What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is when authors strive to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. That’s 1,667 words each day. NaNo was started by a man who thought there was nothing else to do in November.

Nothing else to do in November? I guess he wasn’t planning a
Thanksgiving dinner, cooking it, cleaning house, entertaining friends and relatives, and then cleaning up. Bam! Then it’s Black Friday and holiday shopping is in full swing with Christmas sweeping in.

COVID slowed much of this busy time of year for families, possibly giving writers more time to focus on stories. Still, one thousand six hundred and sixty seven words are a lot to do each day for thirty days.

 Syntax, grammar, and major revisions happen for the next few months.

Writers can plot prior to NaNo, but writing any part of the story isn’t fair play. I’m a huge plotter and mapped out what I wanted to cover each day of the month. Even with that preparation, I usually spend two hours a day getting those words on the page with some semblance of the English language.

I’ve reflected on the whole experience and came to the conclusion that in January of 2024 I will do my own version of NaNo—JaNoWriMo, or January Novel Writing Month. My goal will be one thousand words a day. Given that I prefer to write stories around forty-five thousand words, this will give me a good start on a new novel.

January is truly the month where there is nothing to do. Shopping is done, the holiday decorations are down, and now the bills come in. Plus, there are New Years resolutions. Why not start out with the resolution to get that next (or first) book started? 

By the way, yes, I did write more than 50,000 words on a new story.

All photos from Unsplash.

Grief and Gratitude



My mother passed away in late September—a heart-breaking loss for me and our family. My head knows no one lives forever, but my grief at the news was more than I was prepared for.

Through sobs, I asked if someone was with her when she drew her last breath, did someone hold her hand? Yes, my brother held her hand and my sister was on a video call when she passed. (Technical incompatibilities prevented me from being on the call.)

I’ve read that when one is close to death the veil between the living and those who have gone before is thin. Was my mother joyful at seeing her husband who had preceded her sixteen years earlier? I have hope but can never know. Never. 

This thought led to more “nevers”. I’ll never make and send her cards again. I’ll never have our weekly call again. I’ll never hear about her childhood again. These losses are so hard to bear.


Yet, as I grieved I had much to be grateful for. First and foremost, how wonderful my siblings, niece, and nephew are. From our mother’s final breath to the moment her soul soared free, they involved me every day in all aspects of her memorial. (Covid kept me from traveling.)

During my mother's visitation service my niece connected to me via
FaceTime. I met neighbors who had been so kind to my mother for many years. I made new friends with several people who attended her memorial and reconnected with distant relatives. I’m grateful to know my mother was loved and cared for by family and her community.



Through FaceTime I didn't miss a single sentence or scene during her final service. I miss you, Mom. And most of all, I'm so grateful for the ninety-one years we were blessed with your love.

Mom on her wedding day



Down on the City Farm


The UW Farm is a 1.5 acre student-powered urban farm & educational facility located on the University of Washington’s Seattle Campus.

In the past month I finally had the opportunity to volunteer with the University of Washington Farm. I'm proud to say, even in the city of Seattle, college students can learn how food is grown and then processed for food banks, UW campus dining, and community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes.

Sorting tomatoes for CSA bags
My volunteer shift started by learning about the sanitization process for harvesting produce. We all had to wash our hands, then cutting tools and food collection bins were dipped in a weak bleach solution. The bins could not touch the ground, so while we harvested the collection bins rested inside larger bins that sat on the ground. If the cutting tools touched the ground, they were re-sanitized before they could be used again. We also could not use gloves because they can't be cleaned well enough.

A boar tomato I was able to bring home
Our first assignment was harvesting cabbages which took little time, but was dirty without gloves! Then it was on to rows and rows of various tomatoes. I learned that crows attack red things, so any red variety of tomato was harvested before fully mature. Some tomatoes had ripened in the past few days and were indeed pecked by crows.

I learned there are two types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate (potatoes, too!). Determinate (bush) tomato plants are bred to stop growing usually somewhere around 3′-4′ feet tall. When flowers blossom at the tips of the branches, the plant has reached its full height.

Indeterminate tomato plants are tall and require staking or caging as they keep growing taller and taller all season. They produce fruits over a long period and in tropical climates or heated greenhouses, produce continuously. When grown outside they’re usually mid-season to late types.

All through the rows of tomato plants, purslane was growing and is often included in the CSA boxes along with recipes on how it can be used. Purslane is a vegetable rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can easily establish itself throughout a garden. 



It was a great experience, though I'd expected to be able to wear gloves for harvesting and it took days to get dirt out from under my nails. 😀







This past month a lesson in my herbalism class dealt with homeostasis—a process by which the body maintains stability that is optimal for survival by adjusting to conditions. Just as the body physically processes food we eat, converts it to energy, and stores it for later use, this balance also applies to other aspects of life.

