Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Labor Day weekend, one of the occupants of our home (raising hand in air as the guilty party) freaked out at the rapidly growing blackness that had been spreading across the backsplash behind the kitchen sink.

It had started as a few gnarly looking spots that ,while not pleasing to the eye, weren’t all that noticeable.

Then, as the summer progressed, so did the icky stain behind the “tile.”

When the dark stains began to seemingly multiple overnight, we decided to rip it out and replace it. (It was not a long thought-out decision, but one of haste driven by panic!) I had visions of black mold taking over the entire kitchen. Every worst-case scenario flew through my head.

It took no time to pull off the backsplash and discover three startling facts:

  1. The backsplash “tile” was not tile at all but vinyl flooring.
  2. The “tile” had been attached to thin sticks (think shims) and glued to the wall.
  3. There was not a lick of sheetrock to be found behind the whole mess.

Since we hope to completely gut the kitchen and do a major renovation in a few years, we just needed a temporary fix. But one better than than flimsy sticks and linoleum.

So I did some searching online and found Smart Tiles. These are basically big 3-D stickers that look like real tile. You can get them in a variety of patterns and styles.

There are a number of companies that produce them, but Smart Tiles was the only one I found that guarantee their tiles to stick. (Yes, I read enough Amazon reviews on the various tiles to know that can be a problem if you don’t follow the directions.)

The tiles can be applied over a variety of surfaces, but our problem was we basically had nothing to attach them to beyond the studs from the walls. Our first step was to put up sheet rock.

Only the tiles won’t stick to sheet rock. So we painted them with primer made specifically for sheet rock (which has to cure for 72 hours before you can attach the tiles).

kitchen 3.jpg

When the waiting period for the primer was over, I assembled my tools, which included a cutting mat, an exacto knife, and a ruler.

The tiles I chose are glossy subway-style tiles. They come so the ends notch together seamlessly. In a corner, you simply cut away the notches to get a straight edge. Super easy!

And applying them to the wall was a very simple process.

kitchen 2

I couldn’t be happier with the end result. Are they tiles that will last for twenty years? No. But they will look nice until we get around to that full-blown kitchen remodel!

The day we ripped out the backsplash, I decided since the kitchen was a disaster anyway, I might as well turn on the self-cleaning cycle on my oven.

Apparently, the stove took exception to being cleaned, because it died. Like, totally died, dude!  And since nothing beyond an expensive repair bill would resuscitate it, we decided to order a new one.

I felt pretty fortunate to find a Labor Day sale with appliances 40 percent off, then another 10% discount if I ordered online. So… I talked CC into getting a new refrigerator while we were at it. The fridge we’d been using worked fine, mostly. I’d recently noticed some leaking (and it didn’t have an ice maker or water in the door) so the leak was not a good sign. Seventeen years ago when we bought our house, the fridge came with it and it wasn’t new then. It was time for an upgrade.

The only problem… the appliances would take three weeks to get here.

Three weeks! Since our old fridge was still working, that wasn’t a problem. But three weeks with no stove? Especially when I’m elbow deep in working on recipes for my Cowboy Christmas book project?

It was a long three weeks, but when the appliances arrived this week, I decided it was worth that wait!

kitchen 1

I love, love, love my new stove and fridge!


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One in a Million

roses CC

See these gorgeous roses?

Captain Cavedweller brought them to me, even though today is his birthday.

That’s right… today is his birthday and he brought me roses. Not just any roses, but pink roses which are my favorite.

The sweet gift of the roses embodies everything that makes him one in a million.


I could tell you dozens of the hundreds of reasons I love this guy. I could go on and on about how he’s been a fabulous husband, incredible friend, and one of the best men I’ve ever met.

But I’ll refrain.

Instead, I’ll just say that CC never ceases to amaze me. Never.

As he celebrates his birthday today, I hope he knows how unique and special, wonderful and kind, gentle and good he truly is.

And how very much he is loved.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Captain Cavedweller!

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Girls getaway 2017

I spent time last week with a group of women I love and admire so much. Each year (or as close to annually as we can get), a group of cousins and I take my beloved Aunt Robbie on a little shopping / eating / laughing excursion.

This year, we were on a mission to find my auntie an outfit for her son’s wedding. His beautiful bride-to-be is the tall blond standing by my auntie in the center of the photo (which is from last year’s getaway because we all forgot to snap a photo this year!)

My gracious, but it was hot! At one point, the temperature reading in my car said it was 114 degrees! It was a good thing we spent most of our time inside the mall or the hotel.

We had such fun shopping, laughing with and at each other (thanks for the Malibu Barbie comment, Nanc!), and just enjoying the company – and food! There was plenty of good food, too!

I always look forward to our getaways (which are rarely in the same place two years in a row), because they give me a chance to relax, unwind, and have my heart filled by those fabulous ladies.

On my way home, I stopped to visit my parents. My dad has been wanting me to go with him to my brother’s place and look through some “old stuff” he has stored out there. It just so happened that my brother also had a bunch of blackberry bushes ripe for the picking.


