Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lights, and the lack thereof

Here’s a photo I took over Thanksgiving weekend of the holiday lights at Riverside Park in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

And here we have the Rotary lights at Krouskop Park in Richland Center in Wisconsin, taken the same weekend.

Not impressed, you say?
Me either. Because a series of unfortunate events conspired to prevent me from enjoying the holiday (or, as us rebellious types like to call them—Christmas) lights at both parks.

I hear they are spectacular and fun and beautiful and cheerful and all the other good stuff we need as the light ends a little earlier each day and darkness claims the lion’s share of twenty-four hours.

Almost every city, burg, village and metropolis has some sort of light display as November wanders into December.
Even those who don’t embrace Christ’s birth or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa seem to enjoy twinkle lights and retro lights and shower lights and icicle lights and what have you. Not just enjoy. We almost need those thousand, or hundred thousand, points of light. We’re drawn to the light. We revel in it, we join our fellow gropers in its radiance, we carry its after-image, dancing across our corneas as we turn back to the blackness.

I missed the lights this week. Ironically, on Black Friday.  But, Lord willing, I’ll get a chance to see them when my own little village lights its Christmas tree this coming weekend. And again in December when I’ll visit Chicago. No doubt you have your favorite display of bright holiday luminescence. Enjoy it in these long, dark days before the winter solstice begins the slow process of turning us back to the sun.

There. Isn’t that better?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Love My Job

by Mary Allen

Our Midwest has fine job opportunities.
I’m sure you feel the same.
I could dig ditches, plant corn,
or harvest chickens,
(at least the ones I’ve yet to name.)

I could plow snow, starting this evening.
I could be a politician, brazenly casting blame.
I could dig wells, wash dishes,
pump septics,
saw logs.
Yes, each of these I could conquer or tame.

I could fix clocks on towers,

change lights in lots

or work on electrical wires.

Each are jobs
—good work without shame—

That, at least, pay by the hour.

                                           Instead I sit with a cup of hot Joe,
                                           (let's not quibble over brands that have fame).
                                           The dog warming my feet, laptop screen glowing,
                                           as I try writing to make myself a name.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15 - Michigan's Other Holiday (and My Favorite!)

I don't think it's possible to grow up in Michigan and not know that November 15 is a sacred day. Drivers grip their steering wheels a little tighter as hordes of florescent-orange hunters head to the woods. Opening day of rifle season for deer hunters means more deer-car accidents, but it also means lots of yummy venison.

As I've gotten older, however, this day has a new significance for me. Today is my hubby's birthday!

That's right. More than thirty (but less than forty) years ago today, my mother-in-law gave me the best present ever - Matt. I never could have imagined how much my life would change when I met him. We're as different as peanut butter and almond milk, but we're both still essentially nuts, so it works.

There are a million reasons to love Matt, but I'm going to share just a few.

1. He's a kid at heart. He loves Legos. Not only are they scattered around our house, he also sells them online (check him out at - he's Kingdom Bricks).

2. He has a unique sense of style. This man brought home two donated lampshades. Several months later we're shopping and he announces, "these bed spreads will match our lampshades perfectly!" We bring them home. He's right. And yet this is what he wears in public - he calls it snappy casual.

3. He'll eat anything. I'm a pretty decent cook, and I like to experiment with new recipes. Some of the recipes turn out really well! Others ... not so much. Still, Matt will eat it (then request that I not make it again). He doesn't leave all of the cooking to me, though. He's been known to help in the kitchen a time or two. 

I could go on and on about this guy. I just love him so much. Not only are we celebrating his birthday today, but in less than two weeks we'll be celebrating ten years of marriage! November is a great month.

So here's to my hubby - a.k.a. Yooper Stewart - the man who never leaves the toilet seat up, who opened my eyes to mossy oak, and who let's me trim his beard when it gets a little crazy.

Happy birthday, honey!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

To those (like me) not doing NaNoWriMo this year--

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, at least not yet. Maybe in January I'll be able to buckle down and do MyNoWriMo -- My Novel Writing Month. I know I'm not alone. Even while it's great to gear up with thousands of other writers online and in groups and find camaraderie in getting a 50,000 word manuscript down this month, some of us just have too much shaking in our everyday lives to make the November commitment.

I have done it in the past. In fact, my novel Paint Me Althena, is a NaNoWriMo novel. This year, however, like some of you, I knew the days were not going to be kind to my writing life.

