Christina Cole Romance

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Make a Mess!

Creativity

I say these words over and over because they’re so very true. I don’t recall the source, but I do remember when I first heard them. I was sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by a mess of papers, drawings, art supplies, books, and snacks as I worked on a project. Yes, creative people make big messes.

It was then as I began the “cleaning up” process that I fully understood this little saying. As I sorted through ideas and inspirations — keeping some and discarding others — my mess turned into a completed project.

I approach fiction from this perspective, too. I make a huge mess with story ideas all over the place. I scribble notes on odd scraps of paper. I grab research books to keep close at hand. Putting a story together does get very messy indeed.

For what it’s worth, my current project — The Sheriff Wore Skirts — is a disastrous mess at the moment. Even though I began with a synopsis for the publisher, now that I’m working on the story, I’m seeing new possibilities. New characters are emerging. New complications and conflicts are happening.

What do I do?  I let it happen. It’s wondrous fun.

To me, it’s much like working a jigsaw puzzle…only first, I have to create all the pieces.

I won’t use them all. As with any creative project, I’ll find myself throwing away things that aren’t needed, sorting out what’s right for the story, getting rid of ideas that don’t fit. Gradually, the mess will be picked up. The research books will go back on the shelf. The little scraps of paper will be tossed aside. A finished manuscript will come together, ready to go to the publisher.

Don’t ever get discouraged when your creative efforts result in a huge mess. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a process, and making a mess — the bigger, the better — is the first step toward success. Celebrate all the mixed-up, confused ideas. Scatter the pieces of your own puzzle around so you can look at them from different angles. Pick things up and play with them. Enjoy the mess!

Then begin the cleaning-up process. Throw away or set aside things you know you don’t need. Find what’s most important and build around it. Add in possibilities that might work. Discard ones that don’t work.

Slowly and surely, as you clean up the mess — whether it’s an art project, a poem you’re writing, a recipe you’re cooking, or any other endeavor — you’ll see a beautiful creation shining through.

 

 

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Can You Draw a Bird?

OK…can you draw a bird? I can’t. I can’t draw much of anything. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from trying at different times in my life. I love colors, and every so often I get inspired to try doing a little artwork…which is an odd word for me to use. My art never works.

When I was about 14, I insisted on buying a set of oil paints and a few canvases. Since I can’t actually draw, I tried creating some weird abstract-looking thing, and it might have been all right if one of our dogs hadn’t curled up next to it while it was still drying and smeared the paint everywhere.

Another time, I did become fascinated by birdwatching and by the gorgeous illustrations of birds I’d found in several books. How hard could it be to draw a bird? A lot harder than I thought. Don’t worry. I haven’t saved any of my attempts so I won’t be showing them here.

At the moment, my artistic interest has turned to coloring books. About two months ago, I came across a fascinating book called “Creative Cats”. It’s a coloring book for adults. I quickly ordered two — one for me and one for my cat-loving daughter, Elisabeth.

Creative Cats Coloring Book

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Now, I’m looking for gel pens — and a little time — so I can get started coloring a few cats. Which, of course, has nothing to do with drawing birds, so let’s move right on along, shall we?

The reason I’m asking about birds is because today is, yep, you guessed it, “Draw-a-Bird Day”.  I’m doing my part to help out by sharing a few little links.

How to Draw a Bird – Kid’s Art Hub – You Tube

How to Draw a Bird – Step by Step – You Tube

Pen and Ink Drawing Tutorial – How to Draw Birds – You Tube

How to Draw a Bird – Easy Drawings and Sketches

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I’m not even going to attempt it. I’ve decided it’s better for me to enjoy watching birds than trying to draw them. If you’d like to do a bit of bird-watching, too, you might want to check out this site from Cornell University.

All About Birds

WHETHER YOU TRY DRAWING A BIRD OR NOT, I HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY TODAY. THANKS FOR DROPPING BY!



DID YOU KNOW: The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. WATCH FOR MORE FUN FACTS TO COME! 


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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…”

I sing that familiar folk tune each time I walk out to my little herb garden in the summer. Indeed, I’ll find parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme growing there, along with several other fragrant herbs.

Now that spring is nearly here, I’m eagerly awaiting the time when I can set out my herbs. I love to cook, and the flavor of fresh herbs can turn even a simple dish into a work of culinary art.

mixed-basils1Here’s a list of what grows in my herb garden each year. I’ve arranged them in alphabetical order for convenience. Click on each link, below, for delicious recipes.

Basil is sometimes called “the king of herbs”. There are many different varieties available, ranging from bright green to purple. It’s also known as Thai basil, or sweet basil. I use fresh basil primarily in Italian dishes, especially gnocchi.

