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Blog – January 2023

NEW YEAR | FRESH OUTLOOK

Not sure about anyone else but I tend to exude a brighter attitude with a bit of pep in my step as the new year begins. Maybe it’s psychological knowing there are loads of days ahead to accomplish a few projects. Or better yet, perhaps it is the feeling of unburdening thoughts from yesteryear… out with the old, in with the new kind of scenario. Last year was a mix of bitter-sweet happenings so I was ready to turn the calendar over. No matter how I skid in on a more positive note, I’ve noticed a zippy, breezy newfound zest in my mindset.

So, what have I been up to over the holidays? Instead of taking pen to paper, I veered away from any WIP by consuming a handful of entertaining books. From historical romance to suspenseful mysteries, and of course, children’s literature, the variation of my TBR list offers a diversity of content to tingle-tangle my imagination. But when this lil’ cutie was delivered to my home over the holidays, well, all I could say was Eek! Read on…

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

EEK! My Ink! by Raven Howell, Illustrated by Anke Rappan

EEK! My Ink! by Raven Howell, Illustrated by Anke Rappen

Inspiring creativity in a bright world! Well, yeah! At a glance, what a playful, delightful cover — it pops! And just like a child’s, my peepers turned wide-eyed within seconds. I had a sneaky suspicion based on award-winning Author Howell’s previous rhyming books and poetry that this would be another winner!

In this whimsy, lyrical story with spurts of energetic curiosity and desires, children will feel encouraged by the artwork throughout. Filled with vibrant colorful hues of spills, splatters, sprays, and even sprinkled spots depicting one-of-a-kind artsy creations, watch the face of a child light up while admiring the unique inky images. Where nothing is perfect, yet everything is absolutely just right! Artist Rappan’s synergy with the author’s clever verses is sure to inspire a swirling imagination with each turn of the page. When the kiddos give it a whirl, they might just giggle at their brilliant masterpieces. Now that’s a sense of accomplishment… the fun crafty kind! Five-Star review. Great for any read-along or in conjunction with a painting activity for all young children.

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is a simple no-nonsense perspective of my reading experience.

Photo Contest Corner

Results from the previous photo challenge: Oct | Nov | Dec #2022picoftheweek… I got a BINGO! How fun!

Check out my posts on Saturdays with the story behind each snapshot on Instagram @thebrookelynnadventures or @tobyawilliams.

New contest for Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr #2023picoftheweek with the first Saturday post indicated below. Excellent that it went to four months vs three… new prompts, and more time to get a Bingo!

THEME | Your Sky | On a rather bleak and blustery day, the stark atmosphere prompted a stir inside me. As I pulled my collar up around my neck, I stared up toward the clouds. My eyes followed the gray masses moving at a rapid pace. It was then that I spied a single crow perched high up in a bare tree. Long gone were the leaves or any sign of life except this lone dark creature. I didn’t shoot this photo in black and white, but it did appear reminiscent of an old eery flick ala Alfred Hitchcock. And I believe, at that moment, the view and the sky belonged to the crow. It’s your sky, blackbird, all yours.

Note: I am not affiliated, only a participant, with the above-referenced photo challenge created by @ofmariaantonia.

Gratitude Granules

One of my close girlfriends presented a 90-day challenge to a group of us at a recent Christmas get-together. When she handed out the gifted journals, we were then asked if this was something we’d entertain for the new year? Simply put, we’d have to be accountable regarding our progress once a week via zoom. I gladly accepted. I mean, I’m always game for growth in improving my well-being, especially through a positive attitude, and strengthening self-awareness. I will keep you posted as to my stick-to-itiveness of the challenge. Heck, I might even gain some insightful messages to pass along.

If you follow me on my Instagram @thebrookelynnadventures or @tobyawilliams, you may have seen a sampling of my food-for-thought quotes already. It lets me know how my head is screwed on for the day!

Christmas Snippets 2022

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Blog – December 2022

Joy to the World

| Santa Claus is coming to town… little Brooke Lynn can’t wait until St. Nick comes down the chimney. Even her mom got in the spirit by baking fresh cookies and setting out a glass of milk just for one jolly bearded friend! What a joyful tradition to read My Lil’ Santa Visit during the holidays. Let kindness jingle a few bells around every grateful heart just like it has for Brooke Lynn.

Excerpt from My Lil’ Santa Visit

Soon Santa winked with his wide grin,

“Let’s see your list,” he rubbed his chin.

I watched him read, “So, you would like-

for Mike, good health, and you, a bike?”

“A bike to visit so he’ll see,

 he’s not alone, and friends are we.”

I then said, “Santa, beyond wealth,

I wish him strength and better health.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our hearth to yours.

Brooke Lynn and our team wish everyone a joyous sugar plum season. Have a splendid time with family and friends… deck the halls, dance with Santa, sparkle under the mistletoe, and may the holidays overflow with catch-your-breath moments. Cozy cheers to all!

-Toby A. Williams, author of The BROOKE LYNN Adventures and Mysteries

Blog – November 2022

Fall Into Family

| Do you decorate the front porch, staircase, or dining table? Or, do you tend to leave it with the same motif (if any) year-round? Spellbound by this photograph, I imagined an offer coming forth such as “Entrer Vous.” If only my front doorstep was as intriguing! Snapping out of my trance, my peepers ascended the steep stairway in the image toward the burnt crimson front door and rustic brass knocker. The variety between pumpkins, gourds, flowers, cranberry garland, and sprigs of greenery make this a fabulous transitional entryway before the December holidays. Inspirational ideas for a table centerpiece perhaps.

FALL DECORATING IDEA | Photo by Sasha Prasastika on Pexels.com

And on the decorating note, while I’ve still got Georgia on my mind from a recent trip, I witnessed a spiced-up porch and entryway at my niece’s abode! Stepping over the threshold, I felt very much at home. My eyes pivoted to the right catching sight of a Fall-inspired table centerpiece. It was nice to see my sister had passed along the decorating tradition. And the visit had just begun!

