What flowers say to your Valentine


On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I’m remembering my stints working for Lehrer’s, a Denver florist, and for Country Fair Gardens. In both establishments, Valentine’s Day was a big holiday. Flowers make beautiful gifts.

This Valentine’s Day, if you’re giving flowers to somebody you love, you might enjoy these four heartfelt posts on my Examiner.com page, where I serve as Denver Flower & Gardening Examiner.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all those you love.

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Pope Benedict XVI, palms, and Ash Wednesday

Full Moon Over Los Angeles Palm

Photo by James Baca Photography

As a former communications officer for the Archdiocese of Denver, one of my duties included directing the production of an annual Catholic liturgical calendar. The calendar hinges on full moons, Spring Equinox, symbolic colors, and also plants—particularly palms.

Today, a collision of past occupations and current preoccupations occurs. My fresh post on my Examiner.com page, where I serve as Denver Flower and Garden Examiner, draws a circle encompassing a number of topics.

Why are palms so important in all of this?

This Mardis Gras, I recall the year I celebrated Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, which leads me to another article about a garden that a friend and I planted while doing Katrina relief work


The liturgical calendar serves as the framework for my first novel, “Glass Halo,” a Finalist for the Sante Fe Literary Prize.

Glass Halo by Friday Jones Publishing can  be found at these local retailers or  on Amazon.


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LAID-BACK SKIER: What’s in your ski jacket pocket?


By Colleen Smith

Does any sport require as much gear as alpine skiing? I doubt it.
In addition to the basic mantra—“skis, boots, poles”—the checklist
includes countless essentials and incidentals, depending on how hardcore
or laid-back your skiing style.
Most of us don’t have the liberty of jetting off to the Southern
Hemisphere for summer skiing, so it’s been months since we’ve clicked
into our skis. (Or board.) And as ski season opens, creature comforts that
keep a day on the mountain from going downhill tend to slip our mind.
Jog your skier’s memory with this list:

Pass or lift ticket: You can get on the mountain without any of the items
below, but without your pass or lift ticket, you’re not skiing resort runs.

Goggles/sunglasses: I keep my goggles strapped to my helmet. Yes, I
wear a brain bucket, and you should, too. A helmet won’t save you if you
get T-boned by another skier or rider or slam into a tree trunk, but a helmet
protects your noggin. Plus, ski helmets are warm, if not cool.

Lip balm: Your lips lack oil glands, and alpine altitudes have no mercy
when the sun’s blazing. Winds further dry out your kisser. Lip balm with
SPF 15 or better is best. If you’re a ski bunny concerned about how
you’ll look in your on-mountain shots, opt for a product with sunblock,
moisturizer, and a flirty tint of color. Mwah!

Eye drops: I wear contact lenses when I ski, but even if you don’t, the
combination of high, dry air, cold wind, and blinding snow turns eyeballs to
ice cubes. Eye drops in tiny, single-use tubes fit easily into a pocket. Pick
an inside pocket so liquid stays warm from body heat. To avoid dry-eye,
use drops at lunch or when you take a break.

Cell phone: Stash it in a handy pocket so you can whip it out to connect
with other members of your party on the mountain, or to shoot a photo of
that stunning light on the fresh powder and the first tracks you just carved.

Whistle: I don’t ski the hardcore back-country, but, because I was a
Girl Scout, I keep a whistle in my pocket. Just in case. A whistle does not
weigh much. On a similar note, if you ski the back-country, don’t run the
risk of making risky runs sans avalanche beacons and a small, fold-up shovel.

Tissues: Skier’s nose, a medical condition that involves a runny schnozz,
comes along with the ride, but there’s little more disgusting than snotsicles.
I keep a supply of tissues in my right hip pocket, and I keep that pocket
unzipped so I can quickly access tissues rather than wiping my drippy
nose on my ski mittens or neck gaiter.

Lens-cleaning cloth: Don’t use tissues on your goggles. The best
ski jackets come equipped with a lens-cleaning cloth attached to an
elastic strap that stores in a pocket. If your jacket lacks this feature, add
a microfiber cloth to your jacket. Don’t wipe the insides of your goggles,
though, or you might ruin the lenses.

Money: Remember that a burger on the mountain can easily set you
back $10, so if you’re bringing cash, bring plenty.

