Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Love of a Two-Year-Old's Life *Should* be His Mother

Bean woke up grumpy, even more so because he's been sick. He ran to me and we snuggled. I kissed his newly shorn head, softly brushing the stray hairs the clippers missed last night. My little guy's face seemed more angular and grown up--that's why I put off cutting his hair. Every time I do it's as if he goes through another phase of babyhood, never to return. I cherish these times with my baby, because I can't call him one much longer.

As we snuggled, I reveled in the sweetness of the moment (and tried to ignore his morning breath). I gazed into his beautiful blue eyes and asked him, "Do you love Mommy?" (I tell him all the time, but it's so sweet to hear him say it.)

"No," he said. Everything has pretty much been "no" lately, even when he means "yes."

My eldest sat on the couch across from us, so I inclined my head his direction and asked Bean, "Do you love Professor?"

"No." Not even a moment's hesitation.

I decided to try a different tactic. "Do you love ice cream?"

His eyes lit up. "YES! I wuv ice cweam!"

We snuggled some more, then I decided it was time for breakfast. Strangely, he didn't want anything I offered. Usually he demands his red bowl, as he loves all things scarlet and vermilion. I was baffled as to why he was refusing everything, until he came out with two words: "ice cweam." I admit, had I any ice cream in the house, I would have been sorely tempted.

Bean had his short fit, then settled on a piece of whole grain rye bread for breakfast.

Thanks to him and my slightly sore throat, I want ice cream. Rocky Road, to be exact. This afternoon, I think a trip to the grocery store is in order . . . for the baby. Yep, ice cream for the baby.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Faithful, Fit and Fabulous--or Get Your Rear in Gear While Making it Nearly Painless

Connie E. Sokol says it all with the book title: Faithful Fit & Fabulous--get Back to Basics and Transform Your Life in Just 8 Weeks! Naturally, I'm skeptical when I read a cover like this. After all, self-help books are a dime a dozen, right? I usually read them, feel inspired for about twenty seconds, then get on with my disorganized life.

Then I opened the book.

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, you'll appreciate how the author sprinkles in pertinent quotes and scriptures throughout the book that, like a dash of pumpkin pie spice, really adds to the flavor of the book. If you aren't, you can substitute the spiritual section for what works for you. This book is a wonderful tool if you are organizationally challenged.

Like me.

Basically, there is a chapter in the beginning that you use as your goal for the first week. Then you build on that by choosing something from the other chapters to work on in subsequent weeks. I love how Ms. Sokol takes off the pressure by encouraging and giving us tools to truly help change our lives, and I believe her methods will make for lasting change. Along with setting accomplishable goals, we are given advice on what to do when life happens to our goals (As it always does!), and we have to adjust in order to reach them. The author teaches us that being flexible is key to reaching our goals, which is something that I appreciate very much.

I loved most of the advice and suggestions, and found the recommendation easy to tweak for me and my family, where needed. I felt very uplifted and encouraged by Faithful Fit & Fabulous, and highly recommend it to anyone (especially women) who are having a difficult time finding balance in their lives.

I rarely gush over a book, but this one is truly gold. It spoke to me and the point where I am in my life. I tend to get overwhelmed very easily, and this book helped me feel like I could breathe and figure out and accomplish my goals at the same time. I'm so grateful I had the chance to review it, and plan on following the program myself beginning next week. If you are looking for a simple, no frills plan to help you get where you want to be in your life, this is it!

Buy Faithful Fit & Fabulous at Amazon in paper or for Kindle. (The Kindle version is a steal at $3.99, and if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app for free and read it on your PC! The paper version is reasonably priced as well.)

The author's website is: If you go to her FAQs, you will find a downloadable packet for those who have purchased the book. If you read it on an e-reader, this will be invaluable for following the program.

Thank you, Connie Sokol, for this wonderful tool!

*I have not been paid or compensated for this review. I received a copy of the book for review purposes only, and no, you can't have my copy. This baby is mine. Forever. Well, at least until I die. After all, I can't take it with me.* 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This is Not Your Grandma's Book Review

I don't do book reviews that often, and I'm such a picky reader that it's hard to really wow me with a book. I blame this on my mother, who took me to the library when I was a little tiny sprout, and allowed me to check out upwards of fifty books at a time. Then when we'd get home, I'd sit myself down and take book after book out of the scratchy woven satchel with the tan leather (or vinyl, I don't remember) handles, and read until I was done. It wasn't uncommon for me to read for hours and hours. Other kids' parents had to beg them to read. I got in trouble for not doing things I should have been doing because I had my nose in a book. My parents were justified. Sometimes I'd feel an eerie stillness around me, then look up to see my family watching me read.

Apparently I'm an expressive reader.

All my years of poring over and inhaling books taught me to recognize plot elements without thinking. The result of this is that I am rarely surprised at many plot "twists." I can usually see things happening from a mile away. Not much surprises me.

I love to be surprised.

So, I was very pleasantly surprised to find an author whose books made me feel, laugh (she has a great sense of humor), cry and feel like I was on a journey of discovery throughout the pages. When I read books by this author, I know I'm in a good storyteller's hands, and I can sit back and enjoy the ride. So, I'd like to introduce you to, instead of a single book, one of my favorite authors.

I met Karen Hoover at the 2010 LDS Storymakers Conference, a fantastic place to meet fellow writers with similar values. Karen taught one of the classes, and I loved her presentation. When I got the chance to read her first book, The Sapphire Flute, I was hooked and flew through those pages as fast as I could.

Once I'd read The Sapphire Flute, I couldn't wait for Karen to finish the next installment, The Armor of Light. Usually a second book isn't as good as the first in a series, but I think The Armor of Light may even be better! My favorite part of Karen's writing style is the little touches of description that feel as good as gulping an icy glass of water on a hot summer day. The plot twists and new ideas make me do a mental fist-pump, a "Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' bout."

If you haven't liked fantasy before, give Karen's books a try. If you do like fantasy, you'll find more to like about it.

