Searching for my sewing mojo

I’m going to the Original Sewing & Quilting Expo in Lakeland this weekend! Three days of classes, demos, and shopping! I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Traveling is always anxiety producing for me. But I’m determined to do it.

I’ll be taking my newest creation: the placket tote.

I got the idea for this bag from Don Kim on YouTube. His is a little bit different, so you should check out his video if you’re interested in making one.

It’s made from plaid shirt plackets. I bought a bunch of men’s shirts at Goodwill and cut off the plackets. I trimmed them, pressed them, cut them to size and then figured out how I wanted them laid out. Then I sewed them onto cotton fabric.

I used fabric from one of the shirts, and denim, for the lining, thinking the denim would help stabilize the pocket zipper (which I had to do twice–the first time it was wonky and got wonkier the more I looked at it). And I used two of the shirt pockets for the other side of the lining.

I had to do the handles twice, too. The first time, I made them 1 1/2″ wide. I was sure that was the width I wanted. But that turned out to be too wide, so I made them about an inch wide.

Here are some more photos:

I was way too focused on bagging the lining and sewing it to the bottom of the bag, then turning it all right side out, that I didn’t take any photos or video. But if you want to see the process watch Don Kim’s video.

It’s a pretty weird-looking process, but somehow, it works.

I’m really happy with the final product.

It’s been a long time since I sewed regularly. We went through a couple of years of home renovations during which sewing was impossible. But now I have a really nice sewing space and I’m ready to get back into making garments.

My first two projects have been bags. The first one I did wasn’t too bad:

But the straps are too flimsy, the zipper pocket outside is too high, and I used velcro to close the inside pockets, which I’ve decided I hate. So, I’ll probably remake this bag. I’ve got plenty of the fabric leftover. It used to be curtains on our French doors.

So I’m off to the expo to get my sewing mojo back on!

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A Trip to Brevard Zoo

This post contains a few videos and might take a few moments to load. Sorry about that.

We renewed our Brevard Zoo annual memberships after several years and decided to visit last weekend. Members get in early, so it was wonderfully quiet for a short time in the morning. We accidentally went into the aviary before they were open, though.

Here’s the video of us getting kicked out and me trying to get some more video before I had to leave.

That’s was fun.

Anyway, my photos didn’t turn out all that great. I managed to get some decent pics through glass and fencing, and the video was captured with my iPhone. My favorite moments were with the big cats, naturally.

We have lions in Brevard now! Their permanent exhibit is currently being built so they’re hanging out in the Florida section. They are gorgeous!

The best picture I got, and the only one I felt was good enough for a logo was this one of a single lion.

And it’s still not all that great.

I got 56 seconds of video of the jaguar licking a bone.

I think the jaguar is my favorite of the big cats.

The great thing about the zoo is that each time you go, you’ll find something different, even though it’s pretty much the same animals each time. Hopefully, next time I’ll get some video or pictures of the black bears.

The Brevard Zoo is located in Viera, Florida.

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Diet Coke’s Day Out

We attended the Sunshine State Book Festival on Saturday in Gainesville. One hundred fifty authors inside a huge Methodist church. As the spaces for each author were small, we left the cooler in the car, leaving Hubs to run out to get me a yogurt, for example, when the mood hit.

At three o’clock, I was ready for a Diet Coke. Hubs had been sitting for a while, reading on his Kindle, so I told him to take his time fetching one for me. “Take a walk,” I said. “Stretch your legs.”

As I waited patiently for my afternoon jolt of caffeine, I received a series of messages on my phone. Alas, as I was hankering for some energy, my Diet Coke was enjoying a tour of the church grounds.

Here we have Diet and Hubs enjoying some of the crisp fresh air of Gainesville. The high was 65°, downright chilly for a Southerner, so I can’t imagine they sat very long.

Together they enjoyed some duck watching at the pond. It was nice of Hubs to give Diet the chance to feel some real nature under her…bottle.

I see they found another bench. Hubs must be doing the aforementioned stretching of the legs as Diet sits and watches patiently. Nice bench, though.

I’m sure there is some sort of ironic joke being made here.

Now they’re playing soccer? It was after 3:00 by this time and I’m waiting as patiently as I can. I don’t think Hubs should have teased me this way. Still, I was glad Diet was having some fun, considering where she would end up at the end of the day.

Hold the phone?! Now they’re playing baseball?

I’m not sure what’s going on here. Are they exercising? Or is it parkour? She better not fizz all over me when I open her.

Finally! They were on their way into the book festival.

They both made it back to me, but only Hubs left with me at the end of the day. Diet Coke was duly drunk and her bottle recycled…as it should be.

All in all, it was a good day. We met some great people and sold a few books. Hopefully this festival will grow into something really special in the future.

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Oh, look…It’s January again

I’ve made some changes. And while, yes, I did decide on this momentous upheaval of “how things are going” late last year, it really has nothing to do with the whole New Year thing. But it does feel sort of like that.

Anyway, most people out there will tell you that if you want to be “successful” you need to brand yourself. Pick a lane, they say, and stay on it. Find your niche and remain laser focused.

For example, let’s say you like to write cowboy romances. Great! That’s your lane. Write the best cowboy romances you can, and keep writing them. Write them in series, too, because people love that. And maybe, once you’ve got three dozen cowboy romances under your belt and you’re a bestselling romance author (at least in the cowboy section) you can write something a little different.

See…I can’t even offer up a good example of how to succeed without going off the rails.

No! You write cowboy romances damnit and that’s your lane. Stay in the lane if you want to succeed.

There’s a reason I chose Wayward Cat for my imprint. Somewhere in my sad and lonely childhood, I decided I wasn’t going to take this crap anymore. Nobody was going to tell me what to do. And here I am, an old woman, trying to force myself to do things I don’t necessarily* want to do.

*It’s complicated.

I’ve written fourteen novels and one nonfiction book. I didn’t stay in my lane. I wrote the stories that were in my head, and I stand by that strategy. I couldn’t have done it any other way. I’m just not wired to stay in one lane.

I’ve also created four puzzle books so far, with one more on deck and lots to come. I’ve created three journals with one more almost finished. And looking at my output lately, some might think I’m just throwing stuff at the wall hoping something will stick, but that’s not it. Not at all.

I was fine writing fiction until I happened upon journals, which led me to puzzle books. I do them because I love to do them.

But, sure, I’d also love to be more successful. Who wouldn’t?

It’s not like I haven’t sold any books. Online sales trickle in. And I had a very successful weekend at the Miami Book Fair last year. My books do win awards when I bother to enter contests. But I don’t sell a lot of books regularly and I guess that was how I was measuring success.

The thing is, no matter what people tell you, no matter what you do, you might not succeed.

Everyone out there telling you how to succeed–Just keep submitting to corporate publishers or agents! Persistence is the key! Stay in one lane! Write to market!–is either suffering from survivor’s bias or spouting what the survivors have told them because they do believe in fairies, they do believe in fairies, they do, they do, they do believe in fairies.

Well, I don’t.

So, I’ve decided to give up.

Hold your panties, there, I’m not giving up on writing. In fact, from your perspective, I’ll bet nothing is going to change at all.

What I’m giving up on is the nagging and the guilt and the frustration–all of these things are coming from inside of my own head and I’m sick of them. If I don’t feel like writing fiction, I’m not going to do it. That’s all there is to it. But lucky for me, I do often feel like it, so I’ll probably produce the same amount as usual. I’m just not going to beat myself up for sewing instead.

I sort of remind myself of Andy Bernard, the Nard Dog, on The Office. When he left Dunder Mifflin, he wasn’t pursuing a singing career. No, any method of becoming rich and famous would suit him.

And that’s me. I made a list of all the things I want to do–the things that make me happy. I’m over sixty now and I’m allowed to be happy. So here it is: Writing, Puzzle Books, Sewing, Photography, Cooking, Online Classes, & Crocheting/Knitting.

Those are the things I like to do. And I’m not going to push any of them aside anymore trying to make myself a successful author. I’m just going to be me. I’m the brand. Again, this really is nothing new when I think about it. It’s just a recognition of the fact. And I made a chart to keep track of my progress on all of my projects.

So that’s what I wanted to tell you.

I made a chart!

How about you? Have you any plans or resolutions? I hope they’re as epic, or as minute, or as nonexistent as you want them to be.

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Hey, Epcot…it’s not me, it’s you

It’s been a couple of years since we visited Epcot for the food & wine festival. The only reason was Covid. But we’ve been vaccinated over and over again, and we’ve likely already had it and were asymptomatic, so we decided to get back out there and stuff ourselves with super expensive, not all that epic, little plates of food.

