Thursday, August 17, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Raleigh Recap, In Words and Links

Monday, August 31, 2015

Raleigh Recap, In Words and Links

This blog became poignant in the retelling. Rebekah took so many photos and videos, Sarah and I backed off, figuring we could share. Last night, while attempting to upload said videos and photos, Rebekah's phone wiped her SD card clean.

Yes, that's right. Most of our pictorial summary of our trip is permanently gone. And now, the recap.

We had just claimed baggage at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (, and I had just swallowed my anitbiotic when Sarah and Lucas appeared, with Lucas running excitedly up to greet us.

BTW, this is what caused the antibiotic reaction: Apparently, even topical alcohol (in lotions, slathered over the body). I stopped using such topical products when I started the drug, but seeing that I had already applied them that day...well, not a fun reaction. But we fixed it.

After lunch at Papa's Pizza & Subs ( and a walk with Lucas to buy some much-needed coffee at the nearby by Sola Coffee Café  ( and bring it back to restaurant, we went grocery shopping, and then past her former house on Waterbury Lane so I could envision it, and then back to Sarah's for a tour of her beautiful manufactured and very open house in the woods.

BTW, Sola has fantastic atmosphere, and it's one of my to-go places when I return to Raleigh. Another BTW: Each and every time we stopped somwhere for coffee for me (after the first day, it was always Starbucks because it was always nearby whereever we were at), Lucas tried conning the counter person out of an iced coffee. It became our predictable ritual.

During dinner preparations, I played ping-pong with Lucas. After dinner, Lucas, Sarah, Rebekah, and I played Chutes and Ladders, the first time I had played Chutes and Ladders with the girls in a VERY long time. ;)

On Saturday, we went Good Will hopping to two stores (and "hiding" stuff on the racks at closing time for the next day), stopping to have lunch at Subway.

More on the fun of Good Will hopping with Sarah and Rebekah (and only with Sarah and Rebekah) on a later post.

Later that evening, we took a walk down the Neuse River Trail ( behind her house, with Lucas riding his bike, stopping at Poole Road to turn around because it was getting dark. Sarah promised we would go farther next time. Sarah said it was supposed to the longest connecting trail either in the state or in all fifty states, when it's finished.

On Sunday, we attended All Saints Antiochean Orthodox Church (
 and back to Good Will to try on the stuff we hid the previous day. Then we went to Triangle Town Center
( checked out items we could not get at Good Will, and then decided Wal-Mart had the better deal (although we did buy a box of Cinnabons to take home. At Wal-Mart, Lucas gave me a ride on a shopping cart, and we also bought his school supplies.

On Monday, we went to the Atlantic Ocean:  Johnnie Mercer Pier Pier at Wrightsville Beach ( Having been married to two husbands that are afraid of water, I have  not been in a swimming pool or any body of water since my teens, so this part was extremely important to Sarah, as I love water very, very much.

BUT, I am allergic to the UVA rays in sun, and this particular antibiotic increased sun sensitivity (naturally). So I happily lay under the awning, read Bryony, and listened to the waves, while everyone else frolicked in the water. At five o'clock, I reslathered the sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide blocks UVA) and headed to the water.

The first wave washed over me when Sarah yelled out, "Something bit me!" I thought she was joking, but that Rebekah and then several people around us echoed that. We collected Lucas, scampered from the water, and surmised the girls had been stung by jellyfish. Sarah produced a credit card, scraped their legs to remove the stinger, and broke camp quickly, with the help from one very kind man.

Off we went to Medac quick care ( for treatment and vinegar soaks, with me reassuring Lucas that his mother wasn't going to die, and Lucas trying to sell Bryony to the staff. I felt badly that the girls had been stung; Sarah felt badly that I didn't have time in the water.

Sidebar: We learned at quick care that the staff treat several jellyfish stings a day (one woman before us had run in screaming), and that the tide brings them in around five o'clock (figures). We had thumped ourselves on the head for not deciding to pack overnight bags, and I had already envisioned myself getting up early in the morning, before everyone was awake, for a nice dip in the ocean before the sun's rays could hurt me. Well, we learned at quick care that also would have been a bad idea. The sharks are out until nine a.m.

Then it was home for reading (me) and TV and vinegar soaks for the girls.

On Tuesday, we went to the Buffalo Road Aquatic Center ( We were supposed to attend Lucas' family-style Taekwondo class later that night, but after playing on the three-story water slide, in the vortex, chasing each other in the lazy river, and water basketball, Lucas really needed some down time, so had a mellow evening.

On Wednesday, after watching Dirty Dancing (which I had never seen), all the while musing on the fact that I was watching a favorite movie of both my daughters, we went to Waffle House (where Lucas bought me a Waffle House coffee) and then to return Lucas' Nintendo DS at Toys R Us.

