Christmas Craft Projects


It’s the time of the year when I plan out–and hopeful start –the Christmas gifts and decorations I want to make. So far, I have five on my list (four I’ll mention as one is gift that I think she reads my blog). I’m debating on a sixth but with a book in progress, tax training to complete, and wanting to spend time just enjoying the holiday season, I don’t want to become overwhelmed. I enjoy crafting and don’t want a long must-make-list to turn it into a chore.

ornament-for-christmas-project-postProject One: Christmas Ornaments for our ornament exchange party.

Last weekend, I attended a wonderful craft day and learned to make this ornament. It was a fun and simple process, and even better I have most of the supplies on hand. All I need are some plastic ornaments, but I couldn’t pass up this fabric ornament-materialwhen I went in search of supplies for Project Two. I think this design will make an awesome Christmas decoration. The only problem will be I’ll probably want to keep them instead of adding them to the ornament exchange.



Project Two is one that was a request: Harry Potter Fleece tie blanket. I had made one as a birthday gift and my daughter requested I make another one as hers has been permanently borrowed by a very adorable little girl.

She hopes that gifting one to the borrower will mean she’ll get her blanket back. To make sure that happens, I bought the exact same fleece and will make it the same size. I’m a little concerned if I make it in a child size that  the little one will want to keep the larger blanket.

mermaid-tale-blanketAnd that isn’t the only blanket I’m making this year. For Project Three, I’m crocheting a Mermaid Tale Blanket. I have started it and am halfway done with the first section of the tail (the main body–the easy part). I’m hoping when I get to the fins, it goes as smoothly. I’ve only made basic blankets and I’m hoping I can decipher the pattern enough to have it look like a mermaid tale.

The final project on my list (that I’m going to talk about) are gift tags. I made some cute ones last year for a giveaway and am planning to do the same this year–and keep some for myself. I really enjoyed making them especially since I can use my Cameo and/or Cricut Explore Air 2 (which is on its way to me) to cut them out.

Guest Post by Anna Celeste Burke


gnarly-new-year-large-banner640Art romantic sea beach. Women's Glasses and Champagne cork on sa

In this short sketch, my characters from Gnarly New Year, Brien and Kim, talk about the night they decided to get married.


Kim: “Okay, Brien, we’re going to play a game of Truth or Dare only without the Dare part. More like Truth or Chore–I’m going to ask you questions, and you have to tell me the truth or do an extra chore, and I get to choose the one you do.”

Brien: “Uh, I guess that’s okay. Why?”

Kim: “A married couple should know things about each other, shouldn’t they?”

Brien: “Sure, but I know things about you already, or I wouldn’t have married you when you suggested it.”

Kim: “I suggested it? As I recall, you’re the one who said we shouldn’t keep driving back and forth from Palm Springs, where I live, to Indio where you lived.”

Brien: “Yes, but that’s when you said, ‘are you asking me to marry you or do you just want permission to move your surfboard onto my patio?’ I got the message behind the sarcasm, Gidget.”

Kim: “Oh, Moondoggie, it was romantic when you got down on one knee in the moonlight, with the palm trees swaying, and the Ventures playing in the background.”

Brien: “Yeah, just like a scene from one of those old beach movies you love. Except for the part about the beach since we were in your backyard in the desert instead of on the beach.”

Kim: “I know what you mean, Brien. You don’t always have to explain yourself to me.”

Brien: “A lot of the time I do.”

Kim: “Ah, that’s part of your charm and only one reason I love you. You’re one of the first people I ever met who cared as much as you do that I understand you. I was surprised when you pulled out that ring! How did you know I was going to bring up marriage that night?”

Brien: “Uh, okay so here’s the truth—no extra chore. I had been carrying that ring around for a month. Ever since Peter went with me and helped me pick it out. I just couldn’t work up the courage to ask you right away. A couple of times I came close, but I wimped out on you.”

Kim: “Geez, am I that scary? Truth or Chore, remember?”

Brien: “You can be scary. Not so much anymore because I get that it’s a mechanical defense. You get snarky when you’re scared.”

Kim: “I could be wrong, but I think you mean defense mechanism, don’t you?”

Brien: “Could be, but see? That’s what I’m saying. I got too close to the truth, and it scared you. Are you sure you want to play this game?”

