Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Pedal Power

We spent the first two days of our summer vacation in Seattle, Washington, and the area around Pioneer Square turned out to be the perfect spot for capturing #5 - Pedal Power on this year's Seasonal Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Mary-Lou on the Patio Postcards blog.

We even found #7 - An Unexpected Reflection while snapping that last photo!

It's so much FUN how the photo scavenger hunt helps me be more observant! How are you doing on the hunt?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Report - Alaskan Settings


When I first mentioned we'd be traveling to Alaska this summer, Ruth asked if I'd read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. She said it was superb … and she was right! I read it about a week before we took our trip, and it gave me a good feel for the vastness of the land, the challenges of the weather, and the spirit of those who call Alaska home.

The story centers on Leni, who is 13-years-old in 1974 when her father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, learns one of his military buddies left him a piece of land in Alaska. Leni, her father and her mother, Cora, road trip to the small community and discover an old run down house on the remote point of land that they will call home. Everything goes well when they arrive in the summertime, and the small Alaska community is full of wonderful characters who come together to help these newcomers prepare for the coming winter. Leni meets Matthew Carter, who is her age, and they become friends.

However, as winter arrives, Ernt's mental state, which was altered by the war (in what today we would call PTSD), brings lots of difficulties to this small family. Cora loves Ernt and often makes excuses for his behavior and reminds Leni that he was different before the war. The book covers several years of their life in Alaska, years filled with good times and difficult times, community harmony as well as discord among neighbors, death and abuse and tragedy, love and reconciliation, with the Alaska setting providing a beautiful (yet harsh at times) backdrop. Leni herself falls in love with the land despite the difficulties she experiences there.

This is a beautiful story with lots of ups and downs and surprises along the way. It was very emotional (in a good way) to read all the family dynamics and the draw of the land and the unexpected ending. I highly recommend it!

I chose Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks (which I received free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) because it is also set in Alaska. I read it right after we returned from our trip.

This story is told from the perspective of Murphy Anderson, who is living in Kodiak, Alaska, and searching for her twin sister who has been missing for years. Murphy is "an artist hiding from an escaped killer who uncovers one of Word War II's most dangerous secrets - a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden." This is a great read - part mystery, part psychological thriller, part historical fiction - with lots of unexpected turns. Among the characters are several police officers, two crime investigators, a Russian priest, a government official, an elderly man in a wheelchair and his teenage grandson. When Murphy travels to the remote island of Ruuwaq to help investigate the discovery of five dead men (ten years earlier), she uncovers a Quonset hut (hidden under an avalanche of rocks) with another skeleton inside.

Throughout the story there are new discoveries that lead to more questions. In fact, every time I thought I figured out who-did-it, that person was killed or injured! There were quite a few dead bodies strewn throughout this well-written book, as well as some history about the Japanese occupation of the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu during World War II. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery thriller.

Have you read any books set in Alaska lately? (Or books set in Paris? I'll be heading there next!)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Alaskan Adventure

My original plan was to take an Alaskan cruise; however, as I began to research traveling to Alaska to check off item #18 on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, I realized that we could see a lot more of Alaska by planning our own trip.

We headed out on July 21 for a 16-day trip that included a couple of travel days, a couple of days in Seattle, Washington, and 12 days in Alaska. We traveled by plane, by train, by boat, by rental car, and by bus. It was an amazing trip! Along with the beautiful scenery (mountains, tundra, spruce forests, glaciers, creeks, rivers, lakes, etc), we spotted bald eagles, moose, mountain goats, horned puffins, caribou, sea otters, humpback whales, Dall porpoises, sea lions, trumpeter swans, dolphins, Dall sheep, wolves, and a grizzly bear.

I'll be sharing lots of photos and stories in the coming weeks, but here are a few highlights!

Walking part of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage.

Riding the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Seward.

Touring the Kenai Fjords with an up-close look at the Holgate Glacier.

Visiting the Church of 1000 Trees in Palmer.

Hiking the Boreal Forest Trail (and a short piece of the historic Valdez Trail) in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Exploring Gold Dredge 8 and panning for gold outside Fairbanks.

Camping inside Denali National Park with this beautiful view of Mount Denali.

So excited to check another item off  my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list! Eighteen down, thirty-two to go … and not much time left!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Five on Friday - Shop by Color

A (sometimes) weekly feature here on my blog sharing five FRESH random photos (or thoughts or interesting tidbits).

I'm not much of a shopper really, but sometimes it's FUN to wander through Charming Charlie just for the INSPIRATION that comes from everything being displayed by color!

Do you have a Charming Charlie near you?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Heavens Declare God's Glory

It's such a simple thing, but we often forget … we simply need to look around us to see the glory of the Lord! Psalm 19 reminds us that God's glory is revealed through the heavens and the earth!

As you go about your day, I pray the Lord will reveal His glory to you!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Five on Friday - Running Errands

A (sometimes) weekly feature here on my blog sharing five FRESH random photos (or thoughts or interesting tidbits).

While I was out running errands a few weeks ago, I captured several items for the 2018 Seasonal Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Mary-Lou on the Patio Postcards blog.

1. Heading in to Wal-Mart, I noticed these (#2) Stripes.

2. After lunch with Robbie, I discovered this (#20) Mellow Yellow wagon outside a local BBQ restaurant. It might be a little brighter than "mellow," however, the top of the fire hydrant in the forefront of the photo is definitely mellow, right?

3. I snapped a photo of (Alternate B) A Coupon To Use as I was heading in to Kroger to do my grocery shopping.

4. During my errands, I used (Alternate A) A Shopping Bag or two from the stash I keep in my car so I don't have to use the store's plastic bags.

5. Along with all the household and grocery purchases, I  also returned home with (#8) A Pile of … books, of course!

It was definitely a productive day for running errands and finding items on the scavenger hunt!

You can see more of my finds HERE and HERE. The hunt lasts until September 30, so there's still plenty of time to join in - check out all the details on Mary-Lou's blog HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - ONE Year To Go!

It doesn't seem possible that it's been four years since I created my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List … and there's only ONE YEAR to go!! As I celebrate my 49th birthday today, here are some FUN statistics about my list.

* I've completed 34% of the items on the list! That's only 17 items, so I have 33 to go!

* I'll be checking four more items off before the end of August. :)

* Of the 17 items, I completed 3 in 2014, 2 in 2015, 6 in 2016, and 7 in 2017.

* I've completed 100% of the items I included to help my spiritual growth, 56% of the travel items, 25% of my stretch goals, and checked off the least FUN item

*Surprisingly, I haven't checked off any of the things I want to learn, although I've made progress on several of them. If you see something on the list below that you want to learn too, touch base and let's take a class together!

Here's a look at the full list, with the completed items highlighted and updates on some of the remaining items.

1. Hike to the bottom of in the Grand Canyon
DONE (March 2016 - read about it HERE)

2. Learn to speak (basic conversational) Spanish
I purchased Rosetta Stone but haven't even installed it yet!

3. Take piano lessons

4. Learn to ride a horse
I've taken a couple of lessons and hope to take a few more this fall.

5. Hike to the top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies 
DONE (July 2014 - read about it HERE)

6. Lead someone to Christ

7. Lose down to a healthy weight (140-145 lbs) & maintain

8. Travel to Paris
DONE (November 2017 - read about it HERE.)

9. Read all the Pulitzer prize winners in Fiction (1948 – 2018)
I've read 43 of the 64 items on this list and will be completing the rest by the end of this year.

10. Re-read all my children’s/young adult books

11. Tour the Anne Frank house & the ten Boom home
DONE (October/November 2017 - read about it HERE and HERE)

12. Make a quilt

13. Play all the games in our collection

14. Visit Harry Potter World in Florida
DONE (November 2014 - read about it HERE)

15. See New York from the top of the Empire State Building
DONE (June 2016 - read about it HERE)

16. Earn a doctorate
I've decided not to pursue another degree at this point in my life.

17. Buy a camper & use it often
 Robbie and I have talked about this one and decided it's not the best option for the way we currently enjoy traveling.