While there, Lucas really, really, really wanted the new Sonic Colors game. He 'bout fell over when I offered to buy it for him by saying, "Merry Christmas." Except for mice creams (, and our annual St. Nicholas drawing, I have never bought him a present.

Next on the agenda was bowling at Buffalo Lanes North, where Lucas celebrated his eighth birthday (as we were leaving, Sarah's former dance teacher Mary Ann Corcoran called, apologizing that she didn't call in time for my storydeadline. I interviewed her that night, added her to the story (, and she and Sarah spent some time catching up), and Goodberry's Frozen Custard.

At Goodberry's Lucas and I went searching the strip mall parking lot for loose change to throw into the wishing well. We found none, Lucas got bored, so Sarah supplied the change, and we made wishes. We walked off the ice cream by walking down to Neuse River Trail to Anderson Point Park (, which is beautifully open, landscaped, and has this really quaint retreat house for community events and for rent.

On Thursday, the original plan was roller skating. However, Lucas seemed like he needed a quiet day. So
took a ride to see the Sarah's first Raleigh home on Upchurch Subdivision on Jordan Road. We parked in a former neighbor's driveway (with permission), walked to the woods (where there are old graves from the Hobby family from the nineteenth century) behind her old house and then over to the playground, where there was a boy playing, the first time ever, Sarah said.

Lucas invited the boy to come with us to Lake Benson Park in Garner (, where we were gong to have lunch. The boy's mother, just a couple years younger than I and from the Ukraine, was wary, as she did not know us, but that was not the case an hour later. We talked, friended each other on Facebook, and left with her promising Sarah to send an invitatino to her son's birthday party, which would be held the first part of September.

Amongst all this, I also called Joliet Regional Airport for one last source to this story (, as everyone I needed to contact was on vacation.

We then went to Lake Benson Park, had a picnic lunch in the pavilion, and then walked by the lake, where Lucas showed off his proficiency at skipping rocks. We walked through the woods, checked out the turtles, and then went to Pullen Park, founded in 1887 ( and then rode a carousel built in 1912.

We rode the carousel, invited three boys playing at the park to ride then train with us, and then went to Lucas' school to meet his teacher. That night, after filing the story, te girls and I went to Rum Runners (, the little piano bar that Sarah loves and where she spent at least one of her birthdays.

The girls, heads together, sent up requests. The guys' styles reminded me of Elton John's Get Back, Honky Cat, which the younger pianist sent to the older one, as he was unfamiliar with it. Old people's music? I guess.

A stripper from the bar next door thought Sarah and I were twins...but she and I, Rebekah and I, and she and Rebekah heard that everywhere we went. Too funny!

Afterwards, we had a later dinner at Woody's (, which served the tenderest chicken strips anywhere. I am such a kid!

On Friday, Sarah's husband took part of the day off so we could go to Falls Lake in Wake Forest and Durham ( We drifted past the place they camp, swam, ate lunch, zipped around, and went tubing, my first time and tons of fun. Next year, Sarah said it will be wakeboarding. Can't wait!

The afternoon ended earlier than we would have liked because Sarah had to be at Lucas' school before four o'clock in order to sign him up for before-school care. We talked to his teacher again, and then Sarah and I reviewed her wish list. Sarah took some items, and I pulled "stickers."

Then we cleaned up and headed over to The Pit Authentic BBQ ( for a rib and brisket dinner...and some outstanding collard greens! This was the ride where Lucas and I sat in the back seat watching the video to one of his favorite songs (

Sometime I ate caused me to flush and my heart to race; we think it was the jalapenos in appetizer cornbread, a normal reaction, except mine was extreme and put the only damper on the entire week.

However,that was nothing to the seizure the man at the next table had to us. The paramedics were called, poor man, although he appeared to be stable when they left. I hope everything turned out okay.

Back at the house, Sarah and Co. opened up their St. Nicholas gifts that had gone through a shipping mishap. Too keyed up to sleep that night, we left the house at five-thirty the next morning for the return flight home. I was extremely sorry to leave so soon, but the realization of something struck me in those wee hours of no sleepand filled me with elation.

I'll explain Wednesday...along with why I pulled "stickers."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Stubborn Stance Towards Marketing

As I gradually build the marketing portion of the BryonySeries, I'm still stubbornly stuck on several points.

1) No "spammy" posts or gimmicky sales pitches. Never.

2) Marketing is about making one's unique writing footprints known, which may lead to sales and ultimately readers and fans of the series. Delight in the walk.

3) Curate content that relates to the BryonySeries because "like" follows "like."

4) It's about the reader. It's always about the reader. The books are dedicated to the reader. 

5) Put your very, very best work out there and be confident (not arrogant) in it.

