Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Great Escape

Everyone seems to love the “boys” on this blog. No, they aren't a group of Hollywood hunks with delineated pecs and abs, sweat-slick skin and chiseled faces. For those of you who are new to the blog, I'm writing about the boys who work with my horses at the barn. They are in their early twenties, going to college (doing well with their studies) and trying very hard to stay out of my way and off my radar. They’re good kids but sometimes I have some doubts about whether their mothers dropped them one too many times when they were babies.

Back in the fall I left to go eat lunch with some friends and returned later in the afternoon. As I was coming up the long driveway to my house, I noticed that Sugar (my 30 year-old palomino quarter horse) was munching grass in my front yard – outside of the fence. I immediately backed up, locked the front gate and called the barn. I managed, over the twanging of some pretty loud country music, to convey the message that A HORSE IS LOOSE. I parked the car and tried to get Sugar to understand that she needed to come with me. Now that is another tale altogether – horses don’t listen and they certainly don’t do what you want when there is thick fescue involved. I don’t put halters on the pasture horses because there are too many dangers involved, like getting hung on objects and breaking their necks. There was no way for me to catch her and, standing there in my good clothes, all I could do was wait patiently for the boys to get there.

I heard the four-wheeler crank up and there they came, one riding shotgun behind the other, exploding from the barn in all their mechanized glory. Why they always need the four-wheeler constantly escapes me. Can’t they just walk the few hundred feet instead of involving some internal combustion engine? Nothing on this place can be done unless it involves machinery, at least that’s what the boys think. The boy riding shotgun held a halter in his hand and was already waving it at Sugar as they came barreling down the hill from the barn. I wanted to tell them that noise from the four-wheeler combined with waving and shouting at the horse wouldn’t help the situation but I remained silent, not wishing to contribute to the cacophony or disabuse them of their idea of being able to sneak up on a horse over the roar of the engine. Sugar continued munching grass, one eye on the boys, until they got near her. As soon as they came within a few feet of her, she tossed her head and ran. Now, I could have told them that she would do that but what was the point. I gave them the cut engine sign, i.e. swiping my hand across my throat, and proceeded to tell them to get off the four-wheeler. Both of them crawled off the monster and gave me their patented deer-in-the-headlight looks. I was informed that all the horses knew the sound of the four-wheeler and they had no idea the horse would run. Yeah, right, I gave them my patented you’re-brain-damaged look and told them to catch the horse – on foot. I heard grumbling but they went after the horse, sending longing looks at their four-wheeled steed. I stood for about fifteen minutes watching them creep up on Sugar only to have her toss her head, give them a jeer and run to the other end of the yard. After a while it became clear to me that this was becoming a game to her. Let them get just close enough then RUN. In my high-heels, I wobbled down to the quarter horse barn, grabbed a bucket, filled it with sweet feed and wobbled back to where Sugar was cornered by the fence. She was weighing her options – run over the boys who had her trapped or run over the boys who had her trapped. I seemed to be the only one aware of Sugar’s plan because the boys continued to approach the twelve-hundred pound horse, oblivious. Seeing disaster in the making and a trip to the emergency room, I yelled at the boys to back off and proceeded to shake the bucket. Sugar cocked her head and immediately came to the bucket. As she was eating, I held out my hand for the rope, slipped it over her head and then slipped the halter on her when I could get her head out of the bucket.

The boys, grinning because they didn’t have to run any more, took possession of the horse. “But Miss Cheryl, we didn’t know she’d come to the feed” was the first comment I got from them. I gave them the you’re-brain-damaged look and wobbled back to my car. Sugar, who has been known to kill for sweet feed, gave me a look over the shoulders of the boys that said “yeah, they are stupid but fun.”

Can someone out there explain to me why men and boys have to use internal combustion engines with everything they do? I would really like to know. No work can be accomplished unless diesel or gas is involved. And yeah, even though I have been married for nearly 32 years, they still call me “Miss Cheryl.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Motivation at Work

In the past few months, I've been re-organizing my life, from my house down to what makes me tick.  Not always recommended because of the time and energy it takes to organize stuff until what you own is the way you want it, but often needed to get you back on track.

