Monday, December 29, 2014 more week!

I became a fan last year.  Late bloomer.

Yes.  I am a Downton Abbey devotee.
I am all caught up and ready for the new season.

My favorite character is  The Dowager Countess of Grantham...played by Maggie Smith.  Full of quick wit, she is the matriarchal figure.  Like me, she has difficulty accepting change.  I get that personality quirk.  I can relate.  I find it hard to step in to the new.  It is easy to love this character.  Can't wait to see what she is up to in this new season.  

I found this website interesting.  Downton Abbey is now a destination!

Do you watch?  Who is your favorite?
My morning brew these days. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas

Isaiah 9:6   "...He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..."

Luke 2    "...she wrapped Him and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn...."

Luke 2   "....and all who heard it were amazed...Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart...."

"....Glory to God in the highest...and on earth peace...."

 On this Christmas day, I wish you PEACE.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Enjoy the sounds of Gloucester Cathedral Choir-In the Bleak Midwinter.

Oh to have a voice such as these.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The walk

That momentous walk across the stage.

She has been waiting for years.      

Saturday was it.
Her time.

She occasionally thought it would never happen.  The college road is a long, arduous journey.   It would have been easier on those toilsome days to just hang it up, but she didn't.  She pushed through  and never quit.
We live in a world of instant gratification.  We want it all and we want it now.  Instant messaging, instant pudding, fast food...instant is in.
But is it?

I love the quote:  "There is no shortcut to any place worth going."

The learning is in the journey, and I can tell you that our daughter has gleaned much along the way to that stage she paraded across last Saturday.  Many were the deposits into the wisdom bank that she would not have grasped had she not walked the path she has traveled thus far.

I asked her at the end of the day how she felt.

Her reply...
"I am feeling the love!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

A must view
The grave of the unknown warrior is in Westminster Abbey.

Military voices-1914-the carol of Christmas is a powerful remembrance of souls lost.

Take the time to view this video.  It will fill you with awe and reverence for those who gave their lives.  We will remember.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Staggering number isn't it?

We thought so too.


We recently brought our vehicle in to have the usual upkeep done.
We soon found this would be no ordinary visit.  Nope.  This service call would lend us a loaner for about two weeks.
Plenty was going wrong with our car.  The number says it all!

I could tell by the next to zero eye contact,  that the technician did not want to be the one bearing the bad news to us.
Can't blame him.  If I were him I would have declared, "don't kill the messenger!"

What a blow...and right around the holidays.  We had to sit.
We wiggled and sat with our heads hung low.  I could have cursed, but bit my lip.  Dollar signs floated in the air like exhaust fumes, making it hard for us to breathe.
The car I loved with the heated seats and the race car steering wheel was at the moment, a money pit. A bicycle would be worth more.  At least it could move!

We were on our way to being major bummed when the same tech came up to us and gave us perhaps the best news someone who has car issues could ever hear...
GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!   "Your vehicle is STILL UNDER WARRANTY!"

 We did a happy dance right then,  and you can bet this news made a full page in my gratitude journal!  I still am smiling.
I am grateful to turn the key on my Jetta and now it works!

Cars often have unexpected problems that seem to come at the worst times don't they?

What a gift to have our warranty still in place.

Makes me think of another gift wrapped in a manger all those years ago.

In Isaiah 9:6 it says, "...Unto us a child is born...He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace....."   And in Luke 2:10  "...Do not be afraid...I bring you good news of great joy...Today a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord......Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests......"

The GOOD NEWS of Jesus.  The reason for the season.
I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On my tree

A new ornament has been added to my Christmas tree.
It screams ME !!!
This is one of those "impulse" buys, but wow...Major SCORE!!!  It is all about England!  The guard, the double decker bus, Big Ben...Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The gift I give myself

This past week, my husband and I went wandering about town.
 We strolled around and found ourselves here.  A mini German weihnachtsmarkte!    A perfect day to roam around and peek at the vendors goods.  For the end of November,  it sure was a balmy afternoon.  The lines were long for the Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) and there were even brats!   We said our HO HO HO to St Nicholas, tried some toasted almonds,  and dodged a few puddles.  Yep...the snow was actually melting in spots.
We saw what we wanted,  and so decided to go window shop  on other blocks.    Soon we stopped in front of this intriguing place.    
We peered in the window and soon were let in by the shop owner.  

"Have you been here before?" asked the jovial, lean man with the navy blue bow tie.

"No we haven't" I replied with glee.

