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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 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 back 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 the end of 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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Pleasant Beach Morning

pleasant beach hydrangeas

Tim and I are terrible about going on dates. Some of it has to do with busy schedules, of course, but mostly it’s my fault for not wanting to leave the house if I don’t have to. It’s funny because when I was young, I always wanted to Go Out, but now I just want to Stay In. Preferably in my pajamas with a good movie on Netflix.

But we found ourselves with a couple hours early on Saturday morning with nothing on the calendar, so we decided to bike down to Lynwood Center, via Pleasant Beach, and call it a date. We set off through Fort Ward Park, but instead of turning left to go to South Beach, we turned right and biked the trail along the water. Normally, we’d have a gorgeous view of the Olympic Mountains to the west, but the haze from the wildfires in Canada is still lingering.

After a mile or so, the park ends and the trail becomes Pleasant Beach Drive. Houses start up here, on both sides of the road. Isn’t that the most inviting driveway? I do love hydrangeas.

Pleasant Beach Wharf Street

Bainbridge has more than 60 Road Ends, which is nice because of course all the shoreline property has been gobbled up. You can walk or bike down to the water and there’s usually a bench or some rocks to sit on to enjoy the view.

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Sign Advice and Revision Avoidance

Neil Gaiman Green Light Garage

We live on the south end of Bainbridge, so to reach town or school or the ferry, we take a road that winds its way up and down through thickly wooded hills and along the western edge of Eagle Harbor. Nestled between the road and the harbor is the Green Light Garage. And in their parking lot is a sign that dispenses wisdom to all who pass by.

The quotations usually tie in to whatever’s going on in the world at the time. Holiday and seasonal quotes usually, but sometimes it’s just random cool stuff like this one from Neil Gaiman. Every week, we look forward to seeing what the sign’ll say next.

Speaking of books, I’m trying to get back into the rhythm of revising the middle-grade book I’m supposed to be finishing up this summer. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo two years ago and really need to get it done so I can start sending out the manuscript. I was moving right along, doing a chapter a day, until Grandpa Tony passed away and we went back to Minnesota for the funeral. It was a crazy two weeks, but we’ve been home long enough for me to have transitioned back to revision mode. No more excuses. Read more »

Early Morning on Eagle Harbor

2017-08-02 08.36.38

This week, Will’s been in a rowing camp for kids new to the sport. They meet at Eagle Harbor at seven o’clock in the morning, and today instead of just dropping him off, I stayed to take some photos. To commemorate either the start of his rowing career or the extent of it. Over the past year, I’ve had no fewer than five moms eye Will’s 6’5″ frame and tell me how much he reminds them of their sons, gentle giants with no interest in traditional competitive sports who found a home in rowing. I’m guardedly optimistic.

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