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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So what if instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.
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Winter Fun

Muffin Mondays: Grandma Charlotte’s Nutmeg Muffins

French Muffins

Lexie dug out this old favorite from Great-Grandma Charlotte to make for Muffin Monday. The muffins are very simple with a hint of nutmeg and the topping adds just the right amount of sweet. You can make a batch to enjoy and then freeze the leftovers (if you have them!) for another Monday.

Grandma Charlotte’s Nutmeg Muffins
makes 10 muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together:
1-1/2 cups + 2 TBSP. flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a separate bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter (don’t worry if the butter firms up a little when mixed with the cold milk)

Stir lightly into the flour mixture until just blended. Fill greased muffin tins halfway or use cupcake papers. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove muffins from oven and, handling carefully, dip tops in 1/3 cup melted butter, and then dip into the following mixture:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Serve warm or reheated.

A Fairy Garden + ABCs of Summer

Lily and Fairy Garden

Grammy gave Lily a Fairy Garden starter kit in her Easter basket this year, and they spent a pleasant afternoon shopping for flowers and putting the garden together. It’s really just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Grammy picked up the kit at Gordman’s, but you can find one on Amazon or probably any garden supply store. And, of course, you can go old school and make a fairy garden with little treasures from your own yard.

Fairy Garden

I don’t know about you, but I love being on our own schedule during the summer. But without any structure, we don’t get anything done. So I love the ABCs of Summer. We got the idea from the third-grade teachers at our school, who are ending the year with an ABC list. We borrowed a few of their ideas and added some of our own and came up with this list. I think it will provide just the right amount of “something to look forward to” without making us (a.k.a., me) feel overwhelmed.

So starting on the first Monday after school gets out, we’re going to tackle one letter a day, Monday through Friday, until we go through the entire alphabet. Here’s our list:

The ABCs of Summer

A—Art Projects
D—Dance Party
F—Fairy Tales
I—Ice Cream
K—Kumbaya & Songs Around the Campfire
M—Memory Games
O—Obstacle Course
R—Rejuvenate (Spa Day!)
S—Scavenger Hunt
W—Water Balloon Fight
Y—Yummy Treats

So how about you? Do you like a little structure or a lot? Would a list like this be fun in your house?

Books! What We’re Reading

What we're reading

I finally finished the first post-writing read-through of my manuscript (the one I wrote last November, for heaven’s sake) and my reward is I get to write a blog post! We haven’t talked about books for a while, so I thought I’d share what we’re reading around here and ask if you have any recommendations—for any age.

Here goes:

The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand is one of the queens of the “beach read,” so I’m reading this for research—to get a feel for pacing, character, point of view, etc., for my own attempt at a beach read. Plus, a little escapism on Nantucket is kinda nice.

Night by Elie Wiesel. Andrew is reading this account of the Holocaust for his English class. As a mother, part of me is glad he’s reading this, but another part of me wishes I could protect him from what’s in the pages. Have you ever experienced that?

Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole. I bought this book after hearing the author speak at a writing conference Lexie and I attended recently. Kole is a former literary agent, and her presentation was full of humor and great information, so I’m sure her book will have more of the same.

The Never Girls: In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe. A friend of Lily’s recommended this series about Disney fairies, and she’s loving the first book. And with five more books to go, it’ll keep her busy for at least part of the summer!

Read more »

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Will and Tim at Geo Bee

Tim and Will on the Giant Map of Europe at the National Geographic Bee in Madison.

Today is Tim’s 46th birthday. To celebrate those 46 wonderful years, I thought it would be fun to list 46 Awesome Things about Tim Taylor. So in no particular order because I’m typing as I go, here they are:

1. He never complains. I’m not exaggerating. The entire time he was in the hospital after his mountain biking accident, he didn’t whine or fuss once. Not once in more than three weeks. He just worked hard to get better.

2. He patiently listens to me complain.

3. He has a knack for finding great new music and introduced me to some of my favorite bands, like Over the Rhine and The Cowboy Junkies.