My husband's eyes said it all.  This is going to cost me!  
We stepped inside to a time long ago.  Smells of vintage antiques wafted in the air.  Christmas carols tickled our ears.  In the middle of the room stood a tall tree filled with wonder.  There we stood, staring at the dancing lights, entranced by the joy of it all.        
I dare say I was hypnotized!  
My eyes scanned the room.  Treasures were everywhere.   I looked and looked and then....there...on the old desk....
 What is it you ask?
A journal!
with clasps!
    I love to journal.  Near the end of each year I gift myself with a  new one to start fresh..  Blank pages to write and see what I am going to learn in the new year.  I pick a word.  One word.  A word to focus on for a whole year.  2014 it is all about TRUST.  I have a few ideas for my word in 2015.  You see, you don't pick it, it picks you.  And wow, have I learned a lot about TRUST.  Fear has been my thorn for way too long.  My TRUST journal is filled.  I literally have 4 pages left for this year to pen some last lessons about TRUST.  Oh, I know I'm not finished with this word.  I have a feeling it will keep me posted throughout this new year, but fear is in my rear view mirror these days.  I am moving ahead with the help of some dear friends.

When the word is on your radar, you find it everywhere.  In line at the grocery store, on the radio, on the bank marquee, EVERYWHERE!!!  The word just jumps in front of you, screaming for your attention.  As I look through this journal, there are countless ways that I have learned on a deeper level what this word means...
One quote I wrote:

"eat the mystery of the moment with TRUST.  it terrifies, true.  But it exhilarates."  --Ann Voskamp

I'm on the hunt for a new word for 2015.  I am excited about which one it will be.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Making memories

My family and I were privileged to see a classic over the weekend.  
 What a delightful treat to see such superb acting.  If mistakes were made, we sure didn't see any.  It was a packed house.  Each character played out brilliantly.
 A Christmas Carol is the classic story  written by Charles Dickens, the great England novelist.

The main character is  Ebeneezer Scrooge.  He is visited by Marley, a ghost.  Marley was Scrooge' business partner in life.  He has been dead for seven years.  The actor who played Marley looked real.  Scared us half to death with the clanging of the chains.  He made a dazzling performance.  His part alone should make you think twice about being "a scrooge."  He came to warn Scrooge that if he doesn't shape up, he will end up like  chains and alone, wandering,  forever.   He warned him that he will be visited by 3 ghosts on Christmas Eve.

 The ghost of Christmas past, The ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

The story is basically about a mean old man (Scrooge) whom everyone is afraid and thinks poorly of.   He gets to see his life played out with the help of the 3 ghosts, and realizes he is missing out.  He won't be around forever, and he gets the chance to see what his life will be remembered as if he doesn't change his ways.
He gets the chance to change before it is too late.

How fortunate to be able to see the error of your ways before it is too late.

 Sitting in our seats...(4th row!!!) waiting for the play to begin!
Have you seen this play?  Did you like it?    I LOVED IT!!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in America we celebrate Thanksgiving today.

It is a great day to reflect on all that we have, instead of what we don't have.

As the turkey begins to cook, I am thankful for so many blessings.

Too numerous to list, may I just use this post as a reminder that not just today,  but everyday... let us be grateful.  
Breathing life is a gift.  Let us not waste one minute.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Being real

The friendship started in of all places...a dental office.

He got my attention with that accent.  Gets me every time...that English one.
We spoke throughout the appointment and by the end,  John had invited my husband and I to his home for tea with his wife Yvonne!
Little did he know I would take him up on that and soon the date was set!  I do wonder about that conversation when John got home.

 "Hey honey.  Met this woman at the dental office.  She seemed nice so I invited her and her husband for tea.  You don't mind do you?!"

Much has happened since that grand afternoon of tea and scones.  Mostly magical stuff like dinners at their home, a trip to the UK...(I know...I am still dreaming about that enchanted place.)   A  trip to Cancun (right about now would be nice again.  It is rather COLD here!  I am remembering tea by the sea!)
We have gone to the Diana exhibit at the Mall of America...Althorp trumped MOA by far!
The Science Museum and Exhibits to get a taste of what we were about to see in Mexico.

And there was that one time we almost burnt the neighborhood down...shhhhhh...that's our secret!

There are countless memories that are safe in my mind.
As I sit here, I still can't believe it.
We  have done so many wonderful things with these dear friends.  I am thankful.  But, mostly I am grateful for "being real" with them.
No time for games or drama.  Just real.
I've learned a lot from them.  It's not hard.  Both are geniuses.  Really.  They are.  Trust
But, it is not even"the smart" that impresses me.
They question me and ask why and expect an answer.  They are not afraid to tell me when I need to stop worrying and live.
They have that down good.  Living.  

