Doing My Best to Turn My Black Thumb Green

A year ago we moved into a new-to-us house. We fell in love with the house, but the yard was in rough shape. I mean rough! I wish I had taken before shots so you could see I'm not exaggerating. The back yard is two levels. You access the lower level via a steep, curving sidewalk. My husband calls it the luge run. When we bought the house, the lower lawn had turned wild--overgrown, waist-high grass and weeds, and every flowerbed and rock wall were wild and weedy.

Last year was about cutting it all back to the basics. The lawn was a bust, so it all had to come out and new sod brought in. The rest was a different story. There were too many beautiful plants that just needed freed from the chokehold of weeds and thistles and junk.

I've never been a good gardener. Every garden I've ever planted has died. I can't remember ever harvesting something edible. But I want to and I've tried time and time again. So it is with trepidation that I've looked out over the beautiful back yard we've found lying under all the overgrown stuff.

Please don't let me kill it. Please don't let me kill it! PLEASE DON'T LET ME KILL IT!!!

I want these trees and bushes and flowers to live and thrive. I love them. I've been out weeding, loosening the hard-packed dirt that clings to the roots I'm trying to pull out. I'm climbing rock walls and hauling out wheel-barrows of evil plants that want to strangle the flowers. I've been sorer than when I worked out with a trainer, and a few times my allergies have kicked in and I've looked like a prize fighter. 

But it's coming and I'm loving it and I'm browsing the internet for new plants, flowering ground cover that keeps weeds at bay, bushes that smell lovely, grasses that will add a little color to the planters in front, herbs and vegetables that can be grown in containers on the deck.

Is it possible to turn a middle-aged black thumb green? I sure hope so.

And now, for your springtime enjoyment (but mostly mine), here are a few of the pictures I've snapped in my back yard.























A Few of My Favorite Things

It's been a while since I did a favorite things post, and since I have good news to share, this seemed like a good time to put one together.

Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Friday evening we were invited to a special cooking class/tasting dinner with award-winning chef, John Newman. As he prepared some incredible food, he used a tool that has now shot to the top of my Christmas list. I'd never heard of this tool. It's called a Sous Vide. Have you heard of it? It's used in the best restaurants and it's amazing. He had a plastic bin sitting on the counter with the Sous Vide in it. He'd slow cooked our pork tenderloin in it and it was so tender and delicious. I'd just about given up on ever cooking perfect pork tenderloin. The great thing is, it CAN'T overcook. It can sit in the waterbath all day long and never overcook, so dinner's ready whenever you want it to be. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? There are a variety of options available online, but this one was one of the less expensive ones and it gets great reviews, so next year, give me a call, and we'll have you to dinner. We'll serve perfect pork tenderloin! (If you get one before me, I'll let you cook for me.) Read more about it and pick yours up HERE.


3D Cities Coloring Book


My kids gave me a coloring book for Christmas that has quickly become my go-to coloring book. The pictures are bold, busy, and a blast to color. I'm working my way through the book. It's called 3D Coloring - Cities. It even comes with a silly little pair of 3D glasses that actually work. But the fun part is the coloring. You can get yours HERE or simply browse through the dozens of cool, adult coloring book options.

Here's one of my masterpieces. Looks fun, huh?

Opi Nail Lacquer in Put it in Neutral


The last several years, I sorta quit wearing any nail polish and only painted my toenails during sandal months. Then a few months ago, my nails started peeling and seemed really weak. I didn't want to use the bright colors I use on my toes on my fingernails, but I wanted something that would strengthen my nails and look natural and understated. I can't remember where I read about THIS brand and color, but I decided to give it a try and I LOVE IT! The great thing is, it lasts really well, too. It's an appropriate color for any occasion and any age and my nails are so much stronger and healthier. Give it a try.

Himalayan Salt Lamp

There all kinds of websites that will tell you the benefits of a Himalayan Salt Lamp. It's all about the ions and what it does to our energy and how it's a good antidote to all our electronics that are sucking the good stuff out of our air, and on and on. I'll let you read up on all that if you want, but I'll just tell you that if all they say is true, yay! Because I have one and I love it. But here's the thing. I'd want it even if all that wasn't true, because when it comes to a beautiful, warm, nightlight, there's nothing like it. It glows just enough to make my house safe when someone needs to get up for a drink of water or whatever. It's cozy and perfect for helping create hygge in my home, which is one of the things I'm trying to do this year. If you're looking for a moderately priced one, HERE is a good option.


