Dawn of a New Novel

Hello, friends! As I’ve shared with you before, my grandparents raised me. Granddaddy was stationed in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II, then he and the family lived in Japan and visited different areas of the Far East during the reconstruction years following the war. So, growing up, my house was filled with Japanese and Asian furniture, paintings, knickknacks, and other keepsakes. As such, I didn’t get an opportunity to hear much about the European side of the war. Grandma had a brother who was a German prisoner of war in Stalag IV-B, but all she ever really told me about that was that every week she’d go to the store and buy a carton of cigarettes to send him because he could trade them for something or other while he was in the prison camp.

Now, while all this talk was going on during my childhood, I attended a private Christian school. And at school, we didn’t focus on such things as World History or American History. Okay, we actually did to a degree, but more than that, we focused on Biblical History. So, yes, learning about ancient Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams of a bajillion years ago took precedent over the more recent World War. (No offense intended either to God or the dream-plagued king.) As such, I really had no idea about the magnitude of German or Italian involvement in the war… until the fourth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. O’Brian, assigned us to read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I was hooked! I thought Anne was just about the bravest girl to ever have lived!

My grandparents had a child who was just over a year older than my mother. Her name was Dawn, and she died from a hole in her heart early in 1962, a few months before her 15th birthday. In fact, she was one of the earliest patients of Dr. Denton Cooley, the world-famous cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the first implantation of a totally artificial heart. (When Aunt Dawn was seven, Dr. Cooley tried an innovative experimental surgery on her wherein he inserted a metal plug into the hole in her heart. Unfortunately, with this technology being in the developmental stages, the doctor didn’t anticipate that as she grew, the hole would also grow, and the plug essentially fell out!) There were photos of Aunt Dawn all over my house when I was growing up. And after I read Anne Frank’s Diary, I was convinced that Anne (who died in 1945) had somehow reincarnated (even though at Christian school, such thoughts were a HUGE no-no!) herself into my aunt who I’d never met and who was born four years after Anne’s death.

My admiration of Anne Frank led me to study and learn a lot about the European side of the war, and I’m particularly drawn to victims of Hitler and his minions. I don’t just mean, “Wow, that’s awful;” I mean, my heart literally hurts for them and all they endured. My feelings on this don’t only include Holocaust victims, but also those who had to hide to avoid being killed and those who were victims of the Blitzkrieg missions that destroyed so much of Europe and also claimed thousands of lives. And I have the utmost respect and admiration for the brave souls who risked their own lives to help the targeted people stay out of harm’s way.

Fast forward: Prior to the Covid lockdowns, I had several full-length manuscripts that were ready or nearly ready to pursue traditional representation. But after losing and nearly losing numerous friends and loved ones to the Coronavirus, I’ve reprioritized many facets of my life. This meant that I also vaulted seven of my books because I suddenly found them to be too dark. Perhaps they’ll come out of retirement someday, or perhaps the spiders will enjoy a new place to quilt their webs. As for the others, I’ve decided that I now want to pursue self-publishing rather than taking the traditional route.

In 2014, when my idea for a new novel, The Changeling of the Third Reich, came to me, I knew it was something I had to research as thoroughly as possible before I could begin writing. But once I decided to self-publish, I also knew the cover had to be perfect. The obvious solution for a book involving the Holocaust and the Blitz would be a swastika. But the mere idea of that really skeeved me out. I, personally, would not want to sit on a subway train with my nose buried in a book with a swastika on the cover, so I couldn’t ask any of my potential readers to do so either.

Since I dedicated my book to my late Aunt Dawn, I asked for and received my mother’s blessing to use Aunt Dawn on the back cover and an altered version of her on the front cover. I’d like to think if she’d have lived and gotten to know me, hopefully, she’d read my work and be proud that I’d want to use her image. But lacking that possibility, if nothing else, I figure it will give her a little piece of immortality. (I’m hoping that any family members or friends who are still alive and knew her personally will feel the same way.)

At any rate, here’s the cover reveal for my historical fiction -slash- psychological thriller that will be released on June 22, 2023. I’d love to know your thoughts, and even more so, I hope you’ll read it… and love it.

