Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.”
                                                                                 Dr. Seuss

This was one of the worst Christmases I have ever had due to a long illness that is still unnamed or conquered. But the day inside has been better, enough energy to actually work on a short story and to make a blog effort for the first time in days. Despite not having much to say, I want to post before I have lost my moxie for the page.

Outside, the weather is frightful! The whole country seems on tilt with the weather. The days between Christmas and New Year are often cold, snowy, or icy and some areas have that very thing. Others tornadoes! Here now, we have relentless rain and more rain. The dog will barely go out as there is never a break in the pouring and more is to come. Roads everywhere are closed; cattle are being moved from flooding pastures; buildings have raging waters up to their roof lines and rock slides are happening.

Meanwhile, we have not had to go out for any reason. It is safe in our house on high ground, and we sit in chairs wrapped in flannel. In the Christmas story, these are the days the Wise Men made it to the newborn Babe. Today they and their camels both would be swimming to the stable! Like lines from Cat in the Hat, we sit inside sipping a gift of tea, reading gift books, and nibbling on what is left of Christmas cookies.

My writing life was enhanced by friends this year. The typewriter is an ornament, but I can’t bear to put it away in a storage box after the holidays. So I hung it over my desk as a reminder to stay in the space of “Once Upon a Time”, words that are printed on the typewriter roll bar. A new thirsty stone coaster is great for both hot and cold drinks, but it is my friend the buffalo on the front that will keep me company and maybe inspire some new lines.

I hope all readers are warm and safe and happy wherever they are at tonight.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Yesterday’s heavens were definitely a winter sky! It was December dark and grew darker all day as the heavy rains approached. The possible severe storms faded out though and we got only the rains—a relief. The temps were so warm in mid-70’s and broke a hundred year old record for the day. Ah, December in the Midwest!

That evening I went to a friend’s church with her. It was the third week in Advent and we both expected a solemn atmosphere emphasizing the hope and promise of the coming birth celebration of a baby Messiah. Imagine our surprise when a band with drums and guitars were in the choir loft! The music was toe-tapping and hip swaying, not your traditional hymns.

The altar had a mini-altar set up in front with a brown skinned Madonna and bright flowers, all accentuated by bright lights. The service was said in Spanish as it was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12th. I had heard much of this Madonna as my grandparents saw the original cape or tilman on a trip to Mexico in the 1960’s.

Mexico and Central America, like much of North America, were Christian by the sword and force. The story says that the Blessed Mother appeared asking for a church where her people could practice their faith. She sent a man, Juan Diego, to the local bishop with a cape folded over a bunch of roses to plead her case. When he got there, the roses had become a beautiful painting of the Madonna, a miracle. The fabric and painting still exist today and have been studied by scientists with no answer to exactly what or how it came to be painted.

So last night was a festive adoration and celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music made us feel like dancing and that was not a bad way to exit a church and face a new week in the world!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Gift from December

The days keep being bright and cheerful which is a gift in December; the weatherman tells us not to get used to it. Two big storms are coming in next couple of weeks, one on Christmas Eve. I hate to hear that when it will wreck some families’ holiday plans.

One of the best parts of the holidays is the expectation of Christmas coming and getting out among the mood and decorations of the season. Due to illness, I missed a great many stops I had planned for yesterday. By afternoon I was able to get out and do one I really wanted to attend! DH drove, Biscuit rode along, and we all took a drive down Highway 59 in the warm sunshine to see Doug Hall’s new log cabin studio. The artist was holding open house.

                                                                      Doug Hall

Doug lives near the Huckleberry Ridge Forrest and allows a muzzleloader’s shooting range every Sunday on his new cabin’s property. He and friends built the cabin themselves; they took the logs from his mother’s trees. It is darling and Doug uses it as a small gallery for his art work
Doug paints mostly Shawnee Indians or Woodland people. These are not your full feather head-dressed Natives of the old westerns. These men will scare the bejebbers out of you. Their heads are plucked clean around a stiff and prickly roach. They paint their faces red and black with frightening masks and designs. They are usually bare legged and hunkered in trees, watching. My photos cannot capture the intensity of the paintings largely due to the reflections. I did not feel well enough to fight the issue, but I snapped what I could.

