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

Monday, July 30, 2012

"The Stars Shine Bright" by Sibella Giorello

The Stars Shine Bright: Raleigh Harmon Series #4  -     
        By: Sibella Giorello

Raleigh Harmon's life is changing - and it's not getting easier.  With her mom firmly ensconced in a psychiatric hospital believing that Raleigh herself was out to get her, she's no longer allowed to see her.  With her actions still under review from the previous book, she applies for a position in the Seattle office and is sent undercover to a local racetrack.  Trying to solve the mystery of the sick horses may prove to be the easiest challenge in her life, however, as Special Agent Jack Stephanson is still antantonizing, her fiance wants her to quit and become his Southern Belle, and the mysterious black car is still on her tail.  Can Raleigh sort through the pieces to save her job - and her life?

Giorello writes another Raleigh Harmon mystery that's fast-paced and intriguing.  Without a single clear lead, Raleigh has problems to solve on every front, and with her personal life mixed up with the professional, you can't help but feel for her.  As in her previous books, Raleigh continues to charge ahead regardless of the consequences, which is great for the people she helps and disastrous for herself.  Like a woman in a horror movie, you can see that she's headed for derailment but are powerless to stop her.  This connection with Harmon ups the suspense factor and will keep you speed reading through to the end.

The only part of this book that was less than fantastic was the page after the story ended.  It didn't contain a title for the next Raleigh Harmon book as all the others have.  The series could end here and leave the reader rather content with the direction of Harmon's life now, but as she's a fascinating character with many lessons to teach us, I hope this isn't the end.  Please, keep the Raleigh books coming!

I received a free copy of The Stars Shine Bright from the BookSneeze Program in exchange for an honest review.

Menu Plan Monday

It's cooling off this week, but only by a few degrees.  I'm not sure if that really counts.

I'm excited about a few meals that we have planned this week, but I need to make a trip to the store, so this could change a bit - but here are some tentative plans for our week.

- Zucchini bread, bananas
- Scrambled eggs, toast

- Cinnamon Almond Granola and fresh fruit

- Grandma's biscuits with honey or strawberry jelly and fruit

Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches with sliced fruits and veggies.


- Beef stir fry with brown rice and veggies
- Grilled chicken, loaded potato slices, steamed broccoli, watermelon
- Taco Salad, ice cream sundaes in cookie bowls - I've been wanting to try these!  I'll probably use our Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to make them.
- I'm not sure yet - any suggestions??

- Slow cooker BBQ chicken, salad, watermelon
- Dinner at a church event
- Chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, salad

We might make this ice-cream-in-a-bag with friends this week, too.

What's on your menu board for the week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

GratiTuesday - Sew Ready

Two weeks ago, while sewing my Big Helper's safari vest, my sewing machine suddenly stopped working. Everything appeared to be okay, but the thread no longer stayed in the holes punched by the needle.

Since I couldn't figure out what was wrong and thought it must be a simple fix, I started asking those around me who sew.  One person thought it might have something to do with the parts behind the bobbin case, so I started poking around - and suddenly they came out.  I was quite proud of myself for figuring out how to get a look at the part I needed to see.

Except then I couldn't figure out how to put those two parts back in.


After trying repeatedly to figure out it, I finally remembered to ask my husband about it while he was home.

So after work last night he sat down at my machine. 

It was rather funny at first because he stared at the machine, picking up parts and putting them back down, convincing me that he'd never sat in front of a sewing machine before.

After a few questions about what the bobbin was and where it was supposed to go, he got to work.

Soon he got the Nook and settled in for some serious research, but it wasn't long until he called me and I found the machine looking like this:

I tested it rather nervously, thinking that its completeness didn't necessarily mean that the original weird problem was fixed - but it is.  I'm not sure how, but I don't think I mind.

It works.

So today the Big Helper and I will start on the list of projects that have been piling up:  some mending, some creating, some teaching - and I can't wait for us to sew together.

I'm sew grateful for a husband who is willing to attempt what he never has before, to step out of his comfort zone, to go seeking the answers he needs.  Looking at diagrams and schematics would've crossed my eyes and blown my top, but in a matter of minutes he had the whole thing figured out and repaired.  I'm glad that God creates us all differently!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Starring Me" by Krista McGee

Starring Me

Kara McCormick is a Long Island teen who dreams of seeing her name in lights.  She loves performing and making others laugh, so when she receives a call about auditioning for a new show in Florida, she hops on the first plane out.

