Friday, September 30, 2011

"The Day is Done," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Another great poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882. The first time I ever heard this poem was on an episode of "Little Rascals." Alfalfa is trying to solemnly recite, while his friends are embellishing his words (I can never read the first few lines without seeing that feather float down).

However, my most favorite line of the entire poem is the first line of the last stanza: "And the night shall be filled with music." Love it!!!

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time,

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And tonight I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have a power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And comes like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Soup Powder

Cooling temperatures as we move into fall makes me long for homemade soup simmering on the back of my stove (Actually broke down and made sausage and bean soup the other day) and steaming up the windows.

This combination of herbs and seasonings sounds appealing. I'm wondering if I can persuade my chef-in-training to mix some up.

From "Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy."

Dry, pound, and sift the following ingredients together. Take one ounce of each, of lemon, thyme, basil, sweet marjoram, summer savory, and dried lemon peel, with two ounces of dried parsley, and a few dried celery seeds. Bottle it tight. Horseradish can be sliced thin, dried and pounded, and kept in a bottle for use. Mushrooms can be dried in a moderately warm oven, then powdered with a little mace and pepper, and kept to season soups or sauces.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meet Kristina Skaggs, author of "Dead Serious."

Kristina Skaggs, co-owner of Complete Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Joliet (, has the unparalleled honor of being the first writer to submit and publish a short story on Bryony's website.

Today, Kristina shares her writing history, inspiration, and goals. Read Kristina's story, "Dead Serious," at

1) Kristina, when did you begin writing and why?

"Primitively when I was four. I thought that the "Giving Tree" needed a sequel, so I scribbled it in the back of the book with crayons. I don't remember what I wrote because I didn't know how to write at the time, so it was just a bunch of scribbles."

2) What is the earliest complete story you recall writing?

"When I was in kindergarten I wrote about a girl named Polly. As I got older, she got older and her adventures grew more elaborate."

3) What kinds of stories do you enjoy writing now?

"I like to write short stories. I like dipping into the lives of people, walking in their shoes for that time, and reacting to scenarios differently than I would have. It's to see what turns out.

4) Where do you glean ideas for your stories?

"I do an extraordinary amount of reading and listening to other people's experiences. If I read too much Mark Twain, my style reflects his style, and if I read to much Charlaine Harris, I start formulating my stories like she does. It's easy to get carried away and to forget where inspiration meets your originality."

5) Have you taken any formal classes?

"Just Writing 101 in college. I was originally in the pre Journalism program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. They have one of the top j-Schools in America, but it's also really competitive, so unfortunately I was unable to continue that path because I didn't have the best grades. The bulk of my passion for writing comes from Mrs. K. in 5-8th grade. She helped me sharpen my writing pencils (so to speak).

6) Did anyone mentor your writing?

"My dad read to me every night before I could read and many nights after. Even if we were reading the book for the eighty-ninth million time. I've talked to friends who said their parents never read to them, and I believe they missed out on an essential part of childhood. He was my biggest mentor in putting stories together

7) What is your overall writing goal?

"To translate what's in my head to a legible, fluent, masterpiece."

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mission: Victorian Suits for Two Very Tall Men

6'5" and 6'10" to be exact.

Today, the theatre department of a local college lent me all its Victorian clothing for any VampFest worker that still needs a costume. We stacked gorgeous dresses in a wide variety of hues and fabrics and a fair amount of non-period tuxedos (just in case)into the back of the van, but saw nothing that would fit our John Simons and Kellen Weschler.

In August, the Joliet Drama Guild performed, "Jeckyll & Hyde," so I had contacted the guild president, who put us in touch with its costume director, who is steering us to one of the actors. I messaging him tonight, hoping he can steer me in the direction of the perfect suits and top hats.

In the meantime, if anyone out there just happens to be sitting on Goliath-sized, Victorian menswear, please contact me at

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some Good Irish Proverbs

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.

May you live to be a hundred years,
With one extra year to repent!

May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can't find you with a telescope.

The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.

Two shorten the road.

It is the good horse that draws its own cart.

It's easy to halve the potato where there's love.

Your feet will bring you where your heart is.

Always remember to forget
The friends that proved untrue.
But never forget to remember
Those that have stuck by you.

'Tis better to buy a small bouquet
And give to your friend this very day,
Than a bushel of roses white and red
To lay on his coffin after he's dead.

If you lie down with dogs you'll rise with fleas.

Do not resent growing old. Many are denied the privilege.

Do not mistake a goat's beard for a fine stallion's tail.

There is often the look of an angel on the Devil himself.

The work praises the man.

