Friday, December 29, 2017

Flowers to the Grave

[I wrote this in November, but got side-tracked and am just tweaking and posting it today.]

When you make the second turn down the short road, you see a sign that reads: Low/Soft Shoulder. Just like every journey to the cemetery, a soft shoulder is needed. When you go a bit further another sign greets you: No Outlet. I’m not sure if the sign is referring to the dead or to the rest of us.

The cemetery is Daniel’s Place, named by my children twenty years ago. On this late autumn morning, the sun casts gentle shadows across my son’s small marble marker as the old oak nearby stretches towards Heaven.

When Daniel died at age four after nine months of treatment for cancer (neuroblastoma), I came up with some ideas. First off, I didn’t order a large grave stone. And I didn’t want flower vases. A marker with a built-in vase would mean responsibility and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to visit the grave often enough to replenish the flowers for the vase. Fresh flowers would be best; I wasn’t a fan of plastic ones that faded in the heat of the summer sun. But would I have time (at six months pregnant with a six-year-old and a one-year-old) to buy flowers or pick them from the garden and take them to Daniel's Place? If I had any extra time, I was sure that the rest of society would benefit more if I used it to shower or brush my teeth.

How often was I going to come to this place, remote from the rest of life? I wasn’t going to be one of those Sunday cemetery visitors, heading over after each church service to pay a visit to my son, was I? Besides, I wasn’t sure that this place was going to be one I’d want to visit. Daniel’s memories were at the house where he played with the neighbor kids and his siblings. The garden on the side of our house held the memories of when he picked green tomatoes by the rose bushes. The roses would bloom and be his memorial flowers.

"I'm going to do great things in your memory," I said one March day as the wind made me want to jump into the warmth of my Mom Van, not stand by Daniel's grave. "I'm not sure what I'll do, but it will be great." Oh, the things I would do, could do.

Twenty years later, I have found that the flowers in the grave vases still look fake, staged, and often forlorn.

Also, I have realized that over those years, I still have not done anything great.

But I have learned lessons that only time could have taught me about life and death and the things we do in memory.

We have this continual need to care for our loved ones. We want to do things in their memory. Unlike flowers, our love and our relationship with them does not ever fade and wither. When the living can adorn the grave of their loved ones, that shows another way to say I still love you. I still care. So I bring pinwheels, helium balloons, and solar lights, and yes, even an occasional flower. I write a poem or short story and tuck it away to edit and perhaps, share.

The amazing truth is that over the years, love grows. My love for my living children, husband, and friends has grown.

And my love for Daniel has grown, too. I tell his stories, the silly jokes he recited at age four from a tattered joke book, and watch others smile.

It is love that remains.

And that's a pretty great lesson to have learned.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chocolate Fudge from Grandma

The very act of storytelling, of arranging memory and invention according to the structure of the narrative, is by definition holy. We tell stories because we love to entertain and hope to edify. We tell stories because they fill the silence death imposes. We tell stories because they save us. ~ James Carroll

My grandma Stubbs (Dad's mom) brought the chocolate fudge. Arriving at our apartment (when we were in America on furlough in Richmond, Virginia) from Baltimore, Maryland, the fudge traveled with her in a decorative tin. After dinner, dessert followed, and Mom would open the tin. Inside were chocolate squares, all piled like building blocks. The warm sweet sugary aroma filled the dining room. I'd take a piece, but it was almost too sweet and chocolately for me as a small child.

Eating it now, I feel that I've been invited to the big folks' table. It's no longer too sweet; I can hold my own. A cup of coffee and a piece of decadent fudge, I am ready to tackle the world.

In 2013 when I planned to compile my third cookbook of memories, I asked friends and family for special recipes from those no longer with us. The recipes arrived, each with special stories. There are recipes from those who led long, rich lives, and in memory of those who led rich, but much-too short lives. Dad sent one of Grandma's fudge recipes. The memory he's attached to it shares from his own childhood of growing up in the 1930s.

