5 Blogging Goals

Thanks to EatPrayRunDC, YouSignedUpForWhat? & MarontheRun for hosting this link-up. Today I am linking up again with The DC Trifecta Friday Five.

I'm not really ready for fall, so I almost picked a different topic.  See in Utah we have been getting a month of unsually crazy amount of daily rain storms.  Normally we can go through August without seeing many drops and temps in the high 90's.  Not so much this year, in fact our mountains actually got snow last weekend??? Which is why I am still okay with summer sticking around a bit longer.
However, there are a few things I have plans to work on this fall, so I thought I would share with you my Five Fall Blogging Goals.

I recently signed up with an Instagram account @Runawaybridalplanner.  At first I literally couldn't see the point of it, I mean it's just pictures.  But it is slowly wearing off on me and I'm finding I am enjoying it more and more each day.  One of my goals this fall is to build my following base up on it.  So if you want to help me out, I'd love it if you'd send me a follow CLICK HERE:)  FYI I follow back! 

It's been a long time debate for me, should I switch from blogspot to a self hosted .com?  Technically, I bought my domain the same time I started my blog.  But part of me didn't want to switch over until I was making enough money each month on my blog to pay for the self hosting, yes I am cheap:).
After I speak to a few people who have done the blogspot to self host switch, it's my goal to switch over sometime in the next few months.  So if your one of those blogspot people who have done it, and you'd allow me to ask you a few maybe a dozen questions, I'd love it if you'd let me know!

I used to blog surf once a week and find a new blog to follow.  Then life got hectic and I realized I wasn't doing this as much.  My goal for this fall is to do this again, find 1 new blogger to follow and interact with each week.  

Now that I am running again, and increasing my mileage weekly and slowly building back up to finish the last 19 states I have goals to run marathon's in.  I am going to start offering tips for runners on Thursday's on my blog.

I have done a ton of research on them.  I've found lots of new ways to get all the different bloggers giveaways who have linked up to join my giveaway hops onto larger platforms to get more and different eyeballs coming to our blogs.  My goals for this fall are to double the amount of bloggers who are participating in the hops and double the amount of entrants.  I've joined up with some great co-hosts for these hops who are going to help me get the word out.  I think with a bit more pushing, that we can make these hops even bigger and better than ever before.

Speaking of which, if your a blogger and your thinking of hosting a giveaway in September, why not join up with us and have even more people visit your giveaway!  The Linky platform I use tracks page views, and the average combined blogs posts (all bloggers participating combined) receive over 15,000 pageviews on the giveaway posts during that hop.  Which for smaller blogs who are looking to grow their numbers, this could potentially give you the opportunity to find lots of new followers.
You can view the sign up details HERE.
If you agree to the rules for the hop, we'd love to have you join us in the link up below.

Those are my 5 blogging goals for this fall.  Do you set blogging goals?  What are some of your blogging goals? 

Wedding Wednesday My Outdoor Favorites

It's been a while since I have shared some wedding pictures.  If you don't already know, just like the name on my blog I a Runner and a Wedding Planner.  I own my own decoration company which allows me to be unique and have lots of different options on hand for the different brides I work with.

I get asked by people all the time if I have a "Favorite" wedding.  I have lots of favorites, however I thought I'd show you 2 of my favorite outdoor summer weddings.  I'm showing 2 because they really tie for first in my favorites list.  Some other time I'll have to show you some of my favorite indoor weddings.

Okay, so up first is the wedding I nicknamed The Starburst Wedding.  If you don't know why, then you need to go eat a piece of Starburst candy:)  I had to dig a little, this wedding was a few years ago, and I still couldn't find all the pictures:(

This particular bride actually let me pick her colors.  Yes that happens more often than you would think.  Basically I was given a list of her favorite colors and I went ahead and picked 3 of them.  I also was told she is a fun and bright person.

