Cutest Darn Apron Ever – A Giveaway

Bakers and crafters beware! It’s about to get ADOREABLE on Still Living The Dream.

Look. At. This. Apron!

Is it the cutest thing ever? I just got TWO of these vintage sugar sack aprons from my friends at Imperial Sugar. I’m keeping one because, truth is – I’m a hot mess in the kitchen and the craft room.

Last week I was painting a paper mache egg and I lost my grip (I guess because it was so heavy – you know….about two ounces or so) and during it’s long free fall from such a great height (I’m 4’10” ya’ll) it hit my shirt in THREE different places, a chair, table, my wall AND the carpet. Seriously. Robin’s egg blue paint everywhere.

True Story. I wish a Guinness Representative  had been there. I had to have broken some kind of idiot crafter world record.

Sadly, I’m not any cleaner in the kitchen. Life is just messy here. Fun. But still messy.

So one of the aprons is for me…I think we all would agree it’s for the best.

But the other one is for a lucky Still Living The Dream reader!

A Giveaway!

Just leave a comment about where you like to get creative and messy…the kitchen or craft room (or both?!!) If you want to share a messy adventure – please do. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone! A winner will be selected at random on Monday, April 1, 2013. No foolin!

Do you follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and/or Twitter? Then you get more chances to win! I love friends who are living the dream with me! Just leave a separate comment for each you do below.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like Imperial Sugar on Facebook
  5. Tweet this: “I want to win the cutest darn ever vintage @ImperialSugar apron from hot mess @jpatrickcomm http://bit.ly/16YKXdo”

If you’re not a hot mess or a lucky winner you can find the Imperial aprons for sale online. I did not receive any compensation for this post but I did get a free apron. Imperial is concerned about the cleanliness of my creative adventures. 

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MET Opera Live On Screen – Francesca Da Rimini (Giveaway)

“The Met: Live in HD” Returns to Cinemas for Seventh Sensational Season!

Win Tickets to the NCM Fathom Live Presentation of Francesca Da Rimini at Cinemark 13 in Cypress! 

We’re back this week with more free tickets to The Met: Live in HD Series. This week’s showing is Francesca Da Rimini on 3/16 . I have 4 free pairs of tickets for the showing at the Cinemark Cypress location for this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. AND for the encore presentation on Wednesday, April 3rd at 6:30 p.m.

FRANCESCA DA RIMINI (Zandonai)

Zandonai’s compelling opera, inspired by an episode from Dante’s Inferno, returns in the Met’s ravishingly beautiful production, last seen in 1986. Dramatic soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek and tenor Marcello Giordani are the doomed lovers. Marco Armiliato conducts.

Tickets on Sale Now:  http://www.fathomevents.com/#!the-metropolitan-opera-live-in-hd

GIVEAWAY!

Just be one of the first four people to comment to this post for the live showing on March 16 and encore presentation on April 3 and you’ll get 2 tickets to the show. (Please indicate in your comment which show you want tickets to!)

I did not receive compensation for this post. Winners must arrive 10 minutes prior to redeem seats at the theatre. All federal, state and local regulations apply. A recipient of prizes assumes any and all risks related to use of prize, and accepts any restrictions required by prize provider. Fathom Events, Allied- THA, and their affiliates accept no responsibility or liability in connection with any loss or accident incurred in connection with use of prizes. Prizes cannot be exchanged, transferred or redeemed for cash, in whole or in part. Not responsible if, for any reason, winner is unable to use his/her prize in whole or in part. Not responsible for lost, delayed or misdirected entries. All federal, state and local taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Void where prohibited by law. No phone calls.

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DreamWorks: The Croods – Passes to Houston Screening!

We love going to the movies together as a family and DreamWorks has a new one coming out that the kids are really excited about.

Have you heard about The Croods?

The Croods is a 3D animated comedy adventure that follows the world’s first modern family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always been their home, is destroyed.  Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods are rocked by generational clashes and seismic shifts as they discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.

Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, produced by Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell and starring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke; The Croods will hit theatres on March 22, 2013. But 100 lucky families in Houston will get to see it before it’s officially released…for FREE!

Family Four-Pack of Passes to see The Croods Screening in Houston.

