Have a Magical Day!

Sure, Cinderella's castle isn't really covered in glowing icicles. But it sure does look pretty.
Sure, Cinderella’s castle isn’t really covered in glowing icicles. But it sure does look pretty.

Disney World is one of those places that you either love or hate. I definitely fall into the love category. Having just returned from a trip there—with hours upon hours spent on rides, watching shows, meeting characters (Chip and Dale rock), and generally having a wonderful time with my extended family, I have some insight into the Disney experience. I also gained some unexpected insight—and perspective—on my own writing. Specifically:

Sometimes it’s good to turn the laptop off and leave it at home. Rid yourself of any possibility of writing or revising and let your brain just rest. I am not good at this. As a slightly compulsive person who’s also a working mother, finding time to write isn’t always easy. So I force myself to work after work and on weekends. I make myself sit at the computer and put words onto the page. This can be a good thing. It can also be damaging when it leads to no rest and no playtime. A gal needs a break every now and then.

There’s no such thing as “real” magic. I know this as a sophisticated adult-type person who’s view of the world is firmly grounded in reality. But magic is so much fun, even if it isn’t real. The magic at Disney World is so seamlessly created that it almost feels real at times. And even when it doesn’t—even when you know the snow on Main Street USA isn’t the real thing because chance snow squalls don’t happen in Orlando—it’s still pretty darn awesome. The careful orchestration doesn’t lessen the greatness. Instead, it adds to my marveling at it. Someone (or more likely a large team of someones) crafted every last moment of the Disney World experience. It’s world-building of the highest order. Magic isn’t real—it’s created. Writers create magic in the same way, and it’s nice to be reminded of that now and again.

Embracing one’s lack of cynicism is a good and healthy thing. I am not a cynical person. I hope never to be one. Sitting on a Disney shuttle bus surrounded by happily chatting families from all around the country—whose kids are sporting Elsa dresses and whose dads are wearing mouse ears—it’s like a breath of fresh air wafted through. And on a crowded shuttle bus, that’s saying something.

The world needs more fireworks. And song and dance routines just for the sake of having song and dance routines. And dance parties in which people wearing large, furry character costumes bust a move with you. And folks who without a shred of irony wish you a magical day. Because who doesn’t want to have a magical day?

So, I thank my lucky stars that there is such a place as Walt Disney World and people who have job titles like imagineer and kindly folks who are happy to chat with you about how awesome their vacations are—and how much they hope yours is as well.

Now I’m back to work and life and even some writing and revising. But if you wish me a magical day, I’ll be happy to wish one right back at you.

Time Out (Miniature Edition)—For When There Is No Time Out in Sight

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted photos of any of my adventures, big or small, that qualify as time-outs from regular life (for that matter, it’s been a little while since I posted anything at all). There’s a reason for this: there have been no time-outs from regular life for me. Indeed, there simply hasn’t been time for anything.

So, while I don’t have any pictures of lovely places to share with you, I do have the recipe (literally) for a mini-break in a cup. Or as I like to call it, the “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter mug cake.”

Here’s all that you need:

You mean you don’t have dark chocolate peanut butter and Vietnamese cinnamon in your pantry? Perhaps it’s time to seriously rethink the things you stock in your pantry.

2 tablespoons of whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ (or 2 if you’re feeling crazy) tablespoons of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter or Nutella (or almond butter, or whatever suits your fancy)
3 tablespoons of skim milk
1/8 of teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of chocolate chips or peanut butter chips (completely optional but come on—this is supposed to be a mini-break, right?)
A pinch of Truvia (or whatever sweetener floats your boat)
A pinch of cinnamon

First, procure your beverage of choice. The whole process of making the little cake takes about two minutes, so you need to plan ahead in terms of what will accompany your vacation in a cup. I prefer a glass of cold milk. Tea works nicely, too. However, if you’re looking for something stronger than that, I certainly won’t judge you.

Put everything but the chocolate chips into a teacup—and be sure to use a teacup instead of a coffee mug as this is a dainty-sized treat—and mix it all up with a fork.

