Fall’s Fuzzy Caterpillars

As this is my last post in my September streak of consecutive entries, I was thinking about writing a summation explaining what I’ve discovered about what brings traffic to my site. I might still write that post but not today. Today I want to write about a different kind of traffic, caterpillar traffic.

Fall is a time of cooler temperatures, colorful leaves and shortening days. Around where I live, it’s also the time when the fuzzy brown and orange caterpillars start crossing the road. They’re woolly bear caterpillars and they’re the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. After looking at pictures of the caterpillars and the moths they turn into, I think the caterpillars are cuter.

When I was little, I loved looking for the caterpillars in the corn stalks my mom would tie around our front light post. The caterpillars loved munching on the dried husks and leaves of the corn stalks and without fail I’d find two or three there every day. One year I took a few inside and placed them in my dollhouse to watch them crawl around. I made them little beds in cardboard jewelry boxes and tucked them in at night. This lasted a few days until one day I went down into the basement where my dollhouse was and found that they’d all made fuzzy cocoons. I was rather sad my caterpillars were gone. I put their cocoons outside because I didn’t think my mom would be happy if big moths started flying around her house.

On my recent walks with Jazzmin, we’ve seen many woolly bear caterpillars crawling swiftly across the road. When I see them, I quickly scoop them up and carry them the rest of the way across the road. Not many cars are going to swerve to avoid running over a caterpillar and I love doing my part to help nature survive the perils brought by humans.

Just this morning I saved 12 caterpillars on our six-mile walk. Some of them curl up in little balls when I pick them up but others keep on crawling as if my hand is just an object in their path. I imagine if anyone looks out their house windows when I’m rescuing a caterpillar they wonder why I just randomly walked into the middle of the road and crouched down. I always make sure there aren’t any cars coming which isn’t difficult on the bumper-to-bumper-free country roads I live and walk on.

The wide open spaces that surround us on our walks.

The wide-open spaces that surround us on our walks.

Following our six-mile walk Jazz was suitably exhausted and proceeded to nap for the rest of the morning. I would’ve liked to join her but there’s always freelance writing to do. I was content to settle in to work knowing that I’d made a small difference in the world, even if the only ones who appreciate it are the woolly bear caterpillars.

Jazz resisting the urge to nap...

Jazz resisting the urge to nap…

Jazz lost the battle against the nap.

Jazz lost the battle against the nap.

Man Not Included (Revisited)

I’ve learned a lot about the challenges involved with home ownership since I bought my own house two years ago. This was a post I wrote last October when I had the idea to hang some shelves. Perhaps I can impart some of my “wisdom” on fellow single chicks who find themselves faced with unexpected repairs or home improvements. You’ve heard of “batteries not included.” Well this is “Man Not Included.”

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Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Man Not Included – 10/9/2012

My youngest daughter loves her stuffed animals and toys. She loves them so much that she insists on taking several to bed with her. After several weeks of this, her bed always becomes rather cluttered but as she has the smallest bedroom and storage space is limited in my 900 square foot house, I had to figure out a workable solution. I am rather fond of home design and remodel shows and on such shows they often tout the importance of using vertical space, i.e. installing shelves on walls. This sounded like a good idea indeed and so I set about implementing it.

I grew up with two older brothers and was married forever so if a house project needed doing, there was always a man to do it. Now that I have my own house and am happily divorced (yes, I said happily, not a typo), it’s all up to me to do house projects. While it’s true I could have asked my oldest brother to help me with the task, he had already said he’d help me move my friend’s slightly used but working washer and dryer into my basement. I figured him doing me that favor was enough to satisfy brotherly love and loyalty for a while. I didn’t want to push my luck.

Shelving project in mind, I headed to a big box home improvement store Friday evening after work. The shelves to support a collection of stuffed animals and toys didn’t need to be anything heavy duty so I started perusing the selection of those white painted wire shelves used for closet organization. There was a package of two four-foot shelves and the price was right so I placed them in my cart. I then picked out the brackets I needed and started looking for the shelf supports. None of the supports in the aisle looked right and my confused expression eventually drew the attention of an employee. He helped me find what he thought would work and I added the supports to my cart.

I know from watching and helping with several home improvement projects that shelves need to be securely mounted to the wall to ensure safety and longevity. The brackets for the shelves included anchors and screws and as I know you can never find a wall stud when you need one, I was certain I’d have to use anchors. Installing anchors requires drilling holes. I didn’t own a drill so off to the power tool section I went. Now I am certainly not trying to sound sexist here, but it is very rare thing indeed to see a woman among the power tools unless it’s the holidays and she’s shopping for her man. There were a handful of men in the power tools section thoughtfully pouring over the selection of drills and bits and sanders, etc. and then there was me.