Let’s talk: Is there a particular part of history you feel especially drawn to? Did you or someone you know ever visit a doctor only to learn later that doctor became famous for something? Do you have a historical doppelganger in your family?

The Ring on the Boxcar

In 2014, I had an idea for a historical fiction psychological thriller about a concentration camp survivor who, like so many European Jews at the time, took great pains to hide her true identity. When I conceived my idea, I felt it was too good not to write, and because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, I also knew I had to research it thoroughly. I wanted to depict the European Theater of World War II, the brutality of the punishments meted out by the Nazi army, and the brave men, women, and children who had to uproot their lives to go into hiding or to be forced into ghettos and eventually into extermination camps in an accurate manner. Because my book would be a fictional story which involved such a horrific event, I couldn’t afford to make a mistake and risk deniers using my work as a reason to continue denying the Holocaust. Nor did I wish to offend anyone who lost a loved one at a concentration camp or who survived a camp.

My research led me to many people, including a woman who was a child in Germany during the war. While she was not Jewish, she gave me a first-hand account of how terrified many non-Jewish Germans also were of Hitler and the Nazi army. One part of her story really stuck with me: She said soldiers would stand on every street corner and patrol in front of the surrounding homes. If your windows were open, they would listen to your conversations, and if you spoke out against Hitler, they would enter your home and either arrest you, conscript you into the Nazi army, or kill you on the spot. She told me when she was a small girl, her 17-year-old brother was taken away at gunpoint and was placed into the German army where he was soon sent to the Russian lines. Her family never heard from him again.

One of the many places my research led me was the Florida Holocaust Museum. This museum was fortunate enough to procure Boxcar #113 0695-5 from Poland. This was one of the original cars used to transport human cargo to places such as Auschwitz and the Treblinka Killing Camp.

The same boxcars that were meant to hold eight horses or 40 soldiers during World War I (the Great War), were used by the Reichsbahn (railroad) to hold between 80 and 120 Jews as the Third Reich transported them to one of the six death camps, 900 concentration camps, or 44,000 incarceration sites throughout Europe.

When the museum took possession of the car, they pressure washed the interior, and a little girl’s gold ring fell out from between the slats. The museum displays the ring as a tribute to the child who hid it there.

The first time I saw that ring, I knew the little girl who hid it wanted to let it be known that she was there.  And I was determined that she would not be forgotten.  Her ingenious plan of leaving her ring as a message inspired me to honor her by giving my protagonist, Dr. Bridget Castle, the same brilliant foresight in my novel, The Changeling of the Third Reich, which will be published on June 22, 2023.

Because this is such a somber and solemn piece of history, I’ll wait until another post to expand more on my book.

Let’s talk: Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing something that belonged to a stranger or represented something they had gone through that you were compelled to honor them in some way?

Uncle Paul’s Sea Chest

Greetings, friends!  Over the years, I’ve told you that my grandparents raised me. Two of Grandma’s nine siblings lived in the same town as us, and they and their spouses were much like my grandparents since my actual grandparents were technically my parents.

When Uncle Paul died in 1989, my uncle inherited his sea chest, a tangible memory of his years in the Coast Guard.  Fast forward a few decades.  Last year, my Sweet Cousin Kathy found Uncle Paul’s sea chest and knew I’d want it.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when she dropped it off.  (If you know me and how I love projects, you know what I mean.)  Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait to dive in, so I started cleaning it before I remembered that I should’ve taken “before pictures” first.  I grabbed the camera and decided I’d just document the progress as I went along.

As you can see, the trunk had been badly neglected for years decades.  I had to get a hammer to pry it open because one of the latches was bent and had caused part of the metal strap to bend inside of itself.  This, in turn, broke off a big chunk of the side to break off where it closed.  The whole thing had apparently been spray painted and you could see where some drips had dried.  And the veneer of the lid had obviously broken away, then somebody attempted to “repair” it by using about 79 staples.  (Don’t ever do that!)