                                                           Model drives a COKE truck

I asked Doug why he paints the Shawnee. He doesn’t really know. He is crazy over Indian lore and just found researching the Woodland Indians so fascinating. The red color is abundant in his painting, as is the use of filtered light in the tree leaves. He paints from models, men who dress and portray the Shawnee. He says they look ferocious to him even. One of the models drives a COKE truck for his day job!

                                                                  Great red boots!

Outside guests were treated to free hamburgers, hot dogs, and chili cooked on a campfire. The wood smoke on the beautiful day smelled marvelous. The Cookie, as cooks on cattle drives used to be called, is actually a husband and wife team. The undercarriage of the cook wagon is original but the man built the wagon box new. It was an original Springfield wagon, built in Springfield, Missouri in its day. The owner made sure he trimmed the wagon with the dash of white stripes which was a pattern of the original wagon maker.


                                                      "What cha lookin at, Mister?"

We weren’t there long, but I soaked up everything I possibly could like I was a dry sponge! Someday when I am better and maybe on a cold day, I want to go down again and sit around that potbellied stove and soak up those beautiful paintings. Oh, but I will be watchful for any sudden movements out of those Woodland faces!!!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Lockets of Yesteryear

This morning I read Phillis Hoffman DePiano’s piece on lockets. It was so interesting to read about the bracelet Prince Albert gave to Queen Victoria with eight lockets, each with a hair clipping from their eight children. I was also impressed to learn that Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth, wore a locket with a painting of her and her mother.
This reminded me of a locket I have but have not worn for a while. It is gold and I wore it many days teaching or going out to dressy affairs. But since being at home, I have kept to the family tradition of sliver brackets on my arm and simple necklaces. They go better with the jeans and sweat pants I wear now!

But I am digging out the locket today. It was my great grandmother’s piece. Although hard to read in the script, her initials for Louise Toy Brasher are etched on the front. Inside she carried pictures of both her daughters when they were young women.

My great-grandmother died when I was a freshman in college. I can’t remember how I came to have the locket. But at some point, I took out my great aunt’s picture and put in my future DH’s picture. I thought my Granny and he were my loves! I still have the small picture of my great aunt somewhere. I need to find it and return to it to its place, the one my great grandmother loved.

The publisher of Victoria magazine writes a blog that you can view here:

Do you have a locket?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Switch Is Made

Thanksgiving is now like a stepchild trying to find its fit in the family of holidays. Christmas bullies it around with commercialism that isn’t the Christmas holiday’s fault. But this year, the season will be short, and we in the Midwest were reminded of that with snow, ice, rain, and cold over the Thanksgiving weekend. Here we were lucky that Thanksgiving Day was balmy until late in the afternoon when the sprinkles started. In the night rain fell…and fell…but remained rain. Our loved ones were all safe and warm at day’s end.

So the next day it was wet and dark as I put the pumpkins and turkeys away. Why do things never go back smoothly into the boxes they came out of just a few weeks ago? While putting them away, I pulled out Christmas boxes at the same time. Each year I weed, but still there is much to handle, to choose from as I have no room for everything. I no longer put ornaments on the tree although I keep them lovingly boxed. I love the tiny white lights; they light up this season of the shortest days and longest nights.

The table has made the transformation to the red and green holiday. I want it ready for any spur of the moment tea pot events! Everyone is so busy, but sometimes a cold shopping day can turn into a warm pot of tea and conversation…my favorite part of the holidays. Shopping is NOT my thing anymore. It is time with friends and good tea and loving cards from far away friends that make my holiday.

So lighted tree is up, table is set, kettle is at the elbow, and the season starts. I wish you, dear readers, could stop for a sip! 

                                            Father Christmas made by my mother-in-law years ago.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

And It Is Good...

