Monday, December 30, 2013

"Mutiny on the Brawny" by Jennifer Russ

Mutiny on the Brawny by Jennifer Russ

One of the WriteOn Joliet's T'was the Night Before Christmas spoof

It was the day of the New Year and all through the gym... Sat numbers of dieters working on every limb...
They pushed and they pulled...
Lifted and strained.
To make Jello into six packs: No Pain no Gain! 

 Meanwhile, in the locker room, the rats — they do scheme....
While sucking on Muscle Milk and stretching in teams...
Protected with Under Armour...
And $300 kicks...
They plot their revenge on the pluses and sticks...

Ellipticals are mounted —it’s time to take a stand....
To the guy in Joe Boxers- “Unhand that resistance band!”
Disinfectant blinds.
IPOD headphones form knots...
Until every last resolution is brought to a stop... 

 Hog-tied and gagged- they are stacked to the side...
While the rats take the bikes on a gleeful joyride...
It’s back to the dumbbells...
And flexing in mirrors...
While the others look on through sweat beads and tears... 

 In the end it is said that the rats saved the day...
And stood their ground in the face of foray...
Though, the weights they were stacked....
In their favor it would appear...
With their Eggnog flavored protein and eight shiny varieties of workout gear...

Sunday, December 29, 2013


...three alternate versions of T'was the Night Before Christmas, compliments of WriteOn Joliet, because that's when Timothy will FINALLY have time to scan them in as Word documents (my scanner keeps turning them in to PDFs, which won't copy and paste).

Tonight, I'm too sleepy to write anything spectacular. I think the freezing rain and dull gray skies are zapping my brain power, although I did manage to write one feature story this afternoon, after returning home from liturgy and then stopping to feed (and play with) Frances, Midnight, Faith, and Hope.

Timothy's been feeding the kittens while he's on Christmas break, so I've been spared the hassle of packing up and unpacking my office several times a day. Sure do miss those furry footed friends and my "poor man's massages" when I stretch out on Christopher's couch for a power nap.

'Night, all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Christmas Bells" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Story Round Up

Christmas Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
The moon is hid, the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill

Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,

From far and near, on mead and moor,

Swell out and fail, as if a door

Were shut between me and the sound;

Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease;

Peace and good will, good will and peace;

Peace and good will, to all mankind

No stopping generosity

What would induce a young cancer patient to donate his family's vacation money to the local housing authority? Why, the example of his father.

An Extraordinary Life: Channahon man was best at giving of himself

Jimi Feeney gave to his family, his church, his community, the homeless, and anyone that asked him for a couple of bucks.

Deaf dog helps pet owner heal

Only a special dog could follow Schroeder in Michael and Jaime Foster's hearts. Linus is not just "special;" he's "special needs," but that makes him perfect for the Fosters.

For Joliet West toy drive, the joy of giving is present

No kid likes to stay in the hospital, much less close to Christmas, but a group of very special Santas put smiles back on young faces.

Lemont teen's tale involves a "wicked" wish and a former "Bear"

Intrigued? You should be. Read on!

Picture this: a helping hand for a stroke victim

Only someone down and out can truly understand how someone down and out feels. What's amazing is how one person in need changed the circumstances of one even more in need.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Change

It's coming.

Not sure yet if I like it, but there's nothing I can do about that either.

And that part, I know I don't like.

Sigh. :(


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve, Baran-Unland Style

When I was a little girl, I wished to live in a large house full of siblings and have a large extended family, even more full of generational customs and traditions, beyond that.

Instead, I grew up in a small family. So I grew my own village.

My first husband was Ukranian and like many Slavic families, they served a Christmas Eve "feast within a fast" (a traditional Orthodox Nativity fast is six weeks long; abstinence from meat starting from November 15--at the very least--as well as dairy and eggs. The Nativity Fast is also known as St. Philip's Fast because it begins on his feast day).