In the process of this, I got to thinking...  What is it that makes me want to fluff my nest?  It's only the end of February.  Am I only trying to be on task with my New Year's goals?  (Must revisit list to see if that's the case.)  Has the unusual warm weather we've been having this winter boosted my desire to spring clean?  (If so, I'm ahead of the game.)

Whatever it is, LTC is very happy with the way things are coming.  One person's vision of organized isn't quite the same as somebody else's.  LTC likes everything in its place.  That was ingrained into him at West Point.  I didn't go there, so of course I'm content with stacks of paper.  The downside, now that everything is neatly arranged is, I need a treasure map to find what I need.  (Perhaps I can convince Captain Jack to navigate these waters.  I'm sure he'd oblige...)

But I digress... 

What organizing and reconnecting with little things has done for me lately is jump start my muse.  The poor dear has been sour and unruly lately, unafraid to bog me down in muck and then refuse to throw me a buoy.  (The grog must not be strong enough because she's been hurtling nasty asides, shouting, "Fester and drown, ye sabberous wastrel!")

So epiphanies are great things meant to pull you in out of the depths.  Here are some things I've learned lately.  (They're all good and common sense related, but oftentimes forgotten in the mundane.)

1. Clean doesn't always mean it's easier to find what you need.

2. Ridding the clutter does make the office look bigger.

3. Hanging a portrait of someone who's inspired you is a really GOOD thing.  (Throwing kisses at my muse!)

4. Surrounding yourself with positive quotes douses the embers of negativity.

5. It is possible to muffle a choir.

What are things you do to circumnavigate when you've veered off the charts? 

(I recently read Caitlin Crews' book, Princess From the Past.  The writing is phenomenal!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Secret Baby with a Twist

Fantastic Cover!
Strangers in the Desert is the title of the latest bestseller by the Fabulous Lynn Raye Harris. As many, many people know, my least favorite plot for a romance book is the "secret baby." There may be those of you who also know that I am a BIG fan of a sheikh book. I read a Barbara Cartland sheikh book early on in my romance reading days, and quite honestly never recovered from it. There's just something exciting about that rugged man on horseback carrying the heroine deep into the desert to fulfill her wildest desires. But I digress.

My love of a sheikh battled with my dislike of a secret baby, but when I read the review of this new book I knew that I had to read it as soon as possible. It did not disappoint! Sheikh Adan is everything I want in a hero--arrogant, rugged, and oh so sexy. I also really liked that he admitted to being very confused emotionally at times and that he loved his son so much. 
The Fabulous
Lynn Raye Harris

Isabella, our heroine, had followed all the rules and been a good girl, but what that got her was heartache. In fact, she was so heart broken that she seems to have blocked some pretty important things from her memory.

I won't go into all the details so that your reading of this fantastic book won't be spoiled, but I will tell you that it is very, very deserving of the 4.5 stars and Top Pick status from Romantic Times. The book strikes just the right note of hot steamy desert nights filled with sexy encounters, while balancing the emotional struggles the couple is going through as they come to terms with a
difficult reality.
One VERY lucky commenter will win a copy of Strangers in the Desert! I will anounce the winner tomorrow on the blog. Good luck!

Have you read Strangers in the Desert?
If so what was your favorite part?
If not, do you have a favorite sheihk story?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Organically Speaking

I grew up organic. Tomatoes, peaches, greens, watermelons, even peanuts were grown right there in the dirt for me to see, help tend and ultimately eat. I don’t say enjoy because frankly as a 10 year old I didn’t think there was much to enjoy about shelling peas, but I did eat them. Digging up potatoes and carrots was fun. Peanuts growing underground fascinated me. But pleasure was not a word I would attach to growing a garden. That is, until I bit into a juicy ripe organic tomato grown with love and eaten right there in the garden row. My Papaw or Uncle M would pour salt on the tomatoes from a shaker they retrieved from their overalls pocket and we’d pop them right into our mouths and enjoy their warm sun drenched flavor on the spot. Yum! That was a pure delight. But not shelling peas. Ewe. Not fun.

After fast-food was introduced into my life I got away from eating homegrown goodies. The fast pace of life took over and stores provided everything I could need to feed me and mine, right?

