Friday, October 31, 2014


When I was a kid Halloween was my second favorite holiday - well - I wouldn't call it a holiday exactly. I believe the ‘holi’ part means holy and the real ‘holy’ day comes the next day, All Saints Day,  making Hallow’een, the eve of all saints. But you know all this. In the spirit of the day, however, I’ve written this little ditty for all the kiddos who will be knocking on doors tonight.

Oh – why was this night one of my faves when I was a kid? Well, we were on the poor-ish side of the economic spectrum and the idea of getting free candy to hoard for the next month was irresistible.   And it gave my siblings and me bargaining chips for future endeavors that might involve trouble with parents, if you get my drift.

So here  ya go . . .  

Halloween Things
By Susan Sundwall

These are the things of Halloween
A ghost, a witch and Frankenstein green

A pumpkin, a bat and a bushy tailed cat
My big brother Tom in his old wizard hat

Knocking on doors all down the street
We fill up our bags with good things to eat

There’s Billy Taylor dressed like a ghost
Without any pillows, he’s fatter than most

We’re lucky we didn’t see Sally Ann Green
They say that she’s really a vampire queen

At last it’s too dark to stay out much later
We drag ourselves home and lay out our treasure

It’s spooky and silly and great gobs of fun
Oh how I hate to see Halloween done 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Busting Dust

This is a repeat I thought worthy of visiting again. You know, just in case some of you are all into Fall cleaning mode and need some inspiration. That's what I'm here for. Glad to be of service.

So I have this new vacuum cleaner. It was on sale at Sears last fall, in my color – white and turquoise – and number of horsepower - four. A nifty little canister job. I read online reviews and they were good, too. Before I could say “here’s my gold card” I had it humming around the house sucking up all kinds of stuff.

As with all my previous vacuums I use it for little tasks one might not think of. Like grabbing up flies – in mid-flight -  and whisking dried leaf and twig bits out of hubby’s shoes. Now, just to the right of where I’m typing this there’s a small file cabinet, almost against the wall. I happened to look between said cabinet a few days ago and reeled back – aghast to see Dust Bunny Village on its way to becoming a boom town. The shame!

“I’ll get you!” I thought and scooted downstairs for my trusty new vacuum. Only the nozzle attachment was too big to reach the village. Dang! So I went for second best- my Swiffer duster. You know the one with the duster part you slide onto the yellow handle? It worked great on the village, but when I took it out it was overloaded – blech! A lot of over-breeding in the village this winter.

I do not know what prompted me to do what I did next. But my trusty dust sucker was right there beside me so I turned it on an applied it gently to the end of the Swiffer.

Sluurrrrppppppppp! In about two seconds the whole duster thingy was a goner.

I quickly shut the vacuum off and popped the top. You guessed it. The duster wasn’t in the bag, it was stuck half way up the hose. Visions of bent coat hangers danced before my eyes. What moron would think she could suck a tiny bit of dust off the duster at end of that wand thingy? Am I four years old or something? Yeesh.

Not to be too hasty about remedies, I decided to give trusty vacuum one more go before I broke out the hanger. So I closed the top, turned the sucker on and within seconds heard the satisfying “thwock” of the duster being pulled into the vacuum bag. It’s still there.

I love my new vacuum. It really sucks.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ode to the British Actress

Last night I watched Masterpiece Theater as I always do on Sunday night. They presented Death Comes to Pemberly and the female lead is Anna Maxwell Martin, a superb actress. My first exposure to her was when she had another starring role in Bleak House. She played Esther Summerson, the illegitimate daughter of Lady Dedlock. One of the prime reasons I like Ms. Martin is that she’s not beautiful – not a bit of it as the Brits say. But through her plain, blue-eyed face comes all the meaning in her role. Her quiet demeanor and even-toned voice pulls you towards her and after that she eclipses most of the other characters. You only want to watch her. She was also a key player in Bletchley Circle and many more to come, I’m sure of it.

