Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making a Pine Cone Wreath

Originally uploaded by MoToMo
On this last day of 2008, I am planning a craft project, to make a pine cone wreath for next Christmas.

If you think you might like to do this, hurry, or saunter, over to a Goodwill Store and buy a used wreath. Right now at my local store Christmas items are 60 percent off.
I found a plain green wreath at Goodwill for a total of $1.20; can you tell I love a bargain?

The other main ingredient is pine cones and I have gathered them for free; visiting city parks and schools where pine cones are laying on the grass or dirt, and even in parking lots.
I found two types of pine cones from different pine trees so I have assorted sizes. Right now the pine cones are drying in a cool dry room, and when inspiration strikes, I will make the wreath and tell you how I did it.

Oh, and Happy 2009 to One and All.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Volunteer Sunflower and Me on Christmas Day

Hi Friends,
I love this sunflower so much that I asked my dh to take this photo on Christmas Day.

We have been watching this sturdy plant which was not planted by us, and is a true volunteer. It pushed up through the soil on about November 1, maybe thanks to some dear bird gardener. No one in their right mind would plant a sunflower seed here in November. It even survived some very cold frosty nights, when I had to scrape frost from my car's windows in the morning.

What a gallant flower friend, and for me, a symbol of God's caring and hope for the future.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Amaryllis for Christmas Color

My husband took photos of our Amaryllis in bloom, which I post here.
What a rich crimson color to bring to our home, and with this flower, on our kitchen table, the room positively glows.

Visitors to our house stop in their tracks when seeing this beauty, and have been known to say "Wow, what is that?"

Do you have your own secrets about bringing color to your home during the holidays? Please share here, we can all learn from each other.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Living Rich For Less book giveaway

So you want to own the home you love, make memories on wonderful vacations with family or friends, finance college educations, and help others too?

You can—starting here and now. This is a great book to have at the start of 2009 as you take a look at your budget and aim to make wise financial decisions.

With lively humor, proven know-how, and practical principles for financial health, Living Rich for Less helps you stretch your dollars to realize the lifestyle of your dreams. Ellie Kay’s entertaining and enlightening examples show you simple steps to save, spend, and give smart, and her three main principles are undergirded by dozens of effective rules and hundreds of Cha-Ching Factor™ tips that keep or put money in your pocket.

Ellie knows what it’s like to be financially-strapped or struggling, wanting to be the Joneses but feeling as poor in spirit as in pocketbook. She went, within two and a half years, from being a new wife and mom with $40,000 in consumer debt and seven children (and college educations) to support, to being completely debt-free and within fifteen years able to pay cash for eleven different cars, give away three of those cars, buy two five-bedroom houses (moving from one to the other) and nicely furnish each, take wonderful vacations, dress her family in fine fashion; and support more than thirty non-profit organizations in more than a dozen different countries, giving away more than $100,000.

Isn’t that the kind of transformation to a rich life that you want?

Living Rich for Less helps anyone get there in our taxed-out, maxed-out times. Because financial security doesn’t mean just genuine prosperity, but being able to live luxuriously, give generously, and care for yourself as well as the others around you.

The author has generously given me a book to give away to one person who leaves a comment here this week.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moon Shines Down, Delightful Bedtime Story Book

“The Moon Shines Down” is a book of sweet verses and bold colors, with words by Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952) and illustrations by Linda Bleck. Margaret Wise Brown wrote one of my top five favorite children’s books “The Runaway Bunny” and the award winning “Good Night Moon.”

Now children have a new treasure written by her, with the manuscript discovered tucked away in a cedar trunk in a Vermont barn, decades after her death.

The brightly colored illustrations feature a huggable grey panda on each page and a huge golden moon illuminating sleeping children all around the world, including in Zimbabwe, Australia and at Christmas in the United States.

This is a fun book with an international theme, and is almost twelve inches tall so the boldly colored pictures that fill entire pages are large. The last lines are “God bless the moon and God bless me”, which makes this an ideal bedtime story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Herring and Cream a Holiday Snack

A Pelkin and now Hangen tradition is eating Herring and Cream with crackers on New Year’s eve, or anytime during the holidays. My mom, Neddie, began this tradition in our house in Wisconsin, in the 1950s and we continue it here in California.
This snack requires:
One pint Herring (wine style), in a jar, from your market’s deli case.
Crackers. We like saltines and rye krisp crackers.
¾ cup whipping cream
1 medium cucumber
2 small bunches green onions
2 tablespoons, or less, sugar
1 tablespoon dill (fresh or dried dill can be used)
1 tablespoon wine vinegar

Drain and cut herring into bite size pieces, throw out all spices
Whip cream, then add vinegar and sugar
Stir in sliced cucumber, sliced green onions, and dill
Pour over herring and place in refrigerator
Enjoy it on crackers. We love this because it is so tasty, not commonly found, and it is a snack that is a welcome change from all those desserts.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Angel Book, Prizes Too

This is my week to host the blog tour for Then Along Came An Angel, and I am happy to review the book for you and let you know about the wonderful prizes the editor is offering. To enter just leave a comment here.

Here is my review for this book full of true angel encounters.

This is a compelling collection of stories written by people who have encountered an angel. I noticed as I read that I kept thinking “this is my favorite story” and then a few pages later “no, wait, this is my most-liked.”

With so many lovely stories to select from, several favorites did emerge, beginning with “An army outside my window”, by Lea Peters, which starts “Gunshots rang just outside the front wall of our home. I plucked my 10-year-old son off the bicycle.” I got goosebumps reading about the powerful protective angels surrounding a missionary’s house during civil war in Burundi in central Africa.

Another story “The freeway, His way” is told by a senior citizen who arrives late to church, and takes the only seat she can reach with her walker. The writer, Marilyn R. Prasow, is very worried about her finances and specifically how she will pay for gas and for a prescription she needs. Her neighbor in the pew is a young man she has not seen before, and he turned to her and said “God has put this need in my heart to help you.”

