A blog about the books written by Mary Ellen Shea Clifford. So far the Saginaw Series and the Holiday Series have been published on Amazon each as a collection of four Kindle eBooks. Currently working on A Light Shines Forth.
Sr. Barb sat at her desk looking over the scholarship
applications for the coming school year. Most of the recipients had been chosen
in the spring, but an anonymous donor just provided funding for one additional
student. Each scholarship provided four full years of high school. Mrs.
Conklin, the school secretary, heard a heavy sigh coming from the principal's
office. She called through the door, "Sr. Barb, what are you stressing
about in there?"
The principal slowly pushed away from the desk and walked to
the doorway separating the two offices. In a concerned voice she answered, "There are so many people with limited
incomes. If we could only double the number of scholarships. I know I should be
happy with one extra, but there are so many pupils who could do so well here if
given the opportunity."
As if on cue the phone rang. Mrs. Conklin talked into the
phone explaining the deadline for applying for a scholarship had passed.
Listening to Mrs. Conklin explaining to yet another mother about the
application deadlines, Sr. Barb threw her arms into the air as she returned to
her desk. She picked up another form and began reading. She became so engrossed
in the answer everything else faded into the background.
Question 1 - Why do you want your child to attend St. Mary
We moved to Saginaw a few months ago from Houston, Texas. My
cousin called to tell me there was a job waiting for me to clean homes with her
if I wanted it. She also offered to have us live with her and her daughter.
I never married Annie's father. I was just 18 when I told
him I was pregnant. His reaction was to hit me across the mouth. I couldn't
believe I had ever wanted to be with him and for sure knew I could never trust
him with my baby. That night I walked out of his front door and never looked
back. It was a new beginning. We have
been on our own since.
Annie and I had been struggling to make ends meet since I
lost my job when the clothing factory closed last year. Actually, the economy
has been so poor that we moved every year or so. Always finding work, just to
be looking for another job a year later. I have been taking college classes all
through the years to become a teacher. However, every new college I attended
took only some of my college credits.
This opportunity to have Annie's tuition paid for four years
and to be able to stay in one high school is a miracle for her, but a second
miracle would be to stay in one place for me to get my degree.
When my cousin called, Annie and I prayed, asking God for a
way to get from Texas to Michigan. The following Sunday a couple sat behind us
at church. I didn't know them so I introduced Annie and myself to them and
welcomed them to our church. They told us they were visiting from Saginaw.
Annie and I looked at each other in amazement as I asked, "Saginaw, Texas
or Saginaw, Michigan?" The woman smiled as she proclaimed, "Michigan
and proud of it."
The music began and I prayed harder than ever. Was this
couple an answer to our prayers? What could I possibly say to them? Was all of
this just a coincidence or a sign from God? I am ashamed to say I didn't hear
one thing during that Mass. All I could do was pray and ask our good Lord for
guidance. When the last word of the last song was sung I turned around and
asked the woman if I could speak to her. She told me they were going to
breakfast and asked us to join them. I must have shown my unease with my lack
of finances. When I tried to refuse she immediately told me we were to be their
guests because we made them feel so welcome at our church.
We talked for two hours at the restaurant. Mr. and Mrs. Fordney were so interested in
us. By the end of breakfast they insisted we should travel to Michigan with
them. Looking back on it, I still cannot believe we packed our few belongings
and left the next morning with total strangers. However, looking back on it,
indeed they were a gift from God.
Annie and I now live with my cousin, Brianna Steffan and her
daughter, Riley. It would mean the world to us if Riley and Annie could attend
the same school.
Sr. Barb set the papers on her desk. Looking out her office
window she thought about the Steffan family. Brianna and Riley had been through
a terrible tragedy. A construction accident had caused the death of Brianna's
husband a few years ago. After the accident, she started a small cleaning
business with some insurance money. Last year Brianna confided to Sr. Barb that
she was lonely and raising Riley on her own was very difficult. Sr. Barb knew
Riley could be a handful; she had almost been expelled from 8th grade last
Sr. Barb put the application in the accepted basket. She
hoped Annie would make a huge impression on Riley. Maybe it would be a turning
point in all of their lives.
Aubrey is an excellent cook. As I write the book I will add recipes to this post.
