douze

Dancing in kimono,
clothing and tea ceremonies,
martial arts,
delicate watercolor and intricate paper crafts—
the Japanese people have such a colorful,
and very symbolic,
culture.
We learned how to dress in kimono
and listened to giant drums with heads of hide.
It was a long journey there,
but such a worthwhile experience.
It is enriching to the spirit
to appreciate the positive culture
of countries worldwide.
One day I will go and appreciate their
beautiful, nature-centered culture in person.


This post is part of a series! Check out the collection here.

When One Learns to Fly

Friday afternoon as I was decompressing from work, I was startled by fussy squawks from the jays outside. I watched one come to my porch to grab a peanut. Assuming the pair were just hungry, I resumed whatever I was doing until I was ready to leave to visit my family. But later, as I walked to my car, I was stalled by a horrific sight–a baby blue jay had fallen nearly twenty feet from the oak tree and flat onto the pavement! I was sure it was gone from such a plummet, but then I saw it breathing.

I threw my bags into the car and grabbed a cardboard Honey Maid Graham Cracker box from the recycling. Tearing it open, I slowly approached the wee feathered babe. I saw its eyes flutter open as I slid its limp body of electric blue feathers from the cement and onto the box. It began to screech at me, as its parents did while they swarmed the tree branches above my head. I thought it must have knocked itself unconscious.

Baby Blue Jay

Careful not to juggle him around too much, I placed him beneath a bush outside of my apartment gate. He sat on the box breathing heavily. I ran inside to refill the birdseed, and I placed a pile next to the baby just in case he’d want a bite while he recovered. Apparently I’d popped his bubble, and he began to cry at me again–beak wide open so I could see his magenta baby bird tongue.

Then I thought, well, other people might like to see this. Maybe I could get a good photo while he sat regaining consciousness. When I returned to capture his beautiful face forever, he regained some strength, stood, and hopped off around my neighbor’s fence! It was a blessing. My heart was beating so quickly during the endeavor because I thought he wouldn’t make it to live another day with us.

I realize, then,  that American culture has made us vain, making us believe that we need to tell all of our social media friends about everything we do. We want to document every moment, meal, trip, and we don’t just appreciate what God gives us; we take these little nuances for granted. I saved a baby bird from being run over. I should have relished in the fact that he was breathing and his parents watched from inside the bush while I fed them. Observing him and making him comfortable with my presence would have been so much more rewarding than attempting to take a picture. I think his retreat was a sign that I need to learn to enjoy life and not always try to snap an Instagram-quality picture. I don’t know how quickly I will change my ways, but being aware of the appropriate time for photos will be my goal.

This baby bird helped me to see just how precious our moment was, just me and him. Petit Bleu.

I am not certain on Petit Bleu’s condition, though I haven’t seen him or any jay feathers lying around. His right wing was fanned out when I found him, so I didn’t know if it had been broken or not. When he hopped away, the wing seemed to fold back into place and he flapped both of his wings enough to allow him to jump up to the sidewalk and around the side of the fence. I believe I might have heard his crying this morning when I saw his parents stopping by for breakfast. It seems he may be alright, after all.

❤ Michelle

Final Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites

Every moment was a precious thing, having in it the essence of finality.

-Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

It was incredibly sad to read that the Daily Post blog posted their final Weekly Photo Challenge. When I joined WordPress about five years ago, I wrote my first posts with inspiration from these challenges. It encouraged my photography soul to branch out into all different directions. I’ve learned how to take photos from different angles to give them a different feeling or meaning. I always thought it was spectacular to see how people would interpret the same picture in various or contradicting ways.

I’ll always find meaning in my photography now that I’ve exercised my creativity in the field. In honor of this meaningful challenge, I present to you two of my All-Time Favorite photos I shared for this challenge:

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“Close-Up,” 2015


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“Wall,” 2015

 

A Saturday Tale

It was a chilly, winter Saturday morning, and I wanted nothing more than to follow my New Year’s resolution and chase adventure!

My family decided to take a stroll through our local farmer’s market to visit an old friend (who sells thebest salsain the whole world) and grab a hot breakfast cooked to order. We enjoyed her quail egg breakfast sandwiches, as well as some baked cinnamon donuts by the most exquisite baker in town. Is your mouth watering yet?

