Here For Just A Moment…

Welcome, Dear Friends…

I’m here for just a moment, as I’m inspired to work on other writing today…

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But I just wanted to share one little thing…

A tiny thing, really…

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I just love jumping spiders so much. Love them.

I absolutely delight to watch them…

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I think I really missed my calling to be an entomologist. Bugs will always be my thing.

Except for ticks. Ticks upset me.

And that is a mighty understatement.

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Jumping spiders live around my vintage window casings, hunting for other smaller bugs I assume. I call them my pets, because I am so fond of them. I’m not eccentric enough to start naming them yet…but if this lockdown doesn’t end soon…

 

I paused to say hi to this little fella while he was on walkabout this morning.

Just love them.

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And as always, I digress. But don’t you think matching the straw color to your can of sparkling water makes it even more refreshing?

Oh heavens! A bit eccentric for sure. But I’m lovin’ it!

Say hello, friends…before I start naming jumping spiders.

And of course…

Stay Inspired.

It’s Never Too Late To Grow…

Hello Friends! I hope the sun is shining for you today!

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It isn’t shining here in Evanston. We’re in for thunderstorms, and then rain for some days more. That cold wet chill has also returned. But our springs seem always to cling to winter’s hand until the bitter end!

This just means, I’ll have to make my own sunshine!

Fortunately, I’ve a knack for stirring up my own mirth and entertainment. Probably because I was an only child. Today I’m working on something fun that I’ll share with you soon…

 

For now, please excuse my piercing kissing noises in this video, but when this baby squirrel plunked his head down like he was pouting (I think he was trying to get a nap in), it was just a little too cute!

 

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And to the spider that popped out of my Kleenex box early one morning when I needed a tissue, scaring the wits out of me before I’d had any coffee

That’s not nice. I like spiders and all, but please don’t test my nerves.

Another nature sighting, a beautiful mother rabbit and her three babies…

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That’s my car. I had to move it the other day for street cleaning.

Are cities still ticketing if residents are supposed to be keeping to their houses? I wasn’t taking any chances.

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As I pulled up, I saw three itty-bitty-baby-bunnies pressing up against a street utility box. I thought, what a precarious place for a nest of bunnies. But as it turned out, there was a ground nest just beside the street. The babies were spending a little time outside the nest. Mama came back, and all the babies went to her and started nursing…

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Sweetest little things God ever made. I was glad I parked there. I don’t move my car much, so maybe it will give them a little block from the road traffic.

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I digress, but isn’t my mama’s painting so pretty. I wish I could paint whimsical little scenes like this…

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[Make your radishes swim in cold water in the fridge to keep them crisp and fresh.]

I further digress, but I think radishes are one of the most delicious things that grow in the dirt. I’m nuts for radishes. What’s your favorite veggie?

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I roam even further, but if you want the easiest supper ever, and like me, you enjoy a lot of green on your plate, do try avocado toast…

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Simple and made in minutes. I like to top mine with arugula, sea salt and ground pepper. Finish the meal with cookies, of course

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My best friend Jessy sent me a gift in the mail this week. A miniature library to construct and personalize myself! I’m going to have a field day with this one. Some of my own books might appear in miniature in this little library!

Don’t ya’ just love best buds?

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And then there’s my little indoor potted herbs. I’m disappointed to report that the cilantro is beginning to fail. Of the 4 variety herbs I potted, only cilantro and basil grew, and now I fear I’ll just have the basil left…

It’s for the best anyhow; I have a cilantro allergy. You know, it isn’t as easy as one would figure, trying to keep indoor plants alive!

I have a philosophy about that though. Plants weren’t really meant to be indoors. Outside, bugs visit, plant matter decomposes in the soil and brings nutrients, the rain adds its own magic elements I’m sure. Inside, a plant is just stagnant. That’s not right.

Sounds a little like all of us! We all need a bit of sun and fresh air ourselves these days, and visits with others, don’t we? People weren’t meant to be stagnant either

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Nonetheless, as I glanced over my basil the other day, I said a little prayer.

Bless my basil!

Wouldn’t it be glorious if I could get it to flourish?

And about that tiny prayer…

No matter how trivial or dire, small or great, He hears you…just sayin’.

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And here’s something, also so small indeed, but I thought it was special…

See the far left basil sprout? When it popped up, the hard seed shell and dirt never fell away, so that it could not grow. Only the stem stood. One day, I thought I could try to pluck it off with tweezers, hoping I wouldn’t pluck the whole sprout out. I did this ever so carefully, with success. But as I looked at it, I supposed it still wouldn’t grow. It was too late for this sprout.

But you know what? I was wrong. It spread two little leaves, and is now growing out more between.

I was inspired to think…given the chance, it’s never too late to grow.

Stay Inspired.

The Yellow Headed Blackbird

Hello Folks! I hope that you are well…

The weather here is looking lovely, and I’ve replenished my pantry with cookies and some extra cookies, so I’m doing just fine!

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I saw something very special this week, and couldn’t wait to share it with you…

As you may recall, I’ve been manning the ship for many weeks, sometimes all by my lonesome. This week was no different…

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[Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay]

As I began my daily walk in on Thursday, in a spring rain, I was rather contemplative. I observed that I was the only one trailing the sidewalk, something unique to my urban area. I peered in at a singular worker in a darkened coffee shop. Considered the inactive businesses. Wondered over the quiet. I was thinking…

And as I went along, past some homes with green and flowering lawns, all while the rain fell, I suddenly happened upon the strangest creature!

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[Image by Akiroq Brost from Pixabay]

One of these.

What was so special about this sighting, is that this is an extremely rare bird in this area. Not only that, but I had never seen one before, ever. And if you’ve met me, you know, I’m nuts for nature. I notice wildlife. I can hear a jumping spider whispering from 6 feet away (wouldn’t that be cool…can they even vocalize?…I need to look that up).

I notice everything when it comes to bugs and birds. And I’d never spotted one quite like this.

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[Image by 272447 from Pixabay]

I thought it was especially awesome for several reasons. First, I practically stepped on him. He was like a little firecracker near my feet!

As I passed a flower-box and ‘for sale’ sign in the lawns along the walk, I didn’t see him just beyond, right next to the way. He was standing just there on the grass, only a few feet from me. I looked down and halted and telepathically blurted, “Who are you?”

The bird tilted his head, ruffled his feathers, thoughtfully stepped away a bit and said, “I’m me. Who are you?”

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[Image by Souvick Ghosh from Pixabay]

We must have both looked unique to one another. I with my towering umbrella, red raincoat, red purse, neon rainbow-colored sneakers. And the bird, that bird! You cannot imagine how rich the color of that mustardy-yellow chest-plume amidst its ebony wings with strips of white, against a dreary backdrop. He was like, pow-POW! Gorgeous! Oh my word!

Now, as the lone cat at the office, sort of needed to move along. But you know, I had to stop and have a conversation. I told that bird, aloud, how handsome he was, as he kept puffing up, dispelling the rain from his feathers. He just toed around the lawn a bit, tilting his head, listening for worms I suspected, which are ample in the rain. This bird did not hop, or fly off, he just passively and gently stepped about.

Love at first sight. And what if I never saw another like him again?

