Monday, June 30, 2014


Since many of you home gardeners will soon have cucumbers coming out of your ears, I thought I’d post this superb pickle recipe. These babies get more requests for “MORE” than any of my jams and even ketchup – yeah, I make my own. It’s a process to make these, but not difficult and sooo worth it if you like a sweet pickle. Plus, one of the ingredients is turmeric and “recent studies suggest” this lovely yellow spice cures most illnesses and once restored a limb on a man in Northern Ugiwanistan. Okay, I made that last part up, but do try the pickles. And let me know how you like them.

Grandma’s Bread and Butter Pickles

Slice enough gently scrubbed cucumbers to equal 4 quarts
Slice 4-6 medium onions (rings)
Add one green pepper cleaned and sliced into strips
3 whole garlic cloves

Put the vegetables into a large container and cover with ½ cup of plain (Kosher) salt.
Cover with crushed ice and let sit for 3 hours (I cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, too). This smells up the whole house divinely.

Bring to boil in large stockpot:

5 cups sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons turmeric
1 ½ tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed

Drain the vegetables well and add to the syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil. It takes a while to come to a boil then let ‘er rip for about 5 minutes.

Pack into hot jars and seal.

Let sit for a few weeks for the flavors to blend.


Friday, June 27, 2014

A Sneak Peek

I can’t believe the Fourth of July is next week! Can you? The garden is bursting, the grand kids are out of school and my book launch is only about six weeks away. Woot! Woot! So – I thought I’d give you a taste of what my latest book, THE SUPER BAR INCIDENT – A MINNIE MARKWOOD MYSTERY, is all about.

Here’s what my intrepid trio (plus one) are up to.

Minnie has decided to take charge of her life and join a fitness class. There, she encounters some interesting characters, not the least of whom is the instructor. But Minnie’s new direction in life is soon interrupted by smashing glass and a brutal murder, right in her very own apartment complex! Was this a case of mistaken identity or is someone out to get Minnie’s rump – uh – attention? Time to call in the snoop troops. Rashawna, Joel, and their newly acquired puppy, Yappy, are determined to track down the vicious killer.

While mystery shopping at the Lovely in Leather stores in and around Albany, New York, Minnie and Rashawna begin picking up clues. When Joel begins working at the Apple Barrel Farm further suspicions are aroused. Then a hidden recipe is discovered and the apples and granola really hit the fan. Now, if they can get out of their own way long enough, our dream team might even discover who the Chubby Chasers are and why someone wants to destroy a sizzling new diet and exercise venture

Now, doesn’t that sound beyond exciting?? Look for it on August 1 and if you’re in town come to my launch. I’ll  make further announcements as the day draws near. If I had some appropriate music, I’d put it right here. Huh. But that is the cover up there. It’s the sneak peak, not the final version, but you get the idea. I’m grinning.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Things That Amaze

Skype. Oh, my word. When our number two son left us to go live in Washington state with his family, we had no idea that one day we’d be able to visit his bedroom / office and chat face to face. Like through cyber space. He and the girls sit and talk, play with the pugs, run to the kitchen to get a snack and all while we’re watching. Or running to get our own snacks. Until someone figures out how to transport us through the screen to actually be in the room with them, this is the best thing ever. Um – and I think the airlines will lobby against that transport thingy. Could happen.

Seeds. Yup, they’ve been around for a long, long time. But each time I scoop up shovels full of the thousands of maple “helicopters” that fall from our trees in October it occurs to me. Every single one of those little stinkers has everything inside it to make a whole tree. And when I look up at the ginormous maple they’ve come from – well – this simple girl is in awe.

Water. The other day I was attempting to convince my grandson that water is the only thing that truly quenches thirst. He was hanging on the refrigerator door looking for water with flavor – like a Capri Sun or perhaps a beer. Ha! Just kidding. He’s only twelve. I highly suspect he wasn’t all that thirsty, just a little bored and wanting something sweet. He knew Grandma would not deny him the juice. I also remembered Jesus’ cup of cold water statement and how giving it was like being Him for the recipient. That guy knew what he was talking about. And he had no clue about Capri Sun.