Are you staying in Houston for Spring Break? Want to take the kids to see The Croods before it even opens to the general public? Just leave a comment telling me what you and your family love doing together. The first 100 people who comment will get a code to download four passes for a screening on Saturday, March 16that 10 AM at Edwards Marq*E . Those with passes will be admitted to the movie the morning of the screening on a first-come, first-served basis. Seats are not guaranteed – so I recommend getting to the theatre early!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. Passes are being provided as a courtesy to Still Living The Dream readers by Allied Integrated Marketing.

 

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MET Opera Live On Screen – Parsifal (Giveaway)

Win Tickets to the NCM Fathom Live Presentation of Parsifal at Cinemark 13 in Cypress! 

We’re back this week with more free tickets to The Met: Live in HD Series. This week’s showing is Parsifal on 3/2 and I have 4 free pairs of tickets for the showing at the Cinemark Cypress location for this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. AND for the encore presentation on Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. 

PARSIFAL (Wagner)

Director François Girard’s timeless new vision for Wagner’s final masterpiece explores the many facets of this mystical score, while designer Michael Levine (“Eugene Onegin”) creates a surreal landscape. Jonas Kaufmann stars in the title role of the innocent who finds wisdom. His fellow Wagnerian luminaries include Katarina Dalayman as the mysteriousKundryPeter Mattei as the ailing Amfortas and René Pape as the noble knight GurnemanzDaniele Gatti conducts.

Tickets on Sale Now:  http://www.fathomevents.com/#!the-metropolitan-opera-live-in-hd

GIVEAWAY!

Just be one of the first four people to comment to this post for the live showing on March 2 and encore presentation on March 20 and you’ll get 2 tickets to the show. (Please indicate in your comment which show you want tickets to!)

I did not receive compensation for this post. Winners must arrive 10 minutes prior to redeem seats at the theatre. All federal, state and local regulations apply. A recipient of prizes assumes any and all risks related to use of prize, and accepts any restrictions required by prize provider. Fathom Events, Allied- THA, and their affiliates accept no responsibility or liability in connection with any loss or accident incurred in connection with use of prizes. Prizes cannot be exchanged, transferred or redeemed for cash, in whole or in part. Not responsible if, for any reason, winner is unable to use his/her prize in whole or in part. Not responsible for lost, delayed or misdirected entries. All federal, state and local taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Void where prohibited by law. No phone calls.

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The Met: Live in HD – Free tickets to Rigoletto!

Do you love the Opera?

Do you want to see a live Metropolitan Opera performance without traveling to New York City?

Then I’ve got great news for you! 

THE MET: LIVE IN HD SERIES

The Metropolitan Opera’s Emmy and Peabody award-winning series of live performance transmissions continues in movie theaters across the United States. There are FOUR remaining live events of the seventh season of The Met: Live in HD beginning with Verdi’s Rigoletto on Saturday, February 16. Three more performances will follow through May 2013. All live events take place on Saturdays. In addition to the live events, encore performances will be exhibited on select Wednesdays after the respective live event. Here is the line-up!

2/16       Rigoletto LIVE

3/2         Parsifal LIVE

3/16       Francesca da Rimini LIVE

4/27       Giulio Cesare LIVE

Verdi’s Rigoletto 

This weekend you can enjoy Michael Mayer’s bold new production which locates Verdi’s tragedy of lust, betrayal, and revenge in Las Vegas in 1960. Željko Lučić sings the title role and Diana Damrau is his beautiful daughter, who falls under the spell of Piotr Beczala’s womanizing Duke.

It’s receiving rave reviews!

Diana Damrau is a stunning Gilda… Piotr Beczala displays a big, beautiful tenor with great presence” (Wall Street Journal). As Rigoletto, Željko Lučić’s “voice is big and penetrating, focused and true… His phrasing is supple and elegant” (New York Times). 

This is the ultimate chance for Opera lovers to experience the excitement of the Metropolitan Opera, including interviews and behind-the-scenes features exclusive to the Live in HD series, all at your neighborhood movie theater! To buy tickets visit The Metropolitan Opera online.

 Giveaway!

Do you live close to the Cypress area in Houston? I am giving away  four pairs of tickets to Rigoletto LIVE at the Cinemark 13 in Cypress, Texas on Saturday, February 16, 2013. Just leave a comment telling me what you love about the Opera. The first four people to comment will score two tickets to the show.

