Gluten-Free Banana Bread


Gluten Free bananna BreadThis recipe is from our Mennonite church cookbook, a two-volume set my mother-in-law was the driving force behind getting together years ago, and one my late sister-in-law contributed. Today is the anniversary of Catarina’s death last April, so this is in memory of a strong, beloved Christian woman. I’ve adapted the recipe for gluten-free and the bread turns out great. It’s a favorite in this household. No one can tell it’s gluten-free.

Gluten free bananna bread on sunporch1 Cup Sugar (I used half a cup), 1/2 Cup Shortening (I use organic coconut oil or light olive oil for baking), 2 Eggs, slightly beaten (I use good-sized eggs)

3 mashed bananas

1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking soda (be certain it’s gluten-free), 1/2 tsp. baking powder (Rumford is gluten-free)

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Jules, and it’s super, but you can try another brand. You may need more or less flour depending on how large your bananas and eggs are)

*3/4 cup chopped nuts (Optional, and no)

Cream together the sugar and shortening (or coconut oil, etc.). Add eggs and mashed bananas. Combine dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture. Blend well. Bake in greased bread pan at 350 for about 50 minutes, but check at 35 because it may take less time depending on your mixture. This is a moist bread and freezes well.

After learning I have a form of Interstitial Cystitis this winter (on top of severe gluten intolerance), and adopting the IC diet, I found bananas are a trigger food for me, but I can tolerate this bread. Catarina was extremely health conscious and would approve my adaptations of her recipe.

*Images by daughter Elise

May Workshop: Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs!


dill and poppiesFor the month of May, join in the journey as we venture back to the days when herbs entered into every aspect of life. From the ancients to the British Isles, colonial America, Native Americans, and the Granny Women, this workshop spans centuries. Plus, everyone who participates will receive the illustrated eBook of my new herbal, (recently revised to include yet more herbs and images) Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles (soon to be available in print as well as eBook).

While sponsored by Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, this May workshop is also open to the public. For more information and to register visit:

http://www.celtichearts.org/events/herbal-lore-and-the-historic-medicinal-uses-of-herbs/

medieval herb garden smaller sizePlants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles 

Description: An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises. ***In Kindle and Nookbook.

(Image of dill and heirloom poppies in our garden by Elise. Book cover also by Elise.)

Value Yourself, Ladies


My dear sister, Catherine, a breast cancer survivor, shared this on Facebook, I’m so impressed by her wise words that I’m sharing them with you.

Catherine and LizzyCatherine: When I was tagged in a photo to take my picture without makeup, I had to think how this would raise awareness for breast cancer… something I’ve dealt with. My great-grandmother had breast cancer and died of old age. My mother is a “breast cancer survivor.” And, I guess, so am I. Although, I prefer to think of myself as someone who went through cancer and chooses not to allow it to define me. I don’t want my beautiful daughters to ever have to deal with it. I wish all forms of cancer were eradicated. So, how can my picture without makeup help to bring that about? It can’t, unless I can touch just one person and help them to care enough about themselves to take care of themselves. 

Catherine and BethNo makeup? Sure, we are, at our core, imperfect. But, there’s beauty in that imperfection. And, others see us as far more beautiful, even without makeup, than we often see ourselves. Where we stop and see the puffy face, the skin spots that show our age, the little wrinkles around our eyes, we should stop and see the life we have been given, another day, another opportunity, another chance to demonstrate love and to witness that amazing beauty, that incredible gift to all those around us… and to value each and every person just as they are! So, value yourselves.

Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon.When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, I was told that I was EXTREMELY fortunate. Because I had gotten a mammogram, and because I hadn’t settled for the answer to go home and keep an eye out for a lump (I asked for more info and an answer), I am here to celebrate life. The kind of cancer I had was aggressive, but was caught early. I was told that if I’d waited to feel for a lump, it would have been too late to save me. With my dr’s guidance, I chose to have a double mastectomy, a choice I don’t regret. So, my advice to all of you beautiful women out there… do regular self exams, get your mammogram, go to the Dr regularly for checkups, cultivate friendships, laugh often, know that there is someone out there who cares about you. So, puffy face, wrinkles, pimples and all…. VALUE yourself.

*Images of Catherine and her oldest daughter, Lizzy. And Catherine with me taken over the holidays

Gardening and Country Life in Glorious Color!


cover-for-swcI’ve labored away adding lovely images to Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about life on our small family farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Given my love of gardening, this includes a strong focus on my gardens and love of nature. The book is already out in print with images, but now that kindle and nook E-Readers support colored photographs, I’ve added heaps more. Shenandoah Watercolors in available in  eBook and print format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I will also get it up on Kobo soon. If someone is dying for me to have it somewhere else, let me know.

Book description: Author/farm wife Beth Trissel shares the joys and challenges of rural life on her family’s small farm in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Journey with her through the seasons on the farm, owned by the family since the 1930′s, and savor the richness of her cherished gardens and beloved valley. This journal, with images of her farm and valley, is a poignant, often humorous, sometimes sad glimpse into country life. Recommended for anyone who loves the country, and even those who don’t. ***Shenandoah Watercolors is a 2012 EPPIC eBOOK FINALIST.


The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in springExcerpt:
  The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven. Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.I’ve been thinking about my favorite places.

Dark hollow falls on Skyline drive, Shenandoah national parkThe pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal. I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

***Images of the Shenandoah Valley in early spring and Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge.

Time Travel Romance Somewhere in the Highlands On Sale for .99


Sci-fi, Fantasy, Time Travel Romance

Sci-fi, Fantasy, Time Travel Romance

Time travel romance novella Somewhere in the Highlands is reduced from 2.99 to .99 through March 31st at Amazon.
Story BlurbThe MacDonalds are coming! When Elizabeth MacDonald (a.k.a Beezus Mac) thrusts a sealed gold box at Angus Fergus amid panicked requests for him to hide the stolen artifact, she has no idea the ancient cloth it contains bestows unearthly powers. Red MacDonald knows and he’s hell-bent on traveling 400 years into the future to claim the charmed relic, even kill for it. Protecting Beezus from his old nemesis is only one of Fergus’s problems. Before they can stop him, Morley MacDonald, descendant of Red MacDonald, snatches the prize and leaps through the time portal to head the MacDonald clan and kill Fergus’s MacKenzie ancestor. If he succeeds, Fergus will cease to exist.

Danger grows in the feud between the MacDonalds and the MacKenzies as the pair, along with an ingenious friend and high tech inventions, returns to 1604 Scotland to face these brawny Highlanders and reunite with kin. Will Fergus overcome his mistrust of Beezus and fan the growing spark between them before they battle Morley? If he waits, it may be too late.

Old Victorian StaircaseExcerpt From Chapter One:

Early November 2011, a Victorian home in historic Staunton, Virginia

Footfalls pounded down the stairs from the second story. A woman cried, “They’re coming!”

Beezus? Angus Fergus lowered his leather recliner with a thump. “Who is?”

Long brown hair spilling down over her red Trekkie T-shirt dress and hoodie, Beezus Mac tore into his living room. Particularly surprising as Fergus hadn’t even realized she was in the house.

“Here!” She thrust an ornate gold box at him. “Hide this!”

He set his laptop on the end table beside the jellyfish mood lamp and ‘There is no try, only do,’ Yoda coffee mug, and sprang to his feet. Warily, he took from her hands the gilded chest, its metal cold in his grasp. The only other light in the room came from the laserpod streaming a starry blue galaxy on the ceiling making everything appear surreal, especially her find—or take.

He gaped into her frightened eyes. “What is it?”

Darting glances over a slender shoulder, she insisted, “No time to explain. They’re coming. The MacDonalds are coming.”

An old fear welled in him. “All of them?”

“Not certain. I heard shouting behind me.”

Lock and Key series7No angry bellows reverberated in the old home. Yet. “Beezus, what have you done?”

She gulped out, “I borrowed your energy field detector—”

“Absconded with it, you mean.”

“And went through the portal,” she rushed on. “Only supposed to be an in and out job, but I was seen in the crypt.”

He dropped his gaze to the shine of gold. The reliquary had a disturbingly familiar design associated with some seriously bad mojo. It came to him—Raiders of the Lost Ark!

“Cripes, Beezus. Tell me you didn’t steal the Ark of the Covenant.” According to the Old Testament, anyone who touched it was zapped by a bolt from heaven.

“The original is God knows where, and considerably larger, Fergus. This is from Persia, or some ancient place, carried to Scotland by the Knights Templar.”

fierce highlanderThat accounted for it winding up with the MacDonalds. “Any idea how many irate Scotsmen are on your tail?”

“Might only be one. Sounded like more shouting than that.”

“If it’s the fiend I’ve encountered, all it takes is one.”

Fergus raced to a corner of the room, flipped open the head on the life-sized droid, a replica of R2-D2, and stuck the jewel-like chest inside its body at a vertical angle. He snapped the head shut. Turning around, he ran into the front hall, making a mental note to find a new place to stash his stuff now that Beezus knew of his secret safe—assuming he lived that long. He grabbed the lightsaber from the Chinese urn holding canes and umbrellas in the foyer.

Beezus followed at his heels. “But that’s just a toy!”

“Actually—” He hit a switch on the end and the weapon of the Jedi came to green glowing life. “It’s a taser. I made a few alterations.”

She drew up. “Cool.” Even in her near panic, she sounded impressed.

“Grab a stout walking stick while we’re at it.”

Springing to action, she snatched a heavy knobbed cane with an impish monkey head.

“You would choose that one.” The same cane Neil had wielded in pursuit of the Red MacDonald two years ago. Fergus pivoted and made for the winding staircase. “What were you doing back in the MacDonald camp at Domhnall castle?”

She clambered behind him. “That’s where the portal leads.”

“Still? I figured the portal would’ve shifted after it closed.”

ancient doorWhen he last passed through the wormhole connected to the mysterious door upstairs, it had been from the crypt below the castle chapel. He’d magnified the sensor in his energy field detector to pick up any activity, however slight, but not a blip or a buzz—until now. And Beezushad been the one to find it?

Annoyance and alarm melded in the flood of emotion coursing through him. “And you went through it because?”

“That reliquary should be mine. I’m the rightful MacDonald descendant.”

“How do you figure? There are hundreds of them, even got their own restaurant. You may have heard of it, Mickey D’s?

“Not this line. And I’ve got the key to open that chest.”

She probably swiped that too. In a flash of insight he realized Beezus Mac must be short for Elizabeth MacDonald.

“Why don’t the original MacDonalds have the key?”

“Lost it during one of the raids on the castle. It turned up later in the family. Domhnall’s in ruins now.”

Retro Keyhole“And the gold box I just hid?”

She panted, “In a Scottish Museum.”

Exactly where it belonged. Fergus never should’ve told her about the wormhole linked with this house and his adventure through it two years ago. In a moment of weakness, punch-drunk from too much caffeine, lulled by those bewitching golden-brown eyes and an overpowering desire to share with someone, he’d succumbed.

She’d hung around the perimeter of his cyber circle, a geek wannabe, or so he’d thought. A recent transplant to Staunton, she’d appeared on his doorstep as though drawn to him, the fortunate chosen one. He should have realized no woman that good-looking paid him much notice without an ulterior motive. If only he wasn’t so attracted to her.

“You’re fortunate you didn’t get stranded back there. The portal’s unpredictable.”

She was practically on his heels. “This is bad enough. You’ve got to keep the MacDonalds from coming through.”

“I can’t close a fricking wormhole, Beezus. Just drive back anyone emerging through it.”  Or die trying.

In his Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock T-shirt and jeans, he wouldn’t appear much of a threat to a 17th century Highland chieftain. But it was imperative to keep the Red MacDonald out of the house and the 21st century altogether. His last appearance here had fatal consequences. The man was a murderer, vowing vengeance. And none too fond of Fergus.

Well, the feeling was mutual.

full moon and clouds--blue-black night sky, hauntingFergus tore down the upstairs hall lit by the floral china lamp on the table along one gold print wall. A full moon shone through the windows, the old glass wavy in the light.

There!

At the end of the passage stood the intricately carved door, the oak darkened with age. The stained glass archway above it fanned out in a half circle of saffron, red, and gold like the entry to a chapel. The door to nowhere, so called as it led out onto a nonexistent balcony. But nothing could be further from the truth when the portal opened.

The aged wood swung wide.

Through the blackened archway appeared the demon Fergus dreaded ever to meet again, Red MacDonald. Shadows dulled the fiery mane blowing over his scarlet and green plaid, but Fergus spotted the great sword slung across one broad shoulder in leather back scabbard. The hilt of the claymore protruded above the giant’s shoulder blade.

One step closer and stout legs encased in full-length green trews came into view. Then those glittering blue eyes.

Man's_face_and_eyesHow he hated those eyes.

The enraged Scotsman pierced him with a glare. “You!”

A primal yowl tore from some place deep inside Fergus and he raised his lightsaber.~

***Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Time Travel Romance Somewhere in the Highlands is the sequel to Somewhere My Lass. Available in kindle at Amazon.

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain


daffodils in March snowWill a t-shirt suffice, or do I need my heavy coat? The question of the hour.

An encouraging flush of green spreads over the fields of rye and grassy meadows, still muddy from melting snow. Crocus brighten drab flower beds, while daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths push up leaves. Here and there, the hint of buds. The promise of new life stirs around the base of herbs and perennials. Like an elusive butterfly, spring hovers in the air, but tomorrow winter will chase it away for several days. Then spring returns again. Then winter–the back and forth dance that is March in the Shenandoah Valley. April can also be a fickle shuffle, though generally May is more.stately waltz. (Image of daffodils in the snow from last spring–also likely to happen this year)

But, hey, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~Doug Larson

snow crocusThis afternoon, Daughter Elise and I plan to make a start in the garden and get the early greens and peas in. A little tardy for us. Normally we’ve accomplished this first planting of the year by now, but the season is running late. In the greenhouse, tiny seedlings shiver when the sun disappears–the trouble with a solar greenhouse. But the warmth holds for a time and they’re shielded from frost and biting winds. Oddly, the heat loving flowers and basil are emerging just fine, but nary a sign of tomatoes and peppers. I suspect the seed rotted and replanting awaits me. There’s much to do in the greenhouse and the garden when spring stops hovering and declares herself. Winter hibernation ends and the mad rush ensues. The dance takes off.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~Margaret Atwood

And so I shall.

How To Catch a Leprechaun


leprechaun (1)According to the small people in the family, you dig a shallow hole–or deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-sharWho remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends