Tuesday, May 4, 2021

A Onomatopoetic Conversation (A Word Prompt Fiction Story)

 I'm trying again. I posted this story here last week and two hours after I published it, it disappeared! I have no idea if the cause was something I did or something Google did. I wonder if perhaps the previous title I created (using some of the word prompt words) sounded a little smutty (not intentionally!) and perhaps Blogger flagged the post as inappropriate content (it's not!) and took it down. I've contacted them but have had no response.

Moral of this story, ALWAYS keep a copy of your work!

Anyway, I rewrote it as best I could and I am sharing it again today, using a different title. Hopefully, this time it will stay up long enough for you to read it!

I wrote this piece of fiction using word prompts. See below for more details.

An Onomatopoetic Conversation

Sooo.” My mom crooned, in a soft persuasive murmur, “Are you going to help me?”

Mmmmm.” This sound came out of my full mouth garbled and non-committal–I uttered it both as a platitude and a moan of pleasure. The piece of steak I was chewing was so rare I almost heard it moo before I put it in my mouth, just the way I like it. 

My mother was not placated. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!” Her tone rose to a shriek. “Egad. Were you even listening to me? Did you even hear a word I said?”

Still working on my steak, I took a big schlurppp of my wine and swallowed. I tried hard, but I couldn’t suppress the impulse to giggle at her expletives, and I let out a big guffaw.

Hmph.” My mom’s state of annoyance came surging through the phone line. You know my car is in the shop this week. I need you to run some errands before we all congregate tomorrow.”

I asked, “Hm… What do you need me to do again?"

“Grrrphhhh. Grrr.” No one can growl quite the way my mother can. The sound of it made me jump. I accidentally dropped my fork, and it landed on the steak with a SPLAT and splattered the bloody juice all over my shirt.

“Just a minute, mom!” After listening for the barely audible clink, indicating I had switched the phone to mute, I then set it down. I walked over to where the light was coming in through the window over the kitchen sink and examined the stain on my shirt. I squirted a little dish soap on it and tried to rub it out. The friction of the fabric sounded like the whoosh of a bird’s wings when it takes off in flight.

Before unmuting my phone, I nostalgically said to myself, “onomato-PEE-AHHHHH.” Many years ago my brother and I had created this word, to describe the way our mother often used onomapeia when she spoke. Suddenly, I was looking forward to the dinner, when I would congregate with my siblings and reminisce about our childhood.

Eager to avoid the hazard of my mother’s wrath, I apologized for my lapse in listening to her earlier in the call.

I said, “Yoikes! I’m sorry I wasn’t paying proper attention to you earlier. Please tell me exactly what you need.”

“As I said, I’d like you to go to the market and pick the groceries for our family dinner. I’d also like for you to buy me a peasant skirt.”

"A peasant skirt," I squawked. "Why on earth do you need a peasant skirt?" 

Mom explained, “My women’s club meets this weekend, and we will discuss the painting Return from Market by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and a poem Eavan Boland wrote about it. I plan to go in costume and imitate the woman in the painting. It seems like a good way to add some zing to a meeting that could otherwise be sort of boring.

“Oh, Mom,” I said. “Where would I even find a peasant skirt? Are they even in style anymore?”

“Don’t worry, honey. I called around, and the boutique on 5th Street has just the skirt I want. You can just pay for it and pick it up.”

“Ka-ching!” I rolled my eyes at such a frivolous purchase and then immediately felt glad we weren’t on a video chat. Eye rolls always angered Mom! 

“Mom, everything in that store costs a fortune. But if you want me to, I will buy the skirt for you.”

I then told her about the bloody steak stain on my shirt, and (of course) she offered to get it out. She said I could drop the shirt off to her upon my return from the market when I delivered her the groceries. Although she was originally very irritated with me, before we hung up Mom told me to be prepared — she planned on giving me a hug and a great big smooch.


Two separate challenges supplied the prompts. 

To write this story, I used the prompts from both the 4/28/21 Words for Wednesday Challenge and a challenge from writer, Micheal Burg, MD (AKA Medium Michael Burg).


The First Challenge

The Words for Wednesday weekly writing challenge prompts were provided this month by Wisewebwoman on her blog. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

The prompts she supplied this week:
~ An image of a painting and two lists of words taken from a poem about the painting, written by Eavan Boland:

  • Congregate, Impulse, Market, Peasant
  • Wine, Surging, Light, Hazard
  • “Back from Market” a painting by Chardin.
~~**~~

The second challenge: 

Michael Burg provided a list of prompts in his post, A Fun Onomatopoetic Prompt. He solicited the favorite “sounds” of other writers, then complied those in a list and challenged his readers to write a story using all of them. 

