Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Filter Pocket With Wire Face Mask by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

During the Coronavirus Pandemic we've all heard a lot of information (and misinformation) about face masks.  One fact seems indisputable: medical personnel are in dire need of face masks.  There is such a shortage, nurses are making face guards from pop bottles, and asking citizens who sew to make masks. 

Seniors are at such risk they are on lockdown, not allowing visitors in nursing homes. Living in a senior community that's right next door to another one that is condos rather than single family homes, it's something I have paid a lot of attention to. I have also noted that the virus has spread from those with no symptons who are carriers, and that it is highly, highly contagious and can be spread by sneazing, coughing or even breathing and talking from one person to another, whether contact is commuted via the air through the eyes, nose or mouth, or from touching a surface upon which the virus has settled and then touching your mouth, nose, or rubbing your eyes, etc.  

Now at first they said, and still in some cases still do say that citizens don't need face masks unless they are sick. [Recall that carriers may have no symptoms for up to 2 weeks if at all, so who is sick?] They were trying to keep the t.p. hoarders from siphoning all remaining face masks that could be used by front line responders and medical personnel, and rightly so. However, they are claiming that Korea was able to keep their infection rate down because many citizens were wearing face masks and blocking the virus and preventing themselves from touching their faces. Best defense against that? Wash your hands, right?  Washing hands removes germs. Hand sanitizers only kill some of the germs. Better than nothing when a sink isn't handy, but never as good as a good scrub as soon as you get home. [Fastest spread right now, according to the experts? Gas pumps.]

Since I'm the head of our community's Neighborhood Watch Patrol, and all our patrol volunteers are seniors, I felt I needed to do something. They spend a lot of selfless hours (especially once the snowbirds leave and nearly half our neighborhood is vacant), keeping our community safe, so I felt I needed to do something to keep them safe. I also worried about my hubby who's a senior and works in a service industry job and is still working. Decision made: I don't want to take masks from the medical personnel, but I feel my hubby (who sees clients every day) and patrol folk needed masks when they are so often approached by neighbors who are out exercising and getting some air--and especially when they have to go to the store.

So I went on the search for the perfect, most protective mask I could make at home, knowing even then they wouldn't be N95 professsional masks. There were masks that accordian like the 'real' surgical masks, some that tied with fabric ties or had elastic straps. There were more conelike masks that provided space for the nose without accordian folds. They were also made from a variety of materials from simple cotton to flannel, to interfacing and even bras or maxi pads. Here's an interesting link: https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/homemade-masks-coronavirus-do-they-work-how-to-make-them-20200324.html

After extensive research, several sample trial and error attempts, more research from government sites to medical sites and youtube how-to videos, I came up with the following conclusions. Keep in mind that it's my personal opinion, gleaned from the information of experts and home diy folks. 

I decided to go with the face-contoured cone-shaped pattern. I used cotton (mostly remnents from quilts and other projects I had made) material for the mask. I incorporated a filter slot in the back, and that pocket was lined with non-woven fusible interfacing, which is a fairly good filter itself, similar to the material of medical masks (washable, which is why they are washing/disinfecting and reusing hospital masks). I also, and this seems to be very, very important, add a piece of wire at the top so air can't escape above, at the bridge of the nose, which makes the mask pretty much useless when you consider breathing in contaminants, though it would still block fairly large mucus-laden globules. People have used bag ties, pipe cleaners and many other 'wire' alternatives.  I used florist wire. I tried to keep the ends protected by adding a dab of hot glue to seal the end. Some used duct tape, but I'm not sure if that would wash off or not.  The glue gob could come off in the wash too, I suppose.

So what filter to put in the filter pocket?  It seems most sites that actually did any research on diy masks agreed that vacuum bags are best. Why? Well the ones I had were double-layered and have microbial stopping power. So I sewed the two layers together in the oval shape I needed for the pocket.  This gives my masks 3 layers of cotton, 1 layer of fusible interface, and a 2 layers of microbial filter, so 6 layers of protection in total. Breathable? Yup. And that's important. Flannel, BTW, seemed rather difficult to breath through when double layered, though it's comfy against the face. Personal choices.

