Fall Promo: The “Monkey” books

The “Monkey” books
Okay, yes, shameless promotion because marketing is soul-sucking,
and hey,
my books, my blog!

But really, if you like humor and mystery and autumn, I bet you’d like my “Monkey” books.

It all started with the soft opening of my meditation retreat. I thought it would be an easy practice run. A handful of guests, yoga, meditation, good food, and relaxation. Yeah, well, there’s always what you want to happen vs. what really happens, right? Let’s just say that the weekend was murder and about killed my business dead.

Business limped along until an uptick at Halloween. All of a sudden, I had Wiccans, preppers, a weight loss club, drag queens and cryptozoologists as guests. All at the same time!

The Wiccans wanted to use my meditation circle for their Samhain ceremonies, while

Dr. Crypto and his pals were setting up trail cameras to catch a Skunk Ape–

The drag queens were rocking it into the night —

The preppers were planning for TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It)

And some of the weight loss club members were taking liberties with the diet–

things went French farce as several guests, including my yoga instructor, went missing.


Skunk Ape abduction?

Or something else?

Monkey Heart will tickle your funny bones!

So, if you’re looking for something fun to read to get you in the autumn mood, check out the “Monkey” books. More mayhem to come! I’m about to publish the next one in time for Christmas:

Psst! Haint Blue is a fictional character
from Author J. Elliott

Hedonistic Hound Press has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HedonisticHoundPress/

and a website:


Easy Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash Slow Cooker Recipe

October began with early morning hints of cooler weather to come. This got me to thinking of chili.

(You can skip the turkey and make this a vegetarian dish if you like.)

My three essential kitchen appliances are:

1) the coffee pot

2) the rice cooker

3) the slow cooker (I have two, large and small)

For the record, I’m an intuitive cook, which means I really stink at following step-by-step instructions of any kind. I love simple and easy and failproof. This is all that. Tasty and easy. If you can open a can, you can make this. No, it’s not haute cuisine, but you can prep it and walk away then come home later to a bowl of tasty, comfort food.

You can use whatever veggies you like, whatever spices you prefer. Here’s what I used:

1 package of ground turkey

1 carton of vegetable broth

1/2 can of black beans

1 whole can (small) red beans

1 package of frozen Italian vegetables (cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, Italian green beans)

1 small can white corn (drain water before adding)

1 small can diced tomatoes with cilantro and green chilies

1/2 Butternut squash


a garlic powder blend to season or two cloves chopped garlic

Can serve solo or with rice, bread, crackers, couscous.

I put the ground turkey in the bottom and poured in the vegetable broth and turned the cooker on high. Chopped the butternut squash in half, cubed one half, saved the other for another time. Added cubed squash. Added all other ingredients, seasoned with a garlic powder blend and oregano.

Allow to cook for 8 hours.

The first meal, we ate the chili with crackers; for a bit of variety, I made Israeli couscous seasoned with garlic and served the chili on the couscous. That worked out well for flavor and texture.

“Walking” A Basset hound

Sometimes it’s like about as fun as hitching up a file cabinet…

Walking a Basset isn’t like walking other dogs. You can’t assume that a “walk” will take a certain amount of time, because a walk has many phases beginning with motivation. Once the dog has agreed to go outside, the process beings. There will be at least one cycle of the following in no particular order:

What’s my motivation here?

1) sniffing

I’m on a mission. I’m a stick wrangler.

2)wandering in just about any direction that is not forward-moving

3) sprinting

4) resting

All this walking business just wears me out..
A Dude needs his rest…

5) rolling

6) flat Basset: “I’m done! You ask too much! Cannot go another step! Legs paralyzed!”

Flat Basset… can’t possibly walk another step

7) play

Throw it again!

8) dropping anchor –staying upright but driving invisible pylons deep into the ground below the front paws while shifting most of the weight to the back. If done adeptly, may pop out of collar or harness.

We hear sounds but we can’t understand what you are saying…

They are insanely cute, funny, sweet, and smart. But walking a Basset is an exercise in patience. This is not the dog for everyone. But if you have patience, it’s worth it.