Chad Beacon is a young singing sensation who's tired of being tackled by adoring females.  Ready to transition into television and use his acting talent, he's found the perfect show to host - but his parents won't give him permission unless they approve of his female cohost.  Can they find a fun, talented girl - who's also a Christian?

Starring Me is a fabulous, lighthearted read!  This book sparks with perkiness the whole way through.  Even though Kara is not a person of faith in the beginning, she is surrounded by them, and her openness to discuss new things is refreshing.  Her kindness and compassion definitely make her the star of the book, and in this regard she is held up as a shining example of how we should all behave.  The contrast between Kara's behavior and that of her housemates is a stark reminder of how to and not to be.

McGee writes quirky scenarios and fun vignettes, all of which add to the charm of this book.  The mood of the story, even when Kara's facing hard things, just makes the reader happy, and that's rare today.

By far the best aspect of this story to me was the example set by the Christian characters.  Being exceptionally kind, speaking of their faith often, and sharing their beliefs without pushing are things that we can all do to live like Jesus, but one other stood out.  Chad and Kara are friends with two other teens who are attracted to each other and are considering a relationship, and that's what's so wonderful:  they're teens who are considering it.  They're going slow, getting to know each other, and deciding what they want out of a relationship before ever moving forward at all..  That's rare in the world today, and even more so to find played out in our media today.  To see such a relationship held up as an example in a new book was wonderful.

All in all, Starring Me is a perky read that should make any teen laugh.  As a mom, it's the kind of book I want my kids to read when they hit their teen years.  You can't go wrong with Starring Me.

I received a free copy of Starring Me from the BookSneeze Program in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Water Olympics

In honor of this year's Olympic Games - and for the sheer fun of it - a group of us decided to hold our own version of the Olympics in our yard.  We decided to have as many water events as possible.  We also wanted to mimic the real Olympic Games closely, as well, so that our children could learn about this historic event.

As each family RSVP'ed to the Evite invitation I sent, I grouped the children into two teams and assigned them a matching color to wear.  This made it easy to tell the teams apart on the day of the event.

Although I've been using Evite for years, I'm enjoying it.  This site lets you make a special 'comment' to your invitation in the form of a list of requested items.  Then each invitee can reply with a simple click as to what she can bring.  This feature made it really easy for all of us to know which items were still needed, and it took the burden off any one of us to provide everything.  

As each family arrived, the teams split up and began work on their team name and flag.  They really got into this!  Soon we had the Red Vikings competing against the Blue Dinosaurs.

When the flags were complete, the children lined up and marched into the backyard to the national anthem.  (Since we lacked an audience, we did have to do a few things out of order.)  As the "Chairperson of the International Olympic Committee,"  I went over the rules of the day with the kids and introduced our "nation's president."  She then opened the games, and then the kids all stood and took the official Olympic oath.  After that one of our youngest Olympians carried in the torch.  He and his mom lit the cauldron, and the games began.  

**We used my husband's iron fire pit as our Olympic cauldron.  Shorter and simpler than the real one, of course, but the kids didn't know that - and they really got into it!  We used the above tissue paper creations as our 'fire' and stuck more into the end of a paper towel tube to be the torch.  It all worked.)

I thought that the kids might find this all a bit cheesy, but they were really into it.  They planted their flags in the dirt, lined up by teams, and began to cheer.

First up was a three-legged race.  The kids found this to be really difficult!

Carrying water balloons on flat wooden spoons isn't exactly a piece of cake, either.

The "discus" throw had the big kids really excited, and they gave lessons to the younger ones.

No water day would be complete without playing "fill the bucket with the sponge."

They absolutely loved trying to be fancy ladies at finishing school, carrying around the soppy sponges on their heads.  This event was a team relay race.

They were more than ready to race on the slip 'n' slide, though, and they couldn't get enough of this one.

Then we got a bit more strategic.  We laid out our own rules for Capture the Flag ...

but instead of having tails to grab, each team had to defend a lone bandanna - and its' two protectors guarded it with cans of shaving cream.  Whenever anyone got sprayed, s/he had to sit down and count to ten before running again.  We really had fun with this one!  We played for three points.

What water day would be complete without water balloons?  We ended our events with an old-fashioned water balloon fight.  The kids took out more than 50 balloons in 2 minutes flat.

Group pictures and a picnic lunch followed.  

