Thursday, November 30, 2017

Re-write, Extend, and Re-releases of "HACKED, HUNTED, and HOOKED"

Sometimes you think you've checked a project off your list and can move on, just to discover that maybe it's not quite done.

Not too long ago, I released a series of Novellas (If you missed the buzz about those when they were new, check it out here!) Writing short books isn't typically my thing, but I took it on as a fun, growth challenge. And, to my surprise (and excitement!) they were very well received. In fact, they hit the Best-seller's list in virtually no time flat.

And then the reader requests started coming... and they created an itch in me that I knew I had to scratch. Samantha's story was one of my favorite that I'd ever written and I felt that in order to really do it justice, I needed to fill in the meat. The stories, simply put, were just too short and too lacking in detail.

So, I beefed them up. As in, they doubled in length.

The best part? The story didn't change, it just became richer. Yay! Because Samantha's wit and vulnerability definitely deserved more page time. I absolutely love her character.

The complete NEW Novels release officially in February of 2018, but I'm already buzzing about them. Even the covers got a fresh new look (though keeping in line with the originals).

Hooray for new books. And hooray for the readers who support me in this crazy passion of mine. Ton's of love to you guys!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fire Pit Arbor - part 1

This firepit has been on our project list for a loooong time. Unfortunately, it is also the project that gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Every. Single. Year.

The pit itself has been functioning for years. We are, as you may know, pyros. Controlled, of course. And always safe. We've met all the fire codes, including water availability and setting a safe non-burn zone. (Check with your local fire department to find out what your local codes are.) 

Before finishing the placement of the flagstone patio, we needed to set the posts for the arbor. In case you're wondering, digging 3' deep holes in clay/rock soil is not for the faint of heart! I ended up digging 5 holes total.  

 With the help of a couple of the kiddos, we set the five posts.  Gratefully there was no wind, so setting them plum was fairly easy.

Next came construction of the roof structure. It's almost 10' high, so I'm glad we had a 12' A-frame ladder or we'd have been in a tough spot. I made sure to stain every board BEFORE installation. This is not a required step, but highly recommended. 
Now that the arbor structure is done, we will reconvene in the spring. I will be building (or buying) a swing or two to hang from the arbor and finishing up the flagstone. And then, after years of being kicked to the bottom of the to-do list, our fire-pit will be done! :)  

Friday, August 4, 2017


When I was a little girl, I'd slide in my grandparent's bed and sleep between them. Grandma would tickle my arm and grandpa would snuggle me into his strong, gentle arms. Friday night I had the honor of sleeping beside grandpa again as he prepared to go home. At 5:00 am on July 30, he reported to the other side of the veil, eager to be with his sweetheart and begin his work there. 

Words cannot express how much this stubborn, sweet, man means to me. 

If you've ever had the opportunity to speak at a funeral, you know that it can be a very therapeutic and even humbling experience. Remembering loved ones and celebrating life is something I love to do and I'm always honored by the invitation to share my thoughts with those who've gathered to celebrate life... But this time was REALLY hard! 

I'm usually pretty good at organizing words into coherent thoughts, but not this time. Not about my Gramps. How do you put together adequate words to sum up a man who has been a key influence in the entirety of your life? Over the last week I’ve jotted down pages and pages of notes and memories, but every time I try to pull them together, all the feels start getting in the way. 

I am the second of 25 grandchildren. Many of the younger grandkids were welcomed into this world by a grandpa with silver hair and fake teeth. They got the benefit of his age and wisdom. I was blessed with something different… and as far as I’m concerned, perhaps something better. When I was born, Grandpa was a ripe old thirty-seven year old... and still working on growing up. 

The grandpa of my youth was young and fun and full of energy. He had locks of brown hair and fantastic sideburns. He started water fights and took us boating. He let us ride on his lap while he and Bertha (his beloved track-hoe) moved mountains. He taught us to love dirt and sunshine and hard work. And at the end of a long day, he happily let us snuggle between him and Grandma in their big waterbed. 

He taught me how to make perfect chocolate milkshakes, with just the right balance of milk and ice cream to achieve those tiny little ice crystals. He taught me how to make his potato salad with his secret sloppy sauce. We watched MacGyver save the world with duct tape and took on our own adventures on long Sunday drives over mountains, across dirt roads, and to places most people have never even heard of. He took us to dams and educated us on the engineering wonders that they were. He told us stories of hillside cows, and how God had made their legs shorter on one side than the other so they could stand straight on the hills. He made up stories about an Indian brave named “Falling Rock” and how we should keep our eyes peeled for him anytime we saw the “watch for falling rock” sign on the side of the road.

