Found Friday #24: My friend wrote a book!

Y’all! I am so excited to share this! A friend of mine published his first book, Thomas Creeper and the Gloomsbury Secret.

The official release date is Sunday, March 21st, but I preordered several copies (one for me, one for Graham, one for the cat, one for the dog, a bunch for friends and family…), and they arrived today.

Yes, I have already read it cover to cover.

This book was so delightful and fun and just absolutely the perfect read for kids (and adults!) who like mysteries, spies, secret codes, ghost stories, pirates and submarines, history, magic, and unlikely teenage heroes. Yeah, J.R. Potter managed it all of that stuff into one fantastic little book. And he created all of the illustrations, as well.

Here’s the jacket summary:

Thirteen-year-old Thomas Creeper hasn’t been dealt the best hand. He lives in the seaside town of Gloomsbury—a damp and miserable place overrun by scabber weed, where the sun shines for only a few days each year. With the inexplicable death of his older brother, David, Thomas becomes heir to Creeper & Sons, the family’s funeral business, and his place as a mortician’s apprentice seems set. Thomas, however, dreams of a different kind of life (as a code-cracking spy) in a different kind of place (anywhere but Gloomsbury!).

When a body arrives on the doorstep of Creeper & Sons Funeral Home with signs of foul play, Thomas and his smart-as-a-whip sidekick, Jeni Myers, are thrust into the middle of a terrifying mystery, one which will reveal the link between Thomas’s family and the dark secret of his hometown. Joining forces with the motley crew of the Conch Whistle, a high-tech submarine that hides in offshore waters, Thomas and Jeni must rely upon their wits (and a few magical devices!) to defeat a powerful and horrifying foe.

I’m so proud of my friend and so happy for him! And the book is really, really, really good. It’s even won an award already – the 2019 Kraken Book Prize for Middle-Grade Fiction.

So, if you’d like to learn more and maybe purchase it and see for yourself, check out his website: https://www.jamesrobertpotter.com/

And for those of us still plugging away at our own great works, onward!

Found Friday #23: The First Flower

I spent most of yesterday staring at my computer screen, absolutely distracted by the gorgeous weather outside. Sunshine, a light breeze, warm air – the kind of gentle reawakening you expect after a long winter.

I try to be pretty disciplined in my work day. It’s crucial to me, actually, since I work for myself, that I set deadlines and stick to them, that I schedule my time and take that schedule seriously, and that I hold myself accountable to getting tasks done. Otherwise, I WILL just read books, take naps, daydream, and spend time with friends. (All good things, to be clear. But the writing still has to get done.)

Yesterday, though, I just had to get outside and play. An impromptu visit from a friend got me out of my pajamas and into the outside, and I’m not mad about it.

We walked around the back garden for a bit as the sun was just starting to set behind the willow tree.

Everywhere, there are little signs of spring.

It’s exhilarating to see the earth coming alive again.

And just as we were about to head out for a quick drink and a bite to eat (outdoors, of course), we spotted it:

This lovely little crocus is the first flower to bloom in our yard this season. More will follow, but I’m glad we happened upon this little beauty leading the way for them.

I love winter and snow, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not excited for spring.

Found Friday #21: Where’s Gatsby?

I had a whole post written and ready to go for today, and it was not about Gatsby (my wonderful Maine Coon, in case you missed the post about him). But then, this afternoon, he disappeared.

Seriously, I went upstairs to brush my teeth and I couldn’t find him anywhere.

Now, Gatsby’s been known to pull the occasional vanishing act. When he was a kitten, his favorite hiding spot was tucked into the box spring under the mattress. Now that he’s older, he favors the little cubbies and crannies in our master closet.

So, I checked all the usual spots. He just wasn’t there.

And then, I heard a meow. Just a quiet one, from the vicinity of the bed.

So, where was Gatsby, then? Well…

And he’s still there. Hasn’t moved. Sleeping and purring away.

For reference, he has, for the very first time in his fifteen years of life, snuggled in under the blanket I drape over the duvet every morning so that it doesn’t get covered in fur.

I guess he got wise to my game. Cats, y’all…

Found Friday #20: A new camera lens and an alien creature on a strange planet…

My husband got a new camera lens a couple of weeks ago, and he’s been getting used to it. Graham is a wonderful photographer, though he won’t say so, and he’s captured some really amazing images in the last several years.

I really like this one from Iceland. I just love the quality of the evening light.

And this one, from Bath.

This one’s an old favorite, taken from our balcony on an Alaskan cruise.

And I love this one, which he took while we were sitting with some friends on the beach one day. I don’t even know how he spotted this kid, since it was a really crowded day in the ocean.

The movement, the sunshine, the joy – he just nailed it.

Graham doesn’t often spend money on himself, and so when he said he wanted to buy a macro lens, I told him he should go for it. We should all feel empowered to pursue the things we love, and that includes setting ourselves up with the proper tools.

He’s not quite happy with the quality of the images he’s gotten so far, but he’s enjoying learning his way around the new lens. He spotted a good opportunity a few nights ago to get some practice.

It’s a Japanese beetle (they invade our house every winter) on a piece of volcanic rock, but it looks like an alien creature on a different planet.

I mean, sure, these images are a little blurry, but I still think they’re really cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll do once he’s a little more familiar and comfortable with shooting with a macro lens.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep encouraging him, and reminding him that perfection doesn’t exist in this universe. 😊

Found Friday #19: 2021’s First Snow

And it was a good one! It snowed for almost two days. I’m very pleased.

I don’t remember exactly why or when I decided to love winter best. I suspect I was just born that way. I love a winter landscape. I love the feel of cold air. I love how the world looks covered in a blanket of snow.

This time, I didn’t even mind that we got just a tiny bit of ice.