Rejuvenate Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Our last house didn't have wood floors. This house does and I love them. But especially during the wet, winter months, they need a little extra attention. This is my wood floor's best friend and I quite like it because it's so stinking easy. Spray THIS lightly and then go over it with a dry swiffer and your wood floors will look shiny and beautiful. It doesn't take much to get the job done. One bottle lasts a long time. Your floors and your back will love you!




Maggie's Song


Finally, my favorite thing of all today is that you can now read Maggie's Song on it's own. Two years ago, Maggie's Song appeared in the Timeless Romance Anthology: Love Letters Collection. Today it's available on its own. Don't you love the cover? I made a few little changes to it, but it's still the same story. It's a novella. You'll be able to read it in an hour or two. But hopefully you'll be satisfied. It's Savannah's favorite thing I've ever written.  Maggie Jensen is part of a trio of best friends with Lucas and Dan. Together, they own and run Wild Country Hiking Tours. When Lucas returns to the company after getting his college degree, Maggie realizes that the crush she had on him as a teenager has now blossomed into so much more. But Lucas still treats her as one of the guys, and Maggie worries that if she tells him her real feelings, their relationship will be damaged forever.  Right now it's available HERE in ebook form. The print version will be available in the next couple of weeks.

What are some of your favorite things right now?

It's February! You Know What That Means




A


A New Book in The Power of the Matchmaker series: 

Lani has lived in Hana, Hawaii for five years. She's learned to surf, fish, dive, and manage her grandmother's bed and breakfast. She's also learned to take one day at a time the way it should be takenrelaxed and unrushed, savoring every moment.

But, like a large wave on the brink of breaking, her life is about to crash out of control. A proposal of marriage, a conniving grandmother, a cryptic Asian woman, and a handsome guest, and suddenly everything calm begins to churn, everything clear becomes confused, and all that was normal segues into peculiar.

As Lani struggles against the current to hold her ground, she realizes that she can either continue to fight and eventually lose, or take a take a leap of faith, hold her breath, and ride the wave wherever it takes her.

What people are saying:


Loved it! A great escape and like always a lovely story that drew me in and wouldn't let go until the very end. Highly recommend! Kathy, Goodreads.com

A very quick and beautiful read that made me want to move here and live among the locals. Maureen, Goodreads.com

NOW AVAILABLE AT


Book Review -

Several years ago, I read Driven: An Autobiography. It was the story of Larry Miller, the businessman behind the car dealerships, movie theaters, and the Utah Jazz. It was fascinating and I recommended it to so many people. When I heard about this new book about Miller, I knew I wanted to read it. I hoped I'd enjoy it as much as I had Driven, and it didn't disappoint.
Behind The Drive is divided into ninety-nine short (most are three pages), first-hand stories of the men and women who knew Larry Miller. They range from former Jazz players, business associates, childhood friends, people who Larry and his wife helped, family members and more. The stories shed light the complicated, interesting man who died too young. They tell of his competitiveness, his work ethic, his fiery temper, his athletic ability (he played professional softball), his unusual management style, his integrity, and his generosity. I read many of the stories aloud to my husband or family. There is not only a lot to be admired from the experiences shared, there is also a lot to learn. For anyone who loves Salt Lake City (me), loves the Utah Jazz (me), has managed their own business (me), or loves hearing stories of flawed people who do great things (I'd like to think someday that will be me), this is a wonderful book to read. Read it in small doses or read it as you would a novel. Either way, I can just about guarantee, you'll find things that make you laugh and inspire you.

Get your copy HERE.

First of all, Happy New Year!!!

Secondly, today is release day for Broken Things to Mend.

I have to admit, I'm super nervous. It's the first full-length novel in the Power of the Matchmaker Series, and I don't want it to fizzle and die like last night's sparklers, I've been proud of everything I've released to this point in my writing life, but this one feels different. Maybe it's the tone the story took, maybe it's the flawed and broken characters, maybe it's that it stretched me when I wrote it, maybe it's that I fell hard for the setting (seriously, Sisters, Oregon is one of the loveliest little towns), or maybe it's a combination of those. Whatever it is, I'm really proud of this book.

I hope you enjoy it! 

Celia is in desperate need of a change--a change of scenery, a change of pace, and a complete redo of all relationships. Not knowing what else to do, she opens a map, closes her eyes, and lets fate decide her future. Then she packs her meager belongings and buys a one-way ticket to a little town on the fringes of Oregon's Deschutes National Forest called Sisters. She's wanted a family for years. Will she find one in Sisters? 

What Celia doesn't plan to find is a strange Chinese woman whose meddling ways keep throwing her in the path of a handsome, but reserved, forest ranger. But no matter how kind or dependable Silas seems to be, there are some things in Celia's past that neither of them can escape, and this time, the damage might be too much to mend.