Karen has become a dear friend, but I'm still in awe of her writing skills--she's a fantastic storyteller. If you like original stories with depth to the characters and cool twists along the way without having to resort to graphic violence, sex, or language, I highly recommend Karen's books.

You can find her stories in e-book at Smashwords, and paper or e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Karen has some Christmas specials going on through December 31st! Go to her blog here for e-book specials, and here for paper book specials, as well as a list of books available through Createspace.  I got to read her latest book, Two Souls are Better than One (The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard) in the beginning stages, and was so captivated that I'm going to purchase it to put on the e-readers my eleven-year-old son and I are getting for Christmas so I can enjoy it in the final version. (Watch for an upcoming review on that book!)

So, if you like clean fantasy with unusual plot twist and cool magic, I highly recommend books by author Karen E. Hoover!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The End of the World was at 10:30 This Morning

You prepare your children for emergencies. You teach them who to call, how to behave, their address and phone number, etc. 

Then the emergency actually happens, and you learn a lot about your kids.

Now this emergency wasn't one of the life and death variety--but you wouldn't know that according to my nine-year-old.

Around 10:30, Lion informed me that the water faucet wasn't working. After the initial checking and hustling bustle, the other kids settled down to wait patiently while I searched for a water bill to find the company's phone number.

Not so for Lion.

He ran around the house screaming, "We're all gonna die! We'll have no water forever and we're gonna die!" It took me much longer to call the water company with his hysterics. Trying to calm him down so I could figure out what was going on was quite the feat.

The water company didn't know anything, so I called a neighbor. She let me know that it looked like a main break was at the end of our street, when she took her boys to school this morning. Trucks were out there and everything, but they hadn't put out an alert yet. Relieved, I sat the kids down and talked about our response to the emergency, and how they helped or hindered the process.

Thankfully nothing major happened. Still, there's nothing like an object lesson. Do I expect anything to be different next time?


The water coming out of the pipes still looks yucky. I let it run for a good while, but they may still be fixing the break. One of the kids said it looked like juice, so Professor told Bean it was "diaper-change water" so the two-year-old wouldn't try to drink it. 

Maybe we'll go out for a while. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Battle was Lost, but the War is Mine!

A lot of women have left their babies with their husbands by the time said babies are two years old, but I hadn't yet. Mostly because Bean wouldn't sleep through the night regularly until he was nearly two years old. For those of you who remember Bean when he was an infant (and at homeschool co-op on Friday when he clung to me for two of three hours and wouldn't go to the nursery), I had a special name for him. Velcro Baby.

So it was bittersweet when I left him on Friday night, drove an hour to the wilderness (okay, to cabins and a beautiful campsite with real, flushing toilets) with some of my church friends. We had a blast, and though some of us swore we wouldn't do it again this year, stayed up until 4:00 am giggling and sharing stories until we passed out. (Clarification: from exhaustion. There were no inebriating liquids at camp, unless you count the cold water.)

I was pretty tired by the time we got back to the church around noon. I dropped off a couple of friends, and picked up some Little Caesar's pizza, hoping to bribe my family into getting the house cleaned up since I'd been gone.

As I drove home, I thought about how happy they'd be to see me--especially my little Bean. Sure enough, as soon as I got out of the car and balanced the pizzas in my arms, I saw a little face beaming at me through the screen door.

My heart melted at the sight of my little angel, with his squishable, kissable cheeks. I couldn't wait to pick up my bright-eyed cherub, who was so overcome at the sight of me he got more and more excited the nearer I came.

Finally, I was just about to get on the step and reach for the door, when he couldn't contain his excitement any longer. Bean gazed up at me, nearly dancing with joy, eyes sparkling, and spoke one word:


He'd recognized those rather rare cardboard boxes, the ones we only get once every couple of months or so.

I sighed, reconciled to my fate, no matter how wrong it seemed: I'd been upstaged by pizza.

Later on, after the pizzas had been demolished, Bean suddenly realized that I'd been gone a long time, and I did get lots of snuggles with my baby.

Little Caesar's, you might have won the battle, but I will always win the war.

Friday, September 30, 2011

All Diets Work

Instantly, the title intrigued me. I mean, who reads something saying that all diets work, and that's a problem, and can resist reading more? Not me, even though I'd consider myself pretty well versed in what makes up a good or bad diet. (It's the sticking to it that's my issue, though that's going much better, thank goodness!)

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book. I noted that it wasn't thick (at 140 pages), and sat down for a fast, pleasant read. All Diets Work did not disappoint.

Jen Brewer gets down to the nitty-gritty in a friendly sort of way. The tone and voice of the book is informative and helpful. Jen has taken care to keep things short, sweet, and easy to remember.

The basics at the heart of most diets is what's shown here--those things which will work for most people and how to implement them. I like that All Diets Work emphasizes not only the basic need for calorie reduction, but explains in a matter-of-fact way why the type of calorie is important. A calorie isn't just a calorie isn't just a calorie.

I can see this book being extremely helpful for someone who knows nothing about diet and has just been told by their doctor that they need to shape up. Or for someone who is wanting to regain their health and needs an easy-to-understand book that goes to the heart of the matter, without a lot of medical jargon. This book would also be great to keep on hand for those times (And we all have them!) that we need some more encouragement.

The only thing I would add to this book is that while combining certain foods (like peanut butter and bread, for example) does make a complete protein, it is not necessary to do this as long as you have a balanced diet. The recommendation to combine foods at meals to make a complete protein stemmed from Frances Moore Lappe's research, chronicled in her 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet. In the tenth anniversary edition published in 1981, Ms. Lappe wrote about her findings and went to great lengths to clarify her position--which had, in fact, changed. She states: "With a healthy, varied diet, concern about protein complementarity is not necessary for most of us." As a life-long vegetarian who has received a good deal of questions about protein, I felt this an important point to address. So in other words, if you have a varied diet, don't sweat it. If you don't, then you might want to eat more peanut butter sandwiches, or some of the other tasty suggestions in All Diets Work, but I'm not telling you what they are. You'll have to get the book for that. *wink*

One thing I found fascinating was the issue of sleep. Yes, sleep in a book on healthy weight! I knew a little about why, and cortisol and everything, but the way Jen puts it made a lot of sense and made me want to go to bed right away. In fact, thinking about this and the fact that it's late--I'd better wrap up this review and get to bed.