And I was surprised to find that the mill race had frozen over.

The world just feels a little more quiet, a little more slow, and a little more bright when it snows.

We’re expecting more wintry weather over the weekend, and I’m ready. I’ve got hot cocoa in the cabinet, cider and wine in the fridge, firewood by the hearth, and a list of books I’ve been meaning to read.

I feel like spring is just around the corner, but it’s not here yet. To everything there is a season, and this is the season for snow.

Found Friday #18: Bridal Brooch (…and a just for fun picture that will probably make you laugh…)

I pulled a picture from my wedding album for my last post. And then I got to thinking about something sort of random.

On my wedding day, I wore a brooch in my hair that belonged to my great grandmother. As I was flipping through pictures on Wednesday, I realized I couldn’t quite remember where I’d put it. So, a search ensued. I couldn’t get it out of my head until I found it. Nothing else mattered.

It was, of course, in the most logical but least likely place – not with my keepsakes, but with my jewelry.

It’s just a costume piece, but I love it nonetheless. And I’m glad I wore it, and carried my family with me, on such an important day.

It’s safely tucked away now.

Bonus photo! This one’s in the wedding album, too. I have no idea what’s happening or why my face looks the way it looks, but I’m pretty happy that someone captured this moment.

Found Friday #17: A Sweet Photo Album

I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I’d spent some time thinking on fond memories and my family.

I don’t have many photo albums in the house – most of those are with my parents – but I do have one, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until Wednesday.

I realize I spend a lot of time talking about my mother’s parents, but not so much about my father’s, and this album was a Mother’s Day gift from me to my paternal grandmother, Dorothy, back in 2001.

My dad’s parents both passed away much earlier in my life than my mom’s. My paternal grandfather, Porter, died when I was in the second grade. I don’t remember all that much about him, but the memories I do have are good ones.

I remember he always kept a little black comb in his shirt pocket, and he used to let me comb the whisps of hair on the sides of his head.

I remember drinking Mountain Dew floats with him in the two big recliners in their living room.

I remember his voice, barely, and that he wasn’t a tall man. Neither he nor my grandmother was particularly tall, actually. I guess that explains why I’m so short.

My paternal grandmother died when I was 21. My parents lived with her for the last years of her life, and I’m so glad now that I got to have that extra time with her, in her home, that’s now become my parents’ home.

My favorite picture in the album is this one.

That’s Grandma Dot teaching me to make biscuits. I’ve smeared flour on my cheeks to make it more “believable.” She’s trying not to laugh at me, kindly, and I’m smiling, because I think I’m very clever.

Happy moments like this one will live in my memory forever, I think. And on days like Wednesday, they keep me going.    

Found Friday #16: A Very 2020 First Snow

I don’t think anyone expected a winter storm to hit Virginia in December. It’s certainly not an impossibility in any given year, but we normally have to wait a little longer into the season to see any real wintry weather.

It’s been a year full of surprises, hasn’t it?

Wednesday started off snowy, and it was so lovely. My husband got a fire going – the first of the cold season.

It snowed until about 3:00 p.m. – big flakes and small flakes, heavy showers and light. It was beautiful. Really, really wonderful. I’d say we got about four inches.

I love snow. You know what I don’t love?

Ice.

You see it, right? See, after about 3:00 p.m., the weather turned, and my quiet, gentle snow showers turned into evil, spiky little ice crystals. And they worked fast. Like, scary ice storm kind of fast.

The thing about ice – one of many reasons that I don’t like it – is that it’s heavy. And when you live in the country, on a property with lots of trees, heavy ice can be a real danger.

Case in point: We had to call the fire department because the limbs of our birch tree were so laden with ice that they ended up resting on the power lines, and started to spark and flame up, and kept at it all night. It was terrifying, and we’re expecting a visit from the power company to do some serious trimming.

So, I spent an anxious evening and a largely sleepless night worrying about a fire near the power lines, and listening to ice ping against the windows and the metal roof.

But I have to say, it sure did look beautiful by the morning. Almost pretty enough to forget how much I hate ice.

I mean, come on, it doesn’t get more Christmas-y than red berries in the ice and snow.

And the willow looked like something out of a fairy tale.

This wasn’t the first snow I was expecting. But this is 2020, so this was the first snow that I got. We’ll see what else this winter has in store for us. I, for one, am hoping for NO MORE ICE. But always for snow.

Found Friday #15: The Perfect Present

It seems like every Christmas, my husband and I end up stressing about presents.

To be fair, the two of us approach the act of gift-giving in fundamentally different ways. Though we both love giving presents, I tend to be more impulsive. I’ll see something I think someone would like, and buy it, and then find a few other items that just seem to fit with it, and consider my job done. My husband is thoughtful and cautious, and can spend hours looking around for THE perfect present. And whatever he gets, he often feels it isn’t enough.

And don’t even get me started on wrapping gifts. I’m really, really bad at it. I suspect it’s genetic.

(Okay, that was a joke. Sort of. I am terrible at wrapping gifts, but the beautiful, handmade blanket wrapped up in that picture was absolutely too large and unwieldy for any kind of real wrapping paper, so my parents improvised. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.)

Here’s the truth: presents are my least favorite part of Christmas.

There, I said it.

I love making people happy – love, love, love the way a friend’s face lights up when I’ve given them something they truly need or want – but I think at Christmas, the best way to be happy is just to be in the moment. The holiday season gives us all a chance to slow down and enjoy decorations, music (my actual favorite part of Christmas), good food, and time with the people we care about (my other actual favorite part of Christmas). I hate getting lost in the anxiety of buying stuff.

So, I suppose this post is more about something I haven’t found than something I have, but I’m genuinely curious: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? And if it’s gift-giving, please tell me your secret! How do you do it? I have to know!