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Thursday, May 28, 2020

The darling buds of May

"Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May."  And how.

(Image from a past spring of my Abraham Darby rose from David Austin.)

May is a balmy, blissful, sometimes treacherous month. This May has been stressful on various fronts. I sometimes feel as if I'm clinging to a wind-tossed bough. Why the heck did they rock that poor baby in the tree tops, anyway? Crazy nursery rhyme.

Cold winds blasted my darling buds and frost struck not once, but three times, after early spring warmth had lured everything out. My roses suffered. I even had iris buds freeze for the first time and the peonies were knocked back or out. Asiatic lilies froze beneath my efforts at covers. Weather can be sinister, and yes, I take it personally.

Despite a perilous spring, abundant beauty cloaks our green valley this misty morning, and my beloved garden is rebounding--including the roses. I've mulched them with rich wormy compost, added organic rose fertilizer, and I'm using Garden Sentinel, a new biofungicide/bacteriacide spray from Gardens Alive, an organic online company. Its based on a naturally occurring bacteria and is helping fight the black spot that struck after the frost damaged their leaves. I also use liquid kelp to give the plants a boost. If the Japanese beetles arrive again in a plague of Biblical proportions, there are organic products for that too. Mostly I do hand-to-hand combat.

On the family front, May hit hard when our oldest daughter Alison, in her late 30's, was stricken with a blockage in her colon and underwent emergency surgery. She went from not feeling well to being in severe pain in a matter of hours. Thank God she had a highly skilled surgeon who got her through the surgery and successfully removed the mass. In hindsight, the pain was a blessing in disguise because it urged her to seek help. The pathology report says the tumor was cancerous and had spread to one of the several dozen lymph nodes the doctor took out, so she will have to undergo chemotherapy this summer. He assures us that chemo has come a long way in recent years and is confident she will make a full recovery. We pray so with all our hearts. If you have an encouraging cancer survivor story to share please do. We've lost too many dear friends and family to this monster.

Of course, we've still got Covid to hide from. Virginia is among the worst states for it, but we have a new C-word to worry us. I'm thankful for modern medicine. This is scary. 

I'm also open to good rose growing suggestions.

And God bless us everyone.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

May 25th - NATIONAL WINE DAY - by Judy Ann Davis

                 "Where there is no wine there is not love." –Euripides, Greece.

May 25th is National Wine Day. This is your chance to crack open a bottle of your favorite kind and celebrate those who discovered the wonders of grapes.
Ancient wine production evidence dates from approximately 6000 B.C., when an ancient winery site was found in Armenia, and grape residue was found in clay jars in Georgia, north of Armenia. There were also signs of grape domestication discovered in eastern Turkey.

Basically, wine is an alcoholic drink from fermented grapes and is one of the few drinks that has survived the ages and reached popularity among citizens all over the world.

Types of wines include red, white, sparkling, rose, dessert, fruit, mead and starch-based wines.

In America, grape vines were imported from the old world with the French Huguenots planting some of the first vineyards in North America in Florida as early as the 1560s. Settlers up and down the East coast took cuttings with them, later expanding the vines westward into the Ohio territory. Using the vines they brought from Mexico, the Spanish founded the first winery in California in what is now the San Diego area.

Wine production had a fluctuating history of bad and good years. During Prohibition, the industry floundered; and then again during World War II, it struggled when grapes were replaced with much-needed edible crops. By the end of the war, since good European wine was scarce, Americans resorted to drinking cocktails, further harming the industry.

Alsace Grape Vines
It took until 1976, when a panel of French wine experts scored several Napa Valley wines higher than the top Bordeaux and white Burgundy in a blind tasting, putting Napa Valley on the world wine map. The industry blossomed, and American wineries sprung up across the United States.

Today, wine is a favorite alcoholic drink—whether it’s an expensive, economical, or homemade variety. It’s used in cooking and for marinating. Red wine is also thought to be heart healthy.

When my husband and I took a Viking Cruise down the Rhine River seven years ago, we had the opportunity to see many vineyards in Germany and go up into France to see the vineyards of Alsace. It was amazing to see the acres and acres of lush grape vines on the hillsides.  

Do you have a favorite wine you enjoy? Personally, I prefer a sweet red, but there are many excellent varieties made and sold in our small rural town, compliments of a nearby, local winery.

HUCKLEBERRY HAPPINESS now has a release date of June 24th. Please stay tuned!

                 Check out all my novellas and novels on my Amazon Author Page:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Why Arizona

by Rain Trueax

What draws someone to a place? Why do some places touch our souls and others leave us eager to leave? There might be an explanation, but I don't have one. Just that several areas have touched me with the love that never changes. 