Dame Judi Dench. Well, good grief, she’s even older than I am and the star quality bursts from her every pore. Her eyes are mesmerizing. The breadth of the roles she tackles is astounding. Two are particular favorites of mine, As Time Goes By and Cranford. The first is a sit-com from the 90’s and a comedic role. She and her co-star, Geoffrey Palmer, banter bounce with the best of them and it’s a joy to watch. Cranford is a period piece set in the small town of Cranford in the 1840’s and she does a superb job of taking us into the genteel world of the time through her character Matty Jenkyns. Find these two productions and watch them. You won’t be sorry.

Zoe Wanamaker is another not beautiful actress whom I admire. She has played everything from tantalizing tart in Prime Suspect to instructor of young wizards in Harry Potter. She has a nose you’ll never forget and a sultry voice that will keep you riveted. I’ve seen her in fewer productions than Martin or Dench, but I’m always delighted when her name is among the credits. She holds her own.

Even with all the accolades I’ve piled on the above mentioned ladies, and even though they hold their own and more. Even though . . . there is only one Maggie Smith. Right? She’s a dame, too, like Dench and deserves every letter in the title. D – arned, A – wesome,   M – aster, E-elocutionist. Okay, okay. I couldn’t think of a good word for the ‘e’. But you get my drift. Our Maggie has just finished filming the 5th installment of that wonder of wonders, Downton Abbey, and I hope she gets to appear in many more. And we may eventually tire of the goings on at the abbey, but we’ll never tire of Maggie. She’s lived long and prospered into her 80’s and I hope she sticks around to see 100. Really, I do.

Now, who have I forgotten? Give me your list. And if you can think of a good word for the ‘e’, let me know. There’s a hug in it for you. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, October 24, 2014


A few days ago it arrived. The Vermont Country Store catalog. Big old red Santa on the cover and goodies galore waiting inside. I’m not plugging for the store, but they sure do have a neat catalog. And right away when you open it up you see the candy. Like the kind from when you were a kid or even when your parents or grandparents were kids. Think glistening ribbon candy and chocolate cherry cordials. Stuff like that. Yum.

The candy from my childhood comes to mind as I thumb the pages. With Halloween coming up candy is all over the place. Walmart and CVS have huge sale bins overflowing with bite size this, that and the other. I’m a sucker for them and at only three bucks a bag how can I not indulge? But I wonder if today’s kids are missing anything because Big Hunk is no longer around. Oh? You never heard of Big Hunk? It was a rip your teeth out hunk of taffy that cost a nickel. I used to walk to the grocery store, Alpha Beta (yeah, that was its name), in my shorts and flip flops, plunk my nickel down and walk home with the precious bar in my little fist. It took a while to eat the thing, but I was in hog heaven. If you put it in the fridge for a while you could whack it on the table and share the pieces. I only did it if forced.

Then there was Lick ‘m Ade – I think that’s how you spell it. It came in a square package and was a flavored powder. If you were caught with such a package now, you’d probably be arrested, but the sweet-sour powder that you poured into your palm and licked off was wonderful. The first lick made you shiver, but you went back in for more. Kids with pink or purple palms had status. Pixie Stix were similar. Remember those?

More recently I found a deluxe box of Pop Rocks and bought them to send to my granddaughters in Washington State. We were on Skype when they opened them up. The squeals of delight let me know I’d done well and they couldn’t wait for the little sugar bomb crystals to fizz up on their tongues.

While on that same Skype session Lillie, who’s ten, told me about her favorite chocolate. It’s called Kinder Chocolate and it’s from Germany. I found it on Google and almost ordered some for her, but held off. I knew her big sis, Elaina, would be traveling to Germany a few weeks later and sure enough, she brought home some Kinder Chocolate for her little sister. They bond over sugar.

So, what are you giving out this Halloween? If you can’t decide, I’ve got a really cool catalog to get your head going in the right direction. Or you could just head to Walmart or CVS. Your choice.

 Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Poem for October

This is a poem I wrote many years ago. I invented a couple of words for it so a purist might scoff. But it was how I felt at the time. And some of the leaves we pick up from the ground around here really do look like they're "leathered" and bare limbs seem "starkened."  

I hope it brings a fall day to mind for you and that October has a special place in your heart as it does mine. 

Moon Dance
By Susan Sundwall

October drapes her burnished skirt,
stirred by an errant breeze;
bends down to earth and offers thus
her crimson leathered leaves.

Too soon the crisping winter air
will bare the ancient bones
of starkened limbs that once were dressed
in vibrant greening tones.

And yet once more beneath the moon
all held within her trance,
my aching soul is touched for ‘tis
October’s dying dance.

Photo: a tree near our barn

Monday, October 20, 2014

When We Gather Here

I watched them file, one by one, down the aisle. Two lines, kind of rag tag, some switching over if they knew there was more room on the other side of the rail. Then I noticed one woman, our secretary, leaning in to touch the shoulder of our most senior member who was holding back, barely, her tears. Who knows why? Perhaps the beauty of what she was seeing or it could be that thoughts of her recently deceased son had assailed her senses just then. But I’m sure she appreciated the loving touch and kind words of a friend.

And of course the little baby had no idea what was going on. She simply popped her precious head up and looked at us all with big curious eyes. Some of that “us”, at least for today, was her family. Strangers among us. Nice. But I wonder what they thought when . . .

The dog came down the aisle. All harnessed up. Used and loved by his mistress who, along with her husband, employs a trained service dog to aid with their daily living. When Hoagie or Wally stand and give a good shake the harness jingles, sometimes right up front, and the children love it.

The music was especially good yesterday. We got a two thumbs up from our director. And, you won’t believe this, but our Latin was impeccable. Yeah, Latin. Our 110th language. Or not. But we did it and many of those who heard it told us later how good we sounded.

Here in this place I’m telling you about there is a comfort you can’t find anywhere else. Dogs and those who need wheelchairs are there. Babies and ninety year old ladies, too. Teens putting up with us and the truth seekers. People whose lives have been bent and broken, seemingly beyond repair, find something that escapes them elsewhere. For a while they’re safe and looked after, worried about, and soothed. Sure, we have to go back out again. But after the wine and bread, after the healing oil, after the gentle touch and being able to cry if you feel like it, that’s okay.

Because the One who draws us all together and keeps us through the week, He’s there, too. Loving us more than any friend and guarding us through the week so we're eager to return in seven days for more.

Can you guess where I was?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Do you know who Anne Dudley Bradstreet was?  She began having children at the age of sixteen and subsequently bore her husband, Simon, eight of them. She lived on the edge of a wilderness and nearly raised those children herself as her husband pursued his interests. When she wasn’t caring for them, she was busy fending off disease and hostile neighbors. In her “spare” time she wrote poetry and did it so well that she had her work published. She waxed poetic mostly about her husband and children. She called her children her little birds and wrote a charming poem about them in 1659. That’s right, 1659. She was our country’s first poet – an incredible woman. A stained glass window in her honor hangs in St. Botolph’s Church in Boston. Find out more about her here.

Do you  know who Ed Gifford was? He painted this.

I simply love this picture. It’s titled Nearing Hickory Hill and evokes the autumn for me more than any other photo, painting, or story. In the back of my mind there must be something that relates, probably from childhood and very young childhood at that. I was born in Minnesota. They have pretty autumns there unlike California where Dad took us when I was only seven. So, like I said, way back there in the gray matter. Maybe Grandpa Blaine’s farm or some romantic vision my mother wove for us when she got all nostalgic for home.

I found out about both of these people in an old Ideals magazine that I’ve had since I was first married. I never had the heart to throw it out. Having come from Southern California with my husband to upstate New York back in the late 60’s, nothing has to be a romantic vision anymore. Nope, I’m living it. And right now? It looks just like Ed’s painting outside.

