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

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!

 

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!

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!

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!

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

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!

Ancient is Here! Enjoy the Adventure!

Hello All! Here’s wishing each and every one of you good health and happiness today! I wanted to share something very special today. After an almost two-year writing journey on this project, my newest novel Ancient, is finally here!

When I woke up this morning, one of first things I did was go to my computer to peek and see if Ancient was live, available to all. When I saw that it was, an instant little cry burst forth, tears spontaneously pooling. A total sneak attack cry that I wasn’t expecting. But it only took me a few seconds to understand the sudden emotion…

Writing Ancient felt a little different to me than my other books. Where before, I felt something like a puppeteer, moving my characters where I would, looking at them from above, or like a narrator, this time I felt like I’d taken the journey with my character. And this morning, when seeing that the story was now no longer just mine, I felt like I was letting go. Waving to Hem in the desert, as she disappeared like a mirage, out into a vast landscape of sand. Very bittersweet…

Ancient

For everyone who reads Ancient, it is a wonderful adventure, with a delicious pinch of romance, and many thought-provoking twists of the spiritual. Hem, a nomad in the wilderness of ancient Egypt, loses everything, her family and her life, and is left dangerously and desperately alone. This is her journey from out of darkness, and back into the light. I was with her every step…

Ancient can be purchased here in the U.S., and is available in Europe through Amazon.

When reading Ancient, remember to take along your water bottle and sunscreen, and do beware the asps and scorpions. Maybe don’t wear sandals. Just saying…

And as ever, my dear, dear friends…stay inspired.

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!

A Stunning Story, And What Goes Bump In The Night…

Hello All! How are you? I hope that you are very well, utterly happy, and wonderfully healthy today! What am I up to? Being my crazy self as usual! Crazy for bizarre fun facts that is! I’ve got a unique one for you today! In fact, it’s quite stunning

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Ok, so here I am, very late past my bedtime one evening a few weeks ago. I’m burrowing under the blankets, and I want to read a few minutes before falling asleep. However, I don’t want all the lights on. What do I do? Well, my mama gave me this handy-dandy little camping lamp, just in case the electricity goes out. Perfect reading lamp! Especially when it makes you feel like you’re in a tent in some remote forest in the middle of the night, and you are reading a book about Sasquatch!

Do you know what one of my favorite things about reading is? When I read things in books that I’d never heard of before, which always provokes me to go look things up. Do you know how many times I’ve read something and said, Is that really true? Well, once I ask that, there is no going back. I have to put on my reading glasses and go check it out!

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Now, I haven’t read Jeff Meldrum’s Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science in its entirety, but I’ve read enough to say that I like the book very much. It takes a scientific approach to Bigfoot, speaking on an array of animal study topics. Such as…comparing known animal behaviors to observations made during Sasquatch ‘sightings’, analyzing those mysterious ‘vocalizations’ heard in the wilderness, determining whether skin imprints can be found in footprint casts (dermatoglyphics), photo and video analysis, etc. The list goes on. In fact, I found myself absolutely fascinated by all the forensic science! Broke my brain. But this post isn’t entirely about Bigfoot…

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[Image by CSTRSK from Pixabay]

Among the fun facts I was learning about the animal kingdom, there was one item in the book in particular that really surprised me. Learning about infrasound.

Ok, this gets good. We humans can hear sound within a range of Hz (Hertz), 20 Hz being our general low point. (Note, I’m not a scientist, so click on my links if you are so inclined, and you can learn more.) Infrasound is the sound that lies below our low point. Sounds in our environment that we can’t hear, because they are out of our range. I knew these sounds existed of course, but never thought much of it…

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[Image by David Mark from Pixabay]

What might cause infrasound? Nature. A rumbling earthquake. Blinding lightening. Celestial bodies passing overhead. A rip-roaring tornado. Men make things that make infrasound too…aircraft that travels so fast, it creates a sonic boom. Explosives! Those incredibly massive wind turbines…

Some animals are able to produce it. Elephants, and whales, use it to converse from miles away from one another. And other animals chat each other up with infrasound too, like alligators. This may be one reason why people have witnessed animals freaking out, or fleeing, before a natural disaster. Maybe they’re hearing something we’re not? Once I started reading about it, I found it all so terribly interesting. But this gets even better…

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[Image by intographics from Pixabay]

Though we can’t hear infrasound, you may feel those low level Hz. An intense reverberation? A dazed reaction? A feeling of unease? For instance, the tiger’s incredible roar (which includes low level Hz), can apparently arrest its prey, stunning it. Meldrum’s book asks (sparked by information folks have delivered after alleged encounters), could a Sasquatch do that?

Yikes! Can you imagine a mighty, growling call from out of a pitch-black mountain wilderness? An undiscovered species warning you away from their territory, using infrasound to trigger your fear? Ok, no more late night reading with a lantern for me…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Further intriguing, some researchers have begun to explore whether infrasound might not be the cause for some of our feelings of discomfort when we suspect something is going bump in the night. A.k.a., “I sense there’s a ghost in this house!” It might just be the eerie feeling you’re getting from low level Hz vibrations…

Am I allowed to raise my hand here, and ask whether these Hz’s are man-made (a diesel engine in the distance), or whether it’s just that ghosts speak at a volume we can’t hear? Spirits having conversation at the level of infrasound. Bwa-ha-ha…

I just scared myself.

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Love it! Terror-inducing Sasquatch calls? Ghosts blathering during the darkest hours, or just eerie vibrations? Giraffes carrying on infrasound gossip that humans can’t hear? Science is awesome. And, it proves again and again, that anything is possible…

Bigfoot might just be out there.

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[Image by Rex Landingham from Pixabay]

By the way, the northern lights are an aurora, which can produce infrasound. Therefore, not only is this colorful, magical light display in the night sky beautiful…it’s also producing it’s own strange music, just out of range of your ears!

Stay Inspired Friends!

Bugs in My Brows?

Hello All! How are you?! I’m sorry that I have been remiss in posting and saying ‘hello’! My life, just like everyone else’s, seems to be a never-ending go-go-go! So much so, that I was downright considering this last week, buying a cabin in the woods. I would go live with Sasquatch, use an outhouse (they still exist), listen to the birds instead of rumbling cars, and write all day everyday. Sounds divine! Never say never! Do comment and say ‘hello’ friends, I’ve missed ya!

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[Image by David Mark from Pixabay]

What else was I thinking about this week besides my forest getaway? Bugs in my brows! What? It wouldn’t be a normal day if I didn’t think of at least ten things very strange. This was one of them…

So, we all have our vanities. In fact, when I was a young woman, I think I was quite vain indeed. Nowadays, not so much. My eyes are too allergic to wear mascara anymore, I don’t have time for the makeup routine, and if I get to exfoliating my face every other week, I feel accomplished. I don’t even wear lipstick like I used to, and I love lipstick. Chapstick has to do! However, there’s one thing I never leave the house without doing in the morning. I have to brush my eyebrows. I refuse to let my brows be all crazy. When I wake up in the morning, they are all in disarray! If you ever see my brows going every which way, it means I’ve given up on life…

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[Image by Amy Z. from Pixabay]

So, I’m brushing my brows with my eyebrow brush, like I do every morning. (Sometimes I carry my eyebrow brush places, in case my brows get out of line from a winter hat or a snowstorm or something and I need to brush them again when I get where I’m going). And as I’m looking in the mirror, brushing away, I suddenly remember that there are bugs in my brows (which I’ve heard is a real thing). Ewwww… Of course, now having brow bugs on my brain, I have to look this up!

