- Books, Literature, and Writing
Hannah Swensen & Me
Wait, I think I know Hannah Swensen . . .
Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen murder mysteries (beginning with "Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder") are a perfect match for my family and me!
The Hannah Swensen Murder Mystery Series have become a fun-filled activity for our family - both the reading and the baking. The smart, funny protagonist is a cookie-bake-shop owner who lives in a small snowy town in Minnesota, solves one local murder in each book, and shares her favorite recipes with us after every few chapters.
And, I feel like I know Hannah Swensen. Why? Because she is soooo much like me - but you wouldn't know it from my resume. My resume says NJ divorce lawyer, busy Mom & Wife, formerly of NYC/Wall Street, well-educated and well-traveled over-achiever. So why do I relate so well to Hannah? We tend to think, do and act alike.
Behind the Scenes
My core personality is that of a puzzle-solver, math nerd, thoroughly creative, homeschooling mom, teacher-at-heart, family-focused, volunteer, business owner, the underdog’s advocate, bookworm, introvert, jeans and sweatshirt girl, and snow-lover.
So, while I appreciate gourmet foods, ancient Greek comedies, full-length beaded gowns, and the Impressionist Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I much prefer to live my daily life in blue jeans reading a good book, planning my next geometric quilt, playing board games with my family with home-baked cookies within arm’s reach, while educating clients about how to have a saner divorce, and making semi-annual excursions to the local sports bar to watch the Red Sox with a bottle of Sam Adams.
How I Think
Math & Art
Hannah Swensen and I both love to solve puzzles. Fortunately for me, I don't find dead bodies, so my puzzle solving pursuits are mainly in the
> professional (solving people's divorce problems)
> artistic (quilting)
> fun (various board games & packaged puzzles)
> gardening and cooking (in which I can both create AND solve a variety of endless puzzles)
I started doing logic problems when I was in about 4th grade, around the same time I started doing algebra (my babysitter taught me). Of course, I was the math nerd type who, at age 7, would get up early so I could hound my Dad while he ate his breakfast to give me more math problems to do.
And, I am also an artist. I started life with fine art lessons, with a Grandmother extremely talented in oil painting (and baking). It took me many years before I finally allowed myself to leave the fine arts for the creative arts that I enjoy so much more - quilting, handwork (knitting, crocheting), Christmas ornaments - anything where you create something out of conceivable nothing. I painted the centerpieces for the tables at our wedding reception - clear plastic tubes with a painted NYC skyline (we lived in Manhattan at the time) - with flowers in the middle.
My favorite board game? You guessed it - SCRABBLE - because it's all about logical thinking + creativity = word puzzles!
How I Live & Love
God & Family
That sums it up for me.
When I remember to serve God and follow His path for me, I keep myself focused on the right things and humble. My pride and convoluted thinking tend to get me in the most trouble. God keeps me out of that pit.
Family gives me joy. There is no greater source of joy for me than looking at my family being happy, well-fed, and around the table laughing and playing. It ranks right up there with our family leisurely enjoying an evening in the living room with everyone curled up with a good book.
Aha! Now you're starting to understand why I love the Hannah Swensen Mystery Series - It feeds my main source of joy - doing things like reading with my family and cooking for my family.
Want a Trifecta? Get me in the kitchen baking cookies (a new recipe of Hannah's of course!) with my daughter in the afternoon, enjoying a home-cooked meal for dinner, and reading a good book outloud together in the evening!
Want a Grand Slam? Bringing a great homemade dessert to a church gathering, having a family from church over for a big Sunday lunch, playing games in the afternoon, helping the kids make their own cookies (and letting them more-than-lick the bowl), and watching my joy-filled daughter animatedly read to us in the evening, and curling up in bed at night with either the sound of crickets chirping in the August air, or with the silent falling of big snowflakes on the eve of a two-foot snowstorm.
Cherry Cheesecake Murder had tons of great recipes in it for me!
What's Your Hannah Swensen Baking Status?
As for Me & Hannah Swensen, . . .
I LOVE Reading To Zoe & Having Zoe Read to Me!
The Hannah Swensen books have been a lot of fun for our almost-10-year-old daughter - to both read and listen to!
Like most parents, I want my child to be as interested in reading as possible - and be able to read as well as possible. As a Homeschooling Mom, I am always on the look-out for opportunities to tie together the things that she learns in school with other parts of life - like leisure reading.
Hannah helps her do that! How?
1. There's a lot of dialogue in the Hannah Swensen books, so we get to practice a lot of inflection while reading.
2. The characters are fun - and funny! So, we stay very amused by their antics and personalities.
3. Joanne Fluke puts a good dose of foreshadowing in her stories - so my daughter and I can have a dialogue about "who done it" and "what will happen next" and other elements of a good story.
