One Stone

I found an old wooden cigar box in a church office and I was inspired by the treasures it held. There was just an old receipt and the idea for this story.
Marty hated the sound of birds. She would lie under her Bratz comforter and listen to them chirp cheerily outside her window. The light in her bedroom would turn from gray to orange. And the birds would sing. The pink flowered wallpaper would peek around her posters of Edward and Harry Potter. And the birds would sing. Marty would hear her mother’s slow shuffling steps from the master bedroom to the kitchen, smell the coffee brewing, hear the soft click of the liquor cabinet as her mom took her eye opener. And those damn birds would sing and song and sing. Marty would listen to their singing until she would hear her mom tap lightly on her bedroom door.
“Tina honey, time to get up.”
When her mom would open the door then Marty would pretend to be asleep. Some mornings her mother with crept in quietly and kiss her forehead smelling of vodka and bitter coffee; other mornings her mom would watch Marty from the doorway. Either way was horrible and Marty only got up when the coast was clear.
This morning was a watching from the doorway. As soon as her door closed, Marty sprang into action. Her uniform for school was laid out on the lime green and pink striped rocking chair. Her morning routine of wash face brush teeth make a ponytail was under nine minutes. Her shimmery lavender backpack stood at attention by the bedroom door. Marty sped through her morning. Backpack slung over one shoulder she pauses in the hallway, looking left and right before scurrying to the kitchen. The kitchen was always a crap shoot. Would her mom and step-dad both be there finishing breakfast, laughing and joking? Would Donny have not come home again and Mom would be making a big breakfast and talking loud and bright?
This morning was a bowl of instant oatmeal and slices of buttered jelly toast alone on the counter. Marty shoveled in the cereal, grabbed her lunchbox, aimed for the door. Don’s car was in the driveway. Marty’s body slumped as she ate the warm soggy sweet bread on the way to school.
The school day slipped away and almost before she knew it Marty was back before her own front door. She stared at the door before taking out the key held on a ball chain around her neck. The house was still. Marty made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and devoured them with three glasses of milk. Carefully she washed and dried the glass and plate and knife. She checked the counter for crumbs. Next she got out her wooden cigar box and made a nest of pillows on the den sofa. It was a Costa Rica Gold cider box with golden foil, a deep red label, and a border of dancing Spanish ladies. Scotch tape carefully applied held the broken hinges to the box. She fished through her box of treasures for her tiny stuffed polar bear. With a plateful of Nilla Wafers on her stomach and he bear tucked under her chin Marty flipped through channels, car races, tornados in the Midwest, Silent Library, half of The Thundermans, finally the end of a really good Brady Bunch. At 5:59, she brushed off her plate and put it back in the cabinet, fluffed up the sofa, found the cookie box under the sofa send returned it to the kitchen and then spirited away into her bedroom with her backpack and cigar box.
When she heard the sound of garage door opening, Marty quickly closed her Encyclopedia Brown and hid her treasure box behind her stack of Nancy Drews. When her mother timidly knocked Marty was surrounded by school books.
“Hi, how’s my Tina Sweetie? Don’t tell me you still working on that homework,” Her mother said, peering around Marty’s bedroom door. Marty’s mother, Rene, had long thick golden brown hair that she curled in waves around her lovely lovely tawny brown face. She was tall but had a habit of sloping her shoulder to appear smaller, more delicate. She was slender but dressed to show off her figure. Marta thought her mother always tried to look like a Walt Disney fawn. Her mother’s big light brown eyes were round and concerned. Marty’s own big light brown eyes were suddenly equal round and concerned.
“Oh, I’m just swamped here. They give us some much stupid work,” Marty replied pitifully.
“Why don’t I–”
Quickly Marty closed her history notebook. “Hold on mom I don’t need help. I mean you know how the math gets you all fuddled up and I have to do it myself and really I’ll be done soon.
Marty’s mother looked down for a moment but then brighten. “Okay you holler if you get in the weeds. I’m making your favorite meatloaf.” They shared a smile and her mother closed the door.
With a sigh, Marty opened her notebook and glanced over the answers. Marty always did her homework during class or in the library. She had read everything worth reading that she was allowed to read in the school library anyways. She used to do all of her homework during September but that attracted attention so she learned to piece it out. Marty erased one of her right answers and rewrote it with a few spelling mistakes so it looked better then she went back to Sally Kimball and Encyclopedia Brown.
Dinner time was always the longest part of the day. Some days Marty could finagle a stomachache or a headache and skip dinner all together. But too many of those bring you to the doctor or worse the head doctor. Marty thought about her trips to the doctors, doctors with frizzy hair and sour breath who pretended to care. She learned one thing, you can think it but don’t say it. Marty was still thinking when her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“Dinner’s ready.”
The dinner room table was huge, long dark wood. Marty loved the smooth solid of it under her fingers. But dining room tables are for company. They ate in a little space off the kitchen with an oval pressed particle board yellow oak veneer. Marty always wanted to peel off the table’s skin but once before her parents’ divorce when she chipped the side under her plate just a little her dad slapped her hand and said this is why we can’t have nice things.
Hands folded, she sat in her place beneath the window. Her step dad Don was already seated with the Inquirer, a drink, and a cigarette at the head of the table. His head was focused on the folded dirty gray rectangle of newspaper. Brightening, Don put down the paper and the cigarette when Marty approached the table.
“So how was school, Marty? Did you discover a new planet? Create a secret formula? Tell me how you set the world on fire?”
Don’s voice was warm and deep and flowed over a room. Don was very tall and lean with brightly colored ties, well tailored suits, one thin gold chain and deep dimples in his dark brown face. His face wasn’t handsome it was better than handsome, his face radiated attractive happiness. Marty smiled up at him basking in his grin.
“Martina! Didn’t I tell you to take off your uniform and put on play clothes when you came home.”
Don rolled his eyes. “What’s her prob?” He asked with a crinkled smile. Marty glared at him and then swiftly dropped her eyes to her plate. “I mean you cares, am I right….” Don’s voice trailed away. He say in the awkward silence then returned to his newspaper. Rene came to the table with a platter of Salisbury steak and a bowl of steaming broccoli. She hurried back to the kitchen for the mashed potatoes and a pitcher of iced tea. She chattering away filling the room with talk.
“I had the craziest day today. Mary was on the phone half the day talking to her daughter about God knows what and Mr. Plotz tried to kill the coffee machine this morning. How’s dinner, everybody? I had a devil of a time with my potatoes. How’s dinner? Honey, if you need help with homework I can sit down with you tonight?”
Marty shook her head no without looking up.
Rene turned to Don. “For instant potatoes they’re great,” Don snapped.”everything is fine for Pete’s sake.” They finished the meal in silence.
After dinner Marty retreated to her room, Rene to the den with the stereo and a Long Island Iced Tea, and Don took a shower and left. Marty fell asleep on one of her books to the sounds of Phyllis Hyman.
It was the chirping of birds that woke her up. Marty looked around her room uncertainly before becoming fully awake. The house was still. Marty’s window was wide open to catch the breeze. Even though it was barely light the birds in the hedge beneath her window were in full form. Slipping her small fingers into the grooves of the sill, she slipped open the screen. The birds quieted for a moment before returning to song. Marty went to her bookshelf for her treasure box. Reverently she opened it and took out a large oval stone. She heard the wheels of Don’s car crunch on the gravel driveway. Marty returned to the open window and geared up into the pitcher stance that Don had showed her. She listened for the opening of his car door, the sound of his drunken feet on the driveway, the satisfying chunk sound of the car door slamming shut. Marty let the stone fly with all of her strength. Marty listened to crack of Don’s head and watched him stumbled forward and land face first in the layer of river jack that outlined their front yard. She waited ten minutes for him to get up or move. The only change was a sudden early morning rain. The birds stayed quiet. Marty closed the screen, curled under her comforter, and slept.


