Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Giveaway Winners

I put all the entries into a Christmas stocking and had my son pull out the winners. And they are:

Kelly Pauly wins a copy of "Christmas from the Heart".

Taffy wins a copy of Missing.

Stephanie Humphries wins a copy of Agent in Old Lace.

Danyelle Ferguson wins a Greg Olsen 2010 Calendar.

Congratulations to all the winners! And thank you to everyone who left comments this month, or just stopped by to look.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"A Light Unto All: A Christmas Gift" and "Hallelujah"

Merry Christmas, everyone! If you haven't read the story of Christ's birth in the Bible yet today, now would be a good time. This is only a blog. It will be here when you come back to it.

Now that you're back, I hope you enjoy these videos. (And be sure to read the message down at the end of this post.)


This is the last day you can enter my Boxing Day Giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post, or any and all posts between December 1st and 25th. I'll be drawing names for some great prizes tomorrow: Christmas from the Heart, by David Archuleta; Missing, by Ronda Gibb Hinrichson; Agent in Old Lace, by Tristi Pinkston; and a 2010 calender with the art of Greg Olsen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Silent Night" and "Joy to the World"

"Adeste Fideles" and "We Three Kings"

I started baking and making candy last night. I'm way behind on everything. I haven't even started wrapping presents. In fact, I'm not even finished shopping yet. I need some nice relaxing music right now, so I chose Enya.

Now, to get back up to speed, this is one of my favorite renditions of "We Three Kings." (Watch their arms.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"When A Child Is Born" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Here's a young lady who was discovered at the age of 6, on Britain's Got Talent. I believe she is all of 7 years old now. She said in one interview that she has been singing pretty much since she could talk, and her favorite thing about singing is making people happy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Noel Nouvelet" and "O Holy Night"

Anuna has been around for a while. How have I never heard of them before? This is a beautiful rendition of "Noel Nouvelet" (translation follows).

Here is the literal translation from the original French.

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici,
Dévotes gens, crions à Dieu merci !

New Christmas, Christmas we sing here,
Devout people, let us shout our thanks to God!

Chorus :
Chantons Noël pour le Roi nouvelet ! (bis)
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici !

Let us sing Christmas for the new King! (repeat)
New Christmas, Christmas we sing here.

L'ange disait! pasteurs partez d'ici!
En Bethléem trouverez l'angelet.

The angel said! Shepherds leave this place!
In Bethlehem you'll find the little angel.

En Bethléem, étant tous réunis,
Trouvèrent l'enfant, Joseph, Marie aussi.

In Bethlehem, all united,
Were found the child, Joseph, and Mary too.

Bientôt, les Rois, par l'étoile éclaircis,
A Bethléem vinrent une matinée.

Soon, the Kings, by the bright star
To Bethlehem came one morning.

L'un partait l'or; l'autre l'encens bem;
L'étable alors au Paradis semblait.

One brought gold, the other priceless incense;
The stable thus seemed like Heaven.


This young lady I have definitely heard of. We will be hearing much more of Charice Pempengco in years to come.

What Shall We Give?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Mary Did You Know" and "Christmas Even Sarajevo"

This morning I asked my children what they would like to see on this blog post. My daughter said "Mary Did You Know" was one of her favorites.

My son wanted to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve Sarajevo." I found this version, recorded live, beginning with a very moving poem I had never heard before. The words of the poem were a bit hard to understand in places, so I have typed them out below.

(Please note, this poem is anti-WAR, not anti-SOLDIER. We love our volunteer military men and women.)

When he flew o'er Sarajevo
There were scars upon the land.
There were scars upon the people.
It was hard to understand.
And the deepest scars of all,
Which to humans are unseen,
But the angel could see clearly,
Were the scars upon the dreams.
Like Belfast, Barundi,
Rawanda, Palestine,
The only decorations here.
Had been awarded for their crimes.
And in the gardens where the children played,
Now soldiers only trod.
And stranger still, he heard some say
That they were killing for their god.
Now the angel had heard God speak many times,
And he had always paid attention.
But this killing of one's neighbor
Was something the Lord had never mentioned.
But as he neared the earth,
A recent battleground,
From among the ruins
He once more heard the sound.
It was a single cello
Playing a forgotten Christmas song.
And even on that battlefield,
The song somehow belonged.
And as he flew away,
The angle did take note
That where he found this music played
One always could find . . . Hope.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"The Prayer" and "When You Believe"

Here are two songs that aren't really Christmas songs, in a strict sense. But Christmas is a christian holiday. If you believe in Christ, you believe in things like prayer, faith, and miracles. So, if we are celebrating the birth of Christ, which we are, we can move past the birthday party atmosphere with the presents and decorations, and talk about deeper things like, well, prayer, faith, and miracles.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Christmastime" and "The Innkeeper"

This song by Hilary Weeks is fairly new, as Christmas music goes. But it has a very nostalgic feel.

