Best Wishes for 2013

THE END OF A GOOD YEAR


It's that time of year again...time to reflect upon the passing of another year. 2012 was a good year for our family. We had some great vacations and were able to spend quality time with family and friends. The jobs are going well, all of us are basically healthy, and the kids are doing an awesome job with school. I hope that 2013 is just as nice.

I wish you a wonderful and successful new year!


Holiday Travel

Holiday travel can be pleasant or hectic! Last weekend we made an enjoyable trip to Cedar City to visit my family, and attend my niece's baby shower. Kellie is having a baby in January and her sister, Courtney, planned a very fun baby shower. Great food, fun games, and lots of girls/ladies equals a successful shower for the mother-to-be! Our drive from Salt Lake to Cedar City went smoothly. When family members have snacks and electronic entertainment all is well. The weather was decent and the temperature wasn't too bad either. For the return trip Steve decided that the electronics needed a rest. He took the ipods, cell phone, and played Christmas music on the radio. The kids played the Alphabet Game and I'm Thinking of an Animal game. They were forced to look at the scenery and use their imaginations. Guess what? They survived the return trip without grumbling too much.

My kids get along pretty well together. How do you manage to keep everyone happy on long journeys? What are your family's favorite travel treats?

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

What is your favorite Christmas memory?

This week I was thinking about our family Christmas traditions and my memories of Christmas while growing up in Cedar City, Utah. I remember some happy times celebrating the holidays with my parents and seven siblings. We would have a nice dinner on Christmas Eve. After eating our oyster stew (requirement!) we could open one present. After a few years I found myself enjoying the oyster stew. Some family members still grumble every year about this tradition. For my little family I had to alter the tradition to just having some form of seafood (such as crab or salmon, because the other three refused to eat the stew!). This tradition honors my Dad's Danish ancestors. My husband, Steve, grew up with one present being opened on Christmas Eve, but that present was always a new pair of pajamas. We carry on this tradition for him with our children.

My Dad always read the story of Christ's birth from the Bible. Steve carries on this tradition for our family. I love sitting together near the Christmas tree while hearing about the true reason for Christmas.

When I was young I remember being so excited when we would drive around Cedar City to see the beautiful, sparkly, Christmas lights. Steve and I started a tradition with our kids; we visit Winder Dairy's store to have scones, hot chocolate, and eggnog. We usually go on a Monday night sometime before Christmas, then drive around looking for houses with wonderful Christmas lights.

Baking during the holidays brings back memories too. I loved to watch and help my mom and sisters as treats were made and then enjoyed. Now I love to bake treats with Madison's and Cameron's help.

So, what is your favorite Christmas memory? Can you narrow it down to one? I found that I have many, many memories that warm my heart and help bring the Christmas spirit into my home. 

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Foothills

BEYOND THE FOOTHILLS by Essie Summers

Over the years I have read many Harlequin Romance books. I especially enjoy Harlequins published in the 1970's and 1980's. This book was published in 1976. I have read several books written by Essie Summers. I enjoy the characters that she creates and the settings that are explored in her stories. This is my favorite one!

I really enjoyed the New Zealand setting. I could visualize the fictional Blue Canyon, and Mount Aspiring with its ridges and mountain peaks. A romance on a secluded sheep station was right up my alley. The homage to the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery was inspirational.

Main characters Marilla St. John and Rufus Sinclair are a perfect match. I loved following along the journey as they met and discovered commonalities in the qualities they desired in a potential spouse. Hiding Marilla's real identity was a fun twist. The entire storyline kept me entertained and reading on. Always loving a perfectly happy ending, this book delivered.

Christmas Music

As I've been listening to Christmas music this week I've been thinking, actually reminiscing, about past Christmases. When particular songs play on the radio do you find yourself reliving events from your past? Nat King Cole songs really send me back in time to my childhood. I remember standing next to a record player and playing his Christmas album...over...and...over...again. I love his voice. Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" really brings back good memories too. When I hear Elvis sing "Blue Christmas" I remember watching him act in old movies (he was sooo cool) on TV. Toby Keith has some really good songs that make me think of my husband. And when I hear "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," I visualize my daughter at about 5 years old (She is now almost 15), dancing in her holiday dance recital. Ah...so many good memories!
Are there any Christmas songs that bring back good memories for you?
I hope this holiday season is full of wonderful music and happy memories.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Hot Chocolate...mmm!


Brrr...it's cold outside! I think it's time for a nice cup of hot chocolate.
My daughter, Madison, has decided it's the time of year to have hot chocolate for breakfast, every morning. So, every morning we are pulling the chocolate mix can out of the cupboard, finding a spoon in the drawer, pulling a straw out of a jar, getting a mug from another cupboard, filling the mug with half water and half milk (I like the combination), then mixing up a nice cup of bliss (sometimes I join Madison!). How many steps in that process? Yesterday I thought long and hard about that and decided that there had to be a more efficient way. So I came up with the idea of a hot chocolate station that will sit on the counter for the winter. It eliminates several steps, making the hot chocolate making process more convenient and quick. It was so nice this morning to simply grab a mug from the cupboard, fill the mug, go to the station, then mix the cup of morning bliss. It helped to make my day a little brighter!