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[Demodex brevisPhoto Credit: Austin Whittall, Sourced from Wikipedia]

There are two types of mites that live on human faces (too itty-bitty to see). Demodex folliculorum clings to your face hairs (lashes, nose, brows), while Demodex brevis prefers the sebaceous glands near follicles from where hairs grow. They nibble on skin cells, and the oil your skin produces. When you first come into the world, no mites! You of course must pick them up by interacting with others. Further, the population of mites on your face only increases as you age. Generally speaking, they’re harmless. Though, if your system is run down, mite populations can increase and cause skin irritation. Fun fact! They don’t do much traipsing about during the day, because they don’t care for the light. They migrate hairs when it’s dark. Face mites are like vampires. That’s a nice thought.

Ok, this was your silly science for the day! You’ll remember it when you give your loved one a smooch, the perfect opportunity to exchange some new follicle friends!

Stay Inspired Folks!

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!

Run Little Dude! Run!

Have you had your dose of action and thrill yet today? Well look no further, for I have just the video for you! Last night while perusing Netflix, I paused over a short trailer for the nature documentary Planet Earth II. In it, an island iguana, just born, has to run his way from the sand where he was hatched to the safety of rocks above. He looks full-grown, but is apparently just a little guy. I have to tell you, I was so anxious for this creature! I actually squealed aloud, “Run! Hurry! Runnnnnn!

I watched the clip more than once, my knuckles up to my mouth. Oh my word! Have you ever seen so many snakes? What’s the name of that beach? Nightmare Sands? I’ve got to tell you, nature documentaries are seriously more thrilling than blockbusters! You can read more about the clip here!

Stay Inspired Folks!

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!

Turn Out The Lights And Let Them Love

As I took a long walk last night, along the shores of Lake Michigan, enjoying the setting sun above the waves and the full gardens surrounding local homes, I got to thinking about the beauty of summer and how short it lasts in these parts. Such thoughts brought me to think of fireflies…

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As many know, I have an absolute love for insects. I can’t help stopping to observe their busy little lives, and the careful design of their precious wings and unique bodies. I don’t kill spiders and winged intruders in my home, but gather them up to go outside. God gave them breath to live, I don’t feel it’s my place to take it from them if I can avoid it. But what brought me to muse about fireflies, besides the general splendor of their bioluminescence at dusk on a balmy summer night?

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Did you know that when fireflies light up in the air over a field, they are wooing lady flies? It’s lovely. The fireflies floating along, blinking in the sky, are male. Further, they are not all of the same species. Each species has a different pattern of blinking. Some fireflies blink twice, go dark while floating along, and then blink twice again. Some light up to fly diagonally, in slanted streaks, then darken, and repeat. Others fly aglow in a J formation through the air, darken for a spell, and then do it again…

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Meanwhile, the lady fireflies are waiting in the grass, taking in the lights, looking to spot what special glow might attract them. When one does, a female will light up in return, and two creatures aglow will chance to meet…

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If you go and sit quiet and still in a field at dusk, and watch, you will be witness as such careful courting unfolds. Enchanting are the blinks of the fireflies in flight, and the glowing returns from those who wait. You might even be able to make out some patterns, though I should guess that the glowing is quite beautiful enough…

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Unfortunately, it is believed that firefly populations are diminishing. In our environments, we use a lot of chemicals to tame lawns and kill insects. This is something I think a lot about, as I take my walks and observe lawns being treated. And if it’s not good for the fireflies, I’m certain it’s not good for those baby bunnies in the park, or the birds fluttering in your flowers, or your dog, or you. Do consider using environmentally safe treatments, if you must treat your lawn at all…

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But chemicals aren’t the only thing to diminish the fireflies. Light pollution is also to blame. It disrupts the glowing creatures’ ability to spot one another. Those blaring porch lights in our backyards at night are making it difficult for them see each other! The tragedy! Who dares me to write a letter to my city to request a citywide lights out policy between certain hours just after dusk, on behalf of the declining firefly population?! It would begin…Turn out the lights, and let them love!

The Tale Of The Terrible Tick

Hi folks! Are you enjoying your summer? Are you staying inspired?! I certainly am, and will share some of the fun from The Quill and Brush later this week! But first, a terrible tale! Feel free to chuckle at my expense, laughter is good for the soul…

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As anyone who knows me knows, I have a very great dislike for ticks. This is a little ironic considering I actually love insects generally and take great interest in observing them. But ticks, yikes! I would not go so far as to call it a phobia, for I am not struck with terror at just the sight of one, but let us say I would consider it a nightmarish scenario to find one attached to my person…

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Last night, I was completely exhausted. My summer schedule is busy, busy, busy! I had every intention of falling into bed even before the sun went down, hardly able to keep my eyes open or even think clearly. But just as I was wrapping up my day, ready to retire, I happened to touch the back of my neck

I knew what it was right away. I was in a forested place all weekend, and know there is always the possibility of picking up a vampiric little friend. I was filled with dread. So what does one do in this situation? Remove the tick. Mustering all of my bravery, I immediately removed the creature. Ouch! Who knew how long it had been biting me…

As it scurried around where I had dropped him, I ran for a jar. I then quickly forgot the tick, and the jar, while hurrying for tweezers to extract any tick remains from my neck. When I returned for the tick, he had disappeared and I was for a moment paralyzed. Where did the tick go? But then I found him again, and plunked him in the jar…

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Now normally I would be a watch and wait sort of gal. Wait to see if the bite heals without incident. Go to the doctor if that red bullseye rash appears, meaning infection. But my gut said otherwise last night, and I immediately left the house to see a doctor, towing my new friend along in a tiny mason jar, the back of my neck burning like a hot match tip had touched it…

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The doctor checked out the tick, and claimed that I had done a good job of removal, easily spotting and examining the bite on my neck. I was prescribed a double dose of antibiotic to take as soon as I got home, even though she felt confident that this tick was unlikely of the size or life stage to transmit disease. When she said the words ‘engorged with blood’, I shuddered real hard. She chuckled at my reaction. I was sent home to check the rest of my person for more ticks, and told to keep an eye on that bite. As I finally fell into bed at midnight, I felt like I had done the right thing by trusting my gut…

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So there is my terrible tale. I survived one of my fears, and now own a pet tick in a jar. Only one question remains…is it weird that I sort of want to let him free? I guess I have a big heart, even for a tick!

The Delights of Summer!

Headed up to Kenosha, WI yesterday to set up The Quill and Brush. Next Saturday begins the Bristol Renaissance Faire’s annual festival, nine weekends long and the absolute delight of summer round these parts. Bristol has repeatedly been voted the #1 Renaissance Faire in the U.S. and Midwest, and I love being a part of the magic! Yesterday I heard the heat index was at 107 degrees. Definitely felt that, it was mighty warm. I have to sincerely thank my folks for planting flowers, drilling screws, moving furniture, and sweating to death, all out of the kindness of their very kind and helpful hearts…

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If you are planning a visit, be sure to and visit The Quill and Brush. We are in the very same place on King’s Landing, on the lane between the petting zoo and climbing wall. We are excited to meet with all our old friends, and to make many new! News on my newest novel, Ancient, coming soon!

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Tell me you aren’t ready to fill these quiet Bristol streets with merrymaking? Can you see the Queen’s parade even now? Can you hear the vendors hawking? Can you smell the garlic mushrooms and pickles? Don’t you hear the swords clashing and the Bristol Buskin Frolickers singing?

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After our tented shop was made ready and waiting for opening weekend, we zoomed on over to one of our favorites, Tim and Tom’s Cheeses. Just down the way from Bristol, they are both an antique shop and a cheese lover’s paradise. We made a little visit last year too, on the day we set up…

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Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. I love cheese. Vegans look away. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese.

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This year I picked up a truffle Gouda and an onion & chive cheddar to try. The crackers are ready and waiting!

