Quote for the Week (01/30/17)

“The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there… and still on your feet.” The Stand by Stephen King


2016 A Year in Books

This year was “The Year of the Series”; for me at least.

This year my reading goal was to read at least six book series, from start to finish.
I experienced a loss last year that seemed to drain my passion for reading from me, so while I started the year reading six books each month, it slowly dwindled to much less.
I am happy to report that although my reading rate may have dipped in the middle of this year, I still managed to meet (even exceed) my goal.

1 year. 48 books. 16,448 pages. Roughly 4,087,000 words.

Here is my list, reviews/recommendations:

Series #1 Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepherd
(Books 1-16 for the Year)
Upon the recommendation of a friend, and the convenience of Netflix, I found myself watching Pretty Little Liars and quickly getting sucked into their lives in Rosewood. Just like how I discovered my love of Craig Johnson’s Longmire Mysteries, I noticed each episode had the lovely line of text, “Based on the book series by Sara Shepherd” after the title credits. My sister/enabler gave me the first four books for my birthday in 2015 and I saved them for the year of the series…
I do not understand how the writers for the show keep coming up with new twists, new turns and new As. I can say the same for the books the hit show is based on (loosely based I’d say.)
The target audience for this series is teenage girls. Each of these sixteen books builds on the stories of the last one, and they are easy reads. I found myself questioning the characters at times, thinking, “If you did not do that you might not be in such trouble.” Some of the scenarios the four main characters, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily wound up in seemed very unlikely to me (but I was a good teenage girl who never would have dreamed of pushing a person off of a roof in Jamaica, so what would I know). I enjoyed the unpredictability of the storylines, the pace, and the characters, no matter how unrelatable I found them. Recommendation: Read the books if you are looking for a fun easy read that also has twists and turns you do not expect.

Series #2 Hannibal by Thomas Harris
(Books 17-20 for the Year)
I started the series by reading Hannibal Rising (which was actually the last book Harris wrote about Hannibal Lecter, but it is the first book when reading in chronological order). By reading Hannibal Rising first I saw the circumstances that made Hannibal the villain that people know from the movies and television show. Knowing Hannibal’s childhood and upbringing paints him in a different light, for me at least. I am not saying I would duplicate Dr. Lecter’s actions, but I saw most of his actions as justified (please don’t think I am creepy). While I would not think that his actions would put him in the “good egg” category, there is a very strong archetypal Good vs. Evil presence throughout the whole series.  As usual, the movies do not do Mr. Harris’ work justice. Sir Anthony Hopkins is a far cry from the “lyth, dark haired” Dr. Hannibal Lecter described in these books (as far as casting goes, I believe Jodie Foster and Julianne Moore who both play FBI Agent Clairice Starling were not quite right (although of the two, Foster was the more convincing), but Edward Norton as Will Graham and Ralph Finnes as Francis Dolarhyde were good), but enough about my casting notes. Recommendation: Read the books. As usual (99.9% of the time) the books are better than the movies.

Series #3 The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
(Books 21-24 for the Year)
I must admit I sort of saw this series as a “Poor Man’s Hunger Games”, I do not know why I thought that because in truth I knew nothing about these books. What I was doing was worse than judging a book by its cover; I was judging a book by its movie trailer. (GASP!)
I received a box set of this series for a gift (what can I say, my family knows me well). I am so glad I read these. I truly cannot say much about this series without major spoilers, so I will go straight to my recommendation instead… Recommendation: READ THESE BOOKS! DO NOT watch the movies instead. The books are very well written, they have good character development and you get sucked into the story. The movies are another story. Literally. The first film follows the first book, Divergent, fairly well but there is that usual discrepancy you get when trying to create the author’s imagination on the silver screen. The second movie had almost nothing to do with the second book, Insurgent. Because of the almost completely different plot I did not bother seeing the third movie which was the first part of the third (and final) book, Allegiant. The fourth book, Four, is not really a part of the series… It tells select parts of the series from the viewpoint of the second main character, Four. I really liked The Hunger Games trilogy, but I also really enjoyed the Divergent series too. They are not as similar as I had been afraid they were; however they do have some similarities: both are dystopian series (a popular genre these days), both are classified as YA (Young Adult) Fiction, both focus on a young heroine facing big decisions, family, friends, love and loss. I recommend both series.

