Friday, March 29, 2013

I'll be back

There's a week and a bit coming where I'll be super busy with family. Number 2 son and daughters will be flying in from Washington state this afternoon. To Boston - ugh. Long drive, but worth it.

I'll be going dark while they're here (don't you love the drama - "going dark?" LOL)

Anyway, for all of you who celebrate Easter I hope it is mightily blessed and filled with the joy that comes with knowing the Redeemer. Shake off the old, put on the new - Spring is almost here.

God Bless.

You may also enjoy this

                                                    Happy Easte

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Some Snack Facts - Yum

All week I've been doing up Easter baskets for our little charmers aka grandchildren. I've also been wracking my brain to come up with snacks to have around the house for an impending invasion of out of town guests - for about ten days. Well - that got me thinking about some snack facts I dug up for a kids article many years ago and I thought you might find them interesting.

What’s your favorite snack or treat? Almost everyone has one. Do you ever wonder how they were first made? Read about some of our most popular treats below. Each one has an amazing story or interesting fact about it.

Bubble Gum

In 1906, a man named Frank Fleer made the first bubble gum. He called it blibber-blubber. Unfortunately that formula wasn’t quite right and it never sold. In 1928 one of Mr. Fleer’s employees came up with an improved formula, colored it pink and called it Dubble Bubble. It was a huge success.

Potato Chips

The potato chip was invented when someone got angry. In 1853 a man named George Crum worked as a chef in a fancy restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY. A very wealthy customer kept sending his French fried potatoes back to the kitchen claiming that they were cut too thick. Each time the man sent them back George cut them thinner. Finally he got angry and cut them so thin he could almost see through them! When he fried them up and sent them out to the customer, the man was delighted. Soon lots of customers were asking for the chips. But it wasn’t until the mechanical potato slicer was invented in the 1920’s that it became possible to produce them in large quantities. They quickly became the top selling snack food in America 


In 1905 an eleven-year-old boy named Frank Epperson left his glass of fruit juice sitting outside in the cold with a stir stick in it. He forgot about it until the next morning. When he managed to get the frozen juice out of the glass he decided to taste it. Guess what? It was good! He jokingly called it the Epsicle. Eighteen years later he decided to patent his frozen ice pop. His children, however, thought it would be better to call it a Popsicle and that’s still what we call it today. It was first packaged as a single pop and later the double pop was created so two children could share it.


The first marshmallow Peeps were in the shape of baby chicks. They were and still are produced by Just Born, Inc. In 1910 Samuel Born immigrated to the US from Russia. He went into the candy business in New York City. He loved candy making and trying new things. He invented a machine called the Born Sucker Machine, which mechanically put the sticks in lollipops. When he moved his company to Pennsylvania he bought out another candy company there. A small division of this company made a marshmallow
chick, the Easter ‘peep’. Mr. Born decided to expand this part of the business and today Peeps are the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy in the country. Two million Peeps are made each day and they’re not just for Easter anymore. There are Peeps for summer, Halloween, Christmas and Valentines Day too. 


Did you know that the number one selling candy in the US is the Snickers candy bar? The combination of nougat, caramel, peanuts and chocolate is irresistible to millions of Americans. But maybe it should be called horse candy. Why? Because the candy bar was named after a horse! That’s right. The Mars candy company introduced this candy bar in 1930. The Mars family owned horses and one of their favorites was a horse named Snickers.

Cracker Jack

Back in the late 1800’s when people were pleased with an idea or new product they didn’t say ‘cool’…they said ‘that’s a crackerjack’! When the Rueckheim brothers, Frederick and Louis, presented their popcorn, molasses and peanut treat at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 it was so popular the people said it was ‘crackerjack!’ The brothers decided to change the name from Candied Popcorn and Peanuts to Cracker Jack. In 1912 small prizes were added and kids loved this treat even more. Did you notice there’s no ‘s’ in the name?

So - there ya go. Some Easter basket and snack ideas. What do you pack your Easter baskets with?  And why do I suddenly have the munchies?

Image: Jeroem Van Oostrom                                                      Free Ditital Photos

Monday, March 25, 2013

Something I'd Rather Not Write

This poem came to me in a lightning bolt  yesterday - Sunday - as I prepared to go to church. It had been a strange week. Someone very young had died of a drug overdose sparking memories of my two brothers who succumbed in like fashion though not at so tender an age. How many of us tried to help them set their feet on a better path? I can't even count.

For Jim, David, and Andrew

The Ringmaster
By Susan Sundwall

The Ringmaster’s name is Cocaine
She will smile as she calls out your name

“Inside of the ring, dear, you’ll see,
how your troubles and sorrows will flee.”

So you join in the Ringmaster’s dance;
life is rough, why not take the chance?

That the ringmaster knows more that you
and the things that he tells you are true

The trapeze that you seize flings you high
it’s so pleasant this rush to the sky.

You feel like you’re wearing a crown;
won’t ever, not ever, come down.

It’s so wonderful here at the top.
Please, oh please, it just can’t ever stop.

But you glance at the Ringmaster’s face,
and somehow you see there no grace.

She whispers, “I know you want more.”
And his lies hide the dead on the floor

of the Circus where fools become slaves
and dance all the way to their graves . . .

To their  graves

                           to their graves 

Image: africa                                                                                        Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For Writers

This was published in the ICL newsletter last year. Thought my writer friends would enjoy.

Very Truly Yours, Gerund and Grawlix

Wow, that sounds like the sign off on some wacky cartoon show, doesn’t it?  But it’s not. It simply refers to the three grammar subjects in this article. They are; words ending in –ly, words ending in -ing, and these little babies #@%$#!!. I’ll save those for last.

Adverbs ending in ly, such as sadly, gladly, and madly, can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a whole sentence. Here’s an example.

Whenever Sara danced, she did so badly.

The –ly word, badly, modifies danced. Pity Sara! Let’s hope the poor girl sang gladly and loved madly shall we? Next are a few examples of –ly words that have editors cringing when they’re reading your otherwise stellar piece of work.

“You can’t do that,” Bubba said laughingly. Cringe.

“Firstly I’d like to thank you all for coming.” Cringe, cringe.

Lilly Ladybug looked at him pleadingly. Okay, more cringing.

It should be noted that many adverbs are adjectives with an –ly attached. For instance,  incredible becomes incredibly, beautiful becomes beautifully, and proper becomes properly. So, when you’re in modifying mode and want to employ an –ly word take note of these three guidelines.
1.      Say the word – pleadingly – a real mouthful, huh? Little Ladybug pleaded with her eyes sounds much better. Test for sound quality.
2.      Firstly is a word, but why add the –ly when the word first serves the same purpose?
3.      Examine all your –ly suffixes in this fashion. If there’s a plain old word that will suit don’t fancy up the adjective when you don’t have to.
4.      Does the adverb modify well? Laughingly doesn’t tell your reader what’s intended to be conveyed about Bubba. Bubba should simply laugh because we all know what it is to laugh. Laughingly means in the manner of laughing. But it could be a sneer, a soundless yawn, a stupid grin, etc. You decide.

Words ending in –ly are often used as intensifiers and you want to be careful here. Going overboard is too easy. Like in this sentence.

He was extremely upset and frightfully wringing his hands about it.

Now, come on, do we have some melodrama going on here? You probably don’t need extremely and frightfully at all. A person wringing his hands is almost always upset. Your reader will get it.   


Sometimes called verbal nouns, gerunds are words ending in –ing and express action or a state of being. Take your humble verb – say, run – add the suffix –ing and now you have a noun, the gerund form of the word, running. Gerunds come in handy where economy of words is important; one of the reasons I love them. One gerund can take the place of two or three other words without affecting clarity.

