Sunday, January 31, 2016

Nut Cake

Despite John’s penchant for ice cream, frozen custard wasn’t the only dessert that graced the luncheon table at Simons Mansion. Occasionally, there was also nut cake, similar to this one that mystery author Helen Osterman’s mother and grandmother used to bake.

Nut Cake
By Helen Osterman

½ pound butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and sugar together; add egg yolks. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add, alternating with milk. Fold in walnuts and vanilla. Last, fold in well beaten egg whites. Butter and flour a large, springform pan. Add mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours, Yield: 10-12 servings.

Note from Helen: “It’s interesting that when I was a child, many moons ago, no one worried about calories or cholesterol, and very few were overweight. Of course, we had no television until I was twelve, and everyone worked hard.”

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What is a Merrow?

A slight, quick movement and a splash caught his eyes, as he skirted around Quixotic Pond; probably a merrow, the first of the elusive creature he almost saw since returning home. ("Staked!" Chapter 25: Steward of Tara).

An Irish mermaid (or merman).

Friday, January 29, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Jan. 24 through Jan. 29

A busy week with one to follow, so I'll just get to it.

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Here ya go:

It's a dog's world at BrightDogs in Joliet (VIDEO EXTRA)

This family-run business that opened n Dec. 21 features an indoor dog park, classes boarding, daycare and the opportunity for owners to drop in with their dogs for play.

An Extraordinary Life: President emeritus at Lewis University in Romeoville had passion for teaching

Brother Paul French credited his choice of vocation and career to one key person early in life, and it wasn't a family member or friend.

Joliet woman needs one of the costliest medications in the world to live
By Jeanne Millsap

What does it treat? Will her insurance cover it? Read on!

Minooka freelance writer shares her faith through mission trips to Haiti (VIDEO EXTRA)

I first met Allison when writing stories about a Joliet man's committment to helping an orphanage in Haiti after she became involved, too. Now that she also writes for The Herald-News, I asked her to relate her perspective of that ministry.

Lewis University in Romeoville to host ASE: The Chicago Association of Black Storytellers

The group has created a diverse program just for the university at someone's request.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: My DNA Told Me To Like It

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My DNA Told Me To Like It.

I read an article online today about a woman, JJ Virgin, who is a nutritionist on freaky eaters. Her response to a question involving genetics claimed my attention. From science or news, liking french fries compared to apples, genetics are playing a larger role in how we look at ourselves. The theory that we are predisposed into having a disease, being overweight, or liking certain flavors is downright scary. We walk around thinking that we are individuals, only to discover that our parents, grand parents, great-grand parents, and so on have played a larger role than we had once imagined.

So if we are inheriting more than just silver candlesticks these days, do we have any control over what genetic testing says we're prone to? I believe so. Ever see studies on identical twins? One lives in a different environment/climate and makes positive health choices, while the other is making poor health choices. In just a few years the differences are noticeable, twenty years and you wouldn't even know they were related. We can help ourselves by prevention.

The theory about genetics wasn't as well understood in 1975 as it is today. Other than the discovery method to isolate and analyze DNA fragments, known as the "Southern blot analysis," most discoveries have been made in the last couple decades. As far as Bryony goesdoes that mean Melissa was meant to make a deal with a vampire and it was passed through someliteracy genes? It sure gives me something to think about.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Some Quick Tips for Distinguishing Voice

We're currently working on dialogue at our monthly workshops. On Friday night, one writer, who is working on a series for his granddaughter, said all his teen girls sound the same.

So we worked on ways to make characters of similar ages that know each other sound different. Here are some ideas:

1) Emphasize their differences.

    Even very similiar characters are not identical. One scene from Bryony I often read as an example has four girls in 1970's Munsonville hanging around in a bedroom talking about the mansion restoration and the rumors of it being haunted while Katie, who hopes to become a beautician, practices with electric rollers on Julie's hair. Three of the girls have grown up together in the village, and one is the new girl from the Chicago suburbs. None sound alike. Here's why:

   One girl is smart, skeptical, and idealistic about her crush and unrealistic her future; one is goal-oriented, direct to the point of blunt, and open to supernatural possibilities; one is immature, easily swayed, and fearful regarding ghosts; and the new girl (our protagonist) is mostly listening and taking it all in. 

   Focusing on these differences will direct the dialogue. Why?

2) We all speak from our perspective.