You pay $25 to park now. And you have to pay for your tickets and make a reservation for whatever park(s) you want to visit on whichever day ahead of time. So we did that. For some reason, I thought the reservation meant that the park wouldn’t be too crowded. And you know, it probably wasn’t as crowded as it could have been.

We went to the Magic Kingdom once and the crowd was so thick we couldn’t handle it. We spent about an hour and half squeezing ourselves through the throng toward the exit and left.

Anyway, so the object is to go around the World Showcase and stand in lines to get samples of food that you have to pay for. I didn’t take any other pictures really. For one thing, the park isn’t as picturesque these days. The entrance area is under construction. And I was just uninspired while walking around the country area.

Here’s what we got:


Grilled sweet & spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, pepper, onion, and snap peas.

Grilled sweet & spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, pepper, onion, and snap peas.

So, I don’t know what bush berry shrimp is, but it was delicious. Hubs didn’t like it. The snap peas had that frozen taste. By that I mean they tasted like the beans that I’ve gotten in a bag at Publix in the freezer section. That doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t fresh. It just means I wasn’t all that into the taste. I like my beans with the bejeezus boiled out of them and greasy with bacon fat.

Anyway, this was one of the best things we ate.

Appleseed Orchard

Apple Crumble Tart

Appleseed Orchard, as you may have guessed, is not a country. It used to be that all the booths represented countries, but not anymore. They’ve got booths for all sorts of stuff now: Coastal Eats, Flavors From Fire, The Fry Basket, Mac & Eats, The Noodle Exchange, The Swanky Saucy Swine, etc.

Anyway, the best dessert we had was at Appleseed Orchard–the apple crumble tart. It was like apple pie, but not too sweet. I’d eat that again!


Black beans with crispy pork belly, Brazil nut pesto and rice and Brazilian cheese bread

Black beans with crispy pork belly, Brazil nut pesto and rice and Brazilian cheese bread.

The black beans were fabulous! The second best thing we ate. I’d say it was the first best thing, but you really have to take the dish as a whole, and this dish had a chunk of tough pork belly on it. I chewed and chewed for five minutes. And it was bland, too. So, no thanks.

The cheese bread was rubbery and bland. Like…why? Why would I want to eat that? It was like eating a boiled rubber ball. As I was trying just one more bite in hopes that I’d missed something with the first, my thought was, “I’m just putting calories in my body without the pleasure you expect from cheese and bread.”


Warm beignet filled with a 3-cheese blend

I usually get the escargot at the France booth, but I decided to do something different this year. Live and learn. I chose the “warm beignet filled with a 3-cheese blend.” It was warm. I’ll say that. There was so much cheese in and on it that I seriously doubt that any French person would eat it. This was American cheese bread. Except that it was, once again, bland. It’s as if the people in charge of the French booth tried to give Americans the ooey-gooey cheese bread they must want, but with some kind of mild French cheeses instead of good cheese. No thank you. I stood in that long and winding line to get mushy, tasteless (and a tad tough) bread. I’m scarred.



Greece will make it all better. Am I right? No. No, I’m not. For one thing, there was no baklava this year. Granted, the baklava might have been at a different booth last time, but there wasn’t any to be had anywhere.

So I got spanakopita. I’ve had it before and was looking forward to it. The dough was excellent. Flaky and delicious. But there was very little spinach and it tasted mostly like cheese. Bland cheese. Are you seeing the pattern here? Ah well. I’ve decided that, in addition to making myself an ooey gooey fabulous grilled cheese sandwich this week, I’m going to make my own spanakopita and stuff it with spinach! Take that Greece booth.

Hops & Barley

Chesapeake crab slider with tangy coleslaw and Cajun remoulade and carrot cake

Chesapeake crab slider with tangy coleslaw and Cajun remoulade and carrot cake.

There was a ton of crab on the slider and it was tasty. The remoulade was lovely. Probably the third best thing we ate. We brought the carrot cake home with us. It was really good. It was more like a muffin this year and the icing was more of a glaze. And neither the cake nor the icing were super sweet like you often get with carrot cake. Overall, it was very good.


Warm chocolate pudding cake with Irish cream liqueur custard

It’s always too hot to have the fisherman’s seafood pie at the Ireland booth. I may have had it the first year, but now we just get the warm chocolate pudding cake with Irish cream liqueur custard.

This year…I don’t know…maybe I’ve just fallen out of love with it. It was warm. And mushy, with some nubby-ness to it. But not as chocolatey as it looks. The custard was lovely though. Another thing I’m determined to make soon is a flourless chocolate cake. And maybe I’ll give this Irish cream liqueur custard a go.


