Thursday, December 30, 2010

smoky mountain memories...

I couldn't resist posting a picture of a snowy fort as this is where my writing mind and heart have been over the holidays. I've also been missing you readers here, wondering what you've been up to this past month! Hoping there were some good books beneath your tree! If so, I'd love to hear about them:) One of my Kentucky aunts and uncles sent me a HUGE Mark Twain biography full of fascinating pictures. Bye bye, Daniel Boone...

Here are me and my men tucked away at a Smoky Mountain retreat part of December. We even had snow! For the last 30 years my father's family has celebrated Christmas in Tennessee and we were able to go this year and enjoy all the merriment:) The best gift of all was the big guy at left on the sofa. That's my brother, Chris, who flew in from Spain and surprised me by showing up on our doorstep. My mother said it's the first time she's ever seen me speechless:)

This was our wonderful holiday dinner ~ country ham, deep fried turkeys, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, strawberry pretzel salad, Red Velvet Cake and much more! Needless to say, I'll need some stays to fit into that 18th-century gown I'm dying to tell you about...

A dear reading friend in Kentucky sent me this angel ornament and it was the first one I hung on our tree. Bless you, Patti! I so appreciate the cards folks sent my way and those of you who kept in touch via email and snail mail, etc. Also, many, many thanks for those of you who took time to post book reviews during your busy holiday! A month is a long break but it was wonderful simply spending time with my family and resting in the Lord's goodness.

I'd love to hear about your holiday and ways the Lord blessed your socks off as my dear friend Julie Lessman often says:) Be as long-winded as you like. A month is a long time for friends to be apart!


  1. Laura! I've missed seeing you around on the internet. It looks like you had a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Ruth, It's wonderful to return from your neck of the woods:) I hope you enjoyed the snow as much as I did. I just wish we'd had time to do lunch at least!! I must confess I've been up to some Richard Armitage mischief on episode 4 of Robin Hood. Oh. My. Word...:)

  3. Forgot to add, CML made my 2010 retrospective. :)

  4. Oooohhh, yay for Robin Hood & all things Richard Armitage-related! You'll have to keep me posted on your progress and thoughts on the show. :) And goodness, I wish we could've done lunch too! Maybe someday... :)

  5. You are so classy. Love the "retrospective" part:) I'll be over...

  6. Classy? LOL...I'll take it. :) Thanks, my friend!

  7. Oh, how lovely Laura! I've missed your presence (although mine has been somewhat scarce lately)! What a lovely spread! And how neat that your brother came!

    I'm still recovering from the luscious steak & potatoes my cooking-school brother made us yesterday :).

    Reading a wonderful book with the hubby, Wrestling Prayer by Eric & Leslie Ludy. Recommended by Amanda and its fantastic!

  8. So goooood to have you back!! I have missed your blog posts! The pictures are lovely and what a fun surprise to see your brother! I can only imagine how thrilling that must have been. :)

  9. Hi, Laura! Thanks for sharing the great pictures of your Christmas memories. Looks like you had a special time with your lovely family. I did miss stopping in at your blog to visit!

    During vacation, I read a great suspense novel by Sibella Giorello and now I'm starting on The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy for a blog tour. I'm unfamiliar with her books. Have you read any?

    This weekend, I plan to work on building my back-to-school-after-vacation enthusiasm because I think I'll need that when I welcome the students on Monday morning. Do you have to help your boys to be ready to face schoolwork again? Maybe looking forward to seeing friends helps!

    BTW, I stumbled on a fun website while I was out and about on the internet and couldn't remember if it was one Renee Steeler Girl had already shared with you. It's (I was afraid to make a hyperlink in case your comment moderation might think I was a spammer!)

    So good to have you back at your blog!

  10. Welcome back, Laura! You have definitely been missed, my friend.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time in Tennessee. It is so wonderful that your brother flew in from Spain to surprise you. I bet that made your Christmas.

    Your holiday dinner looks wonderful. My freezer is currently full of ham from our Christmas dinner. There's also a container of macaroni salad in the refrigerator. As for Red Velvet cake, I've developed a habit in the last month. Every time I go into Kroger I seem to walk out with two slices of red velvet cake, or red velvet cupcakes.

