Just Two Events Left!

Just two events left in my bookish event season, then it’s time to give the bookmobile a rest and concentrate on writing projects! I hope to see some of your smiles yet, in October!

Stay Inspired!

You Make Your Own Magic!

How do you make your own magic?

I like to take walks and dream about my little bookish plans, or browse book cover art and imagine stories I’d like to write. And of course, I pen tales that take me far away and then share them with you!

Take time to dream ~ you make your own magic!

Celebrating Creative Works

Less than two weeks away! Evanston Made Maker’s Market! I’ll be selling and signing my tales ~ Always a great day celebrating creative works in my community of makers! I hope to see you there!

Thank you @evanston_made for this lovely graphic!
For a list of my titles, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Indie Author Podcast Interview!!!

A special share! The ArtSpace Podcast covered the Kenosha Book Festival several weeks ago, speaking to the guest independent authors! I’m the first author interviewed after the introduction – and this episode is just an indie author gem! Thank you to the podcast’s creators – Jake and Shelby! Have a listen all of you, my bookish friends!

The ArtSpace Podcast: Episode 21 – https://open.spotify.com/show/0HYIVXq1q7Dcksx7GSbbV7

What a day!

What a day! Thank you @donovanscherer of Studio Moonfall for hosting the Kenosha Book Festival yesterday!

Incredible meeting so many other independent authors!!! And it was yet again, such a joy sharing time with readers, both old and new! These bookish days, and the people I meet, bring so much inspiration and happiness to my life. It’s everything to me – thank you!

Forget Magic Wands

Forget magic wands. This is my magic pencil.

Stay Inspired!

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/mnovak

Where’s The Snacks?!

Who is ready for the Kenosha Book Festival tomorrow?!? (www.kenoshabookfestival.com)

I mean…not me! I just finished my oatmeal! I’m only on coffee 2 of 4! I haven’t even packed the bookmobile! Where’s the books?! I hope I have some books! Do I have gas in that car? You’d think I wanted to get stuck on the side of the road – I always ignore that silly tank! Wait – gas is less expensive in Wisconsin than Illinois, right? I’ll wait till I cross the state line. A near-empty tank will get me from Evanston to there, right? (just kidding!) Where’s the snacks?! Just as important as the books! I need my snacks!

Thank you for being there on my author journey, Friends! It means everything to me. I hope to see some of you tomorrow – I’ll be selling and signing my tales, including my newest Still, from 10 – 2 p.m. (Sunday August 28th). STAY INSPIRED!

Having a Bookish Blast!

Who is coming to Kenosha to visit the Kenosha Book Festival?! I’ll be joining the fun this Sunday, August 28th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’ll be the one with the endless smile while having a bookish blast!

Thank you @donovanscherer for this graphic!

Raining Authors and Books!

Friends! The Kenosha Book Festival is going to be THE place to be this Sunday August 28th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.!

It’s going to be raining authors and books, and I am just so excited to be a part of this! I’ll be selling and signing my tales, and basking in the bookish fun! See you there!!!

Thank you to @donovanscherer for this wonderful graphic!

New Facebook page!

Back in this spot I wish I could be more often than not…

Who loves coffee? I LOVE coffee. Black, no stuff in it. That muffin is vegan. I just finished it and it was so wonderful. Oh, blueberry muffins. I love you. I LOVE you.

So – I prefer to write my short adventures by hand. I feel like a kid with a giant pencil, my tongue sticking out the side of my mouth, eraser bits everywhere. Writing anything I want, anything I can imagine.

My novels – computer only. My brain operating more like I’m in some darkened corner of a vast library, studying hard. Oversized glasses falling down my nose. All my reference books splayed around me. Deeply focused on the scene I am creating.

They feel different. And I love them both. That’s why I write both novels, and tales. Two sides of my personality. I bet there is some place in your life you can to relate to feeling like that.

Oh! New Facebook page in case you prefer your updates there! https://www.facebook.com/inspiredbyvenice

Kenosha Book Festival!

Friends! Kenosha Book Festival! Next weekend! I’ll be a guest author at Studio Moonfall on Sunday Aug. 28th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. This is going to be an INCREDIBLE bookish blast!

I can’t wait for the fun, and I can’t wait to see YOU!

I’ll be selling and signing my tales. For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Kenosha Book Festival: https://www.studiomoonfall.com/kenosha-book-festival-year-zero/

With Sparkle and a Smile!

Upcoming bookish fun!!! Selling and signing my tales with sparkle and a smile! I hope to see you there!

A September event may yet sneak in, and there’s a December event that is quite likely, but I’ll update when I’m certain.

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

The Magic Was Real

The magic was real this weekend at the 18th World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin, IL! So was the heat and humidity – oh my word! But let me tell you, if you are local, and especially if you have little ones, visit this event in the future. It is so special!

Thank you to the incredible readers, old and new. You bring sparkle, inspiration, and blessings to my life – I was amazed by the incredible reception I had at this event! And thank you to my friends who came out to support me and my bookish business! It meant so much!!

ALL my best to all! Stay Inspired!

Break Out Your Glitter Wings!

This book fairy is preparing for a magical weekend! Who will be joining me at the 18th World of Faeries Festival?!

I will be selling and signing my tales, filled with fairies, unicorns, dragons, elves, and every enchanted creature imagined! So break out your glitter wings and come out to dance a day in the sunshine with your fellow fairies!

Sat. Aug 6th – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sun. Aug 7th – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Food – Music – Magical Merchants

Vasa Park – South Elgin, IL

https://theworldoffaeries.com/home

For a list of my tales, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

And now I can go eat some candy…

I took myself into the city yesterday for a spot of art and quite enjoyed my adventure! And have you watched the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion on Netflix yet?! Oh my word, so lovely! I’m reading an eerie ghost book (when am I not) just now, and I’m also sort of convinced I might have caught something ghostly on camera yesterday (maybe I shouldn’t announce that on the internet).

I’m heavily deciding on new writing projects this minute, as well as heavily procrastinating on some important paperwork! Oh, and I had toast with lots of raspberry jam this morning. Isn’t jam so swell? AND! I went to the dentist Friday – love my teeth cleanings! Because I’m weird like that. And now I can go eat some candy. How’s that for an update?!
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Stay Inspired!

Reading Is So Wonderful!

My Dragons At Dawn and Once Upon A Star on a shelf at Studio Moonfall in Kenosha, WI.

Nothing makes me smile more than to imagine the adventure someone is going to have when they pick up one of my tales! Reading is so wonderful!

Stay Inspired!

For a list of my works, please visit here!

I spy, with my little eye…

I spy, with my little eye, something written by ME…

Who can name the title? And man my book is in such good company on the shelves of Studio Moonfall in Kenosha, WI.

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

This Author Journey…

This author journey is an incredible one, and keeps getting better with every day! Thank you to Studio Moonfall for today’s wonderful event! And thank you to the readers – every single one of you. It is a privilege to be able to share my stories, with you.

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Studio Moonfall Tomorrow!

Who is going to be selling and signing her tales at Studio Moonfall in Kenosha, WI tomorrow?! She’s someone who is writing ALL the fairy tales! Someone who loves dreaming, and imagination, and sparkle! Someone who thinks reading is magic! Someone who loves to see your smiles and talk books!!!

Studio Moonfall ~ Kenosha, WI. ~ Sunday June 19th, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Author Updates ~ Summer 2022!

~ Authoress Michelle Novak ~

Author Updates ~ Summer 2022!

To learn more about my works please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/
Stay Inspired!

A Wonderful Bookish Day

Had a wonderful bookish day at the Oak Brook Artisan Market last Sunday! I’ve said it so many times, but I have to say it again – book days are the best days.

To all the readers on this author journey of mine – I sincerely appreciate you.

Stay Inspired!

Oak Brook Artisan Market Tomorrow!

Dear Friends ~ I hope you all are staying inspired?! Grant me a smile with your comments! You know I’m always glad to hear from you!

I’ll be selling and signing my tales at the Oak Brook Artisan Market tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and it’s going to be bookish and lovely! And crafty and arty! And I hope to see you there!

Event Tomorrow!

I’ll be at the Evanston Made Maker’s Market tomorrow – May 1st – from 12 – 5 p.m. signing and selling my tales! So excited!

In advance of any book-selling event, I take prep pretty seriously. I have this fear that I’ll show up without my cash box, calculator, receipt book, etc. Or very importantly, snacks. Ha!

I used to teach public speaking, and one of the keys to helping with nervousness is to be as prepared as possible for your speech. I use this tip to feel ready for events too. Bookmobile already packed!

Just 2 Days Away!!

Just 2 days away!! Evanston Made Maker’s Market with all of its incredible treats, crafts, and art! Novels and fairy tales too!!! I hope to see you there!

Thank you Evanston Made for this lovely graphic, and for welcoming this author to the fun!!

My Bookish Briefcase

Maybe I should renovate an old ice cream truck and instead of cold treats, sell fairy tales. I know some of your are saying – If anyone would do this, Michelle would. And they would be right.

I mean, I already have my old rusting bookmobile. (Can I sell books out of my trunk? Need you ask?)

I have my book tent. (A first trial setting up of which yesterday, nearly gave me a concussion and completely defeated me physically. I’m still recovering. But I think I figured it out. Hopefully. Maybe.)

And there’s my bookish briefcase here! Traveling tales saleswoman. Wonder what the reception would be if I tried to sell books door-to-door?
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Keep Smiling! Stay Inspired!

The Transcendent Moments

For the book lovers out there ~ what’s your favorite thing about reading?
For the writers ~ why do you write?
For the creators ~ when does making feel like magic?

Me? I write for the transcendent moments. Those times when it takes me some place incredible, within myself. A really focused, yet far away, beautiful place.

Those Words Will Still Be True

Occasionally I get stuck for an eternity working on one-single-sentence. One I just can’t get right. Just a dizzying puzzle of moving letters. I put in a struggle but get nowhere.

The next day I revisit it, and it takes moments to rewrite. Way better than what I could have spun the day before.

As a writer, struggle only sharpens my pencil, making the sentence come easier the next go around. But apply that to just about anything in life, and I’m certain those words will still be true.

Stay Inspired!

Beloved Tomes

Have you ever bound an often-read book?

As a youth, I remember we covered our text books with paper grocery bags and then scribbled all over them. You could then tear off the paper when it was time for return.

This is my Bible. Bound in my favorite green color, a velvety fabric. It’s gone through several covers and decades of page turning. It’s nice to hold it with this fabric and makes it feel personal to me. Consider it an idea for your most beloved tomes!

Just 2 Weeks Away!!

Just 2 weeks away!! Evanston Made Maker’s Market with all of its incredible treats, crafts, and art! Novels and fairy tales too!!! I hope to see you there!

Thank you Evanston Made for this lovely graphic, and for welcoming this author to the fun!!

Not Just With Words

I’m not just a writer. I can also bite hearts right into my apples. I know, I know. A pretty special talent. I agree. I can share feelings not just with words, but with chomps!

