Monday, June 29, 2009

Nowhere to Run

He whistled as he stirred the marinara sauce bubbling in the pot on the stove. Her stomach rumbled as the aroma of fresh garlic mingled with tomatoes and basil.

“How’s that eggplant coming? Should I heat the oil yet?” He sounded as hungry as she felt.

“Not yet. I’m almost done slicing them but—hey, who’s that in the driveway?”

They peered out the window. The car was unfamiliar, a dark blue sedan they hadn’t seen before. They watched as a tall, thin man dressed in a suit emerged from the driver’s seat. He paused, straightening his tie, before he retrieved a briefcase and, closing the door with his hip, turned to walk toward the back door.

Blurp—blurp blurp. Blurp!

“The sauce!” A large splatter hit the tiled backsplash as he grabbed a wooden spoon and began to stir.

“Here, stir this. I’ll go see who it is,” he said.

The doorbell chimed but she didn’t take the spoon from him.“No, you stir. I’ll be right back.”

The man smiled as she opened the back door. Then, his smile faltered.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

She watched him swallow, his Adam’s apple moving just behind his tie knot.

“I…I’m Bill Daniels. I’m new to the area and wondered if I might have a minute of your…” He glanced down and annoyance shot through her like lightning. Whatever was he staring at? He regained his momentum but his words held a wobble. “A minute of your time to discuss the policy options my company offers. Would that be…uh, would that work for you?”

She shook her head, waving her hands as she spoke. “No, thanks. We’ve already got all the coverage we need.”

As if chased by all the demons in hell, he turned and hurried away. Over his shoulder he called, “Oh! Okay then. Sorry to have—” He reached his car, opened the door and threw his case inside. “Bothered you. Good day, then.”

They watched him back down the driveway, his tires squealing when they met the paved roadway.

“That was odd.” She returned to the cutting board where the eggplant waited. “He practically ran out of here. I wonder why?”

He chuckled as he crossed the room. Planting a kiss on her temple, he said, “It might have something to do with that huge knife you waved at him. Maybe next time you answer the door you should leave the cutlery behind.”

Friday, June 26, 2009


The night was warm and sultry. Moist, from the cloudburst that swept through earlier. Now moonlight shimmered on the water's surface. Crickets chirped. Frogs sang, their haruumphing overlapping so it was a steady hum.

She slapped at a mosquito so hard the sting brought a tear to her eye.


"I didn't say anything," she whispered, rubbing her skin where it still tingled. She turned and scowled at him but he was too busy scanning the treeline to notice. Perched on a wooden picnic tabletop beneath the low-hanging branches of an enormous maple tree they were nearly obscure. Or so they hoped.

"And don't 'shh!' me."

"Hush, then," he hissed. "It's almost time." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her tight against his side. When he spoke his lips were so close she felt his warm breath on her cheek. "'ll be soon. I know it."

Her eyes had become accustomed to the night. She reluctantly pulled her attention from the sight of his rugged good looks and focused on the meadow. A trail ran up the hillside, across the clearing and into the forest. She doubted the success of their mission but the adventure was enough to keep her from slapping the pesky mosquito again. It had found the only patch of unprotected skin on her ankle and seemed hellbent on biting her. Oh well, one small bite...what can it hurt?

"How do you know?"

He chuckled, softly. "I know."

"You're sure?"

"Mmm hmm." His voice was so low it was hardly loud enough to be heard above the rustle of the leaves that sheltered them. She felt it, though. Every word, rumbling from his body to hers, sending shivers of anticipation up her spine. Oh yes, she heard him. Loud and clear. "Two nights in a row. I thought the first one was luck. The second, a fluke. And tonight will be--"

Movement at the far edge of the path halted conversation. They stared as a gray fox stepped out of the shadows. It stood, sniffed the air, then walked out onto the trail. Surrounded by tall grass it must have felt secure because its stroll was casual, unhurried. They sat, transfixed, as the wild creature crossed the large meadow. Finally, with a last wave of its bushy tail, the fox melted into the shadows.

Together they exhaled. Neither had been aware they held their breath.

"Did you see it?"

She nodded, shaking her head in amazement. For once, words failed her.

"I told you it would come." Grinning, he squeezed her shoulder. "Three nights in a row! It's--"

"Magic," she sighed

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Feathered Nest

This little bluebird decided it wanted to live with us.

