Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Saturday sigh

Nope. I got nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I don’t know what to write about this week. No new updates on the manuscript front. No ideas from the writers’ grab bag.

Weeding. Taming tomato plants, picking beans, prolific zucchini (big surprise there–not), and patrolling for cabbage worms. Boooring.

Shameless plugs for writing sisters who have books out recently or coming out soon:

Crossing the Line

St. Mary’s Private Dancer

Progress report? Finishing the last edits on my 20 pages to send to my writing sisters. In two weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin at our reunion. I can’t wait!

Hmm, anything useful for fellow writers? Updates on the publishing journey?

I have been reading some good blog posts lately about writing and how important patience and persistence are. I was thinking about my current adventure I’m taking, courtesy of my agent. She started sending the manuscript out in February. It’s now almost the end of July, and we’re still “pounding the pavement”. There are a handful of editors who haven’t said “yea” or “nay”; actually, they haven’t said much at all.

It’s a waiting game. And even once a publisher picks up the manuscript (crossing fingers here!), I know it’ll be at least a year before release, because that’s how long it takes. This is the patience part.

If this manuscript doesn’t sell, I’ve got another one ready to go. It’s just a matter of whether my agent will like it enough to represent it. If not, I’m working on my old “new” WIP, but that won’t be ready until closer to the end of the year. I’ll talk to my agent about next steps.

And I might have to start the hunt all over again (I hope not, because I really like my agent). This is the persistence part. This business is not for anyone who likes instant gratification. Short fiction would have a shorter timeline, and I’ve had short stories published (B.C.–Before Children), so that’s an option.

Bottom line: Keep writing. Keep learning, improving, practicing. Every draft, every query, every rejection is another step on the journey. Keep moving forward.

Okay, that’s about all I’ve got. Heading to my dad’s to see my sister today. I only see her a couple times a year since she lives in WI, so I’m looking forward to catching up a little with her. Gotta finish my 20 pages, so I’m going to sign off.

Have a great weekend! Wear sunscreen, keep hydrated, and WRITE!


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Creature Feature

As we get ready for an extended holiday weekend, I thought it’d be kinda fun to show a few pics of things you might see if you happened to stop by. Note one thing: I’m a lousy photographer (unlike my daughter, who has an artist’s eye), so I apologize ahead of time for crappy pictures.

First, I braved the mosquitos last night (no wind, humid, perfect for those little flying vamps) to take a pic of the garden. It isn’t the best picture, but damn, as soon as I stopped moving, it was like the dinner bell rang.

garden

Everything seems to be doing well, especially after the rain we got the other day. It’s supposed to rain today, and I’ve got a funeral to attend, so the weeds will have time to reclaim their footing.

And though I didn’t get a picture of the vandals eyeing my garden, I found one. I figured since this is a creature post, I should include them. Oh, and the flying hypodermics, just because.

cottontailmosquito
Man, those buggers are relentless (It doesn’t matter which; they’re both curse-inducing annoyances.).

Those who’ve been following since the spring know we got some chicks. We’ve moved them into the big pen now, but they haven’t started laying eggs yet, and probably won’t until this fall. I gave them some watermelon scraps last night, and they seemed to enjoy the treat. (also, they don’t stop moving long enough to take a good picture πŸ™‚ )

chicks

Last week I promised the story about our nightly visitor. Since it’s summer, and we have no central air conditioning, we have a window unit in one of the windows in the living room. This leaves a gap between the lower sash and the upper sash where bugs can congregate, lured by the light in the room. Well, we have a visitor that’s figured out the best place to get an easy meal.

frog2_cr

Yep, a little tree frog. Actually, we saw two of them hanging out one night, but usually there’s only the one. You can get an idea of how big it is by the size of the the window lock. I’m sure it’d fit on a half-dollar coin, no problem, with room to spare. It usually sticks on the window like a gecko, so we just see its white belly, and creeps around to wherever the biggest bugs are, typically moths. One night, there was a moth almost as big as the frog, and I watched the frog catch and eat it. So cool!

