Tag Archives: Jodi Lea Stewart

Series: Soups On! ~ Jodi’s Winter Stew


Jodi’s Winter Stew

Wikipedia says Americans consume approximately 2.5 billion bowls of Campbell’s canned Tomato, Cream of mushroom, and Chicken Noodle Soup each year.

Canned soup . . . really?

Perhaps it’s because they never tasted really delicious homemade soup or stew?

My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to share my best soup and stew recipes so canned-soup addicts can wean themselves off the cans.

Will it work?

The proof is in the pot, yes?

Jodi’s Winter Stew

  • 1 lb. lean stew meat
  • Flour
  • Grape-seed oil, or your choice of cooking oil
  • 5 or 6 small peeled potatoes
  • 1 lg. peeled turnip, diced
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 fresh ears of corn, or 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can green peas, drained
  • 1 lg. peeled, sliced thin carrot
  • 1 lg. stalk celery + leaves if desired.
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers (hot or mild, depending on your personal heat-index)
  • 1 Tbls. Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbls. coarse-ground black pepper
  • Beef or chicken broth
  • Water
  • Seasoned or sea salt to taste

 

Prepare vegetables and other ingredients and set aside. Put stew meat in a plastic bag and add enough flour to coat well. Sprinkle with small amount of pepper if desired before shaking bag. Add meat to hot oil in a stew pot. Brown the meat lightly on all sides over medium heat, stirring almost constantly.

Remove pot from heat and add the rest of the ingredients. The broth and water ratio I use is 2/3 broth and 1/3 water. Turnips and carrots are denser than potatoes, so I dice and slice them quite small. The potatoes are cut into medium chunks.

Your uncooked stew should be a couple of inches from the top of the pot when assembled. When the mixture comes to a low boil, cover slightly, but not tightly. Stir often until all ingredients are cooked through. The meat should be tender, but slightly chewy. Why? Because that’s the nature of stew meat. Just make sure you buy a good quality meat and that it’s lean. The broth will be quite thick and rich. Do your seasoning as the stew simmers.

Cooking times vary, but it doesn’t take long.

 Comment:  Serve with homemade cornbread.

Comment:  I’ve never had anyone turn up his/her nose at this hearty stew.

The Christmas Season is a grand time for a bowl of Jodi’s Winter Stew

 

 

 

 

Dish it up, and they’ll come a’running!

 

While you’re enjoying a rich bowl of Jodi’s Winter Stew, grab your copy of one of the Silki books and have a good read by the fireside!

 

#AuthorsWhoCook

 

 

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches early 2018. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

If an Ellipsis Ran for President . . .


Vote for Me!

Vote for Me!

If ever an Ellipsis were to run for President, what would be the platform? No more dot-to-space-ratio lawlessness, of course! Yet, enforcing the Ellipses Laws may be trickier than a politician practicing magic tricks.

The underground world of ellipses

Ellipses on the Fringes of Society

Ellipses on the Fringes of Society

No punctuation mark is more misunderstood or misused (might I suggest “abused?”) than the humble ellipsis.

What’s this all about?

The underground of confused ellipses began with the complicated principles of using ellipses with quoted material at the beginning of a quotation.

Or in the Middle of quoted material.

Or at the end of quoted material.

The chaos of Styles and Style Manuals

The voices are loud and contradictory, whether discussing formal or informal writing. There are sticklers who tout perfection via the noble Legal style. Others proclaim the MLA style is the only way to go. The Chicago style versus AP style, which to use? The differences are remarkable and have been known to cause yawns disturbances on college campuses.

*All right you OCD-ers out there. If you must torture yourself, click into the following styles*

 Legal Style ~ MLA Style ~ Chicago Style ~ AP Style

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there are style manuals with set-in-concrete goop rules.

  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 
  • The Chicago Manual of Style,
  • and theTexas Law Review Manual on Usage, Style & Editing
Ouch,  my head hurts.

Ouch, my head hurts.

It’s enough to give a person a splitting headache.

Here’s what happened to me . . .

My first two novels contain ellipses with no spaces before, after, or in between. That’s kind of AP Style, but not really. What happened? It seems that editors/editor assistants were changing the final manuscript ellipses to what they believed to be correct, back and forth, until it finally went to print with no ellipses spaces at all (…).

Were they wrong?

Frankly, I think they should have at least put a space before or after the three dots ( … ) ala AP Style in honor of my journalism background.

Going forward, it seems to depend on the views of each particular publisher, the editors, or the high-school grammar teacher speaking through someone’s wetware (brain). In other words, there aren’t any absolutes out there except in the aforementioned Legal, Chicago, MLA, and AP styles, and in those pompous sounding style manuals, of course.

Hmm. We’re dealing with a Theory of Ellipses Relativity. I think I get it. All Absolutists exit the side doors in an orderly fashion, please.

Where I stand

This blog dares to suggest that more people agree that the space before and after and between the dots is not only Chicago Style, but also the more accepted means of indicating that a sentence (or thought) trails off in informal writing, fiction novels, or in designing our contemporary homes.

Well, okay. I just threw in the designing part so you would stay with me. One has to do that with grammar crud discussions or minds tend to tune out.

Here are examples of the style I recommend taken from my third novel, Valley of Shadows, due to hit the shelves sometime this summer.

  1. And these . . .” she said, touching the ruffle-edged shells, “. . . are Hawaiian clam shells. (indicates self-interrupted speech with an action)
  2. I can’t understand how the Ghost Herd came in here a few minutes before me and disappeared into, well . . . air.” (indicates hesitation)
  3. I couldn’t believe it. She-she told me about Smiles and . . .” Birdie fell into a heap at my feet, her face disfigured in silent agony. (indicates an unfinished sentence)

Keep it simple. Add the spaces and move on. I, for one, will be happy.

Back to the Ellipsis running for President (Why? Because it’s fun!)

A campaigning Ellipsis must make it perfectly clear that, if elected, it will hire more grammar cops to ensure alleged perpetrators of chaotic dots will be rounded up and thrown into a summer-time English class taught by Ferris Bueller’s economic teacher.

And arbitrators? Gosh yes! The Ellipsis campaign must assure the public that there will always be a forum, a safe place if you will, for debate and compromise when it comes to ellipsis use. For commas . . . not so much!

Imagine that: A world run by dots.

      Dots Rule!

Dots Rule!

Can we count on your vote?

 

 

 

You know I love to hear from you. What have ellipses done for you lately? Spill and share!

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Summer/Fall 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Jodi’s Black-Eyed Peas


*low-altitude recipe

  • 1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
  • Salt pork (1- or 2-inch piece)
  • 1 med. diced onion
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic pulp (don’t slice)
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • ¼ to ½ cup carrots cut into small chunks
  • ¼ bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies. For slightly spicy, use ORIGINAL if you want it slightly spicy. 
  • 4 cans chicken broth, or use water
  • 2 Tbls. chili powder
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 cups cubed, cooked ham

Prepare black-eyed peas: Pour dried peas onto a flat surface. (Note: I use the kitchen table, using my hand to scrape the cleaned peas into a colander in my lap). Rinse under running water. Put into a heavy 6 qt. pot.

Add salt pork, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, bell pepper, can of Rotel, and the broth or water. Add enough liquid to cover peas plus 2-4 inches of liquid above the peas, depending on how “soupy” you want them. They will swell somewhat as they cook, but not as much as pinto beans. Stir. Add chili powder, lots of black pepper, and start with 2 or 3 tsp. of salt. As the peas soften, taste and add salt as needed. Use less salt if using a salted chicken-broth base.

Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat. Cover partially and simmer about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir and check often for desired softness. Don’t overcook. Add ham, heat through, and serve. Delicious with corn bread.

Happy New Year!

 

 

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Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Grandma’s Christmas Cake


Old-Fashioned Version (Newer Version Below)

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup lard (shortening)
  • 3 eggs, separated. Put egg whites in the refrigerator.
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times. Work shortening with spoon until fluffy. Add sugar gradually. Continue to work with spoon until mixture is light. Beat egg yolks with a fork until thick. Add to sugar mixture. Add flour gradually, alternating with milk, beating each time until thoroughly mixed. Stir in vanilla. Bake in two greased and floured 8” round pans. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes* or until a matchstick** stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool. Remove from pans. Spread meringue between layers, on the sides and on top of the cake. Sprinkle crushed candy on top and sides. Put in stove and watch it. Take out when candy starts to melt. It won’t take long! Remove from stove and cool. To cut cake, put tip of knife in the center of the cake and tap hand to “break through” light crust of candy on top.

