Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Book Trek Reading Challenge

I'm hosting this Reading Challenge over on NewLDSFiction.com. It's fun and it's easy. Here are the details for how to enter and win.

While I can't win (because, seriously, I'm the host) I'm still going to post my reading list and participate in all the other ways.

(And now that I think of it…there are over 80 books that will be given away as prizes—and I can't win! Bummer!!)

So here are the books I plan to read as part of this challenge—but I reserve the right to totally change my mind.

  1. The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
      
  2. Rose Tinted by Shannen Crane Camp
      
  3. Ilana's Wish by Annette Lyon
      
  4. Imperfect Love by Rebecca Talley
      
  5. Psyched by Juli Caldwell
      
  6. Split Second by Kasie West
      
  7. Birthright by Nichole Giles
       
  8. ...?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

God Bless Us Any Way

Christus Statue. Salt Lake Visitors Center.


I’m Mormon. That means I belong to The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints.

I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I don’t talk about it online very often. I much prefer to publicly revel in the trivial and the inane, than to get caught up in debate over topics of depth in which I am truly and personally invested.

But lately, I’m seeing more and more harshness and unkindness floating through the Ethernet—both from outsiders taking potshots at the church that I love and, more disturbingly, from people within the church saying hateful things about those who differ from the mainstream.

It bothers me when people outside my church state things that are misleading. I worry that others will believe untrue statements and judge my religion, and me, in a negative light. But my faith is strong enough to trust that God is in charge and that truth can stand up to a little scrutiny.

It bothers me when active Latter-day Saints malign those of our fellowship who are struggling with issues and concerns. These are our brothers and sisters. They are fellow, imperfect mortals, who, in my opinion, are just trying to find a measure of peace and balance between the religion they are drawn toward and the reality of their personal life experience.

It bothers me when representatives of my church censure and discipline members who don’t fully follow the doctrine and current policies. I’m not talking about people who commit predatory and harmful acts against others, but those who question, who wonder, who speak about their personal experiences and struggles, and who are trying to find their way in a very confusing world. 

Why don’t we embrace these members instead? Why don’t we listen and love? Why don’t we offer spiritual encouragement and emotional support while they sift, and sort, and heal? Just as God is not damaged by those who don’t believe in Him, truth is not diminished by honest questions.

I admit, there are things in the Latter-day Saint doctrine and policies that I wonder about. For example, one of the issues that kept me from fully embracing the gospel as a teen was I could never quite comprehend why good men of color were excluded from the priesthood. Fortunately, that is now a non-issue, but as I watch my beautiful grandsons who have much more than “one drop” of color in them, I wonder why it ever was.

I still find things that I wonder about and that bother me a little and ruffle my personal feathers. Things that cause pain for people I love. There have been times when I’ve been offended by leaders who should have protected me. Times when my pain has been minimized by those who should have comforted me, when my trials and doubts have been trivialized by those who should have lovingly counseled me.

But I stay in this church, and I consciously and willingly set these things aside because of the overwhelming testimony I have of God’s love for me; of the Savior Jesus Christ’s investment in my eternal well-being; and the absolute firm belief I have in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

As I’ve heard other like-minded people ask, “Where else would I go?” No other religion (and yes, I investigated a few many years ago) has offered me the simple beauty I find in the Book of Mormon, nor the surety of God’s personal awareness of me as an individual. When I pray, the God of my understanding, the God of my heart, hears and answers me. He tells me that I’m exactly where He wants me to be—a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Mormon.

And so I confirm, this is the religion I love. Despite the questions and the injustices and the pain that are always found when mortal men and women interact with each other, this is where I choose to be. This is where I stand. And if the past is any predictor of the future, I can say that no person, no issue, no trial will dissuade me

And believe me, I have trials. The people I love have trials. Each and every one of us has trials. And every day in personal conversation, or on Facebook, or on blogs and websites, my heart is touched by those of us whose trials and issues take us outside the idealized norm of my chosen religion.

In this increasingly interconnected, multi-cultural world, I am often confronted with statements by those in my fellowship of faith that are not only diverse, but in some cases could be interpreted as militant, or even destructive to traditional Mormon doctrine

Sometimes I find that I agree with the content, if not always the delivery.

Sometimes I can see their point, but I vehemently disagree.