I made Grandma's fudge this morning. Although the recipe Dad submitted is for peanut butter morsels to be used (I am sure the one for chocolate has to be somewhere in the dozens of index cards he inherited), I substituted chocolate morsels. (I am known for a bit of substitution.) I didn't just make one batch, I made three batches. Hours later the house still smells of chocolate.

Memories Around the Table holds recipes and remembrances of those we love and cherish. By making these recipes, thoughts of our loved ones spring to life in the kitchen, in the dining room, and swell our hearts with memories that no one can steal.

Memories Around the Table is now on sale and available at Etsy. Free shipping within the USA.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Streusel Coffeecake, time to bake!

As the mornings grow chilly, it's time to slow down, enjoy the fall colors, and warm up. A delicious treat to try this season is a coffeecake. Here's a recipe that is almost sacred, given to me on a note card by a woman I called Aunt Annie. Aunt Annie wasn't a blood-relative, but missionary kids learned to call other missionary parents "aunt" and "uncle" because it was so much less formal than Mr. or Mrs. Most of the time, we knew these missionary aunts and uncles better than our own relatives. Our own relatives were in the U.S. and we saw them sporadically; the missionaries who worked near our parents in Japan, we saw often.

So this is a recipe given to me when I got engaged in Japan back in 1988. It came in a colorful recipe book with handwritten recipes from others who were working in Japan at the time. There are recipes from many kitchens. Over the years, I have gone to this cookbook and not only made the recipes, but have added other recipes to it, ones I've printed off the Internet, ones I've cut out of magazines, ones from cookie exchanges. My Japan Recipe Book is fat now. The Streusel-Filled Coffeecake from Aunt Annie Brady remains one of the originals and one of my favorites.

Aunt Annie's son Bill (who graduated from Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan the same year I did), says he mixes sour cream with the milk to make the coffeecake more moist. I have yet to try that, but it is an option.

Aunt Annie died last year. A number of those who contributed to the cookbook are also gone. The fond memories of knowing these missionaries and learning from them, live on. Their recipes are treasured remembrances.

The back of the recipe card holds Aunt Annie's suggestion about making a batch of streusel and also a tip about not using all the recipe calls for in one coffeecake. However, I use it all. Having a sweet tooth from early on, my feeling is that one can never have too much streusel.

Happy baking and eating!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cooking With Author Jane Jenkins Herlong

Today my guest is Jane Jenkins Herlong, who has a recipe for cheesy grits made in a rice cooker, as well as a new book out. I grew up in Japan, so I've been eating steamed rice forever, but have yet to make grits in my rice cooker. I might just have to do this as this recipe looks like the kind of southern cuisine I love. For those of you with steamers, I guess you will need to follow Jane's instructions for the bottom portion of your steamer. If made in a rice cooker, there is no need to fill the bottom pot with 1/2 water. Omit that step.

Slap Yo Momma Grits!
You will need a rice steamer.
In the top of the steamer with the bottom of the pot filled 1/2 with water, add one cup of grits and four cups of water.
After 20 minutes, add 8 ounces of cream cheese and a 4 ounces of sharp cheese.
Stir and enjoy!

Now here's a bit about Jane . . .
Jane Jenkins Herlong is a Sirius XM Humorist, Amazon best-selling/award-winning author, professional singer, recording artist and award-winning professional speaker.

A recent inductee into the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame, Jane is one of the 232 men and women to be awarded this honor including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Colin L. Powell. Jane also has achieved the distinction of Certified Speaker Professional by the National Speakers Association.

Jane’s book, Bury Me with My Pearls is an Amazon Best-Seller and was awarded the Gold Medal in the Illumination Book Awards and Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year. Jane’s newest book is entitled, Rhinestones on My Flip-Flops: Choosing Extravagant Joy in the Midst of Everyday Mess-ups published by the Hachette Book Group.