We also tried some spicy BBQ sauce made with cane sugar, and warmed our frigid fingers to a blend of freshly ground coffee, made from a local couple. I’m SO grabbing a bag of that Sumatra next time! Pop that into the French press and steam away…

A couple of other goodies we found was a homemade king cake by the talented Mrs. Francis (who’s basically everyone’s grandmother), some chips created by a guy who was in the high school band with me, some divine pastries from yet another baker, and a bottle of herbal root beer kefir soda. I have to admit…I really dig this soda! It’s fermented with yeast, and the lady who makes them in town has so many flavors to choose from! When I visit her tent, it’s like going to a juice bar. She even has little fountains so you can taste a few different flavors to find your favorite. Be warned–these are considered probiotics! (And make you feel GREAT!) [Insert Thumbs-Up Here]

I’ll take this time to mention I also pet the most adorable boxer I’ve ever met. She’s chocolate brown with a satin coat, and the sweetest smile and tail wag! I made her extra excited, so she almost knocked her owner to the ground… She looked like this, just a darker brown.

I apologize for the lack of photographs, I seem to have been too concerned with keeping my hands warm that I neglected my phone! You can see a few of our buys here, though:

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Can you spot hard-boiled Mardi Gras quail eggs?


The Farmer’s Market was only the beginning of Saturday adventures, though. After running a few errands and resting for a couple of hours, it was time to get ready for the Polyester Power Hour PartyIt was a night filled with disco music by a local band, Krossfyre, and boogie shoes all around. The band was phenomenal! No one even needed a chair, because everyone wanted to dance. If you want to hear some clips, visit my Instagram post and swipe past the photos.

I’ve never really been “out,” as people call it, because I don’t drink, and I don’t prefer to be around a bunch of people who drink too much. It’s not usually how I have fun, so it was a new experience for me. But…this party was a riot, and my beau and I had a blast!

The main reason I had a blast was due to two people whom I’ve been dying to meet–the hosts of the morning show on our local radio station! I have been listening to them for nearly 15 years now, and it was an honor to meet them. It MADE. MY. YEAR. Thank you, C.J. and Debbie Ray, for being so kind to take a photo with me.

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-beaming with pure happiness-

What new experiences do you look forward to on the weekend? Once you have the chance to unwind and have time to do what you love?

❤ Michelle

Photos of the Season

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Welcome back to the halfway-point of the Autumn Lovin’ Series! I take lots of photos (as my phone told me this morning I have run out of storage), and this season especially encourages me to capture every special moment. Mostly I’ve taken pictures of the sunset, but I love taking photos with my family and at events like festivals or other outings that I enjoy particularly in the fall.

There are so many opportunities to take pictures at home. Our back yard is beautiful, and our neighbors’ cat blends right in.

When I’m away from home, I get even more inspiration! We don’t get a huge view of the sky where I live, so when I see a huge sky, it makes me want to take as many shots as possible so I can remember it.


What inspires your creativity? Photography, art, writing, or otherwise? 🍁📷🍂

❤ Michelle

Fall Favorites

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Bienvenue! Another Autumn Lovin’ segment is coming for you and with many suggestions for your seasonal entertainment; stay tuned for your second Fall Freebie, too!

Before we begin, I’d just like to point you down there to the sidebar where my Instagram photos are lodged. I’m taking part in the new Instagram Mini-Series for Write 31 Days! This daily writing series happens every year in October, and you can join in on the Write 31 Days website. There’s also a link to the official Facebook group where you can follow and meet other writers who are also taking part in the annual challenge. You can follow my “Coffee Thoughts”  edition by clicking on any of the Instagram thumbnails in the sidebar!

Want to start the Autumn Lovin’ Series from the beginning? Visit the Kick-Off post!


Today for our Fall Favorites, I’d like to share 10 of my favorite things that I like to take part in during this cozy season—my favorite:

  1. Movie – This category is probably the hardest! With ABC’s 13 Nights of Halloween I can’t choose my favorite; so I nominate this channel as my favorite Halloween movie(s)!
    • A couple of my favorites include Sleepy Hollow, Coraline, The Addams Family, Frankenweenie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and even the musical, Sweeney Todd.
    • If TV shows are included, I also enjoy watching the Halloween Baking Championship and Halloween Wars on the Food Network, as well as Once Upon a Time on ABC.
  2. Music – Any Danny Elfman music, especially from Nightmare Before Christmas, is wonderful, plus Monster Mash and music from Hocus PocusHarry Potter music is also just perfect for the coming-of-Halloween and witchcraft vibes! I love to feel like I’m in the season when they come around. I want to experience it fully so I don’t feel like I missed out in the celebration that can break out every day!
  3. Color – My absolute favorite color, if I had to choose, would be a pastel orange. I love light and bright colors. But this season, I prefer a burnt orange, more dirty-pumpkin color. (Pumpkins are the cutest. They’re up there with donut cuteness, ya know? Did I mention I love pumpkin-everything? Especially just pumpkins in general?!) I’ll just admit that October is my favorite color. #stereotypicalwhitegirlquote
  4. Apparel – Wearing and surrounding yourself with earthy colors really bring out the color changes in the season, as well as that cool—yet still cozy—autumn air. Colors like dark, golden yellow, olive greens, and maroon/burgundy are huge this season. Try mixing those into one outfit—you’ll even get others feel that autumn aura! If it is cold where you are, light scarves may be the perfect way to easily dress up (or autumn-up) any outfit for any occasion. Well, maybe not jogging. Don’t go jogging with a scarf. Ankle-high boots with a cute buckle would also help you to settle in and take advantage of the cooler weather. Right now, I’m still dressed in shorts and sandals. Maybe one day it will get cold. Maybe…
  5. Activities – Other than baking, which I adore…
    • If you’re looking for something new to do this season, just to change it up, the first thing I’d recommend is grabbing a pumpkin from your grocery store and carve it up. You get to decide what you want your special pumpkin to be, and it’s easy!
    • I also think geocaching something really fun to do outside. It’s hard in the summer with bugs and the sun beating down, but it’s much more enjoyable in the fall.
    • Camping and hiking are always a good idea. Always. I want to go camping.
    • Photography—because the autumn colors, duh!
    • Birdwatching is a relaxing way to enjoy your morning coffee. Migrating birds start coming around when the weather gets cooler, so we see many different species throughout the season, and even in the winter. Right now, we have hummingbirds visiting, but they will be going soon. Who is in your yard?
    • Going on a hay ride is itchy, but fun! Especially if you’re riding to a giant bonfire where there will be s’mores.
    • Visiting a pumpkin patch near you is a great place to take family photos and participate in family activities that only happen in the fall. Be wary of pumpkin prices, though. Might want to get those at Walmart…
  6. Beverage – This category is also a difficult one, because beverage stores all over introduce new fall flavors every year. I like a good PSL, but I have to admit that it can’t be my favorite. Hazelnut roasted coffee is my favorite, actually (I could drink it all year), but I also enjoy Mexican hot cocoa and a warm, cinnamon-y apple cider.
  7. Snack – Two words: PUMPKIN. BREAD. That is all.
  8. Art – This time of year, soft watercolor paintings is what’s in. From woodland animals to pin-up zombies and skulls, it’s a competitive show out there. Not to mention, Inktober is currently in progress. Check up on your favorite artists on Instagram by searching the affiliated hashtag and watch their 31-day inking journey!
  9. Book – (Disclaimer: this is shocking, so please don’t scream.) I haven’t yet read Anne of Green Gables, but I do plan on it! I am looking forward to reading this book as a part of making the most of the season, as well as my free time. There’s also a new series on Netflix based on the book, titled Anne with and ‘E’. I’ll give that a gander once I’ve finished the book.
  10. Poetry – My favorite poet has always been John Keats; well, ever since we studied Romantic Poetry in British Lit. He wrote a beautiful ode, To AutumnIf you’re a lover of literature like myself, here are pages one and two of his original manuscript this famous poem. (Totally fan-girled when I found these!)

That just about covers everything that you can fit in this fall! If you have any other fall experience that you’d recommend to me, I’d love to hear it. I’m always up for new adventures. If you dip your toes into anything I’ve suggested, tell me about it!

Just as I promised, here is your Fall Freebie! The freebie today is an autumn-inspired memoir that could also double as an autumn romance poem for you to enjoy. I think romance + fall = super cozy feelings. Don’t you?

◇.:Late Autumn- A Memoir:.◇

See you next week on Friday the 13th…

Muahahahaha…

❤ Michelle

Pumpkin Sweet Pumpkin

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Good afternoon, sweet readers.

I hope you’ve been taking advantage of every moment this week and had new adventures along the way.

Thanks for catching up in the Autumn Lovin’ Series! If you’d like to start the adventure from the beginning, visit the kick off post.


