Monday, December 11, 2017

White Like Her

Gail's Mother
Last week my friend Lisa sent me an article from the Washington Post. Mystery writer Gail Lukasik tells the story of her mother's mixed race ancestry in White Like Her. I found the article so fascinating, I ordered the book! I love family histories, especially when a secret is involved. An excerpt of the article is below:

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.
“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”
For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.
My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.
Author Gail Lukasik
But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her 1921 birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father.
Reluctantly, I agreed to keep my mother’s secret. For 17 years I told no one, except my husband, my two children and two close friends that my mother was passing as white. It was the longest and most difficult secret I’d ever held.
My mother’s pale, olive skin and European features appeared to belie the government documents defining her as African American, allowing her to escape that public designation for most of her adult life.
In the silence of those 17 years, I tried to break through my mother’s wall of silence. But every time I tried, she politely but firmly changed the subject. Her refusal to talk about her mixed race only fueled my curiosity. How had she deceived my racist white father? Why was she so fearful and ashamed of her black heritage?
Using my skills as a seasoned mystery author, I started sifting through the details of her life, looking for clues that would help me understand her. But this real-life mystery only intensified as I tried to sort truth from fiction.
I am eagerly awaiting for my copy of White Like Her to arrive! Any secrets in your family?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, December 4, 2017

African Chicken Treat

I'm always looking for quick, easy and delicious meals, and this one sounds like a winner from Fix It and Forget It, one of my favorite slow-cooker cookbooks. Enjoy!

African Chicken Treat

1 1/2 cups water
2 t chicken bouillon granules
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 cup red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
8 skinless chicken thighs
1/2 crunchy peanut butter
crushed chili pepper of your choice

Combine water, chicken bouillon granules, celery, onions and peppers in slow cooker. Spread peanut butter on both sides of chicken. Sprinkle with chili pepper. PLace on top of ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 5-6 hours.

I'd serve this with rice and a salad. I have another African chicken recipe, but this one sounds a lot easier! I love peanut butter with chicken. Do you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 27, 2017

David Cassidy: Gone Too Soon

David Cassidy, Teen Heartthrob
I still can't believe David Cassidy is no longer with us, dead at the age of sixty-seven. When I was seven and eight years old, during the heyday of The Partridge Family television series, I had posters of him from Teen Magazine plastered on my closet door. 

Of course, I'm sure I wasn't the only one. David Cassidy had quite a teen (and grade school) following back in the day.

Wikipedia says, "Though he wanted to become a respected rock musician along the lines of Mick Jagger, his channel to stardom launched him into the ranks of teen idol, a brand he loathed until much later in life, when he managed to come to terms with his bubblegum pop beginnings." 

I stopped following his career many decades ago, but it was still a shock to hear of his death. 

Were you a David Cassidy fan? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!





Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Take time to be thankful for all of your blessings, love on your family and friends, and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner! I'm off from blogging this week but will be back next Monday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jean Harlow's Hair

Last week I re-posted and article about a film starring Jean Harlow. This week I'm re-posting another article about Jean, this time regarding her beautiful, but tragic platinum hair.

Jean Harlow, the sultry sex goddess of 1930's Hollywood, is quoted as saying, "If it wasn't for my hair, nobody would know I'm alive." If you've never heard of Jean Harlow, she's the original Platinum Blonde and Blonde Bombshell.


I got to thinking about Jean Harlow yesterday as a used bleach to do a load of laundry. I would never dye my hair, but I did chemically straighten it for decades. For the past year I've "gone natural" because I decided I was sick of chemicals. But check out the toxic regimen Jean Harlow subjected herself to each week to maintain her platinum tresses while a super star at MGM Studios:


"I used to bleach her hair and make it 'platinum blonde,'" Alfred Pagano, hairdresser to the stars, once said. "We used peroxide, ammonia, Chlorox, and Lux flakes! Can you believe that?"

Although I do believe that, it's mighty hard to think that Harlow would subject herself to such a painful process. And Chlorox, when mixed with amonia produces noxious gas and hydrochloric acid. I'm not a chemist, but that sounds pretty deadly to me.  

