Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Falls Like Lightning" by Shawn Grady

Silas Kent made a mistake when he left pilot Elle during his early smokejumping days.  Both are shocked to be called in to work the same wildfire in the Sierra Nevadas after years without contact. While Elle's daughter fights mysterious seizures in the hospital, Elle flies a crew of jumpers out on a seemingly routine drop, but instead crashes in the fire.  Silas and Elle soon realize that the fire is not their only enemy, but they must quickly unravel the mysteries of the downed plane, missing jumpers, and an elderly homesteader - before the fire burns them alive.

Grady's experience is obvious from the very first chapter of this book.  Full of technical terms and descriptions, most are explained in a natural way through the story.  Grady's writing is smooth and and the plot contains several unexpected twists.  The story opened between fires, so the action started slowly and accelerated rapidly through the climax, keeping me on the edge of my seat.  The ending was rather abrupt, however, and while it suited the story perfectly, I wish there had been a way to change up the sequence a bit.

The cover artwork grabs at you and makes you wonder how the handsome man starring in it will escape the glowing fire in the background.  It made the book so action-packed that my husband picked it up and started to read!

If you enjoy reading both action-adventure and romance stories, then this is the book for you!

To read the first chapter of Falls Like Lightning or to buy this book, go here.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GratiTuesday - Storing Up for the Winter

When I was a kid, my mom canned a lot.  She made all kinds of homemade jellies, too, and I loved helping her.  The best, though, was freezing corn.  The whole family helped with that, and it was great.  (For the record, everyone helped can red beets, too, but since they are stinky and turn your skin purple, I never thought that was much fun.)

For the past few years, I've done our corn mostly by myself.  Last year my Big Helper stuck with me for the entire process, but we missed the rest of our family.

Not so this year.

This year, everyone was present and accounted for.  Everyone helped and everyone had their own special job.  It was GREAT!

While I got the kitchen ready inside, the rest of the family began husking the 15 dozen ears we'd be doing.

This little guy soon discovered that there were sometimes worms inside the husks, and he became the official Worm Rescuer.  (Silly me - I never knew you needed one of those!)

He relocated them to a nearby tree base and showed them off every time I ventured outside.

Meanwhile, my Big Helper began scrubbing corn inside ...

so that I could blanch it.

After I had cooled it and cut the kernels off with my handy-dandy corn cutter, she bagged it.

Meanwhile, Daddy was still outside husking away ....

and the Worm Rescuer became the Silk Remover.

We ended up with far more corn than I had prepped for, so the Big Helper also became the Bag Label-er.  (She does that very well.)

All told, in just a few hours, we froze 15 dozen ears of corn and had everything cleaned up and put away.  The kids were great helpers and showed lots of perseverance.  One whole side of our freezer is full of corn for the winter now - and best of all, everyone pitched in to help!  Many hands make light work!

So grateful for strong hands, willing hearts, and a freezer of corn for the winter!

What are YOU grateful for today?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Wrapped in Rain" by Charles Martin

Tucker Mason and his brother Matthew didn't have it easy.  The sons of an alcoholic millionaire who sought total power, he fought back with both words and fists when life didn't go his way.  Housekeeper and nanny Ella Rain softened the edges where she could, however, and tried to teach them about the One who really has control.  By the time the boys were independent - Tucker an internationally known photographer, his brother in an institution for mental illness - their father had lost both his fortune and his mind and they had inherited only the ostentatious and unwanted  mansion of their youth.  When Matthew disappears from the institution and Tucker takes him home, can they find the root of Matthew's distress and Tucker's bitterness?  Will they learn Miss Ella's most important life lesson - that only love and forgiveness can truly give them the home and future they crave?

The beginning of this book was not easy reading.  Though interesting, the story picked up in present day and filled in the backstory through flashbacks and memories.  Because the story was being told from different points of view, this meant bouncing around in time and viewpoint among at least four perspectives, which was difficult to sort out in the beginning.  After settling in and getting the gist of the action, I began to enjoy this story much, much more.  By the middle I couldn't put it down and I couldn't wait to find out how Martin would bring everyone's issues to resolution.

This story is not a lighthearted read, as the issues are deep:  mental illness, child abuse, neglect, alcoholism, promiscuity, racial tensions; but Martin deals with each in a realistic and yet kind way.  Tucker grabs your heart and makes you want to cheer him on to happiness as he reconciles with his difficult past.