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A couple of cake toppers I made at work for today’s baking schemes

Not to my surprise, I had the urge to bake. There was a can of pumpkin in the pantry that just had to be opened! I thought, “maybe cupcakes?” But in reality, I wanted to do something a little more special than just…cupcakes.

Wracking my brain for ways to make them a little more special, I thought of mini bundt cakes; and then—what if I put two bundt cakes on top of each other? You know, to make a pumpkin!

 

I enjoy decorating and making new things each year because it’s as if I’m going on little adventures, expanding my horizons. There are so many ways to bake a pumpkin cake, and there are even more ways to decorate it! Because autumn is my favorite season (and unfortunately our shortest), I try to fit in as many autumn-feeling activities as possible each time it comes around. It’s amazing how adult life makes it harder to do anything besides sleep, though!

This cupcake recipe was on point. If you’d like to try this easy, from-scratch recipe, visit  The Cake Blog! These cakes come out insanely moist with a delicate texture and powerful, spicy pumpkin punch. What other recipe could  you need?

For the stem, I used melted chocolate morsels to pipe the shapes I wanted. I just popped a few different designed into the freezer for a bit and chose my favorites to decorate. As for the leaves, I used a leaf piping tip with green candy melts.

Not only are these cakes a festive addition to any fall party, but they also make a Pinterest-worthy tablescape.

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I used the tiny leaves for miniature cupcake toppers!


Thanks for stopping by; I hope you’ve been inspired to bake and decorate with an autumn-fevered passion! Here’s a link to my Pinterest board, Autumn Lovin’ for more seasonal ideas.

More pumpkin is coming your way, so be prepared~

❤ Michelle

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September Happenings

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Happy first day of fall!

For today’s installment of the Autumn Lovin’ Series, I’d like to begin with a humorous tale concerning last week’s kiddy craft.

A Follow-Up

I tacked on a disclaimer about not leaving the branch arrangement on your kitchen table, in case you are a germaphobe like myself, but I decided I’d leave it on the table until the next morning because I was so tired. When I walked into the kitchen the next morning, I found what I thought was a spider web, with little crumbs or fruit flies or something attached to the web. When I looked closer, though, I saw tendrils of web that dropped straight down from a twig toward the tabletop……..with larvae hanging from each strand! EW.

Alas, I chucked the whole thing outside and pretended nothing ever happened. (You know, after I wiped down the table thirty times.) I still believe that the nature walk and picking up leaves is a great learning experience for children, I just recommend keeping it on the picnic table!


What Fall Brings

I began this series mainly to document all of my fall wanderings. There are so many things I love to experience in the fall, and writing about them just seems like the perfect way to remember them.

My favorite activity in the fall is baking: pies, breads, cookies, cupcakes, and making fall beverages. Well, I guess the latter isn’t really baking.

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I also really enjoy the way the animals in our yard react to the change in the weather. The birds are much more active, including the migrating hummingbirds that came to visit near the end of August. More and more seem to be showing, sometimes ten at a time, and my mom refills the feeders at least twice a day! She ended up moving more of them to our front porch so they would stop warring with each other over the feeders.

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Squirrel Nutkin also game to visit one morning, his favorite pecan in-tow. He buried it right in the middle of the yard! It didn’t take long for him to figure out that winter is coming.

September Happenings 3

Maw-Maw always has cats swarming her house, even after she moved. This beauty showed up a few weeks ago, but yesterday, I got to meet her. Her eyes are weighted in sadness, and she ate nearly two entire bowls of food. She’s starving and frightened of human contact. I just want to love her, especially in the shadow of my sweet Mittens’ passing this spring.

September Happenings 1

How much more festivity do you need with these flowers?! They just ooze with autumn spirit, and they make me so ready for Halloween a month early. Even flowers which are painted and dyed have healing powers. Flowers bring smiles and deep breaths—things that everyone needs a good dose of every day. Need a pick-me-up? Try a festive bunch. Who cares if you know how to arrange them or not. Pop those bundles of happiness in a vase and smell away.

September Happenings 5

My brother is a senior now at my high school alma mater. We went to the homecoming football game to see the band that I participated in, as well as to see our team (surprisingly) win on their big homecoming night. The excitement that bubbled inside me as I stood up with other alumni was incredible! It was sticky outside as usual, but that autumn wind was still present. Football games are a popular fall outing for some people, and I really did enjoy the aura in the stadium.September Happenings 4


What are some of your favorite fall outings?  Chat with me below!