It’s How I Got My Start

I’ve been an author since I was a child. Here’s the proof. I think I’ll be doing a video reading, because A Lizard Named Tom needs to be heard by the world!

For your kids, for yourself, pick up a few blank books. To write and draw one’s own stories! Trust me. It’s how I got my start.

Stay Inspired!

Novels and Fairy Tales Too!

May 1st ~ 12 – 5 p.m. Evanston Made Maker’s Market with all of its incredible treats, crafts, and art! Novels and fairy tales too!!! I hope to see you there!

Thank you Evanston Made for this lovely graphic, and for welcoming this author to the fun!!

Just weeks away!!

Just weeks away!! Evanston Made Maker’s Market with all of its incredible treats, crafts, and art! Novels and fairy tales too!!! I hope to see you there!

Thank you Evanston Made for this lovely graphic, and for welcoming this author to the fun!!

I write myself away…

Each day, I write myself away to places I imagine…

One of the best parts?

Eventually sharing those places, with you.

{For a synopsis of my forthcoming Still, and other works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/}

Bookish Chats in 2022!

I hope to see you for some bookish chats in 2022! Please visit InspiredByVenice.org for a list of my works, and the events I’ll be joining!

Stay Inspired! ~ Authoress Michelle Novak

That First Jump Off My Crazy Cliff

The first book I wrote was 521 pages. I look back and think I was crazy. Venice is an interactive book as well – you pick the next page to turn to at the end of each chapter. Do you know how especially crazy you have to be to write a 521 page interactive brick?

And yet…without that first jump off my crazy cliff, I’d never have known this happiness. The kind only writing and sharing my tales, has given me.

Do what you love – Stay Inspired

A Season Of Bookish Fun To Begin!

I sure am ready for spring weather and a season of bookish fun to begin!

Confirmed ~ Evanston Made Maker’s Market – Sunday May 1st – 12 to 5 p.m.
Confirmed ~ Oak Brook Artisan Market – Sunday May 15th – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Just To Keep Things Curious

The works of artist and author Edward Gorey has forever, and will ever be, such a favorite for me. Each sketch, with a strange or silly story, brings me someplace inspiring, yet eerie. I love it. And will cherish my little collection.

True story – for years I used to send out creepy Edward Gorey Christmas cards.

Just to keep things curious.

What Places Inspire You?

I visited the Field Museum over the Thanksgiving holiday. Some places just feel like home, and this is one of them for me. A place full of inspiration.

My newest book Still, out soon, is greatly inspired by my memories visiting the Field. To read a synopsis, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

What places inspire you?

Smelly Cheese and Fancy Crackers

Holly jolly! Glitter and gold! Sparkle and lights!

I’ll be in Skokie tomorrow for a little holiday fun, talking books!

If you aren’t within a sleigh ride’s distance, please consider being a fairy godpatron this season with an online order. Because everyone wants a book in their stocking!! Of course!

And chocolates. Of course! And new fuzzy socks…
I’d appreciate some smelly cheese and fancy crackers in my stocking. Is that weird?

Merry, MERRY!
For a list of my tales, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Merry, Merry You All!

Here’s my tiny Christmas tree! It’s real. It drinks a lot of water. Or maybe it just evaporates fast? I enjoy sniffing my tree. That pine scent – oh my word!

I’ll be talking books this Saturday in Skokie at the Holiday Fair Extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.! I would wear my ugly Christmas sweater, but it was so ugly I think I made it disappear from my closet. HA!

Merry, Merry, you all!

Guest Author at Studio Moonfall Tomorrow!

Guest author at Studio Moonfall in Kenosha tomorrow between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.! I’ll be taking in the fresh air just out front, talking books. And probably eating Halloween candy. Wait – who is bringing the Halloween candy?! There HAS to be Halloween candy! I better find some Halloween candy!?!

Best to you all – and a very Happy Halloween!

Studio Moonfall this Sunday!

Kenosha! I’m heading back your way this Sunday – October 31st, visiting Studio Moonfall between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. as guest author! If you haven’t seen this spectacular shop, filled with magical books and art, I can’t encourage you enough.

What do I really appreciate about Studio Moonfall and proprietor Donovan Scherer? All the support for independent authors – like me! In fact, check out today’s post at @donovanscherer. See anything familiar?!

All my best, friends – and Stay Inspired!

Halloween Event!

As my bookish schedule changes, I’ll keep you in the loop. Next up – Studio Moonfall for Halloween!! Can’t wait to see you again – Kenosha! Various vendors for a special day of festive fun! If you haven’t visited this bookshop yet – it’s truly a place of creative delight!

More special announcements just around the bend – and they glitter and sparkle!

Stay Inspired!

Mini Shop in the Parking Lot

Set up a mini bookshop in a parking garage next to my faithful bookmobile today – and I loved it!

Wish everyday could be a book day. I really do.

@evanston_made – thank you for bringing together so many amazing artists. You – are an incredible organization.

And to the new readers I met today – I hope every page turned is a wonderful adventure. And how much I appreciate your stories, your generosity, and your smiles!

Evanston Made This Saturday!

This coming Saturday October 2nd, 12-5pm! Excited to gab about books and creating with my fellow Evanstonians! And hey – the farmer’s market will also be going just outside until 1pm. What a wonderful community gathering! I hope to see you there!

Thank you @evanston_made for this lovely graphic, and for welcoming this author to the fun!!

Be sure to check out Evanston Made! What an organization!

What A Wonderful Adventure…

What a wonderful adventure I had at Studio Moonfall today in Kenosha, WI. Thank you @donovanscherer for graciously hosting me and welcoming my tales to your wondrous bookshop! And a special thank you to the new readers I met today. My goodness – I won’t ever forget this sunny, welcoming, bookish day!

Friends! Special updates coming soon!!! What a magical season this has been! This author’s cup runneth over! How much I appreciate you all…

Stay Inspired!

Festival Cheer…

What an amazing season so far at The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! The energy this year has been incredible. Thank you for the support of every guest, all of your endless creative inspiration, and festival cheer!

Two weekends left. I hope to see you there!

The Quill and Brush’s beautiful sign was made by Cody Zibung.

I’ll be announcing some new event dates soon. Stay Inspired!

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #3

Dear Friends…5 more beautiful festival weekends yet to visit Bristol, and my little bookshop The Quill and Brush. If you haven’t stopped by so far, I hope you will for a bookish chat – and perhaps even leave with a fairy tale too!

But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing this summer – I hope you’re enjoying life and staying inspired!

Now onwards with our short series of what I’ve learned from writing books, which again, may be considered general thoughts for just about any craft!

#3

Arguably, the most important thing when writing a book, is the trust you must place on yourself.

What’s that mean? Well…

  1. If you think you’ll remember that great idea you had as you were falling asleep last night, no…you won’t. I’ve fumbled around in the dark more than once for a pencil and scribbled a note in the pitch. I tell you, whenever that thought enters your brain, write it down. Don’t trust yourself to remember, trust yourself to write it down.

2. If you think you’re going to recall to fix that sentence during edits later on, no…you won’t. Take a few moments to give that sentence a little love in the moment. Don’t trust yourself to remember to do it, trust yourself to make it your best, as you’re working.

3. Think that word seems like the correct spelling? That you can probably pass on by while you’re writing/editing? I wouldn’t. Check and make sure. Don’t trust 100% in your spelling skills, or that it’s probably correct. Trust in yourself to take the time to check the word. And that goes for the meaning of the word too. If you only knew how many times I was way off, when I thought I was right on.

4. Think you’re sure what history was really like, and you can paint your story with it and then call it true? Oh my goodness, it’s hilarious how many things I put down from my imagination, thinking it was historical. But they were really only theatrical ideas I’d gleaned from movies and reading. Not so much history at all. So, challenge yourself to find out the truth. It’s SO MUCH FUN!! Of course, you can write what you like in your book. You don’t have to be accurate. Have fun being outrageously incorrect if you like, because it’s your book. But if you dig something a bit more true to history (I often do), trust yourself to give some time to research and let go of your assumptions.

5. Trust yourself to read your work from different viewpoints, not just your own. How might someone, other than yourself feel, when reading your words? For example, I’d once phrased a paragraph that later made me reflect that it didn’t sound all that empowering for my young female character! And since my character might be an example to some young lady out there someday, I was quick to make edits. But it was only after I’d reviewed the words from a different view, that I’d even seen this. This isn’t an easy skill! We all come from our own voice and experiences. But trust yourself to give more time to reviewing your work, as another might.

I could keep coming up with examples on self-trust, but they are endless. So let’s just say this…

Each time I sit down to write, the most important thing is to trust that I have my own back. If I care up-front, what I produce in the end, is more likely to be what I was hoping for.

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #2

Hello Dear Friends! All of my well wishes to you!!

I’ve been focused on preparing for the opening of The Quill and Brush’s 5th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire for many weeks now. For such a simple little shop, you’d wonder what all takes so much time to prepare?! But let me tell you from experience, even the smallest of small businesses always has plenty to do!

Saturday I was up at Bristol with my folks, making sure all was prepped for opening day, July 10th. Man, those Bristol grounds are beautiful!

Yesterday, I tied up loose ends at home, including bringing out bins of costumes from storage. Hanging them up, I realized how real this all was. Just a few days more!

Who is ready for Bristol?! Rennies say hello in the comments!

But onwards with this mini series of posts about my experience writing books…

(Remember, I think much of these will apply to any creator.)

#2

Writing books takes guts and grit and nerves of steel. If you don’t have those, well, start pretending you do and don’t look back…

What do I mean by this?

First – Writing, editing, and completing a book alone, is very hard work. Hundreds of hours in solitude creating a single novel? Easily. You need to love it that much, and develop great patience. It will be more patience than you have, so just keep finding more. From where? I don’t know. Just do.

Two – You’ve got a lot of learning to do. Everyone does. Being a writer is a continual journey of development. And learning is often arduous and can mess with your confidence. Don’t let it. Just keep moving forward, just keep growing.

Three – What you write will never be as perfect as you want it to be. And I know I have an imagination that I can’t quite fit into a book. That’s hard to accept. But the important thing is whether or not you put your best into what you produce. And you know whether or not you did. Give your best, and you’re doing great!

Four – Giving your work to the world is provoking. That’s my nice way of saying, there’s a lot of emotions when a book is published. It’s exciting and I feel proud, yes. I can’t even describe how it feels to hold that first copy in your hands! But it’s also terrifying. Once you put it out there, it’s not yours anymore. A book has a life of its own for everyone who reads it. And that will bring out both scrutiny and praise, and other unexpected ripples. You must learn to embrace all of that. It’s scary, but beautiful.

Five – Writing books is lonely. But it has to be. It’s you – your mind – and the page. Of course, writing can be terribly exciting and entertaining! But it’s inherently a quiet endeavor. If your personality doesn’t like quiet and solitude (and even if it does), this can be a difficult part of writing.

