Last week, during a brief respite in the late-August heat and humidly, I grabbed the clippers and garden gloves and attacked the landscaping around our house, pulling weeds and snipping stray shrub growth.
I would have been better off with the stifling humidity and let it go.
By Friday, the poison ivy was spreading over parts of my anatomy that I will leave to your imagination.
I applied an over-the-counter ointment to a few of those body parts to no avail. Just as I am incapable of getting “a touch of the flu,” it is impossible for me to have a mild case of poison ivy.
To our surprise, the “free” clinic tied to our health-insurance policy is open Saturday mornings and I was told to come on down. I asked for a steroid shot because this is not my first rodeo, and I know that a stout needle is what it will take for relief. They gave me the shot, and a week’s worth of pills besides. I was sent home with instructions to wash in hot water anything that came in contact with the perpetrator and that includes my shoes.
“If you can’t wash them, throw them away,” was the advice.
I braced myself, and advised Brian (and on Monday, my boss) that if I turn evil, it’s the meds. In the past, when I’ve on occasion come down with poison ivy, I became poison of tongue and disposition from the treatment. It is the oddest feeling to know good and well what is causing such an attitude tumble but be unable to combat the outcome.
I’m pleased to say that this time, whatever they gave me left my mood unscathed, and is continuing its work in drying up this stuff. But my sleeping habits, that’s another matter.
Yesterday I shot out of bed at 5:30 a.m. WIDE AWAKE! I was ready to TAKE ON THE DAY! Ah, I thought, so this is what it is like for people who are truly early risers, those folks we envy for their ability to wash and dry a load of clothes, take a long, brisk walk, read a daily newspaper or two, and a few chapters in a book, cook and eat breakfast, load the slow cooker for dinner, and have time to spare before I pry my eyes open at the slovenly hour of 7 a.m.
There was a brief time while finishing my last book and seeing to a baby Reggie that I thought maybe I was transitioning into that kind of person.
It was a complete false alarm.
Yesterday I got to work early, put in a busy morning, gave a lunch program for New Castle Noon Optimists, then had a busy afternoon and hung around town to take a photo at 6 p.m.
Once at home and after a bite to eat, it was raining heavily and I snuggled in on the couch for a brief rest. I went sound to sleep for two hours. Not the kind of doze where you are in and out and just lounging around. No, this was where when I woke up at 9 p.m., it was as though I had slept a full night and was ready to start over a new day.
My new day lasted until 2 a.m. this day.
I have a few more days of these meds left, and while I am clearing up, this isn’t kicked yet.
I’ve got to be more careful about the landscaping and hidden gems like poison ivy.
As a kid, I never got the stuff and I spent hours upon hours traipsing around woods, pastures and barn yards on bike, horseback and even barefoot. I practically wallowed in it. And now, a snippet of suburban landscaping is kicking my rear.
This was the Fountain Central table at the Friendship Circle Center in Covington Friday. With Brian and me, are, standing, Barb Clark, and seated, from left, Lynette Rusk, Lynnette McMahan, and Ron Colson. It was great to see everyone and feel as though, if only for a few hours, I was in my 20s again!
On the day that Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married in what was known as the wedding of the century, and their not-so-storybook life together began, Brian and I began a new life journey of our own.
On that July day in 1989, we moved to Fountain County.
We were excited, and nervous, and looked forward to many things. With what we felt at the time, by 1981 standards, was Brian’s whopping new administrative income of $22,500 a year, (and the 14-hour work days that routinely came with it), we could afford to rent our huge, country farmhouse for $200 a month and I could afford to go to college full time in pursuit of a journalism degree. Anything felt possible!
We had no clue as to the real joys that would unfold over the next nine years. Those joys, of course, were in the people we met, grew to love, and still love today. The joys were in the birth of our first child, the making of best friends, the support, and the memories.
The stories of our journey through Fountain County, in the towns of Veedersburg, Mellott, Newtown, Attica, Hillsboro, Wallace, Stone Bluff and Covington, include incredible memories, bigger, to us anyway, than the small towns on the map would indicate. Each one of the memories we made is worthy of a blog entry in itself, but for today, I’m only going to talk about Friday.