The mills of God grind slowly but they grind finely.

Need teaches a plan.

Everyone is wise till he speaks.

Firelight will not let you to read fine stories but it will warm you and you won't see the dust on the floor.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mending Wall by Robert Frost

In Frost's 1917 poem, "Mending Wall," he questions both his annual spring task of mending the stone wall between his property and his neighbor's as well as the Proverb his neighbor enjoys quoting, "Good walls make good neighbors."

In today's virtual society where we can hide behind a computer screen and "unfriend" a person with the click of a mouse, Frost's poem may be, perhaps, even more telling.

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Found: The 1975 Home Inspection for Simons Mansion

My father, who is designing a couple of Munsonville "surprises" for Vamp Fest, showed me the file yesterday. Here's what happened:

In the fall of 1975, shortly after Melissa Marchellis and her familiy moved into the servant's cottage on John Simons' estate, the Village of Munsonville contracted with Transaction Home Inspections to inspect the mansion, assess its damage, and offer suggestions for repair and updating.

As I turned the pages, the story sprang to life before my eyes: the actual signature of Joe Roberts, the restoration's project manager; written and visual documentation of the gas lighting, boiler heat, rudimentary wiring, fixtures used; and vivid descriptions of all structures, including the stables. It even referred to damage on the outdoor columns.

Also included in this report were some amazing discoveries: original photographs hidden beneath floorboards, a section on the roof where lightening had struck, and recent fireplace activity (although the house had been vacant for 82 years).

Now, one might suppose such a valuable treasure should be safely secured for future generations, but it will actually be a companion piece to a very cool silent auction item: a gift certificate toward an actual home inspection by Transaction Home Inspections, my father's company.

I guess the art of fiction writing runs deeply in my family. ;)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Song # 8 Most relaxing music flute and orchestra - "Naruto Sadness and S...

And Let the Games Begin

Changes are a-coming, and I'm not sure how I feel about them.

It means letting go--partly of necessity--of occupations I have enjoyed to embark on a scary new future. It's that "partly of necessity" that trips me up. That's not how I prefer making those decisions. I also don't like not seeing a clear road ahead. I am not a good night driver.

What's comforting is that the "rightness" of the decision is all too obvious, and that God goes before me, illuminating my way more brightly than even my van headlights can shine.

Last year, when my chronic hives flared up, I had bad reactions to TWO different medications to help control them, and my husband lost his job, my pastor one Sunday read the Gospel about when the apostles fished all night and caught nothing and how Jesus directed them to go farther out.

My pastor's message that day was not about faith. It was about being commanded go into the deep water, out of our comfort zone, where it's scary. That, however, is where the reward lies and that, once again, is where I being called.

I don't like it, but I trust the one making the call. Sooooo....I'm taking a deep breath and making the plunge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On The Receiving End...Again

The August 28th entry of an author friend's blog (, "Receiving Graciously 101," hit home stronger with me than anything I've recently read.

Many of us have grown up learning, "Tis Better To Give Than To Receive," and while we, in certain occasions, grumble a bit when giving is called of us (especially when it's related to a person we dislike, a distasteful task, or inconvenient timing), we are still more comfortable doing the giving than the receiving.

It's funny how God shakes that up.

Decades ago, when my oldest children were young, we were poor, "barely making the rent and relying on people sending food boxes," poor. Now I had grown up in an upper middle class home, so the concept of buying garage sales clothes or creating forty different dishes from condensed tomato soup because someone gave you a case of the stuff was foreign to me.

I remember choking down huge amounts of pride with my white bread and powdered milk until the day arrived when four items on my shopping list were packed neatly inside a box of anonymous food donations: a jar of Hellman's mayonnnaise and three child-sized Oral B toothbrushes. Only God knew I needed them, a stark reminder of who really was caring for us.

Then, a dozen years ago, ironically as a single parent, finances looked up. For the first time in my child-rearing years, I was paying all my bills on time. I had money in the bank, was remodeling my house, and didn't freak out every time a child got sick or needed a pair of shoes.

That trend continued after I married my second husband. We worked long, hard hours, but the money we made well compensated for it, enough that we invested quite a bit into our church and founding, running, and funding its youth programs.

Once the recession hit, the budget grew ugly. I thought, "I have lived through lean times. I can do this." And I cut and cut and cut until I had no place left to cut. So, instead of worrying over what I could not control, I tapped into my imagination and wrote a story that had lurked there for over twenty years, "Bryony."

A year ago, my husband lost his job and with it our health insurance. He called to tell just as I was callling him to say I was being admitted into the hospital for a yet undiagnosed disorder.