Kim: “Yes. My turn to tell the truth. The way I said that it did sound snarky, didn’t it? I do use sarcasm even when I don’t mean to do it. It’s a reflex. And scary? Yeah, I get that. Sarcasm is a shield I put up and sometimes it comes across more like a sword than a shield.”

Brien: “You don’t need shields or swords around me. I won’t ever hurt you.”

Kim: “I want to believe you. But old habits are hard to kick.”

Brien: “That’s why the say ‘old habits die old,’ Kim.”

Kim: “They don’t actually say that, but I get it. So, am I the only one who didn’t know you had bought that ring a month before we got engaged?”

Brien: “The truth, again—yes. I wanted to make sure you’d like it, so I checked it out to make sure it was cool enough for you. Remember when Bernadette baked those Mexican Wedding cookies?”

Kim: “No way! She said she was testing them out for Tommy’s wedding. I’m going to have to play Truth or Chore with her, now, too.”

Brien: “Uh, you might not want to do that. She’s had lots of practice making people do chores. She was my boss when I was the pool guy, remember? Bernadette could give you some bogus ones. Jessica could too.”

Kim: “I figured Jessica was in on it. She went around for a couple of weeks with that ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ look on her face. When we showed up, and I was wearing that ring, her expression suddenly made sense. So no one was surprised by our announcement? They seemed surprised.”

Brien: “When I first told him my plans, Peter was speechless. He hardly said one word the entire time it took us to drive to the jewelry store to pick out the ring. Bernadette, not so much. You know how she is with her special powers. Betsy’s like that, too. When Peter told her the news, she just smiled and nodded. Spooky. Tommy and Laura almost hit the floor, though. That night when we gave them the scoop, they were surprised, alright.”

Kim: “Why?”

Brien: “Because an awesome babe like you said yes to an ordinary dude like me. You know?”

Kim: “You want the truth, Brien?”

Brien: “Of course. You know what Bernadette says, ‘Even the worst truth is better than the best lie.’ Let me have it.”

Kim: “Brien Williams, there is nothing ordinary about you in any way. You are the sweetest, hunkiest dude I have ever met in my entire life. When you flashed that ring, I was totally stoked, as you like to say. You’ve changed my life forever, Moondoggie. You’re right that love is the most excellent adventure of all.”

Brien: “I like this game. Your turn.”


Thanks for reading this post! You’ll find much more of Brien and Kim in the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery Series. Their adventures as newlywed sleuths start with Cowabunga Christmas and continue in Gnarly New Year.  A spin-off from the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series, that’s where Brien and Kim first make an appearance. There are good reasons for their friends in that series to be surprised that these two lovebirds became a couple. I hope you’ll join them on all their adventures. Coming next: Epic Easter, Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery #3.

SRP Heroine Interview: Bridget Sway from Beyond Dead


beyond dead   large banner 640A huge thank you to Bridget for stopping by today to chat with us.

BEYOND DEAD COVERPlease tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life? 

Well, I’ve just died so that’s kind of a big deal for me. I also have a new job that I don’t get paid for, a considerably unflattering mauve jumpsuit for a uniform, a parole officer and a Ghostly Acclimatisation meeting to attend every night to help me adjust to my new (after)life. Sounds pretty bad, right? Like, can’t-get-any-worse bad? I thought so too. And then I found a dead guy in my locker on my very first day at work.

Since the idiot police are trying to pin his murder on me my new best friend, Sabrina, thought it’d be a great idea to solve the murder ourselves and clear my name. Personally, I’m a little hesitant about getting involved as I don’t know the first thing about solving murders (I was an event planner in life) and I don’t really want to catch the murderer’s eye and be the next dead body shoved in my locker.

Yeah, so that’s what happening with me right now.

Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

 Nooooooo. I’m not really a fan of group activities or the type of person who gets involved in these types of ridiculous situations. I mean, what type of rational person tries to solve a murder?

Whilst it’s true in my alive job I did have to deal with some exceedingly unpleasant predicaments I mainly planned weddings so murder was never really something I came across. Theft? Sure. The odd slap fight? Absolutely! But no one ever murdered anyone. Like I said, I mainly planned weddings so those types of threats were made all the time but no one ever followed through on them. At least not at my events.

And to be fair, I don’t really fight crime, pre se. It just sort of happens around me and then Sabrina convinces me that it’s important we get involved. 

Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing? Or is detective work your only career?

No, detective work is absolutely not my only career. I’m unhappily unemployed as a facilitator of pre- and post-life affairs which basically means I spend all day moving stuff around without alive people knowing. For example, if you could swear you put your lip balm on your desk but you find it in the bathroom then, yep, a facilitator probably moved it. Or you’re just really forgetful.

As for who is least pleased with my sleuthing I’d say it’s pretty much a draw between everyone, including myself. Except Sabrina. Sabrina used to be a private investigator in life – in the afterlife she’s relegated to a career as a filing clerk – so she’s super happy that dead people keep falling out at me. I think it makes her feel like her afterlife has some purpose.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I would say my strengths are my confidence and my comebacks. Although dying has dulled the awesomeness of them somewhat but I’m working on it! Probably my biggest weakness or fault is that I can be a little self-involved and dismissive of other people sometimes but in the afterlife so many people are deeply stupid so …

That said, I’m finding the longer I’m dead the more important other people are becoming to me. It’s odd how dying changes your perspective on things. 

Describe what being a self-rescue princess (a strong, confident woman) means to you.

It means being who you are, unashamedly so, and not worryingly about whether other people will like you. Whether that’s regarding your opinions, how you dress or anything and everything in between. The only person you have to be concerned about liking you is you. 

What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

To not let the negativity of others infect your positivity. In life there are people who will support you and invest in your dreams and those that will try to tear you down. You only have a finite number of Friday nights/Tuesday mornings/Thursday afternoons in your life – don’t waste time on those who don’t enrich your life in some way.

What was one lesson you learned during this challenging time in your life?

That I couldn’t identify a murderer at twenty paces! That’s probably the biggest thing. And I used to think I was good at reading people. 

Do you plan on dabbling in amateur sleuthing in the future, or have you hung up your detective hat?  

I had no plans to dabble in this initial bout of sleuthing so I have absolutely no intentions for further sleuthing. At all. Unless someone shoves another dead ghost into my locker and Sabrina finds out about it.  But come on, what’s the likelihood of that?


Adventures in Trompe l’oeil, Part II by Sybil Johnson


Adventures in Trompe l’oeil, Part II

by Sybil Johnson

Here I am again, reporting on my trompe l’oeil adventure. It’s been a couple weeks and I’ve made some progress though not as much as I’d like.

Here’s a pointer to my first post, in case you missed it: Go ahead, check it out, then come back. I’ll wait.

All caught up? Great! Let’s continue.

When I left you last, I was working on a table with a cherry pie painted on it. I’d gotten as far as staining the wood and painting the cloth underneath the pie. I was about to start on the pie.


And this is where I was stalled for a short while. When I do a project, I like to use the colors suggested by the designer or, at least, something similar. That means I need to know approximately what a color looks like. Unfortunately, acrylic paint colors come and go so, when a design is several years old, some of the colors may have been discontinued. That’s the problem I ran into this time. This is where being a hoarder of paint color brochures comes in handy. I was able to figure out what the discontinued colors looked like and come up with substitutes based on color equivalency charts I’d picked up years ago.

Once that was straightened out, I turned to painting the cherry pie. Unfortunately, the instructions are not as detailed as I would like. That’s something to look for when you buy a pattern book or packet: check out the instructions to see if they are detailed enough for your skill level. Some designers assume more experience than others. Here is where the photos of the finished piece have come in handy. Studying them has helped me figure out the approach I should take.

Here’s where I am now:


I still have a long way to go. I need to work on shading on the pie itself and I need to strengthen the shadows on the cloth. I’m getting there, though. Right now I’m off to work on final edits to A PALETTE FOR MURDER, then I’ll get back to work on that pie. Until next time…

Sybil Johnson wields pen and brush at her home in Southern California where she writes the Aurora Anderson Mystery Series (FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD and, soon, A PALETTE FOR MURDER) published by Henery Press. Learn more about her at

SRP Heroine Interview: CC Muller from Killer Finds


killer finds  large banner640Thank you so much for stopping by the Self-Rescue Princess today. I’m so glad you’re able to visit while I chat with CC Muller from Killer Finds.

Killer_Finds frontPlease tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life? 

