Friday, February 23, 2018

Soup's On!

Thought for the day:  The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either. [John Steinbeck, East of Eden]

Who doesn't like soup? A dainty little bowl before an entree is swell, but I enjoy a good hearty soup as the main course, too. (I'm not positive, but I think February is National Soup Month, so talk about perfect timing...)

Anyhow, I'm pleased to be participating in the Souper Blog Hop today, which Chrys Fey is running in support of the release of her mother's first book Pea Soup Disaster. (That's right! Another author in the family!)

First, I'll share a spiffy soup recipe with you, and then I'll share info about the book, okay? (For those of you who don't give a diddle about preparing soup from scratch, don't worry. I'm gonna tell you about a terrific CANNED soup, too.)

This soup is my own concoction, so I've never had a recipe for it. But this week, I made a point of writing down how much of everything I was using so I could translate my wing-it style of cooking into something you guys could use. I made a smallish pot, enough for Smarticus and me to enjoy at two meals... with biscuits. So you can adjust the amounts accordingly.

2 bone-in country style pork ribs
32 oz. chicken broth or stock
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1/3 c. chopped onion
heaping 1/2 c. instant barley
2 5-oz. bags of triple-washed baby spinach
splash of milk

1. Place ribs in pot, salt and pepper to taste, and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat is tender. (~1 hour) (If you use regular barley instead of instant, add it to the pot after about 40 minutes)
2. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to pot and add chopped onions and cubed potatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes. If using instant barley, add that now, then simmer another 10 minutes.
3. Add spinach and stir until limp and cooked to your taste. Add a drizzle of milk (or half and half, whatever you have on hand) and season to taste.
NOTE: I usually prepare soup and then refrigerate a couple days to let the flavors "marry." Not necessary, though. It's already plenty yummy at this point. Enjoy!

Don't want to go to all of that trouble? How about the best-tasting canned clam chowder you've ever tasted? That would be Tony's.

We first tasted this award-winning chowder at Tony's restaurant in Cedar Key, Florida. their chowder is a three-time winner of international clam chowder competitions, so ya KNOW it's gotta be good. We enjoyed it so much, we bought a case of it from the restaurant to bring back home with us. Natch, the canned isn't as good as the nectar they serve fresh in the restaurant, but it is reeeeeeally good. Add a blob of butter and some half and half to this concentrate, and your tummy will thank you. If you want to fancy it up a bit, add some chopped chives or chopped onions and a bit of crumbled cooked bacon. Either way, it is a soup that'll make you say, "Mmmm! Mmmm! Gooooood!" Some grocery stores around the country sell it, and you can also order it from the restaurant via the internet.  Just look up Tony's clam chowder.

            So what's YOUR favorite soup?

Okay, I've done my easy-peasy part for this blog hop. Now it's time to move on to check out Elaine Kay's new book... featuring PEA soup.

BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:
Website / Instagram / Litsy - @ElaineKaye

Sounds good, huh? Here's wishing Elaine much success with her new series. Like daughter, like mother...

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. The other participants will be doing their Souper posts on Monday. (Chrys was nice enough to let me post mine on my usual blogging day.) You can find a link to a list of other Monday-posting participants HERE

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Snowball's Chance

Thought for the day: When you pray for rain, better carry an umbrella. 

[image courtesy of]
And if you pray for rain in the middle of a drought, maybe you should carry an umbrella that can also save that precious water, like this inventive fella. Waste not, want not, right?

If you think about it, umbrellas, like parachutes, have something in common with human minds. They all function best when they're open.

When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. [Eckhart Tolle]

That uncertainty, that willingness to accept that what one believes to be true may, in fact, not be true, is what I mean by keeping an open mind. Even so, sheer logic often tells us that some things are so off-the-chart improbable that we pretty much accept the fact that they're never going to happen. For example, when I walk out our front door tomorrow morning, I find it highly unlikely that a mountain would have sprung up in our front street overnight, or that the Atlantic Ocean would suddenly be lapping at our front steps, and what's more, I think most people would agree that such a ridiculous scenario goes way past improbable and hovers somewhere above the downright impossible. It's also highly unlikely that the U.S. Olympic swim team could swim laps in the middle of the Sahara Desert... during a drought.

                                                                           Or is it...?

[the Sahara Desert.- courtesy of wikipedia]

The Sahara desert is more than three and a half million square miles of sand, which is comparable to the area of China or the United States. That's a LOT of sand. (FYI: Even so, it's only the third largest desert in the world... behind Antarctica and the Arctic.)