The young man insisted on writing a check and giving it to her. When she finally dared to look at the check, she thought it would be for a helpful amount like ten dollars, but her spirit leapt with joy, when she saw how much larger the amount was. This reminds me that God is like that, often giving us so much more than we can even dream.

As you read this book about angels among us, you will surely find your own favorite stories that will touch your soul.

Here is a link for more info and to order a copy:

Leave a comment here, or on one of the other blogs on the tour, for a chance to win a large array of goodies; one commenter will be selected to win 2 angel books, a tote bag, lotions and more, valued at $118.00. The link below also gives details on the prizes.

The other blogs on the tour are listed at

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, I am cultivating being thankful at this time of the year.
Celebrate what we have, whether it is family, friends, a warm home, enough to eat, knowing how much God loves us, and so many more possibilities.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Molasses Gingerbread Men

Run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man.

Did you know that Nove. 21 is National Gingerbread Day? I read that on Susan Wittig Albert's enewsletter "All About Thyme." This is the ideal day to share my family gingerbread cookie recipe with you.

It is so much fun to set aside a morning or afternoon and have a family event making gingerbread men cookies, and then decorating them with frosting and sprinkles.
This is a recipe from my step mother, Barb, who got it from her mom.

Molasses Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 and 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream
Cream butter, add sugar and mix well.
Add beaten eggs, molasses, flour mixed and sifted with soda and spices, alternately with sour cream and the cream of tartar.
Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Chill.
Knead on floured surface and roll out about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut with cookie cutters. Use all the designs you like, including gingerbread boy and girl, reindeer, Christmas tree, star, camel, Santa Claus, and more.
Bake on greased sheet in 350 degree oven 15 or 20 minutes.

For frosting stir powdered sugar and a little margarine and milk until blended.
Add food coloring to several different bowls of frosting, and put on the work table all of the sprinkles you can buy. Chocolate sprinkles are our favorite and the green and red sugar sprinkles.

In my family we spread on the frosting and then add artistic touches of the sprinkles, making realistic gingerbread people, Christmas trees, candy canes, etc.
They are almost too gorgeous to eat! Almost but not quite.
Half the fun is tasting as you add the frosting and sprinkles.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brilliant Chronological Study Bible

I have found a book that so excellent that I want to shout about it: "The Chronological Study Bible", the New Kings James Version, by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The concept of publishing all the books of the Bible in the order that the events occurred is deeply meaningful to all of us who read the Bible.

In addition to this useful order, there is another bonus with this book: the beauty of the book itself. There is so much color in it, with maps, photos, charts, and insets with pertinent facts that it is a treasure for me.

In the back is a Scripture index, so I could quickly find out what page my favorite Scripture is on (Psalm 91).

This book combines all the best in a book: physical beauty and knowledge.
When I open it up, I am cajoled to start reading, learning, thinking and praying.

I reviewed about 50 books this year, and this is the most outstanding one.
Thank you Thomas Nelson Publishing for this treasure, which is already a blessing for me, and will be for thousands more readers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

win copy of my Christmas book

The owner of is Brenda King and she is giving away one copy of my book "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday."
Just go to her home page, click on the photo of the book cover, and enter to win. The contest runs until November 30.

You need to go to, your comment here won't enter you in this contest.

Good luck to all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two of the Cutest Cats in the World

Yes, these darlings are Big Boy in the top photo, and Miles in the bottom photo. Miles is nicely nestled into a pot of daffodils that are valiantly green and aiming to bloom. We think he reminds us of a porcupine in this photo.

These two boys have the world's best personalities. Miles is in heaven now, and my husband sometimes says "Miles, the cat who never lifted a paw in anger." Big Boy hangs out with the beautiful Jolie, "la principessa", princess and huntress.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Enjoy Nutcracker Ballet With Family

When my children were younger, our family would head out to watch a local production of the Nutcracker Ballet.

Seeing a live production is an anticipated event, and each time we see it we enjoy the new twists that each choreographer and company applies.
Many of the scenes center around a huge Christmas tree, and a family gathered round, and local productions have places on stage for lots of children, so you may spot someone you know up there.

There are dances for all different tastes, with exciting sword fights between the Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King, and their allies, and humorous dances by Russian, Chinese and Spanish dancers. The Sugar Plum Fairy has a lovely starring role.

My family is always swept up in the drama, love, sweat and creativity of each staging.

Now the brilliant production starring and choreographed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, is available on DVD. This is the best selling ballet video of all time, with Gelsey Kirkland playing Clara, the young girl at the center of the drama.

If you want to try something new that will spark up your holiday, get tickets to a local production of the Nutcracker Ballet, and consider buying the DVD to watch at leisure.

Be careful, because like me, this might lead to a colorful collection of wooden Nutcrackers to display in your home!
Do any of you have favorite holiday events you and your family enjoy? I would love you to share here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Me, Myself and I AM book giveaway

The brand new book "Me, Myself and I Am" by Matthew Peters and Elisa Stanford, is having a blog tour this week, and one person who leaves a comment here by Nove. 7 will win a copy of this fun and thought-provoking little book.

You can open up this book to any page and find a question that intrigues you. I found Miracle of Miracles, Sticky Notes: Re My Funeral, and Oops! right for me, and there are 50 questions included, so you will find some or all helpful as thinking points.

A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Made up entirely of insightful, profound, and occasionally ridiculous questions, Me, Myself, and I AM invites you to open to any page, open yourself to God, and be the author of your own story.