Her award-winning singing and humor is featured on Sirius XM Radio and Pandora Internet Radio along with Jeff Foxworthy, Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld. She criss‐crosses the country sharing her “downhome principles delivered with uptown humor.” Jane has also spoken in New Zealand and Germany and is fluent in four languages: English, Southern, Northern and Lowcountry Gullah (gul‐la).

Jane’s keen sense of humor evolved from being labeled Dyslexic and constantly told, “You can’t do that!” Jane changed the word NO to NEXT and the rest is what dreams are made of. Audiences learn the healing power of humor when handling negative people and circumstances for more productive, positive living. Jane’s life stories and humor leave audiences with the same message she lives- “prove people wrong and laugh while living your dreams.”

With a sense of humor and smart work, Jane traveled from the rows of her family farm to the runway of the Miss America Pageant all the way to performing at Radio City Music Hall. She graduated from college with the highest honors voted by her peers and continued on to graduate school. Her successes continued to pile up from there. Today, Jane travels around the world featured at speaking events in New Zealand and Germany as well as several venues around the United States. Jane has also had the pleasure of sharing the stage with several noteworthy people such as General Colin Powell, Rudolph Giuliana and the late Charlton Heston.

And here's about her newest book . . .

Rhinestones on my Flip-flops offers the message Jane lives by: prove people wrong and laugh while living your dreams.

Has your life ever flipped? The challenge is to not become a flop! Strap on your sandals and let Rhinestones on my Flip-flops deliver joy and laughter in the midst of everyday mess-ups.

Professional Southern humorist and award-winning author Jane Jenkins Herlong uses humor, wisdom, and life stories from iconic biblical women to guide you through the inevitable blunders of life.

Learn from the flip-flops of Deceived Eve, Domestic Diva Martha and Whiny Naomi. Laugh and be inspired by honest (ouch) stories delivered with Jane's sparkling sense of humor. Add in some "rhinestoned" advice from modern Women of Wisdom (WOW). And you will learn how to keep the sparkle and shine on your God-given talents even as you experience life's inevitable flops!

Order a copy of Jane's book from Amazon today.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Still Life is 99 cents today!


So the re-release of Still Life in Shadows is kicking off to a nice start. Today the novel is only 99 cents as an e-book. You can pre-order the print version, it should be out within the week.

I appreciate all who have ordered this novel and hope it will be an enjoyable read as you meet Gideon Miller and Kiki Yanagihara.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Desire to Find Home

Sometimes things go away. Sometimes they come back after they go away. My novel, Still Life in Shadows, hadn't gone away, I still had print copies of it lining my bookcase, but the publisher decided to no longer publish fiction. So one day this past summer, the rights for my novel were reverted back to me. No more copies of my novel would ever be printed or available as e-books. The novel had the potential to fade away.

Not that the story would ever fade for me. I'd spent a year writing it and my agent at the time had presented it to Moody Publishing. They'd offered me a contract and assigned an editor to me to get my story into the shape it needed to be. How could I have neglected so many grammatical issues? Thankfully, my editor worked diligently to get the manuscript into tip-top shape and the novel was released in 2012.

The inspiration for the story would never fade either. Many years ago, I'd watched a documentary on TV, Amish: Out of Order, and had been intrigued by the main character, Mose Gingerich. Mose had left his Amish roots, found a community to live in, and later helped other dissatisfied Amish youth who had broken away from their Amish homes relocate into modern society. Something stirred in me and I knew I wanted to write a novel, a tale about people leaving one place and finding another place to belong. I knew the concept that lies in this heart of mine----wanting to belong----because as an American missionary kid growing up in Japan, there were plenty of opportunities to feel displaced. Although born and raised in Japan, to the average Japanese I was considered a foreigner; I often felt the isolation. In my own country of citizenship----The United States----there were numerous times that I felt like an outcast, unable to fit in. Over the years, I've had many discussions with fellow missionary kids and missionary adults about home and belonging, feeling lonely, and being misunderstood.