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There’s a little stretch of marshland on the country roads between Bristol and Tim and Tom’s Cheeses. There, tall barren trees tower above a wet expanse. Driving in separate cars, I honked my horn frantically to my folks and made an ‘Emergency Bat-turn’ (when Batman releases parachutes out of the back of his Batmobile) to snap some photos of nesting waterbirds…

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I’m not sure what I got this time? Flamingos? Ibis? Spoonbills? Storks? Loons? Grebes? I’m sorry birders! Please don’t cringe! But wait…doesn’t it look like 2 species up there?

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Cranes? Herons? I’m awaiting your identification in the comments friends, spotted in Kenosha, Wisconsin! Wish my view had been close enough to see some fuzzy-headed nestlings!

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My newest summer delight is chilled watermelon! Don’t know why I never went bonkers over it before. Absolutely refreshing, naturally sweet, and very hydrating. Think I can eat just one or two slices when I open a pack?

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Guess not!

Stay inspired folks! Enjoy the delights of your summer! Hope to see many of you at Bristol! My very best wishes to you!

The Bird Of Prey Outside My Window!

I risked my life today, dangerously leaning way out of my open window several stories above the sidewalk. Why? Because I spotted another Cooper’s Hawk! So excited to share this with you! I’ve been keeping an eye out to capture some photos of these birds for some years now. I kept seeing them in the neighborhood, but because of the thick foliage, I can rarely get a good look before they fly out of sight. I’d sometimes wondered if I’d even really seen a hawk at all. But enough sightings convinced me that there is a rather healthy population round these parts. Remember the last photos I caught?

At first today, I thought there was only the hawk, so I started snapping photos. But then I realized, he’s just caught something. Yes, he’s eating his catch, a bird. Yikes! Can you believe I got such a great video?! Just outside my window?! I’m just nuts about nature!

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If anyone thinks my identification is wrong, let me know. I’m no birder, but I’ve always got my handy-dandy Birds of North America nearby!

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!

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!

Lovin’ That! Pete’s Living Greens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blessing Of A Friend’s Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am the Gobbler of Greens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Hawk’s Tale…And one fine striped tail it is!

For years now, there has been an elusive winged creature out back. I’d thought I’d seen a large hawk dozens of times, but it was so fast that I could never get a really good look…

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It’s not like when one flies across an open country road and perches for all to see on top of a telephone post. Our backyard abuts a dozen other backyards, all wooded, gardened and spectacularly green, so a bird, even a large one, can stay camouflaged…

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Earlier this summer, I’d gotten a pretty good look at it swooping over the alleyway between houses. And then last week, I was witness to it swooping down to try to snag a squirrel off a tree. No lie. The squirrel was a bit too big and skittish for the hawk to grab, but it was a gutsy attempt and certainly left my eyes round with surprise! The squirrel proceeded to squall in shock for about half an hour, (to the displeasure of my sensitive ears), an acorn still clutched in its mouth, completely unharmed but scared out of its wits…

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So, I’m making coffee this morning and looking out into the sunny backyard. I see something! Is it what I think it is? Is it the bird! I tear off up the stairs faster than Tiddo the cat on one of his running rampages, snatch up my camera and fly over to my bedroom window. First time I really saw it as not just a flash of wings, but as a sedentary creature! And let me tell you, it’s a big one. Larger than I thought. He (or she) is living off of chipmunk, bird, bunny and squirrel meat. These backyards are no slim pickings for this fierce hunter…

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Can anyone take a guess at what I’ve got? Perusing the pages of my North American bird book, it looks like it might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but I’d love your input! I’ve definitely been hearing a hawk’s strong kak-kak-kaking call all summer long. (You can listen to a voice recording of a Cooper’s Hawk on its wikipedia page here). Cooper’s Hawks are uncommon, live in wooded areas, and are newly removed from the Illinois endangered species list!

A Cicada’s Ethereal Birth Part II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C’mon Little Dude, Let’s Get Outside!

Me: “Oh my goodness! What are you doing here? Caterpillars belong outside! Are you ok?

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Caterpillar: “Ahhhh! Lady, don’t hurt me!” (Curls into a little fuzzy ball).

Me: “Don’t worry! You’re safe now. Let me help you!

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Caterpillar: “Terrible! Just terrible! I crawled under the door and got lost!” (Rolls over, flailing all 10 legs).

Me: “Oh my! And what happened to half your fuzzy black eyebrows on your round red head? Seems you lost a few?

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Caterpillar: “I don’t remember! It’s all been a terrible blur.

Me: “Well how about we get you back outside then? C’mon, lets go!

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Caterpillar: “Thank you, thank you! I’d never have found my way outta here!

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Me: “Ok, hang on little dude. We’re almost there.

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Caterpillar: “I can smell the fresh air! I can see the green! Hurry!

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Me: “Here you go! And it’s just rained too. You must be thirsty, drink from a drop!

Caterpillar: “Oh blessed leaf! Oh quenching rain! Oh beautiful birdsong! I am home again.

Me: “But wait! Grant me one single wish, fuzzy caterpillar.

Caterpillar: “But what can I do? I’m just the littlest of the littles!?

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Live, and become the beautiful moth you were meant to be.

What did I find? The caterpillar of the White-Marked Tussock Moth. May his metamorphosis yield the strong, wondrous creature he was meant to be…even if he might be missing a few eyebrows!

Stay Inspired Friends!

A Cicada’s Ethereal Birth

Only on account of my one and only super-human power (my bizarre knack for spotting insects), I spied a movement in the dirt yesterday near dusk and had to take a closer look. At first it appeared to be something like a May Beetle (June Bug), but was not dark enough in color. I then knew right away that it must be a cicada just come up from the ground…

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I bent down and oh so carefully picked up the little creature. He stretched his legs a bit in surprise, but seemed hardly bothered. I guessed that he must be a little sleepy, after living underground for so long. For as cicadas, they might live a few years, or even 13 or 17 below the dirt before emerging! I inspected his transparent tan shell and could see that there was a beautiful green below its surface. How long would it take for this insect to hatch out of his skeleton and fly free?

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Gingerly setting him back down just where I had found him, I spied nearby, what looked like a little hole where he’d surely just burrowed out from. The cicada dawdled on his way, right up to a planter, and began to climb. At his own pace, he’d gotten to a good place and height, and then took hold beneath the lip at the top of the planter…

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At this point, I imagined that he’d just sit there all night, and that I would see nothing of his metamorphose. But I was wrong. I wouldn’t call it trembling, more like vibrating. At intervals, he appeared to vibrate his way out of a slit on the back of his shell. His folded wings looked like swirled sea shells, sea-green and peach in color. He vibrated these coiled wings again and again until they unfurled…

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His skeleton soon fell to the ground, and my heart was singing to behold such a beautiful creature. All in all, from his emerging from the ground to his fully transforming from his shell, took about an hour and a half. I don’t know how long he clung there, for I’m sure his wings needed to dry and solidify before taking flight…

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Though cicadas are a big part of summer here, their song accompanying each moment of these long hot days, and though I’ve found a great many discarded skeletons, and see quite a few adult cicadas flying around…this was the first time I’d ever seen one emerge from its shell. The moment was magical. Tears were nearly pooling in my eyes, and I whispered to myself, What a beautiful creature God has made.

I’m a softie for bugs. What can I say?

