Chapter 14 of Machinations of War

While this would usually be my week to post the latest chapter of Machinations of War, the project took a little turn this week, and Alexander and I decided to roll with the changes. He explains further below:

A little explanation on this chapter is due, I think. This week should have been written by Kimberley Thomas but I am posting it and that is because Chapters 13 and 14 were originally going to be one chapter. But, it turned out to be longer than we wanted, so we split it into two chapters. However, this chapter is special in that we both worked on it this week. So, this chapter is neither mine, nor her’s, it is ours. A special case. I hope that you all enjoy chapter 14, and I do apologize for being late, this past week was more difficult than usual. And without further ado, I present to you, our loyal readers, Chapter 14 of Machinations of War.

via Chapter 14 of Machinations of War.

So once again, I direct you to Alexander’s blog, Riding into the Sunrise, for this week’s installment of Machinations of War.

Better late than never, or so they say! :D

Happy October 1st everyone!

And here is my obligatory weekly message—For those of you who are new to my blog, (or just passing through :) ) my son and I have been writing this collaborative story for the past three months. If you would like to read the story in its entirety, please visit here.

Music Monday | Bruce Springsteen

Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s hard to believe another new week is already upon us and September is nearly gone. It seems like this month just began and now we are already saying goodbye. Here’s to a fond farewell to September and a hearty welcome to October!

This week’s pick for #MusicMonday was truly a difficult choice. With so many great songs, it was hard to narrow it down to just one! In the end, I decided to go with Bruce Springsteen, as The Boss celebrated his 65th birthday this past week, on Tuesday, September 23rd. Bruce Springsteen. 65. Wow. And still as awesome as ever!

As you may have guessed, I have always been a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. For my 16th Birthday, my dearest friend in the world gave me a life-sized poster of a disheveled, brooding, sexy-looking Bruce Springsteen. It looked something like this—

Bruce Springsteen

I promptly hung it on the ceiling over my bed. :D

Without further ado, I give you one of my favorite songs written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, and the E-Street Band, the 1975, “Born to Run”.


“Music is an outburst of the soul.”Frederick Delius, English composer (1862 – 1934)


Music Monday (469x288)

Wishing all of you a great start to your new week!


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Delectable Apple Cobbler

For some reason I have never been a huge fan of cobblers—I much prefer the crunchy streusel goodness of a baked fruit crisp any day. Yet recently, I stumbled across a recipe from one of my well-loved cookbooks that has completely changed my mind about cobblers. This particular recipe has a cake-like batter topping, rather than the conventional biscuit topping, and perhaps that is why I find this version so appealing.

Anyway, I was sharing my happy discovery with my mom over the telephone the other day, and she wanted me to share it with her. I thought perhaps there might be someone else out there who is in the mood for a delicious cobbler recipe too! Just in time to take advantage of the fall’s apple harvest!

Enjoy! <3

Apple Cobbler! :D

(From The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Twelfth Edition ©1979, then slightly tweaked by me!)


12 tablespoons of butter (separated)

½ cup milk
3 cups peeled and sliced apples 1 egg
¾ teaspoon salt (separated) 1½ cups flour
¾ cup sugar (separated) 2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and pour it into an 8-inch square cake pan. Spread butter evenly and arranged the sliced apples over it. Mix together ¼-teaspoon of the salt with ¼-cup of the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over the apples; set aside. Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of the butter in a microwaveable-safe bowl. Add the milk and egg, and beat well. Mix the flour, baking powder, the remaining ½-cup sugar, and the remaining ½-teaspoon salt in a separate bowl. Stir the milk and egg mixture into the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour over the apples and bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve from the pan in squares, fruit side up. Serve plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you wish.

For a quick and easy dessert, I substituted canned cherries for the apples in this recipe and it too came out delicious. Yes… I have tried this recipe twice now since discovering it, and both times it was delectable!

I used 1 – 21 ounce canned cherries; omitting the ¼-salt/¼-sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg mixture completely.

