Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: The Widower's Wife

This is another recent Nook acquisition I obtained for a vacation I took over the holidays (I put four books on my Nook to read--and read all of them). Prudence Bice's book The Widower's Wife I read in a day or so. I really liked the concept for the story in this book and felt the author handled it well. The romance was excellent, but I felt the challenge the main character faced with the children could have been ramped up a bit more to make it more realistic. Bice also does a good job of writing the protaganist; he was definitely scary!

When Jillian Grey answers Dalton McCullough s newspaper advertisement requesting a mail-order bride to take care of his three young children, they both agree that their marriage is one of convenience and nothing more. But when they realize their growing attraction for each other, they must decide if giving in to their feelings is worth the risk of upsetting their new family s delicate balance. This engaging debut from Prudence Bice is a wholesome love story that satisfies and uplifts while reaffirming your faith in the human spirit.

One other thing--one of the negative aspects of this book for me was that there were too many flashbacks. I really wish the author would have trimmed these down a bit.

Read additional reviews on Goodreads here.

BTW, this book was included in LDS Publisher's contest for the best cover designs of 2010. I agree that this cover is well done!

Scripture of the Day: D&C 88:63

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude #7

When I saw this cute little picture (credit here) I decided today I would be grateful for carrots. Did you know I eat carrots pretty much every day? They are portable, healthy, tasty, and fast (especially if I use baby carrots). Occasionally I pack some dip to eat with the carrots, but mostly I just chomp away at them plain. Since I have to eat at least one meal on the go during the weekdays, carrots have become a go-to item for me. And on Sundays I pretty much always throw some in with our roast.

So today when I am eating my carrots I will feel extra grateful the Lord has provided me with such a great food option.

Scripture of the Day: 2 Nephi 25:26

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweetie Peach

To my ever-smiling Sweetie Peach,

I hope you always have flowers to smell and brighten your days.

I hope your skirts always whirl when you twirl about.

I hope you are always willing to dive in and get your hair wet (even if you are missing a tooth or two).

And that your smile never fades away.

Happy birthday! All my love, Mom

Scripture of the Day: 3 Ne. 13:33

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: The Kiss of a Stranger

I was so excited for Sarah M. Eden's newest book to be released--and even though it was not available for my Nook, I bought it anyway. And I am happy to report I was not disappointed by The Kiss of a Stranger! Eden's fun sense of humor remains in full play in this book (love the whole fairy cakes episode), despite a heroine who has suffered greatly at the hands of an unkind uncle. Definitely a fun, worthwhile read.

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn’t be more mistaken— the maid is not only a lady of birth, she’s the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentleman, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle. Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine’s utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife’s transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately, each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted, and as a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

Read additional reviews on Goodreads here.

PS, If anyone has a copy of Sarah Eden's book Seeking Persephone, I would love to borrow/buy it!

Scripture of the Day: Alma 27:18

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude #6

I am thankful today is Saturday because Saturday means pizza for dinner. Lame, I know... but still, I am grateful for pizza.

Pizza night means no real cooking, kids not complaining about their dinner, and yumminess.

Even pineapple and ham pizza. Yum.

And tonight we have the missionaries coming for dinner. I have contemplated serving them something better than take-out pizza. Having been a missionary myself, I know they would likely much prefer more of a home-cooked meal. I know I should feel more guilty for not living up to my heritage of Mormon motherhood (not to mention Relief Society).

But I don't. Because I am grateful for it being pizza night.

Maybe I will add a salad and some cut up fruit to the meal to salve my conscience.

Yay for pizza night.

Scripture of the Day: D&C 88:63

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sweetie Peach's Baptism Pics

Just a few sweet pictures we had taken of Sweetie Peach for her baptism that is coming up. Thanks so much to Sunshine and Shade photography for taking these--she did a great job despite being handicapped by my choice of location. Here are some of my favorites.

I like seeing her teeth in this next one--she has been doing the tooth-less smile a lot lately because of missing teeth. She even lost one more since this was taken last week.

