Steampunk Shakespeare Props

Time-Travelling Device

Time-Travelling Device

web fancy box_IGP4916My husband has been busy the last couple of months designing and building steampunk-style props for a production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” The Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company is putting it on, June 6-15, 2014, in Pensacola, Florida.

At left is Petruchio’s time travelling device. It doesn’t actually function, of course, but the lid lifts off, so it could be used as a carry-all or purse.



Here is a letterbox designed for the set. The lid is hinged and it has a slot in the top.




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My Latest Jewelry Designs

For the past few years, I’ve been putting together some “original” jewelry. I put that in quotation marks because, for the most part, I use existing pieces, either from a thrift shop, clearance sale, or craft store.

Red and Gold NecklaceThis is my most recent creation. I used a pendant and matching bracelet made by Monet (and bought on clearance) along with some findings and chain bought at a craft store. I could use a different chain; it’s really hard to match the color gold if you don’t have the piece right in front of you at the store. That’s mostly hidden under my hair right now.

Imperial Snowflake PendantThis next piece was laser-cut by my husband. If you don’t recognize the symbol, it’s the Imperial snowflake emblem worn by the Empire’s officers in the Star Wars films. It’s cut out of wood, and I used chain and findings from the craft store.

He was very romantic when he gave it to me, and said “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” Sweet, huh? But I love that it’s one of the first things he cut on his laser cutter just for me.

By the way, I usually buy jewelry findings when it’s either on sale or I have a coupon. The Monet necklace and bracelet were each priced at $22, but I paid far less on sale AND with a coupon around the holidays.

Necklace made from a matching pendant and bracelet.
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Book Review: The Other Woman (Mystery)

Hank Phillippi Ryan made her novelist name with the Charlotte McNally Mysteries, starting with “Prime Time” in 2009. Those were taut, well-plotted mysteries in a short form.

Now, she’s digging in and deepening the plots for long-form novels. The first Jane Ryland mystery is “The Other Woman” published in hardcover in 2012, and now out in paperback.

otherwomanbookcoverJane is a reporter, a star of the Channel 11 news until a businessman denied her report that he was seeing a prostitute and took her to court.  When “The Other Woman” begins, she’s starting a new job at a newspaper, the Boston Register. She doesn’t want to rock the boat in her first 90 days, but when she’s assigned to profile the candidates in the upcoming senate race, her investigative journalist skills kick in.

Who is the woman in the red coat at all the rallies and fundraisers? Could she be a candidate’s mistress, in an affair suspected (off the record) by his wife?

At the same time, Jane’s friend – and source – Boston police detective Jake Brogan is investigating a series of murders. The bodies of young woman are turning up under area bridges. The media is already branding the murderer “the bridge killer” – but Jake’s not convinced the killings are linked.

As Jane develops her story and Jake investigates the mounting murder cases, they begin to ask the same question: Are the killings connected to the political race? With the election looming, time to unravel the mystery is running out.

“The Other Woman” is a fantastic murder mystery. The intricately woven plots keep you guessing, and Ryan’s knack for ending her fast-paced chapters on a cliffhanger make the book next to impossible to put down. Ryan is a detail-oriented writer – the settings are easy to picture, every character has a unique voice, and the action is all believable. It’s easy to see why she’s won (or at least been nominated for) all the top mystery-writing awards.

I started figuring out what was going on about two-thirds of the way through, but even so, it was still very suspenseful until the last few scenes. By then, the denouement seemed a bit over-the-top melodramatic and drawn out. Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book.

wrong-girl-225The Jane Ryland novels are very suspenseful, but the descriptions never get explicit or gruesome. Jane and Jake have some serious sexual tension, but these books don’t have anything I’d be embarrassed about showing my mother or a teenager. I recommend them for anyone who loves a good mystery.

Tom Doherty Associates is publishing “The Wrong Girl” –  the second book in the series – in hardcover in September 2013. Watch for my review on Fresh Fiction.

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10 Reasons NOT to shop at Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble has a page on its website listing “10 Reasons to Shop at Barnes &” After my recent experience, I can easily give you 10 reasons NOT to shop there.

1. Their claim: “We Ship Fast!”

I placed my order on April 1. I received the books on July 6. Not very fast at all.

2. Their claim: “Our Lowest Prices Ever”

These are the books I ordered with a Barnes & Noble gift card. They’re all cheaper at Amazon, and I would have gotten them all from Amazon if not for that gift card. Amazon would have shipped what they had in stock as soon as I placed the order then shipped the one that published July 2 by itself, at no extra charge. And they wouldn’t have shipped it ON July 2, like B&N. Amazon would have shipped it a day or two sooner, so I would have had it closer to the publication date. Check out the savings:




  • The Other Woman
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Mass Market Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9780765369130



  • Always the Vampire
  • Nancy Haddock
  • Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9780425240885



  • Paris in Love
  • Eloisa James
  • Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9780812981902



  • Blonde with a Wand (Babes on Brooms Series #1)
  • Vicki Lewis Thompson
  • Mass Market Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9780451228925



  • All the Queen’s Players
  • Jane Feather
  • Paperback
  • ISBN-13: 9780594234753
  • B&N cancelled this order, Amazon has it in stock



3. Their claim: “Selection You Can Depend On”

Apparently I can’t depend on their selection. Three months after I placed my order, they informed me that “All the Queen’s Players” was unavailable and cancelled the order. They told me after they shipped all the other books, or I would have selected something else to be shipped at the same time.

4. Their claim: “Everyone is eligible for Free Shipping when you spend $25.”

They only give you free shipping if you choose the “Ship In As Few Packages As Possible” option. That gives them the opportunity to sell your books to someone else and never fill your order.

5. Their claim: “Your personal information is safe with us.”

I don’t know about the website, but their store checkout systems were hacked in 2012.

6. Their claim: “We’re No. 1 — in Customer Satisfaction.”

Compared to whom, I wonder? They certainly haven’t satisfied me. I ordered five books. I chose “ship in as few packages as possible” to save on shipping. One of the books was coming out in July. I thought they’d ship everything else, or at least reserve those books for me. Instead, they waited until the day after they shipped my books to notify me that the fifth book was cancelled. Now, I have $3.33 left on a gift card, and even if I find a book for that price, the shipping would cost more. They refused to refund the difference, and they ignored my request for a free shipping code. The person who responded to my complaint also acted like nothing had shipped yet, therefore “Heather” didn’t even read my full email or research my order.

7. Their claim: ” The Ultimate Destination for Book-lovers.”

Yeah, not so much. Anything you can do on the Barnes and Noble website, you can do at Amazon. You could also choose to go to Goodreads or FreshFiction for reviews, sharing, lists, and other special features.

8. Their claim: “The world’s most advanced eReader is available exclusively at Barnes & Noble.”

First off, their Nook eReaders aren’t “exclusively” sold at Barnes and Noble. You can also pick one up at Walmart, Best Buy, and a number of online stores. Second, I find plenty of reviews that give higher, or at least equal ratings to Amazon’s Kindle and other tablets. Check out the comparisons for yourself at CNET and ABC News.

9. Their claim: “Barnes & Noble does not sell or rent your personal information”

They may not sell it or rent it, but when you actually read their privacy policy, you find out that they will share your information with a whole lot of people, including “partners” and “third party providers.” Giving it away still counts, guys.

10. They don’t claim to treat your order with care, and that’s just as well, because they don’t.

My order arrived in a ratty box that looked like it was re-used. It was barely taped and falling apart. The books were a little dogeared, but I feel fortunate that all the books they shipped were still in the box and not wet or seriously damaged.

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Girl Version of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”

I love the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and it always kind of irritated me that it’s written specifically for a man to sing it, using lines like “real live nephew of my Uncle Sam” and “I’m a Yankee Doodle boy.”

So, I wrote my own girl version:

Photo of flag blowing in the wind slightly out of focus“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Yankee Doodle do or die. A true believer in my Uncle Sam, born on the fourth of July. I’ve a Yankee Doodle sweetheart. He’s my Yankee Doodle pal. Yankee Doodle went to London just to ride the ponies. I am that Yankee Doodle gal.”


What do you think?

Props to George M. Cohan for writing a fantastic patriotic song.

Happy Independence Day!!

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Paper Towel Overload!

How many times have you stared at the paper towels or toilet paper, looking at the various options and wondering what’s the best deal? It’s not even just which brand is best, but does it really make a difference if you buy double rolls or triple rolls or stock up or not? Do you get out your calculator to figure it out or do you just shut your eyes and grab the closest package?

For years, my husband and I played the calculator game. We had an idea that Angel Soft was the cheapest brand, besides the Walmart store brand and possibly some 1-ply options. Then we did the math at Sam’s Club and started buying the POM brand of paper towels and toilet paper.

Recently, I wondered if POM was still the best deal out there, so I wrote down a bunch of different brands, packaging options, and prices at Walmart and Publix. Now, prices vary from store to store and week to week, and sometimes you can find sales or coupons that will make a big difference. This chart is a start, at least.

This chart compares prices of toilet paper and paper towels based on square footage per package.

Data collected in April 2013

As you can see, POM still wins for best price, but it’s close. If Publix has a sale or coupon for its Greenwise brand, it could tip the scales.

You’ll notice that I took the price per square footage out to four decimal places. When I first started the chart, the POM was coming up at one cent per square foot, and everything was two or three cents. I knew all the others couldn’t be exactly the same price, but it takes hundredths of the penny to see the difference.

The final column shows you the difference between the product on that row and the POM price per square foot. Is it worth paying just over a penny more per paper towel to buy Brawny’s Pick-A-Size towels and be able to easily tear off half a sheet if that’s all you need? My mom uses either Bounty or Brawny paper towels and they’re definitely a little thicker and nicer.

This chart has made me more likely to try some different brands to see if it’s worth paying just a little more for a better product.

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The Oscars Tribute to Musicals

The 2013 Academy Awards had a theme. The ceremony paid tribute to movie music, and they definitely hit some high notes. They also could have done a lot better.

Barbra Streisand performs "The Way We Were" at the 2013 Academy Awards. hamlischBarbra Streisand singing The Way We Were in tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch was amazing. What the segment needed were some film and video clips playing beside Babs or behind her, demonstrating the scope of his work.  Plenty of people who only vaguely know Hamlisch by name would recognize the blind skater tripping over the roses in Ice Castles, the gold-bedecked dancers of A Chorus Line. Heck, how about a powerpoint of movie posters or soundtrack album covers reminding people of how much he did?

The tribute to movie musicals of the last 10 years was a nice idea. It’s too bad that they only paid tribute to two of them. They had a few clips from Chicago and a song from the show. They had a few clips from Dreamgirls and the breakout song from that film. And… that’s it?! In less than five minutes, I recalled The Producers, Mamma Mia, Nine, and Hairspray.  Wikipedia reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and Sweeney Todd. And does The Muppets count as a musical? It had several good original songs. They could have done live “clips” instead of whole songs. They could have mixed up the live performances with clips from different films and given some variety in the same amount of time.

The James Bond tribute did two minutes of clips cut together without any real flow. I would have liked to have seen something a little more thought out, maybe by filmmaker Chuck Workman. They could have gone chronologically, by actor who played 007. They could have done groupings – Bond girls, incredible stunts, fast driving, daring escapes. Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger was fantastic, but what about some of the other great songsLive and Let Die, Nobody Does It Better (by the aforementioned Marvin Hamlisch), and For Your Eyes Only, just to name a few. And even though it’s not an “official” Bond film, as in produced by Cubby Broccoli, the original Casino Royale featured the Oscar-nominated Burt Bacharach-composed song The Look of Love.

All-in-all, the producers of the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony had some nice ideas, poorly executed.

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