6) If you like someone else's work, share it. Everything isn't always about you. It could be just the "read" someone in your network is seeking, and it takes nothing from you to be kind.

7) Be social with readers, potential readers, or followers. How I wish I could have communicated with the authors of my favorite childhood books.

8) If someone doesn't care to read your books or doesn't like your books, it's not a personal slight. It means someone didn't care to read your books or didn't like your books, which leads to...

9) No pity sales. No one I know should ever, EVER, feel pressured to buy something I wrote because I wrote it. That's how books collect dust. Books are meant to be read. 

10: No speaking fees. I'm not for sale. My books are. If fees are part of the process, make checks payable to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

11) THE EXCEPTION: Pity sales and gimmicky pitches are fine when it come to pitching the official BryonySeries cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony." Because proceeds (about half the cost, the other half is to order another book) benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. So even if that book gathers dust, the organization is still helped. But seriously, it's money well-spent if you find even one recipe you enjoy (you have to cook tonight anyway). And where else can you find a cookbook featuring both Victorian and 1970s recipes?

Buy it HERE.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Author Interview: Holly Coop (inspirational poetry, original photography, greeting cards)

I am a picky reader, especially when it comes to fiction and poetry. I start (and dump) many books and recommend few.

Here's one I recommend.

I love Holly Coop's poetry.

It's not vintage and dark (which I love); it's not structured in complex layers (which I love); and it's not full of corkscrew metaphors (the reason I love another poet's work in WriteOn Joliet).

Rather it's full of simple wisdom, the kind one already knows. But Holly has a way of drawing the reader's attention to a focused point of that simple wisdom in a way that uplifts and inspires. I only own her first book, but I've read it one poem at a time as "spiritual food" for the day.

Yes, she's a member of WriteOn Joliet, but that's beside the point. Although without the group, I would never have read her poetry. Now you have the chance, too.

Here's a bit about Holly and her books, as well as where to buy them and follow her.

1) Tell us a bit about your books.

My first book “A Cup of Inspiration to Go Please - My Heart Runneth Over” is a collection of short inspirational poems and quotes. They focus on the simpler aspects of life, blessings in nature and the observance of those blessings.

My second book “Heart Strings - Forever Wanderer” is also a collection of poetry but with a more romantic flare. Celebrating and exploring, the emotional ups and downs of love, heartache, and desires of the heart.

2) Why did you compile them?

Over the years I have accumulated quite a bit of poetry and various writings, most of which can be found in binders, boxes, in-between pages of various books I’ve read, on little scraps of paper, napkins, and pretty much anything within my quick reach when a stream of words, thoughts, and ideas would come out of nowhere bubbling out of my mind via pen in hand. So originally I wanted to organize my writing collection into book volumes to leave for my kids someday when I’m gone. It was either that or everything tossed out someday by my non-hoarding brood - lol. But then I found myself looking back at poems I had written and drawing comfort from reading them whenever I was faced with difficult times. It occurred to me that maybe others would find comfort in my poetry as well. So I decided to put some collections together. I have quite a few planned.

3) Why did you illustrate them, too?

Well all of my poetry has a deep connection to my own soul and the photos and images I used to compliment my books come from my own photo collections. So the connection is there throughout the books. Most all of the photos are of my own family, pets, places we have visited, memories, and nature.

4) When did you start writing poetry?

I have always made up little songs for as long as I can remember. But it was mostly after my dad passed in 1994 that I started writing a lot of poetry. It serves as an emotional release for me and is very therapeutic. 

5) What type of poetry do you enjoy writing and why?

I write mostly inspirational / spiritual pieces, motivational quotes and daily life observances.

6) Why do you feel poetry is the best way to convey your message?

It speaks to hearts. I think it is vital in this life that we leave a good measure of positive energy. If a person can take away something good after meeting you, you are on the right track. A kind word, a smile, a thoughtful gesture can make all the difference in another persons day and in your own. You can literally see a person’s spirit lifted when you pass along a kind word, especially when they are experiencing a bad day. That’s what I hope my poetry does for those who read it.

7) What type of poetry do you enjoy reading and why? Who are your favorite poets and why?

I really love the writings of Helen Steiner Rice. Her poetry is very approachable. I also enjoy poetry that is completely out of the box, which makes your mind work for it (so to speak). We have some wonderful poets in our writing group who write the most interesting pieces that can be taken in various ways.

8. Are you strictly a poet or do/would you like to write short stories, essays or a novel?

I hope to someday write a mystery novel(s) or short story. I have two - four started.

9) Where do you draw your inspiration?

First of all God! He is my co-writer or I should probably say I am His. I get very inspired during my morning prayers and meditation time, and when I spend time with nature. I write a lot while puttering in the garden or while on a long walk. Driving too! Lots of inspiration comes to me while driving.