I’d never restored a trunk before, so I turned to my good friends, YouTube and Google, for assistance. These both offered big help. I attempted to find a photo of an identical trunk on eBay, Etsy, and Google, but my search was unsuccessful. I’d hoped to restore it to its original glory, but since I was unable to determined what that was, I decided to stick with keeping it black.

When I finally got inside the trunk, the musty smell almost knocked me off my feet.  Research told me that when something smells, it’s most often paper holding moisture.  So, I removed the wallpaper liner and set a plate of DRY freshly ground coffee beans inside.  I found this hack on an antique restoration website on Google, and by golly, it worked!  It was much better than just baking soda, and I added this to my list of solutions to keep for the future.  (You’re welcome.)

Next, I sanded and stained the inside with a light cherry stain to preserve the original look of the wood. I then added a satin-finish polyurethane to ensure no more moisture would seep in. (If it was not is such bad condition, I would’ve kept the wood stained but naked.)

Each of the 6 faces of the trunk had approximately 70 rivets that were badly rusted. I dremmeled them down to the original stainless-steel finish then polished them with my Dremmel’s buffing attachment.

The lid was the most challenging part of the project.  Not only was the missing and stapled veneer a major problem, but it was warped so badly underneath that sanding would not take care of the problem.  I conditioned the old wood then cut away the damaged veneer.

At first, I tired filling in the void with wood putty. This may have worked fine if it were a newer piece of wood, but this 70+ year old wood was really dried out, so it absorbed the moisture from the putty and warped badly! In fact, it looked like a mini roller coaster track as it was drying. The next day, as I pondered what to do, I moved the trunk, and the putty fell off! (That was easy!) I left it alone to dry for another day, and the wavy wood went flat again. (Phew!)

That’s when I discovered my new best friend, BONDO! It worked great on the top, and since I was painting it anyway and not staining it, this was no problem. In fact, YouTube showed me how to make a mold out of wax paper-covered furring strips, and I used Bondo to repair the side that had been damaged. (And since then, I’ve used it to repair a friend’s front door as well as her bathtub.)

Each corner surface had a leather strip that was riveted on.  The leather was so hard, it felt like plastic.  In fact, until I started researching trunks, I thought it was some sort of plastic-like material.  The only reason I knew it wasn’t actually plastic was the age of it.  At any rate, I conditioned the leather numerous times, and that actually softened it a lot. Also, the hardware was badly rusted, so I sanded off the rust, oiled the moving parts, then painted them with antique gold oil-based gilding paint.

The original leather handles were both broken off and dried out, and the metal tabs that held them on were badly dented.  That unfortunately meant that I wouldn’t be able to retain the original hardware and handles.  But another internet search led me to Brettuns Village, an amazing trunk restoration store, and I purchased similar pieces as well as the mini railroad spike type of nails that are actually used to hold them on.  (Did you know trunks don’t actually use screws, not even in the hinges?)

Next, I came to the name plaque. It was made out of copper or brass that was dingy and had started to patina.  I buffed it to its own natural shine then added a thin coat of polishing wax with the Dremmel, and voila! All that natural beauty was just screaming to get out.

Finally, I masked, primered, and painted the exterior wooden parts black, then I used a glossy polyurethane on the outside.  I figured this poor thing had been neglected for so long, it deserved to be the center of attention for a while.  I originally intended this to stay in my spare room, but I loved the way it looked so much when I was done, I kept it in the living room, and people often ask me where I bought it.  I think I’ll check this project off as a success.  What do you think?

Thank you Sweet Cousin Kathy, and thank you, Uncle Paul!

Let’s talk:  Do you like restoration projects?  Have you ever used Bondo?  Did you know that trunks don’t use screws? Did you know coffee was great for removing odors?

Cake and Appliances

Greetings, friends!  I hope all the Bloggyville Mamas had a wonderful Mother’s Day!  In my little corner of the world, Daughter Stefani was sick, so she couldn’t come over, but she and Son Jeremy conspired to give me a wonderful day anyway.  First, let me share the backstory…

About a year ago, I didn’t feel well enough to write, but I needed a creative outlet. When I was a teenager, I worked as an assistant to a cake decorator for a brief time, and ever since then, I’d been wanting to get back into it. But for most of my children’s lives, I was a single mom with no child support, so buying the tools I would need was a mere dream. Last year, I decided to treat myself, so I loaded up my Amazon cart, and a couple of weeks later, I found myself squarely in the middle of a cake business.