This concept was particularly helpful the past month when work was relentlessly stressful. At the end of a ten-hour day I couldn’t handle being in front of a computer any longer and I immediately headed outside to my garden, freed from hours of spreadsheets. 


Fresh air and harvesting fruits and vegetables restored my mental and spiritual homeostasis. However, my writing time suffered as a result. While I wasn’t writing as much, I did indulge in more reading.

Rather than feel guilty about what I wasn’t doing, I recognized  that the cognitive change resembled the ebb and flow of tides. Instead of words and thoughts flowing out, the tide had changed, providing a much needed mental balance.

An article in Everyday Health describes a balanced life as embracing work, health, and emotional well-being. Responsibilities drain our batteries and we need the activities that recharge us. For me, recharging meant unplugging from obligations long enough to breatheinhale calm, exhale stress.

A friend posted a video earlier this week covering the importance of honoring our rhythms and rest. She compared
summer, a season of productivity, to winter, a time of rest. Like me, she stressed over not creating but recognized the stillness as a time for sowing one's thoughts so they can blossom.


As a gardener, I'm well aware of the rhythms of plants and the seasons. I now realize my life needs these seasons, too. Homeostasis, balance, ebb and flow. The rhythms of life.


Crafting with Herbs


Photo credit

I vowed not to take multi-day classes until I retired, there just isn't enough time. But retirement has been pushed out and I couldn’t wait. Understanding how to grow and use herbs has been one of my top interests. When I learned about Herbal Academy it didn’t take more than a day for me to abandon my vow and decide to enroll in the introductory herb class.

With plenty of borage outside my door, the first herbal recipe I tried was fresh borage leaf tea. The taste is mild and not unpleasant, quite like a weak green tea. Learning that it helps with stress and insomnia makes it a winner for me. Borage self-sows and I have it all around the yard from spring to fall.



July also meant another trip to my local nursery where I picked up more herbs for my new herb spiral garden. My purchases included the bee-friendly plants bee balm, hyssop, and lavender that are now blossoming. These plants can also be used for herbal teas, tinctures, and salves. I'm eager to make a rosemary-lavender hand salve.

After the flowering plants have lost their blooms I’ll be saving the seeds to start next year’s plants. The sunny side of the backyard will become a bee haven!


Throughout the summer, bees swarm the chive, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and savory blossoms. I’ve often wished I could get the herbal honey they are making. Then, this week in my herb class, I learned how to make herbal honey with dried herbs and I can’t wait to try this. My herbal class has introduced me to excellent sources of dried herbs for those that won't grow in my climate.

The next step in my herbal crafting journey will be stovetop hydrosols. Perhaps if my new peppermint and spearmint plants are bountiful I can create a refreshing mint hydrosol before summer is over.

I'm very happy I decided to take this course as I can now use the information before retirement to get a head start on experimenting with cultivating herbs and putting them to various uses. In fact, I'm so happy with my decision that I've already enrolled in a month-long class during September. Life long learning is the true goal after all, so why wait?





All Wound up with Herbs



Hours after pulling out several feet of the "weed" above I learned it is one of the medicinal plants I should be harvesting--purple dead nettle. Argh! Fortunately, there are a few plants I missed so those will come back in abundance next year.

Another "weed" I will be planting is heal-all or self-heal. Both self-heal and purple dead nettle can be used in salads and teas, the latter is my goal. Both have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples.



While studying herbs and watching videos on their use, I came across spiral herb gardens. You can guess what happened next. 😀 But first, I'll share more about spiral herb gardens, as shown in the following photos. 


One advantage of a spiral herb garden is that it lets you grow a lot of herbs in a small space--six feet in diameter with three tiers. The taller plants in the center should be those that love heat, such as the Mediterranean herbs rosemary, thyme, and oregano. The lower tiers get more drainage and shade from the taller plants, and this is ideal for dill, cilantro, and sage.

Another advantage for me is that it clears space in one of my planter boxes in the front yard for more vegetables. The backyard space I've already cleared has sufficient sunlight for herbs.

Clearing space in the backyard went quickly, and building materials for the spiral herb garden have come from reclaimed sources already on hand--plenty of forest duff for fill and rocks pulled out of the ground for the spiral walls. Here's what we've accomplished in an afternoon's work. Not bad for the first day!

Ready soon for plants!



Anticipatory Joy


Lupine at my favorite local nursery

I recently attended a lecture given by a nurse at our local teaching hospital. If anyone is qualified to talk about stress and tips for coping, it's healthcare staff. She told us that anticipatory joy is what gets her through long, emotionally difficult shifts. 

