Friday, December 28, 2018

Take me Home: Funny Friday

Today’s post is this month’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.

Funny Friday:a multi-blogger challenge, one picture, five Captions,  | | #MyGraphics

Here's today's picture. It was submitted by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles.

Funny Friday, a multi blogger picture captioning challenge | Picture submitted by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles | Featured on | #funny #laugh

1. Little girl: Flash mob! I said flash mob!
Hey, where are my backup dancers?

2. Little girl: Here I am L'Oreal, ready to do a commercial. Send a contract to my attorney, and don't be stingy. 

3. Little girl, in a panic: A spider? Did you say spider? Get it off me. GET IT OFF OF ME!!!

4. Little girl to mom: What do you mean I can't dance in the middle of the coffee shop? If you're not supposed to dance, why would they be playing music?

5. Mom to little girl: What are you doing?
Little girl: You said I could come to work with you but I'd need to leap.
Mom: I said you could come to work with me but you'd need to sweep.
Little girl: Sweep? Forget it. Take me home.

 And now for something yummy: 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, not too sweet but full of flavor. If you’re going to splurge, this recipe is the time! | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dessert

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, not too sweet but full of flavor. If you’re going to splurge, this recipe is the time! | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dessert

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

Cognitive Script 
The Bergham Chronicles

Baking In A Tornado signature/logo | | #MyGraphics

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

9 peanut butter sandwich cookies
18 chocolate sandwich cookies
5 TBSP butter, melted

2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP smooth peanut butter
1 TBSP chocolate syrup
1 TBSP baking cocoa
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chocolate and peanut butter chips, finely chopped (I use a clean coffee bean grinder)
3 eggs, room temperature

2 TBSP softened butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

*Grease a 9 inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
*Crush the cookies to crumbs in a food processor. Mix these crumbs with the 5 TBSP melted butter and press into and partially up the sides of the springform pan.
*Beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, chocolate syrup and baking cocoa until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, heavy cream and 1/3 cup of the chopped baking chips, then the eggs, one at a time.
*Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake for 60 - 75 minutes, until the center is just set.
*Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
*In a microwave safe bowl, melt the softened butter and the chocolate chips approximately 30 seconds. Stir until completely smooth. Pour or drizzle over the cooled cheesecake. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped baking chips and return to the refrigerator for one more hour.
*To serve: gently run a knife around the cheesecake before removing the side of the springform pan.
*Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Mystery at the Castle. Chapter Two: Suspicion

Last week I reintroduced you to the concept of our Progressive Story Projects. They are stories composed by a number of writers, each building on what those before them have created. This is our 7th story. I hope you'll read them all.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story presented by | #blogging #collaboration

I also, last week, published chapter one of our current story, Mystery at the Castle. Today I'm happy to present the second chapter of that story. As always, to the far right, I've given you the name of and a link to the website of the author of that segment. 

Be sure to read (or you may want to reread) Chapter One: Friends for Life

Mystery at the Castle, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story resented by | #blogging #collaboration

Chapter Two: Suspicion

Jill swallowed hard and visibly pulled herself together so that when she spoke it was pure coroner who was relating the facts of the deceased. Not Jill, whose friend was dead by the bar and another who had been unconscious next to her on the floor.

The rest of the ladies were removed to another room until they could give their statements, but Jill stayed to help in any way she could. "I just can't believe it," she said mostly to herself. The detective looked over at her and said, "tell us what you know about Kathryn".

"I met Kathryn on my first day of college over 15 years ago. We were both lost and so confused," she said looking back at the girls they once were. "She was so considerate and loyal she wouldn't hurt a flea! Who could have done this to her?" she asked even though she knew they didn't have the answer yet.

"Is there anyone you can think of who would want to hurt her? Someone who didn't like her? What about the other ladies? Do you think one of them could be involved?"

"No way! We've all been friends since college. I would trust these ladies with my life, we're sorority sisters." Jill said confidently. 

"Does everyone get along well, your sorority sisters?" the detective asked her.

"Well, we all have our quirks and pet peeves, but underneath the bickering and jealousy there is love and a very strong bond."

