Saturday, November 07, 2009

November Memories

The crunch of leaves, the bite of the wind, the layering of clothes. Did you just turn on your heater, or has it been on for a few weeks? Is it still pouring rain? Are there mums blooming where you are? Are you counting the days till Christmas?

What does November mean? Simply put, it marks the eleventh month on our calendar. But I'm wondering what the word brings to mind to different people.

To a writer, November might mean participating in NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write 50,000 words, and not edit, not doubt. Turn off that internal voice that tells you you're doing it wrong. Dedicate yourself to turning out pages.

To a child, the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving counts off the days till the next break from classes. It might mean raking leaves at his/her home or for neighbors. Or shoveling snow! A high schooler might look forward to the Fall Dance. Or not. LOL In some areas, it's Girl Scout cookie time! Yum.

As a mom with little children, November meant visiting Santa, shopping for Christmas presents, and getting an annual picture taken, printed and stuffed in Christmas cards to mail on December 1st. It meant making sure my kids were wearing sufficient clothing--does every child fight putting on a jacket? Wearing a coat? Taking an umbrella? Okay, okay. I know. There's not enough room in the locker at school. It's bulky/hot/stupid looking. Don't get me started on hats and gloves!

Early in the month, I start planning holiday meals. First I have to think of Thanksgiving--what to take to each house I go to on Thanksgiving, when to shop, when to cook. Can I make anything ahead of time or will it just get eaten?

Thanksgiving was usually the first holiday when my mom would make noodles. Egg noodles in chicken or turkey broth. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. I remember sheets of waxed paper with rounds of uncut noodle "dough" drying. Mom taught me to roll the rounds, cut into thin noodles and unroll them to finish drying. The strips always stuck together, and the challenge was to unroll each without tearing it. In my own small house, I've had my dining table filled with drying noodles, plus a card table, plus several TV trays. (Did you guess I like noodles?) My husband asked how much of each ingredient I needed and I had to calculate--for my family of noodle-lovers or for his? How many leftovers did we want? For how long? For how many people who'd want to take home some noodles?

I've never cared for turkey. For me, a plate of noodles on top of mashed potatoes (yes, I said on top of, not instead of), with some buttery corn is sufficient.

Until it's time for chocolate pie!

I try to be thankful for the blessings in my life every day, not just on Thanksgiving. So, now it's your turn--what does November mean to you?

Megan Kelly

Thursday, November 05, 2009

That first sentence

My husband and I love to share the opening sentence of whatever we’re currently reading. (It’s really fun! Try it.)

We’ve learned that not that all books start with a brilliant first line. Sometimes the entire first paragraph is what hooks us.

But this blog is about that first sentence.

I thought I’d share some, taken from books on my keeper shelf. Bear in mind that my keeper shelf is huge! Choosing only a handful wasn’t easy, and I ended up pulling out books at random. In no particular order, here are the first sentences in those books, with the punctuation exactly as printed:

“If it had not been for my fiance’s alcoholic cousin Mookie I feel quite sure that my daddy would still be a member in good standing at the Oconee Hills Country Club.” (Mary Kay Andrews, HISSY FIT)

“Sophie Dempsey didn’t like Temptation even before the Garveys smashed into her ’86 Civic, broke her sister’s sunglasses, and confirmed all her worst suspicions abut people from small towns who drove beige Cadillacs.” (Jennie Crusie, WELCOME TO TEMPTATION)

“The wild child of Parrish, Mississippi, had come back to the town she’d left behind forever.” (Susan Elizabeth Phiillips, AIN’T SHE SWEET?)

“What if I told you I had a fantasy?” (J.R. Ward, LOVER REVEALED)

“There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.” (Janet Evanovich, ONE FOR THE MONEY)

“Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood.” (Sarah Addison Allen, GARDEN SPELLS)

“I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.” (Laurie R. King, THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE)

I love all those sentences and loved the stories that followed.

What about you? Do you judge a book by its first line or paragraph? If not, what (besides the author) makes you decide to read a particular book? What’s the first line of the current book you’re reading?

Until next time, and eager to read your replies,

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Recipe of the month

Applesauce Muffins
Vegetable shortening
2 cups baking mix
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
¼ cup margarine
¼ cup of a cinnamon/sugar mixture

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Grease bottom only of (mini) muffin cups with solid vegetable shortening.
3) Place baking mix, sugar, and cinnamon into bowl and mix.
4) In a separate bowl, blend egg, applesauce, milk and oil.
5) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour liquid ingredients into well. Stir quickly until all dry ingredients are just moistened.
6) Spoon batter into prepared cups (about 2/3 full).
7) Bake for 10-12 minutes
8) Meanwhile, melt butter. Place cinnamon/sugar mixture in a nearby bowl.
9) Allow muffins to cool for two minutes after removing from oven.
10) Dip top of each muffin in melted butter…then cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Laura Bradford

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

At The Beagle's Beck And Call

Tomorrow, I plan to celebrate. I might even have a glass of champagne! See, it’s going to be a really big day. Tomorrow morning, I’ll take Phoebe, our beagle, to get her stitches out...which, I hope, will mark the end of my being at our beagle’s beck and call.