The countdown is on and Thanksgiving is rolling in as are the clouds, rain, and cold air. Today is the last of our Indian summer kind of days, warm, sunny and breezy. We have picked up the last of the flower pots, dumped the frozen and now thawed squash, turned over chairs for winter. I have made the last food run; I have vacuumed carpets and set the table. I have chopped and diced. Tomorrow I will bake pies, chop some more, and finish up a dab of laundry.

Despite some rough spots I refuse to think about right now, the autumn has been beautiful. Each year that I get older, I relish the pretty fall days more with colorful leaves and a sun still radiating brightness before the coming solstice and winter. My heart sings in a sun that showers warmth but not blistering heat.

Our Thanksgiving will be small this year, many people gone one way or another. I always loved the Norman Rockwell holidays where there were many people stretched around a long table. Now I am grateful for anyone at any time because each day we are alive and still kicking is a holiday! We shouldn’t wait until one day or one weekend state on a calendar to be grateful or to celebrate.

Thanksgiving opens up that frenetic season of buying, running, grabbing, sighing, moaning, and yes, some outright complaining. I refuse to get into it any more than I have to. I try to find some way to celebrate people, as individuals, and not necessarily with something I have bought. It is a time for quietly thinking of those I miss now. I remember a lot during this time by candlelight and soft music and sometimes falling snow.

The world is full of conflict and anger and hate now. It will take more work to remember the gratitude and peace we claim to celebrate. But the world has been a mess before and survived…I hope it gets turned around to goodness again. Maybe this coming season of love will rebalance us all.

                                      I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


What could have been an ugly day turned into an uplifting experience. I constantly have to miss things anymore, have my plans changed by responsibilities or weather or something. Friday night I was ready to throw in the towel on getting to Branson to the Ozark Writers League (OWL) for the last meeting of the year. I had already missed the Friday banquet, was it worth the four hour round trip for the Saturday session?

But DH arose at 5:30 and said GO. We packed up dog, coats, gloves, water bottles and such and hit the road. Snow was coming down fast furiously. Big, fat flakes that would have accumulated into fluffy piles had the ground not been so warm. The temperature was hovering at 34 which could have been nasty had it dropped, but the weatherman promised the day would warm. The snow faded away near Branson and the sun tried to peek out. We arrived early enough to have a half hour opening for breakfast which is DH’s favorite thing. So he considered the day a success at that early hour.

      New OWL officers headed by Diane Yates of Fayette, Missouri

The OWL group has had a terrible year of reorganization and disappointment and change. I was not in the know about it all, and I don’t want to know. What I did know was that a number of steady members were trying to reorganize and save the day. I wanted to be supportive if nothing else. While I have not done a great deal in the group, I hope it stays strong, will be there when I need it, and that I can help in small ways. The minute I walked into the room on Saturday morning I could feel warmth and welcoming floating around the room.

                                Author Rodgers speaks on writing fiction 

I was interested in the Fiction speaker who was Kathleen Rodgers. To be honest, I had not heard of her before. However, she had a lot to say about perseverance as a writer. (She has been contributor to Family Circle and Military Times.) She talked about her prize-winning second novel Johnnie Come Lately published this year and how she came to write it. I enjoyed her talk anda felt newly inspired to come home and pound the keys!
For more about Kathleen Rodgers check out her web page at

                  Brenda Black and me speaking with author Kathleen Rodgers

I have to admit the day was totally sweetened by my name being announced as winner in four categories of the autumn writing contest. Believe me, after a really dry year of acceptances, this is the way to end 2015. I won first place in the Romantic Short Story, and three third places in Poetry, Western Short Story, and the Gene Andereck Short Story. I was awarded a golden OWL, my first!

Writing can be a lonely business and it is helpful if you have some way to connect occasionally with other writers. I am so, so grateful for the writer groups that allow me to be a part of them, even from a distance. If you do not belong to OWL, I invite you to join up. Dues are $25 a year (before February), and while the meetings are beneficial, you still are kept in the loop of news and networking if you can’t attend the meetings. Check out the OWL website and look for the new things popping up—like an OWL shirt that is great!

