Peonies and Peppermint – bread

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bread.’


“Over here!” Eliza called out first. “Coltsfoot. A huge patch coming up.”

Jennie stepped over to Eliza’s side of the hollow and kneeled next to Eliza who was already plucking the fresh greenery sprouting from the earth. The women spent several minutes, tugging the emerald stalks that poked their way through the mulch of oak and sassafras leaves. Jennie added a handful to Eliza’s basket. “Better to keep it all together and not have to sort it out later.”

When they’d cleared a good portion of the patch, leaving some to grow and propagate, Jenny stood and wiped her brow. Looking over at her daughter, she squinted, as if sizing her up to see how she was holding up. Not even a bead of sweat glistened on Eliza’s brow. Jennie decided that they were good to keep going a bit longer.

They hadn’t wandered far from their first treasure trove when Jennie found the next. “Over here. There’s some nettles on this side.”

tt-picking-herbsThe women plucked gingerly on this crop. Even so, Eliza still muttered an occasional, “Ouch!”

Jennie laughed softly under her breath. “I see you don’t have as much experience at picking nettles.”

“No, I don’t, Mother. Honestly. I don’t know how you’ve done this for all these years.”

“It’s not so bad really. Look for the youngest ones. They’re not as prickly.”

“My fingers are starting to burn.” Eliza stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked on it to try to ease the sting.

“I’d say rub it with parsley when we get back, so you don’t get a nettle rash. But, I don’t think the parsley has come up yet. I’ll put a salve on it instead.”

“You and your herbs. Leave it to my mother to know what to do.” She stopped and looked at her mother with a quizzical expression on her face. “How’d you learn all of this?”

“Why, from my mother, of course. And her mother, too. Mostly from Granny, I suppose. She kept all the knowledge in her head. Walking through the woods with her was like having a talking book with you.” She smiled and paused, reflecting on her memories before she continued. “She knew more about plant medicine than anyone around. I don’t know but a small piece of what all she knew.”

Eliza sat on a large rock and let her mother finish pulling what she wanted.

Jennie glanced up and saw that her daughter looked paler than when they’d set out. Moving slowly and carefully up the hill towards where Eliza sat, Jennie plucked a folded dishtowel from her apron pocket. She unfolded the towel to reveal two slices of bread nestled inside the towel. “Here, dear. Have a bite to eat. I brought us each a slice. Then, let’s head back. We’ve got enough. Once your father digs the sassafras for me, I’ll be set for a good bit.”

About half way back to their cabins, Eliza looked up by a rock over cropping. She squinted and held her hand up over her eyes. “Look at all the brambles up there. It looks like berry vines. Maybe blackberries. Don’t you use blackberry leaves for something?”

“I make a tea with the dried leaves. They’re probably not leafed out enough yet. I usually harvest those around May or June.”

“You’re right. They’re not very green yet. Looks like they’re just budding. We’ll come back later to get some.”

“That would be nice, dear. I always appreciate your help. I’m surely pleased with what we did find today.”

They neared the spring and sat their baskets and walking sticks down to wash their hands and rest for a moment.

The peace was broken by the frantic calls of a young girl. “Mrs. Barnes! Mrs. Barnes!”

Jennie looked confused. She stood and surveyed the landscape, looking for the source of the cries. She finally spotted the youngster, their neighbor’s daughter, running down from the back side of the house. “Molly?”


—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

My Wildest Dream – TT picture prompt

TT_bannerIt’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, so for Tuesday Tales this month I’m jumping to another WIP, My Wildest Dreams. This tale follows the prequel, A Second Chance, where Jenny survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest and desired to honor her second chance by living an authentic life. She decided she wanted to own her own herb and garden store. Join us as we catch glimpse of her here as she follows her wildest dream, with the help of her best friend Carla.

This week we’re writing to a picture prompt, one of two selections: a country barn scene, or a roaring fireplace. I chose the barn as Jenny and Carla are on their way to a llama ranch. Return to Tuesday Tales here, to read the other snippets from talented writers.