I glanced at the cordless drills and saw a small Black & Decker one that appealed to me but as the boxes for them were in a different aisle, I decided I’d move down and pick out some drill and screwdriver bits first. Thankfully the shelf brackets said exactly what size drill bit was required for the included anchors and I found that in a set of 29 drill bits that was on sale. I could have just purchased the 3/8 inch drill bit that was needed for the job but I’d learned from observation that there always seems to be a need for a decent sized collection of bits. As I’m certain I’ll have more home improvement projects down the road, I made the most economical and sensible choice. I also grabbed a small package of double ended screwdriver bits and then went to the aisle with the cordless drills in boxes. The one I’d see on display wasn’t in stock so I grabbed the next size up for only slightly more money.

I now felt that I was properly “armed” for my shelving project and made my purchases. This may sound funny, but buying tools always gives me this cool sense of power and empowerment. I am a single woman and I own my home so it just makes sense that I should be able to take care of whatever needs to be done. I admit that I have no desire to ever attempt to repair my vehicles and prefer to pay qualified mechanics to do so, but my house is different. It’s a lot of work to maintain a home in the country, especially one on 1.4 acres but I always manage and I’m constantly learning. With each new task I accomplish, I gain more pride in my home and in myself and such qualities are not a bad thing to possess. How did installing the shelving go? Well, that’s a story for another day…

The Desire to Share

As I’ve said many times, I love to cook and bake. I used to be a great hostess when I was married and my then husband’s friends and coworkers would come over. I put together food for our annual Halloween party that included delectable treats for kids and adults. I love cooking a lot of food for a house full of people and enjoying it with them. That element of my life evaporated when I got divorced and all of those “friends” chose my ex over me. I haven’t hosted a party in four years, I don’t have enough friends to fill a house anymore.

I still love making lots of food and trying new recipes though. I have great hope that eventually I’ll have a social circle again. I’m pretty sure it will happen when I live in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I get glimpses of what can be when I visit North Shore Massachusetts. Complete strangers are kind to me, people I’ve never met before treat me like a friend and want to see me again. For a semi-introvert, still inwardly shy girl like me, that means a lot. Someday I won’t be a tourist anymore, someday I’ll be a resident.

cider bread ingredients

The hard cider bread ready to come out of the oven.

The hard cider bread ready to come out of the oven.

I’m looking forward to being that house on the street that emits such amazing sweet and savory smells everyone wonders “What’s Julie mixing up now?” and then comes over to find out. The way I bake and cook, there will be plenty to go around! I’ll enjoy soaking up the feedback on new recipes and revel in any compliments I receive. I’ll have infamous cookouts where people come watch me battle grill flames and come out victorious. I’ll deliver trays of cookies, muffins and breads to nearby businesses just to make them smile. Yes, it will be lovely!

My girls favorite little crescent dogs

My girls favorite little crescent dogs

I miss sharing that part of myself, the part of me that I express by making irresistible food. I put a lot of thought and care into what I bake. I’m always tweaking recipes to make it just a smidge better and trying new flavor combinations. I spend my days of solitude now preparing for that life when I have a social circle again. Four years is a long time for a hostess not to have the opportunity to do what she does best.

Queen of the Bats

That blur is a little brown bat.

That blur is a little brown bat.

No, I’m not talking about some fantasy novel or cheesy movie on Sci-Fi, I’m talking about me. I’m not into vampires and the idea that being an ageless, bloodsucking undead creature is somehow a romantic thing. No, I just like bats. Pretty much any kind of bats, though some of them do look a bit funky. I love flying foxes and think they’re the most adorable combination of two of my favorite creatures: bats and foxes. I do know they’re not actually foxes but they’re still cute, even with fruit guts smeared all over their noses.

I first remember seeing bats flying around when my family would take summer trips up to the Adirondack Mountains. The bats were always flying over the lake when we’d sit on the beach around a little campfire. I didn’t see bats flying around my yard until I moved out into the hills of the area where I live now. What we have around here are little brown bats. I’ve seen many of them flying around the yard of my current home ever since I moved in two summers ago. I love to watch them fly around snatching up insects, flapping their wings so fast they’re almost impossible to see.