I’ll save for a later date how my first journalism job came from meeting up with a childhood friend in Attica; how that small-newspaper job took me into such places as inside Gov. Robert Orr’s private office inside the Indiana Statehouse or to a murder trial in neighboring Williamsport. Or how our precious firstborn son, Sam, began his life as a Fountain County resident, and how the community loved us through his open-heart surgery at 11 months of age. Or how so many people became as dear to us as family, and still are (Rick and Gay Kirkton, Barb Clark, John and Debby Williams, Sue Anderson, Linda Spear, to name only a few of the many I could include).
Or how when I think of Fountain County, I feel nothing but love.
So Friday my one-time co-worker at the paper, the sweet Jane Bowers, had me over to Covington to the Friendship Circle Center for a book program and luncheon. Everyone was so incredibly nice and welcoming.
Did I expect less from my onetime home county? Jane now directs the center where seniors gather daily for meals and activities. It’s such a great place. Several friends from Fountain Central days attended, as did some friends from my Attica newspapering era.
They don’t come any better than the gals I worked with at the paper. Of those there Friday, Nancy Wolfe is salt of the earth, common sense, loyalty, humor and sweetness personified. Carol Galloway is upbeat, funny, a great co-worker and friend. Jane is a true lady and has the gift of hospitality that shines in her center and among her coworkers.
A couple of others came from Williamsport. There was Carol Winegardner, who discovered my first book through her sister, and to my surprise, showed up with her friend, Donna Lyon, who I remember well from the newspapering days when Donna wrote for the Williamsport paper. We sat next to each other while covering a murder trial in the Warren County courthouse.
It was great to catch-up with everyone. The morning went by too quickly.
It was back to the 1980s.
If only for a few hours, I felt as though I was 25 again. At the time I really was that age, I had no idea how young that truly was.
Not long ago, son Ben asked how I ever did my newspaper job without email.
I almost don’t know.
It’s a question I’m thinking about this morning as the news headline flashes that the Internet is 25 years old today. A quarter century; a generation.
Ben, interestingly enough, is 25. So the Internet has been around all his life in the same way that airplanes and electricity have been around mine.
Before the Internet, my work life was a lot noisier. Nowadays when customers come into the newspaper office, they often remark how quiet it is. Time was, the press was running, phones ringing; reporters, ad reps and circulation employees were speaking on the phone with customers, keyboards were clicking, the wire service machine cranking out copy, and our printers were loud.
Nowadays, our newspaper printing is centralized at another plant. Sometimes people are surprised by that, but it’s how many other plants do it now, as well. Things change. They always have.
We do a lot more emailing with sources about press releases, story ideas and contacts than we do phoning them. The AP wire no longer prints news stories through a machine in the office. Instead, they are fed, silently, through our computers along with the various social mediums and news items we get from everyone else.
Keyboards no longer go clickity clack, and our year-old Apple keyboards are nearly silent, no matter the volume we are churning out.
Yes, things have certainly changed. I remember when work email was installed. My first-ever email was a press release from Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. I didn’t even know if I was responding correctly but hit the reply button, typed something in, acting all cool as though I had the email thing down pat, and hit the send button. It worked! I was off and cyber-mailing!
And there’s been no turning back. I know that for younger folks, email is now passe, and they prefer texting. I still say nothing beats a laptop computer where I can spread out, enjoy a nice big screen, and have a conversation via email. I use it constantly.
How about you? Do you email much? Do you prefer texting? What is your favorite social media medium? How have computers in general and email in particular, changed the way you do your job?
As with all things, the Internet is a conduit for the good and evil of those using it. It is a great way to communicate, stay in touch, get things done, order products, learn and produce.
But of course, it’s a means for bad things too, such as pornography, scams and other evils.
This morning, I'm taking the high road with my cyber thoughts. I’m saluting the Internet with my morning coffee cup and thinking about the fine elements of working with and through computers. I love how we connect with friends and loved ones in ways that would never have been possible 26 years ago. Charities raise money to do good. We learn. We publish books. We write something called blogs – the Internet version of newsprint columns.
So here’s another one for HOME ROW. Stop by anytime. You know how to find me.
As those of you who follow my writing, publishing, and marketing journeys know, I’m always looking for gigs where I can speak and sell my books. When people who want to publish a book ask me the best way to market, my answer is simple: Develop some kind of program and offer it to groups.
Sometimes the offers come my way, other times I have to fill out forms and apply (such is the case with juried author fairs) and still other times, I throw a bunch of ideas on the wall – and see what, if anything, sticks.