And did I mention that I was talking to a bird while hovering at the edge of a stranger’s lawn. If they were looking out their window that morning, they might have suspected that the times had addled that woman in the red raincoat’s brain.

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[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

Of course, I was eager all day to consult my bird book once I got home. While on the job, a colleague suggested on our collaborative online meeting, that it could have been an Oriole, but I said, “No…no, it wasn’t.”

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[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

I’ve seen, though only a few, Orioles. But this creature, was like a blackbird.

And it was.

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[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

A male, yellow-headed blackbird.

It appears where I abide is on the very cusp of where these birds may visit to mate in the spring. Further, this fella is locally endangered. Habitat loss, of course. Here’s some information about them regarding Illinois. And you must hear their alien rattle-buzzing song, found here.

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[A Guide To Field Identification : Birds of North America : Robbins, Bruun, Zim, & Singer]

It’s a real treat to see something undiscovered before. For, though this bird might be common elsewhere, I had never seen it, and it really took me by surprise!

The other thing special about it, was where my mind had been just a moment before. The times, the strange quiet, and that feeling of uncertainty in my gut. In an instant, I was riveted by something beautiful. It seemed, a gift. I’m glad to say that these sorts of things happen to me all the time, gifts, or so it seems so to me.

With this particular gift, I suddenly felt right again. I rallied.

All of my best to you, friends…

Stay Inspired

A Love So Great…

Greetings, my dear friends…

I hope this message finds you in the very best of health and comfort, in spite of every challenge there is right now. May the sun shine serenity on your life…

I myself, sweetly lament today. But let me assure you, it isn’t with a heavy heart, but rather with a love so great

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My Grandpa Ron passed this week, whom I loved, very very much. My Grandma Ina and Grandpa Ron had a great influence on my upbringing, and on the person I am. They loved and cared for me, so absolutely and selflessly. I will always be so thankful for them.

I love you, Grandpa Ron. Thank you for being so good to me.

And also to those before, forever beloved…

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[Annette, smiling with her husband David, and children Amber and David Jr.]

Your beautiful smile, sweet spirit, and infectious laughter, were the brightest light in our family…

Love you always and always, Aunt Annette.

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[Brian with wife Lisa, and granddaughter Macy]

Thank you for being a part of our rambunctious clan! And for all the love, care, and laughter you brought to it…

Eternal goodness, light, and love to you, Uncle Brian.

 

[Family friend Steve Randahl singing and playing the lap guitar]

Thank you for the friendship, fellowship, and music you gave to my family.

Keep on Rockin’ on, Steve.

 

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And to my baby Tiddo…

Catch all the mousies, feathers, and strings, and wait for me in Heaven…

Mama loves you forever and ever

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.

2 Corinthians 2:4 KJV

And to all you readers out there…

Love each other, love yourself, 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!

 

You’ve plenty of grit, you’ll see…

Hello Friends. I hope this message finds you, above all, healthy. I also wish you a calm spirit, and enduring strength, as all the world’s fortitude is being tested…

I know that for many, life is very strange, strained, and scary right now. And I’ve of course, no more wisdom that anyone on how to find those moments of tranquility, which seem so very fleeting. However, for me, there are a few things that bring a snatch of daily peace…

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[Cheerful blooms I bought myself last year…just love the smell of fresh roses.]

Thankfulness. Thinking on those people in my life that I am grateful for. Remembering all the ways that I am blessed. Being content with small things, and thankful that I have them at all…

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[Ahhh…nut butter and jam! Bringing back those shelf-stable old friends.]

Remembering that ‘It is well with my soul’. I find personal peace in my beliefs, believing that through faith, prayer, and patience, we can endure anything. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I rest easier undoubting that my life is in God’s hands…

[New Apostolic Church Orchestra and Choir: Silvertown, South Africa]

Memories. Looking at all the beautiful parts of my life, and believing that it won’t be long before some normalcy returns, even if things look a little different for a while. That brings me happiness…

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[Milwaukee shoreline on Lake Michigan last summer]

Just pretend like you’re camping. Okay, this one’s from my Mama. I don’t know how many times she’s said that in my life. Maybe she doesn’t even realize she’s said that a whole bunch…

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[Image by jplumb from Pixabay]

See, we used to go camping when I was younger. Loved it! There’s nothing cozier than a campfire, and no better a night’s sleep than in the fresh air of the outdoors, and nothing more awe-inspiring than a starry sky…

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[Image by skeeze from Pixabay]

But why has my Mama said that since? Maybe because sometimes in life you have to go without, and have a little less. And, you know, when you’re camping, you may run out of toilet paper and have to use leaves. Or eat beans and marshmallows for supper, instead of what you’d usually have…

This is certainly not to belittle hardship, nor the need for vital necessities. But, for so many of you who are staying in, and perhaps running out of the items you’re used to having, try to shrug your shoulders and pretend like you’re camping. Making a game of things in your mind sometimes softens the strangeness of a situation…

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[Photo by 631372 from Pixabay]

Humour. I’ve a story for you. Taking notice that one of their cats were acting oddly at the basement window the other evening, and assuming it to be another neighborhood feline on the prowl, my folks found to their complete bafflement, a wild turkey pecking at the window. What? At length, it strolled off into a neighboring yard. Though such wild fowl aren’t unknown in the surrounding farm country, certainly that was the first turkey in decades to be on such an adventure. Wish I could have seen that! No wonder the cat was acting a little strange. Never seen a bird like that before! The wildlife really is coming out while the towns are quiet…

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[Lovely pink peonies snipped from one colleague, and a piece of fruit from another, last spring. The smallest gifts can bring such joy to the heart.]

My little offering to say, I hope serenity for you today, in whatever ways are personal. And, I wish you all the grit there is as we wind through the seriousness of these current days.

You’ve enough, I promise you. You’ll see…

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.

Milwaukee’s Antiques On Pierce

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

Please Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I simply did not want to go…

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

Stay Inspired!

Let Me Walk In Eden…

Good Day, Good Friends! Today, I am wishing you most well and happy! And, I am hoping, that you are ever finding ways to stay inspired!

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I found my inspiration yesterday, by taking a walk through a transcendent Eden. Three such wonderful gardens, in fact. Would you like to come along and see?

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On a completely impromptu whim, I found myself on an adventure at the Milwaukee Domes located in the city’s Mitchell Park…

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Three massive glass houses, each with a unique botanic garden: The Show Dome, The Tropical Dome, and the Desert Dome.

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The temperature and feel of the air was different going from dome to dome, the tropical dome warm and humid…

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In the tropical dome, there were glorious palms reaching for the sky, and vibrant flowers that were of course, very unique…

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Being that the sky was blue on this day, it truly made me feel for a time, that I had blessedly escaped winter…

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There were even birds singing at the tops of the trees, while the matted roots and vines clambered around the trunks below…

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I also immensely enjoyed watching large koi swirling together in a stream underfoot…

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Their bright colors mesmerizing…

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And their gliding like a dance…

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They almost appeared to me like little dragons, floating through the air…

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I now understand why these fish are so often prized! They were quite beautiful and relaxing to watch…

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The Show Dome had a cooler temperature, with much low-lying greenery…

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It was a cacophony of delightful scenes and plants…

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With many unexpected little bursts…

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And entertaining miniatures…

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Even Godzilla made an appearance…

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The Desert Dome seemed a little more arid, though without the blazing one would normally feel within such a zone…

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The armadillo considered it a temperate day.

