Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: Meet Vivian Kirkfield & Giveaway

Welcome, Vivian Kirkfield! Welcome, readers! Let’s get this party, I mean Author Interview, going!

Happy Universal Music Day! We decided to celebrate Universal Music Day by introducing Vivian’s new picture book, Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read more about Universal Music Day here.

I met Vivian Kirkfield online through the wonderful kidlit community. She is a fascinating online friend. I can only hope our paths intersect some day so we can meet in person. Think WASHINGTON state, Vivian. Yakima Valley.

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vivian’s new picture book releases and her fun travels and adventures. To celebrate her newest picture book release, I’ve invited Vivian to visit and answer a few questions. But first, here is her new book.

*Be sure to read all the way to the bottom. Vivian Kirkfield is offering a bound ARC of Making Their Voices Heard to one reader. Be sure to comment below to get your name in the hat!

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Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020

 

The Interview

I was so excited to read Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020). I had no idea Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe knew each other. How did you find out about this special friendship?

At the end of 2014, soon after I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books, I was surfing the internet, looking for ideas for stories (a homework assignment for that class) and came across a photo of Ella and Marilyn, sitting together at a nightclub. The blurb under the photo talked about how Marilyn had helped Ella get a booking at a top nightclub in Hollywood. I was intrigued…and I started digging deeper to find out more about it. But, as is the case with many story ideas, I couldn’t find anything to substantiate whether or not Ella and Marilyn were friends. So, I had to get creative.

I discovered that one of the books on Marilyn Monroe was authored by a former professor at a California university. I went to the school’s website and found her email. I contacted her and she suggested I ask the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, Greg Schreiner. I was able to get his email on his website and he gave me the phone number of the woman who had been Ella’s promoter for thirty-seven years. I called her – we spoke for hours – and she verified that Ella and Marilyn had been friends and both had a tremendous respect and admiration for each other.

What was your inspiration to turn this friendship into a picture book?

They say we need to make a book relatable for kids. Kids help their friends all the time. I thought it was important to show how Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe helped each other. Marilyn put her career on the line to a certain extent because in those days, there was a lot of racial discrimination and movie studios controlled what their actresses could and couldn’t do. By calling the nightclub owner and insisting that he book Ella, Marilyn stepped up and spoke out. The Civil Rights movement was just in its infancy…in fact, the nightclub incident happened in 1954 and it wasn’t until the end of 1955 that Rosa Park refused to give up her seat on the bus.

I also wanted to show how we are all complex individuals. Most of us know Marilyn as a sexy Hollywood star…and kids probably don’t know her at all. Similarly, most kids may never have heard of Ella, but her music was genius…in fact, at the first Grammys in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald won for best female pop vocalist and best improvised jazz performance. I thought it was time for kids to discover these two special women.

What was your writing journey for Making Their Voices Heard? How long did it take? Did you work with others or share your manuscript with a critique group or other writers?

As I mentioned, I wrote the story late in 2014/early 2015. I researched – using online sources and lots of library books. When I felt I had enough information to craft the narrative around these two icons, I began writing. By June 2015, I had a polished rough draft. Hahaha…that sounds like an oxymoron, right? I had the story…but it wasn’t there yet. I submitted it to Rate Your Story, an online service of kid-lit professionals who give a rating from 1-10 (1 is the best…it means the story is just about ready to submit). In June 2015, Ella and Marilyn…at that point titled: A FRONT ROW SEAT, received a ‘3’ and the judge suggested I add something about how Ella helped Marilyn to balance the story out. GREAT ADVICE which I took!

I worked on the story, gave it to some of my critique buddies, along with the feedback from the judge. And then I revised and polished it some more and brought it to a writing retreat where an editor fell in love with it and asked me to revise and send it to her. I did revise it and submitted it to Rate Your Story again in August 2015 with the title: STANDING UP FOR FRIENDSHIP. It received a ‘2’. Then I signed with Essie White as my agent and she submitted it to that editor. But even though the editor loved it, she couldn’t get acquisitions to buy it.