What people are saying:


"Once I picked up Broken Thing To Mend, I was gone. From the first to the last page this one was a page-turner for me." - Maureen

"I think this is White's best work yet. I couldn't put it down. Loved it!" - Anne

Get your copy here. 

Six Sister's Stuff Review (Sweets & Treats)


I have to confess that I'm a little jealous of the Six Sisters. They've created a franchise around things I love--cooking, baking treats, and hanging out with each other. Add to that that their cookbooks (if you can call them that) are beautiful and everything looks so good I want to make them all right now.

This cookbook is beautiful, printed on glossy, high-quality paper, with gorgeous photographs for every recipe. (Why even bother with a cookbook if you're not going to have mouth-watering photographs?) Everything sounds good and I'm looking forward to making almost everything in here. The almond joy cookies are ridiculous, by the way.

If you have any of their other books, be sure to add this one for a full collection. If you don't own any of the others, this one is a great place to start.

Get yours HERE!

Embarrassment, Pain, & Tender Mercies

Let me set the stage: It's Joe, my youngest son's, first basketball game as the starting point guard for his junior high team. He's just played a great game--seventeen points including 9 out of 10 free throws. As usual, I sat on the top row of the bleachers. I like having the wall as a backrest and it's a good view of the court.

The game ended, the team went into the locker room, and parents stood around talking--a few up in the bleachers, more on the floor at the bottom of the bleachers.

Across the gymnasium, I saw Joe come out of the locker room. I picked up my purse and phone and started down the stairs to meet him.

The bleachers are the pull-out kind and for some reason, the second to the top step wasn't fully extended. I hadn't noticed that when I went up, nor did I notice it when I started down. My foot landed on the shorter step, and since only a tiny bit of my heel had anything to gain traction on, my foot folded over the edge of the step.

What happened next was spectacular. As my foot folded, my body twisted. I'm not sure if I was trying to reach for something or if the momentum of my twisted foot just worked it's way through my entire body, but somehow I did a half-twist that threw me onto my back, on the steps of the bleachers. I reached for something to stop me, but came up empty-handed as I slid/bounced from the top of the bleachers to the bottom.

When I finally came to a rest, amid shrieks from all sides, my head was on the basketball floor while my body and legs were up the bleachers. Yes, they were still attached, but just barely.

In a panic, my husband and two sons came running over. "Karey, are you okay?" "Mom, mom, what happened? Are you all right?" Travis (husband) and Bruce (oldest son) took my hands and tried to pull me up, but have you ever tried to get up when the lower half of your body is at a much higher elevation than the upper half? It's nearly impossible. It goes against the laws of nature or physics or decency. Feel free to try it if you don't believe me.

The solution: Pull mom down the rest of the way to the floor and then help her up. And do this in front of most of the parents and now several of the boys on the team.

I used to think I wanted my superpower to be teleporting, but at that moment, I wanted the power of invisibility.

Somehow they managed to get me upright and sitting on the bottom row of the bleachers. Concerned faces were all around me asking about my condition. In truth, I was in excruciating pain, but I smiled and joked that only my pride was hurt. A few tried to ease my embarrassment with jokes. I reached over to pick up my purse that had landed on the bottom step, but unfortunately, I hadn't zipped it up and so the contents spilled all over the bottom step of the bleachers and the floor.

In just a few short moments, I became the object of concern and pity and probably humor, although everyone did a remarkable job of not laughing hysterically. Thankfully, everyone was kind and the boys even had a string of text messages asking about what had happened to Joe's mom and about my well-being.

Let me interrupt this moment of mortification with a question. Why couldn't someone have captured this on their phone? I promise you, it would have gone viral. It was a fall worthy of repeated viewing and sharing all over social media. It would have been shared on Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. It could have made someone rich.

Anyway, it's been two days now and yes, I can laugh about it, but I feel like I lost a cage fight. I've had a little time to think and have recognized two tender mercies. When I think of a tender mercy, I usually think of a small good thing that happens in the midst of a big bad thing, but these two things seem pretty big to me.

Tender Mercy 1: No one was standing on the bleachers in front of me. At the most, I could have killed someone. At the least, I would have maimed someone pretty badly.

Tender Mercy 2: I almost wore a dress that day, but at the last minute, opted for jeans and a sweater. A dress twisted around my waist would have upped the humiliation factor ten-fold. Dodged the bullet there.