Jean Harlow was plagued with a multitude of health issues and died in 1937 at twenty-six, while at the peak of her career. That hair regimen certainly didn't do anything to increase her longevity.

Harlow's medical records became unsealed in the late 1990s, so if you care to read up on what actually caused her death, click here.

Had you ever heard of Jean Harlow? If so, what's your favorite Jean Harlow movie? Mine is Dinner at Eight.

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 2/22/16

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Future is Now!

One of my favorite movies is Dinner at Eight, made way back in 1933. There are many great moments in the film, but one in particular inspired today's post.  And if you're a fan of the movie, you probably know which one!

Marie Dressler & Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight
In the closing scene, gold-digging Kitty Packard (played by sexy Jean Harlow) talks to matronly Carlotta Vance, a former 1890's Broadway star (played by Marie Dressler):

Kitty:  I was reading a book the other day.

Carlotta: (appears startled) Reading a book?

Kitty: Oh, yes, all about civilization or something; a nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy said machinery is going to take the place of every profession?

Carlotta: (looks Kitty up and down) Oh my dear, that's something you need never worry about.

For a good laugh, watch the scene here.


The future is now, as machinery (computer technology) has replaced several jobs in the marketplace. Machines, as well as robots, are used on some parts of assembly lines.  And in addition to ATMs, there's electronic banking, electronic billing, and my favorite--electronic shopping!

I remember the days of full-service gas stations.  Later there was the option of full-serve or self-serve.  The full-service option has been out of existence for several years, but something relatively new at the supermarket is the self-checkout machine.

And nowadays, instead of using library staff to help with research, there's the Internet.  Oh, and you can check out your books at the self-checkout machine by the door!  When I stopped working as a librarian 14 years ago to raise a family, talk was that in the near future, you'd be able to read a book on a computer.  I thought that sounded pretty ridiculous, but what did I know?

Electronic books have turned the publishing industry upside down! Today a book can be published in a matter of minutes, and publicity can be generated by social media.

In closing, here's something amazing, with the advent of 3D printing, machines are capable of making machines themselves!

Beautiful Jean
Kitty Packard was right! It looks like machinery is well on its way to taking over every profession, with the exception of the world's oldest.

Have you ever seen Dinner at Eight? Also, how has technology transformed your work environment?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted March 11, 2013

Monday, October 30, 2017

Busy Day Brisket


I absolutely love beef brisket, but I've never prepared it myself until today! This version is currently in my crock pot and I can't wait until dinner. It's very easy and according to the reviews at Allrecipes.com, it sounds delicious. Maybe you can give it a try too. Enjoy!

Busy Day Brisket

Monday, October 23, 2017

Keye Luke: From Artist to Actor


As Number One Son Lee Chan
Hubby and I have been watching old episodes of Kung Fu, which featured actor Keye Luke as the blind Master Po. To older generations he is remembered from the Charlie Chan serials as Charlie Chan's Number One Son Lee Chan. Wikipedia says that he was the first Chinese-American contract player signed by RKO, Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was one of the most prominent Asian actors of American cinema in the mid-twentieth century. However, before he was an actor, he was an artist.

According to IMDb, Keye Luke was born in Canton, China. He grew up in Seattle, Washington, and entered the film business as a commercial artist and a designer of movie posters. He was hired as a technical advisor on several Asian-themed films, and made his film debut in The Painted Veil (1934). It seemed that he appeared in almost every film that called for Chinese characters, usually in small parts but occasionally, as in The Good Earth (1937), in a meatier, more substantial role. In addition, he played Dr. Kildare's rival at the hospital in the Dr. Kildare series at MGM.

As Blind Master Po
More from Wikipedia says Luke worked on several of the murals inside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and he did some of the original artwork for the 1933 King Kong pressbook. Luke also painted the casino's mural in The Shanghai Gesture. He published a limited edition set of pen and ink drawings of The Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam in the 1950s. He also created illustrations for the books The Unfinished Song of Achmed Mohammed by Earle Liederman, Blessed Mother Goose by Frank Scully and an edition of Messer Marco Polo by Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne (unpublished). Other art done by Luke included the dust jackets for books published in the 1950s and 1960s. It was through his studio art work that he was recruited for his first movie roles.

