The Salad Hour

Greetings, Greetings!

It’s getting to feel like summer around here, and I’m so glad for it. Spring always seems to draw on for too long. Too many months of damp and chill when all one wants is sun and warmth!

I’ve been just about the busiest, and it’s only going to get more so for me! The Bristol Renaissance Faire opens in 5 weeks, along with my little book shop – The Quill and Brush. What a summer waits ahead! I hope to see you there!

I have a custom. It’s the salad hour.

Every evening I make a salad for supper. Usually accompanied by a little something extra (crackers, or a bite of this or that). I started this habit a while ago now. I guess it’s been some years, begun out of an awareness of what my body needed versus what I was accustomed to consuming.

I’m what one might call a creature of habit, so I don’t get bored with this. As long as there’s a bite of something additional with it (cheese, hard-boiled eggs, a piece of salmon, a piece of toast).

In any case, the right eating choice for my health has now turned into what feels like a habit of self-love and self-care. A time of day to relax, put something good into my body. To say nothing of the fact that making a salad takes minutes, with very few dishes messed. I love that.

Do you have a custom like this? Something good for your body or spirit that is just for you? If you don’t, I encourage it.

Love yourself. Love one another. 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.

Bed, Cookies, and Books…

I call this photo…

Bed, Cookies, and Books

Pretty much all you need to solve most of life’s problems!

Stay Inspired!!

{I’m currently reading Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman – Great book, great author!}

What are you reading? Come say hello on Goodreads!


The Good Plate…

In the past few years, health has been an important focus for me.

When I say focus however, I actually don’t do much thinking about it. I made some changes a while back, committed to them, and then put my brain on autopilot. But only because I knew it was important. My body was sounding the sirens. So I listened.

I could improve. Walking is a great love. I could do it more, and kick up that speed! I also can’t ever be satisfied with a wholesome breakfast. If it isn’t a muffin or pastry, I will cry in my cereal the rest of the day.

Muffin! Muffin! Muffin! – one of my favorite words in the dictionary.

I could also vary my vegetarian diet. I like kale, yet never purchase it, even though I know it’s good for you.

Note to self – Michelle, eat your kale.

In any case, I was thinking about health the other day. In spite of my shortcomings, I really do make a serious effort to eat for my health. And I thought – for all the vegetables I eat, aren’t we told that something magical happens? Like unicorns and glitter and stuff? I’m supposed to feel amazing, right?

I don’t have a direct example of who has done this brainwashing. The media, I guess. But I feel the message is always, if you do this-and-this-and-this, then you’ll have so-much-energy! And you’ll look fabulous. And you’ll glow. And you’ll probably have lots of friends, and a great personality too!

What?

I eat more spinach than Popeye, yet I still crawl to the coffee every morning.

Now, I’m just joking around here, but I was thinking about these ideas. That they were kind of funny. Yes, doing good for your body has many benefits. But for me, it’s been more of a, reaching for neutral ground sort of journey. Aspiring to just feel normal. Because, I’d lived it up in this body for so long, I’d forgotten what normal was. Or was supposed to be. If I ever even knew in the first place.

I’d forgotten to listen to my body.

I had to relearn.

To sum up, I think I’ve finally eaten enough carrots now, to just feel more or less, normal.

But glowing and full of energy and perfect skin and happy all the time? HA! HA! In this human and rebellious body – yea right!

What I mean to say is – don’t listen to all that noise out there. Just listen to you. Listen to your body.

It will tell you what you need.

Stay Inspired.

A Happy Heart…

Good Day, Great Day! Spring has arrived!!

Did you have a chocolate croissant with coffee this morning?

No!? Friend – what were you thinking?!

Chocolate…croissant…butter…bread…chocolate….



I was up early this morning. Seems even though I need the sleep, my body has chosen a life of rebellion. I’m just along for the ride.

Up before the birds? Here we go! Wheeeee!

But that meant a sunny hike to the grocery, and I love when necessary tasks are out of the way. It’s a beautiful day, so that may just mean a second walk before evening.

Wear myself out, and then maybe I can sleep in longer tomorrow. See how I have to resort to trickery?

I had a thought this morning. The thought was, that I was happy.

For some reason, isn’t that a difficult thing to say? Not that that means one is unhappy. But perhaps because nothing is ever quite what we think happiness should be – life is never that perfect picture. At any given time, there is stress, worry, heartache, trials – even as there are joys, accomplishments, contentment, love…

Therefore I gather, it’s when you have a happy heart, that it doesn’t really matter that life isn’t ‘just so’. After all, it never will be...

Stay Inspired.

Veggie Life – Veggie Love!

Good Day, Good Friends!

Wishing you most well today! Do say hello – it buoys my spirits to hear from you!



Veggies! Veggies! Veggies!

I love them – I live on them – I can’t live without them

I used to eat veggies straight out of the dirt in my Grandma Ina’s garden. True story. You know – if you could pick moments to go back to, a summer’s day in my grandma’s garden would be one of them. And she didn’t just grow your average garden items. She had gooseberry bushes that appeared monstrous, an overcropping of rhubarb (at least to my young eyes), and even a trellis bearing deep plum-colored grapes.

In the heat, those grapes used to be warm and sweet. I just picked ’em and ate ’em. But they had hard seeds, so I had to spit like a cowgirl.

And what I wouldn’t do for a slice of grandma’s warm rhubarb pie right now…with some vanilla ice cream…and coffee…


Ok – sorry, got a little off course there. PIE! I mean…VEGGIES!

I’m certain there are many different opinions about ready-made. Some find it convenient. Some shun it. Some believe it costly. Some not taking to the idea of their veggies being wrapped in plastic.

I get it – for certain. You may recall my post titled Prepackaged Lettuce? Let us not! – in which I shared how horribly ill I became from bad greens that came in a plastic tub. Greens that always seem to spoil before their date – ultimately wasting money. I said I wouldn’t be buying that kind anymore (however convenient).

I have not kept to that – but let’s just say I have a keener eye now when it comes to my lettuce purchases. If the greens in the package look even a hint poorly, I search for a better option. I want FRESH!


In any case – as a serious vegetarian whose diet is principally vegetables, I have come to really value ready-to-eat.

I purchase carrot sticks already cut, celery sticks already chopped, sugar snap peas that just need a rinse. I do this, because if I have to prepare veggies at lunch and dinner, every single day (I’m often in a rush, or tired, or just want to go watch a movie, man), I am less likely to keep my diet veggie-varied, or to eat what is best for me. I will move to something even more convenient, but less healthy.

Further, the packages are the perfect portions for me – I can throw a plate of mixed veggies together in 5 minutes, or toss them on salads, or grab a snack, or steam them up, so quickly and conveniently. I use every, single, veggie (unless it’s fallen on the floor – no 5 second rule for me). And these hardier veggies rarely go bad before I consume them all – I haven’t been wasting.

But this inspired post today, is really to say, take care of yourself.

Listen to your body. Do your best to do what is right for you. And, eat those veggies! Even if it means picking up a pack like one of these for your fridge for the week – I know in my case, it makes me more prone to nibble on the good stuff.

Wishing you good health!

When The Clock Strikes Cheese…

I am a creature of extreme habit. And I love it that way. Predictability and a schedule keep me centered and productive! And it also communicates to my body, when it’s time to go go go, versus slow down.

My weekdays follow a pattern. My weekends follow a pattern. Some patterns shift with the season (my summers are generally extremely busy) – yet even with change, comes a pattern.

This is the right way – for me.

Down the street, a church bell tolls the hours. 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m.

Dong! — Dong! — Dong!

I love it. I think I’ve cast open my windows and thrown my head out a zillion times, just to take in the bell. And the weather…and the stars…and the bell…

The bell is beautiful. I never grow tired of it.

When the 6 p.m. bell tolls, it is precisely (give or take) the moment I end my work day during the week. I then promptly go get a plate of cheese and crackers (or sometimes cheese and walnuts).

This moment of my day is a special transition – from work time, to my time. And the cheese puts a stamp on it. And like the bell, the cheese never gets old.

In fact with cheese – the older the better, of course!

Do you have a special part of your day? Something meaningful that you cherish?

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.

It Lightened My Heart…

Good Day, Good Friends!

What are you up to these days?

I’ve been quite focused on my work weeks, and in keeping my quiet little home life. Days of focus, simplicity, peace, and good health – this is my daily goal at present.

And also, to be consistently thankful for my blessings!

Some of my favorite things lately?

I’ve been fitness walking and then stretching in my living room some days – always followed up by a cold sparkling lime La Croix! I love my outdoor walks, as you know, and still traipse about in the snow and ice. But my indoor exertions have been a convenient, healthy, and inspiring lift to life! You know, there are so many videos online. I personally look for low impact, and positivity. These days, I’m not interested in giving myself miserable follow up soreness (no extreme exercising), nor in doing a session that makes me, however unintentionally, feel ‘bad’ about myself (my abilities, or level of fitness, or imperfections).

Let’s just say, I like to smile and feel silly and have fun when I’m swaying my hips!

I’ve also been enjoying reading, which I have been strongly craving lately. I anticipate reading more books this year than usual. I also crave the Bible’s words (Proverbs is my favorite – I nod at the wisdom in every verse). I’ve too, been delighting in several interesting programs and movies. I especially like those that expose me to new places, or experiences. Culture, or past events – things which I may never see, or directly understand myself, but get to learn something about. And, I am writing. Not a lot, but even slow progress gets you to your goal eventually! It is my hope that Still and Dragons At Dusk will belong to the world, and no longer to me, before long.

By the way, have you ever put sugar snap peas on your salad? Lovely. They are so fresh, crunchy, and earthy. I like to munch on a handful with my lunch – and then spend the afternoon with green in my teeth. That’s my pretty look.

Yesterday morning, I heard a bird singing outside my window. It was the song of spring, which if you have known decades of winter like I have, you can decipher. It didn’t matter the feet of snow on the ground, or that it is yet icy. The birds know what’s coming, and that song was filled with hope.

It lightened my heart.

Well, I’ve a bit of reading – writing – hip swaying – dishwashing to do before my Sunday is up. So I leave you with the wish, that you are keeping well and staying inspired.

All of my best.

Whatcha thinking about today?

Good Day Good Friends! Whatcha thinking about today?

I’m thinking, there’s never enough time to read all the books you want to!

I’m thinking that apples have been tasting like candy lately – I don’t remember them tasting like that when I was a kid.

I’m thinking how one should never leave a chocolate croissant unattended in the toaster oven, even for a second. And about how sitting in a cafe in Paris with one would really sound lovely, no?

I’m thinking how nice the house smells after I peel an orange. And about how I like to sniff tomato vines – so fresh and spicy! And about how fragrant the basil leaves I just bought are…

I’m thinking how much I love to spy prints in dried cement. Wouldn’t it be fun to print a book of them? Of precious paws, and fallen leaves, and other natural impressions.