10) And you have a greeting card line, too?

Yes, I have a shop on Etsy. I offer greeting and notecards, bookmarks, business card design, as well as my books.

(Please add any final thoughts, upcoming events, website, Etsy site and social media sites, along with a jpg photo of you and both your books. Thanks!

Thank you so much for allowing me this time to share my story. I have several author fairs and festivals that I plan on participating in this fall.

Upcoming events include:

September 30th 10am - 4pm (tentatively)
Author Fair at the White Oak Library District - Crest Hill, IL

October 7th 9am - 1pm
Oswego Library Fest - Oswego, IL

October 14th Beginning at 11am with an Author Fair
Plainfield Library Indi Author's Day - Plainfield, IL,
I will be doing many area festivals this fall as well - details TBA.

I am also involved in the Romeoville Art Society and will be submitting in its season-long (August - May) Image and Poetry Contest hosted by White Oak Library District - Romeoville Branch. The contest is open to the public, and submissions are voted on, by the public. Each month is a different theme. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy participating in it.

Visit me at:

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter at @writerbeeme and @hollycoopbooks

My third book “Locks of Love – a book of encouragement” is due out early this fall.

Thank you ~Holly Coop

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sue's Diner: Apple Pudding (and variations)

When Melissa and her family arrived in Munsonville, they stopped for lunch at Sue’s Diner on Main Street, a dingy, squat-looking gray building with surprisingly good food. They ordered apple pudding for dessert, a recipe first published in the Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE

A few comments before you begin. This recipe is a good example where Rebekah and I, baking in the twenty-first century, tried to understand what nineteenth century Bohemian Marie Rosicky had in mind with this recipe. Meaning, we prepared it three times trying to get it right. We're still not completely pleased and will probably try again.

Here's some photos of our progress. 

 Here is the entire apple pudding, out of the oven and cooled.

But as you can see, the result is dry, with the apples as an afterthought. So we tried again.

 In our second go-around, we increased the apples, slightly decreased the flour, and layered the two. This was better, but still a little dry.

In our third attempt, we decreased the flour a bit more, but underestimated the baking time with the decreased flour, which produced a mushy pudding in places.

I feel apple pudding number three might be closest to my expectations, so I do plan to try it again: more apples, less flour, layers, and keeping a careful watch on the baking time.

Happy baking (and eating!)

 From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at


Friday, August 11, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Aug. 6 through Aug. 11

Yesterday I had a nice lunch with interns Jessie Spangler and Megan Schuller. Jessie's last official day at The Herald-News was yesterday, but Megan has another week. We had a fun time talking about life and writing, too, because both young women like to play with other types of writing, too.

I wish them much success in all their endeavors (writing and otherwise) and hope they do keep in touch.

To keep up with Megan, follow her on Twitter at @MeganSchuller26

To keep up with Jessie, follow her blog at

Last weekend, I didn't get much writing done, but Rebekah and I did rescue a hawk, so one can't really beat that. If you didn't catch them on the first go 'round, they are posted below.

And LOTS of stories this week. Now I know why I never made to working on deans and college graduates lists (And here I'd been thinking I was slovenly and disorganized).

Where to find stuff?

Local events: Health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

More local events: Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Community news: Again, under the sections tab, under features, and by topic. Updates are posted on these days in print and web and in web on other days as I have the time: Monday (pets), Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (arts and entertainment), and Sunday (people).

Daily updates: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

BryonySeries stuff: I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries. And assorted related content at

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Channahon blogger reaches over 1.2 million total views with this simple topic

Kyungran Feigel of Channahon began her blog at nine years ago to share American life with South Korean family and friends. Since that time, Feigel has made friends all over the globe and racked up over 1.2 million views.

"I'm interested in people. I like to help people," Feigel said. "Korean people think American people are rich like in Hollywood movies – lots of food and fancy clothes and living in big houses. I wanted to show real Americans, how ordinary Americans live."

An Extraordinary Life: Channahon man led with a servant's heart

Editor's note: On June 8, this man called to pitch a story about a blood drive. After our phone call, he sent photos, a news release, and contact information for sources. The day before I ran the story (almost a month later), I called his cell to add a few comments from him. His wife answered. He had died suddenly the day after he pitched the story.

“He was very ‘hands-on, take care of it yourself,'" Jill Walsh, office manager and pastor assistant at St. Ann Catholic Church in Channahon, said. "He got involved; he took care of things; he got people organized. He had meetings and got things done.”

Pets of the Week: Aug. 7

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted. Swipe photos to see more pets.

We rescued a red-tailed hawk this weekend

"Do hawks just hang around on the ground," Rebekah Baran, my 23-year-old daughter wanted to know.