    I had a very good Christmas. Of course, I did mention to you on facebook that I'd gotten North and South. Needless to say, I'll be watching that this weekend. How are you enjoying Robin Hood?

    I have more to tell about the last month, but I only have ten minutes of lunch left. So I'll come back and comment again later this afternoon.

  11. Julia,
    I've thought of you so much over break and hope the littles had a wonderful holiday:) I heard about all your snow belatedly and supposed you are still digging out? Your cooking school brother would be welcome at my house! Mine can't cook but he can eat:) These dear brothers of ours...

    Leave it to Amanda to steer you to a great book! I've heard of the Ludys and you've sparked my interest. I think it's so neat that you and Chris read/share books together. I find that quite romantic, actually!

  12. Casey, Sooooo good to see u here:) I know you've had a busy month as I've been checking in on you! Just saw your top reads and can't thank you enough for that! Here's to more great blog posts and wonderful reads in 2011!!

  13. Renee Ann, I can just imagine you with a book in hand, reading by the fire (if you have one!), all that NY snow outside your window:)

    I did, in fact, post a review of Patti's An Irishwoman's Tale on CBD. We had lunch together in Indy and she is really incredible. On our way back to the hotel she stopped to talk to a homeless man on the street, prayed with him, and gave him her lunch. It was so moving and heartfelt. I get teary-eyed just remembering it. I hope Patti doesn't mind my telling that here. We need more Pattis in the world! So to answer your question, YES, I'm familiar with Patti. I'm looking forward to her book with Bethany House coming out in the fall of 2011. She's a gifted writer and a wonderful example of someone who's not ME-centered in a self-saturated industry/world. She has a very interesting blog, as well.

    I thought this might be your final vacation week and wanted to sneak this post in before you went back in case I missed you somehow! My boys have missed their friends, like you said, so it's easy for them to return Monday bright and early. I've enjoyed the slack schedule with them and will miss them when they go (well, 5 minutes maybe till I get back to writing again).

    I'm off to look at your link - thanks to you and Renee for that! I need to catch up on my blog visiting and reading. I've missed you all!

  14. Laura, I'm on my way out the door but wanted to say that the story you shared about Patti really touched my heart! Thanks so much. I'll be back later to see who else has commented and visit some more . . . Blessings, all!

  15. Bless you, Renee Ann, for saying so. I think what touched me most was that she got down on her knees to pray with this man as he was sitting on the sidewalk. There are many homeless people in Indy, like Seattle here - the numbers I encountered blew me away. I keep remembering the verse "if you give a cup of water in my name..." Patti did just that.

    Yes, please stop back by! I so enjoy visiting with you.

  16. Laura,

    LOL, we always are digging our way out here. NYC is what got hit the worst though (where my brother lives).

    Our reading room has a brick fireplace, a black and white photo of Longfellow...looks a bit romantic actually too, I guess. Chris is thinking about writing a bit, would be fun to collaborate :)

    Thank you so much for the prayers! I do have a testimony for December I suppose. Right around Thanksgiving I pulled a muscle in my back. Now I've had discomfort in my lower back for years but I thought it was just something to do with having kids and all the wear and tear that involves. Well, that finally got me to the chiropractor (something my husband's been trying to do for a while). The chiropractic made things worse so after a few weeks they sent me in for an x-ray. The issue was rotoscoliosis which had worsened over time and a broken tailbone (which I never even knew I had). Well long story short through exercises and adjustments (I feel like I spent most of December at the chiropractors...but its so worth it) not only am I feeling better but my flexibility is better. And I'm hopeful because my Dad had some severe back problems and they are seeking to prevent these issues. So God knew right when to get me to the doctor. I'm very thankful to Him!

  17. Michelle! Wonderful to see you again. I'm counting down the months till I meet you in person:) I'm going to post about that next week, Lord willing...