Babies. The tiny little us. And most of the time emerging well formed with everything inside to become something wonderful. Bald, toothless, openings on both ends to let stuff in and let it out again (yeah, this happens when we’re old, too). Skin like velvet and a demanding wail that turns Mama’s head and heart to serve – immediately. Makes Papa proud and grandma and grandpa even prouder. Where would we be without them?

Okay at this point I was going to mention faxes, an invention that formerly amazed me. But I’ve been informed that the fax is passé, was never that amazing, and I’m only showing my ignorance of all things electronic if I go on about it. So I won’t say anything further.

What amazes you?

Psst: If a fax machine amazes you, too, call me. There’s a group forming.

Photo: Panpote                                                          

Monday, June 23, 2014

Distractions of Note at a Baseball Game

By this time of the year (it’s half over – GASP) we’re many weeks into the kids baseball season. We have skin in the game whose names are Sam, Anna and Melodi. By this time of the year it’s getting just a little bit much. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the grandkids play. It’s just that sometimes the mind wanders. Like when this happened.

Melodi plays Rookie Ball. She’ s into it. When she cracks the ball and runs to first base, braid swishing behind her, it’s a great moment. But yesterday I noticed that, when I wear my blue blocker sunglasses, her pink helmet looks orange. Huh. And speaking of orange there was an old lady . . . no . . . not the one who swallowed a fly or lived in a shoe . . . who was about ten feet from me watching the game, too. She sat in one of those fold up chairs with a sun roof.  And she had a cane to aid her when she hobbled over to sit in it. Stooped a bit but alert and possibly with very hot feet. About halfway into the second inning she slipped off her shoes right there in front of God and everybody and guess what? Her toenails were painted bright – like soccer shoe bright – orange. I Loved It. She was also sporting a turquoise ankle bracelet. When I’m old I want to do stuff like that.

Anna plays softball. We were at the field a half hour early. Had the time wrong. So you look around, right? You notice who else is there. You see someone from church and chat. And then you spot the 1930 Studebaker Coupe. Wowsa. Beautifully restored and gleaming in the sun. I love old cars. I wanted to go over and pet it, but I managed to simply tell the owner how beautiful it was. He seemed pleased and I did a quick “throw back Thursday ala 1930” flash in my head. This gal and the Great Gatsby tooling along a country road with me in my Marcel finger waves and him in a straw boater. Picnic by the lake coming up! So cool we can hardly stand ourselves. How awesome would that be.

Sam is at a stage in his baseball playing career where the games are quite good. Engaging. Cheer worthy especially when Hunter clobbers the ball and it goes over the back field fence. His team members gather at home plate to thump him on the back as he rounds for home. But when the dust settles and the game resumes the eye wanders to the catcher for the other team. His white pants are filthy and when he bends over to pick up the ball there’s a particularly dark gathering where the seems meet in the crotch area. One has a hard time looking away, doesn’t one? If he had realized it I’m sure he would have been mortified. “Mom! Was that there the whole game??!! Arggg!!” We might even have won the game with a catcher in that state of mind. Didn’t happen – but it could have.  

Yes the baseball year is getting on. But it’s very cool that there are moments of distraction to keep us interested.  I suspect that’s why there’s  a lot of buying of peanuts and Cracker Jack in that song . . . now what’s the name of  it . . . ?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, June 20, 2014

What a Mess!

When you look out our downstairs bathroom window chances are you’ll see a squirrel looking back at you. That’s because about eight feet beyond the window there’s a huge maple tree. Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel love that thing. That tree represents one of the dilemmas that comes with living on a piece of land that sports several huge trees. You just can’t take care of them all.

This tree, though, has a special status, because you see, it’s not alone. Oh no. Beneath it are blackberry bushes that the birds planted by hind end deposit last fall. From the seeds that came from bushes in other part s of the property. Add to the mix a wild grape vine (getting bigger every day), weeds, and a sapling or two which you can just barely see for all the competition.