Questions range from spiritually intriguing—

You overhear God talking about you. What do hear him saying?

to thought-provoking—

You are on a long car trip with a close friend who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith. What is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?

to challenging—

Do you believe that all of Jesus’s followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?

to just plain fun—

If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be:

Animal House

As Good as It Gets

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s a Wonderful Life

Me, Myself, and I AM will entertain, inspire, and get you thinking about your spiritual life from brand new angles. Whether you use Me, Myself, and I AM as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later, their own words will create a powerful journey of self-discovery.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Postcard with chocolate treat recipe

Did I tell you all that the publishers of my book created a gorgeous colorful postcard with book info on one side and a delicious recipe involving chocolate on the other side?
The recipe is easy and quick to make, and perfect to take to potlucks any time of the year.
If you want a free copy of the postcard with the recipe, leave a comment here and request one, and I will send it to you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christmas Seals

Christmas Seals funds the American Lung Association and research into the prevention and treatment of lung cancer, and to promoting clean air, free of pollutants that contribute to lung disease.

The first Christmas seal was designed by Emily Bissell in 1907 and raised $300 for a small TB sanatorium in Delaware. The sanatorium was a small shack on the banks of the Brandywine River, about to close its doors forever.
Emily drew the first seal, which showed a half wreath of holly, a red cross, and “Merry Christmas” on it. She borrowed $40 from friends and had 50,000 Christmas seals printed, and sold them for a penny each at the post office. Even President Teddy Rossevelt endorsed the campaign, and publicity from the seals got donations which raised the fund to $3,000 which was enough to save the sanitorium. You know that $3,000 is much more than that in today’s dollars.

This year’s stamps are very cute, featuring Santa, a snowman, a reindeer and a polar bear.

Today the American Lung Association suggests that a donation of $5.00 is very helpful: to donate money call 1 800 LUNG-USA or visit or

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bon Appetit novel winner

Coaches Trophy
Originally uploaded by chasingfun
Hi Friends,
The winner of the novel Bon Appetit is Jenn.
I wish I could send all of you a prize for your comments, you are all winners in my eyes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jon Katz has website

I found a fascinating website that belongs to Jon Katz, of dog book fame. Now I really want to read his books.

Visit for great farm and dog photos, brief write ups about his dogs and more. I haven't explored it all yet, but like what I see.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am guest blogger at

There is an excellent blog at where Pamela focuses on the theme of Victory Gardens.
She asked me to be guest blogger today, and so I wrote about growing and selecting living Christmas trees, and a bit about my Christmas book.
Victory Gardens' time has come again.
Isn't this a pretty photo that I found on Flickr? Someone planted their living Christmas tree and it looks so mystical in the snow.
Please head over to and say hi with a comment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bon Appetit novel by Sandra Byrd free copy

I will send a copy of Bon Appetit by Sandra Byrd to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment on my blog from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24.

This novel is a light and engaging confection about Lexi and her adventures in her new home in a small village outside of Paris, where she is enrolled in a pastry school, which is run by a severe pastry chef who is not fond of Americans.
Lexi is twenty something, and made a dramatic move away from her parents and her ex-boyfriend Dan in Seattle, to a sojourn at the cooking school.

There are tantalizingly delicious recipes included here, descriptions of delectable pastries, and Bible verses, as Lexi studies the Scripture of Jean, which is French for John. She chalks up on an extra menu board the verses from Jean that her church is studying. Lexi is beguiled by a delightful child named Celine and Celine’s widowed father Philippe adds a bit of spice to Lexi’s life.

For tension in her life, Lexi encounters “faux amis” or false friends, who may be sabotaging her in the pastry school. “Faux amis” also refers to words that sound alike in French and English, as Lexi learns to her embarassment when she tells a chef that Americans add preservatives to pastries. The English word “preservative” and the French “preservatif” have shockingly different meanings.
As you read, you will wonder if Lexi will end up with Dan or with Philippe, if she will pass the pastry program which is very difficult, and where she will live in future: in France or in Seattle.

I imagine that the previous novel “Let Them Eat Cake” and a sequel in this French Twist series to be published in 2009, are certain to be as much fun to read as “Bon Appetit.”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

LED Lights for Christmas Trees

Originally uploaded by penmachine
I bought some pretty round LED Christmas tree lights today.
Yes it is early, but I want to be organized and have them on hand for December.
What prompted me is my issue of Back Home Magazine for November arrived last week, with my article in it "Go Green With Christmas Trees" and in this article I recommend LED lights.

LED lights are gorgeous, bright, and come in all the colors and many styles including miniature and round and snowflake. One online source is, and Home Depot sells them too.
There is a notable savings in electricity with these lights so it is good for our dear mother earth AND saves a bit on your electric bill.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We can buy historic trees for our gardens

Originally uploaded by romdos
Sometimes I find something wonderful and share it here; today I visited a website that allows gardeners to buy trees descended from famous trees.
At I found available for purchase many intriguing trees, including trees from the Southern Magnolia tree growing at Elvis Presley's Graceland. See photo.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in the shade of a Live Oak tree in 1965 in Selma, Alabama and you can buy a descendant of that tree to grace your garden, in an homage to this gifted man. Henry David Thoreau's Red Maple from Walden Pond and a Live Oak from the Alamo are available, and the list is much longer than these I am mentioning now. There are categories for Adventurers, Women, African Americans, Authors, and many more.

George Washington planted two Tulip Poplars at Mount Vernon in 1785, and today they are alive and stand at one hundred feet tall. Their seeds produce trees that you can buy.
Betsy Ross has a Sycamore tree associated with her, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in the shade of a tree, and Andrew Jackson planted a Southern Magnolia tree in 1828 at the White House.

