Frolicking My Way Through Friday

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pepperAs some of you already know, I recently added a new addition to my pack… errr…family. I was told she’s a black lab/retriever mix. I don’t know if this means she’s black lab mixed with a golden or a lab mixed with some unknown breed. She looks a lot like a lab though.

The young couple that had her before us adopted her at 8 weeks, kept her for 4 weeks, and then decided they needed to find a new home. They never took her to a vet but aside from having two types of worms and a few fleas, she’s very healthy according to our vet. And oh, not only is she absolutely adorable but she’s one of the cuddliest dogs I’ve ever met.

Maybe I’m just not used to a dog that likes affection. Webster is a good dog but he made it clear from day one that he had no interest in being held and even when you go to pet him, he often leans away as if he’s trying to let you know that he’s not really into the contact. He’ll let me give him attention but it’s limited and he would never jump in my lap. But if it’s playing you want to do? Well then, grab a rope toy because he’s ready to go!

Now that Pepper has been a member of our family for three weeks, we’ve had a chance to get settled in and I’m happy to say that she’s a perfect fit. Even on her first night in a new place, she had no anxieties about being somewhere different. We’ve had a few hiccups learning where to potty but for the most part, she’s also good about going outside now as well. webandme

dogsAnd then there are Webster and Pepper together! They are two dogs that simply cannot get enough of playing. It’s rather amusing to watch “giant” Webster with “tiny” Pepper, although he’s surprisingly gentle with her. He will grab a rope toy and entice her to chase him and obviously, she can’t resist.  I am grateful that we’ve been having such warm and sunny weather because it’s nice to be able to tell them to go play outside in the afternoon. They chase each other through the woods behind the house and all over the yard. I often watch them and wonder who is getting more tired – Webster or Pepper but I think the real answer is ME! Ha ha

When they do manage to exhaust each other and it’s time to rest, Pepper has attempted to cuddle up next to Webster but each time, he gently takes his paw and pushes her away or he gets up and moves. He’s truly not a cuddle dog, not even with other dogs. That’s okay though because then she ends up on my lap instead and I am not complaining a bit.

Dogs are awesome. They are loyal, happy, friendly, playful – everything you could ever ask for in a friend. They live in the moment and love life. We all should be a little more like them. Okay, maybe they have their annoying moments as well. (Don’t we all?) But for the most part, you can’t go wrong having one or two around.

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A Foggy Morning October Run

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October 008Dressed in my orange ‘Happy Halloween’ t-shirt and a pair of black running shorts, I laced up my sneakers and headed to the park for my morning run. October settled over the area in the form of dense fog which certainly added to the pre-Halloween atmosphere.

Although I love summer and the carefree days hanging out with my boys, I have to admit October has always topped my list of favorite months. There is just something so invigorating about the cooler days and the colorful leaves. I love apples and pumpkins and looking at Halloween decoration. I love wrapping myself in a blanket on the couch and getting caught up in a great ghost story. But most of all, this is a great time of year to be an outdoor runner and I’m making the most of it by getting out to enjoy it while it lasts!

Cooler air overnight brought powerful thunderstorms. I’m not usually one to wake up to the crash of thunder but this time, it was hard to miss. Those sunny warm days we were enjoying are suddenly replaced by a fall morning chill. This is the first morning I have felt compelled to grab a light sweatshirt before heading to the park.

The fog is lingering and the ground is wet from last night’s rain, making the leaves that have already fallen a little slick along the trail. It is also quiet. I suppose many people looked out their window this morning and decided today is not a good day to go outside.

Me, I’m still running. As a matter of fact, I am pushing myself a little harder in preparation for my second 5K race coming up on the 11th of October. I was so exhilarated after the first 5K (The Graffiti Run in early August) that I rushed to find another one I could participate in before the cold weather sets in. Now, I’m starting to think maybe I was a little crazy.October 016 Am I ready to do that again? I don’t feel ready. Then again, I said the same thing the first time. All I can do is keep running and on race day, hope to be a little less anxious, and definitely ready to run.

I’ve started getting off the main trail to explore paths through the woods, not just to run farther, but because I like to explore. My current favorite path is barely wide enough to walk but it’s a peaceful meander amongst trees with lots of twists and ups and downs. And okay, the occasional spider web that I’m forced to walk through – but I’m less impressed with those.

During my time in the woods, my mind is free to start thinking about my day ahead, especially what I will write. I like to imagine my characters walking with me. What would they do?

Where will they lead me?

It’s a new month and a new day to explore. I’m ready to sit back with a cup of tea, stretch out tired muscles, and put words to paper to weave new worlds…

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Happy Six Years Reconstruction

MagicianAccording to wordpress, today is my blog’s 6th anniversary. Yes, believe it or not, this blog has been in existence for six whole years! I know, as the blog’s owner, I should be the least surprised by this revelation but since we all know that I do not post very often, I guess it’s easy for me to forget just how long I’ve been doing this writing thing.

Six years…

Wow. Time flies. Although it may appear as though I haven’t been doing much of anything in the past year, that’s actually far from true. I’m happy to say that I’ve been rather successful and I’ve learned a heck of a lot. I took the time away to experiment with a different genre under a pen name. I liked it. A lot.

That being said, you’re probably wondering why I’m back now? A couple of times along the way I considered giving up ever writing as Stephanie again, choosing to adopt my new identity wholeheartedly and run with it. If you measure success in writing by how much money you make then this is clearly the logical option. However, I happen to believe that it’s not just about the money.

But like I said, I learned a lot. I plan to put to good use what I learned, continue to write what I love, and hopefully marry the two worlds I created into one successful career that I can be proud to say is mine. I’m not giving up on the other stuff by far. I simply intend to scale back a bit in order to carve out time for Stephanie’s stories.

First things first… I’m making updates. I’m brushing away the cobwebs on this blog, I’m reestablishing connections on social media, and most importantly, I’m writing again! My first story is in the works and with the kids back to school, I have no excuses not to sit down and get things done. So, here we go.

Let the magic begin!

Oh, and did I mention my new work-in-progress features a magician? :-)

Spring and a Fresh Approach

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IMG_3152At long last, spring is here! I know, technically speaking it happened about ten days ago but with the crazy weather we’ve been having, who noticed? Aside from marking off another day on the calendar, it might as well still have been winter. Each day I get out of bed and look outside to a world of white, well, it makes me want to break out in tears. Don’t worry though, a few deep breaths later and I’m fine and ready to face the day.

But finally, I think Mother Nature is starting to catch up with us and play nice. Today, at least, the sun is shining and although the furnace is running as I type this little blog post, it’s actually not too bad outside. I wouldn’t suggest going for a walk without the winter coat just yet but I do believe that those days are coming soon. Saturday I even took a moment to fill the bird feeder with fresh seed for the multitude of birds that seem to have suddenly made an appearance. And of course, let’s not forget the daffodils. They have sprouted and I do believe that we will see flowers soon.

Hurray! In the meantime, I leave you with this photo which I took last month at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Without a doubt, I am dangerous being set free amongst all those gorgeous flowers with a camera. After all … you know me and flowers… This is one of so many photos that I took that day. Perhaps I will share a new one with every spring post I write.

Speaking of writing, this blog has been abandoned long enough and it’s about time that I renew my efforts to post. I’ve been writing a lot lately. I just don’t seem to take the time to talk about it. (Well, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.) But I would like to begin making an effort to post regularly no matter what we happen to discuss along the way.

For starters, I want to start a “Friday Feature” blog post where I will highlight some of my fellow authors. If you have a new release, I’m happy to help spread the word. Just want to connect with new readers? Give me a shout. Right now, my calendar is completely open but contact me if you are interested in being featured or interviewed and we’ll work something out. Thanks for helping. :-)

Fall Family Picnic

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Oct 079Every fall we make it a tradition to have a family picnic at Moraine State Park. This includes not just my husband, my kids, and me, but also my parents and my brother as well. We plan ahead of time who will bring what, nothing fancy, usually just hot dogs on the grill along with some pasta salad, and plenty of goodies to enjoy. That was the menu plan this year, at any rate. After we eat and catch up, we all head to the extensive bike trail for a long walk together. Inevitably, we end up at the play area for the kids to swing, climb, and go down the slides. And okay, sometimes the adults take part in this fun as well.

