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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GratiTuesday - Thanksgiving Bingo

This Thanksgiving we headed north to spend a week with my family.  Normally this wouldn't be possible, of course, as local children get only two days out of school for Thanksgiving, but homeschooling gives us the option of taking school on the road.  Our two were only too happy to do this.

Picture by Lindsey.

We planned to spend a few days with my grandmother this summer, but we just weren't able to make the trip.  She spends Thanksgiving with my parents as well, which made this holiday a double blessing.  We were able to spend time with her and an aunt as well as my sister and parents.

When I was a kid, I might not have thought too much of this.  We lived in the same town as most of my grandparents and all of my great-grandparents, and we saw them often.  (Voting is still occurring for my great-Grandma's Biscuits if you'd like to help!)  

My kids don't have that luxury, however.  

They have only two great-grandmothers left, and both live in Pennsylvania.  We try to get there at least once a year, but this year it just didn't work out.  We talk about them both often, yet it's not the same as spending quality time with them. 

Being able to watch my kids interacting with my nana, whom I spend weeks with during the summers years ago, made this a special week.  Not to discount the fun shopping excursions with my mom, daily visits with my sister - whose crazy work schedule keeps her hopping - or that a family week together is just plain great, but watching my kids with Nana is special.

My absolute favorite part of the week was when we played Thanksgiving Bingo.  It was a free game that I printed online, and it included some really cute clip art - things like Pilgrims juggling.  I took along enough boards for everyone to play, except that I forgot the prize M&Ms.  

My sister came to the rescue with a hidden batch of whoopie pies - my favorite! - and the competition became brutal as everyone wanted to win those chocolate treats. 

Everyone laughed together and tried to figure out the funny pictures until we had all won dessert.

I loved hearing everyone laugh as they waited for the perfect combination of Thanksgiving symbols to be called.  I liked watching Nana play extra boards, trying to up her odds at a whoopie pie.  I loved seeing my parents nudge my kids towards called items on their boards that they were missing, and I loved eating my whoopie pie prize.  

I saved those boards and the game pieces.  I hope we can play again next Thanksgiving.  I wonder who's going to make the whoopie pies?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Post by Sheri Rose Shepard: Building Up the Men in our Lives

Sheri Rose Shepherd

Building Up the Men in Our Lives
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NIV)
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
learn more ▶
When our husbands let us down, it's hard not to voice our anger and disappointment. We don't do it to hurt or embarrass our husbands. We are women, and we're wired to share our hearts with another person. We definitely need one another to become the women we want to be, but we need to be careful not to cripple our men by uncovering their weaknesses to everyone.

Obviously we all need someone to help us sort through our feelings. I think it is best to find one or two trustworthy people who are in favor of our marriages and won't repeat our conversation to others. I have two best friends to whom I tell everything because they help me see things from my husband's perspective and help me fight for my marriage by praying and sharing wisdom from the Word. I am careful, even with them, not to overshare in a way that would humiliate my husband, Steve.

Think about how we would feel if our husbands talked about our weaknesses at their workplaces. Let's commit to covering our men and not exposing them, and let's pray for them to grow as leaders.

Don't Enable . . .

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Because we women are so good at leading, many times we leave our men in the dust or allow them to become weak leaders. How are they ever supposed to learn to lead if we do everything for them? We are not their mothers; we are their wives. Christ asked them to love, lead, and take care of us the way He loves the church.

It's important that we not try to do things that are our husbands' responsibility unless they are absolutely necessary. Even if we can do their job better than they can, we're not helping them become the men they long to be; we are enabling them. They will see us as their mothers and not their wives, which will make us bitter toward them and produce the fruit of self-hate in their lives.

Do What You Can to Empower Him . . .

Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. (1 Peter 3:6)

I used to think it was strange that Sarah called her husband "master." I thought maybe she was even putting her husband before God. But today I realize she was a wise woman. She was empowering her husband to find his place as her leader. We can also help our husbands become godly leaders for us. Even if they do not rise up right away, we shouldn't give up on them. We can keep praying and empowering them. Whatever they do, big or small, let's encourage them. Let's be like Sarah and do whatever it takes to empower our men to be great.

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Fire of the Raging Dragon" by Don Brown

How might our President react to a blossoming war between China and Taiwan?  What actions might he take if his daughter were on board a Navy vessel in the South China Sea as tensions escalate - and what if she were taken as a prisoner of war?  If he had the power to save her life, would he?  How might such a war - and its implications - affect the US?