I can’t help it if I’m beautiful and spoiled rotten…
We like helping to make the bed. It’s fun!

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Rated R for language.

Three tabloid journalists, Darius, Arnau, and Jeff, set out to investigate the author of this mysterious ad in the paper. Time travel? Is this a joke or the ravings of some crackpot? By staking out the post office box a respondent should reply to, they soon find Kenneth. He doesn’t seem that weird, in fact, he seems like an okay guy. It is quickly decided that Darius is the most likely of the three to gain his confidence.

Pictured: Aubrey Plaza, Karan Soni, Jake Johnson

Won’t tell you more, but this is high on my list of all-time favorite films for various reasons– terrific acting, quirky plot, setting, and mostly heart. This film has a lot of heart and chemistry, between the three investigators, and between Darius and Kenneth. Funny and moving, it managing to rehash the old girl-meets-boy story in a refreshingly original package.

Makes you want to read the want ads to find that special call for a partner…

Looking for a feel good movie? This is it.

Quick comment. You know how sometimes there’s just a special moment in a film that blows you away? This film has one. It’s so simple, so minor, and yet so amazing. When Darius “meets” Kenneth in the grocery store, she knows she has to hook him or she’ll lose him. She holds his gaze with her riveting, large eyes, while putting a can on a display shelf over her head. Plaza must have practiced this a few times, it sure doesn’t look easy to do. Impressive. Memorable. It works. He’s hooked. So are we. I was tempted to put a link to the trailer, but decided no, just go for it. The less you know the better. Just get the popcorn and hit play.

Favorite line: Kenneth: “That was before I got skills.”


What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

I will say up front that this film is rated R for bloody images and violent content, so viewer discretion is advised. These days, it seems, kids see stuff far more graphic than this, but there are a few scenes that might be questionable.

This is one of my favorite movies. They made a TV series out of it, and I haven’t seen that yet. It’s on my list. The premise to this mockumentary is that a film crew was granted access to interview a group of vampires who share a flat in New Zealand–reality television with the undead. It’s hilarious! They don’t really get along all that well. They have the same mundane problems that college roomies do: there’s always someone who leaves a mess, doesn’t pay rent on time, won’t cooperate with flat rules. Then there are other problems, such as, how do you get dressed for a fancy party when you can’t see your own reflection? And then there’s that annoying gang of werewolves to deal with. (Know how to distract them? Throw a stick!) There’s an ancient vampire named Petyr in the basement who looks pretty corpsey and doesn’t speak. Viago, the most agreeable of the bunch, is in charge of feeding him. It seems Petyr might eat Viago if he’s not careful.

Co-written and co-directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, this film is fresh, clever, and thoroughly entertaining. Taika as Viago is the pleaser, the one who wants to keep harmony and maintain a clean, respectable flat. Jemaine as Vladislav, self-described as “dead, but delicious” is charming but his love life is in shambles and he is tormented by “The Beast”–not who you might think. No need to wait until October to see it, though it’s a great way to start the spooky season. Even if you aren’t into vampires, you should expect to sink your teeth into this film.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 96/100!

Here is a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAZEWtyhpes


Twig Ants / Oak Ants

So, I’m having one of those nothing-going-right days, and feeling pretty darned bleak about the state of the world today. Thought I’d take advantage of the tropical depression and take my aggressions out on some coral ardisia sprouting up in the woods. Got the bug spray, gloves, shovel, heavy-duty trash bags and set off. Dug up one big mama of an ardisia that had deep roots and tiny baby pups all around. Felt good to dig that up.

And then there was this repeated stinging sensation on my leg. Whipped my pants down and could not find the culprit. Shook them out. Pulled them back up.

Ouch! Another sting, higher up. Did the pants on the ground and the sweeping and the shaking. Didn’t find the culprit. I recognize the sting. I know who it was. According to a webpage called Green Pest Services Florida Ant Identification Guide (link below for full article), our culprit is the twig ant:

“The Mexican Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis) sometimes referred to as an Oak Ant or Tree Ant, is a relatively minor pest on the Treasure Coast because they rarely come into homes. They are however quite numerous and common around homes and in commercial landscapes. These long thin ants are orange and black and typically found as single individuals. A sharp eye can spot one almost anywhere outdoors in South Florida. They prefer to live in trees and hedges and use their painful sting to defend their territory. Anyone having to do any tree trimming or landscaping runs the risk of becoming acquainted with this ants defense mechanism.”