Between the four-year-old’s exuberance at everything new, decorating for Halloween, endearing conversations about family past and present, along with a few silly games, the initial welcome mat had done the trick. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention nephew Tracy’s delectable grilled entrees each evening. My mouth is still watering from the gastro delights. With a couple of side excursions out and about, this auntie hasn’t stopped grinning at her fortune. What a comfort to spend time with precious relatives. I’m already planning next year’s trip. #gratefulauntie

Perspective

| During my recent family visit, we ventured out to the Callaway Plantation in Washington, GA, about a 45-minute drive from their home. Albeit a two-fold trip, both educational and the annual Mule Day celebration, an encounter with a middle-aged woman is something I will never forget. It’s a story unto itself.

As the girls and I meandered past and around several smaller cabins that housed the slaves and their families, in and out of various structures, I spotted an African-American woman kneeling on the pine straw off to the side of one of the cabins. I watched her brush her hand over the straw, just skimming the dirt. Her head was slightly bowed. It sent my mind adrift. Is she possibly praying? It stirred a sympathetic feeling as my mind wandered but the kiddos proceeded to break my train of thought with sheer excitement. They pointed to the main residence just ahead eager to have a look inside.

Eventually passing through the crowds, we made our way to the second story to view the upstairs bedrooms. While waiting our turn in line, something niggled at me to turn around. The same woman I had noticed kneeling was standing all alone behind me. Her mood appeared a bit somber but not distraught. When the children and I were finished peering in the last room, I turned towards her and our eyes met.

“I noticed you kneeling by the last cabin. Were you praying?” She nodded as her eyes started welling up.

I continued, “Are you all alone?”

A tear dropped from the corner of her eye as she clutched a hand to her chest. Her gasp was visible. She looked like she was about to crumble. I leaned in to offer her a hug and she reciprocated.

“Thank you. Yes, I came by myself up from Atlanta,” she said.

When she paused for a brief moment, I was surprised when she continued.

“My great-great-grandfather lived in that same cabin where you saw me kneeling. Because of him, here I am,” she said with unexpected honesty.

The gratitude she expressed for her ancestor was obvious when her once tear-riddled cheeks dried up and brightened into a smile. Perhaps there was an acceptance of his perseverance but certainly, there was a newfound admiration.

After a few seconds of standing with outstretched arms, I slowly inhaled and steadied myself. The magnitude of her story surged through me. I thanked her for sharing the purpose of her solo trek and intimate story. Both knowing it was time to move on, I wished her well on her journey.

I caught up to my nieces waiting for me at the base of the stairs. They were more than curious.

“Who was that woman? What were you talking about?”

The little ones are still a bit too young to fully understand, but one day maybe they’ll remember this visit. With a broad grin, I kept it brief.

“It was an unbelievable encounter, girls. Long, long ago, her family lived in one of those small cabins. She shared quite an emotional and personal story.”

“Aunt Toby, you were meant to be there for her,” the eldest niece said.

I’ll never know why our paths crossed but it’s always nice to find an extra shoulder when necessary.

We retraced our steps past the butter churners, blacksmiths, shops, and mules en route to our vehicle. Lagging a few paces behind, I reflected on that encounter. My oh my, how times have changed, and thank goodness! I felt privileged to have a beautiful, strong woman confide in me. What a personal life-changing event!

#genuineperspective

Photo Challenge Corner (double-header)

Theme | Perfect Shot

| There is nothing so rewarding as watching a child jump for joy after comprehending the knack of the game. As though she was a champion, my camera caught the candid exhilarating cheer of yeah just as Hannah’s golf ball plopped in the cup. Each hole at the Putt-Putt mini golf center was met with much of the same, a contagious enthusiasm. For that, I had to call this pic the Perfect Shot, both in sportsmanship and the impromptu lens capture. (She did manage to get a hole-in-one a couple of holes later. Champ!)

Theme | Doorway

| Meandering past the mules at the plantation, the blacksmith’s pounding pierced our chatter. Something as simple as shoes for a mule or horse piqued the girls’ interest. To comprehend the iron-forged horseshoes were to be placed on the hooves was a big leap for the youngsters but soon formed a new understanding of the process. Educational for sure! Later when I reviewed my photos, I realized the barn doorway height behind the blacksmith was rather tall. Peering deeper, I wished we had been allowed inside since the second-story window indicated it was a much larger barn than originally thought. The possibility of antiquated tools and equipment hanging from the rafters and along the side hooks stimulated Toby the Explorer. A good ole dusty building filled with treasures handled centuries ago would have sent my snooping into overdrive.

To view ALL Saturday #2022picoftheweek photo challenge posts, visit my Instagram account @thebrookelynnadventures or @tobyawilliams.

Note: I am a participant only and not affiliated with the weekly photo contest created by @ofmariaantonia.com.

We are grateful for your visit to our site today. May the season of Thanksgiving bring the gift of comfort to you and yours!

Blog – October 2022

Fall Foliage

| An array of scintillating, vivid leaves in their last phase of existence harkens a mellow mood, almost an image of loss. But there is no despair in a leaf’s life. Cascading leaves are an expression of an eventual rejuvenation beneath the guise of the cool Fall months. While I stared at this image, I was struck with inspiration to write a short story, Whispering Leaves, referencing the autumn foliage. You see, the abundance of distinctive hues in the pigment worked its law of attraction on me. So, if the leaves could spout a story, I think the whimsical tale from the dried organic matter might sound playful and light.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

Whispering Leaves | By Toby A. Williams

Rejoice, for we are as eye-catching and fragrant as our sweet blossom friends. Our fresh musty odor ascends from the dampened mossy earth as a subtle invitation to our autumn jubilee. Rustle a pile together, then send adrift to dance in lofty play. Listen in silence to catch our whispers in the stinging breeze. The murmur is the assurance that our trusty bark-encrusted fortress shall weather many mighty storms. The main taproot at the core now rests beneath a blanket of our fallen. When the supple spurts of foliage lay upon each aging limb, a glistening light will signify the dawn. Step in nearer to the swaying low bough with tenderfoot and ogle at the beauty of our petite petals springing anew. Soon, we shall flutter and flit, then rejoice again.