I have just one question for you. If anyone has an answer, please feel free to share it. Why do some people get to go through life with grace, composure, dignity, and beauty? They glide through life, never getting ruffled, always looking prim and put-together. I, on the other hand, get to barrel through life, lumbering, careening, tumbling and splatting.

Right now I'm moving slowly and carefully. Now if I can just make myself do the same when the aches and pains are gone.

BOOK NEWS & A GIVEAWAY!

NOVEMBER might just be my favorite month. The fall leaves are still hanging on and I get to pull out my sweaters and tights, I was married on a sunny, cold day in November, and we celebrate my favorite holiday--Thanksgiving.

So, to celebrate November, let me tell you about my newest project and a fantastic giveaway!


Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that feels extra special. This project is one of those opportunities and the fun has begun. Let me tell you a little about it.

Twelve months, twelve best-selling & award-winning authors, twelve romances that span centuries, one match maker.

To get to the match maker and her incredible story, you can order the prequel novella HERE.

Then, starting in January, you can begin reading the books inspired by--and featuring--the match maker. Each is a stand-alone novel, so no one will have to hate me for a cliffhanger ending. (Hopefully those of you that were upset with me during The Husband Maker series have forgiven me enough to give my novel in this series a chance wink, wink)

My contribution to this project, Broken Things to Mend, comes out January 1, 2016 and is available for preorder HERE.

I'm really proud of this book. Celia and Silas are damaged people who feel their circumstances have forced them into hard, lonely lives. The possibility of connecting with and loving someone takes them by surprise. The baggage of their painful pasts might be too much to overcome.

To celebrate this exciting project, I'm sponsoring a giveaway on my blog for a $50 Amazon gift card. That would go a long way toward buying each of the books in this project, but of course it's yours to spend however you wish.


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Book Recommendations for 2015 (so far)

So far in 2015, I've read 56 books. To some of you that might sound paltry, to others it may sound like a ton! In every writing class or conference I've ever attended, we're told the best way to be a better writer is to READ, READ, READ. So I have. And now I want to share some thoughts with you.

Take heart! I'm not going to review everything I've read here. It would take too long and if I didn't much care for it, why would I waste your time with it? I'd love to hear what you think of some of these, if you've read them. If not, feel free to share some of your favorites.


THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo


Not sure what to say about this book except that it was life changing. For real. Marie's advice can sound a little kooky sometimes and I'll admit, I have yet to let my socks speak to me and let me know the way they want to be folded, BUT... the point of this book is that we should rid our homes of everything that doesn't bring us joy. If we don't love something and it doesn't spark joy, it's gone. (It's talking about things, not husbands who come home from work grouchy or kids that won't clean their rooms.) We were house hunting when I read this book and found the house we put an offer on shortly after I finished it. Because we were in major upheaval and transition anyway, I decided I'd try to put the book's advice to use and I GOT RID OF SOOOO MUCH. I did my best to only fill the new house with things I loved, things that made me happy. It wasn't perfect--some things spark joy in my husband and kids that I'd just as soon not have in the house, but it really was an amazing experience and I totally recommend reading this book. I think it might change the way you look at your things and it really does make tidying up easier. That right there is magic!


The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan


Not to get too political, but man, could we ever use another man like Ronald Reagan on the political landscape today. I loved this book. It's a diary with daily entries that reads just like a ... diary. I learned so much about President Reagan, his family, life in the white house, and how government works. It was fascinating. I listened to the audiobook whenever I was cleaning the kitchen or folding clothes. It was hard to put down and a couple of times I was moved to tears as he talked about his feelings at the time of the shuttle explosion or after he was shot or when he called the parents of a fallen soldier. Great book!



THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown


I'm not even sure where to start on this book, except to say that I think everyone should read it so we can talk about it. Maybe I should say everyone should LISTEN to it because Edward Herrmann does an absolutely brilliant job narrating this book.

To many people it might not sound that interesting. It's about the 1936 American olympic rowing team and their quest for the gold medal. Okay, a two second google search lets you know they won the gold that year, so (yawn) whatever. NO. NO. NO. Travis and I were taking a road trip and I wanted to find something that might be interesting to him that wouldn't (hopefully) bore me to tears and vice versa. We started listening to this and it was kinda interesting. And then it was pretty interesting. And then it was "let's sit in the car after we've parked and finish this part." And then it was "let's go for a drive and listen to another chapter." And then it was "Oh man, I don't want this to end." And then it was tears, literally, because it was over. 

So please read it so we can talk about it. I loved it and the next time I have a chance to choose a book for a bookclub, we'll be rowing our way to the olympics.



