Works in Progress: Februrary 2021

Here in the Texas Hill Country, it doesn’t usually get very cold–not much below freezing and then for only a couple of hours. This week, though, we’ll join all of you Northerners in the cold that’s pushing down from the Arctic. The weather folks are telling us that we’ll be in the 20s for a […]

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Writing a Woman’s Life: Rose Wilder Lane, Part 3

This completes this three-part series. Go here for Part One and Part Two. For me, biographical fiction—novels built on the lives and times of real people—is the most interesting and challenging of all fictional genres. I read all I can find, from Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck to Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife to the superb Watergate: A Novel, by Thomas […]

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Lichens: Celebrating the Small

They may be tiny, but they’re beautiful: a landscape in miniature, a tiny garden, so small that they are usually beneath our notice. Which, given the destructive habits of our species, is probably a good thing. But being tiny doesn’t mean being unsuccessful. Lichens are among the oldest living things on earth. They inhabit every […]

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November: Works in Progress

My early Christmas present arrived last week and I’ve been enjoying it enormously–not just for the pleasure of playing again after decades away from the keyboard, but because of the memories. Lots of them. Like many kids, I started piano lessons when I was eight–not yet old enough, certainly, to appreciate the opportunity. That came […]

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Another Dahlias Giveaway!

We’re having another book giveaway to celebrate the publication of The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily. You can win these four signed hardcovers for yourself or for gifting. One of the things I enjoy about this series is writing about Southern food–especially (since these are 1930s novels) the foods that were popular in the […]

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Election Cake: A Tasty Slice of History

  I love old recipes. They show us what foods people liked, what ingredients were available, and–sometimes–what traditions and events they celebrated. I was browsing through a late eighteenth-century cookbook not long ago when I came across a  recipe for something called Election Cake. “Old-fashioned election cake,” I read, “is made of 30 quarts of […]

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On the Flyway

We’re lucky enough to live on the Central Flyway, a bird and insect migration route from the northern Great Plains in Canada down to the Gulf and into central Mexico. The continent is home to so many traveling species. In the spring, the flyway brings birds and butterflies north to their breeding grounds; in the […]

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The New Dawn, Beta, and a Deep Breath

This rose bush doesn’t look like much–only a flurry of unremarkable green leaves. But just two weeks ago, it was a mass of leafless brown sticks. This was a first, for over the 25 years of its life, this resilient New Dawn had never lost its green leaves until after December’s killing frosts. But August’s […]

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A Curious Herbal

I’ve always loved old herbals–illustrated books that describe plants and their uses. I especially  enjoy browsing through my collection of reprints, noticing how our understandings of plants have changed over the centuries. Take the dandelion, for instance. Every  year, Americans dump over 90 million pounds of herbicides on their lawns, primarily to get rid of […]

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