Medicine: Once, I got a migraine while skiing, and had to download on
the gondola. Ever since, I keep an anti-migraine tablet or two in a pocket.
Medication won’t take up much room and might be worth its weight in gold
if you need on-mountain relief for achy muscles or other maladies.

Neck gaiter: An acupuncturist taught me Chinese medicine’s theory that
pathogens enter the body via the small of the back or the back of the neck.
When I ski, I’m much warmer with a neck gaiter protecting not only my
neck, but preventing me from taking it on the chin. Plus, neck gaiters can
function as headbands.

Hand-warmers, toe-warmers: Some dismiss these as for sissies only.
Not I. I live by the “start warm; stay warm” theory. I don’t wait until my
fingers go numb: I crack open hand-warmers from the get-go. I use toe-
warmers on super cold days because I don’t have boot heaters. That’s
another discussion.

Glove liners: I prefer silk ones because they’re warm, but super light
and not too bulky to stuff in a pocket. But be careful when handling your
skis if wearing only silk liners. Your skis’ edges can slice the silk.

Ski cinches: While you can get by without a Velcro bands to lash your
skis together, this strap takes up little space, weighs almost nothing, and
makes life much easier. As you shoulder your skis, they won’t separate

Common sense: Granted, there’s no ski jacket pocket to hold common
sense, but when you’re on the mountain keep your wits about you. Know
the code; follow it. Ski safely; ski the whole season.

Colleen Smith—the author of “Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life”—skis Colorado and writes from Denver.

Interested in purchasing Laid-Back Skier?  Check out our previous blog post about local businesses who carry the book.  Not in Colorado?  No big deal!  Laid-Back Skier can be found on Amazon.



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Going Skiing? Skier’s Packing List Reminds You What You Need On-Mountain

Let’s face it: Skiing requires a lot of equipment, many layers of clothing, and some creature comforts to make the day on the mountain a peak experience.

Use this checklist from the back of the gift book LAID-BACK SKIER: AS IN SKIING, SO IN LIFE to help remember your ski essentials—skis, boots, poles—and what you want in your ski jacket pocket. You’ve got room to add your own special items to the list, too.

LAID-BACK SKIER is available in lots of ski resorts, gift shops, and fine boutiques.

Or order the charming book through Amazon.com or your favorite bookstore.

Have fun out there. Wag your ski tails!


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Laid-Back Skier: A Gift Book About Life’s Ups & Downs

ImageLaid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life is a small gift book from a small publisher: Friday Jones Publishing. A valentine to beautiful books, Laid-Back Skier includes a skier’s journal and a skier’s packing list, in addition to 38 original color illustrations of ski bunnies and snowboarders, and artfully magnified snowflakes.

I wrote, art-directed and published Laid-Back Skier as a pure expression of my passion for both printed books and skiing. This book is a pleasure to hold and gives readers the pleasure of turning pages and reading an actual book, cover to cover. Laid-Back Skier is an antidote to the digital age—a lure away from your computer and back to the not-so-distanct past when books were more highly valued by more people. There is no Laid-Back Skier for e-readers, but the sensual quality of the book is part of the experience.

Printed in full-color on high-quality, environmentally responsible paper stock, Laid-Back Skier, an ideal gift for all occasions and ages, reminds readers of the joys of winter and the inevitable ups and downs.

If you’re interested in a charming gift, please consider Laid-Back Skier. I’m happy to fill orders directly if you contact me through fridayjones@me.com or order through Amazon.com or visit one of the stores listed below. My small gift book has lots of small-business retail partners, and you’re sure to enjoy these bricks-and-mortar stores.

Hearth Fire Books – Evergreen, CO

The Bookery Nook – Denver, CO

West Side Books – Denver, CO

Boulder Bookstore – Boulder, CO

Gallagher Books – Denver, CO

Broadway Book Mall – Denver, CO

32nd Avenue Books Toys & Gifts – Denver, CO

The Stationary Company – Denver, CO

Haley’s Heart – Denver, CO

Artemisia &Rue – Denver, CO

Cry Baby Ranch – Denver, CO

Shop Around the Corner – Denver Pavilions

Lionshead General Store – Vail, CO

Colorado Ski Museum – Vail, CO

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens – Alpine Treasures Gift Shop – Vail, CO

The Bookworm of Edwards – Edwards, CO

Sugarlicious – Denver, CO

Georgetown Gateway Visitor Center – Georgetown, CO

Cures ‘n Curiosities – Keystone, CO

Next Page Bookstore – Frisco, CO

The Bookies – Denver, CO

Hammond’s Candies – Denver, CO

Vail Cascade Village Market & Café – Vail, CO

Wishes Toy Store – Avon, CO

Swoozie’s – Denver, CO

Bonnie Brae Drugstore – Denver, CO

Quacker Gift Shop – Denver, CO

Lakewood Heritage Culture & The Arts – Lakewood, CO

Catamount Ski Area – Hillsdale, NY

Tattered Cover Bookstore – Denver, CO

Kids’ Cottage – Edwards, CO

Wild Bill’s Emporium – Vail, CO

Roxy – Vail, CO and Beaver Creek, CO

Breck Kidz – Breckenridge, CO

Djuna – Denver, CO

Blue Skies – Boulder, CO

Museum of Outdoor Arts – Englewood, CO

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Warm Up To Winter: Four Stay-Warm Tips

ColleenSkiShotThe last three days, in sub-zero conditions, I skied Vail, and lived to tell the tale. On the down side, I suffered: frosty fingers and toe and a wind-blown face–that is, where my ski was exposed to the elements.
On the up side, not many people braved the arctic conditions, so I did not wait in any long lift lines.
Even if you’re not a skier, you might appreciate some tips for warming up to winter:
1) Layer up. Under my down coat, I wore a Patagonia Primaloft layer, a mid-layer, and a base layer.
2) Wear a hat. When I ski, I wear a helmet. And under my helmet, I wear a head sock.
3) Sip a cup of something warm. Hot cocoa or tea or whatever you prefer will warm up your insides, but you also can warm you hands on the cup itself.
4) At the end of a cold day–or whenever possible–slip into a warm bath: the quickest way to warm up on winter’s coldest days.  (LINK to my examiner.com article about plants in the bath)

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5 Frustrations of Freelance Writers and How To Get Past Them

When I graduated the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and an Iowa Writer’s Workshop credential in my hip pocket, I couldn’t know I’d find a career as a freelance writer. I’d won the E.P. Kuhl Shakespeare Prize for literary criticism, and I’d been named the Fairall Scholar of Creative Writing, at that time the highest undergraduate writing honor associated with the famed Writers’ Workshop.

Like today’s graduates, I struggled in a poor job market. I found part-time work teaching creative writing at a community college. I got another part-time gig at The Des Moines Register as a features writer. My professional life was off and running. It was 1983.

Fast forward to today: I’m still a freelance writer and have survived by cobbling together assignments and projects. It’s a near constant hustle to succeed as a freelancer. In addition to literary and journalistic skills, freelancing requires financial creativity, a high E.Q., and the ability to read the minds of editors.

The freedom of freelancing helps brings into balance all the hassles of the hustle. As a freelance writer, I enjoy plenty of perks, including invitations to advance media openings, preferential seating at cultural events, behind-the-scenes private tours of fascinating places, and private interviews with celebrities. As the song says—“it’s good work if you can get it.”

We all know writers face regular rejection, and even if you’re talented enough to find freelance work, you’ll run into hurdles. Freelancing includes as much gruel as glamour. If you want to make it as a freelance writer, you’ll need to get past the following five frustrations, and then some.

1) Your editors can and will change your copy. You will not always agree with the edits. You should keep your mouth shut. As one editor bluntly told me years ago, “Anybody who bitches about the editing will not get another assignment.” Once an article goes to press, I let it go, best I can. These days, long over the initial thrill of seeing my words in print, I rarely read my pieces.

When I do read my copy, I can tell immediately when editors tinkered with my text because, most often, they’ve rewritten in the passive voice, which I rarely use. But the newspaper or the magazine now exists in black and white, finished, done. Unless a blatant error exists, the publication will not make a correction, and nobody will notice or care that somebody infringed on your style.

You’re not the editor. You’re the freelancer. I’ve worked on the other side of the desk, too, and I still do, sometimes, so I know editors get bogged down with their own details and deadlines. Most editors do not set out to make you mad, and oftentimes, editors do improve copy. Realize that you have not chiseled your words in limestone. And realize that editors face a daily grind, whether their publication prints monthly or annually (or not at all, but distribute digitally). Editors have a lot of responsibilities, yet don’t make a lot of money. Communications include infinite margins for error. Plus, today’s increasingly cranky editors fear for their jobs. Editorships sink every day. Editors have power, but also edges. If you want to write for them, don’t push them.

