Thursday, December 08, 2011

Review of The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

If what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, why is Audrey growing weaker by the day?

When her husband Geoff, a pastor, lost his job after a scandal rocked their congregation, Audrey's never lost faith.

They decide to resurrect a failing bakery as a way to heal family wounds and restore their place in the community.

Running late to the bakery one foggy morning, Audrey strikes a vehicle. Emerging from her car into the fog, she discovers she hit a motor scooter. But there’s no rider in sight. Just blood.

The absence of the driver is a mystery, especially to Sergeant Jack Mansfield, the detective and church member responsible for firing Geoff from his pulpit. The scooter belongs to Jack’s wife, Julie, a teacher at the local high school, who has vanished…like morning fog.

Though there is no evidence to support Jack’s growing suspicion that Audrey and Geoff were involved in Julie’s disappearance, the detective is convinced of their guilt. When he takes the tiny bakery and its patron’s hostage, Audrey must unravel the secret of Julie’s disappearance and her own mysterious suffering before Jack hits his breaking point.

This was one of those "I can't put it down...just one more chapter" books. Such a good fast paced read that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning. The author does an astounding job of keeping the reader pinned to the book to find out what happens on the next page. She weaves the characters together so effortlessly and passionately which makes the book that much more good.

There were also threads of forgiveness, redemption, honesty and looking at oneself pretty hard that in the real world, can only help.

I would highly suggest this book to anyone.

The opinions expressed in this post are straight from my own head. Book Sneeze sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

through the eyes

Have you ever experienced wonderment and curiosity through the eyes of a child? To see their eyes light up? To watch awe and amazement dash across their face?

I had the pleasure of that and so much more today.

When we lived in Seattle, I had introduced Alina to Michael's craft store. She lived and breathed crafts. After the first visit, she deemed it Craft Heaven. When it was set in stone that we were moving back to Michigan, I told her about a store three times the size of Michael's. Her eyes grew as big as saucers. To comprehend such a thing was unimaginable in her mind. She asked when we moved back, if we could go visit this place. Hobby Lobby.

It has been three months since we've been back and today was our first visit. I completely forgot there was a Hobby Lobby on this side of town until a coworker told me a few weeks ago.

Today there was no school, so we went out as a family to see a movie. I knew before going that that the movie theatre we were going to was right by Hobby Lobby, but did not mention this little fact. As we turned onto the street of the theater, I quietly told Ed, "I wonder how long it will be before Alina realizes that there is a Hobby Lobby right here."

No sooner where the words out of my mouth that this very excited, high decibel voice cries out, "HOBBY LOBBY! I see Hobby Lobby! Can we please go?"

After the movie, we ventured over to Hobby Lobby for Alina's "first" experience. She went there as a wee tike, but didn't remember. We walked in the door and she was speechless.

She opened every box she saw, touched snowmen, passed the U of M display (we trained her well), walked up and down the party aisles, perused the furniture, turned on and off all the lamps that were plugged in. Gently glided her fingers over the mosaic mirrors, tried on the Hawaiian leis, sat on every bench possible, opened umbrellas, smelled the artificial flowers, and deemed Ed the king with a wire crown.

We were there for over an hour and didn't even make it to the craft section.

Having the privilege of walking beside her and experiencing wonderment was something I will never forget. I heard over and over again, "look mom! Look at this one! Let's sit here. Ooooooo look at this!" It made me smile over and over again seeing her shine.

We didn't buy a single thing and she was so full from experiencing the store. God created her to be creative and seeing her in a place where so many creative things were was seeing raw joy.

And nothing compares to watching your child delight in who God created her to be.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween short story by Alina

Alina wrote this story (with no help from any adult) below two nights ago in her journal and then proceeded to type it all out by herself. A trick or treating story for your Halloween enjoyment.

By Alina

Once upon a time, I was trick or treating when there was a haunted castle. I went in the door………..creeeeek! went the door as I opened it. In then the creepiest thing happened to me in my life. A ghost flew up to me and said…………………”BOO”!!! I was so freaked out I fainted. Finally I got up.
The ghost said “are you ok? My name is Brsty! What is yours”?
“Yes yours”!
“Ok, ok my name is Alina. What do you like to do”?
“I like to fly. What do you like to do”?
“Um, um I like to do crafts I guess”. What is your favorite subject in school”?
“Um, um I don’t go to school.”
“Oh! That’s right! I forgot ghosts don’t go to school.”
“Now what is your favorite color Alina?”
“Pink! What is yours Brsty?”
“Mine is pink to!”
“Would you like to finish trick or treating with me?”
“Yes! But I don’t have a costume.”
“But you are already in a costume. You’re a ghost! Why can’t that be your costume?”
“Ok, ok I will be that.”
“Now shall we?”
“We shall.”


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Review of Hello, Hollywood by Janice Thompson

A Greek sitcom writer and a rising star comedian come together in this cute novel by Janice Thompson. Hello, Hollywood is book two in the Backstage Pass series.

Athena Pappas is a head writer for a TV sitcom whose ratings are starting to decline. Her boss hires a comedian who is up for an Academy Award in the comedy world and Athena takes it as a threat to her job. Intertwined in this heated battle is her family of Greek heritage which adds to the charm of the story. Put all of this together and you have the makings of a My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding type of book.

A pretty cute and charming story with funny characters. This is the second book by Janice Thompson that I have read and I enjoyed it much better than the previous one. Despite this being the second book in the series, one can easily pick it up as an individual novel and quickly understand what is going on. Ms. Thompson did a great job making this a stand alone book, but still including the characters from the first book in the series.

If you enjoy a fast, whitty and cute read, this is the book for you.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

*Revell Books was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy to review for them and these are my own thoughts straight from my noggin.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review of A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity's handsome and charming brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she's ever known?

This is book #2 in The Winds of Change Series. Fortunately, I did have the first book to take a quick gander through as I had forgotten who all the characters were when starting the second book. So if you do decide to read this book, read the first one before or you'll be thoroughly confused.

I didn't completely agree with the synopsis of the back cover as you can clearly see while reading that Emma's emotional wounds really haven't faded and the pain of her past comes to the forefront many a time. It was an ok book, heavy on the romantic side (which was expected from the back cover synopsis), but flowed well.

Not one of my fav's and I would rate this one as average.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. This review is in no way influenced by receiving the free copy and is my own opinion.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review of The Queen by Steven James

While investigating a double homicide in an isolated northern Wisconsin town, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers uncovers a high-tech conspiracy that twists through long-buried Cold War secrets and targets present-day tensions in the Middle East.

In his most explosive thriller yet, bestselling author Steven James delivers a multi-layered storytelling tour de force that not only delivers pulse-pounding suspense but also deftly explores the rippling effects of the choices we make.

Yes, yes and yes! This book was one of the best I have ever read. Right from the start, this book sucked me completely in. One needs to have a some-what strong stomach as there are pretty graphic scenes throughout having to to do with blowing up, or shooting or blood.

Steven James is an expert storyteller and writer. Just the way he writes, flows so well and the story is developed at just the right speed. Even with this book being down the line in a series of books, the reader could come in not knowing anything about this main character and easily follow what is going on.

I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fantastic read. I'll definitely be reading his other books as well.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. The opinions expressed here are mine alone and came straight from my own noggin.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Review of Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon

As a social worker, Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children and seeing that justice is served on their behalf. But when she starts getting harassing phone calls and bizarre "gifts," it seems she may be the one in need of protection. When her tormentor's attentions take a violent turn, her brother Cole comes to her aid, along with his new partner, an ex-Navy SEAL, Detective Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case.

Overall, a pretty good book. But I could've done without the large emphasis on the romance aspect. Seemed like there was even more in the this book compared to others, and right from the first couple pages.

