Friday, January 30, 2015

Book 3 - A Sneak Peek

I’m halfway through book #3 and it’s occurred to me more than once that you all might want a sneak peek. Am I right? Let me set it up for you. In Chapter 1 Minnie is having lunch with her friend and mentor, Dan Horowitz, an Albany Police Department Detective. Things are going along pleasantly enough and Minnie is very proud that she’s held to her diet. And then . . . Dan speaks first.

“I ordered it with extra broccoli. No special occasion. I just wanted to treat my favorite amateur sleuth to lunch.”  He stopped talking and stared over my shoulder. My back was to the counter where the wait staff picked up their orders so I couldn’t see what had caught his attention.
     “Don’t look.” His voice grew tense as he dropped his eyes. “Meathead Mulovich is right behind you picking up a pizza.”
     Gulp. Meathead was a character of no small reputation. The Albany Times Union had recently done a front-page piece on his latest indictment. Russian and Ukrainian refugees were coming into the country in record numbers, and a sizable group made their first contacts in cities like ours. Some rougher elements were beginning to come to light, and people like Meathead were being accused of drug smuggling, mail order bride scams, and welfare fraud.
     The air crackled with tension from across the table. Dan was making an exaggerated attempt at looking calm, but his eyes gave him away.
     “So, about the extra broccoli,” I said trying to help him along. I slurped my soda loudly.
     He unglued his eyes from Meathead’s back and looked at me. He was in a trance-like state, as though he couldn’t remember who I was.
     “Uh, sorry, Minnie,” he said. “It’s just that I got some new information on this guy a few hours ago and seeing him like this is weird.”
     “And I suppose you can’t tell me anything, huh?”
     “Sorry,” he said, wincing, “but when he leaves I’m going to follow him.”
     “Are you sure?” I asked, a little alarmed that I might be the last person to see Dan if something went wrong. “Do you want me to alert the department or something?”
     “No,” he said, and a slow grin crept over his face. “It won’t be another World of Tanks shootout if that’s what you’re thinking. I only want to get an idea of his public movements, what kind of car he drives, that sort of thing. I’ll be fine.”
     “You know I can help. Do you need anything checked out or any calls made?”
     He didn’t have time to answer. He threw a few bills on the table, patted my shoulder, and wandered after Meathead while I looked around for someone to bring me a box for my leftover white pizza. Our pretty, dark haired waitress zipped past me with a loaded tray, but never came back to my side of the room. I waited five more minutes then got out of the booth and headed for the counter. Angry voices erupted from somewhere back in the kitchen and I caught a glimpse through the glass pane in the kitchen door of a young man in a white apron arguing with a woman. The guy was the one who had handed Meathead his takeout order. He flew back through the door, eyes blazing, and barged up to where I stood at the counter.
     “Hi,” I said, trying not to flinch. “May I have a container for my leftover pizza?” I handed him the bills Dan had left on the table.
      He stepped back, reached into the paper goods storage bin and grabbed a box in one fell swoop. “Oh, sure,” he answered. At the moment he leaned back to hand me the box, the glass in the door window shattered, and a woman screamed. He ducked, and so did I as another bullet whistled past our heads and lodged in the far wall. There was a third shot. General pandemonium broke out as the other pizza customers scrambled out of their seats.
     “Evelina!” The young man shouted and bolted for the kitchen. The door flew open, and the waitress he’d been arguing with lay in a pool of oozing blood. He knelt beside her, and I grabbed my cell phone.
     Two things hit me at once. Dan Horowitz wasn’t going to answer my call, and the pizza guy had a wicked Russian accent. I also needed a Taffy Tail real bad.

 Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Winter

“Are you ready for the snow storm,” I asked the cashier at the Stewart’s Shop where I’d stopped to get some ice cream for a birthday celebration. We had a blizzard coming.

“Everybody asks me that,” she said and I made a face. “I can’t wait. I’m a snow lover.”

