Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

What Camp are You In?

HAPPY 2018!

That sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? At the beginning of each new year it takes me at least a month before I remember to write the correct date on a check. No doubt anyone who receives my check wishes I’d join the rest of the modern world and pay electronically. However, dinosaurs move slowly, so people will simply have to wait until I’m brave enough to do all my banking on line.

It’s a new year! (photo credit to

As you can probably surmise, I’m more on board with tradition than with change, so I join the rest of the crowd to write down New Year’s resolutions. For the last few years, I’ve been quite nonspecific. For a while my yearly mantra was simply “Do Better”. In 2017, I went even shorter, selecting a single word – “Persevere”.  Although these tactics were meant to encourage me, on December 31, I found I had no idea whether I’d achieved anything or not.


This year I’ve decided to do things differently and use some of the techniques required back in the days when I wrote grants. This notion refreshed my memory on the SMART philosophy. SMART is an acronym developed by George T. Doran in 1981, describing how to effectively set goals and objectives. (For more on the topic, click HERE)  In a nutshell, here’s how to use the SMART method:

S – Specific (Don’t be vague with objectives)

M – Measurable (How will I measure success?)

A – Achievable (Chances are I will never become a Supreme Court judge)

R – Relevant (Is the goal meaningful for me?)

T – Timely (Setting a time limit helps eliminate procrastination)

Another one of my objectives. Read at least two books a month. (Photo credit Pixabay)


With SMART in mind, I put together my list. First, I set one general, overall goal to make better choices in various areas of my life. A bit vague, right?

To fix that nagging little problem, I set nine objectives to help me reach my main goal that are specific and measurable. Here’s one to show what I mean: Stick to my written work schedule at least three days per week (specific and measurable). Here’s another: Write for at least 15 minutes every day (specific and measurable).

Once my objectives were written, I had fun creating an Excel spreadsheet so I can track what I do each day. I’m just geeky enough to love making little check marks beside the objectives I accomplish. And when I review my plan, I’ll know for sure whether or not I made my target. If I didn’t hit an objective, I’ll review to decide if it’s achievable. If not, I’ll revise.

Everyone needs a fun objective. Mine is to laugh out loud at least once each day. (Photo Pixabay)

So there you have it. My game plan for the new year. Time will tell if using the SMART strategy will make a difference. I’ll be reporting on my findings as I go, since I’m such a scientific person (snort).

What camp are you in? Did you set resolutions or goals for the new year? If so, how will you measure success?


A Special Occasion Needs…

Christmas sounds have been filling my car since early November, when radio stations started playing songs of the season. Although there are plenty of nice contemporary tunes out there, I’m partial to the old classics sung by people like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and Judy Garland. Some of them bring a smile, while others leave me misty-eyed. When a friend asked me (in more than a little exasperation) why I listen to holiday music before Thanksgiving, I blurted out my truth. “Christmas songs make me feel good.” And they do.

Me. (

Of course, I’m not completely without boundaries. I don’t set up my tree until just before December 1.  Once the branches have been dropped and de-smooshed, I pull out the ornaments. Unwrapping each one is like stepping back in time. There are whimsical snowmen and  jolly old Santas. Tiny red felt stockings with a fluff of cotton at the top. A lacy-looking angel my grandmother crocheted. Dog figurines – lots of them. Smooth painted wooden ornaments, one of which bears the teeth marks of my dog from years ago. Poor old Schatzi chewed everything she could reach – including baby Jesus, who now sleeps in the manager with a disrespectful puncture hole straight through His belly – damaged, but fittingly not destroyed.

My not-so-MarthaStewarty-tree.

Then there are the sweetest ornaments, with a child’s name scrawled across them – remembrances of the days when my children were young and proudly brought home the treasures they’d crafted at school. Images of toothless grins and wide eyes flood my mind as I hang their ornaments on a tree with no theme or coordinating colors. Yet to me, it’s beautiful, and I don’t care what Martha Stewart thinks.

Once the decorations are finished, I move on to the food. Putting a batch of Snickerdoodles in the oven (my Mom’s special recipe), scents the air with the warm and slightly spicy aroma of cinnamon. If such a thing is possible, the cookies taste even better than they smell. Warm from the oven and practically melting on my tongue, I can almost envision Mom standing next to me. Go ahead and have another one. It’s Christmas.

Why do I love this season so much? I think I’ve figured it out. In many ways, Christmas makes me feel like a kid again. I recreate each sound, touch, sight, smell, and taste of the past, which brings memories of friends and family who no longer walk this earth. At Christmas they can return for a while, much more amiable spirits than Scrooge’s, to remind me of happy times from long ago when I had no bigger worries then wondering if Santa would bring me the Barbie doll I wanted. (He did, too. What a shame I played with toys instead of keeping them as future retirement investments.)

When all grown up, will this little guy crave Snickerdoodle cookies at Christmas?

I don’t think I’m unique in my hunger for tradition. Everyone has rituals related to occasions special to them. In my mind, these are the little moments that firmly connect us to the past. And if we do our job well, they’ll also bind us to the future.

So as you celebrate your own special traditions, whatever they may be, I wish you peace, contentment, and many blessings in the new year. Thank you for being an important part of my life.

Now you must excuse me as I play one of my favorite videos, sip hot chocolate, and stare at my hodge-podge tree while Bing croons White Christmas. Ah, what bliss.


In keeping with these thoughts on tradition, you’ll find a new recipe on the Easy-Peasy tab. I can testify that whenever this little gem would appear on the school menu, I’d leave the brown bag at home and bring lunch money. It’s cranberry cake with hot butter sauce – the perfect blend of tart and sweet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Music and Food and History, Oh My!

Last week, writer friend Sheree Nielsen and I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for peeks into the past, foot-tapping music, delicious food, and a whole lot of fun. We crammed many things into only a few days, and here’s a whirlwind summary.

Our first evening took us to Parnassus Books. I’d often heard of this shop owned by acclaimed author, Ann Patchett, and had high hopes of finding out whether a future book signing could be arranged. Instead, we were barely able to squeeze through the front door. The cozy little shop was packed with admirers who’d arrived to get an autographed cookbook from the author of the Smitten Kitchen blog, thus ending our hopes of speaking to any of the workers who scurried around trying to keep up with the crowd.  Sigh. Maybe next time, Parnassus.

A trip to Fatherland Street had us searching out one of the (many) places Jesse and Zee James are believed to have lived while in Nashville (during their time the area was known as Edgefield) while hiding in plain sight from bounty hunters, detectives, and the local sheriff. Assuming the names of Dave and Josie Howard, not a soul suspected the truth about the pleasant young couple.

Quite possibly one of the many homes of Dave and Josie Howard, aka Jesse and Zee James.

A visit to Belle Meade plantation filled the next day, while tickets to the must-see Bluebird Cafe ended it. At the Bluebird, we were able to rub shoulders (literally) with some amazing songwriters who hang out with plain ordinary people like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. But I couldn’t stop looking at a woman sitting near the performers who looked incredibly familiar. Is she, or isn’t she? As it turns out, my suspicion was correct. Alicia Witt! If you watch Hallmark movies or last season’s the Walking Dead, you’ll recognize this talented actress/songwriter/singer who is also gracious when complete strangers appear and begin gushing over her. I suppose it’s true. You never know who you’ll run into at the Bluebird Cafe.

It’s after 11:00 p.m. and far past my bedtime. Alicia Witt, however, looks fresh as a dewy morning.

Our final full day in Nashville brought a drive to Franklin, Tennessee past huge mansions unlike any I’d ever seen. We found a charming (and fascinating) whiskey distillery called Leiper’s Fork where a bearded man in bib overalls named Pops, taught us how to properly sniff and chew the brew. This brought a new and dizzying experience for me. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving.

From the distillery we headed to historic downtown Franklin which boasts a Main Street lined with quaint and charming shops that reminded me of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. And don’t even get me started on the delectable food we had in East Nashville and Franklin. Delicious!