So with that background, I created my characters and told the story from the viewpoint of an ex-Amish man, Gideon, and an autistic teen, Kiki. Both of them have the yearning to find home, to be accepted, to belong. Both show that life on the perimeters can be a struggle.

The great news is that Still Life in Shadows has been re-released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC)! Although it has a new cover, the story of seeking community and a place in which to identify is old, one that has continued for generations.

Perhaps, you, too, have been in a situation where you have felt isolated and desired to be accepted.

This story is for you.

"A touching novel about how an embittered man is forced to face the Amish community he ran away from years ago. Told by a 30-year-old auto mechanic and an autistic teenage girl, Alice Wisler's Still Life in Shadows speaks of the complexities of family, of belonging, and the tricky task of forgiving. . ." - Julie L. Cannon, author of Twang

Read more reviews and order your copy here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Watermelon, Irises, Tomatoes, Geraniums, and a Spider: Does Time Heal Wounds?

In bereavement meetings parents have certain topics that continue to be discussed. One's about time and wounds. A mother who had lost her daughter to a car accident just weeks before my son died, said to the group, "They say that time heals all wounds." She was southern and I couldn't understand if she was saying "all wounds" or "old wounds".

I suppose the question that I wanted to ask was: Does time heal? At all? As the minutes, hours, and days tick away in agony, do all wounds get taken care of, soothed, do the scabs heal, do the ugly scars fade?

As a newly-grieving mom, I knew so little about the journey I had been forced to take, but I did know one thing, and that was that old scars do not fade away. I've had a scar since I was two, a paintbrush I was playing with in the bathtub attacked me and cut the skin near my left eye. My parents wrapped me in a towel, held me while I cried, felt awful, and later would wonder if they should have taken me to get stitches. The blood dried up, and healing started, but that scar is still visible all these years later.

So time doesn't heal old wounds. I suspect that after 54 years, that scar on the corner of my eye has done all the healing it is going to do.

No wonder I resonated with another bereaved mother, a veteran, who at fifteen years since her son took his own life, said to me over lunch one afternoon years ago, "I think I've done all the healing that I'm going to do."

She wasn't giving up on healing or digging a hole and hiding, she was being realistic. There comes a point in the bereaved parent's life when she or he knows that it is not going to get any better than this.

For me, I'm not going to be able to look at the things that remind me of Daniel and not feel that tenderness in my heart. Since his death, two fruits, two flowers, and one spider have kept me in the loop of significant memories. The watermelon, the geranium, the tomato, the iris, and the spider are some of the things that hold powerful remembrances for me. And depending on the time of year (Christmas, Daniel's birthdate in August or death date in February), if I encounter any of these, well, bring on the Puffs.

Society may think time washes it all away like an ocean wave. Build a sand castle at the beach and once the waves knock it down, there is no evidence that a sandcastle once stood in the spot. Many can't believe that after ten, fifteen, or twenty years a mother or father can still feel pain.

But it's not that our desire is to feel pain, it's that we want to remember and since our child is dead, of course, it's always going to make us sad.

When I see a purple iris blooming in my garden, I recall the time Daniel, at age three, couldn't say my name Alice well enough to be understood by strangers and they thought he was saying, "My mommy's name is Iris."

Daniel picked green tomatoes from our garden, even though I told him to wait till they ripened. He took a green tomato to the hospital once and put it on the window sill of his room. He had seen me place green tomatoes on the kitchen window sill at our home, with the hope that the sun would stream in and turn them red.

There are many watermelon stories, including the one where friends brought a watermelon to Daniel when he was in the hospital for chemo treatments on the Fourth of July. He ate a few slices, spit seeds (this was back when all watermelon had "spittable" black seeds), and then said, "I think I've had enough watermelon," and stored the leftovers in the bathtub.

One afternoon I heard Daniel chanting, "A spider, a spider for a pet, a spider for a pet," and when I found him, he was outside watching a tiny spider creep along the side of our house.