In the summer of 2016, I went to another writing retreat and pitched it to a different editor who asked to see it. Essie sent it to her and she asked for revisions. I revised and gave it to critique buddies again. And in August 2016, I sent it to Rate Your Story one last time with the title: DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. And it received a ‘1’. The editor loved the revision, but that acquisitions’ team wouldn’t buy it either. That’s the thing about this business…you can have a fabulous story but if it doesn’t get to the desk of the right editor…or, if it does, but acquisitions doesn’t think they can make enough money…or if the publisher isn’t looking for a book about that topic…they will pass on it. You just have to keep on writing other stories and submitting that one.

Early in 2018, the manuscript was still circulating (Essie really believed in it) and the editor from Little Bee Books asked for a revise and resubmit. I revised (are you seeing a pattern here…no matter how polished your story is, every editor or agent sees it with their own eyes and from their own perspective of experience…and we have to be willing to make changes as per what a particular editor is looking for), with the help of my critique buddies, and the editor bought it. And the week after she made the offer, we spent five days of back and forth emails as she made suggestions for a few minor tweaks and additions. Every day, my inbox would have her marked up manuscript…every evening, her inbox would have my revision. On the fifth day, she said…We’re done! It’s time to get the illustrator.

And she did. The illustrator, the fabulous Alleanna Harris was signed on almost immediately and the publication process began.

Which just goes to show that if you believe in your manuscript and your writing is good, your story will find a home!

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of Making Their Voices Heard?

I have several thoughts…the book launches January 14th, 2020. And the NYSCBWI conference is the first week in February. If Little Bee Books can arrange a book launch at Books of Wonder or some other NYC bookstore for that week, I might do that. One of my dear friends, Maria Marshall, is going to interview me for her Picture Book Buzz blog series on January 13th…and she’ll also do a Perfect Picture Book Friday review on January 17th. Several other friends are already doing posts (like this one here on Angie Quantrell’s blog!). I don’t have a book birthday post yet…but I think maybe Kathy Temean might have said she wants to do that. The mid-winter ALA is at the end of January in Philadelphia…I’d be happy to go there if I could sign the book at the Little Bee booth. And of course, the Grammys are January 26 – that’s a special day for this book because, as I mentioned earlier, Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Pop Vocalist and Best Improvised Jazz Performance in the very first-ever Grammys in 1959. I’d also love to attend the LASCBWI next summer – Greg Schreiner, the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, thinks Hollywood is the perfect place for this book. 😊 And I am always open to suggestions – if anyone has a great idea, I’m all ears. 😉

What else would you like to share about this lovely book, your writing, or your life as an author?

I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world…I am truly living my dream…and best of all, I’m able to work with other writers, both old and young. At every conference presentation, I encourage writers to never give up – the only failure is the failure to keep trying. And at every school I visit, I hope to inspire children to follow their dreams—because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

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About Vivian

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020).

You can connect with Vivian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

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Thank you, Vivian, for the wonderful interview! I’m fascinated by the journey of this book on its way to publication. Great job sticking with it! Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday!

Don’t forget to comment and share some love with Vivian! Comment by Friday, October 18, to get your name in the hat to win a bound ARC copy of Making Their Voices Heard.

 

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Don’t Be a Stuffed Shirt (and a Giveaway)

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Do you love giving back or helping someone less fortunate?

I just opened my copy of Missions Mosaic which features my article giving directions and suggestions for an outreach project using stuffed shirts. I was so happy to see this article in print. I loved being able to take some of the photos included in the magazine. So DON’T be a stuffed shirt, give one instead!

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I have one copy of the October issue of Missions Mosaic that I will give to one reader. To enter the drawing:

1. Comment below. Tell me one way you have helped someone else. I’ll put all names in a hat. Drawing closes Sunday, October 6, at 4:00 (PST).

2. I’d love it if you would follow my blog or my Facebook author page, but that is not required.

3. If you do indeed stuff a shirt, snap a photo before you give it away and share it with us!

***Drawing limited to US residents.

Missions Mosaic is a monthly magazine featuring articles about faith, missions, missionaries, and ideas for believers to use to get to know and help those in their communities. Visit Woman’s Missionary Union  for information on how to subscribe to Missions Mosaic.

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Book Report: Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach

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Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach

Written by Cathy Baker

http://www.cathybaker.org, 2017

 

I was recently gifted Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach by the amazing Cathy Baker. Ok, by recently I mean…a bit ago. But I digress.

I started reading this adorable little devotional guide, again, a bit ago. Then I realized it would be the perfect special devotional guide to take with me on my week-long writing residency at Holly House (Hypatia-in-the-Woods). So I tucked it in my growing stack of things to take with me on my residency.

It turns out I was correct. This little gem was just the right length and focus for my week near several beaches in the Shelton, Washington, area. I loved reading the entry for each morning and reflecting on God’s beauty, vacation (though I was on a residency), relaxing, and resting. I especially enjoyed Cathy’s inclusion of travel days and coming back to reality after vacation.

Cathy has a sweet spirit, which is very obvious when you read her book or her newsletters. I first discovered Cathy when I bumped into one of her posts. Her site has a picture of the cutest Tiny House on the Hill. My honey and I want to build a tiny house, so I latched right on to her site. Cathy and her husband are working on her writing studio/retreat tiny house. I’ve loved watching each step they take as they add to the tiny house. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

If you are heading out for a week away, or are still looking forward to vacation, consider reading Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach by Cathy Baker. Check out her web site at CathyBaker.org.

Thank you, Cathy, for the gift of a book that added just the right touch to my writing residency. Be blessed!

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Haiku Moment: creeper

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if I could but creep

on fence and stalk, spinning webs

you’d watch out for me

 

creeper by Angie Quantrell

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Welcome, cat-faced spider. Eat all you want. But please, keep your webs from my face.

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Scenes from a Writing Residency: Holly House & Hypatia-in-the-Woods

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Holly House

Last January I was elated to learn I had been granted a special writing residency and retreat at Holly House and Hypatia-in-the-Woods. What a great way to begin a new year!

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Beautiful tree-lined drive into Holly House. Loved this walk!

Located outside of Shelton, Washington, not far from Olympia, Holly House would be overlooking Hammersly Inlet if it weren’t totally surrounded by a mixed forest of deciduous and coniferous trees. The setting is absolutely gorgeous. Cool, green, shaded, quiet, peaceful. Did I say peaceful? And all mine for the week.

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Welcoming front patio. Spiders especially loved this area.

After shopping for enough food to last 3 months, as if grocery stores did not exist 5-7 miles away, I arrived before lunch on my appointed Sunday. Outside appearances did not prepare me for the spacious and beautiful inside environment. Incidentally, Holly House is very close to the small house size my honey and I want to build for ourselves.

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Cozy living room. This chair is perfect for reading!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I had everything I needed for a creative, imaginative, stress-free week. Loft bedroom, large bathroom, living room, dining area, kitchen, and even a deck with the most perfect table and chairs.

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Perfect tiny kitchen. Ignore my mess. It was everywhere!

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The side deck let in so much natural, green light. Ahhh. I enjoyed reading and working outside in the soft green sunlight.

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The loft bedroom had plenty of storage and space. Wide open windows brought in light and fresh air.

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Me and more of my mess. This was my main working area (can you tell????). The view in front of me was a HUGE and very pleasant distraction. I didn’t mind in the least.

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TV window. No electricity required.

I was so blessed to visit and stay at Holly House. The neighbors (a couple and their huge dog) were fantastically helpful and reassuring. After all, I was in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere. And I heard there had been evidence of a bear. My imagination supplied the rest of the excitement.

The Hypatia-in-the-Woods board was wonderful. I enjoyed a potluck one evening, getting to meet most of the members. I was met by Carolyn at Holly House. She brought me some snacks and gave me a working tour of the cabin. Every single thing I could have wanted or desired was provided. Or all I had to do was ask. Thank you to all who gave me the opportunity and welcomed me to Holly House.

I’m so thankful for my writing residency. Thank you, Holly House, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, neighbors, and the Hypatia board. Thank you!

If you ever have an opportunity to go on a writing retreat or residency, do it! Worth every second.

 


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Rubber Stamped Cards: A Time of Creativity

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Last week I had the privilege of enjoying a writing residency/retreat at Holly House through Hypatia-in-the-Woods. I really worked my days, writing, planning, editing, sorting, exploring, eating, and drinking tea. This list was interspersed with moments of complete quiet when I just stared out into the green forest or wandered to the deck or windows to locate who was chasing and chattering. The entire week was lovely and I feel my writing benefited from being at Holly House. (So did my soul and stress level, but more on this in a later post.)

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I decided to bring my toys. Rubber stamps, ink pads, papers, tools. I set a goal of creativity one different card each night and make 6 -8 of each design. This plan turned out beautifully. The different type of creativity allowed my brain to wander and my fingers to work away from the keyboard. Lovely! And we all know how much I enjoy making rubber stamped cards. 🙂

Here they are, 7 designs, 50 cards total.

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If you ever get the opportunity to go on a writing residency or retreat, go! It’s with every second.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Haiku Moment: green boas

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green feathers, boas,

cushion path, moor silver threads

hide eight-eyed hunters

 

green boas by Angie Quantrell

 

I’m going to to miss these lovelies, but not the walking into and through spider webs. But it was worth every minute spent trying to remove clinging strands to see such verdant green life.

@Hypatia-in-the-Woods


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Haiku Moment: self-portrait

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favorite weapon

shadow self, shooting pictures

me? it’s what I do

 

self-portrait by Angie Quantrell

 

Photo taken at Potlatch State Park, Hood Canal, Washington State.

Thanks to Hypatia-in-the-Woods for the opportunity to be me.


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Fun Things to Do in Victoria BC

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Downtown Victoria BC view from our Hotel Grand Pacific balcony

Millions of thanks to my cousin, Melissa, for taking me to Canada with her! We had such a wonderful cousin time, exploring, giggling, eating, and shopping. So much fun and tons of memories (and calories). Don’t forget your passport!

Here are some of the fun things we did.

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Picturesque views while riding on the Clipper

1. Ride the Victoria Clipper. Besides getting us to Victoria in 2 hours 45 minutes, it was a fun way to travel. Parking at the Bell Street parking garage was only $10 a day with a pass from the Clipper. And only a block from the dock. Do check in online as soon as possible. We were in boarding group 1, and it only made life easier.

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Melissa and I headed north on the Victoria Clipper

2. Splurge for a nice hotel. Melissa chose the Hotel Grand Pacific, literally one block from the Clipper dock. It was so easy to wheel our luggage across the street and down the block. Check in was a breeze. Do check. They had our room ready early, though I can’t promise that all the time. The room was fabulous and we had a combined view of the city and the harbor. Comes complete with pool, hot tub, restaurants, high tea, and very friendly and knowledgeable concierges. You can’t lose with this hotel.

3. Schedule High Tea. Do it! Sure, it’s another splurge, but where (in my neighborhood) can I get fancy high tea? Uh…nowhwere. We researched a bit and settled on High Tea at our hotel, Hotel Grand Pacific. So much food, plenty of tea, oodles of sugar, ample time, short walk, wonderful company. Instructions included wearing proper shoes (no flip flops or beach wear items), so we planned ahead and brought summer dresses and dressy sandals. We both ate most of our tea foods, and swapped items we didn’t finish. Or left them on the tier. Not saying who. But I do enjoy a good smoked salmon. And tuna. Our server was kind enough to pack what was left in a container for later snacks.

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Loved this fountain!

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Two adorable 50-somethings enjoying Butchart Gardens

4. Ride city bus #75 to Butchart Gardens. Originally, we planned and booked a day-long tour which featured many popular destinations. Due to low registrations (I think we were on the only two), it was cancelled. We hemmed and hawed and eventually overhead someone saying, “Take the bus.” Excellent suggestion. $5 Canadian for an all day bus pass. Worth the entire fiver. Saved tons of money by going to Butchart on our own. And saw some great sites along the way. Skipped the parking lot fiasco. Butchart Gardens. Two words. DO IT. Gorgeous. We had lunch at The Blue Poppy Restaurant.

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Water lilies in front of Hotel Grand Pacific

5. Wander. From the bus windows, we saw the drug store we needed, plus many other fun places to explore. Touristy shopping is right on Government street, filled with all such souvenir treats one could want. It was pretty easy pickings to find surprises to take home with us.

6. Murchie’s. Visit both sides of this landmark. Coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, snacks. We hit Murchie’s for breakfast one morning and I was enchanted to have my hot tea come in a pot! If you do this, check for tea strength. I think there were 4 (FOUR!) teabags in my pot. A bit strong, so I pulled some out. The bran muffin was excellent. We then walked right next door to the shopping portion of Murchie’s where we sniffed teas, handled tea items, and purchased loose leaf tea and gifts. Bagged and loose leaf teas are available, as well as tins, tea cups and pots, tea paraphernalia, and assorted whatnots. Knowledgeable tea staff are on hand to help with purchases and tea choices. Sadly, they no longer sell spices.

7. Eat at 10 Acres. They have 3 restaurants with farm to table foods. They grow most of the items they use to prepare meals. We first visited 10 Acres Commons Bistro. I loved my fresh salad and French onion soup. The drink I had included a (ONE) fennel seed, which had accidentally transferred over during the herb harvest process. It was so tasty. We would definitely visit this bistro again. A different evening, we timed our visit to 10 Acres Commons for happy hour when some foods would be on special. Delighted to have an outside table with a lovely view. My bunless burger and salad were exceptionally delish and Melissa’s fish and chips looked super tasty. Just a warning. And I thought it funny. My usual take when I ask for no bun, lettuce wrap instead, is that I am saving you money and buns. Their take is sure, we’ll leave off the bun, but charge you extra for the lettuce wrap. LOL. My happy hour price was eaten up by my lettuce wrap and bacon. Oh well, it was so yummy, I didn’t care.

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Garden of Roger the Marmot…we did not see him.

8. Stop and smell the roses. Or lavender, geraniums, dahlias…Victoria is a beautiful city. We traveled north in August, and flowers were on abundant display. Bees and bumbles adorned nearly every flower bed we saw.

If you wander near The Empress, facing the Empress from the harbor, follow the path along the left of the far left entrance. You will find the home of Roger the marmot and his accompanying bee hives. Though native to the area before land development, marmots do not usually live within city borders. Somehow, be it RV, big truck, or baggage, Roger found his was to this tiny hidden corner of rock walls, trees, and flowers. Four attempts have been made to capture him, but he is wily and wants to stay where he wants to stay. We didn’t see him in person, but what a fun character! The Empress has turned his garden into a wildlife bee and marmot sanctuary. Go see it.

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No photos of Rogers’, but plenty of treats from High Tea!

9. Rogers’ Chocolates. If you love chocolates, you will want to enjoy some treats. We only stopped once for an after dinner truffle. Mine was pretty tasty. But they don’t give correct change (true elsewhere). I asked why I didn’t get any pennies back for my change. I was kind of grumpy about it. I love my pennies. But she said they didn’t have any. Then as I wandered on, I vaguely recalled Canada doing away with pennies. Yep. That was true. No more Canadian pennies. The Rexall cashier explained in detail. I don’t know who benefits most. The government does surely, as it costed about $1.40-1.50 to make $1 worth of pennies. Do shop keepers? Customers? No idea. But don’t expect exact change OR pennies.

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Harbor view from Fisherman’s Wharf

10. Walk the harbor sidewalk. Sit and rest, watch the people, watch the boats and air traffic. Even sitting still, there is so much to see. Victoria is beautiful and popular.

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Pot of tea at Hotel Grand Pacific breakfast. My kind of WAKE up time.

We need to plan another trip. There was so much we did not see. Castles, distilleries, China town, pickle boat rides, museums, Parliament buildings . . . So many more restaurants and malls and exciting things to see.

Have you been to Victoria? What was your favorite thing to see, do, or eat?

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Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a hot day when we walked here, only food and one shop! But beautiful. Most of these are personal homes.


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Haiku Moment: stilted legs

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land meets sea, blue green

burgeoning life; stilted legs

walks both, scurries on

 

stilted legs by Angie Quantrell

 

Photo taken at Potlatch State Park, near Shelton and Potlatch, Washington

Opportunity provided by Hypatia-in-the-Woods, Holly House

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