    LOL - I wonder if we shop the same Kroger?! Don't laugh but I bought a Red Velvet cake at the Kroger in Richmond. YUM. You're as hooked as I am, apparantly! I used to make them but couldn't whip one up on the road and Kroger came through. As for your ham, I never get tired of that, either. And macaroni salad is only second to Sam's Club chicken salad in my book:)

    I can't tell you how much knowing you rec'd N&S left me smiling:) I was going to rewatch this month but need absolute quiet and lots of Kleenex and have had neither. We just finished episode 3 of Robin Hood last night and it is sooo good. I was prepared to have a bit of a jar watching RA as a bad man. But I'm finding he's something of a reluctant villain. Or maybe I just want him to be? Whether good or bad, he serves up plenty of swoon-worthy effect! I'll never be able to move beyond my love of John Thornton, however... Unless I succumb to a certain troll/elf in The Hobbit:)

    BTW, the traffic on New Circle Road is just terrible do you navigate all that?!

  18. Merry Christmas Laura! You've been missed! that's so awesome about the surprise of your brother's visit. I'm sure it was a magical christmas!

    Now that the new year is almost here I'm happily planning for 2011. I'm hoping to save up enough money from art to go to Williamsburg to celebrate my birthday next year :)

    Cant wait to hear all about your writing adventures for 2011!~

  19. Welcome back Laura! Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas. Glad you're back though. Missed you <<>>.

  20. Heather,
    Magical is the right word! Having Chris there made it so meaningful for my mom, especially. She rarely has us on the same continent, not to mention the same house:)

    Your Williamsburg goal sounds wonderful. Wish I could tag along! I've had that on my to-do list for the last couple of years myself. To think it's only a few hours from my home in KY!

    Looking forward to seeing more of your artwork this coming year. I'll be talking a bit about my writing and how that's going soon. Up to page 260 now but it's only first draft on The Ballantyne Legacy. Have a stellar title but can't post as I fear someone might nab it. Oh, the joys of publishing...

    Hope you and Will and little Miss A are all well!

  21. Julia,
    Oh I'm so glad you're better. I remember reading earlier this month that you were having some health struggles and I didn't want to press you so just took it to Him in prayer. God really does intervene and save us when we don't know what to do! That said, you must have a very high pain tolerance. Randy had a broken tailbone from a hike he took the boys on last year and it was quite an ordeal and he never complains either. We had to buy a special seat and everything... So thankful for you! I also have been keeping your mom in mind. Praying this new year brings us blessings health-wise. Thanks so much for sharing your testimony. You just never know who needs it and is blessed!

  22. Dawn, So happy to see you here, dear writing friend! I've been hearing great things about your writing through Lorna:) I'm sure in your corner and hope this year brings you great news. It's good to be back as I've missed friends like you!

  23. I am so looking forward to meeting you, Laura!

    I definitely agree with you about New Circle. One of the advantages of working from home, is I'm not on New Circle very often during the week. It's horrible though, and so is Nicholasville Road.

    I had a wonderful Christmas. My stepdad finally got his wish for a white Christmas. When I left on Sunday, there was 6 inches of snow on top of his truck. My mom said they ended up with 12-15 inches.

    I did end up getting books for Christmas, six of them. Right now I'm reading The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen.

  24. oooh, love the fort photo and I'm dying to hear about your dress. I've been looking at patterns and how I can adjust to my tastes, as I'm pretty set on making one for Sept!

    And I'm waving to Julia, we're practically neighbors. Who knew 30 could feel so warm!

    So, Laura, I almost made that rash purchase of the first season of Robin Hood but I'm going to watch it on netflix first. I don't need RA messing up my current hero, either!

    Sending blessings and grins your way for a wonderful New Year. In fact, Happy New Year to all of you. I've got a good feeling it's going to be a great one!

  25. Laura! I'm so glad to see you back! And your brother came in from Spain? How wonderful was THAT?

    Again, your meal looks scrumptious. My MIL makes Strawberry pretzel salad, and nobody in the family makes it as well as she does - that and corn pudding. I'm practicing, though! I never want us to be without it!

    I was able to spend time with my grandmother this week - she celebrated her 90th birthday on Monday! Being with her, and with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, makes me appreciate so much the research you do in writing. Unfortunately, my Grandmother's mind is getting sketchy, so those stories I've heard all my life are even more important, and need to be recorded.

    Not much going on now in my neck of KY. It's supposed to hit the 60's tomorrow and storm, and I'm not looking forward to that! Spending time with good friends this weekend, and hopefully meeting my eldest daughter's new boyfriend. :) Youngest at a youth retreat in Gatlinburg, return tomorrow. We're childless for a few days!