I was glad to hear it. I like snow, too. There are two reasons. One – it cleans up the yard or, I should say, the property. We have three acres full of trees, bushes, and rock gardens and, boy, are they messy. So the snow covers the ground like forgiveness covers sins and I love it. So pretty.

The other reason is the romance of it. Not anything like boy meets girl (although a good snow storm can swell the ranks of humanity – say - nine months later). But that aside think of all the images we have of snow and snowfall that charm us. Take a look at this:

If you walked up to the front door a happy grandma would greet you and her dog would dance and twirl while the cat rubbed against your leg. You’d be told to take off your wet things and sit down because warm banana bread and hot coffee were on the menu.  A cozy fire crackles in the living room where you sit down with  her with half your coffee left and there’s a great basketball game on the new Jumbo VII flat screen. Grandpa comes in to join you and tells you a hilarious story about the guy who just plowed the road out front. They ask you to stay for supper because baby it’s cold outside.

Does winter get any better than that?

I know, I know. People have to drive to work and contend with slushy streets, insane drivers who must be yelled at and gestured to, kids who get raging fevers in the dead of night and milk that was forgotten about until it’s too late to go get some. I get it.

But life has a way of balancing out – if you let it. So I hope my pretty picture puts some romance into your winter. I hope you get to work safely and your kids recover. And the next time the weather girl says “wintry mix’,  remember all of the things that could mean.

Today I’m venturing out into the 6-8 inches we got yesterday. If there’s snow by  you – enjoy, stay warm, and be safe.

 Image: Free Vintage Postcards

Monday, January 26, 2015


Since we in the Northeast are waiting for the Blizzard of the Century to hit (with many years left to do better), I thought I’d share this winter poem with you. I wrote it many years ago when I was still trying to sell poetry to unsuspecting magazine editors.

Stay safe friends and neighbors!

Out For The Paper 

Winter, that old man, came calling

To set bitter cold at my feet. 

I’d only stepped out for the paper

But found myself stuck on the street. 

My keys disappeared in the snow bank

No gloves on my hands, nor a hat. 

And then, didn’t I spy through the window

My dog Lula Belle and the cat. 

My wife stood there glaring beside them

In curlers and robe trimmed with silk. 

She opened the door and then slammed it again,

I’d forgotten to bring home the milk!


 Image: Free Digital Photos


Friday, January 23, 2015

Old Movie Time!

In the last couple of weeks the old movie channel has shown some real winners. I go there when all the other channels have failed me with their repeats, laugh tracks and horrible world news coverage – like how much air should a football  have if a football could have air. Stuff like that. Anyway, the thing about favorite old movies is – there’s always a scene or two that’s kind of stuck in your mind and you wait for it. Maybe it brings back a precious memory or reminds you of when you were  young. Take, for instance . . .

The Sting – I try not to get sidetracked by the totally awesome handsomeness of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but their acting does trump their looks in the scene where the whole sting goes down. In a completely fabricated off track betting parlor the scam artists pull one over on their “mark” played by Robert Shaw. It all plays out like a beautiful ballet and for a few breathtaking moments I really did think Redford got shot. I was so relieved when he grinned and pulled the fake blood capsule from his mouth. We saw The Sting years ago with friends after a dinner where the beer was only a quarter a glass. Sigh. Those days are gone.

Or how about . . .

A Place in the Sun – Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. What a pair. Rich girl, poor boy, big mess.  The scene I wait for in this movie doesn’t include Taylor. Nope. It’s all about the annoying, whiny character played by Shelly Winters. The one in the canoe where Clift is trying to figure out how to get her out of his life. My mother-in-law used to comment that she was always on her guard in a canoe. Any suggestion of changing seats and she’d blurt “I’ve seen that movie!” Winters meets a watery end when she makes a move on Clift and his life goes down with her when he’s accused of murder. Even Liz can’t pull him out of the soup. 

And then there’s Singing in the Rain . . .