The suspense however, was written well. The reader knew who the tormentor was throughout, but the way it was written kept you turning page after page. Some parts made the stomach squirm a bit as it was pretty graphic, but overall, the author kept the reader engaged up until the end.

Deadly Pursuit is book two in The Guardians of Justice Series.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. The thoughts and opinions are from my own brain.

Friday, September 02, 2011

one month in

Yesterday marked one month of being back in our home state of Michigan.

I'll be honest and say that it hasn't been the easiest transition for me. Yes, the first eight months in Seattle were the hardest thing I had ever experienced, but this transition has been much harder than I thought too. There are days where I have been in tears. Days of funkiness. But there have been days of laughter intermingled in there too.

I believe the biggest thing is not having a steady rhythm of life.

Coming from working 40+ hours a week for the past 2 1/2 years to working 20+ hours a week and having more than two days off has tilted my world. But I wouldn't trade it. I thoroughly enjoy my job and am enjoying getting to know those I work with. But I do miss those I worked with in Seattle too. We went through a heck of a lot of stuff, stuck together and came out stronger friends each time. I've had several dreams reliving my last day of work in Seattle. Though the scenery is different each time, the people are the same, as are the sorrowful emotions. Those mornings I wake up completely spent.

My husband is no longer in school. This week would have marked the start of another school year. The start of a new semester schedule. That is no longer the case. The days for him consist of hanging with the kids on my working days or working his cute behind off in putting together his website for his counseling practice. He's so close. All the dreaming, hard work, challenges, transformations, tears, and sacrifice have brought him to this point. He's on the edge of turning the page to a new chapter. And I may be a bit bias, but he's a fantastic therapist. It's been an amazing journey so far, and I'm so excited to continue it beside him as his biggest cheerleader. He's also able to indulge in his passion. Mountain biking. Three to four times a week he's hitting the trail either by himself, with friends or with his Sherpa and coming back so very refreshed. This I love.

Our social calendar has been filled each week. For the past three years, finding time to socialize was minimal. Many weekends were spent as a family. Of course "weekend" for our family was only Saturdays as the kids were in school Fridays and I worked Sunday morning and evenings. So the time together was sacred. And there were no instant friends like there are here. Not like instant oatmeal mind you. Keeping up friendships from 2000 miles away is hard, and being able to enjoy those friendships in person has made the homecoming sweeter than ever.

And then there's the unpacking, new neighborhood, new friends, new school and new church.

But I know we'll get there. That rhythm. School, client sessions for Ed, football practices and games for Sam, work, house chores, and friends. I've been pretty hard on myself in forcing that rhythm, which you obviously can't do. So I've been learning to allow myself that little word: grace. And it sure hasn't been easy.

Even though our rhythm of life has been a bit off beat the past month, I know we'll get synched up soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not a dramatization

Seen this commercial?

These are my kids (no...not in REAL life), but especially my daughter. School supplies equals heavenly bliss. Excitement over a pencil sharpener. That is PURPLE mind you.

Colored folders. Ahhhhhh.

MSU clicky pens (which my son is stoked about). They're totally cool mom!

Meijer could've come into my living room, video taped my children and wouldn't have had to pay anyone. With the Meijer bags strewn across the floor, supplies littered everywhere and excitement that was not paid, they could've made out big. Big I tell you.

But the mom would have to be replaced with the dad, because dad was the super hero that took them shopping. I think he may have even worn a cape.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review (and rating!) of Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh

She's a tree-huggin' widow who is in search of an environmental friendly developer to buy her family's historical estate.

He's an acclaimed land developer who is trying to keep a promise generations old.

Through her burying her widow weeds and him burying long ago promises, this book is about growing up, forgiving and moving forward.

1/4 into this book I had to jump back to the beginning to figure out who was who. Once again, I felt like I was jumping into the middle of a story and characters whom I knew nothing about. I'm assuming that Tamara Leigh's previous book Leaving Carolina had something to do with this.

A cute, quick novel laced with light humor and splashes of warm fuzzies, it was overall pretty good. One thing that I did like was even with the emphasis on God throughout the book, by the end it wasn't "and her relationship with God was fully restored and perfect and life was all roses." It was a work in progress, of which I like portrayed.

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary to review for them. And hey! They (and I) would love it if you rated my review. No strings attached. I promise.

Review of The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner

An epic tale of good and evil based on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse found in Revelation.

Using the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to symbolize the four Gospels, four transcendentals, and four forces of the universe (air, water, earth, and fire), Sweet and Wagner weave a fast-paced, end-times tale of good vs. evil and the promise of a new dawn for humanity.

Set in 2048, when planet Earth is suffering from the damaging effects of years of misuse and abuse, cultural history professor Paul Binder receives a mysterious letter that leads him to examine a lost 2nd-century Diatessaron manuscript. Ancient prophecies, cryptic letters, and strange events set him on a course to uncover the missing clues that could lead humanity into a new age. Layered with forgotten symbolism from the ancient, Jewish, and Christian traditions, the novel is a type of engaged fiction in which the main character's lost journal serves as a guide to the reader in interpreting clues and understanding the novel's conclusion.

This book took me a very long time get through. Character upon character were introduced and it got to be pretty confusing as to who was who and how they were tied to what. I must say though, It was very cleaverly written. A prophetic type story that has tied in current life events and technology and wove in the book of Revelation. In some spots, it was actually eerily too close to home.

Overall, a great book. And the reader is able to take it steps further than just being a story. There is an entire key and clues throughout the entire book plus an Alphabet of the End Times at the end to help you put the clues together to find a deeper meaning of the story.

This novel stretches your imagination to the limits and actually messes with your mind. So much to the point that I shouldn't have read it before bed as dreams resulted of the world ending. Not the best medicine to wake up rested in the morning.

Book Sneeze/Thomas Nelson sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Being back

One of the things I love about being back in our home town is sharing memories and re-aquainting places with our kids.

Last week we were out driving in two vehicles (in case we found "THE" couch), and were heading down a very familiar road. I was following Ed and I could see him pointing to different buildings. And I knew exactly what he was sharing with the kids.

"Over there is where mom went to college and where Uncle Rob and Aunt Laura work."

"Do you remember coming to see me when I worked over there?"

"Up there was my first apartment. I lived there before mom and I got married."

They may not have been the exact words my husband said, but those places are landmarks for us.

It has been a good reminder for me to slow down. Enjoy life. Not rush around just to get to the next thing. To remember.

Remember all the way back to childhood even.

"See that D&W Sam? That wasn't always there. There used to be an apple orchard there and when I was little we would go there to pick up bushels of apples."

"This road that we're on? It didn't used to have all these lanes or the big grassy area in the middle. It used to just be a two lane road."

I love seeing landmarks every day and remembering. And being able to share my history and Ed and I's history. And even better, being a part of adding landmarks and memories to my kids' history.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

the journey

It's been almost two weeks since we drove into Michigan and I now have a few spare moments to sit and recap our cross-country adventure (even though the kitchen does need cleaned up a bit).

Our last day in Seattle seems worlds ago. Loaded in the car, said one last goodbye to neighbors and making it an hour and a half outside of Seattle before bedding down for the night.

Thursday we made it out of Washington and into Montana and the sights were amazing. Beautiful mountains all around. We didn't stop much as we had lots of time to make up.

Friday we drove into Yellowstone via the back door of Wyoming. We stopped and took pictures of a herd of elk and a buffalo, that ended up running right past us (and running with a seven year old child on your back so as not to be in the path of a running buffalo is not an easy feat....adrenaline was pumping!)

Saturday we headed out of Wyoming and ended up just inside of South Dakota. At a hotel with a water park. A watiki to be exact. All four of us played until 10 pm and then Sam was up at 6 ready to get one last watiki thrill before we left.

Sunday we started out on one end of South Dakota. We heard that morning that our house was in Iowa and that the driver was going to be in Michigan the next morning. He was an entire day ahead of us. This was not good. We knew it was going to be a long haul as we had 17+ hours to drive, not including stops.

So we locked down the hatches and started driving. And driving. And driving. South Dakota is one very wide state.

Then came Minnesota. The Iowa at sunset. Midnight loomed and we were still in Iowa. Signs of Illinois were popping up and we were determined to get that far. The kids were fast asleep, as was the cat, whom we let out and he snuggled up with the kids. 2:30 am approached and so did a rest stop. After finally settling in the parking lot that was very hot and humid, we managed to get a couple winks of sleep. 4:30 came all to soon and we were hitting the road. Kids were still fast asleep, as was the cat.

We saw the sunrise outside of Chicago, the haze of Gary, Indiana and then the beautiful sight of Michigan.

We beat the truck by 20 minutes.

All in all, a grand adventure. One I'm so thankful we journeyed. One I know the kids will remember for a very long time.

Oh...and I have to say that my husband is amazing. He drove all but 2 hours. Yeah. Amazing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Transitioning: part six - heading out

After an emotional couple of days between the last day of work and the last neighborhood get together, the focus turned to packing.

Monday was filled with sticky tape, boxes, washing out cupboards and more packing. One last trip to the dentist to have two of the little miss' loose baby teeth pulled that I could just not get out. And a visit from my sweet friend/co-worker Katie and her amazing little guy Luca. Hugs, more hugs and happy hugs too.

It ended up being a late night of going, going, going. We both fell into bed exhausted.

Tuesday was errand upon errand. Eye exam, last picture at Kerry Park (where our first family pic was taken upon arriving in Seattle), Costco, us girls getting our nails done, etc. So many last stops.

Moving day arrived. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. thinking I heard the semi pull up (it wasn't scheduled to come for two more hours). After laying in bed for a bit, Ed said, "I think I'm going to get up to greet the day." I loved that phrase. It was full of hope, excitement and so much to look forward to.

The kids were up by 6 and by 7 we were walking to the corner to meet the truck.

In a flurry of hours of activity the car was loaded and the truck was being packed. The kids played with their friends the entire day.

When the time was coming to a close, there were kid tears all around. 10 year old best friends clinging to each other, sobbing.

Seven year old best friends walking around the outside house holding hands, being followed by a sweet three year old jabbering away.

A surprise drop-in from Nancy, fabulous friend and co-worker. More tears and clinging hugs.

I finished the final touches of cleaning and took one final walk through of our home the past two years. Tears streaming down my cheeks.

So many memories. Fun times. Birthday parties. Friends for dinner. Kids running through. Ed pouring over papers and books. Hours in the kitchen creating food for family and friends. Snuggles on the couch. Hard conversations. Hurt and then mended hearts. So many memories.

I wrapped them all up in my heart and carried them out of the house with me. To hold forever.

Final hugs and tears mingled as goodbye's were exchanged with neighbors who became friends.

And then we drove away. Extracted ourselves from our Seattle life.

Drove out of the city. Out of the state.

On to a new home.

New memories.

But carrying with us those we love and an array of memories.

Never, ever forgotten.

Thank you Jesus for three years that forever transformed me more into who You created me to be. I look back and see a glimpse of how you wove our lives in your greater story. Our family is tighter because of it. Our marriage stronger. Our lives richer. Us closer to you. Friends forever intertwined. I wouldn't have changed a single moment. And there is not a single regret. You planted us in Seattle for reasons we may never know. But what we do know is that we will never be the same because of our time here. And for that I will be forever thankful. Amen and amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Transitioning: part five - the 'hood'

Last night, under a hot shining sun and cloudless sky, our neighborhood gathered at John and Karen's home for a goodbye BBQ.

When we moved out to Seattle, we had four days to find a house and did the best we could in that limited time. Eight months into living there, we knew we needed to find a different place. And we were more picky the second time around.

Little did we know what type of neighborhood we were landing in. Ed would IM me at work every day and tell me who he met and where they lived. Even the neighbors basset hound, Margaret. Everyone would be out and about, walking the loop we live on (only one way in and out) and introduce themselves. It was an experience we've never had before.

We settled in fast and quickly adapted to the rhythm of the 'hood'. There are very few kids around, but the ones that are became fast friends to our kids.

We felt safe enough to let our kids go out and ride the loop by themselves, knowing those on the other side would have their eye on them.

It was the first place, ever, that Ed or I felt comfortable enough to go and ask to borrow a cup of sugar, or a crock pot, or cake pan, or card table or an entire patio furniture set.

It was the first time Alina went to a sleepover. Knowing she was right across the street and in safe walls, made that milestone easier.

Seeing my kids welcomed with a smile at the door while giving away painted rocks (no room in the moving truck for them) and coming home with $1.25 and two suckers.

Even as renters, we were welcomed in quickly and lovingly.

Being invited to the neighborhood BBQ, after a month living here, that closed out the summer. Experiencing the neighborhood progressive dinner at Christmas. Celebrating a new kitchen remodel of another neighbor. Finding cookies on our doorstep or a birthday card in the mailbox. Being invited to birthday parties for friends. Or the birthday party for Lucy, the dog Alina loves to walk.

Along the way, our neighbors became our friends.

Which made last night so bittersweet.

Neighbors stood to share a words of encouragement and thankfulness to us. And hearing the words of a seven year old, Alina's closest friend, who stood and said, "As many of you know, I was really lonely before Alina moved in, and I'm glad she lived here." Seeing her tears as she walked to sit back down next to Alina and watching my daughter give her friend a big squeeze with tears in her own eyes.

We couldn't have asked for a better or more amazing place to live. It has become home and we are going to miss it tremendously.

Karen, the host of last night, adequately summed it up in a nutshell, "Once a part of our neighborhood, always a part of our neighborhood."

A neighborhood that none of us will ever forget. It has seeped into our beings and has shown us an example of what community looks like. People from different walks of life, different religions, different political views, all coming together, being themselves, helping each other out, and loving each other.

That's what I call true community.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Transitioning: part four - tears

Have you ever had a job that you love, but more importantly, you love the people that you work with? And then you leave?

That was yesterday.

And it was hard.

Much harder than I thought it was going to be.

The day started like any other. Come in, fire up the computer, answer emails, chat a bit, and start editing.

And then lunch time came.

I heard everyone outside our office. I knew there was going to be a good-bye lunch. And I vowed I was not going to cry.

When I was told to come, I opened the door and there was a tunnel of all my co-workers cheering me.

I ran through the tunnel of cheers with a heart full of love for those I work with.

And sadness.

Throughout lunch people shared memories and amazingly sweet thoughts of me. It was very humbling. And very tearful by many.

The dam broke when my dear friend and children's ministry co-worker, Mary, started to share. Tears, sadness, thankfulness, grief and joy.

And it continued when my other dear friend Katie, and children's ministry co-worker, shared. The three of us have been through a whole lot the past years.

I couldn't have asked for better people to work with. From office staff to pastoral staff to custodial staff to ministry staff. I am going to miss them all terribly.

Throughout the day there were hard good-byes and many hugs.

The end of the day drew near. Desk was cleaned out. Out of office was on. Everything was wrapped up.

One last trip up to the 3rd floor office to turn in my keys and fob.

And shed more tears.

And stock up on more hugs.

And chat one more time with friends.

And more hugs.

And that was it.

Mary and I walked out together. She didn't want me to walk out alone. And I didn't want her to walk out alone.

As I drove away, I turned to look one more time at my work place of the past 2 1/2 years. A place where I met amazing people who were a part of molding me even more into who I have become today. People who have encouraged me. Shared their lives with me. Chatted with me. Loved me. They have settled in my heart and will stay there always.

