Tag Archives: Shopping

Nifty New Gardening Gadget–the Ring Weeder


ring weederFor all you fellow gardeners, I came upon an innovative little tool to help with weeding. As you know, there are many kinds of weeds, the sort that require a wench and pickup to uproot, or a strong back and shovel, down to those smaller pesky weeds for which you need a trowel, or you think, maybe just your hand. But no, not quite. For those in between trowel and hand pulling size weeds, I’ve chanced upon the ring weeder. Worn over a glove on your index finger, this little gadget uproots the weeds with its hard plastic tip, like an extension of your hand, You then toss the weed aside and go on. And on, if you have as many as I tend to. I’m good at growing weeds. All sorts.

Ring Weeder in ActionThe ring weeder is the brainchild of Vince Suozzi, a longtime gardener, landscaper, and teacher, who conceived this nifty device after seeing the need for it over the years. With much encouragement to share his invention, he’s done so, and it’s really taking off.

Vincent with ring weederFrom Vince:

And other sites, as this innovative tool gains recognition.
Christmas BellsFor more on the Ring Weeder visit: www.theringweeder.com
It would make a great stocking stuffer, but is an anytime gift for a gardener.

Herbal Recipes for Fragrant Potpourri and Toilet Water–Beth Trissel


Pot-pourriHere are some potpourri making tips from my own experience and recipes from a charming book, Potpourri, Incense and other Fragrant Concoctions by Ann Tucker Fettner.  Amazon has some used copies. The toilet water recipes follow below.

For making fragrant potpourri:

Begin in the spring by drying rose petals, an essential ingredient. Other flowers such as bachelor buttons, asters, straw flowers and statice add color. Any blossoms that dry well can be used. Mints, lavender, and lemongrass are excellent herbs for fragrance. Save the peelings from citrus fruit. Additional scent comes from manufacturers who sell potpourri supplies.

Order ground orris root, lavender, and essential oils. Sachet bags can be made from circular scraps of breathable fabric all tied up with ribbons. Decorative jars also make attractive holders. Baskets filled with fragrant sachets are an appealing presentation if fund-raising is your goal.

LavenderAfter you’ve collected and dried an ample quantity of blossoms and herbal leaves, mix in your other ingredients. Use a large bowl, not plastic, but ceramic or pottery. To hold the scent, you will need a fixative, often calamus or orris root. Generally, you use a tablespoon of a fixative for every quart of dried material. Add any spices you’ve chosen, cinnamon bark broken fine, rubbed mace, ground cardamom seeds, by sprinkling them over the petals and fixatives. If you like, add the crushed citrus peel, maybe some crumbled vanilla bean, and mix well with your hands.

lavender-sachetThe ingredients must be absolutely dry or the blend will molder. To all of this, add your favorite essential oils, rose, lavender, geranium, or tincture of musk or amber. Experiment with different blends. Don’t combine all the oils in the same batch. The possibilities are endless.

When you’re satisfied that the mixture is well blended, let it age in a crock for several weeks. Don’t have a crock? Brown paper grocery bags will do. Store the mixture out of sunlight in an airy corner or attic. Stir occasionally, then package prettily and enjoy.

For making Herbal toilet water:

lavender oil 2Basic Toilet Water: To three pints of pure alcohol add one and one-quarter ounces of lavender oil, three-quarters ounce of oil of bergamot, three-quarters ounce of tincture of ambergris. Mix together and bottle. 

Rose Water: Boil two quarts of distilled water and remove from the stove. Add one-eighth ounce of rose oil, four drops of clove oil, and one pint of alcohol. Let this stand for several days before bottling.Geranium Water: To two pints of pure alcohol add four ounces of rose water, five drops tincture of musk, one ounce tincture of orris root and one ounce of geranium oil. Allow to age.

Geranium Water: To two pints of pure alcohol add four ounces of rose water, five drops tincture of musk, one ounce tincture of orris root and one ounce of geranium oil. Allow to age.