While the kids ate, the adults compared notes on the day.  I kept score for each event, wherever possible, and we determined a winning team that way; but we also gave small trophies for those kids showing excellent character throughout the day.  We gave away Spirit Awards (for encouraging teammates), a Good Listening award, a Strategic Planning award, and a Team Helpfulness award.  The kids were so excited to earn these!

We passed out the winning team's medals and our character trophies at our closing ceremony.  At this time we also 'doused' our cauldron and closed the games, all to patriotic music.

After our closing ceremony we celebrated the day with these Olympic Torch Cupcakes.

Now my kids are really excited to learn more about the Olympic Games and what's happening.  We followed the torch's webcam yesterday and will watch the real Opening Ceremonies tonight.

**All pictures in this post were taken by my friend Susan B.  Thanks, Susan!

How are you celebrating this year's Olympics?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DIY Safari Vest

When my Big Helper was planning this last Book Club event, she was really excited about the safari theme - and she wanted everyone to dress up.  Since her brother has a super cool safari vest that he received as a Christmas gift, she wanted one to wear, too - but purchasing another wasn't possible.

So when we came across an old khaki-colored t-shirt, we knew we'd found our answer.

This is how we turned a junior-sized t-shirt into a kid-sized safari vest:

  • First, she tried on the t-shirt.  I used chalk to mark the neckline, sleeves, and hem.   Together, we figured out where she wanted the edges of her vest to be, and then I drew lines right on her.
  • Those lines made it very easy to cut off the extra fabric.  Because it was knit, supposedly it wouldn't fray.  This made the project easier in that we didn't stress about turning under every edge, but of course, stretchy fabric is never easy to sew.
  • After cutting off all the extra fabric, we sewed a simple, straight seam about an 1/8 of an inch in from the cut edges.  This helped to prevent any tearing or fraying and made the vest look more "finished."
  • My Big Helper got a sheet of paper and drew how she wanted the pockets to be laid out on her vest. This gave me an idea of the number of pockets and their proportions to the whole project.
  • Then we put the main vest piece aside and spread out the pieces we initially cut off.  
  • Using those pieces, we cut out squares and rectangles for the pockets and rectangular pocket flaps.  To make the vest look more "finished," we used the turned-under seams - the parts that had been the sleeve edge and the bottom hem - and used those as the bottom piece of each pocket and the bottom of each pocket flap.  That made each pocket look more uniform.
  • She wanted to have "Safari Guide" embroidered on one of the large pockets, so we chose some green embroidery floss and got to work.  It didn't take long, and soon the words she desired adorned the pocket.
  • We pinned each pocket and flap in place and then sewed a simple straight seam around the bottom and sides of each pocket.
  • For the pocket flaps, I pinned them in place as if they were open and pointing up.  Then I sewed the seam straight across.  Now, when the pocket is closed, you can't see that seam.
  • We used Velcro circles to hold each pocket closed.  
  • To hold the vest itself closed, we sewed on four buttons rescued from the spare button bin and sewed them on.  Then we cut tiny slits on the opposing side of the vest.  Someday, when I learn how to sew a buttonhole, we'll do a real one, but this works well for now.
The vest that we made is certainly simpler than the fancy one her little brother has, but it works just as well.  We had fun making it together, and she was super excited to wear it when her friends arrived for the safari.  

Come back tomorrow for a recipe worthy of any Olympian!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Learning Adventure

For the past few months my husband and I have been discussing how we want our children to be educated.

Until now, I've homeschooled them until they started kindergarten - and then they went to public school.  But this year, with our Little Man headed out the door, we've really been evaluating our educational values.  Do we want to emphasize academics?  Character?  Faith?  The physical body - sleep, health, sports?  Family time?

We've decided that homeschooling works best for us.  It will allow us to blend our values with the gifts, talents, and needs that our children have.

So today I'm really excited about a whole school year full of ...

Crayon County and the Redwood State Park (ing lot).

Crazy art projects and economics projects and lunches as a family. They're especially fun at Chick Fil-A!

More book clubs and hands-on learning and friend time and lots and lots of books.

Trying new things.

Exploring interests further.  If this guy doesn't become a spare-time mechanic when he's older, I'll be shocked!

I love my family, and I love to teach, and I'm really excited about us all being able to learn together full-time. This next year will definitely be an adventure!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

**This year, with one in kindergarten and one in second grade and many shared interests, here's our basic plan:

  • reading lessons for the Man and book projects for the Helper (along with monthly book clubs)
  • basic math activities, teaching each one the 'next' skill they need
  • daily journaling activities, including lots of real-life writing (cards, letters, menus, etc.)
  • Apologia Botany coop every other week for experiments with lessons taught at home
  • hands-on history lessons using The Story of the World - after we study the colonial period, the Pilgrims, Christmas, and the Titanic.  They asked!
  • Since I believe in being fully immersed in your learning, we'll be cooking, sewing, gardening, visiting, and generally being messy as often as possible to combine all of the above subjects.  Makes it harder to keep the house clean, but it sure is fun - and we learn a lot, too.
Do you homeschool?  What are your best tips/sites/lessons?

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Wildflowers from Winter" by Katie Ganshert

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Bethany Quinn has spent years building her career as an architect at a fancy Chicago firm - until her grandfather dies, forcing her to return to the tiny rural town in which she grew up.  Suddenly becoming a modern-day Job, her life turns upside down as she inherits his farm but loses everything she values.  Could the farm - and the man who inherited the farmhouse - restore her faith and help her find her way?

Wildflowers from Winter is a modern spin at the story of Job that shows us just how easy it is to lose sight of what's really important.  Like so many Americans, Bethany Quinn was trying to improve her life, working hard at being successful and wealthy, when those things aren't what really lasts.  Learning these lessons is difficult for Quinn, and that means that it's not exactly a perky read, either - Quinn really struggles with a new view of her desires, who God is, and what is meaningful and lasting in this life.  Her best friend, who is trying to put one foot in front of the other after the tragic death of her husband, adds to the emotional depth of this story.

Yet this story isn't all about the difficult.  Evan Price, the man who inherited her grandfather's house and surrounding acreage, is a hunk of a farmer, and he's a faithful man of God - who's intertwined with Bethany's stay in her hometown.  As their paths keep crossing, Quinn grows to respect this man who tries to do the right thing, even when he's struggling himself, and their mutual attraction keeps the sparks flying throughout the story.  This definitely lightens the mood when it gets somber, but also adds a great reflection to Quinn's friend's marriage - Robin had a great marriage and is mourning the end, but Quinn is contemplating a new relationship with Evan, and could it be as wonderful?  Both love twists will have you reaching for your husband, in need of a hug - thankful for the relationship and that he's still here.

Ganshert writes so smoothly that I couldn't put this book down until I finished it.  Quinn became real in my mind, and I was alternately frustrated at her selfishness and brainstorming ways to help her friends.  I was concerned for grieving Robin, laughing at Grandfather's cunning matchmaking skills, and irritated at the arrogant pastor who led Quinn astray so long ago.  I loved this book for its layers - layers of fun and frolic, depth and emotion, plans and regrets and issues.

Wildflowers from Winter is an unusually deep romantic love story with a calm and steadfast setting that perfectly reflects our Creator's love for us.  Don't miss this one.

I received a free copy of Wildflowers from Winter from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Menu Plan Monday - July 23, 2012

Sometimes I think I should just give up on a summer meal plan.  Even when I think we'll be home lots to cook, it seems that the plans change at the last minute - but then, it sure is nice to be able to be flexible!

We have one more major event this week, and then nothing at all on the calendar for several weeks.  I'm so excited about that!  Lazy days at home, here we come!

In the meantime, it's hot right now and getting hotter.  I'm pulling odd things out of the freezer that are already prepared or utilizing whatever I can that will not add any extra heat to the house, so if our meal plan this week seems a bit odd, it probably is; but with temps nearing triple-digits again by the end of the week, so be it.

So here's our tentative-but-will-probably-change-this-week meal plan:

- vanilla yogurt parfaits with bananas, blueberries, and Cinnamon Almond Granola
- Whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread and bananas
- Chocolate cherry granola bars

Lunches will be our usual assortment of sandwiches, leftovers, and fruit.

- Vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream
- Hot dog cookout with friends (rain postponement from last week)
- Nacho bar with watermelon and grilled jalapeno poppers

- Pizza casserole, carrot sticks

- Quick and healthy stir fry
- Waffles, scrambled eggs
- Family Movie Party!  Snackable supper: pigs in blankets, carrot sticks, fruit, popcorn

I think, while I have the waffle maker out, that we'll make some more of these chocolate waffle cookie sundaes.  They're really good - and they don't heat up the kitchen!

What are your favorite hot-weather treats?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"The Company" by Chuck Graham

A meteor strike plunges the world into darkness. A stranger to the village of Brigos Glen restores power and light, supplied by three businesses, known as “The Company,” located beyond the forbidden mountains. The stranger reveals a plan so the Brigons can maintain the power and share the light with outlying territories, which remain shrouded in darkness.

Now, seventy years later, The Company summons six Brigons, including the young engineer Sam Mitchell, to attend a conference in the mountains of the forbidden Outlands. 

Responsible for compiling a report about Brigos Glen from his five companions, Sam learns how managers and villagers largely ignored the plan or compromised it to self-interest, forsaking their duty to share the light. They also took for granted The Company responsible for generating and transmitting the power.

In an ordeal fraught with failure, revelations, and judgment, Sam discovers the true identity behind The Company and learns the fate that may befall Brigos Glen . . . that is, unless he can stop it.

The Company is a futuristic allegory full of wonder and suspense.  At times the comparisons are easy to spot, at others more obscure, but throughout the book the actions of the other characters keep you on your toes.    One minute predictable, the next explosive, it was their own changing attitudes that paint the confusion and scenery of this story.  

Reminiscent of The Giver and Dekker's new Mortal series, The Company plants you in the midst of a selfish, greedy world that has lost sight of compassion and kindness.  With a new, mysterious regime in charge and enemies at every turn, it is a bit difficult to relate to parts of the story - and yet this is exactly what makes certain characters who fight this mindset so appealing.  

There are many lessons to take away from a reading of The Company - lessons of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, truth - and that doesn't begin to touch the true moral of the story, an understanding of the Trinity.  

Graham has written a complex first book - and I look forward to reading the next installment of Sam's story, The Rise of New Power.

You can order your own copy of The Company here.

I received a free copy of The Company from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.


Chuck Graham's legal career as an attorney in private practice spanned more than thirty-one years. He represented many local, national, and international clients, acquiring intricate knowledge about the often-overlapping structures of the corporate world. He also worked against those seeking to create racial division, including the Ku Klux Klan. He has served as a member of the state bar of Georgia since 1979 and an instructor to attorneys and judges through the Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE). He received the Medallion of Appreciation from ICLE.

Chuck is also a speaker and the author of Take the Stand (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996) and the compilations, A Year of Encouragement (Xulon Press).

In 1997 he founded Ciloa (Christ Is Lord Of All), a ministry devoted to sharing God’s encouragement with the world and teaching those who follow Him how to encourage others. Today Chuck serves as executive director and principal author of A Note of Encouragement, a weekly e-zine reaching 175 countries.

He and Beverly, his wife of thirty-four years, have lived in Lawrenceville, a suburb of Atlanta, for fourteen years. God has blessed them with three children. In his free time, Chuck enjoys backpacking and hiking (especially on the Appalachian Trail), playing the guitar, dabbling in photography, and reading extensively about the Christian faith. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Win Instant Prizes with Shutterfly's New Contest!

Have you used the Shutterfly website?  It's a great way to organize, share, and print the photos you love - either as prints or on gift-able items like books and mugs.  They're running a fun new contest for those who enter photos, and they're offering lots of prizes - and each person who enters wins instantly!  

The Shutterfly Live Long Summer Photo Contest began on July 9th and runs through August 12, 2012.  All you need to do is upload a photo on their Facebook page, and you can win instantly.  

Here's what Shutterfly has to say about the contest:

Win a trip for four to The Bahamas and a professional photo shoot so you’ll remember your vacation forever.  All you need to do is upload your favorite photo and caption based on the theme of the week.  Get a gift from Shutterfly just for entering! You can enter at any point during the 5-week sweepstakes period.

•       Week 1(7/9): Americana
•       Week 2 (7/16): Great Outdoors
•       Week 3 (7/23): Water Fun
•       Week 4 (7/30): Sports & Activities
•       Week 5 (8/6): Parties & Celebrations

•       Instant win prizes just for submitting a photo!
•       Weekly prizes (contestants can enter one time/week)
•       Weekly featured photos: up to 5 weekly entries will be selected from the gallery and featured on the Facebook fan page and awarded a $500 gift card on Shutterfly and a copy of the new Lonely Planet travel photography book.
•       Grand prize: trip for 4 to Bahamas, 4 nights, family photo shoot

"The Beauty Book" by Nancy Rue

The Beauty Book: It's A God Thing  -     
        By: Nancy Rue

Where do tween girls go for information about what's beautiful?  Cinderella's no longer the "in" thing - and there's a media blitz happening in the American culture ready to show our youth super skinny, air-brushed bodies.  Nancy Rue combats this with The Beauty Book:  It's a God Thing.  Half devotional, half how-to book, Rue writes each chapter in a magazine format that contains scripture, space for prayers, and question-and-answer sections, in addition to direct information.  You'll learn how to give yourself a manicure as well as how to handle parental disagreements about piercings and clothing styles.  

Rue writes in a very direct, no-nonsense style.  The information is clear and concise, easy to understand and very sensible.  When the Bible gives directions about a certain topic, she answers simply, and when the question is more about when to begin a certain practice, she's quick to point to parental wisdom and guidance.

For a tween seeking information, this is a great resource.  The how-to's are great and the information is the exact stuff I remember wondering at this age.  I wish I'd had a resource like this to read!  

With that in mind, however, I was hoping to give you my daughter's perspective on this book, but I found that (at seven) she is not yet ready for the information in this book.  While we could read certain parts of certain chapters and have fun with, say, giving each other pedicures (which we sometimes do), there is too much information about puberty in this book for her to read independently.  She's just not there yet.  So while this would be great for girls who know the basics of puberty and need help knowing how to handle zits and hairy legs, we'll be holding off for a few more years.  

If you know of someone who's suddenly feeling more like the frog than the princess, be sure to check out The Beauty Book.  It may help put her back on track.

I received a free copy of The Beauty Book from Tommy Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Finished Deck

You might remember a few weeks ago that our deck was, well, missing.  Having been severely aged by weather, it was no longer in good condition and was rapidly nearing the 'dangerous' point.  My husband decided to use his vacation to replace it, and soon we were left with this:

That was a bit scary, I must admit, because I didn't know how to replace it - and neither did he.

But after two days of demo work and then two days of nailing on new boards, soon this could be seen outside.

Our Big Helper became an expert board-holder.

She was a huge help to her daddy, and they had fun building the new deck together.

Now it looks like this, and we're enjoying it so much more than we used to.  It's a great place to eat breakfast after a run or to hang out in the early mornings with my Bible.  :-)

This project is by far the biggest that we've tackled on this house in a long time, and it scared me to tear off something so large, but my husband did a fabulous job of replacing it, and we're all loving our new outdoor space!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Win a Kindle Fire during Beth Guckenberger's Tales of the Not Forgotten Giveaway! RSVP for 7/31 Author Chat Facebook party!

Celebrate with Beth by entering her Kindle Fire Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 7/31!

Find out what readers are saying here.

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
  • A Tales of the Not Forgotten small group kit (books and DVD)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 30th. Winner will be announced at the "Not Forgotten" Author Chat Facebook Party on 7/31. Beth will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills (how much do you know children around the world?) and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Tales of the Not Forgoteen and join Beth on the evening of the July 31st  for a chance to meet Beth and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

"Tales of the Not Forgotten" by Beth Guckenberger

Tales of the Not Forgotten is a set of stories of children from five different countries written by missionary Beth Guckenberger.  Each one features a child facing an impossible situation when God shows Himself in a big way.  The publisher describes the book this way:

Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to faraway lands and unknown faces. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver writing endings you’d never imagine!
Joel dares to ask for what he can’t have. Seraphina sacrifices what she can’t afford to give. Ibrahim looks for an answer buried out of reach. Christiana, saved by a mission, searches for her own.
These are the tales of the ones the world doesn’t see . . . the tales of the not forgotten.
In this collection of four real-life stories written for preteens, a compelling storyteller paints a picture of God’s dynamic movement in four foreign cultures, inspiring children to trust that God is weaving a story in their lives as well.
This resource will shrink the macro picture down to approachable, individual stories of real children and teach about fundamental survival issues. The stories address some of the challenging questions that kids have and weave God's promises to orphans into each one.
The Tales of the Not Forgotten Leader’s Guide is a 6-session kids' missions resource (sold separately) that walks adults through an easy-to-follow guide for making the abstract real and for designing an action plan to help others.
Preteens will be challenged to answer the questions:How do I pray? What can I give? Where can I go? Who will I serve?
The stories in this book are amazing.  I've always loved reading about how God works things out in just the perfect way, as only He can, but when He shows up for children who have so little, the stories can be difficult to read.  The cover of the book contains a warning under the author's name that states that "These stories may change the way you see the world," and it's true.  I read this book on a lazy afternoon while watching my children play with friends, and I kept thinking that they were all going to wonder why I was crying over a book on a gorgeous summer's day.  After reading these stories, it's difficult to see the world as 'out there' instead of 'next door' and impossible not to want to help more children like these.

