Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Signature 81

           I have always loved crafts – painting, jewelry making, sewing, needlepoint, knitting…  As a child, my bookshelves became filled with craft books, and over the years, that artistic library has grown.  I grew up water color painting with my grandmother and claiming art as my favorite school subject. 

            A woman I work with, Maimun Khan, suggested I check out a new studio opening in New Hartford.  Signature 81 is located at 9273 Kellogg Road and offers a wide range of outlets for those with artistic inclinations.  You can purchase goods, take classes, and connect with other crafters.  “Imagine…create…re-purpose…redesign…A destination for your artistic side,” boasts the website, 

            Signature 81 offered a soft opening on March 1st and 2nd, where guests could tour the area, speak with the owner and instructors, gather information about upcoming classes, and view the gift shop.  Check the website for information on the hours of operation. The website also offers a map and driving directions for those unfamiliar with the area. 

            I took my boyfriend with me on Friday, the 1st, after I got out of work.  We knew the studio was in the shopping plaza near Packey’s Pub, so we parked in the parking lot and wandered the shops until we found it marked by a sign.  After you open the door, you venture down the stairs into the building’s basement.  Maybe it’s just me, but I found that deliciously exciting.  Basements have always fascinated me as a source of earthly wonder, a storage pot of tools and antiques (or maybe I’m the only one with a cool cellar at home). 

            The owner, Crystal Maury, was occupied, so her husband showed us through the rooms.   The first reminded me of a curiosity shop at a resort area.  The brightly covered walls beckoned us into the world of goods available for purchase.  A jewelry display caught my attention, while my boyfriend zeroed in on a mosaic guitar.  Many of the items, such as homemade greeting cards, are projects you will be able to make in the offered classes. 

            We made our way into the back rooms.  One involved furniture, some of it refurbished and the rest waiting to be refurbished.  Seeing the renovated desk had me hooked.  I have oodles of old furniture in my grandmother’s house that could use an update, but I’ve never known where to start with that.  As soon as I got home, I walked through my house to find items might be best for that, such as an old wooden vanity and a marble table.  There will be classes on what to do to make your old belongings sparkle with new life, and there will also be an option to drop off your furniture to have it redone for you. 

            We wandered into the other back room, where we got to speak with an instructor, Cathy Marsh.  When I asked her what her favorite crafts are, she replied, “Whatever I’m doing at the time.”  The other instructors include Julie Angerosa and Maimun Khan.  Their biographies can be found on the website under “Teacher Bios.” 

             I also picked up a list of classes.  Among those that will be offered include T-shirt artwork, egg coloring with natural dyes, surface & tabletop faux finish painting, absolute beginning drawing, adventure in intuitive painting, and intro to mosaic.  That one really caught my attention.  I’ve fallen in love with mosaic artwork since visiting the display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The class will teach the basic techniques of direct application mosaic by using a small picture frame to decorate for a price of forty-dollars, materials included.  All the classes are likewise reasonably priced.  Please check the website under the “classes” link for an updated list.  Classes specifically meant for children or adults will be labeled.  Any children five-years-old or younger must be accompanied by an adult.  The website offers a submission process under “contact me” where you can provide your address and email to be added to the customer list.  You’ll then receive class schedules and notifications of special events. 

            My coworker, Maimun Khan, will be offering creative gatherings free of charge.  For a creative gathering, you can bring anything you’re currently working on.  Connect with other crafters and get a glimpse of new ideas and projects you might not have considered.  Maimun has lately been into shaping with polymer clay and I can’t wait to explore that medium more with her. 

            If you’re well rounded on a craft and would like to teach a class, Signature 81 is open to your ideas.  Share your creativity with the rest of the community.  This is a great opportunity to connect with other crafters on an instructor level and add a job to your resume. 

            After the tour of Signature 81, I got to sit down with Crystal Maury on one of the bright refurbished couches.  According to Crystal, “I wanted a place to explore and create, and have people to share it with me.”  When asked about her favorite form of artwork, she explaining she’s “completely excited about re-purposing items.  One of the artists at Signature 81 uses wood flooring ripped out of an old house as a canvas for artwork, another broken dishes as mosaic pieces for mirrors, another creates mini vases out of light bulbs.  I love taking something previously loved and giving it a twist, so it can have another chance at being loved again.”  How inspiring! 

            I couldn’t resist questioning her about which art project she is the most proud of.  Her answer made me smile: “I once painted my nephew’s bedroom all camouflage from floor to ceiling.  It took a long time, but I’ll never forget the smile that made it all worthwhile.” 

