Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I've moved...

Yep. Again.

I went home again, you see, to an old friend.

I'd love to see you again at Jen Chandler was Here. I'll be there bright and early tomorrow for the September Insecure Writers Support Group.

Love,

Jen

Friday, May 8, 2015

A-Z Reflections Post

This was my third year participating in the A-Z Challenge. I wasn't able to last year and I missed being a part of all the crazy fun.

I really enjoyed the Challenge this year. My topic allowed me to give back to a lot of people who have inspired me, something that I've always wanted to do but never made the time for it. That's the sad truth. Why wait for a blog challenge to tell people how much they inspire you? Still, thanks to the A-Z Challenge creators for giving me the opportunity to do something really fun for a lot of really terrific people!

Things I really liked about the Challenge this year: I appreciated the leaders stopping by. It means a lot to me that someone who has SO MUCH on their schedule to stop by, read a little post, and comment. I know you guys had a TON of blogs to visit so Thank YOU!!

I always love the new visitors, the new comments and the waves from familiar "faces". A great big HELLO to those who stopped by, even for just one post!

Things that didn't work out so well this year: Really there's only ONE thing and it is completely my fault. I wasn't able to make the rounds reading. Many factors combined to make it really difficult form me to carve out the time to sit down and enjoy reading the posts of the many, MANY participants. Bottom line, this is nobody's fault but mine, regardless of whether or not it could be helped. This is my ONLY complaint for the challenge!

The A-Z Challenge introduced me to so many people over the years. Several of these bloggers were highlighted in my posts. I love the blogging community I've come to know and I HATE how my time has slipped away and how I don't have the time to spend on blogging like I used to. I MISS strolling through blogs and getting to know people through their words. Years ago, when I first started blogging, I was able to read up to 20 blogs a day. I'm now at a time in my life where that is just not possible. But I know this will change. One day life will shift again and I'll have time again to enjoy blogging as it should be done.

All I ask is that you guys continue to forgive my absences and I thank you for your patience. You guys are awesome - every last one of you. I treasure every comment, every email notification I get. I'm getting the hang of this move finally and writing is slowly (slowly) coming back to the forefront of my attention.

I look forward to "seeing" you all here and around the blogsphere! Oh, and I've already got an inkling of next year's Challenge theme. Crazy? Yes! But, if I can figure out how to make it work, it proves to be a whole lot of fun!!

Cheers and thanks again to ALL the A-Z Challenge creators, leaders and co-leaders!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG May 2015 - Give Yourself Permission

Wow. It's the first Wednesday of a new month already. Last IWSG found me hoping to just get my A-Z Challenge posts up and going! I plan on posting my Reflections post tomorrow.

There were so many AMAZING themes this year and, more than that, there were so many AMAZING people out there, visiting and commenting and making the rounds. My insecurity this month is the same as it has been for years: do I really have what it takes in this world of blogging and social media? Do I really have what is necessary to build this "platform" that all "those in the know" tell me that I "must" have before anything I write will be taken seriously?

I just don't know.

When I started blogging eight years ago I had a desk job. I sat in front of a computer for 40 hours every week. There was ample time between tasks and phones ringing to check blog post updates and keep up with the social media sphere. I was pretty on top of things for about 3 years.

Then I went back to school...and worked on my feet all day...and moved. I LOVE writing. Story is my life's blood. Ask my husband and he'll tell you I spend more money on books, magazines and notebooks than just about anything else. Time, as is usual, is the major constraint.

Time and chronic illness and the feeling I must do EVERYTHING ALL the time. I've spent way too much time trying to do too many things that I haven't focused on what was important to ME. I've always been worried about what "seemed" to be important to everyone else.

And you know what?

That's just dumb.

So maybe I can't (and wasn't able to) read twenty blogs a day. That is in no way a reflection of my respect and profound awe at my fellow bloggers. Maybe I'm not able to come home after 8 hours on my feet and power write for several hours. Maybe some days I'm not able to do much of anything at all. Come take a peek at my counter tops and you'll see that's true more often than not!

That's OK.

I can't do X,Y, and Z and hope to ever become proficient in A, B or C. I certainly can't write all the ideas I have for stories and novels and essays while, at the same time, pursuing other ideas in This, That, or The Other. Sure, I've heard it all: you've got to go after what you want! Yes. You DO. But you must first decide what it is you REALLY want!

There's a quote written on the wall in the office where I work. It's a quote by Oprah that says, "You CAN have it all...just not all at the same time." That's been my problem. I've wanted it ALL, right now.

Again, that's just plain dumb.

So, here you go Blogverse. I hereby give myself permission...

...to fail.

To confess that I suck at a lot of things. But also to realize that I EXCEL at a lot of things also. I give myself permission to put aside some of the dreams and ideas that I've had for YEARS in favor of going after that one, ever-present THING that will simply NOT leave me alone.

WRITING.

I give myself permission

to write.

To write bold. To write badly. To SUCK. To burn pages and read aloud awful scenes. To laugh at my mistakes and my run-on sentences and my recent re-adoption of the Oxford comma.

I give myself permission to not be the most proficient blogger out there. I also give up my apologies to those who I have shamefully neglected in terms of blogs and reading and commenting and visiting.

This Insecure Writer's Support Group meeting I ask you to give YOURSELF permission to just write. To breathe deep of ink and paper, of keyboards and motherboards. Give yourself permission to write badly and boldly; to create AWFUL first drafts and forge AMAZING final drafts. Give yourself permission to BE the most AMAZING writer YOU can be.

There are stories in you that only you can tell.

So tell them.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Letter Z

ZIP

ZERO

ZILCH!!

Yep, that's the number of posts we have left in the 2015 A-Z Challenge. We made it kids!! Congratulations to EVERYONE who participated and made it to the very end. And a HUGE congrats to those who actually had the chance to read other blogs and get to know other bloggers.

Unfortunately, that wasn't in the cards for me this year, but I feel pretty accomplished having posted for 26 days straight.

And THAT, dear friends, is very inspiring indeed!

I hope you've enjoyed my little romp through the blog-verse. I hope you've met some new people who can inspire YOU to live a more lovely life, a more beautiful life. People who can encourage you to step out and do what YOU believe you're on this earth to do.

Have a wonderful night, lovelies! I'll be offline the next few days. Here's to a wonderful summer blogging, living, and enjoying life!

Cheers,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Letter Y

The Letter Y. Really? This month has seemed to fly by...but it also feels like FOREVER. How is that possible? Hmmm, maybe I could get funding to research that phenomenon...

The Letter Y is devoted to Rachel Branthen, aka [Y]oga Girl. She is a kind, beautiful, wonderfully inspiring soul. Her message is peace both inside and out. She is so very giving and all of her posts on Instagram inspire me to be a better person. They also push me to practice yoga, something I've had an on again, off again relationship with for the past 20 years!

Of course, I'd probably be more inclined to practice if I lived on a tropical island. But, I digress :D

Check out Yoga Girl! Be inspired, if not by her philosophy, cheerfulness in spite of personal struggles, or encouragement to practice yoga then by the BEAUTIFUL locations behind her amazing yoga poses!

Happy A-Z-ing kids! Pssst...we're almost DONE!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Letter X

Well, this post is up late! BUT it's up and that, my friends, is what matters :)

Oh, and I should warn you, this post is a TOTAL cop-out but it was the ONLY thing I could think to do with the letter X.

X is notoriously hard. EVERYONE doing the A-Z must meet this bugbear head-on and there are some very, very creative ways of doing so. Because, let's face it: this letter is HARD to find a word for that actually fits a topic!

Unless of course you're doing musical instruments or pharmaceuticals...

