Family & Friends, Gardenias, Hospitality, Life Lessons

Scents of Summer


I love the smell of gardenias. Don’t you?

Their distinctive perfume transports me back to evenings on Pear Street when we threw open the living room windows to catch summer breezes.

Hear the murmur of voices? Mother and Daddy talking with someone–maybe Miz Batson or Chapman, the Spauldings, Lily Fay & William, the girls from the office, aunts and uncles, my in-laws–or even you.

Mom is probably encouraging someone to talk about their latest endeavor, little one, job, love of their life . . .

Someone else could be telling a fish story—dare I say embellishing it like Daddy did so well when he related how he accidently tipped both mother and him out of the boat? (I wish you could have heard his version of events.)

Opinions aplenty–Please Do Not get the men started on politics.

But it was all done in fun.

Gardenia2For me, somewhere along the way, gardenias became synonymous with laughter and stimulating conversation. Their aroma conveys simple hospitality—something my folks were gifted at extending.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted a gardenia bush near my front door. The only problem is I haven’t had much luck growing them. Where Daddy could make a gardenia thrive so it was loaded with shiny green leaves and blossoms, mine offer only a few blooms each year.

But I’m no quitter. We moved our two bushes last summer, and I have hopes for abundance this year.

Plus this week, I planted another gardenia in the large pot by the front porch where it will get plenty of sunshine.


I’d like to think folks will be enveloped in its luscious fragrance when they come to visit.

I hope you’ll stop by to test it out. I’ll fix us something to drink and offer you a cookie. Let me know ahead of time, and I’ll make something special.

I promise to ask you about your latest endeavor, your kidos, or your main squeeze. And I’ll listen to what’s on your mind.

I think I can smell the gardenias already.

How about you?

Is there a summer scent that reminds you of home and hospitality?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,

for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2

Celebrations, Decorating, Family & Friends, Hospitality, Life Lessons, Valentine's Day, Writing



Today’s the 28th of February. Are you ready to flip the page on your calendar?

Although the shortest month of the year, February was always big at our house because of my birthday on the 14th, as was May for Will’s. It still is. As usual, I started celebrating early over lunches, dinners, and coffee dates. I loved being with everyone who wanted to help me celebrate.

Valentine’s Day fell on the second Tuesday, the day my writing group was to meet at my house, so heart-pansI decided to make a cake for the meeting.

What fun to use my mother’s heart-shaped pans and copy a Valentine cake from the February issue of Tea Time, a beautiful little publication devoted to the art of creating memorable tea parties. You can see theirs at Tea Time.

In fact if you want a clue as to what my decorations looked like, you’ll have go there because I FORGOT to take a picture of it. (But the group can vouch for my slightly lop-sided strawberry hearts.)


Although my hearts weren’t perfect like Tea Time’s, we had a great party–even if I do say so myself.

My guests surprised me with cards and little gifts.

Several folks read some serious pieces they had written about the love of God that seemed appropriate for the month dedicated to love. After all, writing about Him is the central purpose for our getting together.

But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:8

Afterwards we laughed and talked over cake, candy, and coffee. It was a joyful celebration. I wish you could have been here. 

Looking back at the month, I asked myself if I made good use of the time.

Concerning revisions to Thomas’s story, I confess, I didn’t do much on that front. But I spent lots of time with family and friends or thinking about th consider that a high priority.

And I did ponder Thomas’s fate as I crafted Valentine boxes to give as little gifts and bookmark favors for the writing group that were inspired by the February issue of Better Home and Gardens.

You tuck a little piece of candy inside.



There’s no doubt about my enjoying all that crafting.crafting

I  also read a blog, Novel Rocket, every day and considered the advice of successful writers. As I cut and pasted pretty papers, I pondered what I might need to cut or add to Tom’s life to fill out the plot. How I could enhance his character so you’d know him better. How to add atmosphere for a greater sense of place.


Today, the craft supplies are back on the shelf, and I’m returning to Thomas–or Tom. (His mother still calls him Tommy.) The’s jury still out on what I’ll call him in the final version, but at the moment, it’s Tom. Maybe you have an opinion on that.

All in all, I’m happy with the way my February began, progressed, and ended. But I’m also eager for the  next thing, which is March. I know it will be filled with lots of love, too.

And once again, I find myself praying to the One who loves me best.