(Minor) Pet Peeve | Foliage (fo-li-age, /fol(e)ij/), and the mispronunciation of same. Remember the ‘i’ in the middle. Let me know if you have this pet peeve too. #postiveandpithy

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

All is Bright by Clay Anderson

Yes indeed, another brilliant children’s story by bestselling author Clay Anderson. Based on his previous heartfelt picture book, This I Know, a highly acclaimed treasure, I had a sneaking suspicion his new literary work would be another winner and I wasn’t disappointed!

My initial reaction to the endearing and vibrant cover drew an excited smile. As I read on, the fluidity of the illustrations consistent throughout the story confirmed my exuberance as a bit of warm nostalgia set in. Oh, the carols we sang each year! The terrific working relationship between collaborators is quite apparent. The talented illustrator, Natalie Merheb, not only enhanced the biblical depiction of the holy night but made it easier to follow along with the smoothly penned lyrical tale. The familiar verses from the classic Silent Night are subtly dispersed among the poetic lines.

A divine message unfolds when the journey proves almost too difficult for Mary and Joseph. Guided by shepherds, the holy spirit, and the stars above, the weary travelers trudge with purpose toward the bustling town ahead. Upon entering the town of Bethlehem, there lays hope that the din of day will settle into silent night. They pray for shelter and are overcome when kindness is extended by one villager. For on this night, God has shown them that all is calm all is bright as they await the birth of baby Jesus.

The lyrics to Silent Night are included in the back of All is Bright and may start a new Christmas tradition for you and yours just like the author’s family. A feel-good Christian story I highly recommend for children of all ages!

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is a simple perspective of my reading experience.

Photo Challenge Corner

PREVIOUS CHALLENGE – July / August / September (BINGO!)

I did it! Got a Bingo on the diagonal, plus a few extra posts. Creative expression and interpretation of art, no matter the shape or form. The mystery to me… what I see isn’t necessarily what others view. It’s baffling at times! Yet as my mind’s eye interprets what I’m admiring, the photo lens along with the back story conveys my imaginative interpretation.

JUL / AUG / SEP Contest Themes

NEW CHALLENGE – October / November / December

#2022picoftheweek – the behind-the-snapshot description is indicated in each post. My utter shutter fun can be found on my Instagram account @thebrookelynnadventures.

OCT / NOV / DEC Contest Themes

Note: I am a participant only and not affiliated with the photo challenge created by @ofmariaantonia.

Early Shoppers | Gift Idea

What reviewers are saying about My Lil’ Santa Visit

A Must Read * My Lil’ Santa VisitThis book is great for families… or teachers on days when they read a story to students in class or online. Bring some Brooke Lynn into the lives of everyone. Five Golden stars! -Fran Lewis, Just Reviews

What a sweet and wonderful book, just in time for the holidays. My Lil’ Santa Visit (The BROOKE LYNN Adventures Book 5)” by Toby A. Williams, illustrator, Corrina Holyoake, and editor, Susan Campion did a beautiful job with this tale… I highly recommend this story for young readers to enjoy. There are even some special treats in the back of the book that will bring them further joy. –Rosie Russell, author, illustrator, blogger

The true meaning of Christmas is a fun rhyming story for young readers. An enjoyable Christmas tale to snuggle up and enjoy with the young kids in your life. -Kinsman Bookworm Gang

My Lil’ Santa Visit features the holiday time adventures of Brooke Lynn, while visions of sugar plums danced in her head as she worked to get the message of sharing to all. A very important and sweet message with adorable illustrations. -Kid Reader

Happy frolicking Fall to you all! There’s no trick… it’s been a treat sharing our newsletter with you today.



Fall Flowers | Photo by Toby A. Williams

Blog – September 2022

WORD | Contemplation

| This fun watercolor illustration came to mind earlier this year when a period of self-reflection seemed fitting and healthy. During my leisure time of contemplation, a comfortable perspective surfaced and the healing began.

Another recent event occurred which wasn’t life-changing but worth pausing for a minute. A simple milestone of sorts arose. You see… I recently turned six and one-half decades old. I thought I might feel a surreal numbness, maybe even a slight annoyance once this senior rite of passage hit. Instead, I felt no significant change, just business as usual. I woke up at dawn (yup, I’ve always been an early riser), brewed a pot of coffee, and stepped outside to contemplate the day ahead. But like a scratching needle across an old vinyl LP, the age-old sentiments jarred my peaceful being, then fluttered randomly around my quieted brain! The unwanted thoughts kept streaming on an endless reel as though in mockery.

Age is just a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Now you are eligible for senior discounts. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You’re older and wiser.

As I flicked the pesky thoughts aside, I realized none of them altered my steadfast concept of aging. Perhaps it’s because I’m now more accepting of what I can’t change. Another angle — everyone ages differently. Huh! There’s no smooth, undisturbed pathway. It’s more like a cumbersome trail with a few rocks strewn about in the dirt. “Watch your step,” I mumbled crossing the threshold into the house.

Okay-okay, I’ll admit a bit of vanity… I could do with fewer mug creases. But maybe it’s more about growing up rather than simply growing older. Now that’s something I can grab onto with a sense of ease. Contentment through contemplation. #positivevibes #youngatheart #wordofthemonth

Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been.

Jimmy Buffett

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

A multi-dimensional account of an extraordinary trial within the sleepy town of Neapolis, where not much changes except the ebbing tide. Rape is ferocious and horrid in and of itself, but NEVER in Neapolis, now the epicenter of local and national news. Shockwaves traverse through the core of the weathered seaside village. The thrilling crime drama is told through the three narrative lenses of Hannah, Rachel, and a podcast script (also by Rachel).