Chives are a favorite of mine. I love chopping up fresh chives and adding them to sour cream to serve over a hot, baked potatoes. I add them to egg dishes, too. Chives are from the onion family, and make great additions to soups and to fish recipes.  Chives are said to repel pests, so they’re often planted along the edges of herb gardens to form a protective border.

Cilantro is the North American name for coriander. It’s used mostly for Mexican cooking. I use it in salsa, enchiladas, and as one of the main ingredients in “pico” — a mix of freshly chopped onions, tomatoes, and seasonings. It also makes a great little garnish for black bean dishes or rice.

Dill. Oh, yes, dill. I love all my herbs, but if I had to choose only one to grow in my garden, it would be dill. I love the smell of fresh dill. To me, it’s the “smell of autumn”, probably because that’s the time of year for making pickles. I use fresh dill in potato salads, and when I serve salmon loaf or salmon croquettes, I make a creamy dill sauce. Oh, my mouth is watering already. I also think dillweed is a very pretty little plant.

Lavender is more likely to be considered a flowering plant than a herb, and I grow it not for cooking but for the wondrous, heavenly scent it emits. It can be used in the kitchen, though, for sweet tea breads, ice creams, and cookies. My favorite way to use the lavender from my garden is to add it to my bathwater.

Lemongrass is a staple ingredient in Asian cooking. My favorite use for it is in rice dishes. It’s often used in soups and in meat dishes. It’s related to the “citronella” used in candles to repel insects and is often grown alongside tomatoes as a natural “pesticide”.

Mint will someday take over the world. Trust me on this. I know. If you’re going to grow mint, be prepared to pull it up by the handful. I think it will grow anywhere. It’s notorious for spreading out and swallowing up everything in its path. Of course, it smells delightful! I grow both spearmint and peppermint in my herb garden. Sometimes, I even grow a little bit of catnip — a member of the same family. I prefer the peppermint over spearmint, but both can be used in a lot of summer drinks and desserts. Mint is often used in lamb dishes, and when I make fruit salads, I’ll chop up a few mint leaves and add them in with the greens.

Oregano is best known as “the pizza herb”. Take one whiff of it, and you’ll know why. I’ve heard it said that dried oregano is more potent than fresh, but I know the oregano that comes from my herb garden provides plenty of the “pizza pie” flavor to any Italian dishes I prepare — including pizza. I add it to Mexican recipes, too.

Parsley is a fun little herb. At least, that’s how I think of it. Everybody knows parsley, of course. It’s that green stuff decorating your plate when you dine out at a restaurant. It’s that big bundle of green stuff that’s usually dripping wet when you grab it at the supermarket. In addition to making a lovely garnish, parsley is great in salads, soups, and other recipes. It’s available in a lot of varieties. I grow the Italian flat-leaf parsley in my herb garden. It has a bit more flavor, I think, than the curly-leaf parsley. One note of caution. Pregnant women should not consume excessive amounts of parsley. Of course, it’s perfectly safe in normal quantities.

Rosemary is said to improve memory. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I do know what a lovely fragrance it has. I use rosemary as another “staple herb” for any Italian dishes I cook, and I use it, too, for poultry and for dressings. My favorite way to use it, though, is to just go out to the herb garden and run my hands over the stems, releasing a bit of fragrant oil. I love the scent of rosemary.

Thyme has an interesting history. It was used for embalming in ancient Egypt, and Greeks used it in their baths and in the temples. During the Middle Ages, sprigs of thyme were often placed beneath a sleeper’s pillow to ward off nightmares, and young maidens often gave the herb to warriors as is was believed to give courage. It’s one of the staples of Mediterranean cuisines and comes in many different varieties. It’s a great herb to use for meats. I use it often for chicken and pork.

That’s what grows in my herb garden. Sometimes I’ll add in another herb I find at the nursery, maybe marjoram — which is very similar to oregano — or maybe tarragon — which tastes much like licorice.

If you’ve never grown your own herbs, do give it a try. Choose your favorite, visit a nearby nursery, and grab a plant. Once you’ve tried using fresh herbs in place of the store-purchased dried varieties on the grocer’s shelves, you’ll taste the difference for yourself. Most herbs are fairly easy to grow. They don’t require much space — with the exception of the all-powerful mint, which, as I said above, will someday take over the world. Herbs can be grown on a window sill, in little containers, in hanging baskets, or in flower pots.

herb-basil

If you’d like to hear the entire song, Scarborough Fair — as sung by duo, Simon & Garfunkel, just click below.

Scarborough Fair

 


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This Castle Hath a Pleasant a Pleasant Seat

It’s cold here. We’ve got snow on the ground and more on the way. I’m longing for spring’s arrival, but there’s nothing I can do to hasten it. What I can do now to ease the misery of winter is to dream of the coming season, and there’s no better way to do that than with a seed catalog from one of the nurseries.