So, it's been a tough year, but for every challenge, problem, concern, crisis, emergency, we've had an unexpected blessing running parallel to it: prayers, gifts of motivational books AND chocolate, a former pastor sending monetary gifts by mail and our current pastor bring weekly bags of groceries, and new friend also going through a crisis sending a surprise gift at just the right time.

Once again pride stepped in and made the acceptance of that love hard. I shared my difficulty with my pastor, a former salesman that, when he gives a contrived compliment, I in return retort, "I don't need an insurance policy," but he is also a God-fearing man and a friend for more than thirty years. He only quietly said, "Maybe you have inspired some people along the way."

Because of the recession I wrote "Bryony," and because of "Bryony," I've learned more about writing than I ever could have gained otherwise, which sent additional paying gigs knocking at my virtual door. I've also met some kind-hearted, generous individuals that have been equally excited about the project, some of whom I know call friends.

Recently, someone volunteered some additional marketing services and a second person offered to professionally format my manuscripts, all free of charge. With the first, I'm swapping some editing for his book, but the second insists that she doesn't want to trade services; she just wants to something nice for me.

I've asked them both why they reached out to me in this fashion and both said, "Because God told me to do it." So how can I object to that?

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Irish Blessing For your Baptism Day

My daughter Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web administrator, and her family were in town this week for a funeral. This morning they are having their son, my grandson, baptized.

Now they are not Irish (unless the Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara has uncovered and documented their hidden geneology), but "Bryony" has no greater fan or harder worker than Sarah, so this blessing seemed perfect.

An Irish Blessing For Your Baptism Day

May God grant you always
A sunbeam to warm you
A moonbeam to charm you
A sheltering angel so nothing can harm you
Laughter to cheer you
Faithful friends near you
And whenever you pray
Heaven to hear you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll

From "Through the Looking Glass," 1872.

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July --

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear --

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden dream --
Life, what is it but a dream?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Back Cover of Bryony

If you are like me, when a book interests you, you flip to the inside or back cover to read what it's about. Since you are reading the blog, Bryony has interested you and here is that back cover you'll flip to!

"What shall I do first?" Melissa whispered.

John reached out his hands. "Touch me," he said in a low, smooth voice.

She hesitated. Even in the dim light, Melissa saw how thin and pale they were. Her insides recoiled at the thought of touching a corpse. Then Melissa remembered how much she wanted to be Bryony. This was nothing new; John had already siphoned blood from her: Could it harm her to continue for a little longer?

"I'm not afraid," she told herself, but she did not believe it. "I am not afraid. I am not afraid."

After her father’s sudden death, seventeen-year-old Melissa Marchellis
moves onto the former estate of nineteenth century composer and pianist
John Simons, where a mysterious mist stalks her, ghostly piano music invades her bedroom, and lovely visions of John Simons’ young wife Bryony,
who died in childbirth, fill her dreams.

So, when John proposes a trade, a trip to the past as Bryony in exchange
for her blood, Melissa happily agrees. She soon seesaws between a life of
school, slumber parties, and cute boys to dancing at balls, attending formal dinner parties, and hosting garden fetes.

But fantasy and reality blur when her eccentric, middle-aged English
teacher penetrates her dreams as Melissa’s dashing vampire chaperone; her
brother Brian adopts a peculiar stray cat after a friend disappears in a midnight exploration of the dilapidated mansion; and another girl with a similar vampire pact is gruesomely murdered.

Caught between the danger of her agreement and her escalating infatuation
with John Simons, Melissa contends with other vampires and their agendas,
while struggling with her feelings for an undead musician.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

James Onohan Sent Four New Bryony Songs Last Night!

Those joined the first four he previously sent. Just two to go before we have all the material for the upcoming "Bryony" CD, "The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons." We just may have a CD for October 14th's "Vamp Fest."

I can't wait!!!

Listening to the music transported me back into 1890's fictional Munsonville, and I remember all over again the fun I had in writing this story, a fun that's been multiplied by the layers of creativity accompanying it: the art, the music, the clothing, the cookbook, and even the candles.

Ooops! That's a surprise. More on candles later.

Yet, even as I'm soaking up hauntingly melodic piano notes, I'm writing. When James sends a "Bryony" piece, he shares his emotions as he played it, which he wants me to match with a scene in the story to compose the perfect title. I then send the title back to him, along with an explanation of where in the novel his music fits and why I named it such.

so far, James has been happy with each title, which makes me happy, too. I can't even begin to express how humbled and honored I feel to name this beautiful music, which will set the emotional tone before the hearer listens to the first piano note. It is truly a gift beyond words.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm Behind and It's Getting Done Anyway, Go Figure!