Taste of Summer: Cod in Tomato Broth

I never wanted to cook when I was a kid. In my family it was expected that girls would learn to how to cook and help their mothers and take care of families someday. I quickly recognized this tasty trap of domesticity and made myself scarce. But I loved to eat. I truly earned my childhood nickname “Three Helpings Genie.” My love of food eventually brought me back to the kitchen.
When I first started cooking I could spend all day making multi-course meals. I was thinner then with loads more time. After starting a family I began to embrace one pot meals, the haunting allure of melding flavor coupled with only needing to wish one pot.
Outside of the de riguer soups and stews, I love the elegance of cod in tomato broth. Inspired by a martha stewart recipe I make my own version when the summer is overloaded with tomatoes and the basil flows like wine. I made this meal in early spring after that brutal winter when I wanted to remind myself that summer was coming. Well now summer is here. Steal those cherry tomatoes and grab handfuls of basil.

Cod In Tomato Broth
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 medium red or vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 ounces fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (small red-skinned potatoes are a good choice as well as those adorable tiny blue Dutch potatoes)
3 sprigs basil, plus fresh basil leaves for garnish (I love to use purple basil in this for the beautiful color, but you cannot go wrong with julienned emerald green leaves of genovese basil)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 skinless cod fillets (4 ounces each)
4 ounces fresh or frozen peas (snap peas would be lovely)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (you could use lime, I won’t tell)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (not optional so delicious)