Sometimes I think of it as planting seeds. Other times it’s casting lines in the water and seeing if there’s a bite. Or perhaps I use another cliché such as placing many irons in the fire. You get the idea.
While several stops remain on the 2016 calendar, lately I’ve been wondering when and where the first date might go up on the new one. Yes, on the literal, new calendar.
Friend Gay and I share a tradition of exchanging gifts during our summer girlfriend getaways. Last month Gay bought me something that will remind me of her every day during 2017. It’s a beautiful paper planner / calendar. The cover is pink with big white flowers that sure enough resemble peonies, our state flower. It’s bigger than a paperback novel with a hard cover, plenty of blank pages for notes and a pocket in the back. It will be my constant companion.
And this week, one of the fishing lines got a tug, and I landed my first book-related event for 2017. The ironic thing was that when I went to initiate the planner with the assignment, the pink ribbon that marks one’s place was randomly inserted into that very week. Must have been meant to be.
I’m old-school about my planning. Even Brian has moved on to a paperless display of time and records his calendar stops on his cell phone. I’m not even close to doing that. At least not until 2018, and I imagine well beyond that.
Paper calendars from the last two years are at my side in a basket by this writing chair for easy access. It’s surprising how often I reference them for a date, contact name and number of a previous program. I could probably do this on a small cell phone. But this works. It works just great, in fact.
Usually I don’t get a new calendar until late fall. It’s a treat to have 2017 at my fingertips now. Thanks Gay. You know me so well. You know what I like. Is it too soon to set a date for next summer’s fun? I've pretty much got a blank calendar just waiting to be filled.
Note from Donna: I don’t remember the first time Tisha Sledd of New Castle, Indiana, came on my radar, but our paths cross all the time and have for years. I’ve always been impressed by her creativity, homemaking skills, entrepreneurial bent, and the love she has for her husband, two sons – and for God. She’s also a frequent contributor to the newspaper where I work and won one of our annual recipe contests.
The Disaster Prepared Kitchen Cookbook is a fantastic how-to guide to stretching a dollar and I have a copy on my shelf, as well as a copy of her new book, The Battle for Peace: Who Is Your Master? In fact, I plan to suggest that my church life group read it when it’s time for a new study.
Today, we're swapping blogs. If you'd like to read mine, head over to her website, listed in her article. She welcomes you today and every day.
Given how well Tisha writes, and the strong messages she conveys, I’m astounded that picking up her pen is not something she enjoys. Here, she explains why she writes anyway.
By Tisha Sledd
I remember dreading when our fifth-grade teacher gave us creative writing prompts. Does anyone else remember that?
She wrote a prompt on the chalk board and we had to take it from there and write a several-page story.
It might look like this: Imagine you woke up and saw a dinosaur in your backyard. Write a story telling what you see and do.
Or this: Would you want to visit the moon? Why or why not?
Ick! It makes me sick thinking about it. I am not sure why I didn’t like it, except I thought it was boring. It was work to make my brain be creative – and I felt like there was little payoff.
I think God probably smiled at my reaction to those writing prompts, considering what He knew He would call me to do.
In high school, I took an advanced-placement English class that gave me college credit. There was a professor who came from our community college to teach the class three times a week. He was a little, odd fellow with a dog. He was probably in his late fifties, almost completely bald with horn-rimmed glasses. He lacked interpersonal skills and as a snarky high school student I thought he dressed funny. I don’t know how he got that dog passed the administration but it came with him to class every single time.
I forget his name but I wish I could remember it because I probably learned the most important skills of my life from this peculiar fellow.
He pounded into our heads about how to write reports and themes. He was a stickler and didn’t let us get away with anything. I am sure I rolled my petulant teenage eyes a thousand times at having to go back and rewrite something. I find it humorous that 25 years later I am so thankful for this professor’s heavy-handed teaching. I learned to write as a senior in high school … because of a funny little professor and his dog.
He would tell me that I was a good writer, but I dismissed him. I didn’t like writing.
I was surprised to find that a year later when my future husband was in a college writing class with this professor that he used one of my papers as an example of how to write a good paper.
Later in my college career I had to write a report on the history of opera. My professor was so impressed at what a good writer I was. I told her thank you – but I dismissed her. I didn’t like writing.