Six – It’s possible you’ll do all the work, and yet not many people will read your book. Listen – the world is oversaturated with as many options in reading and entertainment, and other things to do. So this shouldn’t be a surprise. Rather, remember to write because you love to, and simply appreciate when others do pick up, read, and even go the extra mile of responding to, what you wrote. If you think of it this way, you’ll keep finding the rewards in writing.

If you’ve read this post, my guess is you love to create something, whether it’s a book, or otherwise. So here’s what I say to you. You just keep doing what you love, no matter what. Even if it’s small steps, or only for yourself, or just as time allows, or with its difficulties. It will always be worth it. And for those of you who have already reached the stars with your craft, keep going for the next universe!

Stay Inspired.

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #1

Funny. I know I’m a writer. I know I’m an author. And yet, after years, I still never really felt that I was, in my mind.

Why? I guess it always seemed like this journey was some sort of marathon. And I’ve no training in running. I was going to have to learn from scratch. Wear through a lot of shoes. Further, some of the ways I’ve approached authorship have been unconventional. I therefore believed I would have to run really hard and really far, to prove that I was a real runner. I believed I had to cross some important marker along the way (what that was, I wasn’t sure) before I could really call myself An Author.

This thinking was absurd, of course. But I couldn’t make my stubborn brain accept what it wouldn’t, until it would.


My newest novel Still, will be in readers’ hands shortly (more to come on that soon). But about a week or two ago, while working on edits, I knew. I’d gotten past whatever my imaginary marker was.

This book, it took a piece of my soul with it. And it was genuinely, hard work. I can’t even question myself now. I’m an author.

So as I considered my experience with Still, which will be my 17th title, I decided I wanted to share a bit of my book writing journey with you.

It’s no matter if you are a writer, or not. I think you’ll find my thoughts applicable to anything you have a goal to do.

Your journey may not look at all like mine, nor even your craft, but this is really about inspiration. At my shop The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, I meet authors in every step of their journeys. I learn so much from these conversations. So here’s what my experience has been…

#1

I thought I knew the English language well. I was wrong.

Here’s the fact. I LOVE words. I’ve always loved reading, and another great passion of mine was once public speaking. I love hearing how others use words to express a message. I love crafting words to express myself. I love reading words. I love writing words. I’m just nuts about it.

And though I never received any focused education in writing, I thought I understood the English language and the basic spelling of it decently enough.

I was wrong. But it’s so funny! In fact, I laugh at myself all the time.

  1. I write words that I thought were real. But it seems I made them up.
  2. I thought I knew what words meant, but am frequently surprised to learn my understanding was incorrect.
  3. I still have to look up some of the same words, again and again. Like lose vs. loose (even though it’s cemented by now…I think).
  4. I’ve occasionally gone wild, and yes, printed words in my books that are neither ‘real’ nor ‘perfectly applied’. And I’ll do it again. Because I’m creating art. My art. I can do what I want.

I like reviewing a ‘word of the day’. I find it so hilarious every time! They are always long and complicated-sounding, and I like to first guess what they mean and have a giggle inside when I find out what they actually do. I wouldn’t use even a small percent of these words. But it’s such a delight to learn about them anyway. And they remind me, I still have so much to learn about the English language.

What I know? We always have more to learn about our craft than we thought we did. But that’s what makes the journey awesome!

Stay Inspired.

Sweets for Spring

My mom and stepdad were very kind, spoiling me with a colorful Easter basket this year. As it has been such a long strain due to the pandemic, a time filled with less pockets of joy, it was a real treat to receive something so thoughtful to celebrate the spring season with. My folks have always remembered me, and made me feel special. I’m very lucky.

We’d met halfway between our homes to exchange some items, and as I was about to drive out of the parking lot, the basket in my backseat, my mom reminded me not to look back at that basket while I was driving…

HA! She knows me well!

Distracted driving while texting?! Not me! Distracted while gazing at my Easter basket?! Probably!

I waited until I was settled in at home, and then had a blast unwrapping and photographing it…

Sweet treats heaven!!! What’s inside?!

Edible green apple flavored grass…

Because no Easter would be complete without it!

Camo beans…

Because of course!

Gummy bracelets?

So I can look pretty and have a snack!

Mint and chocolate…

The most delicious combination ever conceived by man.

Sugar free cookies?

Because I’m watching my sugar. Couldn’t you tell?

Will I ever be too old for an Easter basket, you ask? Umm…I write fairy tales. And would prance around in a pretty costume every day of my life if given the opportunity. And think glitter is a gift from the gods. And I like to use my imagination. And believe that Bigfoot is real. And unicorns? Probably extinct, but heck yea!!

So nope…I’ll never be too old for something magical!

Stay Inspired

The Hunt For Pyrex…

Good Day Dear Friends!

Doesn’t a little sunshine in the morning make all the difference? I’m thankful for some today! There were a few blissfully warm days here in Evanston too, but then all turned to chill, and now damp, and the forecast isn’t looking too great for the next few weeks. Guess I’ll just have to keep wallowing in sweaters (and cookies) for a little while longer.

Good thing I have some other treats to bring me joy right now!!!


Guess what I ate breakfast out of this morning?!

My NEW VINTAGE PYREX BOWL!!! Aggggghhhh!

Drool – drool – drool…

Listen, I’m not the only one who loves vintage Pyrex. I’m going to guess there’s actually a lot of folks in that club. The most fun is trying to find a pretty piece at an antiques store. I don’t go to too many yard or garage sales (even though I dig things like that), but I bet you can find some good pieces that way. Or estate sales! And then of course, people sell online…

But let me assure you, to search a place like Volo Antique Malls (Volo, IL) or Antiques on Pierce (Milwaukee, WI) has a very special kind of feeling. Online shopping takes the fun out of what people call – the hunt.

Ooohhhh! I love the hunt. And so does my Mama.

You can check out my visit to Antiques on Pierce here.

I needed some bowls, and I love Pyrex, so my Mom gifted me with a set of three. One she already had, two others were an online order. And they are green – my favorite color. Love at first sight.

These will be with me until I’m an old lady. And then someone else will be happy to own them. And by that time, they’ll be vintage – vintage. Ha!

What am I keeping an eye out for at the antiques shops (which I grievously have not browsed since the pandemic began)? A Pyrex bowl in bright orange or yellow. In good condition. Cracks aren’t good when you actually want to use the pieces. It will also be an exciting day when I find a pink one. I believe the pink ones are prized. I know they are expensive. I better save my pennies. But they’re sooooo pretty.

THE PINK PYREX WILL ONE DAY BE MINE!!! BWA – HA – HA!

When I start getting back to the antique stores again, I’ll be sure to take you all along with me on the hunt!


Thank you Mama. Love my bowls. Love YOU!

And thank you readers, for being a part of my world. I wish you all the pink Pyrex there is!

Stay Inspired.

Kind of, Amazing…

I was thinking this morning, about cheese. A specific photo that I took, in fact.

Of cheese.

In Paris.

{Cheese in Paris food shop}

I love cheese.

I also love abundant food scenes. Pictures of fare from everywhere I have ever been. Or even, just at home. Photos of my dinner plate. I’ve captured hundreds, I’m sure. I guess, I just think it’s beautiful. The place. The moment. The taste. The smell. The memory.

My life.

{Eiffel Tower}

I’ve been deeply introspective these last handful of years, and live a very quiet, simple life. A dead stop almost, to the more outward person I used to be. To the more vibrant life I used to live. With so many experiences. This shift began even before the word pandemic was in my vocabulary.

But, perhaps that is just natural in our journeys….once I was like this, now I am like that. Once my life was like this. Now, it is like that.

{The Palais Garnier – Opera national de Paris}

But certainly, I never knew life could deliver such juxtaposition! Did you? It makes me feel I’ve lived multiple lifetimes in one. I have. I really have. And I only knew this just now, in these introspective years, as I’ve looked back.

Looked back…at pictures of cheese. And my memories.

{A Parisian kitty-cat}

And someday my life will be something else. And I will be someone else. Maybe even somewhere else. Who knows.

{Notre-Dame de Paris}

Will I reunite with friends and readers this summer, at The Quill and Brush? Will I go to live with Bigfoot in an off-grid cabin next year, and leave city life behind (as long as there’s dependable internet and a stash of lime La Croix…and cookies…I’m good). Will I resume traveling someday, such a great passion (let’s not think too hard on whether I will be able to afford to – ha!)?

{Shop in Paris. I swoon for this desk. I see bugs.}

When will I embrace my beloved Venice again? Who all, will be alongside me in life? What friends, have I yet to make? What rocky times await me, that I must be strong to overcome? What books will I still write, that I haven’t even begun to imagine? What else? How different will it all be, from before?

{C’est moi – Cafe in Paris}

And who, will I be?

It’s kind of exciting. Kind of baffling. Kind of intriguing. Kind of scary.

Kind of, amazing.

Remember your journey. Hope for your future. Stay Inspired.

Happy Saturday!

Hi, Hi, Hi!

How is everyone doing today? I hope you are staying inspired?

If you’re a new reader, I just want to say welcome to Inspired By Venice! Be sure to say Hello! So glad you’re here.

In the news this week, I received a care package from my mama on Tuesday.

Doesn’t a care package just warm your heart? Whether filled with treats, or things needed, or in my case, office supplies and Covid survival goods (including a bundle of pink face masks…so I can feel pretty), it’s always a blessing.

Thank you Mom!

In said box, was a huge magnifying glass. Because I have that mom that just sends cool stuff like that!

The thought of smoking ants on the sidewalk crossed my mind (you know I would never – ever), and also a cozy reverie of skimming piles of dusty books fireside with said magnifier. I’d need a pipe, and some fuzzy slippers, and a cat or five, in this dream…

But then I thought…I will magnify all my bugs! So, the glass has an important purpose now. It’s my insect magnifying glass.

With this said, I think my bug book, however faithfully it has served me over the years, and how beloved it is, is not enough.

Christmas present to self – I need a spider book. To start.

You know, spiders are very aware of you. Maybe they think we’re monsters. Maybe we look good to nibble. I think some are curious (jumpers to be specific). I’ve had some pretty awesome interactions.

A jumper who was browsing my books.

Because, spiders like fairy tales too.

It’s true. This one told me.

In other news, and as I have stated here before, anything minty and chocolate is on my list of top favorites in life. Therefore, every holiday season, I go bonkers over the selection of seasonal delights.

These dark chocolate peppermint cookies from Whole Foods? Let’s just say, I’m going back to the store, I’m going to fill a basket, and become a pandemic toilet paper hoarder…only with cookies.

In other, other news…I’ve been a vegetarian for about a decade now! That’s pretty committed for a meat lover.

Yes. I said it. Meatloaf, bacon, and ribs are delicious. (Shhh…don’t tell the other vegetarians I said that). But I don’t eat it. In all these years, the few bites I’ve had has amounted to no more than a plate. And, at least for me personally, I believe my body thanks me for that every day.

