by Kristin Harmel

Kidnapped from her German parents and raised in the forest, Yona was trained to survive in the most difficult of environments. Destined to become a hero as she moved from childhood to adulthood, survival training proved valuable in her saving many innocent lives…lives of those she met deep in Poland’s forests (where she was raised,)…Jews forced to escape and hide to evade Nazi capture during WWII Europe.

A unique take on WWII historical fiction, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS‘ author, Kristin Harmel, offers an extraordinary story of survival, resilience, identity, strength, secrets, family life and…always…hope. Harmel brings the reader into the hearts and minds of these desperate people, mixing reality with spirituality and even a bit of magic.

Loosely based on true stories of survival against overwhelming odds, this is a meticulously researched, heart-racing, heart-wrenching tale with a unique twist that sets it apart from other historical fiction WWII novels. It’s UNPUTDOWNABLE and highly recommended!


MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: This year’s garden is best EVER!

This has been a perfect week to jump back into digital challenges issued by my favorite online groups! It’s been a while since I’ve done so many at once. Sunday Postcard Art ( asked for art depicting old age…I used an ancient fresco as my base and added an old lady to the mix. This is a wall from an age old cathedral in Orvieto, Italy…and another.

THE THREE MUSES ( was thinking ahead to SCHOOL DAYS…

The Paris Collage Collective ( challenged participating artists to use a given image of a man in a vintage swimsuit in a piece of art…

…and finally, Flicker’s DIGITALMANIA ( introduced us to the artistry of Anne Bagby. Our task was to create a piece inspired by her work. Here are my attempts…

Thank you for stopping by. Keep safe and keep well.

Until soon,



LEMONADE and POPCORN STAND…the first EVER on our street!!!

Has a new, annual tradition been born?

Lemonade and Popcorn Stand workers relaxing after the big rush of customers…

Many thanks to the grandparents…Stephanie and Brian De Joseph, Gretchen and Dean Burns…to all 6 grands and to all the lovely people who stopped by to offer support. Perhaps this will be an annual event as such a good time was had by all! We love our neighborhood! XOX


MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: Life’s all about hummingbirds these days…

Blown in with the wind

Dancing in a ray of light

A hummingbird feeds…

A quiet month, July. Lot’s of rain, verdant green everywhere, flowers blooming larger and more glorious… a charm of hummingbirds right outside my office window at my feeder…

….and a great deal of inspiration from the beauty surrounding me…inspiration to create pieces of digital art as a way of expressing my endless and bountiful gratefulness. Here are some examples…

Hope you had a productive month and will carry a happy, grateful heart with you for the months ahead. Stay safe!

abby j

Big Hugs…




MY cover for this book…

…and so, the journey continues, in the Fall of 1938, for Wild Boy and Wild Girl, two East African giraffes who miraculously survived a killer hurricane on their sea voyage to New York. They traveled aboard a freighter from (present day) Kenya, arriving in New York harbor in a sorry state!! WEST WITH GIRAFFES is based on a true story, with some fiction filling in the blanks.

This is the freighter on which Wild Boy and Wild Girl journeyed… the S.S. Robin Goodfellow… sailing from Mombasa, Kenya to New York, with 52 days at sea

After spending some time in quarantine, Boy’s and Girl’s cross-country road trip to the San Diego Zoo commenced, as evidenced by all the press coverage along the way.

This is one of those books that’s different and a bit quirky…but one that touches your heart with it’s wit and charm. Woodrow Wilson Nickel (Woody,) age 105, feels his life ebbing away when he hears a television report about the possible extinction of giraffes. He has a story that he feels MUST be told! He offers…”I could’ve lived my entire life in the shadow of Dust Bowl miseries and Hitler horrors. Instead, such times hold less pain because of two animals I once knew.” “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” And so began his story…

The animal lover in me delighted in this story about Old Man , Woody Nickel, and Red, as they struggled across the U.S.A. to deliver two of nature’s most beautiful, fragile, and at that time…rare creatures 3200 miles in a flimsy rig, to their ultimate destination…the San Diego Zoo. (It’s hard to imagine a time when most people had never seen a giraffe other than in pictures.) Woody, a 17 year old orphaned teenager who’d had a tough life thus far, convinced Old Man (Riley Jones) to let him drive the rig transporting the two tall guests across the multiple thousand miles. Red, a dreamy-eyed girl and would-be photographer/reporter, became part of the group as she followed, uninvited, to get the story for LIFE Magazine …her ambitious goal. They struggled over the mountains, across Dust Bowl territory, overcoming daunting obstacles like hairpin turns, single lane unpaved pothole-ridden roads, underpasses, tunnels, dust storms, floods and encounters with scoundrels.

This was a lovely, emotion-filled story combining history, fiction and love for animals. Inspired by true events, WEST WITH GIRAFFES explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, respect for all life, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it’s too late. It’s a true testament to the beauty of animals and human nature…and the bonds between man and animal.

Highly recommended…especially if you’re an animal lover!


MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: Indigenous people of the world decreasing…

In view of the historically, unspeakably tragic depopulation of our First Nation men, women and children that unfolded after 1492, the survival of Indigenous people is truly extraordinary and speaks loudly to their strengths and innate knowledge of the land and meaning of community. However, even today the legacy of invasion, conquest, inhumanity and colonialism continues to exact a terrible human toll. This is what’s recently been discovered in Canada…

Sadly, this abuse and inhumane genocide continues to happen throughout the world…as well as in these United States. It’s very difficult to imagine, as these people, some dear friends of mine, are hanging on to their traditions and cultural ways for dear life, lest they lose who they are…who they’re meant to be and all they can teach the rest of the world of their proven, effective pathways. They’re soldiers…each and every one of them. But it would be wonderful if we all could just live our lives, side by side with one another…in community, welcoming one another with open arms and hearts, ready to share and exchange knowledge that will help our 7th generation grow and prosper. I pray this will come to pass…as the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate!




by Gary McAvoy

MY Book Cover

A mythical legend, the resurrection of Jesus, Holocaust Jewish gold, the French Resistance, Nazis, Croatian fascists/terrorists (the Ustasha,) Vatican intrigue, high tech, action…and possible romance…what more could you ask for in a novel? THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION has it all in a masterful blend of real history and ‘what if’ present day!

