Sunday, March 10, 2013

Emily Dickinson Fest!

Macro Photography by RLHall ArtfulExpress
Can you see the Gestalt girl dancing within the flower?
I hide myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too -
And angels know the rest.
I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.
~ Emily Dickinson

Photography by RLHall ArtfulExpress

Have you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?
And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there;
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there.
Then look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go.
And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life
Some burning noon go dry!
~Emily Dickinson

Photography by RLHall ArtfulExpress
If you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
as housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in seperate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I’d count them on my hand,
subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state it’s sting.
~ Emily Dickinson

Photography by RLHall ArtfulExpress

I send Two Sunsets -
Day and I – in compitition ran -
I finished two – and several stars -
While He – was making one -
His own was ampler – but as I
Was saying to a friend -
Mine – is the more convenient
To Carry in the hand -
~ Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 1, 2013


This actually began many years ago, this man walked the streets constantly though he could barely walk. No matter what the weather, he was out walking. And in New York State, that can be brutal in winter or the heat of summer. I wondered where he slept at night. I was afraid he was homeless. I used to walk through town a lot back then and when ever I happened to pass him on the sidewalk I would smile and try to make eye contact with him. Sometimes I said hello. He would glance my way but quickly shift his eyes away. I knew he recognized me, but that was as far as it went.
Ten years went by and he never gave up, wearing his old raggity clothes he walked. If I missed seeing him around for a few days I would wonder if he was okay... by then I didn't walk as much, and I most often saw him as I passed by in my car. If he looked like he was having an especially hard day I would say a little prayer for him.
Then one day I was sitting at the park writing. I happened to glance around and saw him rummaging in a trash bin for cans to turn in for the deposit. I just happened to have put two large garbage bags full of cans in the back of my car that day to take to the recycle center. While he was busy sifting through refuse I quickly got the bags out of my car and put them by a nearby trash can for him to find. I went back to my writing near the pond as quickly as possible so that he wouldn't feel embarrased by what I'd done. I never turned to check on his progress for fear he would catch on if he saw me. I got the feeling that he was a proud man, who didn't want sympathy.
A few minutes later he came walking around the picnic table I was sitting at. He never slowed to talk, but finally after all those years he looked me right in the eyes, nodded his head and said thank you! It still makes me feel good to think about it.
After that I began carrying a bag of cans in my car. If I saw him walking in the vicinity of the park I would stop at the park on my way and leave the bag of cans next to the same trash can. I don't know if he ever actually found them, but if he did I hoped that he would wonder if it was me still thinking of him.
I never knew his name, but a couple of years later there was an article in the local newspaper. He had passed away. He had been a successful business man, but had gotten hit by a car those many years ago. He wasn't expected to live. But he did. They told him he would never walk again. But he did. He walked almost constantly, because he knew if he stopped for too long he would lose the ability to keep moving. He had sold his beautiful house and moved into a small room so that he had money to live on and added to his meager income by collecting cans in his daily travels. People had at times given him new warm clothes in the winter but he wouldn't wear them, he donated them to the salvation army and wore old clothes because they would have only gotten ruined by the weather he walked in so much. Other people needed new clothes worse than he did.
I had a great respect for him right from the beginning. It was obvious how determined he was, it took everything he had to walk walk like that. He had a great impact on me even before I knew his story. I would have liked to know him. Perhaps walk with him and talk a little. I could have learned even more about life and what is important from him. I think now, that I could have left him some clothes, a special treat or maybe just a note telling him what an inspiration he was to me along with the cans. I still think of him sometimes and miss seeing him around town. But then I suppose now his soul is at peace, I imagine that he is now pain free and able to relax in comfort... 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW of J L Taft - Romance Author!

Digitally enhanced Portrait of J L Taft by ArtfulExpress

About J L Taft
Three times Published Erotic Romance Author J L Taft believes that variety is the spice of life. The love of a good man is irreplaceable and that determination will get you anywhere you want to go.
She lives in upstate New York with her husband, daughter and two dogs. She has a large extended family that provides her with a constant source of amusement and inspiration.
She spends her days glued to her laptop with her head in the clouds. When she isn’t writing she can be found reading, gardening, listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and enjoying great Finger Lakes wine.

