Award Winning Author


July 2017

The Linen Curse Strikes Again

I should have known that a household-wide linen cleaning would lead to destruction.  I’m talking comforters, sheets, pillow cases, and pillows for four bedrooms.  My house smelled so clean and fresh!  I even arranged a throw pillow or two and spread one of my grandmother’s handmade quilts over my daughter’s bed.  For once, all four bedrooms were picture perfect.   I totally set myself up for this.

We have a running joke at the farm:  if you change the sheets, you run the chance of falling victim to the linen curse.  It doesn’t happen every time, but it does happen with enough frequency to question its veracity.  Fresh sheets?  Expect a cat to throw up a hairball.  New pillow?  Expect the dog to pee on it.  Freshly laundered, sun-dried, ultra-fresh comforter?  Expect dysentery.

So, yes.  I was spitting into the wind of fate.

Everything was great.  I fell asleep in blissfully fresh linens, breathing in the faint scent of bleach bathed in lavender.  Around 1AM, my 13 year old awakened me with, “Mom, I threw up.  Don’t worry I’ll clean it up.”  Yep…the VERY kid who got the antique handmade quilt on her bed.


I hear the shower start up, so I know it’s bad.  No way I’m leaving this up to her to clean up;  this is the child who loads the dishwasher so haphazardly it looks like a preschool puzzle gone bad.  I get up to investigate.  Oh…my…goodness.

It’s everywhere and it’s the grossest kind.  Her bedroom looks like she made an olympic sport of heaving.  Pillow hit.  Comforter hit.  Sheets hit.  Mattress soaked.  Meemaw’s quilt?  Bullseye.

While she’s showering, I very carefully transport all the disgustingness back to the washing machines.  Thank goodness I have a double set;  smartest purchase ever!  I get her settled on the couch because I have to fumigate her room and spread baking soda on the mattress.  She thanks me for not yelling at her.

How could I be upset with her?  I brought it all on myself with my cleaning frenzy.  No doubt I’ll be staggering the deep cleaning in the future.  At least that way, I spread out the odds of the linen curse striking again.

After all, I pretty much asked for it.



Shipping This One On Out

book 2

Well, it’s finally happened.  I’ve found the 2nd novel that I just can’t bring myself to give what I consider a fair shake.  Here’s my general reading rule:  I’ll give the author 50 pages, maybe even 100 to hook me into the story.  If I’m not “in” by then, I’ll move along.  So far, the only novel I haven’t been able to stand by for 50 measly pages is E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India.  I’ve read other Forster just fine, even liked A Room with a View, but for some reason I just can’t make myself proceed.

Now, I have some pretty decent reading chops.  I’ve read Tolstoy, handled Hardy, “got” Joyce,  and adore Dickens.  While not necessarily voracious, I am a regular reader with a somewhat discriminating taste.  Yeah, I’ve read ALL the Game of Thrones books and hung out with the likes of Anne Rice, Ken Follett, Stephen King, and John Jakes.  So, I’m not a snobbish reader, either.

When I picked up the Pulitzer Prize winner by Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, I was particularly excited because this novel is featured as part of the curriculum for high school pre-AP English courses I teach.  This novel not only snagged the Pulitzer, but also the National Book Award and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize.  So, I was all fired up to add some new life and a new read to my teaching repertoire.  I was hoping for something to atone for the perennial student “favorites” The Scarlet Letter and Julius Caesar.  Bless their hearts, it’s a rough reading year…Anne Bradstreet, Thomas Paine, and that ilk.  Maybe I set myself up for disappointment.

I regret to report I didn’t even make it out of the first chapter of The Shipping News.  I felt book shame, no doubt.  This is GOOD stuff, must be EXCELLENT stuff and I can’t see it.  The diction is not breathtaking to me; it’s breathless and frenetic.  The premise of  “a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family” (this is on the back of the book) got drowned by the total lack of connection for my students…not with the central character, not with his age, lifestyle, not with the exposition of the story.  I simply could not find the appeal for my students.

