2016 Cultivating Gratitude: Local Art

   viking    I’ve known Robert Steele for over 20 years.  He’s been an artist all his life.  So, the question is, why have I waited so long to purchase his art?  Robert is retired these days and has time to do the things he loves; paint and draw.  He works out of his home and puts his work on Facebook for all to see.

I purchased this drawing from him this week.  I loved the attention to detail.  The old Viking face shows the years and hardship of a life lived up north in the cold. Out front for all to see is the sword that was continually by his side for the battle that was sure to come. 

I love Viking lore and that is why this picture struck me.  This guy could be Odin – main god of the Viking religion – or just someone with a boat and a family to feed seeking his fortune.  It doesn’t matter. The eyes, permanently squinted against snow and glare, show pain and strength and I am honored to have him hanging in my home.

Robert is a Viet Nam vet whose art reflects that conflict sometimes.  He paints guitars and motorcycles also.  Some of his art is fantasy, and at one time he painted the walls of his son’s bedroom with a Mayan jungle theme complete with pyramids and monkeys. He can draw anything he can imagine.

I know the vendors at the Heavener Runestone Viking Fest will be jealous of my purchase.  Maybe we should try to get him to join us sometime.

 Check out Robert Steele at his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/robert.steele.10 .  See what you think.

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: A Sale!

SecretsofSandhillIsland_w8259    If you spent your life believing your fiancé died in a storm and then found out your father had him killed, what would you do?  If you thought the people of your small town didn’t know who your father was – but they knew all along – what would you do?

Meg Stanford tried to live out her life in the small community of Sandhill Island.  She lived there as a child and had fond memories of the tiny beach house where she was loved.  Then everything was ripped from her.  Her father insisted they move to Corpus Christi, the man she loved died, her mother also died, and she was left to raise her son while living with a tyrant she called Father.

Sandhill Island seemed a haven for secrets like Meg’s but she was not the only one.  Alex, the artist who moved in next door to her vegetable stand, had his share also. And so did her son’s fiancé.

Meg has been living a lie since she moved back to Sandhill Island, but she is not alone.  The treachery is just beginning as she finds out the truth about her father and his business dealings and tries to make restitution to the neighbors she cares for.  And then the hurricane hits.

The Kindle version of Secrets of Sandhill Island is on sale at The Wild Rose Press catalog http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/ for $2.99 through Cyber Monday. If you’re ready for some suspense and more than a few secrets, pick up a copy and let me know what you think.

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: Family

snickerdoodles    Thanksgiving is next week and I’m sure you and your family have big plans.  Mine has been sending email messages for a week deciding on a menu.  The person who hosts the dinner takes care of meat and then everyone brings something.  I’m a planner and without a plan, I am sure we will not be able to pull this monumental task off.  Probably we could, but what if everyone brought only sweet potatoes!  So I plan.

I wrote a blog this week for a winter blogfest that needed to be about the holidays – winter, Christmas, or whatever holiday your family celebrates.  I wrote about Christmases at my grandmother’s many years ago and it brought back memories.  In a tiny house located in northeast Arkansas, there was more food than could be consumed and more than enough love to go around.  My grandfather’s deep baritone voice sang Christmas carols in the living room around a wood burning stove with a tea kettle on top spewing steam to moisturize the air.  My grandmother’s cookies fresh out of the oven gave the whole house a cinnamon scent and the fresh pine tree in the place of honor – the picture window – twinkled with lights and homemade ornaments.

The house smelled of Christmas; pine, cinnamon, and the bowl of oranges that sat on the dining room table.  It was Christmas, it was family, it was love.  To this day, when I smell these scents in combination or alone, that is the smell of Christmas in my mind.

To honor this time of family and love I am posting my grandmother’s Snickerdoodle recipe.  It might be the same as yours.  I don’t know where she got it – probably a recipe exchange at church or something – but it is a keeper.  Remember, chill at least two hours or overnight.

BaaBa’s Snickerdoodles

Mix together:

1 Cup soft shortening

2 eggs

Sift together and stir in:

2 ¾ Cups sifted flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp soda

½ tsp salt

Chill at least two hours (overnight is better). Roll into balls the size of a small walnut (black walnuts, English walnuts don’t grow in Arkansas).  Roll in a mixture of 2 tsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. cinnamon. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until lightly brown but still soft (8 – 10 minutes) in 400-degree oven.

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: Dr. Strange

doctor_strange_poster     I spent the afternoon with a good friend at the theater.  We saw Dr. Strange. It’s nice to find someone who shares my taste in movies.  I loved the special effects and story behind the Marvel character.  I’ve got to say; I didn’t know this character until recently but truly enjoyed the movie. Hollywood has recently dipped into the super-hero pond and caught some fascinating stories to tell.  Dr. Strange was another addition to their stringer.

The character, Dr. Stephen Strange, was a neuro surgeon who lost the use of his hands in an auto accident.  But like all super heroes, he found a way around his disability using magic and finally had to face his own shortcoming – and Strange had several.  The special effects were fantastic, and I didn’t even opt for the 3D effect.  There was plenty of comic relief about his name, and Thor even made an entrance at the end.

Disney has come a long way in the last few years beginning with the Pirates of the Caribbean series and I’m looking forward to seeing the new ones.