I will start out by introducing myself for those of you who don’t know me. My name is CC Muller, and I am an antique hunter. I, along with my best friend Anne Hillstrom, appear in the Antique Hunters Mystery series written by Vicki Vass. Our most recent book, Killer Finds, details our adventures after Anne loses all her money and is forced to sell her beloved possessions.  It becomes further complicated by the dead body sitting on the seat next to her on the flight home from our buying trip to Paris.

Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

From the beginning, Anne and I never meant to be characters in a murder mystery series. We only wanted to share our love of antiquing and our knowledge of history with you, our dear readers. Things don’t always work out the way you think they will. Instead we encountered trouble. You can read about our adventures in the first book in the series, Murder by the Spoonful.

Along the way, Anne and I pride ourselves with giving you, our dear readers, tips you can use for your own antique hunting and perhaps if the circumstances arise how to solve a murder mystery.

What are your strengths?

Before Anne and I start out on any trip, we do our research. As an investigative journalist, I rely on the Internet and my extensive wealth of knowledge. We research various locations and its surrounding area so we can maximize our time on our antique hunts. Anne’s background as a research chemist has proven particularly useful both in identifying antiques and killers.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share?

Make a plan. Anne loves to make lists upon lists of stores she would like to visit wherever we are traveling. And, she never forgets to bring her tools. These are very important to help authenticate a find such as a Roseville vase. Anne always carries a pen flashlight and magnifying glass. She also brings a measuring tape so she can measure the space required to take home a large item or authenticate the correct height of antiques such as Stieff bears or Hummels. But the greatest tool Anne carries is her eye for quality antiques. Her house is full of beautiful finds. Well, to be fair more than full as her obsession with shopping carries her away as does her love for food. As her best friend, I feel it is my responsibility to keep both in check.

How can we keep up with your and Anne’s adventures?

In our blog called the Spoon Sisters, a title anointed on us by the Chicago Tribune after solving the estate sale murders in Murder by the Spoonful, we share many tips on antique hunting and recipes from my kitchen and from around the country as we hunt down antiques and pick up clues.

With summer upon us, here is a simple recipe for a refreshing and elegant Shrimp and Watermelon salad.

Ingredients for salad

1 chunk romaine, shredded

1 lb peeled and deveined cooked shrimp

½ watermelon cut into cubes

½ cup feta sprinkles

1 ounce glazed pecans

Mix all ingredients together

Ingredients for Lemon dressing

Juice of one lemon and some zest

1 tbs. sugar to taste

1 tbs. vinegar.

Mix all together well and then pour over the salad. Serve and enjoy. Should make four servings.

Adventures in Trompe l’oeil, Part I


Today on the Self-Rescue Princess, I’m having a guest blogger introduce you to the art of  in Trompe l’oeil.

by Sybil Johnson

The next book in my Aurora Anderson Mystery Series, A PALETTE FOR MURDER, features a trompe l’oeil (pronounced “Tromp Loy”) class. That means “trick the eye” or “fool the eye”. It’s any painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object.  Those clouds on ceilings in Vegas casinos and faux finishes such as marble and bricks fall into this category. To get a feel for what else can be done, here are some masterful 3-D illusions using chalk on pavement by various artists: ://

Go ahead, check them out. I’ll wait.

Good, you’re back. Amazing, right? My favorite is Ice Age.

While working on PALETTE, I was reminded that I’d bought a pattern book and wood for a much simpler project, a cherry pie on a stool, years ago. Yep, years ago. I decided now was the time to work on this project. I thought I’d take you along on my journey into trompe l’oeil.

Here’s what I started with, a pattern/instruction book by Peggy Decker and an unpainted wood side table:


I started by staining the wood. The instructions said to use Minwax Polyshades, Gloss Finish, in Pecan. It’s a polyurethane varnish with the stain in the product. I’d never used the product or even stained anything before, so I approached it with some trepidation. I pulled on my big girl pants and worked away. It took me all of 30 minutes to screw it up. Okay, it was a little longer than that, but not by much.

When the table dried, the top was a mess, not smooth at all. I thought I’d read the instructions carefully, but turns out I didn’t really. Luckily, wood is fairly forgiving so I stripped the top using Citristrip, sanded it a bit and I was good to go again. This time, I made sure I read and reread the instructions.