-I picked-
Fuschia Pink - Canary Yellow - Soda Pop Orange

If your wondering, no I did not meet this bride before I showed up to decorate her wedding.  She put her trust in me entirely and she had no idea what she was going to see come her wedding day.  This was in a beautiful backyard that was right up against a mountain.  The waterfall in her backyard was huge, almost two stories tall, so like a mountain itself:)

If your wondering the bride and her family absolutely loved it.  They thought it fit both their backyard and their daughter perfectly.  They had so many compliments from their guests they were over joyed.  Which only made me and my crew just all smiled that day/night!

If your wondering why this one tops my list.  Well I have to say using candy as the theme and then the beautiful surroundings I had to work with.  These colors just pop the word FUN!

Triple Arch Backdrop dressed in Green Ivy and light floral
At night this all lit up with so many white lights it was beautiful.
This was the first time I used this backdrop, so we designed and learned how to do
the ivy on it on site.  It took 3 hours just to put the ivy on it, I no longer do that day of anymore:)

This is an aerial view.  The guests came down a U shape hill that was lined with
sheppards hooks and bows that matched the rest - I couldn't find these pics.
I'm actually standing at the top of the waterfall in this picture.  I loved that thing!

Another aerial view, this one a bit closer up of how we did the tables.  We alternated
the colors so their were a few different table color combinations.
Hard to see but we did the banquet tables in the back overlapped to look like starburst:)

Another view of the eating, refreshment and candy bar area.
You can't see it but there is a 2nd level similar to this one that is was just a table
eating area for the guests on the 2nd floor.

One thing I loved about this yard that had nothing to do with me.  Was all of the beautiful
Rocks we had to work with.  The entire waterfall that was literally half the size of the house was done
in the beautiful Utah canyon red rocks, as well as all the yard points from the fire pit to the
paths and even the stairs around the yard, all beautiful stone!  Loved it!

We used a simple white 4 leg gazebo with a huge floral arrangement
at the top.  This picture was taken pre cake arrival.  We also dressed the wrought iron
gazebo up and wrapped it in tulle so at night when all the white lights cam on it looked like
lighted glowing glass.

Just the entrance book sign-in area.  Nothing fancy just simple.

This picture was taken before I was completely finished but the arch area
was for a bride and groom video area.  Although the grounds were quite beautiful
We actually brought in over a dozen ficus tree's and topiary trees to place throughout the yard
and areas as needed.
I mentioned I couldn't find all the pictures - Well the centerpieces we used were the tall
Champagne glass ones on the left (not red of course, lol).  Floating Gerbera Daisies like pictured on the right.
Each table like the overlays and sashes were alternated.
Simple but elegant, sometimes you don't need extravagant centerpieces when you
are going for a fun outdoor wedding theme:)


Okay, so my 2nd favorite wedding was one that I again never met the bride.  Her mother and I designed the wedding.  Mom said to me, "I am paying for it and my daughter doesn't care as long as it looks nice, so we are going to design the dream backyard wedding I always wanted." And she did!

Mom had chosen Victorian Lilac and a lighter yellow.  I talked her into the Canary Yellow because it matched the Victorian Lilac a bit better and gave things more of a pop!

The fact that I used a triple arch backdrop in both of these weddings was just by chance.  Why is this one on the top of my favorites for outdoor weddings?  Well I loved the colors, and it all blended together so beautifully and we had the space we needed to make everything fit and look nice.

So the backdrop was decorated in lots of heavy green ivy.  I weaved in purple organza ribbon
into the ivy and then we added bright Canary Yellow roses throughout to have things stand out more.
At night there were lots and lots of white lights that were woven into the green ivy which
along with the lamp posts on the side let things really light up for the night.
When I use this backdrop I put all the ivy, lights and ribbon on a day in advance before I
transport it to the event.  This saves me 3-4 hours wedding day, and then we can spend more time
on the other smaller details.
There were about 10 banquet tables throughout that we just did in white
linens that dropped to the ground.  These were used from everything from
the dinner bar, drink tables, candy bar, gift, photo etc.. tables

I do all of the floral arrangements we use at the brides weddings.
This one was one I did myself:)  These are all done days in advance
They take too long to wait until the day of.

