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 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.


Mar 062017

Sometimes you just need to retreat. As in heading to a wonderful, rejuvenating writer’s retreat! Last weekend I went to Chicago for the Windy City RWA Retreat. I am not a member of the RWA (Romance Writers of America), but I had to go because one of my favorite writers was the featured speaker.

I packed up my bags and journeyed from Michigan to Illinois. There I learned about reclaiming the magic of writing when the words don’t flow easily, and I honed my writing voice, which is as unique as a speaking voice, in a master class. Both workshops were taught by a woman who became one of my favorite authors many years ago when I began reading her women’s fiction books. They’re filled with lush descriptions, fascinating characters, and lots of food. What’s not to love about books like that?

Barbara O’Neal is the writer who I went to see. If you read romances you may know her as Barbara Samuel or Lark O’Neal if you enjoy new adult books. And if you’re a writer, I highly recommend her books The Care and Feeding of The Girls in The Basement and Celebration Book (A Writer’s Guide to Joy). They are some of the brightest gems in my rather massive collection of books about writing.

Whenever I read one of Barbara’s books I am inspired to be a better writer. I was very excited about taking the classes and having the chance to meet her at the retreat. So excited, in fact, that the experience brought out a teen fangirl side of me that hasn’t made an appearance since I got to go backstage to meet my favorite band when I was a teenager. Yes, there was squeeing and selfie taking involved. And yes, my forty-something self is rolling her eyes and asking, “Really??? You had to do that?”.  Despite my awkward geekiness, Barbara was gracious and lovely. The insights on writing and publishing that she shared during the master class still has my mind buzzing. To quote my fangirl self: She was awesome!

Barbara O'Neal and Janel Gradowski

Barbara and me

As you can tell, seeing Barbara was definitely a highlight of the retreat for me, but there’s more. For the first time I was able to meet, in person, several other authors who write for Gemma Halliday Publishing. It was so much fun to chat with my publishing “sisters” and give them a real hug, instead of a virtual one. As a writer, I tend to lead a pretty solitary life. Many of my social interactions are done online. It was a very welcome change to talk with the GHP authors, and many other writers, face-to-face.

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Leiren, Barb Valentin, Wendy Byrne, and me

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Leiren, Barbara Valentin, Wendy Byrne, and me

The past year brought many struggles to my writing life. The theme for this retreat was “Nourishing the Writer’s Soul”. It lived up to the expectations. Thanks to Windy City RWA for hosting the event. It certainly did wonders for my writer’s soul!


Oct 262016

It’s a new school year for my kids–the time of year where many people, including me, are compelled to make fresh starts. And that is what I am doing. This past year I smacked into a mid-life “awakening” (we won’t call it a crisis – even though it has felt like that sometimes).

Do you know what I mean? That feeling that something with life isn’t quite right, but you’re not exactly sure what the problem is. That you need to change, but you don’t know how or even what to change.

I’ve read books and perused websites, even worked with a life coach. One thing that became very clear while I was doing research is that I’m not the only person who feels this way. A lot of people get the urge to move around the puzzle pieces of their life into a different configuration when they reach the middle of their life. The image above is the centerpiece of a vision board I did with my life coach, and it says a lot about how I feel right now.

I’ve been quiet on my website and social media over the summer as I’ve decided what, exactly, I want to do. Okay, I admit, that the plan is more fluid than exact, but you know what? That’s wonderful! When things are moving…they aren’t stuck. And who wants to feel like their life is stuck in a rut?

For quite a few years I have focused my social media and author platform toward my career as a culinary mystery writer. But there’s a lot more in my life than cooking and writing mysteries. So I’m going to start sharing more of my interests in the hope that maybe someone else will enjoy them too. A lot of things will be changing from the look of this website to the style of my newsletters. (Do you subscribe to my newsletter? I hope you do because the new format will be launching soon, and I can’t wait to share it with you!) I’m writing new books, but at a slower pace since I’m also focusing on my family, and uncovering tools to navigate through this mid-life reinvention.

Some of the things that I plan to share are on the new age-y side, or as I say…woo-woo. If that’s not your thing and you no longer want to follow my blog or get my newsletter, no big deal. Feel free to unsubscribe, because life is too short to spend time reading things that you don’t enjoy. If you stick around I hope you find something useful…or that makes you smile…or that gives you an aha moment. I’m taking the scenic route, instead of the freeway, through this part of my life. I can’t wait to share some of the stops with you!




Mar 042015

I love ebooks, but there’s nothing like getting paperback copies of your brand new book baby!

Yeehaw! #1!!

Oooh…Amazon didn’t put those nifty little banners on the “Also Bought” books when Pies & Peril was released in July.

Editing Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes so I could turn it in to my publisher on February 28.

Feb 032015

Okay…some mistakes are awesome. That ex-boyfriend that seemed awesome in college was still a mistake that should’ve been avoided. But sometimes things that seem like mistakes are really more like your subconscious telling you what you need before you know you need it.

