Free May 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendar – Go Dutch Baby

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 10 Comments

 



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Smitty & The Mother of All Flashbacks

Read the First 32 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: We know Petula and Rose Mathers are the daughters of Cliffwood scion Frank Mathers Jr and housemaid Aggie. We know that Petula had a son with Mike Newell at age 15 and then promptly left town. We know Petula and Rose are now back in Cliffwood about to reek havoc on Mike’s life, fifteen years later…

Mike Newell became a father on a Tuesday. 

That morning, he’d kissed his mother good-bye and left for football practice before school. The kitchens smelled like the dutch pancakes and blueberries she’d made on a whim. It was misty with rain outside. She had no idea that after school, he walked out of school, took the #10 bus across town and walked into the hospital. She had no idea that her grandson was being born or that he had even been conceived. Or that her panicked, terrified sixteen-year-old son would name him Freddy, after his grandfather, when pressed by a kind nurse about the baby’s name in the nursery. It was the first name that popped into his mind. It was just one of the reasons why Lily Newell would cry at the end of that long, hard, wonderful day, the one that started out so normal, so nondescript. 

The other reasons why she would cry, in her bed, later that night… the way her son had looked in the hallway when she arrived at the hospital, the way his body shook and trembled. He had grown so much the summer before and was one of the biggest boys on the football team and yet he looked so small as he sat her down in the small metal chair and said, “There’s something I haven’t told you…” 

The relief on his face when she took him into her arms and said, “Can I see my grandson?” It nearly broke her in two, his face, right there in the hall. It had always just been the two of them. She cried afresh when she thought of it later, when she was alone. Now there would be three of them. She cried tears of both joy and pain, for herself and for her son who, in just one day, was no longer a boy. 

And the girl… the girl with the funny name. Later, after she had cuddled baby Freddy and let the shock wash over her fully, Lily walked into her room quietly and saw the mother laying in the narrow bed, on her side, facing the window. Her red hair was limp and fell over her shoulder. She was rail thin, despite having just given birth. Lily felt a stab of pity as she walked into the room alone. 

“I don’t want to see him. Please leave.” The girl’s voice cracked as she said the words, betraying her. She must’ve thought Lily was the nurse, there with the baby. 

Lily laid in her bed, remembering the moment; how she knew, in that instant, that the girl would leave them both, Mike and the child. She knew it with every fiber of her being. Lily’s tears slowed and stopped as she remembered. Right or wrong, she would not cry, not for the girl. Never again. 

_________________________________________________________________

It’s May. How did that happen? HOW?

In other bizarre news, I’m on a two-month diet! So that’s… super great! This should be interesting. How do I simultaneously convince Nicole that we should make this giant skillet cinnamon roll cake and yet not eat the entire thing myself in a manic frenzy?

Also horrifying? Trying to give myself rewards for hitting certain milestones (not of the numbers variety since I my friend Katie will be weighing/measuring me but not telling me my progress. Hope she has a good poker face!) for making it through parties and restaurant meals with my willpower intact and discovering that ALL of my immediate reward ideas are… food. I want to reward myself with food. Like a dog. I’m a dog.

Like I said… May will be interesting.

Download your Free May 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendar:

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Free April 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendar- Spring Risotto

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | One Comment



April Calendar Some Kitchen Stories



Smitty & The Mother

Read the First 31 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: It’s been a long day for Petula Mathers. She swept into town just to cause her usual amount of mayhem and drama only to end up conked on the head by her twin sister and tossed into the backseat of her car, to be hauled out of town. Now she’s come to, only to realize that her long-lost son is feet away from her…

Her sister was not being as quiet as she thought she was. 

Rose kept one eye on the kid and one eye on the car, which rocked ever so slightly. She must be awake by now, Rose thought. Probably considering how she could make a run for it, in Rose’s own car. Rose stood up. “Want to get a look at her?” 

Freddy blinked, hands on his knobby knees. When she’d first spotted him, he looked older than his years. Now he looked much younger. He looked like a little boy. “Uh, okay.” He followed her to the car. 

Rose didn’t rush but she didn’t hesitate either. She opened the passenger door, smoothy bent down and retrieved the dangling car keys from the dash and gestured toward her sister. “There she is. Your mother. Petula Agadora Mathers.” Rose leaned against the door frame and nudged her sister’s foot with her own. “Right now, she’s pretending to be unconscious.”

Freddy looked at her and then at Petula, bewildered. “She is?” 

“Yup.”

“Why?” The poor kid was so confused, Rose thought. Cripes, what a mess. 

“Because she’s a coward.” Rose narrowed her eyes at her twin sister. And suddenly she had an idea, one that made her belly burn and her heart sing. “Let’s see if you can still fake it when Mike gets a good look at you.” And she swore she saw Petula twitch in response.

“Come on, kid,” Rose said. “We’ll take you home.” 

_____________________________________________________________________________

You guys, I don’t want to jinx anything but it was fifty degrees and sunny today. FIFTY DEGREES. It felt like eighty degrees. Say what you will about winter but damn, nothing gives you an appreciation for the slightest bit of warmth like months and months of relentless, frigid cold. Warm sun and risotto for dinner. In a funny sort of twist, Nicole and I made the same dinner this week. The difference is that she plated it, shot it and turned it into a calendar and, uh, I just ate mine. Semantics. (Hello asparagus! Old friend!)

Download free April 2014 Desktop and iPhone calendars:

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Free March 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendar- On the Bright Side

Posted by on Mar 2, 2014 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 3 Comments



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Smitty & The Faker

Read the First 30 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: It’s been a long day for Petula Mathers. She swept into town just to cause her usual amount of mayhem and drama only to end up conked on the head by her twin sister and tossed into the backseat of her car, to be hauled out of town.