Even though I didn’t intend for this to become a side-gig, friends and neighbors started asking me to make cakes for their occasions… so I complied. At the time, I had a generic stand mixer, a 15-year-old oven, and some new cake supplies. Here’s a few examples of the projects I did. (I like to call these “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, 😂 LOL!)…

These are a few of the birthday cakes I made…

This coconut cake tasted as delicious as it looks.
This is dark chocolate-peanut butter cake with fudge icing and peanut butter icing and with Reese’s on top and inside. YUM!
I realized too late that I should’ve used a thinner piping tip for the web. 🥺
This is a light cake with Mascarpone icing
…and the filling was made of fresh raspberries.

Here’s when I got bold and taught myself how to make both a creamy cheesecake and a New York-style cheesecake (though I think these photos might be of the same cake)…

When Sister Michelle’s office contracted me to make 6 dozen Halloween cupcakes, I got started then realized I didn’t have nearly enough candy eyes… So, a little research showed me how to make Royal icing eyes, and they were really quite easy and fun…

Frankenstein is peanut butter-dark chocolate cake with a Reese’s on top.
The stem is a chocolate-dipped pretzel.
The bat is obviously an Oreo.
The brain has cherry “blood”.
The werewolf face is peanut butter icing with Reese’s Pieces eyes, ears and nose,
The tombstone is a chocolate-covered Nutter Butter.
Pretzels hold the Royal icing eyes.

After the cupcakes, Sister Michelle’s office wanted a special Thanksgiving cake, so I experimented with fondant.  (I wish I’d have taken the photo after everything dried, but I had to box it up and send it off to her work)…

For my own house’s Thanksgiving, I tried an experiment that failed miserably! I make this pathetic turkey’s face, wings, and tail out of melted (then re-hardened) chocolate covered with Royal icing. I do NOT recommend this. It was WAY too heavy (and ugly), and the appendages fell off before we were ready to eat the cake. 😂 But it was good for a laugh…

Luckily, this sad guy tasted better than he looked.  😂 😂

For Valentine’s Day, Sister Michelle’s office wanted more cupcakes…

And then my oven broke. (This turned out to be the “break” I needed, because I’m so sick of cakes, I could scream! 🙄 This sampling of photos only represents about a third of the cakes I made in the year. Thankfully, my cake baking business is now officially CLOSED.)  As for the oven, Sister Michelle and I had already replaced the thermostat, both heating elements, and the plug. But this time, there was no reviving her.  In fact, she was so sick that she tripped the breaker every time we even turned a burner on.  So, we were lucky in that this pretty little thing happened to be on sale for 25% off!  We’d been eyeing her for months but didn’t want to put the money into that yet, then fate stepped in and made up our minds for us.  We love the way she looks.  (And we HATE the way she performs, at least the stove part, but that’s a story for another day 🥺)…

Pretty? Yes! Functional? Meh…

So, for Mother’s Day, my kiddos, decided Mom needed a new mixer to go with her new oven, so they bought me the Passion Red KitchenAid that I’d been eyeing for years as well as a pasta roller and cutter attachment!  SQUEEEEE!!!!  ❤️❤️❤️ Apparently, Sister Michelle was in on the surprise too, because she got me a ravioli press.  At any rate, I was so excited, and hopefully, I’ll figure out how to use the attachments soon.  When I do, you’re all invited to my house for pasta, ravioli, and pierogis! YUM! (Who knows? Perhaps my next side-hustle business will be pasta making. Lord, I hope not. 🙄)

YAY! What wonderful kiddos I have! ❤️

Let’s talk: Did you ever have to buy a new appliance out of necessity because one broke? Did you ever hate a new appliance soon after you bought it? Have you ever made a baked cheesecake? Have you ever gotten sucked into running a business that you never intended to do?