I have a love affair with salad. It’s date night every night!

{An American Greetings card I’m displaying in my kitchen for some cheer}

In other, other, other news…Is there anything better than glitter? Can I just roll in a pile of glitter and run down the street skipping, and twirling, just once in my life? Just saying.

Well now, I’m off to other writing. I hope to get Still out to the world very soon. And I sincerely can’t wait.

Stay Inspired!

October Musings…

Welcome Friends! I’ve missed you! How are you?

What a few weeks it has been! No, I’m not talking the larger world out there. If I started thinking about that, I’d sink. Oh geez. I got anxious just watching Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix last night (terribly chilling), so I best not pay too close attention to the news…

[Here’s the summer haircut – shoulder length and simple.]

I have fully transitioned into my new position, and into remote work along with it. An empty room in my home, which I had always been leaning toward having as a writing room (for over two years I was ‘deciding’…HA!), is now officially OFFICE.

The first week, I was teetering a bit with the change, but a second week in, and I’m quite in stride. All systems go. And being the home-body I am, and also very regimented by nature, remote is working out brilliantly. I still head down to the office for some brief visits. But I love my walks…

[Little Michelle – Whose favorite holiday has always been Halloween!]

Last night, I was digging into some boxes. I’m a nuthatch for minimalism and organization, so I like to review and keep ‘all that I have’ tidy and manageable at all times. Of course, digging into boxes (especially of photos or letters) seems to ever be a nostalgic, and often doleful, experience…

[A handmade Valentine’s card from my mom and stepdad Charlie – images cut from candy bar wrappers – my favorite card.]

I have some hundreds of cards and letters. And I’m sure they hardly scratch the surface of those I’ve received, since I’m pretty certain I didn’t keep a great many prior to the last 10 years. Further, I’m not one for digital communication – I will always prefer a handwritten card or letter.

[Christmas card – the artist my mother Lita. So very special.]

My father alone (who may never have sent an email in his life), has mailed me many piles of notes and cards and newspaper clippings. He, has sent me the most. I could publish a vast book of them.

[Me and my father, Frank]

I had this wistful half-smile on my face as I flipped through little bundles, and what I opened only made a dent.

[A sweet Suzy’s Zoo greeting card from my Aunt Lisa.]

And do you know what I thought? I thought…

I’ve been so loved.

I am so lucky. I’ve so many loving friends and family, and even random brushes with kind people who wanted to say something nice. So many memories and experiences. And so much love.

[I love you, Mama!]

It inspired me to sit down this November (as holiday card time approaches), and really do get a note out to a very many that I want to let know – I love you too, and you are ever cherished.

This is going to take a whole lot of stamps.

[Little Michelle the cave girl on Halloween many moons past.]

In other news, Halloween is just a week away. I have always loved Halloween. Further, I’ve been bonkers for costumes since birth. I was born wearing a costume. An 18th century wig, face powder and beauty patches, of course.

Only…things just don’t feel the same now.

[Me with my mom and stepdad – We take Halloween seriously in this family.]

Irregardless, I plan to at least eat a caramel apple on the occasion, which will likely render me a terrible sugar shock. It wouldn’t be Halloween otherwise…

[My baby, Tiddo – Went to Heaven October 30th, 2018 – I love you forever.]

I have been pondering the past a lot. About how things used to be. Wondering how they will be. Glad that I have already experienced so much in life, and wondering what is next, and how it will look…

[Photo from a decade ago – My Chicago event planner days. Events – at present, a thing of the past.]

What are my goals now? What would I like my next decade to look like? If nothing can be the same as it was, how will I make different be wonderful?

For, we must make life beautiful and magical – no matter what.

I think I will take out a handful of old Christmas cards from my treasure of letters, and set them out again sometime in November. That will be both festive, and special, as I ponder the past, and dream for the future…

[Being goofy…entertaining myself…staying inspired.]

Thank you to all of you, kind hearts, who are walking there beside me…

Do drop a line in the comments! I always delight to hear from you.

And as ever…
You Stay Inspired.

White Noise Has Won My Medal…

Good Day, Dear Friends!

I hope this message finds you healthy, and hanging in there!

[All photos today, of stonework I recently admired above the doors of Evanston’s Northwestern University]

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As a first mention, I think it right to encourage today, a prayer for your leadership.

Our leadership, President Trump, has fallen ill with Covid-19. This is utterly terrible. I believe, (and no matter how you sway politically), it is important to pray for your leadership. Pray for their health. Pray for their strength. Pray that they will make the best choices for your nation and communities.

God’s hand over you, President Trump. May you be well and strong, very soon.

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I myself, am presently scrambling through the thorns of transition, soon to emerge on the other side. It is very exciting, really. A promotion in position that will shortly have me working from home, barring a few brief jaunts to the office each week.

I’m currently delivering some training to the individual stepping into my previous role, while also learning new processes myself. In fact, I’m entering a new ‘field’ entirely. One I would never have imagined, given what I had always believed were my strengths and weaknesses.

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Life is surprising, isn’t it? Or rather, sometimes we surprise ourselves.

I am very happy.

Even if, I’m going about everything rather clumsily, shedding a few public tears, and feeling rather exhausted.

What have these pandemic months done to us?

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But hey, I’m doing it. And so are you.

Speaking of tears, I grew weepy over the news this morning. Items of one man helping another man. Even typing those words right now, and I need to grab for the tissue. We really need to love each other more than ever right now.

It makes me ask, how can I show someone I love them today? How can I help, someone other than myself today? How can I even, spread a smile?

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In other thoughts, I was dismayed this morning, to see that my monthly Netflix fee went up. You see, Chicago and Evanston have adopted a streaming tax, a part of their entertainment tax, as I understand.

The reason I am dismayed, is that taxes and fees and fines and additions, and whatever…have begun to make me feel squeezed lately. And that feeling must be crushing, to those in any sort of honest financial strain.

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I of course, believe in taxes to support the upkeep and betterment of our public spaces and communities (and accept that I also live in an urban area where taxes are often notably higher).

However, lately I’m feeling rather nickle-and-dimed. I’m afraid to write out an actual list of these items (sales tax on food, spiking real estate tax, mandatory city permits, streaming tax, etc.) to see what I’m really paying. But it’s truly starting to feel that the price of what it takes just to have a basic life anymore, is quite smashing against what one can reliably draw in. Especially if you want health coverage (but let’s not open that roiling and spoiled can of American worms). Certainly the idea of ‘saving for the future’ is no easy task these days.

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To boot, I’m speaking from the point of view of someone who is still blessed with a good job, and is not by any scope of the imagination, much of a consumer. But seriously, looking at the numbers…

Nickle-and-dimed.

I really may have to consider moving my nest at some point down the line, for more financial security. I gather many people are thinking like this nowadays.

I will also be considering extra steps to frugality this winter. But, I’m going to try and make it fun, rather than allowing it to feel like a drag.

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In other news, and I’ve shared this here before, I have the propensity of being over-sensitive to extraneous noise. Something I’ve better come to understand as I’ve gotten older. While lately considering not only this personal factor, but also the notion of general stress (to which we’ve all been exponentially dosed lately), I started to think on how I can ‘drown it all out’ while remaining focused.

I looked up ‘white noise’ music. Life saver. I downloaded some many hours worth of rustling leaves, streaming water, chirping birds, blowing wind, and whirring fans…

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I am already a huge lover of classical music. I personally can’t listen to music with words while I work (I lose concentration). But, as music can soothe stress and level the mind, I have found that classical is the winning card (with the exception of any especially erratic or high-strung pieces)…

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Additionally needing however, something even more basic to drown out the urban sprawl about me, as well as my own mind-chatter, I wanted to see what else was out there. White noise. Check it out. I understand some folks use it therapeutically. Now I will be. This is good stuff, folks. I never took to meditating or yoga. White noise has won my medal.

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With that, I wish you much peace and contentment this week folks.

Be sure to drop a line! Tell me what you like to do to alleviate stress. Have any fun frugality tips to share? Any nice stories this week?

Best to you. You Stay Inspired, now.

I’m a bit of a nuthatch…

Greetings Good Friends! How I am wishing you every good thing today!

Keep your chin up, I say! Keep your chin up!

I, am beat. Yikes! I’ve a literal mountain of laundry to do, but I don’t know if I have enough strength to stir today. My goodness. I think I’ve only enough energy to stir over to the fridge for something good to nibble on…HA!

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Last weekend, I received a sweet package from my dear friend Cira. She took an old flowered blouse of mine, the fabric of which I’d loved, and made pouches and masks out of it. Aren’t they so beautiful? Additionally, the light green zipper-pouch, as soft as velvet, was sewed and sent by my mama for my birthday!

Tell me that homemade gifts aren’t the best? Tell me I’m not spoiled?

I am envious of these ladies’ talents. Only, I’ve never had a stitch of patience for sewing. Pun intended. So, I’ll just continue to admire their talents while sporting my pretty new accessories!

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Someone special also gave me a book of birds for my birthday, the pages of which are magic to me…

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I love nature so much. I stopped the other morning to crane my neck straight back and have a conversation with a striped-headed nuthatch peeping and hopping upside down on the underside of a tree branch. My guess was that he was looking for insect snacks.

He didn’t really have time for me and said so.

I’m certain other pedestrians witnessed this and thought I was a nuthatch myself. Yes. Yes indeed, I am a bit of a nuthatch.

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Though I have my hands full with current writing projects, I am considering to write a book of true short stories. A collection of those magical, bizarre, and even humbling moments I’ve witnessed in my life, and what they’ve taught me or made me feel. Its purpose would be to entertain and inspire readers. An eclectic little treat. I may start jotting notes soon to form a path for the work…

Now, I know not all of you have the same passion for insects that I do (though I’m sure many of you must since bugs are so awesome)…but I’ve a special creepy-crawly tale for you…

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A few months ago, while at the kitchen sink, I witnessed an itty-bitty miracle.

A house centipede, of which I see commonly enough around my dwelling (and who sometimes make even me goose-bump), was lurking at the sink and got himself waterlogged to the point of mush. All his many long legs were a single drenched mass, and I felt poignantly sad for it.

Now, I have saved approximately one zillion little buggies from approaching death. True story. And, I have learned by trial that a corner of paper towel softly dotted to a waterlogged insect can transport it to a better location without squishing it. If it survives after that point is between God and the bug, but at least I did my best.

I thought I’d give this a go, but the creature looked quite pathetic. I may have even said a prayer for it; God loves all creatures, great and small, right?

It took a little while, maybe even a quarter of an hour, but eventually the creature dried out and unfurled. A little twitch here, a little twitch there. Ultimately stirring back to life to run away. I was sort of baffled, but also genuinely exultant by the happening! That bug had been in really bad, quite hopeless shape, just minutes before…

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But I tell you this, not just for the sake of the nearly implausible resurrection that I witnessed, and me so obviously fond of bugs. It was really just, such an inspiring show of resilience!

