Flower Power Trip: Book Review📚

flower power

by

James J. Cudney

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kellan Ayrwick and his quirky family are all back for this third installment in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series.  Kellan, now professor Ayrwick, is assisting the Braxton College President, Ursula Power, who is receiving threatening messages. Ursula is worried that her dark family secret will be revealed, when a visiting professor is found stabbed to death during a college fundraising event. Kellan stumbles across the murder scene just as a family friend is discovered standing over the dead body. Unwilling to believe that this friend is a murderer, he now takes on the challenge of solving the crime, all the while continuing to assist Ursula to uncover her tormentor. Are the two incidents linked somehow?

Balancing his penchant for stumbling into crime scenes, along with teaching duties and single parenting his young daughter, is all the more difficult with his continuing battle with his former in-laws, the Castiglianos. How will he resolve his own marital problems, while helping his cantankerous Nana D win the mayoral election and keep her, and her friends out of trouble!

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I am really enjoying this cozy mystery series as each story is entertaining, light-hearted (if you can label murder light 😉) and full of humorous personalities. I truly don’t know where the next twist will come from or how the resolution will play out. As any good series, each book could be read as a stand alone, but I strongly recommend starting from the beginning, as the characters become more vibrant, endearing and relatable as they navigate new challenges. I will be pre ordering Jay’s next book in this series, Mistaken Identity Crisis, ASAP!

On a personal note….I feel blessed to call Jay a friend. He is an outstanding person who I have enjoyed getting to know, and had the great chance to meet in person. Because I stalk him with regularity, it was fun to see a number of “easter eggs” in this last novel. For those who read his blog regularly you will also catch a few of these gems woven throughout the narrative. So fun, thanks for the treasure hunt my friend💕

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About the Author 

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

Purchase Jay’s  current series here!

Academic Curveball

Broken Heart Attack

Flower Power

Author Links

Blog:https://thisismytruthnow.com

Author Website:https://jamesjcudney.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

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My Blog is Two Years Old, So Now What?🤷‍♀️

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Invisible-no-more turned two in the month of November, 2018. With that milestone, and the New Year beginning, I got to thinking. How is my blog doing? Is it the same after two years of personal growth, and all the changes that have happened since I began this journey?

Honestly, there have been many times, particularly over the last 6 months, when I have felt guilty about my blog. I have not posted regularly, or been prompt reading other blog posts. I am slow to respond to comments and feel terrible when bloggers, who I truly care about, have waited for me to “get around” to acknowledging them.

I want to be clear here, no one has made me feel this way! Not one harsh word or comment has ever been communicated to me-this is my guilt, my issue. So, I need to either close down the blog, or figure out a better balance with my new, more active (and fun) life!

I don’t want to end my blog, it has brought too much into my life. I have met amazing people, learned too many new lessons and it has enriched my existence beyond words. Instead, I want to analyze my current situation and attempt to bring a clarity to this process. My goal is to write content that is truly engaging, as well as meaningful to me personally.

I got an idea from Amy at Bedlam and Daisies. She took a look at her top blog posts from last year. And, I thought this might be a great place for me to start this analysis. I am looking for trends in what spoke to readers. So, without further ado:

The top ten posts of 2018, ranked by “likes”

  1. Yoga Retreat, One more time –

    2. The Final Family Climb in Tucson

    3. I Am So Touched and Humbled By This!growning self blogger award

4. Leftover Ham? No Problem

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5. Great Article From a Like Minded Blogger

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6. King Cake for Mardi Gras

7. A Precious Gift

8. Standard Route on MT. Lemmon

9. Eating and Drinking Our Way Through The Tucson Botanical Gardens, Savor Tucson!

10. Sally’s Baking Addiction, January Challenge: Conquering Yeast

So, what have I learned from this exercise? For one thing, I have had an amazing year! And, all 10 of these posts are from Jan and Feb 😳 Clearly I started off strong, posting more often, and then let too much time pass between entries.

