Celebrate the Small Things: Ice Cream Edition

Celebrate blog hopToday’s post is part of the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain.

So, I have to admit, I’m kind of obsessed with ice cream. It’s not that I eat it every day. I swear, I really am trying to avoid sugar. But a bit of ice cream as a treat is well, perfection.

 

Locally we don’t have any ice cream stands, but when I was growing up, we had this place called The Ranger (school mascot–don’t ask). People would line up to get their dripping, delicious cones. I always got a swirl cone with sprinkles because, well, let’s face it. Sprinkles make life a little more magical, a little more sparkly. And there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit more sparkle to your life.

But the lack of a local mom-and-pop ice cream stand doesn’t stop us from occasionally stopping for self-serve frozen yogurt or picking up various types of ice cream at the grocery store. I’m a mint chocolate chip girl myself. A magazine quiz once told me that this means I’m quirky and like adventure, which might be at least half true…

But I have so many wonderful memories tied up in ice cream. My grandparents loved ice cream, and we often ate it for dessert after one of my grandmother’s amazing home-cooked meals (seriously, I’m hungry just thinking about it). So, thinking about ice cream reminds me of grandparents I’ve lost, but I’m comforted by many wonderful memories and a deep, beautiful familial love.

And then there’s travel. Ice cream is huge in Germany, where one of my dearest friends lives, and I can’t think about ice cream without thinking about her and her family. When we met, I was starting college and she was in high school, an exchange student living with my family, and I recently attended her wedding on a ship in the Baltic Sea, and now she has three kids! Time flies!

Last year, we ate at an ice cream café with her, my parents, and two of her kids. We were curious about something called “spaghetti eis”—literally spaghetti ice cream. Being dumb Americans, we were naïve enough to think it was ice cream on top of spaghetti, but no. It’s so much cooler. It’s ice cream made to look like spaghetti. Maybe other people had heard of it, but I hadn’t. (Don’t laugh!)

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

They basically take vanilla ice cream and put it through this machine that shapes it into “spaghetti” noodles. Then they cover it in raspberry puree to mimic the sauce and top it off with white chocolate shavings for parmesan cheese. And wow, is it good.

And no, my friend didn’t laugh at us at all when we thought spaghetti eis contained actual spaghetti. She’s sweet like that. 😊

There you have it. One delicious treat. Infinite varieties. Countless memories.

And now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite memory related to ice cream? And, of course, what’s your favorite flavor? And if you can’t eat ice cream, what’s your favorite dessert and your dearest memory related to it?

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The Joy of a Grateful Heart

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Dreamstime.com | Creative Commons Zero

This afternoon, I drove home from my last session of physical therapy in the pouring rain, thunder rumbling overhead. Though I still have to keep up with my exercises and stretches to ensure the pain doesn’t return, I feel stronger than before, more grounded in my body. I am often too cerebral, and physical therapy has taught me to listen to my body and appreciate it.

I raced into the house amid the rain, my animals greeting me. My dog, Leo, thinks walks in the rain are perfectly acceptable, and while I usually agree, I draw the line at storms that involve thunder and lightning. So, I sipped my afternoon coffee, busied myself with a few chores and some decorating touches, all interspersed with rounds of tug of war and fetch with my lovely, lively lab mix.

Finally, the rain passed, and we ventured outside. Thankfully, the storms were fairly mild, and we were spared any truly severe weather. Storms can be beautiful, but I am all too often humbled by their power.

On our walk, there was a calm stillness in the air. Birdsong punctuated the quiet as Leo and I walked along. We strolled through the park, where the air held the scent of damp earth and wild forest. Back home, my rose bush was in full bloom, no doubt grateful for the burst of rainfall.

There is gratitude in this, in a quiet walk on a cool spring evening, and gratitude is the fertile soil in which joy grows. I don’t believe we can lead a joyful life without gratitude. We can seek pleasure or experience bursts of happiness, but joy has deeper roots and lasts longer. Joy has become my neutral, the place to which I return and find center after the storms of life.

Tonight, my animals sleep soundly as I type away at the keys. I’m nearly done with the first act of Wild Tarot, the first book in my Wild Fae trilogy. It’s set in the town of Foster Springs, Virginia, where the Faerie Forest stories also take place, but these are longer, novel-length works. These are books all about magic, both the human and the faerie variety, and I’m excited to be working on this new series. I’m also doing a readthrough of Oak-Bound and trying to fine tune that work for resubmission. Spellfire’s Kiss is finished and off with my critique partner.

On the home front, we’re chipping away at the excess, peeling away the layers defined as clutter to give our house that tidy but cozy vibe we’re after. I don’t want stripped-down minimalist, but rather a simple sort of whimsy, a feel that speaks of the magic that fills my spirit and my life. We’re working on a number of projects to continue with our home improvement efforts. Up next on the list is new countertops for the kitchen since the old ones are stained and a little warped.

But a part of the day was just this: a quiet walk under a cloudy sky, a walk with my lovely dog, a walk full of birdsong and calm. It was peace and wonder and joy all rolled into one, and there was a simple kind of magic in that moment.

May we all find such moments. They’re often hiding under our clutter—jam-packed schedules, overflowing closets, unending to-do lists. But every day, those moments await. In the space of a few breaths, we can find them.

What about you? What have you been up to lately? Any new projects? Are you undertaking spring cleaning?

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe and sound, and that you were spared the worst of the storms. Stay safe!

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Robins, Daffodils, and ROW80 Round 2 Goals

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Dreamstime | Creative Commons Zero

Isn’t spring the very essence of simplicity? The daffodils speak of simple happiness, and the breeze carries the merry tunes of birds. We’re called outdoors once more. One of my favorite aspects of living in a rather outdoorsy college town is how the entire town comes out of hibernation, as though winter were a spell that’s broken by the magic of spring.

Thursday it was in the mid-seventies, and I swept leaves from the patio and put out the chair cushions and pillows for our outdoor furniture. Leo and I went for a walk in the nearby park, and people were just chilling in hammocks, soaking in the sun. Everywhere, children played, people jogged or walked their dogs, and there was a beautiful aliveness in the air.

Such pleasures take no money, only time, only the ability to be present and open to each moment. And that is simple living. Being present, being mindful, knowing that each moment is a gift.

March was admittedly a crazy month, and I apologize to those of you who visited the blog and left comments. Our washer went out, which seems a simple enough fix, except that our setup required the entire laundry area to be revamped and both a new washer and dryer purchased. Then the big, name-brand store was unable to remove the old machines, so we are now waiting for a local place to complete the job. But the big dilemma was that my newish laptop died, and the fix, while not expensive, was complicated, and my hubby was too busy doing home renovations to address the laptop issue (he has a master’s in IT, so no way he would let me take it to Geek Squad—that’s just not frugal, and he’s so not into unnecessary expenses).

Anyway, thank the gods, the laptop is working again, and hopefully I can now respond to blog comments and visit fellow writers’ and bookworms’ blogs again. Whew!

On to ROW80, Round 2 of 2018. The big goal for this round is Spellfire’s Kiss. I’ve revised chapters 1 through 6. It’s currently 14 chapters but will likely be more like 15 or 16 once I add a few scenes and break up some unnecessarily long chapters. That is Goal No. 1 for Round 2. I’m trying to be flexible with other writing goals, but I would like to work on the next draft of Rose Petals and Dragons Scales (formerly A Prince in Patience Point). That story is finally telling me the shape it wants to take, and I’m doing my best to listen.

In addition, I want to blog at least once a week, comment on three blogs per day, and respond as promptly as possible to blog comments.

On the hearth and home front, in addition to the laundry renovation, I have a number of other projects in progress or that I’d like to work on. I’m redecorating the living room (which I started before the washing machine fiasco). I’d like to finish that, create a message center in our hallway (more on that later), and generally declutter. My husband’s office needs a thorough decluttering, and our bedroom could use some tidying. The bathroom is in desperate need of a facelift (cracked pink tile, believe it or not), and the kitchen needs a refresh as well.

The goal is a fresh, tidy home with touches of whimsy, a place that sparkles with magic. Expect more blog posts on that as well.

I am sooo glad to be blogging again after the laptop woes. And I am ready for spring birdsong, thunderstorms, and afternoons on the patio. Such are the things of the simple life, the joys that inspire my writing.

If you’re looking for a writing challenge that knows you have a life, join us at A Round of Words in 80 Days! We write, we blog, we cheer, we encourage!

Now, tell me about you! What have I missed? Any big news in your lives? What are your goals for spring?

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Bright Holiday Blessings!

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Photo from Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

It was a simple Christmas in the Young household. We opened gifts—simple things, like t-shirts, books, chocolates, and tea. We drank tea and coffee and ate a simple meal of chicken and quinoa chili with cornbread for dinner. And our big outing for the day was a trip to the dog park, which was unfortunately deserted. Leo looked desperately around for puppy friends to roughhouse with, but no one showed up. So, Ryan and I stepped up. We mostly played keep-away, his favorite game. He grabbed a frisbee and we chased him. This lasted for quite a while.

It wasn’t a warm day, instead cold and crisp, and we ran bundled up in puffy jackets and gloves, our cheeks pink from the cold. Cows grazed in a nearby pasture, and we pointed them out to Leo, who was fascinated (he’d never seen one before!).

2017 has been a year of ups and downs, twists and turns, missteps and breakthroughs. A trip to Germany opened our eyes. Sleeping in the loft of a simple red cabin, surrounded by the sounds of barnyard animals, awakened by the sounds of chickens and goats, we realized we’d been moving away from the life we want. We want to live close to nature, to spend as much time as possible outdoors, to experience nature’s bounty and beauty as often as possible.

Making art and living simply. Today was a simple day. Sitting on the living room floor, opening simple but thoughtful gifts. Cooking and enjoying a homecooked meal. Embracing spontaneous playtime with a rambunctious, joyful dog.

In a few weeks, I hope to have a story out on submission and be digging into the last major round of revisions on my novel Spellfire’s Kiss. I’m trying to keep my other goals open for 2018, but I’d like to send out a couple short stories, finish two more novellas and at least one other novel—preferably a sequel to Spellfire’s Kiss. But I’m keeping it flexible.

Change is on the horizon. My husband has just finished his master’s degree in information technology, and we are planning our escape to the country—though when is still uncertain.

Thus, I end 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose. To spin stories and live simply. These are ever my goals.

Onward.

Blessed Yule, merry Christmas, happy New Year, and happy holidays, everyone!

Blessed be.

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Autumn—With a Dash of Chill

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Late autumn is here in earnest this week, with some chilly temps and soggy days. It’s been a week for sipping tea and curling up under a blanket with a good book.

I’m finally getting around to responding to blog comments, and I apologize for the delay. Having two new part-time jobs has sent my schedule all topsy-turvy, and I’m still finding my groove and getting into a new routine.

It’s also been a year of introspection, as I really have delved deep into what I want out of this one wild, precious life. I want to be a storyteller more than anything, but I also want to travel, to have adventures, and to help people. So, I’m processing all of that as well as slowly progressing on my stories.

That brings me to the big progress for this week. Here’s where I’m at with my fourth-quarter goals.

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-BoundI’m officially finished with the first draft. I wrote the ending lines a few weeks ago, but there were a number of changes to make before I sent it off to my critique partner. And it’s sent!
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss, once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader. On hold until December.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month. Went to a local craft fair Friday afternoon.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week. 
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own. I found some flooring online for the living/dining rooms, and we’re hoping to go look at it in person on Sunday.
  6. Bonus Goal: Baba Yaga novelette. Now that Oak-Bound is finished, I’m off to work on this story. I’d like to finish a draft before Nov. 20, when I meet with my CP, so I can work on the second draft of Oak-Bound while my novelette, tentatively titled Ancient Charm, rests for a while. Current: 2K/12K.

It’s hard to believe, but soon it will be Thanksgiving, with the winter holidays following fast on its heels. I’m enjoying the last stubborn traces of autumn leaves before winter sweeps them away, while embracing the coziness of the colder seasons.

What about you? What have you been up to lately, writing, reading, or otherwise? I’ve missed the online community, and I’m glad to be back with all of you!

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Autumn Whirlwind

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Photo by Bellemedia, Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Wow. My life has been a whirlwind these past few weeks. Some of it amazing. I started teaching English as a Second Language, which is promising to be a life-changing journey for me. Some of it not so amazing—like a beloved family member being diagnosed with a serious illness.

So, in the midst of all of the craziness, I’ve been plugging away at my novella Oak-Bound and trying to get it done by the end of this month. I’m close, guys. It will probably be 25-27K, and I’m right around the 22K mark as I type this. I hope to get another 1K or 2K words in before I go to bed tonight.

So. Close. This is a story half a decade in the making. I remember sitting at my friend Amelia’s kitchen table and going over critiques of the first first chapter of this story. And then I set it aside. I wasn’t ready to write it then, but Nick and Cassie kept whispering in my ear, and I knew I couldn’t give up on them.

Five years later, a first draft is close to being completed. And yes, there will be a happy dance when it is done.

So, where does this leave my progress on my goals for this quarter? Well…

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-Bound. On track, and I hope to finish this in the next few days. Fingers crossed!
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss,once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader. On hold until I finish Oak-Bound.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month. Going to see author Sharyn McCrumb at the local library on Sunday, and hubby and I bought tickets for a hayride next weekend.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week. Nada.
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own. Ordered new chairs for the living room and library, and I’ve piled up a large quantity of items to take to the thrift store. I’ve also hung some photographs in our hallway and in my library.
  6. Bonus Goal: I just found an upcoming call for submissions for an anthology based around the mythology of Baba Yaga, this fascinating figure from Russian folklore. I’d like to write a draft of a Baba Yaga novelette—somewhere in the 10-12K range, so I’m adding this goal.

I am hoping the rest of autumn will be calmer, as I settle into a teaching routine, dig deep into my stories, break out the cozy sweaters, and move closer toward submitting some of my stories for publication. I currently have one short story out on submission and will hear back sometime next month.

What about you? How is your autumn progressing? And please, because I love this season, what is your favorite thing about autumn?

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The Turning of the Wheel of the Year

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“A study in Scarlet 1” by boogy_man at stock.xchng

I felt the shift last week. The air, a little cooler. The leaves, with their hints of gold and red. Autumn was on its way. This week has been filled with cool mornings and autumn rain. We ate chili and snuggled up under blankets. As I walk Leo, I notice the marked shift in the leaves.

As the air grows colder, as the seasons cycle toward autumn and impending winter, I find myself turning inward. I’m reading Tami Lynn Kent’s amazing book Wild Creative, and it reinforces a reawakening that had already begun inside me. I had internalized societal pressure to “get a real job,” “make some money,” “be successful” (whatever that means).

I turned inward and realized that those pressures, reinforced by others in direct and sometimes subtle, indirect ways, were taking a toll. I was carrying them around like a load of bricks on my back. I let them fall.

I am still trying to figure out what all this means, where it will all land. Deadlines are a part of the writer’s existence, and I must manage those while living with chronic medical conditions that sometimes seem to drain the energy from my body, leaving me tired to the core and struggling to get through the day.

And I’m still processing the lessons from my trip to Germany, which taught me I’m most alive when I’m close to animals and nature. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate those lessons into my life as my husband and I contemplate an escape from life in town and into the country.

As for my writing goals, I have finally started writing again after the block that followed my return from Germany. I wrote a poem, “Call me Raven,” that’s got this very Romantic/outcast vibe to it, and just got comments back from a friend and fellow writer. And I wrote 658 words in my novella Oak-Bound last week and 357 words last night.

 

Ideally, I’d like to finish a draft of Oak-Bound by Samhain (or, as Muggles refer to it, Halloween)–when the Wheel of the Year begins a new cycle. And then I can turn toward Spellfire’s Kiss, which is very much a story about autumn, colder days, and even colder nights.

I’ll share more about my journey through Kent’s Wild Creative in my next post.

In the meantime, does it feel like autumn where you are? How do you embrace the slide into the colder half of the seasons?

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Simple Summer Pleasures

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Photo by Orientaly | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Summer is in full swing here in Virginia’s New River Valley. As I type, birds are singing in the twilight. The grass beneath my feet is soft and lush; the trees are bright green and filled with scampering squirrels and countless types of birds. Leo and I have been enjoying long walks in the park and on the nature trails we’re lucky enough to have right outside our back door. I’m growing herbs and squash in containers on our front porch, and the lemon balm, oregano, and basil are already taking off. Tonight I cooked stir-fry and added some of the sweet basil into the mix.

We live in a go-go-go society. Too often we miss the birdsong and squirrels because we’re focused on other things. Too often we forget to drink in the forest’s tranquility because we’re distracted by modern life. Too often we don’t savor the taste of fresh basil because something else is calling our attention away.

True contentment, I believe, is slowing down enough to enjoy these things. True contentment means embracing moments of stillness and the small moments of joy that are all around us—if only we’re paying attention.

So what did I do this week, aside from some container gardening and long walks? I wrote 3,612 words in Fates Entangled. I did a lot of refreshing of my social media presence. I’ve been more active on Facebook, tried a new Twitter chat, updated my cover images for Facebook and Twitter, and started planning some changes to this website for the launch of Spellfire’s Kiss, hopefully this autumn. I continued reading Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn.

On the home front, hubby and I are talking more and more about saving up to buy or build a house in the country. He really wants to live in a yurt, so we’re researching that option. No definite plans yet—this is all just dreaming out loud. But it’s something that might be out there on the horizon. And long summer days and warm summer nights are the perfect time for such dreams.

What about you? What are your favorite summer pleasures?

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Winter’s Last Stand

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publicdomainstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Today the daffodils are resting their weary heads against the frozen earth. After a fairly mild winter, and an exceptionally mild February, winter appears to be making its last stand, complete with snow flurries and wind chill advisories. In Southwest Virginia we’ve been spared the mountains of snow that are currently blanketing the Northeast, though, so for that I am grateful—especially since many trees already have blooms and we could’ve been facing a lot of power outages.

But even as I walked Leo today, I could hear, over the wind’s roar, the hopeful songs of birds in the tree branches, and yesterday we saw a gathering of robins, pecking at and hopping along the snow-speckled earth. The promise of spring exists even on these frozen days.

I’m trying to remember the lessons of hygge that I read about in The Cozy Life. That means candles burning, a hot cup of spicy tea (I’ve recently discovered Bigelow’s Constant Comment, a blend of orange rind, black tea, and spices), and curling up under a blanket with a good book. I’ve been skipping around between books as of late. This week I’m reading The Crimson Spell, a book by F. Goldsborough based on the Charmed series. After I finish that, I’d like to get back to Little Women.

As far as writing, since my last check-in I’ve written a rough synopsis for a novelette, The Rogue Wore Red, formerly The Redcap in the Library. I’m worried the new title suggests Regency romance, and it’s really a fantasy romance story, so I might have to play with it. This week I’ve written 1,200 words in that story. I’m also getting close to finishing Michael’s character arc in Spellfire’s Kiss.

What about you? Are you digging out from under mountains of snow, shivering at the blast of icy wind, or enjoying springtime sunshine where you live? Do you think The Rogue Wore Red is more of a Regency title than a fantasy one? What are you currently writing—or reading? I’d love to hear from you!

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Simplicity

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Photo by Malewitch | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s a warm but rainy day in Southwest Virginia. The steady plop of rain against the townhouse provides a backdrop for a day spent inside, drinking tea and typing away at the keys. They’re saying thunderstorms are on their way, so we’re holed up inside today.

As a goal-driven person in a goal-driven society, sometimes I’m so consumed by what I want to achieve that it’s easy to overlook these simple things: a rainy day spent playing fetch with Leo inside, or an afternoon drinking tea and writing. But if we’re to truly live an inspired, creative life, appreciating the simple pleasures life offers every day is precisely what we must do.

There is magic in the everyday. Every cup of tea, every word splashed across the page, every story written or read, every simple, home-cooked meal has a drop of magic in it, if only we’re open to it.

The daffodils are already blooming outside. The promise of spring is in the air on this windy, rainy day. The blank pages of my journal call to me, offering a source of inspiration and introspection. So I think I’ll keep today’s check-in short and sweet, and focus on a quiet, creative day.

So far this week I’ve written 1,351 words in Spellfire’s Kiss. I’ve been working on this story since December 2013, and yet it’s continuing to whisper to me and surprise me. This year this story will be finished, one way or another, and it will hopefully find fulfillment in the imaginations of readers.

I’ve painted two of four walls in the living room a bright, royal blue. I’ve already hung some crisp black and white photos, and the look is more dramatic and bold than I’d planned, but I like it. I’ll share some photos once the whole room is finished.

As far as reading, I’m still working my way through Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

What about you? What simple pleasures do you find joy in? What are you working on this week?

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