    I've missed you, Laura! I'm counting the days until St. Louis ACFW, and hope beyond hope that we can both be there again - I need another one of your hugs!

    In the meantime, I write!

    Bless you, and Happy New Year!!

  26. Welcome back. Love, love the snowy fort picture! So glad you had a good Christmas with family, and go to see your brother. Missed you here and there on line!

  27. Hey Laura!I am glad that your Christmas was special with your brother being there. It's odd but December came and went quicker than all of the other months, because I barely remember the beginning. I did read a few good books, including your own! Right now I am reading Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar.


    It is so wonderful to see you, my friend!! I'm so happy you and you family had a great Christmas and so blessed to hear you got surprised by your dear brother- what a present! You look so pretty in that picture, glowing with such JOY, then again you always do in your pictures :)

    And isn't that Robin Hood series cool? Richard Armitage definitely plays his role well and it is so different from John Thornton. Wait... are you watching the episodes or listening to them? Probably should have asked before I rambled ;)

    We had a wonderful Christmas, especially since my dad made it back home safe and sound and in time for it! Thank you again for your prayers for him. You are truly a blessing :)

    Praying you and your family have a beautiful New Year filled with the blessings and JOY of the Lord!!

    Love & Blessings,
    Amanda Stanley

    P.S.- Julia is right, Wrestling Prayer is a fantastic book! I'm currently reading it too :D Eric & Leslie Ludy have such a fire for Christ! I encourage you to check them out whenever you have time. Here is the link to their website if you're interested and the short videos on their homepage are incredibly soul-stirring!

  29. Michelle,
    Oh, I really want to read Julie's latest. The cover is beautiful. I miss all things English.

    Wow! Pike Co got a lot of snow!! Now looks like you're in for a heatwave:) I love a white Christmas so can understand your stepdad's wish completely. We had to settle for a white Thanksgiving but it was pretty magical.

    OH YES - Nicholasville RD! I forgot to mention my brother took a wrong turn on Tates Creek and we ended up stuck on Nich. for a nice long chat:) Didn't help that there was an accident... Glad you can steer clear of the traffic. Of course, personally, I would gladly sit in traffic to get to Panera's on Richmond Road...

    Bless u as you read!

  30. Debra, You sound like a seamstress to me, you woman of many talents!! Check out the costume link via Renee Ann here - very interesting and such pretty offerings at reasonable prices! I would give anything to sew...

    I well understand the dangers of RA messing up your current hero. He is certainly messing with mine! I lack your willpower as I broke down and ordered a very inexpensive special of him as the hero on The Vicar of Dibley. Sigh. Will have to post about that as it's in the mail. RA as villain is quite spectacular:)

    Praying you have an amazing 2011. I absolutely love your blog!!

  31. Regina, So wonderful to see you here as I've missed you and have been wondering how the writing is going. Well, sounds like it's going very well:) Prayers with you all the way!

    I so relate to your delight at spending time with your granny. Mine has been been gone for about 4 years and I continue to think of things I wished I'd asked her. She was nearly 100 when she died (I dedicated TFD to her) and so she lived through so much history. It's a good thing to write down the things they tell us as they are priceless.

    Oh, YES! Corn pudding! Another favorite:) And I didn't make that strawberry pretzel salad when I came home like I planned because my aunt Janice had it down perfectly and I figured mine might flop...

    Yes, St. Louis is right around the corner. I would love to come. Maybe I could just stay in KY from my book launch in August till then:)

    You sound so busy but happy! Bless you for making my day here!

  32. Lori, I just knew you'd like the fort picture. And I may be wrong, but I could swear that's a native walking alongside that horse in the foreground:) Very bleak and realistic-looking just as it was. I've sure missed you while away but thought of you and am glad we can check in through the web. Love your reading list this past year you just posted! You are amazing!

  33. Amanda!!
    I thought of you and your family so often and am so happy to hear your dad made it home safe and sound! You must have had a wonderful Christmas. I'm thinking it's pretty white where you are right now for New Years!