Items in the hot chocolate station:
  • Hot chocolate powder mix
  • straws
  • mini stirrers
  • mini marshmellows
  • cinnamon grinder
What things have you done to help your own mornings to be more
efficient or convenient?

HALLOWEEN 2012

Halloween Tradition

 
A few years ago a friend in my neighborhood decided to start a tradition by inviting the people on her street to come to her house for a potluck dinner, on Halloween night, before the kids started trick-or-treating. My family was sort of annexed into the group even though we live several streets away, at the other end of the neighborhood. The turnout was so good that we had to meet in Becky's garage, and now after several years we have to BYOC (bring your own chairs). Crock pots of soup and chili, cornbread and rolls, various salads, drinks, and desserts round out the annual meal. Other families began to offer to take a turn as host of the Halloween get-together and it's been a fun tradition for the families who come. After the adults chat to catch up and the kids get full tummies to help postpone or at least lessen the candy eating binges, some of the parents head home to be ready for the excited visitors. Then the trick-or-treating and haunting begins. This summer Becky and her family moved a couple of miles away. She decided to start up this Halloween tradition again in her new neighborhood. Knowing Becky, it will be a hit in that neighborhood for years to come. Thank you to Stephanie for being the host at our gathering this year!









 
  
Another Halloween tradition that I have is to visit Gardner Village to shop and look at all the witches. I love to see the creativity of the displays and the joy that they bring to the children who come to see them for the first time...it's priceless!
 
What Halloween traditions does your family or neighborhood enjoy?










 
 
 
 
  

Happy Halloween!  

BOOK REVIEW

Book Review: ANGELS AT THE TABLE by Debbie Macomber

As a First Reads winner I received my free advance copy of Angels At The Table from Library Thing. This is the second Debbie Macomber book that I have now read (I plan to read more!). I really enjoyed this book. It is a delightful Christmas story about prayers getting answered in God's time frame not ours.
Mischievous Prayer Ambassador angels Shirley, Goodness,and Mercy are joined by an apprentice angel, Will. During an impromptu visit to Earth on New Year's Eve, Will helps two strangers meet. When Lucie Ferrara and Aren Fairchild "bump" into each other, at midnight in Time's Square, neither was actually searching for romance. In fact according to head angel, Gabriel, they were scheduled to actually meet one year later. Lucie is a chef who has recently joined with her mother, Wendy, to open a restaurant in Brooklyn. Aren is a food critic recently hired by the New York Gazette newspaper. When Aren is sent on assignment to critique the new restaurant, Heavenly Delights, he has no idea that it's Lucie's restaurant, with Lucie cooking his meal. Aren's meal has several problems (due to the shenanigans of those mischievous angels!) Aren writes a scathing review for the paper. Lucie is furious and worried that the review will destroy her business. When Lucie eventually finds out that Aren is the critic known as Eaton Well, she is hurt and finds it difficult to forgive him; even after Eaton Well gives the restaurant a second chance and writes a second, favorable review. Lucie and Aren both have to search their hearts and extend forgiveness to the other while their relationship hangs in limbo.
I really enjoyed the interaction of the angels with the humans. The story helps to remind us that even though we say our prayers, often God waits to give us answers. Debbie did a wonderful job in writing a compelling and romantic story with believable and interesting characters. Pick up this book for a fun read for a holiday weekend!

Libraries are...

Libraries are wonderful places!

I love spending time in a library... any library.I am constantly amazed at the new technology being used by libraries in the Salt Lake area. It's very convenient to be able to just scan my library card at a self check out, stack my books on the check out screen thingy, get a receipt, and hurry on my way. I use the library computers to search for books and I have even taken advantage of the computer room at my local library. Being able to look up books or place a hold on books, from my computer at home, is a bonus!

My local library is Bingham Creek Library in West Jordan, UT. If you've never been to this library, you should visit soon.Here is a list of some of the things that I love about "my" library:
  • It's only about a 2 minute drive from my house (so convenient).

  • It isn't very old (everything still looks pretty nice).

  • It's always clean (even the bathroom).

  • The employees are very helpful (and knowledgeable).

  • The building is really nice (even the grounds are kept up).

  • The parking lot is great (I've never had any problem).

  • It has an incredible selection of books, movies, games, music, and periodicals.

  • I can get any book, in the Salt Lake system, delivered to "my" library location.