She walked over to him and kissed his forehead. vs. Walking to him she kissed his forehead.

He tried to find a home and discovered it difficult. vs. Finding a home was difficult for him.

 By turning walk to walking and find to finding we’ve reduced two words in the first sentence and three in the second. The conjunction and has also been eliminated with no meaning being lost in either sentence.

Gerunds can be time savers, too. Notice in each of the changed sentences that there’s no punctuation. That’s because gerunds and gerund phrases rarely require punctuation. Really, wouldn’t this look silly?

Don’t get in trouble, by faking an illness to get out of school. That comma is unnecessary so save those keystrokes.


Now let’s break from the heavy stuff and have a little fun. You’ve seen these random non-alphabetic symbols, $%#$%!!! , and know what they mean, right?  At least you can imagine what they mean and are free to do so every time you see them. They are a way to indicate strong language without  using the actual words. That venerable cartoonist of the ‘60’s, Mort Walker, is credited in many quarters for using them in his comic strip, Beetle Bailey. And that’s mostly where you see them. But isn’t it cool that Mr. Walker went ahead and made an innovative stab at changing how we look at things? Most writers look for new ways to express themselves, but it takes a near genius to achieve this. Bravo, Mort!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, March 15, 2013

Recipe Day - Yum!

I haven’t done a recipe in a while and maybe I should put this in Susan’s Extras, but in case you never go there – well – here’s one you might love. My mom sent it to me years ago, I think we still lived in New Jersey. She promised me it would be one of the best puddings I ever ate and she was right.

It makes a lot. It requires patience. It’s very dessert like, but go ahead and place it among your big platters of cold cuts, potato salad and rolls. Are you thinking Easter brunch? This is perfect. It’s colorful and fruity with a delightful creaminess in the tapioca pudding.


Grandma Bagger’s Fruit Pudding

2 Cups mandarin oranges (two cans)
1 large can chunk pineapple
3 large bananas sliced
1 large package vanilla pudding  (or two small / only use half the powder in second package)
2 small packages tapioca vanilla tapioca pudding (not instant!)
½ to ¾ cup chopped walnuts

Drain off oranges and pinapple – makes almost 2 cups of juice. Add 3 cups of water to make 5 cups. Use large pot. Add puddings to liquid and cook until it comes to full boil stirring constantly (takes a while).

 Cool 5 minutes ( I put pot in large bowl filled with ice water)
Add fruit and nuts. Chill for at least 1 ½ hours.

Image: digitalart                                                                   Free Digital Photos

Monday, March 11, 2013

Life is Like a Choir

I clomped up the stairs, a bit tardy, and hit the landing. As I gained the last step a few heads turned. The ones who had been chatting with Ted, our choir director, about – oh – anything that had gone on during the week. I guess I wasn’t so late that I’d missed vocalizing. I hoped I wouldn’t be the last one to show up for practice. Every time we hear the big front door opening downstairs we listened for footfalls coming our way wanting it to be another singer to add to the five of us already there.

I sat down, opened the red folder with the music inside and smiled at Marie. She’s a fellow alto, always on time, and I hold the music for both of us. She had polio as a child and can’t hold music because she lost the use of the muscles in her left arm.

Ted gave us the “let’s get going” and the five of us began warm ups. Up the scales we went and back and then there was another voice added. A soprano. She was breathing hard from the stair climb but we were grateful she’d made it seeing as how she’d been sick recently.

The pool of singers grew yet again when another alto showed up. Marie and I appreciated that our section would now be able to hold its own. Our one intrepid tenor, the good doctor, did his best to hit his notes spot on and the only thing we lacked was a voice in the bass section.

It wasn't long before we’d gone through the anthem for the service that would start in twenty minutes and it was time to sing in formation. Some of us are on the choir loft floor, the rest are on the risers behind. “Mic check,” says Ted who adjusts them and scooches us together for a better sound. Then he bips back to the keyboard, fiddling with a few keys. And he plays.