I always find it fascinating to learn about an actor's life before the acting began, so just thought I'd share! By the way, are you a fan of Kung Fu? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Judy Holliday

Big oops on my part! I forgot to post something yesterday. I've been so involved with revising my new novel, blogging slipped my mind, so my apologies.

With all the talk of sexual harassment in Hollywood (and everywhere) coming to light, it reminded me of a story I'd read about actress/comedian Judy Holliday and her run in with Columbia Pictures studio head Harry Cohn. When he grabbed her in a tight embrace, falsies popped out of dress, to which she remarked, "These are yours anyway, Mr. Cohn." I think that "dampened his enthusiasm" and she was able to get away.

For more about the talented Judy Holliday, check out the article below from Turner Classic Movies

This spirited, intelligent actress of stage and screen played variations of the squeaky-voiced 'dumb blonde' role in a number of breezy comedies of the 1940s and 50s. Under her own name, Judith Tuvim, she formed a comedy troupe called "The Revuers," with Betty Comden and Adolph Green. This led to bits in the films "Winged Victory" and "Greenwich Village" (both 1944) and "Something for the Boys" (1945). But it took two Broadway shows, "Kiss Them for Me" and, notably, as the intellectually ambitious moll in "Born Yesterday," to make the newly-renamed Judy Holliday a star.

She returned to films with a memorable supporting role in the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy, "Adam's Rib" (1949), then vaulted to stardom the following year when she recreated her stage triumph of "Born Yesterday" in George Cukor's film adaptation. As the airheaded mistress of a shady and rather dull-witted tycoon who turns the tables on him once she's educated, Holliday won an Oscar as Best Actress of 1950 (beating out Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" and Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in "All About Eve").

For the rest of the 50s, signed with Columbia, Holliday made a handful of films, delighting audiences as ditzy but surprisingly shrewd types in "The Marrying Kind" (1952), the delightful media satire "It Should Happen to You" and "Phfft!" (both 1953), "The Solid Gold Cadillac" and "Full of Life" (both 1956). Holliday's last film was recreating her stage role in the musical "Bells Are Ringing" (1960). She returned to the stage in the straight play "Laurette" (Taylor) and the musical "Hot Spot" (1952). A heavy smoker, Holliday died of throat cancer in 1965 at the age of 43.

I'm a movie buff, but I've never seen a Judy Holliday movie. Have you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Nathan "Nearest" Green: Ex-Slave/Master Distiller

I found this interesting article that appeared in the Washington Times about Jack Daniel's master distiller. Thought I'd post it today.

Nathan “Nearest” Green was a slave whose services as a distiller were rented out to a Tennessee preacher, Dan Call, in the 1850s. It was Green, research by black author Fawn Weaver shows, who mentored Call’s protege, Jack Daniel, in the making of the famous spirit that would bear his name.

While he went on to serve as Jack Daniel’s first master distiller and, as a free man, became prosperous in his own right, Green’s contributions have largely been missing from the company’s success story, even as they remain common knowledge in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Ms. Weaver said.

“To this day I don’t know how Nearest ended up being hidden. I really don’t,” she told the Mail. “Because when Jack was alive he never hid him. When Jack’s descendants ran the distillery, they never hid who he was or what he did. The relationship between Jack’s descendants and Nearest’s descendants were one that was rare between blacks and whites. They would’ve stood out. In Lynchburg, they always knew.”

Ms. Weaver said that her research shows that Daniel and Green’s business relationship was remarkable for its mutual respect across racial barriers, particularly for the time. “His family was fully integrated after the Civil War. Jack and his family did not see a difference between Nearest and his family and their own,” she told the Mail.

Indeed, the closeness between the Green and Daniel families is recognized in the name of the new whiskey label, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey.

The name refers to a southern tradition of “referring to teachers, mentors or others close to a family as ‘uncle, aunt or cousin’ out of respect,” the Mail reported.

“If you are in Lynchburg, everyone calls each other uncle, aunt, cousin so and so, whether you’re black or white,” Ms. Weaver said.

For more information on Nathan "Nearest" Green, check out Wikipedia.