A few years back, a friend of mine wrangled me into going organic again. I wasn’t exactly the most willing participant due to the difference in the price. (I’m cheap. I admit it.) But I tried it out and got the surprise of my life. Over and over again I found myself comparing organic produce to non-organic. And I found that over and over again, when a organic and a non-organic tomato is put side by side and tasted, you can experience firsthand that organic has flavor and non-organic is merely substance. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked on organic. It tastes better and it satisfies. Besides that, I don’t eat as much either. And that’s always a good thing. (Milk proves an interesting taste test too, fyi.)

So why am I going on and on about organic? Because its February, of course! And you know how I have that inner planner going on inside my head. Right now it’s screaming…..”Lesia! February’s almost over and you haven’t planted! Get on it girly!” And so I venture online to look up seed packets and consider ordering them (again) to plant in little cups while I wait for the earth to warm up to its growing season. I consider the flavors they’ll generate and the yummy dishes I can prepare with them. Mmm….delicious! But under it all lurks the memory of shelling peas and freaking out at cold bursts and bugs and such. And the price tag at the organic market becomes clearer. The grocery bill doesn’t seem so out of bounds any more.

Of course, the cattle grazed in fields free of chemicals back then, too. And I can’t imagine Uncle M ever giving them hormones. I’m not compelled to raise cattle for food (though you know how I love the cows that belong to my across-the-river-neighbor). But this growing a garden idea haunts me every year. And here I sit, perusing the seed possibilities and considering yet again how to get a garden going, even after being removed from farm life so long that I’ve forgotten everything except the agony of shelling peas.

Plant or buy? Which should I do? Which will I do? Am I blowing it all out of proportion? Maybe I should start with just one plant, right? Ok. There’s snakes out there too. See. Now I’m being irrational. Will they come into my garden? Will the deer eat my tomatoes? And the badger…what havoc will he wreak? Maybe I should just grow potted herbs inside the house. I could start with Basil. I love Basil! Or Perhaps I could plant a few tomatoes in pots? But then, what of the squash and cucumbers? What to do? What to do? Would you plant or go to the market?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cry Me A River But Don't Expect a Kleenex Out of Me

I know this is Thursday, Stephanie's day, but we swapped for reasons that are pretty boring. Check in Monday for her review of "Strangers in the Desert" by Lynn Raye Harris.

Apparently I have been committing a major hostess faux pas for—well, always.

I don't buy Kleenex. I didn't realize what a bad thing this was until I heard my mother-in-law say to someone, "Oh, she never has Kleenex."

Well. Okay. It's not that I would mind buying Kleenex. I just don't think about them. I use a handkerchief. I have all kinds—cotton, linen, new, vintage, fancy, plain, with lace, without. I have cheap printed ones that my grandmother bought at the dime store fifty years ago and two brand new beautiful embroidered ones given to me by Precious this past Christmas.

I have one that I didn't wash for a year because I had cried into it with a grief so profound that I did not think mere soap and water could possibly clean it. But one day I said, "Jean! Get grip! You paid a fortune for that in Ireland. Get the eye makeup out it—if that's even possible at this point." The wonders of Tide and a little hand washing. There it was, ready for the next round of tears. Or nose blowing and sneezing. And why not? That's what a handkerchief is for, no matter where it came from.

I guess The Guy has been using toilet paper all these years. (You will be very relieved to know that I do buy toilet paper.) I haven't heard him say, but I haven't seen him wipe his nose on his sleeve either. He's polite that way. He has handkerchiefs too, but he mostly uses them when he dresses up. He doesn't think much about handkerchiefs, I guess.

Come to think of it, neither did I, until lately.

So for all of you who have come to my house and needed a Kleenex, I apologize from the depths of my soul. I will endeavor to correct this problem. But I will tell you this: You are going to have to go to the bathroom to fetch one. Or the guest room. I am not setting Kleenex boxes all over my kitchen counters and living room.

That's the best I can do for you.