The next step was applying the pattern using graphite and basecoating with DecoArt White acrylic paint. I was a little worried about the acrylic painting adhering to the Polyshades, but it worked out okay. In between coats of white, I used a bit of paper torn from a brown paper bag to “sand”. Yep, a good old paper bag from the grocery store. It’s rough enough to smooth the paint a bit, but not so rough that it takes the paint off.

Here it is after this step:


Next came a coating of light gray followed by the stripes on the cloth, painted in FolkArt Rose Chiffon. Liner work is not my favorite thing to do. I’ve seen brushes at conventions that have two brushes on one handle, that produce two parallel lines. I don’t have one of those, but I decided it wouldn’t be hard to make my own. I taped together two 10/0 liner brushes and voila! I have my own double brush.


This is where I am so far on the project.


Doesn’t look terribly exciting yet, I know. Projects never do at the beginning. Next time I’ll be working on the pie at the center of the design. Stay tuned.


Sybil Johnson wields pen and brush at her home in Southern California where she writes the Aurora Anderson Mystery Series (FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD and, soon, A PALETTE FOR MURDER) published by Henery Press.

SRP Heroine Interview: Amy Flowers from the Calamity Cafe


CALAMITY CAFE  large banner640Today, I’m chatting with Amy Flowers. How are you today? Please tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life?

The Calamity Cafe (1)I’m so excited to be opening up my own café! Right now, we’re undertaking some major renovations—we being me, my cousin Jackie, one of our favorite regulars, and my lifelong friend Roger and his construction crew. When we get done, the Down South Café is going to be beautiful!

What made you decide to take on such a risky endeavor?

Well, I’d been dreaming of opening my own café for a long time. When my nana died last year, she left me enough money to make my dream come true. After culinary school, I came back home to Winter Garden because Nana was sick and I wanted to be close in case she needed me. I went to work at Lou’s Joint (the café I bought and am renovating), but that woman was a horrible bully. I was eager to get myself and my cousin out of that place as soon as possible.

Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

Never. In fact, I don’t suppose I’d have ever even considered it had I not gone in the café that evening and found Lou Lou Holman—my former boss—slumped over her desk. I didn’t realize it at first, but she was dead. Now, of course, I’m a suspect in her murder, so I have to find out who really did it or I—and my new café—are toast!

Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing? Or is detective work your only career?

I don’t imagine my mother is very thrilled about it. And, come to think of it, Deputy Ryan Hall—who’s very easy on the eyes, by the way—doesn’t seem to like my poking my nose in where he doesn’t think it belongs either. But how else am I going to find out who killed Lou Lou? Deputy Hall says to let the police do their jobs, but where’s the harm in my helping out? Besides, criminals get defensive around police officers. They’re more likely to open up around us “normal” people.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I’m a hard worker, an excellent chef, a devoted friend/family member, and I’m dedicated to the café patrons. I’d say my biggest weakness is that I have a tendency to take in strays. I’m not sure I’d call that a weakness, though. Jackie thinks I’m a pushover. But I only have the one dog…and the cat—who technically belongs to Mom and wasn’t a stray.

Here’s the thing: the morning after Lou Lou was killed, the café was closed while the police investigated the crime scene. Well, poor Homer Pickens comes in every morning at ten o’clock to get his sausage biscuit; so when the café was closed, he came to my house and asked me to fix it for him. Then Dilly Boyd heard the news and she came to the house to ask if I’d make lunch. So I made lunch for her and a few of her friends. But that’s not being a pushover, right? That was learning firsthand what it would be like to cook for a group of patrons—not friends or family. And it was giving a few older people their daily social interaction. They need that.

Describe what being a self-rescue princess (a strong, confident woman) means to you.

It means you can do whatever you put your mind to. Set your goals, write them down, revisit them on a regular basis, and make them happen.

What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. You can—and will—achieve your dreams.

What was one lesson you learned during this challenging time in your life?

I’m stronger than I realized I was.

If your story or life had a theme song, what would it be?

“Walking on Sunshine”

Do you plan on dabbling in amateur sleuthing in the future, or have you hung up your detective hat?

I wasn’t planning on it, but I have a bad feeling that something bad is going to happen to Mr. Lincoln. He’s the Chamber of Commerce president, and he stirs up trouble everywhere he goes. (Stay tuned for book two—SILENCE OF THE JAMS!)