Writer and editor displays her work and interests

Busy Day Chicken Casserole

Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Recipes

Make this the night before, and whip it out in time to cook.

  • 9 slices bread
  • 4 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 9 slices cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cans mushroom soup
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper.

  • Line a nine by thirteen inch baking pan with the bread.

  • Place chicken on top.
  • Spread with mayonnaise, and add cheese.
  • Combine eggs, milk, salt, and pepper, and pour over mixture in the pan.
  • Pour soup on top, and dot with butter or margarine.
  • Cover tightly with foil, and refrigerate overnight.
  • Bake at 350 for one and a half hours.
  • Serve in squares.

Comments Off on Busy Day Chicken Casserole  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-11-08  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Book Review: And the See will Tell

Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Books

Review of: And the sea will tell NLS DB32028
by Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce Henderson

Sailing to a deserted Pacific island sounded like a romantic adventure to the couples. One was running from the law; the other was fulfilling their, or at least his, dream, with all the skill and equipment necessary for success. Only one couple returned.

Vincent Bugliosi , famous as a prosecutor, switches horses to defend sketchy evidence and try to clear a woman with little but her own words to sell to the jury. Do the tides lie? Was she part of the murder strategy, or is she innocent?

This book is long, but it’s well worth the excitement you’ll find while reading it.

Comments Off on Book Review: And the See will Tell  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-11-08  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith


Sunday 22 September 2013 - Filed under Music

What is it about the number eight and music? There are eighty-eight keys on a piano. Think of the songs that reference only the number eight in their lyrics: “I’m Henry the Eighth” by Herman’s Hermits; “Pieces of Eight” by Stix; “Old 8×10” by Randy Travis; “Eight More Miles to Louisville” by Grandpa Jones and others; “The Eighth of January,” an old fiddle tune; “Eight Days a Week” by the Beatles; “8th of November” by Big & Rich; “Eight Second Ride” by Jake Owen; the lyric, “On April the eighth, the year forty-nine” in a sad death song by Jimmy Osborn. From C to C or G to G is an “octave.” Okay, it’s not very significant to add Symphony/Sonata/Prelude No. 8 to this list, but…

Try this kind of brain teaser with any number on book or movie titles. Mental exercise is gr8. See you l8r!

Comments Off on Eight  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-09-22  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Penned by a Friend–Hair

Sunday 22 September 2013 - Filed under Fragrance + Penned by a Friend + Touch + Writing

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

When I was a little girl, Dad often took me to the barber shop. I sat in a nearby chair and watched with my limited vision, as the barber draped a sheet over Dad and clipped his hair with an electric razor that buzzed and often made snapping noises. That had to hurt, but Dad didn’t complain. I was grateful I didn’t have to endure this since I wasn’t a man.

At the age of four, my luck changed. Mother decided it was time for me to go to the beauty shop. “We’re going to give you a pixie,” said the nice lady, as she sat me in the chair and draped a sheet over me, tying it behind my head.

I inhaled the acrid scent of hair enhancing chemicals, and a knot of dread formed in my stomach, as she turned the chair to face the mirror. When she sprayed my hair with water, the quacking sound the bottle made and the cold water that assailed my scalp was my undoing. My stomach heaved, and in minutes, I was covered with vomit. I sat mortified, as Mother cleaned me up, and the beautician put a clean drape over me. The rest of the experience was uneventful.

When I was in the first grade at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, I was the only girl in a class of boys. One of them, whom I’ll call Isaac, sat behind me and delighted in pulling my hair. “Quit it,” I said, batting his hand away, but to no avail. My teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, either didn’t know or didn’t care.

“He’s doing it because he likes you,” said Dad.

“Just ignore him, and he’ll stop,” said Mother. I couldn’t ignore the pain that ripped my scalp, as the little monster’s fingers grabbed wisps of my hair and tugged.

One day, Mrs. Hamilton said, “Abbie, you need to go to the infirmary with Mrs. Moore. Your hair is falling out.”

Tendrils of hair were cascading from my head and landing on my shirt. Fascinated, I rose and took the nurse’s hand, as we walked out of the classroom.

“Mrs. Johnson, you’re not washing your daughter’s hair. It’s falling out,” Mrs. Moore told Mother on the phone. “You’ll have to come and take her to a doctor.”

Aggrieved, Mother collected me and took me to a dermatologist the nurse recommended. Again, my stomach tightened, as my nostrils were assailed by the odor of alcohol and disinfectant, but I managed to keep my lunch down. After the doctor examined my head, he asked, “By any chance is someone pulling your hair?”

“Yes,” I said, hopeful that someone would finally do something about it. “Isaac pulls my hair all the time. He sits right behind me in school.”

“That’s why her hair is falling out,” the doctor told Mother.

Later, Mother and I marched into the classroom. “I wasted a lot of time and money on a dermatologist to find out that the reason Abbie’s hair is falling out is because Isaac is pulling it,” said Mother. She pointed an accusing finger at the boy who sat unmoving in his seat directly behind my desk.

“Isaac, don’t pull Abbie’s hair,” said Mrs. Hamilton, and that was that.