In the first few paragraphs, I experienced several gulps and a hard swallow before moving on to the next page. I may or may not have been holding my breath. Let me preface my dramatic uncertainty by stating this is not my usual genre. I rarely seek thriller fiction, especially from an author I’ve never read before. Based solely on a friend’s recommendation, the apprehension was real. In a blink, however, I was strangely fascinated by the almost in-your-face menacing attitude Hannah exuded in the opening narrative. I wanted to know more about her edginess. By the end of the first chapter, I could not put it down!

It was Jenny’s death that killed my mother. Killed her as good as if she’d been shot in the chest with a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Hannah Stills- 1st opening lines, Page 1

Overview

Prior to arriving in Neapolis to cover the local rape trial, Rachel Krall, a popular podcaster with the hit show Guilty or Not Guilty, receives a mysterious handwritten letter from a stranger. It’s penned by an unfamiliar woman, Hannah Stills, who claims to be a fan of the podcast. In an emphatic plea to investigate her sister’s accidental drowning 25 years ago, Hannah begs Rachel not to dismiss her query. But it’s the disturbing fashion in which the note was delivered that has Rachel spooked. Is Hannah a stalker, fan, or lunatic?

In order to prep for her live show, Rachel sets out to get the vibe of the locals and their shops. But in a true stalker-like pattern, Hannah leaves another cryptic letter in a precarious location insuring Rachel will find it. The reporter’s shoulders twitch several hitches as she peruses the contents of the new note. Creeped out by the anonymous author, the elusive story about Hannah’s sister, Jenny, leaves more questions than sensible facts about the town’s past. More importantly, why dredge this all up now?

As Rachel forces the redirection of her thoughts, the primary topic for her show’s third season is about to commence. The victim in the trial, Kelly Moore, a 16-year-old honor student, and granddaughter of the town’s retired police chief, has accused a fellow student of the crime. The Moore family is well-respected and revered by all, yet the speculative murmurs swirl around town. The alleged sexual assault has left Kelly ashamed, housebound, and mentally locked up. The accused high schooler and super jock, Scott Blair, is the most promising athlete to come out of Neapolis. His swimming achievements and training discipline have all but assured him a spot on the Olympic swim team. Regardless of their innocence, it’s now up to the legal experts to prove each of their cases and for Rachel to report the facts to her loyal audience.

While Rachel’s reporting of the Moore-Blair trial has taken center stage, Jenny Still’s old case file has uncovered enough dangling clues that reveal a possible suppression of material. Shaken by her instinctual persistence to dive deeper, Rachel plays tug of war between sitting for hours through the current court proceedings and the desire to sniff around in search of old pertinent leads! With mounting pressure from the podcast producer, Pete, she must stay the course on the current trial or potentially lose their coveted top spot. In a frantic tailspin to get through the lies and deception, Rachel pursues a threadbare hunch that could cost her more than her #1 hit show!

A fast-paced, concisely written novel, and one I would highly recommend. Five Golden Stars!

Toby A. Williams, award-winning author, and blogger

Thank you to Author Goldin for clarifying my notion about the silent caged nightingale in the hotel lobby. The tender bird’s symbolism did not go unnoticed. It added an indirect emotional fervor between the pages.

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is a simple perspective of my reading experience.

Photo Challenge Corner

Theme: Choose Your Own Prompt | “Archway Shadows”

“Archway Shadows” | Photo by Toby A. Williams
| #2022picoftheweek | September 10, 2022

Enamored by the structural design of arches with complimentary stonework (old or replicas), I discovered this interesting shadowy entrance to a courtyard on my morning walk a few months back while up North. I was alerted by a movement in the shadows just beyond the wrought-iron gate so, I stepped in closer. This is the part in the scary movie when everyone says out loud, “Don’t go in there!” My eyes darted around with hesitation mounting. A hat, perhaps a cape? What is it? A bit skittish, I sipped on my to-go coffee by the curb while admiring the brick-ladened archway. As I stared, it became evident that the shadow was a simple silhouette of a nearby swaying tree and not someone lurking out of sight. Silly girl! The early mellow rays warmed my back and a calming wave rippled my loose shirt. A quick snapshot was required of me before heading on my way.

To view ALL Saturday photo posts, visit my Instagram @thebrookelynnadventures / @tobyawilliams.

Note: I am a participant only and not affiliated with this photo challenge created by @ofmariaantonia.

Thanks for peeking into this month’s newsletter. Happy and grateful September to all!

Blog – August 2022

End of Summer Blues or Bliss

| Pretty wild, huh? It’s almost a blur since the summer is going so quickly. Does the end of summer bring on a sense of comfort knowing the school year lies ahead or is it more like a slow creep to unwelcomed shorter days? For me, I like seasonal change even if it’s ever so slight. The change is minor in SoCal from one season to the next. I realized there are still quite a few warm days left, but I sense a fictitious finality to the summer when the kiddos start strolling to school.

Not sure if it’s just me but I have never fully understood the vast and varying schedules across the country regarding when the first day of school officially begins. In Cali, it is all over the place. My niece’s school is one such district in Georgia that forms the first week of August, then concludes at May’s end. In New Hampshire as a child, I remember school starting right after Labor Day. We’d attend classes through most of June unless we had fewer Snow Days. In that case, we’d get out earlier than anticipated… what a treat! But August? It is baffling.

No matter the level of willingness to return, when the school bell beckons in each respective region, eager minds will start the learning process again. So, while teachers and homeschoolers scurry around town in preparation to get a handle on their gear and supplies, here’s an oldie but goodie teacher tip. About 1-1/2″ wide tape will do and it’s sure to save some sanity in the case of the missing marker cap at the end of class. What a genius hack! Boom – solved!