They had a very large backyard, I believe we did 14 round eating tables that wrapped
around the property.  We went Canary Yellow only on the tables and sashes because
although the colors are fun, we were going for more elegant fun.  We left the purples for the
larger items.

Another view of the wrap around yard.  We also brought in I believe 12 lamp posts
so that come evening everything would be lit up with plenty of light.
I don't like to pat myself on the back too much, but I will say I can tie some of the best
sashes around!  I'm also fast at it, which is a plus!

I forgot to get a picture but we did a beautiful candy area, and used
my old fashion candy cart.  I am still kicking myself for not getting the pictures on that
It was one of my most favorite candy bar set ups!

Centerpieces were wrought iron Candelabra.  We added just a simple hint of greenery
to them.  Each top had about 12 candle holders that at night were all lit up.
The real candles only burn about an hour before they have to be replaced.  But gave a
beautiful romantic feel to the tables with 12 flickering candles at each.
(The metal pots in the back were for the different drinks in ice:)

This part wasn't my favorite.  Because we created purple tulle wrap fence posts around
the yard, we decided to wrap the 3 leg lighted gazebo in purple tulle.  Using the yellow as the accents.
It looked fine, but because the brides mom required that I put the 3rd leg back behind the mini
fence, this sort of ruined it for me.  If it hadn't been such a long day, I would have argued and just
did it my way and not of had the 3rd leg back behind.  But either way at night this thing lit up like
purple ice, it was gorgeous!

So those are my two favorite Outdoor Weddings.  Not to say many of the others weren't nice, because they were, but probably I am drawn to both of these more for the colors we used, and some of the creative liberties I was able to take:)
Purple and Yellow weddings are some of the most popular color combinations here in Utah for several years running!
However, I would absolutely love to do another "Starburst" wedding someday:)  I loved those colors together!

Can you guess right?

This week for Travel Tuesday I am going to do something a little different.  I have a $10 Amazon gift card for the first person who can correctly guess where this picture was taken.

However, if no one guesses and one person can guess the correct state it was taken in, I will give that person a $5 Amazon gift card.

All my comments are timed so it will be easy to tell who guessed right first.  There can only be 1 winner so start guessing NOW, I will accept entries until Midnight tonight.  And yes, if you think you have guessed wrong, and want to guess again feel free!  There is no limit on how many guesses, however each guess will have to be its own comment to keep it fair.

HINT: The only hint I will give is, yes it is a state I have run a marathon in.  But no it is not a place that I have showcased on a Travel Tuesday post before.

Thank you to everyone who took a minute and guessed!  I had two of you who pretty much responded at the exact same time and both of your answers were correct.  So to be fair I am going to declare you both winners, and you should both have received an email from me by now regarding this.

The location is THE OLD RED MILL in Jericho, Vermont.
This is a fun little place to visit if you are ever in the area.  There is even a small museum inside and gift shop.
If it interests you, visit their website HERE to learn more and to get directions.

Common Sense for Runners

Last Friday, I had one of those moments that just reminded me how much I really love running.  If your a runner, this will probably be something you can relate to.
Friday I went out and the only goal was to walk/run 3 miles.  I started out walking to make sure my tendon flare up was as under control as I hoped.  When things seemed to be okay I started running, I didn't have any plans on how far just wanted to see how things felt.

After a mile of running, I probably should have stopped.  Everything felt good in the tendon area I hadn't had any pain.  As I was about to slow to stop, my body had a mind of it's own and I was feeling too good, and loving to be out running again.  So instead of stopping I picked up the pace, about a minute per mile faster than I was before.  Not a crazy fast pace, but just enough to be much faster than I have been running the past few months.  It felt incredible!

