Though I’m not ready to store my summer clothes just yet, my latest article published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine is all about transitional dressing–what to wear when the weather is still-summer one day and entering-autumn another. Then there are the days that combine both!
Many years, when heading to our annual Pick-Your-Own-Pumpkin-and-Hay-Ride-Day at Ort Farms in Long Valley, we’d dress for crisp air and then shed layers as the afternoon sun warmed up the fields. We loved deciding which pumpkins would make the best jack-o-lanterns, smell the sweet hay, pet the adorable farm animals, and take home freshly baked apple cider doughnuts. The best part? Spending time together as a family and seeing other families doing the same.
There we were, hiking down a trail in Meyer Ranch, Colorado this summer, when we came upon a meadow with the largest dandelions I’d ever seen. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hon, writing and publishing Kidlit is such a herculean ask, you need wishes big enough, loud enough, and strong enough to be carried all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Take a deep breath and blow!”
Turns out the palm-sized puffballs aren’t dandelions, but Western Salsify whose flowers looks like a yellow daisies. Soon after, we met the infamous llamas, Stardust and OnFire, and that chance meeting was even more spectacular than hiking in the Rockies, discovering golfball-sized dandelion lookalikes, listening to the click-click-click of a flying grasshopper, passing an elderly man hiking uphill with a cannula and portable oxygen, and saying hi to many happy dogs with their people.
Then, a week ago I was on a run and stopped mid-stride to take a pic. I asked the homeowner if he’d put “Don’t Give Up” out just for me and he said, “If that’s what you need…”
It is. It’s what I need.
So, in an effort to take a deep breath and blow my wishes and energy and thoughts and words and characters and layers and stories all the way from my imagination to the page to childrens’ imaginations, I’m posting a series called Sorbet for the Soul–photos and sentiments along with literal and figurative signs which beg for my attention.
Maybe if I take a moment to blow giant wishes and absorb messages and do the thing that informs my life–finding the extraordinary in the ordinary–my herculean ask will one day soon come to fruition.
Summer means Raku workshops! Peter Syak, one of my wonderful Ceramics instructors, teaches Raku out of his carriage house/studio. I always learn a ton, meet new students, and have a meditative time working on new projects. This summer I learned how to make a large coil pot, building it up with flat strips of clay. As soon as its smokey scent abates, I’ll bring my vase inside and add some tall decorative branches.
Kathleen Wilford, one of my critique partners, can now say her middle-grade historical novel is published! The story is funny, emotional, full of interesting, historical details and, most of all, Cabby is engaging!
Kathleen Wilford’s debut CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT (Little Press) is a delightful story set in the 1870’s during the migration of Americans to the prairies of the Midwest for homesteading. Here is my review:
This historical fiction story set in the 1870’s, is a fast-paced trip to the days of homesteading on the Kansas prairies. When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails? Cabby can’t even think about that.
Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?
The author does a wonderful job grounding the reader in time and place with period details and appropriate phrasing and language of the era. “My brain buzzed like it was full of gnats” is one of many similes that feels fresh and original. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, making for a quick read. Readers will enjoy Cabby’s antics and feisty demeanor as she navigates the unfamiliar world of the wealthy. A highly recommended debut.
I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London.
I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and hardscrabble American homesteaders. I pictured an outdoorsy 12-year-old girl forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor, and the character of Cabby was born. Trying to save her family’s struggling homestead, Cabby plays matchmaker between her pretty, romantic sister Emmeline and the rich young lord of Ashford Manor. What could go wrong with that scheme?
As an author of historical fiction myself, I was immediately drawn into the setting and era of the story. What drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love the way historical fiction immerses readers into a different world. All good fiction is immersive, but with historical fiction, the past comes alive in a fresh way. And there’s a serious side too: I believe that to understand where we ARE, we need to understand where we’ve BEEN. Non-fiction helps readers do that too, but fiction adds an important layer of empathy.
As for this particular era, 1870’s Kansas, I’ve always been fascinated by pioneer literature, from Willa Cather to Laura Ingalls Wilder. My life is so easy compared to women who endured life on lonely prairies, living in sod houses and struggling to keep themselves and their families alive.
Tell us a bit about your research process.
I like to begin with books that situate the time period I’m studying in a larger historical context. I follow that up with more specific books and then with primary sources. For Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, I consulted homesteader journals, 1870’s editions of the Dodge City Times, an 1841 book by Dr. Samuel Sheldon Fitch called Diseases of the Chest (fascinating, trust me), Mrs. Beeton’s book on the duties of a housemaid . . . etc.! Since I work for Rutgers, I’m lucky enough to have access to the rich depth of primary materials owned by the university. I think primary sources are key not only to authentic details but to the language of the times.
Several experts also helped me with questions, and of course, Google is great for filling in details!
What amazing thing did you discover while writing?
How much time do we have?? I learned so many fascinating tidbits of information, many of which I couldn’t include in the book but would be happy to tell you about sometime. Some facts that DID make it into the book: people used to believe that walking on the prairie could cure consumption (tuberculosis)—housemaids were not allowed to whistle in the house—dried up buffalo dung was burned for fuel.
One fact that informed my book: fully half of all homesteaders didn’t make it and never “proved up” on their claims. We tend to romanticize homesteading on the prairies, but it was brutally difficult.
What message do you want young readers to take away from this story?
I hope kids will enjoy a funny, fast-paced story with lots of drama! Beyond that, I hoped to give readers a clearer picture of the homesteading life. Along with showing how difficult the life was, I wanted readers to see how race and class prejudices infiltrated even supposedly egalitarian rural America. Cabby wakes up to this prejudice as she forms a friendship with Eli, a half-Kiowa boy. She finally learns to use her “intemperate tongue” to stand up for him, her family, and her whole community. In Cabby Potts, I tried to portray a funny, feisty girl growing into more awareness of her world, with all its imperfections. She learns to use her voice to make that world a better place, something I hope we all can do.
When one needs writing/publishing advice, who should one go to? First, I checked in with fellow NJSCBWI writer-friends. Shout to Laurie Wallmark who has written many women in STEM biographies in addition to Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book, Donna Cangelosi whose debut picture book Mr. Roger’s Gift of Music launches Aug. 2022, and Ariel Bernstein who has written many humorous books including We Love Fishing. Then I connected with my cousin, writer/editor/novelist Aliza Fogelson. Aliza shared her publishing journey, listened to my concerns, and gave me honest and insightful advice. Thanks, Aliza!
I just finished reading Aliza’s adult novel The Lending Library, and the more I read, the more I wanted to find out what was going to happen to Dodie, her love life, friends, family, and the library she created in her home. Issues weren’t easily solvable, real-life emotions such as grief and longing for a child were explored, and the main character actually worked (as opposed to many stories/tv shows/movies where I wonder why isn’t anyone working?). Aliza’s descriptions of food highlighted one of Dodie’s passions and added–ahem–flavor to the story.
For fans of Jane Green and Loretta Nyhan, a heartwarming debut novel about a daydreamer who gives her town, and herself, an amazing gift: a lending library in her sunroom while confronting an even higher stakes, life-changing, decision.
When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.
At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors―and attract an exciting new romance.
But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do…
What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
If at all possible, write for pleasure—for your imagined reader and for yourself—instead of worrying about whether your book will ultimately be published or sell well. When inspiration strikes, follow it and write without editing or criticizing what you’ve written. Let that come later. If you can enjoy the process, the time you spent will likely feel worthwhile to you and you will learn a lot about writing whether or not your manuscript ends up as a published book.
I love it when my nieces or nephew visit! My sister calls it “Camp Naomi” when any of her daughters stay over. Last winter, my brother’s daughter spent a few days in New Jersey, and we had a great time exploring the American Museum of Natural History, hand-building at a Visual Arts Center of New Jersey pottery class, and going on a trail ride at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown. Though I live in the ‘burbs and my town is a commuter-train-ride away from Manhattan, you don’t have to drive far to find horses. In fact, Watchung Stable is located in a neighboring county in the midst of the wooded Watchung Reservation.
