Posted in Hump Day Sparks



I love the look of lakes and mountains.  The photo above is one from my niece Amy’s collection.  She luckily lives in a beautiful spot, and also managed to escape the wildfires that descended just an hour away from her home.

Below, Fiona spent the summer in the outdoors, working in Yosemite National Park.  Afterwards, she enjoyed finding her makeup again.



Aubrey is having a great day here…and found someone to capture the mood for her.



Some of my favorite mugs gather on various shelves and surfaces.  On the left, each of the Three A’s has his/her name printed on the side (Alec, Aubrey, Aaron); in the middle, Baby Alec, my first grandchild; and on the right, a mug I enjoy which I bought in Big Bear during one of my vacations to the cabin there.



And then I found this photo of Craig, my eldest son, just before he took off for Europe again.  This one was snapped in 1994, right after I had moved into this A-frame house in the foothills.  He is holding a book, with his photo on the cover.



And check out this delicious looking Shepherd’s Pie that I had last fall…I am eagerly awaiting its return to the menu at Marie Callender’s.



As you can see, my photos are an eclectic mix of sentimental and recent.  What are you sharing this week?


Posted in excerpts


farm- shroud of silence


On a hot summer day, a young boy goes missing; what transpired during those mysterious minutes plagues his sister for years. Excerpted from Shroud of Silence.



Overhead, the blue sky hung, thick as a quilt; like tufts of cotton, the puffy white clouds dotted the sky on that hot summer day.  In the air around me, the scent of fruit rotting in the nearby orchards assaulted my nostrils.  I scrunched my nose up as a swarming fly zoomed in for a landing and I pushed down harder on the pedals of my bicycle, eager to reach my destination.

It wasn’t every day that I got such an unexpected reprieve — an afternoon to hang out with my friend Casey Ayers — and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it.  Casey and her four siblings lived just down the road and around a corner from our house, probably less than a quarter of a mile.  Sometimes it seemed to take forever to get there, but today, for some unknown reason, the wheels of my bike didn’t sink into the hot asphalt.  Instead, they smoothly sailed along as if my bike tires had sprouted wings.

I rounded the last turn in the road, catching a glimpse of Casey’s blond curls pulled back in the familiar ponytail; I waved ecstatically.  She jumped down off the fence and ran toward me, her mouth agape to release her shout of greeting.  I pulled into the yard and jumped off the bike, tossing it down against the bushes that jutted out near the stoop.  We hugged and then ran quickly through the back door and into Casey’s room, tucked away like a lean-to in back.

As the oldest girl, she had the biggest half of the room, divided from her younger sister’s space by a thick curtain hung on a rod.  But today, her sister Cary was nowhere in sight.  We threw ourselves onto the bed in a burst of glee and immediately started whispering our secrets to one another.  At twelve, we had our whole adolescence ahead of us and we couldn’t wait for all the excitement to begin.

We read Casey’s latest issue of Seventeen, oohing and ahhing over the outfits, the hairstyles, and the makeup.  Her eyes huge with anticipation, Casey opened a top drawer in her dresser, showing off three different shades of lipstick lying neatly in a row, just waiting to be sampled.

After we’d tried all three shades in turn, examining our faces with the lights on and then with them dimmed, we finally set them aside, satisfied with our experiment.

One of the best things about Casey’s house was her mother.  Mrs. Ayers didn’t bother us…not ever.  She stayed in the front part of the house, doing whatever she was doing…Cleaning or sewing or baking.  When she made cookies, the scent wafted down the hall to us, beckoning us out to the kitchen.  Then, and only then, did Mrs. Ayers appear, wearing a big smile as she placed a big plate of cookies and a pitcher of milk on the table.  Then, disappearing into still another part of the house, we were on our own again.  She really respected our privacy.

Sometimes we watched TV in the living room while we ate our snacks.

After a blissful afternoon of just hanging out with Casey, I rode my bike more slowly back toward my house.  Like a magnet sucking me backward, I had to fight against the pull away from home and back to Casey’s, where the scents of baked goodies and the cozy warm voices still hung in the recesses of my mind, enticing me.  Ahead of me lay the heavy darkness of Father’s stormy moods, mixed in with Mother’s nervous silence as she rushed around to try and head him off at the pass.  And we’d all be called into service.  Trying to keep Father from going into one of his full-blown tantrums, we scurried about like so many mice trying to appease the cat.

On most days, I had to babysit my three-year-old brother Kevin.  Not that watching him was such a chore, really; he was actually pretty cute and his adoration felt kind of neat.

