Sunday, March 14, 2021

Carl's Chai


A new family tradition is our "Chai Time." My husband has been making chai tea from scratch. He grinds the spices with a mortar and pestle, and then steeps the loose tea leaves with soy or oatmilk so my vegan daughter can enjoy it, too.

Lots of folks on my Facebook page asked for the recipe, so here it is.

This is not a quick tea process. It's a ritual. It's worth the extra time to make it from scratch because it's as close to authentic Indian tea as you can get.

It's also one of the only foodie rituals that our whole family can enjoy. We have multiple diets going on (vegetarian, vegan, carnivorous, diabetic-friendly).

You could definitely add more sugar if you like it sweeter; we keep it on the low-sugar side.

Recipe for Carl's Chai


1 pinch fennel seeds

About 15 cardamom pods

4 peppercorns

2-3 allspice

3 coriander seeds

A sprinkle of nutmeg

2 pieces cinnamon sticks

Fresh ginger, 2 thin slices, lightly mashed

2-3 T. loose black tea

2-3 t. sugar, to taste

1-2 cups milk (full dairy, or dairy-substitute like soy or oatmilk)

About 1/4 cup water (to taste)

Mortar and pestle

Tea pot with strainer


1. Put fennel seeds, cardamom pods, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds in mortar and pestle and grind up. Add powdered spices, too.

2. Put slices of fresh ginger and ground-up spices into a pot on the stovetop. 

3. Add milk (dairy or dairy substitute) to the pot. If you want it less creamy, add a bit of water (1/4 cup). Simmer over medium heat. Do not boil.  

4. Put 3 teaspoons sugar (more or less to taste) at the bottom of a teapot with strainer.

5. Add the loose tea to the simmering pot on the stove. About 2 tablespoons.

6. Simmer 2 minutes, allow the tea to steep and darken the milk. It will become pink/orange. The darker the color, the stronger the tea.

7. Pour tea mixture into strainer in teapot. It will strain out the spices, and mix with the sugar in the bottom of the pot. Throw out spices, and mix the sugar and hot tea mixture together until sugar dissolves.

8. All done! Pour chai into tea cups.

Happy Tea Time! ☕️

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Guest Review: LATER by Stephen King (Review by J. R. Barrett)


As all of you know, I am an obsessive horror aficionado. I love reading horror. I love watching horror. I am even writing a horror novella (LITTLE SHADOW MAN).

I was introduced to horror via Stephen King and countless creepy mystery novels. In the SK universe, THE SHINING is my personal favorite, and PET SEMATARY is in last place. I also wrote a college essay about THE STAND, as one does.

Color me surprised when I found out my friend J. R. Barrett is a newb to the horror world, Stephen King in particular. 

Without further ado, here is Barrett's review for her very first (VIRGIN!) horror novel, LATER by Stephen King. This book will be released by Hard Case Crime in March 2021.


Review by J. R. Barrett

Am I the only person in the world who has never read a book by Stephen King? (PENNY: Um, yeah, pretty much).

Until now, that is. I'm serious. Up until yesterday, I had never read a Stephen King novel. I've never even read an excerpt from a Stephen King novel.

Call me crazy, but horror horrifies me.

I haven't watched a single horror movie (PENNY: *faints*), certainly not anything based upon a book by Stephen King. Well, I have seen The Simpson's Halloween version of The beer and no TV make Homer go something something... Does that count? Nah, probably not. I avoid horror and resulting sleepless nights. A single note of the theme song from The Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits is enough to keep me awake for a week. My husband once owned a Twilight Zone-themed watch. Can you imagine? I smashed it with a hammer and threw it in the trash can far far away.


It kept playing doo-doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo-doo in the middle of the night, cuz, like, yeah, that wasn't weird at all.

When Stephen King's publicist emailed me and asked me to review his upcoming novel LATER, I was like...Ummmmmmm...Ummmmmmmmm.

But then I thought, hey, why not, indeed?

The book is officially coming later, pun intended, in March 2021, with Hard Case Crime.

I've reviewed for them before, mostly Lawrence Block stuff because he's an oldie but goodie and one cool crazy-ass dude. And although he and I haven't chatted recently, I consider him a friend. I suspect Lawrence is why I was contacted about LATER.

Speaking of LATER, let's speak of it!

LATER is yummy. Like a fine chef, Stephen King has created a delicious, deceptively simple and aesthetically pleasing tasting menu disguised as a fractured fairy tale. From the appetizer to the many multi-layered amuse bouche, to the dessert; the first taste of the story is marvelous, it awakens the reading palate, the middle courses keep you glued to your seat in anticipation; the last taste of the book? One word--sublime. The story arc, the characters, the first-person voice, are all delightful. And yes, I do mean delightful, albeit in a surprising, funny, weird, upside down, shocking, yet oddly relatable way.

Is LATER creepy? Yes, of course, but it is deliciously creepy. What the story is, is damn satisfying. (Was I tempted to smash it with a hammer and toss it in a trash can far far away? No way!)

LATER, at 250 pages, is the right kind of afternoon read. As it happens, on the afternoon I read the book, the temperature outside was -25 degrees. Thus, I had the perfect day to plop down in front of the fire, wrap myself in a nice soft blanket, and bury my hose in fantasy. The protagonist, James, or Jamie as his mother (a romance literary agent) calls him when we first meet him, captured me with word one. His voice so hooked me, I read nonstop for three solid hours. I don't often review. When I do review a book I definitely don't summarize the plot for readers. Why should I steal your reading thunder? My suggestion is, don't be afraid. Read LATER soon rather than later.

So now I'm wondering, why? Why on earth have I avoided Stephen King all these years? Oh, the Misery! (That's next on my list!) (From Penny: Good choice, J. R.)

Read LATER. It's fun. It's fast. It's engrossing. As I said, it's yummy!

And by the way, the retro cover is gorgeous.

LATER by Stephen King and Hard Case Crime, March 2021

Review by J. R. Barrett, author of the award-winning science fiction romance novella, CAPTURED.


Big thank you to J. R. for this intriguing review. 

Here are some Stephen King recs from me...

BOOKS: THE STAND, THE SHINING, THE DEAD ZONE, his collections of short stories, also.


TV FILMS: I like the original IT (1990) with Tim Curry.