February 11, 2017

Romance is in the air with free book.....

In honor of Valentine's Day my short story, Dear Anne: Love Letters from Nam is free on Amazon from February 13- 17th. Hope you'll get your free copy. I'd appreciate hearing from you after you read it. Or leave a review on Amazon, which is even better. It actually helps sales. And sales for my books this winter have been almost non existent.  The review can be as little as a sentence or two to let me and other readers know how you liked the story.

Writing is a lonely profession and any feedback is always appreciated. I've been hard at work on finishing the current novel and editing is taking WAY longer than I'd ever planned. That's what happens when one is a perfectionist. Any job takes twice as long because we do a lot of second guessing and downright worrying over every phrase. With this novel, since it's told from several points of view, I've had issues with the time line. At last, I believe I have all those issues ironed out. 

While the weather in Ohio has been fairly mild this winter, I've still had a bit of depression and have to make myself go out on days when the temps are in the teens. However, the weather that's kept me inside has given me the time to work. 

Today it was 60 and a shock to the system. I walked around our neighborhood with a neighbor and enjoyed seeing birds at feeders and bits of green grass. There was even a hint of spring in the air. I know. It's too early. But still I'm thankful for any small indication that warmer weather is just ahead. I love all the colors and smells that come with spring. Grape hyacinths, lilies of the valley, red and yellow tulips. Easter lilies. I'm so ready. How about you. Are you tired of dreary days or are you finding lots of things to keep you busy? Would love to hear from you. Here's to an early spring filled with delightful scents and lots of bright colors.


December 31, 2016

Leather Britches Mother's Way

Happy New Year's everyone! I'm featuring a blog post from 2011. The story of how my mom made Leather Britches or Dried Green Beans. This recipe dates back to pioneer days. My mom learned from her mom,  Dora Warner Casto, who learned from her mom,  Lorene Casto Bailes. I hope you enjoy my essay.

My mother gardened all her life. It was one of her great loves, next to family, God, and country.

Because she grew up during the Depression, she learned to use every last item from her garden for canning, preserving, drying or pickling.

Every year at the end of the green bean season she made leather britches, dried beans that would keep for the winter.

These were the last beans hanging on the vines. The beans inside had grown to full size with outsides a bit withered. They were beyond the stage to can or preserve, or even to pickle.

Although her fried pickled green beans and corn bread were the best in the world. (Well, next to her biscuits and fried apples.)

Mother started the drying process with clean beans. She would spread a clean white sheet on a table in the wash room and spread the beans out on that, giving them space to dry. Sometime she would carry the sheet outside and put them on a table in the sun to further the process.

The next step involved needle and thread and when I was small and saw the needle and thread I wondered if she really was going to make a pair of leather britches out of the beans.

Using a large needle that was threaded with a knot in the end of the thread, she began to thread the dried beans onto the string. She often made five or six strings of beans, several feet long.

She would hang them on the clothesline with clothespins on a sunny day to speed up the drying. Then, she would hurriedly bring them inside if it looked like rain.

Eventually they would hang from the wash room ceiling out of the way and later, completely dried, they would be wrapped in a clean sheet and go into a spot in the closet, where they would wait to be used.

The end result was dry leathery looking beans.

To cook them she would fry a few slices of bacon, then add the beans, water and some salt and pepper.
‘Ole, leather britches.

Leather britches have the most distinct delicious flavor that only beans dried in that way can have.

It’s a taste I have not had since my mother passed away.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever had leather britches?
Is there any other preservation of food that a parent did that you’d like to share? Comments welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Blessings, Barb

November 30, 2016

Pairs at Nationals, by author Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt NOW AVAILABLE. Read first chapter HERE free.

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt about her just released new novel, PAIRS AT NATIONALS, an ice skating story. Perfect for the start of our winter season. Here's Elizabeth.

Product Details


PAIRS AT NATIONALS—Now Available at Special Price!
I’m excited to announce that PAIRS AT NATIONALS, the second book in my Pairs on Ice series, is now out and available on Amazon!  In this book for tweens, Jamie Bartlett, 13, and her partner Matt O’Connor, 15, have just won a gold medal at the sectional competition.  Now they are psyched to win gold at the National Championships.  But then an accident changes everything—and they are forced to train at a new rink with a new coach.  With skating as the backdrop, this book lets the tween reader (and older one, too) feel the struggles of training, the thrill of competition, the pain of bullying, and the power of family and friends.