So Christmas Eve, the night before the feast day (although the Eastern church counts the beginning of the new day at sundown) would feature a variety of festive, peasanty dishes (as the Slavs were, on the whole, not wealthy people), all of them meatless.

Generally, the family would serve twelve different items (one for each apostle), and dinner would begin at the sign of the first star, as spotted by the youngest member of the household.

Well, since we're homeless, the moved the cooking to Joshua's third floor apartment. His son Ezekiel is only a year and a half old, and although he is waaaaaay to young to be running outside to check the sky, well...let's just say he tried his best.

Tonight's menu (An asterik beside it indicates a recipe that is both traditional and generational in the Baran family):

* Fish
* Mushroom soup (with sauerkraut and barley)
* Cabbage, onions and kraut
* Bobalki
* Homemade Christmas Eve bread
* Homemade pirohi with homemade potato cheese filling (We made a couple hundred, actually. The recipe is mine. My ex-husband's family bought their pirohi.)
Vegetable tray and homemade dip
Fruit tray with caramel dip
Homemade apple-oat crisp (my recipe, a three-decade family favorite)
Homemade pumpkin pie (ditto, except Rebekah now makes it)
Assorted cheeses
Sparkling non-alcoholic beverages

Praise God my kids grew up cooking, which makes them something of Ninjas in the kitchen. We never made it to Joshua's until noon, as I had work to finish. Amber had to work, so Rebekah slept over the previous night with a shopping list; she and Joshua got most of the groceries (the boys and I still had to stop for a few items that I forgot to add to the list, oops!).

That morning, Joshua and Rebekah fabricated some of the ingredients, so we could get a few items going before Timothy and I left (I had to meet a group of teen boys at a restaurant for an interview at one-thirty).

Culinary festivities didn't officially begin until three o'clock. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Christmas with my parents, sister, and her family. The children and I will not celebrate our official family Christmas until December seventh, which is also Rebekah's twentieth birthday.

Ezekiel did open a few presents my mother sent along for him. Below, a few photos from the day.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, Explains His Prolonged Silence

Dear MOMI,
    The truck hath arrived none too soon

    The fault of the thoughtless --une.

    So heed my advice

    With the traffic and ice,

    I'll finish my route around noon.

    Take that you big bullies! I hope it follows you, and the limerick stains you legacy!

   Anyway, why you haven't heard from me is actually your own doing, many years ago. You see, I've been working on your daughter's genealogy, which should seem easy enough given that I've already written yours. One would think that all I had to do was write her father's, tack it to yours, and call it another chapter in Irish domination.

    All would have worked that way except for finding that the man on Sarah Stegall's  birth certificate is NOT her father. This sent me down a very dark, twisted path of trying to sort the long trail of broken hearts, shattered dreams, and nondisclosure contracts.
   The most depressing of the lot is musing over all your secret admirers who never got close enough to proclaim their love and all the countless spurred advances that avalanched authors into tragic life choices to avoid facing your disinterest in them.

   I might add here, Momi, that your rejection of my marriage proposal last year did give me some insight as to how they feel.

   Anyway that long twisted trail turned out to be false. Sarah's conception was completely accidental; her father was a man you've never met.

   This information came in a IVA envelope marked way more top secret then usual.

   That started my ruthless search of public pools, toilets, and places of miracles ...anywhere where such a thing might be possible. Since it's impossible to find the informant, unthinkable to disbelieve his/her information, and so unEd Calkinsish to abandon the search in favor of less time consuming and more practical matters, I had to find a clue as to how such a thing could happen.

   I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had looked for answers were answers are revealed. Yes, the truth was buried in a shallow grave within the original and unedited  text of Bryony.

   This is gonna be the cliffhanger of the day.

   Denise, I have a Santa Claus gig to run to, but I'm having fun imagining you mentally rifling through your own book to find the lover that loved you and never bothered to even say, "Hi."

   Ruthlessly yours,

   Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara


Friday, December 20, 2013

"Hang Up The Baby's Stocking" by Emily Huntington Miller and Story Round Up

Hang Up The Baby's Stocking
By Emily Huntington Miller

Little girl in stocking
Hang up the baby's stocking
Be sure you don't forget!