It’s autumn in New York and time to love it again.

Note: Ideals is still going strong and I am honored to have been published in two of their Easter editions. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Lovely Guest

Today it’s my pleasure to once again feature my friend and prolific author, Karen Lange. Her newest book, Write for Life Volume One, is perfect for anyone who homeschools teens. Let’s see what Karen has to say about it. And then she’s got some treats (no tricks) for you. Check them out! Thank you, Karen.

What prompted you to write this book?

Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by! The lessons in Write for Life Volume One are ones I use with my teen homeschool students in an online writing co-op. I’ve long wanted to convert the lessons into book form for use at home or with student groups. These are lessons I wish I’d had when homeschooling my children. They break writing the research paper down into more manageable, less intimidating steps, offering tips, advice, and insight into the entire process.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

My hope is that readers, students in particular, will come away more confident in their research and writing skills. I believe that with practice and encouragement, every student can write. Certainly not everyone will become a bestselling author, but they can learn to express themselves better through writing. Improving communication skills helps students gain an edge for future pursuits. My philosophy is that everyone has something to share with others, and writing is one way to do that.

Who was Write for Life written for?

The book is designed for group, family, or individual student use.  This includes homeschoolers and public and private school students. It can be used anytime to help students brush up on their research paper writing skills.
Write for Life includes an instructor guide with information and advice on how to help students through the process. While best used with parent or other adult supervision, self-motivated students can work through the lessons themselves. I've had a writer tell me recently that the lessons would also be suitable for anyone wanting to brush up on research skills.

Since Write for Life is more of an educational resource, how do you plan to market it? 

That’s a good question! I am exploring different options as we speak. They include doing articles and guest posts, spots on Blogtalk Radio, and of course, social media. In addition, I may offer some workshops in the future. I will also do another blog tour when Volume Two, Essay Writing, is released.

You mentioned that there is a Volume Two of Write for Life.  What will that include? When will it be released?

Write for Life Volume Two’s topic is Essay Writing. It will follow the same format, offering ready to use lessons for grades 7-12 that will guide students through the essay writing process. The lesson topics include:  
  • Essay basics and structure   
  • Choosing topics and sources
  • Taking good notes
  • Thesis statements and outlines
  • Developing content
  • Revision and editing
  • MLA style source documentation
  • Preparing for the test essay

Write for Life Volume One

Write for Life: Volume One: Writing the Research Paper
This book offers ready to use lessons for grades 7-12 that guide students through the process of writing the research paper. Suitable for homeschool families, co-ops, or other student groups, these eight lessons break down the process from start to finish with helpful instruction, encouragement, and practice.
Lesson topics include: 
  • MLA style research paper basics, topics, and sources
  • Thesis statements
  • Outlines
  • Developing content
  • Rough and final drafts
  • Citing sources

No matter what we do in life, good communication skills are an important ingredient for success.  Strengthening students’ writing enhances verbal and other interpersonal skills and helps prepare them for a lifetime of good communication.

Since 2005, Karen Lange has used these lessons to teach homeschool teens at the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op. She believes that everyone can improve their writing skills with a good balance of instruction, encouragement, and practice.

 Purchase Write for Life on Amazon

About the Author
Karen Lange is a homeschool veteran and consultant, freelance writer, editor, and online writing instructor for teens and adults. Her articles appear in parenting, homeschool, and other publications. Homeschool Co-ops 101, her first book, was released in 2013. She and her husband homeschooled their three children for grades K-12 in southern New Jersey. They now live in north central Kentucky where Karen enjoys reading, walking, and playing with her grandson. She is a fan of dark chocolate, hockey, and historical fiction.

Visit Karen

Twitter - @KLELange

Giveaway Information

One winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card & a copy of Write for Life ebook.
Here is the link for the Rafflecopter entry form:
FYI: For those who do not have a Kindle, you can download the Free Kindle App for your computer, phone, or tablet at this link:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I’m not one to plaster old pictures of myself on Facebook for this wildly popular social media day, but on occasion I like to toss my head back in time if only to see how far we’ve come. Know what I mean? So, who remembers these?