  • Did I mention that it's only about 2 minutes from my house!
What aspects of your local library do you enjoy most? Which library do you visit regularly?

Authors Libba Bray & Shannon Hale event

(My Friday post is early this week...enjoy)

Did you know that October is National Book Month? The state of Utah supports this by hosting the 15th Annual Utah Humanities Book Festival. The festival is running for five weeks, Sept. 22 - Oct. 31st. During the festival 120 free events are scheduled all around the state. Go to www.utahhumanities.org to check for events being held in your area. I was privileged to be able to attend one of the sponsored events last Saturday, Oct. 13th. I attended the "Libba Bray in Conversation with Shannon Hale" event held at The Viridian Event Center in West Jordan, UT.





Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of the following books: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet and Far Thing, Going Bovine, Beauty Queens, and The Diviners (her latest release). She has contributed to several anthologies: 21 Proms, The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural, Up All Night, Vacations From Hell, Half-Minute Horrors, Eternal Kiss: 12 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire, Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 6, Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, and Zombies vs Unicorns. Libba lives in Brooklyn, NY.

As you can tell from this list, Libba is an accomplished and successful author (http://libbabray.com). Why is it that I haven't read any of her books yet? I just discovered her! I'm looking forward to reading some of her stories and seeing how her incredible personality drives her stories. From what Shannon Hale said, Libba has some stories that will not just scare me...they will really scare me! It's the perfect time of year for that, isn't it?

Shannon Hale is a local author who lives in South Jordan, UT. She is also a New York Times bestselling author. She wrote several books for young readers, the Newbery Honor book: Princess Academy, Palace of Stone (I'm currently reading this), The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, Forest Born, and Book of a Thousand Days. Shannon co-wrote two graphic novels with her husband, Dean Hale (he attended the event also): Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack. Shannon wrote three books for an adult audience: Austenland (being made into a movie), Midnight in Austenland (my favorite!), and The Author and the Housewife. Shannon is an effortless storyteller who is incredibly talented with improv comedy(www.squeetus.com).

These two ladies were hilarious! They were so entertaining and are gifted with off the cuff jokes, stories, and responses (I loved the tiaras!). It was an ad-lib presentation that was delightful to witness and they fed off each other seamlessly. Even my 14 year old daughter enjoyed their banter. I was so glad that I made the effort to attend. After an hour presentation the ladies did a Q & A time then had people line up for the book signing. It was a great afternoon and I laughed sooo hard!

Have you been to any of the Book Festival events? What did you think? Were you impressed also?

Book Review: REALITY CHECK by Karen Tuft


I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic story about new college graduate, Lucy Kendrick, and millionaire entrepreneur, Ethan Glass. I found the main characters to be likeable and engaging; the supporting cast came across as quite believable. Lucy wasn't stuffy or overbearing. She was pretty, intelligent, competitive and adventurous. Just the type of girl that a handsome millionaire would want to settle down with. I appreciated how both main characters interacted with their families, and the wisdom that the family members shared. Even though the time that Lucy and Ethan had together was limited, they each felt a spark.  The plot advanced with good pacing and I found the book hard to put down. I was excited to pick it up again and continue on the journey with Lucy and Ethan. The plot was interesting and I enjoyed the different locations used for the reality show settings. I found myself cheering every time Lucy stayed true to her values and religious beliefs. I was surprised and anxious about some of the plot twists. Several times I caught myself laughing out loud (that doesn't happen very often for me) and crying in empathy (that doesn't happen very often for me either). The ending was a sweet surprise for me and I thought it was refreshing. I caught myself skimming forward a couple of times because I was so anxious to see how things were resolved. Now I need to reread the book to savor all the details!

Mule Deer in Our Midst







Last Sunday my family took a drive up Butterfield Canyon. I was anticipating the pleasure of seeing the beautiful colors of fall leaves. I was pleasantly surprised to see the doe and fawn that crossed the road (one in front of our car and the other behind our car). On our return trip back down the canyon we came across them again.     They stopped and nibbled at something on the side of the road. Madison marveled at how near they were to our car and that if she reached out the window she could probably touch one! It was amazing that they didn't appear frightened by us at all.
Several times this week I thought about those deer. I'm still not sure what they were nibbling at, all I could see was gravel on the side of the road. I have seen Mule Deer in several urban areas: West Jordan, South Jordan, Herriman, Sandy and Draper. I know people sometimes struggle with the damage that deer do to plants in their yards, fields, and gardens. I remember seeing helpful information in various plant catalogs and decided to look up some plant suggestions for gardeners.
If you have deer visiting your yard here are some plants that, Deer-Resistant Landscape Nursery states deer tend to avoid: Barberry, Bleeding Hearts, Boxwood, Butterfly Bush, Daphne, Ferns, Foxglove, Hardy Geranium, Hellebore, Jacob's Ladder, Lamb's Ear, Lavender, Mint, Oriental Poppy, Peony, Privet, Shasta Daisy, Smoke Bush, Spruce, Thyme, and Yarrow. Many of these plants are poisonous for people so it's not surprising that deer would avoid them.
This is a good time to plant perennials. The roots of the plants can get established well during the winter and come next spring you will have some fantastic plants that the deer won't touch! Even though it is fun to see the wild animals visiting, we hate the damage that they leave behind!
Have you had deer visit your yard? What deer-proof plants have you planted?