AllenForce helps veterans, families feel inclusive despite barriers
By Megan Schuller

The first program was for veterans who had been injured or have a chronic illness, and it’s still running today

From our house to yours: two more summer desserts to try

Rebekah shared two more this week, easier to prepare, pretty when served. One is a berry parfait, which makes 6 to 10 servings. The other is a key lime tart with coconut cream and toasted coconut. This one makes 1 9-inch tart or about 75 miniatures, perfect for a large end-of-summer bash.

Ruby the red-tailed hawk's injury was no accident

"If it's hadn't been for your quick response, she would have died a slow and painful death," John Papach of Glendale Heights, licensed falconer and member of the Great Lakes Falconers Association, said.

This Joliet organization needs people 'to dig deep'

 "We just gave away 2,000 backpacks at our Back to School Fair in Will County," Kathleen Langdon, development and communications director at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet, said. "If that isn't a sign of need, I don't know what is. The need is great right now, so we really have a big ask out there for people to dig deep to see if they are able to help us a bit."

From Minooka musical theater to reporting on Broadway
By Jessie Spangler

“I think I got chosen because they were looking for someone who was charismatic and also funny. A lot of kids took it really seriously, and I took a looser route, which worked in my favor,” Nate Garner said.

Artworks: OUTDrejas two-time winner at Battle of the Bands in Joliet
By Jessie Spangler

“It was a really humbling experience, a lot of the best local talent in the area came out, and it was really cool to go up there and play our hearts out. It definitely made us feel good,” said David Drejas, lead singer and bass player of OUTDrejas.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Guest Post by Ken McGee: Summertime In Sunny Severnaya

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest Post by Ken McGee: Summertime In Sunny Severnaya

A member of WriteOn Joliet, this was Ken's rendition of an assignment for a topic simply called, "summer."

        Summertime In Sunny Severnaya
By Ken McGee

Taras Arkady rubbed his permanently stained dirty hand through his matted heavy black beard. He lay on his back under a thick goose-down comforter. The smell of freshly brewed coffee reached his nostrils. He absentmindedly reached out and felt Marat, his Siberian husky, lying next to him. When the sizzle of frying salo reached his ears, he moved out from under the comforter and sat on the edge of the thin mattress on the wooden bed frame. Marat jumped down and trotted into the cooking area only ten feet away on the opposite wall of the windowless, one-room dwelling. Taras groaned as he stretched his arms over his head. He turned back and forth in a vain effort to loosen the stiff muscles of his back. His neck cracked audibly as he bent his head to the side. He slipped his insulated boots over his thick woolen socks. The bed frame groaned as he lifted his 250 pounds and stood to his full height of six and a half feet.

Daria Zakhar turned around and waved her iron spatula at Marat. “You will get your share, but only after we have eaten.” Her breath hung in the air like a cloud of frozen dust.

Marat barked once, then sat on his haunches in strict obedience.

“This is the last of the coffee, Taras.”

“That it has lasted this long is indeed a surprise.” Taras grabbed his Mickey Mouse mug from the wooden shelf above the coal-fired stove. He poured a cup of the thick brew. He swallowed half of it as he put an arm around his six foot tall blonde companion. “I suppose I will have to make a trip into Severnaya soon.”

“It cannot be avoided much longer. We are down to our last bottle of Double Blow.”

“We cannot run out of vodka! Coffee I can live without, but not my vodka.” His laughter filled the room. “I will be back in a moment.” He grabbed his gloves and fur-lined parka.

“I tried to make it to the coal shed yesterday, but it was still blocked.” Daria held her hands over the stove in a futile attempt to keep them warm. “I could see most of it though.”

Taras opened the door and peered into the bright sunshine. He took ten steps into the wind. He looked around, then spat at a pesky weasel. His face registered surprise, so he spat again. He traced his footsteps back inside.

“Daria, I have good news.” His face beamed.

“What is it, Taras?”

“It must be summer because my spittle did not freeze until it landed on the snow.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Christmas: Aug. 6, 2017

Although we always celebrate Christmas, usually twice, we have not bought or opened gifts in quite a few years.

The reasons are many and complicated, but mostly because the resources of time, money, and transportation aren't available, so we've put extra focus on the meaning for the celebration.

But giving and receiving tokens of love is a great joy, one my daughter Rebekah really missed.

When she said so again this summer and hoped circumstances could be otherwise this year, I proposed, "Why wait? How about Christmas in July?"

Well, it took awhile before we could scheme the budget and gift ideas. Rebekah did the ordering. Some items were slow in arriving. Some of us are gone over sixteen hours some days.

So we waited until all items were shipped. Then Rebekah and I set a date of Aug.6. I wasn't on call, then boys had nowhere to be, etc. It was perfect.

