Holy guacamole, a book sale!

 

For a limited time, I can make four of my favorites available in hardcover for the low, low price of $10 each, $5 for paperbacks. Better yet, I'll personalize them! To order, use the "notes to Martha" tab on my website or email me at martha@marthafreeman.com.

 

Who Stole New Year's Eve?  Who stole all the ice sculptures from the College Springs winter carnival – and why? The case ought to be perfect for 12-year-old sleuths and Chickadee Court residents Alex Parakeet and Yasmeen Popp. Unfortunately, Yasmeen’s dislike of Eve, the new girl on the block, threatens the friendship. Is Alex on his own this time? Or is Eve his partner now? Before the detecting’s done, Alex will march in the holiday parade, celebrate Eve’s New Year’s Eve birthday, sniff out tricky clues all over town, and confront explosive danger in the dark. As always, Luau the ace-detective cat, is on hand to help out. With its fast-paced plot, humor and enticing clues, Who Stole New Year’s Eve? will draw in even reluctant readers, according to School Library Journal.

The Orphan and the Mouse  Set in a Philadelphia orphanage in 1949, The Orphan and the Mouse has the feel of a classic and the pacing of contemporary thriller. Caro is a kindhearted and reliable 10-year-old whose mother died in a fire. Mary Mouse has a high prestige job, art thief, in the mouse colony that lives in the orphanage wall. Caro’s rescuing Mary from a wicked cat sets off a series of events that changes both their lives and exposes corruption at the heart of both the colony and the orphanage. Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and Junior Library Guild pick.

The Case of the Ruby Slippers When the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” go missing, White House kids Cammie, Tessa and Nate are called on to get them back and expose the thief. Complicating matters are a family surprise party, a visit from a teen-age singing sensation, conflict in a certain nearby nation, and the too energetic White House dog who has a thing for slippers, even if they’re priceless. Loaded with plot twists, villains, action and hilarity, this puzzling story proves there’s no place like home – especially when home is the White House.

Who Stole Halloween?  On a gray and spooky October afternoon, the kind when trees look like skeletons and shadows look like ghosts, Alex and Yasmeen see a missing-cat flyer posted in a cemetery. Weird place for a flyer, thinks Alex. This could be the start of another mystery! thinks Yasmeen. Soon the kid sleuths are searching for a black cat named Halloween at the same time they try to solve a 100-year-old murder blamed on a cat. A Texas Bluebonnet pick.

 

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Cookie Recipes!

Shortbread cookies

1/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cube (1/2 c.) plus ¾ cube (6 T) butter, cut in pieces
 
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Briefly process oats in a food processor till reduced to about 1/3 c. of oat flour.  Add to this the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Or – if you don’t have a food processor – use a blender to make the oat flour, and combine with the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Drop butter pieces here and there into dry ingredients and pulse or mix briefly just till dough forms and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove dough to floured board, press into a 10-inch circle, pierce here and there with toothpick and cut into eight wedges. Place wedges on cookie sheet and bake. Check after 12 minutes, but it will probably take more like 18. Edges should be just browning.  
 

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Cookie Recipes!

Best-Ever Healthy Cookies
(These are high fat but also high nutrition.)

1 c. whole wheat flour
¾ t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
¼ t. powdered ginger
1 ½ c. dried fruit such as currants, raisins, or craisins
1 c. EACH walnuts, pecans, peanuts (salted or not), and rolled oats, for a total of four cups
1/2 c. EACH pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and wheat germ, for a total of two cups
½ lb. butter (two sticks)
½ c. peanut butter*
1 ¼ c. packed brown sugar (light or dark)
2 eggs
¼ c. milk
½ c. sugar laced with a pinch of ginger and a pinch of sea or kosher salt (in which to roll cookies)
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or use parchment paper to line. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl. Add dried fruit and toss till the pieces don’t stick together. Add ingredients through oats and mix together.

Beat butter and peanut butter together with a mixer, then add sugar and beat well. Beat in the eggs and milk.

Pour butter mixture into flour mixture and toss till the dough is well mixed.

Chill dough for about 30 minutes, then roll teaspoon-size balls in ½ cup of sugar laced with ginger and salt. Drop balls onto prepared cookie sheets and flatten slightly. They should be about two inches apart. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned and almost firm to the touch. These are a little fragile at first so let them rest on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

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#Badpoem for When You're Down in the Dumps

Existence is meaningless, so we believe

In fairies, and Zeus, and in Adam and Eve,

In Mohammed, Paterno, Bumgarner and Jeter,

In Jesus, LeBron, Click and Clack, and St. Peter.