Something a little different, a 6-minute 1-act play called "The Innkeeper."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Lights

For the past couple of years, I have posted videos of some awesome Christmas light displays synchronized to music. Unfortunately, all the houses were starting to look the same. So I found something different.

And how about and indoor light show?


Remember to leave a comment so I can enter you in my Boxing Day Giveaway drawing. You can see the prizes in the right-hand column. See? Right over there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Ode to Joy"

After Miss Piggy's appearance yesterday, I'm just in a Muppet mood. Can you ever have too many Muppets? Yeah, probably. But not yet.

Mary's Boy Child, and Christmas is Coming

This is one of my husband's favorite Christmas songs. He likes it performed by THIS group, and he specifically requested this video again this year. Hear you go, Dear.

Just to be fair, I'm including one of my favorite Christmas songs. The video is not the greatest, but it's the interpretation that really speaks to my soul. I feel such a kinship with this particular singer. I know if we ever met I would be her BFF.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Support of the Troops

This is dedicated to the men and women serving in our armed forces. They are sacrificing so much for the cause of freedom throughout the world. The United States does not mandate military service, as some other countries do. There is currently no draft, as there has been in the past. The members of our military volunteered to serve their country. They deserve our love and respect and support.

In memory of PFC Jacob Hamilton Allcott. Born July 26, 1984, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Killed in the line of duty April 22, 2006, Baghdad, Iraq.

"And now if Christ had not come into the world,...there could have been no redemption. And if Christ had not risen from the dead . . . there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ." (Mosiah 16:6-8)

Wexford Carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and LDS Women's Book Review Contest

Here are two traditional carols, the "Wexford Carol", from Ireland, and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", from England.


Now here's a really fantastic contest to enter. Click here to enter.

***Countdown to Christmas Contest***

LDSWBR will hold a drawing on Christmas Day for a $25 eGift Card from Deseret Book, as well as a variety of books being offered by some of the LDS authors that will be featured on the blog. Simply post a thoughtful comment on the Countdown to Christmas author posts to enter. Here are the rules:

* LDSWBR reserves the right to decide what determines a "thoughtful" comment.

* Only one comment per person per "Countdown to Christmas" author post will be entered into the drawing. This allows the potential for 24 entries per person at the end of the contest. Feel free to comment more than once per post if you'd like, but only one comment will be accepted as an entry.

* Contest ends at 12:00 Midnight MST on December 24, 2009. Drawing winners will have until 12:00 Midnight MST on December 31, 2009 to claim their prize. After that time, another name will be drawn to receive the prize.

* Book prizes can only be shipped within the contiguous United States.

Books that have been generously donated by the author for drawing prizes:

* Loyalty's Web by Joyce DiPastena
* Hidden Branch by G.G. Vandagriff
* Altared Plans by Rebecca Talley
* A Modest Proposal by Michele Ashman Bell (includes a bonus copy of Michele's Christmas booklet, A Candle in the Window)
* Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack
* MISSING by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
* Famous Family Nights by Anne Bradshaw
* Love Letters of Joseph and Emma (autographed copy) by Angela Eschler
* Family Home Evening Adventures by Rebecca Irvine
* Counting the Cost by Liz Adair
* Shudder by Jennie Hansen
* Mormon Mishaps & Mischief by D. N. Giles & C. L. Beck
* Dawn's Early Light by Laurie (L.C.) Lewis


And don't forget everything else that's going on.

First of all, there's my Boxing Day Giveaway. Just comment on any or all posts from December 1st to 25th. You'll be entered in the drawing once for each post you comment on. I'll draw names on December 26th.

Win a copy of An Angel on Main Street at Kathi Oram Peterson's blog in ">The Angels in Your Life Contest

Win a copy of the Family Record Keeper at Mary Greathouse's blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pat-A-Pan, hand bells, and Bone Warriors

I've watched a lot of Christmas music videos in the last three years to choose what to put on this advent calendar. This has got to be one of the best fan-made videos I have ever seen. It is absolutely amazing.

I found another cute little kid video. This time it's a 3-year-old participating in his first hand bell choir. Grandma is holding the camera.


My book spotlight today is on Bone Warriors by Bron Bahlman. This guy is a prodigy. He began writing the book when he was 11. He finished it when he was 14. It was published when he was 15, by Sweetwater Books. Just to compare, Christopher Paolini self-published Eragon when he was 17 years old and it was later picked up by a national publisher.

Here's a blurb about the story from the website:

Craving power and lusting for human souls, the wicked necromancer sweeps the land, leaving behind nothing but death and devastation.

Returning home, 15-year-old Derrick and his friend Tweaks find their homes burning and their families missing. They immediately embark on a rescue quest for redemption and retaliation. Such evil cannot be allowed to roam exempt.

Sinister giants, collosal green jungle cats, and undead monsters confront them as Derrick and Tweaks encounter inconceivable threats in the forbidden woods, as well as gain unlikely allies.

