Friday, September 4, 2020

Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash with Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

Katherine: Welcome Christine Ginardo as you celebrate the launch of our Prequel,

Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash!

Christine: Thanks! Our story is such an exciting end of summer read! And to add a little something to a reader's pleasure I've decided to share my delicioso recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti. A great treat to munch on while enjoying this fun great read that includes a chilling cold case.

Katherine: Now that is cool. Love your biscotti! Don't suppose you have any with you, already made? I can munch on one now and carry one in the slip pocket of my shoulder bag for later.

Christine: Of course Katherine, but I'm telling you the fun is also in the making, just like a mystery . . .


2+1/4 cups all-purpose flour (270g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter (42g)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar (150g)
2 tbsp olive oil (30ml)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1+1/2 cups pistachio, chopped (150g)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted (175g)
  1. In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl,mix butter, sugar, and oil on medium speed just until combined about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined. The cookie dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Fold in pistachios. 

  3. Divide cookie dough in half and form 2 equal sized logs about 1-inch height Place on the greased baking sheet 4-inches apart. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Then cut into 1-inch slices and set them on the cut sides upright about 1/4 inch apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Then turn them over and bake on the other side for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 

  4. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds. Dip each biscotti into chocolate and place on baking sheets or a wire rack. Sprinkle with additional pistachio. Let dry. Enjoy with a good book!

Christine: Now your only question is - One biscotti or two?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Travel Sparks Inspiration In Story Telling

MJ: Today's guest is a best selling author of romance, and she mixes in mystery, and her new novel has an historical setting that I particularly enjoy. Based on a true story, Wild Rose Pass is a romantic journey into yesteryear. 

Katherine: Yes, what a storyteller. Karen Hulene Bartell, welcome!

Karen: Thank you for inviting me to your blog! It’s a pleasure to chat with you and Purrada!

Katherine: My dear pet Purrada has gone from stray cat to pampered cat. She has such a purrsonality, and I do enjoy her. I understand as an author that you have your own mews for muse - three rescued cats and a rescued "Cat"ahoula Leopard dog. Can you tell us a little about your critters, and have any appeared in your books?

Karen: I jokingly call our three rescued cats and rescued *CAT*ahoula Leopard dog my “mews.” The cats either lounge on my desk or my lap while I write, and the dog sleeps beside my chair on his bed, so I’m surrounded by my “muse.” I wouldn’t say they inspire me, but they’re very empathetic and are the models for critters in my book.
For instance, Marmalade, our orange tabby stretched out on the desk, purrs as I write. He was the stimulus for Earnestine, the six-toed descendant of the Hemingway cat in The Keys: Voice of the Turtle, that “communicated” with the heroine.

Our *CAT*ahoula Leopard dog, Tory—short for Toreador because of his brindle coloring—looks like he’s wearing Toreador pants and a matching vest. He modeled for the puppy in Wild Rose Pass.

MJ: In your newest release, Wild Rose Pass, oh what a rocky romance when two people of such different backgrounds are drawn to each other. This exciting book is set in the wild west of 1880's Texas. The setting is so vivid. How did you research this time period, and bring it to life?