I have been in ministry for 14 years. Every once in a while over the course of those years I wrote an article for the Religious Perspective column in our local paper. I always got great feedback from people who read my articles. Sometimes people would really touch me with their stories of how much my articles meant to them.
But that is as far as my writing had gone - until June of 2015.
God began to press me about writing articles for a blog. I argued with Him a little bit. I said, “God I don’t like to write. I don’t understand why you would want me to do this.”
His answer came one day while I was reading Paul’s letters in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul wrote two-thirds of the New Testament and the Church has been strengthened for thousands of years because of it. God spoke to my heart and said, “It is the words that are written down that last for centuries.”
This touched my heart because I could remember reading books that impacted me as a young person (outside of God’s word). A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle was inspiring to me. I cried for an hour after finishing Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I hated having to read Shakespeare but who could not be impacted by Romeo and Juliet?
I have a message inside of me to give to the world. It is a message of hope and it is a message of correction. But how can the world receive the message if it is not written down?
So I write.
Since June 2015, I have written over 200 blog articles at www.TishaSleddMinistries.com. AND I finished my first book about spiritual warfare called The Battle for Peace: Who Is Your Master? (You can find it on Amazon by following this link.) I previously wrote a cookbook called The Disaster Prepared Kitchen Cookbook you can also find on Amazon HERE.
I have also finished two thirds of my next book. It is a work of fiction called As in the Days of Noah, a Sci-Fi thriller set in the time of the unfolding events of the last days. It will be launched in 2017.
Here is the funny thing about the past year - even though I have done all of this writing, and even though I have a book and I’m writing the next one - I still don’t enjoy writing.
I am not sure why except that I much prefer talking with people rather than typing on a computer. But I understand why I must write.
I want to help people get closer to God. I want to help people understand who He is and why He came. I want to help people understand the Kingdom of God and how it works.
So I write.
If it is not written down – how can people learn? The Lord has given me Habbakuk 2:2 many times. It says this:
The Lord gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance.” (GNT)
This is why I use my gift of writing. Not because it’s fun. Not because it’s fulfilling. I write because God has asked me to.
Maybe God has given you a gift that you don’t necessarily enjoy using. I want to encourage you that there is a reason that He gave it to you. You may not understand but it will make sense when your story is all done.
Your talents and giftings are meant to glorify Him. Begin to use them just because He’s asking you to.
Tisha Sledd is passionate to see transformation on earth by putting Jesus Christ on the throne in every area, beginning with the hearts of individuals, thereby transforming entire communities, which is then reflected in the heart of our nation. She and her husband Tom established Tisha Sledd Ministries to give hope to the hopeless and equip the Body for works of service. Fnd out more at www.TishaSleddMinistries.com. Contact her at email@example.com.
Every now and then, someone who is off my social-media radar says, in real time, “I read your blog.”
When this happens, I’m surprised because this isn’t from someone who posts comments or “likes” my Facebook status changes with cute faces or leaves any kind of online footprint in my cyberspace world.
Of course I want to ask, “Well … do you enjoy it?” But if I have to ask, I shouldn’t; too much like fishing for a compliment. Besides, I don’t know that I want to hear if the person’s reaction is quite the opposite of positive.
The other day I had a face-time conversation with someone who mentioned Facebook. I asked, “Wait, are we Facebook friends? I never see your posts.”
She said, “Oh, I never post. I’m just a – what do you call it…?”
With the blog, I get hundreds of views a week, according to the website statistics. Sometimes, the views surpass a grand. I don’t quite know what that means; if folks politely scroll right past the feed on their way to someone else’s content, or if the number measures those who are clicking on and reading the posts. As for who is reading what, beats me! Rarely do they leave comments.
I think this is much like life. We are always watching people, and they are always watching us. We judge, yes we do, based on what they post on social media or how they interact with the grocery-store clerk, and on a whole lot of other factors that happen instantly inside our heads.
We observe their actions, their buying habits, and if they walk their talk. We just do. And they do too regarding us.
The thing is, I do this very thing that I wonder about. There are a good number of website blogs to which I subscribe at the national, regional and local levels. They are very well done, the writing solid, the messages keen. There is so much great material online that I find myself overwhelmed with possibility. I could sit here 24/7, read nonstop and never remotely get to the bottom of the must-read stack.
I have to lead a real-time walking-around life besides an online one.
And you do too.