I'd never heard of Nathan "Nearest" Green, had you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Love is Color Blind But Our Families Weren't

I enjoy interracial love stories, so I thought I'd post this touching one from The UK Daily Mail :

Mary, 81, is married to Jake, 86, and lives in Solihull in the West Midlands. They have no children. Mary is a former deputy head teacher, and Jake worked for the post office before retiring. Mary is white and Jake is black, originally from Trinidad.

MARY SAYS: When I told my father I was going to marry Jake he said, ‘If you marry that man you will never set foot in this house again.’

He was horrified that I could contemplate marrying a black man, and I soon learned that most people felt the same way. The first years of our marriage living in Birmingham were hell — I cried every day, and barely ate. No one would speak to us, we couldn’t find anywhere to live because no one would rent to a black man, and we had no money.



Love against the odds: Mary's father threw her out when she decided to marry Jake in 1948, left. Decades on, they couldn't be happier together

People would point at us in the street. Then I gave birth to a stillborn son at eight months. It wasn’t related to the stress I was under but it broke my heart, and we never had any more children.

Now it’s very hard to comprehend the prejudice we encountered, but you have to remember that there were hardly any black people in Britain in the Forties. I met Jake when he came over during the war from Trinidad, as part of the American forces stationed at the Burtonwood base near my home in Lancashire. We were at the same technical college. I was having typing and shorthand lessons and he’d been sent there for training by the Air Force. He was with a group of black friends and they called my friend and me over to talk. We didn’t even know they spoke English, but Jake and I got chatting. He quoted Shakespeare to me, which I loved.

A few weeks later we went for a picnic, but were spotted by a lady cycling past — two English girls with a group of black men was very shocking — and she reported me to my father, who banned me from seeing him again.

Jake returned to Trinidad, but we carried on writing to each other, and a few years later he returned to the UK to get better paid work.

He asked me to marry him, quite out of the blue, when I was only 19. My father threw me out, and I left with only one small suitcase to my name. No family came to our register office wedding in 1948.

But gradually life became easier. I got teaching jobs, ending up as a deputy head teacher. First Jake worked in a factory, then for the Post Office.

Slowly we made friends together, but it was so hard. I used to say to new friends: ‘Look, I have to tell you this before I invite you to my home — my husband is black.’

My father died when I was 30 and although we were reconciled by then, he never did approve of Jake.

Today we have been married for 63 years, and are still very much in love. I do not regret marrying him for an instant, despite all the pain we have suffered.

JAKE SAYS: I feel so fortunate to have met and married Mary, but it saddens me that we could not be accepted by society. Nowadays I say to young black people: ‘You have no idea what it used to be like.’

When I arrived in the UK I was subjected to abuse every day. Once I was on a bus and a man rubbed his hands on my neck and said: ‘I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.’

And back then you couldn’t work in an office — because a black man in an office with all the white girls wasn’t thought to be safe.

Any thoughts? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Sweet Aromatic Chicken


Love easy recipes? Me too. I found this one when I was in a pinch and needed to fix something easy that wouldn't require a lot of time, other than sitting in the crock pot. This recipe from Fix It and Forget It is really delicious and takes only minutes to assemble. Serve over rice with a salad on the side and you have a wonderful and tasty dinner! Enjoy!

Sweet Aromatic Chicken

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
8 chicken thighs, skinned
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T soy sauce
1/8 t ground cloves
2 cloves garlic

Combine coconut milk and water. Pour into greased slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients in order listed. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours.

Wow, that's it! What's your favorite easy recipe?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Writing Tips From James Patterson


James Patterson
I love a good thriller, and one of my absolute favorite thriller writers is James Patterson. I admit, sometimes there's a little too much blood and violence, but he always tells such a great story I can overlook those things and just enjoy a great thrill ride!

Patterson novels are hard to put down because, not only are they exciting, they're extremely fast paced and filled with unexpected twists and turns.  

Today I thought I'd share a few tips from Patterson on writing commercial fiction found in this Publisher's Weekly article by one of his co-authors, Mark Sullivan.

According to Patterson, "We are in the business of entertainment, not edification or enlightenment...We are interested in giving the reader an intelligent thrill ride populated by outsized people we feel for.” Characters, especially heroes and villains, Sullivan explains, have to be thought about carefully. They have to be human, above all, and subjected to terrible ordeals that take them to the brink of their capacities and beyond.