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There were plenty of barbed little beasties, best to stay away from…yikes!

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This brought to mind, a recollection of a cactus my grandma used to keep when I was a child, and the several unfortunate brushes I’d had with it.

I won’t keep a cactus. It doesn’t want to be kept, and will be happy to remind you of that.

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I very much enjoyed this foreign view however, a desert scene being something completely alien to me…

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I even paused to coo at the tan-blue tinted doves, flying through…

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And for a moment, as if under a spell cast by the shifting of a late afternoon sun…

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I forgot just where I was. I had left, and gone someplace else…

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Small adventures are a gift to me. A respite from duty, and a forgetfulness from life’s pressures. A walk, through my own magical tales.

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And even if they are as short as dreams, just an hour or a single day, they are as indispensable as any sustenance.

Take your adventures, no matter how small! And as always, stay inspired!

Sing Like The Red Finch…

Good Morning Dear Friends! How are you doing this blustery, sunny, February morning? Did you enjoy your Valentine’s? Did you eat lots of decadent delights, stuff yourselves with fancy bonbons, and flutter rose petals into the sky with romantic abandon as you skipped down the street with your beloved?

I did none of the above, although I might have devoured half a package of crunchy-dark-chocolate-chip-cookies in bed like they were my last. Crumbs in the covers. Where would my life be without cookies?

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Yes, we’ve a bit of sun and blue sky here in Evanston, which feels like a miracle. Sunshine makes a big difference for staying inspired, so I find!

But apart from sunshine, I also spotted another precious miracle this week…

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[Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay]

We had one very cold day this week. And as I walk to work, I bundled up a bit especially. I don’t know how I can still find this amazing, having lived in North America all my life, but I can’t believe how instantly some fingers can feel on the verge of irreversible frostbite! Sometimes, it’s like, a minute…

 I like to eat my morning muffin as I walk, which means at least one hand isn’t wearing a glove. That poor hand. Yet, musteatmuffin.

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[Image by MH Rhee from Pixabay]

Along my way, there is this particular house, of which I always purposefully travel past their backyard. They have some habitat signs up, and in the warmer months, that backyard is a veritable little jungle.

I have noted, almost each day that I pass it, all year round, that the birds are going just bonkers for that yard. There is some fruity compost out on the ground, and bird feeders, and clearly the types of plants growing that yield what the chirpers enjoy eating the most…

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[Image by aekadtke from Pixabay]

As I went by on this particular morning, freezing my own feathers, there was this singular birdsong. Beautiful, beautiful warbling. Oh, my, heavens. And though I was already running minutes behind, I stopped in my tracks nonetheless. I figured some very unique bird was passing through, and I had to see it. Here in Evanston, I’ve chanced to spy some wonderfully out of place birds migrating through…

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[Image by aekadtke from Pixabay]

I discovered the creature. So pretty a soft red, and not the crimson Cardinal (which are very active and thriving right now). It was so precious. Oh my word. Having its little song on that glacial, albeit sunny, morning. As cheerful as ever…

And as I marveled, I literally thought, I want to be her. The one who’s singing. The one who, even during the coldest day, when all the other birds are so hushed by the season, is still singing. I will be her.

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[According to my Birds of North America book, it was a red finch, though I am not absolutely certain which one. A House Finch, I believe.]

How joyful, that such a tiny creature can bring such lightness to the day. She offered me a more inspired heart, a brighter smile, and a sunnier step, in just seconds. If a little bird can do that, then what can I bring to others, just by offering a more positive spirit?

Sing like the red finch, my friends…

Milwaukee Public Museum Part II.

Having my first exploration of the Milwaukee Public Museum last Saturday was a wonderful adventure! I had a few favorites from my visit, but the collections that will be bringing me back to take a little more time, were all the bugs!

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I have a serious love for insects.

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Had I known I would have felt this way growing up, I might have studied to be an entomologist…

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As you may have read here before, I took a natural field science class in college long ago, where each student had to pin their own collections. I’d always been intrigued by insects, but that added a generous amount of fuel to my fascination…

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And if I had extra time now (don’t we all wish we had more time for our special hobbies), I would pin my own collections still…

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Though, I have to tell you, my heart is so ridiculously tender these days, I’d have a hard time dispatching a single creature just to show it in the stage of a glass box. I can’t even kill a spider, and when I do by accident, I feel sad…

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I believe these little beasties deserve to live their lives, as whisper short as they may often be…

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…except for ticks perhaps. I’ve no comprehension for why God included them in His plan. Baffles me everyday. Why ticks, Lord? Why?

I just shivered imagining a tick on my neck. The horror.

Thankfully, I didn’t see any ticks on display at the museum! But I did see…

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Lots and lots of butterflies!

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Live butterflies! Baby newborn butterflies birthing from their chrysalises!

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This brought me back to grade school, when our class eagerly awaited a butterfly to be born from a chrysalis. A lesson about life and nature. That was so special.

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At the Milwaukee Public Museum, they have a room of live butterflies, that you can amble through as though walking in a dream…

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What I found most interesting, was that I observed that different kinds of butterflies have unique flight patterns. Sort of like how a goldfinch, a swallow, and a sparrow, all fly quite differently. This is probably common sense, but I enjoyed noticing it on my own all the same…

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I enjoyed too, observing all the color combinations and patterns of butterfly wings, when gazing at the pinned specimens…

IMG_5166I could spend a lot of time pondering before these displays.

Is not the butterfly, the very epitome, of the fragility and beauty of life?

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If I were a butterfly, I would like to be her, the one with the cream and pink-tipped wings.

Precious little souls…

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And now you have taken a walk with me, to see all the insects at the Milwaukee Public Museum! I sincerely can’t wait to go back, to take more time to view them!

Best wishes dear friends! Take good care of yourselves! And for those of you in the same northern climate as I, think on spring! It is not so very far.

Stay Inspired!

 

Milwaukee Public Museum Part I.

Good Day Good Friends! Are you staying inspired?

I wish that I could say that I am full of energy today, as the sun is actually shining for what feels like the first time in ten years. But, I am writing to you sick from bed, where I have been for some days. Not feeling so good. However, I am bearing it well and it could be worse. To say nothing of the endless drear of these after-December months, there’s no escaping catching at least one, if not two or three, viruses per season. How terrible. Achoo!

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[Dinos eating dinos at the Milwaukee Public Museum]

Lucky me however, I had a truly wonderful adventure last Saturday that I must share with you! It will have to come in several parts, as there was so much to see! My first visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum! And as the book I am currently working on, Still, is a thriller taking place in a museum, what better place to spend an afternoon for some inspiration?

I digress, but…whatever virus I have at present has been making me want to eat about 4-times the amount of food I usually consume in a day. I’m sort of feeling like that T-Rex up there!

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Bugs. One of the greatest loves of my life. The museum had so…many…bugs. I died, and went to buggy heaven, with all the bugs. It was beautiful.

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And there was lots of taxidermy. Which, I might have spoken aloud to, as though these creatures were still alive and could hear me speaking to them. Because, I’m a little strange like that…

“Hey little dude! Whatcha’ eatin?”

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I was particularly fascinated by this prehistoric water scene. Those oceanic beasties are terrifying! Prehistoric times were terrifying. I’m imagining that thing getting my foot while swimming in the water, and I’m terrified

I’m also really hungry right now, anyone got a cookie? Aaaachooo!

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But for Part I. of this share of the Milwaukee Public Museum, I give you a glimpse of the European Village!

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A collection of many different cultural snapshots from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Every illuminated house, and some businesses, labeling the ethnic tableau from which the scene was created…

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First, loved this because these dim and aged scenes elicited that feeling of being in a museum that can hardly be described. Of things old and mysterious, which you will never know, because you can never go back…

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I love that it made me imagine. That I lived in this or that little home…

Explored how I’d spend my days…

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Dabbled over the craft and work that I would do…

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Envisioned the ways I would have worshiped…

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Thought about how I would have survived and thrived, and about how much more I would have needed to rely on my neighbors…

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The European Village took me, quite literally, back in time and place…

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So that I forgot for a moment, just where I was, and who I am…

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I had traveled, without going anywhere at all.

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I entreat you too, to take such a journey next time you find yourself able to make a visit to Milwaukee!

But for now, wherever you find yourself, be sure to stay inspired!

I Hope We Meet Again Soon…

Hello Dear Friends! Are you staying inspired?

I want to say today, thank you for reading Inspired By Venice. You, my friends, my inspiration, my family, and so many kindred hearts. I’m wishing you well and happy today…

MichelleVaporetto

How am I today? As wild-spirited, inspired…and exhausted as ever. Long, chilly week. But today is a writing day, and the coffee is hot, so I’m doin’ alright! Just one musing with you before I dive into my creepy new tale, Still (coming July 2020)…

I rewatched The Tourist last week. It was a fun treat, most especially as it is full of my beloved Venice, which I am all of a sudden, craving so much. This happens to me every year at this time, because I can feel the Venetian Carnevale just around the corner (Feb.8th-25th, 2020).

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[A veiled amble through Venezia during Carnevale, 2005]

I pine to transport once more, into that magical realm. So much so, that my soul begins to yearn come the end of January each year. Alas, I cannot afford travel this season, and am not even certain when I will once more, be able to step foot on the stones of my great love…

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This photo was taken the first day I ever beheld Venice. When settling into the hotel, I opened the window to a bridge, and the fog over the canal just outside was mystical. There also, was the essence of the sea. I was quite provoked by the architecture, the sounds, the smells, the mystery. I will always cherish this image, as it was like capturing the moment I tumbled headfirst into an all-consuming passion, even if I didn’t know it yet…

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I long for the Piazza San Marco. To sit at a cafe table, with a decadent silver tray of coffee and delights. To find tranquility in the sounds of the square, with the scent of the lagoon in the air, birds alighting over St. Mark’s Basilica…

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To roam the winding calle, both by day, and when the moon is casting overhead. Up and over every little bridge, and along every shadowy path, to the lapping reflections of the flowing canals…

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To regard the sunset once more over the lagoon, past the bobbing of ebony gondolas, the Bridge of Sighs hovering just behind my shoulders. And then heading to a dinner, freshly caught from the sea…

Venice, My Beloved. I hope we meet again soon…

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?

Fill My Pen With Fairy Dust…

Good Morning Friends! This morning I’m dreaming of writing fairy tales. It is only 6 very short months until The Quill and Brush’s 5th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I am hoping to refresh my book display this year, and am anticipating multiple new tales to showcase within it. 6 months seems a long time, but it actually goes by heart palpitatingly fast when you’re tying up new stories! But, I love it. I truly and dearly love it…

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Still is coming along quite creepily. To all the fans of Veleno, another delicious thriller is just around the corner…

Still

One New York City museum…a bizarre string of strange happenings…always of course in some darkened, deafeningly quiet, vulnerable moment for the main character. Because what’s more thrilling than that? I’m having a blast

Dragons At Dusk by Michelle Novak

I’ve also pledged to craft a follow-up to Dragons at DawnI will be keeping that promise with some very grouchy and tameless monsters, and some brave knights to get in their way, in Dragons at Dusk…

Beauty Sleeping by Michelle Novak

And of course…copies of the sweetest, most magical, most adventurous little novella my brain could have ever imagined, will be waiting too…I absolutely cherish the newly published Beauty Sleeping

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I’m also considering some other short delights…we’ll see how much fairy dust is left in my pen before Bristol’s opening day, Saturday July 11th, 2020!

Stay Inspired!

Welcome 2020! And Some Musings…

Good morning friends! It’s 2020! Here in Chicago, it’s cold, but there is a layer of beautiful snow on the ground along with a sunny bright blue sky! I’m thinking of taking a bit of a walk later to take in the air, on this, the first day of the new year. I’ll have to bundle up!

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[I’m presently reading Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. The copy was courtesy of my dad (we snail mail each other books because we have similar reading interests). My dad nailed it. I don’t want to put the book down. An incredible, page-turning, true adventure!]

How did I bring in the new year? In my pajamas. I was chiding myself for not being asleep at that hour. I have a bedtime and all, which the holiday season has quite disrupted. 9 p.m. these days. 9:30 when I’m apparently feeling spunky…

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[My town of Evanston, on a sunny winter morning just before Christmas. The cold is nothing I find, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and the crimson cardinals are merry about the trees.]

So midnight, yikes! But I thought since I was already up so late, might as well take in the moment! I was snacking on salty nuts and chocolates (which I am certain assisted in making my dreams especially erratic last night…I have a ‘no-eating-chocolate-before-bed’ policy too…which I’ve hurled out the window for the holidays)…

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[Is there anything better than tea, cookies, and a book, on a cold winter’s day? Can’t every day just be tea, cookies, and books? Can I please earn a salary sitting around with tea, cookies, and books? And maybe some coffee, and cats?]

And just as the 12 o’clock hour was about to strike, I closed my eyes and began a prayer, feeling that that was a nice way to bring in this new decade. I thanked God for everything I have, and welcomed whatever was meant for me in the coming years, and asked for blessings for my loved ones and friends, and for peace for all…

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[Want to know something quirky about me (besides everything)? Each morning before I leave my house, I look in the bathroom mirror, and smile. I swear. For quite some time now I’ve been doing this. A little self-encouragement? Starting out the day with a positive expression, no matter what the day may bring? A smile, to stay inspired.]

And then it was promptly lights out! Midnight had come and gone, to sleep I went!

Now, I don’t make resolutions. But if I were to form thoughts for what I want for myself in this new year, and new decade, they would revolve around…

  • New adventures: Whether near or far, I love new experiences. Let’s add more!
  • Being brave to change: Because the new that awaits me, can enrich my life.
  • Maintaining good health choices: Because that is the best expression of self-love.

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[I digress but, I noticed these itty paw prints cemented in the sidewalk when I was out for a winter walk. Do you see those adorable little nail prints on that left claw? Was it a raccoon? Bet he didn’t like that cement on his little toes! I find the most delightful things, when I keep my eyes open…]

Well, I’m going to spend part of today writing, so I better hop to it. But, I just wanted to wish you all, the very Happiest New Year, and all of the peace, health, and joy in the world. Welcome 2020!