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
(Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass.")

Ever have days like this?

I'm having a few WEEKS like this. My family has gone from crisis to crisis, and everytime we think we're catching up, well, life tosses another little ball of trouble to play with.

It's only Monday and my "to-do" list is way longer than my "ta-da" list for all of last week. Just a few days ago, someone from Bryony's marketing team expressed real concern I'd have no time to attend events, etc. I assured him I would accomplish what I must accomplish.

This weekend, new challenges arose while others that loomed ferocious last week simply melted away. This morning, the weight of still more are pressing upon me, screaming for attention.

My publicist calls out of the blue, and I answer with a cheery, convoluted greeting I've already forgotten. No matter. She laughed and asked, "Do you invent these just for me?"

"No," I told her honestly, "They're to keep me sane."

Today, for all its stressors, has been a day of pleasant surprises.

For instance, erlier this month, I stepped out in faith and accepted an acquaintance's offer to shoulder a big project for me. I didn't understand the task, the time committment to her, and what the job entailed, but to outsource it would be expensive, so I reluctantly agreed, then stalled, figuring she'd forget about it.

She didn't. She called--many times--and insisted she could get it done for me in a timely fashion, so please, please, please do not outsource it. I prayed, then sent the information her way.

While she worked, I fretted. What if she had made empty promises? What if she exaggerated her abilities? After all, I only had her word she could do it. What if she an emergency on her home front prohibited completion? I was, after all, on deadline.

I even shared my fears with her. She just good-naturedly laughed at me and said, "God is in control." In return, I asked for step-by-step timelines and multiple reassurances of her ability to meet the deadline.

Then, this morning, there it was, sitting in my inbox. The most difficult part of the job was done, ready for my approval. It's beautiful and professionally formatted. She is now ready to tackle another project for me, out of the kindness of her heart. Is God not good?

So, with my heaping schedule overflowing, I squeezed an extra interview into my morning to help out a local pastor turned artist about his upcoming event.

I knew about the event months in advance, but the information I needed was not sent until Friday. His event is this Friday, almost too late to get a story sent in time, but I picked up the phone and called him anyway. Boy, am I glad I did.

Conversing with him was real joy. He fought depression after the death of a fellow pastor and found healing in painting. His delight in the process of creating spilled into his words. I knew that feeling from writing Bryony. I was happy I'd called.

A late afternoon appointment just cancelled, opening a door to dig into that stack of work. But first, I met with two lovely women to learn about a very special christening dress with an interesting "Bryony" twist.

Mums the word until the Herald News runs the story first.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"We Are The Music Makers," by Arthur Edgar O'Shaughnessy

By Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy (14 March 1844 – 30 January 1881), a British poet of Irish descent. Perfect for Bryony.

We Are the Music-Makers

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Victorian Tips for Perfect Cake-Baking

To insure success every time:

* The day before you wish to make cake, stone your rainsins and blanch your almonds by pouring hot water on them to take off the skins, and then throwing them into cold water to whiten them.

* Do not use the hand to make cake, but a wood spoon or spade.

* In receipes where milk is used, never mix sweet and sour milk, as it makes cake heavy.

* Butter in the least degree strong spoils cake.

* Always dissolve saleratus in hot water, as milk does not perfectly dissolve it, and thus there will be yellow specks made.

* Make your eggs cold and thus they will stand in a heap.

* A quick oven is so hot that you can count moderately only twenty; a slow one allows you to count thirty, while you hold your hand in it.

* All cake without yeast should have the flour put in quickly, just as it goes into the oven.

* Keep cake in a tin box, or in a stone jar wrapped in clean linen.

From "Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Labored All Labor Day Weekend and a Gloriously Noble Labor It Was

But when I tried to explain that to the rest of my family at my mother’s seventy-sixth birthday gathering Sunday afternoon, the projects that kept me occupied over the three-day weekend sounded dry, even to me: brain aneurysms, a Civil War reenactment, a pastor’s thirtieth anniversary of ordination, a fundraiser for a young man with ataxia of unknown origin and degeneration of the cerebellum, a tattoo artist, two elderly cats in a shelter, a press release about hospital fall programs and another press release on diabetes screening for children.

Until, that is, you read them. Because the goal of all my writing is to first please me, but then to also (hopefully) grip the reader.

While one might argue there is a cavernous difference between a program listing and a vampire series, the two actually have quite a bit in common.