I know many of you are having a hard time. And even if you’re doing okay, there’s still no way to escape the global stress and worry. Many moments in these last months have made it feel like the whole world is drowning in the second coming of God’s great flood! And no matter where you live, there is no mountain peak high enough to escape to. It’s sort of a, come-what-may, wait-and-see time for the whole world.

Just wanted to say…like that little waterlogged dude…we have it in us. Hold your breath (not literally please), wait it out, keep your faith, keep your cheer, say your prayers, love one another, hug each other (or like…a mime hug from 6-ft. away), thank each other, uplift each other, help each other, laugh, look to your blessings and the bright side…

I am happy to report that I have since had two additional centipede saves, including that striped creature above, the other a baby centipede, neither of which I thought would make it. They really need to stop this daredevil behavior around the tub and sinks. It’s giving  me the nerves.

In other news…my mama bought me two beautiful new lipsticks for my birthday. The very colors I would have bought myself. I love lipstick. I really do. I had already been devising to pick out some for myself, a treat, but then these arrived in the mail.

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Just one problem. 

I can’t go anywhere without a mask.

I don’t even wear blush anymore (which I also love), because it only rubs off and sullies the face covering. So…do I just prance around my house wearing my new lipstick, even though no one will actually see it?

Sounds like a plan! Maybe I’ll just write a whole bunch of letters, plant a few good lip-sticky smooches on paper. If you happen to receive one of these letters, you’ll understand why (apart from the fact that I’ve always been a little eccentric). I was just finding creative reasons to wear my new birthday colors…

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In other, other news…eat your veggies. Just saying.

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In other, other, other news, I was gifted a bushel (what is a bushel?) of farmer’s market autumn apples last week. How lovely! Two weeks’ worth of sweet delights in my lunch bag. The giver is certainly, the apple of my eye! I’ll be sending them a lip-sticky thank you note

Stay Inspired.

 

Michelle’s Musings…

Hello dearest Friends, Family, and Readers! I hope with all my heart that this message finds each and every one of you well. I know it’s hard right now. I know.

God bless you.

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I figure we’re in for a longer post today since it’s been a few weeks. Just some Michelle musings, with no particular order or theme, and which will no doubt be eclectic. As always, I only wish a smile, a chuckle, a “that’s curious”, or an Amen! in it for you

Here we go…

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As you may remember, I started a teeny-tiny kitchen herb garden weeks ago. I have since been daily brooding over my little pots like a nervous mother hen. Cluck-cluck-cluck! Do they need more sun? Less sun? More water? Was that too much water? Oh geez…

Truly, I’ve no green thumb. However, I was born with my toes in the dirt. Where was that hospital? I’m delighted by anything in nature. So, when my first sprout peeked out, I was brimming with excitement…

I’ve got cilantro and basil growing at a snail’s pace…

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But no chives or parsley. I tried to keep the faith a little while, but I don’t think those are coming…

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I’m tickled by how the cilantro is sprouting these itty-bitty leaves. How tempted I am to clip one and take a nibble. I hope the basil grows full and strong. I’ll replant it and let it get out of control. I’m bonkers for basil

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[Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay]

Michelle fun fact: I have an allergy to cilantro. This is unfortunate, because I really like the herb. In general, I’ve already bad allergies. I sniffle all day long, medicine or no medicine. I’ll blow my nose in my sleeve at this point, in drapery or table linen, anything made of cloth or paper really. I don’t care. I’m so over allergies. I’ve got that respiratory system that screams No Ma’am! with great clout, the moment I so much as toe near something to which I’m allergic…

Oh that delicious, emerald-green, bright, fresh, cilantro! Sniffles, congestion, and itches! I get so itchy! The more I eat in one sitting, the louder the No Ma’am! Once, my palms itched so bad after eating a healthy portion of cilantro, that for at least half an hour, I thought I’d go crazy!

True story. Except the part about linens and drapery. I use tissue…mostly.

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Ok, I have a mystery for you!

But first, I must digress to say…look at those little flower paintings my mother Lita did! Aren’t they so pretty! They were just so cheerful, I propped them on my writing desk to celebrate spring. Love you Mama!

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Ok, back to the mystery…

Do you know what sea glass is? I honestly didn’t until recently. See, I grew up around small bodies of water, and I don’t remember ever seeing any, or it ever being introduced to my vocabulary. So, as an adult, I’ve discovered the joy of searching for this on the beach…

At first, I think I genuinely thought they were some sort of stone. Natural. Yes, go ahead, feel free to have a giggle on me! I was just ignorant of what they were. But now I know that it is actual glass, tumbled around in the water, for a long, long time. When it washes up on shore, it’s lovely.

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So, living a few blocks from Lake Michigan, let’s just say I’ve now added this to my list of mini-hobbies. And, as I’ve just learned, sea glass is only from salt water, beach glass is what we have here.

So what’s the mystery? Well according to Wikipedia, it can take many decades for these to form. I might be collecting pretty-bitties that have been tumbling around for 100 years for all I know. So, imagine how curious it was to find this one…

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Of all the billions of stones and shells and grains of sand along our shore…I found this oddity. A piece of frosty-white beach glass, etched. Now, from this photo, it may look like XXI. But I think it may have been XXX, with the right-most part of the etching fading away. I’m not entirely certain.

Roman numerals? The symbolic X’s of kissesAnd this etching isn’t new. It is worn. I can’t say how old it is, or who etched it, or simply how. But, believe me…my imagination could come up with a few stories. Perhaps I’ll write a short book of tales one day, each a possibility stemming from this one piece of glass.

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Another recent and curious mini-hobby I’ve picked up…quite literally…pennies.

You know, my step-dad Charlie always had this knack for finding money on the sidewalk, in parking lots, anywhere really. That’s always made me smile. “Look! I found a dollar!”

Well, with recent stress (to which we are all enduring), I’ve tried tricking myself into being distracted. Small amusements. I still walk to and from work, and am during this time, considered an ‘essential worker’. I have for some weeks, worked almost entirely alone. At first, this was kind of eerie (I’ve been playing a lot of classical music in my cozy little nest of an office – I helps me feel calm and focused). But now, I’ve adapted, just as each of you has had to do in one way or other…

In any case, I always delight in noticing birds, or budding flowers, along my walk. But then, I all of a sudden, started to feel both distracted and amused, by searching for pennies along my route! Instead of fretting about uncertainty, I began making a game of spotting coins. And, don’t they say to find a penny is good luck?

I’m now collecting a jar of good luck. And, I’m going to buy something special with them someday! Probably cookies…

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In other news, wearing a mask took some adapting to as well. In Evanston, it is not only suggested, but now mandatory for essential workers to do so. I don’t have to all day (thank goodness – I’d quickly become claustrophobic – God bless our medical workers) as my interactions are few. But, I wear them around others.

This specific mask with flowers on it…was left on the doorknob of my office. A gift, made by a colleague’s wife. That really touched my heart. How sweet are small gifts. Sometimes from those who know us, and sometimes from someone we hardly even know. I am so humbled by that. It reminds me to be kind to others, even in little ways, whenever I can…

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I even wear it out for walks when I am treading the urban sidewalks. Who says your mask can’t be pretty?

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With that said, I’m going to try and make one for myself. I’ve some fabric from a dress that never fit right. I’ve needle and thread. I’ve a hot iron for ironing. Yes, you read that right. I don’t own an iron. I embrace my wrinkles. So, let’s just see if my hair straightening iron can’t do the trick for this small craft? I’ll let you know! Don’t they say that necessity is the mother of invention?

I may be tempted to sew some loose pearls on it. Too bad I don’t have any spare sparkles around. Hmmm….

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As for other DIY projects, I repaired my vintage medicine cabinet door with a glue gun. A glue gun I pulled out of a box from my younger, more craftier moments. Cause I love my classic medicine cabinet. I’d use bubble gum to keep it together if I had to!

Once, I made a pair of angel wings for myself, glue-gunning every feather. It was, crazy. The very best crazy.

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[Image by congerdesign from Pixabay]

Another time, when really young, I left a glue gun plugged in on a holiday. I realized this, while on a family visit, away from the empty house where said glue gun was oozing fiery glue…

There is no worse fear for a youngster, than believing you may have just burnt the house down, while away eating mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at a family gathering. I snuck into my aunt’s bedroom to dial my house several times. Because, you know, in a child’s innocent mind, this must mean my house was still there. I never said a word to my Mom, and was terribly anxious to get home again. When she smelled the house as we entered, that very distinct smell of burning glue and metal that can only come from a glue gun (which had miraculously caused no damage), she knew who the culprit was. The glue gun disappeared for a little while. Probably a few years…and then there were angel wings – 1996 Romeo and Juliet style baby!

In other news. God’s been good to me. Tea and cookies good…

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Fresh fruit and green juice good…

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Fill my belly good…

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Fine health, and a soft bed to rest my head, good.

What more could I need?

If you’re reading, say hello friend! Leave a comment! Share a few lines of your DIY, a beach-glass mystery, a blessing you’re thankful for, a funny story, or your favorite tea-time treat! What’s blooming in your garden? Love it!

And wherever you are in the world, I wish you ever well. Hang in there! All things have a season. From out of hardship and gloom, there is always rebirth and renewal.

So I say again, and always will…

Stay Inspired!

 

Milwaukee’s Antiques On Pierce

Hello All! How are you today? The sun is shining in Evanston, and the birds are singing that spring is coming! That makes me smile…even if I’m sniffling! Ha! These seasonal viruses (my second this winter) are just awful. But, what can you do? I’ve been wallowing in bed for days. But, I’m hoping that this one will be my last until next season.

Please Lord.

Therefore, though I wish I could be spending this sunny Saturday on an adventure, I’ll just have to reminisce over past fun, until my bug skedaddles…

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A few weeks ago after a visit to the Milwaukee Domes, drove past a sign that made my car wheels, quite beyond my own control, emergency-bat-turn into a parking lot, in what appeared to be a more industrial neighborhood…

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It’s funny sometimes, when there appears to be not a stray cat around, and the walkways are without any traffic, that there can be a hidden gem awaiting…

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Milwaukee’s Antiques on Pierce has reminded me why emergency-bat-turns are a necessary driver’s skill to acquire…

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And why being adventurous enough to explore, when you spot an intriguing sign, can really pay off!

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This treasure trove of the bygone had my mouth gaping for at least the first five minutes…

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Continuing on with a great many more oohhs, and ahhhs, and look at this-s!

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Unfortunately, there was only about half an hour on the clock before this mind-boggling establishment was closing for the day…

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Yet somehow I still felt like I’d been spellbound, and there for quite a while, in awe at every turn…

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Antiques on Pierce reminded me of Volo Antique Mall in Volo, Illinois, which is one of my favorite places to go with my folks…

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These places are a collector’s dreamland. Hunting for things in particular, is a real treat on antiquing excursions…

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And if only you could know the history behind even just a handful of the items for sale, your mind would be broken. It’s just too awesome for the imagination!