I believe most, if not all, of his grandsons had the chance to work for him at some point over the years. I never worked in a trench or operated a piece of equipment, but work was so ingrained in him, I couldn’t help but learn to love and appreciate parts of the trade. One of my most vivid memories is of grandpa plopped down on his belly in the middle of the living room, his elbows anchored in front of him and his head propped on his hands so he could read his plans. I was enamored by those giant rolls of paper. I’d often lay beside him, engineering scale in hand, and try to drink in as much information as I could. I know he was working, but in those moments I felt like the center of his world. As a young adult, when I started the architecture program at the U, thanks to Grandpa, I was the only one in my class who had been to a job site, could read plans, and knew the difference between a track hoe and a loader.

Grandpa was playful, and loving, and goofy. But, he most certainly wasn’t perfect. He was moody and temperamental and stubborn. Maybe it was the byproduct of raising five girls, or maybe that’s just who he’d always been, but if you ever got to witness a Ronald mood-swing, you know just how legendary they could be. He could be one ornery, stubborn, crusty, pain in the toosh.–  But if you took the time to break beyond the crust, you found a man with a heart of gold. He’d give you the death-glare one minute and a hug the next. Work was important, but at the end of the day, his love for his family drove him. He loved Grandma and his daughters and all of his grandchildren with all that he had. He wanted nothing more than to know that we were all doing okay and that our needs were taken care of.

A couple of months ago a few of us were helping Grandpa with some work around his yard. As had become his custom, he came out and sat on the bench on his porch to watch. Out of the blue he said, “I don’t know why I’m still here. I keep asking the Lord to take me home to Grandma.” This wasn’t the first time he’d said something like this to me, but for some reason it really resonated this time. All of our lives shifted to one degree or another 15 years ago when Grandma passed away, but for him heartache and loneliness have been his daily companion. She was his everything. I learned so much about love and unselfishness by watching the way he cared for his sweetheart. He carried her purse, he combed her hair, he brought her fresh Pepsis every day. She was his life, and he was hers. And the void he felt without her was often unbearable.

How cruel of a life would this be, if all the relationships and love we built fizzled away to nothing? 

How void of hope would we be if this thing we call death was the end?

We say that Grandpa is with Grandma again, but this is more than lip service. I know that they are together. The veil between heaven and this earth is a thin one. I can testify that Grandma and other angels were with Grandpa over the last several days of his life. I was there. I felt their presence and witnessed Grandpa's connection with them.  Just as he was eager to be by her side again, she was eager to be with him. Before we came to this earth, we were together, and because of the Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be together past this life and for the eternities.

The apostle Paul wrote: 1 Cor. 15:55 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
1 Cor. 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
I’m grateful for a Savior who advocates to the Father on our behalf and that through Him we can obtain eternal life with those that we love. I am grateful for a grandfather who knew of this plan and tried his best to be worthy of those blessing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Coffering the Kitchen

Coffered ceilings match the cabinets and provide balance throughout the space. 

The trend right now is to paint everything white. While I like white, I don't believe it is always the answer. Case in point: My kitchen. 

I love the light and bright trends in paint and decor right now and was uber excited to brighten up my kitchen with a nice new shade of griege on the walls. But, the new color created an imbalance in the space. Namely, the dark cabinets anchored the right side of room but there was no weight on the left half.  

Separately, the two halves looked great, but as a whole, they weren't communicating with each other.

The solution: Add warm wood tones to the ceiling.  

The biggest challenge - other than the up and down on the ladder - was figuring out how to space the "beams." It had to be balanced with the pantry, the wood hood, and the canned lights (because I really didn't want to have to move any electrical.) 
Total cost: $450
Total time: 4 days 
Small project - Big impact

Just getting started... 
Almost done. Last step = add a white crown molding 

Completed project. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trimming out the windows

 This week's project: Paint the living room and TRIM OUT THE WINDOW. 

Why? Because trim work is my favorite! My goal is to trim every window in my house... which, because we have a lot of big windows, is a LOT of trim :) 

There are a lot of styles in which you could trim out a window. Mine is a Cambridge/Craftsman hybrid with an 8" top casing and a 1/4" fillet.  (The lighting in this room is tough for picts, so I attached a picture from online below to give you an idea what it looks like.) 

Total cost: About $30 (not including the paint and caulk which I already had)
Total time: a few hours 
Total impact: Huge! This is a simple way to add architectural impact to your home. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jack of All Trades...

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I'd like to say it started in conjunction with the new year and the opportunity it presents to set goals, but really, it's been hanging on for the better part of a year. You see, I just don't know where to point myself. It's not that I don't have ideas. Really, its that I have too many interests and ideas. 