I recommend reading All Diets Work. Out of all the "diet" books out there (and I've read a ton), this weight control (not diet) book is one of my favorites. In it you will discover a no nonsense, basic approach to finding a good, balanced, healthy lifestyle. There are some great tips, and I also recommend going to the website. You will find blog posts by the author there, as well as menus, substitutions for favorite fast foods, printouts, and yummy-looking recipes.

Visit Jen Brewer's website here: All Diets Work

Purchase here: Amazon

* I was not paid in any way by anyone for my review. If I ever accepted payment (though no one has ever offered, thank goodness) I'd never be able to live with myself. Which means I'd never sleep, and gain 500 pounds because my fat hormones would be completely out of whack. See? Not worth it.*

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Open Day for Memories

When the mornings are brisk and crisp leaves begin falling, a thrill runs through me.

Fall is here.

Mornings snuggled up in blankets, sipping something warm before gathering my sleepy children together, and in the calm darkness of the morning, we begin our studies with prayer. The world outside our window is hesitant, almost holding its breath, then the sun warms and beckons and smiles down on our home.

Today we are studying kings and queens of the medieval times and writing paragraphs and doing math and making our sliding glass door into a stained glass window. We hope the tape sticks for a while, cellophane crinkling as we smooth a rainbow into a cheery hello for outdoor brown and yellow. At least we will, today.

In the afternoon, full of sandwiches and history, we'll go to the library and drop off knowledge, then fill our bag with more--so much more. Stacks of paper and bindings make me feel like a worker at the train station, flipping a switch and diverting carloads onto our tracks to be unloaded and examined and absorbed.

Then home and cookies and cleaning and reading and dinner and Zumba and projects and bed.

I'm loving today already.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End of an Era and a New Beginning

I've been cleaning out my house, slowly. I've made a lot of progress in the past year, and am making strides in letting go of things. When I was a child, I had a strong attachment to things and what they represented to me. This has taken many years to come to terms with. Giving away old clothes and things from my past has been a difficult process, but one I'm happy to say is far easier than it used to be. The more I let go of things, the easier it gets. It's a process and a journey. I'm finally feeling lighter.

My youngest child turned two this month, and I finally did something I've been putting off since he was born.

Yesterday I washed my maternity clothes, then sat on the couch, folding them before gently placing them in a big, gray, Sterilite box. I smiled at the warm softness on my hands, remembering fondly--and not so fondly--the many times I wore the blue dress my mother made me, the striped shirt, those black pants, giving thanks for cotton and spandex mingled in wondrous ways.  Then I loaded up the van and drove to Once Upon a Child, a resale store, hoping to turn them into some cash for my kids' winter clothes. They only wanted one shirt. (They said the rest were too outdated and they didn't need any more. Oh, well.)

So, last night, I posted an offer on our local Freecycle e-loop, and got several requests. I ended up offering them to a woman who gave all her maternity clothes away--then found out the next week she was pregnant. She called me back and I gave her directions to my house between beeps of my dying phone, which was a real accomplishment!

A couple of hours ago, a car drove up. "Someone's walking to our house!" the kids yelled. I took the bag of clothes, went outside, and shut the door in the dog's barking face. (Really, he's way too protective of me--but I'd rather have him scare everyone who comes to the door instead of no one.)

The woman came up to the step, full of gratitude. Being only eight weeks along, she wasn't showing yet, but I know that when you're pregnant, clothes begin to constrict before anyone else can see. Her face lit up at the sight of the full bag. "Oh, thank you so much!" she said.

"I'm so glad you can use them!" I replied. After a moment of chitchat, she left, hurrying to her next destination.

I used to agonize about giving my maternity clothes away, like it meant an end, a finality that I wasn't ready to come to terms with. It was only after she left with my black trash bag of clothes, that I realized what I was feeling:


Nothing but the sweet sense of having helped a mother with her journey in bringing a precious life into the world. I'm happy that instead of sitting around collecting dust, my out-of-style maternity clothes will be used as they were meant to be.

After all, the clothes were just those--clothes. What really matters to me is life and love, not things. I'm so thankful that the Lord is helping me internalize this and is giving me the ability to let go and bless others in whatever small ways I can. And in doing this, my life is simplified and I am blessed, along with my family.

So, goodbye maternity clothes. May you continue to bless the lives of expecting women until you are full of holes and ice cream stains.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When You See a Puzzled Look in a Two-Year-Old's Eyes . . .

You know what follows is bound to be interesting.

Last night, Bean wouldn't go to sleep. He hadn't felt well all day and took a catnap too late. The result was a little guy who was, at midnight, still running like an Olympic athlete.

I got him settled on the couch with a blanket, then turned on an episode of "Kipper the Dog." Bean watched TV while I went to the bathroom and put a clay mask on some problem areas around my chin and upper lip, kind of where I'd have a goatee--and I just realized that I've painted a wonderful picture of myself for you.


I don't have a goatee. At least, not a full one. Yet.

Anyway, once I got the goopy mud on I went out to the living room and sat down by Bean. Even though it hadn't been thirty seconds since I put the mask on, I'd already forgotten about it.

Bean stared at my face, his eyebrows slightly furrowed, studying me. I wondered at his change of mood. Then he asked, "Change diaper?"

Slowly, like a dawning morning, I remembered what I looked like. The lower half of my face was thickly covered in a sticky, smeary brown substance. To a toddler it must have looked like--

No wonder Bean was concerned.

I smiled as well as I could, since the mask was already drying. "Change diaper?" I asked, wondering what he'd say next. Usually if he finds something interesting, he tries to touch it. Not then. He didn't move a finger.