West With The Night

A great joy I take in reading, is in being exposed to completely new perspectives. Of course, all books give you new thoughts, but not all make you deeply ponder things you’ve never thought about before, or places that you have never experienced…

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My father and I regularly exchange books via snail mail. Always wrapped up tight in a square of recycled paper grocery bag, I smile every time a new used book arrives in my mailbox. One of the most recent was West With The Night by Beryl Markham, a book that Ernest Hemingway claimed was so well written, that it put all other writers (including himself) to shame…

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[Photo Credit: Tekniska Museet]

West With The Night is Beryl’s memoir (born in 1902) of growing up in the wilds of Kenya, in what was at the time British East Africa. She spoke Swahili fluently, and only had a pinch of schooling. Her British father owned a farm, and bred racing horses there, while her mother didn’t prefer to live in Africa and moved back to England. Little Beryl grew up quite a free and independent girl. Quite the little spitfire too…

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In her memoir, she describes daylong spear hunting expeditions as a child, going out with the men of a local tribe, walking out into the vast wilderness with those who became her dearest friends and mentors, teaching her to sense and understand the land and animals around her…

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With her father breeding racehorses, she grew up aside these powerful, majestic animals. Whilst still just a youth, she became the first woman in Kenya to become a licensed horse trainer. In later years, six races, horses she trained won Kenya’s East African Derby…

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The majority of Beryl’s memoir is about her flying career. She purchased a plane, became the first person to train to fly in Kenya and go on to earn a commercial pilot’s license. She flew all over Africa, over deserts, mountains, endless swamps and vast landscapes. She flew mail over great distances, picked up the sick and dying to transport them to help, she rescued men downed in the wilderness, where they were near death and hope of survival was fleeting…

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Some of her experiences were so perilous and frightening! Killing a primate that had attacked her so viciously that she had to use pure force and adrenaline to survive the fray and save herself…

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The lion that pounced on her when as a little girl, she ran across his track. It pawed her to the ground and took a bite out of her leg with a fierce roar. Beryl’s description of the lion’s roaring filled me with terror. In the memoir, a man who witnessed this event shared the whole scene. How the little girl was bleeding from every place, how the lion stood upon her, and her harrowing rescue. It’s very powerful…

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And I will never forget the moment when Beryl, while accompanying a Safari, is on the verge of being trampled to death by a mighty young male elephant. Her writing had me feeling like I was right there with her, and I was cowering in fear…

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In 1936, Beryl was the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. Long hours of darkness and stormy weather above the ocean in her little craft (the reason for her memoir title West With The Night). During this part of her story, I was holding my breath! She made it to land by the very skin of her nose, her craft nearly crashing into the ocean (but instead diving into the first sliver of land). She should have perished, but remarkably (and much owing to her incredible flying skills) she survived…

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This book moved my thoughts, and made me deeply ponder another’s perspective and experiences, as well as another place so different from what I know. I wondered…if I had been in her shoes, could I have survived, thrived, and accomplished so much? Uhm…

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The vastness of the wilderness she describes frightened me. The threats in nature she shares are overwhelming (to say nothing of the diseases and insects she notes…ahhh). I would never get in a rickety little craft and try to fly it…no way! I might talk to a gentle horse from across a fence, but wouldn’t tread too closely or attempt to tame it (horses are too enormous, strong and unpredictable)….Beryl?! How were you so courageous?

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Ok. If I had been Beryl, I think I’d have aspired to be…the first female entomologist in Kenya! What do you think? That’s courageous, right? I bet you can find some pretty fierce bugs there?! I’d have written my memoir about my run-ins with Goliath Beetles! Ha-ha-HA!

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Yes, Mr. Hemingway was right about Ms. Markham’s spectacular writing skills! Her style and storytelling are remarkable…

I highly recommend West With The Night. Quite an unforgettable journey, with one fearless woman at the helm!

A Scorpion In My Bathroom?!

The strangest creatures are regularly found in my potty. Huge spiders, fast running centipedes, that enormous cave cricket. But this last Sunday evening, there was something in my bathroom that was quite strange indeed….

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First, let’s set up the scenario. I’ve just gotten home from day two of a very hot and muggy weekend at my tented shop, The Quill and Brush. It’s around 9pm. I’m exhausted. My costume is damp from rain and perspiration, and far past uncomfortable. I’m feeling claustrophobic in it. I’m a wee sunburned, my ankles are swollen, and I’m in need of a bite (though the heat is making me second guess whether I want to eat at all). I’ve been eaten all up by an army of mosquitoes. I want to get into that shower, now

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I tear off my costume and fling it to the bathroom floor before the toilet and take my shower. I then pick up the costume and put it in the hamper, and then go back into the potty…

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But I must digress in this story to first tell you this. I have a superhuman power. One, single, superhuman ability. Yup. And anyone who knows me will tell you that it is true. What is it? I see the tiniest bugs, the littlest movements. Whether in the leaves, or on an outdoor path (or crawling on my bathroom floor). It’s the funniest thing, especially as my eyes now require reading glasses!

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How many times has someone said, “How did you see that?!”

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I dunno. I think it’s because I spent a lot of time outdoors as a youth and I noticed bugs, and because I take great interest in insects in general. I also took a field science course in college, which amped up my excitement for them. Nope, I can’t fly or see through walls…but I see bugs…Ha-Ha-HA!

Ok. So I’m sitting on the potty. I spot this tiny black dot on the floor. We’re talking the size of a pen dot of black ink. Really, really, itty-bitty…

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And I think that it is moving. This little dot is moving around on the floor, but it is so small, that I believe my tired eyes are playing tricks on me. This must just be a speck of dirt! But as I watch, it does indeed take a walk. A short little walk no further than a quarter of an inch. Hmmm, what bug is so small and black? It is not taking up flight, not a gnat. What is that? Oh no! Is it a tick?

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Of course a tick is very possible. I’ve been up in a wooded place in Wisconsin all weekend, walking around in the grasses, sitting in my tented shop under the trees. I suddenly am sure that I’ve carried it home and that it dropped off my discarded costume. I now believe I should do a quick look-over of my legs. You see, I abhor ticks. I would rather a very scary, hairy spider with fangs run across my face, than to discover a tick in one of my crannies. UCK! ECHK! They give me the heebie-jeebies because their bite can deliver disease…

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But first I must determine if this little black spot is indeed a tick. I scurry for a mini post-it note, and my mini flashlight, and I’m on the bathroom floor with a spotlight on the little fella. I put the post-it before it and it walks up onto it. I’m like, squinting. What is that? It must be a tick, but I’m not so certain. I’ve seen ticks aplenty, and this little dude isn’t quite fitting the bill. I hurry downstairs and push the mini blue post-it into my honey’s eyes. I blurt…

I think this is a tick?! Do you think this is a tick?! I hope this isn’t a tick?!

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Handsome’s eyes are squinting and I’m trying not to drop the bug. I’d never find it again, it’s so small, and I don’t want a tick in my house. He concurs that it looks like it might indeed be a tick. But neither of us are certain. I toe into the kitchen, as careful with my cargo as possible, where the light is much better. I’m flashing that little flashlight and the bug is reacting.

He’s got pincers!? He’s clawing his little pincers out, imperceptibly screaming, “Turn off that light lady! Geez! Put me down!” I holler for my (very patient) man to come into the kitchen and see this…

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He says, “It looks like a scorpion.” And I agree, “Yea, like a lobster?!” Meanwhile, the little dude is scuttling around, indeed like a little crab of sorts, snapping the tiniest little claws in the world. As it is not a tick, I cannot dispatch of his precious little life. As with every insect I find indoors, I gingerly carry him outside and let it free. I immediately snatch up my bug identification book. I’m so curious, it’s crazy. What did I find? What if I’ve just discovered some new species, and now I’ve let it go, and no one will ever believe me (except for handsome)…

So what did I find?

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[Photo Credit: Kaldari]

I found a pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions are of the arachnid family, as are spiders and ticks. I wasn’t too far off my initial identification! They live worldwide, and are not considered pests, but helpful rather. They eat the larvae of the moths that nibble fabric. They gobble up mites, and hunt for ants and little pesky flies. They live in leafy debris, amongst the dirt, and on trees. There are a great many species of them, and they vary in their tiny size-range. So itty are they, that they usually go unnoticed. And in those pincers, which they use to hunt, they do indeed carry poisonous glands!