I’ve seen a few little brown bats up close in my lifetime. There was one inside the sanctuary of the church where I worked as a secretary many years ago. The church custodian was terrified of the thing but I managed to nab it in the net and release it happily back outside. My cat Owl is a bit too good at being a hunter and managed to snatch a couple bats at my old house. I rescued the bats from her and put them somewhere safe until they could de-stun enough to fly away. There were a couple bats living in the barn of my old house but they eventually moved out when my ex-husband started actually using the door they called home.

I have a small bat house but when I hung it in a tree, it became filled with nasty web caterpillars, not bats. I was going to hang it somewhere on my property this summer but never got to it. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. As I was working in Jordan’s room last week, I heard the sound of bat squeaks outside her window. Curious, I looked out the window and saw three bats fly by in quick succession. I thought that was really neat! Then the light bulb turned on. Needing to know if my sudden conclusion was correct, I went outside and walked around the end of the house where Jordan’s window is. As I reached the chimney, a bat swooped out from somewhere toward the peak of my roof. I moved around so I had a clear view of the top of my chimney and the side of my house and within moments, I saw a little brown bat climb out of a hole in my siding behind the chimney and then fly off. As I watched, another half dozen bats flew out. So I do indeed have a bat house…or a bat attic at least.

I read up on humane ways to remove bats from the attic but I don’t see any huge harm in them living there. I don’t use my attic crawlspace nor do I ever intend to so the bats might as well enjoy it. I imagine they’ve been living up there for years and they were nice enough to eliminate the nest of bees in my siding so I think they’ve earned their keep. It’s actually kind of nice knowing I have a family of little brown bats in my home; it makes me feel less alone when I don’t have the girls. I am the queen of many things and now I’m also the Queen of the Bats. Better than the crazy cat lady if you ask me…

Making More With Less

If I could, I’d spend all day baking and cooking in the kitchen. Well, all day in the cold, snowy weather at least. In the nicer weather I prefer working after it gets dark so I don’t feel like I’m missing a beautiful day outside. I do that often enough when I’m writing freelance.

The kitchen of my dreams that I discussed in my previous post might seem a bit extravagant I suppose but believe me, I’d make great use of everything in it! The kitchen in my current house isn’t overly big but it’s set up pretty well for baking. I have a nice peninsula on one side that I can use as a baking prep area when it isn’t covered with school papers and design magazines. The countertop space otherwise isn’t overly plentiful and with my coffee maker, toaster oven, spice rack, baking canisters and dish rack on them, the surface area is greatly diminished. I make do with the space I have though and have learned to consolidate and tuck away.

The secret ingredient in my applesauce.

The secret ingredient in my applesauce.

My range is a nice gas unit with reliable burners and ample oven space for two sheets of cookies. In my previous home there was an electric range and I was worried about using gas because of my occasional mishaps with open flames. I got the hang of using gas pretty quick though and I love how much easier it is to control the temperature on the burners. Thankfully my microwave is a space-saving unit above the oven so it doesn’t use up any premium counter space. Oddly enough the microwave is black but the range, dishwasher and previous refrigerator were white.

My least favorite part about cooking and baking is washing the dishes. You didn’t read wrong, I did just say I had a dishwasher. However, I also have sulfur water and it’s not very effective at removing dishwasher detergent from plates, glasses and silverware. So instead I wash everything by hand because then there isn’t nasty film all over everything I eat off of. My nice big refrigerator died this spring and as I couldn’t afford to replace it with another big unit, I bought a small fridge/freezer combo similar to what you’d find in a hotel. It was supposed to be a temporary fix but I’ve been living with it for six months. Putting groceries away is kind of like a puzzle but I’ve got a system now. Hopefully I’ll be getting a new, grown-up size fridge in the near future. In the meantime, I make do.

My latest batch of fluffy pancakes!

My latest batch of fluffy pancakes!

The size of my kitchen doesn’t prohibit me from making what I love. I’m always mixing up cookies, muffins, soft pretzels, bread and cakes. I love to cook fish, rice, veggies, pasta, tacos, you name it! Would I love more area for my prep work? Or one of those neat fridges with the freezer on the bottom? Or enough counterspace to keep my food processor, blender and mixer out? Or a dishwasher that washed dishes? Of course! I’d be in paradise in a nice big kitchen. I like the ones where the burners are in the middle of the island so people can watch what you’re making. I could pretend I have my own cooking show when I’m entertaining! That would require a social life and friends to entertain as well as the kitchen, but oh well. My dream, my personal cooking show.

The picture below is similar to my kitchen layout (with way nicer appliances) only the island in this one is a peninsula against the wall in mine.

