Category Archives: pretty things

DIY Book Fairy Costume

This time last year I sat at my laptop pondering my costume options. It was my first year working at the library on Halloween, and I was finally given the go-ahead to dress up like I haven’t done in eons.

But what to wear?

I love books. I love writing. And it had to be work-appropriate. (None of those NSFW hooker costumes for me, thanks.) Who better to be than a BOOK FAIRY? I imagined myself fluttering between the stacks sprinkling fairy dust, bestowing books upon grateful patrons.  (Okay, so maybe I snorted some of that fairy dust by accident.)

A Book Fairy I’d be. But how?

How to make a Book Fairy Costume--this is adorable! Perfect Halloween costume for book lovers, teachers, and librarians!

I scanned Pinterest and found a few examples Book Fairies, Library Fairies, and a cute Diction-fairy. Perfect. Now how to make the wings?

I rang a bell, but nothing happened. (Oh wait, that’s an angel gets her wings…) No magic would help me. I had to murder a book. Mea culpa.

I Instagrammed this pic while doing the dirty deed:

murdered book

And my book loving friends and followers united in their animosity.

But seriously, this was a donated book past its prime. It had lived a good life. And I like to think of it as recycling. Upcycling. Okay, I still felt an itty bitty bit guilty ripping the pages from the spine, but it had to be done. It wasn’t like boiling a live lobster.

The repressed Crafty-Girl in me had a blast designing the wings, cutting out favorite fairy tale passages to highlight, and making everything sparkle. Figuring out how to attach the wings AND make the straps adjustable for comfort—well, that straddled the line between mystery and adventure, but I figured out how to get my Happily Ever After. You can always cobble your own set of wings together with a nose twitch, duct tape, and shoelaces, but the method below worked for me.

(Please pardon the dorky pics. My hubby snapped a few photos before I ran to work, and of course, I was too shy to pose at the library!)

DIY Book Fairy Costume--love it!!

How to Make Book Fairy Wings


  • large hardback book (I used a 9×9 book, but any size larger than a paperback should work)
  • 2 sheets poster board
  • 3 to 4 yards sturdy ribbon
  • glue (Elmer’s or craft glue)
  • clear packing tape
  • scissors
  • Foam Paint Brush
  • hole punch (optional: Self-Adhesive Reinforcement Labels)
  • Awl or small screwdriver (to make hole in book cover)
  • optional:  spray glitter, regular glitter, or any other extra decorating elements


1.  Carefully rip the pages from the book binding. (Mutter apologies and try not to cry.) Set aside.

2. Draw wing template. I freehand drew mine—it doesn’t have to be perfect!  Start by placing the book on one sheet of poster board. Decide what wing shape you want (I went for butterfly) and in pencil, draw an outline of the wing. Make it as tall as the poster board, so you have plenty of wingspan, and make sure the inside edges are smaller than the height of the book.

fairy wing template, butterfly wing template

3. Like your wing design? Good. Cut it out. Use it as a template to cut out your other wing.

4. Rip or cut up your book pages. Creativity level is up to you. If you’re using a special book, maybe you’ll want to have favorite paragraphs or lines highlighted on your wings. If you’re using a book with small print, it might not make a difference. You can have rough edges, cut pages into scale or feather shapes—go crazy. If you’re in a rush—who cares—just get those pages ready to glue.  (Since I had a large print book of fairy tales and I am a total dork, I artfully tore favorite passages from stories such as The Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc. You don’t have to go through nearly as much trouble.)

5. In a small bowl, pour glue. Add a tiny bit of water to make it easier to spread. (No more than 3 parts glue to 1 part water). Now, using the sponge brush, coat each book page and glue it to the wings–front and back. It’s like decoupage. You can be as creative as you’d like.  Once both sides are covered, let your wings dry for several hours or overnight. (They’ll harden, yet still remahow to make book fairy wingsin slightly flexible when dry).

6. Meanwhile… Using your awl or something sharp and pointy, punch four holes in the back of your book cover. Make sure holes go all the way through the back cover only.

7. Have dry wings? Good. Hold them up to the holes you made in the book cover, mark the holes, then punch holes in your wings about 1 inch from the inner edge. (Hole punch does this nicely.) Strengthen the wing holes using reinforcement labels and/or tape.

