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Welcome.  I doubt you were looking for my blog, but I’m glad you’re here.

I took a little side trip of my own today.  Sometimes if the weather’s nice and the tank is full, I’ll follow the GPS instead of the map.  Usually the route is direct; unfortunately it’s not always paved.  Here I’m waiting for my turn to cross  a river without a bridge.

It’s been a year since “Wax” was published and I hit the road in my tin can camper.  Posts about the book tour are archived here, and at  If you like women’s fiction and history, please visit that site too.

I hope we cross paths some day.

The New Business, a Year Later


It’s been a year since “The New Business” launched; there have been changes! Vertical Succulents became Highway 92 Succulents in January, and customers responded with great support. Take a look at the space below, one year after I signed the lease!


dogs welcome


succulent shopping 2

This year the business participated in the Filoli Mother’s Day Flower show. Here’s a bit about it.


A year ago my photographer-friend Kim Smith accompanied me on a visit to Filoli. I was writing a filler article for SVCN and she was taking the requisite five photos. They were just getting ready for the Mother’s Day Flower show. I never imagined that – in one year – I’d return as a nurserywoman with my own exhibit. Who knows what the coming year will bring?

Kim came to the special 2014 Flower Show Preview and Exhibitor Reception, and again, took photographs – enjoy!



Here’s the article I wrote in May, 2013:
Filoli, Woodside

Each year, Mothers’ Day is celebrated at Filoli, and it’s a good week to remember the women who nurtured the lovely garden.

Filoli was built in 1917, as a retreat for the Bourn family. Patriarch William Bourn II made a considerable fortune in investments that included the Empire Gold Mine — the most productive – continuing in operation until 1956. He also owned controlling interest in the Spring Valley Water Company, the privately held monopoly on the San Francisco water supply.

When it came time to join fellow railroad, banking and industrial magnates in the good life on the San Francisco peninsula, Mr. and Mrs. Bourn commissioned Willis Polk, architect and Bruce Porter, artist. Porter earned a reputation for fine interior design, murals and stained glass windows. His role on the Bourn project was to articulate garden “rooms” to compliment the architecture of the house.

The collaborative effort between architect and garden designer resulted in an estate with interior and exterior spaces flowing seamlessly, and the plan is largely in tact today. Isabella Worn came to the project to create striking floral compositions within the framework. Her work delighted visitors.

Known as “Bella”, Worn thrived at a time when women had little opportunity for formal horticulture training, and even less opportunity for a career in garden design. She excelled. She never stopped studying. She had a sixth sense for finding garden blooms that would become popular with the owners of the grand estates, and they’d showcase her flowers in arrangements throughout their homes. She was a woman in demand and attracted elite clients.

Isabella Worn was herself born to a comfortable life. Her grandfather, James Ross, had acquired a land grant for Rancho Punta de San Quentin in Marin County, and the town of Ross is named for him. Her father, George Austin eventually oversaw the family enterprises and properties, including a flourishing lumber business.

Isabella grew up loving plants, and because her family was well connected to San Francisco society, started her business engineering elaborate flower displays for lavish affairs. Her reputation grew quickly and the Bourns recruited her to work at Filoli. It was a good partnership; Bella preferred clients with enough money to fully implement her designs. She took on other clients too: she became an advisor and supplier to the well-heeled garden owners of Hillsborough, Woodside, San Francisco and Carmel Valley.

At Filoli, Worn was charged with choosing bedding plants, coordinating seasonal color, and designing other garden features.

When the Roths purchased Filoli in 1937, Lurline Roth asked Bella Worn to stay on. Under Roth’s patronage, Worn diversified the garden with hundreds of camellias, rhododendrons, roses, magnolias and rare plants. Roth’s passion for the place and Worn’s ingenious designs gave the garden depth and texture. Roth adhered to Worn’s plans after her death in1950.

In 1977, speaking of their partnership, Lurline Roth said:
“Originally, Miss Worn did all the planting for the garden, under the direction of Bruce Porter, and continued until she became too busy with other work, and then she resigned. Later, Bella was able to come back and take-over again, continuing until she died. Under her guidance, I learned so much, as she made me feel that the garden was mine, which might be difficult for one in a supervisory position. We put in the swimming pool area and moved the yew allée back of the swimming pool from up near the orchard. We also did all the planting behind the pool.”

As the garden gained worldwide renown, Lurline Roth was awarded several honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal for the Garden Club of America, for her achievements as a collector and propagator of plants. The formal garden at Filoli is named the Lurline B. Roth garden in her honor.

In 1950, Isabella Worn’s death was morned by many of San Francisco’s most distinguished families, with whom she had worked. From Filoli, Mrs Roth wrote:
“I will always think of her in this garden. Perhaps it would make her happy to know how many loving friends she had. Everyone misses her. She spent her life doing sweet things for others; that was her way.

Isabella Worn brought enthusiasm, passion, and an artistic sense of color and design to her work in gardens and floral arrangements, bringing pleasure and delight to her clients who, invariably, became her loving friends.”

Today the 654-acre estate is a California State Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an outstanding example of early twentieth-century architecture and garden design. The garden is maintained by fourteen full-time horticulturists, numerous student interns and more than one hundred garden volunteers.

Filoli is located at 86 Canada Rd  Woodside, CA.  It’s opened to the public, Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 am–3:30 pm, and 11:00 am–3:30 pm on Sunday. There is an admission fee. Filoli is closed on Mondays and most public holidays.


Rosie the LGBT Riveter – Special from Newsweek

Last week an article in Newsweek reported on the effort to collect WWII homefront  stories from the LGBT community  — especially women within the community. My book Wax and I were mentioned and I’m honored.  Here’s a PDF of the article for your reading pleasure!

The new business

It’s hard to pass up a good deal.  On May 18th – exactly 40 days ago – I discovered a greenhouse for lease for 14 cents/square foot, with retail space at the front of the house offered at 23 cents.  A long-time friend (I won’t call him old) with a dream of becoming a nurseryman was ready to jump in, but he’d committed to some large scale projects through the summer.  I came on as partner – for two years – to help get the business up and running.  No, I’ve never worked in a nursery.  The way I see it: no one comes out of the womb knowing much – except maybe Mozart.  We’ll figure it out.  We’re going to raise and sell succulents.

I’m keeping progress photos.

The nursery was abandoned more than a decade ago, when cut rose growing moved to Central America, so there’s work to do.The goats are important members of the team.

goats at workpost goatsweed block down!





Stay tuned.  We plan to open on September 5th.

The new book

DSCN0904I’m still working on The Earthen Corral.  I thought I’d finish it by Christmas 2012, but that was before the wreck of the Fjord Queen on October 13th. The clean-up (both physical and bureaucratic) took much longer than expected and before it was complete, Barry nearly electrocuted himself.  I was buying pumpkin for a Thanksgiving pie when I got the call from a deputy sheriff. Barry was in a coma for a week, but eventually made a full recovery.  Other life events have conspired to keep me from finishing the book, but now I’m getting back to it.  I’ve missed it.

Enjoy this short excerpt:

The Earthen Corral

Prologue July 12, 1851

Francisco Guerrero met Francois Le Bras, the man who would kill him, at the corner of First and Market. Guerrero was leading a friend’s bay horse to the mission, where he planned to spend the night. Eye witnesses said he encountered La Bras walking on the plank road and generously offered the diminutive man, who was thought to have a-little-something-wrong-in-the-head a ride on the bay.

They traveled amicably at a trot for ten blocks before the pair sped to a gallop. “It appeared”, one woman said, “that the men were racing.” Others described a sort of “scuffle” with the riders whipping each other’s horses and perhaps each other. Minutes later Guerrero slumped forward and then fell.

Le Bras rode on, and boarded the horse at a near-by stable. The next morning, when he tried to sell it, he was arrested by the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, a newly formed public-spirited group determined to clean up the city. They had hung a man the month before, for stealing a safe.

The investigation revealed considerable blood tracked along Guerrero’s path, suggesting he’d been injured before the fall. It appeared that the first blow, at the top of the hill, broke the skin. The attending physician stated that Guerrero had several injuries to the head, “probably from a club”. The coroner found that “Guerrero came to his death from blows inflicted with a deadly weapon.” These experts concluded the death was not an accident.

But the Committee did not administer their swift justice. They quickly concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine La Bras’ innocence or guilt. They turned him over to the regular authorities. He was tried for murder four months later and found not guilty. Some say the proceeding was hastily brought and poorly conducted. Neither physician – that had examined Guerrero – was called to testify. Historians believe that someone got away with murder.

Help fund WWII Home Front History Exhibits.

Cropped Cover for Malloy jpegProceeds from the sale of “Wax” will help fund new exhibits at Rosie the Riveter/ WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Click on the “Buy Books” link in the top menu bar.

“Wax” tells the story of a young woman who struggles to conform to post-war expectations of marriage and family. The Rosie the Riveter Trust has sold the book in the Rosie the Riveter/ WWII Home Front National Historical Park visitor center store since it opened, and  I’m grateful for their support. Now it’s time to give back. All proceeds from the sale of the print version of “Wax” – through this website or the National Park bookstore – will be donated to the Rosie The Riveter Trust in support of exhibit development.

Many hands make light work.


To everyone who helped: combing the beach for rubble, cutting wood and metal, loading sleds and sacks, toting loads, offering kind words, strong hands, and so much heart (not to mention homemade cookies): A very big THANK YOU!! The day was a huge success, with a fifty member human chain moving 9000 lbs of shipwreck.  She was loaded for transport by 2:30. Both tanks were removed as well as all the boat debris that made it to the beach.

Hopefully there is a crane in our future, that will lift the engine, transmission and ballast.  Stay tuned.



