Favorite Thing Friday: Garden Sprouts

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Three weeks ago, spring settled into the Arizona desert with 75 degrees warming the air and a big blue sky. Weather like that leaves no other choice but to till and plant this year’s batch of vegetable seeds.

Sometimes gardening is all about experimentation. Last year, I planted every seed in a seed starter grid in order to give each plant a good start. The harvest was good, but not as plentiful as the year before. So, this year, we decided to start the seeds directly in the garden box.

While I’m all for trying new things, I was a little nervous to plant seeds in soil that is a bit “tired.” Our dirt has gone through quite a workout with three consecutive years of gardening. We’ve been relatively good about returning nutrients via compost and rotating crops, but Arizona dirt can be challenging due to it’s high clay content.

For two weeks, I went outside hoping to see little bits of green, but only found brown. I was starting to think our experiment was a supreme failure, until I went out a few days ago and found tiny little babies poking through the ground.

Peas …

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The garden rabbit is already hoping for a snack!

I’m not sure if this is a sunflower or a cucumber, but the garden rabbit thinks it needs a little help…

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Help! I’m stuck!

Cowpeas …

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This little guy sprouted just the other day!

The tomato plants are starting to sprout new leaves …

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Back from the dead!

A new raspberry plant is taking off …

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When do we get berries??

The blueberry bushes we planted last year sprouted all new leaves and flowers. At he end of last summer they shed all their leaves and looked like dead sticks. Good thing we never got around to dumping what we thought was was a dead plant. This spring they came back to life and are just beautiful!

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Beautiful blueberry buds.

The garden rabbit will be sniffing around all spring, so stay tuned for his adventures in the garden.

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What’s your favorite thing?

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c.b.w. 2014

The Writer’s Waiting Game

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Query letters have been sent. Competition entries have been submitted. Drafts have gone off to beta readers. In the age of instant gratification, waiting for a response in the writing world is a grueling endeavor. Weeks and months are a long time to wait when you’re dying to know whether your work is good enough to get picked up by a publisher. Or at the very least, whether somebody like it well enough to say, “good job.”

In the case of waiting for a literary agent to respond to a query letter, I go in with the assumption that nothing but silence with follow my inquiry. When a kindly worded rejection shows up in my inbox, I’m thrilled. Positive thinking is a powerful thing on this journey. So is keeping busy. The wait for any sort of a response is agonizing and it never seems to end. You’ll go nuts unless you keep yourself occupied with something other than obsessing over that elusive response.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve perfected the art of waiting with distraction. Trust me, keeping yourself busy makes the process a lot easier to take and in many ways softens the blow of rejection. Here’s a few ways to keep your muse inspired and give your patience a boost…

1) Keep writing.

Start that next novel or punch out a few short stories. Maybe even dabble in poetry or non-fiction articles.  Follow your muse and write because you are a writer, regardless of your publication credits, (or lack thereof). Sometimes a “distraction” piece can turn into something great. My second novel began as a distraction and ended up as my passion project. It got me through a number of rejections and ultimately lead me to a new path.

2) Research literary agents.

Finding the right agent takes a lot of work. It takes research, research, and more research. Every agent has different tastes, query package requirements, and personalities. For those of us playing the waiting game, all the work and time required to find the right agent plays right into our hands. It takes a lot of time to compile a list of possible agents and prepare customized query packages. Luckily, time is something we have in plentiful supply!

3) Read.

Every writer I know is also a voracious reader. Between loving a good book and wanting to figure out how published authors crafted a great story, writers are inherently addicted to reading. While waiting for any sort of response to arrive, it’s nice to escape to another world and enjoy the ride. Plus, some authors thank their agents on the acknowledgments page. This ties in nicely to #2.

4) Edit.

Most writers are never happy with a “final” draft. We’re always looking to make a sentence better or find a more perfect word. My final draft for The Muse has been altered (albeit slightly) multiple times since I started pitching it. A word here, a comma there, I’m always tinkering with it to make everything about it a little bit better. It’s time consuming and tedious work, but well worth every hour. While waiting for that one e-mail to arrive, I am happily ensconced in my fantasy world.

5) Find a hobby.

My craft closet has more stuff in it than my clothes closet.  When an afternoon of writing is done, I’ll pull out a craft project to keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. It beats sitting around and thinking about why an agent hasn’t sent an excited request to read my manuscript. Of late, knitting has been my savior as it inspires my creativity and challenges me to try new things. My muse loves it, too. While I’m knitting row after row, she whispers to me and new stories are born.

This weekend, I sent off my entry to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which means a new round of waiting and waiting has commenced. I suspect my to-read stack of books will get shorter and the sweater I’m knitting will soon have sleeves.

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Stepping Stones Socks

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After avoiding it and putting it off for more than a year, I finally made socks using the traditional method of double-pointed needles. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m still not a fan of maneuvering around so many needles.

The pattern that inspired me to overcome my aversion to double-pointed needles came from The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes. This book is full of amazing sock patterns ranging from beautiful lace socks to simple ribbed socks. I highly recommend picking it up to any fan of sock knitting!

I love a good ribbed sock, so I chose a pattern called Stepping Stones. A total of three different ribs are used throughout the sock and I loved the texture. The cuff is a simple K1, P1 rib, the leg is a textured rib using a variety of knit and purl stitches, and the foot has three small ribs tucked into a basic stockinette stitch.

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Check out my awesome socks!

I made one small modification on the heel. The pattern called for a double-strand reinforced heel, but I’ve never had a problem with holes in my socks so I opted to knit the more traditional slip stitch heel flap. It’s easier to do and it fit right into the pattern without a problem.

While the ribbed pattern is fantastic, the yarn is my favorite thing about these socks. I am in love with the hombre stripes and earthy colors of Paton’s Kroy Socks FX, Clover Colours. It reminds me of fall leaves and sunsets!

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Beautiful yarn always makes a beautiful pair of socks!

This pair of socks also marks the first time I’ve used the Kitchener stitch to close the toe. I’ve heard knitters grumble about this grafting method before, so I was a little nervous to take it on. What got me through it was Ann Budd’s book, Getting Started Knitting Socks. She has excellent and easy to follow instructions on the kitchener that are the best I’ve seen.

As much as I love these socks, I’m still a hardcore believer in the sock loom.  It makes the best fitting socks, mainly because it implements the short row heel.  Above all else, nothing beats the ease of a sock loom.

That being said, I know I’ll likely pick up double-pointed needles again because there are far more patterns available for traditional sock knitting. Learning this method opened up a whole new realm of design elements and styles. Seeing as I’m addicted to sock knitting, this is pretty darn exciting!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014