8. Cut about 1.5 yards of ribbon for each wing. (My wing holes were 7 inches apart. If you have a taller book, you’ll need more.)  NOW PAY ATTENTION: the tricky part is coming up! With the inside of the book cover facing you (wings outside), thread about 1 foot of ribbon through the top hole, leaving it dangling outside. (This will be one of your adjustable ties.) Thread the rest through the inside bottom hole. Make a large loop on the outside of your wings (I used 2 feet) and thread it into the top (outside) hole (where you have that 1 foot of ribbon dangling). This will be your arm strap. Still with me? Pull ribbon somewhat snugly inside (but leaving that 2 foot loop outside) and thread end again through bottom hole.

It should now look like this:


INSIDE with two loops


OUTSIDE—two strings to pull to adjust the length of the big loop, a.k.a. shoulder strap

Got that? The purpose of all these loops is to make the shoulder straps adjustable. We’re all different sizes, and if you’re like me and wearing these babies all day, you want to be comfortable.

Now, Tie the strings in a pretty bow (yes, it can be ugly or pathetic—it won’t really show) and test out your wing sizing. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just close.

{NOTE: If your craft-cussing, spatially-challenged hands are a-flapping right now because this seems WAY too complicated, relax. You can always pick your strap size, thread each end into a hole, then tie a nice granny knot and be done with it.}

Yes, the book cover will be flapping open. We’ll take care of that next.

9. GLUE. Glue the covers together. Use good craft glue if you have it. Depending on the inside cover paper type, hot glue may or may not work. (My paper was glossy, so the hot glue didn’t hold.) Make sure no glue goes near your ribbon straps–we want this part to remain adjustable, remember, so limit your glue to around the edges. Now is also a great time to glue your wings to the cover of the book. I used heavy duty craft glue and clear packing tape to secure them.

Let it all dry.

10. Do a final wing sizing. Figure out the rest of your costume. Literary-themed dress or skirt? Fairy-like gossamer gown? Vintage dress?  (I found the dress I’m wearing at a Salvation Army back in college. Think it was a homemade 1970s bridesmaid dress!)  Funky steampunk leather and tights? The options and themes are endless!!!!

You can dress up your wings with glitter or rhinestones, as well. I had bought some metallic gold hairspray, but after reading the warning labels, decided it would destroy/incinerate/permanently discolor my hair. So I sprayed it on my wings, adding a delightful golden patina to the pages. It doesn’t show well in photos, but the subtle sparkle is absolutely perfect!

book wings

I added a tiara studded with aqua Book Page Roses—love!

Book page tiara--I wish I'd had one of these for my wedding!

I updated a gold leaf crown from an old Greek goddess costume, adding homemade blue book flower roses. Wish I’d had one of these for my wedding!


Lovely book page flower pendant


An extra Book Page Rose turned into a delicate pendent.


And this cheesy wand I made in less than two minutes.



Have fun! Make it magical! And spread your book love on Halloween!

Perfect Halloween costume for librarians, teachers, and book lovers!


Believe it or Not: Candy Michael Jackson, Tarantula Art, and Robin Williams Immortalized in Toothpaste

*cue dramatic music*

The scene: It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the Sunshine State.
Moments before the library doors opened to the public,
I strolled up to our customer service desk.

when suddenlyI felt eyes crawling over me. Huge, glassy eyes. Upon the wall hung this dead pop star:

Michael Jackson portrait made entirely of candyYes, it’s Michael Jackson.
Any yes, he’s made entirely of candy.

For once, words fled me. I wasn’t quite sure if I should be amazed or horrified.
I’m still not sure.

My fellow staff members and I used our keen investigative skills to deduce which sweet treats made up this oh so unique piece. While the peppermint background appeared obvious and it wasn’t hard to conclude his hair and suit involved various brands of licorice, figuring out his skin tone was far trickier. After a close examination, we decided that M.J.’s skin was comprised of a mixture of chemicals most closely resembling —gummie bears. Who imagined the legend would end up as sugar and spice and everything nice instead of Botox and silicone? meanwhileWe discovered Candy Michael Jackson wasn’t the only unique artwork installed that day.

To his left hangs:

Spiderman scene painted on a tarantual. Believe it or not. #it'sreal #freakystuff #geekeryYes, that is a tarantula.
And yes, that is a Spiderman scene painted on its cephalothorax.

Did it escape from the Neverland Ranch? Honestly, this dude creeps me out. But it led me to wonder what inspires an artist to paint in miniature on a arthropod corpse? How close must you get to create such details? Do you use a magnifying glass? Force you face to hover over its hairy dead legs for hours?

Spiderman painted on tarantula spider. #geekery #wierdstuffAnd where, for the love of God, did these pieces of art come from?


later on

I noticed an oversized portrait gazing at me from across the building. Over the bowed heads of patrons busily filling out job applications and playing Candy Crush, the dearly missed master of comedy Robin Williams stared soulfully back at me. At first, I believed the melancholy portrait to be  a normal oil paninting, but we know nothing about Robin Williams was ever normal.
(And I mean this in an awesomely amazing and reverent way.)

Robin Williams portrait made of tootpaste  For this Robin Williams was painted entirely with…TOOTHPASTE.

But this work was signed! I had a clue to the mysterious origins of these pieces.
The artist is Cristiam Ramos, and he holds the World Record for the creation of the sculpture of a full size motorcycle made more than 20,000 candies. Who knew?

stay tunedNext time we will explore the world of miniatures painted on dead butterflies:
The Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and even The Last Supper.

I MUST remember to take my camera back to work.



DIY Book Page Flowers


DIY Book Page Flower - how to make this beautiful paper rose bouquet from an old paperback book

Please excuse my messy desk.

Spring is in the air! At least it is here in the Sunshine State, where it climbed to the upper eighties this week. More like summer is fighting it’s sweltering way in already.

The  Frosty the Book Snowman display I created for winter melted in this heat. Since it was such a hit at my library, I challenged myself to create another eye-catching display for the branch. I’d made tiny book flowers for my Book Fairy Halloween costume (check back in the fall for those details). Why not go for big?

DIY BOOK PAGE FLOWERThese book flowers are relatively easy to make, and cost almost nothing. They do take some time to put together. After my first few, I was able to craft one in about ten minutes (minus page dying time).

Spring Library Display - Paper Roses


old paperback book (I used 12 pages per flower)
food coloring
hot glue gun (and many extra sticks–I used almost a whole stick for each)
thin wooden dowels ($1 for pack of 16 at Walmart)
optional: florist tape (Dollar Tree)
old towel & old containers to hold the dye bath


First you need to dye the pages. Wait, first you need to destroy a book. Make sure it’s a novel you enjoyed, and if you’re using it for a public display, make sure it’s not riddled with anything that could be construed as offensive. (Yes, I had to destroy a few petals because swear words were showing. Oops.)  Make it a donated book or a well-loved sample from a used book store, so it will have led a long and productive life. Say a few words honoring the author’s work, give it one last pat, then rip the pages from the spine. It won’t feel it, I promise.

Now onto dying. Add several squirts of food coloring to water in a bowl. Place each page into the dye, pushing it down so it becomes saturated. Layer as many as will fit. The longer you let the pages sit in the bath, the deeper the color. I let some sit for as little as two minutes, while others soaked for hours. The color grows richer over time.

dying paper for flowers

Set the pages to dry on an old towel. Let them dry for several hours or overnight, if possible.

*Note: as you can see from the photo, I cut the petals out first for that particular batch. It really doesn’t matter if you cut before or after you dye.

Once the pages dry, you cut.  Draw five different sized petals on the pages. Hand drawing works best, because like natural petals, you don’t want them to look too perfect. I didn’t want to waste precious book pages so I fit two large on one page and three smaller on another. You need six pages of each. Yes, you can stack them and cut the pages together if your scissors are sharp.

diy paper flowers petal template

*Leaves are optional. If you want them, make them now.

Once the petals are cut out, crease the pages gently down the center so they lay naturally when on the flower.

Now we assemble. Heat up that glue gun. Place a blob of glue on one of the smallest petals and wrap around the tip of the dowel several times so the tip of the stick doesn’t show. Then place glue on the base of each smallest petal and glue them, slightly overlapping around the stick. Go one by one. Continue with each size.

You might want to take a pencil and slightly curl  some of the petals as you go. You don’t want them sticking out straight, but gently opening, like a rose.

large book flowers, side view

All the petals glued? Perfect! Now, if you made leaves, have them handy. Break out that florist tape. I cut three inch strips and glued them to the base of each leaf. Place a dot of glue at the end of your roll of florists tape and adhere it to the stick just below the base of your rose. Now wrap the tape around your stem. Pause to add your leaves, by holding the trailing leaf tape along the stick/stem and wrapping over it. Glue the end.

You’re done! Hopefully you have a glorious paper rose.

large paper flower, diy paper rose

For my library display, I stuck the stems in Styrofoam and covered with shredded green paper. They’d also look stunning in a vase or jar.

My flowers started out as the centerpiece of my Spring Gardening display, but to make to make them stand out, I’ve moved them to their own table. Patrons and staff love them!

Perfect quote for Spring in the library! #library #display #spring #book #quote

**Please excuse the crummy photos. I used my cell phone camera. It stinks.**

Spring gardening library display




A Novel (Rocket) Surprise

I haven’t been writing.