Here is his list of words:
(Spellcheck complained a lot about these! 😉)

hmph, sooo, clink, Hm…, Grrr (growl), SPLAT, Mmmmm, whoosh, 
Ka-ching!,onomato-PEE-AHHHHH, murmur, egad, Guffaw, Schlurpppp, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!, Moo, Yoikes!, Giggle, Grrrrphhhh, zing

~~**~~

Just for fun

I added a few onomatopoeic words of my own. Did you spot them?

~~**~~


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Do Other Writers Have These Thoughts?

When my insecurities woke me up one night, I wrote them down.

bed and bedside table with a light
Image by Susan Foster.

A Writer's Doubts.

Are the hours I sit in my chair in front of my computer time well spent?
Should I be doing something else instead?

Hours go by, and all I do is write.
Is this a worthwhile effort? 
Should I be doing something else?

Do other writers feel the way I do?
Do they have feelings of uncertainty and doubt,
as they write the minutes of their lives away?

Are the words that spray out from my pen ever any good?
Are the thoughts I share just commonplace or are they brilliant news?
Do people read my work because it draws them in?
Or do they read only out of loyalty to me or, worse yet, obligation?

Have other writers found my work because it’s too good not to read, 
or simply because I left a comment on one of their own stories
and they want to return the favor?

What would I be doing if I wasn’t writing?
Should I be spending such vast quantities of time on this?

Perhaps these questions are of a futile type.
I’m not sure there’s anything I can do but write.

I’m not sure there’s any way I cannot write.

Do other writers have thoughts like this?
Or are these concerns and doubts uniquely mine?


Do you ever get up and record your own thoughts at night? If you do, are you then able to go back to sleep?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Life is like a Box of Chocolates–and a Bowl of Pistachios

Shelling pistachios taught me a lesson about life's challenges.

bowl of unshelled pistachios


Forrest Gump’s insight on life was a little incomplete.

Tom Hanks, while acting as Forrest Gump, was right when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” But he would probably agree that dealing with the challenges we face is a lot like shelling a bowl of pistachios.

I thought of this as I was snacking on a bowl of unshelled pistachios. I kept picking up and putting down the ones with the shells that were the toughest ones to crack. After eating all the easily shelled nuts, I turned my attention to trying to crack the rest. It occurred to me that we tend to deal with life’s tough problems in quite a similar way.

We usually crack the easy nuts first - but should we?

I think it’s human nature to tackle our easy tasks and problems first. We often procrastinate and put the harder chores aside, to work on after other ones are complete. Time management advisors frown on doing this; they say you should tackle tough issues early in the day when you have the most time for them. In her article, How to Stop Procrastinating And Start Accomplishing, Caroline Castrillion points out, 

“The more challenging the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them.”


Sometimes it’s ok to leave the tough nuts until last 

Do the hard stuff first is good advice… but, think about that bowl of nuts. Would you methodically pick out all the barely open pistachios and work at cracking all of them open before you enjoy the others? Of course you wouldn’t, unless someone offered you a challenge or told you that was what you had to do.

What this says to me, is that we can choose to do the hard things first, but it takes a lot of discipline. I’m not saying the experts are wrong, just pointing out that their advice can be hard to follow. Their way might be the best way, but it’s good to keep in mind that it's not the only way.

Trying to shell tough nuts (or complete tough tasks) can become less frustrating and less daunting once you’ve already had success with the rest.

Shelling a tough nut may seem more impossible than it is 

A pistachio nut may initially seem impossible to open, but after practicing on the easy ones, you may have learned patience and some new techniques. You mastered the skill of twisting the shell open but learned your fingernails are not strong enough to pry some nuts apart. 

If you use a knife blade as a fulcrum, from your experience with the easily shelled nuts, you’ll know just where to insert the point and how to twist to open this one. 

 One advantage to doing easier tasks first is they may show you difficult ones are not as hard as you first thought, because you’ve figured out a different way to do them.

scattered, partially shelled pistachios


Not all nuts can be cracked

Most importantly, I think, my bowl of pistachios taught me that not all nuts can be cracked. In a bag of pistachios, you will encounter a few nuts that have no discernable seam down the middle. Short of bashing them to pieces with a hammer, there is no way you can open them. 

Some tasks in life are like that too. Sometimes we have to just give up and leave them in the bowl … or find someone better trained or skilled (to act as a hammer) to do the task for us.

Life is full of surprises and challenges

As Forrest Gump said, life is just like a box of chocolates and always full of surprises. We never know just what will happen next. 

It is also full of challenges of varying difficulty. It is good to remember that, like a bowl of pistachios, sometimes we have to find different ways to deal with them, but almost all our challenges can be successfully dealt with, even if we sometimes have to get some help.




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Type or Write "Coleslaw" a Few Times, and You'll Wonder If It's Even the Right Word! It is - and here's why...

Do you ever write or type a word a couple of times, and then it begins to look really strange to you? This happens to me a lot. I start to wonder if I've spelled a word correctly, or if I'm even using the right word at all. 