Below is an example of a kitchen that’s a bit over the top even for me. Talk about open flames!

Envisioning a Dream Kitchen

 

wayside kitchens littleton ma

Kitchen Design by Wayside Kitchens in Littleton, MA

I think I managed to perfect my pancake recipe the other night. I often make pancakes for dinner. It’s a tradition my father started and one I enjoy carrying on. The pancakes came out fluffy, moist and melt in our mouths! The girls had four each that night and they were gone after two morning breakfasts. I was so proud of myself I finally took out a new 3×5 card and rewrote the recipe so I’d know exactly what to do next time. I’m looking forward to next time!

The following night I made my best homemade macaroni and cheese ever! It wasn’t technically macaroni and cheese because I didn’t use elbow macaroni, I used mini shells but it was still good! I don’t think every woman’s place is in the kitchen but I love being in the kitchen cooking and baking and I happen to be a woman. My kitchen sink is right in front of a window and I love being able to watch and listen to the birds on my back feeder. I also just started a small herb garden and every day I set it on the windowsill to soak up the sunshine.

The view out my kitchen window.

The view out my kitchen window.

It should come as no surprise that when I’m looking at pictures of homes and interior design online my favorite room to investigate is the kitchen. I dream of having one of those big kitchens with an eat-in island or peninsula, double ovens, several professional-grade gas burners, a huge fridge/freezer combo, two sinks (one of them apron front), a stand mixer with tons of attachments and beautiful layers of light from windows, pendant lamps, under-cabinet lighting and recessed fixtures. That might sound excessive but this is a dream and I don’t put limits on my dreams.

In between articles today I’d pause to look at gallery photos from kitchen remodeling businesses in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I decided it would be good to know what my options are when I need my dream kitchen built in my dream New England home. Just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean I can’t be practical about it. I’ve embedded links to the businesses in the photos I used. I will now shamelessly plug that I’m available to write blog postings for them if they’re ever interested.

The picture below is my winner for ultimate dream kitchen layout. I love the colors, the unique backsplash behind the cooktop and all the windows but there are some things I’d want to change. Pros: The overall layout, tons of natural light, combination of darker wood cabinets and lighter wood island (complete with beadboard wainscoting), glass front cabinets with interior lighting, the tile wall, has all the features I like including double ovens, dishwasher, two sinks (one by the window and one in the island), gas cooktop and large island with seating. Cons: stainless steel appliances (I prefer black), no cabinet facade on the refrigerator, knobs as cabinet hardware (I have them now and they come unscrewed all the time) the color and style of the stools doesn’t seem to fit the room and the pendant lights are pretty but a bit too small. Perhaps I’m a bit picky but hey, this is my dream and I’m allowed.

Design by Dream Kitchens of Nashua, NH

Design by Dream Kitchens of Nashua, NH

To see all the pins I added today check out my Favorite Kitchen Designs on Pinterest!

My Way is a Unique Highway (revisited)

I’ve had a rather full day of…well, everything. These are the days I’m glad I have old blog posts on Corbin Creations to re-post here. This was one I wrote when I posted the first part of the story detailing my first trip to Massachusetts. That entire story is an e-book on Amazon and were I better at self-promotion, I’d say click here now! And have a handy-dandy hyperlink. I’m not doing that though. I’m just posting the words of a blog entry that even a year later, still inspires me.

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My Way is a Unique Highway – 8/6/2012

I believe I’ve probably mentioned this in previous blogs, but I don’t do things the usual way. If there’s a normal, set path for doing something then I most assuredly deviate and blaze a new trail with my machete of determination. I set a goal and it is vivid in my mind and within my power to obtain and so I pursue it every way I can figure out how. As I’m traveling the new path, I think up all these ideas and aspects of my goal that were not immediately visible to me and I then have to find bridges over occasional pitfalls. Luckily for me, I was blessed with a clever and intelligent mind that continues to amaze me and I am always able to build that bridge and find the light in total darkness.

I have never been and will never be, an average girl. Average is boring and predictable and I am vivacious and spontaneous. We are all of us extraordinary, if we just take the time to stop and look inside ourselves and realize what makes us all unique. I highly doubt following the rules brought success to any of the great trail blazers in history and being timid just means you get shoved aside out of the path of braver folks. I don’t take being pushed aside well and I certainly don’t abide by being overlooked and forgotten. To that end I’ve learned not to let certain things faze me and to accept that when someone fails to see my potential, it is a failing on their part and not my own. I’m tough and I’m strong but I am also very loving and expressive. It really is all about finding balance.