There. My big dirty secret is out.

You see, I got busy. I know, I know, we’re ALL busy. Real writers don’t find time, they MAKE time.

It could be considered a sabbatical. Since writing was my “full-time job” for a few years, technically I’ve been on an extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, acquiring new skills or training, etc. Yeah. That’s it. I’ve been on sabbatical. It’s amazing what one can learn about the publishing industry by working in a library. Seeing which books people REALLY read (at least in my local market) has reshaped my entire concept of what’s marketable. But more on what I’m learning from deep in the stacks another day.

I’ve also been cutting back on screen time, trying to connect with the friends and family close enough to hug instead of living within my extended cyberworld.

I’ve been on a journey to find balance in my life. I’m still searching.

But enough with these excuses. The true reason I’ve been shying away from my quest to become a published writer is that I got scared. My manuscript isn’t good enough. I’M not good enough. (This is why so many writers become drug addicts and drunks, right?)  I should just bury that damn manuscript in a drawer below the pretty panties I never wear like thousands—perhaps millions—of other wannabe writers.

Then a package appeared on my doorstep.

I hadn’t ordered anything. The square brown box was far too large to contain a book for review. My birthday wasn’t for months. I opened it tentatively.

Inside I found hope.

It came in the form of a delicate sculpture. My Novel Rocket Launch Pad trophy arrived at the perfect time.

 novel rocket trophy CollageI photographed the trophy around my yard, attempting to capture the sway of the delicate blown glass, the sparkles of sunlight shimmering off the surface.

Amidst the spring blooms, turquoise waters, and clear blue skies I realized that despite its outer artistry, its true beauty was intrinsic. Inside the rocket’s seemingly hollow body swirled inspiration, affirmation, passion, pride. . . and hope.

I am a writer.

I decided the glorious reminder of not only what I won, but what I can be, would shine in any environment. It should be placed where it will serve the highest purpose: on my desk.

Perhaps it will evoke more magic—aided by hefty doses of perseverance, hard work, tenacious editing, and perhaps a smidgeon of talent. Instead of being weighed down by too many fears, this work of art will remind me to fill myself with hope, light as the stars.

launch pad trophy

A heartfelt thanks to everyone at Novel Rocket.

novel rocket card

And to Joy Alyssa Day at for sending me such a graceful work of art.

And now a reminder from my son’s 4th grade teacher:

why do we write


Mama’s Losin’ It
Prompt: Write about something you have too much of: fear & hope.



Top 10 Thrift Store Tips & Tricks {or how to become a Thrift Store Fashionista}


I have a confession.

I rarely set foot in real stores yet my closets and drawers are stuffed. Last week I bought two packs of hangers and cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow. My son owns more clothes than a boy his age cares about, and that’s not counting the next two sizes waiting for him to grow into. And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.

I am a thrift store shopaholic.

Having been a savvy clearance shopper for years, I’ve always bee-lined to the back of every store and nailed sale rack scanning down to a science. But that just wasn’t enough for me.

I had to take it to the next level.

I decided to brave a thrift store.

Admittedly, I was nervous the first time. Would it be scary? Nasty? A total wast of time?

Inside, my eyes bugged out behind my designer (flea market) sunglasses as racks of colored and styled clothes stretched as far as I could see. Thousands of items, each one unique, and all begging for a new closet. At first, I flipped through the racks timidly, assuming it would be worn-out discount department store rejects, but after five minutes my arms hung heavy with finds and I went in search of a shopping cart. Cashmere sweaters, preshrunk designer jeans, adorable summer skirts, vintage little black dresses, chic leather jackets, unique accessories–I had died and gone to budget fashionista heaven.

If you want to find you own thrift store treasures, you must understand the method to the madness.  Here are some of the tips I have learned through trial and error:

Learn how you can discover your own vintage treasures | Top 10 tips from a Thrift Store Diva

1. Location, location, location. It’s all about the real estate. The nicer the neighborhood, the better the donations. One Goodwill might consistently stock junk, but one on the other side of town may feature half an Ann Taylor store on the racks. And while I feel perfectly safe and comfortable in my favorite Salvation Army, the sketchy dudes stalking the parking lot of another made me keep on driving by.

2Know the merchandise. A used Walmart t-shirt for $2–not such a deal.  A NWT (new with tag) Banana Republic cashmere sweater set for $3—a steal! Learn how to spot quality fabrics and brands from a distance.