18. Alaskan cruise
We'll be checking this one off on our upcoming vacation.

19. Take a cooking class

20. Go snow skiing one more time (at least)

21. Swimming lessons

22. Ride in a hot air balloon
There's a hot air balloon festival near us in September. If the weather's right, there are tethered balloon rides, and we're planning to check it out this year.

23. Have something published

24. Revise my will
DONE (October 2017 - read about it HERE)

25. Learn to make Mama’s biscuits so they taste as good as the ones she & Robbie make 
I'm saving this one for near the very end because once I learn to make them, Mama & Robbie might not be as motivated to make them for me. (big grin)

26. One minute plank

27. Dye Easter eggs again
DONE (March 2016 - read about it HERE

28. Travel on a train
DONE (November 2017 - read about it HERE)

29. Mission trip

30. Keep a daily diary/gratitude journal for one year 
DONE (January 2017 - read about it HERE)  

31. Learn to use my DSLR camera on manual (& auto!) mode
I've been working on this one!

32. Dance lessons (with Robbie, of course)

33. Fast for 3 days again
DONE (February 2016 - read about it HERE)  

34. Take private singing lessons

35. Visit Washington DC & tour the White House

36. See Niagara Falls
DONE (May 2015 - read about it HERE

37. Complete 10 scrapbook projects
I've completed 5 projects and have several more in progress. (I also completed six scrapbook-for-hire projects as well, but I'm not counting those for this goal.)

38. Buy or start a business
DONE (2016 - read about it HERE

39. Review all paid for scrapbook classes
I'm very close to completing this goal and am currently using the INSPIRATION from a couple of classes as I create layouts for our 2018 chronological album.

40. See some holiday fireworks
DONE (November 2014 - read about it HERE)

41. Learn to French braid my own hair

42. Improve photo editing skills

43. Buy and use a flower field/identification guide
Robbie gave me two guides (US eastern & western regions) last year, so I just need to use them a few times to check off this goal.

44. Go fishing again 
I'm hoping to check this one off while we're in Alaska!

45. Watch all the movies in our collection

46. Grow my own vegetables 

47. Read through the Bible again
DONE (November 2015 - read about it HERE

48. Glamping trip
DONE (March 2016 - read about it HERE)

49. Boot Camp class

50. Carve a pumpkin
DONE (October 2017 - read about it HERE)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Are You Athletic?

You may have heard me tell the story of how I’m not very creative and believe that I’m the least creative person in my family . . . at least that’s what I convinced myself of for many years. It took me a long time to realize that my creativity may look different, but it’s definitely a part of who I am.

I think we all have beliefs about ourselves at times that are untrue! It may be something that we’ve recently convinced ourselves we are not capable of, or it may be a belief we’ve had since childhood.

For example, another thing I’ve always believed about myself is that I’m not athletic. Honestly, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me this, but there are a few things that may have led to this belief:

*I failed the beginner swimming class when I was in early elementary school.
*In junior high (that’s middle school for those of you a few years younger than me), I was playing shortstop during PE one day, and a line drive hit me in the eye and broke my glasses!
*In high school, I had to sit out of PE for several weeks because I pulled a muscle in my chest while striking out during a softball game.
*And, of course, there was a prevailing belief that smart kids weren’t athletic.

However, when I take an honest look back at my life, I realize that my belief was wrong all along. The word “athletic” means “physically strong, fit, and active” or “characterized by or involving physical activity and exertion.” While I may not have been excessively strong, I was definitely active and enjoyed physical activity. For example:

*One of my favorite toys was the Lemon Twist! (Check out the retro commercial HERE! While the original Lemon Twist is no longer produced, there are lots of similar toys.)
*I loved to ride my bicycle … especially to the library!
*In fifth grade, I tried out for and made the track team; however, we moved to southeast Texas before the season started so I never had a chance to compete.
*In my 20s, I went snow skiing, I did aerobic exercises (yes, I had a unitard & leg warmers), and I walked regularly with a friend.
*I still enjoy walking, hiking and bike riding. I even go ice skating on occasion.