With characters like Tucker, I'm definitely going to seek out Martin's other books.

I was given a free copy of this book by BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Multitudes on Monday - August 29, 2011

This past week turned out nothing like we expected.  With my Big Helper heading off to first grade on Monday, we planned a few days of getting up and going to bed early and lots of family time and play dates in between - but then the first-grader to be got sick.  The tummy bug hung on for days and radically changed our plans, but there were lots of good things that happened while we hung out together.  Our activities changed - but we still had quality family time.

Some of the highlights for me were:

Seeing the excitement with which my Little Man grabbed my hand and pulled me along to show off his newest backyard discovery.

My Big Helper's excitement over her newly painted back-to-school fingernails.  Pink and sparkly!

Outside, both in green, makin' mud pies under the play set.  I love watching them play together.  They're so content with each other's company!

The view from my backyard hammock.  Isn't it amazing just how many shades of green God uses to color the leaves??

Tummy bug finally gone, my Big Helper finally starts first grade (only one day late!) and loves her teacher already.

Our British-style tea party was a smashing success!  More to come on that topic later.

The view from our deck mid-Hurricane Irene.  Despite all the huffing and puffing and bending of trees, we suffered only with some fallen branches and lots of scattered leaves.

Irene even dropped off a turtle in front of our house!  They were so excited! 

We may be raising a truck lover, but he loves his books just as much - if not more.

This one may seem a bit weird, but I'm very proud of this one in particular.  We've been having a very  (seemingly) minor issue in the kids' bathroom, but despite my best efforts, I couldn't seem to take care of it.  My husband doggedly went after it - with no prompting from me, I might add - and determined it not to be the surface issue I thought but a much deeper plumbing one - and consequently spent the second half of the day tearing apart this throne and, after three trips to Lowe's for parts, put it back together, issue fixed.  Isn't he good??   :-)

Despite the craziness of your week, what blessings have you been given?

Menu Plan Monday - August 29, 2011

Between my Big Helper's tummy bug - which lasted nearly all week - and Hurricane Irene's appearance (hence the cancellation of our baseball game/picnic and weekend guests)  , our meal plan last week was almost completely different than planned.  We also found and made a recipe for an upcoming bloggy challenge (you can find it here at noon on September 7th).  With these adjustments, a few of this week’s meals might seem like repeats – but we're playing catch-up with the menu a bit!

- Whole wheat cinnamon rolls (will freeze ¾ of them to be baked later), fruit
- Omelets with spinach and cheese, bananas

- Whole wheat waffles (left over from a double batch made at dinner time) x 2
-  Homemade egg sandwiches, McMuffin-style, fruit
-  Yogurt parfaits with skillet granola and blueberries
-  Cereal, bananas

Lunches will be our usual assortment of sandwiches, sliced fruits/veggies, and yogurt – or leftovers.

-        Quesadillas with leftover shish-ke-sketti chicken and peppers, salad, roasted carrots and onions
-     Breakfast for supper (whole wheat waffles topped with blueberries and strawberries)

-       Stir fry with peppers, brown rice, and steak
-     Pizza out via a mystery shop, fruit
-     Chicken enchiladas, salad
-     Pizza Casserole, salad, chocolate chip cake 
-     Grab it and Growl

For more meal plans, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are You Ready?

Yesterday our house shook twice with a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered just a few hours away in central Virginia.  As the walls buzzed and everything shook, I first thought it was nothing more than Life Flight hovering overhead as they sometimes do.  When it began again, I was afraid that something was exploding in the basement.

Soon my husband called and told me the truth - that there really was a major earthquake causing our entire town to shake.   Having grown up in the Mid-Atlantic region and now living in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, that never occurred to me.  We have storms ....


hail storms.


the occasional snowstorm.

doozy ice storms.

even tornadoes sometimes.

But earthquakes?  Never.  Never felt one.   Never even heard of one happening here.  It didn't take long for the earthquake to be the talk of FB in our area.  Everybody was talking about it, and nobody had recognized it for what it was.  Everybody else also thought that their washing machine was unbalanced, an airplane was too low, or that a large truck was nearby - but nobody recognized the quake for what it was.


We weren't expecting it.  We don't experience them.  We don't have them.  Go head, West Coast, make fun of us:  it's okay.  I'm sure we deserve it.  We're that innocent because we are uninformed and unexperienced.  We weren't watching for an earthquake, we didn't expect one, so we didn't know it when it came.

