How to Enjoy Summer Like Anne of Green Gables

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“I had made up my mind that if you didn’t come for me tonight I’d go down the track to that big wild cherry tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay all night. I wouldn’t be a bit afraid, and it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think? You could imagine you were dwelling in marble halls, couldn’t you?”

How much do I love Anne of Green Gables? Let me count the ways…

What I love about Anne is that she is full of passion, she is constantly seeing the good in people and nature, but she is also full of honesty.

Reading her words that are bursting with life and curiosity is exciting, and it reminds me of being a child. But why should I stop having that childlike wonder? It is something I don’t think anyone should ever lose. And I find myself smiling and remembering when life was so simple, when threatening to sleep in a wild cherry tree in the moonlight was just something that was said in the passion of a moment that passes in time.

But there are ways to preserve that thought process. Reading some of my favorite quotes from the stories reminded me of my love of nature, and my love of a simple, beautiful life. It was something that I wanted to share.

DSCF70721. Strive to shine your brightest — on the inside and out.

“Anne has as many shades as a rainbow and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts.

2. Don’t take the world too seriously.

-“Here sat Marilla Cuthbert, when she sat at all, always slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously.”

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3. Allow yourself to dream. One of the most beautiful things that Anne does is dream her troubles away. This was a necessity for her when she was a child, as she needed to find that “happy place” that was essential for her to remain optimistic. But even when she gets to Green Gables, she runs into everyday problems that we all find ourselves in. It was comforting, even as an adult, to know that I could do this myself in a way. Dissociating has its own dangerous consequences, but dreaming can always be done, and maybe it should be done more. There are times when I know I have to get through something that I would much rather not deal with, and I find myself asking, What Would Anne Do? I believe she would try to find the beauty in even the most problematic people, she would stand up for herself, and she would try to see each situation as the next step in a magical journey. There is nothing wrong with taking this advice for myself, especially in the dreamy months of summer. If all else fails, go for a walk and enjoy the wind in your hair.

“It has always seemed to me,  ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, i was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”

4. Enjoy the sea. As I’m writing this, I am shaking the sand from my shoes, as I was at a beach today. I was enjoying the sparkling water and that transporting smell of salty air that one can only find at the beach, and I was marveling at the wonder of it all. Anne would have a damn good time at any beach, and I reminded myself to be as ecstatic as she would be.

– “Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”

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One last quote to leave you with some inspiration:

 

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always

enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

 

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Borrowing Books from the Library

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Hello,

This week, I worked my very last scheduled shift at my public library so that I could move on to my full-time job doing something else.

I thought it was important to take the time to explain why I love the library so much, and why I chose to work there in the first place. Working at a library didn’t usually feel like strenuous, obnoxious work, and the truth was, I loved working there. Being around books and people who love to read is a blessing, and as a lover of literature, I felt that I fit right in. I loved recommending books to people and in turn, learning what books I should read next. I would see the same people every week, and I looked forward to hearing how they were. I also saw new people signing up for the library all the time, and it reinstated my faith that libraries will live on.

Before I worked at one, I used the library quite a lot. So many people love books, but they also feel a compulsive need to own every book that they read. I’m suggesting (if that is the case for you) to sever your ties with idea that ownership and learning are the same thing. You can read a book, experience it, learn from its story, and still give it back for someone else to read. Yes, there are some books (well, many) that I loved so much, I bought a copy for myself because I wanted to return to it whenever I liked. But for casual reading, especially for those who read a lot, you will save so much money by using your local library, and you will probably find more things to read that you never thought you’d enjoy before!

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Here’s the thing: books are magic. They are! And the fact that you can sign up (for free!) at a place that is a sanctuary for so many people, and take loads of books to the counter and check them out and take home all those stories of magic with you, that is too good to pass up. I’ve heard the usual arguments against libraries.

It takes too much time!