Variety seems to be key as well. Travel posts did as well as adventure and baking. That seemed to be true as I expanded this list to the top 20 blog posts.

If this is true, then people like the variety but don’t know when to look at my blog, because I am too inconsistent.

Other posts that did well, by this limited metric, included my fellow bloggers. Both posts from my trip to Montreal, where I visited with 3CStyle, ArtyPlantsman and Mainepaperpusher (aka, Dominique💕 ,Darren💐 and Linda🐉) did well. As did my book reviews for James (Jay) Cudney, author extraordinaire 📚 and I have two other books of his in the hopper to post!

What did not do so great? Some of you may remember that I participated in the April “Blogging from A to Z” Challenge in 2018. This was a great challenge for me as I posted daily in the month of April. The posts were pretty detailed and time-consuming, but I was happy that I did it! But, since they were not well received, and took an immense about of my resources, I will not join this year.

Sally’s Baking Addiction challenges are hit and miss. Generally, they are well liked and, because I truly enjoy them, I will continue this through 2019. I have been doing these challenges since their inception by Sally, and although I am often at the absolute deadline, I have made each and every one. I have also learned a few new skills along the way, which makes this worth it for me 😊

So, with this cursory look at my blog stats, here is what I am planning. I would like to set the personal goal of a minimum of two posts per month. One will be related to an activity or travel experience and the other will by Sally’s monthly challenge. I envision that the personal write up would be at the beginning of the month, and the baking post near the end (as that seems to be my default pattern 😉). There may be the rare occassion that I might get three posts in for a month, and I am ok with that!

The point here is that I am going to challenge myself to be a better blog buddy, participate regularly with the blogging community and hold myself more accountable to the overarching goal of my blog maintenance.

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Learning From a Pro: Food Photography & Food Styling Workshop 📸

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I was blessed to have such an amazing summer! So many wonderful trips and fantastic experiences 😊. Here we are in November, about a week from Thanksgiving, and I am still playing catchup with my blog!!😳

This food photography workshop, which I attended in early October,  is just one of those amazing experiences. I first learned of Clare Barboza from a friend in Seattle.  Leslie, my friend of many years, knew about my passion for baking and had seen many of my photos on Instagram. Probably why she recommended Clare’s workshop to me 🤣😂🤣! I’m kidding! Leslie has always been very supportive of my crazy Insta adventures.

When I first began researching this opportunity, Clare was splitting her time between her two studios, one in downtown Seattle and the other in Vermont. She has since chosen to focus her business at the Vermont location, which better supports her family. I instantly fell in love with her photography style and decided, rather quickly, that I wanted to attend her weekend workshop where she would educate us on lighting, composition, and use of props in food styling. I had never been to Vermont, and it would be in the fall when everyone says it is gorgeous, so I signed up!

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Brattelboro is a cute, little town that I really did not explore 😔 I did not leave myself enough time to poke around! I flew in late Friday and out early Monday, leaving two full days to absorb as much photography knowledge as possible (and hit a local climbing gym 😉, priorities you know).

Clare’s studio is beautiful, bright and full of fantastic props for her photography.

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The left side of the studio is all windows, allowing the natural light to stream in during a large portion of the day.

Clare prefers natural light and the large set of windows allows her to alter the directionality as the day progresses.

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It helps to have a fully functional kitchen when specializing in food photography

Clare’s husband helped her remodel the kitchen area, which is airy and bright. Pretty handy guy to have around!! And, check out the view from the kitchen window.🌳

She wanted to divide this large space, and used these vintage window frames. I loved the look of these, and had to snap a pic.

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The other half of the studio was full of props! I was so jealous😂. I had a ball picking out surfaces of various colors and textures.

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Clare’s husband made these boards, again, a handy dude!

She also had vinyl surfaces of various colors and textures to choose from for backgrounds.

