Salute our Veterans


DadWWIISaipan, Tinian and Okinawa. That’s all I ever knew about my father’s service with the Marines during World War II. Any time I asked he would say that he was in the South Pacific for more than 3 years seeing action on Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa. That was all, until one night when I was a teenager, and I saw a documentary about the Battle of Okinawa and learned that over 14,000 Allied soldiers died. I asked him if it was as horrible as the film made it seem?

There’s a reason they say war is hell, he offered. I asked what it was like? He related two memories from the 82 days of the battle. He shot a Japanese soldier. He stood looking down at the man, who was about his own age. Peeking out of a pocket was the corner of a photograph. Daddy bent down and gently removed it. It was of a young woman and small girl; his wife and daughter, no doubt. He took the photo of mom and Leslyn (my sister) from his breast pocket. He held them side by side. He was responsible for tearing apart this young family. He slipped the photograph into the man’s pocket again. He looked at his face, the enemy. How had this young man become his enemy? Politicians who were simply seeking great power had said so. Now he was the enemy invader.

The other memory was one that was reminiscent of a horror film. When it was discovered that the Island’s inhabitants had taken to the hills and caves to hide during the fighting, the American troops were sent into ‘round them up’. There were no people to round up, just bodies of men, women and children who died by each other’s hands and their own. The bodies were to be removed via wheelbarrows. He had nightmares about it for years.Chuck3

Mike O'Rourke, 1996

Couldn’t find one of Mike in uniform.

AmoWACWar may seem exciting and adventurous, he warned, but it is not something to be glorified or celebrated. The Marine Corps, on the other hand, is definitely worth glorifying and celebrating. When you are the offspring of a Marine you learn early on that “once a Marine always a Marine”. The first song I learned was the Marine Corps Hymn and the first Latin phrase was Semper Fidelis, always faithful. So today, Veterans Day and the day after the Marine Corps birthday I raise a glass to all the men and women who have served in the armed services. Particularly those in my family, Daddy, Mike (my late husband) who served in the Marines during the Viet Nam war (oops, police action), Chuck (Leslyn’s husband) who was a peace time Marine. Has the world ever been at peace?

There are other soldiers in my family, too, several cousins on both sides of my family were in the Navy and my grandmother was a WAC during the Second World War.

War is unhealthy for children and other living things was a popular poster in the 1960s and is just as relevant today, so I honor vets from all over the world today.


In Flanders Fields


Major John McCrae


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


 Turn on your green light and light the way home for all the Veterans in the world.

2016 IS HERE!


Janet’s beautiful calendar is here and available JT Originals.

Win the chance to add to your collection or get this one as your first.

beigecalendarfrontThe first year (2013)

(the picture on the front is my mouse pad, too)

calendar2014frontbLast year (2014)

The Christmas Kiss inspired my story, 1st Christmas At Pemberley.

My Mr. and Mrs. Darcy short stories

calendar2015FCwborderThis year (2015)

Janet was the photographer, so you can join her on a P&P tour. And she tells me that the three calendars are still available on her website/blog More Agreeably Engaged.


2016CalendarFront1656Bwobleed101015websiteThis gorgeous cover is a brilliant homage to Hugh Thomson and the 1894 Peacock Edition of Pride and Prejudice.

pride_prejudice_allen_thomson_coverThought it might be fun to offer a copy of this wonderful tribute to our lovely Jane.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



I have always loved the sister relationship Jane Austen wrote in Pride and Prejudice between Jane and Elizabeth, and that Andrew Davies emphasized it in the 1995 BBC mini-series. it reminded me of the relationship I had with Leslyn. In the early years of their marriage, I felt as though Chuck was jealous of the relationship I had with my sister, and have often wondered if Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley felt the same?

On this, my sister’s 73rd birthday, I am at a loss. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone for seven years, other times it seems like only yesterday we were exchanging stories about our grandchildren. With a pain in my heart that has lessened, albeit only a little over the years, I offer this small tribute. I spent the evening going through a scrapbook Leslyn made to commemorate a trip we took to England. Photos of us standing near the block where Ann Boleyn lost her head, sharing tea at a shop in Windsor after a trip to the castle. Leslyn loved doll houses and we went there particularly to see Queen Anne’s house. We had a wonderful time, the memories of which help to heal the broken heart.