Scripture of the Day: D&C 38:39

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: Finding Rose

I won Finding Rose on a blog tour over the holidays--actually, I hit them up for an eBook version instead (my bookshelves are overflowing!). Written by Stephanie Humphreys, a first time author, this was a fun read. I found her characters to have well-rounded personalities (although Rose herself was a bit immature--but she starts off as a 19 year old, so maybe she would be immature at that age) and the plot moved at a good pace. Although not a perfect book, I applaud Humphrey's on her first novel and look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

On his deathbed, Rose Sterling’s father asks her to consider Miles Crandall as a suitor. Then Rose is sent to live with an uncle in Spring Creek, Montana, far from her carefree life with her family in Utah. Miles is returning to his hometown of Spring Creek to set up a medical practice, so Rose is certain her being sent there is a setup. Yet Miles doesn’t seem interested in her, and after Rose falls ill in Montana, he seems content to act as her physician and friend. When Rose captures the attention of Miles’s younger, flamboyant brother as well as the town sheriff, Miles retreats even further from
any attempt at courtship.

How can Rose honor her father’s last wish if Miles doesn’t even try to court her? Will she have the courage to put her heart on the line and fight for the one she really loves.

Read additional reviews on Goodreads here.

Scripture of the Day: 1 Timothy 4:7

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude #5

Note: The Giveaway Hop is still underway. Scroll down to the next post to read more and enter to win a free copy of Adventures with The Word of God.

Today I am feeling grateful for the small promptings of the Holy Ghost. They are often as soft as butterfly kisses, so it is not always easy to feel/hear them, let alone act on them. Thursday night I had a small prompting to do something on Friday I would not normally have done: let Patch stay home from school to help his foot feel better. What's more, I thought I should take him to work with me at my mom's office.

Now, normally I am a stickler for rules and would never have let Patch miss school for a slightly achy foot. I don't like to have the kids miss school unnecessarily and then have extra schoolwork to take care of later. But for some reason I decided to follow this prompting. And I was blessed for it--in more ways than one (it did help his foot feel better, but there was an additional blessing for me personally that I can't share here).

Scripture of the Day: D&C 46:8

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dreaming of Books Giveaway!

I had such fun with the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop that I decided to participate in another one! Last time I gave away an autographed copy of Family Home Evening Adventures--and I won a copy of Finding Rose (which I will be reviewing next week!). This go around I have decided to give away an autographed copy of Adventures with the Word of God.

Synopsis: Do your children's eyes gloss over as soon as family scripture study starts? Adventures with the Word of God is exactly what you need to get them excited about scripture study. Interactive scripture reading makes family study fun for the whole family. Help your children learn and understand gospel principles directly from the scriptures with a year's worth of scripture study themes, such as:

  • The family proclamation

  • Pioneers

  • President Hinckley's "Be's"

  • Charity

  • Testimony

  • Together, your family can study and learn from sets of verses on similar topics, which helps children to better understand the language of the scriptures. Helpful hints are included to provide additional ways to encourage children to pay closer attention during family study time. With this handy helper, children can gain the tools they need to begin personal scripture study and increase their individual testimonies.

    To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment about your family's experience with scripture study: do you find it hard to fit in? What works for you? What challenges are associated with studying scriptures?

    Please note this giveaway ends on January 17 at midnight!

    Scripture of the Day: 2 Nephi 31:20

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Downton Abbey

    Just a quick note about Downton Abbey, which has been a highly praised BBC period drama. It started last night on PBS, but I had to turn it off an hour into it when a homosexual relationship became one of the plot lines (complete with kissing). Not one article or ad I read beforehand mentioned this as part of the show. So sad that even Masterpiece Theater is something I have to question before watching.

    Scripture of the Day: Phill. 3:14

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Book Review: It's a Mall World After All

    Confession: One of my favorite author's is Janette Rallison (who has also written under the pen name Sierra St. James). So although It's a Mall World After All is definitely a teen/tween novel, I had a lot of fun reading it. Rallison has such a great sense of humor and comedy in her writing style. I often find myself laughing out loud when reading her books--and this one was no exception.

    If they gave out diplomas for what you learn at the mall, Charlotte could graduate with honors. Ever since she got a job as a perfume spritzer, she’s become an expert on all things shopping related—oh and she’s getting really good at spying on her classmates who hang out there. What she hasn’t mastered is the art of convincing her best friend Brianna dump her boyfriend Bryant, after Charlotte catches him flirting with a mysterious, blond-haired stick figure. Now Brianna is taking his side! Charlotte must prove who is right, once and for all, and that means catching Bryant in the act. This is where her mall roaming skills will come in handy. Perfume anyone?