The Secret Life of Bees, errrr, Writers


Ever noticed that when writers are portrayed in movies they tend to come across as, well, nuts?  The examples are endless.  Take Nim’s Island, the author in this film is so agoraphobic/germaphobic she can’t open the door to get her mail, runs through bottles of handsanitizer, and only eats a certain kind of soup—not certain which phobia that is.   She also carries on vivid conversations with her only companion who happens to be the main character in her novels.  *Gerard Butler, so certainly tempting, but throw in  delusional schizophrenia.  And then there’s Stranger Than Fiction where the novelist, another ‘eccentric’ to put it mildly, has Godlike power over her bedeviled character who ultimately arrives on her doorstep begging for his life.  She plans to kill him in her novel.  And the list goes on.

I suppose there’s some justification for this crazy writer theme, as there’s a fine line between creativity and insanity.   And it’s not lost on me that this portrayal is coming to us via the scriptwriters, although they’re mostly making fun of novelists.   But it’s my thinking that most people simply do not understand the mindset of writers.  For example, on chat loops, Twitter, workshops…we blithely inquire of  each other which would be the best way to kill someone in a given situation or time period.

When I taught my herbal lore class last fall I received numerous queries as to which poisonous herb to use for the desired effect, depending on how fast or slowly an author wished their character to succumb–yes, yes, we’re speaking of characters–and in what form to deliver the fatal elixir, mixed with food or other medication…and should they disguise the bitter taste or will the unsuspecting victim just knock it back as is?

Writers can be quite morbid at times, but all in pursuit of our craft.   How to better persuade readers that the story is REAL, because to us it is.

The other day on Twitter I noted a tweet from, I assumed, a writer asking what was the most romantic way for a young man to propose to his girlfriend and  make it really special.  My first thought was, are they writing a contemporary or historical, so I shot back, “What century are we in?”

The answer from the probably puzzled groom to be was, “The 21st, I hope.”

“Ah, a modern setting,” I said to self while wondering at the ‘I hope.’  I mean surely they knew what time period their story was in.  But I persevered.  Being primarily an historical author, I simply pointed out that in many of the romantic comedies I’ve seen there’s a tendency for the proposal/I love you confession to come via a microphone or shouted in front of a crowd, like in a football arena.

The tweeted answer was, “Yes, I see what you mean but she’s not a sports fan.”

No biggie, I thought.  Most anywhere people gather will do. An Irish pub, fountain in the center of a town square, airplane terminal, or best of all breaking into the adored one’s  wedding to someone else just in the nick of time.

Not helpful in this situation, I might add.  Once I realized I was advising  an actual proposal, I chuckled heartily and left him to it. The last I saw a proposal at Disneyland was faring the best.

Among random tweets from writers I noted this week:  “Gonna watch Winnie the Pooh with the kids and then finish my demon novel.”   Anyone see the irony in that?   But it’s typical.   All of this has led me to my conclusion that writers have their own language–a secret life–which most do not understand.

I’ve gotta go figure out how to handle that ghost/exorcism without making it TOO paranormal.   In my latest historical, of course.  ~

Romantic Suspense Author Autumn Jordon~


I’m delighted to have my friend, Author Autumn Jordon, with me to tell us about her latest release, In The Presence of Evil, one I will be reading as I loved her last story, Evil’s Witness.   And now, I’m turning the blog over to Autumn, who asks, ‘Have you ever planted a seed?’

And she goes on:

What does planting a seed have to do with writing or a story called ‘IN THE PRESENCE OF EVIL’ you ask? Stay with me. I promise you’ll get it.

Planting a seed…. You take this little, tiny thing, something so small that it could be a speck of dust you normally wouldn’t even notice and carefully place it in the soil you’ve prepared and then cover it.  Every day you water it and watch, waiting for the moment the seedling sprouts through the ground and turns its head toward the sun.  The sense of joy you feel is hard to contain, right?  Sure it is.  Admit it. You what to jump up and down and shout to the world, “See what I did.” No one will think you a whuz for saying so, so go ahead and admit it.