Following the above directions, spread the entire can of cherries over the 4 tablespoons of melted butter; set aside. Follow the rest of the recipe per instructions; pour batter over cherries and bake at same oven temperature 375°F (190°C) for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  :D

Food is our song

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”
~ James Andrew Beard, American chef and food writer, (1903-1985)

Growing up in a quaint Western New York village, located approximately an hour’s drive southeast of Buffalo, I failed to appreciate the ethnic medley that was the defining character of this region. Situated on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, we were a determined blend of the old and new. A hearty bunch, we survived the coldest of winters, buried under mountains of snow; a place where summers only lasted two months out of the year, three if we were considerably lucky. My people were Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Irish-Americans, and German-Americans. We were an ethnic smorgasbord of cultures, religions, and histories. And food was our song.

“Laughter is brightest, in the place where the food is.” 
~ Irish Proverb

Each group greatly influenced the other. Living side-by-side, we intermarried; sharing meals, recipes, and moments that defined our lives. There were delicious dishes such as the Italian gnocchi, the Polish gołąbki, Irish stew and soda bread, and the irresistible German sauerbraten with potato dumplings. We cheerfully celebrated each other’s grand holiday traditions; enthusiastically ate one another’s treasured dishes; and we considered ourselves family. Yet, for all of these wonderfully rich ethnic food offerings, we always seemed overly preoccupied with our casual lunch fare. Never in short supply, wonderful family-owned restaurants—delis, bar & grilles, and taverns—dotted nearly every street corner.

Deliciously spicy ~ served mild, medium, hot, or suicidal ~ with chunky blue cheese for dipping.

Western New York was the birthplace of Chicken Wings. We didn’t refer to our Wings as “Buffalo Wings” because, well—that would have been kind of redundant. We knew where Chicken Wings originated, at the Anchor Bar, in Buffalo. While the Bellissimo family may have been the first to serve these delectable tiny packages of fiery goodness, many will argue whether they can be considered the best. And no order of wings would have been complete without a huge side of celery and blue cheese. No self-respecting Western New Yorker would have ever considered dipping their wings into a Ranch/Buttermilk dip. Blue cheese was the only choice.

A thinly sliced mountain of slow-roasted, rare roast beef ~ piled high on a delectable bun ~ accompanied by au jus and the ever-piquant grated horseradish

Beef-on-Weck (or as we called it, Beef-on-Wick) is another Western New York original. While nationwide, we must sadly settle for what Arby’s considers a roast beef sandwich since the Raffel brothers opened for business in 1964, Western New Yorkers have been enjoying a much better version since the early 1900’s. Thought to be the ingenious creation of a German immigrant baker in Buffalo, designed to entice bar patrons to drink more ale, the secret to this savory sandwich begins with its unique roll. Baked only in the western New York area, Kummelweck rolls are a hard roll heavily crusted with caraway seeds and coarse kosher salt. Soft and fluffy inside, the hard outer crust allows the sandwich to withstand being drenched in au jus. Piled high with tender slices of slow-roasted rare roast beef, this delectable sandwich is then topped off with a generous slathering of pungent horseradish.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, English author (1892-1973) from The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, 1937

It has been over thirty years since I left home and headed westward across the continental United States. A single nation, yet regionally, each locale seems far removed and unique from the next. The distinct identity of its people, and the deliciousness of its foods, inextricably intertwined. Occasionally I find myself desperately missing the comfort foods of home, yet now I enjoy many new foods, cuisines I never imagined as a kid growing up in the far southwestern corner of New York State. I appreciate the ethnic medley that is the defining character of my adopted home. Situated on vast, arid, rugged lands, we are a determined blend of the old and new. A hearty bunch, we survive the hottest of summers, where temperatures routinely linger in the triple digits; a place where winters only last two months out of the year, three if we are considerably lucky. My people are Anglo-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native-Americans, and Asian-Americans. We are an ethnic smorgasbord of cultures, religions, and histories. And food is our song.

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”
Molly Wizenberg, American author, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009

Machinations of War, Chapter 13

Here is this week’s installment of Machinations of War the collaborative story my son and I are writing. This week’s Chapter 13 is Alexander’s contribution and is hosted on his blog: Riding into the Sunrise

Machinations of War, Chapter 13.