Tostada de barbacoa

Tostada de barbacoa: BBQ beef on a fried corn tortilla with chipotle black beans, pineapple, pickled onions and Queso fresco, and chives.

The tostada was flaky and tasty, the meat was tender, but bland. The bbq sauce was hot, but not much else. It was…okay.


Paella with rice, chorizo, and shrimp

Paella with rice, chorizo, and shrimp.

Okay, so I guess I don’t like chorizo, which is the sausage stuff. It had a weird taste to it. The shrimp was good and the rice and peas were okay. I don’t think this was real paella. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Brew-Wing at the Odyssey

Crispy Brussels sprouts with buffalo sauce

This was our last dish of the day and I was so looking forward to it. Brussels sprouts. I was promised “Crispy Brussels sprouts,” actually.

The catch was the buffalo sauce. Hubs said he didn’t like buffalo sauce. I was unfamiliar with it. I’m familiar with it now. It was disgusting. It rendered those fabulous Brussels sprout inedible. And not very crispy. I was so disappointed! And gaggy. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

We skipped a bunch of booths; we just can’t eat that much. And this year, we didn’t go on any rides. It was hot and crowded, and the food was just not that great. All in all, a rather disappointing trip to Epcot.

A $5 bottle of Diet Coke and we were out of there.

So, am I just an old lady now? Is that why everything tasted bland? Or is the Covid?! Nothing else tastes bland, just all the cheese and some of the meat at Epcot. I’m going to say it’s not my taste buds, but it could be that I’m just not that into the Epcot thing anymore.

Does Sea World still do a food & whine, er, wine festival?

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Hurricanes, ACs, and Jabs, Oh My!

Beautiful ear-tipped feral cat seen at a park on Lake Lanier in the Atlanta area. September 2022

We knew there was a hurricane headed toward the gulf. Honestly, I can’t recall where it was when we left for our week-long vacation to the Atlanta area and then on to Chattanooga. We left on a Friday and spent a wonderful weekend adoring our grandbaby. But, by Sunday, we realized that no matter where the hurricane hit, we’d be driving home the next Friday through its aftermath.

So, we forsook Chattanooga and returned home on Monday to prepare for a storm.

We live in a weird spot on Florida’s east coast. Now, I’m not saying we never get hit, but we rarely do. Most storms ride up along the coast and hit up north or head back out into the Atlantic. Those that come from the west typically veer off to poor New Orleans or cross the state exiting far north of us.

And those that do enter our county seem to like the northern half and leave us with just a tropical storm.

This time, Ian slammed into Florida’s west coast, devastating it, and then headed across north of us. We slept through whatever we got and awoke the next morning to a yard littered with bits of oak. One old branch broke. And that was it.

When I went out to survey the damage and check for squirrels (after the last hurricane they seemed to disappear for a long time), I found the plastic cover for a car headlamp up by the garage door. Then I found another in the side yard. I checked our cars and figured they must belong to someone on the cul de sac. I imagined that they weren’t attached to a car at the time of the storm, because, what are the odds both covers would be pried off by the wind?

I talked to our neighbor across the street and they weren’t hers, so I put them out on the sidewalk and waited for their owner to come for them. Several days later, my husband noted that they looked like they’d fit on one of our cars. Sure enough, they were ours all along. I felt a little silly picking them up off the sidewalk and taking them to the garage.

And then, the AC went out. Turned out to be a leaky coil, so probably not related to the hurricane. But, the thing is, the coil has to be ordered from the manufacturer and will take at least ten weeks.

If this were March through September, I’d be investing in a few of those portable air conditioners and trying to finagle a way to install them, fitting their venting tubes into our way-too-large windows that hubs loves so much.

But it’s October, thank gawd, and I’m finding that, so far, I’m not suffering. Not any more than usual, that is.

Yesterday, we went for our third Covid boosters and flu shots and my arms hurt. I think I’ll go sploof on the sofa for a while and watch some college football. I made my Scrumptious Earthquake Cake recipe for my weekend pity party, but today I don’t even feel like eating any. I’m sure it’ll pass.

But, you know what else I’ve been thinking about? And, this could be the emptiness I always feel leaving my son, DIL, and grandbaby; or anxiety leftover from the hurricane; leaked freon; or the results of my body currently building up a resistance against Covid and the flu….but I’ve been thinking about writing. And I’m not sure I want to push myself at it anymore.