Why is this allowed to be? You might ask. It’s kind of a mess. My only defense is – I really can’t think of one. It’s simply neglect. Other areas of the yard command more attention like our massive vegetable and herb garden. I want to cut away all the stuff at the bottom of this tree, but whoa Mama! You should see the berries. They’re always ready the first week of July so I can’t cut the bushes now, right? Number three son especially loves the blackcap (local name) jam I make with these babies. His mom can’t bear to disappoint him.

And the grape vine shows promise of a bountiful crop, too. Little green bunches are showing. And the woody vines will be perfect to cut for wreaths come autumn. I love the way the curly bits come off the main branch. I’ll bet you find that charming, too.

Weeds? Let the wheat grow with the tares until harvest. That’s what the good book says and who am I to say otherwise? Hmmm. Perhaps even God wants this jumble to thrive.

That leaves the maple saplings. They’re so imbedded amongst all the other growth that getting to them would be impossible at this stage.

Guess we’ll have to wait until the blackcap jam is all made,the wine is pressed, and the weeds die to take action. Yeah, I think that’s how it’s going down.

What would you do? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Worthy Repeat - I Hope

Today I’m feeling whimsical and random (again), maybe you are, too. I thought you might enjoy this repeat. Trivia and a recipe. What’s better than that?

Did you know that the first ten United States  presidents all lived to be over 80 years old?


Every month that begins on a Sunday has a Friday the 13th. 

It’s statistically possible for the same person to have known a very old Thomas Jefferson and a very young Ronald Reagan. 

It takes 500 calories a day just for your brain to function. 

Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor. 

Chocolate is the most universally loved flavor. 

Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough. Who said it? Answer below. 

These symbols, #@!$%, used to replace naughty words in cartoons and comics, are called grawlix. They were introduced by Mort Walker, the creator of the comic strip Beetle Bailey. 

And now for a really good, and healthful, recipe. 

Wholegrain Jam Squares 

2 cups quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked

1-¾ cups flour

1-cup butter or margarine

1-cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup chopped nuts

1 tsp. Cinnamon

¾ tsp. Salt

½ tsp baking soda

¾ cup strawberry or other jam 

Mix all ingredients except jam until crumbly. Reserve two cups. Press remaining mixture into 13 X 9 inch pan. Spread jam on top (I drop by spoonfuls). Spoon remaining mixture on top. Bake @ 350 for 25 – 30 mins. Cool and cut into squares.



(answer – Groucho Marx)

Image: Free Digital Photos


Monday, June 16, 2014

Terms of Endearment - Sort Of

Yesterday, Father’s Day, we had the gang over to our place. I made a dish I haven’t whipped up in a while and one of the women asked for the recipe. I handed over the original that I’d received from a friend many years ago – back in the 70s – I think. She’d done it up in red ink no doubt having grabbed whatever pen was at hand at the time. As Mimi and I read over the words penned in a very neat hand, we noted a few of the old fashioned terms Carol used to instruct the cook.

Break and beat two eggs. Today we know you can’t beat two eggs unless you break them cuz if you did the recipe would suffer. When they say on the Food Network – add a little something for crunch – they do not mean eggshells. Just sayin’.

Remove from fire. Okay, this recipe’s title is Mom Wickline’s Banana Salad and because of the quaint term, remove from fire, I’m assuming Mom W. was pretty old. Like from the cast iron stove days when beneath the burner plate there really Was a fire. My stove is electric and I’m pretty old, but I knew what she meant so the first ingredieants, eggs, lemon juice and sugar, were safe in my hands.

Thinking about terms we rarely hear anymore puts me in mind of baseball. My husband is an unofficial scorekeeper at our grandson’s baseball games. Time stops for him and baseball is the world for a couple of hours. When things are heating up and the game is close, he’s been known to fire off this salvo to the pitcher, Rock and Fire, Babe, Rock and Fire!! You can hear him yell it two counties over and for a while it embarrassed me. But once, when he’d been unable to attend a game, a team member’s mom said she’d missed hearing his call to the pitcher. It’s a term he learned in the Navy and it lives on in him.  I’m okay with it now.