3Ignore sizes. They vary brand to brand anyway. (I own jeans in four sizes, for real.)  Almost everything is pre-washed and preshrunk. If it looks like it might fit, try it on.

4.  Dress for success.  Some stores don’t have fitting rooms. Some fitting rooms have a half-hour wait. If you come prepared in a skinny tank and leggings you can find a mirror and explore your inner exhibitionist. Trust me, everyone does it.

5.  Buy off-season.  If you go looking for warm jackets during a January cold snap you will be sorely out of luck. Look in July and you’ll have dozens to choose from.

6.  Ask if the store runs sales. Many stores discount a particular colored tag each day.  My Salvation Army has 50% off all clothes each Wednesday. It’s an absolute madhouse—but $3.50 Versace jeans are utterly worth it to me.

7.  Carefully check out the goods.  They are “recycled.”  Some stores inspect items thoroughly but others may put out items stained, ripped, or torn.  If it needs to be repaired, it had better be worth the work.

8. Look for what you NEED first.  Dying for a new pair of fitted black pants? Your kid growing out of his shorts? Check those racks first. I’ve watched a woman snatch every pair of pants in my husband’s extremely hard to find size after I’d wasted time browsing through tank tops I didn’t need. Ouch.

9Leave the kids at home. Yeah, I know that’s not always possible, but thrifting takes time and patience. Kids get bored before you can blink. If you do have to drag your munchkins along, make sure to bring something to keep them fully occupied. (i.e. Is your phone fully charged and loaded with games?)

10.  Check back often and don’t get discouraged.  Some days I find 25 steals I simply can’t live without. Some days I find crap. But you never know when some style maven may clean out her closet because she’s bored or changed sizes. Keep checking.

The only time I set foot in the mall now is to claim my free Victoria’s Secret panties (love getting those coupons in the mail!). I’ve nearly stopped making my rounds at Ross and T.J. Maxx because I know if I am patient, persistent, and sometimes just plain lucky I can find whatever I’m looking for (and usually so much more) for practically pennies.

Every Wednesday I’m overwhelmed with the urge to be at my favorite thrift store. The hidden treasures call me, tempt me, like a discount liquor store lures every wino for miles. Luckily my addiction is good for my (gorgeous second-hand Coach) pocketbook and doesn’t fry my liver. To make room for new finds, I often show up at the thrift store with a bag of donations. I’m all for recycling.

Amongst my fellow thrifty friends I gladly brag about how cheap I find my clothes.

(Them: Love your shirt. Me: Thanks!  {whispered} Salvation Army. $1.50!)

I try to convert my friends after each compliment I receive but only if they don’t wear my size.  I don’t need the extra competition.

When complemented by less enlightened folk who may snub their nose at my methods, I simply give a knowing smile and a modest “thanks.”

It’s vintage. It’s recycled. It’s unique. It’s me. large_4904276362

Now if I only had someplace to WEAR all my little black dresses…

Have you ever tried thrifting? Would you? Have any shopping secrets to share?

photo credit: Niccolò Caranti via photopin cc | photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc |  photo credit: Guillaume Lemoine via photopin cc

Hot Air Balloon Rides at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon Fest

hot air balloon ride, new smyrna beach
Floating through the skies in hot air balloon is on everyone’s bucket list, right? When I saw the ad in the newspaper for the New Smyrna Beach Balloon and Sky Fest, I knew my family had to check out the action.


The weather looked iffy—I’d read hot air balloons can only inflate if the winds stay below eight miles per hour. The festival site was just minutes from the beach, where winds gusted stronger than that daily.  AND the weather forecast warned of a storm front moving through the area over the weekend.

We set up camp at the In-laws house for the weekend, because I knew if we picked Friday OR Saturday to hit the balloon fest, the show would not go on that night. (Murphy hates our guts.)

hot air balloon fesitval

Friday night the hubby, kiddo, and I stuffed ourselves silly at our favorite local diner (technically, it’s an open air surf shack serving the best dang tacos in three counties) and then met up with friends and family at the  local airfield hosting the festivities. The place was crazy packed. Normally, New Smyrna is a sleepy little beach town — I think the city by-laws state you must be retired or a surfer to live there. Half of Central Florida tromped the muddy parking lot that evening.

Vintage planes sat parked along the runways, displays for the airshows taking over the skies all weekend. Nearly a hundred vendor booths took up far too much space, and of course Kiddo talked his grandmother into buying him a souvenir. People jammed the obligatory greasy food court, eating anything imaginable that could be fried or stuck on a stick (or both). But we discovered REALLY cheap beer — win!  A giant Ferris wheel and a bustling, overpriced carnival lit up the evening sky.

