Sunday, October 08, 2017

House Project: Custom Kitchen Island!

I can't be the only one with this problem.

My house is a number of decades old now, and one of the things I have always liked about it is its open floor plan in the kitchen and dining area. At some point, the previous owners knocked out the wall separating the tiny galley kitchen from what was then the living room. When we moved in, it was logical for us to make that ex-living room into our dining area. My stepfather put in a chandelier to light the space, and it's been great.

Except for the lack of cupboards and counters.

The problem with knocking out that wall is that we lost all that storage and food prep space. We have been living with a tiny kitchen island which worked well when we moved into our first apartment together. We also didn't have a dishwasher, and after a big holiday dinner, we always had an overflow of dishes. Then we got a portable dishwasher, which, while adding a bit of "counter" space, just sat in our kitchen looking out of place.

For years, I have hunted the Internet for a kitchen island (or a kitchen island plan) that makes a portable dishwasher (which you can pull out and hook up to your sink tap) look like a built-in.

There is no such monster.

Not to be denied, I started sketching. After much discussion and many years of back-burnering the plan, we are finally, finally building the kitchen island I have always wanted. Lumber Liquidators had the perfect size butcher block top, already cut, to fit the island I designed. So nice of them to read my mind like that!

Hubby set to work hashing out the measurements to fit what I needed it to do. He and our son industriously sawed, drilled, painted, and stained, and this is the end result. The butcher block has to be treated several times with a food-grade mineral oil, but the nice thing about it is you can cut and prep food right on the surface, and butcher block is far less expensive than stone or granite (and weighs a lot less, too, for which I'm sure our floors are grateful).

Wanna know the best part? Some of this lumber was sitting unused in our shed. It's made with T1-11 - the same stuff we used to build our shed! It looks beautifully rustic, like shiplap. I will have to buy some taller counter stools (bar height), but I love it. What do you think? Do my boys get a gold star?

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Getting With the Times (E-Commerce)

I'm happy to announce that I will now offer the option of credit card payments at my book signings via the Square card reader (including chip cards!). This will allow readers to pay any way they like at my signings, so you can enjoy my books your way! I'll be rolling this feature out at my signing on October 21st at Baldwinsville Public Library, where I will be signing books 12:00pm-3:00pm EST with many, many local authors. It's also a great chance to grab some yummy free chocolate and enter for a shot at my giveaway:

This sweet little gift box comes packed with goodies for the writer in your life, even if it's just jotting down a quick note or items for the grocery list!

Join us October 21st for a chat on writing, then browse our books while enjoying some chocolate. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Theater Review: The Three Musketeers

I have yet to be disappointed by Syracuse Stage's performances. Of the several I have seen, I have always found something to like, and even love, about them. Theater is an ephemeral and intimate art, more so than film or books. Each performance will be slightly different, building on and reacting to the mood and response of its audience. It's a symbiotic magic where the viewer gets to help shape the play as it is being acted out.

Set Magic

No less wonderful are the set designs. As theaters go, Syracuse Stage is a smallish venue, with its largest stage, Archbold Theater, comprising some 499 seatsbut the scale of their plays is impressive. So it was with The Three Musketeers, adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, and directed by Robert Hupp. The set is so intricate and beautiful that it is, itself, a character in the play. It features a gorgeous pair of staircases with a pavilion on top and two doors at the bottom. Rather than intensive set changes between scenes, the play relies on prop changes against this backdrop to instill a new sense of atmosphere for each scene. The beauty of a well-done set is its ability to help tell the story without anyone saying a word, and it's my favorite thing about theater. You have to see this set to believe it.

The Talent

I was pleased to see Matthew Greer (Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery) as Athos, and he is as excellent in his role and onstage presence in "Musketeers" as he was in playing Holmes. Travis Staton-Marrero debuts at Syracuse Stage in his performance as D'Artagnan, a young Frenchman longing to join the famed Musketeers. He does a terrific job, and he bounds around the set with such gusto that my knees hurt just watching him. Don't forget to keep an eye on Claro Austria (Planchet), who very nearly stole everyone else's thunder.

A Sneak Peek

Before the play, I was privileged to hear director Robert Hupp speak about the moving parts that go into such a big production. Each actor has to be licensed in stage combat, an important consideration when one is lunging around at another person with a sharp, pointy object. The result of such training is a fight scene in which several pairs of actors whirl around the stage, battling madly, without unintentionally hurting one another. It makes for exciting action, and the only wounds are those incurred in the fictional storyline. Take a look!

The Three Musketeers runs September 20th-October 8th.Tickets are a reasonable $20.00-$53.00, depending on show features, time, and day of performance.

REVIEW: 4 of 5 stars

Exclusive Book Signing Giveaway (10/21/17)!

It's book signing time again! This month, I'll be at Baldwinsville Public Library with many other authors for a great big party, and you're invited!

Join me and my fellow authors 12:00pm-3:00pm EST for a discussion about writing, as well as treats and giveaways for you and your friends. Come visit me at my table for a chance to win this pretty keepsake box filled with goodies for the writer in your life:

This keepsake box contains notecards, a magnetic memo pad, a notebook, pencils, and chocolates to sweeten your fall season. No purchase is necessary. Just visit me to fill out a ticket for your chance to take this pretty prize pack home. The winner will be drawn at random, and must be present at the end of the book signing. Hope you can make it, because it's going to be a great time!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Exclusive Book Signing Giveaway (9/27/17)!

The fall book signings are here! For my September 27th book signing at Mexico Public Library, I'm giving away the scent of autumn. Come visit me 6:30pm-8:30pm EST and enter to win a 3.7-oz jar of Yankee Candle's Spiced Pumpkin scent!

The giveaway is absolutely free. Just come in, fill out a ticket, and be present at the end of the signing to take your candle home. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Notes From the Garden

It's mid-August, and I can already feel autumn on the horizon. Central New York got a lot of rain this spring and summer. My vegetable garden is thriving (tomatoes galore and zucchini for days!), and my plants and flowers are showing me just what a wildlife habitat is all about.

I have never tried growing zucchini before, but with our family's discovery that we love zucchini noodles ("zoodles"), we decided to give it a try. They do like lots of water. Make no mistake: if you let them get away from you, as we did, you will find yourself with zucchini that are a foot and a half long, and they will keep on going if you don't cut them (or until the squash borers find them). The one on the far right is the size they are supposed to be at harvest, a nice, tender inch and a half in diameter. Meanwhile, my grape tomatoes have exploded, and are still cheerfully producing as many as we can eat. We have planted our beefsteak tomato plants too close together, so they aren't getting as large as I'd like, but they are producing some delicious, meaty snack-size tomatoes. As I harvested, a bumblebee visited the new flowers. (I made sure to thank him. 😉) Next year, we plan to expand our garden, space out our plants more, and maybe install some new vegetable varieties. This year was for fun and practice! Tomatoes are so good right off the plant, still warm from the sun.


Meanwhile, my butterfly garden has been playing host to all sorts of insects. The crickets serenade us each evening. Honeybees are enjoying my purple coneflower. I never use pesticides on my property, so I'm thrilled to have them visit in the hope that someone, somewhere, is benefiting from the delicious honey they provide (even if it's just the bees themselves!).


This evening, to my delight, I found a Cherry-Faced Meadowhawk Dragonfly resting on my tall phlox. He was hard to miss, being 2-1/2" to 3" in length. Most dragonflies seem to be rather skittish, but this fellow was clearly not bothered when I got right up close to him to snap a photograph on my phone.

I had thought my swamp milkweed was a goner, but it has managed to surprise me with a couple of hardy plants, one of which is now in bloom. It has been a great spring and summer for the gardens. My sedum is beginning to bud in preparation for fall bloom, and I'll be back with more pictures. See you soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guest Author: Leanna Sain!

Welcome back, readers. Today, I'm hosting Leanna Sain, author of romantic suspense and, I suspect, a kindred spirit. Leanna's newest book, HALF-MOON LAKE, is out today! Let's take a peek inside Leanna's writing life.

1) How did you get started in writing?

I'd never written more than short stories until the Fall of 2005. We were at a friend's house for a Halloween party and after dinner, we all grabbed flashlights for a moonlit hike to a spooky graveyard on a gravel road behind their house. It was when we were walking back that my flashlight landed on a gate to the right of the trail. This was a farm, so a gate wasn't an unusual sight, but this gate had no fence. It was just the gate, sitting all by itself at the edge of a pasture, and it struck me as odd.

"What's up with your gate?" I asked my friend, Lisa.

She shrugged. "Dunno. It was here when we bought the farm."

"Dum, dum, duuuummmm." I mimicked scary music, then spoke in my most mysterious voice. "The gate to nowhere..."

"Sounds like the name of a book. Why don't you write it?"

"Hmmm. Maybe I will."

That's how it started. My mind took off with the idea and when it was complete, I had my first novel, GATE TO NOWHERE, a time-travel story where the protagonist, Emma Franklin, steps through a rusty iron gate on a farm she'd just inherited from her grandmother, and winds up in 1827, where she changes history around.  And the stories just keep coming….

2) What interests/excites you most about your genre?

I love romantic suspense with a bit of magical realism. I love the fact that I can take something that isn't real, can't possibly happen, and make it believable. Add in a love story, sprinkle liberally with mystery and suspense, and it can't get any better than that!

3) Who or what is your favorite inspiration when writing?

My latest "inspiration" is my new series: GRITS (Girls-Raised-In-The-South). It's not your typical series with the same characters showing up in subsequent books. No, each of these books are "stand-alone stories," but each one is set somewhere in the South and features strong, creative GRITS in some sort of suspenseful situation. I like to try to somehow tie the books together with one or more of the characters from others I've written, intriguing readers rather than confusing them. And for those who have read the previous books, it creates a nice little "remember?" touch.

4) Tell us about your latest book.

New from Leanna Sain

When Kathryn Dorne is summoned to Half-Moon Lake for the reading of her father's will, she discovers a shocking truth: everything in her life—including her name—is a lie.

Learning that her name is Katelyn Eubanks is only the first surprise. Second, she had an identical twin sister who drowned at the age of nine. Since Katelyn can't remember anything prior to that age, it seems more than mere coincidence. The biggest surprise is that her father, a man she never knew existed, left his entire estate to her, enraging other would-be heirs.

With her unremembered but closest childhood friend, Levi, as well as help from the estate's deaf-mute gardener and the outspoken cook, Katelyn searches for answers to questions that have plagued her all her life, but doing so opens the proverbial Pandora's box.  As her memories return, so does the terrible danger she escaped fifteen years earlier.

5) Please share with us the first paragraph of your latest work.

I awakened to the sound of my own scream. Breathless, heart pounding, pajamas drenched in sweat, I was desperate, clawing at the tangle of sheets wrapped around me.

About Leanna Sain

North Carolina native Leanna Sain earned her BA from the University of South Carolina, then moved back to her beloved mountains of western NC with her husband. Her “Gate” books have stacked up numerous awards, from Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year to the Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians. Sain’s fourth novel, WISH, is a stand-alone YA crossover.

Her Southern romantic suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven method of writing that successfully rolls the styles of best-selling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon into a delightfully hybrid style that is all her own. Regional fiction lovers and readers who enjoy suspense with a magical twist will want her books.

She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her, visit the links below.

Buy HALF-MOON LAKE at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, or The Wild Rose Press

Find Leanna on the Web:

Website and Blog: