Saturday, November 28, 2020

Knott's Berry Farm and Other Great Winter Adventures by Connie Vines

Today is National: French Toast Day. 

There are only 33 days remaining in 2020.  

Where I reside in southern California, we have spent a great deal of time (since mid-March) at home/working from home due to the Pandemic, Wild Fires,  Forest Fires, Air Quality, and Power Outages. 

While my eldest son is able to work from home, my youngest son is an essential worker and has little down time.

The day before Thanksgiving my youngest son, his family (which includes me) drove to Knott's Berry (Merry) Farm, in Buena Park, California for a day's outing.

Of course, we practiced social-distancing, wore a mask, and were able to travel/sit together (family bubble is the term) throughout the day.

I wanted to share a few 'happy and up-lifting' photos and little snippets of my Knott's Berry Farm Adventure to give you something to smile about.

The shops were open for purchases (thank goodness), and the park was decorated with holiday displays and lights.  We each were given a lanyard with a two-sided tasting selection list (I wore my around my neck because, after all, it was a field trip).

As everyone knows, I'm a die-hard lover of gingerbread!

And, yay, two restaurants listed gingerbread with frosting on the menu.

Turkey, of course, was in many creations: sandwiches, in soup, over tater-tots with gravy,  Fried and breaded meatballs to dip into gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits and Knott's famous jam, etc. were also crowd-pleasers.

Eggnog, large sugar cookies peppered with Knott's candied-berries and vanilla ice-cream sandwiched between.  Well, the list goes on and on. Coffee, hot coco (with or without candy canes), and tea.

Five tastings per adult and 3 per child.  I only spent 4 (I sliced my gingerbread in 5 sections to share and my turkey sandwich in quarters).  The other 2 tastings? Knott's famous chicken noodle soup. It was so cold I had a cup when I arrived and a cup at the ice skating rink. 

No one left the park hungry :-).

All of my other grands are older, but Logan is still at the age where he enjoys "Peanuts/Snoopy", "Disneyland", and other gentle adventures. 

Logan wearing his new gloves 'cos it's cold and windy.


Logan and I (excuse my hoodie-hair) leaning over the fence to see the gingerbread house display.

Logan and the famous Knott's Berry Factory Truck  (Though I doubt it was berry-purple in the 1900s).

The outdoor ice-skating rink held live-entertainment and display past 'Snoopy on Ice' videos on a large screen. The Peanuts Theme blasting through the speakers while fog-machines filled the area with cold damp air!

At the end of the evening, the "lighting of the Christmas Tree" claimed everyone's attention.

It seemed strange not the hear the clickety-clack of the amusement rides tracks and the shouts of the people when they rounded a curve or entered a tunnel.

The Christmas music and the chatter of families filled the void and we had a clear view of the planet Jupiter in the dark night sky.

It was a wonderful way to spend the day; to remember past good-times- and to look forward to the future!

Speaking of the future...

I retired from education over the summer and I'm looking forward to writing full-time. 

My Snoopy-with-a-typewriter pencil cup sat on my desk and attracted more notice than I realized. Because every gift I received during my tenure in education was a "Snoopy" gift.

So, now my media/craft room displays about 50% of those collectables.

The jade green loveseat is covered by a fabric-protector and small quilt.

Note: Chanel is camera shy tonight and Gavin decided to crawl in bed early.

The room isn't that kindergarten yellow that the photo displays.  It is only a very light color.

I'll closed today's blog post with a long-awaited slice of gingerbread cake. 
Served with a cup of steaming hot coffee, of course!

I hope you and all of your loved ones are having a blessed holiday season.

A season filled with warm gingerbread and a wonderful and bright 2021! 


BWL Author (Connie Vines) Page

Connie's Blog Dishin' It Out



Connie's Web Site

Available in 2021:

February 2021

August 2021

Thursday, November 26, 2020

I love it when science catches up with science fiction - by Vijaya Schartz

Check out my books at BWL Publishing HERE

Since the origins of humanity, Humans have always been attracted by the stars, but why? 