They have reason to complain these days...yet they don't.  I've complained a lot.  Just ask my husband.
They make me better.  Isn't that what a friend should do?  Make us accountable.  And that is exactly them.  Real.  They do real.

I am still in awe over a gift I received just days ago.

An English Garden Quilt.

The time that Yvonne put into  this quilt humbles  me.  She  did it for me.   Me.  I do not know why we continue to receive the priceless blessings of such a friendship.   I am forever appreciative.  My children love them and I have to quote my son.  "We know why you are friends with them, but why are they friends with you?!"  Utter honesty.  Gotta love him!   All I know is REAL is a beautiful thing.  And we have it.  I am never letting go.

How about you have a REAL friendship?  It is a gift.  Don't ever take it for granted.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Where have I been?!

Just this week, I came across this you tube video. 
I have played it over and over.  It is that good. 

Both my kids have said, "Mom, where have you been?  This is One Republic...."

What can I say...I am thinking I need to get my nose out of my books a little more often!

Enjoy this thought provoking video.  Yep.  It is THAT GOOD! 

Monday, November 17, 2014


My friend Chris just let us know that her mom is nearing the end of her earthly life.

"Pray for mom's peaceful passing.  She's ready."

When grief arrives for someone that I know, I like to give the book written by CS Lewis.  A Grief Observed.   This wise author from England knew grief...losing his mother at a tender, young age.  He saw death in the war.  He married Joy Davidman later in life, only to lose her about 3 years after he married her.

He writes..."No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.  There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says."
CS Lewis died in 1963.  The same day President JFKennedy was assassinated.  He left a legacy of literature for future generations to imagine and dream.   I know that his book on grief has helped, and will continue to bring comfort to all those who are in the midst of this life's greatest emotion.  GRIEF.

Have you read it?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Letters to Juliet

Don't you just love a movie that takes you to somewhere you have traveled?
Makes you sit up and take in the scene a little closer doesn't it?

Recently, I viewed the movie Letters to Juliet.  Filmed in Italy, it brought me back to our trip there earlier this year. 
In the movie, there is a scene where the characters are walking in the piazza del campo.  I leaped from the couch and excitedly yelled out loud, "I've been there.  I sat right there on the ground!"  No one was home but me.   I didn't care!  Yay for happy memories in Sienna!  

I am forever grateful I had the opportunity to visit that enchanting place, and ever so thankful I took the time to write every day in my journal about our experiences. 

Here is the trailer for Letters to Juliet.

Towards the end of the movie, a letter is read out loud. 
It goes something like this...
and If?
are two different words, but put them together...What if?  and you have two words that have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life. 

I found that profound. 

Do you have a favorite movie?  What is it?

Monday, November 10, 2014


I happened to be out one day with a friend and she brought me to this great store I had never been in before.
I was sucked in pretty quick to the corner of the store where journals were displayed.  Didn't take me long to find one I couldn't live without.
Then there were the cards and tea and chocolate...
We were just about to check out when I saw it.
 "What is that?" I asked excitedly.  

 The cashier replied, "Gift wrap."
I couldn't resist.  I bought a sheet of this gift wrap and it now hangs in my writing den.
I took a few other pictures of things that inspire me in my room.
Found this at IKEA.  Nothing screams England like the red telephone booths.  Notice my collection of Beatrix Potter tales.  One day I will be back in England visiting Hilltop.

My picture frame filled with pictures of Althorp, my London book, Big Ben
picture and my teapot.  Tea is an every day habit for me.

What inspires you?


Thursday, November 6, 2014

6 letter word

The word might as well be a 4 lettered dirty word.


I am confident most of us know someone who is dealing with it right now, or... a loved one has been taken from us because of it.

My mother in law never was sick.  Something was not right.  I went with her to the doctor and soon we were checking her in for tests.  It took awhile for all of us to figure out that we weren't on just any floor.  Nope.  We were on the oncology level.
We had 3 more weeks with her.  3 incredible, amazing weeks to somehow try to say goodbye to this wise woman who we all adored with all our hearts.
Even in the end, she thought of others.  Our son was the only grandchild she did not get to see graduate from high school.
She wrote him some words of wisdom in her own hand and put some cash inside the envelope.    She laughed as she said, "my account will probably be closed by then.  Not a good idea to write a check!"  She then made me promise not to give it to him until the day he graduated.  That would be almost a year later.   I still remember that day.    That letter is worth more to him than anything he could ever buy.
My kids were devastated by her loss.  We all were.  Still are.  There is a void.  She lived with absolutely no regrets.  We are grateful for her legacy.
I keep a gratitude journal.  I highly recommend it.  An account of all that there is in daily life to be grateful for.  This week my fingers are getting a workout!  I am filling the pages of my journal with thankfulness.  