     Who we are as people, our personalities and interests, direct our words: what we choose to say (or not say), how we say it, when we say it, why we say it, and to whom we say it - and even the gestures we use when speaking. 

    Keeping this in mind will help you write dialogue that is specific to your character. Dialogue should never be a simple exchange of information because conversation is never that simple. 

Here's part of the scene:

“Me neither,” Julie said. “The trouble with Munsonville is that no one thinks past fishing boats. I want something more than night crawlers and dead carp.”

“Like what?” Katie reached for the comb.

“Like anything that requires some brain power. Like a car, maybe.”

Melissa was surprised at Julie’s scornful remarks. She thought all the villagers  lived contentedly in Munsonville.

Ann turned a page. “I’ll be too busy traveling around the world.”

Julie tossed her head and snorted.

“Hold still!” Katie struggled to fasten the roller.

“Not if,” Julie snapped her fingers, “Jack Cooper looked twice at you.”

Ann blushed, still looking down. “That’s not true. I’m marrying someone so rich and ambitious, I’ll own homes in three countries and eat gourmet food every night.”

“I’d rather get a job and make my own money, thank you.”

“Can’t you get a job?” Melissa then remembered Munsonville had no industry.

“Not unless you slave for a family business. My mom works the information desk at the nature center, and my dad sells used cars in Jensen. By the time they restore Simons Mansion, I’ll be in college, thank God.”

Katie rolled another strand of hair and secured it with a pin. “Do you think the ghost will attack once they start fixing it?”

Ann’s blue eyes were stern. “There’s no ghost. Grow up, Katie.”

Julie shook her head in exasperation and a roller fell out of her hair. “You’ve got to keep an open mind. What about the stories?”

“Mass hysteria,” Ann said.

“Maybe, except for the evidence backing their claims.”

Melissa stiffened and held her breath. Did Julie mean Kimberly?

Ann looked down her nose at Julie and snickered. “Not nutty Tina Swanson?”

"Who’s she?” Melissa said.

“Last summer,” Ann said, “Tina’s family rented one of the lakefront fishing cottages. No one liked Tina because she bragged that her red hair made her psychic, After a month, Tina’s parents went to Uncle Gabe. Tina said a dark man in black broke into her room while she was sleeping. So, he posted a guard.”

“Did they see anyone?” Melissa asked.

“Of course not,” Ann said, giving her a funny look.

“My parents said Tina was just spoiled and looking for attention,” Katie said.

“Or maybe she did have ESP,” Julie said. “Maybe everyone missed what she saw. How do you know nothing comes into your room at night?”

“I hope not!” Katie shuddered. “There. You’re free for fifteen minutes.

("Bryony," Chapter 10: When Good Dreams Go Bad)


Monday, January 25, 2016

Dr. Rothgard Advances to the Digital Age

Dr. Abner Rothgard (or however you'd like to address him) appears to be alive, thriving, practicing and rejecting handouts for his patients in favor of this:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Made" a Country Wedding Cake from this Recipe

Well, not really. But I did base a certain wedding cake in Before the Blood on the recipe below. I'm thinking it would make a grand birthday cake, too. 

My birthday is July 15. Just saying.

Strawberry Cakes

Sift a small quart of flour into a pan, and cut up among it half a pound of the best fresh butter; or mix in a pint of butter if it is soft enough to measure in that manner. 

Rub with your hands the butter into the flour, till the whole is crumbled fine. 

Beat three eggs very light; and then mix with them three table-spoonfuls of powdered loaf-sugar. 

Wet the flour and butter with the beaten egg and sugar, so as to form a dough. If you find it too stiff, add a very little cold water. 

Knead the dough till it quits your hands, and leaves them clean. 

Spread some flour on your paste-board, and roll out the dough into a rather thick sheet. 

Cut it into round cakes with the edge of a tumbler, or something similar; dipping the cutter frequently into flour to prevent its sticking. 

Butter some large square iron pans or baking sheets. lay the cakes in, not too close to each other. 

Set them in a brisk oven, and bake them light brown. 

Have ready a sufficient quantity of ripe strawberries, mashed and made very sweet with powdered white sugar. Reserve some of your finest strawberries whole. Reserve some of your finest strawberries whole. 

When the cakes are cool, split them, place them on flat dishes and cover the bottom piece of each with mashed strawberry, put on thickly. Then lay on the top pieces, pressing them down. 

Have ready some icing, and spread it thickly over the top and down the sides of each cake, so as to enclose both the upper and lower pieces. 