Have you ever discovered that you have been overlooking something for years?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blogger's Block

Blogger’s block – a new phrase I have coined to express the running out of ideas to blog about. It’s not easy to come up with new ideas every week. Well, I can come up with ideas but I daresay you wouldn’t keep coming back to read because they are BORING. Does that mean I am boring? Or does it just mean that I can’t always share everything with my readers? The really interesting stuff could get me into trouble or sued. So, here I sit, wondering what to do before Jean gets me for not posting (she always has something interesting to write about – sigh).

I thought about blogging on my recent trip to the beach, New Orleans, and the casinos in Biloxi. Who wants to hear about shopping and losing money? That’s no fun. Okay so it was fun but just not vicariously. Then I started to blog about my recent ghost hunting adventure with twenty other people in Huntsville at the Veteran’s Museum. Done that already about ghost hunting. Oh, did I tell you guys that I bought all the equipment and I even caught an EVP in my house from my little ghost? (I ask him about taking my earrings – he said “No More, no more.” Scary.). Such excitement! Not. How about the animals? There’s always an interesting… No wait, only a horse fool (like me) would find something interesting about the boys and the horses. How about my new interest in doing self-discovery? That’s just it: SELF-DISCOVERY. There is only so much psychological babble that readers can take. Did I tell you about Castaneda? No? Interesting hippy from the sixties. But that’s also boring unless you’re into self-discovery without the peyote. How about a blog about blogging? Did you know that the term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997 and that the short form, "blog," was used by Peter Merholz who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999? (Thanks Wikipedia). Now there are even blogs about blogs. It has definitely become a phenomena. But then, that would be boring too, wouldn’t it? Free association thinking doesn't always work now does it? What to do, what to do.

So after sitting here for hours trying to think of something, anything, I decided to let you, the readers, tell me some subjects for the future. Tell me things you are interested in learning about or things you want to hear discussed or even things that just tick you off (I like those – people can relate to being irritated). I have a feeling this won’t get many responses but, drum roll please, if you respond with at least one idea, you are entered in the chance to win Kimberly Lang’s “The Power and the Glory” and Kira Sinclair’s “Bring it On.” Perfect incentive for comments. The winner will be announced tomorrow (if I get any comments). HELP ME (cue the spider web…)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Downton Abbey Withdrawals

If you've been living under a rock, you might not have heard about Downton Abbey, the BBC Masterpiece Theatre Series that just ended its 2nd season run on Sunday nights.  If you're one of the many who've fallen in love with Julian Fellows' masterpiece series, you understand that I'm already in the throws of withdrawals now that Season 2 has come to an end.  Talk about brilliant writing!

Downton Abbey reintroduced millions to the theatrical genius of English television.  The set, filmed mostly at Highclere Castle, Hampshire (owned by The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon) and Ealing Studios in West London, showcases the architectural magnificence of a bygone era.  Scenes from Downton Abbey are filmed in front of the castle and on the 2nd floors.  Scenes for Highclere Castle's kitchens, according to the Behind the Scenes snippet shown Sunday night, which no longer resembles the historical kitchen of the early 1900's, are filmed at Ealy Studios.

The cast is phenomenal!  Headed by Dame Maggie Smith, (Yes! Professor Minerva McGonagall herself) cast as Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton's moral fiber appears above board.  She says the darndest things.

Click here to see a YouTube video of Downton Abbey: Top 10 Maggie Moments.

What happens when old meets new?  Find out here When A Dowager Countess Texts.

However, things are not as they appear.  Her son, The Right Honourable Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has wed an American Heiress, The Right Honourable Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (American actress, Elizabeth McGovern) in order to keep Downton Abbey afloat.  Their 3 daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) face an uncertain future when the Earl's heir dies aboard the Titanic.  With 3 daughters and no sons, The Earl has no one left to inherit his estate, except... last living male relative, cousin Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).  A lawyer by trade, (Say it isn't so!), Matthew and his mother, Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) face ridicule and oftentimes comical attempts by the Dowager Countess to have him wed Lady Mary. 

But alas!  There is the scandal that is Pamuck!

Add in a butler, housekeeper, valet, servants and the cook and you've got mayhem of every order, tested by historical events and the encompassing theme that Downton Abbey must survive whatever befalls before and during WWI and Spanish Influenza.