RLHall Interview with Romance Author J L Taft:
(Warning links may lead to adult material)

Welcome. So pleased to be able to collaborate with you on this! I've read your first published e-book "Submitting to the Officer" and since it was a quickie romance story I found myself not wanting to put it down when the last page was read! I wanted to delve further into the relationship between Kris Elliot and Officer Mark Walker. I can only imagine what escapades ensued with their next run-in! Any chance there will be a sequel?

J L Taft:
First off, thanks for reading “Submitting to the Officer”. Kris and Mark’s story came to me after a young girl backed into my car at our local mall. There weren’t any police officers involved (unfortunately :) and I started thinking about how a police officer would meet a girl while on the job. Currently I have no plans to write a sequel to Kris and Mark’s story but no telling what the future will bring!

The e-book was released to the public on December 26, 2012 and since then I've seen mentions of your writing being steamy, hot, humorous (with a certain attitude) and true to life. As an author, where do you find inspiration for your story lines?

J L Taft:
Inspiration for my stories constantly seem to come from the little things in life. I am always asking myself, What if? I’m usually surprised after a story is done and I look back and realize where it came from. Sometimes the smallest thing can be spun into an exciting story.

It must be difficult to develop your characters fully within a short venue. In your writings do you find that your characters reflect real life observations or are their personalities completely fictional?

J L Taft:
I like to write about strong women who don’t realize they are strong until they are confronted with their worst fears and come out on top. Creating the right situation to push my heroines into looking conflict in the eye and saying "f" off...I got this, is my greatest challenge. So, my characters have real life issues to deal with but they are completely fictional.

I see that you have a second book release coming up soon. Can you elaborate more on that?

J L Taft:
My second release “Unleashing the Animal” is about a young woman who is oppressed by her high class parents and wants to break out on her own. She is an artist at heart and has had a long time connection with animals. She moves to a rustic cabin in upstate New York and is determined to concentrate on her painting with a quiet life. What she doesn’t expect is making friends with a big black wolf. As the story progresses she finds out that her sexy new neighbor and the black wolf are one and the same. I don’t want to ruin it for you but Blair gets the surprise of her life and a match that only fate could be blamed for.


Have you always loved the written word? When did you first begin writing seriously?

J L Taft:

I have always been a book worm, I spent my teenage years with my nose stuck between romance paperback pages. I have always been writing stories, some finished some not. I wrote seriously for a year before I submitted my first manuscript.

Photograph of Author by ArtfulExpress

Who is your all-time favorite Romance author?

J L Taft:
My all-time favorite is Nora Roberts I have read her books for years. But when it comes to erotic romance I love Desiree Holt, her stories stick with you long after the last page is turned.

To what do you attribute your success in being published with Ellora's Cave Publishing as a new author?

J L Taft:
Determination! If at first you don’t succeed…however, I spent weeks researching publishers before I submitted to Ellora's Cave. Finding the right publisher is half the battle. I also have a strong support system that makes all the difference in the world.

How do you see the publishing industry changing with the advent of e-book readers becoming so popular and how does this affect authors? What future do you foresee for printed book sales as a result?

J L Taft:
I think that the rise of e-books has made it so easy to have everything you want to read right at your fingertips. It also has widened who an author can reach with their books. I don’t think that it affects authors all that much, except for the marketing aspect but the process is still the same. Print book sales are obviously going to be lower but sometimes you just want those pages in your hand. There will always be a market for print books, it’s just not going to be as large as it used to be.

Erotic Romance sales have sky-rocketed in the last few years, has that influenced your choice of subject matter or have you always dreamed of being published as a romance novelist?

J L Taft:
I always knew romance was for me, in one form or another. Once I got older I hated that most romance novels will skip over the sex scenes or use so much purple prose that you didn’t really know what was going on. You spend half the story waiting for them to give in and do it and then the door is closed firmly behind them when they finally do. Erotic romance has given me the perfect opportunity to leave the door open and let my readers know each and every detail. So, no sales haven’t influenced what I write, I write what I love.

What advice do you have for new authors based on your experience?