Then I saw a comment on FB that made me think.  A friend said, "I went outside and looked at the sky because I thought that maybe Jesus was coming back."

He didn't come the other day during the quake, but one of these days He will.  Will we recognize Him? Do we know Him?  Are we expecting Him?  Are we prepared and ready to take action when He returns?

The entire eastern seaboard, it seems, is currently gearing up for Irene.  Everyone's getting ready.  They know how to prepare and they're doing it.  They are hurricane experts and they're taking action.

Some of us are Jesus experts.  We may not have all the answers, but we know how to get ready.  Are we doing it?  Are we sharing our knowledge and helping others get ready, too?

If we know Jesus now; if we read our Bibles and become acquainted with God and His character; if we spend time in prayer and time listening in return; if we strengthen ourselves with service and friendships with other believers; and most importantly, if we do the soul-searching required to recognize that we are all sinners in need of Jesus' saving grace, ....

then we will recognize Him when He comes back.  We will know what's happening.  We will be the informed ones, the ones in the know, the ones who are no longer confused.  We'll have a direct line to the Source.

It's all in what - and Who - you know.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Brownie Sundae Cheesecake

When a recipe for Brownie Sundae Cheesecake popped up in my Facebook sidebar, I knew I had to try it!  I pinned it and when the next Pinterrest Challenge rolled around, I got busy.

The crust is not your ordinary crust.  Made from scratch from Nilla Wafers, cocoa powder, butter, and powdered sugar, I personally think a regular Oreo crust would be much simpler - and just as good.  This was tasty, though.  And don't worry - the rest is AMAZING.

To make the crust, mix 1 1/2 cup of the cookies, 6 T of powdered sugar (I used 3), 6 T cocoa powder, and 1 stick of melted butter.  Press them into a 9" springform pan and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.  Cool.

Make a batch of brownies as directed, any kind you like.  I used a dark chocolate mix and baked it with half oil, half applesauce.  I figured I'd cute out some fat wherever I could - and it still tasted fantastic!

While the brownies and crust are cooling, mix up the filling.  Mix 4 blocks of softened cream cheese, 1 c. of sugar, 4 eggs, and 1 t. of vanilla until smooth.  Break 1/4  to 1/2 of the brownies into bite-sized pieces and spread them across the crust.  Pour the filling over the brownies - there will be a lot of it.

Pour some sundae syrup over the top of the cheesecake.  I used a hot fudge chocolate variety (though it wasn't hot) and then swirl it into the cheesecake.

Bake for 50-55 minutes.  This cheesecake will puff up everywhere!  It looks like a giant popover but it will settle down when it comes out of the oven.

Let the cheesecake cool.  When it has, take off the pan edge, cover, and chill.  Serve cold.

Doesn't that look yummy?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Great Pinterest Challenge #2 - and TWO GIVEAWAYS!

Do you pin?

I'm a big fan of the newest social website - Pinterest.  (If you know all about Pinterest, feel free to skip the red words below ....)

If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a site that lets you build your own bulletin boards online, virtually 'pin' pictures to them (which are then linked automatically back to their home site), and easily share them with your friends.  I love this because I can see at a glance why I 'bookmarked' or pinned something - no more wondering why I have that link on my browser bar - and I can quickly get new ideas just by going back to the Pinterest home page.  That's where the recently pinned projects of my friends show up (also in pictures).  This is great for visual people like me.  

The best part?  It's all FREE!  :-)

Last month, Rebecca over at Better Life Bags started a create-it challenge involving Pinterest, and it's bigger and better this month.  Here's how it works:

To enter the challenge, you personally make something that you've pinned.  It can be a recipe, a sewn item, a DIY project, or a general craft.  Then, you submit a picture both of the original pinned item and your creation to the host of your particular category.  Voting is then opened up on Facebook for one week, and the project that gets the most 'likes' wins prizes, currently worth more than $125.

My Big Helper and I have entered projects in two of the above categories.  Now, I don't think I'm particularly greedy, but it's JUST PLAIN FUN to see all of these other projects.  It's fun to be a part of something happening out there in cyberspace.  Knowing there's a deadline to enter keeps us motivated to work on some of these projects we've been wanting to do.  AND, we're getting new ideas for new projects all the time - and that means more crafty-cooking time with my little girl.  :-)

So, we want to share the fun.  We'll give a homemade journal with a recipe card for our Brownie Sundae Cheesecake away if we reach our goal number of votes in either category by the end of voting time.  Whether we win or not.

