The Garden of Girls – an Excerpt

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Hello again! It feels like I’ve been offline for ages. I took a break from the computer for the past several days in order to get over a nasty cold. Most of my time was spent snuggling with the cats on the couch, watching Netflix and reading or listening to a book on tape. I’m the type of person that can get sick by watching a movie with sick people in it (though that might just be the hypochondriac in me talking), and when I get sick I’m sick. I’ve gone through two in a half boxes of tissues in five days and have whined about it to Kenneth the entire time. But, since I can almost taste my food again, I think my cold is (thankfully/hopefully) abating.

Since I don’t have any new blog posts to share with my readers, I thought I would show you something else I’m working on. The Garden of Girls (or In the Garden of Girls, I haven’t quite decided yet) is a story I’ve had in my head for the past several months. It’s a fairy tale with a botanical twist. I’m not sure yet if this will be a short story or something longer, but I’m going to be working on it nearly exclusively for the next couple of days and I’m really looking forward to it!

Without further ado, here is a small excerpt from The Garden of Girls:

Halldora wasn’t your typical fairy tale version of a “bad” witch. She cast a few spells every once in a while to make her garden grow and sometimes, when she was feeling particularly tired, she’d enchant her spinning wheel to spin for her or she’d enchant her little black cat, Cinda, to wash the dishes after dinner. Cinda deeply resented this and would often not sit with Halldora in the rocking chair by the fire for days after, so it was an enchantment Halldora rarely used.  

Halldora and Cinda lived a simple life and for the most part they were happy. As the years wore on however, Halldora became lonely. She found herself having long, animated conversations with Cinda, who only ever replied with a short “miaow” or long trill, both of which meant she was hungry. Halldora would wake up in the middle of the night clutching a butternut squash or large zucchini to her chest, like the vegetable was a newborn baby. She desperately wanted a child.  

At first she tried ignored her devastating loneliness by keeping busy. She expanded her garden, her wonderful, ancient garden. She added a second row of raspberry canes and planted more potatoes. She even wrote to the famous botanist, Rowan Cy, for some new herbs to grow. She started knitting her wool and selling scarves, mittens and shawls in the village.  

Once, after allowing her mind to wander while knitting, Halldora accidentally knit a small pair of blue wool booties, the perfect size for a newborn babe. Shortly after, she stopped going to the market to sell her knitwear, it was too painful to see the mothers with their small children stop at her stall. She needed a baby.

That’s all you get for now! If you’d like to read more about the botanist, Rowan Cy, you can read my flash fiction piece The Master Botanist, published with an interview of me on the NEAT blog. And in case you were wondering, this fluffball, Emma, is my inspiration for Cinda.

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Photo Friday – January 30, 2015

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Happy Photo Friday! It’s been too long since my three darlings, Olivia, Emma and Amelia were featured on This Ohio Life, so today’s post is for them. Enjoy the cat photos, it’s really what the internet is for. 😉

If you would like to see more of my cats, or my photography in general, follow me on Instagram at @thisohiolife!

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All images contained within this blog are my own photos (unless otherwise noted). They may not be used for any commercial purpose, printed, or re-used in any form without my prior consent.

Ohio is for Layers

This is my first fashion post on This Ohio Life! And by fashion, I mean that this post is about clothes, which can be fashionable… let’s just call this a fashion-lite* post for now.

Winter 2014 was freezing cold and miserable and apparently Winter 2015 wants to follow in her predecessors’ footsteps. The Polar Vortex that graced our doorsteps (and froze our car doors shut) last year is back and going nowhere soon. After surviving last winter without losing any of my digits to frost bite, I feel confident that I can survive this winter too.

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Confidence in being able to do something is quite different from actually wanting to do it.

I want to pick Ohio up and stick it in between Mississippi and Alabama until April. Hello Gulf of Mexico! I think Cincinnati would look amazing with a beach, don’t you?

I want to hole up in my apartment for the next three months – I’ll order what I need on Amazon.

I want to hibernate in my bed and I think our cats would join me.

I don’t want to do winter anymore.

But… since I can’t reasonably do any of these things ( 🙁 ), I’ve decided to share my best winter layering tips with you instead. And learn to take photos of myself with my phone.

