Monthly Archives: February 2015

Gramma’s Dandelion Wine

I don’t know how my proper English grandmother would feel about being represented by a recipe for spirits. I found it in her notebook recorded in a lovely but substantial hand. Substantial enough to be read many decades after it was written.

The ink is faded of course. Real ink like the kind that used to come in bottles and inkwells. The pages are soft with age and worn off at the corners. I touch them carefully for fear they will disintegrate into powder.

The pasteboard covers are separating at the spine. The original brown was probably dark but is now a dusky shade. She wrote “Cook Book – Mrs. Boudiette – 467 Holley Street – Watertown NY” on that cover – referring to herself in properly modest fashion without her first name.

This inscription tells me something about the age of the notebook. Grandma lived on Holley Street long before they moved to the tall brown house on West Main where I spent the happiest hours of my childhood with her in her kitchen during the 1940’s.

I run my finger over the letters she wrote. My hand touching the place where her hand had been. She died when I was only seven years and three days old but she has been deeply entrenched in me ever since. Everything good that has happened in my life began somehow with Gramma.

Only two dates are eMe & Grandma Gardeningntered in her notebook. November 1, 1927 after her recipe for Apple Jam. March 9, 1931 on the page with Tasty Salad.

Other entries include “How to Remove Ink from Clothes” and “Receip for Tanning Hides.” Bless you Gramma for that.

And here is her Dandelion Wine.

Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette’s Dandelion Wine (In Her Own Words)

 6 quarts fresh heads of dandelion blossoms in stone jar or granite. 1 gallon hot water poured on the blossoms. Put aside for 3 days and nights, then strain through a cloth. Now add 3 pounds sugar, juice of 2 lemons and 3 oranges. Add one-half yeast cake. Pour mixture into a stone jar and let it stand 4 days and nights. Then strain again through a cloth. Bottle. Let stand in bottles with corks set in loose until it stops working. Otherwise it will blow off or break bottles. After it stops working cork tightly and store where cool.

Shared by Alice Jane’s Granddaughter — February 21, 2015 – The picture is of me and Gramma in her garden when I was two and a half years old. Find my books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

Sleeping with Cheerios

The angels are in the details. And the more specific those details – the sweeter those angels will sing. Nobody knows that better than Stephen King.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-cheerios-cereal-background-image28465937When a refrigerator opens in a Stephen King story we don’t just find ketchup on the shelf. We find Heinz Ketchup on the shelf. Heinz Ketchup is a cultural icon for most of us. We see the dark red through the glass – the white crest shaped label – the metal cap that’s hard to unscrew.

King understands our mental associations with the objects of American life – especially brand name objects. Evoking these iconic associations makes a scene feel more real no matter how outlandish other elements of that scene may be. And we do know Stephen can get outlandish.

Here’s an example from the Stephen King novel Carrie. “The explosion of Toni’s Citgo on upper Summer Street had resulted in a ferocious fire that was not to be controlled until nearly two o’clock in the morning.”

He could have said “the explosion of the gas station.” But “Toni’s Citgo” is much more real. We are right there on upper Summer Street seeing and believing. However incredible the events of Carrie White’s life may be – the specificity of Toni’s Citgo helps us suspend our disbelief.

In another Stephen King example from his novel The Shining Wendy Torrance is terrified of her husband Jack as usual. She “paws through her purse and comes up with an Anacin” after complaining timidly of “a really bad headache.”

“’No Excedrin?’ Jack snaps back. He saw the small recoil in her face and understood.” We understand too and wish we could offer her a Xanax and a ticket out of there.

My personal example resonates more privately. Except maybe if you’ve had a beloved relative in pain and peril and were beside yourself with overwhelming feelings of grief and powerlessness.

This relative was my precious granddaughter and she’d just gone through radical back surgery. I was at her parents’ house exhausted after hours at the hospital. But I couldn’t sleep because I was miserable and afraid. I needed something sweet at a bitter time.

I prowled the kitchen trying not to wake anyone but all I could find was a box of Cheerios. I spirited that box back to my granddaughter’s single bed where I was sleeping – or supposed to be sleeping – while she was hospitalized.