It looks gross, I know. It only gets better from here.
It looks gross, I know. It only gets better from here.

Now add the chips and give it one last stir to spread the goodness around the batter.

Ah, that’s better. Especially with the chocolate chips. Just remember: super-dark chocolate = super low in sugar.

Pop it in the microwave for 50 seconds, or more in very small time increments if it’s not cooked—but this is like a good brownie, in which gooey is better than cakey.

The finished product: gooey goodness. And did I mention the protein? Soooo healthy.

Then sit someplace quiet and enjoy your chocolatey-peanutty cup of joy. It’s kind of healthy (protein! whole wheat! skim milk!), and small enough to not have to feel guilty about it anyway. And as my daughter frequently tells me, sometimes a girl needs a break.

Happy Tuesday!

Time Out: Backyard Springtime Edition

The view from under our birch tree, which makes lying in the new grass an even more appealing option than ever before.

I’ve been busy. Work’s been crazy, the semester is just winding down for my MFA program, we seem to be attending the birthday parties of seemingly every child in our town this month. It’s just been plain, old busy.

So, we haven’t had any time to take off to someplace fun and do anything terribly new or different of late, and if it were any other time of year, this would start to get to me. It’s not that I’m restless. It’s that I need a break. But when the break isn’t forthcoming, making the best of what you have makes all the difference. When you have a dear little yellow house surrounded by a sweet yard where everything is suddenly bursting back to life, it’s that much easier to make due with it all.

So, we pick flowers for our first bouquet of the season.


We wait for birds to move into our birdhouse (even though we know that with all the noise we make, they’re not actually going to come).


As my husband recently pointed out, at least it’s pretty to look at!

And we revel in the wall of forsythia that grows each spring beside our house.


We take a break in our own backyard. Lying under our old birch tree, I find, gets me more relaxed than almost anything else does at this point. Which leaves me feeling less stressed, less harried…and more ready to keep writing.

Happy spring!

Time Out: The Boston Flower Show

Being a deadline driven MFA student-type means that I’m usually hitting the books, the revisions, and the writing pretty hard. But, since all work and no play makes the entire world incredibly drab—and since we’re in the midst of the second snowstorm in two weeks—the Boston Flower Show came at the perfect time.

Our whole little family went, and my trusty sidekick took pictures along with me to help me “make my blog more awesome.”

The gardens there were amazing. One took you from winter to spring in just a few feet. I look at this picture, think about my own crocuses, now under many inches of snow, and sigh just a little.


Another made you feel like you were gazing right into the midst of the “wild” yet wonderfully manicured edge of the forest.


And then there were some geek girl pieces of heaven. A life-sized Hobbit hole…


Complete with stone owl garden deities which I freely admit that I covet.


And a miniature Hobbit hole (all tiny mosses and plants), complete with Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins.


In the end, it was just plain lovely to get a bit of spring in the midst of a seemingly endless winter.


And then it was back to the books, the revisions, and the writing!

Sometimes Even Grown-ups Need a Time-out

The view from Bearskin Neck, Rockport.

In our house, we try to not to use time-outs as punishments so much as times to sit for a spell, regain one’s composure, or even think for a moment or two about some bad decision-making. Basically, it’s parental-enforced reflection time.

But hey, why should the little kiddo get all the reflection time? This weekend, it was the parents who took a brief time-out–with a small jaunt to Rockport, MA.

We weren’t gone for long, but we did have a glorious time. Tea was drunk. Jane Austen was read. Hours were spent chatting. No work was done.


The lovely Emerson Inn By-the-Sea.


Yes, I do have deadlines for school looming. Yes, I have writing to do, books I actually have to read, and papers to write. I did none of them. This is a rarity in my world, so I reveled in every moment–and now want to share some pictures of our version of a time-out.



There’s granite everywhere–they don’t call it Rockport for nothing.
The view outside the front door of the Emerson.


Obligatory shot of Motif #1.
Best combination of signs ever (yes, that’s a “no horses” sign up there).

Best of all, with all that rest and relaxation, I got an idea for a new story. See, time-outs really do work.