The atmosphere is warm and comfortable, from the laughter of the workers to the cheerful decorations.  I’ve taken art classes in the past where I’ve gone into cold studios and listened to an instructor lecture.  I’ve felt incompetent when my artwork came out “worse” than the other works around me.  Signature 81 completely banishes those feelings.  Whether you’re a novice or a master, you’ll feel welcomed and appreciated.  With the variety of ideas, you’ll feel as if you stepped into Pinterest or Etsy!  When I mentioned Pinterest to Crystal, she said, “I see something I like and just start to figure out how to make it.  I have never thought about making my own book, but who knows what can happen in the future.” 

Crafting is also a great way to calm down in a hectic life.  “There were a lot of ups and downs in my childhood,” Crystal said, “so  art has always been something that could take my mind off what was going on around me.  I’ve taken classes on painting, drawing, and jewelry metalworking.” 

            Even if you’re not into making crafts yourself, the storefront is perfect for finding that household trinket guests will ooh over, or the ideal gift for a friend.  Please feel free to email if you have any questions.  If you’re a fan of Pinterest, you can follow Signature 81 on the website.  In case you don’t have Internet access, you can reach Signature 81 by telephone at 269-7799 or through the mail: 9273 Kellogg Road, New Hartford, NY 13413.

            I asked Crystal if this is her first endeavor for things like Signature 81.  She replied, “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, and I’m still seeing what Signature 81 can become.  On one part I want people to learn to go out of their comfort zones and learn to use their imagination and create things, and on the other part I want our community to have pride in what our artists can make and be able to buy and support them.” 

            After we left, my boyfriend mentioned his uncle would enjoy visiting a place like Signature 81.  The following day, we heard that his uncle was going to the Saturday soft opening! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I received a copy of A MOST PECULAIR CIRCUMSTANCE by Jen Turano from Bethany House.  It was a lovely surprise to find it waiting on my front porch when I returned from vacation.  Bethany House has never failed me, and this book again exceeded my expectations for historical fiction.  A MOST PECULAIR CIRCUMSTANCE has all the factors I’ve come to enjoy: romance, a handsome man, a quirky woman, historical backdrop, a love of God, and adventure in every chapter.  This historical backdrop encompasses the suffragette movement of the late 1800’s. 

Miss Arabella Beckett is definitely someone you want as a best friend.  She gets into the most hilarious scrapes, but she loves her friends and family, as well as bettering the world, with an admirable passion.  Although the novel did seem wordy at times, I quickly got lost in the pages.  Jen Turano seems like someone you’d like to hang out with if she can write about someone as adorable as Arabella.  The heartthrob, Theodore Wilder, can be a little rough, but his heart is pure gold.  He and Arabella make a perfect pair.

A MOST PECULAIR CIRCUMSTANCE is the sequel to A CHANGE IN FORTUNE.  I’m afraid I haven’t read that book yet, but you don’t need to be familiar with it to enjoy this story. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Dawn Rising

I received a copy of RED DAWN RISING by Sue Duffy from Kregel.  It is the second book in the Red Returning series.  Although I hadn’t previously read the first novel, I’ll look for it now, and keep my eyes open for the third book in the trilogy.  For now, let’s take a look at RED DAWN RISING.  Cass is a Broadway set designer (I love books in New York City) and Evgeny was a KGB assassin.  They’re both after the Architect, a mastermind.  The entire novel reminded me of an old-fashioned crime show, which enchanted me.

It is the perfect kind of mystery, where the characters are all believable.  I never had to backpedal and ask myself, “Why would he/she have done that?  That’s so unrealistic!”  The pieces all fell into place.

Something I didn’t like was the character of Jordan, a male, just because he was a male.  Being mistake for a boy just because of my name (I’m a female Jordan) is a sore spot with me.  Other than that, though, I enjoyed everything about this book.  The writing flows easily.  It makes an excellent bedtime read.  I’m the type of person who will open a book right before bed to help wind down, and this fit that spot.  Sometimes it was hard to stop reading since I needed to know what happened next.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Bride for all Seasons

I received a copy of A BRIDE FOR ALL SEASONS from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze.  It is known as the Mail-Order Bride Collection, which includes four novellas by well-known Christian writers.  Each story involves a different season in 1870: AND THEN CAME SPRING byu Margaret Brownley, AN EVER-AFTER SUMMER by Debra Clopton, AUTUMN’S ANGEL by Robin Lee Hatcher, and WINTER WEDDING BELLS by Mary Connealy.  I usually head for novels, but it is fun to read novella collections since you can read one per evening.  Each felt like a complete story, with backstory, heartbreak, romance, and danger.   I would have loved to read them as full-length novels and really get to know the characters, but the novellas were still satisfying. 