Karen: Sixteen years ago, my husband and I spent Christmas week hiking and horseback riding in Big Bend National Park. You’ve seen the area on maps—the southernmost tip of Texas that borders the Rio Grande and dips into Mexico. Spanning more than 800,000 acres of Chihuahuan desert, mountains, and rivers, Big Bend is larger than the state of Rhode Island—and wild with lions and bobcats and bears. Oh, my!
Driving home early that New Year’s morning, we missed the turnoff in Alpine and followed TX-118 north. Snow-covered and glinting against the frosty blue January sky, a remote jumble of mountain peaks and ranges beckoned as they rose above the desert floor. I was enchanted. Gazing at the sky island for the first time, wide-eyed, I wondered whether those rocky pinnacles were mirages or optical delusions.
But as the craggy peaks loomed larger (a mile high, I later learned), I realized they were no hallucination or Fata Morgana. A hasty glance at the map told us these were the Davis Mountains. As we approached, vertical basalt columns rose like thousands of giant fingers reaching for the sky. The palisades, buttes, and bluffs towered above both sides of Wild Rose Pass with a raw, majestic beauty, and I breathed a contented sigh, sensing a homecoming.
That missed turn took us only a half hour out of our way, but as we drove through Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains, it changed my life. From that day to this, it’s held my heart and imagination, and I’ve learned everything I can of its colorful history. Named after Jefferson Davis, Fort Davis has seen Buffalo soldiers, Indian Wars, Quanah Parker, cattle drives, Pancho Villa, and cinnabar mining.
When I learned a friend’s great-great-grandfather had not only worked for Fort Davis’ cavalry as an Indian scout in the 1870s and 1880s but had been captured as a child and raised by Comanches, an idea took root. The outcome of that budding thought bloomed into my latest historical novel: Wild Rose Pass, Book I of the Trans-Pecos Series.

Katherine: As a best-selling author, you write multicultural, offbeat love stories steeped in the supernatural that lift the spirit. Your wonderful book The Keys: Voice of the Turtle has a fabulous blend of romance mixed into a murder mystery and includes two intriguing apparitions. Can you tell us a little about crafting this mystery plot?

Karen: The Keys: Voice of the Turtle is about something familiar to us all—moving forward, getting over disappointments, even moving on. I started with a premise and the characters’ missions. From that perspective, I expanded the scope, dramatizing the story with ghosts passing over, widows remarrying, and PTSD victims starting over.
A probate battle over Keya’s turtle-nesting beach is the premise. Land-hungry relatives want it bulldozed and developed, but she wants it preserved as a turtle sanctuary. From there, a murder mystery evolves with a calculating killer and a vengeful ghost. A second apparition brings a 400-year-old mystery, along with buried treasure also connected to the land.
For me, travel sparks inspiration—and a visit to Key West and the keys triggered this novel. Whenever I visit provocative places, encounter new experiences, sample different ethnic foods, and chance upon stimulating people, I’m inspired. Ideas flow. (I should’ve been a travel correspondent.) There’s something about traveling that takes me out of my rut and propels me into new realms of possibility.
I’ve written some of my best concepts sitting in airports or hotel bathrooms at midnight (so I don’t wake my husband with the light). Being out of my element and in new environments stimulates my imagination. Traveling inspires me.
Each of my novels takes place in a different setting because as I visit those destinations, I’m infused with innovative ideas. I envision scene after scene, like vignettes flowing into the next and the next.
So what inspires me to write The Keys: Voice of the Turtle? Traveling to the unique keys with its distinctive ambiance. The atmosphere set the tone. Then the characters emerged, and finally the story unfolded.

Katherine: How important setting is in wonderful stories. Our mystery is set in Bayside, Washington. That's a completely fictional town near Seattle. The story and so many of the mystery's clues are greatly influenced by the sights in that part of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle's surprising history, and even the mystique of the area's weather including the secret that it doesn't always rain there. Bayside is such a contrast from Beverly Hills where my Katherine Watson's Designs company began and grew.  

MJ: Karen, you lived an interesting childhood, and wrote your first book at nine years old. How did your childhood influence your interest in writing, or the books that you write?

Karen: I’ve always had a creative imagination. (My childhood dolls were never baby dolls—always lady dolls, who went on exciting adventures.) But how did my childhood influence my interest in writing? In a word, reading. In second grade, my mother took me to the library and helped me choose books. By third grade, I had my own library card, walked to the library alone, and chose my own books. All during my childhood, my mother let me stay up as late as I wanted—if I read. As a result, I became a voracious reader, and in my case, writing was simply a natural progression from reading.
Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, I found my earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became my portable pals. Ghost stories kept me up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was my passion.
Wanderlust inherent, I enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, I began writing my first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating my HEAs.
However, I think everything we’ve ever read, seen, heard, and thought mingles and merges in our brains as we sleep or meditate. When inspired ideas crop up, I believe our minds recollect (re-collect) that information and reassemble it into the prose we write.

Katherine: Do you have any sentimental, or otherwise favorite handbag or other kind of bag? We'd love to hear about it.

Karen: Sorry, but I really don’t. I use the same black purse until it wears out, and then I replace it with another almost exactly like it. I was once given a citrus-green, alligator computer bag. I liked it, despite the fact I was a vegetarian at the time, and nothing I owned matched it, but it was, without a doubt, the most haute couture bag I’ve ever owned.

Katherine: As an author, I can see how having a great bag for your laptop is a must. Your favorite bag reflects your passion. We're encouraging everyone to find out more about you, Karen and your wonderful books on your website And who knows what your next trip will inspire!

That's meow for now, Purrada

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Mystery Kat Out of the Bag Video

Click on the link to see the video about Kat Out of the Bag mystery novel at the Edmonds Bookshop -

Books & Music Hit A High Note

A photo of Erica Miner
MJ: Love is a friendship set to music. That's a Joseph Campbell quote.

Katherine: That's sweet MJ. 

Calling out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancing in the street . . . .
All we need is music, sweet music
There'll be music everywhere . . .

Do you recognize - David Bowie, Mick Jagger

Katherine: You're in a musical mood and today we're so fortunate to be joined by a beautiful musician. Erica Miner has been a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York for 21 years. After such legendary artistry, she retuned and turned her talents to writing, and to mystery as an author. Welcome Erica!

You know Erica, I still remember that feeling when I held my first Katherine Watson Designs Purse in my hands. What was your feeling as you began your very first performance with the Metropolitan Opera? Do you remember what you played? 

Erica: OMG, so exciting! And how could I forget what I played on my first day on the job? It was a rehearsal of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, a gorgeous opera that I didn’t know at all. I was terribly nervous, especially when I saw the Music Director, James Levine, on the podium. What a way to start my very first day, playing for the Boss—trial by fire. But the singers were Jon Vickers and Martina Arroyo, two of the greatest opera stars of the time. When I saw them onstage and they started singing, I was in heaven. Imagine that, being serenaded by them! My first performance was Mozart’s Don Giovanni, fortunately an opera I knew inside out, so although it was exciting it wasn’t nearly as nerve wracking as that first rehearsal. Plus the great Kiri Te Kanawa was singing. What’s not to love about that?

Katherine: Your music passion and talent are celebrated. Along with that comes a commitment to study and also practice. How active was your family in supporting your musical aspirations?

Erica: I was so lucky. My parents were both Russian emigrés and they brought with them from the old country a deep love for classical music. So, there was music playing in our house 24/7 when I was growing up. My father was my first violin teacher. And my mother was a total opera aficionado. She listened to the Met Opera radio broadcasts every Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t heavily into opera as a kid, but I’m sure all of that music from the Met must have filtered in somehow! I didn’t like to practice violin all that much. I was a quick study and was able to ‘sight-read’ most music and learn it quickly, which meant I often got away with as little practice as possible. My dad was not happy about that, for sure.

Katherine: They must have been so proud hearing you play for the Met. Do you have any advice for today's young musicians, and their families?

Erica: Because of the health crisis we are experiencing today, the music world is also in crisis. Performing in a group situation with lots of people in close proximity for an audience is virtually impossible in a socially distancing mode. Musicians are aching to perform, and have been doing as much as possible online, but of course it’s just not the same. All I can say to young musicians is to keep practicing and honing your craft as best you can under the circumstances, until such time as we all can experience music in a true performance situation. Meanwhile, all that families of young musicians can do is support their young aspiring musicians, encourage them to practice, and show interest in listening to them play. We will get through this.

Katherine: The Met Opera is so glamorous, the building, the sets the costumes, the dresses, the purses. On my trips to New York, I have indulged in tickets. I don't suppose you ever get to borrow any of the props? How close do you get to the backstage delights?