If you’ve missed the introduction to this project, or wish to read the story in its entirety please visit here

Music Monday | Louis Armstrong

Happy Monday, everyone! And welcome Autumn!

Today marks the first day of fall for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. Hooray! I’m a huge fan of autumn; the prospect of shorter days and cooler temperatures makes my heart swell with joy! <3

To all of you living down South, I send my warmest wishes for a happy first day of spring!

For this week’s #MusicMonday I’m sharing another one of my all-time favorite songs, the 1967, “What a Wonderful World”,  written by producer Bob Thiele and songwriter George David Weiss, as performed by the American Jazz legend, Louis Armstrong.

“Some of you young folks been saying to me; ‘Hey Pops, what you mean ‘What a wonderful world?’ How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.’

Well how about listening to old Pops for a minute. Seems to me, it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doin’ to it.

And all I’m saying is see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah. If lots more of us loved each other
we’d solve lots more problems. And then this world would be a gasser.

That’s wha’ ol’ Pops keeps saying.”


And here’s an article from BBC News Magazine, “Smashed Hits: How political is What A Wonderful World?” which I found quite interesting.


Music Monday (469x288)Have a great #MusicMonday! Go out and make your little piece of the world a bit more wonderful!


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance | Manzanar War Relocation Center

the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

One Camp, Ten Thousand Lives; One Camp, Ten Thousand Stories

In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II.

Situated off a lonely stretch of Highway 395, in the remote Owens Valley of California, approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles, exists a stark reminder of a dark chapter in United States history. In the shadow of the mighty Sierra Nevadas, sits the remains of the nondescript Manzanar War Relocation Center.

In 2007, with my oldest son away at college, my husband, youngest son, and I decided to do something different for our Thanksgiving celebration. We chose to forego the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and instead, traveled out to the internment camp.

The experience was overwhelming.

In 2004, the National Park Service opened an interpretive museum in what was once the Manzanar High School Auditorium. The exhibit chronicles what daily life was like for the nearly 10,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry who were uprooted from their homes, sent hundreds of miles away to live in a distant internment camp for their own so-called safety, during the height of World War II.

As I wandered through the museum, I found the racial prejudice, which had prompted such a mass violation of basic civil rights, deeply disturbing. Yet this exhibit is a crucial reminder of a shameful time in our nation’s history; a period of grave injustice, perpetrated against a vast number of people, which should never be forgotten.

The museum at Manzanar serves to preserve the stories of those who endured.

Soul Consoling Tower

Soul Consoling Tower – Monument at the Manzanar cemetery site, November 2007

Night of the Scorpion | Or… Surviving my first scorpion sting

Night of the Scorpion 
by Nissim Ezekiel (1924 – 2004)

I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

Parting with his poison – flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.

The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.

With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.

May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world

against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh

of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.

My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.

My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.


I had a most uncomfortable experience yesterday afternoon. After living in Arizona for a little over six years, I crossed paths with an Arizona Bark Scorpion. He didn’t much care for me invading his space—regardless of the fact that he was camping out inside my house—and he let me know of his displeasure by giving me a mighty painful sting to my right hand.

Immediately, I felt a painful burning, tingling sensation, so I instinctively knew it was a scorpion sting before I even set eyes on the offender. Once I found the creepy little pest (although little isn’t exactly how I would have described him in that momenthe seemed more like some giant mutated insect from a campy 1950’s B-horror flick!) I overcompensated for my fear by bashing him over, and over, and over again, with a Kleenex box.

The kindly, soft-spoken woman at the poison control center assuaged my fears, comforting me with the fact that few rarely died from scorpion stings—but to hang on to my hat, because the list of possible side-effects were none too pleasant. She also informed that I would need to visit my nearest pharmacy within the next three days to have a tetanus shot. Oh boy!

I guess I was luckier than most. The pain/burning/numbness/tingling was localized to my hand and wrist only. While I still have numbness and tingling in my ring and little fingers, it should all sort itself out by this evening.

Ahh, the joy of living in scorpion territory.

Well… on a positive note, at least I haven’t been bitten by a black widow spider or a rattlesnake, yet. :)

A grainy photo of the smashed culprit.