I’ve been interested in “mail-order brides” since reading a middle grade pioneer novel as a child.  It fascinated me that men would send for a woman they didn’t know, other than through letters, to wed them out west.  It fascinated me even more that these women would go, although I could understand the reasons behind each gender’s decision.  In this collection, a common theme is that the editor of the paper which advertises for men seeking wives edits the letters to make each person more desirable to the other.  Mayhem ensues, since each woman isn’t what the man wants, and vice versa.   My favorite novella was AUNTUMN’S ANGEL.  Now it’s time for you to pick your favorite…

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Adoring Addie

I received a copy of ADORING ADDIE by Leslie Gould from Bethany House.  It is the second book in the Courtships of Lancaster County series.


 I requested this one because it is Amish fiction, and my mother loves Amish fiction.  I wanted to be able to pass it on to her when I was done – I should also add that I likewise enjoy reading about the Amish lifestyle since my mother and I visit Lancaster County once a year.  It sounded a bit…typical.  How many times has Romeo and Juliet been rewritten, right?  I was expecting a typical story about a close-knit family, a forbidden love, and home-style cooking.  Yes, the book had that mouth-watering food and the forbidden love, but the close-knit family?  Not so much. 


This has become, by far, my favorite Amish book EVER.  It wasn’t typical at all.  In fact, it was naughty and scintillating.  Addie, short for Adelaide, does not have a close-knit family.  Right from the start, we know that she isn’t close to her parents or her older siblings.  She acts as a surrogate mother to her younger brothers.  Her aunt lives with them, and she gets along well with her, but the aunt is treated poorly (in my opinion) by Addie’s family and just puts up with it.  Addie’s mother is possessive, controlling, and mentally unwell.  Then, there are Addie’s older brothers who are on their Rumspringa.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Amish lifestyle, that means that they have the chance to live in the “English” world before joining the church.  Samuel and George have a trailer, but Timothy lives at home.  He drives a car, wears “English” clothes, and drinks.  A lot.  They’re always at parties.  Addie is the good daughter who is courting, more or less, the bishop’s son.  She doesn’t really love him, though. Then, Jonathan moves to town.  His family and Addie’s have a feud, so she is forbidden to see him.  In the other Amish books I’ve read, a feud wouldn’t even be tolerated, but here, everyone knows about it.  Addie and Jonathan want to make it right.  Their part of the story actually felt a bit flat – love at first sight, almost instantly wanting to marry.  I would have loved to see more of a solid relationship build between them.   That might make you wonder why this is my favorite Amish book, then.  


I had to keep turning the pages to see what happened next to this dysfunctional Amish family.  I stayed up until one in the morning reading, even though I had to rise at six for work, just because I couldn’t put it down until I saw how it ended.  Despite the old Romeo and Juliet theme, as an Amish book, this is fresh and new. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime

I received a copy of MY VERY FIRST NOAH’S ARK PLAYTIME: Activity Book with Stickers from Lion Children’s via Kregel.  The text is by Lois Rock and the illustrations are by Alex Ayliffe.  The pages are bright and colorful, perfect for catching a child’s attention.  The story begins by discussing what you (the child) does in the rain, and then explaining how Noah built his ark.  The teacher in me came out and I kept brainstorming activities to go along with the pages. 

The text is simple enough for a young child to understand, and for an older child to be able to read for him or herself.  Each page contains gray areas for the reader to place a sticker, and some pages also include games and recipes.  This works as a great sticker book to occupy a child, to be used in a Sunday school setting, or for a family activity.

I am passing this on to a friend’s little brother.  I gave her other sticker books I have received from Kregel and she told me how much he loved them, reusing the stickers on the pages and reading the stories aloud.  These are wonderful sticker books and I highly recommend them.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interview with an Author

It is with great pleasure that I present (now hold your breath here) JOAN O. SCHARF!  I have the privilege of associating with her through the Utica Writers Club on a monthly basis.  Let me just say that her critiques and suggestions are beyond valuable.  Since many of you are writers as well, I hope you find insight from this interview.  We also have exciting news for everyone at the end, so read on…
Kissed by Literature: Joan, welcome to the blog.  How long have you been writing? 
Joan O. Scharf: Thanks for having me here, Jordan.  As for how long I have been doing this .. I think I caught the 'writing bug' in high school.  Whenever the teacher assigned the class to write a creative story, there were moans and groans from most students, but I was secretly delighted.