The dear little dimpled darling,

She never saw Christmas yet!

But I've told her all about it,

And she opened her big blue eyes;

And I'm sure she understood it-

She looked so funny and wise.

Dear, what a tiny stocking!
It doesn't take much to hold

Such little pink toe's as baby's

Away from the frost and the cold

But then, for the baby's Christmas,

It will never do at all.

Why! Santa wouldn't be looking

For anything half so small.

Little boy in stocking
I know what I will do for the baby.

I've thought of the very best plan.

I'll borrow a stocking of Grandma's,

The longest that ever I can

And you'll hang it by mine, dear mother,

Right here in the corner so!

And leave a letter to Santa,

And fasten it in the toe.

Write-this is the baby's stocking,
That hangs in the corner here.

You never have seen her, Santa,

For she only came this year

But she's just the blessed'st baby.

And now before you go,

Just cram her stocking with goodies,

From the top clean down to the toe!

A host of holiday entertaining tips

A Joliet Junior College hospitality professor gives her best suggestions for enjoying holiday hosting without the stress.

Authors vampire series officially has a legacy

Sue Midlock writes, illustrates and publishes supernatural short stories and series. Like vampires? Read on.

An Extraordinary Life: Inner strength was former Plainfield woman's trademark

Nothing in life brought Helen Houle down, absolutely nothing. Helen experienced no challenge she could not look in the face.

Some tips for handling holiday grieving over pets

Solid dvice from pet owners--and a bereavement counselor--that have been there.

Lessons beyond the stage: Joliet native helps kids learn new skills

Erick Deshaun Dorris loved theater as a boy. Now as an educator and as an actor, Dorris is bringing that passion to students in Chicago classrooms and then sharing their creativity on Chicago stages.

Coats for homeless veterans being collected in Joliet, New Lenox

Disabled veteran and senior citizen Lou Vargas is actively involved in three veterans organizations. He wants veterans to get their due...starting with, at the very least, a coat to keep them warm this winter.




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jelly, Victorian-style

Earlier today, a BryonySeries fan--by the name of Rose (what else?) posted a link on my personal Facebook page to a Pennsylvania Victorian house for sale, complete with a ghost.

We wound up in a fun little conversation about how she would buy it for me if she had the money, and then I insisted if she did, a visit would be in order. Rose suggested tea and crumpets, and I countered with stuffed pigeons and boiled calves head. She much preferred something sweet.

So, Rose, here it is!
 First published in Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy. (1850).
You can find this recipe, along with the others mentioned in Bryony, in the fundraising cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."
All cookbook proceeds are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (
Order Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony"

4 nicely cleaned calf’s feet
4 quarts water
3 lemons, peel only
1 pint wine
4 egg whites
3 sticks cinnamon
Sugar, to taste
Put feet in water, then let it simmer gently until reduced to 2 quarts, then strain it, and let it stand all night. Then take off all the fat and sediment, melt it, add the juice, lemon peel, wine, eggs, cinnamon, and sugar to your taste. Boil 10 minutes, then skim out the spice and lemon peel, and strain it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"St. Nicholas" and Story Round Up

New York Evening Mail
December 16,1910

When the old saint comes again
down the path we Knew of yore,
We who are women and men,
Let us be glad as before,
Let yule boughs hang at the door,
Let the lights of yule burn high,
Let the wide world ring with our welcoming
When the good old saint comes by.

When the old saint comes again
Down holiday paths of old,
We who are women and men,
Can we give a greeting cold?
May the child heart only hold
The love that his grace should win?
Nay; let him be sure our hearts endure
When the good old saint comes in.

When the old saint comes again
Down the dear remembered way,
We who are women and men,
Let us laugh as children may.
Let our home and hearts be gay
With revel and mirth and cheer,
Let the old joy wake for the old love's sake,
When the good old saint is here.