SO, what am I doing? Not writing at all? Au contraire! I'm allowing my busy days of (still) processing the end-of-season garden vegetables, babysitting grand-toddlers, recovering from my daughter's October wedding, and planning for Thanksgiving to let my story ideas "season". I'm only a few chapters in, and I'm using the minutes cranking my apple peeler to think about the plot arc. I'm gutting out pumpkins while thinking over the habits and quirks of my secondary characters. I'm rocking a sleeping baby and dreaming up new scenes. Then, as time allows, in just a burst here and there, I'm getting a few thousand words down.

I have no hopes of conquering 50,000 words in November, but I do plan to make headway, even if it's only to the tune of 10-20,000. Maybe in January I'll finish this book.

How about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How is it going? Are you using the time to do something else with your writing? Pacing yourself in a different way perhaps? Doing a little blogging or book promo? I'd love to hear about it!

Write on! (Or ponder...)
Naomi Musch

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The perfect scratch pumpkin pie

Everybody knows where pumpkin pie comes from, right?

Well, you may be surprised if you're not a label reader (hint: Forget the Pumpkin by Karin), but here's one way to be sure you know where your pie comes from. Naturally, if you don't grow your own, you can buy one!

Hubby brought in the biggest pumpkin the other day. It barely fit in our oven.

When I was a child, I had this wonderful book called, of all things, the Big, Big Story Book. One of the many wonderful things inside was this awesome poem about the State Fair, and all the cool things that could happen there. I've always held fairs to be magical things since. One of the events was the pumpkin judging contest, and the winner was big enough to have made 200 pies. I think that was the first time it occurred to me that pumpkin pie came from...pumpkins (and not the can).

So, here's your tutorial for building the perfect pie.

Bake a pumpkin.

I used my pizza pan, but it wasn't big enough to catch the juices that bubbled out. Don't forget to cut holes to let out steam or you will discover another good way to kill someone, in case you happen to write murder mysteries.

When the pumpkin's all cooked and squishy, you're going to run it through a food mill. This is one of our hand-crank jobbies. It gets the stringy stuff out and smoothes chunks, which don't look good in pie. It's also good exercise.
An electric food processor, which I used one year, doesn't really work very well.

This is what is looks like when you're processing. A swimsuit is actually good to wear during this step. Plastic everywhere is helpful, too. Unless you have pets.

Nuff said.

But then it all neatly squeezes into two-cup measurements for freezing. All by itself.

And the crust gets rolled out, and you follow the recipe exactly:
for an 8-inch pie
about 3/4 c. sugar, an egg, the leftover pumpkin from the milling, add in some evaporated milk, tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. each nutmeg, ginger, allspice to taste

for a deep dish or 9-inch pie, add more stuff

To set the custard (which is really what this pie is--eggs and milk): Bake in a 450 degree oven for fifteen minutes,
then turn the temp down to 350 and bake another 45 minutes or so until it stops being really jiggly.

Longer baking time required for bigger pies.

Serve warm with whipped cream. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo? What's That?!

Shelley Wilburn

It’s that time of year!  Of course, I had no idea it was that time of year until a friend invited me (Could we say she pushed me? Nah.) to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November.  Also known as NaNoWriMo for short, which I can definitely understand.  I mean, say it in full five times real fast and see if you stutter or slip!  

NaNoWriMo always eluded me.  I’m a nonfiction writer.  Why would I write a novel?  Why would I attempt to write fifty-thousand words in thirty days?  Are these people crazy?  All these questions were tumbling around in my brain.  I wouldn’t even venture onto the website for fear of being sucked into the vortex of writing furiously every day of the month, trying feverishly to write a complete first draft of a novel in one month.  Then it happened.

I was sucked into the other vortex of Facebook one morning and noticed a post by my friend Diana Lesire Brandmeyer (who’s book Mind of Her Own has hit the CBA bestseller’s list I might add). She was posting about NaNoWriMo.  There it was again.  Was it trying to lure me into its clutches?  I knew nothing about this event, but apparently someone I kind of know does.  I took the bait and asked one question; “Is NaNoWriMo strictly for fiction writers or nonfiction as well?” 

Within minutes, I had my answer.  I was encouraged to jump in and write a fiction novel.  Within hours, I was signed up and excited about jumping into this event. 

That’s when it hit me.  Am I crazy?!  What did I just do?  How am I possibly going to write fifty thousand words in thirty days?  Who are these people anyway?

Not to worry.  I’m not crazy and there are literally thousands of people doing the same thing right this moment, including wondering if they’re crazy.  I’m in good company.  But writing fiction is not my normal routine.  Truthfully, it’s only been a dream in my head for as long as I can remember. Seriously though, could I possibly write fiction?  Isn’t that lying?  Apparently not.  If I can read it I can write it.  But to me, nonfiction is so much easier than fiction.  That statement alone can label me crazy from fiction writers, I’ve learned. 

