Six on Saturday – March 10, 2018

It’s a never ending miracle that things in the garden that should, by all rights, be dead, come to life in the Spring.

Usually the forsythia blooms before anything else in mid February. This year it is popping at the same time as the daffodils.


Below is fennel that I grew last year from seed. When mature it has beautiful bronze foliage. In the fall it finally succumbed (I thought) to killing frosts and then weeks of bitter cold. But it is coming back. It creates something of a problem in terms of my being able to dig that raised bed.  The nearby trees send roots into the beds and if I don’t dig them every spring they become rootbound. The fennel will get set aside while I dig and then replanted.


I have no idea how this hyacinth got into this particular bed near the hellebores. But it is blooming. You can see chrysanthemums sprouting below the flower.


A bed of irises. These are a dark blue variety that a friend gave me. I mow my iris beds in the fall with the lawn mower and they don’t seem to mind at all. I do the same thing in the spring with lariope. I occasionally see signs of borers in my iris, but I only keep the ones that don’t seem too bothered. I am a lazy gardener.


The pink metal birds below mark one edge of two septic tanks that I found when I was putting in garden beds. You can see the little pieces of rebar next to the bird stakes. I used those at first but kept tripping on them. Then I put acid green tennis balls on them. I kind of liked them, but they eventually faded in the sun. Having a stake in the middle of a path is something of a problem. Eventually I’ll get around to moving the stones. I need to know where the septic tank is because there’s not much soil on top of it which is how I found it in the first place when I tried to plant that flowering cherry tree.

Now that I see this photo I realize I need to move the start of the path between the birds. Duh! The sedums are easy to move.


Another spring miracle. I was repotting agapanthas last fall and had leftovers. A friend had told me that hers were planted outside and usually made it through the winter, so I stuck some in the ground. And they are putting out new growth. The pot I brought inside didn’t bloom this winter. If these bloom this summer, all the agapanthas will get moved outside.


That’s my six this week. We had more rain so the back garden is still flooded and I can’t work there yet. But this week the rest of the roses in the front of the house were cut back. I’m making progress.

On the Writing Front

The first draft of the play was emailed to the director.  Now I have to get back to my novel which was put on hold for a little while. I couldn’t manage to keep two sets of characters separate. Characters have a way of popping up where you least expect them.  A Hot Dish lady from a Christmas themed play doesn’t belong in a novel set in the Caribbean. Sort of like that pink hyacinth, except it is much more welcome.


In the Rearview Mirror

We had a postponed Christmas dinner last night with Laura and her family.


It was lovely. We toasted with blue champagne, had oysters and shrimp from the grill, country ham on country biscuits and my excellent curried cheese ball while we stood and chatted in Laura’s kitchen.


I don’t know where Laura was in this photo. On the far right hand side, I think, behind her husband in the Santa hat. Then we made room for tenderloin, potatoes and fresh asparagus sitting at the beautiful dining room table. Laura loves to make a festive table.

I made the desserts. Two Key lime pies at Laura’s request and an apple pie. And because I had eight egg whites left from making the Key lime pies, I made chocolate espresso meringues. I don’t have a pastry bag so dropped the whipped mixture from spoons. They were beautiful and delicious.


I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I suppose I used to and they always seemed to be about losing weight. But 2017 was a year when I made a concious decision to step away from many volunteer activities. 2018 is going to be a significant birthday for me and I have a third novel to finish. It’s been marinating in my brain for ten years. That’s long enough. I’m getting close to the end of the first draft, but some of my characters seem intent on following roads I didn’t see, and I have to take the time to see what they want to do. They usually turn out to be right.

I suppose part of my decision in 2017 was because of volunteer fatigue. People come to assume that you will keep doing what you’ve always done. But I knew I was putting my own projects on hold and I didn’t want to do that anymore. The other thing is that I am making enjoyment a priority. If I raise my hand to volunteer, is it something I’ll enjoy doing? There are a lot of things in life that just have to be done, but I want to enjoy the things I choose to do.

