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.


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!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

One Year Ago Today, I Was Convinced I'd Made a Terrible Mistake

Mardi Gras beads hang from a tree branch above a picturesque garden in New Orleans.

The airplane engines roared to life. As my head pressed against the seatback during takeoff, I thought, “What have I done?” 

Just as the flight attendant was instructing passengers to put small electronics in airplane mode, a news headline on my screen deflated my giddy vacation anticipation. The wording was sobering: WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic.

"WAIT - What?" Normally a rule follower, I ignored the flight attendant and quickly scanned the article.

For months, I had been looking forward to spending a few days in New Orleans with friends. We’d pre-paid for a vacation rental apartment, scheduled a cooking class where we would learn to make a spicy gumbo, and reserved a table for lunch at the famous Commander’s Palace. This was my first visit to the Big Easy, but exploring Bourbon Street, relaxing to some good live jazz music, and eating my fill of delicious food suddenly no longer seemed so exciting.


I’d like to claim I had been oblivious to COVID-19 before boarding the plane, but that's not true. I knew of outbreaks across Europe, in Seattle and New York, and most recently on a cruise ship; but no one had yet raised a nation-wide alarm. I'd seen no warnings against traveling state-to-state. There were no reported cases of the virus in New Orleans or my home state. It seemed safe enough to travel, and I'd brought with me copious amounts of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, just as a precaution. 


As I read the WHO announcement, I realized that a huge number of tourists (from who-knows-where) had recently visited New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. This awareness that we were traveling to a city that could soon become a hot spot for the virus made me as queasy as if I was experiencing severe in-flight turbulence.


I wanted to ask the pilot to turn the flight around and let me stay in Montana. Of course, that was not a reasonable request.


Instead, my travel partners and I agreed to exercise the utmost of precautions and limit social interactions during our trip. No Bourbon Street, congested bars, or crowded restaurants for us; we spent evenings soaking up the Louisiana warmth in the comfort of the outdoor patio of our vacation rental. Liberally slathering on hand sanitizer every chance we got, we refrained from touching any part of the cable car when we used it for our transportation. We only visited tourist attractions that we believed to be safe. 


This was back before anyone suggested the importance of wearing a mask or social distancing, but we knew enough to keep away from crowds. Despite our attempts at safety, questions raced through my thoughts throughout our whole vacation, in a vicious loop of worry:

Monday, March 8, 2021

Remarkable Women


Originally, in recognition of International Women's Day, I planned to select one influential woman and write about her. However, I found it impossible to choose just one. Instead, here is a partial list of the influential women I admire.

Learn about some incredible women

To introduce you to these women, I linked either a biography, a historical novel, a book written by them, a class they've taught, a documentary, a film, an interview, or a short article. (Some of these links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on them, I may be compensated but at no additional expense to you.)

To be truthful, I haven't read/seen all the material I've referenced in their entirety yet, but I want to. I did take Jane Goodall's Masterclass, and I learned that she is not just a scientist who did amazing work with chimpanzees, but an activist devoted to conservation. Her passion for preserving the environment is contagious. 

This list of remarkable women is by no means complete, in fact, it is just the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to women who deserve to be recognized and celebrated. I finally had to stop jotting down names (even though so many more came to mind) so I could write and publish this today.

Let's make International Women's Day obsolete.

I look forward to when (hopefully in my lifetime) women no longer have to fight for recognition and equality. When all people are truly equal we won't have to celebrate "International Women's Day." Instead, maybe we will celebrate "International Human's Day." The successes of women like the ones I list here are helping to make that possible.

Which of these amazing women will you decide to learn about first?

Remarkable Women

This list is grouped by category for ease of reference, but many of these women would fit equally well under more than one sub-title. Names are listed in no particular order, other than simply as I thought of them.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

A Simply Scrumptious Scallops Recipe

This recipe is easy and elegant, but it takes hardly any time to prepare.

A colorful salad of corn, shredded carrots and greens surrounded by six caramelized scallops arranged on a white plate.
Image by Susan Foster.

