Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life Lessons From European Chocolate

I am a chocoholic. Seriously. I love it. I crave it. I get really cranky without it. But over time here is what I have discovered: one small piece of really nice European chocolate will satisfy that craving as well if not better than an entire candy bar.
(Photo by hozinja from Flickr)

Our spiritual life is like that. Communication with God is essential to the healthy Christian life. Our spirit craves that Word from God. Sometimes we stuff ourselves with sermons, devotionals, inspirational tweets, and even Christian fiction when what we really need is a small piece of the real Word. All of that other stuff is great and can really enrich your life, but never substitute the good stuff for the really good stuff. Get in the Bible. You'll be so much more satisfied.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of you are having a fabulous day filled with whatever makes you and your family special and happy. I experimented with making cinnamon swirl pancakes for my family's brunch this morning. The results didn't look a thing like the picture I found on the internet, but they sure were yummy!

Because of the holiday, I won't be putting up a new installment for Fiction Friday this week. We'll have to wait until next week to discover what's in the box! So instead of leaving a comment about Olivia's story, throw in what you're thankful for.

I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and my loving, supportive family. What about you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Traditional Smaditional

Thanksgiving is only two days away. I hope you are planning a wonderful long weekend doing whatever you need the most. For some of you, it's visiting family that you haven't seen in a while. For others, it's opening up your home to share your blessings with friends. Then there are others, like me and mine, who really need a weekend to do nothing.

December is crazy hectic for us, like it is for a lot of families. This weekend, no one expects us to be anywhere, do anything, or talk to anyone. It's a fabulous opportunity to retreat and recharge in preparation for the frenzy that is December.

photo by scubadive67 on Flickr
I am fortunate enough to have family that is somewhat local and we'll be meeting up with them to stuff ourselves with turkey and dressing. Lots and lots of dressing. In my family, the dressing takes center stage. At times over the years the turkey has been switched out for ham or even barbecue, but the dressing... All out mutiny would occur if my mother did not make dressing. She makes the equivalent of a full size sheet pan every year. There are no leftovers.

So this year, forget traditional. I have never in my life seen a whole, cooked turkey carved at the Thanksgiving table, and I am just fine with that. Your family traditions don't have to be traditional. They are the things that bond and define your family and friends and make the holidays truly special. This year, throw traditional out the window and make some of your own unique traditions.

What are some of your unique family traditions?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.6

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

A note of consistency – I made a mistake in last week’s segment and referred to Olivia as Lady Olivia. This is inaccurate as her father is a Viscount. She would be Miss Bedford. Sorry about that!