As the sprout grows, you feed it, protect it from harm and hoe away all the nasty weeds that take away its nutrients.  You watch it grow bigger and stronger until it is the prettiest thing. (Darn, I wish you could hear me say that in my mock southern twang)  You can’t express how proud you feel showing off what you have created, but you show it by sticking your chest out and wearing a grin the size of the Grand Canyon.  And it all started with a tiny seed.

Writing a book mirrors the process and authors feel the same sense of pride when their books hit the cyber and hard shelves?  IN THE PRESENCE OF EVIL, my new release from The Wild Rose Press, started with an idea, based on an actual personal experience.  I can only tell you a bit. A request for a bank wire transfer from my work somehow got intercepted and was requested to be routed to a Russian bank account.  This happened after Evil’s Witness was released, so needless to say, eyes turned toward me.  “Me, come on.” I laughed until the FBI entered the investigation.  I’m a country girl, born Army brat, who never wanted to be rich and bleeds red, white and blue.  Please believe me.

Anyway, I wondered ‘what if’ a woman stumbles into a hornet’s nest where the Mafia is laundering money by controlling wire transfers from a small private owned bank.  How would she stop them and who could she ask to help her?  Okay the answers to that question is easy the FBI, CIA, or police.  But we can’t have easy when writing a book.  Easy is the weed that takes away from a good story.  What if she didn’t know what was going on, until it was too late and her life was put into danger?

Again easy.  Once she found out what the bad guys were after, our heroine being the heroine we’d all aspire to be would die for her country, thus screwing the bad guys. Yeah, Gina.  So I fed the story and added in a cast of secondary characters that love Gina and who she loves, including one yummy marine hero, Cole Hanson. Yup that’s him.  SIGH.

I played ‘what if again’ and asked what you do if the lives of those you love were to hang on the whether you help to commit a crime? Would you do anything asked of you? Or would you try to be a hero?

Like nurturing a seed from a dominate state into something to enjoyed, a great deal of time goes into writing a story that whisks you away to another world.

If you’d like to learn more about Autumn Jordon and her novels, visit www.autumnjordon.com

I Remember When–1960’s Nostalgia


The bubble-head Barbie came out in the early 1960’s, her hair style influenced by Jacqueline Kennedy. When I was eight, I was  overjoyed to receive a red-headed one for my birthday.  Presents were simpler and fewer in those days. Most of my Barbie’s wardrobe was laboriously made by my mother, the ‘store bought’ outfits being too pricey for us. Even so,  my grandmother felt we were quite spoiled.   Anyone who lived through the Great Depression did.  Plus she grew up in China, the daughter of missionaries.  Talk about poor…that dear lady once sewed a collection of my great uncle’s old ties together to make a skirt for me.  I was a teenager, so didn’t wear it.  She always told me there was no room to stand on pride when you were hard up.  But I took a stand on that occasion.  Now I wish I’d saved that skirt.

Books were particularly special in my childhood, my collection small and continually reread.  The thrill of my life was when my mom ordered a box all the way from England filled with C. S. Lewis‘s the Chronicles of Narnia, not yet available in the U.S. To say I was influenced by The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe (and the rest of the series)  is an understatement. I’m still looking for Narnia.  I assume everyone is, but apparently they’re not all…weird.

Given my love of reading, trips to the library were savored. With three younger children to take care of, mom let me check out as many books as I could manage myself.  Thin arms laden, the pile stretched from my knobby knees up to my arched chin as I staggered to the car with my take.  I devoured everything, fiction, nonfiction…even the biography of Lotta Crabtree, which I suspect most children haven’t read.

I remember dirt roads with bumps we’d beg to ride over fast, and endless highways before the age of the interstate.  Traveling from one place to another in our old Chrysler was an arduous affair with warm sandwiches smashed in between wax paper and tepid, metallic sips of water from my father’s Marine Corps canteen.  And that had to date back to the Korean War, unless it was his father’s and then we’re talking WWI.   Air conditioning in the car was unheard of then and rarely enjoyed anywhere.  Mostly public buildings.  Few homes possessed such comfort.  Only a fan stirred the heavy stillness of our sweltering summers.  We finally got air-conditioning  in our farmhouse when the older children were well into elementary school with one window unit in the family room where we all camped out together when the nights were really hot.  We now have several units, the height of comfort, except for the parts of the house that don’t.

Childhood trips to the movies can be numbered on my fingers.  Maybe not even using  both hands.   Cinderella and The Sound of Music stand out in my memory.  My college English teacher father, who spent several years getting his doctorate, wasn’t overpaid.  And then I married a farmer, also not overpaid.  As for television, a small black and white set sufficed until I was thirty-something.   Only recently did we acquire a more advanced means of obtaining channels other than the battered antenna, constantly zapped by strong winds, that required my hubby to climb up on the garage roof for adjustments and yell down at the person in the kitchen doorway below, “Can you see it now?” The answering shout was relayed from the person in the living room until better reception was achieved.  I was delighted to discover  Netflix.

As for clothes, refer to the long-suffering mother mentioned above and selfless grandmother at their sewing machines, and hand-me-downs.   I reveled in what some would call a ‘missionary barrel’ of hand-me-downs when my father was in graduate school, my younger sister on the way, and our family as poor as church mice.    I thought a pair of ‘to me’ fashionable flats made me look like a movie star and dreamed big dreams.  When I reached the advanced age of thirteen I was awed by a pair of fish net stockings and my first ever lipstick, a pale pink by Bonnie Bell.

Back to fashion.  When my children were small, I labored at my sewing machine and even made over some of my own clothes into little shirts, pants, and smocks for them (and embroidered the fronts). Again, mom and grandma sewed much appreciated contributions, and Grandma knitted sweaters.  Children weren’t expected to be as well dressed in my day, or my children’s, as they are now.  As long as we had something suitable for church, and when I was small that meant petticoats, white gloves, and a hat.  Sales had to be really good for my mom to buy ‘ready made’ clothes.  Ditto for  my kids.  They even sold sweet corn at a roadside stand in the summers to earn money for back to school clothes.  But all of this built character, right?  Made us more appreciative of what we have.   (*Image of little Beth)

No Kleenex in my childhood.  We used handkerchiefs which were washed, and if one was  fastidious, ironed.  Some of them were quite fancy, possibly family heirlooms.  Again, I wish I’d saved some.  I’d dress my Betsy McCall doll in the prettiest ones.

Furniture?  In our family, with rare exceptions, you inherited it, or someone still living gave you some pieces, or you made/refinished them yourself.    Food?  A lot of home cooking/canning.  Some less than appetizing meals when mom got into a hardcore health food phase.  My sister recalls groats, but only once. Again, I can count on my fingers, maybe with both hands, how many times our family ate out as I was growing up.   And eating between meals was frowned upon or we’d ‘spoil our dinner.’  An occasional snack, maybe.

Didn’t like your supper?  Too bad.   Probably why I have the urge as an adult to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.   But we kids played outside all the time and were wiry and fast.   Little danger of obesity among the youth back then.  Those were the ‘Timmy and Lassie days’ of riding our bikes all over the neighborhood as long as we were back by suppertime.  Now we want to know where our children are every second, and understandably so with all the pedophiles at seemingly ever corner.

Have we really come all that far?  In some ways, yes, in others, not so much. When I was young, we feared the Russians, the Cold War, and Nuclear proliferation.  Now, its Muslim Extremists.  And they’re worse than anything I recall, and I was one of those kids who had to hide under their desk in elementary school as part of a practice drill for what to do if…as though that would have saved us from a nuclear attack.  We also practiced taking alternate routes home which had me stopping off in a golf course to play–alone–at the age of eight.  Great plan. (Not me in the pic, just a random child from that era doing the desk drill thing).

What are your memories?  Do you lament the old days?  Those Russians don’t seem so scary now, huh?

PARTY ‘TILL YOUR HEELS FLY OFF: MEGA AUTHOR BLOG HOP (STOP # 28)


Welcome to the mother of all blog tours.

TOUR RULES:
1) HAVE FUN!
2) INVITE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS AND SPREAD THE WORD!
3) THIS TOUR STARTS: Monday, June 13, at Midnight (Arizona Time)
THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, June 20, at Midnight (Arizona Time)
Winners will be drawn and posted June 21st! ***
4) MEET AND MINGLE WITH ALL THE AUTHORS! EXPERIENCE A NEW PARTY DESTINATION AT EVERY STOP. PARTICIPATE IN EVERY BLOG CONTEST AND BE ENTERED FOR CHANCES TO WIN MULTIPLE PRIZES! EVERY BLOG VISITED IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO WIN~
5) PARTICIPATION AT ALL BLOGS IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. REMEMBER, THE MORE BLOGS YOU HOP, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES. EVERY AUTHOR IS WAITING TO MEET AND INTERACT WITH YOU, SO PLEASE BE SURE TO SHOW EVERY AUTHOR SOME LOVE 🙂

As a participating author, my theme is Summer in the Big House, Old Southern Plantation Recipes~

A gracious welcome to my stately plantation home. Please have a seat in the wicker chairs on the veranda and relax in the shade of the towering live oaks.    Listen to the warbler singing high overhead in the moss-draped boughs and savor the sweetness of jasmine while I serve refreshing mint juleps and peach upside-down cake prepared with old Southern recipes from Charleston Receipts.

This cookbook ‘was first published in 1950 and the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print. It contains 750 recipes, Gullah verses, and sketches by Charleston artists. Inducted into the McIlhenny Hall of Fame, an award given for book sales that exceed 100,000 copies.’

My copy is actually my mother’s book which she purchased in the early 1960’s while our family was on vacation in Charleston South Carolina.  I kind of borrowed it from her and still have it. 🙂

MINT JULEP:

For each cold goblet use:

Several mint leaves, sugar syrup (2-3 teaspoons), Crushed, dry ice, 2 ounces bourbon, 1 sprig mint

Crush leaves and let stand in syrup. Put this into a cold silver julep cup or glass and add ice which has been crushed and rolled in a towel to dry.  Pour in the whiskey.  Stir, not touching the glass, and add a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.~

Peach Upside-Down Cake:

1/3 cup shortening, 2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder,  1  and 2/3 cups flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add remaining ingredients and beat well.  Pour over peach mixture. Serves six.

Peach Mixture: 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups sliced peaches

Place butter and sugar in a sheet cake pan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until well browned.  Add peaches.  Cover with cake batter, bake 3/4 hour at 350.  Turn out peach side up.   Serve hot or cold with whipped cream.  Other fruits may be substituted for peaches.  ~

For my blog hop prize, I’m giving away an ebook of my Revolutionary War romance novel, Enemy of the King, and Native American historical romance novel Through the Fire.

Blurb for ENEMY OF THE KING:

1780, South Carolina: While Loyalist Meriwether Steele recovers from illness in the stately home of her beloved guardian, Jeremiah Jordan, she senses the haunting presence of his late wife. When she learns that Jeremiah is a Patriot spy and shoots Captain Vaughan, the British officer sent to arrest him, she is caught up on a wild ride into Carolina back country, pursued both by the impassioned captain and the vindictive ghost. Will she remain loyal to her king and Tory twin brother or risk a traitor’s death fighting for Jeremiah? If Captain Vaughan snatches her away, he won’t give her a choice.~

Blurb for THROUGH THE FIRE:

At the height of the French and Indian War, a young English widow ventures into the colonial frontier in search of a fresh start. She never expects to find it in the arms of the half-Shawnee, half-French warrior who makes her his prisoner in the raging battle to possess a continent––or to be aided by a mysterious white wolf and a holy man.~

Thanks for visiting me. Leave me a question or a comment here at my blog below. Please also leave your email address so I can notify you in case you are a winner!

