Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year!

My resolution is simple to keep me focused:
a better
Care to inspire me to do more?
Feel free to share yours

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How do I LOVE Thee? (and a tidbit of a recipe)

According to a recent article in Reader's Digest, the first step toward loving yourself and HAPPINESS (the goal we all strive for) is simple: Be sure to Make Your Bed each morning.

It sounds like a doable task. And based on my experience, it kind of works. Or maybe it works only because that article in Reader's Digest told me it does, so that now as I make my bed every morning I tell myself, "Shaunda, you are taking your first step toward happiness! Don't you feel happy?" And of course in the thoughts that follow, I believe I should.

Then I shuffle to the kitchen and do what I've been doing long before reading that article in Reader's Digest. I lather myself in more self-love by treating myself to a specially brewed cup of coffee simply because it has always made me feel good. To anyone else who has not put themselves marching on a self-prescribed path toward self-made happiness, brewing a morning cup of coffee may not seem like it deserves to be sitting high on the scale of Earth-shattering activities. But perception or self-deception, whatever the case may be, can be a beautiful thing. And I tell myself that making this special cup of coffee every morning is a solid step to happiness, much like that article in Reader's Digest. I tell myself that I am being treated to a Specially Brewed cup of coffee, because I am worth it. And because I am worth it, that makes me feel happy.

What is in this Specially Brewed cup of coffee?

It starts with ground Gevalia French Roast, brewed through my dependable Black and Decker. One level tablespoon per cup. (I told you there was a recipe!)

While that is brewing and dripping into the jolly round pot, I get out my especially elegant porcelaine white coffee mug made by 222 FIFTH, which happens to be a fancy, chic name that I like to think I like.  Into this mug I drop a heaping teaspoon of Sugar in the Raw sugar cane (because that's THE sweetener to use these days) and fill it 1/3 of the way with milk that has been shaken, not stirred. Did you know that milk that has been shaken in the jug prior to pouring is one step closer to buttermilk? Well it is, at least according to my intelligent cued-in son and chefs who slave away in making happy things in kitchens. But I digress.

After pouring the raw sugar and shaken milk into my fine white mug, I pop that porcelaine beauty into the microwave and nuke it for 30 seconds. (No need to be all lovey-dovey and gentle in this step.) Once warmed so that it will not take the heat out of the coffee that is nearly finished brewing, I add a drop of pure vanilla extract to the milk and sugar and then whip it all up into a foamy froth with a powertool.

Okay, it's not a powertool kept in a shed out back. It's actually a hand-held gizmo that my loving and astute engineer-father gifted to me one Christmas many years ago: The Caffe Froth Turbo Handmixer made by BONJOUR. And I wouldn't be able to start my day without it.

Lastly, in no less than a span of five minutes, I'm ready to add my French Roast MoJo to the foamy-sweet white goodness, and when I do, I always make sure to pour it in the shape of heart, kind of like those fancy coffee shops do. But mine is better, because the heart that sits at the top of the mug was done by me for me. And that takes me further along on the road to happiness one small step--or perhaps one long shuffle--at a time. Which is all good in the end, because as I'm filling myself up with happiness, sip by sip, I get to a point where I am bursting with love, ready to move out into the world and share it with those I meet.

Who could have guessed that making a bed and a simple cup of coffee make the world go round?

What are the steps you take on the road to happiness?

Did you start by making your bed today?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winter Gift Market 2012

I've been participating in the 2012 Winter Gift Market for a couple years. Judy Torres and I have begun making it an annual event. Our unspoken goal is to have new books to sell every year. This year Judy and I worked hard in to meet that goal. We each had two new books.

She had great success with her new picture books: Bearly Awake and The Monster Under the Bed Loves Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was pleasantly surprised with the reception for my new titles: Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire and From Rivets and Rails, Recipes of a Railroad Boarding House Cookbook. I sold out of the cookbook and walked away with orders to fulfill next week and a request to begin stocking it at the Cache Valley visitor's center. Woot!


Saturday, December 1, 2012


If you don't miss the feathering whisper of wind across your skin, this post is not for you.

If you don't turn your face up toward the warmth of sunshine on a cool spring day, then this post is not for you.

If you don't feel a smile snaking its way around your lips when the Earth presses up against the soles of your feet as you walk over grass or beach or woody path, then this post is not for you.

If this post is for anyone, it is for people like me who at the end of the day or week or month feel overrun by technology, worn out by the draw of TV, music via satellite, email, ereaders, computers, and those colorful animated programs that keep our eyes glued on a screen and our feet planted on a floor, indoors more often than not.