Bring broth, onion, 1 1/2 cups tomatoes, potatoes, basil sprigs, red pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large, deep skillet with a lid. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Season cod with salt and pepper, add to broth mixture, and cover. Simmer until fish is opaque throughout and just cooked through, about 7 minutes.
Remove and discard basil sprigs. Add peas, remaining 1/2 cup tomatoes, and lemon juice to skillet, gently stirring to combine; cook just until warmed through. Make sure your peas are cooked if using frozen. Divide fish, vegetables, and broth among 4 bowls. Garnish with basil leaves, drizzle with oil.
Be inspired by Four Fish by Paul Greenberg and have your mind blown between bites. I just started this book on the tracing the history and production of the major fish eaten in America and I already admire his passion and openness as he takes the reader on his journey.

recipe inspired by Martha Stewart Living, May 2013



When you re-read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in yourself than there was before. –Clifton Fadiman, editor and critic (1904-1999)
Each summer, I re-read one of my favorite books. Recent years, I have revisited The Secret Garden and Pride and Prejudice ( I tried P & P with zombies but I found it too silly). I just re-started The Mysterious Affair At Styles. I haven’t read the first Poirot in years but it all suddenly flooded back to me and I was enmeshed completely in the post World War II English countryside. As a writer I tend to focus on dialogue and internal monologues. I forget to give my readers a sense place, the smell the feel of a definite place in a definite time. Christie also reminded me to fully describe my characters and not just through their words and actions. I need fully waxed curled mustaches!
I know there are a million books and magazines and blogs waiting for your attention, but I encourage everyone to dig out an well-loved favorite and give it a spin. It is like running into an dear old school friend except you don’t have to worry if you look fat.


Bring It

Just as appetite comes by eating so work brings inspiration. –Igor Stravinsky, composer (1882-1971)
The writing prompts got me off to a good start and so I am sharing my first morsel of inspiration. I am inspired, deeply inspired, by knitting. The repetitive motion, the flow of colors through my fingers, visualizing the familiar and cryptic abbreviations into a a three-dimensional item, all of this is very soothing yet energizing to my creative spirt.
Knitting is also practical. Because as long as you don’t go too far off the rails with your pattern and yarn choice after you are done feeding your soul you have a nice present to give your kid’s teacher. No more last minute runs to buy scented candles and giftcards.

Classy Cowl


I named this cowl classy, because I love to wear V-necks. I like to pretend they make me look taller. But since I have boobs V-necks can look a little slutty but a wearing a chunky cowl suddenly transforms your outfit into an artistic ensemble. Keep your stitches loose and the cottony fabric will be comfortable for summer.

Suggested Yarn: Lion Brand Spaghetti or any super bulky weight cotton tee shirt yarn, 1 skein (approx. 60 yards)

Gauge: flexible

Needle: size 15 (use a big needle to allow the cowl to be airy and have a nice drape)

Cast on 12 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 4, Purl 4, Knit 4.
Row 2: Purl 4, Knit 4, Purl 4.
Row 3: Repeat Row 1.
Row 4: Repeat Row 2.
Row 5: Purl 4, Knit 4, Purl 4.
Row 6: Knit 4, Purl 4, Knit 4.
Row 7: Repeat Row 5.
Row 8: Repeat Row 6.
Repeat this 8 row sequence until you reach your desired length or have only 18 inches of yarn leftover. Bind off loosely and stitch your ends together to create a loop. I used a three needle bind off, because I’m fancy.
This thick, rope-like yarn is very forgiving so if your finishing is rugged (we’ve all been there) the cowl will simply look rustic.

Drumroll please

20140630-221225-79945854.jpg Officially launching this blog in July after a soft start with my writing prompts. This pic is a prequel to great things to come or at least moderately interesting things to come. It’s a cabinet from a historic farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It’s chockful like me.

The Thing We Treasure

As her old Pontiac turned not the familiar street so her neighborhood, Bea slowed down. Here were the streets she had pushed a stroller, greeted neighbors, held block parties. Many familiar faces had gone, some houses slightly changed, a new complex crowded in, only the trees seemed the same. Weary, Bea turned into her driveway. She hoisted her milk crate of newly acquired books out of the passenger seat. Shimmering in the back yard Bea noticed a strange emerald light.