And sometimes, for the life of me, I can’t understand why in the world they think and feel the way they do.  Their life path is so different from mine that I am tempted to respond like one of my grandchildren likes to say at times, “That makes no sense to me at all!”

But when I pray to this God of my understanding, when I invoke the Atonement of this Jesus the Book of Mormon has taught me to love and worship, the answering Spirit most often tells me to find the good in everyone and celebrate it. It tells me to do my mortal best (which admittedly is rarely the best at all) to love those around me, and to mind my own business.

To those who feel marginalized, minimized, disenfranchised, and unaccepted within the church that I love, I am truly sorry. You are welcome to sit on the pew beside me.

To those who feel you must take an unpopular stand to find understanding and healing, I support you on your path. I believe that God loves an honest heart, and that He will find you and heal you.

To those, including myself, who don’t understand others who see the world so differently, try a little harder. I’ll forgive you, you forgive me, and we’ll muddle through together.

And to all of us, God bless us any way and on our way.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Club Book Suggestions



First thing you need to know about this list is I created it for a specific group of six women. Some of my favorite titles aren't on this list, and neither are books that most of the individuals have already read. There are certain genres no one in the group will read and other genres that more are popular. Also, they don't want to start a series they can't finish.

I googled "popular book club books" and also looked at what I'd read recently and picked ones I thought they might like. Most of these books I haven't read yet, because I'm in the group. Therefore, some of them may not be appropriate for all readers. In fact, I may not like all of them myself. If I have read them, I put a note about it in the description.

So, with that disclaimer, this is the list I sent them.

The Newport Ladies Book Club read these. (I didn’t include the ones we've read on this list. Nor did I include any of the Newport Ladies Book Club series, but I've read 7 of them and quite liked them. Feel free to add any of those titles to your list.)
  • The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver. I loved it. (In fact, I've liked everything I've read by her.) Evangelical Baptist takes his family on mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Tragedy ensues. This description sounds lame but it's one of my all-time favorites. 
  • My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok. About a Jewish man who struggles between religion and his creative passion/art.


Literary—More Serious
  • The Rent Collector - Camron Wright. Loved it. One of my all-time favorite books. Poor family who lives in Cambodia and the mother searches for cure for their sick child. And the grumpy woman who collects their rent.
  • The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd. (Her book The Secret Life of Bees is one of my all-time favorites.) The relationship between a wealthy Charleston girl, Sarah Grimké, who will grow up to become a prominent abolitionist, and the slave she is given for her 11th birthday.              
  • The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh. (Recommended by my daughter’s midwife. We were talking books while she labored. I read the sample chapters and it seems good.) After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. An unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life.
  • The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman. (Also recommended by the midwife.) An Australian lighthouse keeper and his wife decide to keep a baby who has washed ashore.            
  • Songs of Willow Frost - Jamie Ford. Haven’t read this one but put it on the list based on how much I liked his first one. William Eng, a Chinese American orphan whose mother died, goes to the theatre, sees actress and becomes convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
  • The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert. (I loved Eat, Pray, Love.) Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia.
  • Dancing on Broken Glass - Ka Hancock. Loved it. Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler are married. He has bipolar disorder. She has a family history of breast cancer. The ups and downs of adapting and loving. 
  • Roots of the Olive Tree – Courtney Miller Santo. Loved it. Set in a house on an olive grove in northern California, brings to life five generations of women—including an unforgettable 112-year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records—the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together.
  • The Persian Pickle Club - Sandra Dallas. Loved it. Read it in a Book Club I was in years ago. 1930s Depression. The Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another.

Genre Fiction
  • The Selection/The Elite/The One (series) - Kiera Cass. YA Dystopian romance trilogy. A friend mentioned this on FB, said she liked it better than Divergent because it has a better ending. Girls are picked to live in a palace and compete for the heart of the prince.
  • Legend/Prodigy/Champion (series) - Marie Lu. YA Dystopian. June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. Of course they meet and fall in love. (I think).
  • Matched/Crossed/Reached (series) - Ally Condie. YA Dystopian. I read the first two, loved them. Teens get matched with their ideal mate. But Cassia gets two possibilities. Then she discovers problems with their "perfect" world.
  • Paper Towns - John Green. YA/mystery. (I've read several of his books. Some are wonderful, some are quirky. I loved The Fault in Our Stars.) After a night of mischief, the girl Quentin loves disappears.
  • I’ve Got You Under My Skin - Mary Higgins Clark. Suspense. This is her newest one. The producer of a true-crime show must contend with participants with secrets as well as her husband’s murderer.
  • Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn. Suspense. A woman disappears from her Missouri home on her fifth anniversary; is her bitter, oddly evasive husband a killer? (Some people have said they don't like the ending.)
  • The Heist - Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg. Suspense. First of a new series, Kate O’Hare, an F.B.I. agent, teams up with Nicolas Fox, an international con man, to catch a corrupt investment banker in hiding.
  •  Sugar and Iced - Jenn McKinlay. Suspense. First of a series of cozy mysteries. Melanie and Angie can't say no when Fairy Tale Cupcakes is asked to prepare a beauty pageant display. But the search is on for a killer after a judge turns up dead.