All of these trees and many more have descendant trees that we can buy and plant in our gardens. That would definitely be a thrill to watch it grow, and a living history lesson.
The Historic Tree Nursery is connected with American Forests, the oldest nonprofit conservation group in the United States.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bible is a Banned Book

Banned Book Week is observed in the U.S. from Sept. 27 to Oct. 4 this year.
One thing to be concerned about is that many Muslim countries ban importing, owning or reading the Holy Bible.
This is like the dark ages.
Above is a link to an article about how bringing a Bible, crucifix or Star of David into Saudi Arabia is very difficult. Official churches are not allowed there, and foreign residents are discouraged from meeting on Sundays, since that looks suspicious to the religious police.
Let's celebrate that most of us live in countries where religious books are freely available, and we can choose to attend services, if we so desire.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Watch Garden

Blumenuhr 2
Originally uploaded by dugspr — Jetzt in Wien
Flower Clock designed by Linnaeus
Imagine having a Flower Clock made in a circle in your garden, with plants planted in 12 positions around the clock face, standing in for each hour. The plants will be placed corresponding to the hour that their flowers open.
Carl Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist, wrote about this lovely idea, which he called “Horologium Florae”, literally “Flower Clock”, in 1751 in the publication “Philosophia Botanica.”
He drew up plans based on the times that flowers, many of them wildflowers, opened where he lived, in Hammersby, Sweden. If you want to design your own flower garden, you will need to adjust the plants by finding out what hour they open in your location, since the times vary by latitude.
For some general ideas, dandelions open at 4-5 a.m., morning glories open at 5 a.m., day lily at 6 a.m, gentian at 9 a.m., sweet peas, Star of Bethlehem and Iceland poppies at 10-11 a.m., passion flower at noon. Put a bench at the 1-3 p.m. location for resting in the heat of the day, ten four-o’clocks at 4 p.m., moonflower at 6 p.m, and so on.
I first read about this delightful idea in the small book “Hortus Miscellaneous: A Gardener’s Hodgepodge of Information”, by Lorene Edwards Forkner and Linda Plato. I had to buy it as soon as I read the title and picked it up. I am all for having fun in our gardens, and anyone who puts the word “hodgepodge” in their book title is ok with me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hodge Podge Salad From the Garden

A bowl of salad
Originally uploaded by Anushruti R
I call this a Hodge Podge Fall Salad, which is a gourmet's delight, filled with delectable garden gleanings from this early October garden in California.

My husband created a fabulous salad with garden bits and pieces: green beans, yellow wax beans, lettuce, Japanese mustard greens, tomatoes, onions, and a yellow zucchini.
In addition he opened a can of kidney beans and chopped up an avocado, added oil and balsamic vinegar, thoroughly mixed it all, and let it set for an hour. A few pieces of feta cheese or tofu can be added if you like. It is equally good the next day, so make alot and enjoy it as you bid adieu to summer.

Hurray for end of summer, early fall garden gleanings and my husband's ingenuity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Christmas Book, Gift Basket Prize


(Leafwood Publishers, October 2008)

A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!). Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a deluxe Christmas gift basket.

First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.

Karen: Thank you for the invitation.

You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?

Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise

Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.

Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.

Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.

Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!

How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?

Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!

Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.

Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.

Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!

Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?

Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.

Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.

Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.

Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.

Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?

Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.

Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.

Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!

Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.

Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.

Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.

I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?

Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.

Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.

With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?

Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.

Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.

Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”

Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.

Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.

Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.

Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?

Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.

Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you're there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!

Tell me more about your blog.

Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.

Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.

WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:

Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.

Everyone who leaves a comment here on this post, will be entered to win the Christmas Gift Basket, valued at $200, all goodies chosen with love.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Christmas Gift Basket Contest

Today is the kickoff day for my book's tour among 65 blogs!
"Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts", co-authored with 5 other remarkable writers who have become my friends, will help you celebrate Christmas.

This holiday can be joyful and easier, with tips and tales we share within our book's pages. First Christmas stories are also here, from a family's Christmas dinner at Waffle Hut, to my camping in the Florida Everglades with my mom, dad, sister, chihuahua and assorted wildlife.

We have created a bountiful Christmas gift basket which you can enter to win, by leaving a comment at the book's blog at
or at any of the 65 blogs participating in our book blog tour.
Leave comments between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30, 2008; one per blog max.
What is in the basket? A Willow Creek figurine, candles, holiday gift mixes, puzzles, ten new books and more. There is a photo of it on the book's blog today, and on my blog on Sept. 19.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Blog Tour Sept. 15-30

Wow! Only four days left.
We have found more than 60 bloggers to host our "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts" blog tour, in 23 states and in Canada and the Philippines.

Do you realize that this tour will be in Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Louisiana, Montana, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Washington, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Canada and the Philippines?

Karen Robbins, co-author and tour co-ordinator, gave me this list of states and countries. For a list of the participating blogs visit
Happy travels as you visit these blogs and leave a comment, for a chance to win the Christmas gift basket, valued at $200.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Saturdays with Stella

I love this book and I don't even have a dog! My two cats have my husband and I trained, but this is a fun book for anyone to read. I learned when reading Saturdays with Stella, that God is as patient with us as a good owner is with their little doggie, and that most of us exhibit negative traits, like fear, lack of trust, being self-centered that dog trainers deal with.

Sometimes your best four-legged friend is also your best teacher

When you bring a new dog into your home, a wash of great joy can become a trial of perseverance as your furry pal chews, digs, yaps, and yes, piddles her way through every room in the house. Allison Pittman learned this all too well when she adopted a “tiny, shiny puppy of indefinable breed(s).” Stella wasted no time in turning her home upside-down as only a pup can.

As could be expected, six weeks of obedience school covered the much needed basics–sit, stay, come, and down. What Allison didn’t expect was the spiritual benefit she would receive as each Saturday lesson revealed a fascinating metaphor. In this heart-warming, thoughtful, and often hilarious tribute to her beloved Stella, Allison Pittman shares how she came to understand what it means to follow the ultimate Master, including how to:

Sit!–at the feet of Jesus and listen for His voice
Drop It!–and let go of personal agendas
Come!–when it’s time to run in the right direction
Stay!–in God’s presence

In Saturdays with Stella, a slightly neurotic yet curiously adorable canine will not only capture your heart–she’ll show you how captivating you are to God.