Of course, as I was heading in last night to escape the mosquitos, one of our dogs had to getΒ  in on the action. Here’s Dakota, sitting still barely long enough to get her picture taken:

dakota She’s a mutt, part border collie and part Australian shepherd, I think. Or something like that. She’s pretty in a homely kind of way, and is quite content to ignore the rabbits. If the chickens get loose, however, all bets are off. They’re fair game to her, and she’s learned somehow to stash her treasure out in the weeds in the back acreage for later, when no one’s looking.

We found a chicken carcass out there a couple years ago while searching for missing birds. Those chickens flew just far enough to clear the fence around the pen. Dumb chickens.

And I can’t have a creature feature without Zoey. Here she is, chillin’ in one of her favorite spots outside (probably because the concrete stays cool).

zoey3

Independence Day is on Tuesday this year, so a lot of people have Monday off (I do). Four-day weekend! Woo hoo! I need to get butt in chair and write this weekend, betweenΒ  pulling weeds, of course.

For those in the US, enjoy the holiday weekend, and stay safe. Take advantage of the extra time off to draft a short story or new chapter. For everyone else, same goes.

Happy Fourth of July!


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Revise or redraft?

I’ve been struggling with my WIP revisions. Granted, this would technically be called the second draft, but dammit, I’m just not feeling it.

Then I read Janice Hardy’s post on shifting between drafting and editing. (BTW, if you haven’t spent any time on Janice’s blog, head on over. She’s got an awesome site for writers.)

Aha. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe I need to start over, do another self-imposed NaNoWriMo.

“Maybe you just need to sit your ass down and write, love.”

I turn. Gulp. My Muse is in full ass-kicking mode, complete with Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip, arms crossed on his chest, his blue eyes cutting into mine like lasers. “Ahh, hi there.”

“Sit.” No room for argument.

I sink into my writing chair. I’ve been staring at the screen for the past, well, I’m not sure. I made an inline note in the scene I was having trouble with (a new scene, too!) and moved on to the scene I realized I needed. I thought I had it figured out.

Turns out I thought wrong. “You know, you could break out a new bucket of ideas to throw at the brainstorming wall instead of channeling Harrison Ford. You’re my Muse, so do your muse thing.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk, bullwhip curled in one hand. “I have been doing my muse thing, as you call it. Hell, I’ve be trying to shove as much creative fecking energy into you as I can, and what have you been doing? Playing in the dirt.”

“Hey, I’ve got to keep on top of the weeds or I won’t be able to find my vegetables in a couple weeks. They’re way easier to get rid of when they’re two inches high instead of six. Besides, I had to rabbit-proof my garden. Did you see that rabbit waltz right in? Through the fence? I think they chewed that hole. It was like the damn thing thought it lived there.”

“So don’t use a plastic fence.”

“It worked fine last year. And the year before. What happened, did the rabbits have a confab to Ocean’s Eleven my garden? They still got to two of my pepper plants. I think I need a BB gun instead of my slingshot. The damn things don’t even spook when I hit them with a rock.”

“So you got over-confident rabbits.”

“I’ve got oversized, fuzzy, cotton-tailed rodents. And no dog or cat that bothers to chase them. I think we need to get a terrier. They were bred to hunt rabbits.”

“No, they were bred to chase prey into burrows. Rats, not rabbits.”

“How do you know?”

He gives me his crooked smile, and I fight to hold back a swoon, because that would just encourage him (not that it’s a bad thing; I could use a little eye candy about now). “I’m a Muse. Google has nothing on us.”

I almost sprain my eyes from the roll. “Humble much?”

He leans over, inches from me. “You don’t have anything going on tomorrow, and you won’t want to go outside in the tropical heat, so I expect you to get through at least two scenes. Complete scenes, love. I will be right here, so I can keep an eye on you.”

Before I can respond, he waved a finger. “Ah ah. If you behave, I might even dig up some Schell’s Firebrick lager.”

Not as good as Moon Man, but hey, it’s incentive. “You know, you sure can be annoying.”

“You should know all about annoying.”