Something to think about as we consider our lives (and social media) platforms, shares, rants, raves, and the lives we live in real time and space.
Still I wonder.
Here’s a challenge from me to you: if you have never posted a comment on this blog but read it, would you do me the honor of a comment? I’d love to know who is out there looking in and offer my thanks that you take your time to stop by. I know that you have endless other blogs you could be reading. I’m delighted that you visit mine. Even if I have no clue that you are doing it.
Today’s guest blogger is my friend, writing colleague and Courier-Times Chew This! columnist, Blaise Doubman of Kennard, Indiana. Blaise is a gifted baker, cook, blogger and recipe creator. He pops up in my book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, as the town baker and he created the Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie recipe that you really need to try.
Blaise’s much-anticipated first cookbook, Blaise the Baker Dessert First, will be out within weeks and he’s taking pre-orders now. Grab a glass of iced tea and meet Blaise.
Q. Blaise, you were raised in the small town of Kennard into a fun-sounding family and you are blessed to still have two grandmothers around as close friends. What were your earliest influences in your love for cooking and baking?
A. Oh, you are right. I am blessed to still have both of my Grandmothers and I do not take a single minute for granted. They still teach me things that I am not sure how I would know otherwise. I was lucky to be born into a food loving family, which has really shaped my life.
My Grandma Barbra was the first person to show me where food comes from and how it is prepared. She would never credit herself as a teacher, but I would have to disagree. She is skillfully patient, kind and informative in the kitchen. Once Mom started noticing my adventures in the kitchen with my Grandma Barbra, she started having me help her. That progressed into having Grandpa Max and Grandma Deloris show me their tricks of the trade.
Looking back, I am so incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by adults who gladly welcome me into their kitchens and encourage me to help. And no matter what it was, nothing was too advanced, or too messy. Those lessons stuck with me because I am always one to encourage kids in the kitchen. Of course you must also teach them about safety, but those lessons also apply to their lives outside of the kitchen.
Q. Do you remember the first dish you made? Through the years, what have become your signature dishes?
A. Yes! I actually do remember the first dish I ever made! I think I have discussed this in one of my Chew This! columns. I can remember when I was a few months old. Sights, sounds, smells – all of the things that start to develop, I remembered developing right away. Strange, I know.
The first dish I made was with Grandma Barbra and it was for boxed brownies. I helped stir and scrape the pots as soon as she introduced me into the kitchen, but the first finished dish, instead of just participating in, was boxed brownies. I remember being utterly fascinated by how this brown powder, when mixed with water, oil, and egg could produce something so delicious! I actually remember burning the roof of my mouth too, because I could not wait to dig in. Something I am still doing to this day! It was my first experience of from start to finish, baking. And I loved it!
As far as my signature dish, I would have to say anything dessert. Whenever there is a get-together I am the person people think of when bringing something sweet. I am known though for lasagna, sour cream noodle bake and a few appetizers-- all of which are featured in my upcoming cookbook.
Q. You live a culinary lifestyle. You create recipes, prepare food, write a food column, food blogs, enjoy restaurants and cookbooks. What is your favorite aspect?
A. You know, until you asked this question I had not really thought about it. Me, living a culinary lifestyle is appropriate and to actually hear it makes me realize how extremely fortunate I am.
When I was 12, I knew I wanted to make food, create food, write about food, feed people and make people happy. Simple as that. And really, I didn’t even have to think about it. I just knew.
I love all aspects of my food journey. When I develop a recipe it is a feeling of accomplishment. When I write about it, it becomes a feeling of satisfaction. When I share it with people, feed people and see and hear how much they like it, it is a sense of overall happiness and enjoyment.
I’ve always loved to write and tell stories but when writing about food and knowing that I am sharing something with someone that I have created, it is a magical feeling.
And cookbooks! Can we talk about cookbooks? I have several thousand, so many that I refuse to count, but my love for them started with Grandma Barbra, no question! She does not have the collection I have, speaking in terms of value and mass amount, mostly because she said she refuses to find the area to store them, but she has more than your average person.
She bought me my first cookbook, Learn to Bake and You Will Love It, from a rummage sale. I still have it and I still use it. It is one of my treasured possessions. Sometimes, I look back at that cookbook and remember holding it in my little hands, marking recipes to try and just being amazed. I actually am the same way now, except my hands are bigger! My favorite aspect is sharing what I love with everyone who is interested. There is nothing quite like sharing your love with people who also share the same love and interest.