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I repeated at least five times, that next time, this was going to be the destination, with a much longer review of all of the displays.

And as the lights began to shutter off, one section at a time, darkening the circumference of this massive cave of curiosities…

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I simply did not want to go…

Traveling out from that neighborhood, spotted at least one (maybe two) similar signs for antiques. I think I know what one of my next adventures is going to be! Think they’ll let me bring in a picnic lunch? I mean, one has to eat to keep their energy up on a day-long treasure hunt!

Stay Inspired!

An Inspired Heart…

Hello All! How are you today? I hope you are finding ways to stay inspired?

With the holidays surrounding us, sparkle, joy, and inspiration would seem naturally about. But, I know that this time of year isn’t always glitter and gold for everyone. Whether it’s lack of money, the drearier weather (at least in these parts), the absence of a supportive family or friend circle, or thoughts of a new year (and new decade!) and all the things one is still hoping to achieve…

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{Painted wall, Milwaukee, WI}

But, you know what I think, dear friends?

I think, no matter what time of year, we should just try our best, to keep an inspired heart…

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{Me in Milwaukee…La Croix in hand…of course!}

What keeps me inspired? I’ve a little treasure of ways…first, adventure

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{Painted wall, Milwaukee, WI.}

I presently don’t have the funds for faraway travels, something I really enjoy. However, I’ve always just as equally cherished, the adventure to be had, at my own back door

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{Summer street festival, Milwaukee, WI}

Whether it’s a ride to a nearby town for a bite and a stroll. A peek about a new neighborhood…

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{A lakeside trail, Milwaukee, WI.}

A nature walk…

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{Street festival delights, Milwaukee, WI.}

Or a display of sprinkly donuts, well I just love it…

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{Mom & Charlie at Bristol, Kenosha, WI}

I’m thankful too, that I always have the adventure of Bristol before me! Mom (Lita) and step-dad (Charlie), always help me set up my little shop each summer, The Quill and Brush. We stage it all, and then have a bit of picnic lunch…

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It’s a treat each year to see Bristol in the weeks before opening day!

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So peaceful and green…

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I’m already anticipating the 2020 season!

I’m also ever inspired and thankful for all of my wonderful Bristol friends. To name a few…

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{Tammy & Dino, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Priscilla & Nic, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Stephanie & Bryan, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Stephanie & Bryan, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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Thank you to all who have supported me as an author. I can only hope that my tales will bring even a portion of the magic to your life, as your friendships have inspired in mine…

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Well, it also seems I find adventure and inspiration no matter what the course of my day. Yesterday afternoon, for instance, was my regular 6-month cleaning at the dentist. I go to Smileworks in Chicago, and have for years and years. Recommended by a trusted friend, they are hands-down, the best. And they gave me a pink toothbrush in my swag bag yesterday, so…

Well, Smileworks moved offices recently, and now have a spectacularly trendy spot! Yesterday was the first time I’d visited the new office. Located right in the middle of one of Chicago’s Lincoln Square ‘community areas’, I was wowed by the old-timey meets hip-urban block. I didn’t have the money for shopping, and wanted to get home for a rest, so I didn’t stroll after my appointment, but let’s just say it’s a destination. If you live local, and want to have a day adventure, this is a gem. I’m going to make a point of planning an exploratory visit at some point…

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I did however, stop in one store, Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen. I wish I’d taken photos, and next time will. It was a dreamland. An utter dreamland. I bought myself some weekend dinner, zesty quinoa salad, cucumber salad, chilled fried perch…

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A block of Northwoods Cheddar…

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Heaven. Truly heaven.

This might be the most beautiful photo I have ever taken. I call it, Cheese and Cracker.

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Isn’t that an inspiring plate? Oh my word, it was delicious too!

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I’ve also been finding inspiration lately in everything chocolate and mint!

I have always loved chocolate mint. My mom was eating chocolate-chip mint ice cream when I was in her belly. I know this because I’ve loved chocolate-mint since birth. It’s my favorite. I could eat a box of Andes Mints in one sitting all by myself. I’m pretty sure that I have.

So, Christmas-time means chocolate-mint time. Matt’s limited edition double chocolate peppermint cookies? I swoon. Superior on Main’s chocolate mint brownie bites? I faint…

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Excuse me? Mint and dark chocolate KitKat? Crying tears of Christmas chocolate-mint joy…

I’m so silly.

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To share, there’s a verse in Proverbs that I’ve been dwelling on the last few weeks, because I have plenty of moments (and hours, and days) when my joy and inspiration flicker…

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22 KJV

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And so, in this season, and in every season, I’m wishing you too, a merry heart. Find the joy you’re given in each day. Try not to worry. Love yourself. Love each other. And so especially…

Stay Inspired!

Make Your Own Happiness…

Hello my dear friends, family, and readers! Happy belated Thanksgiving…I am grateful for you!

I am also happy today! Can you guess why?!?

(Do you like my little hint?)

Was it because of my morning muffin (pumpkin today!) and coffee? The two things that I undeniably cannot get my day started without? Great guess, but nope…

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Is it on account of the secret stash of holiday-themed cookies I’ve been surreptitiously hiding in my cupboard? (I’m promising myself I’ll give up the habit…after Christmas…COOKIES!!!)

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Yes, cookies make me smile, but that’s not it either…

Is it because I had a hearty, healthful vegetarian Thanksgiving plate at my Grandpa and Grandma Novak’s house yesterday, and spent time with family?

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Well yes…of course I’m happy because of that…but there’s something else!!!

Have you guessed yet? Need another hint?

Beauty Sleeping is here! The most enchanting fairy tale my brain has yet to imagine. It is a delightful gem! I hope it takes you away to a beautiful, mysterious, and magical place…

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This is a snippet from the first chapter…you can ‘look inside’ the book on Amazon and read it for yourself here

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For those of you new to Beauty Sleeping, it is not a youth adventure, neither is it a novel… it’s a novella. Fantasy fans, Renaissance junkies, sword clashers, believers in fairies, those who love love…this one’s for you! Enjoy!

As for me, each day I delight in making my own happiness! I’ll be working on Still, and Dragons At Dusk as the days grow colder and colder and the snow begins to fall…

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For all of my Bristol Renaissance Faire friends, I’m looking forward to seeing you at The Quill and Brush for my 5th season July 2020! New tales in tow…

Making my own happiness lately has not only consisted of writing, but also reading…

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Various books, but also the Book. For many, Psalms is a comfort and joy to read. It is. But my favorites are Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. There’s a lot of wisdom in them both, and as I get older, I aspire to be a better, wiser, more empathetic person.

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I also want to be stronger, more firmly-sound-in-spirit, and a less-anxious human being! The Bible is a place of wisdom for all of those things for me…

Another source of happiness, several Netfix offerings have been quite entertaining recently. I have to tell you, I have never giggled so much as I did at the documentary film, Dancing with the Birds. If you subscribe to Netflix, you must watch it. I was utterly dazzled by these birds of paradise!

I have also been entranced with the documentary series Civilizations by PBS. Never one to think much about art, I’m now completely enraptured by everything I’m learning in this wonderful program. It’s made me want to travel to every art museum and church on the globe! Love it!

Heal, another documentary that moved me, focuses on how much our stress affects our health, and what activities in life can help negate that. It inspired me to think about how I can surrender more to calm, rest, and peace, rather than anxiety, burden, and worry. Love that!

As for holiday favorites, I thought Holly Star was so hilarious! The trailer doesn’t do it justice, it was such a cute movie!

And I also thought The Knight Before Christmas was a holiday delight! But I write fairy tales, so of course I would!

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Otherwise, I am quite happy with my everyday evening salads! Both healthy and satisfying, it’s a nice part of my day that I’m always looking forward to…

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And oh goodness! Here’s a photo of me when a tiny newling on my Mama’s lap, one Christmas long ago. Isn’t that a memory of happiness? Beauty Sleeping is dedicated to her. Without her, I would never have been inspired to write a fairy tale in the first place…

As for you…keep looking toward your health and happiness. There’s nothing more important. I’m wishing this season brings you much peace, joy, and laughter!

All of my best wishes! Stay Inspired!

The Crazy Cat Lady House…

Hi Folks! How are you today? Staying inspired? I had planned to sleep in this morning, but instead woke up like a frisky autumn squirrel, ready to drink coffee, eat a blueberry muffin, clean everything, and write chapters. A few hours later, I’ve accomplished a few of those things…and I’m ready for a nap…

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I used to enjoy naps many years ago. Now, I don’t take them. If I do, I wake up not feeling so good. Does that happen to you?

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Today, I wanted to share something hilarious and delightful! Once upon a time, when I worked in a creative consultancy in Chicago, we had…well…creative competitions. The magic of working with artists and designers, is that they have some crazy talent making things. You never knew what they might come up with!

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For one of these internal events, it was decided that we should have a diorama competition. Now, I am no artist, and consider myself not at all able, in the way of arts and crafts. But I knew that I wanted to make a diorama. I loved making these things as a kid! The miniature setup in a shoebox?! What is better than that?

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The most awesome one as a child was a pyramid that you peeked into through a hole, a flashlight illuminating the innards. It was a mysterious tomb of treasures, and really sparked the imagination! I wish I still had that thing, but it fell apart three decades ago…

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To note…it sort of helped that I have a very artistic mother. Actually, it helped a lot. I begged for her help with anything to do with glitter, glue, drawing, painting, etc. You see, my brain doesn’t work that way folks. The idea of drawing is like trying to figure a complicated math equation. I can’t do it. And as an adult, nothing has changed…

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My mom was the true creative director behind my adult attempt at a diorama. I call it…The Crazy Cat Lady House. Please take a moment to admire this mini-house of mess and meows! Isn’t it awesome!

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Why did I aspire to make this house come to life? Because I’m a crazy cat lady in my heart, and always will be. I would love to own a house full of wily, frenzied, goofy, tussling cats. Only, I don’t like mess. So, I can only admire this scene from my diorama. I will never own a crazy cat lady house in real life. But I can imagine the joy of it…

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So how’d we do it? We took doll house pieces, tore them up, painted everything grubby, and made a merry mess with all the cats at play. We had a blast!

Did I place in the competition? Yup! Third. Quite impressive when you are going up against people who went to school to create! Thanks for your help, Mama!

It was so fun. It was inspiring. Life should be more about that…don’t you think?

My very best wishes to each and every one of you today! I’ll be working on my creepy new novel, Still, and keeping inspired. I wish you the same!

Welcome to The Hen House!

Hello All! I hope that you are keeping inspired?! Glad you’re reading today, because I’ve got a special treat for you!

I enjoyed another adventure in Milwaukee last Saturday, and it included a remarkable visit to The Hen House. No, there were no clucking chickens present. Only a room full of fabulous hats, alongside one accomplished milliner!