The boys soon realize that their only hope to save their families comes from the very creature they cannot trust. But they're running out of time. How can they put an end to the necromancer's terrifying reign?

Sounds pretty good, huh? Believe me, it is. I was lucky enough to get a review copy and once I started reading, it was hard to put down. It's a fairly short book by today's standards, only 278 pages, and I found myself wishing Bahlman had made it just a little bit longer. I could have stuck with the characters for another few hundred pages.

One aspect that particularly stood out to me was the interactions between the hero, Derrick, and his mother. Maybe it's because I'm the mother of teenagers, but it just resonated with me. Derrick's mother acts EXACTLY the way I would with my teenage son and his friends. (I'm sure Bahlman got his inspiration from his own mother, Shirley, who I could also picture doing the same thing.) I won't spoil it by saying what Derrick's mother does. You'll just have to read the book. You can order a copy of Bone Warriors and read two sample chapters at this link.

Unfortunately, there is no book trailer for Bone Warriors. But I did find a fun video about the author, Bron Bahlman.

Remember to enter the contests going on right now. First of all, there's my Boxing Day Giveaway. Just comment on any or all posts from December 1st to 25th. You'll be entered in the drawing once for each post you comment on. I'll draw names on December 26th.

Win a copy of An Angel on Main Street at Kathi Oram Peterson's blog in ">The Angels in Your Life Contest

Win a copy of the Family Record Keeper at Mary Greathouse's blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bellagio Fountains, and Trimming the Tree

I think the next time we head south, we might just stop in Vegas to see the Bellagio fountains. (And maybe Donny and Marie.)

So do you have a Christmas tree yet? I think we're going to get a permit and go trudge through knee-deep snow up in the hills to cut our own again this year. It's one of my husband's favorite traditions. (Just thinking about it makes me shiver.) Then we have to drag it into the house and put it in the stand and wind the lights around all the branches and put the ornaments on. It's a lot of work, but once we're done it's nice. I think this little guy has a way to make the decorating more fun.


Lots of contests going on right now. First of all, there's my Boxing Day Giveaway. Just comment on any or all posts from December 1st to 25th. You'll be entered in the drawing once for each post you comment on. I'll draw names on December 26th.

Win a copy of An Angel on Main Street at Kathi Oram Peterson's blog in ">The Angels in Your Life Contest

Win a copy of the Family Record Keeper at Mary Greathouse's blog.

Breath of Heaven and Heirlooms

Here are two beautiful Christmas songs from Amy Grant. The first is "Breath of Heaven," sung from Mary's point of view.

This next song is "Heirlooms." I love how it ties together families and Christ, which are "all that I come from, and all that I live for, and all that I'm going to be."


And speaking of families (how's that for a segway), the Family Record Keeper was created by Mary Greathouse. It's one binder style book with sections to record all the important information for your family and your life. Have you ever had to look everywhere for your children's immunization records? How about trying to remember where your son is at in the scouting program? How about everyone's school schedules and work schedules and church meetings? This is the one place to track everything. It's a handy size, just 7" x 9", to fit in a purse for a visit to the doctor, or in a 72-hour kit in case of emergency. I can think of several people (like me) who could really use this as a Christmas present.

Here is what Mary says on her blog about how she came up with Family Record Keeper.

"As the mother of seven, I know just how hard it is to keep track of everyone's important records. My own calendars....wherever they are now... are covered with special events, health crises, activities and so many other things that I need access to. I got tired of pulling out seven baby books to access dates and medical records, including immunizations. Not to mention no one made a book for MY medical records as an adult.

"I got the big idea that I should have all of those records in one book that I could drag around with me or grab in an emergency. Kind of a hand sized command center. No one made such a product. And it wouldn't have room for nine people if they did. Hey! I could use a three-ring binder like my cookbooks and add all the people I needed. Plus, I could keep the book with my cookbooks where I could actually find it. Voila! The Family Record Keeper."

Click on this link for ordering information.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Good King Wenceslas" and "My Grown Up Christmas Wish"

This is a very simple video with images of King Wenceslas. What I like the most about it is the music, sung by Loreena McKennitt. The origin of the legend of King Wenceslas is said to be Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935). It is written of him that he would go during the night to churches where he would give generous alms to the poor.

Several months ago, around the time of the recent presidential election, one of my neighbors spearheaded the effort to start a food pantry in our county. At the time, I was planning to vote for Sarah Palin, and I thought, "She's just a regular mom, and look what she has accomplished just by getting involved with her community." I am, by nature, sort of a hermit. I have no political aspirations, but I thought a food pantry was something I could support and it would get me out of the house once in a while. So in all my naivete, I began attending the meetings. My eyes have been opened.