* Grandma Woods baked this cake in unreliable wood-burning cook stoves. She had to watch it closely or it would burn, sometimes on just one side.
** or you can use a toothpick or broom straw (very old-fashioned!).

Meringue (Frosting)

  • 4 egg whites (add one egg to the three whites left over from making the cake)
  • 3 Tbls. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Beat egg whites until frothy. Add vanilla. Add sugar a tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff. Spread inside layers and over the sides and top of cake.

Crushed Candy Topping

Crush with a hammer inside a dishtowel:

  • 1 large peppermint stick
  • About a cup of ribbon Christmas candy (preferred) or any type of hard candy.

  New Version:

Use any from-scratch or packaged yellow, white or spice cake recipe. Spice cake is extra delicious in this recipe. Bake in two 8” round pans. Cool. Spread New Version Meringue Topping between layers and on outside of cake. Sprinkle crushed candy on top and sides.

Put under broiler and watch constantly until candy begins to melt. If you leave it too long, you could mess up the Meringue Frosting. Remove from oven and cool. To cut, put tip of knife in the center of cake and tap hand to “break through” light crust of candy on top.

 

Meringue Frosting (new version)

This meringue “frosting” is a delicious, marshmallow-type topping. You can pile it high on pies or on this Christmas Cake.  It’s hard not to sneak a few tablespoons for yourself.

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Put sugar, egg whites and vanilla in a double boiler. Cook over simmering water, whipping constantly for 3 or 4 minutes or until mixture reaches 140° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. Beat at high speed for 10 minutes or until thick and spreadable. This meringue tastes a lot like creamy marshmallows. The thin crust of melted candy on top is an unexpected treat. Delicious!

Comment: Read how this cake put face-cracking smiles on the faces of nine children in the Christmas of 1936: Christmas in a Sock: jodileastewartblog.com
Comment: Photography by Elizabeth Cerza.

 

 

 

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Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Christmas in a Sock


*(All grammatical errors intentional)*

1936. December 24. 7:30 p.m.

If I wanted Doodles to sleep warm as buttered biscuits, I’d have to do some more quilt tucking.

I pressed it in good and tight all along her side and under her chin. There. Now she wouldn’t shiver in her sleep or roll off to the floor. It wouldn’t hurt her any if she did cause our mattress was only four inches of feathers and cloth and it was laid right on the floor just on top of an old blanket that had a few moth holes.

Doodles was eight years younger than me and my responsibility. Truth is, I was so glad to get another girl in this family, I didn’t mind doing anything for that skinny little baby. I had two older sisters, but they was already married by the time I got any sense.

I’d been stuck with seven brothers and me the only girl for miles around for so long, shoot, Doodles was like getting a tiny angel to take care of. Ole heaven sure waited a long time to give her to me, though, cause I’m ‘most growed upl now. Twelve years old next month, and that’s the truth.

I put my ear on top of the wood floor and tried like crazy to understand what the soft talking was saying in the room down below me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make out the words. Something was scooted here and yonder. Something big.

Yep. That’s the right sounds for shore. Same as every year. It meant Mama and Dad were getting things ready for us kids to have Christmas in the morning. My ole raccoon grin broke out so big on my face, you couldn’t erase it with a mop!

I yelled straight into my squashy pillow until my eyes watered. I did that sometimes when I was excited and didn’t know what else to do. I got that over with and flipped on my back. I cracked every one of my fingers one at time. I learned how to do that from PeeWee—one of my brothers. Those boys were good for nothing at all, except learning me how to do things like fistfight and how to get in trouble. Only thing I was glad about was how Tadpole taught me how to spit acrost the room and make it land in a can. That was useful.

Shush now, I told myself. None of that mattered tonight. Not with the magic dust swirling all around me so hard my stomach felt like a jar full of cow cream about to turn into curdled butter.

Nothing no how could ever be as fun as Christmas at the Woodsons’ house, even if it wasn’t much more than a shack. It had us in it, didn’t it? That was enough, even if we were as poor as dirt and too dumb to stop laughing about it.

Us kids had to go to bed extra early on the night before Christmas so special things could happen. I didn’t know how Mom and Dad did anything special for us with us having just about no money in the world. I sure loved it when they did, though. Loved it more than running home barefooted the last day of school.

