Monthly Archives: October 2013

Thursday musings

All Roads Lead HomeFirst of all, if you don’t know it yet, my first book in the Bellingwood series (All Roads Lead Home) is FREE on the Kindle today. You should get it while it’s hot (or free).

It’s a fun read and the beginning of a series of books about a wonderful rural community in central Iowa. It could be a rural community anywhere in the Midwest. The people are normal. Some are a little wacky, most are kind and generous and before you know it, you’ve fallen in love with them and want to live where they live. The thing is? I know most of these people and they are already living where you live. In fact, most of them are you!

I ran into my own little nearby community to mail a couple of things today and remembered to take my camera. As I was driving around town, it occurred to me that every small community is practically identical, but at the same time, each has unique and wonderful attributes that make them home to their residents. Such glorious places to live!

FieldsAs I drove in, though, I was struck by the beauty of a completed harvest in Iowa. Fields as far as the eye could see, deep black dirt turned up by farmers in preparation for winter and next spring’s planting.

When the early settlers first began farming in America, they raped the land. One of the reasons farms were so immense was that when a farmer destroyed his land, he simply bought more until there was no more around. These days, everything is different. Farmers are amazing stewards of the land they work. They don’t just think about the profit for today, but they look to the future when their children and their children’s children will continue to farm this land. Everything they do to preserve its health and integrity is a sign of that stewardship. Since 1976, when the program began, over 15,000 families in Iowa have been recognized as having Century farms (over 100 years). That’s amazing!

Black Dirt

I always took black dirt in the fields for granted, until we had someone from out-of-state in the car with us one day and they couldn’t believe their eyes. They’d never seen such richness in the soil. Today, I don’t take that for granted. It is a glorious sight and one I’m proud to see every day I drive in the country.

When I was young, I remember telling Mom there were two men I would never marry: a preacher and a farmer. My reasoning revolved around the fact that I didn’t see that either of them had much fun. Dad was always busy with people and our lives were pretty exposed to the world. I didn’t want that for the rest of my life. As for farmer’s wives? Wow, did they have to work hard. I certainly didn’t think that would be a great way to live. Not a lot of fun, an awful lot of work.

Corn Bale stacksIt’s funny, I still don’t think I’d ever have been happy as a preacher’s wife … or a preacher, for that matter. Church people can be a hard lot to get along with and I’m not terribly tolerant of the shenanigans they pull in the name of Jesus. Someone would have kicked me out early on in the whole process.  I’m still not sure I would have wanted to work as hard as is necessary on a farm, but I do love rural Iowa (Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, South Dakota … wherever you might live).

Cabin LaneThere is nothing more peaceful than the quiet that comes from miles and miles of unpopulated land. While I was driving, I could stop to take pictures and not once was there a vehicle that passed me or came up behind me, expecting me to get moving. So, I could take pictures like these and come home and still find quiet. Leaves turn color and fall from their trees, crops are harvested, everything around reminds us that fall is here and winter is coming. It’s a beautiful time of the year.

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole

This recipe is made easier by using tubes of refrigerated biscuits, but I can assure you that Polly Giller and Sylvie Donovan would make their own. At the bottom of this recipe, you will find a couple of my favorite biscuit recipes.

I love my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook, but the cookbook I have destroyed and continue to use is the Sigourney United Methodist Cookbook from the 1970s. In it are recipes from women I know well. I loved their food and trust these recipes. I’ve used them over and over throughout the years. My cookbook is tattered and covered with batter and dough from many, many uses.

Sigourney Cookbook

Casserole:

1 lb. pork sausage
2 T. butter
2 pkgs. Sausage Gravy mix (makes 2 C. per pkg)
12 eggs
1 – 5 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 t. salt
2 tubes refrigerated biscuits

Cook sausage in skillet, breaking up. Make gravy in saucepan according to directions, add sausage. Set aside.
Whisk eggs, evaporated milk and salt in a bowl.
Soft scramble eggs with butter.
In 9 x 13 pan, layer gravy, eggs, gravy, eggs, gravy, then top with biscuits.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until biscuits are golden brown.

Bette’s Biscuits (from Sigourney UMC cookbook), thank you Bette Harper!
2 C. sifted flour                                 2 T. sugar
4 t. baking powder                           1/2 C. shortening
1/2 t. cream of tartar                        1 egg, beaten in 2/3 C. milk
1/2 t. salt

Mix all ingredients, cut in shortening. Add egg and mix. Just blend. Knead 5 times. Pat out, cut.
Bake at 450 degrees, approximately 12 minutes (if you aren’t topping a casserole!)

If you want a sweeter biscuit, Mom’s drop biscuits rock!

Margie Greenwood’s Sweet Drop Biscuits 
2 C. flour                                                 1 t. salt
1/3 C. sugar                                             3 t. baking powder
1/2 stick margarine                                3/4 – 1 C. milk

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut margarine in. Stir milk in. Mix as little as possible. Don’t use a beater or handle the dough excessively (they get tough). Drop on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

It’s a Rainy Day

I love the sound of rain and sometimes even the rumblings of thunder. I’m not quite as excited about lightning and huge claps of thunder, they always make me jump. The cat has curled up on a blanket under my feet. Since there is another blanket wrapped around my legs, this gives him a nice quiet space to hide.

TB Under DeskThe problem with this is that I need to get moving and do a few things today, the most important of which do not keep me working at my desk. I just hate having to disturb him when he gets all comfortable. I’ll do what I have to do, though … it will just take longer than I think it should.

I discovered that he also likes to get my attention by sitting on my mouse. No one can tell me that cats aren’t smart. He knows what causes me to pay attention to him and he knows when my attention is elsewhere.

TB on Mouse

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I need to get moving, but look at me, I’ve found a way to stay at my desk and snuggle with my silly cat a little bit longer. I’ve given you cute TB pictures and waxed poetic about his behavior.

I think I’ve exhausted my excuses and it’s time to go. Sorry, TB.

Nammynools?

Why nammynools?

When I was growing up, my mother had a particular penchant for words. She loved words of all sizes and when she couldn’t find one to fit her needs, she made one up.  Another of her ‘very normal’ vices was never remembering the names of her children or animals, so she would start through the list … Diane, Carol, Jamie, Charcoal, OD and proceed on through guinea pigs and fish. One day, she’d had it and rather than call us all animals, she just called for her nammynools. It stuck and long after she was gone, became my call-sign. I like it. It fits. And maybe another day, I will tell you about some of her more interesting words and her very interesting, but short, life. She was a brilliant woman and as a child I believed everything she said. Going to school and repeating the things she said, though, made for an interesting life. Fortunately, we lived in small towns and people knew the preacher’s wife for who she was. They didn’t get too worried, just knew she’d been at it again with the words.

Welcome!

There are so many things to tell you and one thing that I never seem to run out of is … well … words.

The site is now the home of my Bellingwood series, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. I can’t believe that my job is to write books! I’ve wanted this since I was a kid, but never assumed it would happen.

When I’m writing, I spend a lot of time hiding out with my cat. He doesn’t seem to need much more than I can offer if my head is down in a story line. In fact, most of the time, TB wants less than I do. But, I’ve learned to write with him curled up in my arms on the desk.

I’m not terribly witty or snarky or odd or anything that would set me apart from everyone else. I’m fairly normal, but I love to observe the world and I love to learn and then tell others what I’ve learned. So … welcome to the site and I hope you enjoy your stay.