2) Freelancing involves feast or famine. This is one of the most oft recited clichés in the business, and as you know, clichés contain kernels of truth, or the phrases would not be so overused. You must plan for war in time of peace and vice versa. I rarely turn down assignments, even when editors have filled my dance card, because I know scores of freelance writers would welcome the gig I’m about to refuse. And the next time the editor needs to assign a story to a freelancer, he or she might call that other person first. And if you can accept an assignment and turn a story quickly, you can endear yourself to editors who might come to see you as a go-to freelancer.

3) Freelancing is competitive. In the digital age, everybody is “publishing” and more and more bloggers identify themselves as freelance writers, even though they’ve never actually had a byline in print. And the ranks of freelance writers increased exponentially during the recession. You’ll need to nail down your style, hone your pitches, sharpen your angles, and improve your interviewing techniques if you want to survive, let alone stand out among freelancers today.

And you’ll need to get over the fact that sometimes you’ll pitch a story that winds up on another freelancer’s desk. You’ll have no way of knowing whether the other freelancer pitched before you or after you, or whether the editor prefers the other writer personally or professionally, or whether your query got sucked into cyberspace’s black hole. Move on to your next research topic or pitch or assignment.

4) Freelancing affords you lots of free time, but demands discipline, too. Simply put, you must make deadline. Freelancers quickly fall from grace when they turn in copy late. Or file sloppy stories. Or fail to fact-check. You’ll need organizational skills to log your assignments and invoices, your expenses and mileage. You’ll need to keep receipts—even if you just toss them in a shoebox, as I did for many years. You’ll need scheduling skills to handle multiple projects simultaneously. You’ll need to create a personal platform that probably includes a webpage, a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, a Pinterest board, and whatever else the digital age delivers next.

5) Freelancing isn’t free. But freelance writers sometimes write for no pay. These days, so many outlets crave content yet do not want to pay for it. If you want to make a career out of freelance writing, you need to put on your business hat, in addition to your artsy black beret. And you’ll need to strike a balance between what you will write for free and what you won’t. As a fledgling writer, I wrote for pennies, but I still do that today. Literally, pennies. Or sometime, halfpennies. As Denver Flower and Garden Examiner, I get paid one red cent—and oftentimes less—for each hit on my page. What’s the value for me? First, I consider this page part of my community service. As a freelance writer covering the garden beat for magazines such as Sunset and Colorado Outdoors and Colorado Expression, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge. My Examiner.com page allows me to share the information with fellow gardeners. I like that. And Examiner.com adds another level to my personal platform as a freelance writer.

I do pro bono writing, too. For many years, I’ve contributed my writing services to Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, a group serving the poorest of the poor in Denver’s inner city. In 1993, to honor my social justice editorial writing for The Denver Catholic Register, the Archdiocese of Denver presented me with the Peacemaker’s Award. The founders of Colorado Vincentian Volunteers also won an award that night. We forged a friendship, and even though I cannot write a check with a lot of zeroes to support their mission, I can contribute copywriting.

As a writer, you have the skill set to communicate what’s important to you. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to pursue topics that interest you. In my case, I’ve written arts and entertainment features, concert and book reviews, gardening features, travel pieces. I’ve found a way to succeed as a freelancer writer, and I’ve redefined success to include integration.

A final word on social media for freelance writers. The immediate gratification can get in the way of getting one’s work done. But you’re a writer, so you’ve got an arm up on others. Go ahead and write for free, using social media to practice your craft and get your name out there. You just might connect with editors making assignments that can fatten up your portfolio and your wallet. If you’re compulsive, as most writers are, set a limit. Ideally, freelancing preserves liberty instead of enslaving writers.

If you want to sign contracts paying you thousands of dollars for your words and thoughts, you’ll need to treat all your work the same. After all, your byline represents a priceless part of your brand as a freelance writer.

Colleen Smith, who studied fiction-and poetry-writing in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel “Glass Halo,” the gift book “Laid-Back Skier,” and magazine or newspaper articles too numerous to count.

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