About halfway through our John Rutter piece, Look At The World, the air changes. Someone else has come up from behind. I sense it, like a quick breath, as he steps onto the riser and lends his rich bass to the mix coming in exactly where we’re singing, measure 37. He knows the piece because he doesn’t hesitate. And suddenly the whole thing is coming together. We’ve got voices in all four parts. We’re buoyed by the that one addtional voice. We’re a little less anemic now, fuller bodied and more rounded out than a few minutes ago.

It’s as though God has plucked us each out of our ordinary lives and said, “Stand here, sing. I need your voice, your particular voice, so give it all you’ve got. The words in this anthem will fall on the ears I intend; ears needing to hear this.”

Life is like a choir (yeah – I know – like a box of chocolates, too) with lots of nuts and chews. Full of people with happys and hurts, quirks and gifts, health and misery and the occasional goofy joke thrown in for good measure. But when we’re all standing there together somehow we’re taken out of ourselves of a Sunday morning, raising our voices, and blessing others with song.

How awesome is that?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, March 8, 2013

In The Mind of a Writer

Okay writers, does this happen to you?

A few days ago I had to get gas, and milk, and a Lotto ticket. I needed the first two and hoped the third was a winner. Ha! Anyway, I got these items at our local Stewarts convenient store. As it happens this particular store still has a pay phone on the wall. After I paid for the gas, milk and winning Lotto ticket, as I headed for the door, it rang.

In that second, and for the next twenty, all kinds of scenarios popped into my head. Was someone’s lover supposed to be standing near that phone, anxiously waiting and heart pounding, to learn whether or not she was free for the weekend? And would her husband, Brutus, remain clueless? Or maybe an FBI agent lurked at the back of the store, by the ice cream, and would  casually stroll over to pick up the phone on the third ring. He'd just listen and then nod at me, "M'am," ducking his head as he sped out the door to jump into a big black car. I'd freeze and clutch my chest hoping like crazy this brave man would survive the day. And then for some reason Lois Lane and Superman came to mind even though no phone booth was involved.

I laughed at  myself as I got into the car and thought of a similar experience from the last time I’d been in that store about ten days before. I needed milk that day, too. And when I asked the young female clerk for a Lotto ticket, she asked me what kind. Since I’m always boggled at the array of games never mind the rolls of scratch offs available, I said, “I’ll take a winning ticket,” and smiled. She did, too.

Then a whole discussion ensued about winning the lottery. I said I’d be happy to win just a million. The clerk said a thousand would be nice. And then the guy who had just purchased some scratch offs and was working away at one of them, piped up. “I’m happy I just won three dollars!”  That’s when the clerk remembered the guy in Kinderhook who’d won a million dollars the week before.

This launched a whole raft of possibilities not only for spending my pot of gold, but the stories that would result because of it. Like - I'd call the guy in Kinderhook and seek his advice. He’d turn out to be ninety years old and very ill. Because we had this Lotto link he’d bequeath the bulk of his fortune to me if I’d make a trip to Russia to find his long lost niece, Granola. He only had six months to live so I’d better step lively. Oh, and his handsome son, Gregor, would be going to Russia with me. Bonus!

Yeah, you writers know what I’m talking about. One ring from a telephone on the wall, a Lotto ticket, a guy named Gregor, and a little free time is all we need to live the good life.

Don’t ya just love it?

P.S. I rarely buy Lotto tickets, but I did have two numbers on that first one. You need three to win a dollar. Sigh.

Image: David Castillo Dominici                                                         Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Afternoon With Anna

She walked down the hall from the nurse's office, came around the corner and met me at the sign in window, face flushed and looking un-happy. Smiling weakly she leaned into me and the secretary made a sympathetic face.

“I hope you feel better, honey,” she said.

Then Anna and I walked to my car. I comforted her with Grandma words about warm blankets, favorite television shows and hot chocolate.