Here's how to enter:

1.  Go to Happy Go Lucky on FB to vote for our journal or Topsy Turvy on FB to vote for our Brownie Sundae Cheesecake.
2.  When you arrive at either page, you must first 'like' that particular company.  Then you'll be allowed to 'like' as many pictures as you want.
3.  After' liking' the company, please like our entries.  Feel free to like and vote for any others you'd like while there.
4.  Then come back here and leave a comment telling us that you voted.  Leave a second comment if you voted for each category.  (Make sure that I have a way of contacting you if you win.)  That's it!

Voting ends this weekend.  If we reach more than 20 likes in either category, we'll choose one comment randomly and send out a homemade journal with a cheesecake recipe card included.  If we get to 20 likes in BOTH categories, we'll send out two!  (Books can be mailed within the United States only.  We'll chose the winner(s) on Monday, and they will be notified by email.  Winner(s) will then have 48 to reply or a new winner will be chosen.)

Happy voting!  (And if you're a Pinhead, I'd love to meet you! You can find me by clicking on the red Pinterest banner over on the right hand side of this post.)

Come back on Saturday for an update on the Great Eastern Earthquake - assuming that Hurricane Irene hasn't knocked out the power.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'Shadows on the Sand' by Gayle Roper

Carrie Carter has finally come to terms with her life.  Running away from an alcoholic mom and her abusive boyfriends as a teen, she took her young sister with her and made a home for them both.  Now seventeen years later, she's a business owner and ready to move on to the next phase of her life:  love, hopefully involving her favorite customer, Greg Barnes.  Greg begins to move out of a long period of personal trial when Carrie's dishwasher is found murdered and her favorite waitress disappears.  Can this former runaway and former cop work together to solve the mystery - and find their own personal happy ever after?

I love the subplots and current issues included in this book.  While this book definitely falls into the 'romance' category, it does not read like your typical romantic novel; the plot is far deeper and more complex.  Issues relevant to today's society are woven seamlessly throughout the story, making the characters more believable and adding layers to the plot.  Alcoholism, forgiveness, cults, grief, and teen runaways are all dealt with in a real and knowledgeable manner.  It would be easy to make this another surface issue who-likes-whom story, but Roper goes deeper, and that alone makes this story stand out.  The smooth flow and colorful word choice only makes it better.

I've read several of Roper's novels, and this is by far my favorite.  I will be seeking out the rest of the Seaside Series - soon!

If you'd like to read Chapter One of Shadows on the Sand for free, click here.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GratiTuesday - Sick Kids

While out grocery shopping last night I got a phone call from my husband calling me home.  Our Big Helper suddenly got sick - those tummy yuckies - and was asking for me.  Not knowing how bad this bout would be, I decided that I didn't have anything too urgent already in my cart and headed for home.

I arrived to find a smiling yet sick little girl who just wanted to be near mommy.  After getting comfy and settled in bed, she's slept all night - but still doesn't feel back to her usual self.

So today, I'm thankful that we had nothing planned for these last few days before school begins except to spend time together.  I'm thankful that I no longer work full-time and can be here at home when my kids need me.  I'm thankful for the time we'll have together today, and although I wish she wasn't sick, we'll have fun reading more Magic Tree House books and watching Peter Pan.

So with that - I'm off to hang out with my little ones.  Sick or not, it's definitely my favorite place to be!

**Update:  My Little Man wandered in to the kitchen a few minutes ago while our Big Helper was watching a movie and said that he was hungry.  He chose cereal for breakfast, and while I got it ready, he asked to take it into the play room where the movie was playing.  I explained that it would be better to eat it in the kitchen so as not to eat in front of his sick sister.  He quickly replied, "Oh, I wouldn't.  I would eat BEHIND her!"

Gotta love little ones and their literal translations!  :-D

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Multitudes on Monday - August 22, 2011

A few of our many blessings from this past week ....

A real live froggy found IN the froggy pool (Staunton River State Park).  Who knew frogs could live in pool filters??

The chance to enjoy the riverfront and let a boy be a little boy.  He LOVES throwing rocks in water!

The rainbow we found in the sky on our way home one afternoon.  God's paints were much more vivid in person!

Children who want to work together to get their chores done - even hair-brushing - so they can go back to playing together.  I'm so glad that they are such good friends!

Simple pleasures - watching the big fountain at Streets of Southpoint one nice summer's evening.