"So which one was bickering and which one is jealous," the second detective asked her.

"What I meant was, we are a strong group with strong personalities and sometimes those personalities clash, but we'd never hurt each other."

"Well, we'll talk to each one and get their statements. I understand you all have weekend reservations so you're free to go up to your rooms, but we ask that you don't leave the premises until we say so."

"I am Detective Jameson from Newport PD. Please state your full name for the record," the policeman told her as they were sitting down at the wooden table in one of the castle's meeting rooms and switching on the camera that was going to be recording the interview. 

"Heather Deen Laughlin."

"Tell us how you met Kathryn."

"Just like everyone else here. We went to Cambridge College together. My roommate dropped out after the first semester, that's when Kathryn moved in with me. We've been best friends even beyond graduating. I studied psychology, Kath was a business major. We couldn't have been more different where personalities and interests were concerned, still we had a strong bond. Kathryn's first job was for Prudential Financial, I think she worked for some Risk Management hotshot for a while, until she got promoted into the International Insurance Division. She had jobs all over Europe, and whenever money and time would allow it, some of us would actually take trips to visit her wherever she was working at the time. It was very exciting. I remember one time in December we flew to Munich, Germany, and we strolled through the most charming Christmas Market, we had Gluhwein and Lebkuchen, that's gingerbread . . . , Heather trailed off.

Detective Jameson, with the straightest face he could keep, told Heather as interesting as the Christmas Market bits were - they did not contribute to establishing a profile of the victim, which ultimately was the reason for their "chat", so could she please stick to the relevant facts: jealous or vindictive people, enemies, (ex-) lovers, boyfriends, husbands . . . ? 

That's when Heather gave him an overview of Kathryn's love life. It was a short story: college boyfriend, long time ago, affair with coworker that ended amicably, and Phil, aka the Jerk, she met at a business convention last year.
  "So this Phil character, you thought he was bad news?"

"Very much so. I have never met a more controlling and jealous person. You see, Kathryn had always been an ambitious, independent and strong woman. And all of a sudden this guy thinks he can order her around, tell her how to dress and whom to meet or not. I remember the time she was so happy about the Gucci dress she scored: it was really classy, and she wore it with her Manolo heels but no, Phil thought it was too revealing and suggested she put on something more conservative. When she wanted to go out with a group of coworkers, he basically requested a list of people to see if any guys were going to join, and if that was the case, he either joined her or told her not to go by coming up with surprise opera tickets or some other bribe.

Kathryn felt somewhat protected and courted at first. "That's how much he cares. He just wants me to be safe, I'm his princess," she kept assuring me. As time went by her perception began to change though, and she got tired of justifying her every move. This trip to Rhode Island must have been a very welcome change of scenery."

Kimberly of When I Grow Up 
There was a commotion outside the door. A male voice said, "You can't go in there, there's an interrogation going on." There was the click of heels and the door burst open. Ash strode into the room, her Fendi leather trench coat billowing behind her.

"This deposition is over," she stated forcefully. "Heather, don't say another word." She turned to the officer, "I believe there is a conflict of interest here. I hear you brought Kathryn back here after drinks in town last night. The caretaker said you both stumbled in around 2 am and that you snuck out just before dawn."

"I thought you were told to not leave the premises. The caretaker's cottage is a mile down the drive. We posted officers at all the doors. How did you get around them?"

"I didn't leave," she said smugly. "I know Kathryn's fondness for good bourbon and knew when I passed that bar in town that she would have been there. It just took some internet sleuthing and a phone call." Of course he didn't know her background included investigative reporting or that she had spent several years covering court cases in New York City. "So, what happened to our friend?"

The officer paused, then sighed. "I knew this was a bad idea. She called me when she got to town and asked me to meet her. We go way back," he explained. "My family lived next door to hers and we went through grade school together. I met her at the bar and she told me about a business deal she was worried about. It seems her boss may have violated international laws and she wasn't sure what to do. After a few drinks, we reminisced and then Ubered back here. I slept on the couch. I had to be at work, so I left early to go home and shower first. I took the call when it came in. We're a small force, so I really had no choice about responding. I should have told the captain when she came in, but I've known Kat my whole life; I need to find out what happened."