Before the icing has quite dried ornament the top of every cake with the whole strawberries, a large one in the center, and the smaller ones placed round in a close circle.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Dec.20 through Jan. 22

Well, vampire fans and the rest of you, this will be quite the round-up.

After several weeks of holidays fall on Fridays and an out-of-the-office day where I didn't post anything at all (starting with a 6 a.m. doctor appointment for one of my sons and continuing in that vein, LOL), I am now catching everyone up on my activities when I'm not writing fiction.

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Former Joliet resident's Nepal images are fundraiser for earthquake relief

This man spent a number of years in the Peace Corps His images are worth the read. If you're in the Joliet-area, the exhibit is up through February.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman widowed in middle age built a new life for herself

Even in her latter years, Marlene Ancel as so busy, her children had to call ahead to be sure she was free.

Joliet Junior College chef is part of White School school healthy lifestyle initiative

Chef Michael McGreal, now also a national consultant for the USDA, is anticipating this program will influence generations to come. Read on for details.

Joliet dentenarian rediscovers his Christian faith at Harvest Bible Chapel (VIDEO EXTRA)

This was the warmest, sweetest man I've ever met. I interviewed him at his house. When I was leaving, he walked outside ahead of me, saying, "A lady should never be alone after dark."

New book chronicles real bear behind Winnie the Pooh

A local story for Christmas Day fell apart on Christmas Eve. This, I felt, was a worthy substitute.

Joliet woman creates family holiday tradition with elaborate miniature village (VIDEO EXTRA)

A woman whose Christmases were nearly non-existent growing up has created a lighted Christmas display that enchants family and friends for several weeks each year.

An Extraordinary Life: Former Joliet District 86 supervisor was the consummate educator

He was a stickler for detail and process. Kids and staff alike were better for it.

Plainfield pediatric occupational therapist use multimedia to empower kids

One principal at a Plainfield school said her dragon-slaying presentation is the best presentation he's ever seen.

Joliet chapter of Bolingbrook church doing well after two years (VIDEO EXTRA)

This small church does more with a few than larger congregations do with many.

Plainfield-based makeup artist offers tips too looking one's best

She also discussees the business-side of makeup artistry and receives praise from one photogrpaher that shoots covers for Sports Illustrated as to why he often hires her,

Book by former Morris Herald-News columnist offers strategies for handling workplace bullies

Perhaps you've met one of those bullies. Lynne Curry includes a list of bullies one might encounter in the workplace.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet airplane pilot was happiest in the skies

He flew to serve his country, support his family...and bring home a Siamese kitten for himself.

Will-Grundy Medical Clinic offers free diabetes prevention program for at-risk individuals

The program itself is comprehensive, as it was created by the CDC.

St. George Serbian Sisters in Joliet helps those in need at home and abroad

Most of the women are over sixty, but that doesn't stop them from tackling projects as small as collecting items for a local shelter to hosting fundraisers netting tens of thousands of dollars for Serbian orphans.

Minooka church sells 2,200 ornaments handmade in Swaziland
By Jeanne Millsap

At $10 each, this effort significantly impacted African women living in poverty that make the ornaments to support their families.

Loyola professor studies ornate box turtles in Will and Grundy counties

I have to admit, this was just a FUN story to interview - and to write. And the turtle photo is so darn cute. Bring on the turtle dogs...

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet minister proudly served where God called (VIDEO EXTRA)

Sometimes it was three churches at a time each Sunday - so the churches timed the rest of the services around his preaching. For the last thirty years of his career, Rev. Stanley Lane was chaplain to juvenile delinquents.

Morris Hospital pharmacist wants patients to be aware of dangerous drug reactions
By Jeanne Millsap

For Timothy's version of his brush with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, read on. Included is some "beware" side effects of commonly prescribed medications, along with some common sense advice for taking medicine.

New Lenox couple give back to the Augustinian community that shaped their spirituality

Robert and Denise Utter has immersed himself in the spirituality permeating their church, and now they want to work to further the order.

Book and Bean Cafe in Joliet offers art classes (VIDEO EXTRA)

Monday nights are art nights at the venue know for fabulous coffee. Mediums offered include watercolor, acrylics, and fiber.

Libraries at Troy School District 30-C adopt Common Sense Categories

Read why kids, and some adults, too, struggle with the Dewey Decimal System.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet psychologist dedicated her career to serving the AIDS community

A former black Catholic nun left behind a legacy few can match.