4. The vocabulary is perfect for her 4th grade level - a couple words per page that she doesn't know, but not so much that it's distracting or that it can't be inferred from the context.
5. The sentence structure is a little challenging for a 4th grade level - so again, a perfect conversation opportunity - and stretches her to read with better inflection once she understands the sentence.
6. And, of course, The Recipes - The Recipes are really much more exciting after you've learned how that particular recipe relates to one of the characters in the book.
So, every night at bedtime I read a chapter (or two). And, about every other night, she reads me a chapter. I'm just loving it!
Sugar Cookie Murder was the first Hannah Swensen Book that Zoe and I read together.
Zoe & I were Driving . . .
somewhere the other day, and Zoe said, "Hey Mom, Hannah would love this!"
Guess she's really connected with the characters!
(and learning the importance of character development in her own writing!)
How I Serve
Using My God-Given Talents
I'm a NJ divorce attorney because that's where my God-given talents of speaking, writing, thinking, mathematics, empathy, and creative problem solving are best put to use.
I enjoy helping others go through the divorce process with a little more sanity. I love being able to solve a problem that they thought was un-solvable, and helping them to focus on the important things when the whirlwind of divorce has most people lost in the chaos.
I boiled the must-know divorce essentials into my divorce e-book "Shark Bait: What Every Divorce Rookie Needs to Know."
How I Rejuvenate
Quilting, Cooking, Gardening
After all of that problem solving, I need to replenish and rejuvenate so that . . . I can create and solve MORE!
My favorite R&R activities are:
Why are these activities PERFECT for me? Well, because for me:
Quilting involves MATH, and I LOVE MATH (because I'm a math nerd)!!! And, quilting involves color, imagination, design, texture, hand-work, and most importantly - it tunes my brain in to one channel (quilting), and thus gives the rest of my brain a . . . Rest! It's no wonder that I'm attracted to Amish Quilts - mathematical simplicity, with the creative intricacy of tiny quilting stitches.
Cooking is an incredibly creative activity for me. This is why I can't put a meal together in 20 minutes like my husband, but he cooks, I create. And, when I create, I create a lot - appetizers with interesting ingredients (like roasted eggplant in stuffed mushrooms), soups and entrees - and in large quantities (some day my husband really will invite the Picattiny Arsenal troops over for dinner). It takes days for me to think of the menu, list the ingredients, and shop, never mind cooking. And, I love that process - the imagining and creating of each part of the process is the fun of doing it!
Gardening gives me my connection with the Earth in a way that I just plain need. It's the sweatshirt and jeans, Red Sox and a beer, part of me. It's where the cerebral can take a back seat, and the physical can just thrive unhindered. Last year I spent 3 days digging up and amending the soil in my 8 x 10 foot community garden plot before I even planted a thing. And the creativity? The recipes and flowers that a small garden plot can create! Complete with butterflies! And, homeschooling "lessons" of the butterfly lifecycle, in fact lots of lifecycles, and how to pickle pickles! Plus. plans of plots of veggies and flowers, all with differing sun, water and temperature needs . . . what more could a math nerd ask for?
Did You Notice?
That the covers of Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen Mystery Series books all have a morbid little something quasi-hidden in its cover graphics?
Take a look at the Lemon Meringue Pie Murder cover again.
I love Cooking with Zoe
Zoe, at age almost-10, has learned to enjoy the fun and creativity in cooking already.
The baking of Hannah Swensen's recipes is a new-found treat! Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookie Bars are especially kid-friendly to make. And, she loves treating her Dad to them. [My husband is on a diet, but he has a "cheat" day, so she asks him if he'd like those Bars or something else for dessert!]
Because she's been cooking for a while, we can discuss recipes - and possible ingredient alternatives, or recipe additions. We now especially enjoy discussing what we've read while making the Hannah Swensen recipes.
And, what Homeschooling Mom doesn't love to use baking to teach fractions?!!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder - A Hannah Swensen Murder Mystery Series by Joanne Fluke
The original book that started it all. Of course, being an unconventionalist, I read this book 3rd. One thing I love about Joanne Fluke's "Hannah Swensen" mystery series is that you can still get full character development without having to read the books in order. However, reading them in order does help you experience the events in the characters' lives that much more (e.g. Lisa's wedding).
My daughter and I made the "Chocolate Chip Crunchies" cookie recipe from this book - AND LOVE THEM (almost as much as Hannah's sister Andrea)! We made another batch of them with cocoa powder, which were very chocolatey, but not perfect (a little over-baked). Plain chocolate chip cookies get a little to boring for my "
Our Favorite Hannah Swensen Mystery & Recipes
Do YOU identify with Hannah Swensen? If not, who is your fictional counterpart?