My contribution to the operation of the food pantry mostly consists of sitting in on the occasional meeting to listen and nod agreement to whatever is going on. I nod a lot. Occasionally I put in my two cents worth, like during a recent discussion of whether donated funds ought to be used for things like toilet paper or reserved strictly for food. (Believe it or not, someone had once strongly objected to buying toilet paper if there wasn't enough donated.) I was pro-toilet paper, but so was everyone else, and the bylaws were amended to include the use of donated funds to purchase some personal hygiene items, such as soap and toilet paper.

Other than being another warm body at meetings, I have helped to put together some shelves that were donated, helped to sort cans and stock shelves, and two or three times I've worked at the pantry on the days when the clients come in to receive boxes of food (and a roll of toilet paper). The pantry is only open twice a month, or when there is an emergency need. The idea is not to supply all needs, but to supplement other resources. I am in awe of all the other volunteers and the board members who put in so many, many more hours than I do.

I've seen seasonal workers who have no work in the winter. I've seen large families who have trouble making ends meet. I've seen people whose monthly income is less than what I make in a good week. I've seen people who don't make enough to pay all their bills and buy groceries, but who make too much to qualify for welfare or food stamps. I've seen people who have lost their jobs and are living out of a truck.

The sad thing is, until this year, I didn't know that this kind of need existed in my community. The sadder thing is, it's getting worse. Our tiny little food pantry is serving more people all the time. To paraphrase an old poem (I don't know the author) "God forgive me when I whine. I have a warm home; running water; cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer full of food; warm clothes; two cars; health insurance; a decent job; and my husband has a job. The world is mine."

So my spotlight today is your local food pantry or soup kitchen. Please make a donation this month. Tell them King Wenceslas sent you.


Remember, if you leave comments on my blog this month, you will be entered in my Boxing Day Giveaway. (One entry per blog post you comment on.) The winners will be drawn December 26th. Did you know Boxing Day was traditionally the day when rich people would take boxes of food to the poor? Just so you know.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What Child is This, Free Christmas Video

Would you like a free Christmas DVD? It is called Joy to the World, and it is a beautiful depiction of the Savior's birth featuring music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. You can order your copy at this link. It is a free gift from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elvis, Bono, and James Dashner

Such a cool video! This is Elvis at his best, in color. He's cool, and he knows it.

U2, especially Bono, define cool. They don't need to flaunt their coolness, they just are.

And what does author James Dashner have in common with Elvis and Bono? . . . (crickets chirping) . . . Well, he does have one of the coolest book trailers I have ever seen. (Warning! This might scare little kids.)

Seriously, though, James Dashner is one of the coolest authors I've ever met. Doesn't that trailer make you want to run out and get the book RIGHT NOW? You can find it on Amazon if it's too cold outside, or if you're out shopping, make a detour to Barnes and Nobel. It's published by Delacorte, so it's out there everywhere.


Remember to enter my post-Christmas giveaway. Maybe I should call it the Boxing Day Giveaway. Yeah, that sounds better. You can have one entry per post you comment on. I'll put everyone's name in a hat and have someone impartial pull out the winners on December 26th.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Carol of the Bells, 12 Days, and Missing

Thanks to Stephanie Black and her commenters over at Six LDS Writers and a Frog who helped me find this wonderful acapella group.

And they're funny, too!


Today, I am feeling a little sleep deprived, and it partly Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen's fault. She wrote this book called Missing. It's a mystery about this young woman who is performing on tour with her college choir and spots a child who was kidnapped from her home town. Ronda is an amazing writer. I stayed up way too late reading Missing. I know I should have just used a bookmark and put it down, but I got so involved with the story and the characters. I just had to know what happened. I was reading late at night because I made the mistake of telling my teenage daughter how good the book was before I had a chance to finish reading it. She started reading it after school, while I was still working, and I had to wait until I could get her to stop reading and go to bed before I could get it back again. She couldn't put it down either without some parental intervention.

If you want to read a sample of Missing, go to Ronda's website. Once you read the sample chapters and you're hooked, you can buy a copy at


Remember to post comments to be entered in the drawing on December 26th. One of the prizes will be an autographed copy of Missing by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen. You can have one entry for each post you comment on.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies and Angels

I knew it was possible to make a musical tone by wetting your finger and running it around the rim of a fine crystal goblet. I knew the tone could change according to how much water was in the goblet and the size of the goblet itself. I didn't know there was such a thing as a glass harp, or that it could sound this good.

Here's another contest you can enter. Kathy Oram Peterson, author of The Forgotten Warrior and her latest release, An Angel on Main Street, is holding An Angel in Your Life Contest. Here is what she says on her blog.

"I'm holding a contest...An Angel in Your Life Contest. It started October 15, 2009 and runs until December 15, 2009. All you need to do to enter is write down an experience when someone was an angel in your life and email it to me ( The winner will be announced on my website and here my blog December 16th. The winner and the angel in his/her life will each receive a $25. gift certificate from either Seagull Book or Deseret Book Stores."