It’s not often that I use my TEACHER VOICE here, but sometimes I just have to wonder what the devil curriculum writers are thinking.  Now, before you haul off wondering who am I to rant about what folks write into their teacher training programs, you need to know that I’ve been in the education foxholes since 1991 and have written curriculum professionally since 2005.  I know a thing or two about how adolescents read, about what works, and what doesn’t.

At this point, I’m shipping The Shipping News on out.  I’m going to shelve it for a few months and try to approach it again, not as a teacher, but as a reader.  Perhaps then it won’t make my brain ache with skepticism.  I just picked up an old friend, Anne of Green Gables, to pacify me and get me back in the right frame of mind for the start of a new school year.

This year, I’ll be teaching the level that gets to experience To Kill a Mockingbird  and Romeo and Juliet, so I have plenty of time to change my mind.


Meat Bomb, Meat Bomb, Double-Double Beef Bomb!


meat 3
Meat bombs come out about the size of the palm of your hand.

Why, oh why, have I never thought of this before?  I’ve spent the last 23 years of my life cooking for a bevy of, shall we say eccentric, eaters.  Pretty much the only food all four of my kids like is the ubiquitous chicken finger.  Everything else is just a sideshow of “Who does Mom love best tonight?”

By the way, I tried the “eat-it-or-starve” tactic.  I was met with a very calm “We’ll just eat at Grandma’s”.  Yup.

We recently filled the freezer with beef, so I have been trying to come up with various recipes for hamburger meat.  I was rummaging through the baking pans when inspiration struck!  I’d been having a hankering for meatloaf (that one’s a 0/4 kid-approved dish) when I spotted the poor, neglected muffin tin.  I hardly ever make muffins because one doesn’t like chocolate chips and the other doesn’t like berries.  The other two are grown now, so they’re on their own to find someone who will cater to their food proclivities.  Yes, they spend lots of time at Grandma’s when they come home!

What if…I made individual meatballs in the muffin tin?  You know, a muffin-sized meatball!  A heavenly beam of light shone down on the kitchen counter and I knew I could make a “one-dish” pleaser for two different palates.  Once I had the bright idea to call them meat bombs, I had them hooked.  The recipe was surprisingly easy to modify and the nifty muffin tin made clean up a breeze.

So, without further ado…here’s how to make meat bombs. If you’re new to my food blogging, I don’t really measure ingredients very often.  Experiment on your own to find the perfect combination to suit your taste!

Meat Bombs

Preheat oven to 450.  This will give the bombs a nice crunch on the exterior.  Mix up hamburger meat (ground pork works, too) like you’re gonna make burgers.  I use Worcestershire, garlic salt, pepper, and some fine bread crumbs.  For the ones who like plain bombs, go ahead and form balls and place them in the muffin tin.  For the rest of the meat, I mixed in shredded cheese, formed the balls, and topped them with a good squirt of ketchup.  You can add in onions if you like, but nobody likes at my house.  Pop the bombs in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.  Drain on paper towels before serving.

The meat bombs were…wait for it..a hit!

Fan Fare: S***t folks say at book signings

Rocky Porch Moore and Mullen Dale autograph their novels at a recent signing event.

Book signings are a great way for the public to meet authors and for authors to interact with their adoring (or not so adoring) public.  Below you’ll find some of my “favorite” quips, comments, and questions from folks who’ve come either by choice or happenstance to my book booth.