I thought I was going to sell books and have a career. But it’s just a hobby. And when I pressure myself to work on the next book, it just makes me irritable. There’s a tad bit of “why bother rushing” to the exercise. If I’m just writing for me, basically, then why make such a fuss? I feel like I’d rather just make puzzle books all the time. I really enjoy that. And maybe I’d have a better chance at selling them than novels.

And my sewing table is set up in the back room and every time I walk by I regret that I have so much else to do. I’m getting old, people. Maybe it’s time to just do whatever the hell I want to do–not that I haven’t had that option all along.

Well, that’s enough brooding for today. May your days be cool and your storms pass quickly…

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I am too many people…

Some years ago, I was at a local author expo and over all the noise in the room, at some point, I realized someone was calling my name. But he wasn’t saying, “Dianna.” He was saying, “Dana.” When I finally heard it, I turned, wondering who there would be calling me by my childhood nickname? It was the author at the table next to mine. 

I’d completely forgotten that I write books under the name Dana Trantham!

I was born Dianna Dann Trantham II. That’s right, I’m a “second.” My mother was the first. Dann is a feminized version of my grandfather’s name, Dan, and it’s pronounced the same way. But because my mother was Dianna, and I suppose my parents foresaw problems with the name Dann, they called me Dana, completely unaware of the problems that name would cause me. I hated it. Even when I learned there was another girl named Dana at my school–probably not until 6th or 7th grade–I felt Dana was a boy’s name. In fact, I was often teased because of it. I think Dana Andrews, the actor, might have been popular at the time. We’re talking mid to late 60s. 

Anyway, I struggled for many years in school to get my teachers to call me Dianna. It only started working after elementary school when my mother no longer registered me or talked to my teachers.

When I was in early adulthood, I dropped the name Trantham and became Dianna Dann. I always knew I wanted to be a writer by that name. And no one could pronounce Trantham, anyway. I was Trant-HAM or Tranzam. Finally, I could just be Dianna Dann.

A couple of years later, though, I got married and became Dianna Narciso. Now I’m called Narcheeso, Narcoosee, and Nabisco. I’m not joking. For the record, it’s Nar-SIS-oh. 

The first book I wrote was on atheism. And I wrote it under the name Narciso, because I knew I would be writing fiction at some point and I had to save the name Dann for it. So, basically, I married into the Catholic Narciso family and proceeded to, as far as they may very well be concerned, trash their name with the shame of nonbelief. (Not that I’m ashamed of it; I just recognize that I may not have been very kind in my choice there. But what could I do? I consider myself Dianna Narciso. And it’s not like my husband isn’t an atheist as well, though I’m not sure his mother knows it. –Uh, hi Mom!– Even so, the Narciso family is one of those “Let’s pretend this thing doesn’t exist and never speak of it” gang. And there I was, writing about book about it!)

When I did finally write fiction, it was under the Dianna Dann name. But after I wrote my mainstream (or women’s fiction) book, I wrote a fantasy trilogy. So I used Dana Trantham for those three books. And then I wrote Zombie Revolution. Well, I thought, I can’t use my fantasy or mainstream name for a paranormal humor book. So I created D.D. Charles. 

D.D. for Dianna Dann and Charles because my brother’s name is Charles. He was a “second” too. But my dad was never called Charles, so my parents didn’t have to come up with an unlikeable, tease-worthy nickname for my brother. Still, nobody calls him Charles. He’s Charlie. (He writes books too, as C.E. Trantham.)

Anyway, then I wrote a couple of kids books and I was all, like, I need another name! And then I said to myself, “No way. I’m not adding another name!” Thank goodness I stopped the insanity. I wished I’d stopped it sooner. A lot sooner.

So I published the kids books under the Dana Trantham name with the fantasy books. And I’ve added the name Dianna Dann to Zombie Revolution. I’ll be publishing the next paranormal book, if I can ever get it written, under both names, too. I’m thinking that will help somewhat.

It’s still too many names. I’m too many people. It’s crowded in here.

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Binge Worthy Period TV Shows

I haven’t been reading much lately. I go through periods in which my brain just doesn’t want to let me concentrate very much. So, I watch TV. Sue me.

Here are some of my favorite period shows. These are totally binge-worthy!