So Hubby built it its own house.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Go to the Mattresses

Around here we can practically recite parts of "The Godfather"--even the Italian passages. It's one of our favorite movies. Don't ask me why, because I don't have a good answer to give. It just is.

So when things get bumpy, we just naturally look at each other and say, "We've got to go to the mattresses." We hunker down, huddle together and wait the storm out.

What about you? When life gets nuts, what do you do? Do you go to the mattresses, or do you have a different plan?

Us? We're finding it pretty comfy here in our matress nest. Later on, I think we'll watch Part Two of The Movie. You know, the one where they tell the story in flashbacks. I just love the old-fashioned clothes and cars, and watching New York and Italy from a historical slant.

Hope you have a great day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Got Soup?

I love to share recipes with you. This morning, though, I've got an unusual request. I'm asking you for a recipe.


My darling husband speaks often of a soup he had years ago in a New York City restaurant. He worked near the restaurant (he can't recall the name of the place!) and often went in to have soup for lunch. The experience has left a mark on the man, and I'd love to be able to give him something that tastes even remotely like the soup he recalls with such fondness.

So, here's where you come in. If you've got a cannelini or navy bean soup recipe that you'd care to share with me, I'll be forever grateful.

The particulars of the soup? He says it was hearty, had clear broth and either cannelini or navy beans in it. Not much to go on, is it? Apparently the soup was so fabulous that when accompanied by a chunk of warm bread it made a meal fit for royalty!

I'm determined to cook pot after pot of soup until I make a batch that makes my sweet man smile. Any help would be very much appreciated!

If you've got a white bean soup recipe to share, please email me at

Thank you!

Remembering the Dragon

"Where'd you get that scar again?" She pointed to the long, wide line just above his left knee. A fence? A piece of barbed wire? So many years, so many scars...who could remember?

"This one?"

"Uh huh, this one." Trailing her fingers over the line, she nodded.

"Well," he said, settling back against the lawn chair and grinning, "that's a long story."

A firefly flitted near her face. Swatting it away, she said, "I've got time."

"Well, I was walking in the wilderness--"

"New Jersey?"

"No, the real wilderness. New York."


"And I came upon a dragon. And--"

"A big dragon? Or just a little, bitty pocket dragon?"

He scowled. "A big dragon, of course. Really big and--"

"What color was the dragon?"

"He was green, and he had shiny stuff on him. Silver, I think it was. A reddish green--"

"Reddish green?" Raising an eyebrow, she looked at him like she'd spotted a thousand dollar bill on a sidewalk. "Reddish green?"

"That's right. Dragons can be all kinds of colors," he insisted. "Now, do you want to hear the story or not?"

"I do. Continue, please..."

Covering her hand on his knee with his, he traced a lazy thumb across her fingertips. "All right. So, I was walking in the wilderness and came upon a dragon. A big, reddish green dragon."

He paused, turned and gazed into her eyes. Evidently her demeanor satisfied him because he turned back to face the mountains. She grinned, just a small twitch of her lips, but the growing darkness hid her expression.

"I startled it. It was sleeping, and when I walked into the clearing I scared it, I think."The challenge came on its own.

"You scared a dragon?"

"That's right, I scared a dragon. It didn't expect to see me but it did so when it opened its eyes it--"

"It what?"

He turned. Leaning close, he said, "It bit me." He stared into her eyes but her gaze didn't waver.

Finally, she nodded. Of course it bit him. Who wouldn't? In that instant she saw a flash of the little boy he'd been, rather than the man he was.

Sighing, he said, "So I did the only thing I could do. I pulled out my sword--"

"Weren't you afraid he'd bite that, too?" She snickered.

"No, of course not! I didn't want to hurt him, so I pulled out my sword and pushed him back a bit. Just a little. Just enough so I could pass. Then, before I left I--"

"You what?" With a giggle, she said, "Read him a bedtime story so he'd go back to sleep?"

Ignoring her, he continued, "I cut him on the leg, right above his left knee. So he'd remember me. With matching cuts, it's impossible for him to forget meeting me. Dragons live for three, four hundred years, you know."

"I'm sure they do."

"And that's the way I got the scar."

"Thanks for reminding me."

They sat quietly for long minutes. Stars appeared above them.

"That's a long time to remember someone. Think he still remembers? That dragon, think he still remembers me?"

She patted his knee. "I'm sure he does. How could anyone forget meeting you?"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Bialy a Day...

