Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter Days

While much of the United States has had lots of snow so far this season, we got our first snow last night (and we live 20 minutes from Tahoe). So when Florida gets snow before us, it's an odd year. But we welcomed sunshine all day, and I took our black lab, Hank, for a jog.

A couple days ago, I enjoyed an afternoon at David Walley's Hot Springs & Spa for a pampering session. I soaked in the hot springs and enjoyed a Swedish massage.

Even though I live ten minutes away, I had never been, and it was nice to be adventurous once again exploring my own backyard.

Stay Warm!

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year Resolutions - 2018

My resolutions are generally the same every year, and probably fall in line with most everyone else. But this year my resolutions seem to mean more to me...

1. Be fearless. Let go of my fear of failure. Take more risks. Don't worry so much about what other people think of me and my decisions. Something I do way more than I should. Now in my 30s I've gotten somewhat better at this, but realized I'm going to waste my life away if I keep letting it get in the way.

2. Write more. (On my list every year.) Though I published my first book this year, it took six years to write. To grow as a writer. Publishing my book was a lot harder than I anticipated. With a memoir, many people formed opinions. Some were bold enough to tell me I made a mistake. Others said nothing, but the silence was just as loud. Which again leads to... be fearless and... don't worry so much about what other people think.

3. Read more. To grow as writer, I need to read more. But this a purely selfish resolution. I want to catch up and make this my Literary Year. (More on this later.) I want to read like a pre-teen with no summer job, remembering the days my dad drove me to a long gone indie bookstore called, Davis Kidd once a week in Tennessee. I want to cancel the cable, wean myself off Hallmark movies, and stay away from social media apps, to pick up a book and read one after another.

4. Health. But not for dieting. For changing my lifestyle. In November, I had a wake-up call. I ended up in the ER due to stomach pain. Discovering that I had colitis, I'm now forced to change the way I eat permanently. I was put on an antibiotic which nearly killed me. I couldn't swallow and my throat closed up, since then I've kept off 7 pounds. I've given up coffee for the acidity, which has in turn helped balance out blood sugar and dehydration issues. I've gone gluten minimal which has greatly helped pain and bloat. I've cut my white sugar intake way down, and have also discovered how much pain dairy was causing. I've also noticed the need to cut down on greasy red meat. I was worried that didn't leave me with many options. But surprisingly I've found lots of alternatives that keep me satisfied. The hardest part was the lack of caffeine, but every now and then I have tea or hot chocolate. My greatest substitute for the craving of a hot beverage has been Turmeric. I heat up a cup of hot water and add Turmeric Boost, this greatly helps with pain or inflammation when I do cheat. I drink a few mugs everyday for preventative measures. It has helped keep off inches, which has been a huge bonus!

What are some of your resolutions?

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Lulabelle Gifts & Gallery

I'm happy to announce my new online store, Lulabelle Gifts & Gallery

For a few months I brainstormed a business model wanting to have some sort of retail shop whether it be solely online or a brick and mortar store. For now, it is only an online business. For those who have followed my blog since the beginning know about my passion for travel and floral photography. I've always wanted a place to showcase my photography. But I also wanted the ability to create and sell gifts from other crafty artisans. Because gift giving and creating beautiful packages is such a joy to me, I wanted to extend this to a gift box subscription. From there it branched off to all-occasion gift baskets as well. 

There is a great lineup scheduled for each month with different themes for the Lulabelle Gift Box, and I'm so excited to put these boxes together to ship out! Gift boxes will be sent out on the 10th of the month. Orders placed after the 9th, will be shipped in January. There is only a few days left to get your December box(Products shown below are examples, there will be much more than two items in the box... promise!)

Curious to know why I named the business Lulabelle Gifts & Gallery? Check out the About page at Lulabelle Gifts & Gallery!

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Happy Nevada Day!

We celebrate our state in a big way here on Nevada Day! It's even a state holiday! I'm so excited to actually watch the four-hour long parade tomorrow with my kiddo. I've been in the parade four times in the past five years, and all for different entities. This year I'm cheering everyone on from a lawn chair on the sidelines.

(2012 - Representing the Carson City Health & Human Services float)

(2013 - 5 months pregnant representing the City of Carson City float)

Skipped 2014, was too blustery and couldn't take the baby out...

 (2015 - with the toddlers on the Little Timbers Academy float)

 (2016 - Public Information Officer for Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, 
with Allison & Sage the Desert Tortoise)

 Happy Nevada Day!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Passion for History: Ghost Tales & Cemeteries

A few years ago, I was 'this close' to pursuing a Masters in European History, but life happened. I still think about it quite frequently, because my romanticized fantasy of sitting in a quiet office or library researching and reading musty books from centuries ago has never gone away.

I recently met a local author in Nevada/California, Karen Dustman, owner of Clairitage Press who shares a similar passion for (local) history.