Petula woke up with her mouth pressed against a dusty leather seat. She opened one eye and winced as the pain shot through her head. The blow to the temple had done nothing to her memory; it all came back in an instant and Petula knew immediately where she was and why. It was the same when she awoke with a hangover, no disorientation. Her own strange, useless superpower. 

But it came in handy, she thought with her eyes shut, especially when she ended up cockeyed in the backseat of someone’s car and needed to plot an escape. She didn’t move a muscle, not even to blow the tangle of red hair that had fallen over her face and tickled her nose. She went perfectly still and ignored her fallen hair. “Listen,” her father once told her, his voice unusually sharp. “Use your ears. Your ears don’t betray you like your eyes do.”

Petula did what she was told and listened. The car door was open, she realized. She could feel the draft on her legs. No car sounds, a quiet street. It was late, she remembered, very late. She listened harder- where was Rose? She wasn’t in the car. Where was she?

She heard the voices then. Rose’s was unmistakeable- it was always strange to hear Petula’s own voice coming out of someone else. And someone else’s voice. A male voice. She listened harder; a voice that broke, ever so slightly. A boy’s voice. What the hell was Rose doing out there with a kid? 

She opened her eyes now, her ears trained on their voices. They were not far away but no close enough to see her open her eyes. Pet moved her head slightly and peered between the two front seats to the steering wheel and, dangling from the dashboard, the car keys. Her lips twitched. Oh, Rose. 

She would have to move fast, she realized. She could not slink up to the wheel; there was not enough time and the car would move too much. But not to the steering wheel, she thought. She’d spring up and shut the door and then, as Rose rallied, lock the doors. And then she would climb into the front seat and take off, in Rose’s car. 

Petula listened for the voices and her muscles tensed in anticipation. She went over the plan one more time and counted the steps between the backseat to the car door to the lock mechanism to the front seat. When she felt ready, she planted her hands beneath her and moved her body up slightly, into almost a push-up. She honed in on Rose’s voice and her words but it was the boy’s that cut through first. 

“That’s her? My mother?”

Petula froze, her arms locked. 

______________________________________________________________

Oh, March. Filled with so many weird, in-between moments. Winter into spring means a lot of snow/rain combinations, which is messy and, let’s be honest, in Chicago and Maine, it’s more winter than spring and will be into April. Around here, this month is filled with parties (St. Patrick’s Day, birthdays) and celebrations (our blog anniversary!) and lots of work stuff (I’m presenting at SXSW in a few days! PRAY FOR ME.) The days will get slightly longer and the recipes around here will be just as in-between as the weather, a mish-mosh of comfort foods and lighter, spring fare. Maybe a few cookies too, if Nicole ever recovers from our chocolate month and wishes to bake ever again. Please feel free to do some convincing in the comments.

Download free March 2014 Desktop and iPhone calendar:

(Note: these are new for us so if you try them out, let us know what you think in the comments. And if there’s a demand for non-iPhone users, let us know that too. Also, give these a shot on your Android, the sizing might work out fine. Just… let us know how everything works. How IS everything, in general? Good? You good? That’s good. This is the worst blog note ever written.)

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Free February 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendars: Chocolate Time

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 2 Comments



Free February Desktop Calendar



Smitty & The Reveal

Read the First 30 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Freddy Newell wasn’t looking for his mother when he rode away from home in the middle of the night. But he found her.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she regretted them.

The boy went white. He looked from her to the woman in the car, back to Rose, and then he dropped his bike and walked to the curb to sit down. Before Rose could say a word, he dropped his head between his knees and breathed. In the yellow haze of the street light, Rose noticed the streak of color in his hair was actually blue. “Hey,” she said, after she’d given him a few minutes and some space.

“That’s her?” he asked suddenly and his eyes were like glass. Rose felt the shame rip through her. Dammit, dammit, dammit, she thought. What was wrong with her? “My mother?”

“Yes.” She swore at herself again. What had she done? It was one thing to lash out at Pet, to drop a bomb, but she forgot what would happen when that bomb actually left her hands. Forgot there would be a boy there, swept up in the blast. A boy who, she was sure, would not easily let her leave. Not now. “I shouldn’t have said that like that. I’m sorry.” She meant it. He looked surprised. 

 “No.” The boy looked for a moment like he wanted to stand up but then thought better of it. “Thank you for telling me the truth.” And it sounded like he meant it too. When he looked up at her, he looked lost. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know.” With a sigh, Rose sat down beside him on the curb and surveyed the wreckage, as best she could. 

The Shortest Month

Let’s make some commitments to February, shall we? Here are my suggestions:

  • Let’s not get so hung up on Valentine’s Day. Let’s be a little sweeter every day instead. A little nicer, a little more romantic, a little more in love with each other and the world. And on Valentine’s Day, let’s get take-out.
  • Make your own light: sit under a sun lamp for a few minutes, eat lots of lemon-y things, tilt your face to the sun when it appears even though you may feel no warmth.
  • Lean into the grey. Winter will be over soon. Wrap yourself in a blanket and be grateful for its warmth.
  • Listen to Nina Simone. Play it loud. When someone says, “Who IS that?” say nothing and send them this link. That is the light they need.
  • Watch the Olympics. Marvel. Amaze. People are amazing. If the mood should strike you, find a space on the kitchen floor and attempt a sit-spin. Do a few pirouttes too, while you’re at it. 
  • Eat lots of pasta. Pasta is good. (And if you can’t eat pasta, eat something that makes you equally want to dance away, shimmy while eating it.)

Download free February 2014 iPhone wallpaper:

(Note: these are new for us so if you try them out, let us know what you think in the comments. And if there’s a demand for non-iPhone users, let us know that too. Also, give these a shot on your Android, the sizing might work out fine. Just… let us know how everything works. How IS everything, in general? Good? You good? That’s good. This is the worst blog note ever written.)