“I watched the little mournful procession the length of the street and when it turned from my sight and I had lost her forever.” Cassandra Austen – 24 July 1817



Cassandra Austen was with her beloved sister to the end. Jane died cradled in her sister’s embrace. “I was able to close her eyes myself and it was a great gratification to me to render her these last services.”

Disneyland Silhouette

Leslyn and me ~Disneyland Silhouette


Leslyn and me, 1950

It isn’t possible for me to read Cassandra’s words written to Fanny Austen-Knight after the death of Jane Austen and not think of the loss of my own sister. Unlike Cass I was not with Leslyn at the end. While I used pressing work and distance as my excuses, the truth was that I did not want to watch the life drain from her body. I had hoped to see her one last time but waited too long. As I was off-loading my luggage at the airport the phone call came. Leslyn was gone. I had rendered no services.

Leslyn, 1945

Leslyn, 1945

We knew it was coming. Like Jane she wanted nothing but death. Unlike Jane it was Leslyn’s choice. At her insistence the machines were stopped and the intravenous tubes removed. It only took a matter of hours for her to breath her last.

We will never again giggle over a batch of grainy fudge, question why a cake fell. We won’t sew together. Leslyn liked to do the basics, seams and such and I liked to do the finishing like hem, facings…the details. We won’t spend hours on the phone speaking of little nothings. No more doll shopping (she was a collector) or antiquing (I’m a collector). My sister is gone. Thankfully her children thrive.

Leslyn Smith & Charles Thomas, 1962

Leslyn and Chuck, 1962

I can only imagine Cassandra’s grief. Of Jane she wrote, “She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow. I had not a thought concealed from her and it is as if I had lost a part of myself.”

As always, Cassandra was stoic in the face of such a tragedy. She was comforted, she said, that God had granted Jane peace by ending her suffering some ten hours before she ceased to breath. Although I suspect that Mr.Lyford’s (Jane’s physician) ministrations that evening may have had something to do with Jane being able to drift off quietly.

At Winchester Cathedral she was laid to rest; an architectural master piece in which Jane took particular delight.

Of the funeral party (her brothers) Cass wrote, “Never was a human being more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this dear creature.”

As Cassandra said of Jane and I shall say of Leslyn, “Such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. I have lost a treasure.”

And so have we all…

Leslyyn '60

Leslyn, 1960

Coconut cake

coconut cupcakes

A friend recently bought a coconut cake because she was ‘in the mood’, we brewed a pot of tea, and after a dinner of salad (so we didn’t feel quite so guilty about the cake) we cut the pretty white cake. Then disappointment set in. It was nothing but a plain ole’ store bought white cake with coconut sprinkled on top. Being an amateur baker, this was entirely unacceptable, so I set out to make a coconut cake that tasted like coconut. As I am not a coconut lover I relied on others who are, to tell me if I accomplished my goal of creating a cake that actually tasted like coconut. Based on the reaction of said coconut lovers, I did indeed accomplish my goal.

A couple of months ago a co-worker mentioned it was his birthday soon, I asked if he’d like me to make a cake. He said no. Then, a half an hour later he came back to me and said he’d changed his mind, he would like a cake and he wanted a coconut cake. I made my new ‘recipe’ as cupcakes for Paul and the rest of the folks at work. They were a huge hit. I’ve had several people ask for the recipe, so figured I’d add it here.