Bean alternated between looking me in the eyes and glancing at my chin. I don't remember when I've seen my little firecracker so calm and contemplative. Then he said, "Change diaper mouth."

I was at a loss of what to say that would help him understand (I turn into a zombie after midnight), as he didn't seem upset, just interested. So all I came up with was, "Oh, okay, buddy." I got off the couch and went to the computer, leaving him to watch Kipper and hopefully forget about what he thought he saw on his mother's face. He knows the words "wash face," so I don't know if I want to know what was going through his brain. Thankfully he passed out on the couch not long after.

Hopefully this experience won't leave a negative imprint on my son's subconscious memory that requires tons of therapy. At least I have another story to add to the family collection!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Birthday Cake and Literary Agents: When the Two Collide

Yesterday was Princess' sixth birthday. I spent a good deal of the day baking a made-from-scratch, cherry-filled Hershey's chocolate cake with homemade vanilla buttercream frosting, while taking breaks to immerse myself in WriteOnCon. Oh, yes, it was decadent. (WriteOnCon or the cake? Both.)

The cake was a labor of love. I piped on pink edging (love those icing decorators in the store baking aisle), stuck in candles that looked like fairy wands, and added orange polka dots on the sides. On the top, in a space not filled with sparkly pink birthday greetings, I added what was at first an orange daisy--then I decided it would be better to fill in the "petals" (quotes used because they are well-deserved) and make it a butterfly facing downwards.

When Princess saw the butterfly, she was thrilled with her "fairy." I told her it was a butterfly, but she said, "No, Mom, there are the legs and that's the body and head!" Who was I to argue?

After a dinner of Chinese food we dug into the cake. Then there were issues of getting overtired kids to bed, a huge thunderstorm that knocked out power all over the city (but not here, thank goodness), and a baby who wouldn't go to sleep until 11:30. By that time I was pretty tired, so I went into the kitchen to make sure the cake was covered and saw the dessert plates sitting there in all their drying, crusty glory.

And was enlightened.

Thoughts of the conference ran through my head while I walked around the table, assessing the amount of cleanup needed. I pondered the different preferences of agents when they looked at pitches (it's fascinating to see an agent's thought process), and the results of the first 500 words contest. The top five entries in the contest were picked by one agent. No surprise to me that my story didn't make it, after sensing a theme throughout the top picks. Interestingly enough, of the top five, only two were ones I would have personally been interested enough in to keep reading. Add to that the vlog I saw featuring agent Holly Root and editors Molly O'Neill and Martha Mihalick, and I really got something out of those sweet and sticky plates.

My husband's plate was almost clean. He'd eaten the chocolate cake and left all the buttercream frosting. He doesn't like frosting, but the cake was apparently acceptable.

My second son's plate was equally interesting. Lion had left no sign of cake or frosting anywhere, but he'd left three whole cherries from the filling. He likes the fruity "sauce," as he put it, but not the squishy cherries.

Princess' plate held the barely touched piece with the butterfly-turned-fairy. She was so excited for her cake and gushed over it, but she was full and could only eat two bites. She made me promise to keep it for the next day when she had more room. (She couldn't reject anything with fairies.)

The eldest, Professor's, plate was clean. I have a suspicion he might have licked it.

My plate held the picked-off remnants of pink and orange decorator's frosting. Not worth the calories or the sugar. (Though I need to throw in a couple extra workouts thanks to that buttercream.)

Bean (who just turned two) had eaten several thin slices of cake, which he demolished in turn, then begged for more. His last piece lay there in his bowl, because he'd had so much that even though he loved it, he couldn't fit any more in his adorable tummy.

I thought of all these plates in terms of agents (and readers, now that I think of it). Nothing in that cake was bad--we're not talking about the appearance, ha, ha--but each family member had their preference, just as an agent does. Some agents don't like buttercream frosting, some don't care for cherries. Some may really want your butterfly-turned-fairy, but have a full plate of other things.Some love everything about your cake, and others want to pick off parts that you might love, but just don't work for them. Then there are those who may want your chocolate cake and everything included with it, but have three identical chocolate cakes at home already.

So if you're going the agent route (or entering in contests, or self-publishing), remember that a rejection (or a bad review) might not mean your cake is inedible. You can test your recipe, tweak it a thousand times and end up with a rich, fluffy, mouthwatering confection, but not everyone will like it. Either something about your cake doesn't tickle their fancy--or they may just prefer cheesecake.

After all, the writing business is incredibly subjective. In fact, I like cake, but I'm more of a cheesecake gal.

Straight up New York style, please.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Story for Tuesday: The Miniature Rose

 For me, one of the best ways to sort my emotions and experiences is through writing. Here is one I'll share with you. It won't win any awards, but it's close to my heart.

The Miniature Rose

Once upon a time, a little Seedling poked through rich, dark dirt and raised her head toward the sun. A soft breeze blew, cool air sending waves of delight along her delicate stem.

The Gardener smiled, leaned down, and brushed a speck of potting soil off a tender leaf. After giving the Seedling a drink, he left her on the deck to bask in the warm light.

Days passed, and the little Seedling grew and grew, until she was a Seedling no longer--but a small plant with beautiful, pink flowers growing off her in all directions, reaching over the sides of her little terra-cotta pot. She heard the Gardner telling his child that she was a Miniature Rose. Oh, how the Seedling loved the sound of that. Rose. Reaching for the sun and wind, she bent and twisted her small, thorny stems so the scent of her flowers could reach the child who played on the deck every morning.

Once the trees dropped their leaves, the Rose went to the place the Gardner kept his precious plants in the winter, and slept. When spring came, He placed her in the sun and she grew and stretched, and for weeks waved her new blossoms in the gentle wind.

After a few seasons, it became harder for the Rose to stretch. Her roots grew uncomfortably tight, pushing against the sides of the pot, and it pained her to reach out to the breeze. Still, she smiled and nodded hello to the birds that visited the feeder, and the child (who now went to school) played near her every afternoon.  The Rose kept growing in her cramped pot, but try as she could, her flowers wouldn't bloom very well and she feared the child would stop seeing her. "What's wrong with me?" she cried. "Am I dying?"

The Gardener heard her weeping. "Rose, dear Rose, soon you will blossom anew. Wait, and I shall help you when the time is ready."

So the Rose waited, roots cramping and tight against the cool stone of the pot, doing her best to find joy despite the pain. One warm day, the Gardener picked her up, walked across the yard, and set her down next to a large, new pot. She watched as the Gardener filled up the empty space with special food and deep brown soil, then the Rose braced herself as the Gardener lifted her slowly out of her cramped home.

How it hurt! The Rose's roots were a horrible, tangled mass. "Here, let me help you, little one." The Gardener gently loosened her roots, which ached from being in one position so long. Then he settled her into the new pot, swept dirt around her roots, pressed firmly, then gave her a long drink of crystal clear water.

Then the Gardner rose and went away, boots clomping back to the house. The Rose looked around at her unfamiliar surroundings. He'd moved her to the garden.

That night, she cried as mist left dewdrops to fall off her leaves. Who was she now? Would she see the child again, or the birds by the feeder? She shuddered as rabbits hopped near in the gray morning hours, sniffed at her and wriggled their noses in curiosity. Wind whistled through the ivy, making her shiver. As the day grew warm, the Rose relaxed. Butterflies of rainbow colors visited her and the other flowers. She made friends with the daisies and the peonies, and their silent songs of beauty touched all who came near. The next morning, a light rain fell, and the Rose reached out her leaves to shelter the rabbits who came to see her again.

As the weeks passed, the Rose stretched and grew and bloomed as she never had before. She grew to love hearing wind whistle through the ivy, and even made friends with the rabbits. The Gardener's child came to visit sometimes, and the Rose was happy. She grew old and wise, and comforted all the frightened, young flowers who came to her garden. She taught them that even if they had pains from growing, all flowers could trust and be safe in the Gardener's care.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Party With Tristi Pinkston and Her New Book Release!

Author Tristi Pinkston is excited to announce the release of the third novel in her Secret Sisters Mysteries series.

Titled Hang ‘em High, this novel takes place on a dude ranch in Montana. When Ida Mae’s son invites her to come for a visit, of course she brings Arlette and Tansy along with her. They are expecting to spend the week looking at horses, avoiding the cows, and making amends in Ida Mae’s relationship with her son. What they don’t expect is to be stuck on the ranch in the middle of a blizzard and to be thrust headlong into the middle of a mystery.
Help Tristi celebrate her new novel in two ways. First, come participate in the two-week-long blog contest, where you can win a book nearly every single day! All the details are up on Tristi’s blog.

Second, come to the book launch!
You are invited to an
August Authorama!
Saturday, August 13th
Pioneer Book, 858 S. State, Orem
12 – 4 pm
Games, prizes, balloons, face painting,
and Dutch oven cobbler
prepared by world champion cook
will all be there to sign books.
This is one book launch event
you will not want to miss!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Sleight of Hand by Deanne Blackhurst

Daniel Cabrero does something in the beginning of this book which, in the thousands of books I've read, rarely happens to the main character at that point--he dies. Adding to the mix is that Daniel isn't an innocent person. He's a cheat and a cad, a con man who has spent his life caring about himself far more than others and treating his fellow men (mostly women) as rungs on his ladder to success.

Right away, Daniel meets his guide, Jonah, who takes him to a place called Wasteland. The setting is beautiful and peaceful, surrounded by nature. At first Daniel loves it there, but soon realizes that his idyllic surroundings are not all they appear to be. The con man is condemned to his fate unless he humbles himself and is willing to make some tough choices.

Deanne Blackhurst has a fantastic imagination, and all the detail added a rich dimension to the setting. I could picture everything as I read. A lot of the book didn't jive with my personal belief of the afterlife, but that's partly why I enjoyed this story. It made me think about the legacy I'll leave my family and the end results of my choices. I enjoy stories that make me think, "What if?" Sleight of Hand is like nothing else I've read before, though if Christian speculative fiction is like this, I want to read more of it.

The book needs a thorough proofreading, as I kept stumbling over editing issues. However, the story was so intriguing that I had to keep reading. I thought about the book when I was away from my computer and I looked forward to going back and finishing. The fact that I wanted to keep reading in spite of the editing scores major points for the author, as poor editing is usually a deal-breaker for me.

The only thing I would have liked to see more of was the conflict inside Daniel's soul. Part of the process he goes through includes reliving old memories of things he did. Instead of Daniel being thrown back into reliving most of the memories as they first happened to him, I would have liked to see him viewing his actions from an outside perspective more often. I would have been more sympathetic toward Daniel if I could have seen more of his emotional processing. However, I found his character very interesting and the whole book quite memorable.

Deanne is a great storyteller, and I'm very much looking forward to more books by her. I'll be thinking about Sleight of Hand for a long time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Heads up: some of my readers might want to know that there are a few very minor swear words in this book.)

Until August 31st, you can purchase an e-book copy of Sleight of Hand for only $1.99. Go here: Smashwords and enter code MX73D.

**I was given a free e-book for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated in any way for my opinions.**

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TAG! You're it! Or, Things You Didn't Know About Me That Won't Change Your Life

 I was tagged a while ago by my dear friend, Karen Hoover. I'm just getting around to doing this meme now. I love these things, random bits of useless information that forms an interesting picture of someone. (At least they form it for others; we'll see how we do today!)

Do you think you're hot?

Only in pictures of me as a teen. Too bad (or most likely, good thing) I didn't know it then.

Upload a picture or wall paper you are using at the moment

At the moment, I'm using neither a picture or special wallpaper. I'm using this:

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

I guess with all the imitation chicken out there the "meat" has to be defined. Well, this comes as no surprise to those who know me, but I prefer Boca or Morningstar chicken. The last time I ate chicken meat was accidentally, in a jarred cheese dip, no less. I was 18 then, I believe.