But I didn’t care about any of that. I bee-lined it straight for Balloon Island.
New smyrna beach balloon fest
Withered nylon bags lay strewn across a field, their colors and shapes not clear in the twilight. Handlers tugged wicker baskets from the backs of vans and trailers. The baskets were so much smaller than I had imagined, only 4 x 5 or so— barely big enough for four people to squeeze into and small enough to easily fit into the back of a pick-up truck.

The winds gusted faster than the allowed eight miles per hour, but a few brave crews tried to get their balloons inflated. Each basket and balloon started on the ground lying on its side while the mouth was held open to capture the wind. Once enough air filled the nylon balloon, the flames turned on, sporadic bursts lighting up the sky.
inflating hot air balloon, new smyrna balloon and air fest

balloon monster

But the balloons never left the ground that night. It was just too windy. We watched jets flare like sparklers across the sky, parachutes fall with flaming trails, and a jet-engine-rigged school bus roar past at 200+ mph instead.

We skipped the full airshow Saturday afternoon, but as we sat on the beach, we caught glimpses of jets and biplanes cruising by in tight formation above the sand and sea.

A storm threatened to cancel all the night’s activities; rain chances went up as the day grew long. The afternoon brought a few brief showers, but a few of us decided to brave it anyway.

I could see the outlines of balloons as soon as we neared the entrance.  We raced through the crowds, eager to get in line for a ride.  My wonderful Hubby joined the queue while a friend and I took our boys to explore — but not before we enjoyed a smuggled-in champagne toast {shhh}.

tethered ballon rides

While we would LOVE to go for the hour-long ride gliding high above the Florida countryside, we didn’t have the $200 bucks a person to shell out.  I’ll save that luxury for a ride over wine country or some foreign destination, thanks. We went the tethered balloon ride route. Heavy ropes connected the balloons to trucks and vans. I would have loved to have ours break free, escaping above the crowds, but that wasn’t going to happen.trucks tethered to hot air balloon

Tickets in hand, we let Kiddo select our balloon. He was impatient, dying to get into the sky—so was I.  To climb into the basket, we had to find the foothold low on the wicker, and I was barely able to swing my leg over the top. Inside, there wasn’t any room to maneuver, and I thanked the stars that I vetoed my skirt at the last minute.

The three of us just barely fit in there with the captain.
  balloon flame
The flames burned hot against my slight sunburn—they were close, bright, and blinding as the sun.
The inside of the nylon dome was huge, a brilliant hollow Easter egg holding us suspended in the air.


Storm clouds closed in on us, and lightening flickered in the distance. Our time up in the air was far too brief, but the lines snaked across the field, others waiting (some rather impatiently) for their time in the sky.  Kiddo scored a second ride with our friends, and not minutes after they descended the rains came.

We grabbed a cheap beer and stood in the drizle watching the balloons deflate. There were going to be many disappointed people that night, but we would not be amongst them. We had a blast.

magic balloon

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Hooking up with Mama Kat—a post inspired by the word ‘balloon’


Currently. The end-of-summer edition.

 florida keys, hammock, dolphins


I’m in a very rare and tough position—I’ve started two books, and I can’t seem to get into either of them. I’ve halfheartedly read the first chapters of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED twice. Though Khaled Hosseini’s two previous novels left me breathless with their dangerous beauty, I just can’t make the leap into this one. I’ve also picked up one of my favorite women’s fiction author’s summer release, and I seem to be reading it in a daze. I feel horribly guilty. I want to shout to the books and their authors, “It’s not you, it’s ME!” 

I have a list waiting on my kindle, but nothing is grabbing me. Between books is a dangerous time for me. Need help.

Listening to

Ear worm time!


I’ve been singing this song from Grease 2 all morning, now you can, too.

Today is Kiddo’s first day of 4th grade. {gulp} How is this possible? Although he is always up by seven, this morning I had to drag him from between the sheets—literally. I’m not ready for the end of playtime, relaxing, and pressure-free afternoons. I’m not ready to face the homework melt-downs, the drama, the tween angst. Fingers crossed this year will start better than last year. {If you want a clue what I’m talking about, check out my post THE BIGGER HE GETS, THE HARDER I FALL, now up at Kludgy Mom’s Best of the Bonfire series. And vote for me. Please?}

Thinking about

My manuscript’s next step. I’d still love some more beta readers {hint, hint} but I’m not sure how much more I can do with it. Is it ready? Is it good enough? I’m somehow desperate to start the eternally painful querying process and prepping for the requisite months (or years) of nail-biting and rejection. But I don’t think my query letter is perfect. Yes, it must be perfect. Yes, this is an impossible feat. I’m trying to convince myself to cool my heels a bit longer so I can take a Submissions that Sell online class. Patience, right?