Irresistable Smells of Fall

Fall is officially here.
This season is so welcoming on many levels.
I cannot think about fall without remembering the many aromas associated with it.
The magical, rich scent of pine needles.
The mysterious, unnerving smell of autumn dusk .
The unmistakable, woodsy smell of a fire.
The inspirational, crisp smell of fresh fall air.
The predictable, musty smell of the heater being turned on.
The welcoming, homey smell of fall scented candles. 
The anticipated, earthy smell of the harvest.
The exciting, gingery smell of fresh cookies baking.
The intoxicating, spicy smell of cinnamon and apples.
The warm, buttery smell of caramel.
The comforting, chocolaty smell of a mug of hot chocolate.
The cozy, homey smell of a thick sweater.
Fall embraces so many comforting aromas.
Which nature-inspired scents remind you of fall?
How will you help to infuse your home with the smells of fall?

BOOK REVIEW

Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks

(A Romantic Comedy Christmas Novella)

Best-selling author Kyle Miller is under pressure with a deadline for his latest book. He is experiencing writer's block anxiety. Unknowingly, television's new "Martha Stewart-like" host, divorcee Lexi Anderson and her two children move next door to the famous author. Along with the hassle of moving into her new house on "Christmas Street," Lexi must decorate the house for her show's holiday special to be filmed. Through decorating, cooking, holiday celebrating, writing, taking care of family, struggling with painful memories, and building snowmen, these two develop a quick romance.

I loved this short and sweet novella. It was full of Christmas spirit! I felt the pain of the family memories and the tension when the couple met. The characters were believable and interesting. I appreciated how Heather stressed the importance of family and I love the darling cover!

PUMPKINS



 
IT'S PUMPKIN TIME!

It's pumpkin time again and I'm so excited about that! I love pumpkins. I love their look, smell, and taste. About the only thing that I don't like about pumpkins is the stringy inside part with the seeds. That's the worst part about carving pumpkins into jack-o`-lanterns (anyone else hate putting their hands down into that stuff?). Other than that...pumpkins are wonderful!
I googled pumpkins and found that Better Homes and Gardens has a fun listing of, "41 Yummy Pumpkin Recipes." Go to www.bhg.com/thanksgiving/recipes/pumpkin-recipes to check it out. Here are some of the recipe titles that caught my eye and made my mouth water or that I thought sounded VERY interesting:
  • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread
  • Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake
  • Pumpkin Mac and Cheese (really?)
  • Harvest time Pumpkin Bars
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Coconut Pumpkin Soup
  • Melt-in-your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies
  • Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts
  • Double-Decker Pumpkin Bread
  • Autumn Pear and Pumpkin Soup
  • Pumpkin-Praline Cheesecake
  • Pumpkin Crescent Rolls
  • Spiced Pumpkin Butter
Do you remember Linus' Great Pumpkin? How about the pumpkin that became Cinderella's carriage? Do you carve jack-o`-lanterns every Halloween? I was so excited to see fresh pumpkins available at the grocery store this week. I think I need to go and make some pumpkin spice cookies for our neighbor dinner tomorrow night! What will you be turning pumpkins into?

FAVORITE AUTHORS LIST

In order to provide some consistency with my blog I will add to my blog every Friday. Now you have been given the notice...check back each Friday for my latest thoughts, ideas & ramblings!