Located in the Watchung Reservation, Union County’s Watchung Stable has a long and rich heritage. Owned and operated by the County since 1933, its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.
“Kayaking on Lake Dillon, CO” shows the lake of today–beautiful, serene, and surrounded by statuesque mountain ranges. Before posting, I wanted to find fun facts but had no idea I’d learn about a town originally built as a “stage stop and trading post” for pioneers heading west. And I had no idea that town became an “underwater ghost town!”
Pretty cool, hon!
Ten Fun Facts About Lake Dillon, COand its History
Lake Dillon is a large, fresh water reservoir located in Summit County, CO.
The reservoir, which supplies water for the city of Denver, has approximately 3,233 surface acres of water and can hold 83 billion gallons of water.
Over 26 miles of shoreline surround the lake.
Lake Dillon is nestled along the Ten Mile and Gore Mountain ranges and bordered by the towns of Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne.
The mountains top out above 14,000 feet.
Construction of the dam that was built to create Dillon Reservoir began in 1961 and was completed in 1963.
The entire town of Dillon, Colorado, and a hydroelectric plant were relocated to build the dam.
The town’s cemetery and more than 300 graves were moved before construction of the dam started.
The Old Town of Dillon actually sits at the bottom of Lake Dillon.
Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide, so a tunnel was built to get the water from the reservoir to the city.
Mountain town to railroads to dams to a tunnel that took 18 years to complete.
In 1960, the town of Dillon was bustling. Home to 814 residents, it was the largest town in Summit County. But, it also needed to move.
The Denver Water Board wanted to create a new dam and the place where Dillon sat would eventually be 250 feet under water. So, they moved the town. For the fourth time.
Dillon was originally built as a stage stop and trading post in the 1880s. At that time, it was on the northeast side of the Snake River in the Blue River Valley. The town, named after prospector Tom Dillon, was officially incorporated in 1883.
But when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad expanded into the area, it bypassed Dillon. Wanting to be closer to the tracks and therefore have a better chance to survive and grow, the town was relocated to the western side of the Blue River.
Not long after, a second railroad arrived from the northeast. Again hoping to make it easy for expansion the town moved for a second time. This town site, established in 1892 at the confluence of the Blue River, Snake River and Tenmile Creek, allowed for one train station for both rail lines.
By the early 1900s, the Denver Water Board recognized it needed to do something to meet the growing needs of the expanding city. Eventually they decided on damming the Blue River and diverting water to Denver.
The board bought water rights for the Blue River Valley and slowly began buying land. During the Great Depression, many Dillon residents were not able to pay property taxes so sold their property to Denver Water for back taxes. They also bought land on a hillside along what would soon be the shore of the new reservoir for the new town.
By 1956, the remaining residents were told they had to sell and be out by September 1961. On Sept. 15 of that year, the process to relocate Dillon for the fourth and final time began.
Moving the town of Dillon
Those who wanted to move homes and businesses from the Old Dillon to the new town site were responsible for paying for the cost to transport those buildings. So, many decided not to and instead began rebuilding or simply moved away. However, a few did choose to make the move. At least 10 homes were uprooted and relocated to the New Town of Dillon. A new cemetery was purchased near the new town site and more than 300 graves were moved.
Once everything that was going to be moved was, the remaining buildings were demolished and construction of the dam was ready to begin.
Dillon Dam construction
Construction on the Dillon Dam officially began in 1961 and was completed in 1963. The idea was to divert water from the Blue River Basin, store it in the massive reservoir and transport it to Denver when needed.
The only problem was that Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide. Denver Water’s solution? A tunnel.
The 23-mile Roberts Tunnel, the longest underground tunnel of its kind, was drilled between Dillon and Grant, on the other side of the [Continental] Divide. It took 18 years for crews boring from each end to meet in the middle.
When water is needed, it flows from the reservoir, through the tunnel and into the South Platte River, which feeds into Denver’s water supply.