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Her collection of place settings!! Anything you could think of was available to enhance our scenes. Dishes, cups, silverware, bowls ….. I was in heaven💕

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This is only a portion of the full collection

We would begin each day with a short lecture/discussion about a certain topic. If you have ever attended a photography class, you will have heard of many of these same themes.

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The class getting ready to learn

Clare mixes concepts with actual hands on practice. I loved this! We had many opportunities to hone our skills. We began with a discussion on light and how to redirect it when needed. We also talked about composition, leading lines and depth of field. Many of these are topics covered in any photography class, but Clare gave us tips and ideas specific to food. And, she shared many of her gorgeous pictures and how she set them up.

Throughout the two days, we would be given five assignments. We could take as many pictures as we wanted, but had to choose one or two, from each task, for a critique on the last day. This was harder than it sounded! Sometimes I had many pictures I liked and others I couldn’t find one😲!

Our first assignment was to shoot a drink with backlighting. She provided us with different colored drink mixes, garnishes and sent us to work! At first I was not very comfortable just grabbing her supplies, and I was overwhelmed by so many options to choose from! I took over a hundred pictures and kept only 10! A theme that I would repeat many times over the course of the weekend.

I tried to challenge myself to create two different looks with this assignment.

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This was a backlit, fresh and airy feel

 

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Here I used the same drink but went for a more holiday, evening look.

Our next assignment was to photograph a charcuterie display. Clare set out a huge array of meats, cheeses, crackers and assorted goodies. This is my heaven!🥖🧀🍎

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She demonstrated her thought process, how she would approach this shoot.

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She told us the mood, or feel she was trying to create

She arranged, and then rearranged the components until she liked the composition.

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She added props to tell the story.

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And took test shots at various angles.

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Now it was our turn, yikes!

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This is just one of my many attempts

 

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I decided to add some height by rolling the salami and placing it upright.

I don’t know if I succeeded in this assignment, but I was full, as we were encouraged to eat the cheeses 😋

Lunch was included in the price of the workshop, and I thought it was the charcuterie ingredients, but Clare made us a delicious, and much healthier option. Her soup was wonderful, and really topped me off! She also offered us a tasty dessert, chocolate!🍫

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Our afternoon assignment was pasta! Clare provided us with the makings of an excellent pasta bar: several different shapes of noodles, two different sauces (red, and white), several garnishes, even bread for the pictures.

Our task was to put together an attractive dish and shoot it from above and at a 3/4 angle. Again, I took so many shots, and chose these three for the critique.

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It was so fun to see what the class came up with! We were all very different from one another.

Day 1 had come to a close, and I know I was kinda beat. Being creative on demand is mentally taxing for this science based person 😊. We had also been rather passive all day and I was in desperate need of some physical activity!

I had researched climbing gyms nearby and found one in Hadley Massachusetts, only and hour away😳 Central Rock Climbing Gym was just what I needed that night!

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Unfortunately they did not have auto belays, so I only bouldered. But I did send an inverted V4 😁 Very happy about that!

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I will definitely spend more time here, if I get the chance!

The next day was to be the “tough” day. I didn’t really know what Clare meant by that, but found out fast! She meant that we would be photographing food that is notoriously hard to make pretty.

This second day highlighted the food styling portion of the class. We discussed choosing a mood or vibe, and how to select props that enhance, but not overshadow the food.

And, we went over the dreaded color wheel 😫 I say dreaded because I just struggle with that thing!

Our first assignment was salad photography and I decided to face my color wheel issue head on! That meant trying to figure out the complementary color thing. I have seen many green salads paired with blue backgrounds, and everyone else loves it.

So…

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And I hate it! A number of other students liked this. I did like the choice I made with the linen, as it has the red stripe that I liked with the strawberries, but the rest…. oh well, I will keep working with the wheel.

The last assignment for the workshop, Clare called “the canned soup challenge”. And this was tough! We were to take a can of soup and make it look appealing, somehow.  If you have not opened a can of soup lately, give it a go, it may shock you how horrible it looks! All the “green” vegetables (like peas and beans) are a mucky shade of brown/green 🤢 One of the students chose a lentil soup and, I am not joking, it looked like dog food!