4. He’s an amazing father.

5. He makes me laugh every day. Even when I’m mad at him, he can still make me laugh.

6. He’s incredibly loyal and inspires loyalty in others. He’s worked with the same core group of people for more than a dozen years, and they’ve got each other’s backs. One of them is even Lily’s godfather.

7. He plants bulbs with the kids in the fall and a vegetable garden and pumpkin patch in the spring.

8. He spends countless hours making a skating rink every winter.

9. He doesn’t treat his girls like princesses. He has too much respect for them to do that. They’re growing up strong and confident because of his belief in them.

Read more »

Happy Weekend

Kali River Rapids with Will

Hello! Did you have a good week? We’re back from Andrew’s high school band trip to Walt Disney World and are settling into our regular routine. Funny how easy it is to slip into vacation mode and how hard it is to slip out of it!

I’m so happy we tagged along on the trip. The weather was wonderful (low 80s) and the high schoolers put on fantastic shows at Epcot and Downtown Disney. The best part is that our younger kids are old enough now so we could all play and go on most of the rides together and there was hardly any fussing! I really felt for the parents of little ones who had Had Enough. We’ve all been there.

We took lots of photos, but this one of Will and me is one of my favorites. We were on the Kali River Rapids ride at Animal Kingdom, happily chatting away with the mom, grandma, and daughter sharing our raft. The mom happened to catch the very moment that Will and I got soaked. And I mean soaked. As we got off the ride, she was kind enough to get my phone number so she could text me the photo. Technology can be pretty awesome.

While I catch up on laundry (and sleep), here are some links I thought you might enjoy:

+ I’ve been using coconut oil right out of the jar as a moisturizer, but this simple addition would take it up a notch.

+ Recipes to make with 6- to 9-year-old chefs.

+ Heavenly hummus wrap.

+ Can literature help you make better business decisions?

+ How to put a toddler to bed in 100 Easy Steps. Sounds about right.

+ Is it lame to link to your own website? It’s just that I’m so happy to have finally written an official “editor” post.

+ Thanks to this exercise move, I’m feeling like Po. Ouch. But it’s a good pain.

+ Speaking of fitness, Dani at Fitness Food and Style always has fun monthly challenges to get you  motivated. Lots of great recipes, too, like this healthy version of caramel corn. For real!

+ The most awkward things that ever happened. Some of these made me laugh out loud.

+ Will is heading to the state championship for the National Geographic Bee next week! To celebrate, we’ve been playing this cool game even more than usual.

Do you have any plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating the birthday of one of my lovely goddaughters (bonus: we get to meet their new puppy) and I hear it’s supposed to reach 60 degrees this weekend. Fingers crossed!



Dear Future Mom: World Down Syndrome Day—March 21

Mom and Daughter World Down Syndrome Day

I’m expecting a baby. I discovered that he has Down Syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?

I think many of us are familiar with “Welcome to Holland,” an essay Emily Perl Kingsley wrote to offer encouragement to parents of children with special needs struggling with the lost dream of a “normal child.”

Well. Imagine that the letter is coming from your future child. And instead of a letter, it’s a beautiful video.

Grab a tissue and check it out:

CoorDown, Italy’s National Coordination of Associations for People with Down Syndrome, created the Dear Future Mom video—with help from ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi Italy—in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, coming up on March 21st:

The chosen theme for World Down Syndrome Day this year is the right to happiness and well-being of people with Down syndrome. The goal is to promote a culture of diversity and true integration into society, especially in the worlds of school and work.

Jeff Ryan, who is, among many things, Andrew’s history teacher, baseball coach, and our friend, sent me this video and a link to a lovely article written by his niece Erin Gloria Ryan in honor of one of his six brothers, Stewart, who had Down Syndrome. Stewart passed away in 1995, but, as Jeff said, “He had a great life. All of us have said that he defined us a family. My niece sent all of her uncles this video knowing how much it would resonate with each of us. It did.”

I hope this video resonates with you, too. Pass it on.


Amy Poehler: No One Looks Stupid When They’re Having Fun

Amy Poehler Fun

{ Bona Fide Amor }

Before I became a mom, I had no idea that my kids would teach me just as much as I teach them. More, actually.