I saw this recipe in the Cooking section of The New York Times and, as usual, Bookmarked it. When I was ready to try it, I shopped for ingredients, but didn’t realize the almond flour I had at home was actually almond meal, a grittier, nuttier-tasting “flour.” I decided to use it anyway, and also incorporated suggested adjustments to the recipe for Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake byYotam Ottolenghi. Alterations include decreasing the amount of sugar, separating eggs, beating egg whites, coating blueberries in dry ingredients, and baking for a shorter time uncovered.
The cake smelled so good coming out of the oven, I didn’t make the icing–the recipe below is essentially a Blueberry, Almond, and Lemon Loaf rather than a cake. Slice it and enjoy plain or with butter or cream cheese. The inside is super moist and the blueberries are–umm–berry sweet!
Happy baking, hon!
Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake
½ cup (1 stick) 150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan (I used non-stick spray for greasing pan and parchment paper.)
1/2 cup/95 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (grated lemon), plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more juice as needed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (vanilla essence)
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs, room temperature and separated
⅔ cup/90 grams all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup/110 grams almond flour
1 ½ cups/200 grams fresh blueberries
⅔ cup/70 grams confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Grease a 9- or 8-inch/21-centimeter loaf pan with butter or non-stick spray, line with a parchment paper sling and butter the paper. Set the pan aside.
2. Combine butter, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and almond extract in a bowl and mix with paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light. Add eggs yolks and beat. Don’t worry if mix splits a little: It’ll come back together once dry ingredients are added.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and almond flour.
4. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of dry ingredients over blueberries (or just enough to coat blueberries) and carefully toss. Set blueberries aside. (Coating blueberries w/dry ingredients helps to keep them suspended in batter rather than sinking to bottom.)
5. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
6. In three additions, add dry ingredients to butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix just until no white specks remain. Fold in blueberries by hand. Fold in stiff egg whites. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.
7. Bake uncovered for approximately 1 hour. Test middle with toothpick and when it comes out clean, cake is done. Let cook in pan for at least 10 minutes before removing cake from pan and placing on wire rack to cool completely.
8. When cake is cool, make the icing: Add lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar to a bowl and whisk until smooth, adding a bit more juice if necessary, just until the icing moves when you tilt the bowl. Pour over the cake and gently spread out. The blueberries on the top of the cake may bleed into the icing a little, but this will add to the look. Let icing set (about 30 minutes), slice and serve.
Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m.
The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.
Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.
This perfect-for-summer Three Berry Crisp is yummy by itself, served with ice cream, or topped with whipped cream. There’s plenty of berry juice at the bottom to drizzle on waffles, brownies or anything else you want to dress up with some red and blue sweetness. Found on Oukosher.org by Eileen Goltz, this Three Berry Crisp is gluten-free, nut-free if walnuts are eliminated, and vegan and parve when margarine is used. The recipe is missing one thing–a note that spoons are required for serving and eating–lol!
Happy baking, hon!
Three Berry Crisp
3 cups raspberries
1½ cups blackberries
2 cups blueberries
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup granulated sugar (I cut to approx. 1/4 cup.)
¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup coarsely-chopped walnuts (Or substitute with plain oatmeal to make nut-free.)
⅔ cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
Optional: dashes of ground cloves and cardamom
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 7×11-inch baking dish and set aside. (I used two deep pie dishes.)
To Prepare the Filling:
2. Lightly rinse the berries and drain on a paper towel-lined half sheet pan. Gently pat dry and then place in a large bowl. Add the sugar and cornstarch and toss them gently with the berries. Add the lemon juice and toss gently. Transfer the filling to the prepared dish.
To Prepare the Topping:
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the nuts. Pour in the butter and toss with a fork to form crumbs.
4. Take a clump of the crumb mixture and squeeze gently to form a larger clump. Break the larger clump apart over the fruit. Repeat, using all of the crumb mixture. (Optional: Sprinkle cinnamon on top of crumb mixture before baking.)
5. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the crumbs begin to brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.
6. Serve warm with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Tip: Make ahead. Warm before serving in a 300 degrees F oven for approx. 10 -15 minutes.
Note: Berry Crisps are prone to leaking. If transporting, wrap in foil from bottom up and carry in leak-proof bag or dessert carrier.