This summer my friend and I caught up on movies we hadn’t seen in a while: all eight of the Star Wars, six Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and now we’re working on the Marvel Comic characters.  It is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I recommend Dr. Strange if you enjoy the genre – or even if you don’t.  We might create a convert.

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: Hello Autumn!

pumpkin    It’s November! And it is still warm outside.  I don’t know whether to gripe or be grateful for the weather.  We need rain, but in Oklahoma, when the rains begin in the fall, winter is right behind.  Last year we had a major ice storm the day after Thanksgiving. My flower beds need attention before the ice and snow.  The over waist-high basil should be dried and crushed for use in soups and sauces this winter. And I just got called back to work for the Christmas season.

November is NaNoWriMo month.  National Novel Writing Month is celebrated in lots of ways; in Enid, the public library is hosting a Tuesday writing blitz http://enid.okpls.org/homepageslider/come-write-in-this-november/ .  You can sit in the semi-quiet of the library and work on putting as many words on paper (or computer screen) as your fingers and mind can stand – to be edited later.  The object of the month is to get 50,000 words (a short novel) down before the month is through.  In case you’re wondering, that is over 1600 words a day or just over six and a half pages a day.  You can do that, right? Well, you can if you’re committed and organized.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and you know what happens after Thanksgiving – Christmas!  It is upon us once again.  I’ve started a small Christmas list and even bought a few things, stuffed them in the linen closet (the place of honor for future presents,) and began to peruse the sale flyers. 

My husband is griping because it is too warm to hunt deer.  But the deer are probably happy. As a long- time hunter, there was a time when he would be on pins and needles awaiting the season.  He has mellowed with age. 

It is still warm enough to walk the dog first thing in the morning.  Once winter hits, she’ll get walked in the afternoon sometimes and other days not at all.  But the weatherman has forecast rain for this evening.  I think I’ll make a pot of chili.  Maybe it will encourage the season.

What are you doing for autumn?

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: The End of the World Would Suck – or Not

cover    It’s Halloween!  And in honor of my daughter’s favorite holiday we’re going to discuss The Apocalypse Sucks.  It would of course, if it weren’t so much fun to write.  I mean, if you can’t make fun of the apocalypse, what can you make fun of?

Sandra and Molly live in the corporate tower where they used to work.  They weren’t friends, only co-workers, but now they are family. The end of their world has come, and they are at the beginning of a new one.  Most of the people they loved are dead due to a fast-moving virus that left a “chalk outline” where the body fell and burned up. They are scrounging for food, but managing, until the bat creatures show up outside their window one night. Now nothing is safe.

However, some things never change. Bras wear out and lip gloss gets used.  What’s a girl to do?  Go to the mall of course – bat creatures or no.  So, armed with whatever they can find and taking the dog with them, they make another trip to the mall only to run into the bat creature they’d seen earlier.  But are they creatures, or are they humans.  Everything is different these days.

The story continues with the evolved humans after the virus and Molly and Sandra even find love once again. But life is still hard.  Humans and bat creatures don’t get along even when the creatures learn to talk around their fangs, and then there is rumor that the virus was man made.  Will it return and can it be stopped?  Maybe one newcomer has the answer to these questions.

The Apocalypse Sucks is a satirical dark comedy blending dystopia, and girl power with a little hope for mankind.  The story is funny, but humans will be humans in all that they do.  I hope you enjoy reading (or listening to the audio version) of The Apocalypse Sucks, published by Airship 27, as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It just goes to prove that even the end of the world can be fun if you put your mind to it!

http://tinyurl.com/zdq46jl

What would you do if your world ended?

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2016 Cultivating Gratitude: And Marigolds!

marigolds2    This year I had a ton of homely little plants come up in the garden – left over seeds from last year. And I encouraged them.  I fertilized and hand pulled weeds instead of using weed preventers that stop germination.  And the garden is a little overgrown, but I have lots of color and butterflies this fall.  When I walk out the front door, I am surrounded by a cloud of butterflies that are happily munching on my flowers preparing for winter.

I’ve never seen so many Marigolds. I looked them up and their many uses and here are a few:

Marigolds are used for medicinal purposes.  They are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties;

The color in the flowers has been used in dyes and makeup;

They were used during the Civil War and World War I to prevent infection in wounds;

In the garden, they attract bees, butterflies and ladybugs;

Chickens love to eat the dried flowers and they will help to eliminate mites and darken their yolks;

You can chop them into a salad for a spicy flavor and Vitamin C;

They can be dried for potpourri;

They can be used as a spice in cooking or boiled into a tea;

The tea can also be used as an insect spray;

And growing them around the house deters mosquitos.

I’ve never used any of these ideas, but I know they attract Red Spiders in the garden and keep them away from other plants.  When the plants become webbed, I pull them up and throw them away.  They are a good border plant to keep bugs out of the vegetable garden.

Whatever their uses, they are a joy to the eye.  Their scent is slightly spicy – which I guess bugs don’t like – and they handle the Oklahoma heat in the middle of the summer. Homely, yes, but lovely especially when the growing season is coming to an end.

I’m drying their seeds and if you want any, let me know.   marigolds

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