Luscious Gin Pops Recipe



When the trees stand naked under the dreary gray skies and the wind takes on a life of its own, chewing at tender skin in a tenacious attempt to whittle flesh to bone, I close the curtains and imagine warm breezes flitting across a gemstone sea, heat radiating from sugar sand beaches and the soft whisp of the palms.

In rebellion over the coming winter, I make these!

Note: if you’d like to make a vegan version, you can use condensed coconut milk with a copious amount of liquid sweetener of your choice, just adjust the other liquids accordingly. But unless you’re aiming to shrivel your taste buds, don’t forget the sweetener – condensed coconut milk alone creates quite the bitter pop, trust me.


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup tonic water
  • 1/4 cup concentrated lime juice mixed with 3/4 cup water (adjust mix to taste for more tang up the percentage of lime)
  • 1/2 cup gin
  • 2 or more limes
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Small dixie cups




Pour all the liquid ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Set the dixie cups out – this usually makes about 10 servings. Pour mix into the cups leaving space at the top for your lime slices, how much space depends on how thick you like your slices. Slice limes, this make take more than 2, depending on the thickness of the slices. Jab a popsicle stick through each slice as near to the center as you can – as you can see from my photos, they don’t have to be precise 🙂

Gently settle the impaled lime slices into the cups making sure that the sticks touch the bottom and the lime rests atop the liquid. Freeze over night and enjoy!

How to Make Homemade Wood Butter


I love this butter and wanted to share it with you. It can be used on any unvarnished wood to restore its luster and create a barrier to protect the wood from water damage. I use it on wood cutting boards, spoons, salad bowls, rolling pins, wood mortars and pestles, and the list goes on. And bonus – it’s really simple to make!


  • 16 oz bottle of fractionated coconut oil (you can substitute food grade mineral oil if you choose)
  • 4 oz beeswax – more or less depending on preference
  • (optional: a few drops of lemon essential oil – NOT fragrance oil)


Make sure the coconut oil is fractionated or the mineral oil is food grade, as those are the only two oils that are safe to use on cutting boards and wooden serveware.

This is exactly the same technique as making a salve. Dump the fractionated coconut oil in a double boiler – I use a large Pyrex measuring cup over a pot of boiling water. Heat the oil gently. Once the oil is a tish above warm, dump in the 4 oz of beeswax. Stir. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until the beeswax is melted. Test the butter by dunking a room temperature stainless steel spoon into the mix and quickly taking it away from the stove. Allow the butter to cool on the spoon for a minute, then test its Goldilocks Factor with your finger. If it’s too mushy for your taste, add more beeswax. If it’s too hard, add more fractionated oil. If it’s just right, remove it from heat – eeeh but don’t eat it 😉

If you’re using the lemon essential oil add it now and stir well.

Then, pour the entire shebang into a vessel of your choice. As long as it has a lid and a wide mouth, it works. Keep the lid off until the butter is completely cool, then cap tightly and store in a cool, dark area – a dungeon, perhaps.

Before using this, you’ll want to coat your wood with whatever oil you picked – fractionated coconut or food grade mineral oil – and allow the oil to soak into the grains overnight. Then, wipe the wood down to remove any oil that wasn’t absorbed. Pat a bit of the butter on a clean cotton cloth and rub a thin layer into the wood. Buff it out and you’re done!

How to Make Cheap & Easy Laundry Detergent




My friend Sara writes a blog, Seeking Sanctuary, where she concocts ways to make her and her readers’ lives better. Earlier this year we talked about discovering new and rediscovering old ways to cut costs for our families and help the environment.

So, I spent the last few months perfecting a cheap, easy laundry system that cuts down our family’s use of plastic and other unnecessary laundry items. Next year, I want to take it a step further and eliminate the dish soap in this recipe by grating and dissolving soap bars instead. But, that’s for next year! This recipe is quick and easy for those of us who, at least for the moment, want to be friendlier to the environment, but don’t have a ton of time or a driving desire to grate soap bars 🙂


Liquid Laundry Soap:

  • 1.5 cups dish detergent – any kind, I use Ajax lemon because I like it
  • ¾ cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • Optional: ¾ cup Borax to help soften the water. If you already have soft water or don’t feel inclined to use it, you can try nixing this and see if it works for you without it
  • Water
  • Empty 122 oz. Container


Pop the pour spout off the old laundry container. Rinse if necessary. Dump the dish detergent into the container and set aside. Place the washing soda and Borax into a stainless steel pot, add 4 cups hot water, and stir over medium heat until the powders are thoroughly dissolved – do not boil or simmer, just gentle heat. Then pour that liquid into the container with the dish detergent and stir with a wood or stainless steel spoon.

Slowly, to avoid excessive bubbles, add enough water to fill the container, stir and – you’re done! So easy!

