Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fun Fantasy for Fantasy Fans

Hej All. Just wanted to point you to a brand-new author -- our cousin's daughter, who is like a niece to us -- Shannon Monson. Her mother, (our cousin), Ellen Redd Eldredge, grew up in Grassy Lake, Alberta, right across the road from where we live now.  Some of you Grassy Lake people may have known Ellen, or her parents, Smellie & Laurel Redd.

If you like clean fantasy, this young adult novel (ages 10-18) may be just the thing!  I have pre-ordered Badgerblood: Awakening on Kindle and will be getting it on April 23.  I'm excited to read this novel in my limited spare time!  It's also available in paperback.

You can check out Shannon's website at She and her husband have made a fun website. I love the picture of Shannon with her cute little dimple that you can see if you click on "About Us."

You can also read about her new book here:

When you get to that page, you can click on Read More. The book is also available at

Here's a bit from the author: Badgerblood: Awakening is the first book in a new YA fantasy series. It is a tale of adventure, peril, and perseverance with plenty of humor and intrigue and a sprinkle of magic and romance. The world is full of strange creatures and unique vegetation, and brimming with a wide assortment of characters ranging from tyrannical to quietly heroic.

And here's some praise from early readers:

“Badgerblood is full of intrigue, magic, and adventure. I found it difficult to put down and could hardly wait to see what new pursuits befell Kor. If you enjoyed reading books like John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice or Brandon Mull's Fablehaven you'll enjoy Badgerblood. S.C. Monson's writing style captivates the reader from the beginning, leaving the reader wanting more. I look forward to reading future Badgerblood books.”
—Coreen H.

“Badgerblood was a fun read from start to finish. S.C. Monson has done a great job crafting an original fantasy novel with rich descriptions and a gripping plot. With Badgerblood’s plot woven around an original fairytale, S.C. Monson's writing style reminds me of Megan Whalen Turner. Shannon's writing flows well and is full of witty dialogue.”
—Michelle R.

“There are many fantastic ideas in this book, from innovative details in world design to interesting plot twists. Written for young adults but entertaining for all, Badgerblood…created an effortless movie in my head. Filled with intrigue, it kept me engaged all the way to the end—and beyond! I can't wait for the next book!”
—Michelle E.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Out of the City on Saturdays

We are very busy in the mission office from Monday to Friday, and then on Saturdays, we take our Pday (Preparation Day), which is a day to relax and see some cultural sites. We're still on call though, with missionaries often calling LeRon for various things. Not so many car accidents now that it is spring. It's amazing there aren't more accidents when you consider that these young missionaries have only been driving for a couple of years, and many of them have never driven in winter conditions. And then, add to that, driving in a foreign country, and you know that God is protecting our young missionaries!

We love our Saturday excursions out of the city. Due to the pandemic, things are closed, but you can still visit many churches and wander around castles and cemeteries. Covid is pretty bad here in Sweden so we don't go many places where lots of people gather. In fact in Uppsala, a city close to Stockholm, they have restricted people to their homes except for short grocery shopping trips. LeRon and I were lucky to get our first dose of the vaccine yesterday. We were so grateful! Now for pictures from several Saturdays.

Sweden is well-connected with buses. Bus stops are everywhere, even out in the sticks. You can catch up on your reading while you wait for the local bus at this cool bus stop!

And here is the Salems Kyrka, much of it from the 12th century and originally part of a defense system. So interesting to see buildings so old and still in use. Interesting too that all of the churches we've seen have had a heating system. So unlike the cold, cold churches in most of Europe. I remember attending an evensong in a church in Salzburg, Austria. We bundled up in our winter coats, with toques, and gloves, and we were still cold!

It would be so romantic to be buried in a churchyard, don't you think?  Next best thing anyway to being buried on our farm (which we of course, can't do).

An old church and an old tree. I've taken sketching classes in which they say that trees always have branches extending 45 degrees from the trunk.  Not so! They go every which way.

The church yard is on the very edge of a lake. Take a few steps backward and you'll be in the drink!

We visited Salems Kyrka the Saturday before Palm Sunday and the women priests had prepared the church with "palm" branches for the worship service the next day. Click to enlarge and you can see the palm branches behind LeRon. Ever since being in Jerusalem (many times), I've appreciated Palm Sunday more and more.

The wooden benches in Salems Kyrka are painted to look like marble.

The baptismal font in Salems Kyrka is from the 12th century and is made of stone. In our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or, in Swedish, Jesu Kristi Kyrka av Sista Dagars Heliga), we are baptized by immersion, as was Jesus in the New Testament. I don't think this font would be big enough!