Crust for one quiche
1 heaping cup of flour
1 stick of unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
Put the flour and salt in the food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to processor. Pulse until crumbled. Add water a little at a time while the food processor is on. As soon as it begins to gather together it is done. If you do not have a food processor you can use two forks in a cutting motion through the flour/salt/butter mixture until it starts to come together.
Put the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and push it together to make a circle. With the edge of your hand make two indents on top of the circle, turn the dough and make two more indents on top of the circle. It will look like a tic tac toe grid. This will help you roll out a circle when it comes out of the refrigerator.
Put the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
3 - 5 Eggs
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 box frozen broccoli and cheese, cooked and strained to get rid of any water and most of the cheese
1/2 cup milk
Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash, Dill
2 cups longhorn colby cheese (or any cheese you want)
1 TBS Flour
Cook bacon, crumble and set aside.
Cook broccoli, strain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400
Mix together in a bowl. Depending on the size of your pie dish 3-5 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, salt and pepper (I always pretend I am putting the spice on one egg and count for the number of eggs I have in the bowl. So, if I usually turn the pepper grind two times for one egg then I would turn it six times for three eggs.) 1 TBS Mrs. Dash and 1 TBS dill.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Turn a cookie sheet over on the counter and put a little flour on it. Unwrap your dough. Roll your dough out on the cookie sheet. When it is bigger than your pie pan, dust off any extra flour with a pastry brush. Then slide the crust onto the pie pan and carefully push it into the bottom of the pie pan and on the sides. Trim any excess crust and crimp the edges.
Put the bacon in the bottom of the crust. Arrange it so it is even over the whole bottom. Then add the broccoli on top and arrange that evenly over the bacon. Carefully pour the egg mixture over it. Sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture - this is the secret to the cheese staying on the top of the quiche. Sprinkle the cheese over the flour. Sprinkle the top with a little nutmeg.
Bake for about 40 minutes - when you stick a knife into the middle it should not ooze out egg mixture. Cook it for another ten minutes if it is not done in the middle. Then it needs to sit after it comes out of the oven for about 15 minutes to set up.
Chicken Thighs and Smashed Potatoes
Riley and Annie are trying to make amends. They decide to make dinner before their punishment is doled out when Brianna and Aubrey return from work.
Click on pictures to go to my New Beginnings Pinterest board.
Parmesan Yogurt Chicken picture and recipe from alifeinblance.net
Picture and Recipe of Smashed Potatoes from American Test Kitchen
Picture and Recipe of Bread Crumbs from Copycat.com
Clarence Lum, a Saginaw resident, is the featured artist at
Fandangles' in Flushing for the month of August. When I saw his painting, Prada Girl, my heart
started to pound, my mind began to race, a story began to tumble out of my
I am happy to announce that I
have purchased the rights to use his painting as the cover of my next book,
"New Beginnings." Since seeing this painting at the end of July, I
have been so inspired. I already have a draft
of the first nine chapters finished.
It is a story of a mother and her daughter, Aubrey and
Annie, moving to Saginaw from Texas.
They are invited to live with a cousin and her daughter, Brianna and
Riley. The story will follow where they
have been and where they are headed after many "New Beginnings." As a matter of fact, Annie is tired of
"New Beginnings" she just wants life to stay the same for awhile.
This eBook will be published sometime in 2016. I am thankful for the inspiration that
Clarence has provided. To see more of
his paintings click this link.
I am starting to get excited about the new book, A Light Shines Forth, almost being done. I can actually see the end of the editing. We stopped by the lighthouse in Tawas, Michigan today to snap a few pictures. The book takes place in Saginaw and Tawas, Michigan and Okinawa, Japan.
Today is D-Day. A day when so many lives were sacrificed for our freedom. I am proud to include in the book a rich sense of military pride with Noah joining the Air Force. I watched my grandson graduate and be assigned to Okinawa. I have taken great liberties writing about his basic training and how our family felt during the graduation and his assignment. Much of it is from my heart, but truly inspired by our experiences with Robin.