Like she said, the contest ends December 15, 2009, so hurry! In the meantime, you might want to pick up a copy of An Angel on Main Street. It would make a great Christmas present.

And remember to enter MY giveaway, by leaving a comment on a blog post. You can have one entry for each post you comment on, or one entry per comment per post. I'll draw for the winners on December 26th. I'll be featuring another prize in the drawing tomorrow, so see you then!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Riu Riu Chiu, and a giveaway

So I was out shopping with my daughter and we saw David Archuleta's new Christmas album, Christmas from the Heart. Of course, we bought it. (Love that voice!) We listened to it all the way home, and I have had this song, Riu Riu Chiu, stuck in my head for days. I had never heard it before, so I did some research to see what it was all about. The "riu, riu, chiu" part is supposed to be the song of a nightingale. The song is a Spanish "vilancico" dating from the 16th century, written in a very archaic form of Spanish.

Here are the lyrics in Spanish:

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

El lobo rabioso
La quiso morder
Mas Dios poderoso
La supo defender
Quizole hazer que
No pudiesse pecar
Ni aun original
Esta uirgen no tuuiera

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

Este uiene a dar
A los muertos uida
Y uiene a reparar
De todas la cayla
Es la luz del dia
Aqueste mocuelo
Este es el cordero
Que San Juan dixera

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

Yo ui mil garcones
Que andauan contando
Por aqui bolando
Haziendo mil sones
Diziendo a gascones,
Gloria sea en el cielo
Y paz en el suelo
Pues Jesus nasciera

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

Este uiene a dar
A los muertos uida
Y uiene a reparar
De todas la cayla
Es la luz del dia
Aqueste mocuelo.
Este es el cordero
Que San Juan dixera.

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

Yo ui mil garcones
Que andauan contando
Por aqui bolando
Haziendo mil sones
Diziendo a gascones
Gloria sea en el cielo
Y paz en el suelo
Pues Jesus nasciera

Riu, riu, chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera

And here is the rough translation:

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almighty knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

The newborn child is the mightiest monarch,
Christ patriarchal invested with flesh.
He made himself small and so redeemed us:
He who was infinite became finite.

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exulting, "Glory be in the heavens, and peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born."

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This child is the light of day,
He is the very lamb Saint John prophesied.

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

Now we have gotten what we were all desiring,
Go we together to bear him gifts:
Let each give his will to the God who was willing
To come down to Earth man's equal to be.

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.

Now here's the giveaway. If you leave a comment on my blog between now and December 25th, I will put your name in a drawing to be held on December 26th for some great prizes. You can have one entry per blog post that you comment on. The prizes will be some of the great gift ideas I will be featuring this month. One prize will be a copy of Christmas from the Heart. (Not mine. A brand new one with all that annoying security sealing tape still on it.) Yes, I realize it's a Christmas album and the person who wins it won't be getting it until after Christmas. There's always next year. Or, if you just have to go out and buy your own copy before Christmas, I can make a substitution.

Now just for fun, I saw this video today and just had to throw it in.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I love Christmas music! Every December I turn my regular blog into a musical advent calendar. It's like my Christmas card to family and friends - without the postage. Every day from now until Christmas I'll be posting wonderful Christmas music videos, some old favorites, and some new ones I have just discovered. I'm also throwing in some gift ideas and recipes I like, and a few extra videos or pictures that may or may not be about Christmas, but I like them anyway. I'll also be posting about some fun contests on other blogs, and one of my own.

Let's get started with Bing Crosby singing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."

Now here's a fun contest from author Heather Justesen on her blog. (Click here.) She's giving away a bunch of books and things this week. You could get a jump on your Christmas shopping if you win something. Even if you don't win, there are some really great gift ideas.

And here's the trailer for Heather's book, "The Ball's In Her Court."

See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 - Always Remember

This mural, which is over 200 feet tall and 135 feet wide, is based on a painting called America's Heart, by Yakov Smirnoff. It was put up at a building standing next to Ground Zero in the early morning hours before the 9/11 '02 Memorial Services. The story of how this mural came to be can be found at Smirnoff's website.

An immigrant from Russia, Smirnoff became an American citizen on July 4, 1986, in a ceremony held at Ellis Island, at the unveiling of the renovated Statue of Liberty. With the rest of us, he watched in horror and grief as the events of September 11, 2001, unfolded. He created America's Heart as an expression of his love for his adopted country.

Smirnoff's words are one of the best expressions I have found of the feelings of patriotism and national loyalty we all felt after 9/11, our country's big wake-up call.

"Seeing the mural at Ground Zero has helped me reaffirm my participation in the American Journey. Once again, we joined together to give each other support and love in the worst of times. That's something about being an American, living in freedom, that no terrorist can take away from us. Our ability to overcome and maintain the real vision of the human spirit." - Yakoff Smirnoff

Thursday, May 21, 2009

OOOH, Look What I Found!