Is it a deep-rooted desire to find our origins? Is it for the pure joy of exploration? Is it to colonize new territory throughout our solar system? Do we need to find a new home? Nowadays, some will say it’s a race for riches, to mine rare metals and other resources. 

In truth, it’s all of the above… and much, much more. 

Crew-1 mission astronauts, now on the ISS

On November 15, 2020, SpaceX captivated the world. Their Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft launched NASA's Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. Onboard were NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Earlier this year, on May 30, 2020, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in a preliminary test run of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Dragon capsule cockpit

This historic success was achieved through the efforts of many scientists, engineers, and highly qualified personnel, too many to name here. It took the vision of Elon Musk and the creation of SpaceX to start an unprecedented mobilization of the private sector, and once again launch astronauts from US soil.
For the past twelve years, the only way to the ISS was via a Soyuz rocket, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Russian Kazakhstan desert. No longer will US astronauts have to rely on antiquated technology and foreign industries.  

Astronaut and cosmonauts before launch in Russia.

You might wonder about the practical repercussion of having a private company launching rockets into space. Amazing that the private sector can do what the government couldn’t. More cost-conscious than the military and other government funded projects, SpaceX developed a way to retrieve and reuse their rockets. They also get paid by private companies as well as NASA and foreign government agencies to launch their satellites and their astronauts. Among them, Argentina, Europe, Great Britain, Japan. Soon, space will become a tourist destination for the wealthy, contributing more funds to the program.

But, how does that impact our daily lives? Maybe it’s more relevant than you think. 

The ISS (International Space Station) soon to host visitors

The ISS scientific crew conduct various studies, like the behavior of germs and viruses in cold space, lack of oxygen, and no-gravity. Weather satellites are monitoring ocean levels, climate change, and many other indications of potential cataclysms (hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes), for early detection and warning. 

Where do you think your new 5G phone service originates? It requires thousands of powerful satellites circling our planet. And that superfast internet of the future? It’s also thanks to SpaceX. They have launched 900 satellites to date, including mapping and communication satellites, as well as the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, the latest in a series of satellites to provide critical data about sea level rise and climate change. 

As for the future of space exploration, the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to witness the next steps. 

First target is the closest, establishing a base on the moon… but the US is not ahead of the race. China already has a plan, some technology on the moon, and satellites circling it. Japan is developing a space program for the moon as well. 

NASA - Future base on Mars

Second target will be establishing a colony on Mars, then mining the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, then exploring the rest of our solar system. Later, when we develop faster than light technologies, we’ll venture farther into our galaxy to visit other star systems, and colonize other Earth-like planets. 

Mining the asteroid belt is coming sooner than you think

Will we run into aliens? Or other humanoids from elsewhere? I hope so. And if we do, will the public be told? With so many eyes in space, it will become more difficult for the governments to lie about extraterrestrial presence, or hide secret military projects. 

One day Humans will live on exoplanets

All this gives me ideas for more books. When large interplanetary companies own the rights to mine and exploit the many resources of other planets, each inhabited planet will become its own entity. As soon as they become self-sufficient, they’ll claim their independence, develop their own rules, laws, political systems, industries, customs. In all that chaotic progress, conflicts are bound to happen… even wars… especially in this solar system where humans are imperfect and planets are relatively close. Humans will no longer be from Earth, but from the system of planets orbiting our very own star, Sol. What shall we call ourselves, Solarians? 

I may not live long enough to see it all 😊. So, if or when I come back to this Earth in another body, I hope I’ll be able to live on other planets, like I lived in many countries of the world in this lifetime. I can’t wait to see Mars as a verdant paradise, enjoy the sights of Saturn rising over Titan’s dunes, or vacationing with an ice-fishing cruise on Ganymede.
The steps of terraforming Mars

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing books set on other earth-like planets and space stations. Here is my latest, MALAIKA’S SECRET, set on the Byzantium Space Station, at the fringe of conquered space.