And then the geraniums. I would have forgotten about these flowers (and that apparently I was once able to keep flowers alive) if it weren't for the photo of Daniel seated in his blue plastic chair in front of a table with a cup of juice and a blue bowl of food. He chose to eat his lunch outside beside the potted red, pink, and white geraniums. He would have preferred to be naked if I didn't make him wear clothes. When I took that photo, I had no idea that the neck he exposed so nicely held a malignant tumor, one that would surface months later, and change his life and ours forever.

So does time heal old wounds, or even all of them?

No, and for me, that's a good thing.

[Daniel Paul Wisler, August 25, 1992---February 2, 1997]

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cooking With Author Sandra Merville Hart

Today my guest is fellow Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC) author, Sandra M. Hart. She has a new novel out and a recipe to share.

Sandra tells me, "I’d love to share a lasagna recipe that I tweaked from several other recipes to create my own version. Hope you and your family enjoy it!"

Make a Day Ahead Lasagna

1 ½ pounds ground beef
3 cups (24 oz.) ricotta cheese
¾ cup chopped onion
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
16 oz lasagna noodles , uncooked
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound provolone cheese
1 teaspoon basil leaves
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Crumble the ground beef into a large saucepan or Dutch oven along with the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat is brown and the onion is tender. Drain well.

Add tomatoes to the meat mixture in the pan. Stir in tomato sauce, the sugar, 2 tablespoons parsley flakes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the basil. Heat to boiling on a medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered one hour or until the mixture is the consistency of spaghetti sauce. This creates a meaty spaghetti sauce. Reserve 2 cups of this sauce for the top layer.

Mix the ricotta cheese (can use cottage cheese as a cheaper option if you prefer,) ½ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon parsley flakes, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and the oregano.

In an ungreased 13x9 deep baking pan, layer 1/3 each of uncooked lasagna noodles (as long as the noodles are completely covered they will soften naturally in the layered mixture overnight in the fridge,) meat sauce, mozzarella cheese and all the ricotta cheese mixture. For the second layer, use 1/3 of the uncooked lasagna noodles, meat sauce, and provolone cheese. Use another layer of noodles on top of the provolone cheese and spread the reserved meat sauce to completely cover them, followed by mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover it and refrigerate overnight. Make this recipe the night before because it requires time for the uncooked lasagna noodles to soften. (If you are making it to eat on the same day, simply cook the noodles following directions on the box before combining the layers and reduce the baking time to 45 minutes. I like the convenience of doing it the night before because there's no mess in the kitchen when the guests arrive. And the stress of preparation is behind me!)

Remove it from the fridge an hour before it needs to bake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for about an hour.

Let the lasagna sit about 15 minutes before cutting for easier slicing. Makes 12 3-inch square servings.

About Sandra Merville Hart:
Sandra Merville Hart, Assistant Editor for, loves to find unusual or little-known facts in her historical research to use in her stories. Her debut Civil War romance, A Stranger On My Land, was an IRCA Finalist 2015. Her second Civil War romance novel, A Rebel in My House, is set during the Battle of Gettysburg. It released on July 15, 2017. Visit Sandra on her blog.

About A Rebel in My House
When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

Get a copy of Sandra's novel; you can buy it on Amazon.

Treat yourself and watch the book trailer.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cooking With Author Larry Timm

I'm happy to have debut novelist, Larry Timm, as a guest on my blog today. Readers are intrigued, and one says: "Hard to believe this is Larry's first novel. The characters and situations pull you into the story and keep you turning page after page looking for resolution in this suspenseful read. Highly recommended!"

The recipe that follows is for a pie that Larry's wife makes every year for him on Father's Day. Looks delicious!

About Larry . . .

Larry's a husband, father, preacher, and writer who loves creating stories with heart, soul, and high doses of adrenaline. His goal is to use the power of words to illustrate the battle between good and evil that goes on all around us. And his prayer is that the stories he writes will show the redemption and restoration that are available through Jesus Christ.

And the recipe . . .

Cream Puff Pie
Yields: 2 pies
1 cup water
½ cup butter
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 2 glass pie pans. In small sauce pan, heat water, butter, and salt to rolling boil. While stirring, add in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat; put mixture into large bowl and beat in eggs, all at one time, until smooth. Spread mixture in bottom only of pie pans. Bake 25-40 minutes (depending on your oven) or until outside edges are puffed and golden. Let cool.

2 big boxes (6 serving size), instant vanilla pudding
1 quart whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups milk

Chill metal bowl and mixer beaters. Pour whipping cream into bowl. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until cream forms peaks. In a separate large bowl, mix vanilla pudding and milk until well blended. Spoon whipped cream into pudding and fold in. When blended, spoon or pour mixture into crusts. Chill several hours or ideally overnight before serving.

About the novel . . .

MURDER FOR EMILY’S SAKE is a gritty suspense novel about three women who are used to defending the lives of the unborn, but who now must fight for their own lives after a deranged man blames them for the tragic death of his pregnant daughter, Emily. The three women --- Lindsay Birk, Nancy Gunn, and Kathy Schultz --- meet Emily outside of an abortion clinic and help her see that the life inside her womb is a sacred gift from God. Emily decides to carry her child to delivery, but, due to a rare complication, she dies in the delivery room. And her father begins hunting the three women, vowing that he will not stop until he has buried them all, just like he had to bury his precious daughter. But there is one terrifying difference…they will be alive when he puts them in their graves.

Be sure to visit Larry's website.
Get your copy of Larry's debut novel and read more reviews here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A novel and a cookbook make spring bright

I've always loved looking through cookbooks, so no wonder each of my novels has recipes in the back. Still Life in Shadows has a recipe that will make you smile because it is baked in a coffee can.  Over the years, I've published three cookbooks of memories on my own. All have been in memory of my son Daniel, who died at age four from cancer treatments. The recipes in the cookbooks are compiled from many who have also lost loved ones. People write to tell me that they love the stories and recipes in the books. There are recipes for simple things like a grilled cheese sandwich, to the elegant----a chocolate cake and a Caesar salad with anchovy paste in the dressing.

Still Life in Shadows is a novel about an ex-Amish man named Gideon who lives in the mountains of North Carolina and helps other Amish escape the old Amish life.  I think it's a realistic view of the harshness of many Amish families, not sugar-coating the lifestyle nor omitting the many problems that are faced.  There's also a young autistic girl and her sister who runs a diner. Readers have cheered me on for writing a story of struggle and redemption.  And while my other novels with Bethany House and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas have females on the covers, this one (published by Moody/River North) has a man (and look at him, who wouldn't want to meet him?).

So what do my novel and cookbook have in common besides recipes and stories?  They are now available together at a great deal.  Not as e-books, no. But as real soft cover books with actual pages!

Both Memories Around the Table and Still Life in Shadows are being offered here for a low, low price.  I hope you'll take advantage of this offer.  Both books will be sent to you for just $9.99 with free shipping.  Or get a copy of Still Life in Shadows by itself for $8.99 with free shipping. Offer is good in USA only!

Order via PayPal below:

Two books or one book

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cutting Boards Make Their Way Into Our Shop

"Cutting boards, " said my husband.  "I think we should engrave and sell them."

I was not so optimistic.  I don't say it to his face, but all of his ideas are not the greatest. Some catch on and sell, others aren't as popular as he originally thought they would be.

But cutting boards weren't a huge investment, so I went along.

A few sold at our Etsy and Amazon shops, and a few more on eBay, and then, more orders came in. 

Customers liked Walter White's face a lot and so we created two variations.

Then one morning, our supply was getting low; we didn't have any boards to fulfill orders.  We wondered why our supplier couldn't keep up with our needs.  Finally, when cutting boards were available, we bought loads.  Since then we have bought them by the dozens, so as to never run out.