Past Segments:  12345


                Olivia raised her hand, attempting in vain to hide a yawn that was anything but delicate. The sun was just starting to peak into the front drawing room as she waited for Lord Clampton and his sister and aunt to arrive. It was an unspeakably early hour by city standards. On a normal day she would still be ensconced within her covers, either deep in slumber or lazily stretching in preparation to rise for the day.
                Today, however, was not a normal day. She had no idea how punctual Lord Clampton expected her to be, but until she got to know him better she figured she should err on the side of caution. His note the day before said they would be leaving his house at half past seven. Olivia figured this meant they would be arriving at her house to pick her up around eight o’clock at the earliest.
                Even her father had shaken his head at the ridiculousness of the hour. Olivia smiled as she remembered him kissing her on the cheek and telling her to have a nice trip. He intended to sleep until a more civilized hour.
                The morning chill dampened her cheek as she rested her head against the window pane and allowed her eyes to drift close. She probably had time to take a short nap. There was little chance he had actually left his house at half past seven, given there were two women in his party that would not be as hesitant to make him upset or tell him to wait. A strong knock on the door startled her into complete wakefulness.
                Lord Clampton was standing in the doorway as she rushed into the front hall.
                “Ah, good. I was worried you would be one of those women who did not value time and punctuality.”
                “You’re here.”
                Lord Clampton’s eyebrows climbed. “Of course. We are heading out of London today.”
                “But it’s just now eight o’clock.” Olivia gestured at the elaborate clock hanging on the wall.
                Lord Clampton turned to the butler, obviously seeking sanity from the only other person in the room. The loyal servant simply turned away and called for a footman to come carry her trunk out to the carriage.
                Lord Clampton cleared his throat. “I believe the note said we would be leaving my house at half past seven.  I had thought we would have been here a quarter of an hour ago.”
Olivia paled. “Of course,” was the only thing she could think of to say.
The footman came and carried her trunk out to be added to the pile of luggage already secured to the back of the vehicle. Lord Clampton stepped aside and offered Olivia his arm. Bemused, she placed her hand on his elbow. As they made their way to the carriage, she couldn’t help but think that this trip was going to be far more important than just an escape from London.
Minnie was all but bouncing in her seat as Olivia climbed into the carriage. “Good morning!”
Mrs. Ruggiford, sitting in the seat next to her, grunted and rolled her head back against the plush squabs. “Not morning. Middle of the night.”
Olivia bit her lip. She was awkwardly poised halfway into the carriage, unsure what to do. Minnie and her aunt were seated in the forward facing seat. Riding backward never bothered Olivia, but sitting in the other seat would mean sitting next to Lord Clampton, which really wasn’t a proper thing to do.
“Is there a problem, Miss Bedford?”
Olivia winced at the testy voice behind her. “No problem,” she called loudly. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Minnie, I’m afraid you’re going to need to switch seats.”
“Oh!” The young girl’s eyes grew wide and she began to gather her skirts.
Mrs. Ruggiford’s hand shot out and grabbed her niece, her head still relaxed against the back of the seat. “Gets sick on the road. Can’t sit backward.”
Minnie looked sharply at her aunt before relaxing back into the seat with a chagrined shrug. “I’m afraid that is true.”
“Oh.” Olivia turned to the aunt. It went totally against the grain to ask an older woman to inconvenience herself at all, but in this case, she didn’t see the alternative. “Mrs. Ruggiford, I’m afraid I have to request –“
“I’m comfortable. And I’m old. I promise not to tell anyone where you sat.”
“Oh. Well…” Olivia supposed there wasn’t anything for it. She moved on into the carriage and began arranging her skirts in the backward seat.
Lord Clampton climbed in behind her. The seating arrangement gave him a moment of pause as well. Without a word, he sat next to Olivia, angling to lean against the side of the carriage to leave as much empty seat as possible between them.
The carriage rolled through the quiet streets of London. The occupants of the carriage were just as quiet until all they could see through the large windows was a constant line of trees.
Minnie was, of course, the one to finally break the silence. “This is so exciting. I’ve never even left Cornwall before.”
Olivia smiled at the girl’s exuberance. It was hard to remember sometimes that they were very close in age. “I suppose you’ll have to get used to it. After this trip you’ll be preparing for your London season.”
“That’s true. Mother was originally going to bring me this year but she said I need to practice talking more first and suggested this trip through the countryside. What do you suppose she meant by that? She’s always told me that I talk to much.”
Olivia took a moment to gather her thoughts. “I suppose she wants you to learn to converse on polite society topics. Have you been to any of the local society?”
“Yes, I’ve been to the assembly rooms and several card parties in Cornwall. My story of the pigs getting into the garden gathered everyone’s attention at Mrs. Coleson’s dinner party.”
Olivia’s heart went out to Minnie. “I think, perhaps, your mother is telling you that stories about pigs aren’t the best thing for London ballrooms.”
“I didn’t think of that.” Minnie’s eyes were wide enough to see white clear around the blue centers.
“Don’t you worry. Next year, we shall take London by storm. We’ll have lots of time on this trip to go over the proper things to talk about.”
Minnie clapped with glee.
Olivia turned her head to look out the window. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lord Clampton staring at her. His lips were turned in a small smile and his eyes were kinder than she ever remembered.  With a blush she turned back towards Minnie. Her attention was caught by a black box on the floor, half hidden by the girl’s skirts.

Well, readers, we have a small friendship growing between our soon-to-be lovebirds. Both want to see Minnie have a successful season in London next year. That will continue to progress. In the meantime, what do you think is going to be in the box? Is it exciting? Boring? Edible? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just For Fun - Best Book Trailer Ever

I got this from Ane Mulligan who got it from Steve Laube. Don't you just love the internet?

This video is a great giggle, even aside from the fact that it's a book trailer. This is the type of book trailer that is actually effective.