For the next ten days you can download the Kindle book for only $.99.  So now is the time to buy.  You’ll not only have a fun book to read or give to your favorite tween, but you’ll help me achieve a higher ranking on Amazon.  Why does this matter?  Because Amazon gives more attention to books with high rankings—and that’s especially important to indie authors (like me) who don’t have a big publishing house behind them.  I just learned, for example, that once a book receives fifty reviews, Amazon will actually promote it.  So . . . if you decide to download Pairs at Nationals and enjoy it, I’d appreciate a review.  It doesn’t have to be long—just a few sentence is fine.

To find Pairs at Nationals on Amazon, click on the address.  Thanks!

Here’s the first chapter.

Chapter 1

Jamie counted to the music as she circled the rink. Five . . . six . . . seven . . . At eight, she tightened her muscles and leapt. One, two, three rotations, then a smooth landing as her right blade touched the ice in a flowing glide. A perfect triple Salchow! Even better, she could see Matt coming out of the jump in perfect sync with her. They were awesome!
            She skated over to Matt for a high five. It was hard to believe that when they started skating together last year, they couldn’t stand each other. Now he was her best friend—or second best. No one could replace Nicole. She had been Jamie’s best friend since their first time on the ice when they were six years old. Jamie looked across the ice. Nicole gave her a thumbs up before setting up for her own triple Salchow.
            “So, what do you think we should do next?” Matt asked. But he wasn’t looking at Jamie. His eyes swept the rink.
            Jamie’s eyes followed his. “Where is he?” she muttered. Cam was almost an hour late—and he was never late, not once in the whole year and a half he had been their coach.
            “Got me,” Matt said, as if she expected an answer.
            Jamie scanned the rink again, hoping she had somehow missed Cam. But no, all she saw was a kaleidoscope of skaters jumping, twirling and gliding over the ice. Cam wasn’t anywhere to be seen . . . but . . . what was her father doing here? He was standing by the bleachers talking with Bob, the rink manager. They both looked serious.
            Her dad glanced up and his eyes met Jamie’s. He waved her over. “Get Matt, too,” he called as she started skating toward him.
            She turned, but Matt was right behind her. They stepped off the ice. “What’s up?” Jamie asked. She grabbed her skate guards from the shelf around the rink.
            Her father touched her arm. “Let’s go sit in the bleachers. I’m afraid I have bad news.” He turned to include Matt. “There’s been an accident. Cam’s in the hospital. They took him to surgery as soon as he got to the ER.”
            Jamie stopped so suddenly Matt bumped into her. “What do you mean? He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?”
            Dad waited until they were seated before answering. “I don’t know. He was unconscious when they brought him in. The only reason Bob knows anything is because one of the skaters’ moms—Ashley’s, I think—works there. She called to tell him.”
            “He has to be okay.” Matt blurted out what Jamie thought. “We’ve got Nationals in two months!”
            They had almost missed gold at the Midwestern Sectional Championships last week when Jamie stumbled coming out of the twist lift. Luckily, their biggest rivals, Sarah and Sean, fell on a throw jump, which gave Jamie and Matt first place. But they couldn’t count on that happening at Nationals. They needed Cam. They had to nail that lift.
            Jamie’s father gave Matt a weak smile. “Cam may have bigger problems than Nationals.”
            Jamie flinched. It was hard to imagine Cam lying still on an operating table. Not Cam, who was constantly moving. He was more than their coach. He was like a favorite uncle, always encouraging them to be their best, on and off the ice. His thick blond hair, red Olympic jacket, and soft folksy accent were a calming machine telling them they’d be fine. Tears filled her eyes. She sat stone still. So did Matt, cracking his knuckles, a sure sign that he was upset.
            The rink’s announcer cut into her thoughts. “Skaters may now take the ice for the next session.” Everyone poured through the opening to the rink. She and Matt should be out there, too, having another lesson with Cam.
            Jamie stood and grabbed Matt’s arm. She couldn’t just sit there. She had to be on the ice, just like she had to believe Cam would be back in a week.
            “Come on, Matt,” she said. “Let’s get out there. Cam’d be really mad if we slacked off because he wasn’t here for a few lessons.”
            Matt looked at her as if she had two heads. “A few lessons? Didn’t you hear your dad?”
            “I know, but Dad’s not sure of anything. Besides, I need to be on the ice.”
            Matt stared at the skaters whirling and gliding in the rink. He shrugged. “Okay,” he said, “let’s do it.”
            He took her hand as they charged onto the ice. Jamie breathed deeply, taking in its clean, cold smell. They glided into the familiar Killian position––Matt’s right arm around her waist with her right hand over his, their left hands joined in front of his body.
            Her stomach slowly unknotted, calmed by the scrape of her blades and the steady rhythm of their strokes. What a difference from the first time they skated together. She remembered how their skates had tangled, causing a fall and a major battle about whose fault it was. Today, they moved as one person, expertly weaving in and out of the other skaters.
            “We better warm up again before we start on our lifts,” said Matt.
            Jamie nodded and they dropped hands. She got into position for the easy Salchow, doing a double jump with ease. She worked through to the more difficult Lutz, where she tapped the ice before leaping, and landed in a perfect glide.