Let me know which ones you liked, didn't like, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, books you'd recommend for book club reading.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to Paint Your Floor for Under $200!



Last week, I ripped up my old ugly carpet in my living room and painted the wood subfloor to make a gorgeous, clean, contemporary new floor treatment. It takes a little time because you have to wait for things to dry, but it really was easy. And the best part—the new floor cost me LESS THAN $200!

Then I bragged about it to all my friends. Both of them wanted to know how I did it. So here are my step-by-step instructions telling you exactly how to do this in your own living room.


THE "BEFORE"


Yes, my walls were yellow. And I loved them. But it had been several years and they needed to be freshened up. And that ugly brown carpet? It might look okay in this photo, but trust me when I say it was HID-E-OUS! It wasn't just an eyesore. It was also smelly and infested with… whatever infests old carpet.

I hated to have people come over because you'd step inside my house and be immediately assaulted with "old people" smell. (Yes, that smell.) And although I make lots of jokes about looking and acting old, I really don't want to smell that way.


MY PROJECT

I decided while I was doing the floors to go for a whole new look in the living room and down the hall. (NOTE: If you're going to paint the walls, do that BEFORE you paint the floors.) I used Behr® Premium Plus Interior Satin Enamel on the walls, ceiling, trim, and floor—all the same color because it makes it really easy and fast and you don't have to worry about smudging the wrong color on the wrong surface.

(My color is Haze. I fell in love with this color several years ago when my daughter used it in her townhouse. It's not in their paint chip selection anymore but they do still have the color percentages in their computer.)


PREPPING THE FLOOR

This is THE hardest part, by far. You need muscles. My boys came over and moved my furniture out, and then they pulled up the carpet. I was expecting the subfloor to be the same as it was in the Master Bedroom that I recarpeted a few years ago—mostly flat and smooth.

But nope. It had pieces cut out that you could completely lift away from the floor… (No idea why.)


Some ginormous cat pee stains that were starting to get furry:
I left my toes in the photo so you can see exactly how big the cat pee stain was.


And some major damage where there was tile in the entryway.


At this point, I panicked. But my friend Jana said not to worry, we could fix it.

We pulled out all the staples and there were lots because apparently whoever laid the carpet thought it needed a staple in every. single. inch. We started out using pliers to pull staples by hand but that got old really fast, so we ran to the store to get a floor scraper tool. Worth every penny! (This link is not the brand we got. We went to a local hardware store that doesn't have a website. But it was one almost exactly like this one.)

Then we sunk all the nails. (That means we lightly sanded around them and then hammered them so the heads were even with the wood flooring.)

We sanded the damaged flooring in the entry as well as we could but it still wasn't perfect. (Doesn't have to be.) We bleached  the cat pee stain (1/2 water, 1/2 bleach, applied with rag) and sanded away the fur.

Then we used Liquid Nails Concrete & Mortar Repair* and ran it along every seam and divet we could find. After it dried, we sanded again.

*You really want to use this exact product and brand. We tried a different brand but it didn't work at all. This one is very easy to use and dries fast. Get it at Walmart.


PRIMING THE FLOOR

Once we decided the floor was prepped enough—and honestly, we just got tired and decided it was good enough—we were ready to prime.
Prepped floors with Liquid Nails applied.

We used Kilz Original Primer | Sealer | Stainblocker Interior Oil-Base. This stuff is so awesome, I'm going to buy stock in their company. It goes on thick and smooth, and then kind of settles in the cracks and small holes and helps to even things out. It also totally seals the wood (and any lingering cat pee grossness) and primes it for the paint.