Trying to say Simply Scrumptious Scallops quickly three times in a row may be harder than it is to make this recipe! 😉

In short order.
Years ago, when my husband and I were first married, a friend gave us a subscription to the magazine, Gourmet. It used to include a section called “In Short Order: Recipes That Beat the Clock” and those recipes always made us drool. Since we believed they were the type of recipe we could successfully tackle, even on a weeknight, we tore that section out of the magazine each month and compiled them in a binder. 

Those much-used pages have become dog-eared, bookmarked with sticky notes, and covered with ink and pencil notations.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Poetry Has Always Frightened Me. How About You?

Even back in elementary school, I loved to write. But not poems. Both reading and writing poetry scared me. I was afraid I wouldn't understand what the author was trying to say. The rules of writing poetry intimidated me. To be truthful, these fears followed me into adulthood and well beyond.

Text from a book explaining how to read poetry.
A page from "The Art of Writing and Speaking The English Language: How and What to Read" 
by Sherwin Cody, copyright 1905. Image by Susan Foster

Only in the last decade, I have begun to appreciate poetry. I now understand the interpretation of poems is subjective. Often, a poem is written to express a feeling even more than an actual thought. My favorite way to experience a poem is to listen to the author read it.

My education did not require me to write a lot of poetry. For this, I used to consider myself lucky, but now I am regretful. I do remember having to write a poem for a homework assignment (using the style of one of the poetry types we had been taught) when I was nine or ten years old. We were expected to read our work to the class the next day. I was terrified. 

I decided to write a limerick, probably because it was the style of poetry with rules I thought I was least likely to break. I don't think I realized back then that limericks are quite often funny and sometimes leud. Mine was neither! 

A limerick is "a humorous poem consisting of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables while rhyming and having the same verbal rhythm. The third and fourth lines should only have five to seven syllables; they too must rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm."

"I can count syllables and come up with words that rhyme. Maybe I can do this assignment, after all," I thought.

I remember sitting a long time in our family room just twirling my pencil through my fingers, overcome by writer's block. I knew I needed to write just five lines with a set number of syllables. But, what to write about? My eyes roved around the room and finally focused on a figurine my parents had bought in Mexico, while on their honeymoon. An old man with a skeleton-thin horse. I vaguely remembered my parents telling me the story of why they bought it. Something about the old cowboy being named Tex and his horse was called Paint. 

Strangely, I still recall the lines I wrote and memorized to recite to my class the next day. I'm pretty sure I took the figurine with me to school to show my class, hoping it would bolster my performance. 

Here's the poem: 

There was an old man named Tex

He had an old dog named Rex

He had a horse named Paint

Who sadly once did faint

Because on him was placed a hex.

I was well-acquainted with Edward Lear's rhyme, "There Was an Old Man With a Beard." I know this because I remember studying the accompanying illustration in our copy of The Book of Nonsense when I was small. I suspect his first line may have laid the groundwork for mine.

  🤣 🤣 🤣 Well, I don't need to point out that my poetry was not award-worthy. That is one of the very few poems I've ever written. Lately, however, I've been thinking I should take another stab at poetry. Maybe I'll work on conquering the technique of the haiku.

A traditional Japanese haiku, according to this definition from poets.org is "a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression."

Living in Montana, I certainly have plenty of images from nature to spark my creativity. 

A mountain scene with trees, snow and blue sky
This photo was taken from the car while leaving Big Sky Resort, Montana. Image by Susan Foster.

Some rules of poetry have relaxed a lot and new formats have emerged since I was in elementary school. These new forms are probably just as challenging to write, but somehow seem less intimidating. I was recently introduced to one of these new types of poetry by a review written by Adeola Sheehy-Adekale, about The She Book by Tanya Markul. The emotions this poetry evokes are almost visceral.

Sheehy-Adekale explains the recent style of poetry Markul uses is, "a form of writing which focuses on the affect it has, the shared experience which the reader can identify with, rather than rhyming couplets or any other poetry convention." 

What caused me to start thinking about poetry was a photo of a "tear-and-take" haiku poster tacked to a public message board. What a lovely gift a poem can be.

 Who knows, maybe one day I'll finally tackle my fear and try to write some poetry. But not today.

If you feel inspired to write a haiku about the mountain scene in the photograph above, feel free to share it in the comments below.