Funny how it says a sharp eye can spot them. This is probably true. I don’t have sharp eyes. I only find them when I’m madly hunting through my clothing. I never see them in trees. If you live in a residential area in Florida with lawn service and pest control, you probably won’t encounter these demons. I live out in the woods and get to enjoy nature to its fullest: the ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, and twig ants. It makes me feel better to read that they bite “defending their territory”. I thought it was just random sadistic pleasure, honestly. I have yet to invite one of these things into my wardrobe. But to be fair, perhaps I missed some frantic waving “No, go back! Get away!” from a tree branch.

I dunno. I don’t like them. I came inside, put some salve on and sat down to write this.

May your day be blessed and twig ant free.

Here’s the link to the full Florida Ants Identification Guide I mentioned:


Twig Ant bites 2 days later

What is Haint Blue?

What is Haint Blue?

Haint Blue is a color spectrum ranging from pale blue, to slate blue and even periwinkle.

Yup! My nickname is a paint color. I was born Helena Bluszczski but the nurse in the South Carolina hospital preemie ward saw that I was an albino and, well, no one could pronounce Bluszczski… so since I looked like a “haint” (ghost), I became Haint Blue. My brother Iggy took to calling himself Iggy Blue, but as far as I know, that’s NOT a color. Yet.

Here are some links to some videos about Haint Blue:

“The Story of Haint Blue” by This is Alabama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im4qkbMjazU

Here’s a cool little video of porch paint colors in varieties of Haint Blue. I like most of them. Blue Allure, Dix Blue are good. Icy Moon Drops is my favorite. Hey, who gets the cool jobs of naming paint colors anyway? I want that gig.

“Prettiest Shades of Haint Blue for Your Porch” by Southern Living https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6vBGTHoHDE

Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974) Italian giallo

Oh, Kittymuffins, is this a humdinger of a film! This might, just might, bounce Bird With Crystal Plumage out of the #1 spot in my favorite giallo list.

Where to start…

It has all the best elements of a great giallo, plus Mimsy Farmer–she’s terrific.

If you aren’t familiar with the genre, here’s a quick catch up. In the late 50s or thereabouts, a German production company got rights to do a series of films based on Edgar Wallace novels. They were usually in black and white with less than stellar acting, a good bit of camp, some detection, some slasher stuff. They’re called krimi (=crime). About the same time, this type of thing caught on in Italy. They derived from cheap pulp novels published with predominantly yellow covers. Giallo means yellow. The giallo genre runs a spectrum from gory sadistic slashers (not my thing) to detective story. Anything mystery/thriller/horror/supernatural. But there are some elements to a giallo that make it a giallo: masked killer in designer leather shoes, paranoia, helpless heroine —

Mystèrew, I find this trope surprising really. I watched a fair number of Sophia Loren films and as I recall, she was not a shrinking violet who would just cower against the wall as the killer came at her holding a knife. And older Italian women look pretty tough–like collectively they would beat anyone to death with skillets and rolling pins while their hair remained perfect, protected in kerchiefs, know what I mean? Anyway, the trope is usually gorgeous women whose clothes seem to fall off easily (fire the tailors!) and are ridiculously easy targets. In The Killer Reserved Nine Seats for example, a woman in a cocktail dress and three inch heels goes poking about in a basement. “Hey, crazy killer– come find me! No one could possibly rescue me here! You can’t miss me, I’m sparkling in my dress and click-clacking in my heels!” But not always. Mystere is a glorious departure from this. Wish they’d make a series. She’s fabulous.