Anticipatory joy is defined in the linked article as "the in-the-moment pleasure experienced when imagining a future event". Through anticipatory joy "We can find joy in the present through luscious ruminations over wonderful things to come. Anticipatory joy can bring light to the dreary present."

In Seattle, our first week of May saw more rain than we normally get in a month. My husband joked that we'd need a boating license to get to the post office. It was wet and so very dreary. Every soggy day I looked forward to that first trip of the year to my favorite nursery. 

Photo by Oriol Portell on Unsplash
On the long-awaited day the skies even cleared as I searched for herb and vegetable starts on the list I'd curated over the winter. It's still too cold to plant the honeydew melons that I most anticipate, but I've got them started indoors and have pored over tips to help me have a successful crop.

Another joy awaiting me this month is an online class "Tending Your Medicinal Garden". While I'm wildly successful with the many herbs I grow, I'm eager to learn about the healing benefits of native plants and which ones I might add to the garden. Or maybe I can seek them out in the yard, thinking once that they were only weeds.


The heavy clouds that are soaking us this month have one silver lining-- the mountain snowpack has raised from 80% of normal to 126%. I expect a hot summer if climate change continues our dry spells and will be grateful for the snow and rains. Soon, I look forward to a few days off to spend in the yard and garden. Until then, like the wild bunny in our backyard, I eagerly await the first fruit of the season, strawberries.



The Blessed Bee


Photo by Łukasz Rawa on Unsplash

Now that my apples, plums, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are in bloom, it's time to focus on the all-important bee. One third of the planet's food relies on these tiny tireless creatures. Pollinators in my area include the honey bee, bumble bee, mason bee, and leaf-cutter bee. (Fig trees are actually pollinated by fig wasps.)

Available on Etsy

Flying from blossom to blossom makes a bee thirsty! My husband has been making bee watering stations that attach to either a standard soda bottle or quart-sized Mason jar. Do the bees like them? One beekeeper gave us proof! My husband started making the larger size for beekeepers so they wouldn't need to refill them more than once daily.

Photo from Prairie Homestead

 Bees are more than just pollinators--they also give us delicious honey and beeswax. Speaking of beeswax, the creative buzz followed us into the kitchen where my husband recently tried his hand at beeswax candles. We've learned a lot in just one trial!



Wick type and size, preparation of the wick, candle size, temperature of the wax and jar, all make a big difference in a successful outcome.

While perusing one of my old books on candle making, we found the origins of some old sayings. Beeswax was mixed with a lead compound and used as a base makeup by wealthy women to enhance their beauty. This white paste was kept dry in the summer months by shielding the face from the sun with a fan. This way, the ladies could 'save face'. They were also careful never to express mirth so they wouldn't 'crack a smile'.* 

My appreciation of bees extends to card making, and we can't talk about bees without mentioning the birds, too. We have a bird feeder in one window and it's popular with our feathered friends.


However, the feeder leads to some bird injuries. Using more of my card making supplies, these holographic bees keep birds from flying into our windows. I've put half a dozen in the busiest windows to keep the birds safe.


 *Source: The Candlemaker’s Companion, Storey Communications, Inc. 1997, Betty Oppenheimer


Spring is in the Garden!


Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

It's every gardener's eagerly awaited time of year--spring planting. Despite the bit of snow and frost we had a few weeks ago here in the Pacific Northwet, I've already put in asparagus, a few potatoes, new blueberry plants, and a three-way grafted pear tree. The pear tree replaced a plum tree whose fruits were the size of large olives and not our favorite, but we love pears.

It's every gardener's eagerly awaited time of year--spring planting. Despite the bit of snow and frost we had a few weeks ago here in the Pacific Northwet, I've already put in asparagus, a few potatoes, new blueberry plants, and a three-way grafted pear tree. The pear tree replaced a plum tree whose fruits were the size of large olives and not our favorite, but we love pears. 

Asparagus, less than a week after planting.

Beautiful ruby rhubarb shoots are also peeking out.



This year will see big changes to our front garden where we get the most sun. A new 4'x8' raised bed will be added along with an herb tower. The old 4'x4' raised bed will see its herbs moved to the tower with space for 15 varieties. In place of the herbs in the raised bed, I'll be planting honeydew melons and peas.

I've found a new plant to try, Oca, or Oxalis tuberosa. Oca can be eaten raw, baked, fried, roasted, and boiled. The taste is said to be similar to potatoes that already have sour cream, with a slightly acidic flavor. It's a perennial, so should come back year after year.

While waiting for warmer weather, I've given hydroponics a try and am very happy with the results. Hydroponics entails growing plants in water with liquid nutrients. Many commercial varieties of produce are grown this way, and I've had great success with the consumer unit I purchased. 

In just three weeks we were enjoying fresh salads with lettuce and mesclun from our countertop. Two months later we're still eating salads from the original seeds. The best part? No worries of E. coli on our greens!