Visit my author blog, Nicolette Johnston where I posted cemetery pics, and more info on Karen's books. She and I both have some historical mysteries you can help us solve...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Relationship with Potato Leek Soup

A decade ago, I booked a spontaneous trip to Switzerland, which I briefly highlighted in my book, 'Running Away to Europe'. I was about to get engaged, but something didn't feel right. We broke up. I needed clarity. So at 24, I celebrated one of my most memorable days.

I took a train ride through the Alps from Switzerland along the Northern border of Italy. It reminded me of my favorite movie, "Under the Tuscan Sun" when Frances Mays character played by Diane Lane says, "They built a train track through the Alps, before there ever was a train... meaning they want me to have faith." This day gave me faith.

I savored fresh pasta for lunch in Tirano, Italy. Then took a bus through narrow Italian villages along the Northern rim of Lake Como. We stopped for a quick break, I ventured into a gelateria. I couldn't believe I was eating gelato on Lake Como! It was the moment that ignited my love for independent travel. It proved that being brave and doing something scary, instead of choosing a safe path could led to personal growth.
We stopped for the night in Lake Lugano, Switzerland. I fell in love that day... with the Italian lakes, potato leek soup, and my own destiny. We took a cruise around the lake, then stopped on the Italian side of the lake for dinner a little lakeside restaurant.  Our tour group ate out on the deck with red and white checkered tablecloths on a late Septemer evening as the twinkling lights of Lugano glistened across the water. They served us the best potato leek soup... ever.

For the past decade, I've made variations of the soup. Sometimes I have it pureed, sometimes chunky. Sometimes I add heavy cream and a dollop of sour cream, and sometimes just pure broth. But every time I start the smell those sauteed leeks in the pot, it reminds of that magical day. It reminds me of independence, self-discovery, and how sometimes it can be hard to let go of something good.

If this blog post intrigues you, you can check out my book 'Running Away to Europe' for more travel and relationship tales. I will also be writing a book about the Switzerland trip too. For more information or get on my email list, check out for author updates and blog posts on writing!

Potato Leek Soup

2 leeks
3 cloves of garlic
3 potatoes
6 cups of broth
1 cup of heavy cream (optional)
1-2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
fresh chives or dill

Rinse leeks well, and chop in thin slices up to 1/2 inch where green stems begin. Satuee until lightly softened. Add garlic. Add broth (or water and bouillon cubes). Add potatoes at same as broth. Cook until pototoes cook through. Add heavy cream if opting for a creamy based soup. Remove from heat. Leave chunky or blend if desired for a pureed soup.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Snow in September

A Mom Diary Entry

Everything was going good. I was listening to one of my favorite encouraging podcasts by Brooke Castillo while cooking spaghetti, when I realized I needed to quickly harvest our entire crop prematurely before the snow came within the next 30 minutes.

It was like our own version of If A Mouse Had A Cookie. Because I had to put the chickens in the barn, but first I had to prepare their scraps to lure them into the barn. Then I had to pick all of our cucumbers and green tomatoes, Google to see if should pluck 4-5 inch green cantaloupes. (Still don't know, but pulled them anyway, we'll see if they turn into chicken scraps.) I left the pumpkins. Oh yes, quickly grabbed a spare laundry basket to pick the apples.

I couldn't forget to harvest my flowers too for dried floral art. Did I mention my kiddo, fell and scraped her hands in the middle of all of this? So I had to take an intermission to play Doc McStuffins and apply an Elsa bandage.

We came back in and I reheated our cold spaghetti. Which she never really ate, because low and behold she always has to go to the bathroom during every meal. So why did she pee her pants in front of the toilet? Still don't know. She never told me, even though I told her mommy wouldn't be mad.

Did I mention, that I brought not one, but two bees in the house too from the flowers? That was fun. Back to the podcast.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Zucchini Bread

Smells like something delicious is baking in the oven... we are having fresh baked zucchini bread with California walnuts, zucchini our neighbor's garden and farm eggs from our chickens. 

Even though I followed the recipe from my favorite cookbook, 'More from Magnolia' I added two cups of shredded zucchini instead of the recommended one cup. It turned out beautifully!

I must admit, I was actually craving the cupcakes on the cover. 
Maybe another day... I've been telling the kiddo that the dog's birthday is this month.  
So now anytime we go to the store, she wants to buy things for Hank's birthday.
I feel a dog birthday party coming in my near future...

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Koi at Fairytale Town

This week I took my little one to Fairytale Town in Sacramento and to the Sacramento Zoo with her Grandpa. We fed the koi fish.

Fairytale Town is hosting the ScholarShare Children's Book Festival on September 16 and 17 and offering Free Admission. If you are in the Sacramento area, this will be a fun event for kids to play and meet children's authors.

Promoting events for college saving programs was my job as the Public Information Officer for the Nevada State Treasurer's Office. Our office administered college saving programs for Nevada, and I certainly had fun with such sponsored events. College savings accounts are something that are dear to my heart, and I even opened one for my daughter when she was just 6 months old! I knew that if I was only putting away $15 a paycheck from that early on, it would pay off in the long run for my daughter. Not to mention, our state has some great matching grant opportunities!