Outside the Box

Greetings, friends! Most of you who’ve known me very long know that I often discuss my Asperger’s diagnosis and how it affects me. You may also remember that both of my children are also Aspies, and I’ve discussed their particulars at times also. One of the things that Autistic people experience is the need for routine. For example, most people generally like to change up their menu and don’t really mind when the TV stations change their daily line-ups. We don’t like that.

This quirk is also present when you’d think that it shouldn’t be, such as when there’s a holiday or special fun occasion. Nope. It’s still there. I’ve learned to take deep breaths and get through holiday seasons when we decorate the house differently (though after the holiday, I can’t wait to get things “back to normal”). But what people find particularly odd about me is that, knowing how much I love computers and technology, whenever I get a new computer, I usually bring it home from the store, then I literally set the box in the room and leave the computer boxed up for a few days to a couple of weeks, just so I can get used to the idea that a big change is coming. Yes, I know others chomp at the bit and can’t wait to unpack their new toy. Weird, I know, but that’s what works for me.

For Christmas 2020, Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy got me a Cricut. YAY! I’d been eyeing them for years, and when enough people I know got one and were able to use theirs successfully, I decided I was ready to take the plunge. Once again, adversity to change or fear of the unknown prohibited me from opening the box until mid-January 2021, but it wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs in Photoshop and thinking “outside the box” for different projects I could make. (See how I tied that in?)

And because I have the world’s best niece and nephew, they allowed me the honor of creating them some custom art to decorate their rooms. My niece, Jocelyn, loves mermaids, so I make her mermaid-themed goodies. My nephew, Julian, loves fishing, so I focus on angling for him.

My first fun custom Cricut project was a “portrait” of Julian catching a sailfish. (Or a marlin.) I used his school photo to create a vector of him, and I drew the waves, sky, fish, etc. in Photoshop then used Illustrator to convert the layers to SVG format and cut them with the Cricut. Now, if you don’t use these programs or machines, what you might have heard was, “Blah blah blah Cricut blah.” Don’t worry; there’s not a quiz at the end.

Bottom line, I made a picture of Julian in a boat. And he liked it.

With Jocelyn, I stuck to the familiar and just made a digital art of her as a mermaid.

In fact, the Photoshop welcome photo at the time was a beautiful image of a girl-turned-mermaid, and that’s what inspired me to do that for Jocelyn.

{This was the gorgeous Photoshop opening image in 2020.}

And she liked it.

By the next Christmas, I ventured a little further into my creative vein, and I made them each a box. I designed their names in the theme (Julian’s “J” was a fish on a hook, and the “L” was a fishing pole; and Jocelyn’s name was part of mermaid scales.), and I cut their names out with the Cricut. Then on Julian’s box, I mounted a net and several antique fishing lures.

On Jocelyn’s, I used polymer clay along with tulle, glitter, and gems to make an underwater scene of fish, seaweed, and a little mermaid that looks just like her.

They liked them.

(If I’m going to be transparent here, I should confess that whenever I make them gifts, I also include cash. Just in case. They’ve never complained. That’s what aunts do, so I’m happy to comply with the Auntie Guild Bylaws.)

In conclusion, last year for Christmas, Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and Daughter Stefani bought me a laser cutter. I’d been dying to have one, and I researched for weeks to find just the one I wanted. I even started a list of the different projects I planned to make. To date, it’s still in the box.

Let’s talk: Have you even looked forward to owning something then left it in the box for more than a couple of days? Do you include cash when you give gifts to your nieces and nephews? Did I make a marlin or a sailfish?

My Soap Box

Howdy, friends!  I hope everyone is still healthy and holding up well under whatever your area’s current conditions may be.  We’re all okay at my house.  A few days ago, I woke up so swollen I couldn’t walk, but by the time I was able to get in to see my rheumatologist, things started to get a wee bit better.  (It was a little creepy sitting in the waiting room with other people, though most of us were wearing masks).  My doctor ordered the standard Lupus blood work, and my sed rate and CRP levels (which measure inflammation markers) were about three times the highest “normal range” number, so that explains things.  At any rate, I started a steroid pack, and am feeling much better now.