Coming in at number 15!
The Indian Doctor

The Indian Doctor, about…well, an Indian doctor, played by Sanjeev Bhaskar, who sets up shop in a 1960’s Welsh mining town, has three seasons. I admit, fully, that I didn’t watch the third. I was afraid to. I might, one day. Maybe the next time I watch it, I’ll go all the way.

I didn’t go on to the third season because I felt like everything wrapped up so nicely at the end of the second. Happily ever after and all that. And the previews for the third season made me think it wouldn’t be so satisfying at the end. But I very much enjoyed the first two seasons.


I just loved Belgravia! Created by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame, it’s set in 1841 London and centers around a family secret. And it’s always a delight to watch Harriet Walter in action. She plays Lady Brockenhurst in Belgravia, but you may remember her as Fanny Dashwood in 1995’s Sense & Sensibility


Bridgerton is silliness, pure silliness. But it’s lusciously silly. The first season had so much sex—silly sex scenes, over-the-top, drawn-out sex scenes—that I hit fast-forward quite a lot. I’m not interested in watching people have sex. I’m like, “Get on with it!” The story, that is.

Luckily for me, and to the horror of trashy-romance-readers everywhere, Season 2 had, as I recall, only one or two ridiculously long sex scenes, one being so impossible to believe that I laughed all the way through it.

One thing I loved about Bridgerton was its diverse casting. Unfortunately, that joy was tinged by the “excuse” the show offered viewers. There’s a reason there are Black people in England’s nobility in the Regency period. This was done, I imagine, because the show is based on a series of books that I suppose are also diverse and that diversity is explained away in the same manner. (This leads me to wonder how, exactly, the author let the reader know what each character looked like.) If I’m wrong about that, and the show did it on its own, then shame on them. I much prefer the idea of the film Mr. Malcolm’s List: There are Blacks and Asians in the nobility of 19th-century England. Get over it.

Anyway, anytime I feel like giving my fast-forward button a workout, I re-watch Bridgerton.

Downton Abbey

No list of period pieces would be complete without Downton Abbey. It’s not may favorite, though, obviously. It’s one of those that I’ve watched a couple of times, and one day will certainly watch again. It’s beautiful and fun, and a bit silly at times. But it’s also addictive.

Downton Abbey starts out in 1912 with the news of the sinking of the Titanic. The entire six seasons and two movies span only about fifteen years. But it seems longer. Not in a bad way, mind you.

The costumes and sets are fabulous, and the stars, notably Michelle Dockery, Lesley Nicol, Phyllis Logan, and Sophie McShera, are amazing!


Victoria was canceled after Season 3, a tragedy. There is talk that its popularity in streaming will bring it back for at least another season. I sure hope that happens.

Victoria, with Jenna Coleman in the title role, tells the story of England’s Queen Victoria and her relationship with Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes. It’s rich, and beautiful, written and acted fabulously. I could watch it again and again.

Mr. Selfridge

This show is very much like The Paradise, with two differences. First, The Paradise isn’t as good. And second, The Paradise was canceled before the story was concluded. That being said, The Paradise ended in a way that you’d be able to foresee a decent ending for the characters, and it wasn’t so bad that I wouldn’t watch it again. But I’d much rather watch Mr. Selfridge again. And again.

It’s not the greatest show ever. The plots and writing are okay, if a bit clichéd and the acting isn’t award-winning, in my opinion. Bit it’s fun. Lots of fun.

The show is about Mr. Selfridge, obviously, an American businessman who opens up a department store, the first of its kind, in London. It’s about the store, its employees, and his family. Definitely binge-worthy soap-opera-y stuff.

The English Game

This six-episode, limited series is a fascinating take on the invention of soccer (or football, as they call it in the rest of the world). Created by Julian Fellowes, who also created Downton Abbey, it’s set in the 1870s. Kevin Guthrie stars as a great footballer up against the so-called gentlemen who control the game and don’t want to let the riff-raff have a fair shot.

Lark Rise to Candleford

This show is so wonderful! Based on Flora Thompson’s autobiographical novel and set in 19th-century Oxfordshire, it stars Olivia Hallinan as Laura Timmins a young girl from the small village of Lark Rise, who goes to work for a cousin of her family at the post office in the nearby town of Candleford.

Lark Rise to Candleford is plucky and sweet, written and told fabulously. There were a few hiccups. For example, one character’s love interest was dropped with no explanation between seasons. Oh, well, I loved the show so much I just didn’t care.