The Song(s) you listened to recently?

The three that stick out from the last few days are:

The Prayer (Not sung by Josh Groban.) I heard this while on a day trip with my mom yesterday, and found myself singing harmony along with it in the store. Thankfully, no one else was in the aisle.

Bad - Michael Jackson (Before you wonder why this doesn't sound like my usual musical fare, guess why this is
                                   here. Then continue on to see if you're right.)

Fat - Weird Al (During school I used Youtube videos to teach my children what parodies are. Weird Al is the
                      master! And for those who think this song is insensitive, I'm fat, and I think it's hilarious!)

What were you thinking as you were doing this?

That I'm proving to be either 1) extremely weird or 2) extremely cool. I'm guessing the former.

Do you have nicknames?

Becca (family and friends)
Beks (one friend called me this, but I love it)

Only one person is ever allowed to call me any form of Becky, and that person is my husband, James. Occasionally he calls me Becky-Wecky-o. A bazillion points to the lucky person who gets that reference. It is rather obscure. (Points only redeemable for five gallons of awesomesauce, which is an air-condiment--hence, invisible and weightless. In fact, you can't touch it at all, but you can experience the feeling. Not responsible if you are immune to the effects of awesomesauce.)

Tag eight Blogger friends

Like thrift store items? That would hurt. And in Red Racks Thrift Store, they use staples.

Oh, I see what you mean . . .

Karen Burton
Betsy Love
Don Carey
James Duckett
Ted Finch
Kim VanderHorst
Karen Robison
Samantha Lord

Who's listed as number one?

Karen Burton, or Kazzy, as she's known on the interwebs, is #1. I got to meet her in person last year, and she's incredibly beautiful and sweet! She and I share a love for Zumba. Karen and her husband are so cute together. He writes her a sonnet every day. *romantic sigh*

Say something about number 5.

Ted is such a fun guy, and I don't mean a mushroom. I have a nickname for him--actually two. Tedders and Typo. Tedders for obvious reasons (it also sounds like cheddar, which I like a lot), and Typo for one specific reason that had me and several other people in stitches for about 30 minutes (we chat online at SprintWriters). I laughed so hard I nearly passed out from oxygen deprivation. You'll have to ask him about that one.

How did you get to know number 3?

I first met Don in Utah last year at a gathering the night before Storymakers. He was so nice and made us out-of-staters feel so welcome! I had the privilege of reviewing his book, Bumpy Landings, which is a great read!

How about number 4?

James is part of Authors Incognito, our group for LDS Storymaker Conference alumni. We've gotten to know each other a bit through SprintWriters and he's a very funny guy who totally gets geek humor.

Leave a message for number 6.

Hey, Kim, this is Rebecca. I miss you! I know you don't usually do tags, but maybe since Karen and I both tagged you, you will. :D I love you and I hope we get to "chat" soon!

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number 2.

This is hilarious since I didn't plan the order of my tags. How appropriate since Betsy's last name is Love?

Betsy, I love chatting with you and your words of support and encouragement mean a ton to me! I'm so proud of you and your hard work. Congratulations again on your book coming out, and I am patiently but eagerly awaiting my copy!

Do number 7 and number 8 have any similarities?

Yep. They are best friends. Karen is my lovely sister, and she and Sam have been friends since they were 12 years old. Sam lives far away now in Bozeman, Montana, but we keep up with her through her blog. She's a very talented photographer!

Well, I guess that's it, though the last question doesn't tie things up very well. I'm going to add a question of my own.

What do you predict you will be doing on this day one year from now?

Let's see . . .next year is a leap year, so the 21st will be a Saturday . . . I'll probably be just getting out of Zumba class at this time. Or maybe I'll be on vacation somewhere and will have to do Zumba from videos on our Youtube playlist!

This has been fun! Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Safe Money Millionaire

I admit, I don't read many financial help books. About the closest I get is listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio occasionally (whom I like and respect, even if I want to yell at him that he does deserve how he's doing). So, with curiosity and a touch of trepidation, I opened the cover of Safe Money Millionaire by Brett Kitchen and Ethan Kap, and dove in.

A sales pitch makes me wary and I get the inclination to rebel (ask me the story of how I got rid of the Kirby salesman sometime), so after the intro titled "For Skeptics Only," I found myself even more skeptical.

Then I began reading the first chapter and was pleasantly surprised.

The chapter opened by telling a story, and this conversational style continued throughout. I liked this a lot, because I learn best that way and could better relate to the information. I really enjoyed the quotes given at the beginning of each chapter. The true stories of people such as Walt Disney, J.C. Penney, and Ray Kroc (the man who made McDonald's an empire) were fascinating.  The advice was presented in a straightforward, simple manner and was nicely written.

I admit that my eyes glazed over a bit while reading about the stock market and the charts didn't mean much to me. Then again, I have never been interested in the stock market. However, what I did get out of this book was that it's very important to explore different options and that putting money in a 401(k) is generally not the best idea. After discussing some of the information with my husband, we had a good discussion which has led to some interesting avenues to check out. I told James (the major source of brains in this family) that he should read this book so it can help us decide what to do about our financial future. He is currently doing so.

Since I live in the Show Me state, I want down-to-earth, common sense financial advice. This book gives that--mostly. The only real issues I had were some of the legit reasons given to borrow money. In one of the stories, a man and his wife who have just lost their retirement through their 401(k) "desperately" need a kitchen remodel, and during their financial planning found they could borrow some for that reason. I found that a bit of a turnoff. A kitchen remodel would be nice thing to have, but it's far from a pressing need for most people I know. Another reason included borrowing a couple thousand dollars for a vacation, or for a car. If I borrow money, even if it's a relatively safe way to do it, I need a good reason. Otherwise I'm stuck with an unnecessary monthly payment, and I'd rather save up to pay for things that aren't emergencies. I would have liked to see the advice given to be prudent and use discretion on what a person borrows money for and how much--no matter how easy it would be to pay back.