TT_December 2015 picture prompt

Carla rushed into the shop, her long, still wet hair streaming behind her. “Sorry, I’m running late.” She halted halfway to the counter. “You ready to go?”

“I’m ready. But Dillon’s not here yet.”

“Call him,” Carla suggested.

“I did. Twice. I’ll try again.” I pulled my phone from my back pocket and pressed his name on my screen. When the call went to voice mail – again – I tapped end call and dropped the phone on the counter in disgust. “I should have known not to trust leaving him here on a Saturday by himself,” I muttered.

Dillon came bursting through the side door like a cyclone, with words flowing out in a flurry. “I’m sorry I’m late…flat tire…left my phone at home…couldn’t call…”

“It is what it is,” I told him. “You’re here now.”

“As long as the ladies don’t ask me how to make anything. I can’t help them with girly requests.”

I smiled, thinking about how slow business had been since I opened. “If anything comes up, call me.”

We headed out for the llama ranch, leaving Dillon in charge of the herb store for the day.

The directions weren’t complicated. There were turns here and there as we traveled the farm to market roads the back way to Ponder. The rural scenery was green and lush as the intense summer heat settled into north Texas yet. I enjoyed seeing the verdant farmland.

Traveling down what I thought was the correct road, the asphalt ended and a dirt drive pointed the way to a red barn setting in the midst of towering post oaks. But…no cars. No signage. No obvious pasture land.

I eased to a stop and turned to Carla. “You see any llamas around? Did I miss a turn somewhere?”


My Wildest Dream – Tuesday Tales ‘nasty’

It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, so for Tuesday Tales this month I’m jumping to another WIP, My Wildest Dreams. This tale follows the prequel, A Second Chance, where Jenny survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest and desired to honor her second chance by living an authentic life. She decided she wanted to own her own herb and garden store. Join us as we catch glimpse of her here as she follows her wildest dream, with the help of her best friend Carla.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘nasty’. Return to Tuesday Tales here, to read the other snippets from talented writers.



Carla called Thursday night. “Have you seen the weather reports?”

“You know me. Do I watch the news? My TV hasn’t been turned on for weeks.”

“There’s a big storm heading in. It should be here late tomorrow night.”

ice storm“How big of a storm? Enough to keep us from moving furniture this weekend?”

“Oh yeah. If it happens like they say. Of course, half the time they’re wrong anyway. The reporters are predicting temps in the high teens and possible ice.”

Just when I thought we were going to make it through this winter without any nastiness. I stood in the kitchen opening cupboard doors, scanning the pantry contents. I checked the refrigerator to double check if there was anything I needed, in case the reporters were right.

Usually I was set fairly well and could eat of my cupboards for a good month or two, except for a few perishable items. This time though, trying to keep my expenditures notched down in readiness for my new business venture, I hadn’t been purchasing as much in the grocery store as I typically did.

Out came the list and I jotted down a few necessities to run out and pick up the next day.

By the time I got to the store the next morning, it seems that multitudes of others had the same idea. Except that they’d gone earlier than I did. The loaf of bread I’d written on the list? That wasn’t going to happen. The bread shelves were bare. I tossed a pack of hamburger buns in my cart and considered myself lucky. The milk racks were in about the same condition. There wasn’t very much left. I found a small container of chocolate milk and added it to my meager collection. I made it to the eggs before they were wiped out and picked up two dozen. Water bottles also were in scarce supply. I found a gallon jug of a pricier brand and scooped it off the shelf. The soup cans were just as picked over, but there were a few selections still waiting for the late vultures.

I hoped the forecasters were wrong.

They weren’t.

The television was turned on that evening, to stay abreast of the news. I watched the storm progress, up from the gulf and north through this huge state. The house got colder with each advancing hour. To avoid the heater running so hard trying to keep the house warm, I dropped the thermostat a few degrees and added a sweatshirt.

After a while, I opened the front door and peered out, shutting it quickly when I saw the white tempest outside. February weather. It was not my friend.

I called Carla. “Well…guess we won’t be moving furniture this weekend.”