Remembering the Battle of Franklin.

From Main Street we traveled to a somber memorial commemorating the thousands of soldiers who fell at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. The names of soldiers were read aloud in the twilight glow of thousands of luminaries, set up to represent the men who died. A home near the battleground is riddled with bullet holes, plainly displaying the scars of a fierce battle.

Luminaries for fallen soldiers.

Only five minutes away from the battleground stands Carnton Plantation, used as a hospital during the Civil War. Carrie McGavock, wife of the plantation owner, was the inspiration for the best-selling novel, Widow of the South. A well-tended confederate cemetery is nestled near the beautifully preserved home.

Walkway to the beautiful Carnton Plantation.

There were many more things we wanted to experience in Nashville, but we ran out of time. This was my fourth visit, but at an easy five hour drive from home, you can bet I’ll be going back soon.

Do you like delicious food, music, and/or history? Then Tennessee has something special waiting just for you.

The Mother of Thanksgiving

The scent of a turkey roasting in the oven.  Mashed potatoes covered with home-made gravy that melts in your mouth. Cinnamon-sweetened pumpkin pie served with plenty of fresh whipped cream. These are only a few of the delights offered by one of our country’s most decadent culinary events.

Thanksgiving is a mere eight days away and most of us are scurrying to stock up on the supplies necessary to create America’s annual traditional feast.

While the idea may have originated from the pilgrims – even though their meal looked far different from what is served today – it took the efforts of a woman to formally establish the tradition.

Sarah Josepha Hale, Mother of Thanksgiving. (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Known as the Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied for the creation of a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. Sarah, an accomplished and prolific writer, became editor of the most influential journal of its day, Godey’s Ladies Book, a position she held for forty years. Sarah wrote many editorials championing the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday before playing her most important card on September 28, 1862. With America in the midst of the horrors of the Civil War, she wrote a letter to President Lincoln asking him to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and “permanently an American custom and institution”. Lincoln must have agreed, for within a week, an official proclamation was issued setting the observance for the final Thursday in November to “help heal the wounds of the nation”.

In her spare time, (when she wasn’t busy establishing national holidays or editing), Sarah penned books, poems, and articles; she advocated on behalf of women’s education, encouraged the publication of American writers, campaigned for a unified American culture, and promoted the preservation of historical sites. Oh yes, and she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, too.

Arbiter of fashion, food, and literary delights, thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale. (Public Domain)

I must admit her efforts to make a better America have me feeling like a total slacker, so here’s a gentle reminder from me to you. While you’re gathering ingredients for the holiday meal, please consider picking up a few extra things for your local food pantry. A little can help a lot, and I feel sure Sarah Josepha Hale would nod in approval at your kindness.

Finally, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve posted a new recipe. Click on the Easy-Peasy Recipe tab for a simple and delicious way to prepare sweet potatoes that does NOT involve marshmallows or brown sugar. I think you’ll like it!

The Day After Halloween and Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Missouri Civil War Museum. I met and chatted with the museum’s director, Mark L. Trout, at length. He inspired me with his passion about preserving information on this crucial time in our country’s history, and he impressed me with his knowledge and plans for the museum’s future.

Here are a few of the exhibits at the Missouri Civil War Museum. (Photo – Missouri Civil War Museum  website)

This wasn’t my first trip to the museum near Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, and it certainly won’t be my last. They own many artifacts from the war, including clothing, medical instruments, weaponry, and personal effects. Prowling through the exhibits provides a fascinating trip back in time. For those interested in the Civil War, I highly recommend taking a visit. For more information, click HERE.

After leaving the museum, I headed to the monthly meeting of the Civil War Round Table of St. Louis, looking forward to the topic – the history of mourning customs in America. Paula Zalar, the presenter, filled us in on many fascinating tidbits.  According to Ms. Zalar, customs evolved based on the religious beliefs of the time. For example, early Christians hoped for a “good” death, which basically meant a lingering one with at least a moderate amount of suffering (gulp!), giving the person time to repent his/her sins and ready them spiritually for death. As time went on these beliefs were challenged (war may have had something to do with it), and the notion of a “good” death changed.

