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!