Call it fate. Call it nature.

It’s hard-wired our brains

To seek cause for effect,

To seek that which explains

Why Meursault shot that guy in the sun in Algeria,

Why ISIS beheads the do-gooders in Syria

Why heroes who selflessly care for the dying

Not only get sick but endure vilifying.

In her last fevered anguish at bleak Bergen Belsen,

Anne walked back her thinking on people’s essentials.

The fables of Aesop, the suras, the psalms

The wisdom of ages. Forget ’em. They’re wrong.

When the universe speaks, it speaks with asperity

Sit on your butt and forget about charity.

So there’s that. . .  but take heart, slip the slough of despond

By turning your eyes from the doubtful beyond.

By sugaring oatmeal and lacing up shoes.

By sweeping the stoop and foregoing some booze.

Give a dime to the homeless, recycle that bottle,

Grow organic tomatoes and improvise doggerel.

See each action taken, both little and small

As heroic defiance by us against all.

Make beauty, speak truth, do extravagant kindness.

How unwise. How absurd. And how else to define us?

Poem badpoem

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Grandpa's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anybody can make chocolate chip cookies, but these have a couple of Grandpa’s secrets to make them light and chewy.  

Grandpa’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Makes about four dozen)

1 cup softened butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup oat flour (see note)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons hot water

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli or another premium brand)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, oat flour, chocolate chips, and nuts (if using). Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased pans. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges are just brown.

 Note: For oat flour, grind a scant 1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant and not steel cut) in a food processor for about five seconds to yield 1 cup oat flour.

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Fame

Go ahead and praise me.

I promise I don’t mind.

These would be pop lyrics

If I weren’t so refined.

 

They say a no-talent can play

Bass adequately well,

Approximate the chords and fake

That teen spirit smell.

 

All I need’s a camera.

I’ll gel my hair in spikes,

Break out with a Youtube hit

And get a zillion likes.

 

Dire Straits wanted MTV,

And Warhol 15 minutes,

Icarus flew too near the sun.

Does that mean there are limits?

 

Still I’d risk the frightful plunge,

Shell out my last few dimes

For Facebook love and Googles of

My insubstantial rhymes.

 

But how ironic it would be

If these poor verses are

Not Twitter faved and Pint’rest craved

But TLDNR.

 

Go ahead and praise me.

I promise I don’t mind.

These would be pop lyrics

If I weren’t so refined.

badpoem

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Crazy Cat Lady 2

The crazy cat lady was so far gone

By the time the medics got there

That all they could do was tag her toes with limericks,

Hide her hair under a pink beret,

And draw daisies on her cheeks in Sharpie.

crazy-cat-lady-action-figure.jpg

The cats were too busy playing to the cameras to care

Till Animal Rescue arrived and doused them with Glade,

And linked them tail-to-tail on a ribbon chain  

Like elephants in a circus parade, only

(Like I said),

They were cats. And weren’t they a sight?

The neighbors threw popcorn. Vultures came, and other thrill-seekers.

A din ensued and the cats slipped away, Animal Rescue foiled.

Much later, the crazy lady awoke, sat up, read the limericks out loud,

Scrubbed at the daisies, pulled down the beret and set out to wrangle cats,

Someone else’s or her own,

Last seen scanning the shelves at duty-free

For Toblerones and gin.

 

badpoem, cats, crazy cat lady

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On Growing Up

Some people never want to grow up.

Many people see growing up as grim necessity.

And a few – but not many -- think the whole growing up deal is pretty good.

That’s what I learned when I asked fans of my Facebook page to complete the following: You’re not really a grown-up until….

There were 33 responses, which makes this a valid scientific survey offering insight into the state of contemporary society. I know this to be true because I live in a university town and can plot coordinates on a graph, not that I have any intention of doing so. Also, it’s the only survey I got, so I am going to draw provocative conclusions in hopes that I will get media attention and eventually major funding from some nonprofit that also gives to NPR.

The No. 1 reason people offer for being happy about growing up is that they no longer feel bad when they act like kids. Grown-ups, for example, don’t feel stupid when they tell bad jokes. Likewise, grown-ups can eat candy for breakfast.

This would seem to fly in the face of the well-known lyric from “Peter Pan,” wherein Peter worries that growing up “means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree.” A real grown-up, according to this model, climbs a tree any old time he feels like it.

Sadly, this is a minority view. For most people, the life of the grown-up is a hard life.

Several people saw growing up in terms of enduring. This could be personal tragedy (undefined), the death of parents, or a child’s trip abroad.

The most common response had to do with taking responsibility: for making your bed, taking care of an animal or child, paying student loans or a cell phone bill, cleaning up your own messes, confronting crises without whining, carrying Band Aids, or putting a coaster under your glass. My own responses came under this heading. A grown-up makes her own bed and a grown-up flosses her teeth. Any of these could also be framed, I think, as heeding the internalized voice of whoever it was that raised you.

A slightly more positive spin came from those who noted the grown-up’s changed taste in material goods. What makes a grown-up happy? Buying a new vacuum cleaner or washer and dryer.

For a couple of moms, being a grown-up means facing with equanimity the disgusting, such as a child handing you his chewed gum, or throwing up in your bed.

And several people saw growing up strictly in terms of perception. A grown up thinks following Peter Pan is a bad idea. A grown up does not believe in magic. A grown up is anyone who identifies as one. Similarly, the day you realize you sound like your parents, are grateful to your parents, or carry a plastic rain-bonnet the way your grandmother did – that’s the day you officially grow up.

Three people said they hadn’t grown up yet, and at least one – like Peter Pan -- didn’t plan to. Ironically, Peter sings “I Won’t Grow Up” as a lesson for his followers, the lost boys. According to the lyrics, growing up means “I must prepare to shoulder burdens with a worried air.”

In other words, grown-ups not only have work to do, they also have to stress out about it!

It’s enough to make you wonder what ideas about adulthood we’re projecting on our kids. Maybe we’re all just a little too gloomy. Maybe we should be buying more sweepers and washer-dryers to cheer ourselves up.

Finally, one respondent saw growing up as realizing you’re as competent as you’re ever going to be. This response is simultaneously bracing – go for it! -- and terrifying. What if as competent as you’re ever going to be isn’t very?

In the 1960s there was a commercial for a headache pill in which an adult daughter snaps, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself.” I'd say that about sums it up. For most people, growing up means letting go of the idea that someone else -- your mother, a genie, a handsome prince – is going to rescue you and clean up the mess. Growing up means self-reliance. Oh, and it also means headaches.

growing up, headaches, Anacin

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BadPoems

I have been trying my hand at poetry for fun, encouraged by friends of mine who (gulp) write a poem every day! This I accomplished for a short while before life got in the way. I call my poems "badpoems," because that way I don't have the pressure of making them good.

Children, don't try this at home.

More accurately, they are "fastpoems" because I write them in 30 minutes in the morning before breakfast but after coffee. It is very much a matter of seeing what comes into my head at that time then trying to make something of it.

In honor of fall, Halloween-to-Holidays, here is "Ghosts and Angels."

I repurposed the tissue-paper ghosts

As angels

By adding cardboard wings.

Their eyes and mouths are only dots of ink,

But I splurged on their voices.

I hired June Foray.

My angels are not aloof like Mary Oliver’s.

In fact, they will perch on your shoulder

And provide advice

While they await their devil companions.

 

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Who Stole New Year's Eve?

“Who Stole New Year’s Eve?” has what I think is the best first line of any of my books:

“The first time I ever saw Eve Henry, I was holding a chocolate cream pie.”

That’s Alex Parakeet talking. Along with his friends Sophie and Yasmeen, and his cat, Luau, the 11-year-old has earned a reputation as a detective. He doesn’t yet know it when he meets new neighbor Eve Henry – and delivers a chocolate cream pie to her family -- but he is about to be presented with a new mystery, the most puzzling one yet.

“Who Stole New Year’s Eve?” is the fifth Chickadee Court book. The idea for this one began to germinate when my friend Becky Collins, librarian at Park Forest Elementary School, mentioned that her students feel left out on New Year’s Eve. I might not be able to solve that problem in real life, I thought. But I can solve it in a book – and so I did.

All the Chickadee Court books are set in College Springs, a fictional small town with a big university. I never know exactly where my zany plots come from, but they are inspired by what’s around me, and for 18 years I lived in State College, Pennsylvania, a town not unlike College Springs.

My books are characterized by slapstick, twists, turns and surprises. So you can pretty much expect those in “New Year’s Eve.” Along the way you’ll also find an Ice Carnival, a spooky, unfinished house, a costume pet parade (with prizes!), a fluffy white dog named Marshmallow, a technology-challenged teleconference, competing college professors, an explosive chemical reaction, a tight-knit neighborhood, and plenty of delicious pies.

And speaking of pies, you know what The Three Stooges said about a cream pie in the first chapter, right? It has to be thrown at someone in the last! If you want to find out who stole New Year’s Eve – and who gets hit with a pie – there’s one way to find out: Read “Who Stole New Year’s Eve?”

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