Wednesday, December 14, 2011


When we were kids, my sister and I shared a bedroom. I remember being scared of the dark, and every night my sister would reassure me that monsters did not live under my bed. Her side of the bedroom was always immaculate; my side not so immaculate with clothes thrown helter skelter. And under my bed you might find a zillion dust bunnies, along with four or five shriveled apple cores. With a great amount of envy I watched my sister go to her first homecoming dance in a sapphire blue wool sheath dress. She looked so beautiful and grown up in her first pair of high heeled shoes and pearl earrings. Upstairs, on her vanity table, I became mesmorized by the pastel strands of angora she used to wrap around her steady guy's class ring. And I absolutely fell in love with all the pretty bottles of perfume, nail polish and makeup that I knew I'd better not touch, because somehow, she always knew if I did. Later, I was maid of honor in her wedding. We both grew apart. It took me a few decades to finally realize just how close a sister will always remain in your heart. P.S. If per chance my sister is reading this, I'm sorry for borrowing your favorite blouse in 1967, and then accidentally spilling grape juice on it before hanging it back in your closet. Oh well, the thing about sisters is . . . they always forgive you.
Sherry Hartzler
Author of Three Moons Over Sedona and Island Passage
Available on and Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Place to Contemplate and Meditate

I'm a big believer in finding a place inside yourself each and every day, a place where time does not exist, a place where you can clear your mind and let your soul energize the physical self. This "place" can be anywhere you choose to go, because your mind is capable of conjuring up anything as real as anywhere you can travel to. Believe it/Receive it. Now, if you are curious about where this photo was taken, I'll tell you. The above charming cottage (in reality, a potting shed, but, just the same, doesn't it remind you of something straight out of a fairytale?) is on the property of a friend of mine. In 1992, Bobbi and Bruce Bishop created Lilyfest, an annual three-day gathering of artisans in Hocking County, Ohio. This must-see event now hosts as many as 8,000 visitors. Each spring Lilyfest volunteers converge on the grounds to tend the many beds and make them stunningly beautiful for Lilyfest  While the "Lily" is celebrated at this event, it is the Hosta that reigns as the lush background for the majestic lily. By the second weekend in July, the gardens are simply spectacular, ready for the public to walk through the many paths and purchase a variety of local artwork. To walk in the Bishop Gardens is like a walk through heaven. Food for the soul.
Sherry Hartzler
Author of Three Moons Over Sedona and Island Passage
Available on and Amazon Kindle

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy Christmas Treats

As writers, we find the holidays a bit overwhelming, keeping up with daily pages, gathering presents together for family and friends, not to mention making treats for all the little parties that extend into the new year. Well, this morning, I have a treat for  you, something easy that looks great on a party tray and easy as pie (not that pies are easy to bake - never did understand that cliche'). Nonetheless, here it is:

pretzels (the little ones, not the regular sized)
Rollo candies
pecan halves

Lay out the pretzels on parchment paper, put a Rollo candy on top. Put into a 350 deg. oven for only two minutes. Take them out, push a pecan into the center of each pretzel-candy. Let them cool. They are beautiful and taste so scrumptious!

Now, for a twist (no pun intended) on this same pretzel-candy recipe. Instead of Rollo candies, use miniature peppermint patties. Follow as above, putting the peppermint patties on the pretzels. Warm for two minutes in a 350 deg. oven. Take out of oven and gently push the pecan half into the center of each pretzel-candy. At first taste, I found the peppermint and pecan a bit bland. So, being a great fan of salty and sweet, I sprinkled just a bit of Kosher salt on top of each patty. Amazing different taste. .

Have fun! And if you find any other great variations of quick and easy snack, please let me know.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living a Good Life

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." Anonymous

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Tribute to Daughters Everywhere

As a writer of women's fiction, novels for and about women, this morning I want to acknowledge daughters. As babies we held them in our arms, seeing in those little faces a new and improved model of ourselves. We knew, without a doubt, they were much much smarter than we ever were. We encouraged them to be individuals. We watched them grow into strong women with strong ideas. As mothers, we love them as not only a part of ourselves, but as a bright and shining hope for the future of a world that could use lots of mothering influence.
Sherry Hartzler, author of
Three Moons Over Sedona
Island Passage
Now Available on and Amazon Kindle

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kitchen Windows

I love kitchen windows. Don't you? Doing dishes and letting your eyes wander outside, admiring the garden, or watching the hummingbirds as they dive the feeder hanging on the porch...or, best of all, taking delight in your children or grandchildren playing in the backyard. Just being kids. A time for reflection, a time for hope and dreams. Ah, I love kitchen windows.
Three Moons Over Sedona
Island Passage
Author: Sherry Hartzler
Available on Amazon Kindle and

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Today, I am happy. I am warm. I am well-fed. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Three Moons Over Sedona
Island Passage
Author: Sherry Hartzler
Available on Amazon Kindle and

Monday, October 24, 2011


Note: The River Ride is a story about a family struggling to deal with the death of a son. This story was a finalist in the BBC short story contest in 2001.

Trudy stands on the back porch of her house on Orchard Street, broom in hand, watching as Luke’s pickup truck turns into the driveway, hauling an old boat. She bites into the soft flesh of her lower lip. “Damn fool,” she mutters, giving the broom a hard push against the old floorboards of the porch.

            Big surprise. Luke was always bringing home some piece of junk. The barn out back was stacked to the moon with odds and ends hoarded over the years. Now, a boat? Why, the both of them couldn’t even swim. She wipes her hands on the skirt of her faded apron.

Luke jumps down from the cab of the truck.  "Honey," he calls out, “the deal was too sweet; I couldn't turn ‘er down.”

She ignores both him and the boat. Her hands form two tight fists around the broom handle.  Fool, she thinks again, tasting blood where she’d broken through the skin of her lip.    

They eat dinner in silence. Luke pushes food from one side of his plate to the other, nibbling at a bite of roast beef or cutting into a cooked carrot with his fork, then forgetting to put it into his mouth. She hates herself for making his gift seem worthless. Over the past six months, the pain of losing their son has absorbed into her tired bones like a thick poison.

After dinner, she washes the dishes while Luke paces the worn linoleum between the refrigerator and stove. He’s babbling on and on about how the boat will bring them all together again. All, meaning their daughter and granddaughter.

"Lisa won't go," she says, flipping the dishtowel over one shoulder. She leans into the counter to wipe it with a soapy dishrag. “She blames us for what happened. You know that, don’t you?”

His voice cracks with emotion. "Sara will come with us.” 

She moves the dishrag in vigorous tight circles on the countertop, ashamed that her words are so spiteful.  He doesn’t deserve it.  He unfairly blames himself for what Jimmy did - not only for the accident, but for the murder as well. 

She unties her apron, looping the neckband over a hook beside the back door. Her anger softens, as it always does. No doubt, their three-year-old granddaughter will be delighted with Grandpa's boat.

"Yes," she finally agrees, "Sara’ll go."

Luke smiles. “You’ll love it, too. We can ride all the way to Parkersburg.”  His eyes shine with renewed life. "We’ll go on a journey."  She stands at the cupboard, forcing a dishtowel down the throat of a glass, listening.  Journey sounds good, so new and different, so far removed from the loss of their son. 

In those first awful weeks after Jimmy died, she sought refuge in his old bedroom where she would sit on the edge of the bed and pretend nothing had changed. If she closed her eyes and held her breath, she’d swear she could hear tennis shoes squeaking against the hardwood floors in the hallway. Trudy prayed that when she opened her eyes again, she’d find God had given them a second chance to do everything right.

Early the next morning, Luke climbs into the boat with a bucket of water and a sponge to clean the upholstery. Trudy ignores him as she pulls weeds from around the tomato plants in the garden. 

“The seats are torn in a few places,” he says.  “I’ll put duct tape over the bad spots.” 

She pretends she doesn’t hear him. Her fingers work close to earth, pulling weeds, tossing them into a growing pile in the garden path.  Weeds never die.  Even if you yank them out by their roots, they’ll still grow back with a vengeance.

“Our anniversary’s tomorrow,” he calls out.  “I thought we’d take our first river ride.”  He waits for an answer. “Trudy,” he says, clearly aggravated by her silence. “I said...”

“I heard you,” she shouts, shoving the garden trowel deep into the ground.  Then, much softer, she says,  “It’s fine...we’ll go.” 

Later in the afternoon, they drive to the trailer park to invite Lisa and their granddaughter to go with them on the river ride. Their daughter has made other plans. "Take Sara," Lisa offers. "She'll love it. Won't you, sweetie?"

Sara sits at a small plastic table pressing a marker that makes little red hearts into the page of her coloring book. She looks up at her mother. "Shit," she says with a smile as sweet as sugar.  “Now, honey, don’t you go sayin’ those bad words,” Trudy cautions.

 “Mommy does,” Sara says back, her stubby fingers popping off the green top of a marker that makes shamrocks. “It’s all her fault,” she adds, all serious.