The basic information on how the program works is given in the last half or so of the book--and I do mean very basic. The book recommends contacting special advisers, found through the website, who can help you make the most out of your financial decisions.Getting more information is vital to having the full benefit of the program. The information given is like artichoke dip at Olive Garden--it whets your appetite for more! I had never heard of options like these before, and they do sound intriguing.

I plan on checking further into the information presented in this book and on learning about more financial planning options in general. The best thing this book did for me was make me curious about learning about all the different options out there. Oh, and a great chocolate analogy came at the perfect time in the chapters to help me understand what the authors were saying. I definitely want to enjoy my chocolate bar and have plenty for my kids as well. Read Safe Money Millionaire to find out more about an interesting plan for obtaining more "chocolate" of your own!

Purchase Safe Money Millionaire here: Amazon

Visit the website: Safe Money Millionaire

Review Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for the purpose of review, and have not been compensated in any fashion for my opinions.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Adventures at Walmart

Last night, at Walmart, I got in the 20 items-or-less line. Princess stood next to me, clutching a package of Bonne Bell Lipsmackers to her chest. (My little girl has been asking about makeup--and this is the closest a five-year-old is getting to lipstick.) A package of contractor trash bags (for all the things I'm getting rid of) and a box of Klondike bars (for James' and my weekly at-home date night) rounded out the purchases.

The man ahead of us in line was quite friendly. Usually, I am too, but something about this guy made me wary. He looked pretty normal--40s, slight of build, white tee, slightly scruffy, not anything unusual. He leaned our direction and talked to Princess, and my alarm bells went off. He had a mumbling way of speaking, but I swore I heard something about a wink.

Princess had the same impulse as me, because she backed up and hid behind me. I resisted the urge to shove him, gave the man a half-smile, and he mumbled a few things to me, grinning. Uncharacteristically, I didn't say anything, but kept that half-smile plastered on.

The guy took a little time to pay, not quite understanding what the cashier wanted, and I tried to chastise myself for being so cold. It looks like he's mentally deficient, I thought. But the feeling of wariness was there still, and I couldn't help but listen. I put my arm around Princess and held her close to my side.

When the man had finished paying, he went to get his bag. I studied him discreetly for a moment, thinking that his movements looked familiar. He swayed a bit, and for a second I wondered, Parkinson's?, then realized that his motions reminded me of someone.

Johnny Depp, I thought. Yep, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

Captain Jack . . .oh.


The guy lurched away, and I stepped up to the register into a funny-smelling cloud. The cashier and I gave each other a look.

"Drunk?" she said in a low tone.

"You think?" I laughed as I waved my hand around a bit trying to diffuse the scent.

She stiffened, then I felt someone behind me and I knew it was the drunk guy. He moved to my side and leaned (or swayed) into my arm a moment, mumbled something, then veered off again.

"How are you today?" the cashier asked brightly.

I swiped my card. "Oh, I'll be fine when we're in the car safely!"

We all laughed, then I took my bag, my daughter's hand, and on high alert, went out of the store.

I shook my head. I need some kind of drunkdar. Years ago as a dental assistant I helped with a patient who was, as the dentist put it, "drunk as a skunk." I had no idea, though he reeked. I was used to patients smelling funny at times and acting weird.

But now, as I headed to the van, Princess tightly in tow, being highly aware of my surroundings and going over self-defense techniques in my mind,  I had to admit that I have a blind spot where sloshed individuals are concerned.

Will someone out there please invent some inebriation-recognition glasses?

Edited to add: Once my wits came back and we went to leave, I realized I should report the guy to someone. I hurried to the door, looking for him and planning to tell the greeter. I didn't have any idea where he'd gone, and somehow the drunk had vanished into thin air. Otherwise I would have done my civic duty and reported him.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Watched Book Tour Prize Winner!

And the winner of her choice of a cool scrapbooking kit is . . .

Blogger Stacy Coles said...

Already a follower. Just visiting.
June 21, 2011 8:16 PM

Congratulations, Stacy! Please email me today asap with your choice of scrapbooking kit

"To School or 'Bus't"                or              "Twinkle Star"


My email address is on the tabs under "Contact." Congratulations!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Come Celebrate The Release Of Watched With Us!

       Watchedby Cindy Hogan, is on tour! I've heard great things about this book and can't wait to read it. Join us on the blog tour and you could win lots of awesome prizes!
      Learn about the hottest new teen novel
       while making new friends.
Each of the following blogs is offering a different awesome prize!
(That's 14 prizes!)
The prize here at I am a Pistachio is your choice of a cool scrapbooking kit!
And the grand prize is a $25 dollar gift card to Amazon.

 Quick, Fast Entry

Pick a blog, any blog to get started
(just click on the underlined name)
Better hurry! There's only 4 days to enter -Tues., June 21st-Friday, June 24th
 **(Need more details? More complete entry details at the bottom of the page)

1.   Follow Rachelle Writes and leave a comment.   Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Rachelle's blog. (If you do both you get 1 entry into Rachelle's contest and one into the Grand Prize contest-You Must do both to enter either)

2.   Follow A Writer's Reality and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Melissa's blog.

3.   Follow Day Dreamer and leave a comment.
Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Christine's blog.

4.  Follow The Queen of the Clan and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Danyelle's blog.

5.   Follow Jordan McCollum and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Jordan's blog.

6.  Follow The Crazy Daze of Motherhood and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Jane's blog.

7.  Follow I am a Pistachio and leave a comment.
Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Rebecca's blog.

8.   Follow Chasing Dreams and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Tamara's blog.

9.   Follow Ramblings of a Random Writer and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Betsy's blog.

10. Follow Matthew Tandy-The Working Writera nd leave a comment. Then followCindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Matthew's blog.