I decided that sewing ties takes much longer so played around with the elastic ties and moved from the over the ears, one loop of elastic on each side of the mask to one piece of elastic that loops through each side and behind the head. It takes the same amount of elastic. The behind the head types seem to fit more securely, and make the mask fit the face better, as well as being more comfortable to wear.

So I have made masks for all my neighborhood watch, family members (some who life in Cali and are very high risk), and a few requested by a doctor my husband knows. Now I am going to make some to donate to the front-liners. No matter what you think of the pandemic, these are handy. One of the watch people told me they immediately used it to use bug spray so wanted to make sure they could wash it for reuse! And let's not forget they said we need to prepare for a second wave.... If you want to try some for your family and friends this is the pattern for sewing I used:   https://ithinksew.com/FreePatterns/2781_FACIALMASKWITHFILTERPOCKET_UTB.pdf

And here's the video I watched to learn how, though I alter it a bit, by making the pocket interface layer the size of the pattern, and the other 2 cotton layers about 1/2 inch longer so as the last step I can fold them over and make a casing for the elastic (I use 28" of 1/4" elastic). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlrSNFC4DLs

Monday, March 30, 2020

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Well, hello everyone! Since my normal post day is the 30th of each month, I missed you all in February. So much has happened, so much has changed in the world. Is everyone staying sane? Loving on your neighbors? We gotta keep looking out for those who don’t have anyone to look out for them. Be someone’s advocate!

But we also need to take care of ourselves. Like any big, unexpected event, pandemics can take an emotional toll on us humans, which could lead to anger, depression, and anxiety among other things. But do not despair! There are things we can do to help keep our emotional health in check.

One of my favorite ways is through humor. I learned this when going through chemotherapy at the age of nineteen, and it’s helped me through a lot of sad, depressing, and terrifying times since. Like now. Anyone who follows my Facebook author page or profile, knows this is true. I’ve posted so many memes, and shared so many funny personal situations in both places recently. (Note: My author page is now a “covid-free” zone, but I still share funny memes and moments there.)

Why? Because I figure if humor helps me cope, then maybe it helps others. And, as I said above, we gotta keep looking out for each other. So, in that vein, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite COVID-ninememes. (Ninememes…19…get it? Okay, never mind.)

 These are but a handful of what's out there. Share your own in the comments! 

Before I wrap up, I have some great news to share. On March 6th, the next novella in my Prophecy series, quietly released! Yep, Skylar’s Gift is live almost everywhere. Did you get your copy yet? No? Well, what are you waiting for? Get it here!

One itsy-bitsy favor. It would mean the world to me if you could leave an honest review once you finish. I may feature it on my Facebook, Twitter, and/or MeWe pages.

Also, if you sign up for my monthly newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of my short story, Space Ranger, which was featured in the first ever Pets in Space® anthology!

Thank you so much!

You all stay well, look out for each other, thank your grocery clerk, and I’ll see you next month.

~Lea Kirk 


USA Today Bestselling Author, Lea Kirk, loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her sci-fi romances. 

When she’s not busy writing about the blue and green aliens of her Prophecy series, she’s hanging out with her hubby, five kids (the nerd herd), and a spoiled Dobie mix pup.

She is currently working on the fourth book in her Prophecy series, and three new books for a new series to be released this fall. 

For more on Lea's books (past, present, & future), check out her:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Man plus a Merman equals Love? Perfect Harmony by @meganslayer #merman #pnr #romance

Perfect Harmony by Megan Slayer

Forever Wicked Series
Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBTQ
M/M, Anal Sex, Masturbation
Cover Art by Karen Fox

Love on the lake? With a merman? Impossible. Or is it?

Camryn Matthews knows how to make music and dance, but he’s tired of living a lie. Being part of the recording group Low Down is fine, but he can’t be himself. The fans want a fantasy, not a gay man. Besides that, he can’t make the music in his soul. Where’s a man to look when he needs a fresh start?

Rian’s the prince of the mers, and he’s tired of being used. He wants someone to love him for his song. When he hears the sweet, low voice coming from the cruise ship, he knows he’s found his match. But will the human sacrifice everything to live in Paradise, deep in the heart of Lake Erie?