So, while I may not be a competitive athletic, it turns out I am (and have been all along) athletic!

So, tell me, are you athletic? What beliefs do you have that might be untrue? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Art Journaling Just Because

I pulled out the mixed media paper pad I use for art journaling several weeks ago. I've had it several years and have created pages sporadically (most notably HERE and HERE).

Although the pages are perforated, I've mostly just left them in the spiral pad. Since I mainly art journal just because I'm inspired or I want to try something new, I decided to get a little creative with the cover. I started with some white gesso as I began to cover up the product details.

Then I added some acrylic paint, a quote card, and a hand lettered title. This custom cover makes it feel like more of a journal to me!

As I was flipping through the pages, I came across a photo I had printed on a piece of printer paper. My original plan (a couple of years ago) was to somehow trace or draw a similar photo for an art journal page; however, I decided to simply adhere the photo as the beginning of a page. I painted around the edges and added a title.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but I used a green Wink of Stella pen to add shimmer to the leaves and bushes.

Do you use these types of paper pads for art journaling? Do you typically leave your pages in the spiral or punch them out and put them somewhere else?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Travel to Paris

I actually completed item number 8 (Travel to Paris) on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List back in the fall on our trip to Europe; however, I just realized I haven't shared about it here on the blog nor finished the page in my 50 Things Mini-Album.

We spent three days in Paris, arriving by Thalys train from Amsterdam about mid-day. After checking into the hotel, we set out for the Eiffel Tower.

After a three-hour wait in line, we boarded an elevator for the ascent to the top. We took lots of photos from the two levels - it was amazing.

Evening was falling as we headed back to the Metro station, and we enjoyed seeing the tower all lit up.

Our second day in France, we headed outside Paris to Velizy to visit the French company that was acquiring the company Robbie works for here in the states (that acquisition was completed earlier this summer). We enjoyed a short tour of the corporate campus as well as a delicious lunch served in one of the private dining rooms.

The next day we spent out and about in Paris - we toured Notre Dame, wandered the streets along the river, ate delicious macaroons filled with ice cream, and "marched" to the Arc de Triomphe.

Of course, there are lots more things to do in Paris, so hopefully we'll have the opportunity to visit there again. For now, I've checked this item off my list and added a photo to my 50 Things mini-album.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Report - April, May & June

I read 22 books over the past three months - some of them were great, others were ok, and a few were terrible not very good! Some were hardbacks, some were paperbacks, and some were eBooks I read on my Kindle. Some I've already reviewed here on my blog, others I'll be sharing about soon, and the rest are discussed below.

General Fiction



Rooster Bar by John Grisham is the story of four friends who are about to enter the last semester of law school. However, when one of them commits suicide before the semester begins, the other three drop out of school and embark on an adventure to expose the Great Law School Scam (involving a hedge-fund operator who owns a bank specializing in student loans). This book is a well-written page-turner with a satisfying conclusion, although (from the few John Grisham books I've read) it seems that somehow the main characters always seem to get away with something a little shady!

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clark is an end-of-the-world science fiction classic with giant spaceships and overlords who take over the earth. This is a disturbing book because it shows how the collective minds of our world can be changed in one generation simply by allowing time to pass and old truths and habits and knowledge to be forgotten or replaced.

West by Carys Davies was one of the books recommended on the Short List in a Real Simple magazine I picked up a few months ago. It sounded interesting, but it was a slow read with a very unsatisfying ending. (Note - spoilers in this review!) A widow mule breeder from Pennsylvania heads out west to find some ancient bones he read about in a newspaper. He leaves his young daughter at home with his sister and promises to write to her (which he does but almost none of the letters ever make it back to her). He has some adventures, but he dies along the way. A short book that I don't recommend.