Here’s the deal. I would be the last person you’d want to partner with on a reality game show. Need a partner to go running with? I’d just slow you down. Need another driver to get you through the frozen tundra? Don’t call me. You’ll regret it.

But…are you sick? Feeling poorly? Need someone to fuss over you? That’s me. I’m a great caregiver. I make soup. I play cards and puzzles and dominoes. I can sit by a bedside for hours and read aloud to you. Over the years, I’ve fussed a lot over my husband and kids.

And…I think my beagle noticed. Three weeks ago, she woke up not being able to walk. I picked her up and carried her to the vet…and found out that somehow-known only to her and the wiener dog-she tore her ACL. Something had to be done. I’ll admit, given the fact that she’s 12, we did have a momentary hesitation about the surgery…but there’s a story about our beagle. See, she’s more to us than just a dog who likes ham.

When Phoebe was almost a year old, she pretty much saved our daughter’s life. Lesley was three and was playing in the garage. I was on the driveway weeding or something, when all of the sudden, Phoebe let out three sharp barks and stood at attention. Lesley, who was playing near Phoebe, went running to me, and I went running over to see what had the dog so upset.

It was a coiled rattlesnake. It had been right next to little Lesley, and Phoebe saved the day.

So…of course, on the 21st, I took Phoebe in for surgery.

I should have known a convalescing beagle is not a pretty sight. The poor thing’s leg and hindquarters were shaved down to bare skin. She’s got a three inch scar on her back right beagle knee. And she was on all kinds of drugs, all which made her loopy.

But within a day, she got one thing down-if she barks, moans, or attempts to hobble, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and fuss over her. That includes carrying her down the front porch steps so she can do her beagle business. And carrying her from room to room because she hates to be alone. And then retrieving her giant sheepskin bed because she needs a soft place to sit. Have I mentioned that she’s thirty pounds?

Now, I’m happy to say, she is getting around pretty well. Just last night she started putting weight on her hurt leg. So, I guess my days of ‘beagle watch’ is over.

I’m just hoping her other knee doesn’t go out any time soon. Or worse, that Suzy the wiener dog doesn’t try to get on the action. Then I really won’t be able to get anything done.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one to fuss over a pet. Anyone want to share a story?


Monday, November 02, 2009


CONGRATULATIONS ANONYMOUS (Joy)! You’re the October winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Shelley Galloway, Rebecca Winters and Linda Warren through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Easy and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

So check back often and be sure to leave a comment. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Time to Change the Time

It’s the most dreaded, hung over day of the year, aside – possibly – from New Year’s Day. What am I talking about? This year, in a cruel twist of fate, on the day after Halloween, with sugar rushes still pulsing through our veins, we awaken to discover we don’t know what time it is.

That’s because, while we turned back some of the clocks last night to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time, we never get them all. Even if the computer and the cell phone reset themselves, what about the clock in the car? The one in the microwave oven?

There’s always a nasty surprise awaiting us somewhere. If you’re like me, this goes on for days.
Many years ago, when I was growing up in Tennessee, we went onto DST for the first time. The next day, a huge thunderstorm hit Nashville. While my mother was in the supermarket, she heard another woman remark, “This is what comes of fooling with God’s time.”

There you have it. God said, “Let it be twelve o’clock!”

While visiting China last year, I was surprised to learn that the entire country consists of one vast time zone. Never mind when the sun is highest in the sky or when it sets. If it’s noon in Beijing, it’s noon everywhere.

Although we flew several hours into the interior to Shi’an, the ancient capital where you find the terra cotta warriors, I never noticed anything strange about the time. Of course, that might be because my then-91-year-old mother fell in the shower and broke her pelvis, and her assistant and I (we were attending a ceramics conference) spent most of the week arranging to get her airlifted home.

In case you’re wondering, my mother, now 92, has recovered and is back at work in her studio. You can learn more about her unusual ceramic sculptures on my Web site,

Also, while we’re on the subject of the time change, my younger son attends the University of Arizona in Tucson. Arizona doesn’t go on DST, so when we drove there from California two weekends ago, we didn’t have to advance our watches. Had we waited until next weekend, we’d have to shift ahead by one hour. Can’t figure it out? Me neither.

By the way, Hunter works as a research assistant at Biosphere 2, a self-contained environment originally built to replicate conditions in a space colony (see photo, upper right). Currently, it’s used for biology experiments. We enjoyed touring the facility, which you can learn more about at

Speaking of space, I think I’ve run out of it. And when it comes to time, the thing that really matters, of course, is what we do with it.