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Free January 2014 Desktop and iPhone Calendars: French Onion

Posted by on Jan 5, 2014 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 5 Comments



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Smitty & The Interruption

Read the First 29 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Freddy Newell comes across Rose as she’s maneuvering her unconscious, troublesome twin Petula out of town. And high up on the hill in the big house, Frank Mathers Jr. has just revealed himself and why he’s back in town after 30 years.

If there was anything Frank Mathers knew how to do and do well, it was stall. He talked his way out of their father’s office and into the kitchen for something to eat, crying wolf about his stomach and his blood sugar. 

“What do you want to eat?” Sylvia asked him through gritted teeth. Frank had thought it was Aggie’s job to ask such questions but she was leaning against the counter with her arms over her chest like she owned the place, her jaw set and her eyes on him. He requested soup, French Onion to be exact, and was rewarded when both women snorted in response, considering it was the middle of the night. What he got was a hunk of cheese and a loaf of stale bread, a plate and a knife. 

“You said you’re here for Rose,” Sylvia said as Frank helped himself. “But she’s not here. Pet’s here.”

“Or was here,” Aggie said hollowly and she told them what she’d seen in the room upstairs. Sylvia let out an oath. “It looked like she’d been dragged out.”

“Sounds like Rosie to me,” Frank said and he cleared a piece of bread from his throat. He raised an eyebrow to Aggie. “I wouldn’t worry. She wouldn’t hurt her. I don’t think.” They both stared at him and, inwardly, he counted his remaining moves. “I sent Petula here to come talk to you,” he said, looking at Aggie. “And I knew it wouldn’t sit well with the other one so Pet asked me to watch out for her, keep an eye on her.”

“Tail her.”

He winced at the flatness in his sister’s voice. “Well, you know, ‘tail’ is such a harsh word. But yeah, okay. I- we just wanted Pet to have a nice family moment, you know, without any trouble. But, well.” Real agitation colored his voice.

“She gave you the slip.”

Frank ignored his sister’s smirk. “And now she’s lost her temper and Pet isn’t picking up her phone. But like I said,” he added. “Rose is brash but she won’t do anything stupid.”

———————

“I asked you a question.” The boy had started to turn away and Rose poked him in the arm. “What’s your name?”

The boy assessed her, gave her a once over. If she didn’t have serious height on him, she would’ve been impressed. Despite her best efforts, he was not afraid. “Freddy,” he replied. 

“Freddy what?” When he stayed mum, Rose let out an impatient sigh. “It’s a small town, kid. Chances are good that you’ll say your last name and I’ll know it. And I can read liars too. So spill.”

He gnawed on his cheek a moment, one hand on his handlebars. He could’ve pedaled away and they both knew it. “Newell. Freddy Newell.”

The name set her mind off like a tiny silver ball in a pinball machine. Rose nudged the boy back into the light and she saw it; she saw Mike Newell, just a flash of him, at sixteen. “What are you, fifteen years old?” she asked but she didn’t even need him to nod his answer because she knew. When he pulled himself away from the street light, she saw a brief flash of someone else in his thin face- herself. Or more specifically, the pain-in-the-ass sister she’d just shoved into her car. So this was the kid, she thought. Dammit. What were the friggin’ odds?

They stood in the silent street and Rose counted her remaining moves. She was about to send him away when, as fate would have it, she heard her sister’s groan from the car. Rose, instantly reminded of the pain and irritation and sheer inconvenience that her sister had caused her throughout their long years together, reconsidered her moves.

She held out her hand and said, “Hey there, Freddy Newell. I’m Rose Mathers, your long-lost aunt.”

Happy New Year!

And we’re back! Did you have a good holiday? We did too, thanks for asking. And now the 7 (7!) bags of trash and recycling are on the curb for pickup, there’s healthy food stock-piled in the fridge, all of the ice cream and bread pudding has been disposed of (sob), a Jillian Michaels workout DVD (ugh why god) is lurking ready to go for the morning, and approximately 70 billion snowflakes have landed in Maine over the last week, most of them right on my car. Nicole is currently back home in Chicago where it’s supposed to be -11 tomorrow and… if anyone needs us, we’ll just be over here, plotting how to write this blog from Hawaii instead of the two coldest places on earth.

New smartphone calendars for this year! Nicole has configured versions for iPhone 4 and 5 as well, we hope you enjoy them. To download your free January 2014 desktop and iPhone calendars, click the ideal version for your screen and save/download:

iPhone Calendars 

(Note: these are new for us so if you try them out, let us know what you think in the comments. And if there’s a demand for non-iPhone users, let us know that too. Also, give these a shot on your Android, the sizing might work out fine. Just… let us know how everything works. How IS everything, in general? Good? You good? That’s good. This is the worst blog note ever written.)



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Desktop Calendars

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Free December 2013 Desktop Calendar: Soup Squashed

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 2 Comments



Free December 2013 Desktop Calendar



Smitty & The Interruption

Read the First 28 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Freddy Newell takes a jaunt around town in the middle of the night and comes across a scene that gives him a terrible fright! Okay, no more rhyming.

Rose shoved her sister’s legs into the car and shut the door. Her arms were tired. Her brain was tired. Moving a limp body from place to place was exhausting; how did the perps find the energy, frankly?

She took a deep breath in the cool night air, turned around and came face-to-face with a boy. She sucked in the same breath she’d just exhaled. “Whoa.”

The boy almost came up to her shoulder and was as thin as a wire, his hair dark. There was a streak of color in it. Rose frowned. Drug addict? She studied him for a quick second and did a mental shake of her head. In Cliffwood? Not possible. “What are you doing out here?”

The boy studied her for a moment and then tried to peer around her, into the car. He must’ve seen something. Crap. “Nothing. Just riding around.”

“It’s the middle of the night.” The boy shrugged. Rose moved to block the backseat window and, beyond it, the sight of her sister sprawled out on the seat, unconscious. She glanced at the bike beside him. “That your ride?”

“Yeah.”