I don’t add fragrances because I’ve found that they don’t have much staying power unless I use a ton, which defeats the purpose of cheap.

Instead, I add fragrance to the drier cycle.

To stop static cling, I took aluminum foil and wadded it into 3 balls that I could fit in my hand – these are reusable, so you only need to make them once. Toss the balls into the drier with the clothes. Then, if fragrance is desired, I spray a piece of cut-up old towel with whatever blend of essential oils I happen to favor at the moment and toss it in. Run drier as usual. This eliminates the need for fabric softeners – extra savings and less plastic.

You can also use your favorite perfumes, my daughter uses her body spray to scent her clothes and that works just as well. And, of course, you can go scentless.

I’ll be posting more discoveries later. Enjoy!

How to Make Free to Low Cost Shrimp Hides

Dwarf shrimp are adorable, easy to care for aquatics. But if you’re like me and simply can’t abide a single species tank – they need places to hide if you want them to propagate. Even supposedly shrimp-safe fish, like the peaceful micro rasboras and the weensy dwarf amber barb, will eat shrimplets. Though tangles of driftwood and tumbles of rock will help, the more hides the better.

But, the price tags on shrimp hides is appalling! Ack.

So here’s some free or low-cost alternatives.

If you’re into dwarf shrimp, chances are you have one (or several!) planted tanks. Know those small, black baskets that come with aquatic plants? They make awesome hides! And they’re free.


You can stick them in the substrate as-is, or weave moss through the slits to create a moss top, like I did here with strands of phoenix moss.


If moss isn’t your gig, scraps of non-metal screen attached with aquarium safe silicone works well too. One of our lawn chairs broke, so I cut out the mesh cup holder and used that. 100% free hides!


Another inexpensive solution that also conditions your water is cholla. I like to get them in lengths and then scare the crap out of everyone by using power tools to cut them into pieces.


After cutting, stick them in a bowl, pour boiling water on them, and then wait until they expand bit and sink (usually within 24-hours). Even expanded, their holes are so thin that only the most determined of fish could reach your shrimplets.


Other free to low cost alternatives are:

  • Pieces of broken clay pots (no sharp edges)
  • PVC scraps
  • Tiny planters (the kind tiny terrarium plants come in)
  • Tiny Tupperware

Or any other aquarium safe material you have on hand that can provide cover for your shrimp. Get creative and alternatives will abound.

Happy tanking!

Apex – Revive the Drive!



I’ve long been a fan of Apex, both their book and magazine arm. Even have a signed edition of Descended from Darkness: Apex Magazine Vol. 1 *hugs it*

Jason and Lesley have some spiffy stuff for their Revive the Drive 2017! Including Pet Wars – Pumpkin vs. Oz, original poems, interviews, stories and, coolest of all, raises for artists and authors! So, come help us unlock levels!

Here’s an interview with Jason Sizemore, to give you a taste of Apex. Oh, and remember, to check out Apex Book Company for fantastic stories!

Cyani -What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you guys at a convention?

Jason – Okay, I’m going to share an experience that is described in detail in my book For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

I walked in on a group of…older people engaging in group intercourse (read: orgy). They invited me to join them. When I turned them down (politely), they asked if I wanted to partake of some honey baked ham they had out on a folding card table. Again, I turned them down.

Cyani – Does Apex have any office traditions?

Jason – The first thing I have to do is to make sure that Lesley Conner is fueled up and ready to go. Naturally, her fuel is coffee. The high-intensity stuff that they give to race car drivers. Without it, she is mostly useless. And cranky. Oh god, cranky.

Cyani – Editing and running a business are tough jobs. Besides Pumpkin’s not-so-subtle threats, what gets you guys through ‘those days’?

Jason – Lesley and I ride the whole circuit of emotions during a typical week. From silly to angry, from professional to immature. The key is that one of us has at least a toe in the pool of sanity. Sometimes I’ll pull her back from the verge, sometimes she’ll pull me back.

Cyani – Speaking of, what is Pumpkin’s role at Apex? He seems cute and cuddly but does a diabolical spirit reside within?

Jason – Pumpkin is a many things at once. He is cute and cuddly. He does a good job forcing me to take the occasional break by demanding I hold him for pets and chin rubs. But he has a dark side.

When he thinks I’m not giving him enough attention, he will intentionally push books off my inventory shelves. Or he’ll sit on the keyboard and give me a look that says “You’re done.”

He also thinks the printer is possessed and will attack it when it is printing.

Silly kitty.

Cyani – Thanks for your time, Jason. Here’s to great success at Apex!

Top 10 Gifts for Writers



It’s Christmas and you have one of those weird creatures to buy for – the ever elusive writer. Whatever to do?

Despite our strange habits, oddities and general mayhem there’s one thing that writers covet above all others – books! Yup. All sorts. Big ones, small ones, snazzy ones, raggy ones. Doesn’t matter, they each contain the stuff our dreams are made of.

Chances are, your writer has a Wish List of books in their favorite genres that could encompass several known worlds and perhaps a few that have yet to be discovered. By all means, please gift them! But if you also want to show support for their chosen insanity career, please consider these. I own each of them and can vouch for their awesomeness, it’s true. See. They’re right behind me.

Listed in no particular order:




Finding Your Voice is one of my all-time favorites to recommend. It helps break the shackles of vanilla and thrust writers into the realm of the unique. Also check out Les’ Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go




The Fire in Fiction does exactly what it promises by lighting a fire in the writer’s creative soul to push their craft to the next level. You can also pre-order Donald’s newest book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface, which releases on December 30th.




Writing Monsters  is an invaluable resource that teaches writers how to create believable monsters of all sorts to terrify their readers. If your writer is into Fantasy &/or Sci Fi, also check out The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing & Publishing Your Bestseller! 




Conflict, Action & Suspense ah the very core of what makes fiction exciting! Without which, we’d be left with ever-so-dull drudgery. A must have for every writer’s shelf.




Spunk & Bite  puts the snap in fiction. Knowing the rules is great, but knowing when and how to break them is the thing bestsellers are made of.




The Art of War for Writers is filled with easy to read, easy to digest tips on writing that can instantly help any writer – fledgling or advanced. I’d also recommend all of James’ books. Yup. All of them. Go on, get them. They’re all stellar. Including another of my personal favorites, The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success





Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches are at the very center of chaos and destruction in fiction. Villany, oh foul Villany, where would we be without you?




Plot Perfect is an all-around inspiring book on creating novels worthy of the eyes of readers. I’d also suggest another one of Paula’s goodies Writing with Quiet Hands: How to Shape Your Writing to Resonate with Readers.




Dynamic Characters are the creatures through which our victims readers experience the story, view the world, experience the thrills, chills and terrors. Along the same line is Nancy’s Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints.




Make a Scene and they will come 🙂  Seriously though, this is pretty close to being THE book on creating vivid scenes that thrust the story forward and for creating multiple layers within your scenes to keep the readers buckled in until the very end.

And this very post is proof that we writers are obsessive about books. Couldn’t even stick to the 10 promised in the title. Tisk. Ah well, there’s worse addictions.

Have a Creative Christmas!

Furrville’s Sheila Abbott!





Please welcome Sheila Abbott, owner of Furrville! She makes wonderful, handmade hats and cute, fuzzy tails. My daughter has one of her black cat hats and not only does she love it but it’s sturdy.

Take it away, Sheila!

What got you interested in doing what you do? Speaking of that, what DO you do? 😉 

I started going to anime cons and fell in love with the furry leggings, ears and such that I saw. I decided that since I wasn’t working and was looking to start a business, that this would be perfect for me as I enjoy making these pieces and they are fun. I love going to cons and I love meeting new people and I really love the excitement from those who see a hat and love it. I love making people smile and that makes the pin stabs, scissor cuts and broken needles worth it. What do I do? I make fun hats out of fleece material and I put either cat, puppy or long ears on them. Some hats are simple (fleece hat with pink fleece inner cat ears), some have cotton material for inner ears (fleece hat with perhaps candy corn material for inner ears) and then some have embroidered designs – usually those are requested. Recently I did a super awesome one – white fleece hat with puppy ears and embroidered black eyes on it – I called it ‘Spooky’. Oh, I also make kitty tails out of fleece or faux fur. The leggings and headbands are also made out of faux fur.

Is there something that keeps you going when you’re having one of those days?

Just ‘one’ of those days? lol  Well, sheer determination to succeed is what puts my butt in the chair every day and pushes me to sew something – even if it’s just a test run on a new idea.

What’s the coolest thing you ever made?

I personally love the hat with long ears I made – my daughter keeps trying to steal it…lol…or maybe it was the animal print doll dress with matching leggings and cuffs…hard choice!! lol




What would you love to make but haven’t made yet?

I would love to make a hoodie with animal ears.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working independently?

My own schedule – freedom to come and go. I get to see more of my family than I would working a 9-5 job.

What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

Staying on target. You have to be disciplined even when it’s warm and sunny outside.

Were there surprises along the way? Things involved in your business that you didn’t expect when you started?

Well, when I first started I didn’t know how to sew or embroider so having to learn both was a huge stepping stone for me. But, I did it and today I am making my own designs.





Do you do custom work? If so, what’s your preferred way for people to contact you?

Yes I do!! You can contact me thru either Facebook or Etsy

Where do you get inspiration for your projects?

Honestly, the smiles on the faces of those who are so excited to see their finished piece or sets. That makes my day.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love photography, scuba diving and playing World of Warcraft with my daughter.

What do you like to do when you’re able to eke in time just for you?

Read, Write, play World of Warcraft, watch movies…

What drives you to continue, to press on in a sometimes challenging industry?

I want to succeed…I don’t want to fail…

Do you have any goal setting or time management tips you’d like to share that help you accomplish your goals?

I follow a routine every day – I won’t lie, there are days when that routine gets pushed but, I find it’s easier to stay focused and to finish projects if I follow a routine.

Are there any hints or tips you’d like to offer others who are interested in pursuing a career on the art side?

Stay positive. There will be many who will try and put you or your work down and you need to have thicker skin for the naysayers. You got this. You can do it.

Where can we stalk you on the web?

Etsy Store:

Facebook Page:

Twitter: @Furrville

9 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo



Ah yes, tis that time of year when social media is inundated with posts on how many words your friends have written in a day, laments on not hitting word count goals, celebrations on exceeding goals etc. Truly it’d make one think that all writers are engrossed in this strange NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) tradition in which writers scramble to splatter 50k words on their pages during the month of November.

This is the time of year when some writers are at optimum stress levels, their emotions swinging wildly hither and yon depending on if they hit their daily word count or not. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 9 tips to put NaNo in perspective and keep a modicum of sanity:

1. Contrary to what social media posts would have you believe NaNo is not something all writers participate in. Many authors write year round, not just November, so this is just another month in our writing calendars. Don’t let social pressure or other writers guilt you into participating if you don’t want to or don’t feel it’d be productive for your writing. The most important thing is to write in a way that fits YOU, in a way that allows you to create your best work. If NaNo fits, use it. If it doesn’t, dump it.

2. If you do choose to participate, knowing that, besides the YA market, 50k words is not a novel can take pressure off. Most adult genres require 70-110k to be considered novel length, which means that 50k is a rough draft. So relax, all first drafts suck. Embrace the suck. Love the suck. You can always fix it once the heat of NaNo wears off.

3. Or not…I hear from many writers who are discouraged by NaNo because what they’re left with at the end is 50k of…well…mess. So focused were they on puking those words on the page that they left no time to make sure that those words were making sense. That the plot worked. That the characters shined. So come December, they’re staring at a monstrosity that would take months to re-do or might not be salvageable. If you find this happening, forget the word count. If you end up with 10-15k of good, solid writing at the end of the month then you’ve won.

4. NaNo is really about inspiring you to write. If you write each day, you’re a winner whether or not you hit the 50k mark. Enjoy the process. Don’t stress it. After all, stress is one of the most diabolical murderers of creativity.

5. Take time off. That’s right, procrastinate. Some of our best ideas are born of, as Stephen King puts it, the boys in the basement.

6. When you say no, mean no. Turn off the phone, keep it off. Turn off emails, keep it off. If you decline a dinner request, movie, hangout with friends don’t let them weasel you into changing your mind. Your writing time is precious and if you don’t treat it that way, no one will.

7. Celebrate your accomplishments. Even if you didn’t hit your daily word count goal, chances are that you wrote something or learned something about your story or writing habits that is worthy of celebrating or at least a mental pat on the back.

8. Keep reassessing. Yeah, this will likely cut into your time but it’s worth it. By always assessing if the story, plot, characters are on the right path, if you can add more trouble, throw more blockades up or go deeper – and taking the time to change it now – it not only makes for a better story but also eliminates a lot of time-devouring revisions later.

9. Remember, the pinnacle of success for an author isn’t churning out word count, it’s creating stories that delight, engage and enthrall the reader. If you’ve done that, it’s a win no matter how many or how few words you put on the page this month.

Bones in Your Bonfire




Nothing quite embodies the Fall nor compliments its array of colors and scents quite like a cozy bonfire with it’s warm orange flames licking into the night to ward off the chill, but few are aware of its charred history.

Long ago on Samhain, the night when the veil between this world and that of the spirit world is the thinnest, druids gathered to protect their people’s crops and the people themselves from the destructive forces of evil spirits. The druids traveled to homes to request offerings of crops, animals and even…humans. Whether these sacrifices traipsed willingly into the wicker cages or not is lost in the mists of time.

Once they’d gathered their sacrifices, the druids would don an assortment of costumes and light carved turnips to keep themselves safe from the spirits that broke free of the veil. Then, they fed their sacrifices to large fires and danced around the spiraling flames holding the skulls of their ancestors aloft as yet another talisman to ward off the dead. When the fires died naught remained of their sacrifices – crop, animal and human alike – except for ash and bones mingled within the embers.

So the next time you’re cuddled around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and the air is crisp with the herald of Winter, perhaps take a moment to remember those lost to the flames of the past, whose final screams rose to the heavens in the druids’ bone fires. And who knows, maybe some poor soul burns at that very moment in sacrificial fires lit not far from where you sit… (du du du du).