Friday, January 30, 2009

What We Did on our Vacation

Mark and I beside our table - it was a great location on a raised area of the floor where we had a wonderful view of everything.

Me going into the dining room from the indoor promenade shopping area that was an entire street similar to Vegas hotels.

This is Mark being greeted warmly by one of the crew hostesses at the dining room entrance. She speaks several languages including mermaid "eeee" (Alyssa and Tyfani also speak this language!)

What We Did on our Vacation
We ate. We read.We ate. We swam. We ate. We went to shows. We ate. We visited ports. We ate. Repeat...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

View From Our Decks - Ship To Shore

Yes, the gloating continues. I plan on doing this all week to ease the transition from warm and sunny to cold and snowy. The tropical pictures are from the ship's deck showing the colorful city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the beach at Labadie, Haiti. The last picture I took 5 minutes ago from our mountain home's front and back decks showing the snow piled on our railing and lining the tree branches. If you look carefully you can see the deer lying in the snow under the trees in our backyard. Both places have beautiful views from the deck!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Look Review "The Miracles of Santo Fico"

“The Miracles of Santo Fico”
by D. L. Smith
I was very excited when I checked my spam mail box today to learn that I have again won the lottery. It’s a miracle! I didn’t enter the lottery, but according to Nicon Company of Nigeria I am a $2 million dollar winner. I quote their very words as proof of my winning: “The service company mailing you as per your parcel that was brought to this company to be delivered to you by lottery groups, along the delivery process that brought a misunderstanding between you and the lottery claim agent and in regards of their request as per their insurance certificate cost and tax fee which happened to be the course of your parcel being pending for the past months/one year.” Huh? That is a sentence of incredible length and construction. I like to call this Scam Literature. If I ever decide to run a scam in a foreign country, I will be sure to have someone who actually speaks that language proofread my email invitations.

Despite the angelic title of this week’s book recommendation, the story revolves around a charming scam artist. I loved this book! The story takes place in the small Italian town of Santo Fico. After twenty years and the death of his estranged father, Leo Pizzola returns to his poor and dusty hometown. Leo’s childhood friend Guido, whom everyone calls “Topo”, is the only person happy to see him. Marta, the woman he once loved, refuses to even speak to him. Apparently Leo managed to make almost everyone mad at him when he suddenly departed on the day of his best friend’s wedding. Leo can’t wait to sell the family vineyard and return to his new home in Chicago. But a greater force is at work to keep Leo from leaving just yet. He has a miracle to perform.

When the elderly town priest loses his faith, Marta turns to Leo to manufacture a miracle to restore the priest’s belief and save his life. She uses her knowledge of a crime committed by Leo to encourage his cooperation. As Leo, Topo and Marta join forces to save the priest, others are drawn in and unexpected miracles do happen.

“The Miracles of Santo Fico” is one of those rare books you can give as a gift to people you like. It is charming, easy to read and unlike some Tuscan sun books, there is no offensive behavior - unless of course you are offended by loveable scam artists.

From Sun to Snow, The Post Cruise Blues

We returned to SNOW and lots of it! Our Royal Caribbean cruise was wonderful but aren't they always? We visited Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, and Haiti. Except for one rain day it was warm and sunny. I'll share some pictures and stories the next couple of days and hope that the gloating will overcome the post cruise depression. It is so wrong to fire up the snowblower, make your own healthy breakfast and go to work. Our dinner table for the week included the Cohens from Cincinnati, the Birchs from Ireland and the Balzottis from Utah. Great food and great companions. Where is Noel, my attentive Jamaican waiter? "Noel?...Noel?" Sigh.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Look Review "Cruel Intent"

“Cruel Intent”
An Ali Reynolds Mystery

The fourth installment in the Ali Reynolds murder mysteries by J.A. Jance is a good one. It is an I-know-who-done-it, as opposed to a who-done-it so you guys who read the ending of a book first will love it. I cannot believe people actually turn to the ending to make sure they will like a book! What is the point of reading a mystery if the mystery is solved for you at the very beginning? I don’t get it.

J.A. Jance is a prolific writer with her popular Joanna Brady, J.P. Beaumont and Ali Reynolds series. The Ali Reynolds books have changed location since the now retired newscaster has moved back to her hometown of Sedona Arizona. In the middle of the restoration of her dream home, Ali’s contractor Bryan Forester is accused of the brutal murder of his wife. Of course we know Bryan didn’t do it because the author already told us at the beginning it was the psycho emergency room MD. But Ali knows he is innocent because she is a great judge of character. And she is smarter than the cops. And she has a hunch. So she solves the crime.

The murder victim was targeted by Dr. Death because she signed up on a dating website he set up to lure married women. These married women were looking for an affair to ease the boredom of suburbia but were unaware of the real danger. Unfortunately, a killer was choosing his deserving adulterous victims from the website. The very real danger of internet predators makes the plot even more sinister. Ali discovers that the website is the key to solving the case and she signs up to catch the ruthless murderer. It turns out to be a dangerous decision with near fatal results.

The side characters are sometimes more interesting in this novel than the main characters. I became fond of the butler Leland – I wouldn’t mind having a butler like Leland. He is immediately likeable and becomes more interesting as the plot thickens. And I really like Ali’s mom. She will remind you of people you know that bring you casseroles when you are sick or someone has died. She believes a good tuna casserole can save the day. In fact she turns out to be more than just a good cook and really does serve up a rescue. Oh oops, now you know the ending. Of course if you are the type of reader who prefers it that way you will enjoy this latest J.A. Jance murder but not mystery book.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I interviewed a snow man today

I don't post all my news stories, but this man was an interesting artist to interview so here are a couple of pictures and my story for the paper.

“Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”
Debbie Balzotti
Staff Writer

Jerry Gardner is a famous local artist. His sculptures have been seen on not just the Utah TV stations but even the national news. In front of his house at 476 S. Canyon Drive in Springville you can view his works of art. But you’ll have to hurry - they melt! When it snows we groan and wait for the plow but Jerry happily grabs his shovel. He spends up to twenty hours creating a whimsical snow sculpture based on a cartoon style character using material provided by Mother Nature, and lots of environmentally friendly paint.

“Snow is a clean canvass,” he says while explaining his inspiration. Why does he do it? “It’s an opportunity to express my artistic talents and it gives adults and children something to look forward to in the long cold months of winter.” After choosing a subject to sculpt, Jerry begins by packing the mounds of soft snow. Using just a shovel and his gloved hands, he forms the large figures and then applies the special paint. Since the snow has to be the right consistency and the H2O paint will cost almost $120 for each sculpture, he can only do about ten a year. As one begins to melt beside the road, another design is forming in Jerry’s imagination.

One of his heartwarming snow sculptures was created to cheer up an ill veterinarian. Using lots of fanciful cats, the huge outdoor get-well card was better than flowers for this doctor. Other businesses and private homes have hired Jerry to place his temporary winter art work where neighbors and friends will smile as they pass by. In the summertime, we can see some of Jerry’s more permanent murals on the Springville La Casita restaurant and at Gardner Village in Salt Lake. Since Gardner Village is built on the mill site of Archibald Gardner, his great, great-grandfather, this was a labor of love. I’m sure Archibald also has a smile on his face as he watches the many visitors to his old silo, now a popular restaurant, enjoy Gardner’s history mural.

Art is only one of Jerry’s passions. He is an avid collector of mine memorabilia. With his partner, Jeff Pollock, he explores mines all over Utah. “I’ve been going underground most of my life,” he says. “Many people don’t realize that mining and mineral wealth is an important part of our Utah history.” He and Jeff hope to open a mining museum someday with their collection from more than 2,000 mine sites. With US Gas and Mining Company covering the mines for safety reasons, time is running out on these archeological sites, according to Jerry. Using his artistic skills Jerry showcases some of his many mining artifacts. At the corner of his property he always has an interesting “street light”. Last year it was an antique truck, and this year it is a jeep.

Jerry has been an artist since attending Provo High School more than 30 years ago. He continued his studies at BYU and UVSC where his interest in painting took an interesting turn. “I got into custom body work and did specialized work on Maseratis, Rolls Royces and later even helicopters,” he said. His professional airbrush skills are now applied to snow sculptures that bring smiles to passing motorists that travel along Canyon Road. We agree with Jerry: “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Look Review "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"

Since the newspaper gods have been choosing odd headline fillers to top my column recently, I decided to stop this disturbing trend by reviewing a book with a very long title.
Actually I decided to read and review The Guernsey Literary etc. (shortened here for review purposes) several weeks ago since so many people have recommended it. The idea to use it as a misleading headline blockade just popped into my head today. Think it will work?

The Guernsey Literary etc. is written with warmth and humor by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The story is set in 1946 London as it emerges from the Second World War. The main character is the witty Juliet Ashton, who wrote a popular newspaper column, “Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War”. Following its success as a newly published book, she is looking for a fresh writing project. Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands occupied by the Germans during the war. Dawsey introduces Juliet to other members of the book club on Guernsey, by way of correspondence. Her writer’s pen begins to twitch with curiosity. And she is a wee bit interested in the fascinating Mr. Adams as well.

Through the letters we learn that during the war, a group of friends caught out after curfew, spontaneously invented a literary society. Although they had been sharing an illegal pork dinner, they create an alibi to keep them out of jail. The Guernsey Characters, and they are characters, are brave and humorous. Their love of life and literature make us wish they would write letters to us too.

I really enjoyed this heartwarming book. It took some time to get into the rhythm of the letters and to keep the characters straight, but it was worth it. I kind of missed these quirky lit lovers when I finished the book – that’s how you know it was a good read. I am also guessing that a sequel will soon follow. I hope so.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Inspired by Alyssa, the Happiness Journal

I do write in a journal weekly, but Alyssa's resolution to find something everyday and recognize that it makes her happy, has inspired me to start a Happiness Journal. Daily will be a challenge, but I can do it.Short entries. Have to fudge and back enter for yesterday but hey, I have no problem with that and I have a suspicious feeling that I may be doing it more than once this year.