Want to Make It to 100+?

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Did you know that there are almost 600,000 people worldwide who are at least 100 years old? And the numbers are expected to climb in the coming decades.

How did the longest lived reach this incredible goal? Is that your goal, too?

It is mine, so I’ve been doing some research. Below are four fascinating articles on the topic.

Turns out from an eighty-five-year Harvard study, the number one factor in achieving longevity is not social position or even health but ongoing social interactions: “relationships, relationships, relationships; loneliness kills.”

Diet (see the Blue Zones Longevity Diet and Info), exercise, joy, positivity, and genetics (somewhat) help, too.

And how about this? Has the First Person to Live to be 150 been born? It includes info about resetting the body’s molecules to reverse ageing and eliminating diseases. Whoa!

So, get a clue, Readers. I will leave you with another article with Expert Longevity Recommendations. Plan well financially for longevity. Welcome each of your birthdays joyfully; they beat the alternative. And kids, it’s not too early to start developing healthy habits to live a long, happy life. Hope to see joyful, healthy, and still financially comfortable you in the coming decades!

Photo Credit:  Thank you, Romario D’silva, on pexels.com.



Raven Mad

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

You might say I’ve gone “raven mad” lately. I refer to the bird, not my mental state!

Research for my Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, has taken me to many sites about Edgar Allan Poe and ravens. I can’t seem to get enough of either topic.

But for today, I hope to make you just as enthralled with ravens as I am.

Here are some fascinating facts about these magnificent birds that I gathered from farmersalmanac.com and mentalfloss.com:

  1. Ravens love to play. These sky acrobats can fly upside down and turn somersaults. Young ravens drop sticks in flight, then swoop to catch them.
  2. Ravens can talk and sing. These black birds can make 100 or more vocalizations with their deep voices. Ravens, be they pets or wild, enjoy mimicking human speech and bird and animal sounds. When the bird in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” said, “Nevermore,” that is realistic! (Hint: Watch for a talking raven in my Book 5 this fall!) If you’d like to hear Fable the pet raven vocalize on a YouTube video, please click HERE.
  3. Ravens are clever and intelligent. They often work in pairs to find food and will steal food from people and other animals without remorse. Ravens are ranked in an intelligence class with dolphins and chimpanzees. They make tools to help find and bury food.
  4. Ravens eat anything they want. They are omnivorous and hunt their own food, steal it, or eat roadkill. They also enjoy insects, eggs, seeds, and berries. Like squirrels, they will hide food for lean times.
  5. Ravens have been the subjects of legends and lore. To some, ravens are dark and mysterious birds, appearing in literature throughout history and across many cultures. Some consider them harbingers of death and misfortune. Others see them as symbols of good luck. Edgar Allan Poe described his midnight-visitor raven as “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, an ominous bird of yore.”
  6. Ravens are adaptable to different environments. They live in the snow, deserts, mountains, and forests and have a lifespan of twenty-five to thirty years.
  7. Ravens roam in teenage gangs. Once they mate, they pair off and mature.
  8. Ravens can show empathy. They can express concern for an injured bird, recognize a “friend” up to three years after seeing them, and even hold a grudge!
  9. Ravens have been kept at the Tower of London for centuries. The Ravenmaster cares for the tower ravens. They are considered good luck symbols, believed to protect the Crown (Britain) and the Tower.
  10. Ravens appear in the Bible in the Book of Genesis and in 1 Kings.

So, get a clue, Readers. How are ravens and crows alike and different? You can find out from the Audubon Society HERE. Now, maybe you’re raven mad, too!

(Photo credits, left to right: Meg Jerrard, Steve Harvey, and Mel Poole on unsplash.com. Far right: Boys in Bristol Photography on pexels.com)


Upping Your Happiness

Dear Kids and All Readers,

What’s the number one factor leading to lasting Happiness?

Check out psychologist Jill Suttie’s article, “What the Longest Happiness Study Reveals About Finding Fulfillment.”

Dr. Suttie, with the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, presents the findings from a Harvard study involving a diverse group of people that began in the 1930s to the present day.

The study is now a book entitled The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz.

So, what did the ninety-year study find? 

The number one factor in achieving happiness, well-being, and longevity is Human Connections. Cultivating relationships in all areas of our lives is critical to happiness. The study cautioned that some cultures push people toward going it alone and overachieving, but relationships and positive social ties are, ultimately, more fulfilling, can help prolong our lives, and help us be resilient in the face of hardships.

If you’d like to learn some tips from the study on how to cultivate better relationships, click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. Let your happiness grow and become contagious by seeking out others and developing and maintaining positive social connections! It’s one of my goals for 2023.

(Photo Credits: Surface, Szilvia Basso, and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)


Of Grave Interest

Dear Readers,

During my research for Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, which involves a mystery wrapped around the nineteenth-century American writer Edgar Allan Poe, I uncovered a fascinating, real-life mystery. If you’re a fan of Poe, you probably know that he died in 1849 at the age of 40. His cause of death is unknown, and his death certificate is lost–befitting the Master of the Macabre.

Since the 1940s, an unidentified man dressed in a long black coat, mask, white scarf, and wide-brimmed black hat would make his annual pilgrimage to Edgar Allan Poe’s original Baltimore gravesite in Westminster Church and Burying Ground to toast the writer on his January 19th birthday.

The “Poe Toaster,” as this figure came to be known, would arrive on foot between midnight and 5:30 a.m. each year with a bottle of Martell cognac and three red roses, one each for Poe, his wife, and her mother. He would lay the roses in a particular pattern on Poe’s grave, say a few words in Latin, sometimes leave a written note, and toast Poe with a glass of the drink. After leaving the rest of the bottle at the site, he would depart as mysteriously as he had arrived. Intrigue. Mystery. Solemnity.

A Poe Toaster continued this tradition until 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. The Toaster had indicated in a note left at the gravesite in 1993 that his son would someday take over the annual ritual. It is believed that the original Toaster died in 1998, his identity unknown to this day, though speculation still runs rampant, and some “faux Toasters” have tried to claim the title.

A perhaps “new” Toaster continued the ritual from 1999 to 2009. But in 2010, no toaster appeared!

What’s happened to this beguiling annual ritual? Has a successor stepped forward? Who was/is the Poe Toaster? If you’d like to read much more about this real Baltimore mystery, you can Google the topic or click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy lives on through his spine-tingling works and adoring fans. Writing, like most art, can bestow a kind of immortality on an artist, with or without a “Toaster.” But I’m still glad that Poe had/has one. Happy 214th Birthday, Mr. Poe!  (Photo credits: geeksided.com)



Receiving and Answering the Call

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I set a goal for January 2023: On New Year’s Day, I would begin writing Book 5 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series.

The day came and went. For various reasons–still in a holiday mood; more research needed; hot chocolate is ready?–I had not written one word of Chapter 1.

As the week wore on, I began losing sleep, a sure sign something big was about to happen. How did I know? Deja vu from the first four books! And like each book before, something big did happen.

On January 7, I heard my four detectives loudly calling to me. They shouted, “We need you to join us on the Hill immediately! We’re in a hardware store, and the owner, Mr. Kirby, thinks he has a mystery for us to solve. We’ve stumbled onto our next case! Please come listen to us now and write down what’s happening before the details disappear forever.”

That did it. I’m powerless against my detective children! So, before I knew it, my laptop and I were on Botanic Hill, surrounded by my precious characters. As my fingers clicked on the keys, I was thinking, aren’t I lucky? These amazing sleuths make it easy for me to be a writer. I just have to open my ears and compose. It’s almost cheating! 

As of today, January 12, I’m on Chapter 4. And the story is flowing. Yay! Thank you, Botanic Hill detectives, for pulling me into your world once again and always making me an honorary detective with each new mystery. I promise to return daily until together, we’ve recorded all your adventures, clues, red herrings, sorrows, and joys to bring the world your fifth case, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, by next fall. (Update: As of January 26, I’m writing Chapter 7. Whoohoo!)

So, get a clue, Kids and Readers. What sparks your creativity? Do you answer “the call”? I hope you do. Here’s to maximizing your creative potential in 2023. Comments?



Wrapping Up 2022

Dear Kids and All Readers,

This is the time of year when many of us pause and reflect on the end of another year.

The joys and sorrows of 2022 have been washing over me the last two weeks as I holiday shop, send cards, and wrap gifts. Mainly, I am filled with abundant gratitude for my good fortune! Here is why . . .

I especially appreciate those of you who take the time to open and read my monthly newsletter. I hope you find one or more items of interest each visit–some news or events, perhaps a recipe or book recommendation; I do enjoy assembling it for you! And I’m always open to your suggestions to improve it.

2022 saw my Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger, join the stable of Botanic Hill Detectives mysteries. Hurray! One of my goals for 2023 is to get Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, out to you next fall. In fact, my long-term goal is to produce one new mystery every year, which I must do if I am to get my four sleuths through all twenty-six cases–one for each street on the Hill! And I hope you’ll hang in there with us.

I am grateful that I finally got to visit my daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, and granddog on the East coast after a fifteen-month drought (due to the pandemic). We celebrated Thanksgiving, my milestone birthday, and an early Christmas in grand style. Holding my grandchildren in my arms was the highlight of my year.

Like many of you–I hope–I have been blessed with another year Covid free (knock on wood!). That has been no small undertaking, but being a solitary writer helps.

Some of you know that I proudly live in a 1928 Spanish Mission Revival house in a historic neighborhood. So, this year, I undertook to restore the bathroom to its original Art Deco grandeur. The project should be finished by the end of January, and I am so pleased with the results to date. During the redo, I have been blessed to live rent-free at my cousin’s studio apartment over her garage not far from home. From my elegant perch, I can see the ocean, San Diego Bay, the airport with planes landing and taking off, cruise ships coming and going, the Coronado Islands off the coast of Mexico, Downtown San Diego, and gorgeous sunsets. Thank you so much, Cousin Mary! Couldn’t have done it without your help. (I’ll move back home one of these days.)

My 2022 continuing heartbreak has been the loss of my sweet poodle-bichon, Jimmy Lambchop. He crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last March, too early at the age of ten, following emergency gallbladder surgery that led to pancreatitis, which, ultimately, took him from me. To say I miss him daily is an understatement; it’s an ache that I suspect will never leave me. R.I.P., my sweet little boy. My love for you only increases with each passing day. But memories and photos comfort me.

So, get a clue, Readers. How has 2022 shaped up for you? I hope you have had a fabulous year. Happy Holidays and a Prosperous, Healthy, Joyous 2023 to all! Comments Welcome!