It seems like the overwhelming joy I feel when I take a walk outside should not always feel so OVERWHELMING. I should not feel such bliss. I should not feel so suddenly relaxed. Perhaps if I took time to step away from everything I'm "plugged" into, then it seems that a simple walk would not seem so monumental. In fact, it seems such walks SHOULD NOT seem monumental at all. Isn't the outdoors--what lies outside of the office, the house, the car--an inherent part of living? Are we not still part of the world around us? If so, then why do a I feel a resounding reconnection with the world when I wander out into it?

Obviously, I don't get out enough. I know the same holds true for others. There are others who are more "plugged in" than I am, and none of it seems quite right when I step back and take in an UNPLUGGED view.

When I was younger, I spent the majority of my time outdoors. When I was younger, most of my life was unplugged. I felt cut-off from "living" when I spent too much time inside. Today, finding "freedom" from the barriers of technology is found by taking a simple walk. But when I was younger, finding freedom literally meant pushing the limits until I was racing the wind. It wasn't found by simply walking outside, because that connection was already establishing on a daily basis. My freedom, my sense of pushing the envelope on what it means to live was found on top of a horse, running at full gallop across a long field with another endless field in sight. During those moments, living seemed to lie in boundless opportunity stretching out before me--all I had to do was run fast enough to catch it.

I miss those days when I was continually connected to the pulse of the Earth. When I wasn't plugged into anything but myself, my friends, my family, and life unfolding around me.

Technology can be wonderful. It can bridge connections. It can deliver images of coastlines, forested jungles brimming with life, and emails from loved ones at the touch of a button. But it can't deliver the feathers of wind whispering across my skin or the warmth of the sun flickering in and out of shadows. It can't deliver life in all five senses--or the six or seven I want to believe exist. That requires the devices, the gizmos, the pretty colorful screens to be unplugged. And to do that takes only the touch of a button.

So help me out here? Am I alone in this type of thinking? Does anyone else ever feel the need to unplug? (Never mind the fact that I'm typing this onto my fully plugged, fully charged screen.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


From Rivets and Rails is now available in paperback.

This journey has definitely been a labor of love, but I hope it appeals to railroad and cooking enthusiats who enjoy looking back at their roots.

If you are a book reviewer or blogger and would like a review copy, please contact me.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Cover Reveal of the Railroad Cookbook

Here it is, after hours of wrangling over far too much tech stuff that I always seem to forget how to use as soon as I walk away from the computer...

Any comments are welcome!

The steam train is a photo my great uncle had taken. The woman is my great grandmother who ran the boarding house.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On sailing, on life

The great thing about sailing is that you can sail into the wind, with it blowing across the bow at you, or you sail with the wind at your back....

Either way, you shall arrive at your destination.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Need for a Title on the Railroad Cookbook

 We are in the midst of getting the railroad cookbook ready for publication, and that includes the design of a cover and yes, a title.

You would think that we would have settled on one by now, but that is not the case. We've been more concerned with the content and historical trivia that is contained within the handwritten recipes of the journal. But the time has come to start turning our attention to this detail.

So we are asking for opinons!

Here is what we have so far. Let us know what you think and send us new suggestions if you have some.

1. The Roundhouse Cookbook. Recipes of a Railroad Housewife
(problem: no roundhouse in Avis, only the "shops" where the NYC line trains were rolled in and out for repairs)

2. From Rivets and Rails, Recipes of a Railroad Housewife

3. Working on the Railroad, Recipes of a Railroad Housewife

4. From Rivets and Rails, Recipes from a Railroad Boarding House

5. The Cookery Journal of a Railroad Housewife

Thank you! We look forward to your feedback!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Accomplishing goals

It's always nice to meet a challenge you've set for yourself.

Today I took my final exam for Anatomy and Physiology, which means I have finished my certification requirements for teaching high school biology. It's great to know that I am finally legit in the classroom! Plus, it's a wonderful feeling to not to have this class hanging over my head and intruding in my life.

Now I can look to meeting other huge items on my to-do list, many of which involve writing.

Be happy, and stay safe!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taming the Beast. 7 fun activities to get your kids through the storm.

I'm securely land-locked west of the middle of this great piece of land we call America, but that hasn't kept my overactive mind from dreaming up a list of things to do in the event of Halloween being ruined by an uninvited monster of storms.

In doing so, my mildly intelligent IQ led me to realize, Hey, I can do these things for my kids, too!