...keeps the doctor away...?

I don't know if it does or not, but I do have a funny bialy story to share. It will show that I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I don't care. We're giggling about it here, and I think it may bring a chuckle to lighten your day, so I'm going to share.

You know we live in the middle of nowhere, right? We're more likely to trip over farm boots than find a decent baked good around here. So, given the fact that my husband adores Italian cookies, I import them.

Thank God for Fed Ex.

A few days ago I called an Italian bakery in Brooklyn. I placed an order for Italian cookies. Then, I made my mistake. I made a request for one of my husband's favorite foods. I asked for bialys.

The lady at the bakery fell silent. I could hear customers in the store, ordering canolis and bread.

Finally I was informed, in a chilly tone of voice, that they don't sell bialys.

Yesterday the box of cookies arrived. My husband grinned from ear to ear when he opened the package. And, as I knew he would, the first cookie he chose was one of those seven-layer colored cookies with chocolate icing. My heart filled when I saw how happy he was.

After I got a couple of glasses of milk, I sat down with him and told him that I'd tried to buy bialys, too, but that the bakery lady shot me down cold.

He fell silent, just as the bakery woman had. Then, he laughed. Hard.

Me? Clueless. Absolutely no idea what was so funny. Loved it that he was so amused, but completely in the dark over the reason.

Evidently the joke is on me.

Italian bakeries don't generally sell bialys. Apparently I'll have to find a Jewish bakery for that.

Who knew?

Friday, June 19, 2009

From the Yard

In our yard we've got strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries. So when I'm handed strawberries I make cobbler. Lots and lots of cobbler!

The fruit can be changed in this recipe to accomodate whatever's in season.

Fruit Cobbler

5 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 cups strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place melted butter in a square baking dish.

Combine all ingredients except fruit and whisk until batter is smooth. Pour into baking dish. Put fruit on batter, then sprinkle with an additional spoonful of sugar. Cinnamon may be sprinkled over fruit as well, if desired.

Bake about an hour.

Best served with ice cream! But then, isn't almost everything better with ice cream?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Mine! It's mine, all mine! Allll miiiiine...

Oh! Er,'s me, Piglet. You startled me! I, um, well...I stole--no! I borrowed-- Sarita's blog today.

Hey, the chair was empty so I figured she must be busy somewhere. You could say I'm lending a hand--er, a paw--when it's most needed. Who knows? I might get a bowl of ice cream and a good ear scratch for my troubles. Hey, you never know, right?

Anyhow, it's been a while since I had the chance to give you a little tour so I won't keep you in suspense. Here are a few cat's-eye sights from around the farm...

Let's face it, it's all about the eating for me.
I can't help myself, I nibble on everything.
These grape leaves? Not so good.

Take it from me. I tried 'em.

I'll wait for the grapes.
The peony?

Smells fabulous, and I like them even though
they tickle my nose.

But taste-wise?


Okay, now we're getting to the good stuff.

The buttercups? Taste as good as they look--almost.

I saw this the other day, and gave it a quick sniff.I didn't dare bite it.

I thought about it, but kept my mouth closed.

Why? When I nosed it, Sarita flapped her arms like a crazed robin and muttered something about "driving an hour to get that" so I backed off. Wouldn't you?

Can you imagine driving an hour to buy colored string?

The woman must have eaten some of those dandelion thingys she's always picking. Or maybe she bit the peonies...they do make you feel kind of weird if you nibble long enough...

Do you see this guy? I didn't even bother to give him a lick.


Don't let the bunny fool you.

The pansies aren't as sweet as they look.

You know, sitting in Sarita's chair isn't as easy as it seems.

And typing with paws would tucker anyone out.

Me? I'm ready for my ice cream and ear scratch.

You? Have a nice day!

Friday, June 12, 2009

One Shovelful at a Time

Ah, yes, the fun on the farm never ends.

I've got a new flower bed. Now, flower beds don't just come ready to plant. It would be great if they did, but they don't. At least not in our middle-of-nowhere back yard.

First, I built the bed, using treated landscape timbers. I won't bore you with that, since it is basically an empty rectangle.

Building the bed was the easy part, anyway. Filling the bed? A whole other story!

See this? It's a truckful of soil. Notice how it's not in the empty, newly-built flower bed? You know how it gets from the truck to the flower bed, don't you?