11 Follow Weaving a Tale or Two and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Donna's blog.

12. Follow Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M. Hogan and leave a comment about Tristi's blog.

13. Follow My Yellow Sandbox and leave a comment. Then follow  Cindy M Hogan and leave a comment about Abby's blog.

14. Follow Watched and leave a comment. Then follow Cindy M Hogan and leave a comment about that blog.

13. Enter all 14 contests and you get an extra 5 entries into the Grand Prize Giveaway. (19 entries)

14. That's not all! Get 6 extra entries by buying Watched here (print book) or here (e-book) and sending her a copy of your confirmation cindymhogan at yahoo dot com. Easy peasy.   Wow! That's 25 entries!

Have fun and good luck!

**More Details on how to enter
  • Click on the blog name
  • Follow that blog
  • Leave a comment that you were there 
  • Jump over to Cindy's blog
  • Leave a comment about what you liked about the other blog. 
Congrats! You've entered that blog's contest and earned one entry into the Grand Prize Drawing!

Enter one. Enter two or how ever many you like, but...

If you enter all the blogs' contests you get a bonus 5 entries into the Grand Prize Drawing.
That gives you a total of 19 entries to win the
Grand Prize- A $25 gift card to Amazon.

And don't forget to get your copy of Watched for a bonus entries.
(25 total)

Remember- you only have 4 days to enter.
(Tues, June 21st-Friday, June 24th at midnight)  
and you must comment on both blogs for entry into each contest.

Individual blogs will award prizes on June 25th
The Grand Prize will be awarded on June 28th on Cindy's blog.

Check back to see if you won! You have 2 days to claim your prize.

big thanks to my awesome friends for joining in on the fun.
3.   Day Dreamer

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bumpy Landings Book Winner Take Two!

Well, since the winner of Bumpy Landings was my sister Karen, she graciously offered to borrow my copy and give someone else a chance to win. So, I went to and found another winner:

Blogger Taffy said...

I wish I had Don's book to read when I was in Hawaii a few months ago!

I'm a follower!
June 6, 2011 4:52 PM

Congratulations, Taffy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bumpy Landings Book Winner!

Well, I had eight eligible comments, so I put 1-8 into, and the winner is . . .

Blogger Karen said...

Of course I'm a follower! I could use a vacation to somewhere tropical, even if it's only in my mind!
June 10, 2011 6:09 PM

Congratulations, Karen!

Thanks for entering, and for those of you who didn't win, you can purchase your own copy of Bumpy Landings here in paperback or for Kindle: Amazon

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bumpy Landings Book Giveaway!

Back in February I had the privilege of reviewing Bumpy Landings by Don Carey. (Read the review here.) I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and now is the season where I wish I were in Hawaii, cracking open fresh coconuts and eating pineapple.

Not many LDS romance books are written by men or are from a man's perspective, but this one is. Which, makes Bumpy Landings like a non-alcoholic pina colada--quite refreshing. 

Don is generously giving away a copy of Bumpy Landings, and if I didn't already have a copy, I'd be all over this giveaway! (Except, well, I couldn't. That wouldn't be honest since this is my blog. But if I were a pirate, I would.)

Here's how to enter. Please read all the instructions so you will be eligible. You can have a total of five entries!


Follow my blog (or be an existing follower) and leave a comment saying so. 

Additional entries:

Once you are a follower and would like additional entries, any of these count. Please make a separate comment for each entry. For example: if you tweet and blog about the giveaway, make two separate comments, one for the tweet and one for the blog post. If you combine them into one comment, they will count for one entry.

Blog about the giveaway and link to it
Tweet the giveaway
Share the giveaway on Facebook
Go to Don's website, click on "Recipes," and share which one looks the tastiest. (All of these treats are in Bumpy Landings and I want to try every one!)

If your email address isn't in your profile, please include the address in each entry comment so I know how to contact you. 

The contest ends this Saturday, June 11th, at 11:59 Pacific time. I will announce the winner on Monday, June 13.

Good luck to everyone!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Nia by Mella Reese

Nia is a princess--but not your typical prone-to-faints, delicate princess. Nia has a deep, caring heart--and a father whose chief goal in life is war. The king's philosophy? Conquer or be conquered, even if the land you're conquering doesn't stand the remotest chance against you. Thankfully, Nia doesn't agree.

Princess Nia is in line to take the crown, but she struggles with the idea. Luckily, she's engaged to Andras, the man she loves more than anything, and he's studying under her father so he will be worthy to rule the kingdom one day.

To Nia's astonishment, a large, strong man from one of the kingdoms her father conquers presents himself to her. He makes a blood oath to be bound as her servant for the rest of his life. 

Nia learns the man's name is Garreth, but not much else at first, as the man won't meet her eyes unless ordered. He is her shadow constantly, which annoys her, as she goes around the kingdom warring with her inner self regarding her duties as a royal while doing what she loves best--healing people with her extensive knowledge of herbs.

I was pleasantly surprised by this story, and even more when I discovered that this is a first novel for Mella Reese. The characters were well thought out, and I enjoyed watching a friendship develop between Nia and Garreth at the same time she was in love with her betrothed, Andras. 

There were only a couple of minor things I felt needed to be addressed. One was that I couldn't get a good picture of what Nia looked like. Any description of her was very subtle, so much so that I missed it entirely. The other thing was an ongoing comparison with life and trees that I wasn't quite sure fit in the story, because I wouldn't have missed it if it hadn't been there and I kept reading deeper meaning into it than there ultimately was. 

I liked that Nia wasn't a strict romance, but rather told the well-rounded story of a princess whose life had romance in it. Even a person with romantic feelings for someone has other facets to her life, and the dynamic of a princess having a dearly-loved fiancĂ© and a blossoming friendship with a male servant while trying to figure out her royal role was really interesting. She was a character I would have liked to have as a friend. 

I enjoyed reading Nia  and I hope to read the next book because I would like to know what happens! Congratulations to Mella on a great debut novel!

Visit author Mella Reese: Author Website  Blog  

Purchase Nia here: Amazon