Ash looked skeptical but didn't challenge his version of last night's events. It all sounded plausible, but she had to ask a question to be sure he was telling the truth.

Winter Coffee Nog, a hot cup of coffee meets winter holiday flavors, spiced and spiked. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #drink
Winter Coffee Nog
Winter Coffee Nog, a hot cup of coffee meets winter holiday flavors, spiced and spiked. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #drink

Lydia of Cluttered Genius

Ashley was as nervous as could be for her first assignment. She and Jill were working together officially for the first time since they each finished college and their training.

"Jill. What is there's a dead body?" Ashley asked.

"I'm counting on it," Jill answered, a smile spread across her face. This was what she lived for. And having one of her best friends on the scene and in the conversation with her would make it that much more fun.

Ashley and Jill approached the scene, flashed their credentials, and ducked under the caution tape. There, they found a white mound on the ground surrounded by orange cones, labeled number tents, and the shuffle of men's dress shoes.

"Ash, you're going to be ok. You're here to get the story, and you're the best investigator I know. Don't worry!" Jill patted Ashley on the back and moved over to the dead body. Her game face was on, and Ashley knew better than to interrupt. She reached into her bag and pulled out her Stenopad and pen.

Glancing around the faces at the scene, she settled on one. In disbelief, she made her way over.

"Kat. What in the world are you doing here?" she asked Kathryn who had her arms wrapped around her and was standing right beyond the yellow tape.

Kathryn didn't answer her. Instead, Ashley noticed how she rocked slightly on her feet. Her shoulders were shaking. She didn't look good.

"Kat. KAT. What's going on?"

"It's him," Kat said. "I know it."
Jenniy of Climaxed 
"While you're here, Mrs. . . . uh?"

"Ashley Devereaux. Ms. Ashley Devereaux. But I prefer Ash if it's all the same to you."

"Okay then, can we go ahead and get your interview squared away? Surely you know questioning everyone who was here is procedure."

"Who is going to question you then?"

"Fair enough. But I will be giving my official statement to my superiors at the station. If you'd prefer, you can do the same."

"Is that some kind of threat, Officer?"

"It's Detective."

"Quaint. They actually need a detective in Newport?"

"Ms. Devereaux, this hostility is completely unnecessary."

Ash paused, staring him down trying to make him break, but he didn't so much as blink. She was the one, actually, who looked away. She turned to look out the windows over his shoulders and crossed her arms over her chest. Tears threatened to spill over her cheeks. She hated to cry.

The silence and tension were thick like a wet blanket making everyone uncomfortable. The detective stood his ground, though. He knew people like her. If he bowed to her now, she would railroad this entire investigation.

"You're right. I'm being completely over the top. I'm angry, upset, terrified . . . this is one of my closest friends lying dead in there on what was supposed to be our annual girls' weekend. I have had zero time to process it, so I'm doing the only thing I know how to do - aggressively attack it for the truth."

That didn't go the way he'd hoped.

"Listen, I feel like we've both gotten off on the wrong foot here. Let's start over. I love Kath. I always have. We've never been in the same place at the same time to be together, and this time it just might have worked out, and now this. I'm hurting too, full disclosure. We're all hurting. But I can assure you that my personal feelings for Kath will absolutely not impede my ability to do my job. If anything, it will fuel me to do even more to find out what happened and who might've done this to her. We don't have to be enemies in this."

Ash's posture completely changed. She was absolutely being unfair. She knew it. When she turned enough to meet his eyes, she could see tears just as real as her own. "I want to do everything possible to help find who did this. Where do we start?"

"I know how you all met. I've heard the stories. I know the background. I know about the relationships. I know she was getting ready to break it off with Phil and was scared of his reaction, so that's going to be one of my first tasks. But I also know Kath had some secrets. She danced around telling me for years now. I know at least some of you know what happened to make her so jumpy and paranoid the last few years. If it could have even a remote chance of being related to what's happened to her now, I need to know. Please."