Series #4 The Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck
(Books 25-28 for the Year)
I am not really sure how I stumbled upon this series, other than that I found them in my wonderings at the Flagship Half Price Books store in Dallas (I probably was drawn to them thinking about THR the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, what with a title “The Royal Wedding Series” and having read “The Royal We” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan last year). Rachel Hauck has written several series in the Christian Fiction/Christian ChickLit genre, this is the only one I have read so far, but I like her writing style. The characters in this series are all very relatable, they all have internal struggles about what they want vs. what God wants for them. The series opens with Prince Nathaniel of Brighton Kingdom and Georgian (USA) landscape architect Susanna. You get to see how their individual stories and struggles become intertwined and what becomes of a fairy tale in real life—
The second book takes on a more political tone when a long lost princess is found in Southern USA and finds out she is the key to ending a one-hundred year old treaty and establishing independence for a nation, although she has the training of an accountant and the passion of a car mechanic. Once Regina, “Reggie”, has some divine intervention everything works out as it was always supposed to.
The third book picks up with the brother of a familiar character from the first book in the series. Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom (former member of his country’s military) and his past love Corina del Rey (an American heiress) are the focus of this book; their complicated history and equally stormy futures get some magical assistance and understanding. This book addresses tough topics like guilt, confusion and loss without being depressing.
The fourth book rejoins supporting characters from the first book again, Susanna’s little sister, Avery and a prince of her very own. It is a book that features true love, tradition and divine intervention.
I enjoyed these books. They are easy reads with parts that will you make you laugh, sigh, and cry (not too much crying though). These books are wholesome romance books that focus on the fairy tale lives little girls imagine. Recommendation: Read them and hope Rachel Hauck writes some more.

Series #5 Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
(Books 29-35 for the Year)
I must confess, this one might have been cheating a little, I had previously read the first five books of this series when they were first published in the United States. I did not care for some of the happenings in Year 5 – The Order of the Phoenix (Harry’s attitude and the overall darkness of the book) and I stopped reading them. I liked Harry Potter but I did not see all of the movies, feeling as I did about the fifth book I did not see the point. I decided to add this series to my list of series this year and read it book one through seven. I am so glad I did! I had forgotten what an amazing writer J.K. Rowling is. The first five went rather quickly for me, since I was familiar with them already and the last two where beyond expectation. Again, I do not want to give anything away, plus most of you have probably already seen the movies. Recommendation: Read the books. I have seen the movies since completing the series, but they cannot compare with the awesome way Ms. Rowling transports you to her magical world in her writing. The movies skip things (i.e. an obstacle to the Sorcerer’s Stone). Recommendation: The books are definitely worth a read, or a reread.

Series #6 The Night Trilogy (Night, Dawn, & The Accident (re-published as Day)) by Elie Wiesel
(Books 36-38)
These three memoirs by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel cover his time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, and Buchenwald, the actions he took after liberation, his survivor’s guilt, and faith. These are dark pages, but a true story that needs to be both told and heard. With the conspiracy circulating of late that the Holocaust never happened accounts of survival, like Mr. Wiesel’s, need to be read, shared and discussed. Recommendation: The subject matter is dark, but I highly recommend that everyone reads Night, if not the whole trilogy (I believe Night should be required reading for all high school students).

Series #7 Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming
I intended to complete Ian Fleming’s whole James Bond series this year (minus Dr. No, which I read in 2012) but extenuating circumstances this year kept me from completing this series. I did manage to get the first four read this year, and I will read the remaining nine in the future. I have always enjoyed the 007 franchise, and while I found it difficult to get into each of the five books I have conquered, once I got into the books I really enjoyed them. Recommendation:  I recommend this series to any fan of James Bond.

I had the pleasure of also reading the two latest Longmire books by Craig Johnson, The Highway Man and An Obvious Fact. I have previously read the other eleven Longmire books, and these did not disappoint. Humor mixed with the sleuthing Sheriff of Absaroka County, and the Cheyanne Nation, make for a great story every time. The show is losing my favor (since it has switched to Netflix from AMC it has changed), but the books always deliver.

I also read the long-awaited Frogs and Kisses, the eighth novel in (Texas author) Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. series. I have loved this series since I found the first four books at Half Price Books in 2011. I quickly became hooked and completed the series. For years I (along with many other fans) have been waiting for more about Katie Chandler, Owen Palmer and friends (and their various nemeseses (nemesi?)). Frogs and Kisses was long-awaited and well worth the wait. If you enjoy chick-lit that has a unique kind of magic involved, I highly recommend the Enchanted Inc. series.

Not as a part of the series part of this year I also read three pieces of classic literature:
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Utopia by Sir Thomas More
The Prince by Niccolo Machiaveli
All of them are worth reading (they all earned a spot on my Literary Tree). Word to the wise- make sure your copy of Paradise Lost has an appendix of notes to help you when you get lost in this epic poem.

