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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Sky is Black as the Coal Beneath Our Mountains

The sky is as black as the coal beneath our mountains.

Stormy weather is coming through this morning, with watches and warnings all around us.

This makes me think of my mother. She was always afraid of storms. When bad weather approached, she paced  and kept a constant watch out the windows, even though there was nothing she could do to prevent what was coming. She once told me my Uncle Gordon was afraid of storms, too. She'd see him walking up the coal bank road before a storm and tell me he was going to go into the mines to get away from the weather.

When we lived up the holler, flooding was a constant threat to the houses that were built along the creek. After a big rain everyone walked up and down the road to look at the flood waters. We didn't live along the main creek, so we weren't worried about floodwater coming into our house, but we did have small coal mines on the hill behind our house. One time, it was either 1960 or 1961 when the big flood came through Kanawha County, the land slipped behind our house and we had to move out. I was just a young child and I remember Daddy waking me up in the middle of the night and telling me we had to get out. We lived with Grandma while we built another small house on the hill behind her. There were no coal mines behind this house.

The wind always scared me. After I finished high school, Mom, Dad and I left the holler and moved into the second story of an old house on the West Side of Charleston. My bedroom was a tiny room on the corner and you had to go through the bathroom to get to it. When the wind howled, it shook and I thought my little room was going to go with the wind.

During our first two years of marriage, we lived on the second floor of an apartment complex in Ripley, called Viking Village. I was around 6 months pregnant with our first child and Charley was on midnight shift. Waters came up during the night and covered the main road through town. Charley couldn't get home, we were flooded in on both sides. The waters kept rising and flowed into the downstairs apartments. People were leaving and I didn't know what to do. A strong neighbor piggy backed me through the deep water to the back of the apartments onto one of the back avenues that had not flooded. Charley was able to get on one of the back streets and retrieve me. I laugh when I think back to that early morning rescue.

Now, my family and I live on a little knoll and we get the brunt of the weather. Many trees have been blown down in our little subdivision during storms. Once, when my sons were young, we were watching out the front door while my husband (who can't stand storms) was outside. All at once we saw our plum tree blowing across our yard and my husband chasing after it (as if he was Superman and was going prevent what was happening).  Andrew screamed, "Mommy, daddy's blowing away!"
 
Well, as always, my husband is outside and I am inside, looking out. While I typed this post, the storm roared outside and the wind whipped ferociously.  I think all is well, though I haven't went outside to inspect the area. . . yet.

The weather is now calm and the sky has changed from a coal black to a mousy gray.

Are you afraid of storms? Do you have any storm tales to tell from your past?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mmmm...Whole Wheat Cookies recipe

This is a new recipe I tried today. I have to admit, I wasn't sure how good they were going to be. I had never made whole wheat cookies before.

Well, they were delicious! Very, very good. They are kind of a light cookie, not real sweet. Here is the nutrition info for each cookie. (Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies) I only lacked 2 cookies from making 2 1/2 dozen,  so the nutrition info would be pretty close for my cookies.


Per cookie:
59 calories  Carbs 10gm  Fat 2gm  Protein 1gm  Sodium 67mg  Fiber 1gm

BASIC WHOLE WHEAT COOKIES

Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

Ingredients
2 T  canola oil
2 T soft margarine
3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 t vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon

sugar/cinnamon mixture

Directions:
Cream oil, margarine and 3/4 cup sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add applesauce, egg whites and vanilla to the margarine mixture and beat until smooth.
Stir flour,  baking soda, baking powder, salt, 1/8 t nutmeg and 1/2 t cinnamon together in a bowl. Gradually add to wet ingredients, mixing  after each addition. Drop by rounded teaspoonfulls onto prepared cookie sheet.    (I hand-stirred everything, I did not use a mixer)
Take sugar/cinnamon mixture and sprinkle on the dropped cookie dough. Bake 8 - 12 minutes in preheated oven until lightly brown. Watch carefully and do not over bake them. (I baked mine for 12 minutes)

I also added 1/2 cup of black walnuts...yummy!