For those moments in that short .25 of a mile every single reason I have fought back, and spent countless PT hours and countless dollars on medical bills all seemed worth it.
I could have kept on going, but .25 of a mile was just enough to remind me what I wanted and what my ultimate goals are.  My sensible side kicked in and I slowed to a walk to finish my workout for that day. With a smile on my face and a definite spring in my step that carried me through the rest of the weekend and even through today's run this morning!

I mentioned a few weeks ago I had a flare up, and it was a bad one.  Brought me to tears at how bad it was. But after some reflection and looking back I know exactly what caused it.
Remember the "said" job that I was injured at in the first place?
Well, my tendon area is pretty much always swollen, I haven't been able to get rid of the swelling in about 20 months now.  But I keep it maintained from getting worse and the Dr's weren't worried about it.
However, for some reason on the day it happened it was a little more swollen than usual.  Then I went and worked 4 hours on my feet at the job that injured me, followed by another 4 hours of alternating hour sit and standing.
Big mistake, I know that now.
I just cannot stand for long periods, and I need to remember that!  I will not pick up 8 hour shifts again that will keep me on my feet!  It's not worth it!

Thankfully, I have what I like to call "Runner Common Sense" now.  It's not an easy thing to come by, but fortunately it's been forced onto me over the past 20 months.
Not many runners can do this, but as I learned from my PT that is also the reason some runners are always injured or can't heal from things they would have likely in a week or two if they did have this "common sense."  (I am not putting anyone down, this is just a fact and probably pre-work injury I may have at times fallen right into that little to no common sense category, and I would have pushed through to hit my running goals and races.  I guess I just have to be thankful that previously I was a pretty good injury free girl!
Anyhow, what is that common sense?  Stop everything immediately.  Anything and everything that causes any pain or aggravation in the area.  Immediately start icing and elevating, and in my case I put the boot back on.  That means even if in training, you have to stop running if it causes even the slightest pain.

So many people will run through a little bit of pain, because they think "oh this isn't that bad".  Only to find themselves limping by afternoon.  They may heal up a little in the night and then they repeat it the next day.  The thing is, even the slightest bit of pain is a warning, and the key to becoming a great runner is to be able to pay attention to your body, learn its warning signs, learn how to stay injury free.

My flare up could have been the beginning of another 6-12 months of issues.  This I knew quite well, as my mind teared up at any thought of what the flare up could do to me again.
However, because of quick attention to it, and a little common sense that I have learned.  I was easily able to get rid of the flare up, and get back to running again with only a 2 week layoff.

Which is why, if any runner can take anything from me it is this.  If you become injured (even if it's like me and it's not even a running injury), the absolutely worst thing you can do to yourself is keep running/walking on the problem.  The best thing you can do, is start letting it heal asap, take a few days or a few weeks off instead of if not treated being forced to take months or more off.  If it hasn't healed in 2 weeks, and it's getting a little worse, see a Dr. don't just hope it will go away with your own methods of rest.  Because usually an injury that progresses or gets worse after 2 weeks isn't one that is going to go away soon.

In fact, when you are injured what you do in those 24-72 hours following the initial injury I have learned can be the difference between something that will go away quick, or something that will linger or get worse.
If I had payed attention to the warning signs 20 months ago,and quit my job that I was injured at instead of keeping at it, I honestly know I would not have been off this long, it might have only been a year off, or who knows even slightly less???

Okay, sorry I totally don't mean this post to sound like I am preaching.  I just figure if I had to go through what I did and what I still am, if even one person takes it to heart and their injury can be stopped early on and not cause them a few years or life off running then it's probably a good thing I share:)

I hope everyone else has been having a great end to their summer!
We actually had snow in Utah over the weekend, at the higher elevations.  But yes I saw snow on the tops of the peaks from my house Saturday morning.  Even though I love all 4 seasons, I am not ready to let go of summer just yet.  Snow in August even in our mountains is a bit unusual!  I am okay if it stays away for another month maybe two:)


Also I want to mention the next Giveaway Hop, the sign up is open now.
I want to thank Fairytales and Fitness for co-hosting and helping me get the word out over the next couple of weeks about the sign up.