Ash felt a cold rush over her. This was absolutely not what she thought he was going to ask. How could Kath have been so stupid as to hint at what had happened with a cop?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Read on! Chapter Three: The Past is Present ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Winter Coffee Nog

Printable Recipe

1 cup hot brewed coffee  
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup Eggnog
1 oz spiced rum
1 oz Kahlua
1/2 tsp vanilla

whipped cream and nutmeg for garnish

*Stir the sugar into the coffee.
Mix together the Eggnog, spiced rum, Kahlua and vanilla. 
*Pour the Eggnog mixture into the coffee and stir.
*Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Be Sure to Lick the Door: Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 4 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I had made a new recipe, my Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. I was getting ready to take a pic for the blog post when I turned around and found that College Boy was standing behind me.

College Boy: What flavor?
Me: Blue Raspberry.
College Boy: You know I love Blue Raspberry hard candies.
Me: Yes, I do.
College Boy: Can I try the cake?
Me: Yup, just finishing the pic.

College Boy loves to torture me so he takes a bite, looks like he's thinking, takes another bite . . .

Me: Well?
College Boy: That's one of the top 10 Blue Raspberry Cakes I've had.
Me: Wait, I thought this was a unique idea. How many have you had?
College Boy: Including yours? One.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I've mentioned many times that my boys don't cook, which makes me less than happy as they don't eat as healthy as I'd like. The other thing that's disappointing is that they always ask what's for dinner before committing to coming over. Guess it's not my beauty and charm they miss. So this was a recent conversation:

College Boy: Hi Mom, what's for dinner.
Me: I don't know what are you making me?
College Boy: McDonald's.
Me: Very funny.
College Boy: Mom?
Me: Yeah, honey.
College Boy: Would you like fries with that?

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I was talking to PurDude on the phone and I kept thinking his TV was on kinda loud. 

Me: Is that your TV? That's loud.
PurDude: I don't have anything on.
Me: You have to, I can hear a show.
PurDude: I don't have anything on and I don't hear anything.

We continued to talk but his TV that wasn't on was distracting.

Me: You don't hear that? It sounds like a TV show.
PurDude: No, I don't hear it. 

When we hung up I went to put my phone down when I looked and saw that somehow (who knows what I press and when) there was a video playing on my cell. Sorta sounded like a sitcom . . .

Yeah, I'm a technological genius, I know.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Sometimes, when Hubs gets really tired, he doesn't reason all that well.

Me: There's good news and bad news.
Hubs: What's the good news?
Me: We got College Boy's phone to sync with the car bluetooth.
Hubs: And the bad news?
Me: I think it's your phone we deleted from the system to make room for his. 
Hubs: OK. So when I call you in the car you'll just have to answer on your phone instead of bluetooth.
Me: Ummm . . . think that through again . . .

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

College Boy was going out with friends and was planning to come home afterwards. Part way through the night he texted me:

College Boy: I just realized I don't have my key. Can you unlock the door between the garage and the house? I'll come in using the garage door keypad.
Me: OK, I'll unlock that door but when you come in, be sure you put the garage door back down and lick the door to the house.
College Boy: Well, that sounds pretty unhealthy but if licking the door is the price I have to pay to get in, I guess so.
Me: LOCK. Dammit. Lock the door.
College Boy: Do I still need to lick it? Or can I just lock it?
Me: Smart ass.

Chicken Taco Stuffed Mushrooms, a bite sized appetizer packed with chicken taco flavor. Simple to make, fun to share. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #appetizer

Taco Chicken Stuffed Mushrooms
Taco Chicken Stuffed Mushrooms, a bite sized appetizer packed with chicken taco flavor. Simple to make, fun to share. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #appetizer

I was working in the kitchen and I had some walnuts in the oven so I could toast them. I didn't realize I'd forgotten them until I could smell my mistake.

Me (just talking out loud): Oh, crap.
Hubs (just walking into the room): What's wrong?
Me: I burned my nuts.
Hubs: Do we need to have the birds and the bees talk again . . .

Yeah, I'm surrounded by smart asses.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I totally won Black Friday. I stayed home, Hubs and PurDude went out shopping and the next day I was driving a new car. SCORE!