Ready? Go!

 


 

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Escape From Planet Earth on Valentine’s Day! ($25 Visa Gift Card and Prize Pack Giveaway)

My family and I LOVE seeing movies together at the theatre. On Valentine’s Day this year I might surprise my kids after they get home from school with opening day tickets to see Escape From Planet Earth. Opening February 14, The Weinstein Company’s Escape From Planet Earth looks like it will be a good family adventure film. While seeing a movie on a school-night might make getting up the next morning a little hard, I’m not sure we can wait to see this one until the weekend!

About The Movie

The 3D animated family comedy catapults moviegoers to planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population.  A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA.  When BASA’s no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission.  But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (William Shatner) it’s up to scrawny, risk-averse Gary to do the real rescuing.  As the interplanetary stakes rise to new heights, Gary is left to save his brother, his planet, his beloved wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) and their adventure-hungry son Kip (Jonathan Morgan Heit).

For more information about the movie including photos, videos and games, check out  http://www.escapeearthmovie.com. You can also download the free “Escape From Planet Earth” iOS Movie App as well as one for Android.

A Giveaway!

One lucky Still Living The Dream reader (open to those in the U.S. only) will win a $25 Visa Gift Card & Escape from Earth Prize Pack which includes a Tattoo Sheet, activity book & crayons and a backpack clip!

To enter, just leave a comment about what you like to do on Valentine’s Day. Do you make a special breakfast for your kids? Go out to dinner with your spouse? Make gifts for neighbors and friends? Let us know what makes the day special.

More chances to win? Absolutely. As is usually the case, Still Living The Dream social media followers get more opportunities to win! Just leave a separate comment for each that you do below! A winner will be selected a random on Monday, February 4th at 11:59 p.m. CST.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to win a $25 Visa Gift Card and Escape From Planet Earth prize pack! @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2013/01/escape-from-planet-earth-on-valentines-day-25-visa-gift-card-and-prize-pack-giveaway.html”

I was compensated for this sponsored post made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own. All prizing for MSM giveaways is handled by a third party unless otherwise noted. For this reason prize fulfillment can take up to 90 days after the winners information is received.

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Duo Powered Atari Arcade for iPad – Review and Giveaway

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! We had a great Christmas and I enjoyed a nice break from work; spending time with my family. We have been playing with some of the goodies the kids received from Santa and family as gifts. This time of the year brings out the kid in me and I’ve been guilty of playing with some of the kids’ toys for a little longer than they’d like!

One new game in our house that’s been a hit is Atari Arcade for the iPad. Powered by Duo, the control unit works with the iPad 1, 2 and 3 and brings old school arcade favorites to your living room! We put together a video review to show you the game in action and some of the features. It stars my son and husband, who aren’t used to being behind the camera but I think did a great job!!

To recap, Duo Powered Atari Arcade features include:

  1. To use, you download Atari Greatest Hits game collection from the app store. You then choose a game and select duo in the control settings then you are ready to play!
  2. It works with iPads 1, 2 and 3.
  3. Games are for one to two players.
  4. Games included with the controller are Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Missile Command and Lunar Landing.
  5. You can purchase different game packs which have four games included in them for 99 cents each but for just $9.99 you can buy all 100 games which include classics like Centipede, Maze Craze, Pong, Video Chess, Hangman, Yars Revenge and Tempest.

Sounds like fun, right? We loved that it is portable so we could bring it with us to Grandma’s house over the holidays to play and that 2 player feature lets both of my kids (or my husband!) to play together. You can purchase the game unit online and in stores and while it retails for $60; I saw it at www.amazon.com for $47.35 today!
A GIVEAWAY!
How about one for free?! One lucky Still Living The Dream reader will win one for their very own. It’s like Christmas all over again! All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Atari game is. A winner will be selected at random on January 4, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. CST.
More chances? YUP! Just leave a separate comment for each of the following you do.
  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to win an Atari Arcade #DuoGames accessory for the iPad @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/12/duo-powered-atari-arcade-for-ipad-review-and-giveaway.html”
I was given an Atari Arcade gaming accessory in order to review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and low scores on Lunar Lander are my own!
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Celebrating the Holidays with California Wine Club – Giveaway

Are you looking for a great present for a friend or family member who loves great wine?

I’ve got a great idea. The California Wine Club.