When I was in high school, the X-Files was in full swing. I LOVED that show and would watch it every week with my dad. The X in the title, of course, suggested the unexplained and the inexplicable. Things that were beyond human understanding. There are MANY authors out there who tackle the unexplained in their writing. Ghosts and goblins, graveyards and aliens, worlds behind panels in the wall - these are just some of the topics writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy enjoy perusing.

I could have chosen anyone but I chose Neil Gaiman. Why? Because he's NEIL GAIMAN that's why!! Not only is he an amazingly talented writer, he's a humble, kind, beautiful soul. You've all heard of him; you've all probably read something he's written. He inspires me to be myself, to write my heart out, and to not shy away from the unexplained and the strange and the beautiful.

Happy A-Z...and please forgive this cop-out post!
Cheers!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Letter W

We're coming down to the finish line! These next four days see us all racing forward, four posts to go, until we can claim our SURVIVAL status in the 2015 A-Z Challenge! Congratulations to everyone who's still in it to win it!!

***

Today I get to highlight another blogger whom you all probably already know. I began reading Michelle {W}allace's blog several years ago and she has become one of my favorite people in the blog-verse. Her personal blog is called "Writer in Transit" and she always, ALWAYS has something positive and encouraging posted!! Not only that, Michelle is one of the amazing forces of nature that keep our Insecure Writer's Support Group up and running month after month. You can read her encouraging words on that website as well!!

Michelle has always had something uplifting to say about my writing. Whenever I'm brave enough to post something creative or something deeply personal, Michelle is the first person to tell me it's amazing and great! She always knows how to keep me writing, especially when I'm feeling more than my fair share of insecure.

MICHELLE! THANK YOU FOR BEING AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO THIS INSECURE WRITER TO KEEP PUTTING PEN TO PAPER AND FINGERS TO KEYBOARD. I SINCERELY APPRECIATE EVERY KIND COMMENT AND EVERY CHEER YOU'VE SENT MY WAY. THANK YOU FOR WORKING TIRELESSLY FOR ALL OF US AT THE INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP SITE! HUGS!!

You know the drill, kids! Get on over to her blog and enjoy!!

Cheers,

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Letter V

Good grief are we really on the letter V already? Geez...it seriously seems like the just the other day we started.

I am so far behind in reading I will probably never catch up! Work has been insane and I haven't the energy for anything else when I get off...except the posting of course! Trust me; that is a miracle :) And I'm so happy to be here for that!

On to the Letter V!!

Yvette [V]an Boven has the most delectable books. Yes, this is ANOTHER cookbook author/chef. I seem to have a couple of those on this list, don't I? You'd think I liked food or something...

Again, this was a happy stumble-find. Her cookbook Homemade Winter was the most luscious book on the bookshelves that day. I drooled over it. It went back on the shelf. It then reappeared in the form of a Christmas present a few weeks later! Ta-da! See, there really IS a Santa Claus!

Yvette's work is witty, charming, delicious, and fun! Seriously! She may be a world class chef, restauranteur, food editor, etc. but her books are delightful! All the quirky little illustrations add the perfect, personal touches to her already conversational writing style; you read the book and feel like she's in the kitchen with you. Only she's not. She's in Amsterdam.

Or Paris.

Or Ireland.

Lovely, food writing deliciousness. Go on, check it out! You'll be baking before nightfall, I just know it!

Cheers!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Letter U

More than anyone else in the blog-verse, this next blogger is the most optimistic, most enthusiastic about life person I've come across! Tracy is an encouraging blogger, marvelous photographer and is truly a poster child for happiness and grace! Where does the "U" come in? Easy! Her photography business is [U]niversal Soul Photography!

I've been reading Tracy's blog pretty much as long as I've been blogging and she never ceases to amaze me with her way of seeing the good in everything! In every situation she always has something beautiful to share. Sometimes it's a few wise words, other times it's a peaceful photo. No matter how I'm feeling when I visit (and let me confess here, now, that I don't visit near enough!) I always leave feeling uplifted and like I can go kick some serious ass!

And sometimes, that's the best advice you can be given!!

TRACY, THANK YOU FOR TEACHING ME THAT THERE IS ALWAYS A SILVER LINING AND THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY DAY! YOU ROCK!!

Now wander on over and say HI!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Letter T

Today I get to blog about one of my favorite people! Not that any of the others I've blogged about aren't but...oh never mind!

Kristen [T]orres-Toro has been a dear, sweet friend of mine for a very LONG time! We met while I was a youth counsellor and she a lovely voice in the youth band I helped lead. I had no idea at the time what a very talented writer she was!

Years later, I moved back home and reconnected with a mutual friend who just happened to start a writer's group. There was Kristen and our friendship blossomed! She's a world traveller, works tirelessly as a missionary and humanitarian and is ALWAYS giving 100% of herself to everyone she meets! I went to India with her about 6 years ago and it was a perfect picture of grace and beauty to watch her with the children in the orphanage and to watch the way they LOVED her!

She's always been first in line to critique my writing (except my horror stories) and has one of the best editor's eyes around! She puts up with my spastic "I CAN'T WRITE" mentality but always has words of encouragement whenever I need it. No matter what's going on I know I can count on her to be there, to listen, to pray, and to encourage. I certainly hope that I do the same!

KRISTEN, YOU ROCK! I LOVE YOU AND I'M SO VERY THANKFUL TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND. NOW WRITE THOSE BOOKS, KID! I KNOW THEY'RE IN YOU! WHAT? AM I PREACHING TO MYSELF? YEAH. MAYBE :)

GO! Check out her blog and read her musical prose! Trust me; you're in for a treat :)

Cheers!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Letter S

Let me say this up front: my next Inspiring Person may have fallen off the popularity band wagon with some of you but I have ALWAYS admired her and her creativity. So, in the words of Thumper, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all."

I have been watching Martha [S]tewart and enjoying her books for as long as I can remember. My mom read Martha's very first book when it came out and has bought every one of her other books since. I grew up with the phrase, "It's a good thing" ingrained in my creative dialogue and i still find myself wanting to say it whenever I teach someone a new craft skill or recipe. I love how EVERYTHING in her world has a specific place and purpose. I love how precise everything is and how she can make ironing linens formulaic and interesting. I still watch Martha on PBS and read her blog and newsletter. If it's been a while since you've visited with Martha, click on over...

...it's still a good thing ;)

Happy clicking!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Letter R

My mother introduced me to [R]ee Drummond of Pioneer Woman fame. A blogger, mom, photographer and cook, Ree's blog (and show) is a romp through a real ranch woman's life. Apparently Ree was a city woman until she met her Marlboro Man, moved to an enormous ranch in the middle of nowhere and is living quite happy "on the farm".

Her recipes are easy to follow, delicious, and as unpretentious as you can get. Her photographs are lovely chronicles of real life. They tell stories without words, inviting you into her life, her rustic world.

Check her out and cook up some cowboy cuisine. While you're at it, listen to a little Garth Brooks. It seems fitting :)

Happy eating!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Letter Q

Oh my.

If you love food - beautiful food - you have GOT to flip through Katie [Q]uinn Davies' book "What Katie Ate". No! Strike that. You NEED to curl up with it like a favorite novel and savor it!

Katie is a food stylist and photographer with the most discerning eye where beautiful complexity is concerned. When I first found her book, I literally stood in the bookstore aisle slack-jawed and amazed. Her work is THAT gorgeous!

Go on. Take a gander. Call it foodie photography; call it food porn. Just let it sink into your mind and I promise you, you'll want to do nothing else all day but eat beautiful (and delicious!) food!

Cheers,

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Letter P



I discovered this next lady years ago, before she moved back home to Australia. When she lived on a house boat in Amsterdam. [P]ia Jane Bijkerk's blog is exquisite and her words and story are poetry. She has several books out that I am STILL hunting. Yes, I know I could order them on THAT site, but I'd much rather find them, stumble upon them in sheer bliss. Somehow that seems fitting for a book titled "My Heart Wanders". Click over to her site and enjoy a romp through loveliness. Take some tea or coffee - you'll be there for a while!

Happy A-Z-ing! We're almost there! WHAT?!?


Friday, April 17, 2015

The Letter O

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

Writers love to read and we usually have a genre of choice. Like most true readers, I enjoy several different genres but my favorite is fantasy. In my opinion, it's hard to find fantasy that really rocks a reader's world. I'm talking fantasy that yanks you by the collar and drags you into the magic, without regard to your own, personal opinions or to-do list. Perhaps I'm just ridiculously picky, but if the summary doesn't grab me, I won't waste my time. I'm not into sampling; I want the full emersion experience.

James A. (O)wen is at the TOP of a very short list of the authors who - in my humble opinion - create these rare gem stories. Owen's Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica isn't just a great seven book series. It's an odyssey, a journey, a discovery of classical literature and ancient mythology. It's a wonderful ride through time and story and if I told you any more I would ruin one of the most amazing discovery-reads I've ever experienced. In fact, I STILL find myself having "ah HA!" moments through other books about instances in Owen's series.

I'll stop gushing. GO READ BOOK ONE, Here There be Dragons.  Oh, and whatever you do, do NOT read the back of the paperback book. Some moron thought it would be great to ruin the amazing "Holy Crap" moment reveal at the end of the book when the paperback came out. 

Seriously. I've suggested this series to so many people and NO ONE has yet to finish it with me. It's deep and complex and WOW does it dive into some deep-seated philosophy and mythology but it is so worth the ride.

Ah well... I'm here for you James A...

I'm here for you.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Letter N

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

I can thank Stampington & Co. for introducing me to this blogger. I thumbed through an issue of their Somerset Life Magazine and literally happened upon a lovely journal entry by a woman explaining why she continues to blog even in the face of a downturn in blogging popularity. 

I have struggled for years with my own blog/s: why am I doing this any more? Does anyone even care? Do I even care? I saw these questions mirrored in (N)ikki Gardner's article. The following paragraph leapt at me from a page filled with gorgeous photos and honest confessions:

Do I keep showing up to write?
Yes.
Life doesn't get out of the way. You have to make space for what you love. No matter what, say yes and see what happens.

YES.

You can read more of Nikki's wisdom and see her lovely photography on her blog Art and Lemons. And for heaven sakes! Say YES and see what happens :)

Cheers,

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Letter M

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

No one has shaped my impression and love of music like Loreena (M)cKennitt. I stumbled upon her music quite by happy accident while working at a veterinary clinic back in 1998. This of course is appropriate when you know that Loreena was on tract to becoming a veterinarian until she discovered her unique musical talent.

We kept the radio tuned to a very "safe" Top 40 channel, you know, one of those that rarely ever change their line-up until a song is at least five years old. Well, surprise, surprise, when I heard the most amazing, strange, unique and beautiful song on that station! It was at least 2 months later -- and several more times hearing "The Mummer's Dance" before I caught the DJ announcing the artist. I went out and bought her newest album that weekend.

I've since followed her career, seen it blossom from traditional Celtic to an amalgam of Celtic and Middle Eastern music. Her skill of fusion is breathtaking and her musicianship, lyrics and storytelling are as close to flawless as I've heard.

Check out her website, click on the YouTube video below and discover her music for yourself. It's not Top 40 but it's beautiful, imaginative and mind broadening!





Happy Exploring!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Letter L

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

Magpie and Bower Bird are the two entities that come to mind when I start thinking about my arts and crafts obsession. I don't just collect crafts, I hoard them: the supplies, the books, the Pinterest pages. I have to have them all! To look at and, one day, attempt. This next Inspiring Lovely is one of the FIRST people I ever discovered who made art-as-a-living realistically obtainable in my eyes.

[L]otta Jansdotter doesn't just make prints; she designs beauty and creates and shares unique interpretations of those prints. She also, through her books, shares how to design and create your own, unique prints. These lovely designs are used in home goods, fabric, ceramics: you name it, Lotta's work has probably been printed on it.

Lotta got her start as a college drop out. True story! She thought she wanted to major in art, took a few classes in college, signed up for a screen printing class and that was all she needed! She used that class and accumulated knowledge from her own brave experience to found her own company. Her creations are now known around the world.

See, you really CAN create something bold, brilliant, unique and simple that can become a lifestyle AND a source of inspiration for others. She's inspired me to develop my own style of design and illustration and not feel inadequate against others who seem more "professional". I'm not a fine artist. I don't create in the Realism style of art. What I do is uniquely ME and I'm learning to be just fine with that!

Keep doing what you're doing, Lotta! I'm always excited to see your new collections. And YOU, Dear Reader, keep doing what YOU do, whatever that is, to make life more beautiful, more lovely, right where you are. Your life is your art; find your medium and let the world in on it!

Cheers!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Letter K

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

**Just so you know, my letter J post didn't post on Saturday (for who knows what reason) but I posted it earlier this morning. Do make sure you check it out as well as this one!!**

First of all, I have to say that I KNOW that this next inspiring lady is going to FREAK OUT when she finds out she's my letter K. Jessica [K]allenbach is not only an inspiration, she's also a personal friend! That, I can truly say, is an honor and a privilege :)

Jessica is, hands down, one of the most enthusiastic, flamboyant, beautiful, talented, kind, and LOVELY souls I've ever met! She's tireless, indefatigable and is always, ALWAYS ready to help people feel lovely.

Her gift is making women look and feel beautiful in their own skin. Her passion is inspiring women to be their unique, beautiful selves. If I'm using the word "beautiful" a lot here, it's because that's Jessica's catch-word. It's also the root of her business: Beauty Unveiled Studios. Jessica spends her life encouraging women through her boudoir photography. She LOVES to get dressed up and dressing up others. Her artistic talent extends from the camera to the hair and makeup she does for her clients. Time and time again her clients review her work with the words "fun", "beautiful", "gorgeous" and "perfect".

I think that about does it for me, too :)

Thank you, Jessica, for inspiring me to step out and "just do it" in terms of my dreams and goals. Thank you for helping me to realize that I am beautiful just the way I am and I have unique gifts and talents to offer the world. Thank you for being such an encouragement!!! I love you, girl!! xo

Happy A-Z-ing!

The Letter J

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

**So...this was scheduled to post SATURDAY but for whatever reason it did not. SO here's my J post and my K post will soon follow**

For the letter J I've chosen someone very close to home. In fact, he lives here. His name is [J]on Chandler and he's my husband. Now, before you think I'm going to get all gushy and mushy and click on to the next blog, hear me out. This guy has been through so much with me in the past 11 years. He's been through job losses, crappy jobs, traveling with a band, living in a garage, and my battles with chronic illness. He's put up with everything a chronic illness entails with grace, patience, and an iron will. This alone should get him canonized but I think there's already a Saint Jon. He's kept his hope in the darkest situations and his humor, both which, at times, I had a hard time finding.

Jon is a true gem and not just because he's my husband. I've known him for almost 20 years and he's never once been anything other than steadfast, confident, and giving. He's a natural encourager and a born leader (though he'll argue with that one). He also has a deep love of music and an innate understanding of it. Jon blogs every Friday at Audio Treasure Chest where he posts play lists based on a theme. Treasure Chest is right! I don't know how he finds half of the music he discovers. If you love music, if you want to discover some interesting artists, or if you just want to get to know a really swell guy, click on the link and wander over. He'll be very glad that you did!

Thank you, Jon, for always being there when I need you and for sticking with me through the not-so-great times. Thank you for being a rock when I tend to be the proverbial shifting sands. I love you and think you're pretty cool :)

Happy A-Z Everyone!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Letter I

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

I'm also getting Innovative for the letter I! Susan Branch is a talented artist and writer and I first discovered her when I was probably around the age of ten. She is best described as an [I]llustrator: see, there's that letter I :). Her illustrations are a delight to view and experience.

Her darling website is a visual feast that must be experienced! She has written many books that combine her artistic talent as well as her gift for writing. Perhaps the most unique thing about her work is that everything is written in her own, gorgeous handwriting! There's no boring fonts to be had! I learned years ago that when she first got started, she hand wrote EVERYTHING and it was then sent to print. Now, through the magic of technology, she has a font developed from her unique handwriting. That has GOT to make things much, much easier!

Susan Branch encouraged me to seek out my own unique way of telling stories and I'm happy to say that I have recently rediscovered my love of illustration as well as that lovely amalgam of story-telling, hand-lettering, DIY projects and recipes, and sketches that has always made her work beautiful and inspiring. In no way am I comparing myself or my work to hers; I am, however, saying THANK YOU to yet another beautiful soul for using her gifts and not being afraid to show us her unique way of seeing the world. 

Don't be afraid to rediscover those passions you had when you were young. Definitely don't be afraid to seek out those artists and writers and individuals who once inspired you and rediscover your authentic voice and life. TRUST ME! You'll be so happy that you braved the "rejection" and the "discrimination" from those who won't understand. It doesn't matter. There are plenty of others who will be happy to cheer you along and join you on your way!

Happy Discoveries!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Letter H

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

***

Ok, I'll admit I may be cheating a bit for letter H but I HAD to include this lady and the corresponding letters of her first and last name already had topics!! Alexandra Stoddard has been a lifestyle expert for decades and she is the very FIRST person I ever discovered who made learning manners and housekeeping elegant AND fun!

The letter H comes in from the lovely, most recent interview I found with Ms. Stoddard at [H]adley Court :). See? NOT cheating; innovating! 

I got my first education in elegant and gracious living from Ms. Stoddard. I am forever indebted to her for instilling within my thirteen year old self the importance of writing letters and journal keeping and using REAL PEN AND PAPER to do both! I love blogging and the ease of writing on a computer; I also love the instant contact with friends via social media. But NOTHING will EVER take the place of a good, old fashioned letter. Because of Alexandra Stoddard and her beautiful philosophy of life, I am a firm believer in the handwritten note and the old fashioned stamp and envelope way of delivering news.

If you've never heard of Alexandra Stoddard or come across any of her works, this interview at the Hadley Court website is a beautiful introduction to her lifestyle philosophy. She truly is a lovely soul who should be discovered and rediscovered by those who value a beautiful life.

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Letter G

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

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This next inspiring person is perhaps one of the most linguistically talented authors I've ever come across.I've never met another reader who has read anything by [G]reer Ilene Gilman. Anytime I recommend her book, Moonwise, it's met with blank stares, lots of blinking, vague smiles and a change of subject.

No, the book is NOT a recent bestseller. No, it has NOT been made into a film. And, NO, it is NOT an easy read. This book is dripping with the essence of language and mythology. It is steeped in old (and I mean OLD) English folklore. In a word: breathtaking. She's written other works, including a compilation of poems inspired by the world she created in Moonwise. I'm not as familiar with them as I am with this particular novel, so forgive my hype of only one work of such a talented author.

Gilman's work breathed a deep, much needed breath of fresh air into my own work. She's inspired me to step outside of the "formula" for bestselling fiction, the "rules" of "what readers will or will not read" and just write what I want to write. Better yet, she's challenged me to write what I want to READ. And she's challenged me to better my understanding of mythology, folklore and the language I claim to speak fluently: English.

Visit Gilman's website and specifically the site for her work Moonwise. Again, it's not an easy read, but it is WELL worth the effort. Once you grasp the rhythm of her world, you'll fall in and you'll never, ever be the same reader you were before you discovered her. Trust me! It's an adventure in language as well as story.

Happy A-Z-ing!



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Letter F

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

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When I first discovered our next inspiring individual, I was in my early twenties and the idea of bucking the system and forging my own path was beating mightily at my door. Because of this discovery, I thought for years that I wanted my own farm, live off the grid, and homestead FO LIFE!!

Life happened and, as we all should, I discovered where I truly belonged and needless to say that was NOT on a farm. A few months ago, I revisited Mary Jane Butters via her beautiful lifestyle books which mirror the magazine through which I first "met" her. It was through this revisit that I finally understood her mantra "Farmgirl is a condition of the heart!"

Letter F, as you've guessed, is for [F]armgirl. Mary Jane lives her dream on her farm in Idaho. She advocates eating local and as organic as possible. She got her start in this lifestyle by creating great tasting, convenient trail food. While a forest ranger, Mary Jane was disgusted by the trail food that was available. As any enterprising woman would, she made her own, shared it with friends and colleagues and her industry was born. It blossomed into a magazine that came out whenever she could get to it. No ads, no fluff, funded only by the mail-order catalogue that was the back half of the magazine. She did all the writing, all the photography, everything!

Now she hosts Farm parties, Farm stays, has a monthly magazine, and an entire line of bedding sold in well known department stores. She is a true inspiration of the make do and mend, start where you are and do what you do movement. She's made her lifestyle her business and shares it joyfully through her website, online journal, magazine, books, and farm visits.

Whether you live in the country or the city, want a herd of sheep or two chickens, make your own clothes or stitch on the weekends, check out Mary Jane Butters' world. Discover for yourself that Farmgirl (or guy!!) is a condition of the heart :)

Happy A-Z-ing!


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Letter E

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

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For this letter I have three words for you: Epbot, EPbot, [E]PBOT!!! Ok, so that's one word, but still: HAVE YOU BEEN TO THIS WOMAN'S SITE???

I'm geeking out because it's perfectly acceptable to geek out over such a charmingly wonderful geeky site! Funny how that word used to be such an insult. Call me a geek now and I'll just grin and agree!

Epbot is the adorable site written by Jen who also writes Cake Wrecks. Oh yeah, THAT site with the horrid cakes that "professionals" actually make, sell and BUY for birthdays, anniversaries, and other important occasions that you absolutely hope that the name of the recipient is spelled correctly! Anyway, Epbot is a precious collection of all things sci-fi, steampunk, cute-sy craftiness and precious geekery.

I mean, come on. She even posted about Dapper Day at Disney World. I didn't even know Disney HAD a Dapper Day!! Can you say Dapper Lady Loki next year? I can :D And if it happens, I'll send her pictures. Heck, she'll probably be there taking them!

Go, NOW, and check out this fantastic site. And while you're at it, click over to Cake Wrecks for some of the funniest pictures you will ever see!

Cheers!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Letter D

WELCOME! To the 2015 A-Z Challenge!! My theme this year is Twenty-Six Days to Bring More LOVELY into Your Life. During the month of April, join me as I blog my way through the alphabet and highlight the bloggers, crafters and dreamers who make the online world (and the REAL world) a much more LOVELY place in which to live! I hope you find inspiration for your own journey.

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Many of you may have already discovered the work of [D]avid Lebovitz. If so, you already know what a talented and charming man he is! If you haven't, you are in for a treat - literally! I was introduced to his work by my husband who found his website thanks to an interest in food photography.

David cooks both sweet and savory things and posts marvelous recipes and photographs on his website. What won me over, however, was his way with words. He's written several books, but my introduction to him was through his MARVELOUS The Sweet Life in Paris. This book tells the story of his move to Paris and all the quirks, ups and downs such a life change entails. It's packed with humorous anecdotes, heartwarming stories, tasty recipes, and cultural insights into Paris and the French in general. If you've ever wanted to live in Paris, figure out how to bake madeleines in a tiny kitchen, or if you just enjoy beautiful food and food writing, wander over and get acquainted.

Have a marvelous day!