[We'll ignore that fact that a desire to prepare for thwarting off the world's latest terror threat (aka, the weather) is what motivated me to make plans for a fun Halloween in the first place.]

Hopefully, this list will introduce you to some new favorites and remind you of some old!

1. Ghost, ghost, ghoul (as in, duck, duck moose)

2.  Mummy saran-wrap tag. You'll want to supervise this activity, for obvious reasons. I'm assuming Frankenstorm will do more damage outside than your kids will inside with some ground rules established beforehand (just keeping it in persepective!). Wrap kids from their calves to their shoulders in saran wrap (yes, arms get tucked in, as well). Sit them on the floor and have them play sharks in the minnows or regular tag.... watch them writhe and wiggle in doing so!

3. Apple and Pig Relay Race. This can follow the Saran Wrap tag. The players will need to be slightly more mobile with being wrapped from right above their knees to their shoulders (arms in again). Line up two teams facing each other. Place two apples in the middle on the floor inside small circles marked with masking tape. On the word, "go", one pig from each team does what he/she can to retrieve the apple and bring it back to their teammates so that the next player can bring it back to their team's circle in the middle. This relay race continues until all pigs have either retrieved the apple, or brought it back to the middle.

3. Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, or Pin the Heart on the Monster

4. Apple to the core contest. Put apple on paper plate in front on each player, first person to eat apple clean to the core wins.

5. Balloon volleyball (indoor). If possible, use Caution Tape to mark the top of the "net" and the field of play

6. Marshmallow bowl. A blindfold game. To goal is to transfer as many marshmallows as possble from one bowl to another with a spoon while being blindfolded. The size of the spoon and bowl are up to you, depending on the level of difficulty you would like to give each player. The only hand they can use is the one holding the spoon.

7. Readers theatre. After all these activities, as Frankenstorm is howling (or not) outside your door, settle things down and cap off the evening before bedtime with sharing a book or story by reading it aloud as a group. Suggest that your readers read the book in a way would make it the scariest or silliest story they have ever read. (Leave it up to their interpretation of how it should be narrated.) Kids actually get a kick out of reading this way and hearing stories read this way. It becomes  competition to see who can give the best "performance."

Have any other suggestion? Share them here!

Wishing everyone a safe but fun Halloween!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing... a railroad cookbook?

Welcome to The Next Best Thing blog hop! If you haven’t heard of this shin-dig happening over the blogosphere until now, consider yourself officially looped in and connected with the party!

I would like to thank Penny Ehrenkranz for letting me play a part. Every day Penny features new posts about writing and writers on her blog, so you may want to take a peek to see what is being offered up there.

Today is my blog’s day to be an active stop on the hop, which means I get to respond to a handful of questions. Next week, four other fantabulous authors will do the same, and I’ll point you in their direction at the end of this post. So, don’t go until you find yourself being introduced to new friends (because friends are a wonderful thing)! Take my word on that.

For now, I hope you’ll settle back, prop your feet, and take a little walk around the blog-hop with me.

What is the working title of your book?

Right now I’m leaning toward: The Roundhouse Cookbook, Recipes of a Railroad Housewife.

But I am definitely open to suggestions, so if you begin to feel shivers up and down your spine over an alternative idea, please feel free to send it my way!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My grandmother, Elizabeth Shade Kennedy, was the wife of a railroad engineer who managed the engine shops in Avis, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. Her husband’s shop was responsible for maintaining and fixing all the engines operating on the NYC line. Most workers at that time rode the rails into these outlying, rural areas from their homes in the cities. Given the travel time and length of the trip, these workers often counted on boarding houses to supply them with a roof over their head and meals during the week while they earned a living. My grandmother offered them this type of home away from home, and kept a cookery journal of her recipes while doing so. When Charles William Kennedy died tragically in 1920, Elizabeth became a single mother and sole provider for her family. Her boarding house became a means for survival for herself and her five young sons. Luckily, her house was large enough to do so. The boys were moved to the 3rd floor, while two other rooms on the second were rented out. This did not mean she only had 2 boarders. Apparently, boarders shared rooms and many found a meal at Elizabeth’s table. It is reported that she served daily meals / dinner for at least 15 people three times a day.

What genre does your book fall under?