Q. How did you make the decision to publish your first cookbook now and is there a single favorite recipe? And, what kinds of recipes are inside – so much more than desserts, right?
A. Oh my, yes! A lot more than just desserts! My cookbook has a little bit of everything. From desserts, of course, to salad dressings, main dishes, breakfast foods, appetizers, brunch items, dips, soups, casseroles, pastries and so much more. There are popular recipes from my blog, Blaise the Baker, as well as popular recipes from my food column, Chew This!
There are 100 new recipes that I have never published anywhere before. I think that is what I am most excited about, releasing such a large amount of recipes that nobody has ever seen before. It is a thrilling experience for me!
Before the recipes start in my book there are several pages of commentary. I talk about what ingredients are best, how I tested the recipes, my thoughts on cooking utensils and bakeware, and tips on foolproof cooking and baking.
The cookbook is more than a cookbook. I like to think of it as a friendly companion that you will want to keep in your kitchen at all times. I wrote it for everyone. No matter if you are a novice in the kitchen, or a professional, I think everyone can learn something from my experiences that I write about and share.
I decided to go ahead and finalize my cookbook because I felt like it was the right time. There have been a lot of people on this journey with me and there have been a lot of people waiting and anticipating it being finished. It had come to a point where the recipes could not be improved upon anymore, the script had been proofread and I had a sense of being extremely happy with how everything had turned out. That is when I knew it was time.
I was happy with everything and I could not envision myself ever changing anything. I knew then that it was complete and that I was ready to let everybody in on it.
As far as favorite recipes, I admit that I do have a few. At the top of the list has to be my Famous Tea Room Chicken Salad (page 102). I have a special way of preparing the chicken for this recipe that produces the most delicious, moist, and tender chicken that you have ever had. Plus, it involves a very special ingredient that brings out the flavor of the chicken.
I had a recipe tester in Minnesota tell me that he and his testers found this the best chicken salad they had ever had and that it was even better than the town’s leading restaurant. I highly recommend people try that recipe first!
Another recipe that is pretty special to me would have to be my Family Salad Dressing (page 164). The recipe comes straight from Grandma Barbra and it is her secret dressing for everything! She uses it in her potato salad, pasta salad, chicken salad, coleslaw.
And it was not until I was in the process of writing this cookbook that I found out that her dressing was the basis of all of her salads and slaws! I thought that was pretty cool. I am really excited that she is having me share it with everyone.
I also love the Hummingbird Cake with Thick Cream Cheese Frosting (page 10) because it reminds me of my childhood with Grandpa Max and Grandma Deloris. This remains a favorite of my Grandma Deloris still to this day! I loved baking it for her but never really appreciated the true tastes and textures until just a few years ago. It is by far the best Hummingbird Cake recipe that you will ever have! And the thick cream cheese frosting recipe that I have include to go with the cake is fabulous topped on cinnamon rolls!
Sarah's Pecan Rolls (page 88) is a recipe I had to include from our neighborhood friend Sarah Darling. She made them for her friends and family every year around Christmas time.
She passed away several years ago but we keep her memory alive by making these delicious rolls every holiday season!
Same goes for Carmen’s Fruit Cookies (page 54). They hold a special place in the heart of my family. Do not let the name fool you, either. These are delicious and packed with flavor! No typical fruit cake type cookie here.
There are so many recipes, all of which are tied in with such special memories for me. One recipe that would seem to be the easiest, but was actually one of the most challenging, is my recipe for Chocolate Puff Pastry Turnovers (page 93). Sometimes the simplest of tastes are the hardest to really get down pat.
I finally did manage to find the taste I was looking for with these and they are really a fun and memorable dessert!
And how can I leave out Darla’s Spanish Rice (page 120)? A recipe that I have grown up eating for years, with special thanks to Mom, and I am so thrilled she let me share the recipe with everyone! When you spend so long with all of these recipes it is hard to pick a favorite.
Q. You are a graduate of Indiana University East and entrepreneur in the culinary arts. If you could name your dream career from here on out, describe it.
A. Food writer. There is no question about it. I love writing about food. No matter if that means writing my food column, Chew This!, writing my latest cookbook review for my blog, writing out a recipe I have developed, writing an essay on a food-related topic or doing a business or restaurant review.