I hope you try these, they are so good. My husband is on an antibiotic, so he can't drink milk for a while,  so we fixed us a cup of decaf coffee to share and sipped on it while eating the cookies.

You could add other ingredients to this recipe, such as raisins, chocolate chips and such. I added the nuts, because I love nuts!


Mixing together the oil, margarine and sugar






 

Adding applesauce, egg whites and vanilla


The whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon
 I remembered to use my vintage green bowls. I think they are so pretty.


The dry and wet ingredients combined and black walnuts added.


On my well used baking stone, ready to go in the oven


Ready to eat with our cup of coffee


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Writing Humor

What genre do you write in? As most of you know, I write picture books and middle grade novels. I  also write articles, poetry and short stories. 

I have always wanted to write humor. I did put a little humor in my middle grade novel, The Family Treasure. I think it made it much better. Children love reading funny stories and I can't blame  them, so do I. Laughter, just like a smile, is contagious. Nothing makes you feel better than to see a smile on someone's face as they read a funny line or poem you have written.

I've noticed that bloggers who write humorous posts have lots of followers and lots of comments. When you have had  a bad day,  it is  nice to sit  down  and  read something  funny. It makes you forget your cares and worries for a few minutes.

I loved Erma Bombeck and would love to write like she did. I have one of her books titled,  "When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time To Go Home." Well, I've never had a passport before, but if the photo on it looks anything  like your driver's  license photo, I totally understand.


In case you are interested, I found a site on the internet that gives Humor Writing Tips.  

Do you write humor? Do you have any tips for writing humor? Do you think anyone can do it or is it a gift?

I leave you with a few funny quotes from Erma Bombeck:

"Once you get a spice in your home,  you have it forever. Women never throw out  spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go."

"My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint."

"Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time."

"The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again."

"Youngsters of the age of two and three are endowed with extraordinary strength. They can lift a dog twice their own weight and dump him into the bathtub."

Happy Writing!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Dessert - Poor Man's Pecan Pie

Charley loves pecan pie. Since he is retired now, I decided to make a poor man's pecan pie for our Sunday dessert.

Here he is with a slice of the finished product.




It is an old recipe. My mom used to make it. Here is the recipe she had cut out of the newspaper long ago.




You can click on the picture to enlarge it, but in case you can't read it very good, I've typed it below.

POOR MAN'S PECAN PIE

1/2 cup grape nuts
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie shell

Soak grape nuts in 1/2 cup warm  water until water is absorbed. Combine sugar,  corn syrup, butter and salt in pan. Bring to a boil quickly, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Beat eggs until foamy. Add small amount of hot syrup mixture to eggs, beating well. Add the remaining amount of hot syrup mixture,  mixing well. Stir in softened grape nuts and vanilla. Pour into pastry-lined pan.

Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Here it is before putting it in the oven.




Let cool  before cutting your first piece.




This is the first time I ever made it. I was afraid it was not going to come out okay. But, it did! And, it does taste like pecan pie. . . without the crunchy pecans, that is.

Have you ever made this pie before?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Pesky Words



To some writers editing is a dreaded part of writing, others look forward to it.


I like editing, because that is when I attempt to make  my so-so manuscript into a better story.

I am not very good with grammar. I sometimes have a tendency to write the way I talk.

One aid to editing I use a lot is the find button. It is very helpful in locating those troublesome overused words.

When my manuscript is complete. I click on the find button and search for those troublesome words.

                                     

down and up - If the verb implies down or up, "down" and "up" are unnecessary words.
example: "He stood up," should be "He stood."

out - If the verb implies out, "out" is unnecessary.
example: "The cloth was spread out over the table," should be "The cloth was spread over the table."

began and started -
example: "He lifted his pencil and started to write," should be "He lifted his pencil and wrote."

to the  and to be often causes wordiness.
example: "He gave her the key to the house," should be "He gave her the house key."

suddenly is seldom needed.
example: "Suddenly the bull lurched forward," should be "The bull lurched forward."

could and would
example:  change "He could see her" to "He saw her."

that is a word we all overuse. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it is not. Try the sentence without it and see if it means the same.

just is another word we all overuse.

was and other linking verbs. Try using a stronger action verb.