“You should get on it. And go away. Go home.” Rose crossed her arms over her chest. She wore her cop face, she knew she did. When he didn’t move, she took a step closer. And she felt every bit as menacing as she knew she looked. An old mentor had told her that was the key to intimidation. “You gotta feel the menace,” he said once. “You gotta feel that it’s true.”

He took a step back, instinct, and when he did, his eyes flickered up to hers. There, in the dim light, Rose was treated to a memory. It was faint, like a glimmer. Did she know this boy? Was that possible? She felt the flesh prickle on her arms as the memory receded, out of her grasp. Everything in Cliffwood seemed to nip at her heels the same way. I hate this town, she thought. I hate it and all its corners. 

Our December 2013 Calendar

Can we all just agree on twinkle lights? That they should be mandatory in December, no matter what holiday you’re celebrating? That they should be strung up absolutely everywhere and anywhere, inside and outside, maybe not to this level of insanity but stopping just before it, to give everything you own a heavenly glow? Can we all just agree on that? Big bowls of soup, bacon garnishes and twinkle lights. Joy to the world, peace on earth, goodwill to men.

(Enjoy this picture by the way because it’s the last recipe you’ll see this month that doesn’t end in the word “ookie.”)

To download your free December 2013 desktop calendar, click the ideal version for your screen and save/download:

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Free November 2013 Desktop Calendar- Like Dominos

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 6 Comments



Some Kitchen Stories November 2013 Calendar



Smitty & The Interruption

Read the First 27 Episodes | Previously on Smitty & The Girl: When Petula Mathers arrived home in Cliffwood, she sent the whole town scurrying. Among them was local bartender Mike Newell who has a fifteen-year-old son with her, a son she’s never met.

They didn’t tell him anything. That’s what Freddy Newell thought as he laid in bed and stared at the ceiling. He had given them all night and they hadn’t said a word. 

Every once in a while, his father would pull his grandmother aside and they’d talk in hushed tones in another room. But after his first eavesdropping, Freddy didn’t have to be a genius to know that they were debating whether or not to tell him that his mother was in town. He could read the guilt and indecision on his father’s face as he swung back into the room each time. 

He felt more than justified, then, in sneaking out of the house. 

He spent most of his time bashing around the house, crashing down the stairs, slamming doors, and the result, as he’d hypothesized, was that his father and grandmother thought he was a really loud kid- the kind of kid who would wake you up going down to the kitchen for a glass of water (which he’d done, a few times). This calculated misdirection allowed Freddy free reign to do as he wished, since what he wished for most often was to be out of the house after midnight. 

Out the front door and to the side of the house without a sound… He grabbed his bike and moved it cautiously through the dark and picked it up right where he knew the sensors to be for the porch light. Down the street, he hopped on and started pedaling. 

He’d always been a night owl but lately it had gotten worse and the only way to stop his racing brain was to get on his bike and zip through the silent neighborhood. Cliffwood at three in the morning seemed to stay perfectly still, even the trees. It slumbered so deeply that Freddy felt like the last boy on earth. 

Around the corner, first one right and then a left. He avoided Main Street, just in case some stragglers hung out in front of the closed bar where his father worked, and surveyed the town in silence from his bike. 

He came upon them by accident. If his grandmother had been there, she would’ve snorted and said something about fate but Freddy didn’t believe in such things. The fact that he turned down a dozen random streets and decided, at the last minute, to see the reservoir, and the fact that such a decision brought him to a narrow side-street where, under a glowing street light, a red-headed woman struggled with something in the back seat of her car (“something” he would discover was actually “someone” and that someone was actually his own mother), that was nothing more than a very, very large coincidence. And nothing like destiny at all.

Our November 2013 Calendar

A list of kitcheny, cookery things I’m thankful for, this November, in no particular order: carbs, ramekins, dog treat jars shaped like dogs, 12-cup coffee pots, cutlery from yard sales, plates from yard sales, farm tables, paper towels, Nicole and her camera, cheap ice cream makers, cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen, friends who bake things, maple syrup, Nigella, books about Julia (but only the parts that are about Julia), blog friends, Maggie’s hard work, this new store too, insane local butter, and Pinterest. Always Pinterest.

To download your free November 2013 desktop calendar, click the ideal version for your screen and save/download:

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Free October 2013 Desktop Calendar- Apple Pie Time

Posted by on Oct 1, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 6 Comments



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Smitty & The Return

Read the First 26 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl: Frank is back! I don’t know why I’m so excited! I’m writing this! I knew he’d be back!

Frank Mathers Jr. had aged well, like the Mathers men before him. At sixty-two, he was gray at the temples and had the same charming smile. He stood where his father’s desk had once been and regarded the two women over a fifth of scotch. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

Sylvia had clasped a hand over her chest and gripped the doorway for balance. Aggie was irritated at first at what she assumed was a typical overreaction but then saw that she was white as a sheet. “Sit down,” Aggie barked at her but Sylvia shook her head.

“Not in here.” Sylvia leaned against the doorframe instead. 

“Give me that,” Aggie said and she wrenched the glass from Frank’s hand. “Drink it,” she told Sylvia and she put the glass in her hand before either of them could notice that her own hands shook. “What are you doing here?” she asked Frank as Sylvia sipped the scotch with one eye on her brother.

Frank ignored the question and continued to study the room. “The last time I was in this room was the day of your wedding, Syl. And it looks completely unchanged. Except for the desk, of course. Where is the desk?”

Sylvia didn’t answer. At least her color had returned, Aggie thought. “We don’t know,” Aggie replied finally when the silence loomed on too long. “We came back to the house after your father died and the desk was gone. It was the only item in the house that was missing. No one knows where it went.”

“The old bastard probably had it buried in the plot next to his.” Frank frowned. “Can I have my scotch back? That’s my lucky glass.” He gestured to the dusty glasses on the bar. 

“Who carries around their own bar glass?”

