Our early spring garden is looking pretty this year. A friend gave me a packet of tulip bulbs for my birthday. I had never grown tulips before, so I was excited to see what they would turn out like. They are a mix of colours and look stunning in our front garden amidst the wallflowers, calendulas, bluebells and purple alyssum. Nick took these lovely photos.
I love the faces on these pretty blue pansies.
I have got some seeds on the go in our little shade house – tomatoes, peas, beetroot, spring onions, zucchinis, lettuces, marigolds, phacelia, echinacea, stevia, and bergamot. Nick has built a fence to stop Finn getting into the vegetable garden, so I’m able to start planting seedlings again. Finn was jumping up into the raised beds, digging and pulling out the plants. He developed quite a liking for broccoli and demolished most of the plants just before they were ready to pick. At the moment I can only garden in short bursts while Finn lies on the other side of the fence, patiently watching through the palings, until he becomes bored and starts barking and whining. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, he’ll get used to being on the other side of the fence as I spend more time in the garden.
Recently my dear Aunty Jo passed away, aged 80 years old. She was a very close member of our family and is dearly missed by us all.
Very skilled at handcrafts, she was seldom seen without her knitting at her side. When we were little, she would knit us beautiful cardigans and jerseys, and make lovely clothes for our dolls. She embroidered tablecloths, and stitched tapestries that adorned the walls of her home. In later years she learned to quilt and made each of us beautiful patchwork quilts for our beds. It was she who inspired me to take up quilting, a hobby I quickly became hooked on. Right up until the last few months of her life, Josephine was knitting clothes for the prem babies at our local hospital, and blankets for the orphans in Romania.
I wanted to honour Aunty Jo’s memory by creating pages that reflected her love of crafts. I used vintage doilies, lace, and buttons that once belonged to her. The photographs are layered with patchwork fabrics, and the page borders hand stitched with embroidery floss from her stash of cottons. The little purple rings holding the inchies to the photographs are stitch markers used in knitting.
I love seeing her in the old, black and white photographs showing the styles of the times.
Her warm personality and sense of humour clearly shine through.
I am excited to announce that Enchanted Book Promotions has organised a virtual book tour for my young adult, paranormal novel, Where the Moths Dance. The tour runs for the month of August and includes book excerpts, author interviews, book reviews, and a giveaway for a signed paperback copy of the book. I’ve posted the tour schedule below and hope that you will check out these great book blogs!
August 1st: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading
August 1st: Book Excerpt @ Sylv Jenkins’ Blog
August 2nd: Promo Post @ I’m an Eclectic Reader
August 3rd: Book Excerpt @ Ashley’s Paranormal Book Blog
August 5th: Promo Post @ The Reading Guru
August 7th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog
August 9th: Promo Post @ Rose Shadow Ink
August 11th: Book Review @ Forever Book Lover
August 13th: Book Excerpt @ Realm Tramper
August 15th: Promo Post @ Editor Charlene’s Blog
August 16th: Book Excerpt @ Hollow Readers
August 17th: Author Interview @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog
August 18th: Book Review @ Endazzled Reading
August 19th: Promo Post @ The Book Daily
August 21st: Book Review @ I Heart Reading
August 23rd: Book Excerpt @ Books Direct
August 24th: Book Review @ Books, Books and More Books
August 25th: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian
August 26th: Book Excerpt @ Fantasy Book Lane
August 28th: Promo Post @ Bookaholic Ramblings
August 30th: Book Review @ Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
September 1st: Book Review and Book Excerpt @ Dalene’s Book Reviews
I love to read books with a strong sense of place, ones in which I can imagine the setting so vividly that it seems real. I think the best books are those which not only describe the physical setting, but engage all the senses to draw the reader into the story. Alluding to the smell, the sounds, the feel of a place, all help to make it come alive. For me, a story with a strong sense of place helps the story to linger in my memory long after I have finished the book.
Laura Ingalls Wilder achieved this beautifully in the Little House books. Her descriptions of the places she and her family lived were so richly detailed with the sounds and smells and feel of her surroundings that it was easy to feel a part of her world. The way she describes the little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin, the enormous, empty prairie, with the great blue sky above it, the small town of De Smet where Laura and Carrie went to school, truly bring the stories to life. I could almost feel the penetrating cold of the blizzards, hear the birdsong and the whispering of the wind through the grasses, see the wildflowers, the fields of Pa’s crops, the furniture inside the little log house.
In Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde, most of the story takes place in an apartment building. The story revolves around a young girl, who is neglected by her troubled mother, and who seeks help from the building’s occupants. The lives of the residents become intertwined as they are brought together in their bid to help 10-year-old Grace evade Social Services. The strong sense of place is central to the story not only for Grace, but also for another of the building’s residents, Billy Shine, who is agoraphobic and has not left his apartment in years.
A tiny island off the west coast of Ireland is the setting for Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. Rebecca Moray goes to the island with her young daughter, Rowan, to research a book on Irish knitting and to seek refuge from a painful past. Nicole Dickson has created a strong sense of place as we learn the history of the island and meet the many colourful characters who inhabit it. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it is the sort of place I would love to visit.
One of my favourite books I have read lately has been Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann. The chapters alternate between Amanda, who runs a vintage clothing store in present day New York, and Olive, a young woman in turn-of-the-century New York. When Amanda finds Olive’s journal sewn into a fur muff, she learns what life was like in her own neighbourhood more than a hundred years ago. Throughout the story there is a strong sense of place in both modern day New York and early twentieth century New York. With the wonderful descriptions of the city in both eras, and of the department store in which Olive works, I felt as though I were right there with the characters. Also, I love that there are many old photographs in the book of New York City as it was in Olive’s era.
I always try to create a strong sense of place in my own writing. I ask myself What would I see, hear, feel, and smell if I were the character?
In Where the Moths Dance, much of the story takes place in an old graveyard, surrounded by gum trees, whose gnarly old roots encroach onto the pavement leading up the hill. The graveyard is Jessie’s sanctuary, where she talks to the dead, and can navigate her way around the gravestones in the dark like a night hunter. She finds comfort in the sound of the wind through the gum trees, the cawing of the crows as they fly between the branches overhead, the smell of eucalyptus after it has rained. But Gum Tree Hill Cemetery harbours something more sinister, and when Jessie’s sanctuary is threatened, the graveyard becomes vital in Jessie’s battle to protect those she loves.
Scrappy Cupcake Angels is set in Kerrigan, a small New Zealand town with a gold-mining past. The story revolves around a scrapbooking shop, in a converted Victorian house, down a small lane. As the aroma of coffee swirls tantalisingly through the shop, drifting out the door to lure in passers-by with the temptation of warmth and comfort, Angeline teaches the folk of Kerrigan to embrace their creativity and make beautiful keepsakes. For four women, it is the friendship, and the chance to escape from life’s hassles for a few hours each week, that keeps them coming back to the cosy, little shop, where problems seem to mysteriously sort themselves out.
I love to pick up fallen leaves when we go for walks with Finn. The autumn leaves are such beautiful colours. There is just something about them that I can’t resist, although I am never quite sure what I will do with them once I get them home. More often than not, they will end up being tossed away again. This year, however, I was determined to use some on a journal page.
Although the leaves were already dry when I collected them, I pressed them under a pile of heavy books for a week to flatten them before I used them.
I painted the background of my journal page with watercolour paints, in autumn shades of golds, reds and orange. Then I glued a photo of Finn onto the page and surrounded it with the leaves. I glued the leaves down, then covered them with a layer of mod podge to protect and preserve them. I used scrapbooking letters to spell out the word Autumn.
One of the parks where we walk Finn has a row of Ginkgo Biloba trees. The soft fruit-like seeds that fall on the ground are very smelly, but the fan-shaped leaves, which turn bright yellow in autumn, are quite beautiful.
Ginkgo is one of the longest-living tree species in the world and can live for more than a thousand years. Ginkgo extract, usually made from the leaves, has long been used to improve memory and cognition. In recent years there have been several studies carried out on its effectiveness in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with conflicting results.
On a cold winter’s day, it is cheering to see the lovely golden carpet of leaves on the ground.