Friday, December 28, 2007

Prairie crafts at the library

My talk and pioneer craft night at the Maud Preston Palenske Memorial (i.e. the St. Joe) Library last night was a big hit. I'd say about 30 gals of all ages showed up and after I chatted about my childhood growing up in Sodus, Michigan, reading and scraping up my knees chasing after my brothers, and my writing career, we got down to the crafts. Pat Peterson from the library staff did a wonderful job, preparing instructions and supplies so gals could try their hand at quilting, rug hooking, braiding rag rugs, embroidering, sewing a small purse, making rock candy, mixing up a rosewater spritzer, and playing jacks. Robin from Forever Books sold copies of The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life and Backcountry Betty and I was happy to sign copies and chat with the girls and the grownups.

It was delightful. Even more delightful were the people who showed up. I went to a Christmas dance in high school with Eric Ford (he was so smart and dreamy) and his mom Judy showed up to have me sign a copy for him, now a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins. My dad's smooth friend Russell swung by. Mom's friend Mary came and presented me with the shirt I gave her to hem at the Christmas Eve Open House. Virginia Handy pulled out all sorts of photos and information about her family, who lived across the street from me growing up (in fact, it was her half-brother Paul who introduced my parents).

And then, toward the end of the event, something miraculous happened. I received a phone call through the library: it was my wonderful English teacher Jane Lindenmuth, calling from Holland, Michigan, where she recently retired. She only knew about the signing because her husband saw an article about the event on the Herald-Palladium website. I had tried to call her earlier in the week but without luck, since I didn't know she had moved. So it was a marvelous gift to hear from her (I immediately recognized her voice on the phone) and I can't wait to catch up with her properly.

Thanks again to the wonderful library staff and Forever Books for being so supportive and enthusiastic about The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life. It all started here in Michigan and it's nice to know it continues here as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy Holidays!

From our second trip to the Four Winds Casino. The first trip was on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Go Lakers!

The Lake Michigan Catholic High School crew (I'll just say we graduated during an era of neon and Rick Astley and rocked out the blackwatch plaid skirts with lots of hairspray and crazy earrings): Maria, Donna, Sheila, and me. We have aged well, if I do say so myself. Must be all that clean livin' and dancing to rad 80s music.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Scenes from a blue-collar open house

A few photos from my mom's Christmas Even open house. Why write much when pictures say it all?

First up, a battered jar of whiskey cherries from 1990. Potent. Jim and I sampled a few vintages around 4pm. After a couple, I realized I was going to have to pace myself to make it to the end of the evening without passing out.

Then a photo of mom and me. This is what happens when you eat the whiskey cherries.

Terry brought about 10 pounds of venison stew in a Crockpot. He's on the left, my stepdad Jim is in the middle, and Toby is on the right, standing by the door to the back porch, where he planted himself for most of the evening. I visited with him every time I went to the pantry for another gin and tonic.

Then we've got the ladies: my stepaunt Pat, stepsister Denise, Legion friend Mary, stepniece Megan, and mom Judy. They are a fine-looking group of gals.

Legion post commander Pete stopped by with his daughter Crystal and her beau Nick, an aspiring writer.

"Jason, do you make Kelly walk behind you all the time?" I thought I was hilarious.

Kelly thought I was mildly amusing (check out her $9 Steve and Barrys sweatshirt! I am jealous!).

Mom and Mary are great friends. A handy seamstress (I am jealous of her too), Mary took home a nightshirt I bought at Old Navy and is going to transform it into a shirt for me.

And then there's mom and me. It was a great party, and we were a bit tired (i.e. corned) at this point. Merry Christmas to us.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The memories keep on comin'

My book signing at Forever Books was a whopping success yesterday, both personally and professionally. My mom and I spent the morning going to 10 places before hitting the signing (hairdresser, party store, Staples, Steve & Barrys, JC Penney, Gordons Food Service, Angelo's liquor store, Rite Aid, Schu's for lunch, and the dime store). I realize that I get my need to be productive and highly scheduled at all times from her. I am a novice practicing at the feet of the master!