Last month I received and reviewed two bottles of Seven Brothers wine from The Robledo Family Winery and LOVED them. This month I got this pretty package in the mail from The California Wine Club.

In my shipment I received two bottles of Daniel Gehrs wine. Ed and I loved the bottle of 2011 Chenin Blanc. A gold, silver and bronze medal winning wine, Daniel Gehrs White Hills Vineyard Chenin Blanc is a dry, white wine with a hint of pear taste. This bottle was very refreshing and we enjoyed it before and along with our seafood dinner (which we’ve been eating a lot of lately. I’m up to 46 pounds lost since July! Wahoo!!!)

I love how being a part of the wine club has broadened my tastes. Before when I reached for a bottle of white wine, I wouldn’t have selected a Chenin Blanc and definitely wouldn’t have known to try a bottle from Daniel Gehrs. Thanks to the California Wine Club, I now know what I’ve been missing!

We are saving the second bottle that arrived this month, a 2009 Central Coast Merlot (a gold, double gold and silver medal winning wine) for a get together we are having later this month for our family. We have a merlot fan in our family and he has never tried Daniel Gehrs. I can’t wait to be the one to introduce him to a new wine from a smaller winery.

Since more than three-quarters of California’s 3,500+ wineries are small, boutique, mom-and-pop operations whose wines never travel beyond their local markets and private customer lists, it’s unlikely that without the wine club I would have encountered a Daniel Gehrs bottle. Now I get to share it with those I love (and look like quite the wine connieseur!)

The Benefits of Becoming a California Wine Club Member…

  1. Discovering smaller, award-winning wineries whose wines are not typically found in local stores or wine shops. You can read about recently featured wineries and the families behind their award-winning wines here!
  2. A fun and easy way to learn about wine and California’s wine scene with our informative and beautiful 12-page, full color newsletter, Uncorked.
  3. Convenient, “to your door” delivery.
  4. No more guessing, no hassle and no more bad wine.
  5. Your wines can be delivered monthly, every other month or even quarterly.
  6. No bulk, closeout or private label wines… ever!
  7. Three and four bottle shipments are available, and they’ll pay the extra cost of shipping.
  8. Winery Direct means no distributor, no middleman and the best choice of wine at the lowest possible price.
  9. Savings of up to 50% off normal retail when you reorder your favorites.
  10. Experienced wine consultants to assist you with your wine choices and questions.
  11. Wine Country Travel Experts…let them help you plan your next wine country getaway.

Give a Gift of Great Wine to Yourself or Someone You Love!

You can give the gift of a wine club membership to a friend or family member this season at an affordable price. Just be sure to act fast as the ground shipping deadline for Christmas is December 12th! All orders placed after December 12th will incur air charges to arrive by December 25th. Visit www.cawineclub.com online to begin your wine adventure today!

Win a $50 Gift Certificate to The California Wine Club!

How about a little Christmas “cash” to get you started on your journey with The California Wine Club?

One Still Living The Dream reader will win a $50 CWC Gift Certificate! Giveaway is only open to those in the U.S. and you must be 21 or older to be qualified. Sorry, they cannot deliver to Utah. A winner will be selected at random from comments below on December 12, 2012, at 11:59 CST. If you win, you can keep the gift certificate to use for yourself or give it as a gift!

To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite type of wine. More chances? You got it! Leave a SEPARATE comment for each below that you do!

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Follow The California Wine Club on Twitter
  5. Like The California Wine Club on Facebook
  6. Tweet this: “I want to win a $50 gift certificate to The California Wine Club @cawineclub @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/12/celebrating-the-holidays-with-california-wine-club-giveaway.html”

This review was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own. I received a 2 month Membership to the California Wine Club for the purpose of this review.

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The Heart Of Christmas: Movie Review, Interview and Giveaway

Before I became a freelance writer and blogger, I worked for a national, non-profit organization for children with cancer and then later for the cancer center of a children’s hospital in Houston. I was inspired daily by the strength and love I witnessed from families faced with the illness and the doctors, nurses and other professionals who cared for them.

When I heard about the inspirational movie, The Heart of Christmas, which premiered last year and was released recently on DVD October 16, 2012, I knew I wanted to see it.

Starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Kingsbury, George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League), Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood), and GRAMMY®-nominated recording artist Matthew West, the movie tells the story of Austin and Julie Locke, who are devastated to learn that their one-year-old son, Dax, had been diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia.

After several failed treatments and experimental therapy, The Lockes were faced with the fact that their son would most likely die before Christmas. So in October 2009, they decorated their home for the holiday so Dax could enjoy the lights. When their neighbors saw their holiday decorations and learned about the reason why they set them out early, they rallied behind the family. As their story spread, soon the town of Washington was lit for Dax. His story appeared on CNN and captured the hearts of people around the world. Dax did live to see Christmas day but passed away soon after… on December 30, 2009.

You can watch the trailer here.

I had the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke to visit with her about the film and her experience. The movie, while certainly sad, is also incredibly uplifting. The message of hope and peace of God’s love is woven throughout the entire film…displayed through the relationships that the Lockes developed with other families fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the medical staff that never gave up on them.

Julie Locke

When I talked to Julie, she said that one of the greatest results from the movie so far is how it has positively impacted people’s lives.

“Many people have reached out to me after seeing the film to tell me how it made a difference in their own lives,” said Julie. “People have shared with me that they cherish their families more and most importantly, that they have built a relationship with God. I see clearly now that this movie was part of God’s plan,” she said.

The Lockes were approached by singer, Matthew West who wanted to write a song about their story. “I didn’t know who Matthew was at the time, but I just believe that you have to put yourself out there and let God work through others,” said Julie. “We’re not strong enough to do this on our own.” (West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Original Music and Lyrics for his song about The Lockes “The Heart of Christmas” this year.)

As a mother, I know the fear that comes with every cold, fever or broken bone. To have your child  faced with an illness like cancer is unimaginable. When I worked at the hospital here in Houston, I remember asking my friend whose son was fighting the disease how she did it. She told me – you do it because you have to. You wake up each morning and you put your feet on the floor and you move forward because your child needs you.

But most parents at the hospital would tell me that you don’t have to (and really can’t) do it alone. For Julie, it was the strength and support of the families she met at the hospital, the caring doctors and staff at St. Jude…and God, that gave her the power and peace to move forward.

“I never had experienced that before Dax was sick…the true love of God. It really started when I met Elizabeth’s mom (a patient at St. Jude). I found God through the experience and learned that even when I wasn’t trusting Him, He trusted me,” said Julie.

The Lockes, like many others who have lost a loved one, miss Dax daily and struggle with his loss especially at the holidays. “I live for Dax by taking care of other people,” said Julie. “But during the holidays we really try to spend time together as a family, just us. Especially on the day he died…. taking time to cherish every moment we have together. It’s the most important thing.”

For those that are struggling with loss this Christmas, she says – “Lean on God. He loves you. Allow Him in your heart and surround yourself with His spirit. I did that in Memphis. Before that I had my walls up, but His love is so powerful.”

Julie and Austin Locke with their daughter, Madeline, on the set of The Heart of Christmas.

Today, Julie spends time fundraising for St. Jude and raising her two-year-old daughter, Madeline who was born after Dax passed away. It is the Lockes’ goal to raise $1.8 million dollars in Dax’s memory, the cost of running the hospital for one day. “I lived there for a year and never paid anything,” said Julie. “I remain so touched by what St. Jude does for patients and their families. They gave me 1 1/2 years with Dax.”

For more information about the film, visit The Heart of Christmas on the web. To learn more about the Lockes, their true story of hope and compassion and how you can get involved, visit the Dax Locke Foundation.

A Giveaway!

The Heart of Christmas is available at Target and Walmart and online at Walmart.com. However, two readers of Still Living The Dream will win a copy of the DVD. It’s my hope that you will watch the movie and share the story and the Lockes’ message “Cherish Every Moment” with as many people as you can. Just leave a comment telling me what you cherish the most. Two winners will be selected at random on December 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Help spread the word about this important film and get another chance to win! I would love for Julie to get tons of tweets from people sharing her message of love.

  • Tweet this: “I will cherish every moment this Christmas in memory of Dax Locke @jpatrickcomm @JulieALocke #TheHeartofChristmas http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/the-heart-of-christmas-movie-review-interview-and-giveaway.html”
You can get even more chances to win by leaving a separate comment for each additional item you do below.
  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like The Heart of Christmas on Facebook
I was given a copy of movie, The Heart of Christmas to review as well as the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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How I Came To Sparkle Again – Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway!