“Nope. But look at the bright side. I’m off work. Not that I’d drive there in this anyway. And you don’t have to try to get to Crafty Hands in bad weather anymore. So we both can stay home and be warm. And safe.”

icy viewWhen I peeked out the windows the next morning, I was glad to see the storm had past. I also had to admit that the pristine, icy world it left in its wake was beautiful. As long as I could view it through the window of my warm house and didn’t have to be out in it.

Not a single vehicle had gone down the street. The landscape in front of me was almost like one of the gorgeous snowy scenes on a Christmas card. But instead of white fluff surrounding us, it was a white layer over top of a nasty, icy crust.

icy roadTexas shuts down during an ice storm. The Midwest and the East laugh at us, as they keep on with life in their winter wonderland. But ice…nope, this California girl does not drive in ice. I was glad I’d gone ahead and picked up a few groceries.

For four days I couldn’t get out of my driveway. Not that I tried the first few days. The temperature never rose over twenty-four degrees. It was cloudy and dull, not a speck of sunshine to brighten our world – nor warm the icy layer cast over us.

By the second day, one or two vehicles made tracks down the street. I could hear one crunching along early one morning, making its way down the street very slowly. It sounded like a diesel, so it was probably four wheel drive. I didn’t care enough to get up and watch. I stay snuggled under my warm covers.

By the fifth day, the sun finally broke through and the temperature rose to a high of thirty three.

The down time gave me a chance to catch up on crafty projects for the store. I took advantage of that and worked up everything I could, until I was down to projects that needed one more piece, one more bottle of paint, one more item before it was complete. And I wasn’t going to go slide around on ice for a small bottle of acrylic paint, that’s for sure.

I pulled out the calendar to review the schedule I’d penciled in. There was no way I could open in one week. Without being able to move the large pieces in, and losing four days of making it to the shop, I’d lost too much critical time. It was going to be close anyway. But the ice storm had set me back too far.

Maybe I could move the opening to mid-March?

From past experience, I also knew that after a storm of this magnitude it would take a week or two before the world returned to normal. Not only had we cleared the grocery store shelves of produce and goods, trucks bringing new merchandise couldn’t get in to deliver their goods either.

I decided to push the opening back to April first. April in north Texas is nicer weather. People are excited to get out and about after a cold winter. And gardeners are starting to put in their first crops.

My Wildest Dream – Tuesday Tales ‘cup’

TT_bannerIt’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, so for Tuesday Tales this month I’m jumping to another WIP, My Wildest Dreams. This tale follows the prequel, A Second Chance, where Jenny survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest and desired to honor her second chance by living an authentic life. She decided she wanted to own her own herb and garden store. Join us as we catch glimpse of her here as she follows her wildest dream, with the help of her best friend Carla.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘cup. Return to Tuesday Tales here, to read the other snippets from talented writers.


There we were, driving up 377 towards Denton, a route we’d taken so many times together. Chattering a mile a minute, we were catching up after the horrid retail time was behind us. On a cold January day, there’s not much sightseeing to be doing in this area. The scenery looks much the same. Dead and bleak.

Before I knew what was happening, Carla pulled the car onto the shoulder and almost screeched to a stop.

“What’s wrong?” All sorts of imaginings raced through my mind. Flat tire. Overheated. Hurt animal on the side of the road.

“The old bank building!”

“The brick one?” Which other one could it be? There was only one old bank building in Argyle, the brick one sitting on a corner, a relic of the past. We’d both admired it every time we drove through this area. It always sat empty and neglected, looking forlorn as if no one loved it anymore.

argyle bank“There’s a ‘For Rent’ sign on it.” Carla was already opening the door and sticking a leg out.

I joined her behind the car and we hiked back to the corner. She was right. A huge sign hung in the large window. ‘For Rent’ with a number. I patted my pockets. Of course, no pen and paper. I debated about jogging back to the car to grab one out of my purse, until I remembered the cell phone in my pocket. I quickly snapped a picture of the sign.

“There. Now I have the number.”

I don’t think Carla heard me. She was already up by the building, peering in the other window.

