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.

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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

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

Bainbridge Walk: Hawley Cove and Wing Point

Last year on the Fourth of July, we were fortunate to be invited by friends to watch fireworks over Eagle Harbor from their aunt’s house right on the water. We noticed that there was a small public park called Hawley Cove right next to her home and we finally made it over there to check it out.

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Art Wall Project

We’re in an in-between stage where a lot of the wall art from our old house doesn’t work in the house we’re renting, but until we figure out what we want to do next, we don’t want to spend much money on what might just be temporary art. But blank white walls don’t feel very homey.

So I was really happy to see this art wall project on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

I sort of feel like I should explain why I was watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” It all started when I read Yolanda Hadid’s book, Believe Me, about her battle with Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a big deal back in Wisconsin. I had it once, but because we lived in a place where it’s so common we caught it right away and I haven’t had any issues. Tim’s had it a couple of times, but we’re not sure if some of the neurological stuff he deals with is from Lyme disease or his spinal cord injury. But I was curious to read about her experiences.

Anyway, after reading the book I had to check out the show. And next thing I knew, I’d watched all four of the seasons that Yolanda was in. It’s addictive! During the course of the show, Yolanda battled Lyme disease and, while she was stuck at home, she came up with this idea of having friends and family paint squares to add some fun and color to her house. I thought this would be a perfect way to commemorate visits from the people we love—art and memories all in one.

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Bainbridge Walk: South Beach

Isak Dinesen wrote that the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. I believe her. If I’m having a bad day or just feeling “bleh,” my favorite walk is the three-mile loop from our house down to South Beach Drive and back.

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Best Book Dedication Ever

Wodehouse dedication

(From P. G. Wodehouse’s 1957 autobiography, Over Seventy)

Short Story: The Grey Heron

Grey Heron photo

The Grey Heron

by Shannon Taylor

The patio, at twelve o’clock on a sunny day in August, was oppressively hot. The shade from the large banyan trees that surrounded the restaurant provided some relief, and occasionally a light breeze from the Pearl River stirred the air. Ned Lewiston sat under a bright blue umbrella studying the menu. He was trying to picture the Chinese version of quesadillas, but when the waitress—”Doris” according to her name tag—appeared he decided to err on the side of caution and order sweet and sour chicken.

Doris smiled and took his menu. “Thank you very much,” she said in careful English. She turned and began to make her way back to the kitchen through the crowded maze of tables and chairs that were starting to fill with the lunch crowd.

Ned leaned back in the plastic chair and took a sip of iced tea. Sparrows pecked at crumbs on the pavement at his feet. He watched a boat full of tourists sail by, then picked up the newspaper he’d brought. He started to read but after a while realized he’d been reading the same sentence over again. He put the paper down, took another sip of iced tea, and watched his fellow diners settle in.

He knew, of course, that many tourists on Shamian Island were families staying at the White Swan Hotel while they waited for appointments with the U.S. Consulate for final approval to adopt Chinese babies. Minnie’s Restaurant was popular with the families, with its offerings of burgers and shakes and other western-style food. Ned had found himself returning every day for lunch since his arrival in Guangzhou a week earlier. He enjoyed practicing his Chinese, rusty though it was, with the wait staff, and they in turn were eager to work on their English with him.

More than anything, he was glad to be distracted from his thoughts.

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