It's easy to apply. We just poured small puddles of it straight onto the floor, then smoothed it out with a paint roller on an extension pole.

We did two coats with one gallon. The tricky part was painting me into my bedroom for the night and my helpers out the front door.

PAINTING THE FLOOR

The next morning, the Kilz was dry and we were ready to put the color on.

We did two coats of paint. I used the Behr Premium Plus Interior Flat in the Haze color, but if I had it to do over again, I'd just use the same satin paint I put on the ceiling and walls. You don't need satin on the floors because the polyurethane (coming next) provides all the shine you need. But I ended up with a half gallon of satin (from the walls) and half gallon of flat (from the floor) left over. If I'd gone with the same type, I could have purchased less paint.

The first coat we applied the same way we did the Kilz. We poured it straight onto the floor in small puddles and smoothed it out with a roller on an extension pole. After it dried (about two hours later), we put on the second coat. This time we poured smaller puddles, spread it with the roller, then immediately threw on decorative paint flakes in a random pattern.

Tip: When you're painting near your baseboards, apply paint with an edger and keep a damp rag nearby. If there's wet paint on your baseboards when you throw the chips, they will stick. If you do get flakes stuck to the baseboard, use the damp rag to wipe them off.

We used 1 1/4 bags of the Behr Premium Interior/Exterior Decorative Flakes, the Tan Blend. The paint flakes provide the magic! Up until the flakes, you could still see some of the seams and damaged spots in the subfloor if the light hit it just right. But those flakes covered that right up. It confuses your eye so you don't see the defects in the floor.

Remember that cut out square? Even though I knew exactly where it was on my floor, after we added the paint flakes I had to look really, really hard to find it.

And here's the cool part: If you have a hand spasm and throw too many flakes in one spot? Just grab your roller, paint right over the flakes in that spot, and try again!

Here's a close-up of my floor with the flakes on.

MAKING IT SHINE

After all this work, you need something to protect that beautiful floor. We used MinWax Super Fast Drying Polyurethane for Floors in the Oil-Based Clear Satin. We put it on by hand using a rag—poured a very small puddle on the floor, then rubbed it in. Some people will tell you that you can use a roller, and you can, but it makes bubbles show up. Bubbles are bad.

(P.S.: Don't shake the can of polyurethane. That makes bubbles, too. If needed, gently stir it with a stirring stick.)

The polyurethane goes on with a very light brownish tint and will make the floor look slightly darker than the original paint color. We wanted that to happen to give it a little extra oomph. (The flakes increase the oomph factor, too.) Here's my floor between the second and third coats of polyurethane.


Tips for Applying Polyurethane: 
  • Wear disposable gloves. If you get this stuff on your skin you will smell funky for days.
  • It stinks. Leave the windows open when applying it.
  • Like paint, it needs to dry completely between each coat. We wanted to make it go a little faster so we closed all the windows, cranked the heater up to 85 degrees, and then left to run errands for a few hours.
  • You will probably need three coats, so it will take all day.

And Voilá!


Just a few additional notes:
  • Have someone help you with this project. There were times when the extra muscles or a second set of hands was vital to success.
  • This is my friend Jana's technique for painting floors and she walked me through it step-by-step. She painted her cement floors in her basement and out on her patio. They've held up really well for several years. 
  • This is the first time she/I have painted wood floors. Since wood has a little more give than cement, there's a possibility it won't hold up quite as long. But I don't care. I love it.
  • Everyone who has seen it in real life has been amazed at how good it looks and how easy it was to do it. 
  • This is MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. If you try to do it using my technique, you do so at your own risk. You can't sue me if it doesn't turn out the way you hoped it would.

MATERIALS NEEDED/PRICES

This list with prices only includes what I purchased to prepare and paint the floor. It does not include what I purchased to paint the walls, ceiling, and trim. Nor does it include basic tools I already owned or the new accessories (like my new area rug that I got for a steal!!!).

Except where indicated, I got everything at Home Depot. (And no, I don't get any payment for recommending/linking to these items.)

This is what I had on hand and/or borrowed:
  • Hammer
  • Pliers 
  • Floor Scraper Tool
  • Hand Sander with 80 grit sandpaper
  • Caulking Gun
  • Bleach
  • Rags
  • Rubber Gloves

This is what I bought:

Grand Total for Me, including tax = $188.38

Like I said, this doesn't include the painted walls and ceiling or the accessories. Just the floor. And prices in your area may vary. But it's a whole heck of a lot cheaper than carpet or linoleum—and if I can do it, you can do it too!

