Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Since 1776, the concept of "the pursuit of happiness" has been held sacred in our national consciousness. But how can we get happiness and keep it? Unassuming enough questions, yet they have given rise to books, articles, and spiritual teachings. 

A great way to start one's quest, during this month of giving thanks, is the miracle of gratitude. I am truly blessed, with a loving family and extended family and great friends. For years I kept a gratitude journal, writing down most nights five things I was grateful for that day. The simple act of counting my blessings shifted my perception to such an extent that it changed how I saw the world. It heightened my sense of well-being. The more I practiced gratitude, the more I found I had to be grateful for and the more present I became. Wouldn't it be a great idea to think about who you are grateful for and then tell them? It's a simple thing to do and this expression of gratitude would bless both you and the receiver. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't tell someone that I love them or that I value them as a friend. 

"Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it." --Bernard Meltzer. 

There are many Hollywood movies with spirited melodrama about the dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving, but relationships, family and friends, are the heart of happiness. I have found it's important to forgive and forget. And it makes sense that if you show love and kindness and happiness to the world, it will flow back into your life. 

It's important to be optimistic. My husband keeps me on the straight and narrow in regards to this. If I stray no matter how slightly, he'll remind me to be positive. (Which can get very Research has found that the physical act of smiling and laughing released endorphins into the body that increased one's sense of well-being. It doesn't do any good to dwell on negative things, which if you do, gives those things endless power.

Those on a religious and spiritual path are more likely to say they are very happy. A strong spiritual faith has helped me to connect to what is real, what is now, and what has been given to me. Prayer helps me to see the happiness that already exists in my center.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Ginseng SMall

As Halloween draws near...the days are getting shorter, there's a chill in the air. Time for some hot tea and a thrilling mystery. Curl up with a killer. THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY -

In the Halloween cozy THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY, Kay Driscoll and her friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, discuss new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters.

Below is Kay's favorite chocolate dessert. She had two pieces of this shockingly rich, chocolate torte at Sweet Marissa's as she agonized over the frightening events that occurred the evening of a Halloween Ball, when she witnessed a murder.



12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup boiling water

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tbsp. Chambord or other raspberry-flavored liqueur or 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cocoa powder, for garnish

Raspberries, for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

2. Combine the chocolate, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the chocolate is finely ground. With the processor running, add the boiling water through the feed tube and process for about 15 seconds, until the chocolate is completely melted. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl, then add the butter and process for about 5 seconds, until the batter is smooth. Add the eggs and Chambord and process until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the edges of the torte are puffy and cracked and the center is just set (it will still look moist). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes (the torte will sink as it cools). Cover the pan and refrigerate for 3 hours.

4. Remove the sides of the springform pan and invert the torte onto a flat serving platter. Lift off the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to garnish the torte.

5. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and garnish with the raspberries.

Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Kay walked past Edgar Degas' imposing bronze sculpture, "The 
Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer" into one of two rooms dedicated 
to Degas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She moved from one 
ballet painting to another, completely absorbed in his work, 
observing his depiction of movement in the paintings and his 
choice of unusual viewpoints, angles at which ballet was never 
intended to be viewed.

Degas showed the world of the ballet with truthfulness; the ideal 
verses reality, the beauty but also the difficulties of achieving 

Kay sat down on a bench in front of "The Rehearsal of the Ballet 
Onstage" totally mesmerized. The painting grew more complex with 
analysis. Her eyes moved during a random glance with the movement 
in the painting.

As Kay focused on the painting, she began to hear the sound of 
strings. Turning around, she saw only the museum guard standing in 
the doorway. She stood up and moved closer to the painting. Degas' 
technique of using pastels in long, undulating lines over the base 
coat of oil, gave the painting the same vibrancy and energy of the 
dancers. Kay watched as the ballet dancers stretched in rehearsal, 
then saw the purity of the dance itself, romantic and feminine, 
the precision of their footwork, the carriage of their arms. 
Suddenly the layers of tulle netting in one dancer's full skirts 
blocked the view of another's foot movements. 

Kay stretched her neck to the right to see the details of the 
blocked dancer's pointwork, then slowly she inched over to where 
Degas was painting. The detail of it did not escape his eye. 
Working quickly, Degas captured the dancer's footwork. Kay stood 
behind Degas watching the dancers and watching his depiction of 
them. After putting the finishing touches on his painting, he 
turned around and looked up at Kay. 

"Tres belle!" she whispered to him. 

He smiled, his eyes bright and spoke but a single, "Merci." With a 
contented smile, he turned back to his canvas.

An enchanting melody drifted  across the rehearsal room. Degas 
completed his name, then put his brush down.  He wiped his fingers 
on a soft cloth that was attached to his easel, then finished 
watching the dance. Looking at Degas' profile, Kay saw a single 
tear escape from his eye.

"Kay...Kay, I was wondering where you were." Kay looked over to 
her left and saw Phil, her husband. "There's a Monet two rooms 
over that I want to show you." 

Kay hooked her arm through Phil's. As she left the room, she 
glanced back at "The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage" then blew a 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt

What a day for a daydream...Thinking about what to write for my April blog, I glance at my cheery sunflowers on the kitchen table and admire their simplistic beauty. The sunflower in art has become nearly synonymous with Van Gogh. He characterized his fondness for the flower in the spiritedness of his sunflower paintings. My eyes veer from the splashes of yellow, out the kitchen window to the sparkle of pure white, untouched snow from our Wisconsin winter.

Under the snow, blossoms a daring spring. --Terri Guillemets.

I daydream of my garden flowers in unabashed brush strokes and dabs of greens and purples and whites. The memory of their fragrance fills me with pleasure and lingers in my mind and heart, even on this cold morning. The blossoms of our flowering crab tree will soon unfold a cloud of color, brilliant pinks amid the greens; prime subject matter for the impressionist.

The sentiments of those who tasted the world with their eyes, are painted in a favorite poem, written by William Wordsworth who conveyed the movement of art through words.

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed---and gazed---but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

And now I'm lost in a daydream...

Posted By Susan Bernhardt
The story of A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery) begins the day before Valentine's Day and goes into March. Although this is a mystery and not a romance story, Irina has a lot to say about love. 

"I know what love is, it is because of you." – Hermann Hesse

Valentine's Day is a great holiday for many reasons. It comes after all of the "good will towards men" has worn off. We take time to celebrate love. And love is love, right? Love is never wrong.

It's quite wonderful that we take a day to think about the people closest to us, that makes the other 364 days worth living. Love need not have words, only the beating of hearts. But the expression, "I love you," can send one flying high. There is no message more joyful then those three magical words.

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Who, being loved, is poor?" – Oscar Wilde





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Susan Bernhardt


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