I’m thinking how I crave a green juice everyday – it’s like, a feeling. But what is a craving, really? What’s the difference between a wanting, and a craving? This is a curious thought.

I’m thinking that though the snow and ice crystals have been magical, they are getting in the way of my treasure hunts! For lost coins, feathers, and pretty insects for my collection.

I’m thinking about how I’m becoming an instant coffee connoisseur! And about how enchanting it would be to be drinking an espresso in Venice right now. Oh, Venezia – you are the beating of my heart.

I’m thinking about how wonderful twinkle lights are, when strung inside the house. Cozy-calming-indoor-fireflies.

I’m thinking about how there are several owls in my neighborhood. Sometimes they hoot and call not far outside my window. Aren’t I lucky?!

I’ve heard a coyote howling, too. I’ve listened to his call on a starry moonlight night.

I’m thinking about how God must have made cotton candy sunsets just for our delight.

And about how I can’t wait for the newest flower on my Christmas cactus to bloom. The last one looked like a twirling pink-red fairy.

I’m thinking how good it feels to have healthy food in my home, and a roof over my head, and to have what I need. I don’t need much – so I guess I could say I have it all.

But mostly, I’m thinking about how important it is to keep counting my blessings…

Let us cherish the good things in life.

Stay Inspired.

A sip of sunshine…

Though I was tempted toward something sweeter to follow up my lunch bite today, I had an orange instead, and it was perfect. After, my house smelled like oranges, and that was perfect too.

I love anything citrus.

Some years ago, while out at the antique shops, I had in mind that I wanted a vintage glass juicer. But though I saw some transparent ones, and probably some other colors too, when I happened across this delightful yellow piece, I knew it was mine. There is nothing like a fresh glass of orange juice.

I can say however, making a glass takes a lot more oranges than you’d think, which can get rather expensive. A bag of oranges hardly gives you a few glasses. But, once in a while, it’s worth it for a sip of sunshine.

Stay Inspired.

The gift that it is, to be…

Greetings Kindred Spirits!

This morning, while running out for some necessary items, I decided I also needed some chocolate doughnuts. Needed them. I also grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, and some chocolate candies. Because, you know, I needed those too.

Humans. Aren’t we something? Ha!

{Starting Catherine Steadman’s Mr. Nobody. Her Something in the Water was a real page-turner. Loved it!}

Have you ever spent an entire day reading a book? I have. As if under a spell. Yes, I’d have been reading a good book, or splitting the time between several. But it wasn’t so much the book. Rather, the place I needed to be in at the time.

Just to sit very still. Very quiet. And give myself away to something other than every other thing we focus on.

I do this with writing too.

Is there something in this world that you do this with? Tinkering, gardening, cooking, binge watching (hey, it has its value)? Something that takes you to another zone?

As I took my evening walk yesterday, I thought…

I love being outside more than anything, at all, ever.

I just feel, better. And not that I’m feeling bad. It’s just, when I’m outside, it’s very right.

I say, thank God for shelter and modern conveniences. I embrace cozy. I love a full cupboard. A cushiony place to rest my head is a blessing. But you know, we weren’t made into that. In the beginning. We were formed in the wilderness. We are nature. And whenever I go outside, I feel it.

Once many years ago, I told my mother that if we ever knew the pending hour that I would pass, that I would want to be outside. You know, if I got sick or something. A lawn chair, the sky, and some trees. Just, outside. She said she’d do her best. I love my mom.

I know that may sound gloomy. But it isn’t. It’s spiritual. I simply share the sentiment, to illustrate what I feel, when I am outside.

What in this world inspires you that way? The sound of your family’s laughter? Moving song? A soul-warming meal? Painting? Running?

Isn’t it beautiful? All the different ways we can sense the gift that it is, to be?

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!

Are we ready for some cheer?!

Who is already ready for some holiday sparkle?!?

Me Me Me – ME ME!!!

But really? Will some mini jingle-bells and glitter applied to my face mask be too much?

Ha – HA!

For the record…I looked up how long candy canes last, since I just happened upon a forgotten one on the shelf in my cupboard. And guess what?

I’m eating it!!

Stay inspired friends!

Contentment…

With the last crust of a loaf in my cupboard, I made the tiniest sandwich for lunch today, and thought it was delightful, and was content…

Coffee, apple, nuts, and my little sandwich. I said a prayer of thankfulness, and felt glad.

Of course, the chocolate peppermint cookie at the end was an extra blessing! Ha!

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.

1 Timothy 6: 6-8 KJV

Stay Inspired!

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.

 

Shadow And Light…

Welcome, Friends!

I hope this message finds you well and content. I am both, here enjoying some quiet time in the treehouse…

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You know, I have never considered the play of ‘shadow and light’ as an artist must. But sometimes, I notice it with the way the light falls in my house. I think it is such a beautiful thing…

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I’ve yellow and white walls with large windows. It makes the rooms glow when the light casts in so lovely and warm at certain hours of the day. I notice too, the shift of light with the seasons. But no matter the month, the effect is serene…

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I was given a lovely orchid for my birthday. So cheerful the pink and orange-yellow striped blossoms!

Orchids are like people.

Each so very different from another, every one special and beautiful in its own way.

They are also fussy and hard to please.

HA!

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In an attempt to vary breakfast away from blueberry muffins (a.k.a., wean myself toward less sugary options) I sat over granola and berries a few mornings. Though delightful, it only further established that I have a veritable addiction to blueberry muffins…

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Upon my leaving a window screen slightly ajar, a guest buzzed right through my living room, only to find herself crashed in a dusty corner. I, of course, came to the rescue, gingerly pinching cobwebs from her wings.

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When eventually encouraging her release by holding my hand out the open window, as if in a daze, she would not alight. Perhaps it was because she’d just undertaken a crash landing. Or perhaps it was because I am the bug whisperer and she was under my spell…

How did I know she was a she? We had a telepathic conversation and talked girl talk. About wing iridescence and lash extensions and stuff. It’s a bug whisperer thing.

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I was also given a ghost book for my birthday, which I have been slowly savoring each night. There is nothing better than an allegedly true ghost story. Why a book of Wisconsin ghost stories? Perfect gift. I’ve already read every Illinois ghost story ever published.

Which by the way, any recommendations for true ghost story books out there? I’m absolutely bonkers for them, and would love to hear your favorites to consider for my future late night readings…

Bwahhaha….

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I’ve been having dreams about Faire. Ambling in costume. Wandering the beautiful acres of summer and Renaissance splendor. I do sometimes, since this magical place has been a part of my life for decades.

This Labor Day weekend would have been the final weekend of my 5th season in my Bristol shop The Quill and Brush. Our beloved festival did not open this summer, for obvious reasons. The very right thing to do, of course. In fact, it would have been impossible to “Open wide the gates!”. Yet still, what a disappointment for so many…

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My writing focus in the forthcoming months will be narrowed to completing Still, my creepy mystery about the bizarre happenings in an old arenaceous New York City museum…

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Autumn is of course, the perfect season for devising chilling endings. Don’t you think?

Shan’t we just take a quick step down into the museum basement?

With that said, I’m going to go spend a little time in the shadows with Still now. As always, I love hearing from you! Your comments and salutations are always a light!

Be well. Love one another. Stay Inspired.

The Gift of Good Things…

Good Day, Good Friends!

You know I’m wishing you well today! Most importantly healthy, but also wishing you happy

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I am taking my ease today, as it was a long few weeks. I need a quiet day.

I’m up in the tree house as usual. I really do have the prettiest trees, sunlight, and breeze…

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Home.

I am thinking about my birthday a bit. It’s September 2nd, and I am turning 40 years old. I’m not one to dwell about such things. But all of a sudden, I’m thinking about it…

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I’m going to be 40.

The day will come and go. Any regular Wednesday. And my 30’s will be gone from me. But I can say, I learned so much the last decade. About what I need to feel my most healthy and happy…

Which means I can enjoy, all those things I gleaned, in the years still to come…

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I went to my annual dermatologist appointment last Monday. The nurse spoiled me with samples when I asked for them. I left feeling like a bona fide kid in a candy store.

I am always prepared that they might need to cut something out right then and there, and leave me with a stitch or two to wait out a screening result…

This is one of the lessons I learned in my 30’s.

I learned to embrace and commit to going to the doctor. When you are young, you rest on your health. But young people don’t see the dark clouds that might be awaiting them. Many preventable.

You must go to the doctor for your regular screenings. It could save your life.

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I remember in my late twenties, a colleague who was talking at the lunch table about all the interesting results of her doctor’s visit. About how she could view it all online, and see things more in-depth. Really understand her body. I thought she was really brave.

I envied her. Why was I so scared?

I finally learned to toughen up too. And I’m so thankful I did.

Now may I toot my own horn?

My dermatologist said my skin was beautiful. I told her it’s because I’m a vegetarian and drink my green juice everyday.

Let me just bask, okay? Drinking a bottle of ‘front lawn’ and eating salad for dinner every night has to get me somewhere, right?

My dermatologist is so sweet.

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That is another lesson I learned in my 30’s.

Eat to feel healthy.

You know, I was lucky. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, and grandma had a garden. And grandma made me eat my veggies. And grandma made home cooked meals from scratch.

Of course, as you grow into adulthood, you have the choice to indulge, often to one’s detriment. And trust when I say, I have indulged friends. I lived one heck of a few decades, of pure, insane, sinful, indulging. I have lived. I lived a little too much…

And had one cheese plate too many.

And then, the foundation grandma wisely planted in me, came full circle, and I would need to call on it.

I started to get sick. From my overindulgence…

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You know, I remember grandma taking those lettuce greens right from the garden, shaking up a mason jar of homemade dressing, and eating that salad. She wanted me to have one too, but even though I did eat and learn to love my veggies, I wasn’t too keen on that salad. I was a kid. But today, I’m guided by that memory. Grandma Ina, I appreciate you so much. Thank you.

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Now, I think the most fortunate gift, is simply to have healthful food in my house…

A calm place to lay my head. To be able to afford to go to the doctor, and heed their advice. To have a good night’s sleep, with peace in my heart. To listen to myself, and know when I’m overdoing it. To not stir stress within myself or others, whenever I can avoid it. To tame the hornet I can sometimes be; to have more patience, acceptance, and love…

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I gained temperance in every way by the end of my 30’s.

It was sometimes painfully gained. But I am glad.

I’m ready 40. Let’s do this.

Stay Inspired.

Color Me…

Good Day, Dear Friends!

I hope this message finds you healthy, content, and staying inspired today.

I’d enjoy your messages in the comments this go…I always care to hear from you!

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Our usual eclectic post here on Inspired By Venice today? My brain is uncollected and molasses after a long week, so I think random will work best. Often, that’s more fun anyhow!

