A Basket of Treats

Autumn. Harvest time. The orchard trees bend heavy with fruit.

What do you like to do with a bowl (or basket) of apples?

Is pie your favorite? Or Cobbler? Or Applesauce? Fresh and crunchy? Baked?

One of the favorites when I was a child was a cake. Mother only made it in the fall. And when I was an adult and asked for the recipe… the reply was — their never was a recipe for that cake.

But like the good person she was, my mother gave it her best attempt. So I ask for pardon in advance — all measurements are approximate.

1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup cream (heavy whipping cream), scant teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 cups flour. Mix by hand, adding dry ingredients to sugar and eggs, then add cream. Batter is thicker than cake mix cake. Pour into greased/floured 9×13″ pan. Top with rows of peeled apple slices — place slices touching but not overlapping. Top with generous amount of cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 until toothpick in center comes out clean — 40-60 minutes.

For a modern story of a culinary student who finds more than expected in an apple orchard owner — try the sweet romance HIDING PLACES.



Ready for Harvest

Fall. Autumn. Sunrise comes later and sunset earlier than the previous week.

Crops in fields, gardens, and forests are maturing. Farmers are busy at work bringing in the various types of grains, fruits, and vegetables planted in the spring.

City dwellers plan a day in the country. Perhaps they will visit an orchard and return with bags and baskets of apples or pears. Will they roam an area of woods (with permission of the owner) and gather walnuts, hickory nuts, or butternuts? Children enjoy a visit to a pumpkin patch to find the perfect Halloween decoration.

An elderly apple tree continues to bear fruit under the protection of a state park. Don’t expect to see this size of tree in a modern orchard. Current producers have planted either semi-dwarf or dwarf varieties. Can you name forest animals which enjoy apples?

Establishing a modern apple orchard fills the background in the sweet romance, HIDING PLACES. This book, and the other Crystal Springs Romances, are available at your favorite on-line retailer. Kindle:


Farewell, My Friend

All good things must come to an end. Sometimes we mark them with a celebration such as a graduation ceremony, or a wedding reception (both an ending and a beginning) or an after-funeral lunch.

Other events slip past with less notice.

Three years ago (oh, my, time passes fast these days) I bid farewell to the large oak tree which had stood on the property likely longer than the buildings. I enjoyed the summer shade and year-round antics of the squirrels and birds which it hosted for twenty of those years.

But — all good things must come to an end. So…three or four years into the arborist’s diagnosis of a fatal disease (he gave it five years at most), when the crown browned almost as soon as the leaves were full size, the crew came.

I can imagine my father now — How many nice corner fence posts can we get from one tree?

Do you have a shade tree? Do you take advantage? Have you planted one for the next generation?


Summer Meeting Place

Forget the details of the song. Once upon it a time, the fair may have been the place to meet people in St. Louis. But the fair is gone, kept alive in the memory of St. Louis with artifacts in homes and museums. And traces in Forest Park.

Want to set a meeting place in St. Louis this summer?

Baseball’s the name of the game. Select a Hall of Fame player and gather your group pre-game. Swing. Throw. Leap. Slide. Take your pick of these heroic action figures to get your hometown spirit flowing.

Arrive early? No problem. Favorite activities while waiting include people watching, note taking (some things you don’t want to forget), or reading. Didn’t bring a book? Shame on you — what do you plan to do during a rain delay? Suggested topics — well, baseball player biographies come to mind. Or perhaps enter a fantasy world and read a baseball themed romance. Don’t have one at hand? How about a St. Louis themed book — a sweet romance with a dash of suspense.

Oh, look, I see one now.

Kindle edition available here:


Ready and Waiting

Summer is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere. In St. Louis, the season brings hot days, some rather warm nights, and thunderstorms.

A very popular way to deal with some of those hot days involves water. More than water to drink – although I encourage you to stay hydrated. Your flowerbeds and potted plants appreciate a drink in the coolest part of the day also.

Splashing and swimming. Relax on a lounge for a sun tan (or burn). Another dip to cool off.

When you don’t have access to ocean or lake — a pool is the place.

Be sure to bring a book — I recommend a romance — to fill the time when you are not actually in the water. Call it a “pool read” instead of a “beach read”

Two titles if you like your romance sweet:

Comfort Zone:

Morning Tryst:


Welcome May

Did you celebrate May Day?

When I was a child, the tradition was to make a paper cone basket, add some early flowers, take the gift to a neighbor, and run away before they answered the door.

Or did you have a party? Special food? Dancing? Is a May Pole part of your tradition?

The month of May includes lots of good things. Warmer weather to plant gardens. Grass, nurtured by spring rain, races toward the sun. Mother’s Day is celebrated in the United States. My high school and college graduations had May dates — as did those for my children. Memorial Day — to remember those fallen in war — ends the month. (And begins the summer weekend traditions.)

The delicate blossoms of lily-of-the-valley greet people from shady spots in flower beds. This official flower of the month is one of my favorites. Breath deep — can you imagine the scent?


Forget the Date…

The calendar claimed spring arrived on March 20.

I’m not sure about where you live, but this year, signs of spring were sparse on that date in my neighborhood. For one thing — my azalea showed only a hint of bud on that date. No fool — my plants waited for warmer days to open blossoms.

A better sign of spring that a date on a calendar?

The photo is from several years ago — but when the forsythia blooms on the berm — spring is in the air!

The cheerful, yellow flowers of early spring lift a person’s spirts and give promise of life after the gloom and gray of winter.

Do you have favorite early spring flower?


A New Season?

Less than a week ago, spring arrived on the calendar.

I’m not sure about your location, but here in the Midwest…

Mother Nature appears to have been confused much of March. She’d give us a day or two of spring, then step back to winter. Wait — how about a taste of summer? Within a span of three or four days we’d have every season — except for fall color.

I scrolled through photos inspecting views from recent Marches. Many of them ended with photos of spring flowers. Perhaps a few lucky, or talented, gardeners will have blooms this month — however I will need to be satisfied with one lonely crocus. (I tend to forget I planted some years ago and one hangs on.)

Kite flying season is in full swing in this puzzle. When did you last fly a kite? Do you have a suitable place close to home?


Is it Spring Yet?

According to my calendar, spring begins in two days.

According to the scene out my window — I’m not so sure.

March is one of those unpredictable months — even more so than others. Some years you think Mother Nature is having mood swings as the temperature soars on a sunny afternoon a day or two before measurable snow buries the brave daffodils and tulips. Will it rain? Some days. Snow? Possible. Sleet? Maybe. Ice? I hope not.

Perhaps it’s best to wait until the March temper tantrum passes before sending out new growth — or switching to summer wardrobe.

March 1 — a good time to keep buds closed.
April 1 — I hope this weather is not a joke.

While the ash tree cautiously opens to show leaves, the grass greened without hesitation.


Seasonal Dress

Do you live where Mother Nature gifts you with all four seasons?

Poets extoll the virtues of spring. Farmers and gardeners toil in summer heat. Students begin school with high expectations (or maybe it’s the parents with the expectations) in the fall. Winter brings thoughts of hot drinks and snug places.

Evidence of winter abounds in this view of a small playground. The parent’s bench looks a little short — and cool. No sled required. Climbing? A bit of ice makes it a challenge with your mittens. As you may expect, the play equipment was not popular on this winter day. The next day? I can feature a small person, bundled up tromping around and calling out — look at me! Can you imagine the laughter resulting from taking the slide and landing in a soft snow pile?