Anyhow, In August of 2014, right in the middle of a relentless drought, something highly unlikely happened in this unforgiving desert. Something very improbable, verging on the impossible.

In Tunisia, in the middle of the drought, a lake was born in the Sahara desert... virtually overnight.

[image courtesy of morguefile]
A man named Mehdi Bilel trekked through the sandy expanse to attend a wedding, and when he returned home via that same route just three days later... he found that a 2.6-acre crystal clear turquoise blue lake, 10 to 18 meters deep, had miraculously appeared. Needless to say, at first he thought it was a mirage... (Wouldn't you?)

But it wasn't a mirage. As highly unlikely as it was, as improbable as it was, as nigh on impossible as it seemed, the lake was real.

The clear water soon turned a murky green, and the authorities issued a warning that the water might not be safe. They said because of all the phosphorus mining in the area, it could be contaminated or radioactive. Undeterred, the locals continue to flock to the water, which they've dubbed Gafsa Beach, or Lac de Gafsa, and they still contend that the lake was created supernaturally as a blessing to the people. And the lake, an unexpected and blessed refuge from the desert heat, has become a bit of a tourist attraction.

Geologists say a minor earthquake could've fractured an underground aquifer, allowing the water to rise to the surface. But no tremor registered, and no evidence of an aquifer has been found.

 Sometimes, something as unlikely as a lake in the middle of a desert has to be seen to be believed:

For clarification, this isn't the only lake that mysteriously appeared in the Sahara in 2014. On November 11, a lake also materialized in the Enuga State of Nigeria. It's now revered as a place of healing, and people travel from far and near to bathe in and drink the water. It's also not the first time this lake appeared in Nigeria. One of the elders in the area said the lake has actually appeared three times over the past 80 years ... always in the midst of the driest, hottest times... and then disappeared. Nigerian legend holds that if a righteous man scratches the ground on that spot while at prayer, the healing water will magically begin to appear.

Who knows? A natural geological occurrence with a simple explanation, or something supernatural, as the people there believe?

All I know is there's a snowball's chance in hades that it'll ever snow there.

                                                             Um, never mind.

Yep, it snowed in the Sahara last week.  In a small Algerian town... and it snowed there in December, too. In this world, I reckon just about anything is possible. 

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. [Mark Twain]

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Still Writing!

Thought for the day:  The only kind of writing is rewriting. [Ernest Hemingway]

As you can probably tell by that nifty badge on the left, it's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

I don't know if I entirely agree with Hemingway's assessment about all writing being rewriting, but lately, it sure seems to be the case for me. Which is fine. Rewriting is better than no writing at all, right?

Yep, I'm still fine-tuning Explosive Beginnings. (sigh) The plan is to turn Archie into a tragic character, as opposed to a loathsome one. Getting there...

So yeah, the end is (still) in sight.

Thou shalt publish no book before its time...

Okay, so let's move on to this month's question:

What do you love most about the genre you write in most often?

Well, now, that's assuming I know what the heck my chosen genre is, doesn't it? The truth is, I'm not sure, because my first novel has been described in many different terms by many different readers. Because it's  chiefly character-driven, does that means it's... literary? Some readers describe it as humor or as women's literature. No, wait! Maybe it's contemporary literature? Oh, no...  my current WIP takes place in the 1950s... does that count as contemporary or (sigh) historical? Crap.

Okay, whatever the heck it is, what I love most about writing books of this nature is I have free rein. (Or as much free rein as my characters allow me, anyway.) By that, I mean I don't have to adhere to any particular story arc guideline, and I don't have to provide expected happy-ever-after endings. All I have to do is create believable characters and take them on a believable journey that is only limited by my imagination. It's FUN! Yeah, that's what I like about it. It's fun to explore my crazy brain and see what's lurking in there.

            How about you? What's your preferred genre... either as a writer or a reader?

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time like, say, a brain surgeon. [Robert Cormier]

Don't classify me, read me. I'm a writer, not a genre.  [Carlos Fuentes]

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. [Ernest Hemingway]

Friday, February 2, 2018

Who-o-o Are You?

Thought for the day: I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. [Lily Tomlin]

Is humanity suffering from an identity crisis? Do people spend entirely too much time navel-gazing... because they're trying to find themselves? To define themselves and their identities?