I just love playing with the background and colors on my blog. Today I discovered The Background Fairy. She has free blog backgrounds made with vintage prints. If you like wandering around antique shops, or reading period romances, you will love these backgrounds. She has another blog featuring free graphics, like the one below.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My (Latest) Little Miracle

About four years ago I bought an Alphasmart Dana. It was wonderful! It had the portability of a laptop, but the feel of a traditional keyboard. The battery life was phenomenal and it was so easy to use.

Then a year ago last January, we went on a family trip. We were traveling through a snowstorm, and the car heater was cranked up as high as it would go. My Dana was in a canvas bag at my feet, right near the heater vent. I didn't think anything of it until the next time I pulled it out and couldn't turn it on. I wondered if I had fried something. I used the emergency reset button hidden on the bottom. Nothing. I tried recharging the rechargeable battery. Nothing. I bought brand-new, fresh batteries and put them in. Nothing.

Heartbroken, I placed my Dana on a shelf in the office until I decided what to do with it. I couldn't bear to just throw it away, but the warranty had expired and I didn't know if I could get it repaired. Once in a while I would look at it and wonder if I should send it back to the company to see if they could repair it, or if I should just buy a new one. I followed a few Ebay auctions, but it just wasn't in the budget. I wrote on the family computer when it was available, or wrote with paper and pen when the computer was being used by someone else.

Finally, I was talking to Darvell, a member of my online writing group, who is a techno wizard. He had bought several nonfunctioning Alphasmarts, took them apart, put several back together with the working parts and sold them. I considered sending my Dana to him to see if he could find out what was wrong. With any luck he would be able to get it running again.

Then this afternoon I had a spurt of do-it-myself. You know, the kind when you get so sick of your hair you decide to trim it yourself. (Usually a bad idea, by the way.) I found a tiny little Phillips head screwdriver and commenced taking the Dana apart myself to see if there was something totally obvious that I might be able to fix. AND THERE WAS! The first part I took off was the cover of the battery compartment. I took out the three AA batteries that were still there from my desperate resuscitation attempts more than a year ago. Then I looked a little closer and realized I HAD PUT THEM IN FACING THE WRONG DIRECTION! I put them back in facing the right direction, flipped the Dana over, and pushed the button. It worked!

I felt a bit sheepish.

So now I can once again take my Dana everywhere with me and happily write away. I've been praying that I would be able to do more writing. I consider it a little miracle that I never got rid of my "nonfunctioning" Dana, and I had the urge to take it apart myself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Playing Favorites.

I was blessed to have a mother who was willing to have a large family and didn't play favorites. (My father didn't either, but this is about Mom today.) There were nine children in our family, one boy and eight girls. After the first bunch of four, there was a gap of about 5 years. Then along came another girl, and after that another 5 year gap. Then came the last four of us. She could have easily decided that four children was plenty, or five, or even six. That's quite a respectable size for a family, and wasn't that young anymore. But God sent more children, me (lucky number 7), and my two younger sisters. Believe me, we are very thankful Mom gave birth to nine children!

As far as the favorite child thing, all of know she has a favorite son. He's the only one, poor guy. To tell the truth, she has a favorite daughter-in-law, too. The rest of us know that Mom does not have a favorite daughter. At least, if she did have a favorite she would never tell anyone. But somehow, each of are certain that deep down inside, WE are secretly her favorite. One of my sisters will always call and say, "This is your favorite daughter." Mom will then jokingly call her by someone else's name (different every time). I think all of her son-in-laws and grandchildren have the same impression. Mom would never, ever say she had a favorite. But she treats us all as if we are.

This led to a fun family tradition started by some of my nieces when they were in their 20s and living near each other for school and work. They would introduce each other to friends as, "My favorite cousin, Wendy," or "My fsvorite cousin, Heidi." The idea is that we treat everyone family member as if they are the favorite. Unfortunately, our family has grown so much that a couple of names have been used more than once, so we can't say, "This is my favorite ________" all the time. But we can still treat each other with equal love and respect in abundance.

And I can honestly say Mom is my favorite.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dinner In A Hurry - Taco Soup

One of my hobbies (defined as stuff I have to do anyway so I find a way make it interesting) is collecting ideas for dinners that I can put together quickly and that my family will enjoy eating. One of our favorites is Taco Soup. Here's how to make it.

1. Brown 1 pound of ground beef and drain off the fat.
2. Drain 1 can of black or red beans.
3. Drain 1 can of corn.
4. In a medium saucepan, combine beans, corn, 1 can of stewed or crushed tomatoes, and 1 can full of water.
5. Add 1 envelope of taco seasoning mix.
6. Add browned ground beef.
7. Garnish individual servings with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and Fritos.

A few hints: I buy large packages of ground beef when it's on sale, divide it into 1 pounds portions, which fit well in the pint size zippered freezer bags, and stack it in the freezer. Each one of these takes 5 minutes or so to thaw in the microwave. I also watch for shredded cheese to go on sale, and buy several packages, which I also stack in the freezer. This doesn't even need to be thawed. Just crumble up the shredded pieces and sprinkle on the soup.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking for a good book?

I'm always on the lookout for something good to read. By that I mean something that can hold my interest, is well written, and does not contain anything offensive. There are all kinds of books that could meet the first two criteria, but not the third. Too often, I am intrigued by the back blurb and get caught up in the story, only to find it's a "page skipper." You know, those books where you can tell a sex scene is coming up, skip two or three pages, and pick up the story again. Usually, the skipped pages are gratuitous. If I just ripped them right out of the book, it wouldn't make any difference to the plot. Some books have violence that is so graphic it just turns my stomach. I don't want to read things like that. It is commonplace for authors to have their characters use language I find offensive.

I don't like to waste my money or time on books I have to self-edit, or stop reading all together. Even worse is paying for a book that is poorly written. There are some books I have read, or struggled valiantly to read but couldn't finish, that should have had some major rewriting and editing before they were published. What were those publishers thinking?

But I have a great new source to find books worth reading. The second annual Whitney Awards were held last weekend in conjunction with the sixth annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference. The Whitneys were named for Elder Orson F. Whitney, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who stated, "We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. . . . In God’s name and by His help we will build up a literature whose tops will touch the heaven, though its foundation may now be low on the earth.” The Whitney Awards recognize the best works by LDS writers each year. For a long list of books worth reading, here are the five finalists in each category:

Best Novel of the Year

Bound on Earth
by Angela Hallstrom

Fool Me Twice
by Stephanie Black

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book Three)
by Brandon Sanderson

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
by Jessica Day George

by Sandra Grey

Best Novel by a New Author

Bound on Earth
by Angela Hallstrom

The Reckoning
by Tanya Parker Mills

Spare Change
by Aubrey Mace

by Sandra Grey

Waiting For the Light to Change
by Annette Hawes

Best General Fiction

Bound on Earth
by Angela Hallstrom

Fields of Home
by Rachel Ann Nunes

Keeping Keller
by Tracy Winegar

The Reckoning
by Tanya Parker Mills

Waiting For the Light to Change
by Annette Hawes

Best Historical

by H. B. Moore

Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel
by N. C. Allen

by Toni Sorenson

The Ruby
by Jennie Hansen

by Sandra Grey

Best Speculative Fiction

Ender in Exile

by Orson Scott Card

The Great and Terrible: From the End of Heaven (Vol. 5)
by Chris Stewart

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book 3)
by Brandon Sanderson

The Host
by Stephenie Meyer

The Wyrmling Horde: The Seventh Book of the Runelords
by David Farland

Best Youth Fiction

The 13th Reality
by James Dashner

Alcatraz vs. The Scrivner's Bones
by Brandon Sanderson

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (Book 3)
by Brandon Mull

Farworld: Water Keep
by J. Scott Savage

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
by Jessica Day George

Best Mystery/Suspense

Above and Beyond
by Betsy Brannon Green

Do No Harm
by Gregg Luke

Fool Me Twice
by Stephanie Black

by Traci Hunter Abramson

Royal Target
by Traci Hunter Abramson

Best Romance

Seeking Persephone
by Sarah Eden

Servant to a King
by Sariah Wilson

The Sound of Rain
by Anita Stansfield

Spare Change
by Aubrey Mace

Taking Chances
by Shannon Guymon

And here are this year's winners!

2008 Best Novel of the Year

2008 Best Novel by a New Author

2008 Best General Fiction

2008 Best Historical

2008 Best Speculative Fiction

2008 Best Youth Fiction

2008 Best Mystery/Suspense

2008 Best Romance

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Happy Picture

My husband took this picture one spring morning. It makes me feel like spring will come again, even though there are several feet of snow outside right now. Sometimes, I need the reminder.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Watch 2009, So Far, So Good

I will admit up front that I did not vote for Barack Obama. I voted for Sarah Palin, because I wanted the type of change she embodied. (I'm a female, Christian, mother, and a compassionate conservative, just so you know.) However, I listened to the President's speech yesterday and was impressed. He is very eloquent. If he can live up to some of the things he spoke of, that will be a good thing. In hindsight, other presidents' inaugural addresses also sounded very good (*cough* Clinton *cough*), but the actual record is less than impressive. So I plan to watch what President Obama does in the next four years, and let my opinions be heard. I'm not a political activist (yet), but I'm learning.

Today, I read the news that President Obama has frozen the salaries of around 100 White House employees who make over $100,000 a year. (Hey, Mr. President, I know a few people who might be willing to work at the White House for less than $100,000 a year, if you're really wanting to tighten things up.)

Not raising salaries in this economic climate seems to be a sensible thing.

