Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tasting Memories

While it may sound unbelievable, when and where I grew up speakeasies were still in existence. I grew up in Southern New Jersey, what we call South Jersey, of Jersey Shore fame. As far as when, that rests with me. There were many fascinating things about visiting speakeasies with my parents, one of which is that my mother was learning to make her own alcoholic drinks. We went regularly to one which featured the white lightning of the owner and another featuring homemade wines.

My mother was a very idiosyncratic woman. She liked drinking the white lightning perhaps a bit too much. On the other hand, at the other speakeasy we’d visit, she quickly became captivated with the idea of making her own wine. From there, she went about going to antique shops, in the ‘olde’ town of Swedesboro, to find just the right crocks, as the vessel in which she’d make her wines.
To my untrained nose, her wine-making was a foul affair. What else could it be in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, so distant from what we know as wine country? Still, I saw care and love in her crafting of her simple country wines. She favored the local fruits, and though young, I still remember them, particularly her strawberry wine. Her wine-making stage lasted through my teenage years into college. She didn't mind giving me a taste every now and then for my opinion. What she didn't realize is I was tasting wine elsewhere, at parties out with my friends.

My palette wasn't educated, to say the least but perhaps this was the early beginnings of my wine tasting. Some may look down on fruity country wines such as those made with strawberries. Even at a young age, I could see there was a wide range in tastes in these wines. As I recall, my mother’s wine was at first sweet but then it took on a greater complexity.

I abhorred the sickeningly sweet, one note, cloying wines my friends would pick up. Her wine captured the smells that filled my senses on long car rides to town. Somehow she had picked out just the right strawberries from roadside farmer’s stands that while sweet, retained deeper notes that stabilized them. Most likely they were ultimately grounded by the earth in which they grew.

Her wine had something you don’t hear about a lot—it had heart, sprinkled with the depth and aromas created by the humus-tinged earth from which it was made. That fertile soil is what gives New Jersey its identity as the Garden State, yielding Jersey tomatoes and gorgeous eggplants. However educated I become in fine wines, my mind often wanders back to that homemade strawberry one created with love in simpler times by a person I love, long gone but not forgotten.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guest Post by Author Chrys Fey

This is a first for Stephanie's Studio. Please welcome Chrys Fey, who is our guest blogger for today. I met up with Chrys in April during the A to Z Challenge. With that challenge, bloggers posted every day of April on a topic built around the alphabet letter of the day. I'm not sure how I came across Chrys' blog. Perhaps it was through our mutual groups on She Writes. Immediately upon discovering her blog Write with Fey I was struck by the depth and breadth of her posts. Very generously, practically everyday, she posts helpful hints for writers. Her posts are informative, entertaining and engaging. You can tell she's beloved in the blogosphere because numerous people comment on her posts on a daily basis. If you're into writing, I highly recommend you visit her blog.

What Chrys and I have in common is not only our passion for blogging. We are also both authors. She has been prolifically publishing suspenseful novels. One of the groups she created on She Writes which I am a member of is Paranormal and Supernatural Writers. She daringly goes into the paranormal and supernatural in her thrillers. I love those genres, thus I wanted to feature and support her work here today, to coordinate with the release of her new book "30 Seconds." Without holding the floor any longer, here's the guest post by Chrys.

Hi, everyone! This is Chrys Fey. My newest release, 30 Seconds, is now available! A big thank you to Stephanie for having me on her blog today.

At the heart of all of my stories is romance. From Hurricane Crimes, which is full of suspense, to my supernatural-thrillers, there is always an underlying plot devoted to the wonders of love. I just can’t write a story without the romance element. It’s as important in my suspense and thrillers as action scenes.

I believe this comes from my love I started reading Danielle Steel at a young age, and after I read my first Nora Roberts’ book she became my invisible mentor. The love in their stories inspired me and impacted my writing forever. I’ve never had the type of love they write about, or even the type of love I write about, and that’s why I do it. We all long to feel love, but we may not get it or experience the type of romance we hope for. The act of writing romance into all of my stories lets me live it in some small way. And I hope the same can be said for those who read my stories.


When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he's made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He's determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob's death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart's life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she's dodging bullets, she's falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?

Buy Links: 

30 Seconds is her second eBook with The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Hurricane Crimes, is also available on Amazon.

Discover her writing tips on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook. She loves to get to know her readers!

Join Chrys Fey Online: 
Chrys Fey Facebook
 Write With Fey Blog

Chrys Fey is a lover of rock music just like Dani Hart in 30 Seconds. Whenever she's writing at her desk, headphones are always emitting the sounds of her musical muses -especially that of her favorite band, 30 Seconds to Mars, the inspiration behind the title.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcoming Change

It's been an interesting end to the summer. I've found work, as I shared previously, and it's meaningful to boot. The type of freelance writing jobs coming my way enhance rather than distract from the direction of my path. Even while working, I find myself deepening my spirituality and credit a lot of this to the Law of Attraction.

Before I even knew what the Law of Attraction was, I began to notice people popping in and out of my life in a way that suggested all of it served a purpose. In my line of work, which involved working with lots of different students, I connected in meaningful ways that were mutually beneficial because of this coming together. Lacking the words to describe this phenomena, I could only say we crossed each others paths for a reason. Years later, I read a book that changed life as I knew it called "The Secret."

Now that I understand the Law of Attraction and embrace its precepts more good is flowing in and negativity is swiftly departing. This in turn sparks an inner joy and feeling of satisfaction, as well as hope. Mere words can't describe the happiness this cleansing and purging flow creates.

Over the past few weeks I reread, probably for the 4th time, the seminal and inspirational book, "The Four Agreements" by don Miguel Ruiz. Swept up in its empowering Toltec wisdom, I began making more decisions this past weekend about how to restructure my life. Now, I'm deciding whether to do a structured year of deep reflection through meditation teacher training or to become a certified hatha yoga instructor. Next, I need to decide whether to do the training self-paced, as an at home study course or in person...decisions, decisions.

Meditation (see post Quieting Down the Monkey Mind) and yoga (see Tibetan Singing Bowls post) have been in my life since high school. Only recently have I heard the two call to me for deeper engagement and further commitment. All and all, the last quarter of the year into the next should prove to be interesting, full and enlightening.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Notes on Writing

Where have I been?

What have I been doing the past two weeks?

Making decisions, sorting things out, and as my last post suggests, moving forward.

While sometimes I imagine I've gone down the ubiquitous rabbit hole, what I've been doing is necessary. To grow is to change and changing takes place on a convoluted path in its own time.

As a writer and member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I gained some much needed courage. It may sound counterproductive but I quit a year long writing class that wasn't serving my needs. I'd been tortured about quitting it since the beginning. You have to apply for the class. Twice I was rejected but last year I was finally admitted. It's a small class that promises a lot. In the end I could see it was never going to deliver. Our teacher was disengaged all month and seemingly only thought about the class a few days before we were to meet (our meetings were once a month). The week I quit she asked us to read our entire novel (mine is 248 pages long) overnight, then print out the first 50 pages. We were also to read a chapter from our textbook that night before class. The 14 page long reading we were to critique was also posted within that same 24 hour period.

Can anyone say unrealistic?

I saw some of the other problems that slowly mushroomed the first day. It took 6 months to decide to call it quits. I wavered for a while afterwards about my decision. Now I'm certain I did the best thing. Instead of wasting my time in the wrong class I'm moving on. I'm sure there are other workshops out there that will be more useful. I'll let you know what I find.

Meanwhile, I've been sharpening my skills as a professional writer. Once upon a time I made my living as a development editor and content writer, then some things happened that shook my confidence. I stepped away from it for about 6 years. Guess what though? I've returned to that world. It came as quite a surprise but my skills are in high demand. In just a few short days after putting out my shingle I already have jobs!

What I'm saying this month to my fellow Insecure Writer's Support Group, is there's always hope.

 Change takes courage but it's good.

Don't become mired in doubt about what you have to offer the world.

Be adventurous and take chances.

You never know what you'll get in return.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Moving On

I am on my way somewhere. I think I have an idea of the destination but really I'm unsure.

I'm the type that likes to hold onto things. As a nostalgic person, I'm very resistant to throwing things out. I hold on to old letters, redundant email addresses and ancient digital files. Those should be the easy things to trash but they aren't. Then there are the larger items, clothing, shoes, coats and books. You don't even want to know the age of my collection.

This morning I had a novel idea. I decided to pack things up and give most of them away. The nicer things I'd put on consignment. "Where's all that stuff going?" My husband asked as I carried bag after bag out the front door. Away I said, feeling as though my stuff had found a different place to live and was moving out.

     When I reached the 25 pound weight-loss milestone I got what I thought was a clever idea. I began packing away clothing that was too big for me in chests and bins. Awaiting my attention were my clothing also packed away from leaner times. I admit now however that my efforts were lightweight at thinning out and packing away my clothes that were too big. Moreover, for what or for whom was I packing this stuff away so neatly? It took months to figure out the purpose.

I'm not a hoarder, still, since the "Hoarding: Buried Alive" TLC show is on the air, I had to check it out a few times just to make sure. I'm fond of my clothing. I carefully select each item in my wardrobe. Sometimes I'd saved up to purchase what I liked. Other times I'd go to thrift or consignment shops. Still other pieces were gifts. As I opened the door to the closet, I saw a lot of different elements of my life over the past 20 years. I saw gifts from my mother, who has passed on. I thought, this is what I wore to that important job interview a couple of years ago. Oh, and that dress was for transitioning from pregnancy to post-partum.This outfit was for my son's graduation and so it went as I worked my way through the closet.

So, my closet isn't all the way here yet. There are somethings I'm still
clinging on to. Gradually I'll get here.

What sparked this movement, you may be wondering?

Why shopping of course. This time it was unplanned. I was out with a friend, set to have lunch but the restaurant we were going to was closed. So we went to the nearby consignment store. 

Now, I've told you I'm nostalgic. This store was the perfect place for me. In it were all sorts of designer vintage clothing from the 50's and 60's. Instantly I was transported, to a time I mainly know about through my parents. I was very happy to be in that space. Low and behold I found the perfect outfit for the wedding I'm going to at the end of the month. A sheath--by Calvin Klein--in a watercolor print. In no time at all I had coordinated it with a vintage purse, bracelet and necklace.

The shocking part for me, wasn't just that I'd done that. You see, I'm not exactly what you'd call a fashionista. No, it wasn't the savvy part of putting it all together. It was that I could actually fit the dress. Somehow I had gone from a size 22 to a size 8!

I guess you can see now, why this woman who holds on to things for dear life knew that it was time to let go. Time for the big transition and to embrace mindfulness not just in meditation and yoga but in my closet.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dans le Jardin

Magick and great ashe stems from engagement with plants. Over the years I've come to regard them as a reservoir of healing, font of wisdom and source of creativity. Healing with plants is an important facet of holistic health. Herbs are quite capable of gracing the mind, body and spirit with age-old energetic insights that lead to wellness.

I've written a good handful, maybe more, of posts about gardening. Gardening as a pastime, a pleasure, a metaphor and a space for cultivating hopes and dreams.

Do you remember when I shared the post Seeding the Snow? That was in March and I was so relieved that spring was actually going to show its face after a long, hard Chicago winter. Still, winter was unrelenting so it seemed as though you'd have to plant in the snow. The snow didn't want to make an exit.

Then there was this post called Weeding, which focuses around the activity of gardening as a form of mind/body/spirit therapy. When I wrote "Weeding" I was stressed out. De-cluttering my garden through weeding, taught lessons about clearing up my life. I learned about keeping and cultivating what is meaningful and beautiful while casting out what isn't.

Meadow of Dreams was posted at the beginning of July. In it I talked once again about sowing seeds. As a gardener, I got off to a late start this year. Planting my seeds directly from packets sometime in June. "Meadow of Dreams" is about how we randomly plant seeds of all sorts never really knowing what the end result will be come harvest time. Tossing seeds is similar to spreading energy in the world. We need to be discerning but not necessarily reserved,if we want to make a broad impact.

In June, I planted a variety of sunflower seeds and tossed wildflower seeds about. I had spent about 10 days prior to that digging and double digging the earth, to condition the soil and get rid of my prairie grass. The mystery packet was quite large and was called "heirloom wildflowers." I had no idea what that really meant or what the end result would be.

As of this weekend, this is the result of my plantings. This garden brings joy to numerous insects, birds, my dog, rabbits, squirrels, and hopefully many others who walk and drive by. It is a source inspiration for my writing, painting, drawing and journaling, as well as a great place to get some exercise, and to dream.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blogging, Writing and Resting

(Untitled: Colored pencils on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

Whew! That was a busy post I did previously called Getting the Word Out There. I wrote it as a member of IWSG for our monthly blog hop. Thanks so much to so many new people for stopping by during that event, joining this blog as members and adding me to your circles on Google+. I have been humbled by all of the new connections I've made with fellow bloggers, readers, writers, artists and people generally this past year. I am a private and quiet person. Coming out of my den and connecting with the world once again has been an inspiration.

As I was busy blog hopping last Wednesday and Thursday as a part of the support group experience, I stumbled upon a post by a fellow member Gwen Gardner called Giving it Another Try. One of the most compelling parts of her post for me was that she posed the question to us, is blogging dead?

As an artist specializing in painting, I've heard that topic discussed numerous times over the years in regards to painting. Thinking of that experience I also created a guest blog post on Blogging Authors called Is Herbalism Dead. Let's face it, I'm no longer a spring chicken so a lot of what I had grown to love is going out of favor...but surprise, it comes back--take maxi dresses and platform shoes as an example.

(Untitled: Colored Pencil on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

When I started this post, I mentioned how I had retreated into my den. During that time I had little exposure to the blogs of others. I painted, wrote, reflected, and crafted with herbs, coming out to give presentations only now and then. It wasn't until this year that I really became involved with the blogging community. The 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge had over 2000 bloggers sign up and participate. The IWSG currently has close to 300 bloggers engaged. If these numbers are any indication of whether or not blogging is dying out I'd say it'll be around for quite a while.

Gwen makes some really important points in her post however that brought me back to the post I wrote on the same day. The point is, at the heart of what we're doing, we are creative people. Some, like myself, are creative in several different artistic disciplines, complicating things further. I'm not sure how to describe blogging's place in my life. Sometimes I consider it a pastime, hobby, pleasure or way to purge much like journaling. It is not perfect and isn't fixed, making it pleasurable, exciting and interesting for readers and bloggers alike.

Getting back to the previous post. In some ways it was about going down way too many rabbit holes. It makes me start thinking about Alice in Wonderland. How does one get back on the right path after wondering into previously unknown, little understood worlds?

(Untitled: Colored Pencil on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

Bloggers, many of which are also writers, face many challenges. One of the most significant is the question of where to place the most energy. Speaking of which, I've been heavily plugged in, unplugged entirely for a few weeks, and this week I've gone into hyper drive.

I know its not healthy to go too far in any one direction. I've done what was for me the hardest task, I looked in on my books. Saw their reviews, ratings, rankings, and my presentation of them to the world. I've updated, promoted, reached out and am pooped!

Tired...exhausted really but here I am back at blogging. I still can't really define blogging and its place in my life but for me it's here to stay. It's enjoyable and quite fun. Still, it's the weekend--thank the Goddess! I'm going to clear off my desk and busy thoughts to get some much needed rest.