The other day, my marketing guy praised Bryony’s vividness, it’s ability to deeply draw him into the story. Is that not the goal of all writing? So with the feature stories and news releases I hammered out this weekend, I strove to recreate:

• the drama of a brain rupture and the passion the survivor, a former dental hygienist, now has for nursing and helping others in their crises.
• the zeal a young farmer, working his nearly 150-year-old family farm, has for Civil War reenactments and turning kids onto history and agriculture through a trip to the past and the giant pumpkins he grows.
• the dedication of a pastor to Hispanic ministry and the merging of two Lutheran parishes: one a 140 years old and the other a Hispanic mission, into a single thriving urban unit.
• why people should come out and support a fundraiser to send a dying, young man to Las Vegas, because his only wish is to meet and sing with Garth Brooks.
• the joy an artist has for his tattoo apprenticeship, so people can carry a bit of his personally-created art with him.
• the satisfaction when a one-eyed cat, who’s lived in a shelter since 2003, has finally found a loving home, and the hope that an even older cat will soon find the same.
• the reassurance that, no matter if your health concern is knee pain or uterine fibroids, there are answers for you.
• the urgent need to screen children for a disease that previously only affect adults.

And yes, I tempered all that writing with “family and friends” time: chatty conversations on the route with Rebekah, an equally as chatty conversation with my oldest son Christopher while he related his Kentucky weekend via cell phone as I power walked the neighborhood, a catch-up with a friend and book formatter whose plate was fuller than mine when I took a much-needed coffee break, and a “meaning of life” discussion with Timothy during a trip to the grocery store for fresh fruit and tomorrow’s dinner.

Best of all, I learned yesterday that, unbeknownst to me, Christopher had taken a draft of Bryony’s third book with him to read on the train, so he spent a few minutes sitting cross-legged on my office floor (He’s 6/10”, mind you, and my office is in a tiny attic), sharing comments, insights, and reactions.

Now if that wasn’t a perfect way to spend a holiday weekend, I don’t know what is.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bryony Pre-Event, September 11....

....1-4 p.m., the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life, 206 N. Broadway Street, Joliet.


* Tours of mansion, which is the historic Hiram B. Scutt home and the setting of the soon-to-be-released Bryony book trailer and music video. (Interesting trivia: Scutt built his mansion in 1882, just 10 years before John Simons built his in Munsonville).

* James Onohan, Bryony's pianist and composer, will perform his music on a vintage grand piano.

* The author, in full Victorian costume, will discuss the upcoming novel, "Bryony," its companion cookbook, "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony,'" and answer questions.

* Displays, slide show, and more.

Admission is $10. Proceeds benefit the mansion's restoration. For more information, call 815-723-3052.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Snow-Bound," by John Greenleaf Whittier

"Snow-Bound" is probably the only poem I waited years to read.

The first time I heard of it was in my early homeschooling days, back in the late 1980s. The third grade history book contained a variety of biographies of notable people that influenced the United States, starting with Christopher Columbus and ending with Billy Sunday.

One of those biographies was of John Greenleaf Whittier and his inspiration of "Snow-Bound," first published in 1866. It is a LONG narrative poem about a family that swaps stories around a fire while waiting out a three-day blizzard.

Although the textbook series I used with my children often referred to "Snow-Bound," it never appeared in any of the readers or literature books.

So this spring, I found it on the Internet to share with my seveteen-year-old daughter, Rebekah.

And yes, it was worth the wait.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Prizes Are Rolling In....

….thanks to Sarah Stegall, Bryony’s web administrator, who has made the bulk of the calls, as well as all the generous individuals, businesses, and organizations that have donated or are donating, all so Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties ( can reap the benefit.

Here are some of the items that will be featured at the silent auction and raffle.

• A variety of car care packages, including oil changes, tire rotations, and detailing
• A 3-month family membership to the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, any location
• Books and CDs by local authors, bands, and musical artists
• Original artwork
• A 1-year child’s membership to the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn
• Pet-related items, including a free evaluation and therapeutic massage for a dog or cat
• Health-related gift certificates, including those for weight loss programs, fitness centers, and chiropractic services
• Restaurant gift cards
• Passes to local shows
• 20 gold passes to CPX Sports
• Several photography packages
• Celebrity memorabilia
• Baby and child-themed decorations, including specialty designed clothing and accessories
• Custom jewelry
• Hair salon gift certificates

Finally, we do have a couple of prizes that are unique to this Bryony-themed fundraiser, but we’re not ready to announce them yet!

However, if you have a product or service you'd like to donate to the "Vamp Fest: travel Through Time With 'Bryony'" fundraiser, please contact us at

Remember, Vamp Fest is Oct. 14 at Harwood Post, 705 S. Larkin Avenue, Joliet.