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First, for all you readers of my tales…I have signed my contract for the 2021 Bristol Renaissance Faire. God willing, I will see many of you again at The Quill and Brush, a year from now.

I miss sharing my works. I miss the fellowship and conversations. I miss the magic. I miss you.

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I of course, don’t know what will happen. No one does. Progress to slow the virus is backsliding, and I can’t say when large gatherings will even be sound or permissible again. I personally hope, for a safe and effective vaccine soon.

Only time will tell. But for today, let us do our best to stay inspired

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I have decided to start a new collection. I am collecting feathers. No, I’m not worried about bird germs. I’m tired about being worried about germs. I’m going to pick up all the pretty feathers. And keep them. And collect them. And look at them.

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So if any of my friends or family find something special for me, please collect it. I will be delighted. And perhaps you, my friends here on Inspired By Venice, can help me identify some of them? The blue jay feather is my particular favorite so far…

The feathers will be joining my other passions for jumping spiders, lake glass, and found coins…

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I’m also at present, taking an interest in sidewalk animal prints.

I’ve discovered I know nothing about identification, as aware of nature as I thought I was. They all look like raccoon or black bird prints to me. Perhaps you can help me identify those too?

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My interests go to show that you don’t have to spend a penny to entertain yourself. I believe this to be a gift of being an only child. Inventing one’s own amusements.

I also believe in small delights, and taking simple, yet good care of myself. Here are some of my other current favorites…

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My closest know, or have at least observed over the years, that I can exhibit some sensitivities. It’s really just in recent years however, that I’ve even begun to acknowledge and explore this. I think sometimes, it isn’t until we are older, that we are more fully able to understand who we are, and how best to live our happiest and healthiest selves…

I was recommended the book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron. I have not completed reading it yet, but I’ve found myself in the pages. On the checklist for a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’, I meet many.

For instance, noise. It has always jarred me. Consistent and loud noises are the worst, and can quite untangle me.

Further, I used to believe that I favored one-on-one conversations, because I could make a deeper connection communicating that way. I’ve never preferred getting together with a group of friends. I now understand, it’s because when a whole bunch of people are talking, I get terribly overwhelmed. My feathers ruffle. I begin to exhibit impatience and irritation. Oh no!

Of all things, I thought this for certain, was an outcome of being an only child. That I wasn’t accustomed to cacophony. I’ve even been sometimes shamed, called selfish, for being less than easy going. Understandable response, sometimes warranted, at others unkindly.

But the truth is, God made me this way. I naturally do better in quiet, and that’s okay.

All of this to say…one of the beautiful gifts in life are the moments we can better understand and love ourselves. This also helps us to better understand and have patience, for others.

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Yet, what’s the favorite right now? Of course, the notion of growing in wisdom and grace. But also, these Sleep Pretty earplugs by Hearos! 32 NRR (noise reduction rating).

Let me tell you friends, a mouse could sneeze in the other room, and I will wake up. And this woman needs her sleep. A baby bird could peep outside the window, and stir me from fruitful writing. Construction noise? Well, that would simply be end game. Let’s just say, I’ve tried many earplugs. I sleep every night in earplugs. I’ve ordered special earplugs. And I wonder how they still haven’t invented the ultimate, and most comfortable earplugs yet. Most, aren’t all that effective.

C’mon, you inventors, you!

But the Sleep Pretty plugs…excellent. Best I’ve found.

Are you like me? Buy them. Hearos, I’ll be your spokeswoman…

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I’ve also recently discovered a favorite candy bar. Chocolove‘s peppermint in dark chocolate.

I’ve said it before…my mama must have been eating mint chocolate chip ice cream when I was in her belly, because I’m bonkers for mint and chocolate. This bar is good. Perfect, actually. This brand, very good. The salted almond butter in dark chocolate…heaven.

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What’s even sweeter? Their packaging has words of love inside.

Oh Romeo! I swoon…

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But a gal can’t live on chocolate alone. She must have her fruits and veggies…and her electrolytes!

Evolution Fresh organic cold-pressed juices have for years now, been one of the loves of my life. A green juice sets me right. When I need greens right now, a bottle of Green Devotion is a gift from Eden. Good stuff. The best stuff.

I’ll be their spokeswoman, too!

Love my veggies.

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And of course, nature will always be my favorite. Look how pretty…

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And precious…baby bunny…

Other current favorites?

Have you seen The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix?

Amazing!

Love, love, love it! If you need some magic in your life, it is so special. And, so exciting! It actually took my breath away, I was so concerned for the gelflings!

Side note; my mom called me a gelfling when I was little. She said I looked like one.

And that’s why I write fairy tales. Because I’m secretly part gelfling.

My mom said so. And moms always tell the truth. Like, about Santa, and the Tooth Fairy and stuff…

I also recently watched the Lenox Hill series about Lenox Hill hospital in New York City. This show humbled my heart so deeply, there are no words. Thank you, to our medical workers. Thank you.

I was also, so very touched by the documentary series, Love on the Spectrum, about individuals on the autism spectrum out in their search for love. This program was beautiful!

And of course, there is always the beauty of music. I ever enjoy classical, or electronic music that is emotive and atmospheric. Makes me imagine. Makes me feel. Like I’m running through a vast field of grass, or sailing a troubled sea, or floating into deep space, or peering out from a castle way up high, into a dark forest…

There are a handful of artists that I watch for, for moving new gems. Active Child, is one of them. Song Johnny Belinda makes me envision riding into medieval battle! Love it.

But today, I wanted to share Active Child’s Color Me.

Why? The lyrics.

Essentially, ‘color me’ any way you will, but I’ll always bleed red. For me, the song just captures the notion of being human. Beyond everything, we all just need love and compassion, and to be known for who we are.

Love that.

Stay Inspired.

 

Cool As A Cucumber…

I’m getting older…

Women shy about their age. But I don’t care a stitch. I’m turning 40 in September…

Maybe because, I look to both my grandmothers. And they’ve always been so beautiful.

I know, from a lifetime of knowing them, just how beautiful they are. My Grandma Ina’s red hair, infectious laughter, bright intelligence, and endless curiosity. My Grandma Novak’s silver head, confident grace, cleverness, and dedicated nature.

Let’s just say, if I’m following in the light of their way, it’s a lovely path…

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I like my age. I think being young was hard. A thousand lessons learned that I’m very glad to have behind me. And, though I can’t claim to be wise, I am wiser. And that’s a good place to be.

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I thought about this earlier today. I left half day early from work to go to the dentist. I go to Smileworks in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, worth the drive into the maze of congested city neighborhoods (seems traffic is right back up to where it used to be) because they are amazing.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #1: When you find a doctor, dentist, stylist, hypoallergenic-not-going-to-make-me-get-hives-and-an-asthma-attack-body-product, etc….stick with it.}

But as I was driving home, taking it easy on this hot and beehive streets sort of day, a vehicle started honking aggressively behind me. I hadn’t stalled to take my left turn, but a woman appeared instantly enraged at my not hitting the petal and burning some rubber…

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After my left turn was complete, with two lanes now available in my direction, I actually did slow down to let this other vehicle pass. I don’t need that stress. Let’s let the woman-on-fire pass me by.

But what did she do? Pulled into the lane next to me, slowed down to drive beside me, unrolled her window, screamed expletives that were downright nasty, eventually to speed off. I glanced at my speedometer, finding that even paused down, I was going the speed limit.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #2 (also straight from the mouths of my folks): Don’t let anyone on the road make you react. You just take your time. It’s not worth your safety.

Amazingly, and I credit my age and experience on this one, I remained as cool as a cucumber…

[Cucumbers on my salad and on my sandwich! So summer! So refreshing!]

Truthfully, that woman was doing herself harm by getting so upset. That couldn’t have been good for her blood pressure. Or her soul. My word.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert # 3: Find empathy. Even when it’s difficult. And forgive quickly.}

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I decided to forgive the woman instantly in my mind.

If you’d seen it, I know it was road-rageous. Truly. Pulling up beside someone to honk, scream, and profane (it was yikes), borders on threatening behavior. It’s not right. However…do I remember ever getting over-the-top-upset on the road? Sure. I blush at all of the impatience I’ve had in my life. Life is stressful. It can make you bubble.

But nowadays I think…that car in front of you? Maybe that person just lost their loved one. Maybe they feel nervous on the road. Maybe they are a new driver. Maybe they are driving home from the dentist. Maybe they are overworked. Maybe they’re getting on in years.

Maybe, it doesn’t matter. Maybe…we should just be kinder to one another, through our impatience.

Maybe…it’s just me.

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{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #4: Eat lots of cookies after visiting the dentist. Didn’t have a cavity this go around? Time to live a little more on the wild side!}

I must confess however, I have been harboring a secret impatience lately. You may have guessed from these photos, but how tempted I’ve been to cut off all my own hair!!!

My head is a wild mess (you can’t see the terrible tangles…but they are there). I swear, faeries dance on my head when I sleep every night. And oooohhh, that makes me mighty aggitated! And no. It’s not because I do, and always will, refuse to brush my hair. It’s faeries. Sometimes they leave glitter, and twigs, and feathers and stuff.

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Do you believe me?

This brush my Mama bought me ages ago (I gather she was hinting at something), is still in the packaging. We should have a blog giveaway! I mean, I’m not going to use that contraption.

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I guess where stubbornness resides, wisdom still won’t grow with age.

But don’t worry…I made an appointment. My hair will be cut by a professional. This time.

Stay cool. Don’t stress. Eat your veggies. Don’t honk and curse on the road. Don’t squash a faerie if you find one dancing on your head. They’re endangered.

Grow in wisdom. Grow in patience.

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!

 

Lord, Hear My Voice…

Taking a peaceful moment today, I started a little kitchen herb garden. It will be a delight as the days go by, to watch it grow…

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1: 11-12: KJV

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They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Psalms 126: 5: KJV

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

Psalms 120: 1: KJV

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

Psalms 130: 2: KJV

Pray for one another. Lift up one another. Take care of yourself. Keep faith and an inspired heart.

Holding Down The Fort…

Hello, hello! Are you staying inspired today?

Some days, I’ve got to dig a little deeper for my inspiration. Like today. I can’t look outdoors for it, that’s for sure. Here in Evanston, we’ve got a snowy, wet, blustery, dismal ick going on. But that’s the Midwest in January!

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Want to know the not-so-nice place my non-stop-imagination-crazy-brain went this morning? I was thinking about how quickly the snowstorm blew up yesterday. I had mentioned to a co-worker late yesterday afternoon, that I believed we were expecting 3 to 5 inches. That’s what the report said anyway. At that moment, there wasn’t a snowflake to be seen. Within ten minutes, I kid you not, the world outside was going white, we were in a snow globe, a layer already on the ground. Within about an hour, the conditions were bad and the snow already quite accumulated…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

I walk to and from work, so I was worn after a long week, and a great trudge through the cold and snow last night. I was so thankful for the safe, warm, cozy little home I have. And, I’d just picked up some new and very delicious vanilla black tea! As I looked out the window, sipping away, spreading out all the things I’d traipsed home in to dry out, I thought yikes! What a storm!

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[Image by Lense_n_Pen from Pixabay]

So, what was that awful thought I had this morning? I was thinking again about my cozy nest out from the elements. And then, I thought about how hard it would have been for pioneers back in time, who built their little homesteads in the middle of nowhere, out on vast flat fields, with nothing to see for miles around…

Well, I’d learned as a kid in school, just how life-threatening instant blizzards were for pioneers. How, a hapless individual could walk just a short distance out from their house, and be immediately lost, unable to even see well enough to get back to their front door. Uhm, that’s terrible…

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[Image by mbll from Pixabay]

So, which teacher when I was a kid, put that everlasting, horrible thought into my head? The idea that dozens of homesteaders who’d stumbled out of their doors in a blizzard, to tie up a horse or a cow or something, froze to death in the snow, mere feet from their houses. And there, a loved one was waiting, fretting from the threshold, unable to step out from the safety of the shelter, lest they became lost too. That’s really tragic.

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[Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay]

Well, I guess I’m inspired today that I’m not a pioneer from the 1800’s…

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[Image by Successful4 from Pixabay]

It was probably that same teacher who gave us the most awesome assignment ever! Each student had to pretend they were a pioneer, traveling across the U.S. in a wagon with their family. We had to write a journal, and draw pictures, of our imagined journey. It had to be filled with both the good and the bad. A fatal snake bite one day, a swim in a refreshing stream the next. A broken wagon wheel alternating with making new friends with another caravan, etc. I had a field day imagining all the wild things that were happening to my little pioneer self!

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[Image by Jackie Samuels from Pixabay]

Moving on from luckless pioneers…

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Do you know what smell I think is amazing? Another item sparked from my childhood. Tomato vines. They have this spicy, earthy, strong scent that is difficult to describe. I remember it from my Grandma Ina’s garden on a hot summer day. And now, I sniff my tomato vines when I make a salad…

That may, or may not, be a true story.

Moving on from sniffing tomato vines…

I wanted to share a film that I thought was a real gem. The Good Catholic.

A new priest covering a late night confession meets a young woman who confesses something unexpected. His life gets a bit of a shake-up from there, as he continues to encounter this gal. All the while, his interactions with the two other more senior priests that he works alongside, add another interesting layer of things for this priest to ponder…

I liked it so much for the way it spoke on faith, love, and compassion. Also because it was funny and witty throughout. I thought the acting between the three priests was perfectly executed. And too, there’s a sweet friendship. A really nice movie.

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To digress, have you ever paired walnuts and cheddar cheese together? Best snack ever.

Well, I’m off to get things done, while staying cozy in my house. I’ll just hold down the fort right here. Most likely with a veggie pizza…

Stay Inspired!

Go Get Yourself A Cup Of Coffee…

I was pondering this morning, how many years I have lived in Evanston, for I didn’t originally come from here. By my calculations, it’s already been about 13 years in this town. It seems like a twirl of a wand, but a lot of life happened in that time…

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[Downtown Evanston, Dec. 2019]

Evanston abuts Chicago to the north, along Lake Michigan…

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[View of Chicago from Evanston]

It’s urban, yet comfortable and traversable. I prefer walking to my destinations however, or sometimes taking the L train, rather than driving. Seems the parking, and the bustle, give me the nerves these days. Things like that didn’t bother me all those years ago, but sensitivities can change…

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[Evanston mural below the train tracks. L train or Metra, either shortly gets you to downtown Chicago]

I remember once all those years ago when I hadn’t been here all that long, living in a studio apartment above several restaurants, I experienced a bout of sadness and ennui. My mom reminded me of what was right outside my door. She told me to “Go get yourself a cup of coffee.”

 

Newport Coffee House in Evanston is a real treat.

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[Sandwiches at Newport Coffee House-Evanston. I tried the salmon-egg-avocado. Really delicious!]

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[Healthy house-made choices at Newport Coffee House-Evanston]

[Newport Coffee House]

She told me to walk around, look at the shops, maybe get myself a new sweater. She was right. I was young, lived in a nice city, so many adventures yet ahead of me. And for a little distraction, all I had to do was take a walk

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[Evanston’s beloved Bennison’s Bakery]

[Bennison’s Bakery Treats]

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[Every delight you’d wish for at Bennison’s Bakery-Evanston]

All these many years later, seems I’ve quite adopted her advice. Whether anxious, restless, down, needing exercise, frustrated, want some fresh air, adventure, or to notice something new. Or even, just because

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Taking a walk is a wellness-booster in general. And though I don’t always get myself a coffee (have to watch that afternoon caffeine nowadays), mom’s wisdom is as applicable today as it was a decade ago, and it always will be. What she was saying was, no matter what’s going on in your life, you’ve got to take advantage of what you’ve got right now…

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However you apply that to your life, Go Get Yourself A Cup of Coffee is a catchall for…go turn on the music and dance a song…go relax by making yourself a meal…take 30 minutes to read a book you enjoy…go birdwatching…make a call to a friend you miss…get out for an amble on a nature path…go sit in the coffee house…

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[My cozy Evanston safe-haven in life’s wilderness! Love my home.]

Just remember to do something that makes you feel happy, well, thankful, and in the moment…

Thank you Mama, for your wisdom!

Stay Inspired!

…would love to hear from you friends! Do comment and say Hello! Tell me of some of your favorite delights in life! What makes you happy and 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!

Come Along On My Adventure…

For me, any outing can be an adventure, planned or unplanned! Last night I had a little trouble falling asleep, in part because I was excited for what was to come today. The opening of Evanston’s outdoor farmer’s market for the season! And, Evanston’s Unitarian Church’s annual rummage sale! I woke up before 6:30 a.m., and there was no going back to bed. Adventure time!

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Evanston was blessed with a beautiful day today! Still a bit chilly, yet sunny, green, and full of birdsong. I’ll take it!

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I figured for the first day of the farmer’s market, it would be packed with a crowd. But I was there pretty early, so I had first pick of the Swiss chard and radishes (my favorites)…

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The fresh air, the flowers, the veggies, the baked goods…love it!

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I was even able to purchase my city beach tag early with a discount! With as busy as my summers are, I don’t get to swim as much as I’d like, but I’ll be sure to fit in at least a little time on the sand. I’ve already got my beach pass! All set!

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Don’t you just want to swoon over these potted lovelies? Might pick up one of these next time…

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I did grab a cold pressed juice (the more it smells and tastes like a freshly-cut front lawn, the better) from City Press. Amazingly fresh and delicious! I think I’ll try a different juice each visit to the market…

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I walked away with some veggie goodness for supper tonight, and happiness in my soul. Next up, the rummage sale!

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The rummage sale felt much busier than the farmer’s market. Rooms full of used goods, at bargain prices. You never know what you’re going to find, and the fun is in the hunt! Clothing, furniture, dishes, books…oh my!

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Unfortunately, I have to say that I got a little claustrophobic right from the start. The tables can be close together, with a lot of folks searching for treasures. So fun, but more and more, I find I can get a little dizzy in such situations. Still, I managed to catch a glimpse of all there was to see, and walked away with this basket to use at faire for one dollar!

A morning full of adventure, and I was already home before noon! Nap time…

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What else has been keeping me inspired? Editing, writing, writing, editing. I go to places far away, and all of my own imagining…

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Trying on costume pieces that my mama made, to see what fits for this summer…

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Ever trying my best to eat my healthiest…

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Chicago’s Soul Vegan lasagna makes my heart sing…oh heavens, that lasagna!

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And delighting myself with the little things. My small local grocer had some pink roses that were looking a bit droopy. The gal at the check-out was encouraging me to look at other flowers, probably thinking I’d get the roses home and they’d fail overnight…

I wanted them anyway, and they perked up and smelled so pretty once I put them in water. I buried my face in them one million times. Small pleasures are my whole world.

Thanks for joining me on my adventure! Stay Inspired Friends!

Finding Inspiration!

Hi Folks! So, yesterday was beautiful! Warm, sunny, blue skies, lovely spring flowers lifting their heads…and today we have a blizzard here in Evanston. Crazy snow. I scraped all the icy muck off of my car to take a quick trip to the grocery today, and by the time I got out of the store, I had to do it all over again. I’d almost think this was unbelievable, if I hadn’t lived in northern Illinois all my life. I’m trying not to cry. Keep it together, Michelle…let’s stay inspired!

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Well, while having a sip of cold brewed coffee and a blueberry muffin today, the words God is Good went through my mind, and I really meant it. I’m very inspired by blueberry muffins. I love blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins are at the top of my list of things I love above all things. How can a mid-April snowpocolypse get me down when I have blueberry muffins?

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I’m also sorting through a box of costumes my mama handed over. Beautiful things that she made for me to wear to the Bristol Renaissance Faire many years ago. Most of the pieces I can once again (miraculously in spite of my insatiable love for blueberry muffins…and all things bread…and cheese) fit into. I’m going to puzzle together some fun costumes for this summer!

Hey RENNIES! How long until the Bristol Renaissance Faire opens?! Opening day, July 6th! I CAN’T WAIT! Huzzah!!!

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Speaking of the faire, I’m already so very excited that I’ll be sharing a handful of new tales with readers at my shop The Quill and Brush this summer! Who’s ready for some new reading adventures?! And for those of you looking forward to getting lost in my Ancient world…my author’s proof just shipped. I’ll be having a read of it later this week, which will better gage the exact release date.

Know what it’s like when you finish writing a book, and then the first copy shows up in the mail? It’s BETTER than Christmas morning, my birthday, and an Easter basket combined. Just sayin’…

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And now you can have a little laugh on me. So, anyone who knows me knows, that everywhere I go, a can of La Croix is in my hand. I love fizzy water. It is also on the top of my list for all things I love above all things. And, being a total quirkster, I enjoy lining my cans of La Croix up in the fridge. My own little army of fizzy waters. Love it!

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So this week, always having my La Croix all nice and in a row, I open the fridge and one can is like…way aways from the other cans. Hmmm…I live alone, so how’d that La Croix get way over there? I decide that I must have just bumped some things around and didn’t notice? So I move the can back and go about my day…

The next day, I go in the fridge and what? Another La Croix has taken a road trip. Another day, 3 cans have shifted. Being Michelle, I of course initially wonder if I either don’t have a La Croix drinking ghost, or if someone has been in my place. Yikes! (I only imagine these things because I apparently enjoy creeping myself out).

I digress, but it actually mentioned the paranormal in my horoscope the other day. And though I don’t believe in horoscopes myself, they really are quite amusing…

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[Image by Rirriz from Pixabay]

Truth is, my fridge is on the fritz. It’s making noise, which I assume is causing vibrating, which I assume makes La Croix cans skate across a cool surface. But what was fun about the La Croix mystery? It reminded me of the Sailing Stones in Death Valley, California! If you don’t know what those are, I entreat you to read about them! So, so fun! Science is so cool…

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[Image by Jon Sullivan on Wikipedia]

So I’ve shared a little bit of what’s keeping me amused and inspired. What’s inspiring you? My very best wishes to each and every one of you today!

At least the sky is blue…

Hello, hello! The sky here in Chicago is blue, and for that I am thankful! What could be more uplifting than a blue and sunny sky?

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It is at least offsetting the fact that I’ve come down with my second virus in a single month. Simply terrible, I say! Who sneezed on me?!

There is this line in the 1996 film Emma (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) that always makes me chuckle. Mr. Elton (played by Alan Cumming) says, “There is nothing worse than a sore throat. Its effects are exceedingly bleak.” Very true, Mr. Elton. Very true.

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But before I settle in with tea, edits, and a nap, I wanted to share a simple and delicious salad that I made last weekend. It would make a great weeknight meal, if you need an idea! In winter, it is of course the first temptation to eat all the heavy comfort foods. I’ll have a slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, one plate of roasted potatoes, and a slab of lasagna please. Oh, and a slice of tiramisu…and some french fries. This salad was my attempt to still try and keep some focus on the veggies. It was delicious!

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Start with some rice, arugula, and veggies of choice. I went with a roasted red pepper & basil quinoa & brown rice mix, fresh red pepper, onion and cucumber…

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Start up your rice (which I cooked in my handy-dandy rice cooker since I lack the talent for making a proper pot of rice without it)…

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Cut up your veggies and let the rice cool off…

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And then mix it all together! For two days, I enjoyed this wonderful salad for lunch. Healthful, and the recipe cost less than $10! I plan to make this again, perhaps even as a meal prep when I know I’ll be on-the-go and will need something healthy to come along…

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So…Chicago is expecting severely low temperatures tonight and tomorrow, after the blizzard-like conditions we had the last few days. Did I mention two saintly dudes on the street helped me push my car out of the snow yesterday? Thank you, you good Samaritans you! Tonight will drop to negative 20, and tomorrow will be a high of negative 12. Additionally, the wind chill will make conditions even more dangerous. I might just have to have that slice of deep dish pizza for supper tonight, as buffer against the cold, and for my sore throat of course.

Stay warm! Stay safe! Eat your veggies! Don’t sneeze on anyone and give them a sore throat! Be a good Samaritan! Stay inspired!

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!

Beware The Ninja Pepper…

Hello folks! Today, I invite you to enjoy a good chuckle on my expense. After all, we all need to laugh more, it’s good for the health!

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Last night, I was perusing the produce section of my local grocer. Often there are appealing ‘ready-made’ options along with the vegetables. In past weeks, I’ve tried two kinds of stuffed portabella mushrooms from this section, filled with garlic, spinach, cheese and such. They made some rather delicious vegetarian dinners for me!

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I’d once noted some stuffed green peppers and thought I’d like to give them a go. The next time I saw them in the produce section, I was going to pick them up. A little spread of cream cheese over crisp green pepper, some cheddar sprinkled over top. They looked bright and fresh, and some melty cheese would make them even more delicious…

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Last night, I saw the peppers and snatched them up. When I got home, I heated half of the peppers up for supper, excited to try something a little different. Right when I was the hungriest for dinner and the peppers were hot, I portioned out a plate and cut a very big piece of pepper. I then forked it up, and put it into my mouth…

Now, in hindsight, I question why I didn’t realize that those peppers were not regular green peppers? They plainly looked like homemade jalapeno poppers. The peppers were long and not round. But when I opened the package, they sure smelled like fresh-cut green peppers! Was I just willing them to be what I wanted them to be?

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[Photo of the offending peppers uncooked]

So I take that first good crunch right into the mouthful and immediately understand that there has been an error. I glance down at my dinner plate, full of jalapenos, while this first bite makes me want to pass out on the kitchen floor. Call me a baby if you want, but I have no tolerance for a mouthful of jalapeno. I’m now in Hades and my nose and eyes are starting to run. But then something even crazier happens…

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No lie, I went deaf. I was still standing there trying to swallow the first bite, and all of the sudden my hearing goes from normal, to as though wads of thick cotton were in my ears. I’m underwater, and all the background noise is muffled out. I was of course too distressed over the fire in my mouth to be much concerned with my hearing, but the sensation of deafness was memorable…

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“My ears feel funny! Do they look normal to you?”

It took about 20 seconds for my hearing to return, just as I was frantically dumping the steaming peppers into the trash and running for kleenex. Dinner was foiled! Ninja peppers! Sneak attack! You tricked me!

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“Guys? Guys! I can’t hear anything! Where’d everybody go?”

Once fully recovered and munching on an alternative meal choice, I knew I had to look this up. Temporary deafness from eating a hot pepper? I certainly couldn’t be the only one.

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Turns out, I’m not. “Could Spicy Foods Cause Temporary Deafness?” By Hearing Wellness was an enlightening article. Granted, sounds like digesting some of the world’s hottest peppers would more likely cause such a thing. But just a shout out to otolaryngologists…I didn’t eat a Ghost, Viper, Reaper or Komodo Dragon pepper, just a wimpy Jalapeno, and it happened to me

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“Get it out! Just get the hot pepper OUT!”

*An otolaryngologist is an ear, nose and throat doctor. I learned how to pronounce that word here.

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To summarize the article, there are two theories. Either nerves are temporarily affected, or mucus buildup (which rushes in to save you from the burn) is the cause. If I were to take a good guess, it felt to me like some nerves went berserk!

*Berserk: Violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged. (Dictionary.com)

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“I’d rather eat this table than another jalapeno!”

Yikes! But you know, let’s just say this was karma. For, once upon a time when I was a kid (but old enough to know better), I told a much younger cousin to take a big bite of a pepper from our grandma’s garden. I told her it was not the hot kind, even though I knew that it was. Yes, even nice girls play not so nice (albeit harmless) jokes for a giggle! When the poor mite bit into the pepper and began to cry, grandma scolded me knowingly, but I claimed innocence. Naughty indeed! Well, I received my comeuppance…

 

To Travel, To Eat!

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy culinary travel series. You know how folks get caught up binge watching their favorite tv programs? Well, I’ve got to say that I’ve been swept away with several shows that focus on cooking and trekking the globe. Primarily because they combine two of my favorite things, eating and seeing new places. If you’re as nuts as I am for travel and food, you may want to check these out…

Somebody Feed Phil is a Netflix original. I consider this show to be vibrant, cheerful and upbeat. The host Phil Rosenthal is hilarious. You’ll definitely enjoy a few good chuckles! Some of the destinations are Saigon, Lisbon and Mexico City, just to name a few. If you’re looking for an entertaining food program, I highly recommend this one!

Another food-travel show that I highly recommend is Ainsley Eats The Streets. I like Ainsley Harriott’s zeal for trying culturally important street food from around the world. He also creates dishes along the way, inspired by the places he visits, places like Iceland, Istanbul and Barbados. His sideways glances at the camera when something he’s ordered isn’t so tasty, will make you grimace and laugh. Great show!

Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and Parts Unknown are both excellent travel programs with more than you’d expect on the menu. More than just new food in new destinations, these shows dig deeper into history and culture, giving you new perspectives of our world. They are each sprawling shows that take you anywhere you’d ever imagined. I find this host grittier and more serious than the others, but so are many of the themes. Endlessly traveling to so many far-flung corners of the globe, must have proved difficult for everyone involved in production. These shows deserve some serious credit!

Happy eating! Safe travels! Stay Inspired!

My Herb Kit: A Poem

Oh goodness, oh my! A package for me! From a dear thoughtful cousin, oh what could it be?

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A housewarming gift! Something special, I know. Oh where are the scissors, let’s not open this slow!

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Such a festive bag, and one special note too! Shall we see what’s inside? Oh yes, let’s do!

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Tiddo, my Tiddo! Is it something real good? Something you might like to nibble, even if I won’t like that you should?

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Oh heavens! Oh my! It’s just what I need! Some fresh bright herbs, how delightful indeed!

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There’s basil and chives, parsley and cilantro too. I’ll always have fresh greens on hand to use!

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Thank you to my cousin, you really are so kind! Stay tuned as I plant, much green in my kitchen we will soon find!

All you need is a rice cooker and some imagination…

As the proverb goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing was truer last night when I made a complete meal, all in my rice cooker! Now why would I do that? Well, I moved two weeks ago and suddenly realized I was without a microwave, toaster, or an oven that I deemed safe enough to use until it was replaced. It is quite an older model and I’m not taking any chances fussing with gas, pilot lights and matches…

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I never knew how much one could miss a hot meal until I had no appliance to procure one. Especially as it is winter. Of course, there’s always the temporary fix of ordering a meal for delivery, like the Chinese takeout I enjoyed one evening. But delivery isn’t often the healthy choice, nor is it economical for regular meals. Further, how would I reheat any leftovers?! I’ll be having a new oven installed soon, but in the meanwhile, I needed to make a hot meal for myself, no matter how simple. But how?

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As I was considering how I might get away with lighting a bonfire on the public sidewalk to roast up a medieval feast (seriously needing a hot meal that isn’t pizza delivery), I thought I vaguely remembered that the rice cooker my mom bought me some years back mentioned ‘steamer’ on the box. Hmmm, could I steam up a meal in my rice cooker?! Could I make, salmon? What I wouldn’t do for a piece of fish!

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So as the snow fell last night, dark and chilly out of doors, I remained cozy while experimenting with my Black & Decker rice cooker. I placed a piece of salmon on the steamer dish that I found (never used) in the rice cooker box, poured some water into the pot, put on the lid and eagerly awaited the outcome…

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How disappointed I would be if the experiment failed! How I kept my fingers crossed! But one of the pictures on the rice cooker box showed shrimp being steamed. If you could steam shrimp, why not salmon?

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Meanwhile, I poured some peas and beans into a mini tin. I was hungry. Couldn’t I steam up some sides too?

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I plunked them in…

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And then put the salmon back on top to keep warm…

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The result was a delicious hot meal, simple in every way, but wonderful to me. The salmon was perfectly cooked and very tasty! I grinned mightily with my cleverness as I left not a bean or pea on my plate! This meal was frugal too, $3.99 for the salmon, $1.25 for the beans and $.99 for the peas. Less than $6.25 for dinner! Ha-ha-HA!