 

I haven’t been reading as much as I like to lately. Life has gotten busy, which usually happens this time of the year. I have to remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays. One of my favorite ways to do that, besides spending time with my family, is to curl up on the couch by the Christmas tree with a fire going in the fireplace….reading a good book.

Before the mad rush to Thanksgiving started, I did get my hands on a great, newly released book and devoured it quickly. How I Came To Sparkle Again, by author Kaya McLaren who wrote Church Of The Dog and On The Divinity of Second Chances was released on October 2, 2012, and is getting great reviews from folks like best-selling authors Kristin Hannah, Susan Wiggs and Nancy Thayer. I can see why.

For me, good books are just like a yummy feast…they are food for my soul. This one has a lot to offer readers in terms of reframing a negative situation and starting over. There are a lot of hope-filled messages to pick up on in between the lines of an entertaining story.

Here’s the skinny:

Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado.  But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows:  Sparkle. 

Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love.  The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.” 

Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore.  She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle. 

So yeah, each of Sparkle’s main characters are going through quite a bit. Which may make you believe that the book is heavy. But it’s not. The relationships that develop between all three make for a pretty uplifting story and while it doesn’t have the suspense of a page-turning “who dunnit”, I found myself turning them quickly until I came to the end.

If you are a skier or fan of Colorado (like me!), you are going to love the setting of this book. I wanted to jump in the story on several occasions and soak in the beautiful, winter atmosphere.

I had the fabulous opportunity to ask author Kaya McLaren some questions about the book. If after you read through her answers you want to dive into the book yourself, you’ll be happy to hear this – I have two books to give away to Still Living The Dream readers just in time for the holidays!

Kaya McLaren, author of How I Came To Sparkle Again

Author Interview

1. Where did you find the inspiration for the main character, Jill?

I was living and teaching on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, and by the spring of my first year, I’d pull into the driveway of the school each morning and cry because I didn’t know if I could make it through one more day with the really tough class I had that year. And then I rediscovered skiing. The next year, I got a season pass to Wolf Creek. There, a group of young guys took me under their wing and helped me be a better skier. They were such unlikely angels, but man, they pulled me out of a deep funk and brought me back to life. They absolutely were my angels. So I really wanted to write something that was a tribute to them– something that showed what good friends on snow could do for a girl’s spirit. Woven into that, I had a friend who was an OB/GYN nurse who had a miscarriage, and another friend whose parents were missionaries in Africa and would send out mass emails implying that she wasn’t going to be with them in heaven.

2. Why did you choose a skiing community in Colorado as a setting in the book?

One thing I love about skiing fast is that it forces me to be fully present in any given moment. If my mind wanders, I eat it. Bad. Really bad. So for people like me with really busy minds, doing something at really high speeds can force us to meditate and give us extended moments of peace. I think, too, that mountain communities have always been my home, and yet they are rarely the setting of books. It’s foreign to a lot of people. I wanted to write about my world. It’s full of really great characters– strong, adventurous, courageous people, crazy funny people… people who are stuck in an early moment of their life, and people who are growing.

3. You seem to be deeply moved by the environment. Why are Jill’s surroundings (the snow, change of seasons, small town) so crucial to her healing?

Life is full of cycles– good times and bad times, sickness and health, courage and fear, love and loss, rain and sun, the cycle of the seasons. Nothing lasts. Nature heals me over and over. This world we construct in our culture where we are so important is a little much. When I walk away from it and into nature, I’m reminded of my place in the grand scheme, and how small and temporary I really am. It puts everything else into perspective. Nature is the answer to most of my questions.

4. Tell me about the unique dynamic between Jill and Lisa and the Kennel boys. Is there any hope for guys like Eric and Hans to find love and a lasting relationship?

Occasionally it happens! I see it. It shocks me every time, but yes, it happens. All of the guys I skied with at Wolf Creek are married now. I did not see that coming. But you know, there are people who are damaged in different ways and their capacity to love may be different or take different forms. Who are we to say that lasting relationships are success and a semi-solitary life skiing with friends is not?

5. I found the descriptions and character views of “kidney love” versus “luv” so interesting. How did you come up with this perspective on male/female relationships? Have you experienced “kidney love”?!