That's where the leader's guide comes in.  The leader's guide is absolutely perfect.  Somehow I missed the boat and expected a video-like teaching series that could be part of a study, but what the CD actually contains is so much better.  It's not a DVD at all but a data CD that contains everything you would need to turn this book into a series of mission lessons for kids.  It is a simple set of Word documents set up in a systematic hierarchy containing skits, memory verses, pictures of real kids to serve as visuals, recipes, math problems, activities to send home for families to use, and simple mission projects that the kids can do to take action within their own communities.  With this guide, you won't need to search for ice breakers, printables, or ways to involve families, because it's all here.  The research and planning has been done for you, so you can gather your children and begin.  It's truly perfect for young youth groups, homeschool groups, Sunday School classes, etc.

That's exactly what we're going to do.  I knew after reading this book that it would be great to share these stories with my family for a few reasons:  they make great lessons of God's faithfulness, and as a homeschooling family,  the format of the book is wonderful.  Each story is a separate chapter, and notes are spread throughout the book disguised as postcards and stamps that define foreign words and terms and help clarify customs that we might not understand.  In this way the book itself is very educational, but combined with the lessons and activities in the leader's guide, it's a complete class.  After sharing this information with my pastor, we're meeting today to determine how we might use this resource best within our church.  I'm excited that our children will be doing this with their friends, but if that hadn't worked out, we'd be doing it at home as a family.  Guckenberger has made it that easy - and it's that important, too.

I read many great books, and some stick in my head for a long time afterwards.  Some I'm eager to share with my friends and family because I don't want them to miss such a great read, but never before have I had plans to share a book with so many others within days of turning the last page.  As the cover states, your worldview will change as you read this book, but you also can't help but want to be a a part of someone else's story - to have a hand in helping them see that the God of the Universe has not forgotten them.

This book will show you how.

For more other reviews about Tales of the Not Forgotten, visit the blog hop here.  To go ahead and purchase your own copy of this book, click here.

Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries (based in Cincinnati, OH) which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Back2Back Ministries connects willing workers to open hearts through international and local ministry opportunities. Their ministry is currently caring and providing for orphan children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria, India and most recently, Haiti.

Beth travels and speaks regularly at women's and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. Her topics include orphan care, missions, parenting, marriage/intimacy, and faith. Her story-telling style captures audiences, and she draws from her field experience as a missionary and parent for illustrations to biblical concepts. In addition to her latest release, Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing 2012), Beth has writtenRelentless Hope (Standard, 2011) and Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008).

The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico where they have hosted thousands of guests on their ministry campus. Between biological, foster, and adopted additions to their family, Beth and Todd are raising nine children.

Learn how you can join Beth in ministry at or

I received a free copy of Tales of the Not Forgotten from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Menu Plan Monday - July 16, 2012

I found some foods that are rather unusual for us while grocery shopping this week, and so I'm shaking up our meal plan a bit.  I feel as if I've been preparing the same few simple things for us over the past few weeks, and I'm ready for something different!  The kids and I are busy each morning this week with things happening around town, but our afternoons are free and a bit of extra time can be devoted to dinner plans.

So, here's what's on the menu this week:

- Whole wheat pancakes and honey
- Cinnamon raisin swirl toast and fruit

- Better-than-the-Bakery Blueberry Muffins

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers and sandwiches.

- Chicken and rice casserole, blueberry pie
- Grilled turkey burgers, baked black beans, watermelon, ice cream
- Jambalaya over brown rice, watermelon

- Grilled chicken, "Best Ever" Cheesy Grilled potatoes, steamed broccoli
- Stir fried chicken and veggies over brown rice
- Campfire cookout with hot dogs, watermelon, and s'mores
- Leftovers

My Big Helper has been wanting to try these Healthy Homemade Poptarts for quite some time.  Since I've got a bit of yogurt in the fridge right now, we might try them out this week.

The next Crazy Cooking Challenge has been announced, and it's for cheesecake!  Yum!  If you have a fantastic cheesecake recipe posted on your blog, feel free to send me a link.  I'd love to check it out and possibly feature your recipe during the challenge next month.  :-)

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.