Writing is one of those things. I find writing to often be an unconcious process. I get centered at my computer, sometimes using a dowsing crystal to help open my brain to the “movie” of my book. Then I write what I see. My friend, Helen, says I’m channeling and I won’t go quite that far. But I do enjoy the process!

In March of 2018 the Bay to Ocean Writing Conference will happen without me being part of the planning. For the past ten years I’ve been on the planning committee doing a variety of year-long tasks. By the time we’d get to conference day I was too tired to attend sessions. In 2018 I will enjoy attending.

Eastern Shore Writers Association is also going on without me. I’ll just be a paid member. Those almost daily hours spent keeping track of membership are now spent writing. I found some membership software to take over for me and the board agreed to the change. It was time that the organization moved in that direction and I gave them a push.

I stepped aside from my role as co-chair of Green Thumb, the St. Michaels Woman’s Club gardening interest group. It was time for new ideas, and there have been some splendid ones.

I did raise my hand to help at the St. Michaels Farmers Market last summer but it was just for an hour or so on Saturdays and an hour to send out a weekly market update. The market is undergoing a restructuring. I don’t know if I’ll raise my hand in 2018. I want to see what’s going to happen to the market before I volunteer.

And last year I was still involved in the organization of the St. Michaels Community Garden. A friend and I have been sharing the responsibilities for about five years. It’s time to pass the torch. We sent out an email asking for volunteers and got radio silence. The next step is to itemize what we do and send that out. Maybe if people see the discrete chunks, some will raise their hands. If people want a community garden it will survive.

I’ll stay connected with my Working Writers Forum. They’ve been reading what I’m working on for eleven years, and they always give me good advice.

Laura and I are hard at work for the Christmas play we’ve been commissioned to write for The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.  Collaborating with Laura is a priority for me. We both enjoy the process. It’s FUN!

It is now a little after 8 o’clock in the morning on the first day of 2018 and I’ve been up for several hours. I am at my desk and have just pulled up the file of my novel. I can’t wait to see where the story goes this morning.

I’m going to enjoy 2018. #enjoymylife




Today I Get Pummeled

I have a body work guy who comes once a month to my house. He brings his massage table and works on my shoulders, frozen thoracic spine and hips. His name is Billy and sometimes he makes me cry. Billy has magic hands, but this is not a feel good massage; it’s deep tissue work getting my body ready for chiropractic adjustments by Dr. John Mitchie in Annapolis. I try to schedule Billy in the morning and Dr. Mitchie the same afternoon. I feel pummeled by the end of the day, but my spine is getting better.

If I was rich, I’d have Billy twice a week. Maybe then, I could have a feel-good massage occasionally tucked in between the body work.

I went to chiropracher Dr. Mitche originally for mid-thoracic issues. I think I may have hauled too many 40 pound bags of chicken feed or tuck-pointing cement. I actually think this all started the week we hand carried 20 thousand board feet of lumber from the pasture and stickered it up to dry in the barn. That was many, many years ago, but I’ve had back issues ever since.

My four mornings a week 7 a.m. yoga helps. Sitting at my desk writing for hours most certainly does not. I’m thinking about a standing desk. But it’s standing for a long period that really makes my mid-back hurt. Like the days I can tomato sauce or make jam. A conundrum… But all of this therapeutic work means I can work in the garden and not be crippled the next day. And I rarely take ibuprophen any more. A GI bleed (three years ago) that landed me in the hospital needing three pints of blood stopped that. Tumeric also helps.

Two weeks ago at the Farmers market I got some fresh lima beans. I shelled them and put them in the fridge not sure what I would do with them. Then, twice that week, guys who came to do appliance repairs at the house talked lima beans. These were shore boys who knew a thing or two about cooking fresh limas. Both told me to soak them overnight before cooking them. Fresh limas? Yes, overnight soak. That keeps them from being too starchy, I was told. The next day I cooked mine with a smoked ham hock and the result was creamy, delectable limas in a succulent broth.