If the characters and costumes don't win you over (they will!), watch it for the writing. Fellows uses masterful dialogue to engage his audience. When every episode is done, I sit in awe of his talent.

Twitter is alive with Downton Abbey fans. Using the hashtag #DowntonAbbey or #DowntonPBS, you can catch up on what Downton fans had to say Sunday night.

Both Seasons 1 & 2 can be found on amazon. I've already got Season 1 and just ordered Season 2. (Yea-us!!!)  And if you're bored waiting for Season 3, you can play with these Downton Abbey paperdolls.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? Who is your favorite character? And who do you think killed Mrs. Bates?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Magical Mystery Tour

I am going on a Magical Mystery Tour. In fact, at this reading, I will have already been, but at the writing, I have not. And I will tell you about it in the last part of the blog. Maybe there will be pictures. I don't know since it's such a big mystery. I named it myself, though I didn't think up the tour. That was all Dr. Great Smile's doing. A couple of months ago, she said to us—us being an eclectic bunch who have survived many things together—"If I plan a little outing for us, will y'all trust me and just go with it?"

"Yes!" I said. "Yes, yes, yes!" I think I was on my feet by then with my arms pumping in the air. She had told her husband, who is my eye doctor, that I would be the first to say yes and Picky Sticky would be the first to ask questions. And that's what happened.

This is what we know: (Mostly from Picky Sticky's questions.) We are meeting at Dr. Great Smile's office on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. We are departing at 3:45. We will return about 2 A.M. No one has to drive. We are to bring snacks, wine, and a hundred dollars. We will be inside 99 per cent of the time. There is no need for heavy clothes. We will want our purses to be small. We will want a camera.



Okay. It's Later.

I had never ridden in a limo before since I am not a movie star and Back In The Day, people did not go to the prom in limos. I, myself, was transported to the prom in a brand new Trans Am. I had daisies pinned to my shoulder and my shoes matched my dress. It was a different time.

Anyway. There's a lot to be said for a limo and an accommodating limo driver. He'll get you right in front for the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He'll say, "You ladies are just fine in there. We'll sit right here until you are ready to get out or until they make us move." Then, he will proceed to stand in front of the limo door with his hands folded in front of him. He will go inside to see if there is a bar and report back. While you are in the theater hearing Jeanne Robertson be hilarious, he will go buy Cutest Girl the World some more Michelob Ultra. Then he will be there when you get out and he will put out a little red carpet for you. By the way, nobody made us move. I think they thought we were somebody.

I plan to do some more limo riding. It fit in very well with my view of how I like my life to go.

There is no way to describe how funny Jeannie Robertson is. I believe she is the funniest woman alive. At six feet, two inches tall, she enjoys the distinction of being the tallest Miss America contestant in history. The year was 1963. She has some stories to tell. If you will click on her name above you can go to YouTube and see "Don't Send a Man to the Grocery Store."

Since Jeannie was (and really is a beauty queen) Dr. Great Smile dictated that we all wear tiaras. Also, Dr. Great Smile was homecoming queen. Wearing tiaras was no imposition.

This is my pictorial diary of the evening. I wish I could show you a picture of the built-in champagne bucket, but I made a movie instead of a picture on accident. I know it sounds as though I liked the limo more than the show. I did not. But it was shiny and I am a magpie.

I do not have a picture of Jeanne. Taking pictures of a performer is just plain rude. But you can see her on her website.

Tom, the Limo Driver. Take note of the tall boots and the knees to his left.

The tall boots and the knees belong to Art Girl, who is also The Baby among us. She won best dressed for the night in her short skirt and tall boots. She looked sensational. We might have been mad at her for it, if she wasn't The Baby and we didn't love her so much.

Box seats inside the beautiful Trivoli Theater.

Surprise! The Guy was able to turn my movie of the built in Champagne bucket into a picture. Much like Jeanne Robertson's husband, The Guy cannot get out of the box or be expected to go to the grocery store without incident, but he's got skills--many, many skills.

Dancing Queen had the tallest tiara. She meant business. She knows she's royalty.