The tears flowed all the way home.

I walked into our house, straight into my husband's awaiting arms and let the sobs come.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Transitioning: part three - a ministry goodbye

Leaving is starting to sink in a bit.

The last time we said a hard goodbye was three years ago. I remember the tears that flowed while standing in our driveway. Not wanting to let go. But in the back of my head I knew we'd be back.

Not this time. More than likely, we won't be moving back to the Seattle. And that's what makes it hard. I'm also leaving a ministry that I have poured myself into over the past two and a half years. A road I've never traveled.

I'm now realizing how much I immersed myself into the volunteers and families at my job. And now it's coming to a close. The goodbyes have already started. There will be a many more this Sunday as it's my last Sunday on the job. I've already started hearing, "my kids are so sad you're leaving" to "I'm really going to miss you" to the "what are we going to do without you" comments. Comments that are not easy to hear and squeeze my heart.

It's hard to imagine not being here. Not going into church bright and early on Sunday mornings. Hearing "hi Jean!" by the kids. Getting hugs from the little ones. Chatting with the volunteers.

This is going to be harder than I thought.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review of An Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser

Head back to the year of 1895 and follow two girls who come from two very different walks of life. One immigrant. One high-class. Follow their journey as their worlds collide and take a turn in opposite directions. How class barriers are broken and independence is born.

With twists and turns throughout this book, it will leave you wondering what happens to these two girls whose lives live outside of their society.

I really liked this book. To a certain point. Towards the end it got way too mushy and romantic for my taste. I enjoyed seeing how the two main characters blossomed into womanhood sans romance and how they learned to fit into the skin they were born with. I did like seeing how two societies were so far apart from each other and seeing how a friendship was forged despite the rules.

Bethany House sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Review of Another Dawn by Kathryn Cushman

Another Dawn is about a young single mom who is faced with caring for her father, whom she has a rocky relationship with. Undertones in the story are her sense of self and learning to defend herself in her choices and learn to accept who she was created to be. She learns that running from problems sure doesn't make them disappear, but facing them head on helps develop a strong sense of self and a determination that was buried way deep down in.

A very different read than most I've had before. Controversial even, in today's society. Even though it was fiction, I believe a lot of parents weigh the pro's and con's of what they "should" do and "shouldn't" do as seen by the eyes of society. And yes, I'm being vague with what the subject is, as I don't want to give away the whole premiss of the book.

This book left me thinking how I view the subject at hand, and also the viewpoint of other parents who may chose differently than me. A definite good read.

Bethany House
sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Transitioning: part two

Yesterday at work, my farewell article was edited and published in our monthly parent newsletter. One more stamp of finality that our journey here is coming to a close.

July marks a month of lasts.

Last time to head to the ocean.

Last time downtown.

Last day at work.

Last day at our house.

But there is still so much to do between now and our last day here. Two weeks of Kids' Summer Adventure for work and all the prep that will happen leading up to those two crazy weeks.

And there is still so much packing to be done. Some that can't happen until right before the moving truck comes. No matter how many boxes I pack up in my kids' room, more stuff multiplies and forms out of no where. I'm still mystified as to where my daughter is hiding it all!

But one thing that is not a last, is me. I have become more of who I am while living out here.

And that is one thing that will not be left behind.

Nor will it be packed away, sealed shut in the black darkness of a box, to be opened at an unknown time.

All of who I am will be transitioning.

To a different house.

Different scenery.

Different city.

Not as new beginnings.

But continuations.

Of who I am.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Transitioning: part one

Three years culminating into an hour and a half.

Smiles and waves seeing my husband walking down the aisle in his cap and gown.

Tears flowing witnessing him being "hooded".

Raw emotion ripping apart my heart watching a still-fresh grieving, amazingly courageous widow receive her husband's hood and diploma. My husband's closest school friend was not there to celebrate graduation. Not in flesh. But in memory and spirit he was there. He was definitely there.

Lots of hugs and congratulations all around.

Hearing "we'll stay in touch" over and over.

Loading into the van to transport the family and extended family back home.

Standing in the kitchen taking in my freshly graduated husband.

"Now what?"

I had heard a few days ago that the transition out of school is actually harder than school itself. I thought, "there's no way that can be true! I can't WAIT!"

Then yesterday afternoon came.

That sense of something grand, coming to an end.


The routine of an ever-changing semester schedule is no more.

No more juggling who's going to take the kids to school or pick them up.

No more papers or required readings.

No more late night or early morning classes.

It's all finished.

But yet it's not.

There is and will be grief.

But also hope.

Hope for what is to come.

To take what we've learned and embed it into who we are.

It's not over.

It's a step.

One big three year step that has had hundreds of little steps intertwined in it. Steps that ebbed and flowed into new steps. Steps that have taken us to new places of life. Much deeper places. That will continue to propel us forward.

Even in death.

It's not the end.

It's just another step in our journey called life.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rank and Review of Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

We start off with Trevor MacDaniel. His past consists of winning gold medals and leading the fast paced, spot-light life, all to out-run a painful childhood memory. After a nasty knee injury, skiing was put on the shelf, and the adventure shop was open along with being a part of a search and rescue team.

Natalie Reeve is his working neighbor. An unfortunate event is how she and Trevor are introduced. But Natalie has a talent like no one else. A sculptor by trade that is also her mode of survival.

And last, the name-less character. He inserts his life into Trevor and Natalie's via pictures of kids in perilous situations. Hoping Trevor will come to the rescue for these helpless kids, he inserts his life from afar (at the beginning) to feed off of the arch-angel persona he feels Trevor is.

A high paced, well written story that will keep you guessing until the end. A bit disturbing in places (from the viewpoint as a parent), but oh so good. Kristen does it again with writing a thrill-seeking book that sucks you in from page one. Characters are fully introduced at the beginning and then she works backwards in revealing their lives.

Some of the characters from Indivisible are in this book, but it can definitely be read as a stand-alone book. I highly recommend it. A fantastic read!!

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Let me know how you liked this review! Rank here:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review of A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.
Book Three in Women of Justice Series, Lynette Eason introduces Kit Kenyon, a detective and hostage negotiator. She and her new partner are on the hunt for a serial killer who may be hunting one of them as well.

This is a fast pasted thriller with a few squeamish parts thrown in to keep things interesting. Lynette, as always, does a fantastic job creating a thrilling plot with touches of a budding relationship on the side.

Loved this book. Though I couldn't read it before bed as it was a bit suspenseful for my dreams. It was a can't-put-down, what's-going-to-happen next type of read that any one would enjoy.

As book three in the series, this could be a stand-alone novel as well, but reading books one and two (which are equally fantastic), would only build upon this third book and make it that much more great.

Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, May 20, 2011

memory lane

Taking a trip down memory lane today. 16 years ago at this time, I was getting ready to walk down the aisle into a new adventure called marriage.

Reflecting over the past 16 years, I see a lot of laughs. A lot of tears. A lot of changes. A lot of love.

One memory was my first ever backpacking experience. My husband, a seasoned backpacker, and I drove up to a mosquito infested Lake Superior Provincial Park in the U.P. on a July weekend. We arrived at dark to set up our tent, bedded down for the night then rose early the next day to start our hike in. The mosquitoes were thick. We went through an entire can of bug spray in a couple hours. I said out loud that I hoped it would be so cold the next day that it would kill all the mosquitoes. My wish came true as it only reached the mid 40's the next day.

And that was the day I ended up sick in the tent while Ed boiled water as his water purifier was broken. The third day I uttered the words before backpacking out,

"Just leave me here. Go get a boat or something and come back for me."

Um...can't do that out in the middle of no where. I was never so glad to see that little red pick up truck when we arrived at the parking lot.