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[Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0]

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to discover that I’d found such a unique little creature, of which I’d never known existed before. He’d clearly caught a ride on the hem of my gown as I trudged through the grasses on the way back to my car Sunday evening, and had taken a ride all the way back with me. Then when I threw off my dress, he tumbled to the bathroom floor. Where am I? 

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[Photo Credit: Sarefo]

Pseudoscorpions can live up to three years! I’m glad I didn’t step on him. I’m glad I actually saw him, and let him free on the porch. I hope he’s feasting on the peskier bugs around my front door even now. What a magical little moment to watch him snapping his pincers at me! Aww, my little pet scorpion from the bathroom! Go eat those mosquitoes!

Here’s to the delight of discovery, and to keeping your eyes open to the wonders (both great and small) that are all around you!

The Versatile Blogger Award!

A big thank you to Michael Atkins of Japan Trekker who nominated Inspired By Venice for the Versatile Blogger Award! I’ve always called my site eclectic, so this award was very exciting to receive!

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Michael’s Japan Trekker is a treasure trove of inspiring travel photography centered around Japan. As a lover of travel myself, and as someone who works to express the human experience through my writing, I really enjoy sites such as these. They keep me thinking, entertained and curious! Photography has such an amazing way of catching beauty and expression, while travel photography in particular keeps us inquisitive and connects us to the larger world. Be sure to visit Japan Trekker yourself, a getaway without even hopping on a plane!

About the Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. Display the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger that nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs.

Seven facts about Michelle, author of Inspired By Venice

Hmmmm…let’s be random here…

  1. When I was a little girl, I once dispatched a grasshopper (poor fella), covered it in melted chocolate chips, and gave it to my grandma as a ‘surprise treat’. She nibbled on it, producing the funniest faces, acting delighted (in spite of quickly figuring out what I’d done), and was a super good sport about it. My grandma is awesome!viridissima-100883_1280
  2. I think that the dice game Yahtzee, which my folks are pros at, is a form of torture. Anything that makes me do quick, continual math feels like work, not fun. Keep that cup of dice in the closet, let’s play Charades!
  3. I think swimming is the loveliest form of exercise, for I don’t feel like I’m exercising at all! That buoyant feeling of being in water is divine!beach-2179183_1280
  4. In another life, I would have chosen entomology as a career. I think insects are fascinating. Except for ticks. I’m horrified by ticks!
  5. Though I implicitly believe in following the rules of the road, and though I certainly would not wish to be a race car driver, I quite enjoy driving fast! Vroom-vrooom!adorable-1850465_1280
  6. I think lilies are the prettiest flowers. Especially Stargazers, which though loud in fragrance, smell glorious. When I was young, I was very into ‘survival’ and ‘edible wild plants’. I still have my edible wild plants book on my desk! You can eat unopened daylily flower pods. I used to march into my grandma’s garden and munch on them. I think they taste a little like okra…lily-561074_1280
  7. As a youth, I once had an unfortunate fray with a German Shepherd quite as big as I, and stronger still. It left my face in need of stitching. Sitting in the hospital, and seeing the needle about to thread up my wounds (my mom nearly in a faint), I of course cried. However, as I laid down, and the stitching began, I could see the reflection of the procedure in the doctor’s glasses. I was strangely awed by the sight of the sewing and cried no more. Looking back, what a quizzical reaction! I now give dogs a wide berth while admiring and respecting them from a distance…german-shepherd-464612_1280

My nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award (in no particular order):

Earthstar

Getting The Picture

Fashion Through History

Fed’s Life

The Third Planet

Sawaworld

The Merry Thought

The Wifey’s Corner

Smart Veg Recipes

The World According To Dina

Jess Did What

Meandering With Misha

Experience Of Thinking

Japan Etc.

Agreeable Things

Thank you for your awesome, inspiring blogs!

Peek-a-boo, I see you!

I am currently watching an amazing program called Weird Wonders of the WorldIt is filled with remarkable natural occurrences and bizarre creatures from around the globe. The show is so strange and amazing. I highly recommend it! I guarantee, you’ll be entertained. Of course, I’m learning some incredible things…

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This little guy is a jumping spider. They are very common, are gifted with excellent eyesight, and tend to have pretty impressive jumping skills! Their great leaps assist them with hunting for food and making quick escapes. You might recall the handsome jumping spider I caught on photo last summer in Wisconsin…

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Having seen these little jumpers all my life, I was quite amused when Weird Wonders of the World (Season 2: Episode 6) introduced a unique species of jumping spider. Jotus Remus, the peek-a-boo spider from Australia, discovered by Jurgen Otto.

What makes this spider so special are two hairy, paddle-like feet. Of this species of spider, only the males have these hairy feet. But why? Does it help them with their jumping prowess? Nope. It helps them get a girlfriend in the most hilarious way!

The peek-a-boo male spider is smaller than its female counterpart. These ladies can behave quite aggressively when they’re not interested in going on a date. In order to avoid getting hurt by an agitated female, the male peek-a-boo spider first waves his fuzzy paddle around from a safe distance. If the female attacks, no coupling. If she’s calmly wooed by the behavior, it’s date night!

While watching the show, I got the giggles seeing the peek-a-boo spider in action. I think it will make your day to watch the video above. Poor little guy has to work hard to find the right lady!

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Jurgen Otto has a whole lot of other amazing spider photos and videos! I entreat you to also watch this incredible footage of another jumping spider, Maratus Volans, the peacock spider! This colorful fella is also trying to win over a lady. Absolutely amazing!

Here’s wishing you’ll never forget your curiosity for the world, for it is filled with great and inspiring wonders!

Just Where I Want To Be

Today feels like a summer’s day! 81 degrees and sunny, the birds are singing joyfully and everything is as green as ever after recent thunderstorms. Thus, for the first time since the weather was fine last summer, I can be found in one of my favorite nooks…

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My little writing table on the front porch, mostly private from the sidewalk, where I can look up to the trees and the sunny skies and feel happy, refreshed and inspired. I’ve just made a healthy salad for lunch. Delicious!

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For the rest of the afternoon, I’ll be typing away on my stories and there’s no better place for it. Spending time out-of-doors is said to have a lovely impact on your health!

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My front porch chipmunk is keeping me company. I’ve bribed him with some strawberries and blueberries, hoping they will keep him distracted so that he doesn’t get curious about my bare toes. I think they think toes are peanuts. Don’t nibble my toes Chippy!

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I can definitely say, on a beautiful day like today, I’m just where I want to be…

Here’s wishing you a great many such beautiful days, and that you’ll find the time for yourself to enjoy them! 

The Itty Bitty Littles Giveaway!

Because the birds are chirping outside and the sun is shining…because the lovely seasons of spring and summer are just ahead…because giving is a special delight…and because it is a great joy to share my stories with you…today is the day! The day for a giveaway!

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Old Netty Nettles has lived all alone in the countryside, between vast fields and an enchanted forest, for many years. Comfortable in her cottage, she tends to her garden and is one wonderful crafter and cook. That’s why friends coming all the way from the village of Whistling Woods love to visit her!

But Netty’s hospitality isn’t the only reason friends come calling; she’s incredibly kind and one special storyteller too. Living in the wilderness, Lady Nettles has encountered some amazing creatures. Naughty fairies, a helpful brownie, one elusive water sprite, and even a grouchy dragon! But the most memorable day for Netty was when she met a brood of rascally itty-bitty-littles!

Be a guest in Netty’s cozy cottage, grab a treat and a good seat as she recalls her time spent with some very magical critters!

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To enter for your chance to win one free copy of The Itty Bitty Littles, please share in the comments where you last spotted an itty-bitty-little. Have fun with your imagination! Did you spy one running across your back lawn? Were several to be seen peeking out from a berry bush, where they were feasting along a nature trail? They can be mischievous too…perhaps one made a mess of your garden or knocked down your bird feeder? Maybe you even had a rare sighting of one in a busy city! But where?

One winner will be selected at random next Wednesday, April 19th at 10 a.m. Chicago time and announced here, and the magic inside The Itty Bitty Littles will be theirs!

Past book giveaways: [The Book of Dragons Giveaway] [A Delightful Giveaway]

Don’t Eat That Ackee, Eve!

I’m fascinated by nature, and very much so when I’m traveling. The sight of a unique plant, or spotting unfamiliar wildlife, is always exciting!

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By the looks of the markings on this yellow bird, I believe I captured sight of a Jamaican Oriole while recently in Jamaica. Even from the first hours after our arrival there on a recent trip, I was in awe of the thriving bird life and all of the beautiful songs they presented…

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This hearty bird hopped about in the foliage so constantly (in search for seeds it appeared) that I could hardly get a proper picture of him. Only a few photos from many offered more than a flash of yellow…

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Though Indian Peafowl are kept in the U.S., to see this fella dancing about a potential mate (a peahen that fled from him into the bushes) was such a treat. Look how handsome he is! On several evenings, we noted a peahen taking safe perch for the night upon a thatched roof. It looked quite the comfortable nest…

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Hey little dude! Hunting for some juicy bugs? Carry on!

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Though Northern Mockingbirds can breed in Northern Illinois, they aren’t regulars. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen (or heard) one in the wild. In Jamaica, they are everywhere and their songs are simply incredible!

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Tropical flowers grew abundantly, their colors so vivid! They invited an army of hummingbirds to drink of their nectar…

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And when I saw this fruit ripening in a tree, my first thought was of how delicious it might be to pluck one down and take a bite! Any tropical fruit so pretty must taste divine! Good thing I didn’t follow my instinct…

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This, is the ackee (not to be confused with the acai berry), the tree of which migrated from Africa to Jamaica (most likely upon a slave ship) in the late 1700’s. It is the national fruit of Jamaica. However, to pluck it down and take a bite could prove fatal. At the very least, you would become very, very sick…

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[Photo Credit: DocTaxon]

In order to eat of the fruit, it must first be fully ripe (splitting open on its own) or bad things will definitely happen. The fruity flesh is then to be removed away from the skin and seeds (these carefully discarded lest your beloved pet or child grab hold of the remnants and put them in their mouth). Next, the fruit is to be boiled for at least 5 minutes, or bad things yet could happen. The water is to then be immediately discarded, the fruit rinsed and then boiled a second time, because if not, bad things could still happen…this is one dangerous fruit!

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I therefore had to take a walk on the wild side and eat some. Ackee and saltfish is a traditional Jamaican dish. I had it for breakfast one glorious sunny morning to the sound of rich birdsong. With each bite, I had to wonder if this was like taking the risk of eating toxic puffer fish? I mean, what if the cook didn’t boil my ackee twice?

Just kidding! I wasn’t scared at all. What did it taste like? Like fish and fruit, looking like scrambled eggs masquerading on my plate. A little spicy, a little fishy, a little sweet. I liked it!

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Handsome on the other hand had pancakes made from a unique grain that morning. Fish for breakfast wasn’t quite to his taste, though he did take a nibble of my ackee and saltfish to see what it was like…

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How I love to travel, and how I love nature! However, I am ever being reminded to control my urges to simply grab out, or pet that cute insect (I think I was raised a little bit wild). Not everything is innocuous, some things are quite dangerous indeed. For instance, when I admired strands of cherry-looking berries hanging from one tree, a local said not to touch them, for the juice will burn the skin of your hand. Yikes!

Nature must be respected

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Of course, I still swam but a few feet away from a puffer fish while snorkeling in the shallows. He watching me, me watching him (terrified he might bring out the spines but too fascinated to swim away). And of course, I still had to get up close to this enormous insect nest, unable to live without knowing what was in there (I’m an entomologist in my heart)…

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But the point is, look don’t touch! Remember Eve of the Garden of Eden who grabbed out for that fruit? Nope, not every fruit is as sweet as it looks. Unless perhaps, you boil it twice!

Here is hoping you are enjoying your adventure today!

Sneaky, Slithering Sea Snail!

We’ve snorkeled a plenty here in Jamaica. My snorkel gear is now just a permanent appendage growing from my face. It’s my pretty look. This morning I spent some time swimming all along the shore in search of the perfect shell to bring back for my mom. Unfortunately, the bigger shells are lying at the bottom further from the coast, too deep and difficult to dive down for…

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So, I decided to change my focus and search for starfish instead. Handsome joined me, and when he spotted this big shell sitting in some seagrass below the waves, I squealed with delight! I finally had the perfect shell to bring back with me…

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After he scooped it out of the water, I quickly snatched it from him to marvel at our treasure. The find was the size of my outstretched hand! Only, something started to move inside. I furrowed my brow and blurted, “There’s something in there!”

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A sea snail! Knowing that some of them can be poisonous or dangerous, but not knowing which variety, I was careful to keep my fingers away from the animal as he came out to say, “Excuse me…can I help you?” Especially as he had what looked like a red claw moving out at his rear…

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Wary of this alien, with his tongue-like muscle and googly eyes stretching out, I gently set the shell in the sand to see what the snail might do. Immediately, he reached out and pushed himself over. I’d set him upside down! Oops!

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Here the snail is with his body to the sand, his shell on his back, ready to make his way off into the sunset. “Which way back to the sea?”

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I gingerly picked him back up and replaced the snail just where we found it in the safety of the seagrass in the water. And though I didn’t get my prized shell, I’m amazed by the wild creature I met today (especially since he didn’t sting me and all). I mean, look at those eyes! “Rock on little dude! May you live many days to slither and hunt upon your tropical seabed! May you go forth and have many snail babies!” 

I’m A Hummingbird…

Cue the music please:

I’m…too sexy for this tree…too sexy for these flowers, too sexy yea!

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I’m a hummingbird, you know what I mean, and I do my little zoom, just right past you!

As I zip through, and I zoom through, I do my little twirl like I was meant to…

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I’m…too sexy for this jungle…too sexy for this island…way, too, sexy, yea!

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With my long tail…and my red beak…I play a little game of ‘hide and go seek’!

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I’m…too sexy for this branch…too sexy for this beach…no way I’m disco dancing!

[I’m A Cardinal Part I. Click Here] [I’m A Cardinal Part II. Click Here]

Far And Away…

At present, I am in the island country of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea! It took several days of travel to get here, for first we flew to NYC from Chicago and had one unforgettable date night in the city (which I’ll be sure to write about soon). I wanted to share a few special photos with you from the last few days of our adventure…

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This is Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village with the Empire State Building in the background. We took a stroll through NYU where I went to graduate school. It was a very fond walk down memory lane. Next stop, the south coast of Jamaica!

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This was the beautiful little blue heron I stalked on the beach yesterday morning…

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And the egret that stalked me as I ate grilled fish on the beach. I was pretty hungry, so I sadly didn’t share…

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And here is the sweet island kitty that took shade in my chair. However, these cats (of which there is a little band) are far fiercer than they look. They hunt lizards and frogs. I’ve been witness to their dinners. Ewww!