President Obama has also imposed some strict limits on lobbying. In a nutshell,if aides leave his staff, they are banned from lobbying the administration. New hires will be banned from working on matters they once lobbied on or with agencies they once worked for. Lobbyists are banned from giving gifts of any size to any member of Obama's administration. And if someone leaves his administration, they are not allowed to try to influence a former colleague for two years.

Has no one restricted lobbying before? That's just common sense.

And President Obama is also loosening up public access to information. He has instructed government agencies to not look for ways to prevent access, but to find reasons to give access. He stated, "For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city."

You tell 'em, Mr. President.

I'm sure many people could make good arguments against some of these policies. To me, President Obama is making the first steps toward running the country like a good business. But this is only Obama's second (official) day in office. Let's wait and see what the fallout is, and what he does next. Remember Matthew 7:16-20. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

If you want to comment on what the President does, or tell him what you think needs to be done, follow these links.
The Office of Public Liaison & Intergovernmental Affairs (OPL-IGA)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Help an American Soldier

"The way to have good soldiers is to treat them rightly...
A private soldier has as much right to
justice as a major general."
Abraham Lincoln 1809-1865

Soldiers are trained to follow orders. Failure to follow orders is called insubordination. But what happens when a soldier follows orders, but then is used as a scapegoat for political reasons? This is what happened in the case of Sgt. Evan Vela, from Idaho. He was sentenced to 10 years for killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian on the order of his commanding officer. Sgt. Vela's family has been tireless in their pursuit of justice. Their last best hope is a pardon from President Bush. The following was on the local news tonight.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - The father of an eastern Idaho soldier says he has received a letter from the White House confirming that his request that his son be pardoned by President Bush is being "seriously considered."

Curtis Carnahan says he received the letter last week.

Sgt. Evan Vela, a 24-year-old U.S. Army sniper, was convicted in February and sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian who stumbled upon him and five other soldiers sleeping on May 11, 2007.

Vela also was convicted of planting an AK-47 on the dead man's body and of lying to military investigators.

Carnahan says he's hopeful the president will do something to free Vela.

(A note here: Sgt. Vela's team leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley, admitted under oath that he had ordered Sgt. Vela to shoot the man, who he felt was a threat to the safety of their team, and that he, Sgt. Hensley, was the one who planted the AK-47 on the dead man's body.)

So far, President Bush has pardoned an embezzler, a moonshiner, a bootlegger, a drug runner, a poacher, a counterfeiter, and a car thief. He has pardoned mail fraud, food stamp fraud, armed bank robbery, unlawful disposal of hazardous waste, tax fraud, and making false statements on a bank loan. To date, President Bush has pardoned 191 people and commuted the sentences of 9 people.

Wouldn't it be a little more expedient for the President to pardon an American soldier who was following orders and was then used as a scapegoat for political reasons?

Go to to find out how you can help Sgt. Evan Vela and his family.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

There is something empowering about New Year's Day, like anything is possible if I just start today. I'm still the same person I was yesterday. My socioeconomic status has not changed. My environment is pretty much the same, except our good neighbor used his new tractor to clear the knee-deep snow from our parking area and deposit it in a 5-foot pile on the lawn.

Everyone seems skeptical lately about New Year's resolutions, probably with good reason. But every year I have the feeling that THIS time, I will stick with the goals I make. I usually feel the thrill of success for a while. I make charts and graphs and detail my progress in my journal, which I vow to write in daily. Then somehow my real life intrudes on my ideal life and I abandon my grandiose ambitions and end up in the same old rut.

This year I am starting over again, but more realistically, I hope. For instance, I have set only three goals, instead of 15 or 20. I will record my progress, but not to the point that updating my charts and graphs consumes all my free time. A simple check mark on a calendar (or maybe a cute sticker) should be enough.

So to take it public, here are my goals for 2009 (so far).

I will read from the scriptures daily, probably each night before bed. But if the opportunity presents itself, I will read them in the morning or on my lunch break. I've done this before, sometimes for months without fail, but the habit is too easy to break. Life just seems to go better when I take the time to read God's word.

I will write every day, preferably for my current WIP, but I will give myself credit for journalling and blog posts. I have thought about recording word counts for the day, but that seems too close to the chart and graph territory.

I will record (honestly) what I eat every day. Notice I did not use the D word. I hate dieting. I've done at least three rounds with Weight Watchers, two with Diet Center. It all works, until I reach the screaming-with-frustration point. I don't like someone else telling me what I can and cannot do, and diet programs are no exception. And sometimes I just can't face another green leafy vegetable and I need a vacation. However, I have learned from WW and DC that simply paying attention to what I am eating and how much I am eating works for me. It circumvents mindless eating. I can go through half a bag of white corn tortilla chips in one sitting if I'm not paying attention. My real goal here is to take eating off autopilot and see what happens.

That's it so far. I've already earned two stickers today and I'm closing in on the third. I think I'll make it. Wish me luck.