“To do that," Patterson says, "our villains must be worthy opponents...The reader has to believe that the bad guy is fascinating enough, clever enough, and bad enough to defeat our hero.” Research, Sullivan learned, is the basis of great villains. It's also the basis of hero, plot, and believability. Sullivan says that Patterson is extremely well read, and his statements about writing are often peppered with references to specific authors, books, or films. In one villainous discussion, Sullivan said Patterson urged me to read the poetry of Louise Glück to get a better feel for a lacerating voice. In another they discussed the novel Perfume.

Mark Sullivan
With Patterson, exposition was severely limited. Sullivan says, "The old adage—show, not tell—was critical, and the element of surprise was paramount. Each chapter in Private Berlin had to deepen a character, advance the plot, or turn the tale on its head. You began every scene with the end in mind; and the end had better blow the reader’s mind or it would be revised or tossed."

Patterson told Sullivan at their first meeting, “What most people who attempt commercial fiction don’t understand is that you have to write the way people talk...You can’t make the prose rigid or dense and expect the normal, busy reader to turn the page, much less stick with you to the very end.”  Sullivan says that Patterson advised him to imagine an entertaining bon vivant in a bar telling our stories in a language that would appeal to every Tom, Dick, and Mary in the place. Humor helped. So did a flare for the dramatic. So did a pared-down style. Sullivan says that Patterson has been criticized for the "short chapters and the ultra-lean prose, but don’t think for a minute that it is without purpose beyond a quick read for a harried reader."

Patterson said to Sullivan, “Most writers will tell you five to 10 things about a character or a setting or an action...Fine for literature. But our approach is to pick the one or two or three that really count and discard the rest. It not only creates pace but it leaves images in the reader’s mind that are concrete and unequivocal.”

In conclusion, Sullivan says, "The sum of this advice was to sacrifice all for the story and the characters. Outlines were trusted navigational charts, yet we were free to sail in other directions as the novel evolved. But if you were going to change something, it had to be a terrific change."

"We’re after terrific, fascinating, and smart,” Patterson said. “We’re after a story that the reader can’t put down and can’t forget when they’re done, the kind people talk about to their friends.”

Don't we all wish we could write something that our readers can't put down? Do you like thrillers? If so, who's your favorite thriller writer?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 6/24/13

Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11 Never Forget

My thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and the families of lost loved ones who perished on 9/11. It's hard to believe that day occurred sixteen years ago today.

Anyone five-years old or older way back on November 22, 1963 can remember the day John Kennedy was assassinated. The same can be said of September 11, 2001. I was in the process of feeding my infant and toddler breakfast because we were getting ready for the infant's four-month check-up. I had Sesame Street on in the kitchen entertaining my two-year when my husband called. He told me to turn on the TV, so I went into another room and did just that.

I will never forget what I saw that morning and how for the first few seconds it seemed surreal, like I was watching a movie.  This couldn't really be happening, I thought. And then reality kicked in at the realization that it was indeed happening and thousands of people died when that plane hit the building. I thought it was a tragic accident, but when the second plane hit, it was clear that what had happened wasn't an accident, but terrorism.  

Such a sad day in our history, and one we will never forget. What are your memories regarding that day?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 4, 2017

New Gatsby vs. Old

My youngest son is reading The Great Gatsby for his junior year high school English class and asked me to get the Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan version of the movie released back on 2013. Happy to do it, because two years ago my oldest son read it and also wanted to watch that version of the film.

I watched with both kids and thoroughly enjoyed the production. I also read the book in high school and loved it. Glad to report that my kids love the book as well!

Way back in the Dark Ages, 1974 to be exact, I remember the release of another version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I was pretty young back then, but I remember all the hype about the movie. I never saw it, although a few years later it was on TV. I think I watched a little of it (less than an hour maybe), but remember being pretty bored by it.

Well, I'm significantly older now and I've read the book. After watching the new version of Gatsby twice, I thought perhaps I'd give the 1974 version a try. But then I read a review. Sounds like it was a bomb and failed at the box office!