When I was newly married and visiting my in-laws while John did his tour in Vietnam, my mother-in-law and I used to play cards in the afternoon. Sometimes Scrabble. On occasion we’d play gin rummy and invite Pop – hubby’s dad – to play with us. He was pretty good at it, but his wife could just barely stand it when he won. She’d throw up her hands and say, “Well, the dumbest farmer gets the biggest potatoes!” Always  made me chuckle. But I understood why we didn’t play cards too often with Pop.

I’ll bet your family has some old fashioned sayings being kept alive by constant use. Good. It helps us have a sense of family identity and gives us something to share with others. It enriches all our lives and sometimes our waistlines – like hot off the fire banana salad. Oh, yeah.

Photo: Free Digital Photos

Friday, June 13, 2014

For Writers - Diversify!

Don’t you love it when you open your emails or saunter out to the mailbox and there you find five or six payments for writing work you’ve done? And all within a short span of time. That’s happened to me and it was a delight. It was also the result of a lot of hard work. The secret? Diversify. Sounds like something you should do with your stock portfolio, but writers who take this path always reap the reward. Each of the following suggestions can be culled from work you’ve already done or written up quickly when you need a break from a big assignment or working on a tough chapter of your novel (as I am).

Flash Fiction

If you’re one of those writers who likes it short and to the point try sending your excellent flash work to:

Vestal Review – Come on, you have a couple of great short stories in your lineup somewhere don’t you? This publication pays 3-10 cents a word and would love to see it. Find guidelines at


Vent your spleen, remember a pet, or share an embarrassing moment. Anthologies will love you. These are a joy to write and require minimum time and no research.

Chicken Soup – Just scads of topics to write about. Pays $200 per story

Not Your Mother’s Book  - This publisher is always looking for stories, too. Get in there – start writing. You’ll be glad you did.  

Keep track of and have the rights to your “evergreen” inventory files. I’ve sold many pieces twice and perhaps you have, too. But think about how you can further angle those pieces for a market you never imagined. For instance, have you penned a poem or two, but never had the nerve to submit it anywhere? Or perhaps you’ve sold a bit of verse to a publication that’s gone belly up and you’d like to re-sell it. Greeting card markets work with poetry all the time. You might have just what they’re looking for. Check out this market.

Blue Mountain Arts – Pays $300 per idea, but does not want rhyme. See guidelines at:

Every freelance writer must remember that the minute you’ve made a sale, it’s in your past. Rejoice and move on. Keep your focus on conquering the next market and make sure there’s a great diversified scramble in your big basket of eggs. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shopping With Old People

 Rain. Puts a damper on everything you’ve planned for your out of school grandson to do. He’s twelve now and hiring out. He’s done some yard work – used the electric hedge trimmer for the first time – and yesterday he helped babysit. But today? Rain.

So – he got to ride along with Grandma and Grandpa to do the grocery shopping. Whoop – EEE. Every couple of weeks we head down to Hudson to the Shoprite because, on Wednesdays, they give old geezers a 5% discount and have awesome coupons.

So – in order to make this trip not too horrendously boring for Sam – I asked him to make some observations and take notes along the way. I told him I’d do a blog post recording, and perhaps commenting on, those notes. I handed him the little notebook out of my purse and a pen. Right there in the car I asked him what his first observance was.

“Old people are sassy.”

Oh, yes we are. By the time you’ve lived six or seven decades life doesn’t scare you so much and you get a ‘tude, dude. And everybody nearby gets a dose of it. Guess mine was showing right there in the car.

“There were no young people.”

When you’re twelve, fifteen looks old. This, according to Grandpa.

“It took a while.”

This is the opinion of most men and develops young – like on the first-shopping-trip-at –six –weeks-old young. Let Grandma explain. When you have to run a whole household on a budget, it takes a while to find just the right stuff. Why don’t they get this????

“Nobody moved more than 1 MPH.”

Except the octogenarian in the motorized cart who swung a hard right in condiments and nearly took out a stock boy. Okay, I made that up. But you’re laughing, aren’t you?

That’s what Grandpa and I did when I read that last comment out loud on the way home.

I’ll bet Sam can’t wait to hit Shoprite again. And soon.

Photo: Sam’s notes

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dancing with Harry

There is almost thirty years between us, Gabby and me. But we had the same thought, “It’s nice to be young.”  We were sitting in the Palace Theater watching a dance recital. Our mutual great granddaughter, granddaughter, Anna, was our little star and we were loving it. She’s a joy to watch because she has joy in the dance.  

In her second appearance, all in glittery purple and flourishing her wand, Anna danced with her fellow stars to a Harry Potter theme. The lights dimmed and the music began. Take a listen, and then come back.  The haunting melody had our eyes riveted to the stage.

From there my mind began to spin as it often does during sermons, news reports and absorbing discussions about hair.

Out of the mind of one woman came a whole industry. One insane (perhaps) flight of fancy written to excite and challenge the imaginations of children, became a world wide phenomenon. We’re still reeling from it. A boy, Harry, and his mortal enemy, Valdemort, along with a host of side characters and an owl go at it hammer and tongs in thick book after thick book. How in the world does that happen? And will it ever be equaled?

And then it occurred to me that, really, this could happen to anyone. Like JK Rowling, we all have worlds swirling around in our heads. Perfect pictures of how things are or could be. Places we’d love to visit or maybe stay (which could wind you up in the loony bin - ahem) that we carry around with us. Some let it out on paper, some share those places with only a few. And some seem to be ordained for the worldwide stage.

And then I’m watching Anna spin and move and twirl her wand through a place in her head that she’s sharing with this audience.

Yes, Gabby, she’s young. It was great to be that way once upon a time, wasn’t it? A smile and a sigh give weight to our thoughts of youth. But how about this – today, why don’t you re-visit some of the places you have in your own noggin? What fun – even the loony bin thoughts. It’s a worthwhile pursuit and who knows? You might be the next worldwide phenom – even if you’re not so young anymore.

Yeah – It could happen. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Fun

Sitting in a small basket next to the upstairs bathroom sink are a number of books. Reading material for those “comfortable” moments we all need each day. Most of the books are filled with trivia, interesting riddles, conundrums, jokes and odd facts. I thought I’d treat  you to a  few of them today. Sound like fun? Aw, c’mon, give it a try. You’re smarter than you think. Here goes.

A well dressed businessman parks his car, gets out , makes sure the doors and windows are all locked, and even checks to make sure the trunk is not open. And yet, when he returns to the car a few minutes later, he finds a cat inside. How in the world did that cat get in there?

What can run but never walks
Has a mouth but never talks
A head but never weeps
A bed but never sleeps?

In an all red, one story house, what color are the stairs?

You take away the outside and cook the inside. Then you eat the outside and throw away the inside.
What am I?

So, now that your brain has been teased a bit and you’ve figured these all out you can go about your day. What? You didn’t figure them all out? Okay, then. Answers below.

1.    The car was a convertible.
2.    A river
3.    A one story house doesn’t have any stairs.
4.    Corn.

Have a super weekend!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Good Things are Coming

That thought occurred to me last night while I cleaned up the kitchen after supper. We were under a thunderstorm warning and as I washed and swept I kept one eye out the kitchen window. The air smelled of it. Summer.

Other thoughts came pouring in after that like -  kiddy pools and wet swimsuits hung out to dry after everyone has had their fill of the six inches of water that filled it. The slap dash way that kids play in a small amount of water always intrigues me. And, yet, I remember being thrilled by the idea when I was young.  My parents had friends with an in ground pool. The woman was very nice and told Mom to give a call and we could come over any time. Mom shied away from that sort of thing so we had to beg and beg and beg her to make that call. And when she did it was glorious. We spent hours bouncing and bobbing and giving chase in the blue depths of “Pat’s pool.”

A screen door slamming. The hinges have a whole different squeak when it’s 85 degrees out than when the storm glass is in. And popsicles. Mom broke them through the white paper covering. We never got a whole one. We’d watch and hope for an even break because if they didn’t one of us was left crying with our half popsicle in two pieces. The shame. But we’d eat it anyway because there was no way we were getting another.