Will there ever be another Gene Kelly? Doubt it. Set in the time just when movies were going from silent to talkies, Kelly, Donald O’Connor and um . . . what’s her name . . .  Princess Leia’s mom . . . oh yeah . . . Debbie Reynolds, do a bang up job of making us snap our fingers and prance through the sunshine every morning. But The. Scene. Is. When Kelly sings and dances in the rain. I can’t watch it enough. I wonder how many takes he had to do to get it right. I mean -  he had to have lost his footing at least once in all that slop, right? Maybe not. We're talking Gene Kelly here. 

So what old movies do it for you? Only two per person please. Grinning.

Image: 2nix                                                             Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

By Popular Demand - A Recipe

This is a “by popular demand” post. When you bring a pan of these babies to an event people chase you down in the halls or pester you for weeks for the recipe. That’s what I did when my blogger friend, Rhonda Schrock, extolled their virtues one day on Facebook. She graciously provided me with the recipe. They are a decadent and delicious threat to your waistline, but a true boon to your mood and sense of world peace. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit far, but if you try these you’ll have something to say about them – oh yes you will.

Rhubarb Custard Bars


2c. flour 1/4 c. sugar 1c. cold butter Combine until it resembles coarse crumbs and press in to a 9x13 greased pan. Bake @ 350 degrees for 10 min.


2c. sugar

7 T. flour

1c. whipping cream

3 eggs beaten

5c. chopped rhubarb

Combine sugar & flour in a bowl, whisk in cream and eggs. Stir in rhubarb. Pour over crust , bake for 40-45 min. or until custard is set. Cool.

Topping; 8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. vanilla

1c. whipping cream, whipped

Beat cream cheese, sugar & vanilla until smooth; fold in whipped cream. Spread over top. Cover & chill. Cut into bars, store in refrigerator. This was taken out of the Calvary Chapel Cookbook, Phyllis Yoder's recipe. Enjoy!!

A hint: Sometimes the crust sticks to the bottom of the pan. A coating of PAM or other cooking spray may help. These stay good for a couple of days, so they can be made ahead.

Image: Mister GC                                               Free Digital Photos

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Day the Worm Turned

This may be a repeat – not sure. It was originally submitted to Bylines Calendars and I didn’t hear back from then. Unlike the incident I’m about to relate. But I think I didn’t want to hear back from this children’s book publisher quite like I did. Any sympathizers out there?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was seventeen. I didn’t get around to doing anything about it until I was several decades beyond that. By that time I was pretty sure children’s stories were my thing so I began there. I liked children, had a way with words and of course it was a ridiculously simple thing to write for children. I had some success selling poems and articles, but my picture book manuscripts kept coming back to me. Huh! What could those publishers want that I wasn’t providing? For crying out loud some kids books only had fifty or sixty words. Undaunted, I kept writing and hoping.

I think the worm began to turn the day I got one particular piece back. As far as submissions go I’d done everything right. My contact information was right up there in the corner and each subsequent page identified with a number and my name. I’d included my SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). Oh – and I thought it was a darned good story, too.

So after the typically long writer’s wait I tripped along to the mailbox one day and there was my SASE back from the publisher. But something was odd. It had been sealed with wide tan colored tape and in addition – I swear this happened – it looked as though someone had run over it with their car. There were black tire track looking marks running straight across the back of the envelope. Geez.

I’ve been writing pretty much for adults ever since.

I will still write for children when inspiration hits me upside the head demanding it. I have one children’s Christmas story, Mary’s Sparrow, that I’d still like to sell. If you know any publishers looking for one, let me know.

PS: Since I wrote this I’ve sent Mary’s Sparrow out again – to Albert Whitman. Here’s  hoping!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Once in a Photograph

A few days ago I sent a birthday card to my sister. I always like to tuck in a little something and old photos are one of my faves. They fit easily into the envelope and it’s but a moment’s pleasure on my part to sift through those pictures. Well, maybe a bit longer than a moment. I’m usually on the floor with the old photo albums and loose pictures in little piles on the floor, but I always enjoy it.