So many more memories come rushing in. Our first anniversary trip, complete with me being blindfolded, to Niagara Falls. A trip to Northern Ireland to celebrate graduating college. Purchasing our first house. So many more backpacking trips (that weren't so dramatic). The birth of Sam along with surgeries and bladder bags for months there after. Purchasing our second house. Alina being added to our family. 10 year anniversary trip to Mexico. Raccoons eating the food supply on our first family backpacking trip. Bike rides to Jersey Junction. The decision to uproot and move across the country. Entering elementary years with two kids. Wading through life with a pre-teenager.

And then there's love. Not a squishy, ooey-gooey love (though that's still present). But an I'm-in-this-with-you love. A love that doesn't give up. A love that when the feelings aren't there, commitment and foundation are. I won't give up on you.

Our marriage hasn't been all flowers and sunshine. There have been trecherous storms, very dark valleys that could have easily broken us to pieces. By God's amazing example of love, we battled through each one and came out stronger on the other side. I'm pretty sure there will be more down the road too. But building the foundation of commitment to each other, commitment to our wedding vows, and commitment to Christ, has and will help us weather each storm.

Here's to 16 more amazing years my Love. I'm excited to enter yet another new adventure with you in the coming weeks. And to see how God weaves us closer together in the coming months and years.

Happy Anniversary! I love you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

slowing down? i think not.

I thought when the end of the school year approaches, things are supposed to start slowing down and come to finale of celebration of freedom for the kids on the last day of school.

I'm finding quite the opposite (except the celebration can't wait...the other one will be very, very sad).

We are 3 1/2 weeks out from the end of school. There is a lot of ground to cover between now and then.

For the son, there was a spring concert last night, field trip today, 3 part auto-biography paper (of which I type for him...and no, I'm not cheating. promise) and the presentation, field day, one other field trip, year end field trip celebration, three more soccer practices, two more games, three more musical practices, musical overnight tour, musical dress-rehearsal night, musical church performance and then last day of school.

For the daughter, there is a spring concert, two more soccer practices, three games, a science project, bring a shirt to school to decorate, read-in day, dress up/presentation as favorite book character day, outside reading coupons, field trip, field day, end of year field trip celebration and then last day of school.

And I know I'm forgetting something in there.

Friday, May 13, 2011

looking back

On a whim, I jumped back years in my blog to May of 2006. I found the post below:

When's Friday?
Today my most adorable children have been at each others throats constantly. Arguing. Screaming. Roaring. Laughing. It's been one roller-coaster after another. One minute they're giving each other hugs and then next yelling, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO I don't WAAAANTTTT TOOOOO" (my lovely daughter) and "I DON'T WANT HER TO FOLLOW MEEEEE!!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!" (my handsome son). These are the days I say no more mini people allowed. Unless they are someone else's and I can give them back. I just sit here and watch it all. All my energy is spent. I let them scream and see what happens. I interveen only when bodily harm is becoming evident.

Alina found the little pepper grinder. Sam found pepper in his water. I ran out of diapers today. Alina's wearing a swimmy diaper with rubber underwear training pants so she doesn't leak everywhere. The joys of having one vehicle and no diapers.

Oh....happy place..... How I love being there.

Alina was 2 years old. Sam was 5 and getting ready to graduate preschool.
Preschool people.
He's now getting ready to finish 4th grade.

I chuckled when I read this old post and sadness coursed through me too. Sadness that my kids aren't little any more. I've watched video's of them when they were wee whipper snappers and I've wept. Those years don't come back. They fly.

There's more than just pepper in water and no diapers. There is wading through emotions of why there was no birthday invite when everyone else got one. Explanations as to why you don't need a cell phone when "all" your friends have one. Liking girls. Growing bodies. Mending tender hearts.

I miss those early days. Looking back they seemed easy compared to now. But I know they were just as hard as today. And 8 years from now when Sam's getting ready to graduate high school, I know I'll look back and think these present years were easy.

So many seasons to life. So many new experiences to wade through. I'm so thankful for the season I'm in right now. Thankful for the season I was in five years ago. Thankful for my 7 and 10 year old. Thankful for my 2 and 5 year old and having the opportunity to grow with them.

And yes, they still argue and laugh with each other.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Lenten thoughts

For Lent I chose to put aside sugary sweet goodness. Did I make it the entire time? No. I caved. More than once. But I was still committed, and was thankful for a new day to start over.

I also had a live conscience. Alina. She held me accountable so many times. "Mom, you can't eat that! You made a PROMISE to GOD!" Oh my sweet, sweet daughter. How can anyone dispute that? I couldn't even negotiate! And she was a huge example to me as well by giving up playing Webkinz on the computer.

I found that it was not an easy Lent. There was many a time I prayed while craving those sweets, which is the whole point. At times I failed. All the time God showed me his ever-lasting grace.

And I find it quite humorous that during Lent, I wanted what I couldn't have, but now I don't want what I can have! Go figure.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

and the beat goes on

When I hopped on last night to write my book reviews, I saw that it's been almost a month since I've written a non-book post.

That got me thinking...what in the world have I been doing? Oh right. Life. That does happen at times. And right now our life revolves around soccer. Monday through Thursday nights. Two nights for Alina, two nights for Sam. Plus musical rehearsals for Sam on Wednesday nights. And somewhere homework needs to get done and dinner made (it's been quite the challenge working 8-10 hours a day) each night. And we'll be adding in evening classes for Ed starting Monday.

Ah life. How quickly it goes by. We're down to single digit weeks for Ed now. 8 to be exact. 56 days. And it's going to fly by. Winding down of the kids' school, busy season ramping up for me work wise, Ed pushing through the final weeks, ending soccer, spring concerts, Sam's musical, and the big graduation celebration.

After that, life will continue. I have to keep reminding myself of that. That life doesn't finish on June 25th. But a new season begins. A season of no graduate school. A season of unknowns. Adventure. We don't know where that season will take place yet, but we're learning not to stress. To do everything we can, but leaving it all before God's throne.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review of A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy to review for them.

The elegance of Madame Forza's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream-and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Forza's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

Not as romantic as it sounds. As I have said before, Siri is one of my favorite authors. This book did not disappoint. With a new twist in her writing, she wrote the book from a narrative standpoint and the narrator would inject their thoughts throughout the book about the characters and the choices they were making. A very unique way of writing.

Based in the early 1900's in Boston, it was a glimpse into the lives of three dress making immigrant girls who's lives intertwined like thread. They were learning and exploring their way in life amidst danger and life vs death choices.

A great, fast read, even with all the Italian names (smart to put the glossary of characters at the beginning).

Review of The Dawn of a Dream by Ann Shorey

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Twenty-two-year-old Luellen O'Connell is stunned and confused when her husband of just one month tells her he is leaving her. Deeply wounded by this betrayal, Luellen decides to follow the dream she had set aside of obtaining a teaching degree.

More than anything, she wants to teach children in communities like hers and help them recognize that education opens a path to future possibilities. But her wayward husband left something behind when he abandoned her. Can Luellen overcome the odds and achieve her dream? Can she hide her secret, or will it destroy her dreams forever?

An altogether ok book. Several spots along the way the book slowed and I felt like I needed to plod through them. But a great read about an independent woman with tenacity who overcomes so many obstacles to achieve her life long dream.

This was book 3 in the Beldon Grove series and read like a stand alone novel which I do enjoy. I didn't feel like I was jumping in the middle of a story, trying to figure out who people were. A definite clear beginning and clear end.

Available April 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Review of Regret Free Parenting by Catherine Hickem

Booksneeze sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

"Every mother wants her children to grow up happy, healthy, and fulfilled. But reaching that destination can be full of indecision, worry, and second-guessing. Ask any mother, 'Do you think you're doing a good job?' and she’ll likely give you a mixed answer. In her groundbreaking book, Regret-Free Parenting, Catherine Hickem offers seven principles for mothers to raise their children well . . . and know they’re doing it right."

