Young Readers’ Ebook Sale

The Catnapper Mystery ebook is only $0.99 for a limited time 

at the Apple Bookstore or at Barnes and Noble.



Book Review: Lessons from Madame Chic

Lessons from Madame Chic is a lifestyle book by Jennifer L. Scott. I first became aware of this book from Jennifer's YouTube channel, The Daily Connoisseur. Jennifer is a wife, mother of four, homemaker, YouTuber, and author, yet she balances all these roles with grace. She is perhaps most well known for promoting her ten-item wardrobe. She also believes one should not save the best for later, but enjoy it every day.

Lessons from Madame Chic is an easy to read book that tells the story of Jennifer's experience as a college student in Paris. The name "Madame Chic" is her nickname for the mother of the family she lived with during her study abroad. The lessons she absorbed from Madame Chic influenced her long after she returned to California from Paris and inspired her to write this book along with several others.

If you're interested living a simpler life without sacrificing quality, this book will serve as a guide.




The Catnapper Mystery Bonus Recipe Section

"I always say there's no problem so big that it can't be solved with a cookie."--Iris

Did you know there's a recipe section at the end of The Catnapper Mystery? This bonus section includes recipes for treats from the character, Iris. These recipes are appropriate for kids to try out their skills in the kitchen and have some fun while learning. Here's an example of what you'll find in the recipe section:

No-bake Cream Cheese Cookies

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup powdered sugar

36 M & Ms

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add dry cake mix and continue beating until blended. Form dough into 1-inch balls, placing them on the wax paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll each ball in powdered sugar, then press an M & M in the center.

Photo by Caio from Pexels



Minding Your P's and Q's

Throughout history people have been admonished to "mind their p's and q's." I've always equated the saying with being on your best behavior and using good manners. In this instance the phrase refers also to using the polite words "please" and "thank you." 

History says that during the 17th century pubs and taverns were the setting for another way of minding p's and q's. The barmaid or proprietor kept a chalked accounting on the wall to track the number of pints and quarts a customer had ordered.

In later years, students in school were warned to mind their “p's” and “q's" because of the similarity of the alphabet letters p and q. The two letters, p and q, could easily be confused and reversed when spelling and writing. 

All these ways of minding your p's and q's have been valuable, and the meanings make sense. These meanings have served well, and there is no reason they should be retired. It will always be a good idea to say "please" and "thank you" and to be on your best behavior. It's also in a person's best interest to keep up with how many pints and quarts have been consumed and to check for letter reversals when writing. However, because the definition has evolved over the years, why stop there? There's another way to renew this phrase so that it's even more useful.

The updated version of minding your p's and q's would refer to "peace" and "quiet." This would be a prompt for no loud talking, no yelling, and no anger. People would automatically use their "inside voices." Minding your p's and q's would mean speaking in a kind tone of voice, even when there's a disagreement. If the meaning included these two new words, i.e., peace and quiet, our world would be a much nicer place.

What other ideas do you have for expanding the meaning of minding your p's and q's?

This photo is the county road in northern Arkansas that runs past the house I grew up in. This image represents the concept of peace and quiet to me. When the world gets noisy and rude, I try to visualize this place.



Five Stars for The Catnapper Mystery

Reviewed by Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer) for Readers' Favorite: 

At the start of The Catnapper Mystery by Anita Stafford, our main character Kale discovers that a cat has gone missing from the shelter where he volunteers. To make matters worse, the shelter director, Aspen, blames him for the disappearance and puts him on probation. Soon, rumors about him and the cats are flying around town, and he is being bullied at school because of it. Determined to prove his innocence, Kale sets out to investigate as more and more cats go missing. However, Aspen continues to blame him and eventually bans him from even entering the shelter. Can Kale find out who’s responsible for the catnappings and clear his name? 

With an intriguing plot and likable characters, The Catnapper Mystery by Anita Stafford is an entertaining read. Although it is the third book in the series, The Legend of Sassafras House, the book could still be enjoyed and understood by people who haven’t read the first two. The story is intricate and interesting, enhanced by the author’s use of descriptive words and phrases. I thought that the solution to the mystery was very satisfying, and I liked that everyone had a happy ending. The characters are also very admirable for their determination and loyalty to their friends, which makes the reader want to see them succeed. The story contains an important message about not judging people prematurely, as many different characters discover: something that everyone should learn. I liked that there were also baking recipes at the back of the book, some of which were mentioned throughout the story (I highly recommend the brownie cookie recipe. It is delicious!). I would recommend The Catnapper Mystery to cat lovers and mystery lovers especially.



Meet the Characters: Moss

The previous characters introduced from the Sassafras House series are Kale, Jasmine, Iris, Sage Greene, and Treasure, the cat.