I’m grateful that we didn’t miss our annual picnic at Moraine this year and that we had such a beautiful day to enjoy it together. Of course, where I go, the camera goes too so I have plenty of photos to share of some of the sights that took my interest along the way. Oct 082 Above is a lovely view of the bike trail as we started on our walk. And to the right is a view of Lake Arthur. There were a lot of sailboats on the water. You can just about make out one in the distance in this particular photo. I love the way the water sparkles in the sun.

Oct 084My husband shakes his head and says, “You and flowers…”

Yes, flowers and me… I have a strange obsession with taking photos of them and if you could peek into the files on my computer, you would see that I have hundreds of them already and I still can’t help myself to take more every chance that I get. I love to capture them in photos, which is better than cutting them and killing them just for a few days of being pretty on my table. And yes, I feel this way even about the weeds and I always have.

Oct 086My kids adore their grandparents. We don’t see them as often as they’d like because we live many miles apart but when we do see them, it makes those moments even sweeter. I couldn’t resist stealing a photo of the kids as they walk along the trail with Grandpa. What do you suppose they are talking about? Are they discussing the caterpillars that we see now and then? Are they pointing out the color in the leaves? Or maybe, knowing these are my kids and my kids happen to be superhero obsessed, perhaps they are discussing the details of how Iron Man or Captain America would save the day? This is, after all, serious business.

Oct 110And then there were more flowers and once again, I could not resist. Even in the fall when everything begins to die, they are still beautiful, maybe even more so than in summer’s full bloom.

The days are getting shorter. The trees are even more vibrant than they were a week ago and many leaves have already fallen. I like to believe that I’m capturing every moment before it disappears and gives way to winter cold and snow.

And last but not least, I leave you with my very favorite photo that I’ve taken so far…

Oct 115The sun is setting over another fun-filled family day. My kids call these “wish flowers” because I told them that if they close their eyes and blow away the seeds, they could make a wish and it would come true. My oldest wished for more wish flowers because he loves watching the seeds scatter. Now, I think that is one wish that just might come true.

If you could sit in the grass and watch the sun set over the lake, pick this flower and make just one wish …

What would you wish for?

 

Fall Into Autumn

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Sept 118Every month and every season has something special to offer but October is my favorite month of all. I enjoy spring when the world comes alive again and everything is super green. I enjoy summer when the sun shines and we can get away with shorts and t-shirts. I even enjoy winter with its crisp, fresh snow, although I admit that winter could be a little shorter. I have often believed that I was born in the perfect place on earth because here in Pennsylvania, I get a taste of each season at its best.

Sept 086During the fall, I love to get outside in the Pennsylvania woods and of course, where I go, the camera goes too.  I took these photos during my last ‘hiking’ adventure with the family. We got off the regular path in the park and explored the trails. Great fun for the kids who lead the way. Great fun for me who lingered behind snapping photos at whatever caught my interest. An hour in and we realized that we had no idea where we were and how to get back out again. (oops) We didn’t panic. We pushed on and when the trail we were on didn’t appear to get us close to an escape from the woods, we abandoned it and tried to back track. Eventually we found our way out.

Now that the kids are at school, I have the option to get out on my own a bit more and I’ve started taking advantage of this fact by visiting the park three times per week to run. Okay, a runner I am not, but I am trying and I haven’t died yet. Sept 087I have discovered this is not just a means to try to shed a few extra pounds and get back in shape, but a wonderful opportunity to witness summer’s last goodbyes as the world transforms around me into autumn. Every morning that I park the car and head toward the path through the woods, I notice that the leaves on the trees have gained a little more color. The smell of fall is in the air. The sun may still be shining and the days may still be warm but there are the first hints of a cool breeze that promise frost that will only be a matter of weeks away.

The autumn sun is softer than the summer sun and when it filters through the trees, it makes the yellow leaves glow and the reds more vibrant. When the breeze picks up, the leaves let go of the trees and cascade down along the path like a golden rain. There is something almost magical about running through it. It makes me feel like a kid again. Remember when we would gather leaves into giant piles and jump into them? Sept 097

Sometimes as I run, I see the big, fuzzy caterpillars along the path – a sign of winter to come!