            As she turned to skate forward, Nicole appeared. Her red practice dress looked bright and cheerful next to Jamie’s black skirt and top. “What’s going on with your dad? You guys looked so serious I was afraid to interrupt. And where’s Cam? I thought you had lessons today.”
            The high Jamie felt on landing her jumps faded away. The knots came back to her stomach. “We did, but––oh my God, Nicole––Cam’s been in a car accident, and he’s in surgery right now. We don’t know what’s going on.”
            Nicole’s blue eyes widened. “But Nationals are coming!” Nicole skated junior singles and had placed first at Sectionals. Nationals were on her mind, too.
            “I know. That’s the first thing I thought. Matt, too. Now I feel guilty thinking about us and not Cam.”
            “Maybe it’s not so bad,” Nicole offered. “Maybe he’ll be all right.”
            “That’s what I keep telling myself, but what if we’re wrong . . .” Jamie’s eyes filled again as two skaters in her class, Ashley and Megan, joined them. Ashley touched Jamie’s arm. “Sorry to hear about Cam,” she said. “My mom sent me a text.”
            Megan nodded. “Me, too.” She really did look sorry. Megan was a lot nicer to Jamie now that Jamie skated pairs and didn’t compete against her anymore.
            “Thanks,” Jamie said. She guessed the rink’s rumor mill was whirling with the news.
            She and her friends skated together silently, then one by one, they went back to practicing. “See you later,” Jamie called as Nicole glided away.
            Matt took her place. “You’re the one who wanted to practice,” he said, “so let’s do it.”
            “Okay.” Jamie wanted to keep some sense of things being normal. “We should start with the platter. I know I can do it.” She loved that lift, but it had been so hard when she started pairs. There was something terrifying about being six feet off the ground. Now she could spring into the air, confident that Matt would hold her.
            Side by side, they skated once around the rink before Matt turned to skate backwards. “When I count to four,” Jamie said. She counted off to the music, then Matt put his hands on her waist. Two more counts and she jumped as he lifted, until she was in the air, back arched, arms out as if she were going to do a swan dive. Matt turned again to skate forward. A few more beats and she came down, landing so smoothly she hardly felt her blades meet the ice.
            “Yes!” said Matt, pumping his fist in the air.
            Jamie grinned, but her grin disappeared when Matt said, “How about the twist lift?” That was where she had stumbled at Sectionals.
            She shrugged. “Okay. Maybe I can get it together today.”
            They started skating, Jamie close behind Matt. When they turned to skate backwards, Matt placed his hands on Jamie’s waist as she put hers on his wrists. After two beats of the music, Jamie tapped the ice with her toe-pick and leaped. At the same time, Matt lifted and threw her into the air. She drew in her legs and arms as she whirled around––once, twice. She struggled to complete the second turn, but her blades met the ice a moment too soon. She stumbled into Matt as she tried to control her landing. Only Matt’s hands on her waist kept her from falling. She stomped her foot. This was just like Sectionals.  Would they ever get this lift?
            The music stopped and Jamie heard, “This session is now over. Will skaters please clear the ice.”
            “What the heck’s the matter with you?” Matt snarled, as they skated to the exit. “How hard can it be to make two stupid turns?”
            “You try coming down clean every time, you’re so great.”
            “I sure wouldn’t stumble like some kid who’s never skated before.” He practically shouted the words.
            Jamie’s face flushed. “Oh yeah, maybe I wouldn’t either if you’d lift a little . . .”
            She stopped when she saw her dad talking with Bob again. Maybe he had more news about Cam. That was more important than fighting with Matt, even if he could be so full of himself sometimes.
            They stepped off the ice, still not looking at each other. But when Jamie’s dad walked toward them, his face grave and shaken, Jamie took Matt’s arm. She was over the stumbled landing.
            “Cam’s wife just called,” Dad said before either of them could speak. “She said to cancel all of Cam’s lessons.”
            “For how long?” Jamie asked.
            When her dad didn’t answer, her heart began to race. “He’s not dead, is he?”
            “No, but he was hit hard. She said the other car ran a red light and smacked right into him. The impact broke his hip and shattered his femur––that’s the thigh bone. He won’t be walking for a long time. And . . .”
            “Yeah, but he can get better,” Matt said. “Maybe he can come to the rink in a wheel chair.”
            “I don’t think so.” Jamie’s dad reached out to touch Matt’s shoulder. “You didn’t let me finish. Cam also has a bad head injury. He’s not waking up. They think he’s slipped into a coma, and they can’t predict when he’ll come out of it. The longer it lasts . . .”
            His voice trailed off as he pulled the two of them into an embrace. “I’m so sorry,” he said, holding them tight. Jamie tried to imagine skating without Cam, but the image wouldn’t come. Tears filled her eyes.
            Matt pulled away, eyes glistening. “I gotta go.” He grabbed his skate guards and stopped only long enough to put them over his blades. Then he practically ran to the locker room.
Jamie didn’t care who saw her. Her dad’s arm still around her, she sobbed into his shoulder. Cam was gone. Maybe he was never coming back. How could they skate without him? And if they couldn’t skate, what would happen to their Olympic dream?