Today meet Moss.

Moss is one of the senior citizen volunteers at the Sassafras Animal Shelter. He likes to talk, and he jokes a lot. When Kale is on probation at the shelter Moss is his supervisor, and Kale is not amused when the jokes are directed at him. Also, Moss seems to know more than he says about the disappearance of the shelter cats. 🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels



Meet the Characters: Sage Greene

The previous characters introduced from the Sassafras House series have been Kale Flores, Jasmine Palmer, Iris, and Treasure, the cat.

Today, meet Sage Greene.

Sage Greene works as a reporter for the Morning Glory Daily News, the town newspaper. Sage interviewed Kale and wrote an article about the Sassafras House legend and how he found the lost treasure. Her article set off a chain reaction that led to a reconnection between Kale and his long-absent dad. 

Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels



Meet the Characters: Iris

Characters in the Sassafras House series previously introduced here are Kale Flores, Jasmine Palmer, and Treasure, the cat.

Today, meet Iris.

Iris is a new character to the series. She appears first in Book #3, The Catnapper Mystery. She is a senior citizen and works as a volunteer at the Sassafras Animal Shelter. She is fond of the younger volunteers, especially Kale. She loves to bake and often brings treats to the shelter for Kale. A bonus section of her recipes is included in the back of the book. 

Iris is known for saying, "I always say there's no problem so big that it can't be solved with a cookie."



Email Subscription Update

Dear Email Subscribers,

When you receive an email from me to notify you there's a new blog post, it will now come from a different subscription service. New notifications will be sent through a service called follow.it

I believe this will be beneficial to subscribers, as you will have options about how you receive notifications. 

If you are already a subscriber, THANK YOU, there's no action required on your part. You will continue to receive notifications when there's a new blog post.

If you're not a subscriber and would like to be, it's easy. Just add your email address to the subscription box at the right. You'll only receive an email from me when there's a new blog post to see. 

Thanks to all who read the posts and are interested in anitastafford.com. 

Best regards,

Anita Stafford

P.S. Please remember to go to Barnes and Noble or Apple Books to get your FREE ebook copy of The Catnapper Mystery on Sunday, July 25, 2021, or on Monday, July 26, 2021. After that time the ebooks will be $2.99.

                                                                                       Image by Dean Norris from Pixabay



FREE ebook Promotion

My newest book, The Catnapper Mystery, is available as a FREE ebook at Barnes and Noble or Apple Books for a limited time! The Catnapper Promotion runs from Sunday, July 25, 2021, through Monday, July 26, 2021. I hope you'll take advantage of this and get your FREE copy. Tell your friends!

Reviews are always appreciated.



Meet the Characters: Jasmine

Previously, the characters Kale Flores and Treasure, Kale's pet cat, have been introduced from the Sassafras House series.

Today, meet Kale's best friend, Jasmine Palmer.

Jasmine Palmer is an important character in all three books of the Sassafras House series. Like Kale, she is also 12-years-old. When she moved into the house across the street from Kale, he was rude to her and almost missed out on becoming her friend. After Kale redeemed himself by helping her search for her lost dog, Barley, their friendship was kindled. Jasmine usually behaves in a calm, sensible way, but she's not afraid to jump in with both feet when it comes to helping Kale solve a mystery.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay 

The Sassafras House series includes The Legend of Sassafras House (Book 1), Treasure in Catclaw Canyon (Book 2), and The Catnapper Mystery (Book 3).



Meet the Characters: Treasure

Yesterday, the boy protagonist, Kale Flores, from the Sassafras House series was introduced. 

Today, meet Treasure, the cat.

Treasure is one of the key characters in the Sassafras House series. Kale and his friend, Jasmine, found Treasure living alone in the old Sassafras House when they searched for hidden treasure. Knowing the demolition of the decrepit house was imminent, Kale rescued the homeless cat, and she became his first pet. Treasure is a beautiful all-white cat, and she is unique in several ways. First, she has heterogenous eyes, one blue and one golden. Also, Treasure is a good judge of character, and she proves herself to be valuable by helping Kale solve mysteries. Many readers have been fascinated by Treasure and her unusual abilities.

Image by Firman MPH from Pixabay 

Read more about Treasure in the middle-grade Sassafras House series, The Legend of Sassafras House (Book 1), Treasure in Catclaw Canyon (Book 2), and The Catnapper Mystery (Book 3).



Meet the Characters: Kale

One reason kids like to read a series is because the story doesn't end with one book. They know and identify with the characters, and they're interested to find out what happens next. The Sassafras House series keeps a kid reading because finishing a book doesn't mean the story is over. There's more to look forward to.

Currently, there are three books in the Sassafras House series. Book 1 is The Legend of Sassafras House, Book 2 is Treasure in Catclaw Canyon, and Book 3 is The Catnapper Mystery. These books are targeted toward elementary school age children, but some adults have read them and report they enjoy the stories, too.

I'd like to acquaint readers with these books by introducing the characters. Today's character is the boy protagonist in the story, twelve-year-old Kale Flores. Kale moved to the small town of Morning Glory, Texas, from the big city. Kale is Latino and lives with his mother, Rosa, in a house they inherited from Rosa's Aunt Fern. Kale's dad left the family when Kale was five. Kale is sometimes impulsive and speaks before he thinks. One thing Kale wanted badly when he moved to Morning Glory was to find a friend. Some of the problems Kale faces in the series are: loneliness, bullying, self-control, and betrayal. He is curious and likes to read, and he has a big heart. It's impossible not to love Kale.

Image by ChΓ’u Nguyα»…n from Pixabay



The Catnapper Mystery

 New book release!

The Catnapper Mystery (Book 3 in the Sassafras House series) is now available. Kale and Jasmine are ready for another mystery, this time at the Sassafras Animal Shelter.

       The cats at Sassafras Animal Shelter have been disappearing without a trace. The director accuses twelve-year-old Kale Flores of being responsible for the missing cats and no longer trusts him to work as a volunteer. Kale is devastated at being blamed for something he didn’t do. With the help of two friends, he sets on a quest to find the cats and to clear his name. They search the town with few clues to go on, consulting with some colorful senior citizens along the way.

       The answer Kale finds to the vanishing cats is more complicated than he ever imagined. Kale wants to save his reputation and return to work at the shelter, but to do that someone will have to betray an old friend. Will the cost be too high?

The Catnapper Mystery is contemporary fiction and is appropriate for kids from about 8 to 12 years. If you know a reluctant reader, all three books from the Sassafras House series could help keep their nose in a book for weeks. Find them in paperback or ebook. Reviews are always appreciated.

Book 1            The Legend of Sassafras House

Book 2            Treasure in Catclaw Canyon

Book 3            The Catnapper Mystery



Attack of the Gnats

I've always been a choice target for mosquitos, but this week, instead of mosquitos, I've been attacked by gnats. Every time I sit down and open my laptop, the little critters join me. I've swatted and slapped, trying to keep them away from me, but they have persisted. When one bit me on the back of the neck, I started researching ways to annihilate them.

The experts on the subject recommended attracting them with a container of vinegar. The theory is that the scent will entice them, then when they come around to explore they are supposed to drown themselves. It sounded believable to me, but the gnats didn't fall for it. Not a single gnat took a dip in my vinegar. 

The next suggestion I read about was to put out sticky insect traps. The reasoning is the swarm of gnats will fly inside and get stuck in the glue. I put two of the traps out nearby, but the gnats avoided them. I caught nothing. None of the gnats were interested in death by glue.

Another idea put forward is to place a lighted candle in a dish of water and turn off the lights. The expected outcome is that the flame will attract the gnats to the dish, then while they're dazzled by the fire they dive in the water and drown. I'm not sure who came up with the notion, but gnats are not as interested in drowning themselves as the experts believe. Not a single gnat took a dip in the water, however, I did find that two of them met their demise while swimming in the hot candle wax, so I considered that experiment a small success. Even so, I still wanted to find a way to defeat them en masse.

Quite by accident, I discovered the best way to exterminate the little demons with no effort. When my water cup needed a refill, I removed the lid and found three of them floating in the last half-inch of water. There was no scent or flame to entice them, but there they were, belly-up in the water I'd been drinking. The nightmare realization was that there had probably been many more in the cup before I drank all the water. I think the gnats were on to me and my efforts to wipe them out. The evil little varmints sacrificed themselves to poison me.

The good news is I discovered an effective way to get rid of gnats. When all else fail, swallow them.



Sassafras Series Book 3: The Catnapper Mystery

The Sassafras series will soon add book 3 to the collection. The Catnapper Mystery will be released shortly. I'm excited about this installment of the series, and I hope my middle-grade readers will be as well. This book will appeal to students who like to read mystery and adventure stories in grades 3 through 6.

Kale and Jasmine are back. The two friends love a mystery, as you already know if you've read about the search for the lost treasure in The Legend of Sassafras House or about the stolen treasure map in Treasure in Catclaw Canyon.

In this adventure they try to unravel a mystery that Kale fears will ruin his reputation. A reputation is what other people think about you, whether it is based on true facts or based on what someone says about you, which might not be true at all.

Kale and Jasmine are volunteers at the Sassafras Animal Shelter, and they have some new friends you will meet in this story. Everyone at the shelter becomes tangled up in the mystery. Kale's cat, Treasure, is also back, and, as always, she will be there to help Kale as he tries to sort out the puzzle pieces of another mystery.




Cave Syndrome

Although I didn't know what it was called, I recognized weeks ago that I was affected. The infection rates for Covid-19 have drastically declined in my area, so many people have returned to their normal group activities without wearing masks. People have resumed attending church services, gathering for weddings or funerals, and eating in restaurants. It has been very difficult for me to switch back to normal. I learned that when someone has anxiety about getting out in public again it is called "cave syndrome."

These public gatherings were once normal activities that I took for granted. In March 2020, more than a year ago, all these things ground to a halt. Out of necessity I became a homebody. If I had to be near anyone except immediate family, I strapped on the mask. This became a new way of life for me. I didn't like it, but I thought it was something that had to be done for the greater good.

When the vaccine was offered, I took the required doses. The first time I returned to church, I wore my mask. Most of the people in the building were not wearing masks, and I came close to a panic attack. I've had to ease into re-entering the public. After such a long time of being cooped up, why would I fear doing the things I once loved? I suspect it is because I tend to be a rule follower. I accepted what the CDC said the public should do, and I did it. I followed their rules and adapted, but now it's hard to adjust to new rules. The good news is I'm doing better at being in public places, but I keep hand sanitizer at the ready. There are bound to be others who suffer from this thing called cave syndrome, but it feels like I'm the only one. Was it easy for you to transition, or are you, like me, having trouble coming out of the cave?

Photo by Ola Dybul on Unsplash



Trying to Remember

If  you are a friend or family member, I probably remember your birthday. I remember birthdays of friends from my childhood, even though we haven't had contact in years. I remember the names of hundreds of children I taught in school. My head is full of trivia that I won't likely ever need to know. I give myself credit for the ability to remember the past, however, everything that happened to me before age 5 is either missing or fuzzy.

When I think back on my early childhood, I can only recall bits and pieces. I remember dropping a glass baby bottle filled with milk on a concrete step and seeing it shatter. I must have been far too old to still be bottle-fed, because after that my parents told me my bottle was gone. Why was my baby bottle made of glass, anyway? Was I born before plastics were invented? I remember being in bed at night and listening to Daddy tell stories of his childhood. I remember my Mamaw Rowe sending me a book when I was a preschooler. These few incidents are pretty much the sum total of five years of memories. I've strained to remember more.

I don't feel quite so alone in my inability to remember the far past after reading a quote from a favorite writer. He said, "I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't remember what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose. --P.G. Wodehouse 1881 - 1975.

These two photos are from that time of my life. I wish I could remember more about that little girl. Like P.D. Wodehouse, she must have done a lot of loafing. I'm curious how far back others can remember. What are your earliest memories?

                      Anita, about age 5

          Anita, about age 6 months



5 Favorites

 In looking back over some middle grade books I've read and enjoyed, I've made list of 5 I'd recommend to kids. These are all on my shelf and are worth reading again. All are written by contemporary authors with potentially many years left to write for their middle grade readers. Five of my favorites in no particular order are:

1. Kate DiCamillo -- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

2. R.J. Palacio -- Wonder

3. Barbara O'Connor -- Wish

4. Sara Pennypacker -- Pax

5. Holly Goldberg Sloan -- Counting by 7s

Let me know what your favorites are for kids ages 7 - 12.

Image by Khamkhor from Pixabay



Words Left Behind

During a conversation recently, a teacher friend asked me why I write. I had not expected the question, but the answer popped right out of my mouth.

"I want to leave something behind."

Afterward, I pondered on that statement. Will my writing be meaningful to anyone after I'm gone, or will my words be forgotten as soon as the last handful of dirt fills my grave? I don't know, but I'll write anyway. Somewhere along the way, whether now or later, perhaps my words will inspire, motivate, or entertain someone. Many writers have done that for me, so maybe I can do it for someone else.

Words have a powerful impact on people. They can lift you up, knock you down, or scare you silly. They can change your mood and change your mind.

The words of some authors have endured for centuries. Words give people something to hold on to when they're finding their way in the world. I believe authors should choose their words wisely.

Some words I've held onto come from voices long gone. They could not have imagined how far their influence would reach. I, too, want to leave something behind. Here are some of my favorite wise words left behind by others:

"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." --Mark Twain 1835 - 1910

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right." --Henry Ford 1863 -1947

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." --Winston Churchill 1874 - 1965

"Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are." --Theodore Roosevelt 1858 - 1919

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." --Henry Ford 1863 - 1947.

Image by Oberholster, Venita from Pixabay