Janel Gradowski

Oct 072017
Can you spot Cooper, the elusive Golden Retriever?

Can you spot Cooper, the elusive Golden Retriever?

It’s October 7, but the temperature has climbed to 80 degrees again. A perfect day for having a big glass of iced tea. I, like probably many of you, grew up drinking sun tea. In the summers when I was a kid there would often be a big glass jar of tea sitting on the picnic table in my backyard. Now, I make my iced tea differently. I use a cold brew method. No sunshine needed.

For every four cups (quart) of water I add either two teabags or two teaspoons of loose leaf tea. Combine the water and tea in a pitcher. Put in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. Remove the tea bags or strain. Enjoy!

 October 7, 2017  Posted by  Food, Recipe Tags: ,  4 Responses »
Sep 272017


I was watching the weather forecast on our local news recently. As usual, I was doing other things…working on my computer, chatting with the kids, making dinner. This time, among the temperature forecast and predicted night time lows, something different caught my attention. The weatherman said that you could see the International Space Station passing through the sky that night.

There was an instant tug from my heart. I wanted to see it.

Tuning into my intuition is something that I am very aware of. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I have a sort of internal guidance system. Lately I have been working with it even more by focusing when I feel pulled toward something or someone, instead of ignoring the nudge because I don’t have the time or what I’m being called to do doesn’t make sense. There is always a reason why my life’s GPS system is telling me to go a certain way. It is always for my benefit. I’m learning to trust that. Because sometimes the things that my intuition pops into my brain out of nowhere seem absolutely crazy or unattainable. At other times the benefits of following my intuitive path aren’t immediately clear. Yet when I look back, I can see that everything worked out for the best.

When I decided to double-check the time that the space station would be in my little patch of sky, I was surprised to see that sighting it isn’t a rare event. It is actually visible almost every night right now for me, as long as there are clear skies. You can check when you might be able to see it on this NASA site: Spot the Station.

That night, as I watched the tiny dot that resembled a shooting star, I started sending a little beam of love and support from me to the people on the space station. The awe and wonder of what I was watching simply filled me with joy. I was looking at a station cooperatively constructed by many countries, including the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan, and European nations. Inside it, at that very moment, were some people who had learned how to trust a lot more than their intuition. They trust that they can ride a rocket into space, live on the station, then return home to earth and their families. They trust that their fellow astronauts, the station, and equipment will keep them alive. They trusted that their dreams of going into space would come true. Simply inspiring.

So now I have the space station tracker bookmarked on my computer. If the sky is clear, I try to step outside and send some good vibes toward the space station as it passes overhead. In return, I get to wonder at the amazing trust and bravery of the people who are flying around the earth at 17,150 miles per hour.


 September 27, 2017  Posted by  General, Inspiration, Updates Tags: ,  No Responses »
Sep 112017

Dragonfly Necklace

I have been fascinated with dragonflies for a long time. There is a pond in my backyard where I can often find some of the gorgeous, iridescent insects hanging out. When we owned a cabin up north, I would marvel at the ginormous ones that would hang out on the dock, getting so close that I could see every glorious detail. There’s just something magical to me about how they fly, hover, and naturally glitter in the sunshine. I really like glitter and sparkle.

One of the things that I often do when a creature shows up in my world, like a dragonfly landing next to me, is look up the symbolism and meaning. As a child I loved reading about Native American culture, so the idea of totem animals has been with me for most of my life. When I saw this pendant on Etsy, I had to have it – not only because I love them but because I now know what they symbolize.

A dragonfly is a reminder that your thoughts turn into reality. I wholeheartedly believe in this. If you focus on the bad or disappointing parts of your life, those heartbreaks will multiply. Whereas if you concentrate on the goodness and be grateful for what you have, you will attract more experiences that bring you joy. The dragonfly also represents good luck, harmony, and strength. It’s a wonderful totem animal to carry with me, especially when I want to connect with light and positive energy.



 September 11, 2017  Posted by  Inspiration, Symbolic Jewelry Tags: , ,  Comments Off on Symbolic Jewelry Part 3: Dragonfly Necklace
Sep 072017

Swirl Necklace

This is the second necklace I recently made that is filled with symbols and components that are meaningful to me. This bright and cheerful piece started with the metal spiral pendant, which I recently bought at my local new age store when I went there to experience a sound meditation event. The pendant is actually a tiny, screw-top container. It can be used to store tiny gemstone chips, a bit of perfume or essential oils, sand from a favorite beach, etc.

I intend to write down my goals and dreams on a small slip of paper and keep it inside. I believe in the power of writing down what we want to accomplish – instead of just thinking about it. Putting pen to paper ads some oomph to dreams by bringing them out of your head and into the physical world. Think of it as the first, baby step toward reaching a goal.

There were several different symbols etched on the canisters, from a goddess to this spiral. I chose the spiral because it represents the constant evolution that we all go through. Life is always changing and we grow steadily as we acquire more knowledge. Another classic meaning is that what is hidden is slowly revealed. A very appropriate symbol to adorn a container where I intend to place my dreams and desires.

While making the necklace, the first beads I picked out were the orange ones that are also spirals. To complete the color scheme I went with more citrusy colors – yellow and green. Then when it was finished, I thought of another symbolic connection that I had subconsciously used in the design. The necklace now holds even more meaning to me, even though I had chosen the beads with an aesthetic, instead of spiritual, intention.

The chakras are energy centers aligned along your spine that correspond to different things. The sacral chakra is associated with the color orange (like the spiral beads) and it contains the energy of emotions, desire, and creativity. Yellow corresponds to the solar plexus chakra which is about courage, intellect, and confidence. Green is for the heart chakra. Of course, that is all about love – of others and ourselves, plus compassion and integration.

Some really great color energies to tap into when working to fulfill a dream, don’t you think?

Sep 052017

Cicada Necklace

My kids are both back in school – one in college, the other in high school. This time of year always feels like a fresh start that is ripe with the potential of things to come. I bet there are a lot of people, like me, who get a burst of energy and creativity when school starts. Exciting, new projects…here I come! I have had a loooong, difficult end to the summer. My beloved Golden Retriever, Cooper, has had health issues. He’s on the mend now, but I’ve spent a lot of time at home – caring for him and trying to keep him quiet so that he can recover – over the last two months. Seeing his goofy, excited, happy personality return is a fresh start in its own way.

I’m getting ready to begin a juicy, new writing project. But over the holiday weekend a different creative outlet was the focus of my attention. Making jewelry. Once upon a time, when I designed beadwork patterns, I never made jewelry just for the fun of it. While I have some pretty and very interesting jewelry from that time, I was always focused on producing patterns that I could sell to beadwork magazines. I didn’t play with my beads for a long time when I switched to writing fiction. Now, I’m getting back to working with my gigantic stash of beads. Most importantly (to me) I’m making jewelry just for myself. Simply for me to wear and enjoy. What used to be a job, now is creative play. And I couldn’t be happier – especially with the necklaces I made over the Labor Day weekend. They all contain symbols that coincide with how I live my life now. I’ll be doing a three part blog series to highlight them all.

The pendant on the necklace in this post is a cicada. It isn’t a coincidence that over the last few summers I have found cicada exoskeletons on the trees in my backyard. “Hello? This is the Universe calling. Here’s a sign. Pay attention, please.”

Over and over I found the shells that a cicada left behind on its way to becoming bigger and bolder. The insects spend, depending on the variety, anywhere from 1 to 17 years of their lives underground before emerging. Then they come out of the dirt and transform.

For most of my life my motto was: Don’t rock the boat. I was quiet. Constantly trying to be “nice”. I hated conflict, so I would bite my tongue to avoid it. People could say or do anything…and I would just put up with it to avoid an uncomfortable argument or confrontation. I let other people shovel their issues onto me until I was buried and could barely move through my own life.

A few years ago, I took a look at how I was living and realized that I had become a human doormat that was covered in everybody else’s dirt and crap. Not okay!!

Since then I have broken through the muck, shed my confining beliefs, and I am not afraid to stand up for myself. I don’t tolerate bad behavior. In a social situation, I will move away from people who don’t resonate with me. I no longer feel the need to please everyone or be liked by all. I won’t spend my time and energy on drama that someone else manufactured to draw attention to themselves (that’s a HUGE thing for me). Plus, I’ve realized that I am nowhere near as introverted as I thought I was. I still like being alone, but I am also perfectly capable of talking to strangers and really enjoying the experience. I’ve faced the fact that saying that I’m an introvert has been more of an excuse for avoiding situations and people who make me uncomfortable.

I have changed in a way that is very similar to how a cicada lives its life – moving from being in the dark, confining dirt to making some noise. So that is why I made a necklace with a huge, kind of creepy, bug pendant. I love the cicada for all that it means to me and the woman who I have become.


Jul 272017

Pancakes & Pandemonium

Coming January 2018

Book #6 in the Culinary Competition Mystery Series

Jul 252017

One Pan & DoneOne Pan & Done
By Molly Gilbert
Published by Potter

This cookbook is a continuation of the sheet pan meal concept that Ms. Gilbert wrote about in Sheet Pan Suppers. In One Pan & Done all of the recipes are once again cooked in a single pan, but this time it can be anything from a baking dish to a Dutch oven or even a muffin tin.

The single pan concept is appealing to me and probably many other cooks. Who hasn’t cooked a meal then been faced by a mountain of pots and pans leftover from the preparation? It’s so nice to have a single pan in the oven or on the stovetop.

Basically, it’s all about timing. To get everything perfectly cooked in a single pan it’s often necessary to add ingredients at different times. Really, that’s no different than many recipes, like adding fresh spinach at the end when making soup or topping a casserole with cheese for the last ten minutes of baking time. This cookbook just finely tunes the timing of when things should be added for many of the recipes.

The recipes cover every part of a meal, from appetizers to dessert, breakfast to dinner. Some are simple in that everything cooks at the same time, such as cakes or muffins, while others need the ingredients added in stages. There is a variety of styles of recipes too, from kid-friendly to dishes that would work well at a dinner party. Personally, I really loved the Thai Turkey with Carrot “Noodles”. Thai-flavored ground turkey with strips of carrots instead of noodles. Very tasty, fun, and low carb. Another thing that I really liked is the recipes for DIY doughs, like biscuit and bread, so you can use the convenient store-bought options or make your own. Each chapter begins by categorizing the recipes by what pans they use. Very handy if you happen to not own one of the pans or want to use one in particular.

I really like this book and have been enjoying trying the different recipes and techniques. Definitely a “keeper” on my bookshelf because it is both convenient and full of really tasty recipes. The added bonus is having fewer dishes to wash.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 July 25, 2017  Posted by  Food, Review Tags:  1 Response »
Jul 172017
He has loved Jeeps for a long time!

He has loved Jeeps for a long time!

An essay I wrote about my son has made it to the final round of a contest to win an air conditioning system for his Jeep. Between being on a swim team and being a lifeguard, he’s often gone for 10-12 hours a day. I sure would like to give him a break with a cool vehicle to drive home.

Could you please, please, pretty please click on the link below? It’ll take you to my essay on the Jeep Air Facebook page. Just like the post and that’s it! The finalist with the most “likes” at the end of the week wins. With your help – maybe it’ll be my son. Thank you in advance!!


 July 17, 2017  Posted by  General, Writing Life 2 Responses »
Jun 202017


You could win this handbag! (1)

Gemma Halliday Publishing is having a fun contest. All you have to do to enter is follow on BookBub any or all of the authors, listed on this Facebook post, before June 29, 2016. Good luck!


 June 20, 2017  Posted by  General Tags:  1 Response »
Jun 142017

Nail Polish

I have decided that I shall wear glitter nail polish on a regular basis. I very rarely paint my nails, but I am going to start. And I will raid my teenage daughter’s massive polish collection and try ALL of the glitter ones.

Why? Because I like sparkle. My blonde hair has added sparkle now from all of the gray threading through it. So why can’t I add some twinkle to my fingers too?

It looks like magical fairy dust adorning my fingers…which type stories on my laptop. Creating people and places out of thin air, as a writer, is a special kind of magic, don’t you think? So isn’t it fitting that I pretend, just for the fun of it, that my fingernails are sprinkled with a bit of extra magic?

Is glitter nail polish appropriate for a woman who is closer to fifty than forty? Possibly not.

Do I care if the beauty industry might think I’m too old for sparkly nails? Absolutely not.

You see, for many years now, I have been receding into drabness. Neutral clothing colors, little makeup, no jewelry = a very bland look. Why? Because I have become plumper than I’d like. Because the gray hair, that I am determined to embrace, sticks up and corkscrews – making me look like a Dr. Seuss character. Because I have convinced myself that I am a shy introvert, when I’m really not. Because for most of my life I have had a deeply embedded limiting belief that calling attention to myself in any way is bad.

Over the last few years I have done a lot of work to discover who I really am, not who I think I should be. The real me doesn’t want to be a chameleon who disappears into the background. If I pretend to be invisible, I never meet new people and never have conversations that capture my attention. And if I don’t experience new things and meet new people, where do you think I’ll draw inspiration for my writing from? A boring, sedate life is counter-productive for me as a writer.

So…I will wear glitter nail polish (on my finger and toe nails), brightly colored clothes, bold jewelry, and lipstick (something else that I have never been fond of until recently). Why? Because I don’t want to become bland and boring. I don’t want my daughter to have that type of mother. Looking back now, I can see that I let the unpleasant things in my life drag me down to into the mundane muck. But not anymore. Glitter nail polish will be a life preserver – my personal touch of whimsy and a reminder that life is magical if I make an effort to find the magic.