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This is the fashion-lite portion of the post. On a typical Polar Vortex day in Ohio when I’m forced to leave my heat fortress (AKA, my bed) this is what I’m wearing:

  • Underwear + bra (duh), but both have to be comfy. I’m not messing with adjusting an underwire that’s buried under three+ layers of clothing.
  • At least two pairs of socks, knee socks work great for layering.
  • 1 pair of long underwear, tights or leggings; lightweight pajama bottoms work in a pinch, or on laundry day. I like Sonoma’s warmwear.
  • 1 pair of jeans, it’s better if these are not freshly washed, wear jeans you’ve worn a few times already so you can still move with the extra layers underneath.
  • 2 long-sleeved shirts, one can be a matching long underwear top.
  • 1 zipped up jacket, a jacket with a zipper is better than a hoodie, if I get hot I can unzip my jacket instead of having to remove an entire layer.
  • Winter coat, scarf, gloves, winter hat and boots.

If I’m not sweating by the time I leave the apartment I’m not wearing enough or Emma has turned down the thermostat again (she does it when she’s hungry, it’s rude).

Emma + Thermostat

In addition to wearing half the clothes I own at once (kidding, it’s only like a quarter of my clothes 😉 ), I also have a set of tucking and ordering rules I follow:

  1. Tuck the bottom of the long underwear or tights into the first pair of socks. Pull the second pair of socks up over the long underwear or tights.
  2. Tuck the bottom of the first long-sleeved top into the long underwear or tights.**
  3. Put on jeans.
  4. Layer second long-sleeved top over jeans**
  5. Put on jacket.
  6. Put on scarf, wrap around neck as many times as possible (without choking oneself), leaving at least one loop a little loose. I pull this fabric up over my nose and mouth before stepping outside. Any extra fabric can be zipped up into my jacket to cover any skin that might still be showing.

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**IMG_0468Depending on how tight the layers are, it may not be comfortable to tuck your long-sleeved shirt into your long underwear and still button your pants, especially if you wear skinny or fitted jeans. You’re adding two extra layers of fabric to your waistline. I’ve worn my shirts tucked and untucked and have still been warm both times. And if I’m not warm enough, there are always Hot Hands hand warmers, toe warmers and my personal favorite, foot warmers (they stick to your socks!).

The final product is very layered and keeps me warm, but is not what I would call fashionable by any stretch of the imagination. I look less like a fashionista and more like I’m going to rob a bank. But I’m ok with it. My main concern January through March this year is keeping warm and not breaking anything when I inevitably slip on ice.

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This is what I wear for work. I’m a cashier at a home improvement store so casual dress is ok. I’m also inside all day, although I work near outside doors which open frequently throughout my shift. If you work outdoors or are doing some winter hiking in these frigid temps my layering tips may not be enough for you. I wear a lot of cotton and cotton blends which is the worst thing you can wear if you’re going to be working outdoors and/or working up a sweat. Cotton does not dry quickly nor does it wick away moisture so if you get wet or sweaty you’re going to be wet and really cold for a long time which can lead to hypothermia. So do your research before gearing up to tackle an outdoor project or enjoy the winter wonderland outdoors.

I will be spending my time off work at home, cuddled up with my cats, five blankets, and a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate waiting for this whole “winter thing” to blow over.

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*Courtney is not and does not claim to be a fashion expert. The content presented in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional fashion advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your fashionista or other qualified fashion expert with any questions you may have regarding a fashion crisis, faux pas or who wore it better situation. Never disregard professional fashion advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Hello 2015: Meet Your Blogger

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My inspiration board. Ideas for stories and projects as well as artwork that I love.

I started blogging in April 2013 as a way to help me develop a writing habit. I want to be a children’s book author/novelist/freelance writer someday and at the time I wasn’t doing anything about it. I was working my day job as an environmental educator and jotting down notes about books I would write “someday.” I picked Columbus as my blog focus and wrote about restaurants, museums, parks and events I attended (and loved, there are no negative reviews on my blogs). I also did a year-long daily photography challenge because I also want to be a professional photographer, someday.

When we moved to the Cincinnati area in May last year I decided to start a new blog but with a broader focus (Ohio), just in case we moved again. I kept blogging about restaurants, museums, parks and events. I like blogging about local places and events like this – it’s fun to share what I’ve been exploring in my area with friends and family. But I actually had a hard time writing about my experience. I could describe what we ate or research when the museum was built and by what architect, but I didn’t really write about what I thought. Or at least not very much. I started writing less because I didn’t really enjoy the writing part of my blog.

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After a month or two of posting very little, but reading a lot of other wonderful blogs, it hit me. My blog can be whatever I want it to be about. I don’t have to limit myself to reviewing places I’ve eaten at or enjoyed a hike at. I can write about… me. My writing, my life, my goals and dreams. My struggles. It might be just as difficult for me to write about myself as it was to try and write about what I thought about a recent visit to the museum, but I think writing about me (or whatever I feel like writing about that day) will be more authentic in the end. And hopefully it will get easier.

So that’s what I’m trying to do this year. I thought I’d start with a little “about me” post. I really like the “About” sections on several blogs that I read, especially the one on A Beautiful Mess and Bookmark to Blog. They are where most of my ideas for this post came from. These are some fun facts about Courtney, your blogger here at This Ohio Life.

Kenneth and I, Christmas-time 2013.

Home Life: I share a little apartment with my husband, Kenneth, and our three adorable cats. Kenneth and starting dating in high school and have been together ever since. We got married in 2010 at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton, Ohio. We both volunteered at Aullwood and I worked there as an intern and a summer camp teacher during college. We adopted Olivia, our fierce and sweet black and white tuxedo in 2008, she’s six years old. Emma, our always hungry black cat with bright green eyes, came into our lives in 2009, she’s five years old. Amelia found us in 2010. She’s our spunky and squirrely little brown tabby cat.

Green Favs Collage

Favorite color: Green. All shades of green but especially “obnoxiously-bright” green.

Spirit Animal: African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) which is the ancestor to today’s modern domestic cat. I am a loud, proud crazy cat lady.

Favorite foods: Coffee. Pizza. Tacos. Chocolate. Dessert. Not always in that order, but coffee is always first. Coffee is also my drug of choice and the nectar of the gods. I’m not me without at least one cup of coffee in me. At least not a version of me that wants to talk to you.

Guilty pleasure: I enjoy long showers. I know it wastes water, but it’s sooo warm!

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Mock-ups of Amelia I painted when working on Kenneth’s 2014 Christmas gift.

Non-blog hobby: I love to bake, paint, draw, read, sew, craft and make DIY projects. I also enjoy hiking, yoga, birdwatching and gardening.

Childhood hero: My favorite children’s book author is Jan Brett. My parents read her beautifully illustrated books to me when I was little and I still look for her latest creations in bookstores and at the library. Her books are gorgeous and extremely detailed. Reading her books is what first made me want to be an author!

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Favorite writers: Jane Austen, Alexander McCall Smith, Amy Stewart, Shirley Tallman, Angela Carter, William Dietrich, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Favorite artists: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Andy Goldsworthy, Brooke Shaden, Aurora Robson, Hong Mao and Geninne D. Zlatkis.

Favorite movies: Into the Woods, Pride and Prejudice (the 1995 BBC mini series, no substitutes), How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2, the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013)) and Tim Burton films featuring Johnny Depp and the lovely Helena Bonham Carter. I’m a bit of an anglophile, in addition to my cat and coffee obsessions.

IMG_6040Favorite music: The Civil Wars, Norah Jones, Mumford & Sons, Coconut Records and Of Monsters and Men.

Celebrity crush: Martin Freeman, Colin Firth and Nicholas Hoult (see above about being an anglophile).

Celebrities I wish could be my BFF: Mariska Hargitay (I named my cat Olivia after her character on L&O SVU six years before Taylor Swift did it. Six years Mariska!), Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I also think I’d get along really well with most of the folks working at Buzzfeed. I think Kenneth and I could be best ‘couple friends’ with the Weird Things Couples Do couple.

Favorite season: Not winter. I’m trying really hard not to think about the temperature for the next few months. Instead I’m focusing on layering my clothes and blankets, which is not really not thinking about the freezing temps. 🙁

Nearly two years after I began my foray into blogging and I am finally starting to feel like I’m making progress with my writing. I’m writing short stories, emphasis on short. My stories are flash fiction, which are typically around 300 words in length. It’s a small start, but it’s somewhere (and I’ve had three of them published! check them out on the NEAT mag website and in the Fall 2014 issue).

Welcome to This Ohio Life – I hope you enjoy the changes I’m making to the blog this year!