The Crown

We’re probably all familiar with The Crown. It’s pretty cool how they change the actors every couple of seasons as the Queen and everyone else ages. The acting and story-telling are fabulous. I was really pleased to see Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in Season 4. He played Lawrence Durrell in The Durrells in Corfu, one of my all-time favorite shows and Mr. Elton in 2020’s version of Emma (not my favorite).

The biggest problem I have with The Crown is their handling of the royal cousins in “The Hereditary Principle.” It was a blatant lie, and seemed orchestrated to paint the royal family in a negative light (as if they’d need to fabricate things to do that). I get that these shows have to be somewhat, okay, greatly, exaggerated and changed, but this seemed over the top to me.

Still, it’s a great show and I’ll definitely be watching it again.


Sanditon is based on an unfinished Jane Austin novel, so, the chances were pretty good I’d like it. I wasn’t completely down with the first season, mostly because of Theo James and his performance as Sidney Parker. Honestly, I can’t be sure how much of the problem for me was James, his performance, the direction of said performance, or the writing. I just know that I was rooting for the other guy.

The show was actually canceled after the first season, but it gained traction (shows aren’t given a lot of time these days) through streaming and the fans’ calls for more brought it back from the dead. Imagine my delight to find that Theo James (not to spoil it too much) wasn’t included in Season 2. And there’s definitely a Season 3 coming.

Anne With an E

This adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables veers from the books quite a bit, but it’s a delightful retelling. Amybeth McNulty stars as Anne opposite adorable Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe. The show runs only three seasons and the ending was a bit rushed. It’s a shame it couldn’t have gone on a bit longer.

The Queen’s Gambit

Set in the Cold War era, this limited series stars Anya Taylor-Joy as chess prodigy Beth Harmon. It’s gripping and fascinating and I didn’t understand any of the chess, but I’ve watched it a good three times and will definitely watch it again.

The show is based on the book by Walter Tevis but strays from it a little bit, most notably in one little aspect of the character of Jolene, played wonderfully by Moses Ingram. I recommend both.

All Creatures Great and Small

This show is so fabulous I can hardly wait for another season. Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot who joins the Farnon vet practice in little Darrowby Village, Yorkshire. And to my delight, Callum Woodhouse stars as Tristan Farnon. Woodhouse plays Leslie Durrell in another of my favorite binge-worthy shows.

The show is sweet, and funny. The scenery is superb. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with it.

The Durrells

Also known as The Durrells in Corfu, this show is about the real family of Durrells which produced naturalist Gerald, who revolutionized zoos all over the world, and also wrote the trilogy on which the show is based; author Lawrence Durrell; and author Margo Durrell.

This show is about their adventures on the island of Corfu when Gerald was just a boy. I just love it. I could watch it again and again (and I have). I often, however, skip the last episode, because it’s just too sad.

And the best show to binge watch is:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

This is the show I watch the most. I probably watched Season 1 three or four times, the last in preparation for Season 2. Then I watched 1 & 2 a few times and once again in preparation for Season 3, and so on. Recently Season 4 dropped and I watched it twice, and then again from 1 all the way through once or twice, and then finally convinced hubs to watch it, so I watched it all over yet again! And when that was done, I was tempted to start all over again right away.

It’s that good.

For the uninitiated (and if you don’t have Amazon Prime and can’t watch this show, I am so so so sorry for you), Midge Maisel is a housewife in the late Fifties whose husband has aspirations of being a stand-up comic. When he dumps her the night before Yom Kippur, she gets drunk and goes to the coffee house he performed in, in her nightgown, and ends up on stage ranting about her life.

Career launched!

There are so many fabulous performances and moments in this show that it is a must-see.

I hope I haven’t left any of my favorites out. I left out some shows I didn’t care for at all.

Poldark, for one. I couldn’t even finish that show. I didn’t like the characters or the story, and at one point it just seemed to be rehashing plots over and over again barely disguised. So I quit watching.

Outlander is one that I never even watched. I read the first book and found it pretty silly. So, I have no interest in the show at all. I’m not sure it counts, anyway, as it’s more fantasy than an actual period piece.

And there are plenty of others that I just haven’t watched yet. I do spend too much time rewatching favorites. But with the world falling apart the way it is these days, I guess I’m due some comfort.

What are your favorite period TV shows?

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A visit to Ballard Park

Years ago, in the 90’s I think, I was part of a homeschooling group that met at Ballard Park once a month. I’m not very good with time so I can’t say how long it’s been since I’ve been to Ballard Park, but let’s just say I was surprised I found it again. I guess the memory isn’t as faded as I thought.