The wonderful world of cookbooks!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Yes, it has happened before—movies made from cookbooks. Although such a scenario is highly unlikely, I suspect veteran movie-goers wouldn’t mind watching Helen Mirren be a mother-hen for the railroad workers who depend on her kitchen and sage advice as the world unfolds along the steel lines expanding out into new territories around them. Of course, if this would be filmed as a family saga, I believe Sandra Bullock or Drew Barrymore would be great in representing a strong woman who raised a family of five boys and survived hardships despite losing a husband and two young daughters. I love the depth of talent of these actors.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A taste of history, from a period when the heart of America pushed through and rose above some of the toughest challenges of our time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Given that this is a niche cookbook, and a labor of love, my mother and I are self-publishing this book together. She has done an incredible job doing research into the historical background of many of the recipes, while I have done the layout and design.

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Too long. I’ve had a working copy of the recipes ready for years, but it was continually side-lined by other projects. It wasn’t until I brought my mother on board that this project was given wings. Not only is she an amazing and talented cook, she has been able to help dig into the background of the recipes, evolution of American kitchens, and snippets of  American history that have really helped shape this cookery journal. When we are finished we will publish a nugget that offers a glimpse of rural American life that shaped our country through the Great Depression and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My grandmother, Martha Grugan Kennedy. After the publication of my first cookbook, The Book Lover’s Cookbook, Recipes from Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages That Feature Them, which was co-authored with Janet Kay Jenson and published by Ballantine (2003), she said, “Did you know your talent and love for cooking runs in your blood?” She showed me my great-grandmother’s cookery journal, which I had never seen before. That journal contained gems of recipes—recipes like Railroad Cake, Mountain Cake, Homemade English Muffins, and Elderberry Wine (and to think she lived through Prohibition!)

I became so excited by the contents of her journal, I knew I wanted to share these recipes with others who have a passion for history, railroading, and the steadfast resolve of people who persevere through difficult times.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many of Elizabeth’s recipes for salsas and sauces call for “mangos.”  These are not the fruit mangos that can be found in supermarkets.  According to our research, use of the word “mango” was ascribed to green bell peppers. This use originated with the coal miners in Pennsylvania.  When I first saw these recipes, I asked my grandmother what a mango was because I doubted the mango fruit would have been available in Avis in the 1920s, nor would it have been used in a spicy tomato sauce back then. My grandmother responded to me as if I were dumb and nuts. “Don’t you know what a mango is?” Apparently, the original reference was lost on me. But in the 1887 edition of The Original White House Cook Book, there is a recipe for Green Pepper Mangos which describes the green bell pepper perfectly wherein the seeds of the pepper are removed and the vegetable is filled with a mixture for baking.
I can’t wait until our cookbook is published! It will probably be ready before the 2012 holiday season.

Next week, stay tuned for more posts in The Next Big Thing blog hop.  Watch for posts on Oct 31st from these authors!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Fresh Perspective on Point of View

I’m definitely not the sort of person who has been immune to “down days” throughout my life. I get my dose of the good with the bad just like anyone else—sometimes faring better than others, and sometimes feeling like I’m barely getting by.  

But lately, I feel like something different is happening around me.  My perspective on life, on situations, has begun to change; and I’m not sure what spurred this new outlook.
Did the far too many days of sunshine and no rain in my great state of Utah finally take effect on the melatonin in my brain? Or did my perpetual practice of trying to always look on the bright side and shrug off the bad finally start to take hold and become more a part of me rather than apart from me?
I’m not sure, but I’ll share some examples where my point of view shifted from the typical reaction I would expect from myself.

The first has to do with winter. We all know winter—well, those of us that live in the more northern part of the hemisphere know winter. Usually I watch the approach of winter with dread. I hate the shorter days, the colder nights. I despise driving at night. And I don’t like feeling like I’m locked inside. But not this year.  For some reason, as I’ve been finding myself driving home in the enveloping veil of darkness at earlier hours, rather than being bothered, I’ve felt more akin to being wrapped up in a blanket. A cozy one, tucking me in from a long day of work. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t felt like this about nighttime hours for as long as I can remember (although Nighttime and I might have been perfectly chummy when I was a kid.)
And then there was the basil episode. For those of you that are dying to know how I ruined $400 worth of this precious herbal plant, it didn’t take too much effort.  (You can read about it here.)  And it left me without a bountiful supply of pesto, which I‘d been planning on making. Did I stomp my feet? Growl at my stupidity? Kick the cat? Nope. Instead, a funny thought trickled through my head: Well, I guess this means I’ll be coming up with a new recipe for pesto. One that doesn’t use basil. And what’s more, I was even kind of excited about the idea. (I’m thinking sage will be a good way to go.)

Am I on meds? No.
Have I had a windfall of good fortune? No. No lotto yet. (I don’t even play the lotto.)