We are a culture obsessed with immediacy. Things have gotten faster and simpler for us, so we get a little bit greedy. But trust me when I say this, I take some mornings that I have off and turn it into “me” time when I go to the library. I get a coffee beforehand, I let myself browse the shelves and get a few cookbooks, and I even walk around the city afterwards and poke around in the antique stores. It can be a practice of mindfulness and quiet happiness. And for those who say they truly don’t have time to go, that’s okay! I’ve seen plenty of people rush into the library, pluck something from the “new” shelf, check out at the counter, and get out of there in five minutes. It’s really about getting there. Just get there. Just try it.

Borrowing/sharing books is gross! They are dirty!

Here’s the thing, they really aren’t dirty. I can say from experience that when people return a book that is messy/torn/ruined, we fix it immediately, or we take it out of circulation. Sometimes, we miss those books by mistake, and a patron will bring it to our attention. And then we fix it immediately, or we take it out of circulation. Most books we get are super new and in beautiful condition. Plus, if you love tiny bookstores and used book shops, you are buying used books anyway. It’s worth a look.

I’m afraid I won’t bring my books back on time!

Let me tell you a story. Even I, someone who worked at a library, was late bringing things back. One time in particular, I had forgotten about the books I was supposed to return, and so many days had passed, I was scared to bring them back. When I placed them on the desk and the librarian checked them in, I shyly handed my card over so she could see the damage on my account. “70 cents!” She said. 70 cents. I happily paid her a dollar and let them keep the change. I know libraries vary on their borrowing and fining rules, but most of the time, books are not going to break the bank. In fact, at my library, a book fine couldn’t even reach over $3 itself for being overdue, it stopped at $3. Movies and museum passes are another story, but we’re talking about books here. Don’t be scared. Just find some books, bring them back when you can, and enjoy what the library can offer you in reading entertainment.

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I’d like to know other people’s opinions on libraries and if they use them. I’ve been lucky enough to borrow from incredibly huge city libraries, as well as tiny small-town libraries, and I love them all. Because of budget cuts, libraries and museums are suffering greatly, so I mean it when I say that giving it an honest try could mean contributing to a better society with well-rounded funding for community centers that encourage learning.

I think this sums it up:

 

“Libraries are innately subversive institutions 

born of the radical notion that every single member

of society deserves free, high quality access

to knowledge and culture.” 

-Dr. Matt Finch

And of course, my favorite:

 

“All the secrets of the world are contained in books.

Read at your own risk.”

-Lemony Snicket

An Old Spring Breeze

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When I went for a walk this morning, it was drizzling, but the air smelled like the earth. The way that it does in spring, or just at the beginning of spring. The trees were wet. They were completely soaked. Deep, rich wood saturated and dripping. As I walked, a breeze came through. Not a gust of wind, but a gentle, long breeze that lifted my hair around me and rustled the longer parts of the grass. It made me wonder, is this an old breeze? The way the wind blows as the seasons change, is it any different from hundreds of years ago? Is this the same kind of seasonal shift the earth has always known?

It gave me time to reflect on the things that I love about spring, the things I hope I will always love about it. And maybe these are things that others have been enjoying in springtime for a very long time as well.

-Painting, taking photos of, and reading about wildflowers. Using vibrant hues to portray the way they really look in nature. Bringing my camera to my eye as I snap a photo of budding branches. Bringing guidebooks to the park to find and investigate plants I haven’t seen before. Collecting petals to press later on

-Strolling through bookstores and getting lost in the stacks

-Hanging up my floral dresses to get the wrinkles out. Matching them with the petals I’ve collected outside. Changing my sheets for lighter, pastel ones to stay cool. Picking flowers and letting them dry to put on my wall. Hanging up my small paintings of flowers and admiring them in the morning light. Stuffing fresh blooms into old bottles to sit near the window. Shedding the wool cardigans and letting my skin feel the fresh air. Smelling the sweet scent of roses as they fill up the house. Admiring how everything gets lighter, sweeter, and more delicate

-Stopping to pick a single bloom from a flowering bush

-Leaves

-Watching the still water of the lake on a lazy day

-The various colors of the countryside as things come alive — ranging from browns and yellows to every shade of green

