Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor from Minnesota surprised to find myself on an island in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, three younger children (the oldest is attending college in Chicago), and two dogs. This blog is where I gather my thoughts, and I hope that every time you visit you leave feeling inspired, understood, and a little more ready to tackle your day.

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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
+ Robert Fulghum

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Winter Fun

The Grown-Up Files

Last week, I mentioned that I’m going to start writing about all the things I want to make sure my kids know now that Lexie’s going to be graduating from high school and Andrew will be graduating from college in just over a year. I’ve been thinking about what to call this new project. “Things I Want to Teach My Kids Before They Fly the Nest” is a little bit of a mouthful. I think young people nowadays call it “Adulting,” don’t they? Since that’s already taken, my working title is “The Grown-Up Files.” We’ll see if that sticks!

I’ve been thinking about all the different areas I want to concentrate on and here’s what I’ve come up with so far. One thing, though, before I list the categories. I know you can google anything nowadays, so a lot of this is about knowing what you should be doing in the first place and also knowing who you are and what systems will really work for you. For example, I have a little mirror with a shelf hanging in the hall by the kitchen and that’s where I put my phone, car keys, and sunglasses every single time I come in the house. If I don’t, who knows where they’ll end up? (The time my keys somehow got in the freezer is quite legendary around here.)

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“Scaffolding” by Seamus Heaney

Tim and I’ve been together for twenty-six years and I go back and forth on who has to put up with more. The past few days, it’s definitely been Tim. I handle some challenges in life with more grace than others, and sometimes I get a little sloppy and forget that whole “never complain, never explain” mantra I try to follow. But Tim’s a good sport and I’m confident in our wall.

I first came across Seamus Heaney, an Irishman who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, when I was working as an editor on a textbook series that featured his poem “Digging.” My friend and fellow editor, Jennifer, very kindly gave me a collection of Heaney’s poems when I left the company to start freelancing when Andrew was born.

For Father’s Day a few years later, I gave Tim A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, edited by Caroline Kennedy. The collection includes an amazing number of our favorite poems—including “Scaffolding”—and is gorgeously illustrated by Jon J Muth. We’ve given it to quite a few new babies and their parents over the years.

I love this charming video of Seamus Heaney reciting “Scaffolding.” He explains how he wrote the poem to “clear up a row” with his wife and that he still gets lots of requests to use it at weddings.

Some Thoughts on Cooking. And Soup.

After the holidays, I was craving the healthiest food I could think of. Even though I’d tried not to overdo it on the sugar because I knew I’d pay for it (I swear my fingers get achy if I have too much), the extra cookies and desserts and eating out added up.

And so I made this homemade soup.

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A Very Hygge New Year

I think it’s safe to say that the Danish word hygge has firmly made its way into our collective consciousness. While the term is associated with coziness and evokes images of candles and woollen socks, I also think of it as another way to pay attention. To yourself, to your family and friends, and to the world around you. How’s everyone doing? Do you have enough to eat? Are you warm enough? Is there anything I can do to help? It’s the exact opposite of self-absorbed hedonism because to be truly content, you can’t just focus on yourself.

And so I was thrilled when I received not one, but two hygge-related presents for Christmas this year! Tim gave me The Hygge Game: Cozy Conversation in Pleasant Company. We read from the cards during Christmas brunch, dinner, New Year’s Eve, and at random times throughout the break. (The secret is to leave the game out on the table so people can pick up a card and toss a question out to whoever happens to be in the room.)

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What to Teach Our Kids

{ This is my favorite parenting quote. It’s a great life quote, too. }

The college-age daughter of one of my best friends since childhood came up from Portland to stay with us for Thanksgiving.

We had a lovely visit and after Annika left I called her mom right away to tell her how impressed I was by how grown-up, polite, and responsible her daughter was. Annika started her visit by communicating clearly when she’d be arriving so we could pick her up at the ferry, she cleaned up after herself in the kitchen, she made her bed, she played games and helped walk the dogs, and she provided interesting and sparkling conversation. She even brought a hostess gift for me, somehow knowing that dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds is my favorite.

Of course, I couldn’t help but ask myself: How would my kids fare as houseguests? I know they’re good people, but would they remember to offer to wash dishes without me nudging them under the table? Would they think to bring a hostess gift?

Those questions led to even bigger questions: Have I taught my kids what they need to know to become successful adults? I mean, it’s great that we’ve focused on books and thinking and all that, but do they know the basics? What are the basics, exactly?!

I thought it would be fun to explore those questions this year, especially as Andrew starts his senior year in college and Lexie heads off for her freshman year. (Meaning: there’s still time!) So I’m going to put together a list and start tackling it, week by week. I hope to hear from parents who’ve successfully raised their kids, from those willing to share the best of what their own parents taught them, and from friends who haven’t raised kids of their own but have nieces and nephews or maybe a unique perspective on what people should be teaching their kids!

So to get started: What’s your favorite hostess gift to give or receive? Annika thrilled my chocolate-loving heart with her sweet gift. Other favorites of ours: Lexie’s homemade granola, a special box of truffles from Bon Bon here on the island, or a fun book, game, or beautiful candle.



Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week Four

Day 22: Harry Potter Bookmarks (And a book!)

Since moving to the island two years ago, we needed to come up with new traditions of our own. One of the traditions we adopted is the Icelandic ritual of giving books and chocolate on Christmas Eve. But you could give out books a couple days early. Especially if you have younger kids who need to be kept busy during Christmas break! I think these bookmarks are so cute and you can personalize them for each Hogwarts House.

Day 23: Crepe Balls with Trinkets Inside

It was probably in Victoria magazine that I first came across Christmas Surprise Balls. It’s fun to unwind the balls and find little surprises as you go. And you have to love the riot of crepe paper everywhere when everyone’s done! To make these, you just need some small trinkets (for these, I used Harry Potter stamps and stickers) and some candy if you’d like. And then you just roll it all up into balls and secure each with a piece of tape. The best way to make these is while watching your favorite Christmas movie.

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Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week Three

We’ve just finished the Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week Two, so now it’s on to Week Three.

Day 15: Levitating Lemon Drops

I bought a good-sized bag of lemon drops on Amazon and made simple “Levitating Lemon Drops” print-outs. And then I just filled four of the incredibly useful clear cellophane bags that I keep on hand, tied them all with a bit of baker’s twine, and done. (What is it about baker’s twine that makes me so happy?)

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Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week Two

We’re picking up right from where we left off in the Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week One.

Day 8: Apparating Game

Ask your kids: “If you could apparate to anywhere in the world, where would it be?” You can use a map, books, or go online to find ideas or do some exploring. Or, if you have older kids, you can text each other photos of where you’d go. My pick is Amsterdam because we have friends living there and I’m itching to visit them.

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Harry Potter Christmas Countdown: Week One

Our Advent Box has been at the heart of our Christmas celebrations since the kids were small. They’d take turns opening the doors to reveal Hershey’s Kisses and a little slip of paper with anything from a joke to directions for a Christmas project or the announcement of a fun outing or party taking place that day. They also took turns unwrapping a book from our collection of Christmas picture books.

But of course as they got older, life started to interfere with this tradition. I kept it going but with their busy schedules and then one off at college, I wanted to come up with something fun and new. Enter Harry Potter. The books lend themselves well to creative activities and Christmas was always a big celebration at Hogwarts.

So here’s Week One. Some days just need a little imagination or items you have around the house. For some activities, I’ve included links to websites that provide free print-outs. A big thank you to those people for sharing their creative talents!

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Mug of Wisdom #55

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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