After the fiasco at the beauty shop, Mother cut my hair at home, but she was never satisfied with her work. I didn’t care. I was relieved when she was done, although after the incident with Isaac, I preferred Mother’s scissors to Isaac’s sharp tugs.

As I grew older, Mother let my hair grow longer and braided it into two pigtails at the back of my neck. In the summer heat of Arizona, I imagined myself cutting off the pigtails but knew better since an attempt at cutting my own hair brought similar results to that of Isaac’s hand barbering and a sharp rebuke from Mother. Occasionally, boys tugged at the braids, but not nearly as hard as Isaac did.

When I was about twelve or thirteen, Mother and I finally worked up the courage to make another trip to the beauty shop. We’d moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, by this time, and we went to a place Grandma recommended. I remembered the scent of the chemicals from the previous experience, but this time, I knew what to expect. To my embarrassment, Mother told Barbara, the beautician, “My daughter’s visually handicapped so you’ll have to tell her what you’re going to do before you do it.”

Barbara was nice. She sat me in the chair, covered me with a drape, and turned the chair to face the mirror. “I’m going to spray your hair with water now,” she said.

This time, the sound of the spray bottle and cool water against my head didn’t bother me. While cutting my hair, she was gentle and careful. When she accidentally brushed a mole on the left side of my scalp, she said, “Ooh, does that hurt?”

“No,” I answered truthfully.

The haircut was a pleasant experience, and I realized that going to a beauty shop wasn’t so bad after all. From that point on, I never let my hair grow long enough for pigtails. Mother was relieved not to have to braid it every morning.
Pigtails, permanents, and other hairstyles are great for people who can see well enough to make them look good. I prefer short, straight hair that I can manage easily. As I’ve heard said in shampoo commercials, “I want to wash my hair and go.”

3 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-09-22  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Ode to Orange

Sunday 22 September 2013 - Filed under Writing

Wear it in Austin to a Longhorns game,
Ride in Boston on its namesake train,
Find it in Belfast and in jail.

Carve old Jack upon its face,
Decorate weddings amongst the lace,
Pretty color for a tomcat’s tail.

In a glass or on buttered toast,
They say bunnies love it most,
Makes a rat believe he’s bold.

Water safety, caution lights,
Be sure to wear it walking at night,
Rangers’ enemy, Florida’s gold.

India and Niger use it in their flags,
Roadwork cones, “Trick or Treat” bags,
Crosswalk banners in the snow.

Catch it in a warm sunset,
How much better could it get?
Thank red and yellow for its glow.

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-09-22  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Speaking of Orange…

Sunday 22 September 2013 - Filed under Fragrance

I know where you can find reflections of orange to make your home or anything else smell good. How about Mandarin Moon, Orange You Glad, Sunkissed Citrus, Pumpkin Roll, and Pumpkin Marshmallow. Flameless candles, room sprays, or lotions and sachets are available in one or more of these fragrances. Call me or visit my website:

502-721-7634 or

Comments Off on Speaking of Orange…  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-09-22  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Review of the New Cookbook from Newsreel

Sunday 22 September 2013 - Filed under Books + Recipes

“In the Newsreel Kitchen” is an eighty-four-page one-volume comb-bound soft-cover Braille collection of recipes from Newsreel members, staff, and friends. It is also available in large print and regular print. At $20.00, it’s a bargain–about ninety-five recipes from about fifty people from about everywhere in the United States. Proceeds support Newsreel Magazine, a monthly collection of tips, questions, personal experiences, music, and essays.

From breakfast to dessert, they’re all here: Orange Julius; Ham Balls; Fresh Mushroom Soup; Southwest Corn Soufflé; Saturday Night Slumgullion; Caramel Peach Bread Pudding; and Taco Biscuits. Try Crockpot Chicken Stroganoff or Easy Crème Brulée.

This book is dedicated to all cooks who love the old recipes, and are willing to try the new ones. They are easy to prepare, and easy to read. Most were contributed by cooks with many years in the kitchen with low or no vision.

Order by calling 614-469-0700 or 888-723-8737. Send payment made to: Newsreel Magazine By and For the Blind 5 E Long St Ste 1001 Columbus OH 43215-2915 Email:

The last recipe in the book has me fascinated. “French Cakes” requires baking on French iron until golden brown. Now I just have to find some French iron. You’ll love this book if you like variety in mealtime planning.

Comments Off on Review of the New Cookbook from Newsreel  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-09-22  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Miss me? I’m back!

Monday 19 August 2013 - Filed under Touch + Writing

I exchanged the expected Summer posts for playing hooky in the sun, sand, and sizzle. Now it’s time to get back to work, get out the sweaters. I have two faves, a light blue knit and a brown corduroy. Then there’s my cape collection: red crochet, navy knit, burgundy velour, and leopard spots in neutral colors.

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-08-19  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

A Different View of Summer Camp: Two Poems

Monday 19 August 2013 - Filed under Writing


This suitcase is the one I took to school,
It has a broken handle you can see,
I wedged it in just like a silly fool
On that trip to Yellowstone in ninety-three.

We’ll have to change the tag to show it’s yours,
We should have bought a new one I suppose,
But handlers get rough with bags on tours.
Now don’t forget those extra camping clothes.