The romanticism of the latter 19th century  made symbolism increasingly important. People wanted to keep mementos of the deceased that included memorial cards, use of the deceased’s hair in jewelry or other items, and photographs taken of the deceased (some of which were posed to appear as though still alive). Symbolism in grave markers also abounded, using placement of flowers, a rendering of a broken chain, trailing ivy, and other means.

Women bore the brunt of mourning customs in the nineteenth century. Men mostly just had to wear a dark suit, but a woman who lost a husband (which happened a lot during the war) was expected to wear full deep mourning attire for at least two years. To ignore the prescribed expectations would make the widow a social outcast. (Think Scarlett O’Hara when she took her famous dance with Rhett Butler while in deep mourning.) But never fear, a woman didn’t have to wear black and a heavy veil forever. After two years, society allowed her a subdued shade of lilac.

Paula Zalar wore mourning clothes for her presentation which would have been suitable for a widow after two years. (Photo-Civil War Round Table of St. Louis)

Needless to say, mourning customs have continued to evolve, but still much of what we do now is based on early traditions. Ms. Zalar’s talk intrigued many of us enough to seek out additional information. If you’re interested in further reading, (including how Queen Victoria set the standard for mourning), you can start HERE.

Now on to an important announcement.

On October 25, the names of all my subscribers were entered in a random drawing to win a $25 Amazon gift card. The winner has been selected and, drum roll please, her name is – Sioux Roslawski! Congratulations to Sioux and have fun shopping.

If your name wasn’t chosen this time, don’t despair. I’ll be holding another giveaway soon.

Now I’m off to do a little more reading on mourning customs. How appropriate for the day after Halloween.



Literary Tricks and Treats

It’s here! There’s color in the leaves, cornflower blue in the sky, and I’m ready to sit in front of a roaring fire pit to sip hot chocolate. The icky-sticky air is gone like a bad penny and the cool delights of fall have arrived. My windows are open and I’ve put on my comfy stretchy sweatpants (no more zippered shorts judging me) along with a lightweight jacket. Bliss.

Because a big chunk of October has been baked by August-like temperatures, you may not realize Halloween is a mere thirteen (yes thirteen!) days away. What? You don’t have a costume yet? Do not fear. I’ve got you covered.

The way I see it there are two options for Halloween. You can dress up with the intent to strike suspicion or fear into the eyes of anyone who sees you.

Circa 1910 hoodlums. Bain News Services/Library of Congress

Or, you can be ever so clever by dressing as a  character from one of your favorite books.

The possibilities are limitless. There are children’s books. There are novels of every genre from mysteries to horror to romance to westerns to historical. You could even pick an author for inspiration and amaze your friends with your witty and fascinating literary knowledge.  In other words, you could dress up as Carrie, or you could be Stephen King.

Mr. Poe, I presume? Pinterest photo.

To  start you thinking, here are some ideas which I found on Pinterest. Click HERE to see many more.

You’ll need an assistant nearby to survive an evening in this ensemble.

Halloween isn’t only for humans. Don’t forget your canine or feline friend. They like to get into the spirit of things too. For example, take a look at Winston portraying the lead character in There Was an Old Sailor. He actually cooperated for the photo. Sort of.

Ah, the delights of the season. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


One final reminder! I’ll be drawing a winner on October 25 (one week from today) for a $25 Amazon gift card from my list of subscribers. If you haven’t signed up yet (upper right hand box), it’s not too late.

Hello to My Old Friend October

The sky is a clear deep blue. The air is crisp and sometimes carries a whiff of smoke from burning brush or a fire pit. The scent of pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves makes me forget my diet to splurge on a delectable delicacy fresh from the oven.

Pumpkins a’plenty on my porch.

October is here, and I couldn’t be happier – at least I will be when the temperatures become more Octobery and less summery. Yet I have confidence my favorite month will not disappoint. It’s only a matter of time until all the sweet glory of fall delights my heart and soothes my soul. Even my pile of books to read is growing taller. Squirrel-like, I’m hoarding them for long chilly evenings.

In the meantime, there’s no question about October arriving at my house. I’ve put out the pumpkins, some orangeish-yellow mums, a colorful leaf-trimmed wreath, and candles. My Jim Shore Harvest Angels smile benignly down upon the room, presiding over the reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn which have been tucked everywhere.

I’m not a creative decorator, but I can find pretty things and then use them for inspiration. If that sounds like you, I’ve collected some little lovelies and posted them on my Pinterest Holiday Ideas page. Click  HERE to visit the link. Feel free to browse around a bit and maybe find something to help make your house shout (or at least whisper) “Welcome Fall”.

Can you tell I’m a sucker for this beautiful season? It’s time to go forth, decorate, make merry, and enjoy. If you haven’t done so yet, consider this my little nudge to get you moving.

Fall also kicks off the official Eating-Of-All-Things-Delicious. For me this features meals of soups, stews, and chili. October’s Easy-Peasy recipe is one I found for Stuffed Pepper Soup. It’s simple, delicious, and really does remind me of a stuffed pepper (without all the work). Check out the Easy-Peasy tab to find it and enjoy.

Happy October!

P.S. If you haven’t yet become a subscriber, you might want to sign up. As a thank you to my subscribers, I’ll randomly choose one winner for a $25 Amazon gift card as a way to thank you for your support on October 25. H’mm. Maybe you could use it to start another thing I love – getting ready for Christmas. 😉


A Short Book Review and a Thank You to Subscribers

As summer creeps toward fall, I can’t help but get excited. With apologies to those who mourn the end of swimming weather, I’ve been dying to drag out my comfy sweatshirts and deliciously decadent elastic waistband pants. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re soft and forgiving and don’t pass judgment on me the way snobby slacks with zippers and buttons do.

Another reason to love fall is I tend to read more because there are so many new releases – all in time for the holiday season. My most recent read is THE OTHER EINSTEIN by  Marie Benedict. From Benedict’s well-researched novel, I soon learned Mr. Einstein may have had an amazing intellect, but his treatment of the people closest to him wasn’t exactly stellar.

Poor Mrs. Einstein

According to the novel, he minimized the contributions of fiancee and physicist Mileva Maric to his ground-breaking work, basically stringing her along for years before he agreed to marry her. The life between them wasn’t exactly rosy and I couldn’t help but feel bad for Mileva. Did you ever imagine the wild-haired smiling images we’ve seen of Albert Einstein hid a rather self-absorbed womanizer? Guess you’ll have to read the novel to find out all the fascinating details. I know I’ll never look at him the same way again. This, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love historical fiction – learning things that weren’t taught in any of my history classes.

This photo recently sold for $125,000 at auction. What a guy. (via Getty images)

Now on to more important items.

Subscribers, you are fabulous. As a way to express my gratitude, I plan to periodically run some fun contests exclusively for subscribers. Today I’m launching the first one. So…drum roll please…I’m sponsoring the chance for subscribers to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card – a great way to get started with your holiday shopping.

If you aren’t a subscriber yet, no worries. Just sign up on the top right sidebar under “Become a Subscriber” by entering your email address. You’ll receive notification of new blog posts so you won’t miss future giveaways or exclusive news via email – but never more than twice per month.

A winner will be randomly selected from my list of current subscribers in five weeks, on October 25, 2017. Simple! Since the gift card will be delivered via email, all subscribers are eligible, regardless of geographic location. All that’s necessary is a valid email address.

Once again, thanks to my loyal subscribers. Good luck to each one of you!






Got Fall Projects?

It’s true. Fall cleaning really is a “thing”.

I used to believe only in spring did I need to feel guilted into doing the stuff I avoid while trying to make the house look less like a pig-sty (apologies to pigs) while not quite taking it to the level of say, waiting for a photographer from Better Homes and Gardens. Now I’ve discovered that one is expected to do fall cleaning, too, in order to prepare the outside for frigid temperatures and the inside for the imminent cold and flu season. Sigh.

No rest for the weary. (Amazon)

The drudgery of housework is a task that throughout history has fallen on the shoulders of women. In the past, ladies (if they were fortunate, assisted by a maid or two) would shoo away the menfolk and empty the house during spring cleaning to scrub nooks and corners, beat the dust out of rugs, and wash soot and grime (heating and cooking with wood and coal was messy) from the walls.

In keeping with tradition, when I clean, my own hubby does what the man of the house has done for centuries. He leaves. This is probably for the best. Otherwise, I’d be dealing with remarks such as “Where does this go?” “What time is lunch?” And horrifically, “I’m going to adjust the motor on the vacuum cleaner to see if it’ll suck up the bucket of water I spilled.”

I’m a list maker, probably because it’s so visually satisfying to cross items off as I complete them. A list requires only two things: paper and pencil. But if you want to get fancy and pick up a few fall cleaning suggestions in the bargain, there are plenty of templates on line. Click HERE for great ideas plus free templates from the Organized Home.

You may have guessed I’m not a huge fan of cleaning, which in my opinion is a lot like trying to string beads when there isn’t any knot on the end. No matter how hard you’ve worked, within five minutes it will look like you haven’t touched a thing. That’s why I often choose to read a book instead. It’s so much more satisfying.

The perfect title for a non-perfectionist. (Pixabay)

But just in case you wonder, yes I do clean my house. A while back, I had someone come in to clean for me (delight of delights). Here’s what I learned from the experience:

1. Hiring cleaning help is an expensive luxury.

2. There is no reason whatsoever to clean weekly. Every other week works perfectly well.

Fall cleaning aside, there’s a list I don’t fail to study as it’s more important than simple household chores. The transition to fall and winter is the perfect time to check your home for safety issues. Click HERE to find several comprehensive lists (including free templates!) from Home Safety Smarkcheck.

Trust me, Hubby will not be shooed out of the house after I print out those lists.

Here’s the list, dear. (Pixabay)

I hope you’ve found some insights for all your fall projects. My own list has grown. Guess I’d better put down my book and get to work.

P.S. What’s for dinner? Check out the Easy-Peasy Recipe tab. A new recipe has been posted, courtesy of talented writer friend, Marcia Gaye. Visit her Facebook page HERE.

Let’s Celebrate!

I’m convinced that we Americans have a love affair with celebration. Just a few days ago, we made a party out of viewing a total solar eclipse. Some peered through their flimsy cardboard glasses (looking like the audience at a 3-D movie) from the comfort of their own back yards, raising a toast to the sky. Others joined dozens or even hundreds of strangers in group events, many of which included music, drinks, and food.

It got me to thinking about our obsession with turning just about anything into a holiday. In the process of scouring the internet to satisfy my curiosity, I stumbled across every party-giver’s (and party-goer’s) dream. A site which provides multiple reasons to celebrate. Every. Single. Day.

Think about it. Never again will you be devastated over missing National Two Colored Shoes Day.

I admit to doing this more than once, although not on purpose.

Your heart will not be broken over letting National Leave the Office Early Day slip by unnoticed.


You can even rest assured you’ll not miss out on one single moment of National Wiggle Your Toes Day.

The antidote to National Two Different Colored Shoes Day.

So with no further ado, here it is. The place which will forever change your ability to party at the drop of a hat (especially if you enjoy National Drop Your Hat Day). Click HERE to access the National Day Calendar. As a bonus, the site even provides a meme for the chosen celebration, and a little history on the reason behind establishing it. This will enable you to sound wise as Solomon any time you discuss National Cream Filled Doughnut Day.

Now I’m off to begin my own celebration with a sweet treat. Didn’t you know August 23 is National Sponge Cake Day?






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