One advantage here is that I do make a lot of soups and stews and have photographed them for this blog. So I have practiced a bit already. Still, this was a tough one!

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We were allowed to use some fresh garnishes like herbs or sour cream. I tied a bundle of peppers together to add some color too and chose a monochromatic palette in the hopes that the colors would appear more vibrant. At least I liked it more than my salad🤣

The last portion of the class was a group critique of the photos we selected. This is always helpful! It is also tough because it is so subjective, one person will like what another finds distasteful. My goal is to take it all in and improve as best I can💕

With that, the workshop came to an end! I loved it and would happily join another of Clare’s classes!! I learned so much and had fun. Her teaching style is so approachable, there was nothing you couldn’t ask her😊

I finally had some time to look at that legendary Vermont Fall Foliage that everyone raves about! I went for a quick walk in the town.

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And another shot in downtown

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I met up with two of the ladies from the class for one final dinner together.

 

We drank, we ate and we talked about how ugly canned soup looks!!😂😂😂

A big thank you to Clare Barboza for all the great lessons learned! 📸🥗😉

A Guest Spot on “Loving the fifty something” blog!😊

HI Everyone!

First, let me apologize for being behind on your awesome blog posts! I am back now and hope to catch up, but I have to admit that I have been chronically behind for months now! 😳 And, we have three trips scheduled for August! I really hope to read your awesome words soon!

While I was traveling, Sam, from Loving the fifty something, published a guest post featuring me. She was kind enough to include me in her “amazing over 50’s” series! If you have not met Sam yet, she is a amazing over 50 herself! She surfs and mountain bikes and has a fabulous attitude about aging! Check out her blog and connect with an outstanding person!!

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Thank you Sam 🙏!

You can see her write up, (and then follow her blog!) 👇🏻

https://lovingthefiftysomething.com/2018/07/26/amazing-over-50s-guest-post-5/

 

 

The Killed Conscious, Book Review 📚

Today we celebrate the latest release from author Jordan Antonacci!   The Killed Conscience

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Investigative journalist Emilee Weathers is hungry for the perfect story and not too particular about how she has to get it. Asked to help find new evidence for a convicted serial killer’s appeal, she heads for the mountain town of Pigeon Forg

 When she discovers the body of a recent victim, the questions come thick and fast. Has she happened upon the work of a copycat? Is the real killer still out there? And is there anybody in this neck of the woods she can trust?

 

 

My Review

The Killed Conscious 

Jordan Antonacci 

4.5/5 stars

Emilee Weathers is fresh out of college, with her newly printed degree in Journalism and in a relationship that has lasted too long past its prime, when she gets a call that will change everything.

Detective Nichols from Knoxville PD has reached out to Emilee because of her investigative skill set, and her ties to her home town of Tennessee. A dangerous convicted serial killer has been granted an appeal and may be released unless Emilee can uncover new and compelling evidence against the notorious Valentine Day Killer, better known as VDK, Patrick Liftmen. 

This is the dream shot Emilee has been waiting for, a chance to prove to herself, and her father, that journalism was the right choice. A chance to build her career and an opportunity to be reunited with her childhood friend, Sebastian. As she dives into the details of the case, she realizes that everything is not what it seems. Emilee begins to doubt that the real killer is in custody, and as new victims are unearthed, begins to question her role in the investigation. 

Can Emilee find the proof needed to stop a monster from reentering society? Can she find the strength to end her abusive relationship? And, can she sort through her unresolved feelings for her childhood crush? 

A Killed Conscious is the second novel by Jordan Antonacci. I confess that I have not read his first book and did not know what to expect of his writing style. What a pleasant surprise! Antonacci balances these storylines beautifully. He easily created suspense and thoughtful characters which propelled the storyline forward. I found myself wondering where the narrative was headed and which, if any, of these characters were truly trustworthy. This was a fast read, which for me is a signal of a great story. I constantly wanted to know what happened next, and there were twists and surprises right up to the last sentence. 

The ending is abrupt, so much so that I contacted Jordan to check that I had the entire manuscript! After he assured me that this was, indeed, the end of the novel, I understood and appreciated the tactic.  I will be reading the sequel! I look forward to learning more about Emilee, and enjoying Antonacci’s writing, as he continues to develop as an author.

 

Purchase your copy today!

You can pick up your copy and read more reviews through the links below!

Connect with the author, Jordan Antonacci

Jordan’s blog is Mrhushhush on WordPress.

 

Father Figure: A Book Review📚

Father Figure

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James J. Cudney

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4.8/5

Amalia is 18 and ready to leave her isolated life in rural Mississippi. She is desperate to escape her oppressive and abusive mother, and begin her life while attending college. She is excited, and scared, to have her first romantic relationship. Unprepared and inexperienced she forges her way into the life she hopes is waiting for her.

Brianna is also preparing to leave for college and is looking forward to discovering more about herself and life beyond New York City. Unlike Amalia who had a brother and father, Brianna has only her mother, Molly, who is painfully secretive about her own upbringing. Brianna is naturally curious about the father she never knew and Molly constantly dodges Brianna’s questions regarding her paternity. 

Both Amalia and Brianna are desperate to know more about their place in the world, if they will find love and how to navigate romantic relationships.  Their journeys are separated by two decades, yet are deeply intwined. Will Amaila be strong enough to escape her manipulative mother and find happiness? How will Brianna force her mother to reveal her secretive past and allow her to have a relationship with her father? 

The second novel from James J. Cudney has been a stellar success! You may recall that in my review of his debut novel, “Watching Glass Shatter”, I included the statement that I believed his writing would continue to elevate as he evolved in his craft. What I did not know, at that time, was how quickly that process would occur! Cudney’s literary transitions, balanced so eloquently through these parallel timelines, are both seamless and compelling. There is a delicate edge that an author must maintain to preserve the reader’s interest, and to move the story line at a credible pace. Cudney also ties up loose threads from early on in the narrative, that I did not recognize as significant at the time. I love these surprises! 

James J. Cudney has created a depth and connection to these characters that will hold you captive until the final page! 

Purchase your book today!

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Father Figure

 

Watching Glass Shatter

 

About the Author

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James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

Connect with Jay

Author Links

Blog:https://thisismytruthnow.com

Author Website:https://jamesjcudney.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

A to Z Challenge: Reflections post!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

Did I scare you? Did you think I was going to write a bunch of health and fitness posts again 😊!

No, not to worry! The challenge is truly over, but part of this was for me to learn some things, and here is what I found out.

  1. Blogging everyday is hard! This is not really a surprise to me, but I thought it should be said out loud. I am sure I could have made this easier on myself by creating shorter posts, or leaving out some details. But the teacher/researcher in me took over. It is hard to short cut the process when you are talking about a subject you really care about ❤️.
  2. This would have been easier if I had not had house guests and painted several rooms in my home at the same time. Also, suspending some of my training activities, or not going on a three day road trip that month, would have freed up some time 🏋🏻‍♀️🥊🧘🏻‍♀️🧗‍♀️ But I can’t not workout, just not wired that way😅.
  3. I did learn how to schedule posts in advance, which was really helpful!
  4. Researching certain topics brought me up to date with new technologies and scientific findings, which was great!
  5. I realized how wonderful and supportive my fellow bloggers are!! Thank you, so much for your likes and comments. You really kept my spirits up when I was getting tired.😊💕

 

The A to Z Challenge folks are asking that we choose our favorite post to participate in the “Road Show”. I would love your help, one more time, in selecting the post to submit.

Anyone have a favorite “A to Z” topic of mine? I am taking suggestions😃

Aging, a huge thank you, to all my friends and I hope to get caught up on all your posts soon 🙏