Thursday, February 27, 2014


I haven’t shared a recipe in a while. I make this one whenever I don’t want to think too much and I just kind of dreamed it up one evening. It was years ago, but it’s yummy and lends itself to variations. I call it Chicken Hash. Here’s what you need and this is for two servings so adjust for your needs.

1 boneless chicken breast
1 medium potato cut in chunks
1 small onion rough chopped
1 carrot, peeled, and sliced on the diagonal to look pretty
¾ cup chicken broth (I micro the water and plop in a chicken bouillon cube)
Olive oil, butter, and flour

In your pan heat the butter and oil, about two tablespoons each. Sauté vegetables. While they’re getting tender cut chicken into chunks and dredge in seasoned flour (salt and pepper, but you knew that). Remove veggies to a bowl and add chicken to pan. Go ahead and add more oil or butter if you need to. While the chicken is browning get your broth ready. When chicken is browned add veggies back in. Let them cook together for a bit then add chicken broth. Cook for about 10 minutes longer. Done!


Fry a couple slices of bacon, set aside, and use the bacon fat to fry in. I know, I know. But bacon is so flavorful and really, it doesn’t add much in the way of calories. Cut up your slices and add them at the end.

Add other veggies. Leftover corn, green beans, peas, celery, broccoli – whatever.

Stir in some chopped garlic or add seasoned salt to your flour.

A green salad and crusty bread make this a pretty good meal on a winter’s night. Let me know if you try it.

Image: freedigitalphotos

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bipping Around Town

Well, before I could “bip” I had to get myself to the car. Not so easy when you have to skate – sort of. This winter has been a humdinger and our house on the rise with the gravel walks and lumpy-with-ice driveway can give a girl pause, ya know? Anyway, I did hazard the trip and, like I frequently do, I observed little things.

At the post office someone had put out a five gallon bucket to catch the drips from the roof. The bucket was full, frozen, and sitting right next to a lump of ice. The lump was shaped just like the bucket, so “someone” must have upended the first bucket of frozen drips, banged the ice out, and left it there, sort of like a companion bucketsicle.  Unless – the bucketsicle wouldn’t move. Suppose someone tried to kick it out of the way and stubbed a toe causing someone to go postal. Oh, go ahead and groan. Bad joke, I know, but no worse than a mother naming her kid Someone. Moving right along.  

Next, I ran into the Dollar Tree to pick up a card for a friend. I had one dollar and some change in my wallet. And that’s all I wanted to spend. So, didn’t that store have all kinds of stuff I couldn’t live without – just today when I only had ONE dollar? But I also had my debit card – so – into the cart went facial tissue (Puffs!), plastic hangers, envelopes, wipes, and two greeting cards (I thought of another friend). And then I saw the man.

Portly plus, I guess is how you’d describe him and dressed all in brown like a big teddy bear. I glanced at him as he stared intently at the snacks in the J-food aisle. I thought, Gosh, maybe he’s getting some lo-cal soy kind of thing, and he’ll tell me about them when we meet up plastic goods. He’ll extol the virtues of freeze dried, sea salted, peas. But, no, he was in the line behind me a few minutes later with 4 bags of pork rinds in his paw. I know, I know, they’re mostly air. Porky flavored air. I’m sure he was getting  them for his cat, Trissy. Probably his own soy stuff was already in the car. I try not to judge.

The thing is, I’m suffering badly from Cabin Fever. You can tell by the claw marks on the coffin lid. But, March is around the corner. I’m partial to March, the month of Hope. I hope the bluetts are thinking of waking up, and I hope the robins are going over their song lyrics. I hope the sun melts all the dirty snow, and I hope we don’t have to buy oil until September. Things like that to look forward to are what keep me from chowing the pork rinds. But, I'll tell you this, if winter lasts much longer, Trissy better watch her back!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Olympic Thoughts

I love to watch the figure skaters. My Olympic faves. I sit there, of an evening, and float across the ice with them from my recliner. I think of how it might be if I could suddenly inhabit their lithe, young, bodies and defy reason and gravity in an attempt to achieve gold. Sometimes, the next morning, I wake up with sympathy pains in my ankles and look around for that cool outfit I wore for the performance. Okay, not really, but you kind of get where I’m going with this, right?