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Thank you to my mama for this rice cooker! She bought it for me when I’d mentioned how terrible I was at cooking a proper pot of rice. A rice cooker took care of that, perfect rice every time. Tonight, I’m going to attempt some other experiment! A baked potato? Steamed rice and veggies? Perhaps a hot bowl of soup? The sky is my limit now! Me and the Black & Decker are best buds forever!

What should I make? Stay inspired folks!

Delicious Mushroom Toasties, And Some Decadent Bruschetta Too!

As you might recall, I consider myself the Mad Hatter of toasties. I’ll put almost anything on a piece of bread and throw it into the oven for a good crisping up. Especially on a freezing winter night! I’d had a craving recently for some mushrooms, and thought to make a creamy pasta dish with them. But instead, I made the most delicious toasties imaginable…

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First I sautéed red onions and a bit of fresh minced garlic in a wee drizzle of olive oil and Earth Balance vegan butter, low heat, stirring frequently until they were cooked and soft. Add extra olive oil if more moisture is needed…

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I then tossed in chopped mushrooms, the common white button variety, and splashed in balsamic vinegar. I’m crazy for the sweet tang of reduced balsamic, and toss my veggies in balsamic in the skillet all the time. It will burn though (which tastes terribly icky), so again, low heat while tossing often. Let those veggies soak in the flavor and allow the balsamic to steam out its bitterness…

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Top pieces of Italian bread with this colorful, flavorful, appetizingly-smelling concoction and sprinkle on sea salt and pepper. Try not to spoon it all into your mouth directly, because that can happen. Place into the oven until the bread crisps up and the whole house (not just the kitchen) smells like Heaven…

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Or, if it is a sub-zero winter evening, dark out at only 4:30 p.m., and you can’t pass up that half-tub of parmesan shavings calling your name from the fridge, do what I did and pour liberally, your mouth watering as you await the cheesy melt. Vegans, look away…

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I spent a little more prep time on these toasties to allow the onions, garlic and mushrooms to really cook down and get flavorful. It was worth babysitting the pan, for they were absolutely amazing. Very inexpensive to make, vegan if you don’t add cheese, a hearty vegetarian dinner if you do. Add some simple mixed greens to the side, and a magnificent meal awaits you!

And now for the most sinful bruschetta on the planet…

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What are you trying to do to me Maggiano’s?! My life will never be the same…

Maggiano’s Little Italy is a Chicago-born Italian restaurant that you can now find across the U.S. They are known for large portions and their warmly-lit, family-style dining rooms. I’ve always enjoyed eating there, and especially love their salads. Their house dressing is dreamy (and so is a basketful of their soft bread if you please)…

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While recently enjoying Maggiano’s salads to-go, some of their new ‘bruschetta bar’ options were given a try, and holy cow. I now sometimes dream about what you see on this plate above. I literally picture these bites and salivate at random times of the day. The to-go order has been repeated, more than once. Each bite of bruschetta a transcendence into the realm of the ever-pleased tastebud. You can peruse the menu here, but be sure to try it for yourself if you spot a Maggiano’s. Truly decadent and delicious!

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen? What’s your favorite take-out lately? Happy eating!

Lovin’ That! Grandma’s Slaw In 5 Minutes

So many of the best things I’ve ever eaten came from my Grandma Ina’s kitchen. We spent a lot of time together when I was young, so I got to eat a lot of her wonderful cooking. Whipped mashed potatoes, meatloaf with sweet ketchup glaze, bbq ribs, rhubarb pie, zucchini casserole. I admit that I didn’t appreciate her stuffed green peppers the way I would today (cooked peppers were a bit bitter as a kid), or her garden salads straight from the garden with fresh-made dressing shaken up (I’d love that now…but I was young). But one of my favorites will forever be her coleslaw, which I fondly just call slaw

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Grandma Ina took this photo from her kitchen window. That’s me! I was reading a book on the swing. Probably Anne of Green Gables. Perhaps a Choose Your Own Adventure. Obsessed with books. Still am! Wonder if Grandma was making some slaw in that kitchen when she snapped that photo?

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Now, my grandma moved down to Southern Illinois some years ago (where she was originally born). She lives in a renovated one room school house (I have to tell everyone this because I think it’s neat), with an outhouse out back (no, it’s not in service…but I’m sure a snake lives in there). She’s loving life in the countryside, just as she did living here up north in the countryside. But I digress…what is to be done with grandma so far away all this time and no access to her slaw?! I guess a gal has got to put on her big-girl breeches and make her own!

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I’ve made it now a great many times. However, I’ve gotten quick about it. This gal does not have time to finely chop up a head of green and a head of purple cabbage (and carrots too!). Time draining, and makes your hands turn purple. And anyway, I recall grandma using a coarse chop in the blender with just a head of green cabbage for her slaw, so I feel quite ok with using shortcuts!

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After previous chopping toil, I now buy the precut package of slaw at the grocery. No chopping at all! Chopping is torture! Don’t do that to yourself, unless you find the act of an hour of chopping cabbage relaxing…

In a bowl, mix a few heaping tablespoons of mayo (vegan or regular) with a splash of milk (almond or regular), a pinch of salt and a ton of pepper. In my opinion, you can’t have too much pepper. It can’t be possible in slaw…unheard of.

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Mix up the dressing with a wire whisk to make sure there are no clumps, then pour over the slaw and stir well. I find that a little dressing goes a long way, even in a big bowl of sliced cabbage…

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Cover in wrap (but maybe sprinkle on some more pepper first). Then let settle in the fridge for a bit (slaw tastes even better the next day). This process takes all of 5 minutes, and makes multiple helpings. I like to bring this dish anywhere I’m invited. The fresh crunch compliments most any meal, and cabbage is good for ya’…

This recipe isn’t exactly grandma’s, but it is just as simple and almost as delicious, and makes me think of her. Lovin’ That!

Lovin’ That! Pete’s Living Greens

What’s next on my list of Lovin’ That!? Pete’s Living Greens. Some of you might remember when I got really sick with food poison back in January. I’d thought I’d gone to Hades and back, in such misery was I. The culprit was prepackaged lettuce, the kind that comes in a plastic tub. Usually it’s prewashed and it is of course, convenient. That’s why I liked buying it…

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Unfortunately, it can also be very dangerous to your health. Please check out my previous post, Prepackaged Lettuce, Let Us Not! After that terrible incident, I’d been making the effort to regularly purchase a fresh head of lettuce, to rinse and chop up myself. But I have to say, that too has had its frustrations. You bring it home in a thin plastic bag and it’s already moist (because they mist veggies with water in their display at the grocery), and so it goes bad just as quickly. If you take it out of the bag and put it back into the fridge, it wilts immediately. Argh!

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As a vegetarian…and now what I’d like to call a 98% vegan, I eat a lot of greens. I can’t have that fresh lettuce going south in one or two days. And I’m tired of wasting money! What to do?

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Introducing Pete’s Living Greens (and yes, I like to match the color of my drinking straws to the color on my soda water cans…I’ve gotta be me). Pete’s Living Greens do come in a plastic tub, but it is different

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It is plucked out of the dirt with the roots attached, neither precut nor prewashed. The label claims you get seven extra days of freshness because of the roots. I eat my lettuce far faster than seven days, so I can’t attest. However, I am very satisfied with Pete’s Living Greens. It stays bright, fresh, crisp, until I’ve eaten it all. Not one leaf going to waste. Lovin’ That!

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There’s very little moisture in the package, just a tiny bit of condensation. I pluck off as many or few leaves as I wish, and let the rest of the lettuce remain attached to its roots. Voila! Fresh lettuce for days. And affordable too! This head (which was much larger before I ate half of it) cost about $3.50…and remember, not a leaf goes into the trash. Finally, my lettuce woes have been solved!

*Pete’s Living Greens did not fund my lettuce eats. All opinions of lettuce love are my own!

Gobble, gobble! Go gobble your greens! Stay healthy, stay happy, stay inspired!

Lovin’ That! Soul Vegan Lasagna

Next on my list of Lovin’ That! is Soul Vegan’s vegan lasagna! Soul Vegan is a wonder food provider in Chicago that makes the most amazing, healthy, tasty dishes…

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Even as a vegetarian, I indulged in their lasagna regularly. They sell pre-packaged slices, wraps and full meals at the Whole Foods in my area, and according to their website, they also provide for the local Mariano’s…

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The first reasons why I love this lasagna is that it’s delivered to the store very freshly made, is only chilled (not frozen), and provides a perfect portion size that doesn’t leave me hungry…

Further, I like meals that can be thrown together quickly. I get home, slide two or three bake dishes into the oven, and done. Especially on a chilly, dark night! (I’m not a fan of microwaves when I can help it. I prefer putting a few things into the oven and stepping away to relax before supper). When I return to the oven, voila! The perfect meal!

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I also love this lasagna because someone else made it (lasagna takes quite a bit of time to make). I enjoy it further because it’s a healthier version of this dish. But most especially, I love it because it tastes AMAZING. I prefer this delicious slice to any lasagna I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. It’s so good, I could eat it every day. I even served it to handsome and he said, “Mmmm, this is better than real lasagna.” That’s coming from a meat eater…

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What I also really like is Soul Vegan’s message. Love life. Live life. Care about your community. Lovin’ That! You can check out their values and offerings here. If you are in Chicagoland, be on the lookout for Soul Vegan’s delicious meals. Try this lasagna and tell me it isn’t simply divine!

*Soul Vegan did not fund my obsession with their crazy awesome lasagna. I stumbled on these addictive slices all on my own! All opinions are mine, all mine.

Love Life, Live Life! Stay healthy! Stay Inspired!

The Blessing Of A Friend’s Garden

I’d set aside today as a strict writing day and nothing was going to pry me away from my desk, nothing! I’m working on my newest novel, a romantic odyssey set in ancient days, and the perilous passages were just ready to spill from my fingertips (because I’ve decided a romance needs lots of peril). But then I got a text from a girlfriend across town. I brought the garden for you today!!

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My friend doesn’t have a garden. These greens actually come from her friend’s garden. My friend is house sitting and some greens were just calling to be picked and eaten before they went to waste. And if anybody has any extra greens, I’m all too happy to eat them. Granted, I finished the chapter I was working on before I hopped in my car to zoom across town…

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I was gifted with a bag of lettuce, Swiss chard, dill, rosemary, chives and itty bitty tomatoes. Life is good! Have you ever sauteed Swiss chard with a little olive oil and garlic? Takes 2 minutes and tastes heavenly

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Tiddo the cat was checking out the herbs before I even knew he was in the kitchen with me. He wanted to see if the greens were some of that fresh catnip I nab from neighbors’ front lawns from time to time…

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Earlier in the week, this said friend also gave me some zucchini from said garden. Tonight, it took me all of 10 minutes to prepare supper. I made a vegetable tian with one zucchini, some Campari tomatoes I had on hand, and the fragrant rosemary. Drizzled over a little olive oil, sea salt and balsamic. It’s in the oven now…

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Rinsed the Swiss chard, plucked off the veiny tough stems, and will toss in the skillet just before the tian is ready (it wilts like a side of steamed spinach, but tastier)…

Goodness is it a blessing to have a friend with a friend who has a garden!