My mind was whirling with the possibilities over an old historic building like this. And I hadn’t even seen inside yet. I’d be in heaven if I could have my business here.

One problem existed. “Except, there’s no space for gardens.”

“But the old bank…”

“I know. It would be great. But I need to have plants growing too.”

“Look at the huge lot on the side though. Maybe some of that is part of the property.”

“Maybe.” She was right. The bank was flanked by a large open field on one side. The back side had a dilapidated asphalt area that appeared to have been a parking lot at some previous point in time. It would be necessary as there were only spaces for about three cars on the front street side of the building.

The area on the side street didn’t have any parking. A deep gulley run alongside the building. Hopefully it was adequate to carry heavy rain waters away and keep them from flooding the building. I thought about it as if I were already a tenant here.

Pretty presumptuous, Jenny. You haven’t even called about it yet and you’re already making plans for having a business here.

The field and the area behind the old brick building might come with the rental. They might not. There was only one way to find out. Of course, dialing the number on a Sunday afternoon only got me to voice mail. I left a message and crossed my fingers.

I walked up to the doors, set in the angled corner of the building as was so common then. Cupping my hands around my face, I tried to see through the dusty window. Not much existed inside. I could barely make out the empty shell of a large ‘L’ shaped space. Directly across from the front door, there appeared to be an interior room with a large, ornate door going into it.

argyle bank vault“Hey Carla. C’mere. Is that the vault back there?”

She reappeared from wherever she’d been exploring and looked it. “Yeppers. Looks like it. It’s so dark it’s hard to tell. But when I worked for the newspaper that was located in the old bank building in Roanoke…years ago…that’s about where their old vault was.”

“Wish they said how much the rent was on the lease sign.”

“Don’t cha’ know it. I’d love to get inside and look around.”

I wandered around the side of the building, towards the back parking area. To call it a parking lot was rather grandiose. It could do. The ragged edges of what used to be a structured parking lot didn’t have any remaining striping. However, it was better than parking on a dirt or gravel lot. And there was plenty of room around the sides that could potentially have planting areas surrounding the old lot. Without the formal edges that many commercial spaces utilized for plantings, it could be a unique, rustic space, complementing the vision I had for my herb business.

Visions of having my herb and garden shop situated in a historic bank building filled my thoughts for the rest of the day. Every time Carla said something, I’d have to reel myself in back to the present and have her repeat whatever she’d said or asked.

My Wildest Dream – flavor

It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, so for Tuesday Tales this month I’m jumping to another WIP, My Wildest Dreams. This tale follows the prequel, A Second Chance, where Jenny survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest and desired to honor her second chance by living an authentic life. She decided she wanted to own her own herb and garden store. Join us as we catch glimpse of her here as she follows her wildest dream, with the help of her best friend Carla.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘flavor’. Return to Tuesday Tales here, to read the other snippets from talented writers.



“Speaking of herbs for cooking…let’s go eat. I’m cold. And starving.” Carla rubbed her stomach to emphasize her words.

I checked to make sure the baggies were sealed and dropped them into a crunched up shopping bag I pulled out of my pocket. “Where to?”

“Where else? Waffle House?”

I smiled, thinking to myself that I should have known. Carla’s choices consisted of Waffle House or Mexican. Oh, occasionally she went the Barb-B-Que route, or chose burgers or a Sonic chili dog. But nine times out of ten, it was one of her two favorites.

Soon we were out of the woodsy area and seated in a booth of our favorite hangout. We each scanned the menus, although probably neither one of us would order anything different than what we usually got. Carla asked for coffee as soon as we sat down, while I only asked for a water.

As soon as the coffee was poured, Carla wrapped her hands around the steaming mug. “No iced tea today? Too cold for you?”

“They don’t have a flavor I like. Now, if they had a nice raspberry or peppermint tea, I’d be all over it.” I realized where we were and started laughing. “I’ll have to take a picture of our meals and send it to my sister.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and sat it next to my water glass, to remind me.

waffle houseCarla chuckled. “Yeppers. She’ll be jealous. Elisabeth really likes to eat here when she visits, doesn’t she?”