I am beyond thankful and grateful for the opportunities I have had that have lead me to do the work I have always dreamed about doing.
Some day, when I have the extra time, I would like to really learn more about the history of food. I would like to know more about why we eat what we do, how we do and prepared the way we do. I have a friend who is a food historian and I really admire that.
I have always found the background history of food to be just as interesting as developing a recipe or tasting a new taste combination. So I will say that as the career of my dreams: food writer, recipe developer, and food historian.
Q. When you aren’t working with recipes in some fashion, what are your other interests?
A. Reading and collecting cookbooks. I read and collect compulsively. I have always got my nose stuck in a cookbook. It could be a cookbook I am reviewing for my blog, a cookbook for a friend that wanted me to write a blurb or just a cookbook that holds my interest.
My collection runs deep, however I am the first to admit, that you will not find any low-fat, no-sugar, diet or fad -program diet books in my collection. I just find they are not any fun to look at!
Outside of food though I have varying interests. I love to listen to music. I love reading great books. I love taking the time to talk to my parents and grandparents about life and trying to gain perspective on how their lives were growing up. I love learning about photography and I love seeing the world through someone else's eyes.
Instagram is really good for this. There are some fabulous accounts from people all over the world. I love to sit and browse what their world looks like to them. I love to talk and I love to laugh with friends. I try and enjoy each day I have and remember that not everybody gets a chance to do so. I am a firm believer in finding and following your passions.
Q. If people should try only one recipe in your new book, what is it?
A. Oh, without a doubt, my Famous Tea Room Chicken Salad (page 102). I want people to really know and realize that I love to cook just as well as I love to bake. My main focus are desserts and everything sweet but I would like to think that not to far off of my main focus is my love for cooking.
Both are complete opposites, in baking everything is science and scientific driven, but both can be fun ways to express yourself.
Q. How can people subscribe to your blogs or contact you to pre-order your cookbook?
A. The easiest way to subscribe to my blog is to log on to http://blaisethebaker.com and find the link on the side of the page that reads subscribe. Click on that and enter your email address. You will get an email every time I make a new post. Please like my page on Facebook too. Visit http://facebook.com/blaisethebaker Anyone is also more than welcome to email questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Donna: Thank you, Blaise, for this visit with Home Row readers. I've sent in my pre-order and can't wait to get your cookbook late next month.
Franklin County Libraries Director Melody Gault and I go back -- way back -- to our childhoods growing up in Union County. This local- author journey of mine connects the dots with past and present. That happened again Wednesday when I visited the Brookville and Laurel libraries with presentations. Here, Melody sets up a display of the Brookville Library's books about self-publishing. Librarians ROCK! Brookville is a photogenic town. See more photos at the end of this blog.
When Brookville, Indiana, is mentioned, you may immediately think of its reservoir that offers water recreation to the region. Much more significant than boating, fishing and swimming, of course, is that the reservoir protects the town from flooding – something Brookville experienced in earlier days and was an ever-present danger before the reservoir.
The town, with a population under 3,000, sits deep in a valley with the two forks of the Whitewater River running through it. I think of Brookville as the first “southern” town on the east side of the state. The landscape is drastically different there from land north of the county – as hilly and beautiful as anything Brown County can offer – and the homes have a historic, old feel, older, it seems than those farther north.
I grew up the next county north, and when I fictionally mention the reservoir in both my books, Brookville is the one I’m thinking of, inspired by. It was talk of the town when I was a small kid as people anticipated what kind of change in lifestyle and traffic the reservoir would bring. Back then, you sometimes went for Sunday drives and I was fascinated when Dad took us to the greater Brookville area where he said, “See this place? Soon it will be under a lake.” It was strange to consider. But it happened.
Brookville is the Franklin County seat, and is filled with an abundance of elegant, antique homes, not the least of which is The Hermitage, where I have had the pleasure of staying twice. An 1835 house with a more-than-century-old stuffed peacock at the top of the stairs, the home was also the studio of Hoosier artist John Ottis Adams. Many of his books and furnishings are there today!
Did you know that Brookville produced five state governors? The sixth governor of Indiana was David Wallace. You might know of his son: Lew, author of Ben-Hur. That’s right, Lew was born in Brookville. I had no idea, either, until I Googled Brookville. His name is trending lately with a remake of the classic book due out as a motion picture.