Author Bio:

Allison Pittman is the author of the three books in the popular Crossroads of Grace series. Before her life as a novelist, Allison spent sixteen years teaching high school English. A founding member and copresident of the Christian Writer’s Group of the Greater San Antonio area, she devotes her time inspiring other writers to work toward their goals and sharpen their skills. Allison lives in Universal City , Texas with her husband Mike, their three sons, and Stella.

One person who leaves a comment here will be chosen at random, to receive a free copy of this delightful book. You and your dog are guaranteed to learn something within these pages.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Christmas Book Arrived At My House

I am so happy to be holding my copy of the first book I wrote: "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday".

The publisher, Leafwood Publishers, sent it to me. People can order a copy from Leafwood at 1 877-816-4455 toll free, or from Amazon, etc.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Peter Rabbit Birthday Sept. 4

Originally uploaded by yokoyama
Let's celebrate the anniversary of Peter Rabbit's birthday September 4.
I read yesterday in John Kremer's newsletter (John that Sept. 4 is Peter's birthday. I wonder if that is the publication date of the first book starring him?
Or the day Beatrix Potter completed her manuscript? Or?
A good way to celebrate is to rent the movie Miss Potter; my husband and I highly recommend it.
Gorgeous English country hills and farms and interiors, a strong lady ahead of her times, even a love story and a conservation ethos tucked in there.
Happy Day Peter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Labor Day Weber Lamb Feast

Backyard Weber
Originally uploaded by -DjD-
Did you have a lovely Labor Day? Our sons came over, and my husband cooked a boneless leg of lamb, seasoned with oregano, on our trusty Weber charcoal grill.

Thanks to those Australian lamb producers.
We cut the leg of lamb in to two portions, and froze the smaller portion. The 3 pound lamb took an hour to cook in the Weber, with left overs for our sons to take home.
We also enjoyed green beans sauteed in olive oil, soy sauce and chopped garlic, a mozzarela and tomatoes side dish with basil from the garden, and shrimp and cocktail sauce.
What were your Labor Day celebrations like?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Originally uploaded by alice-palace
In the bean-gining there were beans.
My beans experiment, from two packages of bean seeds 6 weeks ago, is going well. The delicious little guys are 8 inches tall.
Now is the time for folks in temperate climes to consider planting fall vegetable crops.
Kale, chard, beets, spinach mustard hybrid (Red Komutsuna), Pak choi, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and stir fry mix, to name a few that I enjoy.
What shall I plant?
Chiogga beets look so gorgeous, with interior rings of bright pink and white, when you slice them.
What do you recommend as easy to grow for fall vegetables?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book giveaway for children's picture books

Books: God Loves Me More Than That, and When God Created My Toes

I fell in love with these rhyming books, especially with God Loves Me More Than That, and I think you will too. If you leave a comment here you are entered to win a copy of these two books and one more, and some folks have already commented on my earlier post and you are entered too.

Both books were written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn. I read that Dandi has written 400 children's books; she has an delightful gift for writing for children.

Anyone who reads "God Loves Me More Than That" to a small child will feel enveloped in God's love, which is a deep love and a soft love, as the author sweetly writes.

Summary: In two new books from best-selling children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall, clever rhymes and delightful illustrations help young children, ages one and up, understand God’s huge love for them and his joy in creating them. These enchanting picture books from the writer-illustrator team of Dandi Mackall and David Hohn will instill awe in young children as they revel in each page. Parents alike will appreciate the engaging stories that communicate God’s perfect plan and his divine purpose for little hearts.

In God Loves Me More Than That, children learn that God loves them deeper than a wishing well, wider than a semi-truck, louder than thunder, and softer than a kitten’s sneeze. Each question, presented with charming child-like faith will help young ones grasp the great love of God through comparisons and descriptions they can easily understand. In short, they’ll discover that His love is bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than anything they could imagine!

In When God Made My Toes, kids are drawn into the wonder of their creation by God. Their masterful artist who fashioned them just right for amazing and delightful adventures, such as roller skating, finger-painting, doing flips, and drinking cocoa. Children will come to an understanding that God shaped each part of their amazing bodies with joy, delight, and humor.

Author Bio: Dandi Daley Mackall has published more than 400 books for children and adults, with more than 3 million combined copies sold. She is the author of WaterBrook’s two other delightful Dandilion Rhymes books, A Gaggle of Geese & A Clutter of Cats and The Blanket Show. A popular keynote speaker at conferences and Young Author events, Mackall lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and a menagerie of horses, dogs, and cats.

Illustrator Bio: David Hohn is an award-winning illustrator who graduated with honors from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has worked as both a staff artist and an art director for a children’s software company in Portland , Oregon , a position which led to his art directing an award-winning project for Fisher-Price. Hohn’s recent projects include Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us Christmas.

Book: God Gave Us Heaven

Summary: Little Cub awakens one morning with some important questions on her mind: What is heaven like? How do we get there? Will we eat in heaven? Will we be angels?

During a delightful day spent wandering their arctic world, Papa gently answers each question, assuring Little Cub that heaven is a wonderful place, “a million times better” than she can imagine. He explains how God has made a way for those who love him to enter their heavenly home forever after their lives on earth are over.

Reuniting the best-selling author-illustrator team from God Gave Us You, this gentle story provides satisfying answers for a young child’s most difficult questions about heaven. Parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, librarians, Sunday school teachers, and others will appreciate the gentle approach to a topic that’s on the minds of so many “little cubs.”

Through captivating, full-color illustrations and tender, biblically sound storytelling, young readers and those who love them will find reasons to rejoice in knowing that God Gave Us Heaven.