“Her and my niece, Shelly. They both like it. Although I don’t know which they like best. Waffle House, Babe’s or Reno Reds.”

“How’s your sister doing?”

“Fine. Of course, the school year’s started up, so she’s back at work.” I stretched my legs, glad that we were finally sitting after our hour in the woods. “I know she likes her job. But I think she likes her summers better, with six weeks off.”

“Is she coming back next summer to visit you again?”

“I hope so. Since I didn’t make it to California this year, I was glad she was able to make a trip this way.”

Carla raised her coffee cup as the waitress approached the table with a steaming pot of fresh coffee. “When she comes out again, we’ll have to go to Babe’s again. I enjoyed meeting her and spending some time with her.” She busied herself adding sugar and creamer, then looked up with a thoughtful look on her face. “She’ll be able to come and see your herb shop if she comes back next summer.”

“Ha!” My response burst out, surprising us both. “I doubt I’ll be operating by next summer.”

“You never know. You could be.”

“November…December…January” I ticked the months off on my fingers. “It’s only eight months till June. I’ll never have everything ready by then. I doubt I’ll even have enough money to even have a place to rent by then.”

“Sure you will. You’ll find someplace.”

“That I can afford?”

“Of course.”

“And then I have to order stock. And make things. And buy dried herbs. And package product up. And…” My chest heaved as a long, slow sigh of frustration escaped. “I don’t know if I can do it by then. Heck. I don’t even know if I can do this at all!”

“Yes you can. I have faith in you.”

“More faith than I have in myself. I’m seriously doubting whether I can really do this or not.”

“What about all those positive thoughts you’re always talking about? All your talk over the past year about living an authentic life and doing what you really want to do? About celebrating life and living it to the fullest? Where did all that come from?”

“I know. But do you know how much money I’m going to need? Money I don’t have.”

“Then I guess you’ll just have to buck up and figure out a way. You can do it. Write up a bunch of those affirmations you’re always talking about. Stick ‘em on your forehead, plaster ‘em all over your house.”

Crazy friends. Don’t you just love it when your best friends parrots your words and throws them right back at you? I shook my head and tried to rub my frown lines off my forehead. Fortunately our meals arrived, giving me some time to think.

I hated to admit that Carla was right. I was so discouraged and overwhelmed, that my dream seemed impossible. I wasn’t using my own words on myself. I was looking at the negative and kept repeating these negative thoughts to myself. Where was the positivity that I talked so freely about? I was doing the same thing that I berated others for doing – the old adage ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ hit too close to home right now.

A Second Chance – Tuesday Tales ‘glass’

TT_bannerHere’s another snippet from A Second Chance, the prequel to My Wildest Dreams, the first book in A Growing Wings series.

In A Second Chance, Jenny suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and is grappling with a flurry of thoughts and emotions about it. Her friend, Carla, is trying to help her figure out type of work she wants to do. This week our prompt is ‘glass’.

For more fascinating story snippets from the wonderful authors in the group, return to TUESDAY TALES here.


October 21st

Carla rummaged through the small ice chest sitting beside the park bench where we were leisurely eating our lunch and enjoying the October afternoon. She pulled out a small container and opened the lid, revealing two cupcakes laying inside, decorated with bright purple frosting proclaiming ‘1’. “Surprise! They’re chocolate. Your favorite.” Holding the treats out for me to take one, she continued. “So…how do you feel now that it’s been a year since your cardiac arrest?”

Not quite sure how to answer, I paused and gazed out at the pond in front of us, as smooth as glass except for the ripples around the fountain in the center. “Kind of strange actually. I mean, I’m glad…I’m really glad that I’ve had this time, an extra year that for all accounts I shouldn’t have had…”

“As you should be! And I, for one, am very glad that my friend is still here…living and breathing!” With that she bit into her cupcake, getting almost half the dessert in one bite.