-A cup of tea in hand when the mornings are still chilly (perhaps with a cranberry orange scone)

 

The Art of “Creepy Cozy” | Inspired by Edward Gorey

The Art of “Creepy Cozy” | Inspired by Edward Gorey

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I thought I had invented the term “creepy cozy” because I was simply the only one around myself that ever said it. When watching a horror movie, I would mentally rank the film according to how many cozy elements were in it. When reading a spooky book, I would note if there were parts of the book that also made me feel snuggly. Is this irrational? Possibly. But I happen to know that Edward Gorey felt something similar for his work, and after learning as much as I possibly could about the iconic illustrator, I have determined that he is the King of “creepy cozy” and I have some facts to back it up.

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First let me talk a little bit about Gorey and how I became so obsessed. One of my main sources of inspiration (and the reason I started writing the story I am writing right now) is Lemony Snicket (AKA Daniel Handler) who was a big fan of Gorey. I could see that once looking them both up, because style-wise, they seem similar. But after buying one of Gorey’s books and doing so much research, I could easily see the detailed inspiration that Handler got for his A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

I saw that there was an Edward Gorey exhibit being held at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. On Saturday, I attended. And man, was I blown away. I have some photos of the exhibit that I will post here, and the rest are on my instagram.  I spent probably an entire hour in just this exhibit, as there was so much to see. There were interactive parts, with a mirror and a ballet bar so you could take pictures with a few tutus that were props. There was a recreation of his desk, two of his famous fur coats, and a projected video of his PBS Mystery! intro that he created.

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So what was his whole deal? He was a creative, weird introvert. This is no surprise, those are my favorite people. But here is some background information on the genius.

Gorey’s Worlds focused on not just Gorey’s artwork, but the art that inspired him and was hung around his home in Cape Cod. The exhibit will be on display until May 6th in Hartford before going to Washington state for the summer. Gorey was born in Chicago in 1925 and died while he was living in Cape Cod in 2000 (Lemony Snicket famously believes he killed Gorey, look it up) and most of his illustrations had a gothic/Victorian style.

“The style was already on full display in his early 30s, when he published “The Doubtful Guest,” about a penguin-like creature who invades the home an Edwardian family. The Hartford show features some of the book’s original drawings. His audience widened in the 1970’s as he worked for broadway (costumes and sets for “Dracula”) and, a bit later, designed the opening sequence of PBS’s “Mystery!” series.” (Wall Street Journal)

What I love about his style is that it is playful and child-like, but the substance of the stories being told is always unsettling. I loved seeing the original sketched for “The Doubtful Guest” and was struck by how cute the little penguin-like creature was, but how at the heart of it, it is a story about someone who invades your home and refuses to leave. Creepy. (And cozy).

 

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One of my favorite pieces that was in the showcase that was not done by Gorey but was in his home was a piece by Glen Baxter who is a hilariously eccentric artist and the piece is called “The Desecration of the Tennis Courts Has Produced a Very Difficult Situation.” Gorey was also inspired by a lot of folk art, which was on display. He found himself the subject of a few photographers as well, and those photos were in the exhibit.

Much of the work he collected and drew himself was centered on animals, as he was a big lover of them, and towards the end of his life he eventually gave up wearing his beloved fur coats and instead focused on animal activism. He could be found with six cats at a time, he was a massive cat-lover. (Many of his illustrations feature cats, which continue the “creepy cozy” theme)

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What’s funny is that Gorey did not like when people called his work “macabre” as many people had used that to describe the work too often. He gained notoriety for things that were very macabre though, like his set design for Dracula (which he won a Tony for) and for his themes centered on murder/death.

My favorite of all his work has to be “The Awdrey Gore Legacy” (find the anagram) which is a sort-of murder mystery in the style of Clue. The drawings are fantastic and the whole thing reminds me of Agatha Christie, an author that Gorey was very fond of and read all of her books multiple times. There are balls and gardens and people have drinks (these are the appealing parts of the story) and then there is murder, plain and simple.

Gorey includes rainy days, mansions and seats by the window, Vicorian and Edwardian dress, and many more things that to me are considered cozy. And what does this do for me? It lets the story be more immersive, I am able to sit inside of it. Because there are aspects of these stories that I can identify with, it makes the scary that much more scary, because it is no longer removed. These things happen on a  rainy, bleak day. How many rainy, bleak days have I had?! Now, I’m looking over my shoulder, and the story has proved effective.

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This leads me to what stories are creepy/cozy in my opinion, which is a balance I try to strike in my own writing. I will first go over what elements in a story are considered “Cozy Factors” which is almost like getting points for how cozy it makes me feel. Many people will read this and think it is unbelievable, but hey, this is a post about Edward Gorey, so I don’t want to disappoint.

Things that get Cozy Points:

Reading nooks, rainy days, seaside towns (especially in the off-season), reading, candlelight, taking a walk on a foggy day, pianos, taking a bath, being in the forest (especially in Autumn), ridiculously large mansions, Victorian dress, any movie that contains these things that has been adapted from a novel. 

It is important to note that my obsession with these specific things being “cozy” may have started from reading A Series of Unfortunate Events when I was young and thinking it was the coolest/creepiest/coziest series of all time. Shout out to it, because the second season is out now! (Not that I’ve been waiting around for it or anything…)

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Stories that are my favorite displays of “cozy creepy”

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë  (Book & Film)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier (Book & Film)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (Book & Film)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Book & Film)

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Book & Film)

(Just Films)

Crimson Peak

The Awakening

The Haunting

The Woman in Black

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These are my favorites, the things that I turn to when I need inspiration. The reason they are so well-loved by me is because they are scary and creepy, yes, but they contain parts that are beautiful. The use of both is important to me, and when it is done the right way, it becomes a perfect story.

I especially love imagery of a girl lost, running through the foggy moors, a long journey on a dark and stormy night, or a massive house unknown to visitors, with secrets hiding away in its corners. I love the unknown of beautiful, mysterious women, the local lore and legends of monsters lurking in the woods, or the fear of being the next victim while occupying a luxurious train with suspicious people. I love the haunting crash of cold waves on the rocky cliffs above, the Victorian romance that is dripping with darkness, or the ominous boarding school that holds stories that we don’t dare wish to know. I love greenhouses on a rainy day where the mist doesn’t let you see out of the windows (or who could be looking in,) the small path of land between two islands that dangerously disappears with the tides. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, mysterious disturbances. These are my favorite “creepy cozy” things, and I have to thank Edward Gorey for reminding me of them.

Let me know what your favorites are when it comes to creepy things. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s always fun to exchange ideas on the subject. I feel incredibly inspired after diving back into these old sources of inspiration, and I feel they will aid me in writing tension into my scenes. Perhaps a writing prompt could come out of this?

I’ll be back soon,

-Heather

A Snowy Spring Day | March 2018

A Snowy Spring Day | March 2018

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Hello,

This past week we had a “snow storm” which ended up being virtually no snow at all. I was bundled up inside, awaiting the storm that was supposed to be hurled at us, and watching the window which showed a serious lack of snow fall. I had plans on this particular day to go somewhere that was outside, and the forecast had made me reschedule. On the news, New York and Washington D.C. were getting slammed with the storm, and I waited in my blanket for something that never came. If we had gotten the storm at the magnitude that they predicted, it would have been a major case of déjà vu. If you’ve been keeping track, New England has gotten four nor’easters in just three weeks.

It didn’t matter much to me though, because I spent a lovely day inside appreciating the little joys that exist around my home.

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Sometimes I look online and see very minimal spaces, and I admire those greatly. Minimalism and mindfulness go hand-in-hand, and I want to practice those things to the best of my ability. But to be honest, I collect a lot of things. They are things that make me happy and add character to my space. I don’t think there’s any use in hiding these things, even if you want a good picture, because they are more interesting than plain, blank space sometimes.

It’s been hard to embrace one style. This is the problem I’ve had my whole life. I loved everything so much, I wanted to wear/decorate/be all of it. I can say though that it is very comforting to really decide what sorts of things I enjoy style-wise and then focus on those to create a comfortable and still eclectic space. That usually means a combination of books, vintage and antique details, rustic pieces like wood, and lots of plants.

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After enjoying these little parts of my space, I thought it would be nice to put them up on my blog. It’s wonderful to spend a day inside, being grateful for the things that I already have.

And now, what I imagine is also a snippet about what to do when bored (perhaps on a not-so-snowy snow day), a quote from a classic:

 

“Walk, talk, pull the dead petals from a rose, or fall asleep.”

Virginia Woolf, from The Complete Works, “How to Read a Book,”

The Quiet between Winter & Spring

The Quiet between Winter & Spring

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Here are the things that I think about when I close my eyes and imagine myself embracing the new season of spring after a long winter. Floral dresses tossed on my fluffy duvet, along with fresh flowers that I’ve picked from a walk outside. Wearing lace dresses and holding pink, beautiful roses in my hands. Opening a book for identifying wildflowers when I’ve found the most beautiful and peculiar bloom. Kneeling to admire the snowdrops that pop up from the otherwise barren forest floor. My dog’s tail wagging  at me while I pin up paintings of plants over my bookshelf, bright light pouring into my room.

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I truly believe that embracing these quiet moments is essential for welcoming the new season. It seems like every year, I get too excited too quickly, and I peel off my winter layers and plunge straight forward into the upcoming warmth. But this year, I’ll do my best to ease into it. To notice the small changes, like the way the light lingers in the afternoons into the evenings before dinner. The lightness of fabrics that I can wear when the bitter cold isn’t all around me in the morning. Each day that draws closer to spring, I will keep my eyes open, acknowledging the happiness in this simplicity.

I’ll be back soon,

-Heather

Coffee & Caramel Brownies

Coffee & Caramel Brownies

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Hello Everyone,

Yesterday I made a delicious brownie recipe, something that is perfect for these last cold months of winter. Filled with chocolate, coffee, and caramel bits, they are scrumptious when first coming out of the oven, and perfect for a late night treat with a warm drink. You could make this by taking a box mix and adding the coffee, chips, and caramel, but I really wanted to try and make some from scratch. I was so happy that I did!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces of baking chocolate
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of instant coffee
  • Handful of caramel bits (I used Werther’s soft caramels and cut them in half)
  • Baking chocolate chips (I bought the chunky kind)

 

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch glass baking dish (or something close to those measurements.
  2. In microwave safe bowl, melt chopped baking chocolate. Once melted, put aside and melt your butter in another bowl. Add them both together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk the sugar, vanilla, flour, cocoa powder, and salt into the butter and chocolate mixture. Whisk in the eggs and instant coffee and mix for about a minute until it is smooth (and it is a bit thick at this stage)
  4. Stir in your caramel bits and chocolate chips. I added chunks of sea salt as well and mixed everything together.
  5. Pour the batter into your baking dish and put it in the oven. It should bake between 30 – 35 minutes (mine baked for 32)
  6. Let cool before you serve. The caramels do tend to sink to the bottle, which wasn’t a problem for me, but you want to wait at least 10 minutes before you cut them up, or the caramel will still be liquid and it will make a mess! They are delicious hot, but also serve well when they are cold and you have a nice drink!

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If you make these, let me know what you think! They have a mocha flavor to them, the coffee isn’t super strong, so they go well with a nice cup of coffee still. I think this is the perfect end-of-winter treat to warm me up!

I’ve been working on a lot of fun projects lately, which has been making me feel very creative. I came across this quote which I love, and thought I would share:

 

“The ability to take what is most painful in the human condition and then redeem it in a work of beauty has always been seen as the sacred task of artists.”

— Roger Scruton