Since I started writing, I catch myself editing everything I read. It drives me crazy.

I have a tendency to use that and just a lot. Another word I use a lot is it. Instead of stating what I am talking about, I say it. I have been told this is not always a good thing.

What word or words do you overuse?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bald Eagles!

Saturday we went down to the Nature Center on the park and talked to Naturalist, Jim Philips. We have known Jim since the late 1970s, when we started visiting the park. He was talking about the bald eagles down at the Bluestone Dam area.

Well, we just had to go see for ourselves! We weren't disappointed. I just wish we had a camera with a bigger zoom lens on it.

The sun shone bright, but the cold wind just about did us in. We went down to the shore line of the water and the wind was something fierce. But, it didn't keep us from staying and watching for the eagles.

It didn't take long before I saw one swoop down on the water and grab a fish with his talons. This picture shows you how far away we were. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you can see the eagle a lot better. Our camera has a 200 mm zoom  lens on it.



Here is a close up of him flying away with the fish in his talons. Looks like he's looking down at the fish to check out his meal. Click to enlarge it and you will get a real good look at him. Isn't the blue water pretty?


Here he is again. Up, up and away.


These bald eagles were juveniles. They do not get their characteristic white head and tail until they are around 4 to 5 years old.


We were so excited. We took many pictures of them soaring through the air. This is the first time I ever got the chance to take pictures of bald eagles. We also drove down the road to the dam where I was able to take pictures of a couple more eagles. There favorite food is fish and there is a large supply of those in the lake behind the Bluestone Dam.

If you ever go to the Bluestone Dam, look for the bald eagles. You will not be disappointed!

I took my camera  back to the Nature Center and showed Jim the pictures. He confirmed that they were indeed bald eagles. While we were there, I captured this cute little critter with my camera.


Isn't he just the cutest thing you ever laid your eyes on? I think if his cheeks were any fuller they would burst!





Hope you enjoyed looking at the bald eagles as much as I did.
Have you ever had the excitement of seeing eagles in the wild?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Traveling West Virginia - Hawks Nest State Park & New River Gorge Bridge

We stopped at Hawks Nest State Park, which is situated along the winding, mountainous road of Rt. 60. A lot of this park was built by CCC workers. There is a golf course, a tramway to the river below, a lodge and many other activities here. The only place we ever visit is the lookout, the gift shop and this neat building. . .



Wouldn't you just love to have an out house that looked like this? 


I am at the outlook pointing to the view below.




Here is another view.




We also drove over the New River Gorge Bridge.

Here is one of the views from the boardwalk going down the side of the hill. It looks very similar to the view from the lookout at Hawk's Nest.




Trees jutted out from the rocky cliffs




The bright sun prevented me from getting very many good pictures. However, here is one I got of the majestic bridge from the boardwalk.



I love this bridge. It is so beautiful! And the view is gorgeous!

I am sure many of you have been to Hawk's Nest State Park and the New River Gorge Bridge before, but if you haven't, I hope you enjoyed my pictures. And, I hope you get to visit there some day.

Tomorrow I will show you a picture of something that I have never taken a picture of before.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Traveling West Virginia - Cathedral Falls

You can't drive the Midland Trail without stopping and taking snapshots of Cathedral Falls. I have heard that the locals sometimes call it "The Washing Machine."

Charley worded it a different way, he said "we're taking pictures of the hard water in Fayette County."

Before we reached the falls, I took a picture of the Three Crosses out in the middle of the river. Last year, I posted here about these crosses. Every time I see them, I take a picture.


The falls are beautiful whether you see them in the summer or in the winter. I have taken many pictures of them during the summer, however this is the first time I have taken a picture of them in the winter.