I stared into the dark with my hands folded over each other and whistled for a little while until those sweet banana pies Mom was making after breakfast tomorrow just rastled my mind down to the ground. She never made such a thing as that except on Christmas day. Those pies tasted so dang good, you felt rich as Solomon when you ate them. She made enough for us kids to have two whole slices if we cut them kinda skinny.

After the pies, Mama’d stir together the best thing anyone ever made—her Christmas cake! She’d take that pretty thing out of the stove with the marain icing sitting up on it like stiff snow. Shiny patches of melted red, green, and white candies sparkled from the top. Whoo-ee man! Us kids about lost our eyeballs right out of their sockets just looking at it. Wouldn’t have been surprising at all to see our eyes just rolling acrost that wood floor after Mom whisked her cake over to the griddle to cool down.

Thinking about it now almost made me throw up since I wanted a piece of it so bad. How could I ever fall asleep? Dang near stupid to try.

Next thing I knew about is when one of those no-good brothers threw a pair of overalls on my head. I flung it off madder than a bee with three stingers and couldn’t believe it was light outside. Morning? I leaped off of that mattress and grabbed Doodles up tight and barreled down those creaky steps two at a time. I ran quick into the big room, which was anything but big but that’s what we called it anyway.

Had it happened? The magic?

The glow in my mama’s eyes was as loud as a hollered out bunch of words. I couldn’t hardly take my eyes off of hers, they were so bright. I put Doodles down and skipped around the room twice just to get my nerves settled down.

Can we? Can we look now? Huh?

Mom counted our heads to see if we were all there. After the last head, her usual serious face broke out in a smile bigger than the whole of Oklahoma. She stepped away from the iron-post bed where her and Dad, and sometimes a few young’uns, slept. I tell you, us kids scampered under that bed like rabbits running from a pack of slobbery hound dogs! When we came back out, we were holding on to one of Dad’s long, gray and white wintertime socks. They looked like they had the mumps, they were so full. Doodles laughed right out loud at us holding our fat socks with both hands like someone was gonna steal them.

We clawed them open and dumped everything out in our own special spots. Hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts and pecans poured out first. Then came an apple and an orange. My mouth went dry to bite into that shiny red apple, so I did and ate it all up. That was all the winter fruit we’d ever get, so us kids always gobbled it up quicker than you could say shut up.

The bottom of our socks sagged with every kind of hard candy. Oh, the colors and shapes just made us crazy happy. Some of the candies was square with dimples all in them. Other kinds were round with flat ends and little drawings like Christmas trees and holly on them. Best of all were the big hunks of folded over ribbon candy. That was our mama’s favorite, too.

I finished eating my orange and was looking for a dishrag to wipe my hands on when my brother Snipe threw an orange peeling at the side of my face. My hands turned into fists, but then something kind of strange took me over and dusted the mad feeling right off me. I just felt like smiling at him instead. I tossed him a piece of my own candy. He looked plenty surprised, I’ll tell you that for sure.

After a breakfast of mama’s special red-hot pork sausage, eggs, biscuits, milk gravy, and sorghum, we started in eating our candy. Only time all year we’d get any.

Two of those no-account boys had to help me with all the stacks of breakfast dishes. Most the time, I had to do it all by myself and I hated it. While we worked, we had a contest to see who could put the most ribbon candy in their mouths.

I don’t know who won cause we sucked and slurped on it with our mouths gapped open and our eyes bugging out just like a dog when you pulled his ears way back. After a while, we busted out laughing and about choked to death on candy juice.

Dad said, “Hey,” at us in a low, gruff voice. We knew that meant stop right now or get your rear ends whooped, so we hid and did it one more time.

After making her banana pies, Mama got out a hammer and put a big peppermint stick and a handful of ribbon candies inside a dishtowel. We all gathered around her to watch. Every time she swung that hammer in the air and brought it down to crush the candy, we made Big Eyes at each other. I can’t swear if it’s true or not, but I think God Himself must have

I can’t swear if it’s true or not, but I think God Himself must have gave my mom that recipe for the Christmas cake.

I mean, why not?

Don’t you think He’d want a Christmas cake like that for His son’s birthday?