Through the years I wrote short stories and poems, "just because", and piled them in a drawer.  I finally worked up the nerve to enter some contests, and happily came out a winner in five of them .  Thus encouraged, I submitted to a couple of magazines, and had my writing accepted. ...And got paid, too.  :-)   Soooo, among other things, I then decided to write a book.  
KbL: Tell us about your book. 
JOS:  There are three books.  One was published 31/2 years ago;  the second is currently in production and will be available soon;  and the third is written, but still needs editing. ( Hopefully it will go to a publisher next year.) 
Number one is Hanging on a Twisted Line, a book of devious, sassy, short shorts, sometimes identified as flash fiction.  It contains 43  unique stories often with O. Henry type twisted surprise endings.  Included are a mix of genres in captivating quick reads for today's busy lifestyle.   Mystery, humor, ghost, romance, and literary are all there for your reading pleasure.  (Available at, through Barnes and Noble, or other bookstores.)        
Book two is titled Valentine Tales.   This is written for children in the 7 to 12 age group.  A grandfather tells stories to 3 of his grandchildren about his own father, ...a mischievous boy named Valentine growing up in the early 1900's.  The stories he narrates are often humorous as Valentine becomes involved in a series of incidents including several one-room schoolhouse happenings, a snipe hunt, apple snitching, an encounter with a bear, an outhouse event, ghostly messages, a 6th grade graduation, a remarkable Birthday gift and a others.

Book three doesn't have a title yet.   It is comprised of three thought-provoking stories for adults.  Genres are:  police/action; horror; and futuristic. 
KbL: I mentioned earlier how we are both in the Utica Writers Club.  When did you first become involved and how has it improved your writing?   
JOS:   I've been a member of the Utica Writers Club for about 9 years.  I also belong to two other writing groups. (Florida Writer's Association, and Hodges University Critique group.)  Suggestions and critiques from fellow writers are immensely valuable.  They help catch the snags, fill the gaps and generate ideas to take a writer to the next level.  I find the Utica Writers Club to be a particularly caring and motivating group of talented people.
KbL: What is your weirdest writing experience?
JOS:  Oh oh, you are asking me to share a deep dark secret.  Some years ago, I wrote a manuscript along the lines of Fifty Shades of Gray.  Perhaps even a little spicier.  Considering the subject matter, it likely would have sold well, but I was too embarrassed to ever send it to a publisher. 
KbL: What inspires you to write?  Do you have any writing regiments, such as you always have to write while listening to music or you can only write during a certain time each day?  I do my best work in the morning, but oftentimes I can only grab a moment late at night – then I get to ask myself “why, oh why, did I write THAT?” 
JOS: I write at odd regular routine.  I find myself composing in my head during dull lectures, or sermons.  I scribble in my pad when I am a passenger on long trips, or in a waiting area.  Ideas pop into my mind here and there, and I ask myself  "what if...."  and a story starts.  The notes eventually make it into my computer, and after they mellow for a couple of weeks, I reread and rearrange and edit.
KbL: What is your favorite genre to write?  Why do you love that one the best?
JOS:  I never thought about having a favorite genre.  A story begins with an idea, and the genre develops itself from that. I guess I would have to say whatever piece I currently work on is 'my fav' of the moment.
KbL: Would you mind telling us about your other writing projects?
JOS:   I've already talked about the other two books I'm currently working on...the one at the publishers and another in the pipeline.  I also occasionally write poetry, several of which have been published.  Two of my stories were chosen to be included in a collection of short stories by a variety of authors.  The title of that book is Slices of Life.
KbL: Now for the extra excitement, ladies and gentlemen.  Joan has agreed to a contest.  To enter, please leave a comment with your name and email address.  The email address is very important – without it, we won’t be able to reach you!  You have until Monday, July 1, to leave a comment.  On July 1st, Joan will choose a winner.  Feel free to leave a question for Joan as well.  Joan, what would you like readers to take away from your book?
JOS:  Hanging on a Twisted Line.  May it awaken your curiosity, ....generate excitement, ....satisfy your need for entertainment, ....provoke a chuckle, a tear,and.a lasting memory....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Season of Mysteries

I received a copy of A SEASON OF MYSTERIES by Rusty Whitener from Kregel Publications.  I love earning these free books (I review, I keep the book) because it helps me read novels I wouldn’t normally choose.  When I go to the bookstore, I head for historical fiction or fantasy.  Gems like A SEASON OF MYSTERIES go overlooked.  Okay, this does have a little supernatural in it, which made it even sweeter to read.