Last week, I started discussing my “artsy” projects.  I forgot to mention that as far as the house repair or remodel projects that we’ve undertaken, I found the most awesome website called See Jane Drill, and it’s geared toward teaching novices how to do carpentry jobs.  The woman who teaches in the videos is a master craftswoman and a journeyman plasterer, and she’s an amazing teacher!  She’ll tell you to “mix the drywall with water until it’s the consistency of pancake batter or buttercream icing,” and you know exactly what to do.  As a matter of fact, she’s not just for the ladies!  My son now watches her for tips for the jobs he does around the house.

But moving along, not too long ago, I shared how Sister Michelle and I were making and selling homemade soaps, but I didn’t tell you where we store them.  Originally, we just had a small variety of fragrances, and those were fine to store in a closet somewhere.  But when we decided on making our favorite twenty-two designs and scents, we needed a dedicated place to keep them, and it needed to be conveniently located where guests could peruse them if they wanted to purchase any.  We agreed that it would be pretty cool if we could find an old library card cabinet and do something with it, but any we found had a large price tag and took up a lot of room.

So, I started searching YouTube for hacks to make my own.  Turns out Ikea had a cute little “blank canvas” which gave me a good jumping in point.

We purchased five of them and Sister Michelle painted them black.  I then turned the drawers around backward so the little finger hole didn’t show.  I bought some black, white, grey, and red scrapbook papers and lined each drawer then covered the front of each drawer to match the lining.  I made sure some papers were textured to add to the visual interest.

I purchased three types of card holder drawer handles, and after deciding how to arrange each drawer and which type of handle to use, drilled the holes and installed the handles.  I attempted to use the grinder to cut of the backs of the screws inside each drawer, but the tool was too large and bulky for the thin wood, so I found a Dremel bit that worked well.

All told, I’m pleased with how it turned out, and I believe it looks good in my living room.  Each drawer holds seven or eight bars of soap (depending on if they are beveled or wavy cut).  When the drawers on the top are especially full of heavy soap, it does get a little difficult to open and close the lower drawers, but once a few bars are removed, they all work fine.  And, of course, when I start to mention “my soap box,” I can weed out the crowd if I don’t want to be around them because they will assume I’m talking about getting up on the other soap box.

Let’s talk:  Do you ever look for furniture hacks on the internet?  Have you ever re-purposed or refinished a piece of furniture to make it look completely different than it looked before?  Have you ever heard of See Jane Drill?  Have you had to see a doctor since the Covid-19 outbreak hit your area? 

Excused Absence?

Hello, friends.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted after my recent “big comeback tour,” and I apologize.  I’m sure we’ve each been dealing with Covid-19 issues, whatever they may be, in our own little corners of the world, and I was no exception.  Thankfully, I have not been infected.  I was, however, afraid my daughter was.  She had been sick for more than two weeks, and the Health Department and hospital refused to test her because she hadn’t been out of the country in the past month.  Nearly three weeks in, she was finally able to get tested, and turns out she had the flu but was thankfully negative for Coronavirus.

You’ve also probably heard a lot about Hydroxychloroquine in the news lately.  I happen to take that to manage my Lupus, and even though some rumors were out there that people with Lupus could not get Coronavirus for this reason, several in a couple of Lupus groups I’m in who also take this medicine have turned up positive, and one case was pretty serious.  And then the “fatal side effects” news came along.  So, between worrying about my kiddo as well as dealing with the stress of my medication being on shortage when I needed a refill, and then stressing over the idea that it causes heart issues, my Lupus went into a full-blown flare, and I was pretty much incapacitated these last weeks.

Anyhoozle, I’ve been waiting to get all the other stuff out of the way that I’ve been saving up to blog about so that I could start sharing the “artsy” stuff I’ve been doing around the house.  That time has come.  It’s such an extreme difference in how it feels to finally own a house versus having always rented.  It really inspires me to create.  It also inspires Sister Michelle to utilize all her talents to their finest, such as painting the walls and trim, replacing the plumbing, etc. (among her other many talents), and it brings out Son Jeremy’s magnificent ability to watch YouTube and learn a new skill then conquer the heck out of it on the first try (such as replacing all the baseboards and crown molding).   As for me, my skill is in seeing a space and envisioning it to be something else, then making that happen.