Erica: I used to hang out backstage all the time, watching the goings on in the wings and onstage as people prepared to perform. It was fascinating. I watched stagehands moving sets and props around, singers warming up; it was an absolute beehive of activity. I never borrowed props, but I did borrow costumes several times. The wardrobe mistress at the time was very liberal about lending us costumes for any events we might need them for. My husband and I used to go to gatherings of his French friends (in New Jersey, where we lived) and the Met wardrobe mistress took me into the vast sea of costumes and let me choose whichever ones I wanted to borrow (assuming they fit, of course). You cannot imagine the quantity of costumes—as far as the eye could see! I remember borrowing costumes from such operas as Don Giovanni, Salome and The Ghosts of Versailles (I still have pictures of those). What fun it was to dress up in costumes that had been worn on the Met stage.

Katherine: Kate Spade once said that playing dress-up begins at age five and never really ends.

Nadia Boulanger : News Photo

MJ: The first female conductor was Nadia Boulanger with the London Philharmonic in 1936. You've played music with some celebrated conductors, Erich Leinsdorf, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine. Can you tell us a little about playing opera with them, and is it difficult to adapt to a new conductor's style?

Erica: I always found it difficult in some ways to keep switching from one conductor to another, but overall it’s in an orchestra player’s DNA to adjust to many conductors. Leinsdorf was a truly great conductor of the old school. Very authoritarian, but in a way that served the music. He actually chewed me out in the middle of a rehearsal for not having my bow coordinated with the rest of the first violin section. I was appalled. But I did get a lot of sympathy from my colleagues. I think they were glad it wasn’t them being singled out! Bernstein was heaven. He was so brilliant in every way, yet he was so emotionally tuned in to the music and to us musicians. Just a joy. Levine was the Music Director, so we had the closest relationship with him, day in and day out. He also was brilliant; not as demonstrative as Bernstein but he really loved music and had a way of communicating that. Each conductor is different; some we love, some we don’t. but that’s what makes a musician’s life so interesting.

Katherine: When someone asks me to pick a favorite purse I've designed, I really have such trouble choosing just one. Each means something different to me. But, do you have a musical piece that is your favorite to play? And if so, what makes it a favorite?

Erica: Katherine, I also have difficulty choosing a favorite opera. I have one, Manon Lescaut, that I just love to death in every way. But as far as a favorite to play, that is quite different. Some of the music I adore is not always such fun to play. But if I had to pick one, that would be Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Not only is the music gorgeous, but it’s written for the violin in a way that exploits all the possibilities of the instrument: challenging but totally playable. Plus I love the story and the singing. It’s such fun to accompany all the wonderful singing and stage antics going on up there!

MJ: Oh yes, that's another smooth way to tell a story. Katherine sees personality traits in what bags people carry. For me astrological signs are revealing. You're an Aries, aren't you? You show passion and motivation. Also confidence as a leader building community with a cheerful disposition and relentless determination. You've built a new life in the Pacific Northwest. What do you like best here?

Erica: Oh yes, I am so totally an Aries! And I am relentlessly determined—just ask my husband! ;-) What I like best about living here, aside from having my daughter and her family living so close by, is the beauty of Nature that surrounds us. Very different from southern California, which was my most recent home base, but so lush and green. I can look out my office window and, depending on the season, see evergreens, roses, and flowering trees and bushes in every direction. But most of all, I am in awe of all the wonderful people that form the writing community here in the PNW. In just four years since I moved here I’ve met and formed relationships with so many fantastic writers, both in the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, who are all so very supportive of what I’m doing with my writing. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this community. I know I can depend on them to help me promote my work, and in turn they can depend on me. The people here are truly unique in that regard.

Katherine: You've got mystery in your repertoire as well. You know I love a mystery, with the Kat Out of the Bag novel about my own mystery around the Bayside Mayor's murder at my Gala party. It's the first of the In Purse-Suit mysteries. You've authored a mystery series about murder at the opera, each at different opera houses. It all started with Murder in the Pit. They're fun to read. Are your mysteries fun to research and write?

Erica: OMG, so much fun to research! I do a lot of research for my opera lectures, and for my books, and they both infuse each other with fascinating information about the opera world that I’ve learned in the process. Admittedly I didn’t have to do that much research for Murder in the Pit, since it takes place at the Met and I worked there for so many years. And as I mentioned above, I spent lots of time hanging out backstage and also exploring the back stairways, hallways and even dark corners. So I had the atmosphere pretty much nailed. For Death by Opera, I’d never been to Santa Fe Opera but luckily I had a close friend from the Met who provided me with the entrée to meet people in various departments and interview them, take tours of the opera house and campus and in general absorb the setting and environment. I also had an absolute blast researching the amazing history of Santa Fe—ghosts and all!

Katherine: Your protagonist Julia Kogan partners with an NYPD detective Larry Somers, a very interesting contrast of personalities. Do you think Larry would get along well with my friend Jason Holmes, our local Bayside officer with his K-9 Hobbs? 

Erica: As you will see in the upcoming sequel, Larry tends to get along well with all of his professional colleagues in the business of investigating crime. It might be fun, in fact, to have him and your characters meet someday—fictionally of course. The only person he doesn’t always get along with is Julia. They are indeed very contrasting personalities, and they don’t always see eye to eye. But they have a deep fondness for each other. that’s what makes their story together so interesting: lots of fun banter between them, and a lot of conflict which, as we know, is an important element in writing a good story.

Katherine: Yes, I'm familiar with not seeing things eye to eye, and then we end up toe to toe.

MJ: Erica, tell us about your next mystery that will be available soon. Can you tell us which opera house is the setting?

Erica: For the next sequel, which takes place at San Francisco Opera’s War Memorial Opera House (title under wraps for now), I again knew people who introduced me to the movers and shakers of the company. They are such a wonderful bunch. I got tours of the opera house from top to bottom, access to the company archives and more. I had an absolute blast: researching the history of the city and of the company, and touring the many locations for the book’s setting. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say there are a number of twists having to do with a brand-new character and Julia and Larry’s resulting conflict over that character. Plus: San Francisco! What’s not exciting about that city. The manuscript is finished, and I’ve gotten to see some proofs of the cover art. My publisher has set a ‘tentative’ date for publication of Nov. 15 this year. One never knows what’s going to happen in the current situation, but it certainly is interesting publishing a book during a pandemic. I’m really psyched to see the final product once it comes out. Stay tuned!

MJ: I'm tuned in. Your new book sounds so good. I'm flashing on memories of my own groovy times in San Francisco. Do you have some favorite mystery authors?

Erica: Some of my favorites are Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie, and Janet Evanovich.

MJ: I've heard you've been called the Agatha Christie of Opera. I agree!

Katherine: I love all those authors. I mention in my mystery the exciting impact growing up reading the Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew books. I'm such a fan! That publisher, Edward Stratemeyer published children's books including Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins. As the 1920's ended he had the idea for a girl detective. He hired the first ghost writer for the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She was Mildred Augustine who wrote The Secret of the Old Clock, published in 1930. She was paid $125. She went on to write 23 of the 30 books under this pseudonym. 
In this case the protagonist was much like the author. Mildred was a tomboy who loved to read and had many education and professional accomplishments. Later she wrote her own series too, Penny Parker Mystery Stories in her married name of Mildred Wirt Benson. She was an adventurer, in addition to writing she obtained a commercial and private pilot license and traveled throughout the world. She was well known in the Midwest as a journalist.

Thank you so much for joining us Erica. I'm excited to read the next in your series. For now, it's time for curtain call. Everyone can find more information on your website

Erica: Thank you, guys!! You ask great questions, and it’s been a pleasure connecting with you. Arrividerci, au revoir, and Aufwiedersehen!