This church is close to Salems Kyrke but I wouldn't want to be buried here! The noise from the freeway and other city noise is not very conducive to resting peacefully. 

The old tree is very dead inside.

Back to the mission office. The missionaries are in "the war room," the room where they edit videos and make advertisements for social media. Elder Scott, Elder Ronndahl, Elder Stinson, Elder Wrangell, Elder Gilbert, Elder Longman, Elder Longman, Elder Austin.

We discovered that Elder Scott and I are 3rd cousins!! He descends from a brother of my Grandma Ida (Muhlestein) Conrad. Elder Scott is now working in the office with us. So fun!

And we were so happy to see our New Zealand "grandson," Elder Stinson. He worked with us in the office for several months and is now in another area of Sweden. In fact, he and his companion, Elder Gilbert, are what we call the "Toes" meaning the "traveling office elders." So we have the Smoes (the Social Media office elders), the Poes (the proselying office elders), and the Toes!  The Toes travel throughout Sweden videoing members' uplifting stories for our social media posts.

Now we're in the city just a few blocks from where we live. We took this picture to show how the trees grow straight and very tall, yet their roots are very shallow, given the amount of bedrock here in Sweden.

The roots are just barely in the soil. Not sure how they survive, and how they grow to such heights.

Another tree barely in the ground!

But this tree has fallen over. Must have been a terrific wind. It's left a small cave in the bedrock.

Here's another view of the newly fallen tree. We're surprised that any tree can root down enough to grow.

Springtime! The trees are flowering!!

Hmn . . . not sure why this picture is here.  I took it to show cool advertising on a milk carton. Every week there's a new activity. I'm sure kids (and adults) love to do the activities as they drink their milk. It reminds me of the advertising on cereal cartons when I was a kid. If you just saved 3 boxtops, for $1.50, you could get some random toy. We loved it! And we begged Mom to buy certain cereals so we could get the almost free toy!

Love this mailbox a few blocks down the street. The cat reminds me of our beloved cat, Blackie. Blackie was almost human. We let him in the house sometimes and told him that he couldn't go in the livingroom. So even if all of us were in the livingroom, he would sit in the doorway and just look at us. He wouldn't step a foot into the room. He was definitely an outdoor cat and would go with me on my long daily walks between the fields of crop. He and our dog, Honey, were great companions.
Now we're on another Saturday adventure. We are at Gripsholms Slott (slott meaning castle). Viking rune stones everywhere.  Seems that the Vikings were always carving tributes to their mother, or their father, or someone else. The rune stones have been translated.

Gripsholm Slott is in the village of Mariefred, not too far from Stockholm. The castle was built by Sweden's King Gustav Vasa in 1537 and was used as a royal residence for many years. It's now an art museum, but of course, is closed due to the pandemic.

It was still fun to walk around the castle and see all the architectural details.

This tree doesn't look like much now, but soon it will be absolutely covered with white blossoms.

Gripsholm Castle is definitely picturesque!

Now we're at Mariefred Kyrka near Gripsholm Slott, built in 1682 over the ruins of a monastery.

Classy interior. And no, the priest would not let LeRon play the organ!

Nearby, we saw a sign saying "Ruin." So we climbed up to the "ruin" and found that it was called "The Swine Church." The church was abandoned when they built the new Mariefred Kyrka and farmers herded their pigs here, hence the name.  These stones are all that is left but the people of Mariefred are maintaining it.

A rune stone was built into the wall of the church.

This ruined church reminded us of the ruined abbeys in England. When King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he took over all the monasteries and abbeys, dissolving them, and taking all their wealth for himself. It was called the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  LeRon and I have really enjoyed visiting many of these English ruined abbeys and monasteries. There's a spirit there that broods over them, making us feel that they were once holy places. People worshipped God in the best way they knew how. 
This is the first working tractor we've seen!  LeRon was pretty excited!

The tractor was rolling these fields of winter wheat. There's so much rock here, that the fields have to be rolled, pushing the rocks into the soil so the harvest equipment won't break on the rocks. You can also see places where the wild boars have dug up the crop.

The Taxinge Church was closed. Not so old of a church. Built in 1863.

Fun playhouse for the kids!

The Taxinge Castle is a manor house built in the early 1800's. It now houses a Cake Castle, with 60 or more different flavors of homemade cakes. We didn't buy any because there were too many people around and . . . after all . . . we are in a pandemic! The grounds were beautiful and extensive. Like an English country garden.

Aha . . . here is the tractor that was working in the field. LeRon gets homesick for the farm!

Now we're at the Turinge Kyrka. Lovely white interior. These churches have class!

The organist let LeRon play, not on the pipe organ, but on this smaller Allen organ. Beautiful sound in this small church.

Love this headstone! A 3-D of the man himself! And this man died in 1904 so it has lasted a good while in good condition.

His nose looks Jewish, don't you think? I remember when our sons, Michael, Craig, and Eric were at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. They were wearing kipas (the Jewish skullcap) and people thought they were Jewish! I think it's the bump on their "Conrad" noses (taking after my dad).

Thought Craig would enjoy this headstone. He and I both like pillars.  This is an idea for a headstone!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Eating at the Hairy Pig

We were intrigued with the name . . . The Hairy Pig . . . a small restaurant in Gamla Stan, the Old Town here in Stockholm. This Saturday, there was no one in the restaurant but us. So cute, complete with a masked wild boar.

Wild boar are a menace here. They dig up crops, cause accidents, and are rapidly increasing in population. Hunters hunt them and people eat them.

We went with Åldste & Syster Wilhite (the couple in charge of missionary apartments) to Gamla Stan to celebrate our birthdays. Syster Wilhite, LeRon and I all have March birthdays, plus, Åldste & Syster Wilhite were married the same day we were, March 6, but we were a year ahead of them.

The food was really good at The Hairy Pig. The owner/cook is a Brit who married a Swede and now lives in Sweden. He's also a hunter of wild boar.  Fun to hear his English accent and eat his delicious food.  We'll have to go back sometime.

Not many tourists or even Swedes here in Gamla Stan.  Things are pretty quiet. Apparently 60% of Swedes worked from home even before the pandemic. Now more stay home, and of course, tourists aren't coming to Sweden right now.  

Our favorite time of the week is 9 p.m. Sunday night, when the missionaries are finished their mission work and come to our apartment for a sing-along, food, and visiting. This is the last Sunday night with elders Rantaniemi (far left) and Olson (middle in suit) as they are both being transferred to other parts of Sweden.

A look at what we are serving tonight. Ice cream, raspberries, my delicious chocolate sauce (1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted; add 1/4 cup cocoa and 1 can sweetened condensed milk. Stir together. Delicious). We also serve a bowl of raw baby carrots, and after the sweets are eaten, the missionaries wolf down the carrots!  So cute! And mandarin oranges. And a few pastries or sometimes I make brownies or other squares or banana bread.

We had also invited the two Syster Training Leaders for our fun evening. They live a 20-minute drive away, so they don't come often and we take them home after so we don't get home until about 11:30. Makes for a late night! L-R: Syster Torrie, Syster Jackson (with Åldste Torrie standing), Syster Hall, Åldste Austin, Åldste Rantaniemi, Åldste Rönndahl, Åldste Olson, Åldste Wrangell, Åldste Nordgren, Åldste Longman.

Last office meeting at the mission home before two of the missionaries are transferred. Longman, Wrangell, Austin, Olson, Rantaniemi, Rönndahl, Nordgren.  (Putting the names for my benefit).

Last office meeting with the Syster Training Leaders, Syster Jackson and Syster Hall, with our mission president's wife, Syster Davis.

Singing the mission song Gud finns i Sverige.

And now we're saying goodbye to two very special missionaries. We worked in the mission office with Åldste McGill (on left) for 6 months and got to know him very well.  And Åldste Deshler took over for us back in March 2020 when we went home due to coronavirus. Both missionaries have finished their 2-year missions and are returning home.

Åldste Deshler (on right) did a great job in the mission office. He understood my spreadsheets and even improved on them. He has an organized mind. I didn't think we would ever be back in Sweden after we left last year, but I was glad to see my files were all still there when we did come back.

Here is one of our very special adopted grandsons, Åldste McGill, who had served as an Assistant to the President. So many goodbyes on a mission!  You just get to know them and love them, and then their time is up and they go home.
And here's our adopted granddaughter, Syster Jackson, going home to Arizona after 18 months in Sweden.

We're going to miss Åldste Rantaniemi in the mission office. He's being transferred elsewhere in Sweden.  Glad we've gotten to know him. His name rolls easily off our tongues now. I don't know why we thought it was hard in the first place.

And Åldste Olson has been a great help to us in the office. Whenever I've had a computer problem, he's been able to easily fix it.  We will definitely miss him as he moves on to another area in Sweden.

We call this room the "war room." Here are the 7 office missionaries working on their social media posts, video editing, and advertising. Our 7 missionaries plus Åldste Christenson (in front, looking toward me) who is waiting to go to his new area.

We love these missionaries, Åldste Austin and Åldste Rantaniemi.  LeRon has almost converted them to being farmers.  For now, this is their "farm" here in the mission office.