The next day Hubs was at work and I guess he was talking about the car. He texted me asking me to text him a pic of the car, which I did.

That night at dinner, Hubs confirmed that he got the text but says the pic is now gone.

Me: Gone? What do you mean? It's in your texts.
Hubs: No, it's gone. I made it go away somehow.

I get up and grab his phone.

Hubs: Is that my phone? What are you doing?
Me: Looking for the pic.
Hubs: Don't you believe me?
Me: Of course not.

And it's gone. He had deleted all of our text conversations. 
So from his phone I text myself "hi".
I respond to him: Stop deleting me.

I guess it took him a while to see the text, but later he comes up from downstairs.

Hubs: I got your text to stop deleting you.
Me: Yeah, that was a while ago.
Hubs: If you were going to text me, you could have sent me the pic again.
Me: You'd just delete it again.
Hubs: Well I wasn't going to, but I am now.
Me: You can't. You lost the pic.

Hubs walks away in a huff. And that, my friends, is what over 20 years of marriage looks like.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

It was the first night of Hanukkah and PurDude was coming to dinner. It was snowing so Hubs and I decided that I would move my new car over to the side of the 2-car part of our garage so when PurDude came he could just pull into the garage. I moved my car over but as I was getting out, the snowblower was too close to my door.

Me (calling out my car window to Hubs): Hey, can you move the snow blower so I don't hit it with the car door?
Hubs (moving the snow blower): It's no big deal, you wouldn't hurt the snow blower.
Me (incredulously): Snow blower? Screw the snow blower, I don't want to ding my new car.
Hubs: Oh yeah. Right. What you said.

 Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I mentioned that PurDude moved into an apartment downtown near work and I furnished it for him. Having seen the house (and I use that term loosely) that he had rented with a few friends at school, I was worried about what he'd be eating and if he'd be cleaning or would just emerge in a year with some kind of plague. 

Anyway, one chair I gave him for the living room, which we love, is a rocker recliner. It's so comfortable and he loves sitting in it watching TV. He came for dinner recently and told me he'd be getting rid of that chair.

PurDude: I have to replace the chair in the living room. I love it but it's peeling.
Me: Peeling?
PurDude: I guess it had been sitting in the sun in the guest room before we moved it to my house and the entire thing is peeling.
Me: I'm sorry to hear that, it's a great chair.
PurDude: I know, so comfortable, but it's making a mess. I have to vacuum every day.
{{big smile on my face}}
PurDude: What are you smiling about?
Me: You vacuum!!
PurDude (shaking his head and rolling his eyes): The things that make you happy . . .

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

When the boys were little, before school I would be in the kitchen, they and Hubs would sit at the counter in the morning and have breakfast together before they went to school, Hubs to work and me off to do errands. 

Last week I had gone to the grocery store and came back to find everyone here, a rare thing these days. Once the groceries were in, I ran into the mud room to start a load of laundry before putting the food away. 

I came back to find the box of 6 donuts was now a box of 3 donuts. PurDude, College Boy and Hubs were all sitting in their seats at the counter eating together.

It's been a while since I've smiled ear to ear like that. It's the little things, friends.

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Menopausal Mother 
Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Spatulas on Parade

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Taco Chicken Stuffed Mushrooms

8 oz button or baby bella mushrooms (approximately 20 mushrooms)
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp taco seasoning

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
*Gently wipe the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Carefully remove the stem leaving the mushroom intact. Place on the baking sheet with the hole facing up.
*Cut the slices of cheddar into about 6 pieces each. Gently push the center of each cheese slice into the center of each mushroom hole. It will drape over the side.
*Mix the chicken, salsa, jalapeno and cilantro. Place about a TBSP of this mixture on top of the cheese slices. Sprinkle with the taco seasoning.
*Bake for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mystery at the Castle. Chapter One: Friends for Life

It's been over a year since I shared a Progressive Story Project so let me re-introduce you to the concept. A Progressive Story is a collaboration, a challenge, and to me personally, a gift. I'm grateful to be able to coordinate and publish them.