I guess you’ll do just fine without a key,
It’s been gone so long, I can’t remember when,
Makes it easy for airport security.
Here, let me help you latch it down again.

I’m glad it can’t tell all the things it’s seen
Since it was new and I was seventeen.

Weaving Lessons

You nudge my arm,
Hand me your basket,
Needing some help?
Your silence says you can’t answer.
Are you nodding your head?
I know you can’t hear my words,
But I talk to you as if you can.

You know I can’t see,
Place my hand on the problem;
Can you read lips?
Sign is not my strong suit.
We’ll have to wing it.

Your concentration is with me,
I straighten the pattern;
An ambitious project,
This triple weave.

You reach for it,
Know where to go from here;
I tap the tub,
You drop it in;
Reeds need soaking
for a tight weave.

Weaving words from understanding,
Removing boundaries,
Crossing paths
One Summer day.
You touch “Thanks” on my arm;
“Come back anytime.”

Comments Off on A Different View of Summer Camp: Two Poems  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-08-19  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

A Book Review

Monday 19 August 2013 - Filed under Books + Penned by a Friend

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by John Wesley Smith

A few years ago I read a science fiction story that was so captivating, I decided to read it again. That’s something I seldom do. But it made such an impression on me I felt strangely compelled recently to read it again and share my thoughts about it with you.

The book is Never let me go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The NLS reference number is DB59667.

The story is the firsthand account of Kathy H. Main characters are Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. The first third of the book recounts their experiences attending a very special school in England called Hailsham, which colored everything else about the rest of their lives.

See if you can relate to their school life by answering a series of questions.

Were you viewed as different, perhaps even feared or dreaded?

Were you sheltered, isolated or segregated from the rest of society?

Were you constantly surrounded by your own kind?

Were the bright mixed with the slow, where attributes stood out more noticeably than in the general public?

Were you special, but separate from the rest of the world?

Did you experience comradery and vbonding unique to your situation?

Were your career choices limited by who and what you are?

Did a separate set of rules apply to you compared to those in the rest of the world?

Were you required to follow certain restrictions, such as avoid smoking, eat healthfully and be careful with whom you had sex?

Were you clueless about the world and how it really works? Were you afraid of it?

Do you feel like you were fooled or lied to about the world and your place in it?

Do you feel like you were a pawn in a game?

By the end of the book, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy could answer yes to all of those questions. If you attended a state school for the blind, or if you were a day student like I was, you can probably answer affirmatively to more of those questions than you’re comfortable with.

But Kathy and her friends weren’t blind. Perhaps those who go to any kind of boarding school have certain experiences in common. And that’s what makes Never Let Me Go so intriguing to me. I’ve never read a story that I could identify with so closely.

This is a commercial audio book read by Rosalyn Landor who does an excellent job. She’s as good as any NLS narrator we’re familiar with.

Before I tell you more, here’s the NLS description.

Never let me go DB 59667 Ishiguro, Kazuo. Reading time: 9 hours, 41 minutes. Read by Rosalyn Landor.

Science Fiction Psychological Fiction

England, 1990s. Kathy H., Ruth, and Tommy attended Hailsham, one of the better academies where human clones bred to be organ donors are sheltered from reality. Now thirty-one, Kathy has been a donor caregiver for eleven years. As her own time to donate nears, Kathy appreciates her privileged upbringing. Commercial audiobook. 2005.

You heard right. These students were special because they were human clones. Therefore, they had a unique place in society. Their lives were predestined. They would grow up, serve as caregivers for other clones who donated organs. Then they would donate their own. When one of them died, they were said to have completed.

Kathy’s reminiscences are not necessarily in chronological order. Flashbacks are wonderfully woven into the story in a way that will certainly keep your interest.

The book deals a great deal with self discovery as the three students and their school mates strive to find their identities. Relationships are those you’d expect in a segregated situation, including cliques and secretive games. Unsolved mysteries keep the kids guessing as well. For example, who was the mysterious Madame, and what purpose did her rumored art gallery serve?

A favorite guardian or instructor, Miss Lucy, showed great sympathy and shared revelations no one else dared to. And then she wasn’t at the school any more.

The title of the book, Never Let me Go, came from song lyrics on a cassette tape Kathy owned. The tape plays a role at key places in the story. It was stolen at school, but Kathy obtained another copy several years later. The title song is mentioned again near the end of the story.

At the climax, Kathy and Tommy meet with Miss Emily, the matron of the school, and Madame, her associate. They engage in a revelatory, touching and gripping conversation.

They’re told that cloning has been going on since post World War II years. And–spoiler alert–the question is raised, Do clones have souls? That’s where Hailsham came in. But the school had to close.

You’ll just have to read the book to find out more. If you’re like me, you’ll be sad to say goodbye to these characters and their story.

If I could offer one criticism of the book, it would be that it’s ultimately fatalistic. Why didn’t one of the clones break free from their presumed life course? But then, why don’t we?

John Wesley Smith is a blind writer from Missouri who puts most of his creative efforts into his blog site at

Comments Off on A Book Review  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-08-19  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith