How many times have you heard someone say they’re burned out and need a holiday? I know I’ve said it a number of times. A break always sounds like a great idea. And I take them as often as I can.

But it doesn’t have to be big like a trip away from home. Little times can be used to refresh and recharge. I’ve made a list for myself. I call them mini vacations. You can take many of them without leaving home. My list includes:

1. Sitting and listening to favorite music while drinking my favorite beverage. No computer, TV or any electronics. Just 10-15 min. and I feel almost brand new.

2. Another is get a color fix. You might drop in to the fabric or yarn store and drink in all the colors. It really does wonders for me. Even thinking about it does so. Or if you can, take a trip to somewhere sunny and warm and enjoy the colors. In the midst of an Alberta winter I find I crave color so I drank in the colors on my holiday to Hawaii and I will share them with you. Enjoy and be refreshed.

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3. Having a coffee date with myself. (If you’re in need of seeing other people make a date with a friend.) I like to take a book and read, a notebook and write (it doesn’t have to be about my writing. It might be a time to organize my life) or I can read the newspaper uninterrupted.

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4. A leisurely walk. Sometimes a change of scenery from your normal walk scene.

5. A real change of scenery. I love writing while away from home.

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6. Doodling. It’s not meant to be good but fun. Sort of like adult coloring only you don’t need as many pens or pencils. Unless, of course, you want to color it later.


7. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset while walking. Alone is good allowing you to enjoy the peace and quiet.

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8. Visit a museum, a library or a bookstore. Works every time.

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Do you take mini-vacations? What do you do?

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What do you do when you go to Hawaii?  hawaii 261 

Well, I went for coffee. I wanted to find something besides the same old chains though I did end up stopping in at several Starbucks simply because there was always one nearby.

One was across from the Trump Tower. Another in the Kalia Tower of the Hawaiian Hilton Village. One in the Hale Koa hotel that we learned to our dismay closed at 1 p.m. (What is with that???)

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But I did manage to find a few unique coffee shops.

1. Island Vintage Coffee at the Royal Hawaiian Center. Very busy. They offered a temptation I couldn’t turn down—Macadamia, Coconut coffee. Although I don’t care for sweetened coffee, this was a delightful drink.

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2. Lappert’s ice cream and coffee. I expect ice cream was the big draw in the afternoon but at sunrise, it was coffee and something from the baked goods. Right across from the lobby of the Hawaiian Hilton I could see myself going there often if there hadn’t been other places to visit.

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3. Gorilla in the Cafe. The name was enough to draw me in. A cute little shop off a busy thoroughfare. Very quiet first thing in the morning.

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4. Coffee Gallery on the North Shore. Very busy by the time we got there. They had a lovely looking outdoor area but after seeing a dead animal, a rat trap and hoards of flies, we gave it a miss. Good coffee with interesting decor.

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5. The Beachwalk was appealing. I wanted coffee there but they only served a coffee sweetened with condensed milk. It did not appeal to me even though the place had a certain amount of ambience.

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Yup. Good memories of good coffee.

drink coffee

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Two events have brightened my days recently. The first is a trip to Waikiki with three of my daughters. Lovely weather, lovely company and lovely surroundings. Here are some pictures of the beautiful setting.

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It seems such a long time ago I got to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun and ocean, walk and watch the sunrise and sunset. That’s the trouble with holidays. They are too soon memories. But great memories.

The second event is one I am looking forward to with both excitement and fear. I am to be on Facebook Live. A first for me. That event will be Tues. I will also be doing a video interview on Fri. I’m not sure when that goes live but will keep you informed. But please come and visit me on Tues. There will be prizes.

Linda Ford Facebook Live

What special events have brightened your January days?

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Last week I shared half a dozen things I learned while researching the story series Big Sky Country. The second book—Montana Cowboy Family—is out this month.

Montana Cowboy Family

Today, I want to share another half dozen things I learned.

1. The area is beautiful which I already knew but it bears repeating.

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2. There are old-growth cedars of up to 500 years—the Ross Creek Cedars.

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3. David Thompson mapped the area. What an incredible man he was.

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montana research trip July 1134. Gold brought people to the area. In 1864, 1000 men were each panning $20-$30 from Wild Horse Creek. Fine gold was valued at $18/oz. but it was the wealth of trees that kept them there.


montana research trip July 2175. There is a library well stocked with books on local history.

montana research trip July 0466. The lake created by the Libby Dam  is called Lake Koocanusa.


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The name is a combination of the names Kootenai, Canada and United States and crossed the Canada-American border. montana research trip July 042


The Koocanusa Bridge, Montana’s longest (2,437 feet) and highest (270 feet) bridge crosses the lake.



I really enjoy researching. It makes me look at places I visit with more interest. Do you dig deep into an area when you visit it? What is your favorite discovery?

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Seeing as this is the first day of 2017 I suppose I should say something about what I learned in 2016, but frankly, I’m ready to forget about the old year and move forward in the new.

That said, I turn my attention back to my writing. Montana Cowboy Family (book 2 of Big Sky Country series) will be released in stores in a few days. I think those who have a subscription to the series already have copies. I thought I would share a few things I learned while researching for these stories.

1. Some people have too many hats.

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2. The town of Libby, Montana loves eagles. There are at least 25 sculptures scattered throughout the town. ‘The Eagles of Libby are iron and steel eagle sculptures of various sizes ranging from a 6 ft. wing span to several over 25 ft. wing tip to wing tip. A while back the local [art] teacher started making these beautiful sculptures. The town purchased them and began displaying them all over town. It didn’t hurt that the mayor at the time was the teacher’s brother. ‘ (See more at:

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3. I love old things

 montana research trip July 096 but prefer to live with modern conveniences.

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4. The Kootenay Falls formed a sort of barrier between the Upper and Lower Kootenay bands and are revered by the Kootenay people.

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5. Transportation between Montana and Fort Steele, BC was conducted on the river.

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6. The trail to the falls is not wheelchair accessible. Yes, I took the wheelchair guy with me.

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It’s nice to look at these pictures and remember all the wonderful things I saw and learned.

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I am reading a book about travels on the Santa Fe Trail. (My copy is from the library and is plain brown.)

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along The Santa Fé Trail by [Russell, Marion Sloan]

Often  research involves ploughing through dry text. But not so in this book. The writer has a way of making the scene come alive.

I will share a couple of examples: ‘…the deer and the antelope bounded away from us. There were miles and miles of buffalo grass, blue lagoons and blood-red sunsets, and once in a while, a little sod house on the lonely prairie—home of some hunter or trapper.’

And this: ‘Sometimes one of the mules would start a great braying, and the other would take it up making the night hideous.’

The narrator was but a child of 7 on her first trip along the Santa Fe Trail. ‘Maid Marian,” as she was known by the freighters and soldiers, made five round-trip crossing of the trail before settling down to live her adult life along its deeply rutted traces.’

As you might suspect from the topic of this book, I am researching for what I hope will be 6 books set along the Santa Fe Trail.

In the meantime, I have a new cover. this book is due out in April and is part of a continuity (three books written by three different authors). It is set in Texas so required I do research for that book as well.

the rancher's surprise triplets

How important do you think research is to the writing of historical books?

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What strange weather. A cold, wet October and yes, there was snow. Thank goodness it didn’t stay. Then an unseasonably warm November that saw the farmers working long hours to get their crops harvested.

And now we have December. And snow. The snow is beautiful but must it be followed by an artic vortex that refuses to move?

I must be getting used to the cold. I bundle up and go for a walk every day. When there isn’t a wind I find it quite enjoyable. Beautiful even.

frosty winter

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Now for a game of what is it? Look at the picture below and tell me what you think caused that pattern on the railing. I’ll post an answer tomorrow.

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I confess there are things I enjoy about winter and walking in the cold or falling snow is one of them. How do you feel about going out in the cold? And has the arctic vortex reached your area yet? (I understand it is to go right down North America before it bids us adieu.)

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I wanted to tell you a story about long ago Christmases. Perhaps find pictures of the season in my parents’ collection of photos. I found nothing. I’m beginning to think their idea of Christmas was much simpler than ours. My father told me there were few gifts. He was the youngest by several years and what he remembers is his older siblings coming home and how one sister made the best fudge. Her reputation was known among the neighbors.

Perhaps we need to get back to a simpler way of celebrating the season…at least, that is my feeling. So my goal for this year is simple but thoughtful. Less presents. More quality time.

Are you doing anything different this year? Celebrating more? Maintaining certain customs? Making changes?

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I had occasion this week to see where my grandparents used to live. They’ve been gone many years but as I was in the neighborhood, I wanted to see if the house was still there and what memories I’d have of the place.

The house was gone, replaced by a new one. Yet many old homes still stood. The street was narrow, as I remembered, the houses close together. A quiet, sedate neighborhood.

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Yes, there were memories like a boy coming to see us as we played in the yard. I don’t know if he lived there or was visiting as we were but he was all too happy to show us his brass knuckles and tell us how dangerous he was. I tended to believe him but then I was from a small town where we had never encountered anything like that.

Then there was the time an ambulance screamed up and stopped across the street. The attendants rushed inside and brought a man out on a stretcher. We had never before seen an ambulance in real life. How shivery exciting for three young kids.

My grandmother was small and constantly fussing. My grandfather was tall and quiet. My aunt lived with them and took care of them. She had the husky voice of a smoker. They had a yellow canary who, once he got over the shock of seeing children, sang. As I recall, their front room was crowded with furniture including a china cupboard full of knickknacks.

Below is a picture of their wedding day in 1890, another of them in front of their home in Kansas and the final one is the celebration of their 60th anniversary.

grant and minnie mumert, wedding Nov. 26, 1890grant, minnie, dora, myrtle, leslie, Tonganoxie, Kan, 1904grant and minnie mumert's 50th anniversary

I was disappointed that the house in the city was gone but the memories remain of the long, long drive to where they lived. We crossed several rivers and drove through woods.

Now I’m the grandmother and the kids come to see me. I don’t have a canary but I do have a parrot who loves to dance with the kids. And the grandchildren can run and play with abandon on our farm.

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Funny how things have gone full circle—small town kids visiting in the city to city (big town) kids visiting on the farm.

I hope my ramblings have brought you warm memories of your grandparents. Do you have one special memory?

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My stories often have children in them so I am often challenged to find toys for them. I’ve visited countless museums and have thousands of pictures taken at them but if one were to judge the abundance of toys (or rather lack of) by how many displays there are of toys, I’d have to conclude there weren’t a lot of toys. It would seem that children of the 1800s relied heavily on their imaginations, their siblings and pets or farm animals for entertainment.

There has always been dolls. Both commercially made and homemade.

irricana museum July 28 019 montana research trip July 098 The doll on the left is a topsy-turvy doll. The child turned it upside down to reveal another doll.


There were carriages for the dolls.

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There has been marbles, and board games. And of course, books. (see marble game and books on coffee table)

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Sometimes the child was fortunate enough to have a wooden horse or a wagon.

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Wealthier families might have a stereoscope what would be used with adult supervision.

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Mothers and fathers often created toys for the children. Mother’s made dolls and animals from socks, clothes pegs or scraps of fabric. Fathers carved little animals. And swings hung from trees have always been popular. We have a play structure in our yard and two swings hanging from the tree. Guess which is the most used.

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One of the problems I encounter in museums is the lack of circa dates. I really appreciate it when the displays are clearly marked.

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I’m wondering if any of you have discovered information about the toys pioneer children would enjoy.

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