I love really easily. Rather, I “luv” really easily. But generosity is more difficult for me. I have non-sexual, non-romantic kidney love for soul sisters and family members. None of the men in my life were around long enough to reach that point. Kidney love takes time.

6. Jill experienced a lot of loss and troubled relationships. Why was her struggle with her parents and the Mormon religion an important part of her story?

I think religious upbringing absolutely affects a person’s self-worth. And it could have been countless other denominations or religions. It’s about judgment and acceptance. When things go south, judgment never heals. Only love does. And love is accepting. I picked Mormon parents because I could easily model them after my friend’s parents and get the details right. If my friend had had Baptist parents, I would have picked that. I think it’s an interesting impasse we reach with people we love who think we are going to hell or who think we are brainwashed, or who think they have the answers. It’s heartbreaking. And the things they feel entitled to say in our lowest moments can be atrocious. When everything is going wrong in my friend’s life, a little part of her does question whether this is all happening because she left the church. I was surprised to hear that. I wasn’t raised with religion, so it fascinates me. Sometimes I wish I had the rituals and the community that comes with it, but my capacity for that kind of faith is limited. All the characters and their different approaches to faith are part of me though. Faith or the lack of it absolutely shapes our perceptions of what happens to us and what the opportunities are in any given situation. I think it can affect our resilience, as well as our understanding of what is within the realm of our control and what is not. I don’t know how to tell a story without dealing with a character’s faith. I try to be equal-opportunity about it, because I perceive that faith really works well for a lot of people. I think I’m usually pretty neutrally fascinated about it… unless someone crosses the line and starts talking about gay people going to hell. Many of my friends and family are gay and I assure you, they are good people and absolutely not going to hell.

7. I loved renaissance man and supporting character, Uncle Howard. Did you have an Uncle Howard in your life that this character was based on?

No. I am Uncle Howard. I am the one who over-thinks things, who leads a pretty solitary existence, who offers people books and unsolicited advice that they don’t understand (because advice wasn’t what was needed– after all judgment is an inherent piece of advice). I’m currently reading Siddhartha again because I was curious whether I’d get something entirely different out of it thirty years later. So far, nope. Maybe that means I haven’t grown as much as I thought I had.

8. Things wrapped up pretty neatly for most of the Sparkle characters. Did you consider taking a different approach to the book’s ending? Do you believe in happy endings?

In my original ending, Jill ends up single in her own house. Eric is her friend with benefits who does occasional home repair for her, and Mike is like her platonic husband with whom she has this unconventional family experience. That seemed more realistic to me. I really wanted her to end up single and happy like me. Yes, that’s what I wanted to do– write a book that told the world that you could be a happy, single woman like me. But it was strongly suggested to me that this would not be a satisfying ending to readers, and you know, there really wasn’t much plot in being a single, happy woman. And so now I have a book that says you need to have a man to have a happy ending. It made me really, really uncomfortable at first and I had to make my peace with it. I realized a couple things. First, that I perceived wanting that kind of a happy ending as ridiculous weakness. And only two days ago my friend and fellow author, River Jordan, said to me, “Well, when you’ve had your heart broken a lot, it CAN feel like weakness.” Epiphany. And I realized that everyone wants to be appreciated for who they uniquely are, and comforted, held, and loved, and everyone wants some sizzle in their life, so what is the problem with this ending? There’s no problem. All of that is part of the human experience. And if you read to escape (not everyone does and that’s okay), you want things wrapped up much more neatly than they are in your own life. So there you have it. It’s candy. Enjoy.

9. All your books contain a common theme….second chances. Did you get a second chance that changed your life?

Oh, no, that’s not it. I just think life is a series of mistakes and second chances.

A Giveaway!

How I Came To Sparkle Again is available to purchase at Barnes and Noble, but how about the chance to win a copy of your own?! All you have to do is leave a comment below about what you love about the holidays. Two winners will each receive a copy of the book to enjoy over the holiday season (Christmas tree, couch, cozy slippers and fire in the fireplace must be all provided by you!!) Two winners will be selected at random on 12/2/12 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Life’s about second chances, right? How about five more chances to win?! You know the drill, leave a separate comment for each that you do below.

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I received a copy of the book for review purposes only. I did not receive compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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