Game of Thrones (season 1). I cannot read epic fantasy, but the hubby is in love with acclaimed series. Since a fanatical fantasy lover and fellow book nerd assured me that this TV series is actually almost as good as the books, I’ve been watching, immersing myself in this mythical world. Season 1 has proved that there’s no way I could have read the immense tombs, but I still love a great fantasy movie or TV series. Season 2 DVDs are already waiting by the TV.

At least now I get all the GOT & George R.R. Martin memes going around.

Bummed out on

My eyes. To celebrate my latest birthday, I bought my first pair of reading glasses. Granted, they are weak ones from the dollar store, but I own my first pair of glasses. I feel old. My days are spent immersed in words—on paper, my kindle, or the computer screen—and when they are blurry, my life seems unclear. Night driving and overall brightness have also bothered me lately, and I know I must get my vision checked out. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud to admit I’ve never had my eyes examined as an adult. Probably the former. Promise not to laugh if I’m caught wearing big honking frames in a few days.


My end-of summer memories. We took our first vacation in AGES. Though hubby has lived in Florida since he was a toddler, he’d never made it down to the Keys. Thanks to some amazing friends (with a timeshare—the BEST kind of friends to have) we spent four nights in paradise. By day we explored pristine beaches, meandered through a sweltering Key West, and glided through turquoise waters. We rented a boat and everyone (even the five-year-old) snorkeled along a shallow coral reef. We surprised a sea turtle, watched a hammerhead chase a stingray in the shallows (I was in the water on the other side of a tiny shoal), and delighted as a pod of curious dolphins surrounded our boat.

Dreamy days followed by stunning tropical sunsets and wonderful company. Perfect.

marathon sunset boat

How’s your summer finishing up?

Monarch Madness: Attracting & Raising Butterflies in Your Yard

If you buy milkweed, butterflies will come.

In droves. Or a flutter. {A group of monarchs is called a flutter. A group of butterflies can be called a swarm, flight, rabble, or my fav a kaleidoscope.}

Back in March, I innocently bought two milkweed (a.k.a. butterfly weed) plants at our favorite annual garden show. Why not? I like butterflies. Not only did the plants have cheerful yellow and orange flowers, they seemed like something I wouldn’t immediately kill. Butterflies showed up immediately, and I patted myself on the back.

On Father’s Day, I noticed the plants looked scraggly and bare. Upon closer investigation, I discovered why.

They were infested covered in Monarch caterpillars. 

I counted at least twenty brightly striped critters devouring our plants. Within a day, the two plants were stripped to their stems. Holy hungry caterpillars! Eric Carle knew what he was talking about. Not wanting our newest family members to starve, I hunted down more more milkweed for our very hungry caterpillars to munch. These rapidly growing little guys are extremely finicky—they ONLY eat milkweed. Luckily, our local Lowe’s had some in stock.

Quite by surprise, we had our own summer biology class. Not bad for a slacker parent who planned no educational enrichment for the summer. 

We researched how to keep our new pets alive. A few years back, my kiddo received a butterfly cage from Santa. I dug it out, dusted it off, carefully added a few of the largest caterpillars. He’d been begging me to order some online. It couldn’t get any more natural (or cheap) then just plucking them from the yard, right? 

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Mama Monarch lay her eggs (estimated 100 – 300 in her short lifetime)  on the milkweed plants yard.


When the eggs hatch in 3 – 4 days, the itsy-bitsy caterpillars (larvae) are only about 2-6 mm. 

Then they start eating. 

And eating.

And eating.

{and pooping, as you will discover, if you raise them in a cage}

After approx. 10 – 14 days, they reach the size of their final shed {about 2 inches}.  


They attach themselves to a stem or a leaf {or the top of the cage} with silk and start metamorphosis. After hanging upside down for a day or so, they shed their caterpillar skin to reveal a green cocoon. It happens in about a  minute —amazing!


Seven days later (although all the research says it takes 10-14 days) our butterflies emerge from their cocoons. You have to be quick if you want to catch it—the ones we watched this morning popped out in less than a minute.  The new butterflies unfurl their and dry their wings. 

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The first beauty to hatch didn’t want to fly away. We coaxed her onto flowers, tempted her with nectar and blooms, but she wouldn’t take to the air. After careful inspection, I noticed she had a broken wing. 