Laughter bubbled up when I turned and saw her face with purple icing smeared all over her upper lip. I nibbled at mine, not wanting to make the same diner’s mistake. “It doesn’t seem like a year. It’s gone by in a flash. It’s been very strange though…”

I turned back towards the pond and watched a turtle’s tiny head cutting through the surface towards the bank as I gathered my thoughts before continuing. “My awareness has certainly fluctuated throughout the year. There’s been times where I was acutely aware of this second chance I’ve been given and I’ve been abundantly thankful for every breath. And yet…there’s been other days where I’ve noticed that I’ve slipped into oblivion, caught up in old habits and just going through life, task by task, errand by errand – living life payday to payday.” I took the last bite of my cupcake and stuffed the paper liner in the trash bag that sat on the bench between us.

“You’re still alive. That’s the important thing. I mean…what would I do without my best friend to hang around with?” Carla held her water bottle up in the air as if an imaginary toast. “It would be awful lonely sitting here eating lunch all by myself.”

“But that’s just it. It’s not the most important thing. Well…it is…but it isn’t. I feel like I do at the end of the year when I think about the New Year resolution I made and how I didn’t accomplish any of it and now the year is over.”

“That’s why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.”

“That solves the problem for you. But I do. And here I am, 365 days later, and I’m also frustrated because I don’t feel that I’ve done enough with my extra time.” A hawk soaring over the park caught my attention and I pointed towards it. We both sat watching it as it circled, seemingly lazy in its drifting, yet knowing that it watched the ground beneath it intently, ready to dive in an instant.

After it drifted out of view, I continued with my rambling. “I read a quote last week that really made me think. It was by Milton…no, Mill…wait, I think I have it with me…” I stuck my fingers in my jeans pocket and pulled out a folded, and now slightly worn and worse for the wear, slip of paper.

I unfolded it and read it out loud. “It’s Millard Fuller, and he wrote ‘It’s not your blue blood, your pedigree or your college degree. It’s what you do with your life that counts.’ So…” I folded the paper back up and stuck in back in my pocket. “…what have I done in the past year that counted? Have I made good use of those extra days?”

“You’re being too hard on yourself.”

“Not really. What have I done any differently? Other than I stopped playing all those farm games on Facebook and started playing with real plants in my garden instead.” I stood and started pacing to counteract the restless feeling that threatened to consume me.

“That’s something. That’s a biggie. I mean, look how many hours I spend playing computer games.”

“It is. I admit it. But it’s still not enough.” I stopped at the huge oak tree towering over the park bench and placed a palm on the surface of its thick, rough bark. I stood mutely for a moment, trying to connect with the silent sentential, guardian of the park who had seen this area change over the past hundred years.

Carla remained quiet, letting me gather my thoughts, which was very odd in itself, as she was usually one who chattered like a magpie the whole time we were together.

Not getting any answer back from the tree, I continued. “What’s been one of my biggest gripes over the past year?”

“Not enough money?”

“Ha! That too. But besides that, what do I always seem to be complaining about?”

“Your job. Your boss. Your coworkers. Your schedule.”

Yep, Carla knew that one. She must have heard that song and dance from me more than once. “Exactly. Crafty Hands. In one form or another.” I took a deep breath and stood straight. “And where am I still at? Crafty Hands.”

“So get another job.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“There’s lots of jobs out there. You just haven’t looked.”

“No, I haven’t,” I admitted.

“Go apply at the new Aldi’s. Or Tom Thumb.”

“Yuck!” That response flew out of my mouth without any reservation. “I have no desire to work in a grocery store.”

“There’s lots of warehouses around. Try some of those.”

“Too physical.”

“Taco Bueno? Dairy Queen?”

“Nope. I’ve never worked in fast food in over fifty years. I don’t want to start now.”

timeclockFor every idea Carla had, I had a quick negative response. For such a good friend that, I thought, knew me so well, she sure threw out a lot of ideas that didn’t tempt me in the least. I didn’t want to tell her what I really thought – that these were all dumb ideas. “Besides, even if I went to one of those places, I’d simply be trading in one time clock for another. One boss for another. It would only be a new company telling me when I had to be there and what I had to do every day. It wouldn’t be any different, it would only be in a different building.”