Picture one was of Shari’s three children in the tub with our brother’s daughter nestled among them. The photo is at least thirty five years old and you know how time flies when you’re looking backward. In that tub sat a doctor, a warehouse manager, a nurse and a homeschooling  mom. I even imagined them finger waving me from the tub so I’d lean in to hear of all that had happened since that bath. It made me smile and I hope it doesn’t embarrass them if they’re looking over Shari’s shoulder.

The second picture I tucked in was of our son Blaine, and my sister, Shari, on mom’s sofa. Blaine is bouncing another niece, less than a year old, on his knee. That niece, now in college, recently visited his cousin, our son, in his home in Washington state. She was in town for an event and he was happy to have her and so were our two granddaughters.

These photos and so many others are in a place from long ago. They jog memories surrounding the moment the camera  shutter snapped. They allow a glance back at what we aren’t anymore. We thought it was always going to be that way. But no . . .

Two seconds after the picture is taken and it’s in the past. We’re two seconds older, hopping out of the tub and leaving the sofa. Then Time, with her feather whip and prodding boot, moves us along. “No, you can’t stay here,” she says smiling and full of wisdom. And we know it really would be awful to be frozen in a picture for all time. But still . . . I’m am very glad there’s a way to bring back the dead, re-visit childhood, or (going all Kodac-y here), capture the great moments of our lives.

What do old photos do for you?   

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, January 12, 2015

For Writers - on Rejection

I haven’t written anything for all my writing buds out there in quite a while. But I thought some of you might appreciate this piece on rejection that I wrote for an anthology on the subject. The editor rejected it. Ha! Let me know if it resonates. There's some snark here. 

Bummer – Rejected Again

Okay, I thought of a few, more coarse, words to use in the title instead of “bummer,” but really do you need to have those in your head? You’ve probably said them enough already and with force because – well – who the deuce likes rejection? In addition, upon receiving the “u” word (unfortunately) from that editor last week, you might have resorted to kicking things like Chevy Chase did in Christmas Vacation when he got the one year subscription to the Jelly Club notice instead of a fat bonus check from his boss. We’ve all kicked and cursed. And then we settle down and feel sorry for ourselves and boo-hoo-hoo.

Snap out of it. You are in such good company it’s ridiculous. I mean, think of all the people who pick up the Bible, state that it’s “rubbish,” and give it a toss. And the author is God for crying out loud. In the good book’s defense I will say it took a long time to get it all between two covers, but you know what that’s like, too, don’t you? Your hard spent hours are right up there with the works of Moses and St. Paul, right? Sort of?

And then there are those who tell you to go and read about all the famous Jack London’s and that chick who wrote Harry Potter types who were rejected a zillion times. Trouble is you would never have heard of them if they hadn’t subsequently found a daring publisher and gone on to become more famous than Julius Caesar. About as rich, too. Sorry, but those people’s advice stinks like old coleslaw decaying behind the neighborhood deli. 

So, what do you do with that horrible, rancid, rejection you just got? First, you go to the mirror and ask yourself if you really, really want to be a writer. Go. Now. Do it. If the answer is “no,” then skedaddle down to your local job bank at ten tomorrow, fill out the forms, and have a nice life. But, if the answer is “yes,” here’s the plan. Do your cussing, and kicking and boo-hooing and then go in with a vengeance and write something with that emotion. Do it with a full head of steam and fifth of scotch if you have to, but do it.

That’s my word on rejection. The scotch thing is up to you. For using cool words like bummer, deuce, and skedaddle instead of various word bombs, I humbly accept your wide-eyed appreciation. And if you ever become as famous as London or Rowling, I’ll accept your homage on that front, too. You’re welcome.  

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Real Fork Full

Today I’ll be baking some chocolate chip cookies – nice to do on a wintry day – and that got me thinking about this post I wrote a few years ago. I hope you don’t mind the repeat. The cookies and some writing projects await!