THESE IS MY WORDS by Nancy E. Turner


I had heard of this book many times and it always seemed to pop up on social media when people were recommending books, but I had no idea what it was even about. Then I went to Book Club and some of the ladies were talking about it in such glowing terms that I thought I'd better get with the program and read it. It was so good. Written in diary form, it's an historical novel with heart, humor, drama and romance. Sarah, the main character, is fantastic.


The Power of The Matchmaker - TWELVE Cover Reveals!


Remember when I told you about the project I'm involved in for 2016? If not, you can read more about it here. 

Well, today is the cover reveal day and I can't think of many things more exciting than revealing TWELVE covers on the same day! Okay, technically we can all think of things that would be more exciting--wining the lottery, a personal Brandon Flowers concert, a new baby. But since none of those are happening, this has to be right up there!

And check those out. They're gorgeous aren't they? And the stories that go with them are going to be awesome. You can go to Goodreads to read the descriptions and add them to your "to read" list. 

The novella that gives you the Matchmaker's backstory is available for preorder now on Amazon. It's a lovely little story that will have you eager for more. Each book is a stand-alone novel by a different author with one common character--Miss Pearl, the matchmaker. Can't wait!!!

The Kiss that Launched 1000 Gifs

Kiss that Launches 1000 gifts by sheralyn pratt
MY REVIEW:

I really enjoyed this book. Sheralyn has created likable characters who are easy to care about, great chemistry, entertaining situations and believable conflict. I planned to spend a few days reading the book but found myself letting other things slide so I could finish it quickly. One more chapter became two and then three and then the book. It was a fun summer escape, for sure.

  The Kiss That Launched 1,000 Gifs by Sheralyn Pratt Each weekday from 2:00-4:00 p.m., Grace and Ashton cohost Battle of the Sexes, a radio program arguing the he-said/she-said issues of the day. Their fiery debates often have listeners wondering if there’s more to their relationship than just talk, even though Grace has been dating Phillip, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Perfect, since long before she ever met Ashton Miller. Yet when news comes that Battle of the Sexes is on the bubble for cancellation, Grace and Ashton need to step up their efforts to engage their audience to keep the show alive. When a charity organization approaches them and proposes that the two of them kiss for a fund raiser, Grace and Ash agree to kiss for a good cause. A kiss is just a kiss, right?
Purchase your copy
add to goodreads
Author Sheralyn Pratt Sheralyn's first job was as a karate instructor, which taught her that practice does not make perfect; practice makes habit--good or bad. Martial arts also taught Sheralyn that a master is simply a person who can effortlessly do all the actions a beginner finds difficult or maybe even impossible. Sheralyn has worked in many fields throughout her life, but her 12 years as a karate instructor have shaped how she does everything, including writing and mentoring. She likes to keep things light and fun, but she's also aware that life is journey and that if you're going to buy a book, your life should better for it. So, fiction or nonfiction, know that each of Sheralyn's books are designed to take you to a new place. Maybe that book is designed to help you escape for a few hours, or maybe it's a book designed to teach you a new skill. Either way, Sheralyn hopes it's unforgettable...in a good way. ;)
25_Amazon_Paypal $25 Blog Tour Giveaway Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 8/5/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Good Friend is Hard to Lose

This is Pepper. She's been part of our family for 6 1/2 years. She has been a loyal, protective, pleasant part of our family. She has kept the kids company, been a walking/jogging companion, been fun to show off (look at her, she's beautiful) and kept us entertained. She was calm and gentle and patient and funny. She knew her boundaries and never came into the kitchen. Even though she could have eaten absolutely anything off the counter, she was only tempted by peanut butter cookies. She was obedient and lazy (in the best way) and happy. We've loved her and Savannah has adored her.







Her health has been deteriorating for the past year or so. Great Danes usually live 7-10 years and she was 9 1/2. She was hurting. I'm pretty sure her eyesight was getting bad, as things that used to be no problem like hard-surface floors were beginning to scare her. After years of either going downstairs to sleep in Joe's room or upstairs to sleep in Savannah's room, she could no longer make it up the stairs. We made her a bed on the main floor, but even getting the few steps into the backyard became more difficult. The last few days, she's barely been able to get to the door and that's been with difficulty, so we knew it was time.

Yesterday we took Pepper for her last ride in the car. We drove to the mountains with the windows down and let the wind blow in her happy face. We stopped in the shade and opened the back so she could hear the water and feel the little breeze. We had a prayer and then took her to the vet, where we stayed with her, she and Savannah looking at each other, while she went to sleep for good. It was a painful and difficult day and there will be many sad and lonely days to come. Enjoy running around in heaven until we meet you again, Pepper.