Have I gotten that pay raise I’ve been hoping for? I’m not sure, but if I don’t get it then I’ve decided I’m fine with thinking that next time I want to take a day off, I won’t feel so guilty about it (and living life without guilt is a good thing!)
My point is, we all have good days and bad days.

I’m not one of those lucky people whom hasn’t seen a bad day.  But I’ve learned that I can control my perspective, my outlook, and my attachment to situations that are occurring around me (but not from within me).  I can shift my point of view
And the good news, is we all can.  With practice – and it does take practice – we can slowly learn to let go of the expectations that have been ingrained and that often lead to disappointment, and embrace other possibilities.  With practice we can live through anything with a fresh perspective.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jam... What It Is and What It Isn't?

Jam has got to be one of the most highly under-rated and overlooked, yet truly delectable foods on the planet. Or maybe I should reel in my grandiose opinion and simply talk about the under-appreciations and misconceptions that I'd like to debate on its behalf from my kitchen. For as much as I like jam, I don't really think all that much about it throughout the year until the time comes for jamming season. Then, you can bet that without a doubt, I am singing its praises.... but not for the reasons you may think.

Sure, I'll pull a jar of homemade jam out of the fridge and add a dollop to my toast or best store-bought, yeasty-baked biscuit, as quick as anyone who's feeling a little hungry. If I'm feeling extravagant, I may even plop a heated jam puddle on top of my favorite bowl of ice cream (#gourmet, I know.)

But the real reason jam and I have a hard-wired connection can be most definitively traced to those "How to Make Jam" Instructions that are tucked inside those Sure-Jell packages....

I hate those little yellow packages. Their instructions drive me crazy. Primarily because I am not the sort of person who really likes to follow instructions. Or more specifically, I am not the sort of person who likes to follow instructions that tell me I NEED TO FOLLOW the instructions EXACTLY as written or my jam will fail. #gasp!

#yah, right. By whose standards? Perhaps that is the important question.

Because we're talking jam, here. Just jam. Fruit. Sugar. Pectin. And these things were born to tango.

Instructions like Sure-Hell's bring out the worst in me; and you can be sure that every year I'll find a reason as to why I SHOULDN'T do EXACTLY what the instructions say.

First and foremost, although I love sugar, I don't see a need to go overboard on it. More often than not, those darned recipes call for nearly five pounds of the white tasty stuff. (Good grief! That's the whole bag!) And secondly, how do I know what kind of berries SURE*JELL used to test their recipe with? Where their berries like mine? Fresh from the vine, extra sweet, and not too needy in the sugar-boost department? Or were they more like those from my farthest neighborhood grocery store? Kind of bland and on the dry side? These are important considerations.

It's these sorts of considerations that get me into trouble (or not, depending on how you look at it). Because once I start considering, I start hedging. And once I start hedging, all the "shoulda and coulda and Must-Dos" get thrown out the window....

Which brings us back to making jam....

The great thing about jam--or MY JAM--is that it knows me. It knows that I'm not going to just be spreading it on toast every day. It knows that some days I might want to go gourmet. It knows that some days I might be inching toward boosting a smoothie with a pre-made blend of sugary-fruit confection. It knows that other days I might be wanting to perk up some pancakes with berry syrup, or infuse some cupcakes, or inspire a cheesecake.... The list goes on and on. And when those hunkerings arise, there is nothing better than my homemade jam--and all my variations of it--which I've made by NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS.

Because in the end, as it turns out, Not Following Directions gets you some jars that are thickened just right, and other jars that are screaming for a higher calling (like syrup, for instance.) And I for one am more than happy to oblige; especially since my fresh-made, haphazard jam is ducking from SURE*HELL's expectations of what the perfect jar of jam should be.

That's why I love jam, or MY JAM. For everything that it is, and maybe even more so, for everything that those PACKAGES try to tell me that it ISN'T. As far as I'm concerned, it turns out that a jar of jam can be turned into whatever it needs to be.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Engineering 101: or, Why The Three Little PIGS Would be PROUD

We won! Second place, anyway.

According to the event organizer, the displays at the Nibley City Scarecrow Festival "were judged by a professor of sculpture from University of Washington and a principal of a design firm in SLC. Scenes were rated on the following criteria: ambition/investment, creativity/originality, craftsmanship/execution. As art is a very subjective, we truly believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder and scarecrow making is a very forgiving art form! That's what makes this so much fun."