The Columbia River Gorge was one of the first as I grew up at its mouth. Arizona came next. I first saw it when I was married and my husband and I drove down there for him to attend graduate school. Oregon and our farm with the creek wandering through it was next. And then came Montana. I've loved them all and still do but one is where I am likely to live out my days-- Arizona.

There are many diverse areas within the state, from tall forests and deep canyons to deserts with their rare waterholes. My home sets in The Sonoran Desert, which stretches from Mexico in the south to the Mogollon Rim to the north. I am from here within easy reach though of those mountains as well as Mt. Lemmon which reaches above Tucson and at 9,159 feet even can provide some winter skiing. A drive up there is like passing through many climate zones to reach what would typically be in Canada. 

When I first came to Tucson, being young and having friends also here for graduate school (Diane and her husband), we had a lot of fun, explored washes, and even took an Easter break in the White Mountains where we rented a cabin (which we shared with our cat, Sheba). Arizona was where I got pregnant with what was to be our daughter. That made me eager to return back to Oregon for her to be born. 

It wasn't long though that we began to plan vacations back to Arizona. We bought a small travel trailer and the four of us went on many trips back down, sometimes with a tent, sometimes with motels, but it was the destination and usually Tucson the goal after exploring other areas. 

The first book I based in Arizona was written long before we bought Casa Espiritu in 1999. Desert Inferno is a contemporary romance between a border patrolman and an artist. It mostly happened around and out of Nogales with a brief trip north to Sedona and Scottsdale. I based it on my desert experiences and research regarding the Border Patrol at that time. It was full of the desert.  The trails the couple walked all were where I had been-- minus the danger they faced, of course. :)

Arizona is also where I set 8 books in an historical romance series beginning with 1883 and the last one (for now) happening in 1905. Mostly, they were set in Southern Arizona. They follow two families, with some characters in the whole series as secondary after being heroes or vice versa. It's fun to write that way and find who the next romance will be along with the historic events at that time. Arizona is full of rich historical stories. It's possible, when I get to writing fiction again, that there will be a ninth. It's been rolling around in my head for a few years but just hasn't been the right time.

We were driving through the historical neighborhood of Barrio Viejo when I saw the potential for another series. It would be contemporary with a mystical, magical element of fantasy. Set in the real world, there would be powers and enemies to combat-- often not of the flesh. It has had a hard time finding readers because I've had a hard time finding a niche to set it in. It's romance for sure but not quite what some want in paranormals. Anyway, I had great fun writing that series giving people mystical powers to deal with
very real threats-- who wouldn't like that?

So this house has been inspiring to me spiritually and for my work as many books have been written here (many in Oregon too, of course) and some in our travel trailer while we explored new areas. 

Why Arizona for me? No answer but it has spoken to my heart and I always love my time here. 

All photos are May at Casa Espiritu, the name we gave our desert home when we bought it.

Set in Arizona--  Historicals are in Kobo, B&N, etc; but all contemporary romances are exclusive to Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited for borrowing:

Magical Realism-- contemporary:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Mighty Gust Of Wind - Laurean Brooks

Two weeks ago on Sunday afternoon, a storm hit Tennessee, uprooting our neighbors’ trees and causing roof damage. We were blessed that no more damage occurred. The storm came up suddenly. That morning the balmy weather found me raising windows. It was windy out, but nothing to become alarmed about.

We have a small dual fan in the kitchen window over the sink. I had just stepped away from the kitchen sink when a gust of wind like I’ve never experienced, pierced through the window and blasted the fan out of the window, sending it and the loaded dish drainer eight feet across the kitchen. I watched in horror as both landed and slid across the floor. Glasses and cups were scattered, but thankfully, the fan still works and the glasses in the drainer aren’t shattered.

At the same time, we heard a loud bang out back and discovered sheets on the metal roof standing up, on our storage room attached to the carport. Our dogs and cat had been inside it. I started to panic when I couldn’t find either of them.

It was a relief to discover all three pets had fled for safety to the front porch. Within thirty minutes the storm began and our power went off. It stayed off for nine hours, until after midnight. It was reported that 9,000 homes were without power in our county. After waiting a couple of hours, my husband cranked the noisy generator and the dog fled back to the front porch and stayed there.

I stuffed in earplugs. We turned the generator off before we went to bed and the lights came on at 12:30 a.m.

Our insurance has a deductible, so we will pay for most of the damage to the storage shed. And it will take two weeks to get the claim settled. But things could have been a lot worse. I thank God that He spared us from the worst.

Have any of you survived a storm, or known someone who experienced loss due to one?


Rob is hiding something. Jill asks too many questions. Will uncovering the truth destroy their budding romance? A heartwarming contemporary romance to sweeten your summer.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Big Mom's Pound Cake by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

Fond Memories
This afternoon  I was making a cake and suddenly realized I had not written my post for today.