Author Bio: Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than one million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Heaven is Lisa’s fourth children’s book, following in the tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She makes her home in Colorado , with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Illistrator Bio: Laura J. Bryant studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore . She has illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books, including God Gave Us You, Smudge Bunny, and If You Were My Baby. Laura lives in Asheville , North Carolina .

Friday, August 15, 2008

Twitter Help Please

I signed up for Twitter yesterday since several authors find this an exciting place to reach readers and network with authors and editors.

I would like to find folks who Twitter and also garden, are authors, agents, editors or who are Christians.

It doesn’t seem set up for subject searches to find people that way.
If you have tips on how I can find Twitterers with common interests, let me know please.

At Twitter I am TerraGarden, if that helps.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Do you know your fairy name?

I visited a gorgeous garden blog yesterday, Faire Garden, and they had a link to a place where you can get your "fairy name" for free.

For fun I scooted over to the link, at and typed in my "human name" and immediately learned my fairy name.

Ta da! My fairy name is Buttercup Elffrost.

"She is a cheerful sprite. She lives in clover fields where fairy rings grow. She is only seen during the first snow of winter. She wears bright clover green She has delicate wings like cicadas."

It doesn't snow where I live, in California, thus explaining why I haven't seen her.
I am so glad she is a cheerful sprite and wears bright clover green.

If you wander over to the link and are inspired to share your name with us here, please do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peruvian lily, Inca lily

Peruvian lily
Originally uploaded by Nemo's great uncle
A co-worker has long been tantalizing me with the bouquets she brings to work, of Peruvian lilies or Alstroemeria. The bouquets last all week, and gardeners tell me that these plants bloom and bloom and bloom.

Last weekend I treated myself and bought a one gallon Peruvian lily, called Susana, loaded with blooms, for $12.99. The main color of Susana is white/cream with markings of pale rose.
Peruvian lilies grow from tubers, in sun or part shade, and my available areas are mainly part shade, so I knew I had to meet this plant. I planted it in a gopher cage, in front of the bird bath, and where I can see it from my kitchen.

Peruvian lilies are hardy to zone 7, if mulched to zone 6, and in colder areas can be overwintered dry in peat if kept in a dark, cool place like a garage.

I look forward to many years of enjoying these flowers in my garden, and of sharing them in bouquets. I am already looking for another Peruvian lily plant, in a purple or yellow tone, to add to my garden.

This is the first time I have planted this lily.
Is there a flower new to you that you have planted recently?
Other gardeners, and ME, would love to hear about your new finds.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Children's book giveaway August 22

Hi All,
On Friday, August 22-August 25 people who leave a comment here will be entered to win a free copy of delightful Christian children's books.
The publisher has sent me 3 books, and all 3 will be given away.

"When God Created My Toes" and "God Loves Me More Than That", written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn. Read to me books, ages 1 to 7 (or thereabouts).
"God Gave Us Heaven" by Lisa Tawn Bergren, art by Laura J. Bryant (ages 1 to 10), cuddly drawings of a polar bear family.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fictioncation my twist on Staycation

My favorite new word was "staycation" for everyone who is vacationing close to home this summer, and my brand new favorite word that I invented is "fictioncation", for those of us staycationers who stay home with a good novel for R&R. Hey, can I copyright this word? Just kidding.

My definition of "fictioncation" includes a novel, a chaise lounge on a patio, balcony or in a garden, and ice tea or lemonade is optional.

We bought two novels this weekend, by authors new to us: "Who invited the dead man" by Patricia Sprinkle, and "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher. Sprinkle's series features a 60 something Southern gal who solves mysteries using charm and humor, and who is a gardener. What's not to like?

"Storm Front" is the first in a series, featuring a private investigator who is a wizard, and who sometimes helps the Chicago police department. This series is now a tv series "The Dresden Files" on the sci fi channel. I read the first few pages and there is blood and mayhem from the get go here.

Has anyone else read either of these, or seen the Dresden Files?

What are your favorite fictioncation books?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blackberry, Plum, Apricot Cobbler

Plum cobbler
Originally uploaded by jessicafm
Blogging can have delightful results and here is the proof. My husband read my blog post on apricot cobbler, and that day, when I got home at 5 p.m, there was a warm blackberry/apricot/plum cobbler, made by him.

We very rarely bake, but he got inspired and it is delicious. He created his own recipe which uses Bisquick, less sugar, and milk on the bottom of the pan.
The blackberries are from our berry patch, and give it a tangy blackberry flavor burst. What a delicious surprise for me. Oh the power of the pen, or in this case, the keyboard.

My August column at is "Apricots in Your Garden and Apricot Cobbler", so if you want to grow apricots please head over there or read my previous post for tips on how to grow them and which trees are best for your needs.

Did any of you bake a cobbler after reading my post?
Let me know, and share your recipe, please.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apricot blackberry cobbler

Apricots for the Garden and for Dessert

Apricot cobbler is an easy recipe to fix, whether with apricots from your tree in summer, or from a can at any season.

Dwarf apricot trees are recommended for gardeners with average size yards, for several reasons, including that the tree reaches only 8 to 10 feet tall, and it provides fruit as early as its third year. Ideal for zones 5 to 8, many gardeners can find a hot, sunny spot for this tree. Apricots prefer a full day of sun and are sensitive to frost.

Stark Brothers is well known for the quality and selection of fruit trees that it sells. Their best all around apricot is Wilson Delicious Dwarf Apricot, their heaviest bearer with impressive crops year after year, even way north. In zone 5 these apricots are ready for picking in early July. Stark Sweetheart Dwarf Apricot is a Stark exclusive, with ripe fruit in mid-July in zone 5. or 1-800-325-4180.

Apricots need water consistently throughout the growing season, in order to produce large fruit. Water deeply if needed every 2 weeks if there is no rain. When the apricots are one inch across, you may decide to thin the fruit to the three or four healthiest apricots per cluster, which results in larger apricots.