How Sermons Work from HeadHeartHand Media on Vimeo.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.5

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  1234


                Awkward silence reigned as everyone entered the dining room. Servants were still hastily rearranging table settings to accommodate the larger than expected party.  Olivia winced in sympathy for her mother. When the numbers were only one off - three ladies and two gentlemen - they would have been able to situate themselves without being too obvious of the disparity. Now there were two extra ladies. No one could help but notice.
                "Bit of a bungle," Mrs. Ruggiford said with a sniff.
                Lady Bedford opened her mouth to defend herself. She gave a small sigh and let it close without saying anything. There really wasn't anything to say. Lord Clampton's aunt had said it all.
                Everyone stood in a huddle just inside the doorway, ready to eat but unsure of where to sit. Finally Lord Bedford stepped forward and offered his arm to Mrs. Ruggiford. "Madam, I would be honored if you would sit next to me."
                "Be glad to. Minnie, you talk well enough. You can sit on my other side." Mrs. Ruggiford took Lord Bedford's arm and made her way to the table, towing a willing Minnie in her wake.
                Lady Bedford scooted past Lord Clampton and settled in at the head of the table. Lord Clampton sat across from his sister with Olivia to his right. Another awkward pause filled the room as they discovered that with this seating arrangement, even if the gentlemen were to offer the food to the ladies on either side of them, Minnie would be left without.
                "She's got two hands that work perfectly well," Mrs. Ruggiford stated. To emphasize her  point she grabbed up a platter of turkey and offered it to her niece. As Minnie helped herself and giggled uncontrollably, Mrs. Ruggiford passed a sweeping glance around the table at her other companions. "One day we'll all laugh about this."
                Her forthright attitude seemed to put everyone at ease, and Olivia realized what made her such a popular person, despite her uncommon behavior. She had an ease about her that made you comfortable, even with her blunt, shortened phrases. She realized she had seen Mrs. Ruggiford around town before, but never realized her connection to Lord Clampton. Mrs. Ruggiford was one of the matrons that everyone liked but nobody talked about.
                "I'm so excited about our trip." Minnie giggled some more as she speared a potato with her fork. "John says we're going to meander our way up to Birmingham. After a nice long visit with Lady Mulligan, we can either take the long way back to London or come straight back. Aunt Lillian says there is the most amazing jeweler there who can make absolutely anything. I'm going to dream up the most intricate piece I can think of and commission it. Then I can wear it around town next year and amaze everyone."
                Lady Beford smiled, then covered it with a cough. "I did not realize this trip was going to be so long. You'll miss most of the season, Olivia. I'm not sure how I feel about you missing that many opportunities. Are you sure you want to take this trip without having your future settled?"
                Olivia felt her face heat. This dinner was such a farce already, would anyone notice if she crawled under the table? Her mother's very pointed look in Lord Clampton's direction told everyone what she was thinking, if they didn't catch her veiled meaning in the first place.
                "Speak up, lad." Mrs. Ruggiford grinned at her nephew. "Are you going to save her daughter's reputation?"
                "Her reputation is not in danger, aunt. You are going to be in attendance the entire time." Lord Clampton's neck began to redden.Perhaps he wanted to join her under the table, Olivia thought. Immediately she decided that was a bad idea. Her mother would take that as an excuse to instantly send an announcement to the Times.
                "She can keep him in line, Lady Bedford. You have nothing to worry about." Minnie reached a reassuring hand over to her hostess. "When we were younger, Aunt Lillian always found out when John was getting into mischief. Once he and his friend William were playing Rounders out behind the stable."
                "Minnie," Lord Clampton growled.
                Minnie ignored him. "They wouldn't let me play, because I was a girl and so much smaller than they were. Looking back it's understandable, really. Aunt Lillian wouldn't have said anything if they had just refused to let me play -"
                "Don't bet on it. Girl can play rounders. Hit it far enough and you can walk the diamond." Mrs. Ruggiford stuffed a carrot in her mouth with a decisive nod.
                "They threatened to play with my doll's head instead of the ball."
                "Miniford." Lord Clampton sounded like he was in actual pain.
                "Aunt Lillian said if he wanted to play with a doll he could have just said so, instead of making me cry in order to do it. She made him carry a doll around everywhere for an entire week."
                Lord Clampton sighed. Olivia muffled a laugh with her napkin. He looked so miserable that Olivia leaned slightly to the side to whisper encouragement. "That isn't so bad, really."
                "It gets worse," he mumbled.
                Minnie's grin got even wider. "He tried to hide it by carrying it in a bag or under his cloak, but it was summer so he looked rather odd in his cloak, too."
                "Just skip to the end, Minnie. Food's getting cold." Mrs. Ruggiford pointed at her niece's untouched plate.
                "Oh, very well. He had this elaborate plan to walk with me into church so the doll could be between us and everyone would think it was mine, but then I got sick and couldn't go. When he got caught with the doll he told everyone that since I had to miss church, I sent the doll to listen to the sermon for me."
                Laughter flittered around the table.
                Lady Bedford eyed her guest again. "That was a very sweet idea, Lord Clampton. Thinking like that will make you a wonderful father some day."
                Olivia groaned.
                "You want to invite another chaperon, John?" Mrs. Ruggiford asked. "Might take more than just me to satisfy Lady Bedford.
                Olivia grinned. Now it was her mother's turn to blush.