Morris doctor discusses the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

It's estimated that by 2050, bacterial infections will kill more people than cancer will. Find out why we have this problem, which bacteria are problematic (it's not just MRSA) and what people can do about it.

Diocese of Joliet youth choirs travel to Rome

Great stuff here. Nine members of a large family who had never flown on a commercial plane (much less out of the country) made the financial committment to take the pilgrimage together. A 9-year-old girl, a former orphan in a Siberian orphanage, receives a blessing from Pope Francis (link to YouTube video that captures it is included). AND these young choristers got to sing for the pope at least twice.

Former Joliet man hoping to inspire young people through film he wrote and shot

When the paperwork associatied with starting a non-profit becomes too cumbersome, two artists found another way to mentor kids getting caught up in gangs.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: "The World is Mine"

Friday, June 29, 2012

"The World is Mine"

I've seen this credited to several different authors, so I'm leaving the author part blank. Even if you've read this one, it's a good reminder of the blessings we so enjoy and so often forget.

Today on a bus, I saw a lovely girl with silken hair
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and I wished I was so fair
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the isle
O God, forgive me when I whine
I have two legs, the world is mine

And then I stopped to buy some sweets
The lad who sold them had such charm
I talked with him, he seemed so calm, and if I were late it would do no harm,
And as I left he said to me “I thank you, you have been so kind”
It’s nice to talk with folks like you. You see, I’m blind
O God forgive me when I whine
I have two eyes, the world is mine

Later walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue
He stood and watched the others play; it seemed he knew not what to do
I stopped a moment, then I said, why don’t you join the others dear”
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear
O God forgive me when I whine
I have two ears, the world is mine

With legs to take me where I’ll go
With eyes to see the sunsets glow
With ears to ear what I would know
O God forgive me when I whine
I’m blessed, indeed, the world is mine

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Editing, Defined

Often when writers talk about "editing," they really mean, "proofreading" or catching and correcting typos and minor errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

In actuallity, proofreading is the last step, after all the editing is complete. The process of editing has several components. They are:

Manuscript assessment: Okay, so maybe an assessment is not a the same as editing. But an assessment gives  an author a good first glimpse of how much editing - including self-editing - may be required. An assessment also provides a wide critique of the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses, along with overall suggestions for improvement.

Developmental editing: This type of editing targets content and structure: plot, pacing, dialogue, characterization, inconsistences, wordiness, and over-writing.

Line editing: the The editor literally examines the manuscript line by line. Paragraphs may be rearanged, and sentences may be rewritten to ensure smooth transitions and prose.

Copy editing: Corrects word choices, spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

And finally, proofreading.

For authors that choose to self-publish, I cannot stress enough the importance of editing, and that should be where authors spend the most money.

Yes, self-editing is important. Self-editing involves setting the completed manuscript aside for a month or two and then moving through the above steps. That, too, is a process.

Rigorous self-editing will cut down your editing expense. But authors are too close to their works to be the final eyes.

By "too close," I don't mean "emotionally attached."

You see, when one constructs an entire manuscript word by word, it becomes impossible to notice every flaw. The brain simply cannot see them anymore. A pair of fresh expert eyes notices them instantly.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Early Morning Serenity

Sometimes, people express surprise at how early I arise, although, trust me, it's far later than I used to rise when we ran the newspaper routes.

The alarm went off at 11:45, and it was set fifteen minutes ahead to build in "snooze" time. So for many, many, many years, I started each new day the previous day.

There's something enchanting about being awake when the rest of the world is not. There's something unnatural to me about rising after the sun, a sense that half the day is wasted.

And yet, there's also something very delicious on Saturdays with sleeping in, that lazy "I don't have anything pressing to do today" feeling that can only be relished when one works very hard.

As a very little girl and long before paper delivery for I was not even old enough for school, I often spent time with my maternal grandmother on Parnell in Chicago. My grandfather had to be at work early, so she would get up around three a.m. or so to prepare his breakfast. Often, I woke up when she did and trailed her to the kitchen.

Half-awake, I'd sit at the little side table, gazing out the window into the dark nothing, smelling breakfast smells as she moved about the kitchen, hearing the hiss of the percolator.

When everything was prepared, we returned to bed.

Such clear memories, as if they'd happened last month.