The week after that I found cranberry beans at the Farmers Market. I’d never had them before and they were so beautiful, I just had to buy them. And Charlene, the vendor I bought them from, told me I’d never again use kidney beans in chili once I’d tried Cranberry beans. I also asked Charlene, from whom I’d bought the lima beans the previous week, about soaking fresh limas overnight. She’d never heard of that, but my results were so delicious I’d do it again. Fresh limas and cranberry beans are hard to find except for a very limited time at Farmers Markets.

I shelled mine, blanched them and now have four one cup bags in the freezer for winter soup. I found six pods that were quite dry. I set them aside to get totally dry and will save the seeds to plant next spring. This is a link to a Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli recipe. It sounds really good. First cold day, it’s going on the stove.

In the garden things are winding down. The huge pot of red geraniums that comes inside to bloom all winter has been cut back and the pot is sitting on the deck. I just have to wash the outside of the pot before my husband helps me bring it in. I can’t lift it on my own. A rootbound clivia has been divided and two repotted plants given to friends. The one I divided will come back inside for the winter, but I’m told by the gardener who gave me the original that it probably won’t bloom this winter. I also divided a huge agapanthus. I’ll bring a smaller pot of it inside, but haven’t quite decided what to do with the leftovers. Some people tell me they can winter over in our area, but I don’t have a sheltered place to plant them. They may go on the compost heap.

My bed at the community garden is full of winter greens. I should have radishes in two weeks.  I’ll put a row cover on it next week to keep out the falling leaves from a nearby maple.

A raised bed at home has bok choy that needs to be thinned. I’ll take the thinnings and plant them in another bed. That’s on the schedule for this weekend.

Soon I’ll be inside most days, with even more time spent at my desk. I really need to think about ordering that standing desk.



Tonight is a Harvest moon. We go to bed early, so I’m going to try and stay up for moonrise.

This year I bought some small yellow, Dutch potatoes at Harris Teeter. I thought they were so good I went in search of seed potatoes. The closest variety I could find was Yellow Finn so I ordered them and planted on St. Patrick’s day. I can’t remember the last time I planted potatoes. The harvest in late July wasn’t very big, but they were tasty. The plants had died back so I thought it must be time to dig them. It was probably a draw between what I paid for the seed potatoes and what the Dutch potatoes at Harris Teeter would have cost.

The volunteer eggplants produced but I can’t find the picture I took. My beds at the Community Garden are finished except for the purple sweet potatoes. They will be harvested after we have a frost. But the last of the tomatoes, carrots, beets and a couple of cukes were welcome.

I’m still making tomato sauce from the “not quite ripe” tomatoes I harvested. That is an attempt to outwit the squirrels. When I get to October, and am still making sauce, I wish the squirrels would have been more industrious. However, the last quarts of sauce went into the fridge instead of the canner. I can pull some out for soup and quick spaghetti sauce.

This is what you get if you don’t thin your carrots!

I’ve planted fall crops in one of my Community Garden beds and have planted some things in one bed at home. The others will be covered to sleep for the winter. The leaves are beginning to fall and a row cover makes spring clean-up easier. I saw a couple of Harlequin beetles the other day. I’m trying to hand pick them. What we really need is some cold weather. And, of course, rain. It’s very dry in the mid-Atlantic right now.

In between cooking and gardening, the writing continues. I spent the morning assigning new ISBNs to the three books. There is an ISBN for a print book and a different ISBN for an e-book. I can’t use the already assigned ISBNs as changing the author’s name or cover is too big a shift.


My Writing Moves Forward as Our Country Moves Backward

Life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.

I have never written anything political on this blog, but another blogger whom I read reminded me that hate is not political. I am beyond dismayed that our president is supporting hate and violence and that our political leaders are putting self before country by not calling him to account.