November 13, 2016

Romance paperback now available - wrapping up those small holiday gifts....

NEW romance paperback makes a sweet gift for the reader in your life.

The publication of my paperback Dear Ann: Love Letters from Nam, which is a short story, is finally HERE. So happy. Just click the link below to go to Amazon and check it out. The story is told in letters between a young soldier in war-torn Vietnam and his bride back home in West Virginia. Priced at $5.99. I put a lot of hard work and considerable research into this story. It is a part of a much larger work - which may take the rest of my lifetime to finish or I may never. Thus, here's a portion of the story I still love! The letters make a good stand-alone story. I hope you'll enjoy reading it. If at all possible, please leave a review on Amazon. This paperback exists because of the many requests I had to turn this story into a tangible book. Dear Anne is filled with romance, and the emotion and angst that comes with war-time romance. Leaving a loved one behind to go fight in a war in a far away strange land brings the two closer together. You'll get to know the terrain, the unrest, and the heartbreak that consumes nearly every waking hour of this young soldier's life.

This little book could be the right gift for that reader on your holiday list! 



Now to my love of gift wrapping!

Do you like to experiment with gift wrapping? I do. Especially when it's a small gift like the book above. Take plain brown or white paper and have fun with items such as initials, artificial flowers and greenery. I often combine lace and shiny ribbon  to match the occasion and put the two, add a few berries or greenery and you have an elegantly wrapped present. I'd love to hear your own ideas and how you do or don't wrap gifts. Nothing makes me happier than buying inexpensive ribbons and ornaments, or decorations throughout the year to put on my gift packages. I'm looking forward to the upcoming holiday season so I can once again have fun wrapping up the small gifts I buy. Buying small gifts doesn't mean you have to scrimp on the wrappings or that the wrappings and ornaments have to be expensive. You can make them elegant and lovely regardless of what you've spent. Below are some of my favorite gift wrapping ideas. I love to use buttons. I have a large collection and though I don't give away the ones I love I have many more to choose from. Craft stores are great places to score gift ideas and decorations to add to your gift wrapping supply box. Oh a good pair of scissors and a supply of clear tape help too.

Have fun during the coming holiday weeks. Barb

Me shopping in Cincinnati at the Christmas Market 2016 at Duke Energy Center with two of my favorite girls,
Mackenzie and Jillian. This market was simply amazing.

September 24, 2016

Fifties Music Cure for What Ails you

This is a blog I've revised from 2010. It's very relevant today. I've been on a search for 50s music, the music that I grew up to.

Recently I've ordered cd's and have had a great time listening to and dancing to the music. Remember Billy Joe Royal? Fats Domino? Sam Cooke? Well I remember them all and the words to their songs.
What songs did you grow up to? I'm always looking for new music to listen to. I'd love to have your suggestions, not just from the 50's but during the time you grew up. What strikes your fancy? What songs did you fall in love to?

I shop at one of those stores where you can buy everything from groceries, to the latest movie, to tires for the car.

I passed one of those machines that plays music. The ones where you punch the song you want to hear and it takes off. Mostly the machines offer Celtic tunes, or peaceful songs to lull one to sleep. Not this one. It had some great selections.

My choice was SODA SHOP CLASSICS and when it started playing, I was whisked back to the late fifties right there in the music/candles aisle of the super store. Back to when I was 12 or 13, just at the age when all of life seemed impossibly tragic and out of my reach.

WHY MUST I BE A TEEN AGER IN LOVE by Dion & The Belmonts sent chills up my spine because I remembered singing that to the Ricky Nelson and Elvis posters on my wall when my first boyfriend shunned me, pretend mike in my hand as I sprawled on my twin bed with the blond headboard. (Remember blond wood???)