Yes, I had fun.... despite the wind storm that sent Little Red's house flying end over end just after I had finished putting it up the night before the festival. #yikes! and #curses! All I can say is, Thank goodness I hadn't set up the cake which Macey's Bakery had made for the scene. (Thank you, Macey's!)

Since I hadn't signed on to do a scene from The Wizard of Oz, I ended up returning to the site the next morning at 6:30 am before work to get everything up again. All in all, it worked out. Big Bad is still one of my favorite characters.

My friend Judy Torres (a.k.a. children's author extradinaire) and I walked through the scarecrow festival on Friday afternoon. We loved the critters at Morgan farm. Here was one of our favorites.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yellow Squash and the New and Improved Special K Plan, with Bonus Recipe

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d actually eat the yellow squash from my garden raw—as in, uncooked—and enjoy doing so. But that day has come. Usually I do my best to give nearly everything I grow of the yellow stuff away. After all, I thought I only liked it if I cooked it, and what’s the fun in that if I actually need schedule time to stir fry it or stick it in the oven?

These days, time to do anything is a rare commodity. And if I can put decent food into the mouths of myself and my babes where I get the biggest return for the least amount of work, I’m a happy person. Thus, you can imagine my joy at discovering more and more how good and satisfying fruits and vegies are when they come right off the vine, or bush, or tree, or what have you.

Okay, so maybe I don’t eat all my fruits and vegies raw. I do enhance the squash with a bit of ranch dressing, but still. Ranch dressing is merely a condiment, equivalent to topping off a burger with a dollop of ketchup and a swirl of mayonnaise. So in my book, it all adds up to a good thing at the end of the day.

Am I on a health kick? Kind of.

Some of you may recall a post a few weeks back where I abhorred the thought of going on a Special K diet, despite the plea from my children that in doing so might win us a trip to Hawaii. While the thought of losing a couple inches off my waist does sound appealing (and actually needed, lest I find myself looking to expand my wardrobe); the idea of having to eat Special K twice a day was approaching nightmare status, considering the fact that eating what amounts to “air” might actually end up killing me. (We can not live by flakes alone.)

Nevertheless, the Special K conundrum did get me thinking on how I might shed an inch or two without giving up life’s basic necessity of food (sugar and chocolate included). The fact that I actually had to spend time THINKING to come up with my latest game plan should NOT impress you, meaning, I should not have had to THINK at all to realize that perhaps I should get back to doing what I used to do in the past. Getting MOBILE.  I.E., exercise. Kicking my butt out of the office or out of the house in order to do whatever I can find to do Outside.

Seems like a simple solution. But I do have that Lack of Time issue. So I had to think a bit more. And I came up with this: Why not bike to work? It’s not far. The weather is still good. I’ll work on my tan. Plus, I’ll still be able to eat more than Special K. (BONUS!) All I’ll have to do is get up a bit earlier, and avoid drivers who text. #Don'tHitMe

Plus, I figured Chef John (who wrote a book called "Doughnuts for Amy") would be proud. He did show concern on my Special K dilemma and suggest I spice up my morning with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice in a tweet. Lucky for me the grocery store serves up cartons of the Fresh Squeezed Brew.

So far, so good. As for Special K, it has redeemed itself. Thanks to the most amazing woman on the planet (a.k.a. my Mom), I now have a great recipe filled with what I call protein. My children, who are NOT SO KIND, call it Fat. (They are still hanging their hopes on Hawaii). But that doesn’t keep me from making it (when I have time) and eating it (when I need fuel). At the very least, it will keep me biking to work, and happy in the fact that I'm doing something normal with my life, like breathing air instead of eating it.

The "Might Not Get You There From Here" Special K Bars (That's up to YOU)

6 cups Special K cereal
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

This recipe is pretty similar to those beloved Rice Crispie treats. If you don't know how to make those, then read closely. If you DO know how to make those, then read even more closely. (Yes, I kind of messed up the first time ... #Don't Ask). Plus, unlike Rice Crispie Treats, this recipe has two steps (i.e., a topping). So, take care to see below.

> Cook the Karo syrup and brown sugar together on medium heat in a decent, medium-sized pot until they come to a jolly slow boil.  Turn down  the heat good-and-low and stir in that creamy peanut butter (no Nuts!), and make a mental note not to serve these bars to anyone with peanut allergies. Remove that pan with the goodies from heat and mix in that 6 cups of Special K. You might want to make it easier on yourself by approaching this as a step-wise process and only add two cups at a time. Finally, butter a 11x13 pan and press this sticky, greasy batter into the pan.

NO, you are not Done!

There is a topping.

