Unscripted Sabbath

If I took Sabbath seriously, what would it look like? Real rest: what is that? Not answering to my demands for production and perfection. Not being on point, at red alert, watching a clock.

Am I capable of releasing the tiller?

Yesterday I took an unscripted Sabbath. I attended my Quaker church, open to possibilities. I returned home for a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a totally un-Sunday lunch. I was invited to a local art gallery. That sounded spontaneous. The showing was themed with unexpected diverse works. Nice.

From there I stopped at a market that I’d not intended to enter, turned into the parking lot when I’d meant to drive by. Bought random stuff. Stopped at the milk tea place next door and tried a soy milk mung bean tea with boba because I’d never tried that before. It was good!

I’d intended to watch a Master Class but took a nap instead. Woke ninety minutes later, refreshed. Took a walk, heading for a street I’d never tried. Saw the mallards in the picture above also taking a stroll. The light at 5:30 pm created sharply-defined shadows. Six days per week, my walks are programmed 30-45 minutes long. Yesterday I entered my front door after 28 minutes and didn’t feel a speck of guilt.

Made a dinner I spotted in NY Times this morning. I didn’t have access to the recipe so I winged it. Broccoli soaked in a Soy Maple marinade for thirty minutes and then roasted for 20 minutes in my toaster oven at 400 degrees. I added walnuts in the last five minutes, then spooned it on California sprouted rice and dusted it with sesame seeds. I devoured it in a bowl I bought in Little Tokyo years ago. I’ll be cooking this again.

After dinner, I saw Avengers: Infinity War instead of continuing to binge-watch Eureka episodes. I followed it up by watching Steve Martin teach a Master Class about gathering material through observation. Another theme I discovered yesterday. The class on comedy wasn’t on my class list to finish this year.

I enjoyed my unscripted Sabbath. I’m ready for the coming week and excited about what next Sunday will bring.

Happy writing, walking, and resting! Michelle

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Apricot Blossoms in SoCal, Forts in Puerto Rico, and Hammocks in Haiti

Walking my Southern Californian neighborhood with fruit trees filled with blossoms is effervescent. The scents of orange and apricot blossoms slap the nose. The sight is eye candy for the soul.

I see blossoms heralding an onslaught of tangerines, pluots, Meyer lemons, persimmons, oranges, loquats, apricots, and fruit trees I can’t identify. I suspect the unrelenting rain is giving us a season of abundance. An abundance of many growing things. I’ve also seen English peas, potatoes, beets, onions, beans, lettuce and ….

Well as one gardener said: weeds, weeds, and more weeds:

Earlier this month, I took a terrific Royal Caribbean cruise with three other writers. We traveled the Western Caribbean with stops in St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. I elected not to get off Harmony of the Seas for St. Maarten. I’d explored the island on another cruise and since I was in a good place with my writing, I remained among my pages. Places on the ship I liked to write? Central Park around the Center Cafe and Dazzle night club were my favorites. I usually hit Starbucks before Dazzle, which was mostly quiet during the day. If an artist or band members rehearsed during my writing session, it only added color to my work.

One of the writers and I took a turn around San Juan, Puerto Rico and the two forts. The photo above shows the second fort from a cemetery in the foreground. It was hot that day and I acquired a fierce sunburn. I was always aware that the island was a United States territory. Best moments? Going to the Starbucks. Seeing the feather artist I’d met on a previous visit and talked to her about the hurricane. Hearing a good-old-boy accent from the Park Ranger from Houston, Texas. Exploring the forts and taking loads of photos.

Labadee, Haiti was our next and last stop in the Caribbean, and the first time I’d been to this island. My visit was short. With my Puerto Rican sunburn and a driven need to write, I focused on lunch and a walk along the beach for a slew of photos. While half our writers picked out their hammocks, another writer accompanied me on the walk. We saw sun bathers and swimmers, zip-liners sailing over the beach, a local music group, drinks served in pineapples and coconuts, fabulous beaches and a gorgeous coastline of hills and jungles.

Other fun things we did on ship? Saw an incredible ice show twice–very Jules Verne with amazing special effects. After seeing one of the singers rehearse in Dazzle, we returned that night to watch a Haitian group perform my favorite Motown songs. We also took in the stage show Grease.

In Fort Lauderdale, two of us stayed in a hotel the night before the cruise and stayed in a different hotel after the cruise. Sure made flight and ship connections easier. That second hotel had a lovely atrium, perfect for writing. We had a great lunch at Coco, a Thai/Japanese restaurant a block from the hotel.

In case you were wondering, my four flights between John Wayne and Fort Lauderdale airports were on Boeing 737s. Just before they were grounded.

Happy writing, walking, traveling, and reading! Michelle

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Cold California Rain and Books to Warm Us

Yes, that was the Southern California sky just a few days ago. I walked the neighborhood with mittens and anything with a hood. The sight of those clouds strikes terror, doesn’t it?

Not that long ago, I rambled in the United Kingdom where rain was the norm and chilly days expected. My wimpy California self has returned. I didn’t venture out when I heard thunder or when the rain poured. Give me a few points for slogging through a few drizzles.