Gary McAvoy, a superb historical researcher, has skillfully woven a tale that began thousands of years ago and continues into this millennium. There were two plots in this novel, merged into one outstanding story. The first plot explores the Magdalene and Rennes le Chateau in France…the second explores the Vatican involvement in the escape of Nazi war criminals and the long kept gold and money that the Vatican stored for the Nazi government. Much of the story is based on true events, but the author has also used his imagination to reveal what conspiracy theorists suspect is the truth about the Magdalene…a truth that, if revealed (and proven,) would devastate the Catholic Church and Christianity as we know it.

The story concerns a young priest who’s working at the Vatican as a digital archivist. His discovery of a hidden ancient document sends him journeying to research the document further. Concurrently, a young female journalist is working on tracing gold that the Nazis stole from the Jews (and others) as well as the banks that helped them…and the possible Vatican connections. Happily, the two truth-seekers end up working together.

McAvoy includes the right amount of history throughout the story to make the mystery plausible. He also includes descriptions of the inner workings of the Vatican, its political intrigue and behind-the-scenes manipulations. Too, there’s a hint of romance showing the temptations and inner struggles that priests face to maintain their vows.

THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION is a well-researched thrill ride that I highly recommend.

My 10 MOST Exciting Travel Moments

Sunset and the plane

Sandwiched between cloud layers…

Orange, up and down

Traveling is one of the best ways to enhance personal growth and broaden your horizons. It enables you to do things different from your routine activities. When you travel, you step out of your comfort zone to a different environment that urges you become more responsible and gives you a sense of independence. You become a more compassionate person. You view different lifestyles, customs, food, scenery…develop an appreciation for the recent and ancient past… and meet people like you as well as those very different from you, all with a like heart. We all want the same things in life, no matter where our journeys may take us and who we happen to meet along the way.

I’ve documented (with my photos) some of my most thrilling moments encountered in my travels…for me to remember and cherish as well as to inspire you…


First encounter with a lowland gorilla in the Central African Republic…mesmerizing to be almost close enough to touch!
Coming upon a herd of female elephants with babies in Botswana, Africa, as they charged us with stomping and trumpeting to keep us away…
Sichuan Province, Peoples’ Republic of China… first one on one encounter with a giant panda…so sweet and friendly. This was in Wolong, where they have a breeding center, so the pandas were used to human contact.
Hunting with the Bushmen (San people) in Namibia, Africa…smoking out giant porcupines for food. Porcupine skin tastes like crispy bacon…delicious!!! The Bushmen hunt with bows and arrows.
Visiting with Antarctica’s Gentoo penguins as we walk the icy continent of the frozen South Pole. They’re such entertaining creatures…
Spotting a magnificent Bengal tiger in the wild in Bandhavgarh… India. This is my most favorite animal (along with the elephant…) and seeing them in the wild was a most electrifying gift!
Impressive views of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) near the Arctic Circle took my breath away…literally and figuratively!
One of my MOST THRILLING travel moments EVER…ANYWHERE… was when, on a mammoth stretch of barren field, I suddenly spotted some dust in the air then a man galloping on his horse, holding his golden eagle high up in the air…my first sighting of one of the famous eagle hunters of Mongolia. He was on his way to the Golden Eagle Festival.
A trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see a small population of our closest genetic cousins, the BONOBOS, in the wild and on a reserve…another thrilling moment, and one of very few who have seen these apes in their natural environment… they’re isolated and can only be seen in this part of Africa. These endangered great apes closely resemble chimpanzees. but are more peaceful and friendly towards each other. It was compelling and rather remarkable to see so many of our own characteristics reflected in their actions and expressions.
Visiting with the Suri people in Ethiopia…wildly artistic people who were very friendly and generous. Thrilling…because they appeared to be so different from me, but in talking with them, (through an interpreter,) finding that there are more similarities than differences…one heart!!

Real contentment is

Getting lost around the world

Then finding YOURSELF.


MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: A quick snow blankets the fledgling greens

Spring snow is not so unusual in Central New York, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. We’ve even had snow in the merry month of May!! Here’s my nod to April 2021’s beautifully heavy snowfall…that was gone by day’s end.

Morning snow falling…

Below, roots stir quietly

With Spring’s rhythm.






Rhys Bowen brings Venice to vibrant life in this dual-timeline, historical fiction novel. Filled with intrigue, secrets, history, love lost and found…and enchanting glimpses of evocative Venice. As I have been fortunate to visit Venice many times, I was swept away by the familiar descriptions of places, food, art…like being there…unlike anywhere else! It was a love letter to this fabulous island.

We follow art teacher, Lettie, to the City of Canals” just prior to WWII …and then, her great niece Caroline, who visits in 2001 (on the heels of 9/11) to scatter her great aunt Lettie’s ashes in her most beloved place. Further, upon her death, Lettie left Caroline with a last request, gifting her three mysterious keys, her sketchbook and a single whispered word, “VENICE.”

The unraveling of this puzzling bequest takes us on a gentle (but page-turning) roller coaster ride through different historical times and the lives of both Lettie and Caroline.

I loved every moment of this book and happily give it a RAVE REVIEW!!