Fire of the Raging Dragon is a political thriller like no other.  Fast-paced, technical, and full of military maneuvers, this book is guaranteed to keep you up late turning pages.  It sure did for me - by the end.

The end of this book came rather abruptly, but by then I wanted to know what happened to each of the main characters, and so I couldn't put it down.  The beginning, however, took me a while to get into.  I think that's because I was waiting to experience a character connection, and that took a bit of time - most of the book, actually.

I wanted to like this book.  I really wanted to like this book, but there was just one problem with that:  I think it was written for a man.  It was definitely written by a super-intelligent, great writer with vast stores of knowledge about the US military and their operations.  The wide cast of characters allowed the reader to see each event from a myriad of angles, getting really into the action - but not the characters.

The characters are my favorite part of the story.  I want to feel what they're feeling, see what they're seeing, smell the cookies as they bake them.  Brown writes in a smooth and engaging way, but the reader changes perspective on most pages throughout the book, allowing little time to connect with a character's emotions before hopping on to the next.  As a woman, I want to close the last page on a book feeling as if I've made new friends, whereas with Fire of the Raging Dragon I felt as if I'd finished watching an action movie.

If you are connected with the military in some way, or if you enjoy reading about guns and wars and great big what-ifs, then this is the book for you.  It's well written, well researched, and full of facts, figures, numbers, and men trying to one-up each other with their weapons.

As for me ... I think I'm on weapon overload.  I think I'll go find a romance.  :-)

I received a free copy of Fire of the Raging Dragon from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

"Christmas at Holly Hill" by Martha Rogers

Christmas at Holly Hill, Winds Across the Prairie Series #6

Clayton Barlow is finally a free man.  After serving five years in prison for bank robbery, he’s eager to return home and prove to everyone that he’s a changed man.  Not everyone wants to give him a second chance, but his old friend Merry Lee Warner seems eager to resume their former friendship. When Barlow’s old gang returns to town and stirs up trouble, will anybody believe in his innocence, or will he forever lose his chance at love?

Christmas at Holly Hill is a sweet story of love and redemption.  Though some of the subplots are heartbreaking, Merry’s strong faith and innocence flavor the story.  Her belief that love is possible and that lives can be changed ultimately makes a difference not only to Clayton, but to others within the town, and it will cause a cynical reader to reconsider, as well.

Rogers’ smooth writing style draws the reader into the story. I couldn’t put this story down, and I didn’t want to.  With fun characters, an old-fashioned setting, and a beautiful holiday timbre, this is a great Christmas story.

I received a free copy of Christmas at Holly Hill from Charisma House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Resurrect Kindle Fire Giveaway from David E. Stevens. RSVP for Facebook Party {12/4}

To celebrate the release of Resurrect, David E. Stevens has teamed up with his publisher, Kregel Publications, for a Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Author Chat Party {12/4}.

One "thrilling" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Resurrect by David E. Stevens
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Resurrect" Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/4. Connect with David, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Resurrect Trilogy, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Resurrect and join David on the evening of December 4th for a chance to connect with David and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Guest Post by Sheri Rose Shepard

Feeling Unworthy of Love
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19)
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
learn more ▶
There is a battle within most women's hearts to believe they are worthy of love. If we believe the lie that we do not deserve love and are hiding behind feelings of unworthiness, even the most loving man in the world will not be able to break down the wall around our hearts.

Can you imagine if every night when you went to tuck your children into bed they refused to let you hug them or express your love because they did not feel they deserved it? As a parent, you would embrace them every time you could to prove to them they were indeed worthy of your love. If they refused to receive it because of how they felt, it would break your heart.

I believe that is how our heavenly Father feels when we refuse to let Him love us. But there's so much more at stake when we feel unworthy of love. When we are locked up inside, we cannot become the women we want to be in our men's and children's lives. If we do not love ourselves and do not let God lavish His love on us, it will hinder us and hurt others.

There are many reasons we may fight feelings of unworthiness. Some of us had fathers who never expressed how much they loved us, and others had mothers who did not feel they deserved love and did not know how to show love, so we began to see our worth through their eyes and not through God's. We may have been abused verbally, emotionally, or physically. Maybe our first love made us feel we were worthless. Some of us had all the love in the world from our families, but we felt rejected by our peers.

The list of things we women believe when it comes to love is endless. But the truth is, how we feel will never change how loved we are by the Lord. And nothing that we have done or that has been done to us can keep God from loving us. The question is, will we open our hearts and let His love in? I believe if God wrote us a love letter, it might read like this . . .

My Beloved Daughter,
I love you with an unconditional, everlasting love so you can be free to love. My precious daughter, don't allow those who have hurt you to keep you from experiencing the joy of loving others. I know giving a piece of your heart away involves risk, but I am here to heal your heart when someone hurts you. I want you to choose wisely whom you allow in your heart, and I also want you to give those you love the freedom to fail. Remember that no one else can love you as perfectly and completely as I do. Don't look for a perfect love in people, or you will always find disappointment and heartache. If you allow your soul to settle into Mine and become one with Me, you will never doubt that I am forever and always devoted to you.
Your Prince Jesus, who can't stop loving you

May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Ephesians 3:18)

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Win a Kindle Paperwhite and connect with Kristen Heitzmann at “The Breath of Dawn” Facebook Party {11/27}!

Kristen Heitzmann is celebrating The Breath of Dawn by giving away one of the new Paperwhite Kindles and hosting a fun Author Chat Party on Facebook. (11/27)

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
  • The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 26th. Winner will be announced at the "The Breath of Dawn" Author Chat Facebook Party on 11/27. Connect with Kristen, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of The Breath of Dawn and join Kristen on the evening of the November 27th for a chance to connect with Kristen and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Most Generous Gift

Have you ever just had one of those days? Where the hours were just full of little, small irritants that, by themselves, shouldn't be any big deal but when lumped together in the absence of chocolate make for a totally crazy day?

I had one of those last week.

Tears came too easily and I knew I was being needlessly grumpy.  I was surprised, then, when an offhand remark to a new, bloggy friend was returned with a most generous offer.

I'm sure she didn't know about my weepy disposition, but her offer was both generous and mood brightening.  A task that she is gifted to do is impossible for me, and being blessed by her talent is exciting - especially as her offer goes far beyond what I ever hoped to learn for myself.

We're reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love in Sunday school.  This exchange reminded me of our challenge to love without limits and to hold nothing back - but with me on the receiving end.  It would've been so easy for this lovely lady to move right on past my question, or to take it in the businesslike way I intended it, but instead she stepped out in kindness and offered me something that's going to cost her time, brainpower, and talent.

Seeing her kindness soothed my stressed spirit, but more than that, after a sigh of relief and some excited bouncing, it challenged me.  Have I stepped out in love and faith like that for anyone lately, or I have I been totally focused on my own crazy schedule and been wrapped up in my own 'stuff?'

So tonight I'm both convicted and grateful.  Convicted of my own selfishness and grateful for her generosity. It's encouraging to know that there are people out there who are willing to be radically kind to someone they've only just virtually met.

So if you have a graphic design need or could use a really awesome personal planner, hop on over to Tatorbug Creations.  I like what I've seen of her work - but her character is outstanding.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

"Resurrect" by David Stephens

Book 1 in the ResurrectTrilogy.

Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects ... too late.
Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission exploit highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He'll be dead to everyone he knows.
He wakes in a city hospital with a genetically enhanced body and no identity. With the help of his brilliant, Neuro ICU nurse, and guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex to develop the world's most powerful weapon ... to protect humanity? 

Did you ever wonder what would happen if Dee Henderson wrote sci fi?  I'm pretty sure you'd get a book that would read a lot like Resurrect.  Technical but with deadline drama, Stephens writes an action-packed thriller, and that's exactly why I liked it.  I'm not a huge fan of the technical stuff, and I admit that when a paragraph moved in that direction my eyes began to skim, but the suspense more than makes up for that.

This isn't your average Cliffhanger, though, and Josh Logan isn't Stallone.  With a totally new body and a mysterious voice that only he can hear to guide him through this mission, there's definitely an element of the Twilight Zone in this story.  As it progresses, however, the story takes on a more prophetic and less out there tone.

That was important to me.  I like a good sci fi book, but the best authors make their premise sound so close to reality that it seems their premise just might come true, and that's what Stephens has done here.  It becomes totally believable that a scientist might be resurrected from the dead to save our planet from a collision with a giant comet, and that he could do so with virtually no resources.  The way in which Stephens makes this happen, combined with his obvious technical expertise and flowing writing style, makes for a thrilling journey through these pages - one that you won't want to end.

You can purchase your own copy of Resurrect here - and if you do so today, you'll be entered to win a Kindle and a chance to be on the set of this movie!

A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He's traveled to over two dozen countries.

Find out more about David E. at

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free Card from Treat!

I just found out that Treat, a brand of Shutterfly, is offering one free card on November 18th and 19th only!  These cards can be personalized and sent totally for free!  

Here's the info I received:  

Your holiday checklist just got shorter. Create and send a totally personalized greeting card from Treat for FREE. Whether saying thanks for Thanksgiving, wishing a best friend a holiday birthday, or simply sharing the holiday cheer with a just because card, Treat lets you create a one-of-a-kind card that is sure to impress.

Enter the code TREATBLOGR to get your card for free.

* I am being compensated for this post with free product from Treat.  I'm sharing this deal with you because I think it's a good deal - and I love to share!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Menu Plan Monday - November 19, 2012

It's almost Thanksgiving!  We're all super excited about that as we'll get to visit with some family we haven't seen in a while.  I'm not cooking this year, but when I do, this is our favorite menu:

On the day AFTER Thanksgiving, we usually have leftovers and hot turkey sandwiches for supper.  Yum!  It's like it's the big day all over again!

After that, I try to be a bit more creative with our leftovers.  Besides simple sandwiches, all of these recipes make use of roasted chicken or turkey (either one):

Leftover mashed potatoes are great in either of these recipes, too:

If you're still looking for some fun ways to learn about the Great Harvest Celebration in 1621, you can find out what we did here:

Are you hosting Thanksgiving for anyone this year?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kindle Fire Giveaway from @LeslieGould! RSVP for Facebook Party {11/20}

A retelling of the Taming of the Shrew! Leslie Gould is celebrating the release of Courting Cate with a fun Kindle Fire Giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party (11/20)!

One lucky winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Courting Cate by Leslie Gould
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the "Courting Cate" Author Chat Facebook Party on 11/20. Connect with Leslie, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at an Amish trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Courting Cate and join Leslie on the evening of the November 20th for a chance to connect with Leslie and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 20th!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life as a Pilgrim: Fun & Games (Part Three)

This month our Book Club girls read Ron Roy's The Mayflower Treasure Hunt.  I was pleasantly surprised by this book - the descriptions of the Mayflower are historically accurate, the initial movement of the Pilgrims are tracked throughout the Cape Cod area, and the modern Plymouth is well depicted.  I love the way that Roy added a believable mystery into the Pilgrim story, making it easy to tell which parts are fiction and which are true while still maintaining a fun and exciting story.

I had lots of events planned for this club meeting and was very excited - and then it became possible for us to travel to a local park for a "Pilgrims at Play" program, where they promised to teach about the fun side of Pilgrim life.  This seemed like the perfect place to meet about this book!

Several of the girls traveled with my family, and they talked a bit about the book on our way to and from the park. They also learned quite a bit more about Pilgrim life while there.

The program began as Hilary, the presenter, talked about basic Pilgrim facts.  As she prepared them to use books to study Pilgrim life, she taught the kids a few phrases in Wampanoag and in Elizabethan English. This was by far my favorite feature of this program. Who would expect to hear Elizabethan English in a small park in North Carolina?

Next, Hilary pulled out tubs of supplies and let the kids play Pilgrim-style.  Mine never moved past the ball-and-cup.  They were each determined to get the hang of it!

After learning about the foods available to the Pilgrims for their first Great Harvest Celebration, the kids made painted fish impressions.  They painted a textured rubber fish and then rubbed it onto plain paper to transfer the colorful image. 

After a picnic lunch on the center's beautiful stone porch and some playtime in the museum, we headed out.  Even though the rain had stopped, the girls were too happy to pose under this vibrant umbrella.

Next month we're looking forward to discussing a good Christmas mystery and spreading some Christmas cheer.

What good books have you read lately?

Shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"The Reason" by William Sirls

A storm decimates a large cross outside a local church.  A young oncologist works with a beloved patient who doesn't respond to treatment, and his young mother fights to have faith in what she can't see.  Meanwhile, the so-called construction worker who miraculously restored the cross has a hand in many unexplainable events throughout town.  Could there be more to him than meets the eye?  If so, does that mean that there is a Creator behind this life we try to control?

Sirls writes an exciting and suspenseful story showing what can happen when our mustard seed-sized faith encounters the One who makes it grow.  Both fantastical and possible, this story will both stretch your faith and make you reaffirm your belief in a powerful, loving God.

As a kid I always thought that the amazing stories of the Bible were history accounts - stories of things that God did long ago but didn't do anymore.  At the same time, I was fascinated with the stories of angels in my great-grandmother's Guideposts magazines.  A few years ago I realized that God still does amazing things every day - we just don't always recognize them as such.

That's why I like this story.  It's like reading one of those amazing stories of angels saving the day, only this one is fictional.  Reading it made me think about what I believe in terms of angels and prophets, about Jesus on earth, about miracles and heaven and hell.  

It's important that we know what we believe about these things - both the what and the why.  The Reason makes you think about all of these things in a realistic and thoughtful way, all the while turning page after page to find each player's outcome.  I couldn't put this one down.

I received a free copy of The Reason from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

GratiTuesday - Pilgrims, Pilgrims, Everywhere

For the past few weeks, we've been learning about the Pilgrims' Harvest celebration in 1621.  We've been studying what cooking was like in a Plimoth kitchen and what everyday life looked like after exiting the Mayflower.

We've been reading our books, grinding our corn, doing whatever activities I have planned out for that day and moving on just like always - or so I thought.

Then last weekend, as I was carrying some laundry through the playroom, I overhead the kids playing alphabet bingo.  My Big Helper was insisting that her brother call a "mouser" so that she could get five in a row and win.  I laughed to myself, pleased that she remembered some of the Elizabethan vocabulary we had talked about a few days earlier.

This week, after constructing poppets to learn about seventeenth-century clothing, the kids decided that they needed to sew bedding for them.  They insisted on finding some spare fabric and making ticks - so much so that my Big Helper spent part of her Sunday afternoon stitching away on the hammock outside.

After a while, the beautiful day enticed her away from her fabric, and I thought she was playing one of her creative games with her brother - but I was wrong.  I watched them playing near each other in the playset, and soon My Little Man came running over to me.

He asked if I knew what his sister was doing, at which I began to wonder what mischief might be happening up there, when he started bouncing with excitement and yelling, "She invented a mortar and pestle! She's grinding corn up there!"

It wasn't long before she slid down to show me her success.  She had found a bowl-shaped gadget and a piece of wood and was making cornmeal in the playset tower.  Being able to crush some of it, she worked for a long time at this, even asking if she could taste it.

I hoped that My Big Helper and Our Little Man would like their studies.  I hoped that they would get excited about it and internalize what they learned.  I hoped that their work would show true thought and growth - but I never expected for it to pop up into their play.

They've taken the information we've studied and gone much further with it than I could ever have guessed.  I'm glad that they're having fun, but I'm truly grateful for the way that they just seem to get it and want more.  Their creativity amazes me, and watching them invent new gadgets and methods to solve problems always makes me smile. School is never fun when you dread learning, but when learning becomes play?  Then it's fun all the way around.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas" GIVEAWAY!

Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas

Crystal at Money Saving Mom has written a new ebook called Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas. This new book releases tomorrow, but you could reserve your own copy - FREE! - by winning one here. This giveaway ends tomorrow, so enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Menu Plan Monday - November 12, 2012

We've got a busy week ahead, full of classes, field trips, and holiday preparations!  I've been cooking ahead and am planning lots of simple meals this week.  Here's how it looks:

- scrambled eggs and fruit

- yogurt and Cinnamon Almond Granola
- peanut butter and chocolate chip baked oatmeal
Caramel Pumpkin Doughnut Hole (Muffins)

- Tacos, corn, and sliced fruit

Pizza Casserole, carrots

Quick and Healthy Stir Fry
- Minnesota Wild Rice soup, soft pretzel sticks
- Pasta prima vera with veggies and sausage
- Dinner with family
- leftovers

With the traveling that we'll be doing this week, I'm also hoping to squeeze in a batch of these Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars!

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

"Courting Cate" by Leslie Gould

In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!
But the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor-until Pete Treger comes to town, that is.
Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate's hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play?

Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series. 

Courting Cate is an provocative, Amish twist on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and it was every bit as forceful as I imagine the original to be.  I must admit, I was frustrated by the beginning of the story because it seemed obvious that Cate's prickly attitude was a result of pain and fear, not a mean spirit, and her father's edict and sister's decision to take advantage of Cate's love for her seemed too much - and then I kept reading.

Reading this story went from frustrating to difficult - because Gould wrote it that well.  She painted Cate into an impossible situation and turns the mirror back on the reader, and I didn't like what I saw.  Would I have reacted with Cate's prickliness in the beginning?  For sure.  Would I have reacted as Cate did during her most difficult time in New YorK?  Could I have treated the immature Betsy as Cate did later in the story?  That's a tough one.  While Gould follows the basic Shakespearean story, she adds her own faith-filled twists and turns that up both the suspense and emotional factor.  

I may have been a prickly reader in the beginning, but it wasn't long before I refused to put Courting Cate down. The transformation from Shakespeare to Lancaster Amish is a fascinating one - and Gould does it with exceptional grace.  Each modern element keeps you guessing while the basic plot line causes the reader to bleed a little more for Cate.  

This is definitely not your average Amish story.

I can't wait for the next one.

To purchase your own copy of Courting Cate, visit here.

Leslie Gould is the co-author, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife andThe Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels, including Garden of Dreams, Beyond the Blue (winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for Best Inspirational Novel, 2006), and Scrap Everything. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Portland, Oregon. 
Learn more at

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

'Thank the Troops' for Free From Shutterfly!

I'm not usually the gush-y sort, but I think this is pretty cool ...

Shutterfly is offering us a great way to say 'thank you' to our American Armed Forces for all of their sacrifices and hard work - and it will cost us each only a minute of our time! If you're a Facebook user, you simply select a card from one of four on the Shutterfly Facebook page and personalize it.  At the end, click 'send' and Shutterfly will print your card and send it off to someone serving his/her country - and it's totally free.  

Oh, and at the end you can 'like' and 'share' this app so that even more service people can receive some encouragement and gratitude.  It's really that easy!

If you prefer a hard and fast link, here you go:

It's too easy to carry on through tomorrow as if it's just another day - but the reason I can proceed through my day, unhindered and unbothered, is because of the hard work and sacrifice of another.  Thanks, Shutterfly, for reminding me to brighten another's day - and thanks to all of those serving!

**This post was not sponsored in any way by Facebook.  I am receiving compensation for sharing this information with you - but the opinions written within are completely my own.

"The Breath of Dawn" by Kristen Heitzmann

Corporate turnaround specialist Morgan Spencer, dubbed the "success guru," has a Midas touch in business. But losing his wife sent him to the brink, and his two-year-old daughter, Livie, is all he's living for-until they encounter a woman whose trouble just might draw him out of his own.

Four years ago Quinn Reilly did the right thing. Now the man her testimony put in jail is getting out. Though she has put up barriers to protect herself and those around her, she has come to care for the Spencer family, especially the winsome Livie and her mercurial father. Unwilling to put them at risk when the threats begin, she requests something she hopes the super-successful Morgan might be able to deliver.
Fixing problems is what Morgan does best, but his counterproposal takes them in a direction neither is equipped to handle. Determined to confront the past, will they survive to build a future?

I absolutely love Kristen Heitzmann's books!  Always full of suspense and intrigue, this book is as fast-paced as the others.  Quinn Reilly makes a spunky and resourceful lead character as she struggles to do what's right and avoid the trouble she senses ahead.  Morgan plays the wounded warrior coming to the rescue of his damsel -in-distress, and nobody does it better.  The pain each feels pulls you in and makes you want to cheer them on, and the issues coming at them keep the pages turning.  

Heitzmann masterfully mixes human crime and temptation with supernatural evil to keep the suspense level high and your emotions on edge throughout this book.  Little else could stop Spencer, whose money and connections could remove most obstacles.  The combination of Quinn's determination and pure intentions coupled with Morgan's power create worthy opponents for the evil lying in wait around every turn.

The Breath of Dawn is the third in a series, and while I've read many of Heitzmann's books, I've apparently missed the previous two.  Heitzmann describes the turmoil of past stories well and keeps the reader informed of all pertinent information, so I didn't feel as if I was missing anything while reading - except that I can't wait to go back and read the others.  

I think I'll go search for them now.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can order this book here.

Kristen Heitzmann is the bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including "Freefall", "Halos", "A Rush of Wings", and the Christy Award winner "Secrets". She and her husband, Jim, and their family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she serves as worship leader in their church. 

Find out more about Kristen at

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

Life as a Pilgrim - Part Two: Daily Activities

This week we got together with friends once again to live life as a Pilgrim.  We focused on activities of daily life this time, and began our work by learning about the clothing that the children would wear.

After reading Samuel Eaton's Day and Sarah Morton's Day, both by Kate Waters, we grabbed three petticoats and an apron.  The girls each put on all of these layers to see what it felt like to wear so much clothing at one time.  They were all quite certain that they'd stick to their jeans!

Next, we moved to the table and began to make poppets out of cardboard and fabric.  Using the pictures in the books as guides, the kids each dressed their poppets in the clothing worn by the pilgrims then.  They cut out clothing from fabric and used yarn as garters to hold up their stockings.  They worked for a very long time on this, determined to get each layer just right.  

Mine were very excited about their finished product.


Don't they look great?

By this time we were all quite hungry, so we headed for a Pilgrim lunch in the kitchen.  After working together to set the table with plates and spoons, the kids stood by their plates - as children did then - and carefully placed their napkins on their shoulders.  They were less than pleased, however, when I put five kernels of corn on their plates.  After talking about how sick the Pilgrims were that first winter, about how that may have been due to their lack of nutritious food and disease, about how some days this was just all they had, the kids sadly ate their corn.  They were quite upset with me ...

so we handed them their journals and let them write.  Each child expressed his/her displeasure well through writing.  My Little Man used exclamation points for the first time, declaring the corn to be "hard."  Another child stated that if he had been a Pilgrim, he likely would have starved, although he would have eaten the corn since there wasn't anything else.  

When they finished their writing, they cheered as we brought out their 'real' lunches, and headed outside happily for a picnic.

Next we learned about Pilgrim furniture.  After talking about the difference between beds for adults and beds for kids, they stuffed large burlap bags with straw.  Each child took turns laying on it.  They finally decided that this whole process was a lot of fun, but that they preferred their own beds to these scratchier ones.

Our last activity of the day was to dip candles.  While the Pilgrims bought their candles from England for the first few years, being too focused on survival to have time for candle dipping, we thought this would be a good way to see the work that went into having light during this time period.  Besides, someone was dipping candles for the Pilgrims!

The kids really enjoyed this process, although they got most excited about it when their candles began to grow fatter.  This took a long time, and when the kids learned that a typical candle has 200 dips, a few were rather discouraged.  

I took this picture when we were about halfway through the process and at the time, this was the biggest candle.  She was so excited with her finished product that she began a second candle!  All of the kids decided that they wouldn't want to be dependent upon their own candle-making abilities for light - but that this was a fun process, at least for a few minutes.

Next week we're taking a field trip to learn about the Pilgrims' journey on the Mayflower and games that the children might have played.  Come back to join us!

You can read about our Pilgrim cooking adventure here.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Be Still My Soul" by Joanne Bischoff

Be Still My Soul, Cadence of Grace Series #1   -     
        By: Joanne Bischof

Lonnie Sawyer couldn't wait to leave home, but she didn't plan a shotgun wedding to Gideon O'Reilly, either - even if he was handsome.  Following Gideon to the city to look for work, their plans soon change when Lonnie can't make the journey - and Gideon's patience turns disappears.  Will Lonnie ever experience the joy of true love?

I love the simple narrative of Lonnie's story.  Bischoff's word choice and gift of storytelling adds to Lonnie's mountain environment, creating a simple yet compelling story of faith.  The plot is not action-packed but is heart-full; the drama exists mainly in the heart and soul of Lonnie and Gideon, working to mature their faith and open their hearts to each other.  Yet not for a moment does this story feel slow-moving; instead, Bischoff gives glimpses into each character's past and their current growth that keeps the reader yearning for more.

It is evident that this plot lies in a time and place different from our own; several actions taken by major characters leave you reeling, wanting to reach through the pages to change their course.  Frustrating as these are, they blend the characters' experiences with the setting and further cement these in the reader's mind.

I must admit, I did find certain parts of the story easy to predict; I rather liked these pieces, however, as each one made me feel as if the story was turning out exactly as it should.  Many elements caught me by surprise, but the sweetness of the ones I thought I knew added a familiar comfort to the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, both the parts I thought I knew and those I didn't!

I will definitely be on the watch for Bischoff's next book.  I don't want to miss it!

I received a free copy of Be Still My Soul from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.