    I would definitely recommend this book, especially to someone looking for a fun, clean read. It was both uplifting and charming.

    Read additional reviews on Goodreads here.

    Scripture of the Day: 3 Nephi 27:23-25

    Cultivating Gratitude #4

    Today I am grateful for the kindness of strangers. The other night, when I went out to eat with my high school friend, we went to use a gift card I had for Olive Garden. The only problem was that the wait was 40 minutes. We had decided to go elsewhere to eat, but as we were leaving a couple asked us how long the wait was--and we told them 40 minutes. They asked us if we would like to take their place in line, offering us their pager device, because they could not wait any longer. We decided to take them up on the offer. They said they had already been waiting for 20 minutes and to expect them to call then name "Sandy." Then they gave us a coupon for $4 off the purchase of two entrees. It was so nice to have a stranger be kind!

    Today I will pass on this kindness to strangers with whom I come into contact. Maybe I will be able to brighten someone's day as "Sandy" brightened mine.

    Scripture of the Day:  John 6:27

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Old Friends

    Last night I went out to dinner with an old friend--one of the closest I had in high school. It was nice to see her. She lives out-of-state and comes to visit once a year or so, so our time together was a sweet reminder of yesterdays.

    It was interesting to me as I got ready to go pick her up, and even afterward, how I started to see our old neighborhood through different eyes. I was looking at things and wondering what she would think--trying to see the subtle changes she might notice. Was she sad to see how things are looking so old (might I say rundown)? Or was she just glad to be back in a place that felt like home? Maybe both?

    We talked about husbands and children and life's challenges. We had read a lot of books in common and seen some of the same movies--our tastes are still similar. We even ordered the same meal at the restaurant: minestrone soup and a side salad.

    She didn't laugh at the hair-coloring mishap I have had quite recently (I was going for medium brown, as usual, but somehow ended up much darker).

    I enjoyed hearing all about her family and what life is like 4,000 miles away.

    It's nice to know that although the years have gone by, and the world has changed in so many ways, that good friends somehow are still there.

    [Image Credit]

    Scripture of the Day: Matt 6:33

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    The Christmas Rescue

    Last month you may recall I asked readers to vote for their favorite short stories in LDS Publisher's Christmas story contest. Unfortunately, I did not win one of the guaranteed spots in the anthology to come out next year, but thought I would post mine here anyway. It is based on the real life experiences of my grandfather, Don Spiers.

    The sound of the tires on the pavement made a low, dull humming sound as the car sped forward. Only 700 miles left until I would be ‘Home for Christmas’ as the song said.
                    ‘Home’ was not exactly the right word to use, though. As a sophomore in college, and an Air Force brat, I was headed to my parents’ first owned home in San Antonio. In my twenty years of life I had lived in more than half of the contiguous United States and in Great Britain. So, for me, ‘home’ was not a definite place, just wherever mom and dad happened to be living.
                    “Mom and Dad must be glad to finally have moved in,” I thought to myself. “Especially Mom.”
                    I was just glad to have Dad back home, safe and sound. As a hospital administrator for the Air Force, he was sent all over the world setting up field clinics, base hospitals, and everything in between. He had recently returned from the Philippines and was scheduled to go back soon.
                    “As long as it’s not Korea,” I voiced out loud to the empty station wagon.
                    With only the charcoal gray pavement and the flat, brown New Mexico landscape in front of me my mind wandered to stories my father had told me of his early days in World War II as a medic and an ambulance driver in North Africa. No matter how much I had begged for reports of battles and Rommel and the Allied victory there, Dad would never say much. Instead he spoke of visiting the Sphinx and of his experiences assisting in a remote field dental clinic.