The bushes were sprawled for yards and yards along the ditch near the canal. My other brother met us there and then, covered in long-sleeved shirts and wearing gloves, we started picking. These blackberries were definitely not the thornless variety. In fact, I’ve still got so many little thorns in my fingers, I’m not certain I’ll ever get them all out (and yes, that was with me wearing gloves!)

It was sweltering, but we picked away.  At one point, my brother assured me the best picking was down a steep bank that had no trail, just loose dirt and rocks the size of bread loaves and thistles. So I went down the bank after him and I looked back to see my octogenarian dad trailing us. Assured he made it to the bottom fine, my dad and I got into a system of him pruning back the sprawling blackberry canes while I picked.

When we finished that area and it was time to climb up the bank, I watched as my dad scrambled up that bank like a mountain goat… then he turned around and gave me a hand up. I was amazed that he still runs circles around all of us.

My mom and oldest brother were working on a section of berries right off the canal road bank. Dad went to help them while I settled in to pick a thick patch of berries, fully expecting something to slither out of the bushes at any moment since my brothers were trading rattlesnake stories.

I bent down to pick a bunch of berries and suddenly felt something prick my back. Nothing rattled or hissed, so I straightened and the pricking and poking painfully increased. I dropped the berries in my hand into the bucket at my feet then reached back, trying to figure out what was attacking me. I felt nothing on the outside of the shirt I’d borrowed from Dad. But I could certainly feel it inside.

Trying to decide if a wasp or bee had somehow climbed inside for a ride, I tugged off the long sleeve shirt then flapped the back of my T-shirt, hoping whatever it was would  go away.

By this time, I’m fairly certain I looked like a dog chasing its tail as I spun in a circle, yanked on the back of my shirt and desperately wished the pain would stop. I finally caught the evil perpetrator – a foot-long piece of dried-up blackberry cane with thorns about an inch long covering it. It had gotten tangled in my T-shirt and every time I moved, it poked and scratched.

I tossed it down and glared at the four family members who had completely ignored my shenanigans. Reluctantly, I pulled my borrowed shirt back on and returned to picking berries.

Although the cobbler I made with the berries turned out quite tasty, I told Captain Cavedweller he better enjoy it because I’m not too keen on another blackberry picking expedition.

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Mom and Dad 68th anniversary

Yesterday, Mom and Dad celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. (Wow, right?!?)

A few weeks ago, my dad called and asked what I was doing on August 5th. Well aware of what day it was, I played dumb and asked him what he had in mind. He wanted to go for a drive and meet Captain Cavedweller and me halfway between our two homes (which is about three hours).

My oldest brother and sister-in-law drove Mom and Dad to a little town about an hour from where they live and we met them there for lunch.  It was so nice to see them and be able to celebrate their special day with them. I tried to get them to tell me when and how dad proposed, but they both claim they don’t remember. I might have to do a little more digging to see if I can get the story out of them.

honeymoon camping

I may not know how he proposed or when or where, but I do know they spent their honeymoon camping (which would be my idea of torture!) Here they are at the campsite. I have no idea who took the photo of them, but Dad sure looks like he’s having a great time.

Before we left to meet them yesterday, I was digging around through some old photos and came across a postcard a cousin had given me.

Back in 1949, after they graduated from high school, my dad went on two deployments with the Naval Reserve. One of them was to Alaska, the other to Hawaii.

Naval Reserves 1

Wasn’t he handsome in his uniform!

Anyway, Dad sent a postcard in August to his oldest sister, who was by then married. The postcard showed a photograph of the garden at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel – and it was Kodachrome, a full-color image! The postcard had no address on it, just the town and state where they lived and it was written in pencil – but the words are still crisp and clear even 69 years later!

On the back, Dad had written:

Hi Sis and Hub,

Well, here I am in Honolulu, Hawaii, 3,000 miles from home and my girl, but it is worth it. This is the most beautiful place I ever saw. 

See ya’ 

I thought it was so cute he mentioned Mom and was thinking of her even then.  He did bring her back a few treasures.

Mom and Aunt Rob grass skirt

Including this grass skirt outfit.  Love mom’s beautiful smile. The grinning girl on the steps wearing the Hawaiian Island t-shirt (most likely a gift from dad) is dad’s sister, my beloved Aunt Robbie.

I just loved this little peek into their courting days.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Here’s to more wonderful years together.

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On our drive home from Reno a few weeks ago, Captain Cavedweller and I made a side trip so we could see the Painted Hills in Central Oregon.

We’d driven past them before, but we hadn’t taken time to stop and really take some photos. I thought I’d share some of them with you today.

The Painted Hills are one one of three units that comprise the John Day Fossil Beds. I did a post a few years ago about the John Day Fossil Beds here.

Maintained by the National Park Service, there are three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds: Clarno, Painted Hills and Sheep Rock.