He’d follow me around, hanging on my every word, and calling out:  “Look, Sylbie, see my tower!  I can make it bigger.  Look!”  Or, “please, Sylbie, push me higher in the swing.  I want to fly!”

He couldn’t say my full name, Sylvia, but I kind of liked his version.

I rounded the last curve in the road and on the final stretch, I stood up in the pedals to move myself along faster.  I might as well get back and face whatever waited for me.

I strained my eyes toward the front of the stucco ranch house as it came into view, but something was off.  I could see Mother running around near the edge of the bushes, calling out something, her frantic movements clearly visible as I pulled into the driveway.  And behind her, Father stomped, his face glowering, and when he caught sight of me, he yelled.  “Sylvia!  Where is your brother?  And where have you been?”

My heart in my throat, I braked, dropping the bike where it landed.

For the rest of the story, visit Author’s Den.


When I think of my family connections, I am reminded of moments from the past.  This story was grabbed from my own memory banks, and while the characters are fictionalized versions of people I knew, they are very close to the real thing.



Posted in creative sparks, Saturday Snapshot




Welcome to our regular feature, Saturday Snapshot, our opportunity to showcase photos we or friends and family have captured.  The event is now hosted by West Metro Mommy.

Today I’m going to share a few tidbits about my eldest son (the photographer) and the interesting house in midtown Sacramento where he lived during the mid-nineties.  It was after he had lived and photographed his stay in Ireland…and before he moved to Prague (in 1997).

I scanned some photos of the interior of the house, a two-story, six bedroom home (with a huge basement), where he lived with six roommates.  I visited there a few times.

Later (in 2000), when I was writing one of my novels (Miles to Go), this house was the inspiration for the home of my main characters, Lindsay Malone and Gia Greenbaum, who were enjoying their radical student years there (in the 60s/70s).

My favorite parts:  the interesting woodwork.


Craig with Tchotchkes
Craig with Tschotskes



Loved the kitchen!
Loved the kitchen!


Interesting glasswork in dining room
Interesting glass work in dining room




The house was situated just a few blocks away from Zelda’s, one of the best pizza places I’ve ever visited.


What are the rest of you showcasing this week?  I hope you’ll stop by and share your links.




Posted in creative sparks, Saturday Snapshot



Welcome to our regular feature, Saturday Snapshot, our opportunity to showcase photos we or friends and family have captured.  The event is now hosted by West Metro Mommy.

Today I am featuring photos from the albums again.  I grabbed a few to scan, shots that are reminiscent of my little guesthouse in the foothills dubbed Rainbow Cottage—the house I sold six years ago, along with the main house.  I never actually lived in this little cottage (I was in the main house), but I always adored it.  When you see the room colors my daughter chose, you will understand the name.

Bright reddish-orange bathroom
Bright reddish-orange bathroom

Next come two shots of the kitchen/great room open-floor plan…

kitchen at Rainbow Cottage

great room at Rainbow Cottage - 1

Master bedroom
Master bedroom
View from 2nd Bedroom
View from 2nd Bedroom

And once again…the only remnant of those times that I still have:  the Rainbow Cottage sign that now sits on my patio.  It was planted in the ground outside the guesthouse.


That’s it for this week….now I’m off to check out your array of photos.  Enjoy the weekend!

Posted in creative sparks, Saturday Snapshot




Welcome to our regular feature, Saturday Snapshot, our opportunity to showcase photos we or friends and family have captured.  The event is now hosted by West Metro Mommy.

A few weeks ago, my eldest grandson Alec took some time to visit the University of California at Berkeley campus, and shared some lovely photos.  He will be matriculating at that campus in the coming months. 

Here are some highlights:


Alec - visit to Berkeley 1


Alec at Berkeley 2


Alec Berkeley 3


alec berkeley 4

It still seems like yesterday (to me), recalling my own university days.  My time in those trenches was in the sixties, with all the hoopla associated with them….ah, the fond memories!

What are you highlighting today?  Come on by and share some comments and links.

Posted in creative sparks, family connections, holiday moments, Saturday Snapshot


Welcome to another creative opportunity to showcase photos, via our weekly Saturday Snapshot event, hosted by Alyce, At Home With Books.

Now that fall is upon us—I always look at Labor Day as the defining moment—I would like to share some Labor Day shots.

My first photo is of granddaughter Fiona, who stayed part of the weekend with me, watching movies and playing her guitar.

Meanwhile, my daughter Heather and grandson Noah enjoyed a weekend traveling to Northern California and then to the Bay Area.

Here are some shots of Noah and his great-grandmother, followed by Heather and her grandmother.

Noah and Great-Grandmother Mary
Heather Maureen (means “Little Mary”) and her Grandmother Mary, for whom she was named

Heather and Noah had a fabulous visit…and then went to San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Heather and Noah in SF



Noah on the Ferry
Noah enjoying a taste treat


Noah is very adventurous with food….I can tell he was enjoying this meal.

A good time was had by all….and now for a visit around the blogosphere, to see what the rest of you have been up to….





Posted in MEMORIES



Last week, I was scrolling through various Facebook pages and found the center snapshot above:  my granddaughter Fiona enjoying the flowers.

And then, of course, I had to find these other two photos that remind me of flowers:  Fiona as a toddler, on the left; and my daughter Heather on the right.

Awhile ago, I wrote a post over at Story Corner:  Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  A look back at the “flower child era” and how those times informed my life.  A bit of nostalgia, a melancholy sentiment about how times change.

On a similar note, as I was driving home last night, I thought about all the things that used to be, but are no more.

On Shaw Ave. in Fresno, there is a place where an old Carnation Restaurant used to sit; after meetings and other night events, friends used to go there and eat, laugh, and talk.  Anyone remember this place?


Ours didn’t look nearly as delicious as the one pictured above.  It was a simple, one-story building on the corner of the mini-mall.  But we created many memories there.

Then, in Fig Garden Village, there was a place called Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.



What I remember most about this place was how LOUD it was, but how the kids simply had to go there to celebrate their birthdays.

I often wonder what happened to this place?  For awhile, an Applebee’s was there; now there is something else.



I guess that’s the way things happen:  old things disappear, replaced by new things.  New memories on top of the old ones.

Do you have favorite moments from the past?  What new memories are filling in for the old ones?

What pushes your nostalgia button?  Things that are no more?  Or do you relish how new things come in place of the old ones?

Posted in book review, family connections, MEMORIES


Author Mary Gordon’s father died when she was seven years old. For a long time, this fact seemed to be a defining aspect of her life. She was happy to think of him in terms of the man who loved her “more than God” and then disappeared. But thirty years later, she begins a quest to find out who her father really was.

Her search takes her to libraries, archives, and her own memory, but what she learns on this journey begins to test her credulity and her view of the man. Her many discoveries included the fact that he was actually an immigrant, rather than a man born in Ohio; he was a Jew who became an anti-Semite; he was a convert to Catholicism who wrote devout Catholic poetry; he was also a publisher of pornography.

In Ohio, where he grew up, she can find nobody who remembers him, or those who think they do, but have negative reactions to him. She discovers many facts that led to her realization that the man she thought was her father was a fictionalized version of a man. She has to decide what to do with this conflicting information.

Even her own mother is not a reliable source of memories, as she is losing hers. She scarcely can distinguish one event from another.

Throughout The Shadow Man: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father, I felt a connection to Gordon’s quest, in that we desperately need to understand who we came from in order to completely know ourselves. Those defining connections can make or break us.

The first part of the story was tedious and not as interesting as the later parts. I especially enjoyed the sections that included her mother and their history together—a piece to the puzzle that completed the whole picture for me.

Because I enjoy this author’s work, I was curious to know more about her history. This book filled it in very well, and except for the beginning parts, portrayed a compelling family portrait. Four stars.

Posted in A Bit of Me (Me), MEMORIES


In this delightful meme, we share bits and pieces of ourselves, and our host, from There’s A Book, tells us why:

We all leave our “footprint” on the world, in one way or another. We each, individually, do something or are someone that makes the world a little better just by being here. I created this weekly meme to get to know the blogging community I love just a bit better. To know what makes them tick, outside of books, that is. Each week I will post a question to be answered in the following week’s “A Bit of Me(Me)”. Check back each Saturday to get the info for next week’s post and link up with your current post right here.

Today’s Question:
I thought about this one a lot.  There are so many scents to enjoy.  I love the ocean, the piney woods…they all evoke wonderful moments in my life.
But then I thought about recent experiences in my life and how, when I first walked into a particular shop in the neighborhood mall, those scents transported me.  They “reeled me in,” and once inside, I was surrounded by the most beautiful objects.  Wonderful collectible objects, and my journey began.  Now I have a whole blog devoted to these Collections, but what first drew me into that world was the scent.
It is a combination of candles and other wonderful aromas, and the collection of scents can best be described as potpourri.
The scents sometimes seemed to waft outdoors and call to me.  Later, I would decide that they simply triggered my need to collect these objects.  But when I no longer felt I could add more collections to my space, I would just go in to inhale the scent!