If your a blogger and your looking for a fun way to grow your blog, you'll want to consider joining us.

Also, if your thinking of hosting a giveaway on your blog, you will definitely want to consider joining us. The feedback I receive from the blogs participating, and I notice it myself.  You can get somewhere between 3X-10X more entries than if you just host a giveaway on your own.

If your wondering why and how.  Well everyone who links up hosts their own individual giveaway, but each giveaway at the end of their post as the list of all the other blogs in the giveaway, which means a follower from one person's blog can easily go through and enter all the giveaways participating easily by just going down the list.  When you think about it, your taking each blog who participates and potentially each of those blogs followers have the opportunity to see and visit your blog, and enter your giveaway.  Hence, why each blogger will receive more entries than if they host alone!

So what are you waiting for, we'd love to have you join us!  You can click HERE for the official rules.  After you read them and can agree to them.  Go ahead and link up with us!

Raspberry Ketones Extract

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary bottle of supplements for my review.  All thoughts and opinions below are my own.

So if you read my blog you know along with getting back into running after 18 months off, I am also trying to drop the extra pounds I gained during the running layoff and a few that I had still wanted to lose even before that.

I had been going super strong through June & July.  I had lost 22 pounds since January.  But then the last few weeks happened, I call them "Camping Calories" I say they don't count while I am camping.  However, once I come home, that's another story.  It's almost like I have hit a weight loss plateau.
It's not because I don't have the weight to loose, because I do!  I just needed something to help me mix it all up and jump start my body to lose the weight again.

However, something arrived in the mail this month.  I had signed up to try out Raspberry Ketones Extract for a review.
I can't say I have tried many supplements if any for weight loss in the past.  But let me tell you the 3 reasons why I had originally decided to try this one.

1. It's all natural, this particular supplement product is 100% Raspberry Ketones Extract there is nothing else added to it, no weird chemicals I can't pronounce just Pure Raspberry Ketones.

2. It's made in the USA.  Let's face it with the current economy and state that our country is in, we need to keep the business here.  These days if you are like me, you look for products that keep the jobs and dollars here!

3.  It had my curiosity, I remembered hearing months back some T.V. programs talking about it.  Although I couldn't remember all they said, I just remembered people raving about it, and I won't lie it has my curiosity.

What does the product advertise it will do?
1. Proven Fat Burner
2. Appetite Controller

NOTE: I have been trying their product that contains 120 Capsules at 500 mg each

I have only been taking the Raspberry Ketones for a short time.  I don't want to lie or mislead you, I just want to tell you what I have noticed so far.

The capsules are easy to swallow, they are a little bigger in my opinion but I personally have not had any problems swallowing them since they seem to be gel coated and go down easily.

First I can tell the Appetite Control part is working a little.  It's still to early to tell if it is a mind thing or really from the supplement.  But either way, its a good thing and I'll take it!
Because you take 1 pill 30 minutes before you eat 2X's a day, and I drink it will a full 8oz glass of water. That in itself helps you feel fuller before you sit to eat the meal, so yes you don't eat quite as much because of that.  Aside from that I have noticed my desire to snack between meals is down a little. So my thoughts on Appetite Control, I am giving this a thumbs up!

As for it being a Proven Fat Burner, well that is still to be determined.  I haven't been taking it long enough to really notice a huge difference, I believe it will be a few more weeks before I can tell for sure.
However, I promise I will share an update later on in the coming weeks.
My hopes are high, I do have lots more pounds I want to lose.  Possibly by taking the Natural Raspberry Ketones Extract in combination with a healthy diet and getting out and walking and running each day this will hopefully jump start me again and get me back on track and dropping the pounds again!
(I believe a healthy diet and active lifestyle is a weight loss requirement.)