“True. But it would be a paycheck. And you need a paycheck.”

“Yes, I need the money. But I want it to be something creative, something that touches my soul, and something that’s not just a job.”

“Well, you’ve been doing all this gardening lately. Work at a nursery.”

“Naw. The plant part would be fun. I guess the big problem is that I don’t want to be an employee. I don’t want to be someone’s minion anymore.”

Carla stood and stretched, making a little groan as she twisted her back. “So start your own business. With plants.”

Hmmmm…maybe not all her ideas are stupid. I ran my fingers up and down the ridges in the tree’s bark as I thought about what she’d just suggested. “There’s lots of nurseries around…I’d need something slightly different…I need to tweak it a little…”

“So…what are your favorite plants?” She laughed as she watched me. “Except for fondling trees in the park that is?”

herb store1I looked at what I’d been doing and had to laugh too. I broke away from communing with my new found botanical friend. “My favorites? Iris. Herbs. Roses. Oak trees.” I patted my buddy to let him know he was in my list of favorites. “There’s already an iris business over in Argyle. But you know…there’s not really a nursery with a good selection of herbs. Calloway’s has a decent selection in the spring. But otherwise everyone carries the same old offerings of the basic dozen or so.”

“Lavender!” Carla started hopping around and waving her hands in the air. “There’s that lavender farm up in Gainesville. You could do something like that.”

“Well, yeah, but not with lavender. They’ve already got that market covered.”

“It doesn’t have to be lavender. There’s more herbs than that. But something similar. You know, with herbs, and a garden area, and a little shop inside.”

herb store Hearts Ease

Heart’s Ease Herb Shop, Cambria, California

Pictures floated through my mind – images of a quaint little shop, filled with potpourris and sachets, teas and bundles of cinnamon sticks, jars of dried herbs and spices, books, live plants, birdhouses. It was like a slideshow flashing by filled with delightful scenes. I could almost smell the inside, fragrant with the aromas and scents of the goodies that stocked it from floor to ceiling.

“Earth to Jenny. Earth to Jenny.” My friend’s voice jerked me back to the present and I realized I’d been staring out across the pond, not seeing a single thing around me except for the vision of my new business.

“That’s it. An herb store. Not like jars of pills and bottles and extracts. But herbs, in the garden, and birdhouses and bee skeps and…”

Red Bell Pepper Coulis, from Herb Store Favorites

As the weather begins changing and the days and nights begin cooling down, the abundance from the summer gardens also starts winding down to an end. Bell peppers should still be prolific…and perhaps you’re tired of your usual recipes. Here’s a tasty Red Bell Pepper Coulis, from Herb Store Favorites, that’s delicious served over some hot, fresh pasta.

red bell peppersRed Bell Pepper Coulis

Chef Leslie Sassamon shared this recipe with our herb group when she was the featured guest, teaching us how to prepare several herbal dishes for our luncheon. This was delicious served over warm, freshly made pasta.


2 red bell peppers, washed 2 TB white wine vinegar 1 shallot, minced 1 tsp garlic, minced 1 TB olive oil ¼ cup heavy cream salt to taste black pepper to taste


To roast red bell peppers, place directly over a gas flame on a cook top or under a broiler in the oven on high heat. Let skins of bell peppers blacken, turning to blacken the entire surface of the skin. Using tongs, place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let peppers stand at least 10 minutes, as the heat from the peppers under the wrap will act to steam the skin from the fleshy part of the pepper. Pell the skin from the pepper. Remove seeds and membrane. Cut into 1” pieces.

In a small sauté pan, sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil until soft. Reduce heat and add in white wine vinegar. Add in cream and continue to heat until cream is warm.

In a blender or food processor, add in red bell peppers and mixture from the sauté pan. Pulse to combine and then puree until a sauce has formed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat sauce in saucepan over low heat. Serve warm over warmed cooked pasta.

Makes about 2 cups sauce.