Ugh. And of course he’s right. I’ve been having a tough time focusing, and tomorrow will give me a good excuse to stay in the house (yep, 96 degrees with a 72 degree dewpoint. Ick.). I went out to the garden tonight, and wouldn’t you know it, a rabbit was sitting near the garden. I tried to spook it, but it pretty much ignored me until I started chasing it. Then it ran right into my garden. Through the fence.

Seriously. WTF? So I spent an hour adding chicken wire to the side of the fence that had the most rabbit-sized holes. *grumble* Oh, I suppose you’d like to see how things are coming.

The potatoes and tomatoes are looking good, and the onions are starting to take off. Most of the peppers are still intact, thanks, I’m sure, to the tomato rounds I added to protect them. The Brussels sprouts are doing okay, but I found cabbage worms on one tonight. I’ll have to start patrolling. Or cover them, but the trick there is anchoring the netting. Might have to try that this year.

I also promised to show you what asparagus looks like once it grows out. Here ya go:

mature asparagus

It has feathery fronds and tiny yellow flowers. Later in the season those flowers develop into little berries that start green and eventually turn bright red.

And as I was weeding tonight, I ran across a couple fat toads. I love seeing toads in the garden.

toad patrol

The chickens are still in the “nursery” pen, but we need to move them into the bigger enclosure, hopefully this weekend, then I’ll try to get some pics.

Instead, I’ll close with Zoey chillin’ outside.

Zoey chillin’

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing–I know I will πŸ˜€


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Hello, Summer

Last weekend was Memorial Day in the U.S., the unofficial kickoff to summer and all the vacations, hot weather, outdoor recreation, garden distractions, and bugs that go with it.

You heard that right, I said bugs. As in ticks, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and every other six- or eight-legged creepazoid that likes to be a pest (yes, I know the eight-legged varieties are technically not bugs, but they bug me. You know, ticks. Spiders are okay as long as they stay outside where they belong.) They are probably my least favorite part of summer.

Good insects, like bees and butterflies, I’m okay with because they are pretty, have an important job (pollination), and they don’t bug me (except for the sulfurs and their white counterparts, because they are responsible for the cabbage loopers and cabbage worms that munch on my Brussels sprouts and kale).

Ugh. Can’t do anything about bugs except encourage bats and birds to eat as much as they can. Oh, and can’t forget the predatory bugs, like dragonflies. They. Are. Awesome. Mostly because they have “dragon” in their name, but also because they eat mosquitoes from birth to death. And they’re pretty. And “dragon” πŸ˜€

red-dragonfly-1364459 Anyway, I thought, since, you know, summer, I’d post an update on my usual summer stuff. I know, boring, right? Well, iffin ya don’t like it, trust I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled writing stuff next week (and I won’t mention the Muse standing behind me, bullwhip in hand and Indiana Jones fedora on his head. Nope, I won’t.).

I managed to get my garden in a few weekends ago, before I took my writing retreats to my dad’s house. Incidentally, my retreat last weekend, when I was going to go all in on the second draft of my WIP, was cut short due to Dad’s return much sooner than he had last year. Sooo, I lost two days of writing in peace, but I got to hear about his trip, which wasn’t as enjoyable as in past years due, I think, to the timing. More people around this time, so their Alaskan adventure was more crowded than they liked.

Anyway, back to gardening. Here’s a shot of it (look now, because I’ve got the weeds under control so far πŸ™‚ ):

garden1

Living out in the country is great, until natural pests start hitting all your hard work. Notice the terra cotta-colored pots–those are my Brussels sprouts, the second planting, because some effing pest chewed the first ones off. Grrr. So far, these are doing fine.

So, the little buggers decided to take out their frustrations on my pepper plants. I replanted them, and they lasted maybe a week before something chewed them off again. So, I got new plants again, but I’m going to have to put a secondary fence around them. Thank goodness the varmints (chipmunks, I suspect) don’t appear to like potatoes or onions. We’re going to put some live traps in the garden to figure out if I’m right. I suspect chipmunks, but we also have rabbits and squirrels.

And dogs. Not that they mind; they must play poker with the rabbits. Neither dog (granted, one is three-legged and can hardly chase them) seems to have any desire to chase them. I’ve got farm cats (you know, good mousers) on my wish list!

Remember my pics of asparagus? I stopped picking it when we got a couple hot days, and now the asparagus is on its way to ferning out. Here’s where it’s at:

asparagus 1 It’s branching out, and should be fully “ferned” out soon. I say “ferning” because when it’s mature, it looks feathery, like a fern. If you look, you can see an aparagus spear on the right side to compare.

And what’s summer without flowers? The lilac is long done blooming, and although I did take pics of my dad’s irises, I don’t have any at our place (though now that I think about it, I should).

The woods around our place smell wonderful this time of year because of the dame’s rocket that grows wild everywhere. It looks like wild flox, but I looked it up; I think the number of petals on the flowers is different. But they smell sooo good, like a cross between lilacs and petunias:

dames rocket1

And a close-up:
dames rocket2 And you’ve guessed it, I’m distracted by things other than writing. I’m behind on reading blogs, so don’t worry, I’m trying to catch up. I’ve got graduations to attend now that school’s out for the summer, so that’ll be my fun this weekend.

A good thing about the garden work, though, is the mental time I get, because weeding just doesn’t require a lot of thought. I figured out a crucial scene in my WIP, one that I knew I needed to add, but I just didn’t know where to put.

I had my “aha” moment while in the garden this week. After today’s jaunt to my niece’s grad party (an all-day thing because it’s a 2 1/2 hr drive there), and replanting my peppers (along with constructing an anti-chipmunk secondary fence and rigging the live traps), I’ll get back to my draft.

Hope your summer is starting off well. Some slacking on writing always happens this time of year, it seems, because this is when we like to enjoy the weather, but make time to write. I know I will, and before my Muse decides to do more than look menacing.

Happy Summer! Happy Writing!

PS: I know, I know, no pics of the chickens. They’re in the “nursery” pen right now, which isn’t good for taking pics, so I’m hoping my hubs and my son will move them into the big pen so I can get good pictures of them.


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Spring Distractions

I love spring. I mean, if I had a choice of an extended season, I’d pick spring. Most of the bugs aren’t out in force quite yet, the trees are that bright fresh green color, the grass is bold emerald (and needs to be cut already?!), and this:

lilac_cr

lilac flowers

I wish I could include the smell. I go out to the lilac bush and just inhale the scent. We only have one bush, the common lilac, but my dad has more varieties, including one that’s called a French lilac (I think). They all pretty much smell the same, they’re just different colors, for the most part. I hope they’re still blooming next weekend. My dad’s leaving on his annual Alaskan cruise, so I’m taking the opportunity for a couple weekends of writing bliss at his place. This year my aunt (a misnomer because she’s actually my uncle’s ex-wife, but still part of the family) and her sister are going with my dad and my uncle.

Oh, and this is another favorite part of the season:

asparagus_cr There’s nothing like fresh asparagus from the garden. Sooo yummy!

It’s getting to be about that time again, when the weather stays warm enough for the garden to be planted. Not that a person needs to wait until mid-May to plant (holy sh*t, it’s the middle of May already?! Damn, where did the time go? Wasn’t it just St. Patty’s Day?), but I really don’t want to think about covering anything that might die if we get any frost.

My hubby tilled the garden last night, so I’m planning to plant this weekend. Needless to say, I’m ready to get stuff in the ground; one less thing to think about. Then again, that means I’ll need to start weeding. Ugh. It’s almost depressing to see just how well weeds are growing already:

creeping charlie_cr

creeping Charlie

The infamous creeping Charlie. Luckily, not in my garden area … yet. It’s a member of the mint family, so it spreads, but it should also be edible. I’ll have to dig up (or make up) some recipes. Hey, might as well eat it to beat it, right?

My son is done with his freshman year of college and is now home and enjoying life with no homework. His girlfriend came over yesterday and helped him clean out the chick box and put in new bedding. She loves animals, and enjoyed helping (I think), even if the chicks aren’t all that cute anymore:

chicks 1_crchicks2_cr

It’s almost time to move them outside into a nursery coop, a smaller area than our regular coop to let them acclimate to being outside. Our one remaining hen has been by herself since late last year when a skunk managed to get into the coop area (hence the new chicks). We think she’ll be happy to have some company.

I’ve been procrastinating on writing (in case you couldn’t tell πŸ™‚ ). My agent asked me to make one more small revision, so I’ll do that this weekend and get the manuscript to her next week for the second round of submissions. I’m looking forward to a couple weekends away from distractions at home to work on my WIP.

So there’s the rundown. Light on the writing stuff, heavy on everything else helping me procrastinate. I need to buckle down; I’m getting into that itchy, irritable, agitated state of mind that develops when I don’t write enough. I keep thinking about my writing sisters reunion coming up in August. Ahh, to have a few days to think only about writing. I can’t wait!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy Mother’s Day to those who have kids, and to those who don’t, because you probably fill that place in someone’s life, even if they aren’t your own child.

Happy Writing!


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Painting the Idea Wall

One wall of my writing office is covered with a smooth, glossy surface, currently home to a Rorschach test of various colors. An indigo splotch is running down over a yellow stain to meet a red splat.

I stare at the chaos. There’s an idea I can keep. But that orange one over there is a dead end, I think.

“You know, love, you’d have better luck if you focused more.” My Muse closes the door behind him with a quiet snick.

Of course, he’s right. I drop the powder blue goop in my hand into the bucket of discarded ideas at my feet. It lands with a satisfying bloop. “It’s spring.” ‘Nuff said. The grass is getting green, my tomato plants are outgrowing the nursery “pots” I started them in, and it’s just plain nice outside, at least for the weekend. Sunny and seasonal.

I turn to see my Muse staring at the whiteboard. He’s tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, drawing my attention to his admirable backside. “No news this week?” he asks as he half-turns in my direction. An eyebrow arches. “What?”

Er, ahem. I hope my face isn’t as red as it feels. “Nothing.” I move up beside him. “My agent is on vacation for the next two weeks. Besides, I’m waiting for my readers to send me feedback.”

He crosses his arms on his chest and scans the multi-colored wall. “This looks good.” He points to a somewhat coordinated section of wall. “You can use this.”

“I know. I just need to refine it. I think it’ll jack the danger for my main characters if I go this direction. I just don’t know if I should keep this or not.” The area I indicate is a nice pattern, but I’m not sure if it’ll help the plot.

“It’s only the second draft, love. See how it works.” He settles into one of the recliners facing the wall, examining it like an art appraiser. He scoops a glob from the idea bucket and juggles it in his hand. “What if the drug lord grew up there? What if she knows the chief? Or the victim?” He flings the glob.

It lands with a splat beside the indigo. He picks up another handful. “That way no one would suspect her of doing her illegal business in town.”

Hmm. I draw my finger through the fresh goop and smear it across the indigo. “Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“You need to do more than just think about it, love.” He chucks a bright fuschia blob. It lands with a squish, then rolls down the wall in a thick, slime-like mass, leaving pink in its wake.Β  “You need to work through this plot sooner rather than later. The more you can get done sooner, the farther along you’ll be once you need it.”

And he’s right, of course. I drop into the other recliner. It’s coming together. I realized the other day how I can up the tension and conflict. Sort of.

While these ideas ferment, I’ll leave you with a few pics (because I know someone is expecting them–you know who you are πŸ™‚ )

Remember those fuzzy chicks? They’re not so fuzzy anymore. They’ve got real feathers now. And they’re starting to hop-flap, so we need to be careful when we feed them.

chicks 2_cr

And one of my favorite parts of spring is finally here! I can’t wait until they’re big enough to pick. Can you see the asparagus spears just coming up?

aspargus2

And I’d hate to leave you without a cat pic, because, you know. Some days I wish I was a cat. All I’d have to do is sleep all day long πŸ˜€

zoey1

Enjoy your weekend!


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Roughing It – 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating, writing, bringing characters in your mind to life on the page. When the energy propels you to get the words out, that story in your head takes shape. You can see the unfolding of the plot, the characters, the setting, every bit that is part of the whole. You can’t refine your work until it’s in front of you. Enter the first draft, better known as the rough draft.

I’m working on the first draft of my next novel, and hitting a stretch of frustration that my mental picture of the story wasn’t complete enough to make the draft a smoother ride. It’s not the characters; the book my agent is shopping introduces the characters. It’s not the setting, though I think I’ll have to do a road trip (twenty+ years since I’ve been there). It’s the plot. The timeline. The guideposts along the way.

I tried to outline, but I don’t think I had a clear vision of the story. With most of my other projects, by the time I got to the point of writing the first draft, I had a pretty good handle on them in my head. This one, not so much.

It occurred to me as I was trying to hit my word quota last night that I’ve learned some things over the course of thirteen novel first drafts. I figured I’d share them (don’t worry, there’s pictures at the end–but not of my cat πŸ˜‰ )

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts:

  • I’m a novelist. Not that I can’t write short stories–my first publishing credits were short stories–but the stories in my head tend to be novel-length: 80,000 words or more. It took me over five or six years to write the first draft of my first novel (not counting the trunk novel I wrote in elementary–jr. high school). I knew I wanted to write a book–actually, rewrite that first book–after my kids were born, but I didn’t want it to drag on until they graduated.

When I learned about NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days), I knew that was my ticket to finishing a book in a reasonable amount of time. The key to “winning” at NaNo? Kicking the inner editor into a cage and locking it (that’s besides the 1,667 words a day). I learned I need to treat a new project like I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, no matter what time of the year. It’s only with that 30-day deadline and a restrained inner editor that I’m able to put myself into the frame of mind to just write. It also seems to be the only way I can get back into the habit of writing every day.

  • I outline, in a loose-ish sense of the word. The outline is not the only route from beginning to end for me, but it gives me an idea of the journey. With my current project, I struggled with the outline. I came up with characters, conflict, and setting, but the path through from beginning to end was fuzzy, and it shows during my writing sessions. I’ve learned my draft goes much better when I have a good idea of the story (outline), BUT
  • I’ve learned the process of writing the first draft actually helps bring the story into focus. As I’m writing, I make both inline notes and off-line notes. This particular draft looks less like an actual book and more like a scriptwriter’s attempt to put a director’s vision into some sort of storyboard-in-words. The story is more clear to me now than it was when I started. Maybe that’s because my NaNo-style first draft method is a lot like free-writing. No takebacks, no revising, no editing, just inline notes and writing forward.
  • I’ve learned first drafts are called “rough” for a reason. It’s less like a rock you can polish into something to put in a ring and more like deadwood turned into a functional piece of furniture with class. Rough drafts are UGLY. At least this one is. I mentioned it to some online friends as “sucking like a lemon soaked in turpentine”. Yep. Pretty much. I will never be like George R. R. Martin, with a first draft that’s ready to publish right off the finish line. Then again, my draft takes 30 days to finish, not five or six or more years.
  • I’ve learned to trust my method (your mileage may vary). This project taught me that skipping steps in the beginning (I didn’t lay out a timeline, or figure out the major plot points (just thought about the general direction), or fill out my storyline worksheets from Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days) results in uncertainty and missing my word quota.

When I work through my process, I can often exceed my word count because I can just write. I don’t have to think about where I’m going next. I know I’m headed in the right direction because I plotted my course (heh, see what I did there) ahead of time. It’s like planning a route when you drive to a writers’ conference or retreat. You know pretty much how to get there, even if there are detours along the way. My process has changed over the years (more free-writing, less fill-in-every-entry-in-the-worksheets), but it works for me. This is the first time I got lazy (or uninspired) about planning/outlining, and boy, do I know it.

I’m on the home stretch. One more week (and I get an extra day this month because March has 31 days–heh), and I’ll have 50k words and a complete or almost-complete first draft for my next book. Then the scramble to prep for hosting the fam for Easter in — OMG — two weeks?! I’ve gotta get moving on that.

SO, I might miss my mark in the interest of not embarrassing myself with my in-laws. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a peek into my garden this summer.

IMG_0023_cr

onion seedlings

IMG_0022_cr

tomatoes and a few peppers

Have a great weekend!