Then she remembered her books, the ones Mom had ordered from the book fair. As soon as we’d shed our coats Anna was on the sofa pulling them out of her backpack. Magic Tree House, a diary with a real lock and keys, a book about the Tooth Fairy. Fun stuff for a girl to look at when she doesn’t feel so good. I found out she hadn’t eaten much lunch so I made her some toast and jam. Went down real easy

My plan for the afternoon had been to make some sticky bun monkey bread and Anna was only too happy to help. It’s a very simple recipe using crescent rolls so we went to town. I popped them into the oven and then we went back into the living room to make some diary entries. Anna mentioned her “awesome Grandma” twice with hardly any prompting from me.

In only ten minutes our monkey bread buns were done and we scooped them out of the muffin tins. While we waited for them to cool Anna began reading Diary of A Wimpy Kid to me. Neither of us knew that this book was supposed to be an Easter basket book for her brother, Sam. He came over later and was delighted to see it. Oh, well. Chocolate bunnies will have to do.

Anna is a very good, and eager, reader. It makes my heart glad to know that she wants to enter the exciting and eye-opening worlds presented in books. So she read, I listened. Then we had some buns with Grandpa.

Finally her mother came to pick her and up. I was pleased that she didn’t want to leave but it was time to head home, get some medicine into the girl and settle for the night.

What a pleasant interlude in an ordinary Grandma day. Feel better Anna – you made my afternoon.

Come back soon. Bring the sun with you.


Friday, March 1, 2013


Aw, March. I refer to it in casual conversation as the "month of hope". Why? Well, the bulk of winter is behind us, the Christmas decorations are tucked away, the sniffles and coughs are abating, and spring is on the horizon. Why do I mention Christmas? Because of Easter which is also not far away. And those two holidays (read Holy Days) define the year for me. And for others, too, I imagine.

But whereas Christmas shows us the new life in a manger so Easter shows us new life everywhere else. And the one makes the other possible. For I see that life, with a capital L, intertwined with another L word, love. Love and life – that’s what spring signals. And it begins in March.

The woods around us are beginning to rustle. Little critters are coming out of hiding. The other day as I waited for my coffee to finish brewing, I noticed movement in the trees. Little birds were flitting about in the bare branches of the tall bushes just outside the back door. They land on the ground, too, and shiver the leaves. They blend in so well and I had to look closely to see them, but they were there. And then a bright red flash bisected the scene when a cardinal landed, bouncing, on a low bush. It made me smile.

Last week, Carl, our youngest son, stood at the kitchen counter next to me. He gazed out the window and said, “Look, a possum.” I turned my head and sure enough, a fat possum was making its way slowly down the hill doing the possum waddle. I’m not fond of possums, but I watched as it sniffed the ground. Then I turned my attention back to my granddaughters. Did they want to see a possum?

“Wow!” Carl said suddenly. “It found something red on the ground, grabbed it and ran like crazy for the trees.”

I told him it was probably a bit of the leftover lobster from my Valentine’s dinner. I’d thrown the shells out for the crows. Now I know that possums like lobster, too.

As I write this the crows and squirrels are duking it out for the bread crumbs, stale crackers and bits of Granny Smith apples I cut up for them just after breakfast this morning. I tromped out there in hubby’s mud boots and tossed it all down. I’d just barely turned to go back into the house when I heard the first, “Caw!” They watch for me, those crows. The first one landed as I closed the back door, stepped out of the boots and put them away.

Yup, spring is on the way. The earth isn’t quite ready to feed us yet so we have to take care with our stores. But we have enough. Life and love have provided for us all these winter months. Soon green things will begin to pop out of the ground, a bright harbinger of what’s coming. Green, the color of life.

Like the Christmas tree, the holly, the soldier moss and the Easter grass. One beautiful unbroken circle of Life and Love.

What does March signal for you?   

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