Today I am biting the bullet and sending off the contract for the first book in my Caribbean novel series to be proof read. I’ve made some very minor changes, but needed to spend the money to make sure nothing is misspelled and all the puntuation in correct before I send it off to CreateSpace. Proof reading costs more than it did ten years ago. I had to wrap my brain around spending the money on a book that had already been proofed and published (ten years ago), but my wise husband said it’s still the proof reader’s time that’s at issue. He is right.  So the contract goes in today’s mail.

Next I have to take a look at the second book in the series (also previously published) and keep moving forward on finishing the third book. Sending the contract to the proof reader means I am really doing this—getting the books republished with my name instead of a pen name.

Another decision is about the covers. I had planned to have new covers done, but other print books are out there with the old cover and they will never go away on Amazon. I don’t want potential readers to be confused. Lots to consider in this process, but I am moving forward.

And in between there are tomatoes to be made into sauce. We’ve had alot of rain and cooler temps so the tomatoes are not ripening as quickly, and they are just not as plentiful this year. That’s okay. I have sauce from last year on the shelf. I am cutting them up and putting them in bags in the freezer for making sauce on a day in the fall when the canning kettle won’t steam up my kitchen.

A couple of leaf casting appointments are still outstanding. My goal is that in two weeks I will be able to get the casting work station out of my driveway.

So my life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.



What Were We Thinking Turned into So Glad We Did

Last Friday Laura and I flew to Los Angeles. Four months ago we had signed up for a two day Dramatist Guild workshop held in Culver City. On Thursday it was one of those “this seemed like a good idea at the time” commitments. Laura had been out of town and flew back on Thursday morning. She had the day to sort things out at her office. I was busy moving sprinklers around my garden every thirty minutes trying to save parched plants. It’s been really hot and dry the last couple of weeks on the Eastern Shore.

Laura had arranged for a driver to take us to the airport on Friday morning. Getting dropped off at the Southwest gates saved a bunch of time and parking hassle. A smooth flight to Los Angeles and we Ubered to Culver City where we had a reservation at the Culver Hotel.

The six story hotel was built in 1924 and considered a sky scraper at the time. The Wizard of Oz was filmed nearby and locals know the Culver Hotel as the Munchkin Hotel as many in the Oz cast stayed there. The hotel was essentially abandoned by the 1980’s and slated for demolition. But by the 1990’s it had been partially restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The renaissance was completed when the hotel was bought and fully restored in 2007.

Today it’s a charming hotel where historical touches remain.

Culver City used to be a down and out area, but has been revitalized. The center of town is full of shops and restaurants. The entertainment company, Sony Pictures, is nearby and fueled the renewal.

The first night we were at the hotel we dined on the outdoor terrace. The weather was gorgeous. We’d left east coast temps and humidity behind.

We had a wonderful breakfast every morning. Tiny croissants, little ramikens of butter  (with a sprig of dill on top) and raspberry jam, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola. And of course, lots of coffee for Laura and a selection of teas for me. That’s my breakfast below. Laura is not a breakfast eater. She had half a bagel with cream cheese. Typically her breakfast is a diet coke at McDonalds that she takes to the office.

We could walk to the Kirk Douglas Theater where the conference was being held. Just 50 participants. We were the only people from the east coast. Most Dramatist Guild workshops are held in NYC but the DG is trying to extend learning and networking opportunities to its west coast members. If you are a member, check out their online classes.

Right away I met Bradetta. See my previous blog. I still can’t fathom the odds of that happening. Add to that the fact that I am a true introvert, so the fact that I actually struck up a conversation is remarkable.


The first day of the conference was terrific. Lots of information, good handouts and engaging instructors. The morning session was The Artist as CEO – Marketing & Social Media. The instructor was Zack Turner. I was thrilled to learn that the only social media he uses is Twitter. I, like lots of other writers, get overwhelmed with social media.

After a boxed lunch, the afternoon session was a panel called Playwrights in the Writers Room. They were all much younger than I, but it was particularly interesting to hear the experiences of the two women panelists in a man’s world. I guess some progress is being made.