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Megan Slayer

He stared out at the darkness of Lake Erie. Jesus. He was on a cruise around Lake Fucking Erie. He’d grown up in Cleveland and wasn’t fazed by the lake. He also didn’t see the attraction. The band could’ve chosen to cruise the Keys or the Bahamas and they’d picked… Lake Erie. Then again, the band wasn’t the powerhouse they’d been a year ago. 
The music business had shifted. Vocal groups who danced weren’t popular. Chanteuses were. Singer-songwriters who sat alone on stage with a guitar were in vogue. He couldn’t blame the band for wanting to chase the spotlight and keep the fans.

The best way to keep the fans was to go to them… and cruise Lake Erie.

He drank in the darkness of the water and sighed. The lines of his longest solo came to mind. He sang the song. Who cared if he wasn’t on stage? He wasn’t sick any longer, but heartsick.

“I’m looking for my special one. The one who makes me come undone,” he sang. “Who sees me to my core, who can’t love me even more.”

He’d written those words for his high-school crush. Taye never knew he’d been the object of Camryn’s affection. How could he? Camryn hadn’t come out, and Taye wasn’t homosexual.
He sang the lines again. The music wasn’t gone, and he still loved to sing. He might not be the loudest, but he had a rich sound. Honeyed, he’d been told.

Another sound caught his attention. Someone was singing with him. He paused. Were the guys coming upstairs? Were they in another suite? Coming onto the deck?

The song came to him again. Low, honeyed like him, but sadder.

He sang the lines of the song a third time. The voice mixed with his, making beautiful harmony. Natural harmony. He stopped singing. Where was the vocalist?

He moved to the edge of his balcony and searched the visible parts of the decks for the singer. No people came into view.

“Where are you?” Camryn asked. “Who are you?” He would love to meet this vocalist. “Hello?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Shelter in Place. Words this Michigander was happy to hear. Not only will that order save lives (Thank you, Gov. Whitmer!), it gives writers the excuse to hunker down with their WIP. In the second round of edits before the 15th and final book of my “By Moonlight” series goes to Beta readers, the idea of being one with my (well sanitized) keyboard was just the kick I needed to gitter done. Sounded great . . . at first, until an unexpected interruption.

I’m going back to 7th grade!

This grammy has her 12-year old grandguy for the 2nd of possibly four weeks while D-I-L remotes from home, finishing exams and term papers at the same time for a second degree in library science . . . which can’t possibly be as hard as 7th grad math (exponents, expressions, equations, Oh My!). Good news – I finally found out what a predicate is (knowledge gained and flushed when I was in 7th grade!).We’ve got the sessions at the dining room table broken down into five sections interspersed with Japanese cartoons and walks, when weather allows.

All in all, we’re weathering the crisis without difficulty (except for two adults who pace the house, jones-ing for an extra trip to Meijers and a sit-down restaurant). Chez Gideon will have to do for now and our larder is stocked to last until 2025!

For me, not going anywhere isn’t a burden. (I did just drag the recycler up from the curb! Fresh air AND exercise-win/win!) Give me my 29” All-in-One (great for bingeing, too!), my Keurig, and cats and I’m good!

(Me, reaching for hand sanitizer and cuing up Chapter 24!)

Hope all of you are staying safe and ramping up that word count!

Nancy Gideon on the Web

Friday, March 20, 2020

100 Things to Do at Home

With quarantines quickly becoming a new normal for the moment, I think we can all agree most people aren't used to being stuck at home for long periods of time. Suddenly being contained in one place can be tough to weather.

As a writer who works from home, a well as a natural introvert who doesn't mind being at home for weeks at a time, I feel uniquely qualified for this situation. And I'd like to share some suggestions to help others power through.

Here are tips to help keep mentally healthy (as well as entertained) during a prolonged period at home.

Stay safe and well out there! xoxo


1. Shower and dress the same as you would usually do.
2. Stick to a routine of some sort (regular wake up time/bed time, regular meals, etc.).
3. Get outside if you can. Go take a walk in your neighborhood or hang out in your back yard. Something.
4. If you are working from home, actually work. For the same hours you'd be in the office.
5. Make your bed - less tempting to get back in it.
6. Skype/video chat with close family/friends to get some face time.
7. Do NOT have the news on all day. Yes, stay up to date, but try to limit yourself. Stick to the 5:30 broadcasts, state or national press conferences, and/or your local/state website.
8. Exercise. The endorphins help!
9. Check out this list of 100 fun activities you can do in the privacy (and safety) of your own home...


  1. Read a book you love.
  2. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure.
  3. Take a bubble bath.
  4. Try out a new face mask or beauty product.
  5. Doodle, color, or draw on some paper.
  6. Do yoga (check out YouTube for tutorials).
  7. Write a poem.
  8. Write in a journal.
  9. Take a nap.
  10. Listen to music.
  11. Stretch.
  12. Look through old photos and videos.
  13. Watch a sunset or sunrise.
  14. Meditate.
  15. Sit or lay outside in good weather.
  16. Find a new favorite quote or saying.
  17. Write a letter to your future self.
  18. Take a long shower.
  19. Drink tea.
  20. Cuddle with a pet or S.O.
  21. Create a self-love list.
  22. Find a new podcast to listen to.
  23. Play an instrument.
  24. Knit or crochet.
  25. Create a cozy reading nook in your house.
  26. Bonus: Catch up on all those shows you've been meaning to binge watch.
  1. Read a "How to" book.
  2. Do your taxes. (April 15th is just around the corner)
  3. Go for a walk, a run, sit-ups, anything you can for a little bit of exercise.
  4. Organize a space that needs it. (Or organize a space a day!)
  5. Update your resume.
  6. Clean something in your place that you haven't in a while (baseboards, under the bed, kitchen cupboards, etc.).
  7. Meal prep for the upcoming week.
  8. Clean your makeup brushes.
  9. Research dream careers.
  10. Look for ways to reach out and help others from home.
  11. Make a future finances plan.
  12. Sign up for an online class. (like udemy.com or masterclass.com)
  13. Clean up your emails.
  14. Make a list of personal or professional goals.
  15. Start a DIY project.
  16. Clean out your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  17. Start a garden (or kitchen garden).
  18. Clean your phone or phone case (it's probably very dirty).
  19. Watch a how-to YouTube video.
  20. Spring clean your yard.
  21. Get ahead on schoolwork or future projects.
  22. Fine-tune your LinkedIn profile.
  23. Do your laundry.
  24. Wash your car(s).
  25. Learn OneNote and start using it. (Get started here.)
  1. Read something from your TBR list.
  2. Scroll through Pinterest.
  3. Online shop (just watch that budget you made in the productive list).
  4. Watch a favorite movie or a movie you haven't seen in a while.
  5. Skype some friends and do a virtual game.
  6. Start an Instagram page for your pet.
  7. Watch a documentary.
  8. Write love notes for your S.O.
  9. Get lost on Tumblr.
  10. Make a collage.
  11. Make a bucket list.
  12. Take some selfies.
  13. Catch up on celebrity gossip.
  14. Sing & dance to your favorite songs.
  15. Have a costume night.
  16. Throw an indoor picnic.
  17. Have an indoor scavenger hunt.
  18. Have a themed movie night.
  19. Start family game night.
  20. Do a puzzle.
  21. Have a water balloon fight.
  22. Have a family tea party.
  23. Try some stargazing and discover constellations.
  24. Put on a play.
  25. Build a Lego city.
  1. Read a book about -- a different culture, a place you've never been, from a new to you genre, from a new to you author.
  2. Start a blog or vlog.
  3. Go for a walk in your neighborhood.
  4. Try out a new hairstyle or experiment with your hair.
  5. Plan a future trip. (might have to be far future).
  6. Experiment with new recipes.
  7. Make a cocktail or a mocktail.
  8. Reach out to a friend or relative you haven't talked to in a while. (virtually)
  9. Rearrange your furniture or redecorate your living space.
  10. Create your own website.
  11. Look for your first (or next) tattoo design.
  12. Make an effort to learn something new.
  13. Make a vision board.
  14. Try learning a new language.
  15. Write a book or story.
  16. Make a movie.
  17. Stage a photo shoot.
  18. Create a list of places you want to travel to.
  19. Set up a tent indoors and do indoor camping.
  20. Play a different game with your family each night.
  21. Train your dog/cat to do a new trick.
  22. Create a picture book / scrap book.
  23. Learn a new hobby (like take up knitting/crocheting).
  24. Make a time capsule.
  25. Plan a post-apocalypse party.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Reasons We Write

There are so many reasons that writers choose to tell stories. For some, it’s the chance at fame, while for others it’s their love of the craft. I’ve never been able to boil down a singular motivation for my writing. It’s just something that I’ve always liked. So, for today’s post, I’ll tell you a bit about my journey as a writer.