Anyway, the signing. Mom was there, of course, but my dad (the photo is of mom and dad—see the resemblance?), stepmom, step-aunt, step-cousins, and step-grandmother all represented. Then Lake Michigan Catholic High School classmates Kelly, Jennifer, and Sheila all showed up to support me. I am truly blessed to have had such cool and caring women in my life, both then and now. Man, I used to love going to Jennifer's (then Jenny Rice's) home in junior high. Her basement was tricked out with a pool table, Intellivision, and some old version of plinko, and her house had a Betamax (we watched Zuma Beach with Suzanne Somers over and over) and a pool. It was a sweet crib.

Anyway, right after the signing, mom scooted me out of St. Joe so we could get back, prep dinner, and get to the Legion for some more socializing and storytelling. I heard a few things about my stepdad that I'm having a hard time blotting out of my mind, but overall it was a good, productive, and highly entertaining day.

Today was spent with my stepfamily, opening gifts and eating. I videotaped my stepbrother Jay talking about his love of the Cubs, and my dad and stepmom talking about their first date and wedding day. With all the activity, it's no surprise I sacked out on the magic sofa until it was time to drive to the beach to check out the wicked whitecaps (the wind has been relentless all day), as well as light displays along the St. Joe bluff and various neighborhoods (some folks can still afford to pay huge electric bills, bless their hearts). Now chilling back at home, I'm finding a moment of quiet. But in the spirit of Midwestern industriousness, I'm finishing up knitting a scarf before turning in.

Digestive digest

About two hours after the last post, I rethought the wisdom of the hot dog bar. Perhaps my enthusiasm for the chili cheese dog AND a ketchup-mustard-onion combo was misguided. Burp.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Scenes from a blue-collar Friday night

A few photos from the Legion post 362. Pete Petric (the current commander) hosted a hot dog bar tonight. My stepdad Jim sprung for my mom and me: it cost the three of us $8 to eat five hot dogs, loaded up with chili, cheese, relish, onions, ketchup, mustard, olives, hot peppers, and more (not all on one dog, obviously). Life is good.

Pictures include photos of me and my mom, me and high school classmate Kelly Robinson, the bulletin board featuring my brother John (who's currently serving in Kuwait), and, my favorite, the signage in the right stall of the ladies' room: "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat." Word.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Michigan, Where the beer is cold and the people are warm

Ah, finally, the holidays are here (in a good way).

After 14 hours of travel (that included a three-hour layover in Vegas that netted me $150 on video poker), I arrived in Michigan late last night, exhausted and cranky.

Today is another story. I woke up refreshed and, after taking mom to work, I drove her car, complete with “Mrs. Eck” personalized plates (my stepdad’s last name is Eckelbarger and he goes by “Eck” for short), over to St. Joe so I could hunker down at a coffee shop and work.

I did some online research at Caffe Tosi for a spell, my dad came by for a visit, and even though I have three different deadlines to hit by Friday, I was really enjoying myself. I took a break and stopped by the bookstore where I’m signing books on Saturday. I chatted at length with a woman in a local artists’ coop. I poked my head into the paint-your-own-pottery place to visit high school classmate Stephanie Hosbein (she owns the shop). She is going to try to swing by my signing and wants me to bring her some Prairie Girl Potions to check out.

I freakin' love Michigan. Folks are so nice. They take time to talk, whether they know you or not.

I went down to the beach and took some photos of the North Pier before doing some Christmas shopping and meeting up with my mom for a drink (or two) at the Legion (post 362). My brother’s photo was on the bulletin board with various well wishes (John is stationed in Kuwait). My stepdad Jim was playing poker and we sat at the bar with Kelly Robinson, another high school classmate who is active at the Legion and who set up my mom’s computer at home. (Thank you, Kelly, for bringing my mom into the 21st century.) I finally feel as if I am experiencing the holidays. I’m talking with people, drawing stories out of them (like how my stepdad proposed to my mom at the kitchen sink or how my brother rifled through his wife’s glove compartment on their first date). I even got some great stories out of the woman at the artists’ coop, who is going to try to come with her artsy teenage son (who takes tea outside every evening at his boarding school) to my talk at the library next week. Forget presents: these experiences are my real gifts. I’m totally addicted.