In my quest for my dreams, I have posted the first of many installments in my Massachusetts story on the page appropriately named “Massachusetts.” It truly is my story and not a fictional tale meant to draw in audiences. Writing fiction is far safer and what I’m accustomed to but playing it safe only seems to hold me back. You can certainly get to know an author through their fictional characters because they are all extensions of the writer, but I thought for now I’d just skip ahead and let you know the real me. My beloved English teacher told me in 11th grade that I should write my autobiography and I remember thinking he was crazy. I was only 16, what did I know of life yet? Turns out, he knew what he was talking about and finally at 35, I’m taking his advice. I regret that he has passed and is not here to witness my transformation from shy girl to brave, bold, determined, stubborn, strong woman but I know that his spirit is impressed and continues to cheer me on. Thank you, Derek, I promise I’ll make you proud!

Endless Dreams

This morning I was browsing houses for sale in North Shore Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Jordan had just finished her breakfast so she came over and looked at some of the photos. She expressed great interest in the pictures I had up on my screen.

There was a lot to like in the houses I was looking at. They all had lovely floor plans and nice lots and were far newer than my current house. I told Jordan that I look at houses for sale to inspire me to keep working hard at my writing. I told her the only way I could afford to own a house out there is by selling a book (or six) for substantial money.

Jordan’s response was that several people seemed to like my “Unbroken Flames” book and I said that yes, they did. Alas, I’m still so busy writing freelance for income that I can’t write for pleasure. It’s a frustrating conundrum. I’m sure I’ll figure out a win/win solution eventually.

Jordan asked what was involved with my job as a freelance writer and I told her it’s like writing several short research papers every day. My mind is so stimulated by the time I go to bed that I have endless and detailed dreams every night. I can doze off for 20 minutes and have five different dreams. So while I do sleep through the night, it’s not the kind of sleep that leaves me feeling rested.

At the end of the day I lose my ability to spell easy words correctly or even talk in forward sentences. I was reading football stats yesterday afternoon and I read “tackled” as “tickled.” Now wouldn’t that be a totally different game! Amusing yes, but a bit exasperating. Mental exhaustion with a purpose I suppose.

While I sleep I have endless dreams. While I’m awake they transform into endless daydreams that motivate me to keep plugging away with my writing work. If achieving dreams was easy then everyone would have done it by now. I have faith that someday after a full day of rewarding writing I’ll have the pleasure of taking a stroll on a Massachusetts beach to watch the sunset and be soothed by the sounds of the crashing waves.

Redefining the Single Woman

As someone familiar with online dating sites, I’ve gotten the impression that there are certain assumptions about single women, especially those on online dating sites. There seems to be the assumption that they must be desperate, picky, looking for sex, only attractive in still photos…or all of the above.

I have been rather surprised to discover that single men my age want a woman my age (though usually younger) who doesn’t have kids. I don’t really know how many women my age don’t have children. I only know my circumstances. I get that a lot of men aren’t into the idea of “the whole package” that already includes kids. Their profile says they “want kids someday” but apparently, those kids have to be genetically there’s in order to fit the bill. They’re entitled to their preferences just as I’m entitled to mine.

I do wonder though, does anyone really understand how many dimensions there are to today’s “single woman”? There are so many reasons why a woman is still single and I assure you, there’s nothing wrong or broken about being a single woman. A woman might be single because:

She’s so busy with her career she knows it would be unfair to attempt any sort of romantic relationship.

She suffers from unrequited love and chooses being alone over trying to find someone else she knows she’ll never love.

She endured an unhappy marriage and has no desire to venture down that road again.

She prefers the company of her pets because they don’t mind that she hangs out in yoga pants even when not doing yoga.

She loves the feel of having a bed all to herself.

She doesn’t want to have to answer to anyone else for why she does what she does.

The idea of being ignored on “game day” really doesn’t appeal.

She has children and she doesn’t want to introduce them to men who won’t stick around.

She’s never actually tried “the bar scene” and has absolutely no desire to.

She’s waiting for the tragic…er romantic comedy that is her life to have its happy ending.

She figures if playing “hard to get” is the way to win a guy then playing “impossible to get” should lure the entire male population.

She likes never worrying that she’ll fall into the toilet in the middle of the night because the seat is up.

Men are too blind to see what an amazing creature she is and how deserving she is of love.