Except the weekend fell apart. We missed church for the second week, and on the Transfiguration.

I had work that needed completing.

We rescued a hawk.

So Rebekah did most of the wrapping. She made a cardboard tree.

And among the chaos and the business, we set aside a quiet hour and brought out presents and shared their the unwrapping. Timothy and Daniel were surprised and liked their gifts.

Sort of reminiscent of Christ's birth, isn't it?

Anyhow, here are three gifts, all courtesy of Rebekah, and all Bryony-themed: a vintage pipe candle holder, a purple rose necklace, and a piano charm "pearl" bracelet.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Very little about this weekend went as planned.

Overall, it was more work and less recreation than I wanted or needed.

And yet, none of it was bad. Most of it was really awesome...except for stressing about not getting done the work I needed to get done and having to tackle other projects.

Which is silly because it always gets done.

All weekend and into this morning, I'm working on being thankful for the adventures and opportunities, to learn again and still how to "enjoy the roll."

 I'm looking at my schedule this week to see where to carve out some down time. Because that's important, too.

And being thankful for a job that allows this flexibility.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sue's Diner: Strawberry Ice Cream

 Ice cream was John Simons’ one, particular culinary weakness. Each lunch at Simons Mansion ended with a dish of it. This week's featured recipe, first published in Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy, is authentically Victorian and ridiculously easy to make.

Only three ingredients make a smooth ice cream full of fresh strawberry flavor, the best strawberry ice cream I've ever eaten. No fancy equipment is required.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at

Friday, August 4, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 30 through Aug. 4

Wait...what? The week is over? What have I accomplished? Especially when my mind is somewhere in Tuesday.

Mostly I just did my job, stuck to my fiction-writing routines, exercised, and either had trouble sleeping or passed out right away, but dragged all week. However, last week was pretty intense, sooo...

New thing: We are also making web versions/photos lists of stories now. Quick count: I believe I did about a dozen of those this week, too.

WriteOn Joliet last night, which always invigorates me, and the monthly fiction-writing workshop tonight. Topic: different ways to use flashback. Tomorrow:fasting blood work for my physical and afterward working on Before the Blood, although it sounds like that should come first.

Recap time:

Local events: Health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

More local events: Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Community news: Again, under the sections tab, under features, and by topic. Updates are posted on these days in print and web and in web on other days as I have the time: Monday (pets), Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (arts and entertainment), and Sunday (people).

Daily updates: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

BryonySeries stuff: I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries. And assorted related content at

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

'As long as I am reporting, I'll be happy'

10 questions with Herald-News intern Megan Schuller

Baran-Unland: How have your grown as a journalist this summer?

Schuller: For one thing real life experience is something that school can never teach, especially in a field like this. I continue to learn more each day about the subjects I write on, sources I speak to, area I am covering, writing style, etc. I've gained more confidence in my writing as well. Let me tell you: seeing your byline on newsstands across your hometown is a pretty surreal feeling.

'I like to be in charge of things'
10 questions with Herald-News intern Jessie Spangler

Baran-Unland: When, and why, did you decide to channel that passion into journalism?

Spangler: I first started thinking about journalism when I was 10, but didn't really start seriously thinking about it until my senior year of high school. I was really set on becoming a veterinarian for years, and didn't realize until senior year of high school that wasn't the right path for me. I figured I had a better chance at making the world better through writing because it's something I'm passionate about.

'This could happen to any family'
Joliet woman grieving her 22-month-old godson's drowning

Serena Magosky said Moore was a happy active toddler, very sweet and full of life, “a bright shining star.” Jenny called him “Nugget.” Serena said losing Moore is like losing her own child.

“I went to bed crying and I woke up crying,” Serena said.

An Extraordinary Life: New friendship solves old mystery
And a chance meeting provides a man-of-God mentor

"Albert told me each day that he prayed for me," Tom Grotovsky said in his eulogy. "I spoke to him almost every day at 8:10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. He was my blessing. I used to say 'Albert, you are God’s messenger to me. God uses your voice to speak to me in words I need to hear.'"

Pets of the Week: July 31

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

It took a car accident to get a diagnosis
Now Erika Fleck is using her knowledge to help Morris area residents

Fleck said she knew little about epilepsy when she was diagnosed. So she wants to raise awareness, too.

"One out of 26 people have epilepsy," Fleck said. "And 70 percent of people have no idea how they got it."

From our house to yours: Two elegant summer desserts

One is a panna cotta (an Italian custard with caramel syrup). The other, if you prefer something more complicated, is a chocolate cake with a passion fruit curd, topped with chocolate mousse, lime syrup, strawberry sauce and chocolate crunch.