Stay Inspired!

Merry, Merry Christmas To You All!

On this beautiful Christmas morning, I wish each and every one of you…

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…all of the peace, love, health, and happiness in the world.

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Merry Christmas to you all! May your hearts be filled with good cheer!

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 KJV

A Robin’s Sweet Song…

Living in an urban environment, I walk around town all year long. When I toe out my door each day, I leave the car right where it’s parked…on the city street. I power-step to work, I stroll for groceries, I hike to the post office. If I don’t have to drive, I prefer not to…

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And I love walking, so I’ll go out for an amble just because, as often as I can. I enjoy the fresh air, the lakeside, scenes of nature wherever they are found, and I also enjoy a little bit of city bustle too. It’s specifically lovely when like today, the sun is shining and the biting temperatures have eased up…

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As I was going about my way, I heard the slightest, prettiest little song, and gazed up to see where it was coming from….

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It was an American robin, ever so gently caroling amidst the berries up in a tree. It seemed to be singing just to itself, which I found so very special and sweet…

I believe they were enjoying the sunshine and temperate weather, just as much as I was! I’m very glad that I paused a spell, to listen to this robin’s sweet song.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. 

Psalms 104:33-34 KJV

An Inspired Heart…

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

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

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{Painted wall, Milwaukee, WI}

But, you know what I think, dear friends?

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

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

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

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{Painted wall, Milwaukee, WI.}

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

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{Summer street festival, Milwaukee, WI}

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

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{A lakeside trail, Milwaukee, WI.}

A nature walk…

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{Street festival delights, Milwaukee, WI.}

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

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{Mom & Charlie at Bristol, Kenosha, WI}

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

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

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So peaceful and green…

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I’m already anticipating the 2020 season!

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

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{Tammy & Dino, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Priscilla & Nic, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Stephanie & Bryan, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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{Stephanie & Bryan, Bristol Renaissance Faire 2019}

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

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

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

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

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A block of Northwoods Cheddar…

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Heaven. Truly heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m so silly.

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

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

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

Stay Inspired!

Make Your Own Happiness…

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

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

(Do you like my little hint?)

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

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

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

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

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

Have you guessed yet? Need another hint?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of my best wishes! Stay Inspired!

Too Special For Words…

I saw something so special last week. Utterly special to me, because of my particular, lifelong love for insects. Living in an urban environment, you don’t see all that many interesting specimens. But sometimes, if you keep your eyes open like I do, you’ll see something that will amaze you…

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I was taking a brief bite of lunch out in the sun, and ran across the street to throw my apple core into a trash can. I soon almost fell over myself, coming to a halt. My jaw dropped and my chest stirred with excitement. FOR THE LOVE OF BUGS…A PRAYING MANTIS…standing there on the city sidewalk. My eyes were like two moons. I squealed out loud. I was so happy. If there had been anything difficult in my day thus far, it was over. Forgotten…

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Only then, I began to worry, for my mantid was posing so tall and proud on the sidewalk. He looked like he was ready to take on the world. Very confident. But pedestrians, and some with dogs, might hurt my beastie by accident. That would make me cry. So I hovered low, and warned a woman passing by…

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I thought to gingerly assist the beautiful animal into some building-side greenery. But then I thought, what if that creature’s sharp mandibles bite my finger? Ouch! Well, I guess I could stand such a pinch, if it meant saving the mantid’s life! Sometimes, we just have to be brave.

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Alas, as if reading my mind, the insect flew up over the walk, into blades of grass. It was amazing to watch it fly. Like a fairy. I gasped in awe.

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Safe, almost unseen, blending so well into the grass, there my mantid stayed to hunt his meal. His arms together, appearing in prayer, as praying mantis will do…

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I saw him for two days straight in the same cluster of grass, before he moved along. I of course had to look him up, and learn more about these bugs.

What did I find? A Chinese Mantis. According to Wikipedia, they are the most sizeable species of mantis in North America. I can attest…this beast was nearly as long as my hand, and when standing upright on the sidewalk, was quite dominant. Further, they are carnivorous (not just bugs, but aquatic creatures, reptiles…hummingbirds). They are also cannibals…

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Probably a good thing I was spared picking the creature up.

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I must say, I’ve only seen a praying mantis in Illinois once before, and that was some twenty years ago. That was especially why this encounter was so incredible. I’d like to have one as a pet. Only, he might eat all my pet jumping spiders bouncing around my house, which would be a conflict of interest. Some people do keep them as pets.

Of course, my heart tells me that what is wild, should stay wild…

As for you, Stay Inspired!

The Crazy Cat Lady House…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspired by Home…

Happy Sunday All! This morning is quite rainy and chilly. I think I aught to just get back under those blankets!

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[Image by LUM3N from Pixabay]

Do you know, I love home. I could stay home endlessly. Be very quiet. Just write, and read, and take afternoon walks, and cook healthy things, and eat lots of cookies, and create an inspired post everyday, and be so very content…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

You see, it is my dream to be a stay-at-home-writer. You’d sometimes find me hiding in a used bookstore for inspiration, sniffing old pages, because there’s nothing like that smell…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Or, I might be sitting by the lake, contemplating my next chapter, the waves, the sky, and life…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

But mostly, you would find me at my desk, my most contented place to be…

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[Image by Andrian Valeanu from Pixabay]

That is what home inspired me to think of today…

Someday

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

And what are your dreams? I bet they are as wonderful as mine!

Stay inspired!

Inspired By Reading…

Hello All You Amazing, Strong, Creative, Funny, Wonderful, Weird People…oh wait, the weird one is just me! Ha! How are you doing today?! Staying inspired I hope! Do you know what was so very good for my soul this last week?

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Reading. I was under the weather Monday, and thus spent the afternoon reclining in bed with books. And then…I made some more time for some more reading this week, because, you know, I just wanted more. Like M&M’s. Or blueberry muffins. Or French fries dipped in aioli…

Reading breaks my brain. It inspires me. And do you know what else I found? It makes my brain hush up. I need that. Be quiet brain, stop chattering! I’ve decided to apply reading to my life like meditation, for its wondrous calming effect…

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This week, I finished reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, an inspirational book for women, a gift from my cousin Kerri last Christmas. Some of the uplifting advice applied not at all to me, or were lessons I’d learned a long time ago. Yet, other thoughts from the author had me nodding my head in affirmation, thinking, this is good advice. I don’t really read much in the way of inspirational books, but I appreciated this one for being just that. A woman, trying to lift other women, and that is always good. Right on, Rachel!

I also finished Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich. Her Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America was amazing, so when I saw another of her works at the used book store, I snatched it up. Like science writer Amy Roach, this author is an utter inspiration to me. Her research, her wit, her investigative reporting skills…I aspire. Both of these books are about why it can be so difficult, financially getting by in America. Neither book made me smile. Both increased my humility. Both remind me not to take anything for granted, and to be thankful for what I have. Very smart books, very good reads.

Now, I’m beginning Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Another work bringing to light, an American populace, struggling in poverty and pain. Though it is doubtful I will find much uplifting in it, some stories are simply important to read…

As the days are starting to get chillier, and the sky is growing darker sooner in the evenings…

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I’ve pulled out the tea kettle and am perusing all the books I’ve collected, yet have not had time to begin…

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With that cozy time of year returning, I can’t wait to read, and write, as many adventures as I can fit in this season!

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As a side note for all you book lovers and readers of InspiredByVenice.org, I’m a Goodreads and Amazon author, and would love your follow!

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Even more, if you have enjoyed reading one of my tales, I would so much appreciate your review! Your words, inspire me, as a writer. Thank you!

Welcome to The Hen House!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I digress, but…isn’t this one lovely?

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

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

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

Love Your Life…

Good Morning Friends! How are you today? I hope that you are staying inspired? I had a nice little chat with my mama last night, and she said some things that sparked my inspiration. We were talking about hopes and dreams, how we can plan to make them come true, and how thinking on them keeps one’s spirits buoyant…

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So I’m passing the torch forward to you today to ask…what’s your dream? Think on it a little just now. A big dream, a teeny-tiny one…stay inspired, this is your life, ever keep the spark of your aspirations bright in your heart…

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Do you have a thing, that you love, that you can’t do without? Mine is currently pouring M&M’s over popcorn every night, and crunching to high heaven like a lively, sometimes rabid, squirrel. I shouldn’t even be eating chocolate before bed…makes me have lively, rabid dreams…but I…can’t…stop.

No, regular sized packages of M&M’s wouldn’t do. They have to be Share Size…

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Do you know what else I love? Deeply inhaling roses at their most full and beautiful bloom. I was spoiled to death the last day of faire with so many gorgeous flowers to celebrate my natal day…

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I arranged them all just so…

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And then sniffed them each longingly, one by one…

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And then had to go lay down because I was dizzy…This may, or may not, be true…

Thank you, my friends, for the flowers. I enjoyed them so very much.

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Know what else I’m loving right now?

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Milwaukee, WI. This Chicago gal has a crush on another city! Because what’s better than adventure?!

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I’ve had myself a good little handful of explorations, and have really enjoyed it…

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Most especially when Belair Cantina tacos have been involved…

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Because what’s better than tacos?

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I’m actually heading to Milwaukee now, so I must skedaddle…

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I dare you to look up the word skedaddle. It made me giggle!

Love Your Life. Love The Moments. Love Yourself. Keep Your Dreams Bright. Stay Inspired.

A Life Of Blessings…

Hello all my dear, dear friends! I know that it has been a terrible long time since I last sat down to share a tale with you! Oh heavens, months! Let’s just say, my summer was a whirlwind; it is always my busiest season! On the go, each and every day! But my stories have kept, and I’ve captured some photos of my adventures too…it is now the time once again, to share them with you…

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But first today, I want to send a sincere message of gratitude to each and every person in my life, who made my 4th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, so very blessed and wondrous. Each season, at my little shop The Quill and Brush, I take away so many special moments to fill my heart. I never forget what a privilege it is, to spend this time with readers and friends, both old and new. You give meaning, and great happiness, to my life. Thank you.

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Last Labor Day Monday, the final day of faire, and my birthday, Queen Elizabeth with her ladies and guards, did bless my little shop with a visit! I will share a larger post of it soon, for I received a special gift I want to show you…but I just wanted you to see my smile. That, is happiness. And that is the smile I always have at faire, when I meet so many kind, intelligent, witty, brave, talented, passionate, and generous people. Each faire day reminds me that my life is so full of blessings…

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Did I mention I’m still completely dazzled every time I see the Queen? The child in me, who was once upon a time so excited to meet Queen Elizabeth, will remain with me forever. But I suppose such fairy tale feelings are part of what help me dream up magic for my books!

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Update for the readers of my tales…

Beauty Sleeping will be available before end of September. I’ll let you know the exact day in a beat…

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Four fair princesses, a long time ago, in a castle do dwell. Their father the king, has disappeared, from just right where he fell. The queen, their mother, walked away, floating into the wood. A sorceress watches, from her dark weald, ’tis certain she means no good…

Will-o’-the-wisps, water spirits, and many strange flowers that sigh. Fairies, goblins, nymphs, and of course, tameless dragons that fly. A time from the past, filled with peril, strange conjury, and swords. Just take one step into this world, and the journey ’twill be yours…

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The world of Dragons at Dawn will carry on with a Part II., Dragons at Dusk. Coming later this fall…

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And, for you readers of the psychological thriller…I’ll be working on Still all winter. Available June 2020. My heart quickens

I’ll write again later this week…promise.

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!

Looking Back…

I’ve had a mind for some time to go through my old photographs, most of them taken before the advent of digital cameras and smart phones. I thought I might select a handful to share with you, for a few of the travel adventures, costumes, special stories and sparks of inspiration they might contain. But also, for I am considering digitizing my photos and purging the actual bulky box they fill. Of course, some hard copies I will always keep, the most special of these slipped between the pages of my Bible, a safe place where I keep some of my treasures…

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[My baptism at the age of 12. I was very happy.]

Now, please don’t frown when you read this, for it is actually funny. If you were witness, it would make you chuckle. There are two things that make me cry on cue in this world…

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The first of these is Christian music. You could actually test this like a science experiment, and the result would be the same every time. Come sit in the car with me, for example, and switch the music to the Christian station. I’ll start blubbering in about 15 to 30 seconds. Why? I dunno. Fond memories of singing hymns in church on a sunny Sunday morning? Moved by the Holy Spirit? A feeling of hope and a vision of eternal light? Whatever it is, pass me the Kleenex…oh heavens!

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The second thing that makes me cry on cue? Christian movies. For real. Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea? Noah and the Ark?

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Me: “RUN MOSES! Hurry! Lead the people to safety! Sob, sob, sob, squeal. Noah! Collect all the animals!! Hurry! The rains are coming! Get your family to the Ark! Blubber, blubber, blubber. Oh, for goodness sake…

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Well, now there seems to be a new item to add to this quirky list of what makes me cry on cue. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and beginning to understand the idea of nostalgia…but my old photos now make me reach for a tissue box…oh geez!

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Here is one taken on the drive of my grandparents’ home, certainly just returning from school on the bus. I am guessing it is autumn, I in my little sweater, carrying my itty-bitty pink jacket and my red school bag. Was this where it all began? My love for school? Where my insatiable curiosity, and elation over the smell of old books and pencil erasers began? Gimme’ a handkerchief somebody! What, nobody carries a cotton hankie anymore? Snifflesniffle

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And here, a photo with my Mama at a family Christmas gathering. My beautiful mother. My hands up to my mouth with the surprise felt in opening a special present. I love you Mama! I love you the most!

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And here. Do you see the awe in my face sitting in a diner, anticipating that dinner plate?! That’s the same look I still get every time I go to a restaurant to this day! Anyone who knows me can attest that this is true…

More fun blasts from my past to come! And also, release of my newest novel Ancient not afar off! Stay tuned friends, but most importantly…Stay Inspired!

Keep Your Chin Up! Welcome 2019!

Hello Friends! Happy, Happy New Year!

How did I spend my New Year’s Eve this year? Let’s just say my 2019 came in with a terrible sneeze! LOL! A whole week later and I’ve finally mentally surfaced from the murky fog of one dreary head cold. I usually don’t get more than one cold a year, so let’s just say I got mine out of the way for 2019 nice and early. I pride myself on being an overachiever!

