Wonders and Illusions

Several Wednesdays back, I took a train into Philadelphia with my youngest son’s significant life-affirming other. She had picked three destinations for us: Wonderspaces, the Museum of Illusions, and a fabulous little eatery called 3Js Café at 317 Market Street, for lunch.

To say we had a great time (except for the unseasonable 87-degree weather) would be an understatement. Our first stop after the train ride from Lansdale to Jefferson Street was Wonderspaces (https://philadelphia.wonderspaces.com), a series of art installations. A waiver had to be signed before our arrival, due to certain uses of light, etc., which could affect those with neurological disorders. I avoided several displays for this reason. Some of the installations might have been equally at home in the Museum we visited after lunch, like Radiance. My two favorites, and I say two because I cannot make up my mind which should come out on top, were Fuji by Joanie Lemercier, which is a part of the artist’s series on volcanoes, and On a Human Scale by Matthew Matthew, an interactive instrument involving images of people and a souped-up harpsichord. A close second is Radiance (Infinity Box No. 6) by Matt Elson. Rather than describe them, I have included some photographs below. However, finding myself so “interactive” with On a Human Scale, I unfortunately took neither photograph or video. I will amend this post in the future to include the videos I took of Fuji and Radiance. You can view photos, descriptions and further information on Wonderspaces website (above).

Amended: Here is a YouTube video Lauren found for On a Human Scale:

We hurried on through the godawful heat (for April, yes, it was AWFUL) to eat lunch at 3Js (https://www.3jscafephilly.com). The café is small in size, but not in flavor. Lauren chose it because she knows how much I love omelets, and they do have their breakfast selections all day, along with great sandwiches, salads, and more. All the walking had made me ravenous, and the plate set before me satisfied my appetite. Delicious.

An omelet with fresh spinach, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, a touch of cheese and the most scrumptious potatoes on the side.

Afterward, we walked a short distance to the Museum of Illusions (https://moiphilly.com). This contained similar warnings for those with seizure disorders, etc., but no waiver required. When we first entered, I was overwhelmed by the noisy children, but really, I couldn’t blame them for their boisterous exuberance. This old lady got a bit exuberant herself. There were numerous and frankly unbelievable illusions to be created by the placement of one’s body, the mirrors on hand, or the distances between one element and another and a person’s line of sight. Such fun to be had for young and, yeah, old.  

My favorite!

Oh, and on our way from one destination to another, we stopped to check out a carefully protected archeological dig right on the city street. This prompted our decision to return to Philadelphia in the not-too-distance future, this time to the Penn Museum of Archeology. I can’t wait! 😊

Aging and the ‘old’ word

I had a reminder on Facebook of a post I made a year ago today. Here it is:

So, I went to the grocery store yesterday and was stopped by an old guy sitting on the bench outside. He asked me if I thought I was going to go grocery shopping. I said, “That was the plan, why?” He asked me if I noticed the condition of the parking lot. I said yes, and I figured it was my lucky day. No crowds. He went on to explain that the store had lost power and they weren’t letting anyone in. He was waiting though, because he’d already been back twice. He offered for me to join him on the bench. I thanked him and headed on home instead. The point of this story? The very first sentence: I was stopped by an old guy. An OLD guy? In retrospect, I’m pretty darned sure he was MY age. *sigh*

I say to myself, did I not learn ANYTHING from this experience? Because I still do it. Still say, that old person, that old guy, that old lady. As a descriptor, I suppose it works, but in terms of respecting age, a long life lived, I suspect it falls short. At the very least, it’s high time I recognized the gray in my own head.

Except I don’t want to. Not because I have a problem with aging. I look back on my life so far, all I’ve seen and accomplished, big and small, significant and mundane, societal and personal, and I find immense satisfaction in it. Even so, I don’t feel old. Not mentally, not emotionally, sometimes not even physically. So why not carry on with my head held high and my hand on my aching back and take heart in the fact I am still on this earth?

To be honest, I do. My only problem is calling other people old who are, in fact, just like me, carrying on, learning, enjoying each day, each other, marveling at all they’ve experienced through the years.

I might have to put a rubber band on my wrist, like people fighting addictions sometimes do. Snap it every time I am tempted to let the word ‘old’ come out of my mouth.

Might I suggest you check back this time next year, if curiosity calls you? Let’s see if I can say ‘lesson learned’. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do as we grow older, right? Learn from life?

Fingers crossed and rubber band in place.

Words to Live By

It’s odd, but so often you come across quotes from writers, artists, other individuals who spend a great deal of time in thought, and you find those quotes meaningful. Helpful. Thought-provoking. Inspiring. I’ve started posting some of those quotes on Instagram, to share them with others, and on Facebook, too.

This was one from today, which I put onto a royalty-free photo from pexels.com. The photographer’s name is Yaroslav Shuraev. I found myself as inspired by the photo as by the quote. I think I might print this out to hang on my wall so I can see it every day.

Video Podcast – Meet the Author

Wow, I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve blogged on this site. I have been busy, but that’s no excuse for the last blog to have been related to Christmas but from October. That’s…ridiculous. However, I’ve had long periods without content before, although I vowed last year in January not to let that happen again. This is why New Year’s Resolutions hold no allure for me. I just CAN’T keep them.

Anyway, I am excited to share this video podcast from my interview as a guest on Meet the Author, so I figured I’d post it here. I don’t know if you can tell how nervous I was (I was actually shaking at one point–of course, that could be due to the temperature in that room, which is a long story I need not go into right now). Also, not liking to see myself in photos or on camera, I didn’t watch it myself for an entire day, but I had to in order to post it, lol. I wanted to make sure I didn’t look like an utter fool, after all. The hosts, Joan and Rob Carter, are wonderful and I’m so glad they had me as their guest.

So, if you’d like to check it out, please do, and I hope you enjoy the interview!

Christmas, anytime

Sometimes I wonder if I start celebrating Christmas too early. I really don’t think there’s such a thing, but yes, that’s me. I start thinking about Christmas in July, I skip over Halloween for the most part, and consider Thanksgiving “Christmas Prelude”. I think Christmas isn’t uppermost in my mind probably from mid-February until the beginning of July, only. And, well, I could be lying.

At any rate, I wanted to share this video, which was my introduction to the incomparable Lindsey Stirling (thank you, Mark!), because my watching it is the start of all things Christmas-y for the year. So, yeah, I watched it in July and haven’t stopped yet. I love her other Christmas music videos and watch them, too, along with the Piano Guys. I’ll put on a bunch of them in a wonderful YouTube line up and go about my business for the day with them playing in the background. Enjoy!

The Shadows We Make – Reader Question #3

As you may know if you’ve read prior posts, I invited the followers on the Jo Allen Ash Facebook page to send me questions they might have about The Shadows We Make—characters, settings, something they might be wondering about the writing process, or whatever (within reason) interested them. The third question, from D.H., is:

Are you ever surprised by the characters’ stories and how they lead you forward?

Answer: For me, a one-word answer to this question sums it up: Always. I think most authors will tell you how characters have a life of their own, coming into their brains sometimes as total strangers, although before long taking up deep-rooted residence in the grey matter with their own unique personalities and motivations. Often, then, when a person is writing, the character so embedded into the subconscious will dictate where the story is going next, or at least their portion in the telling. It is, of course, the writer who is doing this, but it doesn’t feel that way and the results are often surprising and gratifying, because you can sense the “rightness” present in the character’s decision. As long as the author keeps true to the goals for the story, those multitudinous moments when the character takes you by the hand and says, “No, not that way! Over here. Come on,” works out to be the best direction for the story in the long run. I know many of my characters deserve my deepest gratitude for their assistance!

If you want a visual example of this process, watch the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” about Charles Dickens’ writing of A Christmas Carol. It’ll be the perfect time of year soon to indulge yourself with it anyway, and you’ll remember this blog and say to yourself, “Oh, well heck, so that’s how it happens.”

Thanks, D.H.! Who’s next?

Whew, finished!

For now. Until the next one. It’s been a challenging learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve made the below book trailers for the three books released this year. The Shadows We Make, a critically acclaimed debut YA SF dystopia written as Jo Allen Ash and Hurry Home for Christmas, written as Robin Maderich and a re-issue (2nd Edition) of the first book in the Connor Falls Christmas series. Hurry Home for Christmas, with new cover and updated content, is available now in celebration of the upcoming When the Heart Brings You Home: A Connor Falls Christmas Collection, which is a three-novella in one volume November release, filled with all the holiday “feels”!

The Shadows We Make – Reader Question #2

As you may know if you’ve read prior posts, I invited the followers on the Jo Allen Ash Facebook page to send me questions they might have about The Shadows We Make—characters, settings, something they might be wondering about the writing process, or whatever (within reason) interested them. The second question, from Bella M., is:

You mention that Grace and her brothers get their names (as well as Grace’s green eyes) from her mother’s side. Who is her mother? Where do the names come from?

Answer: Although not explained in this book (The Shadows We Make) and only touched on in the next (The Thrice-Gifted Child), Grace’s mother, whose name is Aine, is a descendant of an extremely ancient line with ties to Earth. When her ancestry is discussed, the land from which her mother’s people are said to have originated is referred to by the ancient name of Eire. There will be more about this lineage and what it means to Grace.

Thanks, Bella M.! Who’s next?

Small Batch? Splendid!

Last weekend, my eldest son drove me around for some errand running. It was quite a bit past lunch time and we were contemplating whether we should stop and grab something or head home. Well, by chance (not really by chance, I insisted we head over that way) we pulled into the parking lot for Hometown Creamery over on Gravel Pike in East Greenville—Pennsylvania, for those who aren’t familiar. We’d both been talking about checking it out. Not a place for lunch, as far as I could tell, but, hey, you gotta live a little, right?

Egads, try live a lot, especially if you’re an ice cream lover.

In high anticipation, we exited my son’s vehicle and strode up to the front door of a building that has been many things over time, but which now houses, as the sign indicates, Hometown Creamery – Small Batch Ice Cream – Donuts – More. Like I said, not exactly a place for lunch. Definitely a place to satisfy a sweet tooth in the most wonderful way.

We paused beneath the green awning, glanced at the store hours, agreed we were skipping lunch after all and going straight to dessert, and went inside. Oh my. Oh, oh, oh my.

It’s a wide-open area upon entry (I believe all the seating is outside on park-type benches and an umbrellaed picnic table or two, but I may be mistaken—might have to go back again to check and, yeah, get some more ice cream) with a very friendly young woman directly ahead at the register. She instructed us with a smile to go to our left where we would await our turn to order. We happily complied, perusing the menu of delights with mouths open and an occasional swipe at drool.

I ended up after much indecision getting myself a fudge brownie with chocolate ice cream sundae, complete with whipped cream and maraschino cherries (I did say we hadn’t had lunch, didn’t I?) and my son had something called Tootie-Fruity with more words to follow. I can’t remember them right now. I have a feeling I was way too concerned with my own choice.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take this picture until I’d scarfed down a good bit of it!

Initially, and why I had delayed in trying out this wonderful new establishment, was a fear the ice cream would be stale. That happens sometimes in places where the flavors that don’t get eaten sit awhile. No such worries here. They mix their specialty ice creams in small batches, ensuring freshness every time. Add to that the wonderful creaminess, the sweetness, the OMG goodness and a rather old-time atmosphere, and, well, can you say ‘hooked’?

I’ll definitely be going back. In fact, once we’d finished our delectable, small-batch, ahem, lunches, I did return inside to take pictures for this blog. What I hadn’t noticed the first time around (due to my hyper-focus on the ice cream) was the long table covered with baskets of old-fashioned individual candies (nostalgia, anyone?) and the refrigerator filled with other dairy delights.

So, people, if you’re fans of ice cream, especially fans of the best darned small batch ice cream, head on over! It’s worth the trip, even if you’re not around the corner.

You can also check them out on their Facebook page (which I looked up) at: facebook.com/hometowncreamerypa

Happy eating!