Apricot cobbler is delicious, with many recipes available. A recipe we enjoy includes 3 cups of apricots, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 cup of milk and 6 tbsp. melted butter.

Pour the melted butter into a baking dish to coat the dish. Mix the dry ingredients until just combined, add the milk to the mix and add to the baking dish. Pour undrained apricots over the mix and do not stir. If you like you can use fresh apricots, and you can add a bit of brown sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. This apricot cobbler is delicious on its own, or with vanilla ice cream on the side.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Green Beans and Dilly Beans Recipe

Fall beans
Originally uploaded by farmerjulie
This photo is not of my beans, but don't they look scrumptious?
Here it is July 26, my friend gave me a packet of bean seeds (Tendergreen, Green Bush) and I bought a packet (Garden Bean, Brittle Wax) and planted them.
Her gift of seeds inspired me to plant something different, for me, at this time of year. It is an experiment and since green beans take 52 days to harvest time, maybe I will have beans on September 28.
Does everyone make Dilly Beans?
Steam beans till tender and not overcooked; toss with yogurt or sour cream, garlic powder, dill, salt and pepper.
Dilly carrots uses the same yogurt sauce; we always use yogurt since it is more lowfat than the more traditional sour cream.
Either way yum.

Gardening Uses Calories

Originally uploaded by one2c900d
Isn't it fun to remember that gardening uses calories, and is a form of exercise?
I looked this up today, and found that for a woman who weighs 135 pounds, gardening uses 161 calories in 30 minutes.
Playing with children, by running and walking uses 129 calories, moderate bicycling (12 mph) 258 calories, running (6 mph) 322 calories, and walking (4 mph, level) 129 calories.
For a 180 pound man (lighter people expend fewer calories, obviously) sleeping uses 72 calories in 30 minutes, watering the garden 122 calories, planting seedlings 162 calories, and digging 202 calories.
And a big plus for all that dreaded weeding we do is that he would use 364 calories for 30 minutes.
See, gardening is not only good for the soul but for our bodies too!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winners! Gary Chapman's Love as a Way of Life

Originally uploaded by krossbow
Cngratulations to commenters Windy Cindy and Christine.
You each won a hardcover copy of Gary Chapman's brand new book "Love as a Way of Life".
Please send me your addresses at
thekilns at

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gary Chapman Book Giveaway July 18-21

Gary Chapman's "Love as a Way of Life".

In "Love as a Way of Life", Gary Chapman shares tips to help people change in very remarkable and healthy ways, by showing us how to develop traits that help other people, and this focus on others is a dramatic and refreshing change from most self-help books. The publisher has kindly given me two copies to give to people who leave comments here.

The author weaves very compelling short stories about people who had problems and who applied what he suggests with successful results, into his framework of how we can easily change and become more kind, more patient, forgiving, generous and more.

One example he gives really spoke to me: before speaking rashly or unkindly, clap your hand over your mouth, which is from Scripture, and is very helpful to me. Try a few of his simple ideas, and it is likely that you, and the people around you, will be more happy and feel more loved.

Author Bio:

Gary Chapman is the author of twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller The Five Love Languages, with more than 4 million copies in print. His daily radio program, A Love Language Minute, is broadcast on more than 100 stations nationwide. Chapman, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College , Wake-Forest University , and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, serves on the pastoral staff at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem , North Carolina .

Author Photo:

Amazon Link:

Interview with The Author:

1. Describe some of the everyday situations that can be changed if a person has a foundation of love.

When love becomes the focus of ones life it will change every encounter we have with people. In the family, the husband is thinking, “what can I do before I leave for work that would be helpful for my wife?” Such thinking may lead him to take the trash out, put his breakfast plates in the dishwasher or feed the baby while his wife takes a shower.

In the workplace, employees are asking, “on my break, what might I do that would help someone else?” They will also make time to listen to a co-worker who seems to be having a hard time with a personal issue.

At the bank, post office, or cafeteria, the lover will look people in the eye and smile, perhaps opening the door to a conversation. They will express interest in what is going on in the lives of those they encounter.

The focus is not on “it’s all about me.” But, rather on “It is all about others.”

2. What is the take-away message of Love as a Way of Life?

Love as a Way of Life is designed to help the person who sincerely wants to make a positive impact in the world. I believe that is ‘most of us.’ Our biggest problem is that we don’t know how and we keep getting tripped up by our own selfish ambitions. The purpose of the book is to help us break free from the prison of selfishness and come to experience the satisfaction of truly loving others as a way of life. It is little acts of love that build up to a lifestyle of service.

3. Why do you need a foundation of love before you start figuring out our love languages?

The five love languages give information on the most effective way to express love in a meaningful way to a particular person. But, if you are not a loving person – don’t have the heart or will to focus on others – the information is of little value. Most of us must make a conscious change of focus from self to others if we are going to genuinely, and consistently enrich the lives of others. Love as a Way of Life is designed to help people make that change.

4. When did you realize the need for this book?

I first recognized the need for Love as a Way of Life when in a counseling session a husband said to me, “I’ll tell you right now, if it is going to take my washing dishes, and doing the laundry for my wife to feel loved, you can forget that.” I had just explained to him the concept of the five love languages and that his wife’s primary love language was ‘acts of service’ and that these acts would deeply communicate his love to her. I realized that he lacked the will to meet his wife’s need for love. He was locked into his own perception of what his role was to be and it did not include washing dishes and doing laundry. I knew at that moment that there was something more foundational than simply knowing a person’s love language.