P.S. Feel free to share this on Pinterest, Facebook, your website, etc. but please link back to this post.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Books at Comic Con! Yes!!

This is the last post and I saved my favorite topic to end with—BOOKS!

A lot of my author friends were here at Comic Con. Many of them were doing presentations, panels, and/or had booths. I did not see them, but I know they were there because 1) their names were in the program, and 2) I've seen them posting pics on Facebook. I wish I had photos and could spotlight each and every one of them but…

So here's who I did see.


Loved his Fablehaven series and the Pingo books. Still trying to catch up on the Beyonders series and Candy Shop War books. Here he's getting ready for a book signing of his newest, Five Kingdoms, at the Shadow Mountain booth.

And speaking of Shadow Mountain

This is one side of their booth.



And here is the other side. They had so many books there! A lot of them I've read and loved. Others are on my To Read list.



I took her photo because she was dressed up. There were several other authors on either side of her, some I took photos of as well, but they turned out all blurry. So unfortunately, they only get a shout out and not a photo. They were:









Both an author and an illustrator, this guy is a great presenter and I'm sad he won't be at Storymakers this year. I didn't get to say hello to him, but I met his wife, Mrs. Tayler (sorry, I forgot your first name), who has a book coming out soon.




Michaelbrent and I know each other via email and facebook but we've never met in person. I've read and liked a few of his books, but there are some I can't read because he's just too freaking scarey. He was off teaching a class when I went by his booth, but his mom was there. And look at her steampunk hat. Loved it!


Barnes and Noble Booth

So I was pointing out to Julie all the books on this table that I've read and/or own, not realizing that standing right next to the table was…



I've read several of her books and liked them all. And here I am going all fan-girl on her.



By the way, her hair is not normally pink but she dressed up. Because she's just cool like that!



And there you go. My adventures at Comic Con. Thanks again to Jay and Amy of The Browsers, KSL radio, and Salt Lake Comic Con for the free tickets. I loved it and hope to make this a regular event—even if I have to pay next time.






Evermore Adventure Park

When I first heard that they were building a theme park in MY town, I was underwhelmed. I told my husband we were going to have to move.

But Evermore Adventure Park had a booth at Comic Con and I've changed my mind. This is going to be awesome!

See this guy (on left)? He was a merchant trader. He had Evermore gold coins that he would trade for pretty much anything. The problem was, I was traveling light. I had phone, camera, and flip flops with me. But he was an nice guy and let me trade a business card for a doll website.

And here's the coin.

Front



Back



Honest, this place is going to be so cool! They have gargoyles!

Front


Side


Me


Julie

Why do I have so many photos of the gargoyle? Because I entered to win a smaller version of this statue. I'm hoping this will pump my karma a little.






Fan Art and More

One of the coolest things was all the awesome costume booths, artists, and fan art displays. I tried to keep track of which photos were in which booth but when I got home it was such a mess I couldn't sort it all out.

So here is just a sampling of the coolness.








The Doctor…and a Little More Cosplay

I love Doctor Who! There were so many trinkets and so much fun fan art on display. I think there was maybe more Dr. Who stuff there than any other single franchise.

Or maybe I just noticed more of it.

The Tardis

Yes, there was a Tardis at Comic Con! You could get your photo taken inside it if you wanted, but the line was so long that Julie & I decided to go around to the back. Where there was NO line.









And there was also…

Exterminate!  Exterminate! Exterminate!

Why the Dalek was being escorted by a Star Trek engineer is beyond me. But since her shirt is red, I don't think there was a happy ending.


The Doctor!

With a Fez!

And a Sonic Screwdriver!



Superman

This guy was a really good sport. It took awhile to get the camera to take the photo.



Mask Guy

I'm not sure what this guy was supposed to be but it was awesome. His costume played some really freaky noise and then he came up and tried to strangle me!

Here is his costume from the side.



So Julie and I decided we needed to get with the cosplay a little more. So we got color streaks put in our hair. Julie went with pink.



And I went with purple. Doesn't show up really well, but if you look close you can see it.



And then I decided to get a tattoo.



No, I don't have green spots on my leg. They had some kind of laser light show going on in the tattoo booth.