Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Joy of Eating Fruits and Vegetables In Season

There's a lot to be said about fresh fruits and vegetables in season--the kind that actually ripened locally and are not shipped from somewhere else where the climate is different. Canned fruits and vegetables are okay, especially if they're canned at home. Does anybody can fruits and vegetables from the garden any more? I hope so.

People really got into freezing things back in the 60's, and frozen things are good, especially casseroles, because summertime is too hot to be s...tuck in the kitchen cooking.. But nothing beats fresh, in season fruits and vegetables.

I bought some locally grown peaches at the supermarket on Wednesday. I ate one of them for dessert after lunch today and thought I had gone to heaven. That sweet, juicy goodness is so wonderful. Nothing compares to it. Yumsville! And of course, no summer treat can be better than watermelon. I'm certain watermelon can be frozen, at least I guess it cab.. I don't know about canning it. I've never heard of anyone doing that. Have you?

Do any of you can or freeze things from the garden or the orchard? Do you raise your own fruits and vegetables? What is your favorite thing to eat when it's in season?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bagpipes, Music, and Scotland

Piper and a Fiddler

I haven't played my bagpipes in quite some time, so of course, that means my mouth muscles are weak. I'm kinda lazy about practicing and most musicians know that's a very bad thing. Instead of improving, lack of practice makes me backslide and play worse. I suppose I should get out my practice chanter get back to playing again.

George Harrison Playing the Bagpipes

While looking up babpipes and Scotland, I found out something very interesting: George Harrison, otherwise known as the silent Beatle, played the bagpipes. I was very happy to learn that. Long ago and far away, I learned that Glen Campbell also played the bagpipes and he actually played them well. It must be true that creative people are often creative in many ways. Maybe that's why musicians often play several instruments. It's most likely because they just love music. Although I play several instruments, music is my second love--second to writing fiction. I love to write stories.

Pop could only play the harmonica and sometimes we would play together which was fun, but he wanted me to play the pipes. He was proud of his Scottish heritage and I knew it would mean so much to him if I played. So, I found my first pipe instructor and got to learning. Now I would never claim to be really good at playing the pipes, but it certainly was a challenge for me and I loved that. Pop did, too.

Pop in his kilt and his dog Ember

For today, I'm all into music, especially bagpipe music. All the pipers I know or have known are a bit different. They have all been this independent way of thinking and being. Okay, maybe another way to put that is most of the pipers I have met are kind of eccentric and in the best way possible. If I had an old missile silo and the Zombie Apocalypse was upon us, I would want to spend my last days on this good Earth with pipers and story tellers.

My favorite bagpipe tune is THE GREEN HILLS OF TYROL. I play every year on my birthday which I share with Pop.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawk Eye 

Bagpipe music is very emotional and stirring. You may remember the tune THE GAEL in the movie THE LAST OF THE MAHICANS with Daniel Day-Lewis. Boy oh boy, that music said Hawk Eye was going to find his lady love no matter what. Here is a YouTube video of the Black Watch playing THE GAEL.

Do you have a creative vent--something you just have to do to enjoy your life? What is it about your creative interest that you enjoy the most? Does it make you feel happy and complete?

Sunday, May 14, 2017


To all mothers whether your children are human or furry, have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Left to right: Mary, Mom, Me

Celebrating Mother's Day with Mom with breakfast in bed and some gifts way back when. I love and miss her every day.

Sarah J. McNeal
Author of paranormal, time travel and western romance

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Creating Villains: The Difference Between A Psychopath And A Sociopath

Today I'm at ONCE UPON A WORD talking about using psychology to create a villain. Was your villain born to be bad, or was your villain so mistreated, neglected, and abused they grew into a villain? What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? The difference might surprise you.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Old Oak Picture Tree

Pop loved to take pictures. Mostly, he liked to take picture of flowers and animals instead of people. I preferred pictures of people because, many years later, it’s the pictures of people I loved that I treasure rather than that trumpet vine growing up the fence post or those polar bears at the Buffalo Zoo. I’m just sayin’…

But when Pop did take pictures of people, he liked to do it in front of the huge oak tree in the front yard. I have no idea why except he thought it was a good background. I believe every member of the family made it to that tree to get their picture taken at some point. There was the occasional picture taken in the orchard, but everyone got in a picture in front of that old oak.

My maternal grandfather once told Pop he needed to trim the limb from that oak that stretched out over the roof, but Pop refused because, “That’s where the owls hang out.” He was very attached to that limb and to the birds that “hung out” 0n it. A few days after Pop died back in 1981, that limb fell. And some years after my oldest sister sold the house, the old oak disappeared from the front yard. We had spent our lives living in that house with that old oak and it made me sad at its loss.