                Next week, our little band of travelers will head out of London. Obviously this will be no ordinary little road trip -we have a couple to get together! What do you think should happen to start that little spark of romance between John and Olivia? Is something going to happen that makes him see her differently? Is she going to realize how kind her really is and get a crush on him? Leave a comment below to move the story along.

Comments are now closed. Please look for the next installment in the story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life Lessons from MarioKart - Volume 2

I like playing MarioKart. Recently I have been trying to achieve a star ranking on each of the Grand Prix sets. I started this because 1) it's more fun if you're playing towards a goal and 2) achieving star rank in all 8 sets on a particular level is supposed to unlock something in the game.

Imagine how upset I was when after many, many, MANY attempts I finally won star ranking on the final race in the set... and didn't win anything.

Sometimes it seems like we work and work and work for something, and when we finish, the reward just isn't there. Our spiritual lives can feel like that. We read our Bibles, spend some time in prayer, and still life seems like a huge mess. Where is the reward?

Well, in MarioKart the reward is that I'm now a much better player. I've spent some quality time with my kids playing the game. I've discussed strategies with my husband. I got a blog post out of it. And, possibly most importantly, I'm that much closer to being able to kick my brother's tail in our next MarioKart rematch.

In our spiritual lives the reward is so much bigger. We've spent some quality time with the Creator of the Universe. We've discussed theology with our fellow Christians. We get something to think about. And, possibly most importantly, we're that much more ready to handle the next curve ball life throws at us.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.4

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. If one suggestion gets overwhelming support, the story will go that direction. If they’re all equally supported, I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  123