    Being in TN/KY over December was a wonderful treat, esp. with Chris appearing. God has great timing! It was such a blessing for all of us. My boys just love him to death. He is definitely a fun uncle, always fooling with the latest gadgets and showing them hilarious stuff. They sometimes say they want to go live with him (he has 4 kids) as they are always traveling and bungee jumping and climbing up cliffs and the like. I am just plain boring with my head in a book!

    I am really enjoying the Robin Hood series on DVD - didn't even know they were on audio! RA makes such a delicious villain and I sense he does have a good side beneath all that rascaly Sir Guy business but I may be proved wrong. He kind of upstages everyone around him. Randy is really liking it as is the boys. I'm hoping it stays as clean and bloodless as it has been (we're only 4 episodes in).

    Thanks so much for the Ludy links as I'd love to see the vids, etc. Love your wording of being on fire for Christ! That's certainly the desire of my heart!! And yours, too, I know!

    So glad to see you here. I was waiting for you:)

  34. Adge,
    Oh I bet you'll love Tessa's book! The cover is so evocative and beautiful. I met her in Monterey recently (if you look back at the pics I posted she's at my table). And she's the most delightful, interesting, TINY author! Her background is absolutely fascinating. I have her on my list to read.

    I'm hoping you had a great December/holiday season. Mine was a bit of a blur, too, with so much stuffed in.

    I came home and found your review of CML and it blessed me so very much. It was definitely a Christmas gift to me. Thanks so much for taking time to do that. I'm thrilled you liked Morrow's story. Happy New Year!

  35. Oh yes, this Robin Hood series comes in audiobooks. You can find them on iTunes but I think there is only 4 episodes- BUT they are all read by Richard!!

    So happy you're actually watching the series as it is one of my favorites! I recommend all of seasons 1 and 2 (I have those on DVD) but once season 3 rolled around the contents got questionable. I think it was the writers last ditch effort to hold onto more seasons, but it really wasn't worth watching.

    I think the cast in this series is awesome! The Sheriff is hilarious and I think Robin is pretty cute, too ;) And I love the girl who plays Marian- though I think her acting is much better in season 2. And I think I told you this before so I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself, but the guy who plays Will Scarlet is the great-great-great grandson of Charles Dickens! He actually had a small role in the 1999 version of David Copperfield. Very cool :D But, you're right, Richard does kind of upstage everyone around him. He certainly takes his role seriously ;) He becomes much more human and a more likable villain though once you get to the 2nd season. It's cool to see that change in him through the seasons.

    I hope you all continue to enjoy this show. It's nice (and rare) to find something the whole family can enjoy :)

    Amanda Stanley

  36. Amanda, Thanks so much for the input on the series - we are really loving every minute and it's a true pleasure to find something the whole family can watch w/o commercials! I can just imagine listening to the audio. I've always had a hard time "listening" as my mind wanders but RA might well keep me captivated with his reading:) His voice is God-given, that's for sure. There are so many great audio-books out there, I need to give it another go...

    Can't wait to get further into the series. I'm going to post about it plus some other keepers I've found:) Need another viewing of North&South...with lots of Kleenex, of course! Bless you so much and hope you have some wonderful things happen to bring in your New Year!

  37. Laura, it's so good to have you back online! We missed you so much, but sure hope you were blessed and refreshed with your "down" time. I love that snowy fort scene and am sure you'll enjoy your new book!

    Your family Christmas looks delicious and so much fun. You look so HAPPY! We had a quiet, but nice Christmas with our sons and saw the new Chronicles of Narnia movies together. We just celebrated with my Mom over New Year's since she was out of state with my brother's family over Christmas and even got to see the Rockettes in Boston.
    I got several new novels for Christmas and am reading Liberty's Promise (a colonial) by Amber Stockton now.

  38. Carla, I've missed you a great deal!! And yes, I was feeling so happy that day surrounded by the most important men in my life:) I know you know the feeling, being a mom of 2 boys! They never stop being our boys no matter how old they are:)

    It's wonderful hearing the highlights of your own Christmas. My heart/thoughts/prayers were with you as you and your family celebrated while missing your loved one.

    I'm so happy to hear you're on a colonial kick! Me, too:) I really loathe moving into the 19th-century... But at least for this next book I'm still adrift in the late 18th-c. I'd love to read Amber's book as I think it's a 3 in 1 volume and is colonial also?

    Bless you bunches for checking in here. It really has made my Sunday!!