Here are just few pictures Pop took in front of that tree.
Sarah J. McNeal
Author of paranormal, time travel and western romance

Saturday, March 18, 2017

In Remembrance of My Father

Pop in his kilt on our birthday in 1976

Pop and I share a birthday. Although he's been gone from this Earth since 1981, I remember him and honor his birthday by playing bagpipe music. This picture was taken on our birthday. He had given the weather forecast on WSOC TV wearing his kilt to please me. He was very proud of his Scottish and Irish heritage, and he made me proud of it as well.
Pop was my constant, my mentor, adviser, and my friend. We shared some mighty good times that I will remember all my life. He was funny, a little eccentric, and a devoted husband to my mother. 
I miss Pop and think of him so often, but I especially miss him on our birthday. So, once again, in honor of my father, I play the bagpipe music we both so loved, light a candle and some incense, and write him a little note to celebrate our birthday and all the wonderful memories he gave me.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

To all my Irish friends and to those who are only Irish for today--Have a happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Go Green!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March Madness

    I didn't believe it would happen--but it snowed! Because of the weird warm weather we've had, the azaleas bloomed early. Now the even weirder snow has come and covered the azaleas and the wisteria that also bloomed too soon and has frozen once already..
    In my childhood I do remember a March in which it snowed once a week for 3 weeks--and it didn't melt right away.
    This snow is supposed to melt by this afternoon.
    Anyone else having some off-season weather going on?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I spend a great deal of time worrying about and planning out my 3 monthly blogs at Once Upon A Word, Prairie Rose, and Sweethearts of the West, and yet I am beginning to believe blogs just aren't as popular as they once were. I'm not certain what IS the popular thing now. As much as I try to get to everyone's posts, I just don't see that many comments anymore.
Blogs have been an important part of sharing both information about ourselves, our writing, and things of interest related to what we write about, but I'm wondering now if others are interested in these articles. I have to say, I really respect the authors that put so much work and thought into their blogs. It's so amazing to read them. I find I learn something new almost every time.
What do y'all think? Are blogs still relevant? Has something new come along we should know about we should be doing?

Saturday, March 04, 2017



I'm a March baby and so was my dad. In fact we celebrated the same birthday. I miss sharing our birthday since he's been gone, but I remember him in my own special way every year.
Are you a March baby, too?

I am an introvert, so I do not love attention. I prefer to hang out in the shadows and observe others.  I have always heard that Pisces and Virgo were the perfect match. I'm not certain what an "attractive personality" is. Other than these few differences, these statements are true for me. What about you?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Breath Between

Last night I finished my first draft for IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE, Kit Wilding and June Wingate’s story. I might have to step back from it a day or two before I get into the edits and add to the word count which I am short on. So maybe it’s time to take a breath and readjust my perspective.
I have a strong urge to start writing on my next story. I already have the synopsis (what I use as an outline) for it. I yearn to jump right into the next project all fresh and new, but I know I will just get all jumbled up and get too far away from Kit’s story. I need to iron out a few things, flesh out June and Kit a bit more. I need to REALLY care about them. It still needs something—maybe a dog.
So, anyway, as much as I would love to move on into another story, I’m just not ready yet. Once I get into these edits I think I’ll get deeper into my characters and their dilemma until it will be hard to leave them behind. When I have a hard time saying goodbye to my characters, then I’ll know I have a story readers might truly enjoy.
Do you have the same feelings after you finish a rough draft? Do you have to leave it alone for a while before you dig into the edits? Do you already have another story in progress? Have you ever found a huge hiccup in the story line after you’ve finished? Is it hard to go back and fix a problem after the fact?

Anyhow, I’m taking the weekend off and mull over in my mind what needs tweaking before I get to work mending and fixing things. It’s warm and sunny out today and I hear the deck calling me, “Come and sit a while in the sunshine.” So, off I go…

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Place of Memories

    I have a special connection to central Pennsylvania, especially the northern, agricultural area around Numidia, Catawissa, Sunbury, and Bloomsburg. My parents were born and raised in the area, in fact, my entire family originated there--even me. I was born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, a small college town where most of the houses are old Victorian beauties with well tended yards filled with flowers in the spring and summer and surrounded by soft, round-topped mountains.
    We visited this area so often when I was young to reunite with my grandparents, family members, and old friends of my parents. Sometimes my sister and I would spend summer vacation time there. It's such a beautiful place with the Susquehanna River running through those lush green mountains, valleys where the farmers create fields that look like patchwork quilts. 
    I remember the quiet, the fun running outside in our bathing suites to enjoy the rain, picking sweet, wild strawberries, and Sunday visits to my grandmother's friends most of whom lived on Mt. Carmel and Bear Mountain. They would exchange gifts of their handy work, like homemade baked goods, crocheted items, and quilts. I loved playing with all the kids. My grandmother loved to fish and she often packed a picnic and took us with her. We would spend our time playing in the water while she fished. Such great fun. We went to church bazaars, ice cream socials, and church picnics and ate delicious food and played games with other kids--and once, I actually won a peanut pushing race.
    I only remember the 8 months of actually living in Pennsylvania when I was 4 years old. We lived in Luthersburg, a small town not too far from Pittsburg. I have so many warm memories of living there and the people who were so friendly and kind to us.
    When the weather station closed in Luthersburg, we moved to Charlotte, NC where I have lived most of my life. 
    Since my parents are gone, I seldom go back to Pennsylvania. Sometimes I miss it. I have gone to Catawissa and Numidia a couple times to see to the placing of a monument on my paternal grandparents' and Uncle John's graves.
    While I stood there at The Hillside Cemetery and looked around at the rounded mountains surrounding the town, I felt a kind of homesickness for a place that held so many memories of my childhood and had now become a place where my ancestors can only whisper to me on the wind. It still tugs at my heart.