— Biddy*

*From the life and times of Biddy—a sharecropper’s daughter in the the 1930s. Look for it in 2018. Photography: Elizabeth Cerza

Want the recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake? Look in Chuckwagons & Campfires.

What holiday stories and recipes have been passed down in your family?

I love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Sweet ‘Tater Cake


I had to borrow this photo because my camera crashed! Same color as mine, but flatter.

I had to borrow this photo because my camera crashed! Same cake color as mine, but flatter. Count on this cake being twice that high baked in an oblong cake pan.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1-1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1-lb. crushed pineapple & juice. (I like the sweetened vs. packed-in-juice pineapple for this cake)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 3 large/med. eggs (or 4 small eggs)
  • 2 cups grated raw sweet potato

Prepare oblong, Bundt, or tube cake pan & turn on oven to 350-degrees.

Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and the can of pineapple. Mix well by hand. Add eggs, mixing well after each addition. Add grated sweet potato, pecans, and golden raisins. Pour and spread into pan.

Baking times vary. For Bundt or tube pans, it can be as long as 1-1/4 hours, depending on altitude. The oblong pan takes considerably less time.

My experience #1: 30 minutes at high altitude in an oblong pan.

My experience #2: 50 minutes at low altitude in an oblong pan.

This is a moist cake. Don’t over bake. When a toothpick comes out mostly dry, the cake is done.

Frost when cool. Most recipes call for a cream-cheese frosting, but I prefer buttercream or vanilla frosting made in a double batch so the cake has plenty on top.

grated-sweet-potatoes

Grated sweet potatoes

 

Let me know how this turns out. I’m always open to learn! Happy baking! This is a popular cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick look:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Professor Dolphin Knew Best


A journalism and corporate writing background conditioned me into thinking I was ready to swim out to the Island of Non-Fiction and string up a nice hammock between two palms.

I’d drop a lobster trap off the rocky side of the island, carefully keep my matches dry and write thought-provoking, interesting non-fiction forevermore.

I would pen magazine articles, essays, editorials.

I’d turn out how-to’s, recipe books, child-rearing booklets, and sundry other juicy projects. *Don’t you just love the sound of sundry?*

Dip into family genealogy.

Try my hand at middle-grade articles about camping or friendship or about believing in yourself.

Case closed.

Alas!

You might say I experienced a curve “wave.”

While splashing my way to the Island of Non-Fiction about seven years ago, a peculiar, mystical creature emerged from my turquoise tropical dream like a tenured professor wearing a dolphin suit and a tutorial expression.

I attempted to swim around him to get to my island, but the aquatic grampus was too swift and blocked my every move.

Sensing he would not speak to me until I stopped flailing, I quietly dog paddled and waited. He seemed pleased.

“Jodi, you won’t be going to the Island of Non-Fiction,” Professor Dolphin said, fixing me with a solemn mien.

“What! You have to be joking! I love shells and pretty sunsets over the waves.”

“That’s the problem,” he said. “From now on, fiction is the new non-fiction for you.”

“But I don’t know anything about writing fiction,” I whined.

“Exactly,” the slick, grey mammal smiled. “Happy plotting, Jodi. May all your dreams be themes. May your characters ever be fleshy and your mid-book chapters sodden with thrills.”

I remember swallowing a lot of brine when he said that.

With a wink, Professor Dolphin dove head first into the majestic azure and white waves … towing my safe and comfortable Island of Non-Fiction behind him.

I stared until he and the island became as tiny as fly specs. Then I turned and swam into my future.


Are you doing something you never dreamed you would do? Did you once think you would never live in a place you live now? Have you made any bold claims about your life that you had to “eat” later on?

I’d love to hear about it.

Just for fun . . .

Borrowing unatuthorized media? We're coming to your town.

Borrowing unatuthorized media? We’re coming to your town.

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Why Farm Wives Prefer Romance Novels (a theory)


Right off the bat, I need to let you know that I haven’t conducted a Gallup Poll about who does and doesn’t read romance novels.

A Harlequin Heartwarming romance.

A Harlequin Heartwarming romance.

I’m not basing my opinion on any audience measurement, or public-opinion tallies or anything else quite so snooty-wooty.

My theory evolved accidently. I truly didn’t expect it.