I am hopeful this will be exactly what helps me get over this I guess you could call it weight loss plateau that I have hit the past few weeks.
Because it's all natural, I am not worried about any side effects, and I think it's a good healthy alternative for assistance on weight loss.  I haven't tried supplements like this before, so I am excited and intrigued to see what results I receive after a couple of months on it!

If you'd like to read a little more about this product:

Want to try it yourself, you can actually buy it on Amazon

Have you ever tried a supplement before to help with weight loss or appetite control?  Have you tried Pure Raspberry Ketones Extract before?
If you've tried this, or other similar supplements have they worked for you?

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Your Family in Pictures

I came across the book Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh, and although it's a parent guide to photography, and I am just an aunt with lots of cute nieces and nephews.  I realized it would be also useful for myself.
Those of you who read my blog know I love to take pictures, I am not a professional, and I don't have a thousand dollar camera with all the crafty lenses.
I own a decent 10 MP camera.  Although I am getting pretty good with all the different functions and speeds. Knowing exactly which speed for which lighting, which setting for each environment has been a little bit of a struggle for me.
I took photography in high school and I remember the basics, but there is just so more to taking a great picture than a high school class can teach you!

Which is why when I received this book, even just as I thumbed through it initially I was loving it.  Me Ra Koh breaks down simple every day pictures and settings and pretty much tells you exactly what to do from everything with a point and shoot camera, to a fancy all the bells and whistles one.

A few weeks back I took a trip, and this book with me and I was out to experiment and see if I too could use her tips to create better pictures.
The first section I paid attention to was Photographing Vacations and Travel.
I read through the tips for the "Great Outdoors" and experimented one evening and this was one of the pictures I took.

One of her tips was to let the glare help tell the story.  She said to lift the lens into the sun and let the sunlight right in, bokeh rings and all.
I would have loved to have some of the nieces and nephews running through the forest area here in the picture, but with too many bull moose around it wouldn't have been smart.
However, I do love how the light hits everything in this picture, creating different colors and shades of all the greens.

Next, I decided to take the section(s) on photographing kids and give them a try.
One of the tips was finding an interesting location.  We were out fishing one morning and although I could have took a shot right up against the lake, I realized if I did they would be in too much light, not to mention the reflection of light on the lake.
The shot was taken in the morning, but I put them in the shade to reduce glare.  The large rock and old lake tree stump were perfect for "interesting location" and then I took a few shots.

Granted a professional photographer or an even better camera would probably do an even better job.  But using the tips the book gave me, I don't think I did too shabby!
I would go on and show you all the pictures I took using the different tips, but that would be the worlds longest post.

If you are a mom, dad who loves to use your camera.  Even if it is just the camera that comes on your smart phone.  You'll be able to get lots of tips and idea's to use what you have to create beautiful pictures.
You don't have to have hundred dollar lenses to still get a great shot.  Me Ra Koh tells you simple tricks you can do to find success with any camera.
I am having a lot of fun with this book and my camera and I am already looking forward to the next time I am out to use the new tips and knowledge I have gained to use my eyes to create even better pictures than before.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for my review.  I was not asked to write a positive review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

5 Things to Love About Hiking

Thanks to EatPrayRunDC, YouSignedUpForWhat? & MarontheRun for hosting this link-up. Today I am linking up again with The DC Trifecta Friday Five.

Instead of racking my brain for things I like or love, I decided to go with the first thing that popped into my mind, HIKING.
Why hiking?  Because it's summer and for me, summer wouldn't be summer with lots of miles out on the trails, exploring nature and taking in breathtaking views.

1. THE VIEWS - It doesn't matter if you are hiking along the shoreline, or if you are climbing the highest peaks or wandering the desert.  If you open your eyes you'll find beauty all around!

Left - Montana Glacier National Park Area -
Right - Yellowstone National Park's Mini Grand Canyon

2.  THE EXERCISE - Short hike, long hike either way its a fun way to get in exercise without really having to think about the workout.