My grandmother died the week after I turned seven, and even the paper route is a long-past memory (We let it go in fall 2011). But sitting at the computer each morning in the dark room, cup of steaming coffee beside me as my mind and body gradually gets used to the fact I won't be returning to bed for many hours, I bask in a peaceful centering that's all mine before I give my day to eveyone else.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rice Chicken Pie

 Because even Victorians had leftovers...

The following recipe is adapted from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

The luncheon pies at Simons Mansion were quite a departure from the peanut butter sandwiches Melissa ate at home over a book. Yet, Melissa found it impossible not to eat them when a vampire scrutinizes every bite.

Rice Chicken Pie

Slices of broiled ham
1 chicken, boiled and cut up
Gravy or melted butter
Minced onions or curry powder
Boiled rice

Line a baking dish with ham slices. Add chicken until the dish is nearly full. Add onions or curry powder to gravy or melted butter and pour to “fill in.” Pile boiled rice to fill the interstices and cover the top quite thick. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Steward Setback Saturday: On Becoming An Ed Calkins Wife, Part 3

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On Becoming An Ed Calkins Wife, Part 3

There exists a confusion about age limits for wives of Ed Calkins. After all, did I not put the minuim age of thirty-one in my last post?

Understand, though, that age is as relative as time. When I was sixteen, I did not require a prospective bride to be thirty-one. So, too, if a woman who was quite young had met me in the nineteenth century, such as Byrony/Melissa had, I would not be so dismissive as if I had met the same woman/girl in the present.

However, in the book, Byrony/Melissa did not agree to marriage (thus forever changing the ending). I'm sure you're thinking Bryony's current marriage prohibited it. This is simply incorrect.

Wife number one has three husbands other then me: one for gambling, one for gossip, and one for shopping and drinking. Should she decide to aquire other vices, say comic books, I'm sure she'll find a husband for that.

Ruthlessly yours,
Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Thursday, January 14, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Jon Burge and a True Stoic

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jon Burge and a True Stoic

I took a break from rolling newspapers this morning when an acquaintance in the single copy area stopped to show me his quote in a Chicago newspaper story regarding the Jon Burge conviction.

On Friday, former Chicago officer Burge was sentenced to four and a half years in a federal prison. For years, Burge had been torturing black men to obtain confessions to an assortment of crimes, including robbery and murder. This acquaintance had been suffocted and electrocuted by Burge and subsequently spent decades in prison. He had testified at Burge's trial.

However, he wasn't sharing the gruesome details this morning. Rather, he talked about his lack of bitterness about his experiences, despite the fact his wife had died while he was serving time, and his children had grown up without their father. He quoted from the poem, "Footprints," thankful that God had carried him through his troubles and brought him home.

I was quietly impressed by what he wanted to tell me. You know, it doesn't take much stamina to inflict; just ask any bully. But to withstand and exit whole and unscathed...that's real strength.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Cards Against Humanity" Marathon Final Score

We started Thursday night, continued when I came home (late) on Friday night, might have picked up some time on Saturday (can't remember that far back), and finished on Sunday night.

The grand tally is:

Daniel: 89

Timothy: 81

Me: 75

Rebekah: 64

Somehow, I managed to pull myself from last place to beat the birthday lady. Frankly, I feel Rebekah and I would have done better if the boys didn't have their own private game happening. ;)

Actually, we'd do a sub total after each day. It ran pretty close most of the time.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Computer Monitors and Me

Back in 1998, when I started freelancing, my mother bought my first computer, a Gateway, from Circuit City.

Don't laugh.

Because I suck at math, I don't know the size of the monitor screen, but it was definitely way smaller than the salesman recommended for someone that would be spending a large part of her day composing in front of it. For reasons unrelated to this post, the computer was never actually installed until April 1999.

In the spring of 2009, still using the same monitor (Hey, it was a perfectly good monitor), a strange thing happened. It started...blinking. I shrugged it off as, "Well, it's probably starting to go," and suffered through it. Between pay cuts and rising prices, we were starting to feel the money pinch, and I didn't feel a new monitor was worth the money.

I am also the woman that wore Sarah's old snowpants on the route from 1998 until someone stole them out of our church coatroom at least a decade later (I had duct taped the holes), but that's a different story.

So in that summer of 2009, while working on deadline of course, that monitor began flashing colors and then literally started smoking. Because I have no idea what cord connects to what, I did what any reasonable technology stupid person would do: yell for a kid.

Timothy ran in and disconnected it in seconds and reconnected a really ancient monitor someone donated to our youth group. I was back in business.

In a few days, Christopher bought me a new monitor, something called a flat screen. He also bought this amazing pair of speakers (no, I don't kow the brand, only that the sound quality is phenomenal). And when that screen crapped out two years later, he replaced it with his, since he and his family were now living at my house, and his giant screen for the TV was doubling as his monitor.

I ignored the squiggly lines made by my two-year-old grandson who shouldn't have had access to a Sharpie in front of a monitor and forged on.

When that one crapped out, Christopher replaced it with a used one someone had donated to his computer repair business. And no, I don't have any idea what year that was or its size.

This past summer, that monitor and I began a morning battle that would continue for six months. It went like this:

I turn on monitor. Monitor blinks and goes back to sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat, anywhere from five to fifteen minutes with blearily sipping coffee.

Any thinking person would buy a new monitor. But that's not why I started an emergency fund. That was for EMERGENCIES, not a monitor that played games with me every morning when most people are still sleeping.

And so it continued.

Finally, the monitor was taking so long to turn on, that Rebekah (I don't know how to do such things) adjusted the controls so it never went to sleep. The ensuing light distrubed our sleep, so she covered it with a  pillow case, a bad idea, because monitors emit A LOT of heat. So we scrapped the warm pillow case, and she rested a book binder against it, partially obscuring the light.

At this point, we decided the monitor was a fire hazard. A new onbe seemed like a reasonable thing to consider.

But then we rolled into college finals and holiday deadlines at The Herald-News and Timothy's medical emergency, and there was either no time, no money, or no transportation for a monitor. And we worried that it might not be the monitor, but a problem with the computer itself.

To determine that, Rebekah and Daniel disconnected my monitor and replaced it with an old one of Daniel's. That, too, was a flat screen, but very tiny. Not sure the size, but it was small, as in manybe twelve inches small, according to one of the kids said, so small, that working was darn near impossible.

It continued this way for a couple weeks, with some minor grumbling from me.

On Old Calendar Christmas on Thursday, Timothy announced that he, Rebekah and Daniel had collaborated on a present for me, but it hadn't arrived yet. On Friday when I came home from work, Timothy said the present had arrived and was now on my desk.

Intrigued, I headed for my room and desk. No present.

I moved aside my scattered papers of notes and looked. No present. I returned to Timothy's room with one question, "Where?"

It was truly a face palm moment.

I had totally missed the HUGE monitor and new keyboard and mouse. Now I was a little surprised at the last two, since there was nothing wrong with those.

"The keyboard had missing keys," Timothy said.

"But the keyboard always had missing keys," I countered."It was a used one from Christopher. And they were keys I never used."

BTW, the keyboard is amazing, much easier on the fingers than the old clackety-clack model I had used for, well, I don't know how many years. I'm already accustomed to the mouse, and I love the keyboard.

I told everyone so on Sunday evening.

"Well, that was a delayed reaction," Daniel said as I bid him good night.

Doesn't he understand I couldn't tell how great it was until I spent a weekend writing fiction (Before the Blood) on it? Sheesh! Kids!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Simple Mashed Potato Variation

One of the recipes served at the Smythe dinner party in Bryony

This recipe is adapted from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Browned Potatoes

Boiled potatoes
Cream or milk

Mash potatoes fine, season with salt and butter, and a little cream or milk, place them in a dish, smoothing and shaping the top handsomely, and make checks with a knife; then brown them in a stove, or range-oven, and they are excellent.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Steward Setback Saturday: On Becoming an Ed Calkins Wife, Part 2

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On Becoming an Ed Calkins Wife, Part 2

Waitresses are always welcome as wives of Ed Calkins, but they must actually wait on me! Also, one of my other wives has to be present. This is a new rule introduced by Debbie Blond (actual name Debbie Brown (remember her)) who objected to being bumped from wife number six back to wife seven without once meeting her competition. More on that later.

Understand that I quit writing marriage proposals on dollar bills years ago. I learned that it is impolite (and illegal) to deface currency. It’s also hard to read, "Will you marry me?" scrawled on a bill. Furthermore some women receive so many such messages that they get confused as to who it was that gave them the dollar bill. They tend to assume what they want to assume. (Why did you think Donald Trump has been married so many times?) Besides that, it’s tacky, making it seem like the bill is a bride for a “Yes.” But mostly it’s because I've simply run out of them.