To see a full list of the titles (with links to get your own copy) of this year’s books click here. 2017 is my “A-Z Year” (I will be reading a book for each letter of the alphabet). As I finish reading books I add them to my “My Reading List” page; a link for which can be located at the top of the site or on the right hand margin.

P.S. I attempted to include The Maze Runner series in this year’s “Year of the Series” but I had a terrible time getting into the first book. At one-hundred pages in, I decided to call it quits, set it aside and may try again sometime later. Did anyone else have this issue? Does it get better? I understand the confusion was part of the beginning of the book, but I found it off-putting. Hopefully I will have better luck next time.



2015 A Year in Books

[My alternative title for this post was, “My Longest Blog Post Ever”.]

One of my goals for 2015 was to read 36 books. I did it! And then some!
1 year. 46 books. 14,830 pages. Roughly 4,147,599 words.

  1. What A Girl Needs (Kristin Billerbeck)
    I love the Ashley Stockingdale series by Kirstin Billerbeck. Like Billerbeck’s other books this one is classified as Christian Chick Lit. I had a hard time liking this book in the beginning, but as I continued reading I liked it more. I recommend the whole Ashley Stockingdale book series, What A Girl Wants; She’s Out of Control; With This Ring, I’m Confused.
  1. War of Wings (Tanner McElroy)
    I wanted to read this book for a while and my wonderful sister bought it for me for Christmas last year… It started out a little slow, background and character building, but then it sped up and i really enjoyed it. It is told from the opposite perspectives of the archangel Gabriel and Lucifer. I recommend it for all who enjoy reading biblical fiction.
  1. American Sniper (Chris Kyle)
    I finished this book before going to see the movie in theaters. I would file the movie into the must see category, but the book is even better. First off it is an autobiography, and you can really hear Chris Kyle’s voice throughout the book. I highly recommend this one to all Americans (and/or Texans) who appreciate the sacrifices our military members make for our freedom on a daily basis.
  1. The Power (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is the second book in the The Secret series. Again, another Law of Attraction book, but I felt that this one better explained some areas I had trouble grasping/applying from The Secret. This book is stand alone… You can understand the concepts without reading the Secret first, but I recommend both.
  1. May Cause Miracles: A 40 Day Guide (Gabrielle Bernstein)
    I read this book as suggested, a day at a time.  This was an interesting read that discusses the fear we perceive that keep us from loving ourselves, others and how to let the good roll into our lives.
  1. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Gregory Maguire)
    I enjoyed this “fantastical” story about a girl with green skin. It has everything from its basis in a classic, talking animals, robots, romance, to affairs, and more. It is a long book but I enjoyed the twist of perspective on a long loved story.
  1. The Wizard of Oz (L. F. Baum)
    This is a relatively short children’s chapter book. It is a quick and easy read. This is the same basic story as the Technicolor musical movie we all love, but with several rather large differences (for instance certain colors).
  1. Chess for Beginners (I.A. Horowitz)
    One of my goals for 2015 was to learn to play chess… This is a simple and straightforward how to book. It is short and makes a complicated game easy to learn.
  1. My Man Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse)
    The dry British humor of these short stories about Bertie and Jeeves will keep you laughing throughout. It is a short book, and there are more collections of Bertie and Jeeves stories. The comedy “Jeeves and Wooster” (featuring the comedy stylings of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) was based on these stories.
  2. unPHILtered (Phil Robertson)
    This book was another Phil-Tells-It-Like-It-Is book, just like Happy, Happy, Happy. If you like the Robertson family and share similar beliefs you will enjoy this book.
  3. When the King was Carpenter (Maria von Trapp)
    Unlike the other books I have read by Maria von Trapp, this one is very heavy on research. It is interesting and very informational, but it is also very dry and historical. I am glad I read it; it answers some questions I’ve had about Jesus’ childhood.
  4. The Magic (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is another thought provoking Law of Attraction book from Rhonda Byrne. This one, in particular, focuses on the importance of gratitude; it provides several “exercises” for you to better feel and become aware of gratitude in your life.
  5. Raylan (Elmore Leonard)
    A set of stories featuring the rule bending U.S. Marshal, Raylan Givens. The hit FX show “Justified” is based on Mr. Leonard’s stories of Raylan’s adventures in law enforcement. The book was an easy and interesting read (not enough Boyd Crowder though).
  6. As You Wish (Cary Elwes)
    I enjoyed this tell all from behind the scenes of the classic film, The Princess Bride (I read the book, The Princess Bride by William Goldman in 2013). It was another easy read and it was amusing. If you enjoy the adventures of Westley, Buttercup and gang in the 1987 comedy, you will enjoy the behind the scenes secrets revealed here, by Westley himself.
  7. Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)