3.  THE ANIMALS - Most of the time you might not notice much, but if you are lucky and if you keep your eyes open you might just have the opportunity to spot something amazing.

Elk - Mountain Goat - Caribou, Grizzly Bear - Young Deer - Buffaloo
Spotted all of these at different times while I was out exploring nature!

4.  FRIENDS & FAMILY - Although I do hike alone at times (smartly) most of the time I head out with family or good friends.  What a fun opportunity to get to know each other better in a beautiful relaxed atmosphere.

Hiking with my niece a few weeks ago, taking a break to enjoy the view.

5.  THE DIFFICULTY - Although sometimes it's nice to just go out on a few mile day hike.  Other times for me it's just as much fun to go out and do something a bit more difficult or technical.

Climbing Angel's Landing - Zion National Park, Utah

Do you love to hike?  If you could recommend 1 trail to me that you have done, that I should add to my "must hike" list, what would it be?

The Dirty Dash

Have you ever run The Dirty Dash?
In case you haven't heard about them, its an incredible fun race, let me describe it in a few words:

Mud-Fun-Sweat-More Mud-Running-More Mud-Obstacle Course-Muddy Fun

They have several different races around the country to choose from.  For my Utah peeps, the next Dirty Dash is coming up September 13, 2014.

You can visit their web page HERE
If you'd like a 20% race registration discount at checkout use: 20DD

Dirty Dash races are great to enter with a group of your most fun and craziest running friends.  What better way to spend a girls weekend, getting a mud bath while getting your sweat on too!  Not to mention how fun those pictures will be to share on Instagram and Facebook after!

Take a minute and check out the fun video above giving you a little bit more information and the experience you'll have if you enter the World's Muddiest Race.

20% Off Coupon Code: 20DD

So tell me, have you ever run The Dirty Dash Before?  Are you going to be running one of their races this year/next?  

Disclaimer: This post is part of a paid advertisement.  However all thoughts and opinions in the post are my own.

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

For those who LOVED Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series, she decided to give us a pleasant surprise, a sequel, but not of Sam and Grace, this time the beloved bad boy Cole St. Clair in Sinner.

So if you are like me, and I'll just assume you are:)  I loved Cole St. Clair, musician, singer, cocky self assured, dark and total bad boy!  In fact the moment he was introduced in the Shiver series he was one of my favorites and I couldn't get enough of him.  Although the Shiver series had a satisfying ending.  I thought it was brilliant that she decided to let us know Cole and Isabel's story.

Sinner takes place not in Minnesota like Shiver, but in beautiful sunny L.A., California.  Cole has been staying with Sam and Grace in Minnesota, but he's changed.  Not just wolf changes, but changed his life and he wants nothing more than to go to L.A. and find Isabel, she's all he's thought about for months.
Not only that, but he's gone back to music.  With plans for his next album, he makes a deal to film a reality T.V. show about his life.

Cole has changed, but his attitude and persona haven't.  He's still the lovable overly self assured, good looking bad boy who says whatever he wants when he wants and it's always cleaver to the T.
Everyone is expecting him to fail, after all this is Cole the musician who collapsed on state from an overdose and than disappeared and was thought for dead.  He was dead, inside but he was also saved, saved by being bitten and becoming a wolf.  But Cole has other plans, he may fail, but if he does it will be with a bang and not without trying everything to win over Isabel.

Isabel Culpeper has been living in L.A. she looks to be everything about the word alive and anyone who looks at her would love to be her.  The only problem is, sometimes appearances mean nothing, inside she is as dead as can be, and doing everything to remove herself from the pain of actually having to feel.
Still getting over her brother's death, living in high class L.A. neighborhoods, shopping on Wilshire and everything L.A and Beverly Hills, working at one of the most high end boutiques most celebrity visited.  She feels she has found a way to live without actually having to care about anything.  That is until the day Cole shows up at the boutique and gives her the most shocking surprise of all, she may just find she does want to feel again.