The Secret Garden

{Day 18, Writing Prompt: Write from a twelve-year-old’s prospective}
Bea carried the wire milk crate of books into the bookstore. The crate was filled with children’s books, some brand new with tight, uncracked spines, others worn and well read from when her own children were small. She had been buying books and saving books for the grandkids when they came to visit but she had finally decided to ship her children their favorites and dump the rest. It was the beginning of August. No girls, no visits she had even tossed the praying mantis habitat outside. The time for waiting was over. Bea pushed into The Book Nook Used bookstore.
“Is this the last crate Mrs. Williamson? Are you sure I can’t help you unload the car?”
“Bea is that you?” Bea spun around into Veronica’s outstretched arms. Suddenly she was engulfed in a bear hug.
“I haven’t seen you in a million years. We have to get together. We just have to get together. You remember Sylvia?”
Bea shook her head cautiously, trying to jostle her memory.
“Of course you remember Sylvia. She was tall with lots of hair. Her husband has been cancer but he’s doing better and she started a book club. That is right up your alley.”
Bea wasn’t sure to be sad or happy for this unknown Sylvia so she sort of shrugged in a concerned way and waited for a break in Sylvia’s flow of words.
“Well I have to run I just wanted to pick up a book for Taylor, Monica’s daughter. Give me a call with the details. I just have to scoot to the back for that gift and hurry to the post office.” Bea hurried to the children’s section and hid behind a Dr. Seuss display. Veronica was still up at the front blocking the exit. Determined not to make friends, Bea sat on a squashed bean bag chair and began to read a thick collection of Frances Hodgson Burnett novels that was being used to prop open a window.

Green Fear

{Day 17 yada yada}
Bea wiped down the kitchen counters with brusque strokes. Then she peeked into the dining room. Bea swept the big squares of speckled black and white linoleum. Then she peeked into the dining room. Bea sprayed the kitchen table with cleaner, threw the cloth at it and went into the dining room. She pulled a dining room chair over to the antique sewing table under the big picture window and stared at her praying mantis habitat. Bea misted the egg sac lightly with distilled spring water and watched as drops of water glistened on the tawny brown sac. The habitat was a hideous kelly green with a cheap plastic base and a polyester mesh cover. Leo used to recommend this company, but she suspected the quality had come down over the years. Bea had lined the base with paper towels and spaghum moss based on some videos she had watched on youtube. The sewing table was the ideal choice because it was durable and window was sunny. Was it too sunny? Maybe the dining table was cooler? The kitchen was too drafty. Bea was afraid of temperature changes. She was afraid that she was misting too much? Or not enough? Leo used to do science experiments with all the kids, real Mr. Wizard-type stuff. Bea ruffled in the dry air. It had been two weeks of nothing. She returned to her damp kitchen table.

Lost & Found

{Day Sixteen of Blogging U. Writing prompts}
Scented with basil flowers and rosemary, Bea came in from the backyard garden carrying a basket of roses, cosmos, and herbs. Her knees and back ached from the demands of their sprawling flower beds. Vintage blue and green Mason jars lined the kitchen counters ready for the latest project. Sailing past, she knocked over a long oblong box sitting on the mudroom bench. Startled, Bea picked it up and stared at it. It was the praying mantis farm she had bought for the girls. The words: Open Immediately: Perishable shouted out to her. Bea remembered once Leo had ordered butterfly cocoons for his biology class and they had been delivered accidentally to the cafeteria and left to rot forgotten in a corner.
Quickly she dropped the flower basket in sink and rushed the box to the kitchen table. Bea carefully removed the contents scrambling to come up with some neighbor’s child to give the set to. The Browns, no the Schiavellis, no. Bea imagined having to explain why her grandchildren had not come, having to offer a neighbor the wonderful gift of bugs, Bea imagined being laughed about. She could always simply throw the whole thing away. Out fell the praying mantis egg sac in its special sealed plastic tube. Golden tan, wrinkled, slightly smaller than a walnut, each sac held approximately 200 eggs. Bea turned the smooth cylinder in her hand filled with a curious mixture of revulsion and delight. Tenderly she placed the tube on her gingham placemat and started reading the kit’s instructions.

Harvest Festival

Bea polished the dining room. The lemon oil glimmered over the dark veins of wood. She placed the square glass vase in the center of the table. Her roses fell to one side bleeding red petals on to the freshly polished surface. Tenderly Bea gathered the petals in her hand and carried them to the trash. She thought she heard the mailman coming early. Nothing. Bea went through her shelf of vases and chose a curvy milk glass one. Carefully Bea transferred the roses from the clear vase to the white one. More petals rained into the sink.
The mailbox lid creaked. Bea hurried to the door and then slowed her steps. Her mail was two advertisements, some bills, and flyer from her old school for upcoming Harvest Festival.
Memories flooded into her of the pumpkin painting, apple bobbing contests, corn husk dolls and the children laughing and the heady sweetness of warm mulled cider and Mrs. Weismann’s homemade bread and butter pickles. Bea had been on that committee for eleven years and had chaired it for seven before the bitches from Language Arts took over everything. She flung the flyer into the trash. As she closed the door Bea noticed the oblong box leaning by the door. She didn’t remember what it was at first then realized it was the insect habitat she had ordered for the kids. She hadn’t wanted the summer to be all princess tea parties; she wanted science and adventure. What she got was a box of praying mantids.
Sighing, Bea bought the box over to the counter, thought better of it and set the box on the bench by the back door. She moved the flowers from the white vase back to the clear and returned the square vase to the table trailing scarlet petals all the way.