Lead me, Lord. Help me complete what we’ve begun. Guide me in all I do in the coming days.

That’s my prayer for you, too.

May God lead you in the way you should go today and everyday.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

Ps. 36:23

Cooking, Curry, Hospitality, Recipes, Sisters

Project S.T.I.R.

Although I’m not a Foodie, I’ve done lots of cooking for my family and occasionally share family recipes here. So when my Arkansas Women Blogger friend, Sarah Shotts, invited me to become an ambassador for Project S.T.I.R., I knew I could find one of Mother’s or Mo’s recipes worthy of sharing. 

Sarah’s on a mission to video cooks of one generation passing on a favorite family recipe to someone in the younger generation. Learn all about it at Project S.T.I.R. You may even want to become a supporter. I did.

My mother was a Foodie of sorts. Her first response to any upcoming occasion was what shall we serve? She loved to cook for people, so there was always room to scooch-in one more chair around our table. 

Mother with my sister-in-law, Martha, and
Terry’s brother, Jerry, way back when

She set a pretty table, using her best china and fresh flowers or berries from the yard. 

If you stopped by our house, Mother offered you something to drink, along with at least a cookie. Maybe that came from growing up on a farm when travelers often arrived hungry and in need of a drink of water.

Mother’s 3 older sisters–Mary, Dorothy & Betty
at Oak Dale Farm where they grew up

One of nine children and the youngest of four sisters, Mama was the one who stayed in Searcy.  Consequently, our home became the gathering place for her siblings and their offspring. 

Dorothy Dale & Betty Spencer

Dorothy and Betty were career women who lived in Washington D.C. Every summer, they came home for two weeks. 

Aunt Mary was a sweetheart.

Aunt Mary lived in Little Rock so it was easy for all four sisters to be together. 

When that happened, there was always food involved. And talk. Oh, my yes, lots of talk, cooking and laughter. They didn’t even seem to mind cleaning up. If sisters-in-law were present, they joined in the fun. I was there, too, basking in all the joyful doings.

Afterwards, someone would suggest a nap. They were big on naps.

Aunt Betty, the most adventurous cook, usually brought a new recipe to share. One year she made crepes, another bread pudding. But the dish that got the most mileage at our house was her Curried Spaghetti.

Mom & co-worker, Bev, enjoyed
a mutual admiration society.

Mother loved to cook up a big batch and invite her office crew in for lunch. She’d extend the dining table as far as it would go and set up card tables in the living room. My friend, Suanne, mentioned those gatherings just the other day.

In the late 1960s, curry was a bit exotic to our Arkansas branch of the family. But Mother completely embraced it and converted us. (I’m not sure it was ever Daddy’s favorite, but he never let on in front of company. He was well-trained like that.) 

 Curried Spaghetti, served with salad and
French bread, makes a great company dinner.

Curried Spaghetti serves 12, so it’s great for a dinner party or pot luck. Or you can opt for what I did and invite neighbors over for dinner one evening and a couple of friends in for lunch another day. 

Mother’s go-to dish was a hit with my guests. Everyone wanted the recipe. I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Curried Spaghetti
3 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1-cup milk
1-lb. thin spaghetti
4 tsp. curry powder, dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
½ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. basil
¼ tsp. oregano
1 Tb. scraped onion
1 6-oz. can whole mushrooms with liquid
2 cans solid-packed tuna (I used Albacore)
Combine first three ingredients and simmer over low heat ten minutes, stirring constantly.
Add curry-water blend to soup mixture, along with mushrooms, onion, basil, oregano and thyme. Simmer 10 more minutes, stirring. 
Add tuna. (If tuna makes you shiver, substitute chicken.) 
Cook the spaghetti. 
Mix sauce and spaghetti together. Turn into a large casserole dish and reheat in the oven it just before serving.  Fix it a day or two ahead. The flavor just gets better.)

Serve with condiments such as pineapple bits, diced tomato, chopped hard-cooked eggs, diced green onions, bacon bits, peanuts, chutney, coconut, or raisins. 

I passed around peanuts, raisins, bacon bits, and coconut. I especially like the flavor of peanuts and raisins on it.

I had forgotten how tasty this dish is. If you make a batch and invite friends over, they may just want the recipe, too. Let me know how they liked it.

And don’t forget to visit Sarah at Project S.T.I.R. 
She gets up while it is still night; 
she provides food for her family…
Proverbs 31:15a

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