Loved, loved, loved this book. It was mainly focused towards mom's (which I didn't know going into it) and it hit home. There were many light bulb moments and times I thought, "well, that completely makes sense!" The biggest area where it made the most impact was where Catherine talked about pre-teens. As a mom of a full blown pre-teen, it's new, uncharted territory and this book brought some clarity and some of those "ah-ha" moments to mind.

One other reason I loved this book was because Catherine is a licensed counselor. With my husband in school to become a therapist, so much of the terminology she used was familiar and it was easier to understand.

I would highly recommend any mom or dad to read this. A fantastic book that I will definitely be reading again.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Review of Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann

WaterBrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them.

Battling his own personal demons, Police Chief Jonah Westfall knows the dark side of life and has committed himself to eradicating it. When a pair of raccoons are found mutilated in Redford, Colorado, Jonah investigates the gruesome act, knowing the strange event could escalate and destroy the tranquility of his small mountain town. With a rising drug threat and never-ending conflict with Tia Manning, a formidable childhood friend with whom he has more than a passing history, Jonah fights for answers—and his fragile sobriety.

I am a huge Kristen Heitzmann fan and once again she does not disappoint in this book. Right up to the last page I was engrossed. The characters were an eclectic bunch and their back stories took the whole book to explain. Kristen keeps you entwined in the story through the entire book and guessing as to what in the world is going to happen. She is a brilliant writer that effortlessly keeps you in the plot right up to the end.

Anyone who likes mystery, suspense and a touch of humor would thoroughly enjoy this book!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Easier said than done

Now is one of those times in life where I'd just really like to know what God's plans are for us. With just over two months left before graduation and no solid plans yet, it leaves one feeling a bit unsettled.

Job glimmers come and then are snuffed out. But the prayer continues to stay the same. "Jesus, put us where you want." I know what Iwant. But He trumps my wants. And that's where the faith and trust come in. And it hasn't been a "yippee-skipee" trust and faith. There have been many tears, many disappointments, many times of not understanding why things are not happening. Plans haven't panned out the way we thought.

But we continue to trust. To dig deep into the faith that has been so rooted in us that our Savior asks us to trust Him. Yes, I know God has a plan. But more than that, I believe He wants us to trust Him in every resume that gets sent out and every response that is received back. And that no matter what the next step of our journey is, that we will continue to deepen our trust in Him.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Where did time go?

10 years.

Today my baby boy is 10 years old. Where in the world has the time gone?

From an itty bitty 7 pound one ounce baby to a 78 pound young man who's head fits just under my chin when standing.

From having major surgery at 3 months and being told he may never be able to play sports, to being a lover of all sports and is outside every single moment biking, boxing, playing soccer, basketball and football fearlessly.

From being dependent on mom and dad for his well being to becoming independent, making his own choices and learning about life in the world we live in.

From not being able to utter a word to communicating thoughts, feelings, conversations and abstract ideas.

You have grown up so much Sam. Now you start the preteen years and so much is ahead of you. You are learning and figuring who you are and where you fit. The mom in me wants to shelter you in a bubble so no one or thing hurts you. But I know that would only hinder you growing into a teenager and then into an adult.

I love you so much and am so honored that God chose me to be your mom. He has an amazing purpose for you and being able to cheer that purpose on is a wonderful gift.

I look forward to the next 10 years and the adventures life will bring in these preteen and soon-to-come teenage years. You are loved so much and I pray each day that you will experience God's deepest love more than anything.

Review of Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews

Revell sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

"When her beloved grandfather Isaac dies, Dinah must follow his final command: Travel to Job's house to marry his son. After Job's world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?"

This book was pretty amazing. Based on the book of Job, this story was very insightful and based on scripture. The two main characters were Job and Dinah and how they endured Job's time of testing. It made the book of the Bible come to life. It wasn't light or overly romantic either. I now want to jump into the Bible and read the account of Job because of reading this book.

I honestly don't know if I could continue praising and trusting God after suffering for over a year. Suffering with worm infested disease, living atop an ash heap while being spit upon, having my entire family taken and being mocked by family and friends. For over a year!

Fantastic book! Great read!

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

another milestone

Today marks another milestone for my amazing husband.

Internship complete.

He has pushed himself beyond the sanity line and has clocked over 600 hours in the past 6 and a half months.

He said the other day he was burned out. Rightly so! I added to his comment the fact that the majority who are doing their internship right now are completing 5 hours a week. He has been pushing between 25 and 27 hours a week. I think that helped put into perspective why he is so weary.

And not only interning 25 hours a week, going to school full time and throwing in a part time job along side of that. And then topping it off with being a dad and husband. And the cherry on top of looking for a job. And he still does all the laundry!

You are my hero babe.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


"There is a very strong possibility that during your time here, one of your fellow students, someone you know, will pass away."

I remember these words from Dan Allender during one of the few classes I visited with Ed during his first year at Mars Hill Graduate School.

Never did I think they would come true.

In a blink of an eye, a life ended. Too soon. Unexpectedly.

Sonny was one of Ed's closest friends at school. They were a part of the Silverback's: the small group of guys who were in their 40's traveling through graduate school together. A different sort of group than the majority of the student population. Ed and Sonny had several classes together and bounced so many ideas off of each other, edited each others papers and became close over the past years.

He was less than four months from graduating. Leaving behind his wife. He was only 44 years old.

To some that is "old". When one is close to 40, 44 years is anything but old.

It's one of those "why God?" questions that quite possibly will never be answered. Why was his time up? Why now? Why?

So one lives between the tension of wondering and never knowing. It's not an easy place to be, but I think it's more genuine than explaining it away.

As Paul Steinke wrote in his letter to all students, "And now, with the absurdity of Sonny’s absence, death’s “sting” can feel like the final word. . .it is not. In the midst of our grief, I pray each of us might know something of the wildness of Jesus Christ’s love for Sonny and each of us and may such a love lead us all into the wide and deep embrace of His grace and peace."

You will be greatly missed Sonny.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

popcorn quick tip

Over at Eating Rules, I found this little tip about making popcorn. I love popcorn. Like LOVE popcorn. It's a meal sometimes.

For awhile I would make popcorn in a pan on the stove. Then I got a popcorn maker that you use in the microwave and it uses little paper bottoms so every last kernel pops. But the trick was, once you run out of the little paper bottoms, you need to go get more.

So when I came across this little tip, I was all over it like drizzled butter on popcorn.

Popping corn in a paper bag!

The first time I tried it, I used a paper grocery bag. It was a bit too large for the microwave, but worked none the less.

The second time I decided to use a lunch paper bag.


I dumped some kernels in the bottom (I found some organic popcorn on sale in the bulk section at the store), folded it a couple times and put it in the microwave for about two minutes. I waited until the popping was winding down, pulled out the paper bag, dusted some salt on the top (even tried it without butter and it was pretty good!), closed it up, gave it a good shake and voila! Fluffy, yummy popcorn.

You don't even need a bowl! And when you're all done, you throw the bag in the recycling or even the compost!

So it's a win-win-win for everyone! And a yummy one at that!

Review of Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review.

By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, why he, a British aristocrat, is on American soil working as an indentured servant.

In a time when relations between America and England rest on the edge of a knife, Tabitha and Dominick cross paths, leading them on a journey of intrigue, threats, public disgrace, and . . . love. But can Tabitha trust Dominick? Finding true love seems impossible in a world set against them.