    “Spiers, pedal faster,” the dentist repeated for the third time. “If General Fredendal’s root canal is going to be finished by the end of the war, I need the drill to go at top speed.”
    Spiers pushed harder against the pedal. Muffled groans of pain from the General’s open mouth and the sound of the drill against the tooth made it hard to concentrate on pedaling to keep the drill going. Sweat ran down his back as the hot African morning shifted into midday and heated the room to sauna-like temperatures.
    Suddenly, the general’s moans turned into a piercing scream.
    “Ahh,” the dentist noted, “Now we are getting somewhere. It will all be over soon, General. I know it’s difficult without anesthesia, but I am working as fast as I can. Keep pedaling, Spiers.”

                    Nearly five o’clock in the evening. The Socorro radio stations were beginning to transmit more static than Christmas carols as I headed further and further east toward my destination. The sun was beginning to set in the sky behind me, casting flame colored hues across the horizon. A Spanish-style ranch along the side of the highway had lit luminaries to celebrate the holiday season. The soft glow of the candles radiated a feeling of peace and calmness despite my rush to get home.
    I switched off the radio and thought more about Dad and his experiences during the war. How much more had he experienced, but never spoke about, I wondered? So few family members seemed to really know what Dad had experienced in his many years at war. Not even Mom. There was the incident that made the newspaper, though.

                    Grandma Rose fainted upon reading the headline of the Ogden Standard Examiner: Local Boy Declared a Hero. The photograph of the burning plane is what had stunned her the most. Grandma Rose’s dream of a few days prior had seemed so real and frightening—Don was running into a scorching fire. The dream had wakened her with its life-like clarity. She had prayed he would never have to experience such an incident in real life. And she had certainly never expected he would survive it.
                    But he had. And he was a hero. The article read: --
    “On November 10 PFC Donald J. Spiers, a native of Ogden, Utah, was declared a hero after braving a burning plane to rescue several injured enlisted men. The downed two-engine plane, a C-47, had crash landed near the runway of the Lancaster Air Force base and immediately burst into flames.
    “Despite the potential of personal injury, Private Spiers immediately rushed into the plane in an effort to save surviving passengers. His efforts helped to save the lives of three injured men: Sergeant David Williamson of New York, PFC Christopher Daniels of Pennsylvania, and PSC Brett Simonds of Arizona.
    “In honor of his bravery, PFC Spiers will be the recipient of the Air Force Cross, which is awarded for extraordinary heroism. The medal is to be awarded to Spiers in the presence of his wife and family during his upcoming two-week leave of absence.”

    The night sky was dark with only a sliver of the moon to light the night. The Texas landscape seemed to go on for miles and miles. Silently I cursed the flat tire I had had to fix earlier in the day. It had cost me some of the money I’d budgeted for fuel.  I skipped dinner and used the last of my money to buy gasoline in a next-to-nothing town called Sonora. Only a few hundred miles to go on half a tank of gas. I did the mental math and hoped it would be just enough to get me home.
    I checked the radio again only to catch bits and pieces of Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.  I knew with near certainty it would not be a white– all the more reason to leave Utah and the snow behind for a holiday break—or a blue Christmas in San Antonio. A tinsel-decorated tree would be glowing and shimmering in the living room at home. Mom always decorated to the nines and cooked a feast for the family to enjoy over the holidays. I imagined the smell of her pies cooking and my stomach growled noisily.
    “Darn that flat tire!” I muttered aloud.
    In an effort to distract my mind from my hunger I thought back on the conversation I had had with the Dean of the Business School earlier in the week. Dean Lewis had served with Dad in Italy, and I had asked about their time together there. He was surprised I knew so little.