Herb Store Favorites_coverHerbs, herbs, herbs…Olde Thyme Gardens revolved around herbs – growing them, cooking with them and crafting with them. In Herb Store Favorites, we bring you the favorites that we collected. Cheese Dilly Bread, Cranberry Orange Honey Nut Muffins, Green Rice, Lavender Shortbread, Rosemary Cookies and Lemon Verbena Buttermilk Pound Cake – along with a host of others.

The years the store was open as a brick and mortar, along with three annual Herb Fest’s in California gave us a nice collection of herbal recipes. Some we used in the store at various Open Houses and events. We got others from some of the food contests held in the store, and at the herb festivals.

Join us at the herb store, I think you’ll find something here that you’ll love!

Buy at Amazon:

Buy at Barnes and Noble

Minted Apple Bread – from Herb Store Favorites

HERB STORE FAVORITES is in the final countdown! It’s almost here!

This is a re-release of a previously published cookbooklet, the results of three years of an herb and garden store and three annual herb festivals.

To tempt your taste buds, here’s one of the recipes in HERB STORE FAVORITES.

Herb Store Favorites_cover

Minted Apple Bread

Connie Wilson won 3rd place with her Minted Apple Bread. This is a moist batter bread with a little “tang” to it. Connie said this bread freezes well also.


2 cups all-purpose flour ¾ cup brown sugar 1 TB baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon 2 TB fresh spearmint, minced 1 egg 1 cup unsweetened applesauce ¼ cup canola oil


Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 8” x 4” loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In a small bowl, stir together the spearmint, egg, applesauce and oil. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir until blended. Pour batter into loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Ginger Lemonade & Herb Store Favorites


Herb Store Favorites_coverAn ebook with the recipes from Olde Thyme Garden’s cookbooklet originally published in 2003. It contains recipes from herbal food contests held in the store in Upland, California and at three herb festivals in Upland.

Here’s a recipe to get you started during these hot summer days — GINGER LEMONDADE.

If a nice cool, refreshing glass of iced tea on these sizzling days soothe you — check out the tea line from Trisha’s Kitchen. These 8 teas were the top sellers at Olde Thyme Gardens. The teas are available now, along with TWO GREAT AUGUST SPECIALS! The four top selling dip mixes (a Chef Greg’s line purchased from Black Pearl Gardens in 1998) will be available soon.

Ginger Lemonade

Here’s a nice refreshing drink with a different twist. It’s especially nice on a hot, summer day. I’d often make it and have it available to serve to customers on a busy Saturday during the summer.


6 cups water

1 ¼ cups sugar

¼ cup grated, peeled fresh ginger

1 ¼ cups fresh lemon juice (about 7 large lemons)

¼ cup fresh lime juice

Lemon and, or lime slices (optional)


Combine 1 cup water, sugar, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, or until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and cool.

Strain ginger mixture through a sieve into a pitcher, and discard solids.

Add 5 cups water and juices.

Stir well.

Serve over ice, and garnish with lemon and lime slices, if desired.

Makes approximately 8 cups lemonade.


A to Z: ‘L’ is for LAVENDER

It’s April! That means it’s time for the ‘BLOGGING A to Z CHALLENGE’. Everyday this month (except Sunday) bloggers will be blogging to a theme, using different letter of the alphabet – running, of course, from A to Z.

I’m blogging about MEMORY GARDENS: botanical tributes to celebrate our loved ones. Most of my writing is about keeping memories alive, so a spring garden is a perfect match to celebrate loved ones memories. Come join us all month for 26 different posts about Memory Gardens … and then, maybe plant your own tribute to remember your own special person.


A to Z: ‘L’ is for LAVENDER


Lavender is a good addition to any memory garden, used to signify love or devotion. It’s fairly drought tolerant, making it a good choice for the water conscious gardener. It doesn’t like to have its feet wet, so place where drainage is good. You’ll be blessed with fragrant blossoms, reminding you of your loved one.

LAVENDER – Love, Devotion

Common Name:                      LAVENDER

Botanical Name:                      Lavandula

Height:                                    1’ – 4’

USDA Hardiness Zone:          Zones 4-9

Sun requirements:                   Full sun

Water Needs:                           Little water

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