“Turn your editor brain off,” they said.  “It’ll be fun,” they said.  “You can do it,” they said.  People, you don’t know my brain.  It never turns off.  It’s a whirling dervish of activity nearly twenty-four-seven.  I can’t turn it off.  But starting November first, I’ve had to try.

At any rate I took a deep breath and I jumped headlong into the deep end of the fiction waters.  I’m not telling what I’m writing about, frankly because it’s still just a thought to me.  I’m trying to write what’s going on, really I am.  But sometimes these characters seem to have an agenda all their own.  Nothing I’ve done so far has remotely resembled the notes I made for weeks in preparation for NaNo (an even shorter nickname for this month-long event).

While you veteran fiction writers may be laughing at this point, I assure you that as I write (or try to) I am not laughing.  I’m sure that after November is over I might giggle a little and still wonder what I was thinking by jumping into this.  But here’s something else I’ve learned just a few days into NaNo; I’m looking forward to meeting with my characters.  I’ve become friends with them somehow.  They’ve been wandering around in the recesses of my imagination for several years, asking when they can come out and tell their story to the world.  I’ve held them back because I wasn’t sure they even had a story until now.  Then, the story I thought they had was really not the story at all as they are showing me what it really is.  These people are stubborn.  Who do they think they are?

I realize that to someone who doesn’t write, what I’ve just said may sound like the ramblings of a schizophrenic lunatic.  Again, I assure you that I’m not.  I’m a writer.  I’m someone who loves literature in any form I can get it whether it’s in paperback, hardback, electronic, or on the internet I love to read the written word.  How hard would it be to give back some of that to others who love to read as well?  That, my friends, is what I’m learning this very moment.

This is a new experience for me.  I’m learning that I’m actually becoming disciplined to place my derriere in the chair and put words on the page.  Which might just be the secret "gotcha" of NaNoWriMo, to actually discipline writers to stop procrastinating and start writing.  Regardless, it's all in a furious fun, right?

Happy Writing to all my writer friends out there, no matter if you are participating in NaNoWriMo or working on that new best-seller in the secret recesses of your mind!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


  As November rolls in, it’s natural to think thankful thoughts. Here in the Midwest, the harvest has gone well, winter’s chill is just around the corner, and our hearts turn toward home and hearth. Now, that’s a statement that fits Iowa farm country, 1946, the setting of my debut novel.

Just the way our roads look now, golden with harvested fields on either side … although just after World War II, roads like this were primary, not secondary. People still traveled mostly on gravel and/or dirt. 
We're being granted another week of summery weather right now, to gather every fallen leaf and dig in the dirt a little more. A couple of days ago, I even transplanted a climbing vine that grew in the wrong place over the summer. We have so many reasons for thankfulness this year--great weather for the farmers, although they seem to complain no matter what, few truly sweltering, oppressive days in July and August, and ample rain. 
Right now, copies of my novel wends their way from New York, and soon I'll join other authors in that momentous package-opening. This November release adds to my gratitude this year. Being such a late-blooming writer magnifies my sense of satisfaction at the culmination of this labor of love—although I realize Dottie’s journey into readers' minds and hearts is only beginning.
For me, the best part of this journey has been getting to know Dottie, a down-home woman like many others of the “Greatest Generation.” Dottie bears her losses quietly, even that of her son Bill in World War II and her husband soon after. The times offered her no grief groups, no bereavement counseling, just work and more work to keep herself busy.
Now, the war’s over and she makes do without self-pity, as always. Cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house gives her a reason to wake up in the morning. Through Iowa's unpredictable seasons, she walks to and from work, unaware that someone watches her pass his house.

Yes, winter, spring, summer and fall, Dottie's widower neighbor Al observes her progress morning and evening, wondering how he can possibly woo this “peach of a gal” who seemingly manages quite well without him. Of course, he can’t know how lonely her house looms when she enters at night, bone-tired, how her bum knee and her feet ache, or how much she longs—and fears—to meet her grand-babies out in California.
And Dottie? She has no idea second chances lurk right around the corner. This story, categorized as SUPER SWEET, may offer readers no reason to blush, but contains plenty of personal challenges for Dottie, the kind of heroine you’d want for your best friend. 
Her introduction to the reading world gives me such a mix of satisfaction and gratitude, at times I'm fresh out of words. So I'll close with here's the purchase link, and I hope you fall in love with Dottie! Purchase link:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009 Design expanded and personalized by 2011.

Back to TOP