In the Sheep Rock Unit you’ll not only find great places to hike on trails and take in unbelievable views, you’ll also discover the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and The James Cant Ranch.

Many people don’t know that most of Oregon was once like a tropical rain forest. The Paleontology Center takes visitors through 40 million years of history through a collection of fossil specimens and large murals that are incredibly informative and interesting.

The Sheep Rock Unit isn’t too far from the Painted Hills unit.

1 PH a

The Painted Hills are a few miles off the highway, but easy to get to.

1 PH b


1 rock crib

I love old rock cribs!

1 PH g

Aren’t the colors amazing?


1 PH f

This one almost makes me think of ancient fingers or toes spread out. (I know I’m weird!)

1 PH e

I wonder what the pioneers who traveled through this area thought of the colored hills.

1 PH d

I bet they found them just as fascinating as we do today.


1 PH c

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Painted Hills, make the trip and the time. It’s worth it!

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When Captain Cavedweller and I were in Reno for the RT Convention a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos.

I thought I’d share some of them with you today, just for fun.


We stayed at the Peppermill Resort. It was a lovely property with very nice rooms and plenty of places to eat and hang out.

One day, we ventured to Virginia City. If it hadn’t been freezing outside and pouring down buckets of rain, I would have taken oodles of photos.

On the way there, we saw a few of these signs.


We’re used to seeing signs with cattle and deer, but horses was new. And so awesome. We actually saw two groups of wild horses on our drive to Virginia City. Drat the rain. If it had been a clear day, I would have snapped a bunch of photos. (Part of reluctance to get out of the vehicle was the fact it was so cold and we hadn’t brought coats… it was May and supposed to be warm!).

We arrived in Virginia City where it went from pouring rain to a complete deluge. Seriously, I haven’t seen it rain that hard in a while. We wandered through a few stores, spent a small fortune on two glass bottles of pop, then grabbed some lunch.

In need of somewhere warm and dry to hang out for a while, we went to an old school house turned into a marvelous museum. The Historic Fourth Ward School is offers a glimpse into not only the school’s past, but also that of the area, especially the mines.

One room had several photos of miners. I was quite disturbed to see so many children working in the mines.


But the photo of the brash lad with a cigar left me utterly unsettled and so longing to know his story.

On our way back from Virginia City, the temperature dropped, it started to snow, mudslides dumped rocks all over the road (one of which we hit) and blew out a tire. If it wasn’t for a super helpful state trooper, one of us might have died of frostbite before the other one got the tire fixed. Did I mentioned we were on an incline?

We did make it back to the hotel in time for the event I had that evening. Whew!

Another day, we decided to take a drive (after CC purchased a new tire and got the spare back in place) to Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had seen it before.

I think the best way to sum it up is this:


A lake 1

We drove from Reno to Carson City then headed north around the lake.

A lake 3

The blues were so intense and gorgeous.

A lake 2

And it was a beautiful day for a drive.

A lake 4

It really was quite spectacular to see.

A trees 1

We drove to Incline Village and wandered around the visitor’s center a bit. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs before we made the drive back to Reno.


I think we took more photos of the two of us together that week than we have in the past year (or three).

One big, exciting evening was the night of the RT Book Awards.

Garden of Her Heart received the RT Review Source Award. While I was super excited about my book being chosen for the award, I was a lot less excited about getting up on stage and giving a speech. Even if the speech was brief, it felt like it lasted half of eternity.  (That’s actress Meg Tilly in the background. She was one of the emcees.)

awards 1

So here I am giving my little speech. Introverts really aren’t genetically programmed to enjoy this type of thing.

award 2

And here is my beautiful award that I’m so incredibly honored to have received.

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Girl  reading a book

I spent many, many hours during my childhood shadowing my dad’s every move on our farm or trying to squirm out of learning the “domestic skills” my mother deemed necessary for my future existence.

But I also spent hours on fantastic adventures I took through books. I’ve always, always loved to read. That love, coupled with my fertile imagination, has allowed me to traveled around the world and across time. I’ve soaked up the sun on Pacific islands, trudged through dark forests, smelled the spices of exotic lands, and ridden fire-breathing dragons all through wonderfully written stories.

And while I still love to take adventures through the books I read, I also love to write stories that take readers on a journey.  My active imagination is rarely quiet, always thinking of something new and exciting.

z imagination 5

Recently, I’ve been thinking about imaginations and how important they are.

z imagination 4

I think as we grow older, we tend to imagine and dream less because we have so much reality to handle every day. That’s why I think it’s so important to keep on dreaming, keep on imagining, keep on laughing!

z imagination 2

The world truly is a canvas for our imaginations. We can paint any color, shape, pattern or design we like. All we have to do is pick up the brush (imagination) and get started.

z imagination 3

Imaginations can take us anywhere we want to go. Anywhere.

With virtual reality becoming a tangible thing, I hope we never lose the ability to stare up at the stars and get lost in our imaginations.


May you always find at least a few stolen moments to let your imagination run wild.


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