It’s not officially winter yet, but it’s been cold.
So I’m offering you some merry and bright stuff.
You know, for lifting smiles and warming hearts.
cozying up to the warm oven baking.
Did you know there’s a difference between dutch process cocoa and regular baking cocoa?
I think it was Ina Garten who said, Once you go dutch, you never go back (but don’t quote me on that).
I tried dutch cocoa for the first time this week in a batch of Double Chocolate crack(le) cookies. SO much chocolate goodness. I’d show you a pic, but they’re ALL gone.
But these cookies are still hanging around. For laughs.
A native from The Island of Misfit Gingerbread People
So the autumn leaves are gone, but there’s still plenty of color to be found in Winter.
Sunset in Richmond, Virginia (but it’s not exclusive to my town)
And I’m still feeling grateful for the opportunity to help out at a local pop up street store last weekend.
Tons of gratitude.
And after that I got to sit down and read with one of my nephews.
I loved shark books as a kid too.
But wait there’s more!
I’m going to be an aunt again.
My little sister is having a baby girl soon-ish.
Merry and bright indeed.
A cornucopia of doodles
a trio of pies: aka the Pie-fecta
and some turkey humor.
With love and tons of gratitude,
On a trip to Virginia Beach last December, I got up early and watched the sun rise.
I still think about how cool it was to sit on the dark beach and watch the sun peek above the horizon.
So when the hub and I went to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach last weekend
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
I realized I had the opportunity to see the sunrise at the beach again.
So I set my alarm, but when I woke up there was no yellow streaked sky. No fiery sun.
Just a whole lot of clouds.
And I was puzzled.
Sure I’ve seen lots of overcast days, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that there could be clouds blocking the horizon at sunrise.
I don’t know why. Maybe because it was so spectacular last December, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
But there it was, a hazy, muted sky.
It was just different. And for a moment, kind of empty without the sun all up in my face.
And as I stood there I started to identify with that bit of emptiness, that difference.
Some days it’s really strange to realize that in one year both of my kids left for school (the con of having 2 kids fifteen months apart), but then it’s not so strange, because while it’s oh so bittersweet to move on from that really great part of my life,
there’s still so much life as usual,
the work and the fun
and I’m learning a new routine, a new focus
and climbing mountains with my husband
My view from Humpback Rock in the Blue Ridge mountains
And finding my heart can be in more than one place
Fossil Beach at York River State Park
And planning visits to see our kids in NYC and Colonial Williamsburg
And getting to see things from their point of view
And tasting new and surprising things
Snow cone + soft serve = Sno To G0 (in Williamsburg, VA)
(and realizing that in some situations you can eat the yellow snow.)
But most of all, I’m seeing that a different sunrise, can still be a pretty awesome view.
A hazy, beautiful Virginia Beach morning
What view are you enjoying?
You know how some people need to sky dive or bungee jump to get their adrenaline going?
Just tires. But my mind added chainsaws.
Definitely no air conditioning (some find that scary)
It was super quiet here.
And something made me start running back to the car. Fast.
Probably just my imagination.
But I’m not opening the door to find out.
What scares you? Would you stay the night in a haunted motel?
Enjoy your stay!
Happy Halloween/Weekend!Read More
I love New York.
Maybe it’s because I was born in New Jersey and lived my pre-K years with a view of the Manhattan skyline.
Or maybe it’s just because NYC is awesome.
There’s always something new to see–and taste!
For me last weekend, that was at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (East Village)
Order the Salty Pimp (don’t be shy)
Chocolate dipped soft serve injected with salted caramel (even the cone–which can be gluten free if you need!)
It’s SO good.
And zero guilt, because in NYC you can just walk it off
Which we did in Central Park!
And the High Line
And at High Rock Park, Staten Island (just a ferry ride away)
And lots of walking on the streets!
Luckily a good coffee boost is easy to find in NYC.
My latest fave is the cappuccino at 12 Corners (Lower East Side)
Coffee that shimmers!
I loved this cappuccino so much I went back for another the next morning.
(Bonus gluten free tip: Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery has the best coffee cake.)
But by far my most FAVORITE reason to visit New York now?
It’s where my daughter lives.
Where have you been hanging out lately? Any cool treats or sights to share?
Happy Weekend!Read More
No WHEE! here. Mum’s the word.
Could not believe how close this um, real live*, horse let me get. WHEE!
No need to shell out big bucks on a trip to Europe–you can find it all here. WHEE!
Twinkie + Twix + Bacon = ????? Eat at own risk: WHEE?
I’m pretty sure we used to do this in gym class.**
What’s your favorite thing at the fair? Would you try a Twinx?
Happy first day of October!
*Not real. But a model horse, for sure.
** Okay so I was thinking about Dodge Ball. Far scarier.
This is my office. The clean side.
Thank you to my friend Karen McFarland for tagging me in her post about Inspiring Spaces!
So, I write in my office. My office has books, pictures, quotes, and so many writing utensils you might believe I’m preparing for some kind of apocalypse. Well, the kind of apocalypse where one is not SO preoccupied with survival that they may like to sit and write, or doodle, for a bit. (Perhaps, a creative apocalypse?)
Oh and there’s some ladybug stuff in my office. Because ladybugs inspire me too.
But then there’s the creative inspiration outside of the office.
The stuff that makes me curious.
A tree grows in Vermont.
And maybe plants a creative seed.
Centuries old Tulip Poplar log on Saunders-Monticello Trail in Charlottesville, VA
I love the kind of curiosity that leads to the funny
That’s dear hub checking out the poop on the Sawmill Run portion of the Appalachian Trail
I told him it was poop (aka wild animal scat) but he didn’t believe me.
But I understand wanting to take a closer look at nature.
An Appalachian Trail bee
A praying mantis on my porch
Oh and I got a curious kick out of the kids at the park who were fascinated by my hub The Fisherman
They had A LOT of questions about fishing.
Oh and there was some brain sprouting at my son’s school.
It was Family Weekend and I attended a geology class and while I’m sure that the subject is fascinating I couldn’t get over how note taking has changed in twenty years.
Family. I find a lot of inspiration with my family.
And sometimes in a little Fro Yo. Why not?
What’s inspiring your work this week?
Happy Monday!Read More
If you’re reading this, then the Spambot war I’ve been engaged in is over.
My site was down most of last week. It popped back up for a few minutes here and there only to be swallowed again by these guys
Note: This is not an actual spambot for they don’t show there faces. They like to lurk behind Burberry ads and gibberish disguised as flattery.
They were ruthless. They got thru Askimet and dumped so many comments HostGator had to shut me down. Finally, thanks to my tech guy (aka my hub), I got my site back.
His other super power: Fish Whisperer
Yay! Because I’ve got stuff to tell you all.
I finished my big Photoshop project–the one that required me to take classes–and pull my hair out.
Here’s what I’ve been up to–the cover of my new book:
A visitor from Zac’s past shows up, sending Grace and Zac’s spring break—and their relationship—into uncharted territory.
The ebook is available now. You can check out all the details here.
The paperback is almost ready to go live. I got a bit sidetracked with choosing between matte or glossy–and again there was more learning to be done with the fancy Photoshop.
But I did it. It wasn’t easy and I still have lots to learn, but I’m pretty happy with how far I got. And that I tried. There was lots of mistakes and trying again–which fits nicely with one of the themes in this new book. So there’s that too.
Plus, the companion book, The Art of Chasing Normal, is a Kindle Unlimited book!
So what have you been up to? I’d love to hear! But first…
a teensy, tiny bit of bad news. Unfortunately commenting here now requires a little math. Sorry, I know this is a lot to ask, especially on a Monday. Hopefully I will find a better Captcha setup (I’m open to suggestions).
So because I miss your comments and hope you will tell me what’s been going on with you, I offer you some very pretty cake.
Gives new meaning to fruit cake.
Or maybe you’d like a little zen.
Me too. My new favorite thing is this class
Yoga at the botanical garden.
What’s happening in your world? I’d love to know!
HAPPY MONDAY!Read More
Last weekend was historic.