1/2 bag of semi-sweet choc chips
1/2 bag of butterscotch chips

You'll want to heat these together in one pan on the stove. Or maybe you'll want to try melting them in short bursts of medium-radiation in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl). The path you choose is up to you, but after you have a bowl or pan full of gooey goodness, spread it on top of the bars.

Cover the pan and put it in the fridge to chill for a bit. Then cut into Bite-sized! squares. Freeze most, because you definitely don't want to go eating all of these in one sitting. As for the cutting, you'll want to use one of those long and strong, wedged knives that are often featured in Horror Films. This type of knife will serve you well in giving leverage as you press down thru the bars. (And That's Physics101, Baby!). Give yourself an A.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Brigham City Peach Days Festival, September 8th

Authors 4 Literacy is just one of the events / booths at Brigham City's Peach Days Festival  on Saturday, September 8, where you will be able to meet with authors, pick up some signed books, ask questions, and spend some time while participating in different activities related to reading and writing (if you're taking a break from other activities related to All Things Peachy)

It all adds up to fun! And better yet, Peaches!! (plus other fruits that don't get head-lining mentionability)

So see you there! Our booth will be by the Reflections Book Store at 47 South Main.

Have you Hugged an Author today? Have you Hugged your Book Store Owner today?

>>>> Catch up on that habit on September 8th, downtown Brigham City, Utah.<<<<


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Does reading make us more human?

Readers.  Writers.  We’re all gluttons for books—both new and borrowed, aren’t we?
Regardless of pending appointments or deadlines, if we happen to see an interesting cover, more likely than not we can’t resist the urge to pause and browse. Sometimes, we even go out of our way to spend hours visiting them at book stores, at the library, or around the web just to see what’s been recently published, or what our favorite characters have been up to. Sometimes we may even come across a book that makes us proclaim to our nearest book-loving neighbor, “This is the next Newbury!” Or: “This is the next NYT bestseller!”
What’s wonderful about sharing these proclamations is that our nearest book-loving neighbors are never hard to find. Readers and writers can always find company, whether it be among the shelves at the bookstore or in the comments and chats of our favorite websites and ezines. And if we happen to be holding a book or an ereader in public, more often than not someone will pause to ask what we’re reading.
So I ask, What keeps humanity coming to books?  Turning page after page? 
Perhaps it’s because reading a book is like opening ourselves up to an emotional caress, regardless of whether the book is humor, suspense, or chick-lit-light.  In books, we can step into another world where another person’s problems are solved within the confines of a safe environment. An environment contained on bound sheets of pressed paper, dressed with ink (or the soft glow of a tablet). An environment where the conflicts faced by a character we’ve grown to like and understand are eventually sorted out, but on our own schedule.
Perhaps what is most appealing about reading is that we benefit from viewing the story and its conflict with an empowering perspective. We have a bilateral view of two worlds—that of the character and that of our own. Coupling our own experience with that in fiction gives us an advantage in focusing on a character as they move down a path toward resolution.
This dual perspective broadens our ability to empathize—with the character, with others, and ultimately with ourselves, particularly when we go on to carry the story within us. In essence, perhaps we become more human through reading, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
If this is true, could reading be the key to any amount of success in our lives? Is it possible that one of the most relaxing, quiet, nonintrusive activities could be the most empowering?
Perhaps it’s time to explore that option for ourselves, or rediscover it. Then again, I never need a reason to pick up a good book. How about you?

NOTE: Today's post appeared first at the Blogging Authors blog. Giving these peeps a big wave and wiggle for having me as a guest! >

Saturday, August 25, 2012

on chasing happiness

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives. C.S. Lewis

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open.
John Barrymore

May we find that open door, 
that small degree of hope, 
that strength, 
that courage, 
and that affection. 
~love, me

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your Mother Doesn't Live Here

In a state acclaimed for its outdoor recreational opportunities, where the license plate reads “Life Elevated,” and showcases outdoor natural park treasures, it was almost surprising to see a front page article in The Herald Journal on July 7 about the proliferation of trash at First Dam and other parks in Logan, Utah.  I say ALMOST because I spend a lot of time outdoors. I fish and I run, among other things; and no matter where I go I’m always dismayed by the trash I see left behind by others. I find it on the river banks. I see it along the side of the road. I find it under the park bench. 

The trash is as wide-ranging as anything you can possibly buy at the local market. On the Blacksmith Fork river bank and along every road in the valley, I’ve found plastic shopping bags, empty cardboard boxes that had held a fisherman’s new pair of waders (Really?!?),  beer cans,  life jackets, cups from McDonalds, plastic drink bottles, a leather loveseat, lone shoes, and empty shot gun shell casings.