Frank smiled at Aggie. “Old drunks with sentimental streaks.”  

“Why are you here?” 

“Now, Ag,” he replied smoothly. “Can’t a fellow come back home for a visit?”

“Answer her,” Sylvia said from the door. Her color was back all right, as well as her voice. It rang out in the room. She’d fixed her eyes on her brother’s and held his lucky glass precariously at her fingers, high above the ground. “Now.”

Frank’s smile faded. He actually looked nervous, Aggie thought. She wondered if the night could get any more strange. “I’m here because of my daughter.”

Sylvia’s grip tightened just slightly on the glass. “We saw her. She made quite an entrance today, Petula.”

She hadn’t seen him in thirty years but Aggie knew his tell. She saw the corner of his mouth twitch, just once, and she pounced. “You said you were here because of Petula.” When he said nothing, Aggie glanced at Sylvia. “Throw the damn glass.”

“Wait. Dammit.” Frank sighed and leaned back against the wall, beat. “I’m not here because of Pet. I’m here because of Rose.”

October 2013 Calendar

Damn, this year is flying by fast.

To download your free October 2013 desktop calendar, click the ideal version for your screen and save/download:

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We love you, October!

Free September 2013 Desktop Calendar- Get Me to the Donuts

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 5 Comments



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Smitty & The Struggle

Read the First 25 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl: In the sleepy small town of Cliffwood, aging socialite Sylvia Mathers has just been paid a visit by her scheming niece Petula. Petula’s been busy since she first arrived in town, stirring up her old beau (not to mention the teenaged son she left behind) and avoiding her mother, Sylvia’s longtime and long-suffering maid Aggie. Her attempt to spend a few hours in the good life at her aunt’s empty hilltop mansion have just been cut brutally short by the appearance of an old foe- her gun-toting twin sister Rose.

She nearly left Sylvia at the Waffle House, that’s how mad she was, but at the last minute, Aggie left the rental car running and the doors unlocked. Sylvia wrenched open the door to the backseat and climbed into the back. Any other day and Aggie would’ve snorted at the sight of her boss attempting to turn a rented Chevy into their Lincoln town car but tonight she was in no mood. She peeled out of the parking lot. 

“By all means, Agatha,” Sylvia shouted from the back. “Do try and hit every pot hole in Cliffwood at top speed, would you?” Aggie caught a glimpse of Sylvia’s green face as she pitched from left to right and felt no sympathy. In fact, when she saw the familiar dip in the road at Fallswell Rd, she aimed for it. Sylvia’s swearing filled the car. 

“Maybe if you hadn’t eaten your weight in buttermilk waffles,” Aggie snapped back. “Put your belt on.”

They didn’t speak another word to each other until Aggie pulled the rental up the long, winding drive. The mansion was silent and dark and behind its eaves, the moon had risen, swollen with light. In the backseat of the car, Sylvia moaned. “I still don’t understand why you think she’s here.”

“She wasn’t at the diner or the bar. Where else would she go?” Aggie replied. 

Her suspicions were confirmed when they spotted the old sedan parked behind a cluster of trees at the far end of the curved drive. But when they walked into the house, it was dark. Aggie moved fast and turned on lights but only Sylvia used her voice. “Petula? Are you here? Anybody?”

They followed a trail of crumbs, a champagne cork and a fallen napkin upstairs. Aggie opened the door to the room on the third floor and stared at the mess that had been left there. A chair was overturned, a plate was on the floor. She reached down and picked up the champagne bottle that was half full and dripped onto the Persian rug. “She was here,” Aggie murmured. “Something’s happened.” But before she could call for Sylvia, Sylvia called for her. She screeched, in fact, and Aggie dropped the bottle, her heart in her throat because Sylvia sounded afraid and she was never really ever afraid.

She followed the sound down the stairs and to the corner of the house, the part of the house that they never, ever used, the one that had once held the study of Frank Mathers Sr. Aggie followed the light into the former study and there, she saw Sylvia, her hands clenched, and with her stood the son of the house, Frank Mathers Jr., helping himself to a stiff drink.

September 2013 Desktop Calendar

I talked to my sister on the phone recently and she pointed to the pants she was wearing (thanks Face Time!). “No more shorts,” she said. “I’m forcing the Fall.” And I agree. Because if I walk into one more spiderweb during my night walk with the dog, I am going to start punching spiders in the FACE. No more! I’m ready for sweaters and pie, BRING IT ON. LET’S GO.

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Free August 2013 Desktop Calendar- A Tumble of Bloobs

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 3 Comments



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Smitty & The Back Story: The In-Between

Read the First 24 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl: 1981. With her feisty new maid at her side, Sylvia left her slimy fiance Jasper at the alter, to the fury of her domineering father.

It was fear that drove them first. For the first five hundred miles or so, neither of them said a word. Aggie drove and kept a death grip on the wheel. Sylvia sat in the seat beside her, still in her wedding dress, and every so often, she gave in to the urge to look behind her to see if they were being followed.

They stopped at a crossroads just over the state line and Sylvia Mathers, daughter and heiress to the Mathers fortune, gathered up the folds of her custom-made wedding dress to change clothes in the bathroom of a greasy spoon. She put on a pair of linen pants, a polka dot blouse and stuffed the dress into her suitcase. She was tempted, just for a moment, to leave it in that bathroom but couldn’t bear to dispose of anything so fine in a place so dirty. 

She stepped out and used the tissues in her sleeve to swipe at the rouge on her cheeks and the color on her eyes. Down came the pins that kept her tidal wave of red hair. She took her time combing it and pinned the top half of it back over her ears. She studied herself in the mirror and wondered what kind of woman walked away from her own wedding and didn’t even cry. Not a single tear. 

She tried to imagine what was happening at the house just then as the room buzzed with gossip and the weight of the scandal reached her father’s understanding. His career, his political aspirations… She shuddered at the thought of him, his white-fisted rage, the way he would no doubt offer quips about his daughter’s “cold feet” and then calmly walk into his study and smash something, maybe a bottle of liquor, against the wall, maybe his own hand. Francis Mathers Sr. preferred to show his true feelings in private. His anger was for closed doors and his family. Sylvia thought of her brother and for a fleeting moment, she prayed and prayed hard that he would read the writing on the wall and leave.

Sylvia swallowed hard and met her own eyes in the mirror. She would never be able to go home, she realized, her chest tightening. It would not be possible. Not while her father lived. 

The thought echoed through her as she made her way out of the narrow bathroom and to a counter stool beside Aggie, who had taken a road map with her from the car and unfolded it so she could study the routes over her cup of coffee. Sylvia sat down in silence and nodded with thanks when the waitress came over and poured her a cup of coffee. The two women sat in silence, Aggie staring at the map and Sylvia looking somewhere beyond it. 

After two refills of good, strong coffee, Aggie looked up at Sylvia. “So, where are we going anyway?”

Free August 2013 Desktop Calendar

Things left to do this summer:

– Go to the beach (ANY BEACH)

– Eat a lobster roll (I know, okay? I can get them whenever I want so of course I haven’t had one yet. Isn’t that always how it goes?)

– Eat in a field, under a tree, for a good cause

– Eat in a field, just because

– Stop spraying myself in the face with bug spray

– More Shakespeare plays in the park

– Less free Shakespeare plays in the park that stop half-way through because the woman playing the Nurse has a horrifying fall and dislocates her shoulder and the ambulance has to come and everyone leaves

– More bike rides

– Make more ice cream (last week: Wild Blueberry, next week: Salty Caramel, then Peanut Butter & Honey)

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Free June 2013 Desktop Calendar: Tomato Days

Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | No Comments







Smitty & The Back Story: A Wedding Approaches

Read the First 22 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl : Sylvia’s wedding is rapidly approaching, even as her family falls spectacularly apart. Her ne’er do well brother Frank has promised to stay through the ceremony but finds solace in liquor and Sylvia’s feisty new maid Aggie. Her fiance Jasper can’t even pretend to love her. And the only one who’s happy about the whole affair is their power-hungry father. 

Sylvia liked the rambling estate best at night. She favored the last few minutes of a great party, when a few guests were still about, laughing and sipping champagne, and the rest of the house fell quiet into sleep. But having the place to herself was a close second. It was almost three in the morning when she made her way downstairs for a bite to eat, not in the imperios dining room but the kitchen. She sat down with a plate of ripe, sliced tomatoes, a hunk of bread and the remnants of a cheese tray. She opted for a glass of water instead of wine, rare for her but she did have a big day approaching.

She sat in the quiet and contemplated the wedding that approached. Her fiance was passed out in one of the countless spare rooms, no doubt with some maid or one of the guest’s wives. Sylvia felt her stomach turn and wondered if she shouldn’t have a glass of pinot after all.

She heard a sound behind her and felt her stomach clench in response but it was just Agatha, the new maid. Sylvia sighed. “Are you hungry too?” Whatever instincts to order the girl back to bed or to get her something had seemingly fled with her ability to sleep. 

The new maid was short, slim and dark-haired, Sylvia’s polar opposite. She took the seat across from her and pressed her hand to her forehead. “I’d prefer aspirin.”

Syvlia snorted and pushed the glass of water toward her. “It’s hard to keep up with Frank. I gave that up years ago.” 

“Your father fired me tonight.”

She raised an eyebrow at that and smiled behind a bite of cheese. “Oh, really? Congratulations.” When Aggie made no moves for her water glass, she picked it up and toasted the girl. “Might be the first time he tries but it won’t be the last. You tell him what I told you to say?”

“Yes.” Aggie grimaced. “It went over as you predicted.” 

They sat silently for a while. Sylvia ate and Aggie stared out into the dark, at the full moon. “It’ll be morning soon,” Sylvia said quietly. “The day’s almost here.” There went her stomach again.

Aggie studied her for a long moment. “I can have the car packed in five minutes, you know.” Sylvia stared at her, stunned into silence. “I’m too tired to care if that’s inappropriate to say,” the girl continued and she met Sylvia’s eyes with a measured calm. “What I said to your father was true. You hired me. You need me. And if you want to be gone, we’re gone. Just say the word.”

There was not one person in Sylvia’s life who had ever uttered such words to her. No one had ever put her before her duty, what was expected of her. And for a second, just a split second, she wondered if she should take the girl’s advice and go.

Free June 2013 Desktop Calendar

Is it summer yet where you are? It feels like summer here- Portland is currently in the middle of a hot spell, the days hazy and humid and temperatures into the high 80s. Everyone wanders around, looking slightly dazed. Nothing to do but sit in the air-conditioning with cold beer, guacamole and a mountain of tortilla chips. Not such a bad way to spend Sunday, all in all.

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Free May 2013 Desktop Calendar: One for Guac & Guac for All

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 4 Comments







Smitty & The Back Story: The Groom

Read the First 21 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl : At his sister Sylvia’s rehearsal dinner, a miserable Frank bonds with Sylvia’s sassy new maid.

“Wait, wait. I want to say something.”

She giggled as they stumbled forward and crashed through the branches of one of the garden’s poplar trees. “No! No more. No more toasting.”

Frank tightened his grip on her arm and raised his glass. He had found a woman’s hat somewhere and had it on its head, the brim tilted down over one eye. “To my big sister Sylvia.  And her loving husband Jasper. He may sometimes forget her first name but we all know it’s the last name that matters. Clink!” He swung his glass toward her but she had dropped her arm to her side. Frank frowned and stumbled sideways. “Ag, you’re supposed to cheers or it’s bad luck.” She wasn’t looking at him but ahead, the laughter gone from her eyes.

“Frank.”