Stay inspired, eat your veggies, show someone you care!

Lovin’ That! Mercato At Starbucks

I’ve always gotten a kick out of reading other bloggers’ favorite things lists. Lists such as my favorite beauty products, or my favorite places to get a donut, or here’s what I got for for Christmas this year, or my list of best food trucks ever! I guess it’s entertaining to see the spectacular diversity in what others cherish and enjoy. These lists are always colorful, amusing, lighthearted and often informative…

So, I’m starting a new string of posts called Lovin’ That! to share some of my favorite things with you!

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First up, Mercato At Starbucks. Mercato is a new lunch menu that Starbucks recently launched in Chicago and Seattle. Now, I usually don’t stop at Starbucks because I make my own coffee each morning. But occasionally when I’ve run out of grounds and I’m in a hurry, I stop to treat myself on the go…

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That’s what happened a few weeks ago, and while waiting in line, I spotted what looked like some pretty tasty salads. I snatched up a cauliflower tabbouleh side salad with vegan written clear on the label and decided to try it for lunch. It was delicious and very healthy. I wondered if there was another salad that might be vegan too? Well, if you don’t indulge in the little cup of creamy salad dressing served with the green goddess avocado salad, then you’re good to go! A second green and healthy favorite on the menu!

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The point of their new menu serves two purposes. One, adding lots of tasty variety, including lovely looking sandwiches. Their roasted turkey and dill havarti sandwich sounds dreamy, along with everything else. Starbucks planned delicious new items that covered a variety of tastes and dietary considerations. Lovin’ That! But the second part of this menu, is that Starbucks donates all leftovers at the end of the evening to the hungry. Lovin’ That!

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The Mercato menu is a tasty step up from their past on the go lunch offerings, are made fresh daily, and any extras are given to those in need. Even though I don’t frequent Starbucks, as someone trying to eat a plant-based diet, I was very happy to find something that I could grab on the quick when I’m out and about. Eating vegan is tricky. It’s hard to find fresh, fast options. If you’re not in Chicago or Seattle, I hope they extend this to a city near you, so you can try it too!

*Starbucks did not fund my eats on the go. All opinions are my own.

Rock on friends…stay happy, stay healthy, stay inspired!

Holy Beets And Brussels Sprouts!

Hands down, the best plant-based meal I’ve eaten of late was at one of our local favorites, Roka Akor in Skokie. This Japanese grill smells heavenly, the ambiance is always hip and relaxing, the service is excellent, and the food is ever amazing…

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The amuse-bouche was a beet puree topped with a hint of greens. I’m nuts for beets, so I was very pleased to start the meal with this flavorful spoon. I could have eaten a bowl of this…

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Handsome started his meal with tender grilled scallops. I’ve had them before at Roka and know just how exquisite they are. Though my chopsticks did not sneak across the table to steal one this time, I was very tempted…

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The amuse-bouche had me wanting more beets, so I started the meal out by going to town on this salad. Not an almond sliver, or carrot shred, or beet medallion was left on that plate. Isn’t this dish so colorful? I could eat this fresh salad every day…

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For the meal, I ordered up the mushroom hotpot. Inside this cooking vessel above, the metal of which is inadvisable to touch due to its lava-like temperature, a steaming mushroom and rice mixture awaited. As our server dished out a bowl for me and a bowl for my date, I secretly wanted to snatch up both bowls. NO sharing the mushroom hotpot…mine, all MINE! Ha-ha-HA!

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I also had grilled vegetable maki with broccoli and sweet potatoes. You could taste the grill on those potatoes…

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Handsome ate a lobster. It was pre-cracked to display the most succulent morsels of meat for ease of eating. Though I did not partake, it was another temptation. I envisioned a snatch and run. My partner would later find me in the parking lot, broken lobster claws scattered around my feet, a crazed look in my eyes, not a single bite of lobster meat left…

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But I did not exact my shellfish fantasy, and instead inhaled a plate full of Brussels sprouts. The marinade on these sprouts rocked my taste buds! These sprouts also had a hint of seafood flavor to them. Ethereally thin bonito flakes (a Japanese tuna) were lightly sprinkled over the top. Definitely not a plant-based topper…oops!

Another fresh and savory meal at Roka, with plenty of options for this veggie lover! The smell alone coming off that Robata grill keeps us ever coming back for more. Holy beets and Brussels sprouts!

Sometimes Satisfying, Sometimes Not!

As I wrote in my last post, I am working on acclimating myself to being the best gobbler of greens I can be (aka, mostly vegan). I’ve been a vegetarian for some years, and am now trying to cut out more animal products, and eat even more plant-based foods…

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After 5 weeks, I wish I could say that I feel amazing (light as a feather and as glowing as Eve of the garden), but I don’t. To be honest though, I think that’s probably because this gal needs to get her booty to the swimming pool for some swim aerobics and stretching in the therapy pool. Let’s get these muscles moving! Where’s my goggles?

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As for my food adventures, I’m finding that some meals are quite satisfying, and some are not. Yesterday, I threw a quick lunch together using some leftover dinner veggies. Corn, asparagus, onions and vegan *cheese* shreds made for some ‘interesting’ veggie tacos that turned out to be quite blah. Thank goodness I’d packed some cruciferous crunch to accompany them. Radishes saved the day!

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I am proud however, that I used up my leftovers and stuck to a vegan lunch. I have to remember that not every meal I eat is going to rock my palate, especially when I’m experimenting with new veggie concoctions…

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But ooh, did I have a delicious meal at Terra & Vine in Evanston last week! We sat out alfresco, the weather being unusually warm for this time of year. Even where we sat for dinner, being close to dusk and in the shade, I was amply glowing from the heat (not perspiring, only dudes do that)…

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I’d perused the menu online in advance (a gobbler of greens needs to know what their options will be…though I also generally just enjoy salivating over menus). I was quite pleased to see a section title for Vegan (as well as Vegetarian). I thought that was quite thoughtful! But when we sat down at our table and I looked over the paper menu, those choices were missing. I asked the waiter about it. Unfortunately, they’d discontinued those particular menu options. Aww man!

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But very kindly, the server said that the kitchen could absolutely prepare the pasta dish I’d had a hankering for. Yea! In most restaurants, it’s not too hard to make menu choices (without becoming a terribly annoying, picky diner). For many dishes, just asking for no cheese or sauce does the trick (or on the side if you’re sharing). Now, I did try a bite of blue cheese on the salad, and a bit of aioli on the artichokes, toppers that weren’t vegan. But I’d usually have covered and slathered every fork-full of my meal in cheese and creamy sauce. So, let us just say I successfully reined in the cheese monster that lives inside me…

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I might have eyed that cheesy dish across the table with a bit of longing, but in the end, was 100% satisfied limiting my non-vegan intake. I mean, pasta and fried artichokes…what’s there to miss?

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All of this to say, whether you’re cooking at home, or dining out, eating mostly plant-based can occasionally be a gamble on taste. It’s also not easy to always make healthier choices. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. That’s ok.

As for me, I’m excited to keep experimenting, keep cooking, and keep playing with the menus I’m sitting to. And if a meal doesn’t turn out to be all that satisfying, well there’s always another one around the bend! Now If I could just find my swimming goggles…

I am the Gobbler of Greens!

Nope. I’m not making a public declaration that I’m a vegan, and I’ll tell you why at the end of this post. But I’ve read a lot of books, and watched a lot of health documentaries, and after being a vegetarian (and aspiring vegan) for 6 years, I’m leaning harder in that lifestyle direction. It’s what I think is best for me

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Do I enjoy eating meat, dairy, eggs and seafood? I love it. I could plant myself next to a cheese tray for hours (and I have). I think my grandma’s meatloaf, buttery mashed potatoes, and homemade coleslaw slathered in mayo is a dish sent from Heaven. My mom’s fried egg sandwiches…omg. I’ll devour plates of all-you-can-eat steaming crab legs drowned in drawn butter, and then steal the crab legs out of your hands and make a run for it. I love it…I love it all

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But I think as a general rule, eating my fruits, nuts, grains and veggies, while skipping the animal-based products, is the lifestyle choice for me. Thankfully, I’ve always loved veggies, or else this would be a bit tricky. I’ve got my grandma’s garden while growing up to thank especially for that…

If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch the newest documentary focused on the correlation between poor health and what we’re eating, I greatly encourage you to watch What The Health. It is a film that I believe everyone should see, if only to open up more thought, and dialogue, about the Western diet and our food industry. It is currently available on Netflix…

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For me, eating vegan means not only trying to eat all plant-based, pure, whole foods. But also that I should try to avoid the ‘processed’ stuff (vegan or no) more often than not. For instance, Oreos are vegan, and I like them. Especially the mint ones. But I’m not going to make a habit of snacking on them…

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With that being said, it can’t be helped to crave and want to ‘replace’ the animal-based foods I’ve always enjoyed. I personally would find the vegan diet difficult to sustain without a few veggie protein (fake meat and cheese) tricks up my sleeve!

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So, I’m sharing with you what I made for lunch today. I was craving a classic BLT. I haven’t eaten a ‘real’ BLT sandwich in who knows how long, but I will never stop liking them. The vegan BLT I was planning turned into an even more magical sandwich, because I couldn’t stop dragging everything out of the fridge…

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Toasted Italian bread, Earth Balance organic/vegan mayo, sliced red onion, tomato, a dash of pepper…

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Heinz natural yellow mustard, Lightlife vegan veggie bacon strips (oh yes they get crispy in the pan), lettuce…

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Next, a few slices of Chao vegan ‘cheese’. This is some wonderful stuff. ‘Coconut herb with black pepper’ or ‘creamy original’ (munster anyone?) or ‘tomato cayenne’. These slices make a sandwich or veggie burger sing! I’m pretty sure they punch a few itty holes into the slices on purpose to make you believe you’re eating Swiss cheese. I’m convinced…

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My mouth was watering as I layered up this sandwich, and the kitchen suspiciously smelled like I’d really just made up a skillet of crispy, sizzling bacon…

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I think the key for me to eating vegan, and in eating as healthy as I can generally, is to learn how to cook plant-based meals that I enjoy (and that won’t leave me feeling deprived). As I continue on in this lifestyle choice, I want to learn lots of things. I want to learn how to make my own vegan meatloaf (out of lentils). I want to simply take joy in a roasted veggie pizza (learning to be just as happy without that thick layer of cheese I so adore). I’m even going to try and make my own sour cream (out of cashews) to plop over my veggie fajitas! The sky is the limit, and I’m having fun!