Sure you do. Where I’m going is – I have never been, nor will I ever be, an Olympic quality athlete. Nope, I was one of those girls who stood in the outfield and prayed. Not to win, silly. No, I prayed the ball wouldn’t come to me. What if it hit me in the face or slammed into my chest (which was flat enough already)? Those of us who eventually became perfect breeders realize that protecting the species by not getting banged up on the courts and fields of dreams were answering to a higher calling. And I have three sons and six extraordinary grandchildren that bears this idea out.

With this in mind, you might be surprised to learn that I met the love of my life while ice skating. I’d left work one night and invited one of my sisters and a brother to go with me to the local rink. You see, I had a brief, insane, few weeks when I thought I could conquer the ice. Little did I know that a former speed skater and his friend would also be there. I was too busy trying to stay upright to notice. Then, as I sat catching my breath, I heard a voice. It belonged to a blue eyed blond who had leaned down to ask me to skate. I. Was. Stunned. But I said “yes” and believe me, I was happy to be whirled around that rink in the company of someone who knew what he was doing (besides admiring my blue sweater). It was an historic moment.

I’m very glad there are young people dedicated enough to a sport that they make a mark in the world. They climb Olympus and give it their all. They are beautiful, nervous, quirky, inspiring and I cheer them along. And sometimes, when I dare to imagine what that must be like, a blue eyed blond pops into mind and makes me happy to be right where I am; safe in my recliner knowing that there was another, better, path for someone like me.

How about you? What do your musings about the Olympics bring to mind?

Image: digitalart                                                Free Digital Photos 

Monday, February 17, 2014


Once, long ago when we were young, able to drink coffee after dinner, and still sleep, there was an incident. I’d made a perfect pot that night and couldn’t bear to not finish it just because I had to leave for choir practice in ten minutes. So, I decided to take it with me.

Okay, we're talking ancient times here. I did not have that excellent brew in a travel mug. No, just a regular old kitchen mug was fine enough for me.  And if our car – clunker #8 – had any cup holders, I didn’t see fit to use one. Uh,uh, I drank that coffee as I drove and was probably singing, too. And, to foreshadow a little here, I have to tell you singing while drinking and driving can be hazardous to your health. Really, that should be on a poster somewhere.

So I’m zipping along Route 9H and coming up on the short side road by the Rescue Squad building attempting to slow down. You who live around here know whereof I speak. And did I say it was winter? It was winter. That mug of joe was warming my hands and it was nice.

Do you know what black ice is? I kinda did. But I never for a minute thought it would introduce itself to me in the following dramatic manner.

Right where that road curves to hook up with Route 9 where the church sits, I hit a black icy patch going about thirty MPH, and Whoa, Mama. Those clunker tires thought Ringling Bros. was in town because, sister, it did a 180 on me and I was suddenly looking at where I’d just come from with an eye out for the clowns. Panic! At this point I’d like to say a beautiful angel appeared in the road and “signed” to me, “Drop the dang coffee!”  No, no. It was left totally up to me, this tricky little bit. But it only took a nano second to grab the steering wheel with both hands and that cup of coffee was on its own. In times of peril like this the fight or flight response takes over and let me tell you, I fought and I'm afraid the coffee took flight.

When I got to the church, heart thumping, I ran inside and grabbed seventy two paper towels and attempted a cleanup. Not so easy when it’s cold and there’s  only a weak clunker light to aid your efforts. I did the best I could and called it good. But for many months, every time I got into that car, I was reminded of the “incident.” That lovely cuppa joe aroma lingered and, you know, it wasn’t so bad.

It was a Romans 8:28 kind of thing. Go look it up.  

Image: Grant Cochrane                                             Free Digital Photos

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Couple of Poems

Getting all mushy on you today. The first is a poem I wrote and sold to New Love Stories magazine, now defunct. The second I just wrote one day - can't remember if anyone wanted it. I think I was attempting to do the non-rhyming thing with these. But I hope you have a special love in mind when you read them.

Dinner at Nine
By Susan Sundwall

For you only I wait like this,
enduring kindly stares,
fiddling with my napkin,
running my finger around the rim of my glass.
Passing minutes seem like hours.
Then I feel you,
before I see you—and I turn,
like some crowd scene in a romance movie,
there’s only you, your head above the rest and . . . 
suddenly no one else inhabits the universe.

Before you see me,
I watch your easy saunter,
hear your careless laughter.
As you draw near
how it jars me in my soul and . . .
I know, again, there is no choice for me,
but to love you for the rest of my life.

You Have a Way
By Susan Sundwall

When you cross my line of vision
completely blurring the landscape,
with a laugh over your shoulder
and a hurried kiss tossed my way;
my world stops.
When I see that faraway look
in your dreaming eyes
as we stroll along life’s path,
I always, always hope that
your thoughts and your dreams include me.
These small things about you quicken my heart
and again I know, that against your tender onslaught of love
I am still utterly and willfully helpless.

PS: If you'd like to read my children's story, The Lonely Little Valentine, let me know and I'll email it to you. Have a Love filled day! 


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spring Cleaning

If spring ever gets here, I plan to clean. Really. It never fails to astound me the rate at which dirt, crud, cobwebs and dribbles multiply during the winter.

For instance. I be-bopped into the downstairs bathroom the other afternoon, wanting to check my general appearance before heading out the door. I have a really pretty mirror over the sink in there, but when I cast my eye into it something  moved – and it wasn’t my reflection. No, no, it was a masterpiece of a cobweb, evenly gray with many fronds (pretty sure that’s what you call them). I looked around quick to see if Mom was peering over my shoulder and swiped at the thing with my hand. Oh – wait – Mom has been dead for a while now. But you never know. How the heck long had that mother of all cobwebs been there for crying out loud?

And then there are the staircases. We have two. One grand and one small. The carpet on the small stairs absorbs a multitude of sins. Not so the front hall stairs. No siree. They’re painted wood and trap all the bits and pieces from dirty feet, barfing cats, and spilling grandchildren. And to add insult to injury, hubby bumped a heavy bookcase down those stairs one morning when I was out so there are dings on every other step.

Yesterday, our most recent graduate of the School for Three-Year-Old Dictators, Sierra, ran barefooted into the laundry room. Where the cat box sits. Some litter had been pawed out onto the floor and when her feet touched it she screeched to a halt. “Grandma, you need to clean up!” She stepped gingerly out of the room with little bits of litter stuck between her toes looking quite indignant. On the plus side she did help me clean it up, but only because I let her use the little cat-shaped whisk broom. Sorry, no pictures of the laundry room allowed, you may have just eaten lunch.

So, let’s see. My spring cleaning check list will include: all the mirrors, the grand staircase, the laundry room, and probably all the floors. The one in the upstairs bathroom is practically made of hairspray. That should be fun. I can’t even bear to think of the 21 windows needing attention. I did have a very wise friend who suggested I clean only the inside of them. That way, you can see out, but nobody can see in. She was a funny little lady, that one.

It’s a good thing we have a snowstorm comin’. I won’t have to think about spring cleaning for a while yet. I think I'll look for a new mocha hot chocolate recipe instead. How does that sound? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Things You Notice

The door was open. I didn’t see it until the pastor got up front to welcome us but then I couldn’t stop looking at it. On either side of the altar area there’s a door. The left one opens into a small room and has a door to the outside where pastor can come in and robe up. The right one opens into the altar guild room and was left gaping by a clueless acolyte (or Alf). It didn’t seem to bother a single person in the front pew on that side, but it drove me crazy. Why didn’t one of them get up and shut it? Why? Would have taken about 12.5 seconds. Ugh. After a while I decided listening to the Word was probably more worthy of my attention, but still. Grrr. I mean, what if pastor left that outside door open and a bunch of mice wandered in? One at a time they'd start making demands. No cats allowed. Free cheese. A church mouse choir. C'mon, people wise up. Shut the door. 

After church hubby and I went to watch granddaughter, Anna, play basketball. We got to the gym early (I’m married to someone who is “late” if he gets there on time). Anyway, while we waited I observed two little girls playing on some mats beneath a set of stairs. They were having a ball. One of them had a braid half way down her back and it was a beautiful thing. Sable colored, tightly woven, and it swung back and forth as she played. So pretty.

This morning just before dawn we heard the snowplow chug down the road. As I made my way downstairs I wondered how much of the white fluff we’d gotten so I turned on the light by the back door to take a look. About an inch. But in that inch were tiny footprints trailing away from the door. Perfect little paws padding through the snow. Our Agnes was inside so I wondered if it was the “other” cat we’d seen hanging around with Sister before we rescued her from the wild. Hmmm.

It was just brought to my attention – via one of those bathroom trivia books – that the original Three Musketeers candy bar came in three pieces and three flavors. Vanilla. Chocolate. Strawberry. I’m trying to remember if I remember that but chances are I’m too young.

So – what small things have you noticed of late (besides that snowboarder Shaun White now has short hair – the long red curls are gone)? And if Shaun's hair has been short for five years, don't tell me. Sometimes I notice things way after. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

Rejection or Regret?

A few days ago I wrote up a short piece on rejection (of the writing variety) to submit to a publisher seeking anthology stories. I looked at a few things I’d already written on the subject but none quite suited. So, I did up a new one and sent it off. But this one, an oldie, isn’t too bad. I wrote it when I hadn’t nearly as many rejections as I’ve accumulated since. If you’re a writer I hope this helps. If you’re not – well – insert some other effort and the message still rings true. Right?  

The ‘R’ Word

Ah. You’re here because you think I have something to tell you about rejection, right? I’m going to disappoint you. I rarely write about things I hate. Besides, you already know that your writing is going to be rejected by someone, somewhere, sometime. It’s going to hurt your feelings. And everything any other writer or friend or your mom has ever told you is true. You’ve got to get over it and carry on. I’ll tell you why.

It’s because of that other ‘R’ word…regret. When I was very young I hated it when older, wiser people would say things to me like…if you don’t finish this class you’ll regret it later in life. Phooey, I thought. But guess what? I got older. Guess what again. They were right. To spare you the boredom of reading about my regrets I’ll just say I have many.

So here’s the nightmare. I’m sitting in my wheelchair at the ‘home’ blathering on about what a great writer I could have been. But my list of excuses for why I didn’t do this is longer than my list of pills. And to my everlasting bewilderment, nobody wants to hear about it.

Here’s the dream. Two years from now I’m strolling through a Barnes and Noble. I head to the mystery and thrillers section. A book is displayed on an end cap. The woman next to me picks it up and begins to turn the pages. She reads the title out loud. She catches my eye.

 “ I love this book,” she says.

 “ You do?” I say. “Then let me sign it for you. I’m the author.” 

  I don’t want the nightmare of regret. I want the dream. And so do you. Go for it.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wandering Back in Time

Since, here in the east, we're smack dab in the middle of a whopper snow storm, I thought you might have time for a bit longer post today. So, out of the archives I've pulled a piece that was published in Prairie Times last year. Hope you enjoy! Stay warm and stay indoors if you can. 

An Unexpected Reverie
By Susan Sundwall

One gloomy Saturday I found myself in the laundry room facing several items that needed a touch of ironing. They’d been there for awhile waiting – kind of forlorn like. So I decided to hunker down and just do it.  As I stood at the board listening to the steam hiss from the dimpled face of the iron, I thought back to the days when women had to iron all the time. There’s almost no such thing now, but I have to tell you, a sense of contentment washed over me as I ran the hot appliance over my favorite denim shirt. I was doing something useful and productive. And I had to stand still to do it.  

There’s a pleasant scent that rises from freshly ironed clothes. It’s fleeting but floats up from cloth and hot metal coming together to smooth out wrinkles. As each piece is finished there’s a great sense of satisfaction in seeing a line of wrinkle free shirts lined up in the closet. As a kind of bonus, while that task was being performed, I was able to let my mind happily wander; right there doing such an old fashioned thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I never want to go back to the days of the old nursery rhyme where one would wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, scrub on Wednesday, etc.  No thank you. I’m a modern gal and think it’s marvelous what machines do now, freeing us from the drudgery of days gone by. But as I pressed and turned my shirt, smoothing out the sleeves along the ironing board, other thoughts crept in.

I kind of miss the routine of washing and drying dishes. Really. When my sisters and I were growing up, we’d do the dishes together. After we’d tried every trick in the book to get out of it, we’d usually settle down and get the job done. We’d use this time to sing some of the songs we’d learned in school. We, the three oldest, all had the same elementary school music teacher and our voices rang out over the sudsy water and clank of plates. Songs like “White Coral Bells,” and “Shenendoah,” drifted through the kitchen then.

At other times we’d play beat the clock. “Okay,” I’d say. “It’s six thirty. I’ll bet we can get this whole stinking mess cleaned up in twelve minutes.”

“Never happen,” said one sister.

“Come on, let’s try it,” said the other.

“Ready? Set? Go!”

And we were off like an illegal firecracker. We usually made our time and if you watched us you’d have seen quite a ballet. Dipping, reaching past, and dodging each other. At intervals we’d each throw a glance at the clock.

“Three minutes to go! Hurry up.” Then we’d put on the speed and congratulate ourselves when the last dish was dried and the sink was cleaned out. Dad was a real stickler for doing that last bit.

Years later when the younger brothers and sister came along (eventually there were nine of us) Mom and Dad were able to afford a dishwasher. I was out of the house by then but I’ve always wondered what those siblings found to facilitate bonding. Playing Pac Man, maybe?

As I ironed my next piece I thought of a conversation I’d had with my daughter-in-law not too long ago. We spoke of the school playground games that were prevalent when we were kids. She, too had played Four Square and Tetherball. I usually got clobbered at Four Square primarily because the boys were killer shots. I hardly ever made it to square one. But let me tell you about Tether Ball.

I was one of the queens at that game. There were about four of us in the fifth grade who ruled in the tether ball arena. My chief rivals were Cynthia and Donna. If you got off a good first punch you almost always had the advantage. The trick was to keep that ball flying so high over your opponent’s head she couldn’t reach it to send it back at you. If, on the other hand, she got in a couple of whomping pows! herself, well then the game was afoot. I relished the challenge and frequently won. I had a good right arm back then. And the boys? They pretty much stayed out of the way for that game. They were usually off somewhere in the kickball field or dribbling like crazy on the basketball court.

Grabbing a hanger for that last shirt, I smoothed the collar and thought of how pleasant it can be to give in to some long put off chore that nonetheless fosters reverie. Ironing probably lends itself more to that indulgence than some other things, like scouring the toilet. As a girl I would have scoffed at the idea of a pleasant hour of ironing, but those days are gone. I know better now.

There are things we remember from childhood that burn in our memory. They are not always the giddy with excitement times or the horribly embarrassing ones. No, sometimes a simple task like ironing will bring the more eduring ones to the fore in a lovely, and unexpected, reverie.     

Image: John Kasawa                                 Free Digital Photos