Book review of The Paris Apartment

By Sue Baldani

Full of intrigue, “The Paris Apartment” by Lucy Foley takes you on a journey of suspense with an eclectic group of characters who rotate in the narrator role. And, just when you think you have it all figured out, it takes another twist.

When Jess leaves England in a hurry with basically no money in her pocket, she turns to her half-brother Ben, an investigative reporter now living in Paris, to give her shelter. He agrees, albeit reluctantly, but when she shows up, he is nowhere to be found.

After picking the locks, a skill she developed early in life, she wanders around Ben’s apartment with a sense of bafflement. How could he afford such an extravagant place to live, and in this very expensive part of town? It’s not like he makes a lot of money, and they don’t have any parents to turn to for help.

Although the apartment is beautiful, the building itself gives off an ominous vibe. The caretaker hovers about in the shadows, always listening, and its occupants seem to be hiding a fair share of secrets. But, do any of these secrets have to do with her brother’s disappearance? Or, is he missing because he stumbled upon some outside information that put him in danger?  

As Jess starts doing some investigating of her own, she stumbles upon a hidden stairway that let’s her peak into the neighbors privates lives, and soon realizes things are not what they seem. She also starts to believe that she has put herself in the path of a ruthless individual.

A New York Times best-selling author, Lucy Foley has written five novels including “The Guest List” and “The Hunting Party.” After studying English literature at Durham University and the University College of London, and working for several years in the publishing industry, she now lives in London and enjoys writing tales of fiction.

Written for The Felixstowe Magazine in London, England.

A New Season of Life, Hope And Joy

An artist healing herself and others through music

By Sue Baldani

While living in her native Minnesota and acting in local theaters, at the age of 21, Laura Osnes won an NBC reality TV competition and found herself moving to New York City to star on Broadway.

After 15 years of performing on stage in a myriad of acclaimed shows, including those at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, the Tony-nominated star was flying high. When it all came crashing down in 2021, she had to find the fortitude to reinvent herself and discover new outlets for her incredible talent.

“A gossip column published a narrative that caused me to face cancel-culture,” she says. “It was a painful and hurtful time, but it also birthed new art and new relationships.”

In September of 2021, Laura and her husband, Nathan Johnson, whom she met in Minnesota and has been married to for 16 years, found sanctuary in Franklin. “What I love about Franklin is that it’s close to Nashville, but there’s also such a peace here,” she says. “We felt welcomed with open arms and it’s a place where people look out for each other.”

She also found a creative way to reflect on the trauma she experienced while at the same time finding hope and joy in what she calls the new season of her life. In October of 2022, Laura released the EP On the Other Side – Part 1, featuring five original songs that are deeply moving and relatable for others who may be going through difficult times.

“At my core, I’m a creative and a storyteller, and when I wasn’t able to do that through the way I had been, songwriting became a beautiful vehicle both for healing and to tell my story in a new way,” she says. “And, I really hope that this music reaches the ears and hearts of those who need to hear it.”

Singing in a commercial contemporary space is very different than singing with a musical theater voice, explains Laura. “It’s been a humbling and exciting challenge for me as an artist to discover a new side to my vocal quality, while still creating a sound that feels authentically me.”

Her songs are available on all major music platforms and through a link in her social media profiles. Part two of the EP, to be released this year, will contain at least another five tracks.

Laura is also showcasing her acting talent again by starring in Shiners, a cirque-style show at the Woolworth Theatre in Nashville. “It’s a comedy and musical spectacular for grownups,” she says. “Country music artist Chuck Wicks created the show and he’s my co-star. We’re having a great time together.”

Laura is also teaching and coaching private students pursuing musical theater, singing and acting. “I’ve been forced to think outside my own box that I had put myself in,” she says. “It’s scary to try new things, but that’s also how we become bigger and better and hopefully reach more people through different ways as an artist.”, @LauraOsnes

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.

Come Stay at the Lodge

An all-inclusive spa that provides the best in beauty, relaxation, and wellness

By Sue Baldani

An extraordinary experience awaits guests at The Lodge at Woodloch. Located in Hawley, Pennsylvania, it’s a place to refresh and rejuvenate bodies and minds. While there, you’ll feel like you traveled into a whole other world even though it’s a short two-hour car ride away.

“It’s a beautiful area that is so close to major metropolitan areas but where you’re able to really enjoy true nature,” says Brooke Jennings, its director of marketing communications. “There are a ton of waterfalls and since we’re in the lake district of the mountains, there are a lot of wonderful lakes.”

The Lodge at Woodloch is a sister property of Woodloch Family Resort, which opened over 60 years ago. There’s also Woodloch Springs, which has a golf course and guest homes. While the other properties are open to everyone, the Lodge, which is just two miles down the road, is a destination spa that welcomes guests 16 and older.

“Many people often think of spas as being girly, but because we are a destination spa, we really put a lot of thought into designing the building to appeal to everyone,” she says. “It has a lot of Pennsylvania bluestone, rocks and wood, and really blends in with the surroundings of our over 500 acres of woodlands. It feels really cozy and welcoming.”

Many luxurious treatments are offered at this 40,000 square foot spa. “Our signature service is called Rosemary Awakening body treatment, which is amazing and always the most popular,” says Brooke. “It features our signature scent, Rosemary Mint, and combines a body scrub and a massage. Another one that’s really popular is our Blues Be Gone massage. This really helps the adrenal system by flushing out toxins. It’s great after a long flight or to get rid of the doldrums and energize you.”

There are also Swedish massages, body wraps, facials, float therapy, romantic spa treatments for two, a hair and nail salon, and much more. “We also have our aqua garden, which is an indoor pool that features a water wall you can stand underneath,” she says. “When the water falls, that pressure relieves tension in your shoulders. We have an outdoor whirlpool as well, which has views of beautiful fern covered woods.”

Last year the Lodge also unveiled its snow room. “It’s basically contrast therapy, so guests can go in and spend time in the salt sauna, and then afterwards they can do a cool down in the snow room. Norwegians and other cultures have done this for years and it’s extremely good for your heart health and for reducing stress.” Fresh snow is blown in every evening, so it’s always pristine.

Spa treatments are available for people who aren’t overnight guests as well (although guests do get priority scheduling). They are able to use the spa facility which includes the pool and hydro massage, water walls and sauna. “It’s so nice to get your hair done and also have a bit of a spa day,” says Brooke. There’s also a state of the art fitness center and individualized fitness and wellness classes.

In warmer months, guests love kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing on the lake, and bike riding and hikes. “We have over seven miles of nature trails around our property, and in addition, we have outdoor adventures where a guide will take our guests off property to do longer hikes. In colder weather, we still do a lot of hikes, and if it snows, we’ll transition over to snowshoeing,” she says.

“We love that there’s something different every season. People always ask when the best time is to come. I honestly couldn’t say because there’s something new and amazing each season.” Over 35 classes are also offered daily, and guests can choose from a variety of interests such as art, cooking, and wine. There are special presenters every weekend too. It may be a guest author, a wellness expert, an organizational expert, or a career expert.

Since The Lodge at Woodloch is all inclusive, guests receive three meals per day at its Tree Restaurant. “Our  spa cuisine is farm to table,” says Brooke. “Our chef team really highlights our own garden on property, and also partners very closely with local farmers to really get as much super hyperlocal, as we like to say, ingredients because the flavor is just so much better. They’ll also take some traditional favorites and, with a few slight ingredient tweaks, make them a lot healthier, while still tasting delicious.”

There are 59 guest rooms, all of which have been completely renovated in the past year. “There are very few properties that have such a small amount of guest rooms, so guests never feel like they’re on top of each other,” she says. “Each guest room has its own private veranda, which is also really unique.”

There are gorgeous views of either its five-acre lake, or the woodlands; there is also a waterfall on the front side of the building. There’s free Wi-Fi, but the public areas of the Lodge are cell-phone free. Of course, guests can use them in their own rooms.

People typically stay for a long weekend, and most travel from the tri-state area, although some come from much farther away. “We were doing a photo shoot a few months ago and somebody had just flown in from the Bahamas,” says Brooke. “We also have a good number of people from California, Texas, Chicago, and Illinois.”

Guests at the Lodge can also take advantage of offerings at the Family Resort. “During the holidays, they have a beautiful horse-drawn carriage that takes people through the woods where there are holiday lights all throughout – it’s so beautiful. So guests can go back and forth between resorts and enjoy the amenities.”

To book a stay, which is typically 60 days out, go to

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Showcase Salutes Brasa Wood-Fired Grill

By Sue Baldani

Having a craving for authentic Portuguese and Spanish cuisine? Look no further than Brasa Wood-Fired Grill, which opened in Warren, NJ in March of 2022.

The co-owner and chef, Jason Francisco, is first generation Portuguese American who learned to cook from watching his mother and others cook traditional, flavorful dishes that he now recreates for customers.

“I watched and learned,” he says. “I’m 50 now, and I’ve been doing this since I was 14. We also have a sous chef from Brazil who has helped with many of the Brazilian influences on our menu.” Everything on the menu is made fresh in house.

The chicken and ribs that come off the wood-fired grill are some of the restaurant’s most popular offerings. “The wood fire charcoal imparts a smokiness and a flavor into the food,” says Jason. “It’s also much healthier because we’re not cooking with any oils or grease.” The prime skirt steak is also a huge hit.

The majority of the meats come from a butcher in Newark that services Portuguese and Spanish restaurants. “They butcher everything for us,” he says. “There are big differences in going to a butcher as opposed to buying commercial.”

“Our ‘Big Fat Pork Chop’, as well as our skirt steak and burgers, come from a specialty meat shop in Manhattan’s meat packing district that we’ve been using for about 20 years,” says Rob Olsen, president of Liberty Hospitality and co-owner of the restaurant.

Although Brasa does not have a liquor license, it is an authorized retailer for Unionville Vineyards in New Jersey, so patrons, whether dining in or taking out, can purchase wines to go along with their meals.

Adds Rob, “We also have a sangria bar where there are several different varieties that pair with either red or white wine or sparkling wine that involve fresh juices, fruits, and homemade syrups.”

While there is a small, intimate dining room that can hold up to 50 people and can also be rented out for special events, its takeout option keeps the place hopping. “We dedicated more space than we normally would have to our takeout operation,” says Rob.

When ordering, don’t forget to include an authentic dessert. “Our most popular bakery item is a very traditional Portuguese custard cup,” says Jason. “We carry the traditional flavor and then a couple of other flavor variations.”

Reviews, says Rob, have been great. “Comments about our portion sizes, value, flavor, and the service in our dining room have been very positive.”

Brasa Wood-Fired Grill offers lunch and dinner during the week, and on weekends, adds brunch with some twists to the mix. There’s a Portuguese steak and egg combo with an authentic, flavorful sauce. “There’s another brunch dish called Hangover Home Fries,” says Rob. “It’s home fries with a choice of meat, chipotle aioli and two fried eggs.” Delicious!

Catering is also available, and you can order delivery by visiting its website. To place an order, learn more and to see the full menu, go to

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.