Marker Cap Saver – Teacher Tip
MY LIL’ FIRST SCHOOL By Toby A. Williams / ISBN: 978-0-9600499-6-7

Be Brave! The first day of school is an exciting one filled with anxious thoughts and fearful moments. Being inclusive of others, kind, sharing, and keeping a positive attitude throughout the day, helps Brooke Lynn ease into her new environment. Tag along with adorable little Brooke Lynn as she walks through the big front doors of My Lil’ First School. Bonus discussion material included. Hurry, get your copy… there’s the school bell!  Royal Dragonfly Book Award 2020 | Honorable Mention for Picture Books-Age 6 and Older.

Wishing happy educators and students book loads of uplifting discoveries in this year’s session.

Photo Challenge Corner

Theme: So Hot

“MUY CALIENTE!” | Theme: So Hot | Photo by Toby A. Williams | #2022picoftheweek | July 30, 2022

What prompted the shutter click?

One of the cool things about living in SoCal is spotting a small Mercado or local farmer’s roadside stand along any of the dusty back roads. An abundance of seasonal fruits and veggies are proudly displayed on makeshift shelving. Colorful berries, beans, and the like spill over onto the floor (or dirt) creating the proper balance to the family-run rustic experience. It’s just as it should be – inviting, earthy, and fresh! Although most of the produce is familiar to me, occasionally I seek out unusual, foreign, or unique selections for recipe ideas.

Last week, I pulled over on a whim while driving by one of the local Mercados. As I perused the rows of veggies, the unmarked waxen greenies in the photo were perched at the very far end of the pepper aisle. Albeit unlabeled, they are just chili peppers, right?! At first glance, the ripening orange and yellow shades of these tongue-scorching chilis nipped my attention. But then I spotted it! Do you see the little red guy down in the lower right corner tucked below the others trying to be sneaky? It hid underneath for safekeeping as though in waiting for an unsuspecting chili newbie to happen along. And then, aha, gotcha! No matter… these are probably Muy Caliente! SO HOT! btw-My husband enjoys a bit more heat, you know the kind that makes your nose sweat! I like a milder chunky style with lots of lime juice and cilantro.

It’s a hoot trying to use the Themes below; I’m going for a BINGO. If you’d like to follow my photo posts, visit Instagram @thebrookelynnadventures / @tobyawilliams.

#2022picoftheweek / Photo Challenge / Theme Prompts

Note: I am a participant only and not affiliated with this photo challenge created by @ofmariaantonia.

Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.

Simon Sinek

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

LOLA, the Bracelet of Courage by Sarah Cullen & Carmen Ellis

First things first — this delightful picture book is lovingly dedicated to one brave little girl named Lola who lost her battle with brain cancer in April 2021. The book’s main character honors this youngster’s tenacity, enjoyment of the ocean waves, and spunky spirit of life. What a strong uplifting undercurrent to this tale’s namesake! (gulp)

Inspired by their love of the ocean, two Australian moms, Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis (who also happen to be sisters) teamed up a few years ago to create the bestselling, highly-acclaimed PB series, Ocean Tales Children’s Books. As with the entire collection, this clever, well-written rhyming “tail” is sure to find its way into your heart as well. Filled with vibrant and striking illustrations by the award-winning illustrator, Zuzana Svobodova, Lola’s luminescent tail almost appears to be moving! The artistry is stunning and unlike any other — a signature style of Zuzana. Mesmerizing from cover to cover!

My overview of this alluring tale…

Young Lola is an adventurous, brave mermaid, um… that is… once dad gifts her a special seashell bracelet. He mentions it will protect her and fill little Lola with courage whenever she feels overcome with fear. Fierce Lola never takes off her sparkly wristlet – ever!

On one exciting solo excursion, Lola becomes lost far, far away from home, and soon notices she is without her magical bracelet! Where could she have lost her special gift? (gulp) She searches high and low while attempting to swim back to familiar waters, but Lola grows weary and frustrated in the uncomfortable surroundings. Trying her best not to panic, she encounters several strange sea creatures and endless unique underwater delights. When Lola decides to keep moving forward even without her mystical wristband, she hopes she can complete her journey home. But just as the young swimmer gains momentum, her prickly fear trickles back in. Will the tired mermaid find the courage to persevere through unknown underwater terrain? A joyful, invigorating story for little mermaids and minnows alike!

I found myself cheering Lola toward victory with each turn of the page. Snatch a copy of LOLA, the Bracelet of Courage, and discover how Lola maneuvers the twisting and tangled path of uncertainty! Psst – Fun fishy facts are at the deep end of the story.

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is a simple perspective of my reading experience.

End of Summer Bliss | Photo by Bella White on Pexels.com

Let us know your thoughts about the Book Review or any part of this newsletter. We enjoy reading the comments! Thank you for spending this morsel of your day with us. Happy August to all!

Blog – July 2022

Independence Day

(USA)

Fireworks Display / Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Happy 4th of July!

| For as long as I can remember, any fireworks show I’ve watched conjures up wonderful childhood memories of the old stadium in the North End of town. It’s where we gathered together as a community arriving early at dusk to get the best seats, then we’d wait in the semi-dark for what seemed like hours. Finally, the first flare rocketed high above into the night air followed by the Ba-BOOM. We’d crack our necks upwards in unison in anticipation of more. Nobody dared look away, not even for a moment. It was also just about the time that the mosquitos began their feeding frenzy exposing unwelcomed welts on our dampened skin. The thunderous vibrations and ear-piercing bangs were so powerful that hands covered many young ears! Oohs and aahs resonated throughout the crowd. The splattering blasts of brilliance decorated the dark backdrop of the evening skies. What a sight! The thrill never grows old.

The significance of Independence Day was something we all seemed to understand early on. After all, New Hampshire’s state motto, Live Free or Die, symbolized the importance of our liberties. The Declaration of Independence was taught in every history class and we didn’t question the bravery of those who fought for our freedom. We said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning in school, respected our proud veterans, and believed it was an honor and a privilege to live in this country.

Decades later, I try my best not to take these liberties for granted. I remind myself to practice gratitude to the best of my ability each day, no matter what. Not perfectly… just keep practicing.

#peacefuleasyfeeling #jublilantjuly #sharingkindness #thankavet #freedom #gratefulmindset

Honest to goodness, every single day is a chocolate day. No need for a holiday, excuse, or invitation! : )

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When You Leave Me by Susan Wingate

As an avid reader of Susan Wingate’s award-winning, bestselling novels, I was eager to jump into her newest release, When You Leave Me. After a brief ponderance about the novel’s title and the omnipotent light above the eerie cloud formations on the cover, my inner detective was alerted. I allowed these nuances to dance around for a bit. Was this a chilling mystery fraught with regret? Or was it more about a protagonist accepting fate based on a tragic love story? With no clue and antsy to get started, I stood in the middle of the room with pinched brows and opened my ebook.

Within the first chapters, a quaking series of events involving untimely circumstances rattled my conscience and upended my logical reasoning. Author Wingate strikes a balance with a heavy but tender health issue, the cruel disease of Dementia, and chilling plot development. So, I finally sat all the way down and cozied up with the comfy characters to sate my curiosity. Here’s my take…

The stark progression of dementia swallowing her once-virile, handsome husband, Larry Michaels, and the obvious strain placed on Jamie as wife/caregiver begs the ultimate endearing question to oneself… in sickness and in health, right? Over the months, the guilt-ridden feelings of imposition magnified and clawed at their sacred vows. Still, Jamie’s aching love for this charismatic fella was like oxygen – necessary for her soul and existence.

After returning to a darkened home from a routine book club meeting one evening, a panicked Jamie calls out to her beloved repeatedly but to no avail. Possibly Larry has just wandered off again! (gulp) When questioned by Detective Rob Rimmler about her missing husband, Jamie becomes acutely aware of just how small Friday Harbor is and that gossip travels fast. Everyone knows everything in her cove including Rob! It’s usually the spouse… a presumed scenario repeated by Liv, her successful crime-writing BFF. Only serving to pile on another dimension of morbid sadness, this searing notion propels Jamie into a debilitating state of fear. Somehow, she must stay strong!

The simplest of things in her surroundings like a single moth encircling the exterior light, a nearby web being spun, or the distant rustling treetops temporarily alleviates Jamie’s reeling thoughts. Barely calm enough to answer Detective Rob’s probing queries, her eyes drift back and forth between the interrogator and an unaware insect. Just breathe.

The moth had disappeared. Had the spider snagged it?

Excerpt from Chapter Two, When You Leave Me.

As the Search & Rescue crew scours the area, another dire thought surfaces — time is of the essence when a person goes missing. The investigation drags on. Jamie’s deteriorating, frazzled appearance delivers the nugget necessary to feed the rumor mill rats lurking about. Was the happy couple truly okay? A consideration that her dear husband would show up with a bewildered smirk on his face, wondering what the fuss was all about, kept hope afloat. When suspicion heats up in the ensuing weeks, Jamie’s paranoia deepens.

To make matters worse, the lead investigator, Rob, is relentless in conveniently stopping by her home unannounced. On one such unsolicited visit, he informs Jamie that a foot has washed up on shore and she’ll need to identify whether the shoe belongs to Larry. Dread consumes the anxious wife as she prays it’s not his! But by this point, Jamie isn’t sure who she can trust. She questions the loyalty of the close-knit townspeople she’s known for decades and even her longtime book club friends!

A Then and Now format, pre-and post-missing husband narrative between chapters was easy to follow. From a healthy couple seemingly content with their aging years in Friday Harbor to newly uncovered clues bound to shed light on her husband’s disappearance, Jamie is forced to trudge down an unanticipated muddied, and thorny path. But can she endure what lies ahead?

Author Wingate showcases an impressive, intimate knowledge about Alzheimer’s and Dementia by cleverly threading the rawness of each into inconspicuous and unsuspecting twists.

Fast-paced with an intense edginess… well-worth the read!

When You Leave Me

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is a simple no-nonsense perspective of my experience in reading this novel.

And there were flowers everywhere…

Magnificent Natural Beauty / Photos by Toby A. Williams

Thanks for stopping by to spend a bit of time with us today.

Blog – June 2022

Summer Break Time

School is outso, now what?!

| The end of the school session means graduation parties, vacation excursions, summer camp, swimming, BBQs, iced beverages, beach picnics, and road trips. As I toss around my own schedule, I am reminded that the dog days of summer zip by quickly but there was a time when the days seemed to stretch on forever as though they were endless. No matter where your journey takes you over the summer, do try to be safe and spread a little kindness along the way.

So, what’s everyone up to during the school break? Share your special hobbies and creative ideas for beating the summer doldrums in the Leave a Reply box at the bottom of this Blog. Will it be full of adventure in hopes of eluding boredom or spans of deliberate do-nothing days? For me, I tend to look at the clock a little less and take more self-care time.

Flag Day

A bit of history on the subject… but only because my brain was alerted and pushed me to dig deeper into consuming just a mere sliver about Old Glory, our American flag. I won’t go on and on regarding ALL the history but here’s a touch of trivia.

Why celebrate our flag every June 14th of all days?

USA National Flag / Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

The holiday commemorates the date in 1777 when the United States of America approved the design of its first national flag. Since that time, there have been several flag variations but the current design was approved in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower… over 60 years ago.

So, on this glorious day, fly a flag, thank a veteran for their service to our country, or recite “I, pledge allegiance…” and pause for a grateful moment. Reflect on the freedom this symbol represents.

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The House at Strone by Claire Nielson

First things first, I would be negligent in not mentioning that the hand-sketched illustrations throughout were created by the author, including the detailed artwork on the vibrant cover. It drew me in as though a challenge had been presented. What was the significance of such a grand structure along the shores at Strone? Much to my delight, it didn’t take long for me to discover the answer. The first few pages clutched my desire to read on by intricately laying out the close-knit family dynamic. A touch of nostalgia sunk in quickly and allowed my curious appetite to chomp down firmly on a very relatable subject. I was transported back to when my sister, brother, and I were first left on our own without adult supervision. We’ve got this! Uh-huh?!

The story takes place in 1947 with the residual fallout from World War II hovering around as though victory hadn’t been declared quite some time ago. Households were still dependent upon rations distributed via government-issued coupons like in previous embattled years. With the school year nearing its end, the children suddenly learn the disturbing news about their mother’s illness and pending hospital treatments. Their father must make a difficult decision. Should he send the youngsters as planned to their grandfather’s seaside home at Strone on their own, or keep them home while he works and cares for their mother? With their grandfather’s recent passing, he explains over the children’s cries of disappointment that they’d be too far away if they should need his help and he couldn’t be certain how long their mother’s treatments would take.

“No, no, that wouldn’t do at all. You’re far too young to be left on your own. We’d be worried sick about you.”

Excerpt from Chapter One, The House at Strone

With relentless debate and pleading, the eldest 13-year-old, Elsa, convinces her father of her readiness for this new responsibility. After all, she already watches them on her own most of the time and then gently reminds him that the neighbors they’ve known for years are right next door. With a reluctant nod of approval, the plans are underway.

After an arduous day’s journey, the exhausted children sight the familiar outline of the family estate. They begrudgingly drag their luggage up the final steep incline wishing someone, anyone, would rush down and help them the rest of the way. They pause a few chilling seconds and glare up at the dark, empty house. A noticeable dreariness has crept over the once-lively estate. With a sense of sadness emphasized by the senior’s passing, a warm greeting at this very moment would have indeed been a welcomed sight! Shaking her head of such nonsense, Elsa turns the worn knob and enters the cold uninviting abode. The others follow closely behind. A rush of uncertainty grabs them as they stop dead in their tracks. Gulp. The place has been ransacked and stripped of its essential household goods. But who would do such a thing in this coastal quaint village? They begin to think maybe this wasn’t such a terrific idea after all!

Elsa comforts Claire and John, her two younger siblings, then rapidly snaps into action by initiating a game — a scavenger hunt of sorts to find as many useful items as possible. The teen’s objective is to continue to stay at the house on their own without getting their parents involved. She inwardly pleads for wisdom. With buckets of creativity, the youngsters gather enough sundries to make do for their first night’s stay. Exhausted from the travel, and then scouring for necessities, the youngest, Claire hopes she’ll be able to fall asleep without seeing any ghosts. Although the other two would never admit being scared, Claire could eye their uneasiness.

As the days press on, the children are put through a series of rigorous, and dangerous trials. They find themselves entrenched in foraging for food in the unkempt garden along with succumbing to the awkward (but very much needed) offers of goods from their friendly neighbors. When they encounter an unruly local bully, they assume he must have stolen John’s beloved bike, a gift from his grandfather. It sets a string of events in motion with bending twists. Intrigue and slivers of suspense prompted me to root for the children’s success. I even smiled when the newborn kittens were secretly introduced to Claire; what a timely softening from the daily hardships they were enduring.

There is a persistent theme throughout — a feeling of hope and perseverance. I cheered for Elsa as she navigated the coming-of-age tribulations, niggling self-doubt, and unforeseen hiccups. And I was also taken in by the youngest, little Claire, who often choked back her frazzled, tender emotions. Through her growth spurts, she proved to be a tad strong-willed and even displayed the occasional defiance.

Overwrought with worry about their mother’s health and with little to no time to think about the strain of it all, Elsa stays the course. It was a swift but delightful development to see Elsa find a compassionate side in lieu of the newly assumed strict demeanor. She hoped she hadn’t driven them beyond their capabilities in her guardianship role. Would her sturdy yet positive example be enough or would despair send them all packing?

The House at Strone is superbly written and I would happily recommend it to avid MG readers and all pre-teens in middle school. Perhaps there’s an inclination by Author Nielson to create a book series with these adorable characters. (hint hint)

Note: There are no spoilers and I was not paid to write this review. This is just a simple no-nonsense perspective of my experience in reading The House at Strone.

Happy * Father’s * Day

Thank you to all the dads, stepdads, mentors, and male role models who inspire strength, courage, and character-building in every child.

The power of a dad in a child’s life is unmatched.

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The softer side of fatherhood.

Thank you for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us.

Blog – May 2022

| Hello May… this post honors my dear sister, a terrific mom, grandmother, and a lovely woman who has meant so much to me.

It is with a heavy heart that I share about my beautiful sister, Gay who passed recently at the young age of 67. It was sudden and it goes without saying, I miss her terribly. There’s something about a person in one’s life who is the go-to family member. She was that Someone to me. She could easily recall events from the past — our unique history — filled with decades of laughter, tears, exciting experiences, and love. I know she is with our Heavenly Father and spouting out her lively opinions to all.

I pray she is singing (as we often did) at the top of her lungs. A few of Carly Simon’s melodies come to mind, but Anticipation is definitely a fave. And I am forever grateful for the memories of the good old days with her. Rest in peace, dear sister.

I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.

Andy Bernard, The Office

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Beasley Helps by Rosie Russell

In the third book of the Beasley Series, once again this sweet main character — Beasley, the friendly beagle — steals the show! This time around though he happens upon a mystery of sorts while on his usual morning trek. He stops short in his tracks when he discovers his favorite grand tree is missing! What?! Much to his dismay, he decides to investigate further. When Beasley rounds the next corner, he finds the big bright answer! A new red barn is being built by Farmer Bill and his crew. Aha! A brilliant idea soon strikes Beasley and the curious, yet creative canine puts his plan into action. Beasley not only becomes a big help to Farmer Bill and his animal friends but also makes a heartfelt impact on the surrounding community. Grab a copy for storytime for the young kiddos and animal lovers alike. Author & Illustrator Russell has also included some fun family activities at the back of the book. Enjoy!

Author’s Website: Books by Rose

Note: There are no spoilers in this review and I was not paid to write this review. Just a simple no-nonsense perspective of my experience in reading Beasley Helps.

Happy Mother’s Day

Delicate and magical harmony!

Thanks for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us.

Blog – April 2022

| Hello all and welcome! In case you didn’t know, I enjoy reading a variety of blogs, especially from other authors revealing their latest creations or personal happenings. With that said, although I am never sure WHAT to write, I’ve learned to keep it brief and throw in some humor to mix it up. It tends to lighten up the content AND my day. Keep it simple, right?!

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh — at yourself.

Ethel Barrymore

But first, let’s kick off with this vibrant photo of nature’s colorful splendor. And no matter how you’re celebrating the weekend, may peace be with you and yours throughout the holiday.

The Easter bunny has arrived once again and brought giggles to the kiddos as they search feverishly for the hidden Easter treasures. Smudged chocolatey smiles add to the sheer delight of this tradition.

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

The very first line sets the tone for the initial chapters until the reader gets encaptured by the protagonist’s (Nina Redmond) inevitable change in direction and attitude. “The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things.”

Nina Redmond is a single 29-year-old, insecure, and ultra-shy librarian on the verge of losing her position now that her particular Branch is preparing to shut down for good within a few weeks. At a crossroads in both her living arrangement and career, the heavy-hearted young bookworm wills herself to make the ultimate decision to fulfill her dreams of running a bookstore on her own or succumbing to a lesser position in the new modern multi-media central library. After serious deliberation, she imagines running a bookshop in the city where readers will come from all over England to browse and purchase her selections. Pinching herself back to the reality of limited savings, she answers an ad about an oversized, dilapidated van with a frivolous dream of converting it into an ideal bookstore on wheels. There’s one huge problem — the van is in Scotland!

Albeit somewhat affordable with her minuscule funds, she’s never driven such a large vehicle EVER! So, how will she get the behemoth clunker back to Birmingham, England?! Nina keeps telling herself she’ll figure it out. Not heeding her friends’ displeasure about the half-cocked idea, she musters up the courage and heads on her journey to the countryside. After all, she can always change her mind, right? Nina feels the need to at least tickle her fancy about this possibility. Upon arrival, the fresh air of the hills and meadows envelop her senses. The naive young lass could kick herself for never venturing outside of her immediate area in England. She is awestruck by its beauty.

But before Nina gets too heady about this newfound land, there’s a bigger challenge than purchasing the monstrosity. She soon realizes she must fix it up and get permits prior to making the long trek back home. And then there’s the question of where to find a parking spot in the big city. The slight-built young woman becomes quite pleased with herself after making the purchase and starts planning out the rest of her new business endeavor. Locating a place to temporarily rent in the small village, she is determined to make this plan work.

With some tough setbacks, however, her well-intended schedule is thrust into a whirlwind of unforeseen circumstances, frustrations, and self-doubt causing her to stay put in Scotland for the time being. But Nina fears the worst — losing everything with no steady job, ending up penniless, and possibly with nowhere to go.

The Bookshop on the Corner kidnapped my interest not only with the lively cast of cagey and humorous characters but with several unpredictable roadblocks and bends between best friends, prospective beaus, lustful encounters, and Nina’s stubborn level of acceptance. Accepting her own weaknesses and strengths might just be this petite female’s ultimate challenge.

I was glad I had a weekend to pick up this book and jump headfirst into the deliciousness of Scotland. Complete with colloquialisms and seasonal village flare, Author Colgan puts the reader right beside Nina enjoying the local festivities. I gave this book Five Stars and would recommend it to my female reading friends. * (see note below)

* Note: This is not a paid-for review and there are no spoilers in its contents. This is my personal experience in reading this particular book from a simple, no-nonsense perspective and overview.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

by Mark Twain

A Slice of Golf

Golf is one of my other joys and very much an obsessive pastime… a love-hate relationship if you will! With its unforgiving traps, water hazards, bending limbs, and edge-of-the-cup putts that just won’t fall, it’s an opportunity to get away from the laptop, commiserate with nature, get a bit of exercise, and visit with friends who have a mutual kinship with this silly sport. I mean, it must appear crazy to the non-golfer watching us parade around such beautiful grounds chasing a little white ball. Determined by sheer grit, we hunt the small sphere as though it was some kind of golden treasure. But alas, don’t be fooled. Once we’ve located the dimpled specimen, we wind up a skinny stick with all our might and hit it as far away as possible. At this point, the hunt resumes. Once in a while, the so-called Golf Gods offer up “a birdie” which ensures we’ll be back to do it again real soon.

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Happy April to all!

Thanks for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us.

Blog – January 2022

***  NEW BOOK RELEASE  ***

The Case of the SMASHED WINDOW

(Book 2, The BROOKE LYNN Mysteries)

By Toby A. Williams

| This gripping middle-grade novel is packed with deception, tension, and intrigue… you’ll be kept guessing until the very end!

Brooke Lynn and Mike, the crime-solving 2-K Team have a new case to crack. When a well-respected neighbor’s window gets smashed, the duo is called to help. With the town’s hyped-up Chili Cookoff looming, a big cleanup day planned – which Brooke Lynn is helping organize – and more vandalism occurring around town, the pressure is ON!

As the two sleuths work to solve the case, tensions arise and Brooke Lynn finds herself questioning everyone – even her crime-fighting buddy himself and her very own BFF Susie! With unsettled friendships and mounting conflicts, will Brooke Lynn be able to weave her way through these complicated emotions, restore relationships and solve The Case of the Smashed Window in time for the Chili Cookoff? Mystery and manipulation… a suspenseful combination for curious middle schoolers.  Available in three versions: eBook, Paperback, and Hardcover.

Happy New Year! Thanks for stopping by to spend time with us for a little bit.

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