Teen author helps grant own wish

Just as cystic fibrosis patient Ravina Fakkhar turned fourteen, she became a traditionally published author.

Homeless veterans find help in Joliet.

After receiving that help, many are able to live independent lives, thanks to the mother of a veteran running a homeless program in Washington D.C.

An Extraordinary Life: Family still misses master tinkerer

Cars, computers, constructin, cooking, creativity: That was Christopher Bannon

It's bazaar time for Will County Humane Society

Shelter volunteer coordinators sales of poinsettias and new and used Christmas decorations to benefit homeless animals.

Cop takes up fight vs cyberbullying

Officer Jeff Bean does more than talk about cyberbullying. He inhabits today's kids' social networking universe.

New People reunite for benefit concert

Will County's former choral group takes center stage to raise money for a local foot pantry through Christmas music.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Random Act of Kindess

Stop reading this blog, and go do something nice for someone. The act doesn't have to be large. The recipient can be a stranger or someone sitting next to you. Just do it. Because.

Go. Now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Still an Art Gitch...

...on Staked! Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, and Bertrand and the Lucky Clover.

For the three BryonySeries books already released--Bryony, Visage and Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony"--I've been blessed with the talents of several different artists helping to enliven the stories with their skills.

The same is also true with the above yet-to-be-released books. For now, their publication is moving at a snail's pace, and that is due to the outside obligations of those visual artists invloled with the projects.

I will continue to post updates as soon as we move forward. Thank you for your readership and your patience.

Especially as your impatience is such a huge compliment to the series! :)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Male Rite of Passage at our Church

One of my sons, dressed as St.Nicholas at our parish's 60th anniversary celebration and St. Nicholas banquet.
Now here's a game for loyal followers.
Message me at with the name of the correct son. The first one to get it right will receive a Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony" cookbook.
You already have one? Cookbooks make terrific Christmas gifts. ;)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Family St. Nicholas Party and Tree Decorating

We celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6 as a family by drawing names and setting a $20 limit for stuffing stockings, with everyone buying one item each for the grandchildren.

Stock traditional items include candy canes (the bishop's staff) and gold coins (from a story about the dowry St. Nicholas left three sisters about to be sold into slavery).

Ever since receiving my first copy of Prayers for the Domestic Church in 1985, we have used the St. Nicholas Blessing Prayer for Candy Canes. The book is long since tattered, but no worries. Timothy found the prayer online and read it from his phone.

With everyone grown and juggling school and work schedules, we gathered at Joshua's a day late for pizza, cake, fun and decorating his tree with our traditional ornaments, since we won't have a tree of our own this year.

Actually, this is the first year I've decorated a tree since college. My first husband wouldn't allow anyone except him to touch the tree. Since he left in 1998, I've always worked so many hours, the kids happily assumed the responsiblity.

And, yes, I totally had fun.



Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Festival of St. Nicholas" by Mary Mapes Dodge and Story Round Up

The Festival of St. Nicholas by Mary Mapes Dodge from Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates (1865)

Welcome, friend! St. Nicholas, welcome!
     Bring no rod for us to-night!
While our voices bid thee welcome,
     Every heart with joy is light.

     "Tell us every fault and failing;
     We will bear thy keenest railing
     So we sing, so we sing:
     Thou shalt tell us everything!

"Welcome, friend! St. Nicholas, welcome!
     Welcome to this merry band!
Happy children greet thee, welcome!
     Thou art gladdening all the land.

     "Fill each empty hand and basket;
     'Tis thy little ones who ask it.
     So we sing, so we sing:
     Thou wilt bring us everything!"

Tours of Cronin School at JJC like a Step Back in Time

The community not only can enjoy the experience of a local one room schoolhouse of Joliet's past, the volunteer tour guides are intimately connected with that school. One attended it; another's mother taught at it.

Minooka woman with rare cancer relies on faith

It took Sandy Mckean several years to receive an accurate diagnosis, but she is at total peace with her fate.