  • “So, can I get this book online?”  or better: “Is your book on Kindle?”  Well, of course.  But I’m the author right here, right now, set up to actually sell my books in person, so, you know, I can make a living.  I even brought bookmarks and snacks!  I can autograph your copy for you, and who knows?  It might actually be worth something to you if …a).  I become the next Harper Lee or E.L. James  b).  the book becomes an Oscar-nominated film or made-for-TV special  c).  I get hit by a bus and achieve posthumous acclaim.
  • “Is this the ONLY thing you’ve written?”  Cue Harper Lee.  I have serious reservations about Go Set a Watchman.  I naturally lean toward the snarky side,  so I have to “smile and wave” on this little gem as I silently ask the fine patron how many novels he/she has drafted, revised, queried, edited, revamped, published, marketed, and hauled over cripple creation all while teaching full-time, coaching, and raising four children.  How fortunate that my sophomore novel is now in its final birth-throes.  Woo hoo!
  • “I have a story.  Will your publisher take me since he took you?”  I just ignore the backdoor insult, gender bias, and assumption that publishing a novel is akin to obtaining a library card and head straight for their story.   I’ll ask a couple of questions to determine (almost invariably) that their novel exists either entirely in their heads or has enough actual written content to fill 3 and a half post-it notes.
  • “Wow!  You wrote this book? How exciting!”  Sounds promising, as the patron cracks the spines on at least 3 of the novels and may even actually read the blurb on back.  Meanwhile, she’s pocketing bookmarks and hitting the snacks/candy.  She smiles her congratulations on such an impressive feat and walks away.
  • “Is your book any good?”  I’ve gotten better at this zinger since my little project has won multiple awards (a little clout really builds confidence), but I started with stuff like “I sure hope so”, ” I like it okay,” and “I’m planning on sending it to Oprah”.


Many folks, of course, are gracious and encouraging at book signings.  It’s great to be an author!

Ugly Biscuits

Ugly Biscuits just moments away from browning

Sometimes, you just need a buttery homemade biscuit.  Whomp biscuits, even the “good” kind, simply won’t do.  You know what a whomp biscuit is, don’t you?  It comes in a can and you whomp it against the countertop to open it up and plop those molded lumps of dough on the pan.  12 minutes or so later, you have a hot, sturdy biscuit.  That’s fine…on a weekday before school when you want to put something  portable in the kids’ hands.  Whomp biscuits even taste pretty good–if it’s been awhile since you’ve had a real biscuit, that is.

What if I told you that fresh, from-scratch, flaky, homemade biscuits are not only possible, but practical?  I’m talking one bowl, y’all.  Maybe 5 more minutes, tops.  What do you get?  Pure pleasure that would make a pat of butter proud.  Definite Mom/Wife of the Year points here…and without even looking at a rolling pin!

The trick is to go big and go ugly.  What you’re making is generally referred to as a drop biscuit in the recipe books, but once you get this downpat, you won’t need a recipe or a book.  Ugly biscuits are like poetry;  you find a rhythm and a harmony of ingredients, then watch the magic happen.

Here’s how I make ugly biscuits:

I like a hot oven.  Preheat to 450.  In a bowl, put 2 hefty cups of all-purpose flour, a big tablespoon of baking powder, and around a teaspoon of salt.  Add two-three tablespoons of Crisco (yes, the white stuff in the tub).  Use a pastry tool or a fork to cut in the Crisco.  It should resemble coarse meal.  Go ahead, get your hands in there and feel it.  It should be thick, but not greasy.  Add a cup of milk and stir.  You have to do this by feel.  You might need a little more milk.  Your goal is gloppy and elastic.  Plop big heaping spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  They pile up like flaxen mountain ranges.  You’ve got 10 solid minutes in the oven before you need to start worrying about burning the biscuits.  Exact timing depends on how golden you want these glorious morsels to be.

The addition of garlic powder and shredded cheddar transforms these beauties into a quick, savory dinner biscuit if you’re not in the mood for breakfast fare.

So, treat your loved ones to some ugly biscuits.  They’re quick, relatively simple to make, and will warm both hearts and tummies.


Rocky Rates It: Bicycling Magazine’s 1000 All-Time Best Tips edited by Ben Hewitt


This is a decent compendium of tips for cycling with a very useful glossary of lingo. I found some of the tips to be repetitive and several that were just plain common sense, but overall, I feel better educated about cycling. As a newbie, I would have appreciated a section on shoe selection and an explanation regarding clipping in. I would also have appreciated links and/or anecdotes involving racing at the amateur level as well. Some pacing charts would have also been helpful so that beginners can gauge their performance.

This book succeeded in getting me fired up about riding and piqued my curiosity about races that may be held in my region.

Rocky Rates It:  3 Stars

Where’s the Beef?