This has all the makings of a winner: witty dialogue, realistic characters, and a name like Throneberry.  Come on, people.  What can be better than a dude named Throneberry?  Many of the situations are events many people have encountered; think “first love.”  The simplistic realism of those parts made me melt, not because I was in love with the characters, but because they were so fresh and heartwarming.  I enjoy thinking about how much fun the author, Rusty Whitener, had writing this novel.

The story focuses on Richard (Dr. Richard Powell, to be exact) and some childhood adventures.  This made the perfect book to read on a sultry summer night, seated on the porch swing, with the breeze dancing over the fields.  It goes right to the top of my “recommended” list. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


People always say to do what you love, granted it isn’t life threatening and/or dangerous to those around you.  I love history, so why not do it?  I had the privilege of living during the Renaissance at the third annual Mayfaire on the Green in Holland Patent, New York. 

Central New York offers a multiple Renaissance Faires throughout the warm weather.  Mayfaire on the Green occurred from 11am to 7pm on May 11th and 12th.  Despite morning showers and a few clouds, the days were packed with visitors and volunteers.  The air vibrated with laughter, shouts, and music.  No matter where you looked, someone played an instrument.  Whenever I heard a drumbeat, I couldn’t keep my feet still.

For those unfamiliar with what a faire is, picture organized chaos.  The fun kind.  Shops erected under tents and around tables line the area.  Workers dressed in period attire stroll the grounds, pretending to live “back in the day” through dialect and mannerisms.  They pull you into the adventure through communication and improvisational acting.  You literally become part of the show.  Live acts occur on stages throughout the day. 
Attending the faire afforded the perfect opportunity to wear my Renaissance costume: a handmade blouse and skirt, a hat purchased at last year’s event, and a gown from the Sterling Renaissance Festival.  The compliments abounded.  It was great fun to see others in similar garb.  Don’t worry about being historically accurate – wear what you can, be it an over-sized shirt and dark pants, or a long skirt and boots.  Part of the excitement is being one of the gang.  Some of the shops at the faire offered clothing, in case you had trouble tracking down some for yourself. 

The faire was a perfect family get-together, whether you’re bringing everyone to visit or volunteering together as a group.  It was great to see families working together to make the experience more energetic.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my family members to attend with me (oh, won’t my future children have fun playing dress up with me!), but the other workers did feel like family.  You will see most of the same people at the various events.  I’m now able to say hello to them by name and ask about their personal lives.  You can never have too many friends or contacts.  I even saw my cousin’s daughter wandering the faire with a group of friends.  You never know who you’ll meet. 

When I first arrived, I stopped by the palm-reading tent.  She offered me a brief reading.  I had never had one done before and was curious – looking back, I highly recommend it.  Oftentimes we are jaded when we see ourselves and it takes a third party to point out what may be obvious.  The things she pointed out were very spot on.  For example, she said I have an inquisitive nature.  Indeed, I’m forever asking questions and seeking to learn new things.  Among other statements, she mentioned travel.  A travel proposition had recently been made to me. 

Mayfaire offered a variety of shows.  When I first arrived on Saturday, I got to witness Coco the Clown.  The laughing audience drew my attention to the gazebo.  Oh my, was it hysterical.  I laughed along with them.  SHAKESPEARE! happened to be another hilarious show.  “Shakespeare” yanked people from the audience to help him tell a tale.  I’m sad to say I didn’t recognize which play it was from, but it was lively enough to entertain the children and adults. 

Other shows involved Samurai Martial Arts and Morgan Eagle Falcony, which I got to witness throughout the day outside their booths, besides their actual demonstration shows on the stage.  Tea with the Queen was a favorite amongst the children.  I especially enjoyed watching the Irish dancers, since I’ve always wanted to learn those steps.  Adamo Ignis took my breath away – literally!  Picture belly dancing, walking on glass, and eating fire.  Many, if not all, of the shows are available at each of the faries throughout the year. 

The Maypole Dance is an event exclusive to Mayfaire.  Everyone gathered around the pole to cheer and clap.  Music was played, children laughed, and the young and old grabbed a ribbon.  The air vibrated with excitement as the volunteers and visitors wove around other in a colorful pattern.  Visiting the faires are a highlight of my summer, and the best part is that they last all weekend.