Beats me. I've never seen the attraction of staring at my belly, and as I've gotten older (and it's gotten larger) the idea holds even less appeal. Besides, my belly button is utterly clueless. If I were to do some gazing, the only thing I'm likely to find is a little bit of lint. Maybe yours is smarter.

Dontcha love this picture? It's my daughter and her husband, who as you could probably guess, is of Scottish descent. I guess it's fair to say his Scottish heritage is part of his identity.

But suppose he sent a sample of his DNA in for testing, and the results said his ancestors were actually from... Germany?

Would that change who he is?

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Would he, his brother and father have to trade in their kilts for... lederhosen?

That's what the people on those annoying DNA-testing commercials say...  one guy on there spent his entire life dancing in costume as a member of one ethnic group, but now that his DNA test results claim he's from an entirely different ethnic background, he's prepared to trade in his long-held identity for a new one.

I say... why???

We have a friend who has always identified with his Cherokee Indian background. So much so, he has a big beautiful tepee and an authentic Cherokee deerskin outfit, and with lovely flute music playing softly in the background, he would sit in his tepee and tell wonderful Cherokee Indian tales to paying customers.

As a gift, his wife recently gave him one of those DNA-testing kits, and guess what? According to the results, he doesn't have a single drop of Indian blood. He's English.

So should he trade in his deerskins for a bowler hat?

Again, I say... why???

I'm surprised DNA-testing has become so popular, but I personally think it's foolish to alter one's sense of identity based on the results. It might be a tad interesting to discover one's roots, even if they were planted hundreds of years ago in a country you've never seen, but how much does that past narrative relate to who you are today? Is your identity defined by someone else's life?

Heck no. I think not. My identity is defined by MY life and MY experiences. How about you? I suspect you agree with me, but after seeing so many stupid commercials about people who are embracing a new concept of self based on those arguably imperfect tests, I wanted to vent a little. (Whew! I feel much better now. Thanks!)

Here's a poem I wrote for the book Old Broads Waxing Poetic. It tells you...

                                                        Who I Am

I am from yesterday; from people, places, and times gone by; from sad memories that sear my soul, and joyous ones that make me sing.

I am from ocean, bay, river and creek; from Old Bay seafood seasoning, blue crabs, and homemade bread pudding made with stale white bread and rum-soaked raisins.

I am from a row house on a postage stamp lot in a noisy kid-filled neighborhood; from a tiny room with paper-thin walls that kept no secrets and hid no cries; from a window fan that sucked in stifling air that smelled like dog mess and flower gardens.

I am from hula hoops and bob-a-loops, hopscotch, and hot pink handlebar streamers; from roller skating in the street, jumping rope in the alley, and shooting beer bottles in the woods with a borrowed BB gun.

I am from dandelions and daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and sweet blankets of deep pink wild roses; from soil as dark as coffee grounds, fat earthworms wriggling on a fishhook, and fireflies twinkling in a jelly jar covered with a nail-punched lid.

I am from parents without sense of direction, pseudo-stern grandparents, and silly aunts; from cousins who were friends, and friends who were lifesavers.

I am from singing: with Mitch Miller, in cars, in bars, and around campfires with guitars and bongo drums; from books and more books, Scrabble, and crossword puzzles; from Pinochle, pitching pennies, and penny ante poker; from frantic footraces to the mailbox at the end of the street.

I am from today; from husband, children, and the best grandchildren in the world; from embracing new adventures and making new memories that make my heart sing.

I am wife, mother, and oh-so-silly grandmother, with cousins who are still friends, and friends who are still lifesavers; from red clay, dogwood trees and azaleas; from a modest home on a good-sized lot in a quiet neighborhood; from Old Bay seafood seasoning, blue crabs, and bread pudding made with cinnamon swirl raisin bread, and smothered in caramel rum sauce.

I am from books and more books, writing and more writing, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and Suduko; from shooting bull’s-eyes out of targets at the gun club, and walking leisurely to the mailbox at the end of the driveway.

I am from yesterday; I am from today, just an updated still-singing version of the old-fashioned me… and exactly where I’m supposed to be.


And NO DNA test would ever... could ever... change me into someone I'm not. It might provide some surprises... but I'd still reserve the right to be myself. After all, it took me a long time to get here. (Unless, of course, I'm from another planet. Come to think of it, that would explain a lot...)

How about you? Can you think of anything in particular that helps define your identity? 


                            Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.