If you’d like to start this Autumn Lovin’ journey from the beginning, visit the first post!

❤ Michelle

Crafty Parents = Crafty Kids

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The end of another week—and it couldn’t have come fast enough!

Thanks for checking back in for week 2 of the Autumn Lovin’ Series! If you’d like to start the journey from the beginning, check out this post.


Today’s topic is a little activity for the kiddos! One of my favorite ways to pass the time as a young girl was to take nature walks. We would bring a paper grocery bag along to fill with anything interesting we found along the way: pretty leaves of all colors, sticks, stones, and even bird eggshells.

A brief guide:

Take your child to gather their special supplies. For this particular, no-glue project, tell them to look for sticks and any leaves they may be interested in.

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I had to cut my branches down to size. If one way doesn’t work….pull out the big guns! *Parents attempt only*

Once there are a plethora of leaves available and they have chosen some sticks, find a vase or flower pot to arrange the sticks. What you are trying to create is a tree-like form, from which multiple leaves can hang.

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I tied a piece of thread around each leaf stem to make a make-shift (very crunchy) ornament. *If you cut these ahead of time, your child can do this on their own, even though it can be tedious!

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From here, it’s pretty obvious—hang your sweet ornaments from Mother Nature on your autumn tree. When hanging them by the stems, it mimics leaves falling. I loved how the leaves seemed to dance when the air conditioner blew on them!

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I wrapped my vase in an old peanut bag we had lying around. It made for a soft, autumn touch, don’t you think?

You can hang so many other things from the branches, as well, such as feathers, photos, or even leaves that your child drew instead of delicate ones from outside. My branches are pretty sparse, so you have lots of freedom here!


The best part about doing this really simple, adventure-filled project with your child is how much they can learn about the season. Some questions that might guide this learning activity could be:

  1. Why do leaves fall off of the trees?
  2. What kind of leaves am I picking up/which tree did they come from?
  3. What kind of animals use leaves as camouflage?
  4. What is camouflage?

When I was growing up, I also used to glue all of my crispy leaves to my paper bag to make a fabulous seasonal tote for all of my toys! Though this “tree” isn’t too in-depth a craft project, it provides a wonderful opportunity to go outside and enjoy the fall air. Being outside, picking up pretty leaves, and watching all of the animals in our yard is still probably my favorite thing to do in autumn. Now you can share this joy with the young ones, too!

Happy crafting,

❤ Michelle


P.S. Parents: I know it may seem a bit dirty to keep on your dining table, but how about a patio table? I mean, they made it after all! 😉

Fit for the Future

Good evening, all!

I’ll start this update honestly, by saying that today was rough at work. Naturally, writing will help to ease that anxiety and remind me that “it is just a job”. So I came to you guys! This fall will be an extremely exciting one for this blog and I hope it will be for you as well. Currently I am sitting outside listening to the squawky bluejay and the buzz and sweet chirping of hummingbirds at the feeder—that’s a good start to fall, if I must say!

Part of this excitement is a new series I’ll be starting Friday! I hope all of my readers will return (after my long hiatus) to join me on an Autumn Lovin’ adventure, because I just can’t resist its charms! There will be 7 installments, or so I have planned, and will be posted once-a-week on Fridays. Ponder all of these wonderful things that fall brings: color changes, pumpkin recipes, feelings of the ever-encroaching holidays, sweaters, boot socks, costumes, camping, new crop to harvest… The list goes on!

◊◊◊Have an idea that you’d like to share, or is there a favorite thing that you look forward to all year that comes in autumn? Do you even care for the season? Get in touch with me in the comments below!


Business #2:

Heard of Write 31 Days before? I actually did it last year! If you don’t know what this is and want to participate, here’s a link to the website that will be most helpful in informing you.

Last year, I did 31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes, which was just a more specific version. Basically, you join thousands of writers around the globe writing every day of the month in October. This event happens every year, so it is definitely something I look forward to!

I will be changing it up a bit this year, since I am running the Autumn Lovin’ series during the month of October as well. I read on that same website that they are also hosting a micro-blogging for 31 days on Instagram. I haven’t fully researched their explanation of what it is, but I am significantly intrigued. I have my Instagram account linked in the sidebar, so if I do decide to micro-blog for 31 days, you can keep up with me there!

Well, that’s the skinny of it. Lots of new stuff coming! I hope you stick around for tons of fall goodies and photos. For me, it’s the best time of the year!

❤ Michelle