    After seeing the Angelina Jolie film version of this true, World War II, story of survival last December, I wanted to read the book (because we all know – the book is always better). The movie was good, but the book was even better. The book goes further in the life of Louis Zamperini after he returns home to America after being a POW for years in Japan. It is a good book about an inspiring life that survived difficult times and triumphed through grace and forgiveness. I wrote a full post about the book/film earlier that you can read here.
  8. Hero (Rhonda Byrne)
    This is the last of Ms. Byrne’s books related to her first, The Secret. I enjoyed this book, but to be honest, I enjoyed it the least of her other books I have read (The Secret, The Power, The Magic). I believe the reason this was my least favorite is because it did not really present any new information, I felt like it boils down to a pep-talk by some very successful people. I would still say it is a good book and everyone can use a good pep-talk from time to time.
  9. Devil at My Heels (Louis Zamperini)
    This is Louis Zamperini’s (Unbroken) story, in his own words. He had just published this book when Laura Hillenbrand approached him to write Unbroken. This too is a great book, despite the fact I had already seen the film and read one version of his story; it was nice to read it from his perspective, in first person.
  10. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In (Louis Zamperini)
    Yes, another book about/by Louis Zamperini. This one is different though… This short one is more of filled more with advice than memories.
  11. Dry Bones (Craig Johnson)
    The latest installment of Walt Longmire adventures arrived in May! As usual, this book is full of adventure, mystery and funny quips. I have enjoyed the whole Longmire series so far, and look forward to more!
  12. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)
    Jenny Lawson is a blogger from Texas. She also happens to be pretty hilarious. While she does cover some sad topics in this memoir she also shares funny and memorable stories too.
  13. Shutter Island (Dennis Lehane)
    Again, better than the movie. This book draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through; it is a great psychological thriller.
  14. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
    This is my new favorite book. I like the 2002 film adaptation of this classic French story of justice, revenge, love and life, however the film took some liberties/artistic license with the story line. I wrote a full blog post earlier this year about the book and film differences, you can read it here. I highly recommend this book!
  15. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
    As expected, this was full of funny stories from the life of Ms. Fey. It is an amusing and easy read.
  16. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
    I think I am helping future readers by saying that it is set in a post-apocalyptic America. This story of a father and son traveling across the continent jumps right into the story. It is dark. It is thought provoking. It is a good book. (I have not seen, and probably will not see, the Viggo Mortensen film adaptation of this book.)
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
    This one was a re-read. There is a reason this book is required reading in high school (if you did not read it when you should have read it now), it is good (solidly in my top two favorite books). The Gregory Peck movie is good, but no film will ever be able to do this book justice. It covers weighty topics like prejudice, love, right and wrong, honor and respect and so much more. I read it in preparation for the release of the Harper Lee’s new/old book and I was so glad I re-read this treasure. You will laugh, you will cry and you will never forget it.
  18. Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)
    My review for this book- DO NOT READ IT!
    To Kill a Mockingbird is so good and this book flies in the face of the lessons that classic taught us. This book turns an honorable, righteous and respectable character into a completely different person. I have read some very bad books (some high school required reading) but this one takes the cake. The story behind it is that Harper Lee wrote this book first and her editor advised her to focus on a very small section of it, expound and expand it and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins Publishers should have left this manuscript buried in an attic. My final comments on this waste of trees is – save your money and time. (I expressed my disappointment in this book in an earlier post, you can read it here.
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
    I have wanted to read this book since I first fell in love with Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack in Footloose… I tried to read it before, but it is weird and I was too young. I read it this year and I still believe it is weird, but it is also riddled with good quotes that make you think.
  20. The Finishing Touches (Hester Browne)
    I have enjoyed the other Hester Browne books I have read (The Little Lady Agency; Little Lady, Big Apple; The little Lady Agency and the Prince) so I was excited to read this one, on the recommendation of my sister. Although I found it difficult to get into this book (it starts out at a funeral) it does get better and I did enjoy it.
  21. Maybe Someday (Colleen Hoover)
    I really enjoyed this book. I don’t want to give away too much because it has a huge surprise in it. It is heartwarming and funny. It revolves around the topics of music, relationships and love. Another plus is that is it written by a Texas author.
  22. Confess (Colleen Hoover)
    I enjoyed Maybe Someday so much I dove into this one next. I liked this book (not quite as much as Maybe Someday). It deals with art, secrets, relationships and love. It was a fairly quick and read.
  23. Why Quantum Physicists Don’t Get Fat (Greg Kuhn)
    This is another book about the Law of Attraction; this one presented the same information in new ways that made you think. It is a short and easy read.