Yikes! I finished the cake and grabbed the lap top.

What to write? Why the cake recipe I made, of course.

Big Mom was Minnie Margaret, my grandmother by lucky happenstance, I guess you'd say.

She was a lovely lady who was very tall and sweet-natured. She'd been a registered nurse back in the 1920's and after having children she "retired" as most women did back then.

Retirement meant raising a son and two daughters, taking care of her home with all of the restrictions brought by World War II, going to church every Sunday, volunteering when needed, tending the kitchen garden, canning vegetables and making jellies and jams, planting and caring for flowers in the yard, and cooking three meals a day every day of the year.

Actually, that wasn't unusual for women back then. She excelled at everything, but when it came to cooking and baking, she was exxtraordinary. In fact, she was so good at cooking, she and her husband, Big Dad, started a restaurant in Leesville, Louisiana, near the Army's Ft. Polk.

Luckily, I was given several of her recipes and have cherished them, making them often through the years.

Today, I'll share her pound cake recipe. She made one every week. If you stopped by her house, you'd find a covered cake plate with a buttery pound cake inside.

Bundt Pan with Handles
Big Mom's Pound Cake

  • 1 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla or lemon extract
  • Prepare a bundt pan by greasing with a small amount of shortening or vegetable oil the sifting a small amount of flour into the pan to coat all surfaces.
  • Set oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Sift 2 cups of flour into a medium-sized bowl then measure the 2 cups, leveling the cup measure off each time.
  • Cream softened butter well.
  • Add sugar to butter and cream until smooth and soft.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.
  • Slowly add flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture, beating well on medium speed after each addition.
  • Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.
  • Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack or a plate.
  • Serve plain or dust it with powdered sugard or drizzle glaze over it. Delicious every way.
  • Store covered in a cool place.
Loving Memory

Every time I bake Big Mom's Pound Cake, I think of her with gratitude and love. I learned a lot from her in so many areas of life. I hope she's up in heaven smiling at this tribute.

Visit me online. — Joan Reeves

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Words, Words, Words by Bea Tifton

Confession: I am a grammar nerd. I have a large vocabulary and have been teased by bullies and friends alike. I read voraciously and I still look up unfamiliar words. I edit for a side living, and I actually like perusing grammar manuals.  Nerdy, see? 
I read many articles online. Yesterday I read a news article that had numerous grammatical and mechanical errors in it. They distracted me from the content. But, the word choices were also unoriginal and poor. All in all, it was just a dreadful article. I longed to contact the editor. I wanted to leave a tactful comment. But, I knew that I would just be trolled as a “Grammar Nazi.” 
I love language. I love imagery that draws me into a writer’s fictional world. I love large words, when used for a purpose. The well placed description. The perfectly chosen word.  
When I was a child, my parents gave me a dictionary that I was expected to use. Didn’t know what a word meant? They would say, “Look it up.” Not sure how to spell something? “Here are the first three letters, now look it up.” Didn’t know what an idiom meant? They were happy to explain. I was surrounded by books from birth, and trips to the library were like stepping into heaven.
In our Twitter based world, it makes me sad to see the demise of creative descriptions. The careless use and abuse of grammar makes it difficult to read many sources, and don’t even get me started on social media comments and memes.  I’ve heard the younger generations don’t use imagery. I know some great books are still
being written, so I hope this device doesn’t die completely. And those interesting, ten dollar vocabulary words! How I love them. I’m not talking about the pompous use of the largest words one knows. The malapropisms as people try to cram as many syllables in their mouths as they can just to appear important. No, the actual, earnest use of interesting phrases and words.
Here are just a few of my favorite words.
Convoluted-adjective. Extremely complex and difficult to follow, especially an argument, story, or sentence. (Boy is that one relevant today!) 
Synchronicity- noun. The simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. (You know that wonderful phenomenon where it all comes together, with no apparent explanation? You want to find something and suddenly you see it everywhere? Several seemingly random events happen and they all lead you where you need to be? Bliss.)
Serendipity-noun. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. (It’s similar, I know. But one can never know too many optimistic words. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you for days now, and here you are. It’s serendipity!”)

Idiosyncrasy- noun. A mode of behavior or way of thought peculiar to an individual. Distinctive or peculiar feature or characteristic of a place or thing. (What a lovely way to say we are all different and interesting.)
Anachronism-noun. A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially on a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned. (Okay, it’s probably no great mystery why I love this word!) 
Kindness- noun. The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. (Two syllables, but one of the biggest, most important words in existence.)

What about you? Are there any words you love to use? Leave them in the comments below. And have a splendiferous month, dear Reader. 

Picture Attributions: 
Action Vance photo Dictionary