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Ms. Kate McLaughlin, founder and milliner extraordinaire, was there to greet guests to her hat shop with a welcoming smile…

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Unbeknownst to myself when first entering, I already knew the artist! Years ago when I was a part of the Guilde of St. George at Bristol, Kate was one of the talents contributing costume expertise, helping to make history come to life!

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“I know you!” I blurted when seeing her behind the counter. We soon made the connection, and I’m sure that neither of us could believe that that had already been two decades ago!

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I soon expressed something like, “I didn’t know you loved hats so much!”

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Kate had a delightful response. Something along the lines that hats had always been her cookie of costumery. Love it!

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The Hen House is so amazing, as it brings a wonderful tradition back into our current day. The days when you could walk into a specialty shop and have something custom-made…

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I didn’t spend enough time to really dig into that process, but judging by the antiquated head-forms covering one wall, Kate and her shop must best be considered one of Milwaukee’s gems…

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This is what we will title: The Wall of Millinery Wonder…

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I digress, but…isn’t this one lovely?

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When Kate shared a little bit of her story about how The Hen House came to be, I was really inspired. When sharing that her first custom hat order after opening had been for a going home, speaking so sweetly on that memory, the gloss was readying in my eyes. When she told of the hat-making events that are hosted in her shop (wouldn’t that be fun), I imagined such a merry party. And when Kate spoke about doing what she loves, I just wanted to nod my head and smile, thinking…

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That’s where it is. Right here in this shop. Through all the hard work, there’s real joy, when you find a way to do what you love. You are an example, Ms. McLaughlin, Master Milliner! Thank you for the wonderful introduction to The Hen House!

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Now, I must add, The Hen House connects to The Brass Rooster, the master hatter of which is Kate’s husband John. It was a room full of men’s hats that is a wonder all to itself, so I’ll save it for a future post. But let’s just say, whatever style of hat you seek, I believe you’ll need look no further than 2250 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Milwaukee!

Baroque Beauties…

As I mentioned in my post Looking Back, I’m perusing old photographs for some to share with you for what sparks of inspiration a few might contain. This photo in particular is one of my very favorites, for it is what my dreams are made of…

In 2005, my mother and I traveled to Venice, Italy (a most beloved city for me and a great influence for why I wrote Venice and subsequently Veleno). We visited during the annual Carnevale. Unfortunately, all we had was a disposable camera or two, which doesn’t help one catch all the dozens of shots they would wish for, especially during a once-in-a-lifetime event like this. For folks like my mom and I, who revel in history and costuming, Carnevale was a constant parade of mind-boggling delights. My brain still drifts there in my daydreams, this magical place in my memories. If only I could go back and hand us both a digital camera so that we could have captured so much more…

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But alas, at least we got a few treasured shots, like this one. These three Baroque beauties broke my brain. No idea who they were, from what nation they’d hailed, or who their (utterly talented) costumer and wigmakers were, but to cross their path made this gal stop dead in her tracks. There was a crush of people in St. Mark’s Square where this photo was taken, which I’m sure made it even harder to capture more, or get around to secure better full-costume shots…

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For the Venetian Carnevale, you have two options for costumes. You can have everything made by a costumer at home (like my oh-so-talented Mama) and carry everything with you to the city (praying that your luggage doesn’t get lost or your masks and accessories crushed..which would have devastated me. You would have heard my cries from Venice clear across the Adriatic). Or, you can rent a costume in Venice, and even have your hair (and I’m sure makeup) professionally done. That would, of course, cost you a pretty penny, and I’m certain wouldn’t be feasible to repeat each day of your visit (unless you’re a millionaire), but it certainly would be an experience…

In any case, those Baroque lovelies looked like they’d stepped right out of 1750 and rendered me speechless. Those pillared wigs, the grandeur of their flowered and ribboned hats, their satiny extravagance and furry muffs to cover chilled hands. Even the large pearl drops hanging from one woman’s ears (oh, pearls…so pure and pretty) inspire me. I swoon. I swoon and fall down…

It is my hope that my mom Lita and I will someday return to Venice, to once more take in the Carnevale, perhaps even holding two tickets to the Il Ballo del Doge. A gal can dream, and save her pennies. After all, sometimes, dreams really do come true…

Whatever your dreams, never let them go. Stay Inspired!

Find me in the fairy garden…

My birthday always falls over Labor Day weekend in September, coinciding with the final weekend of Bristol. For me, there is no better way to spend my special day than at The Quill and Brush, chatting with folks about my tales. It is always enchanting…

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[Above, transcendently happy to be in my little shop…]

As I get older, and I am guessing this is the case with most, I think less and less to anticipate anything more than a normal day when my birthday rolls around. If someone remembers me with a “Happy Birthday” text, or a card in the mail, or the occasional gift, I’m already feeling quite special. Such small gestures remind you that you are cared about, and I have always been fortunate to feel blessed in that…

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[Here, smiling with the most noble of ladies, Lady Ettie.]

Having only humble ideas of my birthday, imagine my extreme surprise to see this utterly beautiful, absolutely amazing fairy garden waiting for me in my tented shop when I arrived that day this last September! I assure you, my mouth hung open wide for at least a full minute…

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Who had spent such precious time (of which it seems no one has any these days) to make me something so extraordinary and memorable? Well, there is a very special family that participates at Bristol. Seasons 2015-2017 they owned The Sow’s Ear, and they also help with Pyewacket’s Body Art, the petting zoo, and alongside other vendors. Mickey (mom), Cody, Caily and Kena (daughters), have been the kindest and best of neighbors to me on King’s Landing. You might remember that Cody made the incredible sign that hangs before The Quill and Brush

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You ever meet someone (and in this case a family of ladies) who already has a toe planted on Heaven’s golden floor, so caring, helpful, and thoughtful a person are they? You know, good people. Well these gals, are real good people. I wanted to thank them for making me feel so special, and to share their oh so special creation with you, as it was so inspiring…

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Let’s talk fairy garden! This scene has a tiny house covered by the spine of a Danielle Steel novel. Love it! There are itty-bitty leather books, an adorable vine chair with table, lamp and tea cup. On the walls of the house are a birthday message, and the words to one of my fairy books, Delight. Let me just grab a kleenex…have you ever seen anything so sweet!?

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The yard of the garden is covered with moss, stones, plants, another table and seat, and a swing under a leafy canopy for the fairies to read beneath. How creative, how delicate, how wonderful! Excuse me, I need to grab another tissue…

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Of course for the rest of that Bristol weekend, everyone that stopped by The Quill and Brush marveled at the fairy garden. This gift not only brought delight to me, but to many others as well. It now has a place beneath a sunny window in my house, sure to return with me to faire next summer!

I sometimes like to imagine that when I am away from home, a fairy or two slips through my window or under the crack beneath my door, to sit a spell and read in the fairy garden…

Stay Inspired Friends!

Tin Foil And Red Hots Forever…

This is Jessica, one of my most beloved friends. She was married in Paris a handful of years ago and I stood up with her as her Maid of Honor. It was a morning I will never forget. Have you ever seen a more beautiful bride?!

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I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in my life, so happy was I be with my best friend on her special day…

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I felt compelled today to remind her what an amazing person she is! How intelligent, beautiful, and strong…

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She’s also hilarious!

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Like, the kind of funny where you’re perpetually experiencing that deep gut laughter…

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Or maybe it’s just because we understand one another’s humor? When we were girls, we used tin foil to set curls into our hair, and ate red hots while we did. It was a thing? We’re weird…

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A while back, we attended a special exhibit, Passion For Fashion at The Art Institute here in Chicago. I can say that I’m definitely the sort of woman who prefers fashion from history, rather than modern fashion! We of course had a blast reviewing the incredible displays…

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It’s difficult to see the details from my photos through the glass, but we marveled at some very old, well-preserved dresses…

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My biggest wonder was how a woman’s waist could ever be that tiny?

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And the art they exhibited that showed fashion from the past was obviously very romantic and beautiful. I need to get back to the Art Institute soon and take another stroll…

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I love special exhibits like these. Jessica and I also once went to see a preserved baby mammoth at The Field Museum, on the coldest winter day ever. That was incredible. How fortunate I am to be in a city with so many wonderful museums and theaters, and always have an amazing friend to go to them with!

Jessy, just wanted to thank you for being in my life, my most beloved friend. We are going to live to be very old ladies together. Tin foil and red hots forever!

The Doge’s Ball of Venice

The annual Venetian Carnevale recently ended, taking place from January 27th to February 13th this year. Every year when this festival approaches, I get excited dreaming about it, wishing that I could be in Venice to experience the beauty and excitement for myself…

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As most of you know, Venice has a very special place in my heart. I love everything about the city, and was inspired to write several books that take place there, Venice and Veleno. Every moment I’ve spent in Venice has been precious to me, and I can’t wait to return…

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I had the good fortune of attending the Venetian Carnevale one year with my mother (I’m above in red and she in gold), and it was a trip neither of us will ever forget. There was one thing that we did not do however, attend a masked ball, those magical events that have taken place for centuries. One in particular, Il Ballo del Doge (The Doge’s Ball) is famous and highly covered by the media…

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[Here I am again in an olive and black gown and veil, looking a bit ghostly!]

A thoughtful reader here on Inspired By Venice, who also cherishes the city, sent me the link to a video of the 2017 Il Ballo del Doge this week, and I was of course riveted. The ball is currently planned by designer Antonia Sautter, whose imagination and costumery is exceptional. Enjoy the video!

For many of us who love Venice, revelry, costuming, magic and mystery, attending such a ball (and this one in particular) is on our list of must-dos in our lifetime…

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I hesitate to mention that not everyone who has attended the Doge’s Ball has loved their experience. The tickets can run you thousands of dollars. So after considering all of your expenses on travel, lodgings, costume rentals, etc., ticket buyers expect some very good food, beverages, service and entertainment. Where some have treasured their experiences, others have found the food lackluster, their seating obscuring full views of the entertainment, cheesy disco music to dance to, and other disappointments…

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But I consider everything a matter of perspective. It must take a great deal of money, effort and rehearsal to put on what I see in this video. In fact, it blows my mind and makes my heart race with excitement! A once in a lifetime event! Sometimes it takes suspending criticism in order to fully appreciate and enjoy an experience, whatever your expectations might have been. As for me, I’ll continue to dream of attending, and when I get the chance, I’ll feel privileged, and will savor every moment! Thank you for bringing this dazzling and decadent ball to life, Antonia Sautter!

Waiting For Spring…

Here in Evanston, I’m sure waitin’ on spring! I’m awful tired of wearing a big coat with all my winter trappings and sloshing around through the snow and slipping around on the ice. I want some sun on my face, I want to wear my flip-flops, I want to walk through a garden! Know what I mean?! I’m doing my best to be patient!

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In the meanwhile, I’m working on getting back on the vegan bandwagon, and let me just say that lunch was pretty delicious today! Nowadays there are so many great vegan products out there to help you craft a satisfying and healthy meal, it just takes a bit of getting used to…

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Today I had two crispy Boca vegan chicken patties topped with melty vegan Chao cheese, a spread of Vegenaise, some crisp Pete’s Living Greens lettuce, sliced yellow onion and tomatoes. On the side, celery sticks and a can of cucumber melon fizzy water by Soleil! Just some of my favorite brands when I’m eatin’ vegan!