Having enjoyed abundant salads, I'm now trying a dwarf tomato, dwarf hot pepper, and some spinach in the hydroponics unit. Branching out hasn't been as successful and it's a learning process, but the pepper is coming along great. I'll keep trying different seeds to find those that do best, and if nothing else, we'll now have salads all year round!



Feedback is a Gift


Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash

Feedback is a gift, it's often said. Wrapping gifts is an art, and as with birthday or holiday presents, not all givers are, well, gifted with the ability to package neatly.

As creatives, we may need to catch ourselves before we react to that gift of feedback. The beautiful painting, dazzling necklace, or novel you've spent weeks or years crafting won't be everyone's idea of art. But like our creations, feedback comes from the heart.

Photo by Deric on Unsplash

I’ve been writing for several years with the goal of being a published author. It has been a journey. The first steps along the path were rough. Tripping over problems that at first crushed me, I’ve grown and now take these obstacles in stride. Usually. 😊 I don’t think any writer’s ego can go on this trek without some stumbling and humbling. 

It takes perseverance to stay on your path when a reader comments how THEY would have written the book, or even what your character should have been.

Over the years I’ve learned to be more gracious when accepting feedback. I now look at the work through the reader’s eyes to find some kernel of insight that I can use to improve my writing.

This experience with feedback has provided me with my own guidance:

Photo by Isaac Quessada on Unsplash

Write the first draft with my heart and soul, put all of my passion into it, and let my spirit soar. Then, edit with the reader’s heart and soul as the focus so I can pull on their heartstrings.

Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

I also look at feedback as an intimate peek into the giver's inner psyche. What do her words really say? When pressed for more specifics, are her insecurities or suppressed wishes revealed? What I learn enables me to better shape my characters in future books.

So, the next time you receive the gift of feedback, no matter how poorly packaged, see if you can dig deeper into what drives these comments. This has helped me develop skills to create deeper meaning in my stories, and I could also find a new beta reader.

Photo from article        

Soft, Cuddly, and in Need of a Furever Home

 Soft, Cuddly, and in Need of a Furever Home

Penny Tabitha Tortellini

  Seven years ago I lost my adopted feral tortie cat, Penny Tabitha Tortellini (named by the kind staff at the rescue society). Her name was probably a tribute to her copper coloring and tortoise shell tabby breed. I didn’t change a single one of her nine syllables, though often she was just Sweet P.

  When I decided I must have a cat, I asked the owner of a nearby rescue group to show me a kitty who needed a quiet home with one adult. The owner readily took me to see Penny who was housed in a cubby with one other cat. Immediately, Penny seemed to know I would be her momma. Though normally mistrusting of strangers, she readily came up to me to have her head rubbed. In subsequent visits Penny would walk on top of her cubby-mate to greet me.

  Penny wasn’t quite ready for a home when I met her, but that was fine as I had to move to a townhouse where cats were allowed. Even our timing seemed to say we were meant to be a pawsome pair. Penny was with me for thirteen years and never got accustomed to strangers, but she was a sweet girl with velvety soft fur.

  Sadly, at age fourteen, Penny developed diabetes and didn’t make it through the year. As any pet owner who has experienced the loss of a furry family member, I was heartbroken. As I mourned, I decided to let the universe send my next cat—maybe a stray at the doorstep, hiding under the car, or some other happy blessing.

  After three days of crying and without a fur baby to shower love on, I was tired of waiting for the universe to get its act together! I went online to view cats up for adoption at the same rescue facility where I’d found Penny. This time I hoped for a gray cat and found a picture of an adorable one named Bridgett.

Bridgett, aka Bridgie

  Bridgett was the purrfect reminder of the Rainbow Bridge that pets are said to cross to heaven. When I met Bridgett in person, it was even better. She was not just a gray cat, but a torbie, which is a tortoise and tabby mix--a great bridge from my first kitty love to my second. 

  Bridgett had come to the shelter with three kittens, all of which were adopted but no one wanted the mother. Of course, I would be the one to give her the loving home she deserved as much as her kittens did. At one and a half years old, she wasn’t much more than a kitten herself.

  Bridgett doesn’t mind strangers and is a happy, healthy little girl of seven and a half pounds. She vocalizes several different sounds from purrs, meows, and chirp-like noises. I may be biased, but she’s so adorable that vet visits take a little longer because the staff all like to have a cuddle session with her.😀

  Though they never met, both of my little girls loved resting under the Christmas tree. Penny liked to snack on the lower branches, while Bridgett likes ribbons on presents. But neither one climb the tree or break any ornaments. They are both pawsome!



Sometimes Life Does Imitate Art

  The book I’m currently working on features a protagonist who is an assistant manager at a food bank. The idea came to me because I love vo...