There was no real rhyme or reason to any of that. Just the musings of a single woman with a talent for observing the world around her. Agree or disagree, call the reasons bitter, cliché, stereotypical or outright ridiculous but I bet they ring true for some other single gals out there. I will tell you this though; today’s single chick is one tough cookie that comes from her own unique and beautiful recipe.

After the Storm

It rained most of the day today but shortly before the sun set I saw its glow lighting my front trees. Curious to see how the sky looked after all the rain, I took Jazz outside and saw a full rainbow stretching across the eastern sky. It was still raining as I looked at it but I didn’t really mind.

I chased a rainbow once and it led me where I wanted to be but perhaps not at the right time. That journey served a purpose though and proved to me that there is always light after the storm. Sometimes rainbows shine in that light. Sometimes the storm clouds don’t part until the night and then its up to the moon and stars to shine. And sometimes the storm doesn’t pass until the next day and the light is the rising sun. But the light always returns, you just need to know when and where to look.

Sharing the Sky

When I looked out my front door this morning the Harvest Moon was still visible in the sky. The sun hadn’t risen over the hills yet but the sky was getting brighter. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen and all the stars were hidden in the growing daylight. Those are usually the quietest moments of the morning and I enjoy them while they last.

As I waited for the bus with Jordan shortly before 7 a.m., the moon was still visible. It was lower than earlier and I knew it would be out of sight within a half hour. I took several pictures of it as I stood in the middle of the road. It was a beautiful warm morning, perhaps the last of its kind for a while. Jordan got on the bus to middle school and I went back inside the house to be with Jaycie until her bus came.

By the time Jaycie’s bus arrived the sun had risen over the hills and the moon was no longer visible. I think the sun and moon shared the sky briefly this morning and I wondered if they engaged in conversation or exchanged longing looks. The entire day was amazingly beautiful and picturesque and I bet the sun wished the moon was there to share it with her.

Sharing the sky with the sun today and keeping her company were a variety of lovely creatures. I saw several small butterflies, a couple of monarchs, my resident hummingbird, a handful of dragonflies and of course the usual gatherings of songbirds. I’m sure the sun knows how lucky she is to be able to see all the creatures of the world as it turns. Yet I wonder if she is always trying to look a bit further, up a bit higher, around that curve…in search of the moon.

Harvest Moon Wishes

Tonight is the Harvest Moon. I can see it out my daughter’s bedroom window as I sit on her bed writing this. I can also hear a squirrel rearranging his private harvest in my gutters which is hindering my enjoyment of the serene full moon. I can hope he’s only using my gutters as temporary storage until construction on his new tree nest is complete. Wishful thinking I suppose but then I always make wishes when the moon is full.

The last time I had the pleasure of viewing the full moon it was a blue moon and I saw it  from a darkened beach in Rye, New Hampshire. That night will forever be a cherished memory and it marked the end of a chapter in my life. That chapter encompassed the years I’ve looked at the moon alone, sad and filled with longing. The end of that chapter came unexpectedly and in the most amazing way.

Now I continue on the new chapter that centers around how I feel when I look at the moon. I feel in awe and blessed. I send my wishes to the moon. Wishes that everyone I love continue to be safe, happy and fulfilled. Wishes that my father’s spirit continues to guide me and give me strength when I falter. Wishes that the moon carries my thoughts to their intended destinations.

The end of summer is drawing near but Mother Nature has seen fit to bestow a few more warm days before the chill of autumn settles in. During the day, the butterflies, bees and birds make the most of the warmth and bright sunshine. At night the air cools, the grass grows damp and I wander out to look at the moon…and perhaps have a discussion with the squirrel rattling my gutters.

Chasing Moonlight

I believe in magic. Life would be stale, lifeless and dull if magic didn’t exist. I see magic in everyday events and I always feel magic when I look at the moon. No matter what phase the moon is in, the moment I see it I feel mystical powers at work.

Tonight as the moon rose in the east while the sun set in the west I began to wonder. What if the sun loves the moon? Is it filled with longing as the moon stays just out of reach? Does it wonder what the moon is hiding on its dark side? When the moon and sun share the sky do they tell each other stories about everything they’ve seen? Does the sun wonder why the moon grows quiet when they’re far apart? Is the sun worried the mystical, shadowed moon finds the constant, bright glow of the sun boring? Does the sun long to feel the cool night air and to experience the excitement of the darkness the moon so often dwells in? Does the moon ever long for the sun?