The Fjord Queen on the Rocks

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 4:00 hours, the captain of the F/V Fjord Queen was ordered to leave her trapped on the rocks at Ross’ Cove.  He’d gone aground at 2:30, and  after a ninety minute struggle to right the ship, was taking on water.  The Coast Guard and other emergency responders were there to assist.

Barry called to say he’d be swimming from the reef to the shore, but didn’t say exactly where he was.  The cell phone went dead.

I drove a pre-dawn stretch of Highway 1 north of the hail port a few times before heading to the harbor master’s office for specifics.  As expected, the place was deserted. A sheriff’s deputy came by on shift change and filled me in.  Barry was coming back from the fishing grounds when he fell asleep.

Fatigue, no exhaustion, is common among fishermen. They hate to miss a good fishing day; they see the season as a window of limited opportunity.  Barry was trying to squeeze in one more tuna trip – to sell fresh albacore off the boat during Pumpkin Festival weekend.

The cove where the Queen is waiting to break, is below Pillar Point Air Station; the reef break beyond is the famous Maverick’s big wave surf spot. There will be a volunteer beach clean-up day very soon – we are expecting gale force winds this weekend.

Barry said the worst part of the incident was telling the old fisherman who’d built the boat that he’d put her on the rocks.  He removed the captain’s wheel and presented it to Arnie with his very deep felt regret.  The octogenarian smiled and told Barry he was more worried about him.  And then when he was leaving suggested that Barry form a quartet – with others that have run aground – called the Beached Boys.

To follow the story of a fisherman getting back on his feet, see

One Year Later

A year after its publication, a reviewer in Canada wrote this about “Wax.”  Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a sequel!

WAX, by Therese Ambrosi Smith, is a story inspired by Rosie the Riveter and the women who stepped up, and into the industrial void that was left when practically an entire generation of American men went away to war. They became silent partners in the war effort, the cogs and the gears of the American war machine, and without their efforts the solid foundation, upon which the war was being fought, would have crumbled.

Waitresses, sales girls, and homemakers, these women braved the unknown to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and end up learning that they were never small to begin with.

By setting the novel during a time in American history when women were encouraged to step out of the kitchen, literally and metaphorically, and into roles that they would never have been allowed to pursue during peacetime, Smith challenges her characters, and readers, to question the very nature of gender limitations, and expectation.

The war effort itself could easily have become a major character in this novel but, instead, Smith does a magnificent job of simply placing the story, and its characters, in an historically, and emotionally, relevant context. She recognizes how much potential there is for character growth in her chosen setting and uses that as a vehicle to take her characters places they normally wouldn’t have gone; making them see things in themselves that would have otherwise stayed hidden beneath their mother’s hand-me-down aprons.

And then, just as the characters adjust to their new realities as welders, painters, and dozens of other normally male-dominated professions, with financial and emotional independence, the war ends and these women are expected to somehow fit themselves back into their old lives and expectations.  That is where the novel really spreads its wings and starts to fly.

The relationships these characters have with each other, and with themselves, are so real and honest that they jump from the page, and make you care about them as though they were long-cherished friends. I found myself in every character in this book, their fears and their joys, their ambitions and their self-doubt―these characters cry and breathe and laugh, and hold a mirror up to our own era, with its lingering biases and  judgements.

While this time in American history is, undoubtedly, significant in a thousand ways, I probably would not pick up a textbook to read about it. I want to read about people. The stories and characters within historical fiction often seem provided simply as a pretext for teaching people about the chosen historical era.  What delighted me about WAX is that Therese Ambrosi Smith uses the era to the teach the characters and the reader about themselves.

Touching and funny, with good pacing, and amazing characters, WAX is a novel that only disappoints in that it ends too soon, and doesn’t have a sequel waiting in the wings.

J.P. Layberry Allbooks Review Int.

Therese Ambrosi Smith
Aug. 2012

The cat’s name is Loofie.

NavicatI met Alice “Loofie” Aloof in 1995 at the Juneau pound.  Eagles thin the stray cat population in Alaska; there were only four felines awaiting adoption.  Loofie stood out because she had no interest in us.  She was trying to figure out how to unlatch the cage.  While other cats napped, she was planning an escape.

She was a young adult cat when she moved in and took over. The only history the shelter could share came from the property manager who’d brought her in after a tenant had left her behind.  He guessed she’d been in the apartment alone for four days.

Perhaps it’s because she was abandoned, but she likes to come on trips. She attracts lots of attention at rest areas, walking around on leash.  Pet friendly Motel 6 is her accommodation of choice.

Cat of the RoadRecently Loofie joined me at a Bob’s Beach Books event in Lincoln City Oregon.  I was there to sign books, but Loofie got all the attention.  Everyone who visited opened the conversation with “What’s your cat’s name?”

She’s a senior citizen now, but  still a charmer –  tolerant of  excessive petting from children (and adults too).  I heard  sad tales from cat aficionados  who’d recently lost beloved pets. They came to see Loofie for their “kitty fix”. She did not disappoint.