Dog, Man, and Writer Wife all came home yesterday evening tired but happy. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Finding Treasures

So one day when it was still warm and sunny, Biscuit and I made a quick trip to the farmers market stand. She won’t be there much longer and her vegetable supply was shrinking. There were still some pumpkins and squash, potatoes, onions and zucchini on the tables. I bought a bit and since I was parked right in from of an antique/flea market store, I had to check out what was new.

I needed nothing and wanted nothing, but in the first few booths I saw pretty seasonal things. Then I hit a booth with goodies all over it. I picked up a small vintage Christmas tablecloth that was in excellent shape. I have a love of those old tablecloths which is really silly. They are cotton and not stain proof…they need ironing too.

Then I saw one Willow plate but it was brown! It was marked Red Willow but it was brown. I have seen Red Willow and it is almost pinkish. This was a lovely, autumnal brown. I put it with my stash right before I saw the nice Blue Willow custard bowls!

I had never seen this shape of bowl anywhere before, and these were marked JAPAN which usually means my favorite shades of old blue. The price was super reasonable and not a chip anywhere. So I took my armload of things to the counter where the store owner smiled. She is a very nice person and appreciates a regular customer. 

I told her I could not possibly afford to look any further in the store that day, as I had only been treating myself to a few loose minutes of LOOKING!

Somehow that plan a nice way!

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Win!

Anyone who knows me realizes I love buffalos. Even as a grade school student, I understood how important a buffalo was to the Native Americans and their lifestyle. I thought, and still think, they are a majestic animal, one who is self-sufficient and can dig for food under snow to stay alive in harsh winters.

Then when I was about twelve my maternal grandfather bought a young buffalo. Gramps was a unique individual but that is another story! He bought the buffalo to run with a few calves on his very small acreage. He had to come near our town to pick up Bill. (Yes, he was named Buffalo Bill!) My dad went with him and they brought the animal by the house loaded in a horse trailer. I can still hear the horrible thrashing done to that horse trailer.

I have written about Buffalo Bill many times, but nothing was ever accepted. So I wrote a piece of fiction based on the real life tale and entered it in the semi flash fiction contest sponsored by Missouri Writers Guild. I really never thought about winning much, but I did want to participate, to support the group.

A few days ago, I got an email that said my story about Buffalo Bill won first place! Yea!
I have been published in many places over the past years, and I am always happy to see a byline or to win any contest. However, I have to say I really appreciate the writers of Missouri as they have recognized me several times. While I have either never met or barely met many of the editors, judges, publishers, and other writers, I’ve come to recognize their names when I see their own work. I am proud to be a part of them if only from a distance.

Thanks, Missouri Writers Guild.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bischochitos, A New Comfort Food

The last week has been full of the unusual, the trying. Biscuit sprung her tail, but a few anti-inflammatory meds and it wags and waves high again. More daily life occurred during the week with some lovely weather to make small things bearable. Then the horrible scenes from Paris began to flash on the screen. I am not sure how much more hatred the world can hold without the planet earth exploding. I’m still processing the horror.

After not sleeping on Friday night thinking of many things, I bounded out of bed early and turned the oven on. I have wanted to make bischochitos for some time, and I declared yesterday the day. I was either going to conquer them or have a colossal failure on my hands, but either way, I was going to do it.

Bischochitos are the state cookie of New Mexico and have been since 1989. It is the only state I know of that has a state cookie. (Missouri has a state food-ice cream cones.) These cookies are served for special occasions, but are out in force for Christmas holidays. Everyone has their favorite recipe, and the basic recipe was from Spain. It is a combination of shortbread and sugar cookie.

The newest issue of the New Mexico magazine has an old family recipe in the cooking section this month. The family name is Padilla and they have lived in New Mexico since the early 1700s. I figured if this recipe had been around this long, I’d better try it. The first thing that was unusual was the use of a pound (yes, a whole pound!) of lard. I have never cooked with lard but I gave it a try. Anise seeds and a dash of rum were the other two differences from a traditional sugar cookie.

I have never ever had success with cutting out cookies, but again, I was going to try. I was pleasantly surprised to see how wonderful the dough was to work with thanks to the aerated lard. It rolled out so nicely to the 3/8 inch requirement and the cut outs lifted easily. Of course, I used just a simple biscuit cutter than DH had made for me years ago. 

I can attest to the cookie’s goodness warm, cold, with tea, without anything. The lard made the cookie flaky like a good pie crust. (I can’t make a decent pie crust either!) I put a large bowl of them in the freezer or they would be gone already. I want to see how they do frozen, but I bet they will do fine for Christmas if they stay frozen that long.

I have heard the glories of the bischochitos for a long while, and now I know they are truly good. They are simple with a long history behind them; they are comfort food.  I think they will be a new favorite at this house. Yesterday seemed a perfect day to reach for comfort food.

Do you have a favorite comfort food or a regional favorite?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Forks and Spoons

I suppose I am a little OCDC, and maybe I got it from my dad. He hated eating outside and never would drink from plastic or the abhorred aluminum glasses that were popular when I was a kid. For me, food MUST be salted before peppered in that order, and I can’t dress or bathe until the night’s bed is made first.

When we were first married, hubby and I used a gift of tableware received at the wedding. The utensils were sturdy beyond belief, but they were of such plain design they could have been steel rods with tines. My grandmother had given me a box of tableware before the wedding that was rather pretty, but it was much lighter weight. I put it back fearing it would never stand up to DH’s daily use. (In the beginning, he used spoons like shovels digging into cartons of hard ice cream bending spoons into yoga poses!)

Somewhere along the line I wanted a pretty set of silver for special occasions. I bought a moderately priced set of heavy and ornate food tools. The pieces are beautiful and do set a nice table, but of course, I never put them in the dishwasher so they only come out for the special meals they were intended for in the beginning. I also bought another set of table service after I grew so tired of our daily pieces. The new set was sturdy too but with a bit of a fan design on the handles.

Over the years, I trained DH to use an ice cream scoop, that forks shouldn’t be left on end tables after a snack, and knives were not to be hauled outside for any reason. The kids learned the same. A couple of years ago, I realized I still had the unused table service my grandmother gave me. It was not fancy; she had saved Betty Crocker coupons for years and filled a box with an eight place setting of silver plated service for me. The years had passed and I decided I’d better use it.

I love this service and I put it in the kitchen drawer with the other daily pieces. Now I had a drawer full of silverware and never ran short of a fork or a knife. However, I liked it so well I always wanted to use it over the other pieces on a simple meal or even a bowl of cereal for one. DH laughs at my peculiarity, the OC had reared its head again! If the wrong fork or spoon sits at my place, I have to change it out. I always want the pieces my grandmother gave me. I long for not only the look, but the feel of the fork in my hand, the right length, the right weight.

DH usually doesn’t care what fork he uses, but he too has met forks he didn’t like. His sisters gave his mother a set of pewter-like table service one year for Christmas. It was a colonial pattern and the forks had only three prongs which were longer than most. DH hated those prongs saying they stuck him in the throat with each bite, an over exaggeration I’m sure. He asked me to find an older fork somewhere if I set the table there.

Brush the teeth before the bath, drinking vessels on the table for meals always must be glass, bone china for tea if possible, always make sure the closet doors are completely closed and never ajar, put the left shoe on first, and a few other minor rituals make up the day. How about you?

Any OCDC behaviors in your life? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Woes and Winter Dread

November pushes on with some lovely days. People appear extra friendly in the stores and doctors’ offices, everyone appreciating what are probably our last nice days. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and then next week some freezes at night. I have closed down half of the deck, and today I emptied the fountain and turned over bird baths. I still have a few gently fading mums and loads of brilliant orange pumpkins and yellow squash sitting about. It is such sad work as it reminds me of winter coming despite the lovely sunshine and rainbow of leaves everywhere.