YEAH - A Light Shines Forth returned from Mary Lynn and now is in the hands of Kay. I love my editors. I cannot say it enough. Here is one addition from Mary Lynn that I added into the story. My Mom's Aunt Lena worked at Seitner's in downtown Saginaw. She was an Icon. No one knew how old she was, but no one cared. She was the best salesperson in downtown Saginaw at any store. She really did work into her 90's.
This picture is of Aunt Lena in the 1940's. She was always the best dressed and most stylish.
Here is the addition that Mary Lynn wrote when she edited the book.
Here is how the paragraph was changed by me.
When they arrived at
Seitner's they ran into Isabella's Aunt Lena selling coats. They had climbed the stairs to the second
floor to see the formal clothes. Aunt Lena was at the top of the stairs with a
customer. She waved at the girls, but
they knew from past experience not to interrupt Aunt Lena when she was with a
customer. Isabella's grandmother had
told her many times, "My sister, Lena, can sell a coat better than any
other salesperson." Isabella knew
that her Aunt Lena had worked at Seitner's forever. None of the sales
clerks at the store knew that her Aunt Lena was ninety years old! The store owner wasn't even sure how old his
best sales person was, because she had been hired by his father. They all guessed that she was in her
seventies. All he knew for sure was that she could outsell every other sales
clerk on the floor.
Last year in August I was inspired by the photo below taken by Mike Sonnenberg of the Tawas Lighthouse.
I immediately contacted him to purchase the picture for my next book. I had no idea what that book would be about.
This has been a tough year. It didn't help when two of my characters hijacked the story!
I thought that Ellie and Isabella were the main characters, but Emma and Noah stole the story.
A Light Shines Forth, is finally ready to go to my first editor, Mary Lynn. She will edit it and then I will make her corrections. She makes my sentences shorter and changes my punctuation. Then it goes to Kay my, second editor. She looks at the storyline, watches that the correct character is named and sometimes changes my corrections I made! Then I make more corrections. My sister, Jane is my third and last editor. She has a critical eye for the whole story. And again sometimes corrections I made go back to what was originally written. Each of them do some of what the other editor does, but my stories are so much better because of all of them. They are tough taskmasters.
Hopefully Kay's husband will find some places to add in some of his great puns.
So there is hope that this book will be on Amazon before the end of the year.
Sometimes in my books the time used is Military Time. Instead of two twelve hour sets of numbers the numbers go from 0000 - 2400. Because the military has to work on a 24 hour schedule it makes sense to use 24 hours instead of 12 twice. No one gets confused as to day or night hours.
So in the book, A Light Shines Forth, when Stephanie leaves a note for Noah to meet her for root beer in the middle of the afternoon can you guess what time she writes on the note?
In 2003 we spent Father's Day at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan. We were with our grandchildren, Robbie and Sheala. We had such a good time that day. The kids had fun pumping water, going to the schoolhouse, the wigwam and just walking through the woods next to the "Mighty Pine" as Papa calls it. We even took the picture below that we recently took again just before Robbie left for the Air Force.
The times I have spent with people I love are sometimes magic moments. These two days, a dozen years apart, were definitely magic moments. These memories will forever be remembered because they have become a part of the book "A Light Shines Forth" due out sometime this year.
These beans are taken on the picnic at the stream under the old oak tree.
Inspired by the recipe found on the back of the jars of beans and the memory of my own Grandma Shea's baked beans.
1 48-ounce jar Randall Great Northern Beans drained
1/2 pound of bacon
1 large onion, choppped 4 tablespoons butter 2 large apples, shredded 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup catsup 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon Mrs. Dash
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Make the bacon, take out of the pan and discard the drippings. Add the butter into the pan and cook the onion. Add everything except the beans to the pan and cook until the sugar is melted and everything is coated with it. Add in the beans and the cut up the bacon and add that. Put it in a 9 x 13 pan and drizzle chicken broth over the top. Don't make it too wet with puddles of liquid - just wet enough to keep the beans moist.
Bake in 350 degree oven for about an hour. If heating up the leftover beans add a little more broth to them before heating up. However, I don't know why anyone would ever heat up leftover beans. Instead spread some on bread that has a generous topping of peanut butter! The most delicious cold baked bean and peanut butter sandwhich ever! My Dad even added mustard - not me - just the beans and peanut butter. MMMMMmmm.