Flashback:  Long ago. Arizona. Small, satellite office. Boxes of Harlequin Romance paperbacks everywhere – packed, unpacked, being mailed somewhere. Typewriters clacking away in another room.

I was super young and working for a temp agency before a major move to California.

Have to admit I was a bit of a clerical snob back then. I was a shorthand whiz (130 wpm) and typed at least 80 wpm on a bad day. So when I was told my temp job for the next two weeks involved reading mail, highlighting the main points, and handing the letters off to someone else to type a response, I scoffed.

Say what? Read letters? In a romance novel office? Embarrassing!

Basically, I needed the job, but my attitude stunk. It got stinkier when they wheeled in a huge mail-room cart full of handwritten letters.

We’re talking back when people wrote to publishers, and their letters were actually read and answered. Wow.

Now run outside and scream.

I know.

It’s that strange.

Ancient times.

With a heavy spirit, I started reading. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. Then it was time to go home. Next morning, I was back and eager to continue. I read and read, highlighted and highlighted. *personal habit . . . isn’t everything important?*

Women poured out their hearts about what those books meant to them, and how they managed to squeeze water out of a rock – that is, find time to read. The largest percentage of letters I read were from farm wives in the Midwest and the South. Coming from a country/ranch background, I identified with them.

Somewhere into my umpty-umpth letter, I began to like the ladies who wrote to Harlequin. A lot. I learned all about their lives.

They cooked huge country breakfasts for their families and cleaned up the mess themselves. No husband help in the kitchen back then. Most of the time, the kids were still in diapers, or off to school or doing other chores.

After breakfast, these farm wives headed to the garden to hoe or pick vegetables to clean, can, freeze, puree or cook. If not that, hundreds of other tasks needed “tended to.”

Hubby resurfaced about lunchtime, often rolling in from the fields on his tractor– HUNGRY!

They cooked three meals a day, scrubbed their houses, raised kids, worked beside their husbands, grew crops, turned live chickens into dinner, slopped pigs, tended to livestock, watered lawns with hoses, sewed clothes and curtains and raised flowers.

They were deeply involved in their children’s school activities, neighbors’ calamities and successes…and church.

Rough around the edgesThey talked about their husbands in positive, humorous ways. Sometimes they caught them reading their romance novels, and it delighted them, even as it gave them fodder to tease the poor dudes unmercifully.

Somehow, bless their hearts, they found a little time to curl up with a warm-hearted Harlequin romance paperback.

Their letters dripped with sincere praise as they literally begged for the next exciting adventure.

So here’s my homemade theory – romance books were (are) the best little mini-vacations for rural women facing a daily flood of endless tasks.

Picture it! After farm wife:

Snapped a zillion bushels of green beans, and/or,

Spooned the last batch of scalded, peeled peaches into sterilized Mason jars with a few whole cloves and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and/or,

Stayed up all night with a stressed-out mama cow in labor,

6419476she dives into the pages of a romance novel for an imaginary ski trip to Aspen, an ocean romp in Jamaica or a wild holiday in Rome with a handsome rogue *think Gerard Butler* pursuing her knock-down, gorgeous bod, and brilliant mind.

For oh-so-brief lapses of time, farm wife’s own impossibly thick lashes fluttered,

her fair cheeks burned,

her pulse raced.

She was admired, beloved, and sought after like the rare beauty she truly is.

Scores of men want her, but only her one true-love hero will ever win her heart!

Sigh.

Farm wife closes the book and stares wistfully out the window for a few seconds.

Okay.

On her feet.

Time to mop, weed, cook, can, drive, water, hoe, plant, sew, feed, restore, carry, soothe a worry, smooth an argument, or smooch a kid.

See what I mean?

Romance books are escapism on steroids for work-weary females.

Don’t you just love these work-weary, wonderful ladies!

Are farm wives still into romance books? I don’t know. I would really love to hear from some of the rural wives out there. Also from you brave urban warrior wives.

What books transport you to another world where you don’t think about wiping noses, cleaning dog poop off your shoes or worrying about cooking meals?

I love to hear from you.

*One disclaimer. The new wave of so-called “romance books” that have nothing at all to do with romance, history, or splendid writing and everything  to do with mere titillation, lust, and gawdawful writing do not deserve our attention here.*

 

Just for fun . . .

Give me one of them sasparillies and a good romantic book, bar keep!