Sun tan lotion. Just the smell of it brings every beach trip back in a nano second. Again – begging Dad to take us on a Saturday. There were seven of us at the time and I’m sure it was a daunting task to think of hauling us all in our flip flops, bath towels (no beach towels back then) and Coppertone off to the oceanside. We didn’t  own a beach umbrella, but we spread our blankets and made the best of it. Mom packed sandwiches and OF COURSE we always got sand in them. As they say on Food Network – something for a little crunch. The ocean’s strong undertow is quite unlike anything on a quiet lakeside and sometimes one or more of us would get caught in it. A crotch crusted with ocean sand was a crunch I could have done without. But we wouldn’t have swapped those days for anything.

I make jams and pickles. The sugary smell of strawberries or blueberries bubbling in the pot with hot jars waiting to be filled. Yum. Then there’s the pungent odor of onions, green peppers, garlic and cucumbers brining under ice and salt on the kitchen counter. I cover them with a towel but the aroma sneaks out. It’s step one for the bread and butter pickles I can never seem to make enough of. Then cider vinegar, turmeric, mustard seed and sugar infuse the brined cukes as they simmer along in the huge canning pot. The smell lingers in the kitchen for days.

All the windows are open. The thunder rattles off in the distance and I wonder how hard it will rain. I don’t want the peas, which have just begun climbing, to get slammed. But the pitter patter of the drops begin and I know I can’t do anything about it anyway. Rain. God’s teardrops.

It’s all ahead of us. Tank tops, barbeques, fireworks, and icy lemonade. Water lapping at the edge of the shore, speed boats humming on the surface, and friends calling with an invite to a party. Yes, good things are coming and I hope  you have smells and sounds and feelings that will bring the season alive for you, too. I really do.    

Photo: Sierra in her kiddy pool a few days ago. How cute is she?

Monday, June 2, 2014


In the last week or so a few people have asked me for my bread recipe – the one with 4 ingredients that's shamefully good. I’d written about it in a blog post in 2012 (I think) and thought you wouldn’t mind a re-run. The story behind the bread is interesting, too.

Beautiful Errors

Writers are always looking for markets. We're told we should read the publications we'd like to submit our work to and I take that to heart. Trouble is, I don't have the money to subscribe to every one of them. But when hubby asked me to ride along with him to Tractor Supply, his favorite store in the whole wide world, I perked up. I knew they carried a magazine called Grit, a down home mid-western publication, and I'd grab one to get an idea of the magazine's editorial slant.

I knew this wasn't going to be a trip where we were in the store long. Hubby was only exchanging a pair of jeans and didn't need much else. So I scooted over to the magazine rack and there it was - a shining copy of Grit. I grabbed it and went to the checkout where he was finishing up the exchange. I plopped the magazine on the counter and paid for it. I was a little surprised that it cost almost seven dollars, but thought it would be worth it if I could sell them something.

About half way home I pulled the magazine from the bag only to discover that this wasn't the regular magazine at all, but a special issue dedicated solely to bread. Aghh! I was so annoyed. When we got home I threw the thing on the end table in the living room and felt completely disgusted with myself for not being more careful. I always leap before I look - a lifelong problem.

The next day I picked up the magazine and thumbed through it. Might as well, I thought. There I found a lengthy, but quite charming, article about baking bread in five minutes a day. Ha! How is that possible I wondered. But I read the whole piece and the writer, Becky Sell, convinced me it could be done. So the next day I gave it a go.

It's the best bread I've ever made, no kidding and no kneading! Here's how you do it - the short version.

Put 3 cups of very warm water in your stand mixer.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast
Add  6 1/2 cups (exact) of flour

Attach the dough hook and mix for about a minute, until there's a nice ball in the bowl. Cover and let rest for 2 hours or so. Place in fridge for an hour. Grease a large cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal. Generously flour your hands and the bread board. Dump the dough onto the board. It's a soft and sticky dough so roll it around for a bit and then use a large knife to cut it into two pieces. Put  them on the cookie sheet and let rise for an hour. Slit the tops with a sharp knife. Put a pan of water on the bottom rack of your 350 oven and bake the loaves for 45 -55 minutes - until they sound hollow when tapped.  

You know, Somebody watches over me, and very often my careless leaps turn into blessings. I love this bread and so does my family. I hope you do, too.

Image: Free Digital Photos