Friday, July 3, 2020

240 Women Started It, In July

Suffragettes : News PhotoMJ: This November it will be 100 years, the centennial celebration of women's right to vote in the United States. It was a long time coming. The Suffragette movement in the US started in July, 1848 with 240 women in Seneca Falls, New York. Included in the group were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

Katherine: It's a super example of the power of everyday women's unity, and courage. Many suffered terribly and were jailed in tragic conditions, some gave their lives. They were kept away from their families, their children. In our Purse Museum of Women's History, and in our mystery novel Kat Out of the Bag, we highlight amazing times of women's history, like this. The incredible courage of everyday women.

MJ: Women's fight for the vote has happened worldwide at different times in history. The most recent where women have won the right to vote is Saudi Arabia, in 2015. Now is a great time to talk about this meaningful victory in the US that all began more than a century ago in another July. The actions of the original 240 women were delayed by the sorrows of the Civil War and Reconstruction. But, in 1869 the National Woman Suffrage Association led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was established and then there was no looking back. Their efforts were also joined by men who agreed with their cause.

Katherine: It's so important to vote. Not only as a citizen's responsibility, but also because so many gave so much before us, so we can vote.

Edwin P. Morrow Signs The Anthony Amendment : News PhotoMJ: In 1890 Wyoming became the first state where women gained the right to vote. 

In 1919, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution - "the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex," passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. Eight days later, the 19th Amendment took effect.

Katherine: Cally Blackman is a lecturer at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts, London). A Portrait of Fashion, is a National Portrait Gallery book by Cally Blackman and Aileen Ribeiro. Cally writes about the British Suffragettes and says "Fashion, feminism and politics has always been heated territory, and the suffragettes knew this. Instead of deploying a strategy of resistance by refusal, they chose resistance through reversal. They sought to effect change not by challenging contemporary fashion and ideals of femininity, but by conforming to them. Haunted by the stereotypical image of the “strong-minded woman” in masculine clothes, pebble-thick glasses and galoshes created by cartoonists, they chose instead to present a fashionable, feminine image."

MJ: In England The suffragettes’ came up with a color scheme, a sort of code through fashion branding. Suffragettes wore purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. Members were encouraged to wear the colors including tricolor-striped ribbon for hats, belts, rosettes and badges, as well as colored garments, shoes, and yes handbags. 

Katherine: Handbags, of course! 

Friday, June 19, 2020

An Author's Dad

I hit the jackpot when I won John Kendall as my dad. 

Such a compassionate man. He taught me so much and inspired the constant drive to follow my dreams, and to dream big and with passion. He started my lifelong joy in stories, reading and writing them. He was an adventurer and a dreamer himself. He lived big and loved big. He loved his family and was surrounded by love of family and friends. He was a hero. I miss him every day, and I'm so grateful that although he's gone, he'll always be my dad.

Happy Father's Day!

My dad was one of the Greatest Generation. Here he is with his dad when he joined up with the British Army. In World War II he fought the Japanese forces in what was then known as Burma. Before he went overseas he double dated with a buddy where they were both on blind dates. My dad liked the other girl, and deftly switched so that he ended up driving the other girl home. He asked her out and they dated until he went overseas. When the War was over they married. John and Pam Kendall were happily married 49 years.

My dad was born in England. There's actually a town in the Lake District named Kendal, although he wasn't born there. His grandparents managed a pub named The Swan. His father was an entrepreneur, which meant that he tried his hand at many different livelihoods. Sometimes my dad lived in England, sometimes in Canada, and sometimes in the U.S. When he was very young he lived on a farm. He used to tell me that when he was as young as 4 years old he was told it was his chore to get up early in the morning, before sunrise, and get the cows out to the field. It was so scary for him at such a young age, the cows so big and it was all so dark. My father was very courageous from an early age. This picture of me at 4 years old on his parents farm so many years later just outside Toronto makes me realize how tough his responsibility had been.

Another favorite childhood story he told was when his mother finally took him to an optometrist because he was having such trouble in his classes at school. He said he'd never forget the amazing moment when he walked out of the optometrist office with his new glasses. He could see all the way across the street! He could see details of everything. He was so excited, the world looked beautiful. All his life he retained that delight and wonder in the world around him. He ended up in many scuffles at school over being called four eyes and kids trying to break his glasses and sometimes succeeding, but it was all worth it to him for the miracle of sight.

 My dad was my hero. I wish I could have handed to him my book, but he did not live to see me published. We spent so many hours together reading and talking about books and favorite authors. Before I could read he would read to me. My absolute favorite was The Jungle Book and also the Just So Stories. I could not get enough. Read it again! Read it again! He loved Rudyard Kipling too. Dad always supported my dream to be an author, a dream that started when I was 8 years old. I won two school awards for writing composition contests. My dad celebrated by giving me this tray with an old fashioned globe and pen holders to commemorate my middle school win. It now sits in my writing studio right behind my desk and next to a copy of Kat Out of the Bag. He was right, literacy opens worlds for your imagination. 

For my high school win, this gorgeous pen set was my surprise gift, and it sits proudly on my desk in my writing studio.
A character much like my dad is in my book, and the sequel that's coming along.

After the War my parents left England for Toronto. My dad started in the mail room and saw the beginning of the merger of Toronto Bank and Dominion Bank. Yes, today we all know them as TD Ameritrade. From the mail room, through sales, and on to a transfer to California and my dad continued his work to become President of TD California. They loved their very active life in California and were surrounded by so many wonderful friends and enjoyed their life very much, first in Los Angeles, and later in San Francisco and Northern California. He loved sports, his favorite was rugby that he enthusiastically played when he was young. He loved watching American football. He played tennis and later golf and is one of those golfers who hit a hole-in-one. Odds of that are 1 in 12,500.
Family was so important to Dad. Here we are on a visit to beloved relatives in England.


They were blessed with 8 grandchildren. Here they are enjoying a couple of the visits with my older son when he was at very young ages.

So grateful for you, Dad. Gone far too soon!
Missing you on Father's Day and every day!

Best wishes to all you Father's out there, and all you who are being Father to someone. It's a most important endeavor, and we love you for it!

A life well lived

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Dad - When A Wallet Is Not Enough

Katherine: What's great about handbags is the mix of fashion and functionality. Handbags give us a way to carry what we need with us in style.

MJ: It's men who started carrying handbags. The oldest known purse found is 5,000 years old and worn by a man, Otzi  the iceman mummy he was nicknamed. He was found in 1991 in the Otztal Alps.

Katherine: Purse-cicle 

MJ: The name handbag first came from the hand luggage men carried when train traveling in the 1800's. Later women started carrying more intricate bags too and the name stuck with those.

Katherine: How about contemporary men, and Dads - Our guest today is Maeson's proud father, Andrew Van Ness. How do you like fatherhood?

Andrew: Fatherhood is great! It's kind of a weird mix of always being tired with frequent punctuations of absolute joy. Maeson recently had his first birthday and he's crawling, walking with assistance, and loves gabbing in the adorable way that babies do.

MJ: Maeson is the cutest! Happy Birthday wishes! Tell us about some of his favorites - games, stuffed animal, toys, food, picture book . . . 

Andrew: Maeson has so many favorites. He is a big fan of playing peek-a-boo. He loves to throw a blanket over his head then ripping it off again. He also really likes playing with pots and pans and we give him a wooden spoon the he uses to hit the pots with. He's like a little Ringo Starr. Maeson can be a bit of a picky eater but he always loves to eat his yogurt. He laps it up as fast as he can. Every night we read a few books as part of Maeson's bedtime routine and his favorite book seems to be Good Night Sleepy Moon.

Good Night, Sleepy Moon by Danielle McLean

MJ: Ringo, what a drummer! He's one of my four favorite Beatles. Maeson is off to a great start with his music. And after the Beatles, Ringo wrote a super children's book Octopus's Garden. Maeson might enjoy that one too. Like Ringo said, "I like kids. I used to be one."