  24. Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen)
    I read The Truth About Forever (also by Dessen) a long time ago and really liked it… I also liked this book. It falls solidly within the Young Adult category. This book focuses on family dynamics, forgiveness, love and friendships.
  25. Everything Everything (Nicola Yoon)
    This is the debut novel from Nicola Yoon. It too is YA, and it was interesting with a surprise twist at the end. The main female character is allergic to the world and her new neighbor suffers under the hand of his father; an unlikely friendship to say the least.
  26. Trouble From the Start (Rachel Hawthorne)
    Many years ago I found Rachel Hawthorne books and fell in love with her (YA) writing style. I liked this newest book as well; good girl, daughter of a cop, falls for a bad, leather wearing, motorcycle riding bad boy. (Rachel Hawthorne is also a Texas author.)
  27. If I Stay (Gayle Forman)
    This book was adapted for the big screen in 2014, and I must confess, like “Unbroken”, I saw the movie first. I really liked this book (I was disappointed in the movie ending and I was sure the book had a better one… I was wrong, but there is a sequel to take care of that). I read this book in two days. It tells the gripping story of a teenage cello player whose family has been in a horrific car crash. It is told from the perspective of Mia Hall (cello player) as she is having an out of body experience while her body lays broken in an ICU room. Her decision to wake up (or not) is the idea behind the book title.
  28. Where She Went (Gayle Forman)
    This is the sequel that made the ending to If I Stay This book is told from the perspective of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, several years after her accident. I read this one in two days too. I really liked Forman’s writing style and I hope she has a new book soon.
  29. Good Call (Jase Robertson)
    Another in my collection of Robertson family books. I like reading the books the Robertsons write, I like the honesty with which they share their pasts, faith and beliefs. In this book Jase gives a candid look into his life and shares how God has been a constant through all of his ups and downs.
  30. Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)
    This is a heartwarming book about not fitting a social norm and learning to love it. It is based around a girl, Willowdean, who shared a bond, through the love of Dolly Parton, with her late aunt. “Dumplin’” (as her mom calls her) faces her fears and accepts herself, even though she is not “perfect”.
  31. Dreaming in Black and White (Laura Jensen Walker)
    Pheobe Grant loves movies and her red leather couch. This Christian Chick-Lit book follows Pheobe through her career, family and faith ups and downs. Despite her history of bad dates, she won’t give up on her silver screen, fairytale ending. I liked this one, the writing style makes Pheopbe very relatable.
  32. Dreaming in Technicolor (Laura Jensen Walker)
    We catch up with Pheobe Grant again in this sequel. In this book she takes a trip to jolly ole England to visit her boss, who also happens to be her boyfriend. Will her fairytale ending hit the silver screen or end up on the cutting room floor?
  33. Blessed, Blessed…Blessed (Missy Robertson)
    In her book Missy Robertson discusses the early years of her relationship with Jase, their wedding, time as newlyweds, as young parents and as the parents of Mia, and how she and her family have continually been blessed by God (with his grace and love, wonderful and supportive friends and family and gifted doctors). This book really hit home in some ways (I had medical issues when I was younger, nothing like Mia’s but my family too has been ‘Blessed, Blessed…Blessed”.)
  34. A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
    I have always loved the 1939 Shirley Temple film, “The Little Princess”, so when I found the book at Half Price Books I had to add it to my basket. Although the book had some good quotes (some even “Secrety”/LOA like lines) I think this may be the one case where the movie is better than the book.
  35. The Royal We (Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan)
    Loosely based on the fairytale romance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, this book was a delightful read from cover to cover with several funny quips and squeal worthy lines throughout.
  36. E-Squared (Pam Grout)
    Another Law of Attraction book. This one has 9 experiments for you to try and to prove to yourself that the science behind the Law of Attraction works. Personally, I like the research, examples and science behind the experiments better than the experiments themselves.
  37. The Stand (Stephen King)
    I enjoyed this Stephen King novel very much. It is incredibly long (1,138 pages – I read the complete and uncut version). I had some issues with a few of the characters (which I believe was an intentional reaction. I think if I had read the original print (some four hundred pages shorter – edited for printing purposes) I might have liked the ending better, but the ending as it was left me thinking about it for a long time after I finished reading it. This is an extremely detailed epic adventure that showcases the classic archetype of good vs evil. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good, long, story that was set twenty-five years ago but still has many thoughts and questions applicable to the world we live in today.
  38. The Way – Living Bible
    I grew up in a Christian home and I have read parts of the Bible throughout my life. This year I read it from cover to cover. I recommend that everyone read it all the way through at least once (also, I suggest you read it with someone that way you have someone with whom to discuss it).


