Taking Heart: How a Oven Fire Reminded Me How to Say No—and Yes

roses 2016roses 2016 neonIt’s been so long since I’ve posted there’s no point explaining my absence. What’s been taking place? LIFE—and lots of it—from family events to book signings, from workaday duties to freelance gigs to flights of fancy. I’d intended to begin posting anew the beginning of the year, but these plans were interrupted in part by an oven fire that required a fair share of time, money, and kitchen attention.

Our homeowner’s insurance helped to get things back in order. We also took a financial leap and replaced, along with the oven, a slowly expiring dishwasher, an impractical refrigerator, and—joy of joys—a new coffee pot! But the biggest impact this fire had was to scare me out of a kind of post-book promotion, post-holiday doldrums. The fire was truly frightening; it also sparked something inside that was being smothered.
roses 2016 poltergeistroses 2016 atomicI think people need different things to be creative. For some, it could be a deadline. Others need to work without time limits. I need a curious combination of freedom, to work on my own terms, and fellowship with those who have similar interests and goals. This became terribly out of balance and my creativity, and therefore my writing, suffered.

Because my writing was suffering, I suffered, too.

And because I wasn’t brave enough to make the hard decisions that would bring me back into direct contact with my creativity I guess it took a good scare to wake me up to the fact that if I want to keep writing I have to remove the elements from my schedule and my life that hold me back or drain my time and energy, and that’s there’s no way around making those hard choices, because life can change on a dime and if we don’t choose for ourselves (out of fear, lack of knowledge, or inertia) life will choose for us.

So for me that means, in part, acknowledging that I can’t do everything, saying no to all the people, place, and things I haven’t had the guts to say no to, and to begin saying yes again to the person I really am, was meant to be, and want to be.


Part pilgrim, part hermit, I need to follow my own path. This sounds silly, but one of the first steps I’ve taken is to cancel my Twitter account. I’ve never been comfortable with that method of communication and book promotion and, for me, it has consumed time and effort better (and much more enjoyable) spent elsewhere.

I’m still a little scared, but I’m ready to continue taking my own council, taking action, and getting back to where I belong—writing books and poems.

petals blowing

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From Farm to Table to Book to Book Basket!

Hunterdon Land Trust Farm to Table Book Basket

Here’s a book basket filled with signed copies and book-related goodies I’m donating to the Hunterdon Land Trust for the upcoming Farm to Table Dinner Gala silent auction. All proceeds benefit the HTL’s efforts to protect the places we love! Check out the chefs! Check out the menus!

p.s. I’ll be signing books and conducting children’s activities at the Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers’ Market on Sunday, October 4. Hope to see you there!

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Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill: A Delicious Place to Visit, after Reading From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill  apple barrel What do you need to make apple cider? Apples—and lots of them!

Here’s a barrelful we encountered last weekend at the Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill in gorgeous Chester, New Jersey.

Tomorrow I’ll add details to this entry on our fun and delicious visit, but for now I wanted to get some photos posted. Enjoy!

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Cider Jug

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Cinnamon Cider Doughnuts!A special thanks to the farm’s owner, and cider meister and apple of his eye, for posing with my new book. I’m also delighted to relate that you now can purchase a signed copy of From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! at the farm’s fragrant and irresistible bakery!

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Owner with Apple Trees!Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill cider meister with my book and the apple of his eyeHacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Cider SignHacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill in action better photoHacklebarney Cider Mill Cider Dog Stand SignHacklebarney Cider Mill Cider Dog

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Baked Goods

See these smiles? That’s what everyone was doing, plus drinking cider, and eating cider dogs and doughnuts. What a lovely afternoon!

Hacklebarney Farm and Cider Mill Visitors

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Fall Book Giveaway

Fall-Book-Giveway-with-Albert-Whitman-and-CoHere’s a review of my latest book by Queen of the Land of Twigs ‘N Berries, a blogger from the Midwest who is also sponsoring a giveaway of some of Albert Whitman’s newest books:

Heading on an apple picking adventure this fall?  Well don’t walk out the door until you read the creative “From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!”  This book will give your little one a preview of all of the fun things you can do while at an apple orchard and will educate them about how apples are harvest and made into delicious products like cider.  Foodies, both young and old, will enjoy the farm to table approach to this book and it will undoubtedly get your taste buds watering.