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And here was a fisherman who dives with a spear for his catch. As he was walking by, the lobsters at the top still moving, I was in awe…

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The fish were so colorful! Tomorrow, we’ll be swimming and snorkeling amongst many such live creatures ourselves…

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Tropical flowers grow everywhere. Their smell is absolutely intoxicating. There are several kinds of hummingbirds that zip and zoom about these flowers. My attempts to capture them on camera have failed thus far, but I’ll keep trying…

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Here is wishing you special wonders in your life today, wherever you may be. As for me, I’m singing a song with my toes barefoot in the sand. “One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel alright…Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright.” Loving your lyrics Marley!

Ra-Ra-Sis-Boom-Bah!

When I woke up this morning, the first thought that popped into my head were pom-pom crabs (my brain works in random and mysterious ways, especially before I’ve had a cup of coffee). I was introduced to their existence when reading a recent and fascinating article. And now I think about them at random times of the day, imagine them skittering around the seafloor shouting their little crabby cheers…

[Photo Credit: Prilfish]

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The pom-pom crab (also called a boxer crab) is named after the sea anemones that it holds in its claws (reminiscent of a cheerleader’s pom-poms). Sea anemones have a nasty sting, which the boxer crab can use to scare away predators or to zap a meal. The lady crab above has her brood attached to her belly. Get away from my babies or I’ll stun you. Zzzzttt! 

[Photo Credit: Hectonichus]

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Fascinatingly, they create their pom-poms by snipping anemones in half (forced cloning where the halved creatures grow full again). Even the itty-bitty baby boxer crabs wield these stinging poms. And when a boxer crab loses its anemones, it will steal one from another crab and halve it! They take their poms very seriously. Pretty neat!

Here’s to the joys of always learning something new, and finding awe in the wonders of our world. And for each of your life’s dreams and aspirations today, I am shaking my poms to cheer you on! Stay inspired!

My Grandma’s Garden

My grandma lives in Southern Illinois, in a house that used to be a rural school house! She still has an outhouse standing in her backyard, which she uses for storing her garden tools. This time of year, I’m betting her garden is already beginning to wake, for Southern Illinois is far warmer than Northern Illinois…

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My grandma has always had a green thumb, producing plenty of healthful veggies and planting many beautiful flowers. I spent a great deal of time running around barefoot as a child through her garden when she lived up north. I was never concerned about snakes or ticks because that didn’t seem prevalent. In the warmer climate where she lives now however, I’d be more cautious in the garden. My grandma however, isn’t scared of anything…

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She has some beautiful grassland and woodlands just beyond her property. Frequently her wild and protective sidekick, Sally the dog, likes to run off for a spell into the field. I recall hearing a story about Sally coming back with a rotten deer leg in her mouth, snatched from a carcass and brought home like a trophy. Gross! Dogs will be dogs!

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In Southern Illinois, there are fox, coyotes and common forest animals. However, my grandpa had me quite shocked as he shared news of growing populations of bobcats and sightings of cougars (mountain lions). These animals are stealthy and rarely seen, but it had me a little nervous sitting out around the campfire eating s’mores one evening. My ears were perked for the distant growl of a fierce cat…

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There’s nothing like a beautiful countryside, the bees buzzing and grandma’s chickens clucking and fussing. They eat ticks, which is great! And what fresh and delicious eggs these free range birds produce!

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Reviewing these photos of grandma’s beautiful flowers and green, I can’t wait for spring to arrive and the sweet season of summer…

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Isn’t her mirror hung outdoors on the side of an outbuilding such a quaint scene? Upon closer look, there’s a little fellow who lives behind the mirror…

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A skink! A skink is a species of lizard that has a thicker neck and shorter legs. But for real, how long is that back toe? If you try to grab a skink’s tail, it falls off so that the lizard can make its escape. I wouldn’t try that though. Though not poisonous, they bite. I’ve never been bit by one, but I have been chased by one…

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True story. I went camping with my best friend and her family in Turkey Run State Park in Indiana when I was about 14. There were lots of skinks, which I’d never seen before, and I was curious. I spotted one on the ground on the trail and tried to get close to observe it. It didn’t run away, it held its ground and gave me the skink eye (tee-hee). He had a very proud stance. This was a courageous little lizard. And then, it ran toward me. I screeched and ran away, and it chased me. I was literally turning my head back as I ran, watching the skink continue its pursuit. I honestly thought it would bite me. I ran like the roadrunner…

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God bless grandmas, and their gardens, everywhere! And here’s wishing you many beautiful days with nature, and special glimpses of wildlife (from a safe distance)!

What Life May Bring, I’ll Bear The Sting!

I’m a vivid dreamer in my sleep. And usually having no problem remembering my epic-like dreams after I’ve woken, I’m regularly amazed by the places I visit, filled with unimaginable detail. It makes me baffled of our brains. How can they produce such landscapes?

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My dreams tend to be tangible too. Places that could be real places somewhere, nothing psychedelic. It’s like I’m making visits to new destinations. This week, I dreamt of an island with beautiful white sand that my feet sunk into. There were tropical waters, sunlight and open sky. Green, craggy peaks rose up out of the water at a distance…

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I went wind sailing over the waters. My feet were bare and the salty water was spraying. It was beautiful, adventurous and warm. But lo! As I crossed over the water, I spotted a single jellyfish floating just below the surface…

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Just a bit further along, I see three or four bobbing together under the water. As I skim along into deeper depths, there is soon to be seen a bloom of jellyfish below the surface so expansive, that there isn’t a spot of water where no jellyfish undulates. My vessel gliding fast through the waves scoops some up, and my feet begin to sting. Zap. Zap. Zap. I become nervous that I will topple into the blue. Falling into the water is unthinkable…

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Just then, I woke up from the dream. Handsome was on his way out for work and had planted a smooch on my face to say goodbye. The jellyfish were gone. As I later poured a cup of coffee in the kitchen, pondering those creatures of the deep, it made some sense why I’d be dreaming of a stinging swarm in the blue…

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We are soon to embark on another trip into the tropics, amidst sprawling acres of wildlife and endless blue waters. These excursions are exciting beyond words for we room comfortably, but also embrace adventure. Walking a sleeping volcano, sweating though the jungle, mountain climbing (never again), swimming, snorkeling…

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My obsession is watching for wildlife, and swimming. I can swim hard, up and down to the ocean floor for a good span of time. I love it. I’m crazy about it. I get into the water and I forget that I’m a vulnerable human. I start believing I’m an invincible sea dweller, a crafty mermaid scouting the ocean floor for colorful fish and treasures…

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Nothing will coax me to swim cautiously (not even handsome’s sweet and concerned finger-wagging), and nothing can get me out of the water until I’m good and ready (not even those sirens and helicopters once overhead while a mild earthquake rumbled. I thought those waves seemed a little turbulent)…

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Nothing can pull me out of my water dance, except jellyfish. Have you ever met with a jellyfish? It’s mean. It’s shocking. It stings. It’s like lemon in a wound, and a bee sting, and an electric shock, all at the same time…

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The worst I ever got were some tentacles to the thigh. It was not only painful that day, but some weeks later I experienced delayed hypersensitivity reaction. Though most jellyfish touches are shocking, they’re common and rarely serious. Zip, zap, ouch!! (I’d just be wary of swimming in waters known for the most dangerous variety or when high concentrations in general are about)…

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On our last tropical snorkel, I found that I was having a rough time. It was more challenging than past swims. I felt strained, not as strong a swimmer as I know myself to be. I wondered if I just don’t have the stamina for more adventurous swimming anymore. Did I need to stick closer to shore?