We had to hop scotch across the ice and rocks to get close to the falls. It's not often Charley moves this fast, so I just had to take a picture.

Aren't they beautiful?




I also took a few close ups. . .


A parting shot. . .

Now you know why we took the scenic route. More pictures later.


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Little Get a Way

We are leaving today for a little get a way. We will be back on Sunday.

We are taking the long way around or what you would call the scenic route to one of my favorite places.. .
Pipestem State Park for a two day stay.

I absolutely hate going on the West Virginia Turnpike. It makes me a nervous wreck. So my husband said we could take the scenic route this time.

Going out of Charleston we will start out on Rt. 60 (Midland Trail). On their site it says, 'listen closely, and you will hear the echoes of the past. The footfalls of hooves. The creaks of wagon wheels. Feet marching cadence to the drumbeat of war. Steam whistles and chugs of locomotives. Great herds of buffalo beat this east-west path across the Appalachians. Shawnee dragged captive Mary Draper Ingles across parts of it. George Washington and Andrew Lewis first surveyed and owned it. Daniel Boone hiked across parts of it. . . It is the scene of over 200 years of exploration, conquest, and American industrial history.'



We will drive the curvy mountain roads that pass Hawks Nest State Park. We will drive over the New River Gorge Bridge. We will drive down the winding mountain road into Hinton. Then, we will drive along the Bluestone past the Bluestone Dam to the Park. 


Now, doesn't that sound much better than driving the West Virginia Turnpike to get there.


We went to  Pipestem State Park on our honeymoon in 1978  and have been visiting there ever since. We love it. We went there last year in January and a blizzard came our first night there. Our car never left the parking lot until we came home. That was a first for us. You can go here and see the different posts I have did on the park.


I promise to take plenty of pictures. I will be back on Sunday and visit all of your blogs.
Hope everyone has a nice weekend.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writing Wednesday

Where do you get your inspiration to write what you write?

They say to write what you know, which is a good suggestion.
Some people live a very interesting life and get ideas from their experiences.

If I did that, my stories would be very boring. So, what I did for one of my stories was to write about what I wished would have happened to me when I was young. In my opinion, it is one of my best stories I have written. That story, The Family Secret, is the one that I am now trying so hard to get published.

Another favorite method, especially in children's stories, is the what if method.

What if the scarecrow attracted the crows instead of scaring them away.
What if you discovered the house next door to you was haunted.
What if you had a dinosaur as your class mascot.
What if someone had a pet skunk and brought it to school for Show and Tell.

If you use your imagination, good stories can develop from those what if situations. 

Some people get ideas from reading the newspaper.

Another challenge would be to pick up a book that you have been reading and take the first line of it and start your own story. That is where I got my idea for Lucy of Tupper's Hollow. The book next to me was Christy, by Catherine Marshall. I love, love, love that book! I first read it in Junior High School and have read it many times since. It takes place in the early 1900s,  which happens to be the time period my grandparents lived in. I fictionalized my grandparents early years of marriage. I took facts from their life and wove them into a fictional  story. Of course, if this story ever gets into print, I do not know how my family members will react to it. They just have to remember that it is fiction.

Over at Clara Gillow Clark's site, she posted about a book that was inspired from a photo. If you like historical fiction, go over and check it out.

Also, Joanne at Whole Latte Life uses pictures to inspire her blog posts. I have been inspired by her and have started using pictures, too, for inspiration. It really works!  Pictures are very helpful. A few posts back, I wrote a poem that was inspired by a photo of an old barn.

What has inspired your stories to come to life?

If you are not a writer, but would like to become one, I hope some of these ideas will inspire you.

Happy writing!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

'WHOP' Donuts

I bet you're wondering what 'WHOP' Donuts are.

They are the donuts you make with canned biscuits. You know. . .  the biscuits you 'whop' on the side of the counter top to open.

Mom made these when we were kids.