  39. I happened to mention that I'd ordered "The Vicar of Dibley: A Holy Wholly Happy Ending" with Richard Armitage.

    That said, this DVD is NOT holy nor happy. I'd forgotten how irreverent/ribald British comedy could be and so naively dove into the first episode! I heretofore withdraw my endorsement...

    Thank heavens we have North&South and Robin Hood...

  40. Amanda, I forgot to mention how cool the info is about Will Scarlet and Dickens! I'd forgotten that and am glad you mentioned it again, you Queen of interesting facts:)

  41. YES and one of them will be The Colonel's Lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

  42. Wow it looks like you had a blast this Christmas and that food looks sooo yummy! I see from the comments that you also are enjoying Robin Hood, that's great! I have to say that the best movie I watched during the holdiay season was Little Richard Armitage but Matthew MacFadyen from Pride and Prejudice (2005)was in it so it was pretty awesome! Like Ruth, Morrow made my Top Ten list but you already knew that LOL!

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful New year! I missed seeing you around blog land!

    XOXO~ Renee C.

  43. Oh my I did see The Vicar of Dibley and while I loved that the lead Dawn French (can't remember her character's name) was not the typical skin and bones girl it was rather...uh rather ribald as you stated. Let's just put it on mute. :-P

    XOXO~ Renee

  44. Renee, IT'S YOU! Twice:) How'd I manage that, I wonder?! I'm so glad you had some merry movie watching during the holidays. Little Dorrit sounds very good, Richard Armitage or no:) And I laughed out loud at your MUTE suggestion for Vicar of Dibley. THAT would solve the problem. Then we could just hit audio when Richard appears as he is quite sweet in this and says not one shameful thing. And I'm like you, I love that Dawn is a plus-sized heroine that he falls for straightaway:)

    We are LOVING Robin Hood. Up to episode 6 (I think) - we eek out one a night to savor it. I have to make my cup of English tea go go with, of course... Don't quite know what to do with myself once it ends. Little Dorrit maybe!!

    Thanks again for honoring me with your top 10 list:) I've been smiling about that ever since. Will see you on your blog!

  45. BTW, this is probably old hat for you, Renee, but we did watch ELF over the holidays, the one movie that makes me laugh hysterically no matter how many times I watch it! There's just something about that one that is so funny. I need to get around to watching the rest of Eliz. Gaskell's dramas. Wonder if Jules is watching anything aboard the Love Boat? Did you hear if she ever watched North&South? Bless u!

  46. I've enjoyed all the comments and just thought I'd speak up.

    Laura, Wives and Daughters is one of my favorite mini-series. I haven't read the book by Elizabeth Gaskell but I have read the Cranford collection.

    I think you'll really like it, full of her look at social issues and a sweet love story.

    No one can replace John Thornton, though...

  47. I'm not sure if she watched it or not. I know I got a note from her around Christmas saying that she was going to watch it ASAP but I never heard back. I'll bet she's sittin' pretty right now on the deck of that ship....I'm a tad jealous LOL

    I have seen Elf but believe it or not I didn't watch it this year! I didn't watch many Christmas movies other than An Old Fashioned Christmas on the Hallmark channel which I didn't like very much but we won't get into that. I have the feeling if I had seen An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving I would have liked the Christmas movie more.

    I hope you get to see the rest of Elizabeth Gaskell based movies. Cranford and Return to Cranford are incredible and so is Wives and Daughters. I think you'll enjoy them.

    XOXO~ Renee C.

  48. NO ONE can replace John Thornton, indeed! Now that we've cleared that little issue up... He called it the role of a lifetime which it is, IMHO.

    I appreciate hearing how much you liked W&D as that is next on my list, Lord willing:) I find reading Gaskell very different than watching! Definitely old-style narrative and heavy reading though beautifully written. We are enjoying the dickens out of Robin Hood. There was a stupendous fight scene between he and Robin in the woods surrounding the tattoo last night and it made me wish I was writing an 11th-century novel:)

    Bless you, Debra!

  49. Renee, I think we should talk Jules into hosting a Love Boat cruise for readers, huh? With nonstop North&South viewings while aboard:) Given that I'm prone to seasickness, maybe not a good idea...