The last 48 hours have been a writing nightmare for me. You write, submit, get rejections and then do it all over again. It is the expected. Editors used to send out form rejection letters, but now so many just ignore you. One would think that with the effortlessness of email, editors could hit send on a rejection letter with ease. A form letter was cold and heartless leaving the writer wondering if editors even read their work. However, a form rejection was something in the hand saying “go forward somewhere else”

Now when a writer casts her work out in the world it is like tossing it down a black hole. Sometimes you never ever hear back. Then again some editors do still send form letters or form emails. Some are even kind enough to make personal comments on those quickie emails. But those editors who leave writers waiting at the other end for six months to a year sure make it hard to place work very fast.
This summer I worked hard with a very personable editor. He said my work was wonderful…but…. So I altered and resubmitted. Much better he told me….but…. Again I worked some lines over. Yep, the third edition got glorious praise for my work…but…  So I reworked another time, but I felt this alteration made the work less effective. I told him so but resubmitted it anyway for his opinion. Emails that had been flying suddenly stopped. No response…for weeks, months.

I submitted the work to a contest and heard nothing for while. Then a few days ago the first editor wrote out of the blue and said he changed his mind and planned to use the work. Then the contest announced I had a winning entry and would be printed. Oh mercy, my worst nightmare arrived as reality. What had I done? Would I go to jail for entering the contest falsely (not true, but it felt that way)? Would some editor think I had lied to them about the availability of my work? Would I lose out entirely and get two more rejections in the end?

Long story short, this all worked out today, but only after I had a minor meltdown. I am a Libra, born under the sign of scales, remember? Libras believe in balance, in fairness, and can see both sides of situations. It is a lovely way to be, but can drive you nuts too. I always try to do the right thing and treat everyone fairly. Again, the situation leveled out and with lots of kind words from the editors involved. I felt relief.

So I can begin to enjoy the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction about being accepted! Now, if I could just find a way to avoid winter! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November Again

Last week was an exercise in chaos. Heating and Air men all over the place, dog frantic due to comings and goings, relatives from Montana, illness, and then someone shot a BB into our living room window on Thursday night. We were not the only one on the block to get a hit. Irritating to say the least.

Then the rain set in and the chilly, damp air made it feel like winter. GRRRRRR. I am not ready for being penned inside. On Saturday we all, including the dog, seemed to crash. We hunkered in our chairs, ate leftovers, kept the tea pot hot, and in general felt sorry for ourselves that winter was coming. None of us like it. Biscuit would not go out into the wet. Looked back at me at the door as if saying, “Do we have to go through this again?”

However, today has been a lovely reprieve! The sun shined like a bald man’s dome; the sky was the perfect blue of brand new stone-washed denim and not a cloud of any kind in the sky. I baked a month’s worth of fiber muffins and the kitchen smelled healthy and as comforting as a log cabin in the Smokies. The tea pot was warm again too.

Mid-morning Miss Biscuit and I took a walk, no jacket. It was perfect weather. We moseyed! Then when we got home it was time for tea and a book on the deck. DH joined in which meant a little more disturbance to the quiet! After lunch, a few chores and gathering the trash. But nothing  feel like work  when the sun shines and lights up the oranges and yellows of autumn. 

A new week, a new month ahead…I am ready for November!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chilly Ending to October

I know Halloween is not over yet, but already I feel Thanksgiving. It has been chilly and wet, a constant drizzle reminiscent of forming snowflakes hit and glide down the glass. After the air conditioner quit the week we went to Santa Fe, the furnace quit this week as temps dipped at night in to high 30’s and low 40’s. It all is too much like winter for this one! But I am holding out that sometime in November, which starts on Sunday, an Indian Summer will show one more time before this autumn ends.

Men are under the house banging on replacing the furnace as I write.  DH has been sick a bit, and he gave into letting Lennox install new units. That is enough for Thanksgiving right there. We have always done everything ourselves, but it feels good this morning hearing voices under the house and knowing none are calling for me to be “go for” or my needing to respond to a banging on the pipes to bring something under the house!

Meanwhile table is set for company and a family meal. Birthday gifts from friends helped decorate for autumn this year. I already have a dash of turkeys out and about. I love the new white pilgrims, something different.