This might surprise your readers considering I enjoy the financial compensation of a paperboy, but even an ocean can run out of water. (If I had a dollar for every girl I asked to marry before asking actually worked, maybe I'd still live in Tara this day (although the place needs rebuilding but you get the idea)).

By the time I met my first wife (the only one I actually sleep with (more on that)), I couldn't afford a dollar, so I bought her a vending machine cup of coffee (true story). But the buying of the coffee left me unable to afford a pencil to write “Will you marry me?” on it. I did ask her verbally, but you know how people forget things that aren't written down. (Hence route lists)

It cost me three years of awkward dating waiting for the answer to a question she'd forgotten. Finally, when I got the notion to bring the subject up again, she said "Marriage uh? Interesting... You have to prove your courage first. Ask my Daddy.”

To my surprise, her father was quite nice to me saying, "If you don't let the band play the chicken dance at the reception, you can marry my other two daughters as well.” With that promise sealed with a handshake, I thought my harem was finally on its way. The problem is; he never told his daughters about this arrangement. It’s been a tad awkward with wives two and three ever since.

I realize that this account of my first wife differs from the one in the book, but that shouldn't trouble your readers. A good myth should always have competing versions lest they both versions get lazy and stop embellishing.

BTW if anyone has a dollar bill from Ed Calkins with "Will you marry me?” written on it, and you wish to redeem it, consider yourself married. (Just let me know so I can update my spreadsheet.)

If instead you wish know the value of this testament to history, my appraisers advise me that you should spend the dollar. (I say, just give the dollar to a girlfriend less attractive than you. Thus, she will be more likely to say, “Yes.” That’s because I realized I'd never get as many wives as Ramsis III if I didn’t make proposals transferable.

Ruthlessly yours,

Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

Friday, January 8, 2016

Why We Celebrate Old Calendar Christmas

WHEW! Take one day off, and watch the emails pile up! Busy morning this morning, and no blog yesterday, as it was a full Christmas Day, but I'll try to briefly explain why we did what we did.

First of all, as Eastern Orthodox Christians, we strongly believe in preparation and celebration. Our advent is six weeks long and begins before Thanksgiving. The traditional preparation consists of fasting from meat, dairy products, and eggs for the six weeks. Before we had health issues and food allergies, we actually kept this fast (which also shows up during Lent and for two other two-week periods throughout the year); now we substitute other things.

I can't stress the preparation enough. The journey to the joy is as important as the joy. Gradually, we do the other things the secular world seems to do quickly and intensely. We add a few decorations here and there. The tree goes up and is garnished over time. Mostly, the preparation is internal, making room in our spirits to receive the ultimate in Christmas gifts: Jesus Christ.

When Christmas does arrive, we aren't burned out from a month of preholiday parties. We welcome it joyously, from Christmas Eve on December 24 through January 7 and beyond, for if you're really loath to bid Christmas good-bye, the Christmas season doesn't really end until Jesus' presentation in the temple, commemorated by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox on February 2. 

And, yes, we have kept our tree up that long.

What we did yesterday, the practical reasons why our family celebrates on the seventh, these are for another blog. I have over 100 emails calling my name, and a manuscript calling my name. I obviously don't have an hour to spend with Before the Blood this morning, but fifteen or twenty minutes should nicely connect me to it.

The weekend, after all, approacheth. :)

Christ is born! Let us glorify Him!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Know When to Be Silent

Sometimes, what your characters don't say is more effective than speech.

            "Children should be seen and not heard. Bryony, please knead so I can peek at the news."

            Bryony rinsed her hands and hurried to help, not at all surprised Mrs. Parks had yielded to temptation. Mrs. Parks was already at the table hunched over the newspaper, reading spectacles on, face cupped in her hands.

            "Leo said it has the next installment of 'The Victor's Ghost,'" Bryony remarked as she rolled and pushed the dough.

            Mrs. Parks didn't answer. (Before the Blood)

           "So what brings you to Munsonville?" Reverend asked, shifting his gaze to Mr. Borgstrom.

            "That's my business."

            Erland took a large fish and gave the platter to Erasmus, who took also a large fish and passed the platter to his father.

            "Owen said you and your sons are the finest fishermen he's ever met."

            The boys glanced at each other.

            Mr. Borgstrom snorted. He took three fish and thrust the platter at Bryony. "We do all right."