I was a late reader despite growing up in the “Hooked on Phonics” days. Letter sounds were elusive, and words were impossible until the end of third grade. I’m not sure which puzzle piece was missing, but when it finally clicked, I had an instant love for words. I spent the rest of elementary school reading everything I could get my little hands-on, and writing my own stories full of mischief and mystery.
Middle school soon faded into high school, and I was blessed with a fabulous English teacher. Mrs. S. was a petite southern belle with glasses and an adorable giggle. The best part was that she loved stories as much as I did. Every class felt like magic, as she peeled off layer after layer of the classics for us to examine and discuss. I knew then that I wanted to tell stories people like Mrs. S. would be excited to read.

For undergraduate and graduate school, I mostly wrote literary fiction and poetry, but I found when left to my own devices I tended to gravitate towards the Y.A. section at the library. It’s not that I don’t love the hearty stuff, but rather the books I can’t seem to put down at bedtime are the ones they stock in the fantasy section at the library.

I wrote four novels before I wrote The Curse Breaker, my debut novel. Each one has its own charms and imperfections. In fact, none of them are even in the same genre. But when I wrote about Eris trying to save her sister, I knew it was a story I wanted to stick with to the end. I sloshed through the drafts and mustered up my courage to submit it. Then I revised it a bit more before it made its way into the world. But now that it’s here, I find I’m even more excited to tell the next story and even the one after that.

I suppose for some of us, writing becomes a part of us when we aren’t paying attention. Whatever the reason you write (or read), I hope you’ll keep doing it. Stories are gifts, and each one is beautiful in its own right.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Uncovering the Magic of Covered Bridges

By Maureen Bonatch

Many of us might find ourselves looking for a little magic in our lives when we begin to tire from the same old same old and long for something…different. We might jump in the car, or take a cross-country trip to sightsee or explore something old, or new. Although sometimes, it can be as simple as looking a little closer to discover what we’re missing in our own ‘backyard’.

Covered Bridges


I’ve lived in the same area all my life, so it would seem that I’ve seen all there is to see, while actually I tend to take for granted, or overlook, what’s right under my nose. Granted, these places are not actually in my backyard, but often things not too far away if you’re looking.

Psst—check out this post when I discussed a visit to Buttermilk Falls.

Recently, I went on a long, backwoods drive with my hubby as he reminisced about the places he hadn’t visited for many years since his youth. While driving we came across a few of the covered bridges in our area. I’ve visited most of them at some point, but never thought much about it. They’ve always been there—obviously since they’re well over a hundred years old.

This prompted our discussion of how our county has 4 covered bridges, and Pennsylvania has 219 of the 1,600 remaining covered bridges—the most of any state. So what I might take for granted, many have never seen in person. Most covered bridges are fairly isolated which leaves them subject to vandalism, and many deteriorated from neglect and the high cost of restoration. 

The picture is of the Trusal bridge. The oldest in our county, built in 1870. Of the four in our county, the only one that can still be driven across the Thomas bridge—which we drove across that day, although I neglected to take a photo.

What’s Magical about a Covered Bridge?

Well, besides, hello? The Bridges of Madison County , if you’re looking for romance (which features the Roseman Covered Bridge in Iowa).

When I’m deep in the woods walking or biking, it usually starts my muse to wandering and contributes to many of my stories. 

Although I don’t write historical, when I look at these historic structures it inspires my imagination to make me feel as if I'm time-traveling back to a simpler time. Just like magic.

P.S. We also drove by a home that had once raised buffalo when my husband was young, and they still do. Although the buffalo were at the top of the hill so I couldn't get a picture, it was fun to see them from afar.

P.P.S. Although I’ve been to nearby Punxsutawney many times, and I've seen Phil’s home, I’ve never participated in the Groundhog Day festivities. Maybe one year I’ll add that to my list of exploring the magic available in my own backyard. Especially since Phil seems to be true to his word this year with an early spring.

What’s in Your Backyard?

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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