Ask your family a few questions about high school, likes and dislikes, how they met their spouse or significant other, childhood crushes, or what they wanted to be when they grew up. You might be surprised at the answers!

Happy holidays, wherever you may be. Stay tuned for more Michigan posts…

Monday, December 17, 2007

Making Michigan memories

In the spirit of the holidays (that is, hyping my book and craft appearances), I wanted to let you know that I'll be signing copies of The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life at Forever Books in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan this Saturday (12/22) from 1 to 3pm. If you are in town or anywhere in Southwestern Michigan, please stop by and say hey. I'd love to see you. Afterwards, we can get coffee and walk to the bluff and look at the lighthouse for about 60 seconds until the wind coming off the lake feels like it is cutting our cheeks. Good times.

Where: Forever Books, 312 State St. St. Joseph, Michigan
When: Saturday, December 22, 1–3pm

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A face for radio

Every time I do an interview I'm so nervous that I don't remember exactly what I said. When I actually read or listen to the interview, I chew my cuticles and hope for the best. Well, an interview I did with KMPS, the country station in Seattle, aired back in November and I have to say, I rocked it out. It's only a few minutes long so if you will indulge me, check it out here (scroll down to 11/18 to find my interview).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jewelry and lotions and aprons, oh my!

Thanks to those gals who came out last night for Sugar & Swank's "shop local" open house. We sampled chocolates, tried on the most adorable aprons from Go2Girl, watched Jen Muscatel make over several ladies, played with Leslie's pooch Ollie, and had a great time chatting each other up.

I am obsessed with my Prairie Girl Potion Creme Brulee Body Souffle. It smells heavenly and whenever I shove a jar under someone's nose, they want to dive in and eat it. And what's not to like about slipping on a sparkly bauble or two? The nice thing about these parties is that I can tart myself up with all sorts of silver and crystal creations and in the context of a party, they all look like they go together. There's no such thing as excess at a Sugar & Swank party!

Next up is a book signing at amazing outdoor clothing store Nau this Saturday! Come out to Belleview Square, finish up your holiday shopping, and stop by for a signed copy of Backcountry Betty.

When: Saturday, December 15, 2–5pm
Where: Nau, 242 Belleview Square (second floor, by JC Penney)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The holi-daze

I've been trying to practice my prairie preaching, but it's hard. I'm trying to remain calm in the face of the holiday tumult.

It's not working.

I haven't started Christmas shopping because I've been busy selling. I had a great signing at Hilltop Yarn today, talking with folks, signing books, and making them sample my crème brulée body soufflé (which wasn't that hard, actually, since one dab on the hands made the shop smell like a bakery). It jacked me up for my events next week, which, if you're in Seattle, I hope you make. I'd love to chat with you!

This Monday (as in the day after tomorrow)!
Stacya Silverman & Associates, Queen Anne
My pal and brow guru Stacya Silverman is opening up her Queen Anne Craftsman salon for an evening of shopping in a real boutique atmosphere. In addition to my crystal baubles and Prairie Girl Potions, there will be glamorous jewelry and treats for everyone! Swing by after work and take a look. Cash or check only, please.
When: Monday, December 10, 6–9pm
Where: 16 W. Boston St.

Tuesday (the day after the day after tomorrow)!
Sugar & Swank, Mercer Island
Shop local this holiday season. Ignore the crowds and come out to the Sugar & Swank Studio. Sip champagne, peruse my Prairie Girl Potions and sparkly baubles, and shop for chocolates, linens, custom-blended mineral makeup, and much more in the company of other sassy gals. Cash or check only, please.
When: Tuesday, December 11, 6pm
Where: 3418 77th Place SE

I know there are a lot of things going on this month (there's a weird vibe in the air: people and pets are sick and/or cranky) and if you can make it to one or more events, I’d love, love, love to see you. I suspect your mood will improve.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Spinning a yarn this Saturday

My favorite yarn shop in town is Hilltop Yarn, a Craftsman house that's been converted into a cozy retail and classroom space, chock full of yarns in every possible color and fiber.