Guess she will be spending her short life cycle with us.

We’ll be kind.  

Want Monarchs in your yard?  In most areas, they follow a distinct migration pattern. Here in Florida, they seem to be around for a large chunk of the year, possibly even overwintering in some locals. 

Before the migration hits your area, BUY MILKWEED. These beauties are desperate for it. The caterpillars only eat milkweed, so if the female can’t find any, she won’t lay her eggs.

See—this guy was so enamored by it, he went after the flowers on the plant tag.

Too many Monarchs fell in love with our tiny milkweed patch. We don’t have enough plants to sustain all the caterpillars. I’ve already started milkweed seeds in pots, and I’m going to plant it all around the yard.

This time next year, I will oversee a mammoth butterfly colony.

Save the Monarchs. Buy some milkweed. Your kids will think you’re a hero. So will I.

For more information on how to raise butterflies, click here.  I followed the guide provided by My Monarch Guide. She even includes the simple household items you can use to create a Monarch habitat. It’s easy. You can do it. The Monarchs & your kids will thank you.

lady luck

“When I was a little girl, I used to run around in the fields all day, 
trying unsuccessfully to catch ladybugs. I’d get tired and lay down for a nap. 
When I awoke, I’d find the ladybugs walking all over me.”
 ~Under the Tuscan Sun
Some days you just need to take a break from the never-ending chase, 
relax, smell the salt air, read a book by the shore.
Take a moment to clear your head, savor a moment of pure kismet,
forget to keep score.

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The Booze Canoes {or it must be St. Paddy’s Day}

If you want to test a relationship, go canoeing.

I’m serious. I see it happen (and live it) every year. That fine line between this is the most lovely, relaxing day with my significant other and I’m going to kill him.

We have a lovely, near pristine piece of old Florida not far from our home. Far enough that I can’t hear the traffic, the constant hum of air conditioners, and the whirl of sirens. Close enough that we still get emergency cell phone service (in case we are eaten by an alligator or bear) and only have a twenty minute drive home.

Each St. Patrick’s Day we gather with a large group of friends from Hubby’s soccer team and our local English pub for the St. Paddy’s Day Paddle.

The jello shots start at 9 a.m.

Yes, I know. But in pre-kid days, it used to start earlier — as in everyone meet at 8 a.m. for a few beers, but most of us are too old for that now.  And it really does help with whole relationship thing. A little liquor tends to tune down the urge to throw your spouse or significant other overboard.

A  pack of 12 to 20 canoes gather annually for this 8 mile river run. From families to single swearing Scotsmen still drunk from the night before, it’s a diverse bunch.  Some paddlers have experience. Some don’t know which end of the paddle goes in the water. Those are the guys who drink the most. And tip the most.  And are the most entertaining to watch.

Steering a flimsy fiberglass boat through alligator-infested waters is enough to make some people nervous. Add in hairpin twists and turns, dark water riddled with underwater obstructions which can snag and dunk you, and swampy shoals where you can easily run aground, and the REAL fun begins.

Someone has to steer. Someone has to navigate and listen. And when do couples ever work in such harmony?

Shouts echo down the river.

Why didn’t you tell me we were going to hit a log?

Steer right, right, no your OTHER right! {crash}

Ackh! Spiderweb, you steered me into a giant spiderweb!

Watch the damn water, and stop trying to catch jello shots!

You DO NOT jump and lean in the boat when we see a gator. 

What do you mean you forgot the toilet paper? Am I supposed to use a leaf?

If you tip us, so help me God, you will be sleeping on the couch until NEXT YEAR’S paddle.

Paddle faster. Paddle faster!  I hear banjos… {Not really, but I did find a teen serenading three girls with an acoustic guitar.}

Usually, if a couple survives the comedy of errors, their relationship is bound to last. Canoeing should be a part of mandatory premarital counseling, a mini-Survivor, where only the strong-willed and strongest relationships will make it off the island and down the isle. Everyone bickers, from couples just dating to those who have persevered through decades of marriage.

During those moments when things are under control, it’s an absolutely lovely day.  No noise but bird calls, frog croaks, and the breeze blowing through towering cypress trees.  Over the years we’ve spotted otters, snakes, alligators, zillions of water birds, wild turkeys, and resting turtles along the Wekiva River. Deer and black bears frequent the area also, but we’ve yet to spot one along the river (I’m guessing the banging boats and wild Englishmen’s swears scare them away).

Our St. Paddy’s Day tradition — booze, canoes, and wilderness. What could possibly go wrong?