            The rest of the food went around the table in silence. (Before the Blood)

           "Religion addresses life, death, and the afterlife: experiences all men realize," Dr. Gothart said. "The underbelly of public schooling is government indoctrination."
            Dr. Gothart looked at Mr. Betts as he relit his pipe. "And yielding to the delusion that all children are capable of higher thought."

            Mr. Betts, already red-faced from the warm room and the alcohol, blushed harder and gulped his port. (Before the Blood)

            Her extravagance worried Mr. Parks, especially when meals were late, and Mrs. Parks was lost in printed gossip and cheap fiction.

            "Seven cents a week, frittered away, and you neglectin' yore household dooties to fill your head with new-fangled ideas 'stead of cookin' and cleanin' as God-fearin' women should do."

            "Orville, it's important for modern women to know the things of the world."

            Mr. Parks thumped the wall. "Trashy serials ain't useful fax."

            Puss jumped off Mrs. Parks lap. Mrs. Parks, adrift in a sea of print, didn't react.

            "Bertha, I'm talkin' to you!" (Before the Blood)

            With a harsh chuckle, Dr. Sidney Stone exclaimed, "Dr. Gothart, do you presume yourself so skilled that you raise the dead to life?"

            "I don't raise them," Dr. Gothart said.

            There was something menacing in the even way he spoke those words that forced Bryony upright, scarcely breathing, straining for the next words.

            "But I do restore them."

            Silence, except the fire crackling in the hearth. (Before the Blood)

Melissa enjoyed the little girl’s company and often engaged her in hopscotch or jump rope. John declared Melissa’s fraternization with a servant’s child most improper, but Melissa felt sorry for Anna and insisted otherwise.

“I’m sure there’s no harm done,” Melissa insisted. “Anna has no other playmates, and I promise to be discreet. Please reconsider?”

John did not reply, so Melissa assumed he agreed. Melissa remained true to her word. Everyday she reserved some time for Anna, but never in the company of the other servants, except Bryga, or occasionally, Trudi. Sometimes, they played with dolls,

Anna’s favorite game. Anna owned two, a papier-mâché doll with a stuffed, cloth body and a European doll fashioned from real wax. Bryga said John had given both of them to Anna, which led Melissa to tease John over lunch.

“Fine example you are of proper behavior,” she said.

John did not reply. (Bryony)

The phone rang, and Melissa sprang to answer it, saying, “It’s probably for me.”

It was Julie. After chatting about leeches, Melissa asked about Snowbell. Julie hesitated, then said, “I feel a little silly now, but it sure freaked me out at the time.”

“What happened?”

“Every time I turned around, that cat was watching me.”

Melissa twirled her fingers around the telephone cord, thinking. Julie had no reason to lie.

“Honestly, Melissa, I’d wake up, and she’d still be staring at me. I was a nervous wreck all weekend.” (Bryony)

Melissa inwardly groaned. She couldn’t believe this obvious phony had duped Katie, who lit up like a firefly at every mention of Cornell’s name.

“Oh, Melissa, you should have seen Cornell in action during that séance. So authoritative with the spirits. So commanding of the situation. Of course, I just had to meet him.”

 “Of course,” Melissa said with a short, rueful laugh.

“He was talking to some of the guests while eating cake. I understood why everyone wanted to be near him, so I patiently waited my turn. He was speaking to the last person when he looked up and, Melissa, you won’t believe this, he saw me. Cornell Dyer noticed me.”

Melissa absently swirled the remaining tea in her cup. She felt like throwing up. (Visage)

At school Monday, Karla was leaning against his locker, waiting for him.
“I threw away the mandrake root,” she said, avoiding his eyes.
Karla meekly stepped aside, and John-Peter flung open the door. “Good. You ruined it.”
“Can you get me another? I’ll let you carve it.”
 “I can’t do Curtis Chandler justice.”
  Karla blushed and bowed her head. “I didn’t mean for it come out that way. It’s just that.…”
Her voice trailed off. John-Peter slammed the door and spun the dial, but, as he turned to leave, Karla caught his sleeve.
“John-Peter, have you ever been in love?”
  His mouth went dry. He dropped a door and asked in a low voice, “Why do you ask?”
  “Because I think I’m in love with Curtis Chandler.”        
The boy flinched as if she had punched him, but he only said, “Shouldn’t you be telling this to Curtis?”
   “I wanted to know what you thought. We used to tell each other everything.”
Karla’s voice broke, and John-Peter glanced at the crowd of students filling the hall. He hated Mondays. (Staked!)