Cardboard boxes.  Who needs fancy electronic toys??

A child's joy - found today in practicing for our English tea party coming up this week.  I love their enthusiasm!

What blessings have you been given today??

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - August 21, 2011

School begins in a few days!  We're getting back into the routine of things.  We will still have a few days to spend playing together at home, finishing our exploration of the UK, and a few days where we have to be places in the evenings.  We also have a friend coming over after school for a tea party, English style, and company coming for the weekend.  Simple and prepped ahead, here we come!

PB chocolate chip muffins, fruit
Blueberry banana bread
Cinnamon scones, fruit X2
Scrambled eggs, toast

Whole wheat waffles, fruit, scrambled eggs X2

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or simple sandwiches, sliced veggies/fruit, and yogurt or cheese.

- Grab it and Growl

- Grilled ham, mac'n'cheese, baked corn

Shish-ke-sketti, canteloupe
- Hot dogs, leftover mac'n'cheese, baked beans, grapes (by my Big Helper's request for the first day of school)
- Tea party!  PB & J sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, scones, mini banana muffins, mini fruit tarts, lemonade from scratch
- picnic out after one last baseball game of the season

- lasagna, salad, Italian herb bread, birthday cake

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Giveaway Information

I have news of three giveaways to share with you today.

First, Laura is the winner of The Corruptible giveaway.  Congratulations, Laura!

Secondly, Ruth over at Thoughts from a Princess is giving away a Suzanne Woods Fisher's newest book, Amish Values for your Family.  It sounds like a wonderful book.  Visit her site to read her review and for two chances to win.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is giving away a great prize package on her blog relating to her book release.  Those who register on her blog have the opportunity to win a new Kindle loaded with the digital version of her latest book - and a signed Bill Coleman original!  Bill Coleman is a photographer from Pennsylvania who takes really fantastic photographs of Amish culture and simple living.  Be sure to visit for a chance to win!

Having had a completely crazy week of activity before school begins next week, I'm off for a slower-paced day of enjoying my children at home.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Part 2: Ways to Encourage your Husband with Words

My husband loves affirmation.  He basks in the glow of happy words that let him know that his actions have been appreciated.

I'm a touchy-feely girl.  I'd much rather give or receive a hug than a compliment.

What does that mean?  Sometimes I have to work at showing respect and appreciation to my husband.

Not because I don't want to;  as I said yesterday, he's incredible.  It's just that my natural way of showing my love is not his favorite way of receiving it.  Since I want him to be happy to receive it, I have to speak his language.

I've found a few things that help us out:
  • Writing one thing on our daily kitchen calendar that I appreciate about him that day shows him the things I often forget to say.  After a few days of doing this, my husband was walking in the door and heading for the calendar to see if I'd written anything for that day yet - or to check out what I wrote for the day before.  He seemed to get a kick out of the little things I appreciated, like "helped bath the kids tonight" or "unloaded the dishwasher" (I hate that job!).
  • One year for Christmas I typed up a list of all the things I love about him, printed it, cut it apart, and glued them to one of those funny daily calendars.  I found it surprisingly easy to think of 365 great things about my husband.  He never got into flipping the page every day, but for a few months, when he was having a crazy day, I'd find him sitting on our bed, reading through his calendar.  
  • I try to compliment my husband to my children.  Our children are also both wordy people, and they talk often about what other people have going on.  They might say something like, "The bushes are gone from the flowerbed."  That gives me the chance to say, "Daddy's been working really hard to take the bushes out so that we can redo the flowerbed and plant new flowers.  Isn't he strong?"  I try to make these compliments whether he's around or not - whenever the opportunity arises - but he says that he likes it when I recognize his efforts to our children.  I think he should:  they need to know what a great daddy they have!
  • Surprising him with words is one of my favorites.  It's a bit easier for me to do, although it takes some planning, and the kids and I get a kick out of doing this together.  Once I got a can of peanuts - his favorite - and opened the plastic lid.  On the foil seal underneath I wrote with a Sharpie, "We're just a couple of nuts!"  We left the can on his car seat while he was at work, so he found it after leaving for the day.  He said that he got a good laugh out of it, and he kept that can in the car for a long time.  Other times we'll drop by with a glass of his favorite iced tea with a note written on the cup or a candy bar with a message taped to it.  
These are the things I've found so far that work for us.  I'm always up for new ideas, though.

How do you show respect to and encourage your husband??