You can top them with a cinnamon sugar mixture,  confectioners sugar or a glaze.

Mix one cup of confectioners sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 3 T of milk to make the glaze.





Next, put oil in the skillet. You can use a small skillet, that way you don't have to use so much oil. The oil only needs to be an inch or less deep in the skillet.




Whop your can of biscuits to open it up and put them down on a flat surface. I flattened mine out a little with a rolling pin. Take the middle out of your biscuit cutter and punch out a hole in the middle of the biscuit. If you don't have one of these, you can use a bottle cap or anything else you have that is the size of a donut hole.


Put them in the hot oil. Be careful and be quick! They only take what seems like a few seconds to turn golden brown underneath. Quickly flip them over with a fork or tongs and let them turn golden brown on the other side. Take them out of the skillet.






Do this with the holes and the donuts.



Now comes the fun  part. Use your imagination and top them with whatever you have a taste for. You can dip them in the glaze or sprinkle both sides with a cinnamon/sugar mixture or confectioners sugar.







I must admit, I like the cinnamon/sugar and confectioners sugar topping the best.










Aren't they pretty? Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February Blahs

Hi Everyone, I thought I would post my Two-Lane Livin' February article today. My article, titled February Blahs, is in their print issue this month. (We have all rights to our articles, so I am allowed to do this).

Remember my articles are written for children. It may give you ideas on how to keep your children entertained during this snowy, dreary month.

February Blahs!
 Janet F. Smart

Why couldn't the pirates play cards?
            Because the captain was standing on the deck.

February is National Blah Buster Month!

It is easy to get the blahs on a weekend in February. It is cold and snowy outside and you are stuck in the house with nothing to do. Instead of watching the same television shows and playing the same video and computer games, try these seven ways to beat the blahs:

1. Grab your favorite book from the shelf and start reading. Imagine yourself as your favorite character in the story.  

2. Turn on your favorite music and dance.

3. Create a secret code that you and your friends can write with to each other.

4. Play a game of Simon Says. You are Simon and give the commands, such as, hop on one foot, clap your hands, sit down, stand up, etc. However, if you do not say “Simon Says” first and they do it, they are out of the game.

5. Hide something in your house and draw a treasure map to it. Give the map to your brother or sister and see if they can find the hidden treasure.

6. Stand in front of your window and observe what is going on outside. Write a poem about what you see. Better yet, pretend you are your school newspaper reporter and write an article about what is happening outside your window. Here is an example of what I might see outside my kitchen window:

The red cardinal swooshed by.
In hot pursuit, the neighbor’s cat chased him.
The bird squawked, the cat meowed,
and the dog ran barking behind them. 

7. Write a tongue twister using your name as the first word. Make three columns on your paper: one for adjectives, one for nouns and one for verbs. List words in each column that all start with the same letter as your first name. Pick words from your lists to write your tongue twister. To make it more interesting, draw a picture at the top of the page to go with your tongue twister.
Here is a tongue twister I made up using my name:

Jittery Janet jiggled a jar of juicy jelly.
A jar of juicy jelly, Jittery Janet jiggled.
If Jittery Janet jiggled a jar of juice jelly,
Where is the jar of juicy jelly Jittery Janet jiggled?

Share your list of Blah Busters with your friends. Read your poems, tongue twisters and stories to each other over the phone.

February 14th   is Valentine’s Day.  Draw hearts on pink and red construction paper. Make up your own sayings and print them on the hearts with crayons or colored pencils. Cut the hearts out, punch a hole in each one, string yarn through the hole and hang them in your windows for decoration.

Here are some fun games you can play with those conversation candy hearts with sayings printed on them.
Stand around the kitchen table and see how many you can stack on top of each other. The person with the highest candy heart tower wins.

Place a pint-canning jar in the middle of the table. Take turns tossing the candy hearts into the jar. The person who gets the most hearts in the jar wins.

Have fun and I hope your February is not blah.