Find this book at your favorite retailer HERE
Special Agent Tyler Conrad works security undercover on the Byzantium Space Station and adheres to a strict moral code. When strange beings with wings are murdered, and a dangerous lion wanders the station’s indoor streets, Tyler’s investigation leads him to a mysterious woman, who could make him break all his rules and get them both killed.

Forbidden to love, the beautiful Malaika, guardian of the glowing crystal in the temple of the Formless One, is an illegal mind-reader who hides perilous secrets. She has seen the great evil coming to Byzantium but must hide her extraordinary abilities or perish with her people.

When Admiral Mort Lowell, a hybrid Tenebran nicknamed the Vampire, makes a surprise visit to Byzantium, Tyler knows something wicked is afoot…

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB

My All Time Favorites


Find all my Books We Love titles here.

I think by the time I was born my mother was just a teensy bit fed up with children after already rearing five boys and four girls. That is not to say that she wasn’t the greatest mother any child could wish for. Loved and respected by all who knew her, Annie was a typical mother of her time. As far back as I can remember she was always there at home with a meal ready and waiting for me. Never the type to make a fuss of you, even when you were sick, she nonetheless never raised a hand in anger to any of her offspring, even though I am sure that there were many times when she could easily have taken out her frustration on any or all of us. I think we all inherited our sense of fun from her, as one thing she enjoyed was a good laugh. How she survived bringing up ten children, surviving two World Wars and endless deprivation is something to be admired above all else and this sense of humour no doubt helped her through. She allowed me the privilege of running wild and free as a child. Somehow, all ten of us turned out to be not so bad human beings and it surely was from lessons learned from our parents.

As wonderful as our mother was, the task of raising me was, more or less, left to my older sisters Joan and Doris, who would dress me up, pamper me, and take me out to see what went on in the world. They taught me to read and write well before I attended primary school. My big brothers also made a fuss of me but were prone to tease me, after all, (except for the youngest) they were adults when I came along and anyway this is about my favourite women. If you have read my ‘Crying is for Babies’ then you will know that my favourite woman of course was my dear Vi, who was a constant in my life until her death. Because of our mother’s legacy, all the females in her family have the strength of character required to get them through the toughest of times—after all none of our lives have been half as difficult as hers.

Among my screen favourites, I think Doris Day stands out. How I loved her movies. Not only was she beautiful but her love of animals is surely what drew me to her. She founded The Doris Day Foundation and vowed to protect animals in any way she could.  The characters she played in her movies in no way reflected her life—which didn’t appear to be a bed of roses. Another singer/actress who had a big impact on my teenage years was Rosemary Clooney (Is she really George’s Auntie?) but do you know the only song of hers that stands out for me is, ‘Hey There’. I cannot leave Audrey Hepburn from my list. She never did any movies that could be termed as stupendous, but how could I forget her in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Roman Holiday’. To me she was the epitome of beauty at its purest. And her outfits in the movies! She always looked the picture of elegance. But it is her humanitarian work that stands out for me. In 1992 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as
Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Sadly, she passed away too soon.

It was Joan our fashion conscious sister, who steered me towards a career in the fashion industry. Always ahead of her time, she loved dressing up, and was the least shy of all of us, never ashamed to flaunt her body, whereas we were mostly too coy. She instilled in us a sense of right and wrong in anything to do with our outfits and was never too bothered about setting us straight if she wasn’t happy with what we were wearing. It was she who forced me into nylons at the age of fifteen when I was still quite happy to wear ankle socks. And she made me wear higher heels because she said it was not ladylike to swagger like a boy so they would help me to walk like a model—unfortunately I think none of us (especially me) quite came up to her standards.

There are many more women that I have admired of course, such as teachers, authors, activists or ordinary women who cope daily with disability or worse, but none can compare to family. 

Visit my Web Page for excerpts etc.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Geraniums are a Gardener's Best Friend by A.M. Westerling



Geraniums are one of my favourite summer annuals. They’re easy to grow, are drought resistant, come in a multitude of colours and over winter very well. They’re happy wherever I put them, either in full sun or part shade, plus they also like to grow in pots which is important here on the Prairies. We get hail storms every summer, so my husband and I regularly engage in “The Running of the Pots” ie When a storm threatens, we bring all our potted annuals under cover to avoid the damage from hail stones.