She came from South Korea, eternity's on her mind

"I became a strong woman – spiritually – and I also became adjustable in a new environment," Rev. Hyo Sun Oh said. "It is kind of hard to move from church to church, but I became very flexible."

Never thought it could happen to me

For years I've teased my daughter Rebekah Baran about her love for Asian music, movies, dramas, variety shows, and animes. I've now embarked on an adventure into the popular entertainment of another continent. I'm not alone.

Turns out such entertainment is popular all over the globe.

A time to watch, a time to dance – in Plainfield

Altin Naska, owner of Plainfield Dance Academy, will host PDA's fourth Community Engagement Dance Series on that night. But don't write this off as a typical dance recital for students' family and friends. This is a real show for the community.

Three Rivers Festival aims to draw big crowd
By Allison Selk - Shaw Media Correspondent

This year’s festival runs Aug. 9 to Aug. 13, with family friendly events running morning into early evening and adult bands and beer garden into the later hours.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: The Silent Invader

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Silent Invader

On July 7, we had just returned from dollar bowling and were getting ready for bed when Rebekah, seventeen, showed me a bump near her thumb, just above her wrist.

"Look," she said. "Something bit me."

I looked, but couldn't identify the offender. It sort of resembled a mosquito bite. I doubted a wasp could have nailed without her knowing.

"And it itches."

I yawned and shut off the computer. "Put some CORTAID on it and go to bed. That should take care of it."

The next morning, Rebekah again showed me the bite. It was raised, red, and hard, about a quarter-size around the original bump. A fine, thin line was moving from the site across the back of Rebekah's hand. I called our doctor and asked Timothy, twenty, to run her in. I had to take my husband in the opposite direction to another procedure.

A couple of hours later, Timothy called back. The nurse practitioner that saw Rebekah had hesitated at prescribing an antibiotic, but Timothy, per my instructions, had insisted, just in case. Should he fill the Bacrtim?

"Yes," I said. "Get that first dose in her."

After I settled Ron back at home, I met the kids at the distribution center to help stuff inserts. Because we had such a late start, we were worked until ten o'clock that night. In the meantime, despite the Bactrim, Rebekah's redness slowly traveled away from the original site. The time came for Dose Two. We gave it to her. With a pen, I lightly marked the edges of the wound.

"If the redness moves past it," I said, "I'm taking her to the ER."

But the red stayed confined to its area. The next morning, the swelling had substantially decreased, and the red was fading to pink. We had won.

Or so we thought.

The Bactrim made Rebekah so nauseous, she had difficulty keeping it down. Worse, she had saved up for a four-day cooking class at Joliet Junior College for the following week. By day Tuesday, Rebekah was vomiting. I called the doctor's office and left a message.

"Stop the Bactrim," came the decree from the pipeline.

"She still has more to go," I said. "Should she have different antibiotic?"

"Is it still red?" the voice on the other end asked.

"Not at all," I replied. "It was gone by Day Two."

"Then she's fine. Let us know if it comes back."

It did, late Sunday morning, just before Divine Liturgy began. I had a sore throat, body aches, etc., and had fallen asleep in my desk chair when Rebekeh woke me up to inform me that Fr. Joseph had arrived and was beginning Proskimedia prayers.

"Look," she said, holding out her arm.

The bump was back.

"What the...." I sat upright and pulled her arm closer, shaking my head and examining the silent predator. "I don't like this. If it gets red, we're taking you into Quick Care."

By the end of services, the bump was not only red, a pink line was streaking across the back of her hand. The doctor at Quick Care gave Rebekah a prescription for Keflex and instructions to return if it grew worse.

"This time," he said, "finish the antibiotic. If it makes you sick, we'll switch it. You should have finished the course the last time."

That's what we had thought, too, but that's hindsight.

Rebekah obediently swalled Dose One of Keflex, applied hot compresses in an attempt to localize the infection, but waves of pink pushed away from its home and headed for her wrist. She took Dose Two at eight  o'clock that night, and we drove to the emergency department.

There, a doctor lanced the wound, surprised at the scant amounts of pus it produced, and added clindamycin, with instructions to return if it looked worse. We tumbled into bed at nearly midnight (We had to first deal with an electrical problem at home, oh joy!) and set the alarm at two-thirty for Keflex Dose Three. We had to be on the road with newspapers at four a.m.

When the appointed time arrived, my oldest son Christopher yelled up the stairs. He had found us a sub and paid for it, too!!! Yes, months of colic was well worth it. I fed the cats and fell back asleep.

That brings us to this morning. The redness has now reached her fingers. I have two interviews; Rebekah has a much-anticipated swim lesson. Dose Four of Keflex is in her system, as well as Dose Two of the clindamycin. After her lesson, I'll recheck the wound. If it's still moving, back to the ER we go.