THE NEXT STOP ON OUR FUN BLOG HOP IS AUTHOR RACHEL VAN DYKEN SO POP ON OVER TO : http://deliciousromancebyrachel.blogspot.com/2011/06/party-til-your-heels-fly-off-author.html

Old Country Recipes and Cookbooks


My mother-in-law, sadly losing her memory, brightened visibly when I asked her about a salad dressing she used to make for dandelion greens.  Getting shakily to her feet, she made her way to the tiny kitchen in their townhouse in the retirement village where she and my father-in-law live and retrieved a worn cookbook that for some reason I hadn’t even realized she had, possibly because she prepared so many of her  day-to-day dishes by memory.   With the cookbook in hand, she settled back in her armchair and happily turned the pages, recalling many of the recipes penned on the sides or inserted on ancient pieces of paper.  Names of women now long gone came back to her, great-aunts, great-grandmother, old friends…whose famed cakes or other culinary delights had once been well-known among the country people of our beautiful valley. The Inglenook Cookbook, copyright 1911, itself is a treasure and I immediately came home and ordered a used copy online. I love these vintage volumes worn and marked with use.  At a glance I can glean which were the favorite dishes from the stain-marked pages.  Added recipes are handwritten in various corners.

The Inglenook Cookbook, a collection of recipes contributed by the sisters of the Church of the Brethren, is  ‘Stated in simple language so they are readily understood.’  I love the quaint wording of many of these recipes, such as,  For Chicken Salad, ‘Take 3 boiled chickens chopped fine…’  I think this woman assumes you’re cooking for a crowd.  People had larger families back then.

Or from a recipe for Snitz and Knep: ‘This is to be made only on bread-baking day. Soak one pint of dried apples for 2 hours, then place in a kettle with a pound of smoked ham or shoulder not too old and boil for 1 and 1/2 hours.  Take from your raised bread dough a sufficient quantity to make at least one fair-sized bun for each of your family.  Work into this one egg, leave it rise for awhile, then work in tiny cakes; leave them rise until quite light, then gently drop them, one at a time, into the kettle with the meat and ‘snitz’ (soaked dried apples).  Let them boil for 20 minutes, when all will be ready to serve.  Do not lift the lid before the 20 minutes, unless you want heavy and soggy biscuits. In eating them they are good when covered over with the broth they have been boiled in, or spread with jelly, preserves, or apple butter. ~

The image above is from a recipe for Schnitz and Knepp at this link:

It seems to me that most Americans have sacrificed quality and  flavor, along with healthful eating, family traditions, and all those things that go with freshly grown and prepared foods in exchange for their hectic lifestyles.  There’s much to be said for getting back to some of the old-time ways of doing things.  Begin with a home garden, or visit your local farmer’s market, do more of your own cooking, bake some of your own breads…and go from there.

I came across an interesting post about the origins of The Inglenook Cookbook at A Yellow Brick Journey Through Life.  A quote from the post says, “The Inglenook Cookbook was an outgrowth of The Inglenook (*a magazine). The good sisters of the Church of the Brethren and their friends were encouraged to contribute their favorite recipes of its “Home Department.” These recipes were gathered together to form the text of the Inglenook Cook Book published in 1901. It was offered as a bonus to subscribers of the magazine.

The book was revised and enlarged in 1911. It containing 1,000 recipes, was an immediate success and sold more than 100,000 copies and continued to be used in Brethren and other kitchens for more than forty years. In 1970 the cookbook was reprinted from the original plates.”~

***Please note the new information about availability of this cookbook in the comment section below.