It’s too hot to go outside this summer. But I did it anyway. I met a nice lady who was sitting on a bench looking out at the lagoon. And a guy asked me if I knew anything about the houseboat on the water. (It actually looks like two houseboats hooked together.) He said it’s been there for about a week. I admit it does nothing for the view. It wasn’t until I got home and could zoom in on the photo that I saw it’s supposedly a “Marine Living Research Center.” And it has the acronym UNISYS on it. According to Wikipedia, UNISYS is an American multinational information technology services and consulting company headquartered in Blue Bell, PA.

What are they doing on a dinky houseboat on the Indian River Lagoon in Florida? Very strange.

Below are a few shots from the video.

Bottlebrush flower with bees
Lizard watching me. I bet he lives in that rusty fence railing.
I have a thing for rusty metal.
Squirrel with nut.

I already know where I want to go next. But it’ll be a longer outing. I may have to wait until it cools off a bit.

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Scrumptious Earthquake Cake

Did you catch the Moby-Dick reference in the video?

Earthquake cake is also known as upside-down German chocolate cake because to make it, you put coconut and chopped pecans on the bottom of the pan and then pour German chocolate cake batter on top. But, if you ask me, that produces nothing at all like an upside-down German chocolate cake! The coconut and pecans of German chocolate cake are part of a gooey, sweet frosting, not toasted, which is what you get with earthquake cake.

It’s called earthquake cake because, if it’s done well, you end up with craters that make it look like your cake has suffered from an apocalyptic earthquake. It’s pretty cool.

This is right out of the oven. The craters sink even more as the cake cools.

I chose the following recipe that I watched a lady make on YouTube:

Original Recipe

1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 German chocolate cake mix, prepared
1 8oz. pkg cream cheese at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 c) of butter at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar

The results of this recipe were disappointing for me. The cake part itself was dry and bland. Now, I did have to use Betty Crocker instead of Duncan Hines. I prefer Duncan Hines overall. I’ve found that their flavors are superior and their cakes and brownies are always more moist. So, that may have been the problem with the cake part.

Still, even though I managed to get some Duncan Hines German chocolate cake mix, I decided to make changes to the recipe anyway, to be sure to produce a really moist, chocolatey cake,

When you put the coconut on the bottom of the pan, it comes out toasted, even though you pour cake batter over it. I like toasted coconut as much as the next guy, but I didn’t think it went well with the cream cheese mixture.

And speaking of the cream cheese mixture, it was more cheesy than sweet. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe if I just changed the sweetness level of that, it would have paired better with toasted coconut.

But I’m not the kind of person to change one thing at a time in an experiment. I’d make a terrible scientist.

So, I changed the cream cheese mix, too. The original was really dense and the lady who did the video I watched dragged a knife through the dollops you’re supposed to put on the cake batter once it’s in the pan. But it was so thick, that didn’t work for me.

To make it lighter, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese, and margarine instead of butter. I also prefer the taste of margarine, so there’s that. And to make it a tad sweeter, I added another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Now, the lady who did the video making the original recipe did say that some recipes use more powdered sugar and she was right. I saw one that called for 4 cups! That was a sugary bridge too far for me.

So, here’s my new recipe:

Scrumptious Earthquake Cake

1 box German chocolate cake mix, prepared*
1 c chopped pecans
1 1/2 c flaked coconut
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 8 oz. pkg. Neufchâtel cheese or 1/3 less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 c) margarine, at room temperature
2 1/2 c powdered sugar

*You will need 3 eggs, oil, and water for the cake mix

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray 13×9-inch pan with oil

Prepare the German chocolate cake mix as directed on the box. Stir the pecans and coconut into the batter. Add most of the chocolate chips. (I didn’t measure, but I’d suggest setting about 1/2 c aside.) Stir to mix, and then pour into the pan.

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar together with a spoon or mixer and dollop globs of it onto the cake batter. Top the cake with the remaining chocolate chips.

There on the left you can see the famous cooking gloves!
And don’t you just love my adorable garlic jar?

Bake at 350° for one hour! (Yes, it’ll take an hour)

Enjoy hot or cooled.

This cake freezes well. So far, I’ve enjoyed a chunk of it after a two-week freeze and it was just as moist and delicious as ever. Wrap each chunk in wax paper or plastic wrap, then wrap it in aluminum foil to freeze.

Let me know how it turned out for you!

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