I'll spare you the photo of my shovel. I'll also give you a pass on the shot of my filthy sneakers.

After I shoveled the soil into the bed, I went for part two of the Make A New Flowerbed Plan.

Ever wondered what a truckful of cedar mulch looks like? Hmm? The landscaping term for this amount of anything is a "yard" which sounds friendly but feels like a whole "neighborhood" when you move it one shovelful at a time. I spent most of my Thursday afternoon building the new flower bed. I'm happy with the outcome, and secure in the knowledge that I don't have to rush to the gym for a workout for the next couple of days.
Oh? The flowers? Truthfully, after building and filling the bed, I was too tired to even consider planting any flowers!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Dandelion Tale, The End

So...where were we?

Ah, yes...that's right...the Great Dandelion Experiment Gone Wrong continues.

If memory serves, we'd just had the big mess, hadn't we? And our fearless (or crazy, however you want to look at it) novice winemaker had just purchased a book and settled in to read it from cover to cover.

After much discussion with the professionals at a local winery and a thorough reading of my new book, I went back to the...uh, kitchen drawing board.

Remember? I picked, washed and, once again, followed directions--using a new recipe. I measured, tied the petals in cheesecloth and at various intervals added yeast, sugar and other assorted ingredients. I assure you I did not add "this and that" or dump the whole concoction in a garbage can in our basement, as some suggested. No, I precisely adhered to the recipe.

Between us? I was so strict about following the directions because I didn't want to clean up any more wine and glass. The first "mishap" took three hours--in the dead of night--to deal with. I was determined not to do that again!

After I added winemaking yeast, the mixture began to bubble.

The gases released pushed up the plastic wrap.

See the bubbles? Looks kind of weird, doesn't it?

The bucket stayed on the kitchen counter for four days, its contents blurping away. I eyeballed it a few times each day. At first, it was from a distance. As time wore on, I got braver and took a closer view of the little in-home science experiment. Very interesting, the way yeast gobbles up sugar!

See this? It's a fermentation airlock. Its sole purpose is to allow the fermentation gases to escape without--you guessed it--causing an explosion.

Nifty piece of equipment, isn't it? If the first recipe I used had called for one we would never have had our middle-of-the-night disaster. There would have been no flying glass, no splattered wine mess.

We were lucky no one was injured in the first attempt at dandelion wine-making. It is really fortunate that I'm so fussy I couldn't stand to see the gallon jug on the kitchen counter. I'd moved it to the corner of our living room, to an out-of-the-way spot where I figured it'd just sit and do its thing.

The corner walls took the brunt of the explosion--and I do mean explosion when I say it. There was a loud crash, and the tinkling of shattering glass, as well as the random sounds the glass pieces made when they hit various items in the room. We found glass shards more than twenty feet from the corner where I'd put the wine bottle. It makes me sick to imagine what could have happened so I'm not even going there.

What I do want to share is this: If you find yourself tempted to make wine, find a good recipe, one from a reputable source. Talk to people who have done it before, not just friends and neighbors with boot-legging grannies. And the most important bit of advice I can give is that if you contemplate using a recipe that doesn't mention the necessity for an fermentation lock throw the recipe away.

Let me repeat: Throw the recipe away!

Fermenting wine releases gases. When the gases are trapped, they can cause an explosion. It's not pretty. It may even be...well, let's not go there. You get the idea. Someone can get hurt.

A bottle that holds fermenting wine needs to have a cap that releases the pressure. When the fermentation action stops, after a few months, the wine can be safely racked into bottles for storage. Until then? A fermentation lock.

So here it is, my second attempt. It's been fermenting for almost two weeks now and there hasn't been any sign of imminent disaster. The escaping air blurps along at a steady rate, and the aroma of the fermenting dandelion juice is sweet and pleasant. We're hoping to sample the wine in six months or so.

Until then, I'm just going to watch it. Very carefully.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I've been doing more than playing Mad Scientist in the kitchen lately. Much more.

Hmm? Oh, right! Sorry, I fell into musing about the latest batch of dandelion wine. It's downstairs, you know. Anything could happen...

Right. What have I been up to?

I spent yesterday afternoon reading a new-to-me author. Don't you just love doing that, reading something by someone you've never read before?

Last week I ordered a couple of books from B&N. When they arrived I fell in love with the cover of one of them, An Agreeable Arrangement by Shirley Marks. Let me tell you, this is a case of correctly judging a book by its cover. The book jacket is beautiful, and the story on the pages is just as lovely.

I couldn't help myself. I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting, it was that good. I felt like I'd been let loose in a chocolate shop and was free to sample anything--so I did. A wonderful indulgence, only without all the calories!

The book is published by Avalon, so it's a sweet Regency romance. Filled with quirky, loveable characters whose heads and hearts often put them at odds with their situations, An Agreeable Arrangement pulled me in and held me captive. I enjoyed every moment of being lost in this tale, and fully intend to read more from this talented author.

Trying a new-to-me author doesn't always work out this well. I'll admit, I can be nit-picky when I read a story. If the characters feel dull, I stop reading. If the plot is too plodding, I stop reading. If there's too much unjustified gore, I stop reading. You get the idea. I suppose we all have our "I stop reading" points. I didn't find one "stop reading" point in Ms. Marks' book. What's not to love when that happens?

What about you? What are you reading? And how do you feel about trying new-to-you authors? Does it work out well, or do you find you often encounter "stop reading" moments? Hmm?

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Dandelion Tale, Part Three

You know what happens next in this story, don't you? That's right. We go back to picking dandelions.

Thank goodness we have so many!

Of course Piglet thinks I'm nuts. She watches me bend and collect. I know she's laughing at me!

Finally the paper sack is heavy with flowers.

Nine cups of dandelion petals looks like this:

After they've been washed, I tie the petals in cheesecloth and place the bundle in a sterilized bucket. I add the first ingredients and the winemaking process begins again.

Looks like an ordinary bucket, doesn't it?

But we know better, don't we?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Angels in Hardhats

Most of us have prayed for help at one time or another.

Sometimes, if you're especially lucky, that help arrives in a red truck.

Pulling some big equipment.

The answer to your prayers is fearless and attacks the rocky soil with determination and enthusiasm. The truck-driving, to-the-rescue crew does what you can't, and you are grateful beyond words for their help.

They drill. They pour concrete. Despite man-hungry mosquitoes and a blazing sun, they smile.

When they're done, they leave in a big, white truck. You wave, happy that they've come to your rescue but sad to see them go.

The reminder that when you prayed, there was an answer. You needed help, and there were those who didn't turn a blind eye or deaf ear. There was a need, and it was taken care of.

Thank you, Jim, Tim and Shamus. We will be forever grateful.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Dandelion Tale, Part Two

Where were we? Oh, right...we were at the point where I'd strained the wine and poured it into a gallon jug.

This is how it looked sitting on our kitchen counter. Pretty, don't you think? Full of sunshine and promise.

Unfortunately, things took an ugly turn.

It wasn't long before I ended up with this:

Not quite so pretty in the mop bucket, is it?

I don't give up easily. I did what any determined woman would do.

I went shopping. I came home with a book because, as we all know, nearly everything can be solved with a good book. Can't it?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Dandelion Tale, Part One

"It's no big deal. My mother always dumped the stuff in a big garbage can in the basement, waited a couple of months, then bottled it. Tasted real good, too."

"Oh, sure, I've made dandelion wine. Not hard, reallly. Just some dandelions, sugar and a little bit of yeast. Patience, that's the key. You've got to be willing to wait for it to mature before you drink it."

"What's not to like? Fast. Easy. Cheap. I had a grandmother who made the best dandelion wine that I think of it, I don't think she even used a recipe. Just some flowers and sugar. Oh, yeah. And yeast. That's it, though."

It sounds like a walk in the park, doesn't it? No big deal, they said. Quick and easy...and something anyone could do.

So I picked flowers.

Then, I cooked them.

Followed a recipe. Added "this and that" to the pot.

Then, I bottled the stuff and prepared to wait it out.

And that, my friends, is when things got dicey.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Knuckling Down

...and kicking back.

Welcome to a new month! I don't know about you, but I love the first day of the month. Who am I kidding? I enjoy every day of the month.

I've got plans for this month that include relaxation and indulgence as well as writing and editing. Hopefully I will find a balance between these two facets of my life, a blend that will satisfy me (and those around me!) on all counts. Walking the fine line between writing and other life commitments is one I think most authors struggle with. I know I do, that's for certain. But this month I hope to be able to produce most of the first draft of a new novel, work on editing an older manuscript while having some fun, besides. I'll let you know how it goes.

What about you? Do you have any plans for June?