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March’s Secrets:
The Present Month Project

We just hit the first day of Spring – and we just had another snowfall. They say March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but that transition is not always a straight smooth line. March keeps you on your toes, looking for those signs of Spring just around the corner. And then when you see those first green shoots sprouting up through the ground? Pure joy.

March Secrets - Present Month Project

Spring, the beautiful secret you get to re-discover every year in March.

It was actually March that first inspired this entire Present-Month series. Last March, after a brutal winter, there was one particular and unexpected thing that our family loved at that time of year so much that it got my mind whirring on ideas for every time of year. You’ll find out what that particular thing was below in the “Listen” section. :)

So here is March’s Present-Month Project post, all about the unique joys of the current month. As with January and February, the categories of things to enjoy in March will fall into the following categories: TASTE, LISTEN, DO, and LEARN.


Two of my favorite savory foods are in season right now: asparagus and avocados. Delicious!

Asparagus - in season produce for March

— Asparagus is just a pleasure to eat. There are all sorts of beautiful ways to prepare asparagus (wrapped in prosciutto!), but my favorite way is also very simple. Simply cook on a griddle, seasoned with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I love the texture you can get cooking them this way – tender but crisp, with just slight hints of char. And the seasoning is subtle so you can truly enjoy the flavor of the asparagus. Couldn’t be easier!

Avocado - in season March

— Avocados are simply amazing – and one of my husband’s favorite foods. Often described as a “superfood”, there are all sorts of great things about avocados. But for my purposes, the two simple things I’m excited about: 1.) they taste amazing and 2.) they are in season. Open up some ripe avocados and toss in your salad, top on your eggs, mash in guacamole, slice on your sandwich, cube in your burritos, spread on your burgers – the list goes on and on. And while in the US avocados are generally used in savory foods, other parts of the world often use them in sweet foods. And let me tell you — a freshly made cold avocado bubble tea, such as I’ve had in a little mom-and-pop Vietnamese market, is a luxurious delicious treat on a warm day.


— This is the one that inspired this whole series. Last March, we were still recovering (and shoveling) from blizzard after blizzard, and were eagerly anticipating a Spring that seemed to be tauntingly slow in its approach. Unrelatedly, I was also exploring the free audio book library online, Librivox. I found one of my childhood favorite books, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and we started listening to it as a family whenever we were driving somewhere.

Secret Garden - Best listen for March

It was so perfect.

Even if you’ve read it before (you probably have), it’s worth another listen at beginning of spring. Consider: The main character, Mary Lennox, has just moved to England’s cold and windswept moors at the end of winter. Having lived in the sticky tropics, she has never experienced the onset of Spring. And having been spoiled, she’s has never really had to wait for anything she wanted. She plays outside in the cold wind, and keeps hearing about Spring, wondering what it will be – and then as it begins, she immerses herself in learning how to care and nurture for the secret garden she discovered hidden on the manor grounds. It is the perfect listen for March. All the eager anticipation for Spring, and then the joys of the beautiful growing things, and the renewal and refreshing of the children in the book … it could not be more timely than to start listening to it in March!

The audio recording on Librivox is excellent and free: The Secret Garden Ver. 2. (There is more than one audio recording of the Secret Garden on Librivox, but version 2 is the best.) It’s fun to listen to as a family, all of us including my husband enjoyed it. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss with the kids that the ‘magic’ the children talk about making and fixing things is just pretend, that it’s actually God who creates the world and who is the architect of Spring. The story is a beautiful classic, and March is the perfect time of year to listen to it – and the narrators do an excellent job. There are free apps to listen to Librivox books on your smart phone, or you can listen online. Either way, start giving it a listen in March, and enjoy!

Listen to The Secret Garden - March's Secrets - Seasonal Activities


— Spring cleaning!! Spring organizing!! Spring decorating!! You know that amazing feeling when you can finally have the windows open, bringing in fresh breezes, sunshine, and the sounds of chirping birds? I love it. And then when you turn around from that window, and see the dust and mess from a snuggled-in winter home … well, it’s not hard to see why spring-cleaning is a thing. Digging in and doing a lot of the deeper cleaning that might not get done as often, or more deeply organizing parts of the home that tend to accumulate clutter, or swapping out heavier winter linens and décor for lighter breezier spring options – all are work, but make the home so much more pleasant.
March - Spring Cleaning inspiration from GardenmisSpring scents can also help freshen up the home. Here is a lovely quote on a lavender sachet from a handmade shop I love, Gardenmis.

I’ve seen various types of guidelines and check-lists for spring cleaning and organizing a home, but living in apartments often gives me different types of spaces than a traditional house, and I find that the division of tasks often doesn’t fit my space. Plus, home to home will vary in particular needs anyway. So, instead of following someone else’s step-by-step plan, I plan to go around our home and take notes: What areas need a deep clean? Where are places that are clutter magnets? Of the clutter – what categories of things need to be assigned homes, and what types of things need to be gotten rid of? What are spaces that could be better utilized if they were reorganized? And so forth. Once I have a list of tasks, I can divide them up into manageable chunks that I can fit into my schedule. And then it’s hello spring-time indoors as well as outdoors!

Spring decor from Peony & ThistleA beautiful paper garland from the handmade shop Peony & Thistle. Wouldn’t this make the inside feel so spring-timey? Yes, I think so too.


— It’s time to think about gardening! Exactly when to start what plants will vary by location – the end of frost here is much later than down south — so learn what types of plants you can start where you are. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have any outdoor space, learn about what types of plants can do well indoors! Herbs are a great choice. For the first time, I have plants in our home that have been growing for a year. I’m so excited! And I’m planning to start more now that the warmer weather is coming – a little herb garden, as well as just pretty succulents and greenery to freshen up the apartment. I always considered myself to have a black thumb, but I’ve been learning more and more about how to keep my plants alive, and I love having them in the apartment, especially since we don’t have a yard. There is something amazing about seeing the way God’s creation works, and the plant that can grow from such a small seed. This is the time of year to get into it, so check out some books, find a good gardening site, visit local greenhouses, and learn about how and when to get your garden growing – whether a backyard vegetable garden, or flower beds, or window boxes, or indoor container plants!

Vintage Gardening Books from BookBundle - March Seasonal FindsBeautiful vintage gardening books from the vintage shop, BookBundle.

March Seasonal Produce and more - Present Month Project

So, from asparagus and avocados, to listening to the excellent free audio book of the Secret Garden, to working on spring cleaning, to planning your garden, there are so many things to enjoy this during time while March is easing us into spring.

Do you have anything you would add to the list of things to enjoy in March? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

You are invited!!

Even if you don’t know much about me … you may know that I love books. In my art shop, FlourishCafe, I have designed a whole slew of prints with the theme of books and reading. I tend to devour books and have trouble putting them down. I love classics, I love sci-fi/fantasy, I love historical fiction, I love dystopian, I love mysteries, I love non-fiction.

So! Here’s the plan. As a part of kicking things back off in my blog and business this month, I’m going to be having a Book Party next Tuesday, live on Facebook!

I’ll have fun bookish games, ideas for encouraging a love of reading in kids, holiday shopping, aaaand, of course, fun prizes. I’ll have free book/reading-themed art prints from my FlourishCafe shop for prizes – and also free books from Usborne Books & More. Ever since I was … I don’t know, 13? … I LOVED Usborne books. They are my go-to place for engaging non-fiction. I’ve loved them for a long time, but just recently I became a part of their team, so I’ll have some Usborne books to share and give away for prizes as well.

Here are some previews of some prize options…

And here’s what to expect at the party:

SO! If you’d like to come hang out for some bookish fun, prizes and holiday shopping, let me know! It’s going to be a Facebook Event, and invite only, because I don’t want to be one of those people who is flooding everyone’s feed with stuff they’re not wanting to see. So if you want to come, just message me on Facebook, and I’ll add you as a friend so I can invite you to the party. (You can always un-friend me afterwards if you want, but Facebook is set up so the only way I can invite someone to an invite-only event is to be friends with them!) Here is my Facebook:

And … the first 20 people to RSVP “going” on the event each get an extra entry for the prizes, so don’t be shy to drop me a note. :)

So, here are the details …
What: Book Party!
When: Tuesday, Nov 18th @ 9:30 pm EST
Where: LIVE on the Facebook Event page
Who: Anyone who gets in touch with me to let me know they’d like to come! (Although, fyi on legal stuff … due to rules I have to follow, I can only offer the giveaways to 18+ in the US only.)

Hope to see some of you there – I think it will be fun!

Travel tip: Go to the library!

Our trip to Boston was won-der-fulllllllll. I am so looking forward to living there soon, Lord willing! While we were gone we took lots of pictures, naturally, and we also made some travel vlogs while we were driving. I was hoping to post one of those today, but due to technical difficulties with the video, I’m going to have to postpone that one.

So instead today, I want to share with you one simple travel tip: go to the library!

First off, it can be a good idea to visit the library before you leave and check out some books on cd to enjoy on the road trip – I know I’ve definitely enjoyed listening to narrated stories while driving.

But, actually, when I say “go to the library”, I’m not talking about preparations for the trip, I’m talking about while you are gone. If you’re going to a decent sized city on your trip, chances are the library where you are going has some interesting sights and free activities. And when you’re on a trip, fun things to do that don’t cost any money are nice things to find!

I love books, of course, (in case you couldn’t tell) but many libraries have more to offer than books alone. You might be surprised at what you find at a library, especially in a large city.

So one day in Boston, after a stop at, naturally, Dunkin Donuts, my 4 year old and I set out to find the library. I’m so glad we did! Here are some of the things we discovered about the library…

‣‣‣ First of all, before we went inside, it was in a beautiful downtown location, and loaded with statues. I don’t know about your kids, but my little one loves statues. She wanted her picture with this one:

and if there’s a spot that looks like it SHOULD have a statue and it doesn’t, well then of course, you just have to fill in where you can:

‣‣‣ Once you’re inside the library there is a charming little restaurant called The Maproom Cafe, where you could have sandwiches, coffee, pastries – or even a formal high tea! And if you didn’t want to eat in the Maproom Cafe you could take your food out to…

‣‣‣ The Courtyard. In the middle of the library is a huge outdoor courtyard with a fountain and terracced walk ways lined with tables where you can read and enjoy your food. Um, yeah! But before you get to the courtyard you first walk through …

‣‣‣ Amazing architecture! In fact, I noticed there were actually guided tours you could go on to learn the history about all the beautiful architecture. We weren’t there at the right time for that, but we enjoyed wandering from room to room anyway…

‣‣‣ One room we discovered was the map room. I loooove maps. There were all kinds of historical maps on display, plus there were all these little tiny window-seat areas, and in each one was a different map-related activity for kids! My little one really enjoyed the map puzzle nook.

‣‣‣ We also found there was an art gallery exhibition going on at that time in the library, so we stopped in and enjoyed the art:

By the time we had done all of that, we hadn’t even gotten to the part of the library where there were books to check out! But it was time to leave and go meet some friends, so we headed on out, and I can explore that part of the library next time we’re in Boston.

But I’m sure you can see now why I like to visit libraries when I’m travelling – you never know what you’ll find, but chances are, you’ll find something interesting. In fact, I’ve seen libraries featured on the Travel Channel before when they talk about places to visit in certain cities. So check it out! I know I definitely would like to have tea at the library in Boston someday. *hint, hint, Husband* ;)

Do you visit libraries when you are travelling?
Or do you have other low-cost high-value tricks up your sleeve?
Leave your thoughts, comments and travel tips below, I love to hear from you!

Getting lost in a good book… what are your favorites?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

I almost wish C. S. Lewis hadn’t said this, because its so true of me that I probably would have said it myself, and then everyone would be quoting me instead of him.

Well … ok, maybe not, but I do love this quote. :)

(In fact, I loved it so much, I embroidered it on this book tote I made! I call it a “quote tote” and I stitched my paper beads on it – WooT!
One of these days I should finish it so I can actually use it….)

Another book quote I love is from Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail and I think its sooo true of fiction…

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”

I’ve always loved reading, and then by extension, writing. I remember when I lived in Prague as a kid I wrote all the time, coming up with overly-fantasical and highly predictable stories. You know, the kind where any time there’s a problem, suddenly someone has the perfect little magical doodad to fix that exact problem. Not “the great American novel”, but I was just nine and it was so exhilarating to create my own little worlds on the beautiful blank notebook pages. And one of the best ways to learn to write (besides reading) is to just go ahead and start doing it.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz
My love of writing grew so much that I decided to major in journalism in college. Journalism, as my professor always said, is just storytelling. True storytelling, of course, but the art is in the way you sculpt the information.

“A really bad storm came through town last night”
“This morning’s sunny sky seemed unfitting as Sarah Johnston found her missing roof scattered on the road in a tangle of branches and debris — evidence of the storm that swept over the city just the night before.”

But I know my love of writing really stems from my love of reading as a child. Recently, I was trying to come up with a top ten list of my favorite works of fiction, and I was amazed by how many of them were books I had read as a kid. So I gave up on a general top ten list, and instead, here are some of my favorite books from my childhood:

My I Love Books and Tea Illustration. See? I even draw about books.
Loosely in reverse order…

10 – Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
(Not exactly fiction, I suppose, but too classic to leave out!)

10.5 – The Little Britches Series, by Ralph Moody
(Weird numbering, I know, but its because its similar to the Little House books. Out west, based on a true story, but from a boy’s perspective. SUCH a touching story! My dad used to read this aloud to the family.)

9 – The Twits, by Roald Dahl
(I was pretty young when I read this, and I don’t remember a whole lot about the plot, just how much I loved reading it. Roald Dahl has such a contagiously fun style.)

8 – The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis
(The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is probably my favorite from the series.)

7 – An Old Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
(It may seem odd, but I was never a big fan of “Little Women” – probably because I’m a lot like Jo, but I always preferred Laurie to that old professor. But “An Old Fashioned Girl” made me much happier!)

6 – The Green Door, by O Henry
(This one is just a short story, and I was a teenager when I read it, but it really resonated with me. I even memorized it and delivered it as a dramatic interp for a speech event.)

5 – Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
(You know how when you’re a kid you find names you love in the books you read? My little daughter’s middle name is actually a version of one of the character’s names in this book.)

4 – The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to discover a magical garden tucked away on the grounds of a mysterious mansion?!)

3 – Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
(The hilarious poems were one of my favorite things about this book. I actually ended up putting on a theatrical version of this in high school.)

2 – Lorna Doone, by R. D. Blackmore
(I remember my grandmother recommending this book to me. One of my favorites of all time. Not a light read, but SO worth it.)

1 – Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
(Anne, with an e, is perhaps the fictional character I identify with the most.)

I love books!
So what about you?
Does reading make you want to write?
What were some of your favorite fiction books as a kid?
Tell me in the comments!