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Grandparent's Day

Today is National Grandparent's Day, and it's been a very long time since I've written a truly heartfelt post. I've been wanting to for awhile, but when you go silent for years, you're never really sure where to pick up.

I lost my grandmother on July 27th, just six weeks ago. She is last the biological grandparent I had still living and I was very close to her. She died within the very same hour I hit the Publish button on Amazon for my first book. I was in a race against time to get it finished before she passed. (Which is why there were still a few typos, now corrected; the cover wasn't exactly what I wanted, everyone else received their book before I did, because I left immediately for her funeral.) But all I wanted was to fulfill my dream knowing I finally finished a book. I accepted that she would never get to read it, I just wanted her to know that I accomplished it. A goal I'd been striving for nearly two decades, since I've started five books and never finished one until now.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of May, so we knew she had a limited amount of time left. My daughter and I flew to Tennessee in June for our final visit with her to say good-bye. I was so grateful for that time with her. More importantly, I was so grateful that my daughter got to spend the time with her in June and got to experience my roots in Tennessee.

My daughter was born a preemie at just 28 weeks and three days and only 2.8 pounds on December 15th, 2013. She was due on March 7th (which would have been the one year anniversary of my grandpa's death.) My grandmother (along with my Dad) flew out to see her in the NICU that Christmas when she was just two weeks old. I tease that she came too early because I was watching too many Hallmark Christmas Movies and she wanted to be here for Christmas. Yes, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in the NICU with our daughter hooked up to the incubator, oxygen tanks, and respirator. I found out the true meaning of a Christmas Miracle that year. That was the last plane trip my grandmother ever took, and I'm so grateful.

In June, my grandmother knew I was struggling internally with not being happy in my career path. The last good conversation I had with her on the phone, I wanted to tell her that I was going to finally be happy. I had given my notice at my job a few days prior. But I also didn't want her to stress, because I wasn't entirely sure what the next chapter would entail. I'm still trying to figure it out. But as I was editing my book, I saw the same person I was six years still battling with not being happy in my career. I had achieved my goal of lasting five years to get vested in the state PERS system, but I was dying on the inside. I was a tired working mom, prediabetic, feeling the fire ignite in me again to do something more fulfilling with my life, and to give my daughter the better hours of my day before she starts kindergarten. I also couldn't publish that book with those same struggles of not being true to myself. It was eating at me. So for the past month and half I've been relaxed and a better mother. Spending time taking her to the park, going to all the karate classes I missed out on, going to the library, and trying to figure out what is next.

I wanted to tell my grandma that I was making changes to be true to myself and my daughter, but I knew it wouldn't matter, she would just know. I didn't want to cause her any more stress or worry, so I just told her how much she meant to me.

My husband drove my daughter and I to Tennessee for her funeral and it was one of the most touching things he's ever done for me (three days there and three days back). We don't have a big marriage presence on social media, because we keep that side private, and I will be honest: marriage is tough.

The past few years of my life have turned out so non-traditional. Back when I was blogging for those who knew me back then, knew how happy and cheerful I was trying to portray everything. (But if you read the book, you will discover I had my own struggles back then too.)

I would have loved to continue blogging through my first home (a cute Cape Cod we fixed up), but I found out I was pregnant within the month of buying the house. I was sick and tired and I was unsure if we would even stay together. We were not married then. Life was not easy. As much as I wanted to live the perfect blog life, it was not in the cards for me.

I knew my grandmother's life was not easy either. There were so many things I wanted to ask her in June as I sat on her couch after my daughter went to bed, but I let it go. I decided there were some things she probably thought I didn't need to know. I asked her if she ever regretted anything, or wished if she would have done anything differently. She knew I was in dire need of answers and guidance for my own life. She told me that although things were not always perfect, she wouldn't have done anything differently.

Many people have asked me about the next book and what I've been up to since the ending of my book, and yes I have part two half completed, which would cover much of my journey mentioned above. I'm still deciding... it's still very personal. But I also have a couple of fiction books in the works too. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for hearing me out.

So on this Grandparent's Day, CHERISH THEM! 

I know I'm still wondering how I'm going to get through the rest of my life
without ever seeing or talking to her again...

'Running Away to Europe' can be found on Amazon.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Author Interview

I'm very excited to be able to share my author interview with you! Many people have asked questions about my book, 'Running Away to Europe', and in this interview I give a brief background and read the book jacket.

For those that were avid blog followers back in the day, you will discover that the book really does contain so much more than I ever wrote about on my blog.

For those that are new to the blog from other avenues of social media and book publicity... you can discover more of the journey and photographs that aren't covered in the book on my blog under the Europe Trip 2011 label. So the book and blog both contain some similar themes, but are also completely different from each other. The two go hand and hand for the full story. Enjoy!

Thank you!

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Author Interview

I'm very excited to be able to share my author interview with you! Many people have asked questions about my book, 'Running Away to ...