FAVORITE AUTHORS LIST
I love to read. I love going on the journey, adventure, or quest, and love solving mysteries! I love a happy ending and want to know: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How! Authors take us on these journeys and teach us so much about our world and life. As I continue to read more books my list of favorites will evolve and grow. Here is a quick/short list of some of my all time favorite authors. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. Just some of my favorites that are popping into my head as I reminisce and remember something noteworthy about their writing style, choice of words, or characters.
Jane Austen                  (Pride and Prejudice)
Holly Black                   (The Spiderwick Chronicles)
Jan Brett                       (Trouble with Trolls)
Ally Condie                   (Matched, Crossed)
Jessica Day George      (Dragon Slippers, Princess of the Midnight Ball)
John Grisham               (The Pelican Brief)
Shannon Hale               (Austenland, Midnight in Austenland)
Lindsey Leavitt             (Princess for Hire series)
Debbie Macomber        (A Turn in the Road)
Stephenie Meyer           (Twilight series, The Host)
Brandon Mull               (Fablehaven series, Beyonders series)
Mary Pope Osborne     (Magic Tree House series)
Beatrix Potter                (The Tale of Peter Rabbit series)
J.K. Rowling                  (Harry Potter series)
William Shakespeare    (Romeo and Juliet)
Nicholas Sparks             (Safe Haven)
Amy Stewart                  (Wicked Plants)
Carol Lynch Williams   (Miles from Ordinary)
My reading tastes are varied. I enjoy children's books, young adult books, and books for adults.
What you choose to read does tell about your personality. Which of the following words pertain to you and your reading material choices? Absurd, artistic, brave, contradicting, dramatic, edgy, extrovert, idealist, imaginative, independent, intelligent, introvert, loving, loyal, mysterious, observant, resilient, romantic, serious, suspenseful,  thoughtful, trendsetter, unexpected. 
Now that you have all of these authors' names and my thoughts and ramblings in your head, go ahead and select a great book to read over the weekend! I'm currently reading...and...greatly enjoying, Heather Horrocks' book: Bah, Humbug! Go ahead...pick up a book...and read! (You have my permission.)


Fantastic Fall

The Best Things About Fall

Fall is my favorite season! I love everything about this season.
 Here is a quick list of fall things that are close to my heart:
    • Fall Foliage ~ Leaves changing colors, falling, & being rustled by the wind
    • Aromas ~ The smell of marigolds, mums, cinnamon, & candles
    • Apples ~ Apple butter, apple cider, apple pie, applesauce
    • Fall Fashion ~ Boots, hats, scarves, & sweaters
    • Temperatures ~ Warm days & crisp nights
    • Pumpkins ~ Pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, & Jack-o-lanterns
    • Family gatherings ~ Harvest time, fall TV season, Football
What are your favorite things about fall?
 Take a moment to look, listen, touch, taste, smell, & enjoy fall.


BOOK REVIEW: TABLE FOR TWO

Table For Two  by Sheryl C.S. Johnson

I loved this LDS values based romance! LDS member, Jana Barrowman accepts a job offer from non-LDS, celebrity chef, Alex Steadman. The creative consultant job transplants Jana from Salt Lake City, UT to Seattle, WA. Jana works to renovate an old house and transform it into the dream boutique of Alex's deceased wife, Vanessa. Jana begins to love Alex and his young daughter, Elise. Jana is steadfast to her goals and is set on finding an LDS man to marry in an LDS Temple. Her stubbornness escalates as she realizes that she does not want to share Alex with Vanessa. The bulk of the story centers around Jana's other marriage prospects and Alex's attempts to persuade Jana that he is the right man.

I loved the good morals expressed in the book and the gospel principles that were taught. I was caught up in the restaurant and celebrity moments of the story. Sheryl developed some great characters. I was rooting for Alex to win Jana over! I was pulled into the story and couldn't wait to pick up the book again whenever I had a few minutes to read. I was disappointed when the story was over because I wanted more!

BOOK REVIEW

Book Review: A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber has millions of copies of her books out there and this is the first book of hers that I have read (I've just discovered her). This book is about the cross country road trip of a divorced woman (Bethanne), her college aged daughter (Annie), and Bethanne's elderly, former mother-in-law (Ruth). Along the way all three women have opportunities for romance. I really enjoyed the storyline and plot. Most of the characters were believable. Annie acted somewhat immature for her age. Grant...what can I say...justice did prevail (forgiveness is sooo hard). I wholeheartedly agree with Bethanne's choice in the end (Max...yes, I agree!) I wanted Annie to make a choice for a new relationship (maybe the next book will pick up with this storyline?). It was wonderful that Ruth was able to reconnect with her high school sweetheart (Royce). Love has no age limit! I felt like the 50 year class reunion was really skipped over (this disappointed me).

I will definitely read another book by Debbie. I'm now interested in what Blossom Street is all about.

Determination

I Was Determined


Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Yes...I can now say, "I have been there and done that."
On Friday, August 17, 2012 my family traversed a mountain! I still have a hard time believing that I really did it. The trail has a 1,092 foot elevation gain. Yes...it is a paved trail, but it was so steep! I really wasn't mentally prepared for the elevation gain to be a problem for me. The rest of the family did just fine and I doubt that they would have even stopped to rest if I had not been along on the adventure.

 I had to stop so many times that I lost count of the pit stops. My husband was so supportive. Every time I apologized, as I stopped to rest and catch my breath, he said that it was okay and to take my time. It was amazing. A thoroughly patient attitude from the man with no patience! But through all of my physical struggle to complete the 1 1/2 mile trek up the mountainside trail to the cave's entrance, I was determined. I never lost sight of the goal. I wanted to make it to the top. I wanted to see inside the cave. I wanted to mark if off on my "Bucket list." And, most of all, I did not want to disappoint my family. We needed to make it through the adventure as a family.
Several times I told the others to go on ahead and I would catch up with them at the top, and each time my husband said, "I'm not leaving you. Just start up again when you can. We'll wait." He probably doesn't know how much that support and encouragement meant to me that day. To know that I wasn't alone. He would wait. He would stand by me. So...I kept going. And...I made it!
The cave was incredible. Cave Bacon...you've gotta love it! I loved the formations, especially the Heart of Timpanogos Cave formation. Absolutely amazing. It was quite cool inside...a steady 45 degrees year-round. Inside the cave the trail was often steep and slippery with narrow passages and low hanging ceiling. But it was extremely fascinating. I'm so glad that I persevered and kept going. My determination paid off!
Coming down the mountain was a different challenge. 1 1/2 miles of steep incline in reverse! My knees and ankles were put to the test. I was determined to not make the family wait so long for me. My son stayed right by my side and stopped whenever I needed to rest. By the way...I have an amazing family! Friday August 17th I proved something to myself. I proved that I could do it! It was a personal achievement to be able to witness the majesty of this national monument. I'm so glad that I did not give up!

Take all your challenges head on and don't quit! You'll be happier for giving it your best effort.











MY NEW OFFICE

After two and a half years of hogging the family computer in the family office, my husband has put his foot down! He wants a his and hers relationship when it comes to office(s) and computer(s). Should I be offended? Or happily say "Thank You Honey!" This probably is his best idea so far to date. We each will have our own space and I won't have a Caribou over my head anymore. Yep! You read that right. A Caribou head is directly over my head as I am typing this. A Buffalo is to the left of the Caribou, and left of the buffalo is an Elk. Over my right shoulder a Whitetail deer stares back at me. A couple of Pheasants are "flying" up from the southeast corner, and a Bear lays flat underneath the Elk. I'm surrounded by manliness and nature at its finest. My great archery hunter husband will have "his" office back and we are all doing a "happy dance!" Now don't get me completely wrong, I appreciate nature...and dead animal heads (trophies)...and my husband's hunting abilities...and venison steaks. I'm just saying that this change in scenery is going to be okay with me ;)

Before I leave this office though, I need to share my most memorable moment. One night, when I was extremely tired, I was typing away...just like now. I felt something touch the bangs on my forehead. Automatic reflex...glance upwards...to see a good sized spider booking it fast...right back up his silk line to a velvet covered Caribou antler! Who was more surprised...me...or the spider? I was anxious as I finished typing for the night. I just knew that spider was going to visit me again! (Note to people without animal trophies...you don't grab a flyswatter and squash a spider on the extremely expensive, velvet covered, maybe fragile now, antlers of a Caribou from the Northwestern Territory of Canada!) I'm shivering at the thought!

Back to my new office. We have spent a week cleaning out unwanted toys, clothes, and garbage while rearranging and playing musical rooms.  Each child has a good sized bedroom. We have a guestroom and now I have my very own office. Yeah!!! Now for the icing on the cake...I'm still waiting for that icing (the computer isn't fully working yet). Once fabulous, wonderful, most awesome husband ever takes care of that minor glitch, life will be considered...very good indeed.

Here are some photos of my future writing workspace. I'm anxiously awaiting my first night at its computer!



 A comfy reading corner, desk with the not quite working yet computer, and storage for my handy, dandy, reference books.
                                                                                          

No writer's office is complete unless it has a bookshelf for some of said writer's favorite books!










FABULOUS FLOWERS




Fabulous flowers have been growing and blooming in my yard this year. It has been a good year for my rose bushes. They have produced some of the most fragrant and beautiful flowers yet. My favorite bush is the Falstaff English Rose. So beautiful. The tiny Forget-me-nots were literally covered with tiny, brilliant blue blossoms. This year my violets have succeeded in establishing themselves into every single flower bed on the property! Sorry Mom (Violet), but that might be to-o-o many violets!

 Last year my pure white, Summer Phlox 'David' struggled in a bad location underneath one of the Mountain Ash trees. I transplanted it last fall and b-i-n-g-o! It's so happy this year. It has grown to almost 4 feet tall with many flower heads. I absolutely love its subtle fragrance.Thanks to my friend Nancy for suggesting that I give 'David' a try. It was also my best year for delphinium. I ordered a few plants from a fun, quirky, nursery in California named: Annie's Annuals & Perennials. The Delphinium 'Dusky Maidens' was incredible and had the largest stalk of mulberry colored blossoms. I also ordered some Dianthus arenarius with white, frilly, star burst flowers. I love it!

 In my backyard the Blackeyed-Susans are taking over their flower bed... fully established and growing too well. They make me smile. The few Mexican Feather Grass plants have turned into many. I love the way that they gently sway in a soft breeze. Then when a strong West Jordan wind comes past, they whip around like crazy. It's interesting to see!