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Now that I’ve got my ability back to coherently write a sentence, I wanted to send out a special message to all of you to start out this new year…

I must say, something has been on my heart these last few months. I’m hearing that many folks are struggling. So many seem to be saying that 2018 was not a good year for them. I’m hearing about a lot of pain, heartache, and worry. Each story seems worse than the next. Though I myself had one of the happiest summers of my life, the rest of the year was full of lessons in bravery! I’ve had to rally to overcome a few shake-ups and not-so-nice-surprises, and let me tell ya’…I’ve got some steel flowing through these veins now! Bring it on 2019!

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Of course, this message may not so much apply to you. Perhaps you had the best 2018 ever, and are smiling as you pass into your new year! Bless your heart! Bask in the sunshine of your good season, and count your blessings. But if you’re struggling friend, I just want to say this to you…

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Your life is a gift, and so is everyone in it. You are stronger than you think. In this journey, you will be given good seasons, and sometimes very difficult seasons. Every difficult season has a reason; perhaps they make us stronger to face future challenges, perhaps they make us more empathetic and caring of others. You keep your chin up. God loves you.

Love yourself. Love one another. Everything will be ok.

Right now, I’m turning up the volume to I Just Need U by TobyMac. Random dance in my living room?! Heck yea! There’s a song to lift your spirits and remind you of courage!

I wish you all the very best of health and happiness in 2019! And of course, I wish so very much, that you will stay inspired!

Find me in the fairy garden…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Inspired Friends!

Tin Foil And Red Hots Forever…

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

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

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

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She’s also hilarious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out Into The Storm I Go…

Have you ever been so tired, that you couldn’t even sleep? I’ve hardly slept the last two nights, in spite of being extremely fatigued. I actually rose before dawn this morning, to the delight of my cat, who aspires to wake me just before sunrise every morning. My schedule has just been so busy that my brain won’t slow down. Time…to…slow…down…

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Thunderstorms are pulling into Evanston within the hour, and are supposed to dramatically lessen the hot and humid temperatures. I live just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, so when the storms come through, the wind that flows through my house feels amazing. A storm, a blessed breeze…sleeping weather

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A week ago, there was one similar night. I had all the windows open and there was a peculiar noise at my screen. A loud buzzing insect. It sounded like a May beetle, a June bug, but it was a late August evening. I kept ordering Tiddo the cat to “go get that bug” every time the creature buzzed. I knew Tiddo couldn’t actually get to whatever it was, but it’s good for him to feel like he’s on the hunt once in a while in his old age. My cat however, wouldn’t budge from a cozy spot, though he kept perking up to the noise. At length, I had to know what this insect was in my window, while a restless wind brought in a strong rain…

It was a cicada, just more than a few in fact, having a discussion in my window. If I were to guess, it had something to do with the coming storm, for they are not usually found in my casement. I opened one screen, stuck out a hand, and easily collected a few for a moment to marvel, soon to send them out on their way again…

 

I believe I’ll go out now and take a hard walk by the lake, wear myself out, maybe even get caught in the rain?

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By the time I get back, and that wind starts flowing through my windows, I may just be able to finally get that sleep, with a humming cicada song and perhaps a bit of thunder to send me into my dreams…

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Out into the storm I go…

Stay inspired friends.

A Crown Of Flowers For My Head

I just picked up a special order of fresh roses from Evanston’s Saville Flowers, all carefully bound around the stems so that they can be worn in my hair. I’ve enjoyed donning flowers at Bristol this summer, more often this season than my usual wide-brimmed hat. Aren’t fresh flowers so wonderful?

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I ordered a mix of pretty colors and sizes, for Sunday is my birthday, and I wanted to wear a crown of buds in my hair! Flowers are so reminiscent of the special and fleeting beauty of summer, and of festival days at Bristol. It has been a wonderful season for me, and it will be very bittersweet on Monday evening when Bristol closes its gates for 2018…

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There are three days left to enjoy the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I hope if you have the chance to visit this final weekend, that you will be sure to stop and visit me at The Quill and Brush!

Here’s A Health To The Company is already singing in my heart…someone please pass me a handkerchief!

Here’s wishing you every enjoyment of these last weeks of summer! Stay Inspired!

I Am The Bug Whisperer…

Hello friends! Are you enjoying the end of your summer? My summer has been absolutely amazing, right out from a dream! I’ve a magical post to share soon from The Quill and Brush, but in the meanwhile, just wanted to take a moment to bring you this precious little creature…

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As you know, I love bugs. Love them. At present, my favorite are jumping spiders. In my tented shop at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, a fairly large jumping spider was taking a stroll around on my books. We had a moment together, me and my spider, and then he carried on his way. Not everyone will understand, but I find little moments like these spellbinding

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Goodness those eyes! They have four sets of eyes! And those fuzzy front paddle legs! To note, jumping spiders can bite (if threatened), something like a bee sting to which some might have a bit of a reaction. So, I’m not promoting playing with spiders. I was very gentle. No bites for me please!

 

Here’s encouraging you to remember to stop and notice the beauty in nature around you! It is so spectacular, yet ever easy to pass right by. Take a moment to take in the sky, to gaze at the moon, to feel the wind on your skin, to enjoy the scent of a fresh rain, to muse over a few seconds of bird chatter…or in my case, share a moment with a spider!

All my best to you today! Enjoy these fleeting days of summer! Stay Inspired!

Because You’re You, That’s Why!

You ever stop to take a moment, step back, and observe yourself? I had a little chuckle at myself a few mornings ago as I stopped and wondered…why am I drying flowers on my toaster oven, in such a strangely ordered arrangement?

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And, why do I continue to take photos of my own city like a tourist, each time I have occasion to run downtown? Like I’ve never been there before? I was clickin’ my camera merrily again last Monday morning!

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How come I like taking photos of my food so much? Food photographer in another life? You ever had roasted chickpeas on your salad? Delicious!

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Why do I get a kick out of placing my snacks in perfect symmetrical order on my kitchen counter?

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Why am I collecting tiny little quotes, and coffee bottle tops that say ‘Good Luck’, in two itty bitty jars? If you haven’t tried Stumptown cold brewed coffee…give it a try! You’ll wake up real fast…

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Why would I hang dangerously out of my window to watch a bird eating another bird?

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Wait, one more time…why are my meals symmetrical?

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Why can’t I put down the scary stories, even though I freak myself out every time?! Ahhhhh! I love the scary stories!

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Why do I insist that all the jumping spiders in my house are my pets?

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Why do I always swoon when I’m in the same room with a cheese platter? I’m an aspiring vegan with a cheese obsession! Cheese

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Why do I love my writing desk to be both crazy colorful and perfectly organized at the same time?

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Why must I eat every radish in a bowl in a row, like a crazed bunny?

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I digress, but…look at those eyes! How could you not want a house full of jumping spiders for pets? I think I should start naming them…

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Well, to all of these self-reflective questions, and to many others, there was only one answer….

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 This tee-shirt was a gift, and it explains it all. Thanks Aunt Marie!

Here’s to you…and the special individual that you were made to be! Here’s reminding you to embrace your particular quirks, your unique interests, and your special talents!

 Stay Inspired!

