Monday, November 29, 2010

Covenant Cottage Country Store

A friend has a wonderful, cosy gift shop in Gambrills and it reminded me of what I love so much about the Annapolis area.  Annapolis is not just power boats speeding on the Chesapeake or visitors in town when the weather is fine. It's not only the stately and beautiful Naval Academy and it just happens to be the state capital. It is also home to farms and businesses that have been serving every day people for decades.
   When I moved to Anne Arundel County there were farms growing beautiful vegetables along Forest Drive which everyone knows now only grows traffic jams. A short drive across the South River meant you could find pick your own tomato farms or strawberry farms. Now these places are filled with impressive mansions, so much so that it is easy to forget the wonderful farms that still fill the tables at the local farmer's market every Saturday.
  My friend Janet Garman invited me to come to see her shop, Covenant Cottage Country Store with the idea that Solomon's Puzzle could be offered there. When I turned into the parking lot I was enchanted by the sight of the store. They share their space with Country Feed and Garden Store and walking in you feel as if you're stepping back in time to a charming, bucolic place.

I had the privilege of teaching three of Janet's four children and it was easy to bond with this open-hearted, earnest family. So I was not surprised, but deeply touched to hear about Janet's business philosophy. Her goal is to follow her passion, to offer quality items she'd like to own, the help promote local artists and craftsmen, to serve her community.

Her community has rallied around her in the recent difficult economic times. Their loyalty and support have kept the store going. I know also that Janet's good well and amiability are irresistible to shoppers.

We walked around the store and I found myself amazed at the variety of quality and beautiful items. Janet's favorites are the soy candles.
Those are sale signs on the candle display. Hurry in!

Everything is priced fairly and to sell, not to make a killing. I noticed sale signs everywhere.  There is a children's section...
Here are lovely alternatives to the quilted, fabric bags everyone else has! Shop local!

a book section with local authors' books signed and waiting.

Janet chooses items that show creativity and an eye for beauty. She will only sell what she would like to own or give.

She has a passion for knitting, imaginatively displayed...


and a group of knitters meets at the shop.

Her passion for stamping means there are new and used stamps for every need.

If you're in the mood for some Christmas shopping or you need a little good cheer, if you're on your way up 97 or in Crofton, or Gambrills, or zipping down to Homegoods, check out Janet's store.

my patient husband with the resident kitty

You'll also find Solomon's Puzzle there. When Janet said she wanted to offer my novel there, I had a quick, vivid vision of the community that inspired the book, then produced the book and that is now offering the book to everyone to enjoy.  There were my books piled on the counter and my heart skipped a beat! It's a book about a community and isn't it just so cool that my community has joined together to bring it about?

And best of all, Janet suggested a book signing. Santa is scheduled to be there on December 11 from 2-5pm. So I'm going to set up my little table for signing books near by him and watch the kids sit on his knee and whisper their hopes.
I'd love it if you stopped by to see me and Santa and Janet's lovely shop.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Have A Winner!

So last night, Clare spent the night, her first away from home.  She slept all night and when she awakened, she was happy!

After her morning bottle, she helped us pick the winner for the contest listed on Solomon's Puzzle's website.

This means that the books are here and they are gorgeous! The cover is so beautiful and compelling! The inside of the book- with its cream colored pages...
I can hardly believe it! So wonderful!
And I'm so glad to be able to give one away through the contest!

 The contest said that anyone who posted a comment would be entered into a random drawing on November 23, 2010.
That's today.
 We printed the names and cut the papers up into strips, one name per strip. We put these into my big pyrex bowl.  We mixed them up two or three times and then Clare reached in and picked one.
She knew just what to do. She picked up just one piece of paper.

The winner is Terry Cary!

Congratulations, Terry!

Clare spent the next half hour tossing the rest of the papers over her shoulder onto the table and floor.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I met Trip Ulvila in study hall when he was in ninth or tenth grade.  It was easy to make friends with Trip. He's full of ideas and fun and has a wide span of interests; he's friendly and great to be around. Trip has a heart full of talent and in his cheerful, confident way, he's motivated to do things well.

Recently Trip helped me and Kristen tweak Solomon's Puzzle's website.  It was great to catch up and hear all that he's been doing since high school.  He's created a website that reflects his interests and his artistic gift. As his former teacher, I loved reading what he wrote! I was thrilled to see the photos on his blog and touched when he put together this flickr album about Annapolis, the setting for the novel.

Thanks Trip! You're the best!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sending It Off

The process of submitting a book for printing is fascinating.  The publication of Solomon's Puzzle turned out to be a community effort, which is so fitting and cool because the novel is about community. The editors and I had a schedule, which one of us created, and the we all lived by. The schedule was designed in an excel format and had 22 steps color coded to show at a glance who was responsible for meeting what deadline when. We, the editors of Blessing House Press, were responsible for 19 of those steps.

They began with 3 passes for content editing on each chapter. It went this way: I did everything I could think of to edit and improve a chapter. I sent it to Kristen, who read carefully and thought of what else we should cut or move or improve or fix. Kristen had a wonderful way of suggesting we cut things, but her being kind about it meant a lot more work for her because she wrote long notes explaining her reasoning in reference to the important ideas, the literary elements and the overall impact. When she agreed to do the project, I knew she'd do an excellent job, but I was overwhelmed by the skill, dedication and heart she brought to the book.

So after the first pass at a chapter, we looked at it again-- twice.

Next the chapter went to Care who "copyedited" it. Now, ordinary copyediting is supposed to be about looking at commas, but Care is not an ordinary anything. She saw the first chapter and realized we had to design a format for the look of the book. So she got herself a double job. She read for consistency, logical sequence, correctness and she designed  how each page would look.

After each round of editing, the chapter must be again looked at because changing anything somehow results in more mistakes. You know this from your own work. You think you just took out a comma, but by mistake you took out a space too, or added one or put an extra d in ddelight.

Finally we sent the chapters, two by two, because by this time the final deadline was looming, to the Joe who scrutinized the wording, the structure and all the little details that bug careful readers. This meant more corrections, more review.

Everyone worked so hard, so carefully, so faithfully and cheerfully. I am so grateful to them. Care suggested we black out each block of the schedule when we finished that task. This spreading sea of black was very encouraging! We met our deadlines in the end, helping each other and adjusting the schedule when it proved impossible.

We packed it up. The printer, United Book Press, asks that you upload the files to their ftp site and then provide a hard copy because they check every page!

We drove it up there and in two days, the proofs were waiting for me.

I know I'm a book nerd, but I remembered the scene from Little Women where Jo comes home and finds the proofs for her novel on the kitchen table. I remembered because during the dark days of February I used to show this movie to my American Lit students. It's an important part of American Lit and the movie is so well done. And every year, three or four times per year depending on how many sections of American Lit I taught, my eyes teared up with hope and longing at that scene.  It was a pretty wonderful moment.

The last three steps on the schedule had to do with printing and of those I was responsible for only one step -- re reading the entire manuscript to see "if everything was right." I hope you're laughing, because that's a hilarious idea. I had read it so many times, how would I see anything?
The manuscript is printed in 32 page signatures. These are folded and marked on the spine in the way you see so that things stay in order!

But I read it and found a few things, which I hope will be corrected smoothly.

Now I'm waiting...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fun in Autumn With Mama

I love watching Valerie and Clare together. 

Just yesterday, Clare started calling Val "Mama." Before this she called her baby dolls "mama." But it is clear that they are bonded. For one thing, Valerie is Clare's playtime prop.

climbing on Mama

 The day was so lovely we went for a walk.

To me, it seems amazing that in one year, a child can learn to stand upright and walk along the sidewalk holding a flower.

or run across a field...
or watch her mama leaping and laughing...
and delight in the sunshine and birds and colors.

Back at home, there were flowers to smell...

and petals to pick...

Clare likes to get right up into the plant.

Everything she found, she liked to share with her mama and me.

So much fun to share what you find on an autumn walk

Reminds me of other great days...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can't Afford a Trip to Europe?

Try the Calico Cat in Woodlawn. The outside is modest, hiding treasures within, but there's ample parking...

Forty-two years ago Bruni and Bill Obriecht opened their shop with the idea of selling fine American crafts. They now offer artisan works from America, Canada and Europe. When you meet Bruni and Bill you'll feel warmly welcomed. You can tell by the doorknob that it's going to be special... 

And a peek through the window shows a Christmas wonderland!

In fact, the Calico Cat has an entire Christmas room for you to visit all year round. Look at the exquisite and rare ornaments, 

Right now, they are preparing their REAL Christmas display, which means they are opening a small building on the back of the property that will be filled to overflowing with treasures. This opens November 27 and runs through the first part of January.  

These amazing little stars are made of silicone and they fit on the little Christmas tree lights!

I think this may be my favorite thing in the entire store. looks so quaint and I love thinking that the candles are so carefully and individually crafted. 

And looking at them, you know that they are!

Unusual advent calendars are available.

Reasonably priced wooden figurines that give Christmas decorations that winsome, old world look.

The wooden carved scenes of wintertime are called Schwibbogen. They light up. 

Every price and style of wooden nativity scenes are available.

Purchases are carefully wrapped and boxed with no extra charge for this lovely service.

I love the snow clouds hung from the ceiling!
And that was just the Christmas room! The main part of the shop is filled with the most exquisite glassware I've ever seen! Each piece is a work of art. Paperweights that look like miniature aquariums, vases in true jewel-like colors.

A special glass blowing event is scheduled for November 28. 

Some of the pottery seen below:

And there are unusual things like these baskets with wooden carvings incorporated into the designs.
There is a children's section with wooden puzzles, hand-crafted toys and decorations. I found a wonderful bug collector's kit there.  The book selection is thoughtful and tasteful. I found a wonderful book about Jacques Cousteau's childhood and inspiration called "Manfish" there. Every child I've given it to has loved it. 

The wooden ware for the home is so beautiful it is hard to think of using it. I am in love with these honey dippers, though.  And the best part is that the prices are amazingly reasonable.

Directions and Hours
 Regular Hours
Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Open Fridays til 7 p.m.
Map to get to Calico Cat at 2137 Gwynn Oak Ave. Baltimore, MD
Only 1 1/2 miles from Beltway exit 17 - Security Blvd. Follow the map or call for directions during the hours we are open.