I can wonder all this but the answers are a mystery to me. The romance between the sun and moon is undoubtedly a complicated relationship if it exists. Perhaps the romance began with the thrill of the chase. I imagine the sun is sad if she feels like she’s always chasing moonlight only to be forgotten in the darkness.

Life Lessons via Skin Care

Natural me, freckles and all!

Natural me, freckles and all! 9/17/13

I’m feeling a bit burnt out from freelance work today and I’m not up to writing Part 2 of my previous post tonight. Speaking of burnt though I mixed up a new batch of homemade facial scrub this morning. I do believe I put too much lemon juice in it this time because wow did that burn…er tingle excessively when I applied it! I don’t know if it cleansed my pores or burned them off but my face actually looked quite lovely after the shower. Oh how we women suffer for beauty!

My little skin care adventure this morning reminded me of a post I wrote in my Corbin Creations blog. Yes, I’m reposting again. Rolling your eyes is quite acceptable as long as you return them to their normal reading position promptly.

The piece I’m reposting is entitled “Don’t Cry with Makeup On” and it’s quite useful advice. I actually used to wear makeup more often than I do now. As I don’t go into an office every day it seems silly to put on lipstick and mascara for Jazzmin to admire. I also used to apply chemical products to my face to try to combat the passage of time but now I prefer a more natural approach. My face might not resemble flawless marble like it does on those women in commercials but I’ve taken care of my skin and protected it from the sun. I choose natural beauty even though it means being pale and showing my freckles. Not to mention that when I cry, it doesn’t physically sting as much…

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Don’t Cry with Makeup On – 9/5/2012

I was texting my best friend yesterday evening and I jokingly told her that I should write a self-help book entitled “Don’t Cry with Makeup On.” It really is good advice actually. The reason I recommended removing your makeup before crying is not because I’m concerned your mascara will run or your blush will streak, but because it hurts! It hurts crying with makeup on because the stuff gets in your damp eyes and burns! I’ve made the mistake of crying after I applied anti-wrinkle cream more than once and that pain is even worse! Alpha hydroxy and tear ducts do not get along.

I do understand that fits of crying do not always wait until one is safely home and free of the day’s makeup but if you can make it home after a rough day and know the tears are coming, whip out the makeup remover towelettes and take that important first step. Wait to apply anti-aging cream until after…if you can even still see where your eyes were. I am not implying that only women cry, I know men cry even if they won’t admit it. Do I think everyone cries as much as I do? Certainly not. Do I think there’s something wrong with me because I cry as much as I do? Heck no! I held a majority of my emotions inside for most of my life, especially the negative ones. I had no problem expressing joy, amusement, excitement but sadness, forget it. I knew once I let that dam break it would never be whole again and I feared the weak, worthless creature I’d become.

Here’s the kicker though, it isn’t weak to cry; it’s called being human. If we weren’t meant to feel then we wouldn’t have been blessed with emotions. Yes, I said blessed. Me, the woman who now cries at the drop of a hat so well she could star in an overly dramatic soap opera, believes that emotions are a blessing. Do not misconstrue what I’m saying and think that I’m sad all the time because I’m not. I have accepted though that there are certain things that I can’t think about without crying. My father’s death, my mother still without a man who loves her, my oldest daughter’s sensitivity, my youngest daughter’s developmental delays, my friends’ pain, my myriad of creatively broken hearts, my constantly misbehaving car…these things make me cry. I don’t cry because I’ve given up hope, I will never do that, I cry because I feel.

Feeling is good and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! There may be times in your life when you have to store away emotions until they can be tackled at a time you have more strength and that’s fine. Just remember to tackle them first or they will overcome you. None of us can really master our emotions completely, it’s like trying to tame a wild animal. That wild animal might be sweet and cute as a domestic pet until one day their instinct takes over and they remember the wildness in their blood that enabled them to survive and evolve. Never forget that we humans are animals too and we are constantly evolving and if we do it right, we evolve into better versions of ourselves.

A good cry really can do wonders and if you have a shoulder to cry on, that’s even better. I have friends who are there in spirit offering their shoulder and that is a great thing. I also have my lovable pup Jazzmin who is always at my side when I cry and she never minds if I get her fur all wet as I hug her. She will also lift her paw for a friendly shake as if to say “I understand, Mama, now give me some paw” and that always makes me smile and laugh. Having a friend, lover or pet who can make you laugh amid your tears is a huge bonus. Laughter is an expression of joy and it is just as vital as expressing sadness. Do not wallow in your sadness, that is not its purpose of being. Sadness is a cleansing emotion and expressing and releasing it facilitates the arrival of more light and energy into your spirit and your life. The sun always breaks through the storm eventually and when your tears dry (and the puffiness of your eyes diminishes) you will finally be able to clearly see the beauty of the sky above and accept all the gifts bestowed upon you.