Like this morning. Andrew came downstairs wearing a striped hat à la The Cat in the Hat.

“Why the hat?” I said.

“It’s hat day,” he said.

“Doesn’t that usually mean baseball hats?” I said.

Ugh. As soon as I said the words, I regretted them. Feeble, feeble, feeble.

Luckily, Andrew just shook his head and said, “It’ll be fine, Mom. You worry too much about what people think.”


Read more »

U2 Got Rejected and So Will You…So Make the Most of It

Have you seen this rejection letter that’s making its way around social media?

U2 Rejection Letter

{ UberFacts }

As we all know, U2 persevered and went on to become one of the most successful bands in history.

I read through a bunch of comments about the letter and found it interesting that most people are accusing Alexander Sinclair of not recognizing talent when he heard it. And that might be true. But it might also be true that U2 wasn’t that good yet. Bono himself described the group as being “a band before we could play.”

Regardless, they kept practicing. They played as many shows in Dublin as they could to build a strong fan base. They took input from the audiences and tweaked their music and their message. They kept putting themselves out there until the right people liked what they heard. People like my politically-conscious, alternative-music-aficionado friend Aaron, who played his War cassette for our freshman science class one day in the spring of 1983.

In other words, U2 followed this advice:

So Good They Can't Ignore You Steve Martin

One thing is certain: If you put yourself out there, you will be rejected. Read it and believe it: You will be rejected.

So how can you handle rejection? How can you keep it from freezing you up so completely that you don’t even try?

The only thing you can do, really, is make rejection part of the system. As author Carolyn See wisely says, “Rejection is a process, not an event.” So when rejections show up in your mailbox or in-box, Crazy Ivan the darn things and take away their power. Tack them to your wall like Stephen King so famously did. Use them to line the guinea pig cage. Slip them into a bedazzled binder.

Celebrate rejection because it means that you went for it. You are officially a member of the same club as U2 and Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and others who put themselves out there, got smacked down, and kept going. You’re that much closer to success.

Most importantly, take a deep breath and analyze the response to whatever it is you put out there. Does the person have a point? Does the rejection contain any advice or bit of wisdom you can use to make your work better? Make some changes if necessary and then send that puppy right back out again.

And then get back to work. This story isn’t about Alexander Sinclair of RSO Records and whether he did or did not miss the boat with U2. The real story is about being so good they can’t ignore you.

Anti-“Gravity” Workout with Simone De La Rue

Simone de la Rue Workout

So I’m watching Gravity the other night and thinking how old is Sandra Bullock? I googled Sandra Bullock workout and discovered two things: Ms. Bullock is four years older than I am and her trainer is Simone De La Rue. And Ms. De La Rue definitely knows how to fight gravity.

I quickly headed over to the Body by Simone (BBS) website, loved what I saw, and immediately signed up for a month of online videos for $9.99. Simone’s workouts are a fusion of Pilates, bar method, strength training, and cardio dance moves with a heavy dose of plyometrics. The dance routines are challenging (you will be sweating!), but they’re fun and easy to learn. You have to love a trainer who includes some Running Man!

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“Crazy Ivan” Strategy for Busy Days

Underwater sub

Do you remember the movie The Hunt for Red October? It came out in 1990 and stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst leading a covert attempt to steal a cutting-edge Soviet nuclear submarine with the help of a defecting Russian submarine captain, Marko Ramius (played by Sean Connery).

I’m thinking about this movie because I need a Crazy Ivan today. Not the drink, the strategy. Although the drink might be nice, too.

If you saw the movie or read the book—which I have, of course, because when you have a Will that’s the sort of thing you read for bedtime stories—you might remember Captain Ramius doing a maneuver called a Crazy Ivan. A Crazy Ivan is something Russian submarine captains used to do to see if anyone was following them: they’d stop their engines and make a sharp turn left or right to look behind. The crazy part was that the other submarines could crash into you.

So, by analogy, a Crazy Ivan is any quick and unexpected change in direction, literally or figuratively.

Read more »

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