Handsome acutely pointed out that it might not be physical. Hadn’t I been anxious swimming with the jellyfish? Yup! During that swim, little ones were having a sting fest on my exposed skin. They were just tiny little dudes, tiny little stings. Nothing to cry in my snorkel about. However, there were big jellyfish where we swam too. The size of salad bowls, with unique markings…

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When one was detected, it would look to be many feet away. But in an instant, it would be floating right past. Way too close for comfort you jellyfish, you! Keep your tentacles away from my flesh! (Those were not the words I uttered underwater, but this blog is PG rated)…

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The dream I had is clearly my subconscious working. Likely our upcoming trip triggered the tropical setting. I know I don’t have a jellyfish phobia (though they certainly make me uncomfortable). So perhaps more than a potential injury, that previous swim with the big bad jellyfish reminded me of vulnerability. That something can and might sting me in life, catch me unawares. My dream is the product of that simple worry. A worry we all have from time to time. That’s my best guess anyway, for I am no diviner of dreams…

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But why share my jellyfish dream with you? To remind you, as much as myself, that no one can predict life’s stings. You can’t stop dreaming. You can’t stop swimming. You’ve just got to keep diving in! Enjoy your adventure!

I’m A Cardinal…Part II.

Cue the music please:

I’m…too sexy for this yard…too sexy for this yard, too sexy yea!

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I’m a Cardinal, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the birdwalk…

On the birdwalk, on my yard walk, I do my little turn in your back yard!

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I’m…too sexy for this grass…too sexy for these leaves…way, too, sexy, yea!

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I’m a Cardinal, you know what I mean…

[I’m A Cardinal, Part I. Click Here]

A Night At The Museum

There are three places in the world that I deeply treasure in my heart. Venice, Italy. The Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, WI. And, The Field Museum in Chicago, IL. So when handsome and I received an unprecedentedly exciting invitation to an evening soiree at The Field, my mouth dropped open, my eyes grew sparkly, and my brain broke for approximately five whole minutes…

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Chicago was having a bit of a blizzard, but that didn’t stop us. It made the evening even more charming (especially because my date was driving while I yapped on, cozily in the passenger seat). I was delighted to see that we had valet right at the bottom of the steps leading up to the museum, and a white tent hovering over the grand stairs to keep guests covered from the wind and snow…

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After checking in our coats, we filed up marble stairs to the second floor, where hors d’oeuvres and beverages were passed on silver platters. The view was breathtaking, the holiday lights and enormous wreathes of greenery were hung festively, and jazzy music echoed all around. I had a perpetual grin on my face as my eyes darted around in every direction. The secrets within the museum halls were calling my name…

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It was an absolute privilege to amble through the exhibits at night, with the halls dim and the cases enchantingly lit, hardly bumping into another guest. It was like we had the whole museum to ourselves. The beautiful botany, the pinned insects, the dinosaurs, the ancient artifacts…I swoon, I die…actually I gasped, and giggled, and smiled and felt as merry as a lark…

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I whispered with the dinosaurs and my imagination went wild with prehistoric visions…

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I told Sue that she was pretty. 65 million years have nothing on her!

If you haven’t seen the incredible documentary about this T-Rex, titled Dinosaur 13, I entreat you to watch it immediately. The story was so moving that I cried. Yup. I secretly shed tears for a dinosaur. Sue’s story is truly amazing…

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And her enormous teeth are nightmare worthy…

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I love, love, love the bugs! In another life, I am an entomologist! Aren’t they fascinating?!

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This dude had some serious spine. I wonder if he suffered from back aches?

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And in my other, other life…I’d like to be a full-time scale models, replicas and diorama maker for museums! Tell me this beach scene doesn’t look real? The figures in the sand are no bigger than my pinky finger. Ahhhh! I’m nuts for dioramas!

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After adequately losing my mind with childlike excitement, we sat down to a delicious dinner. I very much enjoyed my salad of greens with blue cheese crumbles, crusty artisan bread, and mushroom risotto with asparagus. It was perfect…

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There were adorable little desserts too, tasting of egg-nog and peppermint. Miniature winks to the festive season! And after our sweet treats, we roamed the halls of the museum once more, and then ended the evening with much dancing…

If you ever have the chance to visit The Field, I hope that you will and will spend some time. This museum has an incredibly rich history, its roots taking hold with The World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893). The Field Museum is truly magnificent, and offers so much learning. I will cherish it for all of my days!

Chip Snatching Seagulls!

Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, we have seagulls aplenty. I like the sound of their aerial calls (for the noise makes me feel like I live something of a ‘beachy’ life), but I get easily irritated with their squawks and screeches when they stalk the vicinity of my beach chair for scraps from my picnics!

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I took these photos as ambling pedestrians threw bits of food into the air for swarming, squawking gulls. I was able to get some unique shots. Wouldn’t it be something to be able to fly! I think gulls are such robust, beautiful birds…

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Gulls are seabirds, though they are not known to fly out to sea. They stay close to shore and have adapted most especially to humans (who they so enjoy being given, or snatching food from). Once as I finished a lunch, I placed my plastic bag of partially eaten chips down next to my chair in the sand. One particular gull would not leave me alone, stalking that bag of chips no matter how much I tried to shoo and chase it away (which became sort of embarrassing for me with so many other beach goers around). It would fly off a few yards, and then screech at me to high heavens with one eye always turned on that chip bag!

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However annoying, I find seagulls’ tenacity and cleverness to be interesting to watch. They are known to be highly intelligent, persistent birds, and I quite like their quickness and bravery…

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Once a set of mating gulls pair up, they are together for life. They lay their eggs (about three) in shallow nests of sand, moss or grasses upon the ground. Once the precious, fuzzy babies arrive, one of the parents remain with them at all times…

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Seagulls eat a great many things (dead or alive), be it creatures of the sea (fish and squid), or creatures on land (bugs and lizards). Sadly, they are even known to gobble up baby gulls from other nests (which may be why one parent is always hovering near their nestlings)…

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I have a particular love for researching the bits of nature I encounter, and try to learn something new as often as I can. What small thing can I take from gulls? Well, it certainly isn’t that one should squawk and screech until they obtain what they desire (that’s just bad manners)…

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One thing I can say is that the local gulls deserve respect for surviving these most brutal of icy and windy winters that Chicago frequently serves up. In fact, they deserve an all-you-can-eat buffet of potato chips for that! But jesting aside, I’m inspired by the way they carry themselves with a certain pride and strength as they look out over the waters, even though they never know whether the waves will be tumultuous or whether all will be calm…

Here’s wishing you more quiet waters than rowdy, but that you’ll have the strength to ride out whatever turbulence might come your way!

A Message Of Peace Upon The Shore

I have the good fortune to live just a few blocks from the beautiful shoreline along Lake Michigan. There are beaches for people, and beaches for dogs. You can rent a boat or picnic in the grass, and even take in the view of Chicago…

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I quite enjoy a summer’s day at the beach, and I go prepared with fizzy water and snacks, a comfortable chair and an oversized sun hat. It is my time to catch up on reading, and the soothing sounds of the lake’s waves sound every bit as powerful as ocean waves…

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And just down the block is Northwestern University, where many a youth is filling their head with intelligent notions. I love school. If I could make a career of taking classes, I would…

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But along this wonderful shore, upon land owned by the university, there is a curious sight. Hundreds of enormous rocks, decorated with colorful messages…

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Out on those rocks, people lounge in the sun, eat their lunches, and even fish…

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And if you get close enough to read what is written, you will find interesting quotes, marriage proposals, individual memories and tributes. They are entertaining to explore (though somewhat precarious to walk upon)…

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There are many rocks that make me smile and warm my heart…

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And I find it a complete wonder to consider how many folks have trudged down to the lakeshore with paint buckets in hand over the years!

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Some were decorated so long ago, that the messages are fading away under the elements…

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There is much love to be found upon the rocks, which a community can never have too much of…

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And writings that are very wise indeed…

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We of course cannot leave out messages that instigate a giggle or two, for what is life without laughter?

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Here’s wishing you a place of nature and beauty to enjoy, wherever you may live. Here’s wishing that you’ll visit it often and be filled with peace and happiness!