Do so many people think it really doesn’t matter?
Do people really believe the “biodegradable” labels? Really? In whose lifetime will all this trash biodegrade to minute particles? Not in mine. Not in our grandchildren’s. That I can guarantee.

Fifty years from now, the junk thrown out the window or left to blow away in the wind will still be here—scarring what little natural landscape we have left.
What’s to be done? Who will pick it up? Will you?

What will you think if you see me walking with a trash bag along the road? Will you think I’m a crazy homeless person? Someone who has gone off their meds? Will you notice me picking up litter? Will you consider stopping to lend a hand? Or shake your head at the thought of someone who has too much free time on their hands? Or will I remind you of your mother—the one who might have picked up after you?
Well, last time I checked, your mother doesn’t live out here.

Perhaps it is time to renew a commitment to taking care of our planet. At the very least, please take your trash with you when you head back inside. Dont' count on the tree in the photo below to do it for you. (Contrary to what the Olympic ad might lead you to believe, he really doesn't move around with opposable thumbs.)

This post first appeared on Big waves and wiggles for having me as a guest!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Children Want Me to Die!

Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting.

They only want me to lose weight.
Just a little weight.
Weight that only has to add up to one inch off my waist line.

The problem?

The way they want me to lose that inch may do me in.


They want me to take the Special K Challenge.

You know, the one where I happily eat a bowl of full of air, I mean Special K flakes each morning, and then whallah! I'm find myself dancing a week or two later with a tape measure wrapped effortlessly around my skinnier, slimmer waist.

The catch?

Of course there's a catch.
If I register and share the stats of my pre- and post-Special K diet waistline with the on-line world, I could win! Or rather, my kids could win! (By default.) Because they are assuming that I would take them with me on that all-expense paid trip to HAWAII. They are assuming that I am dreaming of us ALL dancing together on beautiful beaches dressed in nothing but grass skirts, bikinis, and tape measures!

The risk? Of course there's a risk. Did you not read the title of this post?

Of course you did!

The risk is within Special K itself. Consider what I am being asked to eat. Have you ever held a fistful of Special K in your hands? Go ahead. Refresh your senses! What do you feel?

If you are like me, you feel a whole lot of NOTHING!.

In fact, I propose that if you were to capture air and wrap it up in a bit of sugar-puff, this is what it would feel like. Air with substance. Not much substance mind you, but if air were to retain it's air-like qualities while gaining a touch of substance, Special K would be right on target. Technologically advanced air!

Which begs the question, Why are food companies making products that they want us to buy while asking us to eat less? How is it possible that food companies get people to buy technologically and re-packaged air put forth as food?

I've always breathed air, but I've never made a habit of eating it.

Hmmm. Maybe that's the trick here. Maybe the health/obesity/diabetes epidemic on our planet can be solved if we all evolve toward eating air....

But I digress. Back to our fistfull of Special K cereal.

While you've got your fistful of technologically advanced air, let's stir things up a bit. Go ahead and blow on those flakes. Or take a walk outside on a breezy, go-fly-a-kite kind of day.

Did those flakes take flight?

Mine did. And I'm thinking I could probably use Special K flakes to demonstrate the properties of aerodynamic lift in my physics class next term.... That is, if I survive that long. After all, after a week of eating Special K, I might be blowing away in the wind just like those flakes.

Wait a minute. That could be what I'm after. Maybe after a week of Special K I'll be able to blow myself all the way to HAWAII. Like a balloon. Like a pretty blow-up doll. One with an hour-glass waist.

Wow, the very thought almost makes me feel like I'm HULA dancing on air.... In a one-size fits all grass skirt.

Friday, August 10, 2012

(My) Utah Garden... This is the place?

Going away in summer during peak garden production is always a bit of a personal tug-of-war for me. While I LOVE LOVE LOVE going to NH and will NEVER EVER give up this annual summer trip EVER, I do regret missing out on the reaping the rewards of my early spring efforts.

The return home always brings its surpises, though. Here are a few of the visuals I found this year. Mainly, I discovered that the seed source for the produce growers this year were a bit mis-marked.

(Not the brocolli I planted)

 (not the neighbor I left)

 (not the zuchinni that I planted...)

Nevertheless, I am finding it a bit difficult, as always, to keep up with the picking.

Time to call the neighbors!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Wrapping ourselves up in it at the Lake. New Hampshire, 2012.