     Trichloroethylene - metal degreasing agents,                      Gerbera daisy, peace lily,         
     dry-cleaned fabrics, printing inks, paints, lacquers,                 warneckei, chrysanthemum,
     varnishes and adhesives.                                                         dracaena marginata and
                                                                                                       bamboo palm.

Spider Plant
     The Mother Nature Netwok at recommends the peace lily, golden pothos, English ivy, chrysanthemum morifolium, Gerbera daisy, mother-in-law's tongue (snake plant), bamboo plant, azalea, red-edged dracaena and the spider plant.
     The areca palm, raphis palm, bamboo palm, rubber plant, Janet Craig, English ivy, pothos, ficus alil, Boston fern and peace lily are the recommendations from
     And at, the recommendations are aloe vera, areca palm, baby rubber plant, bamboo palm (aka reed palm), Boston fern, Chinese evergreen, mass cane (aka corn cane), dwarf/pygmy date palm, English ivy, ficus alil, Gerbera daisy, golden pothos, Janet Craig, lady palm, Kimberly Queen fern, dracaena marginata (aka Dragon tree), moth orchid, chrysanthemums, peace lily, philodendron, snake plant schefflera (aka umbrella tree), spider plant, warneckei and the weeping fig (aka ficus tree).
    I am happy to report we have several of the recommended plants throughout our house, including the peace lily, spider plant, bamboo, rubber plant, golden pothos, snake plant and dracaena.

     English ivy, lacy palm, Boston fern, snake plant, golden pothos, wax begonia, red-edged dracaena and the spider plant are the plants of choice at,
     Dr. Wolverton recommends placing as many plants as you can take care of in the rooms you use the most - at least two plants in 10- to 12-inch pots per 100 square feet of space.
    During a remodel, use more plants and, do not over water them. If the dirt is too wet, mold can grow on the dirt and on the plants.

English Ivy
    English ivy is a hearty, climbing vine. It thrives in small spaces and does well in rooms that don't have many windows and/or little sunlight. Its foliage absorbs formaldehyde, commonly found in wood floor board resins and synthetic carpet dyes.
    The peace lily can adapt to low light. It requires weekly watering and it is poisonous to pets, so keep it away from your animals' feeding areas. Our cats have not tried to eat the leaves, so that's a good thing.
Lady Palm
   This plant "rids the air of the VOC benzene, a carcinogen found in paints, furniture wax and polishes," notes And, it sucks up acetone, which can be found in fingernail polish remover. Acetone can be discharged from electronics, adhesives and some cleaners. Check the ingredient list on your favorite cleaner. I'm thinking I need to make my own natural cleaners from here on out.
    The lady palm is easy to grow, notes the site, but might take a while for it to shoot up. It has fan-like leaves that "add charm to any spot." The plant targets ammonia, which is hard on the respiratory system and can be found in cleaners, woven cloth or fabric, and dyes.
    The Boston fern is considered one of the most efficient air purifiers. I have never had much luck growing Boston ferns, though I have tried.
   One time, Safeway had huge ones on sale for $6 each, so I bought two. They were beautiful with their bright green, feather-like leaves and curved fronds.
    We have four windows (each about 36 inches wide and 48 or so inches tall) that go across the front of our living room. Two more are sideways from those, giving the area where the couch sits a feeling of a "bump-out." Anyway ... I placed one on each side of the couch. They were gorgeous - for about a month and then they started dying. I thought it was me ... well, it was me, but Boston ferns can be hard to grow because they need constant moisture and humidity. I tried spraying them, but ... it wasn't enough.
    The fern is another plant that removes that nasty formaldehyde. And, according to, some studies have shown the Boston fern can remove toxic metals, such as mercury and arsenic, from soil.
Snake plant
   The snake plant - or mother-in-law's tongue - has long, pointy leaves. It thrives in low light and during the nighttime, it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. This is the reverse of what most plants do.
   The site suggests putting a couple of them in the bedroom for a "slight oxygen boost while you sleep." Ours is in a corner of the kitchen near the stove.
Golden pothos on a support
    The fast-growing golden pothos vine "has a reputation for flexibility" notes the website. It can be planted in a hanging basket, in a pot with something in it to help it stand up or you can train it to climb on a trellis.
    We have several of these around the house, two which are in the bathroom. Ours hang.
    The site notes that it tackles formaldehyde, like many other vines, but it also tackles carbon monoxide and benzene. It is suggested to put one in the utility room or entryway where car exhaust fumes - which are laden with formaldehyde - can filter inside from the garage. We happen to have two nearby the door that goes between the house and garage along with a couple on top of the refrigerator.
    Next on the site is the wax begonia. I love these and had not thought to have some in the house. These plants require lots of sun. It is a semi-woody succulent - which I did not know - that produces lovely clusters of flat pink, red or white flowers during the summer months.
   Apparently, it is a good filterer of benzene and chemicals produced by toluene, which can be found in some waxes and adhesives, according to a University of Georgia study.
  The red-edged dracaena grows slowly, but can get up to 15 feet tall. It requires moderate sunlight. Gases released by formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene will be taken care of by this plant. Those gases can come from lacquers, sealers and varnishes.
     The site recommends placing a spider plant on a pedestal or in a hanging basket close to a sunny window. This plant also is a good one for people who don't have a "green thumb." It reproduces fast. It has long, grassy-like leaves and hanging stems which will sprout little plantlets that look similar to a spider.
   Well ... now that I've had my lesson for the day, I think it's time to buy some more houseplants.