We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary (w/ silly selfies, because that’s how we roll)…
on the very same day that we took our youngest child to college.
But seriously, we couldn’t be more proud.
He’s studying at Thomas Jefferson’s alma mater.
(Although, apparently, it’s cooler to mention alumnus, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show)
This part wasn’t easy though.
We knew it wouldn’t be, having done the goodbye thing with our daughter only 364 days before.
This pic sums up the strange mix of emptiness and freedom
I think we all felt (not that anyone is a horse in this scenario).
But the whole leaving my youngest at college didn’t really hit me until the middle of the weekend,
at 3am to be exact,
I sat up in bed, in the middle of a the dark hotel room
startled from a dream where I was in a room with doors
running around trying to lock them.
(Before you think my dreams are visionary, let me add that there was also a gecko in an envelope in there somewhere.)
The next day, after one more round of parent orientation, we stopped at a park
and rented a jon boat.
We drifted for a couple of hours.
Wrapped up in beginnings and endings
we let our emotions untangle a bit.
And then we headed home. Just the two of us.
But home comforted
and reminded us there’s so much more ahead
(and that the bananas on the kitchen counter were going to keep on ripening no matter what)
Which was perfect for baking some banana bread for care packages.
What’s your favorite thing to put in a care package (or to receive)? Anything historic happening in your neck of the woods?
Please welcome Jennifer Jensen to the blog. Jennifer is the author of Through the Shimmer of Time, a brand new book for middle grade readers–ages 9-12 (or for anyone who loves a good time travel story!!)
Take it away, Jennifer!
First, a humongous thank you to Coleen for hosting me on my blog tour! And second, I recently discovered just how awesome she is in the creativity department—not only her books, but her doodles! Seriously, scroll back through her posts and play “Where’s Waldo?” with her Starbucks cups.
Now, a confession: I’ve had a good number of short stories published, written several novel manuscripts that will never see the light of day (rightly so), and just released my first middle grade novel, Through the Shimmer of Time. And yet I’ve never considered myself creative.
I enjoy crafts, but can’t come up with the ideas myself.
Quilled flowers: photo by Inna Dorman, via Wikimedia Commons
I like to sew, but I’m lost without the instructions (unlike my daughter, who ought to be on Project Runway).
Fashion Sketch: by Damien Chandra via Flickr (creative commons license)
I have an idea of what looks good, and that’s slowly showing up in my house and my garden, but I can’t look at colors and make definite decisions on what will work, even white paint! Help!
Porch flowers: by Jennifer Jensen
Sometimes I wish my creativity was with artsy stuff. I could decorate my home, wow my friends, and spend all my money at hobby stores. Instead, I deal with words in my mind – fun, dangerous or lonely, depending on the day.
Most of the hours spent at my computer are spent on the craft of writing, as you’d expect. But I’ll tell you a secret about the imaginative side of my writing: much of it takes place in the shower! (Longer and longer showers, in fact.) Plot lines. Scene snippets. Conversations between characters. Not to mention envisioning book signings and best seller lists! See, I am creative!
Unfortunately, this writer’s creativity has a few drawbacks:
• It’s a solitary activity, not something you can do with friends or family, having fun while making something beautiful.
• You don’t really have anything to share until you’re done, which can be months or years.
• When you live in your story, you’re not particularly living in the moment with your family. Spouses and children are known to give you odd looks when you say, “I don’t hold with no snake-oil medicines.”
• There’s no hot water left for anyone else.
Someday I might be able to doodle on coffee cups like Coleen. Until then, I’ll have to stick with words and a few time travel adventures.
What’s your favorite way to be creative?
Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days.
Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce.
She’s a longtime member of SCBWI and has received two Indiana Arts Commission grants for her fiction. Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, Surrounded by Story, through Facebook or on Twitter @jenjensen2.
THROUGH THE SHIMMER OF TIME
By Jennifer Jensen
A mysterious pottery shard . . .
A haunted cabin . . .
A shadowy stranger . . .
And no way home
Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?
1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.
Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time. It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.
You can find Through the Shimmer of Time here: Amazon