Next came The Beach Boys singing, "Ba Ba Ba, Ba Ba Ba-A-RAN, Oh, BARBARA ANN," my own name. I sang along with the boys as I twirled around the room in my skirt with a dozen starched crinolines underneath, my blond pony tail bobbing against my shoulders. The ribbon from the pony tail flying around my head as I flew across the room.

Oh those were the days. And those were the songs that made my heart beat faster. Still make my heart beat faster.

Since I bought the cd's, I can whisk myself back to the fifties whenever I want with a turn of the knob on my cd player.

Blessings to you all and here's to you finding what makes your heart beat faster.

Please share the music you love with me. Thanks.

September 7, 2016

Robert Frost Poems that I love.....

Gathering Leaves

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree 
Toward heaven still. 
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill 
Beside it, and there may be two or three 
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough. 
But I am done with apple-picking now. 
Essence of winter sleep is on the night, 
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off. 
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight 
I got from looking through a pane of glass 
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough, 
And held against the world of hoary grass. 
It melted, and I let it fall and break. 
But I was well 
Upon my way to sleep before it fell, 
And I could tell 
What form my dreaming was about to take. 
Magnified apples appear and reappear, 
Stem end and blossom end, 
And every fleck of russet showing clear. 
My instep arch not only keeps the ache, 
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. 
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin 
That rumbling sound 
Of load on load of apples coming in. 
For I have had too much 
Of apple-picking; I am overtired 
Of the great harvest I myself desired. 
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall, 
For all 
That struck the earth, 
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble, 
Went surely to the cider-apple heap 
As of no worth. 
One can see what will trouble 
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. 
Were he not gone, 
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his 
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, 
Or just some human sleep. 

August 22, 2016

Happy Birthday!

 Sisters and Friends Forever!

Donna Sue and Bobbie
My birthday gift of a poem to her a few years ago

Today my sister Donna Sue Null Hoffman would be 77 years old. Three years without her has left a hole in my days. She called every day to check on me. She was like a second mother when we moved from our childhood home, I was five and she was eleven, and my mom remarried and worked full time. She took me under her wing and continued looking out for me until the day she died. One of the last things she told me when she was very ill in the hospital just before her death was she needed to take me shopping at Beall's (FL) and buy me clothes. She'd learned that I had bought some clothes at a local thrift store. (I love thrift stores. Her - not so much.) I asked her then what Beall's had that she liked so much. She said, "Pretty things." I asked her how she intended to get us to Beall's since she was in the hospital. She'll said I'll call a cab. I was surprised that she didn't say my father will take us. At the end she called my brother in law, Brownie, father. He was her second skin and gave her the very best all her life. His kindness extended to me as well and continues to extend to me. I know my Susie is in Heaven with mother and daddy and our siblings. Some day my earthly ache will be gone. RIP dear Sue. We'll meet again.

Brownie, Sue, and Bobbie Ann

James "Brownie" Hoffman, Donna Sue Null Hoffman

Donna’s Birthday Poem Oh, Donna Dear, your Birthday's here, Whatever shall I do? Dance without shoes? Sing you the Blues? But, ugh, those reviews! You're near to my heart, Sister. You gave me my start. So here's a poem-present and I hope your day's pleasant. I'll start with, “I love you,” but, will that do, For a sister who loaned me her white buck shoes, And her very last bottle of Halo Shampoo? You danced and twirled and my straight hair you curled. A black-eyed beauty, you took serious this sister-duty, While I spent my days in a summer haze You walked us through that sister-maze. Can you remember the smell of that sweet clover? "Red Rover, Red Rover, Send my sister, Donna, on over!" Oh, to spend one more day of my youth with you. We'd even invite cousin Anna and cousin Sue. For old times sake, fudge and popcorn we'd make. And, to the Boogie Man an iron skillet I'd take! Maybe we'll never make it to the moon, But can you come over real ... uh, ... how do you spell SOON? In memory of my aggravating ways And our letter-writing days. I love you still. I always will. Your Little Sister, Bobbie

When we were kids, we wrote letters to my sister Ella who was in London with her husband Paul who was in the Air Force. I couldn't spell and I drove Sue nuts asking her every few minutes how to spell something. Like D-E-A-R E-L-L-A. She threatened to quit writing altogeher if I was't quiet. I NEVER was. She loved me anyway.

Happy Birthday, Susie.

Sue, my granddaughter Mackenzie, Brownie

Special Family Members who share Sue's Birthday
Our Beloved Sister In Law, Eunice, RIP Eunice
Our Beloved cousin, Dencil, RIP Dencil
Niece Tracey. Happy Birthday, dear sweet Tracey - have a
great one!