Each month, I get an email from Amazon with a list of Kindle First Reads books, and I can choose one free. I rarely read on my Kindle, but every so often I'll click to order one of the free books. Last month, I charged up the Kindle and chose a few books at random to read. The Measure of Katie Calloway was a good read about a young woman, Katie Calloway, who runs away from an abusive husband. She makes her way north and finds work as a cook in a logging camp for the winter. The camp owner and the loggers love her cooking and become very protective of her (and her younger brother who she cares for). This easy-to-read story has a wonderful ending! The other free book I read was North of Here, however, it was not nearly as good. The story is divided into several sections - the first part is about a young woman who loses her family and finds comfort and refuge with the family's long-term handyman. However, the next section shifts to the story of a young man who buys a farmhouse and starts up a cultish "sanctuary" - the story goes downhill from there and has a terrible ending.

Christian Fiction


Cassidy by Lori Wick is set in the late 1800s in Montana Territory. Cassidy Norton, the main character, is a seamstress in a small town. She has made friends and a nice life for herself but has a secret that she fears will destroy it all. This is a small easy-to-read book with a happy ending. 

Whiter Than Snow by Joan Deppa is a beautiful story about a young woman, Bonnie, who moves to Michigan and begins works as an elementary school teacher at the school where her friend April also teaches. She meets Brad, who was raised in a foster family and now owns a local ski shop, while she's out enjoying the snow one day. He ends up teaching her how to cross country ski, downhill ski, and (later in the year) canoe. She invites him to church and he eventually accepts Christ as his Savior. They become involved in the young adult church group and become friends with the group leader, Aaron. While I enjoyed this quick, easy read, it was very predictable and almost too good to be true. There wasn't any real conflict to build the story, and most of the story was told through dialogue that seemed unnatural because it was used to explain so much. The happy ending was not a surprise. This book (which I read on my Kindle and received free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) is the first in a series. I knew before I even looked it up that the next book would be about Aaron and April.

General Non-Fiction

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I began Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I had picked up a copy of the book after reading the The Aviator's Wife a couple of years ago. I knew that Anne had spent time at the seashore and written this book in the 1950s, and someone at our book club meeting mentioned that it was a beautifully written book. I was pleasantly surprised with this short book and the thoughts on simplicity, solitude, contemplation, creativity, etc, that are still relevant to our lives today.

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic TV Show shares the stories of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, their friendship and their comedy partnership on The Andy Griffith Show. Robbie had picked up this book a while back and put it on my to-read shelf when he finished it, knowing that I would enjoy it, too. I enjoyed learning about these two men, their backgrounds and home life as well as the ups and downs of their careers and personal lives. They were each married three times, their third marriages were to much younger women. The book is written by Don Knott's brother-in-law, who knew Don personally and also conducted numerous interviews with family and friends and associates of both Andy and Don. It is very well-written and an interesting read.

Asking for a Friend was also recommended in the Real Simple Short List article. Each chapter is this book was about someone who is known for giving advice. It was an interesting read, and I learned several things. For example:
*Ann Landers and Dear Abby were sisters … and rivals.
*Benjamin Franklin wrote Poor Richard's Almanack.
*Every year Google publishes a list of frequently asked questions.
*Miss Manners considered Washington's 100 Crucial Social behaviors to be "one of the best on etiquette." (I'd never heard of Washington's Crucial Behaviors until I read Rules of Civility a few months ago - one of the main characters was obsessed with these behaviors.)

As I learned more about these advice givers, it really made me pause and think about who's giving advice … and why are we listening to them? Very few advice givers have any credentials or training that qualify them as "experts" for giving advice. Yet, many people quote and follow the advice given in books and newspaper columns and (now) websites without ever knowing anything about the advice giver. This book was well-written and easy-to-read (although it could have used more proofreading).

Christian Non-Fiction


The premise of Believing God by Beth Moore is that there is a difference between believing in God and believing what God has to say in His Word. This is a well-written book about learning to trust and believe God.

The One: An Amazing Love Story Starts With You is the story of Ryan and Amanda Leak, the young couple who got engaged and married on the same day (and had the video about it go viral!). We heard Ryan preach at a local church service and picked up this (and a couple of other) book. Ryan and his wife share relationship advice in this easy to read book that would be a great gift for a young single or an engaged couple.

Well, if you're still with me after all those reviews, which ones have you read? Are there any you'll be adding to your list of books to read soon?