Finding the Future Potential – Part 1

Worth a try...

Worth a try…

In the spring of 2012 I had this bold, crazy idea to try to sell my writing services without any middle-man. I’d been working for content mills and freelance sites for a couple of years and I had become quite familiar with adapting my “flowery” creative writing talents to fit a variety of topics. As I’ll be living in North Shore Massachusetts someday in the not-too-distant future, I sent letters via USPS to realtors in that area offering my anonymous writing skills. It seemed logical to form a client base where I would be living someday. I explained to the realty offices that I was available to write blog posts and/or property descriptions and attached a sample of my work. I never heard anything back.

I imagine the realty offices I wrote to wondered why a woman from Upstate New York felt she was qualified to write about Massachusetts property listings. At that time I had yet to visit Amesbury and the surrounding towns and I’m sure my sample piece demonstrated that. There’s also the distinct possibility that the letter I sent them went directly into the recycle bin without ever being read. It was a bold, crazy move for me and even though it fell flat, I’m still proud of myself for trying.

I’ve been looking at homes in Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Newbury, Haverhill and numerous other places in that area for well over a year. The real estate market up there is apparently booming because the listings I like are rarely on the market for long. In light of that, I’ve concluded that the homes basically sell themselves. Even if realtors post vague listing details, dimly lit photos and descriptions splattered with typos or presented all in caps, the homes sell. Why on earth would they ever consider hiring a freelance writer to describe a home or blog about the area when buyers can look at photos and do online research themselves? I believe someday I’ll give them a reason.

Following is a picture of a sun room in a property for sale in Salisbury, MA. I’m not giving the address because I’m sure it will sell just fine on its own and I have no affiliation with the listing realtor.

Sun room view 1

Sun room view 1

As an experienced home purchaser, I’ve learned to see beyond the current state of a home and find the future potential. It’s a beautiful space with lots of natural light, but just by looking at these pictures, I see room for improvement.  I like the warm yellow color of the room, the Cathedral ceilings and the multiple windows with sweeping views of the property. There’ room for improvement and a few changes would reveal its future potential.

For one, the room feels very crowded. The couch seems too big and sticks out into the room too far. The matching lamps, end tables and centrally located coffee table would create nice symmetry if not for the brown chair tucked up on the right. That chair doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the room. Then there’s the window treatments, or lack thereof. The basic vertical blinds let the light in when open and provide privacy and shade when closed, but they don’t add any style to the room.  I browsed through some pictures on Houzz.com and these are options I think would suit the room nicely.

I like the idea of curtain rods that run the length of the room. Separate rods would make the space appear broken up, disjointed and ruin the airy feel. The floor length curtains make the rooms feel taller and the wood floors nicely amplify the sunlight streaming in. Mixing solid color panels with patterned panels is a great way to bring in texture and depth without being overwhelming or distracting from the natural beauty of the windows. The size and placement of the furnishings fit these rooms perfectly as they keep with a unifying color theme.

Here’s another window treatment and room layout that I think would work well.

The sheer navy roller blinds are stunning even when only drawn halfway down. They provide shade and privacy when needed but don’t completely block the view. The furnishings coordinate with a blue and white theme and receive a bold, rich accent from the dark wood finish on the tables and chair frames. The natural wood floor ties in perfectly to the bright, coastal mood of the space with a color mimicking beach sand visible out the windows.

As the sun room in the property for sale looks out onto green grass and trees, pulling those colors inside through window coverings and furnishing choices is an ideal way to coordinate the design. Hard flooring, whether wood, tile or laminate, would work better in this room than the current wall to wall carpeting. A light-colored hard flooring would brighten the space and give the option of bringing in an area rug. The furnishings need to be sized to the room better so the space doesn’t feel so heavy with furniture. There’s ample future potential in this sun room and I’m certain its new owner will redesign it to suit their personal tastes.

This post is called “Part 1” for a reason. There’s a second picture of the sun room I want to discuss improving but it would make this post far longer than its already excessive length. As if it’s not obvious from this post, I love looking at homes and writing about interior design. I’m not actually a realtor or an interior designer but I’ve played both those roles extensively through my writing. I’m always learning something new and utilizing that knowledge in my work. Part of finding my future potential is evolving into a better version of the unique creature known as JulieAnn.