Katherine: Such an active baby means you have lots of stuff to carry for him. What baby bag are you and your wife rocking? What do you like most about it?

Andrew: We use a PiPi Bear diaper bag. It has a good amount of space within the bag, and lots of pockets inside to help keep everything stored and organized, which when you need to find a new diaper ASAP, is a real life saver! It also has an insulated pocket for putting bottles or any snacks that you want to keep cool while going out and about.

Katherine: Love the sleek lines. How does Maeson take after his dad? Like father like son?

Andrew: Maeson and I have quite a few similarities. Some simple things are we both like scalp massages, we're both pretty laid back individuals, and we also both enjoy a good cuddle. So we're both pretty good cuddle buddies. My wife would also point out that we're both pretty stubborn. We both like to do things in our own time and in our own way and you'd be hard pressed to get around it.

Katherine: Sounds like the apple falls close to the tree. You're not just a busy father, you also have a challenging job. Tell us about your interesting work.

Andrew: I'm a Business Analyst at Symetra Financial. It can definitely be a challenging job juggling all the tasks that we handle every day. We're updating contracts, helping launch new products, and doing various other forms of research every day. But I genuinely couldn't ask for a better team to work with. I feel like everyone is really close and equally interested in hearing about what's going on outside of work as helping each other during the day.

Katherine: Symetra's reputation for financial and insurance products is excellent. They're dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. They're committed to giving back to communities too. Andrew, you have a lot of responsibility. I understand you are also able to work from home, but when you do go into the office what do you replace the baby bag with? I mean men have a lot to carry - maybe a laptop, ipad, phone, and that's just for starters. What bag do you like to carry? A messenger bag? Backpack? Something else? Or are you strictly a wallet and pockets man?

Well on a normal day where I'm not going to work, I typically just rely on my pockets. But when I go to work, I actually use a briefcase. I have tried messenger bags but the load you get on one shoulder really starts to take a toll as your bag slowly gets more and more items added to it. Then I switched to using a backpack and that was a lot better. You have more equal support and backpacks are typically larger so you can fit more into them. But one big issue with backpacks is when you ride the bus, like I do it is easy to bump into folks. I also have sensitive skin so I noticed that after months of using a backpack every day, I was getting dry patches right where the straps would go. That's why I moved to a briefcase. It's smaller but it's nice because you can switch hands easily, it doesn't get in people's way on the bus, and it doesn't irritate my skin.

Katherine: Ytonet is known for an Italian design style. Very nice. I always like to hear a good debate between a messenger bag and a backpack. In our mystery book Kat Out of the Bag I gave my sons messenger bags as gifts. Jason, one of our Bayside cops is strictly a wallet and pockets man. Other men characters make other choices. Actually, when looking at suspects, what people carry often indicates aspects about their personalities that can provide clues. People carrying a briefcase like yours value style and organization over spectacle.  These are people with a subtle, but great sense of humor too. Yet they have a practical side and are focused and determined. Does your wallet have RFID protection? RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification Device and it can prevent unauthorized readers from stealing data off wallet contents like ID cards, and credit cards.

Andrew: My wallet does not have RFID protection. I use the same wallet that I have used since high school and just can't convince myself I need a new one.

Katherine: Stop by our Purse Museum gift shop in Bayside anytime and maybe Amber's inventory can tempt you. And so many men's bag designers have great products and give back to the community too. One example is DamnDog that gives back to the SPCA for the prevention of cruelty to animals. What are you and Maeson looking forward to on Father's Day this year?

Andrew: Well we are still only in phase 2 of the quarantine where I live so it will more than likely be my wife and I staying home and trying to find a moment to relax while still chasing Maeson around the house.

Katherine: That sounds just as it should be, filled with love and laughter. Here's wishing you and all the fathers a very happy day with their families. You are so important in future generations' lives.

MJ: And a very happy play time for Maeson too!