Princess telephones – Goodness, the first time I saw one of these I thought nothing in the world could be more modern. No more big black phone with a dial this size of a manhole cover. Every girl needed one of these babies. And they came in colors!

Commercials with songs – The first one that comes to mind is “I’d Like to Teach the Word to Sing” from Coca Cola and the second one is Dinah Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet”. If  you gave me half an hour I’d come up with more and I’ll bet you could, too.

Variety Shows – One of my siblings used to call it The Egg Sulliban Show. And I remember when Egg (Ed) featured The Beatles - a long anticipated event at the time. Others include The Red Skelton Show, Carol Burnett and a few others. Anybody? Oh, wait. I think Dinah Shore’s show was of the variety type. Yeah.

Slips – I don’t know if there’s a woman under forty who ever wore one, but at one time they were standard issue for women of all ages. Some were plain, some were fancy, and it felt kind of cool to have yet another barrier against the cold cruel world right there under your dress.  But that era is over – except maybe in certain catalogs. A big sigh here.

Cheap hamburger – A few weeks ago I stood in front of the meat case at our local supermarket. The ‘organic’ hamburger was being offered at the unbelievably low price of $4.99 a pound. In the case below there sat the more standard what? Plastic hamburger offered at only $3.89 a pound. I asked the butcher, who happened to be loading the cases, why beef was so high. He told me there’d been a drought out west last spring so beef was sold off and now there’s not much left. Huh. Who would have guessed.

I never had a princess phone of my own and I was very young when Dinah Shore sang for Chevrolet. I thought Red Skelton was a hoot and the Beatles were just okay. I threw my last slip away fifteen years ago and  I remember when everyone bought hamburger because it was cheap and you could do so many things with it.

Times change and they always will, but sometimes you get perspective looking back. Yeah, you do.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 6, 2014

Uh, Oh, Gossip

I’ve been thinking lately about gossip. I’m pretty sure I know what it means, but thought I’d give the old dictionary a look-see just to make sure. Well – I got the shock of my life. The first definition is ‘godparent’ or ‘sponsor’. Say what?

Further thought brought to mind my grandmother on Mom’s side. She freely admitted she loved to gossip. She was a talker and a half. I remember once, while in a trance listening to her, I had to run to the bathroom.

“Be right back, Grandma,” I said and hurried off. When I came back she was still talking. No one else was in the room. I believe she was spouting off on how Russia had most of our gold and we were too stupid to realize it. She was a hoot.

Okay, the second definition of the word (sorry for the Grandma interruption there) is someone who engages in idle talk or spreads rumors. Now That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

So what is this ‘idle talk’ of which it speaks? My guess is an off the cuff remark that does more damage than we ever dreamed it would. Like in the old Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Raymond’s brother Robert reveals this bit about his wife, Amy. “If you get her laughing real hard, she pees a little.”  Good grief! How would you like that known about you? It was just between the two brothers, but still.

Then there’s the hard core stuff as in, “Rumor has it that Kabob stole the fundraising money. I know because Shish saw him walking out with the cash box.” Except Shish didn’t know that Kabob was going fishing after the Save Every Termite Now fundraiser and that was his tackle box he was carrying. Gosh, people, get your facts straight before going all Shish Kabob on everybody.

I don’t think I’ve inherited my grandmother’s love of gossip. I like to know what’s going on in the family, the community I live in, and the world. But I prefer facts to speculation even though speculation (okay, gossip) is often more interesting. And I’ll confess that, on occasion, I get all caught up in a juicy rumor until I catch myself. Especially if it’s funny. Just don’t make me laugh too hard. Know what I’m sayin’?

Do chime in.