I visited Brookville Wednesday, stopping in Liberty first to pick up my high school pal, Beth. It was something of a business trip, as I had presentations at the Brookville and Laurel libraries. The libraries’ director is Melody Gault. I’ve known Melody most of my life as she grew up in the same church I did in Brownsville, and like me, graduated from Union County High School.
Several folks turned out to hear my first run-through of a new program, “So You Want to Publish A Book.” This presentation is a “take notes and hold on” overview of what to expect in the self-publishing process. I share some lessons learned and leave those attending with their own questions – ones they didn’t know they even had. It was a good group, and an attending retired biology professor from Miami University in nearby Oxford, Ohio, told me the presentation was helpful.
After lunch catching up with Melody, we booked it to Laurel (time had gotten away from us) and there, a smaller group awaited the talk. Instead of speaking about self-publishing, I switched gears and winged it, talking about my books instead of the publishing process. Flexibility is part of this season of life.
It was fun to be back in Brookville again, to share some information, take in the lush summer-scape of the rolling, almost breath-taking scenery in and around Brookville.
Melody told me on Facebook, “It was great to have you at our libraries today. I highly recommend your talk on self publishing. Glad you tried it out on us first. Had many good comments from our patrons.”
I appreciate her kind words and hope to share what I’ve learned about self-publishing – one woman’s perspective – to help others get their work out there and enjoy this ride as a local author. Meanwhile, here are some scenes from the day.
It’s a treat whenever my friend Sandy, a farmer's wife, can get away from the joys of retirement long enough to squeeze me in for lunch at Café Royal in New Castle.
I love to hear about her life on the farm, about her horses, her granddaughter Carly, about Mike, her farmer husband, a retired school-bus-driver.
Even though unlike me, Sandy is tall and blond, beautiful and inspiring, sometimes I think in other ways we were separated at birth. We can talk for an hour without taking a breath and it feels like five minutes.
Yesterday she brought me a treat: a bag brimming with a dozen beautiful ears of yellow sweet corn, crisp and tender, delicious and perfect. Once we finished lunch, I rushed off toward work while she got an iced-tea refill. I had forgotten her request: Remind her not to forget to get the corn out of her vehicle.
Back at the newspaper office, I noticed someone pulled in beside me at about the same moment I did. It was Sandy with the forgotten sweet corn! I put the cobs in the seat beside me so that I didn’t forget them again once I got home.
The funny thing was, I couldn’t forget about that corn. Instead, I thought of little else.
Corn reminds me of my dad. Some joke about Indiana corn with a slogan that cajoles, “There’s more than corn in Indiana.” Or people say they live in the middle of a cornfield as though that’s a bad or boring thing.
When I told Brian last night I planned to devote my next blog to corn, he groaned, adding that only I would write about something as corny as, well, corn. He suggested a two-part series: Corn and Beans.
This morning on the way to work, I stopped along the road near Shenandoah High School for some photos of corn growing in the field. I looked closely at that healthy stand of Hoosier gold and I saw, in my mind's eye, my dad. So many things change but corn and my dad take me back. Back home. OK, back home again.
I think of that particular gold color, ears of field corn in the fall that are the exact shade of a school bus. And how the buses are back in action and that too, reminds me of him as much as do the corn stalks standing so straight and uniform in the morning sun and dew.
Then I realized with a start that my father has been gone for 25 years this summer. How can that be? He’d had advanced Alzheimer’s disease for a while but still, the July he passed, his death came as a shock, as death always does.
His natural habitat was our big, old barn. He was many things: A beef, corn and soybean farmer, a school-bus driver for 32 years, an artist, an inventor, a guy who could figure out how to fix anything, a seller of Lincoln Arc Welders on the side, and a repairman for dairy refrigeration operations besides. He could play a violin, roller skate with the best of them, shoot a basketball, kill you at croquet. He could, in my mind, do anything. He was king of his little slice of rural kingdom.
But for today, I think of my father the farmer and how we would drive around the country roads to check on the crops, and in those moments, and many others, how I knew to my core how much I loved our farm, and how lucky I was to be that farmer’s daughter.
So Sandy and Mike Moore: thanks for the beautiful ears of corn. And Dad: thanks for the memories.
I’ll be passing through Union County tomorrow. I may have to leave the house early. I may have to take the back roads to get there. Just so I can watch the corn grow.