I had thoughts like this a few weeks ago, as I was publishing a recipe for coleslaw. COLESLAW. The more I typed the word, I wondered, "Is this really right? Am I spelling it wrong?"

Then, I got to thinking, "Why is this grated cabbage and carrot salad called 'coleslaw' anyway?" I'd never before questioned this, but it is an unusual word.

So, of course, I googled it.

According to the website, Culinary Lore, this dish, originally called Koolsla, found its way to America from Holland in the late seventeenth or early eighteeth century. Kool in Dutch means cabbage and Americans eventually changed it to cole. Sla comes from the Dutch abbreviation of the word salad. (Salad in Dutch is salade.)

Some people used to think the name was not coleslaw but "coldslaw," as it is usually served cold, however that is incorrect. In fact, as the article on Culinary Lore points out, a slaw (versus a coleslaw) is now considered to be "any type of dressed salad with shredded vegetables. Slaws may be sweet or savory, chilled or warm."

There does seem to be a discrepancy as to whether slaw must include cabbage as an ingredient. Culinary Lore says most slaws "tend to contain some type of cabbage." An article on Chowhound claims, "Slaw without the cole can feature any crunchy veggie in place of cabbage, including chopped or shredded broccoli, carrots, snow peas, jicama, and more."

Bowl of coleslaw resting on tri-colored napkins

I have a favorite coleslaw recipe. I'll share the recipe below, but if you want to know more about why I like it so much, you can read all about it here.

Coleslaw with Mustard and Caraway Seeds

(2 to 4 servings)

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

¼ cup Miracle Whip

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

1 ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon stone ground dijon mustard

½ tablespoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

¾ teaspoon granulated sugar

freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.

For slaw:

½ of a small head of cabbage (~2½ cups, shredded)

3 large carrots

Method:

  1. In a small skillet (with no butter or oil), toast mustard seeds and caraway seeds for a few minutes over medium heat. Shake or stir occasionally, and remove the pan from the heat as soon as the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted so they do not burn. Pour them into a dish to prevent them from cooking any further.
  2. Peel and grate carrots and shred cabbage into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Combine miracle whip, yogurt, mustard, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add cooled seeds, mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add part of the prepared dressing to the ingredients in the large bowl. Stir well to incorporate the dressing completely into the slaw; keep adding more dressing until the cabbage/ carrot mixture is well coated. You will probably need all the dressing, but it is safest to add it slowly to avoid making the slaw too saucy.
  5. While you could serve this coleslaw immediately, it is best refrigerated for at least 15 minutes (or even overnight) as the flavors will intensify.
  6. Refrigerate leftover coleslaw (if there is any!)


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy! 😷 
This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

He Wasn't Standing Where He Was Supposed To Be

Word Prompt Flash Fiction.

Image by author, Susan Foster.

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.

He Wasn't Standing Where He Was Supposed To Be

I rushed to the door and darted out from beneath the shop canopy into the street. Behind me, in hot pursuit, was the cashier. Despite his age, he was almost as fast as me, thanks to my gimpy gait. Minutes earlier, he watched me sneak a chocolate bar from the sweets aisle into my pocket. 

Like a well-oiled machine, this was all working out just as I'd planned. Earlier this morning, I stomped down hard on a rose stem from my mother's garden, making sure a thorn punctured the ball of my foot. This made me limp, causing soreness with every step. It was so important that I be viewed as a bit of a charity case. Nothing, not even pain, was too much to endure for the end result.

The cashier caught up to me, grabbed my arm, and shouted, "Show me what's in your pocket. I saw you take that chocolate bar. You can't steal stuff and expect to get away with it."

I hopped two steps and leaned against the wall of a nearby building, holding my injured foot pitifully off the ground. It throbbed intensely after running on it, so my grimace was sincere. Opening my eyes wide, I gave him a mournful look. 

"I'm sorry, Mister.  I started thinking about all that candy and it seemed like a good way to help me forget how much my foot hurts," I said. "I was just daydreaming about the taste of this chocolate bar, and I pocketed it without thinking." 

I sobbed for a minute to emphasize my point, and then continued,  "I knew right away you saw me do it and that you probably thought I was stealing, so I  - I ran. Or hobbled, anyway." I gave a loud sniff. " I don't want to go to pp-prison."
 
Just as expected, the cranky old man's expression softened.

Convinced that I had drawn things out long enough, I seized the moment. I reached into my pockets and pulled out the chocolate bar from one and a few dollars from the other. I offered it all to the cashier. 

"Here," I said, "I really did mean to pay for it. You can have my money, and I'll give you the candy bar back, too."
 
"Oh, that's all right," said the cashier. "This one's on me. But, be more careful from here on out. This sort of mistake doesn't often work out so well."