5. What are the seven characteristics of lasting love?

I view love not as a single entity, but as a cluster of traits, which if developed will enhance all of life. These traits are:

Kindness: discovering the joy of helping others

Patience: accepting the imperfections of others

Forgiveness: finding freedom from the grip of anger

Courtesy: treating others as friends

Humility: stepping down so someone else can step up

Generosity: giving your time, money, and abilities to others

Honesty: caring enough to tell the truth

6. Why do you think it’s so hard for people to embrace these characteristics?

All of us have some of these characteristics to some degree. Most people see love as being better than hate. But most of us are comfortable to live somewhere between love and hate in a lifestyle that is fundamentally focused on self. We feel good when we are making money, accumulating things, gaining status, but in time these things do not ultimately satisfy what I call the ‘true self’. The true self longs to make the world a better place to live. To do something to help those less fortunate than we.

However, we all suffer from the malady of being ego-centric. I call this the ‘false self’. It is that part of man that pulls him to focus on self-preservation and a self-centered lifestyle. This is not all bad. Indeed we must meet our own physical and emotional needs in order to continue life. It is when we never get beyond this self focus, that life becomes a ‘dog eat dog’ world where everyone is out for self even at the expense of others. Such a life never brings long-term satisfaction. However it is often later in life that people discover the emptiness of selfish living. I’m hoping that Love as a Way of Life will help people discover the satisfaction of developing the ‘true self’ earlier in life.

Gary D. Chapman

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mimulus, Drop of Blood

Originally uploaded by Cheo!
Do you ever need a pick me up, done at a plant nursery?

From time to time, these are very spirit lifting shopping trips. My co-worker and I used to say, half-joking, that it is a lot cheaper to indulge in plant retail therapy than to pay for a $150 visit to a psychologist. Well, ok, we weren’t joking, but point well made.

We would ask each other on a Monday, how much did you spend? It is gloriously incredible how many gorgeous plants I can buy for a modest amount in the range of twenty or thirty dollars. Today, after work, I needed some plant retail therapy and treated myself. I really went to buy some bok choi and red Japanese mustard, but none were available.

Would a dedicated plant shopper say ok, and head home empty handed? No way. I headed home with a cute pot that features a realistic frog, a Peruvian lily, a Mimulus luteus that is called Drop of Blood because each yellow flower sports one splash of drop of blood appearing color spot, a Moonflower vine in a four inch pot, a six pack of mixed lettuce, and a rose pink Dianthus in a four inch pot. It is surprising how much joy is created in selecting and planting these beauties.

This photo is of a similar Mimulus, but on the actual Drop of Blood flower the red spot is smaller and more dramatically like, well, a drop of you know what.

What are your favorite garden pick me ups? Please share with all of us.

Friday, July 4, 2008

St. Louis 4th of July Fireworks

Hi All,
Happy 4th of July to all Americans, and to all my friends worldwide, let's celebrate our freedom, and work to protect our freedom.
God Bless America and good people around the globe.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gary Chapman Book Giveaway beginning July 18

Hi Dear Readers,
I just got a fun package in the mail from Waterbrook Press/Random House, that involves two of you!
I have two copies of Gary Chapman's book "Love as a way of life" to give away when I host his blog tour here, on July 18.
When I post here on July 18 just leave a comment and two readers will be selected randomly, to get a copy.
I started reading it today and it is very engaging.
Stay tuned,

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bigboy Kitty Paws Up

I 've been feeling remiss about adding photos of my kitty cats. We saw Bigboy napping on our patio yesterday, in a fun new position, and my husband captured the cuteness in this photo. Yes, Bigboy is actually sound asleep in that pose. Hope you enjoy meeting Bigboy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tasha Tudor A Gardening Soul Will Be Missed

Tasha Tudor, gardener, author, and illustrator extraordinaire, died this week at the age of 93.
I love Tasha Tudor.
Years ago I splurged and bought the fabulous "Tasha Tudor's Garden" book, full of color illustrations of her and her heavenly gardens.
Oh the sweet peas and the blueberries and the little girls in old fashioned pinafores and six foot tall foxgloves in the secret garden.
What a true lady.
I believe Heaven's gardens are flourishing today with her gentle touch.
The blog at has a lovely tribute to Ms. Tudor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pesto From Your Garden

Originally uploaded by ImipolexG
My husband makes wonderful pesto, using the ratio of two parts chopped basil to one part parmesan cheese, with enough olive oil to moisten it, a few pine nuts or raw sunflower seeds and salt and pepper to taste.

Basic pesto directions from my husband: combine 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup olive oil, and some optional pine nuts or sunflower seeds. Use a mortar and pestle to combine all of these ingredients, or put the ingredients in the blender for a few moments and there you are with delicious pesto to spread on crackers or a sour dough baguette, or to toss with spaghetti noodles.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Basil and Cilantro

Originally uploaded by Schilling 2
I realized today that a garden planting oversight has occurred in my backyard. Where are the cilantro and basil that are “must haves” in our garden, and the oregano, thyme, culinary sage and parsley?

Is there any herb that you have forgotten to plant? Not to worry, there is still time to plant these little essential workhorse herbs.

Many people plant a variety of basils. “Purple Ruffles” and “Dark Opal” have handsome purple ruffled leaves, with tiny pink flowers if allowed to go to seed. This basil’s flavor is more pungent than the more common green basil. We prefer the common basil for its tender leaves and delicious flavor, perfect for making pesto.

Lettuce leaf basil has a milder taste and is ideal for salads and pestos, with curly leaves the size of a small child’s hand.

An attractive way to grow basils is to put five or six assorted basils into a container 18 inches in diameter and 12 inches or more tall. In addition to the basils I mention above, add lemon basil, cinnamon basil and Thai basil for a colorful and edible display.

For my family, chicken soup needs a topping of freshly chopped cilantro added to each bowl, when it is served. Cilantro is a tasty addition to salads and tacos and sandwiches. Cilantro will go to seed in intensely hot weather and does best in spring and fall, but go ahead, be daring like me and plant some in June.

We can’t always garden ideally or scientifically. Gardening can be such a joy when we experiment.