The park is a quiet place anyway but on a weekday morning, it is even more so. It gives me the chance to escape into my own thoughts as I walk or run, work out my next story, or just daydream. No kids to complain that they don’t want to walk anymore. No fighting. Just myself and the world around me and occasionally, the fellow walker that I pass along the way.

I know that eventually the days will not be as warm and we’ll wake up to frost on the ground again. Eventually the trees will shake free of all their leaves and I’ll be running over them scattered on the dirt path. Eventually it will even be so cold that getting out of the car and walking along the path will lose Sept 104its appeal. (But I hope that doesn’t happen.) In the blink of an eye, I won’t be surrounded by the vibrant colors and the smell of fall. I won’t come home to apple cider or see pumpkins and corn stalks outside the neighbor’s houses anymore. I will miss fall when it ends but in the meantime, I intend to enjoy every moment that I can.

I look forward to the trips to the farm and many more travels through the woods.

I hope that you will enjoy it right along with me in my photos.

What is your favorite thing about autumn?

Sept 126

The October Challenge

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writerSome of you may remember last year I attempted to complete a blog challenge created by Jane Ann McLachlan. I think I made it about halfway before I went crazy and aborted the mission. Well, October is right around the corner and Jane is presenting the challenge again. When she emailed me, my first reaction was no way, Jose, but I went to her blog anyway and I read the details of this year’s challenge. I reconsidered. Maybe I could do this? Maybe I could even have some fun with it?

Last year, the challenge was to write a blog post every day for the entire month of October and each numbered calendar day corresponded to that year of life. This meant we spent a lot of time reminiscing about years of life that honestly, I don’t remember very well, especially early in the month. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything memorable when I was a year-old, really.)  I struggle to blog to begin with so I felt as though I was grasping at straws a bit on that one. And teen years? Well, I just didn’t want to go there age-by-age.

This year, Jane’s challenge still focuses on memoir writing but I like the changes she’s made. For starters, instead of posting every day, we will only post on the odd days. This gives us not only a chance to catch our breath, but also the opportunity to spend a day enjoying the posts of other challenge participants. Great! Not only that, but each week has a theme where we will focus our memories. These include Childhood, Relationships, Secrets, Roots and Wings, and Gratitude and Regrets. Ooooh boy. I’ve already got a few ideas floating around in my head for these and I’m looking forward to sitting down and playing with them.

Want to join us? This challenge is a great opportunity to stretch your blogging muscles, whether you write memoir or not. Fiction is welcome, too. Want to spend a month getting to know the main character from your latest book? You can do that, too. Your memories don’t have to be real and whichever creative way you wish to express them is welcome.

As a matter of fact, if you’re interested in signing up to participate (why not?), I recommend that you visit Jane’s blog to read the details.

And then, join me on Tuesday as we get on your mark, get set … and go!

My Summer Weekend Freebie

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cover imageLast weekend I offered the kindle version of my first novel titled THE BETWEEN WORLD for free and I hope that everyone who snagged a copy gets a chance to read and enjoy it over the summer.

This weekend, I’m giving away the kindle version of my second novel, GHOSTS DON’T WEAR SILK STOCKINGS, for free now through Sunday. If you don’t have a kindle, you can download a kindle app so there are no excuses.

Admittedly, I have trouble giving this one away. I’m not sure what it is that makes readers so reluctant to give the story a chance. Is it the title? The cover? The story blurb? All of the above? If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them because as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m planning to revisit my stories and find ways to improve them. I’m all for change.

And if you happen to read the book and have suggestions on how I can improve the story as well, I’m all ears.

In the meantime, Happy Summer Solstice! It’s official. Summer is here and it is hot, hot, hot. Time to pick up your kindle and head to the pool for a little relaxation. Happy Reading! summersun

Dinosaurs and Naked Art

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June 223Have you ever felt a strange affinity for a certain place for no particular reason? I have felt this longing for two places in my life – an area of Pittsburgh called Shadyside where I lived for several years after college and London, England.

Oddly enough, I’ve always considered myself more of a “rural” girl than a city girl. I would sooner surround myself by trees, flowers, and quiet than deal with a concrete world and the constant hustle and bustle but while London is considerably bigger than Shadyside, both are very much city dwellings.