Using a white cake mix, (I used Betty Crocker), I followed the instructions on the box, substituting the oil and water for virgin coconut oil and coconut cream or milk for the water. Not sure if coconut water would work as well. The virgin oil and cream have very nice coconut flavor. I used only egg whites. The one thing I added that wasn’t a substitution was ½ cup desiccated coconut to the batter. I got mine at Jane’s Cake and Chocolate Supply, which is one of the places where I get what I need for baking, gum paste flowers and my chocolate filled candies. However, a colleague at work found ‘dried’ coconut at Whole Foods. After baking the cupcakes, I cooled them on a rack, then put them in the boxes I use. I put the fluffy white frosting in a bowl and added 1 teaspoon coconut extract. I found I needed to add just a bit of powered sugar to stiffen it a little as the extract thinned it a too much. If you decide to use a pastry bag and fancy decorators tip you will probably need two cans of frosting, but if you aren’t using one, just spread the frosting on the cupcakes (or frost a layer cake). One other thing I did was toast some coconut. It was a nice contrast to the stark white of the frosting, and the toasted flavor was nice.

With the left over egg yolks I made a small batch of crème brulee, which gave me a chance to use my kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar on top. Back to the cake.

coconut cupcakes

Printable Coconut Cake Recipe

Coconut Cake-Cupcake


I often forget to take pictures for the blog, so this time I took them at work which is why one contains photo of the other flavors I made for the staff at work. Chocolate and Red Velvet.cupcakes cupcake


If you try this, let me know how it goes. Have a happy and safe Labor Day.


GIVEAWAY from Sally Smith O’Rourke!!!

Original painting for cover

It’s dark when I head out for the hospital every morning, and one day last week I was taken by the waning moon on the western horizon. Pin points of light and the pale yellow crescent against the midnight blue of the morning sky reminded me of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

The Dinky Bird

tn_P&PcvrAs some of you know, my love of Jane Austen began with the gift of Pride and Prejudice from my mother. At 15, I had just completed the third book report for English class. The teacher was partial to Dickens, and so, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist became the required reading for the semester. My mother gave me P&P so I would know that not all classics were dark and foreboding, in fact some were light, witty and engaging. Years before that, mom tried to interest me in reading (I was a tomboy and preferred playing outside to being quiet with a book) by giving me what had been her favorite book as a child, Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field. It worked to a degree, as I became a lover of poetry.field cover

While titled Poems of Childhood, in retrospect and reading it as an adult, it wasn’t written for children, but about them and the things that frighten the,, things that go bump in the night or hide under the bed or in the closet, and death, there is quite a bit about the death of children. I found out as an adult that Field and his wife lost a young child before writing most of the poems in this book. But I digress. The book is illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, I have been a fan ever since. One of the poems is The Dinky Bird about a land over the sea where the Dinky Bird sings in the amfalula tree. I loved the freedom the painting represented and still do. But mostly I love Maxfield Parrish.


Mike (my late husband) and I once sent a Christmas card with the Parrish painting called Christmas, later we found a print of it which hangs in my living room, even now.

The Moon

The morning that I saw the moon and stars in the dark blue sky, reminding me of a Parrish painting, I also realized that my love of Parrish was what drew me to the painting used on the cover of my latest book, Days of Future Past, mostly the color palate I suspect since the painting looks a bit more like Monet.

The Stars

Now that I’ve rambled one about absolutely nothing, I will leave you to your day. However, if you’d like to win a signed copy of Days of Future Past (for domestic readers) or an electronic book for your eReader if you live far, far away, please leave a comment and let me know how you like the painting and cover (designed and executed by Janet Taylor) and which Maxfield Parrish painting you like most. Or just say hello.

I’m hoping that I will be able to schedule my time to include a regular post for the blog, at least once every two weeks or so. I’m already working on the next one.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win Days of Future Past.

Original back cover design

Original back cover design

Original painting for cover

Original painting for cover


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Lemon Pie, yum

Lemon pie

This being early Spring, in spite of the 90 degree temperatures, I started the unenviable task of cleaning up the garden. This year that meant transplanting many of the herbs and trees that had long since outgrown their pots. (I have a container garden, as I have only a patio attached to my condo). It’s taken several weekends but it is finally finished, except I hope to find a water feature that will fit as I love the sound of moving water.

During the process, I was transplanting my dwarf Meyer lemon tree from its original and now much too small pot to one that, hopefully will allow the tree to flourish (although it’s not looking too good right now). But hidden on a branch that was up against the wall were two lemons, ready for juicing. Logic tells us that we must then make a lemon meringue pie, right? For it would be a shame to waste perfectly good lemons.