What we call geraniums were brought from South Africa to Europe by Dutch traders in the early 18th century. Although originally classified as geraniums due to their similarity to hardy wild geraniums growing in Europe, they were eventually reclassified as Pelargonium due to differences in the petal shape and number of stamens from the wild variety. Pelargonium means stork’s bill, a reference to the long, sharply pointed shape of their seedpod. True geraniums are a hardy flowering perennial also know as “cranesbill”. I have a patch of cranesbill in my side garden and yes, I can attest to the fact they’re very hardy! In the picture below you can see one of my overwintered geraniums. The flowering plant behind it is cranesbill.

The name stuck however, so when we say geranium, we actually mean pelargonium. There are two common varieties, Zonal Geraniums and Ivy Leaf Geraniums which are a trailing variety. I’ve grown both successfully although I’ve never been able to overwinter the ivy variety despite repeated attempts. Those are ivy geraniums in the wall pots in the picture below. 

 I use a good quality planter box mix in my pots and feed the geraniums with 20 20 20 fertilizer every couple of weeks. I dead head regularly to keep the plant flowering and pinch back leggy stems to promote bushiness. On very hot days, I’ll water daily otherwise I’ll let the soil dry out a bit.

To overwinter, bring your geraniums inside before the first frost. I must admit, however, that I’ve been caught flat footed a couple of times over the years and my geraniums were hit by frost. It didn’t kill them as the roots didn’t freeze but I made sure I had new growth before I let them go dormant.

They do best when given a dormant period through the winter months so use less water and don’t fertilize. I water every two weeks so the roots don’t dry out completely. By the end of the winter, they’re looking pretty sad but that’s when I shape them and remove all the dead growth. I’ll start watering them in April. After a few waterings, I’ll start to fertilize. Of course, I harden them off before leaving them out for the summer. They can be repotted in the spring to encourage new growth although I usually don’t bother. This is how they look when I bring them out in the spring:

 But within a month or two they've grown in nicely. 

Some interesting geranium facts:

Keep the plants out of reach from pets and young children as they may cause indigestion and vomiting. They’re toxic to Japanese beetles so that’s one pest you don’t have to worry about although in my experience, geraniums are resistant to pretty much anything.

Apply crushed geranium leaves to stop the bleeding of minor cuts. In some aromatic varieties, both the flowers and leaves are edible and fresh leaves of all types can be used for flavouring jelly, iced drinks, pastries, pound cake and salads. Dried leaves can be used in potpourri and sachets.

In the language of flowers, scarlet geranium means silliness. Ha, I’ve had quite a few silly geraniums over the years!


 I’m pretty sure Rose would have enjoyed a pot or two of geraniums on her front porch in Barkerville. You can find her story in Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store HERE.


Featured Author - Joan Havelange


Coming in December, click for pre-release details and buy links


Hi, my name is Joan Havelange. I am a Canadian author. I live in the prairies in a beautiful little town, surrounded by hills, valleys, and many lakes. I have lived in three of Canada’s provinces and have visited all of them. I am an avid traveller. Before this pandemic broke out, I was able to travel to over 45 countries. And I have worn many hats in my work career. One of my jobs was north of the 56 parallel for a mining company. No, I did not go down in the mine; I worked in the computer department. Back in the day, no one had a desktop or laptop on their desk. It was our nerdy group.

 I also directed theatre for 15 years. I find writing is a lot like directing; only my characters show up on time and always know their lines. Although sometimes they do go off in a direction that surprises me. I began writing romances, but I soon found out I was not the romantic type; murder is my line. My change of genre was the right choice, as my first whodunnit mystery, ‘Wayward Shot,’ was published by BWL Inc. in 2019.