A diverse group of bloggers, each with their own personal focus, their own voice and individual style of writing, come together to craft one story, one cohesive piece of fiction that I then get to share here on my blog.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story presented by | #blogging #collaboration

The way it works is that one participant writes a piece of a story, then each subsequent writer adds their contribution and passes it on to the next. In this way, everyone impacts but no one controls the piece. Where the story goes is up to us all. The challenge is to write a cohesive story. And thanks to some very talented friends, we've done that many times already. This is the 7th time writers have come together to collaborate on this project. Be sure to check out all of the previous stories:

Our first story was a holiday fantasy called A Holiday Story.
Next came a darker piece, Storm Past.
For our third project, we chose to revisit A Holiday Story and added four more chapters.
Sincerely Sarah was a story of personal strength.
Take Aim was about compassion, standing up for yourself and for others.
And Skin Deep was about choices.

Which brings us to today, chapter one of our newest story, Mystery at the Castle. To the far right at the top of each segment is the name and link to the blog of the writer of that section.

Mystery at the Castle, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story resented by | #blogging #collaboration

Chapter One: Friends for Life
Karen of Baking In A Tornado

'Why am I doing this?' she thought for about the 100th time. But she knew why, she loved her girlfriends. They'd been friends since college, 15 years now. Although she got together with a few of them here and there throughout the year, this once a year event is something none of them ever missed. No matter what, all 8 girls, women now actually, came together for a weekend of renewed friendship and uninterrupted fun.

'I just cannot believe Kathryn chose this', she thought, also for about the 100th time, since she'd heard the plan. 'Yes, each year one of us gets to choose and plan the entire weekend and yes, this is Kathryn's year. But renting out a castle on the coast of Rhode Island and planning a murder mystery weekend? Really? I mean it's not like Kathryn doesn't know what I do for a living.'

Still thinking that Kathryn could have chosen a different activity, yet knowing that it is always more about being together than anything else, Jill entered the formal dining room for dinner, surprised that she was the first to have descended the grand staircase for the kickoff of their weekend together. Looking around the room, Jill located the bar and headed in that direction. Not easily surprised, she actually was a little taken aback when she saw someone slumped in a chair behind the bar. 'Ah', she thought as she got closer, 'this is how it starts, a fake death. Let the mystery weekend begin.'

But the fictional mystery weekend was, in fact, not beginning. That was not an actor or a dummy. That is a real person and she was actually dead. If anyone would know, Jill would. After all, she's been a coroner for 10 years now.

Sarah Nolan  

Kathryn and Jill were sitting in the courtyard outside of their dorm, grasping their cups of hot coffee in their hands to help ward off the bitter cold air.

"A coroner? Really? That's such a creepy profession!" Kathryn said, scrounging up her nose at the thought of dealing with the dead.

"It's not creepy, it's a necessary part of life. More than that though, it's a chance to help tell someone's story who no longer can. If I can help just one Jane Doe find peace, it will all be worth it," Jill said, thinking back with sadness. No one knew the reason she picked this profession, not the real reason. That was her cross to bear and she didn't want to share that with anyone, not even her closest friends.

"Oh Jill . . . you and your crusade to save the world. You know you are going to change it one day, right?" Kathryn said, shaking her head.

But Jill wasn't so sure about that. Because to change the world, she had to risk her secret being exposed and that wasn't something she was willing to do. Her family's lives depended on that.
Diane of On the Border 
The instincts honed over ten difficult and rewarding years kicked in.

'Touch nothing, Jill!' she reminded herself sternly. 'Just take everything in . . . '

She pulled out her phone and stabbed '911', then, with it pressed to her ear, crouched down to get a better look at the silently slumped figure.

She sucked in a short, shocked breath and her phone fell from numbed fingers. "Kathryn?" she whispered. "Kath?"

Jill didn't know how long she crouched there, staring at the face of her friend. The wide, sightless eyes. The blue lips. The protruding tongue.

A voice from somewhere nearby finally penetrated the fog that seemed to have grown around her.

"911. Please state the nature of your emergency. Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? This is 911. Hello?"