Can you tell by looking at someone that they like to lick the beaters? Chocolate beaters were my faves. As a kid I could get my tongue up under and in between the beater bars until there wasn’t a drop of cake batter or whipped cream left. Gosh, Mom didn’t even have to wash those beaters, they were so clean. As I got older this childish habit became more sophisticated. I advanced to serving spoon and fork licker, too. I know. Shameful. But for the most part I kept – and keep – it from the eyes of others.

When our kids were little we  lived in New Jersey for almost five years before we returned to New York. They were pretty happy years and the genesis of many of my cooking and baking triumphs and disasters. One of the triumphs was wild rice casserole. We’d made an adventurous journey to the land of my birth one summer and returned home from Minnesota brimming with legend and lore about this native grain. It was at one of the huge picnics my relatives held that I first tasted the wild rice casserole.

If you have never had real, Indian gathered, wild rice from the soggy fields of Northern Minnesota, you’ve really missed something. The dark grain (a grass seed really) needs to be soaked and then cooked for an hour or more before the hard outer shell opens and its rich nutty flavor comes through. Grandma Blaine told me when she was a girl there was usually a pot of it on the back of the stove and she and her brother used to eat it with sugar and milk for breakfast.

I brought it home with me from that vacation. I’d learned how to put just the right amount of sausage and spices into the dish. And YES there was cream of mushroom soup in there,too. The hallmark of every Lutheran Ladies casserole made famous by the likes of Garrison Keillor. Too bad. The soup and everything else that went into that dish made for excellent eating.

And my family thought so, too. But after dinner they scurried off to various parts of the house and yard. Our dog, Boots, zipped out the door to play with the kids and I got to clean up the kitchen. Okay by me. I picked up plates, cups, dirty napkins  - the whole big mess. Then I spotted the casserole encrusted fork. Nobody was looking.

Wow, a special treat for Sue. I snapped it up and put it into my mouth ready to savor the crusty bits of sausage and dark rice clinging to the tines. But something wasn’t right. As I rolled my tongue I thought how different the stuff on the fork tasted from the casserole we’d had for supper. I pulled the fork out of my mouth and turned to the sink where I saw . . .

The empty Alpo can sitting on the edge of the counter.

My mind refused to contemplate what I must have just done and my whole self stood frozen in time for about ten seconds. I gave thoughtful pause to what was in my mouth and sure enough – it wasn’t the yummy wild rice casserole. No siree, Bob. I’d just pulled a forkful of dog food through my teeth.

P-toohey!! Get it out, get it out! Paper towel, glass of water, fingernail scraping – I couldn’t rid my mouth of it fast enough. I’d suddenly developed and enormous sympathy for the dogs of the world, too. NO wonder Boots loved table scraps!

When at last I’d cleaned my mouth, I resumed cleaning the kitchen, shivering every once in a while and wondering if this was enough to make me give up the beater/spoon/fork licker  habit.

Probably not. My mac and cheese is just too good to leave on the spoon. I just hope you can’t tell by looking at me that I can’t hold my licker.

Image: Gualberto107                             Free Digital Photos

Monday, January 5, 2015

Looking Forward to Making Memories

Facing a new  year sometimes brings up memories related to your future. Okay, let me do some ‘splainin. Over the holidays we bought plane tickets for March to go to Texas where my brother, Tim, and his lovely wife, Elizabeth, live. Two of my sisters and one brother-in-law will be joining us from California. Hubby will be coming along, too. We all need this visit. Haven’t seen Tim since my mom died and we've only driven through Texas, never really explored the place. We'll be in McKinney. Look it up. 

So this morning a memory of another time we were all together popped into my Monday morning noggin. It was a mystery dinner party. John and I had flown out to Cali and one of my sisters set up the event. It was to be at a relatively new restaurant in Irvine and not too pricey. Mom was still with us and she came along.

