Stuff That’s Keeping Me Merry and Bright

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Life | 31 comments


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.

sweater weather penguin

 Sweater weather.

cookie accessories

Cookie accessories!

I’ve been cozying up to the warm oven baking.

Did you know there’s a difference between dutch process cocoa and regular baking cocoa?

dutch 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.

island of misfit gingerbread

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.

pomegranate seeds

sunset richmond virginia

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.

street store RVA

Tons of gratitude.

And after that I got to sit down and read with one of my nephews.

Reading kids

I loved shark books as a kid too.

But wait there’s more!

I’m going to be an aunt again. :)

mother to be

My little sister is having a baby girl soon-ish. 

Merry and bright indeed.


What’s got you feeling merry and bright?

Happy weekend!



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A Cornucopia of Doodles and A Trio of Pies

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Life | 26 comments

cornucopia doodle thanksgiving

A cornucopia of doodles

Thanksgiving pies

a trio of pies: aka the Pie-fecta

turkey doodle eat more pie name

and some turkey humor.


With love and tons of gratitude,



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A View From My Heart: Sunrise and Snow Cones

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Life | 40 comments



On a trip to Virginia Beach last December, I got up early and watched the sun rise.

sunrise virginia beach

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

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

humpback rock view

 My view from Humpback Rock in the Blue Ridge mountains

And finding my heart can be in more than one place

fossil beach york river state park

Fossil Beach at York River State Park 

And planning visits to see our kids in NYC and Colonial Williamsburg

family hike

And getting to see things from their point of view

And tasting new and surprising things

sno to go snowcones

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.

hazy sunrise virginia beach

A hazy, beautiful Virginia Beach morning

What view are you enjoying?

Happy Friday!



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Abandoned, but Maybe They’ll Leave the Light on for You

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Photography | 44 comments

You know how some people need to sky dive or bungee jump to get their adrenaline going?



abandoned motel rt 1

Not me.

abandoned motel roadside


 All it takes to get me running scared, is an old, abandoned motel (during daylight).
abandoned motel old

Haunted? Maybe.

abandoned motel tires

 Just tires. But my mind added chainsaws.



abandoned motel air conditioner

 Definitely no air conditioning (some find  that scary)


abandoned motel

 It was super quiet here.

And something made me start running back to the car. Fast.



abandoned motel door

 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!


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Some (More) Reasons I Love New York

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Travel | 38 comments

i love new york mural nyc


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.

manhattan nyc ferry view

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)

big gay ice cream nyc

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

central park nyc

Which we did in Central Park!

high line sunset nyc

And the High Line 

high rock park staten island nyc

And at High Rock Park, Staten Island (just a ferry ride away)

love nyc

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)

cappucino nyc

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?

family nyc

It’s where my daughter lives. :)

Where have you been hanging out lately? Any cool treats or sights to share? 

Happy Weekend!


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The State Fair: Things That Make You Go WHEE!

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Life | 32 comments

swings state fair VA


Ferris wheel state fair


flower Ferris wheel

 No WHEE! here. Mum’s the word. 

jump state fair


model horse state fair

 Could not believe how close this um, real live*, horse let me get. WHEE!


State fair foods

No need to shell out big bucks on a trip to Europe–you can find it all here. WHEE!

Plus Twinx.

Twinkie + Twix + Bacon = ?????  Eat at own risk: WHEE?


BMX bike acrobatics

I’m pretty sure we used to do this in gym class.**

wind puppet reach for the sky



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.

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Creative Seeds: The Stuff That Makes Me Curious

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Inspiration | 42 comments

office space inspiration

 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.

creative seed grows tree quote

A tree grows in Vermont.


And maybe plants a creative seed.

Tulip Poplar Monticello

Centuries old Tulip Poplar log on Saunders-Monticello Trail in Charlottesville, VA


I love the kind of curiosity that leads to the funny

poo curiosity

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.

bee yellow flower

An Appalachian Trail bee


praying mantis on porch

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

fishing curiosity

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.

college classroomThere were more electronics than paper and pen. Trees will be happy, but how will people survive the creative apocalypse?


Family. I find a lot of inspiration with my family.

mom son and fro yo

And sometimes in a little Fro Yo. Why not?


What’s inspiring your work this week?

Happy Monday!


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Spambots Ate My Blog or The Art of Second Chances

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Books | 36 comments

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

spambot attack doodle

 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.

Fish whisperer ninja

 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.

Dessert cake Shyndigz

 Gives new meaning to fruit cake.

Or maybe you’d like a little zen.

Me too. My new favorite thing is this class

yoga garden

Yoga at the botanical garden. :)


What’s happening in your world? I’d love to know!



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Historic Weekends, an Empty Nest (and Overripe Bananas)

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Life | 45 comments

college of william and mary

Last weekend was historic.

silly selfies Coleen Patrick

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.


Thomas Jefferson statue Williamsburg

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)

college goodbye empty nest

This part wasn’t easy though. 

We knew it wouldn’t be, having done the goodbye thing with our daughter only 364 days before.


untethered colonial williamsburg

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.)

oar boat drifting

The next day, after one more round of parent orientation, we stopped at a park

and rented a jon boat.

Hub fished.

I read.

We drifted for a couple of hours.

tangled roots growing toward sun

Wrapped up in beginnings and endings

we let our emotions untangle a bit. 

chain heart drifting on boat

And then we headed home. Just the two of us.


But home comforted

colonial williamsburg shops

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)

homemade banana bread care packages

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?

Happy Friday!






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Through the Shimmer of Time with Jennifer Jensen

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Books | 10 comments

Happy Monday!

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.


Starbucks doodles


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 Jennifer Jensen

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 photo

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




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