This is the first book by Laurie Alice Eakes that I have read. It took a while to understand what was going on and I felt like this was a book two or three in a series, but it wasn't. I wasn't a fan of the male main character, Dominick Cherrett, as he rubbed me the wrong way as pompous and prideful and remained that way throughout the book. The storyline seemed a bit long at times with stalling here and there. Will I read another book by Laurie Alice Eakes? Possibly.

Available February 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review of Soulprint by Mark Batterson

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

When I saw this book was available for review, I jumped right on it. Mark Batterson's first book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day, was the catalyst for me in moving across the country to a journey unknown.

There never has been and never will be anyone like you. But that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you. The problem? Few people discover the God-given identity that makes them unlike anyone else. Mark Batterson calls this divine distinction our soulprint.

God would like to introduce you to yourself.

In Soulprint, Mark pours the contagious energy he’s known for into helping you experience the joy of discovering who you are...and the freedom of discovering who you’re not. The wonderful fact is that your uniqueness is God’s gift to you, and it’s also your gift to God.

A self-discovery book that puts God at the center rather than self, Soulprint encourages you to recognize and explore the five defining moments in your life that will determine your destiny. Along the way, you’ll find that you’re not just turning the pages of a book. You’re turning the pages of your remarkable, God-shaped, world-changing life.

There were so many great nuggets in this book. I had read the beginning a good four times and found something different every time that spoke to my heart. This book meets you in whatever spiritual time you are in. For me, there was a lot of freedom that happened when reading the black print in this book. Here are some defining sentences that stuck out to me:

"The fact that there never has been and never will be anyone like you simply means that no one can worship God like you or for you. You were created to worship God in a way that no one else can. How? By living a life no one else can--your life. You have a unique destiny to fulfill, and no one can take your place."

How freeing is that? I don't have to worship like everyone else, because I'm not everyone else! I and all of us are created uniquely so it would seem that worshiping the God who created us uniquely would want us to worship him based on our individual uniqueness.

"One of the biggest mistakes we make is focusing all our energy on the next season of life instead of enjoying the season we're in."

This sentence hit me right between the eyes. I've been anticipating and ready for Ed to be done with school and for us to continue on our journey, but how much have I missed in anticipation? Thankfully I realized this awhile ago and have tried to make the most, learn the most, take in the most I possibly can while living in the adventure I'm in.

"When we try to be all things to all people, we're trying to be God. We've got a Messiah complex. And if we try to be everything to everybody, we'll end up being nothing to nobody. At the end of the day, I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not."

How many of us pretend who we are and don't show our true selves? I know I've done that. Many times, many years. I've learned one thing from this book: No one defines who I am except God. People and events may influence me, but they don't define me. God knows my definition, my destiny, my identity. And I'm glad for that because I can learn to be the me who God intended.

So all the above to say, I really liked this book and will be reading it again. Mark does a great job getting right to the point in an easy thought provoking way. I high recommend this book to anyone.

To see a video and read a complimentary chapter, click here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A shout out!!

Today I'm giving a shout out to one of my amazing friends. She's putting her fantastic sewing skillz to great use and is selling her items on her site. This may seem like a sales pitch to some, but to me, it's getting her fantabulous work out there. You know and have heard the sayings, "it's now what you know, but who you know" or "word of mouth"? Well, I'm using the words of my mouth and who I know to tell you about Anne.

I've known Anne for a long time. 12 years? 13 years? So long, I've lost count. I actually knew her husband before meeting her (yeah...he's stellar too). We've been through thick and thin together. And I mean thick. and. thin. All that to say, she's amazing.

And so are her sewing skills. See that cute guy over there? Sorry, he's not for sale, but an apron like he's wearing is! That's my Sam on his 7th birthday. Anne whipped up that apron for him. He may not look super excited, but he's eager to wear it in the kitchen. Along with aprons (she makes them for adults too!), she sews:
fabric grocery bags (which last longer than the store bought reusable ones...and they're cute!)
diaper bags
kids clothes
cloth diaper covers (I like the monkey ones myself)
and much more. She makes the cutest head bands too! So cute that I almost want to have another girl just so I could use one! Last month I even mailed her fabric to sew a bag for a gift for one of my friends here and within an IM conversation she had it finished and it was back to me within two days (that bag traveled over 4000 miles in just five days).

So if you're all about homemade items, head over to Anne's site. Even if you're not all about homemade items, check out her site. You may just change your mind. And if you have something you would like sewn that you don't see listed, ask her! She's uber creative and can customize to your needs. Her items are top notch.

*Disclaimer: I was not compensated to give a shout out about Anne. She's my amazing friend whom I believe you all should know about. My opinions are my own and if you know what's good for you, head over to her site! That is all.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Good-bye bagged tortilla chips!

Last night standing in the kitchen flipping through my mind recipe Rolodex, I landed on taco's. But quickly realized I had no tortilla shells. What to do, what to do? I rummaged through the fridge and found a package of corn tortilla's and immediately thought of whipping up some homemade tortilla chips. Taco salad!

I have not had much luck baking corn tortilla's. I either under bake them, in which I get a headache from having to chew and chew and chew or over bake them and who wants to eat burned tortilla chips? Not me. So I always fall back on the bagged chips.

But I remembered wanting to try a new recipe I had stumbled across for tortilla chips. And no better time like the present!

I headed over to Two Peas and Their Pod, found the super simple recipe, printed it out, oiled, cut and salted the wedges and popped them in the oven. I was skeptical. Very skeptical. I tried to not set myself up for yet another tortilla making disappointment. I didn't want another meal where I would be chewing undercooked chips.

I pulled the first batch out, flipped 'em and put them back in. Five minutes later I pulled them out and cooled them off on a cooling rack. As soon as they were cool enough to eat I broke one apart, was pleasantly surprised that they sounded nice and crisp, then popped one into my mouth.

HEAVEN!! Just the right amount of salt and the most absolute perfect texture! (of course, I'll admit, the next batch I made, I didn't leave in long enough and they were a smidge undercooked, but still so very yummy!)

The trick to these is broiling them! Who would've thunk! I'm totally hooked as are the two little people and my main squeeze. It's a win-win-win-win!

Here's the recipe:

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips
courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod
click here for the printable version

1 small package of white corn tortillas, taco size, cut into triangles
Cooking spray-we use a canola oil spray
Salt-to taste

1. Preheat the broiler to high. Put corn tortilla triangles on a large baking sheet. Don’t overlap the chips. If you want to make a large batch, fill a second pan and only bake one at a time.

2. Spray the triangles lightly with cooking spray. Turn over triangles and spray again. Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

3. Bake in the oven for about 3-4 minutes. Turn chips over and bake for another five minutes, or until chips are golden brown and crisp. Make sure you don’t go too far while the chips are in the oven. They will bake quickly!

4. Cool and serve with guacamole, salsa, or eat them plain.

I didn't have any cooking spray, so I brushed olive oil on each side before cutting.
And yes, they bake super quick, so don't leave the kitchen!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review of Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

Book Sneeze/Thomas Nelson sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year with the most unlikely bride and groom. Save the date...and say your prayers.

When funding for Lucy's non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair Enterprises--the primary donor to Lucy's non-profit organizaiton.

Both Lucy and Alex have something the other desperately wants.

Alex has it all...except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancée in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn't quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart--and her future--on the line.

Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams...and maybe even a date.

I was expecting another typical, mushy book. I wasn't expecting it to be so charming, witty and a great read. I downed this book in two days, found myself smiling during parts and laughing at others. I loved the sparring between the two main characters and the use of sarcasm. It added a lightness to the book and made for more of a "real" feel of the characters. I'd definitely read this one again!

Review of Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Revell Books sent me this complimentary book to review for them.
U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward the coldhearted workaholic haven't warmed in the five years since she drove her husband--and Jake's best friend--to despair . . . and possible suicide.

As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, he's forced to revise his opinion of her. And when it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in danger.

Good storytelling by Irene Hannon. I've enjoyed her previous books as well. Great story line and well developed characters. Predictable ending, but still seat gripping. Not too preachy, not too mushy, just right.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A weekend in the kitchen: episode two

A weekend in the kitchen continues on with a story about my Sam. When he heard that Alina was cooking dinner and she could choose the menu, he wanted to be a part of it too. I told him he could cook the next evening and could choose what ever he would like.

His menu:
Salad with homemade ranch dressing and croutons
Spaghetti with sauce only (no meat)
Garlic bread sticks

Sam is not one to stay in the kitchen long. How ever long it takes to ask "what are we having for dinner and how long until it's ready" is the duration of his time in the kitchen. He will help now and then, but he'd rather go play nerf guns. Again, no forcing him to be in the kitchen so when he offers to help, I gladly accept.

So we started with the croutons first. I asked him to get the bread out of the freezer. Check. I asked him to find a baking sheet. His words, "don't tell me, I want to find it on my own." So I kept my lips closed. He looked through all the drawers and even the other pantry. I could tell he was getting frustrated so I asked if he'd like a hint, got the nod, and pointed to the cupboard door the baking items are in. Baking sheet? Check.

My next words were, " we're going to cut the bread for the croutons." He immediately picked up a knife and started sawing the bread that we were going to use for the garlic bread (no garlic bread sticks...but instead a french loaf we would turn into garlic bread). I steered him to the sandwich bread, showed him how to cut the cubes and let him take over. He threw the cubes into a bowl and tossed them while I poured a bit of olive oil over them and shook on some garlic powder. I then said, "dump them on the baking sheet and spread them around." He proceeded to take them out of the bowl one by one and placed them in rows on the sheet. I told him that that would take forever, but he was determined to do it. When he finished he said, "See mom? I'm done! And you said it would take forever!" Ahhh Sam. I love you.

Next up, ranch dressing. We threw it all in the food processor and he taste tested the dressing until it was just right. Into the fridge it went to marry. Check.

Onto dessert. I explained that we wanted to get the dessert done before we finished making dinner so it would be all ready to go after we were done eating dinner. I suggested chocolate chip cookie sandwiches. He was all over that. So I pulled out my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and we began. We melted the butter and measured the white sugar. I then said, "we now need a cup of brown sugar" to which he enthusiastically said OK! and proceeded to open the bottom drawer and pulled out a drinking cup. I kept forgetting that he takes things literally. I re-explained my words adding "measuring cup" and got the "oooohhhhhh!" The dough was ready to go and I showed him how to roll the cookies like a ball, pull apart and put back together. He totally got it and into the oven the cookies went.

Garlic bread was cut and buttered and he generously applied the garlic powder. Generously being the key word.

Next was a short conversation.
Me:"Ok. Now we need to get the noodles and sauce going."
Sam: "Mom? Is this when we take a break? I'm tired!"
Me (chuckling): "Welcome to my world Sam. This is how dinner gets on the table every night. I wish it magically appeared, but it doesn't."
Sam (smiling): "Yeah, I know, but it's sure a lot of work!"
Yes my son, yes it is.

So we continued on and he decided that he didn't want a salad after all, but apples (Alina was in agreement). So I helped him with the apple cutter and he then proceeded to cut the skin off of each piece of apple. I thought he would've stopped halfway through, but he did every piece without complaint and was pretty proud of his work. While he was doing that, I finished up the noodles and sauce and started to plate the food.

The cookies finished in the oven and he took them out. Once cooled I said, "Sam, one of the greatest things of working in the kitchen is that you get to taste the food you created before everyone else, just to make sure it tastes good." I picked up a big cookie, broke it in half and gave half to him. He looked at me like I was giving him a treasure and said, "seriously??". We munched on warm cookies and declared they were fit for eating.

Dinner was ready. While putting the apples on plates I said to him, "so after dinner you can come and do all the dishes." I received a "WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?!" I explained that the dishes don't clean themselves and the kitchen needs to be cleaned up. I then broke into laughter and said, "of course you don't have to do the dishes Sam. I'm so glad you were in the kitchen with me tonight. I'm more than happy to do the dishes." I could see the relief in his eyes and the smile on his lips. Joking with a nine year old is a whole lot of fun.

Dinner took about an hour and a half to make. I'll be honest and say that it wasn't easy for me. There was a lot of patience on my part of not taking over for him, but letting him experience kitchen life. And there was a lot of building up too. Hearing several times, "I'm not good at this" was a chance to build up his self confidence as I know he takes those encouraging words and tucks them into his heart. It was a ton of fun joking around with Sam and I think he experienced a bit of what goes into me making dinner each night for our family. I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything.

And our weekend in the kitchen comes to a close. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not be the last one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A weekend in the kitchen: episode one

Friday night rolled around and it was approaching dinner time. Alina found me standing in the kitchen with my eyes closed trying to think of what to make for dinner. I heard her sweet little voice through my blackness. "Mom? Can I make dinner tonight?"

I don't force my kids cook. I do ask them if they'd like to help and if they do, great! If not, no problem. They may only do one thing and be on their merry way or they may stay for the entire time. One never knows. But I want them to always feel like the kitchen is a fun place to be and not a chore.

Alina has wanted to make dinner for awhile now, so I asked her what she thought the menu should be. She said something healthy and then dessert.

She chose pasta salad with cooked broccoli, black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, cut up cubes of cheese all mixed with homemade ranch dressing. The side was sliced apples with the skins cut off and the beverage of choice was banana-blueberry-nectarine smoothies.

She was one determined little chef. She cut up the olives and tomatoes (yes, I do let her use sharp knives under surveillance), mixed up the entire salad and arranged the cut up apples onto plates. She helped blend the smoothies and set all dishes on the table.

Her choice of tableware were my pink dishes which adorned the pink tablecloth which was laden with lit candles (can you tell she loves pink?)

When we were all finished, she voluntarily cleared every one's dishes and I helped her prepare dessert: ice cream with chocolate sauce and multi-colored sprinkles.

We delighted in our feast she had prepared and she was a pretty proud cook at the end of the night. She's becoming more confident in the kitchen and is starting to know her way around. I can ask her for any item and she knows right where it's at. Her cautious side arises too, but she always asks if she's not sure how to do something. She so wants to do everything by herself and I find myself having to put away the thought of, "if I just do it, it'll get done much faster" and let her experience the joy of cooking.

Watch soon for A Weekend in the Kitchen: Episode two.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review of The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher and contest!

Revell Books sent me this free copy to review for them.

Fifteen years ago, Lainey O'Toole made a split-second decision. She couldn't have known that her choice would impact so many. Now in her mid-twenties, she is poised to go to culinary school when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge, the very Amish town in which her long-reaching decision was made, forcing her to face the shadowed past.
Bess Reihl is less than thrilled to be spending the summer at Rose Hill Farm with her large and intimidating grandmother, Bertha. It quickly becomes clear that she is there to work the farm--and work hard. The labor is made slightly more tolerable by the time it affords Bess to spend with the handsome hired hand, Billy Lapp. But he only has eyes for a flirty and curvaceous older girl.

Lainey's and Bess's worlds are about to collide and the secrets that come to light will shock them both.

A very sweet, heartfelt book. The characters were developed in a way that you felt like you knew them. Even when tragedy struck, my heart broke for the family.

I also found it refreshing that the Amish characters weren't portrayed as being perfect in their faith, as is portrayed a lot in books. They came up against anger and bitterness of which had to be worked through.

Overall, a great book! I've enjoyed reading Suzanne's books.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

**There's a bonus with this post! To celebrate the release of this book, Suzanne is having a contest with the grand prize being an ipad. Head over to Suzanne's contest website to sign up and possibly win! Click here to sign up.