"No, sir, It certainly doesn't." 

I grinned inwardly and pictured my friend and shoplifting partner, Billy. By now, he'd be waiting for me in the back alley with bags full of candy and other stuff for each of us, stolen while I'd lured the unsuspecting cashier out of the otherwise unattended shop. 

We were so good at this.
_____________________________________________________________________________


Word prompt writing sometimes practically writes itself!

I used all of the words provided to write this story but decided not to include the image. However, after I finished writing, I realized I had been inspired subconsciously by the photo, which then helped to write my title! 

By the way, despite having concocted a rather elaborate shoplifting plan, I have never (ever) stolen anything! I'm a little nonplussed by how easily I came up with such a devious plot.

Words for Wednesday Word Prompts for the week of 4/4/21

This story was written in response to the Words for Wednesday Challenge on 4/4/21. The prompts are provided this month by Wisewebwoman on her blog. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

This week, there were two lists of words and an image with a caption, all of which were taken from The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen. Here are the prompts: 

Canopy, ThornMachine, Charity and/or Limp, Aisle, NothingSneak

and/or 

a photo of art by Leonard Cohen (shown here), described in this book review as "A very loose self-portrait sketch is accompanied by the words, "I believe that you are standing in the place where I am supposed to be standing."

Do you see how (although completely unintentionally) the image influenced my story?

A strange coincidence

I am currently reading a book with a nearly identical title but a very different genre called The Book of Longings written by Sue Monk Kidd. So far, I am really enjoying it.


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy. 

A personal update

I was lucky enough to be vaccinated on Tuesday, and although I was pretty under the weather with flu symptoms for about 24 hours after the shot, I agree with the protagonist in my story that some discomforts are worth enduring for the end result. 

A few hours of a fever (and the embarrassment of my newsletter publishing itself without me remembering yesterday to update it from last week) is definitely better than getting COVID! Stay healthy, everyone!

Monday, April 12, 2021

I Thought He Was a Goner


Cat lying curled up on a (fake) bear rug

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that we have a cat. A very old cat.

On March 24th, I wrote about it being his 18th birthday. Last week, I truly thought his worsening kidney failure had reached a point where he would slip away. 

He has been steadily losing weight for several years, down from 13 pounds to about seven. On Easter Sunday, he appeared more emaciated than ever: his gait was unsteady, and several times he simply just fell over. Fortunately, he didn't seem to be in pain.

I spoke with our vet, and we were in agreement. Doing more tests and treatments will only delay the inevitable and a visit to the clinic would cause this old, old kitty undue stress.  Yet, as the vet put it, death from renal failure can be ugly. We agreed not to interfere unless my kitty needs help getting comfortable, and in that event, we will take whatever measures will be best for him.

I mentioned that other than his arthritic hips, he didn't currently seem to have any sort of pain. The vet suggested I try giving him another steroid shot to help with that. I drove to the clinic (without the cat) and picked up the prefilled syringe.

Every day since I administered the shot of cortisone last week, our little kitty has shown increasing signs of improvement. Today, I can barely serve him enough food to satisfy his (previously non-existent) appetite. He is roaming the house and seems to have a lot more energy. 

I know the day will not be too far off, but thankfully, it's not yet time to say goodbye.

A cat snuggled underneath blankets with an open laptop in the foreground

I apologize for it being a week since I have published here. I've been busy giving my cat some extra cuddle time!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Flash Fiction: A Wily Decision

 A wife takes a cue from a dog and initiates a big change.

(Image by author, Susan Foster).

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.

A Wily Decision

The tenth of every month was the day Mr. and Mrs.Wily picked up their allotment of wine from the vineyard. They had been members of the wine club there for over ten years, and although they sometimes opened a bottle on special occasions, they had built up an impressive collection of wine in what Mr. Wily called the “wine cellar” in the basement. Really, it was just wooden shelves lining the walls, but she knew Mr. Wily liked the way it made him feel when he referred to it that way. Like they were rich, or something.

Their drive home followed an ice-covered brook. Mr. Wily rolled down the car window, letting in the chilly late afternoon air as he puffed on his cigar. Mrs. Wily felt irritated; she had told him many times the cigar smoke gave her a headache. Why couldn’t he wait to smoke it in the backyard?

Last month, when they picked up their wine, these fields were full of wheat and glistened with an ochre hue, as far as she could see. Now they were just full of stubs and brown dirt. “Not pretty at all,” she mused, in a distracted sort of way. Her main thoughts were focusing on the upcoming task of making dinner. It was Saturday, their day to eat salmon. And broccoli, a baked potato, and pudding, of course, for dessert.

The promenade just blocks from their house was lined with trees. A watchful dog sat on a porch, sniffing the air. As the car drew close, Mrs. Wily saw it leap down the steps to chase a squirrel, who was searching for nuts along the roadside. At first, the squirrel didn’t see the dog approach, and its laggard attempt to get away was almost its demise. Fortunately, it had the wisdom to know the dog couldn’t climb a tree. As soon as the squirrel reached a tree trunk, it climbed high in the branches, quick as a lightning strike.

Mrs. Wily heard the dog bark as it circled around and around the tree. She was reminded of a nursery rhyme circle game she used to teach nursery school children to play.

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
the mulbery bush, the mulberry bush,
here we go round the mulberry bush
on a cold and frosty morning.

The song was meant to teach morning routines to the wee ones, she remembered. Instead of “Here we go round the mulberry bush, the next verse would change to, “this is the way we wash our face.” Then “comb our hair, brush our teeth, put on our clothes” would be inserted in the remaining verses, ending with a final verse of Here we go round the mulberry bush.

The little ones had already learned to play the Ring Around the Rosey game, which ended with, “We all fall down.” Inevitably, while dancing in a circle to the mulberry song, some of the children would forget during which song they were supposed to fall and would drag the others down, all of them landing in a heap. Some cried, and others giggled.

“My life has been going in circles,” Mrs. Wily thought. “Just like the nursery rhyme, Mr. Wily and I have followed the same boring routine every day and every week for years. If things don’t change soon, this marriage is ready to fall down and I’ll be the one crying. I need to be more like that dog, and chase after what I want.”

“Maybe that song is the key to finally being heard,” she thought. “Lord knows, just talking and complaining hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It’s time I become as wily as my last name. I’ll borrow verses from the song and modify them.”

Thinking quickly, she began singing with her pretty soprano voice, raising it loud enough to be sure her husband heard her.

This is the way you make your wife sick, 
make your wife sick,
make your wife sick,
this is the way you make your wife sick,
ignore her and smoke in the car.

Mr. Wily glanced at her, raised his eyebrows, and snuffed out the cigar in the ashtray.

“Oh my heavens, Mr. Wily listened to me!” Then, she thought, “No! Not 'Mr. Wily.' My name is Angie and his name is Bill. No more of this silly Mr. and Mrs. Wily stuff! How did we ever end up calling each other that, anyway?” 

She kept making up verses and singing them.

This is the way we die of boredom,
die of boredom, die of boredom, 
this is the way we die of boredom,
Never doing anything new…
Isn’t it time for new hobbies, 
new hobbies, new hobbies,
isn’t it time for new hobbies
and to start using our first names?

Bill pulled into the driveway and yanked on the emergency brake. 

“Angie,” he murmured, “I never knew you felt like this. I thought I was the only one unhappy with our life.” 

He smiled ruefully and in his off-key baritone and not at all rhythmically, he sang:

Let’s stop going round the mulberry bush, 
the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
It’s time we listened and show love to each other,
and we need to make our lives a lot better.

They both smiled and Angie let out a small giggle. They exited the car and she held open the front door while Bill carried in the carton of wine, like always. Except for this time, he bent down and kissed her cheek as he passed her. 

She suggested he leave a bottle of chardonnay in the kitchen, so they could open it to drink with dinner.


Word Prompt Fiction

This story was written in response to the Words for Wednesday Challenge on 3/31/21. The prompts were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher but posted on the website Elephant’s Child. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

I used this entire list of word prompts to create this story:

Watchful, Laggard, Pudding, Mulberry, Bark,
and/or

Promenade, Vineyard, Allotment, Wisdom, Tenth, 
and/or
Life, Borrow, Wily, Ochre, Brook


Where would these words have taken your imagination?

Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Taking Time to Stitch a Tapestry (Word Prompt Fiction)

Embroidery hoops, thread and a needle resting on a tapestry in front of a window showing a snowy scene.

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.


Taking Time to Stitch a Tapestry

The world outside was silent, blanketed by a thick layer of snow. Martha sat by the window, taking advantage of the last of the evening light. Her needle darted in and out, weaving the embroidery thread into the stiff fabric, while the peppermint aroma of her tea faded as it grew cold. She had been stitching longer than she realized. Her thoughts had wandered pleasantly while embroidering this summer scene, which centered on a sweet brown hare darting behind a flowering hedge.

Earlier, along the side of the house, she had seen a similarly sized rabbit, wearing his winter coat of white. Perhaps, she mused, when she finished this one she should embroider the same picture again, but change it to show a winter season instead of summer. Maybe she could even create a set of four tapestries with this same view and rabbit, showing all the seasons. It wouldn’t be hard to do and would add one more dimension to her catalogue of items for the sale.

"If professional artists can present some of their work as a series, why shouldn't I?" she thought. 

The hard scrunch of her husband’s footsteps through the newly fallen snow on the path beyond the window interrupted her thoughts. When the men clear-cut that swatch right up to the house she had disapproved, because she hated to see such beautiful old trees cut down. However, she now appreciated how much easier it was to get to the house from the end of the road, and how the layer of rocks (or snow) warned her when anyone approached.