Their daughter, a few weeks after the funeral, had screamed those very words.  “It’s all your fault, Daddy! You told Jimmy to leave and never come back.  You gave up on him.”  

Trudy had then cried out in her husband’s defense. “Your brother was drunk! He shoved me.”

Luke opened his arms to his daughter, a helpless gesture that begged forgiveness. “He hurt your mother,” he stammered. 

The next morning they drive to a public dock on the Ohio River. Trudy wears a wide-brimmed straw hat and a pair of sunglasses purchased from the dollar rack at the drugstore. Luke carefully backs the boat into the water and lets it float free from the trailer. Trudy cautiously steps onboard, feeling the boat shift a little beneath her feet.

Sara gleefully jumps up and down on the dock, clapping her hands. "Hurry, Grandma!  I want to get in!" Trudy sits down on one of the rear seats. Luke fastens the straps of Sara’s life jacket before lowering her into the boat. 

"You sit up front with Grandpa," Trudy orders. "You might fall overboard."  She snugs the hat down on her head and settles the picnic basket at her feet. Her eyes take in the harvest-gold interior that dates the boat like the avocado stove and refrigerator in her own kitchen.  She runs one hand along the back cushion, admiring Luke’s fine job of cleaning the interior and mending the seats.

Sara sits on the front seat, plump legs sticking straight out, white tennis shoes radiant against her summer tan. "Grandpa, make it go!" she says, impatient and wide-eyed.  With a steady eye, Luke backs away from the dock before putting the motor in forward gear.  He eases the throttle open, and the boat gains speed. The wind tugs at Trudy's hat and teases the short sleeves of her blouse.

They travel upriver toward Parkersburg. Much bigger boats pass them, twice as shiny, some costing more than Trudy and Luke's house.  When a lady on the deck of a houseboat waves down at them, Trudy timidly raises her hand.  Three fishermen along the shore wave too.  Again, she smiles and waves back, marveling at how different the world seems in the center of this river. 

At noon, they moor on a narrow stretch of sandy shore to eat their picnic lunch of ham sandwiches, potato chips and iced tea from a silver thermos. Sara plays in the sand, digging holes with a plastic spoon, and then filling them with water from a paper cup. Trudy rests on a quilted blanket, leaning back on her elbows, legs stretched out, watching Sara with a sharp eye. 

She thinks her son had once been this content with the world.  A good baby, a gentle child.  Then, all at once, Trudy couldn’t exactly remember when, nothing could make him happy. He was thirteen when Trudy caught him smoking a cigarette behind the garage. She’d snatched the pack from his hands and soaked it under a blast of water from the garden hose. "I will not allow you to smoke," Trudy preached.  In response, Jimmy had merely laughed, then brought home a fresh pack the next afternoon.           

Over the next few years, her son grew increasingly defiant, often belligerent.  Trudy took out her frustration on her daughter, one day screaming at Lisa that she had no more love to give to her children. A few months later, Lisa casually announced her pregnancy. Her daughter quit school in October of her senior year and moved in with the father of the baby. That relationship lasted until three months after Sara's birth.       

Trudy digs her fingers deep into the sand. Tears sting at the edges of her eyes.

Luke's work-roughened fingers grip her arm. "What?" he asks with concern.

"Nothing," she answers. "I only wish..."

"Don't wish, Trudy,” he says, his voice cracking. “It never works.  It just makes you all the sadder when things don’t work out."  He keeps a tight hold on her hand as if afraid to let go of her, as if letting go would release every last bit of what was left of them. 

“I can’t help it, Luke,” she says, her eyes fixed on Sara who has waded into the water up to her knees. The backside of the child's pink shorts is smeared with a dark circle of sand. Trudy is grateful she had the good sense to pack a clean set of clothing for Sara. Some things, she sadly comforts herself, can be fixed. “I want things back the way they were. I want…one more chance to love our children. I’d be a better mother to both of them.”

"We did our best," he consoles, tenderly brushing the sand from her hands.

"They always seemed so angry with us…so miserable." 

He shrugs and says, "Maybe we made it too easy."

"I wanted our children to be happy."

He awkwardly pats his wife's hand. "We gave them all we had."

"Grandpa!" Sara shouts, holding up a broken plastic spoon. "I need more." 

"Coming, baby." He gets up and hurries to find a new spoon.

When their son turned fifteen, Luke had tried to teach Jimmy a trade, but the boy had no interest in learning small engine repair. Instead, he’d shaved his head. At eighteen, he tattooed his arms with skulls, cross-bones and daggers. He started to drink, keeping company with low-life friends. By his twenty-first birthday, Jimmy had managed to lose six different jobs.

Two hours after the argument with his parents, the night he had shoved Trudy against the kitchen counter, Jimmy killed a man inside a tavern at the edge of town. They had fought over a woman, and when Jimmy pulled a gun from the pocket of his leather jacket and fired, he was sure he'd killed the man. He ran from the bar, but at least a dozen witnesses knew his name. 

 The sheriff came to their door late that night, his expression grim in the pale light of the proch lamp. He told them about Jimmy killing the man in the bar, and how he'd run away.“But," the sheriff said with a long and difficult sigh, "I'm afraid there's more. Your son, after leaving the scene, lost control of his car…I'm sorry. You look like good people.” 

 Luke guides the boat beneath the Parkersburg bridge, and then turns it around for the return trip. Trudy stands up and moves to the front seat. Sara climbs into her lap and within a few minutes is asleep. She holds the slumbering child tight against her chest and something familiar and soothing tugs like small wanting hands inside her. Tears spill onto her cheeks, but she doesn’t bother to wipe them away. She can’t. If she did that, she would first have to let go of Sara. 

She smiles at her husband. "This is the nicest anniversary ever."             

He reaches over and smoothes Sara's blond nest of curls. "You aren't mad anymore about the boat?"

Trudy shakes her head. "I think the boat's the best thing you ever brought home.”  And she means every word she tells him.

They move past a slow-moving barge and then are alone on the river. The afternoon sun weaves a shimmering play of light through the leaves of shoreline trees. The river has turned a deep shadowy green and stretches before them as smooth as glass. Trudy closes her eyes and lifts her head to the slight breeze that caresses her face. For this one perfect moment, in the center of the river, it seems as if it flows only for them.


Saturday, April 2, 2011


With the approaching royal marriage of Prince William and “Kate,” one can’t help but think about hats. Some of us remember the beautiful Princess Diana’s fabulous wardrobe and her very "necessary" accessory, the hat. Make that The Hat with a capital “T.”

Head coverings for women go way back to when the Church mandated that women's hair should be covered. Isn't that just like women? Give them a lemon, and they'll make lemonade.

Women's head coverings progressed into the once profitable millenary business - the word "milliner" coming from the Italian village of Milan. These first Milan hats were made of braided straw, fashioned for the purpose of protecting fine skin from the sun. No aristocratic lady would have been caught dead exposing her delicate skin to the elements. Did you know that the dainty parasol did not make an appearance until the 1800’s? With the advent of the parasol, the parasol itself became an accessory to compliment a smaller hat.

Who can forget Scarlett O’Hara at the Wilkes’s plantation barbeque, wearing her wide-brimmed straw hat with the green ribbon. Or . . . the adorable hat from Paris, presented to her by the roguishly handsome Rhett Butler.

Then, moving into the time line of the late eighteen hundreds and early twentieth century, women’s fashion took a more slenderizing form. Hats became notoriously wide-brimmed and sometimes humorously ornamental, using not only lace and simple trim, but imitation flowers and fruit, whatever it took to emphasize the splendor of “The Hat” as a necessity for the high class lady. Remember Kate Winslet’s magnificient courtier hat, as she stepped out of the car to board the Titantic?

The 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, brought hats to a more simple design, worn closer to the head with shorter brims. These fetching hats seemed to have no particular purpose other than be worn as an accessory. Moving into the fifties and sixties, hats seemed to be relegated to being worn to church or some special event. The only fashionable hat I can remember from the sixties was the Jackie Kennedy pill box. The “sixties” brought on the sun worship era. No hats required. After all, we needed that overexposusre of sun. Everyone wanted a tan, the more foolish (I reluctantly confess) using baby oil and iodine mixed together to bring on the ultimate “burn.” Who knew?

Now, with the ozone layer disintegrating and skin cancers becoming rampant, we are learning to cover up again. Tanning beds that make skin look like porous, over-browned toast are becoming, hopefully, a thing of the past. The younger generation is fast learning to preserve their youthfulness, not exploit it.

The marriage of Prince William and “Kate” will no doubt bring the fashion world to its feet again. With Kate’s easy style and gorgeous hats, it can’t miss. But what intrigues us most about Kate is that, like Diana, she’s down to earth, and looks just as fetching in a ball cap as she does in a fancy hat. I admit it, I have “high hopes” for this couple. You see, just like any other romantic schmuck, I like happy endings.

For more information about the history of women's hats, see

Sunday, March 20, 2011

GASOLINE AT 6.75 CENTS/gallon!!!

Three days a week, I go walking with a friend. This morning our walking conversation was about the price of gasoline. I got to thinking about an old photograph I'd stuck in the bottom drawer of my desk (do not know the year it was taken, although my guess would be somwhere in the 1930's). Now, take a look at these three people. I know for certain that the woman (far left) is my grandmother. The other two people I'm not sure who they are. Obiously, they are on some kind of road trip. I'm figuring this because the two women are wearing their go-to-town/church hats and most likely they wouldn't have wasted camera film on some ordinary outing. The gas pump  to the right in the photo looks a bit more of an antique than the one on the left with the old Marathon logo. Now, let your eyes wander up to the price of the gas (I'm hoping this shows up on my scan) The price of the gas is 6.75 CENTS/gallon!!! Is this not a hoot?! Can you just imagine what the three people in the photo would think if they pulled up to a pump today? I'm thinking they were pretty average Americans for the time, farm people, no doubt growing their own vegetables and most certainly didn't depend on the government to make up the difference. Television was still in the future and the idea of computers and the internet would've been something out of a science fiction novel. Their clothing was far from designer, And by the looks of the sweater and skirt worn by the woman in the middle, she got more than a few seasons' wear out of that outfit.

Now, back to my walking friend and this morning's conversation about gasoline prices. She told me that back in 1991, she drove a Honda CRX that got 60 miles to a gallon of gas!!! I said, "You've got to be kidding!" She then told me they no longer make the CRX. Why? Well, she didn't know, but she said it was the best car she'd ever driven.. it's 2011, and I ask you: "Why can't manufacturers design a car that gets 60 miles to a gallon of gas?? To get even close to that, we have to buy one of those ugly hybrids at a purchase price that would make the three people in the old photograph have simultaneous heart-attacks. Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Okay, I’m a sucker…or I was a sucker. Fifteen years ago, while waiting in a grocery line, I was reading one of those tabloids next to the cashier’s aisle. I turned to the back page, noticing all the personal ads, taking pity on all those pathetic people who put in an ad, hoping to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, who no doubt likes long walks on the beach.
Two weeks later, I put in ad in a tabloid paper!
Well, I didn’t exactly do that. Not really. Okay, what I did do was focus on ads selling recipes. Did you know people sell recipes in the tabloids?? I didn’t. But it was a WOW moment. Golly gee, I had my grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe! And if I paid for an ad, I figured with the tabloid’s two million readers, I could easily turn a profit, even with a decimal of a percent return. I’d be in the money!! (First rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.)
I grabbed my grandmother’s recipe and took it to the printer and had beautiful recipe cards made up with my very special log cabin logo. Cha-Ching: $75.00. I then spent another $200.00 for a two sentence ad in the tabloid, where I charged $2.00 for each recipe card. I even went so far as to open a separate post office box, anticipating a flood of incoming envelopes with sweet little two dollar bills tucked inside each one.
Okay, the ad went in a couple weeks later. I picked up a copy of the tabloid for that week and I have to tell you, my excitement was through the roof. How could I possibly lose?? After all, how many women out there are just waiting to read the personal ad section of a tabloid to find the ultimate chocolate cake recipe??? Duh and double duh. (Second rule: If wishes were horses, then beggars could ride.)
It took about one week before the envelopes started flooding into my post box. I kid you not. The first time I opened the post box it was stuffed, yes, I said stuffed, with envelopes. Dollar signs floated inside my head. How easy was this? Lordy, I had at least twenty or thirty more recipes I could advertise and trade for cash!! I loaded everything from the post box into my carry bag, nearly breaking my neck to get back to the car and open the first envelope! At this point, I was nearly salivating with greed. I eagerly ripped open the first envelope, then another and another and another, and so on and so forth. My excitement quickly went downhill. Every envelope, and I do mean every envelope, contained a letter from someone trying to sell ME something. It was an ah-ha moment.
Now, today, here on my blog, I am giving you that same recipe!!! For FREE. So, when you make this cake, remember the lesson I learned from the tabloids: Don’t be an idiot!!! On the other hand, feel free to send me two bucks. Ah, just kidding.
IVALO’S (my Grandmother’s) CHOCOLATE CAKE
Sift into bowl:
3 cups flour 2 tsp. soda
2 cups sugar 2 tsp. baking powder
6 T. cocoa 1 tsp. salt
2 cups water 2 T. vinegar
2/3 cup oil 1 T. vanilla
Beat well. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 deg.
30 to 35 minutes
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter 3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa – alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups of frosting.