I used to live in a third floor apartment in Shadyside right along Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest streets available and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. After all, I had everything I could need within easy reach and I didn’t need a car to get around. My neighbors were  mostly graduate students from one of the surrounding universities (Pitt, CMU, Chatham…) which is a far cry from the suburban life I have now. If they didn’t go to school then they probably had some affiliation with all of the hospitals in the area.

I guess I felt a little nostalgic cruising through my former life on Sunday because we took the kids to the Carnegie Museum which is only a hop, skip, and a jump from the world I used to call my own. I like the museum well enough and I had a fun time with the family but it’s difficult not to look around and reminisce about what I suppose we can now call “the old days”. I don’t think my feelings for Shadyside will ever really go away.

June 300

My Alma Mater

The Carnegie Museum is one that we haven’t braved very often since having kids. As a matter of fact, this is only the second time we have attempted to take them. The first time didn’t go so well. I suppose I can’t blame them. After all, our usual destination points usually involve a lot more kid-friendly interaction. When you are limited to mostly looking without touching, well, heck, that gets boring after a while even for a supposed grown-up like me.

They like the dinosaur bones, even if we did have to endure a twenty minute argument in the car on the way home over whether dinosaurs and superheroes are real or fake. (Apparently adult commentary on the subject is not welcome so there was no setting the record straight to save ourselves from this particular argument.) They liked the Ancient Egypt and the Polar exhibits. They even got to dig for their own dinosaur bones just like a real paleontologist.

June 291

We’re not convinced this is art, but if it is, I missed my calling in life. I could totally do this.

But then came the art gallery. Stu and I looked at each other and laughed when we suggested it. Not because we find art really all that funny, but because we knew what we’d be getting ourselves into as soon as we opened the doors to let our little whirlwinds enter the room. Guess what? We were right.

Within two minute (literally!) we had the guards on us because Matt picked up something that he was not supposed to touch. Oops. We spent every minute after that reminding them to look, don’t touch while they got increasingly hostile about being reminded – and still attempting to touch anyway.

“Is this art?” they kept asking.

“Yes, this is art.”

“Is this art?”

“Yes, this is art, too.”

“Art is boring!”

“Yes, it is. Look, don’t touch.”

“I”m NOT touching!”

June 293We almost gave up but then we discovered the secret to getting our kids to appreciate looking at this so-called art. The secret is finding the naked ones.

We like the naked ones.

Naked ones, however, do inspire fits of uncontrollable giggles so “look, don’t touch” soon is replaced with “Shhhhhhhhhhhh…”

And apparently, when you’re a kid trying to make the best of the tortures that your parents put you through, being silenced is just as much of a torment as looking without touching.

June 314I don’t blame them.

After our adventures in dinosaurs and art, we attempted to have dinner at one of former favorite spots, Fuel and Fuddle, but that didn’t work out so well. They don’t even have a kids’ menu. Go figure in the middle of a college town, right?

So, we got back in the car and journeyed back to suburbia pointing out the apartment building along Fifth Avenue where Mummy and Daddy used to live once upon a time, got on the parkway and headed back to our own little suburbia to have dinner at a more family friendly location close to home.

No naked people though.

 

 

The Between World Free Summer Promotion

The Between WorldSummer vacation … ah, the joys of sunshine and screaming kids. There is almost never a dull moment at the Ingram House. The kids are thrilled to have freedom from school. I am frazzled trying to keep them from total boredom at home. We’ve already endured meltdowns in the middle of the produce aisle at the grocery store and running over fellow shoppers with the shopping cart. We’ve painted, we’ve ridden bikes. We’ve even started our workbooks.

Most importantly, we’ve refrained from killing each other.

During what little free time that I have, I’ve been planning a new story. With a bit of luck, I will start writing by the last week of June and finish sometime after the kids are back in school. It all depends on how much time I can spend writing while they are busy playing with friends and riding bikes or failing that, after I get them off to bed.

Speaking of books, THE BETWEEN WORLD is currently FREE for your kindle between now and Sunday. Check it out and spread the word!

Happy Summer Reading. :-)

 

 

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