Family remembers easygoing hobbyist

George McLearen battled a genetic heart disorder that would eventually cut short his life. So when McLearen had to quit the job he loved, he found a similiar hobby to replace it.

Dog survives being stuck behind vehicle grille

Spencer, an indoor dog, took quite the cold and wild ride one night and lived to tell the "tale."

Model trains just keep rolling

Technology has improved the enjoyment of this hobby and continues attracting young enthusiasts.

"Star" leads Faint back home for book signing

From working as a personal assistant to Matt Damon to self-publishing her fiction and more, Trinette Faint has amassed more accomplishments than any three women could hope to attain.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Feeling Like a Word Ninja

The volume of work I accomplished today has flattened my brain, but it had to be accomplished as I will be MIA most of tomorrow.

I'm sitting here, jaw open, eyes glazed, trying to think of something clever. It's not happening.

My muse didn't just up and leave. I think she's in a coma.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Ambitous "Before the Blood" Homework List

Below is the list I foolishly thought I could complete four days,

Well first of all, work bled into Thursday morning, so not until that was completed, and I had attended Divine Liturgy and gathered with family friends, did I settle down to the story, circa eleven o'clock that night.

Friday was pretty productive, although learning about the unexpected and tragic death of the mother of two former youth group members (for several my ex-husband and I ran a youth ministry connected with our church) derailed composition for part of the evening (as it should).

Saturday was quite productive until the young lady whose mother had died called to talk. By the time I hung up the phone, my muse had vanished. I simply felt wretched, so I called a friend to talk.

Sunday was church, grocery shopping, and general catch up.

Anyway, here's the list:


   *  Break down each chapter by scene

   *  Write out research needed for each chapter

   *  Find necessary research for each chapter online and save

   *  Organize research by novella files

   *  Double check all Bryony events are in chapters

   *  Double check all notes are copied into chapters

   *  Complete character questionnaires for all major/secondary characters

   *  Name all characters with descriptions

   *  Name all places

Monday, December 2, 2013

We...Um...Have a Slight Setback

We've hit a snag with art. Release of Staked!, Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, and Bertrand and the Lucky Clover have all been delayed.

Most of the setback is the final formatting and design. We hope to fix it soon, but not in time to have autographed of the books for Christmas. We will try to make them available for ordering through the website ( and Amazon by Christmas, however.

Yes, this is the downside of working with a slim budget. The benefits, on the other hand, far outweight the drawbacks. Small budgets mean more swapping of artistic services and collaborating with other artists. The relationships I've formed through developing this series are priceless.

To to take my mind off my troubles, I've made some incredible progress with Before the Blood. Tomorrow, I'll post my Thanksgiving chore list. I shook my head over it this morning, wondering what I was thinking. I couldn't have completed it if I'd been cloned.

Getting Back in the Swing of It

I did it. I actually did it.

I took almost four days off this Thanskgiving holiday, the first time I've had off in two years. That was also a Thanksgiving weekend, and I had worked on the first edits for Visage.

Now granted I did not meet my goal of spending all four days writing fiction. I had assignments from Wednesday that bled into the evening and then into Thursday morning. Most of Thursday was spent with family and friends.

Friday, however, and a good chunk of Saturday, I did go to Munsonville. I had a, what I thought, do-able homework list for Before the Blood that I hoped to complete before I returned to the "real" writing on Monday.


Okay, the list was a bit ambitious, so I'm refining my goals for writing this thing. However, since I have definitely sunk my teeth into it, it's safe now from being forgotten on the back burner. An unexpected and tragic death Saturday cut short the writing time due to the muse packing up and going home. And that's okay because, well, life does happen.

Friday was spent on general catching up of everything else I had let go, including getting my St. Nicholas shopping done (more on that later). I tumbled into bed--late--without writing a blog. So to make up for it, today I'm writing two. Before the day is out (I hope), I'll update everyone on my progress thus far, as well as where we are at with Staked!, Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone and Bertand and the Lucky Clover.

Y'all have a great day!