We have a bit of a farm mystery on our hands.  Daisy Daisy (Give Me Your Answer, Do), our cow, gave birth to a fine little bull we named T-Bone on July 3rd.  She brought him proudly to the fence for a bit of a photo session the next day.  We haven’t laid eyes on him since.

Before summer started, we had our pastures tilled and sowed with some sort of tall grass cows find tasty that also roots out some other kind of invasive problem grass we had.  For those of you who don’t live on a farm, grass is not just grass.  I would explain more, but, truthfully, I let Russ handle this department.  Here’s what I do know:  most of our pastures are six feet high in some sort of tropical looking long-stemmed grass that’s the stuff of nightmares.

If you’ve seen the movie Secondhand Lions, you get the idea.  This tall vegetation provides the perfect cover for Daisy Daisy and little T-Bone.  It also looks like it could house any number of reptilian terrors.  I’m too stove up from that knee surgery to go on a calf-hunting exhibition, and with Daisy Daisy, it’s smart to keep a fence in between.  I certainly don’t want to startle her.  She’s got a wild eye and a tendency to charge.

So, is my succulent little T-Bone okay?  I don’t know for sure, but I have a couple of clues from nature to put my mind at ease.  Daisy Daisy hasn’t been carrying on.  If the calf were lost, she’d be bawling.  If the calf weren’t milking, she’d be bawling.  No buzzards are circling the pasture.  These are good signs.  Until Russ bush hogs this pasture-turned-jungle, we’ll just have to keep a sharp eye out in hopes of getting a glimpse of our bovine friends.

The Farm’s Underbelly

Room to Roam

You can’t be nasty-nice on a farm.  Sure, we have those idyllic moments.  You know, picnicking in the green pasture with cows lowing in the distance while the kids frolic after lightning bugs to capture in Mason jars.  Watching the girls and dogs play chase on hay bales, jumping from bale to bale.  Gathering eggs as the birds cluck happily.  This is the stuff memories and movies are made of.

But the day-to-day caring for critters is a hands-on, no-holds-barred muck fest.  So, today I’m going to show you a bit of the underbelly of farm living.  Consider this a cautionary tale for jumping into the country side of life, or a glowing endorsement…that’s all up to you, gentle reader!

  1.  Poop happens.  It happens every day.  And when poop mixes with heavy rains, high heat, and humidity (June, anyone?) you get quite the fragrant soup.  It has rained so much this summer that the poop of pigs who’ve been gone for two years resurfaced in their former pen.
  2. The chicken pen is no place for flip-flops.  See above.
  3. All animals must be fed and cared for twice a day without fail.   This means feeding in the rain, gathering eggs, letting the geese in and out, and trying to lure the runaway guinea back in the pen…that’s an ongoing project.  A mudroom becomes essential; you can’t wear your chicken pen shoes to church!
  4. Our fowl pens are sloped to help move excess water, mud, and poop.  That means when you stand outside the pens to feed the birds you are standing on well-fertilized ground.  See #2.
  5. When it’s time to feed animals, you’d best not be dressed for your day job.  Too many things can go wrong, and critters fling/splash/stomp poop.  It’s just easier to do morning feedings in pajamas and shrimp boots.
  6. Got children?  Sex education occurs naturally on the farm.  Jack the Ass, in particular, likes to air everything out on hot days.  Captain Kirk, one of our roosters, has absolutely no shame (or bird species preference, apparently).
  7. Animals die.  If one of your children proclaims any given critter (duck/goose/chicken/cow) to be a favorite, you might as well hang a “doomed” sign around its neck.  Accidents happen.  Predators happen.  Oversights happen.  It can be grisly.  It’s also a great teacher of responsibility, accountability, and natural order.  As carefully controlled as you make the farm,  “Wild Kingdom” events will happen from time to time.
  8. Vacations take planning and help.  The animals still need food and water while you’re away.  You can’t just put a big pile of feed out there and tell them to ration it for the week!  When it comes to taking care of animals, there aren’t days off.

Life on a farm can be smelly, but it sure is fun!


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