Fragrant Cloud Hybrid Tea Rose

I love fragrant flowers, and while I was browsing, the roses caught my eye. Just looking at the beautiful images makes springtime seem a little closer, and I can close my eyes and imagine their delicate perfume in the air.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love roses?

Roses have become synonymous with love and romance, so maybe that’s why I enjoy them so much.

 

My husband often brings me roses — not only on Valentine’s Day or special occasions, but just to say “I love you.” I’ve saved the petals from every rose he’s given me, and I’ve used them to make sweet-smelling potpourri jars. I treasure them.

While browsing through the pages of brilliantly-colored petals, I became curious. Soon I set off to do a little research.

Roses, I learned, have a long and fascinating history.

Roses existed long before the birth of Christ.

The Rosa gallica officinalis originated in Persia, present day Iran, and was brought through Turkey, to France, and finally found its way to England.

There, it was renamed “The Red Rose of Lancaster”. During the 15th century, it figured prominently in the “Wars of the Roses”, a series of dynastic wars fought between the York and Lancaster families for control of the  English throne.

Each royal family’s heraldic crest featured a rose — white for the York crest, and red for the Lancaster. It was the Lancaster family who ultimately won the war when Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III at Bosworth Field.

QueenMany other varieties of roses have been associated with  historical figures. The “Desiree Parmentier” rose — an intensely aromatic bloom — was named for Desiree Clary, a Frenchwoman who became the Queen of Sweden. The flower is sometimes also known as the “Queen of Sweden” rose.

As a young woman, she provided financial support to Napoleon Bonaparte by giving him her jewels. When one of Bonaparte’s marshals was later crowned king of Sweden, Napoleon introduced Desiree to him.

souvenir2aJosephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon, was also a lover of roses. She grew the flowers in the garden of her chateau near Paris. One variety, known today as the “Souvenir de la Malmaison” was admired by Catherine the Great of Russia. Her garden in St. Petersburg was filled with the delicate, pale pink blossoms.

Each time I see one of the potpourri jars I’ve made, these words of Shakespeare quickly come to mind:

“This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air nimbly and gently recommends itself unto our senses.”

Although my home is far from a castle, it does have a pleasant seat, and indeed, the air is sweet, but spicy, too. I’ve added drops of essential oils to my potpourri jars along with a touch of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

I didn’t use any special recipe to create my potpourri, but I did find the following recipe you might want to try.

Potpourri Recipe

* 1/2 cup rose petals
* 1/2 cup lavender blossoms
* 1/2 cup sweet woodruff
* 1/2 cup pot marjoram leaves and blossoms
* 1/4 cup mint
* 2 teaspoons orange peel
* 2 teaspoons whole cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick
* 2 drops each of lavender and rose oils
* 1/2 teaspoon powdered orrisroot

Combine the first eight ingredients. Sprinkle the oils and the orrisroot over the dry ingredients and mix well. Place in a covered jar, and stir gently every few days for a month, until the scents have blended and mellowed. Remove the jar’s cover to freshen a room, but be sure to replace the cover between times of use. All potpourris need time to recoup their scents. The above recipe will also work well in sachets.

Note: Orris root powder can be purchased online through herbal suppliers and may also be available at natural foods or health food stores.

Potpourris and sachets are wonderful ways to bring a little “spring” into a dreary winter day, as are fragrant bath oils and scented candles.  I can’t make winter go away, but I can stay warm and cozy inside and enjoy sweet thoughts of  the coming season.

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Thank you for visiting today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one of the world’s most cherished flowers.

 

 


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Folk Magic – Threshold Cleansing Spell

As an author of western historical romances, I spend a lot of time in the past. I’m drawn to earlier days because of the simplicity I find there. Our modern conveniences have made our life easier, yet they’ve also quickened the pace at which we live. I don’t like rushing. I don’t like trying to do a dozen things at once. I much prefer a slower, old-fashioned approach to life.

Folk magic was an important aspect of life in the past. Herbal remedies were used to treat illnesses and other maladies, and many old wives’ tales guided women in their lives.  From love charms to potent healing spells, the herbalists and “wise women” of the past had answers for every question and secrets they would share only with those who believed.

Thankfully the arts of herbalism and folklore have not been lost. Although people often turn up their modern-day noses and scoff at such old-fashioned practices, there are still those who appreciate and understand the value of simple traditions and the power of folk magic.

Today, I’m sharing a simple ritual, one that can be used to banish negativity from our homes — and to prevent it from entering in. Use this whenever you feel the need to make a fresh start.

THRESHOLD CLEANSING SPELL

The ingredients are simple. You probably have them in your pantry now. Vinegar. Lemon juice.

The cleaning properties of vinegar are well-known, and its uses are many. The Farmer’s Almanac lists dozens of ways vinegar can help around the house.  It’s natural, it’s simple, it’s inexpensive.

Household Uses for Vinegar

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Lemons, too, are known to have cleansing properties. While you might not always have fresh lemons available, lemon juice is easy to keep on hand. If you’d like to learn a little more about the many uses of lemons, check out the Mother Nature Network.

24 Things You Can Clean with Lemonslemons

To put the cleansing — and magical — properties of vinegar and lemons to work in your home, mix equal parts of water and white vinegar. Add in the juice of one fresh lemon — or a few teaspoons of bottled lemon juice. If possible, allow the mixture to sit in a sunny location for several hours.

This concoction can be used to ward away evil and negativity. Sprinkle or spray it around the doorways and window sills in your home.

Of course, I should post a few “warning signs” and disclaimers here, too. Let’s get the warnings out of the way first.

WarningAlways avoid contact with your eyes, and wear gloves if you have sensitive skin. When using any homemade cleanser, always test a small area first. Mix the ingredients with care. Plastic spray bottles make convenient storage containers.

 

As for the disclaimers, of course, not everyone finds vinegar effective as a cleaning product. If you’re expecting miracles, you’ll probably be disappointed. Some people find the odor unpleasant, although it does vanish once the solution dries. Sprinkling or spraying the cleansing solution here won’t require any great effort, but if you choose to use vinegar and lemon as a household cleaner, you’ll find that it takes a bit more “elbow grease” than the chemically-laden products you purchase at the store.



 

I’ll be mixing up a vinegar-lemon solution today and squirting it around the house.

How about you?

What old-fashioned cleaners, remedies,  and cures have you tried?

 

 


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Join Me for a Valentine’s Day Project!

I love candles, don’t you? Although we no longer depend on candles to provide lighting for our homes, I’d be willing to wager that most of us have a good supply of them on hand, either for emergency situations (such as dreadful blizzards when power goes out), for decor, or for romantic moments.

Candlelight dinner

Yes, when we think of romance, we think of candlelight.

Candles are used as part of many religious and spiritual traditions, as well. They bring light, they bring warmth, they bring peace. Candles also bring beauty, joy, and, of course, love.

The National Candle Association (NCA) says it best:

Candles have come a long way since their initial use. Although no longer man’s major source of light, they continue to grow in popularity and use. Today, candles symbolize celebration, mark romance, soothe the senses, define ceremony, and accent home decors — casting a warm and lovely glow for all to enjoy.

candle-light

 

I’ve never tried candle-making…yet. Ah, there’s the operative word. Yes, I want to try it. Yes, I’m going to do it. Yes, I’m inviting you to try it, too.

I’ve long wanted to learn the art of candle-making, but I was always a bit intimidated by memories of my mother and her candles. I don’t remember when and how she became interested in the hobby, but she began making simple candles. At first. My mother was an extremely creative individual, and when something sparked her interest, her curiosity and her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Soon, her kitchen was filled with molds and waxes, wicks, oils, and additives. Each new candle-making project became more intricate than the one before. The results were magnificient.

Knowing I could never make such beautiful creations, I shied away from even attempting it. Whatever I might manage to make would fall far short of her incredibly beautiful works of art.

Candle Light 006

Mama’s been gone for many, many years now. I don’t know whatever happened to all of her candle-making supplies. Even though the memory of her exquisite candles sometimes inspires me, most of the time I still feel that my efforts would never measure up to hers.

But, I know, too, that I don’t have to “measure up”.  Instead of comparing my efforts with hers — or with anybody else’s candle-making skills — I can gather up my own supplies, do my best, and feel satisfied with my own creation.

So…here’s the project!

finished-heart-pillar

I found this adorable Valentine’s Day candle project at Lonestar Candle Supply. They’re located in Texas, and will ship throughout the US and Canada. Of course, most candle-making supplies are also available at craft stories.

Making this heart-shaped candle is “easy” and “fun” — according to the project instructions. Best of all, the same instructions can be followed to create candles for other holidays. The trick is using cookie cutters.

Candle heart

 

Valentine’s Day is a little more than two weeks away, so that gives us time to find supplies, read through the directions, and give it a try! I’ll be inviting my daughters to share an afternoon of candle-making with me, and on Valentine’s Day, I’ll post pictures of the results.

I’m inviting YOU, too.

 

If candle-making looks like something you might be interested in trying, please do join in the fun. Imagine the joy of having a special, romantic occasion for Valentine’s Day…complete with your own home-made Valentine’s candle. And what better way to say “I love you” than to share a candle you’ve made with someone special.

Click HERE for the complete instructions.

 

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I’d also like to invite each of you to visit Gratefulness.org to light a candle.

Together we can bring light and love into the world.

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