And just in case you’re curious, here is a grainy photo of the culprit. After the violent smashing, of course.

Machinations of War | Chapter 12 | A Collaborative Story by Alexander & Kimberley Thomas

Here is this week’s installment of Machinations of War.

For those of you who are new to my blog, (or just passing through :) ) my son and I have been writing this collaborative story project for the past three months.
If you would like to read the story in its entirety, please visit here for Chapters 1-11.

Chapter 12

Nearing the Village of Sharna – 536 AC

In the ensuing weeks, as Aislyn and Natalie continued their trek southward toward Sharna, neither spoke more than a few words. Aislyn, cloaked in her own private misery of sorrow, confusion, and rage over her father’s murder, had become increasingly withdrawn. Although Aislyn believed Natalie, when she declared to have had no knowledge of the Creator’s plan to assassinate the King, the Princess couldn’t help but mistrust the Seraph. Natalie was an instrument of the Creator, and Aislyn knew better than most how one became an unsuspecting weapon in the Creator’s personal arsenal.

Natalie, ever the good soldier, would not contemplate questioning the actions of the Creator. She had learned as a young girl that one shouldn’t question or criticize the Greater Power. She remembered all too well the day her four-year-old self watched in horror, as the inhabitants of the small fishing village where she and her family lived, stoned her mother to death for heresy. To escape the same fate, her father had fled with her and her younger brother in tow, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few days worth of food. They struggled to survive the many months of travel before her father finally stumbled upon civilization. Far to the north of their previous village, the family found themselves at desperate odds in their attempts to adapt to the climate and customs of their newly adopted region.

Natalie’s father found employment in short order, securing work as a mason; yet the position required him to travel to the Capitol City for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Forced to leave Natalie, and her brother Nathanael behind, he arranged for their safekeeping by hiring a nearby neighbor girl to look after them in his absence. A kindly girl, Ruth was not much more than a child herself; perhaps twelve or thirteen seasons had passed since her own birth. Although Ruth tried desperately to provide proper care for her two young charges, Natalie’s obstinate wilfulness, and uncontrollable anger, often overwhelmed the young nursemaid.

The brutal murder of her mother; the long months of fleeing, dirty and hungry, through the wilderness; her father’s abandonment of her and her younger brother to a complete stranger, proved to be too much for young Natalie. In her struggle to cope, she became uncontrollable, lashing out with unrestrained fury against everyone in her path. Ruth was ever patient, treating her and Nathanael both with love and compassion, but Natalie would have none of it. Over time, Ruth and Nathanael developed a deep attachment to one another, and Natalie found herself increasingly ostracized within her own home.

Their first winter in the North was bitterly cold. Raised by the sea, in the sunny clime of the southern territory, neither Natalie nor Nathanael’s constitution was strong enough to resist the winter sickness, which was common to the region. For those raised in the North, the sickness was nothing more than an annual annoyance, making the sufferer mildly ill. Natalie and Nathanael however, became enfeebled by the sickness. Plagued by persistent coughs, vomiting, high fevers, and difficulty breathing, both children languished throughout the winter months, at times, hovering near death. Unwavering in her responsibility to the children, Ruth sat by their sickbeds day and night. She wiped their small foreheads with cool rags, as the heat of the fever dripped off their tiny furrowed brows. She tucked their threadbare covers tight around their diminutive forms, building raging fires in the cooking pit, all to ward off their violent throes of shivering. She sang soft lullabies, to quiet their restless sleep. Fed them watery broths, and mashed root vegetables, when they were able to emerge from their illness-induced stupor.

Natalie’s father came and went during that long winter, never staying for more than a few days at a time. His first stop upon arriving in town was always to Ruth’s mother, paying her the agreed upon wages for her daughter’s service. He would then secure provisions, making sure Ruth had enough food and firewood to last until his next visit. Occasionally, he would fetch the doctor, more out of guilt than love, but the diagnosis was always the same, “Nothing to be done,” the doctor would gravely utter, “It’s in the Creator’s hands, whether these children survive the winter.” With regularity and precision, Natalie could expect her father’s departure for the Capital City, by the moans of union as her father bed the young Ruth. Before daybreak, he would be gone.