Last year...

Last year… boy did it smell wonderful!

After transplantation :-(

After transplantation :-(








The lemon pie my mother made was not your typical corn starch, sugar and juice pie in a standard short crust, she made a lemon cream in a graham cracker crust. So lemon meringue pie, isn’t really lemon meringue pie to me if it isn’t like mom’s. Until we moved to Reno, we always had Meyer lemon trees, so the pies were always Meyer lemon meringue and that is my favorite – hence the dwarf Meyer lemon tree in the pot on my patio.

The lemon pie recipe used to be in the little recipe booklet that was glued to the top of the Borden’s sweetened condensed milk can, but if you have never tried it or never seen I offer it here as a wonderful alternative to your basic lemon meringue pie. For those of you who bake, I’m sure you’ll notice that it is virtually identical to the Key lime pie, but with meringue rather than whipped cream. The sweetened condensed milk makes it a much richer pie and tastier.Lemon pie slice2

Printable Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Lemon Meringue Pie

Graham Cracker Crust

1¼ Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs; ¼ Cup Sugar; 5 Tablespoons of Butter

Bake for 8 minutes in a 350° oven. Allow crust to cool a bit and turn the oven down to 325°

Lemon Filling

1 14oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk; 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice; 3 Egg Yolks (be sure to save the whites)

Mix together and pour into crust


3 Egg Whites; ¼ Cup Sugar; ¼ teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Whip egg whites and cream of tartar, adding sugar gradually, until they reach stiff peaks. Pile meringue on to filling, making sure you spread it over the edge of the crust to seal it. Bake in a 325° oven for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and then refrigerate

That’s all there is too it, easy, quick and very tasty. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

DoFPFNew Front Cover jpgFrom the intriguing dialogue to the expansive plot that wraps around a truly unforgettable couple, this book has it all! Feathered Quill Book Reviews

I was hooked from the start.

I truly enjoyed this book. Great books to me are ones that I can visualize. This was a Hallmark movie.

This Book is a Hidden Gem!


The blog tour for Days of Future Past is continuing through this week. So stop by one or more of the blogs for a chance to win the book and a $15 Amazon gift card.

March 30: Yeah Books!
March 31: Room With Books
April 1: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
April 1: A Book Addict’s Delight
April 2: Undercover Book Reviews
April 3: Jbiggarblog

If you feel so inclined to surf the net for book blogs try these as well and get more chances to win.

March 16: Sultry, Steamy Reading
March 17: My Devotional Thoughts
March 17: Jen’s Reading Obsession
March 18: Long and Short Reviews
March 19: Romance Novel Giveaways
March 20: Andi’s Book Reviews
March 23: Books N Pearls
March 24: Books and Other Spells
March 25: Owltastic Promotions
March 26: Unabridged Andra’s
March 27: Queen of All She Reads


DoFPFNew Front Cover jpg

Not sure why I didn’t think of this sooner, but better late than never, right? I’m doing a blog tour with Goddess Fish Promotions and have already been spotlighted at six book blogs over the past week and now am continuing the tour through April 3. Stop by any or all of them for a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card and copy of the book.

March 16: Sultry, Steamy Reading
March 17: My Devotional Thoughts
March 17: Jen’s Reading Obsession
March 18: Long and Short Reviews
March 19: Romance Novel Giveaways
March 20: Andi’s Book Reviews
March 23: Books N Pearls
March 24: Books and Other Spells
March 25: Owltastic Promotions
March 26: Unabridged Andra’s
March 27: Queen of All She Reads
March 30: Yeah Books!
March 31: Room With Books
April 1: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
April 1: A Book Addict’s Delight
April 2: Undercover Book Reviews
April 3: Jbiggarblog

Enjoy the tour, I’ll be there are a few sites you’ve never visited before, so have a great time!

A Winner!


Deborah F of New York won a signed copy of

Days of Future Past in the Valentine’s Day giveaway at

Austen Variations!


DoFPFNew Front Cover 600