When we moved in, there was a 90s “wall cubby” in the kitchen that was being used by the previous owner as a computer station.  But that wasn’t for us.  I wanted a large pantry that looked a lot more modern than the 1997 build-date of my house.  We hired a contractor to frame it out, and unfortunately, that was our first realization that contractors: 1) are difficult to find; 2) will likely drive up the price after they make a quote; and 3) may not hesitate to take advantage of women because they think we don’t know what they’re talking about.

The contractor who framed out our pantry: 1) didn’t make sure the door was level (not 45 degree angles around the door); 2) knew I intended to add shelves on both sides, yet didn’t add any additional bracing studs to hold shelves (which were obviously intended to hold heavy items such as cans); and 3) did not even tape and mud where the new walls met the existing wall, leaving large gaps.  As it turned out, his knockdown texture also didn’t match the existing pattern size, so I bought a hopper and skim-coated everything and re-textured it (and later, just about the entire house).

After Sister Michelle and I figured out the best way to get the shelves up and be sturdy, she painted and I got busy on the computer designing a transom window.  I bought a thick piece of glass and took it to a vinyl cutting shop where they printed and affixed my design, then I bought a sheet of frosted glass stick-on and applied it to the back of the glass, then had Michelle assist while I built the window frame.  She painted it, then with Jeremy’s help, she installed it, and I found the fancy corner brackets on Etsy (pictured in the bottom photo).

As for the inside, I got some different sized plastic bins and added chalkboard decals and wrote whatever categories of food would go in them with a white paint marker.  For the bins behind the first row, I made additional labels that I affixed to wooden clothespins so that the contents could be seen at a glance.

If you can see the wine shelf above, you don’t need to tell me that the bottles should be stored on their side… I know I need to build or buy something to lay them flat in, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.  Eventually, we hope to remodel the island area of the kitchen and add a wine refrigerator to the cabinet area underneath.

Let’s talk: How are you and your family holding up under the Pandemic?  Have you ever used a drywall hopper to texture a wall?  When was the last time you made a significant change to your house?

Dear Writer…

I tried this last month, but didn’t get a big response.  So, let’s try this again.  (And, no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.)

The following announcement is geared mainly toward my writer friends.  Of course, if you’re not a writer, you’re still welcome to read, reply, and play along, but if you are a writer, you might have a particular interest in what I have to say today.

In the past, one of my more popular blog features has been my author interviews.  Not only did these help draw new traffic to my blog, but they helped market your work to a broader audience. I’ve decided to start a new feature called “Writing Prompt Wednesdays” wherein I will post a writing prompt, either text or pictorial, on the first Wednesday of each month.

I invite you to then take (click to open in a new tab, then right click and save) the prompt over to your own blog and use it to write a short story – say (roughly) between 100 and 800 words, telling what happened to lead up to the prompt, what happened after the prompt, why the prompt, or anything else relevant to the prompt.  Then reply to my post with the link to your post and be sure to include your email address so I can interview you.  For each subsequent Wednesday for the rest of the month, I’ll select one of your responses to feature on my blog along with an interview with you and the links to where we can purchase your work.

April’s Writing Prompt:

Click on this image to open in a new tab, then right click to save.

Actual history of this photo:  This awesome guy actually drives this Radio Flyer car around town, and I see him every so often.  He always gets a lot of looks, stares, honks, thumbs up, and people stopping traffic to get their cameras out and photograph him.  I think it looks really cool, but I’m afraid I’d be too embarrassed to drive it.  Bit I would  love to know what it looks like inside.
Photo: ©R. Carrera

Let’s talk:  Will you be participating in my Writing Prompt Wednesdays?  Would you have taken a photo of this “wagon” if you saw it driving down the road?  Would you ride in it?  What’s the strangest motor vehicle you’ve ever owned?