Cole and Isabel both have issues, some related to the other and the hauntings of the past, and others completely different.  They are both beautiful people who have what some would say everything they could want.  But looks are deceiving and they both feel lacking.  That is when they are apart, but together sparks fly, tempers roll and being as damaged as they are becomes an intriguing chemistry that keeps the reader on edge.

I loved this book, really couldn't put it down.  Maggie Stiefvater really knows how to write the perfect Cole personality for my liking.  He's just a character, but even I fell even more in love with him in Sinner.
Isabel takes on an entirely new roll in this book, and I found her character to be the perfect fit for the on again, off again, heated, cold and re-heated relationship they share.

Fans of Shiver will love Sinner!  Even if you haven't read the Shiver series, this book for the most part could be a stand alone.  Except if you haven't read the Shiver series the Wolf part might not make entirely much sense!  Either way, I highly recommend this book!
This is Young Adult, but the characters are 18 and most of the situations in the book are more adult minded, so I think it was more written with adults in mind than teens.

Hiking Blanch Lake, Wasatch Mountains Utah

Last month I finally took the opportunity to go on a hike that has been on my list of "to do's" for years.  Hiking to Blanch Lake.
It's a beautiful hike in the Wasatch Mountains, the trail head is about 6.5 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon.  You'll take the South Fork of Mill B Trail head.

This is a very popular hike, if you go on a Saturday you'll likely see lots and lots of people.  If you are looking for a little less people on the trail, visit it during the week.

A few things about this hike.  If you are only hiking to Blanch Lake it is 3 miles in and 3 miles out for a total of 6 miles.  However, the first 3 miles are all uphill, you are doing a lot of climbing.  You are on maintained trails, however I am ranking this as strenuous because of the several thousand feet in elevation that you are climbing.

Take as many breaks as you need on the way up, besides taking a few seconds to catch your breath.  You can also catch one of the many views on this trail.  If you are not surrounded by tree's, or next to the river early on.  You are usually in view of the many different peaks in the area.

The trail is pretty maintained, the only portion that may discourage some is the rock slide (seen in the picture above.)  You are in switchbacks in this area, so when you get to the point that large boulders are blocking the trail, just start climbing up them, and keep your eye to the right, eventually you will see the trail start again after the slide area.

As you get closer to the top near Blanch Lake, take a few minutes to step away from the trail and look out over the views down the canyon you just came up.  On a clear day if you look out you can actually see the Great Salt Lake and valley in the distance.

When you get to Blanche Lake, take a rest and enjoy the view.

Don't forget to look down at the rock your standing on, if you are into geology all those little cracks are from when this was all once a big glacier.  They are the grinding marks the glacier formed as it moved and melted, almost giving the rock a polished look.

Above is one of my favorite views.  This is of Blanch Lake, and you can see Sundial Peak in the background.  This is the main attraction to the lake.
However, for the hiker who loves to hike this doesn't have to be the end.

If you keep heading past lake Blanche, you will see a trail (above) that will take you to Lake Florence and Lake Lillian.  They are both pictured below, even though the one in the distance is a little harder to make out in this picture.

It's not just lakes, there are lots of other short trails, water falls and things to see.  Let adventure be your guide.

Don't forget your camera.  If you like to backpack camp, this is also a great area to hike in and camp overnight.  You can even fish the lakes for trout for your dinner.

* Make sure to bring plenty of water, especially in the hot summer months
* Trail is located up Big Cottonwood Canyon at the South Mill B Trail head
* No dogs allowed hiking in this canyon
* You can hike this in the winter with snow shoes, however there is high avalanche danger so make sure you pay attention and take every precaution
* Trail is 6 miles round trip but if you are like me and go out and explore the other lakes and surrounding areas at the top, you might actually be closer to 10 miles by the time you get back.