Christmas Décor Tour (Part III)

Today is the last installment of my Christmas Décor Tour… Let’s check out my latest additions…

- Overview 1


My Literary Tree was an inspired idea based on my own personal reading challenge/goals for the last two years. Each ornament represents a book I have read (not all books make the tree). I have typed and printed a list which details which book each ornament represents and a quote from the book. I made the tree topper, the garland and a few of the ornaments. Here is a closer look at some of the ornaments:

Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
(Another quote from this classic covers the fact that that is indeed a Blue Jay, not a Mockingbird: “Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”)

Animal Farm
Animal Farm by George Orwell
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Jaws by Peter Benchley
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
“Are you carrying the fire?”

Lord of the Rings
(from TreehouseIllustrator)
Lord of the Rings (trilogy), & The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas
“All human wisdom is contained in these two words—wait and hope.”

(series) by Craig Johnson
“I should protect and cherish the young, the old, and the infirm, because at some point I would be all of these things before my own journey ended.” The Dark Horse

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” 

American Sniper
(from Lucky Dog Printing)
American Sniper by Chris Kyle
“The thing we all had in common wasn’t muscle; it was the will to do whatever it takes.”

The Holy Bible
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

(from FredArndtArtworks)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was,
how much was mine to keep.”


Robertson Books
Good Call by Jase Robertson
Blessed, Blessed…Blessed by Missy Robertson
Happy, Happy, Happy; unPHILtered by Phil Robertson
Si-cology 101 by Si Robertson
“Our founding fathers started this country and built it on God and His Word, and this country sure would be a better place to live and raise our children if we still followed their ideals and beliefs.” Happy, Happy, Happy


If I Stay
If I Stay; Where She Went by Gayle Forman
“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.” If I Stay

The last part of this tour brings us back to the reason for the season. This nativity scene is very special to me. It was a 25th birthday gift from my parents; it is all the way from Hawaii. It is made of Tapa cloth, which is made from the inner bark of the Mulberry tree (the bark is beaten with a club until the pulp expands making layered sheets of cloth).

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Every tiny detail of this gift is beautiful!
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“Merry Christmas to all…”


These are a few of my favorite things…


  • Disney Movies
  1. Aladdin
  2. Robin Hood
  3. The Lion King
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. The Little Mermaid
  6. Sleeping Beauty
  7. The Aristocats
  8. 101 Dalmatians
  9. Cinderella
  10. Finding Nemo
  • Non-Disney Movies
  1. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (aka the Robin Hood with Kevin Costner)
  2. Footloose
  3. Gone With the Wind
  4. Princess Bride
  5. Guys and Dolls
  6. Free Willy
  7. The Godfather
  8. Singing in the Rain
  9. Lord of the Rings (all three counted as one)
  10. Pillow Talk
  • “I Love Lucy” Episodes
  1. “The Kleptomaniac” (1.27)
  2. “Job Switching” (2.1)
  3. “Lucy Gets Into Pictures” (4.18)
  4. “Tennessee Ernie Visits” (3.28)
  5. “Pioneer Women” (1.25)
  6. “Men Are Messy” (1.8)
  7. “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown” (5.20)
  8. “Lucy Meets the Queen” (5.15)
  9. “Lucy and the Loving Cup” (6.12)
  10. “Lucy Raises Chickens” (6.19)
  • Fruits
  1. Pineapple
  2. Yellow Nectarines
  3. Strawberries
  4. Oranges
  5. Blackberries
  6. Avocados
  7. Green Grapes
  8. Red Plums
  9. Granny Smith Apples
  10. Bananas
  • Colors
  1. Black
  2. White
  3. Sapphire Blue
  4. Maroon
  5. Bright Blue
  6. Bright Yellow
  7. Kelly Green
  8. Red
  9. Gold
  10. Silver
  • Book Series (this is like picking your favorite child)
  1. The Longmire Series (Craig Johnson)
  2. The Katie Chandler/Enchanted Inc. Series (Shanna Swendson)
  3. A. Candy Series (Lauren Conrad)
  4. Ashley Stockingdale Series (1-3)(Kristin Billerbeck)
  5. The Lord of the Rings Series (JRR Tolkien)
  6. Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins)
  7. The Little Lady Series (Hester Browne)
  8. Queen of Babble Series (Meg Cabot)
  9. Spa Girls Series (Kristin Billerbeck)
  10. James Bond/007 Series (Ian Fleming)
  • Musicals/Musical Movies
  1. Spamalot
  2. Guys and Dolls
  3. The Sound of Music
  4. Into The Woods
  5. Footloose
  6. Grease
  7. Hairspray
  8. Thoroughly Modern Millie
  9. My Fair Lady
  10. The Wizard of Oz
  • Games
  1. Monopoly 
  2. Checkers
  3. Life
  4. Chess
  5. Skip-Bo
  6. Scattegories
  7. Catch Phrase
  8. Taboo
  9. Guess Who
  10. Clue
  • Animals
  1. Lion
  2. Cat (household)
  3. Shark
  4. Duck
  5. Giraffe
  6. Octopus
  7. Turtle
  8. Eagle
  9. Deer
  10. Armadillo
  • Tourist Destinations
  1. London, England
  2. Maldives
  3. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Ice Hotel – Quebec, Canada
  6. Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao, Spain
  7. Venice, Italy
  8. Churchill Downs (for the Kentucky Derby) – Louisville, Kentucky
  9. Broadway – New York, New York
  10. The Louvre – Paris France

Soul Food

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” –Unknown

What feeds your soul? What makes you happy? What do you enjoy?
Do more of that!

Feeding your soul is as important as feeding your body.
If we simply trudge through each day we lose a part of ourselves. I challenge my readers to create their own 30 day challenge that feeds your soul. Follow your bliss to find your topic.

Here are a few examples:
-If you really enjoy doodling, doodle every day for the next 30 days.
-If you feel happy after dancing around your living room, take a break every day for the next 30 days and dance.
-If cooking is a passion, cook everyday for the next 30 days. Cook some of your tried and true, all-time favorite comfort foods or push your limits and try new recipes.
-Is reading a passion you never seem to have time for? Take 15+ minutes every day for the next 30 days to read. Pick something you you think will be fun or interesting. No textbooks. Unless you enjoy reading textbooks…
-Is writing your thing? If so take 20+ minutes each day (for the next 30 days) with your journal or laptop and free-write. Let he words flow from your fingertips and see what you end up with (you might pen an epic love letter, a hit song, or the next great American (or other country depending on your whereabouts) novel).
-If your soul is fed by exercise, spend the next 30 days trying new workouts.

These are simply some ideas I came up with off the top of my head, I am sure you can come up with something unique to feed your soul’s hunger.

I CHALLENGE YOU, to challenge yourself – for 30 days.

Taking care of yourself is important; challenging yourself is important. Personal growth, feeding your soul/following your bliss and gratitude are vital to happiness.

Are you going to give yourself a 30 day challenge? If so, what is your challenge?

“As You Wish”

I am currently reading Cary Elwes’ memoirs from the making of The Princess Bride, “As You Wish”. Elwes plays Westley in this 1987 treasure which is based on William Goldman’s book, “The Princess Bride” (which I also recommend). I really love this movie, and reading all of the behind the scenes details got me thinking about my favorite lines from the film. While there are many memorable quotes from the movie, these are just some my favorites:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You Killed My father. Prepare to die.” –Inigo

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” –Man in Black

“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.” -Inigo
”You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.” –Man in Black

“Inconceivable!” –Vizzini
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” –Inigo

“We’ll never survive.” –Buttercup
“Nonsense. You only say that because no one ever has.” –Westley

“There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.” –Westley

“Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.”-Westley
“Wait till I get going…”-Vizzini

“You are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.” – Vizzini

“As you Wish.” –Westley

2015 Goals (1st Quarter Update)

As the first quarter of the year draws to an end I thought I would share my status on the goals I shared earlier this year.

  1. Complete dollhouse construction (wiring, painting, etc)

I have acquired most of the materials I need to complete my dollhouse, i.e. lights, wire, wallpaper, stair railing…

I have completed the painting the majority of the outside of the house (excluding trim).

I hope to have a better update on this goal next quarter.

  1. Learn to play Chess

I have read Chess for Beginners by I.A. Horowitz (the first 24 pages for all that complete novices really need to start with). I have downloaded a chess app to practice playing alone until I can get a friend or family member to learn and play with me.

I have surprised myself, although I have the difficulty set on easy, I have won several games, and many games have ended in a stalemate or draw.

  1. Read more books than I did last year.

Of the 36 books I aim to read this year I have already read 12 (three ahead of schedule!). As long as I continue the current trend of three books each month I am sure to meet this goal in the next nine months.