Jill started blankly at the phone on the floor, then shook her head and picked it up. She again pressed it to her ear and tried twice to produce a voice from her constricted throat. "He . . . Hello?"

"This is 911, Ma'am. Please state the nature of your emergency."

Jill made numb lips move. "My friend's dead. Kath. She's dead. She planned this to be a murder weekend and now she's dead." Vaguely, she realized she was babbling, but nothing seemed to be connecting in her brain at the moment.

"Could you please repeat that?" the voice on the other end asked calmly. "Did you say someone was dead? Please give me your address."

Jill blinked. Address? Where were they? "It's a castle," she said, finally. "Kath arranged it. I . . . don't know the address."

"Please keep talking, Ma'am. We've triangulated your position and officers are on the way."

"Tell them it's a castle. And Kath is dead. Strangled."

"Did you say strangled, Ma'am?"

"I hope Kath let someone know the weekend schedule or this reunion is really going to be a bust!" someone said.

Jill turned her head, almost dropping the pone again. "Charly!" she squeaked.

Dropping the phone Jill stared at Charly, dressed to kill of course, in her Gucci suit and Coach purse. She said "well . . . did she let everyone know WHERE this God forsaken place is? Wait, what's wrong?" She moved toward the bar.

"NO! STOP! Jill said. "You can't come any closer."

"What in the hell is wrong with you?" Charly said, pushing Jill aside. She stopped dead in her tracks. "What, what the heck? Okay Kat THIS shit is NOT funny! Get UP NOW!" she yelled.

Jill grabbed her arm before she could grab the slumped over corpse that was their friend's now lifeless body. "No, don't Charly. It's Kat. She's dead, for real. This is no game."

THUD, and now Charly was on the floor at the exact moment the double doors flew open and in came the gang, all bright eyed, bushy tailed, giggly and clueless to what they were walking in to.

Jenn, Ash, Heather, Steph and Melissa came into the room like they were taking over the Paris runway. Jill rolled her eyes, was she the ONLY practical one?

She hopped off the floor and over to greet them before they compromised the scene any further. "Stop, please stop, don't move." Looking puzzled they saw Charly on the floor. Ash jumped and clapped her hands "ooh goody the fun has already started! Who did it, the butler with a knife, the maid with a broomstick, oh wait no, there's no weapon," she giggled.

"This is NO laughing matter and it's not a game! PLEASE listen to me for once!" THIS got their attention, for rarely did Jill assert herself when they were all present.

"Okay, we will not move, but what is going on? Why is Charly on the floor and is that Kat in the chair? What happened?" Melissa asked.

Sirens could be heard outside, then footsteps, it was all so fast. Four armed officers entered the room and walked around the ladies. "What happened here ladies?" asked the first officer. He looked at Melissa, then Jill. "Well, is someone going to speak up or not?"

Melissa seemed very offended and replied "WELL, WE were trying to find out when you burst into the room and shoved us aside!"

'Oh Lord' Jill thought, 'we're all going to jail!'

Jill stepped forward and began to explain to the officer. When she had finished, the EMS workers had arrived and Charly was sitting up on the floor with an oxygen mask. The other ladies were looking awful pale and Jill felt as if she was in a horrible nightmare and desperately wanted to wake up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Read on! Chapter two: Suspicion ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, and I don't forget today's recipe, Fruited Butternut Squash.

A flavorful side dish, mashed winter squash is studded with fruit and topped with pepitas to highlight its sweet and nutty flavors. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner

Fruited Butternut Squash

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Fruited Butternut Squash

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped 
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP melted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup cranraisins
1 small can mandarin oranges, drain and pat dry
1/2 cup pepitas (can substitute chopped pecans)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
*Cook the squash in the microwave for 3 minutes. If it's not fork tender, return to the microwave for another minute or until it is.
*Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, salt and pepper into the hot squash. Mash completely, then add the cranraisins and mandarin oranges.
*Transfer to the prepared casserole dish and cover with tin foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the tin foil, sprinkle the top with pepitas (or pecans) and return to the oven, uncovered, for 3 minutes.