The Spiraea vanhouttei in my backyard was breathtaking, the ones in the front yard hit their stride while I was in Italy. I missed their "full glory." In the backyard I also have four large 'Ludwig Spaeth' Lilacs. Their dark purple, fragrant flowers were majestic. The jewel in the crown has been the Wisteria tree that I keep raving about.  You need to see the size of its trunk (remember this is a vine trained to stand like a tree).

So after all of this appreciation for my flowers in my yard I ask: How have your flowers done this year? Are you happy with their performance? What do you plan to do differently next year? Are you willing to share a few tips so we can all have amazing looking yards? I did my first step today and fed some struggling plants with Miracle Grow. I hope it starts helping right away and I hope we get some good rain soon.

DREAMS


What are your dreams? As in things you want to do or accomplish. A little over two years ago, I had a dream that I could write a book. It wasn't a literal dream...I just got the notion that I could do it. I was thrilled when I had all of the ideas, plot, dialog, and narration down on paper (on the computer) and called the first rough draft finished. Then my dream altered a little bit. I dreamt of having the book published.

I keep plugging away at that dream. Every day I work at the dream in some way or another. Writing...research...thinking...research...writing. It's a labor of love. I look forward to the day when I will get to share my story and characters with more people. This amazing journey that I am on has helped me in so many ways. I truly am learning something new each and every day!

What are your dreams? Think about it. Set some goals and don't look back Reach for those stars, like I did, and see where you end up!


Holly Johnson photographer

I'M PROUD

Yes...that's right...I'm proud! I am proud to live in the United States of America and to call myself an American. I love the freedom that I have to go where I want to go and say what I want to say. I am proud of the athletes that are representing our country right now in the 2012 Olympic games in London.

I have completely enjoyed the Olympic events that I have been able to watch on television. It's fun to see which events captivate my family members. My twelve year old son has been engrossed in the men's  basketball events. If you mention a USA player, Cameron can tell you which team the player is currently on, or has been on, and their stats. It is amazing to me how much basketball information is stored underneath that awesome curly hair! Cameron knows when the USA team is playing. And if it's early in the morning here, he sets the DVR to record the game. I'm so impressed at his dedication to show support.

My husband Steve,  joins Cameron in watching the basketball events. And because he is an archer (we are a family of archers), and just so happens to work for the world's best archery manufacturing company (Hoyt), has been paying attention to how the USA archers are doing.

My daughter is a swimmer and is on a youth aquatic team. She has been interested in the swimming events. Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete!

So...what have I been following? I love the gymnastic events. Way to go Gabrielle Douglas! Individual All-Around gold is a culmination of her dedication to training and result of hard work. Totally cool!

Every Olympic games has some sort of memorable stand out moment. Today I was thinking about a couple of Olympic gymnastic events that really inspired me. I took a couple of moments to search out videos on the Internet so I could relive those moments. You've got to love the technology of today! I re watched USA gymnast Kerri Strug, in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, performing her vault even though she had injured her ankle. Her perseverance helped to capture the gold medal for her team. Then I re watched the amazing Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, perform her Uneven Bars routine and receive the first perfect 10 score in history. Nadia received seven perfect 10's during that Olympics! AMAZING accomplishment! And I remember watching her on television. She won three individual gold medals during those games and helped her team to win the silver medal. I remember watching, the spunky and always smiling, USA gymnast Mary Lou Retton as she won the All-Around gold medal during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She drew everyone in with her bubbly personality!

What are your favorite Olympic memorable moments? Take a minute to search the Internet. You can relive the excitement and wonder all over again!

I am so impressed by the hard work, dedication, and drive to succeed that the athletes of today exhibit. They are constantly inspiring others to keep going and not give up on their dreams. I'm proud of the way these athletes are representing our great country. I wish them well and hope they continue to accomplish great things through the rest of their lives!



Book review

Review of the book,  A Farewell to Charms
I really enjoyed this last book in Lindsey Leavitt's princess series. I have fallen in love with the characters and the whole concept of princess/prince substitutes. I always love a happy ending! I'm excited to see what Lindsey will have published next :)

Beautiful Verona

BEAUTIFUL VERONA
Where in the world is Verona?
The New Oxford American Dictionary
states that Verona is:
"A city on the Adige River,
in north-eastern Italy."
During May I was privileged to spend
some time in Verona, Italy.




I had seen pictures of Verona,
but until you see the city with your own eyes,
you cannot fully understand how beautiful
it truly is.


"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"
(William Shakespeare)
Verona. Home of  Romeo and Juliet.
 Also, home of my friend Helga.
What an incredible place to grow up in. 
 I'm so glad that Helga decided to share
her hometown with me.
 I enjoyed every minute that we spent exploring!