Our sales are constant, and especially heavy at Christmas.

You never know when and how an idea might take off and make you glad your husband suggested it!

In fact, now we have a section of our shop on Etsy that is devoted to cutting boards.  Customers can even come up with their own design. Our newest board makes a fun and practical Mother's Day gift and can be personalized.

And just for reading this blog post, I am offering a 14% discount on any cutting board from now until May 14th (Mother's Day).  Use this code for 14% off when you shop at our shop: MOM14.  (Coupon code only good for cutting board purchases.)

Carved By Heart Cutting Boards make great gifts for weddings, birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Every Life Needs a Little Pie

Chocolate Fudge pie.  That's right.  I know I could write on a heavier topic (pun intended), but not today.  Today needs a slice of pie. So by-pass the memoir I'm writing, the items that need to be engraved in our wood working shop, all the things that are still unresolved, and let me focus on something that adds an instant smile.

This pie is super easy to make!  Give it a try!

Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Chocolate Fudge Pie
From the kitchen of Alice Wisler

Bake a 9-inch pie shell at 375 F. for 10 minutes.  Remove pie shell and reduce heat to 325 F. 

While the pie shell is baking, make the filling. In a sauce pan, over low heat, melt ¼ cup butter or margarine and 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir well and then add 14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk.  Remove from heat.

Mix together: ½ cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt.  Beat in 2 eggs.  Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Add 1 tsp vanilla. Stir in 1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans).

Pour the batter into the pie shell.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 325 F.  Cool.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Twenty Years of Keeping On

When Daniel died in 1997, my pain was bigger than God.  People would tell me that with time it would ease, or that they knew how I felt because they had a cat die and how awful that was.

One woman called me every other day to tell me that God needed Daniel.

"Just think," she said as I clutched the receiver, "God needed another flower in his garden and he picked Daniel."

After a few days, when the phone rang and her voice came on the answering machine, I didn’t pick up.

I washed dishes, fed Benjamin apples and bananas, read him stories, and when he was watching Sesame Street, I'd sneak upstairs into Daniel’s room.  I’d breathe in the familiar smells it had accumulated: hospital soap, bandages, iodine.  But the strongest scent of all was my hollow loneliness. It grabbed me in the gut and pulled me to the floor.  Often I would let myself cry.

And that woman would keep calling to offer her words.

But I didn’t return her calls.  I felt that since my pain was so large and consuming and I was six months pregnant that she would understand that I didn’t have the energy to call her back.

Eventually she stopped calling me.

And I became grateful for answering machines because they were like secretaries, weeding out the calls I was unable to take.  Sometimes friends would call and I would stand by the phone and not answer.  I let their voices be recorded and that made me feel that I had some control of my vacant life.  I had a choice—to answer or not to answer. I grew more fond of the not to answer.

There were times I thought I was ready for Butner, the psychiatric facility off of I-85.  I could walk outside and almost smell the sheets.

I went to support group meetings with other people who would just break into tears, unable to finish sentences, people with ragged photos of their children that they shared so that the rest of us could say, "She is beautiful," even though the child had ears that protruded and was cross-eyed and her dress was too short or too long or too pink. It didn’t matter because eventually I knew I belonged with these people.

I belonged to these parents, who introduced me to words I had never been allowed to say.  Angry adults who taught me you can say damn, shit and hell in the same sentence and not be struck down or turned into a pillar of salt.  We sat around tables that were much too small to hold our grief and took turns saying our dead child’s name.

I seemed to go on and on with all the medical procedures about how Daniel had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck and how he’d been through chemo and surgeries and radiation and how a staph infection entered his body.  I had had little medical jargon in my vocabulary prior to his diagnosis and death and at these meetings I was using all I had learned.  I had no idea how long or short my turn was supposed to be I just knew that I had to tell my story.  I had to get it out.