Truthfully it was good to stay inside, prepare taxes, write, and most of all–read! I listened to books on tape and actually opened the Kindle app and read some books. If you’re looking for books to warm your frosty toes, here’s a list of mysteries.

Sneaking in one of mine, here’s the first novella in the Abishag mystery quartet. In Sinking Ships, a college student marries a vegetative man in hospice and finds his hospice aide murdered on her wedding night. Set in Palos Verdes, California, it’s a cozy mystery for the young at heart. A steal at 99 cents.

I love medical mysteries! Just discovered Lethal Incision by Dobi Cross.

Chief surgical resident Zora Smyth is used to the atypical: the disappearance of her sister, false murder charges from a serial killer, and a brush with death. When nameless patients show up on her operating table and then disappear on her watch, Zora investigates. LETHAL INCISION is the second book in Dobi Cross’ suspense-filled series of medical thrillers. If you like page-turning medical thrillers filled with unexpected twists and intrigue, you will love LETHAL INCISION.

I’m working on a Young Adult Contemporary novel and looking for intriguing voices in this genre. Try Krista Wagner’s Intent: The Beginning.

When classmate Paul befriends Raylee, she is determined to ignore Crystal’s ploys. And when new student Billy arrives, Raylee finds herself drawn to his mysterious side, but Crystal will do whatever it takes to keep him from Raylee.

Full of deception and mind games amid a growing sense that danger is near, Intent: The Beginning will take you into a world where faith is tested, friendships are put at risk, and small town secrets are revealed.

You all know I love Rhondi Ann’s books. Here’s Lies & Promises the fabulous mystery that I’m currently reading with its brand new cover. Only $1.99!

It was bad enough Lauren’s ex betrayed her.
It was worse he got himself killed…
Now, Lauren must untangle his lies to find a promised international treasure using clues he left behind that only she can solve.
With a rescued war dog by her side, Lauren must separate the good guys from the bad, the truth from the past, and save herself before the murderer catches her too.

I was thrilled to find Greta Boris’s Sanctity of Sloth at audible.com. Loved listening to this book. The narrator was wonderful. Really made me forget the dreary weather. I gave it a five star review.

There’s one thing more dangerous than testifying to a crime—staying silent.
Locked in the ruins of a California Mission, Abby Travers watches helplessly as a girl dies outside her window.

The Sanctity of Sloth is a taut, psychological thriller. Fans of Paula Hawkins and A.J. Finn will enjoy this third book in Greta Boris’s Seven Deadly Sins Series.

If you like the books, I hope you’ll consider leaving a review on Amazon or Good Reads or audible.com. Reviews really do help author and readers!

One last picture to show you how far the snow has come down on slopes of the snowcapped mountains around Southern California. I took this picture from Fullerton amid a clutch of stunned Californians.

Happy reading! Michelle

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Chromatic Bells, Strings, Potatoes, and Books

Chromatic Chimes Talk at Bowers Museum

Midst the incessant cold rain dogging us in Southern California, I have bravely ventured out on the slick highways. I visited the Bowers Museum to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year (Boar). While my friend viewed the festivities, I revisited the ongoing exhibit 5000 Years of Chinese History. The ARCE lecture on the last Saturday of the month featured UCLA Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney. Interesting talk on the seven female rulers of Ancient Egypt. Yesterday, Sunday, February 10, 2019, I and two friends attended the lecture given by Dr Guangming Li on the Hubei Bells and more.

Although I am no musicologist, I enjoyed the physics of the talk. Harmonics and modulation evoked memories of Shannon’s Theorem and my years as a shuttle and satellite communications engineer. No bells were at the lecture but we heard recordings. He brought a Qin, a modern version of an ancient stringed instrument. I got a closer look when I asked what the ancient strings were made of. Silk and cotton was the answer. I was surprised and still trying to imagine it.

Other electrical engineering tasks this winter included installing new Fire TV equipment and flood lights around the house. Enough said.

Chromatic Deviled Potatoes

I made deviled potatoes today–a satisfying vegan replacement for deviled eggs. I boil halved red potatoes skin on for about fifteen minutes. Let cool or do a quick douse in cold water. Spoon out potato from potato skin. Fork mix potato with dill relish, horseradish, mustard, and vegenaise. Spoon back into potato skins. Refrigerate and enjoy within three days.

The chromatic part? With a light hand, I sprinkle the stuffed potato skins with black lava salt and sweet paprika, which adds a layered, fulsome taste that harmonizes perfectly with the deviled potatoes!

A Cheap Quick Chromatic Read

What I love about Found Dead in Arugula is that you can read it in about an hour and it’s got mystery, gardening, food ideas, and a touch of romance that will add color, harmony, and satisfaction to your lunch or break time. And it’s only 99 cents. Cheaper and tastier than vending  machine chips! Check it out HERE!

Happy playing, eating, and reading.

Michelle Knowlden

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A Nod to the Past

Knowlden_Cochom_River from Castle

My current work in progress is set in Ancient China. I’ve yet to set the climate. I’ve been feeling the January chill in Southern California’s nights and mornings, so maybe there’ll be snow in the forecast.

The photo to the left was taken from Germany’s Cochem castle’s balcony. The visit was on my 2015 Viking Paris to Prague trip where it was a 30 degF that day. If you missed that report, you can read it HERE.

We’re playing with flash fiction at Facebook’s Charmed Connection in anticipation of the anthology’s release. I submitted a photo of a painting I took at the D’Orsay during that trip. It was so short a time after the Paris bombings that the art museum was lightly attended. Our boat had thinned out as well so portions were huge that Thanksgiving. We had to eat for those who’d stayed home.

I attended Dr. Kara Cooney’s talk at the Bowers museum last Saturday. She’s a UCLA (rah!) professor, Egyptologist, and moderated a Discovery Channel series Out of Egypt. Her latest book for National Geographic talks about the six female rulers of ancient Egypt. Illuminates why it was possible there and not possible in modern USA.

Unlike the MC in Midnight in Paris, I’m not nostalgic for the past. I love to read books set in the past. I love to attend lectures about ancient times. History fascinates me because it sheds light on the present, a place I’m happy to live with its foibles, central heating, and vegan frankfurters.

Happy reading and sharing memories!

Michelle Knowlden


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Three Moments in China

Last August I went to China with four friends. We did Viking’s Imperial Gems cruise, which was a week on land and a week on the Yangtze River. We stayed at classy hotels in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. A truly unforgettable trip.

The photo to the left was inside the Forbidden City, which we visited on our first day in Beijing. A hot, humid day also crammed with visits to Tiananmen Square, an artist’s private home, and lots of walking. Larry was a dream guide filled with information and lots of patient attention for his tourists.

Traveling down the Yangtze River was on my bucket list since I saw a 360 degree show at Disneyland narrated by a poet. The river has changed over the centuries especially in the modern era. I’ve never seen so many skyscrapers or dams or different styles of locks.

The river has a muddy appearance. The bridges were fantastic from ancient to modern.

Lots to do on the boat. I had a nice conversation with a lady selling teas and tried some lovely varieties. I bought a snow chrysanthemum herbal, which is supposed to be great for colds. Our tour group visited a tea house during the land tour and tried even more varietals. I’m a tea drinker from way back so this was a highlight.

Another stop was to see the Terracotta Soldiers. From Wikipedia: The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.

Seemed impossible to take a picture that captured the details of individual soldiers and the vast landscape where they stood. Each soldier had an individual facial expression: cynical, pleasant, watchful, friendly, fierce, bored, etc. There were horses too. Loved listening to what was known of that era and loved watching the archeologists and restorers at work. The museums included in the massive complex were wonderful too.

I had so many terrific encounters with people during this trip. That’d be a long blog in itself.

That’s it for this memory stream. I’m sure I’ll return with more. Have you been to China or going soon? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear your stories.

Happy writing, reading and traveling.

Michelle Knowlden

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So California Autumn in January with Recipes and Free Book

Autumn has arrived in California. The Japanese Maples on my neighborhood walks wear their brilliant red and orange cloaks. Bright yellow leaves wind through my yard undressing the fig and apricot trees during this cold, cruel month.

On a less melodramatic note, let’s talk comfort food. Vegan-style. On a rainy day at 55 deg F, it’s where my mind turns.

Last week I pulled my Diablo press from the kitchen appliance cupboard. It’s low tech, well-made, and easy to maintain. I created these pocket “sandwiches.”

Bean and Veggie Pupusas

Based on a El Salvadoran entree, I lay a street taco tortilla (small, made with masa (corn) so GF) on one side of the Diablo press. I spread a spoonful of refried pinto beans then layer chopped onion, a tsp of salsa, and chopped power greens. Lay the second tortilla on top and close the press. Heat over medium heat flame on stove. About 2-4 minutes per side.

Hummus and Tabouli Pocket

Mediterranean this time. I bop back and forth on using either tabouli or olive tapenade. Depends on my mood. I lay flat bread on one side of the Diablo press. If you want to stay GF and not need to trim the bread, stick with the street taco tortillas. I spread a spoonful of hummus, then add sun-dried tomato, a tsp of tabouli, mushroom slice, artichoke, drizzle with dark balsamic, and top with chopped power greens. Lay the second flat bread on top and closed the press. Heat over medium heat flame on stove. About 2-4 minutes per side.

Taste of Jewish Deli

I lay a wheat sandwich thin on one side of the Diablo press. I spread a spoonful of Miy0ko’s cream cheese (Un-Lox Your Dreams), then top with sliced onion, capers, sun-dried tomato, drizzle with dark balsamic, and chopped power greens. Lay the second sandwich thin on top and close the press. Heat over medium heat flame on stove. About 2-4 minutes per side.

I froze the extras. If you have other ideas for these pocket sandwiches, please comment!


Sinking Ships –the first book in the Abishag Mystery series is FREE this weekend. Grab it now at Amazon. Consider leaving a review if you like it–sure  helps authors and readers.

Off to make vegan sloppy joes and write the Sword & Sorcery Lunchtime Read work-in-progress. Happy writing, walking, reading and eating.

Michelle Knowlden

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