 A plaque on Verona's old city wall states:
"There is no world without Verona walls,
 But purgatory, torture, Hell itself,
Hence banished is banish'd from the world,
And world's exile is death..."
(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 3)

Have you ever loved a place so much that you actually felt pain at the thought of having to leave? Shakespeare
described Romeo's anguish.
Romeo couldn't bear the thought
of leaving Verona and Juliet.
When it came time for us to leave Verona, I left with the hope that my once-in-a-lifetime trip would not be only "once!" I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit again,
very soon! 

Before & After

                                

BEFORE and AFTER





The before and after photos of my favorite tree!
A couple of months ago my neighbor questioned
whether my tree had survived the winter. I had
faith that the tree was still able to work its magic.
The bottom two photos were taken yesterday.
 My little tree is now in full bloom...
 for the second time this year!
Love it!

                                                                            

Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference


     For the past week I have been attending the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) Conference. It was held at The Waterford School campus in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. What a great experience this turned out to be...again.

      I found out about last year's conference when I went shopping for books at The King's English Bookshop. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 conference. The highlights for me were the presentations by authors Brandon Mull (Fablehaven series, The Candy Shop War, Pingo, and Beyonders series) and Ally Condie (Matched, Crossed, and soon to be released, Reached). I knew that the information that I gleaned would be very beneficial to me as a writer, and I found it extremely satisfying to be in the same location as so many successful authors, plus two editors and one agent ... from New York City!

     This year I was on their radar and received emails about the dates for the 2012 conference. Of course I signed up! I'm so glad that I participated this year. Guess what? The most important thing I learned was...I have to write my own synopsis of my book! For some unfathomable reason I was under the impression that the "professional people" would be writing that. Nope! It's all on my shoulders and there's no time to waste. So...feeling the pressure to write something productive this very morning, I sat down at the computer and...Wa La! I have a first draft of my synopsis. Yea me! Woo hoo! Patting myself on the back...because, man was that hard! Okay, writing two to three pages may not sound challenging, but when you are taking about 390 pages and summarizing it into said two to three pages, it becomes a monumental task! My synopsis first draft is three pages plus one paragraph. So...the next step is to revise and edit the synopsis. Wish me luck!

     Getting back to this year's awesome conference, I thought there were some great instructors/workshop presenters. I learned a lot from the following individuals: Carol Lynch Williams, Matt Kirby, Tim-Wynne-Jones, Trudy Harris, Elissa Cruz, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Greg Leitich-Smith, Mette Ivie Harrison, and Ann Cannon. The presentations by editors Alexandra Penfold and Ruth Katcher, and agent John Cusick, were so insightful and interesting. My favorite sessions were the panels of 3-4 people for question/answer time. It was great to hear about their experiences working in the writing and publishing industry. I still have one question: What happened to no-show Brandon Mull? I was looking forward to his presentation, and we waited...and waited...and no Brandon! So the powers in charge (Carol Lynch Williams) found three authors plus the conference Keynote speaker and assembled an impromptu panel. Very cool and a great save! By the way, the Keynote speaker was Trent Reedy. Trent did a fantastic job and received a standing ovation at the end. I will definitely need to read one of his books! All in all it was a great conference. And another wonderful element of the writing conference...I will get USOE (Utah State Office of Education) continuing education credit for attending!

     So...will I be attending the conference in 2013? You bet! Do I recommend the conference to other aspiring writers/authors? You bet! Thanks go out to the organizers of the conference...you did a fantastic job! See you next year :)



MY LITTLE WISTERIA TREE



Quote from my blog on Tuesday April 3, 2012:
"Out in my front yard, my little wisteria tree looks so bare, unimpressive, and lonely.
But I know from past springs that, one day soon, this little tree will decide
 that it is time to show off in all its glory!"

One month after I wrote that I was on a plane headed for Italy. My wonderful little tree had leaves, and was beginning to blossom. And...I missed its "glory!"
While I was globetrotting my little tree did what it is so good at. It blossomed while I was gone. Two weeks...and too bad for me! I saw a few leftover remnants of the "glory."

Well...my tree is now ready for round two! It's completely covered with those dainty leaves, and is starting to show off its second batch of its beautiful, violet colored blossoms. Happy day for me! I ran outside this morning (barefoot even!) and snapped these photos to share with you.


I love the fragrance of the blossoms!
If you pass by my tree... "take the time to smell the flowers." 
Very soon my incredible little tree will be a delight to behold.
 I look forward to being able to witness it this time!

During my outings in Italy I saw only a few wisteria vines,
and none in a tree shape.
 I guess we just didn't visit the right streets.
However, I did pass by a gorgeous bougainvillea, in Rome,
 that I captured in a photo..isn't it beautiful?


Beautiful flowers make every day so much better!
Have you seen something beautiful today?