Image: farconville                                                     Free Digital Photos

Friday, October 3, 2014

Recipe Day

Here’s a very neat little recipe I found online or maybe someone posted in on Facebook, I can’t remember. Anyway, it only takes about twenty minutes total and your little ones can help. Perfect with a hot cuppa Joe or a cold glass of milk. I make them right before our two o’clock coffee break. My grandkids love these.

Monkey Bread Muffins (my own name for them)

1 tube crescent rolls
¼ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed together

¼ cup butter melted with ¼ cup brown sugar – stir in pot over low heat to blend.

Open the rolls and separate pieces. Cut them into small chunks – don’t be too fussy.
Roll in sugar and cinnamon and place in regular size muffin cups. I use 8 of the 12 cups and put a little water in the remaining to balance the pan. Again, don’t be fussy. About 5-6 pieces in each cup – just plop them in.

Drizzle each muffin with some of the butter and brown sugar mixture.

Bake at 350 for ten  minutes. I pop them out of the pan right away. They ARE sticky. Run a knife around the edge and coax them out with a fork onto the plate.

See? How simple is that? And if you want to add some chopped walnuts or tiny bits of apple more power to you. Double the recipe, of course, if you have more eager mouths to please. I suppose you could even drizzle them with frosting if you have a sweet tooth the size of Cincinnati. That's up to  you. 


Image: Free Digital Photos 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bad Hair Cuts - Really Bad

There isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t had a haircut. Good ones, bad ones, in-between ones. I’m thinking about it because I’m at that dangerous point in my hair care regimen where a straightening kit seems the only solution. Sleek swinging hair is something that has eluded me most of my life and if one more person says, “woman pay good money to get curls like that,” their reward will be a withering stare. That or I’ll give them a haircut.

I’ve cut my husband’s hair for over 40 years. How did that happen? Well, one day he came home for lunch and I’d just cut number two son’s hair. Blaine was a toddler. It looked so good hubby said, “why don’t you cut mine?” I was flattered and shocked and, as it turns out, very stupid. At first it was a challenge, now it’s a chore. I mean, c’mon, doesn’t he crave the testosterone laden air of the barber shop? The bonhomie of being barbered? I can’t think of any more alliterative phrases here so I’m hoping you’re getting my drift.

And speaking of Blaine. I cut his and his brother’s hair ever after that, too. Most of the time it turned out okay. But there was this one time. Blaine did not inherit the curls his two brothers did, so  his hair had to be dealt with. No hiding my mistakes in the frizz. About half way round his head I over-snipped. I corrected. Then I lost focus chatting with the boy and weird things started happening with the scissors. I forged ahead with some of that bonhomie I just mentioned but it was no good.

I tried to discourage him from looking in the mirror. “Go take a shower and wash off all those clippings,” I said briskly. 

But, oh no, he had to look. Upon viewing his sticky-uppy, slightly uneven do, he turned his anguished face to me. “I hate you!”

Slightly wounded, I said back, “Go take a shower, it’ll look better.”

Still at peak volume he says, "Oh, yeah. The magic shower!” And stomps off.

Good thing hair grows.

My own worst experience happened a few weeks after number three son was born. I just needed a couple of hours away ya know? I went to a salon not too far up the road. Never been there and didn’t see the fine print on their advertising stating, If you think you look bad now, wait’ll we get through with you.

This hairdresser seemed so normal, too. Very kindly she asked me what I’d like. I told her. She misinterpreted. “Okay, then. Let’s get rid of the bulk of this right now.” She swooped my hair into a ponytail and chopped – using her best indigenous people’s scalping tool. I gulped and grinned. I looked around. Was that a beaver pelt back there on her office wall? She smiled. And just then I noticed the notches on her leather wristlet. My fate was sealed. When I got home my husband’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.  “It’ll look better after I go take a shower,” I whispered. 

It’s the line I use for all bad haircuts now. We don’t believe in magic, but we have absolute faith in the power of the shower. Please give it a try the next time you’re scalp . . . uh, in for a light trim. Let me know how it works out.

Image: Frankie 242                                          Free Digital Photos