Our dears friends, John and Yvonne, have spent most of this year dealing with the trials that come with a cancer diagnosis.  They are handling it with much grace and positive attitudes.  We are so incredibly blessed these two are in our lives.  We are better people because of them.  This week they received wonderful news.  The treatment is working.  Their doctor has told them to resume normal living.  This includes travel.  The planning has commenced!  We are rejoicing.

Then...some other dear friends.  Tom and Barb.  Barb has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her surgery was on the 4th of this week.  Imagine the surgeon as he begins to cut and finds NO TUMOR!  It was there just  days before,  and now it is gone.   There is no other explanation but to know that God intervened on her behalf.  It is simply a miracle.  I had to go and visit her last night and touch a miracle!  Such unspeakable joy.  We are again, rejoicing.

At work this week I heard of another cancer miracle.  A young girl...late teens...was diagnosed with 3 stage ovarian cancer.  So very rare and yet, it happened to her.  And now, 6 years later she is cancer free.  The stories are everywhere.  3 times in this one week I have heard good news.  Great news.

Gratitude.  Its a beautiful thing.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I miss the days dressing up the kids for Halloween.

We had so much fun deciding what they would be.
Tweety bird
A clown

A bunch of grapes and a princess.  The "grapes" were a challenge.  Mark was getting sick of taking it on and off in the car.  Not one balloon popped!
A ghost and a knight 
I love the Arthur and DW books.  The kids weren't too impressed  with this year's costumes!  The ears were a hit! 
Robinhood.  Mark hit his target every time!   
Kayla loved American Girls when she was little.  Here she is dressed like Aady.  Her favorite girl of all.  

So, what costumes did you come up with for your kids?  

I am from the Halloween capital of the world...Anoka, MN. 
Click on the link for more Anoka Halloween info.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is an anglophile?

Webster defines an anglophile as:

A person who admires England and English customs.

Basically.... ME!

I found this site and have spent lots of time perusing it.  I think I hit the jackpot!
Click on it.  You may just find you have a new way to introduce yourself...
"Hi, I'm Gail and I am an anglophile!  Love it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's here!

My favorite candy...

Ghirardelli peppermint bark.  Only comes around these last few months of the year.  I snatched up a few bags to start feeding the craving!
I buy a few bags each week and freeze them.  One can never have's the simple things in life.
What is your favorite holiday candy?

Monday, October 20, 2014


My writer friend Julie Klassen, has a new book coming out soon. 
The name of the book is The Secret of Pembrooke Park. 

Click on the video above to see the trailer for the book.

Her website is
There you will find lots of information on  research for her books done in England.  Yes, I am jealous!  Who wouldn't want to do research for a book in England?! 

Julie is an excellent author.  You can find a list of her books on her website. 
 This is Julie (in pink) and I taking a "selfie" at breakfast while at a writers conference recently.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

To go or not to go

"......Beware the Ides of October, the time is nigh and the bullets will fly....."

This is part of a campus alert  my daughter, along with lots of other students and faculty,  read on their emails this week.

Police could be seen walking around campus  in bullet proof vests and there was an FBI presence as well.  

My daughter texts me, "the campus is crawling with cops."

What is a parent to do?  Do you let your child go to school, knowing there is a threat...a serious threat that involves bullets.  
She is scared.  Really scared.  She thinks of every class she is in, trying to figure out how she could possibly get away if she had to.
I just shake my head.  This is America.  Kids scared to death to go to school because they are afraid they will get shot.  I can't believe I am actually writing this.  She actually has to think of how to escape from someone who would want to harm her, or anyone else, who gets in the way.
I can honestly say that I NEVER thought of this when I attended school.  It NEVER crossed our minds that someone would EVER come in to our school and start shooting.  I just could NEVER even imagine such a thing happening.  Still can't.  It just seems so surreal.

So, what do you do?
Well, I applaud the University of River Falls, WI.
They refused to shut down the University.  With such a police presence, it actually is probably the safest place to be!
They said NO.  Whoever threatened harm, does not get their way.  We win.  We will not give in to fear.  Whatever their intentions, school is to learn.  And learn these kids will do.

I have no idea what October 15 could have been.  I am just a grateful mother that the day was uneventful.