So, what does this have to do with vampires?

Bryony's lead vampire, as a proper vampire, does not reveal himself at once. For weeks, he slithers around Melissa's world, dropping only the merest hints of his presence. Once he's in, even after it appears he has left, he's in with a Herculean grasp on Melissa's heart and psyche.

But you already knew that, didn't you. Else, why have an entire series?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Word Tics

A few days ago, a member of WriteOn Joliet posted this on our Facebook page.

It's an article about "words tics" or "word crutches" (oft-repeated words and phrases) that creep into our writing and online generators that can spot them.

With only so many combinations of letter characters combined with how our brain processes them, it's only natural writers (moi included) will repeat themselves.

In addition (or instead) of online tools, there's one good way to spot them: Be very, very familiar with your own work.

While writers can be too close to their work to be their only editor, reading, rereading, and reading your writing again and again will help you spot certain words, phrases, metaphors, comparisons, descriptions, etc. that repeatedly worm their way into your prose.

Cut them.

Rewrite them.

And here's a tip for avoiding them: Question any brilliant passage that instantly pops into your brain.

Chances are you've already used it (or a variation) somewhere.

Henry Matthews, BryonySeries writer, approves this message

Monday, July 31, 2017

Vocabulary and the Use of "Libation"

This past weekend, one of my sons shared some poetry and wisdom snippets he's writing with the goal of self-publishing them into a book (Yes, he's caught the bug).

So I shared a short chapter from Before the Blood. And he got hung up on the word "libation."

He didn't know its definition; he felt it made the reading hard; and he accused me of picking it at random from a thesaurus. I defended its use in the context: it said much in one word.

As writers, we should write succinctly: a single strong word appropriately placed has more impact than a string weak ones. But how strong should those words be? Do today's readers have a good understanding of broad vocabulary? And can they understand the subtext in certain word choices?

Readerly and writerly friends: Thoughts?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sue's Diner: Ham Surprises by James Onohan

Bryony doesn’t mention it, but when Melissa and her mother returned from their visit with Fr. Alexis, Steve and Brian had these sandwiches waiting for them.

Note: The recipe may work better with ham lunch meat, but we had leftover ham and used that.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at

For more information on James Onohan, visit

Friday, July 28, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July23 through July 28

A busy and jumbled week. A productive week. And heading into a working weekend.

Here's what I accomplished this week.

Local events: Health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

More local events: Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Community news: Again, under the sections tab, under features, and by topic. Updates are posted on these days in print and web and in web on other days as I have the time: Monday (pets), Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (arts and entertainment), and Sunday (people).

Daily updates: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

BryonySeries stuff: I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries. And assorted related content at

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Six days to remember: Plainfield teen only one in the state with this opportunity
By Megan Schuller

The program took place during defense week so Capitol Hill was busy that week James M. Durant IV said.

An Extraordinary Life: The poignant story behind this Joliet restaurant's unusual name

When the dream finally came true, Aisha Walker wasn't there to see it. She died three weeks before the grand opening on March 24, 2010.

Pets of the Week: July 24

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

Minooka woman is alive today because 32 strangers cared

Amy Lukasik is currently calling potential donors to schedule appointments for the councils' next blood drive on July 29 since she "can't give blood yet."

Channahon/Minooka Knights holding blood drive July 29

John Bukowski of Minooka is involved for two reasons. One may surprise you.

Mystery Diner: Joliet's Friaco's Restaurant & Cantina serves up authentic Mexican food

The appetizer menu has everything from a sampler platter ($14.99) to queso fundido ($9.99) to bruschetta ($8.99 or $10.99 with shrimp) but we were up for that. There are also several varieties of nachos ($8.49 for cheese only to $13.49 for fajita nachos).

Mystery Diner: Spicy options and taco special at Morris' Greenhorn Saloon & Eatery

The server was friendly and informed me immediately of the taco and margarita specials. Those will come in due time, I decided, but first I needed a drink and appetizer to start.

Brother Ed is back in Joliet – and here's why

Brother Ed Arambasich was just transferred to San Francisco to work with the poor when his kidneys failed.

Diagnosis: multiple myeloma. The kidneys recovered and then it was his turn.

"They asked me to come back home to the Midwest to be around my family and friends and get better," Arambasich said.

She's a little bit country – and now you can be, too

It took two and half a years to design the barn, from creating plans to finding the right Amish crew to build it, Katy Siegel said.

"We wanted that traditional look with wood pegs," Siegel said. "There were no power tools used. There were no screws used. It's gorgeous, like they used back in the day."

Artworks: Joliet music educator quarterfinalist for award
By Jessie Spangler 

If Charles Morgan wins, he will receive a grant for JJC and attend the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in New York.