With a sign, she pushed aside the tapestry and rose from her chair. It was time to get supper started. Her dream of being able to make her sewing a priority over mundane household chores would have to wait.

"Someday," Martha vowed, "I will become a full-time, self-reliant artist and leave this place."


~~~~~*~~~~~


Delores of Under the Porch Light used to offer a weekly writing prompt called Words for Wednesday, and encouraged others to use it to write something creative.  Unfortunately, Delores began to have computer issues, and could no longer provide the weekly prompts. Elephant’s Child took over for a while, and then she organized volunteers to share the responsibility.

The prompts for this week were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher but posted on the website Elephant’s Child. (They were posted last Wednesday, but it has taken me this long to get around to writing this!) I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted. 

I used the entire list of word prompts to create this story: Silent, Tea, Summer, Scrunch, Tapestry and/or Hare, House, Catalogue, Clear-cut, Path.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Where would these words have taken your imagination?


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!
This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why Are Social Media and Technology So Challenging?

Do you ever struggle like I do?


Graphic showing a screenshot of my weekly subscriber email setup

Yesterday's mistake.

If you subscribe to the emails from this blog, you probably wondered why the subject line of the email I sent out yesterday (March 24) said "Happy St Patrick's Day." In fact, I bet you thought it was old news and never even opened it.

Ugh. 

I know I'm out of practice, but social media and technology seem more difficult now than they ever did to me. I make mistakes while using my phone, sending emails, and posting content on social media.

I make mistakes when I send texts

Have you ever composed a text and then sent it to the wrong person? I've done this, more times than I'd like to admit. Autocorrect has assisted me in many not-so-helpful ways.

I make mistakes on social media

I've made a bunch of mistakes while trying to acknowledge or comment on other people's posts. Spelling errors, double comments, neglecting to acknowledge the posts of my dear friends  ... you name it, I have done it.

Just yesterday, I somehow managed to add the same post to Instagram not once, but THREE times. How on earth did I do that? The first two times the content just didn't seem to load, so I kept trying. And then, later, all three appeared. Before I noticed this, people had liked and added comments on all three posts. Now, I have no idea what to do. Delete two of them, or leave my mistakes for all to see?

I make mistakes when I send blast emails (See yesterday's for proof!)

I work hard to craft an interesting weekly newsletter for my blog subscribers. I came up with the idea to change the subject title line every week, to make these emails look more interesting when they appear in the subscriber's inbox.

On March 17th, my email had the subject title, "Happy St. Patrick's Day." I thought I'd changed that wording to "Happy Wednesday" before my email went out on March 24, but for some reason that edit didn't stick. The subject line of the email remained, "Happy St. Patrick's Day." 

Of course, I didn't notice until the email was already sent. How many of my followers do you think, would have clicked an email when it referred to a holiday that occurred the week before?

Do you make mistakes like this, too?

How to stop making these mistakes

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

They Say Cats Have Nine Lives

I’m (gratefully) convinced our cat has many more than nine.


closeup of a person and a cat

Today is our cat's 18th birthday and his age is catching up with him.

His skeleton feels bony when I pet him. Sometimes he just sits and stares into place, or lets out pitiful yowls for no apparent reason. His whiskers are often coated with particles of food and his backside with who-knows-what. When he uses his litter box, more often than not anymore, he misses it and body waste and fluids flow down the side. He swings his back hips strangely when he walks, and his gait has become timid from arthritis. He has a funky smell and his fur is rough and patchy.

This feline member of our family has always been ornery and destructive. The veterinarian's office attached a label on his chart, warning all their employees that our cat is “very fractious.” He’s unfriendly (actually quite ferocious) to everyone except my family, and he is a lot of work. 

BUT ––He loves me unconditionally, possibly more than any living creature ever has. I can't imagine life without him.

Our beloved cat turned 18 today, and he’s been a member of our family since he was just 6-weeks old. We adopted him to satisfy my daughter's intense longing for a cat, but it was he and I who formed the strongest bond. Perhaps that's because he became ours on Mother's day. The amount of days and months and years this cat has lived in our house now equals or exceeds that of either of our now-grown children. 