Where was I? Oh yes, giallo elements. Lots of red herrings and mystery, and sometimes, like with this one, a saturation of gorgeous colors. Plot aside, this is a luxurious film cinematically speaking. Good thing colors don’t have flavors (unless perhaps you have synesthesia, in which case, I really want to know what that blue in the bedroom tastes like!) or you’d be wanting to lick the screen.

The plot is pretty simple: Sylvia is either a chemist or a manager of a perfume company. She is invited to a gathering of friends and the discussion veers into the dark arts of witchcraft in Africa. It is explained that when a sacrificial subject is chosen, he/she will gradually descend into madness. From this moment, Sylvia begins to experience hallucinations that become increasingly more bizarre and it is obvious that her sanity has broken free from its mooring. We learn more of her backstory, including trauma from the suicide of her mother, whom she remembers sitting at her dressing table in a black dress with white polka dots, spraying herself with perfume. I don’t want to give away much more, but I will say that the ending is quite a shock. You almost feel like that time at the theater where you went to the bathroom and accidentally returned to the wrong theater. What? Zombies? This can’t be right. Oops! Wrong film! Only it’s not.

Now here’s the thing. Up until the ending, you think you know what’s going on. As the credits role, you will probably have questions, as I did. “But…but…huh? What about–?” And while the first half of the film is pretty tame relative to the hack-and-slash gialli, it does get to the blood splatter eventually. I’m going to assume that if you are going to give this one a go, you can handle that. Brace yourself for the ending though.

I’ll be honest, I had to hunt up reviews so someone could explain the ending to me. So glad I did! Many thanks to giallo aficionado, Carlin Cook. I add the link to his review below. His take on it, and I totally agree, is that this film is similar to Identity and the ending is not literal but symbolic. Carlin suggests, and I agree, that multiple viewings would reveal just how amazing this film is–so much subtle symbolism and plot hints along the way.


Here’s a link to a video explaining the giallo genre that includes pics of the original giallo book covers:


Here’s a link to Carlin Cook’s review on YouTube:



Hi friends and followers!

A quick howdy to say that after quite a long time of struggling, I’ve gotten my review blog menu fixed. There were quite a few posts that weren’t visible in the dropdown boxes before. So if you’d like to take a look, I bet you missed something!

It’s embarrassing just how much of a technophobe I am. The menu thing was making me nuts. Even techies can have meltdown days, right?

Anyway, all better now!

Ooh, I’ve got some ideas for more movie reviews. Just watched a really odd one last night, and I’ll confess, I didn’t get it. Had to get help. So glad I did! Can’t wait to tell you about it. Gotta run– be well!

And meanwhile:

Monkey Mind and Monkey Heart

Beach season is almost over, but in case you are looking for your next book, check out my little promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay5MIAeUAFs

Most of the time, monkey mind is annoying. You know, that blah-blah chatter in your head all the time. But you’ll enjoy this Monkey Mind, a funny murder mystery. Join me, Haint Blue, at my retreat in Catfish Springs, Florida. You’d think it would be all tranquil abiding, meditation and yoga, nature walks and gourmet food. Trust me, things get tense when the weather, feisty wildlife, and difficult guests, make for a killer weekend.

Monkey Heart picks up where Monkey Mind left off. After a totally dead month business-wise, bookings suddenly pick up for Halloween.


a weight loss club

a group of Wiccans


and drag queens

on Halloween?

You get French farce, Monkey Heart. Guests go missing. Uh-oh. Did they leave on their own? Were they murdered? Abducted by a Skunk Ape?

While worrying if someone or something may have absconded with my guests, Buster, the Bigfoot hunter, was stealing my heart.

And coming this winter:

I thought I was going to run off to the beach to unwind for the holidays. Everyone else had holiday plans. I just wanted to disappear. Sit on the beach. Read a book. Nap. Binge-watch cold case file shows.


You know how there’s what you plan, and then there’s what happens? Aunt Moira tried to warn me. “I had a dream you needed to stock your pantry. You’re going to have guests.”

I didn’t believe her at first. Silly me! An interstate accident, a plumbing backup, a testy gas stove, a trailer fire, a visiting pregnant alpaca–just a few of the elements that made Christmas in Catfish Springs something quite memorable.