                    December 2, 1943. The bay shimmered reflections of the city lights cast down from the surrounding Italian hillsides. Sergeant Spiers and Medic Lewis leaned casually against a stone wall at the dock, smoking and watching a fleet of seventeen ships as they slowly made their way into the bay of Bari. The calm night was quiet and serene with only the lapping of water and the occasional car passing by to be heard.
                    “How much longer before they dock?” Lewis asked Spiers between drags on his cigarette.
                    “Not too long before they dock. But how long it will take them to unload the hospital supplies is anyone’s guess. Hopefully before dawn,” replied Spiers.
                    Silence resumed between the two again.
                    A short while later they could hear the low pitch of an engine rumble.
                    “What’s that noise?” Lewis asked as he tried to determine the direction from which it came.
                    “I’m not sure, but it’s getting louder.”
                    The two men looked at each other and then to the north. The sound was growing by the minute.
                    “It sounds like an airplane. Actually, a lot of planes,” Sergeant Spiers paused before adding, “German planes.”
                    Just then a squadron of over one hundred German aircraft came into sight, flying low and quick over the water. Within seconds the bombing began, whistling torpedoes blasting into the convoy of ships that had entered the bay. Spiers and Lewis dove behind the stone wall to wait out the deafening attack and protect themselves from the diving planes.
                    Broken glass, fires, and screaming men made the next hour nearly unbearable. Again and again the planes swooped over the harbor, shooting and bombing until every one of the ships was severely damaged and quickly sinking.
                    Then, as quickly as they came, the planes were gone. And the night air was full of the wailing injured.
                    “Quick, get into that rowboat. There are men out there who need help,” Spiers commanded as he and Lewis rose from their hiding place to see the devastation.
                    “Wait! That garlic-y odor—that’s mustard gas. There must have been some on one of the ships. We can’t go out there,” Lewis exclaimed in fear.
                    “We have to go out there. Too many people need help. The sooner we get there, the more we can save from the gas. Come on!” Spiers dragged Lewis to the boat and threw him a life jacket.

    Finally, the lights of San Antonio came into view. I sighed audibly to myself. But my heart was racing as my mind urged the wood-paneled station wagon to keep on going. The gas gauge had been on ‘E’ for more than 20 miles. Realistically it was not going to be much longer before I ran out of gasoline and would be left stranded on the outskirts of town.
    A sudden realization struck me: I don’t know where Mom and Dad’s new home is located. All I have is an address. But having never been to San Antonio before, I had no idea how to find it.
    I took the first exit hoping to find a telephone to use, but the late hour revealed very few businesses to be open. A few had brightly shining Christmas lights along the roofline, but the windows were dark and empty.
    My engine started sputtering about the time I spotted a Texaco station a half a mile ahead with its sign still lit. Using the last of the station wagon’s momentum I pulled the car part way into the gas station’s lot before coming to a dead halt. I pulled my stiff but lanky, 6’4” frame from the car and walked up to the attendant.
    “Can I help you?” he asked as I came closer. His blue work-shirt was stained with oil and grease, but bore a name patch that read ‘Hank.’
    “I ran out of gas,” I sheepishly admitted.
    “Kinda’ thought so,” Hank replied in his heavy Texan accent.
    “I am out of money, but my parents live here in town. I’ve been driving home for Christmas from college in Utah. Could I borrow a dime to call home? I’ll repay you after my Dad comes to get me.”
    I hoped my rambling explanation would be convincing enough. Hank was eyeing me warily.
    “Please?” I added as an afterthought.
    “I suppose so. What’s yer name, son?” he asked as he led me to the office and the pay phone on the wall.
    “Jim. Jim Spiers,” I replied with gratitude in my voice. Then I added, “Thank you, sir,” as he drew a dime from his pocket and placed it in the machine.
    The phone rang once, twice, three times before Dad’s groggy voice answered the phone.
    “Hi, Dad. Sorry to wake you. I made it to San Antonio, but I’ve run out of gas and I’m broke. Can you bring a gas can and come help me?”
    “Where are you?”
    “I’m not exactly sure. I took the first exit off of the highway and then coasted into a Texaco station a mile or so into town.”
    “What are your cross roads? Can you see the street signs?” His voice was sounding more awake now.
    “Well,” I craned my neck to see what signs I could read. “It looks like I’m on the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk – no, wait! Now it’s Don’t Walk and Walk.”
    “Smart aleck-y kid. Stay where you are, I’ll be there soon.”
    “Thanks, Dad,” I replied and hung up the phone.
    Twenty minutes later Dad arrived to rescue me with a gas can in hand and $20 pressed into my palm. He even repaid Hank for the borrowed dime.
    “Glad you’re home safe,” Dad said as we filled the gas can.
    “Me too, Dad,” I replied.


    Nearly fifty Christmases later and Dad is still rescuing people. At nearly 90-years-old he is painting a collection of pictures showing the meaningful times in his life. His gift to me this year was one of these watercolors. It is not of a burning plane, the front lines, or field hospitals. It is of a 1951Chevy station wagon that did not quite make it to the pumps on that December night so long ago.