That evening we walked to dinner where we met my daughter who lives in the area. What fun to see Kira and connect in person. She had asked a friend, who knew Culver City, for a restaurant recommendation and made reservations for our group at Akasha. We ordered a variety of delicious small plates. (I always forget to take food photos until we’ve made a dent in the items. There were way more shrimp to start.)

Sunday morning’s conference session was a continuation of The Artist as CEO – this time focused on the Business of Writing for the Stage. The instructor was Ralph Sevush. He’s an attorney with years of helping playwrights and was an engaging and knowledgeable speaker.

The afternoon was a Masterclass on Structure, taught by Gary Garrison. What a fabulous teacher! So much of the material also applied to writing fiction. We felt like we were double dipping.

That evening we had dinner with our friend, Shar McBee, who used to live in our area of the Eastern Shore. After years of speaking about nonprofit leadership (because of her book “To Lead is to Serve”) Shar just launched a new project “Leadership & Yoga.”  She is starting with workshops and train the trainer events.  Maybe it’s because she’s in California where there is a yoga studio on every corner, but Shar says she’s stunned at how people are responding to her new material.  It has opened up a whole new path of activity.  The week we were there, Shar had five speaking engagements about “Leadership & Yoga.”

If you live on the Eastern Shore, you may remember that Shar organized the Leadership for Women Conferences that benefitted Chesapeake College.  Even then, she was including yoga sessions led by Freya Farley.

After breakfast  on Monday, we Ubered to the airport, boarded our flight and got home a little after eight on Monday night. A driver picked us up and took us across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It was a whirlwind trip, but surprisingly relaxing, fun, full of connections, and crammed with learning.

It turned out to be an “I’m so glad we did this” trip.


Why This Writer Loves Google

What do tattoo parlors, volcanos, rotis, dinghies, Caribbean soft drinks, and bush medicine have in common? I had questions about all of these things this week while writing.

My first two novels were written pre-Google. I knew the Caribbean island I was writing about, so could fill in most details. I also had a couple of books I could use for historical backstory.

Now, ten years, later I am writing the third book in that Caribbean series and Google is making it possible for me to access information that I would otherwise struggle to find.

Today I’ve been writing a scene set in a tattoo parlor. I always try to add sensory information which puts my reader in the scene, so I wondered what a tattoo parlor smells like. I googled the question and got several answers. Apparently it depends on the kind of tattoo parlor, but it gave me some ideas. In the past, I would have had to find a tattoo parlor like the one I was envisioning in this scene, driven to the locaton, walked in and sniffed. And probably had a lot of explaining to do to the people working there. Just finding one in the Yellow Pages wouldn’t have given me the information I needed. I presume tattoo parlors differ. I might have needed to sniff several.

When describing the tattoo parlor’s waiting room I wanted to know about magazines published in 1984. Were there any tattoo magazines? Yes! Tattoo began publishing that year, so I could put a copy in the waiting room.

This week I also needed to know some information about volcanic activity in St. Lucia where the novel is set. What kind of scientific tools were used in 1984 to monitor that island’s volcano. Tons of information was available on line.

I also had to find out about the dinghies that are pulled behind sail boats and small yachts in that decade. If I don’t get the details right, some reader will know and call me out.

I needed to find out if Rotis (an island fast food staple – sort of an island burrito) ever included fried flying fish. Apparently not, but sometimes conch is used. That worked for me. I also required details about bush medicine for high blood pressure and the kinds of soft drinks available on St. Lucia in 1984.

There’s a Russian mob connection in the story so Laura recommended I read Red Notice. That wasn’t the same time frame, but it gave me some good ideas about how to weave that part of the plot line together. Red Notice is an amazing true story thriller. I read it last week and this week a bunch of the names of people in the book were in the news.

So this week, when it was too hot to cook or be in the garden after 9 a.m., I was at my computer researching and writing. I’m making progress thanks to Google. What did writers do before the internet? I know we spent alot of time at the library, but some of the information I needed wouldn’t have been available, or I wouldn’t have had a clue how to track it down. I love Google.