How can that be, you say? How is it possible to have too many interests or ideas? 

As the saying goes, I'm somewhat of a "jack of all (or at least many) trades, master of none." 

And that's where the funk comes in. Being good at many things is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but I've turned a corner where my heart's desire is to be a MASTER of something (other than embarrassing my kids). But, what? 

Writing? Marketing? Building? Designing? Baking? Healthy cooking? Painting? Gardening? Health and fitness? 

Have you ever tried to make a PB and J but just didn't have enough PB? You pull the scraper out and try to get every last drop out of the jar, right? Well, I've scraped the jar clean and I've got plenty for one sandwich. But for years I've been using that portion to make three, or four, or even more. As much as I can't keep stretching, I cant seem to let go either. 

Yes, I'm stubborn - probably ridiculously so! 

And so, I hedge forward, dragging my feet like a toddler on her way to somewhere she doesn't want to go. I feel like I'm pushing someone off the train. 

But if I can't part ways with one - or five - of my " good trades",  then honestly, it's me that's going to fall off the train! 

So I've spent the last several weeks, whittling down my to-do list. I've compromised with the voices in my head...and I even feel good about most of the task-list carnage. 

But two remain. And I don't just want both of them, I NEED them. Emotionally and mentally they are ingrained in me. But can I do it? Is it possible to be a Master of two trades? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

8 Things that 2016 Taught Me

This morning I sat on my recumbent bike, my feet turning at roughly the speed of "I'm not getting anywhere fast today." Ironically, I wasn't going anywhere anyway. I never do during my morning ride. Unless, of course, spinning my mind and my feet at an equivocal pace whilst never leaving my basement can be considered going somewhere... in which case, I went a whole lot of somewhere today.

What started as a mental check list - you know, the GOAL list that is requisite with the new year - quickly turned into some self-banter about all that 2016 brought with it. As if flipping through the pages of a magazine, the events that shaped my 2016 rolled out easier than the calories I'd been hoping to burn.

And so, today I present a list of THE THINGS 2016 TAUGHT ME: 

1. Quality of life has nothing to do with the size of your paycheck. - This was hand's down the biggest lesson of our year. We - meaning my hubby - made a job change  that flipped our world upside down. His paycheck increased a bit, but his hours doubled. Family time became non-existent, as did sleep, meals, and vacations. Everyone's stress level escalated. We all felt it. None of us liked it.  - Gratefully his old employer offered him a very nice opportunity to come back. It was almost a no brainer. We took the offer and reclaimed our sanity!

2. I am not a superhuman. -  It's something I've suspected for some time, but this summer - specifically the "Garden Cottage" project - was the final proof that I needed. (What is this Garden Cottage, you ask? Check it out here.) Resourceful and determined as I may be, it proved to be physically impossible for a 5'5 1/2" girl to handle 4' x 8' sheets of plywood on her own. And let's not even talk about the Hardie Board... or the roofing... or the climbing up the ladder. 

3. I am braver than I thought. - Or stupid. Probably just stupid. Let's face it, ladders and I are not friends. 
Safety at it's finest. 

4. Letting people help you is NOT a sign of weakness. - Yeah, this lesson came on hard and fast as a result of the "Pinky incident." (If you haven't had a chance to check out those picts, you owe yourself a favor! :0) One wouldn't think a silly little pinky finger would render you helpless, but it did. For about six weeks post op, that whole hand was pretty worthless. I'm 12 weeks out now and finally pretty much back to normal. Well, except for that hunch backed knuckle. Oh, and the fact that the whole finger does its own thing. And then there's the fact that the upper knuckle doesn't bend. So, yeah. Good(ish) as new.
$11k and 12 weeks later, I have a tea-time pinky.
5. Breathe. - Sometimes life doesn't go as planned. And sometimes it goes way worse than you can imagine. Like when your hubby's passport comes up missing... on Christmas day... and you're headed to Cancun with the family the next morning. But, really, what can you do but breathe? (And pray. And be grateful those prayers are answered and he arrives just one day late!)
The so-sad empty seat when your hubby doesn't make the flight. 

6. Spontaneity is, indeed, part of my vocabulary.
- Don't laugh. It's true. I can fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes. For real. I promise it happened... In the form of a last minute, unplanned car purchase... from the auction. Sight unseen. And, after a day of panic about my crazy spurt, and a six hour drive to pick it up, I was finally able to breathe. I did good. Maybe I should try spontaneous more often.

7. The selfie and I will probably never be one with each other. - And, it's okay. I prefer to be goofy anyway.

8. Live. Laugh. Love. - Yeah, cliche, I know. But really. This is legit. Cherish people. Don't give in to drama. Life's too short to carry baggage.

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