The actors buzzed all around us as we took our seats at the table and it was fun to guess what part they’d play in the upcoming mystery presentation. A “waitress” came to ask our names and made a list as she went around the table. Ooo, what was this? My sisters gave their names and then the waitress came to hubby, sitting there with a grin on his face. Did he give his own name? Ha! Mr. Prankster told the woman he was Martin Van Buren. Sparked by this bit of creativeness, we all began to imagine who we might rather be. I chose Scarlett O’Hara and my sister, Wendy, said Meg Ryan. Mom’s turn was next but before she could speak Tim blurted out, "Ma Barker!"

Oh, Tim. The look she gave him could have melted a glacier – a really big glacier. She’d wanted to be someone far more glamorous, Ava Gardner maybe. Tsk, tsk. Have another beer Tim. And he did. The last drop slid down his throat just as a buxom waitress leaned over to ask him what he’d like for dinner. Poor guy, recently divorced, he had a brief lusty moment and told us later about the “two things” he missed most about his ex.  

After dinner there was the mystery to play out. Fun stuff. We watched and laughed and applauded as the acting troupe scurried around the room trying to solve the case. At the end of the performance there was a t-shirt contest. Wait. A drawing for a t-shirt – that’s what I meant. When Ms. Buxom got up to pull the winner’s name out of the hat, she hesitated. She let the guy who’d just played Lord Peter Whimsey look at the name and then she stammered, “Meg Ryan.”

Wendy’s hand shot up. “Yay!” (She’s the family Bingo player and has an uncanny knack for winning). We all grinned at her stroke of luck. She jumped up to claim her prize, but not before Buxom zipped over to the table to furiously whisper, “What’s your real name!” Guess she was onto us. Martin Van Buren enjoyed a quiet belly laugh.

We had a ball that night,just being our nutty selves, and I sure hope I can bring back from Texas another  humdinger or two for your reading pleasure.  I’ll bet you’re counting the days.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, January 2, 2015

Long Ago - Far Away

In the evenings, after supper, hubby and I go our separate ways. I go upstairs to my screen and he goes from whatever aggravating news show we had on during supper to Hee Haw reruns. It’s a happy arrangement, one replicated throughout the country, I’ll wager.

So last night for some reason, the new  year maybe, I wanted to listen to a few tunes before I went to Netflix. I craved something with a snappy Latin beat and there was one zipping around in my brain that I couldn’t remember the title of or the group that sings it. So I settled for some oldies. Oh, boy.

Lenny Welch – Since I Fell for You. This throws me back to my lovelorn teen years when I imagined I was destined to love . . . oh, who? Tommy, Vito, Roger, Clarence. It wasn’t the guy, but the image of the guy that mattered. You know how romantic teenage girls are. Anyway, Lenny croons out this song with heartfelt emotion  in a crystal clear voice with enough of a catch in it to wrench the heart of every sixteen year old Juliet in the land. Sigh. Love it.

Harry Nilsson – Remember. I first heard this song in my favorite of all time romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail. It’s played while Meg Ryan is decorating her little book store for Christmas and imagining her long gone mother. There’s even a filmy scene in the background where her little girl self dances with her mom. You can’t think too hard about the lyrics while this one is playing. Harry gets it so right about what remembering is that tears threaten on the precipice and will ruin your mascara if you let your mind go there. It’s that powerful.  

Timi Yuro – Hurt. Man, could that woman belt out a song or what? For sheer drama in a relationship go find this one and listen to it. It’s one of those oldies where the singer stops in the middle and speaks a few lines to the egregious offender. You  wonder after he heard this song how he could stay away from her for long, the big dope. One imagines he comes speeding back with roses and a ring, but that’s the romantic teen in me speaking, I guess. I also wonder how many current pop stars have taken a page from Timi’s style book and imitate her powerful delivery. Oh, wait. You could understand all the word’s in Yuro’s songs so maybe not. A little 'old lady snark' there. Heh, heh.

There were  many others I listened to and then the nostalgia wave passed like last night’s burrito and I went on over to finish up the last episode of Parenthood on Netflix. But looking back is a worthy exercise and if you can keep from feeling like some kind of stone age cartoon character for doing so, I have to tell you, it’s good for the soul. Yes, it is.

Image: Free Digital Photos