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In other news, I moved into a new home back in early January and things are quite cozy! I’ve figured out most of the quirks and charms of my new house and Tiddo the cat has adjusted with ease. One of my favorite parts are the large vintage windows that let in so much bright light!

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When Tiddo isn’t scratching up the furniture or racing around like the road runner, he quite enjoys the windows and light too. It’s impossible to believe that he is 18 years old, which means he’s 88 in human years. Let’s just say, he doesn’t act his age!

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In my new home, there is a charming nook for my writing desk. I’m still arranging my home office just how I would like it to be, but I’m loving this quiet little alcove to write in and it gives the room a little more space with the desk set into the wall…

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My newest novel is coming along swimmingly (out early July). It is a romantic odyssey set in ancient times. The title, quite fittingly, is Ancient. Tiddo frequently offers writing advice. He thinks there should be lots of mice in the story. I’m not so sure I can fit that into the plot, but if I devise to add a plague of some sort, I suppose mice could do in place of locusts or pestilence?

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And here’s a sneak peak of the cover art for Ancient before the title and author name are set into place. The screen shot doesn’t do it justice, but it’s really attractive. I can’t wait to share the finished cover and synopsis for Ancient, as the next few months progress!

Stitching Through Time…Appreciating Your Wonderful Talents!

My Grandma Novak, now in her 90s, has spent a lifetime developing a skill that in current days, is rather uncommon…

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She is a master embroiderer, an artist of cross-stitch…

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She’s learned every technique, using every sort of thread, bead and pattern…

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She worked in the quaintest of stitch shops for some years, offering advice and assistance to others learning and practicing the craft…

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She attended events for embroidery, entered her fine works and won awards for her special pieces…

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I’ve viewed her stitching, hung around her house, all of my life. I even tried my hand at cross-stitching once and had a little fun with it, though the bug didn’t bite me (this art form requires a very particular, loving patience)…

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As I recently snapped a few photos at Grandma’s, I got up-close to some of her works and was awed. I was awed at my grandma’s hard-earned talent, but also for everyone out there who works to learn and perfect an art over the years…

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I got to pondering, how often do we wonder what it’s truly worth, concerning our individual passions and talents? I mean, who will ever really see and appreciate those things we work hard at? You might spend hundreds of hours practicing or producing something that hardly gets but a fleeting premier out in the world. I sometimes think that way about my books…

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But I guess when I thought about it, I truly felt that if you love what you are doing, you must enjoy every moment of it, no matter who may ever deeply appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Sew, knit, dance, write, sing, cook, plant, bake, click your camera, marathon, draw, create…Stay Inspired…enjoy your passions and pursuits, for you.

But just in case we ever feel that our special talents are hardly appreciated, I’m certain that we’re wrong. You inspire someone else, right now! Of course, no one can truly grasp the time and hardship it took to do what you do, except you. But others do see and admire what you do and make in this world…I promise!

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 Grandma Novak, your stitching is the most special in the world. Mom, you are a true artist with a beautiful imagination and your costumery is incredible. Grandma Ina, your garden is alive with color and bounty because of your caring hands, and you’ll always be the best cook I know. Charlie, your drum solos are amazing and your commitment to music and percussion is awesome. Dad, your master creations in the garage are truly extraordinary.

Thank you for inspiring, me.

That Mummy You Didn’t Know Existed

While in the midst of writing my newest novel (to be released in July 2018), a romantic odyssey that takes place in ancient days, I’m experiencing the usual excitement that I feel when researching a bazillion fun facts that make my stories historically more believable. Researching is a very big part of my writing. It’s a good thing I’m nuts about it! You wouldn’t begin to believe some of the crazy things I’ve learned while ‘digging in a little deeper’…

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That brings me to the creepy thing I recently learned, that I kind of wish I could unlearn, because it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Of course, a romantic odyssey in ancient days must have some mummies, right? As I always say, nothing screams romance more than a frightening scene or two, filled with tombs and all that sleeps within them!

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So…there is more than one kind of mummy in the world. Types of mummies isn’t something that I’ve ever really thought about, mainly because the Egyptian variety are the most widely spoken of. And oh, how I’ve always loved to see the exhibit at The Field Museum titled Inside Ancient Egypt. I’ve visited it since I was a kid!

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What types of mummies are there? Well, there are the kind that people intentionally make, and then there are those that nature makes. Anthropogenic and Spontaneous. The ancient Egyptians made anthropogenic mummies by taking great care to preserve their elite after death. They painstakingly tended to the bodies and provided them with incredible resting places filled with goods to keep them in comfort in the afterlife…

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[Photo Credit: Sven Rosborn]

But then you have the spontaneous mummies, like the hapless folks who fell into acidic bogs a few thousand years ago, and were preserved by nature. Look at how amazing Tollund Man from the 4th century BC looks! He was uncovered in a bog in Denmark. But in spite of his restful repose, this man met with a very sad end. He did not fall into the bog. He’d been hung by a rope, and then left in the bog. Further, evidence seems to indicate that he’d not been hung for a crime, but that he’d been sacrificed…yikes!

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[Photo Source: Pedro Groover]

I’m horrified every time I stumble over history about human sacrifices. Take for example this perfectly preserved young girl. La Doncella above, was just 15 years old. She is also a spontaneous mummy. Around 1500, in an Incan religious ritual, three children were drugged with coca and alcohol and left to freeze to death in the Andes mountains. After exposure to the elements, they were placed in a tomb, where they each died in their sleep. The particular climate of the region was the key to the children’s preservation (not people). Even every tiny braided strand in this girl’s hair are still perfect. Those poor little souls…

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There are also a great many cases of mummification that fall somewhere in the middle, both anthropogenic and spontaneous. For instance, family taking some steps to preserve the body of a loved one, and then the conditions of the burial place doing its part to keep the body in good condition as well. The air quality and dirt makeup inside a cavernous crypt beneath the alter of an ancient church, for instance, might be a good place for that…

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But let us speak of another kind of mummy. The kind that when I learned about it, quite frightened me. First however, revisit what an ascetic is. An ascetic is one who for religious reasons, either denies themselves the pleasures in life (rich food, fine things, companionship, etc.) or goes even so far as to hurt themselves intentionally as a method of denial and lack of pleasure (whipping oneself, for instance)…

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Now, even though I could never deny myself a good meal or basic comforts on purpose, I can definitely see the beauty in living a simpler life intentionally, so as to focus on something higher and more important than the need to acquire more in this life. As they say, you can’t take it with you! But I digress…

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Of course, hurting oneself as a method of denial and discipline..no way! Can’t fathom it. But as for that unique set of mummies I spoke of, they go much farther than simply denial or pain. It is called SokushinbutsuFrom the 1000’s through the 1800’s, Buddhist monks in Northern Japan sometimes chose to mummify themselves. By denying oneself regular food, and eating only small portions of natural things that do not induce weight gain (tree resin, pine needles, etc.), the body would become thin, all fat decimated…

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Months, and sometimes years of denial in this way, while dedicating life to meditation, yielded a starved body. Eventually, also denying the body water was introduced, and the body became dehydrated…organs would shrivel, skin would grow dry, muscle cramping would be extreme…

I drink approximately a gallon and a quarter (or more) of water a day…this sounds like a horror story!

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Now, we can all guess where this story leads. After a time of this, the body gives up. But all the while, the monk remains in his sitting meditation state while chanting, until death occurs. Because of what the monk’s body endured, it is preserved. Such a long duration of minimal fat intake and dehydration = self-induced mummification. A form of anthropogenic mummification, on yourself. These mummies can still be viewed today. You can see them in their temple settings here

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There is mention of monks sipping poisonous tea (to keep their bodies from decay after death), or monks allowing themselves to be holed up in a tight space with only a straw extending out from the space to breath from, and many other terrible things. Such denial, such loneliness, such agonies! I’d have died of terror before the poisonous tea and dehydration got me! This form of suicide was banned in the early 20th century…

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Now, I must note that some Buddhists continue to revere those ascetics that died in this way and are preserved in this fashion. Therefore, though I personally cannot comprehend it, I must allow that it is considered a sacred act by some. But oh, I’m sorry for those monks! My 13th century self would have snuck those monks some big bowls of rice and vegetables, and begged them not to carry through with their plan!

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So there are your mummy fun facts for the day folks, because I know how eager you were to learn all of this. And now that you’ve learned it, you can’t unlearn it, just like me!

…back to writing my ancient tale. Stay inspired folks!

A Cicada’s Ethereal Birth Part II.

Just last week, for the very first time, I witnessed a cicada hatching out of its beetle-like shell and spreading its wings. I was completely awed by the event, so small, yet so precious. You can check it out here!

Ever since then, I admit that I’ve been keenly eyeing that patch of dirt and shrubbery pot for another event. Where one cicada crawls up from the earth, perhaps there will be others. And last night, there was!

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Though I wish my photos had come out clearer, it is still easy to see how beautiful the creature’s wings are. This time, the cicada had not climbed so high on the potted plant, and emerged not from a split in its back, but from a splitting in the shell on top of its head…

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This one did not ‘vibrate’ and flutter like last week’s cicada, and was much smaller too. I wondered if this one wasn’t a female, and last week’s a larger male, but who knows? This one just looked like a girl…I mean, don’t you see her batting her infinitesimal eyelashes? Awww

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I must say, they unfurl those delicate little coils of tissue into incredible wings within a very fast period of time! Perhaps half an hour, and then clutch to their perch until those soft appendages are dried and hard. Here, her dainty sea-green legs cling to her shell, which she will soon abandon as she takes for the skies.

I’m patting my eyes with a kleenex. Aren’t you?

Don’t forget the lovely giveaway coming up this Friday for one of three pretty pieces of art! For more on the giveaway, and to enter a comment for your chance to win, click here!

A Spirited Tune!

I wanted to share this lively tune of the Renaissance, captured at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in 2015. May it put a smile on your face and a hop in your step today!

Only one final weekend left of the 2017 Bristol season, but it includes three days over the Labor Day weekend to make merry! Be sure to stop by The Quill and Brush on King’s Landing!

Also, don’t forget the giveaway here on Inspired By Venice! This Friday, three of Lita’s cheery floral basket prints, regularly on display at The Quill and Brush, will be given away! To check out the giveaway and enter for your chance to win, click here!

A Basket Full Of Flowers Giveaway!

Today is the day! The day for a giveaway! Why? Just because! Because summer is still as light and lovely as ever in these parts! Because the world is green and the flowers are full. And though the cool nights and autumn weather are fast approaching, today’s giveaway will have you ever reminded of the joys of summer!

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This pretty little piece is a print from one of my artist mother Lita’s paintings. Her precious works accompany my adventures at The Quill And Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire!