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Archives for September 15, 2013

Developer is man with a plan


Imagine a team of experts from every field related to city planning and improved use of land, volunteering to come to the city of Dunkirk free of charge to share its informed critique of any section of our city that we ourselves choose.

Would you pinch yourself just to make sure you were not dreaming? Think of the many times you have heard comments like “Why is our potentially beautiful waterfront sitting nearly empty? or “What can we do to provide jobs, keep our elders and offer a future for our children right here?”

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George Grasser will be talking about revitalizing neighborhoods and downtowns, such as Main Street in Hamburg, pictured above.

Are we ready to hear the best and the worst about our city and issues related to Western New York by informed Western New Yorkers? We have proven that when motivated we can turn out a huge crowd to speak up for an issue vital to our future like Repowering Dunkirk. Do we care enough about Dunkirk and the surrounding region to turn out again to share our own visions, listen to new possibilities and strategies and commit to becoming involved citizens to make the necessary changes across our entire living environment spectrum?

It is not a dream. George Grasser, executive director of Partners for a Livable Western New York, based in Buffalo has agreed to come on the morning of Sept. 28 with a team experienced in analyzing neighborhoods in the region. Members of the team expected to participate include architects, planners, real estate lawyers, transportation engineers, city planners, developers, and citizens who have been active in improving the land use and environment of their own communities.

The team will meet with residents and city officials, and whoever shows up to create a vision of a thriving, attractive, Dunkirk. Are we up to the challenge? Can we rouse ourselves on a Saturday morning, meet with this team over coffee and bagels and become engaged with new hope and a realistic, inspirational vision and blueprint?

City officials have chosen the waterfront as the section of the city to walk around for this professional feedback. The morning will evolve in three segments. First, will be an introduction and listening session to hear from us local folk about our vision, our frustrations, the problems and the successes.

About an hour will be spent walking the designated area. Finally, back as a group, we will hear a verbal assessment and ideas from the team and have a dialogue with the team. The time commitment is roughly four hours.

Partners for a Livable Western New York formed in 1999 to bring about more livable communities through smart growth concepts and practices. The organization works to support regional and local policies and regulations to “promote cohesive neighborhood development through stabilization of existing neighborhoods, preservation of environmentally sensitive areas, municipal coordination and effective implemention of land use policies and practices. The group serves as a center for education about resources, policies, land use problems and solutions to concerned citizens and public officials.

The Dunkirk walk will be the group’s 26th neighborhood walk. These walks originate with a request from a citizen group or a public official. The idea for a walk in Dunkirk started with brainstorming in Academy Heights and Washington PARC neighborhoods and was readily adopted by city officials.

Partners for Livable Western New York’s previous walk locations have included seven Buffalo neighborhoods and the downtown areas of Tonawanda, Lockport, Niagara Falls and the villages of Hamburg, Orchard Park, Lancaster, Williamsville, Blasdell, Alden, Youngstown and Geneseo. Several of the walks have precipitated actions that have improved the neighborhoods and the economic vitality of business districts. The group is especially proud of its involvement in the revitalization of the village of Hamburg. This effort has been cited as a model for village centers all over the eastern U.S. because of local government initiated streetscapes, zoning code and design code improvements.

Those familiar with this recently redesigned village can attest to its healthy growth and economy.

On Aug. 16, The New York Times reported about the revitalization of Hamburg.

The article begins “How did this Rust Belt village of 10,000 people resurrect itself from a 30-year slide?”

The village chose not to expand Main Street (Route 62) but instead opted for a pedestrian-friendly design.

Results speak to the success. According to the article, over the past four years, business owners along Main Street spent a total of $7 million on 33 building projects. The number of building permits rose from 15 in 2005 to 96 in 2010 and property values along the street more than doubled over the same period. In 2012, the village’s Main Street was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which brought tax incentives that villagers hope will lead to still more development.

“This is about quality of place, which is about the quality of life” Paul Becker, Hamburg’s special projects coordinator is quoted as saying. The reporter’s interviews on the streets of this village confirmed the satisfaction of residents. People cited factors such as better traffic movement, more customers for the businesses, more pedestrians enjoying the quality of life there, and the area being handicapped accessible. Flowers and landscaping makes the area very attractive.

Partners for a Livable Western New York has also sponsored a series of smart growth educational programs for local residents in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Perhaps if there is sufficient interest and enthusiasm, we could have a series here in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area.

Grasser retired after a 35-year statewide practice as a real estate development attorney. He has been recognized by many state, local and regional organizations for his efforts to improve government operations, land use and the built environment.

He was instrumental in bringing the Congress for New Urbanism “CNU”, the leading national organization promoting walkable, mixed use neighborhood development to Buffalo for its 2014 Congress. Some 2000 architects, planners, transportation and housing experts, public officials and community leaders from around the world are expected to attend the event from June 4 to June 11 with tours and supplemental education programs being held on June 2,3, and 12. People can listen to these professionals and engage with people from other places who have the same concerns about making their communities more livable and more economically viable.

Grasser believes local communities are not taking demographics into account in their zoning and planning practices. He points out that even though less than one in four American households consists of a husband and wife and one or more children; many young people and many older people want to live in places where they do not have to drive so much; and we have an aging population, many communities continue to encourage only spread out single-family detached home developments with overly-wide streets and overly large lots. He believes many downsizing seniors and young professionals would prefer to live in compact neighborhoods with narrow streets, sidewalks and walkable destinations. He is disappointed that many communities are not doing enough to keep senior citizens in their homes or in their communities, especially because seniors do not have any children using the school system. Often, seniors who are financially able, choose to move out of the community.

We have before us the opportunity to tap into the knowledge, experience and research of a team of willing volunteers who are committed to the revival of our region.

It makes sense to take advantage of the offer from Partners for a Livable Western New York and to listen to what they see as possibilities for Dunkirk. Save Saturday Sept 28 on your calendar. The event will be at the SUNY incubator at 8:30 a.m. Coffee and bagels will be served, compliments of the social action committee of The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua.If turnout exeeds space at the incubator, the feedback session will be in the Community Room at the Steger Apartments.

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Big plans for little Lanai

LANAI, Hawaii — From the wheel of the big four-wheel-drive Suburban, our guide nods at a small roadside sign pointing to a beach called Lapaiki. “That’s one of those dotted-line roads on the map,” he says. “If you go down there you might as well be driving up and down flights of stairs.”

In other words, roads can get rough on Lanai.

As it is, navigating the deeply grooved road we’re on, leading through ironwood-crowded Kanepuu Preserve to a rocky landmark known as the Garden of the Gods, is a bit like driving down an oversized bowling-lane gutter carved in red dirt. Good luck here on one of those days when Lanai gets some of its 15 to 20 inches of annual rainfall.

That’s why four-wheel drive is the standard for vehicles on back roads of what’s historically been known as the Pineapple Island, where a 20,000-acre Dole plantation once grew 75 percent of the world’s supply of the fruit.

That changed in the early 1990s when labor prices moved the pineapple industry to Southeast Asia, Mexico and South America. Lanai plowed under its fields. Today, besides the company town of Lanai City, the main reminder of the Dole days protrudes from dirt along some of these back roads: myriad bits of black plastic, remnants of sheets laid down to retain moisture in the pineapple fields.

Now, fields have gone to wild grasses and brush such as the invasive (and toxic) Brazilian pepper plant.

For 20 years, Lanai has struggled to reinvent itself, but now the game is on. Just over a year ago, Oracle software billionaire Larry Ellison bought 98 percent of the island from another billionaire, Dole Foods CEO David Murdock and his Castle Cooke Co., for an estimated $300 million-plus. (State and local government and individual homeowners hold the other 2 percent.)

Ellison, No. 5 on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, has big plans for the little island.

So far, for tourists the most obvious signs of new ownership are (A) higher rates at the island’s two resorts (around $660 a night for an ocean-view room at the Four Seasons Manele Bay), and (B) attractive new landscaping of heliconia, bird of paradise and other tropical plants in front of businesses around Lanai City.

“The former owner didn’t want the town to be a place visitors wanted to stay. He wanted them at the resorts, so he didn’t make the town a very nice place,” said my guide, Honolulu-bred Bruce Harvey, who moved to Lanai in 1999. “We’re real happy Ellison is here.”

The 141-square-mile isle has had its share of brushes with billionaires. Bill and Melinda Gates married here in 1994 and booked all of Lanai’s rooms to ensure their privacy. (Gates, too, reportedly was interested in buying Lanai last year.)

For now, the glow of big bucks is just starting to rub off on Lanai, which is a 45-minute ride aboard a passenger ferry from Maui, making it an easy day trip.

The reason to visit isn’t for exotic scenery — much of the island is barren scrub — but for a taste of laid-back island life from, say, 50 years ago. It is a close-knit community with modest, plantation-style homes and few tourists.

On an island with only about 3,000 residents, 30 miles of paved road and no traffic lights, drivers still wave as they pass. Wednesdays are big because it’s “Barge Day,” when the weekly supply barge brings fresh groceries (such as $9-a-gallon milk). The sports teams for Lanai’s high school (and primary, and middle school, all rolled into one) compete under the endearingly geeky names “Pinelads” and “Pinelasses.”

“There are no drugs or vandalism, or homeless, here, so parks don’t close overnight,” Harvey told me. “For all practical purposes, we have a zero crime rate.”

Almost all residents live in the grandly named but charmingly sleepy Lanai City. Ellison won fans when one of his first acts was to reopen the community-swimming pool, closed seven years as a cost-cutting measure.

“The humble old community pool didn’t just reopen, it was reinvented as something worthy of a five-star resort,” Honolulu Magazine noted in its August issue.

Under the legacy of Dole’s “company town,” Ellison’s ownership takes in pretty much everything, including almost a third of the housing stock. He even owns Dole Park, a big rectangle of grass and towering Cook Island pines in the town’s center, and most business properties, such as the handful of restaurants, galleries, gift shops and markets fronting the park.

So when Ellison spruced up the place, people noticed. The park’s pines got their first pruning in years. Picnic tables went in. A park pavilion got a new roof for the old men who pass their days there.

More to come

But that’s just the start. Ellison’s development company, led by a Lanai-born resort-management veteran, in July changed its name from Lanai Resorts to Pulama Lanai (“Pulama” is a Hawaiian term for “to cherish”). According to, the name reflects “the deep sense of stewardship we feel for the island and the spirit that will guide endeavors that reach far beyond our resorts” — those being the island’s two Four Seasons resorts, part of the purchase.

Ellison’s vision, the website says, is “to establish Lanai as an island powered by solar energy, where electric cars would replace gasoline-powered, and seawater would be transformed into fresh water and used to sustain a new organic-farming industry that would feed the island and supply produce for export.”

Ideas include:

• Growing premium-quality fruit such as mangos and pineapple for sale to Japan and other high-end markets.

• Adding a small new resort, with ultraluxury “grass huts on the beach,” at Kahalepaloa, site of the defunct Club Lanai. Local planners have already given first approval.

• A 50-acre tennis academy.

• A base for racing yachts, reflecting Ellison’s America’s Cup interests.

• In keeping with the island’s old-fashioned feel, a 1950s-style bowling alley and soda fountain.

And it’s not just talk. To make it easier for visitors to come, Ellison has already bought one Hawaii airline, Island Air, and is closing on the purchase of another, go! Airlines. Plans are to extend the runway at Lanai’s airport for bigger planes.

And to draw more high rollers, his team last December wooed a branch of Nobu, the luxury Japanese restaurant chain run by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, to the Four Seasons Manele Bay just in time for the holiday rush.

Why visit?

So once you’re on Lanai, what’s there to see? That’s the selling challenge. For folks with money, the attraction has been the fancy resorts and golf courses — without the tourist crowds. Others come to hunt axis deer and mouflon sheep, nonnative species that have taken the run of the island. Lanai’s natural beauty is more subtle.

Back in the big Suburban, Bruce Harvey tells us about the Garden of the Gods, or Keahiakawelo, a place of stark beauty with red rocks and lava formations carved by wind and weather. Legend says the rocks were dropped from the sky by gods tending their gardens.

In the distance broods the island of Molokai, beyond wind-tunnel-like Kalohi Channel.

“We call that the Tahiti Express, because if your boat motor conks out, that’s where you end up,” Harvey quips.

Navigating the lumpy roads feels like riding a lunar rover, and the landscape fits right in.

Across the island, Harvey shows us Shipwreck Beach, where the first recorded foundering was in 1824, when square-riggers couldn’t tack against the wind and got trapped here. To this day, the hulk of an abandoned Navy oiler rots in the waves.

Walking the quiet beach we find coral bits and puka shells by the handful.

Back in the car we ascend a hillside of scrubby trees and more red soil, where tropical forests prospered until 1778, when the king of Hawaii island invaded Maui and lost. To save face, his war party landed on Lanai, consumed all the food, burned the forests and slaughtered thousands. Lanai never fully recovered.

Now Lanai has a new champion, a king of commerce with lofty dreams. Will the Pineapple Island achieve new greatness — or will that road, too, be rough? Wait and see.

Brian J. Cantwell: Blogging at ­northwesttraveler. On Twitter: @NWTravelers

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Home and Garden Experts Share Ideas


If you are looking for a few ideas to spruce up your home or garden, than the American Bank Center is the place to be this weekend. Kiii-tv is proud to sponsor the 14th annual Home and Garden Show.

The show is a way to find everything for your home with free DIY seminars. There’s also landscaping ideas, interior design ideas, even pools and spas to try out. We spoke with one family which was looking to save a little bit of money on their backyard project.

The Home and Garden Show continues through Sunday at the American Bank Center.

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Educational center celebrates 10 years of gardening

Video: Festival in the Garden

  • Tour the gardens

  • The Victoria Educational Gardens are open daily for tours from dawn to dusk. The gardens are located near the Victoria Regional Airport at 333 Bachelor Drive.

Five-year-old Aylssa Zamora’s rosy cheeks gleamed as her fingers patted a fresh layer of soil over three white lima beans.

“It’s a beanstalk,” she said, laughing through her toothless grin. She proudly held out a plastic pot decorated with a sparse selection of carefully chosen stickers, including her personal favorite – a bright yellow garden snail – and giggled when asked if she was going to grow her giant beanstalk to search the blue skies for Jack.

Aylssa, four of her closest confidants and, of course, their mothers, of Victoria and Fort Hood, were learning a valuable lesson about vegetables and how they grow Saturday afternoon at Festival in the Gardens, a celebration of Victoria Educational Gardens’ 10th anniversary.

Master Gardner Linda Koehler said while planning the event she thought, “let’s make it fun, and let’s make it family-centered.”

Annually, the educational gardens play host to garden tours and plant sales, but to celebrate its 10th year in the Crossroads, the planners decided to kick it up a notch.

The daylong event was filled with symposiums about composting, bugs in the garden and landscaping as well as entertaining children with games, activities and crafts to inspire their inner botanist.

Most of the children enjoyed the musical-chairs-inspired plant walk, in which they would race around a gazebo, and when the music stopped, hope to land on the spot that won them a green, leafy surprise.

Koehler, of Victoria, said most of the activities were designed to teach children that vegetables do not grow in the supermarket. “We just want to educate them to be earth-friendly and get them to plant plants,” she said.

Six-year-old Colby Jaster, also of Victoria, won a fully bloomed yellow marigold flower and a purple plant she was unable to identify. Winning the plants and discovering the koi fish pond on the property were her favorite events of the day.

This was the first time for Colby and her mother, Connie Jaster, to go to the educational gardens. Grandma Georgie Herman, an avid gardener, invited them to the event.

Victoria Educational Gardens, which opened May 2003, is part of a long-term project between Victoria County Master Gardener Association and Victoria Regional Airport Commission designed for the purpose of educating the community on proper gardening techniques, water conservation and composting.

The 2 acres of land near the airport is filled with 19 mini gardens, including a vegetable garden and a military honor garden where engraved pavers are placed by families and friends in honor of those who have served their country.

Aylssa and her two brothers left the garden a little dirtier than when they arrived, but as far as their mother was concerned, “it was great,” Selena Montano said. “What a great way to teach the children.”

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SAWS landscape coupons are back

Toni Morgan and Humberto G. Guerra have never met, but they share a goal: They want gardens, not grass, to surround their homes. And they want San Antonio Water System to continue contributing to the cost as they convert from lawn to drought-tolerant landscaping.

Both Morgan and Guerra plan to pounce quickly on a second round of the $100 SAWS landscape coupon that goes toward replanting 200 square feet of lawn. Starting Sunday and continuing through Nov. 30, customers can apply for the coupons at The utility will begin accepting applications by phone, 210-704-7283, Monday. Deadline to redeem the coupons is Dec. 31.

Morgan plans to apply her next coupon to her Windcrest backyard. With the first coupon, the disabled veteran expanded the colorful front yard plantings she calls her ancestral garden. Three new butterfly irises represent her daughter and two sons, and each of the other plants is a reminder of a relative.

She enlisted the help of Robert Sosa of REM Landscaping to remove Bermuda grass she had babied through drought and install new plants. His labor cost $400; SAWS picked up the tab for lantanas, mealy blue sage, rosemary and an orange esperanza.

Guerra, who’s on the far Northwest Side in Wolf Creek, will seek two coupons, one for each side of his house. He’s already prepped the planting areas, strips that are roughly 40 feet long and 5 feet wide.

Over the summer, the civil service retiree used one coupon to replant a strip along his driveway and another to redo a corner of his backyard. Each time he spent about $35 in addition to the $100 incentive to get 15 drought-tolerant plants and mulch. He also invested sweat, digging out the mix of Bermuda grass and weeds with a shovel and hoe.

Participants in the fall landscaping offer will see a few changes from the summer pilot program. Like before, there will be a package for sites in full sun, but plant choices will vary. Along with plants such as esperanza, prickly pear and yucca offered before, the sun package this time will include hardy roses.

“We want to help customers learn that roses can be very hardy plants and part of a water-saving landscape,” said SAWS conservation manager Karen Guz, stressing that the offerings are for tough roses such as the Knockout varieties or those labeled Earth Kind, a designation applied by Texas AgriLife Extension Service for plants that are pest and disease tolerant.

The second fall coupon package is for locations in full shade. It includes cast iron plant, yaupon holly, Turk’s cap, asparagus fern and others.

SAWS added a stipulation on plant size, requiring plants in the large- and medium-size categories be at least 1 gallon. Though some specimens, such as red yucca or spineless prickly pear, are sold in smaller containers, they can be difficult to establish when started so tiny, Guz said.

Based on customer feedback, SAWS will allow coupon users to purchase mulch independent of plants. If the 15 plants don’t total $100 at the nursery, the balance of the coupon may be applied to mulch but not to other nursery merchandise.

Morgan doesn’t mind saying goodbye to more Bermuda. Because of a back injury, she previously would spread mowing and edging over four days. Now, she takes a chair into the garden in the evenings and watches the moon cross the sky as she hand waters or plucks weeds and grass that pop up in the mulch.

And in mornings, she takes joy in others enjoying the garden.

“Now I can sit at my window and look out and meditate. I sit and watch butterflies and bees. It connects me to the nature I love so,” she said of her landscape.

tlehmann@express-news. net


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Landscaping designed to look nice and minimize upkeep

HUNTINGTON — The carefully landscaped entrance to the Fenger household was designed to be maintenance free.

Terry and Sandy Fenger have an ongoing goal to minimize the work required of their lovely yard.

“We hired landscaper Janie Carpenter of Creation Gardens and Designs to help us out,” Sandy said. “She has done a great job of taking what’s here and adding to it to bring about more balance and ease of care.”

Under Carpenter’s guidance they have changed the front entrance to the house with that goal in mind. By incorporating a stone border in a curve around their brick steps they have done away with an ordinary flat step and added more curb appeal with the rounded presentation. The idea of hardscaping some of the exterior of their home to add interest is part of their maintenance free plan.

Along the side of the house they have reconfigured a flowerbed to have a stone border and weed barrier cloth around the plants.

“I very rarely have to even think about weeding that area now,” Sandy said. “It takes care of itself.”

However, one flower she is finding hard to control is the green leafed liriope. This is a plant that will take over a flowerbed if given half a chance and Sandy can testify to it.

“I spent days thinning out a bed of it but with Janie’s help we are going to redo that bed so it’s not so labor intensive,” she said.

Sandy Fenger likes a peaceful quiet garden and has sought to bring that about in her landscape.

“I like a peacefulness and serenity in my garden, so there is not a lot of bright flowers but more of those with a soft appearance. Particularly in the back I have lots of hydrangeas with the soft whites, lavenders and blues bordered by hosta. I like the variegated greens with the wild plants of the forest as a backdrop to the garden.”

One flower that she is encouraging to grow in her back yard is a hellebore flower. This is an evergreen plant that blooms mid-winter and keeps its blooms going for a month or so. It is sometimes called a Christmas rose and does well when planted among hosta.

“A friend gave me some starts and they seem to be doing well in the shade,” she said.

Growing up in the mid-west, Sandy’s family lived close to her seven aunts who each were very interested in gardening.

“I have the best memories from childhood,” she said. “We spent hours playing in their gardens, flitting here and there. It was wonderful. I’d like to create that for my granddaughter. It is fun to sit on the porch and watch she and her friends catching bugs and playing in my garden.”

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GARDENING TIPS: Planting Fall Gardens

With the hot and dry summer, many people’s gardens are looking a little dry.  Earl May gardening experts give tips on how to plant beautiful fall gardens no matter the weather.  Popular fall garden plants include mums and flowering kale and cabbage.

After you replant your fall favorites into your garden, don’t forget to give the plants a good, long drink of water.

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7 post-storm garden tips from Colorado State University horticulture professor

As Coloradans face the aftermath of torrential rains that dropped as much as 11 inches and flooded parts of the state, many gardens and landscapes were left saturated and storm-damaged.

A professor of horticulture at Colorado State University, Professor Jim Klett noted that between Monday and about noon on Friday the 13th, about 4 inches of rain fell at the Plant Environmental research Center on the CSU campus in Fort Collins.

The recent heavy rains and hailstones damaged plant material in flower beds, borders, and container gardens across hard-hit areas in Colorado. But gardeners can take steps to help landscapes recover.

Tips to help gardens recover after heavy rains

• “Problems that arise could include floppy plants,” Professor Klett said. “If a stem is broken, then trim it off.”

Professor Klett said that flooded gardens also suffer below the surface of the earth.
“If you get waterlogged roots, plants will look wilted,” he said.
Plant roots need oxygen, as well as water, and Professor Klett offered a simple solution to help ease saturated landscapes

• “If roots are waterlogged for extended for a long period of time, then a plant may die. You may want to poke holes in ground after water settles to let oxygen into the ground.”

Professor Klett noted other problems Front Range gardeners might face after the recent deluge.
“Other pests could include mildew on leaves and fungal diseases including spots on the leaves,” he said.
Professor Klett offered the following tips:
• Turn off automatic sprinklers.
• Empty saucers beneath containers.
• Possibly trim back foliage for better air circulation around plants.

Helping hail-damaged plants

For hail-damaged plants, Professor Klett suggests these tips:
• “Cut back plants–especially herbaceous plants–to the ground,” he advised. “Some may come back, but it’s getting late in the season now.
• “Woody plants should be cut back if damage encircles most of the stem or wounds into the cambial layer,” he said.
The professor noted that Colorado’s recent storm was not the worst rain he’s witnessed in the state.

“I have seen more rain when several years ago in July, Fort Collins had major flooding,” he said.

Beware out there as the storms subside, Colorado’s cloudy skies clear, and the sun shines again on the Centennial state. Remember that you’re part of the solution because your permeable garden surfaces and the plant material you cultivate help absorb dangerous rain run-off during such severe weather. Metro Denver feels power-washed, but watch your footing on rain-slick landscapes as you head outdoors again to investigate your soggy garden.

••• “Cultivate your corner of the world.

You grow your garden; your garden grows you.” •••

• Colleen Smith’s gift book “Laid-Back Skier” makes a charming gift! This whimsical, inspirational book includes lots of ski bunnies and encouragement for life’s ups and downs. Watch “Laid-Back Skier’s” brief YouTube video here.

• Colleen Smith’s first novel, “Glass Halo”—a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize — is available in hardcover or e—book.

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“Like” Friday Jones Publishing on Facebook for frequent posts on gardening and other fresh topics.

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District 5 Student Uses Eagle Scout Project To Design Literacy Garden