J L Taft:
I read a book last year called “Love Writing” by Virna DePaulwith Tawny Weber. It has the simple and best advice I have heard so far. Submit, Survive and Start again. I have taken this motto to heart and it has helped tremendously.

Are you working on another manuscript now? Where can our readers keep up to date with your career and up-coming book releases?

J L Taft:
I am working on another novella now, called “Hooked for Life”.This one will also be published with "Ellora’s Cave Publishing". Readers can keep up to date with my releases through:

I love to hear from readers, email me directly at:

Thank you for the great conversation. I'll be watching for your new books!
Photo: New business cards! Exciting!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dad's Old Lunch Box

This is my father's metal lunch box and collapsible tin cup that he used as a child for his mid day meal at school. He would have been of school age in about 1921. It's pretty banged up, bent and dented. I remember asking him if that had happened over the years since he used it as a child, as it had laid around the house all that time? He smirked a little and said, "Nah, it got banged up from me being a kid...getting in fights, going fishing...boy stuff. After that Ma just used it for a button box." It was indeed still full of some of grandma Hall's large button collection. I don't know if it was used before he got it or not, or if it was made as a lunch box or for some other purpose.

 The cup, he had always kept in his small chest of drawers that he used as a bed side stand. One of my favorite things was going through those drawers with him, searching for some small drawing or measuring tool I wanted to borrow. He would pull all kinds of little treasures out of there and tell me about them. I never tired of hearing the stories. He had an old cigar box with a black tire inner tube rubber band around it to keep it secure and in it he stored the old drinking cup along with his old report cards, small rulers, and mathematical/drafting tools from his school days. His favorite subject was physics. And he was always very science and mechanically oriented. I think I got my interest in science and nature from him, along with my love of gadgets. He taught me a lot about wild plants and flowers and could do complicated calculations in his head at a snap of the fingers. He knew all the formulas by heart. He graduated from high school, but I think he always wished he could have gone to college. He got kind of a wistful or a sometimes obstinate attitude when he talked about his love of math and science, and especially physics. I think he felt it had never been an option for him, growing up in a coal mining family during depression times and then beginning a family of his own.

My Dad, Thomas J. Hall, was the youngest of the family
shown here with his four older siblings and an older neighbor girl.

When I asked him what was packed in their lunches for school he said usually pasties, which were like meat pies that the miners always took for lunch. I was surprised since I'd never heard him mention them before, though I knew what they were from researching his Welsh ancestry. He said Grandma Hall made them from whatever left over meat was available and whatever she had on hand, and packed them still hot from the oven in newspaper so that they might still be warm at lunch time. And for dessert there were often homemade cookies, and water to fill his cup from the well at the school. Though sometimes on bread making day, he had fresh homemade bread with butter and jelly and maybe a hunk of meat or cheese. And sometimes fresh fruit was available. On very cold days he might have a jar of hot coffee or tea tucked in with the hot pastie. I never found a recipe that was written down for pasties in any family recipes, but have included one below that was found online. There are many variations, with various meats including ground beef, potato's and other vegetables. A modern version can be made easily with prepared pie dough. They can be picked up like a sandwich and dipped in a condiment, or eaten with a fork when smothered in gravy or some other sauce. Or just eat them plain like my Dad's family took in their packed lunches or picnic baskets.


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lard
  • 10 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 pounds top round steak, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 5 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Place the flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and the lard in a bowl. Quickly rub the lard into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles small peas. Pour in the ice water, and form into a ball. Add more water if it feels too dry. Divide the dough into 6 balls, and wrap in plastic. Chill one hour.
  2. In a bowl, combine the meat, turnips, potatoes, onions, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  4. Roll out one of the balls on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a cake pan, trace a 9 inch circle in the dough; cut out the circle. Place about 1 1/2 cups of the meat mixture into the middle of the circle. Fold the edges of the circle up to meet along the top of the meat filling, and crimp the dough along the top to seal. Repeat until all dough is used up. With a spatula, transfer the pasties to an ungreased sheet.
  5. Bake the pasties for 45 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Always Valentines

The story goes that my parents had been together since they were thirteen years old.
Both born in 1916, I believe this card was exchanged in the late 1920's
 near the beginning of their relationship. 

My father always told me that " was the first valentine your mother gave me".