  1. Master a minimum of 6 songs on the piano.

I have yet to master any new songs this year… I HAVE polished the songs in my repertoire. I do have several songs I am working on mastering. I hope to have a better update on this goal next quarter as well.

  1. Be positive.

I think I am making some progress with this goal. Why is it easier to remind/help others stay positive than it is to keep yourself from stumbling over negativity?

As expected, some days are better than others, but I consider myself in good standing on this one.

Brains, Courage, Heart & Home

Last month I read “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire (the basis of the hit Broadway musical), followed by the L. Frank Baum 1900 classic, “The Wizard of Oz”. After completing those I felt it necessary to break out my old VHS copy of the 1939 Hollywood marvel, “The Wizard of Oz”.

The differences are many. Tinseltown embellished the original story (which is not surprising); for instance, in the book there is no Miss Gulch, and there are terrifying creatures with the bodies of bears and the heads of tigers (oh my!) called Kalidahs. The flying monkeys are good, the company makes it out of the field of poppies without snow, and the book is more gruesome than I thought. The most flagrant ‘modification’ for the movie was that the iconic ruby red slippers are actually SILVER in the original book (they are red in Maguire’s book, and are complimented by Nessarose’s (The Wicked Witch of the East) striped stockings).

I really enjoyed both books and I had fun comparing and contrasting the two books to the original movie.

I thought I would share my favorite quotes from over the rainbow.

The Wizard of Oz: “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

Dorothy: “How do you talk if you don’t have a brain?”
Scarecrow: “Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don’t they?”

Dorothy: “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!”

The Wizard of Oz: “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

Glinda, The Good Witch of the North: “You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!”

The Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

The Wicked Witch of the West: “You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

The Cowardly Lion: “Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage!”

Dorothy: “Please, sir. We’ve done what you told us. We brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We melted her!”
The Wizard of Oz: “Oh, you liquidated her, eh? Very resourceful!”

Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.”

30 [Cheap] Things to do When Bored

After being iced in for two days this week, I decided to draft a list of things to do when you are bored or experiencing Spring Fever in the Winter.

  1. Teach yourself something new (to knit, origami, an instrument, dance routines, etc). YouTube and Udemy are great resources for tutorials.
  2. Clean out/organize your closet. Occasional de-cluttering is essential. In the end your life (or at least closet) will be organized and you will have helped others (if you donate old clothes and shoes you do not wear anymore).
  3. Put together a jigsaw puzzle.
  4. Exercise. Ride a bike, go for a run, try yoga, shoot some hoops, go for a hike.
  5. Get crafty. Doodle.
  6. Start a collection. Rocks, bottles, stamps, Christmas decorations…
  7. Watch a movie. Make it a marathon.
  8. Call a friend or relative. Even better, Skype or FaceTime a friend or relative.
  9. Learn some American Sign Language. is a great resource, it has a video dictionary and quizzes.
  10. Write a letter to a loved one. While I was in college my Grandma wrote me a letter each week and after my Grandpa died I made it a goal to write to her every week too. I love getting real mail (not credit card applications), I am sure I am not alone in my excitement for snail mail.
  11. Take quizzes, for fun. Visit and get lost in their plethora of fun quizzes (more added daily).
  12. Host a game night with friends/family.
  13. Try a new recipe. Pinterest is full of interesting recipes, and you need to eat anyway, have fun with it.
  14. Write. Draft a story, poem or song.
  15. Volunteer at a local organization.
  16. Visit a museum. Many museums have free days or hours.
  17. Take in a local play or musical. For a cheaper live theatre experience check out high school and community playhouse productions.
  18. Put your iPod or Pandora on shuffle and sing along.
  19. Dance.
  20. Read a new book (via the library, Amazon or Half Price Books) or, re-read an old favorite.
  21. Work a word search, crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
  22. Window or Pinterest “shop”.
  23. Commit a random act of kindness, i.e. feed a stray cat, take your neighbor’s newspaper to their front door, hold the door open for someone…
  24. Plant a garden.
  25. Write a bucket list… Places you want to see and things you want to do in life.
  26. Create a vision board (physical or on Pinterest). Vision boards have been proven to help you meet goals and manifest what you want.
  27. Plan a vacation. You don’t have to book airfare or hotel rooms, just plan where you want to go and what you want to do there.
  28. Create a care package. Dollar Tree has lots of great things to include in a care package. Make one for a friend or family member or make a few and take them to your local nursing home.
  29. Create a time capsule.
  30. Make a list of the top ten books you have read that you would recommend to someone else.