It was during their father’s absence that Nathanael finally succumbed to the sickness. “Ruth?” he wheezed, “Hold my hand. Hold my hand, please?”

Ruth rushed to his side, “Yes, Nathanael. Yes, little one. I’m here.” She took his tiny hand in hers, while gently patting it with the other. “It’s okay, Nathanael. Everything will be okay,” she cooed in a sing-song voice she reserved just for him.

“I know, Ru…”

Her name simply faded on his lips, and he was gone.


With the back of her hand, Natalie roughly wiped away a tear. She hadn’t thought of Nathanael in such a long time, years in fact. Crossly, she thought, “Why? Why am I recalling all of this family crap? The last thing I need now is to deal with this.”

Fueled by those long ago memories, she found herself barely able to contain her anger and pain; a growing rage permeated her entire being, infecting her like a poisonous venom. Every nerve ending screamed with fury at the recollection of her wretched childhood. Her eyes began to glow brightly, the unnatural blue of the Creator’s enforcers, while the sigil of the Creator upon her chest and the sword tightly clutched by the alien tendrils protruding from her back, began to radiate their peculiar white light. Natalie was completely oblivious to the consequences of her rage.

“Um, Seraph?” The Princess had stopped dead in her tracks.

After weeks of virtual silence, the sound of Aislyn’s voice gave Natalie immediate pause, snapping her out of her tormented recollections. She turned abruptly, rounding on the Princess with an unexpected vengeance. “WHAT IS IT!” she fumed.

The unexpected excessiveness of Natalie’s response startled them both. “Oh. I’m so very sorry, Milady.” I, um, you caught me off guard.”

“Let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we?” said Aislyn. “I think we are going to be in this together until the end, so I’d prefer that you call me Aislyn. No Princess, no Seer, no Milady, okay? Just Aislyn.”

Natalie glared at Aislyn impatiently, “That’s what you stopped our travels to say?”

“No,” replied Aislyn, her growing annoyance with the Seraph beginning to show. “I stopped our travels because you are beginning to glow like the Sea Ghosts that invade the shoreline on warm summer nights.” Natalie stared at Aislyn, perplexed. “You have seen the glittery blue light that spreads across the sands of the beach in the summer, right? The Sea Ghosts?”

“No, Mi—Aislyn, I can’t say that I have. Regardless, I don’t understand the significance.”

Aislyn pointed at the Seraph, “Natalie, look down at your chest!”

Natalie looked down and gasped, finally aware of the white light emanating from her black leather armor.

“Your sword glows too. And your eyes seem to be smoldering with the eerie azure light of the Sea Ghost.”

Reaching around with panicked swiftness, Natalie quickly snatched the sword from the slender appendages fused to her back. She was met with the same haunting laughter she had heard in the old Lorne Abbey when she had first retrieved Tizona, the weapon forged by the Creator himself.

The ephemeral creature suddenly materialized in front of her, “What a perfect host you’ve turned out to be Natalie Clark,” he murmured. “Your anger and hatred fuels my energy and strength, Seraph. Together, you and I are unstoppable. We will fulfill the commands of the Creator.”

“Natalie?” Aislyn stood dumbfounded.

Natalie stood dazed, seemingly detached from her surroundings. Several minutes passed. Finally, the Seraph turned to Aislyn and responded, “It is the spirit of the sword, Tizona. He directs us to continue on to Sharna. It is critical we reach our destination by the morning.”

Aislyn intently inspected the Seraph. She seemed cold, calculating, emotionless, and it terrified the Princess in a way she had never known before.

Without another word, the two women continued their journey.

When the sun rose on the next day, Natalie and Aislyn stared down on the still sleeping village of Sharna.

“Well… here we are,” said Aislyn, as she surveyed the village below.

“Yes, here we are indeed,” replied Natalie, then in a faint voice she added, “may the Creator’s blessings be upon us, always.”

Celebrating Poetry | Walt Whitman

by Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)
(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world,
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere
confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the field and
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left
from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim shall duly flame
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings
and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible land
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and


Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist (1819 – 1892)

Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist (1819 – 1892)








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