Frank felt his stomach tighten at the voice. “Father.” He tried to smile and raised his glass towards the hazy figure of his old man, who stood under the trellis. “Happy almost wedding to you.” He felt Aggie’s hand tighten on his arm now and found himself staring at it. How small it was. He looked too long and the floor swung up to meet him.

His father didn’t even look at him, stretched out on the floor he noticed. Frank shoved the brim of the hat up off his head and tried to get his balance as Francis Mathers Sr. fixed his stare on Aggie instead. “You’re the new maid, I presume.”

Aggie, who’d matched him drink for drink Frank had noted, was doing a better job of staying on her two feet. In fact, she stood shock still and seemed to regard Frank Sr. with the same intensity. “We’ve met three times, actually, Mr. Mathers. Once this morning in the kitchen, in fact.” Frank stopped struggling and stared up at her, amazed at the cold calm of her voice.

“I didn’t realize I was now paying my staff to correct me. And to imbibe my alcohol.” He adjusted the cuffs on his sleeves. “I imagine such an opinionated young woman would have a preference on how she’s dismissed. What shall it be? Will you go quietly or shall I have you forcibly removed from my sight?”

Aggie took a step forward and put her hands behind her back. She was a foot shorter than the man but to Frank she looked like a sentinel in the dark. She smiled thinly. “I think I prefer you take the matter up with your daughter. Since she hired me. And since she made it clear, from the very first day, that my salary comes from her directly. And not from you. Sir.” She inclined her head and gracefully swooped down to pick Frank up on the floor.

Free May 2013 Desktop Calendar

Happy May, everyone! I hope it’s as lush and lovely where you are as it has been in Portland these past few days. And I hope there’s guacamole. Lots and lots of guacamole.

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Free April 2013 Desktop Calendar: Burnished Carrots

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | One Comment







Smitty & The Back Story: The Groom

Read the First 20 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl : Where it all began, with Aggie and Frank, in 1981. Sylvia is preparing for her wedding. And trouble’s brewing.

Frank stood at the bar and swirled the drink in his glass. “What’s the point of a rehearsal anyway?” 

Aggie took the drink from his hand and set it on the bar. It was early and he’d already dropped one drink. “There’s a rehearsal so the best man could get stinking drunk the night before the wedding.” 

Frank scowled at her and then past her where Jasper Callahan, the groom, was charming the pants off a waitress in one of the parlor’s darker corners. “Best man my ass.” He felt her reproving look and shrugged uneasily. “Sorry.” 

Together, they watched the scene unfold as Sylvia called through the room for Jasper and the crowds parted. “Here it comes,” Frank muttered under his breath.

Jasper didn’t ease off of his flirtations, just ignored his fiance as she marched across the room, her long pink dress swirling around her ankles, and cooed for him to come talk to Senator McGary.

 Frank felt a stirring of sympathy for his tyrannical sister. She loved a party but even she seemed to be having trouble with this one. He saw his father move toward the pair in the corner. No one but Aggie noticed Frank shrink back towards the bar at the sight of his father, tall and in his best suit, walking smoothly over to his only daughter. He took her firmly by the elbow, so firmly that she winced. “Leave the man be, Sylvia.” His father said with a charming smile. “You’re causing a scene.” Frank felt his sympathy for her deepen and darken. 

He watched Sylvia steady herself. She smoothed back her red hair and extracted her arm from her father’s painful grip. “Perhaps you’d like to speak to the Senator then, Father. He’s in the study. I’m sure he’s eager to hear your own plans for re-election.” And she smiled brightly and clapped her hands to invite the guests to the piano for a song. 

“Here.” Frank looked down as Aggie handed him a full glass of scotch. She filled her own glass, with the good stuff, Frank noted, and clinked his glass with her own. “The hell with it.” 

Free April 2013 Desktop Calendar

Hoo boy. Big month. Big month!

My mom and I talked to a medium a few years ago who said, among many other things, that I was the historian of the family. I disregarded it at the time, thought it was a weird thing to say (there were many things happening then, important and very sad things) but it’s popped into my head now and again like a low, humming voice. When this spring, the ten year anniversary of my abroad year in Italy, started to approach, that voice started to get louder and louder.

So. A week in Rome with my girls turned into two weeks; the second week became something much different than six days of eating spaghetti, drinking too much and reminiscing. Well, okay, maybe we’ll do that too- but I’ll be with my mother and my newly retired father (go Dad!), my brother, my aunts and my uncles. We’ll go to Sicily where my grandfather grew up until he came to America and where we still have family (the aunts have been but my mother hasn’t) and we’ll go to Calabria where my great-grandparents are from (new for all of us).

My expectations for that second week are a blank. I’ve kept it that way intentionally; anyone suffering from an over-active imagination can attest that sometimes, trying to imagine what it will be can detract from what it actually is. So I’m trying to stay a blank slate for as long as possible. Live in the now, just as the Italians do. Document it and experience it. Fulfill my historian destiny, I guess.

Throughout the month, we’ll be celebrating Italia with recipes and stories from some of my favorite reads, fiction and non-fiction alike. It’s April! It’s Spring! Everyone should get the joy and sunshine of Italy this month.

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Free March 2013 Desktop Calendar

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 4 Comments







Smitty & The Flashback

Read the First 19 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl : So, Petula Mathers is a twin! And she’s Aggie’s daughter and the daughter of a con man (Sylvia Mathers’ miscreant brother) And she’s the long absent mother of fifteen year old Freddy Newell. Anything we missed?

March 1, 1981

Frank Mathers was bored.

He sat out on the back patio with a cigar and stared out at the trees. Stupid old house. Stupid one horse town. (Literally, there was one horse in it!) He took two long drags from the cigar and put it out. They were his father’s Cubans and if the old man had been lurking and saw Frank, he’d cuff him good in the head. Just for good measure, Frank mashed the cigar into the ashtray. He didn’t even like cigars.

Behind him in the parlor, there was a sound like a chandelier breaking. His sister’s laugh drifted out onto the patio. Frank cringed at the sound and sunk down further into the chair. He’d rather face his father than Sylvia, especially these days, so close to her damned wedding. She was insufferable on a good day and wedding planning had sent the staff scattering at the sight of her.

He shut his eyes, dreaming of Paris and Prague. In his mind, he packed his bag and threw it over his shoulder. He counted the cash in his pocket, and made a stop at the old man’s safe for good measure, he thumbed his passport and grabbed an orange, fresh from one of their trees, put it in his pocket. It felt so good to step out the front door, even if it was just in his head.

But he’d made a promise to stay for the wedding. His mother had pleaded, his father had demanded, Sylvia had cried and shrieked but that wasn’t what had done it. Frank scowled and wished he had a drink. 30 years old and he couldn’t get a drink in his own damned house.

There was a noise to his right, someone clearing his throat. Frank sighed but when he opened one eye, he saw it was a girl. The new maid. Sylvia’s new maid. A gift from Bo, her fiance, who was the type of person who gave people as gifts.

She was small and slight and thin with dark hair, her features in that place between pretty and plain. She was studying him with cautious eyes. Frank frowned. “Erm, can I help you? Or something?” Staff made him nervous. He never had his parents’ imperious way with them.  

The girl hesitated but then, when she spoke, she surprised him with a clear, confident voice. “I’m Agatha, sir,” she said, lifting her chin. “I’m Miss Mathers’ new maid. She said she smelled cigar smoke out here and asked me to politely request that you put it out. She says it’s filling the parlor.” She glanced down at the glass table beside him and lifted an eyebrow. “But I see you’ve already put it out.”

Right. Sure.” Frank scowled at her and then, when she merely looked at him, he felt something in him give out and release. She looked at him the same way Colleen did, patient and bemused. Just the one similarity to the housekeeper who’d raised him, the same woman who’d asked him plainly and simply to stay and see his sister marry, made Frank change his mind about the new maid. He decided to be kind to her.  

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We’ve hit rock bottom, people! It is officially that point in winter when you roll over in bed, glimpse a gray/white sky (AGAIN. AGAIN.) and feel the moan start from the bottom of your feet and work its way up. (This is all exacerbated by the fact that I’m moving across town tomorrow and the apartment has been swallowed by hefty, packed boxes. White sky, white walls, in that limbo between old home and new home so… no home.)

I have slept an insane amount this week and I am still tired. I need Vitamin D. You probably do too. So in the absence of sunlight, let’s make our own. Bright, citrus-y things. Lemon bars! Orange peel! Cocktails that are mostly filled with vodka and gin and splashes of grapefruit juice! Slices of lime nestled in fresh ceviche! Let’s eat all of it! Eat all the citrus-y things! We will prevail!

Free March 2013 Desktop Calendar

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Free February 2013 Desktop Calendar: Be My Cupcake

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in *Calendars*, *Smitty & The Girl Series* | 6 Comments







Smitty & The Sister

Read the First 18 Episodes Previously on Smitty & The Girl : Petula Mathers’ scheming may be coming to a dangerous end.

Petula stared down the barrel of the gun. It was aimed right for her heart. 

The champagne made her dizzy. It was only when the glass slipped from her hand and fell noiselessly to the floor did she realize it was because her hands were shaking. Across from her, the gun shook too. Like looking in a mirror. 

In more ways than one. Petula stared at the red-haired woman who matched her in every physical way. Same pert nose. Same light blue eyes. “Rose,” she croaked out and she grasped at her slender throat as if it betrayed her, revealing her fear. “What are you- how did you find me?” She stepped back, tripped over the glass and fell to the floor with a gasp. 

Her twin stood over her, the gun now steady in one hand. Petula pushed past the champagne haze and ordered herself to focus, to take in the details and to keep her eyes glassy and blank, just as she was taught. Her sister wore dark jeans and boots and a sweatshirt. Her eyes were cold and calm. She studied Petula with disdain. All of this was typical. 

What was not typical was the gun she carried. It wasn’t the 9mm Rose Mathers used in her day job as a big city cop. It was smaller and had a pearled handle, almost delicate. There was a deep scratch on the barrel. It was the kind of gun you wiped clean and tossed down a drain. Petula knew it because she had one just like it. Several, in fact.

Rose nudged Petula’s leg with her boot and gestured with the gun. “In the chair.” 

“Are you going to shoot me?” Petula scrambled back like a spider and found the chair. She made her voice tremble even as she turned to steel on the inside. She’d pounce on her sister if she needed to, no way she was dying. Not like this. Not in the old bat’s house.  

Rose didn’t answer. Petula’s way was to wheedle and charm. Rose’s was more straightforward. She moved fast and clocked her sister on the head with the butt of the gun. Petula slumped out of the chair and onto the floor, the world suddenly a much darker place.

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I’m struggling over here.

There’s a lot of push-and-pull happening in my life right now. Part of me feels settled and content (schedule is back to normal, novel writing is back on track, work is good, friends are happy, the week’s menu includes pancakes for dinner) and the other part is in complete flux- I have to move out of my apartment in a few months (unexpectedly) and the fact that the shape of my life will change again, that my landscape will shift and look and be different, in just a few weeks, largely out of my control, is… strange. I could still be in shock, truly. Sometimes I stop and look around my house and feel as if it’s happening to someone else.

February is my least favorite month, as a whole. It’s gray with a slash of red right in the middle. The whole month feels, to me, like a Tuesday and Tuesday is the worst day of the week, this is a known fact (Mondays are a clean slate but Tuesdays feel like drudgery, always). At least chocolate is mandatory. Thank God chocolate is mandatory. I’ll take it, in spades.

Onward then. With change. And chocolate… and Craigslist.

Free February 2013 Desktop Calendar

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