Since it was signed "From a Friend." and my mother's maiden name is signed
 in code at the bottom, it must have been given about 1929, or a maybe little earlier.

I first saw it as a young child while helping my mom fold and put clean laundry away,
nestled in the back of my Dad's underwear drawer. I noticed it propped up against the back of the drawer. The bright red caught my attention, and I ran out to my mom in the living room to ask about it. She told me the story and answered a few questions and then instructed me to put it back right where I found it...and be careful of it!

My mom passed away when I was about the age that they were when they began their journey together. I occasionally stopped to look at the card as I put laundry away through the years, and always made sure to treat it gently. As my dad must have done, as well, since it remained there for over thirty years until the day he left to join her. I sometimes found it lying at the bottom of the drawer under the clothes, at other times it was propped up against the back of the drawer with the front always facing out. I like to think that, at these times, he must have glanced at it thinking of her, and placed it carefully where it could be glimpsed more easily as he rummaged through his drawer.

I'm told that neither of my parents had ever really dated anyone else, though dad told me of two other admirers of my mom when they were young. But he assured me that nothing ever came of them, though the one guy was apparently quite persistent! Even in his elder years he still puffed up a little when he talked about their unwelcome attention toward her. He never remarried though I often teased him about the interest he drew from the many widows who frequented the local grocery store. In all those years I only ever heard him speak well of my mother and he wouldn't abide even the slightest allusion of disrespect toward her. I imagine their spirits together on this valentine day, at some warm place where they can row out to the middle of a lovely lake and watch the sunset alone together, just as I remember them doing in life. Their dream for retirement had been a cottage on a lake, and that's just how I picture them spending eternity together.         

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thoughts on Family History

I do not care only about placing a name, or date, in my family record in order to say that I have personally accomplished something. I want to understand what brought that entry into being and how my ancestors paved the way through their hardships and milestones - trying always to better the lives of their children, and in turn, improving conditions for the generations to come.

I want to understand beliefs and fears that were passed down, and dreams and failures through which valuable lessons were learned. I want to have a glimpse of the humor and stubborness that got them through each day, guaranteeing their survival and therefore my eventual existance.

I want to see, in them, a part of me. I want to know their inborn talents, what brought them joy, what sparked their interest. What brought a warmth to their hearts and a smile to their face. I want to understand what angered them, what brought sadness to their lives. I want to recognize, in my heritage, that which is still evident as common family traits, whether they be good or bad.

I want to know of the culture that influenced their reactions, the songs, the poetry, the superstitions, the celebrations that brought meaning to their often destitute lives. I want to have a vision of how my life might have been different if my family had never left their homeland and struck out for distant shores.

I want to be reunited with family members left behind, not only through documents of paper, but through emotions and half-imagined memories. I want to feel as if I've gotten to know them, though I will never have met them. I want to interact with those most like them, and through joining with their present day countrymen, I may one day be reunited with my own living kinsmen.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Father's Favorite Flowers

My Dad's favorite wildflower must have been Phlox. I remember him showing me the plant when I was young, making sure I took a whiff of the spicy scented flowers and took notice of the color ranges in the bloom throughout the season. When he spotted them along the road as we drove by he would ask "What kind of flowers are they?" And I would reply proudly with "Phlox!"Now I know that they are specifically called Blue Phlox, Woodland Phlox, or Wild Sweet William. The scent IS wonderful. I can remember Dad always saying "I smell Phlox" as we rode in the car. Or if we were walking he would often hunt them down, by following his nose. He sometimes brought bouquets of them home with him, to be placed in a vase. Though they didn't last long after being cut, it was well worth it, since they brought so much pleasure for that short time before they wilted away.

By Memorial Day the Phlox are just coming into full bloom in Northern Pennsylvania, and each year as we made the trip to visit family cemetery plots in Blossburg Pa. it was his habit to walk across the road to see the flowering Phlox growing along the creek before we left to return to New York, where it would usually be another week before they opened their fragrant petals.
I have many times tried to transplant the wild variety in my flower gardens at home, and finally did succeed in having the perennial reappear the next year and even spread a little. I much prefer the wild variety to the garden species, but that may be just because it will forever remind me of Dad.