Inside the limo. I know. I'm Country come to Town. Or Country come to Limo, more like. What can I say? I went to the prom in a car with a decal of a giant bird on it.

Ms. Classy did a lot of research trying to figure out where she was going. She did not succeed. She became afraid she might be going to see the Chippendales. I told her that was not Dr. Great Smile's style.

After the show, standing on the stairs. Fun was had by us.

Would you embark on a surprise adventure that a friend had planned, or would you have to know the details?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Noteworthy and completely on the fly...

After last week’s Colors! post, someone pulled me aside and laughingly said, “You don’t really have a would-like-to-meet list of noteworthy people, do you?” Laughing in return, I said, “Why? Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?” And right then and there I knew this had to be done. So Jean, perk up your ears because here’s a post on the fly, totally off schedule and completely out of character for me. Enjoy! : )

The current and ever-changing Noteworthy People I’d Like To Meet List top entries are…..

Nigella Lawson—because she’s divine!

John Mayer—for his incredible insight into the female mind that is displayed in his lyrics.

Jane O’Conner—is she as fancy as Nancy?

Pierce Brosnan—for his business savvy, of course! No, really.

Christopher Paolini—he’s so young, so successful. How does he do it?

FYI….Clint Eastwood and Linda Howard were once on this list. But then, I’ve met them and I’m happy to say they both now live in the People Who’ve Influenced My Life List because they were everything I imagined and more. I like lists. Can you tell?

Okay. We’re all listening, so do tell…who’s on your (still living) noteworthy people to meet list and why?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing About Love

Welcome to our friend Missy Tippens!   We really appreciate her joining us here under the tulip tree!

Missy writes:

Stephanie, Jean, Kathy, Cheryl and Lesia, thanks for having me on your blog today! Since we just celebrated Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d talk a little about writing about love.

As some of you know, I write inspirational romance for Harlequin Love Inspired. In fact, my fifth book, A House Full of Hope, just released this month! And a lot of people who read romance novels have asked me how I can write realistic romance if I don’t write love scenes or even much physical attraction in my stories.

Well, first let me touch on writing genre fiction, particularly the Harlequin lines. Each line has dedicated readers who have certain expectations. These wonderful readers join the book club and buy every book released every month. Blaze readers want a certain type story. So do readers of American, Superromance, Romantic Suspense, Desire, Heartwarming, Medical…etc. So my job is to give MY readers what THEY want. :) And in the case of Love Inspired, the readers want a “sweet” read—nothing graphic, as well as some sort of faith journey for the characters (and of course, the happy ending!). So when I write, I write within those parameters.

How? I focus on the emotion.

I do try to make sure the characters are attracted from the first moment. And, sure, unless they have a past together, the attraction is purely physical at that point. But once I get beyond that, I work toward showing how they fall in love. I try to:

--Show them discovering traits they like about the other (ie. honesty, generosity, humor) even while they’re in conflict. This is often done begrudgingly!

--Show their growing respect for each other.

--Show them enjoying time spent together.

--Show them overcoming obstacles together, which makes them grow even closer.

--And in the end, show them sacrificing for each other, for their love.

Sure, in real life, as we fall in love, there’s a sizzle of attraction and awareness. I just have to dance around it carefully in my books, keeping it understated and focusing on the emotions. And honestly, for me personally, it’s easier for me to write that way knowing that my kids and church friends will be reading. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recipe Wednesday--Chic Sheikh

Stephanie is beside herself. There's nothing she loves better than a book with a Sheikh in it and Lynn Raye Harris has a new one coming out next week. I am going to go ahead and say I have already read it and Stephanie has every reason to be excited. I will say no more since she plans to review it next week.

I am however going to share a Middle Eastern recipe with you. This is something I have been making for years. I am not saying that I am above going on the Internet and finding a recipe that fits with a book, but, this time, I didn't do that. Though come to think of it, I'm not sure how well it really fits with the book. Falafel is street food and I don't know how much street food eating a Prince would do. Also, I know nothing about the various regions.

Still, falafel is good. And Strangers in the Desert is great!

Tahini is sesame paste. It's easy to find at large grocery stores.

Falafel With Tahini Sauce


  • 1 15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 T. tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup safflower or canola oil


  1. Place half of chickpeas in food processor and pulse a few times until chopped, transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Place remaining chickpeas in food processor with garlic, onion, herbs, spices, baking soda, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse to a thick, chunky paste, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with chopped chickpeas.
  3. Add egg and sesame seeds to bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill batter in fridge 30 minutes.
  4. Make mixture into 2 inch patties.
  5. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, turning once, until deep golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat.
  6. Serve falafel with pita bread, sliced tomatoes and red onion, romaine leaves, and tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce


  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup of water


  1. Place all ingredients in food processor or blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. If sauce gets too thick as it sits, stir in a little more water or lemon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day from everyone under the Tulip tree!  Gear up with these love quotes:

"Gather the rose of love whilst yet is time." - Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) English Poet

"Love in its essence is spiritual fire." - Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) Swedish Naturalist, Mathematician, Scientist, Theologian

"Love conquers all things; let us surrender to Love." - Virgil (70-19BC) [Publius Virgilius Maro Vergil] Roman Epic Poet

"A heart that loves is always young." - Greek Proverb

"Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit." - Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) English Actor, Author, Director

"Love is the greatest refreshment in life." - Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Spanish Painter, Sculptor

“Love was divine madness.” Plato

Rose petals lie all around the Tulip tree today, so I have to ask.  Is Valentine's Day madness?

Scientific neurotransmiters are at work when two people fall in love.  Dopamine creates that euphoric feeling when you do something nice for someone, like buy gifts. Norepinephrine stimulates the body and energizes it for nights of love-making, the reason why most women are given silky, sexy lingerie. Seratonin lulls lovers into a sense of calm, which leads to Oxytocin's ability to forge bonds of trust and committment between lovers.  These invisible transmiters work in unison when we least expect it and sometimes between two people who couldn't be more different.  (The old opposites attract rule applies here.)

Senses are magnified with love.  Pheromones are natural aphrodisiacs.  Sense of smell, especially during ovulation, is a great factor in why people love.  Sense of touch and sound enhance love.  But on Valentine's Day a lot of emphasis is focused on taste, sweetening your lover for a night of delight.  And so it is that chocolate is the #1 gift on Valentine's Day.  (Oh chocolate, how I love thee, especially chocolate chip cookies!)

Chocolate has taken the world by storm.  Columbus received his first drink of xocoatl (chocolate) on his fourth visit to Central America in 1502.  Oh, what an elixir that must have been to a man who'd traveled vast oceans and never tasted its like before!  Can you imagine what Christopher Columbus must have thought?  "This discovery is going to rock the world as we know it!"  Centuries later, chocolate is reknowned as the aphrodisiac of lovers.  Movies like Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Chocolat with my favorite actor, Johnny Depp, entertained with chocolate.  Chocolate found its way into Fondu pans, cookbooks and the hearts of millions.

Check out Russell Stover's Chocolate Hall of Fame.

  • Francois-Louis Callier built the first chocolate factory in Switzerland, 1819.
  • Daniel Peter discovered how to combine milk and cocoa powder to start his company in 1867, not as a chocolate manufacturer — but as a maker of infant formula. Peter developed condensed milk in 1878 and created his first candy bar in 1894.
  • Amedee-Charles Kohler produced his own chocolate and developed hazelnut chocolate in 1830.
  • Phillipe Suchard produced solid chocolate candies in 1826 in Switzerland.
  • Jean Tobler began production of hand-made confections in Bern, Switzerland in 1864.
  • Rudolf Lindt invented "conching" in 1879, the process of stirring liquid chocolate to break down remaining clumps, making the chocolate smooth for the first time.
  • M.S. Hershey established Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894. He built a candy company in Tacoma, WA, which would become Mars, Inc. in 1941.
  • Stephen F. Whitman opened his first candy store on the Philadelphia wharf in 1842. The first Whitman's Sampler was produced in 1912.
  • Russell Stover sold candies out of his house in Denver, CO as "Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candies" in 1923. The company would later become Russell; Stover Candies, America's largest manufacturer of boxed chocolates.
Yes, chocolate, rich, decadent, hollow, stuffed or solid, has woven its spell over the world.  Chocolate, my friends, is a Valentine's Day delight.

Forest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."  Love is like that too.

If you were a box of chocolates, what flavors would we find inside?

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    HItting the Wall

    Yesterday in church after the children's sermon, a three-year-old got lost on her way from the altar back to where she'd been sitting. Immediately, without consulting each other—or even glancing at each other—, her grandfather and her father jumped to their feet. One went up the left aisle; the other went up the right.

    She was rescued before she realized she'd been headed in the wrong direction.

    When my writing goes bad, I call it "hitting the wall". Sometimes it's because of something I can't control—in which case I don't worry about it too much. After all, editors change houses, lines are shut down, and sometimes industry professional just plain don't like something.

    But most of the time when I have hit a wall, it's because I don't know where to go next. It gives me great comfort to know I have a whole pew full of people there for me. When I say, "I've hit a wall," some of them go up the left aisle, some of them go up the right. Pretty soon, I'm right where I need to be.

    I hope I return the favor to those people. I try.

    What do you do when you hit a wall?

    Friday, February 10, 2012


    Is there really anything more wonder-filled than a brand new box of crayons? Oh how I love me some color! And my favorite is……Periwinkle! Cornflower runs a close second, but Periwinkle is always the first out of the box. And that means I get to buy the big box! No 12 or 24 packs for me, no sirree! Periwinkle, also known as #C5D0E6 was introduced by Crayola in 1949 and put into the 48 pack of crayons. And whoever came up with this delicious mix of color love, you’re on my would-like-to-meet list of noteworthy people.

    What is it about a box of crayons that is so delightful and fun and exhilarating? Is it the memory of their wonder from kindergarten days gone by? Is it the way they smell or the way they feel in your hand? Is it that you can simply peel away the label to find more coloring supply right at your fingertips? Who can explain the psychology of the simple crayon? I certainly can’t. But when someone’s sick, that’s exactly what I get them…a coloring book and a brand new box of crayons. It does the trick every time….gets them in a happy frame of mind and heals them right up. Because really, who can be anything but happy with a crayon in hand, touching that newsprint paper and making it come alive with beauty?

    Are you like me, fascinated with the names of crayons? Where, oh where, do they come up with these? Most are pretty self-explanatory, but a few make me wonder. Take, for instance, the name Cerulean. Ok, so the word itself is derived from blue. I get that. But the five year old inside of me does not comprehend what a cerulean could possibly be without actually seeing it. But think of it. The word cerulean is magnificent. It rolls off the tongue with pure ease. Sir-ooo-lee-an. It’s heavenly and divine. And yep! That’s all part of its definition and origin. Funny, huh!

    Then take Cerise. Cer-wha…? It’s a deeper red than cherry red, is what it is, French in origin. And that name hasn’t been around in the color world for very long, only since the mid 1800s. But my inner child balks at the word Cerise. Why not Cherrier-Cherry Red or Double Trouble Red, she says? “Hey Charlie, can I use that Double Trouble Red crayon please?” That sounds alright, right? But if I say, “Charlie, honey, can I borrow your Cerise crayon?” Well, my fellow kindergartener’s liable to cock an eye at me, give me a hard stare and run away, taking his 96 box of gleaming color with him! So I don’t know about this one. But I sure would like to have a cup of tea with the Crayon Namers to pick their brains and find out what’s what with the naming process of my beloved crayons. You know they have to be an interesting bunch of people! Color Physicists, likely!

    Periwinkle, Periwinkle, my true love, Periwinkle. A few years ago Clair decided a box of Periwinkle Crayola Crayons would be the perfect gift for me. (Aww! Right?) She was sorely disappointed that she could purchase entire boxes of basic colors, but not the King of Color, Periwinkle. And so she set out with a new box of 64, and wrote a lovely sentiment in her tiniest handwriting on the different colors in the box. Of course, Periwinkle was the first one out of the box. King Periwinkle reigns in my box of color love. But this particular box of crayons will forever remain intact and unused. I will, however, read their labels over and over and over again, to fill my life with the kind of happiness only a box of colors can bring.

    So…..what’s your favorite color in the box?