Part of me hoped that as I talked, one of the bereaved parents would stop me and see that I had talked my way out of this horrible story and say, "Oh, no, he couldn’t have died from that, that isn’t medically possible.  Go home, your son is surely still alive.  Go home now."

And I’d leave the claustrophobic church basement and drive the 40 minutes down Glenwood Avenue to my home and sure enough, there Daniel would be sitting in front of TV watching The Three Stooges with David. And I’d be so excited and happy that I wouldn’t complain that it was 10 o’clock and that David should have already put Daniel to bed.

But even though I attended those meetings twice a month for two years, Daniel never came back.  No loop hole in his death was discovered. And pretty soon my heart knew what my head did, my son was gone from this earth and I was going to have to live the rest of my life without ever holding his hand again.  

And I would never know why.

I would write poems at the graveside and lift balloons into the air. I'd cry with other parents, speak at conferences, and raise my three other children and never know why Daniel didn’t get to be a hero and pull through the whole ordeal.

And I was going to have to adapt and adjust just like countless parents before me and just like thousands of parents would have to learn to do after me.

I was in this club that no one wanted to be part of, a club with rituals that no one understood except for the people in it, and a club that had no membership expiration date.  Until you die.   I would be thirty-seven, thirty-eight, forty, fifty, fifty-nine, gray, old, still showing dampened photos of a little boy who never grew up.

Sometimes when I’d be driving to the meetings, I’d think, what if I just rammed into the Mayflower truck in the lane ahead of me or just gunned the engine and took a leap off a cliff and died.  What if . . . ?  But then I knew I couldn’t do that to my kids, especially not to the baby because she was brand new and Daniel had told me when she was still in the womb the size of a raisin, and then even larger than that, giving me heartburn and kicking, that I was to take care of her.

So I’d follow the speed limit and take my eyes away from the Mayflower truck and keep going on.

For twenty years I've been keeping on.  Truth be told, it is either to keep going on or to roll up and die.

I choose life.  And I'm glad I did, and glad I do.

"Will I ever want to laugh again?" a young newly-bereaved mom asked me at a conference where I gave a writing workshop.

"Yes," I replied.  "You will be able to laugh again.  Trust me. And keep on.  You can do it. Where there is breath, this is hope."

"My friends don't understand," she said as she blew her nose into a tissue. "One calls me every week to tell me to get on with life."

"Do you have an answering machine?" I asked and then realized that we are in the twenty-first century. Quickly, I said," You don't have to answer your cell phone every time it rings, you know."

She nodded.  "I think I can do that."

But she's doubtful, I can tell by the hollowness in her eyes. I tell her I was there once, just as she is. Wondering, aching, unsure if I wanted to live or ram into the Mayflower truck.

She hugs me and we wipe our eyes.

I think she'll make it.

Many of us have.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Breaking Bad, Walter White, and Why our Cutting Boards are so Popular

So although I wasn't born yesterday, I do come slow to life sometimes.  My children had talked about the series Breaking Bad and watched it when it was on TV years ago.  Carl and I had not seen the show nor had any real desire to.  Until . . .

After almost a year of offering Breaking Bad Let's Cook bamboo cutting boards at our Carved By Heart shop, we were surprised.  People were buying them.  Not just a few sales here and there, but lots of sales. So last month we decided perhaps we should get to know the TV show behind the engraved face and words on the cutting boards we sell. After all, we got a review at one of our online stores that reads: I love Walter White!

And we had little idea who he was.

And now we are so engrossed in the show that we're binging.  We look forward to the day's end ---after we've crafted and mailed out products to customers----when we can watch the next episode. Or two.  The acting is so good, the story line, the tension, wow, Vince Gilligan has created an epidemic!

Our Let's Cook Cutting Boards come in two sizes---small (9 by 12") and large (11 by 15").  You can read more about them at our shop on Etsy.  And if you've taken the time to read this blog post, you deserve a discount, so save 10% by using the SHOPSMALL coupon code when you order any size cutting board.