Do what you love, don’t skip a beat…

Three weekends out of nine have already passed for The Quill and Brush at Bristol. I have to say that this has already been the most magical and memorable season, thanks to each and every one of you that has taken the time to visit…

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In Bristol, every day is a festival day! And with each of these festival days, I take with me wonderful memories of summer, and carry them in my heart all year long. The friends that I meet, the music that floats through the air, the smiles and laughter that I see all around me. Enchanting!

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I’ve received such wonderful words, in person and by email, in these last few weeks. They have blessed my heart, and keep my quill inspired to scribble. Thank you to those who have reached out to say that I have inspired you. Know that you have inspired me just as much, and even more! And for all the writers out there, and to each of you who have chatted with me about your special talents and inspirations, stay inspired! Do what you love, don’t skip a beat…

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I wish that I could name each and every person that has already been a blessing and an inspiration to me this season, but it would make this post quite long indeed! For today, at the very least, I would like to especially thank two of the loveliest, smartest and kindest of women!

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This is Taylor! She was the very first person to purchase a copy of Veleno last season when it was newly published. Not only did she write a review, she also took the time to visit The Quill and Brush this season to chat. By the end of our visit (which made me feel very fortunate to be a writer), the conversation ended like this…

Me: “You are the reason I write.”     Taylor: “You are the reason I read.”

LOVE IT! Thank you Taylor!

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This is Priscilla! Priscilla picked up a copy of Venice two seasons ago. She had been to the city, and had wonderful memories of it, which she was able to revisit in my choose your own adventure. Not only did she write a review, but she also came back with a special gift and kind words to say ‘thank you’ for the story. I am very happy to know such a thoughtful, artistic woman…especially one who shares such a fondness for my beloved Venezia!

Grazie mille Priscilla!

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My very best wishes today, to every reader of Inspired By Venice. I hope that you are enjoying your summer as much as I am. I’ll be sure to share more of my adventures soon! Stay Inspired!

A Gaggle Of Geese

I’ve just returned from an early evening walk aside Lake Michigan’s shore. Here in Chicagoland, the weather has finally given us some warmer temperatures. I had to get out and enjoy it before it starts snowing again (which is not impossible)…

 

As I was walking over a small dam of sorts, I saw some geese swimming around in a placid pool, as well as heard a little gosling calling out. Baby geese are called goslings. This yellow-headed, fuzzy little dude was the only offspring around, perhaps their one and only. He wasn’t yet confident enough to get up over the edge of the water trap. You can’t hear his call in my video on account of the wind, which was pretty strong tonight, but he was communicating to mom and dad using some healthy little lungs. They came to his rescue, of course! Just wanted to share this sweet little moment with a gaggle of geese!

Lovin’ That! Words of Encouragement

So, I have to send a shout out to my local Whole Foods. Yesterday evening, not quite feeling my most cheerful and energetic self (will this dreary, cloudy, cold season ever end?!), I was perusing the isles of my grocery. As I scanned the shelves for things I needed (and all the things I don’t, because I love grocery shopping and checking out all there is to see), a small orange sign caught my eye. It had handwriting in marker on it, which is unusual for signage there…

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Well, I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was very positive and encouraging and it made me smile. A random note of kindness. I bet others spotted that sign too, and were encouraged also. I now wonder if there aren’t a few others scattered around the store, like an Easter egg hunt?! I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled in future…

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I was never much of a tea drinker, but lately I’ve been enjoying tea quite a bit. A friend who no longer needed her kettle passed hers on to me and I’ve been using it every day. A nice cup of tea certainly helps to ward off the chill outside (will it ever end?!). In any case, I have to send a you rock to Yogi tea. With each tea bag, a little note is attached. Tiny words of wisdom that mainly seem to surround compassion, encouragement, love, etc. I’m now collecting them in a little jar…

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I think that’s really cool…Lovin’ That!

We all need to receive words of encouragement sometimes (whether on a piece of paper randomly spotted at the grocery store, printed on a tea bag, or from someone directly). These were small reminders to myself not to forget to dole out encouragement to others, knowing how much it can mean, but also to be thankful for those who have been compassionate, encouraging, or have provided wisdom to me

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Here is a Bible verse that is an inspiration to me. The older I get, and the more I experience life while witnessing others in their journey through theirs, how much more I aspire to be this woman…

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:26 KJV

Stay encouraged folks! Remember to encourage others! And of course…stay inspired!

 

Swingin’ My Arms and Swayin’ My Hips!

Hello folks! Are you looking as forward to spring as I am? I’m so eager for warm sun and bird song! To get my spring kick-started, I’ve been out power walking every day, swingin’ my arms and swayin’ my hips! Too bad it’s been terribly freezing outside. I’ve had to bundle up quite a bit, and my face has received much wind burn, but I’m tired of winter. I needed to get outside! Come walk with me and see what I’ve been up to…

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One thing I love about walking around my town is that I discover more than I would notice when I’m in my car driving the usual ways. This week alone, I spotted a whole bunch of new restaurants, and was sad to spy others that had recently closed. I was curious over new construction and mused to look into store fronts, and I walked a lot of new back streets that I’d never been down before. It was fun to explore!

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Walking outside is also good for the soul! All that fresh air and nature makes my heart sing…

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As I walked near the sands of Lake Michigan, I spied a bird sanctuary where robins were scratching for bugs…

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I stopped to listen to the songs of red-winged black birds, and to giggle at the hurried running of sandpipers…

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I also spotted a little field mouse after dark, darting back and forth from under a bush to pick up tiny seeds. That was too cute!

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But for all the nature, it’s still city. A funny thing happened last night to remind me of that. I was walking at dusk down a road I’d never walked before. There was an empty plot filled with trees and grass, and I noticed a sign that said it was a nature restoration area. As I walked by and gazed in, how quiet and peaceful it was. So I stopped to listen and take a few deep breaths…IMG_3737

At that exact moment, the loudest DING-DING-DING-DING rang out. Red lights started flashing and I just about jumped a foot into the air. Just a bit further along the sidewalk was a Chicago “L” Train crossing, and the gates and sirens and lights had just gone on to warn drivers and pedestrians that a train was coming through. I chuckled at myself for being so startled. So much for a moment of peace!

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In other news, I’ve made a few fun vegan dinners…

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I’ve made my grandma’s slaw recipe into a vegan version more times than I can count now, and I never stop loving it. I could eat it almost every day! And that butter on those toasties? Vegan and as delicious as the real thing!

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Also had a craving for whole wheat spaghetti and meatballs. They make meatballs vegan now too…an extra dose of veggies without the meat!

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Tiddo has made it his life goal to find as many unique hiding spots as possible. It’s a wonder he never gets stuck in a cupboard or closet, though his loud meow would be sure to tell me if he was!

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I was rather dismayed when he was goofing off up high above the cupboards. He’s 18 years old! I was worried he’d try to jump down and get himself hurt. He’s figured out the way down though. No sprained paws so far!

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Well that’s all for now friends! Spring is around the corner, flowers will soon be blooming and the birds will soon be singing with gusto. Whatever is going on in your world, keep those arms swingin’, keep those hips swayin’ and stay inspired! Best Wishes!

The Doge’s Ball of Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting For Spring…

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

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