See that package above? You may have seen it before in the picture from my post about going to several ethnic grocery stores. I bought the bag of cream of wheat because I thought I had seen a recipe for flatbread that used it. I was wrong. The recipe used chickpea flour instead. So I bought the wrong ingredient. An inexpensive, the bag cost around $2, mistake. No big deal, but not awesome. Yet.

Last week I ended up catching the cold that was making the rounds in my family. Nothing terrible, but still annoying and uncomfortable. Just what I needed since I was very close to completing the first draft of my next book.  I wanted to finish the first draft by the end of January. Not so easy to keep writing every day when what I really wanted to do was just lay on the couch all day and watch TV. I needed comfort food. Something warm for my stuffy nose. Something soothing for my sore throat. And something filling for my finicky appetite. Guess what was the perfect remedy. Cream of wheat. Yup. The mistake.

Cooked on the stove with a mixture of water and milk for the liquid. Always a sprinkling of nutmeg. Sometimes a splash of vanilla extract. Sweetened with brown sugar and rounded out with a pat of butter. Constantly whisking the porridge as it cooked provided a nice little Zen-like break. The grocery mistake was exactly what I needed to combat the cold so I could keep writing. And the final bit of serendipity…I finished the bag of cream of wheat and the novel on the same day.

Dec 052014

To celebrate the release of Cozy Christmas Capers, some author friends and I are giving away a Kindle Fire HDX this weekend. Just follow this link to the Laffeinated Ink blog to enter. Good luck!


 December 5, 2014  Posted by  Writing Life Tags: ,  2 Responses »
Oct 242014

On Tuesday I turned Chicken Soup & Homicide in to my publisher. All summer there was a lot going on with life in general, beyond my writing life, so getting the book whipped into shape over the last month and a half was intense. I’ve written before about how I end up with food obsessions whenever I work on big writing projects. Beyond the always present coffee, the editing phase of this book brought on a craving for kimchi. Yay for a healthy obsession, for once!

Kimchi is spicy fermented vegetables that is also the national dish of Korea. Traditionally it’s made with cabbage, but it can be made with all kinds of vegetables. It’s one of those dishes that has seemingly endless varieties and every cook that makes it has their own version. I would love to try making it, but the last few months I haven’t had the time to experiment in the kitchen. If you want to try it here are a bunch of recipes from the Beyond Kimchi blog. :)

For the most part, I buy the mild version of the commercially made brand of kimchi at my local grocery store. A rather standard napa cabbage variety. It is garlicky, mildly sour, slightly salty and pleasantly spicy. I like the taste of the fermented cabbage, so I’m not particularly interested in the sinus clearing spicy version. A few weeks ago I found the cucumber kimchi pictured above at a farmer’s market. What a difference! Even though it is red with chili pepper flakes, it isn’t extremely spicy. You can definitely taste the ginger in this variety and the cucumber gives it a rather grassy “green” flavor. I love it.

So kimchi has been the flavor-packed ingredient that I’ve been adding to my quick lunches while I’ve been writing. One ingredient = a cornucopia of flavor. It’s great with ramen noodles or rice. I also like to accompany it with eggs, either poached in ramen broth or fried and slid on top of rice. My favorite dish so far has been rice topped with low-sodium soy sauce, a fried egg and kimchi. I actually do a one-pan version of this in my little 4-cup rice cooker, by cracking an egg on top of the almost cooked rice then letting it cook from the residual heat. Add soy sauce and the kimchi. Stir to break up the egg into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

Have you tried kimchi? If you have, do you have a favorite variety?

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads



Aug 232014

We’re heading into the last week of summer here at Chez Gradowski. That basically amounts to me almost losing my mind between making sure the kids have everything to start school (there’s always something essential that isn’t thought of until the last minute) and anticipation of some yummy quiet so my writing muses can actually be creative.

I have some fun giveaways planned in September and one will involve the items above. Do you know what they are?


 August 23, 2014  Posted by  General, Writing Life Tags: ,  4 Responses »
Aug 082014

It’s the last month of summer vacation. I’m feeling more than a bit frazzled between what seems to be a never ending lineup of appointments, getting the kids ready for school, several writing deadlines and the general busyness of family life. So I’ve decided to try some fill in the blank-style micro blog posts. Little check ins detailing some of the more interesting parts of my rather ordinary life. So without further ado, here is micro blog post #1.




Reading…The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell (thanks Serena!)
Watching…house finches eating the grape jelly in my oriole feeder
Cooking…Farina for my breakfast
Eating…Lots of salads with roasted mushrooms
Drinking…Faygo Rock & Rye cream cola
Writing…(actually editing) a Culinary Competition holiday short story
Listening…to lots of traffic noise since I now live on a detour route
Loving…the cooler than normal summer temperatures
Hating…my allergies
Considering…recipes to include with the short story
Feeling…lazy…it’s Friday
Planning…to refinish the antique Ship Captain’s Desk my husband bought me when I finished writing Pies & Peril