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A few days ago, I left behind the cold and snow of the Midwest for the surf and sand of the California coast. We even followed the Ventura Highway. We’re here to visit my husband’s mother, but I can’t deny I’m grateful she lives in a climate that’s filled with flowers and colorful scenery, even in January.

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I always feel a surge of inspiration when I visit new places, and today is no exception. I love the adventure of seeing new things and enjoying the beauty in someone else’s backyard. But I also miss the people and things I love back home.

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I take my nieces and nephew on a mini-adventure every Wednesday afternoon – a joy I missed this week because I was on my way to the airport. Maybe that’s why I dreamed about them last night. In my dream, I remembered being their current ages – 9, 11, and 13 – and realized that I have the same interests and passions that I had way back then even though almost half a century has flown by.

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I started cooking for 4-H, and then, because I preferred fixing dinner for my family and whatever farm crew was helping out to driving tractor, and then, because I loved hearing compliments from friends and family about how delicious and cute my food tasted and looked. It seems I had an artistic eye that manifested itself in culinary delights. Entertaining friends, catering special events, and cooking at my B&B and tea house for the last 25 years isn’t all that far a stretch.

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I started piano and trombone when I was in grade school and junior high, as they were called back then. My love of music hasn’t diminished in all this time either. The trombone didn’t last, and my taste in artists (John Denver, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot) may have evolved in different directions, but I still play piano with a contemporary worship team and even write an occasional melody. And I love rocking out with drummer and keyboard friends.

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My bright lavender bedroom with sculpted, bronze carpet and lime green love beads may not have had the refined look of any of my current decorating projects, but I was clearly interested in color and design, even as a young teenager. And truthfully, my tastes  – and my passion for wild color combinations and quirky furnishings – haven’t changed all that much over the years.

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My favorite books when I was the age Victoria and Gloria are now were the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace (a series set in the Victorian era that follows Betsy and her Crowd of friends from childhood to marriage, much like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.) Betsy was a writer, so that’s what I wanted to be, too. I loved to read, write poems, plays and stories, and spent hours dreaming about characters for the books I would write one day. Voila!

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I also dreamed of finding my very own, perfect for me, “Joe” (Betsy’s beau) and one day, having my own little Bettina. While that didn’t work out the way I hoped, I’ve certainly seen the Great World and accomplished abundantly more than I ever dreamed possible.

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I’ve thankful that I had people in my life who encouraged me to dream, live large, and think outside the box. When my dream life didn’t materialize quite the way I expected, I’m glad for friends who helped me pick up the pieces and start over. I’m grateful that my family loved and accepted me no matter what crazy things I was up to at any given time.

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If you have children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews who are a part of your life, please cheer them on when they try out new things, and discover their own passions. You never know what might become of it. Little acorns grow up to be mighty oak trees.

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Two days ago (it seems like an eternity), my husband and I returned from a wonderful vacation to California. Not quite two weeks ago, we left northern Iowa a day early to narrowly escape a good, old-fashioned blizzard (22 below zero temperatures, 50 below zero wind chills, zero visibility due to 45 mph wind gusts) The day we flew out of the northern tundra otherwise know as Minneapolis, we peered out frosted-over hotel windows and could barely see across the parking lot. Our shuttle slipped and careened on the snow-covered interstate on the short trip to the airport.

A few hours later, we were walking around in short-sleeved shirts and sandals. Our jackets, wool scarves and mittens were shed, and instead of crunching along on white, snow-covered sidewalks, we found ourselves in a green citrus grove plucking fresh oranges, tangerines and lemons from the trees, peeling them, and popping them into our mouths. A couple of days later, we were on the beach, walking barefoot along the shoreline and picking up shells while the sun set over the Pacific.

Thanks to the fast speed of today’s airplanes, and the severity of our winter as contrasting the balmy temperatures out West, the change from Minnesota to California was so abrupt I almost felt like I was on an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, where the crew regularly visited a holodeck, or simulated reality facility, for recreational purposes, to experience a different culture or period of history, or even to fulfill a fantasy.

Whether a brief escapade in the holodeck or a week or two at the beach, a good vacation can pick you up from one place and set you down in another, relieving stress, providing laughter and relaxation, and giving you a much need change of scenery.

So can a good book.

When I was young, my family took some wonderful vacations – to Florida, The Black Hills, Lake Superior, and the Rocky Mountains. But most of the many things and places I knew about at the young age of nine or ten, I had learned of not from seeing them with my own eyes, but from reading books.

One of the compliments about my books (Night and Day, and Stormy Weather, Second Wind Publishing) that pleases me most is hearing that my readers were so engrossed while reading that they felt like they were right there, in the book, living and feeling whatever the characters were experiencing.

Although the current trend in writing is not to write lengthy descriptions, I love a book where I can picture the characters and surroundings in such detail that I feel like I’m magically transported to their corner of the universe, feeling what they feel, seeing the world, whether it be Victorian, modern, or futuristic, through their eyes… a vacation from my own troubles without the frustration of lengthy waits at airports, lost suitcases, and expensive room reservations.

Is there a writer whose words have such a strong impact on your senses that you literally feel like you’re transported to another time and place when you’re reading their books? If so, what is it about their style of writing that makes the fictional world in their books seem so real?

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PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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