Time is valuable, so I decided to forget about watching the older version. However, if you've seen the old and the new version of The Great Gatsby, which did you like best?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 28, 2017

National Cherry Turnover Day

So today is August 28th and I just wasn't sure what to blog about. However, in my quest for some interesting tidbit of information, I found out that today is National Cherry Turnover Day. Right, so what? Not earth shattering news, but I really love cherry turnovers, so Happy National Cherry Turnover Day!

Punchbowl says:
...Turnovers are a delicious pastry that can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert. They originated in ancient times and are classified as "portable pies." Other dishes in this culinary family include pasties, empanadas, and spring rolls.
A traditional cherry turnover recipe calls for puff pastry, which is stuffed with a gooey cherry filling and then baked until golden brown. There are many variations on this classic treat, though. Some recipes call for cream cheese, extra lemon juice, or even ice cream.
To celebrate National Cherry Turnover Day, bake your own homemade cherry turnovers to share with friends and family! Bon appétit!
I've never made cherry turnovers, but here's a simple recipe from I Wash You Dry ( I didn't include the glaze just to keep it super simple. Check out the link if you want to make the glaze to drizzle on top.)
Super Easy Cherry Turnovers
  • 1 box Puff Pastry Dough (found in the freezer section), thawed according to package instructions
  • 1 (21oz) can Cherry Pie filling
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Unwrap both of the puff pastry doughs and cut into 8 squares (4 from each dough).
  3. Place a heaping tablespoon or two of cherry pie filling in the center of each square. Brush the edges of the squares with the egg white and fold over to enclose the pie filling.
  4. Bake on an un-greased baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown.
  5. Let cool on a wire rack.
Do you love cherry turnovers? If so, have you ever made them?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I love quick and easy! Over the summer, my oldest son decided he wanted to cook three meals a week--gourmet meals with Mom's help. We're talking labor intensive with lots of time in the kitchen! The results were wonderful, but crock pot cooking is more my thing. Here's something that sounds really delicious from BettyCrocker.com. Enjoy!


Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb) 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 jar (15 oz) Alfredo sauce 
1 can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen™ organic fire roasted petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (8 oz) Muir Glen™ organic tomato sauce
1 box (12 oz) uncooked pasta (such as penne or mostaccioli) 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water 
½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend (2 oz), if desired 

Spray 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Arrange chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Top with garlic, basil, oregano and pepper. In separate bowl, stir together Alfredo sauce, tomatoes and tomato sauce until well combined. Pour mixture over chicken.Cover; cook on Low heat setting 5 to 6 hours.

Ten to 15 minutes before serving time, cook pasta as directed on package. In small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water; stir into mixture in slow cooker. Increase heat setting to High; cook uncovered 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Do you prefer quick and easy, or do you like preparing gourmet meals?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Deanna vs. Judy

Garland and Durbin in Every Sunday
(neither one of them look fat to me)
I love film trivia and the story of Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland is interesting and amusing at the same time. 

Although few remember Deanna Durbin, practically all of us know superstar Judy Garland! Perhaps that's because of The Wizard of Oz, which used to be shown on television every spring when I was growing up, or the fact that those old MGM musicals used to be shown on TV before the days of cable and Turner Classic Movies.

Both actresses started out at MGM as young girls. When they appeared together in Every Sunday singing a duet, Garland using her powerful jazzy vocals and Durbin in her extraordinary operatic voice, MGM executives wondered if it would be wise to keep the two young singers under contract. 

Here's what happened next from Deanna Durbin Devotees:

Judy Garland
The story goes that while Louis B. Mayer was away on a trip he instructed his people at MGM to "drop the fat one." They misunderstood and mistakenly let Deanna go. 

When Mayer found out that Judy Garland was still at the studio and that Deanna was gone – he was very upset. That's just one of the reasons Mayer was never overly fond of Judy. He also preferred Deanna's classical singing over Judy's jazzy repertoire.

Soon after Deanna was released by MGM, Universal Studios gave her a contract on the 13th of June and cast her in the September production of THREE SMART GIRLS which became a major smash hit. An executive from MGM was overheard speaking about the two girls saying: "Universal got Tiffany's and we're stuck with Woolworth's."