I also like the store because of the friendly staff. When I first moved back to Seattle a couple of years ago, I used to walk over there and pet the yarns. I was finishing up a knitting book (Getting Started Knitting) and needed help. Owner Jennifer Hill was only too happy to supply me with the necessary items to complete the book. When I taped an episode of Knitty Gritty (which I still haven't seen!), Susan was a study in patience as she helped me figure out a complicated Cat Bordhi cast-on.

So I'm tickled pink to be talking about The Prairie Girl's Guide to the Holidays this Saturday at Hilltop Yarn. Stop by, pick up yarn for last-minute gifts, get a signed copy of The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life, and join the conversation about how to make the holidays more meaningful and less crazed.

Where: Hilltop Yarn, 2224 Queen Anne Ave. N
When: Saturday, December 8, 1–3 pm

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hand-made gifts for everyone

As the holidays approach, you may wish you had a small but lovely gift on hand for a hostess, friend, or coworker, or even family member. Don’t be caught empty handed; buy one of my jewelry creations or indulgent Prairie Girl Potions. There’s something for every gal on your list. I’m happy to arrange for delivery, everything charmingly packaged and ready for gifting.

Happy and peaceful holidays!

crystal rings and pendants $40
Swarovski crystals are woven into one-of-a-kind rings and pendants.

button rings $40
Charming buttons make stunning centerpieces on these unusual rings. Each ring is truly a conversation piece.

felted rings $15
Made of wool, these fun rings add a playful touch to any outfit.

Prairie Girl Potions
crème brulée body soufflé $12
Smooth your skin with this decadent and calorie-free treat! Cocoa butter and Vitamin E protect and treat the skin, a touch of shimmer catches the eye, and the scent of chocolate and dulce de leche captivates the senses.

herb garden body soufflé $12
A shimmer-free version of the Body Soufflé, this concoction is chock-full of lavender, rosemary, and peppermint, so you feel both peaceful and perky.

lavender linen waters $7
An unexpected and genteel gift. Spritz your sheets, curtains, and anything that needs freshening up. Perfect for sprucing up clothes while traveling! Shake well before each use.

pucker up lip balm $5
An ideal stocking stuffer! This soothing balm is chock-full of nourishing ingredients like Sweet Almond Oil and Vitamin E and smells vaguely like your favorite chocolate mint candy. Tuck a tin in every coat and handbag.

rub it in cuticle cream $5
An ideal stocking stuffer! Jojoba oil, Vitamin E, beeswax, and lemon essential oils create a protective treat for your cuticles. Keep a tin within reach of your fingertips!

If you are in Seattle, you can peruse all of these items and more during the Sugar & Swank event next week.

Sugar & Swank, Mercer Island, WA
Shop local this holiday season. Ignore the crowds and come out to the Sugar & Swank Studio (it is a surprisingly quick ride to Mercer Island from Seattle, I swear). Sip champagne, peruse my Prairie Girl Potions and sparkly baubles, and shop for chocolates, linens, custom-blended mineral makeup, and much more in the company of other sassy gals.

When: December 11, 6pm
(RSVP by December 4 via e-mail or call 206-351-3213)
Where: 3418 77th Place SE

And if you need to shop for knitting supplies to finish up holiday projects, come visit me at Hilltop Yarn this Saturday.

Hilltop Yarn, Seattle, WA
The folks at Hilltop Yarn have invited me to speak about The Prairie Girl's Guide to the Holidays and sign books. Pick up some yarn for last-minute projects, learn how to make inexpensive but meaningful gifts, and enjoy the holidays a little bit more than usual.
When: December 8, 1-3pm
Where: 2224 Queen Anne Ave. N

A sampling of my books