All fictional stories, I think, start out as what if. What if you were golfing and your wayward shot ends up in the middle of a dead man’s forehead. (The idea came to me on the golf course, I am an avid golfer.) That was the genesis of Wayward Shot; the rest of the story fell into place.


Wayward Shot:
Golf is not a contact sport. But murder is. Mabel Havelock and Violet Ficher’s golf game is interrupted when they find a dead body in the graveyard. And it is not six feet under. Mabel’s ball lays in the middle of the dead man’s forehead.  Golfers do not kill golfers, or do they? A game of golf turns deadly for Mabel and Violet.

I’m a fan of Agatha Christie, and I wondered what if Mabel, my protagonist, was not as smart or as cultured as Miss Marple. There again, you see, ‘the what if.’ Mabel is a down to earth bulldog. Her wingman, Violet, is the opposite. Fans of Wayward Shot comment on how they love the relationship between the two women. They may have disagreements, but they have each other’s back. And my readers love the bizarre antics the women get up to in the pursuit of the killer.


Hilarious story-stars that paint the pages

Book Review – Wayward Shot Author – Joan Havelange Genre – Cozy Mystery First Line: Mabel Havelock leaned on her driver, watching her best friend, Violet Ficher, tee up her golf ball. Review: Mabel Havelock, middle-aged, widowed, short and spirited, maybe more like feisty. Violet Ficher, her best friend, also middle-aged, divorced, tall, and has an appreciation for organization and niceties. They love golf and find more than they bargained for during one of their rounds. Ms. Havelange pens a hilarious, mid-life friendship with story stars that paint the pages. Those two women compliment and balance each other…and when the going gets tough, so do they. Thank goodness they have each other. I laughed…a lot, but there were sit-on-the-edge of your chair moments also. I enjoyed Ms. Havelane’s writing style and will definitely read more of Mabel and Violet’s books.


My next whodunnit was published by BWL in January of this year. I found the writing of Death and Denial a little more challenging. Mabel had to grow, she couldn’t stay the same bumbling investigator she was in Wayward Shot, but she had to retain her personality. I also had the balancing act. ‘Death and Denial’ is set in Egypt.

Death and Denial: On her way to visit Egypt’s ancient monuments and treasures, Mabel Havelock gets more than she bargains for. She stumbles on a murder plot. As she cruises down the Nile on a riverboat, Mabel finds herself trapped on board with a dead body and a boatload of suspects.

The idea for this mystery came to me when I travelled to Egypt a few years ago. I wanted to describe the fascinating sights I was privileged to see, without making it a travelogue. I succeeded. A Reviews; for Death and Denial

This is one of the reviews  Tantalizing Trip

This is not the first adventure of this pair of mature sleuths, the doggedly determined Mabel Havelock and the fashion-conscious, germophobic Violet Ficher, but it was the first for me. Having visited Egypt many years ago, I was attracted to this book by the Egyptian setting, and easily found myself ‘back there’ as I travelled along the Nile with Mabel, Violet, and their tour group. At least one of whom was plotting the demise of at least one other – said plot being overheard by Mabel en route to Egypt. Despite a series of ‘accidents’, Mabel finds it hard to convince anyone else of this. Even Violet. But her partner-in-solving crime comes through for her in the end. An enjoyable read for fans of both mysteries and Egypt.

 I’m quite proud people could see Cairo and the Valley of the Kings and the other sights from my writing. And above all else, the mystery that was the forefront of the story.

Something else that makes me happy is the question, ‘when is your next book?’

To that, I can reply the next mystery. ‘The Trouble with Funerals.’ is to be released this coming December. The first few lines from The Trouble with Funerals.

“She doesn’t look a bit good,” lamented Sophie Schoenberg.

Mabel Havelock looked down at the body of Mini Frazer. “She wouldn’t, she’s dead, no one looks good dead.”

The funeral director who had ushered the two ladies to view the body in the casket looked appalled

Please visit my Facebook page for updates about new releases. ‘The Trouble with Funerals. In December.

And next, my ladies will go on another trip. This time to Moscow. What possibly could go wrong? Title to be determined.