Give me one of them sasparillies and a good romance book, barkeep!

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

The Land of Ish


Personally, I don’t see how we can survive these days without the Land of Ish.

I mean, think about it. You’re due in a meeting at work at a certain time, say nine o’clock. You did everything you should have done to be there on time – got up early, out the door on time, filled your gas tank the night before.

What you didn’t do is inherit a magic wand to control all the elements of life. Things like a sick child. The traffic flow. The weather.

You arrive at your meeting at 9:16. The boss looks at her watch when you enter. She nods. You give her a thumbs up.

Why? Because you arrived at 9-ish!

Another scenario: It was all fun and games to talk about your age for the first thirty or so years of your life. Now, pushing forty (or fifty, or *horrors* sixty+), you wonder if the promotion you’re panting after will go to someone younger. What about a part in a play or a chance to sing or to give a speech?

Will the powers that be choose you over your younger counterparts?

You certainly don’t look or feel your age. In fact, you’re downright ridiculously youthful. Is it your fault the world lusts after youth and beauty? Of course not!

When it comes time to spill the beans about your age (providing no one knows already), will you 1) tell the truth right out, and the results be hanged, or 2) bestow upon the inquirer a glorious smile and a shrug and say, oh, 30-ish, or 40-ish, or . . . well, you get the picture.

It’s not a lie.

It’s the Land of Ish at your service!

Ish serves us in other ways, too. Chech out these remarks:

Don’t bother to go to that restaurant. It’s too cheap-ish.

My blind date was freak-ish.

I can’t join a group of such child-ish people.

My husband’s boy-ish smile gives me stomach flutters.

She wasn’t at all standoff-ish.

He got the job because he seemed the least amateur-ish.

Your kid was fever-ish this morning, too?

My new car is kind of blue-ish.

Whew! The Land of Ish is a busy place!

Ish is a descriptive suffix that:

  • makes comrades of strangers,
  • knits friends tighter, and
  • gives all of us something to nod our heads about in agreement.

I’m not suggesting the Land of Ish should run for president or anything, but it might make a good senator.

After all, it’s not priggish, squeamish or mulish.

It’s simply stylish!

Hooray for the Land of Ish!

=======

I love to hear from you!

 

I'm worn out from chasing down social media image borrowers.

I’m worn out from chasing down social media image borrowers.

 

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches early 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Ants as Miners


If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

I know I did. Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch.

If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds, the ants mostly thought of me as scenery. That was okay with me. Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

For hours I watched ants carry bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects (especially beetles and wasps) and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint.

I never actually witnessed them placing their goodies on the outside of their pebbly homes. Invariably, they took their gleaned material straight into the mysterious opening leading to the central parts of their colony. I was sure all good ants made sure they obtained Queenie’s orders before doing any exterior decorating.

Unless they were rebels.

Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Cosplay-Costume-Leather-Jacket-750x750 I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?

Anyway, my favorite anthill pickings were tiny hollow bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery and fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries ago for hunting small animals and birds.

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.

Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare, but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family.

Arizona pyrope garnets were fashioned into bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true or not, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times their own weight…and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.

Thoreau’s take on ants . . . 

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about them.

For example, Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like the ants. He said, “We should also know what we are busy about.”

I agree. And Thoreau’s end-of-sentence preposition is okay, too.

Likewise, I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little jewels out of the earth is both resourceful AND amazing.

And no, I don’t believe they use pickaxes.

Just because you may want to know, a few facts about Garnets:

  • Garnets are called carbuncles in the Bible.
  • Garnets have been found in Egypt, dated around 3100 B.C.
  • Garnets were found In Samaria, dated about 2300 B.C.
  • Garnets come in every color.
  • January’s birthstone is a garnet.
  • A brief look at the industrial use of garnets:*
  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10.
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on equipment, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone with water-jet cutters.
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80- to 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d Alene, Idaho.
  • Two hundred hours of use is garnered from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit, vs. only thirty minutes from an aluminum oxide mixture.

*Many thanks to Michael Castaῆeda, water-jet professional, for the technical information about garnets.

Treasures from the earth seem extra special. Have you ever found a treasure gathered by an ant or another kind of insect? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Just for fun . . .

My cat has been borrowing unauthorized media?

I just found out my cat has been borrowing unauthorized media!

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.