Deanna Durbin
To this day, Deanna Durbin is the only actress in motion picture history to have ten hits in a row. The first ten were both artistic and financial successes. All of that money rolling into Universal certainly bothered Louis B. Mayer.

And the rest is history... Judy Garland eventually became a huge star at MGM and she certainly has greater name recognition to this day!

I know you must be familiar with Judy Garland, but have you ever heard of Deanna Durbin?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Inspires You?

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

Are you a writer? If so, what inspires you? A spark of imagination, a snatch of conversation, a true story or a real life experience?

I always find it fun to discover what exactly inspires a writer to conceive a story.

Stephenie Meyer had a dream that inspired her to write Twilight. Margaret Mitchell modeled Pansie O'Hara (who later became Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind after herself, and her experience of falling in love with the wrong man.

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum, is fiction based on real stories of Germans living in the United Sates during World War II. The Reader, by German judge and law professor Bernard Schlink, focuses on the generation of children born to parents who lived through World War II in Germany. During the 1960's, as adults, this generation (including Schlink) questioned what their parents knew and didn't know, and asks how they could have let the atrocities occur. Schlink's moving story focuses on a young teenage boy who has an affair with an older woman. Only years later, as a law student, does he learn of her direct involvement with the concentration camps.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Neverland. In it, the audience sees how Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, through imagination and his real experience of befriending three boys (and their evil Captain Hook like grandmother) came up with the idea for the stage play Peter Pan. "With a wee bit of imagination," Barrie (portrayed by Johnny Depp on film) says, "anything is possible."

Right now a short story is running through my head. I heard Oprah Winfrey say at the conclusion of her show one day, "Our cameras will be at Celine Dion's performance with today's guest at Madison Square Garden next month, but I won't be able to attend."

"Hmm," I thought, "what if she had a clone?"

As writers, we allow our imaginations to grow wild with just a seed of inspiration. What fun!

What inspires you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 7/19/10.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life is Stranger Than Fiction

If you're a writer, you're sure to have a pretty wild imagination! Today I'm re-posting a piece about my wild imagination from July 16, 2010.

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Mark Twain

My husband, a commercial and residential home inspector, had a rather interesting experience this week when he did a well test for a customer who was a Vietnam veteran. There were actually two veterans at the site, the owner of the property, and a friend who rented from him.

The men, both tanned, tattooed, pot bellied and shirtless, fit the stereotype of "rednecks," my husband said. He was, however, fascinated by their home, situated on several acres out in the country, and their life style of living off the land.

I realize any war vet experiences trauma, but Vietnam vets had their trauma compounded by a hostile homecoming. Perhaps some of them prefer living in isolation. Just my thoughts.

"They let their guard down with me," my husband said, "and let me into their world. They appreciated my interest in their way of life, and I learned a lot. They had wisdom to share, they were fun to be with, and they had lots of cool stuff to look at." He placed a bag on the counter. "They gave me some apples. There's a tree in front of the house. It's a deer magnet! It attracts them like crazy. As a matter of fact, the guy can just look out of his living room window--and bam! He doesn't even need to leave the house to hunt!"

"Oh..." I said. Not that I have anything against hunting, as long as it's for food, and I do like venison.

"And they taught me all about shot guns, high powered rifles, and pistols."

My eyes widened to saucer proportion.

"They do all the dressing themselves. They have a huge butcher shop and a walk-in freezer."

Well, at this point, my writer's imagination began running out of control. "So," I said, "didn't you start to wonder if there were any dead bodies buried out there, or hidden in the basement--or in that walk-in freezer?"

Now my husband took offense. "It's comments like that, that make Vietnam war vets feel like outcasts!"

"I'm sorry. If I'd been with you, I certainly wouldn't have said anything like that. And I wouldn't have been scared--unless I'd seen an ax."

"Oh," hubby said, "I saw an ax alright! Actually, it was a two handed cleaver about three feet long. You'd use it for cutting off a leg." Now I had a deer in the headlights look. "The leg of a deer! They also had a vertical band saw for cutting apart carcasses, a meat grinder for sausage, and a smoker for venison jerky."