I stuffed dry circles into my mouth as tears wet my cheeks. I woke the next morning with those circles crushed underneath me. I’d been sleeping with Cheerios. If I ever write that full scene – how much less real and resonant will it be if I say I’d been sleeping with cereal?

Find my books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orrwww.aliceorrbooks.com

My First Fiction in 16 Years

Before my new suspense-romance novel A Wrong Way Home came out, I’d published eleven novels and two novellas. But that was a fairly long time in the past. In fact, the last of those fiction books appeared sixteen years ago.

First GrandchildThat time period has special significance for me. Sixteen years ago, my first grandchild was born. One look at her, and I fell in love, so deep I could no longer write fiction. For me, creating stories came from that same deep place, and now that place was otherwise occupied.

I’d been a publishing author and a very busy literary agent for a long time by then. I’d enjoyed both of those roles immensely. But this new incarnation was a whole different level of pleasure altogether. There was only one thing I could do. I gave up my publishing world careers and became a professional grandma.

I’ve never regretted that choice for a moment, and now I have another reason to be happy I made it. I spent most of those sixteen years immersed in my family. They became the thing I cared about most and knew best. It’s not surprising that my new novels are all about family, too.

My Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series tells the stories of the Kalli family — specifically, the stories of the four handsome Kalli brothers. At the heart of everything they do, and a lot of what they’re conflicted about, is their family. It was the same with our family.

We didn’t have murders to contend with like the Kalli boys do, but we did have tempestuous times, especially between me and the love of my own life. I like to call him Sweet Jonathan, except when I might be entertaining some murderous fantasies myself.

We are very much in love all the same, just like the couples I write about on Riverton Road are very much in love. So, you might say I didn’t really leave my storytelling life behind during those sixteen years. I was just doing research.

Find my books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

This is Our Year

AOB Fireworks2Recently a friend of mine said, “This is my selfish year.” She’s an open and generous person so I know she didn’t mean that in a narcissistic way. What she was saying – to all of us – is that it’s time to pay attention to our personal needs and goals. And it’s time to make them a priority, too.

She’s talking to those of us who tend to take care of other people – our partners, our family, our friends, the people we work with – and place ourselves near the bottom of that list. Near the bottom of the list where the dregs are. The dregs of our time, energy and commitment.

We’ve been raised, trained and continually admonished to do this. We’ve been taught that this is the way to be a good person – by not being very good to ourselves. The problem here has to do with Balance. Or, more accurately, it has to do with Imbalance.

Somebody whose word I do my usually inadequate best to follow teaches this. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Loving ourselves is the model for learning to love everybody else. Caring for yourself and caring for others are one and the same. It’s all about balance.

I’m not talking to those limited individuals who only think about themselves. They wouldn’t hear me anyway. Besides, in my experience, they are very much in the minority. Most of us tilt in the other direction.

Most of us are down in Dregsville trying to survive on our own leftovers. Even more unrealistically, we hope we might possibly thrive on those leftovers too. Here’s a hot flash for you. We most likely will not.

I propose an exercise. Please forgive me. I started out as a schoolteacher. Consequently, every problem prompts an exercise. So pull out a legal pad and pencil or whatever your favorite recording device may – electronic or otherwise.

Write down this question. “What do I really want for myself this year?” Not what you want for any of those other souls in your life that I listed above. This time you need to find out what you really want for you and you alone.

Forming the answer to this question may take some pondering. Or it could be right there on the tip of your tongue and at the top of your brain longing to fly forth. Let it be spoken. Allow it to soar. Write it down.

Then just let it sit for a while. In your head, in your spirit and most of all in your heart. Because this is a loving question you’re asking yourself. And it deserves to settle in deep.

Eventually – sooner rather than later I hope – you’ll make a plan. That plan will be the specific steps you must take to get to what you really want for yourself this year. You’ll write those steps down too. Because it’s good to document and this document is a promise to yourself.

Next – and this is your promise to me – you will start taking those specific steps. One by one or maybe even two at a time. Moving steadily toward where you really want to be. You will do that because – This is Our Year.

Find my books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com