I hope you enjoyed my article. I love writing for kids. Maybe you and your kids can try out some of the activities I listed.
If you want to read some of my other articles, click on this Two-Lane Livin' link, it takes you directly to my list of past articles. I have lots of activities, poems, stories and kid friendly recipes in my posts.
I was Jittery Janet, if you wrote a tongue twister, what adjective would you choose to describe yourself?



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WRITING WEDNESDAY IV

Writing stories is kind of like quilting. We piece together our story much like we piece together a quilt.
The blending together of different patches of cloth creates the quilt and the blending together of the characters, the setting and the story creates the manuscript.




We need to hook our reader. We need to open with a great sentence or paragraph to grab their attention.




The middle needs to keep the reader interested. It needs to be able to keep the reader turning the pages to see what happens next. Each chapter ending should make them want to go on to read the next chapter.
If we accomplish this, we are on your way to writing a great book.




However,  don't disappoint your readers with the ending. Try to make it as satisfying as the rest of the story.




All this is easier said than done, though. As writers, we need to keep trying until we get it right.
That is what molds an amateur into a professional.
They don't quit!

Now help me get it right. Which opening do you like best? Which one has the best hook?
These are two alternate openings to one of my manuscripts.

#1 OPENING
“Lucy!”
            “Yes, Ma.”
            “Get away from the window, you’ll look too anxious!”
            “I am anxious, Ma,” I confessed as I continued to stare out the window. “I’m getting married today.”
“Go fetch me some water and it’ll get your mind off the waitin’.”
“Yes, Ma,” I said as I hurried outside.          
It was a fall day in 1908. The golden yellow and russet brown leaves blew in the wind and rustled beneath my feet as I carried a bucket of cold well water back into the kitchen. I laid down the bucket, placed the long handled dipper inside and smoothed my hair in place with my hands. I always wore my hair flowing down and tied back with a simple white ribbon.  However, this morning I secured my light brown hair in a bun, hoping this grown up style would make me look older than my 16 years.
I glanced down and saw the rabbit’s foot hanging around my neck. When my little brother, Robert, gave it to me this morning, he said, “It’ll protect you from witches.”
I knew I should not believe in such things. What if James saw it? What would he think? I grabbed it and quickly tucked it inside my white blouse.

#2 OPENING

Only my parents watched me get married that Saturday afternoon in 1908.  It was a cool crisp autumn day, the leaves a golden yellow and russet brown.  They blew in the wind and rustled beneath my feet as I carried a bucket of cold well water into the kitchen. I laid down the bucket, placed the long handled dipper inside and smoothed my hair in place with my hands. I always wore my hair flowing down, tied back with a simple white ribbon.  However, this morning I secured my light brown hair in a bun, hoping this grown up style would make me look older than my 16 years. I glanced down and saw the rabbit’s foot hanging around my neck. When my little brother, Robert, gave it to me this morning, he said, “It’ll protect you from witches.” I knew I should not wear it. However, just in case, I grabbed it and quickly tucked it inside my white blouse.

Okay, is #1 or #2 your favorite? Which one grabs your interest?
Thanks and Happy Writing!


Peanut Butter Chews

You are only four ingredients away from a delicious, easy to make treat.





Peanut Butter Chews

1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
6oz (3/4 cup) peanut butter
2 1/2 cups cornflakes

Put corn syrup and sugar in pan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Take off the heat and stir in the peanut butter until mixture is creamy and then stir in the corn flakes. Empty into a rectangular pan and smooth out with a spoon.

Let cool a little (although these are delicious to eat while still warm) and cut into squares.
This recipe makes 12 pieces. If you want, you can easily double the recipe.





Did you ever have these on the menu at your grade school?
(Some mysteriously disappeared before I took this picture)




Our school principal would come to each table and dismiss us whenever everyone  was finished eating. If she saw that someone never tried an item on their plate, she would make you take at least one bite of it before she let the children at that table be excused to go on their lunch recess.  This is one item that she never had to worry about being left on our plate. Everyone loved them!