I worry it will soon be time to say goodbye. Will he tell me when he’s ready to go, or will he just slip silently away? 

In the past year or two, I’ve said farewell to this treasured cat multitude of times. I’ve held him and I’ve cried, convinced he wouldn’t make it through the night. On each of those occasions, he proved to me the saying that cats all have nine lives. In his case, we could probably adjust that number upwards to 15, or so.

For years, our kitty’s been on a slew of meds for irritable bowel syndrome and decreased renal function. So far, the prescription food, pills, gels, and injections have been working. We’ve had a few diabetic scares, only to find out diabetes did not cause his problems; instead he suffered from severe urinary tract infections which cleared up with antibiotics. 

Eighteen years seems like a long life for a cat, but it doesn’t feel like enough time to spend with this one. This sentiment seems mutual; though old and frail, our cranky cat still appears to be enjoying life with us. Just when I’m convinced his arthritis badly threatens his mobility, I spy him nimbly getting onto a kitchen counter or teasing our big dog. He seems as happy as he’s ever been, especially when he’s nestled in my lap or stretched out in a ray of sunshine, puddling on the floor.

Our elderly cat’s end-of-life is probably not too far away. But today he’ll get some happy birthday treats as we reminisce and celebrate his life. 

Who knows, if we are lucky enough, perhaps this time next year we’ll be celebrating his birthday when he turns 19. That would be so nice.

headshot of a grey striped cat with green eyes.


An old cat lying on a bed.


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy! 😷 This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

An Easy Way to Deal With Scorched or Burned Pots and Pans

Before you soak or scrub, try this trick first!

A photo of the bottom of a pan I scorched while cooking oatmeal with blueberries

I've scorched a lot of pots and pans, lately. While remodeling our kitchen, I've been cooking meals using a single burner hotplate. This little burner has been invaluable, as far as being able to boil, simmer, saute, and warm up food, but the temperature is tough to regulate. 

Pans can scorch or burn even on the best of appliances, and this can happen quickly. You get distracted and turn away from the stove to do something else, turn up the heat too high, or simply forget to stir. Suddenly, whatever you have been heating in a pan scorches and burn.

Hopefully, you can salvage whatever you were cooking, but the pan will be a mess. However, before you reach for caustic cleansers and tough scrubbing pads or leave it overnight to soak, give this trick I've learned a try. I'm not sure if it will work in every case, but so far it's worked for me.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How to Bake a Chocolate Cake That is an Outstanding Winner

 In 30 years of baking cakes, this is the one I’ve made the most.

Glazed chocolate bundt cake with a slice cut out.
Image by author, Susan Foster

Do you have a favorite cake recipe? 

Is there a cake recipe you’ve made repeatedly? If so, what do you love about that recipe? 

  • Is it the best cake you ever had? 
  • Is it quick and easy to make?
  • Does it require a minimum of dishes and little cleanup after cooking?
  • Is it the one your family or friends most frequently request?
  • Do you always have the ingredients on hand?

My favorite cake recipe

For my favorite cake recipe, all the answers to the above questions are a resounding YES. 

I enjoy trying new recipes and I love all flavors of cake, but when I don’t feel like experimenting or spending a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the cake I always make. Whenever I serve it, guests ask for the recipe and always say it’s delicious.

I first tasted this cake when visiting a friend, and she served it for dessert. When I returned home, I realized I just had to have the recipe. I still have a copy of her original email with the recipe, sent almost 30 years ago to me. I have no idea where she got it from.

Throughout the years, I've made some changes to the recipe. Here’s my favorite way to make it:

Chocolate Chip Bundt cake with a quick chocolate glaze
Image by author, Susan Foster

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Thursday, March 18, 2021

It Started With A Glance In the Mirror (Word-Prompt Fiction)


A long time ago, I regularly participated in a word prompt challenge, as some readers here may remember.

Delores of Under the Porch Light used to offer a weekly writing prompt called Words for Wednesday, and encouraged others to use it to write something creative.  Unfortunately, Delores began to have computer issues, and could no longer provide the weekly prompts. Elephant’s Child took over for a while, and then she organized volunteers to share the responsibility.

~~~*~~~

Today, I once again participated in that challenge. The prompts for this week were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher, but posted yesterday on the website Elephant’s ChildI encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted. 

I used the entire list of word prompts to create this story: wafer, haggard, procession, juniper, drips, disdainful, stream, weed, chalk, treasure

Where would these words have taken your imagination?

Some low-growing juniper that needs to be pruned or removed.

It Started With a Glance in the Mirror

Julie stared at the mirror and sighed. Who was this haggard woman staring back at her, anyway? She needed to find a way out of the slump she’d been in ever since she left her job. “I need sunshine,” she decided.

“I know, I know,” she said to her reflection in the mirror. “Getting a tan isn't good for my skin. But it will help me feel healthy and pretty. That seems like a priority right now.”

Wandering into the kitchen, Julie poured herself a cup of coffee. With no energy to make a proper breakfast, she grabbed a box of vanilla wafers from the cupboard. She placed her mug and the box on the table in the breakfast nook. She went to the front door and grabbed the newspaper from the stoop before sitting down at the table.

Munching on a wafer, she turned to the classified section of the paper and perused it. 

“Ha,” she exclaimed loudly, after a minute of reading. “This is just what I need... a job I’m sure I can do, and it’s outside work, so I will get a tan.” 

She picked up the phone and dialed the listed number.

~~~*~~~ 

Julie stared at the procession of potted plants laid out in neat rows along the hospital walkways. They expect her to plant all of those by lunchtime? 

“Oh, goodness,” she thought. “I certainly hope I don’t get fired on my first day!” 

She loaded as many of the plants as she could onto a wheeled cart and took them over to one of the soil beds near the hospital entrance. The other gardener had already tilled it. She eyeballed where the plants would look best, picked up a spade, and started digging.

~~~*~~~

Tired, but feeling accomplished, Julie was proud all the plants assigned to her were neatly in the ground. She and Sam, the other gardener, were sitting at a picnic table eating sandwiches for lunch. Julie assumed the hospital had kindly placed the table there for visitors and possibly for patients who were well enough to venture outside for a bit. She realized the garden might help brighten an otherwise dismal day for some people who came here.

A minute later, her good mood deflated as Sam told her what her tasks would be that afternoon.

“All the old juniper bushes need to be torn out. Make sure you dig up all the roots. When you finish with that, add drips to all the flowers you just planted.”

“OH, MY,” thought Julie. “Removing those bushes sounds like scratchy and backbreaking work.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Feedback is Encouraged: Preferably the Constructive Kind

A screenshot of "My first hate mail" in which a writer accuses the recipient of insanity because they said Biden inspired them.

It appears, at least for now, that I am back blogging. Amazingly, even after an almost two-year hiatus, I still have loyal readers and subscribers to this blog. Thank you!

Not everyone will always like what I have to say, and that's okay. For example, see below, a screenshot of an email response I received to my weekly email to subscribers last week. (I have deleted all identifying information to protect the sender's privacy, as this was a private email.

                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~

This was in response to this portion of last week's weekly letter, which I send out to subscribers of this blog. I wrote: 

"I listened to President Biden speak last night. He gave me such hope, knowing that by May 1st all adults in the US should be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine."

My unhappy subscriber had strong views about this statement. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. The person who responded to my email could simply have removed himself from my email list by clicking "unsubscribe" at the bottom of the email. Clearly, though, he wanted to make sure I knew that I "must be insane." Last I checked, my mental health is in pretty decent shape, so I'm not too worried. 

I disagree with the person who sent me this email. I believe that President Biden is an intelligent, thoughtful person and I think he is doing a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, I may lose more readers for making comments like this, which I think is too bad. Unless we can agree to disagree without even listening to what others say, we will never be united. 

My goal is not to alienate anyone, but unless my writing can be authentic and uncensored, it probably is not worth writing. So, I'm sorry to have lost a subscriber, but no apologies for what I said.

What does it mean to be a subscriber, anyway?

Have you noticed the little tab that says "Enter your email address below and never miss a post" in the top right corner of my website? If you click on it and add your email address, you are signing up to receive emails from me. Bloggers LOVE subscribers because it shows that you are enjoying our contact and want to be updated when we post new content. More importantly, it is a means for us to share valuable information with you, such as if we publish a book, offer an online class, etc.

Subscribing costs nothing and the only information you are required to provide is a name (just a first name is fine) and your email address. You can subscribe at any time. I do not share, distribute or sell this email list.

I subscribe to a lot of blogs. I read almost every email I get from some, others I save to read later, and some I just delete. I've been thinking about what makes me want to read an email and what annoys me. 

What would make you want to read my emails?

Aside from making sure I only say things you agree with (as the above reader pointed out) what would motivate you to sign up for my emails, open each one, and enjoy the content you find there? I used to only use these emails to provide links to posts, and sent them every time I published a new post on my blog; now I'm trying to add more value to each email that I send. I don't like being bombarded by emails and I doubt you do either.

Instead of after every post, now I'll just send one email a week. In addition to links to my blog posts, my emails will include a little newsy letter, links to other places I published that week, and I'll share some other really cool or interesting stuff I've come across that week. 

  • Does this sound interesting to you? What would you suggest I include in my e-mails to you?
  • Is a weekly email too frequent? Would it be better to send an email every other week?
  • If you are not already a subscriber, what would motivate you to sign up for my emails?
  • What day of the week are you most likely to read an email? I've been sending them on Fridays, but this week I'm going to switch to Wednesday. Do you think that's a good idea?
I would really love to get some feedback from you on this. Please leave a comment below or send me an email using the contact form in the sidebar of this blog. 

I hope none of my other current subscribers will unsubscribe, but I respect that sometimes we all disagree.

I doubt the person who questioned my sanity is reading this, but if he is, I probably should thank him. Getting his response showed me someone is reading the letters I send out - and gave me the idea for this post. 😊

I also would tell him that I sincerely hope that he gets vaccinated, to protect himself and others he associates with from becoming ill. 


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!