Visit Fall Themed Books and Giveaway for details on how to enter!

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Thursday Night Lights!

I’m looking forward to signing my books at Twice Told Tales tomorrow night!


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And now for something completely different…

All work and no play makes…well, you know the saying. It was nice to take a break this past weekend after non-stop writing and promoting to take a family trip to Baltimore and enjoy life firsthand. Here are a few favorite photos:

Two grandmas and a bulldog

frogLittle Italiy BoogieLittle Italy trioLittle Italy Boccee tournamentbaltimore birdsme in stripespufferfishToby and Gabby and Johhny C.Little Italy Fried Dough

We love Baltimore

all the world's a jellyfish

and our Baltimore people so much—

Parting is such sweet sorrow

it’s always hard to say goodbye.

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Friendly Faces: Middlesex County Fair 2015

It was anMiddlesex County Fair 2015 man on stiltsother great time at this year’s Middlesex County Fair. My son and his friends loved the rides and exhibits.

Middlesex County Fair 2015 family with books series

A recurring comment: “You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a fried Oreo!” I spent my time at the fair conducting a shape scavenger hunt based on Pick a Circle, Gather Squares, speaking with visitors to the “Hey Kids, Want to Be a Farmer?” pavillion, and signing copies of my books. Here are some of my favorite photos of the new and familiar and always friendly faces I met the past few days…

Middlesex County Fair 2015 adorable book fansMiddlesex County Fair 2015 family with Cheers

Middlesex County Fair 2015 sisters Middlesex County Fair 2015 sisters 2
These sisters were so sweet and funny. As were the friends pictured below. And what a great grandma and granddaughter team! I remember meeting them last year and was delighted to sign all my books for them on Saturday!

Middlesex County Fair 2015 grandma and granddaughter 2
Middlesex County Fair 2015 friends

Middlesex County Fair 2015 grandma and granddaughter

Here’s a photo of the recipient of the first book I signed, and her doting grandma! And below, a book-loving Mom and her beautiful family!

Middlesex County Fair 2015 family with Apple Trees

Many thanks to Mary Lou Conover and the other organizers of the fair for inviting me back this year. It was so much fun chatting with all these great kids and their families that I’m already looking forward to next year’s fair!

Middlesex County Fair 2015

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Meet Me at the Fair!

Cheers for a Dozen Ears Reaches New HeightsI’m returning to the Middlesex County Fair !

You can find me in the Hey, Kids, Want to Be a Farmer exhibit August 6, 7, and 8 conducting a shape scavenger hunt and other children’s activities. I’ll be signing and selling copies of my picture book series illustrated by Susan Swan and my forthcoming From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!which last year’s fair visit helped bring to fruition!

From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! coverMiddlesex County Fair Grandma and Grandson Cheers for a Dozen Ears Fans

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Books and Blueberries!

Blueberry-picking on the Fourth of July at Phillips Farms in Milford, New Jersey–a family favorite and one of the inspirations for Cheers for a Dozen Ears!

Cheers Blueberries Page smallestblueberry picking at Phillips Farms smallestblueberry bushesbig blueberries

One can never enjoy too many books—or blueberries!

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Tomatoes, Blueberries, and Peaches–Oh My!

Look at this gorgeous display of Jersey fresh produce from nearby Cervenka Farm! Visits here with my family helped inspire me to write Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting. Stop by Cervenka’s for blueberries, tomatoes, watermelon…and a copy of Cheers! Delicious!

Cervenka Farm Stand and Cheers for a Dozen Ears!

Cheers for a Dozen Ears Farmstand PageCervenka Farm Tomatoes

Cervenka Farm WatermelonjpgCheers for a Dozen Ears Watermelon Page

Cervenka Farm Patty Pan
Cheers Onion and Peaches, page 9

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