My imagination was on fire now, but I didn't say a word. No more snarky comments from me. These were brave men who'd served our country and carried emotional scars, and probably physical ones unseen by my husband. One had done three tours of duty and wanted to serve more, but was told he'd had enough. If I hadn't seen the movie Hurt Locker, I wouldn't have understood the desire to go back again and again.

On to the apples. As I pulled them from the bag, each appeared more grotesque than the next. Some sported gray spots or deep black marks, while others were globular in shape.

"Eeew!" I exclaimed horrified. "Were these picked over by the deer and left behind?"

"No! They came right off the tree! There not gonna be perfect like what you find at a grocery store!"

Okay, call me a city girl. I'm used to pretty apples cultivated with pesticides and gussied up with wax. "Well," I said, "they'll probably taste better than what's at the store, but they're too scary looking to eat like this." I smiled. "I'll make an apple crisp." And despite how ugly the apples were, the apple  crisp was delicious!

Any life stranger than fiction stories come to your mind? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Show, Don't Tell

"Show, don't tell." If you're a writer, you've probably heard this as advice from other writers and read about it in craft books many, many times. I was recently asked to explain it to a new writer, but after using a few "for instances", I decided to find something that would do a better job of describing it.

Here's an excellent article by Erin over at Daily Writing Tips.  If you're new to writing, this information will help you clearly understand how to show and not tell! By the way, I just discovered Daily Writing Tips, and it's a great place to find answers for any writing questions you may have!

Show, Dont Tell 

Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”

I know those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.

While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.

“Okay, I get it,” you’re thinking. “But how do I do it? How do I bring more ‘showing’ into my writing?”

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips that will help make your writing more vivid and alive for your reader.

1. Use dialogue
This is probably one of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:
“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”
Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive
I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in elementary school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.
The following example is from a short story I wrote.

Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:

Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.

The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.

When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

4. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my college students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.


Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.

Hope this information from Daily Writing Tips is useful. If you're a seasoned writer, have you had to explain "show, don't tell" to a novice?  If you're new to writing, have ever had questions about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/7/13

Monday, July 17, 2017

Kalua Pork with Cabbage


In the middle of summer, who wants to spend a long time in the kitchen over a hot stove? Even with air conditioning, it can still get pretty hot in the heart of the home.

Today I'm sharing a super easy crock pot dish that my mother-in-law introduced me to a couple of years ago. It takes only minutes to prepare and my kids love it. I posted this recipe back in December of 2015, but it's certainly worth posting again!

This meal is great for a busy weeknight. Serve with hot applesauce and a salad. Enjoy!

Kalua Pork with Cabbage

7 slices bacon
1 T coarse salt
1 3-4 lb pork roast (I used a 3 lb pork loin)
1 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup pineapple chunks

Place four strips of bacon in bottom of slow cooker. Salt all sides of pork roast, then place on top of bacon in slow cooker. Put the remaining bacon on top of pork roast. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. Put cabbage and pineapple chunks on top of roast and cook an additional 1 1/4 hours, or until cabbage is tender.

Have you ever heard of this recipe?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Denise Turney on her Off The Shelf Radio program. We discussed interracial relationships, which is what I focus on in my novels. You can click here for a link to the interview.

Talking with Denise brought this blog post to mind that I published back in November of 2010. If you missed it the first time around, hope you'll enjoy it today!

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle

Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.

Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).

Othello
Throughout history, interracial love has been a topic of great literature. In Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor is married to Venetian, Desdemona. Here racism is seen as Iago schemes to break up their marriage. Hoping to spur Desdemona's father Brabantino to annul the union, Iago tells him "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe."

In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree.  But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.

Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie.  When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..."  For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.

Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!

Something New
I'm black, and my husband is white, but many years ago I began to think how sad it would've been if we'd lived a century earlier. Back then, we couldn't have married. That thought inspired me to write my first novel, Escape, about the abolitionist son of a wealthy merchant who falls in love with a slave he helps to escape.

After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.

All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict.  Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and  Martha Hodes's WhiteWomenBlack Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.

The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.

Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.

If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community.  To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.

Thank goodness it's a different time!  Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with.  As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."

Do you know of an interracial love story to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!