Monday, October 13, 2014


We recently watched an episode of the Amazing Race in which the teams were in England.
Oxford to be exact.  And they had to go punting.

What is punting you ask?  Well...A punt is a flat bottomed boat.
One stands on the rear of the boat and uses a pole to propel the boat.  Looks easy, but don't let it fool you.  It is harder than it looks.
We decided to let the experts take us.  We were on the River Cam in Cambridge for our boat tour.
What a thrill to pass under one of the Bridge of Sighs.   The "original" one, of course, is in Venice Italy.
Our tour guide told us a story about the bridge of sighs.   Sighs could be heard from students  padding across the bridge, either going to an exam or coming from one.

Did I pass?  SIGH.  Did I study enough?  SIGH.  You get the idea!!
Incredible what you can see from the river.  The date on this building fascinated me.
Our friends look so relaxed don't they?!
"Just around the river bend!"
A beautiful day letting someone else steer the boat so we can gaze at such loveliness all around us.  Glorious.  Just glorious.

Monday, October 6, 2014

An excellent read

This book is so good.  I think what I love most about it is the letters.  Samantha Moore writes letters to Mr. Knightley. 

Here is the back cover teaser..."Sam is,  to say the least, bookish.  An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare.  The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.  But life for the twenty-three year old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction.  An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism.  There is only one catch:  Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress...."

There are quotes of English literature throughout the book.  Samantha just quotes them in dialogue!  This is one of those page turner books.  Again...excellent.  I give it 5 stars.  The author, Katherine Reay, won 2 awards last week at the ACFW conference in St Louis.  I can't wait for her next book to come out.  You can learn more about her and her journey at the web address below. 
Happy reading.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bits of England

Sorry the blog is a bit late, but whew!, it is still Monday!

While in St Louis, I managed to find tiny hints of England.   Here we go!
Thursday evening we enjoyed a genre dinner.  This is an opportunity to dress up and show the genre in which we write.   We can dress up like our character would in our novels.  Really, anything we would like.  Obviously, within good taste.  So, it would not be a good idea to have  a gun on you if you wrote westerns.  The hotel staff would not be impressed!    Some dressed up, some didn't.
    Here I am with authors Julie Klassen and James Rubart.  Julie and I are kindred spirits.  We both love England!  Notice Julie is not wearing her name tag.  That almost cost her dinner!  The staff was not going to allow her in without it!  Good thing we vouched for her!
                                                   I loved the scarf!
                                                    Me and Julie's phones.
The "selfie" turned out pretty good of Julie and I.
Found one of Julie's books on sale in the conference bookstore.  She writes historical and gets to visit England for research.  Yes...I am jealous!
I will tell you more about this book on next Monday's blog.  I am half way through it.  This book won 2 awards at the Awards Gala dinner on Saturday night.  I am LOVING this book.

It was great to be at the conference.  I have great memories, but wow, it is nice to be home.


Thursday, September 25, 2014


Yesterday we drove out on an adventure.

We rode in the dark for about an hour, and then were gifted with this incredibly mesmerizing, glorious sunrise.  Spectacular. Awe inspiring.  The only one that surpassed this one was the morning my mother in law passed away.   I knew she closed her eyes on earth, and opened them in heaven. This sunrise to us was a gift.  An unexpected joy.

And then there were the trees.  Vibrant colors everywhere.  Greens and yellows, oranges and reds.  "Look at that one."  We drove a little farther.  "Ooooh look over there at those."  We never tired of the leaf peeping.  It literally looked like splattered paint on the side of the road.  Pictures just don't  do it justice.  We never knew what colors to expect  around the next bend!

Rest stops can be difficult to find at times while traveling.
This particular one left us in a bit of a conundrum!  We drank quite a bit of water and really needed one!  Not what we expected!

 Any guesses where we are?
 We expected this to be good, but it indeed surpassed whatever expectations we had thought about fried ravioli!
 A bit of Italy here.  Lots of statues and even some fake flowers!
 I am here for a writers conference.  It is the next chapter on this journey.  This crazy dream I have to pen a novel.  I am, indeed, riding in elevators with some of the best authors in the publishing world.  It is a bit intimidating, but wow are they nice!  Not that that should surprise me, but still!  It is great.  I am here to learn.  And learn I will do.

Like the sunrise and the leaves, I certainly did not expect to be so inspired today with those gifts.  I am not sure what to expect these next couple of days.  I guess I have no expectations.  But, I am getting on that elevator, and going to class with an open mind to whatever happens.

What dreams are you chasing?  And what are you doing to pursue them?