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But why did I say that I’m not making a public declaration that I’m a vegan? Well, I’m going to be open and honest…

If you see me eating alfresco oceanside in Massachusetts, I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a faint over the world’s freshest lobster roll. Or, if you spot me sitting aside the lagoon in Venezia, I very well may be intaking a generous plate of fruitti di mare. And if I ever find myself in the Swiss Alps, it is highly possible I will try a nibble (or two) of every local cheese available…

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And on Christmas Eve, I just can’t promise that I won’t be devouring crab legs and drawn butter with my folks. It’s become a special tradition. And…well…I’m not sure I can live the rest of my life without crab legs…

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But generally speaking, I’m going to do my best to remain the best gobbler of greens that I can be, and that’s a good enough goal for me!

Best wishes friends! Stay healthy, stay happy, stay you, stay inspired!

What’s New, Shelly-Poo!?

Shelly-Poo was my older cousin’s nickname for me growing up, a term of endearment. Shelly is short for Michelle of course. And poo? Well that word is added onto names sometimes as a sign of affection. “Oh, your little puppy-wuppie is so cutie-poo!” Oh goodness!

So what’s new, Shelly-Poo? Let’s see…

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Guess where I was today?! Setting up our shop, The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! We’re so excited for our 2nd season! Opening weekend is next weekend, July 8th. We have moved locations, but are still on King’s Landing. We can’t wait to see all of the friends we made last year, and all the new friends we are yet to meet! It is the 30th Anniversary of this beloved festival, and one beautifully tended park awaits you!

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Now, I do not consider myself clever with crafting/decor, but don’t you think the little ‘book case’ I put together to display my fairy tales is cute? I was pretty proud of myself…

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My business partner and artist mother Lita, will be displaying some lovely painted canvases this year, along with her illustrations. I don’t have a sneak peak for you here, but can say that when I first saw them, I wanted them all for myself. But then, we would have none for our sweet little shop! Come by, and peruse…

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Maid of Honour and The Mermaiden will be available starting first weekend!

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Veleno will be available for Marketplace Weekend (3rd weekend) through the end of the season. Official release date just around the corner (with convenient availability through Amazon). This one’s for mature readers only…

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In other news, I love cheese. The word love hardly begins to describe my craze for cheese. But being in Wisconsin setting up shop today, the very state that won the World Champion Cheese Contest in 2016, I was made a very happy woman. Ellsworth Garlic Cheddar Cheese Curds, Buddy Squirrel Cheezzzy Cheddar Popcorn, and Sartori MontAmore (the size of a small brick). I’m in Heaven. If you’re ever in Kenosha, WI, stop into Tim and Tom’s Cheese Shop. Attached to a sizable antique shop, and with cheese galore, it’s a field trip…

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In other, other news, I have a pet jumping spider who lives on my writing desk between my book Venice, and Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. He’s hopped out during 3 consecutive days of writing hours to keep me company. I must say, he has good taste in books!

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Speaking of great books, I’m currently reading The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Life Of The Last True Hermit. A true story…hermit Christopher Knight of Maine…written by journalist Michael Finkel. Order this book right now, and thank me later…it is too spectacular to put down…

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In further, further, further news…this vegetarian is still cookin’ up the veggies! Whatever I’ve got in the fridge. Look at those healthful veggie tacos! Summer is fresh veggie time! Love it!

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And, after all my veggie-loving years, I’ve gotta say that radishes are the apple of my eye. Read my previous ‘Swimming Radishes’ post here. I think I love radishes as much as cheese! Gasp! Is that possible?

Here’s to your daily good health and happiness, and to your taking delight in simple pleasures every day! Here’s also to the joys of an excellent read, and to the deliciousness of your table favorites! Best Wishes!

I’m lovin’ your style, Newark!

With a recent flight to New York, we flew into Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Now, I’ve seen quite a few airports throughout the world. Some are comfortable, some are not so comfortable. Mostly they are simple, functional, designed to get you where you need to go. Perhaps you’ll do a bit of duty-free shopping, and get a decent bite to eat along the way…

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Well I just want to say…Newark, you’re one happening airport! I love your style! As you walk through the terminal, there are colorful, internet accessible, chic places to grab a seat. Ambient music plays, which I’m certain keeps travelers calm and relaxed…

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There were a variety of places to take your ease, and plenty of t.v. monitors for folks who need their daily dose of sports. The airport was clean and well, hip

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At the newsstand, there were no lines, for there were plenty of monitors for self-checkout. I tend not to like self-checkout because it never goes smoothly for me and an attendant has to come running to help. But here, things seemed to be running well…

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Further, their selection of products in the quick-grab area were so interesting! Lots of fun foods, healthy items, unique snacks. Plenty of fresh choices, whatever your tastes…

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I enjoyed the colors and the lights, and the unique flow…

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Instead of looking travel-worn and agitated, folks were catching up on work, studying, chatting, relaxing. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like people were enjoying being at the airport. That’s a new one!

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There were interesting paintings, cool chairs, patterned tiles, thoughtful lighting…

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And I would have been content to sit at any of the restaurants we passed. As we walked past Riviera, it appeared as a peaceful oasis serving gourmet food. In…the…airport.

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In any case, I got a real kick out of this airport’s modern design. It made for a fun entry into our New York outing. The designers clearly had the comfort and amusement of travelers in mind when they made such updates. Pretty cool!

Insomnia Cookies

I want you to pretend that it’s two o’clock in the morning and you are wide awake…

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Unless you’re 21 years old on a Saturday night, or work the night shift, or have trouble sleeping, I don’t know why you’d still be up, but just pretend that you are. Not only are you awake, but you’re having a craving that you just can’t beat…for cookies! Only, you have no cookies in your house. This is very bad. No cookies to eat at 2 a.m. What to do?!

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Just call Insomnia Cookies! They deliver fresh made cookies (I’m guessing still warm), pizza-box style…until 3 a.m. in the morning. How do I know? Was I up ordering cookies after midnight like a crazed cookie monster? Heck no!

On Friday evening, we decided to skip dessert at dinner and walk over to a new business. I saw it buzzing earlier as we drove past toward our reservation. The canopy over the window read Insomnia Cookies. So of course, I had to know what that was all about…

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My date tried vanilla ice cream with oatmeal raisin cookies. I’m nutty for anything mint, and so had mint ice cream smashed between two mint chocolate cookies. We should have grabbed spoons, because they were tricky to eat as we walked with them back toward the car. The cookies were very soft and warm, so the sandwiches didn’t stay in tact. I ended up licking ice cream off of the paper plate in a very unladylike manner, another one of my pretty looks…

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So what did we think? The cookies and ice cream were a fun treat and we enjoyed trying it! Our returns will be on a whim rather than as regulars however, as the place itself offers no seating and it’s awkward to eat ice cream cookies on the run (though I enjoyed a good laugh at myself). I would use their delivery service to send cookies to cheer a friend if the occasion arose. Nothing makes people smile like a cookie!

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About that insomnia part, I’m curious how popular their after-midnight deliveries will prove; we do live in a university town! However, even if the kiddos are up late studying, students often don’t have extra dough (pun intended) for such novelties. Nonetheless, I wish this cute little business success! If I’m up at 2 a.m. and in need of a cookie, we all know who I’m calling. Never say never!

Here’s wishing your days filled with smiles, and sprinkled with sweet moments!

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

I’ve just finished reading another masterpiece by one of my favorite authors, Mary Roach. She’s a science writer and a New York Times bestseller, and one amazing researcher! Myself a writer, and as someone who geeks out on research and fascinating fun facts, I really admire her books and the enormous amount of time she must put into her works. You rock, Ms. Roach!

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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal takes the reader on a journey through their own bodies. You put something in your mouth, you chew it up and swallow, and then it follows a path until it reaches the far side. It seems pretty simple, we do this everyday. What makes this book so fascinating however, is the breakdown of that journey…

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Did you know that the pet food you buy might be manufactured to please you, more than be what your pet needs? Did you know about the antibacterial and antiviral properties in your saliva?

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Do you know whether or not a goldfish could survive in your stomach if you swallowed one? Do you know what would happen to you if you were swallowed by a whale, like Jonah in the Bible?

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Do you know what terrible things happen to people who swallow drugs to smuggle them? Do you know what lengths prison inmates will go to, to smuggle items in their bodies?

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Do you know what would happen if you overate in gross quantity at one sitting? Do you know how life-threatening it is to walk past a manure pit? Do you know what a fecal transplant is and why it’s a miracle?

I didn’t either, until I read this book.

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Now, I must preface, Mary Roach’s books are not for the weak of stomach (ha-ha). The face above is the look I perpetually have as I read them. First, you’ve got to have your thinking cap on. Her books are science books, though she does an excellent job of breaking things down so that the topics are digestible (tee-hee). Her wit also makes the difficult concepts easy to swallow (giggle)…

But further, her books have a visceral affect. When I read her Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, I was jumpy and nervous whenever I picked up the book, like a ghost was lurking near. And when I read her Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, I perpetually had vertigo and became terrified of space. While reading Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, my gag reflex was constantly on high alert and I had difficulty eating my lunch.

This isn’t to dissuade you from reading her works, it’s more of a “Put your seatbelt on, you’re going for a wild science reading ride. Weeee!”

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Next up, Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and…

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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Because it seems I like getting my brain scrambled by science, and learning about things that freak me out! Read one of Mary Roach’s books and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here’s to the great wonders to be found in a book, and to learning something new, each and every day!

Caprese, Caprese!

Caprese, Caprese! One for me, one for you! Make in spring or in summer, anytime! Just do! 

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Caprese, Caprese! One for you, one for me! So fresh and delicious! Makes life better, you’ll see!

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Caprese, Caprese, I adore you, you’re mine! I’ve loved many a’ salad, but must say, you’re divine!

Here’s to the small pleasures in life, and to your good health and happiness!

Hollandaise…Proceed With Caution!

Last Friday evening, handsome and I were too exhausted to go out for our usual date night, but still wanted to order something that would be really satisfying after a long week. We decided on Pete Miller’s in Evanston, a steak and seafood restaurant with a Chicago feel that always offers a great meal…

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I was going to order something simple; I enjoy their fish tacos. But as my eyes perused the menu, I saw the words crab legs and there was no going back. I wanted crab legs, I needed crab legs, but that isn’t an easy order for takeout. To truly enjoy it, we needed to get a seat! Thankfully I’ve got a fella who is flexible with plans; we hopped in the car and were on our way, grabbing a table just in time as the Friday dinner rush was beginning.

Changing up plans can prove surprising, exciting fun! We’d started out too tired to move from home, and then were suddenly having lively conversation to the tunes of a fabulous live jazz band! Of course, the excellent food also had an effect on our perking up! I started with the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail served with cocktail sauce and lemon. The dollop of horseradish in the cocktail sauce burned my brain and caused me to make really unattractive expressions, but was too delicious paired with the shrimp to stop eating…