                Olivia picked imaginary specks of dirt from her skirts as she sat in the drawing room later that evening. Her parents chatted quietly in the corner, displaying none of the anxiety that swallowed Olivia as she awaited the arrival of their dinner guests.
                At the moment, the house was peaceful and calm. A servant quietly slipped past the drawing room door on her way to who knew what chore. A mere hour ago, the house had been in total uproar. Olivia grimaced as she remembered her mother had not let her get past the name of their expected guests before she began scurrying around, adjusting the menu, demanding the drawing rooms and dining rooms be cleaned once more.
                Olivia decided that she really should let them know why the viscount and his sister were coming to dinner.
                Olivia shifted in her seat and cleared her throat. “Mama? Papa?”
                Her parents turned toward her. Lady Bedford raised both her eyebrows in inquiry at her daughter. “Yes, dear?”
                “Lord Clampton is coming for dinner tonight.”
                Her parents exchanged confused glances. Her father cleared his throat. “We are aware of that. I do believe it’s why your mother has been scrambling about all afternoon.”
                “Yes, well, you see, he’s coming for a reason. He wants to discuss details and things with you-“
                “Thank heavens!” her mother cried, clasping her hands to her chest. “I thought you would go all season without even a serious suitor the way you despise all the social events we have attended. And now you’re going to get married!”
                “What?” Olivia paled. “No, Mama, I’m not-“
                “My dear, did you hear? Olivia’s engaged!”
                Lord Bedford scratched his head as he looked back and forth between his wife and daughter. “I think she’s trying to tell you –“
                “Do you think it’s too late to add chicken to the menu tonight? We really should make it a celebratory –“
                Lady Bedford blinked. “What, dear?”
                “Lord Clampton, Miss Clampton, and Mrs. Ruggiford.”
                Everyone froze as the butler announced the arrival of their dinner guests. Olivia winced as her mother gasped next to her. Mrs. Ruggiford must be the aunt. Olivia hadn’t known the aunt was coming and therefore her mother didn’t know the aunt was coming which meant the housekeeper didn’t know either and by extension the staff who prepped the dining room would be clueless as well. This was not good.
                Lord Clampton entered, a young woman with wide green eyes and an even wider smile on his arm. Behind him, seeming a big preoccupied with the fit of her glove, was an older woman Olivia guessed to be the aunt.
                “Good evening,” Lord Clampton said.
                The words broke the odd spell holding Olivia’s little family captive in the middle of the drawing room rug. Lady Bedford sprang forward, a huge smile on her face.
                “Welcome, Lord Clampton, we are so excited to see you. May I be the first to offer you felicitations?”
“Well, yes. For your upcoming marriage?”
Lord Clampton’s eyebrows rose. “Whom am I marrying?”
Lady Bedford seemed instantly flustered. “Well, Olivia said – I thought –“
“Oh, they’re not getting married.”
The Bedfords all turned to the girl on Lord Clampton’s arm. She giggled.
“Unless, of course, they fall in love on the trip. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’m so excited about the trip. We were going to be traveling anyway, and I love my aunt – really, I do – but it would be so tiresome with only her and my big brother for company. Now that Lady Olivia is coming with us, it’s sure to be all sorts of fun, don’t you agree? You do bring up a very intriguing idea, though, Lady Bedford. If Lady Olivia’s company is half as good as John says it will be, I shall make it my life’s work to see that they fall madly in love so that I can keep her with the family forever. “
Olivia’s mother blinked very slowly. Her father’s mouth fell slightly open.
Olivia felt her eyes get wider and wider as the speech progressed. Did this young lady possess any social skills whatsoever?
Finally, Lord Bedford turned to his daughter. “You’re going on a trip?”
Olivia opened her mouth to speak, but Lord Clampton’s sister’s voice filled the room first.
“Oh, yes! We’re taking Aunt Lillian up to visit her particular friend, Lady Mulligan. We call her Aunt Bertha, even though she’s of no real relation to us. We plan on taking our time and seeing some of the country as we go. I’ve never been outside of Cornwall until coming to London this year. John says it would benefit me to travel a bit and meet people in the country before my coming out next year.”
“I, uh, think that might be wise,” Olivia murmured. What had she gotten herself into?
Lord Clampton, whose given name evidently was John, visibly squeezed his sister’s hand, a pained look on his face. Oblivious, the young girl simply smiled up at him and patted his hand reassuringly.
Lord Clampton sighed. “Sister dear, this is Lady Olivia and her parents, Lord and Lady Bedford. Lady Olivia, may I present my sister, Lady Miniford and my aunt –“
“Please, call me Minnie. That’s what my family calls me and we shall be such good friends on this trip that I know we’ll be just like family.”
Olivia couldn’t help but smile. Once one got past the shock of the verbal onslaught, the girl was really quite sweet. With a little guidance on thinking before she spoke, Lord Clampton’s sister would be able to take London by storm during her debut Season. Olivia decided she was just the person to make that happen.
“Minnie, I insist you call me Olivia.” When Minnie took a deep breath, preparing to launch into yet another surely inappropriate monologue, Olivia broke her mother’s rules of decorum and held a hand up in front of the girl’s face. “Now, now, let’s not try to get to know everything about each other right now. We’ve many miles of road ahead of us to share all those wonderful little tidbits. For now, we should let my parents discuss the details of the trip with your brother. The sooner everything is settled, the sooner we can be off.”
Minnie nodded enthusiastically, light brown curls dancing around her head.
Lord Clampton sighed in relief. His eyes met Olivia’s and she thought there might be a hint of gratitude in their depths.
Mrs. Ruggiford picked that moment to enter the conversation. “Thin enough as it is. No need to waste away while you people yap. When do we eat?”
Silence once more reigned in the drawing room.
Finally Lord Clampton laughed and offered Mrs. Ruggiford his arm. “May I escort you to dinner?”
                The older woman nodded. “More like it.”
                Olivia trailed the group down the hall, a small smile on her lips. Her trip would surely be anything but boring. It turned out dinner was going to be fairly exciting as well.

                Now that you’ve met the aunt and the sister, you know there’s going to be some hilarious social faux pas in their future, starting with dinner. What crazy thing do you think is going to happen? It can be the aunt or Minnie. Or maybe you’d rather see Olivia step up and do something crazy so that Minnie won’t be embarrassed?
Jacob and Elizabeth, I really love your suggestions even though they didn’t get selected this week. I think both of those ideas would make great books. Keep an eye out… one day your suggestions might just be on the bookshelf!

Comments are now closed. Check for the next installment. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


It's NaNoWriMo!

If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it is National Novel Writing Month. You can sign up here to track your progress and talk to other writers. The idea is to buckle down and write a 50,000+ word novel in one month. I'm planning on spinning out the first draft of my next book.

Are you participating?